She nodded.

"Because someday you're going to grow into yourself, and you will be as beautiful as you already are smart. And then you can look back into your diary and realize just how silly little girls like Fiona Bennet are. And you'll laugh when you remember that your mother said your legs started at your shoulders. And maybe you'll save a little smile for me when you remember the nice chat we had today."

Miranda looked up at him, thinking that he must be one of those Greek gods her father was always reading about. "Do you know what I think?" she whispered. "I think Olivia is very lucky to have you for a brother."

"And I think she is very lucky to have you for a friend."

Miranda's lips trembled. "I shall save a very big smile for you, Turner," she whispered.

He leaned down and graciously kissed the back of her hand as he would the most beautiful lady in London. "See that you do, puss." He smiled and nodded before he got on his horse, leading Olivia's mare behind him.

Miranda stared at him until he disappeared over the horizon, and then she stared for a good ten minutes more.

* * *
Later that night, Miranda wandered into her father's study. He was bent over a text, oblivious to the candle wax that was dripping onto his desk.

"Papa, how many times do I have to tell you that you need to watch the candles?" She sighed and put the candle in a proper holder.

"What? Oh, dear."

"And you need more than one. It's far too dark in here to read."

"Is it? I hadn't noticed." He blinked and then narrowed his eyes. "Isn't it past your bedtime?"

"Nanny said I could stay up an extra thirty minutes tonight."

"Did she? Well, whatever she says, then." He bent over his manuscript again, effectively dismissing her.


He sighed. "What is it, Miranda?"

"Do you have an extra notebook? Like the ones you use when you're translating but before you copy out your final draft?"

"I suppose so." He opened the bottom drawer of his desk and rummaged through it. "Here we are. But what do you wish to do with it? That's a quality notebook, you know, and not cheap."

"I'm going to keep a journal."

"Are you now? Well, that's a worthy endeavor, I suppose." He handed the notebook to her.

Miranda beamed at her father's praise. "Thank you. I shall let you know when I run out of space and need another."

"All right, then. Good night, dear." He turned back to his papers.

Miranda hugged the notebook to her chest and ran up the stairs to her bedroom. She took out a pot of ink and a quill and opened the book to the first page. She wrote the date, and then, after considerable thought, wrote a single sentence. It was all that seemed necessary.

2 March 1810

Today I fell in love.

Chapter 1

Nigel Bevelstoke, better known as Turner to all who cared to court his favor, knew a great many things.

He knew how to read Latin and Greek, and he knew how to seduce a woman in French and Italian.

He knew how to shoot a moving target while atop a moving horse, and he knew exactly how much he could drink before surrendering his dignity.

He could throw a punch or fence with a master, and he could do them both while reciting Shakespeare or Donne.

In short, he knew everything a gentleman ought to know, and, by all accounts, he'd excelled in every area.

People looked at him.

People looked up to him.

But nothing- not one second of his prominent and privileged life- had prepared him for this moment. And never had he felt the weight of watchful eyes so much as now, as he stepped forward and tossed a clump of dirt on the coffin of his wife.

I'm so sorry , people kept saying. I'm so sorry. We're so sorry .

And all the while, Turner could not help but wonder if God might smite him down, because all he could think was-

I'm not.

Ah, Leticia. He had quite a lot to thank her for.

Let's see, where to start? There was the loss of his reputation, of course. The devil only knew how many people were aware that he'd been cuckolded.


Then there was the loss of his innocence. It was difficult to recall now, but he had once given mankind the benefit of the doubt. He had, on the whole, believed the best of people- that if he treated others with honor and respect, they would do the same unto him.

And then there was the loss of his soul.

Because as he stepped back, clasping his hands stiffly behind him as he listened to the priest commit Leticia's body to the ground, he could not escape the fact that he had wished for this. He had wanted to be rid of her.

And he would not- he did not mourn her.

"Such a pity," someone behind him whispered.

Turner's jaw twitched. This was not a pity. It was a farce. And now he would spend the next year wearing black for a woman who had come to him carrying another man's child. She had bewitched him, teased him until he could think of nothing but the possession of her. She had said she loved him, and she had smiled with sweet innocence and delight when he had avowed his devotion and pledged his soul.

She had been his dream.

And then she had been his nightmare.

She'd lost that baby, the one that had prompted their marriage. The father had been some Italian count, or at least that's what she'd said. He was married, or unsuitable, or maybe both. Turner had been prepared to forgive her; everyone made mistakes, and hadn't he, too, wanted to seduce her before their wedding night?

But Leticia had not wanted his love. He didn't know what the hell she had wanted- power, perhaps, the heady rush of satisfaction when yet another man fell under her spell.

Turner wondered if she'd felt that when he'd succumbed. Or maybe it had just been relief. She'd been three months along by the time they married. She hadn't much time to spare.


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