"It surprised me, too," Miranda replied in a somewhat flat voice.

"It couldn't have been that much of a surprise," Olivia said without thinking. "I mean, if you had done…if you had been…" She let her words trail off, realizing that her foot was lodged firmly in her mouth.

"It was still a surprise, Olivia."

Olivia was silent for a few moments as she absorbed this shock. "Miranda, I have to ask…"

"Don't!" Miranda warned her. "Please don't ask me who."

"Was it Winston?"

"No!" she replied forcefully. And then muttered, "Good heavens."

"Then who?"

"I can't tell you," Miranda said, her voice breaking. "It was…it was someone totally unsuitable. I…I don't know what I was thinking, but please don't ask me again. I don't want to talk about it."

"That's fine," Olivia said, clearly realizing that it would be unwise to push her any further. "I won't ask you again, I promise. But what are we going to do?"

Miranda could not help but feel a little warmed by her use of the word we .

"I say, Miranda, are you certain you're expecting?" Olivia asked suddenly, her eyes brightening with hope. "You could just be late. I'm late all the time."

Miranda threw an obvious glance at the chamber pot. And then she shook her head and said, "I'm never late. Never."

"You'll have to go somewhere," Olivia said. "The scandal will be amazing."

Miranda nodded. She planned to post a letter to Turner, but she could not tell that to Olivia.

"The best thing to do would be to get you out of the country. The continent, perhaps. How is your French?"

"Dismal."

Olivia sighed wearily. "You never were very good with languages."

"Nor were you," Miranda said testily.

Olivia declined to dignify that with a response, instead suggesting, "Why don't you go to Scotland?"

"To my grandparents?"

"Yes. Don't tell me they would turn you out because of your condition. You're always talking about how kind they are."

Scotland. Yes, that was the perfect solution. She would notify Turner, and he could join her there. They would be able to marry without posting banns, and then all would be, if not well, at least settled.

"I shall accompany you," Olivia said decisively. "I will stay as long as I can."

"But what will your mother say?"

"Oh, I'll tell her that someone's gone ill. It worked before, didn't it?" Olivia leveled a shrewd look at Miranda, one that clearly said that she knew that she had made up the story about her father.

"That's an awful lot of ill people."

Olivia shrugged. "It's an epidemic. All the more reason for her to remain in London. But what will you tell your father?"

"Oh, anything," Miranda replied dismissively. "He doesn't pay very much attention to what I do."

"Well, for once that is an advantage. We'll leave today."

"Today?" Miranda echoed weakly.

"We're already packed, after all, and there is no time to wait."

Miranda looked down at her still-flat stomach. "No, I don't suppose there is."

13 August 1819

Olivia and I arrived in Edinburgh today. Grandmama and Grandpapa were rather surprised to see me. They were even more surprised when I told them the reason for my visit. They were very silent and very grave, but not for one moment did they let me think that they were disappointed in or ashamed of me. I shall always love them for that.

Livvy sent off a note to her parents saying that she had accompanied me up to Scotland. Every morning she asks me if my monthly has arrived. As I anticipated, it has not. I find myself looking down at my belly constantly. I don't know what I expect to see. Surely one does not bulge out overnight, and certainly not this early.

I must tell Turner. I know I must, but I cannot seem to escape Olivia, and I cannot write the letter in her presence. Much as I adore her, I will have to shoo her away. I certainly cannot have her here when Turner arrives, which he will surely do once he receives my missive, assuming, of course, I am ever able to send it.

Oh, heavens, there she is now.

Chapter 13

Turner wasn't exactly certain why he had remained so long in Kent. The two-day jaunt quickly extended itself when Lord Harry decided that he did indeed wish to purchase the property, and furthermore, he wanted to have some friends over for a raucous house party immediately. There wasn't any way for Turner to extricate himself politely, and to be honest, he didn't really want to leave, not when that meant returning to London and facing up to his responsibilities.

Not that he was plotting a way to weasel out of marrying Miranda. Quite the opposite, in fact. Once he had resigned himself to the idea of remarrying, it no longer seemed like such a dreadful fate.

But still, he was hesitant to return. If he hadn't rushed out of town on the flimsiest of excuses, he could have cleared up the matter right away. But the longer he waited, the more he wanted to keep on waiting. How on earth would he explain his absence?

So the two-day trip slipped into a week-long house party that in turn slid into a three-week-long free-for-all with hunting, races, and plenty of loose women who'd been given free rein of the house. Turner was careful not to partake of the last. He might be shirking his responsibility to Miranda, but the least he could do was remain faithful.

Then Winston found his way down to Kent and proceeded to join the party with abandon so reckless that Turner felt compelled to stay and offer some fraternal guidance. This required another two weeks of his time, which he gave gladly, for it assuaged some of the guilt he'd been feeling. He couldn't abandon his brother, could he? If he didn't watch out for Winston, the poor boy would probably end up with a raging case of the French pox.

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