"I…I don't know what you're talking about," she stammered. "And why are you asking me so many questions about Miranda?"

"She's a good friend of mine as well," he replied silkily. "And I suggest you try telling me the truth."

Olivia scooted across the bed as he strode toward her. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Is she involved with a man?" he demanded. "Is she? Is that why you've concocted this over-obvious story about some sick relative?"

"It's not a story," she protested.

"Tell me the truth!"

Her mouth clamped shut.

"Olivia," he said dangerously.

"Turner!" Her voice grew shrill. "I don't like that look in your eye. I'm going to call for Mother."

"Mother's half my size. She won't be able to stop me from strangling you, brat."

Her eyes bugged out. "Turner, you've gone mad."

"Who is he?"

"I don't know!" she burst out. "I don't know."

"So there is someone."

"Yes! No! Not anymore!"

"What the devil is going on?" Jealousy, pure and raging hot, raced through him.

"Nothing!"

"Tell me what has happened to Miranda." He circled around the bed until he had Olivia cornered. A very primitive sense of fear coursed through him. Fear that he might lose Miranda and fear she was in some way hurt. What if something had happened to her? He had never dreamed that Miranda's welfare could cause this throat-choking worry within him, but there you had it, and Christ, this was awful. He had never wanted to care about her this much.

Olivia's head darted back and forth as she looked for a means to escape. "She's fine, Turner. I swear it."

His large hands descended on her shoulders. "Olivia," he said in a very low voice, his blue eyes gleaming with fury and fear. "I'm going to say this but once. When we were children, I never once struck you, despite, I might add, ample reason." He paused, leaning in menacingly. "But I am not averse to starting right now."

Her lower lip began to quiver.

"If you do not tell me right this instant what kind of trouble Miranda has gotten herself into, you will be very sorry indeed."

A hundred different emotions crossed Olivia's face, most of them somehow related to panic or fear. "Turner," she beseeched him, "she is my dearest friend. I cannot betray her trust."

"What is wrong with her?" he ground out.

"Turner…"

"Tell me!"

"No, I can't, I…" Olivia went white. " Oh, my God. "

"What?"

"Oh, my God," she breathed. "It's you."

A look Turner had never seen before, on his sister, or indeed anyone, came over her face, and then-

"How could you!" she screamed, pummeling his upper body with her meager fists. "How could you? You're a beast! Do you hear me? A beast! And it was positively wretched of you to leave her like that."

Turner stood stock-still throughout her tirade, trying to make sense of her words and her rage. "Olivia," he said slowly. "What are you talking about?"

"Miranda is pregnant," she hissed. "Pregnant."

"Oh, my God." Turner's hands fell away from her arms and he sank down onto the bed in shock.

"I assume you're the father," she said coldly. "That is disgusting. For God's sake, Turner. You're practically her brother."

His nostrils flared. "Hardly."

"You're older than she is, and more experienced. You shouldn't have taken advantage of her."

"I am not going to explain my actions to you," he bit out coldly.

Olivia snorted.

"Why didn't she tell me?"

"You were off in Kent, if you recall. Drinking and whoring and- "

"I wasn't whoring," he snapped. "I haven't been with another woman since Miranda."

"Pardon me if I find that hard to believe, big brother. You are despicable. Get out of my room."

"Pregnant." He repeated the word as if saying it again would make it easier to believe. "Miranda. A baby. My God."

"It's a little late for prayer," Olivia said icily. "Your behavior has been worse than reprehensible."

"I didn't know she was pregnant."

"Does it matter?"

Turner didn't answer. He couldn't answer, not when he knew that he was so obviously in the wrong. He let his head fall into his hands, his mind still reeling in shock. Dear God, when he thought about how selfish he had been…He had put off confronting Miranda simply because he was too lazy. He had figured she'd be here waiting for him when he returned. Because…because…

Because that's what she did. Hadn't she been waiting for him for years? Hadn't she said…

He was an ass. There could be no other explanation or excuse. He'd just assumed…and then he'd taken advantage…and…

Never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that she was off some three hundred miles to the north, coping with an unexpected pregnancy that would soon become an illegitimate child.

He'd told her to notify him if this happened. Why hadn't she written? Why hadn't she said something?

He looked down at his hands. They looked strange, and foreign, and when he flexed his fingers, his muscles were tight and awkward.

"Turner?"

He could hear his sister whispering his name, but somehow he couldn't respond. He could feel his throat moving, but he couldn't speak, couldn't even breathe. All he could manage was to sit there like a fool, thinking of Miranda.

***

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