"Really, then who…"
Turner almost smiled as her voice trailed off in shock. He could just see her mouth dropping open.
"He was most insistent, miss," MacDownes continued. "I have his card right here."
There was a long silence until Miranda finally said, "Please tell him that I am not available." Her voice quavered on the last word, and then she dashed up the stairs.
Turner strode out into the hall just in time to crash into MacDownes, who was probably relishing the idea of tossing him out.
"She doesn't want to see you, my lord," the butler intoned, not without the barest hint of a smile.
Turner pushed past him. "She damned well will."
"I don't think so, my lord." MacDownes caught hold of his coat.
"Look, my man," Turner said, trying to sound icily congenial, if such a thing was possible. "I am not averse to hitting you."
"And I am not averse to hitting you."
Turner surveyed the older man with disdain. "Get out of my way."
The butler crossed his arms and stood his ground.
Turner scowled at him and yanked his coat free, striding to the bottom of the stairs. "Miranda!" he yelled out. "Get down here right now! Right now! We have things to dis- "
Good God, the butler had punched him in the jaw. Stunned, Turner stroked his tender flesh. "Are you mad?"
"Not at all, my lord. I take great pride in my work."
The butler had assumed a fighting position with the ease and grace of a professional. Leave it to Miranda to hire a pugilist as a butler.
"Look," Turner said in a conciliatory tone. "I need to speak with her immediately. It's of the utmost importance. The lady's honor is at stake."
Thwack! Turner reeled from a second blow.
"That, my lord, is for implying that Miss Cheever is anything less than honorable."
Turner narrowed his eyes menacingly but decided that he wouldn't have a chance against Miranda's mad butler, not when he'd already been on the receiving end of two disorienting blows. "Tell Miss Cheever," he said scathingly, "that I will be back, and she bloody well had better receive me." He strode furiously out of the house and down the front steps.
Utterly enraged that the chit would completely refuse to see him, he turned back to look at the house. She was standing at an open upstairs window, her fingers nervously covering her mouth. Turner scowled at her and then realized that he was still holding his half-eaten scone.
He lobbed it hard through the window, where it caught her square on the chest.
There was some satisfaction in that.
24 August 1819
I never sent the letter, of course. I spent an entire day composing it, and then just when I had it ready to post, it became unnecessary.
I did not know whether to weep or rejoice.
And now Turner is here. He must have beat the truth- or rather, what used to be the truth- out of Olivia. She would never have betrayed me otherwise. Poor Livvy. He can be terrifying when he is furious.
Which, apparently, he still is. He threw a scone at me. A scone! It is difficult to fathom.
Two hours later, Turner made another appearance. This time, Miranda was waiting for him.
She wrenched the front door open before he could even knock. He didn't so much as stumble, however, just stood there with his perfect posture, his arm halfway up, his hand fisted and ready to connect with the door.
"Oh, for goodness' sake," she said in an irritated tone. "Come in."
Turner raised his brows. "Were you watching for me?"
And because she knew she could not put this off any longer, she marched to the sitting room without a backward glance.
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"A most pleasant greeting, Miranda," he said smoothly, looking clean and crisp and handsome and utterly at ease and- oh! she wanted to kill him. "Who has been teaching you manners?" he continued. "Attila the Hun?"
She gritted her teeth and repeated the question. "What do you want?"
"Why, to marry you, of course."
It was, of course, the one thing she'd been waiting for since the first moment she'd laid eyes upon him. And never in her life had she been so proud of herself as when she said, "No, thank you."
"No, thank you," she repeated pertly. "If that is all, I will show you out."
But he caught her wrist as she made as if to leave the room. "Not so fast."
She could do this. She knew she could. She had her pride, and she no longer had any compelling reason to marry him. And she shouldn't. No matter how much her heart ached, she could not give in. He did not love her. He did not even hold her in high enough regard to contact her even once in the month and a half since they had come together at the hunter's lodge.
He might have been a gentleman, but he was not much of one.
"Miranda," he said silkily, and she knew he was trying to seduce her, if not into his bed, then into acquiescence.
She took a deep breath. "You came here, you did the right thing, and I refused. You have nothing more to feel guilty about, so you can return to England with a clear conscience. Good-bye, Turner."
"I don't think so, Miranda," he said, tightening his grip on her. "We have much to discuss, you and I."
"Ehrm, not much, really. Thank you for your concern, though." Her arm tingled where he held her, and she knew that if she was to hold on to her resolve, she had to be rid of him as soon as possible.
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