"There were."

She tried to swallow the enormous lump that suddenly popped up in her throat as she stepped aside to clear his path to the door. "I think you should leave," she said quietly.

He gripped her upper arms and forced her to look at him. "I never touched any of them, Miranda. Not one."

The intensity of his voice was enough to make her want to cry. "Why not?" she whispered.

"I knew I was going to marry you. I know how it feels to be cuckolded." He cleared his throat. "I would not do that to you."

"Why not?" The words were barely a whisper.

"Because I have a care for your feelings. And I hold you in the highest regard."

She pulled away from him and walked over to the window. It was early evening, but the days were long during the Scottish summertime. The sun was high in the sky, and people were still walking to and fro, completing their daily errands as if they didn't have a care in the world. Miranda wanted to be one of those people, wanted to walk down the street away from her problems and never return.

Turner wanted to marry her. He had remained faithful to her. She should be dancing with joy. But she could not shake the feeling that he was doing this out of duty, not out of any love or affection for her. Except for desire, of course. It was abundantly clear that he desired her.

A tear trickled down her face. It wasn't enough. It might be, if she didn't love him so well. But this…It was too uneven. It would sicken her slowly, until she was nothing but a sad, lonely shell.

"Turner, I…I appreciate your coming all the way up here to see me. I know it was a long trip. And it was truly…" She searched for the right word. "…honorable of you to stay away from all those women in Kent. I'm sure they were very pretty."

"Not half as pretty as you," he whispered.

She swallowed convulsively. This was getting harder by the second. She clutched at the windowsill. "I cannot marry you."

Dead silence. Miranda didn't turn around. She could not see him, but she could feel the rage emanating from his body. Please , please just leave the room , she silently pleaded. Don't come over here. And please- oh , please , don't touch me .

Her prayers went unanswered, and his hands descended brutally on her shoulders, spinning her around to face him. "What did you say?"

"I said I cannot marry you," she replied tremulously. She let her gaze fall to the floor. His blue eyes were burning holes into her.

"Look at me, damn it! What are you thinking? You have to marry me."

She shook her head.

"You little fool."

Miranda didn't know what to say to that so she said nothing.

"Have you forgotten this?" He yanked her hard against him and plundered her lips with his. "Have you?"


"Then have you forgotten that you told me you loved me?" he demanded.

Miranda wanted to die on the spot. "No."

"That should count for something," he said, shaking her until some of her hair broke free of its pins. "Doesn't it?"

"And have you ever said you loved me?" she shot back.

He stared at her mutely.

"Do you love me?" Her cheeks were flaming with anger and embarrassment. "Do you?"

Turner swallowed, suddenly feeling as if he were choking. The walls seemed close, and he could not say anything, could not utter the words she wanted to hear.

"I see," she said in a low voice.

A muscle worked spasmodically in his throat. Why couldn't he say it? He wasn't sure if he loved her, but he wasn't sure that he didn't. And he sure as hell didn't want to hurt her, so why didn't he just say those three words that would make her happy?

He had told Leticia he loved her.

"Miranda," he said haltingly. "I- "

"Don't say it if you don't mean it!" she burst out, her voice catching on the words.

Turner spun on his heel and walked across the room to where he had noticed a decanter of brandy. There was a bottle of whiskey on the shelf beneath it, and without asking her permission, he poured himself a glass. It went down in one fiery gulp, but it didn't make him feel any better. "Miranda," he said, wishing his voice were just a little steadier. "I'm not perfect."

"You were supposed to be!" she cried. "Do you know how wonderful you were to me when I was little? And you didn't even try. You were just…just you . And you made me feel like I wasn't such an awkward little thing. And then you changed, but I thought I could change you back. And I tried, oh, how I tried, but it wasn't enough. I wasn't enough."

"Miranda, it isn't you…"

"Don't make excuses for me! I can't be what you need, and I hate you for that! Do you hear me? I hate you!" Overcome, she turned away and hugged her arms to herself, trying to control the tremors that shook her body.

"You don't hate me." His voice was soft and oddly soothing.

"No," she said, choking back a sob. "I don't. But I hate Leticia. If she weren't already dead, I'd kill her myself."

One corner of his mouth tilted upward in a wry smile.

"I'd do it slowly and painfully."

"You really do have a vicious streak, puss," he said, offering her a cajoling smile.

She tried to smile, but her lips just wouldn't obey.

There was a long pause before Turner spoke again. "I will try to make you happy, but I can't be everything you want."

"I know," she said sadly. "I thought you could, but I was wrong."

"But we could still have a good marriage, Miranda. Better than most."


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