"Stop, woman! Good God, you've gone mad!" He raised his arms to shield his face. The position was rather cowardly for his taste, but the alternative was to have her accidentally jab him in the eye. There wasn't much else to do, as he couldn't exactly defend himself. He had never hit a woman, and he wasn't about to start now.

"And don't ever use that patronizing tone with me again," she demanded, poking him furiously in the chest.

"Calm down, dear. I promise I'll never use that patronizing tone with you again."

"You're using it now," she ground out.

"Not in the least."

"Yes, you were."

"No, I wasn't."

"Yes, you were."

Good Lord, this was growing tedious. "Miranda, we're acting like children."

She seemed to grow taller, and her eyes took on a wild look that should have struck fear in his heart. And as she gave her head a little shake, she spat, "I don't care."

"Well, maybe if you start acting like an adult, I'll stop speaking to you in my so-called patronizing tone."

Her eyes narrowed, and she growled from the back of her throat. "Do you know something, Turner? Sometimes you act like a complete ass." With that, she balled her hand into a fist, pulled back her arm, and let fly.

"Holy bloody hell!" His hand shot up to his eye, and he touched his burning skin in disbelief. "Who the hell taught you to throw a punch?"

She smiled smugly. "MacDownes."

24 August 1819- later in the evening

MacDownes informed Grandmother and Grandfather of my visitor today, and they quickly guessed who he is to me. Grandfather blustered for about ten minutes about how could that son of a something I cannot possibly write show his face, until Grandmother finally calmed him down and asked me why he had come.

I cannot lie to them. I never have been able to. I told them the truth- that he had come to marry me. They reacted with great joy and even greater relief until I told them that I refused. Grandfather launched into another tirade, only this time the object was me, and my lack of common sense. Or at least I think that was what he said. He is from the Highlands, and although he speaks the King's English with a perfect accent, his brogue breaks through when he gets upset.

He was, to understate, particularly upset.

So now I find myself with all three of them aligned against me. I fear I might be fighting a losing battle.

Chapter 15

Given the opposition against her, it was remarkable that Miranda held out as long as she did, which was three days.

Her grandmother launched the attack, using the sweet and sensible approach. "Now, dear," she had said, "I understand that Lord Turner was perhaps a bit tardy in his attentions, but he did come up to scratch, and well, you did …"

"You don't need to say it," Miranda had replied, blushing furiously.

"Well, you did."

"I know ." Heaven above, she knew. She could rarely think of anything else.

"But really, sweetling, what is wrong with the viscount? He seems a rather nice fellow, and he has assured us that he will be able to provide for you and look after you properly."

Miranda gritted her teeth. Turner had stopped by the evening before to introduce himself to her grandparents. Trust him to make her grandmother fall in love with him in under an hour. That man ought to be kept away from women of all ages.

"And he's quite handsome, I think," her grandmother continued. "Don't you think so? Of course you think so. After all, his is not the kind of face that some think is handsome and some don't. His is the kind that everyone finds handsome. Don't you agree?"

Miranda did agree, but she wasn't about to say so.

"Of course, handsome is as handsome does, and so many well-formed people have ill-formed minds."

Miranda wasn't even going to touch that one.

"But he appears to have all his wits about him, and he's quite affable, too. All in all, Miranda, you could do much worse." When her granddaughter did not reply, she said with uncharacteristic severity, "And I don't think you'll be able to do better."

It stung, but it was true. Still, Miranda said, "I could remain unmarried."

Since her grandmother did not view that as a viable option, she did not dignify it with a response. "I'm not talking about his title," she said sharply. "Or his fortune. He would be a good catch if he hadn't a farthing."

Miranda found a way to respond that involved a noncommittal throat sound, a bit of a head shake, a bit of a head twist, and a shrug. And that, she hoped, would be that.

But it wasn't. The end wasn't nearly in sight. Turner took up the next round by trying to appeal to her romantic nature. Large bouquets of flowers arrived every two or so hours, every one with a note reading, "Marry me, Miranda."

Miranda did her best to ignore them, which wasn't easy, because they soon filled every corner of the house. He made great inroads with her grandmother, however, who was redoubled in her resolve to see her Miranda married to the charming and generous viscount.

Her grandfather tried next, his approach considerably more aggressive. "For the love of God, lassie," he roared. "Have you lost your mind?"

Since Miranda was no longer quite so certain she knew the answer to that question, she did not reply.

Turner went next, this time making a tactical mistake. He sent a note reading, "I forgive you for hitting me." Miranda was initially enraged. It was that condescending tone which had caused her to punch him in the first place. Then she recognized it for what it was- a gentle warning. He was not going to put up with her stubbornness for much longer.

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