And yet he was still smiling when he said, "You see? Not a single reason."
She should have been nervous.
"Perhaps not," she said icily, "but nor is there a reason to do it."
"Your reputation is not a reason?" he asked softly.
Her eyes met his warily. "But my reputation is not in danger."
"Is it not?"
She sucked in her breath. "You wouldn't."
He shrugged, a tiny movement of his shoulder that sent a shiver down her spine. "I am not ordinarily described as ruthless, but do not underestimate me, Miranda. I shall marry you."
"Why do you even want to?" she cried. He didn't have to do it. No one was forcing him. Miranda had practically offered him an escape route on a silver platter.
"I am a gentleman," he bit off. "I take care of my transgressions."
"I am a transgression?" she whispered. Because the air had been knocked from her lungs. A whisper was all she could do.
He stood across from her, looking as uncomfortable as she had ever seen him. "I should not have seduced you. I should have known better. And I should not have abandoned you for so many weeks following. For that I have no excuse, save my own shortcomings. But I will not allow my honor to be tossed aside. And you will marry me."
"Do you want me, or do you want your honor?" Miranda whispered.
He looked at her as if she had missed an important lesson. And then he said, "They are the same thing."
28 August 1819
I married him.
The wedding was small. Tiny, really, the only guests Miranda's grandparents, the vicar's wife, and- at Miranda's insistence- MacDownes.
At Turner's insistence, they departed for his home in Northumberland directly following the ceremony, which, also at his insistence, had been held at a shockingly early hour so that they might get a good start back to Rosedale, the Restoration-era manse that the new couple would call home.
After Miranda said her good-byes, he helped her up into the carriage, his hands lingering at her waist before he gave her a boost. An odd, unfamiliar emotion washed over him, and Turner was slightly bemused to realize that it was contentment.
Marriage to Leticia had been about many things, but never peace. Turner had entered into the union on a giddy rush of desire and excitement that had turned quickly to disillusionment and crushing sense of loss. And when that was through, all that had been left was anger.
He rather liked the idea of being married to Miranda. She could be trusted. She would never betray him, with her body or with her words. And although he did not feel the obsession he had done with Leticia, he desired her- Miranda - with an intensity that he still could not quite believe. Every time he saw her, smelled her, heard her voice…He wanted her. He wanted to lay his hand on her arm, to feel the heat from her body. He wanted to brush up close, to breathe her in as they crossed paths.
Every time he closed his eyes, he was back at the hunting lodge, covering her body with his, powered by something deep within him, something primitive and possessive, and just a little bit wild.
She was his. And she would be again.
He entered the carriage after her and sat down on the same side, although not directly next to her. He wanted nothing more than to settle at her side and pull her into his lap, but he sensed that she needed a bit of time.
They would be many hours in the carriage this day. He could afford to take his time.
He watched her for several minutes as the carriage rolled away from Edinburgh. She was tightly clutching the folds of her mint green wedding gown. Her knuckles were turning white, a testament to her frayed nerves. Twice, Turner reached out to touch her, then pulled back, unsure if his overture would be welcome. After a few more minutes, however, he said softly, "If you wish to cry, I shan't judge you."
She didn't turn around. "I'm fine."
She swallowed. "Of course. I just got married, didn't I? Isn't that what every woman wants?"
"Is it what you want?"
"It's a little late to worry about that now, don't you think?"
He smiled wryly. "I'm not so dreadful, Miranda."
She let out a nervous laugh. "Of course not. You're what I've always wanted. That's what you've been telling me for days, have you not? I've loved you forever."
He found himself wishing that her words did not hold such a mocking tone. "Come over here," he said, taking hold of her arm and hauling her over to his side of the carriage.
"I like it here…wait…Oh!" She was firmly pressed against his side, his arm an iron band around her.
"This is much better, don't you think?"
"I can't see out the window now," she said sourly.
"Nothing there you haven't seen before." He pushed aside the curtain and peeked outside. "Let's see, trees, grass, a cottage or two. All fairly ordinary stuff." He took her hand in his and idly stroked her fingers. "Do you like the ring?" he asked. "It's rather plain, I know, but simple gold bands are a custom in my family."
Miranda's breathing grew quicker as her hands were warmed by his caress. "It's lovely. I- I shouldn't like anything ostentatious."
"I didn't think you would. You're a rather elegant little creature."
She blushed, nervously twisting her ring 'round and 'round on her finger. "Oh, but it's Olivia who picks out all my fashions."
"Nonetheless, I'm sure you wouldn't let her choose anything loud or garish."
Miranda stole a glance at him. He was smiling at her rather gently, almost benignly, but his fingers were doing wicked things to her wrist, sending flutters and sparks to her very core. And then he lifted her hand to his mouth, pressing a devastatingly soft kiss on the inside of her wrist. "I've something else for you," he murmured.
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