Weary, perhaps. Restless.

"I'm exhausted," Olivia declared, sliding off the bed. Her maid had left her nightclothes atop the covers, and Miranda respectfully turned her head while Olivia changed into them.

"How long do you think Turner will remain here in the country?" Miranda asked, trying not to bite her tongue. She hated that she was still so desperate for a glimpse of him, but it had been this way for years. Even when he'd married, and she'd sat in the pews at his wedding, and watching him meant watching him watch his bride with all the love and devotion that burned in her own heart-

She'd still watched. She still loved him. She always would. He was the man who'd made her believe in herself. He had no idea what he'd done to her- what he'd done for her- and he probably never would. But Miranda still ached for him. And she probably always would.

Olivia crawled into bed. "Will you be up long?" she asked, her voice thick with the beginnings of slumber.

"Not long," Miranda assured her. Olivia could not fall asleep while a candle burned so close. Miranda could not understand it, as the fire in the grate did not seem to bother her, but she had seen Olivia toss and turn with her own eyes, and so, when she realized that her mind was still racing and "not long" had been a bit of a lie, she leaned forward and blew out the candle.

"I'll take this elsewhere," she said, tucking her journal under her arm.

"Thankthsh," Olivia mumbled, and by the time Miranda pulled on a wrapper and reached the corridor, she was asleep.

Miranda tucked her journal under her chin and wedged it against her breastbone to free her hands so that she could tie the sash around her waist. She was a frequent overnight guest at Haverbreaks, but still, it wouldn't do to be wandering the halls of someone else's home in nothing but her nightgown.

It was a dark night, with nothing but the moonlight filtering through the windows to guide her, but Miranda could have made her way from Olivia's room to the library with her eyes closed. Olivia always fell asleep before she did- too many thoughts rumbling about in her head, Olivia pronounced- and so Miranda frequently took her diary to another room to record her ponderings. She supposed she could have asked for a bedchamber of her own, but Olivia's mother did not believe in needless extravagance, and she saw no reason to heat two rooms when one would suffice.

Miranda did not mind. In fact, she was grateful for the company. Her own home was far too quiet these days. Her beloved mother had passed away nearly a year earlier, and Miranda had been left alone with her father. In his grief, he had closeted himself away with his precious manuscripts, leaving his daughter to fend for herself. Miranda had turned to the Bevelstokes for love and friendship, and they welcomed her with open arms. Olivia even wore black for three weeks in honor of Lady Cheever.

"If one of my first cousins died, I'd be forced to do the same," Olivia had said at the funeral. "And I certainly loved your mama better than any of my cousins."

"Olivia!" Miranda was touched, but nonetheless, she thought she ought to be shocked.

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Have you met my cousins?"

And she'd laughed. At her own mother's funeral, Miranda had laughed. It was, she'd later realized, the most precious gift her friend could have offered.

"I love you, Livvy," she said.

Olivia took her hand. "I know you do," she said softly. "And I, you." Then she squared her shoulders and assumed her usual stance. "I should be quite incorrigible without you, you know. My mother often says you are the only reason I have not committed some irredeemable offense."

It was probably for that reason, Miranda reflected, that Lady Rudland had offered to sponsor her for a season in London. Upon receiving the invitation, her father had sighed with relief and quickly forwarded the necessary funds. Sir Rupert Cheever was not an exceptionally wealthy man, but he had enough to cover a season in London for his only daughter. What he did not possess was the necessary patience- or, to be frank, the interest- to take her himself.

Their debut was delayed for a year. Miranda could not go while in mourning for her mother, and Lady Rudland had decided to allow Olivia to wait, as well. Twenty would do as well as nineteen, she'd announced. And it was true; no one was worried about Olivia making a grand match. With her stunning looks, vivacious personality and, as Olivia wryly pointed out, her hefty dowry, she was sure to be a success.

But Leticia's death, in addition to being tragic, had been particularly ill-timed; now there was another period of mourning to be observed. Olivia could get away with just six weeks, however, as Leticia had not been a sister in blood.

They would be only a little bit late in their arrival for the season. It couldn't be helped.

Secretly, Miranda was glad. The thought of a London ball positively terrified her. It wasn't that she was shy, precisely, because she didn't think she was. It was just that she did not enjoy large crowds, and the thought of so many people staring at her in judgment was just awful.

Can't be helped , she thought as she made her way down the stairs. And at any rate, it would be far worse to be stuck out in Ambleside, without Olivia for company.

Miranda paused at the bottom of the stairs, deciding where to go. The west sitting room had the better desk, but the library tended to be warmer, and it was a bit of a chilly night. On the other hand-

Hmmm…what was that?

She leaned to the side, peering down the hall. Someone had a fire burning in Lord Rudland's study. Miranda couldn't imagine that anyone was still up and about- the Bevelstokes always retired early.

She moved quietly along the runner carpet until she reached the open door.


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