"Oh, yes," he murmured, smiling to himself as he watched her drift off. "I promise."

Chapter 16

Rosedale was, by aristocratic standards, of modest proportions. The warm and elegant home had been in the Bevelstoke family for several generations, and it was customary for the eldest son to use it as his country home before he ascended to the earldom and the much grander Haverbreaks. Turner loved Rosedale, loved its plain stone walls and crenellated roofs. And most of all, he loved the wild landscape, domesticated only by the hundreds of roses that had been planted with wild abandon around the house.

They arrived fairly late at night, having stopped for a leisurely lunch near the border. Miranda had long since fallen asleep- she'd warned him that the motion of a carriage always made her drowsy- but Turner did not mind. He liked the quiet of the night, with only the sounds of the horses and the carriage and the wind in the air. He liked the moonlight, drifting in through the windows. And he liked glancing down at his new wife, who was not at all elegant in her sleep- her mouth was open, and truth be told, she snored just a bit. But he liked that. He didn't know why he liked it, but he did.

And he liked knowing it.

He hopped down from the carriage, placed one finger on his lips when one of the outriders approached to help, then reached back in and scooped Miranda into his arms. She had never been to Rosedale, even though it was not so far from the Lakes. He hoped she would grow to love it as he did. He thought she would. He knew her well, he was beginning to realize. He wasn't sure when it had happened, but he could look at something and think, Miranda would like that .

Turner had stopped here on his way up to Scotland, and the servants had been instructed to have the house ready. It was, although he had not sent word of their exact arrival, and so the staff had not been assembled for an introduction to the new viscountess. Turner was glad for that; he wouldn't have wanted to wake Miranda up.

When he made his way inside his bedchamber, he noticed thankfully that a fire was burning in the hearth. It might have been August, but the Northumberland nights held a distinctive chill. As he set Miranda softly down on the bed, a pair of footmen brought in their meager luggage. Turner whispered to the butler that his new wife could meet the staff in the morning, or perhaps later in the day, and then shut the door.

Miranda, who had gone from snoring to restless mumbling, shifted position and hugged a pillow to her chest. Turner returned to her side and shushed softly in her ear. She seemed to recognize his voice in her sleep; she let out a contented sigh and immediately rolled over.

"No sleep just yet," he murmured. "Let's get you out of these clothes." She was lying on her side, so he went to work on the buttons marching down her back. "Can you sit up for just a moment? So I can remove your dress?"

Like a sleepy child, she allowed herself to be pulled into a sitting position. "Where are we?" she yawned, not quite awake.

"Rosedale. Your new home." He wiggled her skirts up past her hips so that he could pull them over her head.

"Oh. It's nice." She flopped back down on the bed.

He smiled indulgently and nudged her back up. "Just another few seconds." With one deft motion, he pulled her dress over her head, leaving her clad in her chemise.

"Good," Miranda murmured, trying to crawl under the covers.

"Not so fast." He caught hold of her ankle. "We don't sleep with clothing here." The chemise joined her gown on the floor. Miranda, barely realizing that she was nude, finally made it under the bedclothes, sighed in utter contentment, and promptly fell asleep.

Turner chuckled and shook his head as he watched his wife. Had he noticed before that her eyelashes were so long? Perhaps it was just the candlelight. He, too, was tired, so he stripped off his clothing in quick, efficient movements and crawled into bed. She was lying on her side, curled up like a child, so he snaked an arm around her and pulled her to the center of the bed, where he could cuddle up against her warmth. Her skin was unbearably soft, and he idly stroked his hand against her midriff. Something he touched must have tickled her, for she let out a soft squeal and rolled over.

"Everything is going to be just fine," he whispered. They had affection and they had attraction, and that was more than most couples. He leaned forward to kiss her sleepy mouth, tracing its outline lightly with his tongue.

Her eyelids fluttered open.

"You must be Sleeping Beauty," he murmured. "Awakened by a kiss."

"Where are we?" she asked, her voice groggy.

"At Rosedale. You asked me that already."

"Did I? I don't remember."

Quite unable to help himself, he leaned forward and kissed her again. "Ah, Miranda, you're very sweet."

She let out a small sigh of contentment at his kiss, but it was obvious that she was having trouble keeping her eyelids open. "Turner?"

"Yes, puss?"

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry about what?"

"I'm sorry. I just can't…that is, I'm so tired." She yawned. "Can't do my duty."

He smiled wryly as he pulled her into his arms. "Shhh," he whispered, leaning down to kiss her temple. "Don't think of it as a duty. It's far too splendid for that. And I'm not such a cad as to force myself on a woman who is exhausted. We have plenty of time. Don't worry."

But she was already asleep.

He brushed his lips against her hair. "We have an entire lifetime."

* * *
Miranda woke first the next morning, letting out a great big yawn as she opened her eyes. Daylight was peeking in around the curtains, but it definitely wasn't the sun that was causing her bed to be so cozy and warm. Turner's arm had been thrown over her waist at some point during the night, and she was curled up against him. Lord, but the man radiated heat.


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