"Really, Turner, you're very sweet- "

He leaned down until his nose rested on hers. "You're starting to irritate me, wife."

"Good heavens, I wouldn't want to do that."

"I should think not."

Her lips curved into a mischief-tinged smile. "You're very handsome."

"Thank you," he said magnanimously. "Now, did you see how nicely I accepted your compliment?"

"You rather ruined the effect by pointing out your good manners."

He shook his head. "Such a mouth on you. I'm going to have to do something about that."

"Kiss it?" she said hopefully.

"Mmm, not a problem." His tongue darted out and traced the outline of her lips. "Very nice. Very tasty."

"I'm not a fruit tart, you know," she retorted.

"There's that mouth again," he said, sighing.

"I imagine you'll have to keep kissing me."

He sighed as if that were a great chore. "Oh, all right." This time, he poked into her mouth and ran his tongue along the smooth surface of her teeth. When he lifted his head again and looked back down at her face, she was glowing. It seemed the only word to describe the radiance that emanated from her skin. "My Lord, Miranda," he said hoarsely. "You really are beautiful."

He lowered himself down, rolled onto his side, and gathered her into his arms. "I've never seen anyone look quite as you do right this minute," he murmured, pulling her more tightly against him. "Let's just lie here like this for a spell."

He drifted off to sleep, thinking that this was an excellent way to start off a marriage.

6 November 1819

Today marked the tenth week of my marriage- and the third since when I should last have bled. I should not be surprised that I have conceived again so quickly- Turner is a most attentive husband.

I do not complain.

12 January 1820

As I stepped into the bath this evening, I could swear I saw a slight swell to my belly. I believe in it now. I believe it is here to stay.

30 April 1820

Oh, I am large. And nearly three months remain. Turner seems to adore my roundness. He is convinced it shall be a girl. He whispers, "I love you," to my belly.

But just to my belly. Not to me. To be fair, I have not said the words, either, but I am sure he knows that I do. After all, I did tell him before our marriage, and he once said that a person does not fall out of love so easily.

I know he cares for me. Why can he not love me? Or if he does, why can he not say it?

Chapter 17

The months passed, and the newlyweds settled into a comfortable and affectionate routine. Turner, who had lived through a hellish existence with Leticia, was constantly surprised at how pleasant marriage could be when one undertook it with the right person. Miranda was a complete delight to him. He loved to watch her read a book, brush her hair, give instructions to the housekeeper- he loved to watch her do anything. And he found himself constantly looking for excuses to touch her. He would point out an invisible speck of dust on her dress and then brush it aside. A lock of her hair had fallen astray, he would murmur as he pushed it back into place.

And she never seemed to mind. Sometimes, if she was busy with something, she would swat his hand away, but more often she merely smiled, and sometimes she'd move her head- just a touch, just enough to rest her cheek in his hand.

But sometimes, when she did not realize he was watching her, he caught her looking at him with such longing. She always looked away, so quickly that he often could not even be sure that the moment had occurred. But he knew that it had, because when he closed his own eyes at night, he saw hers, with that flash of sadness that clawed at his gut.

He knew what she wanted. It should have been easy. Three simple words. And really, shouldn't he just say them? Even if he didn't mean them, wouldn't it be worth it just to see her happy?

Sometimes he tried to say it, tried to make his mouth form the words, but he always seemed to get this choking feeling, as if his very breath were being squeezed from his throat.

And the irony was- he thought he might love her. He knew that he would be utterly bereft if something were to happen to her. But then again, he'd thought he loved Leticia, and look where that had got him. He loved everything about Miranda, from the way her nose turned up slightly at the end to her dry wit which she never spared on him. But was that the same as loving the person?

And if he did, how would he know? This time, he wanted to be sure. He wanted some sort of scientific proof. He had loved on faith once before, believing that his giddy mix of desire and obsession had to be love. Because what else could it have been?

But now he was older. Wiser, too, which was a good thing, and far more cynical, which was not.

Most of the time he was able to push these worries from his head. He was a man, and frankly, that's what men did. Women could discuss and ruminate (and most likely discuss again, following) all they wanted. He preferred to ponder a matter once, maybe twice, and be done with it.

Which was why it was particularly galling that he seemed unable to let this particular problem go. His life was lovely. Happy. Delightful. He shouldn't be wasting valuable thought and energy pondering the state of his own heart. He ought to be able to enjoy his many blessings and not have to think about it.

He was doing precisely this- concentrating on why he did not wish to be thinking about all this- when he heard a knock on his study door.

"Come in!"

Miranda's head peeked into the doorway. "Am I bothering you?"

"No, of course not. Come in."

She pushed the door the rest of the way open and entered the room. Turner had to stifle a smile at the sight of her. Lately her belly seemed to precede the rest of her into a room by a good five seconds. She saw his grin and looked down at herself ruefully. "I'm enormous, aren't I?"


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