Miranda swallowed and nodded, blinking back tears that she had sworn she wouldn't shed. The sky was still dark, but Turner had wanted an early start to London. She was sitting up in bed, her hands resting atop her belly as she watched him get dressed. "Your valet is going to have an apoplectic fit," she said, trying to tease him. "You know he thinks you don't know how to dress yourself properly."
Clad only in breeches, Turner walked to her side and perched on the edge of the bed. "You're sure you don't mind my leaving?"
"Of course I mind. I'd much rather have you here." A wobbly smile touched her face. "But I will be just fine. And I'll most likely get a lot more work done without you here to distract me."
"Oh? And am I so very distracting?"
"Very. Although"- she smiled sheepishly- "I can't be 'distracted' very much lately."
"Mmmm. Sad, but true. I, unfortunately, am distracted all the time." He cupped her chin with his fingers and lowered his lips onto hers in a passionately tender kiss. "Every time I see you," he murmured.
"Every time?" she asked doubtfully.
He gave her a solemn nod.
"But I look like a cow."
"Mmm-hmm." His lips never left hers. "But a very attractive cow."
"You wretch!" She pulled away and punched him playfully on the shoulder.
He smiled devilishly in return. "It appears that this trip to London is going to be beneficial to my health. Or at least my body. It is fortunate I do not bruise easily."
She pouted and stuck out her tongue.
He clucked at her before standing up and crossing the room. "I see that motherhood has not brought maturity along with it."
Her pillow went sailing across the room.
Turner was back at her side in an instant, his body spreading out on the bed along the length of hers. "Maybe I should remain, if only to keep a firm rein on you."
"Maybe you should."
He kissed her again, this time with barely restrained passion and emotion. "Have I told you," he murmured as his lips explored the soft planes of her face, "how much I adore being married to you?"
"It's early yet. Surely you can excuse my lapse." He caught her earlobe between his teeth. "I'm certain I told you yesterday."
And the day before, Miranda thought bittersweetly. And the day before that, too, but he'd never told her that he loved her. Why was it always "I love being with you" and "I love doing things with you" and never "I love you "? He couldn't even seem to bring himself to say, "I adore you." "I adore being married to you" was obviously much safer.
Turner caught the melancholy look in her eye. "Is something wrong, puss?"
"No, no," she lied. "Nothing. I just…I'm just going to miss you, that's all."
"I shall miss you, too." He kissed her one last time and then stood up to pull on his shirt.
Miranda watched him as he moved about the room, gathering his belongings. Her hands were clenched under the covers, twisting the sheets into angry spirals. He wasn't going to say anything unless she did first. And why should he? He was obviously perfectly content with matters as they were. She was going to have to force the issue, but she was so scared- so scared that he wouldn't pull her into his arms and tell her that he had only been waiting for her to tell him that she loved him again. But most of all, she was terrified that he'd swallow uncomfortably and say something that began with, "You know how much I like you, Miranda…"
That thought was sufficiently chilling that she shuddered, her breath catching in a fearful sigh.
"Are you certain you're feeling well?" Turner asked in a concerned voice.
How easy it would be to lie to him. Only a few words and he would remain by her side, holding her warmly at night and kissing her so tenderly that she could almost let herself believe that he loved her. But if there was one thing they needed between them, it was truth, so she just nodded. "I am well, Turner, truly. It was just a waking-up-in-the-morning sort of shiver. My body is still asleep, I think."
"As the rest of you should be. I don't want you overdoing it while I'm gone. You're due in less than two months."
She smiled wryly. "A fact I am unlikely to forget."
"Good. You've my baby in there, after all." Turner pulled on his coat and leaned over to kiss her good-bye.
"My baby, too."
"Mmmm, I know." He straightened, preparing to depart. "That's why I love her so much already."
He turned around. Her voice sounded odd, almost fearful. "What is it, Miranda?"
"I just wanted to tell you…that is, I wanted you to know…"
"What is it, Miranda?"
"I just wanted you to know that I love you." The words burst from her mouth in a tumbling rush, as if she were afraid that if she slowed down she'd lose her courage altogether.
He froze, and it felt as if his body were not his own. He'd been waiting for this. Hadn't he? And wasn't it a good thing? Didn't he want her love?
His eyes met hers, and he could hear what she was thinking-
Don't break my heart , Turner . Please don't break my heart.
Turner's lips parted. He'd been telling himself over the last few months that he wanted her to say it again, but now that she had, he felt as if a noose were tightening around his throat. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't think. And he certainly couldn't see straight because all he could see were those big, brown eyes, and they looked so desperate.
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