"Miranda, I- " He choked on his words. Why couldn't he say it? Didn't he feel it? Why was it so hard?
"Don't, Turner," she said in a quavering voice. "Don't say anything. Just forget about it."
Something lurched in his throat, but he managed, "You know how much I care for you."
"Have a good time in London."
Her voice was flat, devastatingly so, and he knew he could not leave her this way. "Miranda, please."
"Don't talk to me!" she cried out. "I don't want to hear your excuses, and I don't want to hear your platitudes! I don't want to hear anything!"
Except I love you.
The unspoken words hung in the air between them. Turner could feel her slipping farther and farther away from him, and he felt powerless to stop this gulf that was opening up between them. He knew what he had to do, and it shouldn't have been hard. It was just three little words, for God's sake. And he wanted to say them. But he was standing at the edge of something, and he just could not take that last step forward.
It was not rational. It did not make sense. He did not know if he was scared to love her or scared that she loved him. He didn't know if he was scared at all. Maybe he was just dead inside, his heart too battered from his first marriage to behave in a logical, normal manner.
"Darling," he began, trying to think of something that would make her happy again. Or if that wasn't possible, at least wipe away some of the devastation in her eyes.
"Don't call me that," she said in a voice so low he could barely hear her. "Call me by my name."
He wanted to yell. He wanted to scream. He wanted to shake her by the shoulders and make her understand that he didn't understand. But he didn't know how to do any of those things, so he just nodded his head and said, "I will see you in a few weeks, then."
She nodded. Once. And then she looked away. "I expect you will."
"Good-bye," he said softly, and he shut the door behind him.
* * *
"There is a lot you can do with green," Olivia said as she fingered the fraying drapes in the west salon. "And you have always looked good in green."
"I'm not going to wear the drapes," Miranda replied.
"I know, but one wants to look one's best in one's drawing room, don't you think?"
"I suppose one does," Miranda returned, teasing Olivia for her affected speech.
"Oh, stop. If you didn't want my advice you shouldn't have invited me." Olivia's lips curved into an artless smile. "But I'm so glad you did. I've missed you dreadfully, Miranda. Haverbreaks is terribly dull in the winter. Fiona Bennet keeps calling on me."
"A hideous circumstance," Miranda agreed.
"I'm tempted to accept one of her invitations out of sheer boredom."
"Oh, don't do that."
"You're not still holding a grudge for the ribbon incident at my eleventh birthday party, are you?"
Miranda held her thumb and forefinger about a half inch apart. "Just a small one."
"Goodness, let it go. After all, you landed Turner. And right beneath all of our noses." Olivia was still slightly miffed that her brother and her best friend had been courting without her knowledge. "Although I must say, it is perfectly beastly of him to run off to London and leave you here alone."
Miranda smiled tightly as she fingered the fabric of her skirt. "It's not so bad," she murmured.
"But your time is so near," Olivia protested. "He shouldn't have left you alone."
"He didn't," Miranda said firmly, trying to change the subject. "You're here, aren't you?"
"Yes, yes, and I would stay for the birthing if I could, but Mama says it isn't proper for an unmarried lady."
"I can't think of anything more proper," Miranda retorted. "It's not as if you're not going to be in this very same situation in a few years."
"I do require a husband first," Olivia reminded her.
"I don't foresee any problem with that. How many offers did you receive this year? Six?"
"So no complaining, then."
"I'm not, I just…Oh, never mind, she says I may remain at Rosedale. I'm just not allowed to remain with you ."
"The drapes," Miranda reminded her.
"Yes, of course," Olivia said briskly, once again all business. "If we upholster in green, the drapes can be a contrasting color. Perhaps a secondary color from the upholstery fabric."
Miranda nodded and smiled when appropriate, but her mind was far away. London, to be exact. Her husband intruded on her thoughts every second of the day. She would be discussing a matter with the housekeeper when his smile would suddenly dance before her eyes. She couldn't finish the book she was reading because the sound of his laughter kept floating through her ears. And at night, when she was nearly asleep, the feather-light touch of his kiss teased her lips until she ached for his warm body next to hers.
Miranda heard Olivia impatiently repeating her name. "What? Oh, I'm sorry, Livvy. My mind was miles away."
"I know. It rarely seems to reside at Rosedale these days."
Miranda faked a heartfelt sigh. "It's the baby, I imagine. It makes me maudlin." In another two months, she thought ruefully, she wasn't going to be able to blame her momentary lapses of reason on the baby, and then what would she do? She smiled blandly at Olivia. "What did you want to tell me?"
"I was merely going to say that if you don't like green, we might redo the room in a dusty rose color. You could call it the rose salon. Which would be so fitting for Rosedale."
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