"You don't think it would be too feminine?" Miranda asked. "Turner uses this room quite a bit, too."
"Hmmm. That is a problem."
Miranda didn't even realize that she was clenching her fists until her nails bit into her palms. Funny how even the mention of his name could set her off. "On the other hand," she said, her eyes narrowing dangerously. "I've always liked dusty rose. Let's do it."
"Are you sure?" Now Olivia was doubtful. "Turner- "
"Hang Turner," Miranda cut in with just enough vehemence to make Olivia raise her eyebrows. "If he wanted a say in the decor, he shouldn't have gone off to London."
"You shouldn't get snappy," Olivia said placatingly. "I'm certain he misses you very much."
"Nonsense. He probably hasn't thought of me at all."
* * *
She was haunting him.
Turner had thought, after four interminable days in a closed carriage, that he would be able to remove Miranda from his thoughts when he reached London and all its distractions.
But he was wrong.
Their last conversation played out in his mind, over and over and over again, but every time Turner attempted to change his lines, to pretend that he had said something else, that he had thought of something else to say, the whole thing disappeared. The memory dissolved and all he was left with was her eyes, big, and brown, and flat with pain.
It was an unfamiliar emotion, guilt. It burned, and it prickled, and it grabbed him by the throat. Anger had been much, much easier. Anger was clean. It was precise. And it was never about him.
It had been about Leticia. It had been about her many men. But it had never had to be about him.
But this- This was something else. And there was no way he could live like this. They could be happy again, couldn't they? He had certainly been happy before. She had been, too. She might complain about his failings, but he knew that she had been happy.
And she would be again, he vowed. Once Miranda accepted that he cared for her in every way he knew how, they could go back to the comfortable existence they'd carved out since their marriage. She would have the baby. They would be a family. He would make love to her with his hands and with his lips, with everything but words.
He had won her once before. He could do it again.
* * *
Two weeks later, Miranda was sitting in her new rose salon, trying to read a book but spending far more time staring out the window. Turner had sent word that he would be arriving within the next few days, and she couldn't stop her heart from racing every time she heard a noise that sounded like a carriage coming up the drive.
The sun had slipped down below the horizon before she realized that she hadn't yet turned a single page in her book. A concerned servant brought in the supper she had forgotten to request, and Miranda had barely finished her bowl of soup before she fell asleep on the sofa.
A few hours later, the carriage for which she'd been watching so diligently came to a halt in front of the house, and Turner, weary from travel yet still eager to see his wife, hopped down. He reached into one of his bags and withdrew a neatly wrapped package, leaving the rest of his luggage with the vehicle for the footmen to bring in. He looked up at the house and noted that no light was burning in their bedroom. He hoped that Miranda wasn't already asleep; he hadn't the heart to wake her, but he really wanted to speak with her that evening and try to make amends.
He stomped up the front steps, trying to dislodge some of the mud from his boots as he did so. The butler, who had been watching for him almost as long as Miranda, opened the door before Turner could knock.
"Good evening, Brearley," Turner said affably.
"May I be the first to welcome you home, my lord."
"Thank you. Is my wife still awake?"
"I believe she is in the rose salon, my lord. Reading, I think."
Turner shrugged off his coat. "She certainly likes to do that."
"We are fortunate to have such a well-read lady," Brearley added.
Turner blinked. "We don't have a rose salon, Brearley."
"We do now, my lord. In the former west salon."
"Oh? So she decorated. Well, good for her. I want her to think of this place as home."
"As do we all, my lord."
Turner smiled. Miranda had aroused a fierce loyalty among the household staff. The maids positively worshipped her. "I'll go surprise her now." He strode across the front hall, veering right until he reached what used to be the west salon. The door was slightly ajar, and Turner could see the flicker of a candle. Silly woman. She ought to know that she needed more than one candle to read.
He pushed the door open a few more inches and poked his head in. Miranda was lying back on the sofa, her mouth soft and slightly open as she slept. A book was lying across her belly, and a half-eaten meal sat on the table next to her. She looked so lovely and innocent, his heart ached. He had missed her on his journey- he had thought of her, and their inauspicious parting, nearly every minute of every day. But he did not think he'd realized just how deep and elemental his longing had been until this very moment, when he saw her again, her eyes closed, her chest rising and falling gently in slumber.
He'd told himself he would not wake her, but that, he reasoned, was when he'd thought she would be in their bedchamber. She was going to have to be awakened in order to go upstairs to bed, so he might as well be the one to do it.
He walked over to the sofa, pushed her dinner to the side, and perched on the table, letting his package rest on his lap. "Wake up, dar- " He broke off, belatedly remembering how she had ordered him not to use endearments any longer. He touched her shoulder. "Wake up, Miranda."
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