She blinked. "Turner?" Her voice was groggy.

"Hello, puss." Hang her if she didn't want him to call her that. If he wanted to use an endearment, he damned well would.

"I'd almost- " She yawned. "I'd almost given up on you."

"I told you I'd arrive today."

"But the roads…"

"They weren't so bad." He smiled down at her. Her sleepy mind hadn't yet remembered that it was mad at him, and he saw no reason to issue a reminder. He touched her cheek. "I missed you."

Miranda yawned again. "Did you?"

"Very much." He paused. "Did you miss me?"

"I…yes." Lying served no purpose, she realized. He already knew that she loved him. "Did you have a good time in London?" she asked politely.

"I'd rather you had been with me," he replied, and he sounded too measured, as if his sentences had been carefully balanced so as not to offend.

And then, in the same polite voice: "Did you have a good time while I was gone?"

"Olivia came for a few days."

"Did she?"

Miranda nodded. And then she said, "Other than that, however, I had a great deal of time to think."

There was a long silence, and then: "I see."

She watched as he set his package down, stood, and walked over to where the solitary candle was burning. "It's quite dark in here," he said, but there was something stilted about it, and she wished she could see his face as he picked up the candle and used it to light several more.

"I fell asleep while it was still twilight," she told him, because…well, because there seemed to be some sort of unspoken agreement between them to keep this all cordial and careful and civil and everything else that meant they avoided anything real.

"Really?" he replied. "It gets dark quite early now. You must have been very tired."

"It's wearying to carry an extra person around one's middle."

He smiled. Finally. "It won't be much longer."

"No, but I want this last month to be as pleasant as possible."

The words hung in the air. She had not meant them innocently, and he did not misinterpret. "What do you mean by that?" he asked, each word so soft and so precise that she could not miss his serious intent.

"I mean…" She swallowed nervously, wishing that she was standing up with her hands on her hips, or with her arms crossed, or anything but this utterly vulnerable position lying back on the sofa. "It means that I cannot go on as we were before."

"I thought we were happy," he said cautiously.

"We were. I was. I mean…but I wasn't."

"Either you were or you weren't, puss. One or the other."

"Both," she said, hating the low tone of finality in his voice. "Don't you understand?" And then she looked at him. "No, I can see you do not."

"I don't know what you want me to do," he said flatly. But they both knew he was lying.

"I need to know where I stand with you, Turner."

"Where you stand with me?" he asked in a disbelieving voice. "Where you stand with me? Bloody hell, woman. You're my wife. What else do you need to know?"

"I need to know that you love me!" she burst out, clumsily getting to her feet. He made no reply, just stood there with a muscle twitching in his cheek, so she added, "Or I need to know that you don't."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"It means I want to know what you feel, Turner. I need to know how you feel about me. If you don't- if you don't- " She squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her hands, trying to figure out just what it was she wanted to say. "It doesn't matter if you don't care," she finally said. "But I have to know."

"What the devil are you talking about?" He raked his fingers angrily through his hair. "Every minute of the day I tell you I adore you."

"You don't tell me you adore me. You tell me you adore being married to me."

"What is the difference?" he fairly yelled.

"Maybe you just adore being married."

"After Leticia?" he spat.

"I'm sorry," she said, because she was. For that. But not for the rest. "There is a difference," she said in a low voice. "A large one. I want to know if you care for me , not just for the way I make you feel."

He rested his hands on the windowsill, leaning heavily on it as he stared out the window. She could see only his back, but she heard him clearly as he said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

"You don't want to know," she burst out. "You're afraid to think about it. You- "

Turner whirled around and silenced her with a look that was as hard as any she had ever seen. Even that night when he'd first kissed her, when he was sitting alone, getting drunk after burying Leticia- he had not looked like this.

He stepped toward her, his movements slow and seething with anger. "I am not a domineering husband, but my leniency does not extend to being called a coward. Choose your words with greater care, wife ."

"And you may choose your attitudes with greater care," she countered, his snide tone raking along her spine. "I am not a silly little"- her entire body shook as she fought for words- " confection you can treat as if I lacked a brain."

"Oh, for Christ's sake, Miranda. When have I ever treated you like that? When? You tell me, because I am damned curious."

Miranda stammered, unable to meet his challenge. Finally she said, "I don't like being spoken to in supercilious tones, Turner."


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