"Then don't provoke me." His expression came dangerously close to a sneer.

"Don't provoke you ?" she burst out incredulously, advancing toward him. "You don't provoke me !"

"I haven't done a damned thing, Miranda. One minute I thought we were blissfully happy and the next you've come at me like a fury, accusing me of God knows what awful crime, and- "

He stopped when he felt her frantic fingers biting into his upper arms. "You thought we were blissfully happy?" she whispered.

For a moment, when he looked at her, it was almost as if he were merely surprised. "Of course I did," he said. "I told you all the time." But then he gave himself a shake, and he rolled his eyes and pushed her away. "Oh, but I forgot. Everything I've done, everything I've said- none of it mattered. You don't want to know that I am happy with you. You don't care if I like to be with you. You just want to know how I feel."

And then, because she couldn't not say it, she whispered, "How do you feel about me?"

It was as if she'd popped him with a pin. He had been all movement and energy, the words spilling mockingly from his mouth, and now…Now he just stood there, not making a noise, just staring at her as if she had released Medusa into their sitting room.

"Miranda, I- I- "

"You what, Turner? You what?"

"I…Oh, Christ, Miranda, this isn't fair."

"You can't say it." Her eyes filled with horror. Until that moment she had held out hope that he would simply blurt it out, that maybe he was just thinking too hard about everything, and when the moment was right, and their passions were high, the words would spill from his lips, and he would realize that he loved her.

"My God," Miranda breathed. The little piece of her heart that had always believed that he would come to love her shriveled and died in the space of a second, tearing out most of her soul along with it. "My God," she said again. "You can't say it."

Turner saw the emptiness in her eyes and knew that he had lost her. "I don't want to hurt you," he said lamely.

"It's too late." Her words caught in her throat, and she walked slowly to the door.

"Wait!"

She stopped, turned.

He reached down and picked up the package he'd brought in with him. "Here," he said, his tone dull and flat. "I brought you this."

Miranda took the package from his hand, staring at his back as he strode from the room. With shaking hands, she unwrapped it. Le Morte d'Arthur. The very copy she had so coveted from the gentlemen's bookshop. "Oh, Turner," she whispered. "Why did you have to go and do something so sweet? Why can't you just let me hate you?"

Many hours later, as she wiped the book with a handkerchief, she found herself hoping that her salty tears had not permanently ruined the leather cover.

7 June 1820

Lady Rudland and Olivia arrived today to await the birth of "the heir," as the entire Bevelstoke clan calls him. The physician does not seem to think that I will deliver for close to a month, but Lady Rudland said that she did not want to take any chances.

I am sure that they have noticed that Turner and I no longer share a bedroom. It is uncommon, of course, for married couples to share a bedroom, but last time they were here we did, and I am certain that they are wondering about our separation. It has been two weeks now since I moved my belongings.

My bed is drafty and cold. I hate it.

I am not even excited for the birth of the child.

Chapter 19

The next few weeks were hideous. Turner took to having his food sent up to his study; sitting across from Miranda for an hour each evening was more than he could bear. He had lost her this time, and it was agony to look into her eyes and see them so empty and devoid of emotion.

If Miranda was unable to feel anything any longer, then Turner felt too much.

He was furious with her for putting him on the spot and trying to force him to admit to emotions that he wasn't sure he felt.

He was enraged that she had decided to forsake their marriage after deciding that he had not passed some sort of test she'd set out for him.

He felt guilty that he had made her so miserable. He was confused as to how to treat her and terrified that he would never win her back.

He was angry with himself for being unable to just tell her that he loved her and felt somehow inadequate that he didn't even know how to determine if he was in love.

But most of all, he felt lonely. He was lonely for his wife. He missed her and all her funny little comments and quirky expressions. Every now and then he'd pass her in the hall, and he'd force himself to look into her face, trying to catch a glimpse of the woman he'd married. But she was gone. Miranda had become a different woman. She didn't seem to care anymore. About anything.

His mother, who had come to stay until the child was born, had sought him out to tell him that Miranda was barely picking at her food. He had sworn under his breath. She ought to realize that that was unhealthy. But he couldn't bring himself to seek her out and shake some sense into her. He merely instructed a few of the servants to keep a watchful eye on her.

They brought him daily reports, usually in the early evening, when he was sitting in his study, pondering alcohol and the obliterating effects thereof. This night was no different; he was on his third brandy when he heard a sharp rap at the door.

"Enter."

To his great surprise, his mother walked in.

He nodded politely. "You've come to chastise me, I imagine."

Lady Rudland crossed her arms. "And just what do you think you need chastising for?"

His smile lacked all humor. "Why don't you tell me? I'm sure you have an extensive list."

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