"It will be over soon, I assure you."

Miranda yanked her down until they were nearly face to face. "You said that yesterday !"

"Excuse me, Lady Rudland?"

It was Dr. Winters, who had arrived an hour after the pains had started.

"If I could have a word with you?"

"Yes, yes, of course," Lady Rudland said, carefully extricating her hand from Miranda's. "I'll be right back. I promise."

Miranda nodded jerkily and grabbed hold of the sheets, needing something to squeeze when the pain overtook her body. Her head lolled from side to side as she tried to take a deep breath. Where was Turner? Didn't he realize that she needed him in here? She needed his warmth, his smile, but most of all, she needed his strength because she didn't think she had enough of her own to get her through this ordeal.

But she was stubborn, and she had her pride, and she could not bring herself to ask Lady Rudland where he was. Instead she gritted her teeth and tried not to cry out from the pain.

"Miranda?" Lady Rudland was looking down at her with a concerned expression. "Miranda, darling, the doctor says you have to push harder. The babe needs a little help coming out."

"I'm too tired," she whimpered. "I can't do it anymore." I need Turner. But she didn't know how to say the words.

"Yes, you can. If you just push a little harder now, it will be over much more quickly."

"I can't…I can't…I- ohhhh!"

"That's it, Lady Turner," Dr. Winters said briskly. "Push now."

"I…Oh, it hurts. It hurts."

"Push. I can see the head."

"You can?" Miranda tried to lift her head.

"Shhh, don't strain your neck," Lady Rudland said. "You won't be able to see anything, anyway. Trust me."

"Keep pushing," the doctor said.

"I'm trying. I'm trying." Miranda clamped her teeth together and squeezed. "Is it…Can you…" She took a few giant gulps of air. "What kind is it?"

"I can't tell yet," Dr. Winters replied. "Hold on. Wait a minute…There we are." Once the head had emerged, the tiny body slipped out quickly. "It's a girl."

"It is?" Miranda breathed. She sighed wearily. "Of course it is. Turner always gets what he wants."

Lady Rudland opened the door and poked her head into the hall while the doctor saw to the baby. "Turner?"

He looked up, his face haggard.

"It's over, Turner. It's a girl. You have a daughter."

"A girl?" Turner echoed. The long wait in the hall had worn him down, and after nearly a full day of listening to his wife cry out in pain, he could not quite believe that it was done, and he was a father.

"She's beautiful," his mother said. "Perfect in every way."

"A girl," he said again, shaking his head in wonder. He turned to his sister, who had remained at his side throughout the night. "A girl. Olivia, I have a girl!" And then, surprising them both, he threw his arms around her and hugged.

"I know, I know." Even Olivia had a hard time keeping the tears in her eyes.

Turner gave her one last squeeze, then looked back to his mother. "What color eyes does she have? Are they brown?"

An amused smile spread on Lady Rudland's face. "I don't know, darling. I didn't even look. But babies' eyes often change color while they're small. We probably won't know for certain for some time yet."

"They will be brown," Turner said firmly.

Olivia's eyes widened in sudden awareness. "You love her."

"Hmmm? What did you say, brat?"

"You love her. You love Miranda."

Funny, but that tightness in his throat he always felt at the mention of the L-word was gone. "I- " Turner stopped short, his mouth opening slightly in stunned surprise.

"You love her," Olivia repeated.

"I think I do," he said wonderingly. "I love her. I love Miranda."

"It's about time you realized it," his mother said pertly.

Turner sat slack-jawed, amazed at how easy it all felt now. Why had it taken him so long to realize it? It should have been clear as day. He loved Miranda. He loved everything about her, from her delicately arched eyebrows to her often sarcastic jibes and the way her head tilted when she was curious. He loved her wit, her warmth, her loyalty. He even loved the way her eyes were slightly too close together. And now she had given him a child. She had lain in that bed and labored for hours under tremendous pain, all to give him a child. Tears welled up in his eyes. "I want to see her." He almost choked on the words.

"The doctor will have the baby ready in a moment," his mother said.

"No. I want to see Miranda."

"Oh. Well, I don't see any harm in that. Hold on just a moment. Dr. Winters?"

They heard a hushed expletive, and then the baby was thrust into her grandmother's arms.

Turner flung the door open. "What's wrong?"

"She's losing far too much blood," the doctor said grimly.

Turner looked down at his wife and nearly stumbled in terror. There was blood everywhere; it seemed to be pouring from her, and her face was deathly pale. "Oh, God," he said in a strangled voice. "Oh, Miranda."

I gave you birth today. I don't know your name yet. They haven't even let me hold you. I thought I might name you after my mother. She was a lovely woman, and she always hugged me so tightly at bedtime. Her name was Caroline. I hope Turner likes it. We never discussed names.

Am I asleep? I can hear everyone around me, but I can't seem to say anything to them. I am trying to remember these words in my head so that I may write them down later.


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