“When you were nineteen…”
He smiled caustically, noticing that she did not finish the statement. “When I was nineteen,” he repeated for her, handing her a liberal portion of brandy, “I was a fool.” He looked at the glass he’d poured for himself, equal in volume to Miranda’s. He downed it in one long, satisfying gulp.
The glass landed on the table with a clunk, and Turner leaned back, letting his head rest in his palms, his elbows bent out to the sides. “As are all nineteen-year-olds, I should add,” he finished.
He eyed her. She hadn’t touched her drink. She hadn’t even yet sat down. “Present company quite possibly excluded,” he amended.
“I thought brandy was meant to go in a snifter,” she said.
He watched as she moved carefully to a seat. It wasn’t next to him, but it wasn’t quite across from him, either. Her eyes never left his, and he couldn’t help but wonder what she thought he might do. Pounce?
“Brandy,” he announced, as if speaking to an audience that numbered more than one, “is best served in whatever one has handy. In this case—” He picked up his tumbler and regarded it, watching firelight dance along the facets. He didn’t bother to finish his sentence. It didn’t seem necessary, and besides, he was busy pouring himself another drink.
“Cheers.” And down it went.
He looked over at her. She was still just sitting there, watching him. He couldn’t tell if she disapproved; her expression was far too inscrutable for that. But he wished that she would say something. Anything would do, really, even more nonsense about stemware would be enough to nudge his mind off the fact that it was still half eleven, and he had thirty more minutes to go before he could declare this wretched day over.
“So tell me, Miss Miranda, how did you enjoy the service?” he asked, daring her with his eyes to say something beyond the usual platitudes.
Surprise registered on her face—the first emotion of the night he was clearly able to discern. “You mean the funeral?”
“Only service of the day,” he said, with considerable jauntiness.
“It was, er, interesting.”
“Oh, come now, Miss Cheever, you can do better than that.”
She caught her lower lip between her teeth. Leticia used to do that, he recalled. Back when she still pretended to be an innocent. It had stopped when his ring had been safely on her finger.
He poured another drink.
“Don’t you think—”
,” he said forcefully. There wasn’t enough brandy in the world for a night like this. And then she reached forward, picked up her glass, and took a sip. “I thought you were splendid.”
God damn it. He coughed and spluttered, as if he were the innocent, taking his first taste of brandy. “I beg your pardon?”
She smiled placidly. “It might help to take smaller sips.”
He glared at her.
“It’s rare that someone speaks honestly of the dead,” she said. “I’m not certain that that was the most appropriate venue, but…well…she wasn’t a terribly nice person, was she?”
She looked so serene, so innocent, but her eyes…they were sharp.
“Why, Miss Cheever,” he murmured, “I do believe you’ve a bit of a vindictive streak.”
She shrugged and took another sip of her drink—a small one, he noted. “Not at all,” she said, although he was quite certain he did not believe her, “but I am a good observer.”
He chuckled. “Indeed.”
She stiffened. “I beg your pardon.”
He’d ruffled her. He didn’t know why he found this so satisfying, but he couldn’t help but be pleased. And it had been so long since he’d been pleased about anything. He leaned forward, just to see if he could make her squirm. “I’ve been watching you.”
She paled. Even in the firelight he could see it.