Simon Basset was a practical man.
He was very logical and set in how he did things.
On work mornings, he was up early to answer emails, then he did a workout in the gym of his penthouse before getting some coffee, heading into the office, staying there until late, and getting home just in time to eat something before bed and doing it all over again. But this Monday he was forced to change his routine when his closest Starbucks was closed for renovations so he headed over to a smaller coffee shop down the street from his work.
Even though he was the boss, he tried to be at the HHC offices on time so he could set a standard for his employees.
But when he went to check his watch for a second, he bumped into something that splattered a hot liquid all over the front of his shirt.
“Bloody hell!” He screeched as the heat scorched his skin.
“Oh, I am so sorry!” Someone said.
“God, that’s hot.” He said through gritted teeth as he looked down at his completely ruined white shirt.
“I’m so sorry! I should have been looking where I was going.” The person said again.
“No, it’s fine.” He grumbled. It was good that he had backup shirts in his office for things just like this but they were rarely used.
“No, I…” As Simon looked up, his eyes were immediately drawn to probably the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, even though she looked completely flushed and frazzled. He let out a soft smile that seemed to make her blush even more. After a moment, she straightened up her posture as she gestured to his shirt. “Um… I can, um, pay for dry cleaning if you want.”
“That’s alright.” He chuckled, his initial anger all gone. “I can manage.”
“Oh okay, I…” She ran her hand through her hair as she took a deep breath. “Again, I’m so sorry, I was just trying to get away from…”
“Daphne!” A voice called behind her.
The lady cringed. “Him.”
Simon looked over her shoulder and noticed an older gentleman pushing to get out of the coffee shop that she must have come out of. He seemed desperate to get to her and judging by the nervous look on her face, she was desperate to get away from him. Any other day, Simon would just turn and go on about his business, but against his usual nature, he decided to intervene.
Simon looked back at her. “Stare into my eyes.”
She looked back up at him. “What?”
She looked hesitant but she did as he asked. He immediately took his briefcase free hand and swept her long auburn hair behind her ear before leaning closer and whispering “Now, giggle like I said something funny.”
She did so and out of the corner of his eye, he saw the man freeze. The man regarded him for a moment and Simon raised a brow, daring him to come closer, causing the older man to scurry away in the other direction.
Simon stood back up, slowly removing his hand from her soft skin. “He’s gone.”
“Daphne” turned back and saw the man’s retreating figure before turning back to Simon, relief written across her face. “Um, thank you for that. Nigel has been trying to get me to go out with him for months and I don’t have the heart to keep telling him no.”
Simon nodded as he stuffed his hand in his coat pocket. “Truly, it’s no problem.”
The woman smiled up at him and Simon felt his heart skip a beat. God, she was pretty. She messed with her hair again before noticing the time on her watch. “Um, I have to… go. But again sorry about the shirt and thank you for your help.”
“You’re welcome.” He said as she started to walk around him. He was about to walk forward into the cafe to get himself some coffee but he stopped. Why was he letting a girl like that get away? “Wait can I…” He started to say as he turned back only to find she was nowhere to be found. “Get your number?” He said to the empty air. She must have really been late for wherever she had to go.
Simon sucked his teeth as he walked into the coffee shop to pick up some napkins to clean his shirt a bit but also to keep himself from chasing after the woman.
The urge he had to do so was completely impractical.
“That was just about the most adorable meet-cute I have ever seen.”
“I know right.”
“She comes here all the time, does he?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Hurry, go give him a rewards card. Say it’s a promotion. We cannot let this love story die.”
Simon Basset was not looking for a romantic relationship.
He liked his unattached lifestyle where he did not have to worry about caring for another human or managing their well-being. He liked being able to fuck whoever he wanted. But most importantly, he liked being alone.
Knowing all that, he was still flabbergasted at how his friend had convinced him to go on a double date with him, his wife, and his wife’s friend.
“I don’t know why I let you talk me into this.” Simon grumbled as he took another sip of his drink.
“Because I am your best friend.” Will smirked as he scrolled through his phone.
Simon scoffed before draining the rest of his glass. “That is debatable when you set me up on a blind date.”
“C’mon mate.” Will chuckled as he put down his phone. “Alice’s friend has been having a hard time with dating and…”
Simon cut him off. “What do you mean by a hard time?”
“As in…” Will shrugged. “She never goes on dates.”
Oh God, the boxer was trying to set him up with a desperate virgin, wasn’t he? “Does she want to go on dates?” He asked lightly, trying not to imply what he thought.
When Will did not continue, he added. “Is there something wrong with her?”
Will shook his head. “No, no. She is the sweetest girl you’ll ever meet, a bit shy at times, but very pretty and smart and easy to talk to.”
Simon narrowed his eyes. “If she’s so great, then why doesn’t she date?”
“From what Alice told me, overprotective older brothers that sabotage her dates and her being too nice.”
Overprotective brothers would definitely put a damper on her dating life but “Too nice?”
“There are just times when she doesn’t assert herself when she should.” Will admitted. “She’s that person who will accept a wrong dish at a restaurant and not ask for her actual meal.”
“She sounds like fun.” Simon rolled his eyes as he leaned back into his seat.
Will leaned forward onto the table, his hands folded. “Simon, please. Alice loves her dearly and I think she’s great too. Just give her a chance.”
Simon looked over at his friend and saw the pleading look in his eye, making him groan. He really wanted to say no but after all Alice and Will had done for him over the years, this was the first time that they asked for a favor. He should at least meet the girl before dismissing her completely. “Fine. But I need another drink before they get here.”
As Simon got out of the booth and started to walk back to the bar, he heard Will call “Well hurry back.”
Simon weaved through the throbbing crowd of people in the club, trying to imagine what excuses he could use to end the night early, but his thoughts were interrupted by bumping into someone and feeling something wet soak through the front of his shirt. He jumped back in anger and growled.
“Oh I am so sorry,” A feminine voice said, which made Simon tense up a bit. When women usually spilled a drink on him, they had an innocent and somewhat seductive look on their faces, hoping to hook up with him. When he was at university, he went along with the charade, but now he just found it annoying.
But when Simon looked up from his shirt, he could feel his annoyance melting away as he gazed upon none other than his coffee shop girl from two weeks ago, who seemed to recognize him as well.
“You.” She said in a breathless tone.
He smirked a bit. Maybe this night would not be that bad after all. “You… Daphne right?”
The woman nervously smiled as she pushed her hair behind her ear. “Um, yes.” She frowned when looked back at his shirt before taking some napkins from the bar and patting down his chest. “I can’t believe I ruined your shirt… again.”
It was a black one, so you couldn’t see a stain on it, but he did smell fruity now. His smirk widened as her hands brushed over his lower abs and she blushed for a moment when she noticed how close she was to his pants.
“It kind of seems intentional at this point.” He said while grabbing a few more napkins.
“I assure you it’s not.” She chuckled as she threw away the soaked napkins before grasping her half-empty glass back in her hands. “Do you want me to pay for dry cleaning this time?”
Simon shook his head as he threw away the soiled napkins in his hand. “No, that’s quite alright.” He looked at her again and couldn’t help but smile a bit more. He knew that he should be preparing to meet his blind date but he could not let this girl slip away again. “So what are you doing here? Besides ruining shirts that is.”
She chuckled again. “Well, I…”
“Daff, Daphne.” Simon heard a familiar voice call. He looked to see Alice pushing through the crowd to approach them and when she arrived, she looked between Daphne and himself and smiled. “Oh good, you two have met. Daphne, this is Simon, the guy I was telling you about. Simon, meet Daphne, one of my best friends in the world.”
Simon looked back at the girl. She was his blind date? Oh, fate was being very kind to him tonight. “Well. Nice to officially meet you.”
She gave him a small smile. “You as well.”
After Simon got his drink, the three of them went back to the circular table he and Will had secured. Will scooted over into the middle of the booth to give Alice room to sit next to him. Simon was about to do the same for Daphne but she instead sat in the booth across from him, making him frown a bit. After getting situated, the group made some small talk but throughout it all, Daphne was pretty quiet. It seemed that she was shyer than Will let on. The married couple was noticing this too as they declared they wanted to head out to the dance floor.
“Come on, let’s boogie.” Alice cheered as she passed the now standing Daphne and dragged Will behind her. Will gave him a pointed look as the two made their way through the crowd.
“She is too excited to have a babysitter.” Simon remarked as Daphne sat back down.
She looked over at him and nodded. “Truly. But I babysit for them sometimes and if the kids are anything like they are with me, they deserve the night out.”
She did not say anything further, just went back to stirring her now almost empty drink.
“So…” Simon remarked.
“So…” She added.
Simon wanted to kick himself. He had been waiting for a chance to reconnect with this girl for two weeks and he was blowing it. Even though he had spent many a night with many women, he had no idea what to do with one he actually liked. “Daphne…”
“Can I just…” She interrupted as she let go of her straw to look over at him. When he didn’t try to continue, she pushed away her drink and leaned onto the table. “It’s very sweet of you to take them up their offer of going on a blind date with me but… You don’t have to pretend that you like me or anything.”
That took him back. He raised a brow at her. “What do you mean?”
She scoffed, leaning back as she played with her fingers. “I know I’m not the type of girl guys go for.”
That almost made Simon’s jaw drop. The woman was gorgeous, kind and while she was quiet, she was definitely the type of girl a guy would like to take on a date. “What?” He asked.
“Every date I go on always ends in, “I think we’ll be great friends”, and then I never hear from them again.” She shook her head. “At this point… I’m tired of pretending that I’ll be any more than a friend to guys.” Her gaze pierced him as she looked at him with pleading eyes. “So please don’t… pretend that you want me. I’d rather be rejected.”
Simon's mouth was actually ajar by this point. This beautiful woman was actually asking him to reject her. At the beginning of the night, he thought he wanted an easy out like this so he could find a good fuck for the night and be done. But looking at her, he knew didn’t want a quick fuck with another girl tonight and he certainly didn’t want to let her go. He wanted to know her better and to prove her wrong. Even with only knowing her for a brief time, he could tell she was something special. “What if I do want you?” He asked.
Daphne scoffed, shaking her head but Simon leaned forward. “I’m serious, that day at the coffee shop I wanted to ask you out but you rushed off.”
She looked back at him, truly shocked. “Really?”
“Yes. I really want to know you.” Simon admitted but she still looked hesitant about it, so he chuckled to try and calm her nerves. “How about we start over?” He held out his hand across the table. “Simon Basset, nice to meet you.”
She regarded his hand for a moment before reaching out and shaking it. “Daphne Bridgerton.”
“Bridgerton…” He had heard that name before at University. “Like Anthony Bridgerton?”
The woman frowned and took back her hand. “Yes, he’s my oldest brother. You know him?”
Simon shrugged. “I know of him. I think we went to Oxford at the same time and I think we had a few classes together.”
“Yeah, we didn’t talk much though. He was a real dick.” Simon said nonchalantly but then he remembered that he was talking to the man’s little sister. “Uh, I, I mean…”
Luckily, she was not mad at him at all, on the contrary, she burst out laughing. “No, you’re right.” She guffawed. “He can be a complete ass at times. But he’s my brother, so I have to love him I guess.” She shrugged. “But he’s definitely not my favorite brother, Colin is.”
Simon nodded. “Will said you have multiple brothers.”
“Try four brothers and three sisters.” She snickered.
His eyes widened. One of eight. “You’re kidding.”
She shook her head. “No. It’s Anthony, then our brothers, Benedict and Colin, then me, my sisters Eloise and Francesca, and my younger brother Gregory and my baby sister Hyacinth.”
He scoffed as he comprehended this new knowledge. He paused for a moment before scooting to the edge of his seat. “Are you all actually named in alphabetical order?”
She nodded her head as she smiled again. He really liked her smile. “Yes, my parents found it charming. Us, we just call each other by letters to save time.”
“You all are close?” Simon found himself asking. He’s never been this intrigued by someone before. It was a weird feeling, but not unwelcome.
“It’s hard not to be. I’m closest with Colin because we’re closest in age but our mother always told us that our siblings are the only ones you can really understand your life because they lived a similar one so we should appreciate each other while we can.” She brought back over her glass and started stirring the remaining cocktail again. “So yes we bicker and fight at times, but truly they are some of my favorite people.” She looked up at him. “Are you close with your family?” She asked before taking a sip of her drink.
Simon felt himself frown as he tried to figure out how to answer. “N-N-N-Not really, um…” He clenched his fist under the table. “I’m an only child and my mother passed when I was born and my father… I didn’t talk to him at all before he passed away earlier in this year.”
Daphne sat back up. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”
“No, it’s not your fault, um… I just grew up with my Aunt Agatha in Windenburg and if anything else, Alice and Will are my family.”
She smiled again. “They are a good family to have.” She nodded as she thought over his words. “Wait, Windenburg? Do you mean Agatha Danbury?”
He chuckled. “Yes.”
“I’ve met her. She chairs the arts departments at my school…” She bit her lip before continuing. “She’s a bit scary.”
“Agreed.” As much as he loved his Godmother, she was a very intimidating person.
“She’s actually a good friend of my mother’s. She helped out the family a lot when… my father passed.” She frowned as she stirred around the leftover ice in her glass.
“Really?” Clearly, in a family like hers, that loss must have hurt her.
“Yes, my mom gave birth to Hyacinth a month after he passed, and… it was a tough time for all of us. She really helped.”
“I’m happy about that.” Simon couldn’t help but smirk though. “I’m just sad that she never mentioned you all before.”
Daphne raised a brow at his statement. “Why is that?”
“Then I could have met you a lot sooner.”
Simon could see the blush creeping up her face as she looked down at her lap and let out that gorgeous smile again.
As they continued talking, he completely forgot his original plans for the night.
Keeping that smile on her face was his new objective for the rest of the night. And keeping her around was his new objective in life.
“Ooo! Look, look at them.”
“Well I’ll be damned.”
“Oh, they are so cute. I told you they would click.”
“Yeah okay, I don’t hear wedding bells yet, Ali.”
“Just you wait.”
Simon Basset did not like social events.
Most of the time, he hated socializing in general. When he was younger, it was because of his stutter. But as he got older it was mostly because of people themselves. They always wanted something from him it seemed, especially when he inherited his father’s business after his passing last winter.
Business moguls wanted a chance to make a merger and many young ladies would clamber for his attention, throwing themselves at him to get a crack at his fortune. While in the past he would have taken advantage of the opportunity, right now, there was only one woman he wanted to get close to, which is why he found himself wandering through a crowd of arts patrons in a hotel lobby after a concert with a bouquet of white roses in hand.
There was only one person he really wanted to talk to that evening, but despite his attempt to blend in with the suits of the elite in his all-black outfit, he was spotted by none other than Agatha Danbury.
“I’m surprised to see you here.” His godmother chuckled as she came up behind him. “You hate soirées.”
“Nice to see you too, Aunt Agatha.” He gave her a tight smile after he kissed her cheek.
Agatha regarded the bundle in his hands. “Are those your attempt at adding some color to your ensemble, because if so, you should have gone for red.”
He chuckled as he adjusted the flowers. “No, these are for a… friend.”
He wanted to say something else, but even after three weeks of dates, he wasn’t sure if she wanted to be his girlfriend yet.
The older lady raised a brow. “A friend… or a fling?”
He shook his head. “Not a fling. Truly, a friend of mine was performing tonight and I wanted to come to support her.”
“Well, isn’t that… sweet?” She looked him up and down. “And so unlike you. Are you sure this girl is just a friend?”
Simon shifted on his feet and messed with his cuff. “Well, I would like to be more than her friend but I don’t know if she wants that. I really like her but she’s very closed off at times but... I’m hoping that maybe she’ll give me a chance to show her that I care.”
His Godmother seemed truly taken aback by his words and he was not surprised. This is the most open he’s been in a long time. But before she could respond, a voice called out. “Agatha?”
She turned to see another woman walking towards her. “Violet, oh how are you?” She said before hugging the lady.
“Very good. And you?” Violet replied as she pulled back.
“Doing fine for an old girl, if I do say so myself.” Agatha glanced back at him before turning to her friend. “Violet, this is my Godson, Simon Basset.”
The older lady gave him a wide smile before holding out her hand. “Hello there.”
“Nice to meet you.” He said shaking her hand. As he tried to scout the room for his desired interest, he noticed the scolding look on his Godmother’s face. Be nice and socialize, it told him. “Did you have someone in the showcase?” He asked reluctantly.
“Oh yes, my eldest daughter was performing and none of her siblings could make it but I was sure as hell going to come and support her.” She looked around him and smiled at someone. “Oh, there she is now.”
Simon started to turn to look at this daughter when he bumped into someone. “Oomph.”
“Pardon Me.” The person said.
“Forgive M…” He looked up at who he bumped into. “Daphne.” He smiled.
“Simon.” She smiled back.
Simon felt himself get lost in her eyes. “You two have met?” One of the matrons said behind him.
Daphne, who seemed to be getting lost in his eyes too, snapped back to reality and looked at the women. “Um, yes. We are very well acquainted actually.” She messed with the skirt of her dress. “Yes well acquainted indeed. What are you doing here?” She asked.
“I came to see you perform.” He smiled before remembering the bouquet in his hands. “These are for you.”
She smiled wide as she took the flowers. “Oh thank you. They’re lovely.”
“Like your performance.”
She chuckled nervously as she adjusted her hair. “Really? I was sure I missed a note or two.”
“I could not hear it.” He chuckled, but he could tell that she was a bit frazzled by everything, something he noticed when they were around a lot of people during their dates, which started him taking her to more intimate spots around town. “Why don’t we go get you something to drink?”
“Alright.” She nodded.
Mother figures completely forgotten, he led her away to the refreshment table. He put a soft hand on her lower back. “I’m serious. You were fantastic. Completely stunning.” He stopped when she chuckled. “What?”
“I just never thought I would see you so ecstatic about classical music. I thought it wasn’t your cup of tea.” She said as picked up a pre-filled glass, referencing his eclectic library of songs he had shown her as they took a drive through the city a while back.
“It’s not usually. It depends on who’s playing it.” He winked as he picked up a drink himself.
Daphne blushed as she took a sip of her lemonade. He smirked as he turned back a bit to see his Godmother and Daphne’s mother whispering furiously to one another and looking at the two of them with wonder. He leaned closer to Daphne. “Well Miss Bridgerton, don’t look now, but I do believe we are being watched.” He whispered.
She looked over her shoulder and chuckled. “I’m not surprised, my mother has been waiting for me to get a boyfriend for as long as I can remember.” Her eyes widened as she swiftly put down her empty glass and looked up at him. “Wait, I um…” She clutched the roses in her hands. “I didn’t mean to assume…”
Simon was happy she assumed. “Oh no.” He nodded as he swirled around his drink before looking at her through his lashes. “I think boyfriend is a delightful way of putting it.” He said before finishing off his drink.
Daphne bit her lip a little as she looked down at the roses. “Do you… Want to be my boyfriend?”
Simon smiled a bit at her nerves. She really did not know how much he wanted her. Until their last date, he wasn’t aware of it either. But watching her as they strolled through the park eating ice cream, he had thought to himself that he could spend all day watching how giddy she got after trying a new flavor.
But now, he thought about how much he wanted to kiss her.
No time like the present.
He put his hand under her chin and slowly lifted her head to look at him. When she was, he leaned down and pressed a soft kiss against her lips.
As he pulled back, her eyes were still closed making him chuckle. “Does that answer your question?”
Her eyes snapped open as she blushed. She licked her lips. “Not quite... could you tell me again?”
“Of course.” He said with the utmost seriousness as he leaned down to place another kiss on her lips, her hand going behind his neck.
If he could do this at every social event, he would go to them more often.
“Did you know about this?”
“No, did you?”
“Well… it looks like we don’t have to set them up after all.”
“I guess not. Now, if only I could find suitable matches for the rest of her siblings.”