Kathani Sharma hated Daphne Bridgerton. The woman seemed both a sadist and masochist in equal measure, intent on torturing others as well as herself, all for some measly scraps of barely-qualified entertainment in the form of Anthony Bridgerton.
Although she supposed that Anthony was not the entertainment so much as Kathani and Anthony were. Briefly, Kate considered if it were possible to get a residency if the entire Bridgerton clan and her own sister were intent on treating them like a comedy duo.
There he was, sauntering towards her, ignoring some woman’s stare like any practiced rake with his target in mind. She shook the thought away. Kate was certainly not Anthony the Rake’s target, although she may have been Anthony the Annoying Asshole’s.
Daphne dragged Kate away in the nick of time. Perhaps she should have been more charitable towards her friend, extolling some of her virtues which mostly included timing.
She practically pushed Kate into the group of bridesmaids who were at least twenty-one, which was a surprisingly important distinction, for the number would nearly double at the homey New York bachelorette excursion for all bridesmaids, considering the among of siblings and cousins who insisted on claiming their rightful place at the altar beside Daphne.
Kate leaned over to mutter to the girl on her left, a woman named Bianca she had become quite friendly with, “Do you suppose half their guest list will be standing at the altar with them?”
The pretty brunette nearly choked on the drink in her hand, turning away from Kate and avoiding Daphne’s gaze when she looked at them. For her part, Kate only smiled innocently at her.
With a roll of her eyes and an amused smile, Daphne continued, “Anywho, we are convening for the evening in favor of the Las Vegas club scene. Casinos were yesterday, clubs today, spa tomorrow, and we fly back to New York City tomorrow evening! Understood, darlings?”
A chorus of ‘yes's quickly followed, and Daphne clapped her hand. “Perfect! First stop, Club Nahla!”
Anthony wasn’t quite sure where he was. Or where anyone was for the matter. He considered for a moment moving to find people he knew, but he suddenly remembered incredibly important advice: “If you’re lost, stay put.” Granted, it had been given to him when he was a child, but he supposed his parents had been onto something because out of thin air appeared Kate.
Kathani really was the prettiest. His eyes traveled downward, reminding him of what she wore. He was sure if her dress shifted only a little it would reveal her nipples to him.
She was walking towards him, and Anthony’s mind ran wild with fantasies until she finally reached him, practically slamming into his body and pressing herself into him.
“Goodie! I found you,” Kate exclaimed, sending him a gorgeous smile. Anthony’s heart thudded. The prettiest was right. “I wan-ed to ask a question from you.”
He leaned against the bar, grabbing her hips and pulling her with him as he attempted to put on his serious hat. He snickered a little, wondering how his associates would actually react if he wore a hat to work. Suddenly, he felt a slight pinch on his forearm and saw Kate frowning at him.
Anthony patted her hip in assurance and nodded for her to continue screaming so he could hear her properly.
“Do you have good sperm?”
He felt a sudden swell of indignation. “Of course, I have good sperm!”
One of the guys on his left side-eyed him and seemed to scoot away a little. Kate, on the other hand, ignored the indignant tone and continued, perfectly cheery in her yelling, “Can I have some then?”
He shrugged despite feeling mildly insulted. “Sure, but why?”
“Cuz babies! They’re so cute, Anty.”
Anthony considered the proposal. It seemed perfectly reasonable. She wanted a baby, and to make a baby she needed sperm. He had sperm. But then he came upon a roadblock in his thinking. “We’re not married! No babies ‘till marriage.”
It seemed inherently wrong to consider having a kid with Kate Sharma without marrying her.
She frowned, leaned back, and turned around in a circle before clapping and squealing, “Let’s get married! Vegas, bitches!” That last part was screamed at no one in particular.
Anthony stood up straight and clasped Kate in a huge hug, squeezing her tight. “So smart, Katie cat.”
She reached back and pinched his ass. He jumped and scowled at her. Kate only gave him a dreamy smile and then grabbed his hand and tugged him out of the club, maneuvering past groping hands as best she could.
Luckily for them, right next door was an Elvis chapel.
Kate had had the most brilliant idea of her life, and here she was executing it.
They had managed to get their license mere minutes before the Marriage License Bureau closed via the help of an online form, and Kate could only assume that either they seemed sober enough or they simply didn’t care they were on the far side of drunk to let them walk out of there.
It was then that Benedict had found them about to walk into the chapel. He had looked at them, blanched, and asked, quite eloquently, “What the fuck are you doing?”
Once they informed him of the plan to get married and have a baby, Benedict looked as though he was about to burst. Instead, he very calmly suggested they buy a ring and a dress for Kate. She looked down at her dress. Perhaps it was a bit too black for a wedding. She shrugged and said, “Okay.”
Anthony had patted the arm that was draped through his and nodded.
So on they went to some jewelry store, where Anthony spent less than she expected on the most durable gold for a pair of wedding bands, muttering something about “lasting a lifetime” and “Mother’s ring.” There were some floral carvings in the otherwise simple bands that she quite liked. Anthony had surprisingly good taste, which bode well for any baby shopping they would have to do.
She found her way to the store next door, an appropriately-placed bridal shop. She picked out a dress that had the sweetest square neckline and changed in their dressing room.
The woman working inside was surprisingly kind, and Kate gave her a toothy smile before she saw the price tag. She shrugged then. Anthony would pay for it, and he did without even blinking.
When he saw her in her dress he let out a series of curses, and Kate wondered if he would have kissed her if Benedict hadn’t laughed in his face.
Finally, they made it into the chapel with the second Bridgerton following, taking pictures and periodically cackling and speaking to himself.
Anthony leaned on the desk and smiled charmingly at the woman manning the desk out front. “Your most espenive pack-age, please.”
The younger woman eyed him with what looked like faint disgust before plastering a large smile on hers. “Of course, mister…”
Anthony handed over his credit card in exchange for a form and their license.
Before he could fill it out, Benedict snatched it from him and said, “I want to make sure this is valid.”
Kate looked at Anthony for a few minutes. He was so handsome and kind, and although infuriating, she had no doubt he would make a wonderful father. She had chosen so very well.
Her sigh went ignored as she absent-mindedly signed the form and he handed it back to the receptionist who walked them near immediately into the chapel.
She tripped on her way in and Anthony caught her in his arms. “Your shoes are too tall.”
She looked down at the bright orange heels and scowled. “They match my makeup!” she cried, but took them off anyway and put them in Benedict’s hands. Not because Anthony implied she should, but because her feet hurt.
Kate supposed she looked quite pretty, what with the way his eyes were mooned up at her despite the feigned scowl on his face.
By the time he joined Kate and Elvis, she was a little breathless herself.
Anthony heard vaguely what the Elvis said, and was about to say ‘no’ to saying their own vows considering they didn’t have any when Kate said ‘yes.’
He glanced at her with wide eyes when he caught the wicked look in her eyes. “For insulting my shoes,” she whispered, although perhaps not quietly considering the snort that came out of his brother, who had his phone trained on them with startling steadiness.
He took a deep breath. He would simply have to ensure his vows were better than hers. “Kathani Sharma. I have known you for two years, and on this day, I, Anthony Bridgerton…promise you that…” He searched his mind for what he promised, what he could promise to Kate. “I will spend the rest of our lives protecting and taking care of you.” He huffed and dropped his face the two inches that separated them and rested his forehead against hers, searching her eyes for what she needed, wanted from him. “I will devote myself to our family the same as I devote myself to the one I have now. You will never want for anything.”
Kate’s eyes had widened to the point of ridiculousness, but he could not complain. Those wide brown eyes that had been his dream since he had met her welded their color into his soul.
He heard a sniffle somewhere, but ignored it in favor of her, watching her hands as his ring slid down her finger.
“Miss Sharma,” the Elvis said in a tired tone.
She startled and blinked and then seemed to avoid his gaze for a few moments before staring right at him. “I, Kathani Sharma, promise you, Anthony Bridgerton…” she began. “That I will help carry your burdens and take care of you as you take care of me. You will never drown again.” And then, with a certain amount of menace in her tone, she added, “Or I’ll drag you out of the water.”
Neither of their vows had been particularly verbose or poetical, they were in fact quite bare. But there was startling practicality to them, a potency that seemed to promise radical clarity and understanding of each other moving forward. Anthony found himself quite excited at the weight of her ring on his finger.
The Elvis clapped them out of their reverie, copying that sound that all Elvises made and singing, “By the power vested in me by the State of Nevada, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss.”
And kiss they did. So intensely was he focused on the press of his lips to hers that both Benedict and the Elvis had to loudly clear their throats to get them to separate.
After a series of interviews conducted by Benedict on camera, they finally managed to make it back to Anthony’s hotel room.
As soon as the door shut, Anthony’s hands were all over her.
His lips pressed to hers with an assuredness she had never felt, and she pushed him back closer to the bed until he pushed her off a little.
His clothes came off with remarkable speed. Kate couldn’t help but catalog every bit of him, his muscular frame to his dick. But, before she could stroke it as she wanted, he had managed to unzip her own dress, pushing it off her.
“Jesus, fuck. You’re not…” Suddenly, she found herself flat on the bed and she couldn’t be sure how she had gotten there.
His lips left a trail in their wake as he kissed the swell of her breast. Kate panted as she tried to respond, “Didn’t want to ruin the line.” It made no sense, but he practically growled.
Suddenly, his tongue was flat and pressing against her nipple before his lips surrounded and sucked just so lightly she nearly bucked off the bed.
With a light drag of his teeth, he turned his attention to her other nipple, and she reveled in the feeling of it, opening her mouth in a silent moan.
It was not soon enough that his mouth was on her pussy, her legs draped over his shoulders, his hand squeezing her breast. Kate twisted with his tongue and practically grinded into him, taking control of what he once had. Her thighs squeezed around his head, and she let out a choked cry when he moaned against her. She threaded one hand through his hair, using the other to grab onto the hand that had previously been on her breast.
Soon, soon, she was toppling over the edge, her hands flying to the bed and grabbing onto the sheets.
Anthony didn’t allow her a moment of reprieve, for he moved back up her body, pressing against her and kissing her deeply, her taste on his lips heightening how utterly erotic the moment already was.
The need built quickly again, this time for him stretching her open so there was no space between them, only flesh. She whined when he kissed her jaw, pressing her hips up, impatient for more when his cock was resting so temptingly between them.
His entire body was tense when he ground out, “Clean,” before lightly biting her earlobe.
Kate wrapped her arms around his shoulders, exploring those back muscles which had haunted her dreams for the past six months before she realized what he was saying. She only spread her legs wider and whispered, “I’m clean, too.”
Finally, he shifted so the head was pressing into her and she was molding around him slowly. He slid in relatively easily, with some tantalizing thrusts and no discomfort for Kate.
When he was seated fully in her, Anthony let out a groan so tortured it made her shiver, which made him shudder in response. He thrust tentatively, smirking slightly when she let out a loud moan that sounded suspiciously like his name.
He didn’t kiss her again, only kept his eyes locked on hers and their noses rubbing together. Instead, he whispered nonsensical endearments along the lines of “So good, sweetheart,” and “Perfect, darling,” as his thrusts gained strength.
Kate felt herself on the edge, and she reached down between them to roll her clit between her thumb and index finger. When she hit that edge and felt that undeniable pleasure arch her entire body, she let out a breathless sob which he swallowed with his mouth.
He followed soon after, and Kate found herself obsessed with the way his moans vibrated against her neck where his face was buried.
Anthony heard the sound of a party popper and immediately screamed himself awake. This of course led to Kate waking up as well and sitting up with her eyes wide, “What?”
“Oh my god, you were right,” came a whispered statement.
His head hurt far too much to be able to perceive who the hell was in his room, but he muttered, leaning forward and clutching his head, “Get the fuck out.”
Not a single thought resided in his head when they started laughing, so he laid back down and covered his head with a pillow. Kate did something similar, instead simply burrowing under the blankets with her hands over her ears.
The blanket dragged a little from them before it stopped a furious whisper came from someone who sounded suspiciously like Colin, “What if he’s naked?”
He took account of his body and figured he was naked, but the woman beside him was wearing some sort of short nightdress.
After a few moments where he managed to ignore the whispers, vague memories of last night hit his head, of Kate in a wedding dress and rings and sex , dear god.
He removed his head from the pillow and tentatively lifted his hand to see the yellow gold with florals that looked quite coincidentally like tulips engraved into it. Anthony expected to panic. Instead, a remarkable calm took hold of him. If he was meant to be married, surely it was to Kate. He wasn’t sure how he knew, given that if anyone had previously asked if he even particularly liked her, he would have said no. But he knew, sure as he knew his fears, he knew Kate was the right answer to the questions he had. Including, it seemed, “Do you?”
He reached under the blanket, careful not to uncover her given his shirt was far too transparent for comfort and his siblings did not need more of an eyeful than they had already gotten. After an accidental grope that lingered only a millisecond too long, he managed to find her left hand where the rightful object rested on her ring finger.
Anthony sighed. She would not take this well. He shook her, and she let out a disgruntled, angry sound and took the hand he was holding hers with to cuddle her face against his arm. “Hurt,” she croaked out.
He frowned and considered yelling at B, C, or D to get him ibuprofen then reconsidered given the pain the loud sound would cause both of them. So instead, he muttered, “I know, sweetheart, but you have to get up. We have something to discuss.” Mainly, the fact that he thought they should simply remain married.
“Sweetheart!” his sister’s voice came. He threw a scowl their way. They really needed to leave.
She moved the comforter, which he promptly brought back up to cover her chest as he could see her nipples quite clearly through the white fabric. “What?”
Kate blinked at him. Blinked again, clearing her eyes. And he saw the moment it hit her because her eyes went to the hands directly in front of her face to see their rings and then to her wedding dress which had landed on the bedside table. And then to his siblings who were crowded on his side of the bed and staring at them.
He cleared his throat. “Leave.” When they didn’t, he threatened, “Leave, or trusts get cut.” As promised, they practically ran out of the room despite the fact that only Colin still needed his trust to live.
When the door closed to his bedroom, he looked at her gauging her reaction, which seemed more stunned than angry.
Good. Something to work with, his brain supplied. He had no earthly idea what had hit him, but he had made millions off his instincts, and so he figured for once, following them in his personal life was a good idea.
When she spoke after quite a bit of stunned silence, she only breathed, “We’re married.”
He searched for something to say but settled on a simple, “Yes.”
Kate looked at him. “We need to get an annulment.”
“No, I don’t think we do,” he tried tentatively with a purse of his lips.
Her hands came up and rubbed her eyes and she blinked a few times before her eyes came back to him. “What?”
She wasn’t yelling at him, which he took as a good sign. “Well. You want children. I want children. We’re compatible physically and I think we’re actually quite well-suited personality-wise, despite the fact that we clash so often, which I think is a symptom of denying ourselves each other more than genuine dislike. We trust each other—”
Kate groaned and covered her face with her hands. “Oh my god, you’re serious.”
“Anthony, we can’t stay married.” Her tone had turned placating like she was talking to one of her students.
His mouth dipped into a frown. “And why not?” he demanded.
“Why—there are so many reasons why I don’t even know where to start!” She sat up to turn towards him.
“Name them.” He was determined now.
She laughed then cringed a little before recovering. “Well, for one, you don’t love me.”
“Oh, now you’re telling me my own feelings. Of course, I love you! You think I would have married someone I don’t love?” He hadn’t known it until he had said it just now, but that didn’t make the sentiment any less important. Anthony did love her, and Kate could do nothing about it, damn it.
“You…you love me?”
Anthony threw his hands in the air. “I said it, didn’t I? Now, do you love me?”
“Can I have a minute to digest the fact that we’re married and we’re in love?”
He was about to demand that she just answer before her words registered. Kate had said ‘we’, not ‘you’.
She loved him. “So we’re staying married?” he asked hopefully.
Kate didn’t respond with words, but she did nod, and Anthony couldn’t help the joyful laugh that came out of him. He used his palm to turn her head towards him and landed a dry kiss on her lips, lingering for a moment. She glowered at him. “Not if you kiss me before I’ve brushed my teeth.”
Anthony beamed at her and got up, grabbing a pair of boxers from his suitcase and padding out and into his kitchenette. He pointedly ignored the looks and questions his siblings sent his way and headed back into his bedroom with two cups of water and a pack of ibuprofen.
By the time they had both showered (separately, Kate had insisted) and dressed (both in Anthony’s t-shirts and sweatpants), Kate had managed to wrap her mind around the fact that she was a married woman now and would remain so. And she had squeezed in a few private freak-outs over the fact that her love for Anthony was enthusiastically requited.
She saw the Bridgertons on the couch where Benedict had connected his phone to the TV somehow and Colin was yelling at his phone where she presumed the rest of the Bridgertons were on a video call.
While Anthony went to the phone to order room service, she went to the couch and sat next to Daphne. Her sister-in-law leaned over and told her, “I have the number of a good lawyer if you need one for the annulment.”
She patted Daphne’s arm and smiled gratefully at her. “Thank you, Daphne, but we’re staying married.”
“You’re staying married?” the blonde practically screamed.
A chorus of ‘what’s’ followed
“Well,” Benedict began. “It’s not completely outrageous.”
“How can you say that, Benedict? How can you say that to my face?” Daphne turned to face him.
“It’s just that they’ve practically been dating for two years.”
Kate was about to reply when she heard Anthony’s scoff and, “No, we haven’t.” A plate appeared on her lap before he plopped in between his sister and her.
“Oh, yes you have. You took Kate to all your events as your—”
“We went as friends!” she interjected.
“As your date. You walked Newton and took him to vet appointments when Kate couldn’t make it. Whenever there was a storm, Kate either stayed at yours or you stayed at Kate’s. She comes to all our family events. Honestly, I’m not convinced you two haven’t been dating for over a year at this point. I mean, Ant, you haven’t even looked at another woman since the moment you set eyes on her. And Kate, you went on one date like three months after you met Ant, and you came home and said he thinks you talk about Anthony too much.”
She grabbed her toast and bit into it with violence. “No, I didn’t.”
“You talked about me too much.” His voice was full of utter glee. “You really do love me.”
He landed a kiss on her cheek despite her attempting to maneuver away from it. “Say you love me just once, sweetheart, why don’t you?” he said in an amused huff.
She stilled. Had she not said it? So Kate turned to him and caught his eyes, serious when she said, “I love you.”
His entire body stilled and then he pressed his lips to hers again, lingering even when there was a loudly exclaimed “Ew!” from who she could only assume to be Greg and Hyacinth from Colin’s phone.
“Love you, too, Katie.”
She didn’t love him enough not to kill him in his sleep.
“You’re married,” Kate’s stepmother said, slowly.
“To Anthony Bridgerton.”
Kate nodded again.
“In Las Vegas, Nevada.”
She replied, "Everywhere, actually," and then pushed her sister, who was attempting to disguise her laughter as a cough and failing.
Mary shook her head. “Do you need a lawyer recommendation for an annulment?”
She huffed, “Why does everyone keep assuming we’re getting an annulment? We’re staying married. We both changed our names already.”
“Anthony changed his name?” Edwina exclaimed. “Holy shit, he must love you.”
“ Language , Edie,” both Kate and Mary hissed.
“Ugh, Kate elopes in Las Vegas but I get yelled at for using the word shit, which Appa said all the time, by the way!”
Mary waved her hand at her youngest daughter. “Your appa wasn’t raised knowing it was a cuss word. And I’ll get to yelling at her, I just need a moment to process.”
“I am a grown adult, you know,” Kate defended.
Edwina rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure. A grown adult who got drunk and then decided to get married to a guy she claimed she hated.”
Kate thanked Parvati for Plan B because she could only imagine the absolute shit Edwina would give her for getting pregnant, too.
“We’re having the Hindu ceremony in two months,” she directed to Mary, who was staring at her as though she had been replaced by a stranger.
“And all of the family from India can make it?”
She shrugged. “Not all of them, but Aachi and Paati can make it and the other relatives I talk to often can make it. It’s going to be pretty small.”
“Huh.” Mary seemed incredibly dazed.
“You’ve broken Mama.”
Kate and Anthony had already decided to buy someplace new to move in together in the midst of wedding planning, but the decision was cemented one morning when Eloise walked in on them in bed in Anthony’s condo.
Unfortunately, Anthony was inside her and his hand had been teasing her nipple at that exact moment. It was quite horrific for everyone involved, but as soon as Eloise had left after asking for some extra money from her trust while avoiding looking at them despite the fact that they were in the kitchen and fully dressed, Anthony had a realtor on the phone and they had been visiting houses that afternoon.
“We’re buying a house, and we’re not giving anyone the fucking key, Katie,” he had angrily said to her, at which point she had crossed her arms until he had apologized for his tone but repeated the sentiment.
Kate had, however, resigned herself to her nickname. In fact, he quite refused to call her anything but Katie or Kathani. And she couldn’t deny that it brought her a little thrill.
By the end of the week, they had found a house that meant Kate could contribute at least thirty percent towards but was utterly gorgeous with columns and huge windows galore. It wasn’t ostentatious as some of the other houses they had been shown were, but it was big enough to grow into with six bedrooms and quite a large basement.
Anthony had given Kate free reign over designing everything but his study, and while she had compunctions about letting him pay for the entire house, she was more than happy to let him pay for everything else.
When Edwina asked why, she could only shrug and reply, “It’s different.”
And so, when their second wedding went off with quite a few hitches and they came back from a delightful European escape where they learned about Anthony’s viscount ancestors, the newly-weds bundled themselves up for another few days before returning to their real lives.
Exactly eight months and twenty-seven days after their second wedding, Edmund Siyan Sharma-Bridgerton was brought into the world in the backseat of a car.
No one had ever been quite happier than Kate and Anthony Sharma-Bridgerton, except, perhaps, the driver, Benedict Bridgerton. Despite having to have his car deep cleaned, Benedict was ecstatic to know he was the third person to hold his nephew, a fact which he mercilessly held over every one of his siblings once he was named godfather.
The Sharma-Bridgertons proceeded to have the most chaotic life one could imagine. The chaos often involved Benedict filming it as the ‘favorite uncle’ of his nieces and nephews. At least they had video evidence of it all.