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The Air I Breathe (A Bridgerton AU Textfic) Accessible Version

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[Image Description: Cover art reading The Air I Breathe: A Bridgerton A.U. Text fic. It has a red block in the middle with photographs from the show on each side. The photo on the left is of Anthony and Kate reaching their pinkies toward each other. The photo on the right is of Anthony and Kate almost kissing.] 

 

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Kate could admit that she was nervous, very nervous to be coming back home. She was excited to see Edwina and Mary, thrilled to see Newton and sleep in her own bed.

Why did seeing Anthony make her so uneasy?

They had talked every day, sometimes hours at a time, and sometimes more than once. They had fought, said tender things, done some very naughty things of which she hoped her family wasn’t aware. The majority of their relationship thus far had been from a distance. She did think that they’d managed things fairly well, but relationships were always different in person. It was easy to love someone when they didn’t impact your daily life, when you didn’t have to deal with them leaving dirty dishes around or standing in front of every drawer you needed to open.

How will it work when we have to learn to manage day-to-day frustrations? When there isn't an escape to something else?

She had to admit that the idea of having to figure these things out with Anthony brought her some amusement. They had never minced words with each other, and Kate knew that she and Anthony would battle it out when disagreements came up. It somehow reassured her knowing that neither would pull their punches. There wouldn’t be quiet resentments between them. They would have it out, get it over with, and hopefully would remember how much they valued each other, even when they were at each other’s throats.

It was strange to not fear love, or perhaps, to fear love less. She had never thought of relationship problems as solvable problems. They were always the beginning of the end, harbingers of doom. They were a reason to run, and the mere idea of them had made her feel hopeless. It was different when you could openly talk with someone about what you wanted, when someone blunt made it clear what they wanted.

She knew she felt relieved about this, or she had, but while taking the escalator up from the baggage claim, she felt her hands shaking.

She knew the car would be circling, that she would have to flag them down even though they had agreed upon a pickup point. There wouldn’t be time for long hugs and conversations by the curb. Perhaps that was a good thing.

She could see Edwina waving from the window as the car pulled up, and she was surprised to feel her eyes stinging.

I’m home.

Mary was driving, which was odd since the car belonged to Anthony.

Kate’s heart sank.

Maybe he just loaned them the car…

But when the car stopped, the back door burst open.

A frenetic ball of fur bounded at her, and though Newton had never been a strong jumper, he did his best to leap at her, pawing at her legs and licking her hands when she reached down to pick him up.

He was such a sweet dog, and it made her heart ache. She kissed him on the snout, and when she looked up, Anthony was standing next to her. He was holding Newton’s leash, and she raised an amused eyebrow.

“You got stuck in the back with him?”

“I am apparently his favorite person. Or was.”

Newton licked her face, and she scratched behind his ears.

She grinned, was about to say something, when Anthony wrapped his arms around both of them.

He leaned his forehead against hers, and she felt her heart skip a beat when he gently kissed her on the jaw.

“I missed you so much.”

She had missed him, too.

And with that, her nerves were gone.

She cupped his face with her free hand, kissing him tenderly.

It was good to be home.

 

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And then, somehow, it had been a year.

Anthony could fully admit that he didn’t quite understand how he had gotten here, how they had gotten here. He was blissfully happy, was sure he was walking around with an annoying grin on his face half the time.

It was still strange, this feeling of letting yourself have what you want, the warmth that flooded your veins and made your skin tingle. He had gotten so used to putting his wants aside, to settling for something that was only an approximation of the life he wanted to lead, that he hadn’t ever bothered to think how much more he would want to participate in a life that wasn’t based on fear.

He still worried about losing Kate, worried about Kate losing him. But he also reveled in the comfort of spending time with her.

They bickered constantly, as they always had, but there was no question that it was done with love, with a competitive spirit that made neither willing to back down. He loved that they sparred with each other, that they demanded greatness from each other. And he knew that, much as he fought, much as he grew, he would never quite be worthy of her.

He hadn’t expected aspects of his relationship to bleed into other parts of his life, and yet, his relationship with Kate seemed to affect almost everything he did. He wasn’t quite ready to have cheerful chats with strangers, but he looked up more often than he averted his eyes, looked forward rather than looking backward at what might have been.

He was spending more time with Hyacinth, Gregory, and Francesca, not just as an overbearing, overprotective father figure, but as a playful, affectionate brother. He and Gregory had begun pranking each other recently, and few things rivaled the glee in Gregory’s face when he managed to trick Anthony.

He feels seen, now.

He had found similar ways to connect with Hyacinth and Francesca, had even managed to connect more with Eloise. It appeared that loving someone as deeply as he loved Kate made other kinds of love feel safer, other relationships feel more rewarding.

He had always loved his family dearly, but he had never known how to show them this beyond providing for them. He made sure they had what they needed, that they were guided toward responsible choices. But his heart and softness had not been available to them.

It amused him that Kate brought out a gentleness in him. Particularly with how often they argued, and with how pleased either of them was when besting the other. He supposed it was that she was that much more precious because she understood him, saw him. She was everything he wanted to take care of and nurture, everything he couldn’t believe he had been lucky enough to find.

 

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Kate had continued to soul search after returning from India. The trip had been bittersweet for a number of reasons. She had loved meeting her family, learning about her parents, seeing the country that had always been somewhat of an imaginary, magical place in her mind. She had wondered what would live up to her expectations, whether the things she had taught herself about her heritage would actually fit with reality.

The country and sights had been astounding, and she had seen so many incredible things. She had eaten delicious food, had heard heartbreakingly beautiful music. But reality could never be quite so magical as the imaginings of her mind.

She supposed it was better that way, more adult that way, seeing all sides of things. Anthony and Elle had provided sage advice as she prepared to begin her trip. Some things were delightful, some were painful, some were inspiring, some were maddening. Her family was made of real people, and like those already in her life, they were as wonderful as they were flawed. Some were unbearably giving, warm and welcoming, caretakers to the core. Some were more judgmental, and these judgments hinted to Kate just what her parents’ families’ treatment of Mary had been.

There was still tension between them and Mary, some skepticism about Edwina, though there had been a clear desire to smooth things over when Mary and Edwina joined Kate. She supposed by then she had shown them who she was, that her love for Mary and Edwina trumped most other things. She suspected it had been clear that, grateful as she was for the hospitality, she would have no problem cutting her trip short or confining her visits to family who treated Mary and Edwina well. It was probably off-putting to some, but it made her proud of herself, made her recognize who she saw in the mirror.

She had always stood up for the people she loved, and she hoped she had done it with grace this time around. But even if she hadn’t, Mary and Edwina would walk away having been protected, and Kate would respect herself.

She had momentarily wondered if she was forgetting to consider her own needs, but as before, Anthony’s feedback had been as thoughtful as it had been unexpected. She had thought he would be disappointed in her, but of course, he had understood.

You’re putting your values first, he had said.

And she was. She couldn’t be someone who let Mary and Edwina fend for themselves, couldn’t be someone who chose blood over all else. That had never been her, would never be her no matter how pulled she ever came to feel toward her other family members. Mary and Edwina were hers, and part of being herself meant that there would still always be a part of her that took care of them.

 

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Kate realized that she was starting to see nuance in love, starting to find balance despite her need to protect her loved ones. She was learning to see that the best protection, at times, was to step back, to get out of the way.

Her protectiveness had caused problems because of how she acted on it, not because she felt it. She was learning to take a moment before stepping in, to show Edwina and Mary the respect that came from believing that they could solve their own problems. She didn’t always succeed, but it was a habit of a lifetime, one that wouldn’t be so easily broken.

Her relationship with Anthony somehow made this easier. He was incredibly capable, self-sufficient, resistant to accepting help. She knew she was similar to him in that regard. But they were learning to give each other the gift of asking whether the other needed help, of accepting help when it was needed. Knowing that he could take care of himself made her want to help whenever she could, whenever they both thought she could. And she was proud to know that he could figure things out on his own, that he chose to involve her when it was right.

Kate was beginning to show Edwina that same faith, beginning to see that Edwina knew herself best, would ask when she needed help. Edwina might even make mistakes that could have been avoided – Kate certainly had – but they would be learning experiences.

It was strange that loving someone else made her see herself, her behavior more clearly. Kate was surprised that she didn’t mind, that being wrong about something didn’t rankle quite as much as she had thought it would.

She had always been worried about being on the back foot, about someone else having the power to hurt her. She hadn’t realized how that fear had made her shut down, shy away from connections that she might otherwise have fostered. She was loving, caring, had always wanted to take care of other people. She had thought that was what had made Edwina a target, but she somehow hadn’t fully noticed these qualities in herself, hadn’t seen the ways in which they had left her vulnerable. She had stopped seeing why she had closed herself off from other people, hadn’t realized that she was protecting Edwina the way she wanted to be protected herself. She had merely thought she was cold, aloof, alone in the world.  

She had never expected someone to like the parts of her that were confusing, complex, difficult. And yet, someone did. And in seeing those parts of herself being so utterly valued, she found that she was coming to appreciate them herself.

 

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One aspect of her trip to India had been surprisingly gratifying to Kate, and she was still seeing ripples from it even a year later.

Mary had been able to connect with her mother’s family, had been able to answer some questions of her own.

It had always mystified friends, had always seemed odd to Kate and Edwina, that Mary knew so little about her own background, that she herself was so disconnected from some parts of her family. They knew that Mary had some South Asian heritage, but that was all they knew, all that Mary seemed to want to say. Kate had often been surprised that Mary didn’t talk about it more, that upon marrying Kate and Edwina’s father, Mary hadn’t used him as a way to connect to things that hadn’t been accessible before.

Mary never talked about what she knew, Kate always assumed because some part of it was too painful, because she needed to be ready before broaching the topic.

And when she finally did, so much made sense.

Mary had quietly managed to locate her mother’s family, and on days away from Kate and Edwina, she spent time learning about her extended family, about the grandparents she would never know.

Mary’s mother – Grandmother Sheffield – had worked a long time to manufacture the level of grace and sophistication that made her appear to be from a background of wealth. But she hadn’t been. She had been young, very young, when she had Mary, had been swept up by the promises of a young American traveler who disappeared long before anyone realized just how much he had left his mark.

It had been a source of shame to the family, but it had also been one that caused practical difficulties. They were very poor, and raising a child was expensive. They loved their daughter deeply, but there were also realities to be considered. They had managed only with an incredible struggle.

It turned out that the traveler had not been quite so terrible as had been expected. When he returned a year later with his family, he had been thrilled to reunite with a friend, and he had been horrified to discover the damage he had done.

His family had been furious with him, but there had been nothing to be done but take charge of the woman and child he had previously left behind. When the Sheffield family left for America again, their son was married, with a wife and child in tow.

Grandmother had worked hard to rid herself of any accent, to fit with the Sheffield family to the point that people quickly ignored the fact that she wasn’t pale-skinned like everyone else in the household. She did the right things, said the right things, moved with a mantle of sophistication that made her almost above reproach. She had survived by becoming a Sheffield, by not looking back.

Mary had grown up knowing only the Sheffields, being told that she was not allowed to ask about the rest of her family. She had been curious, but when she was a teenager, it hadn’t been so simple as doing an internet search to find family. She had grown up with no idea that her mother had not come from wealth, no idea that despite her shame about them, her mother had still sent money every month to the family that she had left behind. She couldn’t be seen with them, but she could keep them afloat. That was the way she had learned to show love while keeping herself safe. Kate couldn’t ignore the bitterness she felt, but she at least understood now why there seemed to be so little a capacity for warmth. Warmth had been less important than survival, less important than her child surviving, even though Grandmother made no secret that Mary mattered less for her personal qualities than for the fact that she was Grandmother’s blood.

It had been overwhelming for Mary, learning all of this, painful as much as it was a relief. She had answers, though she wasn’t sure she had wanted the ones she had gotten. She felt a compassion for her mother that she had never felt, but she also felt overwhelming hurt. It hadn’t been so hard to love Kate and Edwina, to stand up for what was right despite difficulties. Loving her children mattered more than pride, being the mother they needed had always been more important than anything else. It would always be a bitter pill that her own mother hadn’t been able or willing to try.

Mary was still learning about herself, still communicating with her family, but Kate thought that Mary seemed more grounded than she ever had. It had appeared to be a relief to tell her girls, to find the missing pieces to a puzzle, despite those pieces at times being heartbreaking.

Kate understood what it was to finally connect the dots, to finally be able to see parts of herself. She was glad that Mary could have that, too.

 

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Kate heard soft snoring in the living room, and she glanced at her watch, smiling.

She had needed to work late, but she and Anthony would still be able to have a late dinner together.

She put her things down on the kitchen island, and then she made her way to the living room.

Anthony had fallen asleep on the couch, clearly while also working, and Newton had settled comfortably on his lap.

Kate pulled out her phone, taking a quick photo for blackmail purposes, and then she lifted Anthony’s feet, sitting underneath them.

He started, sitting up, and Newton grunted sleepily.

“Fuck. You startled me.”

“You were really out.”

“Yeah, this case is…” He shook his head. “This dog is plotting my demise.”

“He loves you.”

“Those things are not mutually exclusive in this household, as I’m sure you’re aware.”

“I can’t imagine what you’re talking about.”

She kissed him slowly, felt her body relax with the press of his lips against hers.

“Newton, move.”

Anthony tried to shove the dog off his lap, but Newton was quite content to remain where he was.

“Newton, I’m trying to do things to your mother.”

“He’s probably being protective.”

“He’s about to go in the oven.”

“You’re such a good stepfather.”

“I’m an excellent stepfather. You see I haven’t killed him yet,” Anthony grumbled. “Newton, move. That’s your mother’s seat.”

“Is it?”

Newton finally hopped off, the look on his face suggesting that he was thinking harsh thoughts about Anthony.

Anthony pulled Kate onto his lap, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her.

“Babe, we need to have dinner.”

“Pizza it is.”

“Pizza is for the nights when I’m cooking.”

“Ah.”

“And I made a reservation.”

He gripped her hips firmly, grinding against her.

“Just need to take care of something quickly, then we can head out.”

She bit her lip, trying to stop the groan that was threatening to escape from her throat.

They had only recently moved in together, had been trying to move somewhat slowly despite being so serious about each other. They knew of countless couples who had made housing decisions far too early, who had let the mess that was New York real estate dictate their lives. They had hoped to find a place together, were still hoping to find something that better suited them both. But Kate and Newton had moved in with Anthony when Edwina, somewhat forcefully, had suggested that Kate vacate the premises so that Edwina’s new boyfriend – one Thomas Dorset – could move in with her. It was fast for Edwina, but Kate saw how happy she was, knew that even if it turned out to be a mistake, Edwina would be fine.

And selfishly, Kate liked the idea of a shorter commute to work, a much shorter trip to see Anthony.  

Anthony had seemed uncharacteristically nervous about her moving in, and they had quarreled for a bit when she thought he was having trouble sharing his space. But he had been worried about her feeling comfortable, had wanted so badly for her to like her new home, that he had been lost in his head. She knew now that he did that, that he often seemed cold when he was overthinking, and that with encouragement, he would share what was really going on.

They lived together remarkably well, though, at times, Anthony liked to muse that it was because they had a common enemy in Newton. Kate balked at this, though she had to admit that Newton's penchant for trying to join her and Anthony for cuddles whenever they had sex was becoming grating.

It was easier to find Newton sweet when it wasn’t the end of a long week, when she didn’t feel desperate for release and touch. It was easier to stomach when she didn’t have to climb off her delicious boyfriend to open the bedroom door for a whining dog.

She had begun trying to schedule Newton and Mama time, but Newton steadfastly refused to accept that there were times that did not fit that category. They were all learning.

 

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Anthony had known for a long time that he wanted to propose, and he knew that he had wanted Kate far longer than he had even realized. But he still felt nervous in a way he hadn’t for a long time.

He kept catching himself watching her, daydreaming, planning. He wouldn’t have minded so much if his mother and siblings hadn’t noticed, but he received many a knowing look.

He sat thoughtfully on a couch, watching everyone pass around baby Agatha under the watchful eyes of Colin and Penelope. It was gratifying, seeing them as parents. Colin fussed over Pen in a way he didn’t anyone else, and he seemed just as convinced that someone might break his child. Pen seemed entertained by Colin’s anxiety, seemed amused that a former prankster was now so utterly concerned by the joking of his siblings.

As always, Kate had found a way to be competitive, and she was in the middle of an arm wrestling competition with Hyacinth and Gregory. In classic Kate fashion, though she maintained her focus on the game – at which she was trouncing everyone else – she still managed to balance Augie on her knee, occasionally blowing a raspberry on his chubby cheeks.

Edwina had always gotten credit for being excellent with children, but she was sweet with them, whereas Kate was happy to play rough, to serve as furniture as Augie climbed all over her and tugged at her hair. She also didn’t mind when his younger siblings did her makeup rather garishly, or when they wanted to race in the park. It delighted him seeing how much she fit with them, or it had until she convinced Hyacinth to paint Anthony’s toenails after painting Kate’s.

Violet sat next to him, a knowing look on her face.

He raised an eyebrow. “Do I want to know?”

“I know that look.”

“What look?”

“The one on your face.”

Violet turned to watch Kate, and his gaze followed hers.

“When will you ask her?”

His eyes shot back to Violet.

“I know you’re thinking about it, Anthony. You’re still my child.”

“We’ve been together a year.”

“And?”

“And I don’t have a ring.”

“Ah. Do you think the ring will matter?”

No. Of course it wouldn’t.

“I still want her to have the best.”

Violet nodded, taking Anthony’s hand and discreetly pressing a small box into it.

Anthony felt his eyes widen.

His mother’s engagement ring was a family heirloom, had been passed down the Bridgerton family for generations. It was elegant, unique, beautiful, with small pearls surrounding a simple, exquisite stone. His father had given it to Violet, and she had only recently stopped wearing it.

Was this why?

“I can’t take this.”

“You can. I’ve saved it for you, love.”

“No. It’s yours.”

“I want you to have it. I want her to have it.”

It was one of the greatest compliments Violet could have given Kate, bestowing not just her own love, but also Edmund’s love on the woman Anthony cherished.

He bit his lip, felt his eyes stinging.

“I’m really never going to deserve her.”

Violet squeezed his hand.

“We all know that, sweetheart. And that’s why you need to snap her up before she figures it out.”

He couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’m lodging one final protest.”

“Anthony. Ask her. She’ll say yes. And she’ll love the ring.”

He felt strangely nervous.

What if she doesn’t? What if she wants something else? Will she feel obligated to like it? Will she-

Violet seemed to sense his train of thought. “She loves it already, sweetheart. And she’s the one who noticed I wasn’t wearing it.”

Violet winked.

“Ask her. When you’re ready.”

He blinked back tears, nodding. “Right.”

He looked up to see Kate studying him, her brow furrowed in concern. He shook his head, sniffling.

He stood, grinning at Violet.

“I think there’s someone I need to arm wrestle.”

Violet snorted. “Good luck. You’ll need it.”

 

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Anthony had been on edge since they arrived at the Hamptons house, and Kate mercifully had only quirked an eyebrow at him. He knew she was aware that something was up, she was too discerning not to be.

Still, it was possible that she would be too distracted by the demands of the day to think much about how tense he probably seemed. Wasn’t it?

I doubt it, he thought ruefully.

In truth, he was surprised that she didn’t comment. She always went in for the kill, they both did.

She must be biding her time.

Life together often felt like a large, highly spirited game. And if Anthony had thought Kate would be any easier on him once they were together, he had been sorely mistaken. If anything, her competitive nature only seemed to grow, particularly on the soccer field.

During the past few trips to the Hamptons, Kate had continued to keep both teams from scoring, had managed to keep both teams tied at 0-0. There had been talk about sabotaging her, blindfolding her, even banning her from the goal box. But Anthony wanted to best her in a fair fight.  

This trip was to celebrate his birthday, and he mused that it would be an excellent birthday present, scoring a goal. And if nothing else, it would be utterly delightful to make some headway in a game that they had come to see as Kate versus everyone else.

Part of him wondered if he had become so fixated on the game because he was utterly terrified of what would come afterwards. He planned to ask her during dinner, would give a heartfelt speech, would… something. It would all fall into place when the moment was right.

He had never felt so nervous. 

 

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By now, she and Anthony had developed a reputation for running late to the game, late to anything, always taking full advantage of the large, cushy bed (and occasionally other furniture) in their room.

Kate straddled him, groaning at the feel of his fingers digging into her hips, at the way he filled her as they moved against each other. It was always so good, always made her feel like she was going to melt.

What else were we planning to do today?

She wasn’t sure it mattered.

Anthony pulled her down, tightly gripping her hair and kissing her deeply.

He shifted slightly, changing the angle, and Kate suspected that her moan could be heard throughout the house.

He grinned proudly. “I love that I can make you do that.”

She sat back up, clenching tightly around him as she continued to move.

She was rewarded with a string of expletives.

“I love that I can make you do that.”

“Fuck, Kate-”

He tossed her onto her back, driving into her at a breakneck speed.

She wasn’t sure she recognized the noises she was making. She only knew that she might not survive this.

She came first, clinging tightly to him as she wrapped herself around him. She felt him shudder above her, his groans making the experience all that more delectable.

“Fuck, you feel so good.”

“Mmhmm.” She couldn’t stop kissing him.

“I think we may need to go again.”

She laughed breathlessly. “They’re going to send a search party.”

“They know better than to try.” He kissed her chest, teasing a nipple with his teeth. “We can set a timer if you want.”

She felt him teasing her with the tip of his finger, and she gasped. She was always so sensitive with him.

“Unless you want to get ready for the game.”

“Anthony-” She cut herself off, moaning as he slid one finger into her, then two. “Ah-”

“We don’t want to be late.” He grinned wickedly.

“Will you shut up?”

“You know, I think this means I win.” He crooked his fingers inside her, swirling his thumb against her clit, and she let out a sob of pleasure.

“You’ll never win,” she gasped.

He grinned. “If you say so.”

And when he kissed her again, Kate found that she didn’t much care that they were – once again – running late.

 

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Kate was infuriating. She was always infuriating, particularly when she laughed gleefully after making a save. Her reflexes were incredible, and Anthony found himself wondering whether they might all do a bit better if someone pushed her into the mud.

They had had an incredible morning together, and truth be told, he was surprised that either of them could walk. He would never be able to entirely stop thinking about how she tasted, about the knee-weakening sounds she made. He could have stayed in bed with her all day. But there was business to attend to.

They walked to the field hand in hand, sly grins on their faces. But as always, things changed on the battlefield.

He could see how much she was enjoying herself, knew that much of her enjoyment came from how frustrated everyone else seemed at being unable to score a goal.

You could have someone else keep goal, she had suggested.

But he didn’t want anyone making concessions for him, didn’t want things to be made easier so that he could succeed.

It would be better if today was challenging, anyway. It would keep his mind from racing, keep him from thinking of what he would say, when he would say it, how he would say it. He’d been carrying the ring around in his running pack so that no nosy siblings might discover it, but having it so close was distracting. It felt like the ring was calling to him, reminding him of the task at hand.

Kate had saved another ball once again, had tossed it to Daphne as everyone swapped sides. Anthony realized he was watching her. Kate really was so gorgeous, especially when she sported that maddening, devilish smirk.

He found he didn’t want to go back to midfield, that he had something he very much needed to take care of first.

He put an arm around Kate from behind, turning her chin and kissing her.

“You wouldn’t be trying to distract me, would you?”

“I would never.” He kissed her again.

“You’re going to miss kickoff.”

“Am I?”

She turned her head, her eyes suspicious.

He shook his head, wrapping both arms around her and kissing her neck.

“Marry me.”

He felt her stiffen.

“What?”

“You heard me.”

She pulled away, staring at him wide-eyed.

“Are you- is this so you can- Anthony-”

“It’s because I love you. And I want to marry you.”

She narrowed her eyes. “What are you up to?”

“I’m not up to anything. The ring is in my running pack. I was going to do it tonight at dinner.”

She blinked. “Why is the ring in your running pack?”

He had to laugh.

“Kate Sharma.” He cupped her face, leaning his head against hers. “I am asking you to marry me.”

“You’re asking me to marry you. On the soccer field.”

“Yes. I am. Kate-”

“Yes.”

“Yes, you see that I’m asking, or-”

“Yes.”

“You will?”

He felt his heart flip flop, couldn’t quite believe any of this was real.

“Yes.” Her smile was absolutely stunning.

For a moment, just a moment, he felt a twinge of fear in his chest. Would this utter joy eventually turn into devastating loss? It might.

She’s worth it anyway.

He would never understand how he had gotten so lucky.

Her eyes twinkled again, full of mischief as she nodded at the field. “It doesn’t mean I’m making this any easier on you.”

“I should hope not.”

He kissed her soundly, wrapping his arms tightly around her.

He vaguely heard Elle’s voice. “I think I know what this is.”

“Did she say yes??” Hyacinth’s voice was gleeful as he heard everyone approaching.

“How did you know he was asking?” Gregory grumbled.

“Did what???” Edwina squealed, also sounded delighted.

“Greg, it was obvious.”

“Thank goodness we don’t have to listen to him make a speech!” He could practically hear Eloise rolling her eyes.

“Kate! Did you say yes??”

“Did you??”

Kate smiled at them all, nodding indulgently before kissing him again. He could hear cheering, squeals of glee, but all he cared about was the woman in his arms, the press of her lips against his.

Still, he ought to have guessed at his siblings’ reactions, and as they tackled him and Kate, shouting congratulations, his only thought was that he should have foreseen this.

Newton had followed everyone, was aggressively trying to lick Anthony on the face.

“Fuck, get off, everyone-”

Kate laughed heartily, clearly enjoying his ire almost as much as she was glowing from their news.

“This must mean they’re cutting out early.” He heard Daphne’s smug voice.

That got Kate’s attention. “Absolutely not.”

“Of course we aren’t!” he snapped.

Kate pushed up, shoving his siblings away.

“Weren’t we kicking off?” She stood, clapping her gloved hands together. “Come on!”

She helped Anthony up, giving him a business-like nod.

He grinned delightedly as he watched her sternly stare down his siblings one by one.

“We’re waiting,” she huffed.  

He put his arms around her again, finding that touching her was far preferable to not.

They watched everyone as they jogged back to their positions.

Her eyes twinkled, and he furrowed his brow suspiciously.

“You knew I was planning something, didn’t you?”

She grinned innocently. “As though I would ever admit it.”

He planted a gentle kiss on her lips. “You sure you don’t want to cut out? We could always head back upstairs to celebrate.”

“And admit defeat?” Her eyes twinkled. “Never.”

And no, he supposed, she wouldn’t.

 

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[Image description: A tweet from Lady Whistledown. The profile photo is of a light-skinned blonde woman with her face hidden. The tweet reads “She said yes! @anthony.bridgerton proposes to lady love @kate.sharma during family vacation! The photograph is of Kate and Anthony’s hands. They are holding hands, and Kate is wearing the engagement ring on her left hand.]


The End