Chapter 1: Not THAT room
Nobody wants the bedroom next to the one shared by the Viscount and his new wife.
18th April 1815
Benedict Bridgerton blinked blearily at his plate of eggs. All around him, his family carried on several conversations that overlapped. Any hope that he would be up early to try to paint the sunrise died when he was still awake when the skies began to lighten that morning. At the head of the table, Anthony Bridgerton kicked Benedict’s leg with a booted foot.
“Were you up painting all night?”
“No.” Curt and grumpy, Benedict glowered at his brother, the cause of three sleepless nights in a row. The Viscount Bridgerton and his new Viscountess made him wish he’d taken bachelor lodgings like an ordinary young man of means. It used to be a matter of pride that his bedroom was one of the biggest, the walls newly wallpapered in soft grey that Benedict selected himself. Inspiration struck, and Benedict sat up straighter. “Col, what would you think about switching bedrooms?”
Colin looked at him like he had two heads, "Why? Yours is bigger, and mine has the chimney that smokes. You compared my wallpaper color to egg yolk and swore you smelled hardboiled eggs every time you saw it.”
“Your room has better lighting for painting, and the yellow would be a nice background for still-life paintings.” Benedict crossed his fingers as his brother considered the proposal. He'd repaper the whole room himself if it meant he could get a good night's sleep.
“If you're sure. I could do with the extra space."
Their valets and a few maids made the switch while the two young men practiced fencing. Colin teased him for being so slow with his parries and never thought to ask why Benedict was so tired. It was a horrible deception to play on his younger brother, but Benedict thought it would remind Colin to never look a gift horse in the mouth. Brothers never just sacrificed something like a prime bedroom out of the goodness of their hearts.
That night Benedict was woken from a dead sleep by a rough hand on his shoulder. Colin stood by his new bed in a nightshirt with a lit candle. “You are the worst, you know that? Give me my room back.”
Benedict reclined in his new haven of peace, folding his arms behind his head to establish that he wasn't moving. "That room is your problem now, little brother. Get out of my room."
“I am not listening to...to...THAT all night!” Colin hissed, grabbing Benedict’s arm and trying to drag him out. “Get out, or I will drag you out.”
“I sleep naked.” Benedict reminded him, shoulders shaking with laughter. His brother looked as mortified by the sounds that came through the shared wall of Benedict's old room and the Viscount's rooms as Benedict had been. He still couldn't look his sister-in-law in the eye.
“The room is mine!” Colin put the candle down and tried to remove Benedict, blankets and all. They struggled until Colin managed to knock over a vase, which made a loud noise for such a small item. They froze and heard a door open across the hall.
“What on earth are you doing?!” Violet Bridgerton tied her dressing gown at her waist and whispered in the way mothers do, the kind of whisper that is as good as a shout.
“He won’t give me my room back,” Colin explained, trying to drag Benedict out by a leg. Benedict clung to the post with one hand and kept the sheet around his hips with the other. There was no way he was going to relinquish the yellow room now.
“What is wrong with Benedict’s room?” Exasperation radiated from every line on their mother’s body.
“Nothing." “You don’t want to know.” "You really don't want to know," they chorused as Colin tried to peel Benedict's fingers free.
“If you two don’t stop, you can go to an inn and argue over the rooms there.” Violet gave up on them and retreated to the ladies’ side of the hall.
The brothers glared for a long moment before Colin gave up, stomping to the next room and coming back with the blankets and pillows, laying them on the floor. “Instead of sharing a room, how about we share a bachelor's lodgings nearby?”
“I get the first pick of the rooms since I'm the oldest.”
Colin grumbled, tossing on the hard floor, "How about we fence for it in the morning?"
Chapter 2: Not THAT room
15th April 1815
Kathani Sharma, Viscountess Bridgerton, walked into her husband’s study and announced, “I’m finishing my letters here.” In her hands were several invitations that required replies. The sunny spring day poured in through open curtains.
Anthony Bridgerton looked up from his books and nodded, “If you like. Is the sitting room too warm?”
“Too loud,” Kate said and huffed a sigh. A chorus of voices echoed down the hallway, and Anthony chuckled, clearing a spot. Within a few minutes, they were each absorbed in their tasks, the scratch of the pen's nib alternating with the soft rustle of pages turning. As she finished one page, setting it aside to dry, Anthony bumped her arm with his in a silent 'I'm glad you're here' gesture.
A different noise came down the hall, not the laughter or siblings teasing each other, but Violet Bridgerton’s voice raised in anger, “Colin Bridgerton!”
Kate glanced at her husband, and he shook his head, not bothering to look up from his work. “Ignore it. It’s always a game with Colin. He likes to see how much innuendo he can get away with in front of the girls before Mother works it out or Benedict starts laughing. The girls don't know what he's talking about, so he has his fun aggravating Mother.”
“The girls do not understand? Your mother hasn’t given them an idea of how things…work?” Astonished, Kate paused, her pen held over the ink.
“No. They’re young ladies, and that’s Mother’s….” Anthony waved a hand slightly, happy to leave that in his mother’s hands.
Colin came strolling by, hands in his pockets and smirking at his success. Leaning against the doorway, the third-born Bridgerton gave Kate a smug grin, "It's almost too easy to get her going."
Anthony sighed and continued counting, “Mother’s going to kill you one of these days.”
“Ah, first, she must show she knows what I am talking about.” Colin turned to Kate, inviting her to share in the joke. “Mother is quite…reserved when it comes to such things.”
Kate carefully wrote the salutations at the top of a new letter, her penmanship neat but slow. Responding to invitations was the first responsibility Violet Bridgerton happily passed down to the latest Viscountess. “It doesn’t seem fair to use the girls’ ignorance as a joke, brother.”
“Fair does not apply with the Bridgertons.”
Four days later, Kate took what was now her customary place at Anthony’s left. His right side became problematic when he wrote with his right hand and her left, leading to the constant bumping of elbows. The noise down the hall was at its normal levels, but like her husband, Kate found it comforting background noise at this distance.
This time, Kate wasn’t surprised when Violet’s angry “Colin!” burst out. On the other hand, Anthony's head lifted when a chorus of disgusted female voices joined in. Kate merely smiled and continued addressing invitations to her first ball hosted as Lady Bridgerton.
Colin hurried into the study, looking behind him as if expecting a hurled fan or biscuit, “That was….”
Kate looked up with an overly sweet smile, “Enlightening?” She saw Benedict stumble past, his head thrown back in laughter and clapping his hands together like this was the best thing he’d seen in ages.
Anthony put down his pen and leaned back in his chair, an appreciative grin crossing his face, “What did you do, Kate?”
“Only what any good daughter-in-law should do. I spoke with Violet the other day and asked her if she thought, with two girls out this season, would she like me to talk to them as a sister about what to expect if they marry. She was very grateful.” Seeing Colin’s astonishment, Kate reminded him, “Fair does not apply to Bridgertons, remember?”
Chapter 3: Colin Games the System
Colin Bridgerton knew two things. Miss Penelope Featherington still refused to talk to him and she loved to dance. Instead of lagging behind his mother and trying to avoid the dance floor, he made sure to arrive on time and prepared to secure a few minutes with Penelope.
His brothers joined him by the display of little finger foods and lemonade, Anthony escorting his wife and Benedict with an eye on the door.
“Have you seen Penelope yet?” Colin asked, peering through the crowd. The musicians were taking their places, and the first dance would be called.
Benedict gave him an almost paternal clap to the shoulder, “I thought she wasn’t talking to you? Have you discovered why?”
Anthony and Kate pretended to watch the eddies of the crowd milling around Lady Danbury’s ballroom, but Colin could tell they were listening closely.
“I will,” Colin assured Benedict with a confidence he didn’t feel. “I want to be sure to ask her for the first dance.”
“But…won’t she just refuse?” Benedict asked.
He smirked a little, “Not if she wants to dance tonight. You know the rule, a young lady cannot refuse a gentleman a dance without sitting out the rest of the evening. Pen loves to dance.”
From the corner of his eye, Colin saw the new Viscountess Bridgerton close her eyes and shake her head. “If you’re trying to gain the lady’s goodwill, that is not the way to do it,” Kate pointed out.
Benedict elbowed him and nodded in the direction of the entrance. There was Lady Featherington and one of her daughters, the loud one Colin could never name. Behind them, the shorter figure of Penelope followed in their wake. Once again, he was struck by the change in the shy, quiet girl he remembered. Penelope Featherington grew up in a big way over the winter, and he noticed with annoyance that he wasn’t the only one to see it. Lord Fife watched her also, murmuring to another young man as the Featheringtons paused at the table that held dance cards.
Colin tugged his jacket straight. “Wish me luck.”
Long legs managed to get him across the room faster than the others, and he saw when Penelope noticed him approaching. The smile on her face faded, and she began to turn away, to walk in the opposite direction. “Miss Penelope Featherington!” he exclaimed loud enough to get the attention of half the room. Lady Featherington grasped her daughter’s arm with a grip like talons, preventing her youngest from leaving.
Penelope’s shoulders rose and fell with a sigh before turning to face him with the barest curtsy. Instead of meeting his gaze, she looked past him into the distance. “Mr. Bridgerton,” she murmured with a frosty edge.
Colin bowed and gave Portia and Penelope his most sunny, charming smile, “I couldn’t help but notice how lovely all of you looked this evening. Miss Penelope, I hope you will allow me your first dance of the evening if it isn’t already spoken for.”
“Of course, it’s not taken yet,” Portia trilled with a simpering smile. “I’m sure she would be delighted, Mr. Bridgerton.”
Delighted was not how Colin would describe Penelope’s expression, and he saw her glance towards Lord Fife, who was waiting to the side for Colin to move along. As he anticipated, she wanted to dance more than she wanted to be rid of him. With a begrudging nod, Pen murmured, “Of course…” with all the enthusiasm of a child forced to eat their vegetables so they could have a sweet.
Colin stepped back and grinned his success to Anthony, Benedict, and Kate. All three looked ready to watch this little drama rather than dance themselves. A warning note for the first dance was called, and Colin had to skirt two young men adding their names to Penelope’s dance card. When did this happen, he wondered with a touch of panic. Last year he could count on talking with Pen at the balls as she stood at the edges.
It wasn’t hard to hear her resigned sigh as he offered his arm, and she placed a hand on it. Colin led her onto the dance floor. They stood facing each other as they waited for the other dancers to get into place, and Colin knew getting a single word out of Pen would be difficult. Her stoney expression was fixed on the buttons of his waistcoat instead of his face wasn’t promising. There was nothing he liked better than a challenge.
“Yes?” Pen’s blue eyes flicked up briefly as the strings played the opening chords of an upbeat tune.
Keeping his voice low, Colin murmured as he took her hand and moved into the first steps, “I am not sure what I did to offend you. I wrote to you while I was traveling. Did you not get my letters?”
Penelope’s mouth tightened, and she nodded once. Despite the chilly reception from her, Pen’s feet were quick, and she moved gracefully in his arms as he swung her into a turn.
“We were good friends last year, and I thought the business with your cousin was sorted out. Was I wrong? Did I…”
“I grew up, Colin.” Penelope finally looked up at him, and he didn’t recognize the impersonal, dismissive way she met his eyes. It was as if this elegant young woman took the place of the girl he knew. His travels would have been more enjoyable if the nagging worry about Penelope not answering his letters hadn’t cast a shadow over them.
The swirl of skirts and glow of candles would have been beautiful if the woman in his arms wanted to be there. Pen glanced at the musicians, clearly anxious for this dance to end.
“I didn’t realize growing meant discarding old friends,” Colin pointed out. “I don’t know what happened with Eloise, but we were always close.”
“Were we?” Pen asked as her hand rested in his, and he felt the slightest tremor in her gloved fingertips.
He was growing tired of his verbal cat and mouse, and Colin asked urgently, “What happened, Pen? Will you talk to me?”
“I don’t think there’s anything left to discuss, Mr. Bridgerton.” Penelope brightened as the music slowed, the dancers entering the final movements. “I wouldn’t dream of continuing to pretend that childhood friendships mean anything.”
Colin frowned, trying to hold Pen’s eyes with his own as they bowed and curtsied with the end of the dance. Her words were said in a way that should have meant something to him. As she began to walk off, he said quietly enough the others wouldn’t hear, “I’ve missed you.” Pen’s step slowed, and he knew she heard him, but she shook her head and continued to where Lord Fife waited.
Benedict, Anthony, and Kate waited at the edge of the dance floor, and Colin rejoined them as they looked at him with barely concealed curiosity.
“Well?” Benedict asked as Colin tried to puzzle out what had just happened.
“I need more time.”
“How do you plan on getting that?” Anthony asked dryly.
Colin watched Penelope laughing at Lord Fife as he swept her around the ballroom and asked Kate, “When’s the next ball?”
“Tomorrow night,” Kate replied immediately. “The Cowper’s are hosting.”
“It looks like I’ll have to get there early to get another first dance with Miss Penelope Featherington.”
Chapter 4: Colin and Penelope Wedding
Just a fluffy take on Colin and Penelope's wedding day.
Penelope Featherington took a steadying breath as the carriage pulled up in front of the church. With her wedding gown and train, there was barely room for her mother, maid of honor, and the man who would be giving her away. It wasn’t traditionally correct, but since she would be a Bridgerton by the end of the day, it seemed appropriate for the head of the family not to give her away but to welcome her into the fold.
Her mother blinked tears, and Penelope looked away as she felt her vision wobble. Eloise grabbed her gloved hand and squeezed hard, “You’ve held it together this long, don’t give in now and lose our bet.”
It was silly to bet on who would cry at a wedding, but it seemed everything was a competition in this family, including who would cry first.
“It will be Colin,” Anthony muttered to them. “I have five pounds on it.”
“You’re only saying that because you cried first at your wedding,” Eloise pointed out sweetly, seeming impervious to her brother’s furious glare. “He did. It was adorable,” she told Penelope.
Lady Featherington fanned herself as a footman opened the carriage door and pulled out the stairs. Anthony stepped out to assist them out of the carriage. The practicalities of getting herself out of the carriage without falling flat on her face kept Penelope calm when they entered the antechamber.
As her mother and Eloise fussed with Penelope’s train, Anthony gave her a reassuring grin, “You never said who you bet on, sister.”
Sister. Penelope bit her lip and took another deep breath. “Oh, that is easy. I bet on you…brother.”
Behind her, she heard Eloise snort at the flabbergasted look on Anthony’s face, and he rolled his eyes at them both. “You’ll fit in just fine.”
Portia Featherington’s forced a smile wobbled as she kissed Penelope on the forehead, “You are glowing, my darling. I hope you are as happy every day as you are today.”
Despite their differences, Penelope felt a rush of affection for her mother. “I will,” she said quietly. This was Colin Bridgerton she was marrying. How could she be anything but happy?
With her mother off to join family and friends in the pews, Eloise did one last check of Penelope’s gown and then heaved a sigh, “Time for me to stumble my way down the aisle. I’ll see you in a few moments.” The wide doors opened, and quiet fell over the pews as Eloise walked down the aisle alone, a vision in soft sage green.
Nerves jangled as Penelope heard the soft murmurs of what sounded like hundreds of people. There weren’t hundreds. She knew everyone who would be there. Anthony seemed to sense her growing anxiety and murmured, “Benedict was disappointed in both Colin and me last night. Neither of us was very fun, in his opinion?”
Pen looked up at him, raising her brows, “I thought such nights were supposed to be wild?”
“Benedict tried, but Colin didn’t want to drink too heavily because he didn’t want to spend his wedding day hungover. We are both boring now, but I think it’s more that we’re in a different part of our lives. It’s a good thing, and Colin’s looking forward to starting this journey with you. One more short walk, and you will be a Bridgerton.”
The usher opened the doors again as the music swelled, and Penelope felt her eyes fill again, both from Anthony’s words and the realization that the moment she had dreamed of for half her life was finally here. She was about to marry Colin.
As she placed her hand on Anthony’s arm, he murmured, “I lied earlier. I bet on you.” With her gloved fingers, she pinched Lord Bridgerton’s arm until he made a squeaking sound. The rustle of family and friends getting to their feet sounded like a hundred birds taking flight as Anthony escorted her into the doorway.
The scent of lilacs and lavender filled Penelope’s nose from the flowers that spilled from every surface that would support them. Familiar, smiling faces turned towards her, but all Penelope could see after the first glance was Colin waiting for her at the alter. He turned, and their eyes met, his broad grin at the sight of her in her wedding gown more brilliant than the sun streaming through the stained glass windows. She knew she should look right and left, acknowledge the people who came to witness and celebrate, but that would mean looking away from Colin. Under his dark coat, she saw his chest rise and fall with a sigh that echoed the inhaled awe she felt that this moment was finally here. All the uncertainty, worry, and stresses meant nothing because this was what came of it all. Everything was worth it.
It was the longest and shortest walk of Penelope’s life, but finally, they reached the alter, and Anthony placed her gloved hand into Colin’s. The tears shimmering unshed in her eyes blurred Colin’s face as he squeezed her hand. Her lip trembled, and he leaned down, whispering, “Don’t cry. Being married to me isn’t going to be that bad.”
A teary giggle escaped Penelope’s lips as she and Colin turned to face the Archbishop, the austere man giving them a quelling look before he said, “Dearly beloved….”
Nobody could agree on who cried first at that particular wedding. Violet Bridgerton declared after many arguments that there wasn’t a dry eye in the church, so everyone lost. Penelope disagreed because she definitely won that day.
Chapter 5: The Newest Bridgerton
In the room where generations of Bridgertons were born, Kathani Bridgerton held the family's newest member. After almost eight years since Chara's birth, both parents thought their family complete at three. Then this delicate little girl surprised everyone by proving Kate could conceive in her forties.
Anthony Bridgerton worried through each of his wife's pregnancies, but Kate knew this one shook him to the core. He grew quieter the larger her stomach grew, and no amount of reassurances could calm him. It wasn't until this morning when their daughter made her appearance and Anthony entered the room to see his wife and infant healthy and happy that a great weight lifted from his shoulders. That relief touched Kate more than any declaration of love.
Out in the hall, she could hear Anthony instructing their children to be careful of their mother and gentle with their newest sibling. Kate sat in the large bed, hating the confinement the midwife and physician thought necessary for a woman after birth. Maybe some women could sleep after birth, but she felt like she could scale a mountain with all the energy still rushing through her limbs. It would pass, the midwife laughed.
Anthony opened the door and ushered in their offspring. First came Edmund, tall and lean with his father's serious demeanor. At fifteen, he was already a match in height with Anthony and would likely be taller than his father the next time he came home from Eton. Thirteen-year-old Kiran was as fun-loving as his brother was studious. Anthony received more letters from Eton about Kiran's antics than from Colin, Gregory, and Edmund combined.
Little Chara was the first to approach the bed, her dark eyes wide with delight as she tiptoed to the side of the bed. At almost nine, she was the most excited about her sister. Kate was positive Chara saw the baby as a living doll. The boys hung back as their father came to the bedside to help if Chara got too excited.
"She's so tiny," Chara whispered as she hesitantly touched the wispy dark hair on her sister's head. "What is her name?"
Kate looked up at Anthony, and no words needed to be said as they agreed through slight smiles that now was the time to reveal the name. After Edmund, they only told names once the baby arrived and the siblings met for the first time. "We will call her Mary," Kate said, eyes stinging since her mother would never meet her namesake.
Both boys nodded with expressions that showed the grief they still felt at losing their grandmother. Edmund poked Kiran forward, and they came close enough to see Mary's tiny face as she looked around with the unfocused gaze of a newborn.
Swaddled in a purple blanket, Mary's hand worked free, minuscule fingernails perfect, and Chara beamed when the hand closed around her finger. "She likes me."
"Of course she does. You are her sister," Kate looked up at Anthony, sharing a laughing look with him. Silver touched his temples, but it was the only visible change in her husband since their marriage. "Do you want to hold her?"
Chara climbed onto the bed next to Kate, slowing when her father cautioned her to be careful. The girl's eyes were bright with wonder as Kate showed her how to support the baby's head and hold her without squeezing.
"You are never going to pry that baby out of her arms now," Anthony murmured as their daughters looked into each other's eyes as if this was the start of a lifelong friendship. They were the same ages as Kate and Edwina when the younger was born, Kate realized with a bittersweet pang.
It was a while before Chara reluctantly let her sister out of her grasp. Anthony offered the baby to Edmund, who looked almost panicked at the idea of holding the baby, "No, she's too small. I'll break her."
"Sit in the chair," Anthony chuckled and plunked the baby into Edmund's stiff arms. "Babies are sturdier than they look."
Mary squirmed in her oldest brother's arms, and Edmund's eyes widened. His voice cracked, dropping an octave as he asked, "Did I do something wrong?"
"You're fine," Anthony reassured him. "Just relax. Shift her head into the crook of your arm like that, and rock her a little."
Gingerly, Edmund rocked his arms, and Mary quieted, her mouth opening in a yawn, making the reserved young man grin with delight.
Anthony sat on the edge of the bed, his hand finding Kate's and their fingers twining as they watched the middle two children peer over Edmund's shoulders. He squeezed her hand as they watched their four children together for the first time. There was some good-natured squabbling over who would hold Mary next, but Kate's heart brimmed with happiness. Sixteen years, four children, and just when she thought she couldn't be more content, life proved her wrong.
Chapter 6: After the Featherington Ball Season Two
This is a quick scene with Anthony, Benedict, and Violet following the Featherington Ball. One of my pet theories is a scene was cut involving Queen Charlotte and Anthony prior to the Featherington Ball, so there will be mention of an interaction not shown on the show.
For the second time in his life, Anthony Bridgerton became engaged, but this was the first time he was ecstatic about the event. His future wife, Kate Sharma, wanted to speak privately with her family before making anything publicly official, and he reluctantly agreed because it was over. No more hiding, sneaking around and doing the right thing for everyone but himself. One more day or hour seemed an eternity.
Anthony walked back to Bridgerton House alone from the Featherington Ball, a distance so close he could throw a Pall Mall ball from one door and hit the other. He glanced at Danbury House next door and wondered how Kate's mother and sister were taking the news. Kate said things between Edwina and herself were better, but that was before her sister's former fiance became her sister's.
A voice hailed him as Anthony climbed the steps to Bridgerton House. His brother, best mate, heir, and second jogged the distance between them. "Have you seen Eloise? I can't find her at the Featherington's…."
"I haven't. Maybe the footman…." Anthony approached the door, and it swung open before he could touch it, the young footman in his uniform and wig was able to satisfy both men that Miss Bridgerton had returned home two hours before and was upstairs.
Benedict visibly relaxed with the mystery solved, and Anthony took the opportunity to steer his brother toward the study. "Let's have a drink." Of the family, there were only a few members he wanted to tell of his engagement personally, and this brother was one of them.
"You don't have to ask twice." Benedict shut the study door behind them and gave Anthony a long, searching look. "What happened? You're," he paused, "happy."
"I took your advice, brother, and changed my palette." Anthony couldn't help grinning as Benedict's face went through a range of emotions from puzzled to understanding and finally settling into a broad smile as the brothers exchanged a heartfelt, back-slapping embrace.
"Is it official? You two are?"
"Engaged? Yes, we came to an agreement tonight." Anthony poured each of them a finger of brandy and handed Benedict his.
"We are talking about Kate Sharma, right?" Benedict ducked a mimed blow from his brother. "I had to be sure!"
Anthony couldn't blame him for teasing, not with all the angst caused by Anthony's choices all season. "You don't seem surprised."
Benedict took a sip of his brandy and grinned crookedly, "I knew you were fixated on her when you wouldn't stop complaining about her at the beginning of the season. I couldn't understand why you proposed to her sister when Miss Sharma was the one you wanted. But, trying to talk sense into you would make you run the opposite direction harder."
He grimaced but acknowledged the truth of it, "I did make a muddle of things."
"What is your plan? Another big wedding?"
"If I had my way, we would be halfway to Scotland by now," Anthony replied. "Whatever Kate wants is what we'll do, but I think she will want something without much fuss."
Benedict nodded his approval, "Have you told Mother yet?"
"No, I haven't had a chance to…." Anthony paused as the sound of voices in the hall was audible through the carved oak door. "That might be her."
Anthony put his glass down and went to the door, opening it to see who was coming home. Violet Bridgerton was giving her wrap to the footman and blinked with surprise to see Anthony in his study at this hour. When he waved her in, his mother's brow wrinkled with worry, and he felt another twisting stab of guilt.
That worry melted away like a snowflake in late spring when Violet entered, and Benedict gave her an exaggerated wink and downed the rest of his brandy.
He didn't have to tell his mother the news because, with one glance at his face, Violet knew. Strain disappeared from her face as she asked, "Anthony?"
Anthony poured himself another finger of brandy and sloshed another finger's worth into Benedict's glass. "My intended has requested we keep our news quiet until she could speak with her family."
Violet's eyes searched his face, and whatever she saw there must have reassured her that all was well. Light eyes shimmered with unshed tears as she nodded to the glass in Anthony's hand, "Do I get one of those?"
"Of course," Anthony poured his mother a glass of brandy and offered it with exaggerated aplomb. "We should call for a bottle of wine, at least."
Wrinkling her nose at the taste, Violet took a sip and shook her head, "No. After everything that happened tonight, I need a drink. I can't believe they tried giving you the cut on the dance floor. If the queen hadn't stepped in."
"I took your advice and saw her earlier," Anthony reassured her. "You were right, Her Majesty has a soft spot for love matches, and once she saw us together, she got involved."
"Wait, you knew the queen was going to do that?" Benedict looked from his brother to his mother and back again.
Anthony shook his head, "I wasn't sure what she was going to do. Mother suggested I visit her today if I wanted a chance at rectifying this situation with the ton." He scowled, still irritated that the queen knew his true feelings before Kate. "I confessed everything, my growing feelings towards Miss Sharma, trying to go through with marrying her sister out of honor, and how it is all my fault. Despite it all, she heard my request for help and didn't give me a verbal thrashing. Queen Charlotte said she would think about it."
"She wanted to see you two for herself. Did you plan to dance with Miss Sharma? How did you know the other dancers would give you the cut?" Violet's eyes were alive with curiosity.
"I didn't," Anthony admitted. "It worked out perfectly, and the queen has given us her blessing. Kate and I came to an agreement, so now…."
"Gretna Green?" Benedict suggested with a mischievous grin, anticipating their mother's outraged, "Don't even think about it! You can't elope after everything that has happened this season. People will assume there's a reason you couldn't wait!"
Anthony couldn't contain a broad smile, it just came naturally, and his cheeks hurt from muscles protesting after years of disuse. "I think Kate would like the idea of a small, family wedding in Kent."
Chapter 7: The Tampering of the Balls
Why would Pall Mall balls sink if they were made of wood? It all started with an exasperated groundskeeper.
Early April 1810
Regarding Pall Mall, there was an expectation in the Bridgerton family that rules were for the rest of the world. When the mallets and balls came out, the more bloodthirsty Bridgertons would go to great lengths to beat their beloved siblings. Lord Anthony Bridgerton considered himself to be the most cunning of the bunch. With the first hints of spring in the air, tulips pushing their pointed leaves through the soil, lilacs and apple blossoms perfuming the air, it was almost time for the season's first game.
The heavy package that arrived for Anthony the previous day aroused a lot of curiosity from Violet down to tiny Hyacinth. It was a poor decision on his part to have it sent direct. Next year he would have the manufacturer of the Pall Mall balls send them to the groundkeeper's home. Old Thom wouldn't mind aiding a good cause. It was his idea initially to make the balls heavier and harder to use.
The crate now sat in the privacy of the study Anthony still thought of as his father's. He locked the door and drew the curtains shut, just in case. In the container padded with straw were seven custom-made Pall Mall balls. It was the third such set in as many years that he ordered. Picking up the pink ball, Anthony tossed it from hand to hand, grinning at the heft of the lead core. The good man who made this for Anthony every year suggested upping the weight yearly so the others wouldn't notice a sudden change. It was disappointing that Benedict beat him the first year with a ball heavier than his, but the weight would give him the advantage this year.
The following day, Anthony's sleepy valet woke him at an unholy hour. As Anthony dressed and hefted the leather hunting bag holding the weighted balls, the sun barely crested the horizon. The stablehands looked askance at their employer as he snagged a hoof pick and a hammer from the tack room. Anthony hiked the short distance around the lake to the remote shed that stored the Pall Mall set.
Before he opened the door, the leather hunting back was upended, wooden balls clacking together as they rolled at Anthony's feet. Before he could replace the old balls, the new ones needed to look used, they began to look appropriately battered after a few careful strikes of the hammer and some gouging with the hoof pick.
The Pall Mall rack was just as Anthony left it the previous year. The Mallet of Death, his preferred black mallet, got a fond pat before swapping the old balls with the new. Only the black ball that went with his mallet remained unweighted with its original boxwood center. Anthony chuckled, shouldering the bag, now a little lighter, as he prepared to return to the house.
Four Days Later….
When Colin Bridgerton returned from town, a slip of a girl ran out to meet him. "Did you get it?" she asked as she slid to a stop next to his horse.
"Of course. The craftsman wasn't even surprised when I made the request." Colin allowed a groom to take his horse and strolled with his sister towards the lake, looking all the world like two siblings taking a stroll on a fine spring afternoon.
As soon as they were out of sight of the house, Colin withdrew a black Pall Mall ball, identical to the others. Tossing it to his sister, he laughed when Daphne's hands sagged under the weight. "Your idea of making the center off-balance so the ball doesn't roll straight is genius," he complimented Daphne.
"It was Thom's idea to add the weights, though," Daphne pointed out modestly. "I think he's tired of searching in the woods for the balls we lose each game."
Colin smirked, smug with this deception, "Anthony won't be losing this one. It's a pity the rest will be the regular weights."
"He's not going to be happy if he finds out." Daphne looked delighted at this prospect.
"Just let him keep claiming that stupid mallet he named. He'll never know."