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Fencing Lessons

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“She is pompous and arrogant and quite sure she knows best in every situation” Anthony seethes as he fences an indifferent Colin, “Ah, she sounds like a terrible nuisance.” He quips as he looks to his other brother, Benedict, who watches amused from the bench. “Especially since you are the one who knows best in every situation.” Benedict teases his brother as both Anthony and Colin enter the starting stance for another match. Anthony easily blocks Colin’s moves and soon disarms him, “And the victor of every match today” Colin rolls his eyes at his brother’s arrogance as Anthony replies “Less talking, more fencing. Brother.” As he did not want to be the object Anthony gets his frustrations out on, he hands the sabre to a willing and amused Benedict, wishing him luck. Benedict gets in a more relaxed stance than would be advised, while Anthony, with one hand behind his back takes a more serious stance that would make their old fencing master proud. After a brief exchange in which Anthony easily blocks Benedict’s moves, he asks, “Do you know why I win every time?”

 

 

Benedict not caring where he is trying to take the conversation replies, “Because every time you lose, you claim we cheated.” With Anthony slightly distracted he does a swift move to swing Anthony’s arm over his head and tap him on his back, taking a point. Anthony focused on the ground, ignores his brother’s comment, and corrects “Because I know my duties. What my purposes are and how to obtain them. Which I will do when I make Miss Edwina my viscountess.” During this mini-speech, Anthony is able to tap Benedict, taking a point for himself. “Miss Edwina and I are well-suited. She is a lovely young lady. She wishes for children… She will make a perfectly agreeable wife.”

 

Benedict, like all his siblings, has heard the duty speech so man times in the past decade, referencing all manners of things and he generally enjoys teasing Anthony, so he does so as he prepares to spar again, pointing out that Anthony is only going for Miss Edwina as he has dismissed and insulted every other eligible miss in town. 'It was a ridiculous that he is choosing to court this way.' Colin smirks watching his brother trying to maintain control of his temper as he hopes to beat Benedict. When he returned from his travels, it was a shock that his brother was in the marriage mart for sure, but hearing from Benedict, Anthony seems to have picked the most detach way to court the misses and he was disappointed and saddened by this.

 

 

 

“You take too much upon yourself, Brother. Perhaps your life might be easier if you pursued someone with a less disagreeable sister.” Colin points out, though he is enjoying the way Miss Sharma seems to have irked his brother, it is the most reactive to anyone outside the family Colin has seen. Anthony charges towards him, “But why should I be the one to admit defeat?!” 'Well, that certainly got him flared up... does he truly want Miss Edwina or is my brother simply wishing to beat Miss Sharma at whatever game he is envisioning'. 

 

“Regardless of which young lady I have chosen to pursue, there would’ve always been some obstinate father or meddlesome aunt in the picture. I shall certainly not let some sister especially one younger than me, keep me from getting what it is that I want.” Anthony huffs. He is tired of this; this ridiculous dance he has to do, worse still, it seems Miss Sharma is the vixen playing the tune for some reason. It would have been easy if there was someone to grant him permission and he could be wed to Miss Edwina by the end of the month, sooner if not for the reading of the banns.

 

Whom you want, you mean?” Benedict corrects irked at his words, “If Hastings had made such a speech about our dear sister, I imagine we all won’t have hesitated to call him out, don’t you think Brother?” Benedict takes a point walking away from an offended Anthony.

 

“Is this still a friendly match, or do we need to find some armour?” Colin quips at his snipping brothers. “What I’m trying to say Brother,” Benedict shows he is not going to engage in another spar yet, “is that you speak of Miss Edwina in a way that we would be offend if we heard someone speak of our sisters in such a manner. You can understand Miss Sharma is protective.”

 

“I understand her position as a sister! I just do not understand why I have to defer to her when their mother does not oppose our courtship.”

 

“Again, I would like to remind you of Hastings.”

 

“That is different, and you are naïve to think it is the same”

 

“Brother,” Colin takes a pause before sharing his thoughts making Anthony impatient. “Yes?”

 

“Why do you want the Diamond anyway?”

 

“Because… because she is the best the ton has to offer, and it will be good for me and this family to only marry the best… will save from the any headache or distractions from my duties and she should be able to dispense the duties of viscountess perfectly. Have I not already said this, are you not listening?!”

 

“I am. I only wonder whether it is worth you marrying a Diamond, or someone capable of raising a Diamond.”

 

“Miss Edwina’s mother” he replied appalled.

 

“Miss Sharma”

 

“What?!” Benedict smiles at this, mainly because Anthony has already proven to be a menace to the woman by trying to court her sister and will only be worse trying to gain Miss Sharma’s hand herself. But Colin makes a good point, and unlike Miss Edwina, Miss Sharma certainly seems like one who would actually make a good Viscountess Bridgerton; it would be foolish to simply discount the individuals in the family, as Anthony considers what would be good for the family and the family name. From his brief contact and what he knows of Miss Edwina, she is certainly sweet and agreeable, which does not bode well surviving their boisterous family, 'Hyacinth would eat her alive if she was to roll over for her each time'.

 

 

“Colin is right. From what I hear and see about her, Miss Sharma is the one guiding her sister through the season, so she is obviously capable of discharging the duties you wish for a viscountess as she has shown by raising Miss Edwina to be by your definition, perfect. Perhaps she should be the one you should court.”

 

“Are you being serious right now or have you both gone mad?” His brothers who had never should anything but disdain and boredom when he spoke of his duties are trying to say they have thought of the woman he should court and marry. With the combined thinking, came to the conclusion of Miss Sharma- the most unpleasant, maddening woman he had the displeasure of meeting. 'It wasn't a displeasure seeing her on horseback...'

 

“Look at it this way, you can either gain her favour for her hand or gain her blessing for Miss Edwina but learning more about Miss Sharma certainly benefits you more that antagonising her.” Colin points out

 

“Besides,” Benedict smiles as he says getting back to a stance, "she has already proven to being able to best you at the races; and if she is able to manage you, certainly Eloise can’t be that much of challenge. Mother certainly needs help wrangling dear sister through the season.”

 

Anthony is staring at the ground thinking about what his brothers have said. He has other reasons he would like to pursue Miss Sharma for himself but didn’t consider her for his family, plus her barbs at the Conservatory Ball have not been forgotten. She'd dressed him down in a manner that enraged him, before he got distracted by the scent she left behind. He had been acting like a cad, but he was amongst men, having a private conversation. 'She should not have been there... she should not have heard those words, perhaps things would have been...' Could it be that easy, to have her for himself and benefit his family? 'She did meet a lot of his main criteria and certainly had her way about her... Benedict and Colin seem to find something to recommend her... but she'd first have to want him and he wasn't sure she would after all that has happened... what a mess.' He is lost in thought when Benedict taps him, “Conceding dear brother, or have we dazzled you with our thoughts on Miss Sharma?”

 

“Of course I will not concede! But I will take to heart what you have said. And as a show of my gratitude, I shall honour Benedict now.” In this spar, Anthony is able to trip Benedict to the floor before helping him up. “What an honour…” Benedict rolls his eyes as Anthony helps him up.

 

“Thank you gentlemen, for the bracing exertion and the advice. Seems I may need to amend my plans for the afternoon, and perhaps secure another victory for the day.” He hugs both his brothers, handing his sabre to Colin, walking away from the befuddled men.

 

“Was that the right path to send him on?” Colin asks Benedict as they watch their brother retreat from them. “I do believe for one thing, Anthony will certainly learn some form of respect as Miss Sharma will not hold back… and honestly, somehow I think it will be good for our brother… but we shall hopefully see, shan’t we” they laugh before getting into a fighting stance and have a far more relax fencing session between the two of them.

 

 

 

 

Anthony is outside Danbury house with Nectar, trying to make sure the horse is calm, when he hears Kate barrelling towards him “How much clearer must I be?! Take your Trojan Horse elsewhere, we are quite done with your falsehoods and trickery.” Not off to a great start but he was not entirely surprised.

 

“No trickery. This is an apology. To you Miss Sharma…”

 

“Oh”, Kate was taken aback. This was not what she expected from him, but she still did not trust him and expects this was his way to win her favour in his pursuit of Edwina.

 

“What is this then?”

 

“I believe, having witnessed your logic proving sound in selecting a winner, Nectar to be an appropriate humble gift to offer my apologies. So again, I apologise for the slight you took with the deception Dorset and I played; it truly was not meant to be an offence. I hoped to gain an audience with Miss Edwina, and he with you. I took the opportunity but did not think of the impact of my actions.”

 

He seemed sincere, but Kate had to try, “Truly, this is all a game to you then; and I am merely a pawn you hope to be rid of to advance to your victory.”

 

“I am not here to play games; I am being sincere in my regret”

 

“You expect me to believe you after what I heard, your actions at the races, all I have read of you?... now you are mean to be trusted?! I certainly am yet to meet a man as brazenly presumptuous- “

 

“You do not even know me!” Anthony countered, struggling to maintain a resolve of calm against the accusations.

 

“I know you are polished. I know you are careful. I know you make promises without so much as uttering a word; and when you do not get your way, are not above deceit. There is not much more I need to know.”

 

Anthony hates how her words stings, and that there is some truth in her word. He hands Nectar to the Danbury footman. Kate looks to the gift as she realises, she is yet to thank the man for it, she briefly looks longingly at the horse, excited at the prospect of racing him in the park but she won’t back down from this; Lord Bridgerton and whatever game he has afoot.

 

“Miss Sharma, if this is about what you heard on the terrace the other night, you are not wrong; what I said is inexcusable." he looks at her and her expression is unreadable, ‘frustrating minx’ 

 

 

"But you act as if I’m some kind of villain, but as I said before, you do not even know me… you have been exceptionally clear about what it is you do not wish, for your sister, but not exactly what she has voiced she desires, so allow me to prove my mettle to you.”

 

Before Kate can reply, Edwina starts walking to them, and Anthony takes the small bouquet of flowers his footman holds for him. “Lord Bridgerton” she greets with a deep curtsey. He bows in return, acknowledging her before he hands her the bouquet. “This is an apology to you for my ungentlemanly behaviour of interrupting your time with Lord Lumley. As I have apologised to your sister with the horse you were worried about, I truly hope that in time, your opinions of me will improve.” She thanks him and he watches her beam towards Miss Sharma who gives a tight smile back.

“Thank you.” Kate says to him, surprising him. “For Nectar, it is an extremely generous gift…”

“The least you deserve Miss Sharma” smiling, clamping down on the warmth growing in his chest like the first day he saw her.

With that, he bids goodbye to both women and heads to his carriage. He looks back watching Miss Sharma who is now caressing the nose of Nectar, smiling. It seems that there was a possibility to win her over after all.

 

Lady Danbury smiles as they return to the drawing room acknowledging that the viscount is very generous with his affections seeing as he already bought Edwina a fine horse. Edwina corrects the Dowager that Nectar was purchased for Kate as an apology and Kate as is an avid rider, it works well for her. Lady Danbury is shocked but does not let her expression be read, she watches as Edwina twirls the bouquet and Kate sit pensively obviously reconsidering her opinion of the viscount. A horse is an expensive gift for merely the sister of the woman one is courting, but it seemed to at least have the elder miss reconsidering her stance on the viscount. Lady Mary regales that it is obvious the viscount’s intent, if he is ensuring to endear himself with the family.

 

 

 

 

The whole Bridgerton clan have been invited to the Danbury soiree for Edwina’s suitors. Kate ensured to include an additional thank you note for Lord Bridgerton's as her mother couldn't believe she was arguing with a man who had given her such an extraordinary gift. As they prepare to go down, Edwina is obviously excited and expresses her hopes that the viscount does something romantic. “Edwina, regardless of the viscount’s actions today, I caution you to still be careful. Men like him… I only mean to protect you Bon.”

 

“I know, Didi, but I hope that you can give him a chance. After all, you now have a horse of your own to go on your morning rides.” Kate cannot find a leg to argue against him and hopes that neither she nor her sister are not disappointed.

 

When the Bridgertons- Lady Violet, Anthony, Colin, and a very reluctant Eloise, arrive, Anthony stands to the side with Colin, watching the car crash that is being passed as the talent displayed by the men of the Ton. He walks over to Kate and Eloise and overhears part of their conversation.

 

“At least it is the men who are making fools of themselves this time.” Kate laughs

 

“Was this your idea?” Eloise asks with a laugh in her voice.

 

“I wish I could take credit, but no. Lady Danbury encouraged a poetry reading. The men, thanks to their spirit and competition, concocted the rest of this farce on their own.”

 

“Of course they did” his sister said with such derision. He feared that Miss Sharma may pair him with the group. He had spoken to Colin and Benedict earlier this evening, and they suggested that he does participate. He was starting to loathe taking advice from his brothers, as it seemed they only wanted to humiliate him. 'One day, fratricide shall be legal.'

 

“You are the viscount’s sister, yes?” Kate asks, curious about the confusing, vexing man who never seems to do or be exactly what she expects of him.

 

“One of them. But do not hold it against me.” Eloise replies, absentmindedly as she continues to watch the show, it seemed difficult to look away though there was nothing about it to recommend the continued interest.

 

“The fact the viscount is your relation almost makes me think better of him.” Kate replies. Seems that Eloise will have to join in their mini war room to help endear him to Miss Sharma.

 

“We should certainly not give him too much credit, now, should we?” they laugh. Or maybe not…

 

“Sister, Miss Sharma”

 

“Lord Bridgerton” Kate gives a tight smile and returns to watch the farce in front of them. “What talent will you be displaying tonight?”

 

“I was told it was a poetry reading. If not for Lumley, I’d think you were trying to make of fool of me.”

 

“Oh no, I trust you to do that all by yourself” she said with a smile, and Eloise laughs at the joke. ‘No, Eloise certainly may be of some help, but I will not invite her help as I court Colin and Benedict’s.’

 

Lady Danbury’s voice cuts through his thoughts as she invites him up. He stands to the front looking at Kate with a brief glance to Edwina. Eloise already laughing, even with his glares at her. He straightens his coat, coughing and looks to the poem in his hand, wondering how he got himself here. “This is not my work, but that of my brother’s. So, when anyone sees Benedict, do tell him I did this poem justice…” earning him some laughs from the audience.

“What is it, truly, to admire a woman?

To look at her and feel inspiration.

To delight in her beauty.

So much so that all your defences crumble,

that you would willingly take on any pain,

any burden for her.

To honour her being, with your deed and words.”

 

He looks up and keeping eye contact with Kate, “That is wat the true poet describes.”

 

There was a heavy silence in the room before Edwina begun the applause, and the rest of the room joined. Kate excuses herself to get some air, and Anthony tries follow her, but is stopped by Lord Fife, Lord Cho, and the same man he forgets his name every time from the conservatory ball. “Bridgerton, seem to be doing better than others in courting the diamond. I saw you speaking with the sister earlier, seems you are charming her well.”

 

“I would hardly say I have charmed her, but I’m certainly enjoying the challenge she poses. Miss Sharma is certainly a formidable and intelligent woman.”

 

The men laugh, Cho retorts “Well she would have to be, lying to herself she is protecting her sister when one can only suspect jealousy as the true reason.”

 

“I’d watch your tongue in their home Cho. Nothing Miss Sharma is doing, is any different to what I would in protection of my sisters. If you are unable to respect that, I suggest you excuse yourselves and leave.”

 

Anthony walks away irritated, 'No wonder Miss Sharma cut him, if that was the company he kept.' He almost bumps into Lady Danbury who gives her a knowing smirk before she walks away. Danbury think that Miss Sharma can have no opposition to a man who shows respect to a woman who has repeated showed him disdain. Besides, he is the only one that was not painfully terrible.

 

As the night winds down, and the guests leave, the four women retire to their rooms with much to think of. The next morning, they discuss the men and their displays. Danbury nods approvingly as Lady Mary says the viscount would not be one to engage in such activities if he was not infatuated with Edwina, and none of the women particularly like any of the other men that showcased their talent, and Lord Bridgerton was the most eligible of the ton to declare his intent for marriage this year. Kate feels unsure of raising her apprehension especially when Danbury states that the viscount has shown a turn around since Kate’s last report of his thoughts to the marriage mart. Kate does not want to seem like she is holding onto a grudge for no reason so simply nods and drinks the dreadful English tea.

 

Before they can further discuss, the footmen arriving with the train of flowers as usual, but one set is different. Lord Bridgerton has sent bouquets of pink rose buds for each woman. And the one for Kate, comes with a large bone for Newton after hearing from Eloise how fond of her dog Kate was. The note attached stated: I will not apologise for last night. I did warn you… Kate laughed softly, and the three women looked at her confused. No other woman had a message come with their flowers only his calling card. Newton takes his bone and finds himself in his favourite corner receiving some sun. Kate would not admit it to anyone, least of all Lord Bridgerton, but these were the first flowers she received here, and she did not realise how much she wanted flowers just for herself and not just the ones spilt over from Edwina’s.

 

 

The next night is a ball at the Carrington House. It is in full swing when the Sharmas and Lady Danbury arrive. Edwina is whisked away by Lumley and when Anthony comes to the group, Kate sighs still unsure why she is opposed to Lord Bridgerton but will not voice her thoughts. “Miss Sharma, you look beautiful tonight”

 

“Not every other night you’ve seen me”

 

“Kate” her mother chides.

 

Anthony smiles knowing Miss Sharma will never make this easy for him but does relish the challenge. The way she smirks and tilts her head slightly before delivering her retort. “May I have this dance, Miss Sharma?”

 

“Yes, you may…” Lady Danbury replies on her behalf, hitting her with her cane so she would step forward. Anthony takes her hand, enjoying the mini coup that led to her being in his arms and leads her to the floor. She sees Edwina who looks surprised but delighted before she turns back to Lumley. The dance begins, and Kate feels nervous or annoyed in his arms. They dance seamlessly, even though when she trades partners, the other men are certainly not as smooth as Lord Bridgerton. They spin, dance, laughing at each other wincing when their toes are trodden on by other partners, and she actually enjoys the dance with him. When it concluded, she is breathless from laughing with him, and at him. Anthony studies Kate, every smile, every time she uses her fingers to curl the loose tresses framing her face, those eyes. ‘She is stunning, that was what I first though when I saw her in the park, but now…

 

“Tell me Lord Bridgerton, how far are you willing to go to endear yourself to me in hopes I approve your courtship of my sister?” He is brought out of his revery and he realises that he had made a decision regarding the sister he wished to court, and it was not Miss Edwina, but if he tells Miss Sharma, he is unsure if she would receive his advances, not after the way he has behaved so far. They are taking a turn around the room, with many of the Ton watching them but he was focused on her. “Actually, I wanted to tell you, I will respect your wishes with regards to your sister. I… I still do not believe I am looking for a love match and if that is what your sister desires, I cannot honestly say I will provide that for her…”

 

“Thank you” Kate breathes a sigh of relief. He acknowledges what she had been hesitant of, even with his gestures, she did not believe that he was not offering love. “I’m sorry. It’s just with your gestures…”

 

“I was apologising, and even the soiree, I just... I didn’t want to seem too arrogant to not engage, though by my reading you must wish I stayed silent.” He smiled.

 

“No, you were not as terrible as you think.” She says with a laugh before turning serious, “And thank you for… Thank you. I just don’t know how I will tell Edwina.”

 

“Please, I was the one who started this. I will tell her tonight.” She nods and continues to circle the hall till they reach her party which Lady Bridgerton has joined exasperated that she has lost Eloise again. The rest of the night goes by in blur, and Anthony never had a chance to speak with Edwina, but he spent quite a bit speaking with Kate. She was delightful when she was not insulting him, and even then, though he will certainly not admit it and encourage her.

 

Benedict and Colin watched their brother as he seemed to have made his choice for who he was courting. “It seems we are to have a new sister-in-law.”

 

“We were always to have a new sister-in-law. It just seems that this is one may possibly change our dear brother for the better” Colin says as he smiles at the scene. Glad to have interfered even without predicting how well it would turn out for his brother.

 

 

 

The morning after, Anthony is promenading with his mother who is very confused about Anthony’s lack of courting Miss Edwina. He spent time with her, and her family but never escorted her to the floor. Hyacinth laughs at her older brother’s obvious frustration with their mother’s eagerness to have him married. “Mother, Anthony was courting a lot of women, maybe he hasn’t decided which one yet.”

 

“But he had decided, and now I want to know what changed his mind.” Violet said exasperated.

 

“Mother, please…” Anthony looks down, letting a breath of frustration out. As he does so, he looks up to see Dorset speaking with Miss Sharma and Miss Edwina. Lumley awkwardly standing next to them seeming bored. Anthony excused himself before his mother could continue prodding; if he didn’t do this now, it will only get worse the longer Miss Edwina thought he was still courting her.

 

“Miss Sharma, Miss Edwina, Dorset, Lumley” he greets the group. “Apologies but I was hoping for a word with you Miss Edwina, is will only take a minute Lumley.” He knew Lumley would not make a scene, but this would be the second interruption and Lumley would certainly not forgive another, but he was sure there would be no more. Miss Edwina took his hand as he led her away from the group.

 

“Miss Edwina, I appreciate your time, and again I beg your forgiveness for the interruption. But after how I spoke with you at the Diamond Ball, I thought, regardless of how brief the courtship, I felt I owe you a conversation to let you know I was withdrawing my courtship.”

 

“My lord, I do not understand.” She says startled but regains control over the tenor of her voice, “All your gifts, actions, words at the… you asked for my Appa.”

 

“When my mother announced my intention to marry, she had a romantic notion of me finding a love match but that is not my plan. The truth is, I recall what my sister endured as the diamond. Weaving through the suitors who only pursued her for her status. And I realized I did the same thing, and I know you deserve better than to be treated in a way I would never allow my sisters to be treated. I feel most of our interactions have me apologising but I want you to know I am sincere.”

 

She nods but still seems dazed. Edwina was so sure Lord Bridgerton had affections for her but by his comparison, ‘Does he see me like his sisters? Miss Eloise is out but the there are two who are not… Does he see me as merely a naïve child?!’

 

He walks her to her group, and she tries to focus on Lumley who is reciting the same poem from the Races. ‘Does this man do nothing else? Why is Kate insisting… Kate… last night Lord Bridgerton danced with Kate but not me. He was getting her blessing? Did she tell him to leave me? After all he went to endear himself to her, she still rejected him? No, Kate wouldn’t do that to me. I will speak to her once we are home.’

 

When they get home, the conversation does not go as smooth as Edwina had planned it to go as not only did Kate know he intended to end to courtship, but she still spent the rest of the night at his side like nothing had happened. Edwina stalked to her room, refusing to speak with her sister further. Her mother unsure what to do as Edwina wouldn’t receive her either. Danbury is confused as what exactly had taken place. From what Miss Edwina said, Miss Sharma was not involved; he simply repeated what he said last night to Miss Sharma to Miss Edwina this morning… but his actions? … she was certain there was more to his actions, and she was not going to be left to look a fool. She makes an incredible match last year and neither of the parties resided in her home. Her name, her connections would not fail the ones she is sponsoring. For now, she will observe what is happening, and maybe pay closer attention to Miss Sharma and Lord Bridgerton.