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Underestimated

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"You've heard him say what? " Kate looks startled at her sister, her ears ring and it's beyond her imagination Edwina doesn't seem to be bothered by the things she just told her sister. "And you still want him to court you?!" 

"Come on, Didi, you yourself were eavesdropping, why do you want me to repeat what Lord Bridgerton said?" Edwina grins amusingly at her. "It was just tough talk between gentlemen, he wasn't completely serious." Edwina clearly doesn't get why Kate is unhinged by her unspoken desire to still get courted by Lord Bridgerton.

Kate tries to contain herself, her vision is blurry and her head is full, almost too full to comprehend words but she makes an attempt anyway. Kate is aware how young her sister still is, how little of the world she's seen. While all this is true and Kate wants to help her sister, at the same time something is gnawing at her. The way Edwina stands before her, with an obvious air of what only can be described as arrogance, she gets on Kate's nerves. 

"I'm just worried, I don't think the way you interpreted his words is correct…" Kate tries to say it as convincingly as possible.

But her words don't hit target, Edwina just winks and shrugs.

Is her sister really this oblivious?

It fits in the developments Edwina undertook the last weeks, since their arrival in England she was acting spoiled, like a child who still expects the world to revolves around her. 

Even Mary told her to cut down a little when she blamed a maid for bringing her the wrong clothes

This, to be honest, surprised Kate a lot. Never in her live would she thought to live to see the day her mother snap like that at Edwina. 

But she was under the impression Edwinas annoying behavior could be subscribed to her be anxious. For the better part of 3 years they were preparing for this season, and it was understandable Edwina felt nerves.

But seeing her sister now, Kate is not so sure she could blame it all on nervousness only. The woman before her looks like a complete stranger and it scares Kate tremendously.

With this character change unfolding before her eyes, her usual confidence is no where to be found and she has trouble staying on her feet. To steady herself she spread her legs a bit and takes a few deep breaths. It takes some time because the image of Lord Bridgerton courting her sister is revolting in more ways than one… 

If it were any other man, would you act the same? She asks herself, thinking about her rendezvous with Lord Bridgerton earlier this morning.

Never had she met such a beautiful, witty, interesting man and it is safe to say she herself was disappointed when she heard him speak about woman like that. Not that she thinks she has a shot, but she was somewhat intreged by this Lord Bridgerton. Nevertheless, she would prevent herself and her loved ones from being humiliated, even if it was the last thing she did. So yes, she would do the same.

I still want what's best for my sister, 

"You heard him say he doesn't want to love his wife, right? And that he isn't opposed to a mistress? You're not talking about some secret conversation I wasn't aware of?"

Edwina finally sees the earnest in her expression and opens her mouth to protest.

Kate lifts her hand to cut her off before she could start.

"I want to protect you, Bon. To prevent you from getting hurt."

"Didi," Edwina waves her hand to enhance the mood. " You don't have too. As always, you only see the worst in people, I need you to have an open mind this season, for my sake and to make sure I get the future I always wanted, the future we always wanted me to have. You know how wealthy he is, how he provides for his family, my life would be good, and I'm sure he's going to love the diamond eventually, I'll make sure of this. Why would you be opposed to that?" She winks again, but Kate takes a step back, and another one.

She's offended, to say the least. Blood rushed rapidly through her veins, anger wells up from deep within and for a change, Kate doesn't plan to hide it.

She always thought of her sister as a compassionate person, a person who was living, just like her, for her family, the way their appa told them to. But if that was true, how dared she insult her this way? How could she, so easily, choose her prospect over a relative? That's just wrong! Kate wouldn't have believed her sister actually uttered those words if she didn't hear her say it herself. Her hands tremble and she clenches her fists to regain some control.

"Is that what you think? About me?" She keeps her voice as even as possible and looks Edwina straight in the eyes.

"You know you have the tendency to overbearing, smuttering me with your concern, even when there is nothing that you need to worry about, and as much as I admire your involvement and determination, if you're going to be against my highest most desired prospect, I do not need your help."

"Edwina…" Kate cries out. "Please, you don't mean this." But if she did, well, than there was no way in hell Kate was going to dance at her feet, Kate respected herself to much to do so. If Edwina saw her as a fool, she would prove how wrong she was.

If Edwina decides to walk into this dead trap with this much disdain she could have it her way and Kate wasn't going to stop her.

"But I do mean it, I think I can manage my own season. I was already called the Diamond, I suppose things shouldn't be complicated for me."

Kate can't hide it, nor does she want to, she rolls her eyes and frowns deeply before she smiles amusingly at her sister.

Edwina looks confused, but she shakes her head briefly. 

It is like she can't even believe someone would dare cross her path like this. Kate thinks, and if Edwina is about to say what Kate predicts her sister is going to say, than she would go on with the plan that just enters her mind.

It all depends on her sister's next sentences.

"I don't need your judgement, Kate, I suggest you focus on yourself, maybe we both can marry, then you wouldn't have to return to India. I would love having you around." Edwina grabs both of Kate's hands to force her to meet her gaze.

And just like that, Edwina changes back into the sweet, little girl Kate always thought her sister to be. "Kate, you are beautiful, please don't be a wallflower, there will be a nice second son, or third that will try to court you! I know there will be."

She has no idea how incredibly vile her

words are… so Kate has made up her mind, she has to swallow a few times to make her mouth moist enough to talk without a crackling voice and she narrows her eyes to make sure Edwina understands her completly when she speaks. She needs to be as thorough as possible, after she's done there will be no room for doubt and Edwina knows how serious she is.

"I don't care for a second son, or third, I think I just go for Lord Bridgerton instead." 

It pleases Kate more than she cared to admit when she sees Edwina's mouth drop open.

"You don't have a chance, you're six and twenty! You… you're.. you wouldn't!!"

Kate laughs smugly, for a second she's tempted to tell Edwina about her meeting with Lord Bridgerton this morning, but at the last moment she keeps it to herself. Kate's convinced there will come a better moment to play this card. 

Today is not going to be the day she does, the initial shock on her sister's face is fulfilling enough.

For now.

Chapter Text


 

Kate stands next to her mother and the two of them are watching Edwina dance. Kate just came back inside and there her sister was; dancing with Lord Bridgerton. 

Edwina clearly didn't waste time..

She spins around like a fairy, light and barely touching the ground as only she can do.

Jealousy isn’t a feeling Kate is familiar with, but the sight of the two of them touching makes her stomach turn. 

They're not even that close . She tries to reassure herself, but it doesn't help, she still wants to go over there and wrap them apart. 

"She looks gorgeous," Mary whispers adorationly. "Your sister is thriving and everyone watches, I'm convinced she'll be the talk of the evening, doesn't that soothe you?"

"I do think it will make our lives easier, that's for sure." Kate doesn't want to lie to her mother so she chooses her words carefully. "Edwina loves the attention."

"It calms my nerves having you involved like this, sweetheart," Mary touches her arm, "You always have your sister's best interest at heart."

"That was the plan." 

Kate feels her mother isn't done, she can see it the way she shuffles anxiously with her feet.

"I only hope you'll be open-minded enough to let her follow her own instincts." 

There it is

Edwina must have talked to her before Kate came back in.

"What did she tell you?" Kate frowns and tries to keep her breath steady. She pulls her mother to the side to speak more privately.

Confrontation is something Mary tries to avoid at all costs, Kate knows this all too well.

"Say it Mom.." She urges her mother to speak.

Mary clears her throat before she talks, her eyes blink rapidly and she's clearly feeling uncomfortable. "Edwina told me she got the impression you did not want her to marry a high ranked man, that you want her to find a husband rather quickly so you can search for a suitor yourself." 

"Do you believe her?" Kate is astonished by the ways her sister tries to bend things in her favor.

"I am not sure I do, I only hope you don't ruin her chances if a man like that does come along."

"She is dancing with Lord Bridgerton, so I think I'm doing okay." 

"Yes, Lady Danbury introduced your sister to him moments ago. She and his mother are close friends."

Perfect. Kate thinks sarcastically. She looks over her mother's shoulder to Edwina and Lord Bridgerton, her sister is having a blast, she giggles loudly.

An overwhelming feeling of something sad rushes through her, what was she thinking? Kate knows she's a good looking woman, but she can never compete with her sister's gracious moves and ditto behavior. 

She sighs, and just when she wants to move her head away Lord Bridgerton turns his head and their eyes meet.

Kate can tell he's shocked to see her because for a moment his mouth falls open. But then he smirks and he nods his head briefly at her.

Kate wants to look away but somehow she can't, his beautiful brown eyes burn a hole into her soul.

Their eyes connecting lasts until the music stops and he has to escort Edwina back to Lady Danbury. 

Kate feels a sudden emptiness she can't explain, she needs to do something to distract herself.

"I'm going to get us something to drink." 




“Kate, come stand next to me.” Lady Danbury grabs her arm and pulls her in. “I want you to meet some interesting people.”

Kate was deep in thoughts. She was internally debating with herself whether she should pursue her plan or not. It would be kind of vile if she did and besides, a good and bright future for Edwina was always what she wanted her to have. 

Lord Bridgerton, although incredibly handsome and charming, was not a good man, but if her sister really wants to have him on her list, shouldn't she let her do so? 

Kate only threatened her sister to scare her off, she doesn't want to find a husband, she wants to go back to India. 

So is it even worth it? To fight with her sister over something that, in the end, she still wants Edwina to have? Only to make a point? 

Edwina probably is too insecure and nervous and that's why she acted out. That has to be it.

"Miss Sharma!"

Kate is startled by the sound of Lady Danbury's voice so much she tumbles and she only regains her balance by leaning on Edwinas shoulder. Her sister seems to be irritated by the touch.

“I’m sorry Bon, You know at times I can be clumsy.” Kate smiles at Edwina but she just looks annoyed back at her, Kate doesn't think twice and turns her smile into a smirk to feed her irritation. 

All good intentions aside, she's still mad at her.

“At times?” Edwina gives her a contemptuous look, lifting her brows in the proces, “More like all the time!”

“I am sure some men will find it endearing.” Unintentionally, their mother says exactly the right thing at the right time. “Please stand up straight girls.” feigning obliviousness to all that's going on between her daughters she lightly caresses and pats both of their cheeks.

“She’s lying.” Edwina hisses in her ear while she follows her mothers order. “It’s unattractive and stupid and non of the men in here is going to like it.”

So that’s how it is then. Kate now knows Edwina wasn't exaggerating or just acting spoiled; she really thinks of Kate as an unkind, biased, person, like a lady without potential.

Kate shrugs and looks at her sister. She has decided she's going through with it and when she sees the disdain and arrogance in her sister's eyes she's even more convinced. 

She somehow will get Lord Bridgerton’s attention. She doesn't know how far she will take it, but Kate's not going to stop until Edwina takes her seriously. 

“Maybe that’s just what I wanted you to think.” She grins. “But you could be right, we’ll see what he likes.” Kate isn't sure Edwina gets the deeper meaning, because when she did her reaction would’ve been more outrageous.

Lady Danbury overhears them bickering and she hums to get their attention. “Girls, if you could shut your mouths and follow me, we’re about to meet some more eligible bachelors and you'll make a better impression with a pleasing smile.” Lady Danbury makes a move forward with her cane and with determination and big steps she seems to be walking towards some people standing next to a pillar.

Kate takes a few deep breaths and she readies herself to convincingly play the part of a caring, involved sister. 

“Who is this man?” Kate asks softly just before they are within earshot.

“Lord Chong.” Lady Danbury answers.

Kate’s tries to remember the list she made with prospects. “Lord Chong, well known, first son of an Earl.” She quickly whispers in Edwina’s ear.

“What are you talking about?" Edwina's head shots up, clearly she's confused about Kate still providing her with information. "Are you serious?"

"I am telling you everything I know about this man, that's why I'm here with you, right? That's what you need from me. I did understand what you said to me outside correctly, right?" Kate tries to sound as sincere as possible given the circumstance and luckily it works. Edwina seems to get more comfortable and her eyes are beginning to sparkle. 

It's troubling how eager she is to accept her words, but it fits her previous behavior; as long as Kate follows her desires, all is well. 

She plays her role fervently.. Kate has to prevent her eyes from rolling and tries to stay in character. 

"Thank you Didi, I knew you would understand." Edwina sounds so kind and satisfied, it brings up resentments, but Kate demands herself yo ignore this feeling.

Lady Danbury either chooses to resist a comment or she actually didn't hear it but she turns her attention to Kate.

"You still want to judge every potential suitor first, Miss Sharma?" Lady Danbury asks.

Kate nods.

"Prepare yourself for a long evening then." Lady Danbury says with a wince of displeasure.

"You can do it together, we all can." Mary tries to ease the pain, she clearly doesn't want to offend their hostess. 

"I think that will be wise, yes. I've been around much longer." Lady Danbury mumbles.

"I am sure we will make a great team." Kate says quickly.

Contented by her indulgence, Lady Danbury announces herself.

“Lord Chong how lovely to see you, may I present to you Miss Edwina Sharma,” She gestures in her sister's direction and Kate sees how she's making a little bow with her head. “And Miss Kate Sharma.” Kate is still standing somewhat behind Edwina so Lady Danbury softly pushes her to the front. 

Lord Chong is visabally struck by Edwina’s beauty as he says his greetings.

“Pleased to meet you Miss Edwina,” He turns his attention to Kate and she sees his eyes grow even bigger. “And you as well Miss Sharma, I can see beautifulness runs in the family,” He winks at her. “I hope you as well are kind enough to save a dance for me this evening?"

"I am sure she is," Lady Danbury says before Kate can even find the words. "But I do not think it's necessary, Miss Edwina, you like to waltz if I'm correct?" She lets her eyes rest on Edwina, who still stares at the man with her big dark eyes.

"I do, very much, my sister taught me well." She flutters her eyelashes, probably to impress him.

"I see," Lord Chong smiles a little but it never reaches his eyes and Kate starts to think her sister failed with her attempt. "If you are free for a dance, I would love to take you to the dance floor, Miss Edwina."

"I am Lord Chong, thank you." She offers him her hand, and like a true princess she lets him guide her.

 


 

"You aren't still lost aren't you?" A charming sound fills her ear, Kate doesn’t have to guess to which man it belongs, she immediately recognizes his voice. "If so, maybe I can direct you to the dance floor?"

Lord Bridgerton stands before her, his smile is still breathtakingly beautiful.

"If you are referring to this morning, I can assure you I only said those things to make my win more fulfillingly." Kate lifts her head and tries not to look him directly in the eyes. 

"Ah, that's what you tell yourself?" Lord Bridgertons amusing smile only makes him more handsome, which frustrates Kate a lot.

"Maybe I was just too startled to see a woman riding a horse like that."

"I bet you were, but I don't lie."

"Somehow I believe you." His smile softens. "I was told I need your approval if I wanted to continue to stay in touch with your sister?" He frowns deeply. "And although I find this odd, I really want to talk to you."

"I'm not stopping you." Kate feels her heartbeat increasing, and the same feeling of nausea appears in her stomach. She wants to stop him but it would be pretty shallow of her to do so and Kate still needs him to like her.

"Then please, let me help you find the dance floor." His smirk reappears, he doesn't wait for her consent and he softly grabs her wrist to make her follow him.

Kate shakes herself free. "I can walk on my own perfectly, thank you."

"You're refreshingly independent, Miss Sharma."

The way her name falls off his lips makes Kate shiver. 

"I see you already know my name." 

"And I am sure you know mine." Lord Bridgerton holds still in the center of the dance floor. This time he looks at her and only when she nods he wraps an arm around her waist and their free hands lock. Soon all of her body tinkles by the sensation of his touch.

Only once before did Kate stand so close to a man, and she was sure back then it didn't feel this way. Right now it feels like fireworks are going off.

She can smell his scent and see his stubble, it's so overwhelming she wants to run away from him on the one hand and she needs to stay close to him at the same time.

"Yes, well…" His voice draws her back into reality, and when she looks up she sees it is affecting him as well. "I think… I.. "

"You want to know if you could court my sister?" Kate doesn't want to beat around the bushes and speaks as firmly as she can.

"Yes.. well.. I would like to know if, when I decide I want to court Miss Edwina, you will let me." Kate sees his eyes flinch and maybe there was even a small part of vulnerability visual in his gaze but it disappears quickly. "And I'm curious to know why you're handling this, you're a debutant as well if I'm not mistaken? Doesn't that seem strange to you? Isn't there someone else better fitted that can do this?"

It occurs to Kate that Lord Bridgerton still hasn’t said directly he wants to court Edwina. It gives her hope and suddenly she wonders how it would feel if Lord Bridgerton courted her . Kate needs to get rid of feeling this fragile and it works, their moment of deep connection is gone and Lord Bridgerton opens his mouth to respond.

"I'm helping my sister find a proper match this season. She knows I'm perfectly capable of doing so and that's why she wants my help."

"But Lady Danbury seems to be knowing what she’s doing? She directed me straight towards your sister, although she was telling me I had to be fast, because she wasn't sure if you would appreciate me dancing with Miss Edwina." 

"Did she?" Kate feels anger burning up.

"Why would she say such a thing?" He asks curiously. 

"I do not know what moves her." Kate rolls her eyes. "But I do know I am more selective when it comes to men." Suddenly she remembers vividly how obscene the talk between Lord Bridgerton and the other gentlemen outside was.

"Excuse me?" His crease between his eyes deepens.

"Yes, some men only see women as breeding stock, and I think we deserve better."

"I already thought I saw you outside!" He laughs devilishly. "Trouble finding the right directions again?"

"Not in the slightest. Besides, I think I stood in the right place at the right time."

"You cannot take this talk seriously, it wasn't meant for anyone else to hear." He speaks in earnest and squeezes her hand to let her know how serious he is. "Miss Sharma, I am a gentleman. My intentions are honorable and I would like you to acknowledge this."

"To get me to where I give my permission to court Edwina?"

"How is it possible you have so much control over your sister's life?" Lord Bridgerton asks genuinely, dimples appear in his cheek when he smiles. 

"Well, with my father being dead, there really isn't anyone else who would care as much as I do.." Kate says firmly, she wants his sympathetic stare to stop, it makes her world spin and she needs to stay focused.

Lord Bridgerton is startled, but instead of loosening his grip on her he only holds on tighter which unsettles Kate even more.

"I am so sorry." He whispers. "My father passed away a long time ago, I did not want to offend you."

"You didn't." Kate speaks softly. "You weren't aware."

"What about your mother? If I may ask." Lord Bridgerton spins her around and when he pulls her back in they're even closer than before.

"She wasn't able to cope with his passing, So I just did what I had to do." Never in her life has Kate allowed herself to be so honest, not to herself, let alone to someone else.

"It can be a burden, providing for your family at such a young age." Lord Bridgertons eyes are full of understanding , like he knows exactly what she's talking about.

"It is, I mean it was." Kate quickly corrects herself. 

Lord Bridgerton lifts a brow but they stay silent, they move in sync and Kate finds comfort in his company, something she hasn't had with someone for a long time.

The music softly dies and that's when he says: "Miss Sharma, I have to say that I wasn't expecting to like dancing with you this much." He holds on to her hand even after the music stops. "I think you'll want to go somewhere else but I hope we can do this again sometime."

Kate is surprised by his honesty and it makes her want to do the same.

"I am exactly where I want to be." She says softly.

Lord Bridgerton smiles in a way that lights up his entire face and suddenly he looks younger. "Good, that's good." He nods. "I have to go, see what my sister is up to, but maybe we'll meet again. Preferably somewhere in the morning, I would love to go for a rematch." He lifts her hand and softly presses his lips on it. "Goodbye Miss Sharma."

 

"And? How was it?" Mary asks as soon as Kate stands next to her and Edwina. She already notices the red cheeks from her sister and the way she's mumbling tells Kate she's angry. 

Good for her .

“Kate, does Lord Bridgerton seem like a proper suitor to you?”

Actually, yes, but not like you think, mother.

Kate’s never going to say those words aloud so she just turns to her sister and forces her to meet her eyes. She waits until Edwina gives in before she speaks.

"I have high hopes, but I’ll think I will need some more time with him just to be sure.”

 

Chapter Text


"Where are you going?" 

Kate jumps up by the sound that fills the empty mudroom, she was under the impression she was the first to be awake, as usual, but the sound of her sister's voice tells her otherwise.

"I am going for a stroll, care to join me?" She isn't in the mood for bickering at this early hour.

"A stroll you say? I do not like those, thank you." Edwina sits in the only chair that fills the room and plays with the boots Kate was planning to put on.

"You don't like walking all of the sudden?" Kate watches how her sister digs her nails into the dark leather. "Please be careful with the material.."

"We both know you’re not going to walk.. And I'm sorry…" But Edwina only stops after she leaves a visual mark on her left shoe. "It seems like sometimes I don't know my own strength."

Kate tries to hold back laughter, her sister pretending to be strong is hilarious but because they're not in a good place she's sure it's wiser to keep it hidden.

"Why are you up this early?" Kate asks instead while she grabs her boots out off Edwina's hands. "I hope there's nothing wrong?"

"What could there possibly be that would keep me awake?" Edwina answers with a sarcastic laugh.

"I don't know? Perhaps something you did last night?" Because Edwina sits on the fauteuil Kate puts on her boots with her back leaning against the wall.  

"More like something you did, Kate." Her sister is sharp and angry and the use of her real name instead of Didi doesn't go unnoticed. 

"I'm sorry if it keeps you awake at night."

"I am sure you are." But it's clear Edwina doesn't mean it.

Because it's harder to put on shoes when you don't have the benefit of a chair it takes Kate a while, but she manages and stands up straight to look her sister in the eyes.

"Edwina, I am apologetic towards you."

"But you're not going to change your ways?" Edwina narrows her eyes and all the sudden her confidence seems far away.

"What do you mean?" Kate thinks she can tell, but she deliberately asks because she needs to hear her sister say it.

"You're keeping Lord Bridgerton away from me, only to best me, and although I don't think you stand a chance it's vile, underhanded and cruel for you to pursue this further. You've made your point and I need you to stop it."

"And what exactly was it that I wanted you to realize?" Kate speaks with her jaw clenched, it shouldn't surprise her anymore but Edwina really lives in her own world.

"That you are capable enough to dance with a man I'm actually interested in." Edwina stands up and starts to make her way back inside. "I know he wants to court me, he told me himself, so he'd better…"

"Edwina!" Kate shouts to prevent her from going in. It works because her sister lets go of the heck. 

"I am going to say this once more, and I hope it's coming through your thick skull, but, and I'm not saying it's happening right now, but if Lord Bridgerton intends to court me . I am not saying that I want him too, but when I do, then I'm not going to stop it. I’m not going to ruin my happiness only to stay in your good graces."

"Kate! That's just wrong, you know what our plan was, you can't act so cruel and ruin my future." Edwina cries out.

"And what about you? How are you treating me? I thought you loved me enough to respect me, but since that's not the case, I'm opening up and I’m looking around to make sure I'm okay as well. I will help you, but not at all costs, I think I deserve more."

"You're my sister, it's your job to look after me, take care of me..."

"Do you hear yourself? I never said I was going to stop caring for you." Kate runs a hand through her hair. "And we're looking at our roles differently, for me, being a sister means giving each other unconditional love, for me it's not only a duty or obligation to take care of your well being and thereby neglecting my own."

"But it was the plan! That's why you taught me all those things!" Edwina screams and kicks with her feet at the closed door.

"Edwina." Kate sighs, her sister's thought process is so selfabsord it sends shivers down her spine. "Do you think I don't deserve this? Are all my efforts suddenly useless the minute I decide I want to see what's out there for me? That's pretty selfish, isn't it?"

Edwina stays still for a moment, she opens her mouth a couple of times but it takes her a minute to respond.

"You can't expect me to adjust to this new you so quickly, you demanding this from me, that's just as hard to do and with you changing, you're messing up more lives than  I am, so who's being selfish here?"

She is beyond redemption.

"Edwina, I didn't change, you've just chosen to ignore all that I was for your own benefit…" 

Kate has enough of it, she turns her back to her sister, takes her wip from the hanger and inhales deeply when she finally stands outside and breathes in the fresh air.

"Where are you going?" Edwina shouts at her. "Are you going to see him ?"

Kate is in two minds but eventually she answers her sister.

"You don't have to scream at me, but wouldn't you like to know?"

"He told me he met you the other morning when you were riding." Edwina still speaks so loud Kate's sure she's going to wake up her mother and Lady Danbury. 

"Then I guess that's your answer…"


 

To be honest, Kate actually didn't intend to meet Lord Bridgerton, she wants to go ride another route but she is so lost in thoughts her horse leads her instead of the other way around. Before she realizes she is almost at the spot where she and Lord Bridgerton met for the first time.

Kate starts to wonder if she should turn around and go back to the premises, but when she hears the sound of hooves hitting the ground, she can't make herself do it.

Kate still doesn't know if she wants Lords Bridgerton's attention or not, and what would happen if she did . Going back to India is still what she wants, working as a governess, away from this toxic environment is what she's longing for so badly it makes her homesick. 

"Miss Sharma," Lord Bridgerton speeds up to ride alongside her. "Did you come here by mistake or are your navigation skills actually improving?"

Kate sputters some inconsistent words, he's already getting under her nerves but surprisingly enough she doesn't want him to stop.

"I always remember my victories, my Lord."

"Us meeting felt like a victory?" He smirks. "That sounds promising."

"Luckily for me, that's not what I said at all." Kate encourages Mufasa to go faster. "But I'll take you up for another challenge?" There's already 15 feet between them. "First one at the oak trees over there wins!" And in full gallop she and her horse move forwards. 

"Hey! That's not fair!" She hears Lord Bridgerton protest behind her. "Jack! Buddy! Hurry up!"

It's a close call, and Kate wouldn't have survived it if she didn't, but she arrives first.

"And that's two!" She smirks at Lord Bridgerton. "I have to admit, this one feels even better."

"Are you only happy when you cheat?" Lord Bridgerton grumbles and because his horse starts to drink water out of the stream he steps off and lets him rest. He pats him on his back and whispers something in his horse's ear Kate can't hear.

Lord Bridgerton comes over to her and when he sees she wants to get off herself, he offers his hand to help her. 

Kate, naturally, declines this with a wave of her hand.

"There it is, that independence I am intrigued by."

"I have to ask," Kate jumps off smoothly. "Are you intrigued or just frightened?"

"Can't I be both?"

"You can, but I promise you, I'm not that scary." 

"I see," He nods, "You are different though." Lord Bridgerton takes a few steps into her direction. "It takes some guts to go out here alone, without a maid or chaperone, but I'm guessing that's why you ride early mornings, so no one notices your absence?" His eyes glide over her. Kate feels how he's taking it all in and she straightens herself to look taller. 

It doesn't go unnoticed and with a wicked smile he asks; "Well?" 

"My sister knows." Kate tries to keep up a confident appearance but Lord Bridgerton stands so close she can hear how he's still panting from their race. It's too close, it makes it impossible for her to think straight so Kate draws her attention back to her horse.

"And I assume she's got your back?" 

Kate looks into Mufasa's eyes, a hurtful feeling cuts through her like a knife and she moans softly.

"She doesn't?" Lord Bridgerton is clearly interested and ignores how she avoids his attendance.

"I do not know what my sister thinks or will do at this moment, My Lord." Kate keeps hesitating but doesn't move when he makes an attempt to come closer.

"You two are fighting?" Lord Bridgerton strokes her horse's coat.

"She’s fighting with me, that's all I want to say about the matter."

"Fine, that's okay." He says quickly. "Siblings can be insufferable, but in the end we're moving mountains for them."

"Are you?" Kate can't resist anymore and looks him in the eyes. Something awakes deep inside of her when she meets his gaze. His beautiful brown eyes have a mix of sorrow, hurt and understanding in them. She sees it all the second their eyes meet.  A feeling of familiarity and comfort runs through her. It is like a connection that runs so deep she doesn't have to say another word.

But she does, she has too. Before it gets out of control.

"I have to go." Kate says quickly. "My mother wakes up soon and I can't have her ask questions."

It takes Lord Bridgerton a while to stop staring at her. He shakes his head a little and that seems to help.

"Okay," Lord Bridgerton smiles softly. "Once again, it was lovely speaking to you."

"Yes, it was fun." Kate admits. "I'm sure this wasn't our last race." She puts her foot into the stirrup and throws her leg over the saddle.

Lord Bridgertons eyes grow and Kate notices how the skin above her stockings appears from under her skirt. She feels her cheeks flush and bites her lip.

This only seems to make it worse. Lord Bridgerton closes his eyes and when he opens them he looks at his own horse. He clears his throat.

"Are you attending the opera tonight?"

"I believe we are." Kate nods, "Not my favorite thing but what are you going to do about it." She rolls her eyes at him.

"I know." Lord Bridgerton sets himself down on his horse. "I look forward to seeing you tonight."

"Yes I'll guess it is inevitable." Kate grins at him before she urges her horse to start walking. "Goodbye my Lord."

"Good bye Miss Sharma."

Kate sighs loudly when she's out of earshot.

This is going to be difficult. Kate thinks when she acknowledges how happy the prospect of seeing him again makes her.

"Miss Sharma?" She hears Lord Bridgerton asking for her.

"Yes?" She turns her head back at him.

"Who must I ask for permission to court you? " He smiles widely back at her. Kate can't tell if he's being genuine or just making fun of her. Either way she's  too startled to answer and to hide this she just waves at him and rides away.

Chapter Text


"Kate, good you're back. Can you meet me in the drawing room after you've freshen yourself up?" Lady Danbury awaits Kate in the garden. It is clear she sees the mud on her dress but she doesn't comment on it. Instead the woman just looks mildly irritated at her. 

"Lady Danbury, I didn't expect you to be awake." Kate is startled but tries to hide it to the best of her best of her abilities. 

"I had quite the rude awakening." Lady Danbury's unease grows. "Your sister had something to tell and was very thorough in her way of doing so."

Kate knows she should feel more anxious, Lady Danbury is clearly upset but there's no point in denying where she was, the cat is out of the bag so she decides to go with it.

"She ratted me out?" 

"I wouldn't use those words exactly, but it is clear we need to speak about it." Lady Danbury's face softens a bit, it's almost as if Kate can see sympathies in her eyes.

"What about my mother?" 

"I don't understand your question?" Lady Danbury lays her hand on Kate's back and  softly demands Kate to go inside.

"Why isn't my mother talking to me, I assume Edwina whined to her as well?"

If Kate is not mistaken, she sees the glimpse of a grin appear briefly on the woman's face but it's gone before she can take a second look.

"Your sister came to her, I've got my information from Lady Mary, and because I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, I would love to hear your side of the story."

She at least is not biased.  

"I see, and my mother is where?" Kate looks around and her mother and sister are nowhere to be found.

Lady Danbury hesitates for a moment but when the two women enter the house she opens her mouth to talk. "She's currently taking a bath with your sister."

That hurt so much Kate stands still and has to take in a few breaths to prevent herself from crying out.

Taking a bath was a thing they always did together, with three of them. Kate had the slightest glimpse of hope that her mother just stayed with Edwina to calm her, but all expectations on that regard are gone, her mother apparently chose sides and it's clear it isn't hers.

"I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to explain myself." Kate whispers. "I'll return shortly." She sets pace towards the hall, her legs and arms are shaking and it takes great effort to keep steady on her feet.

"Take your time sweetheart, I'm not going anywhere." She hears lady Danbury respond while she's climbing up the stairs. 

 

In the next room Kate hears soft whispers through the thin walls. Her mother and sister are talking, and it doesn't one doesn't have to be a genius to guess the object of their conversation. 

It shouldn't have come as a surprise, the way she feels neglected by her mother, but somehow it still does. 

Edwina has always been put on a pedestal, by both of them, and Kate guesses her mother just finds it more convenient to keep doing so instead of acknowledging Edwina's flaws. To be honest; If Edwina wasn't so upfront about her envy towards Kate, she would've done the same.

But still, the fact that Mary is so eager to do so only confirms she always comes second. 

I'm doing the right thing . Kate tells herself over and over again when she changes into a clean dress. I'm right to put myself first! 

It almost becomes a mantra because when Kate is done and is on her way to speak with Lady Danbury, she keeps repeating the 2 sentences over and over in her head.

 

"Sit," Lady Danbury gestures at the chair in front of her. "I figure you're hungry after your morning activities?" 

The table is set for breakfast and Kate feels her stomach growl. 

She does as she was told and reaches for a couple of grapes; even though her body tells her to eat, she's too on edge to eat more. 

"So, you went riding to see Lord Bridgerton?"

Kate coughs from shock, she wasn't expecting Lady Danbury to speak so bluntly. 

"Well?" When Kate meets her eyes she knows the woman is waiting for her reaction, so she nods. 

"I see, you're smart enough to know how stupid that is." 

Kate nods again. 

"And I assume you weren't meeting him to talk about your sister, if I remember the words your mother told me then I have to believe you were there to allur him so you can take him yourself?"

Kate hums annoyed. "I can't believe her." She grunts, Kate clenches her jaw and has to bite the inside of her cheek to stop her from utter unholy words aloud.

"Speak your mind, child." Lady Danbury says sternly. “You have to defend yourself, otherwise there’s little I can do.”

That's all I can take.

Kate slides her stool back. "If this is how you wish to see things, I don't think I can keep up with it." 

"Miss Sharma." Lady Danbury sounds sharply and with her eyes she tells Kate she has to stay. "I'm just rephrasing what your sister told your mother, I got my information second hand, but I care for you, I don't think you're as evil as she portrayed you out to be, but you have to admit it doesn't look good."

Kate sighs, it soothes her Lady Danbury is so upfront and doesn't beat around the bush, that in itself is comforting, l but she hates the fact she seems to be the only one who wants to listen to her. 

"Kate, dear, please, I don't have to know what exactly happened. I can imagine, and first I have to tell you I forbid you to meet Lord Bridgerton unchaperoned ever again."

"You forbid me?!" The words send shivers down her spine, since her father died Kate has been the judge of her own actions, never has anyone told her what she could or couldn't do.

"Yes dear, I forbid you, for your own good, may I add."

Kate lifts her eyebrows, and Lady Danbury laughs softly.

"If Lord Bridgerton is serious about you, that is quite improper behavior don't you think?"

Kate feels her cheeks flush. "Nothing happened and it truly wasn't my plan to meet him."

Lady Danbury frowns and it's clear she doesn't believe her.

"I am telling the truth!" Kate speaks louder than she wishes.

"We’re going at this the wrong way, you should tell me what's truly going on," Lady Danbury sighs. "I don't want to upset you by forbidding things, you remind me of myself and if someone did this to me.. well, my reaction would've been the same." A small smirk appears on the lady's face. 

"What do you want to know?"

"I need you to explain to me why your sister is so angry with you. And why you all the sudden are so eager to let go of her."

Kate wants to, so badly, but it's hard speaking harmful about her sister. It is unexplored territory, a path she never expected to walk.

"I want to help you, child, but in order to do so, I have to know everything."

Kate feels her shoulders drop, does she truly have an ally in the elder Lady? Or is this just a smooth way to force her to say it.

"I'm guessing your sister showed you a darker side of herself? Jealousy got the best of her? Miss Edwina wants to keep sitting on her throne, with all of you dancing at her feet?"

Kate's jaw drops, this is what she wanted to say but would've never done, because it's harsh and maybe even a little bit selfish.

"Am I right?" Lady Danbury asks. "I'm not going to make you say it aloud, I pretty much get the gist if you move your head."

Kate nods.

"Thank you." Kate stares at her plate and speaks so soft it's barely hearable.

"Then the question remains is; what about Lord Bridgerton? I do have to give it to your sister; he did seem quite interested in her at first."

"I don't know what to tell you in that regard." Kate forces herself to sit up straight and meet the woman's gaze.

Lady Danbury winks at her and it encourages Kate to speak with more confidence. 

"I just know how nice it felt when we danced, and all I said to my sister was that I wasn't going to reject it if he wanted to court me, which I'm sure he's not going to do anyway."

"I see. And you truly mean this? You're aware of how this might unravel? How your sister isn't going to ease down when Lord Bridgerton chooses you over her?"

"I am." Kate speaks loud and clear.

"Then it's settled, if he does, I'm going to do everything in my power to help you."

"I… I..  thank you."

"If your sister's outburst tells us anything, I think this is not going to be easy, so you better prepare yourself."

"I will, I already have."

"Smart girl."

 


Kate sits in the drawing room next to Lady Danbury. Neither Edwina nor her Mother said a word towards her but the soft pat on her knee from Lady Danbury calms her down and keeps her steady.

Men after men keep showing up, all for her sister. 

Kate knows some of them are decent, some good, others bad, and some of them are really bad, but she keeps quiet. Her mother seems to have taken over her role and the two of them seem quite satisfied with the quantity of suitors. They keep giving a satisfied glimpse towards Kate, but it doesn’t affect her.

Good for them. Is all she thinks.

 

"Excuse me, Lady Danbury?" A footman shows up. "There is a gentleman who wants to speak to you."

This draws the attention of her mother and sister, they both stop talking to the suitor that sits next to Edwina and look curious at the man standing by the door.

"Ah well, who could that be?" Lady Danbury fakes obliviousness and lifts her eyebrows amusingly at Kate before she follows the footman.

Kate feels her temperature rise. Is this really happening? Did he truly come? Or was he just making fun of her and is he coming for Edwina? 

The waiting kills her and the not knowing makes it impossible to think clearly. She wants Lord Bridgerton to walk in so badly her nails dig little cuts into the palm of her hand.

"Miss Sharma," The door opens again and the footman looks expectedly at her. "Lady Danbury wants me to guide you to another room, there's a gentleman here to see you and although she's going to chaperone the visit, she suggested a room that's more private."

"She can't be serious!" Kate hears Edwina hissing from the other side of the room. "How can she let this happen?" It is clear all of the people present have no doubt in mind who’s here to speak to Kate.

"I don't know sweetheart," Lady Mary gives Kate a foul look, "But it's probably for the best if your sister walks away now."

"As you wish." Kate stares back at her mother and tries to hide her emotions, she stands up and follows the footman.

"Who is it?" She asks.

"I don't know." The footman says. "I am so sorry."

"It's okay, I'll find out shortly." 

 

When she opens the door, her heart skips a beat, her eyes grow wide and she feels her lips go up to form a smile.

Lord Bridgerton sits beside Lady Danbury on the sofa, in his hands he has the most stunning bouquet of tulips she has ever seen. 

The moment Lord Bridgerton sees her, his whole face lights up.

"Miss Sharma!" He says as he lifts himself up to greet her properly. "You look as wonderful as ever."

 

Chapter Text


"Why are you so surprised?" Lord Bridgerton smiles at her in a way dimples appear in his cheeks and it leaves her breathless. "I told you I'd be here." He stands before Kate and gives her the tulips.

"I.. well.. Thank you, they are beautiful." Kate manages to get out, her fingers are trembling when she wraps them around the stems. 

Lord Bridgerton waits until Kate sits before he does. 

It's frustrating to see how he feels so comfortable, like he has no nerves at all. 

"I hope you want me here?" Anthony looks at her and for the first time Kate sees some vulnerability. "I've been told my words and actions aren't always as clear to some as I hope they are, at least not when feelings are concerned."

"Yes, it's good." Kate mumbles, she hates how she still acts like a shy little girl, so she takes a few deep breaths in order to feel some determination again. She can't get too distracted by his looks, this has to work!

"Only good… hm.. I see I have work to do." He smirks at her.

"Yes, you better give it some effort, you don't want to give me the wrong ideas again." Kate finally feels some confidence return and she shifts in her seat to relax more.

Lord Bridgerton gets his cup of tea from the salon table and when his hands come back he touches Kate's arm in the proces.

Kate is sure this was on purpose, and after he winks at her it's confirmed.

"Ahum." Lady Danbury interrupts and the two of them immediately create some distance between them. Kate shuffles to the back and Anthony to the side.

It breaks the ice, because after they see each other move so rapidly they both start laughing out loud.

"While I'll admit that was a hilarious thing to witness, I have to set up some ground rules if the two of you continue this courtship." Lady Danbury is standing next to the piano by the window but she comes over so they can look right at her. Her smile is a genuine one and her face is softer than Kate ever remembers seeing it.

"You can't be alone, no more secret meetings, please tell me you understand this. The situation is precarious enough as it is and you going over the edge will complicate things beyond repair." She talks straight to Kate.

"I hear you." Kate nods. 

"And you agree?" Lady Danbury looks expectantly at her. 

"Yes."

Lord Bridgerton looks from one woman to the other, and he clearly doesn't get it.

"While I do agree about us not meeting unchaperoned, I feel like I'm missing out on something, can someone enlighten me?"

"I leave this one up to you." Lady Danbury points at Kate and steps away to give them back some kind of privacy.

Kate goes over a reasonable explanation in her head, what can she say that doesn't give away too much?

But why should she keep protecting her sister? 

"My sister feels neglected by me, she thought I was only here to help her get married." Kate says. "So the fact that someone called on me , isn't something she handles well." Kate is satisfied with her chosen words and she looks at her suitor with apologies in her eyes. 

"I hope that doesn't change the way you see me. Family is something I cherish, but not at all costs, not when it prevents me from living."

"I see." Lord Bridgerton nods sympathetically. "Does she know it's me who's here?" 

Kate flinched, this is the third time she feels like Lord Bridgerton sees right through her. 

"And I want to make sure you know I still wish to court you." For a brief moment Kate sees he wants to touch her, but instead Lord Bridgerton sits on his hand. 

"I think she does. I believe that's what's making her so angry, she was very interested in you, My Lord."

"Should I make my intentions clear towards Miss Edwina? If it helps you, I will do it in a heartbeat." He already lifts his leg to remove his hand from under it.

Kate absolutely tries to keep her reservations, but every second she's in his presence, it gets harder, she's longing for his touch like she never longs at something before. 

Oh how she wishes she was given some time to think this all over. But from the moment she got back, she just went with everything that happened. First the initial shock she was discovered, later her talk with Lady Danbury and secondly the lack of contact she got with her mother.

Kate really needed to prepare herself better, because although she came to like Lord Bridgerton a lot more than she thought she would, it blurs her vision. The purpose of this all is to show Edwina she can get courted, not to feel all the things she momentarily does.

She can't let her mind get so derivative by his looks, his smell, his hands… it'll make things so much harder when she does.

Lord Bridgerton made himself perfectly clear; he's not looking for a love match. Kate is certain it'll be so easy to fall head over heels for this man she has to stop it before it's too late. The fight with her mother and sister causes enough heartbreak, she can't handle more.

Kate is going to enjoy all the moments she shares with Lord Bridgerton, but that's as far as she can let it go.

"Miss Sharma?" His deep, rich voice draws her back in reality. "Do you wish for me to tell her? Or your mother for that matter?"

Kate nervously plucks at her dress before she speaks, can she really ask this from him? She debates internally.

"May I speak?" Lady Danbury asks.

"Yes." Kate hears how scratchy her voice sounds, it is filled with emotion and this time Lord Bridgerton doesn't hesitate and grabs her hand in his. 

"It will be okay, I will make sure of this." He says softly. His thumb starts to caress her palm, each time it reaches a new spot Kate feels like she's on fire.

"Ahum?" Lady Danbury clears her throat.

"I'm sorry, but if you forbid me to touch Miss Sharma's hand, I think I'm going slightly mad." Lord Bridgerton winks at both of the women. "However, I do promise this is as far as it goes."

Lady Danbury gives in with a small grin and opens her mouth to say what she wanted to do before Lord Bridgerton overstepped her boundaries.

"I think it is best if you inform both Miss Edwina and Lady Mary about your attention towards Miss Sharma." She clinks her cane on the floor. "But I have to warn you, and I know how unreal this sounds." She stops the ticking. "I think it's wise for me to come with you."

Kate shrieks and covers her eyes with her free hand. She can't believe this hasn't crossed her mind yet but it is clear what Lady Danbury meant by her desire to accompany Lord Bridgerton when he's going to speak to her family.

"Yes, I agree, best for me to not be alone with Miss Edwina I guess."

If Lord Bridgerton is shocked by this, he hides it well.

"But before I do so, I wanted to invite you to accompany my family at the park tomorrow. Perhaps we can promenade?" 

Kate isn't so gifted she can control her face, she notices how her face expresses how she feels, and with a bright smile she accepts his offer.

"I can have my sister and her husband drive by with her carriage, to pick you up?"

"That would be lovely."

"Then all that's left for me to do is to bid you goodbye. And tell you I can't wait to see you again." He lifts her hands and presses his lips on her wrist, just above the fabric of her glove.

 




"Kate, can I talk to you for a moment?" Mary asks.

Kate sits outside, she tries to enjoy the sun warming her face but she gets chilled to the bone when her mother announces herself.

"Yes, mother, you may." Kate says because she knows there's no way she gets away with denying her request. 

"I am worried about you." Mary stands still before her and blocks the sunlight. 

Kate gets irritated by both her words and the cold that settles over her.

"There is no need to feel concerned about me, mother." Kate moves to the other side of the bench and closes her eyes when the sun starts shining on her face again.

"Katie," her mother sighs. "I'm not here because I'm angry." Mary still stalls but eventually comes to sit next to Kate.

"Are you angry?" Kate asks, still with her eyes closed.

"I'm confused, not mad." Mary says softly. "I have two daughters, standing on opposite sides, and I don't know what to do."

"I think you are well aware how your actions make me feel, mother." 

"Kathani!" Her mother raises her voice. "I do not wish to be talked to like this, I am your mother!"

"I'm sorry." Kate knows she was too perky and knows it's better to admit this quickly. 

"I just want you to remember you can always talk to me."

Kate hums in disbelief. "You say this now, but you were not very welcoming towards me the last couple of days."

"And why do you think that is?" Mary asks sharply. "Do you not think your behaviour has anything to do with this?"

"What about Edwina's? Your little angel isn't as precious as you would like to believe."

"I only judge what I can see. And I see her sadness on the one side and your happiness on the other."

"And your assumption is that they're connected?" Kate says, she clenches her fists and puts so much pressure at her feet her soles start to dig a small hole in the ground.

"Kate, you know they are."

"Maybe, but it doesn't directly make me responsible for any of it. And it pains me that you are so quick to come to this conclusion."

"Then talk to me." Mary sounds almost desperate enough to cry. "I don't know what to do."

"Mother, I think it's too late for this. At least for now. I don't have the time, I have to prepare myself for my afternoon activities."

"With Lord Bridgerton and his family?"

Again, Kate can't hide her pleasure and she nods at her mother.

"You like him don't you?"

Kate shrugs and starts to walk towards the entrance of the house. "I might just." She says, but she's not sure her mother hears her.



Chapter Text


Kate waits to leave the room until the suitors are gone. Lord Bridgerton and Lady Danbury left to talk to her sister, and all she could do was stay there, feeling anxious and also a bit hopeful. Lord Bridgerton seems like a very bold man, and whether it's legit or not; Kate does trust him. All of their shared moments, besides the talk she eavesdropped, were good. Maybe even special, all because they seem to have a lot of common ground. Kate hasn't done any effort towards liking him, it just happened, in the blink of a moment and before she noticed it she developed a crush. 

Kate knows she shouldn't feel this way, it makes things so much more complicated but there was no point in denying, the moment his lips touched her wrist, she knew she was gone. 

A loud sigh escapes her mouth, filling up the empty room.

Kate closes her eyes and her fingers travel down her arm to retrace the spot where his lips left an impression. It's not the same but her skin burns when she recollects it. 

However, this wasn't the mere thing that made her feel butterflies, the way he looked at her, the way he listened and how he opened up was so overwhelmingly beautiful, it was inevitable…

There was going to be heartbreak. 

After the dust settles and her sister is convinced, Kate still plans to go back to India. It was her destiny to be there, that's where her home is.

And however comfortable it may be, how grounded and seen she may feel around Lord Bridgerton, she can't give up her thoroughly outlined future for a man.

But what if he comes to love me?

He isn't, one of the things Kate admires about Anthony Bridgerton is his honesty, he doesn't want a lovematch, so for her to be hoping it'll happen, is just as stupid as Edwina who's expecting every elegerable bachelor drooling over her.

And I'm not a fool

Kate's convinced Lord Bridgerton can understand it, if anything, he might just do the same to her with one important difference, he wants to find a wife, and she's not longing to be one. But the least she owes to herself is to enjoy the time she has left in England, and she's going to make sure she does.

Kate shakes her head and imperiously waves her hands to remove some of the tension she's feeling. The house sounds empty enough, so she could go upstairs unseen.

 




"Kate? Can I come in?" Kate is taken by surprise when her sister asks for permission to come inside.

"Yes." Kate says, through the mirror she looks curious at her sister, she was getting ready for the meeting with Lord Bridgerton and his Family and she's curious what her sister wants from her. They still haven't spoken to each other and this doesn't feel like a very convenient time. 

"What brings you here?" Kaye asks her sister

"I can't find my green necklace, and I was wondering if you might have seen it." Edwina uneasy shuffles her feet on the ground. 

"I don't, you wore it last night," Kate rolls her eyes. "Please come up with a better excuse next time."

"I will." Her sister isn't denying and because of that Kate turns in her seat to face her upfront.

"Why did you come? Do you want to talk?" Kate hears hope in her voice and she tries to hide by narrowing her eyes at her sister.

Edwina sits down on the edge of Kate's bed and removes her gloves. Her hands softly caress the sheets and for the first time since their quarrel began, Kate feels like she recognizes her sister.

"Are you going to meet Lord Bridgerton this afternoon?" She speaks so softly Kate unwillingly has to move closer to hear it.

"I am, you know I am."

"Okay." Edwina nods her head. "Are you looking forward to this?"

"I think so," Kate shrugs, she tries to keep her reservations but it's so tempting to trust her sister again, all she wants to do is spill it all out, talk to her former best friend of her feelings..

"Does Newton come with you?"

Kate shakes her head. "I don't think that's wise, you know how he gets with new people." 

Edwina snorts a bit, "Yes in his excitement, the boy doesn't always leave a good first impression."

"I am meeting his whole family, better not risk him ruining it." Kate laughs too.

"I will look after him, take him for a stroll."

"Thank you." Kate's heart starts to warm up, maybe things can be resolved between them.

"Are you nervous?" Edwina asks, "Do you like him for real?" 

Her sister sounds sincere, and acts as if they're best friends, who simply go about their day. Although Kate longs for this, it's too strange of a change to embrace it right away, so she frowns at her.

"I'm sorry." Edwina's voice trembles. "I don't know how to start, I don't like how we are right now."

"Me neither." Kate confesses, she finds her sister's eyes and she can see hurt in them. "But I didn't start this." She adds for self preservation, she needs to because clarity and honesty are her new ground rules and without that, the relationship with her sister can never heal properly. 

Quickly it becomes obvious this was the right thing to do.

"I beg your pardon? Aren't you the one who took my suitor away from me? I came here to resolve things and forgive you, but if you keep acting like a victim then it's useless to make an effort." 

All of the sudden her sister is the spoiled brat again.

Kate's heartbeat races through the roof, she stands up and walks to the door. "Edwina," she opens it and gestures that Edwina should leave. "Your mood swings give me a headache." 

"Kate! Don't be so mean, I want to make up!"

Kate keeps staring sternly at her sister.

"So you can feel better about yourself, Go!"

"Okay, I confess, this was an order from your suitor." She speaks with so much disdain Edwina spits out the words.

"Even if it came from the queen herself…"

Edwina grumbles some protest but she doesn't try to fix it, without looking at Kate, she leaves.


"You and my brother…" The Duchess of Hastings says amusingly. They've just got out of the carriage and they both watch how the Duke of Hastings helps Kate's maid get out. 

"Yes, apparently." Kate feels highly aware she's talking to a Duchess and standing next to a Duke, so she's on edge and tries to make no mistakes. "He's a kind and polite man."

"Nice? That's all you have to say about him?" The Duke overhears and offers his hand to his wife, and when she takes it they set pace to the park.

"Yes, I hope there's more to him that pleases you?" Kate sees how the Duchess shares a look with her husband. "Please speak freely, I can see you're holding back."

"I don't know if I am." Kate bites her tongue, Lord Bridgerton's sister seems nice, and she almost wants to tell her all, but there is a major rank difference between them, so she doesn't think she's truly allowed to."

"According to my aunt, the two of you have obvious chemistry, and I can't let you out of my sight, she was very specific about this."

Kate feels how redness takes over her cheeks. But she tries to react undaunted. "If she's so worried, she should've come herself."

Both the Duke and Duchess start laughing. 

"Perfect! I think you'll be able to stand up against my stubborn brother." Daphne points to their right. "Speaking of the devil!"

"Anthony!" The Duke and Lord Bridgerton shake hands. "Good to see you."

"You too." He says but he doesn't pay attention to his friend, his eyes directly find Kate's. He looks stunning with his navy blue jacket and white cravat. Kate thinks this is the most handsome she's ever seen him.

"Miss Sharma." He bows his head. "You look beautiful as ever."

"Thank you My Lord." Kate is shocked how much impact only his gaze has on her, and instead of easing down, it only seems to grow. 

"Can I offer you my hand whilst I guide you to meet my mother and siblings?" He asks, 

"You can." And she locks in her arm. 

She thought she was prepared, but in hindsight it was foolish that she tried, nothing could protect her from this, his arm against hers, touching her, it made her feel so whole , Kate shivers a little bit. 

"How are you feeling? I hope I didn't cause too much trouble yesterday." He closes the distance between them but keeps it decent. 

"Nothing I can't handle." Kate is aware all eyes are set on them, so she shifts topics. "That is your youngest sister, miss Hyacinth right?" She doesn't have to elaborate, the girl waves merry in their direction.

"Correct." Anthony points at a young boy. "And that…,"

"That has to be mister Gregory." Kate finishes his sentence and she feels her face lit up. It seems like a fun group and they all give her a welcoming smile.

"You did your homework." Lord Bridgerton says pleased. "They will like you."

"And if not?" Kate's not so sure, and suddenly she feels a lot of pressure. 

What if they don't like me? 

Kate really wants them too and she's almost too afraid to go further. Carefully she tries to slow down a bit, but Lord Bridgerton won't let her.

"Don't worry, believe me." He whispers in her ear. "I'll look after you."


 

Kate immediately misses the physical contact when Lord Bridgerton lets go of her, but her worries towards her not being liked fade the moment the youngest two siblings shake her hand. 

"Hello, you are very pretty." Hyacinth greets her with a wide smile on her face. "My brother thinks so too but he's probably too scared to tell you."

"I'm not!" Gregory steps away from behind the girl. "Miss Sharma." He has a firm grip on her hand, as if he tries to overcompensate for his implied shyness. "You look very beautiful, I don't think I've ever seen anyone with such lovely eyes before."

Lord Bridgerton clears his throat loudly.

"That's enough, Greg."

Kate enjoys it, and she secretly likes to tease Lord Bridgerton some more.

"And you, sir, are not so bad yourself. Tell me, are all of the Bridgerton men as handsome as the two of you?"

Gregory beams with pride. "I don't know about my brothers, but I must say thank you for your compliment."

"And so polite." Kate looks at her suitor. "You have competition." She winks at him. 

Kate sees how Gregory blushes.

Before she can comfort him Lady Bridgerton announces herself, she was talking to her daughter and son in law, but now she grabs both of Kate's hands.

"Miss Sharma!" Her eyes sparkle when she does. "I'm so excited to meet you."

"Lady Bridgerton, the feeling is mutual." Kate bends her knees a little.

"Please, don't be so formal." Lady Bridgerton waves nonchalantly with her hand. "Make yourself as comfortable as you can, I would love to talk to you."

"Yes, me too!" An older girl says. "I'm Eloise and I would love to know what you see in my brother." She smirks at Kate.

"El! We should be happy that someone dares to come with him, not scare her away!" The young man pushes the girl. "I'm Colin, but I'm sure my brother told you about me." When he also smirks Kate's sure it has to be some kind of family-thing. All the children are charming and they seem to use it frequently to impress. 

"Why does he want to waste time? You're  not that interesting, brother." 

"Thank you Fran!" Lord Bridgerton sounds panicky. "Everyone, stop being so enthusiastic, we don't want to scare Miss Sharma away."

"You don't need to protect me, My Lord, I can take care of myself." Kate laughs. She has to admit, it is a lot but up till this moment she's feeling perfectly content. 

"Yes Anthony! Let Miss Sharma discover this noisy family herself." The Duke says, "I promise you, they're not as threatening as they look." 

"Hey!" Hyacinth pouts. "You said I was sweet and innocent."

"When have I ever said that?" The man frowns.

"When I first visited you last summer."

"Ah, to be unknowing again." And he starts to tickle the little girl's side. Everyone looks at them and it is at this moment Lord Bridgertons makes contact, he slides his hand on hers.

"How are you holding up for real?"

Kate thinks for a second, it's still overwhelming, but she's enjoying every chaotic minute of it.

"You have a very nice family." She says and her breath gets a bit unsteady when their fingers intertwine. "I can see how much you love each other."

Anthony nods softly. "We aren't always this fussed, but I think it had something to do with you accompanying me."

"I am a very impressive woman." Kate sticks out her tongue at him but looks approvingly back at her, which takes her off guard. 

"I agree, you are wonderfully refreshing and remarkable." He sits so close and it's almost as if he tries to sniff in her scent.

"Ahum! Anthony." Kate is startled and one look at Lord Bridgerton tells her he's too. The Duchess suddenly comes to sit next to Kate. "I was wondering if you invited Kate to Aubrey Hall yet?"

"No, I was looking for the right moment."   Lord Bridgerton is obviously not happy with his sister's intervention. He gives her a look but when he stares back at Kate all of the annoyingness is gone. He smiles widely and if though it's inappropriate he takes her hand in his before he asks: "If you're willing to, I would love to have you over as my guest when we host our annual ball next week."

Kate feels how her jaw drops a little. She's excited and forgets all of her hesitation, to be honest, she's just too happy to even think about them.

"I would lov…."

A loud and familiar bark interrupts her sentence.

Newton comes running over, he runs so hard it's clear he's not going to bump into her softly, but it's going way too fast for her to react, all she can do is brace for impact…

Kate's glad she at least did that, so when her dog meets her open arms, she doesn't fall over.

Loud cheers fill her ear, in a mere second the youngest Bridgerton siblings are at her side.

"I'm sorry, but who's this?" Lord Bridgerton asks, startled. 

"This, My Lord, this is my dog."




Chapter Text


When the first shock disappears Kate starts to look around. How on earth is it possible that her dog is here? Edwina offered to look after him and she's sure her sister never mentioned her going to the park as well.

Kate tries to hide her anxious curiosity from the Brigertons but she soon realizes Lord Bridgerton can't be fooled.

He kneels down next to her and while he strokes Newton's fur as a believable  distraction he leans in. "Miss Sharma, you seem startled, is there anything I can help you with?" He whispers in her ear, his eyes travel over her and the concerned look he gives her makes her take back a few steps. Lord Bridgerton is too close and Kate can't be too derivative, not when her sister is around somewhere apparently. 

"Yes I'm fine." She shakes her head. "I just didn't expect my dog to be here." Her eyes stay focused on Newton, but it gets harder when the youngest siblings come over.

"Miss Sharma," Hyacinth says ecstatically. "Can we play with him?" She already grabs the leash. "I have a ball and I'm sure he can fetch it?" 

"Yes can we?" Gregory looks at him with a sparkle in his eyes, "We'll stay in eyesight, I promise!"

"Well…" Kate mumbles. "I don't know where he came from, and I.."

"Give Miss Sharma some space." Lord Bridgerton says sternly and he pulls the leash out of his sister's hands. "You can't ask someone you barely know such impertinent questions."

Kate sees how disappointed the young children are and she feels sorry for them.

"My Lord, it's okay, they can take him." She laughs at the two children before her. "Just don't let him near the bushes, when he sees a rabbit he will run away and we can't have that, can we?"

"I'll be super protective!" Hyacinth shouts excitedly. "Come Greg! We can play by the watee!"

Kate moans softly because that might even be worse, but she doesn't have the heart to tell them, and the happy faces she sees when they are running away take away a bit of her concern.

"We will keep a close eye." Lord Bridgerton reassures her. "But you seem surprised, I have to admit; I am too. Is your family also in the park?" Lord Bridgerton offers his hand to help her get up and this time she takes it. Kate cleans her dress and starts to look around before she answers. "I have no idea," She tells him. "My sister told me she would watch him, and my guess is she took a rather long walk…"

"We can look for them? I imagine them to worry as well since he obviously broke free."

Kate frowns, she's not so sure about that, it might very well be a preconceived plan from her sister. "I think they will find us soon enough." Kate shrugs. "I would rather go and play with your siblings, seeing how much fun they have." She points at the children and looks at Lord Bridgerton. 

"That is also fine." The way he looks at his younger brother and sister warms Kate's heart. "How old is… I am so sorry Miss Sharma, in all this consternation I've forgotten his name." Lord Bridgerton looks genuinely upset and is visibly ashamed to admit it. 

"It is okay." Kate wants to touch his arm to comfort him but just before her hand makes contact with his she retraits.

Stop this, act properly Kate! She tells herself.

The gesture doesn't get lost on Lord Bridgerton. "I appreciate your intention." He smirks at her and in return, Kate rolls her eyes at him.

"To answer your question; his name is Newton, and he's 3 years old."

"And he's yours?"

Kate nods. "I got him from a family friend back in India." 

"That's a nice gift."

"It truly was." Since she's not allowed to touch him, Kate makes a concession, and makes sure she and Lord Bridgerton walk in sync, as close to him as she dares. "I was struggling back then, things were hard, and I think he noticed how much I needed something that was just mine." Again, Kate is struck by how easy it is to open up to the Viscount. It's so natural actually that it would be harder to stay silent.

"I think I can relate." Lord Bridgerton says with consent. "I did not realize until just now that's probably why I do my morning rides with Jack."

For an outsider, this confession could have been strange and illogical, but Kate gets it. He too needs something that gives him the opportunity to just be Anthony Bridgerton.  A rare moment when he's not a Viscount, not a son, not a brother or caregiver, but just himself.

Their eyes meet and for Kate it's like the rest of the world fades away, he's at the center and all things around him are just objects that don't really matter. 

When Newton approaches her, the spell breaks but Kate finds herself to be short of breath because of the intensity of the moment they just shared.

"Hi buddy!" She catches the ball Gregory throws at her and smiles at Lord Bridgerton.

It pleases her to see he too needs to recollect himself. 

"Are you able to catch it or are you too afraid to lose again?" She winks at him.

He laughs and his eyes start to sparkle. "Don't underestimate me, Kate." His smile drops. "Miss Sharma, I mean." He says so quickly he's almost tripping over the words.

"I like how it sounds, coming from your lips." She whispers, her mouth feels dry and goosebumps appear all over her body, and only because he used her given name…

"Good to know," He whispers, "Kate."

"Hey!" Gregory shouts from afar. "Are you playing or not?"

Lord Bridgerton clears his throat and takes a few steps back.

"We are, I was just preparing Miss Sharma for her inevitable defeat."

"You wish." Kate narrows her eyes and bends so she can look Newton directly in the eyes. "Please don't make me look like a fool." 

"No insiders sceam!" Lord Bridgerton says playfully. "If you do not throw this ball in the next couple of seconds, I think you're cheating, Miss Sharma!"

Kate grins. "See who gets this ball first then, you or him!" And she tosses the ball just out of his reach.

"You menace!" She hears him mutter when Newton is there a lot faster than him.

"Brother! That's a point for Newton!" Hyacint squeaks. "Good dog!"


 

"Kate!" After a little while a loud voice draws her attention and when she looks towards the sound Kate sees her mother, she's coming over and doesn't look pleased with the fact that she's playing this carefree and un-lady-like with the Bridgertons.

"Mother." She gives the ball to Hyacinth and does some necessary straightening of her dress. "What are you doing here?"

From the corner of her eye she notices Lord Bridgerton saying something to his siblings and he also stops playing, before she can comprehend what he said to them, he already stands next to her.

"Lady Mary." He bows his head. "What a surprise to see you here, if I knew you were coming I would have invited you and Miss Edwina as well."

"My Lord, that is so kind." her mother says politely. "It was a bit spontaneous. Miss Edwina felt like taking Newton out for a stroll and when Lord Chong asked her if he could take her out for a promenade, we decided to combine the two."

"I see." Lord Bridgerton can't completely hide his suspicion and the crease between his eyebrows deepens. "Just a coincidence then, but let us make the best of it. I would love to introduce you to my mother." 

"I do not want to be a burden, or take away any of your time with my daughter." 

"You are family. And when we start to see family as a burden, we have a problem." His voice sounds sharp.

"That is not what I meant, My Lord." Her mother looks at him uneasily. "I don't want to intrude, that was all."

Her mother sighs when she sees Newton running happily after the ball, which rolls in their direction. "I am so relieved he did not run away for real." She steps towards it to throw it to Gregory. 

"I believe your sister is already talking with my mother." Lord Bridgerton hisses quickly in her ear. "Please let me handle this." He touches her side gently.

"Okay." Kate can only pant at the sudden touch.

"You are not intruding." Lord Bridgerton says when her mother stands before them again, he charmingly offers her his arm. "Please come with me, and where is Miss Edwina? She cannot be alone with Lord Chong, so maybe it is wise for me to extend invitations to them as well." His crease disappears and instead of them there are dimples in his cheeks when he smiles.

Kate covers her mouth with her hands to hide a smile, it is hard to say no to Lord Bridgerton and he plays his cards well.

"Oh would you look at that!" Lord Bridgerton says amused. "Your sister already made her self comfortable." 

"Ah, I see." Her mother mumbles. "She must be looking for you, Kate."


 

Lady Mary and Lady Bridgerton knew each other from their pasts, so they start talking and they seem to have a good time.

Lord Bridgerton speaks with Lord Chong and Kate, the Duke and Duchess talk about her time in India, they're very interested and want to hear all about her life.

Her sister, on the other hand, mocks and pouts so much Kate feels vicariously ashamed for her. 

In one way or another, Edwina now sits on the sideline, and she doesn't participate in any conversation.

At first, Kate didn't noticed it, but when she does she can't look away. Het behavioir is so spoiled, Kate's almost afraid it would reflect badly on her.

 

And then Newton, once again, saves the day, or make it worse, Kate's not sure yet, but he does save her from this awkward setting.

 

Her dog spots a rabbit and immediately starts to chase it. He's gone before anyone can grab his leash.

"Newton!" Kate forgets who she's talking with and starts running after her dog. "Come back!" 

"Miss Sharma!" She hears Lord Bridgerton shout after her.

"What, Daph? You want to go after her?" He says, "I'm not going to devour her in the bushes, or do you want to go?"

I wouldn't mind if he did

The thought makes her slow down, but when she hears the Duke say; "Daphne, honey, there's not much he can do here anyway, at least give your brother a chance to be a hero, you like Miss Sharma don't you?" 

She hears Newton shriek, and she increases her pace.

"Newton?" Kate doesn't pay attention to her surroundings anymore, she needs to find him, because by the sound of it, it's likely he's injured.

 

"Miss Sharma! Wait!" But Kate doesn't listen to his demand. Deeper and deeper she enters the vegetation is getting wilder and she feels how some branches scratch her arm.

"Kate, please!" 

That does it, but she doesn't look back and waits for him to come to her.

"You aren't deaf aren't you?" Lord Bridgerton pants and asks annoyed when he stands besides her.

"Correct." Kate waves her hand imperiously. "But your whining does make it harder for me to hear my dog, so please stay quiet."

"For the lo…" 

But then there's a loud sound to their left.

"Hush!" Kate grabs his hand to make him stop, "I think he's there." It takes Kate a while to realize what she just did, but when she does she wants to let go, his grip tightens.

"Come on then." Lord Bridgerton says. "Let's find Newton."

 

"Where can he be?" Kate truly starts to panic when they don't see him around. Kate's convinced she still hears some breathing but they've looked everywhere and Newton's nowhere to be found. 

"This cannot be happening! Why does my sister have to bring him! If anything happens to him.. I… she…"

"Hey!" They're still holding hands and Lord Bridgerton reaches out to grab her other hand too. "He can't be far. He's probably already back, looking for you."

Kate seriously doubts this, she knows Newton and when he sets his mind to something, in this case chasing a rabbit, it's hard to catch him. 

Only, at this moment, suddenly she's not half as worried as she should be.

Lord Bridgertons attempts to comfort her work , and only his touch and gaze on her seem to matter.

"I hope you are right." She says softly. "But what if he isn't?"

"Then I will organize a search party. Believe me, I will not rest until that damned dog is back at your side."

And Kate chose to believe him. 

Not because it's convenient, but because there's so much truth in his eyes, she doesn't have a choice.

"Thank you, My Lord." She says gratefully. "But I truly hope that is not necessary."

"Me too." Lord Bridgerton sighs. "Can I admit something?" He asks and he looks around warily.

Kate can feel the air changing, tension thick and she feels how her heartbeat increases. "Yes." She says softly.

"I am so glad I have a moment alone with you." He let's one hand go and runs it through his hair. "I do not want to overstep, and if I do, please tell me…"

"You are not…" Kate nods her head.

"Not yet." Lord Bridgerton grins, "But there is something I need to do, if I do not, I think I am going to die from longing and wondering." His free hand softly pushes her shoulder and gently forces her to walk backwards until her back is pressed against a tree.

"Oh.." Is the only thing Kate can manage to say.

"I desperately want to kiss you, I need to kiss you, in order for me to catch some breath…" His nose is pressed against her neck, and it feels as if only the lightest touch leaves a burn mark. "So please tell me this is okay…" It is clear he asks, and waits for permission but Kate doesn't know how to utter the words. 

Lord Bridgerton lets one hand go and wraps it around her middle, he squeezes her side and instead of pulling her in he presses himself closer to her. "Please Kate." He begs. "Tell me you care for me too."

Kate is so relieved she can confirm with movement, she nods her head so vigorously Lord Bridgerton smiles wickedly. He moves his head and he moves his lips so close to hers she can feel him breath on her skin. "Thank god." He whispers and he presses his mouth on hers.

Instinctively Kate opens her mouth to give him access and she moans softly when she feels how his tongue enters.

Lord Bridgerton puts one hand in her hair and now he does pull her towards him. Their tongues clash for real, and all the sudden there's a need, coming from deep inside, that Kate hasn't felt before. It starts low in her belly and when she feels something burning in her core the only thing she can do is grind against the hips of the man that's touching her.

"God… you are perfect." He groans in her mouth and somehow Kate finds a rythem that feels just good . "Yes, Kate.. just like that Kate…"

His hands find their way under her skirt. Softly they reach up higher and higher, and Kate doesn't even feel shame when he touches her damp core, instead she just moans loudly. 

"You like this as much as I do, do you not Kate?" Lord Bridgerton starts to move his hand up and down her folds. "Did you think about this before?"

Kate even now, when she's this aroused manages to roll her eyes at him but Lord Bridgerton doesn't accept it.

"I asked you a question and I need you to answer Kate." He enters her with his thumb while the other fingers keep stroking her core. His lips find her neck again and he bites and licks her skin. "If you want me to continue…" and he holds still.

"Please…" Kate whines, and she moves her hips for friction. "Do not stop…"

"Good…" He bites her earlobe. "So you like it when my fingers fill you up.." and he enters another one.

"Yes, My Lord." Kate pants.

Lord Bridgerton stops kissing her neck and faces her. "Call me Anthony." His stare is so intense, Kate can feel how much he needs this but she can't comprehend any words, there's something building from deep within and her breath starts to choke. 

"It's okay Kate." He whispers softly. "Please let go. I catch you when you do." And his fingers increase speed. 

Kate moans loudly.

"God you are so beautiful, come for me sweetheart. Please…" He kisses her neck and when she's at the point when her eyes roll back in her head only one thing comes to Kate's mind..

"Anthony!" She squeals loudly and her whole body starts to shake. Wave after wave of pleasure takes over her body.

"Yes baby, so good." He keeps going until she finally stops shaking, and it's good he's carrying her weight, because Kate's sure her legs are to wobbly too hold her.

She feels something hard pressing at her thighs and her eyes grow and the hunger comes back right away.

She desperately needs to touch him, so she strokes the hardness above his breeches.

"Kate…" this time it's Anthony's turn to moan loudly. "You don't have to do this."

 

Suddenly a sharp voice says. "I didn't think you were this desperate Kate!" Her sister looks her dead in the eyes, jealousy seems to consume her and she almost looks mad with her eyes big and her cheeks a mix of green and red. "I think it's best if you do not proceed with this obscene show."

Kate wants to say something, but she doesn't get the chance.

 

"Lord Chong! I've found them! Over here!"

Chapter Text


With Lord Bridgerton's hand firm on her hips, Kate feels the initial startled feeling drift away. She isn't alone. In fact, the previous activities made her more complete than she has felt in years. Not just because it felt good , but because she allowed herself to be so vulnerable it set some kind of path free for a connection that runs deeper than all that she knew before.

"Edwina…" Kate says while she lays her hand on top of Lord Bridgertons arm that's still around her waist. "You might want to reconsider all that's going on in your head right now." She narrows her eyes. "Think about it, dear sister of mine, what would happen if Lord Chong sees us like this?"

She hears Lord Bridgerton laughing behind her. 

"I…" Edwina mumbles in reaction, it's clear she hasn't thought it through. "You're so… I cannot believe you let it go this far!" Her sister gets her anger back and her eyes glide over her and Lord Bridgerton, she lifts her eyebrows and full of disdain she stares at them. "Since he seems so informed about our bickering… I am curious, does Lord Bridgerton know it all ?" 

"Edwina!" Panic starts to rise and Kate wants to take a step forward, but Lord Bridgerton prevents her from doing so, instead he just tightens his grip and clears his throat.

"Miss Edwina," He says in a loud and dominant way. "I am aware of your thoughts regarding my courtship of your sister, I do not understand why it upsets you this much, nor do I wish to.." He waits a while before he continues, and Kate muscles soften, the authority in his tone has an effect on her sister so she seems to have dodged the bullet.

"I will however apologize for what you have just might have witnessed," His voice softens. "I really like your sister, so if you choose to expose us and speed up the inevitable, so be it. But for the sake of decency, I think you should reconsider." They hear footsteps approaching and at last Lord Bridgerton lets go of Kate.

"My Lord…" Kate wants to say a lot and nothing at the same time. 

Did he really just admit he wants to marry her? 

Kate feels her head spin and she leans back at the tree for stability. 

"I told you to use my given name, Kate." He winks at her.

"You two… you…" Edwina doesn't get the chance to say more, because Lord Chong comes out of the bushes, followed by a happy four- legged friend.

"Newton!" Kate drops to her knees and hugs her dog. "Buddy! You scared me! I was so afraid you got hurt."

"I have to say, you have an interesting way of expressing your sorrows." Edwina hisses, but then her face changes and she turns to Lord Chong, who seems to be confused by what he sees.

"I just told them we found him, they were searching in the wrong places, although my sister's screams should have drawn the dog's attention…"

Kate starts to blush, her sister really did watch. 

Lord Chong isn't that interested or simply doesn't get it and shrugs. 

"Jealous much?" Kate asks for only her sister to hear, she gets back up with Newton in her arms. "We should go back."

"I agree," Lord Bridgerton seems content with the developments and straightens his cravat. "Are you going to carry him all the way back?"

"His leash is broken, My Lord, I am afraid we might start another search party if I do not."

"I see." Lord Bridgerton rolls up his sleeves, "Then I suggest you let me take him."

Newton wags his tail, clearly he too wants to be in the strong arms of Lord Bridgerton. 

"Little traitor." Kate laughs when she hands him over.

He and Lord Chong start to walk, they talk a bit and just when Kate wants to follow them, her sister's prevent her by grabbing her arm.

"I think you are losing your touch, dear sister." Edwina says it nicely but Kate knows better. "With him not coming running to you when you called for him. He must have sensed you were up to no good." Her eyes spit fire, and there is disbelief in her eyes.

"Oh but it was good, Edwina, so good." Kate smirks. "Actually I think Newton was helping me."

"You are shameless." Edwina hufs, her eyes grow big and her cheeks are flushing. "I cannot believe you are taking things this far!"

Kate knows her sister is right, it was highly improper, and if anyone else found them.. she was ruined, forced into a marriage, but at this moment she couldn't see the down point of it all. 

"You think you are the only one he does this with? I am sure Lord Bridgerton has had better, I could see it in his eyes."

"Enjoyed watching huh?" Kate has enough, she wasn't going to let her sister draw her into a spiral of shame. She enjoyed it, he enjoyed it. And if Edwina couldn't handle it, that was her problem.

"I am sorry you did not get to see more given how agitated you are by witnessing some simple touching, I know at least I am sad you interrupted us, it truly is something else, being wanted like that, I do hope you find out sometime..."

Kate lifts her shoulders and with big confident steps she walks away from her sister. 


"Miss Sharma!" Lady Danbury greets her cheerfully when she spots her. "How was it?"

"Lady Danbury," Kate can't let her face stop smiling. For one because she is freed from the awkward silence between her and her mother and sister, and two; Lady Danbury is genuinely happy to see her and she wants to tell her all about Aubrey Hall and how she got invited.

"It was good." Kate sits down next to the woman. "We had such a good time."

"I can tell, you are practically glowing, child."

"I am sorry." Kate hides her smile behind her hand.

"Do not apologize!" Lady Danbury raises her voice. "I love young love, and it is clear to me you are smitten." Her face turns to the side and Kate understands why she speaks louder than strictly necessary.

Her mother and sister are walking in the hallway, her mother clearly is curious but Edwina mumbles something in her ear and then they are gone.

"Serves them right," Lady Danbury says satisfied. "Let us discuss important matters, I have arranged for a tailor to come this afternoon, you need new dresses since you have an interesting weekend coming up."

"I beg your pardon?" Kate's startled, what was she referring to?

"Lady Bridgerton left me a message, you are planning to go to Aubrey Hall, right?"

Kate nods.

Word traveled fast . Maybe that's what her mother and Edwina were whispering about.

"You have to look your absolute best, and I am going to do all in my power to help you. Although you do not need much, I think." 


 

That evening when Kate goes back upstairs and sits on the edge of her bed, staring at the new dresses, she sighs before she lets herself fall into the mattress. 

The day left an impression and Kate is glad she could overthink it in the privacy of her own room.

The time she spent with Lord Bridgerton left the biggest one, but dress fitting was also nerve wrecking and the silen treatment she gave and received from her mother and sister weren't helping her set her mind at ease.

She lets herself think about Lord Bridgerton first… since that seems to be so close on the surface she couldn't ignore it anymore.

Her hand traced from her lips, to her neck, to her ear.. all the places Lord Bridgerton, no Anthony , visited her with his mouth. 

Butterflies flutter in her stomach when she relives the way his body felt pressed against her. 

Something starts to pull in her stomach when all of it comes back to her. How he touched her, how good it felt, and how bummed she was when she didn't get the chance to make him feel the same way.

Because Kate wants too, so badly, the longing causes moistness between her legs within seconds.

She needs to be connected to him again, and the thought of it happening again…

This wasn't just a silly plan to lure Edwina into opening up her eyes anymore.

This was starting to feel like a beginning.

An opportunity to have a life of her own, with a man she truly liked. 

Kate was so set on going back to India, it hasn't crossed her mind this would be a possibility for her.

Never did she think she was capable of opening up, and let someone in like she did with Lord Bridgerton. 

But he makes it so easy, with his smile, with his touch, with his eyes, and with his genuine interest in her… it feels like she has no choice. Kate rolls her eyes but she has to admit it almost feels like they are meant for each other.

So can she do it? Can she give up her future, for one that's unclear? Because it could very well be true Lord Bridgerton still doesn't want a love match, and that has to be a giving thing if she decides to stay. 

But how certain is your life in India?

Sure, she can be a governess, and God knows she'll be good at it.

But how good will her life be if she kept longing for him, and all that could've been if she never gave it a chance?

Truth was, in every scenario she was alone. The minute Kate did something for herself, her sister let her go, and took her mother with her.

Deep within herself, Kate hates it, but she has too much pride to acknowledge it to her sister, and she does still feel she has every right to try and explore things that might be good for her.

Kate's head is so full, she can't catch any sleep. She's torn between mere lust and overwhelming feelings, she has an uneven breath the whole night.

The later it gets, the more Kate knows what she must do.

I wanted to show Edwina I could get courted, that I too am a lady that's allowed to find her happiness .. 

So why stop it right before she has a chance of finding it?

 




"Miss Sharma! Over here!" Kate hears a voice in the crowd and when she looks up she sees Eloise waving at her. 

Kate's in her new blue dress and she feels so beautiful, she can't wait to dance with Lord Bridgerton tonight.

"I am so glad to see a friendly face among all those boring people." The girl sighs and she frowns. "I promised my mother I will dance with two gentlemen tonight, but I think talking to you will suffice as well."

"And why is that? Might I ask?" Kate grins, Eloise reminds her so much of herself she can almost feel the girl's desperation with the foresight of having to do things she doesn't really want to do.

"Simple," Eloise says amused. "My mother really likes you, as does my brother, so I am sure I get points for bonding with you."

"Is that so?" A happy feeling takes over, Kate feels encouraged by the fact even his family seems to be rooting for them. 

"Yup." Eloise smirks. "So please stay with me for a while, we do not have to talk, just make sure everyone sees us."

"Oh but we can talk." Kate smirks too. "Tell me something I need to know about your brother he absolutely does not want me to." 

Eloise laughs out loud. 

"I really do like you," She says pleased. "Let me think..  you are coming next weekend to Aubrey Hall, right?"

Kate nods.

"Well, I am guessing we are going to play Pall Mall…"

"What? I do not know what that is?" 

Eloise puts her hands on her shoulder and stares directly into her eyes.

"You will learn soon enough, all you need to know is that you have to grab the Black Mallet before him."

 

Kate doesn't get a chance to speak to Lord Bridgerton alone. It would have been quite the accomplishment if she did, given how much people attended the ball.

However, her sister does find her, and pulls her back to the side.

"I want to speak to you," Edwina says, and she forces Kate to step a few steps to the left.

"Then talk, fast." Kate is surprised by the eagerness that's taken over her sister but she doesn't think much about it.

"I want to know if you are still planning to go to India?" Edwina talks rapidly, as if she was in a hurry to get it all out. "Are you really going to keep Lord Bridgerton in the dark about your true intentions? That he's just a puppet in your plan to hurt me?"

"Edwina!" Kate lowers her voice. "Everyone can hear you!"

"I thought you were so pure-hearted you didn't keep secrets. So I do not see any reason for it." Edwina spins her around.

"What are you doing?" Kate feels like she's losing all control and there's nothing she can do about it.

"So how does it feel, betraying the whole Bridgerton family?"

"I am not!" Kate shouts, a little bit harder than she wants. "I want to.. I am planning on…"

"Planning on leaving, after you are done ruining me for real."

A loud cough and fast footsteps enter her ears, and when Kate looks towards it she can only see some chestnut hair disappearing in the crowd.

"Ah, too bad.. Well, you do not want to have your relationship built on lies do you? I am glad I could help."

Kate needs to leave, she needs to find him, tell him it isn't true, or at least, not anymore. 

She's also startled by her sister's cruelness, but that's not what's most important right now.

Rapidly, Kate moves her head to the sides of the room but she doesn't see him.

"Mister Bridgerton," she says when she spots Benedict. "Have you seen the Viscount?"

"I have not." Benedict takes her in and there's that same worry in his eyes. "I thought he was with you."

"Well, he's not anymore." Kate sighs. "I really do need to find him."

She can't believe this is happening, not after she has resolved it all in her mind. Not when she admitted to herself she doesn't want to leave anymore, that she wants to stay with him, for him!

Benedict, being a lot taller than she, scans the crowd and smiles. "He is there, talking to your sister."

Kate freezes.

He's with Edwina? 

It doesn't make sense, why would he do that? He was so clear to her that he didn't care for her family as long as they were treating her badly.

But what if he did overhear? 

He could be so mad that he wants to even the score.

And he knows you well enough that Edwina is the way to do so.

Kate had to go, she had to try and make it up to him. She owed it to herself, and to him.

 

When she gets to where Benedict sends her, they aren't there anymore.

But she can feel it, the familiar feeling of eyes burning through her.

Lord Bridgerton is dancing with her sister, but his eyes are on her.

He lifts his brows, and when he twirls Edwina around he smiles the tiniest of smiles at her.

It doesn't soothe Kate, because his eyes are full of pain.

He knows, and he's hurting .

Kate feels tears welling up, how did she let it come this far?



Chapter Text


Anthony is looking for Kate from the moment he arrives. He already saw Lady Danbury around, so he knows she must be here. But up until now he has failed to find her.

Yesterday's adventures have turned his world upside down. If he thought he was consumed by her before, he was fooling himself, because after Kate and he were close , she literally was always present.

Anthony could still feel, hear and smell her. He was so overwhelmed by all that was Kate, it is of the most importance he finds her to ask her if she feels the same.

It takes him a few more minutes but then he sees her. Standing alongside her sister, he can't help but think she looks aggravated, bothered by something Miss Edwina says to her.

If Anthony's being honest, that's still a thing that worries him, the way she and her sister are always fighting.

Because from his point of view, it seems like the constant bickering between the two affects Kate in a way he's not happy with.

 

He stays put, but somehow the two girls keep getting closer up to the point they're so close he can overhear their talk and when Edwina spins Kate around he doesn't even have to make any efforts, word for word he hears it.

He has a clear look on Kate's back, and when Edwina briefly looks around he's convinced she knows he's eavesdropping.

What's she up to?

His heartbeat increases and it's only getting worse when the conversation between the sisters continues.

 

"I want to know if you are still planning to go to India?"

 

Wait what? Is she talking about Kate? Is she going to leave him?

 

"Are you really going to keep Lord Bridgerton in the dark about your true intentions? That he's just a puppet in your plan to hurt me?"

 

No, no, no, this can't be true. Anthony starts to feel dizzy, he needs to leave but he can't move, he's bound to the ground to hear more.

 

"I am not!" Kate shouts, a little bit harder than she wants. "I want to.. I am planning on…"

 

Kate is so startled and he hears the pain in her voice. But so is he; what is she talking about? He can't hear more, he needs to catch some fresh air.

 

"Ah, too bad.. Well, you do not want to have your relationship built on lies do you? I am glad I could help."

 

Anthony hears when he walks away, and he has to clench his fist to let go of some of the anger he feels towards the girl.




This couldn't be happening… and yet it did. Anthony has to get away from them, from her . He needs to collect his thoughts, before he did something stupid and unforgiving.

How could she do this? To her sister? 

Sure, Anthony only stood on the sideline, so he's well aware he doesn't have all the intel, but there wasn't a doubt in his mind that questioned things between him and Kate were good. She couldn't have pretended it all, right? 

If that were true, he lost faith in more than just her. 

It took Anthony years to open up, and even at the start of this season he wasn't sure how things would go, if he could let himself choose with his heart instead of his mind.

But then he met Kate, and it was decided, this was meant to be. Never in his life he met someone like her, fierce, witty and beautiful, oh so beautiful. 

And even though he knew, from the start, there was something off, he held on tight to the moments they shared. Because it was pure, raw and real. There was no way she was faking all of it.

Did he mess it up yesterday? When he took liberties? 

He is certain he didn't, given how Kate reacted. It was one of those intense, connective moments they've shared. One that still leaves him breathless..

And they've talked about it, it was supposed to be resolved..

So what is going on? Why did she still act so cruel? What on earth gives her the right to call out her sister like that in public? 

Anthony made himself clear, several times, and for once and for all, it needs to stop.

Because, even when he's confused, and hurt, and feeling lost, he has to do something.

Anything if it makes Kate feel better.

Anthony made up his mind, and to prevent things going from bad to worse, the first thing he has to do is inform his mother.

 

"Mother, may I speak to you in private?" He doesn't beat around the bush and skips his greetings when he stands before her.

"Anthony? Dearest? What is going on?" Violet Bridgerton probably sees that he's in a hurry and immediately takes his arm to walk outside.

"Anthony, what happened?" She grabs his hands and looks at him in a way he hasn't seen her do in ages. 

"Mother," He tries to block his emotions but fails, because his voice starts to shake.

"Tell me, sweet boy." Violet encourages him by caressing the palm of his hand.

Suddenly, Anthony feels like a child, a son, it's such a rare feeling that before he knows it there are tears rolling down his face.

"It is going to be okay," Violet says softly. 

"I am not sure it will be…" Anthony finally manages to say. "But to the best of my abilities, I am trying." 

He inhales deeply.

"I have to do something, and I do not know how it plays out, it might cause scandal, hopefully not a lot but definitely some."

"Anthony?" His mother frowns and the worry in her eyes grows.

"Also there is the possibility I am away for a few days. But I promise, I will be back."

"Stop this! You cannot keep saying things like this without giving me any context," Violet shakes her head. "This has something to do with Miss Sharma? Does it not?"

Anthony's silence is enough, and his mother's eyes start to soften.

"Then do what you have to do," She looks around to see if they're truly alone. "But please, try to keep it civil, think about the family you have and the one you hope to gain."

Anthony nods eagerly, a shiver runs down his spine, he didn't foresee his mother backing him up like this but it does encourage him and somehow tells him he's doing the right thing.

"Go get her son." Violet pushes him back inside.

 

"Miss Edwina," Anthony draws the girl's attention by ticking on her shoulder. "I would love to dance with you, so if you let me escort you?" He bows his head.

"Yes! Of course." Miss Edwina is surprised, but she looks smugly back at her mother when the initial shock disappears. 

"Mother, can you hold my drink?" She doesn't wait for an answer and takes the offering hand from Anthony and bends through her knees a little to bow. 

Anthony has to bite the inside of his cheek, he feels so much resentment for the woman, he's almost convinced he can't pull this off. But he has to proceed, this is the only way she might listen to what he has to say.

"Miss Edwina," He says when they start. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk to you."

"I am happy to obey, My Lord. I am told I am a good listener."

Well, I guess we're going to find out if that's true. 

"That pleases me, more than you can know." Anthony keeps his eyes focused on her forehead, he won't look her directly in the eyes because that'll make things too difficult, but he also will be lost if he spots her right now.

"You look distracted, My Lord, anything on your mind?" Anthony twirls her around and when he pulls her back in he knows he can't stall any longer.

"There is, I need to tell you something…" he sighs. "And I am sure you are not going to like it."

"My Lord?" Miss Edwina thinks he's joking, he can see it in her eyes. "What are you going to say? Tell me that my dancing is not good enough for you?" She winks at him.

For the love of God, how can he stay polite with so much obliviousness?

"Miss Edwina, this is not a messy attempt to switch my interest. On the contrary, this is me telling you once and for all you have to stop. I am in love with your sister. I intend to marry her. If she wants to or not, that is up to her, but I am going to ask her."

He feels Edwina wants to run away, but he prevents her from doing so by grabbing her hands more tightly.

"You have no idea how underhanded my sister is towards you, My Lord." The girl hisses. "I am almost impressed when I see how she has got you wrapped around her fingers."

"It is the only place I want to be," the words leave his mouth before he could think it over, but he doesn't mind. "I know that your sister has not been honest with me, but frankly, I do not care. I do know I want her, circumstances in which we are together do not make a difference."

"Oh." Miss Edwina lost her attempts to set free and now feels like pudding in his arms. Her eyes look frightened because she can tell the worst has yet to come.

"And when she does say yes, I will make sure she does not have to be around you and your toxic behaviour any longer."

Edwina pufs full of disdain and Anthony narrows his eyes and goes for the final cut.

"But for your sake, I better hope she does, because if you manage to make her run away, back to India, I am going to make sure there will be no man left for you to dance with."

That's it, he said it all. Now he can look up, and of course he doesn't have to search for her.

"But she used you, My Lord. Only to ruin my life, and yours for that matter." Miss Edwina pouts.

"Let me be the judge of that." And Anthony stops listening to her.

Because she's there, talking to his brother. Upset and on the brink of complete panic.

I hope I did the right thing.

But when their eyes find each other. Anthony, in all his pain, knows he did. There's no way to explain why, but he can see it. He feels it in his bones.

This is it, one way or the other it's going to be okay.

 

The dance ends and Anthony can't be bothered to give Miss Sharma another look. He lets go of her as soon as the last tunes are playing and he goes after what he wants, after what he needs and to the person he did all this for.

 

"Kate," he says, still panting from rushing to get to her, unnecessary because she stood there, like a statue, too frightened to move. "We need to talk." Anthony knows he sounds harsh, but he has to, he can't let her crawl back into her shell, he wouldn't survive if she did. Not when he's about to reveal it all to her.

"We do?" Kate says, she's trembling and Anthony doesn't care about protocol and takes her hand in his. From afar he sees his mother watching. 

She smiles in approval and Anthony relaxes a bit.

"We do." He nods. "You have to explain yourself, and so do I." 



"My Lord?" Kate's still startled when he takes her away to an empty room. "We cannot be here alone?"

"We can, my mother will make sure no one comes in."

"Your mother?" Kate sits down on the table and rubs her fingers along her temples. "I.. My L.. Anthony .. I.." But Kate closes her mouth and folds her arms, probably in order to protect herself.

"Yes…" Anthony closes the distance between them. "You have some explaining to do."

Kate briefly lifts up her face and she looks at him with tears and sorrow in her eyes.

"I know…" She whispers. "I want to, but I do not know where to start."

"Kate, I want to hear it all. But before you start, I think we need to be clear about something, because in the way I see it, we have three options." He softly puts his finger under her chin and forces her to look back at him.

"Kate. I will not lie, I am hurt by your scheme, and I need to know why you have used me. But the truth is that I am so in love with you, I cannot help it, I do not really care as long as eventually the outcome is that you are mine and I am yours. I need to be with you."

Anthony leans in and he's so close he can feel her uneven breathing on his face. But he can't give in, not yet, he has one last thing to say before he can kiss her senseless. So he wraps his hands around her face and says with as much confidence in his voice as possible:

"One; you do as you planned and go back to India. It will break my heart, but if that is what you desire I will not prevent you from running away. Two; you and I get married, after you say yes I am going to the archbishop directly to get us a special license and we marry in a couple of days. And the third option; we go now, we elope and I am your husband before dawn, we can do whatever you desire, because Kate, I love you, and I cannot live in a world where you are unhappy. Not if I can help it..."



Chapter Text


It was like all air left the room, it feels like Kate's dreaming, because how can it be that this incredible man standing before her wants her just as bad as she wants him?

After what she did?

Could it be that he feels the same way?

It sure feels like that. 

This wasn't a proposal just out of mere obligation. Kate can see in his eyes he's just as desperate as her. His beautiful brown eyes burn a hole into her soul, expectant, longing and wanting they set a trace straight to her heart. His hands are still holding her face, their noses bump together and the tension is so thick, Kate almost forgets she feels guilty about what she did.

She knows it is important, that she has to explain herself, but somehow it got shuffled to the back. This was her base, her home, and if she says yes, it'll all make sense. 

Yes! Yes! Oh I want this. 

"You want to be my husband by dawn…?" Kate lifts her eyebrows, it took her ages to respond and when she finally managed to get something out she feels stupid about what she says. 

"Um, yes?" Anthony moves his face a little backwards and Kate's notices something is changing, his hands let go of her and she gasps for air, dejected and so lost tears rapidly start to well up in her eyes.

"I mean… I exaggerated, I am afraid that is not doable, but if you say yes…" He comes back to her. "Please, Kate, agree to be my wife." His lips are now so close they touch hers and it makes his plea that much more urgent. "If that is your wish too, we can leave tonight, and we never have to be apart and our lives together can start right away." He speaks and Kate consumes every word of it, she tastes it, she smells it, she is it. Her lips part a little, but Anthony still does nothing.

"You have to answer me first…" Their stares meet and Kate sees tears in his eyes too.

"I am so sorry Anthony." A tear falls on her cheek. "I did not want you to feel so hurt."

Anthony wipes away the tear with his shaking fingers. 

"It is okay. Kate please say it is going to be okay." 

She wants to say yes so badly, to take away some of their mutual hurt. 

"You love me?" She says so soft it is barely a whisper. 

"Kate, I do," He says just as quietly. "Save me from feeling so alone, I am not, I do not believe it." 

Kate nods carefully. 

"You are not." Kate needs to do more, his vulnerability isn't fair when not shared, but it's so hard, the last time she said she loved someone was moments before her father passed away. 

But just as her Appa needed to know then, Anthony does now.

"I… I love you too." 

A brief moment of disbelief passes Anthony's face, but soon the most beautiful smile appears.

"So, I am going to be your husband?"

Something that feels this good, can't be wrong…

"I think that would make me happy…" Kate feels herself smile against his lips.

Anthony doesn't respond with words, he just puts pressure on his lips and wraps his arms around her.

The kiss is messy, there's too much desperation from both of them. Anthony puts one hand in her hair, and with the other one he spreads her legs so he can stand in between them.

Kate knows it's just to be closer, this is so different than in the park, this is longing in another way. She wraps her legs around him, and she rushes her fingers over his shoulders. 

"Lady Bridgerton." Anthony breaks off the kiss only to pepper kisses in her neck. Infuriatingly slow he trails a line with his tongue to her ear.

"You taste so good…" Anthony sighs. "When do you want to leave?" He blows the question in her ear before he licks her earlobe.

Kate shivers, it's such a tempting offer and never in her life would she have thought she was going to do such a reckless thing.

"I… how?" She pants heavily, because although it didn't start like a sensual thing, it becomes more like one with every lick of his tongue. 

"My carriage is outside. My footman will take me anywhere I tell him to…" 

Can she really do this? Does she really want it like this?

"Anthony…" 

He hears doubt in her voice and he stops kissing her. 

"Katie…" He puts his arms around her on her lower back. "You have to tell me what it is that you want."

"I want to be with you…" There really isn't more on her mind, and Kate ignores the nagging feeling in her stomach that something is off .

"Let us go then." With effort, Anthony takes a few steps back. 

"What about what I have done?" Kate asks ashamed. "Do we not need to talk about it first?"

"Katie, honey, we have a long ride ahead of us." Anthony frowns. "We have nothing but time on our hands."

"Oh." Kate nods.

"Although I hope at one point we are done talking, so we can use the time otherwise." He smirks.

Kate's cheeks aren't yet back to their normal colour, and they start to flush back after his statement.

 

When her hands are on the knob to open the door, and Kate feels Anthony standing behind her, she knows it's going to be okay. Whatever happens, at least they are together.

So when footsteps approach, she doesn't feel as scared as she probably should.

What are they going to do, make us marry? Kate hears herself giggle and Anthony does too, he must know what she's been thinking.

But then Kate feels pressure on the doorknob she's holding, startled she falls back in Anthony's embrace. And he too looks expectantly at the door.

"Anthony, I know I said go get her, but I am only one woman, this is taking too long." Violet Bridgerton stands on the other side of the door, she doesn't come in, probably too afraid of what she might witness when she does.

Anthony clears his throat but doesn't let go of Kate. "Mother, you can come in," He says firmly.

"Are they in here?" Another voice enters their ears. Kate recognizes the typical ti c king noise from a cane on the floor.

"Yes," Violet Bridgerton says precariously, but the door swings open and Lady Danbury makes her way in.

"Good," She looks cheery at the two of them. "What have you two decided?"

"Lady Danbury." Anthony isn't as amused as the older woman, Kate can tell by the way he squeezes her arm. "We do not need your interference."

"But my boy, I think you do." Lady Danbury doesn't seem to be offended because she just winks at him before she turns her gaze towards Kate. "I ought to believe we are planning a wedding then?" 

Kate shakes her head, what else can she do? She doesn't like it, but they'll find out soon enough. 

"We were on our way outside." Anthony grabs her hand and sets pace to the door.

"Mother," He nods at her. "Lady Danbury," 

The two women are freezed to the spot but then Violet Bridgerton shakes her head fiercely. 

"Anthony Bridgerton!" She shouts as loud as she can given the circumstances. "I really hope I must be mistaken."

"Miss Sharma…" Lady Danbury too frowns in disbelief.

The thought hits Kate like an epiphany. 

They are right, this isn't right, when I marry, I want them there.

"My Lord," She says, anxiousness takes over her mind, the last thing Kate wants to do is hurt him again, so she holds onto his spoken promise. Anthony wants her to be happy.

And this will make me happy.

"Yes Kate?" Anthony doesn't bother to use proper pronouns, but his face gets rid of annoyance and his eyes take her in with the softness Kate's already so fond of.

"We cannot elope." 

She hears both Lady Danbury and Violet Bridgerton gasping for air after her statement.

"Why not?" Anthony's shoulders drop, as if he's scared she's going to crawl back.

"Because I want to wed you with everyone you love there to support you, us. Eloping suggests scandal, and there is no need for it… because we love each other… we should have our family's present."

Tension leaves his face and his eyes start to sparkle as if he could not believe she said she wants to marry him aloud.

Anthony lets out the breath he was holding in. "A special license it is then." 

"Are we in need of one?" Lady Danbury asks suspiciously and with disapproval in her tone.

"Not in the way you clearly think." Kate says witty. "There is just no point in waiting." Her eyes keep staring into Anthony's, she needs to be sure he's not disappointed or wounded by her change of heart.

"That is true, and I have to say, this is not up for discussion. It is either us eloping or us marrying in for days."

"Anthony." Violet moans softly. "We need to talk."

"Then let us talk." He gestures to the chairs. "But it will be a short conversation."

"I see." Lady Danbury suddenly starts to cackle. It is such a strange sensation Kate's eyes grow wide.

"We can do it this weekend, at Aubrey Hall," Violet suddenly says after they all sat down. "We can have the reception afterwards. I will send word for your mother, Miss Sharma, I am sure she would want to participate in planning her daughter's wedding."

Kate flinches, the main reason she chooses to not elope is because it gives the Ton a reason to gossip, they sure would suspect a scandal, and she doesn't deserve that. But also she doesn't want to exclude Anthony's family from celebrating his happiness. 

With her family it's different, she can't imagine them to be supportive, let alone be merry about it.

"I need to tell them first," Kate eventually mumbles. "Maybe it is for the best that I am alone whilst doing so."

"You are right," Lady Danbury agrees. "But tell them soon, preferably tonight after we get home, I can be there if you want me to be."

"Thank you." Kate sighs loudly.


 

When she and Lady Danbury sit in their carriage on the way home, Kate regrets her decision for a moment.

If she did elope, she wouldn't have to say goodbye to Anthony. 

Now she did, with his mother and Lady Danbury watching. 

It was as distant as possible with only a kiss on her cheek and a soft pad on her back, and it nearly killed her.

"My child, you will see him tomorrow," Lady Danbury says politely. "This is for the best, you know."

Kate stays silent, she doesn't need to answer.

 

"What took you so long?" Her mother apparently awaits them in the hallway, she just sits there on a tiny sofa with her legs folded and Kate can't see if she's angry or not..

"Mother," Kate says, she feels her blood run rapidly through her veins and her heartbeat increases. "I am so glad you are still awake."

"I have no choice, given the things Edwina told me. We are bound to have a talk, and I am afraid it is not going to be a smooth one."

"This will be something." Lady Danbury grins. "Since you are maybe a little bit biased, I am going to stay during this interesting conversation." She pushes Kate forward. "But we are not going to stay here, so please follow me to the privacy of my study." 

"I am capable of handling this on my own, Lady Danbury." Her mother isn't pleased with the proposition.

"We are in my house, I call the shots, and I say this is the way we are doing this." The woman says matter of factly. "Please follow me."

There is no other sound than the sound of her cane on the ground.

The support of Lady Danbury encourages Kate, and with a lot more confidence she faces her mother moments later.

"I think Miss Sharma has a rather important announcement she needs to make first." Lady Danbury leans backwards in her chair and is much more relaxed than the other two women in the room. "After that you can rant all you want."

"I cannot believe your attitude, Lady Danbury, what did I do that deserved to be talked to with such disdain?"

"I have a few thoughts on the matter." The woman nods her head at Kate. "Come child, speak."

"Um, yes.. well." Kate mumbles. "Lord Bridgerton and I. We.. we.."

"You both made a fool out of your sister!" Her mother finishes her sentence.

Something inside Kate snaps , the way her mother keeps defending Edwina and blaming Kate is astonishing. 

The only good thing Kate can think of right now is that it doesn't hurt as much as it did before. So when she tries to be polite in her previous encounters with her mother, she doesn't bother to be so anymore. She doesn't treat her like an equal, the way she puts Edwina first gives her every right to say what she's about to say.

Kate takes a few deep breaths. 

"I have to interrupt you mother," the calmness in her being surprises her. "I don't need to sugarcoat this, but Edwina acted like a fool, she deserved everything she got." Her eyes spit fire, she knows they do. "But that is not what I want to tell you, nor do I think you would listen if I did. I only want to say I am to marry Lord Bridgerton next week at Aubrey Hall."

Her mother's reaction is surprising to say the least.

In a split second Kate sees hurt , then she sees disbelief and her mother ends with a tiny smile on her face, which seems to be genuine. This all happens in the blink of an eye, and when Kate needs to confirm if she saw correctly, her mother's face is just as expressionless as it was before.

"You can be involved if that is what you desire, Lady Bridgerton will ask you tomorrow. If you do not wish to be included, you can tell her so yourself."

Kate shifts in her chair, she hasn't spoken like that to her mother before, and although it felt good to finally let pretentious go, she felt tense awaiting her reaction.

"Oh, Kate." 

And then more unexpected things happen.

Her mother starts to cry, first soft and she tries to hide it between her hands.

"That took you long enough," Lady Danbury says. "I will take my leave." And with a hand on Kate's shoulder as a goodbye, the woman does as she says.

"Kate, Katie." Loud sobbing makes it harder for her mother to utter the words. "I… I am so.." 

"You do not have to say how you feel mother." Kate feels uncomfortable with her mother crying like that and her initial reaction is to set her at ease, like alway. 

She can't remember the last time she saw her mother this upset.

"Kate, please. I have to, I need to." Her mother wipes her face and inhales deeply.

"Okay…" Kate pulls at a loose curl and puts it behind her ear. 

"I am so sorry… Kate.." Mary starts. "I have been so absent, and last night, when Edwina came to me, and told me what went on between the two of you, It finally occurred to me I have only listened to her." Her mother reached to the side to grab her hand. "You must have felt so alone," She sobs again. "I hope I am allowed to say how proud I am."

What is she talking about? 

Kate can't comprehend her mothers thoughts, how can she be proud after all that she said to her the last couple of days? And just a moment ago?

"Mother?" She decides to ask.

"I see how you are changing, dear." Her mother whispers, still holding her hand tightly. "And I may not understand why you chose this moment to do so, but I do love the woman you are becoming."

Kate gasps for air but her mother gestures she's not done yet.

"You have always been fierce, independent, and loving. But you only did it for us, for Edwina. I will not lie, your changing has not been convenient for your sister and me, but it is so good to see you are finally putting yourself out there, you share your best qualities with society, and I see how you thrive. And despite my hesitation regarding how this affects your sister, this is all your father and I ever wanted for you." She squeezes her hand, and Kate feels a tickling sensation rushing through her body that's not from the touch of her mother alone.

"I am not surprised Lord Bridgerton is smitten by you, I saw the two of you together and I think he is a man that can keep up with you. So all I can say is congratulations, sweetheart."


Chapter Text


The talk with her mother and the fact that she is to be married in a few days, kept Kate from sleeping much that night, and when the time was right to get out of bed that morning it still consumed her.

Was her mother honest? It feels like at some points she was. Kate could sense her mother was proud, and somewhat happy. But she also said her changing was inconvenient, and that stings.

What did her mother and sister suspect, or want from her? That she keeps obeying and living vicariously through her sister? Kate couldn't suppress that feeling.

And that's exactly what's wrong .

To make the next few days easier, Kate decides to hang on to her mother's pride. The sentence that she could remember vividly was when her mother talked about what her father and she wanted for her.

It felt the most sincere of all, and even though Kate's mind was full of doubt, that wasn't a thing she questioned, because she knows, with all her heart, her father would be so happy for her if he was still alive.

Kate drags herself to her dressing table and she looks at the dress a maid laid out for her. It was a new one, one from the dress fitting she did with Lady Danbury. 

A fateful coincidence she got so many new dresses, and that the modiste was already aware of her measurements, it saves her time today and in the next days that follow. She can let her mother worry about proper dresses for a Viscountess, Kare's just glad she doesn't have to pose for them again.

Standing still and letting other people tell her what to do wasn't her strong suit, especially not when she's the centre of attention. 

 

"Good morning, dearest." Her mother greets her when she enters the drawing room for breakfast. "Are you breaking the fast before your meeting with Lady Bridgerton?"

Kate nods and grabs a grape from a plate.

"That is the plan." 

"I got word from her as well, she wants to meet me for tea, so we can discuss your wedding. She also asked me what your favorite flowers are, I said they are roses, correct?"

"Tulips, mother, tulips are my favorite." Kate sighs but doesn't elaborate any further. 

"Ah, well, you can tell her yourself." Mary smiles a little guilty. 

"Is Edwina awake yet?" Kate feels something flip in her stomach, but it has to be done, so why wait?

"Not yet, and if I may say so..." Kate sees how her mother clenches her fist. 

"What, mother?"

"I think it is best to ignore her for a while. Let her ease into the idea of you leaving us. Nothing good can come from a fight at this early hours."

Kate doesn't hide her rolling eyes. How her mother treats her sister is beyond her. 

"I was not planning on fighting, mother," Kate says dryly. "Nor am I ever."

Her mother hums in disbelief.

"It is the truth, but I will do as you say, I am sure I will talk to her eventually."

Mary seems relieved, she relaxes and takes another sip from her tea.

"Is she aware of my engagement already?" Kate needs to know, and the time she protects her mother from feeling uncomfortable is over.

Her mother nods carefully.

"How did she take it?" Kate narrows her eyes, she's so curious, her blood starts rushing through her veins.

"I am not sure. She returned to her chambers right after." The confession leaves her mothers mouth in a whisper.

"Okay." That's all Kate needs to know, it's promising her sister didn't have a fit of rage on the spot. That being said, Kate's convinced Edwina just saves her outrageous behaviour for her. But she can take it, in a few days she'll be gone no matter what.

"Kate, sweetheart." Her mother suddenly sounds so serious it draws Kate's attention back to the table. 

"Yes mother?" 

"I need you to understand me, I am in between you girls, and I hate it. I am trying to do what is best for either of you."

Kate seriously doubts it, because with her actions, their mother is holding both girls back, it is only because Kate stopped listening that she is where she is. It took her years to figure it out, and because there is no way she could convince her sister or her mother that this is the case, she bites the inside of her cheek and nods. 

 "I am just glad you are helping me." and that wasn't even a lie, as troubling as the relationship between them might be, Kate is happy her mother is involved.


 

"Miss Sharma!" A loud voice greets her when she walks into the Bridgerton House. "I am so glad you are here." Hyacinth took her hand and dragged her towards a chamber. "Can I show you something? Anthony got it for us and I hope you will play with me and my siblings!"

Before Kate can even comprehend what's going on she already stands in a room that's obviously a nursery of some kind.

"Good job Hy! You got her." Gregory smiles widely back at her and the girl. "Miss Sharma, may I present to you…" Gregory waves at a big basket which holds some kinds of mallets.

"What is it?" Kate feels how the tension leaves her, she loves being around Anthony's siblings. It's chaotic and loud but she feels so included she doesn't mind at all.

"It is a new Pall Mall set! For us to practice with!"

Another person enters the room. "Great! You have shown her already!" Eloise smirks at her. "Now, let us wait for Francesca before we start." Eloise takes a green mallet out of the basket and runs her hands over the wood. She stares at it with such eagerness it is as if she's holding a newborn baby.

They don't have to wait long, because a few moments later Francesca walks in.

"I am sorry it took me so long, mother wanted me to show my progress on the pianoforte." She lifts her brows.

"Was it not good?" Kate asks.

"It was fine, but since I have bigger things to do, I was not very focused and it took me long before she was satisfied."

"Can someone tell me why you are all so excited?" Kate does get infected by the cheerfulness, but the mystery of it all makes it harder to enjoy it completely. 

"Yes! Of course." Eloise says, her eyes shine bright and she looks at her siblings as if she was about to spill a big secret.

"Since you will become one of us shortly, it feels like our duty to not let you get into your marriage defenseless and unknowing." Her tone is excited but soft and the way she speaks so silently makes Kate even more curious.

"I still do not get it, Eloise," Kate says insecurely, it feels good that they want to include her, but it feels so secretive, Kate isn't sure it is a good thing they want to share with her.

"Do not frighten her!" Francesca pushes her sister to the side. "This is it; we always play Pall Mall when we are at Aubrey Hall." She points to the basket.

"Not all of us." Gregory pouts. "But the older ones do."

"Anthony gave us this for a reason, he wants us to play!" Hyacinth says, but it doesn't sound convincing and from the expressions on the other girls' faces, Kate's probably right to think Hyacinth is hoping for something that was not going to happen. 

"Hush, Hy!" Francesca interrupts her sister. "We can talk about that later, for now it is important that Miss Sharma gets it, otherwise we will be right, and for once I will be so upset when I do."

Kate nods. "Please do not stall, tell me already." Her biggest doubts disappeared the moment they told her it was about a game. Instead she was intrigued, and was eager to learn more. It still feels like they were going to tell her about some sacred old ritual, but it couldn't be that bad since they're all smiling and willing to let her in. 

"Anthony is despicable, when he plays, he always wins, and cheats, and is a real child when things do not go like he wishes them to."

Kate laughs, she can imagine. "Go on then." She smirks. "I need to know how I can help."

"So you are on our side?" Eliose holds her breath, and looks expectantly at Kate.

"I will always love beating your brother, so do tell, how am I going to do this?"

All four faces light up, identical smirks appear and it's Francesca who, again, takes the lead.

"Always, always, get the black mallet, and never ever budge for his begging."

"Are you not supposed to tell me the ground rules? I know nothing about Pall Mall."

Francesca waves her hand imperiously. "You will get it, you are smart and it is not what makes this game difficult."

"Then what is?"

"The scheming, cheating and pouting is what makes it and our siblings infuriating. After a game they walk around like they own the world, Anthony especially."

"And how do you think I can beat them?" Kate starts to panic a little, she feels so much pressure already, and she doesn't want to let the children down.

"Just make sure Anthony does not win, that is all we ask of you." Francesca says smugly.

"And if you can try to let him lose… we will owe you forever."

"I see what I can do." Kate frowns. "But how?"

"All is allowed, you can distract, cheat and play dirty," Gregory shouts enthusiastically. "Please do it!"

"I will," Kate lifts her eyebrows once again. "But only after you elaborate your true motives." 

Silence fills the room. The children look caught and this time it's Kate's turn to smirk.

"Gosh, you are good." Eloise mumbles. "I can not talk on behalf of my siblings, I am just here to help them."

Kate turns her attention towards the other three younger children left.

"So? Enlighten me please?" Kate smiles encouragingly. 

"If he loses, he will lets us play next time. He is convinced it is not going to happen and we want to play so badly." Hyacinth finally cries out.

"Real smooth, Hy," Gregory says, slightly irritated. "This is not helping."

Kate feels sorry for the girl and wraps her arm around her shoulders. 

"It is okay, I will do all in my power to help. But you have to tell me how it is that I play best!"


 

Although Kate didn't see Anthony that day, she felt him everywhere. When she was doing some fitting for her wedding dress, when she was having fun, scheming with his siblings, and even when she talked to Violet about the food at the wedding. 

This was him, she got to know him more, and although she missed his physical presence, he was there and she loved him even more after today.

Kate's so happy and content she doesn't even mind when she sees that Edwina sits on her usual spot in the gardens.

"Why are you smiling?" Her sister asks carefully. "Are you not upset I took your place?"

"No, not at all." Kate smiles at her sister.

"Feels familiar?" Edwina says, and she moves to the side a bit.

"It is only a bench, Edwina." Kate clenches her teeth, her sister is beyond redeeming and this just proves it.

"What did you do today?" Edwina asks while staring in the distance, it's clear to Kate this is a question out of politeness, not one of genuine interest.

"I spent the day at Bridgerton House," Kate answers quickly.

"Oh, I see," Edwina throws away some leaves that fell out of the trees. "How was it?"

"Do you really want to know?" Kate tries to get her sister's gaze, but she keeps dodging direct eye contact.

"I have to, do I not?" Edwina shrugs. "Since this is going to be how it is, with you outranking me and all."

"Excuse me?" Kate freezes, what was her sister talking about?

"I am the granddaughter of an Earl, but you will be the Viscountess, I have to obey your commands, even more than I already, unwillingly, did, better make the best of it I suppose, now that it's almost official."

So this is how she made the circle round, this is her way of justifying her behavior.

Kate was confused before, but now she's just mad.

"That is what you think this is? Why did I dedicate half of my life for your wellbeing?"

Edwina nods, hardness is visible in her eyes and when she folds her arms the defense is complete.

"You did what you had to do, and when you were done with it you searched for a reason to get out."

"I cannot believe you." Kate can't help it and shout out the words. "I love you! I am your sister! That is why I want you to have a good life! Not because I owed it to you, not because you are higher in rank than me. That is ridiculous!"

But Edwina doesn't seem to hear her. 

"After Appa died, things changed, Kate."

For the love of God! Kate is so angry she wants to push some sense into her sister, but she doesn't do it. Instead she takes a few steps back. 

Of course things changed after Appa died, but to have Edwina use this to her advantage.. She's astonished by so much evil and stupidity. 

Her sister set her path, and she was going to let her drown in it.

"Yes, walk away. You are good at that, leaving me alone." Edwina hisses. 

"I do not want to do this." Kate evens her tone and for the last time she tries to get through to Edwina. "It does not have to be like this, sister."

"Do you not mean half -sister?"

A loud moan leaves Kate's mouth. Things are going from bad to worse, this is as far as she lets it go and Kate feels stupid about her last attempt.

"Edwina, I hope one day you will fully realize how wrong you are right now." A sudden calmness overcomes Kate. "I cannot help you when you are like this, nor do I want to."

"Seems fitting." Edwina's voice trembles.

"Stop it! I am not done!" Kate hisses back. "You have said what is on your chest, and now I am going to return the favor." She narrows the distance, Edwina is not going to get the chance to back out.

"Your actions and your words, Edwina, are despicable, you do deserve everything that is coming for you. Because let me tell you this, I do not care anymore. I loved you, and you know what, I think I still do. Everything I did was for you. To be rewarded with this much hatred, it only tells me how much time I wasted. You were never going to see me as an equal, you are too arrogant and shallow to acknowledge that the world does not revolve around you. And let me tell you this, keep going like this and you are going to find out the hard way. If you do not change and give me a heartfelt apology, I am going to sit back and watch." Kate spits out the words. "For your sake, I hope you can use your title , but I am afraid that it is all in your head. Nobody gives a thing about it when you are this evil, cruel, person, maybe your ancestors do, but they are not here. Believe me Edwina, good matters and being friendly gets you a whole lot further in life."

Kate knows that the remark about the Sheffield's isn't fair, Edwina doesn't know her grandparents, nor what they did. But Edwina uses her to her advantage, so Kate doesn't feel guilty when she does the same. 

"As for the wedding, come, do not come, I do not care. I will not withdraw your invitation. It will cause scandal, and that is not going to happen on my behalf. So do as you seem fit, either way, I am done."

And with big, steady steps, Kate walks away from her sister.

 

Another night without sleep did not do Kate any good. It was early in the morning, just after dawn when she couldn't stay in bed any longer.

She knows she's not supposed to, but given the circumstances she doesn't care. 

Kate puts on her riding boots, and walks over to her horse.

"Hey there, Mufasa." She whispers in her horse's ear. "Should we go and see if Lord Bridgerton still rides Jack this time of day?"


Chapter Text


With the wind rushing through her hair and the fluttering in her stomach due to the pace she forces Mufasa to ride in, Kate feels more and more at ease. 

It wasn't a surprise her sister was troubled, she knew that from the moment she showed her true colors, but hearing Edwina saying all her twisted thoughts aloud, Kate has to admit that it hit a nerve.

All she was longing for was to talk to Anthony. Kate is aware they still need to talk about a lot, but he was the person who could comfort her with a single glimpse, and she needs to feel some right now.

It was a wild guess, she wasn't sure if he'll be there, but she has to try. 

 

When Kate arrives at the spot she met Anthony two times before, he wasn't there. Something heavy drops in her stomach, it would have been too good, a thing maybe she doesn't even deserve. 

Kate gets off her horse either way, she's in need of some rest and so is Mufasa. She secures his reins at a tree and when her horse starts to drink out of the creek, she washes her hands in it too. 

The cold sensation runs through her, and when she pads some in her neck she hears the characteristic sound of hooves in the distance. 

"Anthony," Kate whispers and when she sees him coming towards her everything begins to tinkle. 

Of course he comes, he is as devoted to her as she is to him .

"Miss Sharma, what a coincidence, running into you." With a smooth sweep of his leg Anthony jumps off his horse. "I missed you yesterday though.." He says softly.

Kate watches how he fastens Jack next to Mufasa. His strong hands tie the knots with fast and confident motions, leaving Kate a little breathless.

"I am sorry, it is hard to get out of the house unnoticed," Kate still gasps a little. 

Anthony grins, he seems very aware of Kate's stares, because he runs his hands through his hair slowly. 

"I figured that much, but you are here now." 

"I am…" Kate says, and because she craved his touch all night, she goes after her longing and wraps her arms around him. His arms follow her movement, he isn't surprised at all, Anthony just holds her tight. 

Kate breaths in his scent, all spicy and comforting, and she would swear he does the same with her.

"Kate, what is going on? Are you unwell?" Anthony says against her temple, his lips scratch against her skin lightly and his arms are about to let go of her.

"Not yet," Kate begs, "Please."

Kate feels Anthony nods against her head and he puts more pressure on his lips and kisses her forehead. "Okay…" He breathes out and kisses her again. "It is okay." 

He holds her until Kate is the one that lifts her head to look at him. "Thank you," she sighs. "You have no idea how much I needed that." 

Anthony's eyes keep looking at her solicitously, Kate can tell he wants to ask but she knows she has to start this conversation herself.

"It is Edwina," she says with an uneven voice. "My sister and I had a talk, and it did not go well."

"Ah, I see." Anthony nods his head in understanding. "Do you want to tell me about it?"

"I need to." Kate can't stop sighing. "I owe you an explanation, and it all starts and ends with my sister."

Kate had gone over how she could tell him various times, but now that she has to do it, she finds it hard to start. Kate wants to be as honest as possible, without hurting him further. 

"Katie," Anthony blows another kiss in her hair. "Clear your heart, you will feel so much lighter when you are done, I promise I can take it." 

And she believed him, how could she not? Anthony has always been true to his words, so at this point she's just debating on how much she should tell him.

Last night, Edwina made it so much worse, and for Kate it justified her actions in tenfold, but it requires more context, about her youth, about her birth mother and father and all of her grief, and she's not sure if she can talk without crying.

"I imagine the fight with your sister runs deeper? It is not just about me?" Anthony lets go of her, and for a minute Kate starts to panic, but when he takes off his coat and puts it on the ground before him, the feeling disappears. Anthony sits down and opens his legs for her to sit on his coat and in between them. Kate follows his lead and sits down on his blue coat. The gesture makes her more relaxed, she can do this, her future husband won't judge her. He already guessed there was so much more going on and he deserves to hear it all.

"It is not pretty," Kate warns him. 

"Luckily you are then, makes up for it, at least to me," he laughs softly and continues on a more serious note; "We all have a past we take with us, I know I do…" His forearms are pressed around her shoulders, and Kate lets herself rest against his chest. With him all around her like some sort of protection, she starts to talk.

She tells him all, about how she never knew her birth mother, how Mary was the only mother she ever had. How until recently she felt included but now she feels alone around her family. How close she was with her father, how good he provided for them, and that she promised him his girls would be safe after his inevitable passing, that everything she did after he died was for him and to live up to that promise.

"And now I feel so guilty, because I failed him, I failed my family." Kate starts sobbing for real but the safety she feels because Anthony doesn't flinch, and just listens, gives her the power to proceed. "All I needed to do was keep everything the same, and we would have made it. I would have secured Edwina's future, and with that mine and my mother's. But I realized that it was making me unhappy, so I let go, just a little, and I did not foresee, nor do I understand the mess it created once I started living." Kate wipes her face clean and feels how Anthony pulls her in even closer.

"And I know I should feel guilty towards them too. I should not have used you to make a point to Edwina. But she was so infuriatingly spoiled and arrogant. She put me in a corner of self loathing and expected me to stand still, and take it all. But I did not, and I found you in the proces, and for that I can never be sad." 

"Me neither," Anthony says softly in her ear.

"I just wanted to prove I could get courted too, you were not looking for love, so I did not think it would hurt, using you to make a point." Kate turns around in his arms so she faces him.

"I am beyond sorry if I caused you pain. I ignored my feelings for too long, because I have liked you from the first time we danced together. I should have stopped, picked another gentlemen perhaps."

"Kate!" Anthony seems activated by the thought. "Do not ever say that again." He lifts her chin with his fingers. "I get it , do you hear me, I understand why you did it. And I'm so glad you chose me to do it, because the two of us falling in love is the best collateral damage I can imagine." He leans in and kisses the tip of her nose. Their faces stay close, Kate sees his characteristic dimples and she caresses them with her fingertips. 

"Standing up for yourself is never for nothing." Anthony smiles so sweetly he looks years younger.

"But why do I feel like I betrayed them all?"

"You should not, not in the slightest, although I can understand why you feel that way."

"I should not feel guilty?" Kate frowns, she doesn't take him seriously.

"Yes, Kate. I think you are looking at it wrongly," Anthony says with a stern voice.

The way her name comes from his mouth, it still sends shivers down her spine, she hangs on every word after. 

"Your father meant you as well, he wanted you to have the best life imaginable. I am convinced he did, because that's what good fathers do. It took me years to learn this myself. It is easier said than done, I know."

His last words almost disappear because he whispers so close against her hair so the sound has almost no opportunity to travel, but Kate is hearing it, there's no way she can't. His soft voice soothes her mind, like medicine for the soul. And he speaks with such surety, Kate can't help herself and actually opens up her heart and starts to believe him. So when she hears and sees how it hurts him to say that's what good fathers do , it's Kate's turn to comfort him. She takes his face into both hands and leans in for a kiss. It's sweet and soft and when Kate ends it, it's clear it worked. The dimples in his cheeks are reappearing and the crease between his brows is gone.

"He did not want you to stand in the shadows, nor did he wish for you to stand back and watch Edwina get everything that you have worked for."

"I mean… maybe?" Kate mumbles, Anthony makes it sound so easy, so matter of factly that it almost feels dumb to doubt it.

"Not maybe, definitely…" Anthony sighs. "Kate, your sister has problems that go beyond you being independent. I think with you changing, you may have pushed her to open up as well, only in her case it is not good."

Kate laughs sarcastically, "You can say that much."

Anthony laughs too but his face turns seriously very quickly.

"Kate, you are not responsible for her actions, you never were, you did your part by bringing your sister here, surrounded by enough eligible gentlemen to choose from. You prepared her so well she was named the Diamond, for God's sakes. You gave her a list of eligible bachelors, and you repeatedly told her you would still help her. Miss Edwina chose to ignore this, as did your mother if I may say so."

"You are allowed, you are going to be my husband in a few days." Kate tries to lighten the mood by making a joke. 

"Kate, do not ignore this. It is important." Anthony raises his voice a little. "Miss Edwina is the one that needs to feel guilty, for lacking to acknowledge all that you did, Lady Mary as well, for she is the one that was supposed to be in charge after all."

"If I let her, we would not have made it." Kate feels how her cheeks get wet instantly. 

"See, that is what I mean, you saved them." 

Kate nods, she knows he's right, and for the first time she feels it too. 

"As you saved yours?" She asks carefully. "You speak with such knowledge, I aim to believe this is why?"

Anthony doesn't respond right away, but his eyes never leave hers.

"I think you could say so." He shrugs a little. "But I was older, and I never faced such resentments," Anthony says. "Most of the time, they do not like me as their caregiver but they are never disrespectful in the manner your mother and sister are."

"They love you, I can see it." Kate puts her hands on his face again. "They might not show it all the time, but it is as clear as night and day to me. My talk with them yesterday straightens my beliefs." She thinks back at the meeting she had with the four youngest, and she can't help but smirk.

"Why are you laughing like this, Kate?" Anthony raises his eyebrows, "I do not think I like where this is going." 

"You might be right about that, My Lord." Kate grins and she tries to get away from him. 

"Kate!" He playfully grabs her arms and tries to prevent her from leaving his embrace. "Tell me why you have such a devilish laugh on your face."

"That is for me to know…" Kate shakes herself free and stands up and starts to run away from him.

"I will get you, Kate!" Anthony laughs out loud and it doesn't take him long before he grabs her by her waist.

"See, I will always catch you." His face softens and he presses his lips on Kate's.

"Are you okay? Feeling better?" He asks while his lips are still on hers. "I love you."

Kate can only nod, gratitude towards this lovely man overwhelms her and she can't believe how lucky she is that he's about to be her husband.





Chapter Text


Kate's glad she's back in time before someone notices her absence. It wouldn't be the worst thing, given the fact she's about to be married in three days, but she can't stand another argument with any of her family members, hence the relief she feels.

Today Kate was going to pack for her new home and her trip to Aubrey Hall where her new life would start. The dresses were already neatly spread throughout the room. They weren't much different from the ones she normally wears but she could see some slight changes. 

Kate was highly embarrassed when her mother spoke to her about her nightgowns and her undergarments. Not that she wasn't ashamed to admit she liked the ones she picked out, it was just not a thing she wanted to talk about with her mother.

In a previous life she would have gone over it with her sister, but those times seem to be long gone.

Luckily I'll gain a new family once I marry Anthony. Kate thinks when she walks over to her wedding dress. It's a light blue one and she doesn't think she has ever seen a dress more beautiful. Kate lightly touches the lacy outlines and shivers with excitement, she can't wait to wear it, it'll be a symbol for all that was and all that will be.

Another person walks into the room, and because it most likely will be Emily, she doesn't step away from the dress.

"You can put it all away, I do not have any comments or things I want to adjust." Kate says when the maid, her new lady maid stands next to her.

"Are you sure?" Emily asks politely, "If you remember anything today let me know, I will be happy to help."

"Thank you so much, but I do not think it will be necessary." Kate points to all the dresses. "How many do you need, really?" Kate starts to giggle and Emily joins in the laughter. 

"I hear your mother say to Lady Bridgerton you would kill her if she made you go to a dress fiting one more time." Emily covers her mouth with her hand, afraid she overshared.

"It is okay," Kate smiles genuinely at the girl, she really came to like her in the short time they've known each other and in a couple of months, the woman probably knew more about her than she did herself, so there really was no need to feel ashamed.

"My mother does know me after all." And the two women share a look of understanding.


 

Kate arrives at Aubrey Hall with Lady Danbury, and from afar she sees how the whole Bridgerton family awaits them.

"They like you a lot," Lady Danbury says amused. "I heard Lady Bridgerton talking to my nephew the other night and everyone is excited that you will be joining the family."

Kate blushes, she's longing to be one of them too, but to hear it's a mutual feeling fills her heart with warmth.

"It is a good family, and I am honored to become one of them." Kate says right before she gets out of the carriage. 

"Kate!" Hyacinth comes running up to her as soon as she sets one foot on the ground. "I am so glad you are here!" 

"Miss Sharma!" With the same amount of joy, but with proper manners, Gregory joins his sister. "We already made sure we can spend some time together this afternoon." He winks and Kate laughs, she knows why the boy points this out and she lowers her voice. 

"Hello there." Kate embraces them both. "I am glad you did. Now make sure your brother is late, so I can grab the mallet before him!"

The two children nod eagerly, and that's all the time they have before Anthony and his mother are beside them.

"Miss Sharma," Anthony greets her and he reaches for her hand to drop a kiss on it. "I hope your travels went well?"

"As good as they could get." Lady Danbury answers on her behalf. "Lord Bridgerton, Lady Bridgerton." She greets their hostesses. 

"Did it not go well?" Worry creeps up at his face. "What was it? Are you ill?" He skips all pretenses and takes both of Kate's hands in his.

"Ahum." Lady Danbury hums. "Keep it together, Lord Bridgerton, she is not your wife yet." But anyone can hear her heart's not in it and she ends her words with a fast wink.

"Make us marry faster then." Anthony says witty. "I would not mind it in the slightest."

"Neither would I." Kate laughs, but out of common decency she lets go of his hands. "This is such a wonderful house. I would love a tour," she says and she looks at her soon to be mother-in-law.

"I would be so happy to give you one, my dear," Violet smiles back at her, "We can do it after you have checked and approved the arrangements I made for tomorrow."

"I would be delighted." Kate says.

"Your mother and sister will be here momentarily, right?" With a hand gesture Violet gently urges them to go inside. "I have arranged a nice chamber for them, I hope they do not mind sleeping together? With so many people attending your wedding I am afraid I do not have one spare room left." 

"I am sure it will suffice." Kate answers on their behalf, she didn't give it too much thought and was too delighted to start worrying about them now.

 

After her approval of dinner and the flower arrangements, Violet keeps true to her word and starts showing her around.

"You have to say where you would like to see some changes, dear. For this will soon be yours." There wasn't resisment in the woman's voice, she truly meant what she said.

"I was wishing for a moment alone with you my dear," she says softly. "I want to thank you."

Kate is looking at some paintings in the large hall but Lady Bridgerton's sencereness draws her attention.

"Oh.." she asks insecurely, not knowing what to think of this yet.

"It is not bad, sweetheart," Violet notices and secures her rapidly. "I am just filled with gratitude, I could not wish for a better person to wed my son," her eyes start to get watery and she continues with a light shaking voice, "my Anthony is not the easiest person, due to many reasons, one of them being my own absence when he needed me the most. He was closed off for a long time, but since he met you he is in a lighter mood, I have never seen him laugh as much after his father died." 

"Oh." Is all Kate manages to say as emotions overwhelmed her. "I see, you do not have to thank me for this.."

"But I do. Because of you he let go of his shield, and his ridiculous thoughts about what he deserves. I did not believe it at first, but he is like the boy he and my belated husband raised again." Violet wipes her eyes. "I have picked up on some troubles regarding you and your family, and I hope I am not overstepping when I say we will always be here for you. We Bridgertons are a lot, we are chaotic and messy, but we do love each other, and once you are in, you are in. "

"I..I.. thank you." Kate stumbles, the words take her off guard, but she embraces the meaning behind it. It is what she felt all day, and since she first met them, they were all so willing to get to know her, to spend time with her, and to hear this from the matriarch herself, it almost makes up for the loss she feels when thinking about her actual relatives.

"It is okay." Violet sees how she's struggling and does nothing, except wait for her to contain herself before they step outside and into the gardens.

"I just needed you to know, before they arrived." She whispers. 

"Thank you." Kate repeats, she feels like she needs to say more, and luckily words of gratitude pop up. "I feel the same way about you, I am so lucky to have found him when I did not know I longed for love." She says when they set foot in the soft, green grass.

"The best things happen when we are not looking for it, dearest." Violet says cheerfully. "I believe that is why the two of you are together now."

"Kate!" Hyacinth was apparently waiting for them outside.

"Hyacinth Bridgerton! That is no way to speak to Miss Sharma!" Violet says sternly. "Please apologize."

"I do not mind, as from tomorrow I would hate it when you keep calling me, Miss, so why not start a day early." Kate truly means this, the formal name calling creates a distance she wants to close, no, needs to. 

"Ah, well." Violet takes her youngest child in her arms. "It is not like things are normal, and if your new sister does not mind, who am I to judge." The woman kisses the girl on her head. "This does not give you a free pass to rebel, do you understand?"

Hyacinth nods quickly at her mother before she turns her attention towards Kate.

"Kate?" She says carefully, "can you come with me? Me and our siblings have something for you."

"If that is fine with your mother, I am all yours." Kate looks at Violet.

"Why do I get the feeling you are up to no good?" She frowns amusingly. "Go, please go." She waves her hand in joy. "I will tell Anthony where you are."

"Do not!" Hyacinth shrieks. "please mother, he will find out eventually, besides, he is with Fran, rehearsing his speech."

"Is that so?" The frown didn't leave Violet's face. "I will pretend I am oblivious to all of this, for I believe I do not wish to know."

"Probably for the best, mother." And the young girl pulls Kate's arm and takes her into the garden.

 

"Here you go." The first thing Francesca does when she sees Kate is push the famous Black Mallet in her hands. "Behold, the Mallet of Death." 

There's four of them present, and all eyes stare at the wooden stick like it's a secret ancient, and holy piece. 

"And I have to get a ball through the little gates, right?" Kate hears herself talk so respectfully, she giggles when she's done. 

This is ridiculous, it's just a game Kate!

Her revelation isn't shared among the others, they give her a sort of offended look when she starts laughing.

"I am taking this seriously, do not question my commitment to our purpose." She puts up a steady face and speaks loud and clear. "Although the feeling that your lives depend on this does not help with the pressure I am already feeling, it is my wedding tomorrow, might I remember you."

"I see," Francesca doesn't seem impressed, "Better start off with a win then."

The rivalry the three share is contagious, so Kate decides to put her doubts aside and enjoys the moment. What will come, will come, but first she has to make sure Anthony's inevitable defeat actually happens.

"Colin and Daphne usually set out the court, and we might have let something slip, so they probably will help you." Gregory says witty. 

"No one can be trusted once playing Pall Mall, Greg, so there is no certainty there." Francesca frowns. "Nevertheless, we are rooting for you."

"And for us." Hyacinth adds with a little concern in her voice.

And back is the pressure.

 

 

"Miss Sharma, we are looking for you." Without anyone noticing The Duke of Hastings suddenly stands beside them.

"The court is set, although it might be interesting, for there seems to be one mallet missing," his gaze glides over Kate and he frowns amusingly when he spots it. "Ah, I see, the little ones have informed. already, great job you guys." He nods his head approvingly at the children. "Saves me some instructions on our way back," he winks at them.

"I assume you gained a thorough gameplan?" He asks Kate.

"Something like that, yes," Kate says, " "anything you want to add is most welcome though, Your Grace." Kate leans on the Mallet and runs a hand through her hair.

"I see what I can contribute on that account, but somehow I believe you will catch up rather quickly." He points to the other end of the garden. "Let us go, your fiance probably joined our little group already and I cannot wait to see his face." 

 

"You must call me Simon," the Duke says when they set pace to the starting point. "We will be family and amongst my family I hate being called out so formally."

"Okay.." Kate hesitates for a moment. "...Simon."

"Good!" He seems pleased.

"Can I ask you something?" Kate asks quickly, this is probably the only time she gets before they're surrounded by Bridgertons. 

"Of course, anything," Simon says politely. 

"I cannot shake the feeling I am being tested," Kate feels her face frown. "What will happen, if I fail the task set upon me?"

Simon stays silent for a while, but then a loud laugh escapes his mouth. "Nothing, I do not like to admit defeat, but you are not the first spouse the three tried this with."

"Really?" Kate cannot believe how honest and open the Duke is, she already liked him but this almost feels like they could become friends, or allies for that matter.

"Oh yes, imagine their disappointment when it turned out I was not any good." 

"They still seem to like you."

Simon nods. "Just try, it will be enough, I assure you."

 

"There you are," Colin says brightly. "Now we only have to wait for our brother and…" the grin on his face increases tremendously when he sees what Kate's been holding. "Ah! Yes! A worthy opponent at last." 

For a second, all eyes are set on Kate but when she blinks, everyone reaches out so fast for the basket it falls over.

"Dammit," Benedict curses. "I need the red one!" 

"Blue!" Daphne bends down, puts the basket straight and grabs a blue mallet.

From afar, they all hear Anthony's loud footsteps coming towards them. 

Everyone hides their mallets behind their backs and at the last moment Kate does too.

"Brother! Good of you to join us," Daphne says. "We have all picked," she waves at the basket. "Good luck with your pink one."

"What? No! Who?" Anthony already stands next to Kate and he was about to greet her but the loss of his Mallet seems to have distracted him.

"I have no idea what you are talking about." Eloise smirks. "Well, stop the stalling, let us begin!"

With a loud sigh and obvious grumble Anthony picks up the pink Mallet.

"Guest first, I assume." Colin says. "Give it your best shot, Miss Sharma."

"Okay, let me see what I can do," Kate grins and slowly she reveals what's behind her.

"No!" Anthony speaks with his jaw clenched. "I cannot believe this, you are scheming with them? Against me?" His eyes grow wide and the annoyance disappears and turns into something more mischievous.

"If this is how we play, prepare yourself, Kate." He leans in and Kate thinks he's sniffing her.

It takes her off guard, and when he also presses his hand on her waist, her head is spinning for real.

"Miss Sharma, focus please," Eloise's loud voice pulls her back into reality. "This is my brother playing, you have to ignore him." it almost sounds like she's pleading.

"Yes, thank you Miss Eloise," Kate takes a few steps away from Anthony. "I will start."

 

Pall Mall is fun! Kate enjoys every second of it, even when it turned out she wasn't any good. She wasn't the worst, but Anthony is way better than most of them so she almost gives up on defeating him.

"Miss Sharma, duck!" Colin screams from afar and yet another ball comes flying in over her head. It stops right before her own, black ball.

"Well, would you look at that?" Colin says amusingly when he walks over to her. "A perfect position to play dirty , but you would not do that, am I right?" He winks at her.

"She will not!" Anthony shouts from where he's standing. "Kate, we play fair, do not listen to him." 

And finally Kate sees what Colin is referring to. The position of his ball set up a perfect position for hers to mess with Anthony. 

"Ah, Lord Bridgerton," Kate sighs. "What will be the fun in playing decently?" And with a heavy swing she pushes her ball.

Odds worked in her favor, because it turned out precisely how she wanted it too. Her black ball pushes his pink one into the bushes.

"I am so sorry, My Lord." Kate pouts. "That was not my intention."

"Yes, sure," he grumbles. "I do not believe this for a second." And he uses his stick to clear a path for him. "I will get my revenge, mark my words."

"When you return from your hike? That is?" Kate smirks, and her witty comment results in laughter all around.

 

Somehow, a while later, Kate herself has to move to the bushes, for Simon knocked her ball into it. He said it was by accident, and although he was the only person who she could believe in this game, at this point, Kate trusts none.

"Ah, my beautiful Kate. Up for some bush activities yourself it seems." Anthony grins when he watches her push some branches out of her way. "How unfortunate." It is clear he doesn't mean it.

"Hush," Kate says. "You are the one who cannot get out of here it seems, I am not staying this long." She swings at her mallet but her ball doesn't get far either.

"I applaud your attempt," Anthony smirks. "But maybe I want to be here, perhaps I was waiting for you." His voice started to sound like a whisper. "Kate, I need you to come over." He begs softly.

"Anthony..." Kate is tempted, but she can't trust her fiance whilst playing, of that much she's sure. 

"Kate, I am serious, I miss you. One kiss, please." He sounds so sincere, and Kate's own longing takes over, she misses him too, being in his presence but not allowed to find comfort in his touch turned out hard.

"Thank God," Anthony says when Kate is close enough to touch. "How I longed to do this all day." And he embraces her and his lips find hers so fast she's gasping in his mouth when they do.

"My beautiful Kate." Anthony breaths out when he breaks off the kiss. "My worthy opponent in all." He kisses the tip of her nose and Kate feels the warmth inside her growing.

"I am not done." Kate wants their moment to last longer and she leans in, grabs his butt and pulls him closer to her before she kisses him again. It satisfies her when Anthony moans loudly in her mouth. 

"I cannot wait for more," she whispers in his ear when she feels his hardness against her hip. "I lay awake at night, thinking about what is to come."

"Kate…" a soft cry escapes Anthony when she rubs her hand at the front of his breeches. "You are making this so hard for me."

"I can feel it." Kate smirks, and she feels her own longing burning in her stomach.

Anthony laughs. "That was not what I meant but okay, fair enough." His hands are on her collarbone and softly they make their way down.

"I want you." He cups one breast above the fabrics. "I cannot wait either." He slides his hands under her dress and caresses the skin. "Tomorrow night all of this is mine." His fingers touch her niple and Kate feels it getting hard and moans loudly in protest when Anthony stops and takes her hand instead.

"Hush, honey," he breathes against her neck. "This," his hand guides her towards the front of his breeches. "This will be yours." 

Instinctively, Kate squeezes it and they kiss each other again, this time with so much haste, longing and passion, they almost forget they are playing a game.

It is when Daphne shouts they stop.

"Hey!" The Duchess says loudly from afar. "We are waiting for you Kate."

With a loud sigh, Anthony lets go of her.

"Tomorrow…" He ends it with a kiss on her cheek. "Just one day, we can do this." 

Kate's under the impression he speaks to himself mostly, but she does agree.

"I hope you still want to marry me though." Kate forces herself to put her game face on again.

"Um? What?" Anthony is startled by the sudden change, but then he sees what she's about to do. "No! Kate!" 

But Kate just blows him a kiss and gives her ball the necessary push and they both watch how Anthony's pink ball falls into the lake.

"Yes!" Kate cheers loudly, and the others join her soon after.

"You menace!" He says with clenched teeth. "My revenge will be sweet! I assure you."

"Brother! You truly have found your equal." Benedict laughs. "Miss Sharma, wonderful, I like you more and more."

 

"Kate!" Hyacinth jumps in her arms, apparently they all watched because with the girl in her arms, Kate sees both Gregory and Francesca are cheering and coming over. "I knew you would not let us down!" 

"This was a set up. I knew it was." Anthony acts as if he's hurt. But they all know better given his proud smile when he looks at Kate and his sister.

"So next time we get to play!" Gregory says jubilantly. "You said it yourself, Anthony."

"We will see about that." But he nods anyway. 

Chapter Text


PART ONE:

 

It was another early rise for Kate, normally she loved being awake before anyone else, but this time she wouldn't have minded a couple more hours of sleep.

Because today was her wedding day. 

Kate is so excited, at this point there was a constant fluttering sensation in her stomach.

She was still nervous though.

After today her life would change tremendously. She would share it with a husband, and her husband will be Viscount Anthony Bridgeton.

Her husband; Lord Bridgerton.

"Kate Bridgerton, Viscountess," she whispers, the sound echoing against the walls.

Finally , she thinks, because even though they were only together for a short time, in her imagination the last couple of days lasted ages.

Some of her anxiousness fades, and Kate leans back against the pillows with a smile on her face.

 

Her mind quickly went back to the evening before. 

All the women came together to celebrate, well, her actually. There was even a small haldi ceremony. 

Her mother really came through for her, she arranged the whole thing.

The female Bridgerton participated as well, the only one who stayed aloof was Edwina.

She just sat there, put up a tiny, insincere smile, and said nothing.

Kate took comfort in the fact that everyone let her be, no one even bothered to comment on it, not even her mother.

But I'm glad she's here . Kate admits to herself. There was no point in denying it, because if somewhere in the future she could make amends with her sister, the thought of not having her present at her wedding, saddens her already.

Not that Kate sees it happening any time soon, someday she hopes it will.

 

"Miss Sharma?" Kate was lost in thoughts, therefore, she is startled when someone knocks on her door. "Are you already awake?"

It was her lady maid.

"Yes, Emily, you can come in," Kate says and she gets out of bed. 

"I just wanted to let you know your bath is ready," Emily holds her robe in her hands and hands it over. "Your mother is waiting, and she wanted me to ask you if your sister could join as well."

Kate sighs loudly and she internally debates the proposition for a moment.

"If she keeps quiet and behaves, she can," Kate answers. "Please make this very clear."

Emily seems surprised, and to be fair, so is Kate. 

Kate had an looming feeling that her sister could easily make a scene today, and if Kate could include Edwina a bit more, maybe she would decrease this chance. 

"I will let them know." Emily nods and when she's gone Kate gets out of her nightgown and into her robe.

 

"Katie, dearest." Her mother stood by the door, it was clear she was waiting for her.

"I am so proud of you," she embraces Kate as soon as the distance between them allows it. "Your father would be too if he was here," she pads on her back a little and Kate feels how her eyes get watery.

She missed her father, she did every day, but today it seems to peak. 

"Me too," her voice is shaky. "I am glad you are here, mother." 

This deserves her another cuddle. 

When her mother releases her she too is crying a little.

"Shall we go inside? Your sister awaits," Mary hesitates for a second. "I hope you meant it when you said she could be here."

"I did," Kate agrees. "I think I need to keep her close," she decides to say, this way her mother can interpret to her own desire.

Mary hums cheerfully, which gives Kate a hint on what she chooses to hear.

Kate lets it go. Today isn't a day she wants to feel torn between fighting and celebrating. 

Today is about her, about Anthony, about the two of them, and her sister wasn't going to ruin it.

 

"How are your chambers?" Kate asks to break the tense silence that fills the room. No one has said a word for ages, only uneasy looks were shared so far.

"Yes, it is a lovely room," Mary is as relieved as she is that there was some opportunity to talk. "I slept very well." She looks at Edwina. "And I think your sister did too."

Edwina keeps her mouth shut and only nods briefly.

"I am glad to hear so," Kate says, she only looks at Mary while she talks.

By now, her mother must realize her true intentions.

Kate has to give it to her, she keeps silent on the matter. Actually, the longer they sit there in their tubs, the more Kate feels that her mother is siding with her.

Finally .

 

"You are really happy, are you not?" her mother asks. They've just stepped out of the bath and now the maids hand them some towels.

"I am," Kate says without thinking. "I knew what I wanted, but I never thought I would be so fortunate to actually find my person." 

In the corner of her eyes she sees how Edwina takes in the words, but again, she keeps silent.

"I remember how it was with Appa ," her mother's eyes start to sparkle. "To be with someone that completes you is what we always wished for you two girls." Mary does try to include Edwina but even she doesn't get a response.

"Edwina," her mother says sharply. "You asked me if you could be here, the least you can do is acknowledge our presence." 

Edwina stands still, Kate can see her sister's head spin. 

A few times Edwina opens up her mouth to speak and after a while words do come out.

"I am glad Kate thinks she got what she deserves," she makes a face that holds still between a smile and a flinch. 

"Well," Kate can't help but smirk. " Now I can proceed, thank you, sister." To prevent it from escalating she puts up a bright face.

"Lady Danbury is waiting for me. So if you excuse me, I have to leave these festivities.

"We will see you at the altar," Mary smiles brightly. "I cannot wait to see you in your dress."

Edwina doesn't do a thing, she just keeps her gaze outside.

Kate shrugs, she didn't expect more and to be honest, Kate doesn't want her too, not when she doesn't mean it.

 

"You look exquisite," Lady Danbury urges Kate to spin around and she does as told.

Her make-up is done, she is in her dress, her hair is neatly up in a way she wants it.

so Kate is satisfied when she sees her reflection in the large mirror.

She's especially fond of her hair and the loose curls that fall out just the way she likes it.

"Are you ready Miss Sharma?" Benedict Bridgerton stands at the other side of the door, for he is the one that will guide her to the altar and walk her down the aisle.

He offered it last night and Kate immediately accepted. She did notice her mother's disapproval when she told her, but it wasn't as if her mother was her biggest supporter. Until recently her mother was only angry at her. Because of this, it would feel a bit wrong if she walked her. Also it meant that Edwina coult pity herself even more, being the only one not included in the wedding. 

Kate simply wasn't up for the drama. 

Again and again the feeling of independence comes in her mind that day.

As if the Haldi ceremony did her work, she was free of her past and today her new life could start.

 

"Mister Bridgerton," Lady Danbury says cheerfully. "She is as ready as one can be." 

The man enters and his eyes grow when he sees her.

"Miss Sharma, you look beautiful," He smiles genuinely back at her.

"Men who walk me down the aisle get to call me by my given name," Kate winks at her soon to be brother-in-law. 

"Fine, Kate," Benedict smirks. "I am looking forward to having you as my sister."

"The feeling is mutual, Benedict."

They both watch Lady Danbury move away. The woman is Kate's witness and therefore she must be going first.

"How is Anthony?" Kate asks Benedict who was peeking out a window to see if they were ready for them already.

"My brother is fine," Benedict assures her. "Honestly, I expected the both of you to be nervous wrecks." He scuffs lightly. "Understand my amazement to see both my brother and you acting so calmly."

"It is the easiest thing I will ever do," Kate simply says. "I do not know how to explain this, Benedict. I only hope for you to experience it for yourself sometimes."

He nods with his mouth a bit open, as if he was surprised by her declaration. "Anthony said something equal to me." 

"Then I guess it must be true," Kate rolls her eyes and they both start to laugh.

"I think that is our cue," Benedict says when someone knocks on the window.

He takes her arm in his and slowly they set pace to the gardens.

 

The setting is beautiful, it's everything Kate wants. 

Only their families are present for the ceremony, so there really is no reason to be extra anxious. 

Kate feels this way up until she comes around the corner and she is able to see him .

Anthony.

He looks absolutely gorgeous, Kate thinks she's never seen him this beautiful. 

While she walks over to him, he smiles so widely, he looks ten years younger.

The dimples in his cheeks, the crease between his brows, all what makes him so typically Anthony , is there.

He's standing next to Simon and across from Lady Danbury. 

For the first time that day and due the fluttering sensation that runs through her body, Kate's legs feel a little wobbly. 

She holds tighter onto Benedict, who fastens his grip on her the moment he realizes.

"Hello," Anthony greets her with the biggest smile Kate has ever seen upon his face. "You look lovely."

"Thank you, My Lord," Kate says when she turns around to face him, and all of the sudden, most of her nerves fade away.

 

The ceremony was brief, so half an hour later they were husband and wife.

Normally they would host a celebratory breakfast where people could come to congratulate them, but since tonight was the annual hearts and flowers ball, it wasn't doable. 

Violet didn't like it at first but at one point she chose to use it to her advantage and changed the theme of the feast, now the hearts and flowers ball was also to celebrate their marriage.

 

"Are you okay?" Anthony hasn't let go of her hand from the moment they were wed, and Kate is convinced he wasn't planning on doing it soon.

She doesn't mind at all.

"I am, and you?" Kate enjoys the sensation of publicly being able to touch him, even if it's just by holding his hand amongst their families. " Husband ." 

"Ah, dear wife, I do not think I have been this content before," Anthony smirks. "Do you want to have some wedding cake?" 

They both look at the giant fruitcake on the buffet table.

"Ah, yes, something to eat would be wise." Kate squeezes his hand.

"Go sit, I will get you something." Anthony waves at two seats next to them. "I won't be long."

Kate laughs, she knows why he says it, because she feels it too. 

That doesn't mean it isn't ridiculous they already miss each other from the moment he let go of her hand.

Kate watches how Anthony grabs them some food and her eyes trail over the rest of the people present.

Her mother is talking amusingly with Lady Bridgerton, the three youngest play with Newton, Benedict and Eloise are in conversation and even Edwina seems to enjoy herself with the Duchess.

Even though Kate is pleased to see everyone's having a great time, in a way it's maddening too. 

She wants to be alone with Anthony. 

Kate feels the urge to sigh but she holds it inside. 

This is a logical consequence of their haste, so she has to maintain herself.

She finds Anthony's gaze, he is looking at her, like he always seems to be doing.

A tiny lift of his eyebrows tells her he knows exactly what she's been thinking of, and when he ends it with a rapid wink, Kate feels her cheeks flush.

"Soon," Anthony says softly in her ear when he leans over to set their plaids on the table. "Soon…" he repeats himself.




"Kate?" Kate is on her way to the bathroom when she gets interrupted by her sister. 

A little startled Kate stops.

"Yes, what is the matter, Edwina?" Kate frowns. "I have haste," Kate points to the house to make her intentions clear. "If it can wait, I appreciate it."

Kate sees her sister understands.

"I will walk with you then," Before Kate can comprehend what's happening Edwina already starts to move forward.

"I wanted to congratulate you," Her sister still doesn't look at her, but her tone is more sincere than Kate has heard in a long time.

"Ah," is all Kate manages to say.

"You do not have to believe me," Edwina says insecurely, "But it is the truth."

"It is a little hard," Kate admits. She doesn't plan on sparing her sister. "Why now? Why here?" 

The fact that her sister chose a spot where they were alone makes Kate feel uneasy. The setting in the garden was perfect for a felicitation, given the fact her sister betrayed her trust so many times, Kate feels all her muscles tighten and she embraces herself for what's to come.

"I was afraid you wouldn't want to face me with everyone around," Edwina says reluctantly. 

"That is ridiculous," they've entered the house and with big steps Kate sets pace to the bathroom. Anger wells up in her stomach and she's glad in a few seconds she's about to be alone for a minute.

"I am sorry, sister…" She hears just before she closes the door.

 

Kate takes her time to gather her thoughts. 

She doesn't want this, she doesn't want to be forced on her wedding day to make amends with her sister. If that's even possible. 

The anger doesn't disappear, in fact, it only increases.

With big motions she makes her way back to her sister.

Edwina still stands in the same spot, with her back leaning against a wall.

"Took you long enough," Edwina tries to make a little joke. "You must have guessed by now that I was hoping to talk to you…"

Kate can't move, she's too astonished by the fact Edwina actually goes through with it.

"I was not in a good place. I am now. And I see that I…" 

Kate lifts her hand, "Stop!" she says firmly.

Edwina gasps in shock.

"Kate…" Edwina blushes. "I thought.. I thought this is what you wanted me to do."

Kate feels how anger takes over her body and to contain it she clenches her fist.

"It was," she speaks with grinded teeth. "Last week, even yesterday, I would have granted you a moment." 

Edwina folds her arms, soon but steadily, her open attitude vanishes into the arrogance Kate came to be familiar with.

"But the fact that you chose today, this moment…" Kate waves her hands imperiously in the air. "It confirms my beliefs. You are not thinking about what is best for me."

"Kate! That is not true," Edwina raises her voice. "I could have said nothing!"

"I seriously wished you did," Kate meets her sister's tone.

"Why?" Confusion takes over Edwina's expression.

"If you truly had my best interest at heart, you would have never thought today was a good day," Kate hisses. "Why you believe now is as good a time as many to let go of some of your guilt, only proves how incredibly self involved you are."

"I did not think about it like that," Edwina spits out. "Why do you always assume the worst, Kate? That too is very troubling"

"Because you have given me every reason to do so!" 

"Ah, and I suppose you are the only victim."

"I was not speaking about blame and suffering…" Kate hears a noise and when she looks into the direction of the sound, she spots Anthony.

He nods quickly, in his eyes she sees she needs to continue.

It gives her the last push to utter it all.

"If you cannot see why it is disturbing, we are done talking." It's clear Edwina hasn't seen her husband yet.

"Please try," Edwina says caressley. "I am curious to hear."

"If we are going to talk, it will be on my terms, this is supposed to be my day. As a bride I have no need to be occupied with anything other than enjoying my loved ones, my husband. You are way more selfish than I thought, and beyond redemption might I add, if this is news to you."

"Talk about selfishness…" Edwina hisses. "Today is my day, I am a bride, the world revolves around me." With a childish voice her sister repeats her words.

"Now I know why you wanted to talk to me in private," Kate feels a chilly feeling consume her, her sister has reached a new level of vileness. 

Due to that, her last bit of sympathy disappears. "You did not want to take the risk of anyone overhearing you, our mother in particular."

"May I remember you, she is only my mother in blood."

Kate never thought of herself as violent, but at this moment she wants to slap her sister, so she takes a step in her direction.

"That is ENOUGH," Anthony's deep and mostly loud voice saves her from going through with it.

"Miss Edwina," Anthony might be a bit calmer than she is, he's still panting and he looks furious at her sister. "I hereby demand you to take your leave." 

"Lord Bridgerton," Edwina immediately pouts and tries to look as innocent as possible. "We were just joking."

"I do not approve of such a sense of humor in my house," He grunts. "I am serious, I will send a maid to your room who helps you pack." He wraps his arms around Kate and squeezes her side.

"Yes." Kate understands his intention. "We only want to be around supporting people today. And since you are not one of them, it is best for all if you go."

Edwina admits defeat by stopping looking innocent at them with her big eyes and instead she's narrowing them.

"Fine," she mumbles. "Fine, if anyone sends word to help my Mother, we will be gone before you know it."

"There is no need for that," Kate and Anthony speak in one tone. 

They look at each other and even now they start to laugh loudly.

Edwina stares at them as if they have lost their minds.

"I will get her myself then," and she tries to move along them.

"Stop it, Miss Edwina," Anthony prevents her from going any further by blocking her way with his body. "We want the mother of my wife here. She is not part of the problem and there is no reason she should be punished for your bad behavior."

Kate nods eagerly when Edwina looks at her for conformity. 

"For the love of God…" Edwina shouts.

"Goodbye, Edwina." Kate waves at her.

 

And with her arm tightly on her waist, both she and her husband watch her disappear.


Chapter Text


"How are you?" Anthony's hand is around Kate's waist and he caresses her lower back. "I hope I did not overstep, but I could not hold my anger inside." 

Kate leans in so his grip on her gets tighter. She rests her head on his shoulder and his sweet scent, she instantly feels comforted by it.

"It is okay, Anthony. I was about to attack her, so really, I am glad you intervened." She smiles a sad grin against his chest. Even though Kate knows it's for the best, it was a pity it had to come to this.

"That is exactly why I interrupted," Anthony drops a kiss in her hair. "This way the blame lies only on her, for her to have the opportunity to make you equally guilty, it is not something she deserves."

"You are truly the nicest man in England," Kate looks up and caresses his cheek. "I love you, Lord Bridgerton." Kate stands on her toes to give him a kiss.

"Lady Bridgerton," Anthony breathes out softly. "You deserve nothing less." He shifts his arms so they support her waist even more. "I think I need to show you just how much," he softly demands her to walk backwards and when Kate feels her back rest against a wall she wraps her arms around her husband's neck. 

"Is that so," Kate smiles at him. "And how are you planning to do this?" 

Anthony smirks and lowers his head.

The first quick kiss he gives her is just beside her mouth, only to smile in her mouth when his lips are on hers soon after.

"As much as it pains me too, it pleases me to feel you are as impatient as I am, Lady Bridgerton," he whispers. "I am going to give you anything you want tonight," he cups her butt. "We have to make it through somehow," 

His hips grind against hers, Kate feels his hardness and moans with anticipation. "If you truly want to make me happy," Kate says with gasping breaths. "You will not let me wait. I want to be yours, in every way that matters."

This time it's Anthony's way to groan. Kate sees he's clenching his jaw and how much effort it costs her husband to contain himself.

"You already have me," Anthony says softly. "I am yours, I was yours from the moment we danced together," He kisses her cheek. "That being said, I too cannot wait.." their lips find each other once more.

 

"Kate?" Her mother is the first person they see when they make their way back to the terrace. "Have either of you seen your sister?" 

Kate feels something heavy in her stomach, she wants to believe her mother will back her up in situations like these, but she isn't sure. 

Anthony squeezes her arm softly, with this Kate feels a little more secure so she clears her throat.

"I told her to leave," because she doesn't want there to be room for doubt Kate keeps her voice steady. "We both did actually."

"What? Why?" Mary gives her a worrying look. "What did she do now?"

To Kate's surprise there's no hesitation or suspicion towards her in her eyes. 

"She does not want to be here, and she told us this much in a troubling way," Kate says, although she tries to be firm and direct, it's clear she's hurt.

"Sweetheart," Mary grabs her hands. "It is your wedding day, only people who want to celebrate this happy occasion with you should be here." 

"Do you really think so?" Kate feels her hands shake. "I.. why can she not.."

"Kate, stop this," Mary says sternly. "Try to focus on your husband, on your happiness. Let me deal with your sister." Her eyes turn to Anthony. "I suppose you want me to keep an eye on my daughter?" The sadness evident in her words and her mother's shoulders drop.

"We do not want you to leave," Kate says directly. "Right, Anthony? Edwina will be escorted, she is not alone?"

Anthony nods. "She is taken care of, you do not have to leave to escort her." 

"I see." Her mother clearly hesitates.

"I want you here." Kate doesn't want to beg but her tone is a bit desperate. 

Somehow the next seconds are decisive, her mother must make a choice, between her and Edwina and if she chooses Edwina over her, it can only be seen as a silent disapproval towards her. 

Then I truly lost them both. Kate feels dizzy, the anticipation is killing her. She wants to hold onto what's left of her family, but not at all costs.

If her mother wants to be with Edwina, she isn't going to let it ruin her life.

I have a new family now.

"Mom," Kate says once more, the words leave her mouth even though she doesn't want them too. "Please." 

Mary takes a deep breath. Her hands tremble too, Kate feels them shaking in hers.

"Kate, dearest," her mother's cheeks get wet with tears. "There is no way I want to miss your biggest day." 

The knot in her stomach loosens after her mother's words. It disappears completely when her mother takes her in her arms and runs smooth circles on her back. 

"I am going to talk to her, though I promise I will be back," Mary says, still a little anxious. "Are you in agreement?"

Kate just nods her head in her mothers embrace. 

"It will not take long. I love my daughters the same amount, but she is out of control, and I will tell her this much." 

Kate isn't sad or frustrated anymore, so the sob she utters is filled with relief.

Her mother came through for her, and in this brief moment, Kate allows herself to feel like a child again.



X



It was late, too late if Kate was concerned. All she wants for the last hour and a half is to leave the people behind and spend the rest of what was left of the evening with her husband.

Kate Bridgerton, née Sharma, longs for a moment alone with him. 

She doesn't want to share him any longer. 

Sure, she had a good time. The best of times really. 

All good things must come to an end, and she wanted the even better times to start right now.

Tonight is the beginning of the life she wants. 

They would not be as alone as she wished for, given the fact all the guests would sleep in the same house.

Kate longs for some time together, just the two of them. Being able to speak with him, let alone kiss him, is all she asks for at the moment.

Tomorrow when the guests and his family leave, their honeymoon starts. 

Tonight was just the end of her loneliness, because as of now, she was the wife of the best man alive.

Kate is a Viscountess now, Lady Bridgerton. Head of a household.

It needs to be celebrated. 

 

Kate already saw her husband, he was standing with his two brothers and mother at the edge of the ballroom. 

The looks they shared told her everything, he wants to go away just as bad.

"Kate," Lady Danbury stands next to her and follows her gaze. "As much as I love young love. Please take it down a notch, I can feel the tension standing just beside you." The woman doesn't really mean it, the grin on her face tells Kate this much. 

"I am sorry," Kate says with little effort to sound sincere. "It is just hard. I want to go but apparently we cannot."

"I fail to see why not?" Lady Danbury smirks. "It is late enough, please be a little selfish today."

Kate expected a lot, but this wasn't one of the things she would've predicted the woman to say.

"We are the only ones that know you are staying here, as far as I can tell people will assume you must leave for another destination." This time it's her mother who speaks. Kate didn't see her returning, the last time she had seen her mother, she was laughing and talking with Violet Bridgerton.

"Okay…" Kate says carefully. "Well, if you two insist.." 

"That is not what we said, dear," Mary frowns. "We are just pointing out you can go if you want."

"You are correct," Kate sighs. "Thank you for today, the both of you," she looks from one woman to the other. "I would not have known what to do without you."

"Sweetheart…" Mary laughs affectionately. "This is what mothers do." 

And you didn't disappoint. Kate thinks while feeling a bit guilty for doubting her mother.

Her mother closes the distance between them. Kate sees how she looks around first before she narrows her eyes and comes even closer.

"You know what comes next, right? When you’re alone with Lord Bridgerton. I am not wrong to assume I do not need to talk to you?"

"Mother!" Kate feels her cheeks flush, uncomfortably she humps from one feet to another. 

"You are in the right, and I hardly think this was the moment to tell me about it." Kate hisses. 

In a way her mothers timing is off, and in a way it's completely logical. 

It took them so long to reconcile, maybe this is the first time her mother feels enough courage to bring it up.

"So I do not have to worry?" Mary stares directly into her eyes, guilt clearly visible.

"Mother, please. Stop this," Kate says sternly. "It will be okay. I trust him." 

At this point her cheeks are as red as they could be. 

"I have to go."

Without looking back at them, Kate makes her way out of the room.

 

She needs a moment to contain herself. The startling feeling that took over her mind had to come down a bit first.

Kate wasn't nervous until moments before, it was only after her mother said those things some anxiousness slipped through.

Kate has heard the stories from afar. Women that talked to each other about being with a man, how hard it was for some, how glad they were when they'd given their husband a heir.

Kate always thought they were unlucky, she was sure that wasn't how it was meant to be.

Her parents loved each other dearly, they were close, intimate, cheerful. 

Kate looked up to them, put them on a pedestal.  

So why did Mary feel the need to bring it up?

She praised Anthony, she acknowledged how good they were together.

Kate relished in her compliments, with her mothers compliments she felt relieved she found something that she believed she could compare to the marriage that her parents had.

Was there more? Things she didn't know?

Don't start now Kate! She tells herself. Think about how good it felt the other day. 

Her husband's soft hands, his bright eyes, his whispers. 

The memory comes back to her, and even the visualization of him makes her more at ease.

I love him, he loves me. This can't be a bad thing.

 

"Viscountess," a deep and rich voice brings her back into reality. "There you are."

Anthony immediately wraps his arms around her. 

"I took the liberty of excusing ourselves to my mother," he trails down her neck with his nose while he inhales her scent, the light touch already sends shivers down Kate's spine. "She wishes us a good night, and looks forward to next week when we will see her again."

"How polite of you," Kate tries to make a joke when she puts her arms around his neck. "So we do not have to go back?" She hates how tiny her voice sounds, but she can't help it.

"Unless you want to," Anthony stops and pulls his head back to meet her eyes. "We can do whatever you want Kate."

Kate is overwhelmed with emotions, the earnestness of Anthony's expresion make her feel so cherished, all of her doubts in regard of what was about to come next, disappear with one glimpse at her husband.

"I want to be with you," Kate says while she presses her lips on his neck. "Please take me to your room."

"Our room, Katie. All of this is ours now," Anthony's voice crackles too. 

 

Anthony closes the door after Kate. His hand was on her lower back the entire way to the chamber, softly caressing and running smooth circles.

"We do not have to do anything you do not want tonight," he says when the door locks. "Not having to say goodbye to you can be enough this evening." 

"Anthony," Kate's breath catches in her throat. "I.. I.. this is.." she runs her fingers through her hair.

"You can say it, love," Anthony removes his hand and strokes her cheek. "There will be no judgment, or disappointment, I promise." He lifts her chin up with his forefinger and Kate sees he means every word.

"I do not want to wait," Kate manages to say. "Do not make me wait."

Anthony smiles so bright his whole face lights up. He softly nods with joy and pulls her closer. "Then just say what you want, and tell me to stop when it does not feel good." He presses his lips just next to hers. Kate had her lips already parted, anticipating a kiss on them.

She groans when Anthony ignores this and kisses the other side.

"So impatient," he smirks. "We have all night my love, and I want to kiss every inch of your body."

Kate moans again, she doesn't feel like waiting all night and she wishes she knew what to do to speed up the process. It all faded away the moment her husband came this close.

Think Kate! She forces herself to collect her thoughts. Touch him.

It takes her a few excruciating seconds to get her hands to do what her brain wants, but eventually her hands find their way into his hair. 

Anthony is startled by her movements. She notices his unsteady breath, it only lasts a moment so the moment he lifts her to walk with her to the bed, a gasp escapes Kate's mouth.

"I love you," Anthony whispers in her hair when he lays her down onto the mattress. "Are you still okay?" He asks carefully when her back hits the soft underground.

"You do not have to ask every time…" Kate grins. "I will tell you when I am not."

She touches his hips and urges him to move over so he's on top of her.

"Kate," he cries softly. "I might theoretically know what to do…" he puts some pressure on his hips to confirm his words. "But I too have never felt like this before, so bear with me."

"What do you mean?" Kate freezes beneath him. "Is this not good for you?"

It hasn't crossed Kate's mind that it might not feel right for him . Suddenly she feels selfish.

"God no, this is incredible." Anthony says within seconds. "It is just, I love you, I have never loved anyone who I have... well, been with, so I need this to be as perfect as it can be, for you." Kate spots the tears in his eyes before he kisses her. 

"Anthony," Kate whispers. "I love you too, I trust you. I need you to show me."

Anthony lifts his head. 

"Okay, okay," he agrees with a twinkle in his brown eyes. The crease between his eyebrows disappears and his face relaxes more. 

"Let us start." 

There isn't any time for Kate to react. Her words made the wanted impact, because the pressure Anthony puts on his lips isn't soft and sweet like before.

Kate can almost taste the urge. 

He softly demands her lips to part and then his tongue enters her mouth and licks hers.

At the same time his hands find a way to her neck, they stroke her skin, and slow but steady they move lower.

When they reach her breasts he cups them above the fabric. Not hard but the sensation that runs to Kate's body makes her shiver nonetheless.

Anthony stops kissing her for a moment and moves his head back.

"Kate," he asks softly. "Can I see you?" 

"Yes," with an uneven breath Kate starts to take her dress off. He doesn't have to be more specific. She wants more contact too. 

Anthony laughs and smirks. "I thought I wanted to do this," he leans back against the pillows and puts his arms behind his head. "I was wrong, watching you undress yourself for me is quite satisfying."

Kate sticks her tongue out at him.

"I suggest you do the same," she says, feeling bold and brave.

Anthony's mouth drops in surprise, but he contains himself quickly. "Anything for my lovely wife." And he starts to untie his cravat and open the buttons of his jacket.

Their eyes are locked. The intimacy of undressing while the other one watches makes her feel fragile and strong at the same time.

It is Anthony who's naked first. He sees how Kate takes in the sight. 

She hasn't seen a bare man before, she didn't know what to expect but the beauty of her husband takes away her breath.

"You.. you are.." she breathes out. "The most lovely thing I have ever seen."

Anthony smiles with red cheeks. 

"Can I help you?" He lightly touches her bodice, it is the last thing Kate's wearing. 

Kate nods, failing to come up with words.

Together they untie the knots and Anthony helps Kate get out of the thing.

"You are incredible," Anthony clears his throat. "Kate. I need to feel you." His hand is just above her stomach, so close Kate feels the warmth but not the touch. "Can I?"

"Yes Anthony," Kate takes his face in her hands. "Please."

He lowers her hand after her consent. 

"You are just as soft as I imagined," Anthony tickles her belly, and moves his hands towards her breasts.

"And your breasts are just as full and round as I thought." He cups them while he gets up and comes lying above her. 

Kate moans when she feels his skin on hers. 

Finally. 

She didn't realize how much she wanted this.

"And your nipples are as beautiful as I hoped." His lips are on them and he starts to lick and suck her left nipple.

Kate moans, loudly.

"You like this?" The question isn't carefully asked, this time Anthony is playful and naughty.

Kate groans again.

He bites her breasts lightly.

"I asked you something, Katie. Do you like this?" Each word is interrupted by a kiss on her breast.

"I do.. Anthony, I do." Kate answers him.

"I thought so."

His mouth doesn't leave her chests, but his hands travel downwards.

Instinctively Kate opens her legs when he caresses her inner thigh. 

"Yes, just like that," Antony sighs. He lightly strokes her folds. "God, you are so wet already," Kate feels him smile approvingly against her skin. "I love how ready you are for me."

Kate's eyes roll back in her head when he puts more pressure on his fingers. The tickling sensation turns into something deeper

Anticipation builds and builds somewhere deep in her stomach.

"Anthony…" she moans, she opens her eyes, Anthony watches her with an open mouth, and Kate can only bite her lip to keep her volume down. "Please.." she doesn't know what she's begging for but her husband seems to know the answer nonetheless. He enters her with his finger and Kate can't keep her eyes open anymore.

"Kate," Anthony says firmly. "Look at me." 

Kate tries to her best of her abilities, but Anthony makes it so hard with his steady movements. 

"Good," Anthony seems satisfied with her attempt, suddenly he's right before her and he kisses her fiercely. 

"I want to taste you. Can I make you feel good?" He asks with his mouth still on hers.

Kate nods, she doesn't know what he means exactly, but it can only be good, of that she's sure.

"Relax Katie," Anthony leaves a trail of kisses from her neck to her thigh. 

He lifts her legs and bends them so they're over his shoulders

Kate now knows what he means. This is good , the best she's ever felt actually. 

So when his mouth is on her core, she screams her approval.

Kate is sure she's never been so aroused her whole life.

Anthony licks, sucks and kisses her and when his tongue enters her, she's almost sure she's going to die.

Die from pleasure.

"Anthony…" she screams. "I.."

His fingers start to move over her, encouraging her to fall apart. 

"Kate, let go. Come for me." 

And she does.

Wave after wave of pleasure makes her shake and shiver.

"You taste so good." Anthony works her through it. And only when she stops shaking and her body feels like pudding in his strong arms, he moves his head up from between her legs. "That was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen." Anthony peppers her face with kisses. 

"I want you to feel as good as I did," Kate isn't done, she leans on her elbows and she kisses him back, tasting herself on his tongue. "Can I?"

"My love," Anthony grabs her by her hips and softly forces her on top. "We have years and years to come, we do not have to rush things."

Kate's eyes grow with anticipation, she feels his cock harden against her hip. 

She loves how slowly Anthony wants to take things, but it isn't enough, she wants him. All of him.

"I want more…" she whispers, almost drowning in his eyes. "I need you.. I want to make you feel good."

"I have never felt better," Anthony says, just as softly as she had. 

Kate lifts herself up a bit more and lowers her hand towards his cock. 

"Show me how," she demands.

"Jesus, Kate." He groans loudly when her hand squeezes his cock. 

Kate beams with pride. Somehow she knows what to do and if Anthony's reaction is anything to go by she does it right.

His eyes are closed and his breath starts to get wilder and wilder.

"You have to stop," He takes her hand and moves it away. "If you want me to make love to you, you need to stop." He pants loudly. 

"I am sorry." Kate says, startled. "I did not know…"

"Do not ever say you are sorry for taking what you want when you are with me." Anthony smirks, he seems to have some control back and turns them around so he's on top again.

"I promise to take you slow, but I cannot promise it will not hurt." His lips are on hers and he tickles her side a bit.

He spreads her legs and puts his cock right before her entrance.

"Just tell me when to stop," he says, "promise me, Katie." He looks at her with such earnestness in his eyes Kate immediately agrees.

"I will." She gasps, because when she starts her approval, Anthony moves his hips and begins to enter her.

"Ooh.." Kate moans. "Yes.." she only says, hoping it will encourage her husband to proceed.

"Does this feel okay?" Anthony asks with clenched teeth. Sweat drips appear on his face.

Kate can only nod.

"I am almost there," Anthony groans. "Gosh you are so perfect for me." 

Kate laughs. He's still so sweet with her although she can see how much effort it costs him to not lose himself.

"Oh!" There's a little rush of pain, but it fades as soon as it appears. "Are you?" She wonders but she knows the answer before Anthony can react. 

"Yes," he still says. "How do you feel?"

"Full…" 

Now it's her husband's turn to laugh.

"Good." 

Slowly he starts to grind his hips. Spreading Kate wider and wider until finally there's a sensation inside her that runs even deeper than before.

"Anthony," she moans as she tries to meet his rhythm.

"Kate," he pants approvingly. "You do so good." He increases speed and his mouth finds hers. The kiss deepens and Kate wraps her arms around his neck while he moves faster and faster.

"God, Kate, I cannot, I have to…" he cries.

"It is okay." Kate says softly. "Take what you need. I love you. I love you." She says, almost as a benediction. 

There is something building inside her as well, she felt her walls clench, but it isn't as important as before. 

All she wants is for Anthony to find some relief. Suddenly it feels like the most important thing in the world that he does.

She didn't suspect him to stroke her again. He rubs her nub, making her scream softly against his neck.

"Together…" Anthony pants in her ear just before he licks her earlobe. "I need you to come on my cock." 

He pumps himself harder, faster, and deeper inside her. 

Kate has no control anymore. Anthony knows what he's doing, and before she screams his name out loud her muscles tighten and relax once more.

This takes him over the edge, and before he falls apart he quickly pulls out and spills himself on her stomach.

He too shouts out her name.

 

It takes them a while to gather their breaths. 

"Kate," is the first thing Anthony manages to say. "This was, without a doubt, the best I have ever had."

Kate rolls her eyes. "You do not have to say such a thing. I believe it when you say it was fine."

This brings back some life into Anthony; he rolls to his side and grabs Kate by her waist.

"I mean it Kate," he starts to tickle her. "You are the best thing that ever happened to me, and if you do not believe me I have to show it to you again."

Kate cackles loudly.

"I have nothing against that," she giggles.

 

It is safe to say Lord and Lady Bridgerton didn't get much sleep the first night they spent together as husband and wife.





Chapter Text


"Good morning," Anthony kisses the tip of Kate's head as soon as she opens her eyes. "You're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, did you know that?" He whispers when Kate stretches and yawns. She still feels exhausted but in a good way because last night was amazing.

Today would be even better because finally, they were alone. There would be no one there to interrupt them, no family drama, and no duties to fulfill for the next week and a half.

 

So far she loves everything about her husband, Kate can't wait to find out more, and to be honest, a week sounds way too short.

 

"You look pretty gorgeous yourself," Kate finally manages to say. "I love waking up with your arms around me." She leans in tighter so her fingers can caress his chest.

"I know," Anthony sighed. "I can get used to this," he presses his lips on her cheek. 

"How are you feeling?" Anthony asks softly. "After last night?"

Kate feels her cheeks flush when she remembers all the closeness and how it made them connect on a whole other level.

"I am the luckiest person alive," Kate smiles widely at her husband. 

Anthony looks pleased. He starts to tickle her side while at the same time his lips move down to her neck.

"You are about to get even luckier," he breathes against her skin. "I love you, Katie."

 

They spent the next couple of days in complete marital bliss. Every look they share is a build-up for more, every light touch leads to them undressing each other and moaning about how much they want this .

But there's also talking, a lot of talking. About everything and nothing. Kate now knows how Anthony was a reckless boy while growing up, but he never stepped over the line. He couldn't let his father down and this was still how he tried to live his life.

 

Kate told Anthony about her youth, about how she loves India, the weather, the smell of nature, and how easy life felt when her Appa was still alive. How in the blink of an eye things change and how this makes her miss him even more.

 

Kate knows he gets it. Her husband and she share a past that's so similar, it makes her tear up when she thinks about it.

To find someone that understands you the way he does is rare, Kate is well aware of this. Their commitment to their families is hard to explain, and therefore she feels incredibly grateful she doesn't have to. Not with her husband. 

 

That's as far as she allows herself to think back about the current situation with her sister. This week is for them , the mess will still be there when she returns. 



"There you are," Anthony startles her a bit by coming into her dressing room unannounced. "I come here to inform you dinner is ready." Her husband closes the distance between them and his fingers soon find their way into her hair. "But now that I see you I think I am not so hungry,"

Kate turns around to face him. Her hand caresses his cheek first before she softly pads it. "You need your strength, dear husband," 

In reaction to her teasing, Anthony grabs her hand and squeezes it lightly.

"Is that so? Care to tell me why?" He pulls her even closer and Kate feels his hard member pressing her tight. "Or are we all show and do not tell today?" He winks at her. "Because I cannot lie, that would be a surprise I am all in for." His lips are on her neck and his stubble tickles against the skin. 

"Hush," Kate's hands are on his chest now, pushing him softly to the door. "I highly doubt me, wanting you to make love to me, is as unexpected as you are claiming it to be."

Anthony fails to keep his face neutral. A wicked smirk appears. 

"It is not, but I am living for you saying things like this," he reaches out to grab her hand, "come with me wife, we will have dinner, and when we are finished I want to hear it all."




Kate sits alone in the garden. She tries to read but her mind keeps wandering, so instead, she closes her book and sits back and enjoys the weak sunlight on her face.

It isn't ladylike to enjoy, nor is the burning sensation as good as it was in India, still, it's as close as it gets to feeling connected to her previous home, so she takes whatever she can .

Maybe we can go there once, I can show him where I grew up .

Her mind takes her back to all the places she wants her husband to see.

It is a dream that can't be fulfilled, given the duties of her husband the Viscount , yet it is nice to think about it.

Her current situation is proof enough as to why this will stay only a daydream .

Due to their rushed marriage, her husband couldn't reschedule all his appointments.

Right now he was in a meeting with his solicitor, talking about important matters that couldn't wait longer.

Although Kate misses her husband dearly, even if it was only three hours since she last saw him, she is okay. 

This is her life now, and she can't wait to hear all he has to say when he comes back to her.

 

"Katie?" Kate hears from afar. She still has her eyes closed, but since there could only be one person that calls her this, she opens them right away.

"You are back!" She says when her husband sits next to her on the bench. "How was it? Did you manage to speak about it all?"

Anthony nods. "It was fine," within seconds his arm is around her waist and she leans in to be even closer. "I will tell you about it later."

Kate hears his hesitation so she lifts her head to see his face. Her husband stares to the left side of the garden and Kate follows his gaze.

"Are you all right?" She asks softly. 

"I am," Anthony answers. "In fact, there is something I would like to show you." He doesn't sound as secure as he normally does. 

"What is it?" Kate feels her heartbeat increasing, she starts to feel anxious about what's to come.

"Honey, this is not a bad thing." Anthony picks up on her nerves and calms her down by tickling her side briefly. "At least, I think it is not."

"Okay," Kate whispers and follows her husband while he stands up. "What is it then?" She asks when they set the pace to the thick, old, oaktree before them.

"This is where we buried my father." Anthony's voice sounds so small Kate instinctively holds his hand tighter in hers.

"Sometimes when I miss him I come here to talk to him," Anthony continues.

"Today is a day like that?" Kate asks carefully. 

"It is," a loud sigh escapes her husband's mouth. "I feel so heartbroken when I think about how you cannot meet him, but at least I can introduce you to the place where I feel most connected to him.

The words cut through Kate like a knife. It pains her to see the hurt in her husband's eyes, and at the same time, the love that spreads to her soothes her soul.

Things couldn't get more intimate than this, this is the ultimate proof of how devoted her husband is to her, and how he needs her to be there for it all.

"I feel honored," Kate says softly. "Thank you."

They stand still before a big grey tombstone. Neither of them moves for minutes, Kate reads the sign, takes in the surroundings, and feels how her eyes are filled with tears.

 

"This is a beautiful spot," she finally says to break the silence. 

"It is. It was his favorite," Anthony nods his head. "He carved all our names in the tree." He points and Kate sees it. The names Edmund and Violet Bridgerton are at the top, followed by all their children.

"I carved Hyacinth's name in there," Anthony whispers.

"Oh," Kate lets go of her husband's hand and walks to the tree. "You have the same handwriting." Her fingers glide over the carvings, after all the years it is still neat and beautiful.

"I spend all my life trying to be just like him, including this." Anthony shrugs. "It is stupid, I know."

"That is not stupid" Kate raises her voice a bit. "I only started to paint after my father died, I get this."

"I know you do." Anthony now stands behind her, his hand is on top of her and their fingers run over the names together.

"Maybe we can continue this?" Anthony asks with a tremble in his voice.

"Continue what?" Kate asks carefully. 

"Carve in our names? And maybe… if we.."

"If we what?" But soon after Kate utters the words she understands what her husband tried to say.

"Yes," Kate spins around, the urge to pepper her husband's face with kisses is too overwhelming to resist. "Yes, we can, both our names and from the ones that are to come."

Anthony kisses her back with such fierceness, Kate gasps for air when his mouth finally leaves hers.

 

"I do not want to rush things, I only mean for this to happen when we are ready," he says with his face still so close Kate can see the little hairs on his cheek. 

"Are you ready?" Kate asks curiously while thinking about what her answer to this question will be.

"I do not know," Anthony sighs. "In ways, I have done this before, with my siblings that are."

Kate nods.

"And so have you," Anthony leads her to the bench again. He sits down and softly pushes her down on his lap. "I am afraid to fail you though, I was not always the best father figure."

"Anthony!" Kate touches his chin to force him to look back at her. "You are incredible. You managed to care for a family at the age of 18, no one suffered more than they had to, all your siblings are happy, you did good , you hear me?"

Anthony blinks his eyes but doesn't respond any further.

"You will be the best father to our children, I do not doubt this for a second,"

"Why?" He hesitates for a moment. "How can you be so sure?"

 

Kate takes a moment to think about it. 

Why was she sure?

"Because this time it will be us . We might have experience, but it will be so different, we can do this exactly the way we want, we don't have to live up to anyone's examples. It can be about us for a change, we are the ones that matter. You, me, and our family," she wipes away a tear from her husband's face. 

"I cannot wait for our family to grow, I want a child that is the ultimate proof of our love."

"You, are you sure?" Anthony starts to relax, a smile appears on his face when he takes in the words Kate just said aloud.

"Yes Anthony, I am ready, I want to start a family."

 

Before Kate can comprehend what's happening, she's already in her husband's arms, he lifts her up, starts walking to the entrance of the house, and with his face in the crook of her neck he whispers; "Best to get to work then."