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And they say romance is dead

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“You do realise you sound like an insane person” she practically hissed at his across the table, conscious of anyone overhearing their conversation 

In fairness he knew he sounded insane, but what other option did he have? There was too much on the line, too much at risk. He could loose everything if he didn’t convince this damnable women to agree to marry him. 

It was just over a week ago now that he was informed of the boards decision. Anthony wasn’t an idiot, he knew his actions would one day come back to bite him. He just never thought the very people that had known him since he was a child would be so cruel to threaten to take everything away from him 

 

 

“You can’t take my shares from me!” 

“We can boy, and we will” Lady Danbury shot back from across the boardroom table “Lord Bridgerton, we have even very sympathetic and understanding in light of your fathers passing, but it was eight years ago and we can no longer condone the actions of a grown man” 

“It’s time to grow up Anthony” Mr Cho added 

“We have come together and decided to give you six months to clean up your public image, no drinking, no drugs, no partying and god forbid no photographs of you taking a different women home every evening” Lady Danbury’s voice was commanding as it always was, but this tone struck fear in even Anthony “If you can do that we will not take your shares, but if you cannot then I and the other board members will look for a different CEO of EVB Legal” 

Anthony looked around the table in horror, all the other board members were nodding along with what Lady Danbury was saying 

“Fine a nice girl son, settle down, you’re getting too old to be out partying every night” Mr Trowbridge laughed as he clapped a hand on Anthony’s shoulder 

“Only once you can show us you are mature enough to run this company the way your father would have wanted you to, will we stop our search for the next CEO” Lady Danbury stated 

“So marriage then? That’s what you expect of me? To settle down, have a couple kids” Anthony resisted the urge to roll his eyes at what they were saying

“It’ll be a fine start” Lady Danbury replied “If getting married to a nice girl form a respectable family is what you need to keep you in check then you better get on with it” 

“And what happened to getting married because you love someone? I thought we lived in the twenty-first century” Anthony quipped 

Lady Danbury did roll her eyes at him “Welcome to the real world Lord Bridgerton, you’d be surprised how many lords and ladies marriages were strictly business. I’m not telling you to get married but if it is a women you need to keep you in check then that is what you can do” 

 

 

And now here he was sat across from yet another girl from a respectable family, the only girl he could honestly imagine himself actually marrying, asking her if she would be willing to do this for him. 

He had known Kate since they’d been children, after her father had married her stepmother Mary they moved into the house just across from his own, and so following a lot of begging their mother Violet took her two eldest boys across the road to introduce themselves. 

He and Kate had always disagreed, it stemmed from him taking her dolls as children to her always trying to pull some sort of prank on him. Being just a year older than Daphne she and her had become inseparable since they met, which only meant she was around a lot. And this of course infuriated Anthony, but only it didn’t at the same time. 

If he was really being honest he’d fancied Kate since she returned from her first term at university, he couldn’t quite put his finger on it but something was different, and he’d been trying immensely hard to control himself around her ever since. 

And so when he thought about getting married, his mind wondered immediately to her. She was beautiful, that was obvious, and confident, and was perhaps the only women besides his mother who could actually keep him in line. 

If he needed to improve his image he was going to do absolutely everything in his power to do it. He’d already drafted the plan; find a wife from a good family, stay married to her for maximum a year while he ensured the board could never take his shares away again, after that they would get a quick divorce and he could go back to life exactly how he liked it. It was definitely a lot easier than the alternative options available. 

 

“Anthony!” Kate snapped her fingers in front of him to get his attention “You can’t just blurt something like that out and then not answer any of my questions” 

“Sorry, go on” he gestured for her to repeat what she has just said 

She rolled her eyes at him “I asked what you’ve smoked because clearly its some hardcore stuff if you’re asking me to marry you” 

“I’m not high Kate, not drunk either before you ask” he said dryly “The board at EVB are threatening to throw me out if I don’t clean up my image, they suggested finding a women who can keep me in check and you were the first one I thought of” 

“Anthony I’m 23 I have no interest in shackling myself to you for life” Kate said before she grabbed her bag, she was done with the conversation at this point and didn’t really see a point in sticking around any longer 

He grabbed her wrist “Wait!”

She tried to pull away but his grip on her was tight.

“Please… please just listen to everything and if you still don’t want to do it I’ll leave” Anthony begged “You’ve known me for more than fifteen years, you know I wouldn’t be asking if I wasn’t desperate” 

She did know that. Even if she wasn’t Anthony’s biggest fan she knew he never asked for the help of others. He was fiercely independent like her, never willing to admit when he needed help or was in the wrong, and so Kate sat down once again to listen to what he had to say 

“It would be a year max until I get the board off my back, you’d be Lady Bridgerton for life, you and I both know the opportunities that could afford you… afford Edwina” 

He had to go and do that didn’t he. He knew Edwina was her biggest weakness. Oh god now she was even considering it.

“It’s my dads company Kate, I can’t let everything he worked on go down the drain, I’d never forgive myself. Please, please, this can benefit us both if we do this” 

“And how will this benefit me at all?” Kate asked 

“That fashion school Edwina applied to” Anthony stated and Kates eyes shot up from where they had fixated on the table 

“Saint Martins” she whispered 

“I donated fifty grand to them last year, if they know she’s my wife’s sister they’ll let her in in a heartbeat” 

She hated him for doing this to her. Hated him. He knew Edwina was her biggest weakness and he knew the struggle her family had faced since her fathers passing. Edwina desperately wanted to get into Saint Martins, it was her dream, and while their family weren’t exactly struggling financially they did have to give up a certain lifestyle after their fathers death and paying 100k in tuition just wasn’t in the budget. 

Kate sighed as she mentally scolded herself for even thinking about agreeing to this. But it would only be for a year, it wasn’t as if she would be shackled to him for life. And the things he was offering her and Edwina, well Kate felt obligated to agree honestly. 

“You pay for her student loans and lifestyle while she’s at university, the whole course not just the year, if she wants to do a masters you will pay for that, if she wants a bloody phd you pay for it” Kate couldn’t even believe what she was doing, she knew this wasn’t a good idea, actually it was the worst idea Anthony had ever had and yet she was sat here agreeing to marry him. 

“And Mary, whatever she needs you support her. The money dad left is no way near gone but if she ever struggles you help her” Kate added 

“And what about you?” He asked “What do you want?” 

And what did she want? What did she even gain from this? “I want Mary and Edwina to be happy, if they’re happy I’m happy” 

“You’ll never want for anything Kate, whatever you want whenever you want it you can have it, even after the divorce everything I have is yours” Anthony said desperately in the hopes he would get her to agree 

And to his luck she did. Kate nodded “Okay, I’ll do it” 

Before Kate even had time to process what she had just agreed to, Anthony had sprung from his seat and pulled her into a kiss.

And even worse, she liked it. 

This was going to be trouble indeed.