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“Edwina!”

Edwina was completely soaked after falling straight into the pond. She was treading water, shrieking slightly as she gasped for air. The pond was deep enough that she couldn’t stand. Anthony reached her before Kate could.

“I’ll help her-”

“I’ve got her.” Anthony interrupted, extending his hand towards Edwina who gratefully let herself be pulled up.

Newton was happily paddling away in the pond, managing to keep himself above the water.

Kate nearly took out her phone to take a picture because he looked so cute but she didn’t think Edwina or Anthony would appreciate that.

“Newton, come here!” Kate kneeled down and gestured towards her corgi, who, of course, completely ignored her.

“I’m so sorry, Ed. I didn’t think he’d launch himself at you like that.” Kate wrapped her puffy black coat around Edwina’s shivering arms, running her hands up and down her to warm her up. Water was dripping down her face, her mascara now a black smudge around her eyes.

“Thank you, Anthony,” Edwina said, her voice shaking slightly as she shivered in Kate’s arms. She led her to the nearby bench, sitting her down. Anthony followed them but didn’t sit, lingering beside them.

“Are you alright?” Anthony asked, his face full of concern as he looked Edwina up and down. “You’re shivering. Here, take this.”

Edwina’s denim jacket was clinging to her skin and her hair was wet with a few leaves stuck in it. She pulled on Anthony’s hoodie, nodding thanks as she covered herself with Kate’s coat again. “What the bloody hell was that, Kate?”

“I’m sorry! I thought you’d move out of the way-he was running right at you!” Kate frowned as she could see Edwina's teeth were chattering from the ice cold water pond. “Why didn’t you move?”

Edwina tried her best to glare at her sister, but being one of the happiest people Kate knew, her glare more resembled a pout. “I thought Newton was just saying hello! I didn’t think he’d launch himself at me and attack me for a bagel in my hand.”

“He didn’t mean to! He recognized you and probably thought you were playing,” Kate said, biting her lip. “He’s just a dog.”

“He’s certainly something alright,” Anthony said, scoffing rather loudly as crossed his arms across his chest. He looked like a teacher from school just before they scolded you. His brows were furrowed, his mouth was in a flat line and he was looking at her intensely.

It would have been unsettling if it didn’t make Kate absolutely furious.

She just glared at him. “No one asked you.”

Kate didn’t wait for Anthony to reply, turning to Edwina who was looking between the two of them with a mixture of confusion and amusement. “I’ll go get Newton. I’ll be right back.”

Kate walked to the edge of the pond, getting rid of her hoodie and runners before dipping her foot into the baltic pond water to test the temperature. There was only one way Newton was leaving that pond. He wouldn’t come out willingly.

“You can’t be serious.” Of course he had followed her. She turned around to see Anthony staring at her incredulously, his upper lip curled up in disdain. It was a look she was familiar with, it was always plastered on his face during meetings in work. “You’re not going in after that thing.”

Kate rolled her eyes. “Of course I’m going in after him, he won’t come out otherwise!”

Anthony mumbled something under his breath that Kate didn’t hear, reaching down to take off his black runners. “I’ll get him.”

“No you will not,” Kate insisted, bending down to try and get Newton’s attention. He was still paddling away, completely ignoring them. “I’m going in.”

“No,” Anthony rebutted, taking off his t-shirt which made Kate audibly gasp and turn away from him. She had not been expecting that, especially so close. “I’m not letting you.

“First of all, you don’t let me do anything. Secondly, use your ego inflating chivalry somewhere else. It is not wanted here.” Kate shook her head. “Put your t-shirt back on for god’s sake.”

 

“I’ve trained for and swam a part of the English Channel before. Clothes will just drag you down and make you colder when you get out. I know what I’m doing.” His arrogance usually made Kate’s blood boil, but at this point it was about she was ready to comitt murder.

“You’ll freeze. I’m going in, Kate. That’s the end of the discussion,” Anthony said in an auhtoriatize tone, one that she had heard so many times in work and it was not one outside of work she responded well to.

“No, this is the end of the discussion” Kate took the plunge and slid quickly into the pond, beginning to flap her limps around as the bitter shock hit her body. Kate let out a string of expletive curses that Mary would slap her for.

It was absolutely baltic.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Anthony shouted at her, but the idiot had jumped in right after her and was treading water beside her.

Newton heard the splashes and looked positively delighted to see Kate and Anthony swimming, splashing as he made his way towards them.

“You shouldn’t have followed me in-”

“I was trying to help you! You shouldn’t have gotten in in the first place. If you had held your dog properly, none of this would have happened.”

“Do you think I did this on purpose?” Do you really think this is how I wanted to spend my Sunday morning?”

“You shouldn’t have a pet if you can’t control it,” Anthony said, his voice seething as they swam towards Newton. “Which, after today’s events, you have certainly proven.”

“I can control him!” Kate weakly responded, having absolutely no comeback. So, she splashed him.

His jaw dropped, droplets of water dripping down his face. “Did you just splash me?”

“Yes.”

His glare intensified. “How old are you again?”

Kate smirked at him. “29. I’m sorry, this must be so hard for you. Talking to a woman over the age of twenty five.”

He splashed her back.

“Ha, ha, ha,” He said, mocking her voice as he grabbed Newton who had swam close enough to them. They both eagerly retreated towards the shore. “Did you think of that one all by yourself?”

They both got out of the pond, choosing to ignore the few people passing by who were staring at them. Kate was too cold to be mortified. Anthony pulled his t-shirt back on and Kate hated herself for feeling slightly disappointed.

They were absolutely soaking and the cool breeze made them shiver more. Anthony gripped Newton’s lead tightly and lay the dog gently onto the path.

Kate smiled sweetly at him, squeezing the excess water out of her soaking t-shirt that was clinging to her skin and stepping towards Edwina. “Newton, shake.”

Newton, who actually decided to do something he was told for once, shook his chubby body and his fur stood up on its coat, water spraying all over Anthony and the path.

“Thanks for that,” He spat, glaring at her as he smirked at her. “Now I smell like a pond and wet dog.”

“You’re so welcome.”

They were looking right at each other, both refusing to break eye contact. She watched as a drop of water fell from his hair, trailing down his nose, making its way all the way to his lips.

She couldn’t stop herself from staring at his lips.

She swore, for a second, she saw his eyes drop to hers.

“Sorry to interrupt whatever is going on here.” Edwina smiled uneasily, glancing between her sister and Anthony who were glaring intensely at each other. She had stood up from the bench and was now standing in front of them. “We should probably go home and take a shower before we freeze to death. There’s a lot of people staring.”

“Capital idea,” Kate said, nodding her head at her sister and taking her hand. “Let’s go right now.”

“Please come to my house for a shower,” Anthony suggested, wrapping his arms around himself.

“No thank you,” Kate said swiftly, gesturing for her sister to follow her. “We’re going home.”

Anthony let out a deep breath through his nostrils. “How far do you live from here?”

It was a twenty minute tube ride and Edwina was at least half an hour. “Near enough.”

“Well, my house is across the road from the park, about two minutes from here.”

“Thank you so much Anthony. We would really appreciate it, wouldn’t we Kate?” Edwina elbowed her with a look and Kate knew she had lost the argument.

The last place she wanted to go was Anthony Bridgerton’s house.

Kate nudged her lead softly, but Newton wouldn’t budge. Edwina and Anthony had already started walking ahead, Anthony placing the lead in Kate’s hand.

Kate begrudgingly went to follow, but Newton refused to move.

“Oh, so now you want to stay put?” Kate said, looking down at Newton who kept himself firmly planted on the ground. He actually had the nerve to roll onto his back, baring his teeth to her.

Her dog was laughing at her.

To be fair, her life was a joke.

“Excellent timing, truly,” She picked him up, carrying him like a newborn baby. Newton was very pleased with himself, wagging his tail happily with his tongue sticking out. “You couldn’t have done this earlier?”

Anthony had been telling the truth, his house was across the road from the park. In one of the most expensive parts of London. The house was huge, a brown brick London townhouse painted ivory. He typed in a code into the gate keypad, the gate beginning to open a few moments later. The three drenched individuals walked up to the stone steps, Anthony stepping forward to unlock the green front door with his key.

The house was beautiful. The high ceilings and cream carpets made the foyer glow, a shimmering chandelier right in the middle of it. There was a glass table in the middle of the foyer, covered in family photographs.

This was the type of house Mary would tell her not to touch anything in.

“Does your mother mind dogs?” Kate asked, holding a half asleep Newton against her chest. He had tired himself out after his eventful morning.

“No. However, I’m not sure what that is,” Anthony replied, glaring at the corgi in her arms.

“Newton should have drowned you when he had the chance,” Kate muttered, and Edwina gasped from beside her.

“Kate!”

“Anthony?” Violet Bridgerton appeared at the top of the stairs, smiling at the three damp individuals at her doorway. “Oh my-what happened to you three?”

“Hello, Mum. We had an incident in Hyde Park. I believe you have met Edwina and Kate Sheffield?”

“It is so lovely to see you again,” Violet kissed both their cheeks, ushering them inside and closing the door behind her. “Oh, you’re all soaked. Anthony can show you upstairs for a shower. I’ll grab you both some clothes and we’ll wash those for you.”

“Oh my gosh,” A tall teenager appeared in the hallway, gasping as she spotted the dog in Kate’s arms and sprinted towards them. Kate hadn’t met this Bridgerton before. She had blue eyes and chestnut hair, strikingly similar to Anthony. “Did we get a dog?”

Violet and Anthony both sighed, “No.”

“How disappointing,” The girl replied, crossing her arms across her chest. “Why are you all wet?”

“Hyacinth, manners,” Her mother scolded her, widening her eyes at her daughter. “This is Kate and Edwina Sheffield. This is my daughter, Hyacinth.”

“Hello, nice to meet you,” Hyacinth said, smiling at the sisters but her attention was solely on Newton. She scratched his ears and he whined happily.

Kate smiled awkwardly. “I’m sorry, I hope you don’t mind dogs in your house. He’s completely harmless, he’s rather tired actually.”

Anthony snorted loudly beside them.

Kate wouldn’t hit her boss in front of his mother.

“Oh, not at all. We love dogs,” Violet said, smiling reassuringly at Kate.

It was Hyacinth’s turn to snort. It was obvious looks were not all she shared with her older brother. “What breed is he?”

Kate smiled at the younger girl. “He’s mostly corgi, but there’s a mix of something else in him. The shelter wasn’t sure what breed though. I adopted him when he was a puppy.”

“Demon, perhaps?” Anthony suggested, turning to smile serenely at Kate.

“Let's get you upstairs,” Violet said, casting a glare at her eldest son as she ushered Edwina and Kate towards the stairs.

“I can take him while you’re gone.” Hyacinth insisted, gleefully taking Newton out of Kate’s arms and wandering back down the hallway out of sight.

They were led up a black staircase with a golden railing to the third floor, to a long hallway full of doors. There at least two more floors above them. Her flat’s building wasn’t even this big.

“Now, Edwina dear, if you go in there. Here’s some clothes and all the towels and linens are in the bathroom,” Violet said, gesturing towards a doorway before turning to Kate. “If you just go into the room next door, Kate dear. Please just shout if there’s anything I can get you.”

“Thank you so much, we seriously appreciate it.” Kate smiled at Anthony’s mother, who turned around to head back downstairs.

“I have a lot of questions, but if I don’t shower first, I might die of hypothermia,” Edwina said, shivering slightly as she opened the door to her bedroom. “To be continued, Kate!”

Kate’s shower was euphoric. The warm water soothed her freezing skin and she washed her hair with the fanciest shampoo and conditioner she had ever used. She had no idea where it was from, but the label was in french and it looked expensive.

She quickly dressed in the cream jumper and joggers left out for her, which fit perfectly.

Kate wanted to delay going downstairs as much as possible, in case Edwina still wasn’t finished and she was left alone with the Bridgertons.

They seemed like perfectly nice people, but they were related to Anthony, and Kate really needed to work on putting as much distance between them as possible.

She had spent the entire weekend distraught over an article about them and she had spent her morning with him, and had ended up in his family home.

Which she was currently snooping around. She had a look through some of the drawers, through the vanity but it appeared to be a guest room. Kate got bored quite quickly, wondering if Edwina was finished. There was a door that appeared to be adjoining between the bedrooms.

“Edwina?” Kate said softly, knocking slowly on the door. Edwina must be done by now. Kate slowly opened the door, expecting to see her sister.

Instead, it led to a half naked Anthony Bridgerton, with a towel wrapped around his waist, freshly showered. His abdominal muscles were defined, easily traceable through the six pac on his chest. She could see the colourful veins protruding out of his muscular arms.

“What the-”

All Kate could do was gape at him. “I’m so sorry!” She squeaked, hastily shutting the door behind her and groaning.

Kate ran for her life.

She grabbed her bag, sprinting down the twirling staircase as fast as she could. She had to find Newton and Edwina immediately.

Kate followed the hallway off the foyer Hyacinth had disappeared down with Newton. At the end of the hallway, there were two large white double doors. Kate could hear voices, so she pushed through.

The room was full of people. She recognized Benedict and Colin, who were chatting animatedly with a girl Kate presumed was their younger sister on the sofa.

Edwina, freshly showered and radiant as ever despite her previous dip in the pond, was sitting on the couch with Gregory and Hyacinth, who was fawning over Newton in her lap.

“Thank you so much for everything,” Kate said, nodding her head at Edwina as she turned to Violet. “We won’t burden you any longer, we’ll get out of your hair.”

Violet Bridgerton smiled warmly at Kate. “Not at all. Please, you must stay for brunch! The whole family is here! The more the merrier.”

Kate glanced at Edwina, who shrugged with a mimosa in her hand. Her sister didn’t look like she was going anywhere.

The door opened behind her, revealing Anthony now dressed in a pair of trousers and a t-shirt. His hair was still wet, droplets dampening his shirt.

“We wouldn’t want to intrude on a family gathering,” Kate said, desperately trying to think of an excuse to get out of this situation. She had seen her boss topless twice today, she wouldn’t look him in the eye again.

“You’re not intruding.” It wasn’t Violet who spoke but Anthony, his deep voice sending tingles down her spine.

 

“Excellent!” Violet clapped her hands, smiling at Kate before something behind Kate caught her attention. “Hyacinth! Stop feeding that dog our breakfast!”

Anthony walked past her, reaching for a glass of orange juice on the kitchen table before walking towards his brothers. Kate followed him with her eyes until she saw the brunch spread. Their table was set out as if it was Christmas. There were candles, napkins and plates full of food. She had never seen so much food in her life. There were pancakes, bacon, toast and every type of egg prepared every way.

“You look like you need a drink,” A voice to Kate’s right said, which belonged to a petite woman. “I’m Eloise. Mimosa?”

“Please,” Kate said, smiling at her as she gladly took the orange champagne flute. “I’m Kate. It's nice to meet you.”

“Oh I know who you are,” Eloise said, rather smugly as she grinned at Kate. “My dear brother talks about you quite a lot, Kate Sheffield.”

“Pardon?” Kate choked on her drink, coughing to clear her throat as she stared at Eloise. Why would Anthony talk about her? Benedict and Colin had said the same thing in his office a few days ago.

Whatever he said about her, she imagined it wasn’t anything good.

Eloise just smirked, clinking her glass against Kate’s as Violet announced it was time to eat. “Shall we?”

 

 

Brunch was going better than expected.

The Bridgertons were fun. It was strange to be in a room with so many people, to watch a large family interact. There was never any silence, everyone was talking and laughing.

It was rather lovely.

Kate and Edwina had grown up with just their parents and since the loss of their father, it had just been them and Mary. They didn’t have any immediate family, their fathers parents were dead and Mary was estranged from her family.

Violet had insisted Kate sit with Anthony on her left and Edwina on her right. Colin was sitting on her right. Colin had muttered something about his mother’s matchmaking attempts, which made Edinwa blush and Kate down her mimosa.

Kate had been introduced to the rest of the Bridgertons she hadn’t met yet. There was Eloise, who was funny but made Kate slightly uneasy. She kept smirking at her. She was 21 and studying History and English at Oxford. She was very opinionated, happily calling her brothers or sisters out on anything she didn’t agree with. Kate could only dream of having her confidence. She was rather brilliant.

Her elder sister was Daphne, who was 25 and made her living off instagram and Youtube. Kate didn’t really use social media, when she did it was mainly to post pictures of Newton. Daphne showed Kate her page, which was the perfect aesthetic. Every picture had the perfect pose and ideal background. Daphne was beautiful and she knew how to attract a following. She had a following of a few million combined on both of her platforms, where she regularly collaborated with brands for sponsorships and advertisements.

Hyacinth was the youngest Bridgerton, with a sharp tongue and a funny sense of humour. Kate already loved her. She was obsessed with Newton, insisting he sit on her lap during the meal and feeding him bits when her mother wasn’t looking, winking at Kate in the process.

It made Anthony laugh.

Kate realized she had never heard him genuinely laugh before.

It was rather lovely.

She had never seen him like this before. He was so eaze around his family. He was happy. He was relaxed, his shoulders were dropped and he didn't look rigid or stressed.

The only Bridgerton missing was Francesca, who was visiting a friend in Scotland.

The table erupted into laughter as Edwina told everyone of the events of that morning, despite Kate’s mortification and Anthony’s fury.

They sounded insane.

“You two make quite the pair,” Benedict said, smirking at Kate and Anthony from across the table. He looked quite delighted with himself.

“How’s your love life, Ben?” Anthony asked, smirking at his brother as he took a sip of his coffee and lay back in his chair. He glanced around the table, daring any of his siblings to tease further.

 

“So, Kate,” Eloise said, looking at her from across the table. “Tell us about yourself.”

“Oh.” Kate felt her cheeks darken as everyone’s eyes on the table turned towards her. She really didn’t like being the centre of attention. She used to vomit before any public speaking competitions when she was younger. She still got anxious before meetings at work. “I’ve been working at Bridgerton & Family for five years. I have an unstable corgi. There’s not much to tell.”

“Kate has always been the smart one and incredibly modest,” Edwina interrupted, nudging her sister. “She went to Oxford on a scholarship to study business. My parents and I are incredibly proud.”

“That’s incredible, Kate. They must be so proud of the both of you! What do your parents do?” Violet asked Kate, glaring at Gregory who flicked some scrambled eggs at Hyacinth. Hyacinth was too busy feeding Newton bacon under the table to notice.

Kate felt that usual uneasiness spread through her stomach. “My mother is a primary school teacher. My father was an accountant. He died when we were eighteen.”

Silence washed over the table and Kate felt Edwina’s hand squeeze hers under the table. If anyone would understand about losing a father, it was the Bridgertons. They quickly erupted into conversation again.

Anthony turned towards her, his expression unreadable. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Kate shrugged. “It’s okay. Why would you?”

There was an uneasy silence between Kate and Anthony as they just stared at each other. Kate broke their eye contact, glancing down at her plate.

Eventually, Kate and Edwina stood up to leave as brunch came to an end. Benedict had already left to go to a party and Eloise was nagging Daphne for a lift to the train station to go back to Oxford.

Violet, Anthony and Daphne walked them to the door after they said their goodbyes. Kate had given Hyacinth her number, promising she could walk Newton whenever she wanted if her mum allowed her to. “Girls, I would love it if you and your mother could join us for the long weekend in two weeks. We’re having friends and family over for a party in our house in the country, in Kent.”

“Oh, that sounds lovely!” Edwina said, smiling widely at Kate, Daphne and Violet. The girls had been attached at the hip for most of the afternoon, talking about their careers and the fashion world. Kate had overheard them making plans for drinks sometime this week. Daphne looked delighted at her mother’s invitation.

Anthony? Not so much. He was glaring intensely at his mother, his lips in their usual disgruntled flat line.

“That’s very kind of you,” Kate said slowly, panic flooding her body. She did love the country, but not Anthony Bridgerton’s country house. “I-I’ll have to check my work calendar. We’re very busy this time of year.”

“Excellent! Anthony will make sure you get the time off.” It didn’t sound like a request, Kate was figuring out pretty quickly Violet Bridgerton didn’t ask questions she didn’t already know the answer to.

Anthony walked them to the bottom of the steps, Edwina saying goodbye as she stepped into their uber, leaving them alone.

“I-”

“Kate-”

They spoke at the same time and laughed uncomfortably, insisting the other go first until Anthony spoke.

“The reason I wanted to speak to you this morning was because of the article. I really did want to make sure you were okay. I know that type of attention, when unwanted, is extremely uncomfortable. I’m sorry I indirectly caused it. I didn’t think anyone would see us that night. Not that there was anything to see.”

Kate was momentarily speechless as his words sunk in. “Thank you. I-I know none of it was your fault. I shouldn’t have said that. I wanted to apologize for how I acted earlier and how rude I was. There's no excuse, I've just had a weird few days. Thank you for jumping into the pond for Edwina and Newton.”

Anthony stared at her, a small smile playing on his lips. “I didn’t jump into that pond for Edwina or Newton, Kate.”

Her heart stopped beating in her chest. What?

With that, Anthony turned around and walked away from her, jogging up his steps before he went into his house and closed the door behind him. Kate was left speechless and stunned on the path.

Kate eventually turned around and climbed into the Uber, still processing his words as they drove off and the Bridgerton’s home faded into the background.

Edwina turned towards her sister, leaning towards her. “Kate. What the hell is going on between you and Anthony Bridgerton?”

Kate felt her head fall back against the seat. “I have absolutely no idea.”