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rules don't apply

Chapter Text

Kate doesn’t know how it started.

Kate Sheffield did not like her boss. She actively despised her boss, Anthony Bridgerton, and he despised her. It was like a hobby. Her hatred for him was like a pet, like Newton, her gorgeous corgi, that she tended to and nurtured by making Bridgerton’s life as difficult as possible.

Except, something had changed.

She still despised him, she hadn’t gone completely insane-expect, that loathing went from pure loathing to...loathing with a side of oh, Anthony Bridgerton looks good in that suit today.

She now noticed things like when he got a haircut. His chestnut hair had been cut sharp, there was still a bit of height on the top but it was shaven quite tight around his ears.

He looked good.

Really good.

She wasn’t a teenager anymore. She was an adult. A 29 year old adult with a degree. A nice apartment. She even had house plants she managed to keep alive.

She shouldn’t have crushes like this.

Especially on him.

She didn't. Nope. She couldn't. Kate Sheffield did not have a crush on Anthony Bridgerton.

It wasn't possible.

He was just on her mind a lot, she tended to stare at him quite a lot and she may have a new routine of stalking his social media on a daily basis.

So, to conclude, she definitely did not have a crush on Anthony Bridgerton.

It was probably some type of illness. She could have an underlying cold coming on that deluded her into thinking Anthony Bridgerton was good looking and looked really good in expensive suits and his gym gear when it came into the office late every Wednesday after a personal training session in the morning.

Oh God.

It had gotten to the point where it was affecting her work.

Like right now.

She should be working on her mountain of paperwork sitting on her desk, but instead, she was watching Bridgerton stretch through his office glass windows. His office was parallel to hers on the top floor of Bridgerton & Family group building. It was the headquarters of the decades old Bridgerton & Family hotel group. Kate was the head of finance for their United Kingdom group, specifically dealing with approving budgets and projects. She had qualified as an accountant when she was 24 and had moved up from there.

She could see his white shirt, which probably cost more than her rent and was never wrinkled, slowly rise above his waist as he stretched his arms. She could see the outline of his pelvis, and the tanned skin he must have got from his recent work trip to Barbados. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, which showed off his forearms quite nicely. When did he get muscular?

The phone rang, making her jump and resulting in her reusable coffee cup spilling all down her white blouse.

“Shit!”

“All okay?” Sophie, her assistant, popped her head in.

“Just a coffee spill, thanks Sophie.” Kate said, sighing as she grabbed her blazer and buttoned it up, which covered the brown stain on her chest.

“I just sent you the proposal from Anthony!” Sophie called through the door. Sophie Beckett had been Kate’s incredible assistant for a year now. She was a few years younger than Kate, and she was working to put herself through university. Kate dreaded the day she lost her, but also signed her up for company funded courses as Sophie would go far in life and Kate couldn’t wait to see what she achieved.

“Cheers!” Kate shouted back, sitting down at her desk and opening up her email. Her eyes scanned the email and the proposal, and her stomach dropped as her chest filled with fury.

“That motherfucker,” Kate spat, shoving herself away from her desk as she stormed towards Anthony Bridgerton’s office, ready to commit murder.

Lucy, his assistant, wasn’t at her desk. She had checked Bridgerton’s work calendar and it was clear, so he wasn’t with a client. She didn’t bother knocking.

That was her first mistake.

“Bridgerton, I don’t know if you were dropped on your head as a child-“

Her voice caught in her throat. His office was occupied by two other men, who had heard every single word she had just said.

That was her second mistake.

“Oh! I am so sorry," Her cheeks flushed with red mortification and she wanted the ground to swallow her whole. "I can come back-”

Anthony sat behind his desk, smugly beaming at her as she flushed in embarrassment. “Ah, Kate. Charming as always. I was waiting for you to storm in and annoy me today. Have you met my brothers? This is Benedict, Colin and you've met Gregory,” He gestured to the three men sitting in front of him.

Gregory, who had just turned eighteen, was currently interning at the company during his gap year before he started university.

“The famous Kate Sheffield,” Benedict extended his hand, grinning at her as he stood up. “It is an honour to meet you.”

“We’ve heard so many great things,” Kate raised an confused eyebrow at Colin as he stood up and spoke, shaking his hand as well. “From Gregory. We’re big fans of your daily torment of our dear older brother.”

“He definitely was dropped, by the way,” said Colin, grinning cheekily at Anthony who scowled at him. “Mother would never admit to it, but it would explain a lot.”

Kate laughed at him as Anthony scowled. “The chances of you getting the travel money you wanted are looking incredibly low, dearest brother,” said Anthony, narrowing his eyes at his Colin. “What did you want, Sheffield? I’m busy.”

There was a knock at the door just as Kate opened her mouth to retort, and Sophie popped her head in the doorway. “Excuse me for interrupting,” She said, looking at Kate. “Kate, there’s an important phone call waiting for you. Hi Anthony.”

"Hey, Sophie," said Anthony, pleasantly smiling at her which made Kate glare at him in disgust. Sophie and Bridgerton liked each other. Sophie had said on more than one occasion that he wasn't as bad as Kate made him out to be, and Kate usually threw a pen at her.

“Thank you, Sophie,” She smiled at her assistant, before turning around back to Bridgerton and putting the proposal on his desk with the word ‘DENIED’ scribbled across it in red sharpie. “I don’t want to see this proposal on my desk again. I don't feel like denying it for a fourth time.”

Benedict had turned around and was staring at Sophie, and Anthony rolled his eyes. This was one of their new arguments, that had been going on for a few weeks over a hotel design proposal that Anthony desperately wanted and Kate wouldn’t approve under any circumstances.

“Your wants aren’t really my concern, Sheffield,” Anthony said, his tone dismissive. “It’s an excellent proposal-”

Kate snorted. “It’s an obnoxious, reckless, extremely over the top hotel proposal that is not going to happen just to boost your ego. The Board would never agree to it and I certainly won’t.”

“We’ll see about that,” He smirked at her, but his eyes were glaring at her. “The Board are very fond of me. I can be very persuasive.”

“You need finance clearance and-oh. Who in finance has that authority?” She tilted her head slightly, before looking back at him to smirk right back at his smug face. “That’s right, me.”

“Who is CEO of the company and whose name is on the company?” Anthony retorted, furrowing his brows before smirking at her. “That’s right,” He mimicked her, “Me.”

“Does this happen often?” Benedict asked, amused as his head flicked between Kate and Anthony.

Gregory Bridgerton, who was eating a packet of crisps, appeared at the doorway and joined the conversation. “Everyday.”

“Every single day,” Sophie added in agreement, smirking slightly which faded as her cheeks turned crimson when she caught Benedict’s eye, quickly looking away.

“No it does not!” Both Kate and Anthony said at the same time.

Kate shook her head in frustration, “I have to go. If you email me that proposal again, I will stamp it once again with DENIED and hammer it onto your door until the message gets through your thick skull.”

“I am your boss, Sheffield,” said Anthony, his tone rather sharp. “You can’t talk to me like that.”

“Oh, forgive me,” Kate said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Should I write it down so you will actually understand what I’m saying?”

Anthony glared at her furiously, pushing himself up with his fists. “You can shove it up your-”

“So lovely to meet you both,” said Kate, interrupting Anthony’s insult loudly as she smiled at his laughing two brothers before walking out of the room, Sophie at her heels.

It was no way to talk to her boss, he was right, but they had long passed the proper etiquette of employer and employee relationships. They regularly insulted and shouted at each other, whether it was in person, over text or on the phone, and it just sort of became what they did. It somehow worked, as they worked well together and the company was making its highest profits to date.

Kate sat at her desk, her heart thumping in her chest. What was she thinking? She did not like that man. He infuriated her. She grabbed her jacket on the back of her chair and quietly screamed into it, then took a deep breath before answering the phone. “Edwina? Is everything okay? Is it Mary? Is it Newton?”

“Relax, Kate,” Her sister said, with amusement in her voice. “I had to say it was an emergency for you to answer during work. It is technically an emergency.”

“Not funny,” Kate mumbled, resting her cheek against her desk and putting the phone on speaker. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?”

Kate heard her sister swallow before biting the bullet. “I need you to come to this charity gala tonight.”

“No.”

“Kate-”

“No!”

“My date just bailed on me for Paris fashion week. I can’t go alone. It would be so embarrassing. He’s already been photographed with some Russian model this morning,” Her sister’s voice broke slightly. “Please, Katie.”

Edwina was her younger sister by four years, and she was a famous supermodel. She had been scouted when they were walking down Oxford Street, and it had been runways, magazines and brand deals for Edwina ever since. Kate would do anything for her sister, especially when she pleaded with her, even if that thing made Kate want to set herself on fire.

Actually, she probably would prefer having a civilized conversation with Anthony Bridgerton than go to one of Edwina’s events. That’s how much Kate hated them.

She groaned. “Fine, but two hours top. I will choose what I wear and if you try to set me up, I will leave.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! “ Her sister squealed to the phone. “Be at mine at six! Do not be late! I love you.”

“I love you too, but I want you to know at this very moment, I really despise you,” Kate said as she heard her sister chuckle before hanging up. Excellent. She hated Edwina’s events. She had been to many of Edwina’s parties, galas and events, which involved Kate trailing behind her famous sister who everyone cooed and praised and only ever acknowledged Kate with a “Oh! I didn’t know you had a sister!” after Edwina introduced her.

As if her day couldn’t get any worse.

She heard a buzz, and then Sophie’s voice over the intercom. “Can I get you anything?”

Kate groaned. “The will to live.”

“How about a milkshake?”

She lifted her head off her desk slightly, perking up. “Please. Chocolate with extra crème. I’m feeling fragile.”

“Of course, I’ll go right away,” Sophie spoke, hesitating slightly before continuing. “Anthony has just sent an invite for the hotel proposal presentation with the Board in a few weeks. Talktoyoulaterbye!

Kate’s head snapped up off her desk, “What?” She spat out, fury filling her veins and she twisted her neck towards his office. He was looking right at her, smirking like the devil himself, and he had the audacity to wave.

Kate’s middle finger waved right back.

Chapter Text

Kate needed a drink.

Actually, she needed two drinks. A minimum of two. She had needed a drink earlier that day at one in the afternoon when Anthony Bridgerton’s email popped into her inbox and ruined her entire day, she had needed another drink when she had to sit opposite from his smug, smirking face for an entire hour during a staff meeting.

She needed a takeaway, lying in her favourite ratty t-shirt and sweatpants on her couch cuddling with her beloved corgi Newton.

Instead, she was with her sister, standing at the top of a marble staircase that led to the buzzing hall where the gala was being held. Kate stood beside Edwina, who was a vision in a blue lace gown with her dark hair in curls. Kate had gone for a violet satin dress, which she felt beautiful in, but she was already prepared to be invisible tonight. She usually was when she was with her sister.

She was Edwina Sheffield, and Kate was just...Kate.

It was in an art gallery in the centre of London. As much as she despised these events, Kate couldn’t find a fault in the venue. It was quite beautiful, actually. Kate had always loved art, it was a hobby she had adored in school and she turned to when she was stressed or felt like doing something other than lay on her coach with Newton watching New Girl for the tenth time.

At least the art on the walls could distract Kate from where she actually was, which was her idea of pure and utter hell.

“Would it kill you to smile?”

“I am smiling,” Kate responded through gritted teeth, turning to look at her sister.

“You look constipated.”

Kate snorted. “Charming.”

“I love you for coming with me tonight. I know these events aren’t really your thing,” Edwina put lightly, but it was no use. They were both well aware this was Kate’s idea of purgatory. “A lot of people would die to be here! The tickets are really hard to get.”

“I wonder why,” Kate mused, knowing exactly why. “How much was a ticket tonight? Two hundred pounds? I’m sure most of that is going towards the charity and not the cost per plate of lobster covered in caviar and twelve pounds per salad leaf.”

“Kate,” Edwina said sternly, giving her a sister a hard look that quickly faded as she smiled and waved at someone in the distance. “Behave.”

“I always behave,” Kate tutted, smiling sweetly at her sister as they walked down the stairs towards the large room full of people and portraits hanging on the walls.

“Please try not to insult anyone tonight, I know people here. I work for people here,” Edwina nudged her slightly, giving her another look that reminded Kate so much of their mother Mary whenever she scolded Kate.

“I promise I’ll be on my best behavior,” Kate gave in, putting on a smile as she noticed a few heads turn to look at Edwina. This was Edwina’s job, she wasn’t her for the hell of it. She squeezed her sister’s hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be mean. Today was just a bad day.”

“I don’t even have to ask about why you’ve had a bad day,” Edwina said, turning to give her sister a teasing smile. “It’s, as always, because of Anthony Bridgerton.”

Kate frowned, not liking being so predictable. It made her uneasy sometimes how quickly Edwina could read her, but that’s because she was her sister. Kate could do the same. Besides, surely she didn’t talk about him that much, did she? “Well, actually-yes, it was because of him. He pulled a stunt for this project he wants passed which I have opposed numerous times. He’s incredibly irritating. He would not stop smirking at me during the staff meeting earlier. He’s infuriating.”

Edwina didn’t say anything to her sister, she just smirked knowingly at her and wiggled her eyebrows.

“What?” Kate said, frowning further at her sister. “Stop looking at me like that.”

“Oh Kate,” Edwina sighed dramatically, shaking her head. “When are you going to admit that you like him?”

Kate gasped, earning a look or two from people they passed by. Everyone was so dressed up and eloquent and Kate felt like she stuck out like a sore thumb. It was why she always hated these events, she didn’t belong here. “Edwina! I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Kate said, quite flustered, tilting her chin up in the air as she avoided eye contact, glancing around the room.

A woman standing a few meters away from them called out Edwina’s name and it was Kate’s perfect opportunity to escape this uneasy conversation. “I’ll be at the bar. Enjoy!” Kate said swiftly, walking away from her sister before Edwina could open her mouth to reply. She leaned against the bar, smiling at the bar tender who was standing behind it. "Hi, how are you? Could I get a glass of white wine, please? Your largest.”

She heard a snort behind her.

“Well, well, well.”

Kate’s heart momentarily stopped in her chest. She didn’t have to turn around to recognize that voice.

It was his voice.

What was he doing here? She had never come across him at once of these events before. However, he was a Bridgerton. They worked with many charities and his mother, Violet Bridgerton, had ran the Bridgerton charitable foundation for many years which her and her late husband had set up.

The Bridgertons got invited everywhere. They were one of the most famous families in London.

Deep breath, Kate. She could do this. She could remain calm and unaffected.

“Don’t you have someone else to talk to?” She replied coolly, taking a long gulp of her wine before turning around to face him. She was determined to remain composed and unaffected.

Wow. Okay. Deep breath, Kate. She could admit to herself, and only herself, he looked good.

He had changed into an evening suit, which was completely black with a crisp white shirt and a baby blue tie. It probably cost more than her monthly rent.

Anthony smirked at her, shaking the red wine glass in his hand slightly. “Why would I do that when it’s so much more fun to annoy you?”

“Ah, and there it is,” Kate raised her glass in a cheers to no one, shaking her head as she brought the glass to her lips and took another long sip. “It’s officially the worst day of my life.”

“Ouch Sheffield,” replied Anthony, putting a hand over his heart in his expensive, pretentious suit that he definitely did not look great in. “You’re almost making me think you don’t like me.”

“Almost?” Kate raised an eyebrow, narrowing her eyes at his playful smirk. God, she despised him. “Oh, I’ll make sure to try harder so you know how much I don’t like you.”

“That’s no way to talk to your boss,” Anthony replied, a challenging look in his eye as he took a sip of his brandy. “Most employees would treat their employers with respect.”

He was right, it wasn’t any way to talk to your boss. Kate had crossed some lines with Anthony she had never crossed with anyone, particularly someone who was their boss. She could think of a few instances during one of their many screaming matches where she probably should have been fired. He had crossed those lines just as much-but he was a Bridgerton. The boss. The power was his. Yet, in the two years they had worked closely together, Kate had gotten promoted and wasn’t replaced or disposed of.

He was a very good employer, despite his reputation personality-the Bridgerton company had a reputation for treating their employees exceptionally well. Anthony was no exception.

He had always been in the papers, mainly gossip columns fawning over his good looks, his charming personality and what girl he had on his arm for the week.

“Well, when an employer has earned said respect,” The words were flying out of her mouth before she could stop them. “Then, naturally, they would be treated as such.”

“So you don’t respect me Kate?” He asked, biting his bottom lip for a few seconds that caused Kate’s breath to still. His suit was dark,

“What does it matter?” Kate responded, raising an eyebrow

Anthony stared at her and it made Kate uncomfortable. His gaze bore into her, but he remained expressionless. Something in their conversation had shifted and it no longer felt like their usual back and forth banter. “It matters.”

She opened her mouth to retort, but words failed her as she stared back at him. She had not expected him to say that. She had expected an insult or an annoying comeback, but not that. She sort of felt bad.

However, she would be damned if Anthony Bridgerton left her speechless.

“Anthony! There you are,” A woman of her mother’s age appeared at . Kate recognized Violet Bridgerton quickly, from the pictures around the office and on Bridgerton newsletters. She was dressed in a pale pink suit with a long blazer. “I want to introduce you to Cressida, her mother and I used to work together-Oh, hello!”

Kate gulped as Violet turned to her, smiling warmly as she extended her hand. “Anthony, aren’t you going to introduce us?”

“Mum, this is Kate Sheffield,” Anthony introduced her, and Kate shook his mother’s hand. “We work together. Kate, this is my mother, Violet Bridgerton.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Bridgerton.”

“Please call me Violet. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kate,” Violet said warmly, looking her up and down. “You look absolutely gorgeous tonight. How long have you been involved with the charity?”

“I’m actually here with my sister, Edwina Sheffield. She’s been involved for about a year but it’s my first event,” She replied, nodding as she listened to Violet talk about her work with the charity over the years.

“Kate works in the finance department,” Anthony said to his mother a while later, “We work together quite a lot.”

Violet grinned. “Oh, I do hope you are giving my son some trouble Kate.”

“Someone has to,” Kate smirked at Anthony, who gave her a pointed glare.

“Well then, in that area, you certainly have exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Anthony muttered, looking sort of put out as he

“I do try. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go find my sister. It was a pleasure meeting you Mrs. Bridgerton,” She smiled warmly at Violet before turning to nod at Anthony. “Anthony.”

“Kate,” He nodded back, taking a long sip of his wine as she walked away, and she swore she could feel his eyes on her as she walked away.

 

A while later, Kate gazed around the ballroom from her seat at her designated table. The food had been served and eaten, but Kate had barely touched hers. She had always been a picky eater and the most she ate was the vegetables. She spotted Anthon on the dance floor in the middle of the tables, dancing with his youngest sister, Hyacinth.

“He’s quite sweet.”

Kate’s head snapped back towards her sister, who was sitting beside her. “Who?”

Edwina smirked. “You know exactly who. The person who you have been staring at for the past ten minutes. Anthony Bridgerton.”

“Don’t be disgusting,” said Kate, shuddering as she shook her head. She had just been watching the dancefloor which he happened to be dancing on. “I was not staring.”

“I don’t blame you,” said Edwina, clearly enjoying torturing her sister. “He is quite good looking. Older. He’s quite charming.”

“How would you know he’s charming?” Kate asked, raising an eyebrow. She had kept her family and work life separate for a reason, and that reason mainly being any male within a radius of Edwina usually had fallen in love with her by the end of the day.

Anthony Bridgerton would not be one of those men.

“He introduced himself earlier, I was chatting to him and his brother, Benedict.”

“He introduced himself?” Kate gaped, turning to fully face her sister. “Why would he do that? Did he mention me?”

“He didn’t, actually,” Edwina replied, leaning back in her chair and fanning herself with the dinner menu. The gala room was quite stuffy and Edwina had only sat down five minutes ago after dancing with three different men. Kate had remained sitting and ate her dessert, the . “We just talked. He asked me about my job, I asked about his.”

“I’m sure he did,” Kate puffed, crossing her arms across her chest and leaning into her seat, looking slightly sulky. It's not as if she expected him to mention Kate. Why would he?

“So," Edwina began, pushing a dark curl behind her ear. "Do you plan on going there?”

“What?” Kate spluttered, nearly choking on air. “Of course not. He’s my boss! He’s-you know who he is. I would never-no. No. Not that he would ever want to-no. No! Why would you ask that?"

Edwina was grinning at her sister in a devious way for someone who was usually deemed so angelic and kind. “Okay. So you wouldn’t mind if I went there.”

“Of course I would mind! He’s incorrigible-“

“Putting your personal feelings aside,” Edwina interrupted, “It wouldn’t be because you wanted to go there, right?”

“Right,” Kate replied, her voice strained and high pitched. “Definitely right. You still shouldn't go there, he's far too old, he's far too him.

“I would never have any interest in someone you didn’t like Kate,” Edwina replied, reaching across the table to squeeze her sister’s hand, deciding she had teased her enough as she stood up. “I promised Nigel another dance. Are you okay here for a bit?"

Kate nodded, smiling at her sister as she walked over towards a tall, handsome man she presumed was Nigel.

“Kate, just the person I wanted to see,” Benedict Bridgerton grinned widely at her as he sat down in Edwina's seat.

“Hello, Benedict,” Kate said slowly, narrowing her eyes slightly at him. “Why would you want to see me?” They had only met today, and given her experience with Bridgertons so far, she remained cautious.

He continued to grin cheekily at her. She didn’t know him very well, but Benedict seemed a lot more laid back than his older brother. Anthony was so serious all the time. “There is no need to look so suspicious.”

Kate raised an eyebrow at him. “I’ll be the judge of that.”

“I can see why my brother likes you.”

“Your brother does not like me,” Kate grumbled, not wanting to speak about Anthony with anyone. “What can I do for you?”

“It’s about your assistant, Sophie.”

That was surprising. “Sophie?”

“Yes,” His face lit up, nodding eagerly. “What’s her situation?”

Kate stared cluelessly at him. “Her situation?”

Benedict sighed. “What’s she like? Is she seeing anybody?”

“Oh,” Kate drawled, the dots finally connecting in her head. She had never been quick when it came to romance. “Well, I am technically her boss so I’m not sure how appropriate it would be for me to comment.”

However, Sophie had asked about Anthony’s brothers earlier on after their meeting in his office. She had asked particularly if Kate knew the taller one, Benedict.

Sophie had never asked about any man before.

“I'm also her friend. Sophie is incredible,” Kate said, seeing his face light up. She didn’t understand what was going on, he had only met her briefly this morning but he was holding onto her every word. “She’s very smart, funny and extremely kind. She’s the best assistant I’ve ever had. She deserves everything.”

“So, if you ever need anything, you know where my office is. Sophie sits right outside of it,” Kate hinted, giving him a look. He didn’t seem like a bad guy and he had quite a good reputation around the office and in whatever she read about him. He was the charming Bridgerton.

Sophie deserved any possible happiness she could get, from what Kate knew, her life had been far from easy.

She didn’t know if she was crossing a line but what harm could it do?

“You, Kate Sheffield, are a vision,” Benedict took her hand and kissed it, which made Kate roll her eyes and blush simultaneously. “Do you want to dance?”

“I’m a terrible dancer,” Kate replied, shaking her head. “But thank you for asking.”

“I highly doubt that,” Benedict said but he didn’t push her to dance which Kate was grateful for. “Your sister is quite a good dancer, Anthony looks like he’s struggling to keep up.”

“Pardon?” Kate’s eyes followed Benedict’s nod towards the dance floor where Anthony and Edwina danced amongst the numerous couples, looking very chummy.

Kate clenched her jaw.

Kate couldn’t exactly break them up. It would be rude and she would never purposely embarrass Edwina.

“You don’t look happy,” Benedict said, smiling slightly as he followed Kate’s furious glare at the dancing couple.

“If you'll excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom. I'll see you sometime this week, Benedict,” Kate said, choosing not to tell him why she wasn’t happy that her angelic baby sister was dancing with his whore of a brother.

Kate had disappeared to the bathroom and then lingered until they finished dancing and parted ways and Kate clung onto Edwina for the rest of the evening. Edwina had brought Kate around to a few tables, introducing her to colleagues and the two sisters had even danced for a bit. It was a fun break from the repetitive small talk.

Kate eventually left Edwina to go home, as her sister was going clubbing with some friends at the gala which Kate had declined, she was dying to go home to see Newton.

Kate stood at the top of the large stone steps that led to the entrance of the museum. She really should have brought a coat, all she had with her was a wrap made of thin material.

She was alone until she noticed a man a few steps down from her, her stomach dropping and fury filled her body as she recognized him. Anthony noticed her before she did and opened his mouth to say something, but she beat him to it.

“No.”

He frowned. “Excuse me?”

“No!”

Anthony stared at her. “Are you broken?”

“Stay away from my sister,” She snapped, wagging her finger accusingly at him. “She has absolutely no interest in you.”

“I think Edwina is fully capable of making her own decisions, don’t you?” He replied smugly, somehow finding this conversation amusing. “She seemed more than happy to dance with me. Excited, even.”

Kate snorted. “I imagine it was out of pity. Edwina is a very nice, good person. Stay away.”

“You’re mental, you know that? You are the most infuriating person I have ever met,” Anthony replied, shaking his head as he glared at her.

“Right back at you,” Kate snapped, wrapping her shawl around her to try shield herself from the freezing cold breeze but it didn’t do much. She walked away from him, really just walking down a few of the museum's steps.

It would be a cold day in hell before Kate would ever allow Anthony Bridgerton to be her brother in law.

“You’re shaking,” Anthony appeared beside her, taking off his jacket and placing it around her shoulders.

She went to protest but she was freezing and her uber had said they’d be here five minutes ago. “Oh. Well, thank you.”

“No argument? Consider me shocked. You’re welcome,” He replied, glancing down at his phone before looking towards the road. “Do you have a lift?”

She chose to be the bigger person and not kick him in the shin. “Yes. My uber is just running late.”

He shook his head. “Come with me. My driver can drop you home.”

She opened her mouth to reply but he cut her off.

“For once in your life could you not argue and just get in the bloody car?” Anthony snapped, letting out a frustrated sigh simultaneously through his nostrils and mouth. He even pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Fine, no need to be so dramatic,” Kate shifted uncomfortably as she cancelled the uber on her phone, which had changed to fifteen minutes anyway, and followed him towards a black range rover that had pulled up on the road.

The car was fancy. Anthony opened the car door for her, closing it behind her as she got in and he walked to the other side. The interior was black leather and there was a little shelf full of snacks and drinks.

“Go ahead,” He nodded towards the snacks, smiling with that amused expression that infuriated her. He always seemed to be laughing at her. “You must be starving.”

Kate narrowed her eyes. “Why would I be starving?”

Anthony took a packet of crisps for himself and only then did Kate take a pack of m&ms, her favourite chocolate and quickly dive right into them. She opened up a bottle of water as well.

“Not everything I say is an accusation, Kate. I noticed that you barely ate all night,” He said, “Except for the dessert.”

“How do you know that?”

He looked flustered, breaking their eye contact and glancing out the tinted window. “Why didn’t you eat?”

She shrugged, “I don’t like fish.”

“Do you want to stop somewhere?”

“No, no. Thank you, but my feet are killing me. I just want to go home.”

He looked at her again, pushing a pack of crisps towards her as he took another for himself. “I would have thought you’d rather be dead than be somewhere like that.”

She took the crisps willingly, hoping her stomach didn’t start groaning for more food now that she was eating. “You’re not wrong, I would rather be dead.”

Anthony snorted. “That makes two of us.”

“But, Edwina needed me so I went. They’re not the worst. Do you have connections with the charity or?”

Anthony nodded. “My mother worked with them a long time ago and she wanted me there tonight, so I went.”

“The things we do for family,” Kate hummed, stretching her hands as she fiddled with them on her lap. Her palms were clammy and she was oddly nervous. She was in a car with Anthony Bridgerton, alone. It wasn’t the worst thing that had happened all evening.

“Your sister is quite successful, isn’t she?” He asked, and Kate was reminded of why he definitely was the worst.

“We’re not talking about my sister. As far as you’re concerned, she does not exist.”

He just smiled. “Whatever helps you sleep at night, Kate.”

“How I sleep is absolutely none of your concern,” She snapped, full on glaring at him now. “Edwina is far too young and far too-far too good for you!”

“Oh, really?” He drawled, shrugging indifferently as he took a sip of his water, looking completely unbothered.

“Your reputation precedes you and my sister will have absolutely nothing to do with that,” She countered, the endless pictures and articles of his latest conquests or girls of the week were hard to ignore when they were everywhere.

The smile on his face disappeared and he looked angry. He looked pissed and his flat tone reflected that. “You know absolutely nothing about me.”

“I know enough.”

They both hadn’t noticed the car had come to a stop right outside her flat and it couldn’t have been more perfect timing.

“Thank you for the lift,” Kate said, taking off his jacket and handing it to him, scrambling to escape him and this unpleasant conversation. “Let’s never do it again.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” His tone was colder than usual, and just as she shut the door, the car sped off.

“Asshole,” Kate grumbled, reaching for her keys and letting herself into her flat. What a strange night.

 

The following morning, Kate woke up to her phone buzzing on the pillow beside her. Newton was lightly snoring on top of the duvet, and Kate groaned as she blindly felt for her phone before she picked it up. It was a Saturday morning, she was meant to be sleeping in.

“Hello?” Kate whispered into her phone, trying to fight fully waking up.

“Kate?”

She sat up slightly. “Edwina? What time is it? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Everything is-you haven’t read the times, have you? The Whistledown gossip column specifically? Check your Whatsapp. I just sent it to you.”

Kate frowned, cursing as the brightness of her phone stung her eyes as she put her sister on speaker and opened her whatsapp messages. “Wha? Edwina, did you wake me up on a Saturday morning to read?”

“You’re going to want to read this.”

Kate clicked on the link to what appeared to be an article. It quickly opened to Lady Whistledown’s popular gossip column in the London Times. Edwina had been mentioned in it numerous times before and the Bridgertons were often featured. Especially Anthony.

Anthony Bridgerton, 34, has been spotted looking quite close with a mysterious brunette. Is the infamous bachelor now taken? He was seen multiple times throughout the night talking to this woman and leaving in the same car at the end of the night. We have confirmed the mysterious brunette is Kate Sheffield, business woman and sister of model Edwina Sheffield. Not his usual type at all. Has the heir to the Bridgerton empire finally been tamed?

Attached below the article was a series of slightly blurred pictures of Anthony and Kate from last night, talking outside the gala and getting into his car. Another was of Edwina and Kate at one of her shows during London fashion week last year.

Beside Edwina, who was wearing a long silk gown that she had walked in earlier that day, Kate looked bland and terrible. They had chosen to put that picture in the London Times.

In the London Times. In London's most popular gossip column.

Of her and Anthony Bridgerton.

Supposedly dating.

Which anyone could see.

“Am I drunk?” She muttered to herself, slightly dazed as she rubbed her eyes and refreshed the page but the same words and pictures remained on her screen, haunting her. Her heart was hammering inside her chest and she could feel herself starting to sweat profusely. Was she having a heart attack?

“Kate? Are you okay? I'm coming over, I'll be there in ten minutes," She half heard her sister’s concerned voice through her phone, but Kate wasn’t really paying attention. She felt like she was in a daze. Her eyes kept scanning over the article again and again.

Kate never replied to her sister.

She just screamed into her pillow.

Chapter Text

“Kate.”

Kate didn’t know where she was. She was sitting in a chair behind a wooden desk, which was covered with various files, a laptop and multiple picture frames. The frames were blurred and she couldn’t make out the faces. Everything looked familiar, but she felt completely out of place. Something felt..off. Everything looked fuzzy, her vision was slightly blurred and the air slightly darker, as if there was a shadow over her.

She noticed him then, he stood in front of her, glowing like an angel.

She could see him crystal clear.

What was Anthony Bridgerton doing in her office?

He wasn’t wearing his usual work attire. He was wearing the suit he wore at the gala, except his collar was untucked and loose, his tie no longer wrapped around his neck.

His lips were slightly swollen, tints of red smudged across his pink lips.

Her reflection became clear in a small compact mirror open on her desk. More importantly, she could see the bright red lipstick slightly smudged on her lips and dark skin.

What was going on?

His voice sent shivers down her spine as he said her name, enunciating each letter, his voice low, rough like gravel.

“What do you want, Kate?”

She opened her mouth but she couldn’t speak, nothing would come out. All she could do was gape as he walked towards her, around her desk, slowly coming to a stop as he stood in front of her. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to his elbows, exposing his muscular forearms.

He moved closer, she could count the splatter of freckles across his nose as he closed the inches between their lips. One, two, three, four, five-

Kate woke up with a gasp. Newton let out a whine beside her, scowling at being woken up.

“Sorry bud,” She said, her breath hot and heavy as she scratched her corgi’s ears.

She did not just dream of Anthony Bridgerton. He was her worst nightmare.

Kate grabbed her phone, flicking open her google app and tapping impatiently at the screen as she typed her search.

What does it mean when you have a dream about your boss?

She flung her phone away from her, hearing it land on the duvet. What the bloody hell was she doing?

Kate had spent the previous day in bed with her sister, staying off her phone and eating takeaway while they watched movies all day. She needed any distraction from the article published. She even let Edwina convince her to do some yoga on Youtube. When she did pick up her phone last night, she flicked through some of the comments left under the article.

I thought you had to be pretty to be a gold digger?

Her sister is much prettier than she is

who even is she?

She quickly opened another bottle of wine to distract herself from the sinking feeling in her stomach.

How could she ever show her face in work again? What would everybody think? There was absolutely no truth to that article, but the truth had never been something people were concerned about when reading gossip.

Kate was hardly a scandal, she was a nobody. Anthony Bridgerton, on the other hand, was not.

She eventually got out of bed, washing her hair and exfoliating away the anxiety and dread that clung to her skin. She ate breakfast with Newton after getting dressed, opening her balcony doors and leaning against the railing as she looked out at London on a Sunday morning.

The air was bitter but the sun was shining despite it being winter, and Kate needed to clear her head and walk Newton. She texted Edwina, who suggested they grab a coffee and walk in the park. Edwina was a morning person, she had already been up for hours and had been to a pilates class.

Kate, on the other hand, had to set five alarms to get up on time and considered her walk to work sufficient exercise.

Cameras started flashing everywhere. Her eyes stung as the flashes started to blind her, she could barely make out Newton barking at her feet or the swarms of people waving a camera in her face.

“Kate Sheffield!”

“Kate, when did you and Anthony Bridgerton start dating?”

“Is it serious?”

“Will we be hearing wedding bells soon?”

Kate momentarily froze, gaping at the blinding flashes. What the hell was going on? How did they know where she lived?

“This is private property. You need to leave right now.” Her neighbour, a middle aged woman called Agnes Danbury, had appeared at her side. The woman tended to appear out of nowhere, trapping you in a conversation that wouldn’t finish until she was done. Kate actually liked her a lot, the woman just scared her a little. “Go out the back, darling. Through the car park.”

Kate hastily turned around and ran back into the building, down the steps and to the car park. She exited through the back entrance, which led to an empty road. She sprinted down the end of her road, away from the photographers and down the steps to her tube station. She got lost in the swarm of people in the busy station and by the time she turned around, panting, she did not see a camera in sight. She put her sunglasses on, pulled her beanie down lower on her head and cuddled Newton to her chest.

She wasn’t bothered after that, the ride on the tube and arrival at Hyde Park station was uneventful. Kate was shaken and paranoid as she glanced around her, but no one actually cared about her. It was Bridgerton they cared about. Newton was happily toddling along beside her as they entered the park gates. Edwina was on the other side of the park, near the pond, waiting with their coffees.

“Kate?”

The blood in her veins turned cold. She knew that voice anywhere. It was the unfortunate voice that she had become accustomed to hearing five days a week, a voice she did not get paid enough to listen to, a voice she could not get out of her head and now dreams.

Anthony Bridgerton stood behind her, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead as he stood in front of her. He had clearly been running, his flushed cheeks and damp t-shirt clung to his skin.

He looked good.

Why did he have to look good?

This was not the time to get distracted, Kate.

“Are you following me?” Kate managed to speak, flexing her fingers that weren’t holding Newton’s lead.

“What?” She couldn’t read his face. He didn’t look displeased to see her, which he usually did-but he didn’t look happy, either. He looked pensive. If she had seen him first, she would have run in the opposite direction or hid behind a tree.

He, for some reason, had approached her.

“Are you following me?” She repeated, bending down to scratch Newton’s ears. She needed something to do other than blankly stare at him.

“Why would I be following you?”

“Oh, so this is just a coincidence then?”

“I run in this park everyday,” Anthony said, his eyes narrowing as he spoke. “I have lived near it for years. So, yes. This is purely a coincidence.”

“Alright.” That was slightly embarrassing, but Kate was more preoccupied with getting away from him, getting away from this conversation and getting away from the thoughts spiraling in her head.

“Kate, wait.”

“No.”

“What?” He sounded exasperated, letting out a deep sigh as he appeared at her side.

“I am not doing this,” She said, gesturing between them. “We’re in public. Someone could see. I do not have the mental capacity to deal with you right now.”

“I presume you saw the article,” He said, putting his right foot on a bench to tie his shoelace. He looked completely unbothered, as if the events in the last two days hadn’t had any affect on his life whatsoever.

Two could play that game.

She just wouldn’t play it looking directly at him because he was bent over slightly and his shorts were rather right, which gave Kate the perfect view of his rather nice-

Kate, no.

“What article?” Kate simply shrugged her shoulders, her eyes flickering around the park. She didn’t see any photographers or anything unusual, which made it slightly easier to breathe. She needed to find Edwina and get away from him.

“Don’t play stupid, it doesn’t suit you.”

Kate narrowed her eyes. “You really have a way with women, don’t you?”

“My ways have never failed me before,” He replied, smirking smugly at her.

She mimed gagging. “It’s a Sunday. We are not working. I have no obligation whatsoever to talk to you.”

Anthony simply rolled his eyes.

It was incredible how she could be so attracted and annoyed by a man at the same time.

“Could we try to have a civilized, mature conversation? For once?” His voice was almost pleading, he still had his usual stern, arrogant tone but there was a hint of desperation in it.

He might actually feel bad.

“I don’t know, can we?” Kate mimicked him, making a sour face. She may be the problem here. She swiftly changed the subject.

“There were a lot of photographers outside of my flat. How did they figure out where I live?” Kate still hadn’t figured that out and it worried her beyond belief. She might stay at Mary’s for the next few days, Edwina’s flat was too small for anything more than a night.

Anthony’s face fell and he looked as if he felt bad for her. “You would be surprised how quickly the media can work. I’m sorry that happened, I really am.”

She didn’t know what to say, so she said nothing.

“The article doesn’t mean anything, Kate.”

“That is quite easy for you to say. Do you have any idea how this looks for me? You’re my boss. It’s inappropriate. I have to go to work tomorrow and face everyone. It’s mortifying. What everyone is probably thinking-” Kate would usually be embarrassed by such a display of emotions, how high pitched her voice was and the anguish in her face-but she wasn’t even thinking about that.

She was slowly coming to terms with the consequences of the events of this weekend.

The realization hit her and she felt quite faint.

It was that or the sprint to the tube station earlier-she was really unfit.

“I’m going to have to quit and move to Australia.”

“What?” Anthony said, his eyes bulging out his eye sockets as he stared in bewilderment at her. “You’re not quitting-what?

If he hadn’t thought she was mad before, that ship had definitely sailed. Anthony’s voice had increased a pitch as he spoke and he looked scared.

“I don’t do well in hot climates. I grew up in Somerset, where it rains most of the year, for fuck sake. I’m also not a fan of spiders and snakes.” Kate groaned, covering her eyes with her hands. “They’re the size of Newton over there. My sister still has to remove them from my flat.”

“Would you calm down?”

“Don’t tell me to calm down,” Kate said, shaking her head profusely. “That’s the one thing you don’t say when you want someone to calm down. I have no reason to be calm.”

“You’re not moving to Australia,” Anthony said, trying to give her a reassuring look but it just came across as him looking slightly constipated. “It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks. Our personal relationship has nothing to do with our professional relationship. If anyone in work has anything to say, they can say it directly to me. Then they’ll get fired.”

It was Kate’s turn to roll her eyes and snort. “There’s definitely a human resources issue in there. Oh, well, that makes everything better than. Problem sorted.”

He was rather calm about the whole situation, really. It was infuriating. “Those gossip articles mean nothing, Kate. It will blow over in a few days and everybody will move onto the next story. That’s how it works.”

“That’s just amazing. I’ll just be known as another notch on your bed frame. I’ll have to add that to my CV.”

“I have a lot more experience with this than you,” Anthony said, his mouth forming a flat line. “I have been subjected to this for years-I do know what I’m talking about.”

“Yes, well, I haven’t. I never asked to be. It’s my worst nightmare. There were cameras outside of my flat this morning. They knew where I lived. That is terrifying. The comments online were much kinder to you than they were to me.”

“I know.” He actually sounded sincere and she felt a pang of guilt for being so rude to him. A slight pang of guilt. “I wanted to reach out and apologize. I wasn’t sure if it would make it worse to hear from me, given that we have never exactly seen eye to eye. I was going to speak with you tomorrow at work. I’ll send security to your flat tomorrow for when you go to work.”

Kate scoffed, rolling her eyes. Honestly, rich people. “I don’t need security.”

“Yes you do. They’ll harass you for a few days and then eventually stop. It’s not a discussion, Kate. This is a safety issue.”

“Okay. Fine.” Kate conceded, letting out a deep breath. If he really was concerned, that worried her. She wasn’t used to this type of attention. “Thank you. Send me the bill.”

How much was security? She’d had a shop online last night after a few glasses of wine and had bought clothes she definitely didn’t need, and her bank account had been hit hard.

It was his turn to scoff. “You are not going to pay.”

“I am going to pay-” Kate protested, but Anthony didn’t let her finish.

“Do you argue over everything? Or is this special treatment just reserved for me?”

“You do pay me to argue. Maybe work on your personality and I wouldn’t argue with you so much.” “Thank you, though-but only this time.”

Newton barked loudly. They broke eye contact with each other and stared down at Newton, whose tongue was wagging happily out of his mouth. He circled around Anthony, jumping up and down eagerly.

“He’s a bit overweight.”

Kate’s jaw dropped and she gasped. “You are so rude. He’s a corgi, his rolls keep him warm! He probably heard that!”

“He’s a dog.” Anthony glanced down at Newton, quite unimpressed.

Of course Anthony Bridgerton didn’t like dogs. He probably didn’t like anything that caused any joy.

“Newton,” She said, particularly emphasizing that he had a name and was not just ‘dog’, “-is incredibly intelligent.”

They both simultaneously glanced back at Newton, who was sprinting in a small circle, trying and failing to chase his tail.

Anthony hummed, his eyes bulging slightly that infuriated Kate further. “I’m sure.”

“Please do not project your insecurities onto my dog.”

“My insecurities? I’m quite confident in my body.” His cocky smirk infuriated her more. His tight t-shirt was not helping the situation.

Kate swore she could see the outline of his chest, the faint lines of his abdominal muscles were clinging to the west material of his t-shirt.

“Good for you.” Kate managed to conjugate.

“Do you think there’s something wrong with my body, Kate?”

“I don’t think about your body at all.” Liar, liar.

“We both know that’s not true, Miss Sheffield.”

Newton saved Kate from replying by jumping onto Anthony, his paws resting on the thin material of his shorts covering his thighs.

“Down, dog. Sit.” Anthony pointed at the ground, and to Kate’s surprise, he sat. She usually had to bribe him with some ham to do any tricks.

She needed to make a swift exit. “We have to get going. My sister is waiting for-oh!”

Newton sprinted away from them, jumping from his sitting position and charging off so ferociously he yanked the lead right out of Kate’s grip. Kate landed flat on her face.

She felt Anthony’s hands on her waist, easily pulling her off the grand. Kate spat out a mouthful of grass, ignoring the tingling feeling his fingertips left as she stood up, immediately taking off after her dog.

“Newton, no! Come back!”

“Can’t you call him back?” Anthony said, easily catching up with her as they sprinted after the dog. They had gathered a few people’s attention, it was an interesting sight-two people running after a manic dog.

“Thank god you’re here. I never would have thought of that one on my own.” Kate cast a disgruntled glare at him before squinting her eyes to make out Newton’s little figure, a good bit ahead of them.

“Newton!” She roared after him, but the runaway corgi paid them little attention.

Kate felt like she was going to vomit. She had to stop, coming to an abrupt halt to bend over. She was panting heavily, resting her hands on her knees. She may have been dressed in running gear, a jumper and leggings-but she had never actually ran in them.

“I think I’m going to get sick,” Kate said, half-panting, half heaving. Her stomach was not feeling good.

Anthony, who stopped a few meters ahead of her, glanced back at her unimpressed. He wasn’t even sweating. “We’ve ran about fifty meters.”

“I’m failing to see your point,” Kate said, biting her bottom lip hard before mustering the strength to take off again. She needed to find Newton-she wasn’t worried he would run off, he had severe attachment issues, as did Kate-but he would make it difficult for her in the meantime.

“Don’t you exercise?” He asked, easily jogging beside her. He still hadn’t broken a sweat and Kate couldn’t stop, the beads of sweat trailing down her forehead.

“I don’t have the time.” She wasn’t willing to try to find the time. She worked, she spent time with her family and Newton and she slept. An exciting life, truly.

Anthony, rather judgmentally, snorted. “We have a free gym in the building at work. It’s about making time, Kate. I exercise everyday.”

“Would you like a medal?” Kate tried to sound unimpressed, her tone flat and dull. It wasn’t news to her, he had raised a lot of money last year for the marathon and it had been advertised all around the building.

Kate had been treated to Anthony Bridgerton’s face everywhere for a whole month before the marathon. She not only had to see his smug face in person daily but she had been subjected to it on newsletters, in emails, on badges and on bloody biscuits.

“I have plenty, thanks,” He said swiftly, his usual arrogant tone alive and well. It was the voice he used in meetings at work when they were arguing over something and he was trying to irritate her-it usually worked. “I was captain of the rugby team at school and at Oxford. I also ran the London Marathon last year.”

“You’re so modest.” Kate laughed as he scowled at her sarcastic tone. His achievements were quite impressive, she had donated to his fundraiser last year-she just wasn't going to inflate his ego any further. “I pass the gym everyday and I swear I’ll go tomorrow. The thing is, I really couldn’t be arsed.”

Kate fell off a treadmill last year and still hadn’t emotionally recovered. It would be a cold day in hell before she stepped foot in a gym again.

“You should. It’s a good stress reliever. You always look so disgruntled every time I see you.”

Charming.

“That’s because I have to see you everyday.” Kate chimed back, shooting him a short smile before coming to a stop, beginning to walk towards Newton. They were getting closer and closer to Newton, who had been trotting around the same area of grass in the distance.

“Get him,” Anthony loudly whispered, interrupting their back and forth as he pointed towards Newton who was now rolling in a patch of dirt.

“I'm trying!" Kate shouted back, trying to keep her voice low as she reached out her hands. Her plan to pounce and grab Newton carefully before he could sprint away. "Stop distracting me. I need to get my dog. My dog, who now needs a bath and ran away, which are both completely your fault.” She was so close Newton, who still hadn’t noticed them.

Anthony was walking in front of Newton, trying to stay out of his eyeline by approaching from the side. It wasn't too difficult-Newton was quite oblivious.

“How is any of this my fault?” Anthony snapped, glaring at her from across the flowerbed as he creeped around it. “I am spending my Sunday helping you catch your beast-”

“Watch your mouth, Newton is an angel. I didn’t ask you to! I’m here because I came out to clear my head because of what you’ve done-” Kate argued, it seemed they could last a minute until they resumed bickering.

“What I’ve done?” He gaped at her, his mouth opening and closing. It was worrying how good it made her feel to make Anthony Bridgerton speechless.

“What have you done?” She was focusing on steadying her breath and controlling her panting, creeping closer and closer to Newton. She was seriously unfit. “Exist, specifically. I ended up in Lady Whistledown because of you! All because you enticed me into your fancy cars with snacks-”

“Enticed you?” It was more of an accusation than a question. “I was being nice. I can't help what the media write about me I was offering you a lift home. I won’t make that mistake again.”

“That’s fine by me!”

“Excellent”

“Great!”

“Fantastic.”

“Superb.”

Kate was going to run out of adjectives soon.

Anthony ran a hand through his hair, stopping in the middle of the flowerbed, glaring at her. "You...you are an absolute menace, do you know that? I have never in my life encountered such a frustrating-”

“A menace?” Kate snorted at the insult. “Do you always talk as if you’re from the 1800s?”

Newton spotted Kate and Anthony, narrowly avoiding Kate’s leap towards her. “Shit! Newton, come back here right now!”

Kate’s stomach dropped as she saw exactly what Newton had spotted and was now running towards.

The pond.

“Newton, no!”

“Isn’t he trained? Tell him to stop! Stop, dog!” Anthony shouted at her, his jaw clenched so tightly he looked like he was in pain.

“Yes,” Her voice wavered slightly, glaring right back at him. “He’s a dog. He’s having fun!” Truthfully, Newton had been asked to leave the three training courses Kate had signed them up for. Anthony was not going to know that.

“Kate!” Edwina waved her hand in the air. She was standing in front of the pond, a circle of ducks crowded in front of her. She appeared to be feeding them crumbs, a bagel waving in her hand.

She had completely forgotten about meeting her sister.

“Edwina.” Kate was roaring at her sister, waving her arms frantically. Edwina didn’t seem phased by her sister’s frazzled state at all. Kate wasn’t usually this dramatic, was she? “Move! He’s going to go for the bagel!”

Anthony had joined in on her shouting, but it was too late.

Newton launched himself at Edwina, specifically at the baked good in her hand-causing her to stumble and lose her balance, falling straight into the unbarricaded pond.

Chapter Text

“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.”