Kate Sharma desperately raced after her pudgy corgi as he tore through the park. She should have known better than to allow Anthony Bridgerton to accompany her. He was a rake and a nuisance and she blamed his presence as the reason she was now dashing after her beloved pet.
Of course, it didn’t help matters that she could hear him running only a pace behind, muttering swears under his ragged breath.
As she focused on the scene ahead, Kate watched with horror as Newton headed directly towards the Serpentine, the lake that was smack dab in the middle of Hyde Park. It was a beautifully sunny day, and it seemed like half the ton was out enjoying the rare weather. That included her younger sister Edwina, who was directly in Newton’s path, standing with one of her many suitors.
With a gasp, Kate realized Newton was headed right for Edwina. His chubby legs began extending in a leap towards his second favorite person in the world. Kate kept running, knowing she wasn’t close enough to do anything about the impending impact. She braced herself for the inevitable as Newton sailed through the air…. and landed directly in the water.
Kate breathed a sigh of relief. The damn dog had just wanted to go SWIMMING. And he could swim. One would think that his bread loaf-shaped body would preclude him from doing so, but he was fully capable of treading water. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a ramp for him to get out and the bank was too steep for his legs to climb up. Sighing, Kate realized what she had to do.
As she ran up to the edge of the lake, she immediately began stripping off her top layer. It would leave her in nothing but her thin morning dress, but she didn’t care. She HAD to get Newton out of the lake before anything bad happened. She heard Edwina yelling her name and the gasps of onlookers, but Kate just sucked in a deep breath and dove head first into the Serpentine’s icy depths.
For his part, Anthony hadn’t realized what Kate was going to do until it was too late. He’d been a beat behind her; the woman had been running like a demon was on her heels. By the time he watched her removing her clothes, he just stuttered to a halt and….watched.
He told himself it was because he couldn’t very well grab a half-naked woman in the middle of Hyde Park with half of London watching. But deep down, he well and truly had the air sucked from his lungs as he looked at her. He knew Kate Sharma was reasonably attractive. She was related to the diamond of the first water after all. But only having seen her at social events and then today at her home, he hadn’t really seen her. This was certainly different from the layer of petticoats and corsets and frilly sleeves he was used to seeing on women in society. Kate’s dress was thin and light. In the sunshine it was almost sheer. Her hair was sparkling and her skin glowed. Maybe it was the light sheen of sweat from her exertion, or maybe it was just her. Anthony shocked himself for a moment as he realized he wanted to taste her, tease and lick around that beautiful, dewy collar bone.
Vigorously shaking his head to clear the unseemly thoughts from his mind, he cursed aloud. Now Kate had gone in and he would have to go in after her. It was the gentlemanly thing to do. Stripping off his overcoat, Anthony dove into the water only a few seconds behind Kate.
Fuck, it was freezing he thought as his skin came into contact with the Serpentine’s boggy depths. Looking around frantically he spotted Kate, treading water with one arm as she held that blasted dog in her other. He swam towards her, practically growling as he grasped her upper arm.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”
She looked at him, bewildered but indignant.
“I’m saving Newton of course.”
He rolled his eyes.
“Obviously, but you could have drowned. You still may catch pneumonia from being in this water!”
He dragged her none too gently to shore. Wrapping his strong arms around her waist, trying not to focus on the way she felt against him, he hauled her out of the water. She placed Newton on the ground, and the little rascal shook all over them, including Edwina who had just dashed over to her older sister.
“Kate! Oh Kate are you alright?” Edwina asked, her face taut with worry.
“I’m fine,” Kate grumbled. "Just as soon as I get out of these wet clothes." As she said that, a violent shiver passed through her small frame and she sneezed.
“That's it!” Anthony said authoritatively. “Here’s what’s going to happen. Edwina you’re going to take Newton home with your male companion. Please make sure he gets dried off and then verbally scolded for causing this situation.” “As for YOU,” he said turning to Kate menacingly, “We’re going back to my lodgings to get you dried off and so I can talk some bloody sense into you about pulling stunts like this!”
“It wasn’t a stunt!” Kate yelled. Really, this man was infuriating in so many ways.
“Regardless, we’re leaving. Now.”
He grasped her hand in his and dragged her away from the scene, leaving a stunned Edwina and hopelessly clueless Newton behind them.
Kate struggled against Anthony’s hold the entire walk back.
“Really Anthony this is unnecessary! I can just as easily go back to my home.”
He glared at her. “I’m not letting you out of my sight, lest you get yourself into another situation.”
He kept marching along, all the while trying to calm himself and the racing of his frightened heart. She had jumped into the lake! She could have been hurt, she could have drowned, she could have died. Anthony shuddered. He hadn’t felt terror like this since his father died. He realized that he didn’t want anything to happen to Kate. He cared for her. He wanted to protect her. He told himself it was his paternal instincts from raising his siblings, and nothing more.
They arrived at his bachelor lodgings and he headed up the steps. Kate had stopped short.
“What are you doing? Come inside before you develop a fever!” he barked at her.
“Anthony,” she said, her eyes wide with fear. “I can’t. Someone will see. I’m a single woman in her first season. I can’t be seen going into the home of the biggest rake in London unsupervised.”
He sighed and wearily rubbed his hand over his stubbled face.
“Kate, I assure you, I will not allow your reputation to be sullied in any way. Besides, you and I need to have a talk, in private.” he stated emphatically.
Kate hesitated for one more moment, before hanging her head and conceding.
Once inside, he showed her to the spare bedroom, where his sisters stored some of their extra clothes. The Bridgertons may have had a large house, but even it couldn’t contain the hundreds of frocks owned by his mother and sisters.
“Please avail yourself of any of the clothes that fit. When you’ve changed, I’ll have a servant come and fetch your wet clothes to dry them.”
She gazed at him thoughtfully. “You don’t have to do this you know. You don’t even like me.”
Anthony flushed with embarrassment. “That’s not true. I respect you.”
It was not exactly what Kate wanted to hear, but she took it as a small victory.
“Very well. I’m going to change now, if you don’t mind."
“Of course.” Anthony replied. “I’ll leave you to it.”
He walked out of the room, gently shutting the door behind him.
Fifteen minutes later and Kate STILL hadn’t emerged to join him for tea. The brew was starting to cool, and the biscuits certainly were no longer warm.
Anthony paced the room. The woman was certainly trying his patience. That’s all she ever did really, got under his skin and…. and….
Drove him crazy really. Because of her stubbornness and from….desire. Anthony had to admit what he’d been denying to himself and everyone else. He was attracted to Katherine Sharma. He wanted her. He felt like he was going mad. She was insufferable, bullheaded, a menace to society. And yet, he felt a stirring in his soul and a twitching in his loins whenever he thought of her by the lake. She was beautiful. She was radiant. She was…. now twenty minutes later than he would have liked.
He headed in the direction of the guest room. He quickly spotted a pile of clothes outside the door. Good, he thought, she had already changed. He didn’t know what the devil was going on, but he intended to find out. He knocked on the door. There was no response.
“Kate?” he said softly. “Are you alright?”
Still nothing but silence. And then Anthony’s thoughts began to race with that infernal fear again. What if she had dry drowned? He heard of that happening. What if she tripped and fell and hit her head? What if she had attempted to escape out the window and plummeted to her death?
Anthony couldn’t wait any longer and wrenched open the door. And there was the one sight he was utterly unprepared to see. Kate Sharma, her hair damp, her eyes closed, was SLEEPING. And she was sleeping completely unclothed! Sure, she was under the thin white sheet, but that left little to the imagination. He could see every curve of her body, the muscle tone in her arms and legs. Anthony started to sweat just looking at her.
She mumbled in her sleep and turned towards him. Her eyes began to flutter and they suddenly opened.
“Oh my God, Anthony!” she shrieked, pulling the sheet completely up to her chin.
If he hadn’t have been so dumbstruck he would have laughed at the situation. But all he could do was continue staring at her.
“Anthony, dear God look away!” she cried frantically.
He immediately turned his back to her, but inexplicably felt himself drawn towards her frame. She sat on the bed like a deer caught in the crosshairs. Her lower lip trembled. She was breathing shallowly. Her eyes looked….glazed. Oh Lord, was she already struck with fever? He crossed the room in an instant and placed his hand on her forehead. She shrunk away from him, but he persisted. He had to make sure she wasn’t ill.
He sighed with relief as he felt her brow. It was cool to the touch, no sign of any unwanted heat. He looked into her eyes.
“I’m sorry to barge in but I was worried about you.”
She blinked at him. “Yes, I appreciate that. I must have dozed off. The events of this afternoon were quite taxing.”
He nodded. “Of course.”
But he still didn’t move from his seat next to her on the bed. Their bodies were very close. He could smell her. A maddening scent of soap and lilies.
She stared at him, her eyes alight with a number of emotions.
“Anthony,” she said in an unsteady voice, “I think you should leave.”
His blue eyes were piercing her chocolate brown ones.
“Are you sure you want me to?” he breathed in the huskiest voice she’d ever heard.
Kate’s mind went blank. She could see nothing but Anthony. His chestnut hair, with a lone lock falling across his worried brow. His shoulders taut with tension. His smell, of cigars and something woodsy that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. It was overwhelming. It was unlike anything Kate had ever felt in her entire life.
And then, the Devil himself overtook her. She threw years of decorum and debutante training out the window as she leaned forward and closed the gap between them. Her lips found his in one swift movement. She was lost. And she wanted Anthony to be her anchor.
His body immediately reacted to her touch. He brought his hand up to her face, holding her, burrowing his fingers into her hair. He kissed her hesitantly at first. She was a lady after all, and a virgin at that. He was sure of it and he needed to be gentle with her.
But Kate was having none of that. She was enthusiastically pulling him closer to her, enveloping him, her lips desperately seeking his. And Anthony Bridgerton came undone. He needed her like he needed air, or water, or hell, anything. And her body was responding to him, telling him that she felt the same way.
His lips eased her mouth open, probing his tongue to explore more of her. She gasped slightly, surprised by the intrusion, but instantly responding in kind. Anthony felt himself getting rock hard beneath his trousers. God, he hadn’t realized how good this would feel. She was warm and soft and he couldn’t wait to bury himself inside her.
And he knew he would. He was the most notorious rake in all of London, and the sounds Kate was making told him he could have her. Only if she wanted it as well, of course. He would never force himself on her. But as he reached up to gently pull the sheet away, she didn’t resist. In fact, she leaned into him and moaned when her chest collided with his. Even with his clothes still on he could feel how her hardened nipples felt against him. Anthony nearly growled as he pushed her back onto the bed. Separating from her for even a moment was torture, but he needed more. He needed actual contact.
Anthony would usually have spent a little more time with his seduction of this woman, but this wasn’t something that could wait any longer. He’d wanted her from the moment they had first danced together and she had stepped on his foot. Even if he didn’t know it then, he certainly knew it now.
He tore off his shirt and unceremoniously flung it to the side, which was quickly followed by his breeches. He rejoined Kate in the bed, laying over her, but keeping his weight off her. She looked more beautiful than anything he had ever seen. And he’d seen plenty of women. But something about being with Kate made him never want to look at another woman again.
She was practically panting beneath him. He lowered himself until they were at eye level. Looking at her very seriously and with as much restraint as he could muster he asked, “What do you want Kate?”
“I…. I…. I don’t know Anthony. I just know that I feel like I’m on fire inside and I feel this tingling in my toes and this inexplicable need to…. reach something but I don’t know what.”
She was desperately trying to keep her composure, to not seem too much like the innocent she was.
He smiled at her, almost lovingly. He brushed a stray curl that had fallen into her face behind her ear. “Kate, with your permission, may I show you what you’re looking for?”
Kate swallowed, took a deep breath, and gave a tiny nod of her head.
That was all Anthony needed. He snaked his arms around her, pulling her flush against him. Both of them moaned as their skin made contact. Anthony wasted no time. He began kissing her everywhere. He started at her perfect mouth. He kissed and nipped and teased as she writhed beneath him. He then began trailing his lips along her jawline, brushing back and forth achingly slowly. He moved to her neck, licking along the hollow of her collarbone, reveling in how soft her skin was. The scent of her intoxicated him. He was drunk off this moment. He wanted it to last forever, but he knew his body couldn’t make the same promise.
As he reached the dip between Kate’s breasts, he looked up at her face, seeking further permission. But her head was thrown back, her fingers clutching the sheets on either side of her, and she had a smile on her face. Not even really a smile, a satisfied smirk. Anthony couldn’t help but grin as well. She was enjoying herself and he had barely even done anything yet. He grinned wickedly to himself. Kate Sharma had no idea why he had so many women in London falling at his feet, but she was about to find out.
Anthony's ministrations continued along Kate’s chest. Her breasts were magnificent, he thought to himself. They looked to be the perfect size, which he quickly confirmed as his hand came up to softly wrap around her left breast. She whimpered a little at the foreign touch, but he was encouraged. He gently traced circles around the outer curve of her, careful not to touch her nipple just yet. He lazily wound his finger around and around until she was drawing heaving breaths below him. Without warning, he flattened his palm and grazed it over that most sensitive area. Her response was everything he hoped for; she bucked up towards his hand, desperate to keep the contact. He removed his hand and she murmured in protestation, but he quickly remedied the situation by taking her into his mouth. Kate could have jumped out of her skin. His mouth was so warm and his tongue was touching her in places no man had ever even seen. Anthony swirled his tongue around and around her nipple, making Kate burn deep inside. If this is what made women compromised in today’s society, she would have gladly risked it all for this perfect moment.
Anthony leaned back, gazing at her. “Kate, I’m going to take off everything now. Have you ever seen a naked man before?”
“NO!” she sputtered out. “Of course not.”
“That’s what I assumed,” he said with a gentle chuckle. “I just don’t want to shock you too much.”
“I’m sure I shall be perfectly fine,” she said with a hint of indignance.
“Shush, Ms. Sharma,” he said, putting a finger to her lips.
She did the thing she so rarely did; she clamped her mouth shut and waited.
Anthony stood up swiftly and not breaking eye contact with her, he slowly divested himself of what was left on his body,
Kate’s eyes widened with shock. She didn’t know what she had expected, but she hadn’t expected that. Anthony was tall and strong, which was very clearly reflected in his manhood. It was large and slightly imposing. She wasn’t even sure what he intended to do with it, but she was nervous nonetheless.
Anthony climbed back into the bed. He reached forward and took Kate’s hand, bringing it slowly to himself. He placed her hand directly above his throbbing cock and just looked at her.
While Kate had never done this before, her instincts took over. Tentatively, she closed the distance, and her hand wrapped around him. Anthony hissed at the contact, his whole body tensing with need.
Encouraged by his reaction, Kate slowly began moving her hand up and down. With each pass of her fingers, Anthony seemed to grow under her hand. She didn’t know how this was possible, but it was very clearly happening.
“Kaaaaate,” Anthony moaned her name, almost reverently, his eyes closed and head thrown back. She smiled to herself. She was making Anthony Bridgerton feel this way. It made her feel powerful.
She gently pushed him onto his back. He opened his eyes, gazing at her inquisitively. Without taking a beat, Kate knew the next step in this ancient dance. She got onto her hands and knees and with one swift movement, took Anthony into her mouth.
His hips immediately bucked against her with the sensation. He growled like a man possessed. His fists clenched the bed sheets as he practically lifted them off the bed from the power of his pleasure. Kate bobbed up and down, fully tasting Anthony. She was surprised how much she enjoyed it. He was hard as granite, yet his skin was so soft. He was completely smooth, making it easy for Kate to slide her mouth up and down the length of him. Anthony began to shake underneath her, quaking with the intensity of the feeling. But then he quickly grabbed her, pulling up her chin to meet his face.
“Kate,” he said raggedly, “as much as I love what you’re doing, I can’t wait any longer. I need to be with you.”
Kate nodded, not really sure what was coming next. But Anthony’s searing kiss reassured her. He lifted her up and rolled them both until she was on her back again and he was propped above her. He looked into her eyes with a serious expression.
“Kate, this might hurt for a moment, but I promise you the pain will fade and you will only feel pleasure after that.”
She bit her lip, but gave him a hesitant smile. “You could never hurt me Anthony.”
With that, he was undone. So completely lost in this woman, in this moment, in these feelings.
Anthony positioned himself at Kate’s entrance. He nudged forward, so the head of his member was right between her opening. He glanced up and saw Kate staring at him, wide-eyed.
“Keep your eyes on me Kate. Don’t worry about anything else, just look at me. I want to see your face.”
She obliged, and Anthony slowly edged forward inch by inch, filling her. Kate grimaced only briefly; it didn’t hurt so much as it was slightly uncomfortable. She felt….full. Anthony knew he was almost completely ensconced in her now. His eyes practically rolled back at the way she felt around him. She was tight and warm and she felt like velvet around his cock. He groaned her name over and over as he fully sheathed himself in her. Kate cried out his name in response, urging him on. Anthony started to thrust in and out. His pace started slowly, but as Kate bucked and mewled beneath him, he felt the build-up inside himself.
Soon he was a man on fire. Kate’s moans spurred his passion, his desire to bring her to her peak. Her nails dug into his bare back, her heels locked around his hips. She began to tremble beneath him, practically thrashing about in her ecstasy. Anthony kept pushing, whispering to her over and over in her ear.
“Come on Kate,” he rasped. “Come for me darling.”
Kate kept taking every inch of him, loving the feel of him in her. She didn’t know she could ever feel this way with anyone, but now she was feeling this with Anthony Bridgerton. Her eyes were squeezed together and felt herself starting to spasm around Anthony. He was still urging her on, tickling her ear with his hot breath.
And then Kate exploded. She saw stars behind her eyelids. Her limbs shook with the force of her orgasm. She screamed out Anthony’s name, both thanking him and begging him to join her.
Anthony felt when Kate crested. Her muscles clamped down around him, squeezing him in a way that was almost painful. But it was what Anthony needed. He had made this strong, self-assured woman beneath him reach an apex she had never had before. He was the first man to have her, hell, a part of him almost wished he could be the only man who ever had her. And with that thought, and one last shout of her name, Anthony emptied himself into her. His cock jerked inside of her, giving her every last bit of himself.
Completely spent, Anthony collapsed on top of her, not even able to support his own weight. She didn’t seem to care. She wrapped her arms around him, nuzzling her face into his hair, breathing deeply as she tried to catch her breath.
She had never felt such bliss. She felt whole, she felt complete. She gazed at Anthony’s sweat-drenched face, his mouth open as he breathed heavily, his eyes fluttering open to look at her through impossibly long lashes.
“Hi there,” she smiled down at him.
He grinned at her devilishly, every bit the handsome rake. “Hello my dear Ms. Sharma.”
“Is it always like that?” she asked, not really knowing if she wanted to hear the answer.
He looked at her for what felt like forever.
“No Kate it’s not. That was different. That was just….you and me.”
She smiled and hummed contentedly. “That’s nice to hear.”
Anthony slid up next to her, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her head. He had never felt more whole. It was like every broken piece of him had been put back together. He looked down at the woman he had despised only this morning. Well, that wasn’t true. He clearly had been masking his true feelings. If he was being honest with himself, he was enchanted by Kate Sharma. He wanted to always hold her, protect her, make sure she was happy.
Anthony kept kissing her forehead, even as he felt her breath slow. He peeked down at her, and his heart swelled when he saw she had fallen asleep against his chest. She had a small smile on her face and she was snuggled into him as much as she could. Anthony carefully placed his hand on her head, running his fingers through her soft curls. He felt his own eyelids beginning to droop and he pulled her closer into him.
And to think, this moment would never have happened if it weren’t for the damned dog.