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From the Serpentine to Soulmates

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“NEWTON!”

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.

Chapter Text

Kate awoke with a start. The sun was slowly setting and had made the room golden with the fading rays. But Kate didn’t have time to enjoy the serene setting. She had been startled awake in Anthony Bridgerton’s bed. She was NAKED. So was he she saw as she glanced over at his sleeping form.

Goddamnit, she thought to herself. What on earth had she done?!

“Anthony!” she hissed through her teeth.

He didn’t stir.

Impatient by this point, Kate flicked him in the forehead.

“What the hell?!” Anthony shouted as he sputtered awake. “Kate, what the devil are you doing?”

“What are YOU doing?” she shouted. “You bedded me! You’ve compromised me! I shall be ruined and ruin my family in turn!”

She was practically hyperventilating at this point. Her mind spinning, she dragged the sheet off the bed, wrapping it around herself. Anthony eyed her in an amused fashion. She was acting so abashed now, but that was NOT the woman he had encountered earlier that afternoon.

Kate was desperately trying to find her clothes, all without letting the sheet drop so that Anthony couldn’t see anymore than he already had.

“Kate,” he said in a level voice, “It’s going to be fine. It’s not even suppertime, your mother and Edwina won’t suspect anything untoward. We’ll simply tell them you recovered here, with a chaperone present, and that afterwards we went for some tea in a public place. No one will be the wiser.”

She stared at him incredulously.

“You must be mad. Someone could have seen us entering your house.”

Anthony rolled his eyes. “No one did. The street was empty when we arrived. And I’ll make sure no one is out there before we depart.”

Kate’s forehead was still crinkled with worry. She bit her lip with apprehension. But she realized she had no choice but to trust him.

“Fine,” she replied with a toss of her head. “Let’s get this over with.”

He grinned devilishly at her. “That’s not what you were saying a few hours ago.”

She stared at him, opening and closing her mouth silently. She had no witty retort and he knew it.

“You are such a rake.”

“I know. But you clearly don’t mind too much.”

She sighed heavily. “Can you please just turn your back so I may dress?”

Anthony raised an eyebrow. “Well then you shall have to do the same. Since I am also bereft of my clothing.”

Kate blushed furiously. He had a point. He always did it seemed.
______________________________________________________________________________

Once they had both made themselves presentable, Anthony motioned to Kate to follow him towards the front door. Kate nervously followed in his wake, terrified of the repercussions of her reckless actions. Those thoughts flew from her mind however, when Anthony turned to her and smoothed her wilder than usual hair. Her breath caught as she felt his strong hands graze her face.

Anthony couldn’t believe that Kate could still look so beautiful even in her slightly disheveled state. In fact, she was somehow even more radiant. Her hair was curly and falling out of it’s bouffant. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes still blinked off sleep. She simply took his breath away.

Even though they were in the foyer at the front door, Anthony found himself inexplicably leaning towards her. She drew him in, like a moth to a flame.

Their lips met, as they had done before. The spark ignited again, the heat between them undeniable. Kate now felt more confident, bolder, and wanted to take more control. She immediately opened her mouth to him, accepting his desire. Kissing Anthony was almost an out of body experience. She couldn’t believe he wanted HER, that he viewed her with such desire.

Anthony wound his hands in her hair. He breathed deeply, never wanting her scent to leave him. He kissed her slowly, trying to convey to her just how precious she was to him. Eventually, he pulled away, his hands still on either side of her face, staring into her eyes. He tilted her face down and pressed a gentle kiss on her forehead. Kate looked up at him, her eyes shining.

“I know you can’t stand me, but hopefully now you’ll find me a bit more palatable moving forward.”

Kate laughed quietly. “We shall see Lord Bridgerton.”

And with that, they walked through the door into the fading light.

And immediately were met with the shocked faces of Portia and Penelope Featherington.
______________________________________________________________________________

FUCK.

That was the only word reverberating in Anthony’s head as he took in the two women in front of him. Lady Featherington was the most notorious gossip in town. And now she had witnessed him and Kate leaving his lodgings, both with ridiculous smiles on their faces. He had to think fast.

“Ah Lady Featherington,” he purred smoothly. “How lovely to see you. Ms. Sharma and I were just headed to my mother’s for supper,” he lied on the spot. A society woman would never question the Viscount if she knew what was good for her. But unfortunately, Portia Featherington did not.

“That’s not possible,” she trilled. “I just saw your mother this afternoon and she said she hadn’t spoken to you all day and certainly didn’t mention you’d be having any guests over for dinner.”

Anthony winced. Leave it to his mother to be friendly to everyone and never worry about divulging information. He could feel Kate beginning to tremble next to him and it made him wish he could put his arm around her to comfort her. But that would certainly not help their current situation, so he refrained from doing so.

As the silence had stretched on for an uncomfortably long time now, Anthony cleared his throat, trying to buy time while he worked out exactly how to get out of this mess.

But before he was even able to breathe a word, Mrs. Featherington’s eyes grew wide. Her stare was fixed directly at Anthony’s throat. Kate shot him a nervous look, and it took all her willpower not to gasp out loud.

The idiot had forgotten to put on his cravat!

Kate knew they were done for now. She knew there would be no reasonable explanation as to why an unmarried woman would be leaving a man’s home at dusk and then the man not even being dressed properly! If their dinner story was suspect before, it was truly shot to hell now.

Lady Featherington fixed Anthony with a steely glare.

“You do realize you’ll have to marry her now.”

She said it in such a matter of fact voice that at first Anthony was unsure if his ears had deceived him.

“I obviously need to tell your mother if I am to remain any kind of friend to her. And she will expect you to do the gentlemanly thing.”

“Nothing happened!” Kate burst out, finally speaking for the first time in this exchange.

Portia’s eyes slide over to Kate. “Darling, it is as plain as the flush on your face. You aren’t the first woman to fall under the viscount’s spell, but because of your standing, you will be the last.”

Kate could have fainted on the spot. Her brain was beginning to catch up with itself and she realized Lady Featherington was right. Violet Bridgerton, Anthony’s mother, would have to be informed. And because Portia Featherington couldn’t keep her mouth shut in between tea breaks, soon the whole ton would become aware as well. If Kate wanted to protect herself and her family, she would have to MARRY Anthony Bridgerton.

If he ever asked her properly of course. He stood next to her, his back ramrod straight. She could see behind his eyes he was running the calculations in his head. They were all silent for a few moments, before Penelope Featherington timidly opened her mouth and said “Congratulations!”

Anthony snapped back to the conversation. He plastered a smile on his face and looked at Penelope, who really was a sweet girl and well-meaning.

“Thank you very much Penelope. I would ask you not to tell anyone just yet, as Ms. Sharma and I had hoped to make the announcement at my mother’s this evening. I certainly would not want anyone else hearing it before her own son told her.”

Penelope nodded knowingly, and Anthony knew he could trust the girl. She may not have been the most popular girl in town (she had yet to receive a single marriage proposal) but she was kind and even-tempered and he knew she would never do anything to jeopardize the Bridgerton name. Especially because his younger sister Eloise was Penelope’s very best friend.

Mrs. Featherington smiled smugly at them.

“Very well Viscount Bridgerton.” I will just have to pretend to be surprised with the rest of the ton when I receive the next edition of Lady Whistledown.”

And with a quick curtsy and a grab of Penelope’s arm, they disappeared as quickly as they had arrived.
______________________________________________________________________________

Anthony and Kate walked in silence the entire way to Bridgerton House. Kate desperately wished he would say something, but every time she peeked at him from the corner of her eye, he had just been staring straight ahead, eyes unblinking.

He had run back inside and made sure he was dressed properly. His family wouldn’t be expecting them and he didn’t want to have a more shocking entrance than necessary. 

Kate couldn’t believe this had happened. Because she had forgotten herself, had thrown caution to the wind, now she was trapped into marriage. To a viscount. To her mortal enemy, who only days ago had seemed to express interest in her younger sister. How had she gotten here? What could she do?

The pair slowly approached the gates of Anthony’s family mansion. It was grand, made of brick, with vines climbing artfully along the sides. If she hadn’t have already felt like she was going to faint, it would have taken Kate’s breath away.

Anthony stopped her on the stairs. He took both her hands in his. Kate looked into his eyes and saw a pained expression there. She was terrified of what he would say next.

“Kate,” he said, sounding like a man on fire. “I am so sorry for getting you into this situation. I never should have taken such liberties with you. But you must see the only way out of this is marriage.”

Kate nodded silently, unable to form words.

Anthony took a deep breath. “I need you to know that while I think we are well suited and we could form a fine friendship and family, this will not be a love match.”

Her heart sank straight to her toes.

“It has nothing to do with you,” he found himself explaining. It is simply a choice I have made for myself. I promise I will keep you safe and protected, and I hope, even happy. The same goes for any children we might have. But I can never fall in love.”

Kate felt tears beginning to prick at the corners of her eyes. She was going to marry this man, and he was already telling her that he would never feel love for her. That they would simply be companions and bedfellows and nothing else. Kate felt like the world was giving out beneath her feet.

She sucked in a breath. She wouldn’t let him see how this upset her. She would be strong and accept the lot she had been given. She really didn’t have a choice otherwise.

So with a simple nod of her head, she placed her hand in the crook of Anthony’s arm and together they crossed the threshold.




Chapter Text

Kate and Anthony were barely in the door before a cacophony of voices and sounds descended upon them.

“Dear lord,” Kate thought to herself, “He has SEVEN siblings.”

She didn’t understand how she had forgotten. The Bridgertons were one of the most prominent and well-liked families in all of London. Everyone knew they were named alphabetically, Anthony being the oldest and Hyacinth as the youngest. So unused to a large family, Kate felt herself fold closer into Anthony’s side, as he reassuringly patted her hand.

A flurry of activity on the staircase caught Kate’s eye. Descending at a rapid pace was Eloise Bridgerton, fifth oldest, with a sharp wit and keen eye. She and Penelope Featherington were best friends, and Kate had a sinking suspicion that somehow Eloise already knew what had transpired earlier that day.

“Is it true?” Eloise asked her older brother, jolting to a halt in front of the pair.

“Is what true Eloise?” Anthony responded in a most exasperated manner.

Eloise rolled her eyes.

“Don’t play stupid with me. I know you two,” she said, gesturing wildly between Kate and Anthony, “are engaged to be married!”

“Keep your voice down! Mother will hear you and be devastated it wasn’t announced properly.” Anthony hissed.

Eloise narrowed her eyes. “Very well. But you should know that rumor travels quickly, and you may want to announce it before dinner if you don’t want Colin finding out.”

Anthony groaned. Colin, the third Bridgerton male, was notoriously cheeky. His favorite pastime was to rib his family and make his siblings uncomfortable every chance he got. To Colin, this was a sport.

“Fine El, I’ll announce it before they even pour the wine.”

“Excellent. Now,” she said, turning to Kate, “I’ve heard that you are more than a match for my fool of a brother. I’m very much looking forward to watching you put him in his place.”

Kate tried to stifle a giggle and failed.

“Why thank you Eloise. And don’t worry, I’ll have Anthony wrapped around my finger in no time.” She said this with a grin on her face and a nudge to Anthony’s hip.

He simply rolled his eyes in response, but a slight grin played on his face.
______________________________________________________________________________

Violet Bridgerton clearly adored her children. And she adored anyone who planned to marry one of her children. Anthony had already reassured Kate that their announcement would be well-received, and that Violet would want to begin planning and shopping immediately. Kate found all of this truly overwhelming. Never had she been the center of attention. That role always went to her younger sister Edwina. Her mother Mary had never made Kate feel lesser than, and Kate wasn’t bitter or envious of her sister’s beauty. She always entertained Edwina’s suitors with grace, knowing they were only trying to curry favor through her. Kate loved her sister more than anyone in the world, and would never begrudge her for their positions in life. But sometimes it made her heart ache, the way their sitting room would fill up with flowers, none of them addressed to her. Anthony was actually the first person to ever bring her flowers, even if he had only done so to get under her skin as he attempted to court Edwina.

But now, it was Kate who was surrounded by a flurry of attention. Instead of making her feel worthy however, she was overcome by fear and anxiety. It had begun to dawn on her that by marrying Anthony, she was going to become Viscountess Bridgerton. She would have duties and responsibilities. She would be expected to attend many social events and be called upon by members of the ton much more frequently. She would be in the public eye in ways she never had been in the past. And everyone, absolutely everyone, would want to know how she, Kate Sharma, had snagged the most eligible bachelor on the market. It was enough to turn Kate’s stomach over and over.

And it wasn’t just that gnawing at her. She couldn’t stop thinking about what Anthony had said to her on the steps of Bridgerton House. Theirs would not be a love match. Kate was more devastated by this then she would care to admit to herself. All her life, she had assumed she would be a spinster. That Edwina would marry and be able to provide for her and her mother. That she could retire to the country somewhere with her books and never have to worry about things like marital duties or love. But now she was betrothed to Anthony. While she was no longer nervous about her wedding night she thought to herself with a blush, she was worried about falling in love. For all his rakish ways, Anthony was handsome, intelligent, and absolutely devoted to his family. He was responsible, not taken to bouts of anger or a slave to the drink. He would be an excellent father, and she was sure their battle of wits would keep things fresh and exciting as the years passed.

But Kate couldn’t deny the tiny part of her heart that wanted it to be more than that. Kate knew she could fall in love with Anthony. She feared she was already halfway there. How could she live with him, lay with him, raise children with him, all the while secretly loving him? It was more than Kate could bear. Every day the knowledge her husband did not love her would chip little pieces from her heart.

Kate was broken out of her dreadful reverie by the gentle voice of the Bridgerton matriarch.

“Kate darling, how lovely to see you. And so unexpected!” Violet Bridgerton announced with a twinkle in her eye.

“Yes, I apologize for accompanying Anthony unannounced, but he assured me that you wouldn’t mind too much.”

“Of course not!” Violet exclaimed. “We are very happy to host you. You two are just in time, everyone else has just arrived and we were about to take our seats around the table.”

Kate felt a lump rise in her throat. She thought she might choke on her own tongue. She knew the moment of truth was near. Once the words were out there, her fate was sealed.

Taking a steadying breath, Kate managed a pained smile.

“Of course Lady Bridgerton, we’ll retire to the dining room immediately.”

“Please, Kate, dispense with the formalities. You will call me Violet. As I’m sure you will be doing for some time now.”

Anthony coughed uncomfortably next to her. He had been silent for so long, Kate had almost forgotten he was at her side.

“Mother,” he said, “let’s not keep the family waiting.” He placed a hand on Kate’s back to steer her into the dining area, while Violet simply following with a knowing smile.
______________________________________________________________________________

Kate had barely settled into her chair when what felt like a hundred voices descended upon her.

“Aren’t you Edwina’s sister?” asked a man who looked remarkably like Anthony.

“How did my brother manage to strong-arm you into joining this rowdy lot for dinner?” inquired another identical, but younger looking man with a devilish grin on his face.

“Your dress is very pretty!” cried a young girl who was clearly Hyacinth based on her age.

Kate’s head whipped around trying to make sense of it all, not being able to get a word in edgewise.

“Settle down everyone, let’s introduce ourselves properly before we give Ms. Sharma heart attack!” Violet chuckled.

“Kate I’d like you to meet my children, Benedict, Colin, Daphne and her husband the Duke of Hastings -”

“Please just call me Simon,” the dark-haired man seated next to Daphne responded.

Violet continued almost immediately. “And this is Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth,” she finished proudly.

“It’s lovely to meet you all,” Kate smiled nervously. “Thank you so much for allowing me to join you for dinner.”

“It’s no problem,” the man who had just been introduced as Colin replied. “We’re just glad you're here. Hopefully you can spill all Ant’s secrets.”

“Not on your life,” Anthony growled as he shot his younger brother a glare.

“Yes, we are all rather curious. Anthony never brings anyone to dinner, especially not someone as lovely as you,” Benedict said with a warm and genuine smile.

Kate found herself grinning. “I shall happily tell you everything I know, if you tell me some tales of his exploits in return.”

“I like her,” Francesca simply stated.

Anthony rose to his feet, an exasperated expression on his face.

“No one will be exchanging any stories regarding me, thank you very much.”

He cleared his throat nervously, and Kate broke out in a sweat, knowing what was coming next.

Anthony continued. “The reason we decided to join you all for dinner this evening is because I have a rather important announcement to make.” His voice faltered for one moment as he reached down to take Kate’s hand in his own. Her eyes met his and he smiled at her reassuringly.

“I know this will probably come as quite a surprise. Many people, including some of you, were under the impression that I intended to marry Kate's sister Edwina. Once I met Kate, I very quickly realized that she was the better match for me. I realize this has come about quite suddenly, but once we both admitted it out loud, we simply couldn't wait. Therefore, I have asked Ms. Sharma to marry me and she has accepted.”

The room fell silent. Gregory dropped a fork onto his plate, the tongs clinging loudly throughout the room. Kate held her breath.

And then all at once, it was a babble of voices.

“Dear God I thought this day would never come!” Colin shouted.

“I can’t believe a woman has actually accepted you,” Eloise scoffed.

“Can I be a bridesmaid?” came Francesca’s voice.

Weren't you going to marry her sister?" Gregory said in a bratty tone.

"Shut up Gregory he already explained that!” Hyacinth shrieked.

“Now mother’s attention will turn to me next,” Benedict groaned.

And finally, Violet’s voice broke through all the noise.

“I am so happy for you both,” she said, with tears welling in her eyes. “I always knew that Anthony was waiting for the right person. I am that much more sure of you Kate, because he has truly chosen his perfect match in you. I cannot wait to welcome you into the family as my daughter.” Violet dabbed her eyes with her napkin, trying to gain composure.

Anthony was grinning widely, enjoying the responses of his loved ones. He glanced down at Kate and was startled to see absolute panic in her eyes. She looked as though she was going to swoon.

“Mother, if you don’t mind, may I take my fiancée into the hall for a moment? I think she may need some air.”

“Of course dear, just do not tarry because the first course is about to be served.”

Anthony grasped Kate’s trembling hand and yanked her into the hall, closing the door behind him.

He whirled around to her, his eyes full of confusion and concern.

“Kate, darling, tell me what is wrong.”

Kate felt her lip quiver and her traitorous tears finally flowed freely.

“Oh Anthony!” she cried, flinging herself into his arms. “I cannot do this. We’re deceiving them. Your mother doesn't deserve to be lied to. I cannot continue this charade.”

He held her for a moment, rubbing her back soothingly as she shook with repressed emotion.

“Kate,” he said as he held her out in front of him to get a better look at her face. “We are not deceiving them. I know this situation is not ideal, but we can make the best of it. I respect you and will always treat you well.”

Yes, but you don’t WANT to marry me!” she blurted out, verging on hysterics.

Anthony blinked at her, realization slowly dawning.

“Do you think that I would really allow myself to become entrapped into a lifelong commitment if I didn’t want to be?”

She shook her head at him.

“Dear Lord, woman,” he said exasperatedly. “I’m glad to be marrying you. I had to marry sometime. It is my job as viscount to continue the Bridgerton name. And I’m very happy it will be you. You’ll make a fine viscountess and wife. I admire your strength and your wit. You can always make me laugh. You keep me on my toes. You’re certainly not empty-headed like the rest of the eligible young women who have been flung at me over the years. To be perfectly honest, I am proud to be marrying you Ms. Sharma.”

His speech concluded, he simply looked at Kate, waiting for her to digest his words.

It still wasn’t everything she wanted to hear. Kate knew she wanted to be safe in the knowledge that her husband would fall in love with her. But she would have to make due without that. As much as that scared her to death, she could tell that Anthony was giving her as much as he could. The earnest look in his eyes and the way he clutched her hands convinced her that theirs could be a successful marriage, even if it wasn’t a love match.

“Anthony,” she breathed heavily, getting her voice under control from her outburst. “I appreciate you saying all of that. This is all just so overwhelming. This morning I woke up in a house with my mother, sister, and my dog. I took what I thought was to be a simple walk in Hyde Park. And in the span of a few hours, I now have a fiancé, a new family, and a future title I have no idea how to step into. Not to mention dealing with the whispers of the ton once they discover our news. They will talk. No one will understand how or when this came about. No one will ever believe you willingly chose me over my sister.”

She fell silent, biting the skin off her lips as she waited for his response.

He looked at her for a long moment before speaking.

“Katharine Sharma,” he said seriously. “I mean no offense, but I frankly never gave a damn about courting your sister. Edwina is a perfectly lovely person, but we could never make each other happy. As for the ton, they can bloody well shove it. They don’t know you like I do, but they will. I understand this is a lot to take in one day, but I promise I will be by your side every step of the way. And as for anyone who questions our union, I’ll just politely inform them that my wife, when she isn’t being a stubborn bull, is the finest damn woman in all of England, and that I am a very lucky man.”

Kate’s heart felt like it had stopped. His words would not banish all her fear, or completely assuage her of her insecurities, but it was a start. If they did this together, Kate thought she might just be able to face it all. She took a steadying breath, wiping her eyes and nodding at him.

A moment of realization passed over his face.

“Come with me for a moment,” he urged, taking her hand.

“But your mother said not to take too long!”

“Kate I promise you, she will make allowances for this.”

Walking quickly, he led her into a room down the hall. It was full of what were clearly antiques and other items passed down through Bridgerton generations. Kate gently ran her fingers over a vase, and stared in wonder at an intricate sculpture.

Anthony was rummaging through a box on the other side of the room, He was picking up different items Kate couldn’t see, shaking his head and returning them. After what seemed like ages, he turned and walked back to Kate.

“I know I mucked up actually being able to propose to you. But I want to do this as properly as I can. I’ve always admired this - he took a small box out and placed it in her palm - more than any other piece in my family’s collection. I know we’ve only known each other a short time, but I feel like this properly represents you and I would be honored if you would wear it.”

Kate slowly opened the tiny box. She gasped. Inside was a silver band, with one single perfect mother of pearl stone in the center.

She looked up at him in shock.

“It’s multifaceted and vibrant, just like you,” he shrugged. “It isn’t overly showy or anything, I didn’t think you would want something like that. I can obviously let you choose a different one if you’d like -”

She cut him off.

“Anthony,” she breathed in wonder. “It’s perfect. I love it. I couldn’t ask for anything more beautiful.”

His handsome face broke out into a boyish grin, seeming rather pleased with himself.

“Well perfect then. It will look flawless on you. Anything would,” he said sheepishly.

Kate could have laughed out loud. The imposing rake was almost bashful in her presence. The knowledge made her giddy.

“I gladly accept of course,” Kate assured him. “I will wear it with pride.”

“Good,” he said as he pulled her into the safety of his arms. “This way, everyone will know you are mine, and I am yours.”

“For always,” she sighed happily, resting her head on his chest.

“Now Ms. Sharma we really should get back to the party,” Anthony purred in her ear. “We don’t want to cause tongues to wag at our absence.”

Kate giggled in spite of herself.

“I think, my Lord, it might be too late for that.”

He pondered that for a moment and then crashed his lips onto hers.

“Well then,” he murmured in between kisses, “we should absolutely make it worthwhile.”

As he held her in the darkness of the room, surrounded by all of the items that dictated his position, Kate felt it. Her heart swelled and her body almost melded itself to his. She was in love with this man. She was still terrified, of course, but he had made her promises. And soon, he would make the ultimate vow to her, and she to him. Kate knew the coming days would be challenging. She would still doubt herself at almost every turn. But with Anthony by her side, with the two of them on the same team, Kate felt like she could survive anything.

Chapter Text

Kate’s ribs were aching.

It had been a week since they announced their engagement and since then every waking moment of Kate’s days did not belong to her.

Right now, for instance, she was on a podium at the modiste, having her corset re-tied until Mary and Violet deemed it “just perfect.” If Kate weren’t so terrified, she would have been glad her wedding to Anthony was tomorrow, if only to end this torture sooner.

Looking back, it had been a whirlwind of a week. Lady Whistledown had published the news of their engagement the very morning after it happened. And the day after that, Kate’s sitting room was overflowing with cards and flowers from well-wishers. She had hosted more teas in the last few days than in her first twenty years of life altogether. The entire ton wanted to get to know the future Viscountess Bridgerotn.

It made Kate chuckle. She had been a nobody only a week ago. The overlooked older sister of the most eligible young woman in London. But now, she was a rising star. And she was completely overwhelmed by this new status.

“Ow!” she grunted as the corset strings were tugged too tightly.

“It’s alright my dear, you will look exquisite in your wedding gown,” her mother Mary assured her.

“Yes, but at what COST,” Kate ground out through gritted teeth.

Violet’s tinkling laughter broke the charged silence.

“I’m just so very pleased you allowed Anthony to take care of your trousseau my dear. It is very much tradition for us Bridgertons, and I’m so grateful you’re allowing it to continue.”

“Of course Violet,” Kate replied warmly. She adored Anthony’s mother, and if she was grateful for nothing else, she was pleased to be marrying into such a kind and loyal family. Kate knew she would always be protected.

“But we really should be going,” Violet chided. “The day is almost done and you need a restful night before tomorrow.”

Kate’s stomach did somersaults. Tomorrow. When she would become a wife, a viscountess, and from what the ton believed, a woman who would truly consummate her relationship with the most well known rake in town. Dear God help her.
______________________________________________________________________________

Anthony’s stag party was a subtle affair. A single table at his club, White’s, his brothers Benedict and Colin, and Daphne’s husband Simon. After years of debauchery and overindulgence, this quiet night was exactly what Anthony wanted.

“So this is it,” Colin stated solemnly. “Ant’s last night as a free man.”

Anthony simply rolled his eyes. “I’ll still be my own man,” he scoffed.

Colin and Benedict exchanged a look.

“Based on the way you gaze at her and the ridiculous grin you get on your face when she’s around, I would say you’re more Kate’s man than your own at this point,” Benedict laughed jovially.

Anthony opened his mouth to make an angry retort, but found he had nothing to say. Benedict wasn’t entirely wrong. Every day of this past week he had felt….different. He no longer just considered himself and his family each day. He woke up and his mind was filled not with what he had to do that day or what woman he would be with at night, but of Kate and her wellbeing. Had she slept well? Where would she walk Newton that day? How did she feel as the wedding approached? Anthony found that his sunrises to sunsets were mostly focused on Kate. It was an odd sensation, but not particularly unpleasant. He just assumed this was a side effect of being married. Once you had a partner, you had to consider them in all things. It just made good sense.

“Need any tips before your big day?” Simon asked him, breaking him out of his pensive moment.

“I shouldn’t think so Hastings. I know all the important steps already,” Anthony couldn’t help but say with a smirk.

“That’s the truest thing that’s ever been said!” Colin exclaimed. “Whatever will the women of society do now that the most infamous rake in all of London is finally leg shackled?”

Anthony couldn’t help but grin. “Move on to the next eligible Bridgerton I assume,” he said, cocking his head towards Benedict, who groaned under his breath.

“Please don’t start. I already need a reprieve. Do you know Mother has already begun providing me with written lists of options to consider? Anthony isn’t even married off yet and I’m already on the chopping block!” the tallest Bridgerton whined, hanging his head in his hands.

“Oh come on Ben, marriage isn't that bad,” Anthony found himself saying.

All three men looked at him as if he were an imposter.

“How would you know?” Colin said accusingly. “You haven’t even EXPERIENCED it yet.”

Anthony shrugged. “I just know. Marriage to Kate seems like it will be the easiest thing in the world. It’s just a very logical plan.”

Simon shook his head at his oldest friend.

“Anthony marriage isn’t about logic. It’s about loyalty, partnership, and love,” the Duke sighed in an exasperated tone.

“Well yes obviously some of that too,” Anthony protested as he took a swig from his glass, completely missing the looks exchanged by his companions.

“Whatever you say mate,” Colin replied. Let’s just toast to your good health and Kate’s patience eh?”

The four men clinked their glasses together and Anthony found himself wondering what exactly his bride-to-be was doing now.
______________________________________________________________________________

Bless Mary’s heart, she tried.

She tried to sit Kate down and finally divulge the secret information that all married women knew. She had entered Kate’s room, sat upon her bed and taken her daughter’s hands in her own. But before she could even open her mouth, Kate stopped her.

“Really Mary, this is unnecessary. I know enough,” Kate said with an attempted air of detachment.

“Oh really? And just where did you get this information whilst being so green?” Mary demanded.

Kate blushed, but patted her mother’s hand. “It’s just best if some things are not spoken aloud.”

Mary gaped at her, wondering when her eldest daughter had the time to discover one of society’s most taboo secrets. Eventually, she just shook her head in defeat.

“Perhaps you are right and that is the best course of action,” she agreed.

“I am grateful Mary,” Kate said with a smile. “I owe you so much. For always loving me equally, for raising me and always protecting me. And I am grateful you will be there tomorrow.”

Mary wiped a single tear from her eye. Her Kate, always thinking about other people, even on the eve of her big day.

Taking her daughter’s face in her hands, Mary gazed at her child with love. “I am so very proud of you Kate. And I wish you a lifetime of happiness. I also wish to give you something.”

Mary pulled out a small box. Snapping it open, she revealed an ocean-colored hair comb.

“It was your mother’s,” Mary explained, seeing the quizzical look on Kate’s face. “Your father told me she left it for you to wear on your wedding day, just as she wore it on hers.”

Kate was too stunned and speechless to cry.

“It’s your something old, borrowed, and blue,” Mary said with a teary smile.

Kate took the comb in her trembling hands and then flung her arms around her mother. They stayed that way until Kate drifted off to sleep.
______________________________________________________________________________

Anthony stood in the packed church next to Benedict, fiddling with his cravat and starting to well and truly panic. The organ should have begun announcing Kate’s arrival ten minutes ago. Anthony didn't know too much about weddings, but he assumed that being late for one’s own was not proper etiquette. And more importantly, it was unlike Kate. She always faced things head on. Plus, her mother and sister would force her down the aisle should she try to run.
He checked his father’s pocket watch for what must have been the tenth time, because Benedict elbowed him directly in the ribs.

“Relax Ant, you know how long women take.”

Anthony gave a single irritated nod.

He was about to pledge his life and fidelity to this woman and she was already irking him by making him wait. Ever since he realized he would be marrying Kate, he had been impatient for the day to arrive. He wasn’t sure why; it wasn’t like he hadn’t already had her. He just felt a restlessness in his bones to make it official.

The deep thrum of marital music sliced through the air. Every member of the church stood. And there were many of them. Even though Violet only had a week to plan, she still managed to invite everyone in the ton. And none of them would have turned down the invitation to such an important affair as the Viscount’s nuptials.

And once Anthony laid eyes on his bride, he envied that every invitee had gotten a glimpse of her first.
______________________________________________________________________________

Kate felt as though she would not make it to the end of the aisle and to Anthony without lightning striking her.

She still couldn’t believe this was happening. She was marrying a man she hated. No, loved. No, was on the way to loving. Ah, she didn’t even know at this point. What she knew for certain was that she was in a white gown, a bouquet in her hands, and walking towards her future: Anthony.

Kate’s dress was everything she could have ever wanted. It had a high neck, made entirely of delicate lace, that descended into an A-line satin flared skirt. And draped across her shoulders was a lace-trimmed capelet. Her hair was swept up into a curly chignon, secured in place by her mother’s toothed comb. She felt truly herself, and she was COMFORTABLE. Kate rarely felt secure in her own skin. But today she did. And she felt beautiful. In front of the entire ton, in front of Anthony’s family and her own, Kate wasn’t the least bit self-conscious or concerned that anyone was comparing her to Edwina. Today was hers. Hers and Anthony’s.

And when she saw him . . . . ohhh when she saw him. She wouldn’t have noticed if the ground opened beneath her or if the heavens exploded. The rest of the attendees faded away and she and Anthony existed on another plane. His blue eyes never left her face. His mouth was slightly open, as if he was trying to pose an ineffable question. His hand twitched at his side, as if he wanted to reach out for her. His jaw clenched and then relaxed into a breathtaking smile. Kate found herself reaching out her hand to take his, surprised to find she had reached the end of the aisle. His fingers wrapped around hers with a gentle strength that made her feel safe and excited all at once. As she settled into her place next to his, about to be bound to this man forever, Kate felt as if she were home.
______________________________________________________________________________

Anthony barely remembered the ceremony. After he saw Kate he couldn’t see anything else. She was a vision. She took his breath away. He knew Kate was beautiful. He knew he was attracted to her. He knew she made his chest ache and his cock throb. But he never, ever had pictured her in a wedding dress. Hell, he had never pictured any woman in a wedding dress, seeing as he never intended to get married. But now he was, and she was here. With light lace covering her throat and a single curl falling gently in her face. And she smiled at him. When they finally locked eyes the look she gave him could have convinced him that love between them was possible. She looked so damn happy. And she was happy to be his. Anthony had never known a greater joy.

She stood next to him, and he reached down and intertwined his fingers with hers. People in the church whispered at the non-traditional action. Anthony didn’t care. He remembered repeating the words read to him, but not exactly what he recited. He knew she had repeated the same, but he was so focused on the way her mouth was moving that he never heard what she said. To Anthony, this was the most romantic moment of his entire life, and he was not usually a romantic man.

He felt the cold metal of the ring slip over his finger, and remembered the blush that crept across her face when he placed the simple wedding band on hers. He remembered being told he could kiss his bride, and realized happily he would never need anyone’s permission ever again. He kissed her softly, not wanting to subject their intimate moment to any of the ton’s prying eyes.

They left the church, one of his hands on her lower back and the other clutching her free hand. Walking towards the carriage, he pulled her close, pressing his lips to her temple.

‘Are you ready for the party in our honor, Viscountess Bridgeton?”

She smiled at him wickedly. “Yes, of course my Lord.”
______________________________________________________________________________

The reception was one of the grandest parties of the season.

Everyone who was anyone in high society was in attendance. Champagne was flowing freely, lively music from the small orchestra kept people dancing, and an endless line of well-wishers kept both Kate and Anthony very busy.

Kate felt her cheeks burning from smiling so much. Some of it she forced when introduced to another countess or duchess who made not so subtle comments about her husband’s reputation and their surprise he had settled down. But mostly it was from genuine happiness. She thought she would dread being the center of attention, but she found herself enjoying it. She stood a little straighter, and often found herself eyeing the two rings on her hand. She was Anthony’s wife. Her mind was giddy with the knowledge.

Kate’s eyes scanned the room for her new husband. She finally caught a glimpse of him speaking with Lord Featherington, shaking his hand and nodding thoughtfully. Kate couldn’t help but smile. He was so very handsome. She found that suddenly her palms were sweaty and her breath came quicker. Her mind suddenly flashed with images of the night ahead and it took all her self control to not march over to Anthony and ask him to leave right then and there.

“Don’t be so naughty Kate,” she muttered to herself.

Almost as if he heard her, Anthony’s head turned in her direction. He saw the darkened look in her eyes, and the way she was clutching her skirt. He smiled devilishly, and gave her a devastating wink. Kate blushed furiously. He always knew what she was thinking. He read her so well.

She wrenched her gaze away and continued looking around the grand ballroom. There was Violet, dragging Benedict from debutante to debutante, her sights clearly already set on getting her next oldest matched. In another corner of the room she saw Eloise talking animatedly and waving a notebook towards the imposing Lady Danbury. Kate could have sworn she saw Eloise’s lips form the words “Lady Whistledown”. On the dance floor she spied Colin and Penelope, smiling and talking conspiratorially between themselves. Kate made a mental note to ask Anthony about those two. Maybe Benedict wouldn’t be next down the aisle after all . . . .

“Enjoying yourself?” a deep voice said behind her.

She knew it was him before she turned around. She could feel him, smell him, and she shivered from head to toe when he was present.

She met her husband’s eyes.

“Very much so, my Lord.”

He rolled his eyes.

“Kate we’re man and wife now. I think you can dispense with the formalities.”

“I just don’t want tongues to wag if we’re too informal.”

He smiled.

“Let them talk. Everyone here should know I adore my wife,” he stated, drawing her into his arms.

Kate sighed. When he spoke that way, and treated her with such tenderness she almost thought it was possible that he would love her. She knew she shouldn’t get her hopes up, but with Anthony, she just couldn’t help herself.

“Come,” Anthony intoned. “It is late and we should say our thanks and farewells.”

Kate felt her breath catch. Soon they would be alone. Soon his hands would be on her. As much as she tried to push thoughts of their first encounter to the back of her mind, now it was so close to the second, and she was filled with nervous anticipation.

Anthony took her hand and led her to the front of the room. He motioned for the music to stop and raised his glass whilst loudly clearing his throat.

The room went silent and all eyes turned to them expectantly, held rapt by the Viscount’s commanding demeanor.

“My wife and I would just like to thank you all so much for being here this evening. It means so much to us that you have all come out to celebrate with our family, and we are grateful for both your well-wishes and your gifts. Kate and I will be honeymooning at my family’s estate in Kent, Aubrey Hall, for the next few weeks. We look forward to seeing you all when we return and are fully prepared to step into our roles as the Viscount and Viscountess Bridgerton. A true team,” he said beaming down at Kate.

Her heart fluttered. God, how she cherished this man.

She hadn’t even realized Anthony’s speech had ended. People were clapping and cheering and chanting for them to kiss.

Anthony leaned down to meet her and whispered against her lips, “Got to give the people what they want.”

His lips brushed over hers, soft, but full of promise for the evening to come. Kate could have melted into him. This man turned her to butter in his hands.

She remembered saying hurried goodbyes, kissing Mary and Edwina and the Bridgerton clan on her way out the door, Anthony pulling her along excitedly. They fell into the carriage, laughing as they tried to catch their breath.

Anthony turned to her, his eyes blazing with unbridled desire. "I want to take you home now wife. I want to truly make you mine.”

“Anthony, I am already yours.”

He tilted his head. “But I have never been with a wife before. And now that you have stepped into that role, I want to know what it’s like to lay with one’s wife. Maybe it will feel different."

Kate’s insides clenched and she could feel the wetness pooling between her legs.

“As you wish husband,” she purred. “Let’s go home.”
______________________________________________________________________________

Chapter Text

It was quite late by the time the newlywed’s carriage arrived in front of Aubrey Hall. Kate had fallen asleep early on, leaving Anthony nothing to do but gaze at his dozing wife. She looked like an angel in the glimmering moonlight. Her mouth was slightly open, her cheek resting against his shoulder, her right hand intertwined with his left. Anthony couldn’t help but smile. He never imagined one could feel this way in a marriage. He had always planned for his to be formal, but friendly. That his wife would never bar him from her bed, but that they would reside in different rooms. Now, the thought was ludicrous. He never wanted to be apart from Kate. The idea of not holding her in his arms each night, not falling asleep to the gentle sounds of her breathing, well it was unfathomable. And he had no intention of EVER sleeping in separate rooms.

The carriage rolled to a stop in front of the grand house. Anthony gently nudged Kate awake and she sleepily blinked her eyes open.

“We’ve arrived darling.”

Kate simply stared at their destination.

Aubrey Hall took her breath away. For what was deemed a “rural cottage estate” it was massive. There must have been thirty rooms, along with a splendid outdoor garden and gazebo. Kate was looking forward to exploring during the days, since she knew her nights belonged to Anthony.

He held at one hand, helping her alight from the carriage. He led her up the stone stairs, making sure she didn’t trip over her feet in the darkness. As they reached the top step, the butler swung the door open. Without hesitation, Anthony scooped Kate up into his arms, and whisked her across the threshold.

“Anthony!”

He simply gave her a lopsided smile. “I am nothing if not traditional in all things, my dear.”

“Well…. not ALL things,” Kate retorted.

Anthony threw back his head and laughed.

“Katherine Sharma did you just make a dirty joke?”

She nodded her head.

“I’m a married woman. I’m allowed some liberties in my sense of humor now I believe.”

“And I believe I’m now allowed some liberties with you,” he growled.

Before she could reply, he had already dashed them up the stairs, yelling to the butler to bring their bags up later.
______________________________________________________________________________

Kate didn’t know what she was expecting when she entered the Viscount’s quarters. She knew it would be well-furnished and rich in detail. But Anthony’s room was on another level. Deep mahogany and maple wood created the outer limits of the space. A red chaise lounge sat against one wall. The bay window in the room would be the perfect place for her to sit and read the books from Aubrey Hall’s library. In the adjoining room she could see a large off-white clawfoot tub, already filled with steaming hot water and bubbles. The gilded mirror that hung on the wall was gold and ornate. And in the center of the room stood an enormous four poster bed, piled high with plush pillows and with drapes tied to each post. Kate had never been in such grand surroundings. Her family had never been wealthy, they had just enough to maintain some status in the ton and for each of the girls’ dowries. Anthony had refused Kate’s of course. He insisted that Mary keep it and simply add it to Edwina’s, another gesture that made Kate’s heart flutter. Anthony was so very thoughtful when it came to her family. He was thoughtful when it came to most things honestly.

Consumed by her appraisal of the room, she hadn’t noticed that Anthony stood leaned against the wall, simply watching her. She was suddenly self-conscious.

Perhaps sensing her hesitation, Anthony pushed off the wall and walked over to her. Tilting her chin up to meet his eyes, he looked at her very seriously.

“Kate, I need you to know how very proud I am to be your husband. You are the only woman who makes me feel this way. From before I met you until now. There has never been one who matched you and there will never be another for me. I need you to understand that.”

Kate’s heart melted at his words. He always knew just what to say to soothe her fears and insecurities.

“Now, if it pleases Lady Bridgerton, I’d like to help her out of what looks to be a weighty and slightly uncomfortable wedding gown,” he said with a wicked grin.

“That would be very appreciated Lord Bridgerton,” she replied with an ear to ear smile that dazed him.

“Turn around,” Anthony ordered her gently.

It was a very sensual experience he realized. Kate’s back was lined with delicate buttons, from the nape of her neck all the way down to the dip in her lower back. He undid each one slowly, savoring the way more and more of her skin came into view. As his access increased, he began to plant featherlight kisses along her spine after each button’s undoing.

Kate sucked in a breath. This was the most erotic thing she had ever experienced. Even the first time she’d lain with Anthony…. that was magnificent but this…. this was so very intimate. This was the seductive act of a married man and woman who were about to lose themselves in one another.

The top of the dress fell away, pooling awkwardly at her waist. Anthony’s hands came to rest on her hips, and with a singular, fluid motion, he brought the skirt down until the entire dress was in a circle around her feet. Kate stood there, in only her garters and stockings. But she didn’t feel uncomfortable. She didn’t feel bashful or unworthy. She just felt WANTED.

Anthony was entranced by the way his wife stood there, proud and completely at ease in her nakedness. She had come such a long way in just a few days’ time. She was perfect. He stared at Kate’s bare back, reveling in the intimacy of the moment. Her skin was mocha and soft. He reached out and touched her, tracing his finger down her spine. He felt her shiver.

He wanted to see her. Their passion had gotten the best of them the first time, and their lovemaking had been fast and furious. Now he wanted to get a proper look at her.

Turning her around slowly to face him, he touched her chin, raising her face just the barest hint.

She stared at him, licked her lips, and waited . . . .

“Anthony,” she breathed. “Please.”

And then his lips touched hers in the barest, softest hint of a caress. He was being painstakingly gentle. It was the sort of kiss that seduced with subtlety, sent tingles through Kate’s body, and left her desperate for more.

His hand found the small of her back and splayed there, his fingers tempting her with their intoxicating heat. Kate found herself growing hot, almost molten. Anthony’s lips grew more demanding, and hers parted, allowing him greater exploration. He took full advantage, his tongue swooping in, teasing and tempting, stoking her desire until her legs grew weak, and she had no choice but to grasp onto his upper arms for balance. He murmured her name, his voice hoarse with desire and need. He kissed her slowly, thoroughly, sparing no inch of skin from his sensual onslaught. He moved up to the line of her jaw, then over to her earlobe, cupping her lush bottom and pressing her to him, a groan slipping across his lips as he felt her against his arousal. He’d thought he’d wanted her before, but this… . this was different. This was his WIFE.

Kate was consumed. Anthony’s lips, which had begun the intimacy with such gentle reverence, were now fierce and demanding on hers. When he kissed her, he did so with his entire body. His hands, so large and strong they seemed to cover half her back, held her to him with a strength that left her breathless. And his body, dear God, it ought to be illegal the way it was pressed against hers, the heat of it seeping through her clothing, searing her very soul.

“I need you Kate,” he said hoarsely, trying to bring her as close to him as possible. “I need you so much.”

All Kate could do was murmur in agreement, offering herself to him, begging him to consummate their union.

Anthony couldn’t wait any longer. Picking her up in his arms once more, he carried her to the bed, lying her down as if she were the most precious artifact in the world.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered, gazing down at the outline of her breasts, her nipples puckered and begging to be touched. “I can’t—I don’t—” He didn’t say anything more, which Kate found puzzling, and she looked at his face. These weren’t just words to him, she realized with a jolt of surprise. His throat was working with some emotion she didn’t think she’d ever seen on him before.

It made Kate feel cherished. Worshipped. Loved.

He WOULD love her goddamnit. She knew it. She knew he was close to it, could feel him on the precipice of saying it. And she knew she could hold it in no longer. She had to tell him. But before her mouth could form the words, her began kissing his way down her neck. Anthony tasted and licked and savored every inch of her achingly soft skin.

His mouth moved to her chest. He ran his tongue along the underside of her breast, tasting the salty sweet essence of her, then reached out and cupped her.

Kate’s back arched as she rose to meet him, desperate for closer contact. She made incoherent noises, spurring Anthony on. He loved that HE was the one who made her feel this way.

“Do you like this Kate?” he asked with a smirk, already knowing the answer.

“Oh God yes,” she blasphemed, gasping for air as his hands kneaded her breasts.

“Shall I continue?” he murmured, sweetening the deal with one light flick of his tongue across her nipple.

“Yes!” she burst out. “Yes, for God’s sake, yes!”

“Say my name Kate.”

“Oh, my God!” she gasped, grasping the edge sheets to center herself as her entire body arched back. “Oh, my God. Oh, Anthony. Oh, my God.”

He kissed, he licked, he nibbled, he tugged. He tortured her breasts until she thought she might explode. Her breath was loud and gasping, and her moans had grown more and more incoherent.

She whined as Anthony removed his mouth from her.

He grinned at her with a boyish air, a strand of hair falling across his eyes.

“Patience, wife. All in good time.”

He brought his lips to her ribcage, kissing it lightly, tickling her skin to the point that she could have giggled out loud. His mouth continued down her stomach, around her navel, and Kate’s body tightened with anticipation. She looked down at her husband, dying to know where he was going next.

Kate’s breath caught as she watched his hand curve around her thigh, moving toward her center. He moved slowly, deliberately, drawing out the torture with suspense. And then, just when she thought she might scream from it all, he touched her below the belly, one finger lazily drawing circles against her soft flesh.

“Very nice,” he purred, running that finger over the light patch of hair between her legs.

“Anthony,” she gasped.

“Hmmm… Kate I’m not sure,” he said. “Are you ready for me?”

Kate nearly screamed as he slipped one finger inside of her.

She writhed beneath him, her hair wild against the pillow, her limbs quivering, and her eyes squeezed shut as she tried to regain control over her body.

Another finger slid into place next to the first. “So warm,” he whispered. “This part of you will always belong to me now, do you understand?”

She snapped her head up and down, frantically nodding as her eyes rolled back into her head.

She took his breath away, watching her in her passion. Anthony wasn't certain how this woman had come to mean so much to him. It seemed that one day she was his mortal enemy, a nuisance, and the next she was as indispensable as air. Anthony was realizing that without Kate, his life before had lacked all meaning.

“I’m going to kiss you down here now, Kate,” he told her with an air of seriousness, while also seeking permission.

“Anthony please,” she beseeched. “Please.”

He didn’t need any more begging. He pushed her legs all the way apart, dipped his head between them, and brought his mouth to her soaking wet center.

Kate screamed his name and grabbed the back of his head.

His tongue probed her womanhood as she moaned. He licked her when she grabbed his hair and pulled, and he swirled his tongue around her most sensitive spot when she let go, her hands scrambling wildly for the sheets.

He was hard as a rock, harder than he could ever remember, but he fought against his impulses, and tried to make this night, their wedding night, as romantic as possible.

Anthony kissed his way back up her body. He kissed her, and she tasted her own essence on his lips. It turned her on even more.

She could feel him, the full length of him against her naked body. God, her husband’s cock was incredible. It was thick and large, like the muscles on his arms. And he certainly knew what he was doing with it.

“Kate,” he panted, “I can’t wait any longer. I need you. Now.”

She looked at him, her heart bursting, her insides on fire.

“I need you too Anthony. Please, I need you inside me.”

She almost drove him over the edge then and there. But he wanted this to be magical. He wanted to claim her as his forever.

Anthony positioned himself at Kate’s entrance. She made him wild with need.

With one final searing kiss on her lips, Anthony entered his wife fully. He’d thought to go slowly, but she was so very wet and ready for him that he just slid inside, even as she gasped at the intrusion. “Did that hurt?” he grunted. She shook her head.

“Don’t stop,” she moaned. “Please.”

“Never,” he vowed. “Never.”

Kate’s stomach dropped to her knees at that. At the realization that they would be able to do this forever. They were married. They could be together like this every single night if they so choose. And hopefully, some of the days as well. Kate was overwhelmed by the knowledge. She could have Anthony whenever she wanted him. She knew he would never say no to her, never stop pleasuring her, if she only asked. She reached up and grabbed the hair at the nape of his neck, pulling him to her. She probed her tongue into his mouth, searching, suckling, wishing she could join herself to him. She felt him become even harder inside her and she felt a high run through her, knowing that SHE did this to him.

“Take me to the hilt Kate,” he demanded. She was only too happy to oblige. Her pleasure was so great, she knew she would do anything for this man. He pushed himself all the way forward and she felt herself stretching to accommodate him. They seemed to fit together perfectly. Every inch of him settled into her comfortably, but filled her in a way that left her breathless. Her favorite moment between them was when he first entered her. That feeling of being slowly filled up, feeling Anthony inching his way into her, claiming her, it nearly took Kate over the edge then and there.

“You're mine,” Anthony said hungrily, his eyes never leaving hers.

His mouth took hers again as one of his hands snaked up to caress her breast. She was utter perfection beneath him, her hips rising to meet his, moving tentatively at first, then with a vigor that matched both of their rising passions.

“Oh, God, Kate,” he moaned, his ability to form flowery sentences completely lost in the primitive heat of the moment. “You’re so good. So good.”

“Anthony,” she panted, “I’m not made of porcelain. I won’t break. Harder, please.”

He almost stopped dead. God damn his wife was so SEXY. Just hearing her say that drove him wild. Anthony began to move quicker within her, each stroke bringing a new wave of sensation that spread and burned through her body. His hips ground into hers, frenzied in their
power, thrusting, rotating, stroking her until she was certain she must be on fire. She clutched at him, not certain whether she was trying to bring him closer to her or tear him away.

“Oh, my God,” he gasped, his body now shaking. “Never…it’s never…so good…it’s never been so good.”

She said his name in reply, and then she could not speak, could do nothing but gasp for air as their movements grew more frenzied and desperate. And then it came upon her, in a lightning wave of pleasure. Her body exploded, and she cried out, unable to contain the intensity of the experience. Anthony thrust into her harder, and then again, and again. He called out as he climaxed, her name a prayer and a benediction on his lips, and then he collapsed atop her.

“Wow,” Kate said breathlessly.

“Indeed,” came Anthony’s heady reply. And then it hit him all at once.

He had fallen in love with Kate. He had fallen in love with his wife.

He didn’t know when it had happened exactly, or why it was hitting him now. Maybe it was because of the way she laughed. Maybe it was because she always gave it to him straight, and she never shied away from chewing him out when necessary. Perhaps it was the way her lips formed a little “o” of surprise every time he finished kissing her. Maybe it was her scent of lilies and soap. It could even have been the way she felt around him, but he didn’t believe his love was as primitive or carnal as that. No, he reasoned, he simply loved Kate for BEING.

And Anthony Bridgerton, who had bedded countless women, suddenly realized that his experiences before this meant nothing. Because it had never been like this. That had been his body. This was his soul. And, he realized with a jolt, his whole heart.

He had to tell her. But for the time being, he stayed quiet, not wanting to interrupt the perfect moment.

They laid there, both motionless for a time, struggling to catch their breath. It was pure bliss.

But something was nagging at Kate’s brain now. Something that she had meant to say, but had gotten distracted….

And when she remembered her heart did a flip. Thinking it, knowing it was one thing, but saying the words aloud to Anthony, telling him how she truly felt, well that was another thing entirely.

As her mind whirred, Anthony had rolled off her and pulled her into his side, her head resting on his chiseled chest. His slowed breathing relaxed her, and made her want to drift off to sleep.

No, she chided herself. She needed to say this. She had to say it, otherwise she felt like she might perish.

“Anthony,” she said, sitting up straight and pushing away from him slightly.

She took his hands in hers, feeling the sweat on them, the evidence of her undeniable nerves. She didn’t know what he would say. She knew what she HOPED he would say. But only a week ago Anthony had informed her theirs would not be a marriage based on love. But Kate refused to believe that. After all of this, she knew they could have a marriage based on love. In fact, she’d never been so certain of anything in her life.

“I need to tell you something,” she said slowly and deliberately.

“Kate….” he tried to interrupt.

“No, stop,” she scolded. “I’m talking now and you’re going to listen.”

He fought the smile rising to his face and gave her a nod of mock seriousness.

She licked her lips with anxiety, knowing this could be a turning point in their relationship, or the absolute destruction of her heart.

“Anthony I know you said love wasn’t in the cards for you. That you weren’t capable of it for some reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but I realized I don’t care. I can’t deny how I feel. I won’t. I thought I’d die a spinster, and now that I found you, I can’t imagine life without you. What I’m trying to say is . . . . Anthony Bridgerton I love you.”

Her speech concluded, she took a deep breath. She thought the waiting, the anticipation would kill her. She thought she would have to wait forever for his response.

But Anthony surprised her when he began speaking almost as soon as she closed her mouth.

“Kate, I don’t care what I said before. I was foolish. I was blind. You are the most important person in the world to me. I can barely find the words to express to you what you mean to me. I can only think of three: I love you. I am so hopelessly, irrevocably in love with you. And I’m sorry I didn’t say it sooner.”

Kate was speechless. This was everything she hoped to hear and more. She didn’t know what she did to get so lucky. She had the most perfect man in the world, and he LOVED her.

“Oh Anthony!” She flung her arms around him, practically bawling in his arms.

“I love you so much. I love you, I love you, I love you,” she repeated, needing it to sink into both of their bones.

Anthony brought his face to hers, peppering kisses all over her face.

“I love you Katherine Sharma. I love you more than anything on this earth and I will always love you.”

“For the rest of my life,” he vowed, “I will love you. For the rest of my life. I promise you. No matter how long that is, no matter how many years we have together. I will lay down my life for you. I will honor and cherish you. I will—” He was choking on the words, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to tell her. He just wanted her to know.

“I want you to carry my children Kate. I want to watch you swell with them, and I want to worship you every single day. And when you are not heavy with child, I want to vigorously make love to you. I want to hold you in my arms every night as we fall asleep and kiss you awake each and every morning. You are my best friend, my partner, my soul mate. I never knew love could be this strong or powerful. And I think I was meant to find you, so you could show me what true love was.”

Kate couldn’t stop the tears from flowing out now. She struggled to breathe. Love like this was rare. She never thought she would be one of the fairy tales. But here was her very own prince charming.

She reached up and kissed him once more.

“Promise me it will always be like this Anthony. Promise me when people ask our children if their parents are soul mates, they can say yes.”

“Always and forever Kate. Always and forever.”

They barely slept that night. They stayed up talking, swapping stories of their childhoods, their time at school, and talked about their hopes and dreams. They made love multiple times and only fell asleep when the sun came up.

And they kept their promise. For the rest of Anthony and Kate’s long lives, it would ALWAYS be this way between them and they were soulmates. Always and forever.

 

THE END