“Not half so much as I, my lord,” she said, casting a rueful glance at her splinted leg.

Anthony frowned. “No vigorous exercise for two months, eh?”

“At least.”

He grinned, and in that moment he looked every inch the rake she’d once accused him of being. “Clearly,” he murmured, “I shall have to be very, very gentle.”

“Tonight?” she croaked.

He shook his head. “Even I haven’t the talent to express myself with that light a touch.”

Kate giggled. She couldn’t help herself. She loved this man and he loved her and whether he knew it or not, they were going to grow very, very old together. It was enough to make a girl—even a girl with a broken leg—positively giddy.

“Are you laughing at me?” he queried, one of his brows arching arrogantly as he slid his body into place next to her.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Good. Because I have some very important things to tell you.”

“Really?”

He nodded gravely. “I may not be able to show you how much I love you this eve, but I can tell you.”

“I should never tire of hearing it,” she murmured.

“Good. Because when I’m done telling you, I’m going to tell you how I’d like to show you.”

“Anthony!” she squeaked.

“I think I’d start with your earlobe,” he mused. “Yes, definitely the earlobe. I’d kiss it, and then nibble it, and then…”

Kate gasped. And then she squirmed. And then she fell in love with him all over again.

And as he whispered sweet nothings in her ear, she had the strangest sensation, almost as if she could see her entire future laid out before her. Each day was richer and fuller than the last, and every day she was falling, falling, falling…

Was it possible to fall in love with the same man over and over again, every single day?

Kate sighed as she settled into the pillows, letting his wicked words wash over her.

By God, she was going to try.

Epilogue

Lord Bridgerton celebrated his birthday—This Author believes that it was his thirty-ninth—at home with his family.

This Author was not invited.

Nonetheless, details of the fête have reached This Author’s always attentive ears, and it sounds to have been a most amusing party. The day began with a short concert: Lord Bridgerton on the trumpet and Lady Bridgerton on the flute. Mrs. Bagwell (Lady Bridgerton’s sister) apparently offered to mediate on the pianoforte, but her offer was refused.

According to the dowager viscountess, a more discordant concert has never been performed, and we are told that eventually young Miles Bridgerton stood atop his chair and begged his parents to cease.

We are also told that no one scolded the boy for his rudeness, but rather just heaved huge sighs of relief when Lord and Lady Bridgerton laid down their instruments.

LADY WHISTLEDOWN’S SOCIETY PAPERS, 17 SEPTEMBER 1823

“She must have a spy in the family,” Anthony said to Kate, shaking his head.

Kate laughed as she brushed her hair, readying herself for bed. “She didn’t realize that today is your birthday, not yesterday.”

“A trifling matter,” he grumbled. “She must have a spy. There’s no other explanation.”

“She did get everything else right,” Kate couldn’t help noting. “I tell you, I’ve always admired that woman.”

“We weren’t that bad,” Anthony protested.

“We were dreadful.” She set the brush down and walked to his side. “We’re always dreadful. But at least we try.”

Anthony wound his arms around his wife’s waist and settled his chin on the top of her head. There was little that brought him more peace than simply holding her in his arms. He didn’t know how any man survived without a woman to love.

“It’s almost midnight,” Kate murmured. “Your birthday is almost over.”

Anthony nodded. Thirty-nine. He’d never thought he’d see the day.

No, that wasn’t true. Since the moment he’d let Kate into his heart, his fears had been slowly melting away. But still, it was nice to be thirty-nine. Settling. He’d spent a goodly portion of the day in his study, staring up at his father’s portrait. And he’d found himself talking. For hours on end, he’d talked to his father. He told him of his three children, of his siblings’ marriages and their children. He told him of his mother, and how she’d recently taken up painting with oils, and that she was actually quite good. And he told him of Kate, and how she’d freed his soul, and how he loved her so damn much.

It was, Anthony realized, what his father had always wanted for him.

The clock on the mantel began to chime, and neither Anthony nor Kate spoke until the twelfth bell rang.

“That’s it, then,” Kate whispered.

He nodded. “Let’s go to bed.”

She moved away, and he could see that she was smiling. “That’s how you want to celebrate?”

He took her hand and raised it to his lips. “I can think of no better way. Can you?”

Kate shook her head, then giggled as she ran for the bed. “Did you read what else she wrote in her column?”

“That Whistledown woman?”

She nodded.

Anthony planted his hands on either side of his wife and leered down at her. “Was it about us?”

Kate shook her head.

“Then I don’t care.”

“It was about Colin.”

Anthony let out a little sigh. “She does seem to write about Colin a great deal.”

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