“There. That settles it,” Mary said, sounding inordinately pleased with herself. “And who knows? You may stumble across Edwina in your travels. Wouldn’t that be convenient?”

“Indeed,” Kate said under her breath. It would be lovely to be rid of the viscount, but the last thing she wanted to do was deliver Edwina into his clutches. Her sister was still young and impressionable. What if she couldn’t resist one of his smiles? Or his glib tongue?

Even Kate was willing to admit that Lord Bridgerton exuded considerable charm, and she didn’t even like the man! Edwina, with her less suspicious nature, would surely be overwhelmed.

She turned to the viscount. “You shouldn’t feel you must accompany me while I walk Newton, my lord.”

“I’d be delighted,” he said with a wicked smile, and Kate had the distinct impression he was agreeing to go for the sole purpose of vexing her. “Besides,” he continued, “as your mother said, we might see Edwina, and wouldn’t that be a delightful coincidence?”

“Delightful,” Kate returned flatly. “Just delightful.”

“Excellent!” Mary said, clapping her hands together with joy. “I saw Newton’s lead on the hall table. Here, I’ll go and get it for you.”

Anthony watched Mary leave, then turned to Kate and said, “That was very neatly done.”

“I’ll say,” Kate muttered.

“Do you suppose,” he whispered, leaning toward her, “that her matchmaking is directed toward Edwina or you?”

“Me?” Kate all but croaked. “Surely you jest.”

Anthony rubbed his chin thoughtfully, gazing at the doorway through which Mary had just exited. “I’m not certain,” he mused, “but—” He closed his mouth upon hearing Mary’s footsteps drawing back near.

“Here you are,” Mary said, holding the lead out to Kate. Newton barked enthusiastically and drew back as if preparing to lunge at Mary—undoubtedly to shower her with all sorts of unpalatable love—but Kate kept a firm hold on his collar.

“Here,” Mary quickly amended, handing the lead instead to Anthony. “Why don’t you give this to Kate? I’d rather not get too close.”

Newton barked and gazed longingly at Mary, who inched farther away.

“You,” Anthony said forcefully to the dog. “Sit down and be quiet.”

Much to Kate’s surprise, Newton obeyed, settling his plump bottom onto the rug with almost comical alacrity.

“There,” Anthony said, sounding rather pleased with himself. He held out the lead toward Kate. “Shall you do the honors or shall I?”

“Oh, go right ahead,” she replied. “You seem to have such an affinity for canines.”

“Clearly,” he shot back, keeping his voice low so that Mary could not hear, “they are not so very different from women. Both breeds hang on my every word.”

Kate stepped on his hand as he knelt to fasten the lead to Newton’s collar. “Oops,” she said, rather insincerely. “I’m so sorry.”

“Your tender solicitude quite unmans me,” he returned, standing back up. “I might break into tears.”

Mary’s head bobbed back and forth between Kate and Anthony. She couldn’t hear what they were saying but was clearly fascinated. “Is something wrong?” she queried.

“Not at all,” Anthony replied, just as Kate gave a firm, “No.”

“Good,” Mary said briskly. “Then I’ll see you to the door.” At Newton’s enthusiastic bark, she added, “Then again, maybe not. I don’t really want to get within ten feet of that dog. But I’ll wave you off.”

“What would I do,” Kate said to Mary as she passed her, “without you to wave me off?”

Mary smiled slyly. “I surely don’t know, Kate. I surely don’t know.”

Which left Kate with a queasy feeling in her stomach and a vague suspicion that Lord Bridgerton might have been correct. Maybe Mary was playing matchmaker with more than just Edwina this time around.

It was a horrifying thought.

With Mary standing in the hall, Kate and Anthony exited out the doorway and headed west on Milner Street. “I usually stay to the smaller streets and make my way up to Brompton Road,” Kate explained, thinking that he might not be very familiar with this area of town, “then take that to Hyde Park. But we can walk straight up Sloane Street, if you prefer.”

“Whatever you wish,” he demurred. “I shall follow your direction.”

“Very well,” Kate replied, marching determinedly up Milner Street toward Lenox Gardens. Maybe if she kept her eyes ahead of her and moved briskly, he’d be discouraged from conversation. Her daily walks with Newton were supposed to be her time for personal reflection. She did not appreciate having to drag him along.

Her strategy worked quite well for several minutes. They walked in silence all the way to the corner of Hans Crescent and Brompton Road, and then he quite suddenly said, “My brother played us for fools last night.”

That stopped her in her tracks. “I beg your pardon?”

“Do you know what he told me about you before he introduced us?”

Kate stumbled a step before shaking her head, no. Newton hadn’t stopped in his tracks, and he was tugging on the lead like mad.

“He told me you couldn’t say enough about me.”

“Wellll,” Kate stalled, “if one doesn’t want to put too fine a point on it, that’s not entirely untrue.”


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