“Miss Sheffield, allow me to take the lead,” he boomed, striding forward to aid her. It wasn’t the most glamorous manner in which to play the hero, but anything would do when one was trying to impress the sister of one’s future bride.
But just as Anthony caught up with her, Newton gave the lead a vicious tug, and it went flying from her grasp. Kate let out a shriek and dashed forward, but the dog was off and running, the lead snaking along the grass behind him.
Anthony didn’t know whether to laugh or groan. Newton clearly did not intend to be caught.
Kate froze for a moment, one hand clasped over her mouth. Then her eyes caught Anthony’s, and he had the worst sort of feeling that he knew what she intended to do.
“Miss Sheffield,” he said quickly, “I’m sure—”
But she was off and running, hollering, “Newton!” with a decided lack of decorum. Anthony let out a weary sigh and began running after her. He couldn’t very well let her chase the dog on her own and still presume to call himself a gentleman.
She had a bit of a head start on him, though, and when he caught up with her around the corner, she’d stopped. She was breathing hard, her hands on her hips as she scanned her surroundings.
“Where’d he go?” Anthony asked, trying to forget that there was something rather arousing about a woman who was panting.
“I don’t know.” She paused to catch her breath. “I think he’s chasing a rabbit.”
“Oh, now, well, that will make it easy to catch him,” he said. “Since rabbits always stick to the well-trod paths.”
She scowled at his sarcasm. “What are we to do?”
Anthony had half a mind to answer, “Go home and get a real dog,” but she looked so worried he bit his tongue. Actually, upon closer inspection she looked more irritated than worried, but there was definitely a bit of worry in the mix.
So instead he said, “I propose we wait until we hear someone shriek. Any minute now he’s bound to dash right across some young lady’s feet and scare her out of her very wits.”
“Do you think?” She didn’t look convinced. “Because he’s not the scariest dog to look at. He thinks he is, and it’s really quite sweet, actually, but the truth is, he’s—”
“I believe we have our answer,” Anthony said dryly, and he took off in the direction of the anonymous lady’s scream.
Kate hurried after him, cutting right across the grass toward Rotten Row. The viscount was running in front of her, and all she could think was that he must really want to marry Edwina, because despite the fact that he was clearly a splendid athlete, he looked most undignified dashing through the park after a rotund corgi. Even worse, they were going to have to run right across Rotten Row, the ton’s favorite spot for riding and driving.
Everyone was going to see them. A less determined man would have given up ages ago.
Kate kept running on after them, but she was losing ground. She hadn’t spent much time in breeches, but she was fairly certain it was easier to run in them than in skirts. Especially when one was out in public and could not hitch them up above one’s ankles.
She tore across Rotten Row, refusing to make eye contact with any of the fashionable ladies and gentlemen out with their horses. There was always the chance she wouldn’t be recognized as the hoydenish miss racing through the park as if someone had set fire to her shoes. Not much of a chance, but a chance nonetheless.
When she reached the grass again, she stumbled for a second and had to pause to take a few deep breaths. Then horror dawned. They were almost to The Serpentine.
There was little Newton liked better than to jump in a lake. And the sun was just warm enough that it might look tempting, especially if one happened to be a creature covered with thick, heavy fur, a creature who’d been running at breakneck speed for five minutes. Well, breakneck for an overweight corgi.
Which was still, Kate noted with some interest, fast enough to keep a six-foot-tall viscount at bay.
Kate hitched up her skirts an inch or so—hang the onlookers, she couldn’t afford to be fussy right now—and took off running again. There was no way she’d catch up with Newton, but maybe she could catch up with Lord Bridgerton before he killed Newton.
Murder had to be on his mind by now. The man would have to be a saint not to want to murder the dog.
And if one percent of what had been written about him in Whistledown was true, he was no saint.
Kate gulped. “Lord Bridgerton!” she called out, intending to tell him to call off the hunt. She’d simply have to wait for Newton to exhaust himself. With four-inch-tall legs, that had to come sooner rather than later. “Lord Bridgerton! We can just—”
Kate stumbled in her tracks. Was that Edwina over there by The Serpentine? She squinted. It was Edwina, standing gracefully with her hands clasped in front of her. And it appeared that the hapless Mr. Berbrooke was making some sort of repair to his curricle.
Newton stopped short for one moment, spying Edwina at the same moment Kate did, and abruptly changed his course, barking joyfully as he ran toward his beloved.
“Lord Bridgerton!” Kate called out again. “See, look! There’s—”
Anthony turned around at the sound of her voice, then followed her pointed finger toward Edwina. So that was why the damned dog spun on its heel and made a ninety-degree change of course. Anthony had nearly slipped on the mud and fallen on his bum trying to maneuver such a sharp turn.
He was going to kill that dog.
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