Kate ducked nimbly out of the way, dashing over to Edwina’s side. “Now, now, Lord Bridgerton,” she taunted, seeking safety behind her sister’s dripping form. “It would not do to lose your temper in front of the fair Edwina.”
“Kate?” Edwina whispered urgently. “What is going on? Why are you being so mean to him?”
“Why is he being so mean to me?” Kate hissed back.
“I say,” Mr. Berbrooke suddenly said, “that dog got me wet.”
“He got all of us wet,” Kate replied. Including her. But it had been worth it. Oh, it had been worth it to see the look of surprise and rage on that pompous aristocrat’s face.
“You!” Anthony roared, jabbing a furious finger at Kate. “Be quiet.”
Kate held her silence. She wasn’t foolhardy enough to provoke him any further. He looked as if his head might explode at any moment. And he’d certainly lost whatever claim to dignity he’d had at the beginning of the day. His right sleeve was dripping wet from when he’d hauled Edwina out of the water, his boots looked to be ruined forever, and the rest of him was spotted with water, thanks to Newton’s expert shaking prowess.
“I’ll tell you what we’re going to do,” he continued in a low, deadly voice.
“What I need to do,” Mr. Berbrooke said jovially, clearly unaware that Lord Bridgerton was likely to murder the first person who opened his mouth, “is finish repairing this curricle. Then I can take Miss Sheffield home.” He pointed at Edwina, just in case anyone didn’t understand to which Miss Sheffield he referred.
“Mr. Berbrooke,” Anthony ground out, “do you know how to fix a curricle?”
Mr. Berbrooke blinked a few times.
“Do you even know what is wrong with your curricle?”
Berbrooke’s mouth opened and closed a few more times, and then he said, “I have a few ideas. Shouldn’t take terribly long to figure out which is the actual problem.”
Kate stared at Anthony, fascinated by the vein leaping in his throat. She had never before seen a man so clearly pushed to his limit. Feeling not a little apprehensive at the impending explosion, she took a prudent half step behind Edwina.
She didn’t like to think herself a coward, but self-preservation was another matter entirely.
But the viscount somehow managed to keep himself under control, and his voice was terrifyingly even as he said, “This is what we’re going to do.”
Three pairs of eyes widened in expectation.
“I am going to walk over there”—he pointed at a lady and gentleman about twenty yards away who were trying not to stare but not succeeding—“and ask Montrose if I might borrow his carriage for a few minutes.”
“I say,” Berbrooke said, craning his neck, “is that Geoffrey Montrose? Haven’t seen him for an age.”
A second vein started leaping, this time on Lord Bridgerton’s temple. Kate grasped Edwina’s hand for moral support and held tight.
But Bridgerton, to his credit, ignored Berbrooke’s exceedingly inappropriate interjection and continued with, “Since he will say yes—”
“Are you sure?” Kate blurted out.
Somehow his brown eyes resembled icicles. “Am I sure of what?” he bit off.
“Nothing,” she mumbled, ready to kick herself. “Please continue.”
“As I was saying, since as a friend and a gentleman”—he glared at Kate—“he will say yes, I will take Miss Sheffield home and then I will return home and have one of my men return Montrose’s curricle.”
No one bothered to ask which Miss Sheffield he was talking about.
“What about Kate?” Edwina inquired. After all, the curricle could only seat two.
Kate gave her hand a squeeze. Dear, sweet Edwina.
Anthony looked straight at Edwina. “Mr. Berbrooke will escort your sister home.”
“But I can’t,” Berbrooke said. “Got to finish with the curricle, you know.”
“Where do you live?” Anthony snapped.
Berbrooke blinked with surprise but gave his address.
“I will stop by your house and fetch a servant to wait with your conveyance while you escort Miss Sheffield to her home. Is that clear?” He paused and looked at everyone—including the dog—with a rather hard expression. Except for Edwina, of course, who was the only person present who had not lit a fuse directly under his temper.
“Is that clear?” he repeated.
Everyone nodded, and his plan was set into motion. Minutes later, Kate found herself watching Lord Bridgerton and Edwina ride off into the horizon—the very two people she had vowed should never even be in the same room together.
Even worse, she was left alone with Mr. Berbrooke and Newton.
And it took only two minutes to discern that of the two, Newton was the finer conversationalist.
It has come to This Author’s attention that Miss Katharine Sheffield took offense at the labeling of her beloved pet, “an unnamed dog of indeterminate breed.”
This Author is, to be sure, prostrate with shame at this grievous and egregious error and begs of you, dear reader, to accept this abject apology and pay attention to the first ever correction in the history of this column.
Miss Katharine Sheffield’s dog is a corgi. It is called Newton, although it is difficult to imagine that England’s great inventor and physicist would have appreciated being immortalized in the form of a short, fat canine with poor manners.
LADY WHISTLEDOWN’S SOCIETY PAPERS, 27 APRIL 1814
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