Kate held silent for a moment. She couldn’t very well argue that point, since, after all, it was supposed to be true.

“And stop crumpling your cloak,” Mary added. “It will be wrinkled all evening.”

Kate’s hand went limp. She then tapped the right one rhythmically against the seat for several seconds, until Mary blurted out, “Good heavens, Kate, can’t you sit still?”

“You know I can’t,” Kate said.

Mary just sighed.

After another long silence, punctuated only by the tapping of her foot, Kate added, “Edwina will be lonely without us.”

Mary didn’t even bother to look at her as she answered, “Edwina has a novel to read. The latest by that Austen woman. She won’t even notice we’re gone.”

That much was also true. Edwina probably wouldn’t notice if her bed caught on fire while she was reading a book.

So Kate said, “The music will probably be dreadful. After that Smythe-Smith affair…”

“The Smythe-Smith musicale was performed by the Smythe-Smith daughters,” Mary replied, her voice starting to hold an edge of impatience. “Lady Bridgerton has hired a professional opera singer, visiting from Italy. We are honored simply to receive an invitation.”

Kate knew without a doubt that the invitation was for Edwina; she and Mary were surely included only out of politeness. But Mary’s teeth were beginning to clench together, and so Kate vowed to hold her tongue for the remainder of the ride.

Which wouldn’t be so difficult, after all, as they were presently rolling up in front of Bridgerton House.

Kate’s mouth dropped open as she looked out the window. “It’s huge,” she said dumbly.

“Isn’t it?” Mary replied, gathering her things together. “I understand that Lord Bridgerton doesn’t live there. Even though it belongs to him, he remains in his bachelor’s lodgings so that his mother and siblings may reside at Bridgerton House. Isn’t that thoughtful of him?”

Thoughtful and Lord Bridgerton were not two expressions Kate would have thought to use in the same sentence, but she nodded nonetheless, too awed by the size and grace of the stone building to make an intelligent comment.

The carriage rolled to a halt, and Mary and Kate were helped down by one of the Bridgerton footmen, who rushed to open the door. A butler took their invitation and admitted them, taking their wraps and pointing them toward the music room, which was just at the end of the hall.

Kate had been inside enough grand London homes not to publicly gape at the obvious wealth and beauty of the furnishings, but even she was impressed by the interiors, decorated with elegance and restraint in the Adam style. Even the ceilings were works of art—done up in pale shades of sage and blue, the colors separated by white plasterwork so intricate it almost appeared to be a more solid form of lace.

The music room was just as lovely, the walls painted a friendly shade of lemon yellow. Rows of chairs had been set up for attendees, and Kate quickly steered her stepmother toward the back. Truly, there could be no reason why she’d want to put herself in a noticeable position. Lord Bridgerton was sure to be in attendance—if all the tales about his devotion to his family were true—and if Kate was lucky, maybe he wouldn’t even notice her presence.

Quite to the contrary, Anthony knew exactly when Kate stepped out of her carriage and entered his family home. He had been in his study, having a solitary drink before heading down to his mother’s annual musicale. In a bid for privacy, he’d chosen not to live at Bridgerton House while still a bachelor, but he did keep his study here. His position as head of the Bridgerton family carried with it serious responsibilities, and Anthony generally found it easier to attend to these responsibilities while in close proximity to the rest of his family.

The study’s windows looked out over Grosvenor Square, however, and so he had been amusing himself watching the carriages arrive and the guests alight. When Kate Sheffield had stepped down, she’d looked up at the facade of Bridgerton House, tipping her face up in much the same manner she’d done while enjoying the warmth of the sun in Hyde Park. The light from the sconces on either side of the front door had filtered onto her skin, bathing her with a flickering glow.

And Anthony’s breath was sucked right out of him.

His glass tumbler landed on the wide windowsill with a heavy thunk. This was getting ridiculous. He wasn’t self-delusional enough to mistake the tightening of his muscles as anything other than desire.

Bloody hell. He didn’t even like the woman. She was too bossy, too opinionated, too quick to jump to conclusions. She wasn’t even beautiful—at least not compared to quite a few of the ladies flitting about London for the season, her sister most especially included.

Kate’s face was a touch too long, her chin a hair too pointed, her eyes a shade too big. Everything about her was too some thing. Even her mouth, which vexed him to no end with its endless stream of insults and opinions, was too full. It was a rare event when she actually had it closed and was treating him to a moment of blessed silence, but if he happened to look at her in that split second (for surely she could not be silent for much longer than that) all he saw were her lips, full and pouty, and—provided that she kept them shut and didn’t actually speak—eminently kissable.

Kissable?

Anthony shuddered. The thought of kissing Kate Sheffield was terrifying. In fact, the mere fact that he’d even thought of it ought to be enough to have him locked up in an asylum.

And yet…

Anthony collapsed in a chair.

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