The wedding of London’s most eligible bachelor is surely something which must be reported in This Author’s humble column, don’t you agree?

LADY WHISTLEDOWN’S SOCIETY PAPERS, 13 MAY 1814

The night before the wedding, Kate was sitting on her bed in her favorite dressing gown, looking dazedly at the multitude of trunks strewn across the floor. Her every belonging was packed away, neatly folded or stored, ready for transport to her new home.

Even Newton had been prepared for the journey. He’d been bathed and dried, a new collar had been affixed to his neck, and his favorite toys were loaded into a small satchel that now sat in the front hall, right next to the delicately carved wooden chest Kate had had since she was a baby. The chest was filled with Kate’s childhood toys and treasures, and she’d found tremendous comfort in their presence here in London. It was silly and sentimental, but to Kate it made her upcoming transition a little less scary. Bringing her things—funny little items that meant nothing to anyone but her—to Anthony’s home made it seem more like it would truly be her home as well.

Mary, who always seemed to understand what Kate needed before she understood it herself, had sent word to friends back in Somerset as soon as Kate had become betrothed, asking them to ship the chest to London in time for the wedding.

Kate stood and wandered about the room, stopping to run her fingers across a nightgown that was folded and laid upon a table, awaiting transfer to the last of her trunks. It was one that Lady Bridgerton—Violet, she had to start thinking of her as Violet—had picked out, modest in cut but sheer in fabric. Kate had been mortified throughout the entire visit to the lingerie maker. This was her betrothed’s mother, after all, selecting items for the wedding night!

As Kate picked up the gown and set it carefully in a trunk, she heard a knock at the door. She called out her greeting, and Edwina poked her head in. She, too, was dressed for bed, her pale hair pulled back into a sloppy bun at the nape of her neck.

“I thought you might like some hot milk,” Edwina said.

Kate smiled gratefully. “That sounds heavenly.”

Edwina reached down and picked up the ceramic mug she’d set on the floor. “Can’t hold two mugs and twist the doorknob at the same time,” she explained with a smile. Once inside, she kicked the door shut and handed one of the mugs to Kate. Eyes trained on Kate, Edwina asked without preamble, “Are you scared?”

Kate took a gingerly sip, checking the temperature before gulping it down. It was hot but not scalding, and it somehow comforted her. She’d been drinking hot milk since childhood, and the taste and feel of it always made her feel warm and secure.

“Not scared precisely,” she finally replied, sitting down on the edge of her bed, “but nervous. Definitely nervous.”

“Well, of course you’re nervous,” Edwina said, her free hand waving animatedly through the air. “Only an idiot wouldn’t be nervous. Your whole life is going to change. Everything! Even your name. You’ll be a married woman. A viscountess. After tomorrow, you will not be the same woman, Kate, and after tomorrow night—”

“That’s enough, Edwina,” Kate interrupted.

“But—”

“You are not doing anything to ease my mind.”

“Oh.” Edwina offered her a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”

“It’s all right,” Kate assured her.

Edwina managed to hold her tongue for about four seconds before she asked, “Has Mother been in to speak with you?”

“Not yet.”

“She must, don’t you think? Tomorrow is your wedding day, and I’m sure there are all sorts of things one needs to know.” Edwina took a big gulp of her milk, leaving a rather incongruous white mustache on her upper lip, then perched on the edge of the bed across from Kate. “I know there are all sorts of things I don’t know. And unless you’ve been up to something I don’t know about, I don’t see how you could know them, either.”

Kate wondered if it would be impolite to muzzle her sister with some of the lingerie Lady Bridgerton had picked out. There seemed to be some rather nice poetic justice in such a maneuver.

“Kate?” Edwina asked, blinking curiously. “Kate? Why are you looking at me so strangely?”

Kate gazed at the lingerie longingly. “You don’t want to know.”

“Hmmph. Well, I—”

Edwina’s mutterings were cut short by a soft knock at the door. “That’ll be Mother,” Edwina said with a wicked grin. “I can’t wait.”

Kate rolled her eyes at Edwina as she rose to open the door. Sure enough, Mary was standing in the hall, holding two steaming mugs. “I thought you might like some hot milk,” she said with a weak smile.

Kate lifted her mug in response. “Edwina had the same notion.”

“What is Edwina doing here?” Mary asked, entering the room.

“Since when do I need a reason to talk with my sister?” Edwina asked with a snort.

Mary shot her a peevish look before turning her attention back to Kate. “Hmmm,” she mused. “We do seem to have a surfeit of hot milk.”

“This one’s gone lukewarm, anyway,” Kate said, setting her mug down on one of the already-closed-up trunks and replacing it with the warmer one in Mary’s hand. “Edwina can take the other one down to the kitchen when she leaves.”

“Beg pardon?” Edwina asked, vaguely distracted. “Oh, of course. I’m happy to help.” But she didn’t rise to her feet. In fact, she didn’t even twitch, save for the back and forth of her head as she looked from Mary to Kate and back again.

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