Her lower lip trembled between her teeth, and a muscle spasmed in her neck. “Do you—do you think of Edwina?”

Anthony froze. “How could I possibly confuse the two of you?”

Kate felt her face crumple, felt hot tears stinging at her eyes. She didn’t want to cry in front of him, oh, God, especially not now, but it hurt, it hurt so much, and—

His hand grasped her cheeks with stunning speed, forcing her to look up at him.

“Listen to me,” he said, his voice even and intense, “and listen well, because I’m only going to say this once. I desire you. I burn for you. I can’t sleep at night for wanting you. Even when I didn’t like you, I lusted for you. It’s the most maddening, beguiling, damnable thing, but there it is. And if I hear one more word of nonsense from your lips, I’m going to have to tie you to the bloody bed and have my way with you a hundred different ways, until you finally get it through your silly skull that you are the most beautiful and desirable woman in England, and if everyone else doesn’t see that, then they’re all bloody fools.”

Kate wouldn’t have thought it possible for her mouth to fall open while she was lying down, but somehow it did.

One of his brows arched into what had to be the most arrogant expression ever to grace a face. “Is that understood?”

She just stared at him, not quite able to form a response.

He leaned down until his nose was a mere inch from hers. “Is that understood?”

She nodded.

“Good,” he grunted, and then, before she had a moment even to catch her breath, his lips were devouring hers in a kiss so fierce she was clutching the bed just to keep from screaming. His hips ground into hers, frenzied in their power, thrusting, rotating, stroking her until she was certain she must be on fire.

She clutched at him, not certain whether she was trying to bind him to her or tear him away. “I can’t do this,” she moaned, certain she would shatter. Her muscles were stiff, tense, and it was getting hard to breathe.

But if he’d heard her, he didn’t care. His face was a harsh mask of concentration, sweat beading on his brow.

“Anthony,” she gasped, “I can—”

One of his hands slipped between them and touched her intimately, and she screamed. He slammed forward one last time, and her world simply fell apart. She was stiff, then shaking, then she thought she must be falling. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t even gasp. Her throat had to be closing, and her head fell back as her hands grabbed at the mattress with a ferocity she’d never have believed she possessed.

He went utterly still above her, his mouth open in a silent scream, and then he collapsed, the weight of him pressing her farther into the mattress.

“Oh, my God,” he gasped, his body now shaking. “Never…it’s never…so good…it’s never been so good.”

Kate, who’d had a few seconds longer to recover, smiled as she smoothed his hair. A wicked thought came to her, a perfectly wonderful wicked thought. “Anthony?” she murmured.

How he lifted his head she would never know, because it looked like it took a Herculean effort just to open his eyes and grunt his response.

She smiled, slowly, and with a womanly seductiveness she’d learned just that evening. Letting one of her fingers trail down the angular edge of his jaw, she whispered, “Are we done yet?”

For a second he made no response, then his lips broke into a smile far more devilish than she could ever have imagined. “For now,” he murmured huskily, rolling onto his side and pulling her along with him. “But only for now.”

Chapter 18

Although gossip still surrounds the hasty marriage of Lord and Lady Bridgerton (formerly Miss Katharine Sheffield, for those of you who have been in hibernation for these past few weeks), This Author is of the firm opinion that theirs was a love match. Viscount Bridgerton does not escort his wife to every society function (but then again, what husband does?), but when he is present, This Author cannot fail to note that he always seems to be murmuring something in his lady’s ear, and that something always seems to make her smile and blush.

Furthermore, he always dances with her one more time than is considered de rigueur. Considering how many husbands don’t like to dance with their wives at all, this is romantic stuff, indeed.

LADY WHISTLEDOWN’S SOCIETY PAPERS, 10 JUNE 1814

The next few weeks flew by in a delirious rush. After a brief stay in the country at Aubrey Hall, the newlyweds returned to London, where the season was in full swing. Kate had hoped to use her afternoons to resume her flute lessons, but she quickly discovered that she was in great demand, and her days were filled with social calls, shopping excursions with her family, and the occasional ride in the park. Her evenings were a whirlwind of balls and parties.

But her nights were for Anthony alone.

Marriage, she decided, agreed with her. She saw less of Anthony than she would have liked, but she understood and accepted that he was a very busy man. His many concerns, both in Parliament and on his estates, took up a great deal of his time. But when he returned home at night and met her in the bedroom (no separate bedchambers for Lord and Lady Bridgerton!) he was marvelously attentive, asking about her day, telling her of his, and making love to her until the wee hours of the night.

He’d even taken the time to listen to her practice her flute. She’d managed to hire a musician to come and tutor her two mornings a week. Considering the (not very expert) level of play which Kate had achieved, Anthony’s willingness to sit through an entire thirty minutes of rehearsal could only be interpreted as a sign of great affection.

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