“As for you,” Kate added, “I think it’s high time you were able to think only of yourself for a change. To make a decision based on what you desire, not what you think others need.”

Edwina pulled one of her hands free to brush back a tear. “I really like him,” she whispered.

“Then I am certain I will like him as well,” Kate said firmly. “When may I meet him?”

“He is in Oxford for the next fortnight, I’m afraid. He has prior commitments which I should not want him to break on my account.”

“Of course not,” Kate murmured. “You wouldn’t want to marry the sort of gentleman who does not honor his commitments.”

Edwina nodded in agreement. “I received a letter from him this morning, though, and he says he will come down to London at the end of the month and hopes that he might call on me.”

Kate smiled wickedly. “He’s already sending you letters?”

Edwina nodded and blushed. “Several per week,” she admitted.

“And what is his area of study?”

“Archaeology. He’s quite brilliant. He has been to Greece. Twice!”

Kate hadn’t thought that her sister—already renowned throughout the land for her beauty—could possibly grow any lovelier, but when Edwina spoke of her Mr. Bagwell, her face shone with a radiance that was nothing short of heart-stopping.

“I cannot wait to meet him,” Kate announced. “We must have an informal dinner party with him as our guest of honor.”

“That would be wonderful.”

“And perhaps the three of us might go for a ride in the park ahead of time so that we might become better acquainted. Now that I am an old married lady, I qualify as a suitable chaperone.” Kate let out a little laugh. “Isn’t that funny?”

A very amused, very male voice sounded from the doorway: “Isn’t what funny?”

“Anthony!” Kate exclaimed, surprised to see her husband in the middle of the day. He always seemed to have appointments and meetings that kept him from their home. “How delightful to see you.”

He smiled slightly as he nodded toward Edwina in greeting. “I found myself with an unexpected block of free time.”

“Would you care to join us for tea?”

“I’ll join you,” he murmured as he crossed the room and picked up a crystal decanter that sat on a mahogany side table, “but I believe I’ll have a brandy instead.”

Kate watched as he poured himself a drink, then swirled it absently in his hand. It was at times like these that she found it so difficult to keep her heart out of her eyes. He was so handsome in the late afternoon. She wasn’t sure why; maybe it was the faint hint of stubble on his cheeks or the fact that his hair was always slightly mussed from whatever it was he did all day. Or maybe it was simply that she didn’t often get to see him this time of day; she’d once read a poem that said the unexpected moment was always sweeter.

As Kate gazed upon her husband, she rather thought that poet might be right.

“So,” Anthony said after taking a sip of his drink, “what have you two ladies been discussing?”

Kate looked to her sister for permission to share her news, and when Edwina nodded, she said, “Edwina has met a gentleman she fancies.”

“Really?” Anthony asked, sounding interested in a strangely paternal sort of manner. He perched on the arm of Kate’s chair, a relaxed, overstuffed piece of furniture that was not at all in fashion but well loved nonetheless in the Bridgerton household for its uncommon comfort. “I should like to meet him,” he added.

“You should?” Edwina echoed, blinking like an owl. “You would?”

“Of course. In fact, I insist upon it.” When neither lady commented, he scowled a bit and added, “I am the head of the family, after all. That’s what we do.”

Edwina’s lips parted with surprise. “I—I hadn’t realized you felt a responsibility toward me.”

Anthony looked at her as if she’d gone momentarily insane. “You’re Kate’s sister,” he said, as if that should explain everything.

Edwina’s blank expression remained fixed on her face for another second, and then it melted into a rather radiant delight. “I have always wondered what it would be like to have a brother,” she said.

“I hope I pass muster,” Anthony grunted, not entirely comfortable with the sudden outpouring of emotion.

She beamed at him. “Brilliantly. I vow I do not understand why Eloise complains so much.”

Kate turned to Anthony and explained, “Edwina and your sister have become fast friends since our marriage.”

“God help us,” he muttered. “And what, may I ask, could Eloise possibly have to complain about?”

Edwina smiled innocently. “Oh, nothing, really. Just that you can, at times, be a touch overprotective.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he scoffed.

Kate choked on her tea. She was quite certain that by the time their daughters were of marriageable age, Anthony would have converted to Catholicism just so that he could lock them in a convent with twelve-foot walls!

Anthony glanced at her with narrowed eyes. “What are you laughing about?”

Kate quickly patted her mouth with a napkin, mumbling, “Nothing,” under the folds of the cloth.

“Hmmmph.”

“Eloise says that you were quite the bear when Daphne was being courted by Simon,” Edwina said.

“Oh, did she?”

Edwina nodded. “She says the two of you dueled!”

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