You don’t want to do this, Miss Sheffield,” he warned.
“Oh,” she said with great feeling, “I do. I really, really do.” And then, with quite the most evil grin her lips had ever formed, she drew back her mallet and smacked her ball with every ounce of every single emotion within her. It knocked into his with stunning force, sending it hurtling even farther down the hill.
Farther . . .
Farther . . .
Right into the lake.
Openmouthed with delight, Kate just stared for a moment as the pink ball sank into the lake. Then something rose up within her, some strange and primitive emotion, and before she knew what she was about, she was jumping about like a crazy woman, yelling, “Yes! Yes! I win!”
“You don’t win,” Anthony snapped.
“Oh, it feels like I’ve won,” she reveled.
Colin and Daphne, who had come dashing down the hill, skidded to a halt before them. “Well done, Miss Sheffield!” Colin exclaimed. “I knew you were worthy of the mallet of death.”
“Brilliant,” Daphne agreed. “Absolutely brilliant.”
Anthony, of course, had no choice but to cross his arms and scowl mightily.
Colin gave her a congenial pat on the back. “Are you certain you’re not a Bridgerton in disguise? You have truly lived up to the spirit of the game.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” Kate said graciously. “If you hadn’t hit his ball down the hill . . .”
“I had been hoping you would pick up the reins of his destruction,” Colin said.
The duke finally approached, Edwina at his side. “A rather stunning conclusion to the game,” he commented.
“It’s not over yet,” Daphne said.
Her husband gave her a faintly amused glance. “To continue the play now seems rather anticlimactic, don’t you think?”
Surprisingly, even Colin agreed. “I certainly can’t imagine anything topping it.”
The duke glanced up at the sky. “Furthermore, it’s starting to cloud over. I want to get Daphne in before it starts to rain. Delicate condition and all, you know.”
Kate looked in surprise at Daphne, who had started to blush. She didn’t look the least bit pregnant.
“Very well,” Colin said. “I move we end the game and declare Miss Sheffield the winner.”
“I was two wickets behind the rest of you,” Kate demurred.
“Nevertheless,” Colin said, “any true aficionado of Bridgerton Pall Mall understands that sending Anthony into the lake is far more important than actually sending one’s ball through all the wickets. Which makes you our winner, Miss Sheffield.” He looked about, then straight at Anthony. “Does anyone disagree?”
No one did, although Anthony looked close to violence.
“Excellent,” Colin said. “In that case, Miss Sheffield is our winner, and Anthony, you are our loser.”
A strange, muffled sound burst from Kate’s mouth, half laugh and half choke.
“Well, someone has to lose,” Colin said with a grin. “It’s tradition.”
“It’s true,” Daphne agreed. “We’re a bloodthirsty lot, but we do like to follow tradition.