Annalise's tired eyes could not travel the last distance to achieve slumber. Her mind was too overwrought to let her rest. It did not help that the night was unusually hot. Her starched collar was sticking to her neck.

Annalise shifted the goose feather covers and finally sat up, admitting defeat. She wearily placed her feet in her soft bedroom slippers and allowed her unhappy thoughts to sour her mood.

The Viscount's assumption had been correct that Anna had always had an undue influence on her orphaned cousin. Marion never minded being led by her younger, boisterous cousin into adventures she was too timid to pursue herself. It was natural to assume that Annalise was also her confidant for the matters of the heart but here the Viscount had misjudged gravely.

Every time Annalise had sought to explain herself to Montgomery she denied her involvement but she had never laid out the exact events. Perhaps she had been unconsciously protecting Marion from Montgomery's wrath and this was the first time she had explicitly thrown Marion's truth at Montgomery without caring for who incurred the greatest loss. Whether it was Annalise or Montgomery, it did not matter since Marion was no where near their predicament.

Annalise's mind ruminated over their childhood and felt a familiar stab of despair. She had never assumed he would think the worse of her and yet he had. She knew she had never held an inch of esteem in his eyes to have so easily fallen. Marion would have never suffered the same fate. She was the perfection Anna could never attain.

Annalise felt the familiar agitation guide her feet down to the seat next to the open window. There was no comforting breeze and Annalise leaned out as much as she could seeking fresh air.

Instead of the country air Anna smelt soot. Her wide blue eyes roved over the portion of the manor she could see from her window and saw bright flames reflected in the moat beneath the rooms angled away from hers.

Anna did not need a second thought to realise whose rooms were on fire. She grabbed her dressing gown and ran out of the guest room without a moment of hesitation.

She banged on the doors next to hers as she ran through the corridor, "The house is on fire!"

There were shouts and screams behind her but she continued her relentless race up the stairs and into the Beaucourt family rooms. Rose's door was firmly shut but she could see the smoke gathering at the bottom, near the carpet.

Anna's hands smarted as her fingers grabbed hold of the scorching hot door handle. She felt tears of frustration gather around her lashes when her eyes landed on Montgomery barging through the corridor. They hadn't needed to use words to convey how dire the situation was to each other. Their eyes did all the talking.

"Stay here," Montgomery rammed himself into the oak door without waiting for a reply. It took him two tried before the door gave way and the wood eased open. Annalise watched with despair as his solid frame disappeared into the turbulent smoke.

The blonde stared into the opaque cloud in hopes of good news when Rose screamed shattering all of Annalise's resolve. She could no longer take another moment of waiting and crossed the smoky threshold. Her eyes stung but she refused to close them in fear of missing Rose's whereabouts.

With an arm over her mouth Annalise tried to recall the layout of the room she had just seen earlier that day. Rose had multiple doors which led to various chambers of use and she could easily be injured in any one of them.

Anna tried to move away from the flames when she caught sight of a dark figure approaching her. Having never felt more delighted in her life to see Montgomery's countenance Anna darted forward but her steps faltered when she realised something was not right.

The tall, shadowy figure was holding Rose's limp form in his arms. The thick smoke around them hid the man's face but up close Annalise could tell the man was not Montgomery. The man's face was covered with a dark undefined cloth presumably to avoid inhaling the smoke.

"Is she alright?" Annalise shouted over the crackling of the flames. Her eyes searched the man's eyes and suddenly felt a chill run down her spine. There was something very wrong with the way he looked at her.

"You're not here to save her, are you?" She whispered, "What have you done with the both of them?"

A strong arm propelled her backwards but she managed not to lose her balance. She instead grabbed the retreating stranger from behind, right around his throat and pulled with all her might. With a last ditch effort she dug her shapely nails into his jugular. The assailant backhanded the blonde and she managed to avoid a burning chair as she crumpled to the ground with another bout of coughing.

When she looked up she was relieved to see Montgomery had finally admitted himself into the chaos. The assailant dropped Rose as he was no match for the Corinthian that was Montgomery. The men grappled with each other while Anna swiftly pulled Rose towards safety. The unconscious girl's pretty face was covered in soot but she seemed uninjured by the flames.

"He's getting away," Annalise hollered as she watched the assailant's feet storm away into the door opening.

"It's not worth it," Montgomery exclaimed as he heaved Rose into his own arms, "The flames are getting too high and smoke unbreathable. We will die if we do not leave."

Annalise raced behind the Viscount and stumbled out into corridor gasping for breath. She was handed a glass of water half of which she chose to splash on her face so she could ease the pain in her eyes.

"Rose, my darling Rose," Lady Beaucourt sobbed as she flailed down onto the floor having just reached the fire.

"She needs fresh air. She must have inhaled the smoke to have fainted so," Montgomery explained to the group of servants who had arrived in various states of undress. It seemed only a minute or two had passed since they had entered Rose's burning room instead of what felt like hours.

"Did you get a good look at the intruder?" The viscount swivelled around facing Annalise after Rose's rousing form was handed over to the maids.

"His face was covered. I just knew it wasn't you by his physique. His eyes were lighter then yours but they glinted orange with the flames. I could barely make anything out," Annalise punctuated the sentence with constant coughing. She tried to pay attention to how Rose was faring but her mind was slow from the smoke inhalation.

"You should have stayed put," Montgomery's eyes roved at the mess that Annalise had made of herself.

"I couldn't stay outside doing nothing," The blonde murmured, feeling lightheaded. The world felt a lot less steady then it did a few minutes ago.

"Come with me," Montgomery declared. He held out his hand which Annalise refused to take at all costs, " Please, you're injured."

"The doctor will be here shortly. The carriage has been sent out for him," The butler informed the pair. Behind them it seemed every worker in the manor was making an effort to put out the fire. There was so much noise and nothing seemed to make sense. Only Montgomery's unwavering gaze felt real in all of the chaos.

Annalise unfurled her fists and saw her palms were splotchy and red. She could feel painful blisters forming where she had touched the scalding handle.

"Come with me," Montgomery repeated and this time Annalise numbly acquiesced. She followed the dark haired man to the end of the corridor where she was sat down on an ornate bench. From their position they could see all the inhabitants at work without being in the way. Montgomery set down the water pail down next to while he wrestled with the window until it sprang open.

"I don't think your art will be affected," Montgomery murmured as he calmly sprinkled water down on her hands. He took off his cravat from his neck and dipped it into the water to form a cool compress.

"What does that have to do with anything?" Anna asked groggily. She was feeling numb and sluggish after such an eventful night.

"I know your art is precious to you. You'll be back to your canvas as soon as possible, just let your hands rest for a while," The man gave the most unpractised, reassuring smile Annalise had ever seen. She allowed the cool comfort of the compress soothe her for a couple of silent minutes.

"If that is all," Annalise said at last finding herself on the verge of dozing away.

"I'm sorry," His voice trembled with emotion that left Anna bereft of air. She wished she could be closer to the window so she could borrow the ability to breath.

"No need for any apologies. I no longer wish to garner your good opinion," Anna said, hoarsely.

"I should have known... I shouldn't have..." Montgomery was uncharacteristically at a loss for words.

"Yes, you should have, Viscount," The blonde uttered in a clipped and formal fashion not hiding the bitterness. She had accepted they could no longer be friends ever again. He clearly did not see any worth in her and she had too much esteem to accept his crumbs of attention.

The remaining distance between them gulfed like the ends of a vast ocean. There was nothing left between them anymore. Even his hatred had fizzled out leaving no emotion behind.

Suddenly Montgomery's cold compress came towards her face which she avoided. She glared at the man waiting for him to explain.

"One side of your face is starting to swell and," Montgomery leaned in closer with his brows furrowed, "I can see blood at the side of your lips. Did he hurt you?"

"Yes, and before I am lectured on my stupidity- " The blue eyed girl was cut off before she could continue her tirade.

"You are stupid, yes, the most vexing creature in our county but you are also brave. I want to tell you off but I cannot. You're just..." The man sighed as if his words were failing him again. After a poignant silence he looked at Annalise but instead of finding her glaring at him he found her fast asleep.


Annalise slowly drifted into awareness as she felt a cold compress touch her forehead. She was instantly fully awake as she remembered Montgomery's pressing the his damp cravat to her hand.

"Oh, Missy, you nearly bowled me over," Annalise's maid exclaimed.

"Oh. What's going on? How did I get back to my room?" Annalise's blue eyes darted around her room as if looking for something.

"You, poor thing, fainted from exhaustion. The doctor came to check on you. You had a slight fever which I was asked to keep an eye on but no damage done, except to your hands and to your..." The older woman trailed off.

"Hand me my mirror, please," Annalise asked. She had no idea what she would see but once she had a look she sighed in relief. Any bruises that had appeared overnight were insignificant.

"Oh, what a waste it shall be. Without your looks what is the point of staying?" The maid muttered.

"They're continuing the house party?! Has everyone gone mad!" Annalise burst out. Furiously she donned her night gown and marched down to her door much to her maid's protests.

She slammed open the door and was baffled to find the unlikely trio of Elizabeth and her maid standing alongside with Montgomery. Elizabeth was dressed in white while Montgomery was in usual head to toe of black.

"We are here to enquire about your health and I must assume you are well if you are already on your feet?" Montgomery arched his brow at Annalise.

"No, no, I'm not well," The blonde murmured as she gripped the door suddenly feeling faint. Elizabeth took Annalise by the shoulders and led her back to her bed.

"Not a step forward, boy," Annalise's maid growled as Montgomery took a step into the threshold.

"You just said my looks were ruined. What does it matter if he sees me like this?" Annalise grumbled as the pillows were adjusted so she could sit up.

"No, need to be dramatic. You look as you always do," Montgomery replied harshly. He crossed his arms and glared at the maid, "And you're one to talk future Mrs. Marcus Piddle. If you had kept your charge out of trouble as you should have then we wouldn't be in this situation."

"Stop being bossy, Monty boy," Annalise scoffed, "My staff is not yours to be ordered about. Now, I need to be informed about what's going on outside. I assume Rose is well?"

"I went to see her this morning with my mother. She is unhurt but exhausted as you are. She claims she will be back in the public eye by tomorrow but I have my doubts," Elizabeth took her seat, primly as she watched the viscount with beady eyes.

"I wouldn't underestimate her will power. She only comes second to you, Anna," Montgomery spoke his words as if they were an insult. He leaned against the doorframe, standing at the threshold.

"And that means the house party continues?" Annalise sighed knowing the answer already.

"Not for you. You must return," The man pressed.

"What for? It's not like I'll come in that man's path again. He is Rose's admirer, not mine," Annalise stated. To avoid another argument she faced her right to admire the many bouquets laid out on her side table. She grabbed the nearest bouquet of orange lilies and read the gold trim card.

"This one is from Baron Lutworth. How kind," The girl murmured with false joviality.

"You must listen to reason, Anna." The viscount murmured while the girl avoided his gaze.

"Did you not send me anything?" The blonde asked.

"Would you have accepted anything from me?" Montgomery asked and Annalise finally looked up.

"No, I would not. Now you may leave. As you can see I am as hearty as a horse," Annalise looked down at lap feeling a headache approaching her. Her eyes blurred as she felt tired all over again.

Once the door was pulled shut Annalise looked up again with her false smile. She could see all three women present staring at her.

"Now, let's see who else has been a well wisher,"

"Err, yes," Elizabeth gave her a pinched smile as she came down beside her to sit, "Mr. Merkle has sent roses while Lord Matlock has given you violets. And sir Arthur... Well he's broken into his bank account. He's given you cocoa pistoles."

"Excellent," Annalise clapped her hands and realised she had bandages on her hands. Elizabeth understood why her friend had become silent.

"You were very brave, Annalise. Everyone says so. I bet London is afire with gossip about you."

"Brave or stupid? Who knows?" Annalise rested her head against the bed frame, "I can no longer make head or tails of my own actions. Maybe I should leave but I don't want to. I feel like this is the summer in which I shall be putting all my matters to rest."