Daily Mail Head Office, Northcliffe House, Kensington, London, England, December 2016

"Is that what I think it is?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Looks like it to me," she agreed, smiling conspiratorially.

"We need corroboration. Try and track down where this is, see if you can confirm any of it," he barked.

"Already on it. Do you want to give a heads-up to his people before we publish?" she asked.

"Hell no," he said firmly. "Give them a chance to get an army of lawyers up my arse to stop it? Freedom of the press and all that, you know?"

She laughed and shook her head. "You're ever so cute when you're being mean, you know that?"

"I can be more than just cute," he growled, leering at her and grabbing her hand to pull her towards his lap.

She yelped in surprise and chuckled as she perched on his knee. "I thought you said that you were useless until tonight?"

"I'm willing to give it a go," he said confidently, fondling her breast through her blouse. "We're going to be breaking the story of the year when this goes live. That's enough to get any man going."

She laughed as he pulled her into a firm kiss, his hand moving down to grab her arse through her skirt. The office was mostly deserted for the holidays, and it would take her some time to locate the hotel where the video was taken and confirm the date and so on, but she was confident she could. The pictures alone spoke volumes, and would raise enough suspicion and questions that all amounts of denials and objections would fall on deaf ears. Story of the year. More like scandal of the year. It would be a bloody hurricane, and they wouldn't know what hit them.

Chapter 18:

Grantham Arms Pub, Downton Village, Yorkshire, England, January 1, 2017

"Umm, hi, sorry, but are you, like, Matthew Crawley? The Armani guy? You are, right?"

Matthew smiled sheepishly and looked up at the rather buxom blonde who was standing before him, iPhone poised in her hand. She couldn't be older than 20, he thought fleetingly. Catching Tom's amused expression out of the corner of his eye, he smiled politely and nodded.

"Yes, that's me," he said.

"Oh my God, you are so gorgeous in person!" the girl squealed. "Can I have a picture please?"

"Yeah, sure," he replied, standing up.

The girl let out a happy yelp as she turned on her camera app and held her phone up to take a selfie. Her arm went around Matthew's back and she leaned in close.

"Erm, would you mind not touching me?" he asked. "My girlfriend gets a bit jealous, sorry."

"Oh, no worries!" the girl said, removing her arm but still leaning close enough to Matthew that she may as well have kept a hold of him anyway. She grinned up at the camera. He kept his lips closed, smiling as she took the photo.

"Thank you so much!" she gushed, giving him a hug.

He kept his arms at his sides and waited for her to release him. "Sure. Have a good night."

He frowned at Tom as he sat back down. "Don't say a word," he warned, sipping his beer.

"What? I'm impressed. That's the third one tonight," Tom said, grinning. "Wait 'til I tell Sybil."

Matthew rolled his eyes. "Yeah, that'll be great, thanks. She won't let me hear the end of it. They're all from the same table over there. It's probably a bet they have going or something."

"Oh, it's all in good fun, mate," Tom said reassuringly, sipping his own beer. "What do you say if they ask you who your girlfriend is?"

"No one ever has," Matthew replied. "I've gotten a few confused looks but I just don't want photos of complete strangers being too familiar posted up across social media. I don't know these people. They all seem innocent enough, but who knows? Better to just take a nice, neutral shot with no chance of misinterpretation."

"Misinterpretation by who, exactly? Mary?" Tom joked.

"No," Matthew said defensively. "She wouldn't care, if she even knew at all. She doesn't check to see who's tagged me in photos, I'm sure."

"Well she'd hardly have any right to protest, considering all the shots of her and Henry littering the Internet," Tom said, shrugging his shoulders.

Matthew gave him a wry smirk. "Right, something like that. Anyway, no, what I meant was you never know what anyone's agenda is. I'm not important at all, or worth scheming over, but there's a lot of strange people out there. They ask for your autograph and the next thing you know, it's on ebay. They want to take a selfie, then they manipulate it and put it online with you looking drunk, or high, or worse. It's a necessary thing to interact with fans, but you have to always be on your guard."

"I don't think your autograph is worth all that trouble there, mate," Tom said.

Matthew laughed and shook his head. "No, of course it's not. I was speaking in the hypothetical."

They went back to drinking and enjoying the busy atmosphere of the bar. After spending the past few days in London with his family, Tom had brought Sybil back to Downton Abbey for New Year's Eve, and soon they would all be flying back to North America. He and Matthew had managed to set aside tonight to leave the Crawley family behind and have a few pints, just the two of them. It was a ritual of theirs, though it was becoming increasingly difficult to find time for it. As outsiders to the House of Grantham, they tried to stick together whenever they could. Tom and Matthew had gotten along famously right from the off, but both of them being in love with Crawley girls had only solidified their friendship. Matthew was Tom's best man at the wedding, and Tom would have been a groomsman at Matthew's, though that was years ago, before Mary rejected his proposal and left for Toronto. Tom was elated when Matthew and Mary got back together six months ago. Matthew was his friend regardless, but he was grateful to have him back in the family once again.

Tom took another sip of his beer as he looked up at one of the televisions in the pub. They were showing a replay of a women's tennis match from Australia or somewhere. He smiled as one of the players gave a rather loud grunt as she hit the ball down the line for a winner. The match cut to commercial, and he blinked as Mary's face came on the screen.

'I have a confession to make. I'm not nearly as sorry about any of this as I pretend to be.'

Matthew looked up at the sound of Mary's voice. He watched as the commercial played out, essentially consisting of numerous scenes from the trailer that he'd already seen, this time edited in a different sequence with different music and voiceovers. When the show logo filled the screen, he went back to his beer.

"When's the season finale again?" Tom asked, returning to his drink.

"Two weeks," Matthew said. "I'll be in Chicago so we're going to watch it together over Skype."

"Right," Tom said. He smiled sheepishly and glanced around the bar before leaning towards Matthew. "Can I tell you something?"

Matthew looked at him curiously. "Of course."

"I fucking hate that show," Tom said, grinning.

Matthew snorted and chuckled at the admission. "Crikey. Wait until Mary hears that."

Tom's mouth fell open and the blood seemed to drain from his face. "What?" he sputtered. "You…you wouldn't…you can't!"

Matthew laughed and shook his head. "Your secret is safe with me, but the look on your face was quite priceless."

"Christ, Matthew!" Tom complained, sitting back in his chair and taking a swig of beer. "I think Mary's great in it, really, but the story's all over the place, I can barely keep up. And her character is…I don't know…it's like they're trying so hard to make her seem like such a badass, but there's no real depth to anything she does. I keep reading about how she's such a complex character, but I think she's just a bitch, that's it. Like, I get it – she's the equal of any man. But, do they have to have her slicing a guy's bollocks off every episode to prove it?"

Matthew laughed again. "Well, tell me how you really feel, then."

"I don't know, maybe it's cause I always have guys from the Entertainment section coming to me and telling me about this show and that show that's supposed to be amazing and whatever, but most of these shows are all hype and that's it. If Mary wasn't in it, I wouldn't even watch it," Tom said.

Matthew just smiled and finished his beer, putting the glass down and sliding it away.

"I won't ask you to give your opinion, don't worry," Tom said knowingly.

Matthew laughed. "I'm biased, obviously. I don't watch the show regularly, but I look at it from her perspective. I know how hard she works. She puts in crazy hours, you know. She works her ass off for that show, getting the accent right, running her lines, figuring out inflection and tone, body language, training for the fight scenes. She just cares, and you can see it in her performances. No matter how ridiculous the plot, or her dialogue, or whatever, it's obvious how much she invests of herself in the role, and so I respect that. I think people sometimes assume that acting is just looking pretty and repeating what you're told to say. As an actor, when I see what she does, it's brilliant, honestly. I know how hard it really is."

Tom smiled and nodded. "You're right. You are biased."

Matthew smiled. "It's not just her effort, though. She's a bit stuck because the networks and studios all have this idea of what a 'modern woman' is supposed to be. She has to be mysterious, smart, but not too smart, able to save herself, yet still be vulnerable and demure, flawed, but still redeemable, run, fight, yell, and look gorgeous while doing it. I see what you're saying. Jade isn't a very likable character. There's a lot about her that makes you wonder why the audience should even care about what she's going through. But that's not on Mary. With the material she has to work with, I think she's done amazing."

"I get it, all right? You love her. Relax, holy fuck," Tom said sarcastically, smirking at Matthew.

"Sod off, yeah?" Matthew retorted, looking back up at the television.

"So things are good with you two right?" Tom asked, looking at Matthew carefully.

"Yeah," Matthew said, turning back and nodding slowly. "Things are really good, actually. It's been great being back here. Even with what's happening to Violet, being at Downton is like a nice escape from everything. It's a different world here, still. It's been fun not having to share her, like old times, but better."

Tom nodded in understanding.

"Why do you ask?" Matthew questioned.

"Just wanted to check," Tom said. "I know how important this is to you, and I expect you're getting a bit nervous, since you'll be apart for the next three weeks and you've been inseparable for the past six months."

"Yeah," Matthew said, sighing at the prospect. "But, you know, three weeks isn't that long, and even if I was still in Toronto, we wouldn't be seeing each other as often anyway. I'd be filming and she'd be busy with readings and prep for shooting the next season of Paladin in February. The last six months have been like something out of a dream. Our lives aren't going to be like that all the time, so this little stretch might be good for us, actually, let us get used to not seeing each other constantly."

"You don't really believe that, do you?" Tom asked.

"No, but it sounds rather mature, doesn't it?" Matthew said ruefully.

Tom chuckled and nodded his head in agreement.

"Anyway, I'll be in New York by the end of February, so this is what our lives will be for the next six months. We'll adjust. It's not that big of a deal," Matthew finished.

"Sybil will talk her into coming down a few times," Tom said reassuringly.

Matthew nodded. "Yeah, exactly. We'll be fine. Plus, we've got the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards this month, so there's that, too."

"Yeah, that's right. Are you getting to walk the red carpet with her this time, at least?" Tom asked.

"No, she's still going with Henry to both, since they're both nominated," Matthew grumbled. "But that's all right. Walking the red carpet isn't that crazy. It's fun, but if I was to go with Mary, we'd be slogging along with how many people want to take her photo and ask her questions. I can get through it much faster when it's just me. Besides, it's not as if everyone gets to bring their significant other on to the red carpet. Most people just go by themselves."

"Great, so we have to listen to more of his fake platitudes? Shit," Tom said dismissively.

"Afraid so," Matthew said, sighing resignedly.

"I don't know how you put up with all that," Tom said, shaking his head. "You should see when I go and visit Sybil at the hospital. There's all these rich douches that she works with, I swear half of 'em are eyeing her whenever I'm there. Bunch of bastards."

"It's not as though I have a choice," Matthew noted. "If it wasn't Henry, it'd be someone else. She's an actress. She's going to be working opposite other men, doing love scenes, whatever, that's just how it is."

"Yeah, but still," Tom replied. "Anyway, you're far more tolerant than I am."

"No, I'm not. I just hide it better than you do," Matthew said. "When I'm at the gym and shadowboxing, who do you think I'm picturing?"

Tom smiled.

"Anyway, you know what would happen if I tried to tell Mary to quit all this 'showmance' nonsense, or worse, tried to tell her what she should be doing," Matthew said. "I just have to trust her that when she says it means nothing, it really means nothing. That's all."

Tom nodded. He finished his beer and put his glass down, waving his hand to get the waitress' attention and ordering another round.

Home of Alex and Anna Lewis, Rosedale, Toronto, Canada, January 1, 2017

"Yeah…yeah…well, that's why we got it for you…yeah…yeah…yeah, I know…you just have to make sure you don't put too much in…right…exactly…okay…look, Mum, I've got to let you go, yeah? Right…all right…yeah, I will…okay…yeah…I'll tell him…bye…bye…love you, bye," Anna said patiently, finally hanging up the call and tossing her headset on the counter. She sighed and left the kitchen, walking into the living room and joining her husband on the sofa.

"Mum says hi to her favourite son-in-law. You're her only son-in-law, but let's not bother mentioning that," she said, smiling at him. "She keeps going on and on about the washer and dryer. She discovered the 'hand washing feature'. God help us all."

Alex chuckled, keeping his eyes on his laptop screen as he kept typing. "Well, I'm glad she's enjoying her Christmas present. Her old set was an accident just waiting to happen."

"What's all that?" she asked, watching as he worked on a spreadsheet.

"I have some clients in China who want to get in on a big tent pole release next year," he explained. "All the big releases are set already, but there may be some dormant projects that we might revive if the fit is right. Of course, that means researching dozens of films that have been dead for months or longer. Just trying to put together something for my meetings next month."

She nodded as she followed along. "You are going to be back in time for Valentine's, yeah?"

He stopped typing and looked at her. "Love, would I miss spending Valentine's with my gorgeous wife?"

She smiled and kissed him softly. "Just checking. You know I hate it when you travel."

"Do you? You're the one who's usually flying all over the place without me," he countered.

"Yes, but that was in the past. With Mary coming back next week, she'll be here until June filming, so I'm not going anywhere," she said smugly.

"Don't tease me," he said, smirking at her knowingly. "You've got two awards shows this month alone."

"Which you will be attending also," she said pointedly.

He grinned at her. "Yeah, I guess that's true."

"Yeah, I guess that's true," she mimicked him in a deep voice. Rising up from the sofa, she leaned over and gave him a warm kiss.

"Don't work too late, babes. I can't sleep without you," she said, smiling and heading off down the hall towards the stairs.

He watched her go, then turned back to his laptop, frowning in concentration as he got back to work.

Downton Abbey, Yorkshire, England, January 2, 2017

"Edith's engaged. I can't believe it!" Sybil exclaimed, smiling and shaking her head.

"What's so hard to believe?" Mary asked, making both of them a vodka and tonic and bringing the drinks over to the sofa. "I'll admit that 'Lady Edith Pelham, Marchioness of Hexham' doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but I think she and Bertie are quite well matched. Anyway, it was about time that he proposed. Popping the question on New Year's Eve is rather unoriginal, but it's fitting, coming from Bertie."

Sybil glared at her sister pointedly.

"Oh come on, darling, I'm happy for her, honestly," Mary said, smirking as she sipped her drink. "Edith isn't terribly ambitious, we know that. She's found a man to give her a position, a life, and good for her. Of all three of us, she was the one most likely to follow in Granny and Mum's footsteps, so good for her."

"Well it most certainly wouldn't have been me," Sybil said, laughing at the thought.

"No, you're ever the rebel of the family. We all know that," Mary teased.

"Only in our family would becoming a doctor make one a rebel," Sybil said, shaking her head.

"Becoming a doctor isn't what made you a rebel and you know it. It was running off with an Irish journalist, of all people," Mary said, smirking at her.

Sybil rolled her eyes. "We didn't run off! Anyway, Edith's done her duty and brought a Marquess into the family, so she's saved us all."

"She has," Mary agreed. "I'm sure she'll be pregnant before the end of next year."

"She's likely not to be the only one," Sybil said, smiling and sipping her drink.

"Yes, well, God willing, Anna will be with child as well," Mary agreed. "She wants children so badly, you know. I really hope it happens soon for them. I know Alex isn't bothered by waiting, but Anna's so obsessed with it. Every month that passes feels like she's failed somehow. I've told her that's nonsense, but I know it still gets to her."

"I wasn't talking about Anna," Sybil noted quietly.

Mary took another sip of her drink, then blinked and turned her head to look at Sybil questioningly.

"What are you saying?" Mary asked.

Sybil smiled mysteriously, then finally met her sister's confused look. "Tom and I are trying," she said.

Mary's mouth fell open, then she recovered, a smile spreading across her face instantly. "Oh, darling! How wonderful!"

Sybil grinned and nodded. "We were just waiting for his work to calm down after the election. I don't want Mama or Granny to know anything about it yet, but I've been off the pill for about two months now."

"My, you're not playing around," Mary stated. "I always assumed you would wait a few more years before starting a family."

"No, I'm probably already behind, if I'm honest," Sybil said plainly. "My schedule is manageable now, but in a few years I'll be one of the more experienced doctors in the practice group and my hours will be much longer. We want more than one child, so we need to get started."

Mary nodded, her mind spinning at this revelation.

"So you'll be a bridesmaid next year, and with any luck, an aunt as well," Sybil said.

Mary smiled kindly. "Here's hoping," she said, taking a longer drink.

"Of course, you could always join in on the fun," Sybil remarked.

Mary frowned at her. "What? How? Oh…Sybil, just don't…"

"I'm just saying…" Sybil began.

"Stop," Mary interrupted, holding up her hand. "We've been together for barely six months."

Sybil arched her eyebrow knowingly. "Six months, darling? Really? You've been together longer than me and Tom."

"So what? You're saying I should marry Matthew because of his persistence? Please," Mary scoffed.

"Not just his persistence," Sybil retorted. "He loves you. God, he adores you, and you love him. He's the only man who's ever connected with you so deeply, and he just gets you, you know that he does. Your life can be so complicated, and intense, and even bizarre, and he understands that. He tolerates things that so many others wouldn't. I just don't know what you're waiting for."

"Sybil, six months of happiness is not enough of a foundation to build an entire lifetime on!" Mary protested. "You've seen our life in Toronto. It's isolated and idyllic. We don't have any distractions, or pressures, or even that many duties to fulfill. We were able to spend nearly everyday together while we were filming. That's not what real life will be like. As our careers progress and evolve, we'll have less time together, beginning next week when he moves to Chicago to start on Black Panther. How can I possibly make any conclusions about our future when the past six months have been so easy?"

"Did it ever occur to you that the past six months have seemed easy because you love him?" Sybil asked. "What split you apart before no longer applies. He's been more than supportive of you and your career. I just think that you shouldn't put it off for too long. If you keep waiting, looking for something to go wrong, you'll lose sight of all that's right with the two of you."

"Duly noted," Mary said drily. "Matthew and I aren't getting married next year. Besides the fact that it would be insane to do so, Edith would kill me for stealing her thunder."

"As if that would stop you," Sybil scoffed. "Darling, just please don't take him for granted. You might be perfectly happy to live in the moment, but this is Matthew we're talking about. If he says he hasn't thought of a future with you, then he's lying."

Mary rolled her eyes and turned away, taking another sip of her drink.

Downton Abbey, Yorkshire, England, January 3, 2017

"I wish you would come visit, even if it's just for a week. You could use a bit of time off," Matthew said, escorting his mother down the stairs to the Great Hall.

"You already know the answer to that ridiculous question, but thank you anyway," Isobel said kindly, squeezing his hand. "Besides, you won't even be in Toronto. You'll be in Chicago, then New York. Between your travel and Mary working, I'd be stranded there."

"You could come over in the Spring," he objected. "The city is quite beautiful then. Once Winter's gone, it's all refreshed and renewed."

"I'm not going anywhere," she said firmly. "My place is here."

"Mother, I love her too," he declared. "But you know that these next months will be…"

"My place is here," she repeated, giving him a stern look before softening her expression as they reached the bottom of the stairs. "I can't leave. I don't want to leave."

"All right," he relented, nodding his head. "I'll call you when we land."

"I know you will," she said, smiling and reaching up to pat his cheek.

They walked together towards the front door and joined the others. The footmen were loading all the luggage into the waiting limo, and Sybil and Mary were saying their goodbyes while Tom stood patiently by. Matthew went through the line, giving Cora a hug, shaking hands with Robert, Carson and some of the footmen before he reached Violet.

The Dowager Countess was sitting regally on a chair, both hands resting on her cane. She smiled politely and nodded her head when he approached. Her eyes had a vacant look about them now, as though she wasn't entirely focused on what she was looking at. It made his chest tighten to see her like this as he crouched down to kiss her on the cheek and give her a hug.

"Goodbye, Violet," he said softly, smiling bravely at her. "I'll see you soon."

"Take good care of Mary, my boy," Violet ordered, smiling up at him. "Remember that you must be strong. The early days can be so very exciting, and yet so easily disconcerting as well. You must learn to weave your way through the peaks and valleys. Enjoy every victory, and do not dwell on your defeats."

"Yes, your Ladyship," he replied, squeezing her hand.

He took one last look at her, then joined the others and went out to the limo. Once they were all settled and the car pulled away, he noticed Mary staring out the window, looking back at Downton Abbey until it disappeared behind the horizon.

74th Golden Globe Awards, The Beverly Hilton Hotel, Los Angeles, California, USA, January 8, 2017

"Mary! You look gorgeous!" Mabel exclaimed, coming over and giving Mary a warm hug.

"Thank you," Mary said, patting her loosely on the back. "Your dress is lovely, too."

"Thank you, thank you. Congratulations on the nomination. I know it will come as little consolation, but I really thought you should have won," Mabel said.

"You're right, it isn't much consolation, but thank you all the same," Mary said, nodding in acknowledgment.

The Golden Globes were a rather more fun affair than the Emmys, even though they were considered more prestigious, second only to the Oscars. All the nominees sat at tables rather than in rows, and there was a lot of mingling and drinking, even during the ceremony. As the night wore on, Mary had grown increasingly nervous and had her fair share of drinks to help her get through Henry's horrible flirting. When he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Television Series Drama, he smiled devilishly and leaned towards her, the camera squarely on them as everyone at the table stood up and applauded. Mary smiled and did her part, accepting his kiss and beaming proudly as he squeezed her hand and went up to accept his award. His acceptance speech had been sufficiently sappy and patronising to annoy her even more. Her category followed directly after his, and when she lost once again and had to applaud and smile through someone else's victory, she was almost ready to do straight vodka shots on live television.

She made up for it by the time they got to the major film awards near the end of the show. Catherine challenged her to a drinking game. Mary won.

Now she stood patiently off to the side while Henry waited for his award to be engraved and accepted the congratulations of everyone who came by. From here, they would go on to the after parties and she would once more be an accessory on his arm, smiling and accepting backhanded compliments from those who didn't think she should have won Best Actress, but would pretend that they did. People just like Mabel, except Mabel probably was happy she lost.

"He's on a pretty impressive winning streak, isn't he?" Mabel asked, following Mary's gaze to Henry. "You must be so proud."

"Of course I am," Mary replied automatically. "He's the man, isn't he?"

"So will everyone be happy enough with the nominations, or angry that they didn't win Best Drama?" Green asked, coming over and smiling to Anna.

Anna gave him a knowing smirk. "We'll all be drunk, that's all that matters."

He laughed and nodded. "It does help to numb the disappointment, doesn't it? I got Tony to give me the day off tomorrow. I hate flying with a hangover, so I'll be in Toronto on Tuesday."

"Smart thinking," she said. "Hopefully this month won't be too bad. It's mostly studying the script before the read-through in a few weeks."

He shook his head and smiled at her. "Tony can be actually more demanding in the month before filming starts. He'll have me running around the city, I'm sure."

She laughed in understanding. "Well, let me know when you get in. Mary's pretty easy to handle in the first few weeks, so I can help you out if you need it."

"Thanks," he said warmly. "I'll definitely take you up on that."

Anna turned away and grinned as a tall man waded through the crowd and came over to her.

"Hey babes," she said, hugging Alex and kissing him. "You remember Alex Green, right? He's the P.A. for Tony Foyle."

"Yeah, yeah. We met at the Emmys right?" Alex asked, shaking Green's hand.

"Yeah. I was just telling Anna that I'm flying up to Toronto this week to get settled," Green replied, holding Alex's stare unflinchingly.

"Kind of a bad time. It's freezing, but you'll get used to it," Alex said easily. He turned to Anna, his arm still around her shoulders. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Yes, you can," she said. She gave Green a nod, then went off to the bar with her husband.

Green watched them go, a smirk on his lips. Turning away, he went off in search of that fashion intern that he noticed earlier in the night.

Rodeo View Suite, Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills, California, USA, January 8, 2017

Matthew slowly combed his wet hair, the steam from the shower hanging in the air. He put down the comb and washed his hands, briefly debating whether to shave, then deciding against it. Reaching up, he ran his fingers over the skin beneath his eyes. He would need to try and sleep on the plane tomorrow.

The after parties had been fun, though a bit tiring. It wasn't that he was bored of them. He had been to so few awards ceremonies in his career that he still got nervous whenever he went in, half expecting security to deny him entrance. The decor and food was always outstanding, but without being able to spend proper time with Mary, it all became a bit of a grind. Tonight, he had Alex and Anna, and Gwen and Sophie for company, as well as some executives that he'd taken meetings with recently, but he could only make casual conversation for so long. When he finally got Mary's text that they could leave, he rushed to the car. Taking off his suit and having a decent shower had given him a second wind.

At the sound of the door opening and closing, he walked out of the bathroom and through to the living room, smirking as Mary came in and sat down on the sofa. She had removed her designer dress when they got in, throwing on some jeans and a sweater. Declaring that she needed proper snacks, she ignored the minibar and went downstairs in search of crisps. He had just let her go. With the mood she was in, it was best to just keep out of her way.

Spreading her bounty across the coffee table, she looked over the different options for a moment, then decided on Cheetos and tore open the bag.

"Aunt Rosamund would not approve," he said, coming over and sitting down next to her, the leather of the sofa a touch cold against his bare back.

"Fuck her," she replied boldly before covering her mouth and bursting out laughing. She gave him a knowing wink, then popped another cheese flavoured treat into her mouth.

He shook his head in amusement and put his arm around her, pulling her back against him.

"A few snacks won't kill me," she said. "I'll just spend an extra hour on the elliptical tomorrow. Deal?"

"Sure, but then I'm not the one to say anything. I think you're gorgeous," he said, kissing her cheek lightly.

"Hmm, I probably shouldn't have too many though," she said, eating another before putting the bag back on the table. "Since the Hollywood Foreign Press thinks my acting is shit, all I've go left are my looks."

He didn't bother saying anything, knowing when a rant was coming on.

"This whole trip has been a fucking waste," she sighed, snuggling against him. "Flying all the way here, squeezing myself into that dress, having to walk with a security guard all night who thinks my jewellery is worth more than I am, and for what? Smile and applaud and seem grateful for the chance to be passed over again. 'Great job, Mary' 'Next year's yours Mary' Fucking bullshit."

"Well, if we hadn't come here, we wouldn't have been witnesses to Henry's great triumph," he said sarcastically.

"Right, of course!" she said, scoffing bitterly. "At least you don't have to work with him. He's probably already demanded that his trailer be doubled in size. The damn thing still wouldn't fit his ego."

He smiled and waited patiently.

"He still won't give any indication whether he's staying or leaving," she complained. "The script has him on the show until the finale, and they'll just change things around in the last episode if he ends up leaving."

"Would he cooperate if they decide to kill him off, or will they just start next season and explain it all happened offscreen?" he asked.

"Who's to say? Knowing Henry, he'll pretend to mull it all over, then announce he's leaving during the hiatus, just so we can bear the fans' outrage while he rides off into the sunset," she said. "What did he say to you tonight?"

"Not much. He just said hi and waited for me to congratulate him, which I did, then he was swept away by another group of admirers," he explained.

"If only I was so lucky. I could barely get away from him all night," she said.

"Tell me about it," he said, the first hint of annoyance creeping into his voice.

She sighed and turned, reaching up and caressing his face. "Thank you, darling. I know I've been a total bitch tonight, it's just that seeing him up there, then losing again, and the show not winning anything else, it just…"

"Shh," he said, putting his finger to her lips. "I get it."

"It seems rather unfair that I spend most of the night with him, then dump all my whinging and complaining on you," she said, shaking her head and looking down at his lap.

He took her hand and kissed it, drawing her eyes to his. "I like it, actually. It shows me that you're comfortable with me, that you're not putting on an act. Tonight didn't go your way and you're pissed off about it. I like that you're confiding in me, that you're not just spouting some nonsense about how being nominated is good enough, or whatever."

She smiled in surprise. "Goodness, I would think such selfish behaviour would run afoul of your kind and generous sensibilities."

He chuckled and looked at her intently. "I don't want you to feel as though you need to change for me, or that there's anything you can't tell me, no matter how ugly it may be. I can only imagine what kind of pressure you're under. I don't want you to keep it all bottled up. Besides, I'm sure there will come a day when I need to unload my baggage on you, so it's only fair."

She laughed and kissed him, reaching her hands up and framing his face.

"Darling, since we're being honest, what did you think when you saw Henry kiss me before going up to accept his award?" she asked.

He tensed. "Well, I wasn't thrilled with it, but it's hardly surprising. I knew he would."

"And what about how I had to sit with him at the table all night? What about when you saw us arrive at the parties together, pose for photos side-by-side?" she asked.

He cleared his throat. "Again, that wasn't…great, but I understood why you had to do it."

"Do you? Do you really?" she asked, kissing his cheek, then moving down to his neck. "It still made you angry though, didn't it? I'm your girlfriend, not his. I shouldn't be paying him so much attention when I'm supposed to be at your side."

"Mary," he growled.

She straddled him, reaching down and yanking his towel open, rubbing herself against his bare flesh.

"You hate it, don't you?" she said, licking his ear. "You hate how I sometimes put my career ahead of you, how I'm a dutiful girlfriend when it's just the two of us together, but treat you like a stranger in public. It infuriates you. It bothers you how bad I can be. So very bad."

He groaned as her hand reached between them to take hold of him, stroking him slowly. His hands slipped beneath the waistband of her leggings and past her thong, cupping her arse and squeezing.

She smiled at his response, her breath warm, her voice smooth and silky in his ear. "Teach me a lesson, Matthew. Show me who I belong to."

"Mary!" he snarled, struggling to hold back. His heartbeat was racing, his growing arousal telling her just what an effect her words were having on him as she stroked him faster.

"Come on, Matthew," she drawled. "Fucking give it to me hard. Fuck me like that arsehole can only dream of."

He grunted harshly and reached up, one hand sliding through her hair and grasping her head, the other moving across her back and pulling her into a fierce kiss. She opened her mouth to him, letting his tongue take his plunder, moaning as her own arousal spiked. They broke apart just long enough for him to pull her sweater off and practically tear her bra off before they came together again, bare skin against bare skin, lips and tongues dueling once more. She put up token resistance before melting against him, her mind spinning at his fury. For a brief second, she wondered if goading him was such a good idea, if she could actually handle him when fully unleashed. The answer never came as he threw her on to her back and lifted her legs to his shoulders, pulling her leggings and thong off in one swift motion. All she could do was spread her legs and hang on to him as he descended upon her, taking him in as he pulled her hair and thrust in deep. Closing her eyes and arching her back, she yelled out his name, the thought that she was going to be very sore tomorrow completely obliterated by the searing pleasure that he gave her with every plunge of his hips.

Her first release took her by surprise, and he gave her no respite, the usual gentle and considerate way he was with her entirely gone. He turned her over on to her stomach, lifting her hips and taking her again, her hands grabbing hold of the arm of the sofa and hanging on desperately. His hand tugged on her hair again and she braced herself, letting out a moan as he spanked her and increased his pace. Filthy words spewed from his mouth, taunting her, demanding that she answer. She moaned and whimpered as she rocked back and forth, telling him everything he wanted to hear, reveling in the sheer power of his passion. Still, even in the throes of his ravishing, she felt his love, his devotion. She had wanted this, the roughness, the domination, the fury, wanted him to help her forget all about the disappointment of tonight, and he gave it to her, but all the while he kept her safe. His hands were firm, but not painful. His words were heated, but not demeaning. His lips were possessive, but never forceful, never unwanted. She pushed back against him, taking him completely, an ecstatic smile on her face as he sent her over again. Still, he persisted, somehow even more relentless than before.

He repositioned her again, the two of them moving somewhat awkwardly as she tried to keep up. He sat her on his lap, her back against his chest, lifting her legs up and lowering her on to him. Her head fell back on to his shoulder, her hands keeping her legs spread as he took over. She was shouting now, her drunken brain not caring who heard her. She paid him all manner of dirty compliments that would make her blush tomorrow when she remembered, but for now, it had the desired effect. He moved faster, impaling her on him, turned her head towards him and seized her mouth in a hot kiss. She shifted her hips against him on every thrust, moaning into his mouth as she took him deep.

His hands moved on her. One set of fingers played with her breast, while the other dove between her thighs. All she could do was writhe in his arms, the lurid sound of their bodies coming together filling the suite. He kissed her again just as he thrust up and let go, the feel of him shooting inside of her setting her off one last time.

Apartment of Mary Crawley, Trump Residences Toronto, Downtown Toronto, Canada, January 14, 2017

Mary frowned as she reviewed her script, skimming over her lines, highlighter at the ready. After spending a few weeks in England, she was grateful to get back to Toronto and return to her work routine. She was no closer to finding answers on what her future held, and whether it would include Paladin or Henry, but it was calming and reassuring to be back into the process, rehearsing her scenes and focusing on the season at hand. The ratings for Season 4 had been the best yet for the series, setting new records for the network. While they had been passed over for awards, there was no doubt that her association with the show was improving her profile with each episode. The early returns from critics and audience members were that this season was her finest work to date.

"What you don't seem to understand is that I don't need your approval, nor have I ever asked for it…" she recited. "Nor have I ever asked for it…I've never asked for it…I don't want it…"

Matthew came out of the bedroom and paused, taking a moment to watch her work. When they were younger, Mary always did well in school but she tended to hate subjects that she saw no use in, like maths and chemistry. She would often procrastinate, not bothering to study until she absolutely had to. When she liked a particular course, though, she would read ahead, study beyond what was assigned and even research topics outside of the curriculum. Looking at her now sitting at the dining table, script spread out before her, numerous pens and highlighters arranged neatly nearby, tablet and laptop at her fingertips just in case she wanted to Google a particular topic or delve deeper into the source material, he smiled. She was in her element, doing what she was always meant to do, and her dedication impressed him.

"How goes it?" he asked, coming over to her.

She looked up and smiled at him. "I actually like what I've read so far. They've got a few interesting twists planned, and they're having Jade and Frederick face different challenges together, as a couple, rather than break them up. The writers seem determined to make this the best season yet."

"That's promising," he noted. He walked over to one of the chairs and retrieved his winter coat. "You're sure that I can't convince you to come along up to the airport?"

She gave him a sad smile, then got up from her chair and came over to him. "Darling, please don't make me feel even worse than I already do. I'm sorry, but I have to get this down for the read-through this week."

"I know," he said, nodding glumly, the unspoken reality ignored by both of them. Truly Mary couldn't take him to the airport because she didn't want to be photographed giving him a goodbye kiss. Regardless of Henry's plans, she still felt an obligation to maintain the façade they had created. "Can we at least pretend that you came with me, though?"

She smirked at his playful eyes. "I think I can manage that."

"Well, then I guess this is goodbye," he said, taking her into his arms.

"It's only three weeks, and we'll talk every day," she said, smiling up at him. "Unless of course you're out gallivanting about town, telling all the pretty girls that you're in Black Panther to impress them."

"I doubt that would work," he said, chuckling at her joke.

"Trust me, it would," she said, arching her eyebrow at him. "Such an interesting detail would put the gloss on an already very attractive package."

He swallowed and looked at her, his lips curling into a stupid looking smile. "Well, be that as it may, I'm already taken."

"You most certainly are," she said, pulling him into a kiss. Their lips parted and his tongue pressed against hers, his hands moving around to cup her bottom, drawing her closer. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, giving him a kiss that she hoped would stay in his memory until he landed in Chicago and they could have a private video chat.

"Goodbye, my darling, and such good luck!" she said cheerfully, finally stepping out of his hold.

He gave her one last peck before turning and leaving. There was still some packing to do back at his place before the car service drove him to the airport. The flight was a quick one, even with the time zone change, so they would be on the phone to each other by the end of the night.

She sat back down at the dining table and resumed her studying.

Optima Concord CityPlace, Downtown Toronto, Canada, January 17, 2017

"Love what you've done with the place," Anna said wryly, glancing around the living room. The furnishings and décor were decidedly Spartan, consisting of a leather sofa and matching recliner, generic glass coffee table and the requisite television on the wall. Green hadn't changed anything since moving in, just using the furniture that came with the rental.

"I like it," Green said, smirking at her. "I'm only here for six months. What's the point of putting anything up on the walls if I'm just going to be taking them down soon enough?"

"Half a year is hardly a short stay," she noted. "Trust me, after working a 16-hour day, you want your home to feel warm and welcoming. This place is too sterile. It's like you're living in a furniture store or something, and a bad one at that."

He laughed and shook his head. "All right, fine. What would you recommend that I get? I wouldn't even know where to look. There's an IKEA here, isn't there?"

"I think we can do better than that," she said. "I'll talk to some friends of mine. They stage homes. They might have some pieces they can let you rent for a few months."

"Great. Thanks, and thanks for helping me out today. Tony gets so finicky when he goes into work mode. I got most of the stuff he wanted ahead of time, but he came up with a few new ones and I had no idea where to look," he said, shaking his head.

"It's no problem," she replied, nodding to him. "Mary gets like that too. She just bunkers down and doesn't want to be disturbed, except to eat meals. Anyway, now you'll know where to get what he wants the next time you're in a bind."

"I will, thanks to you. Now, off you go. Let me know when you hear back from your friend. No rush, yeah? I can make do with this. I don't plan on entertaining anytime soon," he joked.

She smiled and glanced over to the kitchen. "Are you sure you're all right? Your fridge was empty when I got here earlier."

"I'll grab some groceries from that store down the street," he said confidently. "Probably just heat up a frozen pizza."

She frowned at his answer. "Well that sounds quite appetizing. Why don't you come out with me? There's a few places near Cactus Club where we had your party last time. You can check the menus and see what you like."

"Oh, no, Anna, that's quite all right. Go home and have dinner with your husband. I'm good, really," he said, waving her off.

"Actually, I'm free tonight. Alex is working late and Mary's already got food that I brought her this morning," she said.

He blinked. "Oh. Well, if it's not too much trouble, I am rather lost out there so far."

She smiled and took out her phone. "No trouble at all. Come on. The first place we can go is called Drake One Fifty."

David Burke's Primehouse, The James Hotel, Magnificent Mile, Chicago, USA, January 20, 2017

"Ha ha ha, now that is what I am talking about!" Michael said, rubbing his hands in anticipation as the waiter brought their food to the table.

Matthew smiled and shook his head in bewilderment as the staff placed numerous dishes on the table before them. There was a beautiful platter of oysters on the half shell, side dishes of roasted vegetables, macaroni and cheese, basil whipped potato and creamy greens. These substantial plates were just accompaniments to the main course, however, which consisted of four huge porterhouse steaks and two whole lobsters.

"Hold up," Michael announced, holding up his wine glass once the food was served and the waiters had retreated. "A toast."

Matthew and the other guests just laughed. Michael was ever the showman.

"To good friends and good food. No, wait, fuck that, that was corny, sorry. To the next big Marvel hit movie, Black Panther, long anticipated and long overdue. The people ain't gonna know what to do with this movie!"

"Hear, hear," Matthew said, clinking glasses with Michael and taking a sip of the rich Merlot.

"Now dig in, dig in!" Michael announced, passing around the side dishes as one of the other guests went about trying to divide up the massive cuts of meat into actual portions.

"There's no way I'm finishing all of that," Matthew said, shaking his head as Michael slid a porterhouse towards him.

"Hey, we got leg day tomorrow. Eat up!" Michael ordered, giving Matthew a playful smirk as he popped a forkful of meat into his mouth. "Mmm, mmm, tasty."

Matthew cut a much smaller slice from his steak and took a bite. He had to admit it was delicious, absolutely cooked to perfection.

In his brief time in Chicago, he had learned that meat, and steak, in particular, was treated differently here, almost revered compared to Los Angeles and even New York. Americans loved their red meat, of course, but there was a special quality to steakhouses in Chicago, an attitude that Matthew hadn't experienced before. Since arriving here, he had become fast friends with Michael, one of the stars of the film, and the two of them had worked out together and sampled several of the city's best restaurants whenever they got the chance. Michael was partial to steak and had been saving a trip to his particular restaurant until they had a full evening to appreciate it properly.

"Told you, right?" Michael said, grinning at Matthew. "This right here is what you call a man's steak!"

Matthew reached for the roasted vegetables. It was a rather lame attempt to balance his meal, but he had to try all the same. After serving himself some vegetables, he went for the macaroni and cheese, his eyes glancing down at his phone briefly as he swapped the plates. Toronto was an hour ahead, but Mary wouldn't be off set just yet. The first week he was here, it was almost as though he had never left Toronto. Mary spent most of her time in her apartment studying her script and they chatted several times a day. He was excited to be working again, particularly on a big budget Marvel film. She smiled as he regaled her with how everything seemed to be on such an epic scale here. The massive green screen sets, the intense security to ensure everything was kept secret, even the catering options seemed excessive. He could get used to this.

Once she started working, though, he barely heard from her. Video chats were reduced to talking to her during the drive from the studio to her apartment, as she wanted to go straight to bed the moment she got home. The first few days were intense, with the read-through taking most of the day and from there she went straight into filming. He got the odd text message when she was in her trailer, but she turned her phone off while she was working, so he usually would have to wait hours before getting a reply.

He was busy himself, of course. Wanting to impress the big studio heads at Marvel and Disney, he threw himself into his work, even though his part in the movie was hardly noteworthy. If he was going to build his reputation, he needed to be known as hard-working, professional, and always prepared. The first few weeks had gone perfectly. He hadn't messed up once, was always early for call, and went out of his way to be friendly with the cast and crew. It was impossible to tell if he was actually impressing anyone, but so far, he thought things were going well.

"All right, so Matthew, I know you don't like to come out with us, but Chad found this great little jazz club. You have to come along. Chicago jazz, man! You can't be here for three weeks and not check it out!" Michael said enthusiastically.

Matthew smiled and shook his head.

"And look, I know a couple of real cute redheads that will be there, too," Michael continued, grinning knowingly.

Matthew smirked in confusion. "Why does that matter?"

"Come on, man, I saw you and that Game of Thrones chick, Sophie, yeah, I saw you and her being all friendly," Michael said. "You got a thing for redheads. That's cool. So come out with us and you might meet some."

Matthew glanced down at his phone again, seeing no new text messages or calls. Sighing, he looked back up at Michael's eager face.

"All right, just for a little bit," he agreed.

"All right, all right!" Michael said, nodding and clapping his hands. "It is on tonight!"

Painswick House, Eaton Square, Belgravia, London, England, January 21, 2017

Lady Rosamund sat in the dining room, checking her email on her tablet as the servants cleared her used luncheon dishes. She was due back in America next week, going out to Los Angeles to meet with Mary ahead of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. With awards season winding down, it had been a good few months for her niece, but not ideal. Being nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a SAG Award was impressive, but if she didn't win, the year would be a footnote, rather than the career-changing moment that she wanted. Even if Mary didn't win, if Paladin won an award, that would help, too. Mary could say she was part of an award-winning show that also had great ratings in key demographics. Sadly, that elusive victory was still out there.

Putting her tablet down, she sipped her tea, looking out the large windows at the dreary overcast sky. She had come back to England to see Mama and visit with Robert and the others, and her trip to Yorkshire had been all right, with a few bad moments. Mama wasn't getting any better. She was well enough to eat meals with or take tea, even go out for walks, though it was too cold in Yorkshire now. But nothing stayed with her from one day to the next. It had taken years, but Rosamund was finally able to deal with her without becoming frustrated or angry. Conversations were kept safe, and they spent a great deal of time reminiscing. When they spoke about the past, Mama's eyes would light up, old moments and facts spilling from her lips easily and unhindered. It reminded Rosamund of her last days with her beloved Marmaduke. Her husband was quite far gone in the end, but he still remembered their wedding day, and that was how Rosamund chose to remember him – vibrant and happy. It pained her to think that she would have to do the same with Mama sometime soon, but she would then steel herself. Mama would hang around for years yet, just to make life difficult on the rest of them. Rosamund smiled at the thought, despite herself. That would be classic Mama.

"Lady Rosamund," Meade called, standing at attention at the doorway.

"Yes, Meade?" she asked lightly, turning to look at the butler. "What is it?"

"A call for you, my Lady," Meade said, stepping forward and handing her a wireless phone. "On the private line, my Lady."

"Thank you, Meade," Rosamund said crisply. She took the phone from him and frowned, waiting for the butler to leave before she stood up and put the phone to her ear.

"Yes?" she asked.

"Bomb dropping in the next half hour."

She blinked and turned away from the window, her eyebrows furrowed with concern.

"How big?" she asked quietly.


Her pulse jumped. "Are any of my people involved?"

"Yes. Your most important client."

She shut her eyes and cringed. Mary.

"What is it about?" she asked.

"You'll see."

She opened her eyes and stared at the antique wood and glass cabinets on the far wall where her fine china was on display. Of course he couldn't give out much in the way of details. She struggled, knowing the call was almost at an end.

"Is it bad?" she asked.


The informant hung up before she could say anything else. She set the phone down and picked up her tablet. She paid him to give her whatever advance notice he could on exclusives that his paper was about to drop. Her fingers shook as she opened up a browser and went to the Daily Mail website, her eyes wide as she scanned over the pages, terrified of what headline she might find.

Home of Alex and Anna Lewis, Rosedale, Toronto, Canada, January 21, 2017

"Here," Anna said, pouring Mary's green concoction and sliding the glass over to her. "I don't know how you can drink that."

"I try not to smell it, or think about what's in it," Mary said, drinking down half the glass then groaning in disgust. "God, that's horrid."

"And yet so good for you, apparently," Anna said, sipping her orange juice. "I put fresh towels in the guest bathroom for you."

"Thanks," Mary said, finishing her drink.

With Alex away on business and Matthew in Chicago, she had decided to stay with Anna for a few days. It was easier for them to go to the studio together, and she didn't like the idea of Anna being in her big house by herself. With filming of Season 5 well under way, they ate most of their meals together anyway, and Alex's home gym was more than sufficient for her purposes. This morning, they had woken up to a relatively mild day, and so Mary had insisted they go for a run outside. The opulent neighbourhood was quiet and empty on the weekend, and they took a soak in the hot tub when they got back. It was nice hanging out like this, just the two of them. It reminded Mary of the early days when they first arrived. Alex was around back then, but it was usually just her and Anna, doing their best to build a career, before expectations and the politics of show business changed everything.

"How's Matthew?" Anna asked.

"He's great," Mary said, nodding her head. "He's got one more week on set. He'll be coming back to Toronto from Los Angeles with us after the SAG Awards. I can't wait to have him back in the city. I know I've been so busy that all I do is sleep when we're not at the studio, but I miss him. The other day I snuck over to his place and stole one of his shirts to sleep in."

Anna laughed incredulously. "Wow."

"I know," Mary groaned. "I'm hopeless. He's got his hooks into me now. It's ridiculous."

Anna smiled and finished her orange juice. "Well, you're free for the rest of the day. Any ideas?"

"I think a mild weather day like today calls for shopping," Mary declared.

"Sounds good. I need to shower and check in with Alex, so we can leave around noon," Anna said.

"Perfect," Mary said, getting up from her chair and following Anna down the hall to the foyer.

They were interrupted by their phones buzzing at the same time.

"It's Lady Rosamund," Anna noted, looking at her phone screen.

"Why is she calling both of us?" Mary asked, bringing the phone to her ear and answering the call. "Yes, hello?"

Deluxe Guest Room, The Westin Chicago River North, Chicago, Illinois, USA, January 21, 2017

Matthew blinked, his vision filling with the ceiling of his hotel room. He closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, groaning as he tried to wake up. The jazz club that Michael and Chad had brought him to last night was fantastic. The atmosphere was dark and intimate, the décor old and dated, the music outstanding and the clientele young and beautiful. It was something out of another era, and there were even stories that Al Capone used to own the place. Chad and Michael had regaled him with explanations of the intricacies of jazz and blues music, and he sat patiently and enjoyed it all. It was refreshing to be in a place with two rather famous actors and not be recognized or bothered.

As predicted, there were a number of gorgeous women in the place, college students out for a night of music and drinking, bar regulars dressed immaculately and a few tourists who had heard of the club online. Even though he got more than a few inquiring looks, he stayed seated, drank his gin and tonic, and enjoyed the music. When Michael tried to get him to go to a nightclub later on, he declined, taking an Uber back to his hotel.

He opened his eyes and turned on to his side, the warm duvet and soft sheets caressing him delightfully. Mary had worked late last night so they could only trade text messages before she went to bed. He missed her fiercely. She would have loved the jazz bar last night. He closed his eyes and smiled, an image coming to his mind of her sitting on his lap, the two of them drinking gin and enjoying the slow throb of the music.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to calm himself, his body already responding to thoughts of Mary. He reached over to the nightstand and grabbed his phone and the television remote, hoping there was a football match that he could watch to distract him. He could take a shower, but he expected that would only make him think of Mary even more.

Seeing no new messages on his phone, he turned on the television and flipped through the channels. American networks didn't carry many European matches, and there was nothing on this morning that he wanted to watch. Settling on a news channel, he put the remote down and lay back in bed, thoughts of Mary filtering into his mind once more.

His hand drifted beneath the duvet, his eyes closing as he pictured her vividly. Not being able to hold her, to touch her for the past three weeks had been torture. Even when they had their more risqué video chats, it didn't feel nearly the same. The SAG Awards could not get here soon enough.

Before he could act on the lurid thoughts in his mind, his eyes opened and he looked up at the screen. Sitting up in bed, he frowned at the photo on the television as the news anchor spoke with a serious tone.

'Our top story – shocking news out of London today as the Daily Mail newspaper is running a story on Golden Globe-winning actor Henry Talbot. The star of the acclaimed series, Paladin, was caught on video smoking what appears to be glass pipe at a party in his hotel room in Australia. Talbot was recently in Australia filming the highly-anticipated film, Thor:Ragnarok. Citing anonymous sources, the Daily Mail reports that Talbot would routinely throw wild parties during his time in Australia, and that female strippers and escorts were involved, as well as drugs, including marijuana, crystal meth and cocaine. According to the Daily Mail, Talbot's wild partying ways were not limited to Australia, and they have confirmed through anonymous sources that he engaged in similar activity in London, Paris and notably, Toronto, where Paladin is filmed. There has been no response from Talbot's camp, or from that of his co-star and rumoured girlfriend, Mary Crawley. This video puts the spotlight firmly back on the temptations and pitfalls of Hollywood, at a time when the networks and studios are trying to portray themselves as more professional and distance themselves from the sex and drugs celebrity lifestyle of past decades that claimed the lives of so many actors and actresses. We're going to be following this throughout the day as more details emerge. For now, let's bring in our panel and talk about what this means going forward for everyone involved...'

Author's Note: Many thanks to AmeriGirlTN for the prompt that inspired this story. It's been shocking and amusing to come up with another modern AU saga for Mary and Matthew when I thought that I was just about done after finishing Gangs of London. The title of the story came to me rather unexpectedly, and it refers to not only the unseasonably warm weather that we get more often these days, but also the idea that Mary and Matthew found each other again and enjoyed happy days for the past six-month period. Now that winter has truly arrived in the story, it felt right to end it here, as the tone and theme of the plot will now shift. Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, followed and favourited this story. I always am grateful to see readers old and new give one of my stories a chance. For those willing to come along for the rest of this ride, the story will now continue in the sequel, Stormbraver.