Lara's muscles were burning, but she gritted her teeth and against the pain and pushed herself harder. The gravel and mud of her driving track continued to crunch beneath her feet in a constant rhythm. Her breath was coming out in short pants, and she forced herself to slow it and breathe deeper.

The air was cold against Lara's hot skin, and the rain beating down on her head was beginning to make her shiver, but she had no trouble ignoring it as she concentrated on getting her aching limbs to keep moving. She ignored the splatters of mud on her skin and clothes, and ignored the water dripping into her eyes. Her world had narrowed and become just on thought: One more lap.

Above her, from on of the second floor windows of Croft Manor, Hilary stood watching her with a shake of his head. He still thought she was crazy to be running out in the rain, but he knew Lara well enough to know that a bit of rain wouldn't stop her. She was always pushing herself to the limit, and usually past it, to make herself stronger and faster. But then in her line of work, Hilary thought, that was what you had to do.

As he watched, Hilary saw Lara come to a stop on the track and sink to her knees. Even from here he could see her laboured breathing and almost complete exhaustion. He shook his head again, but couldn't help feeling a sense of pride that this amazing woman considered him a trusted friend.

Outside, Lara got up from where she was kneeling in the mud, and slowly made her way off the track. Her muscles protested every inch of the way. She walked past the dark and looming shapes of her obstacle course, and walked to the kitchen door. It opened just as she reached out to grab the handle, and Hilary stood in the doorway with a large towel in his hands.

"I thought you might like a towel, Lara." He said in his usual respectful tone, but with a slight smile on his face. "And perhaps I should suggest a bath?"

"Good idea." Lara said gratefully, taking the towel as she shivered.

Lara carefully made her way upstairs, and into her room. Her double bed looked very inviting, and Lara gave it a wistful glance before turning towards the bathroom. As she did, she caught a glimpse of herself in the large antique mirror in the corner of her room. "Eek." She said.

Her normally neatly braided hair had come undone sometime during her morning workout and was hanging in wet clumps down her face and neck. Mud smeared her skin and clothes, turning them a grimy brown colour. Lara looked behind her and saw she had trailed muddy footprints on the carpet. "Sorry Hilary." She muttered, and walked into her spacious personal bathroom.

Hilary came in to collect Lara's muddy clothes just as she walked out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel and followed by a cloud of steam. "Hilary." She said warmly, and gave him a small smile. "Sorry about the carpet."

Hilary smiled back. "I've cleaned worse out of it." He replied.

As Hilary retrieved her clothes, Lara walked to her closet and stretched slowly. She felt the twinge of protest from her muscles, but she felt a lot better than she had. She also looked a lot better, she noticed, when she glanced at herself in the mirror again. Her hair was no longer stuck in ratty clumps to her skin, and the mud was gone. Her face wasn't so pale either.

Hilary left, and Lara quickly changed into a pair of khaki shorts and a black T-shirt. As an after thought, she also added her fur-lined jacket - the one she had picked up off the coast of Italy, in that sea plane, if she remembered it right. Just as she began brushing the tangles out of waist- length hair, Bryce came rushing into her room.

"Lara!" he yelled excitedly.

Lara raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"

"I've found it!"

"Found what?" Lara asked calmly.

"Well, it was hard. The server was hard to find, not to mention getting through the firewall . . . "

"Bryce?" Lara asked, looking directly at him. "What did you find?"

"Find?" Bryce looked momentarily confused. "Oh! I hacked into the security mainframe and got access to Richards' personal computer."

Lara sat up straighter. "Did you find the blueprints?" she asked quickly.

"Yep. No problem. Piece of cake." Bryce said. "But guess what else I found?"

Lara raised an eyebrow and waited for an explanation.

"His itinerary." Seeing Lara's expectant look, Bryce elaborated. "I found you the perfect way for you to get into his house so you can steal the artefact. It seems the honourable James Richards, millionaire playboy, is holding a charity fundraiser in three days; a Mask Ball."

Lara considered the information, and couldn't keep a smile off her face. "Brilliant." She said.

Then she looked up at Bryce, and smiled wickedly. "Feel like a holiday, Bryce?" she said. "Because I hear Washington is very beautiful this time of year."