Disclaimer: Hello my little darlings. I'm quite sure many of you would like to kill me for the lull in the proceedings between my last chapter and this. You have every right to feel so. Last year was perhaps one of the worst in my life, changes…they screw everything up. I preoccupied myself with things that were already written, so that I didn't have to think too much more than I already was at that point. But now I'm back and strangely inspired by my experiences. I only hope I don't disappoint you.

We just stood there like stone works of art. John looked for a moment as if he would have liked to do certain things to Olivia, that also found themselves running through my head. And those something's included torture, sharp pointy objects, and listening to MmmBop a thousand times in a row. But as always John was perfection when it came to dodging uncomfortable tensions.

He raised a charming brow at their unwanted intrusion, "Indeed. We were pondering the same thing of you. Enjoy the ride, Olivia?"

I shot him a look. Ride as in…?

I take it back. Don't wanna know.

She grinned prettily in reply, "Yes…immensely."

I pursed my lips dryly. I'll bet you did, hobag.

"Well," John brought his hands together in a hearty clap, "shall we adjourn to the music room, then? You ladies may awe us with your talents, and we gentlemen will have the pleasure of such an indulgence." He smirked pointedly at Abberline's tense form, "Isn't that right, Inspector?"

Okay, Abberline still giving me the creepy gaze. Avert eyes! Avert eyes!

"Lovely idea, John." Olivia concurred pleasantly, "Escort me to the room?" She offered a slim, graceful arm to him. "I've been meaning to have a word with you all afternoon."

Now that's just not right. Bitch was trying to take my man…I mean my man friend…I mean my…whatever he was. What had just taken place in the room kinda confused me about what exactly he was to me. All I knew was that I didn't want John escorting her anywhere. Least of all someplace where they could be alone.

And then he surprised me by turning in my direction, "With your permission, of course."

I beamed. I loved a man with manners. I nodded my assent.

He brought my hand to his mouth, lips skimming over my skin like a light breeze. Pulling back he pressed my fingers firmly. It was some kind of promise. There was going to be no debauchery or hanky panky of any sort, is what that gesture promised. I was greatly relieved. I had enough trouble with keeping Abberline in thrall to me (hah, yeah right) then to worry about Olivia moving in on her old flame.

"Miss Hernandez?" John murmured approaching her, "If you will?"

Turning over her dainty shoulder with uncanny Exorcist like ability, after taking his arm, she intoned kindly, "Don't fall behind you two."

Aka. Keep the Inspector occupied for too long…well let's just say I will return the favor…I do have a mildly attractive and darkly handsome escort to dally the time with should you choose to do so.

She didn't have to worry really. The last thing I wanted was to occupy Abberline for any amount of time, let alone long enough for Olivia to send out the search party…not to mention that I was eagerly hoping to miss out on the reprimand of the century. The storm was building. Abberline was gonna let me have it, I could tell. I braced myself for the blow.

He opened his mouth, "So…?"

"So…?" Olivia prompted, as they strolled down the hall.

At her side, John sighed good naturedly, "So what?"

At this reply Olivia's smile grew in a knowing grin, "I knew it…"

"You knew what, Olivia? Please try to finish your annoyingly cryptic sentences."

"You fancy her." She accused him.

His own smile was nothing short of amusement, "Your misplaced insinuation is somewhat insulting."

Olivia chuckled, the sound reverberating off the walls with a beautiful chime, "Oh, you horrible fiend," She admonished him in all playful seriousness; "you won't even admit to it, will you?"

"Honestly, Olivia," John responded somewhat irate to the claim, "you seem to think simply because I favor a woman and make wild flirtations upon her person, that there is any real feeling or commitment behind such advances. They are merely the tools one uses to ensnare evasive game." He reminded her.

Placing a stalling hand on his arm she brought him to a stop. "Our chase was quite an event, was it not?" Her eyes sparkled with the memories of a time already come to an end.

A feral smile illuminated his features, "So it was. If I recall correctly, and I know I do, you lasted a week."

"A week and a half." Miss Hernandez corrected, pouting at her companion's thought of her lack of resistance. "But we will let it pass."

"Yes. You were the most difficult and the hardest to claim."

"And how long have you pestered the Harlington heir?" She posed.

Shooting her a stony glance, he dropped her arm from his, "A month." He intoned finally, resuming his previous stride.

"A month?" She taunted hurrying to catch up to him, "Surely you could have had her already if you wished it."

Lord Darque's pace quickened, "I could have anything if I wished it."

"No doubt." She agreed readily, "But…" she snuck the phrase in slyly, "…why have you waited this long?"

"A well drawn out seduction always yields more rewards than any other." He defended.

"Perhaps. But perhaps there is another reason," Olivia pressed, "one you are unwilling to admit."

"There is no other reason in the battle for a woman's virtue."

"There is one…"

"What exactly are you implying, Olivia?"

Her walk paused as she regarded his back, while he continued on. He didn't see her smile, nor the gleam in her eyes that revealed he was a man already lost. Her next words hit his retreating form like an arrow. To the left and a little ways down.

"It really isn't all that uncommon, you know…" She purred, rejoining him, "It does happen, although infrequently…Love…"

Bull's-eye. John Edmund Darque was sufficiently stilled, at once both filled with sense of horror and certainty.

"Love?" A well guarded smile and exuberant laugh followed this declaration, as Olivia made level with his side once again. She smiled secretly and with a nod she showed her agreement to the term she had used on him.

John spared the briefest pause before he chuckled for her benefit, "Get your cunning, conniving head out of such silly fairy tale sentiments! If I didn't know any better I'd say the Inspector had scrambled your brain."

This soured the young lady's mood almost instantly, "Hardly. He has yet to lay a hand on it…or anything else for that matter."

Glad of the reprieve he tutted regretfully at her misfortune, happy it was not his, "Oh dear, why ever not?"

"He is turning out to be more resilient to my advances than I'd like him to be."

"To your delicate minstrations? Good Lord, that's a first!"

"More than that," she continued bitterly, "his resistance is starting to wear on my generous patience. I'm beginning to come to the end of my rapidly fraying rope, as it were."

"You?" Lord Darque turned a surprised, mocking glance her way.

"Don't fret." She assured him, her confidence raised anew, "I take my failure in stride, if only to make everything I do the better for it. It is only a matter of time," at this she shot him an accusatory look, "and things would go more swiftly if you just kept the little tart out of my way…and away from my horse."

"And how do you suppose I do that?" He laughed in return, "She seems quite determined to dislike you."

Olivia's gaze became deadly and her voice froze the air around her, "Anyway possible. You are a well known and respectable rake. Find a way." She demanded, "Lock her in a room and ravage her…or propose if you must, but don't delay!"

He took her arm and fitted it perfectly in his to pacify her temper, "Such talk of forbidden trysts and marriages, Miss Hernandez, one would think you were serious."

Hand in hand, smiling similar Siamese cat grins the two made their way to the music room to await the arrival of those they had been speaking of.

"So…?" Abberline murmured.

"No, I crotchet."

His brows furrowed darkly in anger.

I winced. What did I say that for? Why was I giving him lip?

"Sorry." I grumbled eyes down cast.

"For what?" Abberline asked in frank meanness, "Your penchant for sarcasm in the most inopportune moments," he crossed the room in a matter of a few strides, "or perhaps for your complete disregard for our current situation? Tell me, Sarah…which of these sterling qualities should you feel the need to apologize for now?"

"Why are you acting like this?" I posed, a frown growing. I had said I was sorry; there was no reason to bite my head off.

Abberline's face twitched drastically and he turned swiftly away toward one of the many windows. When he turned back his demeanor shouted at a control and an underlying steadying power he had just renewed.

"Try to understand, Sarah…I realize this may be difficult, but try to understand. You cannot play around with this class. They will destroy you, if not in body than in the mind. They are seasoned players to this championship and they will not abide loss of any kind. So you had better make damn well sure you don't have something of value to bargain with before your test their powers of persuasion. Do not put me or our cause on the sacrificial table for the wolves to feed on. Not after all that we have already accomplished. We cannot afford it, Sarah."

"I wasn't aware my own feelings were of something of great value to place a gamble with…" I replied testily, "So much the way you regard them…" I muttered under my breath.

"Your feelings, however false or without guile they are, determine the outcome of this plan. Your plan, Sarah. Yours…and it is failing, and will continue to do so as long as you continue to believe your own lies and clot yourself with them."

"You make it sound as if you have done nothing against your own views." I shot back, "How am I expected to carry this whole thing on my back while you're off doing god knows what with Olivia? If you're gonna be out all hours of the day sporting or what not, I think it isn't too much to ask that I be allowed to do the same!"

"Oh with Darque, I suppose?" He snapped.

"With anyone! And I'm going to! Because we're not married yet, Abberline!"

Oh shit, I thought as I whirled away, a hand to my mouth. I hadn't meant to say that last part out loud. Cripes, Sarah, you're a frickin' genius! Give him another reason for him to hate you, why don't ya?

"What was that?" He asked dangerously, "Did you say something, Sarah?"

I bit my lip bruisingly and shook my head frantically, "Nothing. Nothing…" I stopped my protestations. What was I doing? Fuck this, just gonna tell it to him straight.

"Actually…yeah!" I rounded on him, "Yeah, I did say something. And you know what? I'm going to say it again for your listening pleasure! I said we're not married yet…meaning you better watch it…meaning you better be nice to me…or…or…" I couldn't think of anything threatening enough at the moment, "Well, you'd just better! Because let me tell you, if you think you can get away with woodsy fornicating and I can't even slip by on a Shakespeare reading, you've got another thing coming! We're not married yet…and we never will be if you don't stop acting like a supreme jerk! You know what? Forget it. I'm not even going to waste my time." I walked toward him, preparing to brush past, "I don't know how Mary Kelly put up with you." I hissed.

I gasped before I could comprehend why I had done so. Abberline had a hold of my wrist that was most uncomfortable. I raised my eyes to his.

"Do not mistake the intent of our rouse, Sarah." He warned.

I hardened my eyes, "I suggest you let of me right now, Inspector."

He continued now a note of desperation in his voice, "Don't forget our purpose in this venture. Please, Sarah. Mary's life depends on it. We are supposed to be in love, for god's sake!"

"Than start acting like it!" I snapped furiously. He dropped my wrist as I fumed, I think in surprise at the venom in my voice, "Because if you don't, I swear I'll let Darque pick one of Shakespeare's more passionate scenes to play out the next time around, mark my words, I will."

I stormed over to the doors to make the rendezvous with the others, who were no doubt, waiting for us. "Now let's get this over with. And you better stay ten feet behind me on the way. I may be helping you for Mary Kelly's sake and mine, but that doesn't mean I want you anywhere near me right now." I saw his look, "Oh, don't worry I'll pretend to be in love with you once we reach the others, but til then I'm perfectly free to hate you….Jackass…" I snapped striding out.