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Chapter 4

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"It's the children the world almost breaks who grow up to save it." Frank Warren

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Chapter Four

As soon as everyone was gathered in the foyer, Annaliese could appreciate the interior of the fine house.

She was standing in a long rectangular room that was made warm by the décor. The walls were adorned with dark, architecturally magnificent panelling and the floor was covered in a thick, luxurious rug. Directly in front of her was a dark, hand-carved staircase that went up half a dozen stairs before turning up to the right. The second-floor landing was visible from the foyer as well. The balustrade was the same ornate carving as the staircase.

There were chaises and end tables in every corner and portraits hanging on every wall. Everything looked so perfectly placed and was of exquisite quality.

Annaliese just knew that her mother would be frothing at the mouth were she to look over at her. She then realised that as she had been twisting around to take in the entire foyer, she had been dragging Matthew with her as she was still holding his arm.

Embarrassed, she blushed and released him. He did not seem to mind though. Well, she could not know if he did as he was not the easiest man to read, but he did not look as though he was about to complain.

Matthew turned to her father and said, "Mr Dawson, shall we go upstairs to my study? I believe that we have some important terms to discuss."

Terms. Annaliese did not like that word. It was as if she were a part of a contract. In a way, she supposed she was. Matthew was receiving a mother for his children and the Dawsons would be free of their financial worries. But it was so impersonal.

"Yes, that is a good idea," agreed Julian.

"Mother, would you like to give the ladies a tour?" Matthew suggested.

Matthew then led Julian up the stairs, leaving the ladies alone in the foyer.

"Matthew was absolutely delighted to meet you, dear. Take no offence at all. My son is just nervous is all," Lady Cassidy said dismissively.

"Of course he is," replied Jane enthusiastically.

Lady Cassidy looked quite relieved, though her eyes lingered on Annaliese. Annaliese could tell that Lady Cassidy would be her ally and her friend. "Would you like a tour, Annaliese?"

Annaliese nodded and Lady Cassidy motioned for the Dawsons to follow her. Annaliese was looking forward to exploring the house. Lady Cassidy led them underneath the landing and towards a pair of closed doors.

As Annaliese walked underneath the balustrade, she was shocked and startled as thick, sticky liquid fell onto her head from above. As soon as it hit the top of her head, the liquid spread and ran down the front of her face and her back.

Annaliese gasped and wiped the liquid out of her eyes. It was honey. Behind her, her sisters were crying out for her and her mother was speechless. Lady Cassidy, however, was staring angrily at the ceiling.

"William!" she shouted. "How dare you!"

"It was not William!" shouted back the voice of a young girl.

"Georgiana!" Lady Cassidy shouted accusingly. "Come down here at once! You need to apologise!"

Just as Annaliese looked up to see the face of the girl who had dumped honey on her head, she was greeted by a shower of feathers, as though someone had emptied several pillows over the foyer. She was powerless as the feathers began to stick to her.

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