Chapter One
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six

"Thank you, Ned. It nice to see someone cares." Marguerite, wrapped in blankets from her head to her toes, laying on the living area sofa, took the warm tea in its delicate china cup and sipped the beverage slowly, allowing the steam to permeate her senses. She coughed once and sniffed, noting an odd flavor and odor. She then brought a white handkerchief to her reddened nose. "So few do really care around here, you know." she added with a sarcastic murmur.

Malone sighed and looked to where Marguerite's watering eyes had traveled.
Veronica and Roxton, two of the most competitive people Malone had ever seen, where in the midst of a rather tense card game. They were distracting themselves on purpose. No one was in the mood to face Miss Krux when she was in a bad mood but that went double when Marguerite found herself caustic and down with illness.
Ned cleared his throat, a quick spark of guilt disappearing from his expression when he looked back to Marguerite. "I put in a teaspoon of honey to help cut your cough and soothe your throat." he mentioned, hoping to appease her for a little while.

"Honey?" Her tone raised very slightly, almost like a child. She took another sip. "When I asked Roxton about it a couple hours ago he said there was none."

"There wasn't." Malone hastened to report, not quite able to look into her eyes. "I went to the hive myself and got a couple jars this afternoon." If she had been feeling better, more her old self, Marguerite would have seen Malone's uncertainty immediately. He had never been a good fibber.

"You did that for me?" Marguerite's smile was weak and slightly off center. "Did you hear that, Lord Roxton!" she suddenly called, the frail little girl sound in her voice replaced with fire. "Ned here did what you weren't willing to do. He braved the bees to get me honey! I guess we know who the true hero is around this place."

Closing his eyes for a moment, to get control of his anger, Roxton turned very slowly and gave Malone a burning look, "Gee Ned, that was a good thing you did." he said through nearly gritted teeth.

Marguerite had been whining and complaining all day. Roxton did everything he could for her, wrapping her in blankets, carrying her to the balcony when she said she needed sun, back to the sofa when the sun bothered her eyes, bringing her a small cup of spirits, taking it back when she said she didn't like the year, bringing her pillows, plumping her pillows, and doing pretty much everything requested from the ailing woman from morning until evening. When he wasn't doing something for Marguerite someone else in the treehouse was. Roxton doted on her but this was ridiculous! Enough was enough. The hunter was exhausted and when she had mentioned the honey he was at the end of his tether. He promised he'd go to the hive the following day, taking Challenger with him, and they'd brave all dangers to get her the gooey, sweet substance. Marguerite would just have to wait.

Miss Krux had not been pleased and, with a grave but menacing voice, she bit back. She told Roxton he just didn't appreciate her. He'd rather see her suffer.

"Really, it was no big deal." Malone said, a little nervous under the hunter's seething gaze, "I was going that way to get some herbs for Challenger ..." he started but stopped when Roxton turned back to the game, uninterested.

Veronica, across from the hunter, could not prevent a quiet laugh. "It's just a cold, Marguerite. You'll be fine." she called over to the woeful woman, "Tomorrow night you'll be here at the table playing cards with us." Then, with grin, she added: "You certainly are more of a challenge than Roxton."

"Enough of your abuse, jungle girl. Deal the cards." Roxton demanded.

"Sure, go ahead and ignore me." Marguerite whispered as Malone joined his friends, observing their game. She sniffed and coughed a couple times for effect. Marguerite then began to feel very drowsy and carefully, pushing the teacup onto a small table beside her, closed her eyes.

The table was also the home of a makeshift atomizer. Challenger had made it for her, bringing it to Marguerite over an hour ago. He told her there was a chemical mixture inside that should help relieve the sinus pressure and pain she was feeling. All she need do is put the tube in her mouth and inhale. It looked frightening and she refused to touch it.

With a small darting look over his cards, Roxton quietly murmured: "What is she doing?"

Veronica glanced over his shoulder, "Her eyes are closed." she replied just as quietly.

Challenger, walking soundlessly up the stairs from his laboratory, came up behind Marguerite and touched her shoulder. She did not stir. "Asleep." he announced.

With a large exhale of breath Roxton tossed his cards onto the table and stood, "Thank God. For a minute there I thought you'd fumbled the ball, Challenger."

"I just put the sedative in the atomizer. It was up to her to take it."

"What about the tea?" Veronica asked Malone, also standing.

"Half a teaspoon. It certainly did the trick."

"Great line about the honey." Roxton added, walking over to Marguerite's sleeping form. "What made you think of it?"

"We've been giving her tea all day. I knew she'd taste the difference." Then Malone smiled, pleased by his own fast thinking. "And you really did have me a little nervous Roxton. I thought you were going to tar and feather me when Marguerite called me a hero."

"I still might." Roxton, bent slightly at the waist, gently touched Marguerite's warm forehead, brushing back a few strands of straying hair, "I will not hear the end of it, how I didn't do all I could, for quite sometime."

Challenger commented, "She'll sleep well tonight and wake up a new woman tomorrow morning. There should be no ill effects whatsoever."

"Peace and quiet. Wonderful." Malone exclaimed.

"Anything to stop her incessant complaining." Veronica added, sounding a great deal like George Challenger. When he looked at her Veronica laughed, "Don't tell me you weren't thinking it." she said then added, "It wouldn't surprise me if her sickness was faked just so Marguerite could get out of doing her share of the chores."

"No, she really is down but she'll be all right." Challenger assured.

Gently, Roxton picked Marguerite up in his arms and carried the sleeping woman to her bedroom.


"How interesting ..."

It observed Lord Roxton carrying the woman to her bed. It watched as Veronica, who had come in beside him, pulled a sheet back, allowing Roxton to gently deposit Marguerite's sleeping body softly onto the mattress. The sheet and another heavier coverlet were then pulled up. Roxton tenderly kissed Marguerite's cheek then, whispering a charming endearment, he and Veronica left the room.

"You are troublesome." it whispered, mindful of the lovely woman unconscious on the bed. Yet, it seemed pleased. "You are also cared for."

It could use her to great effect.

"He loves you and I will have him. You, dear Marguerite, will be the stepping stone to his destruction. And all you have to do is cease to exist. Come and be my guest ..."

The darkly draped form suddenly appeared by her bedside, raising its hands, then ever so attentively it leaned over and kissed Marguerite on the lips, pulling the life force from her body ...