What had happened? Why did she hurt so much? She tried to think back, but her mind was in a fog. The last thing she could remember for certain was running down the staircase while putting on her coat, after that everything got fuzzy.
Someone pressed a cup to her lips and she could feel a warm, salty liquid trying to go down her parched throat. She spluttered and the cup was replaced with a napkin, dabbing at the liquid that had no doubt spilled all over her face. She tried to speak, but only managed a low moan. She could hear Terrence's voice, but it was far away and she couldn't make out what he was saying. A sudden shiver took her and her whole body shook. A blanket was wrapped around her, and she was grateful for the strong hands that lifted her and tucked it closer around her.
The voices around her faded and she welcomed the black nothingness that removed the pain from her body.
She jumped in her sleep and opened her eyes. She was in a dark room lined with bookshelves. There was a large fire in front of her, and she could see someone's knee up by her head, probably someone sitting in the chair next to her. The pants definitely belonged to Terrence, but she was unable to make a sound other than a low moan. He leaned forward and looked down at her.
"How are you feeling?" he asked with a very concerned look on his face. Again she tried to talk, but the words would not come. "You gave us quite the scare," he said, "we searched the entire manor for you. I even went out in the storm to find you."
Storm! Yes, it had been raining, but where had she gone? She could remember walking in the rain as it poured down, the gravel driveway had become muddy, and she was relieved to get back on the grass as soon as she could. There were trees, she thought, and yes... there had been tears, she had been crying...
"Here, drink some broth. It will help you warm up." Terrence held her head gently as he helped her with the mug.
She sipped the broth carefully and found that she could swallow this time, though the movement still made her queasy. She laid back suddenly as another wave of nausea hit her, she closed her eyes and began to breath deeply. After a few minutes the fit passed and Terrence, patient as ever continued to hold her hand.
"Do you think you can sit up?" he asked, "You are still in your wet clothes and you would probably warm up better if we changed you into a dry outfit." She shook her head and winced. "Okay, you lay still and I will get you changed."
Annabel wanted to shout "No!" and change herself, but in her current condition all she had the energy to do was follow orders. So she let him change her, and the dry clothes did feel much warmer! When he was done, he helped her take another sip of broth, then tucked a dry blanket in around her. She felt much more comfortable, and wanted to drift back off to sleep when Terrence spoke again.
"What were you doing in the tree house?" he asked.
Annabel sat up straight. The tree house! The storm! She had gone to the tree house to get away from everyone, she had been sitting on the platform for some time with the rain pouring down on her when the wind came up and the platform gave a terrible lurch, then she was falling and she hit the ground hard. But she couldn't remember anything after that until the voices woke her up here in the library.
Terrence was watching her, but said nothing.
Annabel rolled onto her side and lay back down, staring into the fire. "I, I sort of cracked, Terrence, I'm sorry. I ran for the only safe place I could think of and it ended up not being very safe at all."
Terrence leaned forward and stroked her hair. "Well, I'm glad you're alright. I had the whole house looking for you, they left no stone, nor piano unturned."
Annabel was silent, she had just looked at the encyclopedia which was next to the fireplace, which still proudly displayed: "SHARE TO WIN" in bright gold letters. She thought deeply about that message, and about everything Simon had written in his will. Perhaps it wa time to turn over a new leaf and try working together.
"Terrence," she said swallowing hard, "Terrence, I think I may have been wrong to not work with everyone. I definitely wouldn't have been in that tree just now had we shared our clues from the beginning."
Terrence continued to stroke her hair, "You think so?"
"Yes, I wanted to beat Mort to the solution, but instead I chased my own family away and we still haven't solved our last clue." She breathed deeply and a tear began to slide down her cheek, "It isn't worth it!" she declared, "The money, the manor, they don't mean anything if you don't have your family with you to enjoy it."
"I agree," said Terrence, then after a moment's reflection, "I think you may have solved Simon's last riddle after all! It isn't about winning, it's about family."
They sat in silence for a while, then Annabel said, "Will you go get the others so we can tell them that we will share our clues?"
"If that is what you would like, I would be honored," said Terrence.
She nodded her head, and he stood, gave her a soft kiss on the cheek, then walked to the door and opened it.
"Annabel's awake," he said, "And she would like to speak to everyone."