Monty pulled the curtain sharply across the window with an angry shout. There were still journalists outside of Highhurst Castle, waiting with notepads and cameras.
"You'll tear the curtains if you keep closing them like that," spoke a voice behind him.
"And you'll slow your recovery if you don't get back in bed," he replied, turning around to face Sibella. The blonde was leaning against the doorframe, draped in a satin nightgown with a pale pink robe over the top, her curls mussed from the pillow.
"I'm fine, Monty. Just a few bruises, that's all." With a quiet sigh he came towards her, crossing the room.
"Nevertheless," he said gently, wrapping his arms around her waist. "The doctors said you should rest."
"I'm sick of resting, I've done nothing but lie in bed for nearly three days! And besides, Rose is due here this afternoon, my mother is bringing her."
"I wish them luck getting past the vultures outside." Monty's voice was filled with frustration.
"You know I'd fight through more than vultures for my daughter. Our daughter," she added with a smile, leaning in to kiss him tenderly.
"As would I, my love. But you'll need your strength to face them, so get back to bed." Sibella made an exasperated noise and pouted at Monty. "For Rose," he pressed. The blonde sighed. He had won.
"For Rose," she agreed, and kissed him once more before going back to her bedroom.
The moment the car pulled up, cameras began to flash. An older woman first stepped from it, her dark grey dress edged in black lace and her pale blonde hair tucked up under her hat. Turning back to the car, she lifted a small blonde child down to the ground. Taking the child's hand in hers, the woman held her head high and resolutely ignored the questions about her daughter and late son-in-law.
Monty and Gorby started forward to meet them, holding back the journalists and reporters so that their path to the castle was clear. However, as Sibella stepped through the doors of the castle, the men were driven back by the crowd as they pushed forward, all vying for a shapshot of Mrs Holland.
The blonde woman looked pale and drawn, and leaned on the arm of the Countess, but a bright smile lit up her face as she saw her daughter. The little girl let go of her grandmother's hand and ran towards Sibella, who dropped to her knees to meet her.
As mother and daughter clung tightly to each other, cameras clicked furiously. Gorby ushered Mrs Hallward inside, and Phoebe placed a hand on Sibella's back, indiating that it was time to retreat to the safety of the castle. The Countess took the child's hand and took her inside, Mrs Holland following, but the blonde woman turned around before crossing the threshold.
"Enough!" She shouted over the din of voices calling to her. "I will answer your questions, and in return you will leave this property, understood?" Voices rose again, all overlapping, until she pointed to one man individually, singling him out.
"Mrs Holland," he addressed her, taking her meaning in pointing to him. "Why have you come to Highhurst instead of returning to your own residence?"
"The Earl and Countess very graciously opened their home to my daughter and I. I accepted their offer because I could not bring myself to stay in a house that is so haunted by memories of my husband." The shouting resumed as soon as she concluded. Choosing another journalist, she gestured to him.
"Mrs Holland," he began, a distincly Irish lilt in his voice. "When will you hold a funeral?"
"Hopefully I will be recovered enough by next week. I asked that the burial be postponed until I am well enough to attend." Gesturing to a different man, she again interrupted the shouting.
"Mrs Holland, had you any idea that your husband was unwell?"
"None at all. He always seemed so healthy, there were no external signs of a weak heart. Losing him so suddenly, I-" she broke off, her voice tight with tears. "I doubt I shall ever recover." Her hand came up to cover her mouth, pushing back against a sob. "Please excuse me," she choked out, tears falling down her face as her shoulders shuddered. Quickly stepping inside, the door was shut swiftly behind her.
Phoebe embraced her as soon as the door was closed, holding tight as tears dampened the blue fabric covering her shoulder. "That was very brave, dearest," she murmured in the blonde's ear.
"Monsters," spat Monty. "Reducing you to tears. Absolutely barbaric." Sibella raised her head and wiped at her eyes with a sniff.
"Mummy?" Sibella turned around at her daughter's voice.
"Hello, my darling girl," she said, crossing to the child and kneeling in front of her. "How are you?"
"Father's gone, isn't he?" The girl spoke as though she were stating a fact rather than asking a question.
"Yes, sweetheart," Sibella replied after a moment. "He's gone."
"I don't have a daddy anymore."
"But you have a mummy," Sibella smiled, tucking a blonde curl behind her daughter's ear. "A mummy who loves you very much. And Grandmama is in the other room, and Grandpa loves you too. And Monty, and Phoebe, and Miss Shingle here at Highhurst, and there's Uncle Grahame and Auntie Cynthia- there's lots of people who love you and are going to take care of you, even though Father's gone." She pressed a kiss to the girl's forehead before standing up. "Go on into the drawing room with Grandmama, I'll be there in just a minute." Rose nodded and walked off towards the drawing room.
"I always hated that he made her call him 'father'," Sibella said softly to Phoebe. "She tried to call him 'daddy', but he wouldn't allow it."
"Why haven't they gone?" Monty questioned angrily, referring to the voices that could still be heard outside. "If they haven't left in ten minutes, I shall forcibly remove them."
"Monty?" Rose's tiny voice sounded, and all three of them turned to face her. Monty's serious expression softened as he looked down at her.
"Yes, Rose?" he said with a smile.
"Will you be my daddy now?" Monty froze for a moment, taken aback. The women turned to look at each other, Phoebe's hand flying to her chest and Sibella's eyes filling with tears.
Monty knelt to be level with Rose. "Do you want me to be?" he asked her. She nodded vigorously, golden curls bouncing slightly. "Then yes, Rose. I will be your daddy." The little girl grinned and stood on her tiptoes to fling her arms around Monty's neck. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head, holding his daughter tight.