22. The Valentine's Ball

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Life resumed quietly, night turned to day and day turned to night. A handful of baby buds appeared on the local trees, and new life began to force its way through the barren earth.

I buried myself in my studies and spent many an hour at my easel, taking care to stay well away from Lovell Towers and the river that led there.

My time with Sebastian was already feeling like a memory, and it hurt too much to ponder. The behind the hand whispers, sideways glances, and outright bitchy comments about my hair had thankfully died down, and I started to enjoy uni again.

Connor hadn’t spoken to me since New Year’s Eve, when he’d climbed into bed beside me, to quell my fear of Tyron making a sudden reappearance, and held me until my dream world took over, calming my screams in the night. He was gone in the morning, and although I’d spotted him around campus, watching me from afar, he had kept a cool distance ever since, and I felt too guilty about the passion we’d shared to disrupt the equilibrium.

 One dinnertime, Justin caught me staring, trance-like, out of the cafeteria window and followed my gaze to a distant picnic table where Connor was pinching off segments from his unwanted pie and throwing the pieces at eager pigeons. “Someone has a secret crush, me thinks.”

“Don’t be such a dildo. I was thinking about our looming exams. Are you ready for yours?” I asked, with one eye still on Connor. Why did I get the feeling he had something to say?

“Stop trying to change the subject, missy. Do you think nobody notices you’re pining for a piece of Lovell ass?”

“Wrong Lovell.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Not from where I’m sitting. You know I have a penchant for the tall, dark, and brooding type.”

“Cool it Casanova, what would Paulie say if he saw you drooling?” Beth said.

“Oh Paulie Smallie is beginning to bore me.” He pouted, wiggling his little finger in the air. It broke the tense atmosphere as everyone collapsed into fits of giggles.

“I know your game,” Beth said, giving Justin a playful punch on the arm. “You just want to ensure that you’re single for the Valentine Tryst tomorrow.”

Oh crap! I’d forgotten all about the ball, and now I had no date for it. How sad was that?

That evening, Beth bribed me into going out again, but I got the impression that everyone was saving themselves for the ball, because it was quite quiet for a Friday night, and the mood was distinctly sober. I was even beginning to wonder why I’d bothered to get dressed up. So when Vincent appeared, and sidled into the booth with us, I was actually glad of the company.

“Hello beautiful,” he cooed.

“Hi, long time no see.”

“Been a bit busy, you know how it is.”

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