Fourteen (1)

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They all spent the weekend at Weatherly.

The police were searching for the O'Reilly brothers and their gang, but they had vanished after the shooting. It was likely the search was slow-going anyway, since no one had officially been hurt at the nightclub. The investigation into Tallulah's death, however, was dropped immediately, and her demise ruled as an accident. Her family requested a private funeral service, to avoid any media coverage. It allowed Izzy to breathe a sigh of relief at the news, since she wouldn't have to make the awkward decision to attend the burial or not. She'd rather grieve for her friend in private anyway.

While the servants worked on restoring the Mayfair house to its pre-ball appearance, Izzy took refuge in the countryside and planned her return. She avoided the newspapers, afraid of the headlines she might read. Instead, she spent the following days planning her strategy for the rest of her Season and fussing over Vita.

Now that there were no more secrets between them, and the shock of discovering the truth about her new nature had somewhat dissipated, Izzy felt it was her responsibility to overcome her instincts and to care for her friend. Whatever creature Vita had been turned into, she still looked normal enough to carry on with her life, according to Izzy. And it was Izzy's mission to help her do just that.

"You need to come shopping with me tomorrow," she said, as they walked Pixie in Weatherly park on Tuesday afternoon.

They linked arms under the grey sky, a light wind tugging at their hair. Archie was inside making phone calls, while his men kept a close watch on the estate. No one had intruded since their arrival on Saturday.

"I don't know," Vita said, unconvinced.

"We have to!" Izzy explained. "The Royal Ascot is on Thursday. I have to find an outfit for it."

A slight frown creased Vita's forehead. She'd been quiet and poised for the past four days, which meant her wings hadn't made any unexpected appearances, but also that her behaviour was annoyingly unfazed.

"It'll be good for you," Izzy noted. "To return to the real world. And we're already halfway through the Season. I have to go to the races. I need to make people forget about the ball as soon as possible."

She'd spent her entire Saturday afternoon writing apologetic letters to all of her guests, including the Prince of Wales and Mr. Lang. The latter had replied to her in the afternoon post on Monday, asking her if she'd be at the Ascot. She'd replied she would. Now she needed to convince Vita to come along.

"Come on," she said. "You can help me pick a dress."

Vita touched her cloche hat in a mechanical gesture.

"I'm not sure going out in public is the best idea. What if something happens?"

Izzy pressed her arm reassuringly. "Nothing will happen. Mr. Lawrence will come with us, and you'll keep calm, and all will be well."

After losing Tallulah and briefly thinking Vita was gone too, she did want to be a better friend. She didn't want to overlook the importance of Vita's transformation into a winged creature, but to her mind, pushing her to lead a normal life was the way forward. And Izzy couldn't forget the clock was ticking for her. She needed to make the most of each event of the Season. As long as they could pretend Vita was fine, she planned on doing just that, and deal with the rest later.

But Vita shot her a sceptical look.

"It'll take your mind off things," Izzy added. "If you remain cooped up here you'll go mad."

She bit her lip as soon as the words were out. With Lady Shaftesbury's condition, telling Vita she'd go insane if she stayed at Weatherly wasn't the most sensitive thing to say. But Vita didn't pick up on her friend's faux-pas. Instead she let her dog off its lead and Pixie ran off, barking at a rabbit in the bushes.

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