Twenty-five (1)

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Vita leaned against the windowsill in her bedroom at Weatherly, her gaze on the expanse of green lawn in front of her. The blue skies were clear and sunshine caressed her skin, and only a draft reminded her that the summer was over.

She took a drag from her cigarette in its long holder, and blew smoke into the wind. A murder of crows cawed and circled above her, and she let her eyes wander along the edge of the woods, where Pixie was chasing squirrels. Even if the wound in her thigh was now healed, Vita still didn't care for standing too long, and she let her dog play outside on her own for now.

From the entrance hall of the quiet house, the grandfather clock chimed two o'clock, reminding Vita of her upcoming appointment with Izzy and Mr. Lang.

The happy couple were leaving the country from Southampton on a large ocean liner this very evening, and Vita had promised to meet them in London before they boarded their southbound train. She was still unused to the idea of her friend going away again, but Izzy's smile had been so wide after her hurried wedding ceremony, that Vita could only try and be happy for her.

She still had a few minutes before leaving the manor, so she sat down on the windowsill and stubbed her cigarette under her Mary Jane shoes. Then she put away her cigarette holder on her dressing table, where an envelope sat unopened. It had come with the afternoon post and she had frowned at the stamp on the elegant paper: it had been posted in Southampton, five days ago on 16th August. She didn't recognise the slanted handwriting.

She took the envelope, and paused before opening it. Most of the post she had received in the past two weeks had been thank-you cards from the ball guests, as well as a few enquiries after her health when she hadn't gone to the Goodwood races. But now that most of English Society had left London to return to their country estates for the hunting season, letters had been rare.

Doubt nagged at her. She hadn't heard from Holden since she had driven him out of Weatherly. She ripped the envelope open and read the signature at the bottom of the page. The letter was from him.

Her heart quickened, and she looked up, considering throwing the letter into the wind. This was what she had chosen. Weatherly. No supernatural creatures or threatening men after her. Just a normal life, with her mother, and the man she loved and would marry next spring.

She glanced down at the letter. Her fingers trembled slightly, and she took a deep breath to steady them. She hadn't given Holden a chance to speak, that day in the library. She owed it to him to read his letter, at least.

So she did.

My dearest Vita,

It's a strange feeling to write this letter not knowing if you'll ever read it, but I cannot possibly imagine leaving without attempting to apologise to you.

I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I've been a fool, and I now wish I hadn't taken so long to realise it. You always were honest with me, from the very beginning, but I was too blinded by my own feelings and too focused on my own troubles to listen. Time and time again, you told me you loved your fiancé and you wouldn't run away. Time and time again, you showed me you were strong enough –or stubborn enough- to protect yourself. Yet I refused to listen. I refused to see. I was the one who needed you, and it clouded every decision I made.

Trying to tie you to my fate was wrong. Making decisions for you was wrong. Forcing you to choose between your life here and me was wrong. I'm sorry I ever put you in a position where you had to say no to me, over and over again.

I'm leaving for America today. It's me the Paris coven want, and it's me they'll chase after first and foremost. My hope is that my departure will send them on my trail across the Atlantic and leave you safe in England, where you have people looking after you. I'm taking Astro with me, and leaving Nyx in your care. Please don't resent me for forcing on you this last gift you haven't asked for. I don't know if the Los Angeles coven will take me in or not, but even if they don't, America is such a large country I believe I can hide there for a long time before the Hunter finds me again.

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