Fourteen (3)

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In the drawing room, the jazzy tune ended and there was a brief pause in the dancing while someone changed the record and wound up the gramophone again.

"Would you care for a drink?" Mr. Lang asked.

Panting slightly from the up-tempo dance number, Izzy swallowed, her tongue parched.

"Yes, please."

Mr. Lang grabbed her hand and led her away from the throng of dancers who started moving again to the syncopated rhythms of the music. Warmth spread from his fingers through Izzy's gloves, sending a thrilling shiver up her arm. Dancing with him to a swinging tune was even better than waltzing.

At the bar, Mr. Lang asked for a whisky and turned to Izzy with a questioning look.

"A gin and tonic," she said.

She didn't know the name of any other cocktail.

The footman handed them their drinks and Mr. Lang took her hand again before making his way to the dining room. Here the atmosphere was quieter but all the chairs were taken, and Mr. Lang looked around the room with a frown.

"Let's sit there."

Izzy nodded at an open window with a large windowsill. She sat and leaned against the wrought-iron railing, Mr. Lang joining her. In such close proximity, their arms brushed against each other and their legs almost touched.

"A little bit of fresh air is quite welcome, actually," Mr. Lang said.

He slid his finger between his shirt collar and his neck. He had elegant hands, and he smelled of brilliantine and citrus after-shave and promises.

Izzy dragged her gaze away from his face and took a sip of her drink.

"So, tell me about you," she said.

She wanted to know everything about him. He obliged her with a polite nod.

"Well, I was born in Hong Kong, as you know. I was educated at the Queen's College there, before I moved to England to attend Oxford."

"What about your parents?"

"My father is a businessman, who runs one of the largest dockyards in Asia. I hope to succeed him one day."

Izzy nodded. "My father is also a businessman."

She hoped he wouldn't inquire more about Lord Rhodes' affairs, and she got her wish. Mr. Lang smiled at her reply instead. She drank from her glass again to avoid flushing under his gaze.

"My parents live on Victoria Peak," he added, unaware of his effect on her.

His comment was met by a blank stare from her, so he went on: "It's an exclusive residential area reserved for non-Chinese. But my father bought a house there, instead of renting one, which allowed him to circumnavigate the law."

"So you were raised with Englishmen?"

Izzy beamed at the idea. Her father would like that. Lord Rhodes didn't like foreigners, but he had to see Mr. Lang was a great prospect for his daughter. Besides, he'd always tolerated Vita, who was no more than a half-breed if one wanted to be honest. He'd even said more than once – not in her presence, mind you - that it was thanks to her father's blood Vita didn't suffer from a weak mind and low morals like her fellow countrywomen.

"I was raised as a British gentleman, indeed." Mr. Lang nodded.

Izzy pointed at the couples drinking, talking and touching around them. "I have to say, I'm a bit surprised to find you here."

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