Seventeen (2)

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Hours later, when Vita lay in her bed thinking all this over, she realised Holden had taken her side then. He could have agreed with Archie. He could have announced he was fleeing anyway. And he hadn't.

She rolled over between her tangled sheets, forcing her eyes shut. It was almost two o'clock in the morning, and Izzy would say she needed her beauty sleep if she saw her like that.

A soft knock made her sit up. Pixie growled on the bedside rug. She shushed her dog and strained her ear to make sure she hadn't been dreaming. Soon enough another knock echoed in the room. But it wasn't coming from the door. It was coming from the window.

Vita threw her covers aside, turned the light on, got up and flung the velvet curtains open. Her surprise was only mild at finding Holden standing on her balcony.

She opened the window. "I don't even know what to say."

Holden ignored the sarcasm. He greeted her with a nod, as if they were standing on the lawn in the middle of the afternoon. Pixie sniffed his feet, then when she was satisfied he wasn't a threat, she returned to her spot on the rug.

"How did you even get here?" Vita asked.

The night was clear, with a bright moon shining in the sky, but the temperature had somewhat dropped. She grabbed her silk dressing gown and put it on over her nightdress.

Holden shifted on his feet. He wasn't wearing anything under his dinner jacket. When she caught his hesitation, Vita realised exactly how he'd climbed to the first floor.

"You flew?"

He shrugged. "I thought someone might hear me if I came to your door."

"And flying to my window seemed like a better option?"

Vita shook her head in disbelief. She tied the sash of her nightgown around her waist and put on her slippers. Then she crossed her arms and stared him down.

"What do you want?"

"May I come in?" Holden asked.

"Absolutely not. Go away."

She was more amused than irritated, though. Holden obviously didn't pick up on either reaction, his face impassive and serious.

"Your fiancé is a good man," he said.

Vita arched an eyebrow. If he was intent on having a conversation, she needed to smoke. She grabbed a small silver case on her dressing table and lit a cigarette with a lighter.

"Thank you."

She blew smoke into the night air.

"He loves you," Holden added.

"He does."

This was surreal. Vita had no idea what this conversation was about and what he expected of her. She took a drag of her cigarette, her puzzled gaze on him.

"I wasn't expecting that," he went on. "I thought this was an arranged marriage."

Vita let out a mocking laugh. "Of course you did. High Society girls never marry for love, do they?"

"I understand your reluctance to leave, now. And I apologise for not doing so sooner. I upset you, and it wasn't my intention."

"Right," Vita said. "You apologise. I forgive you. Good night."

She stubbed out her cigarette in an ashtray and took a step back to close the window. Holden extended his hand and put it on the glass panel, stopping her gesture.

"Now," she said, her tone patronising. "Let's not do anything foolish, shall we?"

"I didn't only come here to apologise," Holden replied.

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