Twenty (2)

2.9K 287 23

Vita watched Izzy and Archie twirl around the room, the feeling of having done her duty for the night bringing a satisfied smile to her lips.

Even if a masked ball was an extravagant idea, she had to admit dozens of costumed couples swirling across the dance floor was quite a sight. It was a sea of feathers, glitter, sequinned fabric and shimmering masks, with the odd wig or train standing out in the crowd.

"You look ravishing tonight."

Vita gave a start, and turned to face Holden in a black suit and a golden half-mask.

"Oh, for heaven's sake," she muttered.

He hadn't reappeared since the day at the Regatta, and she had thought him gone for good this time. He offered his gloved hand.

"Will you dance with me?"

Vita turned her gaze back to the dancers. "Absolutely not. I'm here with Archie."

She kept her tone clipped, but she wasn't sure whether she was glad or not that he was here. Her heart hammered away, out of happiness or annoyance, she had no idea.

"Finley is free again," Holden said.

"So I've heard."

The doctor had been released the day after his arrest, no evidence linking him to the warehouse in East London or to the shooting at Henley having been found by the police.

"I've been watching the warehouse," Holden added.

So that was what he had been up to.

"He hasn't been there at all. I don't know what he's planning, but he's biding his time for his next move, I'm sure of it."

Vita didn't reply. She had decided she was more annoyed than happy by his presence, and she had no desire to talk with him about Finley's schemes or anything else, for that matter. When she kept silent, Holden took a step forward to stand closer to her, and she stiffened.

"What's wrong?" he asked, concern in his tone.

She let out a sigh. "We clearly need to have a discussion about the meaning of 'going our separate ways'."

He didn't pick up on the sarcasm in her voice, or chose to ignore it.

"I told you I'll be staying here until this is resolved," he said.

"Well, go and stay here somewhere else, then, why don't you?" Vita snapped.

Her palms were sweaty, and her face flushed all of sudden. She walked to the nearest open window, took off her mask and breathed in the night air. Beneath, the gardens were quiet and dark in the moonlight.

"You're angry," Holden said, reaching her side.

He pulled off his mask as well, and tried to catch her gaze. She looked down at the trimmed hedges, her jaw tight.

"You have a right to be," Holden went on, not discouraged by her silence. "But you demanded answers at a time and in a place I couldn't give them to you."

Vita still refused to look at him, but her stance relaxed somewhat. She was listening.

"There are things in my past I've tried protecting you from," Holden said. "Things I naively thought I wouldn't have to tell you. Things I've been afraid to tell you, I suppose."

He let out a sigh, as if gathering his thoughts.

"As you might have suspected," he said after a while, "we aren't the only ones of our race. There are other phoenixes out there."

The Bright and the LostRead this story for FREE!