And now here she was in the study, wishing there was a way she could undo time. It wasn’t so she could avoid getting herself raped. What happened tonight was probably a lesson she needed to learn.
If she could undo time, it was so Seri could spare her family from the pain and fear she had subjected them to the moment they realized the danger she had unknowingly put herself in.
People always thought date rape would never happen to them, Seri thought painfully, and either out of arrogance or naiveté, she had been one of those people. She had thought that she would never be a victim of date rape.
Never…until she realized too late that there were really no guarantees.
“You are grounded for one month,” Fyodor was telling her between gritted teeth. “Do you understand?”
Seri gulped. “Yes, Papa.” If he told her to slap herself a hundred times to pay for her sins, she would have. She wished he would, actually. If he did, then maybe she could—-
Fyodor had turned and started walking away from her.
He didn’t look back, only slamming the door shut behind him.
Seri inhaled deeply. The urge to cry was harder to resist, but she forced the tears back. This was her punishment, she told herself, for being selfish and stupid.
Sergei strode in a few moments later, his handsome face looking more austere than usual. The boys had agreed that they would talk to her one at a time, and it was now Sergei’s turn.
Sergei, who, for the first time in her life, was gazing at Seri without the barest hint of a smile.
She swallowed. “Sergei—-”
It was as if the sound of her voice triggered his rage, and he was suddenly shouting at her, speaking too fast in Russian for her to understand everything he was saying.
Here and there, she would catch a few words she was able to translate, and all of them made her wince.
That you would lie to us!
That you would take such a risk!
That you would forget the number one rule, to never take your eyes off your drink!
And then Sergei was stalking towards her.
Her breath locked in her throat.
Oh no, was Sergei going to hit her?
He couldn’t, could he?
He raised his hand.
He would never—-
And then she felt it.
Sergei pinching her cheeks.
“Erch.” It was hard to express her pain with her cheeks still twisted between his fingers.
“You scared the life out of us, do you know?” Sergei raged down at her.
“Eh ne.” She hoped he understood that.
The pressure on her cheeks increased. “Never again, promise us that!”
And then he was walking away, and just like Fyodor, he slammed the door shut behind him, giving Seri not a single chance to explain or say sorry.
Seri strained to keep her eyes wide open.
If she blinked now, she would cry, and she did not deserve to cry.
Misha came in next, and Seri forgot all about crying. Her gaze was drawn to the awful sight of his bloodied fists, with the skin on his knuckles looking like it had been ripped out. “Misha! What happened?” She rushed towards him, but before she could reach for his hands, Misha shook his head.
That was…not the gentle Misha she knew.
Her gaze slowly moved back to his fists, and it was like a light bulb switching on inside her head.
Didn’t they look like they had been worn off after beating someone to an inch of his life?
Seri paled as soon as the thought occurred. She knew, she just knew that was what had happened. Misha might be the gentlest among her boys, but he had also the most violent temper when provoked.
This time, the urge to cry was agonizingly difficult to resist, but Seri still found the strength to hold back her sobs.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Misha’s lips twisted in an unusually cruel expression. “You should be.” He looked down at his fists. “I wanted to kill him.”
Seri flinched. “Misha—-”
He cut her off, asking, “Do you know what would happen if he had gotten you to drink it?” His voice was coldly smooth, like the icy surface of a blade, and every word he uttered was like a stab to her heart.
It hurt, more because she knew that her brother’s pain was greater.
“Do you, little dove?” Misha’s tone was pleasant, but his gaze was bleak.
“N-no.” She bit her lip hard. Don’t cry, Seri. Don’t you dare cry.
“How nice for you that you don’t,” Misha commented as he perched himself on the edge of Fyodor’s desk. “Unfortunately for me, I do. The sample of your drink revealed that Mr. Mitchell had made use of GHB, a date rape drug that can take effect in just fifteen minutes.”
“Just the smallest amount can render you unconscious, and the effects could last for as long as four hours. A man could do a lot of things to a girl with that amount of time.” Misha’s gaze pierced her. “But you know the worst thing about GHB? The potential to overdose, which could lead to death.”