The three of them headed to a nearby bar, and after ordering their drinks, Vassi took his phone out, hoping to see a message from Seri. But there was none.
He hesitated for a second before deciding to take the first step.
He sent a message to Sergei and Fyodor first, asking them to meet with him because he had something important to say. After, he sent a message to Daniela.
I already know your real name is Layla, and that you didn’t even have a stepbrother to begin with. If something did happen between us, and you do end up pregnant, I’ll need you to submit to DNA testing. Whatever it is you’re planning – it won’t work. It’s over.
Noticing the hard look on Vassi’s face, Misha asked, “Anything wrong?”
Knowing he had to come clean, he said grimly, “That’s an understatement.” And even with Max present, he gave Misha all the facts, not bothering to whitewash any part of it.
Misha cursed under his breath when he finished. “That woman is messed up.”
“Do you think you really did sleep with her?” Max asked.
He shook his head. “There’s a very low probability, but I can’t say for sure. If she had spiked my drink, I wouldn’t exactly have been able to perform. But if she did something else – I just don’t know. I keep thinking I should remember something if we had done it. But I don’t.”
“A paternity test is the only answer then,” Misha said.
“She’s probably schizophrenic,” Max warned after a moment. “There’s no telling what she’ll do once she reads your message.”
Vassi nodded. “I’m going to tell Seri everything tonight.”
In the comfort of her home, Daniela listened to Vassi’s conversation, his words coming loud and clear through the tiny bug that she had slipped in his wallet while he was asleep. The device had cost her thousands of dollars, but the price was worth it.
When she heard Maximilian Rockford referring to her as schizophrenic, she only laughed out loud. The term didn’t affect her at all because she knew it was true. What they didn’t know was that embracing her condition was liberating, allowing her to do things that normal stupid people wouldn’t have been able to accomplish.
She lied, she schemed, and she fucked to get things done.
These were simple things ordinary people would have found appalling, but for her it was a means to an end, and she was able to see it that way because she was what she was.
She continued to listen, microwaving herself some popcorn as she settled in for the night. At around ten in the evening, she heard Vassi receive a phone call.
Daniela increased the volume when the voice came to her slightly garbled.
The scrawny little bitch was in the hospital.
And Daniela realized she had the opening she needed.
Vassi thought he could discard her just like that, after all the years she had spent working to be his perfect match. She sent one video to Seri then sent another to certain members of the press, some of them owing her favors, the others the kind who could be paid to do just about anything.
This shall teach you not to fuck with me.
When Seri woke up, it was to find her vision blurry and her body feeling like it had been beaten black and blue. Most of the pain seemed to center on her lower left chest—-
Everything came rushing back, and when she opened her eyes again, the room she was in focused into view. She shifted slightly, turning on her side, and that was when she saw…Fyodor.
Upon realizing she was awake, he straightened abruptly in his chair. “Are you alright?” His voice was scratchy.
She nodded. “A-are you?” It looked like he had aged overnight, with the heavy lines of worry marring Fyodor’s forehead.
“Yes.” He reached for her with a visibly shaking hand.
Seri stiffened instinctively, a part of her remembering the time he had shoved her away—-
Fyodor saw the look in his daughter’s eyes and knew exactly what she was thinking. His hand froze, and despair struck him as he, too, remembered the pain he had inflicted on her.
“I’m not going to hurt you, baby.”
Seri didn’t answer, afraid that she was just imagining the look in his eyes, afraid that she had misheard him.
Fyodor’s fingers clenched into a fist, and he said hoarsely, “I’m sorry. I’m so damn sorry I believed your lies all too easily.” When her face started to crumple, he could no longer bear the distance between him and his baby.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’m so, so sorry.” He pressed his lips to the top of her hair and tasted his own tears in his kiss.
His heart clenched at the uncertainty in her voice. “Yes, baby.”
Her tears fell faster when she realized that she could really call him that again. “Papa.” The sobs came crawling out, and there was no stopping them. “Papa, Papa, Papa.”