He bent his head, touching it with hers. “Never do that again, not for me or for any of your brothers. Da?”
“I missed you so damn much, my baby girl.”
“Me, too, Papa. I missed all of you so, s-so much.”
Drawing back, he self-consciously wiped his eyes, saying, “Your brothers are waiting outside. May I let them in?”
Seri didn’t answer right away.
He said quietly, “It’s all three of them. Sergei, Misha, and Vassi.” When she only bit her lip, he asked, “What’s wrong? Don’t you want to see them?”
“I do. I miss all of you. I miss us together, but Papa…” She tried to get the words out, but fear stopped her. She just got him back, and she was so, so scared to lose her father all over again.
Looking at her, he finally understood what was holding her back, and he sighed. “Seri.” When her frightened gaze met his, he said, “It’s okay. You and Vassi – it’s okay. I just want my children happy, and you and Vassi loving each other – it’s what makes you two happy, don’t you?”
She gave him a small nod.
“Then I’m happy, too.” When Seri still looked troubled, he suggested softly, “How about I give you time to think about it? You can see them all together or just Vassi first, with or without me here. It’s what you want that counts, baby.”
She managed a smile, saying, “I’d l-like that.”
“Then that’s how it will be. For now—-” His voice turned brisk. “How about I get you a glass of water first?”
Her smile widened a bit. “I’d like that, too, Papa.” She watched her father move towards the en-suite pantry and it was easily one of her happiest moments in the world, knowing that her father was back in her life and that he didn’t hate her anymore.
“I have a bento for you, too.” His brows furrowed, and his voice was a touch dissatisfied as he added, “Nothing fancy, unfortunately, because I made it here while waiting for you to wake up.” Fyodor looked at her over his shoulder hopefully. “Are you hungry?”
She choked back a teary giggle. “I think so.”
As Fyodor prepared her bento, she noticed her phone lying on the bedside table and took it. There were several unread texts, but the first one she clicked was of course Vassi’s.
Vassi: Where are you? I’d like to talk to you.
There were texts from her other brothers, too, and even Max’s, and then there was another message from an unregistered number.
Clicking it, the first thing she saw was an embedded video.
Below it was a message…from Daniela.
Daniela: I’m sorry for sending you something so crude, but I just thought you wouldn’t believe me if I didn’t do this. And I don’t mean to hurt you. You can choose to trust me or not. But I just wanted you to know the truth – and I don’t want him to hurt you like he hurt me. I’ve loved Vassi for years. Maybe not as long as you have but even when I dated other men, he was always in my heart. The night before the press conference, something happened between us, and I thought he was finally over you. That there could be an us – but the next day…he couldn’t even look me in the eye. He told me he didn’t love me, but he also told me he didn’t love you either. And it just made me realize – he’s been stringing us both along. He’s so twisted inside, he likes blowing hot and cold to keep us running after him. But the truth is, the only person he loves is himself.
When Seri reached the end of the message, she slowly clicked for the video to play.
The phone slipped from her fingers and crashed to the floor.
At the sound, Fyodor immediately whipped around and was aghast to see Seri ashen-faced and tears rolling silently down her face.
He went to her swiftly, demanding, “What’s wrong?”
She shook her head, whispering, “I just don’t know what to believe anymore, Papa.” And if she was unconsciously echoing the words Vassi once said, it was probably because she now understood why Vassi could so easily lose his trust in her when she had pretended to love him for his money.
Vassi didn’t know what to expect when he entered Seri’s room in the hospital, but it was definitely not what he saw. She was seated upright on the bed, pale and unmoving, not even looking up when the door swung shut behind him.
He took the chair next to her bed, and that was the only time she turned to him. One look in her glassy eyes and he knew—-
She knew about Daniela, maybe not everything, but just enough to be hurt inside.
He sucked in his breath. “I was planning to tell you.”