Getting off Fyodor’s desk, he crouched down in front of her.
Oh no, he was going to cry.
Misha took hold of her hands.
Oh no, I can’t take this.
And then Misha was shouting at her face, “ NEVER LIE ABOUT GOING OUT ON A DATE AGAIN! DO YOU HEAR ME?”
Her ears were ringing by the time he finished.
Yes, she had definitely heard him, but after that, she was unlikely to hear anything after it.
By the time her ears started working again, Misha was gone, and…the door stayed closed.
She waited, her nerves stretched close to its breaking point.
But the door remained closed.
Her gaze strayed to the clock on the wall, and she realized numbly that she had been waiting for almost thirty minutes.
Vassi had never made her wait this long.
He was furious with her, perhaps? Or maybe he was ashamed of her, for being so easy and stupid?
It was this last thought that had the dam crumbling down, and she was already crying before she could reach the door.
Head down, Seri rushed out of the room with a sob, intent on licking her wounds in private, only to bump into a hard wall.
Her head jerked up.
It was Vassi.
She had been expecting anger and disgust, and they were both there. Only it wasn’t directed at her but at himself. He blamed himself for what had happened.
And then she was crying her eyes out.
Vassi wordlessly lifted her in his arms and she immediately wrapped her arms around his neck, sobbing against his chest.
“You’re going to ruin my shirt with your snot,” Vassi murmured against her hair.
“Serves you right,” she mumbled. “You’re an idiot for thinking you could have stopped me.” But then she remembered the haunted look in his eyes and she started crying again.
Vassi opened the door to her bedroom, kicked it shut, and laid her gently on the bed. He tucked her in, and she immediately curled up in a ball under the covers. Squeezing her eyes shut, she prayed for God to stop the tears, but they just kept falling.
“Sleep, leech.” He had pulled a chair close to the bed, his legs stretched out before him, his gaze on the blank wall opposite him. But even without him looking at her, without him saying a word, she knew her tears were hurting him.
Never again, she promised God desperately.
I’ll never risk myself like that ever again, so please God, please help me stop crying.
I don’t want Vassi to hurt anymore.
But the tears continued in an endless flood.
She tried reaching for Vassi’s hand, but it was as if he sensed what she was about to do and without looking her way, he said curtly, “No.”
She flinched. When he spoke like that, Seri knew there was no convincing him, and she reluctantly pulled her hand back, hiding it under the cover.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “But it’s not your fault, Vassi. It’s really not.”
He didn’t answer.
Vassi only turned to look at Seri when the sound of her breathing became even.
He remembered her words.
It’s not your fault, Vassi.
It’s really not.
His lips pressed together.
Idiotic little sun.
Of course it was his fault.
He was to blame because she would not have lied about going to the goukon if not for him.
If not for her infatuation with him—-
An infatuation that was his most forbidden pleasure—-
The thought of it had kept him awake for countless nights, and the knowledge that such feelings existed – even knowing they were wrong – the knowledge that she felt…
That she felt the same way he did—-
There were times when it was impossible to resist dreaming of her—-
Times when her face was all he needed to think of for himself to give himself pleasure in the shower—-
Vassi’s jaw clenched.
Forcing himself to leave her side, he stood up and walked to her dresser. A tiny red stone winked at him from the edge, and he reached for it.
Seri’s favorite hairpin.
After a moment, Vassi slid the pin inside his pocket.
A souvenir, for the love he now knew was impossible to deny.
A souvenir, for the same love that he intended to get rid of, to keep Seri safe…and their family intact.
Two years ago
Three days ago, Seri would have willingly given up her entire collection of anime if it would mean Vassi returning earlier than scheduled from his six-month modeling gig.
She covered her ears, pressing her hands on the sides of her face as hard as she could.
But it was no use.
Sounds from Vassi’s bedroom next door still reached her, and if she had known this was going to happen, she would rather kick his butt back to France.
Sure, he was here, and he was even early enough to spend Christmas with the family.
That was great.
But he hadn’t come alone, and that was not great.
“Oh, yes, yes!”
Instead he had with him a girl he had met at work, an eighteen-year-old sorority blonde whose throaty voice grated on Seri’s nerves.