“Make good on that,” Arielle said, sounding slightly mollified. “You may raise your head now.” When Seri had straightened up, she asked, “Now, what do you want to hear first? The good news or the bad news?”
“Good,” she said right away.
Arielle nodded. “So bad first.”
“But I just—-”
“And the bad news is that you suck horribly, immensely, terribly—-”
Seri winced, asking, “Can we just get to the point, sensei?”
“You suck at making sexy noises.”
Her shoulders drooped.
“Stop slouching,” Arielle barked.
She automatically straightened. “Sorry.” She had thought her problem would be something more technical, like perhaps she needed to improve her Japanese accent or her voice was too soft.
It was like Shelby had just bitch-slapped Seri, twice, without the other girl knowing it.
“The good news?” she asked finally, her voice brittle with pessimism.
“I’ve generously decided to keep you on as my talent.”
“What?” Her manager had the gall to appear affronted. “Is it not good news? You know how much I love money, and if you weren’t my goddaughter and Marianna’s precious baby, I would have—-”
Arielle huffed, “You Russians are so sensitive.”
“I’m not Russian,” she snapped. “My step family is.”
Arielle waved her hand dismissively. “It’s the same thing.” She narrowed her gaze on Seri. “But I’m serious. You need to improve on that aspect of your training. Get Coach E to devote at least an hour each day to this.”
Seri winced. “It’s that bad.”
“Well, there’s another alternative.” Arielle gazed at her nails studiously, murmuring, “You can always take a shortcut and have sex—-”
Seri groaned, “Oh my God, Arielle.” She shook her head, demanding, “Don’t you have any morals?”
“Well, what about you?” Arielle shot back. “Aren’t you supposed to be stupid and horny at your age? What are you, for heaven’s sake? Nineteen?”
“Sixteen,” Seri growled, “and you know it!”
“Whatever.” Arielle shooed her away. “That’s all I have to say anyway, and if you don’t want to have sex for the sake of your craft—-”
“Can you hear yourself?” Seri demanded as she rose to her feet.
“Yes. I do. I’m neither deaf nor senile, and I’m not taking my words back. Your sex voice sucks. So you either need to train doubly hard or find someone to get your hormones—-”
“Goodbye, sensei.” Seri bowed quickly and hurried away before Arielle’s immorality rubbed off on her.
She left Arielle’s office building still shaking her head in chagrin, thinking that if Arielle also didn’t happen to be Marianna’s best friend, she would probably have moved to another agency years ago.
The woman was seriously cray-cray, Seri thought as she snapped her umbrella open and headed out to the street.
If Arielle really thought she would actually—-
That voice…had been real?
She hadn’t been…imagining it?
Seri’s steps halted. She turned around, heart beating madly, part of her wanting to run away while the other part of her also wanted to run…towards…
Their gazes met.
He was leaning against his car, arms crossed over his chest, and looking gorgeous and sexy as ever. He was dressed in a turtleneck sweater and jeans, and like all crazy celebrities, he also had on a pair of dark glasses, like a piece of eyewear could really hide their identity.
Just looking at him made Seri’s heart feel like it was about to explode with all the emotions it was trying to contain.
Resentment, jealousy, anger, frustration, and…
So, so much love—-
But then she remembered the night he came home.
She remembered the sounds.
She remembered the pain.
Seri whirled around and tried to make a run for it.
Tried being the operative word.
Because she had barely taken a couple of steps towards the opposite direction when he caught her by the scruff of the neck, holding her back like she was a bad little kitty that had to be caught.
“Not so fast.”
And just like a bad little kitty, she tried to struggle out of his hold, even using her umbrella to try slapping him away. He grunted in pain, but his hold didn’t loosen and he kept on dragging her to the car.
“You. Are. Going. Home. With. Me.” The way he panted the words out told Seri that she was putting up a good fight, but even so, she hated the sound of his voice. It reminded her of things, and it gave her the strength to struggle even harder.
“Let me go!” She tried to kick him, but Vassi had swung her off her feet, clutching her to him by the waist, and all she managed to hit was air.
“I. Told. You. You’re. Coming. Home.” Vassi managed to unlock the door.
“I don’t want to,” she shrieked at him.
“I. Can’t. Hear. You.” Vassi practically hurled her inside the car, and as she fell onto the backseat, he followed her inside right away and slammed the door shut in the next second.
“Step on it.”
And just like that, she had been kidnapped.
Even so, Seri didn’t give up. She tried the door, found it irreversibly locked, and with a cry of outrage, she lunged herself at him and beat his chest.