“She’s coming,” Sergei said grimly under his breath.
Misha said with unusual sarcasm, “How surprising.”
“This ball just gets shittier every year,” Vassi muttered.
Fyodor shook his head. “Just bear with it like you always do.”
Seri heard everything her boys said but chose to keep quiet, knowing that this wasn’t her fight. No one had ever told her about the reason for the bad blood between Fyodor’s ex-wife and the rest of the Grachyovs, and Seri had never tried to ask.
Some truths could only be offered freely, Seri thought, or remain forever hidden. It was the way the world worked.
Another photographer approached them, distracting Seri from her thoughts. The man asked for a family shot and Fyodor acquiesced, murmuring with a smile, “It would be our pleasure.”
Seri and her brothers exchanged secret grins. It was a well-known fact that Fyodor hated having his photograph taken…except when he was with his kids.
Everyone turned towards the camera obligingly.
“Thank you,” the Grachyov brothers and Seri said automatically in unison afterwards, which had the photographer whistling happily, thinking that his job would be so much easier if all the rich people he had to take photos of were as pleasant as the Grachyovs.
As the photographer walked away, someone called out to them, the voice feminine and cheerful. “Hello, everyone!”
Seri stiffened at the sound, and so did Fyodor and his sons.
But when they turned to face Tanya Darby, everyone was smiling. The radiantly beautiful brunette walked towards them quickly but gracefully, and she headed to her ex-husband first. “You look handsome as always.”
Fyodor murmured something under his breath, and his kiss on Tanya’s cheek was more perfunctory than anything else.
Tanya greeted her sons next, kissing them on the cheeks and gushing about their latest achievements. She was surprisingly well informed, her memory for every little detail remarkable. But when she reached Seri, her brows furrowed, and her tone was vague and facetious as she said, “Sara, right?”
“No, ma’am,” she answered without missing a beat. “It’s Sandara.”
Her brothers coughed while Tanya’s eyes flashed.
Seri maintained her innocent smile. She had long given up befriending the boys’ mother, and Tanya’s anger wasn’t anything new.
Tanya sent Seri a fuming look before sauntering back to Fyodor. Curling an arm around his, she called out gaily to the photographers, “Another photo please, this time of me and my husband.”
“Ex-husband,” Fyodor said evenly, but Tanya pretended not to hear him and instead went on to answer a question shouted by one of the reporters.
“Oh, yes, Fyodor and I are in good terms, have always been,” Tanya answered. “Take the mayor’s foundation for example. There is no way that my ex-husband and I would be able to stay on the same board for over a decade if we’re unable to see eye to eye.”
Beside her, Fyodor remained rigidly silent, and it was only out of respect for his sons that he decided against calling his psychopathic ex out for being a liar.
As the photographers moved away, Tanya snuggled closer to Fyodor. “I’ve missed you,” she breathed throatily.
“Flattering.” Fyodor tried to keep the distaste from his face as a strong whiff of alcohol hit him. “Unfortunately, I’m not interested.” He uncurled his arm from her hold. “Enjoy your evening.”
And just like that, Tanya found herself alone.
She stared at them, Fyodor walking away, his sons following him, and at the center of them all was that undeserving little bitch—-
Her intoxicated mind created an imagined slight, and every little thing took on a twisted meaning. Everyone was staring at her, everyone pitied her, and everything was that bitch’s fault!
Tanya shook with rage.
She had never been this humiliated in her entire life.
Mason reached her side. “Darling, are you alright?”
“Oh, Mason.” She clung to him, for once welcoming his anxious concern over her. Normally, his clingy nature suffocated and annoyed Tanya to no end, but now she found it a balm to her pride. As he sought to comfort her, she was slowly able to regain her composure. She was slowly able to plan, alcohol and sheer dissatisfaction with her life fueling Tanya’s desire for vengeance.
She no longer gave a damn about the consequences. All she wanted was to get back at the bitch as well as Fyodor and her sons.
They deserved to pay for being so damn hard on her, for acting like they were holier than thou, and most of all, they deserved to pay for choosing that stupid shit over her.
First, she plied Mason with wine, knowing that he tended to get overly emotional whenever he was drunk. When his voice started to slur, the dancing had started, and she saw her sons standing at one side, forming a protective circle around their stepsister like she was their most precious treasure.
Her teeth gnashed. Soon, she thought, the whole world would know that girl was nothing but garbage.
She stood up, and Mason automatically came to his feet as well.