“Come with me?” She batted her lashes at him.

He grabbed her by the neck and kissed her hard. “Anywhere.”

She fought the urge to wipe his saliva from her lips and instead made herself smile at him as she curled her arm around his.

Mason’s face creased with a scowl when he realized where they were heading, and righteous anger swamped him at the way Tanya smiled at her sons.

These stupid louts didn’t know how lucky they were, being her flesh and blood. If it was up to him, he would have dragged Tanya away and never let her speak to them again.

“Am I interrupting something or can we join you?” It took everything in Tanya not to let her rage get the better of her. All three of her sons had an identical mask of cordial interest on their faces, but she was far from fooled by it. She knew only good manners were keeping them from ignoring her, and the knowledge made her rage fester.

Soon, she thought viciously, you’ll regret treating me this way.

When it was obvious that Tanya wasn’t going to leave, Sergei said civilly, “Mother.”

Misha nodded curtly while Vassi simply grunted.

And then her three sons stared at her again, as if silently asking her why she was still there.

Ungrateful bastards, Tanya thought furiously even as she focused on keeping her smile in place. Had they forgotten that they wouldn’t be alive at all if she hadn’t risked giving birth to them?

Reining her temper in with an effort, she gestured to Mason, saying, “I thought I should introduce you to my partner.”

Mason grunted. “Mason Henry.”

Seri tried not to show her surprise as she observed the way Tanya’s much younger boyfriend acted. He was obviously drunk, but what she hadn’t expected at all was the ill-disguised anger in his gaze as he looked at her brothers.

And the plot thickens, Seri thought. She tried but failed to think of any possible reason what kind of grudge the other man could hold against her boys. Maybe he was jealous they were a lot cooler than him? Or maybe it was a name thing, and he hated the fact that his name was so uncool he would always remind people about jars?

She quickly refocused on the conversation when she realized that Tanya had finished introducing her boyfriend to her sons, and it was now Seri’s turn.

She opened her mouth to introduce herself but before she could speak, Mason pointedly turned his back on her, asking Tanya, “Since I’ve met everyone, I guess that just leaves your husband…”

Seri snapped her mouth shut, but she was more amused than offended. Was she the teenager here or was it that guy? That was such a childish—-

But then she caught sight of her boys’ expressions and knew they didn’t share her amusement. She hastily shook her head at them, mouthing, It’s fine. She glared at them for emphasis. It would kill her if they ended up making a scene because of her, especially over something so trivial.

Sergei scowled.

Misha cracked his fists.

Vassi’s arm went around her shoulders, and bending his head, he told her quietly, “Because you asked for it, we’ll let it go. But if the mudak does something like again…” He raised his head.

Gulping at the dangerous smile that played on Vassi’s lips, she began praying for said asshole. For his sake, she really hoped that he didn’t do anything to anger the Grachyov brothers.

Unable to help it, she stole a glance at Mason, and something clicked in her mind when she saw the way he was speaking adoringly to Tanya. He was totally enslaved by the woman, so much so that whomever the latter disliked, he held in contempt as well.

That made sense, but…

Did that mean Tanya hated her own sons?

Her stepfather’s sudden arrival interrupted Seri’s thoughts, and when he patted her head in greeting, she smiled up at him.

“Having fun?” he asked, but they both knew what he really wanted to ask was, Is Tanya giving you trouble?

She gave him a thumbs-up sign. “Absolutely.” That meant, I can handle myself.

Fyodor turned to his ex-wife. “What’s going on?” His tone was casual but his eyes were narrowed, his mind busy sizing up the situation. Tanya seemed even more drunk now, and so was her date. He glanced sharply at his sons and saw that they, too, had noticed the same thing.

Good, he thought. He knew Tanya well enough to know that she wouldn’t have approached them for nothing. There was always a motive, a plan, and it would always be for her benefit.

He heard his ex-wife ask her date to look for a photographer, and when the younger man left, Tanya turned to them with a smile. “Can we have a family photo? I hope it’s not too much to ask.”

Before Fyodor could answer, Mason inserted himself between the ex-couple and, puffing his chest, he tried to make himself sound as mature and confident as he said, “I’m Mason Henry, by the way.”

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