She watched him leave, and still she couldn’t make herself say a word.
All she could think about was that…
He knew…and he was ignoring it.
The pain was too much, and she tried, like she always did, to ignore it with work. Her limbs felt too heavy, and she practically had to crawl to get to her desk. Her fingers were abnormally clumsy as she moved them over the touchpad. She should start recording the emotional scene between Aya and Shinta while she was feeling like this, Seri told herself. It would be a shame, Seri thought feverishly, to let her heartbreak go to waste when she could use it for work.
Seri clicked Play.
The girl on the screen started to cry.
She started to cry with the female character, and that was when she realized she couldn’t stop.
Because all of a sudden, she remembered the way Vassi had looked at her, and she had realized something even more painful to swallow.
Vassi had always known.
From the very start, he had always known.
From the very start, he had made his choice.
And he had not chosen—-
Seri didn’t allow herself to finish the thought. It would kill her if she did, and she owed her family to be strong. Work, she thought dully, she had to work. If she worked hard enough, she would forget this pain one day. If she worked hard enough, she would learn to see him the way she was supposed to.
As she stared sightlessly at her browser, Seri belatedly noticed the red light blinking from her laptop. Had she forgotten to stop recording herself from yesterday’s exercise?
She clicked on the web camera’s icon and played back the last few minutes.
Someone knocked on the door, and Vassi breathed harshly, seriously contemplating throwing his glass against the door so whoever it was would get the fucking point and leave—-
Another knock, and then he heard the sound that he both loved and despised with all his heart.
“Vassi. It’s me.”
He stared at the door, incredulous, frustrated, furious, but more than anything else, he was also desperately doing his best to resist the urge to fling the door open, haul her sexy little ass inside his room, and give her – give them – what they both fucking wanted.
What the fuck did she want now?
Was she a fucking glutton for punishment?
Hadn’t what he’d done on her goddamn party been enough to make her see that nothing could ever happen between them?
Seri knocked again. “I won’t leave until you talk to me. And you have to do so now, because Papa could wake up anytime and—-”
He got her fucking point, and he stalked to the door. Opening it, he yanked her inside. Although he made sure he didn’t hurt her at all, he also knew he was handling her more roughly than usual, causing hurt to flicker in her eyes.
Good, he thought grimly. She had to understand that only pain was waiting for her at the end of this path.
“What is it?” he snapped.
Seri offered him her iPhone.
He didn’t take it. “What’s that for?”
Her hand noticeably trembling, she raised her phone at eye level with him and clicked on the Play button.
Vassi whitened when he realized what he was hearing and seeing.
What the fuck?
And that was when he heard her say, “If you don’t want me to show this to Papa, you’ll a-agree to be my boyfriend in secret, and y-you’ll do everything I want you to do.”
Then she was spinning around, almost running out of his room as if she didn’t want to give him a chance to bully her into changing her mind.
Vassi closed his eyes.
I give up.
I fucking give up.
Vassi Grachyov idly fixed his cuffs behind the stage curtains while waiting for the host to call his name. The family business had won yet another award for industry leadership, but with both Sergei and Fyodor still tied up with negotiations in Russia, it was up to him and—-
The backstage door opened, and he said without looking up, “You’re late.”
Misha was only able to grunt, surrounded as he was with the event’s production assistants.
Normally, the women working on Misha would have giggled and tried stealing selfies with the famously gorgeous and infamously absent-minded genius. But with only minutes to spare, they were in a tremendous panic, with one hurriedly taking away his lab coat, another one handing him a business jacket, while a third one did her best to tiptoe and give his tousled hair a quick brush.
Misha accepted the jacket but shook his head at the last girl’s attempt to tame his dark, longish locks. “It’s okay,” he said absently, his mind still focused on the article he was drafting for Science Translational Magazine.
Vassi said seriously, “Yes, leave him be, please. If you have to know, that’s his woke-up-like-this look.” He paused then continued solemnly, “He’s one of those rare specimens who, no matter the time of the day, would always look…”