The change was uncanny, Misha thought reflectively, and it all started when Seri had come into their lives.
It took over an hour for the two brothers to finally get past the crowd and make it to the hotel’s private lobby for VIP guests.
“Where are you heading after this?” Misha asked.
Vassi raised a brow. “Since when did you care about my schedule?”
“You wound me, brat,” Misha murmured, deliberately using the Russian term for ‘brother’ to show how hurt he was. When his younger brother only gazed at him, Misha turned his palms face open in a gesture of appeal. “It’s not wrong for a brother to look after a younger sibling—-”
“It is,” Vassi countered dryly, “if that brother also happens to be the type to forget he had a girlfriend waiting for him for seven hours while doing scientific shit.”
“That was a long time ago,” Misha dismissed, “and she doesn’t even hold a grudge.” How could she, he thought with a rare flash of cynicism, when his apology to her – which also had served as his parting gift – had been a pearl bracelet worth several hundred thousand euros?
He glanced at his Vassi. “So? Where are you going?”
Vassi expelled his breath in exasperation. “Stop acting like a nanny. It’s getting damn creepy.”
Misha studied his brother thoughtfully. Interesting how Vassi was suddenly unwilling to answer such a simple question. He asked slowly, “Are the rumors true then? You are temporarily leaving Hollywood?”
Vassi’s smile was mocking. “Et tu, Brutus?” But he was swearing inside his mind as he spoke. Dammit. He should have known better not to underestimate Misha. He had always been too fucking smart, always able not just to read between the lines but come up with both the story and its prequel, too.
Misha was nodding understandingly. “I see.”
Vassi’s lips tightened. He was tempted to ask what this brother of his did see, but he managed not to.
“I remember,” Misha said casually, “Papa virtually threatening to kick you out of the house when you told us you wanted to give acting a try, but you didn’t back down then.” Misha frowned. “And yet now, you are taking this type of risk. Is this not tantamount to career suicide?”
Vassi’s broad shoulders moved in a negligent shrug, and his voice was unconcerned as he replied, “Perhaps for others.”
Misha laughed. “Spoken like a Grachyov.” Outside the lobby, their limousines came up the driveway, and as he and Vassi began walking towards the doors, Misha asked, “What will you do while on hiatus?”
Knowing that the truth was impossible to hide, Vassi said reluctantly, “Go back to school, I suppose.”
Misha blinked. Ah. Now that, he definitely did not see coming. He murmured wryly, “It’s rare for someone to make me feel stupid, but…I have to hand it to you, brat. In the past, I couldn’t understand why you opted to take a gap year.” He stopped speaking as they went through the hotel’s revolving doors and upon emerging outside, he continued, “That kind of thing would have been necessary for others, but for someone who had already been working and seen the world several times?” Misha shook his head. “You are just not the type to need extra time for…what is the term you teenagers like to use these days? Self-discovery?”
Vassi asked sarcastically, “You do remember you’re only three years older than I am, don’t you?”
Misha ignored his brother’s words, saying, “But I get it now.”
“The gap year,” Misha said easily. “Because of it, you now have a valid reason to start university with our little dove, da?” When his younger brother’s face became stoic, he knew he had hit the nail on the head, and Misha’s eyes gleamed with rare shrewdness. Unlike Vassi and Sergei, he had no patience for playing games. He said what he wanted, took what he wanted.
But because this involved two important persons in his life-—
“I’m glad you’ll be around to look after Seri,” Misha said smoothly.
Vassi grunted. “I’m not the one with a sister complex.”
“I know,” Misha answered right away, “and that is as it should be. She is only a sister to us, after all.”
Vassi’s eyes became hooded. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.”
Misha didn’t bother refuting the obvious lie but instead clapped his hand over his brother’s back, saying lightly, “I’m just concerned. I don’t want you unnecessarily hurt when the time comes that you realize you’re no longer…Seri’s favorite. Girls her age can be surprisingly…fickle.”
Misha expected Vassi to dismiss his warning and continue feigning ignorance, but instead he was surprised when Vassi replied almost bitterly, “Do you really think I don’t know that?”
No other words followed after that, but what had been spoken remained with Vassi even when he and Misha had already parted ways.
I don’t want you unnecessarily hurt when the time comes that you realize you’re no longer…Seri’s favorite.