Behind her, Seri heard Vassi and Daniela’s voices, and she quickly pressed the button again even knowing it wasn’t going to do any good. A few moments later, the doors finally opened, and she nearly threw herself in it. She reached for the down button—-
Vassi suddenly appeared in front of her—-
He grinned. “Hold it for us, will you?”
Never. She grinned back at him. “Of course.”
“Ladies first,” Vassi said as he turned towards Daniela.
The other girl unceremoniously shoved him inside. “Stop pretending you’re a gentleman. It’s just making my skin crawl.”
Vassi chuckled. “You always did have a way with words.”
As the doors slid close, Daniela rolled her eyes. “No, Grachyov. It’s just that I’m the only girl who tells you the truth.”
Seri stared hard at the elevator doors. Why couldn’t she have superpowers? Why? Why? Right now, she just needed something simple, like being super deaf, so she wouldn’t feel she was about to puke at Vassi and Daniela’s banter, which was oh so cute and witty.
The elevator reached the lobby and she stepped out, but the two stayed behind.
“Basement parking,” Daniela told her with a smile.
I didn’t ask. She smiled back. “Oh.”
“She’s driving me home,” Vassi added unnecessarily.
Like I said, she wanted to scream, I DIDN’T ASK. But out loud all she said again was, “Oh.”
Walking out of the building, she wasn’t surprised to see Max’s limousine already waiting for her.
Max put his phone away as soon as Seri climbed inside the car. The door shut, and a moment later, the car was speeding steadily down the building’s driveway. He took one look at her face and asked sympathetically, “That bad again?”
She managed a smile. “An understatement.”
“I always have a shoulder for you to cry on if you want.”
Slowly, she shook her head. “I don’t want to cry anymore.” Wry humor flashed in her eyes. “I’m sure you’re sick of the sound of me crying, too.”
Never, Max thought. What he did feel was anger – not at her, but at Vassi Grachyov for being so damn blind.
He told her, “If my shoulder’s not what you need, then maybe this is?” He patted his lap, hoping to tease a smile out of her, but to his surprise, she inched closer towards him—-
His eyebrows shot up.
But instead of curling up in it, she put her legs up on the seat and laid her head on his lap.
Her eyes closed.
And then she whispered, “I really wish I could be smart enough to fall in love with you, Max.”
“Unfortunately for both of us,” he told her evenly, “you’re an idiot.”
She laughed and choked. “Oh, Max.”
Slowly, he started to stroke her hair, knowing that it was what a friend would do, and – in spite of what she had said – they both knew a friend right now was also what she needed him to be.
Daniela tossed him the keys when they got to the hotel’s basement parking. “Your turn to drive.”
Vassi caught it without a word and after pressing the unlock button, he wordlessly opened the passenger door for her.
As she got in, Daniela blew him a kiss. “Thank you.”
He closed the door shut.
How the hell had his world turned upside down in less than a day?
When Vassi got inside the driver’s seat and started Daniela’s car, she told him with a giggle, “This is kind of exciting.”
“Sneaking around, making sure no paparazzi sees us,” she said ruefully, “With Andrew, it felt sordid, but with you – it’s like an adventure.”
He didn’t answer, but she didn’t seem to mind as Daniela only smiled at him, saying, “That reminds me. Have I told you how handsome you are?”
You have, Vassi thought as he drove out of the basement. Six times in the past five minutes, and he was counting every instance not because he was egotistical but because it was almost like a total stranger had taken over Daniela’s body. From a colleague who had been mildly entertaining, she had somehow transformed overnight into an incomprehensibly clingy woman who didn’t know when to shut up.
She chatted almost nonstop throughout the ride, but Vassi nonetheless bided his time. When she finally paused for breath, he said right away, “We need to talk about last night.”
Daniela squeezed his arm, saying teasingly, “You were great, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
No. It wasn’t. What did worry the hell out of him was the fact that he remembered nothing at all, and he couldn’t remember being this wasted since the night Seri turned eighteen and he had forced himself to hurt her.
Daniela peered at him. “What do you want to talk about?”
Good question, and one he could answer better if he could just remember the most salient facts.
His fingers tightening around the shift stick, Vassi tried to recall what he could of yesterday’s events. The time he spent at work was clear enough.