His smile was…real.
She could only stare at him, unable to believe what she was hearing. He…knew?
His head lowered.
And again, he whispered, “Ya znayu.” But this time, Vassi’s own voice broke. “I know now, Seri. I understand.”
And this time, she understood as well.
“I’m sorry it took me a long time to understand,” Vassi said hoarsely, “but I know now. I know you did it all for me.”
When she realized what he was saying—-
When she realized that he truly did know—-
She couldn’t help it.
The tears just kept falling.
Relief and happiness filled her, and she could only look up at him, crying his name over and over. “Vassi. Vassi. Vassi.”
His arms closed around her like iron bands, and she didn’t mind at all. There was no other place she wanted to be.
“You goddamn fool.” His trembling lips touched her hair. “I love you, solnishka moya.”
She cried even harder because for so long she had thought she would never hear him call her that again. Throwing her arms around him, she whispered fiercely, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” She tightened her hold on him, a part of her feeling terrified that if she let go, he would disappear.
As if he had heard her thoughts, Vassi tipped her chin up and kissed her hard.
It was beautiful, so, so beautiful because it was yet another thing that she thought she could never feel again.
Pulling away, he said hoarsely, “No more tears, solnishka moya.”
She nodded, but still the tears fell.
Not wanting Seri to cry herself into a state of exhaustion, he lifted her up in his arms and carried her to the bedroom.
When he laid her on the bed, she clutched a fistful of his shirt, saying tremulously, “D-don’t go.”
He shook his hand. “I’m never going anywhere without you.” He lay next to her, saying rawly, “I promise.” She burrowed into him, and because he felt the same need for them to be connected, Vassi drew her as close as he could to him. “Sleep now, my love. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
She didn’t answer, only continued clutching him like she was still terrified he would disappear. But as time passed, her hold eventually slackened and he gradually heard her breathing ease.
Carefully pulling away, he peeled her cotton jacket off, wanting to make her sleep more comfortably. Her phone fell on the carpet as he placed the jacket on the table. Picking her iPhone up, Vassi saw one unread message.
It was from Max.
He hesitated only for a moment before reading the message.
Max: How did the press conference go? I wish I could be there. I really do. See you tomorrow, and if you ever need some help to make you fall asleep again, I’m always at your service.
Vassi slid the phone back into one of the pockets of Seri’s jacket.
He turned to face Seri again, and his heart clenched.
He had thought the lies had finally ended, but now he no longer knew what was real.
As soon as she arrived at the restaurant, Daniela had no problems spotting Vassi. She only had to follow the trails of sighs and the direction of every woman’s gaze in the room, and there he was, with his usual quietly stylish trademark of silver blond perfection.
She walked slowly and gracefully, her air of confidence complimented by a cloud of expensive perfume. The scent of it reached Vassi first, making him turn towards her as she had planned. Strategic entrances were her forte, after all, and it had even proved to be a surprisingly useful tool in undermining Seri Devereaux’s confidence.
“Hello, Vassi.” Daniela deliberately used his first name with a tentative tone, hoping to unsettle him, but instead Vassi only gave her a polite smile.
“Hello, Daniela.” His formal tone disconcerted her, and she lowered her lids while she furiously tried to figure out what had changed. Something was different about him, but what?
When he pulled her chair for her, she impulsively decided to fall back to her old routine, rolling her eyes as she said, “You don’t need to do that.”
The old Vassi would have retorted, but this one didn’t and only gave her another unreadable smile.
When they were both seated, Vassi immediately signaled for a waiter to come over. After briefly perusing the menu, Daniela gave her order in flawless French, and so did Vassi. To the outside world, she knew the two of them would likely appear a perfect match, with both of them young, attractive, and accomplished.
But what the world didn’t know, Daniela thought, was while all this came naturally to Vassi Grachyov, everything she said and did was the result of years of hard work. Her success as a model, her girl-next-door image, her history for dating bad boys – everything, down to the way she had her hair styled and dressed – all of it was to achieve her goal.