They scrambled out of the car as the car swung downward one last time before falling—-
Seri blanched at the powerful thud as the car crashed into the ground.
Shaken and ashen-faced, Fyodor managed to get to his feet on his own. Forcing himself to look at Seri, he said roughly, “Thank you.”
Seri had saved his life.
Fyodor didn’t know what to make of it.
Or maybe he did – he just wasn’t sure if it was right.
Seri tried her best to smile, but it was hard.
She was feeling so…faint.
She took one step towards Fyodor—-
And slowly, she felt herself start to fall.
“Seri!” Fyodor managed to catch her in time, and as she lay limply in his arms, that was when he saw the blood spreading on her shirt and the shred of glass sticking too close to her heart.
Fyodor’s heart beat against his chest as Seri remained terrifyingly still in his arms.
Please, God, no.
Somehow, he found the presence of mind to look for her phone. He called 911. “My – my daughter. She’s bleeding. Please. Help her.”
“Your location, sir.”
He gave it. “P-please hurry. She’s not moving.” He could feel himself close to breaking down. “Please. My daughter’s not moving.”
“We understand, sir. Paramedics are on their way. Please stay on the line while we wait.”
He looked down at Seri.
He remembered the question he had so selfishly asked.
Why did it have to be like this, God?
And now he knew the answer.
He tightened his hold on his baby. “Stay with me,” Fyodor whispered. “Stay with me, baby.” But there was no answer.
He started to weep.
God, save my daughter.
Knocking on the door before entering, Vassi saw the university’s laboratory nearly empty save for one person.
“Rockford.” He gave the other man a curt nod, his fists clenched against his sides.
“Grachyov.” Max swung his stool to face the youngest Grachyov brother. “Misha’s inside his office if you’re looking for him.”
As he turned towards the opposite direction, he heard Max grate out behind him, “You don’t deserve her.”
Vassi stilled. Without looking back, he said flatly, “That’s probably the only thing we agree on.” When he entered Misha’s office, he saw his older brother on his feet, his back to the door.
“I know you heard everything.”
Turning away from the window, Misha murmured noncommittally, “So I did.”
“And you know who we’re talking about, of course. You’ve always known.”
Misha’s expression remained unreadable.
Vassi took a deep breath. “I’m in love with Seri.”
“My stepsister,” he said sharply.
“Semantics,” Misha dismissed coldly. “Have you paused to think what Papa would say about this?”
“Every day.” He smiled humorlessly. “I’ve been in love with her since I was fourteen, and not one fucking day has passed since then that I don’t think about what it would do to Papa and our family.”
“I see.” Misha carefully removed his glasses and took his time folding its temples before placing it on the desk. The air cracked with tension, and in the corner of his eye Misha caught sight of his younger brother growing more rigid with each second that passed.
Good. Once word came out about his relationship with Seri, what he was feeling now would just be the start. If Vassi couldn’t handle this small amount of pressure, then what he told Max was true. Vassi didn’t deserve to be with their sister, and Misha would be the first to prevent them from being together.
When a sufficient amount of time had passed, Misha finally looked up, and Vassi’s gaze met his straight on.
Good, he thought, but it wasn’t enough. He asked slowly, “If your feelings have existed for so long, why are you telling me about it now?”
Instead of answering, Vassi said abruptly, “When you learned about what Seri did and said that night – you never spoke of your feelings about it.”
Then, Vassi had thought it was because Misha was bottling everything up inside. But now he realized it wasn’t that at all, and the reason behind it was probably the same reason why Sergei hadn’t said a word either.
“Neither of you believed Seri had changed.” Even without Misha saying a word, Vassi knew he had it right. “Fuck.” Vassi raked a hand through his hair in frustration. “You weren’t even there,” he said rawly, “and yet you still trusted her. You and Sergei trusted her – while I didn’t.” He shook his head dully. “I don’t really deserve her at all, do I?”
Unable to remain aloof at the sight of Vassi’s anguish, Misha said quietly, “But you know the truth now, don’t you?” At Vassi’s nod, he pressed, “Because she told you?”
Vassi shook his head. “I figured it out on my own.”
“Then it’s still alright—-”
“No. It’s not.” His voice turned bitter. “Because you deserved better from me. I should have figured it out sooner, should have known she was the kind to do something so damn stupid.” He inhaled. “And selfless.”