“They deserve it,” she told him, cheeks flushed. “I can still remember—-”
“Whatever happened to retribution only being for God?”
Without missing a beat, she said, “God couldn’t make it, so He told me that I should cover for Him.”
Laughing, he placed a kiss on her mouth, whispering against her lips, “Liar.” He smiled down at her. “But I love you anyway.”
When they finally made it to the ballroom, Vassi and Seri were immediately surrounded by well-wishers, congratulating them for their successful tandem. With all the gushing flattery, it was almost hard to believe that just six months ago, the world had believed Vassi was a rapist.
And it hadn’t even ended there, Seri thought wryly. When news of their relationship broke out, numerous advocacy groups had condemned them for supposedly promoting incest. Even Fyodor, Sergei, and Misha had been affected by the scandal, but in the end, everyone had weathered the storm just by being themselves.
They were a family, and they would stay as one, through thick or thin.
Happiness swelled inside of her, and unable to help it, she gave Vassi a quick hug.
He looked down at her in surprise, but Seri had already moved on to the other members of their family. She hugged Misha, Sergei, and Fyodor as well, and when they turned to her with perplexed looks, she said simply, “I’m just happy I’m with you boys.”
Her gorgeous boys grinned.
“So are we, little dove.” Misha ruffled her hair.
“I only wish you weren’t going out with someone like Vassi.” Sergei’s tone was pained.
“They’re not married yet,” Fyodor pointed out mildly. “They can still break up.”
Vassi scowled. “Dammit, Papa, can you at least take my side once in a while?”
“I always will,” Fyodor promised him, “as long as it’s not against my baby girl.”
When it was finally time to premiere the product commercial, the host called for Seri to join Misha and Max on the stage.
He kissed her on the cheek. “I’m proud of you, solnishka moya.”
Even now, Vassi being sweet could still take her by surprise, and blushing, she said shyly, “T-thank you.”
He watched her go, saw the way just about every man in the room stared at his woman in lustful admiration, and Vassi took a deep, calming breath. He saw Max offer his hand as Seri made it to the stage, the other man’s arm curving around his woman’s waist.
Vassi took another deep breath.
Damn American asshole. One of these days, he would end up cutting off Maximilian Rockford’s hand if the damn man didn’t stop making the moves on Seri.
“I need a drink,” he muttered before swinging away.
The lights went out as he made his way to the refreshments table, and as he took one of the glasses from the champagne pyramid, he overheard two women gossiping.
“I heard they used to go out.”
“Seri Devereaux and Maximilian Rockford?”
“No kidding? I thought she had been in love with her stepbrother since she was a kid?”
“I have it on good authority that they really did date, and if you ask me, I think she should be with Maximilian. It’s just creepy, her and her stepbrother together. And then there’s Vassi Grachyov being a rapist—-”
“But wasn’t it proven that Daniela Martin was insane and just made up all those lies about him?”
The other girl snorted. “Oh please. He’s a Grachyov. He probably paid off every member in the jury to get Daniela convicted.”
The women’s conversation stayed in Vassi’s mind even as he did his best to shake them off and dismiss it as unimportant. That night, he found himself holding her more tightly as he asked broodingly, “Will it ever bother you?”
Seri sleepily turned around in his arms to face Vassi. “What would?”
“What the world thinks about you…about us.”
It was so unlike Vassi to show concern that she gazed at him searchingly. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head.
“Vassi…you’re my dream come true. How can I ever be bothered when you’re something I wished for?”
His lips formed a crooked smile. “I used to remember a time when you would rather die than say something like that.”
She turned red. “Why did you have to remind me?” she wailed. “Now, I do want to die!”
“Thankfully—-” He suddenly rolled Seri onto her back. “I know the perfect cure for embarrassment.”
As his mouth trailed down the side of her neck, she couldn’t help arching against his body even as she stammered, “W-what is it?”
He lifted his head to smirk at her. “I’ll keep you so busy with fucking you won’t have time to be embarrassed.”
“Vassi!” But in a few moments, he had proved himself correct, with Seri losing herself in the addictive pleasure of his touch.
The next day, Seri, accompanied by Davey and the other boys, paid a surprise visit to Vassi on the set of the movie he was shooting.
He was obviously stunned to see them but soon enough, he was grinning and the moment they finished shooting a sequence, Vassi gestured for them to join him. He introduced them to the cast. “Fyodor, my father, and these two are my brothers. This is Seri and her friend Davey.”