The defeat in his father’s gaze stayed with Vassi even when he had long left the house and was on his way to Himura Headquarters. Driving up the lobby, he arrived in time to see Max stepping out of the driver’s seat before going around to open the door for…
It was both the most beautiful and painful sight.
Hair still wet, face glowing even without makeup, and her gentle curves accentuated by her floral dress—-
Only this time she was going home to another man.
His fingers tightened around the steering wheel.
Her every word – her every goddamn action – told Vassi that Fyodor was right.
Seri Devereaux was not the girl he thought he knew…and loved.
The real Seri was the one he was staring at now, the one who could kiss another man’s cheek, the one who could smile into another man’s eyes—-
The one who could love anyone who had enough money to afford her.
His mind told him that was the real Seri.
So why couldn’t he convince his goddamn heart it was the truth?
“Places, everyone,” Marshall said through the speakers, signaling the start of the second day of rehearsals. Since yesterday was about rapport among the cast, Seri knew the sound director would be focusing on technicalities today.
Which means no thinking about unnecessary things, she told herself. If Vassi tried to talk to her about what happened between them yesterday, she would tell him with her best carefree voice that it was just like scratching a one-time itch. She would tell him it meant nothing, and she would say it like she meant it.
Because she did.
That part of her life was best buried in the past. The present, however, still had something to offer, and what happened today had the power to make a difference in both her present and future. She had to bring her A-game and remember that her job was her life. This was what she had always dreamt about and what her own mother had dreamt for her.
Seri mentally nodded to herself. A-game. She was going to—-
“Switch places with me, will you, D?” she heard Vassi ask.
“Huh? What for?”
“Little sister and I got into a fight yesterday. If we’re next to each other, we’ll just end up arguing again.”
She was going to kill herself.
Seri’s jaw started to ache at the way she held on – hard – to her smile while Vassi and Daniela switched places.
Daniela turned to her with her usual, irritatingly friendly smile and blindingly perfect white teeth. “You’re okay about this?”
She couldn’t answer right away. By facing Daniela, she was able to see Vassi standing behind the other girl as well—-
He was still the same gorgeous Vassi she loved—-
And yet, something had changed.
If it seemed like he had nothing better to do than torment her yesterday—-
Today, she didn’t seem to matter him at all. He was texting on his phone, and as if sensing her gaze on him, Vassi’s head lifted and their gazes met.
She expected to see something – anything – in those silver eyes, but all she saw was surprise, almost like he didn’t understand why she had any reason to stare at him.
“I’m right, aren’t I?” he asked good-naturedly. “It would be bad if we work side by side.”
She heard herself say, “Absolutely. We’re just going to kill each other if we’re working side by side.”
When Vassi tried to ruffle Daniela’s hair, the other girl irritably swatted his hand away. “Stop that. You know how long it took me to fix my hair this morning.”
And how would Vassi know that, she wondered hollowly, unless he had spent the night with Daniela?
“Five minutes before we start.” Marshall’s announcement effectively finished the conversation between them, and Seri clumsily swung away from the two.
Beside her, Vassi and Daniela started arguing again.
“I don’t need your advice, Grachyov,” she heard the other girl mutter resentfully under her breath.
“Even so, you’re going to get it.”
“If I make a mistake, I’ll learn from it, so stop being so damn fussy.”
“If you make a mistake,” Vassi countered, “it’s because you’re being so damn proud.”
Seri stared hard at her script.
She almost, almost wanted the two to start flirting. Or start kissing even.
At least then she could tell herself Vassi simply had a twisted desire to see her jealous and affected. At least then it would mean he hadn’t just fucked her yesterday for closure.
And Daniela and Vassi continued to bicker between scenes—-
Just like she and Vassi used to do, she realized sickly.
“Seri.” Marshall’s abrupt voice broke through her reverie.
Looking up almost guiltily, she stammered, “Yes?”
“You missed your cue.”
She paled. “I’m s-sorry.”
“Just don’t let it happen again,” Marshall said curtly. “Everyone, let’s start from the top.”
A-game, she reminded herself desperately. She had already lost her family. She couldn’t lose her job as well. The thought was paralyzing and instead of helping Seri concentrate on her task, everything only went downhill from there.