Seri turned to Vassi, knowing she had to explain—-
But then she saw it.
He was still holding Daniela’s hand.
She stumbled back.
The tears started to fall, but because everyone around her was crying happy tears, no one gave her a second look.
He was still holding Daniela’s hand.
She cried harder.
Vassi had made his choice, and he couldn’t have made it any more unequivocally clearer than that.
Vassi whitened as he watched Seri mumble an incoherent excuse before rushing off the stage. Letting go of Daniela’s hand, he said unevenly, “I’m sorry. I must go.” He didn’t wait for an answer, but instead turned swiftly around to go after Seri.
His mind warned him against playing the fool again, but he ignored it. This time, he only allowed himself to listen to his instincts, and his guts were telling him that Seri was in pain.
As he reached the end of the stairs, he caught sight of Seri going through the function hall’s back doors. He started to call out for her, but a couple of photographers suddenly blocked his way.
He forced a smile, allowing them a few seconds to take his photos. After, he gestured for his security to come forward, and they surrounded him this time, preventing any other member of the press from approaching him.
“Keep them away from me,” he muttered under his breath.
Pushing the back doors open, Vassi immediately scanned the hotel’s VIP lobby and found Seri standing a short distance from the entrance of the hotel’s coffee shop.
He slowed down, his gaze narrowing at the way she was standing so still.
A moment later, and several people came out of the coffee shop, and Vassi stopped moving as well. Now he knew why Seri had been frozen in her place.
It was his family emerging from the shop – his older brothers, Sergei and Misha, together with Fyodor.
Vassi swore under his breath. He had invited the three of them to the press conference a week ago. Back then, he had still been harboring the hope that things could go back the way they used to be.
Before he could speak, he heard Seri say throatily, “Hello, boys.” He watched her blow kisses at each one. “Did you miss me?”
Sergei and Misha’s faces remained unreadable.
Fyodor, however, turned white. Turning sharply away from Seri, he told his sons harshly, “If I find out either of you contacts her again for any reason – you might as well forget I’m your father.”
Without waiting for their replies, he stalked out of the lobby.
Seri pouted. “Papa still hates me.” Her slim shoulders moving in a dismissive shrug, she said carelessly, “But oh well. He’s already old, so he can be forgiven.” She blew the two kisses, saying, “I guess this is the last time I’ll see you two, so goodbye.”
Spinning away, she flounced off to the elevators.
Still unnoticed, Vassi watched her press the up button, and that was when he saw her hands shaking hard.
He turned towards his brothers, but they were already gone.
He watched Seri enter the elevator, and when the doors closed, he made his decision. Using the other elevator, he pressed the button for the fifth floor, knowing that there could only be one place in this hotel that could guarantee privacy for her.
Arriving at his floor, Vassi tapped his card key on the scanner and the door automatically opened. Since the company considered him and Seri as natural siblings, it had reserved adjoining suites for them to serve as dressing rooms.
Entering his suite, he went straight to the connecting door and pressed his ear to the door.
Seri was weeping.
Vassi sank on the chair nearest to him.
The sound of her tears made him ache. He wanted so badly to go to her. But at the same time – it gave him hope.
If she really didn’t care about any of them—-
If all she cared about was the money—-
She wouldn’t be crying this hard, wouldn’t be weeping like the pain driving her to tears was inconsolable.
As he listened to her heartbreaking sobs, Vassi took his phone out and called Fyodor.
He interrupted his father, saying hoarsely, “I’m sorry, Papa.”
Fyodor fell silent.
“All my life, I vowed to be a good son, to find a way to be someone who’s deserving of your love—-”
Fyodor said fiercely, “You never had to earn it, Vassi.”
He closed his eyes. “I know that, Papa. I thank you for it. I love you for it.” He swallowed. “But I’m done lying to myself – I’m done lying to you. We all deserve the truth, and the truth is—-”
“Don’t say it, son,” his father said hoarsely.
“I have to.” His hold on the phone tightened. “You mean the world to me, Papa…but so does she. So does Seri, and I love her—-”
“I have always loved her – the way a man loves a woman. I never saw her as a sister—-”