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Chapter 14

The room was drown in silence. It was so easy to forget that somewhere outside life went on, with celebrations, dances and animated chattering. It was so hard to believe that there would be no tomorrow for the two blonde girls.

A life suddenly appears to be so much more precious once deemed to be almost lost.

Serena kept thinking about things she had not done, dreams that did not - would not - come true. Emotions she had been too scared to admit flooded her mind. Feelings she had been too ashamed to accept made it almost impossible to breathe. Fear, shock and anxiety all insignificant, fading away in comparison to the unexpected response from her heart.

Had she known that this would happen, would she have behaved differently?

Now Serena felt like such a fool.


Flashback

Tears were falling down Serena's cheeks as she was sitting in a plush armchair. Left alone in her hotel room at last.

She was replaying that moment in the cafe, when her cellphone lit up and started vibrating, slowly increasing volume of the ringtone. The words of the song expressed her state exactly: she was most definitely caught in the middle of some twisted riddle. And the only thing she desired was finding a way out of this.

Serena wished she could wake up. As simple as that.

It was too complicated. Finding the sister she had never even known about, meeting the man who made her question all the decisions she had made, world she had created. She just wanted to be her old plain self, give up hope to find her fairy-tale Prince and settle for Mr. Right - reliable Kun.

But would this be enough? Now, that she tasted this kind of life.

Would meeting with co-workers in the evening replace the parties and balls of the elite? Would driving her Ford be as exiting as handling Alfa Romeo? Would a take-out be as delicious as the food in the luxurious restaurant with the breathtakingly beautiful view? But most importantly, would kissing Kun be as pleasurable as kissing Darien? Would it be possible to forget his touch, his embrace, his caress? The way electricity ran through her entire body every time she caught his gaze, the way her heart skipped a beat when his lips touched hers?

Could she erase it all? Like it never happened...

Serena held onto the cellphone tightly. She almost called the enigmatic several times, but with each attempt she became more and more aware of the situation she was in. It was so unbelievable. He would not even listen to her. Not in a million years.

But Serena just wanted to hear his voice once again. For the very last time.

She didn't say good bye. She just rushed away from him. Driven by her fear and shame, she didn't confess even though she wanted, oh, she wanted this so much: to approach him, sit right next to him, take his hand to gain some support, and tell him everything she knew. To touch his lips with hers, ever so slowly, bringing her arms around his neck. To hear and feel his breathing quicken…

Why? Why she hadn't done just that?

Freakin' idiot!

Only one text - and she became too frightened to even say good night. One text from the woman she had never seen surpassed her feelings to the man she had lived with for a week, the man, who had saved her. Oh, and did she mention that the woman was his wife?

Serena remembered how Mina snatched the cellphone from her hand, no questions asked, how she talked to Darien, in a low seductive voice.

Jealousy clenched Serena's heart.

It was her own fault. She didn't fight. She couldn't. She just posed as Mina and, most definitely, Darien didn't feel the difference.

It was Mina's life. Mina's husband. It was all rightfully, legally hers. And no one - including Serena - could claim it.

The woman walked to the en-suite bathroom and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Red puffy eyes didn't make her any more beautiful. She was not attractive at all. She didn't deserve to live a life like that of Mina DeVeene. And it was a sin to even think of replacing her for good.

Yes. Mina had every right to kick her out. To take that phone - her phone - and answer it, to talk with Darien any way she wanted. To touch him. Kiss him. Sleep in his bed, by his side, in his t-shirt. Cooking for him. And having his children.

Mina was a princess, Darien - prince. They were meant to be. A perfect fairy tale.

And even her biological mother didn't want her, deciding to leave the new-born child. Was she not good enough from the very beginning? Was she not worthy?

With that thought Serena started crying again, her sobs transforming into hysterical. Unable to stand, Serena sank onto the floor and succumbed to the pain in her chest.

Her fairy tale was over. And this was not the «happy end» she had dreamt about.

End of flashback


Mina's cold, unaffected voice brought Serena back to reality.

«Daddy, I am sorry, but you are wrong.»

Even in a situation like this, Mina still called Mr. DeVeene like that. It was a useless attempt to soften him, she was desperately trying to trigger the happy memories of their life. It could not be all fake, could it?

«Wrong? Pray tell what exactly am I wrong about.»

Mina opened her mouth about to answer, when Serena interrupted her. It was a surprise even for herself, however on the surface she looked as collected and calm as Mina, and even her voice didn't shake one bit.

«Excuse me, sir. But I have a question I am afraid I might forget to ask.» When Mr. DeVeene nodded, coercing her to continue, Serena asked: «Why do you think Ilene gave me away?»

«Perhaps, to escape the unnecessary questioning. I had a twin-brother of who Ilene knew about, so… Well, I can't say it was impossible, but it would have been unlikely for us to conceive twins.» Serena whispered a thank you, not noticing Mina's hand covering hers and then squeezing gently.

«So, first of all, Arthur Shields is not our father.»

This caught Mr. DeVeene's attention. His eyes widened and it seemed that he suddenly found it hard to breathe.

«So I've aimed at the wrong person. Who's your father then?»

«A Russian artist Victor Leshchev. Don't try to find him. Useless spending of time. I read mother's letters and her diary. The… hm… nooky happened only once. Although she felt a deep connection with the man, she didn't want to cheat on you. She wanted her relationship with Victor to be pure, platonic, intellectual, but… Well, when he was leaving the country, they got carried away and lost control. After that, guilt was slowly killing her inside, and she even thought about suicide, but then Ilene found out she was pregnant and almost immediately she fell in love with the new life within her. She never confessed there were two of us or that she gave Serena away. I guess, she was too scared to just write it down, open to anyone who accidentally or purposefully came across her diary. I am sure, her heart was aching because of leaving you, sis.» Mina's last words were addressed to Serena. It was just an assumption, but Serena needed to hear those words.

She had always been loved and cherished, her parents cared for her deeply and she knew that, felt that with her heart. But Ilene's actions still meant a lot to her. Now more than ever. She had felt insecure and vulnerable no matter what. Was this the reason? The fact that she belonged elsewhere. But…seldom did she belong to that world. Where was her home?

It seemed like all hell broke loose for Serena. Days of calmness and composure payed off in a sudden mental breakdown. The stinging pain in her shoulder was not excruciating, and yet she could not act or think rationally. Mina, on the other hand, seemed to be so collected and strong.

«Dad, so… it was you? Alan and I broke up because of you? And I married Darien because of you? Because you wanted revenge?»

«I did what was best for my plan. And for you, in a way. That boy Alan? You can not even imagine how easy it was to get rid of him! He came to me, so arrogant and pompous, to ask for your hand. I didn't even have to decline. After a couple of my special «concerned daddy» questions he changed his mind himself. He was not ready to provide for you and your children, he was not ready to take responsibility, or say farewell to his bachelor life. Just a child. Darien, on the other hand, has always been a much better suitor. True, it was quite easy to manipulate him into marrying you, and Jade made it even more so with his constant babbling, but now it seems like Mr. Shields grasped the idea. Shame you divorced him. But that's enough of talking. Matt, they are yours. Make it quick for Serena. I am sorry you are pain for your mother's mistakes. But this should be done. I am sorry.»

The moment the door was shut behind Mr. DeVeene, Serena saw the killer point the gun at Mina.

Serena did not know where the strength or courage came from, however there was only one aim: save her sister. She lashed out the killer. Despite his one-second hesitation, Matt managed to backhand Serena hard across the face. The violent blow knocked the woman to the ground. Pain exploded in her head, the eyes filled with tears as the impact unleashed agony, pulsing through her skull.

Like in a slow motion Mina watched her sister's head bounce with a sickening thud of the floor. Matt carried on with rapid, vicious kicks to her ribs. Serena's eyes were scrunched, she was fighting to breath.

Mina used Matt's distraction to snap the gun from his hands. Shakily, she aimed at the killer, shut the eyes tightly, too frightened to look at his reaction, squeezed the trigger and fired.

As everything was becoming blurry and darkness was closing in, Serena was only able to catch bits and pieces of what was happening around her. Doors slamming… gunshots… shouting… footsteps.

Darkness consuming her.

Slowly.

Peacefully.

No more.

She welcomed the oblivion.