A Ruthless Proposition - Page 74

A Ruthless Proposition - Page 74

He finished before she did and left the gym without another word. She watched him leave in the mirror; he didn’t spare so much as a backward glance.

She had no idea what was going on in his mind most of the time, and once again questioned her decision to come and live here. Despite the improved surroundings and financial circumstances, she was filled with as much doubt as ever and constantly worried about the future.

She finished her workout and headed to her room for a shower. When she emerged a short while later, it was to find him sitting on the deck with a mug of coffee in hand. He was staring at the yachts, deep in thought. She grabbed a glass of juice and hesitated at the sliding door leading out to the deck, not sure if she should join him or not. Maybe he wanted some privacy; she didn’t know him well enough yet to tell.

She decided to play it safe and turned away from the door to wander into the living room instead. On the way, she grabbed a discarded newspaper from one of the kitchen counters and sank down onto the floor next to the low coffee table. She went straight to the crossword puzzle and picked up his expensive Montblanc pen, which was lying on the table next to his glasses. She was immersed in the puzzle within minutes.

“Why are you on the floor?” Dante’s voice brought her back into the present, and she gazed back at him blankly. He stood, hands in his trouser pockets, staring down at her with a curious look on his face.

“Your couch is uncomfortable,” she said, before going back to nibbling the end of his pen and giving the puzzle her rapt attention.

“More uncomfortable than the floor?”

Irritated by the interruption, she clicked her tongue and glowered at him.

“I’m trying to concentrate,” she snapped, and his eyebrows shot up before he unceremoniously plonked himself down next to her.

“Try ‘place,’” he suggested, pointing to the paper.

“What?”

“Fifteen down. It’s ‘place,’” he said with a smug smile. She peered at the paper and sighed.

“No, it’s not,” she said, before neatly penning the letters V E N U E into the blocks. His lips twisted, and he refocused his attention on her puzzle before grunting.

“Twelve across is . . .”

“Stop!” she commanded, placing her hand over the puzzle in an effort to block his view. “What are you doing?”

“I’m helping you,” he replied, looking a little perplexed by her reaction.

“I don’t need help finishing my puzzle,” she fumed.

“It’s my newspaper,” he pointed out. “So I think it’s my puzzle.”

“Once a newspaper has been read and then tossed aside, it becomes public property.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he scoffed. “I have never heard of this rule.”

“Well, that’s the rule in South Africa. I can’t help it if you had different rules in Spain. I have an entire nation behind me on this one. Now back off and let me finish my puzzle.”

“While I’m down here, I might as well help you out,” he said magnanimously.

“English isn’t even your first language,” she rebuffed.

“That’s not nice,” he chastised. “I don’t make fun of your shortcomings.”

“Because I have none.”

“You talk too much,” he pointed out, and she gasped, rather outraged by that. “You have this annoying habit of finishing my sentences, and you have an odd sense of humor.”

“And you have no sense of humor,” she dismissed breezily. “Jeez, would it k.i.l.l you to laugh once in a while? You really need to find a surgeon to remove that stick you have up your—”

“What do you call a fly without wings?” he interrupted, and she blinked. He was staring at her expectantly, eyebrows up and lips tilted at the corners.

“Uh . . . what?” she asked, needing some clarification.

“What do you call a fly without wings?” he repeated, his voice laden with anticipation and something she couldn’t quite define.

“A walk?” The light dimmed in his eyes, and the smile that had been forming on his lips faded. She was actually sorry she had given him the right answer.

“You’ve heard it before?”

“Dante . . . everybody over the age of five has heard that joke before.”

“I heard it in passing at work yesterday. See? I have a sense of humor, but clearly it’s much too sophisticated for someone like you to possibly comprehend,” he said gravely, and she gaped at him, not sure if he was serious or not. He thought the fly joke was sophisticated? Was he joking? But his face was expressionless, and she couldn’t quite tell what was going on in that diabolical mind of his.

“Someone like me?” She latched onto that bit, and when he opened his mouth to clarify what he’d meant, she held up her palm to stop him. “No, wait, don’t tell me. I’ve heard this before. Something about you not appreciating celebrity gossip or wanting to hear about what’s trending on Twitter. Or the Kardashians.”

“Why did you carry on about them so much while you were working for me? There are also Klingons, Vulcans, and . . . why are you laughing?” The last as Cleo literally rolled on the floor and laughed her a.s.s off. She actually had to clutch her sides because it was the kind of belly laughter that just couldn’t be contained. When the laughter died, she felt completely spent and gradually came to realize that she was lying flat on her back, staring up at a smiling Dante. How could he smile at her like that one moment and be completely remote the next? His eyes were warm and inviting, and that smile was open and tender. He reached over and brushed a thumb over her cheeks. They came away wet.

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