A Ruthless Proposition - Page 76

A Ruthless Proposition - Page 76

“Fine. I’m sorry I had you kicked out of my office that day,” he said humbly.

“And . . . ?”

“And for having security e.s.c.o.r.t you out of the building.”

“Hmm.”

“It was wrong of me.”

“It was,” she agreed.

“I’m sorry it caused you humiliation and pain.” An edge of des-peration started to creep into his voice.

“Are you?”

“Yes. You believe me, don’t you?”

“Maybe.”

“Come on, Cleo . . . I’m really sorry. It was a s.h.i.t.t.y thing to do, and I’ve regretted it ever since.”

She thought about it, savoring the moment a little longer.

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“That one has been struck off the list.”

“Wait a second. How long is this list?”

“It varies. Items get added and removed all the time. Now can we finish this puzzle, please?” The rest of the morning and part of the afternoon was spent on the floor together, amicably arguing over every single answer. Cleo couldn’t remember the last time she’d enjoyed herself more.

Cleo and Dante got along much better after that day. They no longer seemed like strangers forced to live together and felt more at ease around each other. They fell into an easy routine; Dante cooked when he was home, and Cleo ordered takeout for them when he called to let her know he’d be working late, which happened on average about twice a week. And for some reason, Dante always called to let her know that he’d be back late.

Their workouts were almost always done together, usually in the mornings before Dante headed off to work, but as Cleo’s pregnancy progressed, her physical routine became less strenuous, and her en pointe exercises nonexistent. On Saturday mornings, they did the crossword puzzle together even though Dante was dismal at it, and they often watched old action or horror movies together. Dante wasn’t the biggest horror-movie fan, and that’s all she ever chose when it was her turn to pick a film, mostly because she loved watching him freak out.

The next couple of weeks passed quickly and peacefully. But the main source of grief and discontent for Cleo—and she sensed for Dante too—was the fact that Luc still didn’t want to speak to either of them. It was going on longer than any of them had anticipated, and Blue was at her wit’s end. Cleo had actually gone to see Luc at the house and at his office on several occasions. He’d asked her how she was, how the pregnancy was going and—at the house—had found a reason to exit the room and leave her with Blue. At work he’d told her he was too busy to chat. She didn’t know what else to do and decided to let him figure it out in his own time.

“You’re not even watching,” Dante complained, his voice interrupting her thoughts, and she squinted at him before switching her attention back to the television.

“Well, it’s your fault for choosing this boring movie,” she retorted, waving a hand at the screen. It was some generic action movie; she didn’t even think she knew the title. It was badly acted and kind of bland.

“Are you thinking about tomorrow?” he asked. “Are you nervous?”

The dance recital was the following evening, and Cleo didn’t feel the kids were anywhere close to ready. She thought her choreography was lame, and she just knew that something catastrophic would happen. The building nerves and anxiety were pretty much on par with what she used to feel before performing.

“It’ll be fine,” she said, more to convince herself than him. “The kids seem confident.”

“Then what’s bothering you?” he asked.

“Luc.” The name was out before she could prevent it, and he sighed heavily.

“I had no idea he could be so stubborn,” he said with a wry twist of his lips. “Why is he so set against the idea of us living together?”

“Because he knows . . .” Her voice tapered off.

“Knows what?”

“He knows that there’s no love between us, and he wanted better than that for me.” Except that she wasn’t so sure the “no love” thing was strictly true anymore. There seemed to be quite a lot of love between them.

All one-sided and all from her.

The heavy silence strained the atmosphere, and she kept her eyes glued blindly to the TV even though she could feel his gaze boring into her profile.

“We could . . .” This time it was his voice that faded away in the middle of a sentence. He reached for the touch-screen controller and paused the movie, turning his body toward her and waiting until she, reluctantly, did the same. He picked up one of her hands in both of his and turned it over so that he was tracing the lines of her palm with his forefinger. “I think we should consider getting married.”

She gasped and snatched her hand back as if it had been burned.

“Hear me out,” he said calmly, and she shook her head.

“Oh my God.” She got off the couch and folded her arms across her chest. He got up as well.

“Just listen,” he said, and tried to reach for her again, but she sidestepped him.

“What a manipulative b.a.s.t.a.r.d you are,” she marveled. “You’ve decided that you want this baby, and you think that offering me marriage will help you get him. You still have such a low opinion of women in general that you probably genuinely believe that this is the brass ring for me, don’t you? What woman wouldn’t want to marry Dante Damaso? After all, you’re loaded and handsome, and that’s what all women want, right?”

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