Still, despite the fact that his bullying tactics had left a bad taste in his mouth, he couldn’t regret the fact that he had stooped to them. It was over now. The document was safely signed and would be notarized as soon as possible.

He had a very brief flash of regret that he wouldn’t experience Cleo Knight in his bed again before he put her firmly out of his mind.



“I don’t think I’ve ever actually hated someone before,” Cleo confessed as she licked the salt off the rim of her margarita. She paused for a moment and thought about what she’d just said. “But God, I hate that man so much. The thought of seeing him again on Monday turns my stomach, and I’m so tempted to quit this job.”

“You can’t quit, hon.” Cal tut-tutted. “Who’ll pay the rent or buy the food? Until I find a job, you’re the only one keeping this boat afloat.”

“You’ll find something soon, Cal.” She patted his broad shoulder a little drunkenly before going back to contemplate her curiously unsatisfying frozen margarita again. “Now, can we please focus on my predicament?”

“Okay, so the guy is a world-class asshole,” Cal recapped. “He treated you shabbily, which would earn him a well-deserved punch in the face if he were here right now, and you hate him but still have to work with him.”

Cleo nodded morosely, the pit in her stomach increasing with every word. She put aside her half-finished drink¸ wishing she actually felt like getting rip-roaring drunk. It might have helped a little.

“Now, what I really want to know”—Cal leaned forward conspiratorially—“is he any good in the sack?”

Cleo sighed.

“He’s fantastic, and that just makes me hate him more. Should I even be telling you all of this? I mean, I feel like I’m breaking that stupid contract with every syllable I utter.”

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“You probably are.” Cal shrugged. “But if I can trust you to keep all my sordid secrets—you could sink me if you wanted to and you know it—then you can trust me with this.”

And she did trust Cal; he was like a second brother to her. Her dance partner for years, he had seen her through all her trials and tribulations. He felt responsible for her fall and had been her emotional support while she’d tried to come to terms with everything she’d lost after the accident. He was the only one who truly understood. Luc didn’t get it¸ her nondancing friends didn’t get it, but Cal got it. Cal knew what it was like to feel alive only when you were dancing, and he recognized that she felt like the most important part of her had died after the accident. He was the one who’d gotten her out of bed in the mornings, had taken her to physical therapy, had bossed her into dancing again, even though she was just a shadow of her former self. He had helped her understand that while she would never again be the supremely talented dancer who had once had dance companies vying for her attention, she could still dance. It was in her blood, a part of her physical makeup, and she would never lose it completely.

“All I’m saying is that the man is seriously hot,” Cal said. “And if he wasn’t so obviously and uncompromisingly hetero, I would happily make a play for him.”

“You’re way too good for the likes of him,” Cleo said.

“As are you,” he said, completely serious.

“You’re the best, Cal.” She sighed and leaned in for a hug. He complied and she sagged against him, letting him support her slight weight.

“I’m so glad we’re roomies,” she crooned, and when he laughed, the sound had a bitter edge to it.

“Not exactly roomies,” he corrected. “More like freeloader and working stiff.”

“You’re not a freeloader, Cal. We’ve all been through rough spots, and you’ve done so much for me . . .” She had difficulty talking around the lump in her throat. “So don’t you dare denigrate yourself like that in front of me again, okay?”

“Yes, miss,” he teased, making an effort to shake off his obvious depression, even though she could tell that it lingered just beneath the surface. “Now tell me more. I want to know everything—length, girth, angle. Pointing downward, straight ahead, or kissing the navel?”

“Seriously?” She choked back a laugh.

“Well, if that thing points down, it just looks flaccid and . . . I dunno, incapable somehow.”

“I’m not discussing this with you.”

“Why not? You told me all about Frank Whatsisface’s, remember?”

“I did not. This is the first time I can recall us discussing the angle of any guy’s erection.”

“True,” he conceded, after some thought. “But that Frank guy was really boring. I wasn’t interested in hearing about his antics in bed.”

“Come on, he was nice.”

“And boring.”

“He was always really sweet to me.”

“And super boring.”

Cleo sighed. She really couldn’t argue with him. Frank Sharp, whom she’d dated for two months and slept with twice—in the same night—had been a regular snoozefest. Both in bed and out of it. Cleo had actually fallen asleep during the sex act, both times. Not her finest moment. She had broken it off with him immediately after that and hadn’t dated anyone else in more than a year. Dante was the first man she’d slept with since then, and poor Frank couldn’t compete with that. Most men would have difficulty competing with a guy like Dante Damaso.

“I’m not going to discuss the matter any further,” Cleo said decisively. “I’ve probably broken a dozen of his stupid nondisclosure rules just by telling you about it. Best to let the matter rest and pretend it never happened.”

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