“Great,” he muttered. “Don’t forget to take an insulin shot before you go out with the Saccharine Sisters.”
She giggled. “Stop it,” she admonished, her laughter belying her words. Cal and Coco didn’t get along, not since they’d both fallen for the same guy a few years back. To make matters worse, the guy had gone for Coco despite the fact that Cal was still convinced—all evidence to the contrary—that the guy batted for his team.
Cleo’s laughter faded as she continued to stare at her longtime friend. She had to tell him about her decision to move in with Luc and Blue; he would need time to make other arrangements.
“Cal?” she whispered, hating the necessity of what she had to do but not seeing any other way. He dropped his book to his chest and smiled at her sadly.
“I know, hon.” Her eyes flooded with tears at the understanding on his face, and she sat hunched at the table, silent sobs shaking her shoulders.
“I’m so sorry. I don’t know what else to do.”
“You have to do what’s best for you, Cleo. And right now, you can’t afford to live here supporting my lazy ass and coping with a pregnancy too. But on the positive side, having to move out might light a fire under said lazy ass and get me motivated to find work again. I’ve been getting a little too comfortable here, you see? Living a life of leisure, like the kept man that I am.”
They both glanced around the tiny apartment and laughed at the thought of living any kind of “life of leisure” in the place.
“How long do we still have before we leave this pleasure palace?” He got up and stretched lazily before sauntering over to give her a casual hug and hand her a sliver of paper towel, the last bit on the roll.
“We’re out of paper towels,” he noted, and she giggled messily as she blew her nose.
“Well, we’re not replacing this roll. Our life of lavish spending has come to an end, my friend. We can no longer afford luxuries like paper towels.”
He laughed and sat down at the table opposite her.
“Jeez, girl, I’m getting sick of seeing you cry. Cheer up, will you?” She bravely presented him with her best smile. “Better. But not by much. Now when do we move out?”
“I’ll be speaking with the landlord tomorrow. So probably thirty more days before we have to vacate the premises.”
“A lot can happen in thirty days,” he observed.
“Not that much.” She traced a crease on the plastic tablecloth with her finger. “Do you want to come with me to my ultrasound appointment tomorrow?”
“I’d love to.”
“Well, well, well, two’s company but three is most definitely a party,” Cal observed the following morning as they climbed out of her car. Cleo was happy with the prime parking spot they’d found directly outside Dr. Klein’s office and was grinning like an idiot when she glanced up to see what Cal was talking about. The smile immediately dropped from her face when she saw what he was referring to.
“What the hell?” she whispered beneath her breath. “Why is he here? How is he here?”
“Take a deep breath, Cleo,” Cal advised softly. “You’re never at your sharpest when you’re pissed off.”
“What the hell are you doing here?” She marched up to Dante and put her face right up to his. “How did you know where to find me?”
“You sent your OB/GYN’s details to Grayson, and with that information in hand it was easy finding out the time of your appointment,” he revealed insouciantly. Her jaw dropped at that blatant invasion of her privacy. Those details should never have been used to spy on her! “I thought I’d come along and see what I’m paying for.”
“I didn’t ask you to pay for it,” she reminded.
“Look, I know I was an arrogant asshole before,” he said evenly.
“Was?” she asked, her eyebrows rising. He merely gave her one of those long, level looks that made her feel completely chastised. She hated that. “Dante, I don’t see what else we need to discuss. We had an agreement. Two, in fact. Remember? I signed yours and you signed mine. That makes us even.”
“I’ve recently come to appreciate that our previous agreement might not be exactly what I want.”
No, he was not doing this to her right now. Cleo tried not to panic as she kept her voice firm and her words succinct.
“Well, it’s what I want,” she said curtly. “Discussion closed.”
“Do you have to be so damned stubborn and difficult all the time?” he seethed.
“Yes. Look where being easy got me. Knocked up and alone!”
“You don’t have to be alone. I have decided that I would not mind sharing this experience with you.”
“Tough! We don’t get convenient do-overs in life, Dante. This has been settled before, and just because you suddenly developed a latent paternal instinct doesn’t mean I have to accept that. You have absolutely no right to insert yourself in here like you have some kind of stake in all of this. Stop stalking me and get the hell out of my life.”
“You know what?” he growled, taking hold of her arm firmly. “No.”
“You heard me. I said no. You’ve been calling the shots from the beginning. You sprang this on me, and I barely had time to think about what it all meant before there were papers being shoved at me to sign. Sure, it all sounded great at the time—just sign on the dotted line and for a small fee you and kid disappear as if neither of you had ever existed. No fuss, no mess.”