“Only you would compare the conception of your baby with dinosaurs procreating in a fictitious park.”
“It’s a badass saying, you have to admit it,” Cleo said with her own wet little giggle.
They chatted for a while longer before Cleo reluctantly dis-connected the call and thought about heading downstairs and back home. The place was eerily quiet, and she wasn’t sure if Dante had returned yet. She knew the crazy hours he worked, and with the current project in Tokyo and a new one starting up in Dubai, she doubted he’d be home before midnight these days.
She glanced around the room for her clothes before remembering that she’d discarded them on her way up the stairs. Jeez, she’d really have to curb these messy tendencies of hers if she was going to live in this squeaky-clean place. Something on the dresser caught her eye, and upon closer inspection, she saw that it was her clothes, immaculately folded and neatly placed on the dresser’s smooth wooden surface.
Someone had been in here while she was sleeping! The thought gave her the heebie-jeebies. Did Dante have a maid? Could it have been James? She doubted that. Could it have been Dante himself?
She pulled on her clothes and tentatively made her way down the stairs. The lights were on, music played softly on the high-tech sound system, and when she walked around the kitchen to the living room, she found Dante sprawled out on the uncomfortable-looking couch. He was wearing faded jeans and a gray T-shirt, and his sneakers had been toed off. Cleo had never seen him dressed like that before. Three-piece suits and nude, that was all she knew of Dante Damaso. This was a completely different man slumped in front of her right now. He had one long leg on the couch and the other bent at the knee, with his foot on the marble floor. His head was resting on the hard, small arm of a couch that just wasn’t designed for relaxation. A sheaf of papers was spread on his broad chest, pinned down securely with one hand, and his glasses were perched on his nose and dangerously close to falling off. His mouth was ever-so-slightly open, and he was snoring quietly.
Dante Damaso was a handsome man, an outstanding specimen of manhood that other men envied and most women desired, but Cleo had never found him more irresistible than at that moment. He looked young, vulnerable, and completely disheveled, and Cleo felt like she was only really seeing him now for the first time.
She felt confused and desperate to leave before he noticed her. But she wasn’t even halfway to the door before she heard him sigh and the papers on his chest crinkle as he moved.
“Where are you going?” he asked, his voice husky with sleep, and Cleo’s back straightened as she shot him a guilty look over her shoulder.
“I was heading home. I didn’t mean to sleep for so long.” She turned to face him and swallowed when he sat up and stretched, his T-shirt tightening over his chest and abs. He had stubble growing in, and he briskly rubbed his hand over his jaw as if the hair growth bothered him.
“Stay,” he invited. “Have some dinner. I cooked pasta. There’s some in the microwave for you.”
Reluctantly charmed by the fact that he’d gone to the trouble to make a plate for her, she hesitated, and he offered her a sleepy smile.
“I would prefer it if you stayed over,” he said. “Safer than driving this time of night.”
“It’s eight thirty,” she pointed out. “Hardly midnight. I’m sure I’ll manage to get home without much trouble.”
“Stay.” He stood up and walked toward her, and even in his socks he towered above her. “Please.”
Okay, so she was a sucker, but it was the “Please” that did it. She nodded and dropped her bag in the middle of the floor before heading for the kitchen.
Sure enough, there was a foil-covered plate in the microwave for her. She removed the foil and set the timer to a minute and a half.
“There’s freshly baked bread in the tin and a salad in the fridge,” Dante advised, as he sat down at the island to watch her flit about the kitchen. He seemed content just to watch her and didn’t have much to say.
She set her plate and utensils down on the island beside him before fetching her salad and bread and sitting down next to him to enjoy her meal. She ate ravenously. As was usually the case these days, once the nausea disappeared, she found herself eating like a horse, and Dante watched her pack it away in fascination.
“That’s a hell of a lot of food for such a little thing,” he observed after a long silence, and Cleo peered at him before shrugging.
“Eating for two,” she reminded him past a mouthful of bread, and he grinned. She could get used to him grinning like this all the time.
“So you were a professional dancer?” She sighed. Small talk. How . . . inevitable.
“Yep,” she said, mopping up some of the delicious tomato sauce on her plate with a chunk of soft, fresh bread and stuffing it into her mouth. “This is delicious.”
“You made the bread too?” She didn’t care if she sounded like a Neanderthal, talking with her mouth full; this was a divine meal.
“What happened when Cal dropped you?” he asked, and she glared at him, wishing he hadn’t asked that question. Good thing she’d nearly finished her meal, since her appetite had completely disappeared.
“We don’t have to go through these little getting-to-know-you rituals, Dante,” she dismissed coldly. “Don’t worry, I won’t think less of you for not really knowing anything about me. That’s not why I’m here.”