Distasteful? Who the hell did she think she was? Better women than she would kill for the chance of a love affair with him . . . and why the hell was he even offended? She was nothing more than his employee. His very annoying and very temporary employee. So they’d had a little lapse in judgment. So what? Shit like that happened all the time. Not to him, but there was a first time for everything.
“Let’s just keep our focus on work,” he stipulated. “The sooner we get this delay sorted out, the sooner we get out of here and on with our lives.”
“Amen to that.”
Cleo was proud of herself. Proud that she had managed to keep her temper in check and her mouth shut. And definitely proud that she had managed to curb the impulse to slap the stupid man right across his handsome, smug face.
Just do the job, Cleo. Keep doing the job, and when something more interesting comes along, you can move on with your head held high.
This wasn’t going to be another one of her failures. Another lost opportunity because she couldn’t hold her tongue or restrain her impulsive nature and uncertain temper. Working for Dante Damaso had tested her to her limits, even though—thankfully—she’d rarely had to deal directly with him until this trip. She wasn’t going to let him ruin this career opportunity for her. The potential for growth in this company was huge; Dante had hired her as a temporary replacement for his pregnant assistant, with the assurance that after Donna returned, they would find a permanent position for Cleo within the company. And while Cleo still wasn’t entirely sure this was the kind of work she wanted to do for the rest of her life, it was what she’d fallen back on when her true vocation had slipped beyond her reach. It didn’t light up all the empty spaces in her soul the way dance did, didn’t inspire her or make her want to leap out of bed in the mornings even when every muscle in her body protested the slightest of movements, but it was something. And she was relatively good at it. So it would have to do.
Up until this job she’d been drifting from one temp position to the next, but this was the first one offering job security, benefits, and all the other good stuff grown-ups aspired to. Cleo, who had felt like a total failure up until that point, had jumped at the opportunity. God knows she had to stop depending on her big brother to help her out every time she failed at something.
Luc was getting married soon, and while his fiancée, Blue, was a sweetheart, Cleo couldn’t keep staying with him every time she lost an apartment because she was unable to pay the rent. Luc had never minded; he insisted that the house, which had once belonged to their grandparents, was half hers anyway and she had as much right to stay there as he did. But with Luc probably starting a family soon, Cleo just wouldn’t feel right running to him every time life dumped an obstacle on her path. She already felt like a loser. And sleeping with the boss—just another thing in a long line of really bad decisions—intensified that feeling times infinity.
Cleo had been good at only one thing in her life: dancing. And after years of hard work and countless personal and physical sacrifices, she had been well on her way to establishing herself as a talent of note before an accident just after her twenty-fourth birthday had robbed her of that career path. Doctors told her she would never dance professionally again, and it was a fact Cleo had difficulty accepting. She still felt like she could dance; it was still there in her heart and soul. How could they tell her she couldn’t do the one thing she loved above all else? Without dance in her life, she had found herself rudderless and devastatingly average. Now all she had left were her brain and a sharp tongue that kept getting her into trouble at the worst possible times. That tongue had been responsible for most of her past workplace failures, but her intelligence was what kept her constantly employed, even if she couldn’t quite keep the jobs.
She glanced at Dante, who was poring over his iPad again, and managed, barely, to keep from rolling her eyes in derision. She watched him covertly and tried to keep her appraisal objective. He was sickeningly good-looking. Dante Damaso was all gorgeous golden skin, topped with black-as-night wavy hair he kept clipped ruthlessly short and combed back with a conservative side part. There was barely enough of the luxurious, thick and silky mass for a woman to run her fingers through. His honey-brown eyes were framed by lush, long lashes that curled slightly at the ends and stern, straight eyebrows. His mouth had a full, curved bottom lip and a thin, perfectly bow-shaped upper lip, and it would have been beautiful if not for the cynical sneer perpetually twisting his lips whenever she was in his general vicinity. And, of course, he had the straight nose and high cheekbones to go with his perfect looks.
It was nauseating, really; a crooked nose would have made him more approachable, more human. It was almost obnoxious for him to be this good-looking! And now that she knew what he looked like beneath his expensive, bespoke dark-gray suit, it was even worse. At thirty-three he was in his prime. He had washboard abs, a butt you could bounce a coin off, gorgeously muscled arms, and—her personal weakness—killer thighs and calves. And he certainly knew exactly how to use that perfect body to please a woman. No wonder his gorgeous lady friends were always hanging around even after he ended things with them—mind-blowing sex and multiple orgasms could become dangerously addicting.
While Cleo could definitely empathize with those women, amazing sex wasn’t enough to make her moon over a guy or she’d be in serious trouble right now. Dante Damaso epitomized masculine perfection; it was a damned crying shame such good looks were wasted on a nasty specimen like him.