Cal was doing well. Since their talk, he’d made a real effort to find decent work. He’d auditioned to be part of the corps de ballet for a small dance company based in Durban, and they had called him just that morning to inform him that he’d gotten the job. He would be staying for the remainder of Cleo’s lease and leaving two weeks after she moved out. Cleo was happy for him, but she would miss him like crazy, especially since her relationship with Luc was so strained.
Cleo’s own life was looking up too. She’d started helping Susan out with a few classes—kids between the ages of ten and twelve—and she loved it. More than she ever expected. Susan even offered to let her do the choreography for one of their upcoming recitals and was willing to let her do even more classes if the recital went well.
Cleo’s love for dance was rekindling, but in a different way. She was thinking more and more about the technical aspects of it, how a dancer’s body moved, how she could achieve certain shapes with those bodies through her choreography. It felt fantastic.
And as far as her pregnancy went, she was developing a tiny bump, which was even more exciting than her new part-time job. Once, she even thought she felt a little wriggle in there, but she’d been mistaken. She couldn’t wait for the baby to start moving.
Now she stood in her new room in Dante’s penthouse and took in the changes he’d made to accommodate her. Of course, the trendy king-size bed was gone and had been replaced by her four-poster bed, which would have looked out of place in the room had he held on to the old furniture. But whomever it was he employed to do these things had matched bed stands, bureau, and dresser with the warm teak of her bed, and the room looked so much more inviting. Vertical bamboo blinds, which made it feel more private, now covered the windows.
Dante was standing in the doorway as she took in her new surroundings, and when she looked back at him, she was surprised to see a flash of nerves on that handsome face. He disguised it pretty quickly, but that brief glimmer had been enough for Cleo to recognize that he was actually unsure of her reaction to the room.
“I like this room a lot better now,” she said with a smile, and could see the tension around his eyes easing, even though there was no perceptible change in his expression.
“Great,” he said. “I have something else to show you. Follow me.”
Curious, she trailed him out of the room and into his gym. He stood aside and waved her in, and she passed him tentatively, wondering what he could possibly have to show her in here. When she looked around the room and noticed what was different, her eyes immediately flooded with irrational, stupid tears.
“Oh my God, Dante,” she cried, her hands going to her mouth in shock. “This is too much.”
“Do you like it?” he asked, striving to sound casual.
“How can I not?” Her voice wobbled dangerously, and she inhaled deeply as she walked toward the sprung floor that simply hadn’t been there just two weeks before. He had cleared out a whole corner of his gym for the floor, covered the wall with mirrored panels, and installed a ballet barre to run parallel with the floor.
“I know it’s not as big as the space you’re used to, but I was hoping it would suffice. And of course I consulted a professional dancer—Callum, actually—about the type of floor that would be best. I wasn’t sure . . .” She turned around and shut him up with a fierce hug and an equally intense kiss. The kiss was short-lived, and she stood back to stare into his stunned eyes through a haze of tears.
“Nobody has ever done anything like this for me before,” she said. “Thank you.”
“I . . .” At a loss for words, he settled for a shrug. Cleo kicked off her shoes and stepped onto the floor. She took hold of the barre and did a quick and easy series of demi-pliés.
“I can’t wait to give it a go,” she said over her shoulder, while he stared at her with a completely unreadable expression.
“Great,” he said tightly. “I have to get back to the office. I’ve squandered enough of my day. James will remain to run your biometrics through the security system. He’ll explain how it all works.”
He left without so much as a backward glance.
Stung, Cleo reminded herself to never lose sight of the fact that he was Dante Damaso, and despite any unexpected kindnesses he might throw her way, he wasn’t a very nice man. She was here only because of the baby in her belly, and she’d better not forget that. While there might be some residual desire between them, it would be dangerous to confuse that with anything more meaningful.
Her hand came to rest on the small bump of her baby, and all her joy in the room fled. She stepped off the floor and, barefoot, went in search of James.
Two weeks later, Cleo was sitting on the horrendous couch with a huge comfy pillow shoved behind her back and her feet propped up on the coffee table. She had a bowl of warm, buttery popcorn on the stand next to the couch and was watching one of her all-time favorite movies with the intensity of someone seeing it for the first time.
Dante had been pretty much absent since she’d moved in. He left before she got up in the mornings and came home way after her bedtime. And because he was such a neat freak, he even had a maid come in to clean up his nonexistent mess every other day, so there was never any trace of him around the place. It was like living with a ghost.
Cleo, who was so used to Cal being up in her business and Luc constantly calling, felt lonely. She still had her friends from the dance studio and had befriended a few of the mothers of the girls she taught, but at the end of the day, she came home alone to this tomblike place. She wasn’t unhappy, but she felt increasingly isolated. She didn’t have to worry about money or work or her apartment falling apart around her ears—which was a relief—but she had no one to talk to.