“Yes,” she said, her voice so soft she doubted he could hear her above the sound of the wind in the sails. Dante Damaso never failed to surprise her, and she wished he would stop because each new thing she learned about him made her love him more. How hard it was for a man like Dante to reveal his vulnerability, and yet he’d done it often over the course of the last few weeks. She wanted to suppress her feelings for him, but it got harder and harder with every moment spent in his company.
“Do you want to steer?” he invited, quite deliberately changing the subject, and she was happy to let him.
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to sink your precious boat.”
“Wimp,” he taunted, and she narrowed her eyes in mock outrage.
“Ooh, you’re going to pay for that one.” She got up and walked over to the wheel on wobbly legs. It certainly wasn’t very easy to walk on these boats.
He grinned and stepped aside to let her take the wheel. The boat immediately listed to the side, and she squealed. He chuckled and stepped up behind her, caging her with his body when his hands dropped on top of hers on the wheel. As usual, he smelled absolutely divine, and as his scent wrapped around her, she could barely concentrate on his instructions.
“Got that?” he asked, after a whole lot of gobbledygook that she hadn’t been paying attention to, and stepped back. It was a sheer fluke that Cleo managed to keep the boat upright. And this time when she squealed, it was with excitement, and when she laughed, it was without guilt.
They spent a delightful afternoon on the boat, and Dante took her to dinner at a Mexican restaurant afterward. Cleo enjoyed herself, and the evening was relaxing and stress free. Their conversation centered around the hotel in Tokyo, the cute cards and paper flowers Cleo’s dance-class students had made for her, and Luc and Blue’s ramshackle old house. He was sweet and conscientious, and the one little sour point in the evening was when he asked her if she wanted a glass of wine and she refused, forgetting that she was no longer pregnant. Then the memory had hit her like a ton of bricks, the pain fresh and intense. It was seeing the same flash of pain in Dante’s eyes that helped her get over it, knowing that she wasn’t the only one feeling the loss. Being with somebody who understood what she was going through helped immeasurably.
On the drive home, he broached the subject of Zach again.
“What would you like to do with Zach’s ashes?” he asked quietly, and Cleo, who had been on the verge of dozing off after her two glasses of wine, was immediately wide-awake.
“I haven’t thought about it,” she said.
“Cleo, we have to lay his soul to rest. We can’t leave him in limbo like this.”
“I’m not ready to think about it,” she said stubbornly.
“Why did you name him Zach?” Dante asked.
“I read on a few of the baby-name websites that the name meant remembrance or something similar. And I just want him to be remembered.” She swiped at a stray tear that slipped down her cheek.
“And what made you decide to add Damaso to his name?” His voice was quiet and filled with an emotion she couldn’t quite place.
“It would have been wrong not to,” she said simply, and he kept his eyes glued on the road.
“Thank you. It means a lot to me.”
When he pulled into Luc’s driveway, he turned to face her, his eyes gleaming in the darkness.
“Cleo, I know it’s tough, and I want to do what’s right for you . . . but I also want to do right by our son. I can’t stand the thought of his ashes remaining there unclaimed. That is not how it should be; he was loved. I thought I could keep them until you’re ready to make a decision, but they won’t release the ashes to me. I’ve tried.”
“Maybe—” she started to say, and then hesitated, before swallowing loudly and plunging ahead. “Maybe we should take him out on the Arabella and scatter his ashes at sea? It was so peaceful out there, so beautiful, and the view was lovely. I think it would be n-nice.”
He reached out with one hand, hooking the back of her neck and tugging her toward him to plant a gentle kiss on her lips.
“I think that’s an amazing idea,” he whispered, his own voice wobbling with emotion.
“Will you come with me to . . . to pick up his ashes tomorrow?”
“Are you going to stay again?” she asked, hating the edge of neediness in her voice. He ran his thumb over her cheekbone, his eyes gleaming in the dark interior of the car.
“Much as I’d love to, I don’t think I can spend another day in your brother’s too-tight clothes or wear his nasty shoes again. I need a change of clothes, dulzura. Would you like to come home with me instead?” he asked gently. “Most of your clothes are there, and I’m sure you’d prefer sleeping in your own bed, sí?”
“I can’t, Dante,” she whispered, and his hand moved to cup her cheek.
“That’s okay. I can go and fetch a bag and return here later.”
She was tempted to say yes to that suggestion but didn’t think it would be fair to ask him to make the half-hour drive to his penthouse at the Waterfront and back to Hout Bay again.
“I can’t ask you to do an hour of unnecessary driving,” she said regretfully. “It’s okay; you go home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Picking up the ashes the following morning wasn’t as much of an ordeal as Cleo expected. With Dante by her side, it was surprisingly easy. He took charge and was even thoughtful enough to bring a beautiful, ornate little urn along with him. They waited in an uncomfortable, sterile office while the worker took the urn away to transfer Zach’s ashes into it. When he returned moments later, he handed it over with a sympathetic nod.