“Out of order,” she grunted.
“Of course it is.” He couldn’t bite back the sarcasm and immediately regretted it when her back straightened. He had put her even more on the defensive than she had been before. When she finally reached her front door, she was slightly out of breath.
“This won’t get easier, you know,” he said, striving to sound gentle.
“It’s none of your business,” she snapped. Her hair was starting to fall out of the absurd little ponytail she had it in, and he noted that the pink tips had been replaced by pale blue ones. A few of the blue strands were peppered through her bangs as well.
She unlocked her door, and when she stepped aside to allow him entry, he waved her forward. He followed her in and immediately spotted the huge blond guy from the airport seated at the kitchen table, digging into a bowl of cereal.
Instantly beyond furious and feeling absolutely gullible, Dante’s first thought was that she’d duped him. This was, as he had initially suspected, an elaborate ploy to make him believe some other guy’s kid was his, and he’d caught her red-handed. How was she going to explain this guy away?
He turned to face her, ready to give it to her with both barrels, when the annoyed—not guilty, not defensive, not even scared—expression on her face gave him pause.
“You’re eating my Frostees!” Cleo screeched, and Cal dropped his spoon guiltily.
“It was just a taste, I swear, hon. You know I’d never eat too much of the stuff; it’s hugely calorific. Well, hello.” His gaze drifted behind her, and Cleo became aware of the man standing so close by.
“Cal, this is Dante Damaso, my ex-boss. Mr. Damaso, my roommate, Callum Faris.” Cal got up and sauntered over to them where he presented his hand to Dante, who gave it a firm shake.
“You can call me Cal,” her shamelessly flirting roommate invited. “Or just call me anytime.”
“Cal,” she hissed, and he rolled his eyes. “Do you mind giving us some privacy? Mr. Damaso and I have a few things to discuss.”
Cal pouted before grabbing up a denim jacket and heading toward the door.
“Be good to my girl, Mr. D,” he said on his way out. “I know about five different forms of martial arts, and I’m not afraid to use them.” Cleo felt a spurt of affection for her friend who, while a flirtatious lech, still knew exactly where his loyalties lay.
They watched him leave, and silence reigned for a few seconds before Cleo darted a quick look at Dante. He had a bemused expression on his face. She grinned.
“You totally thought he was my baby daddy,” she said, and he had the grace to look completely uncomfortable.
“For a moment there, I thought I’d been . . .”
“Conned?” she guessed, and when he flashed her an annoyed look, she remembered that he didn’t like it when she finished his sentences.
“Duped,” he corrected, and she snorted.
“Come on, you’ve got to give me that one, they mean the same thing,” she groused, and he cleared his throat but didn’t respond. “Anyway, I’m offended your sordid little mind went there immediately despite the paternity-test results you got today. You have a seriously low opinion of me.”
He kept his gaze impassive.
“What? No apology?” she challenged, and his jaw clenched but he remained stoically silent. She shrugged, letting it go because the sooner he was out of here, the better for her.
“What did you want to talk about that couldn’t be handled by our attorneys?”
“I wanted to inform you that I would pay for your medical costs as well,” he explained, and she started shaking her head before the words were even completely formed.
“You wouldn’t need any medical care if you weren’t pregnant, and you wouldn’t be pregnant if not for me. Therefore, the medical bills should fall to me.”
“I don’t want anything from you,” she said as she shrugged out of her jacket and unzipped her fleecy, gray hoodie.
“Why the hell not?” he asked angrily. “Everybody else does. Why don’t you?”
“Because I’m not everybody else,” she said quietly. In that instant she felt her heart break a little for him. How did that feel? To know that people cultivated relationships or friendships with you solely because of what it might get them. She was starting to understand why he’d become such firm friends with Luc. Her brother was one of the least materialistic people she knew. Sure, he wanted the finer things in life, like everybody else, but he would work his heart out to obtain those things and never expect them to be handed to him on a plate. “And FYI, you seem to know some seriously shitty people.”
“Look, I’ll leave you alone if you let me do this one thing for you, okay?” he promised. “Just let me take care of the medical bills.”
“If I need any additional procedures that would cost more than I’d anticipated, if I need to stay in the hospital, or if there are complications that require additional medical treatment, I will happily accept your financial assistance,” she stipulated, but he still didn’t look happy.
“All of it, Cleo,” he maintained. “Give your doctor’s details to Mike, and he’ll take care of everything. I’ve already added the clause to our agreement. If you don’t cooperate, I will make an educated guess as to the possible costs incurred and have Mike transfer the funds into your account on a monthly basis. Once transferred, it cannot be returned. You can then do whatever the hell you want to with the money.”
CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 48