She crossed her arms, drawing his attention to her chest, and sighed in defeat.
“Fine. Okay, consider your conscience clear and our association at an end.”
“You will accept the money?” His eyes lit with satisfaction when she nodded. “Good. Now, maybe you can tell me what the hell you’re wearing.”
“What?” Cleo glanced down at herself and realized that with the hoodie unzipped, he could see the top of her leotard. “Oh. It’s a leotard.”
“Leotard? For dancing or gymnastics?”
“That explains it,” he murmured beneath his breath, and she tilted her head curiously.
“Nothing. It’s nothing. What kind of dance?”
She hesitated as she debated whether to encourage this conversation any further.
“Seriously?” He sounded so shocked that she was a little affronted.
“What were you expecting?”
“I don’t know, with your personality I was expecting something more modern and quirky, perhaps. Ballet is . . .”
“Refined?” she snapped, on the defensive again.
“Not what I was going to say.”
“Damn it, Cleo!” It was the first time her name had ever flowed from his lips so naturally, and it startled her into silence. He didn’t seem aware that he’d used it and was still glaring at her. “I told you not to do that. I was going to say stuffy. Ballet is so stuffy. It’s beautiful, but it has so many rigid lines and rules. It doesn’t seem to match your personality.”
“You don’t know me, Mr. Damaso,” she reminded again.
“I know enough,” he disagreed almost gently.
“Your five minutes are up.”
“Indeed they are.” He walked toward the door, and she watched him from the center of the room. Once at the door, he turned to face her.
“I was wondering about week fourteen,” he confessed, his voice so low she barely caught it. He kept his eyes downcast, as if embarrassed to meet her gaze.
“Week fourteen?” she repeated, buying time, not sure if she should answer him or not.
“What happened after the fists and the eyelids?” He sounded like a wistful little boy wanting to know the end of a fairy tale, and it would have taken a stronger person than Cleo to resist the appeal of that little boy.
“Last week he started urinating,” she said, wrinkling her nose, still a bit creeped out by the idea. “It’s kind of gross to imagine him peeing away in there. Oh, and he has his own fingerprints now. This week he’s starting to make little faces.”
She grinned at the thought.
“Squints and frowns,” she giggled. “He’s probably paying special attention to getting that frown just right, considering who his father is.” The words gave her pause as she remembered that her baby wouldn’t know who his father was. She kept her eyes averted as she tried to keep her sadness at bay. She’d also grown up not knowing her father and had always wanted more for her children.
“Anyway, this is all guesswork. We could be a week off. I’ll know for sure on Wednesday when I go for an ultrasound. They’ll be able to give me a more accurate estimate of when he was conceived and when his date of birth will be.”
“Will they be able to tell you if it’s a girl or boy?” he asked, and she shrugged.
“I don’t think so. Some of the articles I’ve read indicate that they can tell by twelve weeks, while other sources state that sixteen weeks is standard practice. I don’t think I’d want to know, though.”
“I suppose Lucius will be going with you?”
“Luc and Blue are working,” she said unthinkingly, and his eyes narrowed.
“Sure. Cal will go,” she said airily, and his eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Anyway . . . I have some stuff to take care of. So I’ll say good-bye now. I’m sure Mr. Grayson has my lawyer’s number.”
She reached out a hand, and he enveloped it with his. She shook his hand in one decisive up-and-down movement, but he refused to release his grip afterward.
“Good luck with your hotel in Tokyo. I’m sure it’ll be beautiful.” She didn’t really know what else to say and wished he’d free her hand, but he didn’t seem to have any inclination to do so.
“Does Lucius know the identity of your child’s father?” he asked unexpectedly.
“No. And I’d rather he didn’t know,” she said.
“Because he values your friendship, and even though I can’t see what he finds so appealing about you, he doesn’t have many friends, and I wouldn’t want to deprive him of one.”
“You once found me very appealing,” he reminded huskily.
“What are you doing, Dante?” she asked in a helpless little voice, and he looked as confused as she felt. It was the most vulnerable she’d ever seen him look.
“I don’t know,” he admitted quietly. “I have no clue what I’m doing.”
He stepped closer and tugged her toward him until her chest was flush against his torso. He finally released her hand, only to cup her face in his palms, as if she was the most precious thing he’d ever beheld.
“Maybe just a good-bye,” he whispered. “Can I say good-bye?”
“No.” The word carried no weight and floated between them as light as a feather, and he caught it on her lips before it could properly float away. His kiss was gentle and felt alarmingly reverent, and Cleo was floored by it. He shouldn’t be doing this, and she shouldn’t be allowing it. It complicated things.
CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 49