“Okay,” he said, picking up her plate and utensils and carrying them to the sink. She watched him tidy up and shook her head at how completely different they were. “So, I’m an only child.”
“What?” Why did he feel the need to tell her that?
“I’m an only child,” he repeated patiently. “My mother died of leukemia when I was five and a half. My father remarried soon after that. And then he divorced and remarried again. And so on and so forth. I’ve lost count of how many there were. And he’s getting remarried to a woman about a decade younger than me in a couple of weeks’ time. He always falls head over heels in love, marries without protecting himself or his assets, and then is surprised when he gets taken to the cleaners a year or two later.”
“Why are you telling me this?” she asked, horrified and fascinated by the story he was telling her, but not at all sure why he would choose to divulge this to her, now or ever.
“You might not want me to know about you, but I think it’s time you learned something about me.”
“Why? That makes no sense,” she said.
“Not yet,” he said enigmatically. “Anyway, my father is an idiot when it comes to matters of the heart, and I have decided never to be like him.”
Was he warning her off? Trying to tell her that he would always protect himself and his assets? She already knew that about him. So this warning was moot.
“Right,” she nodded. “Well, you can take great comfort in the fact that you’re not like him at all. You with your nondisclosure agreements and your bloodless little relationships, or whatever you call them.”
“Hmm.” That was his only response. “You’re probably not sleepy at all. Want to watch a movie or something?” Trying very hard not to think about what that “or something” could entail, Cleo firmly opted for the movie.
“I have a lot to choose from,” he informed her, following her into the living room. He picked up a tablet from the table and showed her how his system worked. “They’re all digital copies, and if there’s anything on here I don’t have or you would like to see, you can purchase them here.”
Once she had a rudimentary knowledge of how the system worked, he left her to flick through the movie choices while he went back to his work. Cleo curled up in a hard, angular, horrifically uncomfortable chair and settled back to watch.
A few bloodcurdling screams later, Dante looked up, his face pale and focused on the gigantic screen.
“What the hell are you watching?” he asked hoarsely.
“It’s one of the latest horror films,” she said, naming the movie, which had been a surprise hit the previous year. “Ssh. I’m trying to watch.”
His brow pleated as he continued to stare at the screen, and after a while, he was leaning forward, his elbows resting on his thighs as he focused on the screen.
“Why would they play that ridiculous game in a new house?” he asked, shaking his head but never once removing his eyes from the screen.
“Have you never seen this movie before?” Cleo asked in surprise, and he shook his head, keeping his eyes glued on the television.
“A lot of the new movies are automatic purchases, but I never have the time to watch. I don’t think I’ve even heard of this movie.”
“I’ve heard of it, and apparently it’s pretty scary,” she said.
“It’s a movie,” he scoffed. “We know that it’s fiction. How scary can it possibly be?”
“This one is based on fact,” she informed him in a spooky voice, and he shot her a fleeting glance before refocusing on the screen.
“Yeah, probably really loosely based,” he retorted skeptically, and Cleo rolled her eyes.
“Shush and let me watch. Go back to work or whatever it is you’re doing,” she demanded. His lips quirked and he dropped his eyes back to his documents, but Cleo was watching him surreptitiously and noticed him glancing back up at the screen seconds later. After a while he sat back and put his feet up on the coffee table. One major jump scare later, he was swearing prolifically and on the edge of his seat again.
Cleo was so busy watching him that she could barely focus on the movie. He was obviously freaked out but trying manfully not to show it, yet he jumped slightly with every scare. It was cute to watch the macho, unflappable Dante Damaso losing his cool over a scary movie.
By the end of the film, Cleo barely knew what it had been about, while Dante’s face was grim and a little pale.
“I don’t know how you can watch crap like that,” he grumbled, and she grinned.
“You seemed to be enjoying it.”
“I was just . . .” He paused as he considered his next words. “Scientifically curious.”
“Dante you were so scared you practically peed yourself every time something creepy happened,” she pointed out gleefully, and he looked so affronted that she burst into laughter. The next thing she knew he was kneeling in front of her chair and capturing her mouth with his, swallowing her remaining laughter in a kiss so scorching and intense it set her nerve endings on fire.
When he finally lifted his mouth, it was to give her a languid smile.
“Stop laughing at me,” he whispered.
“I’ve stopped,” she responded shakily.
“Good.” He kissed her again, this time he added his hands into the mix, and before she knew it, he had dragged her back onto the couch with him and she was straddling his lap.
“This is a terrible idea,” she protested.