A Ruthless Proposition

By: Natasha Anders

“Jeez, why don’t Blue and Kyle put a leash on their men?” Cleo asked in exasperation, stepping out of his hold and moving toward the bedroom door at a fast waddle. Kyle was Cal’s longtime boyfriend, and they were talking about tying the knot. They’d been together for nearly four years. Cal, who was now the principal male dancer in his company, had never been happier, and Cleo was ecstatic for him.

“Blue’s too busy trying to stop Adam’s crying, and Kyle’s teaching Tami and my father a magic trick,” Dante replied. Adam was Blue and Luc’s two-week-old son, their first child. After Dante finally convinced them to take a loan from him four years before, Luc and Blue had, at long last, been able to fix the house and get married. Dante was still trying to convince Cleo’s proud brother to work for him at Damaso International, Inc., but Luc was being stubborn about accepting.

Dante sauntered out of the room after Cleo and caught up with her at the stairs. He took her elbow as she moved down the stairs, adding his support.

He was holding her hand as they walked into the chaotic living room. Cal and Luc were still arguing good-humoredly, Adam was screeching at the top of his lungs, Kyle had abandoned the magic tricks and was chasing an excited and squealing three-year-old around the room. Titan, their two-year-old Chihuahua, was chasing after both of them and yapping at the top of his lungs, while Enrique futilely tried to call the tiny dog to heel. Titan and Dante had been inseparable since the dog had been just two months old. It was ridiculous to see them together. And all of them, down to little Adam, were wearing white. Even Titan was wearing a little white T-shirt. The scene filled Cleo with great love while simultaneously making her want to run screeching in the opposite direction.

None of them spotted Dante and Cleo, who paused in the doorway.

“Want to make a run for it?” he whispered in her ear, and she looked at him and grinned.

They quietly backed away from the crazy room and, by unspoken agreement, walked to the kitchen of the beautiful two-story beach house that she and Dante had chosen together. It was situated close to Luc and Blue’s home. They made their way into the sprawling backyard, wandered to the bench in Zach’s garden, and sat down together. Cleo rested her head on his shoulder, and they kept their fingers entwined as they sat quietly together, enjoying the beautiful summer afternoon in silence.

“Still love me?” he asked, and she angled her eyes up to look into his face. He was looking down at the forget-me-nots, which were in full bloom, and the smile flirting around the edges of his lips told her he wasn’t particularly concerned about her answer.

“Yeah, I suppose I love you,” she said casually, and watched as the smile blossomed on his lips.

“That’s one,” he counted.

“Who’s counting?” she murmured. This had become one of their favorite little daily rituals. “I love you, I love you, I love you. So much.”

He tilted his head toward her.

“I love you too, dulzura.”

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