A Ruthless Proposition

By: Natasha Anders

Cleo had been good at only one thing in her life: dancing. And after years of hard work and countless personal and physical sacrifices, she had been well on her way to establishing herself as a talent of note before an accident just after her twenty-fourth birthday had robbed her of that career path. Doctors told her she would never dance professionally again, and it was a fact Cleo had difficulty accepting. She still felt like she could dance; it was still there in her heart and soul. How could they tell her she couldn’t do the one thing she loved above all else? Without dance in her life, she had found herself rudderless and devastatingly average. Now all she had left were her brain and a sharp tongue that kept getting her into trouble at the worst possible times. That tongue had been responsible for most of her past workplace failures, but her intelligence was what kept her constantly employed, even if she couldn’t quite keep the jobs.

She glanced at Dante, who was poring over his iPad again, and managed, barely, to keep from rolling her eyes in derision. She watched him covertly and tried to keep her appraisal objective. He was sickeningly good-looking. Dante Damaso was all gorgeous golden skin, topped with black-as-night wavy hair he kept clipped ruthlessly short and combed back with a conservative side part. There was barely enough of the luxurious, thick and silky mass for a woman to run her fingers through. His honey-brown eyes were framed by lush, long lashes that curled slightly at the ends and stern, straight eyebrows. His mouth had a full, curved bottom lip and a thin, perfectly bow-shaped upper lip, and it would have been beautiful if not for the cynical sneer perpetually twisting his lips whenever she was in his general vicinity. And, of course, he had the straight nose and high cheekbones to go with his perfect looks.

It was nauseating, really; a crooked nose would have made him more approachable, more human. It was almost obnoxious for him to be this good-looking! And now that she knew what he looked like beneath his expensive, bespoke dark-gray suit, it was even worse. At thirty-three he was in his prime. He had washboard abs, a butt you could bounce a coin off, gorgeously muscled arms, and—her personal weakness—killer thighs and calves. And he certainly knew exactly how to use that perfect body to please a woman. No wonder his gorgeous lady friends were always hanging around even after he ended things with them—mind-blowing sex and multiple orgasms could become dangerously addicting.

While Cleo could definitely empathize with those women, amazing sex wasn’t enough to make her moon over a guy or she’d be in serious trouble right now. Dante Damaso epitomized masculine perfection; it was a damned crying shame such good looks were wasted on a nasty specimen like him.

To distract herself from the awkward situation with her boss, Cleo turned her attention to the city just a window’s breadth away. She couldn’t remember ever seeing this many pedestrians in one place, hustling and bustling and going about their daily lives. She craned her neck and couldn’t prevent a giggle from escaping when she spotted a guy in a panda suit crossing the intersection in front of their car. She scrambled for her phone and managed to catch his back as he walked away, his gigantic panda head towering above the other, completely unconcerned pedestrians. Nobody even stared. She absently started taking a few more pics and then several selfies, trying to get as much of the city in the background as possible and adding the really good ones to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She positioned herself with her back to the window and took a few duckface selfies while they were stopped at a particularly busy intersection.

Dante was so engrossed in his reading that it took a while before the annoying clicking sound penetrated the heavy fog of statistics eddying in his brain. When he finally became aware of it, the click that followed was almost jarring as it jerked him fully aware of his surroundings. He looked over to where Chl—Cleo—was sitting on the far end of the backseat and blinked when he saw her sucking in her cheeks, plumping up her lips, and lowering her chin as she held her phone slightly above face level and snapped a photograph. Well, that explained the annoying clicking. She shifted her chin slightly to the left and took another picture. Then another and another.

“I hate to interrupt this narcissistic little lovefest you’ve got going on with your phone, Miss Knight, but surely you have something a little more productive to do with your time?”

She jumped and dropped her phone, which bounced off the seat and landed right between his shoes. She swore beneath her breath and bent over to retrieve it. He gaped as she squirmed her way between the front passenger seat and his knee, her round butt sticking up and wriggling temptingly right within cupping range of his hands. He held said hands up and away from her body in case they were tempted to do something stupid, like explore the silky smooth skin of her thighs, which was being revealed one tantalizing millimeter at a time as she maneuvered her way a little farther down.

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