Becoming Dante(2)

By: Day Leclaire

 “You’ve refused every attempt to make an appointment,” she said. “The very least you could do is have the courtesy to hear my proposition before throwing me out.”

 He simply stared at her. Something in his demeanor must have penetrated her annoyance and she stilled, eyeing him warily...a succulent doe scenting a hungry predator. About damn time. He maintained his silence, allowing it to grow until cold, raw bitterness settled between them. And all the while that hideous voice hammered at him, making demands about Kat Malloy he had zero intention of listening to, let alone following.

 “I owe you nothing. Maybe my late wife did. After all, you were Jessa’s cousin,” he said at last. He paused a beat before adding in a conversational tone, “Did you know she loved you like a sister? Even after what you did, even after your little fling with Benson Winters, she still spent the last two years of her life grieving over her lost relationship with you.”

 “Did she?” Kat raised a sleek eyebrow. “She certainly had a peculiar way of showing it, especially considering she turned our grandmother against me and vilified me in the press. For some reason that just doesn’t strike me as very sisterly.”

 He saw red. “Maybe because you slept with her fiancé. And though I ultimately benefited since she turned to me for consolation, it was a despicable thing to do.”

 The Malloy woman rallied with impressive speed. “So everyone keeps telling me. For some strange reason, I have a slightly different take on what happened that night.”

 She gave his office a cursory glance, noting the generous sitting area where he often entertained clients. Ignoring the chairs, she chose the couch. She shrugged off her coat, tossed it over one of the arms and made herself at home, crossing her legs—gorgeous, shapely legs, he couldn’t help but notice. Legs he would give almost anything to have wrapped around him. Of course, even a viper had a sinuous shape. That didn’t mean he’d get close enough to feel the sting of her fangs or be infected by her poison. Not that his inner voice gave him any peace on that front. Apparently, it didn’t care about fangs or poison, only about those legs, and how tight they could hold him.

 Regarding him with remarkable self-possession, she said, “Before you throw me out, you should be aware of one vital detail.” She smiled her siren’s smile. “I have something you want.”

 He waved that aside. “You have nothing I want, now or ever.”

 She folded her hands in her lap. So proper. So decorous. So bloody classy. And every bit of it a lie. “Actually, the detail I’m referring to is Heart’s Desire.”

 He froze. Son of a bitch! He’d spent years attempting to purchase his mother’s fire diamond necklace from Matilda Chatsworth, without success. Kat’s grandmother knew damn well how badly he wanted it, that he’d literally do anything necessary to get it back. Granted, not the best negotiating tactics for someone with his skill and experience. But he’d been far younger then, and lacked the ability to maintain a poker face, especially when it came to something that carried so much emotional baggage.

 The necklace had been created by his mother, Cara, when she first started working for Dantes as one of their jewelry designers. During those early, heady days, she’d met and fallen in love with Dominic Dante, the owner’s son. Their affair had been passionate and all-consuming, teetering on the brink of marriage. But instead of choosing his mother, Dominic had taken a wife with a bank account balance that would assist Dantes’ bottom line, no doubt at the urging of his parents. After his betrayal, his mother had accepted a position at Dantes, New York, and moved on with her life—until Dominic had swooped in years afterward and, unable to resist, she’d indulged in a one-night stand with him. That one night resulted in Gabe’s and his twin sister, Lucia’s, conception, causing Cara to leave Dantes permanently.

 According to Dominic, he’d never forgotten Cara, his love never dying. He spent years attempting to find her, frustrated by how successfully she’d fallen off the grid. Eventually, fifteen years later, he tracked her down, and discovered she’d borne his twins. This time he proposed to her, despite still being married to his wife, Laura. He gave Cara a necklace she’d created for the firm, one he named Heart’s Desire in her honor, along with a ring as a promise that he’d come to her after his divorce, marry her and legitimize his bastard twins by adopting them and bestowing the Dante name on them. Of course, that had never happened and all Cara Moretti had been left with were empty promises and the dying flames of the fire diamonds Dominic had given her.

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