Dante's Honour-bound Husband(8)

By: Day Leclaire

He still didn’t seem to realize that he’d wandered onto extremely thin ice. How could he have dated her for even a week and not picked up on the fact that family meant everything to her? With the Dantes, family came first and foremost, just as she thought it must with the d’Angelos, despite David’s more cosmopolitan lifestyle. La famiglia, right?

That also extended beyond blood ties. There was nothing the Dantes loved better than finding someone new to add to the fold. If David weren’t so suspicious of their intent, right down to insisting that they keep their relationship on the down low until the past month when he’d finally agreed to be introduced to everyone, he’d have discovered that for himself. But for some reason, David’s attitude caused her family to hold him at a cool, polite distance, except for her Nonna.

She saw the Dantes’ corporate headquarters come in to sight. “I don’t blame your family for the way you’ve held me at arm’s length. Not exactly. I understand that some of it is probably the old-fashioned way you were raised.”

Oh, this just kept getting better and better. “Is that right?” she murmured. “Let me take a wild guess here. You consider me old-fashioned because I haven’t jumped in the sack with you like every other woman you’ve dated.”

“Again, being blunt here. Yes. The rest of the world has moved forward, Gia, but the Dantes are still living in a different century, with all the rules, social mores and restrictions that entails. As you know, I was educated at Oxford and enjoy a very sophisticated lifestyle. My entire family actually lives in the twenty-first century.”

“Unlike mine.” She didn’t give him time to respond, instead smiling sweetly. “And for some reason you think a trip to New York will leapfrog me into the current century?”

He countered her smile with a warm, sensuous one of his own. “Hoping, sweetheart. Seriously hoping. Your family is protective. I get that. But still… You’re a grown woman, Gia, with emphasis on the woman. Why shouldn’t you live your life the way you see fit instead of by a set of antiquated rules?”

“Did it ever occur to you that I’m fully aware that I’m a grown woman and that, rather than caving to the old-fashioned dictates of my family, I’ve deliberately chosen to live by some of those antiquated rules you regard with such disdain?”

He released a sigh. “You’re forcing me to spoil the surprise I have planned.” He shot her a swift, smoldering look before lifting her left hand and kissing it, his thumb stroking across her bare ring finger. “A surprise that will give everyone cause for celebration and allow your family to turn a blind eye to our little romantic escapade. What do you say to that, sweetheart?”

Gianna’s breath caught. Okay, it didn’t take a mental genius to add up those clues. He planned to propose. She chose her response with care. “There’s nothing I can say, is there? I mean, it’s still a future surprise, not an actual proposition.” She hesitated. “Is it?”

“Not yet. But I’m hoping to hear a loud, excited ‘Yes, David, I will’ in the very near future.”

Gianna bit down on her lower lip. Gently disengaging their hands, she glanced out the passenger window at Dantes’ corporate offices while she fought for control. Why now? Why tonight of all nights? She strongly suspected Constantine would be at the gala. In fact, knowing her family, she could pretty much guarantee it. How could she possibly consider starting an affair, let alone an engagement, with another man while he stood in the wings watching with that fierce, predatory hunger?

Gianna shivered at the thought. She could pretty much guarantee that if she and Constantine had been dating for three months their relationship would have been consummated long ago, whether they’d planned to wait or not. They wouldn’t have been able to help themselves. No doubt, he’d have hustled her to the altar at the earliest moment, considering his family was as “old-fashioned,” not to mention “antiquated,” as hers.

She spared David a brief glance. She always knew this moment would come, when David would force her to make a choice between settling for second best or being alone. She hoped she’d have more time. That her feelings for him would change. But they hadn’t and she’d have to make a decision about him—and soon.

He pulled into the parking garage beneath Dantes and slipped into the space reserved for VIP guests. Unbuckling both their seat belts, he surprised her by pulling her into his arms. Then he leaned across the console and kissed her, his warm lips wandering across hers. She allowed the embrace, attempted to lose herself in it.