Dante's Girl (Page 28)

Dante’s Girl (The Paradise Diaries #1)(28)
Author: Courtney Cole

I dig through my makeup case and find a handful of bobby pins.  I vaguely remember how to do a chignon from my ballet years a long time ago.  I also hope that I haven’t used the pins to clean out my toe-nails or something equally gross.  I twist my hair into a bun at my neck and stick the pins through it.

I examine myself again.

Okay.  I look better.  More elegant, anyway, more grown-up, more polished.  More like I am attending a State Dinner instead of prom.  I hitch up the front of my dress and pray that it doesn’t slip down during dinner.  I am not what you might call overly endowed in the chestal region.  Underly endowed is more like it, if there is such a word.  Which I’m sure there’s not, but still.

Time check.


My heart pitty-pats and I slip my feet into the high-heeled-stilts-of-death.  I practice walking, walking quickly, then jogging.  Then I walk again, because who am I kidding? I’ll never be running in these things.

There’s a quick knock on the door.

Time check.  7:40.

Dante is five minutes early, the rascal.

I rush to the door.

I throw it open.

And my heart drops into my feet and practically cries.

Because it isn’t Dante in my doorway.  It’s Gavin, Casanova himself, standing there with a goofy grin and a red rose.  He holds the flower out to me, smiling, and I can’t help but smile back.

“Hi Gavin,” I tell him, taking the rose and burying my face in it.  Its sweet smell fills my nose and I inhale again, trying to hide my disappointment.  It’s not Gavin’s fault that he’s not Dante.  “What are you doing here?”

Gavin is wearing a tux and his dark hair is freshly washed. I can tell because it’s still wet and I can see the comb tracks.  I can also smell the soap from here.

He bows low. He’s not as tall as Dante, but he’s tall enough, maybe six feet or so.  While his head is down, he reaches blindly and clownishly for my hand to kiss it.  I smile and shake my head because he’s so idiotic sometimes that it is impossible not to like him.

“I’m here to escort you to dinner,” he tells me with a grin.  “Dante sent me.  Something came up and he can’t so I’ve been delegated.  Are you honored by my presence?”

My disappointment was temporarily clouded with my amusement at Gavin’s gall.  “Honored?  Um. Yeah.  That’s exactly what I am.”

Gavin knowingly shakes his head and holds out his arm.  “I thought you would be.  Are you ready to dine with the most stuck-up and stuck-on-themselves group in all of Caberra?”

He cocks his head and waits thoughtfully for my answer, as though I actually have a choice in the matter.  I’m a guest here.  If they want me at their dinner, that’s where I’ll be.

“Well, if you put it that way, how can I say no?” I answer.  It’s hard to stay disappointed with Gavin for long.

He leads me down the long hallway leading away from my rooms.  I can see that the Old Palace has been spruced up for the dinner tonight.  Fresh flowers and lit candles adorn practically every available surface and it looks beautiful.  The soft candlelight is exactly perfect to hide the freckles on my nose and it creates the perfect intimate ambience… one that I would love to be sharing with Dante right now, rather than Gavin.

But, that’s not how it is.  My hand is carefully tucked inside of Gavin’s black-jacketed arm.  Not Dante’s.

“So, why are you here?” I ask curiously as we descend the stairs.  “I mean, at the dinner.”

He waggles his slender eyebrows. Does he get them waxed??

“Because my father is Dante’s Minister of Interior.”

I stare at him, dumb-founded.  Or maybe just plain dumb.  I’m not sure.

“Your father is a member of Mr. Giliberti’s cabinet too?”  A light goes on.  “Do all of you have important fathers?  Is that why you and Dante are friends?”

Gavin’s typically playful face goes all serious for a minute.  I know that I won’t see this very often, so I pay close attention while it lasts.

“Pretty much,” he says.  “Mine is the MoI.  Mia’s is the MoD.  Elena’s mom is the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  And her dad is Dimitri’s best friend.”  Yeah, I knew that part.  But I didn’t know her mom was important, too.  I gulp.

“And Nate?”

“Nate’s father is the Deputy Prime Minister, Dimitri’s second-in-command.  He travels a lot in Dimitri’s stead for public relations purposes.  That might be one reason for Nate’s constant bad mood. His dad is always gone.  From the time we were small- his dad has always had to travel.  Nate hates it.”

“Well, he’s certainly always in a bad mood,” I agree.  I absently rub the bruise on my elbow.  “Do you think he’ll be here tonight?”

Gavin shrugs.  “We usually try to avoid these things like the plague.  I came tonight because Dante asked me to.  I think he asked Mia, too.  He wanted to make sure you have friends to talk to.”

Warmth rushes through me at Dante’s thoughtfulness.  He might be tied up elsewhere, but he’s still thinking about me.

“I don’t know if he asked Elena,” Gavin adds.  He might as well have tossed a bucket of cold water on me.  His words are just as dousing.  Ugh. I could have done without hearing that.  Because now I’m doubting Dante’s motives.  Is he trying to be sweet because he like likes me, or is he just being cordial and friendly because I’m his guest and he is nothing if not polite?

That’s the new question of the year.

“Are you ready for this?” Gavin asks as we pause outside of a large set of ornate double doors.  I eye the doors, then eye him.

Hell no, I’m not, I think.

“I think so,” I actually say.

I fidget with my dress, fighting the urge to hike up the front of it again. It hasn’t actually slipped down yet, but I’m sure it will.  My chestal region is a hilly plains, not a mountainous terrain.

Gavin smiles.

“You’re ready.  These are the things to remember:  Smile.  Look pretty, act polite.  People will probably ask you a million questions about America.  Just smile and answer and laugh.  You’ll be fine.”