My voice trails off as I lean forward to put my phone on the table. Dante sucks in his breath. “What the heck happened to your arm?”
The huge, nasty bruise that Nate put on my arm.
I subconsciously cover it with my other hand while I frantically think of something to say. Honesty is always best, right? I wasn’t so sure that it was this time. But it’s not my place to protect Nate. I don’t owe him anything.
Except a bruise.
“Um. I bumped into Nate on the beach the other day.”
Dante stares at me in confusion. “You bumped into Nate the other day and got a bruise?”
I sigh. “No. I bumped into Nate the other day on the beach while he was on the phone. He thought I was eavesdropping and he got a little mad.”
Dante freezes, his eyes boring into mine.
“Nate got a little mad at you?”
Each word is carefully enunciated and chillingly calm and I feel a storm coming. In fact, the hair stands up on my arms. I feel a sense of foreboding, actually. Dante is pissed and Nate is not someone to mess with. I sense that from a mile away. In telling Dante this bit of info, I’m essentially signing my Enemies-Are-Forever agreement with Nate.
But the truth is always best.
I nod. “He thought I was eavesdropping.”
And I had been.
“What was he saying that was so very important?” Dante asks, his voice still icily calm. He sits up. “Matters of national security, I’m sure.”
He’s getting to his feet, wiping off with a towel and reaching for a shirt. This can’t be good. Besides the fact that I’d rather he stay shirtless, I don’t want him going after Nate. I know from these types of situations with farm boys in Kansas that they seldom end well. Bones get broken, eyes get blackened, blood gets spattered.
“No. I’m not sure what he was talking about. He was trying to find something, he said. And he mentioned your name. But honestly, I couldn’t tell what the conversation was about. It might have been nothing at all.”
“That’s neither here nor there,” Dante announces. “Because he laid a hand on you. And that was a mistake.”
I sigh again.
“Dante, please. It’s over with now. It’s not going to do any good to confront him. He was just having a bad day, I think.”
“Well, he’s about to have another one today.” Dante stalks away.
I sit frozen for a moment before I scramble up and trail after him.
He’s on his phone already, leaving livid voicemails for Nate. I presume it’s Nate, anyway.
“Call me, you bastard. Now.”
I sincerely hope it’s Nate.
Dante shoves his phone in his pocket and keeps walking.
“Where are we going?” I ask as I trail at his heels like a puppy. It’s all I can do to keep up. He’s moving very fast. And his legs are very long.
We wind through the Old Palace and come out on the other side, bursting through the main doors just in time to bump into… Nate. And Nate’s father, Nathaniel. And Dimitri.
The three of them stare at us in surprise and Dante takes no time for pleasantries or explanations. He shoves Nate hard, causing him to stumble backward down the white marble steps.
“What the hell?” Nate looks bewildered and Dimitri grabs Dante’s arm.
“What were you thinking?” Dante demands, struggling against his father. Dimitri holds him fast.
“What are you thinking?”Dimitri hisses, yanking at Dante. “Stop this.”
Dante pulls his arm away.
“Do you enjoy roughing up women?” he asks icily, stepping directly into Nate’s personal space. Nate is calm, unworried. He looks directly into Dante’s eyes.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dante,” he says. My hand automatically fingers the tender bruise on my arm. Nate’s gaze flickers to me and I can see in his eyes that he knows exactly what Dante is talking about.
But he’s a very good liar.
Nate immediately puts on an innocent, puzzled expression. I can practically feel his father’s breath on my neck as we all close in to listen. This is the first time I’ve seen Nate’s father. He looks nothing like Nate. He is shorter, darker. He seems kinder and like the rest of us, he is waiting for Nate’s explanation. And that is forthcoming, but it is full of shit.
“Dante, is this about Reece? I’m sorry, dude. I didn’t mean to hurt her. She stumbled on the beach and I reached out to make sure she didn’t fall. I certainly didn’t intend to man-handle her.”
Nate looks to me.
“Did you think I was purposely hurting you, Reece? My apologies. That certainly wasn’t the case. Can you forgive me?”
His face is icy, his eyes cold. But the words he is speaking are the right ones. How can we argue with them in front of Dimitri and Nathaniel?
“I don’t believe you,” Dante says calmly. I guess that’s how. We just lay it out there. I suck in my breath as Nathaniel steps forward.
“Come now, Dante,” Nathaniel says quietly. “Nate says it was unintentional. Surely you can’t believe that he’d harm a girl that he barely knows. For what purpose? Let’s not be rash. Let us calm down and be adults. Is it possible that your judgment might be clouded because you’re jealous that Nate was with Reece at the beach in the first place?”
“I’m not jealous of Nate,” Dante answers. “I just know Nate better than you do, sir.”
“Dante!” Dimitri snaps, his face a thunderous storm cloud. “Apologize at once. This is ridiculous. Nate has apologized. It was an accident.” He turns to me. “My dear, I sincerely apologize that you have been injured here in Caberra under my watch. I will make it up to you. I do hope you won’t hold Nate liable. I believe his intentions were true.”
No, they weren’t.
But Dimitri is waiting for me to speak, to agree, so I nod.
“It’s fine. It’s just a little bruise.”
“It’s not fine,” Dante interjects, but his father grabs his arm.
“Dante,” he hisses into Dante’s ear. “Enough. We’re in public.”