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Authors: Delaney Diamond

For Better or Worse (9 page)

BOOK: For Better or Worse
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“Were you in the chat room?” he asked.

“Mhmm. I was talking to people who’d taken the
exam already.”

“The other
ethical
hackers?” Antonio
asked, using one hand to do air quotes.

“There are no air quotes,” Cassidy scolded him.
“We really are ethical hackers. We use our skills for good instead of evil.”

“I prefer the other term used in your industry.
What do they call you guys again?”

“I’m not saying.”

“Come on, please. Say it one time for me.”

Cassidy sighed, pretending to be annoyed.
“Penetration testers.”


Oh
.” Antonio shivered and kissed the
side of her breast. “That sounds so nasty. I just got hard.
Penetration
testers.”

“You’re sick, you know that? Only you could
make computer work into something dirty.” Listening to him chuckle, she rubbed
his back. “Tell me about your day.”

He yawned. “It was crazy for a Saturday, but I
signed a new client late this afternoon.”

“Congratulations. Anything else interesting
happen?”

“Just the usual. Vega PR Group is definitely
growing, and a lot of the growth is from referrals.”

“You need to hire some help.” Her right hand
gently rubbed his tight biceps.

“I know.”

She ran her fingers through his dark curls,
pressing down to massage his scalp. She smiled when he moaned with
satisfaction. “I worry about you.”

“I’ll work on getting someone soon. The
business has been growing so fast, I haven’t had time to concentrate on hiring
anyone.”

“You need to make time,” Cassidy scolded.

“You’re right, and I will.”

His body relaxed as she continued to stroke him
gently. “What’s your day looking like tomorrow?”

“I have to work. Sorry, babe.” Sleep clouded
his speech as it tried to claim him. She didn’t say anything, but she was
disappointed. Another weekend when they’d barely see each other. “Don’t forget
I’m flying down to Miami on Monday, but I’ll be back by Friday afternoon, and
we’re going out Friday night, okay?”

“Promise?”

“I promise. Nothing will keep me from taking my
beautiful wife out for a night on the town. It’s long overdue.”

Cassidy smiled. “I’ll plan everything,” she
said, her mind already racing with ideas. They hadn’t gone out in so long, she
felt the kind of giddy excitement she’d felt when they first started dating.
“Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, I ran into an old . . .” She paused.
“Antonio, are you listening?”

“Mmm?” He probably wouldn’t remember a word she
said when he woke up.

“Never mind. Get your rest.”
His
thick, curled lashes rested against his cheeks, and his breathing had slowed.
Poor
baby
, she thought.

She kissed the top of his head and then reached
over and turned off the lamp.

Chapter Eight

 

While Antonio was out of town, Cassidy kept
busy with work and planning a memorable Friday night for them. After confirming
with her boss that she’d have her usual day off, she made an appointment at the
salon for a manicure and pedicure.

She booked a limo to pick them up and take them
to dinner. The restaurant she chose was a seafood restaurant, a favorite of
theirs, but a place they hadn’t visited in almost a year. To finish the
evening, she’d reserved a table at a popular Latin lounge for drinks and listening
to live music afterward.

She also took her favorite dress to the
cleaners. Strapless, short, and black, it was covered in shimmering circular
embellishments. On her willowy figure, it highlighted her slender shoulders and
long neck. She may not have the curves of some other women, the kind that men
worshipped in songs and women went under the knife to artificially create, but
she knew how to play up her best attributes.

The dress dipped and hugged her body, and the
short hemline made her legs look long when she added a pair of high heels. It
was a powerful weapon. So powerful, in fact, that when she’d worn it to the
ESPY Awards last year, they’d barely made it out to the car before Antonio
pulled her onto his lap and they were steaming up the windows in the parking
lot.

By the time he came home on Friday afternoon,
she was so excited she jumped into his arms at the door and kissed him long and
slow.

“Mmm . . .” he said, smacking his lips as he
lifted her onto the kitchen counter. “I need to stay away more often.”

“No, you don’t,” Cassidy chided him, tearing
off his tie. “Missed you.”

“Missed you, too.”

He shrugged out of his shirt, and a sensual
thrill went through her as she watched him disrobe. He swept her off the
counter with ease, back into his arms. With her wrapped around him, he left his
clothes, briefcase, and phone behind and climbed the stairs to their bedroom,
where she gave him the full benefits of a proper welcome home.

****

Cassidy rolled over and watched Antonio rise
from the bed.

“I worked up an appetite,” he said, stepping
into his boxers.

She propped her chin in her hand. “What are you
in the mood for?”

“Other than what I just ate?” he asked with a
wicked grin.

“You’re terrible.” Her cheeks warmed with
pleasure. “I have some leftover Chinese food from lunch today, but I don’t want
you to eat too much. We’re going somewhere special for dinner, and I don’t want
you to spoil your appetite.”

“Where are we going?”

“I’m not telling. It’s a surprise.”

His eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Am I going
to like it?”

“Of course.” She sat up, gathering the rumpled
sheets against her breasts. “It’s a place we haven’t visited in a long time,
but we both love it.”

Antonio stroked his chin, keeping his eyes on
her. “Does this place serve seafood?”

“You’re spoiling it.” Cassidy crossed her arms
and pouted. “I’m not telling you anything else.”

He laughed at her and leaned close to drop a
kiss to her lips. “Okay, I’ll stop guessing.”

Cassidy stroked his face with the back of her
fingers. “We’re going to have so much fun tonight.”

Antonio gazed into her eyes, sensing how much
she anticipated the night’s activities. They needed to do this more often.
She’d obviously missed going out more than he realized. “Yes, we’re going to
have fun. Thanks for putting everything together. I can’t wait.” He pressed his
lips gently to hers.

Turning toward the door, he asked over his
shoulder, “You want anything while I’m downstairs?”

“No, I’m going to start getting ready.”

“Good, ’cause you know you can take forever,
and we don’t want to keep the limo waiting.” 

“Was that really necessary?” she yelled after
him.

Antonio grinned on his way down the stairs. In
the kitchen, he filled a glass with his favorite juice blend, orange and
pineapple. He plucked an apple from the overflowing fruit bowl on the counter
and sank his teeth into it. Pausing as he put the juice back in the
refrigerator, he paid attention to the stocked shelves. Cassidy had been to the
grocery store and not only bought the juice he liked, but the soy milk he
preferred. Checking the cabinets, he saw there was more coffee, and she’d
stocked up on vitamins, his favorite cereals, et cetera.

On a regular basis, she ran his errands and had
planned this entire night without his input. Frowning, Antonio ran his fingers
through his hair, trying to remember the last time he’d done something just for
her. He’d been so consumed with work, he’d slacked off.

When was the last time he’d bought her flowers?
When was the last time
he
had taken the time to plan a night out for the
two of them?

He couldn’t remember.

Bothered by this insight, he gulped down the
juice, resolving that next week he’d start the process of hiring new help. It
was long overdue. He’d carve out time Monday morning to discuss it with Lucinda
and get the ball rolling. He picked up the phone to add it to his schedule and
saw three missed calls from Valentina.

Since she seldom called him, three calls in one
afternoon was an anomaly. He quickly dialed her number at the suite, and when
he didn’t reach her, he called her cell phone.

“Val, I saw you’d called. What’s—”

“Antonio, something’s wrong with Emilio.” The
words rushed out, her voice thick with tears. “I didn’t know what to do . . . I-I’m
on my way to the hospital.”

His shoulders tensed. “What’s wrong with him?”

“I don’t know!”

“Calm down, Val. Where are you right now?”

“I’m in the elevator on my way to the lobby. I
know you just got back into town, but can you come? I’m scared.” 

“Okay, stay put. I’m on my way, okay? Don’t
panic.”

“How can I not panic? I’m cooped up in that
room all day, every day and night, and now my baby’s sick, and I actually
second-guessed whether or not I should take him to see a doctor—for hours I let
him be sick before I made a decision to leave—all because I didn’t want anyone
to see me. What kind of mother am I? I can’t do this anymore!”


Valentina
, I need you to calm down.
This will all be over soon, and you’ll get what you want, but for right now, I
need you to take a deep breath and bring it down a notch. I’ll be right there.
Don’t move, okay?”

The silence on the other end had him worried
she wouldn’t listen, but then she said softly, “Hurry, Antonio.”

“I’m leaving right now.”

He rushed to the second floor, taking the steps
two at a time. He found Cassidy in the second-floor hallway, standing in front
of the linen closet, dressed in a robe with a shower cap on her head.

“Did you get something to eat?” she asked,
heading back into the bedroom with towels in her arms.

“Cass . . .” Regret filled him. She was really
looking forward to tonight, and he was about to spoil it. He hated the
situation he’d been forced into—having to choose between his wife and his
family. “I’ve gotta run. I’m sorry.”

“What do you mean you have to run?
Now?
What could you possibly have to do tonight?” Confusion filled her eyes.

“It’s an emergency.” He dressed as he talked,
pulling on the pants she’d helped him out of moments ago.

“A PR emergency?”

The sarcasm in her voice made him look up from
zipping his pants. “Yes. That and a little bit more.”

She stared at him with accusation in her eyes.

“I’ll explain when I get back, okay? There’s a
lot to explain, and I’m in a hurry, so—”

“Oh, well, you can go then, because I don’t
want to keep you.” Her lips thinned, a clear signal of anger.

He shoved his feet into his shoes. “Don’t be
like this.”

Instead of an answer, Cassidy turned on her
heel and marched into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Antonio
followed and turned the knob. Locked.

“Babe . . .”

Silence.

Why was this happening to him? How did he get
caught up in this mess?

Out of frustration, he punched the door.
“Dammit, Cass, you know I hate it when you do this.” He pounded on the door,
rattling it in the frame. “Open the door.”

Silence.

“Open the door.
Now
.”

On the other side, Cassidy leaned
against the counter and crossed her arms over her waist.
Emergency. Yeah,
right.

When he pounded again, the loud rapping
almost made her jump out of her skin.

Finally, he spoke in a more soothing
voice in an effort to coax her out. “Cass, babe, I’m sorry. I promise I’ll be
back as soon as possible, okay? The night isn’t ruined. I just have to do this
really quick, and when I get back, I’ll explain everything.”

She refused to respond, tears filling
her eyes. He thought he’d fooled her, but he hadn’t. She knew he didn’t want to
spend time with her. His choices made it obvious where his priorities lay. 

“So that’s it, you’re going to give me
the silent treatment?”

When she didn’t answer, he hit the door
hard, and then there was silence.

****

Antonio sat in the waiting room of the
hospital hunched over with his elbows on his knees. He should have told Cassidy
sooner. Tonight, he’d explain everything. He knew her hang-ups about men and
could only imagine what she was thinking.

Her doubts posed a serious problem in
their relationship. She was the most important person in his life, so why
couldn’t she see that?

Because lately you haven’t been treating
her like she’s the most important person in your life
.

Again, guilt filled him, and he tapped
his feet, anxious to get out of there and back home so he could repair what was
left of the night.

BOOK: For Better or Worse
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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