"So, the girlfriend gave you the okay to come out tonight?" Avery asked as Dante walked up.
Taking a seat across from him, he muttered, "She's not my girlfriend." He grabbed the menu and added, "And she said it was fine." Avery barked out a laugh, causing heads to turn. With a sigh, Dante put down the menu. "We're getting married."
The laughter cut off immediately. He choked on his saliva and coughed, banging on his chest. "I'm sorry. What was that? You and Kennedy?" he demanded.
"Yeah, but I'm not sure when it is. I'm not exactly a part of the wedding planning."
"Your wife-to-be?" he asked with a chuckle. "How are you the first one getting married? I mean, I thought it would be Landon to take the plunge first."
Dante shrugged and sighed, flagging the waitress. "I don't think any one of our friends should be getting married or having children. There is just some people that shouldn't reproduce."
"And Kennedy is one of them," he replied as the waitress walked up to the table to take the order. Once she left, he turned his glare onto Avery. "What? You know that it's true. Has she ever committed to anything? A baby isn't something you can change your mind, like a car or shoes."
With a sigh, he said, "Sorry, Avery, but I really don't want to discuss Kennedy's fear of commitment. There is a lot on my plate right now and I would really like if we could talk about…well, anything else."
"So, it's getting pretty hot out there."
Frowning, Dante demanded, "What? You want to talk weather?"
"You said anything! I don't know what else I can talk about that doesn't include Kennedy, the baby, or your upcoming wedding to Kennedy. If you don't like the weather, you pick the damn topic."
"The weather is fine."
"Honey, I'm home!" Dante called out as he pushed open the door to Kennedy's loft apartment. He looked around the first floor and didn't see her there, so he took the stairs two at a time. She wasn't in her room, either. "Where are you?"
He walked through the room and bathroom to get to her large walk-in closet. "What are you doing?" he questioned, looking around at the combination of brown packing boxes and colored totes.
"Well, I'm packing up the clothes that I'm not going to be wearing any time soon. Like winter clothes. And the clothes that are a little too tight."
Nodding, he leaned against the doorway. "I can see that. What I meant was why are you packing up half of your clothes?"
"Many reasons," she replied without looking up.
Dante waited for her to expand on that for almost a minute. When she didn't, he sighed. "Want to name a few?"
Running her fingers through her hair, she tugged a hair tie off of her wrist and pulled it into a loose bun at her neck. "First of all, I'm pregnant and it's May. There's no way I'm going to be able to fit into these tight sweaters and other stuff. And I need to make room in my closet for the maternity clothes. I might as well pack away all the stuff that I won't get to wear until next year so I don't have to do it later."
Kennedy looked up at him. "Yeah, when I move out of here," she answered.
"You're moving?" he asked, confused.
"Yeah," she said slowly, dragging it out. She shot him a bemused look, searching his face for a moment. When she didn't come up with an answer to her silent question, she asked, "What were you planning on doing once we got married and had the baby?"
Frowning, he realized he hadn't consider that. The thought of moving out or anything beyond Kennedy's pregnancy hadn't even crossed his mind. "I don't know."
"Even if we don't get married, Dante, I'm still going to need to move out of here. This place was great when it was just me, but I don't have room for a baby. There's no place to put a crib and all the other things a baby needs. Even if I did have somewhere for all of that, I'd have to move eventually. Growing up, he or she will need a separate space."
He nodded. "Alright. I'm just going to go downstairs. Do you need anything?"
"No. Thanks, though."
After heading down the stairs, he jumped over the back of the couch. Dante kicked his shoes off before laying on his side. He reached for the remote off of the coffee table. The television turned on to some awful reality show with middle aged women acting like teenagers. Dante rolled his eyes and flipped through the channels, settling on an action film. He could hear Kennedy moving around upstairs in her closet.
He rubbed a hand down his face. Before long, the couch dipped next to his head. He looked up to see Kennedy pulling her knees up to her chest, eyes on the television. "So, what do you have planned for the night?" he asked, hoping he didn't sound as hopeful aloud as he did in his head.
"Nothing. Why?" she questioned, pulling her eyes away from the movie to look down at him.
"Do you want to go out for dinner? I mean…to a nice restaurant. We can go some place different rather than Walden's," he said before realizing how that sounded. So he added, "Not that I don't like Walden's. We just go there a lot and I thought that we could do another place tonight."
Kennedy laughed. "We can go wherever you want. I just need to know where, so I can dress accordingly."
"Wear something nice—very nice," he replied, standing up. Dante took both of her hands as he stepped in front of her. He pulled Kennedy to her feet and off of the couch. She padded to the stairs as he walked to the door. She paused on the landing, looking down at him.
"Where are you going?" she questioned, leaning against the railing.
"I've got to get dressed and make a reservation. I'll be back around seven."
"You look beautiful," he said, taking her hand in his. "Did I tell you that?"
"Only three times, but thanks," Kennedy answered, squeezing her fingers around his tightly. He pulled the door open for her with his free hand; Kennedy dropped hers as she walked through the open door. Dante slid in behind her.
"Welcome to Third Street Bistro. Do you have reservations?" the blonde hostess asked with a toothy grin.
"Yes, under Romero."
With a nod, she said, "Very well, Mr. Romero. Right this way." She led them to a table near the back, setting the menus down in front of the two chairs. "Ryan will be your server. He will be with you shortly." Dante stepped behind a chair and pulled it out for Kennedy. She smiled, running her hands down the back of her dark green dress.
Once she was seated, Dante helped the chair closer before walking around to his own seat.
The waiter came over, taking the drink orders before leaving once again. He perused the entrée listings, peeking up at her every few moments. Dante opened his mouth just as the waiter returned, interrupting his thoughts.
The drinks were set down in front of the two before taking their dinner orders and leaving them alone once again.
After the menus were take away, Dante no longer had anything to distract himself with. Kennedy looked calm; he felt like his heart was leaping out of his chest. He was sure how she couldn't hear it! The sound filled his ears as it pounded away under his skin.
"I've never been here," she said, taking a look around the room. She smiled wide as she took in the sight of an elderly couple sitting in the corner of the restaurant. "They remind me of Grandma Viola and Grandpa Owen."
"They're the ones that opened Walden's, right?" He questioned, leaning forward.
She nodded. "Yeah. And they ran it together until Grandpa Owen got sick. She stayed with him when he was in the hospital and that's when Landon took over for them. When he died, she really didn't want to go back to working there." Kennedy shrugged, pulling her napkin off of the table and setting it on her lap. She took her time, smoothing it over her legs as she said, "Landon didn't really mind. He took classes and worked there. I think it made him feel closer to Grandma." She shrugged her shoulders again, frowning.
"But you were always closer to your grandpa? Because I know Jeremiah is the golden child for your other grandparents—who scare the crap out of me, by the way!"
She burst out laughing and placed a hand over her chest. "They scare everyone. That's why they're perfect for one another. And, even though they would never say it, I know that they're disappointed that Landon is gay and that I'm . . . well, me. I'm sure they wanted another boy to add to their collection. I had told that to Jerry once and he laughed at me, saying I was paranoid. But after that dinner, I'm not so sure."
"Well I—for one—am very, very glad that you weren't another boy." Dante smiled and leaned back in his chair.
With a grin, Kennedy plucked her water glass. "At least someone does." As she brought the glass up to her lips, the corners of her smile dipped down towards her chin. She took a long drink before setting the glass down on the table. Her tongue darted out to lick her top lip clean of water droplets. "Well, enough of that. I prefer to have my pity parties in private. And with a nice bottle of wine," she added with a grin. "But that won't be happening for a while now."
The minutes ticked by without another word uttered. He tried to think of something to talk about, but every topic seemed inane and tedious. His nerves kept him from being comfortable in the silence. He wasn't sure why she wasn't talking, but Dante knew why his tongue was tied.
Once the food was set down in front of them, they began to eat. Dante kept glancing over the table at her, but kept quiet. The last thing he wanted to do was blurt out what was bouncing around his mind. Keeping his mouth full of food as much as he could helped until he ran out.
Dante swallowed hard. "Kennedy?"
She straightened with a grin, wiping at the corners of her mouth. "He speaks!" she exclaimed. Picking up her glass of water, she set her napkin on the tabletop.
"Are you done?" he demanded. His leg began bouncing under the table. She shot him a questioning look. "I mean with your food," Dante added as he reached up to scratch his scalp.
"Uh, yes," she replied. "Are you okay, Dante? You seem a little on edge."
It was now or never. Dante reached into the pocket of his pants and let his fingers wrap around the box. He pulled it out, bringing it above the table. Her eyes trailed down to his hand and widened significantly. The lid creaked as it opened. Dante held it out, presenting the Cushion cut ring to her. "I guess this is really just a formality since you've already been roped into this marriage," he began with a grin that slowly turned into a grimace as he heard himself talk. "And the ring just seals the deal, so to speak. If you don't like it, I can take you to get a different one. I did take Nicolette and Jacob with me to pick the ring and this is the one they said you'd like." As she continued to stare at the ring, he got increasingly nervous . . . if that was possible. "If you'd like, we can go tomorrow to get a new ring."
A small laugh slipped from her lips. The feeling of embarrassment and rejection spread as he glanced around the room. Dante set the box down on the table and clasped his hands in front of himself. "That ring is . . . huge." She plucked the velvet box up and pulled the ring out, holding it in front of her face. "It's gorgeous, Dante. Is it my size?" she asked, slipping it onto her ring finger. Kennedy stuck her hand out, admiring the ring from all directions. "Perfect fit. Perfect ring. Really, Dante. Don't be so hard on yourself."
Just like that, relief flooded his body and he gave her a broad smile, even if the acceptance of the right was only out of obligation to her grandparents. "Are you sure that it's the ring you want? I can get you one that's better suited for you if you'd rather."
"No, I love it. I really, really love it." Kennedy beamed. "I'm really tired, though, so can we get going? I just want to sink into a bubble bath and read a magazine before sliding into bed for the night."
Once the bill was paid, Dante pulled Kennedy to her feet. He set a hand on the small of her back before walking her to the car. He held the car door open and waited for her to slide in before jogging around the front to his side.
Halfway back to her apartment, he glanced over to see her curled in the seat, fast asleep. Dante smiled softly and turned back to the road. As he arrived at her building, he parked the car as he considered whether he should wake her up or not. Only once he opened the door did he decide he would carry her up.
With a hand under her legs and the other around her upper back, Dante carried her to her loft much like a groom carried his new bride over the threshold. He only struggled when he reached the door, hopping around for a few moments as he thought about how he could open the door with both hands full.
He slid his hand under her legs as far as he could before it became difficult to hold onto her, poking the key in and unlocking the door with a flick of the wrist.
Dante slipped through the door—kicking it shut behind himself—and took her up the stairs. It wasn't as easy as he had thought it would be.
When he reached the landing, he placed her on the blankets. Dante quickly changed her into a white camisole and pair of pink boxer shorts. He pulled the blankets back and tucked her underneath before stepping back.
He made a move to walk back down the stairs, but decided to stay. Stepping out of his shoes, he stripped down to just his boxer briefs. He threw them over a chair before running down the stairs to lock the front door.
When he got back up, he took a seat on the bed and watched her for a moment. Her eyelashes fell flat against her cheeks. Dante slipped into bed next to her, pulling her body flush against his own. Breathing in the scent of her her hair, he closed his eyes and fell asleep.
I know this took me a LONG long time. I had this chapter half edited and my computer decided it wouldn't start anymore. It just had a two week temper tantrum, and I had bought a new computer in the meantime. But I was salty because I had to start ALL over. So it took me a few months to get in a good place. Other stuff went on. But I finally got to it, sucked it up, and wrote.
P.S. I changed the POV for Dante's chapters. I just didn't like both being in first person. I'm trying to decide how I want to go forth on the new FwB, so I'm going to do both. I will go back and update the previous Dante chapters/sections in time. But right now, I'm moving forward to the next chapter. Hopefully I'll bust them out, post them, and move on to my new stories. HOPEFULLY.