“They always investigate shit like this. I can take care of it myself. I need painkiller from the bathroom, a knife, a bottle of brandy from my bar, and some bandages and antibacterial cream. They’re in all the bathrooms,” he said.

I knew where it was going, and I didn’t like it, but he was right, he couldn’t rightfully walk into a hospital like he was. I rushed around the house collecting the items he asked me for and brought them back to him. I helped unbutton his shirt and then he got to work. He took four of the painkillers, and then opened the bottle of brandy and dumped half the bottle over his wound. He grunted in pain, but stifled what I was sure was going to be a full scream. He grabbed a towel from the table, and put it in his mouth and bit down on it as he dug the tip of the knife into the wound on his arm. I yelped with secondhand pain, and watched as he fished the bullet out, his eyes watering as he did so.

When the small, metal casing clattered to the floor, he spit out the towel and motioned his head towards the cream and bandages. I grabbed the cream and rubbed a large glob of it over the wound, and then wrapped the bandages around until the blood was no longer bleeding through. I was shaking in the wake of the moment, but Dante grabbed me and dragged me down to sit on his lap.

He laid his head against my chest. “I’ll be fine. Few days of rest, and I’m back at it.”

I didn’t like the sound of that much better, but I didn’t respond. I helped him get upstairs, changed into a pair of his favorite black, silk pajamas and put him to bed. I rubbed his head until he fell asleep, giving Brix a thumbs up when he suddenly appeared in the bedroom. He scribbled his phone number on a piece of paper and set it on the table near the door and then left. It wasn’t quite the way I wanted to solve that problem, but it would do.

In the days following, I fawned over Dante as much as I could. I didn’t want him moving an inch. If there was anything I could do for him, I did it, even over Brix, Kane, Apollo, and Asher who all stayed pretty accessible after the incident as well. I was trying to convince him to stay in bed and rest instead of getting up to do some work when he flipped out.

“I’m not a child,” he barked.

“I know that,” I replied, annoyed. “You were shot. You need rest.”

“I’m fine,” he growled. He looked over at Kane. “Please, take her out.”

“You can’t kidnap me and then just fucking get rid of me because you’re annoyed. I’m going to take care of you and you’re gonna just have to deal with it,” I snapped back, earning me looks of shock and minor amusement. People didn’t typically talk to him like that.

His expression softened and he wrapped his arm around my waist. “I know you’re just concerned, I’m sorry.” A light gasp filled the room. I kissed him and he used his good hand to rub my cheek. “I just need a little bit of space. I promise, just some light computer work, then I’m back in bed.” I glared at him and he smiled. “Trust me. There’s plenty for you to enjoy here in Chicago. I hate that I haven’t been able to take you to do any of it. Go, let the guys show you a good time, and I swear I won’t overdo it.”

I relented, not wanting to frustrate him any more than I knew he already was. I kissed him and then turned to face the guys who were all staring at me like Jesus Christ returned to earth.

“So?” I asked. “Where are we going?”

Each of the guys decided to take me on their own ‘dates’ of sorts. Apollo decided to take me to an opera in downtown Chicago where we talked about how our moms both loved musical theater and annoying the hell out of us. He told me that he felt bad that my parents were so worried when Dante first took me, but I assured him things were okay now. He promised to stay in Dante’s ear about pulling back on the ‘captor/captive’ dynamic, and start getting into more of the ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ place, which I appreciated. He was happy to hear some movement had been made in that department already. I thanked him for his support with a gentle kiss. Apollo wasn’t as brash as his cohorts, his sweet side was much more prominent than his salty one.

Asher brought me to a really upscale club where we actually caught a glimpse of some huge celebrities and socialites. I was shocked to learn that a few of them actually recognized me from some of my walks and one of them told me they were planning to contact my agency about booking me when they started their new line next year. It was the first time I’d thought about work since I first came into Dante’s world, and Asher was able to sense that I missed it. While we were dancing, he encouraged me to look into returning to work, assuring me that, as long as I had no plans to leave Dante, he wouldn’t have a problem with it. The idea made me happy, and as we moved together on the dancefloor, we found ourselves lip-locked.

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