Jenny’s lips fall open as she stares at the man formerly known as Paolo. “I,” she says with some disgust, “am the worst reporter ever.”
Paolo reaches out, places a gentle finger under her chin, and shuts her mouth. “You are not the worst reporter,” he says softly, willing his cheeks to not turn red. He grimaces at her expression;, she looks so dismayed, adorable but dismayed. “I am just good at evading reporters.” He shrugs helplessly, giving her what he hopes is an apologetic yet winning smile. “I’ve had to be.” It does not seem to be working. “I’ve had a lot of experience over the years.” Paolo tries not to shrink back as her expressions changes from dismay to fury.
“Well.” She leans toward him with an angry light in her eye. “I’m sure you’ve had a lot experience with that — fifteen years, I believe.” She hisses through her teeth, “Juan Carlos ‘the Assassin’ Gutierrez.”
Paolo gazes at her in awe, mesmerized by the fire in her eyes. She is really something. Gorgeous. He draws back as she squints at him. And a little terrifying. I like it. “Actually.” He chuckles weakly. “It is Juan Carlos Paolo Gutierrez. The Spanish press like to drop the Paolo and replace it with Assassin. It drives my mother crazy.” He chuckles again. “And you pronounced it excellently.”
“Well, thanks,” she snaps, folding her arms. “I got tips from an expert.” Her knee bounces in agitation. “Right now, I don’t know if I’m more aggravated with you…” Her angry gaze flies around the room, landing on the leader of the Conga. “Or with that wooly mammoth over there who has been masquerading as my best friend.” Jenny’s eyes narrow to slits.
Across the room, Rocky stumbles, nearly falling into one of the men he’d told Paolo were called the Wonder Twins.
“Prepare for extinction.” Jenny starts to rise.
“Wait.” Paolo places a hand on her knee, not wanting her to leave. “I am sorry for misleading you. It was my fault.” He confesses, “He had no choice. Please don’t be upset with Rocky.”
“He had no choice? Rocky?” She seems dubious but she slumps back onto the sofa, her eyes flitting between the hand on her knee and his eyes. Paolo smiles at her gently and her eyes narrow again but she makes no attempt to remove his hand. “What was it — the Guy Code?”
“No.” He scoffs. “Nothing as silly as that.” Paolo sighs, squeezing her knee almost absentmindedly as he gathers his thoughts, trying to find the best way to explain his friendship with Rocky. He squeezes again and Jenny lets out a little giggle. Paolo pretends not to hear her as he turns his eyes to her and holds her gaze, wanting her to see his sincerity and honest regret. “It was a handshake and a spit oath.”