A shudder passed through her. She struggled to find enough brainpower for a response, but the lust storm made it difficult to form words. “It’s . . . it’s, um, cold . . .” Until she opened her eyes, Rosie didn’t realize they were closed, but the first thing she spotted was her red coat, still folded in front of the treadmill. “Cold, but I—I had my coat . . .” Make sense, brain. “Did you bring my coat to Bethany’s?”
Dominic’s hand stilled on her breast, but his breath remained shallow in her ear. “What?”
That was all it took for Rosie to have her answer. She’d known this man seemingly since time began and he never lied. He only evaded. “You did bring the coat.”
She turned in his arms, sucking in a breath at the stark need on his face. His gaze was transfixed on her mouth for long seconds, before dropping to her right breast, which was still exposed thanks to his marauding hand and her lifted shirt. Dominic’s nostrils flared as he pulled her bra back into place, making no move to give her space. “So what?”
Dominic dragged his fingertips down Rosie’s sides and flexed his hips, catching her gasp with his mouth, but not kissing her. Never kissing her unless they were in that frenzied state. “I need to get inside you. I need to fuck my wife.”
Her neck almost lost power. “Stop changing the subject.”
“Your thighs are climbing my hips, honey girl.” He thrust into the notch of her legs, slapping a hand on the wall above her head. “This is the goddamn subject.”
Well, look at that. Her thighs were, indeed, treating his body like a gym-class rope. With an effort, Rosie forced her feet to flatten on the floor and braced her palms on Dominic’s bare chest. It took her another gathering of willpower to push him away, to lose that rigid ride of hard flesh that would guarantee an orgasm if she gave in. God, she wanted to give in. But she knew from experience she would feel empty afterward. Sad. Because while they were so in tune with each other during the act, they disconnected when it was over. Such a steep drop that it never failed to make her uncertain. About everything, especially herself. “Why wouldn’t you just say, ‘Hey, Rosie, I brought your coat’?”
Dominic sighed and stepped back, crossing his arms over his powerful chest, making the tattoos dance over his muscles. “Did you give some thought to what we spoke about?” His jaw flexed. “A way for me to get you home.”
“Yes, I thought about it.”
His Adam’s apple slid up and down. “And?”
Now it was Rosie’s turn to cross her arms. “Answer the question first. Why would you sneak my coat into Bethany’s house?”
Dominic’s exasperation with the question was obvious. “Because I don’t need brownie points for taking care of my wife. It’s my job.”
Rosie raised an eyebrow. “No offense, dude, but you could use the brownie points.” She shifted. “Look, we don’t talk anymore and . . . it’s not okay. I need to know what you’re thinking. Unless you can give that to me, a second chance is pointless.”
For long moments, he scrutinized her, thoughts winging behind his green eyes. His head dropped forward and lifted to reveal her husband looking more uncomfortable than she’d ever seen him. “I don’t want the credit. I don’t know . . . it never feels earned enough. If you said thank you to me for bringing your coat, I’d just be irritated. Because that coat is three fucking years old and why haven’t I given you nine to choose from?”
Getting a glimpse into Dominic’s mind was like having an oxygen mask slapped over her face. She sucked every insight down greedily, letting the cool, sweet rush of them fill her lungs. Expand them. Was it possible she’d been wrong about some things? This man in front of her didn’t seem indifferent at all. Not in the least.
She wanted to hear more. Was that enough to try again when she’d spent so long feeling useless and unhappy?
“Last-ditch therapy,” she murmured, before she could stop herself.
Dominic inclined his head. “Come again?”
Rosie cleared the cobwebs from her throat. “Last-ditch therapy. It’s for marriages that are in danger of being—”
“Don’t say ‘over,’” he gritted out.
She took a few seconds to breathe. “Well?”
“Therapy, Rosie? Christ.” He dragged a hand down his face. “I knew this club would put ideas in your head. First you leave me—”
Without letting a beat pass, she sidestepped him, scooped up her jacket, and sailed out of the cardio area. Dominic caught up with her in the hallway leading to the lobby.
His hand closed around her elbow and tugged her to a stop. “Wait.”
“I left you. That was all me.”
A muscle jumped in his cheek. “Yeah. Fine.”
This was familiar territory. This stubborn, let’s-fight-until-we-fuck dynamic—and it made her angry to be back there after she’d gotten a glimpse of how his mind worked. After witnessing their potential to communicate. “You might as well say no to therapy, because I’m going to find the touchy-feely-est Zen master of them all. I’m talking incense in the waiting room and chakras and the whole nine.”
The corners of Dominic’s mouth turned down. “Fine. Let’s do it.”
“Crystal healing and—” She cut herself off. “What?”
“You heard me. Schedule the damn therapist.” He leaned down, bringing their faces an inch apart. Whatever he saw there caused him to rear back a little. “You really thought I wouldn’t take any chance—any chance—to get you back, didn’t you?” His voice roughened. “Fuck, Rosie. You can’t be serious.”
He ran his gaze over her face one final time before turning and leaving her standing in the empty hallway. But not before she saw his determination.
This was real. It was happening.
The Vega marriage, round two.
Dominic leaned up against the side of his truck, pulling from a Newport cigarette and scanning the parking lot for Rosie’s Honda. When he didn’t see the familiar vehicle, he reluctantly faced the building again, which happened to be painted a bright robin’s-egg blue, with a handcrafted sign atop the roof. It read ARMIE TAGART, RELATIONSHIP HEALING GURU.
“Fuck me,” he muttered under his breath. “She followed through.”
Was he annoyed as hell about having to parade his shortcomings in front of some hippie asshole? Of course. Was he also pretty turned on by his wife putting her money where her mouth was? Yeah. Enough to seriously dampen his irritation.
Dominic drummed his fingers on the roof of his truck, Rosie’s show of defiance taking him back to their middle-school years. God, she’d been fierce. Brave. He could remember the first time he’d asked her out in seventh grade. It was lunchtime at school and boys were at one table, girls at the other. For a long time, Dominic had found that separation ridiculous, considering the guys wouldn’t shut up about the girls and vice versa. For most of that year, Dominic sat at the end of the guys’ table and bided his time, watching Rosie from afar. Every once in a while, she’d catch him staring, flip her hair, and grace him with an expression that said, What are you looking at?
Back then, she’d always been surrounded by friends. Girls he knew from his classes, but didn’t know personally, since he’d moved to Port Jefferson from the Bronx the summer after sixth grade. For years, his mother had been complaining about the New York City congestion, the crime, the sounds of traffic. One day, Dominic’s father had come home with the keys to a new home. She’d asked and he’d provided. That’s what a man did. That’s what kept a family intact. Maybe his father hadn’t been an emotional man. Hell, Dominic could count on one hand the father-son talks they’d shared. His father hadn’t been able to give them everything, so he’d given them the most important things. Security. A home.
Dominic’s mind drifted to a very different kind of home than his childhood one. A house overlooking the water, with a sloping backyard and a dock extending into the water. With discomfort riding along the ridges of his shoulders, Dominic shook off the image and went back to thinking about the day he’d tossed the crusts of his ham sandwich into the cafeteria trash can and bridged the divide between the boys and girls of Port Jefferson Middle School. His ears recalled the hush that had fallen over the students, the whispered speculation behind hands.
Rosie had seen him coming a mile away and he’d liked that. Liked knowing she’d been aware the whole time that he liked her, even though no words had been exchanged. She’d turned around on the bench to watch him approach and taken a deliberate bite out of her apple, chewing in that ladylike way of hers, giving him a once-over. All her friends had leaned in, chins glued to hands, eyes wide. He’d thanked God in that moment for the hours he’d spent listening to his older cousins talk about girls at family gatherings growing up, because while he’d been nervous, he also knew rejection happened to every guy and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
“That dance next Friday,” he’d said, trying to keep his demeanor casual even though she was even prettier up close. “You coming with me?”