Rosie covered her mouth to trap a laugh. Dominic glanced over, appearing almost fascinated by her laugh, and his scowl cleared.
“Interesting,” Armie murmured. “Face each other, please. We’re going to begin by reintroducing your energies.”
Rosie and Dominic remained unmoving.
Armie chuckled. “Sometimes we become so wrapped up in a routine, we forget to look each other in the eye. When was the last time you had even ten seconds of solid eye contact?”
“In bed or out?” Rosie said, heat staining her cheeks.
“Again I say, interesting.” Armie made a wishy-washy sound. “Out of bed.”
“Ten seconds of eye contact?” she whispered. “I can’t remember.”
Dominic sighed. “No one does that.”
“We used to,” she said, her memory zeroing in on one hazy evening in particular. They’d climbed to the roof of the school during summer vacation. She’d locked her thighs around his waist, her forearms propped on his wide shoulders. With the sun warming their skin and a breeze cooling it, they’d looked into each other’s eyes so long they’d lost track of time.
Now his brow furrowed. And then he surprised her by saying, “You’re right. We did.”
“Excellent, Dominic. You heard her.”
Rosie’s husband’s chest expanded on a measured breath; then he let it out and arranged his big body to face her. “Ten seconds?”
“Ten is an arbitrary starting point,” Armie said. “There are no time limits or rules within this space. If something feels right, we’ll continue with it.”
Her heart hammered in her throat as she faced Dominic, their knees bumping, as they were both sitting cross-legged. “Um . . .” My God, she was having a literal heart attack over looking her husband in the face. Honestly. She lifted her gaze to meet Dominic’s. “L-like this?”
Armie hummed, but Rosie barely heard the sound. Her pulse was rioting too loudly in her temples. She had to focus on keeping her breathing even in the path of those green eyes. They were steady and lost at the same time—a combination she never expected—and it was hard not to turn away. So hard.
She only made it five seconds, her attention cutting down to her lap.
When she snuck a quick glance back up at Dominic, he was frowning, his chest rising and falling faster than it had before.
“What happened?” he asked gruffly.
“I don’t know.”
A few ticks of silence passed before Armie piped up. “Why don’t we ease into this a little bit.” He sat up straighter. “Rosie, are you comfortable with Dominic’s touch?”
“Yes,” Dominic answered for her, a hint of pleading dancing across his granite features, surprising her. “Please, just . . . give me that.”
Feeling as if she were balanced on the edge of a diving board, Rosie nodded. “Yes.”
“Okay. Rosie, close your eyes. Remember, you’re in a safe place. Dominic, I want you to touch her face. It will be a little less intense than the eye contact, Rosie, but reestablishing the connection is what we’re after here.”
Dominic hadn’t even touched her yet and goose bumps were already rising on every inch of her skin. She let her eyelids drop and held in a deep breath as Dominic reached out a hand and curved it to her cheek. The instant their skin touched, the breath rushed out of her on a whimper. Humiliating. Or it should have been, but she only felt a tenth of the embarrassment she’d consider normal. Maybe because her eyes were closed. Maybe because they were in a blanket fort with a high hippie. Whatever the reason, all of her focus raced to the hand on her face. Every nerve ending zinged in that direction, wanting attention.
“Learn her, Dominic.”
“I know this face better than anything.”
Rosie’s heartbeat drowned out Armie’s initial response, picking up somewhere in the middle. “Trace her eyebrows, her lips. Let her feel you looking at her and acknowledging her.”
Her husband’s thumb arched along her cheekbone, made a pit stop at her dimple, running the tip of his finger through it. Back and forth. He brushed his touch along the bow of her mouth, the crease of her chin. Moved higher and rubbed circles into the center of her forehead—and all the scattered parts of her calmed while it happened. For once, she was nowhere but right there, inside herself. So centered she could have fallen asleep. All because Dominic was looking at her and really trying to see? Was he? Or was this just an exercise?
“Thank you, Dominic,” Armie said quietly.
His fingers lingered a few more seconds before their heat vanished. Rosie opened her eyes to find Dominic looking momentarily shell-shocked, before he hid it.
That made two of them.
When was the last time they’d touched . . . just to touch? Out of affection and without sex roaring in like an insatiable beast? She’d had no idea how much she’d been craving it.
“Dominic, how do you let Rosie know you appreciate her?”
It visibly took Dominic a few beats to focus and his voice was little more than a rasp when he finally answered. “I provide.”
“That would have been my guess.” Armie turned to Rosie. “When Dominic provides for you, does that make you feel appreciated?”
“I . . .” Her brow wrinkled. “I guess it does. In a way . . .”
“What would make you feel more appreciated? If he brought you a gift? Maybe your favorite incense?” She swapped incense for margarita mix or a standing mixer in her mind. Even though both of those items were super appealing, they didn’t make her feel reassurance or warmth. “What if Dominic simply told you he appreciates you?”
“Yes,” she breathed, her pulse thumping.
The therapist made a knowing sound. “You need words.”
She thought of Dominic telling her he appreciated her. Out loud. And pressure on her chest she wasn’t aware of eased a little bit. “Yes. I think I do.”
Armie nodded vigorously. “I’m going to take a shot in the dark that neither of you is familiar with love languages.” Silence. “As I suspected.” He encompassed them both with a warm look. “Each one of us has a preferred way of expressing love. And having love expressed to us. Dominic expresses love through deeds. But you need to receive love through words.”
“So . . . that’s it?” Dominic asked. “Ten minutes and we already have a solution?”
“You would love that, wouldn’t you?” Armie laughed, eyes twinkling. “No. You have an answer. The solution requires a lot more work. And practice.” The older man was surprisingly spry as he jumped to his feet. Rosie and Dominic followed him toward his desk. “During one of these sessions, we’re going to talk about what Dominic needs to feel loved and appreciated—”
“For now, though, we’re going to focus on Rosie, since she’s the one who was troubled enough to leave the marriage.” He paused. “I’m going to give you a homework assignment. A few of them, really. Since you’ve already separated, we’re working on an accelerated healing track.”
“He just made up that term,” Dominic muttered in her ear.
“I heard that.” Armie laughed heartily while leaning back against his desk, but he eventually grew thoughtful. “In my thirty years as a marriage counselor, I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed such a raw sexual charge between husband and wife. I hope you don’t mind me saying so.” He whistled under his breath. “It’s quite breathtaking.”
Rosie was suddenly much more aware of Dominic’s nearness. The scent of sawdust and male and menthol. How large he was in comparison to her and how one step backward would press their bodies together.
“Unfortunately, I think sex is getting in the way of really seeing each other.” He stared down his nose at them. “Being partners out of the sack.”
“We aren’t . . .” Rosie licked her dry lips. “Doing that now.”
Behind her, Dominic muttered something about putting their business on the street.
“Great,” Armie said.
“Says who?” Dominic asked.
“Says me. One of your homework assignments is to keep not having sex.” He split a speculative glance between them. “I will allow kissing.”
Anticipation almost swallowed her whole. Kissing. God, she hadn’t been kissed in so long, without sex happening at the same time. Oh, there was an occasional hard press of mouths or brief, cursory pecks, but one of her favorite pastimes with Dominic had been making out. Getting hot and bothered, just for the sake of needing. They were professionals at it. Had gotten that way by waiting until she turned seventeen to have sex. They’d dry humped through their first three years of high school and had so many orgasms with their clothes on, she’d truly lost count. And she’d never felt more connected to Dominic than when their mouths were communicating like that. Eye contact wasn’t something that made her uncomfortable back then; it was expected. Craved, along with the words he used to whisper in her ear.
I love you.
I need you, honey girl.
We’re in this forever.
“Kissing is often more intimate than sex and it breeds further intimacy, such as talking or looking into each other’s eyes. Tapping into one another’s energy,” Armie was saying. “Now. For the next assignment. Dominic, you’re going to write Rosie a letter.”