“He’s sitting right there,” Armie said patiently. “You tell him.”
Armie studied them. “Let’s come back to this. I want to explore what you said, Rosie, about the deeds Dominic does behind your back. What did you mean?”
“Well, he snuck my coat into the house where I’m staying. The night he left the letter on my car windshield, I found out he’s been paying the security guard at my job on the sly to protect me.”
“Interesting.” Armie tapped his fingers against his lips. “Dominic, you’re here to accept responsibility for your role in this relationship. That takes a lot of courage. Why not accept responsibility for the good as well as the bad?”
A pit started to open in Dominic’s stomach. “I’m getting tired of being asked this question.”
“You don’t seem tired of it. I hope you don’t mind me saying, you seem agitated.”
“Because it’s nothing. It’s nothing to bring a coat or pay a guard,” Dominic said, a lot louder than he’d intended. “I could always do better. Someone else would do better.”
“‘Ah’? What’s that?”
Dominic realized Rosie was staring at him with a frown marring her forehead and closed his mouth, replaying what he’d said and searching for a way to play it off. But he couldn’t find anything to say amid the crackle of static in his head. Like two live wires had struck by accident. “Can we move on?” he said, uncomfortable with the ripple his admission of insecurity had created in the room. Why the hell had he said anything? Rosie needed a strong man. Mentally and physically. Not one who worried. “I want to know what’s been going on with my wife.”
Armie crossed his legs. “In what way?”
“In every way. She used to sleep next to me. I could tell the kind of day she had by which pajamas she put on. Silk for good days, big T-shirts for bad. On her days off, she played the radio and danced to the salsa station while making breakfast. That’s gone. When I walked into the bathroom in the morning, it used to smell like coconut, and now it’s gone. I just want to know how she’s been spending her days and nights. Is that not reasonable to anyone else? She’s my wife.”
A beat of silence passed wherein he could hear his pulse scraping in his ears.
“Rosie, do you think you can appreciate that this separation has been hard on Dominic?”
“Yes,” she whispered, sounding awed. “I can.”
Dominic couldn’t look at her after sounding like such a train wreck. “Just tell me what you’ve been up to, Rosie.”
He heard her swallow. “I mostly just work and go back to Bethany’s. We had a Just Us League meeting on Saturday night, and I, um . . . I made an appointment to go look at a commercial space. The old diner on Cove.”
That brought Dominic’s head around. She was moving at the speed of light, and his feet were encased in drying concrete while he watched her shoot off into the atmosphere. His focus had been on keeping her happy and content for so long—but he’d done the opposite. Now she was reaching for her goals on her own. Was it selfish of him to want a hand in her getting there? Or would he only hold her back again? He wouldn’t be able to bear the latter. “A commercial space for the restaurant?”
She shrugged a shoulder. “It’s just an appointment.”
Armie cleared his throat. “I take it you want to open your own restaurant, Rosie?” He waited for her nod to continue. “And why is it significant that you made the appointment this week to see the space?”
“I’ve been putting it off,” she said haltingly.
“I don’t know. I . . .” She glanced over at Dominic before lowering her gaze. “I just wasn’t confident I could run my own place.”
“Why did that change?”
“I thought it was the club. The women supporting me—and I think that has a lot to do with my boost in confidence—but it wasn’t until I got the letter from Dominic that I felt prepared to take the chance.”
“Earlier you said Dominic’s letter made you feel more like Rosie. The Rosie you want to be, that you felt you used to be.” He went quiet for a moment. “Your success is your own, Rosie. You did something brave. But a marriage is about support. Would you like to acknowledge Dominic’s letter—and support—might have helped push you toward your goal?”
The back of Dominic’s neck tightened. “She doesn’t need to do that.”
“I want to.” She looked down at his hand a moment before covering it with her own. “Your letter helped. Thank you.”
Satisfaction wove around his lungs and it took him a long time to draw a decent breath. “Okay,” he said hoarsely.
“And, Dominic,” Armie continued. “Would you like to acknowledge that Rosie needs words and they are supremely important to her and thus vital when it comes to making this marriage work?”
“Yes,” he rasped.
“Well done, Team Vega.” Armie nodded and all three of them seemed to let out a long breath.
Crazily enough, Dominic felt a change in the air as if something had cleared.
“Time for your next homework assignment.” The therapist winked at them both. “Still no sex. Sorry, folks. But I’m giving you the next best thing.” He clapped once. “Mother Nature.”
Twilight crept in as Rosie and Dominic hiked along the path toward the nature preserve. He thought therapy had hit peak weirdness during their game of Minion-themed Chubby Bunny, but he’d been dead wrong. Today they’d been assigned the task of setting up a campsite—together—as a means of learning to work as a team. And while he definitely didn’t mind spending time with Rosie, he could admit to a growing impatience to have their problems solved. Every moment that passed meant missing her more, and this exercise felt like a damn waste of time when they could be moving her back into their home, where she belonged.
“Now seems like a good time to remind you that you picked the therapist.”
Rosie lifted her chin and shot him a glare from beneath her eyelashes, knitting Dominic’s stomach up tighter than a concrete slab. Back in the day, he used to refer to that look as the Death Laser. It meant she was not in the mood for his shit and he better tread more carefully than a man with size-fifteen feet crossing a field of land mines.
He hadn’t given her a reason to grace him with the Death Laser in a long time and he didn’t like that realization one bit. There should be passion between them. They should get pissed at each other once in a while, shouldn’t they? Every time they used to make up, he was only more grateful to have her. Their first argument in recent memory had happened the night she left.
That thought hardening his jaw, Dominic shouldered the bags of equipment he was carrying and picked up his pace, catching up with Rosie as they entered the nature preserve. Maybe now was a good time to remind her of the fire between them—and he didn’t mean the sexual inferno that never waned. Was there anything at stake between two people who couldn’t conjure up enough feeling between them to have a decent fight? Dominic didn’t think so.
Their stakes had never lowered. They’d just been hidden. He’d have to jog her memory.
“Was this therapy technique listed in the Yelp reviews?”
She slapped at a mosquito on her arm. “Which technique is that?”
“The technique where we pay money to a therapist, and in return, he assigns us manual labor.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Maybe you didn’t scroll down far enough.”
“I scrolled.” They entered a clearing and she turned on her sneakered heel. “Are you trying to pick a fight with me?”
Maybe. “Nope.” He dropped the canvas bag filled with tent poles. “We’ve had some good ones, though, haven’t we? Remember that romantic phase you went through when we were seventeen, reading those books about vampires and werewolves?”
“Of course I remember them.” Rosie surveyed the area. “Actually, I’ve been considering a reread—”
“Christ. Please don’t.”
A laugh puffed out of her, genuine curiosity flitting across her gorgeous face. “Why?”
“You really don’t remember, Rosie? The weeks you spent reading those books were the worst of my life. Nothing short of turning pale and granting you immortality would make you happy. You locked yourself in a closet and sent me one-word text messages until I was ready to lose my mind.”
She winced. “Oh. Yeah.”
“Oh yeah?” Dominic echoed, using his boot to kick aside some fallen leaves, creating a spot to pitch the tent. Then he started to remove the nylon shelter and poles from their bag, laying them out in order. “You remember how we worked that one out?”
“Yes,” she murmured, brow furrowing. “You stopped texting me. You wouldn’t even respond.”
“And you showed up at my door breathing fire.”
Color rose on her cheeks. “I think that’s a minor exaggeration.”
Dominic closed the distance between them, coming near enough to make her suck in a breath, but remaining far enough away that there was no chance of them touching. “I believe your exact words were ‘Your thumbs better be broken, asshole.’”