He finished his set of forty pull-ups and let go of the metal bar, which he’d hung in the doorway of the guest room. He waited for his breathing to slow so he could listen again, double-checking that he indeed heard water running. With a frown, he walked barefoot and shirtless down the hallway, toward the kitchen, to investigate. His pulse started to race at the possibility that Rosie had come home, but there was no one there.
A sound from outside the house brought Dominic to the front door. He opened it—and found his wife in the driveway.
Washing his truck.
He was so stunned by the sight, all he could do was stare. His wife was in tight black yoga pants and an old sweatshirt, hair up in a bun. Gorgeous, so fucking gorgeous in the setting sun. Pink and orange streaked behind her in the sky and made her skin glow. Love ripped through him like a hurricane, forcing him to lean against the doorjamb. As much as he hated watching her perform any kind of manual labor, he couldn’t help but be thankful just to have her there, whether it was temporary or permanent.
Hope rose up inside him, cramming his throat full as he searched the driveway for her things. Nothing was there, though. No suitcase. This visit was temporary—part of him had known that the second he opened the door. She’d made up her mind to go about their second chance the right way. He needed to try to respect that, which meant he wouldn’t even lie to his parents about the situation, even though he’d been sorely tempted. When the phone rang for their bimonthly call, he’d almost answered and told them Rosie was great. That everything was great. Just to reassure himself. But he’d avoided the call instead, because next time he told his parents everything was great, he wanted it to be true. This visit was progress. At this point, he would take any increment of Rosie he could get, even though he wanted to devour her whole.
Their therapy session had knocked Dominic on his ass, although he still didn’t believe Rosie was responsible for their situation. At all. Since returning from overseas, he hadn’t taken her to Argentina, even though she’d always wanted to visit to honor her mother. Hadn’t presented her with the dream house on the water, instead letting it languish untouched because he wasn’t confident in it being good enough. Worst of all, he hadn’t encouraged her to open the restaurant, even though she’d been talking about it for years. He was a quiet asshole who hadn’t been giving her the words she needed. Of course she’d left. She’d done nothing wrong—and no one could convince him otherwise. Watching her cry over that bullshit yesterday had been pure torture.
Still. He could admit that Rosie giving him real, tangible evidence that she loved him . . . made the organ in his chest beat faster. Made it ache. And if it didn’t make him feel like a punk, he might admit that watching Rosie clean his truck made him kind of breathless. When he and Rosie were in high school, she used to untangle his headphone cords. Sure, she did a lot of other things for him back then, like bake him brownies or put extra pens in his backpack before class . . . but there was something about the way she untangled his headphones and left them in a neat circle inside the cup holder of his truck that always got to him. Such a small thing, but he’d liked knowing she’d wanted to save him that minor frustration. He hadn’t minded watching her fingers move, either. A couple of times he’d found himself tangling the headphones on purpose just so she’d fix them.
Growing up, he’d been shown love through unspoken acts. Having his lunch made for school, a new pair of shoes showing up just in time for the old ones to fall apart. Those actions made him feel cared for and he didn’t have to ask for them, which saved him from feeling needy. Or like he needed to be taken care of. Men took care of their loved ones. Not the other way around. That’s what he’d been taught from a young age and the belief was hard to shake, so he lived for the small acts of caring from Rosie. It meant she loved him enough to think about him.
So, yeah, while he wanted to strangle Armie for making his wife cry, he could also maybe admit he needed some evidence that this woman still loved him. He needed it bad. When he returned from Afghanistan, she’d shown him evidence of her love on a regular basis. Spontaneous hugs, elaborate date nights at home with candlelight, simply telling him she loved him. It was becoming obvious to him that she’d eventually stopped doing those things because he’d been showing her his love in a totally invisible way. How could she have known he’d been saving up for the house since the day he got back?
In those months after his return, he’d felt so inadequate compared to the men he’d left behind. His plans had seemed so trivial. So he’d set out to do better. Along the way, he’d forgotten to make damn sure Rosie knew she was the most important part of his life. He’d let the two of them drift. Now, having her show him she cared, that she’d thought about him, flooded him with gratitude and relief.
But he couldn’t accept the gesture, could he? Not like this. In no world could he watch Rosie wash his truck in a rapidly dampening sweatshirt when it was fifty degrees outside.
Seriously, it might kill him.
“Okay, honey girl. Pack it in.” Dominic came out of the house, letting the screen door slap against the doorjamb. “Thank you for doing this, but you’re going to get sick out here. Come in out of the cold, Rosie.”
She pulled up the right sleeve of her sweatshirt to her elbow and dunked the sponge back into the bucket she’d filled, which explained the source of the running water. “I’ll be done in fifteen minutes. Could you grab the grocery bags out of my backseat, please?”
“When you come inside.”
There was a flash of something in her eyes that he’d seen at the therapy session. Regret. Heaviness. A little bit of panic. He didn’t like it.
“I’m digging in my heels,” she said.
“You’ve been doing a lot of that lately.”
He instantly regretted his words when she broke their eye contact.
“I’ve got on two layers under this sweatshirt. Please just let me do this?” Her voice was laden with determination. “I need to do something for you.”
Despite his fears over her falling ill, warmth rolled into his chest like clouds over the water, huge, blocking everything else out. “Will you stay for a while afterwards?”
She stopped soaping for a moment, looking at him over her shoulder. Blinking a couple of times. Slowly. “Yes.”
That single word made anticipation sing over Dominic’s skin, but his body needed to chill the fuck out. He was horny enough to read sexual intention into a brisk hello. If he’d learned anything by now, it was that his wife wasn’t breaking the no-sex rule. And he hadn’t caved on his promise, either. Next time he got relief, it would be inside Rosie, so help him God. Unfortunately, he was feeling the strain like nobody’s business.
Dominic went inside to throw on a jacket, then headed back out to retrieve the bags from Rosie’s backseat. While he was inside, she’d turned on the small vacuum cleaner they used for their cars, the loud hum absorbing the sounds of his footfalls. As he drew even with Rosie, she bent forward over the rear cab seat, leaving her tight, round ass on display.
He itched to light up a cigarette, but he never smoked when Rosie was around. Only on the job site, while running errands, or after she’d fallen asleep. He’d come back from his deployment with the stress-reducing habit and she’d never asked him to stop, but he hated the idea of breathing tobacco breath anywhere in her vicinity and he damn well wasn’t going to start now, possibly hurting his chances of winning her back even more.
By the time Dominic returned with the grocery bags in his arms, his dick was hard enough to jimmy a lock. Rosie was still leaning forward over the backseat, knees planted on the torn leather of his truck, hips tilted enough that he could see the stretch of Lycra over her pussy. Jesus Christ. Was it dark enough yet to hide them from passing neighborhood traffic if he climbed into the truck behind her and rocked his cock into her from behind?
She flipped off the vacuum. “Dominic?” Her eyes found him over her shoulder, then lit up with what looked like reluctant awareness. “Did you, um . . . get the bags?”
“Yeah,” he rasped, hefting them up a little.
“Thank you,” she returned, sounding breathless herself, that ripe ass still on display.
Dominic growled. “Goddammit, Rosie. Did you come here to torture me?”
“No.” She quickly sat back on her heels. “No, I didn’t.”
“Just tell me what to expect here, Rosie. My body hurts. It wants yours.”
“I know.” She abandoned the vacuum and climbed out of the truck, hands wringing at her waist.
His heart picked up its pace so much at having her close—having her home—that he got dizzy.
“I’m really thrown off by what happened at our appointment, you know? Realizing we’ve both let this marriage get to this point . . . and I’m feeling kind of scattered. Like I’ve been seeing everything all wrong and I’ve just . . . I’ve fallen really hard off my high horse. And I don’t know how or if we’ll make this relationship work, but I know when I woke up feeling lost this morning, I wanted to be near you.” She inhaled in a rush. “Can we just spend some time near each other for a little while tonight?”