I’ve got a motherfucking ten at home. You think I’m stupid enough to let myself go soft?
Standing in front of the guest bathroom mirror, Rosie fanned her flaming cheeks. She’d never seen Dominic as desperate as that moment he threw her on the floor. He was always rough, but he’d been an animal. One who’d managed to restrain himself for the good of their marriage . . . and that might have been the sexiest part of all.
Rosie picked up the new bottle of curl treatment she’d bought during the week, spritzing it on her tresses to keep them tamed before squeezing the strands in her palms, the practiced action making her feel sensual. Tight in some places, loose in others. God, it had taken all her willpower to leave Dominic last night. Not because of his touch, although that alone was a powerful enough aphrodisiac. No, it was the effort. He was trying.
She closed her eyes and swayed, a smile curling her lips as she replayed their dance in the kitchen. That was the man she’d fallen in love with. It would have been so easy to stay the night. Move back in. Trust that everything would get better.
Rosie opened her eyes and watched her smile vanish.
But she knew. She’d been down a winding road with Dominic and she knew there was so much more to work through. The man still had secrets behind his every glance, every word. As much as his walls came down when they were kissing and giving each other pleasure, she could almost sense that dam inside him, holding back a whole host of important things. Lord, he was getting so much better at saying what was on his mind, but she was fighting for the future they’d envisioned. She would stay true, she would wage a war for their survival, but she owed it to them—and the young people they’d once been—to see this through.
After one final glance in the mirror, Rosie padded into the bedroom and regarded the deep magenta dress. She’d bought it that afternoon at the store before clocking in, and the tags were still on, dangling from the armpit. With a low neckline and satin material, it wasn’t practical at all. When was the last time she’d purchased something frivolous like this?
The day Dominic had come home from overseas. Her mother was still alive then and they’d gone outlet shopping and she’d found a summer dress covered in little stars that cupped her breasts just right, but allowed her to maintain enough modesty for the airport in the middle of the day. She’d smoothed lotion on every inch of her skin and sat at the kitchen table while her mother fashioned two braids and piled them on top of her head. Anticipation had been running laps around her stomach for weeks, waiting for Dominic to come home to stay. He’d grown increasingly quiet every time he was on leave, but she’d chalked it up to the knowledge that being home was temporary. Things would be different now.
She’d never felt more beautiful than she had when Dominic spotted her from the top of the airport escalator. His eyes widened and he seemed almost winded. But the optimism she’d plied herself with had faded the closer he got to the bottom. She couldn’t hold on to it. Not when he’d visibly steeled himself against her happiness to see him. And that stoic countenance—that mask—had never completely gone away.
Rosie slipped the dress over her head and reached back to tug the zipper into place. Not for the first time, she wondered what had happened during Dominic’s stints overseas. Sure, she’d asked him. Trying to pry information out of her husband had been a lot easier in those early days. She’d even tried to tickle it out of him. The more he’d resisted, the more Rosie had realized he would carry the burden of those years alone. Now, though . . . she wondered if she should try again. It wouldn’t be fair to use their separation as a means to coerce information out of him, especially if he didn’t want to share, but she couldn’t help wondering if convincing Dominic to open up about that time would be the key to bringing them close again.
The front door of the house closed downstairs and Rosie took a deep breath, enjoying the butterflies in her stomach. That would be Bethany coming home from work. Wouldn’t it be fun to show off her new dress to a girlfriend? She hadn’t done that in so long.
Minutes later, a knock on the guest room door had Rosie turning around, fingers fluttering at the hem of her dress. “Oh God. Okay. Come in.”
Bethany was frowning when she opened the door, but then a smile cleared her face. “What?” She stomped her foot. “You are so hot in that dress. I am attracted to you right now. No joke. Go through with the divorce so we can get married.” She squealed and clapped her hands. “Sorry, I took that too far, but you look insane.”
“I feel insane.” Rosie twisted her hips side to side. “It wasn’t on sale, either. I splurged. I’m not even sorry!”
“You shouldn’t be! Sorry is for suckers!” Bethany took Rosie’s wrists and held them out to her sides. “Do you have shoes?”
“I was just going to wear my work heels—”
“Nope.” Bethany made a ninety-degree turn and marched out the door. “Follow me.”
They were sitting on the luxurious white carpeting in Bethany’s walk-in closet when Georgie appeared in the doorframe. Dressed in a clown suit. “Hey. I wasn’t invited to the shoe party?”
“It was an impromptu affair. Rosie is going on a date with her husband.”
Georgie dropped into a cross-legged position. “Where?”
“I don’t know.” Nerves flickered in her fingertips. “He just said he’d pick me up at six.”
Rosie hummed and slipped on a pair of matte gold stilettos. “These?”
“God, yes, that gold complements the color of the dress beautifully,” Bethany breathed, waving a hand at Rosie’s feet. “Make sure you bring along some flats in your purse, though. I once ditched a date in Manhattan and opened nine blisters on my feet trying to catch a cab in those things. They’re not made for walking.”
“Ah yes,” Georgie said. “The classic sitting-only shoe. Extremely practical.”
Rosie chuckled and stood up, taking a runway strut out of the closet and back. “Practical or not, they’re designed to put impure thoughts in a man’s head.”
“Any inanimate object puts impure thoughts in a man’s head.” Bethany made a disgusted sound. “Box of cereal. Boner. Ice-cube tray. Boner.”
Georgie pursed her lips. “Still haven’t ended your man sabbatical, Bethany?”
“Nope. Worked out my urges with some quality internet time and I’m back on track.” The blonde tipped her chin in Rosie’s direction. “So . . . are we interested in putting impure thoughts in Dominic’s head? I thought that was a no-no.”
Rosie squared her shoulders. “It’s inevitable. We’re just . . .”
Georgie made an explosion sound, accompanied by hand gestures.
“Yes. That.” Rosie smoothed some imaginary wrinkles out of her dress. “We’re still following the rules, but there might have been some . . . toeing of the line.”
Bethany wiggled her eyebrows. “Is that what the kids are calling it nowadays?”
“Travis calls it adult naptime.” Georgie slapped both hands over her face. “Oh my God, he’s so cute. I can’t even deal with it.”
Rosie smiled. “Sounds like you resolved the wedding-venue issue?”
“Totally resolved. We’re really getting married in my mom and dad’s backyard.” She dropped her hands from her face to reveal a bright pink blush. “I’m going to have his babies all over the place. I can’t believe this is life.”
I used to feel that way. Rosie could remember it clear as day, that floating, rapturous sensation where the future stretched out in front of her like a red carpet. Thing was, last night dancing in the kitchen with Dominic, she’d been back in that place. Right up until she’d walked out the door, actually, the years of silence and uncertainty had been stripped away—and there’d just been floating. God, she wanted to be back there so bad. Back there to stay.
“You’re quiet, Rosie.” Bethany nudged her with a wedge heel. “What’s up?”
“Nothing.” She pressed a hand to her belly. “I’m excited, that’s all. It feels like a first date and I haven’t had one of those since middle school. And I’m pretty sure I wore cropped cargo pants and a fashion scarf then, so hello, improvement.”
“Hell yeah,” Georgie said, reaching up to give her a high five. “How often did you and Dominic go out before you vamoosed?”
Rosie let out a breath. “Hmm, let’s see. Never? We started off our marriage staying home alone, and we never broke the habit.”
“Why do you think that is?”
She didn’t need a moment to consider the question, since Dominic’s possessive nature had been on her mind for a while. “Dominic liked having me to himself. And I loved being with him, so we kind of fell into a pattern of avoiding social situations, except for the odd visit to his family in the Bronx. By the time my mother passed and I needed a friend, I guess it kind of felt too late to try. Dominic’s mother is so sweet to me when we go to visit. She tries to fix me up on friend dates with her nieces, but they’ve already got their inside jokes and . . . I kind of feel like an intruder.” She split a look between the sisters. “For the last couple years, every time I spoke to you two at the Brick and Morty company picnic, I hoped we’d get to spend more time together, but . . .”