Her mouth turned arid at the possibility the latter might happen. Was she prepared for that eventuality? On the drive over, she’d been rife with frustration and determined to either force progress or call it quits. As always, though, when Dominic was in the same room, nothing was cut-and-dried. Even now, when she wanted to shake him like a snow globe, she also wanted to crawl onto his lap and beg him to talk to her.
Armie fell into a sideways pose across from them. “Well, I hope this is important. I was in the middle of making my own blackberry preserves.”
Dominic sighed. “Is that code for an orgy in the woods?”
Rosie gasped and elbowed her husband in the side. “Dominic.”
Armie released a hearty laugh. “It’s not a code, but I am planning to share the preserves with my female friends, and there’s always a possibility it might lead to—”
“Sorry I brought it up,” Dominic said, tight-lipped.
“Obviously there is a great big elephant in the room, but I can’t read minds, so someone needs to start talking.” The therapist split a bemused look between the two of them. “Both of your auras are edged in gray and extremely murky.”
“Really?” Dominic drawled. “You wait until the fourth session to break out the aura talk?”
“Ah, that’s right,” Armie said, unaffected by her husband’s continued assholery. “This is the fourth and final session.” His twinkling gaze ticked over to Rosie. “You called for the early meeting. What would you like to say, Rosie?”
She swallowed hard, the sudden spotlight making her question her decision. “W-well, everything was going fine. At least, I thought so. I understand now that I was part of the problem, so I was trying to communicate with Dominic—”
“Say it to him,” Armie urged with a flick of his wrist.
“Oh. Okay.” Rosie turned toward Dominic and her heart started to beat faster, now that she was actually looking at him for the first time that day. No shave. Circles under his eyes. A wrinkled shirt. He looked how she felt. Why wouldn’t he look at her? “Um. I tried to show you my appreciation by cleaning your truck and making you dinner. And I thought we were . . . I—I guess I thought we were getting somewhere—”
“You weren’t part of the problem.”
Dominic still wasn’t looking at her so it took her a moment to realize he was speaking to her. “What?”
“I said,” he rasped, “you weren’t part of the problem in this marriage. Stop saying that.”
His jaw bunched and he shook his head.
Exasperation clogged her throat. “If I’ve done nothing wrong and I’m so perfectly perfect, why did you ditch our date?”
Armie let out a low whistle from across the pillows. “Ouch, man.”
“It wasn’t like that,” Dominic said.
“What was it like?” Armie prompted.
Dominic opened his mouth and closed it. Said nothing.
“Please,” Rosie whispered, bringing her husband’s head around. “It hurt me.”
He made a gruff sound into his fist, pressing against his mouth for long moments. “I was watching you kick ass with those women, Rosie. Doing what you were born to do. And it was so fucking obvious that I’ve been holding you back for a long time.” He shook his head. “I didn’t realize how much.”
“So you left because you felt . . . guilty?”
A muscle jumped in his cheek. “You don’t know the half of it.”
Rosie waited for him to say more, turning to face him when it was obvious he was committed to being silent. “If this is about the restaurant, Dominic . . . I let the years pass without trying to achieve that goal. Without going after the restaurant. I could have pursued my dream harder, too. This isn’t a blame game.”
His eyes closed. “It should be.”
Armie scooted closer, eagerness in every line of his body. “Tell her why. Right now.”
Dominic stared at some invisible spot on the wall. Minutes ticked by, but nothing came out of his mouth, and with every second that passed, Rosie encountered more and more dread. He really wasn’t going to offer an explanation. The expression “hitting a wall” had never made more sense than it did at that moment.
Eventually, Armie stood and paced to his desk, while Dominic and Rosie remained unmoving on the pillows. He scratched a few notes onto a legal pad and moseyed over to the office door, opening it.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Team Vega,” he said briskly. “But we’ve arrived at the end of our fourth session and I’m afraid your marriage isn’t going to make it.”
A lead weight dropped in Rosie’s stomach. Her limbs lost feeling.
Dominic leapt to his feet, his broad shoulders riddled with tension. “Excuse me?” He laughed without humor, but Rosie could see the panic in his eyes. “That’s bullshit.”
“I’m rarely wrong about these things.” Armie let out a weary breath. “Like I said, I’ve been doing last-chance couples counseling for thirty years and I get a pretty accurate read by the fourth and final session.” He drummed his fingers on the door. “We gave it the old college try, folks, but a resolution is simply not in the cards.”
Rosie took her first breath in what felt like hours, her body remaining winded even though she hadn’t moved a muscle. “A-are you sure?”
Armie nodded sadly and the pillows beneath her turned to spikes.
“Rosie!” Dominic near-shouted, demanding her attention. “We’re not going to take one person’s opinion as fact. Let’s go.” He held out his hand to her, but she couldn’t lift an arm to take it. “Rosie,” he said raggedly. “Come on. Please.”
God, she wanted so badly to take his hand and forget everything Armie had said. Dominic was right. Taking one person’s opinion and running with it didn’t make the best sense. If only she hadn’t witnessed her husband shutting down so resolutely. Refusing to give her a full explanation as to why he’d left their date. Okay, he’d unintentionally held her back. He felt guilty about it. If that was the source of their problems, she was prepared to work on it. But there was more. So much more that he’d left unsaid. And so she couldn’t leave with Dominic. Not when she couldn’t trust him.
Oh God, is it over?
For real this time?
When she continued to leave Dominic’s hand suspended in air, her husband went very still. Still as stone. Finally, a muscle slid up and down in his throat, and he backed toward the door, never taking his eyes off her until he was gone. The utter disbelief and horror she’d seen in his expression lingered long after his truck roared out of the parking lot.
For the first time in Rosie’s life, she was considering getting drunk at work.
In the perfume-sampling business, there were customers called puff princesses. They went down the entire line of little glass bottles, spraying each of them into the air and sniffing as the particles fell around them in a fine mist. Puff princesses were the worst. They made a mess, they stunk the place up, and they never, ever bought anything.
Usually during a shift, Rosie came across one or two of these types of customers, but today would land itself in the record books, because she’d had to endure no fewer than a dozen puff princesses. Someone had to be playing a practical joke on her. It wasn’t even dinnertime and she’d already lost her sense of smell. Rosie could vouch for the science that suggested a person’s other senses were heightened when one of them stopped working. Because there she stood in her uncomfortable heels, bottle in hand, smile plastered to her face—and she could count every speck of gray in the marble floor. Could hear every conversation taking place among the maze of glass cosmetics cases so clearly, the browsers might as well be hissing in her ears. If she squeezed the green bottle in her hands any tighter, it was going to shatter.
Her marriage was over.
For a second time.
Friday evening was darkening the sky outside the department store and Rosie hadn’t heard from her husband since yesterday’s ill-fated therapy session. All day, she’d been expecting him to show up and demand she cut the shit and come home. But he hadn’t.
He wasn’t going to, was he? Lord, that possibility terrified her.
Out of the corner of her eye, Rosie caught sight of Joe the security guard making his rounds. Without thinking, she set down the bottle of perfume and clicked on high heels in his direction. Rosie’s expression must have matched her mood, because when she called Joe’s name, he turned to her with wariness etched into his craggy features.
“Hey there, Rosie.”
“Hi, Joe.” She forced a smile, but it felt fractured. “I’m just curious. When was the last time you saw my husband?”
He shifted. “Now, Rosie . . .”
She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow.
“This morning.” Joe coughed into his fist. “He came by this morning to drop off my envelope. Looked like hell, as a matter of fact. Are you two having a spat?”
“Something like that,” Rosie muttered, spinning on a heel and returning to her post only to find two puff princesses in hoodies going to town. Her husband was still conducting his protective measures behind the scenes, but he wouldn’t just call her. The last thing she needed to deal with, on top of her twice-broken heart, was a couple of lookie-loos. “Excuse me, ladies. Do you need—”