Dominic split a look between his friends, a growing sense of doom starting to mount in his chest. “Okay, so both of your women are dressed up. Where are they going?”
“Out,” Travis and Stephen stage-whispered, twin looks of horror on their faces. “Bethany showed up to both of our houses hanging out of the top of a limousine, drinking champagne straight from the bottle.”
The door to Grumpy Tom’s flew open and Wes walked in, tipped his cowboy hat to the bartender, and ordered a Budweiser. When he saw Dominic, Travis, and Stephen gathered at the bar, he nodded a greeting and made his way over. “You three look like your mamas told you to stop playing video games and take out the garbage.”
Travis slumped back on his stool. “Worse. Our women are on their way to Manhattan in stripper heels.”
Wes slapped a hand on the bar, but cut his laugh off midway out of his mouth. “Hold on a second, is, uh . . . is Bethany with them?”
“She’s the goddamn ringleader!” Stephen shot back. “You know what song she was blasting in the limousine when she showed up? ‘Like a Virgin.’ I’m going to hear it in my sleep tonight.”
Travis snorted. “Who’s sleeping?”
Dominic was barely able to hear his friends over the increasing tempo of his heartbeat. The beating spread to every inch of his body until he was one giant pulse. “My . . . wife wasn’t in that limousine. Was she?”
Travis threw up his hands. “Yes. She was. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
Wes inserted himself between them, a look of concern marring his brow. “Was Bethany wearing the stripper heels, too?”
Acid rose in Dominic’s stomach like a geyser, and he leaned forward on the stool, forcing breath in and out through his nose. He didn’t like this. He didn’t like it at all. Rosie was supposed to be home safe at Bethany’s. She wasn’t supposed to be leaving town, going to an unfamiliar place. Especially not when their marriage had been declared unsalvageable. Was this a sign that she was ready to shed him like a layer of old skin and move on?
A vein popped behind his eye and throbbed sharply.
All four men were silent for a good minute, none of them watching the ball game that was playing on the screen above their heads. When the bartender poured them a shot on the house and walked away, they each tossed the golden liquid back without hesitation or a countdown.
“Well, boys. I’ll leave you to it. There’s a church lady babysitting Laura for the night,” Wes said, sniffing. “Might go get some grocery shopping done.”
Travis snorted. “You’re going into the city, aren’t you?”
Wes nodded about ten times and sighed. “Yeah.”
“Hold on,” Stephen said. “Is this an option? How come no one said going to Manhattan was an option?”
“I can’t just go chasing Georgie into the city and dragging her home,” Travis said, his expression incredulous. “You know how hypocritical that makes me? I partied for years before I found her and settled down. She’s never had a chance to cut loose. Besides.” Travis crossed his arms over his chest. “I trust her. She even gave me the address where they were going. Wrote it with little smiley-face o’s.”
“I trust Rosie, too.” Dominic’s voice emerged in a scrape. “It’s men I don’t trust.”
All four men growled. The bartender poured them another shot.
Wes sighed as he downed his whiskey. “Guess we’re taking a cab.”
Dominic was in mental hell, wondering where Rosie was, what she was wearing, what she was thinking, whether the night out was just the girls having fun . . . or if she’d needed it. They hadn’t spoken since he’d walked out of Armie’s office and that distance had been harder than a motherfucker. How hard had it been on Rosie?
Christ. He just wanted to give her good news the next time they met. If he was going to come clean about being a selfish prick, he wanted to have a solution to go along with his apology. I’m sorry I fucked up, honey girl. Here’s the money you need for the restaurant. You’re going to do amazing things. He’d been rehearsing those words in his head since officially putting the house up for sale.
Travis dropped a hand onto his shoulder. “Listen, man. You know how I get the inside scoop on the ladies now that I’m going to marry Stephen’s little sister and give her babies?”
“Fuck you,” Stephen muttered.
“Yeah,” said the other two men in unison.
Sensing something bad on the horizon, Dominic’s heart lodged in his throat. “What?”
“I think I know why they’re blowing off some steam.” Travis blew out a breath. “Rosie quit her job this afternoon. Like, told her manager to go jump in a lake and stomped her name tag to smithereens. That kind of quitting.”
Dominic couldn’t manage a decent breath. Panic seized him at the thought of her being harassed or upset. “Did something happen at the store?”
“No,” Travis said quickly. “Bethany and Georgie were there. Apart from her supervisor giving her some attitude, nothing happened. She’s fine. Georgie just said a girls’ night was in order.” He took his time pointing at each of the men. “That’s why we’re going to let them have it.”
Wes sniffed and drained his beer. “Fuck that.”
They all threw some bills onto the bar and walked out.
Rosie watched the lights of Manhattan pass by in a blur. Some of that blur was thanks to the champagne she’d downed on their limo ride into the city. Mostly, though, it was just the nature of tonight. The breathless pace of it, the freshness of the experience. She was dressed in silver sequins—straight from Bethany’s closet—her hair was in glossy spirals around her face, and she’d been decorated with dark, cherry-red lipstick. She barely recognized the woman looking back at her from the opposite window’s reflection.
Good. She wanted to be a different kind of Rosie tonight. A Rosie who took risks and made decisions for herself, for better or worse. Tomorrow morning, when she woke up, she wanted to be someone who wasn’t afraid to try new things. Maybe getting drunk and dancing with her girlfriends was a far cry from opening a restaurant, but she had to start somewhere.
She couldn’t blame Dominic for the sheltered life she’d been living. As much as she wanted to blame him for the fact that she never went out, never cultivated friendships or had fun, she had to take ownership. Once upon a time, she’d wanted nothing more than to be home with him. Just the two of them. But toward the end, staying home meant staying in silence. Bobbing around feeling like a disconnected spare part.
She refused to feel that way tonight.
With the expensive leather rubbing the bare backs of her thighs and the sounds of the city drifting in through the open moonroof, Rosie might as well have been living on a different planet. The lack of familiarity excited and scared her at the same time. With her axis already tilted, she was getting ready to tip it even more. Before the night she’d gone to stay at Bethany’s house, she never would have believed she’d leave her husband. This morning, she never would have believed she’d quit her job. Something was changing inside her. Throwing herself outside her comfort zone when everything was already in flux made her pulse race.
Bethany scooted closer on the leather seat. “Hey. You okay?”
“Yes.” Despite her answer, Rosie shook her head no. “I’ve never gone out dancing and drinking like this. Not without Dominic.”
Her blond bestie sipped from her champagne flute and tilted her head thoughtfully. “What are you worried about?”
“We’re not even in the club yet and I feel unfaithful,” Rosie admitted, cupping her knees in her hands. “I’m in this weird place where I’m not sure if I’m afraid to piss off Dominic or if that’s exactly what I want. And I would never look at another man while we’re still married—that’s not what I mean. Maybe . . . maybe I’ll never be able to look at another man. But this dress and this situation where he can’t confirm my safety would be enough to drive him crazy.”
Bethany sighed. “I’m sorry it’s so complicated right now,” she said. “Look at it this way—if going out in a sexy dress is enough to make him lose his shit, the deed is done. The shit has been lost. But you’re here. Might as well relax and enjoy yourself.” They both glanced toward the other end of the limousine where Kristin was trying to fix Georgie’s hair and getting her hand slapped away. “We didn’t come here to meet men, Rosie. It’s just going to be us girls dancing and curating hangovers. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Rosie’s spine straightened. “You’re right.” She blew out a breath. “I deserve this.”
“You’re damn right you do,” Bethany drawled, tossing back the rest of her champagne.
“I’m going to dance until I get blisters.”
“Ouch, but yes. Who says fun can’t be bloody?”
The limousine started to bump along the cobblestones that signaled their arrival in the Meatpacking District. Their destination appeared in the window, and Rosie’s excitement level rose, eclipsing her trepidation. While they’d been getting ready earlier that evening, Bethany had regaled her with stories of nights out at the Gansevoort Hotel. It was a sleek black building, looming high above the packed Friday-night street. After their driver helped them out of the limousine, the women linked arms and clicked on their heels toward the entrance.