As she got closer to an open space at the bar, Rosie’s pulse rippled in time with the bass. Heat slithered around in her belly and pressed her thighs together. Dominic would know what was happening below her waist at a single glance. What would he do? She’d always done her best to keep her arousal hidden on days that weren’t Tuesday, but on that scheduled night, she would finally let the veil drop. He’d strip her naked and press her facedown on the couch, bring her to a blistering orgasm to take the edge off, then embark on a slower, more deliberate round two.
Rosie’s nipples beaded inside her dress, her shaky inhales loud in her ears.
God, she needed to be touched so badly. Kissed, stroked, embraced. All of it. She and Dominic might have been relying too much on sex to bolster their marriage, but it had been satisfying in the moment. A fleeting connection during which she could feel the pull of a deeper one. One they’d neglected for years. After what happened in therapy yesterday, she couldn’t sense his dependable presence at her back anymore. The rug had been pulled out from under her feet and she was in a continuous freefall. She might be mad as hell at Dominic for several things, but she would never stop wanting those arms to wrap around her. To catch her.
The bartender appeared in front of Rosie with a tight smile. “What can I get you?”
“A ginger ale, please. Thanks,” she managed over the music—and then realized she’d forgotten her purse outside. “Oh, shoot,” she muttered at the ceiling, torn between explaining the situation to the bartender or running back outside and attempting to retrieve her purse before he came back . . .
Dominic saw Rosie the second he stepped off the elevator.
He came to an abrupt halt, blocking everyone’s exit behind him.
Jesus. It wasn’t news to Dominic that his wife was fine as hell, but that fact wasn’t usually on display quite so fucking clearly. She could have walked out onstage at the Grammys to accept an award in all those sequins. And with those legs. And that ass.
Even in the dark club, her skin glowed. What little light there was flocked to her, highlighting the smooth curve of her calves, the plump side of her breast—which definitely should not be showing. Not here in this public place with hundreds of men. He could feel the primal tug of possessiveness in his gut, his throat, his clenching fists.
My wife. No one looks at my Rosie but me.
It was written in his DNA to charge over like a bull and demand to know what the hell she was thinking. He wanted to rip off his shirt and wrap it around her, hiding every delicious inch of skin from anyone who might want a taste. Taking her home was a given.
Christ, more than anything, though—more than anything—he wanted to throw himself down at her feet and worship her. Look at you, honey girl. The hottest thing in the fucking club.
As if he’d spoken to her out loud, Rosie’s head turned in his direction and the incessant motion around him slowed. So beautiful. She was so goddamn beautiful. Not just her face or her body or the clothes. Looking at her through a sea of strangers, the years of their lives were right there between them, rushing like a river. The excitement of falling in love, the hormonal lust of their teens, the trust they’d built while he was away, the millions of hours they’d logged talking on the phone or in her backyard, the silence that had fallen when they stopped trying.
Hearing their marriage was over.
Dominic made a sound halfway between clearing his throat and choking.
On the way into Manhattan, he’d been determined to come collect his wife, and the more miles they’d eaten up, the more his head of steam had built. I’m going to remind her where she belongs, he’d thought. With their eyes locked and the reality of their situation sitting on his shoulders like a ton of bricks, that shit seemed so juvenile. I’ve lost my wife. She’s going to move on without me unless I man the fuck up and work on myself. On us. Dragging her out of the bar like a caveman wouldn’t win her back. And he was fresh out of tries. Mistakes were no longer an option. There was only one direction left to go and that was forward.
Dominic was only vaguely aware of Travis asking the hostess where he might find a girl with “bangs, freckles, an adorable laugh, and a rock on her finger the size of a baseball” as he cut toward Rosie where she stood at the bar, still looking at him like a deer in headlights.
“Miss,” the bartender was saying when Dominic reached her. “Six dollars for the ginger ale, please.”
Without taking his eyes off his wife, Dominic slid a ten out of his wallet and handed it to the bartender. “Keep it.” Now that they were close, Dominic had to once again check the impulse to carry her to a dark corner and snarl at anyone who dared glance in her direction. Instead, he leaned in and spoke near her ear. “I’m Dominic. What’s your name?”
He heard Rosie’s breath catch and prayed he was doing the right thing. The past would always be there, but she needed to know he could change. That they could be different. Better. “I’m Rosie,” she said finally, her gaze dropping away to land on the ginger ale. “I’m supposed to bring this to my friend.”
“You mean I just paid six dollars for a soda and it’s not even for you?”
She pressed her painted lips together to hide a smile. “You didn’t ask.”
Dominic eased the drink out of her hand and set it back on the bar. “Let the waitress bring her what she wants. I’m more interested in what you want.”
“I was just trying to figure that out.”
There was no space at the bar. There was no space in the whole damn club—and it was loud as hell, music and voices creating a din. In order to talk, Dominic had to get close and Rosie did the same, stepping into his space and pressing her tits to his chest slowly, so slowly, and, needing an anchor, his palm splayed over her hip.
“Meaning I can’t decide if I want to hide with my girlfriends all night or if I want to dance.” She shrugged a graceful shoulder. “Cut loose a little.”
Dominic’s hand rode over her hip and slipped around to her back. Which was very much bare, all the way down to the swell of her ass. He ground his back teeth together, her eyes challenging him, and his voice emerged strangled. “Do you cut loose very often?”
“No.” Her answer puffed against his lips. “Never.”
She was telling him something. It was there in the sudden somberness of her eyes as she searched his face. Her lack of a smile.
“If you have a man, he’s . . .” Dominic swallowed hard. “If you have a man, he’s probably spent a long time assuming you need security instead of excitement. Dreams. Maybe he’s always known you’re the most exciting woman in the world, but he’s not sure you feel that way about him. So he works and provides. He can control that.”
Fuck. Had he just said that out loud? A gash was open and oozing on his chest after voicing those words to the world. He had a hard enough time admitting these things to himself. But here he stood with the woman of his dreams and their future hanging in the balance, so if a second chance meant opening wounds, so be it. He’d open every last one.
“Not sure if she thinks he’s exciting,” Rosie breathed, confusion knitting her brow together. “How . . . long has he thought this way? Why?”
Dominic forced a casual smile. “You’re asking the wrong guy,” he said, his fingertips drawing patterns on her smooth back. “If I had to guess, though, I’d say it started a long time ago and got worse after he saw other parts of the world, met new people. Got some perspective. After that, the only thing he felt confident in giving was stability. Maybe after being raised to believe that was a man’s job, it was easy to fall into it.”
Damn, he was grateful he’d pretended to be someone else. Every time he took a shaky step forward, the pretense was something to fall back on. The role-playing made talking easier.
“Look at you. You know? You’re the most incredible woman I’ve ever seen. So beautiful you make me ache. And you’ve got a heart to match. You’re patient and loyal and dedicated and kind. A man who never worried about doing enough to earn you? That man would be an idiot.”
The yearning in Dominic’s chest gave him no choice but to pull her close, tight enough against his body that Rosie’s back bowed.
“You probably came out tonight to get away from him. When I walked in here, I could see that. You’ve been missing this chance to shine. And God, you shine so fucking bright.” His mouth found her ear and opened just beneath it, taking a small bite as her hips pressed forward, cradling his growing cock. “If your heart is set on having this night to yourself . . . I’ll go. If that’s what you need. But I’d love to stay and learn everything about you.”
Rosie turned her head and kissed his jaw. “I’d love that.” Their eyes met. “And I think there’s a lot I need to learn about you, too.”
With that, she took his hand and led him out onto the dance floor.
Was this a dream?
It felt like a dream.
She was leading her husband of almost a decade onto the dance floor of a swanky bar, the city spread out around them like a bedazzled Christmas-tree skirt—and he’d just surprised the hell out of her. Dominic could definitely be classified as the strong, silent type, but his temper had a trip switch. And Rosie putting herself out there or in jeopardy was most definitely the trigger. When he’d stepped off the elevator, she’d fully expected to be carried out of there like a sack of potatoes.