Regret clogged his throat. Why hadn’t he recognized sooner that his contribution to their marriage wasn’t enough? At what point had he forgotten the moments like this? They should have been placed ahead of all others. Holding her in the expensive bed with dawn breaking over the skyscrapers in the distance, he was on the verge of being . . . enough. This was what she needed. Affection. Words. Maybe that was the only answer and he didn’t have to search any further.
His wife rolled closer and snuggled into his side, resting a closed fist in the center of his chest. God almighty. Dominic breathed through his nose and closed his eyes. This was heaven on earth. She was soft and sweet and he never wanted to move. Words. Encouragement. He could learn to give his wife those things on a regular basis and this would be his. Last night was proof that he could earn her trust by letting her fly, by supporting her. By being there to lift her up when she needed it. And she did need it. He’d learned from the mistake of his silence and would never let that need go unfulfilled again.
Dominic reached under the fluffy down comforter and trailed a hand over the curve of her hip, smiling softly when her lips popped open and a breath shook out. Not awake, but definitely getting there. He should wake her up, drive her home, and tell her she’d have the rest of the money for her restaurant soon. It was Saturday and neither of them was working. Maybe he could convince her to test her signature asado dish out on him.
Jesus, last night she’d called herself his out loud. Something had shifted between them. So while his gut was screaming at him to tell Rosie about the house he’d bought in secret—the sale of which would fund her restaurant—the absolute last thing he wanted when they’d just risen from the ashes was to crumble them into dust again. Unable to draw a decent breath around the panic, Dominic buried his nose in her hair and inhaled.
Rosie wanted the restaurant. He would give that to her. He had to.
His conscience spoke from the back of his brain, urging him to wake up his wife and just be honest. Lay everything out there. How much he loved her and wanted to make her happy. How he’d put her restaurant aspirations on the back burner and selfishly pursued the dream he’d thought they shared—a house. How he’d been taught to equate showing emotions with weakness, so he’d pushed her away, instead of keeping his walls down, the way they’d been when he was younger. Before he’d looked around and decided his only offering to Rosie was hard work. Reliability. Instead of confiding in her that he didn’t feel like enough, he’d fallen into the pattern he’d been shown his whole life. Head down, work hard, don’t reveal a single chink in the armor. If he just opened his mouth right here and now, they could walk out of this room with no secrets between them.
Or he could never tell her about the house and stay on track. Follow the plan. Fix this.
Needing to get his head straight, Dominic carefully laid Rosie among the pillows and got out of bed, already missing her soft curves against him. Missing her breath, her scent, and her sounds.
I’ll be a better husband to you, honey girl. I promise.
Dominic ran a hand over his shaved head and stooped down to retrieve the phone from his jeans pocket. There was one missed call and one text message from Stephen. Since he’d essentially abandoned his friends last night, it was probably a good idea to call Stephen and let him know he was more than fine. Sending one final glance at Rosie where she lay in the bed, Dominic dressed quickly, pocketed Rosie’s room key, and stepped into the hallway. He fell into a green velvet chair in the elevator area and hit call.
“Oh! Well, if it isn’t the phantom menace. Thanks for letting me know you’re alive.”
“Christ.” Dominic dragged a hand down his face and laughed. “Calm down, Mom.”
There was some shuffling around in the background and a door closed. “You did the right thing disappearing. What a scene. They’re probably going to ban Long Islanders from the club and call it the Castle Law.”
“Shit. What happened?”
“Wes and Bethany happened, mainly. Which really pissed off my wife, because she likes being the center of attention. It’s been a great night slash morning for me.”
“Sorry to hear that,” Dominic said, realizing his chest felt lighter than it had in years. How long had he been living with an anvil on his chest? “What do you mean, Wes and Bethany happened?”
“I mean,” Stephen said, drawing out the word, “Bethany went inside after Rosie to see what was keeping her and apparently handed off a room key?”
“Yeah, I might know something about that.”
“How nice for you. My wife isn’t even speaking to me.” His friend blew out a harried breath. “Anyway, after you two left, my sister let some dude at the bar buy her a drink. Before she could take a sip, Wes showed up and drank it—a pink martini, too, so remind me to give him shit about that—and paid the dude back.”
“What did Bethany do?”
“What do you think?”
“Ding, ding, ding. Good thing the music was loud, because she tore a strip off his ass.” Stephen’s laugh was kind of bemused. “To be fair, I’m pretty sure he did the same to her. I think I really like this guy.”
“Yeah, he’s all right. Not bad on the job site, either.” Dominic stood up so he could look down the hallway toward Rosie’s room. Logically, he knew she couldn’t have left without getting on an elevator, but he was . . . lovesick. Might as well call it what it was. Having Rosie out of his sight was causing him physical discomfort. “What happened with Travis and Georgie—”
“Don’t. Don’t bring it up. I just ate breakfast.”
“They did the opposite of Wes and Bethany, huh?”
Stephen made a disgusted sound. “Let’s just say you’re not the only ones that needed to get a room. You’d think they hadn’t seen each other in a year.”
“Gotcha.” Dominic chuckled. Normally, he hated relationship talk of any kind. Why? Because it forced him to reflect on his own shortcomings? Yeah, that must have been it. He’d convinced himself his marriage was normal, if not perfect. In reality, so much had been broken, there almost hadn’t been enough glue to put it back together. “Thank God we came here last night,” Dominic said, not realizing right away that he’d spoken out loud.
“It sounds like things are getting better, man. I’m glad.” Stephen cleared his throat. “Speaking of you and Rosie. There’s another reason I called.”
Dominic lowered himself back into the chair. “What?”
“The realtor called. There’s a cash offer on the house.”
His heart kicked into a gallop inside his chest. “Yeah? A good one?”
“Well, you did price it to sell. This offer is slightly lower, but it’s in the neighborhood of what you were hoping for.” He paused. “I made a call to the commercial realtor selling the building on Cove. Along with the money she made through the GoFundMe, it’s more than enough to lock down the restaurant space for Rosie. A cash sale for the owner, some capital for her if she wants to give it a face-lift—”
“Yeah, I would want her to have enough to do whatever she wants.” Restless, he leaned forward, then pushed to his feet, pacing once again to the end of the hallway and staring at the door. The love of his life slept on the other side. They were so close to getting back on track. He had the answers, he was just . . . weighed down with one final question. Would his honesty be enough? He had the power in his hands to give her the thing she’d always wanted. A simple signature and he’d make up for everything.
“Dom,” Stephen said, sighing. “You know I’ll help you do whatever you think is right. But I’m going to be the voice of reason one more time. Just talk to Rosie. Make the decision together.”
Dominic swallowed, taking a step toward the room, then turning back around. He thought of the woman who’d danced last night with total abandon, the woman who’d taken command of those women in Wes’s kitchen and filled needs before they’d arisen. The woman who loved cooking so much, she used to dance in their kitchen. She’d rediscovered that passion on her own, without him, because he’d neglected to give her that support. Right now, he could make up for it. Make up for everything and watch her succeed.
“Accept the offer.”
Rosie stared at her hand curled on the pillow, listening to her measured breathing.
Dominic was coming back.
They’d turned a huge corner last night, against all odds, and her husband had not just crept out of the room like she was a one-night stand. Forcing herself to relax and be patient wasn’t easy to do—yet. She’d grown accustomed to parting ways with Dominic after sex, mentally and physically. But after last night, she expected more. Would she get it?
“Yes,” she whispered, rolling over onto her back and stretching her sore muscles, arms extended over her head, toes pointed. “Definitely yes.”
She couldn’t believe it. Yesterday at this time, she’d thought her marriage was over for real. Kaput. For good. But she’d just spent the night wrapped in Dominic’s arms and it had been like visiting heaven. He’d made a comeback and she wasn’t going to doubt him. Her heart implored her to trust the only man she’d ever loved—and she could do nothing but comply.