Love Her or Lose Her

Page 43

Rosie closed her eyes a moment and breathed. She was here, she wasn’t an imposter, and her faith in herself was intact.

Grateful for the ride on a bubble of confidence her mother’s memory gave her, Rosie looked at the time on her cell phone and refused to panic. The realtor was late to show her the commercial space, but that didn’t mean she’d found her unprofessional over the phone or didn’t take her seriously. Briefly, she’d entertained the nightmare that the realtor and Martha belonged to the same knitting circle and had ruined Rosie’s chances of buying the space—it wouldn’t be so far-fetched in the small town—but she remained optimistic.

And wasn’t that nice?

Rosie tilted her head to one side and let the cool October breeze sweep along her neck. It was Saturday afternoon and she could still feel the Friday-night whisker burn there from Dominic’s unshaven jaw. A pulse fluttered between her legs and she took a shaky breath. Rosie wasn’t an expert on marriage or sex. She wasn’t an expert on anything, really, except maybe the amount of garlic to put in her chimichurri sauce. However. She was reasonably sure married couples didn’t usually have the best sex of their lives ten years after the wedding. Just a hunch.

Even now, standing outside the space where she dreamed of opening her restaurant, the legs keeping her upright were nothing more than holograms. She’d left the real ones back in the Gansevoort Hotel. Apparently her brain had been left behind, too, because mush had made up the contents of her head for the past few hours. If she licked her lips, she could almost feel Dominic’s good-bye kiss.

After calling the realtor and having beignets for breakfast, they’d shared an Uber SUV with Travis and Georgie from Manhattan to Port Jefferson. For once, Rosie and Dominic hadn’t been uncomfortable with the PDA taking place in their vicinity. Dominic had sat beside Rosie in the middle row, stroking her palm in circles with his thumb, his hot attention on her thighs enough to make her squirm in the leather seat. After they’d dropped off Travis and Georgie, her stop had been next. She’d had butterflies in her stomach as Dominic walked her to Bethany’s front door, kissing her before letting her inside. Kissing her. Sure. If that’s what you called utterly and completely claiming her mouth. Another brush of his tongue and she would have dragged him inside and hung a sock on Bethany’s guest room door.

Do not enter. Ravishment by husband in progress.

Rosie unbuttoned her jacket and waved some cool air toward her cleavage and underarms. Great. Now she was going to meet the realtor with sweat stains. Real professional and dignified.

It wasn’t only their lovemaking that continued to replay itself over and over in her mind. No, her thoughts were occupied by so many moments from Friday night. The things he’d said. How . . . capable and incredible he’d made her feel.

I loved you dancing in that dress. Looking so free. Like you could do anything. You can, honey girl.

Those sentiments were like echoes from the past. From Dominic before. And he’d meant what he said. Meant every word. The intensity in his touch, his stare, his kiss had been enough to make her believe . . . and now here she was. Ready to buy this space. She and Dominic were solid. And she, as her own woman, was solid.

She and her husband were entwined, and being separated from him had been hard as hell. On the ride from Manhattan, she’d decided to move back into their home. Really, she couldn’t imagine spending another night without him after the breakthrough they’d made. Even now, she had so much love blooming in her chest, she could break into a spontaneous dance at any moment. But she couldn’t regret her decision to leave in the first place. By following her gut and refusing to continue with the status quo, she’d learned a lot about her own strength. What she was willing to accept. She held on to that lesson now as she stood waiting.

While the afternoon clouds passed above, drifting in front of the sun and moving on, Rosie couldn’t help but replay Dominic’s words from the night before. 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. She’d found her confidence, but did Dominic still lack his own when it came to being a good husband?

If they’d tackled those insecurities in therapy, she wasn’t certain they’d been resolved. Not if she still didn’t have a clear idea of the worries plaguing her husband. She only knew one thing for certain: he was making a real, concerted effort to give Rosie what she needed, and she had to do the same. What secrets lurked behind those beautiful green eyes of his? She tapped her cell phone against her leg for a few seconds, then lifted it to call him. He’d promised to meet her here after running a few errands—

“Mrs. Vega? I’m Emma. Hi.”

Rosie pushed the cell into her purse and faced the woman approaching on the sidewalk. She was around the same age as Rosie. Not a local face, but she nonetheless smiled warmly as if they already knew each other. They shook hands.

“Please call me Rosie. Thanks for coming to show me the space.”

The realtor pulled out a handful of keys and squinted down at the dangling white circles, each of which had a different address written in a scrawl. “Thank you for not giving me a hard time over being late. It has been a morning.”

“I hear that.” Rosie shifted in her boots and tried not to betray how anxious she was to see the empty space and visualize her own décor on every blank surface. “So . . . have you—”

“Shown this property to anyone else?” Emma winked at her as they pushed into the dark commercial space. “Two other people have been interested, although I have no current offers. That’s the good news.”

Rosie followed her inside. “What’s the bad news?”

Emma heaved a sigh and fumbled for the light switch, finally flipping it on and illuminating the room. Rosie swallowed hard, rapidly blinking back the moisture that sprung to her eyes.

My God, it’s perfect.

Last time she’d stood inside these four walls, there had been people and noise and slapdash decorating. Without those trappings to impede her creative process, her restaurant took shape around her. One wall would be a spicy, textured gold. They would need bold white accents, maybe some antique sconces. Bethany could help with that. No tablecloths on the tables—she wanted the candlelight to bounce off the gleaming wood surfaces and make the dark interior sparkle like stars in the sky. She would leave the rest of the walls in their natural exposed-brick state, and Dominic could repaint them, make them look beautiful. Cinnamon and cloves and orange—those scents would remind people of her place. An experience.

“. . . kind of finicky, truth be told . . .”

Rosie tuned back in to what the realtor was saying. “I’m sorry,” she said, shaking loose the gorgeous illusion in her head. “Can you repeat that?”

Emma smiled knowingly and toed aside some left-behind debris, advancing toward Rosie. “They got some early interest in the building. Some credit issues popped up for the first applicant or it would already be sold. Nevertheless, after those bites we received right off the bat, the owner decided to increase the price.” She gave Rosie a commiserating eye roll that said she didn’t agree with the decision, but couldn’t do anything about it, either.

And then she rattled off a new number that made Rosie inwardly blanch.

“I see,” Rosie croaked. “I’m afraid that’s out of my—”

“She’ll take it,” came a gruff voice at the front door.

Rosie sucked in a breath and turned to find Dominic leaning against the wall, arms crossed. A badass hiding in the shadows, watching her. “When did you get here?” She shook her head. “What do you mean, I’ll take it?”

He pushed off the wall and came closer, hitting her with enough heat in one look to rival the power of a thousand suns. “You want it?”

“Yes,” she whispered, turning her back so they could have something that resembled a private conversation. “It’s . . . perfect. It’s everything I’ve been seeing in my dreams.” When his features softened and pure, unfiltered adoration stared back at her, she stepped closer, sighing over the welcoming embrace of his heat. “It’s too expensive. We can find someplace else. Maybe they’ll even come down on the price at some point.”

Dominic tipped her chin up. “Rosie, look at me.”

She searched his face, her heart racing faster at the amused tilt of his lips.

“We got this. Okay? This is your place.”

Call her naive. Call her greedy. Call her whatever you wanted. She needed to hear those words, to live in that reality so badly in that moment, that she didn’t question her husband. If Dominic, a careful planner to the extreme, told her they could afford the building, then she believed him.

“Oh my God.” She leapt into his arms and released a watery laugh, feeling so amazingly whole when he laughed, too, free and unrestrained. “Oh my God, is this happening?”

Dominic stroked a hand down her back, taking a deep inhale near her temple. “Cash sale. Where do we sign?”

Emma sputtered a little. “W-well, there’s an application process, but I ran Mrs. Vega’s credit before driving here and I can say with confidence that . . . well, you’re paying cash and her credit is outstanding, so I’ll just make a quick call to the owner and—”

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