There honestly wasn’t a damn thing to be resentful about. Except maybe the length of time it took to get them both undressed. His wife was smiling at him again. Laughing. They’d started talking about their days at work, vacation plans, musing about mundane things and having deep conversations late into the night. Last night, Rosie had remained sprawled on his chest for hours while he trailed his fingertips up and down her spine, listening to her reminisce about the past, fill him in on the present, paint a picture of the future.
He’d never been more content in his life.
So why couldn’t he sleep?
The happier Rosie became, the more his nerves seemed to pop and race. Their growing bond was like concrete being poured onto a cracked foundation. No matter how many times Dominic told himself she would never find out about the house. No matter how many times he convinced himself he’d done the right thing, sleep never came. He woke up in the dead of night with sweat on his forehead, fresh from a nightmare of Rosie walking out the door again. Only in the nightmare, he couldn’t find her.
I should have told her about the house.
Now it was too late, though. What was the point when it had been sold?
He had no regrets over selling the house to give Rosie her restaurant, but he couldn’t help but wish she’d had a chance to see it.
Regret ate at Dominic’s gut as he let himself into the house. Rosie’s coconut scent lingered in the air and he sucked in a lungful, issuing a silent plea to his maker that he’d never have to walk into his home again without Rosie’s presence coasting over him and settling his blood. She equaled home for Dominic and that would never, ever change.
He walked straight past the blueprint where it sat open on the table and stopped, denial ripping through his veins. His surroundings fuzzed at the edges and pared down until he had tunnel vision, his quickening breaths scraping his eardrums. He didn’t want to turn around. Didn’t want to look. But based on the quick glance he’d thrown at the plan as he passed . . . it wasn’t for Buena Onda. No, that plan was rolled up and sitting on the dashboard of his truck. He’d looked at it less than half an hour ago, relaying the square footage of the bar area to Travis over the phone.
Ice encased Dominic’s spine as he turned and confirmed his worst fear.
Rosie had seen this. She’d been here, looking at this. One of the discarded blueprints for their house. Had she . . . gone there? This was bad. This was worse than bad. He’d bought and sold a house without his wife’s knowledge. That alone was unforgivable. But they’d gone to therapy to learn how to be honest with each other. It had worked. Except for this one thing. This secret he’d held on to instead of coming clean. And now it could screw him.
He could lose his wife again.
“No. No, Jesus,” Dominic breathed, snatching up his keys and sprinting out the door. His hands shook violently as he unlocked the driver’s-side door and lunged inside, turning over the engine and peeling out of the driveway. He knew the route by heart, but nothing seemed familiar when he was facing the loss of Rosie. “Why didn’t I tell her? Why didn’t I tell her?”
As soon as he pulled into the driveway, his heart dropped into his stomach and his fingers turned to ice on the steering wheel.
Rosie was sitting on the front step of the house. Wasn’t it the ultimate kicker that she looked perfect surrounded by the old ivy-covered brick and wraparound porch? He’d pictured her in front of the house so many times, but his imagination hadn’t done it justice.
They watched each other through the windshield.
Get out and apologize. That’s what he should do. It was the only option. But he was so righteously pissed at himself for fucking up the best part of his life—again—he could feel the anger curl in his belly like a rattlesnake.
Dominic threw the truck door open and climbed out, his self-disgust forcing the wrong words to come out of his mouth, in place of an apology. “I sold it to pay for the restaurant, Rosie. That’s what you wanted.”
“No.” She stood, fists balled at her sides. “No, don’t act like I had anything to do with this decision-making process. I didn’t even know we owned a house in the first place.”
Despite the cold October air, sweat slid down the center of Dominic’s back. “It had to be done. If I’d told you about the house, you wouldn’t have let me sell it.”
“We’ll never know, will we?” She broke off on a sob, looking around. “It’s beautiful. Damn you, Dominic.” He took a step forward, eager to comfort her, but she held up a trembling hand. “How long have we owned it?”
He hardened his jaw and didn’t answer.
“A year,” he croaked, unable to look at her. “Maybe a little longer.”
A sound of disbelief from Rosie had him glancing back to find full-fledged betrayal on her beautiful face. She might as well have rammed a screwdriver into his chest.
“Rosie, since we were kids, I’ve only wanted to give you everything, but it wasn’t until I grew up that I realized how . . . impossible that is. I had my hands and my work ethic. And that’s all.” He couldn’t fill his lungs enough. He needed to hold her, but couldn’t. “When I was deployed and I met these men . . . God, Rosie, the plans they made. The places they’d been, places they’d go. Until then, I didn’t realize how simple this life would be. How inadequate for someone as incredible as you.
“I’d only learned one way to cope with those fears and I followed that example. Head down, bust your ass. Earn. It took me four years of setting aside money until I could afford this house, and by then, I’d had my head down so long, I forgot to look up and see you needed something else. The restaurant, yeah. But me, too. You needed me.
“Your love would have been powerful enough to overcome everything if I hadn’t shut you—shut everything out. I’m here now, though. Just forgive me for this. Please.”
For what seemed like an eternity, Dominic stood there while Rosie digested his words. They were coming far too late, that much was obvious. Her eyes were glazed with pain, the heel of her hand pressed to her chest.
“Even if you’d told me about the house this morning . . . I think I would have understood. We could have talked it out. But knowing you were going to keep this from me forever . . .”
“I’m sorry,” he said raggedly, the apology like a last-ditch life preserver. “I just got you back, Rosie. I didn’t want to remind you why you left.”
She took several breaths with her eyes closed. “I need some time—”
Panic clobbered him. “No.”
“You have to let me process this,” Rosie burst out. “Goddammit, I’m so mad at you.”
“I know. Let’s just sit down and talk about this.”
“It feels like the last few weeks are tainted now. All this time, we were supposedly making progress, but we weren’t. Not really.”
Dominic dropped his head into his hands, his thumbs biting into his eye sockets. “I don’t fucking get this. I don’t get how we can love each other this much and not stick.” He banged a fist against his chest. “Look at me. I love you. I’m sorry.”
She turned in a circle and looked up at the house before stumbling away, stopping in front of him, her body language warning him not to touch her. “I love you, too,” she whispered. “I’m sorry you were living with enough insecurities that you kept something so huge from me. That must have been hard.” She opened her mouth and then closed it, her eyes touching on everything but him. “I—I just don’t know if I can get right with this.”
He could only stand paralyzed as his wife walked away. Again.
Rosie sat in the parking lot outside Armie’s office, trying to psych herself up to go inside. Or move. Or think straight. Her mind couldn’t seem to hang on to any single thought for longer than a few seconds before it flew off like a flock of startled birds.
There was a divider straight down the middle of her mind, like a mental pro/con list. On one side, all the bad stuff bumped around. Suffering in silence before she’d left Dominic. Feeling unsupported. Schlepping into the department store every day, her dream moving a little further and further out of reach. The other side of her brain housed all the progress they’d made. Not to mention all the revelations she’d had since she and Dominic had reconnected.
Her husband hadn’t been ignoring her all those years. She’d been his center of gravity, just like always. To a fault.
Yes, she’d found that out today the hard way.
He’d bought her a secret freaking house.
Who did that?
Rosie reached up to massage the pounding ache in the center of her forehead. There had been a moment back at the secret house when she’d wanted to throw herself into Dominic’s arms and tell him the house was beautiful. That he was a ridiculous, romantic, complicated man and she loved him in spite of it. But as she’d sat there on the porch watching him approach, she’d heard the therapist’s voice.
I’m afraid your marriage isn’t going to make it.
Could they have a successful union if he kept these kinds of things from her? After everything they’d been through over the past few weeks, if he still couldn’t be honest, what hope did they have of him opening up in the future? She’d been so positive they’d laid it all on the line, but it turned out she didn’t even know where the line was.