She just needed to talk to someone. Her friends were an amazing choice, but honestly? Rosie was almost embarrassed to tell them about the secret house. How could she have been kept in the dark so long? So here she was. Not only did she need to vent, but she wanted to know why Armie didn’t think her marriage to Dominic could work. What had he seen?
Anxiety turned over in her stomach as she climbed out of the Honda. She closed the driver’s-side door and idled there for a few seconds, measuring her breathing and fingering the shoulder strap of her purse. Armie was definitely open for business—she could smell the pot wafting from beneath the building door. When she walked inside, she found him in a meditation pose in the center of his waiting-room floor.
She shifted. “Um . . .”
His eyes cracked open. “Mrs. Vega.” A smile lit his face. “Hello.”
“Hello!” Rosie did her best to subdue her too-bright tone. “I know we don’t have any more appointments scheduled, but I was hoping we could speak for a few minutes.”
Armie rose to his feet, not without some effort, and tucked the end of a joint into his shirt pocket, patting it closed. “Dominic isn’t with you?”
He studied her expression. “I see,” he said, nodding once and turning. “Come on into my office. Something to drink?”
His crack of laughter almost made her smile. “You’re not the type to show up for a spontaneous therapy session.” He leaned back against the front edge of his desk. “Why don’t you tell me what’s happened?”
Rosie fell onto the couch and stared at the therapist, although she wasn’t really seeing him. Visions of flower beds and patios and a dock extending into the sound played in front of her eyes like a slideshow. “Last time we were here, you said our marriage wasn’t going to work. That you could tell these things.” She blew out a breath. “Well, I guess we didn’t believe you, because . . . hearing your opinion only seemed to bring us . . . closer. Dominic talked to me about his insecurities and he really came through, supporting my dream of opening the restaurant. He even proposed a second time.”
Armie only rested his hands on his belly and nodded. “Go on.”
Rosie swallowed hard. “The whole time, he was keeping something from me. I found out by accident that he bought us a new house with money he’d been setting aside since he returned from Afghanistan. He bought it a year ago—and never told me.”
Armie whistled through his teeth. “Oh dear.”
“Yes.” She threw her purse to the side. “He sold it to pay for the restaurant.”
A beat of silence passed. “To give you your dream.”
Rosie nodded and trained him with a look, nerves building in her stomach. “You said our marriage can’t work. Why? Is it because he can’t be honest with me?”
Armie sighed and rounded the desk, settling into his chair. “Rosie, I know you’re not in the mood to hear you’ve been duped twice in one day, but I have to come clean.” He tapped his fingers on the desk. “I knew you and Dominic were going to make it the day we met.”
He definitely looked like he wanted to light up his joint again. “Not only had I never seen two people who love each other more, I’ve never seen two people whose hopes, fears, and sexualities are so intertwined. You share a heart.” He laughed a little under his breath. “Not to mention, there wasn’t a chance in hell that man was letting you go.”
A vision of Dominic walking into Bethany’s kitchen to ask for a second chance caught her off guard and she had to take several deep breaths to kick-start her lungs.
Rosie spoke through numb lips. “So why tell us we wouldn’t make it?”
“A little wake-up call, to present you both with the reality of living without each other. Permanently. Kind of a scared-straight program for husbands and wives.” He arched an eyebrow in her direction. “Tell me it didn’t work.”
“It worked,” she mumbled, thinking of how Dominic had arrived in the club that night, his heart in his eyes. How he’d let her shine. Encouraged her.
“I didn’t see the secret house coming.”
She leaned her head back. “That makes two of us.”
Armie stood up again and came around his desk, sitting beside Rosie on the couch with a kind smile. “It wasn’t right for him to keep the house from you, Rosie. Both spouses should be involved in decisions regarding household finances.” He started to hedge.
She turned her head. “But what?”
“Change within a person doesn’t happen overnight. They have to work on it every single day. Their significant other has to help,” Armie said. “Dominic bought this house a year ago, when communication had broken down between you. It’s reasonable for him to think revealing it now might cause the worst damage.”
Rosie chewed her lip and waited for him to say more.
“Let’s untangle this. The fear of losing you trumped honesty, in this case. Not an excuse, just a reality. And we’ve both learned that Dominic expresses his love and appreciation through deeds.” He shifted on the couch, moving his raised hands around as if feeling her aura. “Close your eyes. Let’s put you in Dominic’s shoes.” Rosie complied. “Go to the moment your husband realized he could present you with your dream of the restaurant and avoid losing you again in one fell swoop. What do you think he’s feeling?”
“Duty. Love. Some self-doubt,” she whispered. “Mostly, the need to make me happy.”
“You need words, Rosie. We’ve discovered that. Do you think there are words Dominic could have said that would have given you the same feeling as realizing your dream? Having him help you realize that dream?”
“No,” she said quietly, aching to feel her husband’s arms around her. “No, I can understand why he might have made that decision, even if I don’t agree with it.”
Those words settled in the room, but she kept her eyes closed.
“You have the restaurant. What is Dominic’s dream, Rosie?”
Her heart pounded loudly in her ears. When was the last time she asked him that question? “Being a provider. He lives to provide.”
“Yes,” she whispered in an uneven tone.
An idea came to her, real and vivid. It was beautiful. So right that her blood started to flow at high speed, nearly propelling her off the couch.
“I have to go make this right,” she said, standing and reaching for her purse. “Thank you, Armie.”
Before she could reach the door, his voice stopped her. “Rosie.”
She glanced back over her shoulder. “Yes?”
“If I may,” he said, smiling. “Remember, Dominic needs deeds. Actions.”
“I understand.” She rushed back into the room to hug the therapist, plans formulating in her head faster than she could catalogue them. “What are you doing tomorrow afternoon?”
Rosie jogged from the therapist’s office with purpose. And love. So much love for her stubborn, old-fashioned, complicated, sexy husband, she worried she wasn’t capable of waiting until tomorrow to pull off her plan.
Yes, she was definitely floating on cloud nine.
Until she realized she wasn’t finished being duped.
Dominic threw a right hook at the punching bag and listened to the satisfying rattle of the chains. A left jab came next, followed by a series of rapid punches. Sweat poured down his forehead and into his eyes, but he continued to punish the bag. Finally, when his arms were spent, he stepped back and doubled over, his sides heaving with exertion.
When he could manage to stand up straight again, he squinted at the clock. Twenty-four hours had officially passed since Rosie had walked away from him in front of their sold house. The more time slipped by, the less likely it was she could get right with his lie of omission. And the rage he’d been directing at the punching bag for the past hour was aimed at himself. There were no excuses to fuck up so spectacularly this time around—he’d learned the tools to communicate with Rosie and he hadn’t used them.
God, there was no worse fate than this. Losing her twice. The Groundhog Day from hell.
The first time Rosie had left him, he’d been devastated. His wife had left him. His pride as a man had been hurt on top of the loss. The loss of the only woman he’d ever love.
It was different this time. It wasn’t just the loss of his wife, this woman he’d sworn to love and cherish all the days of her life. It wasn’t just losing the woman with whom he shared a past. Those things were true as hell. But he’d also lost Rosie, the girl he’d just fallen in love with all over again. They were old love, committed love, and fresh, insatiable love all rolled into one.
And he was fucking aching for her.
He’d gone so long without sharing with Rosie. Talking to her. Listening to her. How had he survived? The sound of her voice fed his soul. He hungered for her nonstop. When she’d suggested therapy, he’d thought there was nothing in the world that could make him love Rosie any more than he already did. Turned out, he’d been wrong. The line that tied them together had been kinked in the middle, and now that their connection was flowing so free and easy, he was gasping for fucking air, trying to suck every nuance of her down.