Her boss at the department store used to let Rosie work straight through her legally required break, until Dominic had sent an email to the owner of the department store, not so subtly suggesting they review their employees’ right to meal breaks.
The urge to pump Travis for the smallest, most trivial thing was so intense, Dominic had to bite down on his tongue. He was used to laying concrete over his impulses, but this was a test he couldn’t pass. The woman he was supposed to care for forever was gone, she didn’t love him anymore, and she’d felt something when another man showed interest. It might have been sheer feminine enjoyment, but he hated it with every fiber of his being. What if next time, the man asked her out on a date? Would she say yes even though they were still married?
No, Rosie would never do that.
The fact that she might want to say yes, however, was enough to strangle him.
“Is she, um . . .” Dominic crossed his arms in a jerky movement. “She never warms her car up in the wintertime. She just gets in and drives. Someone has to wake up early and do it or it’ll ruin the transmission and she . . .” He shrugged. “She loves that stupid car, so . . .”
Stephen stroked a hand down his beard, even though he didn’t have a beard. “My wife makes me do this, too. Get the heater running.”
“Rosie doesn’t know I do it,” Dominic muttered.
“What?” Stephen snorted. “Why miss out on those brownie points?”
Dominic didn’t answer, but he noticed Travis scrutinizing him. “That’s really all you want to know? Who’s going to warm up her fucking Honda?” A beat passed. “I knew you were a piece of work, but you’re just swinging for the fences now.” He smoothed the cuff of his long-sleeve T-shirt. “And that’s my job.”
Stephen made sure everyone witnessed his eye roll.
“Here’s what I want to say.” Travis spread his stance and settled into it, like a team manager getting ready to level with his pitcher. “I might have implied before that I’m an expert on relationships now, but that was mainly to drive Stephen crazy.”
“It’s working,” Stephen snapped at his childhood best friend. “Dick.”
Travis grinned, but it dropped away just as fast. “Dominic, man. I just saw you tear down a wall single-handedly, so I’m taking a big risk saying this,” he said, raising his eyebrows. “Get your shit together. Your wife just left. I don’t know anything about your marriage, which is weird, because you’re so damn chatty.” He paused to smirk. “But I’m willing to bet you want her back.”
Stephen stepped into Dominic’s line of vision. “Give us a nod or something. Blink once for yes, twice for no.”
“Of course I want her back,” Dominic said in a rusted voice, shocking himself by saying the words out loud, instead of letting them ricochet around inside his skull. “She’s my wife. She’s supposed to stay. We said vows.” Travis and Stephen made wishy-washy sounds, as if they disagreed. “What?”
“Yeah, marriages have ups and downs,” Stephen said, obviously treading carefully. “But if a woman isn’t happy for a long period of time . . .”
He trailed off, widening his eyes at Travis.
“Don’t look at me. Me and Georgie aren’t getting married for months.”
“Well, well, well,” Stephen drawled. “He’s only an expert when it’s convenient.”
Dominic pinched the bridge of his nose and inhaled. Now that adrenaline had worn off from his wall-smashing activities, the pounding in his brain was back. “Do you two have anything useful to say, or what?” He dropped his hand. “If not, I’m going back to work.”
“Yeah,” Travis said with a nod. “I have something useful. Go get her back. There’s a Just Us League meeting tomorrow night at Bethany’s.” He sent them both a pointed look. “Told you I had the goods. You’re welcome.”
The words She doesn’t love me anymore were stuck in Dominic’s throat. He couldn’t say them out loud. Hearing them was terrible enough. And goddammit, on top of the horror of losing Rosie, he was embarrassed. What kind of a man lands an incredible woman like Rosie and doesn’t do enough to hold on to her?
His jaw hardened. No. She was supposed to stay regardless. His parents weren’t necessarily close, but they respected each other. His mother depended on Dominic’s father, had always been confident in his ability to give her a comfortable life. They were a united front at the weddings, funerals, and barbeques Rosie and Dominic attended for his mother’s side of the family. Bottom line, they’d stayed together, through hard times and good. Even now, they were back to living in the old neighborhood, so they could be closer to his mother’s family in the Bronx. They’d sworn to stay together until the end and they damn well would. They didn’t even sleep in the same bedroom, but they admired each other.
He and Rosie, they had a lot more than mutual admiration. Didn’t they?
Some of his frustration slipped, giving way to doubt. Those nights he spent working himself into a sweat between her thighs were the greatest of his life. He would bury his face in her neck, lick her whipping pulse, and absorb the energy of her. Those cries she let out in his ear, the nail marks she left on his back . . . he’d taken those as proof that she was satisfied. Satisfied and provided for. How had he been so fucking wrong?
At that very moment, there didn’t seem to be a way back into her life. She’d been unhappy too long—and he’d been blind to it. Dominic wasn’t even sure he could keep his shit together around Rosie. Looking her in the eye and knowing she didn’t love him anymore? He might as well go back to living in the desert, without a drop of water this time around.
But as Dominic split a look between Travis and Stephen, he recalled the times they’d come close to losing their women. They’d gotten them back, hadn’t they? If there was anything in this world worth fighting for, it was his wife.
Fuck. Most of all, he just needed to look at her. Be around her. His world was off-kilter, his mental equilibrium shot to hell. So that’s what he would do. He’d go remind her that marriage was forever and he’d ask her to come home. If there was even the slightest chance it might work, he had to take it.
Dominic swallowed hard. “What time is the meeting?”
Rosie took a pizza cutter out of Bethany’s cutlery drawer and laid it beside the bowl of chilled dough, squaring her shoulders and preparing to create. Some might find her process crazy, but unless she really took a moment to focus on the food, she could taste her worries within the fabric of flavors. And that was a waste of good ingredients—an egregious sin.
When she arrived at Bethany’s house last night, her friend had answered the door with a sleep mask pushed up on her forehead, blond hair sticking out in eighty directions. She’d taken one look at Rosie’s face and wordlessly led her to the upstairs guest room. No words had been exchanged, just a long hug—and that was enough to let Rosie know her friends had seen the implosion of her marriage coming a mile away.
She didn’t know whether to be grateful or offended.
Good thing she didn’t really have the mental energy for either.
Making good food? She always had energy for that.
When she’d woken up this morning, Bethany had already left for work, but thankfully she’d left a house key sitting on the kitchen counter. Since Rosie had worked the early shift at Haskel’s, she’d gotten home first, and being alone in the big, airy house had given her too much room to think about Dominic shouting her name from the garage. To combat the sound of his voice, which continued to echo in her head, she’d gone to the market and then worked out some angst making dough for her mother’s medialunas.
Focus on the food.
Using the pizza wheel, she cut the dough in half and made two long rectangles. She stacked one rectangle of dough on top of the other and lined up the edges, cutting the dough into triangles, humming as she made strategic slits and molded them into crescent shapes, placing them one by one on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Then she set them on the windowsill to rise in the sunshine, the same way her mother used to do.
There, her mom would say. Now we sit, have a coffee, and savor our hard work.
God, she missed that woman. She’d had a tried-and-true method for everything. On Sundays, we wash and set our hair. Mondays are for cleaning and going through the mail. On Thursday evenings, we make asado—enough to get us through the weekend and share with the neighbors if they drop by. And all the while, Rosie’s father would smile indulgently, his fingers flipping through a car magazine or twisting a tool into a car part. It didn’t seem fair that people who’d been so rooted to this earth with their routines could just be gone. A stroke for her mother, and weeks later, her grieving father simply didn’t wake up one morning. So fast and jarring, but Rosie took comfort now in the knowledge they were together again.
The front door of the house opened and Bethany walked in, a camel-colored leather briefcase tucked smartly beneath one arm. “Why, honey. You cooked.”
“I’m making breakfast, actually,” Rosie said, gently poking one of her medialunas in the side to check the texture. “These will taste great in the morning with your coffee.”