Love Her or Lose Her

Page 50

When she told stories about her parents, her chin went up with pride. Early memories of Dominic and Rosie made her blush and duck her head. An adorable look of concentration came onto her face when they talked about anything restaurant related.

She’d unknotted his headphones this week. Twice. He’d watched her do it from the open door of their bedroom, holding his breath, loving her more with every pinch and pull of her nimble fingers. She’d given him a neck massage after a rough day on the job site—even started the shower for him. All these little things she’d started to do proved the progress had gone both ways. How had he managed to fuck this up?

Dominic reared back with his right fist and buried it in the punching bag. Again and again. This was the only way he could prevent himself from going to see her. Literally draining himself of enough energy to walk.

He would have continued whaling on the bag indefinitely, but he heard an oof—and found Stephen wincing on the other side.

“I’m fine,” Stephen wheezed. “I should have known better than to walk behind the bag while you were trying to kill it.”

“Time to hit the showers,” said another voice. Travis. “We need you at the job site.”

Dominic’s right eye started to throb. “Said I wasn’t coming in today.”

“Yeah,” Stephen said, tugging up his jeans and sniffing. “I’m pulling rank. Go clean yourself off and let’s head out.”

Dominic did his best to stare a hole into his boss. Why were these assholes getting in the way of his suffering? The sympathy in their expressions only reminded him of Rosie. Everything did. Breathing reminded him of his wife.

“Come on,” Travis said, stepping into Dominic’s line of vision. “If we don’t get this stonework around the fireplace finished today, we can’t put in the fixtures. And if we can’t install the fixtures, we’re looking at . . .”

Travis elbowed Stephen, prompting him to speak. “A two-week delay. Minimum.”

All of this sounded ridiculous to Dominic, but his head was having a hard time making sense of basic math right now, so what did he know? His sense of responsibility poked him in the gut until he had no choice but to gift both of his friends with a curse and stomp toward the locker room. He couldn’t wait until the next time one of them was having trouble with his woman and felt like shit—he was going to find a parade and make him march in it.

The difference was, their woman trouble would be temporary.

It was very likely that his was permanent.

He couldn’t help resenting them for that. Couldn’t help resenting the shower spray, the towel that dried him off, the change of clothes he kept in his locker. They rode in silence, Dominic in the passenger side of Stephen’s minivan, Travis in the backseat—quiet for once. Come to think of it, they weren’t bickering, which was highly unusual.

Dominic frowned when Stephen took a right out of town, instead of going left toward the house they were flipping. “Where are we going?”

Stephen scrubbed at the back of his neck, and, suspiciously, he seemed to be subduing a smile. “Shortcut?”

Dominic turned in the passenger seat and leveled Travis with a look, but he only pointed at his phone and laughed. “Georgie is sending me dog memes again. She thinks I don’t already know she wants a puppy for Christmas.”

Something was up. Dominic faced front again, his muscles tightening up when Stephen took another right toward the water. Dominic knew this route so well, it was programmed into him. Driving there used to give him mixed feelings. Hope that Rosie would drive the same direction home from work someday. Fear that she wouldn’t want to.

“I don’t want to go to the house.”

Stephen reached over and slapped a hand onto his shoulder. “Trust us.”

Beyond throwing himself out of a moving vehicle, he didn’t have much choice. He tried to keep his breathing even as they rounded the final curve and the house overlooking the water came into view. He barely registered the abundance of cars parked on the block because he was too busy remembering what happened the last time he was in that front yard.

He remained stationary as Travis and Stephen climbed out of the van. Might have stayed there all day, if Travis hadn’t physically forced him out onto the driveway. They flanked him, giving him no choice but to walk toward the front door. They’d almost reached the porch when a jacket dropped onto his shoulders. A hat was fitted onto his head next. Dominic looked down, immediately recognizing his marines dress uniform. What the hell?

Stephen pulled open the front door of the house—

And Dominic was greeted by . . . applause?

Honest to God, if he hadn’t seen Bethany and Georgie—not to mention a half-dozen Just Us League members he recognized, and their therapist, who had a shit-eating grin on his face—he might have left. This kind of attention was not his thing. But if those women were inside the house, there was a good chance Rosie was among them. So a sinkhole could have opened up and swallowed the front yard and he still would have followed Stephen and Travis inside without a backward glance.

There had been nothing but bare walls for so long, he wondered if he was in the wrong house. White cloth draped across the ceilings, wrapped in tiny lights. There were flowers everywhere. Music played softly. There was so much to take in, he almost lost his balance, but he continued to search the sea of faces for the only one he needed to see. The only one he needed to see every single day of his life. He couldn’t find her, though.

Before disappointment could take hold, a figure appeared at the end of the hallway that led to the backyard. Backlit by the afternoon sunshine, her figure was shadowed at first, but a few steps forward—and there she was.

Dominic stumbled back and covered his face with a hand.

That was his only defense against Rosie in a wedding dress. The same one she’d worn a decade earlier when they’d married at the courthouse. As soon as she was out of view, he turned greedy for the sight of her. His hand dropped away and he could only stare, could only exist in a dreamlike state, taking in every beautiful detail. Her hair was up and clipped with something shiny; the skin of her face and bare shoulders glowed beneath the strings of lights. In her hand, she held a blue bouquet that, he realized after a quick glance down, matched a boutonniere that had been pinned to his jacket.

And she was smiling at him.

Christ, that was the best part of all.

It even topped the moment his father stepped out of the crowd and guided Rosie toward him, the music beginning to swell. He could barely tear his eyes off her long enough to notice there was a man holding a Bible beside him.

Wedding. This was a wedding.

Dominic wasn’t a man given to tears, but hell if he didn’t have to blink back moisture. What had changed since yesterday? What had he done to deserve this?

He wanted to ask his wife those questions, but when she stopped in front of him, he was only capable of asking her with his eyes.

She handed her bouquet to a nearby Bethany and swiped at the tears in her own eyes. Then she took his hands, squeezing them tight—his chest constricting along with the action.

“Rosie,” he rasped.

“Dominic,” she said, taking a deep breath. “First of all, I’m sorry for doing this to you. I know you don’t do surprises and here I am in a wedding dress.” Laughter rippled through the room. “But you . . .” She stepped closer and lowered her voice for his ears alone. “You love me fiercely and quietly—you always have—and you’ve started loving me out loud these last few weeks. Instead of letting one mistake detract from that, we’re going to trample right over it, okay? I’m going to love you out loud, too. And since you need actions, deeds . . . here I am. I’m marrying you again in front of everyone in this house where we’ll grow old.”

“The house,” he managed, reeling from the affection shining from his wife’s eyes. “We don’t have it anymore.”

“Actually, we do.” She smiled so beautifully, his whole body ached with the need to hold her and never let go. “There’s one person who has his finger on the pulse of Port Jeff real estate. Stephen. I knew he’d have the details. What neither of us knew is Brick and Morty bought the house, marking the second time it’s been purchased in secret. Stephen claims he was going to flip it, but I think he was just waiting for you to realize you wanted it back. Or . . .” She blushed adorably. “Maybe he was waiting for me to storm into his office and demand the sale be canceled. It could have been that, too.”

He shook his head, panic beginning to take hold. “But the restaurant. You need the capital. You’re not losing it now.”

“I’m not. We’re not losing the restaurant.” She laid his hand against her cheek. “I agreed to sell our other house. To Stephen. He’s going to flip that one instead.”

“Might even come out ahead on that one,” Stephen told the crowd, only to be slapped on the shoulders by both of his sisters and his wife. “I’m just saying, it was good business.”

Rosie laughed while Dominic tried his damndest to absorb the information.

“We don’t love each other the easy way, Dominic, but our hearts are in the right place every single time.” The lights caught the sheen in her eyes. “The words will come from you, the deeds will come from me. I trust that. But what we have between us is impossible to express sometimes. It’s real and it’s big and sometimes the magnitude of it creates flaws. I’m accepting those flaws because they mean I get to love the most wonderful man I know.”

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