“I’m used to the heels,” she replies and smiles at me, then leans her head back again and continues her story. “So, I was in school all day, practicing something each afternoon, then doing school work until bedtime each day.”
“Surely your parents attended your games. Your recitals?”
“No, those were their date nights,” she replies quietly. “I don’t recall them ever going to an event.”
My hands still on her foot, and tighten just a bit as pure rage seers through me. Alecia’s head comes up and she frowns at me. “What’s wrong?”
I shake my head and resume rubbing her foot. “Nothing. Go on.”
Her eyes narrow on mine for a moment, then she shrugs and leans her head back again. “You’ve got good hands.”
“You’ve got good feet,” I reply, waiting her out.
“So, when I was a senior in high school, I met Jonathan. He was…attentive.”
“Attentive?” I ask.
“He paid attention to me. I was always kind of shy. I didn’t make a lot of friends, mostly because I was always too busy to spend time with them after school. But Jonathan paid attention. He was also a senior. He used to say he liked the looks of me.” She giggles.
“Why wouldn’t he like the looks of you?”
“It was the turn of phrase that made me laugh. He could be charming. And he was interested in me.”
And you soaked that up like a sponge in the ocean, fiorellino.
“My parents happily sent me off to college. They didn’t care which one, as long as I went away.”
How in the fucking hell can she be so calm? My heart is aching for her, and she’s as cool as can be. I continue to rub her, sure to be quiet, so I don’t spook her. I have a feeling at this point she’s just relaxed and talking on autopilot.
“So, Jonathan and I went to the same college, and eloped to Vegas our junior year.” She chuckles and shakes her head. “I thought he was the sexiest, funniest person in the world. I was a stupid, young girl.”
“How long did it last?” I ask quietly.
“Longer than it ever should have,” she replies with a sigh. “Jonathan made it clear from early in the relationship that I was a huge disappointment.”
I can’t take it anymore. I grip her foot tightly and pull her toward me, turn her around, and settle her between my legs, wrap my arms around her and plant my lips on her head.
“Are you okay?” she asks with surprise.
“I am now.” No, I’m not fucking okay. I have to take another deep breath, inhaling in the sweet scent of her, feel her against me, warm and strong and whole, to calm myself. “How did he make you feel like you were a disappointment?” My voice is deceptively calm.
“I was a disappointment, Dom.”
She shrugs and laces her fingers through mine, then hugs our hands to her chest.
“I didn’t like the same things that he did.” She falls silent for a minute, and then swears ripely, surprising the hell out of me. “He liked to go to sex clubs, shows, places where clothing was optional. I didn’t feel comfortable going to those places.”
“Okay.” I’m clearly missing something.
“No, not okay.” She kisses my fingers. “He wanted me to wear skimpy clothes that I wasn’t comfortable in. I know I’m not horrible on the eyes, but I do have curves, and I don’t feel that it’s appropriate to walk around half naked in front of people I don’t know. Hell, I don’t particularly like walking around half naked in front of people I do know.” She chuckles, but I don’t find it fucking funny. “It would make him angry. He wouldn’t yell at me, though. No, he would just ignore me.”
“Ignore you?” I can’t help the tightness in my voice.
“Yeah.” She sighs. “He knew that ignoring me was the best way to hurt me. I’d been ignored most of my life.”
“So, he ignored you as a punishment.”
“He did. And as time passed, it got worse. He would sleep on the couch, which he knew made me crazy. Wouldn’t speak to me for days, sometimes weeks at a time. When I started the business, and completed my first wedding, I asked him to take me out for a fun dinner to celebrate.”
I hug her closer to me.
“And he said, ‘Why? It’s just a fucking job.’” She chuckles and shakes her head, then glances over her shoulder at me.
“He was an asshole,” I mutter.
“Well, I’m not going to say I deserved it, because that’s ridiculous, but he was right. It was just a job.”
“It was something you worked hard on, and you wanted to celebrate it. It wasn’t just a job for you. And if he’d loved you the way he should have loved his wife, he would have seen that.”
“Hmm,” is her only response. “So, back to the love thing.”
“The love thing?” I ask with a laugh.
“It’s just not in me,” she replies and shrugs a shoulder, but then plants another kiss on my hand. “So, I’m comfortable with pursuing a physical relationship, if you’re still interested in that, but don’t expect much more from me, because you’ll just be disappointed.”
Her voice is perfectly matter of fact and reasonable and I want to just…shake her.
She leans her blonde head back and gazes up at me. “Dom?”
“Ah, tesoro,” I murmur and glide my wet knuckles down her cheek softly. “Let’s table this discussion for now, okay?” I grip her hips in my hands and lift her to her feet, then pull myself up behind her, help her step out of the tub and reach for a towel. I wrap it around her shoulders, and gripping each end in my hands, I pull her against me, making her grin shyly.
“No more talking?” she whispers, her eyes pinned to my lips.
“Maybe less talking.” I lower my lips and gently brush them over hers, barely touching her skin, before nibbling the corner of her mouth and then gliding my tongue along her bottom lip to the other side, where I can nibble some more.
She shivers, so I let my hands roam over the towel, drying her off. When we’re both dry, I lift her in my arms, snag her bottle of lotion from the sink and carry her into her bedroom.
It’s dark now. With Alecia cradled in my arms, I pull the linens back on her bed, switch on the sidelight and gently lower her onto the bed, laying her on her back.