As we approach the host, I find myself scanning the faces of the other patrons as though I’m searching for any sign of men looking a little too closely at my woman.
I know, on one hand, I’ve got no right to do this.
I had my chance to tell her how I felt, and I failed.
But on the other hand, it’s like I can’t do anything except for this. It’s like my primal compulsion is pushing me to make sure my woman’s mine, only mine, and no man ever gets any ideas about asserting otherwise.
It’s not like I’m about to kick somebody’s ass for no reason, though, and soon we’re sitting at the table in the corner, waiting for our drinks.
Danni looks around the restaurant at the soft mood lighting, the soft jazz audible beneath the general chit-chat, and the clinking of cutlery.
“This sort of feels like….”
“A date?” I finish once she trails off.
She smiles, her eyes swimming with emotion. I wonder if I look the same, certain I must, and she’s able to detect the stubborn hunger inside me.
“Yeah. I kind of like it when you finish my sentences.”
I return her smile. “I like it too. But there’s no kind of about it. How was work today?”
My hands are under the table. It’s as if I keep them there, and I can stop myself from reaching over and taking hers. I’ll hold them as gently as I can, but I won’t be able to stop the desire to squeeze onto her, to hold her with enough firmness she never has to question who she belongs to.
Her smile widens at my question, as if it’s a miracle, us sitting here, making conversation.
My mind skips ahead to where tonight could lead.
In a different life, if it wouldn’t tear my daughter to pieces.
I need to remember that, but it’s starting to feel more and more impossible.
“Work went well,” I say, answering Dominic’s question.
It feels surreal, sitting here in the restaurant, Dominic looking handsome and somehow powerful in his pale blue shirt.
His hair is neatly styled, and his shirt is open at the bottom, giving him a slightly wild look. His body makes mine tingle from being so close, the memory of his solid chest as I pushed my face against it, his hands between my legs.
“Candace was showing me how to use the no-bite stick. But she said it’s mostly about staying calm and showing the dog who’s boss. But not in a shouty way. Not in a mean way. It’s a difficult balance.”
“That’s the mistake a lot of people make,” Dominic says, nodding, then trails off when the waiter appears with our drinks.
He says thank you and then tells him we need a few more minutes to look over our menus.
“They get angry,” he goes on, picking up where he left off. “They think they can yell and stamp their feet and scream, and the dogs will listen to them. But dogs are more perceptive than most people. They can tell when a person’s faking it.”
I nod. “Where’s Shelby tonight?”
“With a dog sitter. I’ve used him before. I trust him. He’ll be okay.”
I smile when I hear the caring note in my man’s voice…no, not my man. I seriously need to stop doing that.
“What is it?” he asks, smirking.
“What?” I echo.
We both laugh as our eyes meet, though there’s no particular reason. It’s like we’re drunk on simply being close…which is the only thing we could get drunk on since we both ordered sodas.
“What’s funny?” I ask when the laughter stops.
He grins. “You tell me.”
“Nah-uh. I asked first.”
“I don’t know if it’s funny. But it’s just such a relief, Danni, being close to you again.”
“It’s not like I’ve been far.”
“I know,” he says, with that husky tremor in his voice, the one which makes me think of all the things we could do together. “But what was I supposed to do? Come find you in bed one night? If I had, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself. I can’t…here, Danni, it’s a struggle. You’ve got no idea how badly I want to claim you.”
I squeeze my legs together under the table, my panties rubbing against my sex, my core making everything tingle so much more.
I’m struggling to control myself, made all the more difficult by the fact we can’t touch each other.
It becomes so much more tempting because of that.
Touching, being close, holding, the intimacy, the heat…I want it all.
“But maybe we should stop talking about stuff like that,” he says, his voice shaking.
He picks up his menu, and I do the same, my gaze scanning over the options.
“What are you thinking?” I ask, as my gaze moves to the meatball pasta.
But then I wonder how messy that’s going to be. Visions of sauce spattering my dress come to me or dorkily slurping up spaghetti.