When we don’t answer, Lizzy looks between us. There’s something different about her expression. She’s smiling, but it’s like she’s barely holding back something else.
She sighs. “My friend works at a hotel in the city. Just so you know.”
I think about walking into the hotel yesterday, me and Dominic holding hands. How insane it was to do it out in the open like that…and how necessary it felt, like, if we weren’t touching, we were going to lose some vital piece of us.
Or maybe that’s just an excuse because we were so excited for what we were about to do.
“Oh,” I murmur.
“Yeah,” Lizzy says.
Dominic sits back after a moment. “Are you saying you know?”
“I’m saying I know you two got a hotel room in the middle of the day, and you were holding hands…it doesn’t exactly take a genius to figure it out.”
Shelby must be able to sense the torn feeling ripping through me. He whines for me to place him down.
When I do, he walks around the table, and Lizzy picks him up.
She gives me a smile as if to say, Ha, he chose me.
That makes me want to sing in relief, even if I know I shouldn’t let my hopes flare too brightly.
But the smile means she hasn’t already decided she hates us for this.
Dominic sighs, drawing my gaze. I warn myself not to look at him, knowing I’ll become too obsessed with the iron in his hair, his tense jaw, and his arms bulging in his T-shirt.
But it’s also the affection, the anxiety, all of it clashing in his strong face.
“We, what?” Lizzy says.
He looks at me for a moment, then nods. “We’re in love.”
I gasp, my heartbeat getting even faster. I know he’s said he wants the same as me, a family, a future, all that bright glittering stuff.
But I didn’t expect him to say the L-word…especially not here.
Lizzy looks at me, hiding her emotions behind a calm mask. “Is that true?”
“Yes,” I murmur, disbelief making me feel like I’m floating. “I love him.”
I turn to Dominic, warning myself not to let out all my emotions. I want to jump at him, leap into his arms, hold him tightly and feel his heart thudding through his solid chest.
“I love you. So much.”
He reaches over as if to touch me but then lets his hand drop.
“We didn’t plan on this,” Dominic tells Lizzy. “But we’ve talked, and we want you to know…firstly, we’re sorry we didn’t tell you sooner. We’re sorry we sneaked around, and we’re sorry you had to find out from your friend.”
“I am, Lizzy,” I say, tears rising to my eyes, both happy and anxious, the emotions warring. “I didn’t want to betray you. We tried not to. But we want to be together, really be together.”
“Forever,” Dominic says gruffly.
Lizzy sits back, her hand moving over Shelby, stroking over his mismatched ears and down his body. “How long?”
“Since she came back,” Dominic says.
Lizzy’s eyebrows shoot up. “What? Really? It’s been like a week.”
“I know.” Dominic laughs humorlessly. “I wish I could explain it in some way that makes sense.”
“Try, at least,” Lizzy says.
Dominic lets out a long breath, running a hand through his silver hair. Despite Lizzy watching us, I can’t help but wish it was my hand in his hair, my fingernails trailing across his scalp.
“When Danni arrived, I didn’t recognize her at first,” Dominic says. “All I knew was…I fell for her right then. I never believed in love at first sight, but then I met her. And I know it’s true now. The second I saw her, I knew, Elizabeth. I knew with absolute certainty that I wanted to marry her, to start a family with her….
“And then I found out who she was.” Dominic places his clenched fists on the table. “And I tried to tell myself it could never work. I tried to convince myself I could forget her. But there’s no forgetting her, no forgetting us.”
“And,” I rush to add, “we’re the real thing. This isn’t a situation where we get together, split up, and make things awkward for you.”
Lizzy laughs gently. “I think it’s going to be a little awkward, no matter what.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get that,” I say. “But…maybe it will be less awkward if we stay together or if you never have to choose between us? I don’t know.”
I speak quickly, my words rushing out, my head a mess of inharmony.
“That would help,” Lizzy says softly after a pause. “Do you feel the same, Danni? Do you have this same…same certainty?”
“Yes,” I say without hesitation. “I felt it too the second I walked into the living room, and our eyes met. I wanted it all. At first….”
Lizzy leans forward. “At first?”
“I thought it might be because I’ve had a crush on him.”
My cheeks get warm, but I know I can’t hide this forever.