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Lovely In Her Bones

Doggett sighed and said, “The world is full of evil people, Mr. Monaghan.” He paused a moment as if he wanted to say more, but only said, “I have to get back to my reports. Let me know if she needs anything, okay?”

“Okay.”

“And you’ll do fine. I know you–care–about her. Let that guide you. Okay?”

“Okay,” Dominic whispered. “Thanks.” He turned off the phone and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. He jumped when Orlando put a hand on his back.

“Dommie? Is Dana okay?”

“Yeah–yeah–are you done in the shower?”

“Yeah,” Orlando said. He was dripping wet and holding a towel around his waist: not Dominic’s most brilliant question of the day. “You–you’re crying, mate?”

“I just got off the phone with her partner. Getting the whole story.” He wiped his eyes again and put his cell phone away in his gym bag.

“You couldn’t get it from Dana?”

“She insists that she’s fine.”

“But she’s not,” Orlando clarified.

“No. Not entirely. Hey, do you want to drive to Burbank or is NBC sending a car?”

“They’re sending a car. Dommie, if you want to stay with Dana that’s okay.”

“No, I promised I’d come. I just have to get used to the idea that criminals like to use my girlfriend as a punching bag.” He took a deep breath. “Anyway, she wants me to go out. She doesn’t want to interrupt my life–never mind that she puts everything on hold when I come to visit.”

“She sounds like a good girlfriend and a good girl,” Orlando said gently, “and if she wants you to go out, then let’s go out. I’ll arrange for the car to bring you back early.”

“Thanks, mate.” He jerked his head towards the guest room. “Put some clothes on: if Dana sees you naked she’ll leave me.”

Orlando laughed, flicked the towel and went into the guest room. Dominic managed to keep the slight smile on his face until he went into the bathroom to shower, and stood under the water for a very long time.

***

It was still early evening when Dominic returned to the house. He passed on dinner with both Orlando and some of his management team, and a few of his own people who offered to take him out one more time before he left for Hawaii. He thought about asking one of them to check in on Dana, but decided she would hate it and he’d rather just see for himself. Maybe they’d all go out over the weekend, if Dana felt up to it.

His publicist raised an eyebrow when Orlando said Dom was going home to his girlfriend–“Girlfriend? Since when?”–and he had to stop and explain: Remember New York City? Remember the FBI agent? That’s who’s asleep in my bed right now. Then, of course, there was much nudging and teasing but Dom decided to leave the rest of the story in Orlando’s hands. He just wanted to get home.

The house was quiet, as he expected. In his bedroom the blinds were drawn and there was a distinctively Dana-shaped lump in the middle of the bed. He took off his shoes and lay down next to the lump, pulling back the duvet to find her head. Her face was mashed into the pillow, so he kissed her hair and laid his arm lightly over her side.

“Hey,” she said sleepily. “Back already?”

“It’s past seven. I’ve been gone most of the day.”

“Mm. Time flies.” She yawned, snuggling back closer to him. “How was Leno?”

“Very good. Fun. Orli always gets nervous before interviews but I don’t know why. He carries himself just fine.” He began to rub the base of her neck, feeling her relax even further. “He’s out to dinner with his management team now. Won’t be back for hours.”

“Mm . . .” She turned over, biting her lower lip as she moved, so she could see his face. “That’d be great if I felt better.”

“And how are you feeling? Rotten?”

“Yeah. Nauseous. Sore. And the pills give me nightmares.”

“Poor love,” he cooed, rubbing her stomach. “Do you need anything? Some water, some soda crackers? My mum used to give me plain tea when I was feeling poorly.”

“Tea sounds good.” She pushed down the duvet to her waist and replaced his hand on her stomach. “Or keep doing that.”

“All right,” Dominic whispered. Her hand stayed on top of his as he rubbed her belly, and after a moment her eyelids slid shut. She’s tired, Dominic had to remind himself, she’s injured, the last thing she needs is you pawing at her.

Still, it was hard not to glide his hands up her ribs to cup her breasts, not to start kissing her neck and snuffling in her hair. He’d never been satisfied with just looking–whether it was a new dish or a new lover he’d always wanted to learn flavors and textures and scents.

Even Dana, who almost from the beginning had felt as familiar as his own skin, still had mysteries to explore.

With a sigh Dominic laid his head on her shoulder, still rubbing her stomach in a slow circle. This is respect, he thought. This is what you do when you love someone.

There was that word again. He scowled and Dana’s hand, which had been gently stroking his face here and there, paused. “Is something wrong, Dominic?”

“No.”

She resumed stroking him, even more gently, and eventually said, “I wanted to surprise you this weekend. Really surprise you: show up on your doorstep in my best underwear and a raincoat and give you a weekend of unparalleled pyrotechnics.” Dominic chuckled:  he loved the way she talked. “However, life had other plans.”

“Well,” he said slowly, trying not to imagine Dana’s best underwear, “this *was* a surprise.”

“I wanted to give you a proper send off. Two months with no chance of seeing you—it’s a long time.”

“You could come with me.”

“How do you suggest I do that?” Her nails lightly grazed the back of his neck.

“Just come. There’s room enough at the house for the three of us–you, me and William.”

“I can’t just take off for two months, Dominic.”

“Right. Somebody might see.”

“Dom,” she said gently, and he sighed into her neck. “Don’t be like that. Please.”

“I don’t want paparazzi taking pictures of William anymore than you do. Fuck it, I don’t want them seeing you, either. But *I* want to see you.” He raised his head. “More than every few weeks, Dana. And not stealing a day or two when I can squeeze you in between publicity junkets, and not sneaking out of my hotel room, and not having to disguise myself—“

“Dominic,” Dana said. “Shh. Don’t get upset.”

“–and not when you’re so badly injured that I can’t even hold you properly.” Dana blinked at him and her hand dropped from his head. He said, “I called Agent Doggett. He told me what really happened.” She sighed, eyes closing, and he said, “Which is more than you would do. Is it always going to be like this, Dana? You trying to–to protect me? I don’t want you to protect me. I want you to tell me the truth.”

“Dom–“

“I’m a grown man, Dana. I can handle that there’s evil in the world.”

“Can you?” she murmured, opening her eyes again, and to Dom they suddenly seemed dark and bottomless–and weary. Terribly weary.

He sighed and laid down his head again, curling himself around her. He could feel her shallow breaths against the pain, the rapid beating of her heart, the faint clamminess to her skin from sleeping all day. He kissed her hair. “Tell me something. Tell me anything.”

Dana put her hand on top of his, and for a while her only answer was slow strokes along his fingers. “I had cancer,” she said finally. “That was the turning point. They’d taken me away for three months a few years before, and God only knows what they did to me because I don’t remember. But I came back with this.” She guided his hand to the back of her neck, to the little scars he’d noticed before above the big slashing one. He’d never asked about them, just kissed them and counted himself lucky. As she pressed his fingers down now he could feel something just below the surface of her skin. It was tiny, hard and decidedly foreign. “Not that one, exactly. One like it. I had that one removed. I met other women who’d had them too, and removed them.

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