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Lovely In Her Bones

“Two years later they all were dead but me.”

Dominic stopped stroking her neck and stroked her cheek instead, brows furrowing.

It was a long wait for her to continue, but then softly as she clutched his fingers, “I could have walked away before that. People thought I was wasting my abilities. Wasting my time. But after the cancer . . .” She shook her head. “I couldn’t walk away anymore.” Her fingers clenched around his again then let go. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” Her eyes focused on his. “Tell me a story.”

Dominic thought a moment, then began, “‘In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit . . .'” Dana laughed, settled her head against his arm, closed her eyes and listened.

*^*^*^

” . . . because Mama was hurt today, bubba. Not bad . . . it’s called a cracked rib. You know your ribs, inside your chest? One of mine is a little broken. Just a little. Uncle Charlie will bring you home on Monday. I’ll be home Monday too. William? William, sweetie?”

Dominic had turned his headphones almost completely down, trying to act as if he wasn’t watching her every move as she spoke on the phone. She looked better–not good, just better. Less wan. Less exhausted. Still like she’d been on the wrong side of an angry fist, but that would pass. Her hair was matted from sleeping and she was still wearing just his t-shirt and her own sweat pants, her face was makeup-free and he could see the scattering of freckles across her cheekbones—and he would not have traded her for Liz Hurley or Scarlett Johannsen or whoever was on the cover of this week’s People.

Finally Dana said, “Charlie, tell him Mama loves him and give him a big hug, okay? I’m so sorry about all of this. Love you, Charlie. Bye.” She turned off her phone and Dominic tried to look busy on the computer again. He stopped when she placed her hands on his shoulders and said quietly, “William started crying on the phone.”

Dom took off his headphones and turned, pulling her carefully into his lap. He kissed her forehead and her mouth, and stroked her hair when she leaned her head on his shoulder. It would be silly to say William would be okay–of course he’d be okay, just not right now.

He said, “He likes his uncle’s family, doesn’t he?”

“He does. But you know how he gets–he wants me home, he wants his family together. It’s not fair to him that I’m gone so much.” Her voice was beginning to thicken. “I don’t know how I can keep doing this.”

Dominic rubbed her spine and kissed her hair. “I have an idea,” he said slowly.

She sniffled. “Move to L.A. and become your cabana girl?”

“Close. My manager keeps telling me I need a personal assistant. I’d rather hire somebody I already know and trust than hire a stranger.” Dana didn’t answer, and he said, “Do you want the job?”

“You . . . want to . . . hire me?”

“It would make things simpler, wouldn’t it? You could be at home with William or bring him with us, and we’d be together in a completely plausible way. No one would think it odd if I brought my personal assistant with me everywhere.”

“So I’d be sleeping with you and you’d be paying me.”

Her tone of voice was far from pleased, so Dom said lightly, “There aren’t many bosses who’d give you nightly orgasms along with a dental plan.”

Dana chuckled, then pressed her hand against her hurt side. “Dammit. It hurts to laugh.”

“Poor darling.” He kissed her hair again.

“It would be fun, though, you and I making our merry way through Los Angeles. Or wherever.”

“Honolulu, in a few days. Or my forest in India or my place in New Zealand. Miami when Billy and I do our movie, and some less civilized places if the thing with the Discovery Channel comes through. Doesn’t that sound like fun, the three of us in the rain forest?”

“I’d have to home-school William–to say nothing of the clothes.” She leaned her forehead against his neck with a sigh. “It’s a nice daydream, though.”

“Dana. I’m serious.” She raised her head, her expression skeptical, and he said, “You’re worried about looking after me anyway. You’d be able to be with William and be with me, and no one would know about our relationship if we didn’t want them to. And this way I could take care of you, too.”

“And when we break up?” she said quietly.

“Who says we’re going to break up?”

She stared at him a moment, then laughed lightly and got off his lap. “Right. Because relationships always work out in Hollywood and twenty-seven is a perfect age to settle down.”

“Sean was a lot younger than twenty-seven when he got married, and look at how well that’s turned out.”

“I don’t know Sean, Dom. I don’t know what his marriage is like.” She hobbled to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of water. “And why are we even talking about marriage? We’ve known each other four months. It’s far too soon for this.”

Dominic couldn’t answer for a moment. From the first moment he’d lain eyes on her he’d wanted her–he’d liked her within minutes, known he had to keep her in his life within hours. The simple rightness of it was so clear to him, but he knew too that he couldn’t kiss or fuck or shake that knowledge into her. He could only wait and keep trying to convince her.

Patience had never been one of his virtues.

He said quietly, “I’m just saying it’s not impossible. It happens. Love stays. Even in Hollywood.”

Dana paused, sipped her water, and said, “All my reasons for not being with you still stand.”

“But you are with me.”

“I haven’t told you everything about me.”

“And I suspect you never will.”

She said seriously, “I can’t have more children.”

He was not expecting that. He fidgeted with his headphones and waited for her to continue.

She did after a moment, her voice low. “When I was undergoing treatment for cancer I wanted to store some of my ova, so I could use them later if–if–but I was told they couldn’t be harvested. There weren’t any to harvest.”

“But they were wrong, obviously. You had William.”

“To this day I don’t know how. But if you want children–and I know you do–it can’t be with me.” She was looking at him almost defiantly, as if she expected him to go back on all his promises with this news.

Dominic stood and went to her, placed his hands on her shoulders and kissed her. “There’s always adoption,” he said quietly. “If you want more kids. William may be enough for both of us.”

Dana searched his face, then sighed and put her arms around his waist, leaning her head against his neck. “I still think it’s too soon to make long-term plans.”

“It’s too soon to call it quits, too.”

She whispered, “I know,” and sweetly kissed him. “I *am* glad you’re not tired of me yet.”

“Never,” he scoffed, smiling at her. “I’m sticking around until at least the next bombshell you drop.”

“I’m not sure what else I’ve got, if you want to know the truth. You already know about the affair with my partner, my illegitimate child, my mysterious cancer and the faceless government entity that may or may not be out to get me.”

“And I doubt just any bloke would stick around after all that, too.”

“It does take a very special man to understand, true.” She gazed at him fondly. “And you are special, Dom.”

“Oh, good, there are some things you like about me,” he said, kissing her.

“I like a lot of things about you. You’re a great kisser,” she whispered into his mouth. Her hands stroked his back. “You make me omelettes for dinner and your sweaty clothes smell good. Your bed is incredibly comfortable. You have almost as many CDs as I do and a much better video game collection.” By now he was laughing as he kissed her and held her face in his hands–but he stopped when she said quietly, “I love you too, Dom.”

“Oh,” Dom breathed, “Dana.”

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