Chapter 28 (completion)
After emptying two clips between the two of us, it was clear that Allison was a natural with a gun. Our designated target tree was riddled with bullet holes. All within an area the size of a man’s chest. That was all that mattered. If she was using this gun in the near future, she’d hit her target. But I prayed she wouldn’t have to.
We were tramping around in the woods and shooting at trees for an hour and a half, and when we returned Dominic glanced at me before turning his attention to Allison. “So? How was it?”
She gazed up at him, her eyes glittering with exhilaration. “It was awesome! Mom said I’m a natural. Did you know she was six when Gampy taught her how to shoot? But she shot a rifle. I only got to shoot a hand gun. But I hope she’ll teach me to shoot a rifle, too.” It all tumbled out of her mouth so fast I could barely understand her.
My hand fell to her shoulder and squeezed. “Allison. Stop. Let’s not forget the other lesson we learned.”
Her excitement fell a few levels, and she dropped her eyes to the ground. “Yes, Mom.”
Dominic looked up at me, his expression solemn. Then he stooped down to be at eye level with Allison. “And what was the other lesson?” he asked her.
Her blue eyes found his, the twinkle diminished but still sparking. “Mommy taught me how to shoot in case the bad guys come. I need to know how to protect myself if I have to.” She stared at her fidgeting hands. “If I have to shoot someone, I aim at his body.” Her voice dropped as she said it, the hope that she would never have to commit the act pushing through.
Dominic gave her a smile meant to boost her up. “Well, let’s hope that never happens. Now, who’s hungry? I’ll cook.”
We ate a substantial meal of white rice smothered in beef stew. The stew was from a can since we didn’t want to spend excess time cooking, but it was fabulous to sit down and eat as a family considering we’d been eating in restaurants for several days. Even though Dominic wasn’t part of my dwindling family. But he fit nicely into the gap that had been widening since Michael’s accident.
Allison was the first to head into the bedroom. “Mom?” she called through the open doorway. “Can I sleep by myself tonight?”
I looked at Dominic who gazed back with amusement. Walking to stand in the doorway, I asked her, “Why do you want to sleep alone, honey?”
The mischief in her grin was not lost on me. “Well, I just thought that you might want to talk to Mr. Dominic for a while after I go to bed. If you sleep in the other bed, you won’t have to worry about waking me up.”
“Well, Mr. Dominic is sleeping in that bed, but I can sleep on the sofa if you want to sleep alone.”
A little air leaked out of her bubble. “But it’s a big bed. You could share it.”
Unable to hide my smile at her matchmaking attempt, I shook my head at her. “Get ready for bed, Allison. I’ll handle the sleeping arrangements.”
I went back and sat next to Dominic on the sofa. “She wants us to share the other bed so she can have that one to herself.”
He was all Cheshire cat as he grinned at me. “I’m okay with that. In fact, I’d enjoy that very much.”
“I bet you would.”
“I bet you would, too,” he whispered in my ear.
An electric pulse shot through my body from where his breath kissed my skin. I leaned away just enough to turn my face to him, my eyes finding his smirking lips before tracing the planes of his face to drown in the green oceans of his eyes. He was so close. Just a breath away. My mouth hungered for a taste of his. Just a wee little tidbit of the sweet nectar.
The look in his eyes told me he wanted the same thing. But I wouldn’t do that with Allison still awake in the next room.
It bothered me that she was so accepting of the romantic role Dominic could play in my life. I was glad that she accepted him, but her father had just been killed. Why would she push me toward another man? Why wasn’t she angry and upset over this whole situation?
It occurred to me that maybe my little girl was just much more resilient than I knew. Life had handed her one hell of a lemon basket, and most of them were rotten when she got them. Yet, here she was, picking through basket, tossing the lemons beyond salvation, and cutting the bad spots out of the others to make the flavorful lemonade she could fashion.
She came out of the bedroom in her pajamas and gave me hug and kiss. “Goodnight, Mom.”
“Goodnight, baby. Sweet dreams,” I said hugging her back.
To my surprise, she then gave Dominic a hug. “Good night, Mr. Dominic.”
He chuckled as he returned her embrace. “Good night, Allison.”
We sat on the sofa for about an hour after Allison went to bed. We didn’t talk, just cuddled against each other. His fingers combed through my hair, calming me. When they began to skim my sensitive neck and throat, I sighed and stretched for more.
I felt his breath against my ear. “Lie on the floor, Ella. On your stomach.” Understanding his intent, I complied. His weight settled just below my rear as he straddled my hips. The strength of his hands massaged my shoulders, working out the tension of the last few days. He worked down my back, up again. Down my arms.
When he returned to my back, the breadth of his hands spread wide, his finger tips reaching around to my sides. The touch became tender, a sensual brush over the cotton of my shirt as he grazed the curve of my breasts. Drawing lower, he tugged the hem of my shirt up to expose bare skin.
Heat flared where his skin scraped my own. My muscled clenched in response, but as he skimmed over my back in a lazy caress a different sort of tension took over. I felt his weight shift. Then his mouth was at my neck, kissing just below my hairline. He worked his way to my ear, flicking his tongue before sucking the lobe between his hot lips.
I rolled beneath him, catching his mouth with mine. The kiss was leisurely. I was in no hurry to jump in the sack with Dominic. It was exquisite just to be kissed, touched by a man. And this man ken precisely what I needed.
A hand found my breast and massaged tenderly, teasing the silk of my bra under my shirt. A leg moved between my own, pressing against my body. I pulled my free leg up and around his waist, pulling him into me, forcing his need to press against my body. The fire between us raged, turing sweet desire into hungry need. We rolled together, groping, trying to get more contact through the barrier of clothing between us.
Dominic pulled his shirt off, and I traced the hard lines of his body. Needing to taste, I sat up and flicked my tongue over him, my lips joining in as I suckled. He pulled my shirt over my head, leaving it as a blindfold and pinning my arms behind my head. The moist heat of his mouth surged through me as it fell on the top of my breast.
But when he reached around to free them of the restraining bra, I flipped my shirt back down. However much my body screamed at me for stopping him, my mind wasn’t quite ready for the intensity.
An understanding pain filled his eyes as he gazed at me. Then he pulled me into him, wrapping me in a bear hug and groaning into my hair. “You’re killing me, Ella.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” I busied myself with straightening my clothes. “Maybe we should just go to bed.”
A heavy sigh escaped him. “Okay. Will you at least sleep in the bed with me?”
Turmoil tugged me in two directions, but my need to be comforted through that turmoil was stronger than the desire to remain distant and the lust. “Yes,” I said in a tired voice, and I walked into the bedroom.
In a gesture that was pure compassion, Dominic wrapped himself against me in the bed. I fell asleep in his arms.
As the glow of dawn was just beginning to push through the inky night, a thump outside woke me. Dominic sat up at the sound. He looked down at me, fear sparking in his fully awake eyes.
I propped myself on an elbow and listened. In the distance another low thud sounded. Dominic and I stared at each other. Those were car doors.