Copyright © Ada Frost 2014

“Hey, just made some fresh coffee,” Dominic shouted from the front door. “What are you doing, standing out there? Rough night?”

I slid my shaking hands behind my back and fisted them together, hiding them from his observant gaze. I avoided looking directly at him, fixing my sight on the house numbers to his left. Blood rushed to my cheeks. I opened my mouth to speak but no words would come out so I slowly headed up his driveway towards him.

“I was running late.” It was a feeble answer.

“Don’t be silly, you’re an hour early. What’s wrong?” The concerned look on his face caused me to avert my eyes. “Did you and Elliott have a fight?”

My shoulders stiffened.

“Come on, coffee time.” He tipped his head toward the house and turned.

Like a docile animal, I followed.

In the kitchen, he gestured toward a chair at the table. “Right, sit down and tell me what’s going on.”

I took a seat and released a heavy breath, glad Elliott wasn’t around.

Dominic’s tone of voice was always commanding. He knew what he wanted and would never back down. His demeanour always made me want to offer information to him. I had never heard him raise his voice, but he had a determination about him that was uncompromising. He spoke to me with respect and decency, even though I knew from experience that I didn’t deserve it. At work, I completed tasks with time to spare and always did the best I could, but I still felt I didn’t fit in. I watched Dominic pour our coffees. He didn’t have to ask, because he knew exactly how I liked mine—milk, no sugar.

He placed a steaming cup before me, then sat down. “Looks like you could use it.”

“Do I look that bad?” I asked quietly, running my finger round the rim of my mug.

“Hmm? You always look great but your eyes tell me a different story.”

I didn’t reply. I knew lying to him was futile. Dominic looked impeccably smart in his black tailored suit, black shirt, and steel tie. When he wasn’t smiling, his expression was always ominous, dark and brooding. Sometimes he seemed very intimidating, but I knew him. I knew the kindness in his heart.

He was tall, with a slim physique. I’d seen him working in his mother’s lawn, so I knew he had broad shoulders, rippled muscles hidden beneath his black suit, and long, lean arms. I felt my face flush at the thought of watching him working in the hot sun. I had to remind myself I was dating his brother. I couldn’t think like that.

Dominic sat in the chair adjacent to me. He crossed his leg over the other and rested his ankle on his knee. He lifted his mug, cupping it with both hands, let the steam drift under his nose and inhaled the strong aroma. With his eyes closed, he slowly lifted his mug to his lips and took the first perfect sip.

“You do the same thing every time,” I observed, shaking my head.

He looked puzzled as he cocked his head to one side.

“Your coffee.” I nodded in the direction of his mug. He looked at it and still didn’t get what I meant. “You always sit down like that, then you lift your mug and sniff it.” I mimicked his behaviour, closing my eyes and inhaling. “Then you take the smallest sip.”

He said nothing, and just stared at me. A sense of unease crept through me a she shifted in his chair, looking suddenly uncomfortable.

“Sorry,” I muttered, staring down at my feet.

We were the best of friends, and I knew we could banter like this, but after a night like last night, I always felt on edge. Simple pleasant situations like this always felt wrong somehow. Please don’t be mad.

He covered his mouth, hiding the slow curve of his lips. Slowly his head slid from side to side, his gaze filled with mirth as his lips curved up revealing a set of perfect white teeth.. “Hey, it’s one of life’s simple pleasures, the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Oh, and freshly baked bread. Mmmm.” He closed his eyes as if savouring the memory. My gaze was fixed on the glorious sight before me; he was truly mesmerising. It was the best sound in the world to hear him happy, his eyes sparkling with beautiful cerulean blueness. It was like looking into a tropical sea glistening in the sun. I often found myself lost in his gaze. He was my sunshine, whereas his brother was a suffocating fog. Elliott is a master manipulator, undetected evil, my tormentor. No one else sees this.

“So, are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing. I didn’t sleep very well, and I got up late.”Avoidance could only stall the inevitable; I knew it wouldn’t work with Dominic.

“Please, Eve, talk to me.” He reached across the small table and slid his hand over mine, squeezing softly. “Will you stop with the crap? We both know you were up earlier than the sun.” I wanted to question how he knew that but I remained silent. “Whether I should say this, I don’t know,” he continued, “but has he—”

“No! I…it’s nothing…I just.”Tears pooled in my eyes. If I tried to speak, I knew my voice would crack and I’d break into a quivering wreck.

Dominic always could break my defences without trying. He made me feel safe, and I never had that with anyone else. I couldn’t tell him why I was a wreck, why Elliott’s recent return from Scotland filled me with dread rather than excitement.

He pulled my arm gently toward him. Without meaning to, his touch lifted the sleeve of my cardigan a little, revealing a purpling bruise encircling my wrist. Dominic paused, placing my hand flat on the table, palm facing upward. He stroked around the bruise with his other hand. He traced it with his fingertips, making my skin prickle and my breath catch. I knew I shouldn’t, but I relished each pass he made.

“What happened?”

A tear escaped and rolled heavily down my cheek, stopping at the corner of my mouth. I bit my lip and hoped no more would follow. Dominic had seen faded punishment marks before and questioned me in exactly the same way. He would sit quietly sometimes, holding my hand reassuringly as if he knew I needed the connection. Dominic was the truest of friends, and other than what happened at night with Elliott, I felt I could confide anything in him.

The sound of high heels clicking on the hardwood floors resonated throughout the room, startling both of us. He quickly sat back in his chair, adjusting his suit jacket and picking up his coffee mug. I tugged my sleeves over my hands, balling them into fists to hide as much as I could, swiping at the tears in my eyes as an ache rose in my chest.

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