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Built to Fall: Chapter 30


MY PHONE RUDELY SNAPPED ME OUT OF SLEEP. I rolled out from under the hot weight of Dominic’s arms to snatch it from where I’d plugged it in to the charger the night before.


I cleared my throat to rid myself of early morning croakiness. “Hello?”

“Hello, Claire. How are you today?”

“Um…” I rubbed the crust from my eyes, walking into the bathroom so I didn’t wake Dominic.

“Didn’t we talk about saying ‘um.’ It’s unprofessional, and as women, we have to work harder than men to be seen as respectable.”

I wasn’t buying her women supporting women schtick anymore, but she wasn’t wrong either.

“Yes, I’m sorry. It was a late night and your phone call woke me up.”

We’d flown in from Las Vegas last night and were now in Dominic’s Los Angeles house. It was beautiful, set in the hills, with walls of windows and a pool that went on to infinity. Neither of us had made any pretense about separate rooms, even though Marta was just down the hall. I’d spent the last few hours in Dominic’s low, king-size bed, making love, and then sleeping in his arms.

But dammit, I hadn’t gotten nearly enough sleep, and now I was cranky as hell.

A short, humorless laugh came through the phone. “Oh my. I’ve forgotten about the time difference. It’s only six in LA, isn’t it? No wonder you were still in bed.”

She paused, perhaps for me to tell her it was okay, but I didn’t fill in her silence, finding it truly hard to believe she hadn’t remembered we were three hours behind the east coast.

“Well, now that you’re awake, let’s chat. How are things?”

“The same. A lot easier than when I first started. I’ve gotten the hang of my tasks. Marta is—”

Isabela hissed. “Marta is a nuisance. I don’t know why Dominic keeps her on.”

“That’s funny. I’ve had the opposite experience with her. I was going to say what a big help she’s been.”

Isabela tsked as if I was a fool for going against her. “That’s nice. Maybe Marta has finally grown up. Anyway, enough about her. I trust you’ve seen Dominic has the evening after next blacked out on his schedule.”

“Yes, I noticed. I didn’t ask what he’ll be doing since he’s made it clear how private he is.”

I didn’t know what Dominic had planned, but I did know a designer would be stopping by his house later today to fit him for a suit. Dominic wasn’t much of a suit guy, so I’d concluded he would be wearing it to the mystery event.

I couldn’t say it didn’t sting that he wouldn’t tell me where he was going, but we had one week left together. Every time I thought of our grains of sand slipping through the hourglass, my insides twisted into knots. I had no intention of spending the time we did have left arguing with Dominic or doing something that would make him push me away.

“You’re right. Dominic is extremely private, but this gala will be teeming with press, and I want you to attend. It’s black tie, so you’ll need a gown, but I’m assuming you can sort yourself out. Although, it’s probably not as easy for you—”

“I can find a dress,” I blurted, not waiting for whatever sideways insult she was about to dish out.

“Great. This particular gala is a fundraiser for a nonprofit supporting pediatric brain cancer research. Dominic attends every year and supports the foundation. I’ve gone with him in the past, which is how I know it’s important for you to be there to field any questions the press might have for him. I’ll send you information on the foundation, but as far as Dominic’s involvement, our answer is always that someone dear to him lost a child to brain cancer, so he’ll do anything he can to help. This isn’t something you’ll be discussing with Dominic, of course. Simply let him know I told you to attend, and keep to yourself as much as possible while you’re there. He’s always in a mood at these galas, so give him space. It shouldn’t be too difficult otherwise, but I’ll be available by cell if you need anything.”

Flummoxed by all the information Isabela had unloaded, I told her I understood and I’d be looking for her email, then we hung up. And the timing couldn’t have been better since Dominic knocked on the door once before walking right in.

He glowered at the phone in my hand. “Why are you out of bed in the middle of the night taking phone calls in the bathroom?”

I rolled my eyes at the blatant accusation in his question and brushed by him to plug my phone back in. Then I crawled into bed, pulling the covers over my head. Naturally, he yanked them off and scooted my body over with his until we were all tangled in each other again.

I shoved at his chest, but there was no heat to it. “Isabela called. She pretended she didn’t know it was only six here.”

He laughed. “She can be a real cunt when she wants to be.”

“It seems she wants to be quite often when it comes to me.” I tugged on his beard. “Why were you married to her? I don’t see it.”

The humor drained from his features. “We met at a time in my life when I was pretty decimated. She was there when I needed someone. I learned too late it’s easy to mistake love and need. I pulled back from her, she cheated to get my attention, then when I couldn’t bring myself to give a shit, she left. The divorce was a relief, but we keep circling back to each other.” He kissed me softly. “That’s done now, and I’m even more relieved to have her completely out of my life. It’s better for her too. I think I make her crazy.”

I snorted under my breath. “You do have that way about you.” My eyes lifted to his. “My ex cheated too. For over a year before I found out. Although, I think I knew and was lying to myself so I didn’t have to make the decision to leave. Like you said, love and need are two sides of the same coin. I thought I needed him, but it turns out, I really didn’t.”

Shadows of wrath passed over Dominic’s eyes, and his brow pulled into a taut line. “Fucking dick. Damn right you don’t need that shit, baby. If you’re going to be with someone, it has to be because of want—and cheaters should all burn in hell.”

I threaded my hand through his under the covers. “No redemption?”

“Not with me. I don’t forgive easily. It takes a lot for me to let someone in, so when I do, and they cross me, I’m pretty much done.”

“Before Derrick, I would have said I was a forgiving person. But once I found out about his affair, I shut him out of my heart without looking back. So maybe we’re alike in that way.”

“No reason to forgive someone who steps out on you.”

“Yeah,” I whispered. “By the way, Isabela has commanded I attend the gala with you, so I’ll need a couple hours to find a dress today and—”

He gripped my chin. “She what?”

“She said there will be a lot of press there, and she usually goes, so she felt I should be there.”

His hand shook, but he didn’t hurt me. “What did she say?”

My fingers curled around his wrist. “She didn’t tell me anything personal.”

His nostrils flared. “Did I tell you where I am going that night?”

He gave nothing away in his flat, detached tone. I couldn’t tell if he was angry, worried, or something else.

“No, you didn’t.”

“Then she told you something I did not give her permission to reveal.”

“I would never repeat a word she said, Dominic.”

He stared at me hard, his eyes pinning me in place. “I know you wouldn’t. Your NDA is ironclad.”

I slapped his hand off me and shoved myself to the other side of the bed. When that didn’t feel far enough, I clambered to my feet and made it as far as the door before Dominic was on me, banding his arm around my waist.

“Get back in bed,” he growled.

“I’m done sleeping.” I jabbed my elbow behind me, hitting him in the ribs. “Let go of me. You’re scaring me.”

His arm dropped, and the heat of his chest on my back disappeared. I looked over my shoulder to see him leaning against the wall, hitting his forehead with the heel of his hand.

“I’m sorry.” He said it so quietly, I barely heard. “I trust you. I’m pissed at Isabela, but that isn’t in any way your fault.”

I leaned against the opposite wall, sliding my bare foot next to his. “Don’t ever touch me in anger again.”

He lifted his head, remorse burning sharp in his gaze. “I won’t.” He straightened and took a tentative step toward me. When I didn’t stop him, he took another and reached out to cup my face. “I don’t give interviews about the charity. I go to support a friend and having my name listed as a donor pulls in more money for the foundation.”

“I’ll be working, Dominic. I won’t be your date, and you won’t have to worry about me. I’m capable of being professional, even around you.”

“You’re amazing at your job. I’m being a reactionary asshole right now.” He bent to kiss me. “Come back to bed. It’s too early and I can’t sleep without you.”

“I’m a little bit mad at you.”

“I know, baby.” He gathered me to his chest, holding me tight. When he didn’t try to talk me out of my anger, I forgave him.

“Fine,” I mumbled.

Instead of allowing me to walk like a normal man, Dominic swooped me up in his arms with barely a grunt—and I wasn’t a featherweight—and carried me to our bed, depositing me in my spot. Flushed with pleasure from being carried, I kissed him hard, then settled back in his arms.

“Gorgeous girl,” he murmured into my hair as he stroked it, lulling me right back to sleep.


Marta and I went dress shopping together, and it hadn’t been as soul-sucking as I had expected. She called ahead to a high-end department store, securing a personal shopper for me. I had given them my measurements, so when we arrived, there were two racks of dresses to choose from.

I’d gravitated to a black dress, while Marta had tried to steer me to a flaming red number. My personal shopper had convinced me to try on one I wouldn’t have without a nudge, and that was the dress I’d bought.

Now, with my hair and makeup done, and my dress and heels on, I had my doubts.

“It isn’t too much? Shouldn’t I fade into the background?”

Marta rolled her eyes. “No, kidlet. That should never be your goal, no matter the circumstance. You look amazing, and Dominic will piss his pants.”

Smoothing my hands over the sequined flowers on my skirt, I exhaled. “Okay. I believe you. Will you go tell Dominic I’ll be ready in a couple minutes?”

“Of course.” She stood in front of me, running her palms down my bare arms. “He’s probably going to be in a dour mood all night. Don’t take it personally, okay?”

I nodded. “I’ll be working. I’m not expecting the red-carpet treatment from him.”

She hesitated before tipping her chin, giving me a wink, and heading out the door.

I took one more look at myself in the mirror. The bodice of my dress was black, off the shoulder, and simple. The skirt was anything but. Cream, with big, burnt orange and yellow flowers, accented by sequins in the centers, it wasn’t made to blend in with a crowd. Old me would have hated it, but the woman I was now was beginning to believe Marta was right.

I should never desire to be invisible. That wasn’t me anymore.


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