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Authors: Miller,Cassie-Ann L.

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BOOK: Dirty Neighbor (The Dirty Suburbs)
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Chapter 5

 

 

On a day that sucks as much as today does, there’s only one person who can make me feel better.

 

“Frankie!!!” I squeal as my best friend drapes his long arm around my shoulder and stoops to give me a wet kiss on the cheek.

 

“You’re a bad, bad girl, Madison,” he says, waggling his finger in my face. “Summer associates don’t get to just sneak out of high-profile law firms in the middle of the day to have lunch at the Waldorf.” He sinks into the beige upholstered armchair across from me. As usual, Frankie is bucking the establishment’s dress code with his eclectic style. It’s a wonder he got past the hostess. The legs of his ballet tights extend well below the hem of his white three-quarter length slacks. He’s wearing a black blazer but the neckline of his spandex leotard is visible under his half-buttoned shirt. His long blond hair is pulled into a low ponytail. His features aren’t exactly conventionally handsome; his eyes are a little too close together and his nose is just a little too wide. But he’s alluring. Intriguing.
Beautiful
.

 

I laugh as he sets his gym bag down against the dark marble column near his feet. “I got you a sparkling water and I ordered two salads.” I nod towards the veggie-filled plates on the table. I’m dying to have a steak and some mashed potatoes and anything that would provide a comforting boost right now, but I know that with rehearsals for his first ever role in a Broadway production starting in just over an hour, eating a heavy meal is the last thing Frankie needs.

 

He winks at me before taking a long sip of the sparkling water. “You’re the only woman who knows how to please me, Madison Moretti.”

 

“Speaking of your pleasure – I dropped by your place last night. Domenic said you were ‘getting some ass’. I didn’t want to interrupt you.” I smirk at him.

 

He returns the smirk. “I was
giving
some ass, if you must know.”

 

“No details, Frankie! Please!” My loud outburst of laughter catches the attention of the group of older women lunching at the table next to us. They shoot disapproving glares our way. I lower my voice a touch. “So, who was the lucky guy?”

 

“Does it matter, Maddie?” he asks flippantly eyeing our waiter with a lusty hunger in his eye. Ugh – my best friend is such a flirt. “Let’s cut the small talk – we both know why we’re here. What is this Chase situation going on right now?”

 

I sigh deeply. “Chase is being Chase, I guess.”

 

“You guess? Maddie, how many times will you let that guy hurt you? Running all over town with this model and that model while you sit around completely loyal to him.”

 

“He’s not my boyfriend…he never was.” I don’t quite know why I’m trying to defend Chase. He’s clearly an asshole.

 

“Well, he knows how you feel about him so continuing to string you along while he bangs bimbos left and right, makes him a jerk…You deserve better, Maddie. And it sucks that you have to see him at work everyday.” He rests his hand on top of mine and gives it a firm squeeze. Sympathy colors his strikingly blue eyes.

 

“Yeah, his cubicle is right across the hall from mine. This morning, I saw him walking by, slapping some hoochie’s ass. I nearly died.” I shove a forkful of greens into my mouth.

 

“I’m gonna give him a piece of my mind y’know?”

 

I wince at the thought of my well-meaning, but overly-dramatic, Frankie confronting Chase. “Please don’t,” I say softly.

 

“No – I will. I have to,” he insists, waving his fork around in the air.

 

“Oh gosh,” I sigh, rolling my eyes.

 

“Yes – That’s the plan. Tonight, after rehearsal, I’m gonna go over to Chase’s apartment and give him a piece of my mind. And then – you’re gonna come to my place at around 9:30 – Domenic’s got a date, I think, so he won’t get in the way – We’ll get hammered and then we’ll go to PYT and dance the night away.”

 

I groan with dread when Frankie mentions the name of his favorite bar. “Frankie, no! Every time we go to PYT things get out of hand. You end up way too drunk and you abandon me to go make out with some random.”

 

“Nope – not tonight, Maddie. Tonight is all about you. First, I help you set Chase right. Then, we’re going to PYT to find you a new man.”

 

I laugh so hard I almost choke on my lettuce. “You’re gonna find me a new man?”

 

“Yes – a new man. It’s time for you to get over Chase. If you don’t, you’ll just be waiting…always.”

 

I sigh. “And so, you’re taking me to PYT?”

 

Frankie nods as he chews a mouthful of salad.

 

I offer up a small chuckle. “You
are
aware that PYT is a gay bar, right?”

 

“Madison – Let your objections go. Tonight is all about the possibilities.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

I get back to my cubicle at nearly 1:30. Despite the time, it seems that everybody else is still out to lunch. I wonder if my father knows that 90% of his employees are taking extended lunch breaks on his dime. I shake my head at this inefficiency.

 

I slip out of my suit jacket and discreetly reapply my light pink lipstick as my computer powers up. Peering into my pocket-sized mirror, I realize that I look a bit better than I did this morning – my eyes are brighter and my expression is less somber. Spending time with Frankie always cheers me up at least a little. I smile to myself as I think about my best friend.

 

Despite all the trials that he’s been through in his life – being disowned by his parents when he came out of the closet, suffering through homophobia, dealing with the constant rejection that comes with being a professional dancer – he’s still a vibrant, beautiful, free spirit. And I love him for it.

 

“Hey!”

 

I look up and am greeted by Domenic, a dazzling grin spread flush across his face. He pulls on his tie, loosening it just a bit as he sits on the edge of my desk. I smile up at him. “What’s up, Dom?”

 

“Just dropped by to check on you. I actually came by earlier to see if you wanted to grab lunch but you weren’t here.”

 

“I went to eat with Frankie. Just got back.”

 

“Oh, cool. I thought you might have been with one of the lawyers working on a file or something over lunch so I got you a snack.” He stretches out a brown paper bag to me.

 

I eagerly snatch it from him. “Thanks. All I had was a salad. I’m starving already,” I say as I peep into the bag. “Cranberry scone – my favorite.” I waste no time taking a generous bite. I close my eyes and savor it. “The best…” I murmur under my breath.

 

Domenic’s eyes beam down on me. “Everybody knows cranberry scones are your favorite.”

 

I chuckle at that. “Not all scones are created equal, my friend.”

 

“So, how are you doing today? You were pretty torn up last night when you came by.” His eyes linger on my lips as he speaks.

 

I drag a napkin across my mouth self-consciously. Do I have crumbs on my lips? “I’m coping…I had lunch with Frankie…so, you know how that is…he had me in stitches the whole time.” I glance down at the napkin. Darn – I smudged my freshly applied lipstick.

 

“Good.” He taps me lightly on the shoulder and eases off of my desk. “Anyway, I’ve gotta go talk to Matt. I’m working on one of his files with him. Pure Viva Water.”

 

“Okay. Thanks for the scone,” I call after him as he walks away.

 

I log into my computer and print out some employment contracts that Liz asked me to review. Just as I swivel my chair to walk over to the printer behind my desk, I come face to face with Chase.

 

Ugh.

 

As always, his dark hair is perfectly coiffed and his shirt is crisp.

 

“Madison.” He takes a step towards me.

 

I take a step back and bump into the desk behind me. “I don’t want to deal with you right now, Chase.” I glare at him as fury brews in my stomach. I push past him.

 

“You’re angry with me? I thought we worked through this last night.” He reaches out and runs his fingers down my bare arm. A shiver courses through me. But it’s disgust, not desire, that sparks within me.

 

“I’m done with this, Chase. I’m not doing it anymore.”

 

“That’s not what you were saying last night when I was inside of you.” His tone is low and provocative but all it stirs is the vitriol in the pit of my stomach.

 

I feel bile rising inside of me. “Well – I’m saying it now. I’m done! I’m done!” I’m standing my ground and this time I mean it.

 

But Chase isn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer. And that’s my fault – I’ve trained him into this reaction after years of playing this game of back and forth. He slips his arm around my waist.

 

I push him off. “I said ‘no’, Chase.”

 

He pulls closer. “Maddie…”

 

“She said ‘no’, Chase.” My eyes shift behind Chase and fall on Domenic. He’s standing behind Chase with his shoulders squared and his chest puffed up.

 

Chase tosses a quick glance over his shoulder. “Stay out of this, Domenic.”

 

Domenic doesn’t budge. Instead, he repeats himself. “She said ‘no’, Chase!”

 

Chase looks surprised that Domenic would challenge him. He turns around slowly to face Domenic.

 

“She wants you to leave her alone. Aren’t you tired of fucking with her head?”

 

Chase’s voice drops low as he takes a step towards Domenic. “You’re overstepping, Gattusso. You’re fucking overstepping.”

 

I know that Chase would never hit Domenic and risk scratching his pretty little knuckles. But I’m not so sure about Domenic.

 

Domenic usually comes across as a laidback, easygoing guy, but when he feels the need to protect someone he cares about, he will not hesitate to unleash his fury. I will never forget the day that some homophobic idiot was stupid enough to try and bully Frankie during Domenic’s rugby practice a few summers ago. By the time Domenic was done with that asshole, he had a concussion and a fractured jaw that had to be wired shut. The guy even instituted legal proceedings against Domenic, but thank god, the lawsuit was quickly dropped.

 

So my stomach tightens with fear that Domenic is about to cause a scene with Chase here at our workplace.

 

Just then, Ruth, Nadia and Luke walk into our space, talking and laughing. They sink into their seats and boot up their computers. For once, I’m glad to see them.

 

Chase takes a step away from Domenic and looks back at me. “We’ll have this discussion later.” With that, he saunters across the hallway, back to his cubicle.

 

I release the breath I’d been holding on to ever since Chase stepped into Domenic’s space. I rush over to him and thank him in a hushed voice. “I really appreciate you sticking up for me, Dom. You didn’t have to do that.”

 

“You okay?” He asks quietly. I nod. “Good.” He taps me on the shoulder before returning to his desk a few feet away from Chase’s.

 

I grab my papers from the printer and take my own seat, still silently thanking Domenic for intervening.

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

 

I check the time on my cellphone right before hitting the doorbell. 

 

9:27 p.m.

 

When I’m buzzed in, I take the elevator up to the 6
th
floor.

 

The door is already open when I step off of the lift. I cross over the threshold and see Domenic standing by the breakfast bar, pulling his tie from around his neck.  “Hey Maddie,” he says with that glorious, easygoing smile that makes his blue eyes twinkle. “Wasn’t expecting to see you here.”

 

I watch him as he eyes my outfit – a knee-length faux leather pencil skirt and a white satin cowl-neck tank top with gold four-inch peep-toe pumps. A simple black cardigan is draped over my arm in case it gets chilly later on. My hair is pulled back into a bun as usual and my lipstick is a shade or two darker than normal.

 

I
think I look good. And the expression on Domenic’s face says that he agrees.

 

I walk over to him and lean against the rustic kitchen counter. “Hey Dom – Where’s Frankie?”

 

“Frankie’s not home yet,” he says, sawing open a package of tuna with a can opener. “You tried calling him?” After he’s dumped the water out of the can, he mixes in a spoonful of mayonnaise.

 

“I’ve called and texted…He isn’t answering.”

 

Domenic shovels a heaping spoon of tuna into his mouth. “Well, you know Frankie…” he says, his mouth full. “You want some?” he asks tilting the can in my direction, his eyes sparkling at me.

 

I grimace and shake my head. “Ugh! We had plans…” I groan watching him enjoy his packaged fish like it’s a gourmet meal. “Is that your dinner?” I ask.

 

He grins. “Unfortunately, eating tuna straight out of the tin after a long day at the office is one of the cons of the bachelor life.”

 

“I thought you had a date tonight,” I say making myself comfortable on a barstool.

 

He rolls his eyes. “Yeah – that was another waste of time.” He grabs two beers out of the fridge. He unscrews the tops and slides one across the counter to me.

 

“What do you mean?” I take a small sip. Beer is not my alcoholic beverage of choice but from hanging out with Frankie over the years, I’ve developed a tolerance for pale ales.

 

“She was cute but…” He spoons another mound of tuna into his mouth and takes a swig of beer.

 

“You’re the pickiest guy I know, Dom. Nobody’s good enough for you…”

 

A
look
comes over his handsome face. It’s foreign. And odd. I’m not sure he’s ever looked at me like that before. He shrugs his broad shoulders, dropping his gaze to his now-empty tuna can. “She’s not who I want.”

 

“Whatever that means,” I say under my breath before changing the subject. “Hey – Thanks for sticking up for me at the office today.” I take another sip of beer. “With that stupid tabloid story floating around, Chase is the last person I want to talk to. I feel like everyone’s gossiping and whispering about me at the office.”

 

He reaches over and pats me on the shoulder. “I assure you – that’s all in your head. Nobody’s paying any mind to that story.” He swirls his beer bottle around on the wooden countertop. His voice drops a few decibels and he looks at me with softness. “It’s only gonna happen again, y’know. Or he’ll do something else to hurt you…if you keep messing around with him, he’ll just keep hurting you.”

 

My gaze drops to my hands and I pick at my beige glossed fingernails. “I’m done with him. I’m done this time.” My voice is small. I
want
to be done with Chase. But I’ve said that a million times before, only to wind up sleeping with him again.

 

“For your sake, I hope you’re done with him.”

 

I don’t want to think about Chase anymore. I need to change the subject. “Are you working on any interesting files?” I ask distractedly as I shoot Frankie another text.

 

“I’ll be shadowing one of the senior associates in court next Wednesday,” Domenic says with a half-grin, “so at least I’ll get a break from cubicle-hell.” I know he’s excited – he really wants to be a litigator – but he’s downplaying his eagerness because he knows that I’m stuck doing grunt-work.

 

“Lucky you,” I say, walking into the living room and peeking out of the window overlooking the street in the hope that Frankie comes sauntering down the sidewalk soon, or at least answers my texts.

 

Domenic grabs a case of beers from the fridge and follows me into the living room. He turns on the television as he sits on the couch. It’s on a channel playing pop music videos. I kick off my beautiful stilettos and I glare down at them.
The prettier the shoes, the worse the pain
, I groan inwardly.

 

“I hope Frankie gets here soon. I’m starting to get sleepy.” I grab my second beer out of the case. I think Domenic is on his third or fourth by now. He takes the beer away from me, opens it and hands it back to me with his charming lopsided smile. “Thanks, Dom,” I whisper as I bring the bottle to my lips. He sits there, staring at me as I sip. “What?” I ask feeling self-conscious as I set down the beer bottle and bring my aching foot to my lap to massage my sore muscles.

 

“Nothing,” he says turning back to the television.

 

We sit in silence staring at the TV screen. My body becomes warm and tingly as the beer moves through me.

 

Domenic glances over at me as I rub my foot. “Over here. Gimme,” he says patting his lap. When I hesitate, he reaches over and pulls my foot to him. He pushes his strong thumbs firmly into my sole and just like that, a surge of heat zings to my core.

 

I cry out in pleasure. His eyes shoot over to me. Embarrassed, I bite down on my bottom lip, blushing.

 

Domenic gazes at me with hooded eyes. “You like that?” His voice rumbles low. I nod, still mortified by my outburst. He shifts slightly and clears his throat. What I had just interpreted as sensuality quickly dissipates from his disposition.

 

He recounts the story of how he picked up his exceptional massage technique while at rugby training camp, constantly having to rub the knots out of his own feet. Meanwhile, I squirm in my seat, increasingly aroused by his touch. My nipples tingle and I can feel my panties dampening just a bit. I silently scold myself for reacting to Domenic’s touch.
He’s just a friend. He’s just a friend. He’s just a friend
.

 

A familiar melody comes through the TV speakers as
Thinking Out Loud
cues up. “Oh – I love this song,” I say bolting upright in my seat. My foot drops to the carpet. “The music video is so beautiful.”

 

Domenic looks up at the screen as the singer and his dance partner perform a beautiful interpretive dance, perfectly in sync with the melody.

 

“Ugh! What is this garbage? Even
I
can dance better than him,” Domenic says looking annoyed.

 

I try and fail to suppress a small laugh. “Oh really?”

 

“Yes,
really
!” Domenic says confidently looking me dead in the face. He stands to his feet and moves the coffee table to the corner of the room. He stretches his hand out to me.

 

I’m giggling uncontrollably now. The alcohol has obviously gone to his head. “You don’t have to show me your dance moves, Dom. I believe you.”

 

But Domenic is not giving up that easy. “I insist,” he says, his hand still outstretched to me. When I hesitate, he says. “Look, Maddie – I know it will be hard for you to keep up with me because although you invested several years of your youth studying the intricacies of ballet, I have
natural
talent. I understand that you’re intimidated by my innate dance skills. But I’ll go easy on you.” From his faux-haughty tone, it’s obvious that he’s only kidding around.

 

“Are you challenging me?” I ask with mock offense on my face as I take his hand and he pulls me to my feet.

 

A brash smile overtakes his lips. “You think Frankie is the only Gattusso man who knows how to dance?” He plants his hands on my hips.

 

“I’m sure of it,” I say sticking my tongue out at him.

 

“Well you’re in for a surprise, missy.”

 

He weaves the fingers of his left hand through the fingers of my right and places his other hand on the small of my back as he dramatically rocks me back and forth. I laugh and follow his lead.

 

Then, he dips me back as far as my body will go.

 

He brings my hand above my head and swirls me around awkwardly. Our bodies collide and I almost lose my balance.

 

I shriek as he tries to lift me over his head, but the angle is all wrong so my ribs smack him in the forehead.

 

He puts me down and I’m breathless from laughing so hard. I expect him to laugh too, but instead he pulls my face to his chest and continues to sway against my body. Slower now. More sensual. His hands run up and down my back. The flimsy material of my blouse does nothing to temper the goose bumps that are now rising along my skin.

 

As the song comes to an end, he pulls away from my body only slightly and cups my cheeks with his hands. His blue eyes gaze down at me. My skin sizzles under the scalding intensity of his stare.

 

When I feel a hint of his erection against my stomach, I try to ease out of his embrace, but his hands have moved down to grasp my waist, holding my body firmly. I quiver softly as a fiery urge zips through my body. My breath hitches in my throat as his lips move closer to mine.

 

My eyes close involuntarily and I feel his warm breath skirt across my parted mouth before his lips touch the shell of my ear ever so lightly.

 

“We totally should fuck…” he whispers.

BOOK: Dirty Neighbor (The Dirty Suburbs)
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