It cut River up to see John so upset. He really didn’t deserve to be treated like his happiness meant nothing. What a jerk her brother was.
She made John some hot chocolate as well before returning to her bedroom. He looked grateful for the gesture. Maybe she could do some stuff with him to help him become less miserable. A few days out, perhaps? That seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t fair for John to be dejected when he hadn’t done anything wrong. Also he needed to get over Tom because Tom wasn’t worth his sorrow.
The next evening her mum drove her to Dominic’s house for dinner.
“Call us when you’re ready to be picked up,” she said, kissing River on the cheek.
“I will. See you later.”
River got out of the car and knocked on the shop door.
Dominic answered. He was wearing a loose shirt and hips that hung low on his hips which gave a glimpse of his hip bone. An intoxicating smell lingered on his skin.
"Hi," River breathed.
"Hey, come on in. The starter’s ready," he said with a nervous smile. He held open the door for her, gesturing for her to head upstairs.
"Starter? You made more than one course?"
"Starter, main and desert," he replied, locking the door behind her. When they reached the first floor, River found a table neatly set out for two.
"Wow. That was unnecessary," she said, responding to his comment.
"I want to treat you," he replied and suddenly was holding out a bunch of deep red tulips.
River stared. But in a second she was looking away, her expression sad.
"What’s the matter?" he asked, worry covering his face.
"John dumped Tom," she mumbled. "And I can't help regret having fun while he's suffering because ofmybrother."
"Oh River. I'm sorry," Dom whispered, putting the flowers down on the table and pulling her into his arms. "How about we just eat then?"
River nodded mutely.
Dominic gestured for her to sit and went to fetch their soup and make sure that the food was cooking right.
He served her the soup then sat across from her. He watched her, waiting for River to take the first spoonful.
She took it slowly, almost cautiously.
The flavours that burst in her mouth made her tongue tingle and a flush come to her cheeks.
"This is amazing," River said, unable to stop herself smiling. She drank more. "So, how's Ryan? I haven't talked to him in a while."
Dominic shrugged. "He's been with Kati a lot of the time. I assume he's happy."
River nodded. "Is it difficult - just living alone together?"
"Not really. I like having my own space with my brother. It’s easy," Dominic said with a smile.
River smiled too. "I'm glad."
Dominic smiled then leant across the table, giving her a quick kiss.
River smiled more widely. Once she had finished the soup, she moved to sit on Dominic’s lap.
"I almost wish you hadn't cooked so much," she told him.
He smiled, piling up their bowls.
"You'll love the dessert. I promise," he said, moving her off his lap and taking out the dirty dishes, bringing through the main.
River sighed. Okay." She returned to her seat.
Once seated, Dominic offered her the chicken on the end of his fork. She grinned and took it in her mouth.
"Yum," she said happily.
He smiled slowly. "Nice? Good," he said, then began eating.
She tucked into her own food.
Once finished, he took their plates out and brought back dessert which was a sort of brownie cake.
River became excited. "You baked cake?"
"Mmhmm," Dom hummed, smiling.
"You're going to have to be careful or else I might start only loving you for your cookery," River teased.
He smiled. "Glad you like it"
She finished and stood. "Do I leave now? You've served your purpose, chef." She stuck her tongue out.
Dom smiled at her teasing and grasped her waist, pulling her into his lap.
"How about... you stay?" he whispered.
"Well," she murmured, "... you could always give me more reason to."
He kissed her passionately and picked her up, carrying her to the sofa. He laid her down beneath him and continued, leaving her breathless with kisses.
Between them, she said, "Okay, you've convinced me."
He chuckled and kissed her more strongly. Dominic grasped her hips, squeezing them gently.
She sighed quietly.
He continued to kiss her strongly pressing his body to hers. After a while River became aware of slight tension in Dom’s body, down south.
River withdrew. "Stop, please." she murmured, smiling wryly
He pulled back, looking embarrassed.
"Hey, don't be embarrassed. It just shows how great at responding to kisses I am."
He still looked embarrassed and also a bit annoyed, but there was only a hint of that so River ignored it.
"Please, Dom. No one's blaming you."
"I know," he mumbled.
"It's natural, right? Humans are animals and we want to have children."
He blushed even more.
She laughed to break the tension.
"Sorry, I'm not helping." She leant up and kissed his cheek. "It's okay. Okay?"
He nodded silently.
"Shall we do something else?"
He shrugged. "I don’t mind."
"Well, I can't just lie here all night, can I?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Want to watch a film?"
"Sure. As long as I'm allowed to sit up."
He smiled. "Of course," he said, then went to put a film on.
River sat up and when Dom came to sit down, she snuggled up to him.
"Pillow," she murmured childishly, smiling
He laughed then relaxed, also smiling.
River sighed contentedly.
"I get scared we kiss too much," she confessed.
Dominic looked at her calmly. "That shouldn't scare you."
River looked into his eyes. "It does, though. I get scared that that's all we are or that one day I'll give in completely... It gives you an awful lot of power over me, I think."
He frowned. "I won’t misuse you, River"
"I know but that doesn't stop me fearing it." She sighed heavily. "Do you think that Tom misused John?"
Dominic sighed. "I-I can’t judge something like that"
River nodded understandingly.
"Okay." She watched the film for a few moments, but didn’t really pay attention. Without looking at Dominic, she asked, "Would you mind if ... if I hung out with John?"
"No, I wouldn't."
She sighed in relief. "Phew. Because I was thinking about going to the cinema with him or maybe taking him to a bowling alley - I've never seen him with anyone other than Tom. It worries me that he's not got Tom anymore - though of course I don't think Tom deserves a boyfriend like John after what he did to me."
Dominic frowned. "Don’t be so harsh on him, River. He's your brother."
"He hurt me, Dom, and he almost made me lose you."
"How can you forgive me but not him?"
River looked away. "I don't know. I ... I was very close to not forgiving you as well."
Dominic looked sad. "I'm glad you did."
River nodded. She hesitated, an idea occurring to her. She nearly didn’t say anything but then she reckoned that perhaps it was better for Dominic to know how things stood.
"Perhaps you shouldn't, though... Maybe I was quicker to forgive you ... because I love Tom more. And it hurt more. Maybe you shouldn't enjoy this so much because it's a sign that maybe I ... deep down ... expected it." She moved away a little, ashamed.
Dominic looked pained.
"Do you still want to be with me?" she asked quietly.
"Yes, of course," he whispered.
She sighed once again.
"It's no fairytale, is it - love? It's a series of complex emotions and you become a stranger to yourself because the person you're in love with alters you. I almost want to break away and immerse myself in a fantasy world, but that'll do no good. I find myself just playing it by ear."
Dominic tilted his head, watching River.
She looked at him.
"Am I upsetting you?"
"No, but," he smiled. "You are very wise."
She laughed. "Really?"
He nodded, smiling.
"Thank you then. Though really I'm just telling you how I'm feeling."
"I know," he said with a smile.
"You know you're changing me?" she asked, her smile a little wry.
"A little," he whispered. "I hope not a lot."
River shrugged. "I think ... in a way ... that the bigger your influence on me, the more I'm in love with you. But if you have too much of an effect, it's a little dangerous."
"Yes, I know," he whispered.
River smiled and kissed him gently.
"You're making me feel very safe."
Dominic smiled. "I'm glad"
And for the rest of that evening the atmosphere was soft and warm, like your duvet when you first wake up in the morning too comfortable to want to move. It was almost irritating when River’s mum arrived to pick her up at eight o’clock (having decided that that was a late enough time for her daughter to stay at a boy’s house without calling home) but River understood why it was necessary for her to go home before bedtime.