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Joel stopped just shy of the doorway to the parlor. He watched, a contented smile on his face, as
Dominique laughed along with his mother and sister. True to her word, Dominique had come to visit
two days after he had taken her from Derek’s clutches. The smile on his face faded as he recalled the
confusing scene he’d stumbled upon. No matter that Dominique had been sick, there was no earthly
reason for Derek to be in the bedroom with her, especially in her state of undress beneath the sheet.
He knew it wasn’t rape about to occur on Derek’s part. Still, it confused Joel as to why Dominique
had seemed so nonchalant about Derek’s presence in the room. As if Derek seeing her lying half naked
in his bed was nothing out of the ordinary. They both agreed that she’d been sick, but such an amazing
recovery from one night to the next morning was a bit hard to believe. But when all was said and done,
Joel chose to simply put that night behind him. Dominique was all that mattered, her health and safety.
And she fit so wonderfully in his family. They all loved and adored her, Joel’s father included, even
though he had been initially reluctant to welcome their former employee with open arms. She was
nothing like the vain, insipid females that Joel had previously dated. It was easy to see she cared about
Joel, and more than obvious the feeling was mutual.
Watching as Dominique picked up the cup of tea, her dainty fingers gracefully holding the
expensive china with such care, Joel felt a stab of yearning for her. How would her soft hands feel upon
his flesh? Would she want a gentle lover or welcome a more aggressive partner? He shook his mind of
those questions, scolding himself inwardly for daring think of Dominique in such a coarse way.
Joel had never allowed himself to consider such intimate thoughts about Dominique. It had taken a
will of iron and more than a cold shower or two, but he’d always felt it disrespectful should he cross that
fine line in their friendship. But perhaps the time had come, Joel mused, to make their relationship
officially more than simple camaraderie. He had never considered choosing a wife before, the thought
of pledging one’s life and heart to another for eternity vastly disturbing and most unnatural for a man to
commit to. But suddenly the prospect of having Dominique as his wife seemed an entirely possible
Joel dismissed the niggling thought that he might be trying to beat Derek to the punch, as it were,
now that his friend was no longer engaged to the shrewish Allison. Derek had been thoroughly angered
at Joel’s interruption the other night. And there was no doubt that had Joel not appeared when he did,
something intimate might have occurred. Joel knew the hellish introduction into womanhood that
Dominique had experienced, and he had never gotten past the fact that he’d been the one to initiate it.
But he would be damned if he allowed her to suffer the same again at the hands of Montford, no matter
that they’d been closest friends for ages.
It was in that moment that Joel decided to propose marriage to Dominique. Not that day, but
sometime very soon. He knew she might initially decline his proposal, but Joel felt he could woo
Dominique and win her heart before it was all over with.