The alcove suddenly seems more private. Maybe because I block out the chatter around us and focus on him, excited that he might open up a little more about himself.
“Tell me about ordinary Dominic.”
Dom pauses. “Well, ordinary Dominic used to scrub toilets on the fourth floor after school for less than minimum wage.”
“No way.” I can picture him, tall and gangly in his expensive prep school uniform, holding a plunger.
He shrugs. “I shadowed the maintenance crew for an entire summer, learning how to fix everything from wobbly door handles to electrical fixtures. Didn’t get paid a dime for it, either.”
I think of his hands, too calloused to be tapping at a keyboard all day. “You’re still secretly fixing things, aren’t you?”
Dom looks surprised, then gives me a grin. “Every chance I get. I like putting things to order. Gives me a sense of harmony amid the chaos.”
“That’s great. I never realized.”
Dom shrugs. “I’ve had a lot of privilege, but that doesn’t mean I never had to work for it. Unlike my brother,” he adds, his smile turning colder.
I want him to talk about this—I know his brother’s return is weighing on him—but I don’t get the chance before our food arrives.
“Wow,” I blink, as the wait staff unload dish after dish of amazing-looking food. “Did you order for us?”
“I wanted you to taste everything I love.”
The waiter gestures, “Butternut ravioli with a filling of white chocolate, butternut squash and egg yolk, set in a fois gras sauce. Enjoy.”
Dominic places his napkin on his lap and I do the same. The tension that crept into his face when he mentioned Alexander fades away now. I’m glad.
The textures and flavors of the meal are rich and delicate and I savor each bite. I glance up and find him watching me – looking as if he wants to savor me the way I’m eating this food. Sparks of desire shoot between my legs, and I take a sip of wine to cool down.
“I’ve been thinking,” I say in a rush. If I don’t get control over the growing ache in my panties, I’m going to be dragging him out of here by his tie. “About the gala.”
“Me, too.” He pauses. “Perhaps we should cancel it.”
I set down my fork. “What? Why?”
“It might be better to wait until the drama dies down.”
“No,” I challenge. “This is the perfect time to remind people of the Rexford’s heritage and the things that make it so renowned.” The ideas I’ve been mulling over spark with new life. “There’s a reason Chicago has so many historic buildings preserved around the city. People here are proud of their past and they love to show it off.”
For a moment I think of my dad, but I push the memories away before I can miss him too much and lose track of where I’m going with this.
He looks interested. “Tell me more.”
I pause as nerves roll through me. Who am I to be suggesting anything? But he looks genuinely interested, so I explain.
“The plans for the gala right now are standard-issue party stuff: black tie, canapés, champagne flutes making the rounds on silver trays…there’s nothing exciting about it. But we could play up the history more, bring out old art or photographs, maybe even make it a theme with costumes. Showcase the impressive roster of celebrities and royalty who’ve enjoyed the hotel. Bring back the old menus, and then, let’s show them how the hotel plans to sprinkle modern luxury with the—”