Before jamaica lane, p.2
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.2

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
 
Page 2

  ‘That would be because of the six-foot-three shield you’re huddled against,’ I replied dryly.

  She laughed, cuddling closer into said shield. ‘Maybe. ’

  ‘We’re cold too,’ Nate put in. ‘We’re just used to it, so we don’t whine about it. ’

  ‘No one is whining,’ Joss argued. ‘This is just our way of warning Jo that if she doesn’t hurry up and get us to our destination, we’re going to use her for firewood. ’

  Jo laughed. ‘We’re almost there … I think …’

  We turned down a street that took us off the high street, and Jo frowned up at the buildings as we followed her. It was just an average street, with vans and cars parked all along it.

  Today was Cam’s twenty-eighth birthday, and while we all assumed we were getting dressed up for a night out in Edinburgh to celebrate, Jo had a secret plan up her sleeve. Somehow we’d ended up in Stirling, a beautiful city with a gorgeous castle and quaint little streets, but also quite possibly the tiniest city on earth.

  I had no idea what Jo could possibly be up to by dragging us there.

  Suddenly she broke out into a massive grin as she stopped on a corner facing a bar. ‘We’re here. ’

  We all looked at the bar and then shared puzzled expressions. There was nothing particularly glamorous about the bar. It was … just a bar.

  ‘Where’s here?’ Cam asked quietly, his mouth twitching with amusement.

  ‘Here. ’ She gestured upward and we followed her motion to the street sign drilled into the brickwork above the bar entrance.

  CAMERONIAN PLACE

  I burst out laughing as it all began to make sense.

  ‘You dragged us to Stirling for a street sign?’ Nate asked her incredulously.

  Looking unsure, Jo nodded. ‘It’s not just any street sign. It’s Cameron’s birthday. He deserves to have a birthday drink in his very own place. ’

  The guys, with the exception of Cam, looked a little nonplussed by her thinking. Her fiancé, however, pulled her close and stared into her eyes in a way that made my chest compress with emotion. ‘I love it, baby. ’ He kissed her softly. ‘Thank you. ’

  A mixture of happiness and envy rooted me to the spot for a second. I adored the fact that Jo had someone in her life who worshipped the ground she walked on, but I often wondered to myself if there would ever come a day when a guy would look into my eyes as if there were nothing else in the world worth looking at.

  Ripped from my musings by the group’s teasing of Jo, I laughed with them all as we wandered into the warm bar together. We were perhaps dressed too formally for the casual atmosphere, but since we were a pretty laid-back bunch, not one of us was really put out by Jo’s little adventure. In fact, I think even the guys secretly thought it was cute of her.

  It was definitely cute of her. She was a sweetheart, so when she did stuff that was unbelievably cute – like hauling our asses to a different county just so Cam could have a drink on a street with his name on it – I was never surprised.

  My dad had spoken of her since the moment I’d met him. At first I’d been resentful of this little kid who’d had my dad for the first thirteen years of her life while I’d grown up with just the specter of him. My mom had never said a bad word against Dad, and being a somewhat precocious kid growing up with friends whose divorced parents were acidic around each other, it struck me as kind of odd that Mom wasn’t mad at the guy who hadn’t stuck around when I’d come along. I’d begun an investigation, wearing down my mom for months until finally she broke.

  I remember how incredibly angry I was at her that she had never even told my father that I existed.

  After she met Dad while she was studying abroad at the University of Glasgow, they’d begun an intense affair that Mom abruptly ended by going back to Phoenix at the end of her program. It wasn’t until she got back to the States that she discovered she was pregnant with me. She wouldn’t confess until many years later that the reason she didn’t get in touch with my dad was because she loved him so much, and she didn’t want him coming into her life out of obligation. I loved my mom, but she wasn’t infallible. She was young and she made a selfish decision. At thirteen I couldn’t see past that for a while. It took us time to get back to a good place.

  Time I would later regret ever wasting.

  The fact that Dad dropped his entire life in Scotland to come and be a father to a little girl he didn’t even know he had until I reached out to him was a testament to the kind of man he was. He uprooted his whole life to become a part of mine. But in doing so he left Jo behind.

  When Cam first contacted my dad about getting back in touch with Jo, I thought about how much my actions had changed her life. With a father in prison and an alcoholic mother, my dad, who was a longtime friend of Jo’s dad, had been the only stable parental figure she and her brother, Cole, had in their lives. Of course, Dad didn’t know until we returned to Edinburgh that Jo’s mom, Fiona, had become such a severe alcoholic, leaving Jo to raise her kid brother on her own. Dad and I were carrying around our own little weights of guilt because of that.

  However, the guilt was eased whenever I spent time in Jo and Cam’s company. After everything she’d gone through, Jo had finally found a guy who saw how incredible she was and treated her with the respect and love she deserved.

  As I sipped the pint of lager Nate had bought me, I looked around at my friends. Here I was, surrounded by people who had been through hell and come out the other side to find the person they wanted to spend the rest of their life with.

  Besides Jo and Cam, there was Joss, my fellow half American, half Scot, who fled to Edinburgh to escape an empty life back in Virginia. When I thought about all that Joss had lost, I honestly didn’t know how she’d kept going. I knew how it felt to lose my mom when I was twenty-one, but I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for Joss to lose her entire family when she was only fourteen years old. From all accounts she was still pretty messed up about it when she moved in with Ellie and met Ellie’s brother, Braden. Apparently they’d had their ups and downs because of Joss’s issues, but had finally gotten through it all. They were getting married in three weeks.

  Then, of course, there were Ellie and Adam. I was pretty close to Ellie because we shared a similar romantic idealism, and she’d told me the entire story of her and Adam. She’d been in love with her brother’s best friend for years, but he hadn’t noticed her until her eighteenth birthday, and he didn’t make a move on her until a few years after that, and even when he did he said it was a mistake. Apparently he didn’t want to ruin his friendships with her and Braden. There was a lot of back and forth until Ellie was ready to walk away from him for good, but when my beautiful and strong friend was diagnosed with a brain tumor, Adam finally stepped up to be with her. Luckily for us all, Ellie’s tumor turned out to be benign, and luckily for Adam, he’d come to his senses just in time to win Ellie over for good. They’d been engaged for a while but had only recently told us, now that she had an engagement ring sparkling on her left hand.

  I was surrounded by love, and not some cheesy, overbearing, faux in-your-face kind of love, but real, intimate, I-know-all-your-quirks-and-habits-and-still-love-you kind of love.

  ‘You’ve got your final dress fitting on Monday, Joss,’ Ellie suddenly said, taking a sip of her mojito.

  She was sitting next to Adam, who was squashed in beside Jo and Cam in the only available booth at the back of the room. Joss, Braden, Nate, and I were standing crowded around the table, and I was cursing myself for letting Jo talk me into the four-inch heels I was wearing.

  Leaning into Braden, Joss replied, ‘Thanks for the reminder. I’ll have to brace myself against Pauline’s caustic remarks. ’

  Cam frowned. ‘Why did you buy a dress from this woman if she’s such a cow?’

  ‘The dress,’ Jo, Ellie, and I answered in unison.

  After having been in Edinburgh for on
ly three months, I was honored when Joss asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. Her university friend Rhian had come up from London for the weekend, and we’d all gone on the hunt for Joss’s dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses. After a few arguments with Ellie regarding color, Joss had settled on champagne for her girls. We’d ended up in this bridal store in New Town where the owner, Pauline, made scathing remarks about our lack or overabundance of assets.

  We were too busty, too flat, too skinny, or too fat …

  We were about to head out of there when Joss stepped out in a dress the bitch had recommended and Ellie burst into tears.

  Yup, it was that beautiful.

  Clearly, Pauline knew how to dress brides – she just didn’t know how the hell to talk to them. Or to people in general, for that matter. I’m not exactly the most confident person, and have more than my fair share of insecurities regarding my body, so I came away from that store feeling like a heifer of giant proportions. Thank you, Pauline.

  Joss laughed and looked up into Braden’s face. ‘Apparently the dress is good. ’

  ‘I’m getting that,’ he murmured. ‘Still, I’m more looking forward to taking it off you than anything else that day. ’

  ‘Braden,’ Ellie bemoaned, ‘not in front of me. ’

  ‘Stop kissing Adam in front of me and I’ll stop making sexual comments to my wife in front of you. ’

  ‘She’s not your wife yet,’ Nate reminded him. ‘No need to rush it. ’

  I snorted. ‘Nate, your commitment phobia is showing again. ’

  He turned to me in mock horror. ‘Where?’ He patted his cheeks anxiously. ‘Get it off me. ’

  Brushing my thumb across an imaginary speck on his cheekbone, I reassured him. ‘There it is. All gone. ’

  ‘Phew. ’ He took a swig of his lager and looked toward the bar. ‘I’ll never get laid with that thing on show. ’

  ‘Charming,’ I murmured.

  He grinned cheekily at me and nodded toward a group of women standing at the bar. ‘Duty calls. ’

  He sauntered casually across the room and came to a stop beside a girl standing with her friends. The friends shimmied to the side as Nate and the girl began flirting their asses off. The girl was gorgeous, of course – beautiful features, long dark hair, creamy skin, extremely curvy. Probably a little overweight, like me, but unlike me, she carried it well. I had to say that about Nate. He didn’t really have a type – he didn’t care if the girl was skinny, plump, busty, or athletic. As long as she was cute and a woman, he was attracted to her.

  As soon as Nate smiled at the brunette she was a goner.

  I wasn’t surprised in the least. At five foot eleven, Nate wasn’t exceptionally tall, but with his combination of a trim physique honed by martial arts, a gorgeous face, and the kind of charisma you just couldn’t buy, most women wouldn’t give a rat’s ass if they towered over him in heels if it meant being on his arm for the night.

  Not me, though. Nate would never see me in a sexual way, so there was no point in even allowing my thoughts to go there. I think I knew more about the real Nate than most people did, so it wasn’t hard to put him in the friend zone. I could switch off whatever attraction I had to him because I knew it would never go anywhere. I’d rather have Nate in my life as a friend than not have him there at all. For all of his commitment issues and the unashamedly playboy mentality toward women, he was a really good guy underneath it all, and a really good friend.

  ‘Well, she’s a goner,’ Joss commented softly.

  Turning toward her, I raised an eyebrow when I saw her smirking at Nate and the girl. ‘He never makes them any promises. ’

  She laughed. ‘No need to defend him. I know Nate always makes himself clear, but we’re talking girls here. Sometimes they just hear what they want to hear. ’

 
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