Before jamaica lane, p.26
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.26
 

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
Page 26

  Nate rolled onto his back, his hands clasped behind his head as he studied my ceiling. ‘You really are one of my best friends, you know. ’

  My pulse slowed a little as warmth rushed through my chest. Touched, I reached out to skim my fingertips affectionately down his stomach. ‘Back at you, babe. ’

  ‘So promise me something. ’

  I stilled. ‘Okay?’

  ‘Promise me, no matter what, this … what we’re doing … it’s not going to ruin that. ’

  I didn’t understand the sharp, serrated pain that cut across the warmth that had flooded my chest, but I did understand why he was asking what he was asking. Flattening my palm across his stomach, I moved it until it rested over the ‘A’ tattooed on his skin. ‘I promise. ’

  His whole body relaxed under my hand and when he turned his head to look at me I saw tenderness and gratitude in his eyes. We smiled at each other again, and I ignored the jagged pain.

  After a moment he moved his head back and returned to staring at my ceiling.

  I couldn’t look away from his face, my eyes committing the sharp cut of his jaw, the perfect profile, straight nose, sooty lashes, beautiful lips, to memory. I was no longer surprised by the way my body prickled to life at the mere sight of his handsome face. For now I put that feeling aside, sensing that his mind was somewhere else, somewhere a little darker than usual.

  My fingers circled the ‘A’ on his chest.

  ‘Nate?’

  ‘Mmm?’

  ‘When you’re having a hard time about it, you know you can talk to me, right?’

  He gave a slight shake of his head. ‘I’m okay, Liv. ’

  ‘Really? Because when Cole mentioned your tat, you seemed a little off for a few days afterwards. ’

  Nate slanted a look at me and gave a long, shaky sigh. ‘I don’t know if I can admit it out loud. ’

  ‘Hey, as if I’m going to judge you about anything,’ I teased, trying to relax him again and remind him he was safe with me.

  I wanted to follow the little sad smirk curving his lips with the tips of my fingers, but I refrained.

  And I waited.

  Until he said, ‘I got the tattoo so I’d remember Alana every single day. ’

  ‘Yeah, you told me,’ I reminded him softly.

  ‘I sometimes wish I hadn’t gotten it. ’ Shame entered his gaze as he looked at me, and I hated that he felt it. ‘Sometimes I think it would be easier to forget her most days. ’

  ‘That’s understandable, honey. ’

  Nate shook his head in denial. ‘I promised her. ’

  ‘Promised her what?’

  His voice was hoarse now as he confessed, ‘I promised I’d never leave her. ’ He cleared his throat, trying to bury the emotion, but he couldn’t. My friend was still carrying around so much history and I knew that for a fact as he continued. ‘When we were kids I protected her from everything. Crappy stepdad, kids who’d tease her because she didn’t have a lot of money, nightmares, even sad stories. But I couldn’t protect her from the cancer. I couldn’t protect her, so the least I could do was never leave her. ’

  A new ache wrapped its bruising hands around my ribs, and I leaned over to press a comforting kiss to his chest. ‘Nate, moving on with your life doesn’t mean forgetting her, or leaving her. ’

  Eyes narrowed, he wasn’t impressed with my comment. ‘How can you say that? You of all people know it doesn’t work like that. I should want to see that tattoo in the mirror every day, Olivia. I shouldn’t resent it. ’

  The hands around my ribs squeezed as the voice inside me told me to speak up, confess my own deep buried secret, the real reason behind all of this. I should. For my friend, I should. I pressed my cheek to his chest and struggled to find control of my breathing, tears pricking my eyes as I forced myself to be brave for him.

  ‘Do you want to know the real reason I asked for your help?’ I choked on the last words, the tears falling from my eyes. Nate tensed when he felt the splash of salt water on his skin.

  He moved beneath me, but only to release his arm from behind his head so he could wrap it around me. ‘Liv?’

  Looking up at him now through my tears, I whispered my own confession. ‘I was scared of resenting my mom. I was scared that somewhere deep inside of me I blamed her for the fact that I’d never had what everyone else had – first love and sex, and time to explore it when every one else was. I thought’ – I brushed away my tears – ‘I thought if I could just do something about it, it would take the chance of that resentment building away. Because resenting her for that would just make me the worst person ever, and I don’t know if I could have handled that dark part of myself that blamed a woman who was kind and gracious until the very end. ’ I wiped at my tears and braced myself over him, running my fingers tenderly through his thick hair. ‘You’re not alone, Nate. ’

  I pressed a comforting, tearstained kiss to his lips.

  And promptly found myself flat on my back, my hands pinned above my head as he braced himself over me, his eyes burning. ‘Nate?’ I gasped at the sudden movement.

  His answer was to kiss me deeply, roughly, almost desperately as he nudged my legs apart. He let go of one of my wrists only to grab a condom off the bedside cabinet, and once he was ready, he held me down again.

  I tried to move my arms, but they wouldn’t budge, and I was wickedly surprised to feel swift arousal move through me at the feeling of being completely under his control.

  His to do with as he pleased.

  With a growl of need he slammed into me and all I could do was take it as he pounded me into the mattress, my cries growing louder and louder until an eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-my-head orgasm shattered my insides and I screamed his name upon beautiful release.

  After Nate came just as hard, out of breath, out of control, he pulled out of me, but this time he didn’t get up to go to the bathroom. Instead he took off the condom and threw it in the trash can by my bed and then wrapped his arms around me, resting his head in the crook of my neck, leaving our legs tangled together.

  We lay like that for some time, not saying a word, until finally sleep began to lull me. Feeling the pull of sleep Nate turned us on our sides, my back to his chest, his arm around my waist, his legs entwined with mine, and together we fell into a temporary state of absolute peace.

  14

  There was a lot to be learned from what was happening between me and Nate, but unfortunately I was determined to learn the least important things. Waking up with him that next morning, feeling his arms around me, feeling this wonderful mixture of being thrillingly alive but so comfortingly safe, I didn’t allow myself to take the time to read the signs.

  Instead, we woke up, Nate in a hurry upon realizing he’d slept in and had a photo shoot early that morning for one of the local high schools. I discovered that laid-back, charming Nate did not like to be late. He relied on the use of grunting to reply to me as he rushed around trying to get ready. It was kind of cute.

  Before he left he told me he was working that night so he’d have to call me to arrange our next lesson, but there wasn’t any weirdness about him like on Tuesday morning, so I took it to mean he really was busy and we’d arrange something later.

  I’d gotten a couple of texts from him since then, but they were just to crack jokes about work, not anything about our lessons. I was cool with that. There was no rush, no immediate need to see him or anything.

  Nope.

  Uh-uh.

  Still, I was looking forward to the distraction of Friday dinner with my dad and company. Jo had chosen D’Alessandro’s because we had two extra guests that evening. Dee, and also Hannah. She was having a wee bit of bother getting Marco to talk to her, so we’d decided the only way to see what the hell was up was to create a situation where she could see him without looking like a total stalker.

  We had no idea if he was working that night, but we’d
decided it was worth a shot.

  I sat at the table with Dad, Dee, Jo, Cam, Cole, and Hannah and did my very best to be there and be present, but every now and then a memory from the past week would cross my mind and I’d get lost in a little Nate-and-Olivia fantasy until one of my companions dragged me out of it.

  Jo was talking to me about Joss and Braden’s photos from their honeymoon in Hawaii when I felt Hannah tense beside me. Both Jo and I looked at her and then followed her frozen-rabbit stare across the room to the young man who was bussing a table in the corner.

  Our girl had good taste.

  A little young for me, of course, but I could see the attraction.

  ‘Is that him?’ I asked under my breath.

  She nodded quickly, licking her lips nervously. That surprised me, since I’d never known Hannah to be anything but forthcoming and confident. Apparently she’d been a shy little kid, but I could never quite picture her that way. It wasn’t that she was particularly outgoing or boisterous; in fact she was a pretty chill person, quiet, reserved. But she also spoke her mind and was hilarious when she did so.

  ‘Go talk to him. ’

  Hannah’s jaw hardened with determination and she immediately got up. She was wearing skinny jeans and a fitted T-shirt that showed off her curves. She was casual but she was gorgeous. This kid didn’t stand a chance.

  Feeling a niggling in my bladder, I realized I was going to miss the show. ‘I’ll be right back,’ I muttered and made my way to the toilet, trying not to look obvious as I saw the boy’s eyes widen in surprise to see Hannah walking toward him.

  I hurried into the restroom, and when I came out, I was right behind Hannah and Marco, hidden by a tall faux plant. I eyed my table, knowing I should go back and give them privacy. Then again, this was a girl I cared about, and if the little idiot was mean to her I wanted to be there so I could sort his punk ass out.

  ‘I told you I’ve been busy,’ he said with a shrug, his American accent throwing me for a moment until I remembered Hannah telling me he was from Chicago.

  Hannah eyed him suspiciously, a stubborn little jut to her adorably pointed chin. ‘So you’re not avoiding me?’

  Marco scratched his cheek, his lips curling at the corner. ‘No. Why would I be avoiding you?’ His eyes flickered over her shoulder and there was something proprietary in the way he said, ‘It looks like you’ve been keeping busy anyway. New guy already?’

  She stared at him for a second, and I was mighty impressed by how cool she was. Way cooler than I would have been. Especially if I’d been confronted with a guy as hot as Marco at her age. He was a good couple of inches over six feet, athletically built, and his mix of African American and Italian heritage had lent itself beautifully to his light caramel skin tone, high cheekbones, cut jawline, and sensual mouth. His blue-green eyes were a striking contrast to his skin and dark lashes. All of this was only made more appealing by his quiet but intense presence. I had a feeling Hannah had found herself a broody boy to crush on.

  ‘That’s Cole,’ she finally answered, tilting her head to the side to give him a questioning yet cocky smile that told him she thought his words belied his jealousy. ‘He’s a family friend. Why? Would it bother you if he was my date?’

  Marco frowned. ‘No, Hannah, it wouldn’t. You can do whatever you want. ’

  She was good at hiding her disappointment, I’ll give her that. ‘Well, what I want is to hang out with my good friend Marco, but he’s been hard to find lately. ’

  It was his turn to stare, and I recognized the moment when he crumbled under the gaze of her wide velvet brown eyes. He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe he was giving in to her. ‘I’m off Tuesday night. We could hang out then. ’

  ‘Okay. Do –’

  ‘Eavesdropping is rude, you know,’ a familiar voice told me quietly.

  Surprise, and I wasn’t sure if it was good surprise or bad surprise, spun me around and I gazed up, probably looking a little stupefied, into Benjamin’s face. ‘Benjamin,’ I wheezed, my heart taking its time to slide down my throat and back into the chest where it belonged.

 
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