Before jamaica lane, p.30
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.30
 

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
Page 30

  ‘He’s a good friend. A loyal, caring, compassionate friend. ’

  ‘How? Why? What has he done?’

  Crossing my arms over my chest, I leaned back, staring at the beautiful bay window that looked out over Heriot Row. I couldn’t quite meet my dad’s eyes as I admitted, ‘Last Thanksgiving I lied to you. I said I was okay, but I wasn’t. ’ I felt the air around him thicken as he tensed. ‘When I left you I went home and went into a crazy meltdown. I cooked a turkey, potatoes, everything, but I burnt it and started to freak out. I mean … really freak out. Luckily, Nate was just dropping by and he caught me in the middle of it and he sat with me while I sobbed all over him about Mom. ’ I chanced a glance at my dad and saw his jaw was taut, his eyes bright with sadness. ‘Nate was really there for me, Dad. And he got it. He got me. He lost the love of his life when he was eighteen. ’ My voice cracked on the words ‘love of his life. ’ ‘She died of cancer. ’

  ‘Jesus. ’ Dad bowed his head, drawing his hand down his face as though exhausted by the news.

  ‘They were childhood sweethearts and by all accounts she was pretty special. He hasn’t been the same since. You can’t tell anyone, Dad. He doesn’t talk about it. ’

  Dad looked at me, his gaze sharp. ‘Are you seeing him?’

  My pulse started racing, my limbs shaking as I lowered my eyes. I couldn’t lie to my dad. I just couldn’t. ‘We’re not in a relationship, if that’s what you’re asking. ’

  ‘Oh, baby girl. ’ He groaned as if he was in pain. ‘I hope you know what you’re doing. ’

  Feeling tears inexplicably prick my eyes, I looked away and picked up my fork to play with my food again. ‘You can’t say anything. No one knows about us. ’

  ‘And who am I going to tell?’

  I smiled weakly at my plate. ‘Are you disappointed in me?’

  ‘No. ’ His hand came down around mine, stilling my nervous movements. ‘But my girl deserves more than whatever you two are up to. You deserve to start making a life with someone. You deserve to be the love of some man’s life. ’

  Somehow I managed not to cry. Instead, I smiled brightly at him, pushing all the negative stuff into my deep, dark pit. ‘Believe it or not, Nate has taken me a hundred steps closer to finding that. ’

  ‘I don’t understand. ’

  ‘You don’t need to, Dad. Just know that I’m better than I have been in a really long time. ’

  He studied me for a moment. ‘Okay. I’m glad, sweetheart. ’

  My phone rang, interrupting our heart-to-heart. Seeing Jo’s face on my screen, I reached for the phone hurriedly, as I realized she was probably calling about Joss. ‘Hey. ’

  ‘Ellie just called,’ she said without preamble.

  ‘And?’

  ‘Joss is pregnant. ’

  I froze, frowning as I looked over at Dad. ‘Isn’t that good news?’

  Jo sighed heavily. ‘I think it’s stirred up some ghosts, Liv. ’

  Understanding, I squeezed my eyes closed in empathy. ‘Her family?’

  ‘Aye. ’ Jo’s exhalation was shaky. ‘Ellie says Braden’s pretty upset by Joss’s reaction. It’s supposed to be one of the happiest days of his life. ’

  I felt terrible for them. ‘They just got married. This whole time is supposed to be amazing for them. ’

  ‘Yeah. Anyway, I knew you were worried, so I thought I’d let you know. ’

  ‘Thanks, Jo. We’ll talk later. ’

  After we hung up, I turned to my waiting father. ‘Joss is pregnant. ’

  Dad looked just as confused as I’d felt at first. ‘That’s not a good thing?’

  ‘From the sounds of it, it’s opened some old, very painful wounds … about her family. ’

  ‘Sometimes that happens. It’s just … something … triggers it. And you’re feeling everything all over again. ’

  I guess we understood that too. ‘I just hope she can get through it. ’

  ‘She will. ’ Dad sounded certain. ‘Braden’s her family. She’ll fight through it for him. ’

  I could only hope my optimistic father was right, because if anyone deserved happiness it was Joss and Braden Carmichael.

  18

  The trip to Longniddry could not have come at a better time. For Joss it meant she had a valid excuse to be antisocial, since more than half of her social crew had gone out of the city for the weekend, and for me it meant the hope of some much-needed clarity.

  Spending time with Nate’s family, in an entirely different environment, would allow me to see him in a different light too. It also meant we would have to spend time without any shenanigans, and honestly I thought I was in need of a breather from it. Not because I wanted a breather, but because I was hoping that being free of his sexual spell would give me the courage to end what we’d started.

  I really needed to end it.

  Since Peetie had a car, he and Lyn drove there together, while Nate rented a car for him, me, Cam, Jo, and Cole to share. We’d all gotten the Friday off work and Cole had permission to take a day off school. Just after noon we set out, with Nate driving, Cam in the passenger seat, and Jo crowded in between Cole and me. By the time we drove through the main street of Longniddry with its cottages and flowers and traditional pub, I was dying to get out of the car. I’d rolled my window down and I could smell the sea air.

  We pulled into a well-maintained housing estate and Nate drove up to a whitewashed house with a red roof. Peetie’s car was already parked on the drive. According to Nate, the house we were renting was only a few streets behind Cam’s parents’ home.

  ‘Nate did not consider the size of my ass when he hired this … whatever it is. ’ I winced as I climbed out, the right side of my thigh and butt aching from having been squashed against the door.

  Nate got out the driver’s side and grinned at me. ‘It’s a Nissan, because we’re on a budget. ’

  I raised an eyebrow. ‘A budget? My ass says there’s budget and then there’s just cheap. ’ I rubbed my sore backside.

  ‘It wasn’t your arse that was the problem,’ Cole grumbled, rubbing his left side. ‘It was the bag that wouldn’t fit in the boot. ’

  We all stared at Jo as she fumbled around in the backseat, then hauled out a massive duffel bag. She glanced over her shoulder at us. ‘What? I didn’t know what the weather would be like, so I had to bring clothing choices. ’

  ‘Tell that to my ass. ’

  Nate snorted at me and guided me to the trunk of the car. ‘Did I mention I appreciate how light you pack?’ He grinned at me as he lifted my backpack out of the car.

  ‘It’s two nights. ’ I leaned around the car to see Cam helping Jo with her bag. ‘Did you hear that? Two nights. ’

  She scowled at me. ‘Look, Uncle Mick increased my wages and I may have gone a wee bit nuts buying some new clothes. I got a little overexcited about what to bring. ’ She eyed Cam a little apologetically. ‘Sorry. ’

  He kissed the apology right off her lips. ‘Don’t apologize to me, baby. I could give a shit. Bring what you want. ’ He grinned teasingly at me. ‘I’m not the one crammed in the back of the car with you. ’

  ‘Shotgun!’ I shouted, perhaps more loudly than I needed to.

  They all gazed at me like I was crazy.

  ‘Shotgun,’ I reiterated. ‘On the drive home, I call shotgun. ’ When I got no answer, I huffed, ‘The rule is, the first person to say “shotgun” gets to ride in the front passenger seat. ’

  Cam frowned. ‘Oh, that rule doesn’t translate here. Sorry. ’

  I narrowed my eyes at him. ‘But apparently some misogynistic silent rule that the eldest men in the group get to ride in front does?’

  Cam slanted a teasing look at Jo. ‘You had to make friends with a feminist?’

  Jo grunted. ‘You’re the one who tracked her down on Facebook. ’

  ‘Nice. I’m feeling the love, guys, I’m feeling the love. ’ I br
ushed past them and shoved at Cam. ‘I’m riding shotgun. ’

  ‘No. You are not. ’

  ‘Oh, yeah?’ I stopped and turned back to look at Nate, who had gotten all the bags out of the trunk and was locking up. ‘Nate?’

  He glanced up at me casually but stilled at the smug little smirk on my lips. ‘Yes?’ he asked warily.

  ‘Who is riding shotgun with you on the trip home? Cam … or me?’ If you don’t say me I will forget you even have a penis.

  He got the message and threw Cam an apologetic look as he walked past us toward the house. ‘Sorry, mate. She called shotgun. ’

  Triumphant, I followed Nate to the house and as he let the two of us in he whispered in my ear, ‘Sexual manipulation … pick that up on your own time, did you?’

  I gave him a wide-eyed look of mock innocence as I wandered inside. ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about. ’

  He slapped my ass playfully and I turned, giggling up into his face as he grinned down into mine. A throat clearing pulled us up short and we glanced sharply over my shoulder to see Peetie and Lyn standing in the doorway to the sitting room. Lyn’s curious gaze shifted between me and Nate, while Peetie’s stone-faced expression was focused solely on his best friend.

  Cursing myself to hell for not being more circumspect, I pretended the intimate moment between me and Nate was nothing and hurried forward to give Peetie and Lyn a hug.

  Cole, Jo, and Cam followed us inside the house, and the ‘incident’ was thankfully forgotten as we looked around the cozy rental and chose our rooms. There were four bedrooms, so Jo and Cam, Lyn and Peetie each took a double room, Nate and Cole took the double twin room, and I took the small twin room. Cole disappeared into their room to dump his bag while Nate pointedly looked between their room and mine and pouted comically.

  ‘No sex for you,’ I mouthed.

  ‘Aye, well, that means no sex for you either. ’ He did not mouth it; he just said it out loud.

  My eyes bugged out as he laughed and darted into his room to escape my wrath.

  Was he trying to get us caught?

  The pub on the main street of Longniddry was typical – exposed brickwork, massive open central fireplace, solid wood tables that had seen many a year, matching chairs, and wooden benches trimmed in red fabric hugging the perimeter of the room. Seated around one of the larger tables, with a Tudor-style window behind us, I found myself happily situated between Nate and Cole on a bench. At the head of the table was Nate’s dad, Nathan. Nathan was an older version of Nate – same thick, unruly hair, once dark, now salt and pepper, same twinkling dark eyes, same olive skin, same dimples, same build. Same overall charm and masculine beauty. Across the table from Nate sat his mother, Sylvie. I could tell Sylvie must have been a knockout when she was my age because she was still very pretty. She had dark hair that she kept long, bright blue eyes, and soft features. She was small in stature and slender.

  Nate’s behavior with his parents somehow surprised me. When we walked into the pub and they stood up to greet us, Nate threw his arms around his mom and lifted her off her feet. Once he was done with her, he and his dad hugged each other hard, grinning happily into each other’s face as they pulled back. Nate introduced us, and Cam introduced us to his parents, Helena and Anderson, before Peetie introduced us to his aunt and uncle, Rose and Jim – they’d raised him when their too young niece had decided to give him over in adoption.

  Once we were seated, it became clear to me that Nate was incredibly close to his parents. This was something I hadn’t known. I knew he loved them. I knew there were no problems there, but considering he rarely went home to see them … well, I didn’t know what I thought. I just didn’t think they were best friends. Clearly I was wrong.

 
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