Before jamaica lane, p.34
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.34
 

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
Page 34

  ‘I’m glad. ’ Relief whooshed through me. ‘But I didn’t do anything. ’

  Ellie shrugged. ‘Braden mentioned you to Adam, so I think you did something. ’

  ‘I think they were close to fixing things themselves. I just happened to be there at the right time. That is not a couple who can be mad at each other for long. ’

  Apparently I was wrong, because Ellie laughed. ‘Jesus, you should have seen them when they broke up. That is a couple that can do mad at each other and do it well. That’s what I was worried about. Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. They’re sorted and Joss seems tentatively excited about the pregnancy, so I’m going to seize upon that. I’m going to be an auntie!’ she squealed as if it had just suddenly hit her.

  I laughed, glancing around us to find students smiling in bemusement at us. One of those students caught my eye and the laughter fell from my lips as he began to make his way across the foyer toward me.

  ‘Liv?’ Ellie asked.

  ‘Olivia?’ Benjamin stopped, towering over us. He grinned down at me, his friendly, gorgeous smile flickering to Ellie and then back to me. ‘I haven’t seen you in a while. ’

  There was no avoiding him.

  And for the first time in weeks I wasn’t sure I should. I stood up, and Ellie did also. ‘Hi. Benjamin, this is my friend Ellie. Ellie, this is Benjamin. ’

  ‘Call me Ben. ’ He smiled at me before turning to shake Ellie’s hand. I felt the heat of Ellie’s burning curiosity on my face.

  ‘Have you been on holiday?’ he asked, his focus entirely on me, which was really nice considering that Ellie was a tall, stunning blonde.

  ‘No. I think we must just keep missing each other,’ I lied.

  ‘That’s a shame,’ he murmured. ‘But it’s good to see you now. ’

  ‘You too,’ I replied with a smile.

  We stared at each other a moment too long.

  Ben cleared his throat. ‘I suppose I better get on,’ he said, seeming reluctant.

  ‘You know,’ Ellie said, ‘a group of us will be hanging out at Club 39 on Saturday night. Maybe we’ll see you there. ’

  Understanding flashed in his eyes and he grinned at me. ‘Yeah, maybe. ’

  As soon as he was gone I turned to her. ‘What was that?’

  ‘I’m just helping along a courtship that was going as slow as mine and Adam’s. I don’t want you to have to wait five years, Liv. ’ She patted my shoulder. ‘It’s not fun. ’

  Ellie’s news that Joss and Braden were okay and Ben’s obvious interest in me brightened my day a little, helping me to bury the increasingly excruciating hurt and uncertainty I was feeling over the whole Nate situation.

  It was understandable, then, that when I got home from work that night I didn’t know how to react to the fact that Nate was sitting on my couch, drinking my coffee and watching my TV.

  I know how my body reacted.

  It liked his lean, muscular form on my couch. It liked the stubble on his handsome face, and the gleam in his gorgeous, dark chocolate eyes.

  I know how my heart reacted.

  It loved that he was in my sitting room, waiting for me.

  ‘Hey?’

  He sat forward, reaching for the remote to switch off the television. ‘I came by last night. You never came home. ’

  ‘I stayed with my dad. ’

  Tension seemed to melt from the line of his shoulders. ‘Are you okay?’

  ‘I’m fine. ’

  He scratched his jaw, a question in his eyes. ‘Did we fuck up at the weekend?’

  Moving toward him, I exhaled heavily. ‘I don’t know. Did we?’

  Nate stood up, coming toward me. He put his hands on my waist and drew me to him. I was a goner. ‘I think it was a strange weekend. I think we should forget about it. ’

  What the hell does that mean? Find out!

  ‘Okay,’ I acquiesced, hating myself for it, but loving the feel of his lips whispering across my jaw.

  His warm breath puffed against my ear as his hands pulled the back of my shirt into his fists. ‘I feel like I haven’t been inside you in forever. ’

  I leaned into him. ‘It’s only been a few nights,’ I reminded him softly.

  ‘That’s what I said. ’ He pressed an open-mouth kiss to my sweet spot. ‘Fucking forever. ’

  At first he was rough, wild, hot. I let him kiss me. I let him undress me. I let him lead me into my room. I let him caress every part of my body.

  Somewhere along the way he turned tender.

  I let him slide inside me and take me slowly, beautifully. I closed my eyes.

  ‘Don’t,’ he said gruffly, grasping the back of my thigh to change the angle of his deep, slow thrusts. ‘Look at me. Give me those eyes. ’

  So I let him look into my eyes while he made love to me, until I came with tears in them.

  I let him push my uncertainty aside.

  I let him back in.

  Nate came hard, his grip on my body almost bruising as he threw his head back and groaned his release. Once his hips stopped jerking against mine, a strange stillness came over him. An alertness. Our eyes met, and whatever Nate saw in mine had him rolling off me as if I was on fire.

  Quickly he took off the used condom and threw it in the trash can. He immediately started pulling his jeans back on.

  Something was very wrong.

  ‘You’re not staying?’

  He didn’t answer, and that line of tension was back in his shoulders. I waited as he put his shirt on. Not meeting my eyes at first, he dragged a hand down his face, and then finally looked at me.

  My heart pounded as I sat up. I swallowed a wave of nausea.

  ‘I’m ending this, Liv. I can’t do it anymore. ’

  I felt like my rib cage was closing in on my lungs. ‘You –’ I shook my head. ‘You make love to me and then … end it?’

  ‘That’s why. ’ He clenched his jaw tightly. ‘Make love to you? That was never what this was about. ’

  Anger tore through me as I got out of the bed, reaching for a nightshirt so I wouldn’t feel so vulnerable. I yanked it on over my head and then spun around, hands on my hips. ‘Why did you come here tonight? If you were going to end it?’

  ‘Because I wasn’t sure it needed to be ended … but after that …’ His voice trailed off as he gestured helplessly toward the bed.

  I stared at the bed, where he’d been so tender only moments before. ‘I was just following your lead. ’

  ‘Don’t,’ he snapped at me. ‘Don’t give me those wounded eyes and that hurt tone. We agreed that this was just sex. And you promised. ’ His eyes softened now, almost pleading. ‘You promised it wouldn’t ruin us. ’

  ‘You want me to hold to that promise? Nate, don’t lie to yourself! For the past six weeks we’ve been in a relationship, and I’m sick of pretending it isn’t. You’re here most nights and it’s not just sex. It’s friendship and affection and tenderness. ’ I didn’t want to cry, but I could feel the tears burning behind my eyes. ‘We make each other laugh and we get each other. What’s so wrong with that?’

  ‘I can’t believe you,’ Nate whispered hoarsely, sounding and looking betrayed.

  Ice slivered over my heated skin, making me shiver in a cold sweat.

  ‘I’ve told you over and over that I don’t want that and you sat there and murmured your understanding and gave me your fucking assurances and all the time you were manipulating me!’ He ended on a roar that made me flinch.

  He was shaking.

  I’d never seen him like this.

  When I didn’t say anything he turned to leave.

  That’s when I found my voice. ‘I wasn’t the one who asked you to sleep over after sex. You did that. I didn’t ask you to be here almost every night. You did that. I didn’t cuddle you on the couch. You did that. I didn’t ask you to come home and meet my parents. You did that. ’

>   Nate stopped, his jaw locked, glaring at my carpet.

  The realization that I was about to lose him forever hit me.

  I couldn’t breathe as invisible hands ripped me open.

  Blinded by tears, I told him softly on shallow breaths, ‘Looking back, I think you knew that there was more here. There were moments when I felt you pull away and I thought that was it – this, between us, was over. But then you’d come back. Why?’

  This time when his eyes met mine I knew I recognized fear in his.

  ‘Liv, don’t. ’

  ‘Don’t? Don’t, why?’

  ‘Because …’ He bit the word out, his tone ugly. ‘If you say any more I’ll be forced to say things I don’t want to. ’

  I curled my lip in disdain. ‘Just say them. Come on. Just say it! I’m a big girl. ’

  ‘Don’t make this ugly. ’

  ‘You’ve already made this ugly with your goddamn mixed signals, so just say it!’

  ‘Fine. I don’t love you. I can’t and I won’t and you knew that, so don’t stand there like some victim. ’

  I laughed harshly through the agony of his words, hating him so much in that moment. ‘Last week I thought you might just be the best person I ever met in my life. Last week I loved you like I’ve never loved anyone. ’ It was a bitter relief to finally admit it to the both of us. ‘You taught me to be brave again, Nate. ’ I swiped at the tears, my heart catching painfully as his eyes seared into mine. ‘How can such a coward teach someone to be brave?’

  He flinched.

  Good.

  ‘You know what else you taught me?’

  He didn’t answer.

  ‘You taught me to believe in myself all the way through. You taught me that I’m worth more than what I see in the mirror. So today, as you try to teach me the opposite lesson, I say fuck you. ’ I smiled humorlessly, licking the salty tears off my lips. ‘I deserve to be loved. All or nothing. ’

  As if he realized where I was going with this, a flicker of unease entered Nate’s expression. He took a step toward me. ‘Liv, I never made you any promises, you know that. ’

  ‘Stop playing dumb. You’ve been in this with me for the last six weeks! This wasn’t just a casual fuck, Nate. It’s me!’

  ‘You promised …’

  Exhausted, I stumbled back from him. ‘You’re right, I did. I didn’t expect you to blur the lines, though. We blurred the lines. At least I can admit it. But if you admit it, you have to admit what a selfish bastard you’ve been, and I don’t think you’re going to do that. ’

  ‘You’re wrong,’ he growled. ‘I admit it. I thought we could be best friends and have sex. It didn’t work. And I kept coming back and making it worse because I didn’t want to lose your friendship. I’m sorry. But you know me. You know I don’t do relationships. You know that. Don’t hold it against me. Just be … my bloody friend. ’

  I looked at him incredulously. ‘I just told you that I’ve fallen in love with you. ’

  I started to cry harder as he flinched again.

  ‘You expect me to be able to be around you now?’

  ‘Liv, don’t do this. ’

  ‘I have to. I’m sorry. For the sake of my sanity I have to. You walk out that door, Nate … if you walk out that door … don’t ever come back. ’

  The muscle in his jaw ticked. ‘You don’t mean that. ’

  ‘Oh, come on,’ I replied sadly. ‘You just told me you don’t love me and you never will. I doubt you’ll even miss me. ’

  There was so much pain in his voice when he whispered his plea. ‘Olivia, don’t. ’

  That obvious pain stopped me in my tracks. The hope being that beneath all the confusion and anger and uncertainty, Nate really cared … and he was just frightened. So I gave him one last shot to be brave.

 
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