Before jamaica lane, p.4
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.4
 

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
Page 4

  ‘Hi there. ’

  My eyes widened a little as Benjamin approached the desk, shuffling his backpack up, his biceps flexing nicely under his blue shirt as he did so.

  He smiled at me, that adorable lopsided grin. ‘It looks like I’ve got a fine to pay. ’ He passed resource material over to me and I took it while I stared into his eyes.

  You can do this.

  To function I was going to have to look away. It was like staring into the sun for too long.

  Fingers trembling, I scanned the material and then flinched at the fine that appeared on the screen.

  ‘Ouch. That bad, eh?’

  Did I mention he had this divine Scottish accent that made me want to lick him?

  I took a deep breath, shoving that thought aside. ‘It’s overdue by three days, so that’s eighty-four pounds. ’

  He winced. ‘Won’t be doing that again. What kind of rate are you guys charging?’

  It’s not my fault! It’s the library gods! ‘Two pence a minute,’ I replied quietly.

  ‘Ah, okay. ’ He smiled reassuringly at me as he handed me his bank card. ‘My own fault for ignoring the reserve section rules. ’

  It took less than a minute to pay his fine, but that forty seconds was forty seconds during which I could have asked him anything. Instead I worked mutely and couldn’t even meet his eyes when I handed him back his receipt and card.

  ‘Well, thanks. ’

  My eyes were trained on his chin as I shrugged. Shrugged? What the …

  ‘ ’Bye. ’

  My own chin lifted slightly in acknowledgment.

  And then he was gone.

  So much for that whole conversation thing.

  Turning around with a deep groan, I slowly bumped my head off the wall, back and forth, back and forth.

  ‘Uh, Liv, you okay?’ Angus’s voice spoke behind me.

  My cheeks flushed at having been caught, and I jerked around to face my boss. ‘Just checking building stability. It’s all good. ’

  Angus raised an eyebrow at me. ‘How about your mental stability?’

  ‘That’s definitely next on the agenda. ’

  3

  Every week my dad, Jo, Cam, Cole, and I tried to meet up for a dinner together, and that night we were at my favorite Italian restaurant, D’Alessandro’s, on India Street, right around the corner from my flat. Cam and Dad often fought over the bill, but Dad had height and age over Cam, so he usually won.

  I loved these dinners. Not just because I loved the food at D’Alessandro’s, but because Jo, Cam, and Cole had really become family for me and Dad, and us for them. Especially Cole. From everything I’d learned about his life before Cam, Cole really had only Jo. Now he had this makeshift family. A family he deserved. Jo had said Cole’s instant camaraderie with me was a rare thing indeed, a camaraderie we all knew had turned into a bit of a crush. Cole was too cool to ever make the crush awkward, and I always pretended to be completely unaware of it. To the outside observer Cole could have passed for eighteen. He’d grown another few inches these past nine months, taking him to six feet at fifteen years old. His broad shoulders had filled out from training with Cam and Nate at judo, and his upbringing had given him this air of maturity that most kids his age didn’t have. However, to me, and I knew to Jo, because we’d talked about it, he was just this little kid we adored. That could drive him crazy sometimes, since most people treated him like the young adult he appeared to be.

  ‘Have you read any new books I might like?’ the object of my musings asked as I took a sip of wine.

  ‘Yes, I have actually. Angus recommended this sci-fi novel about this dystopian underground society. You’ll love it. ’

  ‘Cool. Can I get it in e-book?’

  ‘Yup. I’ll send you the link. ’

  ‘Okay, cheers. By the way I finished War of the Worlds. ’

  I raised an eyebrow. ‘Elaborate? What did you think?’

  He shrugged. ‘I thought it was quite realistic for what it was and when it was written. It was pretty bleak. I liked it. ’

  Catching my eye across the table, Cam smiled at Cole’s review. ‘Keep coming with the bleak. ’

  I put two fingers to my forehead and saluted him. ‘Gotcha. ’

  Cole rolled his eyes at us. ‘It’s not an emo thing or anything. Books with unhappy or grim endings just … make you … I don’t know. Feel more, or something …’

  He seemed embarrassed to have admitted that he had feelings (the horror!), and I felt the need to reassure him. ‘I understand. Unhappy and bittersweet endings have a tendency to stay with you, affect you long after you’ve finished the story. ’

  ‘Ellie might argue with you on that,’ Jo murmured, exchanging a cheeky grin with Dad.

  ‘No might about it,’ I cracked. ‘Still, I’d have to stand my ground on it. Although I love a good romance with a happy ending, I have to admit that unhappy endings have more of an impact on me. ’

  I felt my dad’s stare and turned to find him frowning at me.

  ‘Put that away. ’ I scowled, gesturing to the furrow between his brows. ‘I am perfectly okay. ’

  ‘You prefer unhappy endings to happy endings,’ he argued.

  ‘In literature. Not life. Lit-er-a-ture. ’

  Dad leaned across the table to me. ‘You’d tell me if there was something the matter. ’

  ‘Oh, my God. ’ I shot a pleading look Jo’s way.

  ‘Of course she’s okay,’ Jo said, rescuing me. ‘She’s successful, she’s gorgeous, she has her own flat, lots of friends, and an overbearing dad who loves her. Now leave her alone. ’

  Dad was glowering as Jo teased him. After a few seconds he appeared to process her words and his shoulders relaxed. He turned to me. ‘I worry about you in that flat all by yourself, that’s all. ’

  ‘I’m rarely in it alone. Nate relocated his office there. ’

  For some reason this made my dad scowl. That was immediately followed by Jo choking on laughter. I turned a swift glare on her and she choked harder.

  Honestly, I didn’t know what it would take to make her realize that Nate and I were completely platonic. When we’d first met, we’d hit it off. Sometimes you meet people who you’re just comfortable with, and Nate was one of those people. We both felt free to be who we were around each other, and we’d bonded over two things. One was our sense of humor. We were both a little nutty. Second was our inner geek. We both embraced our inner geek.

  Nate was a freelance photojournalist, but he made a nice second income as a film and video game reviewer for an international film and entertainment magazine. Whereas a lot of people would look at him and think movie star, in actuality he was closer to my species – geek. He’d started a blog when he was nineteen, reviewing movies, books, and video games. This blog grew so big over the years that by the time he turned twenty-five he had thousands of followers. This and his intelligent, funny, personality-infused reviews caught the eye of the magazine and they offered him a job. Luckily for me he’d taken to bringing the movies over to my flat to watch, and he could be pretty hilarious. I was known to have my moments too. Some of my commentary had even made its way into his reviews.

  ‘So, Olivia, any funny library stories this week?’ Cam asked, changing the subject for me.

  I smiled gratefully. ‘I had to kick another couple of lovebirds out of the accessible rooms. ’

  ‘Jesus, they really …’

  But I didn’t hear the rest of what Cam had to say because the door to D’Alessandro’s opened and the world faded around me as he walked in.

  Benjamin Livingston.

  My breath caught as he walked to the host’s podium with an older couple beside him. His parents maybe?

  I didn’t know. Frankly, I didn’t care. All I cared about was that he was there and he might see me. If he saw me, he might recognize me and try to talk to me. Then again he might see me and not rec
ognize me. I didn’t know which was worse. All I did know was that I did not want my family and friends to witness the horrifying meltdown of Olivia Holloway Bumping into Handsome Man.

  ‘Liv, are you really okay?’ Jo asked, pulling my gaze from Benjamin to her. Her beautiful green eyes were wide with concern. ‘You look … buzzed. ’

  ‘I’m sorry, Cam. ’ I apologized quickly for blanking on him, my gaze flicking back over to Benjamin.

  Shit! The hostess was taking him past our table.

  ‘I must have –’ I deliberately swiped my elbow across the table, knocking my dessert spoon onto the floor. ‘Oops. Excuse me. ’ I pushed my chair back and dropped heavily to the floor, ducking my head under the tablecloth. Heart pounding in my chest, I stayed there, watching familiar walking boots stride past the table.

  He was out of range. Or, more precisely, I was.

  The tablecloth lifted and my dad’s rugged face appeared in front of me. ‘Have you been smoking the wacky-backy?’

  I pressed my lips tight to stop myself from bursting out laughing. Shaking my head, I reached out a trembling hand for my dessert spoon. I was going to need a replacement, since there was no way I wasn’t having dessert. The tiramisu at D’Alessandro’s was to die for. Of course I might die of embarrassment before I got the chance to charge to my death for dessert. ‘Just retrieving fallen cutlery. ’

  ‘You’re acting stranger than usual. ’

  I huffed and the movement caused me to bump my head against the table. ‘Can we not have this conversation under here?’

  His head disappeared and I quickly scrambled out after him, craning my neck to look for Benjamin. There was no sign of him as I pulled myself back onto my seat, and I slumped with relief as I realized the hostess had taken them into the other dining room.

  I settled quite happily now that he was gone, smiling as I raised my spoon to a passing waitress. ‘Can I have a clean spoon, please?’

  When she nodded, I grinned and turned back to my companions.

  They were all staring at me. I flinched at their appraisal. ‘What?’

  ‘Mick’s right. ’ Cam raised a speculative eyebrow. ‘You’re weirder than usual. ’

  I looked at Cole for help, but he just shrugged, and I took that to mean he agreed with them. Not wanting anyone ever to find out about my hopeless crush on Library Guy, I searched for an explanation. Finally I chose the creatively lacking ‘I had three Red Bulls today. ’

  Creatively lacking it might have been, but it worked, and soon conversation was diverted from me and my absurdness.

  To my chagrin, before dessert arrived disaster struck.

  I needed to pee and I needed to pee badly.

  Unfortunately, the toilets were down the corridor and opposite the other dining room, putting me in the possible path of Benjamin.

  When my bladder couldn’t take it anymore, however, I had to throw off my concerns and bolt for relief.

  By the time I reached the restroom I wondered what I’d been freaking out about. I was moving so fast to get to the toilet in time that I was a blur. Benjamin would never recognize my bursting-bladder-induced blur. Hmm, say that five times fast.

  Despite my growing calm, I had every intention of becoming a blur on my trip back to my table. Regrettably, I didn’t factor in a collision with a wall as I came out of the restroom.

  I stumbled back, blinking fast, as my eyes took in the dark blue wall. My brain very quickly processed that it wasn’t in fact a wall … but a chest. A man’s wide chest.

  My heart began to thud in my own chest as my eyes drifted upward, my heartbeat escalating, sweat prickling my palms as the familiar and masculine beauty of Benjamin Livingston dwarfed my world.

  I was pretty sure my mouth was hanging open unattractively as he grinned, his eyes alight with recognition.

  Oh, balls.

  ‘You work at the university library, right?’

 
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