Before jamaica lane, p.42
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.42

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
 
Page 42

  Although I don’t think he intended it as a barb, it hurt like one and I couldn’t hide the tears that sprang to my eyes. Choking on the crushing sensation around my throat, I turned away, heading for the door.

  I heard the sound of his quick movement behind me as I pulled the door open and suddenly his heat was flush against my back, and his hand was above my head, forcing the door shut again. I froze as Nate pressed against me, his hard body so achingly familiar.

  ‘I know you think I’ve given up, babe,’ he whispered against my ear, and I closed my eyes against the feel of him. ‘But I haven’t. I’m just giving you time to find her again. ’

  It came to me on swift feet – the knowledge that I would never move on as long as Nate held out hope of a reconciliation. I needed this to be final and yet I wanted just one more taste, so I spun around in his arms, cupped his nape in my hand, and pulled him down to my mouth. I’d forgotten what the taste of him could do to me – I was lost for a moment, drowning in sensation. Nate instantly wrapped his arms around me, hauling me tight against him as he kissed me back, desperate, a little rough, the wet, hot, deepness of our kiss like a euphoric drug taking effect.

  I suddenly found myself pushed against the door, Nate’s hands roaming my body like he didn’t know where he wanted to touch me first. When he took hold of the back of my thigh and lifted my leg around him so he could press his erection against me, the heat roared through me. I growled into his mouth and his grip grew bruising.

  It was a good thing too, because that slight nip of pain wheedled its way into my consciousness and I somehow found the strength to pull away from him.

  Pressing hard against his chest, I forced him back and he released his hold on me.

  Tenderly, I caressed his neck, sweeping my hand around and across his jaw, before brushing my thumb over his lower lip. Once my breathing began to even out, I lifted my eyes from his mouth to meet his burning gaze. The tears were back and he became a blur as I whispered, ‘Stop waiting, Nate. I forgive you, okay. I get it, and I’m not angry at you. Not really. Because it’s not your fault. I’m just kind of mad at the situation and I’ve been taking it out on you. ’

  Nate’s brow creased with confusion. ‘Liv, I don’t …’ He shook his head, squeezing my waist in question.

  So I explained.

  ‘I want a love like what my dad had with my mom. I want what Joss and Braden have. Jo and Cam. Ellie and Adam. ’ The tears flowed freely before I could stop them. ‘You already had that with Alana. ’

  As if I’d shot him, Nate jerked back from me.

  ‘This may sound selfish and childish, but it’s how I feel. I want to be the love of someone’s life. I can’t be second best. And I definitely can’t be second best for you. ’ I reached behind me, turning the door handle. ‘I’m sorry, Nate. I really am. But I can’t spend the rest of my life loving a man who can’t love me back in the same way. ’ I opened the door, trying to block out the pain in his eyes. ‘So stop. For the both of us. Please. ’

  I didn’t give him a chance to speak because I was a coward and I didn’t want to hear the transference of pain in his eyes to his voice. So I left – hurrying down the stairs and out of the house before anyone could stop my retreat.

  Later that night I let my dad into my apartment, shooting daggers at him the whole time. His eyes washed over my face, taking in my swollen eyes and puffy nose, and I saw a flicker of guilt pass over them.

  ‘I thought I was doing a good thing,’ he said quietly and immediately engulfed me in a mammoth hug.

  I clung on for dear life. My dad did good hugs. ‘I know,’ I said, sniffling against his wide chest.

  He squeezed me tight and kissed the top of my head. ‘Nate didn’t look so good when he came back downstairs. ’

  Tensing, I squeezed him back. ‘Dad, don’t. ’

  ‘I just want to make sure you’re not throwing away something good out of stubbornness. ’

  ‘You sound just like him. ’

  ‘Maybe he has a point. ’

  Pulling back, I looked up into Dad’s face with a calm I wasn’t sure I felt. ‘He can’t love me the way I want him to. It would be disastrous for the both of us. ’

  Dad’s expression softened. ‘Baby girl, you’re not even giving him a chance to prove you wrong. ’

  ‘You don’t know how he talks about Alana. You don’t know,’ I whispered fiercely.

  At that, Dad said no more. He gave me one last squeeze and then proceeded to potter about my kitchen, throwing together hot cocoa and a late-night snack.

  He stayed until I fell asleep, and the next morning I woke up tucked safe and tight in my bed.

  My pillow was damp with tears.

  27

  Determined to convince everyone I was okay, I spent the next ten days going through the motions. I got up, I got dressed, I went to work, I smiled when I was supposed to, laughed when it was required, was serious when seriousness was appropriate, and hoped to God that my pretense was working. The truth was I felt as lost as ever without Nate, and I was scared and angry with myself. I was terrified that I was never going to find my way back to who I used to be. I felt like I’d lost a limb and hadn’t quite come to terms with it and how different my life would be from now on.

  So in pretending otherwise, I felt less of a whiny coward.

  Maybe things would have been easier if Nate had given up like I’d asked him to.

  But he insisted on calling.

  I ignored him, and along with him I ignored Jo. Kind of. I talked on the phone with her, as I did with all my friends and family, but after they’d set me up (and I knew that they’d all been involved in getting me and Nate alone that day) I didn’t trust them not to try it again. So I was avoiding spending any actual time with them.

  Four days after the party I’d turned the corner onto Jamaica Lane and spied Nate sitting on my stoop, his head bent as he stared at the ground. I’d fled before he saw me, going to my dad’s, the one person I trusted not to try to set me up again.

  Under the pretense of indifference I felt my anger begin to build again. Why couldn’t Nate just leave well enough alone? He’d heard what I had to say and he couldn’t argue with it.

  Thankfully, by the seventh day of avoidance Nate seemed to get the picture and the calls stopped. All was quiet for a few days, while I attempted to get my head together. I buried myself in work, doing overtime since the library was chock-full of students preparing for their exams. Ben came into the reserve section and we talked amiably, but I didn’t let on that I hadn’t chosen Nate. I didn’t let on because not choosing Nate didn’t mean I was choosing Ben.

  I was choosing me.

  And me needed some peace and quiet, away from any potential added heartbreak.

  As I stood at the quiet help desk, sorting mail while I wasn’t busy, my brain was determinedly ignoring any Nate-like thoughts. I had a whole life outside of Nate. Concentrating on that should be a cakewalk.

  Or so you’d think.

  ‘Olivia’ – Angus hurried toward me, a stack of files in his hand – ‘can you do me a favor?’

  ‘Anything,’ I said a little desperately, eager for distraction.

  He gave me a concerned look but didn’t comment. ‘There’s a … situation in one of the accessible rooms. Room five. Can you handle it, please? I’m snowed under. ’ He raised the files in explanation.

  I wrinkled my nose. ‘Another situation. ’ I shook my head, rounding the help desk. ‘Why can’t they just keep it in their pants?’

  Angus grunted and shuffled past me.

  Bracing myself, I threw back my shoulders and hurried up the stairs, brushing past the busy throng until I got to the first floor. You would think during exam period these kids would have more pressing things on their minds, but oh no, sex was never off the table.

  Literally, in this case.

  Sucking in my breath, I threw open room f
ive and charged in.

  I hit an invisible wall, my body tensing at the sight of Nate leaning against the table, his arms crossed over his chest, his ankles crossed casually.

  The door slammed shut behind me, jerking me out of my stupor.

  ‘What are you doing here?’ I demanded, my hands clenching into fists at my sides.

  ‘Angus helped me out. ’

  That traitor! ‘Oh, he is so off the Christmas list,’ I fumed.

  Nate’s lips twitched. ‘Don’t do anything drastic. I was quite persuasive. The poor guy couldn’t help himself. ’

  ‘Oh, I’m sure. ’ Angus had probably melted under Nate’s warm, chocolaty gaze. ‘Now if you don’t mind, you need to leave. ’ I gestured to the door, trying not to visibly shake. I felt like I hadn’t seen him in a hundred years and I did not like the warm fuzzies I was getting in my stomach from just being in his presence.

  ‘I can’t. I need to explain something first. ’ He stood up and to my utter shock he began to pull his T-shirt up and off.

  ‘What are you doing?’ I snapped, reaching forward to stop him, until my eyes caught sight of his tattoo.

  My heart began to thud. Loudly.

  His eyes never leaving me, Nate dumped his T-shirt on the desk. ‘I made the change to the tattoo a few weeks ago. What you said during our breakup … it got inside me, Liv. I’ve had a lot of time to think, to process. To move on. And this’ – he gestured to the tat – ‘I wanted to talk to you about it, what it means, since the day I got it. ’

  The stylized ‘A’ on his chest had been expanded to the word ‘After. ’

  A lump the size of Mexico formed in my throat.

  Nate took a step toward me, his gaze intense, raw, and his words were low and rough with emotion as he said, ‘Before you, there was Alana. I can’t change that, Liv, and I don’t want to. She was my first love. It was a simpler kind of love. It was the love of two children. ’ He searched my face, apparently trying to gauge my reaction to this, but I was stupefied. Nate continued quietly, ‘I always thought that I kept a distance from women because I knew I’d never be able to love someone the way I loved her. I was wrong. I kept my distance because I was afraid of finding the kind of love my parents have, and I was afraid of what it would do to me if I lost that kind of love. ’ He took another step toward me and with each step he stole another breath from me. ‘I never meant to fall in love with you. But I did. I felt it the first night I made love to you. I tried to walk away then because I’ve never felt so lost and yet so fucking found as I felt that night looking into your eyes as I moved inside you. I thought I should walk away … but I couldn’t stay away from you. ’ He smiled. ‘Totally fucking addicted at the first taste of you. I’m so sorry I put you through hell. I’m sorry I was selfish. I’m sorry I ever made you doubt what you knew was between us from the start. Because it has been there since we met, Liv. The sex lessons just pushed it to the fore. Since we met, I’ve enjoyed being around you more than anyone else. I laugh harder with you. I feel more myself with you. I trust you with me – the real me. When something goes wrong, or right, or I hear a funny joke, or I see something bizarre, you’re the first person I want to talk to about it. Fuel all that with the best fucking sex I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s no wonder I’m a goner. ’ His voice deepened again as he took one last step toward me. ‘I want you all the time, Olivia. The past few weeks have been torture without you. And despite what you might still think, I promise there has been no one else. How could there ever be?’

  I didn’t even realize I was crying until he cupped my face to catch my tears on his thumb.

  ‘Alana was my first love and I’ll never forget her. She’s a part of me and always will be. But I know it’s time to move forward, it’s time to start living in the after. You’re that for me, Liv. You’re the love of my life. ’

 
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