Before jamaica lane, p.5
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.5
 

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
Page 5

  Swallowing, I rehearsed my answer in my head. Then I managed a nod. ‘Assistant desk help. ’ No, that wasn’t right. ‘I mean help desk assistant. ’

  So much for rehearsal.

  His smile widened and he stepped a little closer, shutting off the oxygen supply to my already gasping brain. ‘Well, you’re always very helpful. ’

  And then somehow Maggie Smith possessed me. ‘It’s what I do,’ I answered solemnly with a Scottish accent.

  A freakin’ Scottish accent.

  Thankfully a pretty good one.

  But that wasn’t the point.

  My cheeks burned with embarrassment as Benjamin chuckled softly. ‘Right. ’

  I had to get out of there. I had to get out of there now! ‘Well, my table is waiting for me at the family. ’

  Giving him a tight smile and ignoring his lip-twitching amusement, I shot past him, down the corridor, and into the other dining room. Plates and glasses tinkled as I collapsed gracelessly in my chair and announced loudly, ‘I think we should take dessert to go and hang out at my place. Like right now. ’ I nodded encouragingly. ‘Yes?’

  4

  I was frustrated.

  It was a few days later and I still hadn’t quite recovered from my mortification. The object of my crush had made an appearance at the library, and as soon as I saw his blond head bobbing through the main reception area, I scurried into the admin office and persuaded my colleague Rachel that, yes, I would, in fact, prefer updating the Web site html and answering e-mail complaints instead of hanging out at the fun help desk.

  Suffice it to say I was not in a great mood when I finished work that day, but as I turned the corner onto Jamaica Lane and saw a familiar figure leaning against the door to my building, my step lightened along with my mood.

  Nate grinned, his dimples appearing as he lifted a white plastic carrier bag. ‘Chinese food and an alien invasion flick with some pretty-boy actor who will probably make me want to stick a pen in my eye. ’

  I smiled at him in confusion, the smell of the takeout causing the greedy little growlers in my stomach to wake up. ‘Didn’t you have a date tonight?’ I asked as I shoved my key in the lock and led us into the dark, dank stairwell.

  ‘She phoned me this afternoon to ask if I’d be okay with us going to her sister’s engagement party instead of dinner. Apparently the party was “impromptu. ” ’ His unimpressed expression told me he didn’t believe it for a second. So did the air quotes.

  ‘A family event on the first date?’ I gasped in mock horror. ‘How dare she?’

  ‘You’re funny. ’

  ‘I know. ’ I flashed him a quick grin and let us into my tiny one-bedroom flat. Tiny though it was, I loved it.

  The kitchen and living room were one room. The kitchen was shaped like an L and took up most of the room, leaving space for a couch, an armchair, and a television. Fortunately, the bedroom was a good size and I could fit in a couple of bookshelves, but most of my books were scattered around the apartment. Also, I didn’t have a bathroom. I had a toilet/shower room.

  It worked for me.

  It was cozy.

  Shrugging out of my coat, I watched as Nate sauntered into the kitchen and began getting plates out and arranging our dinner for us. ‘Got you orange chicken, babe. That okay?’

  He called me ‘babe’ in that rumbly, rich voice of his all the time. I tried not to shiver each time. I failed. A lot.

  ‘My favorite,’ I called to him as I headed into my bedroom to dump my coat and kick off my shoes. ‘There’s beer in the fridge if you want one. ’

  ‘Got it. Do you want one or will I pour you a glass of wine?’

  ‘Wine, please. ’

  ‘I picked you up a tub of Rocky Road too for later. I’ll just stick it in the freezer. ’

  Seriously, I could marry this guy. Strolling back out into the main room, I smiled gratefully at him. ‘I’m promoting you to best friend. ’

  He frowned as he poured me a glass of Rosé. ‘I thought I got that promotion ages ago. ’

  ‘You were promoted to best friend with equal friend status to Ellie and Joss. You’ve just graduated to Jo’s level. ’

  ‘Which is higher?’

  ‘Yes. ’

  Nate seemed to consider this. ‘Are there perks to this promotion?’

  I answered gravely. ‘Yes. You get to bring me Chinese food and Rocky Road ice cream all the time. ’

  He looked at me blankly.

  ‘Don’t worry. You can handle it. You’re doing so well already. ’ I rubbed his shoulder affectionately as I rounded the kitchen counter. ‘Do you want a coffee first?’

  ‘I’ll get it. ’

  ‘No, no, go sit down, set up the movie. I’ll bring it over. ’

  Nate arranged my plate on the coffee table next to him and went about putting the movie on. He’d just relaxed back on the couch with plate in hand when I came out of the kitchen with his coffee.

  ‘Would you rather die after being experimented upon by aliens, or be eaten by cannibals?’ Nate asked casually, lifting a forkful of beef and rice to his mouth, his eyes never leaving the television screen.

  I pondered his question as I placed his mug on the table and then curled up on the corner of the couch with my own plate. ‘Have I been given anesthesia?’

  ‘Does it matter?’

  ‘Well, yeah. If I’ve been given anesthesia then it doesn’t matter which one I choose because I won’t be aware it’s happening to me. ’

  Nate shook his head. ‘Not true. It does matter. If aliens experiment upon you they might find something from their research that they could use to destroy the entire human race. Or infiltrate us like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Cannibals, on the other hand … well, I’m guessing all they want is … to just eat you. ’

  I couldn’t fault his logic. I waved my fork at him in a gesture of agreement. ‘Good point. ’

  ‘So? Aliens or cannibals?’

  ‘Aliens. ’

  ‘Me too. Fuck the human race – cannibals are creepy bastards. ’

  I burst out laughing, almost choking on rice as I inhaled sharply with amusement.

  Nate chuckled at me, his dark eyes bright with affection. ‘You’ve got a great laugh, you know that?’

  I had a very unladylike cackle of a laugh, but if he thought it was great I wasn’t going to argue. I shrugged somewhat shyly, as I always did when he threw out a random compliment, and then gestured to his bag to change the subject. ‘Aren’t you going to get your pen and paper out?’

  Nodding at his phone on the coffee table, Nate answered, ‘Voice recording. ’

  He was recording our conversation? ‘I better shake out my sharpest wit, then. ’

  ‘Just the usual commentary will do fine. ’

  Ignoring the slight insinuation that I wasn’t witty, I took another bite of chicken and moaned around it. ‘God, this is good. ’

  ‘Yeah?’

  ‘So good. ’

  ‘You like that, baby?’

  ‘Oh, yeah. ’

  ‘How good is it?’

  ‘I think this is the best I’ve ever had, actually. ’

  ‘That good?’

  ‘My God, yes. ’ The chicken was so tender and the orange sauce was just that perfect balance of sweet and tangy. ‘Mmm. ’

  ‘That’s right. Take it, baby. ’

  I’d closed my eyes to savor my dinner, but now they popped open to find Nate shaking with silent laughter. My eyes darted to his phone and I mentally replayed what we’d just said and how it would sound on the recording.

  Grimacing, I held my plate in one hand and launched a sofa cushion at him. ‘Very funny. ’

  Nate laughed out loud now, batting the cushion away while holding his plate well out of range. ‘You make it too easy. ’

  ‘You’re a bastard. ’ I shoved his hip with my foot. ‘You better delete it. ’

&
nbsp; He looked back at the screen, still smiling. ‘No way. That one’s a keeper. ’

  It turned out Nate was right. The pretty-boy actor really did make you want to stick a pen in your eye. ‘That sucked,’ I opined as he took the DVD out of the player. ‘But I guess not every movie can be The Wizard of Oz. ’ My favorite movie. ‘Or The Godfather. ’ Nate’s favorite movie.

  His lip curled up at the corners. ‘Is that your expert opinion? Remember, you’re on tape. ’

  ‘That is my expert opinion. ’ I yawned and tipped my head back against the couch. ‘I came up with some choice phrases throughout that movie. You hereby have my permission to steal them. ’

  ‘Well, when discussing the acting skills of the kid playing the hero’s dying brother I think I’ll definitely be using, “Dying is supposed to be sad. I feel as sad as a high school virgin in a Japanese love hotel with a prostitute and a wad of cash. ” ’

  Nate had almost choked on a prawn cracker when I said that. I wrinkled my nose as he quoted me. ‘I really need to work on my editing. “Virgin with a prostitute” would have sufficed. ’

  ‘And yet not been nearly so funny. Your waffling is what makes you funny. ’

  ‘I do not waffle. ’

  ‘You waffle, babe. ’

  Deciding to let it go, I smiled wearily at him. ‘Are you really going to write that in your review?’

  ‘What? That you waffle?’

  I rewarded his deliberate obtuseness with a blank expression and he shook his head, his gorgeous soft, dark locks shifting with the movement. His hair was longer than usual, but it looked good. Really good. Great, even. ‘A lot of teens read the magazine. ’

  As he pulled his jacket on, I eased myself up off the couch and handed his cell to him. ‘Did you get everything you need for it?’

  ‘Enough to annihilate it with words. ’ He leaned over and pressed a kiss to my cheek, the warm, spicy scent of his cologne comforting. ‘ ’Night, Liv. ’

  I smiled and stepped back to let him pass, then followed him to the door. ‘Thanks for dinner and my Rocky Road. ’

  Nate grinned back at me. ‘Thanks for the quotes. ’

  The door was almost closing behind him when I suddenly grabbed the handle. ‘Nate. ’

  Turning on the second step of my stairwell, he raised two questioning eyebrows at me.

  Looking at his hair, I shrugged and leaned against the door. ‘Don’t cut your hair, okay?’

  His smile was slow, cheeky, and incredibly cute, and I totally pretended not to feel it in my long-neglected woman parts. ‘Like what you see, do you?’

  Laughing, I leaned back, readying to close the door. ‘Just helping a bud out. I know you like to look your best for the ladies. ’

  I’d almost closed the door when he said, ‘Liv. ’

  I peeked back out at him.

  His eyes were bright with mischief. ‘Don’t stop leaving your red, wet underwear around the flat when you have a man around. We like that. Just helping a bud out, you know. ’

  What?

  My eyes bugged out in horror as I turned to look around my apartment. Red caught my eye and mortification sank in. My lacy bra and panties were draped over the radiator, drying.

  How did I not notice this?

  ‘Kill me, kill me now,’ I moaned, my cheeks blazing with embarrassment as I winced at the sound of Nate’s laughter echoing down the stairwell.

  After I’d locked my front door I started to clean up, sporadically shooting lethal glares at the drying underwear, as if somehow it was the underwear’s fault I was stewing over the fact that Nate now knew I had a taste for sexy lingerie.

  Finally I rolled my eyes and told myself to buy a sense of humor.

  As I undressed in my room, pulling my gray jersey pajamas out of the dresser, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was wearing my favorite emerald green satin lingerie set today. In the bottom of my dresser and in a wicker box in my closet, there was plenty more where it came from. I liked nice underwear, but I didn’t like looking at myself in it. I just liked the feel of it.

 
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