Before jamaica lane, p.36
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.36

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
Page 36

  I couldn’t go on a date.

  I just couldn’t.

  ‘Yes,’ I answered, nodding and smiling as he pulled out his phone so I could recite my number to him.

  A smaller version of myself slapped me upside the head. What is the matter with you? she yelled, but I ignored her, gazing up into Ben’s face and praying that in time the butterflies I used to feel for him would come back.


  Musical therapy did not work.

  Like I didn’t know that was coming.

  I blamed it all on my apartment.

  After work on Monday I opened the door to my place and just stood there, gazing around the room. Every part of it reminded me of him. The couch where we’d hung out for hours over the last year. We’d had really great sex – God, no, out-of-body-experience sex on it too. More than once. More than a handful of times actually. Then there was the kitchen, where we’d eaten dinner and chatted. And yes … we’d christened the counter. The wall by the door. The wall by the window. The shower. My bedroom.

  It was all him. Everywhere.

  I ached. I ached so much that even my gums and teeth ached for want of him. I kicked my door shut and slumped against it. The only hope was that this feeling would pass. Eventually I had to start functioning like a normal human being again. Right?

  Either that or I needed to start looking for a new apartment. Yet the thought of leaving the place where all my memories of him were …

  I needed to see him.

  I pulled my phone out of my bag with trembling hands and held it up, my thumb brushing over the screen. I’d deliberately avoided doing this since the breakup.

  My breath left me as I opened the picture gallery on my cell and started flicking through it. The last picture I’d taken of Nate was him smiling as he drove the rental toward his parents’ house before things got weird that day. The next was of us both. Nate was giving the camera this sexy, low-lidded smirk as I held it over us while we were lying in bed. My head rested on his shoulder as I smiled happily. The next one was worse because we were kissing in it.

  It was like a knife in my gut.

  I quickly flicked past it.

  There was another shot of him with his head buried in the pillow, hiding from me. And then there were plenty of me, because if you put a camera in Nate’s vicinity he was sure to overuse it.

  Rage rushed through me.

  My cell went sailing across the room and smashed against the far wall. I slid down the door, drawing my knees to my chest as I cried away all my efforts to move on.

  ‘So are you going out with him?’ Ellie asked me casually as we congregated in Hannah’s bedroom.

  The week had passed as though it had been taken over by the spirit of a slug. A particularly slimy one that secreted mucus all over the goddamn place.

  It wasn’t a good week.

  After smashing my phone, I quickly found a replacement. I kept my old number with all my data … hoping what? That Nate might call? Ha. Nate still did not call.

  Ben did, though. He called on Tuesday night to tell me he had a hectic week ahead of him but he wanted to know if I was free for dinner next Monday. I said yes, because frankly I was hoping for some kind of miracle that would bring back my enthusiasm and zest for life. If a tall, handsome Scotsman couldn’t do that, then I was seriously fucked.

  Finally it was Sunday again and this time I’d mustered up the courage to face my friends – including the guys, who I now assumed knew everything that had happened between me and Nate – and join them for lunch. As had become routine the last few times, we disappeared into Hannah’s room while Elodie and Clark cooked and the guys talked.

  I’d just told them about Ben’s call.

  ‘Yes. I said yes. ’

  ‘I think that’s great,’ Joss said. ‘I think it’ll help. ’

  ‘Yeah, so enough about me. ’ I directed the conversation elsewhere by pinning a lounging Hannah to the bed with my eyes. ‘How’s Marco?’

  I don’t think I’m mistaken when I say I thought I heard her growl.

  I looked at Ellie for help. ‘I take that as a negative?’

  Ellie patted her sister’s leg. ‘He’s playing hard to get. ’

  ‘He’s not playing hard to get. He just doesn’t want to be gotten,’ Hannah muttered. ‘No, he wants to be gotten. He just doesn’t. ’

  ‘Did that make sense to anyone else?’ Jo scrunched up her nose in confusion.

  Hannah’s eyes swept us all. ‘There are moments when I think he wants more, but he pulls away anytime I make a move. At this rate I’ll be in my forties before I lose my virginity. ’

  Ellie snorted. ‘I doubt it. ’

  ‘I’m not losing it to anyone but him,’ Hannah answered rigidly, absolutely serious.

  Her sister took in her demeanor and her eyes narrowed. ‘You will wait until you’re at least eighteen. ’

  Hannah made a pfft sound. ‘Okay, I’m sure you waited that long. ’

  ‘I did, actually. ’

  Seeming surprised, Hannah asked, ‘Really?’

  ‘Yes, really. It was the night of my eighteenth birthday party. ’

  ‘With Liam?’

  ‘Who’s Liam?’ I asked curiously.

  ‘My boyfriend at the time. We had been dating for a few weeks. I thought he’d help me get over Adam. ’ She smiled ruefully. ‘I hadn’t planned to have sex with him that night, even though I knew he was pushing for it. No, I found Adam out the back of the hotel with one of the catering girls. I was so hurt I went back inside, grabbed Liam’s hand, left the party, and we got a room. I thought it would help. It didn’t. I mean, it was okay. ’ Ellie shrugged, her mouth turning down at the corners. ‘But it wasn’t what it should have been. It should have been with someone I loved. Someone I trusted. Liam ended up cheating on me with one of my so-called best friends. ’

  ‘Wow. ’ Hannah slumped. ‘That’s crap, Els. I’m sorry. ’

  ‘I was sixteen. ’ Jo suddenly piped up. She smirked, and it was not a happy smirk. ‘He was nineteen, a student, and he came from a wealthy family. It was the first time anyone had tried to take care of me – buying me nice presents, even paying my rent when I was struggling. I thought when I gave it up to him that I was giving it up to someone I was in love with. But things turned ugly when I continually prioritized Mum and Cole over him. He dumped me. ’ She shook her head, disdain curling her lip. ‘He knew he was going to dump me, but he slept with me that night. As soon as we were done, and I mean as soon as we were done, he got out of the bed and dumped me as he pulled his clothes on. ’

  I winced at the somewhat familiar situation.

  ‘Jo,’ Hannah breathed, ‘that’s awful. ’

  Jo smiled at her. ‘Don’t feel bad, Hannah. I ended up with Cameron and that more than makes up for John and all the idiots that came after him. ’

  Hannah’s teenage curiosity was still piqued, and so her gaze moved to Joss. ‘What about you, Joss?’

  Joss shook her head. ‘I was way too young, Hannah. ’ We all stared at her, our expressions asking for more than vagueness. She blew air out between her lips and confessed, ‘Okay, it was a few months after my parents died. ’

  Ellie’s mouth dropped open. ‘But you were only fourteen. ’

  I felt the same shock ripple through me. When I was fourteen I was sticking posters of pretty boys to my ceiling and envisioning us setting up home in a real-life Barbie dream house and having fabulous parties and sweet kisses. I had not been sexually awakened yet.

  Seeing the shadows in the back of Joss’s eyes, I realized that she was well aware of the innocence she had given up by having sex too young.

  ‘Was it with someone you liked at least?’ Hannah asked softly, clearly hoping for some kind of happiness to lighten Joss’s past.

  ‘No, Hannah. He went to school in the next town over. We met at a party. We got wasted. The rest is history.
And not one you should ever repeat. ’

  ‘Don’t worry, I won’t,’ Hannah promised.

  After a minute’s silence Ellie’s little sister’s eyes came to me.

  I’d been waiting on it. I heaved a massive sigh. ‘Well, at least I was nineteen when I made my mistake. Honestly, there is nothing romantic here. I was sick of being a virgin, so I got tipsy at a college party and lost my virginity in a room upstairs to a drunk senior. There was no finesse. Nothing. It hurt. And afterward he rolled off of me and left me there. ’

  Hannah now looked traumatized. ‘Not one of you has a good “losing my virginity” story?’

  We gazed back at her apologetically.

  ‘Well, that’s settled it. I’m not doing it with someone I don’t love. ’

  The four of us shared a look, and I smiled. ‘Well, at least something came out of it. ’

  Their laughter was cut off as a knock came at the door a millisecond before Braden popped his head in. ‘What’s going on in here, then?’

  ‘Clothes,’ Ellie answered quickly. ‘We’re talking clothes. ’

  We all agreed for the sake of Hannah. I’d heard the stories from Ellie. The last thing Hannah needed was for Braden and Adam to find out there was a boy she liked, because they’d end up making her life an utter hell with their overprotectiveness.

  Braden didn’t look convinced, but it seemed he was too preoccupied to care about what we were up to. He walked into the room, a small smile playing on his lips as he came up to Joss, who was sitting on the edge of Hannah’s dressing table. He bent and pressed a soft kiss to her mouth, his hand automatically drifting across her belly. ‘How are you?’ he murmured, staring deep into her eyes.

  My chest squeezed, but this time in a good way. It was the first time I’d gotten to see them together since the last awful moments in their apartment.

  I knew from talking to Joss that she was tentatively excited about the pregnancy and had managed to explain whatever was going on in her head to Braden until they came to an understanding. They were back on track, and it was great to see.

  ‘I’m good,’ she answered softly, a wry smile on her lips. ‘You don’t have to keep asking me that, baby. You know I’ll be vocal if any issues arise. ’

  He rubbed her stomach again.

  ‘You can stop doing that too. ’ She huffed in amusement. ‘There’s no bump yet. ’ She looked around him, eyeing us with humor in her expression. ‘He’s looking forward to the bump part. ’

  ‘Why?’ Ellie asked, bemused.

  The question caused Joss to color and Braden to chuckle in this deep, intimate way that suggested, whatever his reason, it was not something he wanted to share with a group that included his little sister.

  Ellie looked ill. ‘Okay, definitely don’t answer. ’

  Braden chuckled again and then turned to us, his arm sliding around Joss’s shoulder. ‘Did Jocelyn tell you her agent has found a publisher who’s interested in her book?’

  ‘No!’ Jo cried out excitedly. ‘That’s amazing!’

  Joss squirmed, uncomfortable because she was modest. ‘They read the first three chapters and came back and asked to read the rest of the book. It doesn’t mean anything. ’

  I had to disagree. ‘It means a lot. Pity you can’t drink, because this is a reason to get shit-faced. ’ I glanced over at Hannah. ‘Sorry, Hannah. ’

  ‘Sorry for saying “shit-faced” or sorry because I can’t get drunk with you?’

  Ellie snorted. ‘I’m so glad Mum isn’t in the room. ’

  An Italian woman sang a lively, frolicking tune through the speakers as the waiter poured red wine into the glasses on the table before me and Ben. We’d met at D’Alessandro’s since we both loved it so much and also because it offered us a familiarity that I imagined we both hoped would help with any first-date nerves.

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