Before jamaica lane, p.8
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       Before Jamaica Lane, p.8

         Part #3 of On Dublin Street series by Samantha Young
Page 8

  ‘You would say that. ’ Nate smiled at me. ‘You wouldn’t know normal if it bit you in the arse. ’

  ‘Oh, like you would?’

  ‘I didn’t say I wasn’t weird. I’m just better at hiding it than you are. ’

  ‘Why would I hide it?’ I asked the entire group, my expression deadpan. ‘I’m awesome. ’

  ‘No one would dispute that. ’ Nate’s eyes glittered with amusement.

  Joss chuckled. ‘If you’ll excuse us, we have more rounds to make. ’

  We waved Joss and Braden off, and settled into random conversation.

  ‘Hey, kiddos. ’ Dad approached, looking dapper in his dark gray suit. His arm was wrapped tightly around Dee’s curvy waist. She looked stunning in a flowing light blue maxi dress, her long blond hair falling in waves around her shoulders. ‘Dee and I are going up to dance. Care to join us?’

  ‘Perhaps in a bit,’ Jo answered, her eyes soft as she looked at the older couple. Her expression said she was happy my dad had found Dee, and as I took in how relaxed he was, I knew for sure I was too.

  ‘Have fun,’ I said, and grinned at them.

  Dee smiled down at me. ‘You look beautiful, Olivia. ’ Her eyes swept the table. ‘You all do. ’

  ‘Well, so do you,’ I replied, and immediately beamed happily under my dad’s approving smile.

  I watched them walk onto the dance floor, feeling something shift inside me.

  Not long after, Cole decided to reduce his boredom by seeking Hannah and Dec’s company, and Jo and Cam wandered off to find Ellie and Adam.

  ‘Want another drink?’ Nate gestured to my empty champagne glass.

  ‘Yes. Beer. ’

  ‘You got it. ’

  I watched him walk through the wedding reception crowd, so at ease with himself. He’d shrugged off his jacket, leaving him in his shirt and waistcoat. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up and he’d loosened his tie. I could see most women following him with their eyes, so it wasn’t a surprise when a gorgeous young woman in a light blue, short, fitted dress pressed into his side at the bar and introduced herself.

  I had to wait twenty minutes for my beer.

  If I’d had Nate’s confidence I wouldn’t have had to wait twenty minutes for a beer. I could have just strolled up to a nice-looking guy, started flirting, and he’d have bought me one. If I could believe in myself like I knew I should, I could get up off my butt and do just that.

  In fact, I was going to.

  I searched the room for nice-looking men and pretended I couldn’t find any.

  Slumping back against my seat, I mentally kicked myself in the shin, once again frustrated with myself.

  After Nate was done flirting his ass off, he came back to the table and shuffled his seat closer to mine as he handed me my beer.

  ‘She was hot,’ I observed.

  The left side of Nate’s mouth curled up, his dimple flashing me. ‘Sorry I took so long. ’

  ‘Did you get her number at least? Or just a promise to hook up at the end of the night?’

  His look said What do you think?

  We sat in companionable silence for a moment, looking around the room at all the guests. I barely knew any of them.

  ‘What would you prefer?’ Nate suddenly turned to me conversationally. ‘Being perpetually stuck at someone else’s wedding reception or at the wake of someone you don’t know that well?’

  I mused over this. ‘Do I know the person whose wedding it is well?’

  ‘No. ’

  ‘Are both reception and wake inside or out?’

  Nate took a swig of beer. ‘Is this a weather issue?’

  ‘Yes. ’

  ‘We’ll give both an even playing field. Inside. ’

  I turned slightly into him, ready to give him my answer. ‘Okay, I’m going to go with the wake. At the wedding I’d continually have to pretend to be happy, and it is far more exhausting to pretend happiness than it is to pretend sadness. Also, I don’t know the wedding people very well, so I’m not going to know many of the guests well either. At a wedding reception that’s just awkward. Moreover, we’re talking a perpetual sound track of cheesy music, so we’re talking a perpetual migraine. No thanks. At the wake of someone I don’t know I can at least spend some of eternity getting to listen to the stories about that person from each guest. Who knows, maybe the deceased was some amazing adventurer who lived to the grand old age of one hundred. We’re talking lots of stories that are sure to be interesting. There’d be no awful music. I could be miserable if I wanted, but if I couldn’t pretend misery then no one would blame me since I didn’t know the deceased that well. There’s usually a buffet at a wake, so I’m more likely to find something to eat that I’ll actually like. Plus, death always makes people act weird, so there might even be a hot, grieving guy who wants to have sex upstairs in the bathroom with me. That would pass the time. ’

  Nate had been sitting with his beer frozen at his lips the entire time I’d been talking, his eyes slightly rounded as my explanation rambled on. Finally he said, ‘You put a lot of thought into that one. ’

  I shrugged. ‘You have to think it through when you’re talking about forever. ’

  ‘Good point. ’

  ‘So what would you choose?’

  ‘The wedding. ’

  I wrinkled my nose. ‘Why?’

  His smile was cocky as his eyes searched the room. His gaze stopped on the blue-dress girl. ‘Because there are always women feeling sad that they’re single, and they’re more than happy to quell that sadness with the first eligible man in the vicinity. ’

  ‘You’re vile. ’

  ‘Hey, I’m not the one who’s planning to take advantage of a grieving relative for sex in the bathroom at a wake. ’

  ‘Yeah, well, at least I’d have the bathroom to go to. Where on earth are you taking these sad, lonely women if you’re stuck at the reception?’

  ‘I think the bathroom would work for me also. ’

  ‘A public toilet?’ I arched a brow at him. ‘Have you done that before?’

  ‘Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to. ’

  ‘Oh, I want the answer,’ I replied, eyeing him curiously.

  Nate ignored me, staring off at the dance floor. ‘You want to dance?’

  With an inner sigh of disappointment, I let him off the hook and shook my beer at him. ‘Get a few more of these in me and then maybe. ’

  Grinning, he got up. ‘I’ll be right back. ’

  Suddenly the room shifted and the soft mattress of my bed was under my back, the ceiling of my bedroom in my line of sight. A feathery touch on my feet had me pushing up onto my elbows and I saw Nate taking off my shoes. After I almost knocked Joss off her feet with a serious lack of coordination, Nate had been as good as his word and had gotten my drunken butt in a cab and practically carried me up the stairs to my flat.

  ‘I haven’t had sex in seven years,’ I blurted out, not caring if Nate knew this embarrassing fact about me.

  His head jerked up at my confession as he pulled off my right shoe. ‘Are you kidding?’

  I shook my head, pouting a little.

  ‘Seven years?’

  ‘Seven years. I’ve slept with one guy, Nate, once. It was awful. I was awful. I’m crap at sex, I can’t flirt. I’m a loser. ’ I felt tears prick my eyes and flopped back against my pillow.

  Nate finished taking off my other shoe. I felt the bed dip at my side as he sat. ‘Come here, you. ’ He pulled me up and I melted into his arms, his chin resting gently on my head. His warm hands rubbed my back soothingly and in response my drunken tears fell silently.

  ‘You are not a loser,’ he told me gruffly. ‘You could never be a loser, Liv, and I don’t want to hear you call yourself a loser again. ’

  ‘Okay,’ I mumbled.

  We sat in the quiet for a while and then I decided since he knew so much h
e might as well know everything.

  ‘There’s a guy at the library. A student. Postgrad. I like him, but I sound like Rain Man every time I try to talk to him. ’

  Nate made a choking noise in the back of his throat.

  ‘Are you laughing?’

  He cleared it and answered shakily, ‘Never. ’

  He was so laughing.

  ‘It’s not funny,’ I told him grimly and pulled wearily out of his arms to fall back against my pillow, my eyes finally drifting shut. ‘I’m going to die alone, Nate. ’

  And as unconsciousness pulled me toward it, I thought I heard him whisper, ‘Not on my watch, babe. ’


  How had cotton balls gotten stuck in my mouth?

  Smacking my lips, I pushed my tongue up against my teeth and attempted to rid myself of the dryness. As soon as my lips parted, my head jerked back against my pillow and pain shot across my forehead, around my temple, and down the back of my skull.

  My breath did not smell good.

  As I bravely forced movement into my limbs, the ache and wave of sickness that rose from my fragile stomach were just two more pieces of evidence pointing toward one conclusion:

  I wasn’t just hungover.

  I was hung-the-fuck-over.

  Ugghhhhhh. Groaning, I turned on my side and gently pried my eyes open. The hope was that I had been smart enough last night to leave a glass of water by my bedside before I’d passed out. As soon as my eyes hit the glass I knew smarter would have been to bring a jug of water to my bedside. I’d emptied the glass already.

  For a few minutes I flicked my gaze back and forth between the glass and my bedroom door, hoping for a miracle every time my eyes swung back to my bedside table.

  But no. It looked like I was going to have to get up off my drunken, smelly ass and get my own refill. I shuffled up to a sitting position, whereupon the room suddenly spun around, and with the spinning a memory slammed into my brain, knocking me back against the headboard.

  Nate taking me home and getting me into bed.

  That memory was like a key unlocking the rest, and as everything I’d said came flooding back in fits and starts, my cheeks burned with mortification. I grabbed at my phone in the hope that I’d find something there to prove that my brain was making up all those memories, but I found only a couple of texts from Jo and Ellie, asking me if I’d gotten home all right.

  I slammed the phone back on my bedside table and then flinched in pain from the noise.

  Holy. Balls.

  I’d admitted to Nate I hadn’t had sex in seven years, that I’d only had sex once, that I was shit at it, and that I had a whopping big crush on Library Guy.

  ‘You. Are. An. Asshole, Olivia Holloway. Ass. Hole. ’ I glared up at the ceiling and felt the prick of tears in my eyes. I’d told Nate something I hadn’t told anyone. Drunk off my ass, I’d ripped open my insides and shown them to the biggest player I’d ever met. Now every time I saw him, I would remember how I had laid myself bare to him.

  I was a walking wound and I’d given Nate Sawyer total access to throw salt and anything else he liked on me.

  Squeezing my eyes shut, I ignored the warm tears trickling down my cheeks and tried to reassure myself of Nate’s loyalty. Even though I’d exposed myself completely, all I had to do was talk to him and make him promise not to tell anyone, or to talk about it. Ever again.

  This was Nate. He was my friend. My good friend. I could count on him to just put this behind us.

  The buzzer to my apartment knifed through my skull and I moaned, burying my face in my pillow. After a few minutes my phone rang.

  Blindly, I reached for the cell, picked it up, and shoved it against my ear. ‘What?’ I asked into my pillow, so it was more of a growl than a word.

  ‘Open the door,’ Nate demanded softly and then hung up.

  Heat rushed to my cheeks again. I’d thought I would at least get the chance to be sober and, you know, clean, when I got to face him again. Still in my bridesmaid dress, I rolled out of bed, fell, and then stumbled my way to my ungainly feet. Nate started ringing the buzzer again and I swear to God the noise was going to make me upchuck the delicious dinner I’d had at Joss and Braden’s reception.

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