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|Before Jamaica Lane(On Dublin Street #3)(2) by Samantha Young|
I laughed even harder, leaning against the kitchen counter. ‘I imagine it’s a little bit of that too. And you can understand their mistake. You don’t look like a Star Trek fan.’
Something sharpened in his eyes, something intense. I shivered as he lazily ran his gaze down my body and back up again. His voice was lower, thick, as he replied, ‘Neither do you.’
That intent look felt like a slow caress. If I was anybody else I’d think he’d meant to make me feel like that.
Still … my breath caught. The air felt suddenly too thin, broken by this weird electricity between us that I didn’t quite understand.
‘Are you one of Jo’s friends?’
I struggled to fight the shyness that was starting to creep in again. ‘Didn’t Cole tell you?’
‘Peetie went in to see the wee man. I wanted a drink, so I came straight to the kitchen.’ His eyes were devouring me again, and apparently my body had been asleep until his eyes touched it because there was a whole lot of tingling, shivering, and overheating going on. ‘Definitely the best choice I’ve made in a while.’
Um … okay?
‘Oh, well, I’m Olivia.’
Nate’s eyebrows lifted and then he abruptly cleared his throat, his body jerking upright from the doorjamb. Just like that, the air in the room began to return to normal. ‘You’re Olivia? Of course. The accent. Of course.’
I nodded, confused by his reaction. ‘I’m guessing you’re Nate?’
His smile was friendly. Platonic. That made more sense. ‘Aye, that would be me.’
‘Cam and Jo are on their way. I was just cleaning up for them.’
‘Right.’ He wandered farther into the kitchen and I watched him with open fascination as he got himself a glass of soda. ‘Want one?’ He gestured toward me with a glass.
Once he had his drink, he smiled at me again and I realized that the reason I wasn’t so tongue-tied around him wasn’t just because of his nerdy shirt. It was his eyes. They were impossibly kind, and I just felt … not quite comfortable … but, yeah, not uncomfortable either. That was definitely unusual for me around guys I’d just met. Especially ones I was attracted to.
‘Do you play video games, Liv?’ he asked congenially.
‘Well, stop cleaning up the dishes and come play with us,’ he teased.
I chuckled. ‘Are you asking me on a playdate?’ As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. I wasn’t being flirty. I didn’t know how to be flirty! That was just my sense of humor, and now this guy was going to think I was coming on –
Nate laughed, cutting me off. ‘Only because you got the Star Trek reference. Otherwise, girls aren’t allowed to play with us. They’re icky.’
Deadpan, I crossed my arms over my chest. ‘Well, boys are icky too.’
He grinned huge. ‘Ain’t that the truth.’ He nodded toward the door. ‘Come on, Yank. If I’m going to annihilate you I want it to be quick and painless. I’m merciful like that.’
‘Annihilate me?’ I guffawed. ‘I think you must have me confused with someone who’s not about to whup your ass.’
‘Do you even know what game we’re about to play?’
I shook my head. ‘Does it matter at this point? I’m going to beat you whatever it is. So, first we trash-talk, then we commence the ass-whupping.’
Nate threw his head back in laughter. ‘Oh, man! Come on, funny girl.’ He took hold of my elbow and I fought to hide my blush at his touch. ‘I have to introduce you to Peetie.’
I followed him out of the kitchen, touched by how quick he was to include me. I also sensed I was to be indoctrinated as ‘one of the guys.’ I sensed this because it happened all the time. I was okay with that. It just meant squashing the fluttering in my stomach whenever I gazed at Nate. And by squashing, I meant I’d have to crush those little f**kers into nonexistence …
‘Liv? Liv, you okay?’
I blinked again, coming back to the sidewalk, to Stirling, to the cold.
To Nate, who was standing right in front of me now with a concerned line between his brows. ‘Where did you go?’
I smiled. ‘Sorry, I think the cold has numbed my brain.’
‘Well, come here, you’ – he looped my arm through his, pulling me close – ‘before a finger drops off.’
I relaxed gratefully into his strong side. ‘Couldn’t you have done that earlier? Like, three streets ago?’
‘And miss the horrified look on your face every time we turn a corner?’ he teased, rubbing his hand up and down my arm.
I grimaced, but I was used to his teasing, so I let it go.
‘I’m sorry, folks.’ Jo threw the comment over her shoulder, her quick glance filled with guilt. ‘I should have made sure we put on coats.’
‘W-w-we’re Sc-c-ottish,’ Ellie chittered, her fingers curling into Adam’s coat. ‘We c-c-can ha-a-andle it.’
I squeezed Nate’s arm as we started to walk forward again. ‘Well, I’m American,’ I reminded them. ‘And I’m from Arizona.’
‘I’m American and I’m okay,’ Joss said, sounding a lot more relaxed than she looked. Her weight wobbled as her stiletto hit a crevice in the cobbled street. Braden righted her as she cursed at the ground.
‘That would be because of the six-foot-three shield you’re huddled against,’ I replied dryly.
She laughed, cuddling closer into said shield. ‘Maybe.’
‘We’re cold too,’ Nate put in. ‘We’re just used to it, so we don’t whine about it.’
‘No one is whining,’ Joss argued. ‘This is just our way of warning Jo that if she doesn’t hurry up and get us to our destination, we’re going to use her for firewood.’
Jo laughed. ‘We’re almost there … I think …’
We turned down a street that took us off the high street, and Jo frowned up at the buildings as we followed her. It was just an average street, with vans and cars parked all along it.
Today was Cam’s twenty-eighth birthday, and while we all assumed we were getting dressed up for a night out in Edinburgh to celebrate, Jo had a secret plan up her sleeve. Somehow we’d ended up in Stirling, a beautiful city with a gorgeous castle and quaint little streets, but also quite possibly the tiniest city on earth.