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|Before Jamaica Lane(On Dublin Street #3)(16) by Samantha Young|
Despite myself I giggled and then groaned when the sound ricocheted painfully through my noggin, as my dad called it. I took a couple of deep breaths and then fought through the hangover tremors and the nausea to wash quickly, brush my teeth, scrape my hair off my face, and scurry into my bedroom to change into a pair of jersey pants and a T-shirt.
Nate smiled at me from behind the kitchen counter as I approached. ‘There she is.’
Unable to meet his gaze, I lowered my eyes to the glass of orange juice, bottle of energy drink, aspirin, and donuts he had laid out for me. Mumbling my thanks, I swallowed the aspirin and sat my ass down on a stool to nibble on a donut. After five minutes of total silence, Nate finally leaned across the counter and forcibly lifted my eyes to his by tilting my chin up with his fingers.
Everything from last night passed between us.
‘Please,’ I whispered, my lips trembling as I fought the tears of vulnerability. ‘Please don’t tell anyone, Nate.’
His dark eyes widened slightly. ‘So it is true?’
Instead of answering, my gaze sharpened.
Nate sighed. ‘Who am I going to tell?’
He held up his hands in a gesture of surrender. ‘I promise, all right.’
I went back to chewing on my donut, my skin burning from the heat of Nate’s attention.
‘How can it be possible, Liv? You’re an attractive, outgoing woman … How …’ He seemed flabbergasted. Honestly, that was kind of nice. Flattering.
Which was probably why I was finally able to meet his gaze as I replied, ‘I’ve always been shy around guys I’m into, but more than that I just wasn’t really in the game. I never have been. My mom was sick when I was a teenager. When other teenagers were experiencing boys and kisses, dates, and sex, I was busy fussing over my mom. Then she got sick again when I was in college.’ My eyes burned into his. ‘You know, Nate.’
And he did know.
An offbeat sense of humor and an inner geek weren’t the only things Nate and I had initially bonded over. We’d bonded over a third thing: the Big C.
While I lost Mom to it, Nate lost his childhood sweetheart to lymphoma. They were only eighteen when she died.
Not a lot of people knew that about Nate, and I had the feeling I was among the privileged few who had gotten the whole story out of him. It explained a lot about him.
‘It consumes you,’ I whispered. ‘You don’t care about anything else. Nothing else mattered but spending every second I could with her.’
He swallowed hard, his eyes dropping to the table. ‘I get it, Liv.’
‘By the time I got out of college I was – I am – constrained by my self-consciousness.’ I looked away from him. ‘Having such a lack of experience … it has shredded what little confidence I might have had.’
We were silent a moment as Nate seemed to process this. Finally he turned my face back again so I had to look into his eyes. I found his expression solemn and thoughtful. ‘You were really sad last night, Liv. I’ve known you for almost a year and you know me probably better than most people, and yet last night I felt like I was getting to see a huge part of you that you’ve kept from me. From everyone.’
Tears filled my eyes, my throat burning as I tried to keep them in. ‘I don’t want to be the person who looks in the mirror and hates what she sees, or be the person that moans about how she can’t interact with a guy long enough to secure a date. That’s not a good person to be, Nate. I just want to be like everyone else. Have a relationship with the opposite sex. But I can’t. It’s pathetic. But at least I’m not pathetic enough to moan about it.’
‘It’s not pathetic,’ he snapped, his eyes flashing. ‘Liv, you’ve been through a lot. You can’t expect to be normal. And to hell with normal. Normal’s boring. And you, babe, are anything but boring.’
I smiled weakly, grateful that he was trying to cheer me up, but not really feeling cheered up.
‘And this guy?’ Nate continued gruffly. ‘This guy at the library. You like him?’
Nodding, I dropped my head to my hands and groaned at my crappy situation. ‘Yeah, I like him.’
Nate contemplated this, and when it appeared he wasn’t going to say anything, I lifted my head from my hands and stared at him questioningly. He smirked at me.
‘You have next to no experience, and I have too much.’
My mouth twisted with annoyance. ‘It’s not really a good time to brag about that shit, Nathaniel.’
He grinned at me. ‘I’m not bragging. I’m helping.’
‘Helping me how?’
‘Helping you get laid.’
My cheeks grew even hotter. ‘Uh … what?’
Appearing quite happy with himself, Nate leaned back against the counter, crossing one ankle over the other and his arms across his chest. ‘I know sex. You don’t. I’m going to teach you.’
Feeling a flush of … something … I blushed to my roots. ‘How are … How does that …’
‘First we work on your confidence. Next we work on your flirting. I’ll get you to a point where you feel confident enough to approach this guy you like and ask him out.’
My heart was racing at the thought. ‘I don’t think you understand the magnitude of my ineptitude when it comes to men.’
‘Well, that’s the wrong attitude to start with.’ He shook his head and leaned, palms down, on the counter, his face ducking so our noses were only inches apart. ‘I may not do flowers, hearts, and all that shit with women, but you’re my friend, and I consider myself the kind of person a friend can always turn to. Friends are important to me, Liv. And last night a friend cried in my arms and admitted she was unhappy.’ He brushed my cheek affectionately. ‘You deserve happiness, babe. What’s the harm in letting me help you try to obtain it?’
‘Nate,’ I whispered hoarsely, my throat clogged with emotion. That was so effing nice I was seconds from bursting into big goofy tears.
‘We’ll take it step by step. We’ll start off by trying to work out why you don’t feel confident enough to talk to men you’re attracted to.’
I nodded, and then winced when the movement caused a sharp streak of pain through my skull. ‘But not today, right? Because I might puke on you.’