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|Before Jamaica Lane(On Dublin Street #3)(23) by Samantha Young|
I gave him a determined nod and then just sat there.
Nate raised an eyebrow at me.
‘Should we go back to that part where you said you were good with your hands?’
He was laughing at me again, but this time only with his eyes. ‘Sounds like a good place to start.’
After three hours of innuendo I finally reached a point where I wasn’t blushing. I was even able to provide a fairly saucy rejoinder. This didn’t convince me that I’d be able to approach Benjamin and start flirting with him. It only convinced me that I was so comfortable with Nate that my insecurities were taking a swan dive off the Mountain of Low Self-Esteem one by one while I was around him. Still, I felt better than I had in a long time – not only because Nate had begun to chip away at the weight of my physical insecurities, but because I felt like I was grabbing life by the balls and doing something about a part of my life that I was unhappy with.
Nate was nonstop busy on Friday since he had three photo shoots booked for the paper, one being an awards ceremony that had him working right up until midnight. As for me, I was having my usual weekly dinner with Dad, Jo, Cam, and Cole.
This meant no lessons.
Saturday was out too, considering that Nate, Cam, and Cole had judo class in the afternoon and usually hung out together afterward. However, I still got to see Nate.
Jo called to ask me over that evening, and when I got there I found the guys were there, including Peetie. Peetie’s fiancée, Lyn, wasn’t with them and I hadn’t expected her to be. The few times we’d met I’d thought she was nice, but she never went out of her way to hang out with Peetie’s friends. She had her own group, and both of them seemed cool with that.
Nate and Cole were playing a war game that Nate was in the middle of reviewing, while Peetie and I waited patiently for our turn. Cam sat in the corner at his desk, going over some work stuff, while Jo lay half snoozing on the rug in front of the fireplace.
I sat next to Nate, attempting not to feel weird hanging out with him in a normal situation with our friends after having spent all Thursday evening flirting with him. Despite it being friendly lessons, there was still something kind of naughty about the fact that none of our friends had any idea Nate had told me he thought about f**king me, or that we’d spent four solid hours lightly flirting until I’d begun to tingle between my legs.
‘I’m rethinking my plan to become a tattoo artist,’ Cole announced, his thumb going into rapid motion upon the controller as an enemy target appeared on the screen.
Jo stirred and blinked sleepily up at her brother. ‘Why? You’ve been going on about it for months.’
The game paused while Cole stared at her with a somewhat mulish expression on his face. ‘I don’t “go on.” ’
Cam grunted from the corner of the room and murmured without looking up from his drawings, ‘He’s got you there, baby.’
‘Okay.’ Jo yawned and sat up slowly. ‘You’ve talked about it. For you that is “going on” about it.’
Cole shrugged. ‘I want Nate’s job now.’
‘Stick to the tattoos, mate,’ Nate replied. ‘One, this is a part-time gig. It doesn’t pay all the bills. And two, I’ve seen the tattoo you designed for Cam. You should stick to it.’
‘Yeah?’ Cole was trying not to look too pleased. ‘I could design you a new one.’
‘A new one?’ Jo didn’t look sleepy at all now as she brushed her hair off her face. Her eyes were bright with curiosity. I knew for a fact that she found Nate a bit of a mystery because she’d tried to pry answers about him out of me before. As much as I trusted her, Nate’s story was not mine to tell, so she was left in the dark for the most part. ‘You’ve got a tattoo, Nate?’
On this, it would seem, so was I.
I’d had no idea Nate had a tattoo.
The room grew weirdly tense at Jo’s question, and Nate’s reply was tight and abrupt. ‘Aye.’
‘What is it?’
‘Nothing.’ He shrugged and restarted the game.
‘Well, it’s got to be of something.’
‘I told you it’s nothing.’
‘When did you get it?’
‘Where is –’
‘Christ, I said it’s nothing, all right?’ Nate cut her off tersely and I stared at him in surprise. It wasn’t like him to be moody or short with people. That meant one thing. The tattoo had something to do with her.
However, Jo didn’t know enough about her to get it, so she looked a little wounded.
‘Baby, do you want to help me put some snacks together?’ Cam asked quietly, standing up from the desk.
She looked up at him and a silent conversation passed between them. ‘Sure.’ She took the hand he held out to her and he helped her up. Even after they’d left the room it was still thick with unease.
Cole cleared his throat and started playing the game again. ‘I think the reaction time on this is a little slow, by the way,’ he offered, trying to change the subject.
Nate nodded gratefully at him. ‘I think you’re right, wee man.’
They began discussing the game with Peetie. The whole time, I watched Nate, waiting for the tension along the back of his shoulders to disappear. It didn’t. My chest ached for him. I needed him to know that if he was having a hard time, I was there for him just like he was there for me. I shuffled closer to Nate as Peetie disagreed with Cole over the graphics.
‘Tattoo?’ I asked softly in his ear, not sure whether I would get my head bitten off like Jo had.
Nate turned to me, his eyes soft as he gave a shake of his head. ‘Later, babe,’ he muttered. ‘I shouldn’t have spoken to Jo like that.’
‘She’s fine,’ I reassured him. Giving his knee a gentle squeeze, I got up with the intention of going to help Jo. As I was leaving the room, Cam was coming back in and he was scowling.
He gave me a slight shake of his head. ‘She feels bad for pushing him.’
‘He feels bad for snapping, so don’t give him a hard time,’ I murmured.
Cam gazed over at his friend and then whispered, ‘You forget I know, Liv. I wasn’t going to give him a hard time. But I sometimes wonder if someone should.’
Not really sure how to answer that, I gave him a sad smile and slipped past. I found Jo in the kitchen, pouring bags of chips – or crisps, as she and Dad called them – into bowls. I spotted packets of peanuts and empty bowls, and began to help out.