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|Before Jamaica Lane(On Dublin Street #3)(27) by Samantha Young|
‘Oh, God, Nate.’ I dropped my forehead to his chest and wrapped my hand tight around his arm. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘I’m sorry too, babe.’
We lay there in silence for a while until finally I drew the courage to say something I really didn’t want to. ‘I’ll get up. Let you go.’
I felt his lips in my hair and then he said quietly, ‘If it’s okay with you, I’m quite comfortable here for the night.’
I relaxed instantly. ‘I’m good with that.’
We’d passed Dad’s flat on Heriot Row and turned down Howe Street. We were less than a minute from my apartment and the entire walk home had been filled with comfortable silence born of the deeper connection we’d made last Thanksgiving. Still, there was a weight in Nate’s silence that made me uneasy.
Finally, as we stopped outside my building, he spoke. ‘I’ve got a couple of deadlines this week, so I might not be able to drop around until after judo class on Wednesday night.’
Shaking off the weird sensation that felt an awful lot like disappointment, I said, ‘No problem.’ I gave him a cocky smile that I didn’t really feel. ‘I’ll practice flirting with my mirror.’
I was gratified at the low chuckle he emitted, a warm glow spreading through my chest as some of the darkness lifted from his eyes.
He pressed a kiss to my cheek. ‘See you soon, babe. Sweet dreams.’
‘ ’Night.’ I let myself into the building and gave him one last smile over my shoulder before I shut the door and headed up the concrete stairs. Though I understood exactly where he was coming from, a heaviness grew in my gut as I changed into my pajamas. I knew that tonight Nate wasn’t going to need to look in the mirror at his tattoo as a reminder to think of Alana.
No. She was inside him tonight; there was a haunted look in his eyes that I’d never seen before. Something was bothering him, and I was afraid that if I pushed too hard, I’d become just like every other woman in his life and he’d shut me out completely.
My worry for Nate gnawed at me for hours until I drifted off, my body finally too exhausted to wait my brain out. Worrying was never fun, especially when a solution seemed so impossible, which meant I was grateful for the Nicholses’ Sunday lunch the next day.
Joss and Braden, honeymooning in Hawaii, were absent, of course, but I didn’t get a chance to really feel that absence because of the drama. By ‘drama’ I mean Ellie was giddy, and all because Hannah had gone on a date the night before.
While Dad, Cam, Adam, Cole, and Dec hung out downstairs, Elodie worked away in the kitchen with help from Clark, and I leaned against Hannah’s dressing table watching her grimace at Ellie’s excitement, often looking to Jo for help.
‘I don’t understand.’ Ellie threw her hands up in bafflement. ‘I remember being absolutely thrilled about my first date. Granted, Braden and Adam ruined it and I came home crying, but surely your first date went better than mine.’
I was too busy smirking at Ellie and wondering what the hell Braden and Adam had done to ruin her first date to notice that Hannah was growing increasingly uncomfortable.
‘Ellie, can you just drop it?’ Her plaintive tone brought my head around and I frowned at her morose expression.
Oh, God. Had something happened? Had he … ‘I don’t know about you, Els, but I’m beginning to worry.’
Hearing the seriousness of my tone, Ellie stiffened, her wide blue gaze flying back to Hannah. ‘Hannah, did that boy do something to you?’
‘Oh, for goodness’ sake.’ Jo crossed her arms over her chest and gave Hannah an impatient look. ‘Just tell them.’
‘Jo.’ Hannah glowered at her. ‘No.’
Jo looked at Ellie, seemingly ready to ignore Hannah’s annoyance. ‘She’s got this strange belief that if more people know about him it’ll somehow jinx it. But, sweetheart’ – she turned back to Hannah – ‘after last night, I don’t think that’s a problem now.’
Ellie crossed her arms over her chest, frowning. ‘What’s Jo talking about?’
We waited patiently – or at least Jo and I did – for Hannah to finally let us in on whatever secret she was harboring. ‘Just … don’t tell Mum.’
‘Why not? Are you doing something illegal?’ Ellie huffed. ‘I’m starting to get really concerned.’
I knew Hannah well enough to know she was only just refraining from rolling her eyes. ‘It’s nothing like that. I just don’t want everyone to know. It’s too depressing.’
‘Fine, I won’t tell Mum. Now spill.’
Exhaling heavily, Hannah leaned back against her pillows and stared up at the poster on her ceiling. It was a sexy black-and-white shot of the front man of one of the world’s most famous rock bands. ‘Two years ago I met this guy. Marco. He’s a few years older than me. He helped me out when a couple of boys at school were bullying me anytime I missed the bus. Anyway, I kissed him one day.’ She rolled her eyes at herself. ‘I thought he was kissing me back, but he pushed me off him and avoided me for a while. Then he started talking to me again, but he pretended like nothing had happened. He graduated last year.’ She turned her head on her pillow now to glance between Ellie and me. ‘We’ve stayed in contact. Texting. Facebook. Sometimes meeting up just to hang out and talk. Nothing has ever happened between us, although I think I’ve made it clear I like him.’ A pained expression, a deep hurt that caught me by surprise, entered Hannah’s eyes, and I suddenly knew that this wasn’t some silly little high school girl crush. She liked this boy. Really liked him. ‘I know there’s been other girls, I’m not stupid. But it’s different when you actually see it for yourself.’
‘What happened?’ Ellie reached out to take her hand.
Hannah’s lip trembled, her throat working as she fought to control her emotions. ‘A few weeks ago I saw him kissing this girl outside the cinema. Like, really, really kissing her.’
Ellie sighed, a deep-seated understanding in her expression, and from everything Ellie had told me about her past with Adam, she really understood. ‘So you finally decided to move on and accepted a date. This is like déjà vu,’ she muttered, squeezing her little sister’s hand.