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|Before Jamaica Lane(On Dublin Street #3)(47) by Samantha Young|
‘Never mind,’ he purred in my ear. ‘I’ll take how wet you are as admission.’
‘Are you sure you don’t mind me crashing here?’ Nate asked, skimming a finger down my naked spine as I lay on my stomach beside him on the bed.
After the delicious shower sex I’d dried my hair while Nate reheated some of the pasta for himself. By the time I wandered out of the bedroom, he had finished eating and was ready for our lessons to continue. I knew this because I walked out of the bedroom only to have him maneuver me back inside immediately. Three orgasms later, I was thoroughly sated, it was late, and there was really no point in Nate heading home when I had a comfy bed big enough for the both of us.
With my head resting on my arms, I’d been staring at my headboard, my body so relaxed that I was almost purring like a kitten. I turned my head to answer him, my hair rustling across the pillow. ‘At this point you can have anything you want.’
I watched his dimples appear and decided that one day I was really going to have to kiss those sexy little indentations. ‘Do you really want to make my ego bigger than it already is?’
‘Hmm, good point.’
We smiled at each other before my eyes drifted closed.
I was dozing when I felt the touch of his lips against my bare shoulder. ‘Liv?’
There was something in his tone, something solemn that made me instantly alert. Opening my eyes, I searched his face and found his expression equally grave. My stomach flipped with uncertainty as the blood rushed in my ears with the sudden pounding of my heart. ‘Yeah?’
Nate rolled onto his back, his hands clasped behind his head as he studied my ceiling. ‘You really are one of my best friends, you know.’
My pulse slowed a little as warmth rushed through my chest. Touched, I reached out to skim my fingertips affectionately down his stomach. ‘Back at you, babe.’
‘So promise me something.’
I stilled. ‘Okay?’
‘Promise me, no matter what, this … what we’re doing … it’s not going to ruin that.’
I didn’t understand the sharp, serrated pain that cut across the warmth that had flooded my chest, but I did understand why he was asking what he was asking. Flattening my palm across his stomach, I moved it until it rested over the ‘A’ tattooed on his skin. ‘I promise.’
His whole body relaxed under my hand and when he turned his head to look at me I saw tenderness and gratitude in his eyes. We smiled at each other again, and I ignored the jagged pain.
After a moment he moved his head back and returned to staring at my ceiling.
I couldn’t look away from his face, my eyes committing the sharp cut of his jaw, the perfect profile, straight nose, sooty lashes, beautiful lips, to memory. I was no longer surprised by the way my body prickled to life at the mere sight of his handsome face. For now I put that feeling aside, sensing that his mind was somewhere else, somewhere a little darker than usual.
My fingers circled the ‘A’ on his chest.
‘When you’re having a hard time about it, you know you can talk to me, right?’
He gave a slight shake of his head. ‘I’m okay, Liv.’
‘Really? Because when Cole mentioned your tat, you seemed a little off for a few days afterwards.’
Nate slanted a look at me and gave a long, shaky sigh. ‘I don’t know if I can admit it out loud.’
‘Hey, as if I’m going to judge you about anything,’ I teased, trying to relax him again and remind him he was safe with me.
I wanted to follow the little sad smirk curving his lips with the tips of my fingers, but I refrained.
And I waited.
Until he said, ‘I got the tattoo so I’d remember Alana every single day.’
‘Yeah, you told me,’ I reminded him softly.
‘I sometimes wish I hadn’t gotten it.’ Shame entered his gaze as he looked at me, and I hated that he felt it. ‘Sometimes I think it would be easier to forget her most days.’
‘That’s understandable, honey.’
Nate shook his head in denial. ‘I promised her.’
‘Promised her what?’
His voice was hoarse now as he confessed, ‘I promised I’d never leave her.’ He cleared his throat, trying to bury the emotion, but he couldn’t. My friend was still carrying around so much history and I knew that for a fact as he continued. ‘When we were kids I protected her from everything. Crappy stepdad, kids who’d tease her because she didn’t have a lot of money, nightmares, even sad stories. But I couldn’t protect her from the cancer. I couldn’t protect her, so the least I could do was never leave her.’
A new ache wrapped its bruising hands around my ribs, and I leaned over to press a comforting kiss to his chest. ‘Nate, moving on with your life doesn’t mean forgetting her, or leaving her.’
Eyes narrowed, he wasn’t impressed with my comment. ‘How can you say that? You of all people know it doesn’t work like that. I should want to see that tattoo in the mirror every day, Olivia. I shouldn’t resent it.’
The hands around my ribs squeezed as the voice inside me told me to speak up, confess my own deep buried secret, the real reason behind all of this. I should. For my friend, I should. I pressed my cheek to his chest and struggled to find control of my breathing, tears pricking my eyes as I forced myself to be brave for him.
‘Do you want to know the real reason I asked for your help?’ I choked on the last words, the tears falling from my eyes. Nate tensed when he felt the splash of salt water on his skin.
He moved beneath me, but only to release his arm from behind his head so he could wrap it around me. ‘Liv?’
Looking up at him now through my tears, I whispered my own confession. ‘I was scared of resenting my mom. I was scared that somewhere deep inside of me I blamed her for the fact that I’d never had what everyone else had – first love and sex, and time to explore it when every one else was. I thought’ – I brushed away my tears – ‘I thought if I could just do something about it, it would take the chance of that resentment building away. Because resenting her for that would just make me the worst person ever, and I don’t know if I could have handled that dark part of myself that blamed a woman who was kind and gracious until the very end.’ I wiped at my tears and braced myself over him, running my fingers tenderly through his thick hair. ‘You’re not alone, Nate.’