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|Before Jamaica Lane(On Dublin Street #3)(59) by Samantha Young|
The tears were choking me again so I couldn’t say anything.
When he looked up at me, his expression softened at the shimmer of unshed tears in my eyes. ‘I never slept with her,’ he told me gruffly.
Surprise slackened my features and Nate laughed humorlessly. ‘We were both virgins. Can you believe it?’
‘You? No,’ I answered honestly.
‘Alana’s mother was devoutly Catholic. Alana didn’t believe in sex before marriage.’
‘That’s such a rare principle these days.’
His mouth quirked up at the corner. ‘She was a rare girl.’
‘Aye, an angel.’ His grin got a little cocky now. ‘Not an angel all the way through. We messed around a lot, but I didn’t push her for more. I only wanted what she wanted to give me. Then she got sick. It wasn’t until about three months after she died that Peetie and Cam decided I’d been wallowing enough. They took me into the city, got me shit-faced, and I went back to a flat with this French exchange student and got laid. It was so easy. It was free of feeling. It was free of everything.’ His gaze turned intense now, his eyes searching my face. ‘And that works for me, Liv.’
I felt like he was making a point and with his point the crack in my chest split open until there was a gaping hole over my heart. Attempting to hide how much he’d unintentionally hurt me, I smirked and said, ‘As does having clueless friends who recruit you for help that involves free and easy sex.’
No sex is free, Soda Pop.
I flinched inwardly.
Nate gave me an unfathomable look. It slowly turned into an answering smirk.
‘Speaking of –’ I bit my lip nervously. ‘I think Cole knows what we’re up to, thanks to you feeling me up last night.’
Confusion clouded his features. ‘When?’
‘You touched my ass in the kitchen when you came through for snacks. Cole caught the whole thing.’
Nate’s brow cleared. ‘Och, I’m sure Cole doesn’t think anything of it. He knows I’m a flirt.’
I had actually thought the same thing myself, but hearing him say it – the suggestion that I was no more special than a random woman he’d meet at a bar – was a lash across the wound he’d opened in my chest. The angry pain it elicited caused me to speak without thinking. More like use ‘a tone’ without thinking: ‘Does he see you flirting with other women a lot?’
I was rewarded with a blank look. ‘That sounds suspiciously like the accusation of a jealous girlfriend.’ He got up off the bed and headed toward the door.
The blank look, the casual way he blew me off, lit an angry fire under my ass.
‘Don’t flatter yourself,’ I snapped, hurrying past him. I took the stairs two at a time.
Sylvie caught me making my way to the bathroom, where I was hoping to take a minute to collect myself. Openly concerned by the thunderous expression on my face, she asked me if I was all right and I reassured her quickly, hearing Nate’s footsteps coming down the stairs.
For the rest of the day there was a strain between us. While I laughed and joked with his parents, I avoided his eyes and spoke to him only when the conversation forced me to do so.
We’d finished up dinner and spent hours chatting into the evening when things took an even more awkward turn.
Nathan smiled at me, relaxed and seemingly content. ‘It’s so good to see Nate with such a lovely girl, Olivia.’
‘Dad, Liv’s just a friend,’ Nate replied, a warning note in his tone that hurt me, and clearly made his parents uncomfortable.
His dad shot him a dirty look. I thought he was going to reprimand him for being rude, but instead his expression softened and he reached for his beer. That seemed to be the end of it, until he took a sip and then quietly said, ‘I’m not blind.’
Nate got us the hell out of there.
I hugged his parents good-bye, wishing I could stay with them while Nate hoofed it back to the rental by himself. He had such a good family, such a happy family, and I knew he appreciated it. This, unfortunately, was a catalyst for my growing lack of understanding. When he had two parents who loved him and each other, when he could see what was possible … why didn’t he want the same things for himself? Alana was haunting him, preventing him from moving on, but he was letting her. He was actively holding her specter up as a shield against …
The car pulled away from Nathan and Sylvie’s, and I stubbornly faced away from Nate, my cheek pressed against the cool glass of the passenger window. My eyes followed the smattering of stars in the dark sky and I did my best to control my breathing so I didn’t sound as nervous as I felt. Nate and I had never argued before. Not seriously, anyway.
To my surprise we didn’t take the route back to the rental. Instead Nate kept driving, taking roads I didn’t recognize, until finally he pulled off into a dark, empty parking lot surrounded by the tall yellow grass of the sand dunes. I could hear the waves crashing ashore beyond the dunes.
Reluctantly, I turned to him as he pulled to a stop. ‘What are you doing?’
He eyed me warily. ‘Earlier you said you wanted to go to the beach.’
‘But won’t the tide be in?’
‘Low tide at this time of night.’ He abruptly got out of the car, not waiting for my answer.
I got out too, shivering in the cool salt air. My eyes followed him as he made his way toward the sand dunes, but I didn’t move. The slumped line of his shoulders got to me, and when he turned, the moonlight caught something in his eyes that looked like defeat. And I hated that he felt that way. No matter how mad I was at him.
‘Nate, what is it?’
Sucking in a huge breath, he shook his head, stuffing his hands in his jeans pockets as he stared off into the distance.
My heart was pounding so hard.
‘I feel like I’m disappointing him.’
I tensed. ‘Who?’
His eyes came back to me. ‘Dad.’
‘He’s not a man who f**ks around with people, Liv. He’s always been steadfast. Loyal. He knows how I treat women, and he doesn’t like it.’
‘ “Treat women”? Nate, it’s not like you’re awful to women. You just go through a lot of them. And you …’ I squeezed my hands behind my back in an effort to curb the pain. ‘You never make them any promises.’