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|Down London Road(On Dublin Street #2)(16) by Samantha Young|
‘The Voodoo Rooms.’ The short one nodded at his mates as if it was a great idea.
I shook my head sadly in response. ‘Expand your horizons, boys.’
The one with the crooked and very hot smile leaned on the bar so that our faces were only an inch apart. My eyes smiled into his as he stared at me intensely. I suddenly realized he’d stopped playing and was serious, and my smile wilted a little. His gaze dropped to my lips. ‘I’ll take you anywhere, darling, anywhere in the world, if you’ll give me your number.’
I heard the clearing of a deep throat before a warm hand pressed against my belly. I jolted in shock and twisted my head around to see Cam leaning into me.
It was his large, warm hand pressed to my belly.
He put pressure on me and eased me back off the bar. ‘Excuse me,’ he muttered, his expression blank except for the muscle jumping in his jaw. Cam’s touch set off sparks in my body, my skin prickling with excited heat, and in my dumbfounded reaction I let him push me back from the bar, his body curling into mine as he reached past me. His hand slid around to my waist, nudging my tank top up so his callused hand gripped my bare skin, holding me in place as he bent down for a bottle of liqueur. When he straightened, our eyes met, and it took everything in me not to reach for him too.
As if it suddenly occurred to him that he was still touching me, he leaned back and nodded at me, then strode down to his end of the bar. I stared after him too long, wondering why he’d felt the need to touch me, to move me rather than just ask me to move. Usually, I would read that as interest, as an invitation, but Cam was sending me a whole bunch of mixed signals. I stared so long that when I turned back to the guys I had been diligently flirting with, they were gone. And so was their prospective tip.
The rest of the shift flew by and as I had taken to doing the last few nights, I hurried out of the bar as soon as we’d cleaned up at closing, desperate to get away from Cam.
It was a freezing-cold, brisk walk back to the flat, avoiding drunks who took one look at a single female and decided she’d make great target practice. Joss hated me walking home alone after our shift, but I was used to it, and had a rape alarm on my key ring and a small can of pepper spray in my bag as a precaution.
I hurried quietly up the damp stairwell of my building, and almost melted against our front door with relief and exhaustion. Home at last. Deciding that a cup of tea would be nice to take with me to my room I headed for the kitchen to switch on the kettle but was stopped dead in the doorway.
A haggard resentment rippled through me at the sight of my drunken mother passed out on the kitchen floor. Thankfully, she was wearing pyjamas. There had been times I’d discovered her like this and she’d been na**d.
I wondered how long she’d been there and feared that she’d not only got a chill from the cold kitchen tiles but hurt her bad back. Shaking my head, biting back the tears of frustrated exhaustion, I shrugged out of my jacket and took a minute as I decided how I was going to carry her back to her room without waking up Cole and without doing any more damage to her back. I supposed I could drag her as carefully as I could manage.
Attempting to move quietly, I did just that. I lifted her under the arms and began to slide her body out of the kitchen. Her foot hit the edge of the door, slamming it back against the wall and I winced, frozen on the spot. I hoped I hadn’t woken up Cole.
Unfortunately, I’d just begun to drag her again when I heard his bedroom door open. I twisted around to find him standing in the hallway staring at me with bleary eyes.
‘Sorry, sweetheart. Go back to bed,’ I whispered.
But Cole just grunted and shook his head, stumbling towards me. ‘Need a hand?’
He grunted at that again and came around to the other end of Mum. With ease he lifted her feet and we began to carry her towards her room. I eyed him as much as I eyed where we were going. Cole was my height and still growing. He was a smart kid, and one who hadn’t had it easy in the parent department. It had given him this weary glint in his eyes that made him look more mature than he was. I was saddened that my wee man had had to grow up so fast.
This of course was not the first time he’d helped me carry our mum to her bed.
Once we had her on the bed, I set about tucking her duvet around her, trying to offset any damage she may have caused to herself from lying on the cold floor. Assured that she was warm enough, I slipped out of her bedroom and met Cole in the hallway.
I gave him a smile that trembled with my tiredness, with my sadness.
He saw it and his own sorrow flickered across his expression before he killed it with a smirk. ‘I’ve had an idea for a new workout fad. It’ll make us loads of money.’
My lips twitched. ‘And what’s that?’
‘It’s called Drunk Mum. It involves heavy lifting and some cardio.’
I stared at him a moment, letting his joke sink in, and then I burst into giggles, pulling him to me for a hug. I felt the tears creep into the corner of my eyes as he hugged me back.
He was my saving grace.
I didn’t know what I’d do without him.
By the time I woke up it was midmorning. I lay under my duvet refusing to get out. To save on our heating bill, I had the heat set on a daily timer. It came on for two hours in the morning and then back on at five o’clock in the evening. The air outside my warm cocoon in the bed was freezing and I moaned at the unfairness of having to get up.
Cole had woken me for a second a few hours earlier to remind me he was going to Jamie’s and would be staying there all day and night. I remembered grumbling at him to take twenty pounds out of my purse in case of an emergency, before falling back asleep.
My eyes rolled to the side to check the time on my bedside table alarm clock. It was ten thirty. I really needed to get up and get some food shopping done before I had to get ready for my big, horrible night with Becca and Cam.
‘Okay. One, two, three,’ I counted. On ‘three’ I threw back my covers and jumped out of bed. It was the only way to get me out of it. I couldn’t do that slow, sliding out from under the sheets thing or I’d fall asleep in mid attempt. Shivering, I gazed longingly down at my mattress.
With a pout, I hurried into the hall to flip the hot water on for my shower. A cup of tea kept me warm while I waited, and I opened Mum’s door to check on her.
She was awake.
‘Morning,’ she mumbled, clutching her blankets closer to her. ‘It’s bloody cold.’
That’s because you passed out on the kitchen floor for God knows how long. ‘Do you want a cup of tea and some toast?’
‘Aye, that would be good, darling.’ She slipped farther down so she was curled into a ball.
After I’d made her tea and toast, waiting around to make sure she ate it, I left her alone and got ready for the day. Besides getting food, I needed to get a birthday card for Angie, my friend from the salon I worked at years ago. Before Joss, I didn’t have close friends because of … well … my secretiveness, but Angie and Lisa from the salon had been girls I’d hit the town with and the closest thing I’d had to best friends. I hadn’t seen either of them in months, although we still exchanged regular text messages.
I shrugged on my wool jacket that cinched in at the waist, wrapped an oversized scarf around me, and pulled my knit Uggs up over my skinny jeans. My freshly washed hair fell around my shoulders and down my back in thick tumbles and I knew I should tie it up, but I shivered at the thought of leaving my ears na**d to the cold. I grabbed my gloves and bag and I was all set.
Shouting a goodbye to Mum, I hurried out the door, as always looking forward to being anywhere but stuck in the flat with her. I took the stairs slowly as I began to pull on my gloves and at the sound of male laughter I stilled at the corner of the staircase that would take me down to the floor below us.
The empty flat directly beneath my flat didn’t appear to be empty any more.
The door to it had been thrown open, and I watched wide-eyed as two guys carried a coffee table up the last few steps and on to the landing.
‘You hit the leg.’ The extremely tall, dark-haired guy in a rugby shirt smirked at his companion as they levelled out on the landing.
The other guy was a little shorter, with broad shoulders and messy dark hair squashed under a beanie hat. When he turned to smile cheekily at his friend, I knew I was in the presence of a player. The guy was gorgeous and that smile told me he knew just what to do with it. ‘He’ll never notice.’
‘There’s a bash in the wood.’
‘Ach, it gives it character.’
I took another step down and my movement drew both of their gazes. I felt an uneasy squirm in my stomach as I glanced at the open door to the flat. We had a new neighbour. A new neighbour who would have to endure my mum’s wailing drunkenness.
The beanie hat guy grinned appreciatively at the sight of me, his eyes drinking me in from my boots to my head. I flicked a quick look at his friend and discovered I was under his smiling perusal too. My automatic flirt kicked in and I gave them a half smile back and a wave of my fingers. ‘Hey.’
Beanie Guy adjusted the weight of his side of the coffee table as he asked, ‘You live here?’
‘The flat above you.’
He made a huffing sound and shook his head as he stared at his friend. ‘Cam’s always been a lucky f**ker.’
I instantly tensed at the name.
‘What’s taking so long?’ a deep and very familiar voice asked from inside the flat.
My mouth was already falling open when Cam stepped out of the flat to greet his friends.
‘Cam?’ I squeaked in disbelief.
Startled, Cam looked up at me, astonishment slackening his features. ‘Jo?’
‘Eh …’ The tall friend’s head turned from me and Cam to Beanie Guy. ‘The lucky f**ker already knows her.’
I ignored them, my heart hammering in my chest now as my eyes pinned Cam to the landing. He stood before me in one of his worn T-shirts and jeans, his engineer boots on, his hair a mess and his eyes dark with lack of sleep. Despite his obvious tiredness, he seemed to hum with an energy that sucked me in. When he stepped into a room, you felt his vitality, his strength. There were few people in this world who had that kind of presence about them. Braden Carmichael was one. Cameron MacCabe was definitely another.