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|Moonlight on Nightingale Way(On Dublin Street #6)(10) by Samantha Young|
“I got asked to go the school dance.”
She snorted. “By the short boy at my door? He has acne.” She wrinkled her nose in disgust.
I flushed and looked away. “His name is Michael and I like him.”
“Does he come from a good family?”
“Why?” I looked up, scared because Michael’s dad was a dentist and his mother was an actress on a soap opera. It was hard to know if that made them a “good” family or not.
“Because,” she sighed impatiently, “I need to know if, despite the acne, this boy is worth my advising you out of a dress that makes you look like you have four thighs instead of two.” She stared at me suspiciously. “Have you been sticking to that diet I told you to start?”
I trembled. “The nurse at school said it’s not meant for a fourteen-year-old.”
“Why the bloody hell does the nurse at school know anything about your eating habits?”
“I – I fainted at school.”
Mother rolled her eyes. “Dear God, how maudlin.”
My finger curled into the fabric of my dress, crushing it. I was slender, and still it didn’t seem to be skinny enough for my model-thin mother.
“Well?” she snapped. “Who is this boy?”
“His mother is Andrea Leeds.”
“The actress?” Mother tilted her head in thought. “I suppose it could be worse. Well, you can’t wear that.” She put her glass down on my desk and sauntered over to my wardrobe. “Let’s see if we can’t find you something that gives the illusion of a figure. Boys want girls who look like girls, you know, Gracelyn. You won’t ever be sexy, but we can but try to make you feminine.” She stared doubtfully at my wardrobe selection. “We’ll also need to do something with your hair. You look like a bloody waif. You’re getting it cut next week.”
I touched a strand of my long hair. “I don’t want to cut it.”
Her head jerked around, her dark eyes flashing angrily. “As long as you’re under my roof, taking my money and representing my name, you will do as I say. Understood?”
“Bloody children,” she muttered, turning back to the clothes. “I’d never have had any if it weren’t for your goddamn father and his need for heirs to his bloody empire. But does he give a shit that it’s me who’s left to deal with your stupidity? No, he does not…” She trailed off, lost in thought.
Tears burned in my eyes, but like always, I fought against them and the painful lump in my throat…
“Oh fuck,” John groaned, running his hand through his hair in distress. “I’m just saying all the wrong things. I say these things, and in my head they sound helpful, but they come out all wrong.” He leaned across the table, and his elbow hit the bottom of his dessert spoon. It pinged up off the table. He didn’t even notice. “I think you’re gorgeous, Grace. I really do.”
I smiled weakly at my drunken date. “It’s all right. Let’s just finish dinner.”
Thankfully, John prattled on through dinner without critiquing me again, although he also never asked me anything about myself. He talked a lot about his job and his parents and his love of rugby. In fact, the only time he asked me a question was when he gushed, “What it’s like to be friends with Aidan Ramage?”
“Friendly?” I offered, not knowing how to answer the question when his tone bordered on sycophantic.
His “admiration” for Aidan didn’t salvage the date. I understood how hard it could be to meet new people and how nerves could make the nicest person act like an idiot. But dating a lush was just not for me. Especially not one who reminded me of my mother.
“Let me walk you home.” John swayed a little as we stood outside the restaurant. It had been a late dinner, so now the sky was dark and the moon was out. The restaurant was in Old Town and only a few streets away from my flat, and the area was still buzzing with people. I didn’t mind walking home alone despite the drizzle in the night air. In fact, I would have preferred it.
“I’ll be fine.”
“No, I insist. You’re by the university, right?” He turned and began walking.
I sighed and hurried after him. “You really don’t have to walk me home.”
“It would be ungentlemanly of me not to see you home. There are creeps out here, you know.” He threw me another lazy, drunk grin.
I just stopped myself from rolling my eyes.
“So.” John stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at me. “Do you like your job?”
I was surprised by the sudden interest in my life. “Um… yes. I love keeping my own hours and… well, I get to read and shape books for a living.”
He wrinkled his nose like a little boy. “Books. Yak. Aren’t you bored all the time?”
“No.” I huffed in annoyance.
“What about your parents? They still in England?”
“What do they do for a living?”
“My father works in the media, and my mother is a housewife.”
“A housewife, eh? Your dad must make a bob or two.”
Or a billion. “Hmm.”
“Got any brothers or sisters?”
I stared up at his profile, annoyed that he’d decided to get nosy. “A brother. You?”
“No, thank God. What does your brother do?”