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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(3) by Samantha Young|
I smiled again. That sounded fun. I missed Rhian and James.
“You’re Jocelyn, right?”
“Yeah. Joss,” I corrected her. I hadn’t been Jocelyn since before my parents died.
“Joss,” she repeated, grinning at me as I took my first steps inside the ground floor apartment. It smelled great. Fresh and clean.
Like the apartment I was leaving, this one was also Georgian, except it had once been an entire townhouse. Now it was split into two apartments. Well, actually, next door was a boutique and the rooms above us belonged to it. I didn’t know about the rooms above us, but the boutique itself was very nice with handmade one-of-a-kind clothes. This apartment…
The walls were so smooth, I knew they had to have been plastered recently and whoever had restored the place had done wonders. It had tall baseboards and thick coving to compliment the period property. The ceilings went on forever, as they did in my old apartment. The walls were a cool white, but broken up by colorful and eclectic pieces of art work. The white should have been harsh, but the contrast of it against the dark walnut doors and hardwood flooring gave the apartment an air of quiet elegance.
I was in love already and I hadn’t even seen the rest of the place.
Ellie hurriedly took off the hat and mustache, spinning around to say something to me only to stop and grin sheepishly as she tore off the monocle she was still wearing. Shoving it aside on the walnut sideboard, she beamed brightly. She was a cheerful person. Usually I avoided cheerful people, but there was something about Ellie. She was kind of charming.
“I’ll give you a tour first, shall I?
Striding to the door on the left nearest me, Ellie pushed it open. “Bathroom. It’s in an unconventional place, I know, right near the front door, but it’s got everything you need.”
Uh… I’ll say, I thought, tentatively stepping inside.
My flip-flops echoed off the shiny cream tiles on the floor, tiles that covered every inch of the bathroom except for the ceiling which was painted a buttery color and inset with warm spotlights.
The bathroom was huge.
Running my hand along the bath tub with its gold claw feet, I immediately envisioned myself in here. Music playing, candles flickering, a glass of red wine in my hand as I soaked in the tub and numbed my mind to… everything. The tub sat center of the room. In the back, right-hand corner was a double shower cubicle with the biggest showerhead I’d ever seen. To my left was a modern glass bowl situated atop a white ceramic shelf. That was a sink?
I tabulated everything quickly in my head. Gold taps, huge mirror, heated towel rail…
The bathroom in my old apartment didn’t even have a towel rail.
“Wow.” I threw Ellie a smile over my shoulder. “This is gorgeous.”
Practically bouncing on the balls of her feet, Ellie nodded, her blue eyes smiling brightly at me. “I know. I don’t get to use it much because I have an en-suite in my room. That’s a plus for my prospective roommate, though. They’ll get this room pretty much to themselves.”
Hmm, I mused at the lure of the bathroom. I was beginning to see why the rent on this place was so astronomical. If you had the money to live here, though, why would you leave?
As I followed Ellie across the hall and into the huge sitting room, I asked politely, “Did your roommate move away?” I made it sound like I was just curious, but really I was scoping Ellie out. If the apartment was this stunning, then maybe Ellie had been the problem as the roommate. Before Ellie could answer, I stopped short, turning around slowly to take in the room. Like all these old buildings, the ceilings in each room were pretty high. The windows were tall and wide, so tons of light from the busy street outside spilled into the lovely room. On the center of the far wall was a huge fireplace, clearly used only as a ‘feature’ and not a real fire, but it pulled the casually elegant room together. Sure, it’s a little more cluttered than I like, I thought, eyeing the piles of books that were scattered here and there along with silly little items… like a toy Buzz Lightyear.
I wasn’t even going to ask.
Eyeing Ellie, the cluttered room began to make sense. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a messy bun, she was wearing mis-matched flip flops, and there was a price sticker on her elbow.
“Roommate?” Ellie asked, turning around to meet my gaze. Before I could repeat the question, the furrow between her pale eyebrows cleared and she nodded, as if understanding. Good. It hadn’t been that hard a question. “Oh, no.” She shook her head. “I didn’t have a roommate. My brother bought this place as an investment and had it all done up. Then he decided he didn’t want me struggling to pay rent while I do my PhD, so he just gave it to me.”
Even though I didn’t comment, she must have seen the reaction in my eyes. Ellie grinned, a fond look softening her gaze. “Braden is a little over the top. A present from him is never simple. And how could I say no to this place? Only thing is, I’ve been living here for a month and it’s just too big and lonely, even with my friends hanging out here on the weekends. So, I said to Braden that I was getting a roommate. He wasn’t keen on the idea, but I told him how much rent this place takes in and that changed his mind. Forever the businessman.”
I knew instinctually that Ellie loved her (obviously quite well-off) brother and that the two were close. It was there in her eyes when she talked about him and I knew that look. I’d studied the look over the years, facing it head on and developing a shield against the pain it brought me to see that kind of love on other people’s faces–other people who still had family in their lives.
“He sounds very generous,” I replied diplomatically, unused to people spilling their private feelings all over me when we’d only just met.
Ellie didn’t seem bothered by my response, which wasn’t exactly warm with ‘tell me more’s’. She just kept smiling and led me out of the sitting room and down the hall into a long kitchen. It was kind of narrow, but the far end opened up into a semi-circle where a dining table and chairs were arranged. The kitchen itself was as expensively finished as everywhere else in the apartment. All the appliances were top of the line and there was a huge modern range in the middle of the dark wood units.
“Very generous,” I repeated.
Ellie grunted at my observation. “Braden’s too generous. I didn’t need all this, but he insisted. He’s just like that. Take for instance his girlfriend—he indulges her in everything. I’m just waiting for him to get bored with her like he does with the rest of them because she’s one of the worst he’s been with. It’s so obvious she’s more interested in his cash than in him. Even he knows it. He says the arrangement suits him. Arrangement? Who talks like that?”
Who talks this much?
I hid a smile as she showed me the master bedroom. Like Ellie, it was cluttered. She prattled on a little more about her brother’s obviously vapid girlfriend and I wondered how this Braden guy would feel if he knew his sister was divulging his private life to a complete stranger.
“And this could be your room.”
We were standing in the doorway of a room at the very back of the apartment. High ceilings, a massive bay window with a window seat and jacquard floor-length curtains; gorgeous French Rococo bed, and a walnut library desk and leather chair. Somewhere for me to write.
Oh hell, I was in love.
I wanted to live here. To hell with the cost. To hell with a chatty roommate. I’d lived frugally for long enough. I was alone in a country I’d adopted. I deserved a little comfort.
I’d get used to Ellie. She talked a lot, but was sweet and charming, and there was something innately kind in her eyes.
“Why don’t we have a cup of tea and see how we get on from there?” Ellie was grinning again.
Seconds later, I found myself alone in the sitting room as Ellie made tea in the kitchen. It suddenly occurred to me that it didn’t matter if I liked Ellie. Ellie had to like me if she was going to offer me that room. I felt worry gnaw at my gut. I wasn’t the most forthcoming person on the planet, and Ellie seemed like the most open. Maybe she wouldn’t ‘get’ me.
“It’s been difficult,” Ellie announced her re-entrance into the room. She was carrying a tray of tea and some snacks. “Finding a roommate, I mean. Very few people our age can afford somewhere like this.”
I inherited a lot of money. “My family is well-off.”
“Oh?” She pushed a mug of hot tea towards me as well as a chocolate muffin.
I cleared my throat, my fingers trembling around the mug. Cold sweat had broken out across my skin and blood was rushing in my ears. That’s how I always reacted when I was on the verge of having to tell someone the truth. My parents and little sister died in a car accident when I was fourteen. The only other family I have is an uncle who lives in Australia. He didn’t want custody of me so I lived in foster care. My parents had a lot of money. My dad’s grandfather was an oil man from Louisiana and my father had been exceptionally careful with his own inheritance. It all went to me when I turned eighteen. My heart slowed and the trembling ceased as I remembered Ellie didn’t really need to know my tale of woe. “My family, on my dad’s side, originally came from Louisiana. My great-grandfather made a lot of money in oil.”
“Oh how interesting.” She sounded sincere. “Did your family move from Louisiana?”
“To Virginia.” I nodded. “But my mom was originally from Scotland.”
“So you’re part Scottish. How cool.” She threw me a secret smile. “I’m only part Scottish as well. My mum is French but her family moved to St. Andrews when she was five. Shockingly, I don’t even speak French.” Ellie snorted and waited on my expected commentary.
“Does your brother speak French?”
“Oh no.” Ellie waved my question off. “Braden and I are half-siblings. We share the same dad. Our mums are both alive but our dad died five years ago. He was a very well-known businessman. Have you heard of Douglas Carmichael & Co? It’s one of the oldest estate agencies in the area. Dad took it over from his dad when he was really young and started up a property development company. He also owned a few restaurants and even a few of the tourist shops here. It’s a little mini-empire. When he died, Braden took it all on. Now it’s Braden everyone around here panders to–everyone trying to get a piece of him. And they all know how close we are, so they’ve tried using me, too.” Her pretty mouth twisted bitterly, an expression that seemed completely foreign to her face.