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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(18) by Samantha Young|
Dr. Pritchard said it would take time. For now, I couldn’t let go, and no matter what the good doctor said, I still wasn’t sure if it was in me to let go.
“Writer’s block again?”
I spun around in my seat to find Ellie standing in my doorway waving an A4 manila envelope at me.
I grimaced, closing my laptop. “I should just get that printed on a t-shirt.”
My only reply was a grunt.
“Anyway, I hate to ask but…”
She waved the envelope at me again. “Braden stopped by last night when you were working and he left these documents. He just called to ask me to bring them to his office because he needs them for his meeting in two hours, but I have a class-”
My stomach flipped. “And you want me to take them to him.”
Ellie’s eyes got all big and adorable. “Please,” she begged.
Crap, f**kity, crap, f**k. Grumbling, I stood up and took the envelope from her. “Where’s his office?”
She gave me the address and I discovered it was down by the quay, which meant I’d need to get a cab to get there in plenty of time since I had to have a shower before I left.
“I really appreciate this, Joss.” She grinned and started backing up. “I’ve got to run. Catch you later.”
And then she was gone.
And I was Braden bound. Dammit. Trying to ignore the beating wings in my stomach, I huffed around, muttering under my breath as I showered and dressed. I pulled on a pair of jeans, a thin sweater since it was fairly warm outside and wearing a jacket in Scotland when it wasn’t below freezing made you stick out as a tourist. No joke. A little sun came out in Scotland and they had their shirts off.
I stared at my reflection in the mirror. Very little makeup, my hair twisted up in a messy bun. The sweater was cute and showed a little cl**vage, but my jeans were old and faded. Sure, I wondered what Braden thought about me physically, however I wasn’t going to let that change me. I never dressed to impress anyone but myself, and I certainly wasn’t going to for some guy who liked his women’s legs longer, their boobs smaller, and their hair blonder.
The cab ride seemed to take forever, and as always, I was feeling a little travel sick by the time we got there after bumping down God knows how many cobbled roads. He dropped me off at Commercial Quay and I wandered down the man-made stream that opened out at the bottom into the water. There was a parking lot to my right, and to my left a number of commercial establishments. I found Braden’s office in the same building as an architect’s office, an accountant and a dentist. After being buzzed up, and floundering embarrassingly around in the elevator that opened on the opposite door from the one that let you in it, I found myself in a chic reception area.
The blonde receptionist wasn’t what I’d been expecting at all. She was about Elodie’s age but carried at least twenty pounds more than Elodie, and she was beaming at me with a big friendly smile. Her nametag said ‘Morag’. I’d been gearing myself up for someone tall, thin and beautiful who would sneer at my jeans and try to have me removed from the building. Was I in the right office?
“Can I help you?” Morag was still beaming at me.
“Uh…” I glanced around, looking for a sign that this was Braden’s office. “I’m looking for Braden Carmichael.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
Okay, so it was his office. I stepped up to the reception and waved the envelope. “He left these documents at his sister’s – my roommate’s place – and, um, asked her to bring them in. She couldn’t, so I said I would.”
If it was possible, Morag’s grin got even wider. “Oh how nice of you, dear. Can I take a name?”
“One second.” She picked up the phone on her desk and didn’t have to wait long. “I have a Joss Butler here with some documents for you, Mr. Carmichael.” She made an ‘mmm hmm’ noise. “I’ll do that.” She hung up and smiled at me. “Let me show you to Mr. Carmichael’s office, Jocelyn.”
I clenched my teeth. “It’s Joss.”
It was annoying enough that he refused to call me anything but Jocelyn, did he really have to get other people on board? I followed the cheerful, middle-aged receptionist down a narrow corridor until we came to a corner office. She knocked, a deep voice answering with a ‘come in’. I shivered at that voice and wondered for a second if I’d missed it these last two weeks.
“Jocelyn for you, sir,” Morag announced as she opened the door.
I wandered in past her and heard the door shut behind me as she left us alone.
The office was bigger than I was expecting with one large window that looked down on the quay. It was very masculine with a huge walnut library desk, leather chair, black leather couch and sturdy bookshelves hefty with folders and hardbacks. A few metal filing cabinets were stored in the corner. On the wall above the couch was a huge painting of Venice, and on the bookshelves more than one framed photograph of him with Ellie and with Adam and with Ellie’s family. In the corner behind me were a treadmill and a weight bench.
Braden was perched on his desk, his long legs stretched out in front of him as he watched me. I felt that kick to my gut again at the sight of him and the familiar tingling between my legs. Jesus C, he was even hotter than I remembered.
Fuck, shittity, f**k, shit.
“Hey.” I waved the envelope at him. Witty opener, Joss, very witty.
Braden smiled at me and I froze as his eyes washed over the length of me, taking his time taking me in. I swallowed hard, my heart kicking it up a gear—he hadn’t looked at me like that since the night at the bar with Holly. “It’s nice to see you, Jocelyn. Feels like forever.”
Ignoring the flush of pleasure those words produced, I strode forward and held out the envelope. “Ellie said you needed these pronto.”
He nodded, still gazing at me as he took the documents. “I appreciate you bringing them down. How much do I owe you for taxi fare?”
“Nothing.” I shook my head. “It wasn’t a problem. I was just beating my head off my desk anyway.”
He smirked. “That bad?”
With a sympathetic smile he stood up, bringing our bodies to touching distance. I felt the breath whoosh out of me as my head tilted back to meet his gaze. “Sorry I had to cancel on you those last few times.”
He made it sound like he’d cancelled a date. I laughed, confused. “O-kay.”
“I stopped by last night but you weren’t there.”
“I was working. Extra shifts.” I took a step back, hoping the less proximity I had to him, the faster it would reduce the heat in my blood.
I thought I saw him smile as he turned and put the documents on his desk. “The last time we saw each other I think something I said sent you running for the hills. Or maybe someone that was with me?”
Arrogant a**hole. I guffawed. “Vicky?”
His grin was cocky now as he looked back at me. “Were you jealous?”
Were we actually having this conversation? I hadn’t seen him in two weeks and, and… pfft! Smiling in astonishment at his egotism, I crossed my arms over my chest. “You know, it’s a wonder I managed to squeeze into the room what with your giant-assed ego taking up all the space.”
Braden laughed. “Well you ran off because of something, Jocelyn.”
“One: stop calling me Jocelyn. It’s Joss. J-o-s-s. Joss. And two: you had just insinuated that I was somehow ‘family’ after only knowing me a few weeks.”
His brow puckered as he processed this and he leaned back against the desk again, crossing his arms over his wide chest as he thought about it. “I did?”
Suddenly his eyes were searching my face and they were full of all sorts of questions. “Ellie told me about your family. I’m sorry.”
My muscles locked, the heat he’d created evaporating as if he’d just blasted on the a/c. What could I say? I didn’t want him to make a big deal out of it, and I also didn’t want him psycho-analyzing me. “It was a long time go.”
“I didn’t realize I’d insinuated that. About family. But things are starting to make sense. The dinner at Elodie’s… you running off-”
“Don’t,” I snapped, taking three steps towards him. “Braden, don’t,” my voice quieted as I tried to calm down the urge to bite at him like a wounded animal. “I don’t talk about it.”
As he studied me I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking. Did he think I was nuts? Pathetic? Did I care? And then he just nodded. “I get it. We don’t have to…”
Relief washed over me and I took a step back only for Braden to move into me so he was almost touching me again. “I was thinking of having a picnic on The Meadows this Saturday if it’s nice out—to make it up to Ellie for not being around a lot lately. I know she misses Adam too. Will you come?”
“That depends?” I found my way back to snarksville in an attempt to feel less off-balance. “Are you going to insinuate that I’m jealous of the sandwich you’ll be eating?”
He burst out laughing, a full body laugh that did sweet things to my insides. “I deserve that.” He prowled closer so I had to step back. “But will you forgive me and come? As friends?” However, there was something deliberately sarcastic about the way he said ‘friends’.
I eyed him suspiciously. “Braden…”
“Just friends.” His gaze dropped to my mouth and darkened. “I told you. I can pretend if you can pretend.”
“I’m not pretending.” Was that my voice that sounded all hot and breathy?
Braden just smirked at me like he didn’t believe me. “You know you’re really putting pressure on my acting skills.”