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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(20) by Samantha Young|
As I had been for the last few weeks I was working Saturday’s now at Club 39. Ellie had gotten home earlier around dinner time, stuffed full from the picnic, and quite willing to just sit with me while I shoveled down some food before I needed to get ready for my shift.
“So, is everything okay with Rhian?” she asked, a little furrow forming between her eyebrows.
Guilt lodged in my throat. I hadn’t felt too awful lying to Braden since his three-sixty back into predatory hottie with wicked eyes and a f**k-me smile was the sole reason I’d had to resort to lying in the first place. But lying to Ellie was a totally different ballgame and it made more than a little uneasy.
I mumbled around a mouthful of pasta, nodding and avoiding her eyes, hoping she’d get that I didn’t want to talk about it.
At her answering silence I glanced up and found her watching me curiously. I swallowed. “What?”
Ellie shrugged. “Just… when Braden was walking me home he said he thought maybe… that maybe you were lying about the call from Rhian so you could avoid the picnic.”
Jesus C, he had such an ego on him!
Never mind that he was right.
I guffawed. “What? Because of him?”
She shrugged again. “Was he right?”
More avoiding her eyes. “Nope.”
“Well, just so you know, I get the impression he’s planning something.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Like what?”
She sighed leaning back in her chair. “With Braden you never know. I’ve just learned to recognize the signs. I know my brother better than he thinks I know him. You’re under his skin, Joss. I’m actually impressed he’s been so patient. Although, that probably means he’s planning on doing whatever it takes to get you.”
I was surprised, and couldn’t pretend I wasn’t. I sat back, momentarily abandoning my food. “Under his skin? Whatever it takes?”
“As much as my brother’s sex life makes me squeamish, I sometimes can’t avoid hearing about it, and what I hear is that Braden always gets what he wants.”
I snorted. “Please, Ellie, you think I’m what he wants? I’m not exactly his type. Jocelyn Butler doesn’t come in Supermodel.”
Ellie looked adorably confused. “You’re kidding right?”
“Um… about what?”
“You.” She pointed at me indignantly. “You’re seriously hot, Joss. Okay, you don’t look like the pretty coat hangers Braden usually goes for, but you have those amazing eyes, that throaty sex-phone voice, a cup-size I’d die for, and this broody, standoffishness that’s completely at odds with the seriously cool and funny person you are. Believe me, I’ve heard the guys talking. You’re different, and guys being guys, they can’t help seeing that as a challenge. You’re hot.”
I was stunned that’s what I was.
Was that really how these people saw me? Embarrassed, I picked up my fork, mumbling, ‘whatever’.
I could feel my roommate’s smile without even looking up. “You need a mirror.”
Then Ellie grew quiet and I found myself raising my gaze to make sure she was alright. She wasn’t smiling now. “No matter how much he denies it, Braden’s interested in you, Joss. He asks me about you a lot, which he’s never done before with anyone else and, believe me I’ve lost at least three friends he serial-dated out of my life. I don’t tell him much-
You told him about my family.
-because you don’t say much, so of course he’s even more intrigued. And like I said, Braden usually gets what he wants.”
“Please,” I huffed, “Give me a little more credit. I don’t just fall into a hot guy’s bed because he’s used to getting what he wants. Guess what? I’m used to getting what I want too. And what I want is not to fall into his bed.”
But it was like Ellie hadn’t even heard me. “If you don’t manage to resist, just be careful with him, okay. He’s been treated badly before, and I don’t want to see that happen again.”
Wide-eyed, I heard my fork clatter to my plate after my fingers dropped it of their own accord. They were in shock, as was the rest of me. “Wait. Are you worried about me hurting him?”
She smiled apologetically. “You’re a good person, which makes the fact that you don’t trust anyone, really hard for the people who care about you. And Braden, when he cares about someone, has to know everything so he can cover all the bases and protect them. He has to be a guy people can trust. It’s just who he is. If he started something with you, he’d only be hurt when you refuse to let him in.”
I only sort of took that in. Mostly, I just kept hearing ‘you’re a good person, which makes the fact that you don’t trust anyone, really hard for the people who care about you.’
“Am I hurting you, Ellie?” I didn’t want to admit how scared I was for her answer.
She exhaled heavily, seeming to weigh her words. “At first I was. But knowing that you don’t mean to hurt me helps. Do I wish you’d trust me more? Yes. Am I going to push it? No.” She stood up. “Just know that if you ever do decide to trust me, I’m here. And you can tell me anything.”
I felt my throat close up and I could only nod. In an effort to expel the moment, Ellie grinned down at me. “I’m going out tonight with Braden and Adam. I was kind of cool with Adam today. It pissed him off.”
Hmm, what are you up to, young lady? “Are you playing games with him?”
She scowled. “Yesterday I discovered he’d warned off Nicholas when he wanted to ask me out. So yes. I am.”
“Whoa, hold up.” I pushed my entire plate back now, totally confused. I’d met Nicholas. He was one of Ellie’s friends who hung out at the apartment sometimes. He was also a tutor in her department. “Adam did what?”
“I made some crack yesterday about not having had a date in months and Nicholas said maybe I would have had a date if Adam would stop threatening prospective guys. I was completely confused so Nicholas explained. Nick was planning on asking me out months ago, and he went to Adam for advice on where to take me out.” Her jaw locked as she thought about it. “Instead of answering, he warned Nicholas off with bodily harm. Told him to stay away from me. No explanation. Just ‘stay away’.”
I laughed in disbelief. “And of course Adam’s built and Nicholas looks like the promotion guy for Twiglets so Nick backed down.”
“What the hell is Adam playing at?”
“That’s what I want to know. He’s messed with me, so I’m going to enjoy messing with him.”
I had to admit, I liked this side of Ellie. People thought they could walk all over her, but they were wrong. I grinned up at her. “So the cold shoulder, huh?”
She grinned cheekily back at me, looking very much like a devilish angel. “Full force tonight. I may even flirt with some random to see if that ruffles his feathers. Then I can ask him what the hell he’s playing at. He was the one who didn’t want to be anything more than friends.”
“Well, usually I don’t condone game-playing, but in this case he deserves it. I can’t believe he’s been warning off guys behind your back. I look forward to the next report, Miss Carmichael.”
Ellie laughed and hurried off to get ready for the evening, leaving me to finish dinner so I could jump in the shower before work.
Craig was on shift with me tonight along with Alistair, another bartender I’d worked with a few times before. The guys were in a fun mood and the bar was busy—with the two of them trying their hardest to make me laugh, minutes were passing quickly and I was having a great time. Our good mood fed into the atmosphere of the club, and people had begun crowding around the bar to sip their drinks and enjoy each other’s banter as well as mine and the guys’.
“I catch this cocktail,” Craig shouted down the bar to me, “And you finally give in and shag me tonight, Joss.”
The customers tittered and laughed while I grinned back at him, pouring two Jack Daniels and Coke for the girls in front of me. “No way, Tom Cruise.”
Craig had great reflexes. I would definitely lose that one.
“You’re breaking my heart, darlin.”
I waved him off, handing my customers their drinks and taking the money off of them.
“What about me, Joss?” Alistair shot me a come-hither smile, but I knew he was only kidding. Alistair was happily engaged to an Irish girl who studied at Napier University. Still he may be loyal, but he was as big a flirt as Craig.
“Hmm, I’ll think about it,” I teased back, loud enough for Craig to hear.
Craig groaned in pretend agony and pouted at the attractive girl he was serving. “She’s killing me.”
The girl giggled, her eyes bright on him. I rolled my eyes as Craig grabbed her hand and placed it on his chest. “Feel that. That’s my heart breaking.”
“Oh man!” I rolled my eyes, cringing. “Could you be any cheesier?”
“Of course I could.”
Alistair snorted. “Believe it or not, that’s one of his better lines.”
Craig whipped him across the head with a dish rag.
Sniggering, I passed Craig to get some rum, and stood up on tiptoe to press a kiss to his cheek. That gained him a few cheers and one boo from Alistair.
Acting like idiots, the next hour flew by, and the tips jar filled up fast. The place got even busier, so my focus was completely on work and on my colleagues. The fact that I felt his eyes on me then, said a lot…
…Feeling my skin prickle, I jerked my head up and gazed out over the crowd towards the entrance and my eyes skimmed over Adam and Ellie as they followed Braden into the bar; Braden, who was walking beside a tall brunette who had her hand clamped on his arm.
Our eyes caught and he didn’t even acknowledge me. Instead he dipped his head and whispered something in the brunette’s ear that made her giggle.