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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(21) by Samantha Young|
Something unpleasant flipped my stomach over and I glanced quickly at Ellie. She was frowning at Braden and then scowling at Adam, brushing off his hand and striding off after Braden who had managed to convince some people sitting around a table to squeeze further along the leather couch so he, his mystery girl, Ellie and Adam could sit down.
Everyone slid onto the couch except Ellie who was now glaring daggers at them all. Adam said something to her. Ellie shook her head, looking extremely pissed off now, and Adam’s face darkened. Like a whip, his hand came out and wrapped around her arm, yanking her down beside him. She struggled to get away from him, but his arm slid around her waist, his hand on her hip—a seemingly casual gesture but his hold was clearly strong and whatever he whispered in her ear made her stop struggling.
It didn’t remove the stony look on her face.
Worried, my eyes drifted to Braden, but he hadn’t seen any of this. He was too busy chatting with the brunette.
Quickly, I turned away, completely unprepared for the rush of blood in my ears and the tightness in my chest.
I honestly didn’t know where I stood with this guy. One minute he was giving me ‘sex eyes’ and the next he wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence. Well, I wasn’t going to let him get to me. I served my customer and looked over at Alistair. “I’ve seen some friends. Can you guys handle the bar while I get them drinks?”
Ignoring the butterflies in my belly, I headed out onto the floor, stupidly thanking my boss for the sexy tank top he made me wear. If I had to be a little bit sweaty and held up for comparison to the brunette in the shimmery shift dress, then at least I was going to do it knowing I made that tank look good.
As I approached, Ellie’s glacier expression melted and she smiled up at me, relieved to see me.
“Hey guys,” I announced myself loudly to be heard over the music. “Can I get you drinks?”
“Oh no need,” Adam told me with a smile, “Darren is getting us some.” He pointed behind me and I turned around to see a tall, clean-cut red-head waiting to push his way through the crowds to the bar.
I frowned in question. “Darren?”
The answer came from the brunette and I looked over at her in surprise, my eyes washing over her sitting next to Braden, my brain trying to make the picture in front of me and what she had just said make sense. I caught Braden’s gaze and he gave me a cool smirk, like he knew I had assumed she was one of his Barbies. “This is Donna. She’s Darren’s wife. Darren is the manager of Fire.”
Well I felt sheepish.
And then I caught Braden’s eye again and his smile deepened.
Ellie’s suspicions from earlier played around in my brain. Well, just so you know, I get the impression he’s planning something.
God damn him! He wanted me to think Donna was his date. He wanted to see relief spark in my eyes when I realized she wasn’t. And God damn me, because I’d given him it.
“Nice to meet you.” I nodded at her. “I’ll send your husband back over because he’ll be standing there forever. I’ll get your drinks order from him and bring it over.”
“Thanks, Joss.” Ellie smiled wanly up at me.
I frowned, hating to see her so uncomfortable. I reached out and squeezed her shoulder reassuringly, noting Adam’s hand still clamped firmly on her hip. I shot him a look of warning over the top of Ellie’s head that made his brow pucker in confusion. Ignoring Braden and whatever game he was up to now, I sashayed back over to Darren, introduced myself and sent him back to the others once I had the drinks memorized.
“He’s back,” Craig said in my ear, leaning around me as he shook a cocktail mix.
“That guy that Jo was going on about for ages after he was in here.”
“Braden.” I nodded, looking up at him. I hadn’t realized how close he was standing, our faces inches apart. “Jo wanted to make him her next sugar daddy.”
“From the feel of the daggers embedded in my back, I’d say he was interested in being someone else’s sugar daddy.”
I pulled back, rolling my eyes. “I don’t need a sugar daddy, Craig.”
Craig shot a look back over at Braden. “He bothers me. Last time he was in here he stared at you like he owned you, and tonight is no different. Something going on with you two?”
“Not a thing. I told you—I don’t need a sugar daddy.”
Craig’s eyes narrowed and he turned back to me, his face splitting into a mischievous smile. “Maybe I need a sugar momma.” And then he was kissing me, one hand wrapping around the back of my neck to keep me there while his tongue slipped into my mouth and his body pressed close. Shock kept me in my place and then the surprisingly nice feel of his lips on mine. Craig knew how to kiss, that was for sure. The catcalls and cheers broke through the moment and I pulled back, pressing a hand against his chest.
“Uh…” I blinked, trying to figure out what was going on. “What just happened?”
Craig winked at me. “Just pissing off Mr. Money over there and having a hot time doing it.”
I shook my head in disbelief and shoved him away, catching Alistair’s grin as Craig swaggered by him, obviously pleased with himself. As I returned to preparing my friends’ drinks I forced myself not to look up. I didn’t want to know if Craig was right about Braden. I didn’t want to acknowledge whatever feelings he might have for me and vice versa. But damn, it pleased me to know someone else had noticed his interest in me other than a hopeful, die-hard romantic like Ellie. At least I knew I wasn’t seeing things.
And wasn’t I just a confused bundle of hormones?
Putting the drinks on a tray, I stepped out of the bar and ignored a ‘hey, sweetheart’ from a customer who’d obviously caught the Craig Show, and dodged around people so I could get the drinks to Ellie & Co without spilling a drop.
“Here you go.” I put the tray on the table and started passing the drinks out.
“Uh, what was that?” Ellie asked me wide-eyed as she took her drink from me.
I don’t know what possessed me to think that playing dumb was the way to go. “What was what?”
Adam grunted. “The guy with his tongue down your throat?”
I couldn’t even look at Braden because I could feel his burning gaze… well… burning into me. I shrugged. “It’s just Craig.”
And then I fled before they could ask me anything more.
But Craig wasn’t happy with just sticking his tongue in my mouth. For the next forty minutes, he upped the flirting, kissing my neck, patting my ass, teasing me mercilessly with sex talk.
I guess not being more upset about him kissing me let him think he could. And the truth is, I didn’t do anything to make him think otherwise. I’d decided I wanted to send Braden a message.
We were not friends.
And we were never going to be anything more than not friends.
So we were… nothing.
“Break time, Joss!” Alistair swatted me on the behind with a dishrag as he came in off of his break.
I sighed. “I’m going to take that damn thing off you if you don’t stop using it as a weapon. Seriously, was that necessary?”
He grinned at me. “What? Would you have preferred my tongue in your mouth?”
“Funny.” I swung around on my toes and strolled out of the back of the bar and into the staff area. There was a small locker room with a couch, a candy machine and some magazines. A door to the right led into the manager’s office, but Su was only ever in every second weekend because she worked full-time during the week. When you closed Su’s door, the noise from the bar disappeared. Head buzzing, adrenaline pumping because of Braden and Craig, I slipped inside with a can of Coke and slumped against her desk.
Encouraging Craig was a bad idea. We’d always joked around but tonight he’d crossed the line and I’d let him, and it was all because Braden was messing with my head. I hated the punch to my gut when I thought Donna was his date. I hated that he knew I’d felt something. I hated that I suspected he’d orchestrated the whole thing.
I had to find a way to let him know once and for all that nothing was ever going to happen between us.
My eyes snapped up from their hook on the carpet when Su’s door opened, and I straightened, the butterflies in my stomach raging to life as Braden stepped inside and closed the door.
His eyes were calculating as they trained on my face, his features hard, clouded.
Braden looked pissed.
“What are you doing here?”
He didn’t answer and my eyes did that thing again… losing control, running down his body, taking in the stylish black crew-neck sweater and tailored black pants. The only accessory he wore was an expensive platinum sports watch. His understated style and the fact that he hadn’t shaved in a few days added up to a very hot package.
I felt that squeeze right in the bottom depths of my body and my jaw locked. Why did he have to turn me on so much? It wasn’t fair.
Covering, I took a swig of my soda. “Well?”
“I don’t like to share.”
My eyes flew to his and if it was possible, he looked angrier than ever. In this tiny room, Braden was huge and intimidating, and the comparison between our sizes more notable. He could crush me like a bug if he wanted to. “What?”
His eyes narrowed. “I said, I don’t like to share.”
I thought of Vicky. “That’s not what I’ve heard.”
“Let me rephrase.” He took a seething step toward me. “When it comes to you… I don’t like to share.”
There was no time to process that. One minute I was staring incredulously up at him, the next the soda can was hitting the floor and my ass was on the desk as Braden collided with me. The heat and strength of him overwhelmed me as his large hand gripped the back of my neck and his other tugged my left thigh up, allowing him to push in between my legs and position me over the desk. His mouth crashed down on mine and the desire my body had been harboring for him for weeks took control of me. I clung to him, my hands digging into his back, my legs climbing his h*ps as my lips parted on an exhalation of relief that allowed his tongue inside my mouth to tease mine. The smell of him, the taste of whisky on his tongue, the feel of his warm hands gripping me tight it… it all overpowered me and I made this throaty sound I couldn’t control.