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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(24) by Samantha Young|
Some time passes, and the meerkat finally decides the eagle got bored and went off to scare the crap out of some other cute little meerkat. So, the meerkat crawls out from her hidey-hole to carry merrily on her way.
And just when that little meerkat thought she was home free, that big-ass eagle swoops down and catches her in his big-ass claws.
Well… I know exactly how that little meerkat felt…
Braden didn’t call again, or text, or email. I spent the next few days keeping busy, fighting with my manuscript, erasing chapters that an eighth grader could have written, cleaning the apartment from top to bottom, and taking advantage of the distraction that was the Edinburgh Festival with Ellie. We hit the Theatre Big Top in The Meadows to catch the show, The Lady Boys of Bangkok, and damn, were those some pretty boys, went to the Edvard Munch exhibit out in the west of the city at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and we bought cheap tickets to this young, up and coming comedian who was stuck in a dingy room in the dated building of the Student Union at the university main campus. Being in the union brought back a lot of memories of Rhian, James and I hanging out in there. I tried to let myself enjoy the crowds of the festival, the tourists everywhere, the smell of coffee, and beer, and hot food everywhere. Peddlers on the sidewalk, peddling their wares—jewelry, posters, random mementos, flyers everywhere.
I also paid a traumatizing visit to my therapist and spoke about Dru for the first time.
Yeah. I didn’t want to think about it.
Suffice to say by the time Thursday rolled around I’d managed to convince myself that Braden had only been playing with me. After all, if he’d been serious he would have at least texted me to make sure I hadn’t forgotten him, but nope. Nothing. Nada.
I’d changed my shifts at work from Thursday, Friday, to Friday and Saturday nights so I was free to hang out at home. When Ellie told me she was staying with her mom that night because she felt like hanging out with her family, I stupidly didn’t think anything of it. I was unprepared. I was relaxed, thinking Braden had forgotten about me.
I stuck my stupid head out of my stupid hidey-hole.
That’s when Braden swooped in like a big-ass eagle.
The apartment was silent except for the sitting room, where I was curled up on an armchair, sipping from a glass of wine and watching Zack Snyder’s 300. I realize now what a bad idea that had been. All those rippling muscles and the languid side-effect of the wine… I blamed it all for what happened next.
“You know you should really lock the door when you’re home alone.”
“Shit!” I jumped, spilling wine all over my jeans. I shot out of the chair, glaring at Braden who stood in the doorway, looking un-amused. What did he have to be pissed about? His favorite jeans hadn’t just gotten ruined! “Jesus C, Braden, for the last time would you freaking knock!”
His eyes dropped to my stained jeans before flicking back to my face. “If you promise to lock the door when you’re home alone.”
I grew still, taking in his serious expression. Was he… concerned about me? I frowned, and dropped my gaze as I put my almost empty glass on the coffee table. “Fine,” I murmured, unsure of what to do with that.
“Ellie’s gone for the night.”
My eyes shot to his face and I found him watching me intently. He was wearing a suit, but he looked a little rumpled, like he’d been working for hours and had come to see me without making a pit stop. My stomach flipped as realization dawned. “Did you orchestrate that?”
The left side of his mouth quirked up. “For future reference, Ellie can be bought with a box of champagne truffles.”
I was going to kill the traitor.
Especially because Braden looked so damn good. That and the fact that the costume department for 300 had done a number on my libido caused the hormonal wreck that stood before Braden. I willed myself to take Dr. Pritchard’s advice and stop thinking fifty steps ahead. I told myself all the time that I was living life in the present because planning a future was just so terrifying. But while I lived my life in the present, I constantly worried about what awaited me tomorrow, and I think the good doctor was suggesting I take my own damn advice and live for today.
But with Braden?
It was too dangerous. I already knew I didn’t want a relationship with him.
“I take it you weren’t expecting me?” Braden asked as he settled himself on the couch.
Not wanting to appear intimidated, I slipped back into my seat on the armchair. “No. I managed to convince myself through wishful thinking that we were done with whatever that was that happened before…”
He shrugged out of his jacket. “You mean when I dry humped you against a wall?”
My jaw locked with irritation. If he’d been a character in a book, I would have hated his dirty mouth. As it was, my body loved his dirty mouth. No need to tell him that. “You know, Braden, I’ve watched you over the last few months and you’re such a gentleman to everyone but me. What’s with that?”
“I want you in my bed. Gentlemen are boring in bed.”
Good point. “Gentlemen are gentlemen in bed. They make sure you’re having a good time.”
“I’ll make sure you’re having a good time, and that you’re okay with everything we’re doing. I just won’t be well-mannered about it.”
Stomach flip, belly squeeze. “I thought we already discussed this. You and I are not happening.”
He frowned at me, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped together between them. His shirt sleeves were rolled up again. It was like he knew what that did to me. “We haven’t discussed anything.”
I sighed heavily. “Braden, I like you, I do. Yeah, you’re an overbearing ass and you say whatever is on your mind without filtering out the filth, but you seem like a good guy, and you’re a good brother to Ellie.” Our eyes caught, and I almost flinched at the pang of attraction that zinged across my chest. “Ellie has become a really good friend and I love living with her here. I don’t want to mess that up. And I don’t want to be in a relationship. With anyone.”
He looked at me so long in silence, I didn’t know if he was actually going to ever respond. I had just decided it might be best to leave the room and Braden to his thoughts, when he relaxed back against the couch. His eyes darkened. I knew that look. Uh oh. “Good thing I’m not proposing a relationship.”
It was safe to say I was completely confused. “Well, what are you proposing?”
“You and me. Just sex. Whenever we want. No strings attached.”
“Just sex,” I repeated, feeling the words roll around my mouth and brain. Just sex. Sex with Braden whenever I wanted with no strings attached. “What about everything else? Ellie, the apartment, the whole gang hanging out?”
Braden shrugged. “None of that has to change. We’ll be friends who hang out and have sex with each other.”
“And what would we tell people?”
“It’s nobody’s bloody business.”
I tilted my head, exasperated. “I meant Ellie.”
“The truth.” He eyed me carefully. “I don’t lie to my sister.”
“She won’t like it.”
Braden chuckled. “I don’t give a flying f**k if Ellie likes it or not. In fact, I’d prefer it if my wee sister stayed clear of my sexual business.”
“That’ll be kind of hard since the person you want to have sex with lives with her.”
That didn’t bother him in the least. “Your bedrooms are on opposite sides of the flat. And you can always visit my bed in my flat.”
Hmm. Braden’s apartment. I was curious to see it.
No! No, stop it! “I can’t.”
“You can’t, or you won’t?” his eyes narrowed dangerously.
Stomach flip, belly squeeze. I closed my eyes. I could feel his body pressed against mine again, feel his tongue stroking mine, and his hand gentle but firm against my breast. Oh God. My eyes flew open and I found his gaze had softened on me. “Just sex?”
I could tell he was trying to stifle a smile, like he knew he was winning. “Well… almost.”
“I need someone to accompany me to business dinners and whatever inane social events Morag has scheduled me to appear at. It would be nice to go with someone who wasn’t expecting a marriage proposal or a diamond necklace at the end of the night.”
“That’s not just sex. That’s like an arrangement. Like the arrangement you usually have with all those Barbies you date. Which brings me to why me? Braden, you’ve got a lot of money and you’re not exactly hard on the eyes—although I doubt you need me telling you that and giving you something else to be a cocky bastard about—so why not go out and get one of those tall, skinny blondes who will jump at the chance of jumping you?”
Surprise flashed across Braden’s face and he dipped his head down. “One: because they need me to care about them. They want me to talk about my feelings, and they want me to buy them shit. We’re talking about taking that out of the picture, which works for both of us. And two: seriously?”
I frowned, wondering what he was ‘seriously-ing’ me at.
“Well,” he shook his head, grinning now, “You always surprise me.”
“I just assumed you knew how sexy you are. Apparently you don’t.”
Wow. I flushed inwardly and rolled my eyes at him, like his words hadn’t penetrated my steel armor. “Whatever.”
My blasé answer didn’t deter him. He was determined to answer my question. “No, you don’t look like my usual woman. And yes, I like long legs. And yours are short.”
I glowered at him now.
Braden grinned. “And yet they still gave me a semi-hard on in the taxi when you were wearing those little shorts. And again when you wore them at Elodie’s and Clark’s.”