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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(34) by Samantha Young|
In response, he brushed his thumb over my mouth and smiled at me with his eyes before letting go.
And then, we were two friends spending time together. We talked about all the usual stuff. Music. Movies. Books. Hobbies. Friends. We made each other laugh. We had fun. But it was all little things. Braden was careful to make sure that he never asked anything he knew I wouldn’t answer. And when I stumbled over a question because it related to the past, he cracked a joke and changed the subject. This was a smart man.
We were just finishing up dessert when a sultry voice with an accent as melodic as Ellie’s, drifted across our table. “Braden, honey, I thought that was you.”
My eyes lifted to the woman who was standing by our table, and was now dipping down to kiss Braden’s cheek, giving him an eyeful of her small but perfectly formed br**sts. Her dress was red, daring and as sultry as her voice. She gave me a bright smile as she drank me in.
“Aileen. How are you?”
She grinned and stroked his cheek affectionately. “Better for seeing you.”
Oh hell. I tried not to shift uncomfortably as an inexplicable tightness lodged in my throat. This was an ex-girlfriend. Awkward.
Who the hell was Alan? Please be her husband.
“Oh.” She waved the question off with a grimace. “We’re separated. I’m here with a very charming date.”
Well, go back to him, lady, so we can get on with our date.
Shit! Not a date! Not a date!
Braden smiled and turned around to nod at me. “Aileen, this is Jocelyn.”
“Hi.” I smiled politely, not really sure how to converse with an obvious ex. As I looked over the tall, blonde glamazon, I was convinced more than ever that I was the opposite of Braden’s usual type.
Her eyes were assessing as they washed over me. After a second her smile widened as she looked back at Braden. “Finally, a girl who doesn’t look like Analise.” She touched his shoulder affectionately again. “I’m glad for you.”
“Aileen...” Braden pulled back, his jaw clenching.
Analise? My eyebrows were raised in question. Who was Analise?
“Still sore I see,” Aileen tutted and took a step back. “I guess we all are about spouses. Takes time.” She waited for someone to say something and then, as if suddenly realizing she was intruding on our dinner, she laughed a little embarrassed. “Anyway, I better get back to Roberto. Take care, Braden. It was good to see you. And nice to meet you, Jocelyn.”
“You too,” I murmured, trying to hide the fact that it felt as though someone had rammed the table into my gut. Spouses? I sucked in a breath, a shot of adrenaline kicking my heart into a riot as Aileen sashayed away, having no idea she’d caused tension between me and Braden.
My lips felt numb. “Wife?”
Why did I feel betrayed? That was stupid. Or was it? He’d said we were friends. And Ellie… Ellie was my friend, and she hadn’t told me Braden had an ex-wife. Did it matter?
You haven’t told him anything, Joss.
No, I hadn’t. But I also hadn’t been married.
“Jocelyn…” Braden sighed, and I lifted my eyes to see his expression was like granite. “I would have told you about Analise eventually.”
I waved him off. “It’s none of my business.”
“If that’s the case, why do you look shell-shocked?”
“Because I’m surprised. I got into this with you because you were a serial dater. Not a one-woman kind of guy.” I touched a hand to my chest. What the hell was that pain in there?
He ran a hand through his hair and then sighed heavily again. The next thing I knew, he had hooked a leg around my chair leg and was pulling me toward him, until our shoulders were almost brushing.
I stared up at him questioningly, lost for a moment in his beautiful eyes.
“I got married when I was twenty-two,” he began softly, quietly, his eyes studying me as he explained. “Her name was Analise. She was an Australian post-grad student. We’d only been together a year before I proposed, and we were only married for two. The first nine months were great. The next three months rocky. The last year hell. We fought a lot. Mostly about my inability to let her in,” he whirled his wine glass, dropping his gaze now, “And when I think about it, that was true. Thank f**k.” His eyes came back to me. “The thought of handing her – someone as vindictive as her – all my personal crap…”
“Like ammunition in her hands,” I murmured, understanding completely.
“Exactly. I believe you work hard to make a marriage work. I didn’t want to give up. But one day, not too long before my father passed away, he called me and asked me to check a property we were trying to sell on Dublin Street. Not Ellie and yours,” he added quickly. “He told me there had been a complaint about dripping water in the downstairs flat, so I went along to check.” His jaw clenched. “I didn’t find a leak, but I found Analise in bed with a close friend of mine from school. My dad had known. They’d been going behind my back for six months.”
I closed my eyes, feeling pain for him echo in my chest. How could anyone do that to him? To him? When I opened them, his gaze was soft on me and I reached for his arm, squeezing it consolingly. To my surprise his mouth quirked up into a smile. “It doesn’t hurt anymore, Jocelyn. Years of retrospect took away that. What I had with Analise was superficial. A young man’s dick leading him astray.”
“You really believe that?”
“I know that.”
I frowned, shaking my head. “Why would you buy a property on Dublin Street again?”
He shrugged. “Analise may have f**ked off back to Australia once I divorced her and made sure she left with nothing, but she’d still tainted the city I loved. I’ve spent the last six years creating new memories all over the city, building over the mess she left behind. The same is true with Dublin Street. The flat you’re in was a mess. A shell on a street poisoned with betrayal. I wanted to create something beautiful in place of all the ugliness.”
His words sank inside me so deeply I couldn’t breathe. Who was this guy? Was he real?
He lifted his hand to my face, his fingers gliding softly along my jawline, and curving down my neck. I shivered. Yes, he was real.
And for the next three months he was mine.
I stood up abruptly, grabbing my clutch. “Take me back to yours.”
Braden didn’t argue. His eyes flared with understanding and he got us the check. We were out of there and in a cab before I knew it.
I had no clue where Braden lived and was surprised to be let out of the cab at the university on the walkway that led down to The Meadows. Situated above a café and a little express supermarket was a modern building hosting luxury apartments. We rode the elevator to the top, and Braden let me inside his duplex penthouse.
I should have known.
The place was amazing to say the least, but it definitely looked like a guy lived there. Hardwood floors everywhere, a huge chocolate brown suede corner unit couch, a black glass fire mounted to the wall, a huge wide-screen TV in the corner. A partition wall separated the sitting room from the kitchen and its matching island. The kitchen itself was clearly top of the range, but it was finished in a cold steel and looked like it had never been used. At the back of the apartment was stairs leading up to what I guessed were the bedrooms.
It was all the glass that made it so cool. Floor to ceiling windows on three sides offered views of the city, with French doors leading out from the sitting room onto a huge private terrace. I’d discover later, that upstairs on the opposite side of the building, the master bedroom had floor to ceiling windows and another terrace, giving this penthouse a three hundred and sixty degree view of the city.
The view at night was spectacular. My mom had never done the city justice when she tried to describe it to me. I felt an ache rip across my chest as I stood in the middle of Braden’s sitting room staring out at the world in pain, and wondering how often Braden did the same thing.
“You haven’t said a word. Are you okay?”
I turned to face him, knowing in him, I’d find the temporary cure. “Do you to want to f**k it out?”
Braden smiled slowly, bemused, causing another twist of attraction in my gut. “Fuck it out?”
“All the bullshit. What she did. What he did. Every soulless bitch that wanted something from you.”
His expression changed immediately, becoming hard, unfathomable, as he took a step towards me. “Are you saying you don’t want anything from me?”
“I want this. I want our arrangement. I want you…” I sucked in a breath, feeling my control slip. “…to f**k it out of me.”
“Fuck what out, Jocelyn?”
Couldn’t he see it? Was my mask really that good? I shrugged. “All the nothing.”
He was silent for a moment, his eyes searching.
And then I was wrenched into his arms, his hold tight at my nape as he mouth fell on mine. It was a desperate kiss. Whether it was his desperation or mine, I didn’t know. I just knew I’d never been kissed so deeply, so hungrily. It wasn’t about finesse. It was about trying to sink ourselves inside one another.
Braden broke the kiss, his chest rising and falling hard as he tried to catch his breath. I stared up at him, already deep in a sexual fog, as he cupped my face gently in his hands and pressed a soft kiss to my mouth, his tongue just flicking mine teasingly. When he pulled back, his hands whispered down my arms and he turned me around slowly with his hands on my waist. I stood with my back to him, my breath stuttering as his fingers reached for the side zip of the dress. His touch was so hot I could feel the heat through the material. The only sound in the room was that of our excited breaths, and the sharp zip of the zipper as Braden slid it down excruciatingly slowly, his fingers brushing my skin as he went. Unzipped, he glided his hands back up my arms to the straps of the dress, and just as slowly, peeled them off my shoulders. Done, he gripped the material at the h*ps and tugged the dress down until it pooled at my feet.