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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(36) by Samantha Young|
I had just made myself a sandwich when I heard the front door open. My heart stopped for a second until I heard the light footsteps. Ellie. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Hey.” Ellie smiled down at me as she strolled into the room. “Back from the opticians.”
I put Judy on mute. “How’d it go?”
“Apparently, I need glasses for reading and watching the TV.” She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t really suit glasses.”
I doubted that. Ellie could wear a trash bag and still look cute. “When do you pick them up?”
“Next week.” She grinned suddenly. “So? How was dinner?”
“Your brother tricked me. It was just us two.”
Ellie snorted. “Typical Braden. Did you have fun though?”
“Other than meeting an obviously ex-girlfriend of Braden’s, who seemed perfectly pleasant if a little clueless as she inadvertently told me about Braden’s ex-wife, then yeah.” I shrugged nonchalantly. “We had fun.”
Ellie gasped, drawing my gaze back to her. Anxiety clouded her pale eyes as she stood up and walked over cautiously to sit next to me. “I would have told you, Jocelyn, but Braden wanted to tell you himself. And it’s personal for him. I wish I could explain but it really is his business.”
I waved her off. “It’s okay. He told me about Analise. How she cheated on him.”
Ellie’s eyebrows drew together. “He told you?”
Was he not supposed to? “Yeah.”
She sat there for a moment seeming frozen and then something in her eyes softened as she smiled at me. “He told you.”
Oh God, she was getting romantic ideas in her head again. “Stop.”
“What?” Her eyes grew huge with pretend innocence.
I made a face. “You know what.”
Before Ellie could respond our front door opened and slammed shut. Heavy footsteps tread down the hall towards us.
“Oh crap,” I muttered, ignoring Ellie’s questioning eyes.
The door to the sitting room swung open and there he was in his suit, leaning against the doorjamb, expression blank.
“Hey, Braden,” Ellie greeted weakly, sensing the sudden danger in the air.
“Afternoon, Els.” He nodded at her and then pinned me to the couch with his lethal blue gaze. “Bedroom. Now.” He turned on his heel and left me to follow.
I gaped open-mouthed.
“What did you do?” Ellie whispered worriedly.
I shot her a look. “I snuck out of his place this morning.”
Her eyes widened. “Why?”
Already feeling inexplicably guilty, my guilt transformed quickly into anger. “Because that’s what f**k buddies do,” I snapped, jumping off the couch. “And he needs to stop ordering me around.” I stomped—yes, stomped—into my bedroom and slammed the door shut behind me, chest heaving with indignation. “You need stop ordering me around.” I pointed my finger at him.
The blank expression he’d been wearing as he stood at the bottom of my bed was quickly replaced by displeasure. That was putting it nicely. He was pissed. “You need to stop acting like a f**king headcase.”
I drew in a sharp breath. “What the hell did I do?”
He looked incredulous, throwing his hands up in disbelief. “You snuck out of my flat like I was some drunken lay you were ashamed of.”
He couldn’t have been more wrong. I crossed my arms over my chest, a protective measure, as I shook my head and refused to meet his gaze.
“You want to disabuse me of that notion and tell me exactly why I got out of the shower this morning to find you’d buggered off?”
“I-I had stuff to do.”
Braden grew scarily quiet. “You had stuff to do?”
“You know until this moment, you’ve never really acted your age. I thought you were more mature than this, Jocelyn. I guess I was wrong.”
“Oh don’t pull that crap,” I replied irritably. “I’m not the one getting my knickers in a twist because my f**k buddy didn’t stick around for a cuddle in the morning.”
At the flash of something in his eyes, I felt my stomach drop. The look was gone as fast as it appeared and his features hardened against me. “Fine. It’s done. Forget about it. I need you to get Saturday, two weeks from now, off. I’ve got DJ Intrepid, a famous DJ from London, playing at Fire for Freshers week,” his rumbling voice sounded detached, empty, and all that distance was directed at me. I didn’t like it. “I want you there.”
I nodded numbly. “Okay.”
“Okay then. I’ll text you later.” He strode toward me and I waited tensely for his next move. He didn’t even look at me. Just reached for the door and brushed past me.
He didn’t kiss me goodbye.
I felt sick. Now who was making things complicated?
Dr. Pritchard took a sip of water and then cocked her head at me once I stopped talking. “Has it occurred to you that you may be developing deeper feelings for Braden?”
I sighed heavily. “Of course it has. I’m not stupid.”
“And yet, you’re determined to stay in this arrangement with him knowing and championing its end?”
My smile was definitely without humor. “Okay… maybe I’m a little stupid.”
I know I’m hardheaded. I get that about myself. I know I have issues a mile long, and I know those issues aren’t going away any time soon. But living these last few months on Dublin Street, with a little help from the good doctor, I was able to see myself in a different light. I had been convinced I had no real attachments in this life because that’s the way I wanted it. Slowly, but surely, I was coming to terms with the fact that Rhian and James were an attachment, and Ellie was definitely an attachment. I might not want to care about them, but I did. And with caring comes all kinds of crappy stuff… like remorse.
I apologized to Ellie for snapping at her. She, of course, accepted it graciously.
But all day, I was plagued by guilt and I kept seeing Braden’s face flash before my eyes. That guilt brought back some bad shit, and I found myself locked in the bathroom, seeing myself through a pretty awful panic attack.
You see, I’d realized something. Something terrifying.
It might just be sex with Braden, but that didn’t mean I hadn’t formed an attachment to him.
I might not want to care about him, but I did.
That’s why, as I was leaving for work, I sent him a text that said something I had never said to a guy before.
I’m sorry x
You have no idea how fast my pulse was racing after I added the kiss. One little kiss and my hands were shaking.
Craig and Jo were not happy with me that night. I messed up a couple of orders, spilled half a bottle of Jack and knocked over the tips jar into the spillage getting a couple of notes wet. When I checked my phone on break and still hadn’t received a text back from Braden, I gave myself a good talking to.
I could not turn into an inept idiot because some guy hadn’t accepted my apology. I had shown some real growth sending that text, I nodded angrily to myself, and if he couldn’t see that, then fine! To hell with him. I was Joss Butler. I took no shit from no man.
I returned to work feeling defiant and determined, and I managed to do my job without any more incidents. I explained away my clumsiness, telling the guys I’d had a migraine but was feeling much better. They swallowed that since I started joking around with them like normal, doing what I had always been good at, and shoving my feelings down under the steel trapdoor inside of me.
Holding onto this was key, because one slip, one crack and that door would come flying open again and I just… well, I just couldn’t handle that.
We finished up the night and Jo and Craig kindly offered to let me go early since I ‘hadn’t been feeling well’. I wasn’t going to argue. I grabbed my stuff and said goodbye to Brian at the door and headed up the steps onto George Street.
I spun around and found Braden standing on the sidewalk by the club. My stomach was back to churning again. We stared at each other silently for a minute until I found my voice. “You were waiting on me?”
He smiled a little as he approached. “Thought I could walk you home?”
Relief I wasn’t willing to admit to for too long poured over me, and I grinned up at him. “Does that walk happen to conclude with us na**d in my bed together?”
His laughter was low, rough, and it floored me like always. “That’s what I had in mind, yes.”
I took a deep breath. “I’m forgiven for being a bitch then?”
“Babe.” Braden reached out to stroke my cheek, clearly forgiving me.
I tugged on his jacket, pulling him closer. “I think you should show me who’s boss anyway.”
His arms wrapped around my waist and I found myself snuggled up against him. “I thought you told me I was to stop bossing you around.”
“Well there are special circumstances where I’d allow it.”
“Oh? What would those be?”
“Any that results in me coming.”
He grinned, squeezing me closer. “Why do you have to make everything sound so dirty?”
I laughed, remembering those were the words he’d used the day he’d walked in on me na**d. God, it felt like a lifetime ago.
With a lot of sex and laughter that weekend, Braden and I closed the breach between us. I worked, Braden worked, and then on Sunday, Elodie and Clark took the kids to St. Andrews for the day so Ellie, Braden and I hung out with Adam, Jenna and Ed. It was the first time Braden and I were out in a social situation with other people since starting our arrangement. I knew as soon as we walked into Ed’s favorite pub on the Royal Mile for lunch that everyone was now aware of our arrangement. Jenna stared at us like we were a science experiment and Ed had this stupid little boy grin on his face. Adam actually winked at me. I swear to God I would have fled the premises if Braden hadn’t anticipated it and grasped my arm to pull me forward. Once they realized nothing had really changed – we weren’t a couple, there was no handholding or fondling, and our chairs were, in fact, pretty far apart – the guys just acted like normal. We had a great lunch, a few beers, and then hit the movies together. Braden did take the seat next to me in the theatre and okay… there may have been fondling in the dark.