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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(39) by Samantha Young|
I closed my eyes, seeing the image of her standing by the rope swing, the hatred in her eyes so intense. “I found her further down the river, drunk off her ass. She was trying to get onto this old rope swing that swung you out into the water, but it was frayed and unused and the current that night was bad. I begged her to come back to the party and talk to me, but she just kept shouting that I was a traitor and a whore. ” I looked up at Braden now to find his sad eyes on me. “She swung out on the rope before I could stop her and it snapped. She screamed for my help as the current took her and I didn’t think—I just shot into the water after her. But Kyle had been behind us and he came in after me and was a far stronger swimmer. Rather than let me get to her, he tugged me back to the rocks. Dru’s body washed up down the river. She was gone. And I never spoke to Kyle again.”
“Baby,” Braden murmured, reaching for me but I held my hand up to warn him off, shaking my head, my eyes furious.
“I killed her, Braden. I don’t deserve sympathy.”
He looked shocked now. “Jocelyn, you did not kill her. It was a tragic accident.”
“It was a series of events caused by my actions. I’m to blame.” He opened his mouth to talk and I placed a gentle hand over his lips. “I know it’s not rational. I do know that. But I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a point where I don’t blame myself. However, I’m trying to live with it. Telling you is huge. Believe me.”
Braden hauled me across the bed and into his arms, his hand at the nape of my neck. “Thank you for trusting me.”
I cupped his cheek in my hand and sighed wearily. “I think we need to have sex now.”
His brows drew together. “Why?”
“To remind us of what we’re doing here,” I replied, my tone meaningful.
Braden’s eyes narrowed. “No,” he told me gruffly, squeezing my nape. “I’d have sex with you for anything else but that.”
Surprised, I found for once I had no reply, and Braden didn’t wait on one. He pressed a hard kiss to my mouth and then slid down the bed, pulling me with him. He tucked me into his side and leaned over to switch off the light. “Go to sleep, babe.”
Shell-shocked at the night’s events, I lay there listening to him breathe before exhaustion finally claimed me.
“How do you feel now that you’ve told Braden about Dru?”
My gaze slid from the post-graduate degree framed on Dr. Pritchard’s wall to her face. “I feel scared, but relieved at the same time.”
“Scared because you told someone other than me?”
I shifted in my seat. “I’m perfectly aware that I keep things from people and I know that it isn’t brave, but it’s how I handle things. When I told Braden, the world didn’t end. I felt brave for once. And that was kind of a relief.”
I would be sticking my head in the sand if I didn’t say things changed between me and Braden after that night. We grew closer. Sharing looks and understanding what they meant kind of closer. And we spent a lot more time together. I decided not to think about the future. Right then I was having amazing sex with a great guy who also happened to be a friend. I didn’t want tomorrow. I knew what was waiting for me in tomorrow, and what was waiting was an inevitable mess. Everything was a lot nicer in the present.
Saturday rolled around before I knew it, and it was Braden’s guest DJ night at Fire to kick off the first week of university starting up. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to crowds of freshman, but neither was Braden and he had to be there in show of respect to this famous DJ I had never heard of, so Ellie, Adam and I were doing him a favor. I made the mistake of going shopping with Ellie and Hannah that afternoon for a dress, and allowed myself to be talked into buying a mini-dress. I had never owned a mini-dress. It was simple, turquoise blue, had a high neck, was backless to just below my waist, and the hem sat a good few inches above my knees—definitely shorter than I’d ever worn in public before.
Okay, so there were those green and white striped shorts, but a short dress was definitely more risqué.
I piled my hair up on top of my head, wore my make-up a little heavier since I let Ellie do it, and put on a pair of ankle-strap, suede wedges the same color as the dress. Ellie was, as per usual, stunning in a gold shift dress and spaghetti strap sandals.
We were meeting Braden at the club, which was probably a good thing since he took one look at me upon my arrival and scowled. The four of us were standing in his office, the music from the club pounding all around us. My hands flew to my h*ps at his expression. “What?” I snapped.
His eyes travelled the length of me and returned with a glitter of danger in them. “What the hell are you wearing?”
I narrowed my eyes. “What the hell is your problem?”
Ellie cleared her throat. “I think she looks nice.”
Braden cut her a warning look.
Hurt by his response to what I thought was a pretty hot dress, I shrugged like I didn’t care. “Let’s get a drink.” I spun on my heel and took satisfaction in the sound of Braden inhaling sharply. He’d caught a look at the back of the dress.
I heard footsteps following me out as I wound my way through the fairly quiet club. We were early and people were just starting to show. Fire’s main floor space was huge and split on two levels. Four long curving steps separated the bar and a small dance floor, with sofas and tables around it, from a huge floor space. Black walls with twinkle lights surrounded the upper level and down on the main space, the edges of the room were broken up with paper flames that were lit up from the back. A huge modern chandelier molded into flickering flames hung from the ceiling and added drama to what was otherwise an understated club. Customers came into the club from the level below where one staircase led them up here, and another led them downstairs to two more levels. The first level hosted a smaller lounge and dance floor, and the basement level hosted a cocktail bar.
I didn’t even make it to the stairs that would lead me up to the bar when I was tugged back against Braden’s chest. His hand slid down my waist and gripped my hip tight as he bent to murmur in my ear, “You look good enough to eat, that’s my problem.”
I tilted my head back to look up at him, feeling stupid that I hadn’t realized he was having a caveman moment. “Oh.” I grinned now, a little smugness creeping into it. “Well good thing you’re the only one who’s getting under this dress, huh.”
He smiled predatorily, clearly only somewhat appeased, but he nodded, giving me that one. “Fair enough. Go join Ellie and Adam at the table I reserved for you. I’ll have drinks sent over.”
“Where are you going?”
“I have guests arriving, including local media. Have to be seen for a bit. I’ll be over soon.”
I nodded and turned around, making my way over to Ellie and Adam who looked like they were having a pretty heated conversation. I was about to spin around to be elsewhere when Adam looked up and slid purposefully away from Ellie, his eyes telling me to sit my ass down. I threw him a ‘you’re an idiot’ look and sat down on Ellie’s other side. “Braden’s having drinks sent over. I didn’t realize he’d invited other people. I thought it was just us.”
“No.” Ellie pursed her lips, clearly in a bad mood now. “Some of his ex’s as well as his previous ‘friends with benefits’ girls love clubbing. He invited them and a few of his guy friends.”
She might as well have just punched me. I stiffened, stunned that Braden had invited ex-girlfriends tonight. And he had previous friends with benefiters? He’d told me he’d never done that before.
“Ellie.” Adam shot her a reproachful look. “What are you playing at?”
Confused, she shook her head at him and he nodded towards me. Ellie turned to look at me and whatever she saw there made her pale. “Oh, crap, Joss, I didn’t mean anything. I mean, those girls don’t mean anything…”
“Let’s get drunk,” I announced.
Adam eyed me carefully. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Let’s just wait for Braden.”
But waiting for Braden turned into a longer plan than we could stand. For a while I watched through the dim light of the club as it filled to the brim, and witnessed girl after girl standing flirting with him as he grinned back at them like an idiot, piling on their drinks.
Unused to the sharp spike of jealousy I was feeling, I shrugged on super cool pre-Dublin Street Jocelyn, and headed out onto the dance floor. Ellie was with me for a while and Braden stopped by to see how we were. I waved him off with a brittle smile and before he could question it, he was pulled away by another ‘guest’. Then Ellie was gone and I searched the crowds for her only to spy her at the bar, eyeballing Adam who was flirting with some girl I didn’t recognize. Men. I shook my head angrily. Assholes.
Maybe I was a little drunk.
I was just about to go to the bar and ask for water when I felt a cool hand on my bare back. I turned, surprised to find Gavin, the personal trainer, smiling down at me.
“Joss.” He grinned, still touching me. “It’s nice to see you again.”
I’ll admit that the huge smile I gave him was more about being pissed off at Braden for getting me to take the night off work and then ignoring me for most of it. “Gavin, hey.”
He whistled as he drew his gaze down my body and I noted the slight sway of his own. He was definitely drunk. “You look stunning.”
I smiled again. “Thank you.”
“What are you doing here tonight?”
“Uh… I know the owner.”
His eyes narrowed and he nodded slowly. “I see.”
“What about you?”
“Well, I’m here to dance. With you.”
I laughed out right. “Oh, smooth.”
“I do try. Why do-”