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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(41) by Samantha Young|
Braden tried to make it to Club 39 on Fridays and Saturdays, and that meant Ellie and Adam and whoever else was with them that night, were there too. Braden told me he liked to watch me work, that it was sexy, but Ellie pronounced that he was marking his territory in front of my colleagues and customers.
All I knew was that he was with me as much as he could be and that meant he made he sure he was there a lot. And it didn’t bother me.
In fact, I missed him when he was gone. Our arrangement hadn’t turned out the way I’d expected it to at all—the arrangement actually kind of fell apart. And somewhere along the way, I’d stopped caring as long as it meant I could be with him without any scary questions about the future.
We were in my room, Braden was going over Adam’s drawings for a new development and they were spread out all over my bed. I was at my typewriter working on chapter fifteen of the novel, and I was happy with it so far. In all honesty, I was really excited about where it was going. The characters felt more real than any I’d written before, and I knew it was because they were based on my parents. I was staring at my notes, trying to work out if the line of dialogue I’d written in this scene was appropriate for my main character. The more I thought about it, it didn’t feel true to her and I was trying to think how to change it without changing the point she was attempting to make. I was so lost in thought I didn’t even realize Braden was watching me, so I jumped, startled when he spoke, my heart lodged in my throat at his words, “It’s Jenna and Ed’s wedding next week, and the end of the terms of our arrangement.”
I already knew that. I’d been dreading him bringing it up.
“Why haven’t you brought it up?” Dr. Pritchard took a sip of water. “The three months are nearly up. Don’t you think you should discuss it?”
I tilted my head to the side. “Don’t you think I’ve come a long way in five months?”
“You’ve definitely opened up, Jocelyn. But I still think you haven’t fully dealt with your family’s passing. You still won’t talk about them.”
“I know you think that. But what I’m saying is that five months ago I had a best friend I knew nothing about and who knew nothing about me. I didn’t like getting involved too deeply in people’s lives, and I was determined to surround myself with casual acquaintances.” I grinned in relieved disbelief. “Ellie and Braden changed all that. Especially Braden. He’s…” I shook my head, still not able to really believe it was true, “He’s my best friend. Three months ago I was determined to just have sex and then end this thing. But he’s a part of me now. He’s in deeper than anyone else, and I have no idea what to expect from that or from the future. I don’t really want to think about it. However, I do know that I’m not ready to lose my best friend again.”
“You should discuss this with him, Joss. He needs to know this.”
I frowned, anxiety gripping me at the thought. “No. No, I’m not doing that. If he wants this to end, then fine, but if it ends, it’ll be easier if only I know the truth.”
Dr. Pritchard sighed. “Why? So you can bury that truth along with all the others?”
You’re such a buzz kill. “You’re such a buzz kill.”
She laughed. “Only because I don’t bury the truth.”
“Always have to have the last word, huh?”
I turned slowly to face him. “Yeah, it is.”
Braden pushed the paper off his lap and gave me his entire focus. “How do you feel about it?”
“How do you feel about it?”
His eyes narrowed. “I asked you first.”
I sighed, little ants of uncertainty swarming in my gut. “What are we, five?”
“Well are we?”
I stared into his stubborn eyes. “Braden,” I didn’t even mean for it to come out as a plea, but it did.
His obdurate expression seemed to reinforce itself. “I could answer this one easily, Jocelyn. We know out of the two of us who’s more open here. But I’m not going to. I want, for once, to know how you feel.”
“What do you mean for once,” I snapped. “You get more out of me than most people, buddy.”
He flashed me a quick, cocky, and far too attractive, grin. “I know, babe. Tonight I want more.”
I don’t think he realized it, but right then he’d made his play first. He wanted more. So with some confidence, I shrugged casually and turned back to my typewriter. “I don’t mind if we tear up the agreement.”
He was silent behind me and I waited. Finally, “What if I suggested we stopped pretending we’re f**k buddies too?”
A slow smile spread across my lips and I was thankful he couldn’t see it. “Yeah,” I answered with a good amount of boredom. “I could work with that.”
Did I mention Braden could move fast?
Papers went flying as he lunged across the bed to grab me by the waist and haul me off my chair onto the mattress. Startled, I laughed up at him as he pressed his body into mine. “When will you quit throwing me around like a ragdoll?”
His grin was unrepentant. “Never. You’re so tiny I do it without really meaning to half the time.”
“I am not tiny,” I replied indignantly. “I’m five foot five. There are tinier people, believe me.”
“Babe, I’m almost a whole foot taller than you. You’re tiny.” He bent his head to brush my lips with his. “But I like it.”
“What happened to your love of the long-legged bimbo?”
“It was replaced by my love for great tits, great sex and a smart mouth.” He kissed me deep, his tongue tangling with mine deliciously. Wrapping my arms around his neck I sank into the kiss like always, but for once my mind wasn’t just on the kiss…
In a roundabout way… had that been some kind of declaration of love?
I gasped at the thought, but luckily timed that gasp at the same time Braden stuck his hand down my pants, so he never realized I was freaking out.
I told myself that’s not at all what he’d meant, and I shrugged it off, just enjoying each day with him as they came. A few days later I was in the kitchen, taking a coffee break from the novel, when Ellie sauntered in. She was home today, grading papers.
She smiled slyly at me as she slid into the seat opposite me.
I quirked an eyebrow in suspicion. “What?”
“I just got off the phone with my big brother.”
Ellie made a face. “He told me you’re going to the wedding together.”
“Joss,” she threw a tea biscuit at me and I dodged it. “When were you going to tell me?”
I glanced down at the violent biscuit now littering our floor. “Tell you what exactly?”
“That the arrangement between you and Braden is over? It is right? You’re dating now?”
Dating? That word was a little ‘label-ly’. I refused to be labeled. “We are seeing each other.”
Ellie squealed and I flinched back. “Oh this is fantastic! I knew it, I knew it!”
“I wish I knew what you knew,” I replied in wide-eyed bemusement.
“Oh, come off it. I knew from the start Braden was acting differently about you.” She sighed with absolute contentment. “Life is good. It’ll be even better with a cup of tea.”
“You need to refill the kettle.” She nodded and headed over to it and as I watched her I thought about Adam. “Adam’s got a date. Are you taking one?”
Her shoulders stiffened a little as she carried the kettle to the sink. “I’m taking Nicholas.”
“Ooh that should be fun,” I murmured, thinking about the possible drama once Adam found that out.
A crash brought my head up as Ellie cursed, her face scrunched up. I rushed over to see she’d dropped the kettle in the sink and was clutching her right arm. “You okay?” I asked, confused as to what happened, but her face was pale.
She nodded, her lips pinched. “Just cramp in my hand from marking all those papers.”
“You dropped the kettle?” It wasn’t the first time she’d been working so damn hard her hand had cramped up. “You need to go easy and take more breaks. You work too hard.” Ellie looked so worried I felt my heart flip. “Els, are you okay?”
She gave me a wobbly smile. “Stressed.”
“Take a nap.” I rubbed her shoulder soothingly. “You’ll feel better.”
I spun around on my heels and I grinned at Braden standing all sexy in a black contemporary tux. He and Adam had decided to forgo wearing a traditional kilt since November in Scotland was ‘baltic’ as they said. “Hey handsome.”
“Did I tell you how much I like this dress?” He strolled in casually, his hands reaching for my h*ps to pull me close. “It’s a good dress.”
It was amethyst satin, figure hugging and showed a little cl**vage and a little leg. It was a dress that teased and Braden enjoyed being teased. I pressed a familiar kiss just under his jaw, my favorite place to nibble. “We better go before we’re late. Is Ellie ready yet?”
“No. And I can’t sit out there alone with Nicholas.” Braden grimaced.
I wrinkled my nose. “That poor guy is so boring.”
Braden groaned and buried his face in my neck. “My sister needs her head checked,” he mumbled into my skin and I laughed silently, stroking his hair.
“Ellie will be fine.”
Braden pulled back, suddenly all bristling and growly. “He’s not good enough for her.”
I shrugged, picking up my clutch and coat. “I’m not good enough for you, but that hasn’t stopped you.”
He grabbed my hand tight, scowling at me. “What?”
“I’m ready!” Ellie bounced into my room in a designer white fifties-style dress with a pale yellow, chocolate and teal print. She had on a silk petticoat underneath and wore a white wool coat that cost more than my entire outfit. I smiled. She looked so pretty. “Joss, you look great. Taxi’s waiting.” She took my hand and dragged Braden and I out into the hall where the unfortunately monotonous Nicholas was waiting for us.