Before Jamaica Lane
Edinburgh was going to be a fresh start for Olivia Holloway. Crippled by shyness around the opposite sex, Olivia nevertheless meets gorgeous postgraduate Nate Sawyer and decides it is time to push her fears aside.
Before long, Olivia and Nate form a close friendship and she finds herself confessing her deepest secrets, and Nate, being her best friend, offers to teach her the art of flirting. As Olivia and Nate's friendship turns intense it soon blossoms into a passionate love affair.
For the first time Olivia opens her heart but what she doesn't realise is that Nate has his own fears and just when she finds herself hopelessly falling for him, Nate's past returns to haunt him.
Will Nate have the courage to confide in Olivia, or will he cut and run? And can Olivia face up to her own fears and keep him?
Before Jamaica Lane charts the love trials of characters introduced in Samantha Young's bestselling prequel, On Dublin Street, and Down London Road.
Praise for Samantha Young:
'Scotland's answer to E.L. James' Sunday Post
'This steamy romance is mysterious, all-consuming and pretty damn good' Closer
'This extraordinary debut combines a true gift for storytelling with a liberal dose of racy encounters. But what really sets it apart is exquisite characterisation, so vivid that the cast seeps into the reader's psyche' Daily Record
Samantha Young is a 27-year-old Scottish book addict who graduated from the University of Edinburgh. She currently lives in Scotland. Her previous novels, On Dublin Street, Down London Road and the novella, Until Fountain Bridge, are also published by Penguin.
Release date: January 7, 2014
Print pages: 431
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
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Before Jamaica Lane
Every time we turned a corner the icy cold wind hammered into us, almost spitefully, like it was mad when a building buffered us. Its icicle-spiked fingers pricked my rosy red cheeks and I wrapped my arms tighter around myself, my shoulders hunching as I braced against the attack.
“For the fifth and final time . . . where are you taking us?” Joss asked, burrowing deeper against her fiancé, Braden. He’d opened his wool coat and huddled her inside it, his arm wrapped around her waist, holding her close. She wore a short, stylish jacket with a red dress that fitted her like a second skin. Like all of us, she was wearing stilettos. In fact, the only thing she wore that shielded her against the Scottish winter was a scarf.
Ellie and Jo were in pretty much the same condition—wearing dresses, heels, and light jackets. I was only marginally warmer in a pair of black dress pants, but my silk top and lightweight tuxedo-style blazer were doing eff all to protect me. Not quite as used to walking in stilettos as my girlfriends were, I made slower progress at the back of our group as Jo led us to our mystery destination. “It’s not far,” she promised, glancing over her shoulder at us as she led the way through the city center high street. Cam, her fiancé, had his arm wrapped tight around her, keeping her as warm as possible, and behind them Braden’s sister Ellie and his best friend, Adam, were cuddling into each other for heat too. They were also engaged. Very recently, in fact.
I, on the other hand, did not have a fiancé to protect me from the taunting wind. “It’s not far?” I scoffed at Jo. Since my arrival in Edinburgh a little over nine months ago, Jo and I had grown as close as sisters, so I felt it was okay to scoff at her after she’d dragged our asses out of Edinburgh without much explanation. Hence the poor clothing choices. “You lost the right to say ‘it’s not far’ when you directed our cabs to Waverley train station.”
Jo’s apologetic smile suddenly wilted into a frown as she stopped us at a street junction. “Okay, I think we’re down here.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, my teeth starting to chatter.
“Eh—” Jo glanced across the street at a road sign and then pulled out her phone. “Just a second, guys.”
My friends huddled together and I stood back a little, taking them all in. I realized that despite how cold I was, I didn’t truly mind. I was simply content to be there with them, still surprised, even, by how close I’d grown to them. They’d accepted me so fully into their lives, partly because of Jo, but also because of Nate, Cam’s friend, and my newly adopted best friend.
As I reminisced, Nate turned around from speaking to Adam and Ellie to direct his beautiful smile my way.
I blinked, distracted by the flush of attraction I felt. I’d gotten so good at ignoring the feeling, it had caught me off guard. That was the problem when you were friends with a guy who totally got you and just happened to be the hottest man you’d ever met in real life.
That flutter, that rush of unexpected feeling, sent me reeling back to the first time Nate and I had met. Honestly, I deserved a medal for ignoring my attraction to him . . .
Seven months ago . . .
Ellie’s mom, Elodie Nichols, and her husband, Clark, had welcomed me and my dad into the fold as if we’d always been a part of their family. It was nice. It made fitting in with Jo’s friends easier. It made fitting in with Jo easier, and since my dad and I had decided to make Scotland our home, it would be good to fit into Jo’s life. She was kind of awesome. She’d also been through a really difficult time these last few years. She deserved to be taken care of, and I knew that Cam was the one person who could do that for her.
I’d let myself and Cole into Cam’s apartment. While he and Jo were at the store getting snacks, I’d decided to take Cole off their hands and give them some time together. That night we were all planning to hang out with Cam’s friends Nate and Peetie, who I’d be meeting for the first time, and I thought it would be a nice thing to give Jo and Cam some alone time before their friends appeared. As soon as I’d let us in the door, Cole headed straight for the game console in the sitting room while I headed to the back of the apartment. In the kitchen I pottered around, finding bowls and plates for the snacks. I was just washing the dishes when a low, Scottish, and very masculine voice said, “Eh . . . you’re not Cameron.”
When I whirled around to face the intruder, any words that might have descended from my brain to my tongue tripped up at the bottom of that staircase and suffered a concussion.
Leaning against the doorjamb, his arms crossed over his chest, was the sexiest man I’d ever seen.
My heart started beating ridiculously fast.
He quirked an eyebrow at my speechlessness. “Has someone pressed your mute button?”
That was funny, so I managed a semi-deranged smile as I drank him in. My eyes roamed him from head to toe, and as I took in all his glory I felt this funny little dip low in my belly, so low it was quickly followed by a shock of aroused tingles between my legs.
That was new.
Desperately trying to ignore the tingles and failing, I attempted to force myself through the arousal and my shyness to interact with the stranger. The stranger who I was guessing was Nate. Jo had told me all about Cam’s super-hot friend Nate. She had not exaggerated.
Movie-star gorgeous, Nate had a natural tan that you just didn’t expect from a Scottish person, and eyes so dark they were practically black— though right now they were glittering with mischief. He was smiling too, showing off a pair of sexy dimples and perfect white teeth. All this plus a straight, strong blade of a nose, lips I was staring unashamedly at because they reminded me of a certain swarthy, off-the-wall actor’s, and from what I could see of the lean, muscled biceps revealed by the T-shirt he wore, the guy was also roped.
Miracle of miracles, his T-shirt actually distracted me from his muscles.
It had the words resistance is futile printed across it.
The paralyzing shyness that usually took me over when I was faced with a hot guy melted into the background as I burst out laughing. “Consider yourself one of the Borg, do you?” I gestured to his T-shirt, which referred to the catchphrase of an alien race on Star Trek.
He glanced down at the words, seeming surprised. When he lifted his gaze to me again his dark eyes were smiling. “You got that reference? Most women think I’m being a cocky bugger.”
I laughed even harder, leaning against the kitchen counter. “I imagine it’s a little bit of that too. And you can understand their mistake. You don’t look like a Star Trek fan.”
Something sharpened in his eyes, something intense. I shivered as he lazily ran his gaze down my body and back up again. His voice was lower, thick, as he replied, “Neither do you.”
That intent look felt like a slow caress. If I was anybody else I’d think he’d meant to make me feel like that.
Still . . . my breath caught. The air felt suddenly too thin, broken by this weird electricity between us that I didn’t quite understand.
“Are you one of Jo’s friends?”
I struggled to fight the shyness that was starting to creep in again. “Didn’t Cole tell you?”
“Peetie went in to see the wee man. I wanted a drink, so I came straight to the kitchen.” His eyes were devouring me again, and apparently my body had been asleep until his eyes touched it because there was a whole lot of tingling, shivering, and overheating going on. “Definitely the best choice I’ve made in a while.”
Um . . . okay?
“Oh, well, I’m Olivia.”
Nate’s eyebrows lifted and then he abruptly cleared his throat, his body jerking upright from the doorjamb. Just like that, the air in the room began to return to normal. “You’re Olivia? Of course. The accent. Of course.”
I nodded, confused by his reaction. “I’m guessing you’re Nate?”
His smile was friendly. Platonic. That made more sense. “Aye, that would be me.”
“Cam and Jo are on their way. I was just cleaning up for them.”
“Right.” He wandered farther into the kitchen and I watched him with open fascination as he got himself a glass of soda. “Want one?” He gestured toward me with a glass.
Once he had his drink, he smiled at me again and I realized that the reason I wasn’t so tongue-tied around him wasn’t just because of his nerdy shirt. It was his eyes. They were impossibly kind, and I just felt . . . not quite comfortable . . . but, yeah, not uncomfortable either. That was definitely unusual for me around guys I’d just met. Especially ones I was attracted to.
“Do you play video games, Liv?” he asked congenially.
“Well, stop cleaning up the dishes and come play with us,” he teased.
I chuckled. “Are you asking me on a playdate?” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. I wasn’t being flirty. I didn’t know how to be flirty! That was just my sense of humor, and now this guy was going to think I was coming on—
Nate laughed, cutting me off. “Only because you got the Star Trek reference. Otherwise, girls aren’t allowed to play with us. They’re icky.”
Deadpan, I crossed my arms over my chest. “Well, boys are icky too.”
He grinned huge. “Ain’t that the truth.” He nodded toward the door. “Come on, Yank. If I’m going to annihilate you I want it to be quick and painless. I’m merciful like that.”
“Annihilate me?” I guffawed. “I think you must have me confused with someone who’s not about to whup your ass.”
“Do you even know what game we’re about to play?”
I shook my head. “Does it matter at this point? I’m going to beat you whatever it is. So, first we trash-talk, then we commence the ass-whupping.”
Nate threw his head back in laughter. “Oh, man! Come on, funny girl.” He took hold of my elbow and I fought to hide my blush at his touch. “I have to introduce you to Peetie.”
I followed him out of the kitchen, touched by how quick he was to include me. I also sensed I was to be indoctrinated as one of the guys.” I sensed this because it happened all the time. I was okay with that. It just meant squashing the fluttering in my stomach whenever I gazed at Nate. And by squashing, I meant I’d have to crush those little fuckers into nonexistence . . .
“Liv? Liv, you okay?”
I blinked again, coming back to the sidewalk, to Stirling, to the cold.
To Nate, who was standing right in front of me now with a concerned line between his brows. “Where did you go?”
I smiled. “Sorry, I think the cold has numbed my brain.”
“Well, come here, you”—he looped my arm through his, pulling me close—“before a finger drops off.”
I relaxed gratefully into his strong side. “Couldn’t you have done that earlier? Like, three streets ago?”
“And miss the horrified look on your face every time we turn a corner?” he teased, rubbing his hand up and down my arm.
I grimaced, but I was used to his teasing, so I let it go.
“I’m sorry, folks.” Jo threw the comment over her shoulder, her quick glance filled with guilt. “I should have made sure we put on coats.”
“W-w-we’re Sc-c-ottish,” Ellie chittered, her fingers curling into Adam’s coat. “We c-c-can ha-a-andle it.”
My arm tightened around Nate’s waist as we started to walk forward again. “Well, I’m American,” I reminded them. “And I’m from Arizona.”
“I’m American and I’m okay,” Joss said, sounding a lot more relaxed than she looked. Her weight wobbled as her stiletto hit a crevice in the cobbled street. Braden righted her as she cursed at the ground.
“That would be because of the six-foot-three shield you’re huddled against,” I replied dryly.
She laughed, cuddling closer into said shield. “Maybe.”
“We’re cold too,” Nate put in. “We’re just used to it, so we don’t whine about it.”
“No one is whining,” Joss argued. “This is just our way of warning Jo that if she doesn’t hurry up and get us to our destination, we’re going to use her for firewood.”
Jo laughed. “We’re almost there . . . I think . . .”
We turned down a street that took us off the high street, and Jo frowned up at the buildings as we followed her. It was just an average street, with vans and cars parked all along it.
Today was Cam’s twenty-eighth birthday, and while we all assumed we were getting dressed up for a night out in Edinburgh to celebrate, Jo had a secret plan up her sleeve. Somehow we’d ended up in Stirling, a beautiful city with a gorgeous castle and quaint little streets, but also quite possibly the tiniest city on earth.
I had no idea what Jo could possibly be up to by dragging us there.
Suddenly she broke out into a massive grin as she stopped on a corner facing a bar. “We’re here.”
We all looked at the bar and then shared puzzled expressions. There was nothing particularly glamorous about the bar. It was . . . just a bar.
“Where’s here?” Cam asked quietly, his mouth twitching with amusement.
“Here.” She gestured upward and we followed her motion to the street sign drilled into the brickwork above the bar entrance.
I burst out laughing as it all began to make sense.
“You dragged us to Stirling for a street sign?” Nate asked her incredulously.
Looking unsure, Jo nodded. “It’s not just any street sign. It’s Cameron’s birthday. He deserves to have a birthday drink in his very own place.”
The guys, with the exception of Cam, looked a little nonplussed by her thinking. Her fiancé, however, pulled her close and stared into her eyes in a way that made my chest compress with emotion. “I love it, baby.” He kissed her softly. “Thank you.”
A mixture of happiness and envy rooted me to the spot for a second. I adored the fact that Jo had someone in her life who worshipped the ground she walked on, but I often wondered to myself if there would ever come a day when a guy would look into my eyes as if there were nothing else in the world worth looking at.
Ripped from my musings by the group’s teasing of Jo, I laughed with them all as we wandered into the warm bar together. We were perhaps dressed too formally for the casual atmosphere, but since we were a pretty laid-back bunch, not one of us was really put out by Jo’s little adventure. In fact, I think even the guys secretly thought it was cute of her.
It was definitely cute of her. She was a sweetheart, so when she did stuff that was unbelievably cute—like hauling our asses to a different county just so Cam could have a drink on a street with his name on it—I was never surprised.
My dad had spoken of her since the moment I’d met him. At first I’d been resentful of this little kid who’d had my dad for the first thirteen years of her life while I’d grown up with just the specter of him. My mom had never said a bad word against Dad, and being a somewhat precocious kid growing up with friends whose divorced parents were acidic around each other, it struck me as kind of odd that Mom wasn’t mad at the guy who hadn’t stuck around when I’d come along. I’d begun an investigation, wearing down my mom for months until finally she broke.
I remember how incredibly angry I was at her that she had never even told my father that I existed.
After she met Dad while she was studying abroad at the University of Glasgow, they’d begun an intense affair that Mom abruptly ended by going back to Phoenix at the end of her program. It wasn’t until she got back to the States that she discovered she was pregnant with me. She wouldn’t confess until many years later that the reason she didn’t get in touch with my dad was because she loved him so much, and she didn’t want him coming into her life out of obligation. I loved my mom, but she wasn’t infallible. She was young and she made a selfish decision. At thirteen I couldn’t see past that for a while. It took us time to get back to a good place.
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