|On Dublin Street Books read online|
|On Dublin Street||Down London Road|
|Before Jamaica Lane||Fall from India Place|
|Echoes of Scotland Street||An On Dublin Street Christmas|
|Until Fountain Bridge||Castle Hill|
The smell of coffee and cinnamon teased my curious eyes open and I pushed lazily up onto my elbow, grinning at Braden. He stood over our rumpled bed wearing a long-sleeved pajama top and matching pants.
Boo to winter for stealing my nak*d Braden time.
Strands of his gorgeous, dark hair flew out in different directions courtesy of my fingers and the rough treatment they’d given it when Braden had gifted me my first Christmas present of the morning. A stocking filler, he’d called it before he’d pushed my legs open and well… filled me.
I eyed the mugs of cinnamon-topped coffee in his hands. “Another present?” I asked as I took my mug from him. He placed his coffee on the bedside table before getting back into bed with me. I snuggled into his side as he reached back for the coffee and once he was settled I knocked my mug against his. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” he murmured and pressed a soft kiss to my lips.
Mmm, he tasted good. He tasted Christmassy.
Braden shot me a teasing look when he pulled back. “Definitely better than last year so far.”
Un-amused at the reminder, I flipped him the bird. He threw his head back in laughter.
Last year we’d spent Christmas day barely saying a word to each other, passing time in awkward conversation, swapping overly expensive Christmas gifts, and lending support to Ellie as she anticipated her upcoming surgery to remove tumors from her brain.
The surgery part had obviously not been my fault. The weirdness with Braden had been. I’d broken up with him. I’d messed up hugely, terrified of being in love with him, and terrified of losing him.
I’d given him the run-around and it hadn’t been easy on him.
Every now and then he’d mention it and my guilt transformed me into a rampant sex goddess, bent on making it up to him.
Well, he’d already gotten sex this morning and I was getting wise to his manipulation.
“It’s Christmas. You can’t pull that card. You get presents instead.”
Braden pouted comically. “I just want sex.”
“Tough. You’ve had sex. Now you get a sweater.”
“It’s cold outside.”
“I own plenty of sweaters.” He eyed me in disappointment. “You seriously bought me a sweater for Christmas? And then told me before I opened it? Why bother wrapping it?”
“Maybe it’s a special Christmas sweater.”
“Does it have a reindeer on it smoking a hash pipe?”
I snorted. “No.”
“Then it’s not a special sweater.”
Laughing, I shook my head. “Maybe it’s pieced together with Velcro so that when I feel like having my wicked way with you I can just tear the damn thing off. That’s pretty special.”
Braden took a sip of his coffee. “You didn’t buy me a sweater, did you?”
“No! Who do you think I am? Your Aunt May?”
“I don’t have an Aunt May.”
“I know that. I’m just saying that only Aunt May’s buy sweaters. If your girlfriend buys you a sweater on your first freaking Christmas together you kick that tool to the curb.”
Lips twitching, Braden’s eyes glittered as he stared into mine. “Even if you’d bought me a sweater I wouldn’t kick you to the curb.”
I felt my stomach flip flop and wondered if I’d ever get used to his scrumptiousness. “Really?”
“No way. Far too uncomfortable to have sex on a curb.”
“Oh, ha ha.” I rolled my eyes at him. “Funny man.”
He was still grinning as he nodded his head towards the door. “Let’s open our presents before Ellie and Adam get here.”
I reluctantly got out of our warm bed, shrugging on a thick robe and slippers, hugging the mug of hot coffee to my body as I followed Braden out of our bedroom and into the sitting room.
Ellie had complained to me about our Christmas decorations. Last year the flat had a big ass Christmas tree in it, as well as strings of tinsel arching every door, hanging from every window, and trimming the mantel on the fireplace. All Ellie’s doing. Braden and I were a little more low-key. This year there was not a single rope of tinsel to be found. Instead we’d bought a classy non-traditional white Christmas tree that stood in the window and had our little pile of presents under it. The window was lined with pale, twinkling fairy lights and I’d draped more fairy lights through decorative reeds I had in a large vase in the corner of the room.
I liked Christmas and this was Christmassy enough for us. Ellie and Adam’s flat looked like Santa had dropped around for a party, had too much to drink and puked up Christmas everywhere.
That was Ellie. Clutter freak.
God love her.
I sat down on the sofa and waited patiently, content, as Braden brought out piles of presents out from under the tree and placed them at our feet. “You go first,” I murmured, pointing to one of his smaller gifts.
We commenced the unwrapping of presents, having bought each other silly little things that made one another laugh, and things we’d overheard the other saying we needed. Braden had also bought me some very lovely and very expensive jewelry. I thought the diamond earrings and matching necklace was my main present, but he insisted he’d kept the most important gift for last, just as I had.
We stared at the last two gifts.
“You first,” I said again, feeling a little nervous.
Braden took off the paper and then opened the slim box, his eyes lighting up when he saw the Rolex Submariner in steel with the emerald green dial. He’d been ogling the damn thing online for months but couldn’t bring himself to buy it since he didn’t need it. It was a nice gift, one I knew he loved, but it wasn’t the whole gift.
“Turn it over,” I murmured, and my heart rate sped up as I awaited his reaction.
Brows furrowed, Braden turned the watch over and held it up in the light. On the back of the Rolex he found the inscription: Braden, Yours Forever, Love Jocelyn x It was the most sentimental gift I’d ever given him. I didn’t say I love you a lot, and though I knew he knew that I loved him, I wanted him to know that I had no plans to ever stop loving him.
When he looked up from the inscription his eyes were dark with heat and emotion. “It’s beautiful, babe, thank you.”
I smiled shyly. “You’re welcome.”
“Open yours now,” he ordered gently, shoving his sleeve up so he could put on the watch. He looked up at me from under his long lashes, sensing my gaze was still on him. He grinned. “It’s never coming off.”
Relieved my gift had gone over so well with him I smiled and then picked up my last present. I unwrapped it. It was a box. It felt pretty heavy. I opened it, my hands freezing over the contents. Nestled in tissue paper was a photograph inside a modern, clear crystal photo frame. The photograph was of me and Braden standing by Mons Meg at Edinburgh Castle. We were wrapped around each other, kissing.
Ellie must have taken it when the four of us visited the castle during the summer. I thought I’d seen all the photographs Ellie had taken that day but clearly Braden had asked her to keep this one aside.
Only he knew what the cannon meant to me, that it was my special place, and that made his gift that much more special.
I loved it. It wasn’t one of those cheesy, ‘hey, look how cute we are as we pose for the camera’, pictures. It was a candid shot of an unaware couple stealing a kiss.
I picked it up, about to tell him how great I thought it was, when I realized there was more. Under the photograph was another framed photograph. I lifted it, my fingers trembling, and I saw that underneath this one was another.
They were photographs taken out of the photo album I’d retrieved from my family’s self-storage unit in Virginia at the beginning of the year. I’d thrown away a lot of stuff, but I’d taken the photo album home back to Scotland with me. For the past ten months I kept saying I was going to get some frames for my favorite shots and put them up in the sitting room, but I’d kept putting it off, still fearing the thought of going through the album again.
So Braden had done it for me.
I gazed down at the photograph of me holding my baby sister, Beth. I looked so different, and not because I was just a kid. There was a light in my eyes that had since gone out. Braden and Ellie had done a lot to try and put it back and it was almost there, but there would always be that tiny shadow in the back of my eyes. I missed the eyes of the girl in this photograph. The other photograph was of my mom and dad kissing. It too was a candid shot, but one I had taken during a picnic down by the river.
They photos were perfect.
I looked up at him, determined to keep the sheen of tears out of my eyes. I think I failed.
“Shouldn’t I have…?” Braden asked quietly, seeming worried.
Shaking my head, I wrapped my hand around the nape of his neck and pulled him down for a long, slow kiss. When I pulled back I rested my forehead on his. “They’re perfect.” I sighed, smiling teasingly.
“You know, I think I might kind of love you.”
He chuckled against my lips. “I think I might kind of love you, too.”
Our front door suddenly slammed and Ellie’s voice rang through the flat, “Merry Christmas!”
Braden cursed under his breath. “We need to take that bloody key off her.”
The rest of the day was relaxing and fun and exactly how Christmas should be. Braden and I made breakfast for Ellie and Adam, swapping Christmas morning stories without mentioning the naughty parts since that would just freak Braden and Ellie out, seeing as they were brother and sister and all. Afterwards, once Braden and I were washed and dressed for the day, we jumped in a cab and headed over to Ellie’s mom’s house for Christmas Day. Elodie Nichols was an awesome cook and the rest of the Nichols was kind of my adopted family now. It would be weird to spend Christmas without them.
Declan, Ellie’s ten year old half-brother was hyper as all hell, bounding from one present to the next and one person to the next, showing off his presents to anyone who could be bothered to listen.
He had a captive audience since we all thought he was pretty cute.
Although I did learn that giving a kid that much chocolate in the morning wasn’t the best idea if you were looking for a headache-free day.
Hannah was the opposite. She’d curled herself up in an armchair with a new book and was successfully blocking us all out.
Dinner was delicious. We had the works—soup, a big old fat turkey, three different kinds of potatoes, steamed vegetable goodness and gravy, followed by profiteroles and a chocolate pudding. We had lots of wine with dinner and little cappuccinos afterwards.
By the time Braden and I left just before midnight, I could barely walk I was so stuffed full of food. I also felt irritably overheated from all the wine. Once in the flat I stomped down the hall to our bedroom, listening to Braden’s footsteps as he followed me. I turned around to face him as he came through the doorway, and I yanked my sweater off, throwing it on the floor. I patted my slightly-rounded stomach and then popped the top button on my jeans with a huge relieved sigh.
I flopped back on the bed, my arms and legs spread wide. I eyed him and offered magnanimously, “I’ve had a lot of food but if you don’t jiggle me too much you can have your wicked way with me.”
Braden laughed, strolling slowly over to the bed, peeling his coat off and placing it on a nearby chair. He crossed his arms over his chest as he stopped directly above me. “I think that’s possibly the sexiest offer I’ve ever gotten.”
I grunted at his sarcasm. “Look, this elf is almost done for the day so if you want me to fly the North Pole before I fall asleep it’s got to be now.”
He laughed even harder, almost choking on it as he reached up and pulled the zip down on my jeans. I felt him tug them from the hem of each leg. He whipped them off with practiced efficiency.
I raised my arms to him with a sleepy smile and he slid his arms under me, picking me up and pulling the bedcovers down in one smooth motion. Gently he rested me back on the bed and pulled the covers up to my chin.
Confused, I watched through blurry eyes as he began to undress. “No flying the North Pole?”
Braden grinned. “Not tonight, babe.”
“I’m not sexy?”
“You’re always sexy. You’re also drunk and stuffed full. I don’t think you can take any more.”
“But I want another stocking filler.” My eyes drifted shut and I felt the bed move as Braden slid in beside me, his arm coming around my waist to pull me close.
“It’s Boxing Day tomorrow. I’ll give you four stocking fillers,” he promised.My eyes popped open. “By stocking fillers we mean orgasms right?”
His breath huffed on my neck. “Right.”
I smiled and closed my eyes, snuggling against him. “Best. Day.
Braden made a low sound of agreement as his lips brushed my shoulder. “Merry Christmas, babe.”