On Dublin Street

Jocelyn Butler has been hiding from her past for years. But all her secrets are about to be laid bare . . .

Four years ago, Jocelyn left her tragic past behind in the States and started over in Scotland, burying her grief, ignoring her demons, and forging ahead without attachments. Her solitary life is working well - until she moves into a new apartment on Dublin Street, where she meets a man who shakes her carefully guarded world to its core.

Braden Carmichael is used to getting what he wants, and he's determined to get Jocelyn into his bed. Knowing how skittish she is about entering a relationship, Braden proposes an arrangement that will satisfy their intense attraction without any strings attached.

But after an intrigued Jocelyn accepts, she realizes that Braden won't be satisfied with just mind-blowing passion. The stubborn Scotsman is intent on truly knowing her . . . down to the very soul.

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1. Prologue

 

 

Surry County, Virginia


 

I was bored.

Kyle Ramsey was kicking the back of my chair to get my attention, but he’d been kicking my best friend, Dru Troler’s, chair yesterday, and I didn’t want to upset her. She had a huge crush on Kyle. Instead I watched her as she sat beside me drawing a million tiny love hearts in the corner of her notebook as Mr Evans scribbled another equation on the board. I really should have been paying attention because I sucked at math. Mom and Dad wouldn’t be happy with me if I failed a class the first semester of freshman year.

‘Mr Ramsey, would you care to come up to the board and answer this question, or would you prefer to remain behind Jocelyn so you can kick her chair some more?’

The class tittered, and Dru shot me an accusing look. I grimaced and shot Mr Evans a pointed glare.

‘I’ll stay here, if that’s okay, Mr Evans,’ Kyle replied with impudent swagger. I rolled my eyes, refusing to turn around even though I could feel the heat of his gaze on the back of my neck.

‘That was actually a rhetorical question, Kyle. Get up here.’

A knock at the door put a halt to Kyle’s groan of acquiescence. At the sight of our principal, Ms Shaw, the whole class grew still. What was the principal doing in our class? That could only signal trouble.

‘Whoa,’ Dru muttered under her breath, and I looked at her, frowning. She nodded at the doorway. ‘Cops.’

Shocked, I turned to look back at the door as Ms Shaw murmured something to Mr Evans, and sure enough, through the gap in the door, I could see two deputies waiting out in the hall.

‘Miss Butler.’ Ms Shaw’s voice snapped my gaze back to her in surprise. She took a step toward me, and I felt my heart leap into my throat. Her eyes were wary, sympathetic, and I immediately wanted to back away from her and whatever it was she was here to tell me. ‘Can you come with me, please? Grab your things.’

This was usually the part where the class would ooh and ahh about how much trouble I was in. But, like me, they sensed that wasn’t what this was about. Whatever news was out in that hall, they weren’t going to tease me about it.

‘Miss Butler?’

I was shaking now from a spike of adrenaline, and I could barely hear anything over the sound of blood rushing in my ears. Had something happened to Mom? Or Dad? Or my baby sister, Beth? My parents together had taken some time off work this week to de-stress from what had been a crazy summer. They were supposed to be taking Beth out today for a picnic.

‘Joss.’ Dru nudged me, and as soon as her elbow touched my arm, I shot back from the table, my chair screaming across the wooden floor. Without looking at anyone, I fumbled with my bag, swiping everything off my desk into it. The whispers had started hissing around the room like cold wind through a crack in a windowpane. Despite not wanting to know what was ahead of me, I really wanted out of that room.

Remembering somehow to put one foot in front of the other, I followed the principal out into the hall and listened to Mr Evans’s door snick shut behind me. I didn’t say anything. I just looked at Ms Shaw and then at the two deputies, who stared at me with a distant compassion. Standing near the wall was a woman I hadn’t noticed earlier. She looked grave but calm.

Ms Shaw touched my arm and I looked down at her hand resting on my sweater. I hadn’t spoken two words to the principal before, and now she was touching my arm? ‘Jocelyn ... these are Deputies Wilson and Michaels. And this is Alicia Nugent from the DSS.’

I looked at her questioningly.

Ms Shaw blanched. ‘The Department of Social Services.’

Fear gripped ahold of my chest, and I fought to breathe.

‘Jocelyn,’ the principal continued, ‘I am so sorry to have to tell you this . . . but your parents and sister, Elizabeth, were in a car accident.’

I waited, feeling my chest tighten.

'They were all killed instantly, Jocelyn. I'm so sorry.' The woman from the DSS stepped toward me and started speaking. I looked at her, but all I could see were the colors that she was made up of. All I could hear was the muffled sound of her talking, as if someone was running tap water beside her.

I couldn’t breathe.

Panicking, I reached for something, anything to help me breathe. I felt hands on me. Calm, murmuring words. Wetness on my cheeks. Salt on my tongue. And my heart . . . it felt like it was going to explode, it was racing so hard.

I was dying.

‘Breathe, Jocelyn.’

Those words were said in my ear over and over again

until I focused on the instruction. After a while my pulse slowed and my lungs opened up. The spots across my vision began to disappear.

‘That’s it,’ Ms Shaw was whispering, a warm hand rubbing soothing circles on my back. ‘That’s it.’

‘We should get going.’ The DSS woman’s voice broke through my fog.

‘Okay. Jocelyn, are you ready?’ Ms Shaw asked quietly.

‘They’re dead,’ I answered, needing to feel how the words felt. It couldn’t be real.

‘I’m sorry, sweetheart.’

Cold sweat burst on my skin, my palms, under my arms, across the nape of my neck. Goose bumps rose up all over, and I couldn’t stop shaking. A rush of dizziness swayed me to the left and without warning vomit surged up from my churning gut. I bent over, losing my breakfast all over the DSS lady’s shoes.

‘She’s in shock.’

Was I?

Or was it travel sickness?

One minute I had been sitting back there. There, where it was warm and safe. And in a matter of seconds, in the crunch of metal . . .

. . . I was someplace else entirely.

 

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