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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(18) by Samantha Young|
Curiosity got the best of me. “Judo?”
Rae nodded. “Our boss is a badass. Not only is he a kickboxer, but he has a black belt in judo with some number attached to it or something. I don’t know. Suffice to say he’s good at it. His brother-in-law, Cam, and Cam’s best mate, Nate, are also black belts. I think Nate coaches.”
Well, that explained Cole’s fantastic body.
Clearly I wasn’t the only one who thought he had an amazing body, because Simon started laughing at the glazed look that had come over Tony’s eyes. “Snap out of it, man.”
“Sorry.” Tony smiled wickedly. “I just got lost in the picture of those three throwing one another around.”
The others laughed, but Rae sensed my confusion. “Cole’s brother-in-law is this rugged, sexy guy in his late thirties. Nate’s the same age, I think, but he’s—”
“Fuck me,” Tony interrupted. “Nate is fuck-me gorgeous.”
“And straight,” Rae said, causing Tony to stare stonily at her. She turned to me. “Cam married Cole’s sister years ago when Cole was fourteen or fifteen or something. Jo is a female version of Cole—so fucking beautiful you want to hate her. But she practically raised Cole on her own, so she’s kind of awesome. She also gave birth to the most disgustingly cute little wretch ever. Her name is Belle, she’s nearly four, and she could charm your last tenner off you.” Rae pulled out her phone and started flicking through it. “Here.” She put it up to my face, showing me a photograph of Cole laughing as he held a stunning little girl with a mass of strawberry blond curls in his arms. She had her arms wrapped tight around his neck while her head rested in the crook of it. She was facing the camera wearing this wide, delighted grin.
My eyebrows drew together. The image of Cole as an adoring uncle pricked at something inside me. “They look close.”
“Oh, they are.” Rae put her phone away. “I tease the shit out of him about it. Big fucking softie. He’d kill for that wee girl. For all of his family.”
“Aye, they’re close,” Simon agreed.
“Fucking Brady Bunch.” Rae grunted.
“Jealous, darling?” Tony raised an eyebrow at her.
As I listened to my new friends tease one another, I began to feel a little uneasy. The idea of Cole as a family man just didn’t sit right with the person I’d drawn in my head. I began to worry my lip between my teeth.
“What about you, Shannon?” Simon’s voice jerked me out of my grim thoughts. “Will we get to meet any friends and family from Glasgow?”
I tried not to visibly tense. “I’m not really close to my family.”
He nodded as if he understood. “What about friends, then?”
No. Unfortunately I’d lost most of those . . .
* * *
I sipped at the glass of wine I’d poured myself. I was almost ready for my first night out with the girls in ages, and I was giddy with excitement. I couldn’t wait to catch up with them in Merchant City, have some good food and a few drinks, and party the night away. It felt like forever since I’d blown off some steam.
I slipped on the black stilettos that would take me from a small five foot three to a less small five foot six. As always I left my hair down in its natural waves, and I was glamming up the tight black miniskirt, black stockings, and black tank top I was wearing with a bunch of red and silver bangles and earrings. I grabbed at my glittery red clutch and turned to face the mirror, only to come out of my skin at the sight of my boyfriend, Ollie, sharing my reflection. He stood in the doorway, his eyes roaming over me. I hadn’t even heard him come in from work.
“You’re not going out wearing that,” he said quietly. “You look like a whore.”
Without another word he walked out of the room.
Hot with embarrassment and hurt, I changed out of the skirt with shaking fingers and pulled on a pair of black skinny jeans.
I didn’t say anything when I walked into our open-plan sitting room and kitchen to put my empty wineglass in the sink. I’d downed the remnants of it only moments ago. Fortification.
Transferring my purse, keys, and phone from my everyday bag to my clutch, I could feel Ollie’s eyes burning into my back.
Seconds later I heard him approach and then his heat hit me as he wrapped his arms around me, pulling me into his chest. He started kissing my shoulder, his lips trailing up to my neck.
Still mad, I stiffened. “Stop it. I need to leave.”
He gave me a squeeze. “Don’t go, babe,” he said, using his soft voice full of apology and placation. “I’ve had such a shit day at work. I could really use a quiet night in with my girl.”
I sighed and turned in his arms. “I’m sorry but I’ve had this night out with the girls planned for ages. I haven’t seen them in so long.”
His hold on me tightened, his eyes pleading. “Please, babe. You have no idea how bad it’s been.”
I chewed my lip. “I’ll leave early. I promise.”
Ollie’s arms instantly dropped, disappointment clear in his face. “It’s cool. Don’t bother. Your friends are important.” But the way he said it might as well have been “Your friends are more important than me.”
Feeling a mixture of guilt and annoyance, and knowing that if I didn’t stay in he’d be pissed off at me for days, I sighed. “I’ll text them to let them know I can’t make it.”
I was rewarded with a long, sweet kiss. “I’ll order in,” he said.
“Chinese,” I muttered as I pulled out my phone.
“Nah, I’m in the mood for Indian.”
Ugh, Indian. I sighed again and texted my friend Jennifer.
A few seconds later I received “You are fucking kidding me, right? Haven’t seen you in ages and then you cancel at the last minute? This friendship is a one-way street right now, and I’m done with it.”
Furious—at myself, at Ollie, and at Jennifer—I stomped back into our bedroom and ripped off my clothes, scrubbed off my makeup, and pulled on my pajamas in a huff.
Ollie had put on Top Gear and had gotten us a beer out of the fridge. I joined him on the couch, where he instantly pulled me into his side, but I couldn’t relax. I sat there worrying for the next few hours, scared I’d really, truly ruined my friendships.