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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(31) by Samantha Young|
“You too.” I found myself staring (hopefully not openmouthed) into his stunning green-blue eyes, astonished to find someone with eyes as gorgeous as Cole’s.
Okay, maybe not as gorgeous, but they were close.
I was quickly distracted from Hannah’s husband when Dylan walked into the hall, carrying his little sister, Sophia. Adorable didn’t even cover it.
Things just got worse from there.
Cole strode to Dylan and took Sophia into his arms, saying hello to her before bestowing his attention on Dylan, who clearly idolized his uncle Cole.
The evidence that Cole was freaking awesome with kids just kept mounting. My crush deepened.
As we sat down to dinner, Hannah began to ask me about my family, and my awkward attempts to avoid the conversation caused some tension. Finally I smiled through the discomfort. “You know, I spent a lot of time in Edinburgh growing up. My grandparents lived in a beautiful Georgian house on Scotland Street.”
“Next to Ellie and Adam’s house,” Cole added.
Of course. “It’s where I first met Cole.”
“So you do remember?” He grinned, and it was a cocky look.
I gave him an apologetic smile. “I said you had a hero’s name.”
Taking in Cole’s absurdly pleased expression, I found myself turning to mush on the inside, only just managing to keep the longing out of my eyes when I caught Hannah watching me.
It occurred to me that to be a friend to Cole I was going to have to pass the best friend test. Enigmatic answers and puppy-love eyes probably weren’t going to work in my favor.
The rest of dinner was easier because I just asked Hannah and Marco a lot of questions, discovering they’d known each other since they were kids and that they lost touch for a few years only to almost immediately become an item when they finally found each other. They didn’t go into a whole lot of details, but it sounded romantic, and seeing the hot, adoring look in Marco’s eyes whenever he turned them on his wife made me think I was probably right.
Once we finished eating, Cole offered to help Hannah with the dishes and they left the living room. I’d been busy listening to Dylan tell me about his swimming certificate, so I’d missed the chance to offer to help. Despite Marco’s protestations, I thought it would be unforgivably rude not to help Hannah out, and I didn’t want to lose best friend points by not doing so.
I gathered the rest of the plates and wandered out of the room, turning in what I assumed was the direction of the kitchen.
As I neared it, however, I stilled at the sound of Hannah saying, “I don’t know what the problem is. It’s obvious you’re into each other.”
Heart pounding, I waited in tense expectation for Cole’s reply.
“Hannah, drop it. Shannon is just a friend.”
I sagged against the wall, feeling an unexpected rush of disappointment. I thought we’d had a wonderful day together, and although I wasn’t sure I could trust him, I couldn’t deny the way Cole made me feel.
Apparently it really was all one-sided.
“She’s . . .” Cole hesitated. “It’s a shame but she’s just not the girl I’m looking for.”
“What she presumed to know about me when she first started working at the studio—”
“Cole, she apologized for that.”
“Look, it’s not what she thought. It was what she said and what she’s capable of saying when the mood strikes her. I grew up with that shit, Hannah. I’m never going back there.”
“Cole,” Hannah whispered sympathetically.
“It’s fine.” His voice was gruff.
“If it makes you feel better, I don’t believe for a second that that girl out there is anything like your mother.”
I tiptoed back up the hall, coming to a rest against the staircase. I was reeling.
“There’s nothing behind that charming smile but empty promises. You have nothing real to offer me or anyone that finds herself a victim of your flirtation. The difference between them and me, however, is that I’m smart enough to see you for what you really are . . . Nothing.”
Nothing, nothing, nothing!
I felt tears prick my eyes as I wondered how many times his mother had called him that.
Ashamed, I sucked in a huge breath, blinked back the tears, and drew up the strength to approach the kitchen, this time noisily. Acting like everything was fine, I handed off the dirty dishes and returned to the sitting room to engage in small talk with Marco about his job as a construction site manager.
I didn’t care if Cole ever saw me in a romantic light again. That ship had clearly sailed for him, and I couldn’t see how we’d have a future anyway given my track record with failed romances. But I was coming to care for this man and I couldn’t bear the thought that I had genuinely hurt him.
I had to make him see that all the crap I’d dealt to him that awful day came from a place that had absolutely nothing to do with him. I knew I needed to fix any damage I’d caused him, even if it meant revealing all the damage someone else had caused me.
N ot long after overhearing Cole and Hannah in the kitchen, Cole made our excuses and we bade the couple and their young family good night. I walked in silence beside Cole in the darkening night toward the main Morningside Road.
“Is something wrong?” he said, bringing me out of my musings.
Looking up at him, I was confused to find concern in his eyes. It amazed me that he could spend this whole day with me when he thought so little of me.
I stopped on the quiet street and Cole halted too. “Why did you spend today with me?”
Now it was his turn to appear bewildered. “What are you talking about?”
“If I’ve discovered anything real about you, it’s that you’re pretty straightforward, so why do this today? Why spend time with me . . . ?”
After a moment’s contemplation he said, “Because you’re friends with my friends. We work in a close-knit environment. I thought we should try to put our differences behind us.”
“Does that mean that this whole day has been torture for you?”
“What?” He grimaced. “No. Today has been . . .” He looked almost frustrated. “You’re like two different people. It confuses the fuck out of me.”
“I’m not two different people, Cole. If you can stand to spend a little more time with me tonight, I’d like to talk to you about something.”