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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(33) by Samantha Young|
Muscle flexing in his jaw, he nodded.
“I didn’t tell anyone. And although I stayed with him, what he’d done to me festered inside me. I couldn’t bear his touch, in bed or out, and he grew frustrated.” I exhaled heavily, my fingers trembling. Sometimes it felt just like yesterday. “He punched me one night when I shoved him off me.
“The next morning he went to work and I called in sick. I packed all my clothes, only taking what I’d need—the rest could burn in hell along with Ollie for all I cared. However, it was like he had a sixth sense or something, because I was just about to leave when he walked through the door. He’d cut out of work early. I should have called Logan before it even got to that point.”
“Logan?” Cole frowned.
“My big brother.” The ache inside me intensified. “It’s just me, Logan, and my sister, Amanda, and our parents. But I’ve never been close to any of them, just Logan. My mum and Amanda had always resented how close Logan and me were. He was one of my best friends.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask what happened next.”
“Ollie took one look at my suitcase and he flipped out. He started yelling that I wasn’t going anywhere, that I was his, only his.” The stinging in my nose began again, the tears welling up fast as I heard his voice replaying in my head. “And then he was shouting . . . just nonsense and he . . . he started beating the living daylights out of me. I tried to fight.” I wanted Cole to know that. “I tried, but he was so much bigger than me—”
“He stopped hitting me.” I sucked in a shuddering breath. “And he started touching me, tearing at my clothes, repeating over and over that I was his. And I—I knew. I knew he was going to rape me.”
Cole stood up suddenly, fists clenched at his side.
I shook my head at his pleading eyes. “No. It was the last straw for me. He’d taken so much. I couldn’t let him take that. The adrenaline kicked in, numbing the pain, and I was clawing and scratching and biting at him. Eventually I kneed him between the legs and he lost his grip on me. I got out from under him, the adrenaline kept me going, and I got away.” That was when I started to cry in earnest and apparently Cole couldn’t deal with being across the room anymore.
Suddenly he was on the sofa beside me, his arm around me, holding me close.
“I should have gone to the hospital,” I sobbed. “Or the police. I didn’t think. I didn’t realize what a mess I was in. I went to Logan.” I stared up into Cole’s soulful gaze, brushing angrily at my tears as I pleaded silently with him to understand. “I didn’t think. I didn’t mean to be so selfish.”
“Shh.” His grip on me tightened. “You went to the one person who made you feel safe. There’s nothing to feel guilty about.”
“You’re wrong. There’s everything. I made the choice to be with a bastard like Ollie. And when things went horribly wrong I turned up at my overprotective big brother’s work covered in my own blood.” My shoulder hanging out of its socket, my right eye swollen shut, my clothes torn . . . “How did I think he would react?”
Cole brushed his thumb over my cheek to catch a tear. “The way any man would react when someone he loves has been violated. He went to teach that fucker a lesson.”
“Logan put Ollie in a three-day coma.”
I nodded, lips trembling. “My brother got two years in prison.” And there it was. The worst thing I’d ever done.
“Shannon,” Cole murmured in sympathy, tucking my head under his chin and tightening his arms around me.
Rae knew about the attack, but she didn’t know about my brother. It was the first I’d spoken of it since leaving Glasgow.
“I had to leave. My parents, my sister . . . they hate me for ruining Logan’s life.”
“Your brother’s actions are his own,” Cole said, and I heard the tremor of anger in his words. “Don’t take that on. Your family is wrong.”
“It would never have happened if I hadn’t made the choice to be with Ollie and men like him.” I pulled out of the comfort of Cole’s strong embrace and met his worried gaze. “The whole point of me telling you this is so you understand where my head is at. I came to Edinburgh to start over and to keep my distance from my old life, my old choices. From bad boys.” I laughed hollowly. “And the only interview I got was at a tattoo studio where the good-looking tattooed manager began flirting with me immediately like I was a sure thing.”
Cole winced. “That wasn’t why, but I can see after everything you’ve been through—”
“Why I thought that.” I smiled weakly. “But I presumed to know you because of that and I assumed you were like all the men who’d buggered up my life. All the men who had hurt and disappointed me. In doing so I said some unforgiveable things.”
“I need you to know that you are not nothing and when I said that, that was my issue. Not yours. You shouldn’t have to carry that.”
In answer Cole bent his head toward mine, bringing our faces close as he cupped his hand around the back of my neck. He wanted all my focus and I gave it to him, somewhat transfixed, in fact. “It’s now completely forgotten, Shortcake. Think no more on it.”
Relief, an overwhelming amount of relief I had not been expecting to feel, rushed over me, and the tears were back in my eyes but for a totally different reason now. “You forgive me?”
“Sweet girl,” he murmured, his voice thick with an emotion I didn’t get. “How can you even worry about me after everything you’ve been through?”
“Because you’re a good person,” I said.
He gave my neck a squeeze in answer, but his eyes had turned hard. “What happened to Ollie?”
“He recovered. He got a prison sentence—thirty months.”
Cole curled his lip in disgust. “Is that it?”
“The lawyer reckoned he would have gotten more, but Logan’s attack was detrimental to my defense.”
He did not look happy, but he nodded.
It was then I realized how close we were sitting, and how intimate we were as we gazed into each other’s eyes. It was suddenly very important to me that Cole didn’t misunderstand the reason why I’d told him my story. I didn’t want him to think this was some ploy to turn him around and . . .