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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(34) by Samantha Young|
Feeling naked and vulnerable all of a sudden, I shifted back and his hand fell away. “I should go home.”
“I don’t want you to leave when you’re upset. Stay,” he suggested like it was no big deal. “You can sleep in my guest room.”
Just the idea of staying with Cole was too much for me to handle. I smiled kindly. “I’d like my own bed tonight.”
He nodded and leaned down to press a kiss to my forehead. I stared at him, my blood hot, as he stood up. “Then let me see you home.”
“You don’t have—”
Cole cut off my protestations with just a look. A very stubborn, concerned, warm look.
A look that knocked on my heart.
A look I kept in my mind’s eye as I closed my eyes to sleep that night.
I didn’t know how Cole would act around me the next day at work. I did know it was Saturday, so there was a possibility he’d use how busy he was to avoid having to interact at all. On the weekend I’d taken to coming into work at the same time as the tattooists—half an hour before opening.
Although nervous, I also felt relieved that he knew the truth, so I was in a fairly good mood as I came in bearing coffee for everyone.
I took Cole his coffee first.
When I knocked on his door and stepped inside, he looked up from a document he was reading and his expression brightened at the sight of me.
It winded me.
He stood up, grinning when I held his coffee out to him. Instead of taking it, he wrapped his hand around mine and we held them there. “How are you feeling?”
Noting the dark circles under his eyes, I had to wonder if my troubles had caused Cole to have a sleepless night. That was sweet; it really was. But now I felt terrible because for the first time in a while I’d slept like a baby.
I gave him a reassuring smile. “I’m fine. Honest.”
He let go of me, taking the coffee with him. The look he gave me . . . it was as if he wanted to protect me in Bubble Wrap.
“Cole.” I smiled again, more than a little enchanted by him. “I know I had a meltdown last night, but honestly I’m okay. I have a good life here—a good job, good friends. I’ve found more than I ever hoped to find when I moved here, so please don’t worry about me.”
“That’s a tall order.” He shook his head, his smile wry. “You’re made of stern stuff, Shannon MacLeod.”
“It’s the hair. It’s magic hair.”
Cole laughed. “It is definitely magical.”
“Am I getting my coffee any fucking time soon?” Rae yelled from next door.
I giggled at her irate tone and I swear Cole’s eyes lit up at the sound of my laughter.
I felt all warm and gooey inside. “I’d better . . .” I gave him a little wave and walked out, sure I could sense his eyes on me until I disappeared out of sight.
I stepped into Rae’s room and walked over to where she was lying on her tattoo chair with her eyes closed. She opened them at my approach and glared at me as I handed her a latte. “Thank God,” she growled. “You don’t know how excruciating it is having to listen to you two lovebirds when I haven’t had my caffeine fix.”
She said it so loud I knew Cole had heard.
I wrinkled my nose. “Don’t be mean.”
“Why?” she huffed, and then snorted, “Are you going to kill me with your magical hair?”
I rubbed a strand of hair between my finger and thumb. “It is thick. It would make good rope.”
“Dark. I like it, wee fairy.”
I rolled my eyes at the irritating nickname she’d adopted from Stu and wandered out of her room and down the hall to Simon. He was sleeping in his chair, his arms crossed on the counter and sink space in the back of the room, his head resting on his arms. I quietly walked over to him and nudged him awake, wafting the coffee below his nostrils.
“Argh,” he groaned, blinking sleepily. He saw the coffee first and wiped drool from his mouth as he sat up to take it from me. He sipped at it before throwing me a grateful smile. “Tony kept me up late last night.”
“No fucking sex talk!” Rae yelled.
“Since when?” I whispered at Simon, smirking.
“I heard that!”
My eyes bugged out. “She has radar ears.”
“So what? You have magical fucking hair!”
I laughed and heard Cole’s laughter join mine.
Sighing, I sipped my coffee as Simon chuckled into his. I felt almost content for the first time in as long as I could remember.
I felt part of something here.
I felt part of a family.
* * *
There really wasn’t much of an opportunity to talk with Cole at work that weekend, but as we closed up for the early evening on Sunday, Rae announced Cole was having dinner with us. I was surprised because if Cole could cut out early on a Sunday to catch up with his friends and family who got together for lunch at Ellie’s mum’s house, he would. I wasn’t complaining, though. There was something new between us now. Although we didn’t get a chance to talk much, when we did Cole was warm toward me, and there was a glitter in his eyes when he looked at me.
Mike was at the flat when we returned on Sunday, and the four of us had a good laugh together. Cole and I had formed a bond and we were a team against Rae’s sarcasm. She said it pissed her off that we were defending each other, but secretly I think she liked the challenge of finding a way to outwit us both.
From Monday through Wednesday Cole was in my space as much as he could be. He took me out to lunch twice, and when he didn’t have a client he hung out in the waiting area distracting me from my work with silly stories and jokes. When he wasn’t distracting me he was drawing, and what he was drawing were different ideas for my dragon tattoo.
I finally decided on a predatory black-and-petrol-blue dragon in profile.
The truth was I was nervous about the tattoo—not so much about the pain, because as Cole had told me many times since deciding to get the darn thing, everyone had different experiences and pain levels with tattoos. No, I was nervous about the fact that Cole was going to be the one giving me my tattoo. As in . . . touching me. Since Friday evening this new tension had grown between us. As much as I had always been aware of Cole, it seemed as if he was very much aware of me again. Not like he had been in the beginning—he was more careful now, like he didn’t want to scare me away or upset me.