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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(46) by Samantha Young|
While I cooked dinner in the kitchen, Cole was in the sitting room watching a comedy show. He was perfectly at ease here, whereas I felt like it was our first night together all over again.
“Shortcake, have you seen my phone?” he called out.
“Try the bedroom.”
A few minutes later I caught sight of him out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over my shoulder to find him standing in the doorway of the kitchen, holding a piece of canvas, eyes on me. He looked confused.
My gaze flew back to the canvas.
My . . . art.
The pulse in my neck began to throb. “What are you doing?” I croaked.
Cole held up the cityscape of Edinburgh. “Is this yours? Did you do this?”
I felt sick.
Concern emanated from him as he walked toward me. “Shannon?”
I nodded, my eyes glued to the painting.
“Shannon, this is amazing.” His voice was soft, low, amazed. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Amazing? My eyes flew up to his face. “You like it?”
Cole gave a huff of laughter. “Are you kidding me? It’s brilliant.”
He liked it? He liked my painting. “Are you sure?” I squeaked.
“Yes,” he insisted. “As are the three others you have hidden under your bed.” He placed the painting carefully on the kitchen table and then wrapped his arms around my waist, drawing me into him. “Why didn’t you tell me you paint? Why is it a secret?”
I was still in shock that he liked my work.
Trembling, I released myself from his hold to return to stirring my sauce. “It’s . . .”
I didn’t even know how to begin to explain to him.
Cole’s chest pressed against my back as he leaned past me to turn the hob off. “Dinner can wait.” He gently took my hand in his and led me to the bedroom. While I stood in the doorway he got down on his knees and pulled out all of my hidden artwork. He put the pile of sketch pads on the bed. “May I?”
Heart racing again, I nodded.
Cole began to flick through my work. After a few minutes he sat back on the bed and stared up at me. I didn’t know what his expression meant. “I feel like I don’t know you,” he said softly, touching a sketch of my brother, Logan. “This is clearly a big part of you . . .”
It was only then I realized how stiff I was holding myself, my muscles coiled tight with tension. I released my hands from the fists I had them clenched in and tentatively made my way over to the bed. I brushed my fingers over the sketch of Logan. “He was the only one that ever encouraged my artwork. After Granddad passed and then Gran . . . I only had Logan.”
“This is your brother?”
I nodded. “I used to love sketching people. I’m more into semiabstract landscapes now.” I looked over at the acrylic paintings Cole had leaned against my wall. “I’d never painted until I moved here.”
I flushed with pleasure at the surprise on his face. “You wouldn’t know it.”
“You really think I’m good?”
“Good?” Cole shook his head, bewildered. “Shannon, you’re a beautiful artist. Why . . . why have you never pursued it?”
With his praise ringing in my ears I had to duck my head to avoid his gaze. I didn’t want him to know how much that meant to me, or how it made me want to dive on him and kiss him all over. “After high school I decided not to go to uni like all my friends. I wanted to have some life experience, work experience. The plan was to defer for two years and then apply for art school.” I sighed, a million regrets weighing on my chest. “Somehow I let it slip away from me. It was easier to have a job and some money and a relationship than it was to think about studying and getting into debt. But then I got a little bit older and I realized I wasn’t happy. Being creative made me happy and I wanted it to be a real part of my life.” I looked up at Cole and he flinched at the anger in my eyes. My words sounded brittle to my own ears. “When I decided I wanted to apply for art school I was with Ollie. He’d find my sketches lying around and he would mock and belittle them. He told me over and over and over again that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t talented . . . and I let myself believe the son of a bitch.”
“I hope I never find him, Shannon.” Cole’s voice was rough, his own anger scraping against the words. “Because I’ll fucking finish what Logan started.”
“Don’t say that.” I reached for his hand and he curled his fingers around mine. “He’s not worth it.”
“He’s not worth this either,” Cole snapped. “Hiding your talent under your bed like it’s something to be ashamed of.” His eyes blazed into mine. “He knew you were too good for him and that one day you would wake up and realize it too. So he did his best to make you feel small and worthless—to make you feel lucky to be with him, when the truth was the exact opposite.”
“Cole . . .”
“This.” He grabbed up a sketch pad. “Is out in the open from now on, and if you want to go to art school we’ll find a way for that to happen. I’m still in contact with some of my professors from Edinburgh—I do special workshops every year there about tattoo art. We’ll find a way,” he promised. “If that’s what you want.”
So many feelings filled my chest that I was breathless. I stared at Cole in wonder. “Are you real, Cole Walker?”
He gave me this small half smile. “It’s funny. Every day I look at you and ask myself if you’re real.”
“Don’t.” I squeezed his hand. “You’ll make me cry.”
“I want to know everything.”
The muscle in his jaw flexed. “About the others. Your exes.”
Alarmed, I pulled out of his grasp. “Why?”
The determination in his eyes only grew more intense at my withdrawal. “Because I need to know what I’m dealing with. I need to know what they’ve done to you.”
“No.” I shook my head, ready for retreat. “You want to know, and I’m not sure I’m up for that discussion.”
Cole removed my sketch pads, laying them gently on the floor like they were precious works of art, and then he moved closer to me on the bed. His fingers wrapped around my wrist and he tugged me toward him until my hip rested against his. “I need to know.” He brushed his knuckles across my cheekbone as he stared deep into my eyes. “I need to know so I can try to reverse all the damage they’ve done.”