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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(50) by Samantha Young|
“Can I get you anything?”
He shook his head.
“She’ll be okay,” I whispered, hoping I was right.
“You don’t know that,” he replied. “My mum had a heart attack. She didn’t make it.”
“Elodie’s not your mum.”
“Yeah,” he snorted, sounding bitter. “I know that. That’s why this is fucking worse.”
Not understanding I whispered his name in question.
His green eyes found mine and I flinched at the pain in them. My hand automatically reached for his. “Elodie Nichols is everything my mother never was. A real mum. A great mum. Kind and compassionate. Loyal. She adds people to her family like it’s something everyone does, like it’s no big deal to open your home to a stranger.”
Seeing the tears in his eyes, I felt a thickness in my throat, and answering tears burned in my own eyes. “What was your mum like?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, but I definitely knew I needed to know.
He exhaled heavily and turned to look back up at the ceiling. “Selfish. Bitter. A drunk.”
I squeezed his hand tighter, and his fingers bit into my skin in response.
“Growing up, she was never there for me. Jo always took care of me, making sure I was washed and clothed and fed. Making sure I had everything I needed for school. Mum’s drinking got gradually worse, especially when we moved from Glasgow to Edinburgh.”
“You’re from Glasgow?” I said, surprised.
He nodded. “I don’t remember my dad. He was put away for armed robbery when I was about two. I did know he wasn’t a nice guy, because as I got older I finally got some attention from my mum. But not good attention.”
I felt sick suddenly.
“I was about thirteen, nearly fourteen, and I looked a lot older. I was as tall as Jo by the time I was fourteen.” He shot me a sad grin. “I was a total geek. Didn’t go anywhere unless it was to my mate’s house to play video games or work on the comics we created.”
I smiled. “You sound adorable.”
“I was really shy.” His smile slipped. “I was worried all the time. Jo worked her arse off trying to make ends meet because our mum was a bedridden alcoholic by this point. We were always picking her up off the kitchen floor, cleaning up her vomit . . . Anyway, Jo tried to protect me, but that just made me worry about how much pressure she was under. And she was always dating these men that had money and I knew why. I just felt like shit . . . I wished I was older so I could help, you know.”
I reached over and stroked his cheek, fighting tears of compassion.
“We had all this going on and other kids my age just seemed so immature. It made me isolate myself a bit until I was pretty socially awkward.”
“I can’t even imagine that.” I swear my heart clenched in my chest for him.
“It didn’t help that Mum had gotten abusive. I tried to hide it from Jo because I didn’t want her to have to deal with it . . . and I was ashamed.”
I couldn’t stop the tears now. “Cole?”
He looked at me, countenance grim. “She said I was like him. My dad. That I was worthless, that I was nothing. And she’d hit me. Not once did I hit her back, though. I wasn’t like him. I was never going to be like him.”
I swallowed a sob of compassion and guilt. “And I said . . . I said that—”
“Shh.” Cole frowned and wrapped his arms around me. I buried my face in his throat and started to cry for everything he’d been through and for what I’d put him through. “Sweetheart, shh, you’re killing me here.”
“I’m sorry,” I hiccupped, desperately attempting to control myself.
He rubbed my back. “Put that out of your mind. For good.”
“I didn’t mean it.”
“I know.” He eased me back so I could see the truth in his eyes. “Shannon, I know. It’s not the same, but I get what it’s like to have someone that’s supposed to love you make you feel small and worthless. To have them hurt you with careless violence. I know. And that means I know exactly why you have your defenses up so high.” He brushed my tears with his thumb. “You’re a good person. You are nothing like her. She made it really difficult to love her, and she left me with a whole lot of guilt about that.”
I sniffled. “Did Jo find out? About her hitting you.”
“Actually Cam did. He was our neighbor. He found out and told Jo. Well, he thought Jo knew and he gave her a rollicking about it and devastated her, so I gave him a rollicking and he worked his arse off to make it up to her. He changed everything for us. We owe him a lot.”
“And your dad?”
Cole’s face darkened. “He used to beat up Jo when she was a kid. Mick found out and beat the shit out of him and he left. Not long after, he ended up in prison.” His hand tightened on my waist. “He came back when I fourteen. He was trying to blackmail Jo. Said that if she didn’t give him money he would come for me, take me away.”
“Oh my God.”
“Jo tried to keep him from me, tried so hard he got her alone and attacked her as a warning that time was running out.”
There were no words for how shocked I was by all these revelations. I would never have known there was this much darkness in Cole’s past. “She really loves you,” I whispered, tearing up again but this time with gratitude and respect for Cole’s sister.
“Oh yeah.” He grinned, but I could see the overwhelming emotion in his eyes. “She’s a warrior when it comes to me. Always has been. Belle is the luckiest little girl in the world.”
I smiled in agreement before forcing myself to ask, “What happened with your dad?”
“Jo went to Joss and Braden. Braden rounded up Cam and Mick and the three of them took care of it. I didn’t ask and I don’t want to know what happened. All I know is that they protected us and we’ve never heard from that man again.”
He turned suddenly so he was leaning over me, his eyes blazing with passion that held me rooted, frozen beneath him. With trembling hands he brushed my hair from my face. “That’s why you have to know that I won’t ever hurt you like that. Ever. You have to believe that, Shannon.” He leaned down, his lips hovering over mine, and his next words were whispered across my mouth in a plea. “Please believe that.”