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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(51) by Samantha Young|
Staring up into his gorgeous face and his kind eyes, I felt the memories of the last weeks assaulting me. His patience, his kindness, his compassion, his steadfastness . . . all of it was so much bigger than the hot, cocky, confident tattooist the rest of the world saw.
And like with a hit to the chest, I was winded by the realization that I did believe him.
I believed him.
Scared but needing to reassure him more than I needed to assure myself, I slid my hands around his neck and pressed my mouth against his for a slow, sweet kiss. When I broke it, I stared him straight in the eye and said with a fierceness that surprised even me, “You are not nothing. You are wonderful. Everyone who meets you can’t help adoring you—”
“You inspire loyalty in people for a reason, Cole, and your mother was the one that lost out here. She missed out on loving a really, really cool kid.” I smiled through my tears. “And a smart, good man. Don’t feel guilty because you feel more for Elodie Nichols than you did for your mother. Elodie deserves your love. By all accounts your mum never did.”
He shuddered against me, burying his face in my neck and wrapping his arms tight around me.
I held on to him, pouring my love into him, despite all my fears screaming at me not to. “I believe you, Cole,” I whispered. “I believe you.”
Somehow he managed to press his body even closer to me in answer.
I awakened, taking in Cole blearily as he sat up in bed. “Any news?”
The worry in his voice brought me fully into consciousness, the emotional saga of the day hitting me in the chest. The sound of Cole’s phone ringing had woken us both. I shuffled into a sitting position, glancing at his bedside clock. It was eleven o’clock at night. After he had confided in me about his family history, I managed to convince him to eat something. Then we’d both curled up on his bed again and fallen asleep.
“But she’s okay?” he whispered into his phone. I wrapped my arm around him. Cole slid his free arm around my shoulders and hugged me close. I felt his muscles tense. He was silent as the person on the other end of the line answered. “Okay . . . yeah. Thanks, Jo. Speak soon . . . Yeah, you too.” He hung up and glanced down at me.
“That was good news?”
He exhaled. “Elodie had a heart attack.”
“Oh God.” I gripped his arm tighter.
“It’s okay.” He clasped my hand. “They did something . . . angioplasty? It removed a blockage. There’s not too much damage to her heart, so they think she’s going to be okay.”
I was relieved for Elodie, and for Cole and the rest of the family. I hadn’t been around them all a lot, but it didn’t take a genius to realize Elodie was the matriarch of their tribe. “That’s good news.”
He nodded, but the melancholy that had been entrenched in his gaze earlier that day remained. Staring into his gorgeous, soulful eyes, I was overwhelmed by my need to make him happy.
Easing myself over him until I straddled him, I grasped his face in my hands and pressed a soft kiss to his mouth. “It’s moments like these that remind us just how fleeting it all is.” My hand dropped to his right arm and I caressed the eagle and the pocket watch with my fingertips. “I grew up listening to music, reading books, and watching films that all kept telling me how much we take time for granted. The warning started to lose meaning. And unfortunately it’s only ever when we’re faced with our own mortality that we remember that the world is telling us ‘life is short’ because it’s the truth.” I looked deep into his eyes and felt that connection between us reach out and plunge straight into my chest. I felt breathless, a little light-headed. Scared. “I can’t make promises to you, Cole. Not yet. I really wish I could. But I can try to get there. I want to try to make this work.” I smiled, feeling shy and overwhelmed. “I want this to be a relationship.”
Something brightened in Cole’s eyes, pushing back at the melancholy. He smoothed his hands up my spine, drawing me closer. “Are you saying you want to be my girlfriend?” His voice was gruff, almost teasing.
I leaned into him and whispered against lips, “Are you saying you want me to be your girlfriend?”
“Fuck yeah,” he whispered back, and pressed his mouth to mine.
* * *
Although Cole said he wanted me to come with him when he visited Elodie in the hospital, I convinced him otherwise. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to support him or show Elodie I was thinking of her. It was because I didn’t feel it was my place yet. I barely knew Elodie, and her heart attack had dredged up so much for Cole. I thought it would be better for him to have some time alone with her.
He visited the hospital the next evening carrying a bouquet of flowers I’d chosen.
Seeing Elodie for himself, getting reassurance that she was going to be all right, took away the grim aspect that had crept into Cole, and as soon as he returned from the hospital to his flat where I was waiting for him, I felt the immediate uplifted change in him. Cole was back to himself again except more. He was even happier than before and I was giddy yet equally terrified that this was because I’d promised to try something serious with him.
I didn’t intend to let that fear control me, however, and I threw myself with a weird kind of trepidation wholly into this new stage of our relationship. It was in my nature to be openly affectionate with a partner, and so with some difficulty I let that part of me out.
I liked hugs and kisses and holding hands.
Thankfully Cole seemed to like all those things too and he went with the change in my behavior without saying a word.
On Wednesday during lunch break we’d locked ourselves in his room and gotten up to no good on his tattoo chair. I was still all hot and bothered a few hours later when he came out of the room with a customer and approached the desk to pay.
“That’s sixty pounds, please,” I said to the tall, lanky guy who had so many tattoos I was surprised they’d found space for a new one.
The guy grinned at me and handed me his card.
As I processed the payment Cole said, “I promised Hannah I’d watch Sophia tomorrow, but I want you at my place for dinner at eight p.m.”
I quirked an eyebrow. “Was there a question in there?”
He smoldered. “Please will you join me for dinner, Shannon?”