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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(54) by Samantha Young|
“Yes?” he drawled.
“You noticed that, did you?”
I smirked at his sarcasm. “Would you say you were particularly perceptive?”
“Because all gay men are clairvoyants?” He was smiling, so I knew he wasn’t offended.
“No . . . I just . . . I’ve always thought most women were more intuitive than most men, and I was just wondering if—”
“Being gay made me more intuitive?”
“It sounds terrible when you say it like that.”
“What? Like you’re generalizing a whole group of people because of their sexual orientation?” he teased.
I made a face. “Forget it.”
Simon tapped my nose with his finger. “Speak up, wee fairy. What’s on your mind?”
Glancing over my shoulder at the door to the back hallway, I took a deep breath. “What do you think he sees in me?”
He seemed taken aback by the question, as Simon’s inquisitive gaze searched mine. “Really?”
I shrugged. “You said it yourself . . . Cole’s hot. Beyond hot. And he’s talented and charismatic. He could have his choice of anyone.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Well, Cole told me all about how you two met when you were fifteen.”
“Can you remember it?”
I smiled softly. “Of course.”
“Do you remember feeling insecure then when he was talking to you? Did you ever ask yourself why a good-looking kid like him was interested in you?”
My brow knitted. I slumped toward Simon, my elbows on the counter, my chin resting on the palm of my hand. “No,” I said quietly. “I was always a bit self-conscious of my hair and height but . . . no. I was fairly confident when I was younger.”
“So why aren’t you now?”
Because of Ollie.
My hands curled into fists. “For no good reason at all.”
Simon covered one of my hands with his. “Good answer.”
I looked up and his expression was tender.
“You know your worth, Shannon. So does Cole. Believe me.”
I smiled gratefully. “You’re the shit, Simon.”
His eyebrows rose and he grinned. “You cursed for me?”
I laughed at how happy a swearword made him. “We really are a weird bunch, aren’t we?”
He winked. “Wouldn’t want us any other way.”
* * *
The smell of chlorine hit me as I followed Cole into the sports center and a wave of nostalgia crashed over me. I had loved swimming when I was a kid. Every summer, during the school holidays, Logan would take Amanda and me to our local swimming pool once a week. Sometimes I managed to squeeze two trips a week out of him. My brother never abandoned us if his friends showed up, no matter how much he got teased for hanging out with his little sisters. He was always watching out for us, entertaining us.
“You okay?” Cole glanced back at me as we walked down a cream-colored tiled corridor.
“Yeah. I was just thinking if I wasn’t so curious to see you in class I could have gone swimming instead. I haven’t swum in ages.”
He grinned. “Next time.” We stopped outside gray double doors with large half-circle windowpanes. Through them we could see into a good-sized court that was being used as a training room for Cole’s judo class. There were a number of people milling around inside—a few guys around Cole’s age and older, a number of kids aged eight to about fifteen, and two women who looked just a little older than me. There were two faces I recognized: Cam and Nate. According to Cole this was Nate’s class that he taught and it included all different skill levels. Cole’s other judo class during the week was one he attended with Nate and Cole held by a sensei higher in rank than them—it was black belts only.
Cole had changed into his suit after work. It was a blue Adidas suit like Nate, Cam, and their companion wore, and Cole’s belt was also black. I didn’t know what any of the belt colors in the room meant, but I knew black belt was higher than the others in rank. Cole had given me a quick run-through in the car. Although my brain had been a little too preoccupied—with thoughts of Renee and women like her, the fact that my birthday was fast approaching and I still hadn’t heard from my family, the fact that I desperately wanted to visit Logan but knew he didn’t want to see me, and the fact that I felt guilty because Cole was making me happy while my brother rotted away in jail—to pay enough attention to remember.
It struck me that Logan would like Cole. I knew that without a doubt.
But then I threw Logan out of my thoughts because they were likely to pull me into a dark depression, and instead I looked up at my boyfriend.
Since martial arts were such a big part of Cole’s life, I’d gotten a little nosy. I wanted to see what it was all about. Cole became overenthusiastic about my nosiness, assuming that my interest was due to a desire to possibly start taking instruction. He’d suggested I observe a class to see if it was something I might like to try. I was happier with Cole thinking I was curious about martial arts rather than him realizing I was just a little Cole-obsessed right now.
I nodded and he pushed the door open, holding it for me as I walked into a roomful of strangers who all turned to look curiously at me. Cole dumped his gym bag in the corner and then took my hand, leading me over to Nate and Cam.
They greeted me with smiles of welcome and I relaxed a little.
“So you’re here to observe.” Nate grinned, giving me his dimples.
“If that’s okay?”
“No problem. I’m just surprised Cole’s willing to let you watch him get his arse kicked.”
Cole laughed. I loved watching him laugh. Loved the way his eyes actually glittered brightly with humor, loved the crinkles around the corners of them, loved the boyish grin that always accompanied his laughter. “You’re about to eat your words, old man.”
Nate harrumphed. “I’ll old-man you. Get in line.”
* * *
An hour and a half later
“He kicked your butt.”
Cole shrugged at me as he approached. Nate had just finished the class and everyone was dispersing to the changing rooms. “I let him. I was feeling charitable.”