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|Echoes of Scotland Street(On Dublin Street #5)(62) by Samantha Young|
“Nah. I didn’t see the point. Jo was happy and she deserved to be. I could handle Mum.”
“So she was continuing to be a bitch to you?”
“Yeah. And one day I went into the flat to pick up something, a hoodie or jacket . . . and I walked into my old bedroom and it was a wreck. Mum followed me in, looked me in the eye, nothing in her expression, and said, ‘We’ll never be even.’ She left me to go through the destruction she’d caused. She left clothes and stuff like that alone”—he curled his lip in disgust—“and she went straight for the stuff that mattered. Photographs and all my artwork.”
“All of it?” I gasped.
“Everything . . . except . . .” He lifted the comic drawing and gave me a small smile. “I found it tucked behind the radiator. It must have whipped up into the air during her frenzy and hid out there.” He shrugged, running his fingertips over it. “It felt important that it was the one thing that had escaped her. So I kept it.”
I couldn’t stop the tears that spilled down my cheeks. There was so much going on inside me. I hurt for him and what his mother had put him through. I hurt for him in a way I didn’t think was possible to hurt for another person. The thought of anyone being cruel to him tore me up inside. At the same time I was overwhelmed by the drawing and the story behind it. There was a stunning reassurance in believing that something bigger than me had always planned to give me a life as beautiful as the one I’d found with Cole Walker.
Cole sat up to brush my tears from my cheeks and he dipped his head toward mine. His lips inches from my lips, he confessed, “I love you, Shannon. I want to protect you and keep you safe. I want to be your family and to give you mine so that you never have to feel sad about anyone who is too stupid to realize they’ve let go of something so special their lives will always be a little darker for it.”
I choked back more tears, feeling too much—much too much—all of it building in my chest. I pressed my mouth against his and clung to him, pulling the calm I needed out of him. Finally, when I felt able to speak, I broke the kiss and clasped his face. I stared straight into his eyes and fought every single fear inside me. “I love you too.”
R ae was smirking at Cole and me as we walked over to the table hand in hand. Tony and Simon were wearing similar expressions.
“Managed to drag yourselves out of the love shack, did you?” Rae had practically yelled, and I could feel the curious and amused gazes of the other restaurant patrons burning into me.
“Remind me that I kind of love her,” I said, gritting my teeth.
Cole grunted. “Hard to do when I’m busy trying to remind myself.”
“No!” Rae continued to speak much too loudly as Cole pulled out the seat next to her. “Switch with Simon and Tony. If I sit next to you two I’ll look like someone has rolled me in flour.”
Assuming she was referring to the tans we’d gotten in Italy, I took the seat Cole had offered. “Suck it up.”
She pursed her lips in annoyance. Finally, as Cole settled into the seat next to mine, she said, “There’s something different about you. And I’m not talking about your smarter-than-usual mouth.”
I shrugged. “It’s called happiness.”
Rae’s attention flicked between Cole and me. She gave us a huge beaming, genuine smile at odds with her next words. “Cheesy buggers.”
“So, okay, I really want to find out what you think of my home country.” Tony smiled lazily, but I could see a glitter of excitement in his eyes. “But first I want to tell you something.”
“Tony.” Simon groaned.
“No, no.” His partner narrowed his gaze. “I want to know what they think.”
“About what?” Cole said.
“I want to adopt a child,” Tony announced, his usual air of insouciance gone. “Simon, he no want to because he think I’m crazy. Convince him otherwise.”
Cole relaxed back in his chair, seeming to be unperturbed by what I considered to be huge news. “Okay, well, I will but it all depends.”
“On if you’re crazy or not.”
Tony did not look amused. “I am ready to be a papa. I think Sy and I would make wonderful parents.”
“I think you would too,” I found myself opining before I could stop myself. From the moment he’d announced the news, sounding almost as casual as if he’d decided he needed a new car, I’d felt the irritation heating in my blood. I tried to temper it, knowing Tony had a good heart. He smiled at my words, but I cut him off. “But only if you both want it and have thought long and hard about it. A kid isn’t an accessory—something to have because it fits your mood and it’s what people expect. You can’t just return it, Tony, and you can’t ignore it because a child isn’t all you’d hoped it would be for you, and you certainly can’t raise a child in a household where one parent may possibly resent it.”
Everyone sat in stunned silence at my outburst.
Cole reached for my hand under the table and gave it a squeeze at the exact same time Simon lifted his glass of water in a toast to me. “Thank you. A voice of reason in the madness.”
Tony shot him a hurt look. “I don’t think it’s an accessory. I want a child.”
“And I’m not ready. I also don’t want to discuss this shit in front of our friends.”
Squirming uncomfortably, I held Cole’s hand tighter as the tension mounted around the dining table.
“Is everyone ready to order?” A waiter suddenly appeared beside us.
Rae snapped open her menu. “Unfortunately we’ve been too busy participating in really fucking awkward dinner table conversation, so we’re not quite ready yet. Give us a couple of minutes.”
The waiter scurried off as quickly as possible.
I shot Cole a look of concern. “I don’t think he’s coming back.”
Cole’s lips twitched. “Would you?”
I looked down at my menu, avoiding eye contact with the warring couple opposite us. “Absolutely not.”
Tony sighed wearily. “I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable. I got excited about the idea.” He leaned in closer, trying to smile away the troubled look in his eyes. “So, tell me, how you find Lago di Como?”