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|Fall From India Place(On Dublin Street #4)(19) by Samantha Young|
A good-looking bloke in a kilt turned at her yell and grinned, swaggering over to us.
Nish grabbed his arm and yanked him close. “Hannah, this is my husband, Andrew.”
After the introductions, we left the happy couple to their mingling and Cole and I made our way over to the bar. I passed the table with my colleagues and waved at them.
“Do you want to go over?” Cole asked, following my gaze.
“Nah. Let’s just hang out. Mock people. Mock love,” I joked.
“I’m starting with you, Miss Cynical.”
I rolled my eyes as he ordered our drinks. As soon as we had them I moved us over to an almost empty table. I’d forgotten how awkward it could be to be in a room with a bunch of strangers who knew one another but didn’t know you. “We’ll leave soon,” I promised.
Cole shrugged. “It doesn’t bother me. Nish seems nice.”
“She’s a kook.” I shook my head, watching her drag Barbara onto the dance floor. I sank a little lower in my seat, hoping she wouldn’t demand the same of me.
We sat there a while, just laughing and joking and catching up on each other’s lives. Some time had passed when I began to feel a burn on the left side of my face. Skin tingling, I turned my head to look across the room. My eyes moved over the guests, not recognizing anyone. Don’t know him, don’t know her, don’t know her, don’t know him, Marco, don’t know hi —
My eyes dragged back, my heart suddenly in my throat as my gaze connected with Marco’s.
I felt as if someone had just swung a bat at my chest.
I couldn’t breathe.
It was Marco.
He was older, more filled out, if that was even possible, but I’d know that face anywhere. It was hard to mistake.
“Hannah?” Cole’s concerned voice tugged at me and I glanced back at him in shock.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m f-fine,” I stammered, slowly rising to my feet. “I’m just… I need to nip to the ladies’. I’ll be right back.” I shot out the side door near our table into the cool air of the hallway. I inhaled deeply in an effort to get some of that air inside me.
I studied the hallway a little stupidly, looking for signs for the ladies’.
Finding one, I followed the arrow, my brain on overload with questions.
His deep, gravel-rough, accented voice drew me to an abrupt halt.
It was him. It really was him. He was here somehow.
Slowly, I turned around to face the guy I had pined over for so many years, my eyes greedily drinking in the sight of him, even though I tried to resist. He wore suit trousers and a shirt that stretched nicely across his broad chest. He’d always been athletically built, but he’d put on bulk, his biceps clearly much larger than they used to be. His face had filled out a little too, but was no less angular, his cut jawline and sharp cheekbones such a contrast to his exotic eyes and sensual lips. He was utterly striking.
I wanted to hate him.
“What are you doing here?” I asked sharply.
When he didn’t answer me, I studied him more closely and only then realized how stunned he was to see me. Finally he cleared his throat and took a step toward me. I took a step back. Something like annoyance flashed in his eyes as he noted my retreat. “Andrew is a colleague. We work construction together. Real estate mostly.”
It occurred to me that meant he’d probably worked for Braden. Good thing I’d told neither Braden nor Adam of Marco’s existence. Marco D’Alessandro wasn’t really a common name in these parts.
“I meant in Scotland,” I said flatly. “Last time I checked you’d gone back to Chicago.”
Marco nodded and my heart pumped harder as the surrealism of the moment dissipated. He was really in front of me. Really there. Touching distance. “For a while. But I came back.”
My stomach flipped unpleasantly as a question came to mind and quickly spilled from between my lips. “When? When did you come back?”
He shifted uneasily. “A year after I left.”
This revelation winded me.
Five words and the betrayal he’d dealt me quadrupled in size. “You’ve been back for four years?” I asked incredulously, unable to keep the anger out of my voice. “You never thought to call?”
He took another step toward me. I took another back. Marco rubbed his hand over his head in that way he did when he didn’t know what to say. His gaze bored into mine, almost pleading with me. “Back then you were better off without me, Hannah. After what I did…”
Disgusted, I suddenly stopped retreating and took a few steps toward him. “Better off? You bet your arse, I am.” Unable to take one more second in his presence, I moved to stride past him, only to be surprised by the warm curl of his hand around my bare arm. He halted me and I stared up at him in shock, ignoring the intriguing spice of his cologne and the fact that he was the only man who had ever made me feel feminine and fragile.
I used to like that feeling.
Not so much anymore. I tugged my arm, but Marco pulled me toward him.
“Let me go,” I bit out.
“Hannah, at least talk to me.” He bent his head toward me and I felt that traitorous flutter of butterflies as I looked into his eyes. “It’s so f**king good to see you,” he whispered, his expression soft on me.
I shook myself out from under the spell he was trying to cast over me. “Pity I can’t say the same. Now let me go.”
“Is there a problem here?” Cole’s voice made me sag with relief. I looked over my shoulder to see him glowering at Marco. He was younger and he wasn’t nearly as built as Marco, but Cole’s tall, athletic body was coiled with hard muscle. Not to mention that he studied judo and kickboxing. Definitely nothing to sneeze at.
Marco reluctantly let me go. “No.”
I didn’t spare him another glance. I couldn’t. Instead I marched away from him, putting my hand on Cole’s chest in thanks. He threw Marco one last warning look before sliding his arm around my waist to lead me away.
“You okay?” he asked softly.
I nodded. Lie, lie, lie!
“He looked familiar.”
“I knew him in high school. I had a crush on him.”
“I think I rem —” Cole sucked in a breath, hardness settling over his features. “Is he the guy?”