Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 14


Tony raised his glass to me. “I knew we were going to get along.”
Rae pretended to huff but then stood up. “My round.” She pointed at me. “Use those fucking earplugs.”
“They only muffle the squealing.”
This set the boys off again.
She shook her head at me, eyes glittering with amusement. “I guess I can try to be quieter.”
I smiled. “That would be appreciated.”
“You’re lucky you’re fucking cute,” she said, and strode off to get us more drinks.
“Told you you could handle her,” Cole said.
I threw a tight smile in his direction, successfully avoiding his eyes.
The guys and Rae pulled me into hilarious conversation, each little tidbit from Tony proving that despite his intimidating sense of confidence and style, he was down-to-earth. But I was hyperaware of Cole. He was just that guy—he exuded charisma. There was this aura about him and I imagined I was not alone in being drawn in by it.
I did my best to fight it, though, winning the battle every time I looked over and saw him flirting with Tamara. Player. Player. Player, I reminded myself.
After a few drinks and lots of conversation, I excused myself to use the ladies’. The bar was near closing and many of its customers had cleared out. Glad there was no line into the ladies’, I took my time, and as I washed my hands I stared into the mirror above the sink. I looked less tired, less stressed. The pinched, tight lines around the corners of my mouth had disappeared. My hair tumbled down my back in thick waves and ringlets, and my violet eyes were bright with alcohol. I wasn’t drunk, but I was definitely tipsy. That mixed with the good company meant I was in the best mood I’d been in in forever.
That mood plummeted as soon as I stepped out of the ladies’ and was confronted by Cole coming out of the men’s.
Before I could say a word, he came at me, crowding me against the wall as he had crowded me against the reception desk the other day. He put his hands on the wall just above my head, his eyes searing down into me. “Tamara is just a friend.”
I jerked my head back in surprise, whacking it on the wall. “And I would care why?”
This close I could see the frown lines between his eyebrows and the hint of darkness in his beautiful green eyes, a gloom that not even the mesmerizing flecks of gold striations around the edges of his irises could counter. “You’ve been quiet with me, Shortcake.”
I tensed against the wall. “I’ve been talking to Simon and Tony. And Shortcake?”
“Mmm. I’m a fan of strawberry shortcake. You remind me of it.”
“I remind you of strawberry shortcake?” I asked, completely befuddled.
“Sweet strawberries, whipped cream, and sugary biscuit. That’s definitely you.” He frowned now. “You’re telling me you’re not icing me out because of Tamara.”
“Why would I?”
He leaned closer and I sucked in my breath as his citrusy cologne hit me in delightful waves. “Because of what’s between us.”
Trembling now, I whispered, “There’s nothing between us.”
The gloom disappeared from Cole’s eyes and the gold seemed to flare as heat entered them. “Nothing but a shitload of chemistry I’ve wanted to explore since we first met. And you can stop pretending you don’t remember that because I know you do.”
Feeling the heat flood into me, I became desperate to get away from him. I reached up and pushed my hands against his chest, but he wouldn’t budge. I was tiny as it was. Next to Cole I was an ineffectual . . . wee fairy. I glowered at him. “You should know I find arrogance a real turnoff.”
Cole leaned forward and his lips whispered across my cheek before resting against my ear. “Bullshit.”
A shiver rippled down my spine at his hot breath on my skin, and my nipples tightened. My chest rose and fell as I lost control of my breathing—the air between us felt much, much too thick.
Cole pulled away just enough to look into my eyes, and whatever he saw there made him turn liquid with triumph. I’d never felt an attraction so powerful before, and although there was a mini version of me screaming from the back of my brain to get the hell out of there, I ignored it. Later I would blame the alcohol for just standing there as Cole leaned down to meet my lips with his.
I waited, breathless with anticipation—
“There you are!”
I slammed back against the wall, the moment ruined. Cole squeezed his eyes shut, his jaw clenched with obvious annoyance. He took a few seconds to gather himself. When he opened his eyes the annoyance was gone, but something else was there. It felt like he was trying to send me a silent message.
Pretending indifference, I stared up at him blankly, only managing to breathe properly when he spun around to speak to Tamara.
I didn’t like her.
But my God, I was grateful she’d interrupted us.
That was it. There would be no more overimbibing when Cole Walker was in the vicinity.
W orking a weekend at INKarnate proved to be manic. The studio was abuzz with noise from the needles, music, and conversation. It was a constant flow of people, and the guys took a shorter lunch break to keep up with their appointments. I thought Sunday might be slightly quieter, but it was one of Simon’s days off, so it worked out to be just as busy, if not more so.
It made avoiding Cole extremely easy, however, and he never got a chance to bring up the charged moment between us at the Voodoo Rooms.
For some reason Monday was busy too, so despite the fact that a busy studio meant a far-too-busy-to-flirt-with-me Cole, I was somewhat relieved when I walked into work on Tuesday morning to a quiet environment. I started up where I’d left off on the digitizing of the files.
Half an hour later the door opened and a young woman, perhaps a few years younger than me, walked slowly over to my desk. I tensed at the darkness behind her eyes and her pale face. “Larissa Jones,” she said, her voice extremely quiet. “I have an appointment for a tattoo removal.”
I checked the appointment book, confirmed it, and disappeared into the back to Rae’s room where she was setting up to let her know her first appointment had arrived. When I returned to tell Larissa that Rae would be five minutes, I was surprised to find the girl sitting in the waiting area crying into her hands.
Alarmed, I hurried to retrieve the tissue box on my desk and made my way over to her. I sat down beside her. “Are you all right?”