Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 17


As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back. The look on his face . . . utter disbelief. I didn’t say ugly things like that to people. That wasn’t me.
But the fact that he’d reduced me to it just made me even angrier.
The muscle in Cole’s jaw flexed and he took one menacing step toward me, causing me to stumble back. He stopped, noting my retreat with something like disgust. “You don’t know the first fucking thing about me . . . but thank you. Thank you for showing me what a judgmental bitch you can be. I won’t waste my time on someone who’s not worth it.”
To my astonishment his words cut me.
I hid it, though. Practice made perfect. “Am I out of a job?”
His upper lip curled. “You really do think I’m a prick, don’t you?”
I made no response since the vitriol I’d just dealt him seemed evidence enough.
“No, Shannon,” Cole snapped. “Your job is safe as long as you do it well. As for me, I’ll be sure to stay out of your way as much as I possibly can.”
*   *   *
Unfortunately for Cole and me we shared the same two days off, so it wasn’t even as though we could avoid each other at work.
The hostility between us was bad.
I was sure Rae noticed it at work on Tuesday, but she didn’t say anything. I didn’t know if that was her being scarily perceptive or if she just didn’t give a crap. Sometimes with Rae it was hard to tell. It was Simon’s day off, so he didn’t know anything was going on. He returned to work on Wednesday.
We made it obvious pretty quickly that something was amiss.
Cole had just finished up with a customer. He’d been all friendly and smiles, bringing the older woman to the reception to pay, but as soon as he turned to me his expression turned blank. “An hour for Marie here.”
I didn’t even look at him. Just as friendly as he had been with Marie, I took her cash with a smile and bade her a good day. As soon as she was out the door, Cole informed me, “I’ll be out for lunch today, so I won’t need you to get me anything.”
He grunted and strode away.
Half an hour later his next appointment came in. Just the thought of having to go into Cole’s room to tell him caused me butterflies and not the good kind. The moth-eaten-winged kind.
Bracing myself, I hurried to his room only to find he and Simon were in there joking together. Cole looked up and the laughter died in his eyes at the sight of me. “What?” he said impatiently.
I glanced at Simon and noted his eyebrows were halfway up his forehead, he was so taken aback by Cole’s tone. Annoyed, I gritted my teeth and looked at my boss with invisible daggers shooting out of my eyes. “Your next appointment is here. Thought you’d like to know.”
“Fine.” He looked away quickly to resume conversation with Simon, but Simon’s mouth was hanging open as he stared at me.
I made a face and whirled around on my heel and stomped out of there.
I heard Simon say gruffly, “What was that?” but was moving too fast to hear Cole’s reply.
That was pretty much how Cole and I treated each other for the rest of the day. My favorite part was when he finished up with the pretty young blonde who’d gone in for a tattoo of her favorite lyrics on her lower hip (I knew this because she couldn’t shut up about the Killers lyrics, what they meant to her, and what it meant that the Cole Walker would be inking them on her skin) and he ended up taking her out to lunch. Her name was Jessica and after she paid, she leaned over the desk to me with this massive grin on her face and whisper-shouted, “Cole’s taking me out for lunch.”
I couldn’t help it. My eyes sought his with a will of their own.
Cole stared right through me. Without a good-bye, he held the door open for Jessica and followed her out into the cool spring day.
Ignoring the burn of something I refused (once again) to admit was jealousy, I fiddled with the files, trying to remember what I’d been in the middle of doing before Cole turned a client meeting into a date.
My head jerked up at the noise.
Simon was standing in the middle of the studio staring at the door.
“Hmm, what?”
He shrugged before slowly turning his gaze on me. “Cole rarely does that.”
Not that I cared . . . but, “Does what?”
“Asks clients out. Did it once a few years back, but she was a regular and they dated for about six months, I think.”
I snorted. It was hard to believe Cole lasted six months with a girl.
“I’m saying”—Simon stepped toward me, sounding just as impatient as Cole had sounded earlier—“perhaps he just did it to piss someone off.”
Someone as in me?
I made a face, staring at the door where he’d left. “How very mature,” I muttered.
“What happened between you two?”
“Nothing,” I hurried to assure him. “Absolutely nothing.”
Now it was Simon’s turn to snort. “Funny how absolutely nothing can make the most laid-back guy I know act like a pissy little fucker.”
“Funny, that,” I murmured, looking down at my work and refusing to look back up again until I felt him leave.
It would be an understatement to say I was glad when Thursday rolled around. I jumped on a bus that took me to Portobello. I sat at an angle at one end of the beach promenade and began to sketch the houses along it where the land curved around the sand and water stretched out in front of me.
It was peaceful and for a little while I didn’t think about my family or Cole or anything upsetting.
I thought Friday was going just as well until later that evening Rae invited me out for a drink. I wanted to say no because I knew Cole would be there, but I’d already declined the previous night and I knew Rae wouldn’t take no for an answer again.
Weirdly, Rae’s friendship had come to mean something to me. I was lonely in Edinburgh and she was the only thing keeping me from feeling not so lonely. I didn’t want to inadvertently push her away in my bid to avoid Cole.
To my everlasting relief, however, I discovered Cole wasn’t at the pub. Just Simon and Tony.
Rae and I sat down with a fresh round for the boys. “Where is His Gorgeousness tonight?” she asked.
Simon grinned. “Getting sexier. He, Cam, and Nate are at that judo tournament in London. They get back late tonight.”