Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 19


Ollie’s phone rang and he answered it. I wasn’t really paying attention to his conversation, so it was a surprise to me when he got off the phone and turned to me. “Come on, we’re meeting Bill and the lads down the pub.”
Disbelief and anger coursed through me. “Are you kidding?”
Confused, Ollie shook his head.
I stood up, my hands flying to hips. “I just gave up a night out with the girls because you said you needed a quiet night in with me.”
“Oh, don’t start,” Ollie groaned. “I can’t be bothered with your fucking drama tonight. Are you coming or not?”
“No! I’m not!” I yelled. “You selfish arsehole.”
Ollie’s face instantly darkened.
*   *   *
I pulled myself quickly out of the memory, blinking it away as fast as I could. He’d been a prick for a long time. I couldn’t believe how long it had taken me to see him for what he was, to see the damage he’d done to me and to my life.
I threw Simon a quick, tight smile. “We lost touch.”
“I need another drink,” Rae suddenly said, changing the subject, and I suspected (gratefully) that it was deliberate. “Anyone else?”
A lthough the hostilities did not cease between Cole and me, time passed pretty quickly while I grew more accustomed to my job at INKarnate and living with Rae. Sometimes I couldn’t believe it had only been a little over a month since I first came to work at Stu’s studio. Not much had changed: I worked, avoided Cole when I could, snapped back at him in retaliation to his cold impatience, and watched him disappear out to lunch every now and then with Jessica, whom he’d been dating for the last few weeks.
Not that I cared.
I had Simon and Rae to use as buffers in the situation with Cole. They found the tension between Cole and me weirdly hilarious. They just went with it. Honestly it was almost becoming second nature to ignore him, or glare at him when I couldn’t ignore him.
That was exactly what I was doing on Tuesday midafternoon. Rae had a client; it was Simon’s day off; Cole was free but keeping himself busy (i.e., avoiding me) in Stu’s office. I was sort of on my lunch break. I’d been late that morning, so I was making up for it by having my lunch break at my desk. That way I could still deal with customers if they came in or called. I was trying not to think about why I was late getting to work.
My nightmares had returned.
For ages after everything that had happened in Glasgow, I’d had bad dreams. When I moved to Edinburgh they were quickly taken over by stress dreams of the “my teeth falling out” variety. They were better than the nightmares, though, and they didn’t wake me up in a sweaty mess at night, so I dealt with them. Then I got the job and a new roommate and the dreams had disappeared completely.
Now they were back and after waking up early that morning a complete trembling, clammy mess, I’d eventually fallen asleep but then slept right through my alarm.
I frowned and buried my nose deeper into J. B. Carmichael’s latest book as I munched on a homemade sandwich. I was just getting into the story when I heard footsteps approaching from the back hallway. I didn’t even have to look to know it was Cole—I’d grown that aware of him.
Concentrating with all my might, I attempted to ignore him as he walked into the main studio, his footsteps nearing me. I felt him hover around me, but I’d buried my nose so deep in the book that now all I could see was paper and black lines.
I heard an exasperated sigh seconds before I felt hands on my waist and then my whole body was lifted up out of my chair. I gasped and froze in shock as I was gently lowered to my feet near the filing cupboard door. I still held my book and sandwich in the exact same position, my eyes peering over the top of the book, as Cole steadied me and then pulled my chair out of the way of the desk. As he bent down to retrieve an empty folder from the drawer my shins had been pressed against, I finally found my voice.
“Couldn’t you have just said ‘excuse me’?” I was trying not to look at his arms. I knew I was small, but he’d just lifted me like I weighed less than air!
Cole turned his stony stare on me and suddenly started toward me. I refused to back up, but he got so close I had to smoosh my sandwich and book against my chest. I sucked in my breath as the heat radiating from his body hit me along with the tantalizing and mouthwatering smell of his cologne. I now knew that irresistible scent was the sport version of L’eau D’issey by Issey Miyake because I’d found Rae wrapping a gift set of it just the other day only to be told it was for Cole for his upcoming birthday. At the time I resisted the urge to grab the bottle off her, spritz my bedding, and roll around on it naked like a crazy lady.
Perhaps the tension between Cole and me was getting to me just a little.
Eyes wide, I watched as Cole’s face came closer . . . and then completely bypassed mine as he reached behind me for a pen sitting on the top of the filing cabinet behind me.
Unfortunately my body responded to his proximity in a way I really wished it wouldn’t. It was completely out of sync with my brain. Confused and upset, I held still as Cole pulled back with the pen in his hand. His expression was hard until he caught sight of mine. It made him pause.
Cole’s eyes flickered over me before coming to a halt at the cover of my book.
“J. B. Carmichael fan?” he said.
I swallowed hard, trying to pull myself together. “Yeah.”
He nodded and then lifted his eyes from the book to meet my gaze. “She’s best mates with my sister. She lives in New Town.”
My mouth fell open as I visibly fangirled. “Seriously?” I whispered, visions of meeting her and having my books signed dancing in my head. I’d known she was an American living in Scotland. Her series was set in Richmond, Virginia, and Edinburgh also featured, but I had had no idea I’d been this close to her for the last few weeks.
Something wicked glinted in Cole’s eyes, but I was too busy freaking out to really notice what it meant. “Yup.” He made a tsk noise. “Shame, that.”
Viciously I was yanked out of my excitement at the tone. That wicked look registered and I knew exactly what it meant. Any hopes I had of meeting the author had been dashed from the moment I’d started a war with Cole.