Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 2


His chuckle warmed me through and through, as did the way his eyes brightened with amusement. “Zombie apocalypse?”
“It could happen,” I insisted because I never liked to rule out any eventuality in life.
“You don’t seem all that worried that it could.”
That was because I wasn’t. I shrugged. “I’ve just never understood why people are afraid of zombies. They move really slowly and are brain-dead.”
Cole snorted. “Two very fair points.”
I smiled. “So, are you a hero, Cole Walker?”
He scratched the side of his chin, looking off into the distance. “What is a hero, really?”
Surprised by the deep and apparently serious question, I shrugged. “I suppose it’s someone that saves people.”
His eyes flicked back to me. “Yeah, I suppose it is.”
Trying to lighten the mood, I gave him a flirty smile. “So, do you save people?”
Cole laughed. “I’m only fifteen. Give me a chance.”
We were the same age, then. I was surprised. He could pass for eighteen. “You are really tall for fifteen.”
His eyes drifted over me, a small smile playing on his lips. “A lot of people must seem tall to you.”
“Are you calling me short?”
“Are you saying you’re not short?”
I wrinkled my nose. “I’m not delusional. It’s just not polite to comment on a girl’s shortness. For all you know I’m really mad at the world because I’m vertically challenged.”
“Maybe I’m really mad at the world because I’m tall.”
I gave him a look that said as if and he burst out laughing.
“Okay, I’m not mad at being tall. But you shouldn’t be mad about your height.”
“I’m not,” I hurried to assure him. “I was just making a point.”
“A pointless point.”
I giggled, thinking over our bizarre conversation. “Yeah.”
Cole smiled, and I felt myself go all hot inside again at the way he was looking at me. “I doubt anyone notices your height anyway. You’ve got all that great hair and those amazing eyes to distract them.” As soon as he said it he flushed and ran a hand through his own hair, as if embarrassed he’d complimented me out loud.
My cheeks burned with pleasure. “You’ve got amazing eyes too.”
His momentary shyness instantly disappeared at my compliment. Cole leaned forward over the fence. “Please tell me you live here.”
Before I could answer, a loud honk shattered the intensity between us and I jerked my head up to see Ewan approaching in his old Punto. Reality came crashing back down around me, and for some reason I felt a weird sense of loss when I looked back at Cole. “I live in Glasgow,” I told him regretfully. I gestured to the car. “My boyfriend’s here to pick me up.”
Disappointment flashed in Cole’s eyes. “Boyfriend?” His gaze flew toward the car and I watched his face fall.
My heart sank in my chest. “Sorry,” I whispered, not really sure what I was apologizing for.
“Me too,” he murmured.
Ewan honked the horn again and I blanched, moving down the steps, my eyes still on Cole. We held each other’s gaze as I walked over to the car and slowly, reluctantly, got into it.
“Hey, baby,” Ewan said, finally causing me to break my connection with Cole.
I gave my boyfriend a tremulous smile. “Hi.”
He leaned over and kissed me before settling back into his seat to drive away.
Panicked, I turned back to my window to find Cole, but the stoop where he’d stood was now empty. A heavy feeling settled over me.
“Who was that?” Ewan asked.
“The guy on the stairs.”
“I don’t know.” But I hope I get to find out.
Ewan started chattering on about the band, not bothering to ask me how my night had been or how Gran had seemed even though I’d told him I was worried about her. As the old car took me away from Scotland Street amid his incessant chatter, I felt like fate had just handed me two cups and I’d stupidly drunk from the wrong one.
Edinburgh Nine years later
I stared up at the sign above the tattoo studio on Leith Walk, worrying my lip between my teeth. There was nothing for it. I had to open the doors and step inside.
I blew out a deep breath until my lips formed a disgruntled pout. The sign for INKarnate was painted in bold font across a long panel of glass above its door. The two large panels of glass on either side of the glossy black door were covered in pictures of tattooed limbs, artwork, and bold red-and-purple signs that screamed TATTOOS, PIERCINGS, TATTOO REMOVALS at the passing public. In the center of the panel farthest away from me were two large white signs that proclaimed proudly SCOTLAND’S #1 TATTOO STUDIO and MULTI-AWARD WINNER.
Even I, who had no tattoos to speak of, had heard of INKarnate.
Okay, true, I’d dated quite a few blokes with tattoos, but that wasn’t the reason I’d heard of Stu Motherwell’s tattoo studio. I’d heard of it because his signs didn’t lie and he’d even been on television a few times over the past few years. Stu had owned INKarnate for about thirty years now. He was an extremely talented and ambitious artist and was purported to only hire fantastic artists to work alongside him.
You’d think I’d be absolutely over-the-moon to get an interview for the admin assistant/reception position they needed to fill. However, INKarnate embodied everything I was running from at the moment. Everything that was bad for me.
I’d only applied for the job because admin jobs were scarce.
Ironic that this should be the only application that had produced a response.
What could I do, though? I crossed my arms over my chest, my eyes glued to the sign TATTOOS. I’d had to get away from Glasgow, and I had nowhere to go—Edinburgh was the only place I knew well enough to feel comfortable moving to, and it was expensive as heck. The hotel I was staying in was really a hostel and I couldn’t afford to stay even there that much longer. Although I had enough in my savings for two months’ rent on a really crappy flat, I wouldn’t get a lease until I found a job.
I needed to eat and I needed a roof over my head.
As Gran used to say, beggars can’t be choosers.