Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 25


I hadn’t really understood at the time, but I guessed he was quite literally telling me not to judge a book by its cover.
An old cliché.
A cliché it might have been but one lesson I should never have forgotten. After Hannah’s revelations about Cole’s true character, I left his party quickly. I barely slept that night¸ consumed with guilt for judging Cole on what happened to be bad marketing from my perspective. Amid the guilt was regret and something bigger. Something a little like panic.
*   *   *
The next day at work I didn’t know how I was supposed to act around Cole. It seemed it was back to business as usual for him, because he didn’t come out to greet me when I pushed open the front door of the studio.
Simon did, looking a little worse for wear as he took his coffee from me. “Thank fuck,” he muttered. “I started in on the whisky after five beers last night.” He took a sip of his coffee and frowned at me. “Where did you run off to?”
I shrugged, already uncomfortable. “Home. Headache.”
He gave me an incredulous look.
With a heavy sigh I told him the truth. “I think I may have made some not very nice assumptions about Cole.”
“Has this got anything to do with the cold war between you two?”
I nodded. “And now I don’t know how to fix it.”
“Why not start with just being nice to him?”
Not sure how to go about making that change after being such a bitch, I looked down at my coffee to avoid Simon’s gaze. I felt ashamed of my behavior these last few weeks. How the heck did I go about trying to make amends?
I contemplated my coffee. “What does Cole drink?”
Simon chuckled. “A cortado. One sugar.”
“The coffee shop is right around the corner,” I mused.
“It is.” Simon grinned. “I’ll man the desk for you.”
I returned his smile with a grateful one of my own before shrugging into my jacket and hurrying out to the coffee shop. Not even five minutes later I was back in the studio. As soon as I stepped inside with Cole’s cortado, Simon winked at me and left the reception for his workroom.
I looked down at Cole’s coffee and felt the butterflies in my belly go wild. Bolstering myself against nerves, I threw my shoulders back and headed toward the workrooms.
Stopping in the doorway of Cole’s room, I almost completely lost my nerve. He was sitting with one ankle resting on the opposite knee, his sketch pad on his lap, and his head bent, as he concentrated on what he was drawing.
He was really handsome. I knew this. I’d known this from the moment I met him, but that feeling was back—that feeling I’d had when I was fifteen years old and I was staring up into his green eyes in absolute delight. That feeling you get when you realize something special about another person and he goes from being attractive to downright kick-you-in-the-gut good-looking.
I’d learned a lot about Cole in the last few days.
He was so damn kick-you-in-the-gut good-looking now.
Catching sight of me out of the corner of his eye, Cole lifted his head in surprise.
In response to his silent question I took two steps forward and thrust the coffee at him.
He raised an eyebrow. The gesture was too sexy for words.
My hand trembled.
Cole watched the coffee cup shake with the tremor and reached out to take it from me.
Once it was in his hand I backed out of the room and practically fled down the hall.
Standing at my desk, taking in a ragged breath, I inwardly berated myself for being quite possibly the most uncool person to have ever worked in a tattoo studio.
*   *   *
Not even ten minutes later I had to find the nerve to face Cole again because he had a customer. I informed him of this with a warmer politeness than usual, and I could feel his curious gaze on my back as he followed me out into the reception area.
I buried my head in my work, sighing a huge sigh of relief when he returned to his workroom.
An hour later, my mind still mostly on the recent turn of events, I was more than taken aback when the front doorbell rang, signaling a customer, only for me to look up and be faced with Cole’s recent ex, Jessica.
She strode to the desk with her usual exuberance. “Hi, Shannon. Is Cole free?”
Confused, I shook my head. “He’s got a client.”
“I’ll just wait.”
“Um . . . okay . . .”
She smiled and planted her bottom on one of the leather couches and made the impression of someone who was settling in.
Cole had broken up with her . . . right?
For the next forty minutes I attempted to put my head into my work, but every now and then my eyes would lift to check on whether the young blonde was still there.
She was.
As I studied her I decided she was definitely all wrong for Cole. Too young, too bubbly and in your face, and much, much too blond.
Not that I was biased or anything.
Hearing Cole’s voice approaching, I waited curiously to see how this scene would unfold. Appearing in the main studio, Cole was too busy discussing aftercare with his customer to notice Jessica in the waiting area. He brought the guy over to me and while I smiled, I subtly nodded in Jessica’s direction.
Cole flicked his eyes over and was about to return them to me before he did a double take. His eyebrows immediately drew together.
Handing Cole’s customer his card back, I bade him good-bye, as did Cole, and waited for the gentleman to leave.
“She’s been waiting for you for the past forty minutes,” I told him under my breath.
Cole appeared frustrated. Exhaling, he wandered over to her, not even halfway to reaching her before she jumped up off the couch and dashed toward him. She threw her arms around him like a little girl and Cole staggered back, immediately gripping her elbows to gently push her away. “Jessica, what are you doing here?” he asked.
“We need to talk,” she said, batting her pretty eyes at him.
She was good. I’d give her that.
Apparently not good enough. “Jessica, we said all we had to say.”
“But I miss you.” She went into instant begging mode that raised my hackles. “I can do better, I promise.”
It took everything within me not to scream, “Have some self-respect!”
I was beginning to think that maybe, perhaps, more than possibly, Jessica was indeed every bit the cling-on Cole had accused her of being.