Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 27


If it was a sketch of a person, my problem was usually in the hands. Hands were so difficult to draw and it took me forever to get them right. There were times I just couldn’t manage it, and every time I stepped back from the sketch it fell short because of the bloody hands.
That was a little how I felt about my interaction with Cole.
Things were definitely better between us, but it was just sort of friendly on his part. For some reason his attitude completely threw me off balance. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, which I knew was ridiculous because it wasn’t as though I wanted to be in a relationship with him. I didn’t want to be in a relationship with anyone. My life here had just started and I didn’t need another man screwing up this new start.
That didn’t mean I could switch off whatever I was feeling about Cole. I went for drinks with him, Rae, the twins, Karen, Simon, and Tony and it was a really good laugh. Part of me sat there grateful that in just a few short weeks Rae had helped me build a life, with good friends and good times that helped me ignore the bloody awfulness of what I’d left behind in Glasgow. However, there was this other part of me that would glimpse Cole out of the corner of my eye, stealing glances whenever I could, and I’d feel this disappointment in my gut that all the joking and closeness he shared with the others he didn’t try to share with me.
The only thing that could take my mind off my complicated feelings was my newfound love for painting. Somehow I’d managed to keep my artwork a secret from Rae by either working outside the flat or waiting until she was occupied elsewhere. I was already working on my second landscape after having completed the one of Edinburgh at night. I knew it was probably far from the quality of professional artists, but I actually loved it. After experimenting I found I was most comfortable with broad brushstrokes and a minimal approach. I loved how this gave the cityscape energy and movement. I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for my holidays off work. I was planning on booking a last-minute budget break somewhere like Italy or Budapest or Prague—somewhere exciting where I could set myself up on a riverbank, or a café, anywhere I could just relax and draw and forget about every single thing that worried me, including Cole Walker.
*   *   *
A week had passed since I started being nice to Cole. It felt longer. Much, much longer. I frowned over at him while we worked. He was standing in the gallery area, showing tattoo concepts to a prospective customer, as well as going over his video portfolio for the guy. Cole was completely lost in conversation about his art and I was becoming increasingly transfixed by the animation in his face and the way his eyes were lit up. His passion for his work took Cole from a ten to an eleven, and eleven had, heretofore, never seen the light of day in my hot-guy ranking system.
As if he felt my stare, Cole suddenly looked over at me while he continued to talk and I casually smiled at him and looked in the opposite direction like I hadn’t just been caught ogling my boss.
Looking out the window, the blood beneath my cheeks hot, I wondered if he was still staring at me. I fidgeted, trying to maintain my cool.
I was just about to lower my gaze to my work in the hopes of making out like I’d just needed a break from staring at paper, when the sight of a familiar blonde out on the pavement caused me to freeze.
She was staring up at our signage, chewing her lip.
Oh, heck no.
I knew from Rae that Jessica hadn’t let up on Cole. She’d turned up at his flat last Thursday, and while I was with him on Friday night at the bar she had texted him a dozen or so times. Even if Rae hadn’t told me, I could see for myself that Jessica’s behavior was really starting to stress Cole out.
I’d heard of girls like her, girls who just couldn’t take no for an answer, but I’d never met one in real life. She was beginning to piss me off. Cole had had to deal with my craziness when I first arrived here only for Jessica to jump on the crazy train when I jumped off.
Well, I thought determinedly, I can make up for my craziness by getting rid of Jessica once and for all.
Utilizing my often-underused, rapid-fire typing skills, I logged on to the Internet and looked up the info I thought might be useful in taking her down. Once I had it I glanced up to see the crazy girl had decided she was coming into the studio.
I immediately hopped off my chair and hurried across the studio to Cole, hearing the bells over the door jingle just as I reached him. I practically elbowed his customer out of the way and hissed, “Everything I do next, just go with it.”
His eyebrows had just begun to rise in surprise when I lunged at him, causing his whole face to slacken with shock. On tiptoes, and having to crush my chest against him to reach him, I wrapped my arms around his neck and yanked his head down. My mouth hit his and for a few seconds he tensed in my grasp.
I pressed my lips harder against his, my legs trembling as I had to stay on tiptoe to reach his mouth.
Just like that, Cole relaxed into me, his hands coming to a gentle rest on my hips, his mouth now moving against mine.
Oh boy.
He had good lips.
Good, good lips.
And he smelled wonderful.
I had no idea a kiss without tongue could still curl your toes.
Um . . . Shannon . . .
Forcing myself to remember why I was doing this, I pulled back from him and stumbled a little as I dropped my arms and returned my feet flat to the floor.
Cole’s fingers pressed into my hips as he steadied me. “What—”
“Jessica,” I whispered. “Smile, like we’re together.”
“Excuse me,” the bewildered customer said in annoyance behind me, but he was cut off by a screeched “What the hell is going on?”
I turned around and Cole’s hands dropped from my hips. Jessica was standing by the reception desk, eyes round with horror.
“Jessica,” Cole began impatiently, but I cut him off.
“Stop stalking my boyfriend,” I said with as much menace as I could muster. I didn’t really do menacing, but I think I pulled off angry redhead well enough.
Cole grew still at my back.
Jessica, however, gasped, her hurt gaze flying to him. “Boyfriend? But . . .”
I’d so lost my patience with her crap. “How many times do you have to be told that it’s over?” I took a few steps toward her, but she didn’t back away from me like I’d hoped. “Or is this your game? You think you can bug the crap out of a guy until he gives in just to get you to stop? Well, not my guy.”