Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 30


“Arm your fears like soldiers and slay them.”
“TATE lyrics,” I murmured, referring to the band The Airborne Toxic Event. The lyrics were from the song “All I Ever Wanted” off their second album, All at Once. That album was the anthem of my young adulthood, and those were my favorite lyrics of all time.
And Cole Walker had them tattooed on his body.
I didn’t know if I was turned on or in love.
Or both.
“My favorite TATE lyrics,” I added.
Cole gave me a slow, hot grin that edged me more toward the whole turned-on thing. “Mine too.”
For the first time in weeks we shared one of those long, meaningful looks.
I broke it before I could no longer breathe under the intensity of my attraction. “Left arm?”
In answer, Cole took his sweater off and thankfully (or not so thankfully depending on how you looked at it) he was wearing a T-shirt underneath it. He pulled the short sleeve up his shoulder so I could see the woman and the wolf tattoo more clearly on his muscular arm. Her hair billowed against a full moon I hadn’t seen before because it was usually covered by the sleeve of his T-shirts.
“What does it mean?”
That boyish grin of his made another appearance, but this time it was edged with something akin to shyness. “It’s sort of a tribute to the women in my life, and mostly it’s a reminder that there are women like them out there.” He shook his head, the spark in his eyes dimming. “Let’s just say I had a shit mum, Shortcake.” He tapped his fingers against the sleeve tattoo. “I wanted this reminder that not all women are like her. There are women who know the importance of family, and will do anything to protect that. I wanted the symbolism of it on here, but I also like paranormal stuff and thought as art this particular idea worked better with that element involved.” He chuckled now. “Stu did it and he thought the woman howling at the moon would be more sexual, and I quote, ‘Will dilute all the sentimental shit so you don’t look like a fucking pussy.’”
I laughed. “Men and their macho-man bull crap.”
Cole joined in my laughter and nodded. “He meant well.”
“He did a good job. But then again, he’s Stu Motherwell. Did he do the eagle and the pocket watch?” I pointed to his right sleeve tattoo.
“Yeah.” Cole pulled up the fabric of his T-shirt, attempting to show me that the tattoo actually started on his right shoulder before curving around his upper biceps and down.
“And it means?”
He sighed. “This one is a little morbid. Well, it used to be.”
I eyed the pocket watch. “I get what the tattoo’s general meaning is. Time is prey. It’s short-lived, right? Live it while you can.”
He nodded.
“But does the time you’ve got on the pocket watch have meaning?”
“That was the morbid part.” He eyed me, almost challenging me to judge him. “The time is when the paramedics called time of death on my mum.”
Uneasiness moved through me as I began to realize that Cole’s mum had really done a number on him.
“Now, thankfully, it means life as well as death. It’s also the same time my niece, Belle, was born.”
“That’s actually very cool.”
“Yeah.” We smiled into each other’s eyes as we took a sip of our coffees. Cole lowered his cup. “What about you? Any tattoos?”
“Have you never wanted to get one?”
The question forced me to remember when I did want to get one and I lowered my gaze to the table to avoid Cole’s eyes. “Once. But my ex-boyfriend talked me out of it. He had tattoos, but he didn’t think they were attractive on women.”
He hesitated and I waited, my heart beating fast for him to dig at that. To my everlasting gratefulness he sidestepped my sudden change in demeanor. “What would you get if you decided to go for it?”
I smiled up at him from under my lashes. “A small dragon on my lower back.”
“Why a dragon?”
“I’ve always had a fascination for them.” I used to draw them all the time and collect all things dragons when I was a preteen. “They were the epitome of cool to me.” I didn’t even realize my tone had grown flat, hard. “I was so fascinated I forgot the pertinent fact that they would fry my arse without even blinking if they got the opportunity.”
Cole was quiet. He studied me and I knew he understood so much more about my dragon than I’d let on. Instead of commenting he said, “Let me do it. Your tattoo.”
“Seriously?” The thought of Cole putting ink on me, touching me . . .
“I’ll draw it up, and if you like it we’ll get you into the studio next Thursday when we’re both off.”
I bit my lip, unsure I could handle it.
“You get the employee discount,” he urged. “One hundred percent off.”
Seeing as it would be incredibly silly to turn down a free tattoo from one of the best tattooists in Scotland, I found myself agreeing to it.
The tattoo wasn’t a bad idea.
The tattooist on the other hand?
He just might have been a very bad idea.
*   *   *
Upon discovering that I hadn’t visited the National Gallery on Princes Street in years, Cole ushered me onto a bus and we returned to New Town, where we wandered around the gallery, discussing our thoughts on fine art. I discovered that Cole’s knowledge of art history was tremendous.
I had no idea knowledge could be so sexy.
From there we walked around the city center—through the gardens, along Princes Street, onto North Bridge, along the Royal Mile, into Old Town, around the university, and back. I barely even felt the walk we were so lost in conversation. Art, music, film, books—we talked about it all.
It was one of the best days I’d ever experienced. Cole had a way of making me feel special, like I was the only person in the world he wanted to be around. He made me feel smart and interesting and important, and I’d never had that before except from the one person I couldn’t bear to think about.
By the time we arrived at Hannah and Marco’s house in Morningside, I was pretty sure I was harboring a beyond-serious crush on my boss.
Soon I wavered from crushing on Cole to insta-crushing on Marco when I got to know him better. Hannah introduced him as she closed the door to their gorgeous Victorian terrace, and as I shook his hand, staring up at this mammoth man who somehow managed to tower over Cole, I found myself a little dazzled by his good looks. “Nice to meet you,” he said in this rumbling voice, surprising me with an American accent.