Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 6


Nick was nowhere to be seen.
Alan, the lead guitarist, glanced up and stiffened when he saw me, his eyes flickering beyond me nervously before they snapped back to me. “Shannon.” He stood up abruptly and the guys all looked at me in much the same way. “I didn’t think you were coming tonight.”
I smiled back, but my lips trembled. The tension my appearance had caused had alarm bells ringing in my head. “I wanted to surprise Nick. Where is he?”
“Uh, I don’t know.” Digby, the drummer, shrugged, looking at the other guys with a faked nonchalance that they returned.
Not Alan, though. His lips pinched together as he watched them, and when his eyes swung back to mine I stared into them stubbornly. My directness made him flinch. Alan and I got on pretty well. In fact, I sometimes got the impression he liked me. He flirted with me all the time and was always so considerate of me. I’d always brushed it off because I was mad about Nick and no one else could come close to how I felt about him.
“Where is he, Alan?”
Alan’s eyes softened with regret. “He’s in the cloakroom, Shannon.” He nodded in the direction behind me as the others shifted uneasily.
Feeling my heart bang away in my chest, I turned on my low-booted heels and strode with more confidence than I was feeling down a narrow, dark walkway. I came to a stop in front of a black-painted door with the word CLOAKROOM in peeling white paint across it.
I heard the gasps and grunts coming from inside and I knew what I was going to find, but I just had to see it for myself.
With a shaking hand I turned the door handle and threw it open.
In the small, dimly lit room that was no bigger than a large closet, I saw Nick with his jeans down around his ankles, thrusting into the blonde he had pinned against the wall.
Nausea and pain like I’d never felt before welled up in me as they both jerked their heads around in surprise at the intrusion. Nick’s eyes widened when he saw me and suddenly the blonde was forgotten as he called out my name in horror and let her go. She stumbled to the floor when Nick bent down to pick up his jeans.
I ran out of there, ignoring Alan and Nick shouting my name as they chased after me. I lost them in the crowds of the dirty bar and I hurried all the way to the bus stop. I didn’t go home. Instead I found myself knocking on my friend Caro’s house. She let me in and I sobbed all over her, apologizing for assuming she was naive, when in the end I was the only one who could be faulted for that . . .
*   *   *
Nick was an important lesson. Yet somehow it took another man cheating on me before I learned from it. Eventually I got wise to his type. However, I later got caught up in a different kind of bad boy: the kind who didn’t cheat but still found a way to wreck my life.
But no more.
I tore up the sketch of Nick into a hundred little pieces.
Never again.
I ’d found it hard to sleep the night before I started my new job, butterflies fluttering around like wild things in my belly as I worried about the next day. When I managed to drift to sleep, it was with the hope that my manager would be very much a younger version of Stu. I could deal with a Stu.
So it was with more than the usual amount of first-day jitters that I stepped into INKarnate on Monday, which was probably why I almost tripped over my own feet at the sight before me.
Simon was standing in front of the marble reception desk talking quietly to a very tall guy who had his back to me. I got a brief glimpse of strong, broad shoulders and long legs before he turned and my eyes collided with his bright green ones.
Holy . . .
My stomach plummeted.
Dread filled me.
Please, no, no, no. Be a customer. Please be a customer.
Those eyes crinkled attractively at the corners as their gorgeous owner threw me a friendly, boyish smile that penetrated my anti-bad-boy force field. The eyes and smile would have brought me low on their own, but unfortunately those eyes and that smile were enhanced by sexy scruff on the stranger’s jaw, and the messy, unkempt strawberry blond hair that framed his attractive face. If that wasn’t enough to affect a woman, the tall, handsome stranger had a fit body. A very fit body by the look of things. His navy T-shirt did nothing to hide the perfect V of his torso or his lean, muscular arms. And those arms were covered in elaborate, hot tattoos.
“Shannon,” Simon greeted me, yanking my gaze away from the stunning disaster in front of me. “This is Cole, our manager.”
Was fate really this heartless?
Cole grinned at me again, and familiarity punched me in the chest along with dismay as he took a few steps toward me and held out his hand. “Cole Walker. It’s nice to meet you, Shannon.”
I reluctantly stepped forward and took his hand in mine.
I instantly regretted it.
His strong, slightly callused hand with the chunky silver ring on its middle finger felt really nice. It engulfed my small one and I felt surrounded by him.
I ripped my hand away, unable to meet my new manager’s gaze. My eyes dropped to the loosely laced black engineer boots his dark jeans were tucked into.
“Shannon?” Cole said my name like a question and I had to unglue my eyes from his feet to meet his gaze. Up close the familiarity I’d felt moments ago only strengthened in feeling as he narrowed his eyes on me. He took in my hair for a few long seconds.
Recognition slammed through me.
No way.
“So, are you a hero, Cole Walker?”
“What is a hero, really?”
Months, even years, after our meeting outside my gran’s house all those years ago, I’d often thought of the good-looking boy I’d connected with after only a few minutes of conversation.
Cole Walker.
Cole freaking Walker.
All grown-up.
And he was my new manager.
I was so screwed. I’d be less screwed, though, if he didn’t remember me, which I was pretty sure he wouldn’t. A guy like him—he was bound to have flirty conversations with women every day. No way would he remember a random conversation with a short, pale redhead nine years ago.
“I know you.” Cole stepped back, tilting his head as he scrutinized me with a small smile on his lips. He looked charmed by me, which immediately sent my force field back up at full power. “Shannon.” Unbelievably, recognition lit up his beautiful eyes. “We’ve met.” He grinned back at a smiling Simon before returning his attention to me. His eyes were filled with pleased surprise. “On Scotland Street. Years ago.”