Echoes of Scotland Street

Page 9


I stiffened at the flirtation but tried to remain polite. “Then perhaps you shouldn’t answer honestly.”
With an exaggerated, beleaguered sigh, Cole crossed his arms on the other side of the desk and leaned toward me. My breath hitched at the heat in his expression as he stared down at me. “I pride myself on being straightforward.”
Willing my body to stop reacting to him, I stepped back from the desk and turned around to grab my jacket off the coat hook behind me. As I shrugged into it, I very deliberately met Cole’s still glittering gaze. “I pride myself on being professional.”
The door to the studio blew open, stalling whatever Cole’s response would be, and distracting us from the crackling tension between us. Rae stomped inside and slammed the door shut with a grunt.
Cole’s body language changed as he took in her red face and blazing eyes. His back straightened and his hands fisted at his side. “What happened?”
“My roommate just fucked off! I woke up and she’d fucking packed every fucking thing she owned and fucked off with that fucking Malaysian dude she met a month ago! Fuck!” She stomped her foot, her chest rising and falling rapidly. “How the fuck am I going to pay the rent?”
Despite the voice screaming in my head that it was a very, very bad idea, I found myself saying, “I’m looking for a place.”
Rae rolled her eyes. “I don’t think so.”
Ouch. “Well, why not?” I crossed my arms over my chest, annoyed by the immediate dismissal.
“I can’t be worrying about walking on eggshells in my own place. Shit pours out of my mouth before I can stop it, and I need to be around people that can hack the fucking awesomeness that is me.”
I heard Cole laugh but refused to look at him as I made my case. “I never said I wanted to move in with you. I just said I’m looking for a place. Where is your flat? How much is rent?”
She gave me a look that suggested she was merely humoring me. “King Street. Literally just around the corner.” She told me what rent and council tax was each month excluding half of the utilities. It was quite a lot. “It’s a nice flat,” she said, taking in my dubious expression.
It was a little more than I’d been hoping to pay, but it was just around the corner from work. Although I had to wonder if living with Rae would balance out the positive aspects. Then again, it would be a while before any letting agent would allow me to sign a lease—I had to prove I’d been in work for three months. The thought of staying in that pokey wee hotel for three months . . .
“I cook. I clean. I keep to myself.”
Rae considered me for a second and then threw her hands up in the air in exasperation. “Fuck, I’ve no fucking choice! Fine! You can have the fucking room.”
Blinking rapidly at the overuse of profanity spilling from her mouth, I said, “I’d like to see it first.”
Her face turned red again. “It’s a nice fucking flat with a double room. Don’t you trust me?”
Feeling Cole’s eyes burning into me, I flicked a look at him and then turned my focus back to Rae. “I don’t trust anyone,” I answered coolly.
Rae stared at me for a few seconds before the red in her face disappeared. She grinned at me, her eyes alight with humor now. “I like you,” she announced as though she were a queen granting a great honor. “You’re moving in.”
“Tonight. No faffing about. Rent’s due at the end of the month. Oh.” She ran her eyes over me warily. “No clown paraphernalia.”
My mouth fell open. “Eh?”
“Clowns are evil.” She strode through the studio toward the back room. “Someone get me something to eat. I’ve had a fucking awful morning.”
My eyes met Cole’s. His were laughing. Mine were not. “What just happened?”
He grinned. “I think Rae just adopted you.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”
“It’s not so bad. It’s like living with your own personal Rottweiler.”
I made a face. “Except Rottweilers are friendly.”
Cole snorted. “This one isn’t.”
*   *   *
“This is everything?” Rae stared at the boxes piled around my feet.
I was standing outside her door in her apartment building on King Street. By the time I’d gotten everything together and into a taxi I couldn’t really afford, night had fallen. Now Rae stood in her doorway wearing pajama shorts and a Nine Inch Nails T-shirt that had seen better days.
“I don’t need a lot.” I tried to peek into the flat. My reservations over moving in with this seemingly crazy woman were abated somewhat by the parquet flooring I could see beyond her.
Rae seemed to contemplate this for a moment and I suddenly found myself uncomfortable with the fact that I had very little in the way of possessions. It didn’t occur to me until now that that might invite questions as to why. Most people had loads of crap to their name.
“Okay.” Rae shrugged and bent down to pick up a box. “Let’s get this shit inside before my nipples freeze off.”
I huffed out air between my lips and followed her inside.
My new colleague and now flatmate hadn’t been lying. The flat was nice. It had a decent-sized modern kitchen, a small but cozy sitting room with a balcony off it, and two good-sized double rooms. We shared a bathroom, but it was almost as big as the kitchen, so I wasn’t complaining. After dumping my boxes in my room, Rae left me to unpack.
Once I’d unpacked my measly amount of clothing into a wardrobe from IKEA, I began unpacking my sketch pads, pencils, and charcoals. Not wanting anyone, as in Rae, to see my work, I shoved it under the bed. I was standing there holding my current sketch pad when the door to my bedroom flew open. Heart in my throat, I dropped to my knees and slid the pad under the bed before Rae could see it.
I looked up to find Rae frozen in my doorway carrying a cup that had steam rising out of the top of it. She took in the sight of me on my knees and grinned. “No need to worry about hiding your vibrators, Shannon. You’ll probably hear mine through the wall. I have the Rabbit. It’s a classic for a reason you know.” She thrust the cup out at me. “Tea. I guessed milk and two sugars.”
Still flustered and a little stunned, I stood up and reached for the tea she’d made just how I liked it. “Thanks,” I mumbled, feeling like an idiot.