Into the Deep Page 13

I got a couple of nods from guys as I passed and decided I’d done well today with my outfit. Yay. In the Library Bar, my eyes met the bartender first. He was cute in that I’m-deliberately-scruffy-so-you’ll-think-I-don’t-care-but-I-really-do kind of way. He wasn’t really my type, but I smiled to be polite when he gave me a nod. Turning, I found Jake sitting along the right side of the room in an open booth. He was scowling at the bartender.

Ignoring the flutter in my stomach, I walked casually toward him, but my confidence slipped a little when Jake’s eyes found me. I felt his gaze sizzle through every nerve ending as he took me in from head to foot. A muscle ticked in his jaw and he moved back against the leather booth as if suddenly restless to get out of there.

“Jake,” I greeted him flatly and slid into the opposite bench.

“Charley.” He lifted a hand to get the bartender’s attention and the guy came over to take our orders for coffee, his heated focus making things awkward. I was almost relieved when he left.

An uncomfortable silence—something Jake and I had never had to cope with before—fell between us as we waited. Finally when the coffees came, Jake took a sip and then started talking. “Your hair is much lighter. It looks good.”

Although affected by the compliment, I pretended I wasn’t and stared blankly back at him.

He switched tactics. “I know I f**ked up hugely.”

I put my coffee mug back on the saucer and sighed as if I didn’t have time for this crap. “Is that why I came here, Jake? To listen to you state the obvious?”

“I’m trying here. You used to admire honesty. Have you changed?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “I’m meaner now. A lesson I learned from you.”

Dropping his elbows on the table so he could lean closer, Jake gazed at me soulfully. “I was a dick to you. I can’t take that back. But I can apologize. I can try to explain.”

Giving him a small nod, I encouraged him to go on.

“I was lost somewhere else inside my head when it happened, Charley. I couldn’t see past that to anything or anyone. I was angry that it got that out of control and I blamed myself. You got caught up in it.”

“I never turned my back on you. I don’t understand why you blamed me.”

His brows puckered and he closed his eyes, as if in pain. “I didn’t blame you. I said things I didn’t even mean. All I wanted was to get out of there and put the whole thing behind me. By the time I looked back, it was too late. I couldn’t change what I’d done to you. I couldn’t change what I’d destroyed. I thought it was better to just let you move on. We were just kids, Charley.”

He said it like our age meant anything. He said it like others had said it to me when he left, as though because I was only sixteen, my relationship hadn’t been real—that I hadn’t fallen hard and deep. To have Jake agree with them hurt like a mother. “Move on from me? Or from there?”

“From there. From you too. You were a part of it, as much as I didn’t want you to be.”

On that, I disagreed. “Then it’s a good thing you didn’t come back, if that’s the way you still see it.”

“Charley, all I remember now about you is the good stuff. I let all that other shit go.” His eyelashes lowered over his eyes as he stared down into his coffee. “You were the best friend I ever had. I miss you. I’ve always missed you and regretted how I left it. But at the party … the way you looked at me,” his breath caught, “that was hard. I’d somehow convinced myself that you would be indifferent about …it all. You quickly dissuaded me of that.”

His heartfelt apology and admission that he’d missed me both hurt and soothed me. I relaxed a little against my seat, cradling the mug in my hands for the comforting heat it provided. “I know it wasn’t easy for you and your family, Jake. I know that’s the biggest understatement of the century …I tried, though, I tried to understand, and as much as I want to, I can’t excuse what you did to me because of what happened. That doesn’t mean your apology doesn’t help. It does. Thank you.”

Jake smiled softly and I felt that smile right in my gut. I flicked my gaze away quickly, pretending to scan the room. “I want us to be friends.”

His words brought my surprised gaze back. “What?”

He shrugged. “We’re both here for the year. We were great friends once …”

I suddenly found it a little difficult to breathe and I quickly stood, putting money on the table beside my coffee. “Look, Jake, I’m sorry I reacted that way to you at the party, and I promise that from now on, if I see you around I’ll be polite. You don’t deserve any more shit in your life. But it’s been a while. We’re different people now. Let’s just leave it at that.” Before he could reply, I walked away, waving back at the flirtatious bartender as if walking away from Jake Caplin wasn’t one of the things I hated doing most in the world.

“We’re going where?” I drew to a halt at the gates of the courtyard. It was past nine on Friday night and the Cowgate and Grassmarket were already buzzing with music and people. I was wearing my jeans and the Pearl Jam T-shirt because Claudia insisted I should—her words from a couple days ago came back to haunt me at the same time she finally told me what our plans were for the evening.

“Beck stopped by to invite us to listen to the band play their first gig. It’s this little bar just down the street.”

“Since when are you and Beck so chummy?” I asked as a delay tactic. I needed to come up with a reason not to go.

“I told you he wants to be friends and when he’s not being a manwhore, he’s pretty cool. I see no problem in hanging out with him and his band.”

“Uh … Jake’s the problem.”

“Jake’s not in the band.”

I was going to wring her neck. “I know that, Claud. But you also know he’s their friend and he’ll be there. With her.”

She grabbed my hand and gave it a sympathetic squeeze. “Babe, the best thing you can do is pretend that you’re over it. No one will think you’re faking it. You’re smart and you’re hot and they know you could get anybody. There’s no reason for them to think you’re hung up on Jake.”

“Although sweet, you’re completely biased.” I groaned in frustration. “I just don’t know if I can be around him and Melissa.”

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