Into the Deep Page 14

Claudia shrugged. “Then find someone to take your mind off them. Beck told me Lowe thinks you’re smokin’ hot.”

I gestured to my shirt. “The Pearl Jam shirt. He’s going to think I’m into him.”

“Why wouldn’t you be? Lowe is cute.”

I raised my eyebrow. “He’s also a bad boy.”

“So? You’re not looking to marry the guy. You’re just looking for a distraction.”

“You know I don’t sleep around.”

“Who says you need to sleep with him?”

“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?”

My friend got serious all of a sudden, her grip turning almost painful. “I thought you were over this guy. Then we get here and he’s here too, and I realized that you are not over him. I don’t think, even when you weren’t thinking about him, you’ve ever gotten over him. I think this is the perfect opportunity for you to finally put him behind you.”

In the end, I knew she was right. I’d been holding onto the seventeen-year-old Jake I’d been in love with. He didn’t exist anymore. If I spent some time around twenty-year-old Jake who was in love with Melissa, then maybe that would finally sink in. I gave in and let Claudia lead the way.

She wasn’t wrong. The guys were playing at a bar called Milk, tucked in the corner between two sets of buildings built onto a steep slope. A narrow lane took pedestrians from the Cowgate up onto the part of the city that would lead to The Royal Mile. For the last few days, Claudia and I had been nursing hangovers from time spent with our roommates and neighbors, and we’d used the time to get better acquainted with the city that was to be ours for the next nine months. We’d wandered all over Old Town, stopping by the grave of the famous canine Grey Friars Bobby, and the nearby café The Elephant House where J.K. Rowling was said to have written some of Harry Potter in the back room that overlooked Edinburgh Castle. Claud and I had then headed toward New Town to check out the stores on Princes Street and George Street. And of course, we’d backtracked after that to Edinburgh Castle. Its lure was too great. Perched upon volcanic rock, lording over the modern city like a medieval king, Claud and I had both gotten neck pain from staring up at it as we walked down Princes Street. Fascinated, we’d wandered all the way back up to The Royal Mile and up the cobbled streets to the castle. Our legs ached from walking so much, but it surprisingly helped with the hangovers. I was thinking we’d need to slow down our partying, though. Being able to legally drink in a bar was a novelty, but I wanted to depart Scotland with a fully functioning liver.

Claudia led me into Milk and at first, we were really confused. The packed room was tiny and closed in with its dull lights, brick walls, and large bar area taking up most of the space. A leather bench ran the length of the opposing wall, tables and chairs pushed up against them.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” I asked, not able to see Jake or Beck or anyone recognizable.

Frowning, Claudia pulled out her cell and flicked through her messages. Her brow cleared and she grabbed my wrist, pulling me through the crowded bar with a polite excuse-me here and there. At the end of the room, hidden by the bar, an arched wall led into another larger room. Tables and chairs took up most of the floor and at the opposite end of the room was a small stage where Matt fiddled with a drum kit and Lowe with his guitar and amp.

The place was crowded.


We looked over at a table near the stage to see Beck standing, waving us over with a grin. Cutting through the tables, my legs started to tremble as I caught sight of Jake and Melissa sitting in the seats closest to the stage. My eyes quickly jumped from them to Rowena sitting next to Jake and Denver. There were a couple of empty seats at the end of the table and I was relieved that I’d get to sit far enough away from the happy couple to breathe.

I was surprised by the way Beck greeted Claudia. It wasn’t the kiss to her cheek—Claudia returned that comfortably and the whole thing suggested they were as platonic as they claimed. However, my eyes drifted down as Claudia stood on tiptoe so Beck didn’t have to bend so far, and I watched with confusion as Beck’s hand gripped Claudia’s hip and then caressed it as he reluctantly let her go.

Claudia didn’t seem to notice, but I knew her well enough to know that she was pretending. There was a slight flush on the crests of her cheeks. Still, Beck had said he wouldn’t sleep with her, so Claudia told me she had shoved her attraction to him to the back of her mind and was enjoying his friendship.

Only problem was I wasn’t so sure Beck wasn’t having a hard time with his decision to not sleep with her. This was only the second time I’d seen them hang out and even as he greeted me, his eyes flickered quickly back to Claudia as she greeted everyone.

“Love the shirt,” Denver commented as I took a seat next to him. Claudia sat on my left and Beck sat down next to her.

Claudia laughed because she knew all about my magic shirt. I grinned at Denver. “Thanks.”

I couldn’t help it. My gaze moved to Jake and Melissa at the end of the table. He was staring at my shirt, a little crease between his brow, and I shifted uncomfortably, my eyes moving to Melissa. Her chair was tucked into Jake’s and they sat intimately close so no one could mistake they weren’t together. Our eyes met and I gave her a small smile, one she returned a little tremulously.

She was probably wondering why Jake was glaring at my T-shirt. I could explain it to her, but that would be awkward. Jake introduced me to Pearl Jam and was delighted when I fell in love with Eddie Vedder’s voice, their sound, and their stories. The T-shirt was a reminder that, if even only in the smallest way, he’d had an effect on the person I’d become.

“She’s back and she’s wearing the T-shirt.” Lowe’s voice brought my head up as he strolled over to us. He squeezed Claudia’s shoulder as he passed. “I owe you.”

I knew what he meant and only managed to stop myself from scowling. When he drew to a halt by my chair and held his arms out to me, silently asking for a hug, his bad-boy charm worked and I felt the urge to scowl disappear. I stood up and laughed Lowe off like his flirting was no big deal. We hugged and my skin flushed for a different reason as I felt the hard muscle of his back under his light T-shirt. Grinning, I looked up into his blue eyes and decided Claudia was right: Lowe was hot and he thought I was hot. That was flattering and distracting and just what I needed.

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