Into the Deep Page 25

We were truly intimate now.

A thrill coursed through me as I pulled back from him and smiled.

It should’ve scared me how crazy I was about this boy, but it didn’t, because I had the comforting knowledge that Jake Caplin was just as crazy about me.

Chapter Nine

The month of October sped by. When I didn’t have my head buried in my laptop and fogged with energy drinks, I was hanging out with Claudia, sometimes our roommates, crashing mini-parties in the apartments in our block, or hanging out with The Stolen and attending whatever gigs they’d managed to line up. Things with Jake were better, especially when it was just the two of us. I had coffee with him at least once a week and we went to the gym together three times a week. There was still that distance between us, but we could banter back and forth to cover it. Whenever the entire group was there, however, it was a little strained, mostly because of Melissa’s presence.

During those times the rest of the group did their best to distract me—whether I was watching the bizarre friendship between Claudia and Beck that was so thick with sexual chemistry, we were all waiting for the entire thing to explode, or whether I was flirting with Lowe or watching Lowe flirt with someone else, or cracking up at the socially awkward crap that Matt said. Beck and Lowe were constantly hooking up with girls, which definitely didn’t bother me and didn’t appear to bother Claudia, so it caused no awkwardness. I did often wonder if Beck was trying to get a reaction out of Claud, though. There was something in the way he studied her when he thought she wasn’t aware of his regard.

I wasn’t interfering. My own romantic life was a mess. I had no right to delve into anyone else’s.

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. This is not me. Not to mention the fact that I have a paper due in three days and I’ve only written fifty words.” I turned from the mirror in Claudia’s room, my arms akimbo, my legs splayed. It was an unfortunate choice of body language considering my costume and Claudia immediately burst into laughter.

I was dressed as Supergirl.

Claudia was Wonder Woman.

The outfits were ridiculous and showed off a lot more skin than either of us was used to. It occurred to me that she might be trying to make a point to someone and I’d gotten dragged into the whole thing so she would have me to share in the mortification of it all. Still … I eyed her red and gold bustier and star-spangled blue hot pants and decided the belly top, miniskirt, and cape I was wearing could be worse.

“We can’t go out like this,” I groaned, glancing back at the mirror. “If I become a cop and pictures of me dressed like this get out, I’ll never live it down.”

Claudia grimaced. “Is that all you think about? We’re twenty years old and we’re hot. Halloween is the one night of the year we can feel free to show boobs and leg. And our outfits are cute. More to the point, we need this. The guys are great and all, but we’ve been hanging out with them for nearly six weeks. While they rack up a bunch of temporary romances between them, we’ve been dry. Until now. Tonight is for us.”

“We promised the guys we’d go to their gig.”

My friend shrugged. “We’ll go for a little while. Then we hit the party.” She gave me a sharp look. “It’ll be good for you to hang out with someone who is not Lowe or Jake. Especially not Jake. I can’t imagine how Melissa feels about you two spending time together.” Claud narrowed her eyes. “I’m guessing Jake hasn’t told her. She’s been too cool with you. Either that, or she’s a really good actress. She hasn’t looked at you like she wants to kill you. Not once.”

“That’s because Melissa is nice.”

Claudia snorted. “You make nice sound like a bad thing.”

“It’s not a bad thing. We’re just so different. I don’t see how Jake could’ve loved me when he’s in love with someone so completely my opposite.” I winced as soon as I said it out loud. It had been on my mind the last few weeks, niggling in my gut. Melissa and I were so different, I was beginning to think that it couldn’t have been possible for Jake to be in love with me. My memories, though … well, they liked to argue with that toxic thought.

“You’re nice too, Charley. Melissa’s just really quiet and reserved.”

“And I’m loud and obnoxious?”

“No,” Claudia laughed. “You’re confident and you’re a smart-ass.”

I scowled. “I wish people would stop calling me that.”

“Then stop being a smartass.”

I wrinkled my nose at her and turned back to my reflection. “I feel naked.”

Claudia came up beside me and rested her chin on my shoulder, her grin gleeful. “Aaron is going to die when he sees you.” She lifted her head and smoothed a hand over her hair. “Zach is going to die when he sees me.”

A few days ago Claudia and I were in the Library Bar at Teviot when these two guys sitting across from us started chatting. They were both from southern England and had very cool, very hot accents. They were smart and funny and cute and a lot of flirting had flown across the aisle of tables. It turned out they were senior undergrads and lived in one of the swankier apartments beside the main campus, just up from The Meadows—the park located behind the university.

Luckily, I thought Aaron was funny and Claudia thought Zach was charming and vice versa, so there was no fighting over who was interested in whom. The guys invited us to their Halloween party and before I could say anything, Claudia accepted for the both us, taking down their cell numbers too. In a way, I would’ve been much more comfortable with the whole Supergirl costume if we were heading directly to their party. It was stopping off at Milk on the way that was making me nervous.

And I had every right to be nervous.

We turned up at the bar and none of the guys were in costume—not even a little bit. Neither were Rowena or Melissa.

We walked across the bar, attempting to ignore the grins and catcalls from strange guys and girls, and I fought to keep my cheeks from burning. Claudia giggled at the glare I shot her way. She made the most of the scene we were creating by putting her arm around my waist and a little more wiggle in her hips.

The mischievous twinkle in her eyes loosened me up a little and I chuckled, letting her squeeze me close. As I tried my best to pretend I felt as sassy as I looked, the whistles brought Denver’s head up from talking to Rowena. His eyes widened as he took in the sight of us. I lip-read the words, “Holy f**k,” as they spilled out of his mouth, and that brought all of the band’s heads around, including Jake and Melissa.

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