Into the Deep Page 26

I did my absolute best to avoid eye contact with Jake and instead took in the open-mouthed gaga expressions on the guys’ faces. It was pretty funny. Sometimes guys were just so easy.

“Santa finally got my letter,” Beck said as the image of Claudia in her Wonder Woman costume burned into his retinas.

“We need to send the fat man a case of beer,” Lowe added, his own gaze on my legs.

“I won’t be needing my  p**n  tonight,” Matt informed us.

“Oh, Matt,” Claudia and I groaned as Beck slapped him across the head.

“What?” Matt cried, rubbing his head. “That’s a compliment.”

“It’s f**king gross.” Lowe grinned, shaking his head at him.

“You were all thinking it.”

Beck glared at him. “Claud and Charley don’t need to hear that shit out loud, though.”

“What’s with the costumes anyway?” Denver asked, grinning at us. “Other than to provide us all with masturbatory fantasies.”

I grimaced. “Thanks for that. And the costumes are for a costume party.”

“Party?” Beck asked Claudia before taking a drink of beer and sitting back down at the table.

“We were invited to a party on Simpson Loan behind the university so we can only stay for a little bit. I’ll text you the address so you guys can catch up after your set if you want.”

“Sure.” Lowe nodded and then caught my eye. “I get the feeling I’m only going to get to see this once in my entire lifetime, so I’m making the most of it.”

“Me too,” Beck agreed, smiling wide at us. He flicked his eyes casually to Jake and Melissa. “You guys coming with?”

Melissa looked to Jake for the answer and he nodded. “Sure.” Sensing my gaze, Jake looked up at me. I had to admit, I was a little disappointed he didn’t treat me to the almost X-ray perusal Lowe and Beck had. Instead his mouth twitched. “Supergirl? Finally embracing it, huh?”

I rolled my eyes at his boyish grin. “Claudia wanted to be Wonder Woman and she thought that this was funny. She’s very difficult to ignore when she wants something.”

“She must be very persuasive.” I could tell he was dying to laugh at me.

“Why?” Melissa asked quietly, a little furrow between her brows.

Jake didn’t take his eyes off me as he replied, “Because Charley’s had the nickname Supergirl since she was fourteen and doesn’t like it so much, and then there’s the fact that she never wears skirts. Claudia has performed a miracle.”

Although Jake didn’t see it, I saw the uneasiness in Melissa’s face and understood what it meant. She didn’t like the reminder that Jake knew me well. I didn’t like it, either, but for a completely different reason.

“Why are you nicknamed Supergirl?” Lowe asked curiously.


“Jacob Caplin, you tell that story and I will kill you,” I growled.

Just like when we were younger, Jake found the growl cute instead of menacing and he ignored my warning. “She threw her older sister out of the way of an SUV when she was fourteen, took the impact instead. Broke her leg and ribs. The town started calling her Supergirl.”

“Why do ye no want people tae know that story?” Rowena looked as mystified as the rest of the group. “That’s a great story.”

“Because people make such a big deal out of it and anyone would’ve done the same.”

“No, they wouldnae,” Rowena argued.

Instead of glaring at her, I threw my dark look at Jake, who just laughed. Annoyed at him, I decided to cool off at the bar. I took everyone’s drink order and ignored the comments from other customers—whether sleazy or teasing.

I’d only been standing in line to be served for a minute when I felt a warm body press close. When I tilted my head around, I was surprised to find Melissa looking down at me. I couldn’t read her expression at all.

“You’re not making this easy,” she told me softly, matter-of-factly.

I swallowed hard, feeling suddenly much too hot in my costume. Throat parched, I croaked, “What?”

She sighed and ducked her eyes away. “You’re his first love and you knock people out of the way of moving cars, and you want to be a cop, and you’re smart, and you’re confident, and you have the guys eating out of the palm of your hand every time you open your mouth … and now you’ve gone from pretty to every guy’s fantasy in a superhero costume. I want to hate you.” Her eyes lifted back to mine now. “I really want to hate you, but I can’t because Jake’s the one who wronged you. And maybe that’s part of the problem too.”

Seeing the real pain and concern in Melissa’s expression, I felt a need to reassure her somehow. As much as it hurt me to admit it to her, I found myself saying, “There’s nothing romantic between us anymore. According to Beck, you helped Jake get over what happened. He wouldn’t let me do that for him. I think that speaks volumes. You’re the one he loves.” Every word of it felt like a piece of me was being ripped out, but I pasted on a fake, breezy smile. “As for me, I have an appointment with a hot senior with a cool accent, so we’re all good.”

Melissa studied me, so I kept my smile light until she finally gave me her own shaky smile in return. She stayed with me as I ordered the drinks and helped me back to the table with them. The whole time we walked across the bar together, I felt Jake’s eyes burning into us. Not once did I meet them with my own. I was afraid if I let him look into me, he’d see I was just a little nudge from falling apart.

That’s why, as I settled down beside Claudia with our drinks, I leaned over and murmured into her ear that I wanted to leave early for the party.

“You okay?” she whispered back, scanning my face for the answer.

I gave her a subtle shake of my head. “I don’t want to be here.”

Claudia squeezed my hand under the table, instantly understanding. “We’ll finish these and go.”

The guys seemed a little confused that we weren’t staying to hear their set, but we promised we’d make it up to them another time. Claudia gave them the address of the party and they told us they’d see us there later. I didn’t look at Jake. Not once.

The sight of Aaron’s appreciative gaze when we walked into their party was a soothing balm to the burn in my chest from the heart-to-heart with Melissa. In a bid to get rid of the feeling completely, I got drunk. Claudia followed me right down the liquid path.

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