Into the Deep Page 30

I sucked in a deep breath. “I love you, Jacob Caplin.”

He grinned and kissed me hard, his hand coasting down to the waistband of my jeans. “Can you be quiet?” he murmured against my lips.

I smiled at his cockiness. “I’m sure you’ll find a way to muffle my cries of ecstasy, Sex God.”

He laughed into my mouth and it felt beautiful. When he lifted his head, Jake looked happier than I’d ever seen him. “Don’t ever stop being a smart-ass. It’s one of my favorite things about you.”

“I’m not a smart-ass.” It was my immediate response to such claims. “But if I were, I’m glad you like that about me.”

“I love everything about you.”

“Even my freakishly long big toe?”

Jake shook against me, dropping his head to my shoulder. “Even that,” he whispered, laughter in his voice. “I’m trying to get lucky here.”

Since we hadn’t had sex yet, I found myself wondering if he meant going all the way, and as much as I was ready to go all the way with Jake, I didn’t want to go all the way with his parents in the next bedroom. “Lucky lucky? Or lucky-to-a-certain-point lucky?”

I felt his teeth on my earlobe and shivered. “Not sex. Just all the good stuff we’ve done before.”

At the mere suggestion, I felt my body grow ready for him. I felt another smart-ass comment take the stairs down from my brain toward my mouth, but I tripped it up before it could ruin the moment. Instead I turned my head to find Jake’s mouth. “I won’t ever stop loving you,” I promised him.

“Good,” Jake replied, and upon hearing how hoarse his voice was with emotion, I felt tears prick my eyes. “I won’t ever stop loving you. No matter what.”

Chapter Eleven

Between the two of us, Claudia and I were racking up an insane amount of angst over boys. Boys! I wanted to be fifteen again when I didn’t give a crap about them.

The day after Halloween, I nursed a hangover and split my time among wallowing in confusion and self-pity, writing my paper, and attempting to get the truth out of Claudia.

After downing an aspirin and shoveling back the falafel wrap Claudia had gone bravely in search of, I broached the subject I should’ve broached pre-Halloween booty call.

“What is going on with you?” I asked, concerned, pulling my knees up to my chest and curling into one of the waiting room chairs in the kitchen. We were alone and the night before was fresh, albeit hazy, in my mind. It was as good a time as any to hash this out with her. “Something is bugging you.”

Claudia was lying on the hard linoleum floor, her dark hair spread out around her head, her hands flat on her stomach. Her golden complexion looked a little pale—I wasn’t the only one who had seriously overimbibed last night. She closed her eyes at my question. “It’s obvious there’s something between me and Beck, right?”

I snorted. “Um, yes.”

“It’s obvious to everyone.” One eye opened as she peeked at me. “The sexual tension is killing me.” She closed it again. “But he wants the best of both worlds. He wants the closeness of a girlfriend without committing to it. And to get his rocks off, he sleeps with other girls he’s made no such promises to.”

Seeing the strain in her features, I asked softly, “Is he hurting you?”

“Is Jake hurting you?”

I took that as a yes. “Should we stop hanging out with them?” It occurred to me that I didn’t know what I wanted her answer to be.

“I wish I could say yes … but I don’t want to stop spending time with Beck.” Claudia sighed and pushed up into a sitting position, tugging her fingers through her hair. “Last night was stupid. I was attracted to Zach, I’m not saying I wasn’t, but it was stupid. I’m pissed off about Beck and I just went for it. You know what, though?” Her expression was a little sheepish as she confessed, “Beck walking in on it made it worthwhile. It made my point. He doesn’t want me, fine. But other guys do.”

“He definitely seemed annoyed.”

“And then he started making out with some random.”

I winced. “You saw that, huh?”

Claudia rolled her eyes. “He’s such a coward. And trying to get reactions out of each other, hurting each other? That’s not good. Definitely not good. I thought last night might have pushed us in a final direction, but he texted me this morning as if everything is fine.”

“Probably because he doesn’t want to stop hanging out with you, just like you don’t want to stop hanging out with him.”

“We’re a mess.”

“So …” I shrugged like it was no big deal. “Sleeping with strangers?”

She cut me a sullen look, as if I’d judged her. “I just wanted to try it.”

“Don’t get defensive. I’m not judging. I swear. It’s just not like you.”

“I know.”

“Well? What was it like?” I was genuinely curious.

Claud wrinkled her nose. “It was good, but not great. Kind of like eating vanilla ice cream when you really only ever eat chocolate.”

I wanted to say I understood that analogy but I didn’t.

“What about Jake? Anything of note happen last night?”

I grunted and proceeded to tell her about him leaving the party in a mood over my escapades.

Now it was Claudia’s turn to look concerned. “Spending time with each other is obviously confusing you. Maybe you should stay away from one another for a while. And don’t say I should take my own advice.” She groaned again and flopped back on the floor. “We suck at this right now.”

“I don’t think it’ll be a problem for me to stay away from Jake. Unlike you, I didn’t get a text this morning and I doubt I will. Ever.” It was hard keeping my tone light, casual, when the very thought of not speaking to Jake again felt like an impossible and painful prospect.

Just as it had felt almost four years ago.

After saying such to Claudia, I was taken aback to find Jake waiting at the gates to our courtyard a few days later. I was heading out for the gym on our usual day and Jake always met me there. But I hadn’t expected to see him after the Halloween party.

Trying to calm my heart, I slowed to a stop in front of him. He was leaning against the wall, his hands inside the pockets of the black, double-breasted wool coat he wore over his black jeans. A soft blue scarf was tied around his neck, bracing him against the Scottish Fall. Could it have killed him to not look good … just once?

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