Into the Deep Page 32

After the guys greeted me, Jake suddenly reached up, grabbed my hand, and jerked me down onto the arm of his chair in an unconsciously familiar move. When I looked at him, he just gave me a small smile and turned back to listen to what Beck was saying.

I, on the other hand, searched the room to see if anyone’s expression resembled mine. My eyes immediately locked on Lowe, his eyebrow raised in my direction.

Shrugging at his silent question, I watched on bemused as he smiled and took a sip of his soda. While I stewed over Jake’s behavior, Lowe returned his focus to Beck and Claudia.

Glancing down at Jake, I tried to ignore the squeeze in my belly as I watched him smile at whatever Beck was saying. He had enviously thick eyelashes and a beautiful mouth. A perfect mouth. I’d spent hours when we were together nibbling on his lower lip, which was classically fuller than his top.

Sensing my study, Jake looked up at me and I covered my longing with feigned casualness. “Where are Melissa, Den, and Row?”

“Mel’s with some friends and Den and Row are still sleeping.”

I nodded, relaxing more now that I realized Melissa wasn’t going to be appearing out of the bathroom and asking me why on earth I was perched on the arm of her boyfriend’s chair. “What have you all been talking about?”

Claudia whirled around, her long hair whipping Beck in the chest. He barely flinched, silently telling us he was used to it. I knew I was. She once almost took out my eye with her hair whip.

“We’re talking about Thanksgiving. Since none of us are going home for it, I thought we could bring it to us. I’ve offered to do the cooking.”

I didn’t argue with that. Although Claudia only cooked when she could be bothered, she was actually pretty good at it. “Sounds great.”

“Why am I turned on at the thought of Claud and Char cooking for us?” Matt asked, seeming genuinely bemused by his predicament.

“Because you’re a horny dick and you need to get laid,” Lowe grunted at him.

“You can remove Charley from that fantasy,” Jake added, laughter in his words. “She can’t cook for shit.”

His behavior minutes ago, plus the conversation I’d just had with my dad, made me suddenly irritated by Jake’s overfamiliarity. “Maybe I can cook now,” I scowled down at him.

He raised both eyebrows. “Can you?”

“No,” I huffed, “but it’s been almost four years, Jake.”

He was scowling back at me now. “Point being?”

“Stop acting like you know me.”

The muscle in his jaw ticked. “A little hard to do … because I do know you.”

Thus commenced a death stare match.

We glared into one another’s eyes, neither refusing to give in, and then suddenly, memories of arguments ending in kisses flared behind my eyes.

I knew the moment Jake remembered too because the air between us wasn’t angry anymore … it was sexual.

My skin flushed and I flexed my hands, trying to ignore the pulsing throb in my neck and the blood whooshing in my ears. It was hard to do when I recognized all too well the look in Jake’s eyes.

“I can cook it on my own,” Claudia announced loudly, shattering the moment. I jerked my head around to see her giving me a look that screamed, “What the hell are you doing?” before turning back to Beck. “It’s cool. We’ll get a bird and everything. I can handle it.”

At least one of us could handle something.

For once the kitchen didn’t seem so cold with eight of us crammed around the table. True to her word, Claudia had cooked Thanksgiving dinner and to our surprise, Lowe had helped. Maggie, Gemma, and Laura had left us to our traditions, as had Rowena. That meant Jake, Claudia, Beck, Lowe, Melissa, Matt, Denver, and I were cozied together at the table.

We were tucking in, lots of “mmms” and “Claud, I love you” being thrown around the table. It was easy to forget everything else, to forget the very real awkwardness between Melissa and me for instance, when we were all just happy to have something to remind us of home.

Edinburgh was great, but I think we were all missing the States just a little bit.

“This is so much better than home,” Claudia announced, taking a sip of her wine as she proved me wrong.

“It is?” Melissa frowned.

Claudia nodded, her eyes wide as she replied, “God, yes. Well, it was.” She threw me a grin. “I spend it with Charley’s crazy family now, but pre-Charley … right about now, I’d be curled up on the couch by myself in a house that’s way too big for three people while my parents either f**k other people in Cabo or each other in Switzerland. No phone calls home to wish me Happy Thanksgiving, nothing, nada. They pay their cook Consuela to make and serve me Thanksgiving dinner every year, and every year I give her a couple of days off without telling them. That would kill them,” Claudia smirked. “My parents hate paying for anything when they don’t have to. I’m saving it up for the right moment. Who knows … it might piss my mother off so much, she may actually manage to make an expression through the Botox.”

Beck, Lowe, and I laughed, which relaxed everyone else who, by the uncomfortable expressions on their faces, clearly felt weird by Claudia’s oversharing.

Lowe shrugged. “I don’t mind Thanksgiving. Mom passed a while ago, so it’s just me, my older brother, and my dad. My dad is a litigator and always working. So Josh and I just get takeout and sit back, have a beer, and watch the game.”

I hadn’t known that about Lowe. Although he’d spoken casually about his mom, there was a definite tightness in his tone. Since he was sitting beside me, I felt the tension in his body. So no one would notice, I put down my cutlery, lifted my wine glass with one hand, and gently squeezed Lowe’s knee under the table with the other.

Two seconds later I felt his warm hand cover mine and he gave me a squeeze back. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye and saw he was giving me a small, grateful smile. His muscles relaxed and I let go of him as Beck started sharing.

“My mom and stepdad always go on vacation at Thanksgiving because Mom hates the cold. That leaves me either stuck in the house by myself, much like Claud, or if my dad’s coherent, I’ll drop by his place with some food.”

I wondered what the comment about his dad meant and as I looked around the room, I knew only two other people understood exactly what it meant—Jake and Claudia had hard looks in their eyes, the kind of look a person gets when someone they care about is mistreated.

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