Into the Deep Page 33

Shit. Beck didn’t have it great at home. It didn’t surprise me that Jake knew … but Claudia? I was beginning to think she and Beck were a lot closer than any of us realized.

“Well,” Matt smiled, breaking the tension, “Thanksgiving at home is awesome for me. I live with my aunt and uncle because my parents died when I was little, which isn’t awesome obviously, but my aunt and uncle are cool and my aunt can cook the shit out of anything. Seriously, our table is, like, immense. We’ve got three different types of bird, three different types of potato, gravy that I think I’d kill for, chocolate pie, and pumpkin pie. Neighbors try to get an invite every year, it’s that good. There’s always so much food, my aunt invites a different couple of people every year. I swear it’s like they’ve won the lottery when she chooses one of them. And she’s got to be careful she doesn’t show someone too much favor because that drama lasts a whole f**king year.”

We smiled at him, imagining a table piled with food and neighbors clamoring to get to it.

“Thanksgiving is good for me too,” Melissa smiled contemplatively, leaning closer into Jake. He smiled at her and put his arm around her chair. The turkey in my mouth turned to ash. “It’s usually just me and my dad, my stepmom, and two stepsisters. My stepmom isn’t the greatest cook, but she always insists on doing it. I go behind her, fixing her mistakes, and she doesn’t have a clue,” Melissa laughed. “She’s sweet. So are my sisters.” She shrugged. “We just laugh a lot.”

“It sounds nice,” Claudia smiled. “It sounds really nice.”

“Well, you’re more than welcome to come to Thanksgiving at my house next year,” Melissa offered kindly. I wanted to stick my fork in her eye. She had my ex-boyfriend. She was not getting my best friend.

Claud looked ready to burst into laughter, as if she knew exactly what I was thinking. “Thanks, Mel, but I’ve forced myself onto Charley’s family and I’d feel rude if I stopped doing that.”

Chuckling, I shook my head. “She has not forced her way in. I swear to God, my parents like her more than they like me.”

“Do you have a nice Thanksgiving, Charley?” Lowe asked quietly.

I nodded at him. “Me, my mom, my dad, my big sister Andie. My grandmother sometimes too, and now Claud. I’m the only female in my family who can’t cook, so I get to sit and watch the game while they all cluck in the kitchen.”

“Cluck?” Claudia asked, clearly offended.

“Like a hen.” I nodded. “Who’s mashing the potatoes? They all answer at once—cluck, cluck, cluck. Who checked the bird last? Cluck, cluck, cluck. We’ve all brought our best pie dish, which one should we use? Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck.”

The guys laughed and Claudia twisted her mouth into a moue. “That is a gross misinterpretation of the situation. I don’t own a pie dish.”

“Oh, really?”

Claudia exhaled. “Okay, I do. And maybe we cluck a little, but the hen noises are worth it once the food is on the table. No one makes pumpkin pie like Delia Redford.”

“Amen, sister.”

“What about you, Jake?” Claudia turned her attention rapidly to him. “How’s Thanksgiving at your house?”

I lowered my eyes, knowing the answer to that one. I’d dreaded his turn since we’d started sharing. It reminded me all too well of the best Thanksgiving I ever had.

“It’s always good. The immediate family—me, Mom, Dad, my little brother Lukas, and my dad’s mom. Some of my best memories are from Thanksgiving.”

I tensed at this confession, wondering if he meant what I thought he meant. Quickly, so no one would notice, I glanced up at him from under my lashes to see if he was looking at me. Instead, Jake was studying his plate, apparently intent on not making eye contact with anyone.

“Thanksgiving at my house is crazy,” Denver informed us loudly. “I mean, we got my whole family, which is me and my three brothers and my parents, plus we got cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, nieces, nephews. The house is packed with people and food. I swear to God, I need a vacation just to get over the holiday.”

“I bet you wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Claudia said.

He shrugged, a guy equivalent of agreement.

Lowe leaned forward, shoving his now-empty plate aside. “Where do you think you’ll be on Thanksgiving five years from now? Who do you think you’ll be?”

“You go first,” Beck grinned at him before taking a sip of beer.

“Okay.” Lowe relaxed against his chair, his arm casually draped around the back of mine. “I’m in a hotel room in London with some random hook-up while I get ready for a show at the O2 Arena with my band, The Stolen.”

The guys grinned. Matt relaxed back in his chair. “Well, I guess that’s my future plan.”

“Yeah, you’re our f**king roadie because you’ve been replaced by Dave Grohl,” Denver grunted.

Beck chuckled and threw a potato at Denver. “You’re a shit.”

“Where will you be, then, smart-ass?” Matt asked Denver.

“Getting sucked off by—ow!” He glared at Claudia as he rubbed his head where her hand had cracked across it. “What the f**k?”

She glowered back at him, unmoving. “It’s Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving doesn’t involve that kind of language, thank you very much. Apologize.”

“Jesus, okay, I’m sorry.” He winced, feeling his head for blood.

The rest of us all looked at one another, trying—and failing—to hold in the laughter. We collapsed into hysterics as Denver attempted to annihilate us with his eyes. Claudia sat prim and unmoving.

Beck grabbed her by the back of the neck and pulled her close so he could kiss her forehead affectionately. She relaxed and rolled her eyes, settling back into her seat.

“Where will you be?” Lowe asked me as soon as the laughter died down.

I felt my cheeks warm as they turned their focus on me. “Uh … either having Thanksgiving with my family or patrolling the streets of Chicago as a rookie with a really crap work schedule.”

He smiled at me. “And nothing else. No guy? Or girl?” he winked at me.

“You can squash that fantasy, Lowe. I’m not into girls.” I shoved him playfully and then stared at my plate, avoiding Jake’s gaze. “It would be nice to think there will be a guy. Who knows?”

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