Into the Deep Page 37

Jake smiled back at me but nudged my knee with his foot. “Come on. What’s up?”

“Nothing is up.” Everything is up. My mom and dad still won’t talk to me about being a cop. They’re annoyed I’m hanging out with you. My best friend is in some weird semi-non-relationship. And then there’s you.

“It’s the law school thing, isn’t it?”

My brow wrinkled in consternation. “What makes you say that?” It bugged the hell out of me that Jake would be the one to notice my preoccupation with my career issue.

He shrugged. “You’ve been talking more and more about being a cop. It’s as if you’re trying to plant it so deep inside you that when it comes to telling your parents you don’t want to be a lawyer, you’ll be in too deep for them to try again to talk you out of being a cop.”

“I hate that you know me so well,” I replied quietly, sadly, without even thinking.

Jake gave a short, sharp huff of laughter, hurt flickering across his countenance. “I guess I deserve that.”

I instantly felt guilty. “Jake, I didn’t mean—”

“I think you did.” He gave me an unhappy, rueful look. “But whether you like it or not, it’s true—I know you. So … talk to me.”

Still sliding down the guilt spiral, I sighed and gave in as recompense for wounding him. “Law school is expensive.”

“That’s it?”

“No. I have the money but it just seems stupid to spend it on law school, especially when my mom needs money for the store.”

Jake gave me a small smile. “You don’t want to go to law school because your mom needs the money more than you do? Charley, you haven’t changed a bit.”

I grunted. “So you keep saying.”

“It’s not a bad thing. But that’s not all, is it?”

“Would you stop doing that? Get out of my head. It’s messy enough in there without you cluttering it up.”

I watched him determinedly keep a straight face. A wise decision. Exhaling, I leaned back against the wall and looked out the window. “The more I try to talk about being a cop with Mom and Dad, the more they push the lawyer thing. I’ve never done anything to let them down before, and if I don’t go to law school, I’d be letting them down hugely. I know I make jokes about it and I tease Rick to mentor me, but in reality, I don’t know if I can let my parents down.”

“If you do what they want, you’d be letting yourself down.” Jake sat up, shifting his chair closer to me and tugging on my hand, demanding my attention. I had nowhere to look but into his sincere eyes. “Baby, since as long as I’ve known you, you’ve wanted to be a cop and Delia and Jim know that. Yeah, it can be a dangerous job. Yeah, they’ll worry about you. I’ll worry about you. But it’s what you want to do. Who knows … you could go to the academy and do a year or two of being a rookie and absolutely hate it. But at least you’ll know. At least you’ll never regret not going for it.”

Unconsciously, I rubbed my thumb across his hand, an affectionate gesture of thanks. “I should talk to them. Make them listen.”

“Yes. You should definitely do that.” He eased back from me, letting go of my hand. I looked away from him again.

“Do you have any regrets?” Why oh why did I ask that?

Clearly I was a masochist.

Jake was silent so long, I didn’t think he was going to answer. Finally, he replied, his voice thick with … everything, “Yeah, I’ve got a few of those.”

Hearing the emotion in his voice, I couldn’t help but turn back to him. I needed to. When I did, I sucked in my breath at the blaze of anguish in his eyes. There was no mistaking that the anguish was all for me. I felt my cheeks burn, my blood quickening with fire in an instant. Dry-mouthed, pulse throbbing, I was frightened to move, sure that if one of us did, something would happen. Something we couldn’t take back.

The door to the kitchen blasted open and Claudia burst in, books tumbling out of her arms as she leapt toward the kitchen table. Once her load was deposited on the table, she turned to us and pulled off her wooly knit cap. “I hate studying.” She pouted, looking adorable with her cheeks rosy red from the cold.

We just stared at her, both of us still trapped in our moment.

Claud made a face. “You two okay?”

I searched my brain for something, anything, to say. “They call studying ‘revising’ here, did you know that?”

Jake laughed shakily and stood up. “I did not know that. Does that make sense? Isn’t revising editing?”

Claudia looked from Jake to me and her eyebrows dipped with suspicion.

“I think you’re right.”

“Hmm.” He nodded and then clapped his hands together. “Well, I’m going to go.” He lifted his chin to me and smiled at Claud as he strolled out of the room.

As soon as we heard the front door shut, Claudia turned to me, her hands braced on her hips. “What the hell was that?”

I opened my mouth to lie and then thought better of it. Instead I groaned and let my head fall between my knees, my hair brushing the ground as I replied, “I think that was Jake telling me he regretted dumping me.”

“WHAT?” My head was suddenly shoved back up, Claudia’s fingers curled in my hair as she stared wide-eyed into my face. “Say again?”

I grabbed her hands, wincing as I uncurled her grip on my hair. “It wasn’t said in so many words.”


So I did, leaving Claudia convinced that Jake and I were playing with fire. I wasn’t sure she wasn’t wrong. However, I didn’t want to stop hanging out with him. I was afraid I was addicted to him again, and since Melissa obviously didn’t seem to be too bothered by us hanging out, I wasn’t going to feel guilty about it. It wasn’t like I had any intention of making a move on him. Jake might have inadvertently admitted that he regretted leaving me, but that didn’t mean he loved Melissa any less. In fact, I was sure of it.

Sitting in the library I doodled over my lecture notes, willing myself to concentrate.

I didn’t get far, but that wasn’t my fault.

The chair across from me screeched across the floor, the noise jolting me in my seat. Jake slid into it. Seriously, I needed to stop thinking about him. It made him magically appear everywhere!

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