Into the Deep Page 38

He beamed at me, dumping his books on the desk. “You found a table? What, did you get here at six o’ clock this morning?”

I blinked. “Where did you come from?”

“Evanston, Illinois.”

I made a face. “Smart-ass.”

“Hey, that’s my line.”

I searched his amused expression for any trace of awkwardness concerning the night before, but nope. Nothing. It was like it had never happened.

Ignoring a prick of anger I settled back in my chair, my demeanor prim. “I hope you haven’t stopped by to bother me. I’m studying.”

Jake pretended to look offended. “Moi? Bother you? As if I would.”

“You’ve been bothering me since the eleventh grade,” I grumbled.

He seemed far too pleased by this, so I thought it necessary to kick him in the shin under the table. “Oww!” he jerked back in shock.

“Ssshh!” the girl sitting at the desk in front of us admonished, glaring.

“Apologies,” Jake raised a hand in placation. “I’m just a victim of violence.”

She glowered harder and then finally looked back down at her books.

“Your charm failed you that time, Caplin.”

“You should know I bruise like a peach,” he sighed, tutting under his breath. “Marring my perfect body with your Uggs … terrible.”

I fought laughter, not wanting to get us kicked out. “Jake, they’re Uggs. How much damage can they do?”

He leaned down to rub his shin. “A f**k of a lot, clearly. That shit hurt.”

“You’re such a baby.”

“What was that?” he cupped his ear toward me playfully. “I’m such a babe?” he winked. “Already know that, sweetcheeks.”

I laughed. “What is with you today? You’re very chipper.”

“You mean for a guy who just got nailed in the shin by a hundred-pound girl?”

“Oh, we are in the mood to charm today.” A hundred pounds, my ass.

“I’m in a good mood.” Jake shrugged, his boyish smile causing heat to spark in me. I wish it wouldn’t. He was acting an awful lot like the old Jake and I had to admit, I’d missed him. “I’m not allowed to be in a good mood?”

I pushed my books to the side, knowing I definitely wasn’t going to get any studying done with him sitting across from me. “Of course you are. I’m just wondering what it’s all about. You’re extra Jake-like today.”

“Extra Jake-like?” He smiled and shrugged. “What is extra Jake-like?”

“I don’t know.” I fiddled with my pen as I tried to pinpoint what it was exactly that was making him extra Jake-like. “Lighter,” I said suddenly. “You’re lighter. Like you used to be. Ever since … and even now, you seem …”

“Seem what?” His amusement had left him and he was leaning across the table, his eyebrows drawn together.

I didn’t know if it was wise to finish my sentence, but since we’d been teetering on a lot of cliff edges lately, I didn’t think one more would make a difference. “More serious. Which is only natural with everything … and you being older …” I trailed off.

He huffed and sat back in his chair. “Only natural,” he agreed.

Silence fell between us and I wished to God I hadn’t said anything. I’d ruined his good mood.

“I do feel lighter lately, though.”

I couldn’t look at him. If I looked at him, I’d only find ways to make it seem like that meant something, something to do with us. Honestly, I just really needed to start remembering there was no longer an “us.”

“Good,” I muttered, pulling a book back to me. “I’m glad.”

When I didn’t say anything else, Jake shifted in his chair. When I still didn’t say anything, he shifted again. Finally he threw a pen at me.

“What, are we twelve?” I threw his pen back.

“I wanted your attention.” He was back to boyish Jake. Pity I found him irresistible.

Crossing my arms over my chest, I relaxed back in my chair. “Okay, well, you have it.”

“So,” Jake leaned forward, hands clasped in front of him, as if we were sitting down to discuss something of great import. “Have you noticed what’s been going on with Beck and Claudia?”

I choked on a giggle. “You want to gossip with me?”

He lowered his voice, “It’s better than studying.”

“Okay, I’ll give you that.” I pushed my books out of the way once more. “They’re definitely into one another but Beck seems reluctant to start a relationship.”

“That’s because Beck doesn’t do relationships.”

Jake gestured me closer and when he spoke, it was a whisper. “Shit family life. I’m the closest he’s got to family. It’s messed up his whole thinking but I leave him to it. Still, I’ve noticed he’s been agitated lately. In particular these last few days …”

I nodded knowingly. “Claudia started dating this Scottish guy.”

Jake sighed. “I wish Beck would pull his head out of his ass.”

“Should we help him?”

“Pull his head out of his ass?”

“Yeah. I know Claudia cares about him and it’s obvious he cares about her. Maybe there’s some way we could give them a little shove?”

“Would you like someone to give you a little shove in your relationship?” Jake looked less than convinced.

I shuddered at the thought of someone interfering with mine and Jake’s fragile friendship. “Okay, good point.”

“I just wanted to know if you knew if Claud felt the same way, that’s all.”


“Something might still come of it. For Beck’s sake, I hope it does. He needs someone like Claudia in his life. She’s a great girl.”

I smiled affectionately. “She is. She’s the best.”

“You didn’t have a friend like her in high school.”

I thought of Lacey and Rose and our somewhat shallow friendship. “No, I did not.”

“But for now, I guess we just sit back and watch the show.”

I thought of the relationship that had built between Claudia and Beck over the last few months. They seemed very close but because there was this animal attraction there, the whole friendship seemed ready to implode. As I stared at Jake, it occurred to me that our friendship might be mirroring our friends’.

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