Into the Deep Page 4

My vintage Pearl Jam T-shirt, faded, worn, a little snug, but as soon as I saw it in the thrift store, I had to have it. Thankfully, the fact that it was snug just made it hot. It wasn’t the first time a guy had complimented me on it and I still couldn’t decide if it was because it was vintage Pearl Jam or if it was because it was tight across my br**sts.

Probably a little of the first and a lot of the second.

“Thanks,” I muttered and “accidentally” hit my elbow off Claudia’s arm as I looked around the room.

She took my hint.

“So, Beck,” she stepped closer to him, “you here on the study abroad program for the semester or the year like us?”

“The year,” I heard him say as I pretended to be more interested in the room at large than in the conversation between him and my best friend. “I came from Northwestern. What about you guys?”

“Not that far from you, actually. Purdue.”

“I think a couple of the guys who live here are from there. You know them? Alan and Joey? We met them first night here.”

I turned back now, taking another swig of my beer and shaking my head as Claudia answered, “Nope. Do you live here too?”

“Nah, I’m along the street at College Wynd with my buddy Jake.”

I instantly flinched at the name, my heart kicking up speed as it always did when I heard it. Thankfully, neither of the two of them noticed and as they chatted, I breathed slowly in and out, forcing myself to relax. It had been three and a half years and just the thought of him tightened my chest.

When I came back to myself, I noticed Claudia shooting me surreptitious “get lost” looks. I pointed the neck of my beer bottle behind them. “I’m going to go … see if I recognize anyone.”

I knew by the twitch of Beck’s lips that neither Claudia nor I had been subtle, but I wasn’t the one trying to impress him. I wandered through the throng, heading into the center of the room where a large table had been turned into a beer pong court, a tournament already underway. Mind-numbingly bored at the thought of it, I turned to head toward the kitchen where people were leaning on counters and chatting to one another. I squeezed past a short guy whose face was practically in my boobs.

“Nice shirt.” He grinned up at me.

What did I tell you? It was a magic shirt. I muttered a thank-you and headed toward the kitchen.


I blinked at the sound of my name being shrieked across the room and my eyes widened as I saw my roommate Maggie waving excitedly to me from the kitchen. Surprised by her exuberant reaction to my presence, I threw her a somewhat bewildered smile and headed over.

“Hey, Maggie.”

“You came, you wonderful girl, you. Come give me some love!” She threw her arms around me and I muffled an oof against her thick, red hair as we collided. She was pretty drunk and slurring a little, but that didn’t stop her English accent from being awesome. She shoved me forcefully back. “Is Claudia here too?”

“Yeah, she’s talking to some guy we met this afternoon.”

Maggie nodded, her pretty eyes bloodshot. “I lost Gemma and Laura. I don’t know where they went but I met these guys.” She turned to a medium-built guy with curly blond hair and baby blue eyes. With him were a tall, skinny guy with cool rimless glasses, tattooed arms, and a lip ring, and a short, curvy girl with bright purple hair. “This is Matt, Lowe, and Rowena.”

I lifted my beer in greeting. “Hey, I’m Charley.”

Lowe, the tall, skinny guy, raised his beer and I noted his fingernails were covered in chipped black nail polish. “Cool shirt.”

“You’re American too?”

“From Northwestern.”


His gaze suddenly sharpened with deeper interest. As his eyes traveled up and down my body, I noticed rather belatedly that he wasn’t skinny. He was lean, but muscular … and he was cute. Really cute. “A Boilermaker. We’re practically neighbors.” Very, very cute.

He was also another bad-boy Beck. In fact, I’d bet they were friends. “If your neighbor has to travel a few hours to get to your house for Bundt cake, then sure, we’re neighbors.”

Lowe smiled as Matt and Rowena chuckled.

Maggie just looked confused. In an effort to change the subject, she asked, “Did you see the poster, then, for the party?”

“Yeah. And Beck invited us.”

Lowe scowled. “You met Beck?”

I looked back over my shoulder through the crowds and pointed to him. He and Claudia were still speaking but she seemed to be frowning at whatever he was saying. “He’s talking to my friend Claudia.”

My focus drifted as I moved to turn back to the group and I caught a profile in the crowd that made the blood rush in my ears. I froze, my eyes taking in the familiar jawline and straight Roman nose. Familiar lips kissed an unfamiliar forehead.

It couldn’t be him.

My heart sped up as I watched the profile turn. A more than familiar beautiful smile hit full force and winded me.

For what felt like forever, I drank in the sight of Jacob Caplin—the first boy I’d ever loved.

I hadn’t seen him in three and a half years.

And there he was, tall and built, looking more clean-cut than he used to in a long-sleeved thermal and black jeans. His dark hair was shorter than he used to wear it but it suited his handsome, angular face. I didn’t even want to look into his dark eyes because I knew it would only usher me into an even bigger world of pain than I already found myself in. That pain intensified as I followed the arm he had wrapped around a dark-haired girl buried into his side, her hand resting on his chest. I was tall at five eight; she was taller. Curvier. Much, much prettier. With her long, dark hair and olive skin, she looked perfect against him.

I hated her.

I hated him.

Three and a half years and it hadn’t stopped hurting.

“Charley! Hullo, Charley!” Maggie shrieked drunkenly and I watched as my name hit Jake’s ears. I noted the way he tensed, my fingers trembling around my beer bottle.

His eyes shot up from his group and tore through the crowd across the room. His chest jerked as his gaze collided with mine and his arm fell away from the girl cuddled into him. His lips parted as shock slackened his handsome features and I watched him mouth my name.

Everyone disappeared around me as we locked eyes for the first time in years. The music dulled to a throb, the conversation to a muffled buzz, and all I could hear was my heartbeat. I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to get as far from him as possible, but as he pushed past his questioning friends and headed toward me, I found myself glued to the spot, my cheeks flushing with emotion as he came to a stop before me.

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