Into the Deep Page 42

Jake regarded me with an intensity that held me still. “I bet you can.” He slid his arm along the table until his hand found mine. He squeezed it, rubbing his thumb over my knuckles. “I’m sorry about Ethan.”

“What’s this? Young love?” a rough voice mocked as a shadow fell over us.

Jake and I looked up at the intruder and I tensed. Jake’s grip on my hand tightened and suddenly, it was me squeezing his reassuringly.

“Mr. Thomas,” I murmured unhappily, eyeing the weathered, obnoxious face of Trenton Thomas—Brett’s dad.

He shot his son’s table a smirk before turning back to look down on me. “I see all your friends have dumped you since you started dating the enemy. Maybe you should think on that, Charlotte.” He grinned, as if he’d cracked the world’s funniest joke.

I sneered. “Grow up.”

Just as abrupt as a blackout, Trenton’s face darkened. “You watch who you’re talking to, young lady. Around here, we treat our elders with respect.”

So I was supposed to respect this forty-year-old bully just because he had twenty-four years on me? I didn’t think so. “You want respect? Earn it.”

Trenton was practically bearing his teeth at me. “Pfft, just like your momma. Delia was a stuck-up bitch too.”

Flinching at the insult to my beautiful mother, I had to take a couple of breaths, concentrating on Jake’s hand in mine. Before I could respond calmly, however, a familiar voice said, “Delia just didn’t like you, Trenton. That’s why she said no when you asked her to prom, and that doesn’t make her a stuck-up bitch. That makes her smart.” Hub, the owner of the diner and a six-foot-four bear of a man with a scruffy beard and usually kind eyes, was standing beside Trenton, wiping his hands on a dish towel. His kind eyes were sharp and filled with warning. “If you’re smart, I won’t hear you speaking about Delia or any good woman like that again, and I won’t hear you trying to intimidate kids in my establishment or elsewhere … or you and I got problems. Understood?”

It took everything I had not to grin triumphantly at the strained look on Trenton Thomas’s face. Tall at six foot and strongly built, it wasn’t as if Brett’s dad couldn’t handle himself, so it was galling when he came up against someone who wasn’t afraid of him. Especially someone as well liked and integral to the town as Hub.

We watched as Trenton gave Hub a short, sharp nod and then turned tail and stormed out of the diner.

Hub sighed and then looked at our empty plates. “Enjoy that, did you?”

I laughed. “The food or the show?”

Hub chuckled and shot Jake a sly smile. “Hope you can handle this one. She’s as sharp as her mom.”

As soon as he’d disappeared behind the counter, conversation started up in the diner again and Jake pulled on my hand to get my attention. “I can handle you. I want to handle you right now.”

I shivered at the look in his eyes. “Are your parents home?”

“You want to check?”

“What do you think?” I chuckled and slid out of the both.

Jake paid for the food and I didn’t bother arguing with him. We’d already had a massive blowout about this. I told him I was a modern girl and I wanted to pay my own way, or at least take turns paying, and Jake told me he was raised in a world where the man paid. This seemed awfully old-fashioned for a sixteen-year-old boy, but he would not be budged. Today I was too interested in fooling around to get pissy about it.

Pulling up to Jake’s house, I felt the mood in the truck plummet. His dad’s car was in the drive. Jake sighed. “What now?”

Groaning in annoyance, I shook my head. “My parents are home too.”

“Our parents need to get lives.”

I laughed and followed him out of Hendrix and up to the house.

As soon as we walked inside, we knew something was wrong.

Logan Caplin was pacing the living room floor, and he was seething. Jake’s mom, Beth, stood to the side, a grim expression on her face.

“What’s going on?” Jake asked quietly.

“What’s going on?” Logan growled. “What’s going on is that I’m going to teach that son of a bitch a f**king lesson!”

“Logan,” Beth snapped. “Charley is here.”

“It’s okay,” I assured her, frowning with concern. “Mr. C., what’s going on?”

He stopped, shaking his head as he tried to control his anger. “I stopped by my office early this morning to pick up some papers I needed over the weekend. My office was trashed. Papers shredded, my computer smashed to bits, and there was pig excrement smeared everywhere.”

I gasped and Jake choked out, “What the f**k?”

“Jacob!” Beth admonished. “Just because your father is angry does not give you an excuse to use that word.”

“Sorry, Mom,” he said before focusing back on his dad. “Please tell me it wasn’t Trenton Thomas.”

“Who else?” Logan threw up his hands, an angry vein throbbing in his neck. “Sheriff Muir and his deputies have lifted some fingerprints and have taken the tape from the cameras outside so we’ll know soon enough. I don’t need the evidence, though. I know it’s that f**king moron.”

Beth blanched at the continued cursing and I blanched for an entirely different reason. Both Jake and Logan looked ready to blow, and I didn’t want them retaliating. Trenton and Brett Thomas weren’t worth it. They were school bullies and always would be. Jake and his dad were better than that.

Beth walked cautiously over to Logan. She placed gentle hands on his chest and murmured to him to calm down. When that didn’t seem to work, she took his hand and led him into the kitchen.

The kitchen door had only closed milliseconds when Jake whirled around and started toward the front door.

“Whoa, there, mister,” I ran after him and grabbed his arm, jerking him to a stop. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Jake’s handsome face was taut with fury. “My dad’s a good guy. He doesn’t deserve this shit and we don’t deserve the snide comments and alienation we’re getting at school. I’m sorting this out between me and Brett.”

“No,” I pulled him harder when he tried to dislodge me. “No, you’re going to calm down and come upstairs with me and forget about it. We’re going to make out and fool around until we hear one of your parents coming up the stairs. It’s Brett … or me.” I narrowed my eyes. “And I’d consider your answer very carefully or you’ll have bigger problems on your hands than the Thomases.”

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