Into the Deep Page 43

Jake glared at me for a couple of seconds until I felt the tension slowly melt out of him. “You’re a pain in my ass, Redford.”

My lips curled up at the corner in triumph and I turned and started walking up the stairs. “And you’re a pain in mine, Caplin, but I’m stuck with you.”

“I’m sorry for the hardship,” he teased. I smiled harder at his changed tone, knowing I’d won.

At the top of the stairs I turned and began walking backward into his room, unzipping my jacket as I went. “Don’t be. I’ll survive … as long as you lose some clothes.”

Jake smiled and quietly shut his bedroom door. He strode toward me with purpose, “Anything you say, baby.”

I pulled off my jacket, grinning as he came to a stop inches from me. He reached for me but I pressed a hand against his chest and shook my head with a secretive smile. When I pulled the small envelope out of my jacket pocket, Jake frowned.

“Happy seventeenth birthday, Jake.”

His eyes instantly brightened and he gently took the envelope from me. “It’s not until Monday.”

I gave a little shrug. “I know, but you won’t get to thank me properly in front of everyone at school if I give it to you then.”

He was still smiling as he opened the envelope. His smile grew huge and gorgeous when he saw what was inside. “Two tickets to Blind Side? Are you kidding me?”

I laughed, happy he was happy. Blind Side was a really cool indie band from Seattle who Jake had come across on the Internet. We’d spent the last few months listening to them. “I’ve been stalking them and found out they’re doing a small concert in Chicago in June.”

Jake kissed me, still smiling. When he pulled back, he gestured to me with the tickets. “This is a great f**king present.” He frowned as he reached over to put them on his dresser. “I’ve just got to find someone to take with me.”


He laughed and caught me by the waist, swinging me off my feet and crashing me down on the bed. I held onto him, giggling like crazy, as he followed me down. “I’m going to show my appreciation now.”

I relaxed and gave him my best seductive smile. “Bring it.”

As he kissed me deep, I wrapped myself around him, content in the knowledge that not only had I gotten him a great birthday present but I’d completely distracted him from Brett “effing” Thomas.

Chapter Fifteen

Frankenstein was a cool pub/club on George IV Bridge that Claudia and I had discovered at the beginning of the semester. On the ground floor was the bar and dance floor where people could get their pictures taken at the Frankenstein statue and watch costumed bar staff dance on the bar top to music from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you were looking for something a little more low-key, their basement sports bar was a lot more chill. That’s where my Edinburgh gang and I found ourselves on a cold Thursday night in December, playing a pub quiz.

All of us except Jake—who was talking to his parents and had promised to catch up later—were seated around a mammoth booth. Lowe was sitting in between Claudia and Beck and Claud kept leaning around Lowe to argue with Beck about the answers to the emcee’s questions. Rowena and Denver sat across from them trying to be helpful, but sometimes they had to resort to stealing the answer sheet from Beck. Matt had fallen asleep next to an exasperated-looking Lowe, who appeared to want to be anywhere but where he was—stuck in between the most frustrating non-couple ever.

To my surprise when we’d slid into the booth, Melissa had slid in beside me. She’d been giving me friendly smiles since we’d all met up out on the Cowgate. I had no idea what to do with that since the last time I saw her, I was pretty sure she wanted to kill either me or Jake.

“What is the largest omnivore in Britain?” the guy on the mic asked. “I’ll repeat, what is the largest omnivore in Britain?”

“What kind of question is that?” Beck asked.

“Does Britain have omnivores?” Claudia’s expression pretty much mirrored Beck’s.

“I’m going tae pretend ye didnae ask that.” Rowena shook her head and pulled the paper toward her. “It’s a badger, people. A badger.”

Melissa put a gentle hand on my shoulder, drawing me out of the conversation and into a little bubble with her at the back of the booth. I raised an eyebrow in question. “You okay?”

She looked determined but also a little nervous, a strain visible in her pretty blue eyes. “I wanted to apologize for my behavior at the library. I know things are complicated and I’m trying. Really.”

“Melissa, you don’t have to—”

“No,” she held up a hand to cut me off, “I really need to explain, because right now I’m just this girl with a name who is dating your first love. You don’t know me and I only know you from what Jake’s told me. So I need to explain.” Melissa leaned into me, her voice just loud enough for me to hear. “When I met Jake, he was just coming out of what I’d later discover were a few messy years. Drinking, partying, sleeping around, and refusing to make a connection with anyone who wasn’t Beck. Luckily, he was starting to get pretty bored with that life and was pulling himself together, so when we started talking, he didn’t want a relationship but was open to a friendship. I liked him so much, I took what I could get. As soon as it dawned on me that I woke up each day excited about seeing him, I knew I’d fallen for him. We grew close enough that he trusted me with what happened—with you, with … everything. So I know,” she nodded, her regard kind and understanding and so not easy to hate. “I know what you meant to him, I know how special he thinks you are, and I know that he hurt you and that things between you are unresolved.” Melissa took a shaky sip of her beer before turning back to me. “But I’m not just some girl he met, Charley. I’m one of his best friends.

“I’ve never judged him, and I like to think I helped him finally realize that what happened wasn’t his fault—that he’s not a bad person. Every day since meeting me, Jake has smiled a little more. He laughs at my stupid jokes because he cares enough to. I know that he can’t start the day without black coffee, that he texts his brother every day about random stuff as an excuse to check in with him, I know he treats listening to Pearl Jam like a religious experience, and I know that when he sleeps on his back, he snores. I know him. We share the same views on practically everything, we never fight—well, until you—and I know that that means a lot to him. I love him and he loves me and I give him peace.

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