Into the Deep Page 44

“Thing is, I know that he cares about you too and that he wants to be your friend. That isn’t easy for me and I imagine that my existence isn’t easy for you. But we both care about Jake, so I want to give friendship a shot. I think if we try to be friends with each other as well as Jake that it might help.” She smiled. “I can be pretty cool when you get to know me.”

I swallowed hard, feeling everything she’d said like a burning log in my throat. “I can see that,” I replied a little roughly. “And thanks. For being honest.”

“Jake says you appreciate people being upfront and straightforward.”

I nodded, not sure what to say, how to respond, and thanking God when our group got loud as they greeted someone. Jake. He grinned at us, his warm eyes coming to a rest on Melissa and me. Noting our expressions, his own grew thoughtful.

“Here, man, I’ll let you in.” Beck began sliding along the booth.

“Let me out first,” I called, trying to keep the panic out of my voice. “I need a drink. Anyone else?”

Everyone but Claudia was set, so they let me out and as I stood, Jake moved in. Looking up into his face was a big mistake. It made what Melissa had said hurt that much more.

He looked into my eyes and flinched, concern immediately puckering his brow at whatever he saw in me. His lips parted and I knew a question regarding my welfare was coming, so I hurried toward the bar and hoped he’d slide in next to his girl and forget all about me.

I leaned against the bar, trying to catch my breath and stem the shaking in my hands.

Every time I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I got smacked in the face. Everything she said was enough to cut through me and finally put me in my place. She gave him peace. They didn’t fight or argue over stupid shit. They were good. They were perfect together. She gave him peace.

She was his one.

And I just had to hope to God that Jake wasn’t my one.

A warm body nudged into my side and I glanced up from the broken place I’d just been in to stare into Lowe’s gorgeous face. He winced, a reaction fairly similar to what Jake’s had been when he looked at me a minute ago. Lowe put an arm around my waist and tugged me into his side. “He’s my friend and he’s a great guy, but right now I could kill him.”

I reared back a little, my gaze speculative. “What?”

“Charley, your poker face is slipping and he knows it. He saw it, the pain in your eyes after whatever the f**k Melissa said, and if that isn’t enough to get him to stop being a selfish bastard and back off so you can move on, then I might have to hurt him. He wants you both. He can’t have you both and needs to wake the f**k up and see that.”

I tried to pull away from him, not wanting to discuss this with him, of all people. “I can handle it.”

Lowe gripped me tighter, refusing to let me retreat into myself. “Sure. You’re a tough badass.”

“You know it,” I muttered.

Lowe laughed softly and gave me a squeeze. “We go back to that table and you sit with me so I don’t have to sit in between Sid and Nancy over there.”

I chuckled, attempting to pull myself out of the tugging weight of heartache. “I don’t need you to rescue me, Lowe.”

“No, but I need you to rescue me from Claud and Beck.”

“Fair enough.”

I paid for the drinks and walked back to the table at Lowe’s side. We slid into the booth and I leaned into him as he casually put his arm around me, turning to say something to Beck.

Glancing up quickly at Jake, I found him staring at me with that little pucker between his brows again. Bolstering myself, I gave him a carefree smile and shot it Melissa’s way too. She looked relieved and snuggled into Jake’s side.

Ignoring them, I laughed at Beck as he tried to steal a sip of Claudia’s drink and got slapped for it. He smiled at her mischievously. “It’s the closest you’re going to get to my tongue, babe, so I’d let me have a drink.”

Claudia made an affronted “ugh” sound at the back of her throat. “If I wanted your tongue, I could have your tongue. Put my drink down, you Neanderthal.”

“A little overconfident in your charms, gorgeous.”

My best friend threw her hands up in the air and turned to me. “Why am I letting him wind me up?”

I gestured helplessly, laughing. “I don’t know. Why are you?”

She narrowed her eyes on Beck. “Maybe because he’s been a broody ass**le for the last two weeks but tonight he’s himself again and I don’t want to ruin that but if he doesn’t put down my drink my stiletto is going through his foot.”

Beck gave her an appeasing smile and slowly lowered her beer. “Let’s not get crazy now.”

Rolling my eyes I glanced up at Lowe and we shared a knowing look. Beck was in a good mood because Claudia had stopped dating the Scottish guy from the library. It was a good thing because she’d been fake enthusiastic about the whole thing for the past week, and the reason why was sitting next to her.

Beck and Claud needed to sort themselves out already.

I relaxed back into Lowe and asked him when the guys were playing next, happy to let an attractive, great-smelling guy do what he could to take my mind off Jake and his one and only.

Chapter Sixteen

Despite Brett’s efforts to make both Jake and me persona non grata, Alex was too cool a guy to listen to petty slander. That’s why when Alex invited Jake and me to his seventeenth birthday party, I told him we’d be there. Jake hadn’t been certain we should go, but I was sick of the drama and didn’t want my senior year to be as loaded with it as my junior year had been. Don’t get me wrong—I would go through it all again to be with Jake, but that didn’t mean dodging certain classmates and having to think up clever retorts when I couldn’t dodge them wasn’t a pain in the ass.

Things between Jake and Brett had only grown more strained when Doug Clare, one of Trenton’s oldest friends and well-known Trenton follower, was arrested and charged not only for breaking and entering Logan Caplin’s office but for vandalism and destruction of private property. Sheriff Muir knew that Trenton put Doug up to it, but without any evidence and Doug being idiot enough to take the fall for his friend, there was nothing Muir could do about Brett’s father’s involvement. This meant that Jake was always just seconds away from punching a smug, taunting Brett Thomas in the face. During the last few weeks, I’d used a lot of distraction techniques to make sure Jake kept his cool.

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