Into the Deep Page 45

Alex promised me he’d had a quiet word with Brett and that he felt he’d finally gotten through to him. My ex wanted to make amends for the crap Jake and I had put up with; I just wanted Jake and his family to start feeling like Lanton was their home. So I dragged Jake to the party.

“I’m telling you,” Jake sighed, taking my hand, “this is not a good idea.”

I smiled at a classmate as we strode up the wide white timber-frame porch of Alex’s home. His parents lived in a large house at the edge of Jake’s neighborhood. A long drive led up to the five-bedroom house, and right now that drive was packed with cars. Alex’s birthday had actually been a week ago but Mayor and Mr. Roster were vacationing in Cape Cod for their twentieth anniversary, so Alex had pounced on the opportunity to throw a kegger behind their backs. It was a bad idea, and I told him so. He grinned at me with boyish excitement, a look I knew, and a look there was no point arguing with.

“Jake, it’ll be fine. We need this.” I squeezed his hand as we walked into the packed house together. Hip-hop pounded throughout the ground floor, kids were dancing and drinking in the large living area, talking and drinking in the dining room and hallway, and bodies littered all the way up to the second floor.

“Hey, Jake!” Amanda Reyes stumbled to a stop in front of us, her cheeks flushed but her eyes focused. I noted the can of Red Bull in her hands. She wasn’t drinking, which wasn’t a surprise. Neither was her enthusiastic greeting toward Jake. Her crush had not waned one iota. I was surprised that she was at the party, however. Amanda wasn’t really part of the social scene outside of school. It looked like she was trying to change that. Her eyes flicked to me and although they dimmed a little, she still gave me a smile. “Hey, Charley.”

“Hey, Amanda,” I answered.

“Amanda,” Jake gave her a friendly nod and then walked around her, his hand still in mine. He did this every time she approached him. He was friendly but not too friendly, and when I was with him, he emphasized it by keeping me close. I got the impression her obvious crush made him a little uncomfortable.

I gave Amanda an awkward wave and her face fell as she watched Jake drag me away.

As soon as we were out of earshot, I pulled on Jake’s arm. “Dude, we need to find her a guy.”

Jake’s eyes widened in agreement. “You think.”

I laughed. “You should be flattered.”

He tugged me closer to his side as we waited to get past a group of kids standing in the kitchen doorway. “I am. But every time she gives me those sad puppy eyes, I want to run a mile. Sad puppy eyes from a girl I know is bad enough, but from a girl I don’t …” He shrugged as if to say “I don’t know what to do with that.”

“Charley, Jake, you came,” Alex smiled as we entered the packed kitchen. He squeezed through to greet us at the door. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

I glanced over at his shoulder to see a very drunk Brett give us the stink-eye before he wrapped an arm around Lacey’s neck and stumbled outside with her. Turning my attention back to Alex, I teased him. “And miss your birthday-slash-excuse to wreck your parents’ house? How could we?”

He laughed. “Whatever. It’ll all be good. They don’t get back for another four days, so I’ve got plenty of time to clean up. I also roped a couple of sophomores into helping out with cleanup tomorrow.”

Jake snorted. “How’d you manage that?”

Alex leaned into us. “I’m paying them fifty bucks each,” he admitted, as if it were some genius secret.

“They’re cleaning up a royal mess for a measly fifty bucks?” I said.

“Hey, these are desperate times,” Alex laughed and then pointed to the counter to our right. “Lots of drink over there. Help yourselves. I am going to hunt down a certain senior who slipped her phone number in my ass pocket at school.”

“Good luck with that.”

He winked at me and brushed past us.

Once Jake and I had grabbed a couple of beers, he pulled me back out of the kitchen and out of the house to the porch where it was a little quieter. “So you and Alex seem good,” he said, but I could see the question in his eyes.

Hoping this wasn’t leading into a familiar fight, I leaned back against a pillar and replied casually, “We are. You know we are. It was weird at first for him, but he’s over me.”

Jake nodded into his beer. “I know I haven’t always been a big fan of his because of Brett, but I think you might be right. The guy goes out of his way to be cool to me at school. I’m letting this shit with Thomas skew that.”

“How about,” I leaned into him, my fingers tangled in his shirt, “for tonight, we don’t think about any of that?”

His eyes glittered and he nodded, bending down to brush his mouth over mine. I smiled happily into his face and settled back against the pillar.

“We met at a party like this.”

“Six months ago.”

I studied him in the low light, wondering how it was possible I’d only known him for six months. “That doesn’t seem right somehow, does it? I can’t remember what it feels like not to be with you.”

“Ditto, baby.” He took a pull of his beer, his affection focused on me. “This is it from now on. You and me. Sure you can handle that?”

“Well, it’ll be a hardship, but what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger,” I teased.

“Hardship, my ass.” He wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me into his body, grinning wickedly down at me.

“Oh, people I know!”

We turned as Lois McKinley zeroed in on us from across the porch, her beer spilling as she dragged her best friend Deke over to us. Lois was the editor of the school paper (and sick of hearing Lois Lane jokes) and Deke was her computer-geek sidekick.

“Hey, guys,” I eyed Deke. “Not working at Hub’s tonight?”

He shook his head,. “I swapped shifts. It’s not every day you get invited to a party at Alex Roster’s house.”

Settling back against Jake, I nodded. “It does seem like the boy went all out inviting everyone.”

“Alex is cool,” Lois shrugged. “He’s not like Brett and the others, you know, picking and choosing who’s worthy enough to talk to.” This was said with a slight hint of bitterness and resentment, something I understood since Brett and his idiot friends ragged on Lois on a weekly basis. She was short and somewhat voluptuous and showcased her curves in vintage fifties clothing. Her dark hair was always styled like a pinup girl’s and she was never without bright red lipstick. I thought she was awesome, but some people just didn’t get that Lois had a style and didn’t care if you approved of it.

Prev Next