Into the Deep Page 5

“Jake,” Lowe uttered a warm greeting.

Jake nodded his chin at him in a familiar way that caused another streak of pain to score across my chest. “Lowe.” His eyes quickly moved from his friend to me and the pain burst into a burning flame. I’d loved Jake’s eyes. A lush dark brown, they were so intelligent and warm, so deep, I thought I would happily spend the rest of my life getting lost in them.

I was young.

I was an idiot.

“Charley,” he breathed in his low, rich voice that could still send a delicious and very unwanted shiver down my spine. “I can’t believe it’s you.” He ran a shaky hand through his hair, waiting for me to say something. Anything.

I wanted to be cool. Unaffected. Indifferent.

Unfortunately, I was not any of those things. Instead I handed my beer to a confused Maggie and brushed past him without saying a word.

He still wore the same cologne, cologne I’d bought him. Cologne that smelled so great on him, I’d spent a good portion of our time together nuzzling my nose into his neck.

That memory hurt too.

Hurrying down the hall, I saw Claudia talking to some guy I hadn’t met. I didn’t have time to wonder what had happened to Beck because I heard Jake yell my name. Claudia looked up at the sound of it and her eyes widened when she saw my face.

“I’m leaving,” I told her tightly as I passed. She immediately fell into step behind me.

I raced down the stairs and across the courtyard, throwing myself into our stairwell and shutting it quickly behind Claud.

“What the hell is going on?” Her eyes were bright with concern as I pushed past her and ran up the stairs.

It wasn’t until we were in my bedroom with the door locked that I whirled around to face her, my whole body shaking as the pain I’d been trying to hold in exploded out of me. Claudia caught me, holding me tight and murmuring soothing words in my ear as I sobbed an explanation into her hair.

Chapter Two

“We’re so going to get in trouble for this,” I muttered, staring around at the gathering of my class, their faces flickering in and out of the light cast by the bonfire I knew I’d have to keep a careful eye on.

I’d come home from spending the summer with my cousins in Florida to discover my friends Lacey and Rose had colluded with my ex-boyfriend Alex. They’d put together a welcome home party for me in the woods at the edge of Alex’s parents’ property on the outskirts of town. A huge old gazebo sat surrounded by crumbling concrete seats overwhelmed with weeds. Right now the gazebo was littered with underage drinkers, beer cans, firewood, and a music dock.

Lacey shoved me playfully. “Who cares? Let’s just enjoy it. I doubt they’ll bust us. Tomorrow’s Labor Day—they’re too preoccupied with the festival to care what we’re up to.” She handed me a beer.

“You didn’t need to do this.”

Rose nodded. “I suggested we throw a party before going back to school. It was Alex who suggested we make it your party.”

Lacey snorted. “Could he be more obvious?”

I followed her gaze to where Alex was standing with a sophomore girl, but he didn’t appear to be listening to her as he watched our little group. “He knows we’re not going there again. We dated for three months before summer and it didn’t work out.”

“Yeah for you.” Rose sighed sadly. “He’s still hung up on you. And he’s so cute, Charley. And he plays football. That’s hot.”

“Alex is nice and all, but he’s not for me.”

Alex was perfectly nice, in fact, but during the three months we dated, I kept waiting for that something to hit me. When we kissed, it was just … nice. And since kissing was nice but nothing more, I didn’t really want to do anything else with him, which made me seem frigid. Anyway, we were too different. He was all about football and keeping up appearances for his family. That was important for him, considering his mom was the mayor.

To be honest, I didn’t know what Alex saw in me. I’m sure his mother thought the same thing. My sister Andrea would’ve been perfect for him if they’d been the same age. She was prim and proper and immaculate from head to toe. I, on the other hand, always had my nose in some project, I was obsessed with music, I dressed where my mood took me, and I said it like it was.

The only thing Mayor Roster had ever found appropriate about me was my sister. I think it was the only thing that gave her hope—that maybe one day I’d suddenly transform into a mini version of Andie.

“Forget Alex.” Lacey turned to me, her eyes bright in the firelight. “I’ve decided Jake Caplin is perfect for you.”

“Ah, the mysterious Jake,” I chuckled.

All summer I’d been treated to excited phone calls from my friends. First they relayed the news that a new family had moved to Lanton. This was news because Mr. Caplin was opening a law office that had thrown Brackett & Sons, the already existing law office, into a tizzy. It was also news because the Caplins had two boys—Jacob, a junior, and Lukas, a freshman. Both, apparently, seriously cute.

They’d also made quite a name for themselves over the summer. Or at least Jake had. He’d quickly found friends, seemingly able to move from group to group according to Lacey. He hung out with the musicians, the nerds, and the stoners, but also had a lot of fun with the jocks. And, more importantly, Lacey said, he’d already slept with a bunch of junior and senior girls. Rumor had it he’d also slept with Stacy Sullivan, a hot senior who worked at Hub’s, a popular diner on Main Street. This was news because Stacy only dated guys in college. Having sex with Stacy made Jake a bit of a legend among our classmates.

But all of it just made me question why the hell Lacey would want me to hook up with him.

“Oh my God, he’s here.” Lacey said breathlessly as if Batman had just walked into the party.

I twisted my head to follow her gaze and found myself staring past the fire and into the dark eyes of Jake Caplin.

I felt his look seize hold of me and I swear to God, my breath hitched in my throat.

He was beautiful.

I didn’t know how to describe him any other way. And as he moved through the crowd, eyes on me, my friends whispering in disbelief that he was coming over, I decided then that I didn’t care about rumor. There was something about the way his tall, built body moved—confident and strong but also somehow wild and untamed. I watched his mouth curl up at the corners in a half-smile and I read a million things in his expression. A million stories, a million jokes, a million dreams …

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