Into the Deep Page 58

I shook my head. “What’s the point? I don’t want to have this big heart-to-heart with him. Look, I know I miss him, I know I still want him, I know that he can make me feel on top of the world and seconds later like shit. But I also know I don’t trust him with my feelings. You’re right. It’s a mess.” I closed my eyes. “Honestly, I think the best thing to do is walk away. Move on. A clean break.” I shrugged. “And you know it might sound petty, but he left me last time with a crappy explanation and no closure. I don’t owe him a chat. I don’t owe him anything.”

The expression in Claudia’s eyes suggested she disagreed but she kept her mouth shut and just nodded.

“What about you and Beck?” I arched an eyebrow, trying to turn the spotlight off me. “He rushed all the way to Indiana to make sure you were okay. He took you for a walk and when you came back, you seemed better. A lot better. Not even I lifted your spirits the way he did.”

As soon as her eyes dimmed, I kicked myself for bringing it up. “I’m just as confused as you are. We walked and he … he just gets it, you know. His mom or whatever. My parents are never going to give me what I need emotionally, but Beck suggested I needed to tell them how much they hurt me, even if it didn’t penetrate. He said I needed that closure. And he was right. They didn’t say they were sorry or that they loved me, but they came as close to an apology as I’ll ever get out of them—upping my credit card limit and sending me on vacation.”

“Beck really cares about you.”

“I know,” she nodded, her eyebrows drawn together. “As much as he can care about me. I’ve accepted that. It took me a while, believe me. I kept fantasizing about it changing because of our attraction, but Beck is too messed up emotionally to go there. Maybe in ten years when he’s grown up a bit, but not now. You know, though, I’d rather have him as a friend than not have him at all.”

“Claud, what’s happening between me and Jake isn’t the same. He’s my first love and all that stuff is mixed together with a pretty ugly history. There’s too much regret and hurt.”

“I’m sorry, Charley,” she whispered. “I’m sorry you can’t see what the rest of us see.”

“And what’s that?”

“That no matter what happened in the past … you guys are still meant to be together.”


“We all see it,” she cut me off. “When you guys are together, it’s like the whole world goes away. And … Beck knows Jake better than anyone. He says he’s never seen him as happy as he’s been these last few months.”

I felt that pressure on my chest again and breathed hard through it. “Claudia, I know you think you’re helping but you’re not. Please … stop. Okay?”

“Okay, okay. I’ll shut up.” She sighed and turned around. “I just don’t think you should give up on him just yet.”

Saying goodbye to my parents for another four months didn’t feel great, but I managed to hold in the tears. Claudia, on the other hand, was a mess. Mom and Dad had done such a good job of trying to make up for her parents’ lack of affection that Claudia had bubbled and clung to Mom for a good five minutes at the airport, before I managed to pry her off.

When Claud had suggested I change my flight to the only flight she’d managed to get out of Chicago, rather than taking the same flight back as Jake and the guys, I’d jumped all over that. Avoiding Jake was almost turning into a game.

He’d called me three more times and left a voicemail the last time. I didn’t listen to it.

I also deleted his messages on Facebook without reading them.

Returning to Edinburgh would prove the ultimate test, of course. It was going to be much more difficult to avoid Jake when he lived a two-minute walk from our apartment.

Milking her parents’ guilt money for all she could, Claudia upgraded our flights to first class, so I enjoyed the luxury and tried to ignore the dilemma waiting for me when I arrived in Edinburgh. Technically, it wouldn’t be a dilemma until I got back from Fort William. A day after we landed, we were catching a train to Fort William for our minivacation.

I could start worrying about dodging Jake after my brief stint in the Highlands.

Since everyone else had already arrived in Edinburgh a day earlier, Claud and I had just enough time to crash, sleep off the jetlag, and pack before we were to meet the guys on the Cowgate. We were walking to catch the train since Edinburgh Waverly Station was a less than a ten minute walk from the apartment.

“I do not feel awake enough for more traveling,” I grumbled as I strolled into the kitchen with my small suitcase. Wrapped up in a sweater, a fleece-lined Regatta, my black Levi’s, Uggs, cashmere scarf, and wooly floppy knit hat, I was ready to meet the winter Highlands. Or I would be once I woke the hell up.

“Um …”

The “uh oh” expression on Claudia’s face was like a shot of caffeine. “What is it?”

She winced. “Jake’s coming.”

“What!” Blood whooshed in my ears.

Throwing up her hands, Claudia gave me a helpless look. “He decided to come.”

I felt sick. “This isn’t happening. I was supposed to have four more avoidance days!”

“I’m sorry, Char.”

I blinked rapidly, trying to think of a way out of this. I spent a good five minutes coming up with one lie after the other, each gaining in elaboration and entertainment.

Finally, I groaned. “Fuck it. I’m a grown-ass woman, I can cope with this.”

Claudia was too busy typing really fast on her phone to answer me.

“What are you doing?”

“Asking Lowe to run interference.”

Okay, now I was going to strangle her. Through clenched teeth, I asked, “Why are you asking Lowe to run interference?”

“Because you told me what he said at Frankenstein, so he seems like the best option. He knows what’s going on and he’s on your side. He’ll keep you out of Jake’s way. Not that I think you should stay out of Jake’s way, but it’s what you want so I’m helping you achieve it.”

Musing over this, I eventually bobbed my head in reluctant agreement. “You might be right.”

“Phew!” Claudia grinned cheekily. “Crisis averted. Now let’s go conquer the Highlands.” She sailed past me, her little pink suitcase following in her wake.

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