Into the Deep Page 6

Deep down, I somehow knew that Jake Caplin would never, ever bore me. It sounded crazy—I know it did because we’d never even exchanged a word, but I just knew.

“So, you’re the mysterious girl who’s been gone all summer.” He stopped right in front of me, casual, beer in hand. I tipped my head back to meet his gaze, my body tingling. It suddenly occurred to me that someone as beautiful as Jake must have girls throwing themselves all over him all the time. I read it in his cocky confidence. I read it in the ease with which he spoke to me, a complete stranger, when there were guys I’d known my whole life who stuttered when they tried to flirt.

“And you’re the mysterious newbie,” I answered with a shrug.

He smiled at my response and held out a hand. “Jake.”

Reaching out tentatively, I let him take my hand, ignoring the curl of tension in my lower belly as our skin touched. “Charley.”

“I know. You’re famous. Supergirl.” He grinned wickedly and I shot my friends a dirty look. I couldn’t believe they’d told him that story.

No, in fact, I could believe it.

Two years ago I’d gone into town with Lacey and Rose. We were coming out of Hub’s when we heard my sister Andie shouting. It was so unlike her that we stopped to spectate. Andie was a senior at the time and she and her long-term boyfriend Pete had been having problems. That day those problems had escalated so much that my sister—who was the epitome of public decorum—started to shout at him in the town square. He’d shouted back as she walked away, and Andie had stupidly stopped in the middle of the street to turn and shout a response.

I saw Mr. Finnegan’s SUV come roaring around the corner, and I also noted he was too busy fiddling with something on his dashboard to notice my sister. I didn’t even think. I tore across the street and shoved her out of the way, just in time for Finnegan to realize what was happening and hit the brakes. Unfortunately, he found the brakes too late and he still hit me. The impact wasn’t hard enough to do serious, serious damage, but I ended up with concussion, a few fractured ribs, and a broken fibula.

I’d been laid up for a while. Enough time for the town to hail me as a local hero and everyone, including my sister, to affectionately nickname me “Supergirl.”

“I hate living in a small town,” I grumbled, taking another pull of my beer.

Jake laughed, a deep, rich sound that tugged my eyes instantly back to his. My heart started racing hard again as we stared at each other. “Don’t sweat it. If you’re going to adopt a nickname, I could think of worse ones, and definitely not a better reason to have one.”

“We’re going to get more beer,” Lacey announced cheerily and not so very subtly grabbed Rose’s hand and dragged her away, giving Jake and me privacy.

I grimaced at how obvious they were. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Jake stepped a little closer. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

I tipped my head, my expression knowing. “Oh, I’ve heard you’ve met lots of people already.”

He fought a smile. “You shouldn’t listen to gossip.”

“Especially when it’s true?”

He laughed now, shaking his head. “I was just being friendly. Getting to know the new town. It’s not easy moving to such a small place after living in Chicago. Everything seems to move faster there and faster here causes shock.”

“Yeah, I can imagine it’s a huge change.” I frowned and leaned against the post behind me. “Why did you move here?”

Jake blew out a breath between his lips and shrugged. “My mom and dad are from small towns, they missed it. My dad was pretty successful in Chicago and my mom liked her life there. However, my kid brother, Lukas, got mugged coming home from school one night when he missed the bus. They pulled a knife but didn’t hurt him. Still, it freaked my mom and dad out so much, they upped stakes.”

I nodded. “You know bad things happen everywhere.”

“You get a lot of muggings in Lanton, do you?”

“Only when things are slow. I like to shake things up a little.”

Jake threw his head back and laughed, his eyes glittering warmly. “Ski mask and all?”

I shook my head. “Bandit eye strip, a banana, and a black trash bag.”

He chuckled. “Let me guess—the banana works three-fold: a ‘gun,’ a snack to keep your mugger energy up, and then the slippery peel is a great tool in your escape.”

I widened my eyes in mock surprise. “Dude, you got this down. Want to be a bandit with me?” I didn’t mean it to sound flirtatious, but it totally did.

Jake’s gaze turned even warmer and he ducked his head a little to murmur, “Definitely.”

Flushing and unable to keep the smile off my face, I dropped my gaze from his, a little overwhelmed by the intensity of the spark between us.

“So you and Alex, huh?”

My eyes immediately shot up and I saw Jake looking over his shoulder to where Alex stood watching us, not appearing too happy at all. It definitely didn’t help that his best friend Brett Thomson was sneering at us and although I couldn’t hear what was being said it was apparent Brett was making comments about us that were upsetting Alex. I’d never understood why a nice guy like Alex was friends with Brett. Brett, unfortunately, hadn’t fallen far from the bad-apple tree. His dad, Trenton Thomas, was a car salesman. On the surface he was charming and self-effacing. Some people liked him. But a lot of people knew him for what he really was—a misogynist, a bully, and a petulant toddler all rolled into one. I’d witnessed the way the elder Thomas treated his son and wife when I’d been at Brett’s house while dating Alex. I wanted to punch him in the nuts. My mom and dad had gone to high school with him and said he’d always been an ass. Lucky Brett had inherited all those wonderful qualities from his dear papa.

I waited until I had Jake’s attention again before I replied softly, “He’s a good guy, but we broke up before the summer and that’s not going to change.”

“Well, by the look on his face right now, he wants it to change. We were kind of friends before this … I’m guessing by that death stare, just talking to you has changed that.”

I sighed, annoyed. “Sorry. His family is kind of a big deal, and Alex is a little territorial. He’ll move on.”

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