Into the Deep Page 60

He raised an eyebrow at my tone. “I just came over to say hey.”

I took out my other earbud, suddenly not wanting to hear Adele’s mournful tones begging me to remember. “Hey.” And because I couldn’t help myself. “Are you okay … I mean … I heard.”

Jake shot Beck and Claudia a quick look and the two of them ducked their heads to watch the movie Claud had on her tablet. Jake switched his focus back to me. His voice was low as he bent his head toward me. Unfortunately this meant I was transfixed by his perfect mouth as he said, “It’s been a rough couple of weeks, but it was the right thing to do. You I don’t get, though. Why have you been avoiding me? Did I do something?”


“No? Then why haven’t you answered my calls or my texts? Why haven’t you spoken one word to me until now?” His brows puckered and I could read the genuine concern in his eyes. Now that I was faced with him, I suddenly felt very childish and cowardly for avoiding him.

I shrugged, looking away. “I guess I just needed some space.”

Jake’s strong hand slid up my thigh and I almost jumped out of my skin. “Space?”

Shocked, I looked at him and saw the pucker between his brows had deepened and the concern had changed to full-blown anxiety. I glanced down at the warm hand he’d placed intimately on my leg. Just like that, he quickly withdrew it.

One glance into his face and I could tell he hadn’t even realized he’d put his hand on me.

“Space,” I reiterated, my heartbeat doing this horrible jittery jumpy thing that I felt vibrating all the way up into the bottom of my throat.

“Space?” he repeated back.

As we stared at one another, I realized I was at once desperate for him to get away from me and yet desperate to know more. It occurred to me that much of the push and pull with Jake was because I’d never had a sense of closure. I never had closure because I still didn’t fully understand why he’d broken up with me. Never mind Melissa. Me.

“But before space …” I tilted my head. “Why? I really want to know why you broke up with me.”

Jake glanced at Beck and Claudia again before inching even closer to me. “You want to talk about that now?”

“I need to know if you blamed me. You said you didn’t …”

He studied me for far longer than I liked, emotion I didn’t understand crossing his expression. Finally he heaved a heavy sigh and nodded. “Okay. Yeah, I blamed you. It was irrational, and stupid, but I was angry. Mostly at myself for letting the shit with Brett go on for months like it did so that it culminated in the most stupid loss of life I’ve ever …” He cursed under his breath, the color leaching from his cheeks as he went on. “There was too much angry in me. And being angry at myself did nothing to dispel it so … I chose to be angry with you. I guess subconsciously, I thought because we were so close that once I was done being angry with you, you’d still be there and you’d forgive me.” He glanced away from me, his jaw tight with tension. “Didn’t work out that way,” he muttered.

We sat for a minute in silence as I tried to process that. I think … I think it helped. And yet it didn’t. I don’t know what I expected but I didn’t expect to feel just as confused as I’d been a few minutes ago.

“Jake, man, you’re in my seat.”

We both jerked our heads up at the sight of Lowe standing with his arms crossed over his chest, a patient smile playing on his lips.

Jake waved at the seat across the aisle he’d vacated. “Take mine.”

Lowe grimaced, “Well, see, I’ve spent a good couple of hours indenting my ass cheeks into that one for optimum ass comfort and I kind of don’t want to go through the whole thing again.”

Glowering, Jake’s eyes held a definite note of suspicion as they swung between me and Lowe. With a grunt of annoyance, Jake slid out of the seat and let Lowe back in beside me.

My whole body breathed deep with relief.

The tense atmosphere between us pulled tight like a cord attached to my chest and lodged into his. Despite the people and the aisle between us, I felt it pulling painfully on me and for the next couple of hours, I watched in a daze as Scotland passed by, wondering how the hell I was going to survive the next three nights around Jake.

The worry buzzing around my brain was only momentarily halted when, what would turn out to be about thirty minutes outside of Fort William, Claudia gasped, “Oh my God.”

“What?” I asked, frowning as I watched her eyes grow brighter and brighter as she stared outside at the deep valley below us.

“Oh my freaking God!” she shrieked.

I winced along with the rest of my friends and about half the passengers in the carriage. “What?”

Her head dipped to her tablet and she tapped away at the screen. Two seconds later she shrieked again.

“Jesus,” Beck groaned, slapping a hand protectively over his ear.

“What the hell is going on?” I asked, suddenly worried she was going to get us kicked off the train.

Claudia just grinned at me like a kid. “We’re on the Harry Potter viaduct that the Hogwarts Express takes!”

That wasn’t at all what I’d been expecting, but the info had me almost slamming my head against the glass to see outside. My eyes took in the familiar scenery and I smiled, “This is so cool.”

“Very,” Lowe agreed, smiling along with me.

“Oh my God!” Claudia threw her hands out, her eyes wide and deadly serious. “Are they taking us to Hogwarts?”

We stared at her, processing her question in silence for a moment.

Laughter burst forth from us along with everyone in the vicinity who’d heard her. Realizing the improbability of her query, Claud blushed and a chuckling Beck put his arm around her and drew her into his side so he could kiss her forehead. “I get stupid when I’m excited,” she mumbled, her lips curling up at the corner so we knew she was taking our teasing laughter in good fun.

By the time we pulled into Fort William, I’d almost forgotten the ache in my chest. But as we stepped onto the platform, breathing in the crisp, cold air, my eyes collided with Jake’s and just like that, the ache was back again.

Claudia had given us a rundown on Fort William prior to our arrival. By the time we stepped into the town, we knew it was the largest in the Highlands, only smaller than the city of Inverness. We knew it was near the famous Ben Nevis, and we knew that it was settled on the shores of Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil. Despite being the largest town in the Highlands, it was still pretty freaking small, but I guess I wouldn’t care about that if I lived in such beautiful surroundings.

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