Into the Deep Page 63

Winter sun shone on us as we stood outside the lodge ready to trek down the hill to the center of the small town. There we’d decide where we were going to eat before we got taxis out to the Ben Nevis Whisky Distillery.

I was staring down at the beautiful sight of the sun glinting across Loch Linnhe, waiting on Claudia to declare us fit to go and worrying about Jake who’d told Beck he wasn’t feeling up to leaving his bed. Ten minutes earlier I’d pulled Lowe aside and warned him about my encounter with Jake. His mouth had gotten tight but he’d given me a reassuring pat on the shoulder. I guessed that meant he would deal with it.

I didn’t want him to have to deal with it.

This was so messed up.

“Jake?” Claudia suddenly asked and I whirled around to see Jake coming down the concrete porch steps toward us. “I thought you weren’t coming with us.”

His dark eyes were hard and brittle as he stuck his hands into his coat pockets and came to a standstill beside her and Beck. “Decided fresh air might do me good.”

No one else seemed to notice that anything was wrong with him, perhaps putting his obvious bad mood down to being hungover, and Claudia continued on trying to explain to Matt why a bunch of novices couldn’t, and definitely shouldn’t, try to take on Ben Nevis.

“I’m just saying it’s the kind of experience you want to tell your grandkids about,” Matt said, his eyes wide with hope.

Lowe snorted. “And what grandkids will that be, Matt, considering you’re probably going to die at the bottom of the highest mountain in Britain?”

He grimaced. “The highest?”

“I just told you that,” Claudia frowned at him. “Don’t you listen to me?”

“Honestly, when you talk I’m pretty much just staring at your mouth. Or your boobs.”

Beck slapped him across the head.

“Dude,” Matt rubbed the back of his skull. “I’m going to have brain damage before I have kids with the way you keep f**king smacking me around. Just have sex with her already and be done with it.”

Claudia blushed while Beck took a menacing step toward Matt.

Lowe stepped in front of Matt protectively. “He’s just messing with you,” he grinned. “Give him a break. The guy is seriously hungover. He was wasted last night when we put him to bed.”

“We?” Jake suddenly asked, his tone demanding.

Lowe stiffened, his hands curling into fists as he nodded. “Denver, Rowena, Char, and me.”

Jake took a step toward him. “And then what happened?”

Oh f**king oh! My feet started walking toward them both with a mind of their own.

Lowe’s eyes sharpened and he murmured silkily, tauntingly, “And then we went to bed.”

Without another word Jake launched himself at Lowe with fierce aggression and punched him so hard in the face, Lowe stumbled back and lost his footing.

As a group we shouted a multitude of curses and cries of shock, and I propelled forward, putting myself between Jake and Lowe.

Shaking, I flinched when Lowe glanced up at me, his lips bloody and swelling, and gave me a sardonic shrug.

“Don’t f**king look at her,” Jake growled, trying to push past Beck. “Get up.”

Lowe eyed him with arrogant insouciance but slowly stood.

“Whit is goin’ on?” Rowena asked softly, worry dripping from the words as Denver now helped hold Jake back.

Lowe wiped his lip. “He thinks I f**ked Charley.”

Everyone hushed at that announcement. Even Jake grew still.

All eyes but Lowe’s and Jake’s turned to me.

I blanched. “He didn’t!” I denied vehemently.

Jake jerked at the denial and whipped his head around to me. “He didn’t?”

“No, I didn’t,” Lowe answered for me, his eyes fixed on Jake. “I kissed her. One kiss. We stopped. Decided it was a bad idea. But since you dumped Charley years ago and flaunted a new relationship in front of her for months, I’d like to know what business it is of yours who Charley f**ks and why just the thought of some lucky guy going there stirs you into a blind rage?” His eyes narrowed now and suddenly it occurred to me that Lowe wasn’t as unaffected or nonchalant as he let on. He was pissed at Jake. Big time. His voice was rough as he continued, “Sort your f**king head out, man, before you lose friends and worse … hurt someone who definitely does not deserve to be hurt by you again.”

After a few seconds of hard-faced death stares, Jake’s shoulders slumped wearily and he scrubbed his hands over his face.

I felt sick.

Never did I want to be the girl who caused a fight between anyone, let alone friends, and I definitely didn’t want to be the girl to put blood on Lowe’s face and that look in Jake’s eyes.

“Talk to him,” Claudia whispered, coming to a stop beside me, her fingers squeezing mine. “We’ll get Lowe cleaned up and head into town. You take Jake for a walk. You need to work this out before it implodes. No more avoiding.”

Swallowing the nausea, I nodded at her and watched as she quietly and calmly herded everyone, except for Jake, back into the lodge.

Claudia gave me one last bolstering look and disappeared inside.

Jake looked over at me, a riot of emotions roiling in his dark eyes. I felt those emotions blast into me and take hold, pleading with me to go to him. Instead I turned in the opposite direction and began to stride away with the hope that he’d catch up to me.

He did.

Soon we were walking downhill, side by side, the atmosphere between us thick and exasperating and a little frightening. We’d always, always felt too much around each other. Jake punching Lowe was proof enough of that.

“The thought,” he suddenly said, his voice raspy, gruff, “the thought of you being with him, with anybody … I was sitting in there trying to get past it, trying to tell myself it wasn’t my business, but it just … it was eating at me and eating at me and I just had to get it out.”

“By punching Lowe?”

“I wasn’t thinking.”

Taking a deep breath of crisp, clean air, my voice shook a little as I replied, “We’re not together. Who I sleep with shouldn’t matter.”

“But it does.”

“Jake …”

“Did the thought of me being with Melissa bother you?”

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