Into the Deep Page 65

“I do,” I admitted softly, “but that doesn’t mean I want a relationship with you. I don’t trust you, Jake, and I don’t know if I’ll ever trust you again. You shouldn’t have thrown away a girl who trusted you implicitly for me.”

“I care about Melissa, I do—”

“Last year you loved her. Now it’s only care?”

“Yeah, I thought I loved her, but that’s because for a while I let myself forget.”

“Forget what?”

“What’s it’s like to love you.” Jake reached for me, his fingers brushing my cheek tenderly.

I curled my hand around his wrist and closed my eyes, not sure if I was blocking out his confession or soaking it in.

“I’ve never stopped loving you. If I stayed with Melissa, it would’ve been a lie and she deserves better than that. And I know you deserve better too, but I’m just too selfish when it comes to you. I want you even though I don’t deserve you.”

“Jake …”

“You save people. You save me. It’s what you do. You even tried to save Brett and I’m so proud of you and of how you coped with that night. I missed out on getting to tell you that and I missed out on helping you deal with that too. Because it didn’t just happen to me. It happened to us all.

“I wish I could go back to that scared-shitless kid and tell him to be brave like his girl. I can’t take that back, though. All I can do is attempt to make up for it. I want you to give me that chance, but if you don’t, I need you to know I never lied when I told you that you’re extraordinary, Charley. Whatever your answer is, just know that I will always believe that, and I will always believe in you.”

“Jake.” I was panicking, panicking because I wanted to give in. The brave girl everyone thought me to be had fled down the cold Scottish hill. “No.” Stupid, stupid tears slipped down my cheeks as I said it, my stomach flipping in protestation at the word.

“Charley,” he whispered hoarsely, pleading, as he reached up to brush away my tears with his thumb. “Please. Please try because every time I look into your face, all I feel is … so in love with you. Then two seconds later, every time without fail, it hits me like a sledgehammer in my gut that you’re not mine. That I’m not allowed to reach out to you … I thought I could accept that, I thought I’d come to terms with it, but I can’t. We’re not over.” Tears shimmered in his beautiful eyes. “We can’t be over.”

The knowledge that he felt the same pain I felt every day, and the sight of his overwrought expression, beat away at my panic until all that was left was fear and stupid, stupid hope.

Hearing his breathing grow heavy with anticipation—and if the trembling in his hand was any indication, also fear—my eyes slowly opened. I stared up into his burning expression and leaned my cheek into his hand, my fingers flexing around his wrist. “I can’t guarantee you anything. I know I haven’t moved on from you, and I know I still care about you, but Jake, you have to know that I might never trust you again and if I don’t trust you … we’re never going to work.” I squeezed his wrist. “I might not be able to give you what you want.”

Eyes blazing with relief and determination, Jake dipped his head close to mine so his words whispered across my lips. “I’m willing to risk it.”

We stared at each other in silence until the tension between us became almost unbearable. My eyes dropped to his mouth and I had to physically restrain myself from reaching up and taking what I’d been dreaming about for months. When I raised my gaze back to his, Jake’s eyes were heated and the muscle in his jaw flexed as if he was also struggling to hold himself back.

My chest rose and fell in rapid breaths as I fought to come to the right decision.

In the end I went with my gut and sighed into him. “Okay,” I breathed.

Jake’s grip on me tightened as his eyes widened. “Okay, okay?”

I nodded, shivering now with the decision. This could go horribly wrong after all.

But suddenly Jake was grinning, his eyes shining as he pulled me close and leaned his forehead against mine.

The shivering stopped. His warm breath fanned my face. “Thank you, baby.”

My hands reached for him, gripping his coat at the waist. “Where do we go from here?”

“I need to get the next train back to Edinburgh.”

A strange and unpleasant mix of guilt and jealousy washed over me. “To Melissa?”

“Not to Melissa but,” he groaned, rubbing a hand through his hair, “if I stay here, I’m not going to be able to control myself and I think maybe we should take things slow. For us. And also out of respect. It’s only been a few weeks …” He quieted, seeming anxious about my reaction to his concern for Melissa.

In actuality, his concern convinced me that I should at least try to give this guy I once loved completely another shot. It would somehow feel callous to start a physical relationship only a month after their breakup.

And then remembering Melissa’s words at Frankenstein, her description of her relationship with Jake, I suddenly felt a cold rush of uncertainty. “Jake … she said she’s one of your best friends. That she brings you peace. I don’t know if I’ve ever given you peace … Are you sure you’re—”

“Stop,” he whispered roughly. “Mel is one of my best friends and hurting her was awful. But as for peace … I don’t know what she said but I know what I know. Mel and me … our relationship was comfortable, quiet. We rarely argued and she was supportive and kind.” His expression grew more intense as he studied my features, as if they were the most important things he’d ever lay eyes on. “But peace … that comes with feeling complete, and I haven’t felt that way since I was seventeen and I walked away from a girl who could make me laugh harder, feel harder, and burn harder than any other person in my world. You gave me peace, Charley. You did. You do.”

Swallowing hard, I felt my own guilt rise. “Melissa … she knows, then?”

Jake pulled back, his expression uncomfortable. “We almost broke up after Halloween but I convinced myself that I could make it work with her, that being around you again was just confusing. The argument at the airport, in the cab, it was one of many lately. She knew, Charley. She also knew it would be worse for both of us if I’d gone on pretending.”

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