Into the Deep Page 66

Confused how his emotions could’ve switched so quickly, I let him go and jammed my hands in my pockets. “You really have fallen out of love with her?”

He took a moment before answering carefully. “I still love her. I’m just not in love with her. Charley,” Jake shook his head, all the awe, affection, and tenderness I’d missed for years back in his eyes, “I knew after weeks of meeting you that I was never going to love another girl like I love you. You’re it for me. They write books about what we have. You felt it when we were sixteen—I know you did because you gave me everything, and I’m going to spend the next few weeks, months, years if needed, proving to you that when you gave everything to me, it wasn’t because we all do ‘stupid shit sometimes,’” his voice cracked as he told me he remembered the awful things he’d said to me, word for word, “it’s because we’re ‘it.’ What I did, losing you, it was the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned. Now nothing will get in my way of making you happy.”

It sounded wonderful. It sounded like it had sounded before. A huge part of me wanted to pull him toward me and kiss the mouth that had spoken such beautiful things so they’d melt on my tongue and seep deep into me, but the broken part of me wasn’t as persuaded.

Jake saw it and his eyes softened. “Baby, I’ll earn it back. I promise I’ll earn it back.”

Chapter Twenty-Three

Before Jake left us, he caught up with Lowe to have a private word with him. Whatever passed between them, they returned more at peace with one another. Lowe even winked at me to let me know everything was all right between us.

I wasn’t sure how everyone else would react to the news that Jake was going back to Edinburgh because we had no self-control.

A bundle of nerves, guilt, and excitement, I was quiet while Jake told the group he needed to go back to the city. When the taxi arrived and Jake climbed inside, I watched from the balcony, questioning over and over if I’d done the right thing.

“So tell us, Charley,” Denver asked lazily, “is he going back to escape you or is he going back so he doesn’t f**k you?”

I stiffened at the question and looked over my shoulder, my eyes resting on Claudia first. She looked back at me, her eyebrows drawn together in concern. I nodded slowly at her. “The latter.”

My friends murmured to one another but I didn’t hear what they were saying. I was too busy watching as Claudia marched toward me with purpose. Without a word she grabbed my hand and hauled me out of the sitting room and down the hall into Beck’s room. She shut the door behind us and leaned against it, giving me a look that clearly said, “Go on …”

I shrugged helplessly. “He still loves me.”

“Well, that’s obvious. It has been for at least two months now.”

Narrowing my eyes on her, I mirrored her stance.

“Well?” She threw up her hands, giving me a confused smile. “Tell me this is a good thing. Right? You’re happy?”

“Yes. I mean, I’m scared and we have so much to work through and work out … but … it’s four years later and I still feel … incomplete without him.” I smiled sadly.

The romantic in her rose to the fore and she quickly blinked away tears. “So you’re giving him a shot?”

I slumped down on the nearest bed, heaved a massive sigh, and flopped onto my back. “Yes. I told him I hadn’t moved on but that I might never trust him again, but he wants to try. We’ve decided to take it slow for us and for Melissa. Apparently we have no self-control so he went back in case being in such close quarters proved too big a temptation.” I rolled my head so I could watch her reaction.

Claudia bit her lip. “And Melissa? I was right? He doesn’t love her?”

Just the thought of Jake loving Melissa felt like someone raking sharp nails across my insides. “He does. But it’s not what we had, Claud. I let myself be convinced that all my memories of our relationship were somehow blown out of proportion, that I’d only imagined the intense connection between us. It’s real. I haven’t forgotten and neither has he. I can’t describe what it feels like. It’s just … like a rope binding us together.” I sat up slowly and finished solemnly, “I have to give us one more chance or I might never move on.”

My best friend walked quietly across the room and sat down beside me. With a small smile on her lips, she took my hand in hers. “Then I’m happy for you and I’m going to be there for you. It sucks about Melissa, but it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just timing. Sometimes timing is a bitch.”

I squeezed her hand and nudged her shoulder affectionately with mine. “You don’t need this crap with everything that’s going on with you.”

“Nonsense. This is big, and no matter what’s going on with me, I want you to always feel like you can talk to me. People can judge you and Jake and take sides with the whole Melissa thing but I’m not people. I’m your friend. I’m just here for you.”

Feeling myself getting emotional, I drew in a shuddery breath. “I pretty much freaking love you.”

She laughed softly. “I pretty much freaking love you too.”

We sat for a while, holding onto one another until Claudia finally drew away. “I suppose we better face the music. Just so you know, Beck will be cool. Jake tells him everything and he drops hints to me every now and then. I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to confuse you, especially when all I had was Beck’s nonsensical hints and not facts, but looking back, I get the impression that Beck has known all along that Jake was in love with you. I think he’s been rooting for you both. So you’re golden there. Getting the best friend on your side is one of the biggest hurdles.”

I grinned at her. “Thank you.”

In answer she hauled me to my feet and I followed her back out into the sitting room. Everyone shut up when I walked back in and I instantly slid on my badass blank face so they’d assume I didn’t give a crap what they thought.

If I was just getting back together with Jake, I wouldn’t care. But the situation was complicated by Melissa and I did care about her getting hurt and I cared that my friends would see me as some kind of ogre because of it.

“About time,” Matt grumbled sleepily. “The foreplay between you and Jake was killing me. I was starting to feel bad for Mel.” He blinked rapidly. “Hey, do you think she’d go for me?”

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