Into the Deep Page 68

I squeezed her hand and whispered, “Not fake happy. Real happy.”

“You know what,” she whispered back, “I’m not unhappy. I’ve got you and I’ve got Jim and Delia Mom and Andie, and yes, Beck and I may be completely dysfunctional, but I have him too. And maybe one day I’ll have my own Jake. I’m not unhappy, Charley. I’m just trying to be hopeful and hoping that being hopeful doesn’t make me a child.”

“You’re not a child, Claud. You’re just human.”

We snuggled close to each other, our heads resting against one another. “It’s been some trip, huh?” she teased.

In answer I started to laugh until Claudia was giggling uncontrollably, our hilarity muffled by our pillows so we wouldn’t wake our friends.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Truth be told, I felt like I was going on my very first date.

By some miracle, I’d gotten through the rest of our trip in Fort William. Honestly, because we weren’t there to climb hills or do anything remotely relevant to the location, and because we didn’t have a car so we could check out the surrounding areas, we were pretty bored by the end of our stay, ready to get back to the city. Me more so than anyone.

I’d gone back and forth, back and forth on my feelings until I realized that every time I even thought about picking up the phone to call Jake and tell him I’d made a mistake, my chest burned with denial. I was doing this. I had to suck it up and accept my decision.

Once I’d gotten that through my thick head, I was pretty excited about getting back to him. Yes, I was nervous, and yes, I had no idea what our future held, but that would be the same in any relationship.

We got back to Edinburgh around five o’ clock. Lowe walked at my side as we ambled back to our apartments and as soon as we hit the Royal Mile, he grinned at me.

“What?” I frowned up at him.

“You. You’re a bundle of energy. You’re dying to get back to him.”

“Am not,” I grumbled petulantly.

Lowe laughed. “You are too. Did I tell you Jake Caplin is the luckiest son of a bitch I’ve ever met?”

“What am I now? Your soundboard for smooth talking? If I am, I’m giving you two big thumbs up on that one.”

Chuckling, Lowe threw his arm around my shoulders. “So f**king cute.”

I frowned. “You’re going to keep calling me that because you know I hate it, right?”

“Oh yeah.”

Despite growling at him in irritation, underneath the snarl I felt easier and more assured that Lowe was acting cool. We hadn’t talked much the last two days and I was worried that I might’ve wrecked our friendship. There was no need to worry. With Lowe, what you saw, you got, and he meant it when he said he was rooting for me.

Claudia, Denver, Rowena, and I said goodbye to the guys on the Cowgate, my eyes darting up to their building before I hurried to follow my friends back to ours. I did not expect to be greeted by a wide-eyed Maggie as Claud and I strolled into the kitchen.

“Well, is it true?” Maggie asked, excitedly shoving the papers in front of her to the side. “Did Jake Caplin break up with Melissa Bouchard for you?”

I blinked rapidly, feeling the color leave my cheeks. How had news traveled that quickly?

“Oh my God, he did?” If it was possible her eyes widened even more. “Gemma is not going to be happy. You know she and Melissa are friends, right?”

Actually, I didn’t know that. Fabulous. Now I’d have to live with Gemma giving me dirty looks for the next four months. Blowing the breath out between my lips, I made a sad face at Claudia. “I need a drink.”

Claudia tried not to laugh at my uncharacteristic pout and failed. “I think we have vodka somewhere.”

“That’ll do it.”

The buzz from my two shots of vodka had worn off, which was probably why I was a nervous wreck by the time nine o’clock came along. It turned out that everyone was meeting at Milk because the guys were doing a set.

I followed Claudia past the bar toward the archway at the end of the room and shook out my hands, trying to fight off the churning in my stomach. I was not a nervous person by nature and I really hated it that Jake could get me into such a state.

However, as soon as our eyes met across the room, the nerves transformed into excited butterflies and Claudia smiled at me. We made our way through the cluttered room, dodging chairs and rounding tables, and the whole time my eyes never left Jake’s. He stood when he saw us, and Denver, the only member of The Stolen not onstage setting up, followed his gaze at the same time Rowena did.

Everything and everyone but Jake disappeared as he moved around the table and came to a stop inches before me. I leaned back and gave him my best cocky smile. “So you’re the mysterious guy I’m supposed to be meeting,” I said, in reminiscence of the first thing he’d ever said to me.

Recognizing it, Jake’s eyes glittered. “The mysterious newbie. Jake,” he offered me his hand, his expression teasing.

I took it, feeling a sense of peace slide through me as we clasped hands. “Charley.”

“I know. You’re famous. Supergirl.”

I laughed, forcing myself not to lean into him for a kiss. We were taking things slow, after all, and keeping our relationship a quieter affair in public for Melissa’s sake. Looking deep into Jake’s eyes, I knew he was feeling the pull too and he gave me a regretful little smile before nodding his head toward the table. “Sit. I’ll get you a drink.”

“Beer.” I smiled back at him and headed around the table to sit in the empty seat beside the one he’d just vacated.

While Jake was at the bar, Denver joined the band just as the manager of Milk hopped up onto the stage and scratched his thick beard with an amused curl to his lip. “If ye don’t know who these guys are by now, then ye’re definitely no regulars. There has been a fair amount of women visiting Milk these last few months, which I think has more tae dae wi’ the effect these guys have on their knickers than ma inexhaustible charm.”

We laughed and I felt an immense amount of pride rush through me for The Stolen. My friends really were awesome and glancing over at Claudia sitting across the table grinning up at the stage, I knew she felt that pride too.

“Don’t let their pretty boy façades fool ye. These guys are phenomenally talented. So without further ado, back from their trip home tae the States, Milk presents The Stolen.”

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