Crushed Page 11

For the most part, I left my cushy Manhattan lifestyle without a backward glance.

But there is one area of my old life that came with me to Texas, and she needs coddling.

Let’s just say the paycheck for coaching tennis and showing housewives how to do biceps curls won’t keep my baby in the condition she’s grown accustomed to.

And by baby, I mean my Jaguar F-TYPE.

And if affording that top-notch detail job on her means pulling Stellas and draft Coors a couple nights a week? It’s worth it.

Except tonight.

Tonight I wish I were on the other side of the bar, because I could use a Jack and Coke right about now.

Once upon a time it would have been Pappy Van Winkle, but my paycheck-to-paycheck self has learned that Jack Daniel’s does the trick just as well.

The trick, in this case, being helping me to forget about the day from hell.

It had started with Chloe Bellamy dropping a dumbbell on my foot. A five-pound dumbbell, but still.

And the day had ended with Margot Varni propositioning me with a not-so-subtle grab to the groin.

Not that I minded the proposition part. Margot is a tight-bodied divorcée and I’ve taken her up on her offers before.

But in the past, my boss hadn’t been around to see Margot’s wandering hands.

Today, he was.

Now, if situations were reversed, and Margot was a doddering old man and me a nubile young girl, I’m pretty sure Margot would have gotten the lecture.

But as it was, I’d spent the last part of my shift listening to Joe Nehrs telling me that Cambridge wasn’t “that kind of place.”

Bullshit. Cambridge Country Club was exactly that kind of place, but there was a rich-people rule that I’d broken: You didn’t get caught.

So now my foot was throbbing, my temper was ignited, and I was stuck listening to Lazy Del, one of the bar’s ancient regulars, tell me how the young kids just don’t value God and country anymore.

“Dude, St. Claire,” my fellow bartender says under his breath, as Del droned on. “Babe at three o’clock. Just walked in.”

I finish pouring the Jim Beam and slide it across the bar to Lazy Del before I turn to look at Blake’s latest piece of eye candy.

Blake Johnson ogles every woman who walks into the bar like each one is his very first tit sighting.

The redhead is cute in a down-home kind of way, but she’s not my type. I like ’em tall, lean, and classy.

Much like Kristin Bellamy, with whom I have a tennis lesson tomorrow.

My interest in Kristin is purely as a means to get closer to the Pattersons.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the fact that she’s hot in the meantime.

“So?” Blake prods. “Whaddya think?”

I lift a shoulder, and Blake shakes his head as he carelessly pulls a Stella. There’s not enough foam on it, but the wasted cowboy at the end of the bar waiting for it isn’t likely to care.

“You sure you’re not gay?” Blake asks. “I’m cool if you are, and it would explain why you don’t appreciate the fine wares of this place.”

“Not gay,” I say, moving toward the end of the bar to serve the two middle-aged women who just sat down.

“Well, that’s good to hear,” one of the women says with a bold smile, having clearly overheard my conversation with Blake.

I give her a wink and reach out to grab the ticket one of the cocktail waitresses slides at me. Then a familiar face catches my eye. No, three familiar faces.

It’s the Bellamy sisters and Devon.

I’m not all that surprised. Cedar Grove is a small town that’s not exactly bursting with drinking holes, and Pig and Scout is one of the few that tends to be a parent-free zone.

My eyes stop only briefly on the half brother who doesn’t know I exist. I haven’t run into him since that first day at the club when I realized that he had both Bellamys wrapped around his finger.

I watch them out of the corner of my eye.

I try not to hate the guy on principle.

But it’s easy. Easy to hate the legitimate son of the man who knocked up my mother on a business trip twenty-three years ago.

Devon’s arm goes around Kristin’s waist.

I turn away.

The stab of jealousy brings me too close to bad memories.

Memories of falling for my best friend’s girl and feeling like I was ripped apart whenever I saw them together.

And they were always together.

Every time I’d had to watch Ethan touch Olivia, I felt a ripping pain, not just of possessive longing for a girl I couldn’t have … but also out of a searing knowledge that I was betraying every sort of friendship code there was.

Ethan had been one of my best friends.

Olivia had been the other.

They were made for each other, and I’d gone and ruined it.

For all of us.

The stab of jealousy in my gut is familiar. But at least this time there’s no guilt over wanting another guy’s girl. I don’t owe Devon Patterson shit.

It’s not the same. I merely want Kristin Bellamy, whereas Olivia had been a part of my soul. On the bad days, I think she still is.

Seeing Devon and Kristin is less intense, because no way in hell will I let myself care that much about anything again.

But it’s still a damn shitty case of déjà vu.

My fingers tighten around the cocktail shaker in my hand while I methodically fill it with ice to make some sort of pink cocktail for the girls at the end of the bar.

Kristin and Devon don’t notice me—why would they?—and I’m glad for it.

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