Crushed Page 13

I glance down at my hands, not sure how much I want to give away. “It’s just … it seems harmless now, but in the long run, you’ll hate yourself for it.”

She taps her nails against the glass thoughtfully. “More cryptic ramblings from the Beefcake. Methinks there’s a story there.”

“No story,” I lie. “Just … don’t settle for being the third wheel.”

She pushes her empty glass toward me to refill and leans forward, studying me as I began making her another drink.

“You wanna talk about it?” she asks.

“Talk about what?”

“About the time you spent as a third wheel before getting burned?”

I grab a cocktail pick and stab three cherries with more force than necessary, dropping it into her drink before sliding it back to her. I ignore her question, because the last thing I want to think about, much less talk about, is how much time I spent trailing after my best friend and his girlfriend for most of my life.

“Look, you need friends, Chloe.”

I say it a little gruffly, not quite wanting to hurt her feelings but also wanting to get through to her, but the girl’s like freaking rubber. Everything bounces right off her. She blinks at me. “I have friends.”

“Well, you need friends that you can go to a bar with on Friday night,” I snap, annoyed that I have to explain everything for her.

Again with that damn head tilt. “Why? And why do you care? Maybe I’m an introvert.”

Why do I care?

And no, she’s not an introvert. I give her a look, and she gives a sheepish smile. “Okay, so I’m definitely not. But it’s weird enough that you inserted yourself in my life as a personal trainer. Now you’re trying to be my social director?”

Her eyes go wide and she holds up a finger as though she’s just had a brilliant idea. “You have a crush on me!”

Oh, Jesus.

I lean across the board, gently folding my fist over her finger. “I don’t have a crush. Guys don’t get crushes past the age of eight, and I can tell you right now that someone who never shuts up is not my type.”

She purses her lips. “Right, right. You like ’em cool and bony.”

I say nothing.

“You should know, Devon and Kristin have been together, like, seven years,” she says, jerking her head over her shoulder in their direction. “They’re probably going to get engaged soon.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s sick that I’m even thinking that way. I’ve talked to Kristin Bellamy for all of a few weeks and haven’t even seen her off the tennis court until tonight. I don’t even know the girl, other than the fact that she is pretty and refined and reminds me in every way of the girl I can’t have.

I think that’s why I want her. Kristin represents the first time I’ve been interested—even a little bit—in someone other than Olivia.

I need to prove to myself that I’m not hung up on a girl who rejected me outright.

But it’s not just about Kristin. Or Olivia.

It’s about Devon, too, and the fact that the guy he knows as his father actually is his father. There’s no chance that he’s going to walk in on his mother discussing his parentage mere hours after his entire personal life falls apart.

Devon didn’t have to deal with being crushed and finding out he’s a bastard all in an afternoon.

When life deals you a blow, it goes for the fucking jugular.

At least it went for mine.

I turn back to Chloe, trying to remember that she might be my best shot on getting information on the Pattersons. “And how do you feel about that? The almost engagement?”

From anyone else it’d be an innocent question, but I know how she feels about Devon, and it’s a dick move to rub it in her face.

But as quickly as her face crumples, the sun comes out again, and she winds a finger into a curl with a shrug. “It is what it is.”

“I hate that phrase,” I mutter, grabbing a stack of napkins and shoving them at the patrons to Chloe’s left who’ve just managed to slosh their beer everywhere.

“I get the weekend off, right?” Chloe asks, when I turn back to her. I don’t know why I keep doing that. Coming back to Chloe. She’s annoying as fuck, and yet there’s something strangely calming about her manic personality. “From your slave-driving training sessions?” she clarifies.

“Yeah. You get two whole days without me forcing you to walk on the treadmill.”

“Hey, I jogged today!” she says, chomping on a cherry. “How long do you think until I have a six-pack?”

I open my mouth to tell her that it doesn’t work that way, but she’s sliding off the barstool, fishing some money out of her wallet.

I frown. “Where are you going?”

Please don’t say off to insert yourself at your sister’s table. Don’t be so damn desperate.

She slides a twenty across the bar and gives me a wink that’s surprisingly cute in its awkwardness. “My friends are here.”

She hitches a thumb over her shoulder at a table of rowdy newcomers, one of whom spots her and shouts her name.

Realization dawns. “Ah. You didn’t come here as the third wheel with your sister, did you?”

She smiles. “A couple of my high school friends are back in town. Kristin and Devon just gave me a ride.”

I sigh and slide her money back across the bar at her. “Keep it. Your bastardized gin and tonics are on the house.”

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