Crushed Page 21

As punishment, she starts belting out the chorus of Mamma Mia, and I lean across the car to put a hand over her mouth. It’s something I find myself doing all too often around her, but you’d understand if you spent more than five minutes in this girl’s company.

When I remove my hand, she’s silent for all of four seconds before opening her mouth again. “So when are you going to fess up?”

“About what?” I ask.

“About what changed your mind. About the party, I mean.”

I shrug. “Got nothing better to do. A weekend on the lake sounded pretty damn good. Plus, the club is closed for the weekend. Not like I’ve got anything better to do.”

“You could hang out with friends?”

I don’t have any friends. Not anymore. The closest I have is Blake from Pig and Scout, and he’s got his own thing going on every weekend.

Actually, that’s not true. Blake’s not my closest thing to a friend.

The closest thing I have to a friend is probably the noisy girl sitting beside me, and doesn’t that just say it all.

“Did I mention we have to share a room?” she asks.

I turn my head to stare at her, fully prepared to force her to make a U-turn when she grins. “Kidding. The house is huge, and a lot of the guests rent or own nearby houses, so there’s not all that many people staying at our place.”

“What about Devon?” I ask. Once again, I’m grateful for Chloe’s idiotic misplaced crush. It gives me a chance to ask about my half brother and Kristin without seeming interested for the wrong reasons.

“What about him?” she asks, her voice just a tiny bit testy, the way it always is when I mention her sister’s boyfriend.

“Does he stay in the house?”

She turns on her blinker and moves into the left lane to pass a pickup hauling a boat.

“Nope. The Pattersons have their own place on the lake, a few houses down. Technically he sleeps there.”

“And non-technically?” I ask.

She gives me a look. “Non-technically he and Kristin wait until the parents have had too much wine and have sleepovers.”

My gut clenches a little, not so much in jealousy as in memory. How many summer nights in the Hamptons had I created a distraction so that Ethan and Olivia could have sleepovers of their own?

Too many. Too goddamn many.

Chloe’s eyes flick to me briefly before they flick back to the road.

“You really like Kristin?” she asks.

I jerk my mind back to the present. “What?”

“Well, the way I see it,” she says, even though I didn’t ask, “is that there’s no possible way you’re helping me lose my baby fat just because you’re a good guy. There’s got to be an ulterior motive. I figure my sister’s it.”

She’s got that part right. I am absolutely not a good guy.

“And I’ve seen the way you look at her. You and every other guy,” she finishes quietly.

Despite my determination to ignore her—to keep her out of my head—I can’t help but turn and study her profile.

It’s strange, but I’d never really given much thought to what it must be like to be the sister of someone like Kristin. I knew Chloe had a thing for Devon, obviously, but aside from that, I’d never really thought much about the two of them as sisters.

“Does that bother you?” I ask, turning the tables on her.

“Does what bother me?”

“The fact that everybody’s got a boner for your sister.” I don’t bother to mince my words. Why should I? She never does.

“It doesn’t bother me that everybody does,” she says, her voice uncharacteristically quiet. “Just that some people do.”

“Like Devon,” I say, because this much is obvious.

She’s silent for several moments. “Sure. Like Devon.”

Somehow I think that’s not the whole story, but it’s an opening, so I take it.

“Tell me about Devon.”

She cuts me a glance. “Curious about the competition?”

More than you can possibly imagine. “Sure.”

Chloe lets out a dreamy little sigh. “Devon Patterson is … perfect.”

I groan. “Never mind. Forget it. Invitation to share officially withdrawn.”

“Too late!” she says in a singsong voice. “So, let me take you back to elementary school….”

My eyes glance at the speedometer before moving to the door handle. I wonder if I could jump and survive….

“So I was, like, a big nerd back then,” she says as she punches on the child-safety lock to trap me in.

I give up on escape as I reach around to rummage through her bag of snacks. “This is all very surprising so far….”

I open a bag of chips and hold it out to her, hiding a smile at the skeptical look she gives me.

“Go ahead,” I urge. “Vacations are cheat days.”

Chloe digs in, popping a sour-cream-and-onion chip in her mouth with a little sigh of pleasure before continuing her story. “Okay, so back then I was even nerdier than I am now.” She glances at me. “Better?”

I nod and help myself to a chip.

“Okay, so I was a nerd, but a friendly one, and so was Devon.”

I pause in my chewing. “Really?”

“Totally. A little pudgy, bookworm, super shy … And that was just in grade school. By middle school, we’re talking braces, pimples—”

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