Crushed Page 3

She’s got the same big eyes as her sister, except somehow they’re too large on her, and blue instead of brown. She also has her sister’s full mouth, but it’s too obvious, somehow. And whereas Kristin is slim bordering on skinny, this one is, well … lush.

“I know, I know,” the other girl says in a weary voice, tilting the M&M’s bag to her mouth and munching the last of the candies. “I’m the pretty one. Don’t tell Kristin; she’s sick of hearing it.”

I hear another tiny sigh from Kristin. “Michael St. Claire, this is Chloe Bellamy. My mom insisted she come along and watch, in hopes that this will be the summer that she’ll actually want to take part in some of the more active elements happening at the club.”

“Um, did you not see the way I kicked the ass of that vending machine?” Chloe asks, giving her sister an incredulous look. “And if Mom had ever seen me pursuing a midnight snack, she’d know just how active I can be.”

I stifle the unfamiliar urge to smile, even though I can see right through her.

Her curvy figure isn’t fashionable … not in places like this, where celery sticks qualify as dinner. But she’s smart about it; she’s joking about her weight before the rest of them can.

Annoyance flashes across Kristin’s face, but before she can open her mouth, I clear my throat, hoping to break up a sibling fight. “Ready?” I ask Kristin.

With a last warning glance at her sister, Kristin gives me a bright smile. “Totally. But go easy on me…. I haven’t played since our lesson last week.”

“You’ve gone a whole week since trying to swat a fuzzy green ball?” Chloe makes a dramatic, despairing noise behind us. “Why, God, why? Why is life so hard?”

Kristin inhales long and slow. The sound is practiced, as though she’s done it before to cope with her annoying younger sister.

I don’t have siblings, but growing up with Ethan and Olivia in my back pocket, I know that sometimes pretending the other person’s not there is the best way to stave off a fight.

Kristin brushes at the hair near her temple, and I notice it’s curling a little in the afternoon heat. It’s cute. Unlike her sister’s curls, which are … crazy.

Kristin moves to one side of the net and I move to the other, ignoring the wolf whistle from Chloe as I walk by her.

I pull a ball from my pocket, lobbing it easily over the net. Kristin moves into place, sending it back in my direction with near-perfect form.

This goes on for several minutes until I hear a noisy fake snoring sound from the spectator on the sidelines.

Kristin pauses long enough to glare at her sister again. The ball goes sailing past her, and I see her frown.

Not exactly the flirtatious foreplay I’d been hoping for today.

But since I can’t make the annoying sister go away, I figure the least I can do is to engage her in conversation so she quits bugging Kristin.

“You play tennis, Chloe?” I call out as I pull out another ball and serve it to Kristin, harder this time.

“Do I look like I’m all about cardio?” she calls back in a cheerful voice.

“What about when you were younger? You didn’t take lessons?”

“Um, that’s a negative,” Chloe says around a mouthful of chocolate. She has a candy bar now. “Some of us were reading Harry Potter like normal kids.”

“Ignore her,” Kristin says sharply, delivering a strong forehand in the direction of her sister.

It misses by several feet, but the aim was not accidental, I’m guessing.

Chloe apparently takes the hint, because for the next several minutes, she seems to settle down with her book. I start to forget she’s there, except for when she occasionally shouts out a request for me to flex, or to “circle real slow-like so I can see the goods.”

I do my best to ignore her.

It’s not easy.

Kristin’s serve is sloppy today, which I’m guessing has something to do with her sister’s distracting presence, but I’m not really complaining. It’ll give me a chance to touch her as I correct her form.

“You’re using too much wrist,” I say, nabbing the ball she’d just sent over. “Let’s work on it.”

I start to head over to the other side of the net, and our eyes lock as I make my way toward her, but then her eyes move over my shoulder and widen in surprise and something else before a huge smile breaks across her face.


I freeze for a split second, the name splintering through my consciousness. It’s possible there are other Devons, of course, but not likely.

And the Devon I know is dating Kristin Bellamy.

It’s the reason I’m after her. Well. That and the body.

I turn slowly, waiting to get my first glance at one of the very reasons I’m in Cedar Grove, Texas, in the first place. But even though I think I’m prepared for it, his features are still a shock.

This kid is a dead ringer for Tim Patterson.

I realize that I’m not dead inside like I’ve been thinking these past few months.

I watch as Kristin’s arms go around Devon’s neck, and my fingers tighten on the handle of my tennis racket.

I wait for a stab of jealousy.

I feel nothing.

This had been the plan all along: Use Kristin to get to Devon.

Then use Devon to get to Tim.

I let them have their moment. The game I’m playing is a long one. No need to rush things.

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