Crushed Page 39

I pause a few feet from the bed, torn about my next move.

His silence tells me he wants to be left alone.

His tense shoulders tell me he needs a friend.

I move forward and sit beside him.

He doesn’t move, his head still in his hand, his fingers plowed through all that glorious dark hair.

Only when I put a hand on his back does he move. A violent little shake as though he’s unprepared—and unused—to being touched. At least in this way.

For a second I start to pull my hand back, but what the hell … I’ve come this far into the danger zone. Might as well go all the way.

My hand rubs his back in what I hope is a non-weird comforting manner. He doesn’t shrug me off, and after a few moments, the gesture feels strangely natural.

“So,” I say, my hand coming to rest in the middle of his back. A nice back. Hard. Muscled. No surprise there.

Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t respond to my prompt.

I decide to cut the crap. This is Michael. We’re friends. Kind of. And if your friends won’t call you out when you need it, who will?

“You kind of lost your shit out there,” I say, keeping my voice friendly.


I press my lips together in relief at the gruff word. It’s not much of a response, but at least I know he’s not going to start rocking back and forth all catatonic-like.

I move away from his back and clasp my hands in front of me, looking at my nails. Red and white stripes with blue tips.

“You want to talk about it?” I ask.

He doesn’t respond.

“You should talk about it,” I say, my voice more matter-of-fact this time. “You don’t want to be one of those cliché a-holes, do you? The kind that think it’s all manly to be pent up and angry when really nobody will want to marry you, ever.”

He makes a grunting noise, but I can’t tell if it’s a laugh, or a fuck-off, Chloe.

I nudge my knee against his. “What if I take my cover-up off? Will you spill your guts to a curvy girl in a star-spangled bathing suit?”

For the first time since I’ve entered the room, Michael moves. Not much. He just turns his head slightly toward me until I see his profile. His face is unreadable, but I think—I hope—I see a tiny smile threatening.

I lean toward him a little, my voice going into a conspiratorial whisper. “Would it sweeten the deal if I sang something a little patriotic? Hmm? Ohhhhhh say can you SEEEEEE …”


“By the dawn’s early light …”

He sits up all the way now, and he’s not quite smiling, but he looks … something.

I hook a finger into the neckline of my cover-up and give him a little eyebrow wiggle and a shimmy as though teasing with the wares beneath. “What so PROUDLY we hailed…”

He lets out a little laugh and flops backward onto the bed, putting his hand over his face, although he uncovers it just as quickly, staring at the ceiling. “You know if you keep this up, I’ll have to kick you out.”

“My voice is bee-YOO-tee-ful,” I say.

“Your voice is loud. And you promised bikini, but you’re not delivering.”

“Eh, it’s not that great,” I say with a wave over my body, kicking off my flip-flops, and pulling my knees up on the bed so I can face him fully.

He gives me a once-over. “It’s pretty damn great.”

I punch his leg. “Don’t even. If you’re going to try to change the subject, at least do it with something sincere.”

He rolls his eyes. “You’re hopeless. You totally don’t get men.”

I hold up my hands. “No argument there. If I got men I’d know why we’re hanging out in your bedroom instead of sipping an adult beverage in the sun and enjoying patriotism-inspired foods. What’s your stance on Jell-O salad?”

Michael merely shakes his head, but I can tell he’s starting to tune me out again, going back to that brooding part of his brain. Which is, like, almost his whole brain.

“Start talking, Beefcake.”

“At what point in our acquaintance have I ever given the impression that I like talking about myself?”

“It’s not an acquaintance, it’s a friendship,” I say, even though I’m not really sure what Michael St. Claire and I have. I know only that whatever I saw on his face downstairs can’t stay locked inside him.

Whatever it was is dark enough to eat him alive.

When he’s still quiet, I squint my eyes. “Let’s see, where was I … oh, yes … AT THE TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING.”

“Those aren’t the words. Are they?”

“They are,” I say, pretty sure about this.

“I don’t think—”

Okay, enough distracting small talk.

I lean forward, my hand grabbing his. His eyes lock on mine as he tries to pull his fingers back, but I hold fast, knowing the expression on his face, because I feel a little bit of it myself.

It’s panic.

“You can tell me,” I say quietly. “Whatever it is—”

“Is none of your business.” His voice is harsh, and this time he’s successful in tugging his hand free.

“Fine,” I say simply.

But I don’t leave like he wants me to.

Instead I crawl across the bed toward him, ignoring the shocked wariness on his face as I nudge his right arm out of the way and plop myself into the nook.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies