Crushed Page 40

I put my arm around his waist, my cheek on his shoulder, and it’s wildly inappropriate and yet … it feels … nice.


“Hush,” I say. “I’m not trying to cop a feel. Although those abs? Nice. It’s just … you need a hug, Beefcake.”

I suck in a little breath and hold it as I wait for him to shove me away, but slowly, quietly, his arm comes around me, pulling me a little closer into his warmth.

“Damn you, Chloe Bellamy.” His voice is shaky.

“I know,” I whisper, my eyes watering for reasons I don’t fully understand.

I don’t know what the hell we’re doing here, but I don’t want to be anywhere else.

I lose track of how long we lay there, his hand resting just above my elbow, his other arm bent behind his head, while my arm drapes over his waist.

The noise from the party is getting louder as the afternoon turns into evening, but I barely notice, and I don’t think he does, either.

“Hey, Michael,” I say. My voice is huskier than I mean it to be.


“I don’t know how you feel about fireworks, but if you had your heart set on a great view, we should probably go stake our claim….”

His fingers squeeze just briefly on my arm. “I don’t give a shit about fireworks right now. But if you want to go—”

“No.” The word is out before I actually think it.


“Don’t worry,” I interrupt. “Tomorrow we can pretend like this never happened.”

“Chloe?” he says again.

His voice has changed. More thoughtful than wary.


“Thank you.”

“Please,” I say, letting my hand slide teasingly over his abs. “It’s worth it to count your hundred-pack.”

He turns his head slightly, and I feel his breath against my hair.


This time it’s neither thoughtful nor wary. It’s desperate, and I tense a little, instinctively knowing that the next words out of his mouth will be big.

But what he has to tell me is bigger than I ever could have imagined.

Chapter 17


I don’t realize that I’m going to tell Chloe until the words are out of my mouth.

“Tim Patterson is my father.”

She doesn’t move, and for a second I wonder if I didn’t actually say the words out loud.

I repeat them.

“Tim Patterson is my father.”

Chloe still doesn’t move. “Explain.”

Her response is so simple, so perfect, that I want to press my lips to curly hair in gratitude, but instead I merely close my eyes.

And then I talk.

I tell her everything.

Well, not everything. Not about Olivia. Or Ethan.

But I tell her about how I came home that day to my parents fighting with a ferocity I’d never heard in their typical squabbles over him working too late, or her locking them in to too many social commitments.

This fight had been fierce.



“Why don’t you just admit it, Mike? Admit that you were late because you were with one of your whores.”

“Don’t start that bullshit again, Michelle.”

“Who was it this time? One of the girls from the office? Someone from the club? One of my friends?”

“What the fuck do you care?”

“You’re my husband.”

“Yeah? Funny how you forgot those marriage vows twenty-something years ago when you let a fucking cowboy knock you up.”

“Don’t you dare. You promised never to bring that up—”

“I promised never to bring it up in front of Michael. I’m not going to let that poor kid be labeled a bastard because you couldn’t keep your legs together….”

“You heard them,” Chloe says, propping herself up on an elbow and looking down at me.

I don’t meet her eyes as I stare up at the ceiling. Remembering.

“They didn’t think I’d be there. I’d told them I’d be gone for the weekend to visit a friend in Maine.”

“And you didn’t?”

I almost slip and tell Chloe what really happened. That I did go to visit a friend in Maine. Only at the time, I thought she was more than a friend.

And she hadn’t been alone.

She hadn’t even wanted me there.

When has anyone ever wanted you? I push the nagging thought aside.

“I cut my trip short,” I say curtly.

Chloe licks her lips and sits up, her eyes never leaving my face.

“Do they know that you overheard?”

I rub a hand down my face, torn between regret that I brought this up and relief to finally be saying it to someone.

“Yeah. They know.”

Her warm fingers find my forearm, tracing it lightly. The touch is warm. Comforting.

I shake it off.

Chloe continues as though I haven’t just rejected her simple offer of friendship. “And your mom told you that your real dad was Tim Patterson.”

I continue to stare at the ceiling. “Apparently he came into New York for business years ago. Nothing ever came of the business venture. But he met my mom. Their business turned out to be much more … lasting.”

Chloe bites her fingernail. “I just can’t picture Mr. Patterson doing that.”

“What, fucking a married woman? Knocking her up and then bailing back to Texas?”

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