Crushed Page 44

“Stop,” he says gruffly. “I’m not saying no for the reason you think.”

“How do you know what I think?”

“You’re thinking that I’m stopping because you’re not desirable enough.”

I snort. “Please. I know I’m not your type.”

I’m not anyone’s type.

“Stop,” he says again. “You have no fucking idea how hard it is to have you pinned beneath me right now, to feel your soft curves arching against me and not rip this goddamn dress thing right off of you.”

My thighs clench. Oh my.

“Then why don’t you?”

He grits his teeth. “Remember when you said you wanted to lose yourself?”


His face softens, just the tiniest bit. “Well, I don’t know that I do.”

I wiggle my fingers so I can touch him, but his grip tightens on my wrist.

I settle for forcing a smile. “Is there a gentleman lurking beneath all that medicine?”

His lips twist in a half smile. “I’m not a saint. Not even close. But I’m not going to be that guy.”

“What guy?”

“The one who debauches virgins while her parents are right outside.”

“I’m not a virgin.”

His eyes are warm. “You’re not experienced, either. And you’re not a fling kind of girl.”


But I’d meant what I’d said earlier. I want a story. I don’t want my twenties to be about longing for my sister’s boyfriend who, quite likely, will never want me back. And I don’t want it to be about settling for the Scott Henwicks of the world, who do absolutely nothing to remind me that I’m alive and young.

I want a night to remember.

“Here’s the thing, Michael….”

His eyes seem to darken at my use of his name, and it gives me the courage I need to continue.

“I’m not drunk. I’m not lonely. I’m not desperate. I’m just … I want this. I swear I won’t ask anything of you after. I won’t resent being another notch on your bedpost—”

“Wait, what?” he interrupts.

“You know. A notch on your bedpost.”

He shakes his head, not understanding.

“It’s like when guys keep track of their sexual partners.”

“Yeah, that’s not a thing,” he says.

“Fine, but it’s an expression.”

“Not a good one.”

I glare up at him. “You’re ruining the sexy moment.”

“There is no sexy moment.”

I tilt my hips up toward his and he lets out a harsh breath at the contact. “No?” I ask.

“This is a bad idea.”

“Maybe. But I’m overdue for a bad decision,” I say, nudging him again.

“Yeah, but I’m not.”

Eeesh, who knew that a guy could be so damn rational and talkative when a scantily clad girl is beneath him?

“Okay, I’m done begging, St. Claire,” I snap. “Either put your hands on me or get off.”

His jaw shifts slightly as though he’s clenching his teeth.

I lift an eyebrow in challenge.

The room is silent save for the steady pop of fireworks and the occasional enthusiastic ooooooh from the crowd outside.

“My ardor is cooling,” I say finally, when it becomes clear he’s not going to make his move.

He slowly releases my wrists, and I look away so he can’t see my face. Can’t read the hurt.

I should have known better. Michael St. Claire could have anyone.

Why the hell would he want chubby, goofy Chloe?

He shifts to his side, freeing me, and I start to scramble off the bed, but he stops me by grabbing my wrist. I turn to meet his gaze, and his eyes are urgent, as though trying to tell me something.

I shake my head, just barely, indicating I don’t understand.

“I can’t, Chloe.”

I give a harsh laugh. “You seem to manage just fine with everyone else.”

He pinches the bridge of his nose and closes his eyes. “Damn it!”

I tug my hand away and scoot off the bed, tugging my cover-up back down around my thighs, grateful it’s dark so he can’t see what sort of unimpressive doughy-ness he just passed on.

“It’s cool, Beefcake. Don’t worry about it.”

I’m reaching for the doorknob when he speaks. “I’ve tried being someone’s second choice.”

I frown and pause, although I don’t turn around. Can’t.

His voice is raspy, and so quiet that I barely hear what he says next. “I can’t do it again.”

The good part of me—the part that is his friend—wants to turn back and ask what he means.

But for the first time in my life, the part of me that doesn’t just want to be Chloe-the-friend is talking louder.

Michael might be sick of being “second choice.” But the rejected-woman part of me?

She’s tired of being the platonic sidekick.

Chapter 19


Weeks later, it’s like that whole weird thing with me and Chloe on the Fourth of July never happened.


I still see her three times a week for personal training sessions.

She still hollers obscenities at me, the treadmill, and all other areas of the gym except for the water cooler, which she’s started referring to as “sweet pea.”

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