Crushed Page 47



I smile. “Why’d you ask me to lunch?”

He blinks a little in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“Well, we’ve never done lunch before. Not without Kristin or our parents.”

“Sure, we have.”

I shake my head. “Nope. Not since we used to geek out over books in the corner of the cafeteria in middle school.”

He bursts out laughing, and an elderly couple to our right pauses in their conversation to look over, but he doesn’t notice.

“Ah, shit, we did do that, huh? I haven’t thought about that in forever.”

I hide my wince. I’ve thought about those long-ago lunches way too often.

“Point being,” I say, keeping my voice friendly, “it’s been a really long time since we’ve done this.”

He stares out at the golf course to his left, his smile fading completely, and I give him another of those soft leg kicks. “Hey, it’s cool, Dev. You’ve got a big void in your life where Kristin used to be.”

His head whips back toward me. “Chloe. You’re not a Kristin stand-in.”

I lift a skeptical eyebrow. “Sure you’re not just all sorts of bored and lonely?”

“A little bored, maybe. Summer is always like that. But lonely …” He leans toward me. “Is it bad that I’ve liked having my life back?”

I press my lips together. “No, it’s normal, probably.”

“What do you mean, probably?” he teases.

“Well, I can’t say I’ve been through a bunch of breakups myself.”

He leans back in his chair and studies me, his smile back in place. “Why is that?”

I roll my eyes. “Oh, not this routine. You sound like my parents.”

“Oh, Jesus.” He laughs.

“You do!” I say, laughing back. Then I let my voice go into a high, not-too-bad impression of Mom. “Chloe, just you wait, sweetie. One day soon the boys will figure out what a catch you are, and then you’ll have your pick.”

He smiles, and I switch over to an impression of my dad’s deep voice. “Take my word for it, Chloe. Soon the boys will turn into men and they’ll want a sweet, smart companion.”

“Well, what’s wrong with that?” Devon asks, moving his silverware aside as the server sets down his fish and chips. “I think they’ve got a point.”

“Maybe,” I say with a shrug. “But when you’re twenty-one with minimal relationship experience, it sounds an awful lot like a conciliatory you have a nice personality.”

He dunks a fry in tartar sauce and points it at me. “You do have a nice personality. For the record.”

I twirl my finger in the air unenthusiastically with my left hand, while my right hand stabs at an olive.

“The rest of you isn’t so bad, either.”

I nearly drop my fork. And I don’t dare look at him.

“Seriously, Chlo,” he says, when I don’t look up. “You look really good. Have you—”

He shakes his head, stuffing a fry into his mouth instead of finishing his sentence.

I take pity on the guy. “Have I lost weight?”

He gives me a half smile. “Yeah. I didn’t know if it would be weird of me to say something. I mean there was nothing wrong with the way you looked before—”

I give him a look. “I was overweight, Dev.”

I could still stand to lose another five pounds. Ten, if I want to be fashionably skinny. But the truth is, I have lost weight. Not an unhealthy amount, I don’t think. But after the Fourth, I started paying more attention to my diet, and … well, I won’t say that losing the weight has been easy. That’s an insult to women everywhere. But it’s crazy what a lot less ice cream and a bit more movement can do for a girl.

“Well, I’m glad you feel healthy,” he says, “But, for the record—”

I hold up my hand. “If you give me that cliché, I liked you how you were, I’ll stab you with this fork.”

He gives me a puzzled look. “But I did like you how you were before.”

I sigh and set my fork down. “No, Devon, you didn’t. I mean, I’m sure you were indifferent to how I looked when I was just your girlfriend’s chubby little sister who sometimes made you laugh, but let’s not pretend you were all kinds of admiring.”

His cheeks color. “Chloe.”

“Hey,” I say, giving him a smile. “I’m not blaming you for it. Let’s just … don’t insult, me, okay? We both know I’m not the kind of girl that turns guys’ heads. Especially not when Kristin’s around.”

He falls silent and absently spins his water glass on the table. When he looks up, his expression is sheepish. “Is now a good time to copy one of your dad’s pep talks? About how sometimes guys just need time to figure out the good ones?”

I suck in a breath.

He doesn’t mean what I wish he means.

His statement is generic, his expression merely friendly. A friend reassuring another friend that she’ll find someone. Someday.

But it’s the first time that Devon and I have ever talked about stuff like this.

“Let’s leave the pep talks to my parents,” I say, forcing a smile. “They won’t know what to do with themselves if they can’t dole out those little bits of exclusive wisdom.”

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