Crushed Page 5

You and me both, Mom.

Anyway, none of this really matters.

What matters is that I’d been counting on having my upcoming senior year to myself. Davis University is a small college, and having the beautiful, charming Kristin a year ahead of you in school and light-years ahead of you in popularity has gotten, well, old.

But then sister dearest dropped the bomb that she was two dozen or so credits short of graduating.

My parents hadn’t even blinked.

Me? I’d consumed an entire pint of Häagen-Dazs, and I’m more of a Ben & Jerry’s kind of girl.

That’s how bad it was.


I snap my head up from the book I hadn’t actually been reading to see Devon moving toward me.

My heart flips.

I know.

It’s bad.

I’m ashamed.

No, I’m not.

Devon pulls me off the bench into a bear hug, and I sniff his neck. Just a little, while glancing at Kristin to make sure she doesn’t notice. But she’s just smiling her usual pretty smile, completely confident that chubby Chloe could never be a threat.

She’s right.

My eyes skip over to Beefcake, and, interestingly, he seems to have noticed that the smell of Devon’s cologne is making me flush and that I cling to Dev just a little more tightly than is appropriate.

This Michael St. Claire guy lifts a knowing eyebrow, and I jerk my gaze away before pushing back from Devon’s big-brother hug.

“Congrats on graduating,” I say, giving him a friendly-yet-dorky punch on the shoulder.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Beefcake roll his eyes.

I ignore him.

A couple weeks ago, Devon graduated from UCLA. I didn’t fly out to the ceremony, of course. That was a right reserved for his family and girlfriend, but I’d been proud from afar. Devon is Kristin’s age—a year older than me—but, unlike Kristin, he managed to graduate on time.

Mostly I am just glad to have him back in the state of Texas. And, according to Kristin, he’s here for good, planning to work at his father’s company.

I secretly wonder what happened to his long-ago dreams of an East Coast law school, but I guess he has the right to change his mind. God knows he’s smart and charming enough to do whatever he wants with his life. Devon may have been the quintessential Texas quarterback in high school, but he was also the valedictorian.

You’re seeing why it’s impossible not to love him, right?

The thing is, I loved him before everyone else did.

I loved him when he was a wimpy fourth grader to my chubby third grader and we’d exchanged chapter books on the playground before dashing off to our respective classes.

I loved Devon Patterson back before he was cool.

Before he hit that eighth-grade growth spurt, before the expensive dermatologist figured out how to get rid of the acne, before the braces turned his crooked grin into a toothpaste commercial.

“Thanks, Chlo,” he says with a grin. “You’re looking great!”

“I don’t look that great,” I say in response to his too-generous compliment. I lost four pounds over finals, but I know I’m well on my way to gaining it back and then some.

On a good day I’m curvy.

On a bad one, I’m plump.

Most of the days are bad ones.

But Devon’s never seemed to notice. Of course, he’s never exactly wanted me, either.

“You do,” he insists.

But before I can bask in the compliment and maybe fish for another one, he’s moved on. “Hey, Kristin and I are headed up to the clubhouse to get a beer. You wanna come?”

Um, no.

I hate beer. I learned that in a big way on my twenty-first birthday a few months ago.

But more than that, I hate the thought of Devon throwing out the pity invitation. And even if I wanted to go watch him and Kristin stroke each other’s palms on the patio (I don’t), my sister is giving me the look.

The one that says I want to be alone with my boyfriend for a little while.

And even though Kristin sometimes makes me crazy, and even though I’m secretly in love with her boyfriend … she’s still my sister.

I know my place.

“Nah, I’m good,” I say with a smile up at Devon. “I’ll catch up with you guys later.”

“Sorry to cut the lesson short,” Kristin says with an apologetic smile to Michael.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says gruffly. “I’ll see you Wednesday.”

I watch as Kristin and Devon walk hand in hand toward the clubhouse before tearing my gaze away and going to retrieve my book. At least now that I don’t have to pretend to be soaking up Kristin’s athleticism through osmosis, I can go read in the AC.

I feel eyes on me and resist the urge to fidget when I see Michael staring at me with a dark unreadable look as he puts his stuff back into his duffel.

“It’s never going to work out the way you want it to. You and your sister’s guy.” His voice is almost bored, as if he’s discussing the weather and not the love life of a girl he doesn’t even know.

“What do you know of it?” I mutter, pulling my hair off my neck and into a messy bun on top of my head. I’m too hot and cranky to play dumb.

“More than you think.” He slings the strap up over his shoulder and continues to watch me.

“Yeah, I’m sure you have all sorts of problems with the ladies. I mean, your body is just repulsive,” I say with a general wave over his sculpted perfection. “And I bet the women just hate that keep away I’m dangerous vibe you’ve got going on.”

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