Crushed Page 51

I wasn’t thinking date when I straightened my hair (it’s worth noting that this is a ninety-minute time investment).

And I definitely didn’t think it was a date when I spent extra time with my makeup, going a little heavier with a smoky brown eye shadow and a little sultry with a light glossy lipstick.

“Where are you off to?” Mom asks, as I dump the contents of my purse onto the kitchen counter in search of my ever-elusive car keys.

“P and S,” I say.

Her reading glasses are perched on her nose as she flips through Vogue, but she slips them down just enough to peer at me over the tops of them, taking in my appearance.

“You meeting the girls?” she asks.

“Nah, Devon called. Asked if I wanted to meet up.”

“Hmm,” she says, removing the glasses and chewing one of the ends.

I find my keys, untangling them from a half dozen hair bands. “Yes, Mother?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Exactly,” I say, giving her a patient look. “You always have something to say.”

She pulls the glasses from her mouth. “Have you talked to your sister recently?”

A little stab of guilt slithers down my spine, and I decide to face it head-on. “Is that your way of asking if she knows that I’m going out with her ex-boyfriend?”

“Going out?” Mom asks, her voice half disbelief, half disapproval.

“No! Not like that.” I backpedal quickly. “He just … I think he’s lonely, you know?

And we’ve always been friends.”

“Chloe.” Mom sets her glasses aside and folds her hands in front of her.

Oh, boy. “Mom, you’re not going to tell me not to make a move on Kristin’s ex, right? Because I’m not.”

I’m really not. I want to. But I won’t. But if Devon made a move …

“No, sweetie, I was just going to say—”

She breaks off and I make a go on gesture with my hand.

“I just don’t want you getting hurt, sweetie.”

I choke out a little laugh. “Well, I’ll be sure and wear a helmet in the bar if it makes you feel better.”

As usual, she ignores my sarcasm. “You know what I mean.”

“Do I?”

She gives me a look, and I give her a stubborn one back.

Mom sighs. “Honey, you’ve always worn your heart on your sleeve. It’s one of your best qualities.”

I swallow and clench my keys tighter, soooo not liking where this is going.

Her hand reaches across the counter, not quite touching mine. “I know how you feel about Devon. I’ve always known.”

I look away.

“You think my heart didn’t hurt for you when he went overnight from being your reading buddy to being Kristin’s whipping boy?”

My gaze flies up to meet hers, and she gives a wry smile. “I love both my girls, but I also know their flaws. Your sister is …”

Spoiled? Selfish? Spiteful?

“She has some growing up to do,” Mom finishes.

I give a little golf clap at the understated observation.

“But, Chloe, honey, just because I don’t think Kristin and Devon were the healthiest thing for each other doesn’t mean I want you to be the rebound.”

Whoa. This is so not where I thought this conversation was going. Coming into the kitchen, I’d assumed I was going to get a good sisters don’t poach the ex lecture, and instead I’m getting a he’s out of your league pep talk?

I’m not gonna lie. That my own mother thinks I’m not good enough for Devon Patterson stings.

A lot.

“It’s just drinks, Mom. Just drinks with a friend. Who happens to be a guy.”

She gives me one last look that says she knows better, before sliding her glasses and returning to her magazine. “Well. Have fun.”

Yeah. Because that little chat didn’t put a damper on the evening at all.

But by the time I get to the bar, I’ve more or less brushed off my mom’s concerns.

After all … this isn’t a date. It’s a drink with a friend. A friend I happen to be in love with, but Devon’s not in love with me, so really not a chance of me getting my heart broken. My heart’s been in a holding pattern for, like, ten years now. It can hold out a bit longer.

Pig and Scout’s parking lot is almost completely full. Unsurprising, since it’s Saturday night. I squeeze my Audi between two pickups, and am just about to walk in the door when I get a text from Dev.

Forgot I had to get gas. Be ten late.

I text back. No prob. See you in a few.

Once inside, I head to the bar. I tell myself it’s because I don’t see any open tables, but a tiny annoying part of me knows it’s because Beefcake often tends bar on Saturday nights.

And if the second looks I’m getting in my painted-on jeans are any indication, I may stand a little chance of making him regret what he turned down on that wretched Fourth of July.

I find a spot at the corner of the bar, ignoring the old dude who stares way too obviously at my chest, and wait.

Beefcake is working all right. He’s got more stubble than usual, which, obnoxiously, works really well, and his jeans are low-slung and dark. He’s got another of those damn tight T-shirts—black this time—and I can just make out the bottom of that mysterious tattoo on his bicep.

He doesn’t see me. He does that bartender thing where he jams a glass cup into a metal shaker and then lifts both over his shoulder to shake up whatever cocktail he’s working on. The motion causes his shirt to ride up just a little, and I can make out a strip of his underwear.

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