Crushed Page 52

Boxers? Briefs?

Not that I care. I totally don’t.

I’m betting boxers. No, briefs. Or maybe—

“Hey, sugar, what can I get ya?”

Belatedly I finally register that the other bartender is standing in front of me. A decent-looking guy with curly dark-blond hair and an easy smile. See, now this is the type of guy whose undergarments I should be interested in. He seems friendly. Normal.



“Gin and tonic, please.”

“You got it.” He winks.

A cute guy just winked at me. That’s new.

I run a hand over my smooth hair and glance toward the door. No sign of Devon.

A drink appears in front of me. “Thanks,” I say, reaching for it, but pausing when I see it’s not adorned with the usual citrus garnish.

Instead of a lime, there are three cherries.

Slowly, I lift my eyes.

“Hey, Michael.”

He is so not happy to see me. Which doesn’t make sense. I mean, I just saw him two days ago at the gym, although admittedly our personal training sessions have been a little … strained since the whole kissing episode.

Mistake. The kissing mistake.

“What are you doing here?”

I lift my glass in a cheers motion. “Such a friendly neighborhood bar this is.”

“You meeting your friends again?”

“I am.” I take a sip of the drink.

I don’t bother to specify that it’s only one friend. His half brother, to be precise.

Michael’s hands are on the bar, his arms spread wide as his dark gaze drifts over me, although instead of lingering on my cleavage like most guys, he seems more preoccupied by my hair.

“You look different,” he says, finally.

I roll my eyes. It’s not like I was expecting a compliment. Not from him. But I might have been wanting one. Just a little. Also, what’s with the surprised routine? This whole fitness thing was his stupid idea.

“And you look tired,” I snap.

Which he does. There are circles under his eyes, and I don’t think the extra stubble I noticed earlier is an intentional change. I think it’s an I forgot or didn’t have time to shave thing.

He pushes back from the bar. “Good seeing you, Chlo.”

“Thanks for the drink!” I call sweetly.

I don’t get it with that guy. Sometimes I get the feeling that he wants to tell me something. That he wants to talk. That he wants to be my friend.

And other times …


I spin around on my barstool. “Devon! Hey!”

“Sorry I’m late,” he says, scanning the bar.

“No worries. Do you want to try and grab a table, or—”

“Nah, there’s nothing open. We can hang here.”

There aren’t two spots open together at the bar, so Devon slides in between me and the creepy old man, turning his body to face me as he leans against the bar.

Only then does he give me his full attention, and that’s when I realize that every bit of soreness I’ll have in my arms tomorrow from the epic exercise that is Straightening Chloe’s Hair will be worth it.

Because then Devon sees me.

And he looks stunned. And maybe a little admiring?

“You look great.”

I smile. “Well, that’s better than different, which is what I got from our charming bartender.”

As if on cue, Michael turns toward us and does a double take. I see him whisper something to the blond bartender, and the other guy gives a whatever shrug.

I have a good feeling that Beefcake had every intention of letting the other guy take over my tab, but he’s changed his mind now that he’s seen Devon.

For a half second, I feel sorry for Beefcake. It has to be weird seeing your half brother who has no idea you even exist.

But my sympathy fades. The only reason Devon doesn’t know the truth is because Michael St. Claire is all talk, no action.

He pours a couple beers for a group of rowdy dudes before making his way toward us.

“What are you drinking?” Beefcake asks Devon, his voice curt.

“Hey!” Devon says, leaning across the bar to shake Michael’s hand. “I forgot you worked here as well as the club.”


I have the urge to kick Michael. He’s not going to make progress on the brotherly bonding that way.

Devon, thankfully, seems oblivious to Michael’s rudeness. His gaze drops to my drink. “I’ll have what she’s having, minus the cherries.”

Devon smiles. Michael doesn’t smile back. I sigh.

Michael’s back in moments with Devon’s drink, but to my surprise—and annoyance—he doesn’t move away.

“You guys meeting friends?” Michael asks.

“Nah, it’s just us tonight,” Devon says, giving me a little smile.

I smile back, and very deliberately do not look to see if Michael is paying attention, but out of the corner of my eye, I see Michael move away.

Probably in disgust.

Or indifference.

Devon’s attention returns to my different than usual appearance, and because he’s a gentleman, his eyes linger only the tiniest bit on my boobs.

Most of his attention is on my hair, which, I can tell, is hurting his brain. He’s a guy, and in my experience, guys really do not understand the magic that can be worked with heat styling. Straight hair can become curly, curly hair can become straight, and if the humidity’s not too high, and if you spend a gazillion dollars on the right product, and if the gods are favoring you, you just might be able to make frizzy hair smooth.

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