Crushed Page 56

“My parents have been happily married for twenty-three years.”

“Good for them. I’m twenty-four today,” I snap.

Yup. This is a birthday for the books all right.

He closes his eyes for a second, then shakes his head. He’s just done the math. “Fuck!”

“Pretty much.”

His eyes are a little wild now. “Does my dad know?”

I shake my head.

“Why not?”

I lift a shoulder. “My mom was married when they met. According to her, she didn’t tell him she was pregnant. He went back to Texas; she went back to her marriage—”

“No, I mean why didn’t you tell him?” he interrupts.

For a half second, I want to tell him the truth. That I don’t think I can handle the rejection.

Instead, I settle for telling him half of the truth. “I wanted to tell you first.”

Devon lets out a derisive laugh. “Bullshit.”

“Maybe. Just thought if situations were reversed, I’d want a heads-up.”

He ignores this. “Are you going to tell him?”

I take a deep breath. “It’s the reason I came to Cedar Grove.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“I don’t know.”

Devon moves toward me then, his eyes angry and hard. “Well, let me help you out with that decision. Don’t. I’m sorry your family’s all kinds of fucked-up. And, yeah, my parents didn’t meet until three months before I was conceived. Shotgun wedding and all that, but they’re happy, St. Claire.”

I inhale long and hard through my nostrils. I’d wondered about that. Wondered if Mrs. Patterson had been in the picture at the same time as my mom.

Apparently not.

I rock back on my heels and then turn back toward the bar. “I should be getting back inside.”

“I want your word,” Devon says, his hard tone stopping me. “Leave my family alone.”

The bitterness swells in my chest. I hadn’t been expecting a hug. Hadn’t held my breath for an invitation to family dinner. But the outright rejection sucks.

I shove it aside, letting it add to the growing ball of pain that feels like it’s slowly creeping into every one of my vital organs.

I nod at Devon and turn again.

“Hey, one more thing,” he calls.

I turn.

“Did you use Chloe to get to me?”

I scoff. “Like you care.”

“She’s my friend.”

“She’s your ego boost,” I say, my voice rising over his. “She’s there when you need her, discarded when you don’t.”

His eyes darken and he approaches until he’s a foot away. “I’ll ask again. Did you use Chloe Bellamy to get to me? To my family.”

“Yes,” I say unapologetically. “Kristin, too.”

His expression turns irate. “Are you fucking kidding me? You used my girlfriend to spy on me and my family? And one of my best friends?”

I give him a derisive look. “I was right, wasn’t I? Turns out I was smart to use Kristin and Chloe. God knows you’re hot for both of them.”

When Devon Patterson’s fist collides with my jaw, I’m not even surprised.

I fucking deserve it.

Chapter 24


The Monday after the disastrous date-not-date at Pig and Scout, I stand on Michael’s front porch.

“Michael, I know you’re in there!”

I bang on the beat-up wooden door that leads down into what looks like a freaking bomb shelter.

No response.

I knock again. “I’m not leaving. You know how persistent I can be.”

The door swings open and I nearly fall in. “You’re not persistent,” he says, even before I get my balance. “If you were, you’d be able to put in more than five minutes on the treadmill.”

I recover and look him over. He looks … good.

Except for the bruising around his jaw.

I jab a finger into his chest. “You don’t get to even mention the gym to me today,” I say. “You didn’t show up.”

“I called in sick.”

“With what, bruised ego?” I ask, shoving past him.

“Come on in,” he mutters.

I take in Michael’s home. Except for a door in the corner, presumably leading to a bathroom, it’s nothing but one big room, an oversized studio apartment.

There’s a kitchen in the back left corner that’s surprisingly modern, a bed against the right-hand wall that’s unsurprisingly enormous (and unmade), and then a random smattering of other furniture that absolutely does not go together.

“Who’s your decorator?” I ask.

He heads to the kitchen and picks up a bowl and whisk. “Want any eggs?”

“Sure!” I say.

He rolls his eyes, no doubt having expected me to politely decline.

He cracks two more eggs into the bowl before whisking them with more force than is strictly necessary.

“Cheese?” he asks.

“Always,” I say, seating myself at the tiny, two-chaired kitchen table.

“So,” I say, as he puts a small pad of butter into a skillet. The personal trainer uses butter. Who knew?

“So,” he echoes.

“Sorry I was a bitch at the bar the other night,” I say, running a finger over one of the million scratches in the beat-up table.

He glances over his shoulder before turning back to the stove and dumping the eggs into the pan. “It’s fine.”

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