Crushed Page 57

I smile. “Just like that? We made up?”

He shrugs. “So you were a pain in the ass. I’m used to it.”

I smile and go to his fridge. I pull out some orange juice. “Can I have some?”

“Sure. Check the date.”

I do, and it’s fine, so I pour myself a glass. I pour him one, too, even though he didn’t ask.

I hold it out to him, and he glances down at it for several seconds before taking it. His fingers brush mine, but I refuse to be titillated.

“So how’d things go with Carly?” he asks.

I take a sip of the juice. “Oh, you mean the Jillian Michaels wannabe who you got to cover for you?”


“She’s scary,” I say.

He glances over at me, his eyes raking up and down my body. Again, I refuse to be titillated. It’s getting harder.

“You don’t look like she worked you all that hard,” he observes.

“She didn’t work me at all.” I take another sip of juice. “She told me you’d called in sick, and I told her I had lady cramps and had to go.”

He grunts. “And I’m sure she told you that exercise can help with that.”

“She did. And I told her that Midol worked better.”

He shakes his head.

“And actually, it’s not even my lady-flow time,” I say, ignoring his wince. “But no way was I going to sweat in front of that overly toned monster.”

“Carly’s a good trainer,” he says, picking up a block of cheese and grating a little into the egg mixture.

“We had a deal, Beefcake.”

He runs a spatula through the eggs and ignores me.

“Devon called me last night,” I say, watching his profile.

“Yeah? He propose marriage?”

My eyes lock on the bruising around his chin. “He told me what happened.”

Michael says nothing, letting the eggs cook a bit more before flicking off the burner, pulling down two plates, and unceremoniously dumping the eggs onto them.

He shoves one of the plates at me and then picks up some salt and pepper shakers with his free hand. “Grab a couple paper towels, would you? Sorry, no linen napkins.”

I do as he says, then join him at the table. I notice that he puts his paper towel in his lap as he shakes pepper onto his eggs. It’s weird to know that such pretty manners lie beneath the angry, tough-guy persona.


“Don’t, Chloe,” he says, his voice lacking heat. “I never should have told you about my family shit in the first place. And I appreciate that you were there for me on the Fourth, but I’m putting it behind me.”

I take a tentative bite of eggs. They’re good. I take a bigger bite. “What do you mean, putting it behind you? It’s your family. You don’t get to just walk away.”

His brown eyes lift to mine, and my heart tears a little at the forced emptiness I see there. “The Pattersons are not my family.”

I fiddle with my fork. “So you’re going to go back to New York then? Be a St. Claire?”


I sigh. “Meaning …?”

He takes a sip of my orange juice since he left his own glass over by the stove. “Meaning, Mike St. Claire, Sr., is an asshole. My mother is weak and a liar. Tim Patterson doesn’t know I exist. And the only thing your precious Devon had to say about it all was a right hook.”

“Well, that’s kind of brotherly, right?” I say, trying to make him smile. “Aren’t punches a way of male bonding?”

He glares.

I tilt my head. “What did you say to piss him off, anyway?”

He goes back to his eggs. “What did he tell you?”

I take another bite of my eggs. Chew. Add some salt and pepper. “He told me to stay away from you.”

His arm pauses, although he doesn’t look up. “And yet here you are.”

“And yet here I am,” I say, leaning back in my chair to study him.


The word is meant to sting, but I don’t let it, because here’s the weird thing: I’m starting to know this guy. I don’t know if it’s as a friend, or as the girl who begged him to take her like he was a common prostitute, but it’s like I get him. And instinct tells me he shouldn’t be alone. Doesn’t want to be alone. Not really.

I finish my eggs and then reach for his empty plate and stand up.

“You don’t have to clean.”

I ignore him again, moving to the sink and rinsing both plates before putting them and our forks in the dishwasher. I turn around, hips to the counter as I cross my arms and study him. “You quitting your job at the country club?”


“So this is really just a ‘sick’ day?” I put the word in air quotes.

He puts his elbows on the table and plows his fingers through his hair. “I just … I couldn’t today, okay? I’ll be there Wednesday. And Friday. And every day until my contract’s up at the end of the summer.”

“Then what?”

He doesn’t lift his head. “Dunno.”

“Gosh, that’s brave of you.”

This time he shoots me a look over his shoulder. An angry one. “Says the girl who’s taking the really brave route of going to finish her fourth year at a cushy college? You’re not exactly living on the edge.”

“Hey!” I point a warning finger at him. “I know what I want, and I’m going after it. You don’t even have the courage to think about what you want.”

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