Crushed Page 6

“You’d be surprised. It’s not always about looks.”

I give him an oh, come on look over my shoulder before I start to head in the direction of the clubhouse.

It’s always about looks. Only gorgeous people say that it isn’t.

There’s a comfy chair by the fireplace that has my name all over it. Nobody even notices that corner of the clubhouse during the summer, when it’s all about the pool and the patio. It’s is the perfect place to hide from the world.

And by world, I mean my sister, mother, and father, who like to coax me into things like family rounds of golf when Kristin and I are home for the summer.

“You’re not even going to try?” Beefcake’s voice stops me before I can retreat to my reading cave.

I stamp down a surge of irritation and turn to face him. “Try what?”

“To get the guy.”

“Listen, Beefcake,” I say, with an exaggerated sigh. “I appreciate you trying to help the little fat girl, but quit messing with me, okay? You’ve assessed the situation for about sixteen seconds. I’ve been assessing it for sixteen years. And guys like that do not fall for girls like this.” I gesture down at myself.

“It’s not about looks,” he repeats.

“Okay, don’t start that delusion again.”

“It’s about confidence.” He comes to stand in front of me. “You act like you’ve got tons of it with the smart-ass routine, but inside you’re terrified.”

I feel a little tingle of nervousness rush down my spine.

“I’m fine with how I am,” I snap.

“I’m sure you are. But you’re what, twenty?”


He shifts the bag. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re too young not to be fit.”

Hurt rolls over me. I know I’m not thin, but it stings, and I start to give him a piece of my mind.

But before I can lay into him, a big hand closes over my mouth, our eyes locking as he physically stifles my retort. “Note, I didn’t say thin or skinny. I said fit. Healthy. It’s not what’s on the scale; it’s about what’s up here. It’s about getting in control of your life.”

He sets his index finger to my temple briefly before letting his arm drop, and I feel oddly out of breath, although I don’t know if it’s because I’m outraged at him for so brazenly crossing the lines of appropriateness or because it’s been a long, long time since someone’s touched me.

It annoys me that I’m not immune to his calculated man-whore routine.

But what bugs me even more is that he knows. He knows what I’ve never told anyone.

That I don’t feel in control of my own life.

“Back off, Yoda,” I say.

He shrugs and turns away, and then damn me and my always-yapping mouth, because the words are out of my mouth before I can stop them:

“Hypothetically, if I wanted your advice …”

He turns back, and he’s unsmiling but I don’t miss the little surge of victory in his eyes.


I’ll let him have his triumph if he can help me find this confidence he speaks of.

Most of the time, I like me just the way I am.

I’m proud of the fact that I’m smart and funny and stand up for what I believe in. But I wouldn’t mind finding an outlet for stress and heartache other than chocolate. Just for those emergency situations, ya know? Those moments you realize that the rest of the world doesn’t prize the good qualities the way your heart tells you they’re supposed to?

“What are you doing weekdays at seven?” he asks.

“Um, usually dinner with the family?”

Beefcake’s eyes roll to the sky. “Seven A.M.”

“Ohhh. Well, in that case I’m generally at spinning class, unless Pilates has run late,” I deadpan.

He stares at me in silence until I relent. “Okay, fine, I’m sleeping.”

“Not anymore you’re not. Tomorrow we meet at the fitness center here.”

I stare at him, and he stares back, and then damn it, he breaks out into a smile, a real smile, then a laugh.

“God, you should see the look of disgust on your face right now,” he says.

“Trust me, it comes straight from the heart,” I mutter.

“Give me one week, Chloe. It’s a prime spot on the personal trainer’s schedule, but I’ll keep it open for you.”


His smile slips, then fades altogether.

He never does answer me, but by the time I finally get around to curling up with my book ten minutes later, one thing is very clear to me: Michael St. Claire might be helping me, but his motives are off.

He’s doing it for him.

I just don’t know why.

Chapter 3


Back in New York, there are people that seriously hate my fucking guts.

I have no doubt they’re talking some serious shit behind my back.

But who needs them?

Because I have Chloe Bellamy telling me to my face that I’m no good.

“You know what this is?” she says between pants. “It’s athletic elitism. You naturally sporty types dangle this carrot of health in front of the rest of us, and we figure if we want to live past thirty-two we’d better play along, but it’s all a trick.” Pant pant. “You really want to watch us flounder while pushing us to sprint.”

I glance down at the controls of the treadmill: 4.2 mph. Four minutes have gone by. “Chloe, this is the warm-up.”

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