Crushed Page 62

I always look forward to going back to school. But this year, more so.

I need to get out of the soap opera that has been this summer.

I pull into our driveway and then curse, because I’ve forgotten to go to the grocery store. My parents are out of town for a week, which means it’s just me and Kristin. And considering Kristin thinks cucumbers count as a meal, getting real food is all on me.

My arms full of my Nordstrom bags, I awkwardly make my way through the garage and open the door to the laundry room with my hip.

I pause when I hear laughter. Kristin’s laugher, followed by the low rumble of a guy’s voice.

Oh, joy. She has another conquest.

I freeze when I get into the kitchen and see who’s sitting on the barstool next to my sister.


My eyes lock on his, and he lifts an eyebrow. “Hey, Chloe,” Kristin says, her voice full of sugar.

Save it, I want to snap.

“Hey,” I say unenthusiastically.

Her eyes take in the bags, and her nose scrunches in confusion. “You went shopping?”

I glance down at the half dozen bags in my hands in fake surprise. “What the … is that where these came from?”

I think I hear Michael snort.

She frowns at me. “You hate shopping.”

I ignore her. “What are you doing here?” The question’s directed at Beefcake.

Kristin interrupts again as she gets off her barstool. Her white shorts barely cover her butt, but it doesn’t matter. She’s tiny.

My weight loss seems much less of an achievement next to her size 2.

“I wanna see.” She’s already peering in my bags.

“Hey, you know what’s more rare than me shopping?” I snap. “You caring about what I do or what I wear.”

I jerk the bags back, and her eyes narrow before they shift from the bags to me. I’m wearing one of my old, ill-fitting outfits: flowy pants, a boxy top, and flip-flops.

I don’t know why, but ever since Kristin’s been back, I’ve kind of gone out of my way to disguise my weight loss. It’s just instinctive … like I know if and when Kristin ever starts to see me as competition, she’ll make my life miserable.

Her eyes apparently see what they want to see—dumpy, overweight Chloe—and she shrugs dismissively.

Michael sits on the barstool, looking completely bored by our little sisterly squabble. “Why are you here?” I ask again.

“Chloe!” Kristin chides. “Jeez.”

He ignores her, his eyes never leaving mine. “Hey. Friend. You want to grab dinner?”

My heart flips. Damn it. “Me?”

His eyes crinkle. “Yeah. You.”

I think I can actually hear Kristin’s jaw drop.

I smile and he smiles back. And I know what’s happening here. Michael St. Claire is apologizing.

Michael St. Claire wants to be my friend.

My heart soars.

“Let me put these bags upstairs, then I’m ready. BBQ?”

“Let’s do it,” he says, pushing back from the counter.

“Wait, you’re leaving?” Kristin asks, her voice whiny and incredulous.

Neither of us pay her any attention.

Chapter 27


I don’t know why the hell Chloe’s hiding under those terrible clothes that don’t fit her, but one thing is clear: Despite the fact that she’s a hell of a lot fitter than when we first met, she still loves food.

I’m glad.

Because the thought of Chloe changing kills me a little.

She’s one of the most real girls I know, and I’d give anything to have her stay that way, just as she is.

“God, that was good,” she mutters as we head back toward my car. “If I could eat ribs like that every day …”

I open the car door for her and she breaks off in surprise. “What is this?”

“Manners,” I mutter, gesturing her in. “Hurry up.”

She pats my chest and slides into the car. “Don’t worry, I’ll never tell.”

“Home?” I ask, starting the ignition.

She purses her lips. “What are my chances that Kristin’s asleep?”

I glance at the clock. Eight P.M. “Slim to none.”

Chloe sighs, and bonks her head back on the headrest, her curls bouncing. “You’re lucky you don’t have siblings.”

“I don’t think all siblings are like yours,” I say as I put the car in reverse.

She turns her head to look at me. “Did you finally realize that her personality’s not worth the boner?”

I laugh. “Jesus, Chloe.”

“I’m serious! When we first met, you and Kristin were doing some gross pre-mating thing. Not that she’d have acted on it.”

I look at her out of the corner of my eye.

She looks at me, aghast. “No. Did you—”

“No,” I say, interrupting her. “But at her lesson the other day, she was … forward.”

“Forward? I swear to God, Beefcake, every now and then you slip in a word that makes me think you’re a nineteenth-century butler.”

“Yeah? You like? What if I slip a British accent in there?”

Chloe fans herself. “Don’t you dare. I’ll swoon. I mean it.”

I’m smiling as I pull out into traffic. She’s good at that. Making me smile.

“If you want, we can go back to my place. Avoid the inquisition from your sister about the dirty deeds we did.”

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