Crushed Page 69

My eyes water immediately.

He sees it and tilts his head back as though in agony. “Fuck!”

“Phone, please,” I say. I hate that my voice is small.

He keeps his eyes closed for several moments, and when they finally open they’re calm but completely devoid of emotion.

“Listen, because I’m going to say this once,” he says, his voice more gravelly than I’ve ever heard it. “The guy in the picture is named Ethan Price. He was my best friend since before I even had memories. The girl in the picture is Olivia Middleton. Another best friend. Former. She was Ethan’s girlfriend. Also former.”

I lick my lips, bracing for what I know isn’t a happy ending for this trio.

“You want to know why it’s all past tense with us?” he continues in a flat voice. “I broke the ultimate guy code, and fell in love with my best friend’s girlfriend. For years. And then, because the feelings alone weren’t enough of a betrayal, I had to go and act on it. I made a move on Olivia. I got rejected, but not before Ethan walked in on us.”

I reach out a hand to him, my heart twisting, but he takes a step back.

“You following this juicy saga, Chloe? In the span of thirty seconds I lost two best friends and broke up a relationship.”


“Wait, that’s not the end,” he says with a harsh laugh. “Olivia and Ethan ended, and I hated myself for it, but I still couldn’t quit the girl. I followed her to motherfucking Maine, thinking that, despite our fucked-up history, I might finally have a chance.”

He stares at some place over my shoulder, his top lip coming out to touch his bottom lip, lost in the memory. His eyes come back to mine, and I brace for the finale.

“For ten years, I watched the girl I loved love someone else. My best friend. And when she finally stopped loving him, I gave her time. Gave her time to heal so that she could love again.”

His laugh is harsh. “And she did fall in love again, Chloe. Hard. But not with me.”

Michael leans in, his eyes cold and dark. “Nobody ever falls in love with me.”

I bite my bottom lip hard enough to sting to stop myself from saying something I’ll regret. Something we’ll both regret.

Something I’m not even positive is true, even as I’m terrified that it is.

So instead of confessing the feelings that threaten to choke me, I ask one last question. I have to know.

“Your tattoo. It’s an O, isn’t it? O, for Olivia.”

“Don’t romanticize it, Chloe. It’s not an homage to a past love.”

“Then what is it?”

His eyes lock on mine. “It’s a reminder. To never feel that way again. Now get your shit. I’ll drive you home.”

Chapter 29


It’s impressive, really.

The way that Chloe and I managed to “mend” our friendship over ribs and cornbread only to blow it up, douse it with gasoline, and light it on fire less than two hours later.

I haven’t heard from her since I dropped her off at her house after fucking her brains out. After telling her my whole shitty story.

It’s been days since she slammed the car door and didn’t look back.

Actually, I don’t know if she looked back. I was already out of the driveway before she made it to the front door.

I know.

I am a total dick.

That’s not even the worst part.

The worst part is that I’ve been checking my phone (a replacement for the one that collided with my wall) nonstop. I don’t even know what’s going on.

We seem to go from just fine to radio silence more often than a friendship should.

Probably because Chloe’s not just a friend.

Not anymore. Not after I sank into her warm, soft body like she was my only chance at salvation.


I’m not sure Chloe and I were ever just friends. The way we came together like that, wordlessly, perfectly …

That hadn’t been a spur-of-the-moment sexual itch.

It had been something … important. Something I can’t deal with. Won’t deal with.

My phone vibrates on the dresser, and I leap for it, bracing for the possibility that it won’t be Chloe.

It’s not.

I groan, contemplate ignoring it. Then: “Hey, Mom.”


She says my name in breathy relief, and the guilt gnaws at me. I’ve only just started taking her calls in the past week, and every time she hears my voice, it’s the same choked-up emotion.

“What’s up?” I ask. Things are still strained between us, but I try to pretend they’re not. So does she.

“Oh, not much. Just getting ready to go to a movie with some friends.”


She’s been doing a lot of that lately. Guess she has to do something now that my dad’s moved out of the house.

“What are you up to?” she asks.

If this keeps up we will have to move on to the weather.

I glance at the cracked floor-length mirror that a former tenant hung on the back of the wardrobe door. I straighten my tie. “There’s a party thing at the club. End of summer gala bullshit.”

“Oh! How fun! They let employees go?”

For a sec, I want to lie to her. I almost do. Just like she lied to me. But the very thought feels petty and sour, so I tell her the truth. “Actually, I’m going with the Pattersons. As their guest.”

I can actually hear her smile. “Oh. That’s nice of them.”

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