Crushed Page 70

I could leave it there. Maybe I should leave it there, and just tell her that I’m running late.

But maybe all of Chloe’s annoying candor has rubbed off on me, because I suddenly am damn tired of all my secrets. I miss being the old Michael, who could run his mouth about just about anything. The one who was open and fun. The guy who people liked and who didn’t make girls fucking cry.

The one who was honest enough to tell Olivia how he felt about her.

It might have been damn wrong of me, but it was honest.

“He’s introducing me, Mom. As his son.”

“That’s … great, honey. It’s what you want?”

I stare at myself in the mirror. I almost don’t recognize myself in the gray suit. I haven’t worn anything but T-shirts and jeans or shorts in months.

I look like the old me.

Or maybe a new me.

I don’t even fucking know.

“Yeah, it’s what I want,” I say into the phone.

“Does your father know? I mean …”

“Yeah, I told Dad,” I say, saving her from the name confusion.

It’s taken some soul-searching, but I’ve decided that Mike, Sr., flaws and all, is my dad. He may be a cheating son of a bitch, but he raised me. He gave me his name. And in his sometimes selfish way, he cares about me.

He’s Dad.

And Tim is Tim.

For now.

“Well … I’m glad you’ve found what you were looking for,” she says in that Mom voice.

I look away from the mirror, then look back. Have I found what I was looking for?

It sure doesn’t feel like it.

“I’ve gotta get going, K, Mom? I’ll call you next week.”

I hope she catches the hint. I’ll call you. Next week. Not you call me tomorrow.

“Okay. I love you.”

“I love you, too,” I say.

I grab my keys from the kitchen table and head to the car. The Pattersons had offered to pick me up, but that would be just too weird. As much as Tim and Mariana had embraced me in a cautious, we want to have a relationship kind of way, I am still sort of watching my back around Devon.

The guy is friendly enough. And I know he is trying. But we aren’t brothers.

I drive the ten minutes to the club, wishing it were a longer drive, and park as far from the entrance as I can. It’s like my sense of self-preservation instinctively knows I might need a quick getaway.

Not because of the Pattersons.

Not because of the inevitable gossip that’s about to explode through the snobby Cedar Grove community.

But because I’m pretty damn sure the Bellamys will be here.

Chloe will be here.

Thinking of her makes my cock twitch, but worse … so much worse … it makes my chest hurt.

I slam the car door harder than necessary.

How the hell did this happen? How had I possibly thought that I could finally get my hands on her and then expect everything to go back to normal between us?

I know Chloe. I should have known she wouldn’t be satisfied with lighthearted banter and great sex.

She’d want it all. And Chloe Bellamy deserves it all.

Which is why I need to keep my fucking distance.

Once inside, I find the Pattersons almost at once. I kiss Mariana’s cheek. “You look lovely.”

She laughs. “Right? I know I’m supposed to complain about having to wear a gown and the heels and having to do my hair, but I love getting all fancy.”

I smile. “It suits you.”

I turn to Tim and he gives me a warm smile. “You sure you’re ready for this?”

“Are you?” I ask, half-terrified that he’ll back out.

“Absolutely.” His voice is solid. Confident.

“Where’s Devon?”

Mariana waves her clutch in exasperation. “Who knows? Probably arguing with his ex.”

“Kristin’s here?”

“Of course, dear,” she murmurs distractedly as she plucks a glass of wine off a passing tray. “Kristin’s mom is on the planning committee. The family comes every year.”

The family. Great.

“Drink?” Tim asks.

“Yes,” I say, hoping my voice doesn’t betray my relieved gratitude.

He gives me a knowing look and then orders a scotch for himself, bourbon with a splash of water for me.

The guy knows my drink. It’s … fatherly. It’s nice.

“Okay,” he says, with more calm and confidence than I feel. “Let’s do this.”

So we do.

I lose track of how many times Tim easily transitions from small talk about so-and-so’s short game to may I introduce you to my son Michael?

Here’s the thing about well-heeled rich people: Even when they’re dying to shit a brick over a juicy bit of gossip, they keep it together. They’re polite.

How nice to meet you, Michael!

Michael, all those days on the tennis court, I had no idea!

Tim, you old rascal, we had no idea you had another handsome son hiding away!

Mariana, for her part, is downright impressive. She laughs, she smiles, and it all seems genuine. I think it actually is genuine.

As Chloe pointed out, my conception was before her time, so she knows my existence is no threat to her marriage. But it speaks volumes about her class that she doesn’t feel the need to make sure other people know that.

And people are sure as hell trying to find out. The subtle ones ask if I’m still in school, and what year. The more obvious ones come right out and ask my birthday.

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