Crushed Page 71

But even that’s okay. I have nothing to hide.

Or rather … I don’t want to hide anything.

Slowly, I feel months of anxiety sliding away. Maybe Mom was right. Maybe tonight will provide some closure.

The only trouble is, there’s a whole other area of my life that’s gaping wide open.

And I have yet to see her.

The entire time I’ve shaken hands, complimented appearances, and sidestepped questions about my future, I’ve kept an eye out for a curly head and bombshell curves.

Curves that I just barely had a chance to explore before I fucked it all up.

But so far, no sign of Chloe.

I wonder if Devon told her that I’d be here, and if she’d bailed.

But that doesn’t sound like Chloe. She’s all fire and courage, not passive cowardice.

Then the crowd shifts, Tim and Mariana excuse themselves to grab another round of drinks, and …

I see her.

And it’s no wonder it’s taken me so long.

I’ve been looking for her wild, gorgeous hair.

Tonight it is pin straight and pulled back into a tidy, gleaming knot at the back of her head.

I clench my fingers around my glass. This isn’t her. This isn’t my Chloe.

Not that I have a right to any Chloe. But I want to. Badly.

And just as I’m wondering if maybe I still have a chance to be her friend, I see it. The hand that briefly touches her back as a tall head bends down and whispers something in her ear. She laughs.

This isn’t my Chloe at all.

This is Devon’s Chloe.

And even though it hurts, I stand there like a fool and take in the sight of her.

I hate the hair. It represents everything Chloe isn’t.

But even without her hair the way I like it, I have to admit, she’s stunning. And it’s not just because I know what’s under her dress that I can’t stop staring.

The dress is killer. The dark blue fabric hugs her flawless figure all the way from her knees up to her breasts, which are full and perfectly displayed for Devon, who, I’m noticing, is definitely not unaware.

She hasn’t seen me yet. Or if she has, she’s refusing to look my way. I take another sip of my drink, taking in the rest of her. The high, sexy heels of her sandals. The pink mouth. The sultry eyes.

Some other jackass who looks vaguely familiar appears at her other side, offering a glass of wine that she accepts with a smile. She laughs at something he says, and I notice that Devon frowns before moving closer to Chloe.

Again his hand touches her waist.

What the fuck?

A flash of red appears out of nowhere, and I tear my eyes away from Chloe and her suitors to take in Kristin. Her red dress is skin tight, barely covering her crotch, her hair piled up into one of those messy up-styles that girls think look careless but actually look ridiculously manufactured. Just like Kristin.

She says something to the newcomer guy, but he doesn’t hear her. I see her frown before regaining her smile. She touches his arm.

This time he does look down, and I can actually see her posing to better display her wares.

He shakes his head at something she says, before turning back to Chloe.

In spite of my shitty mood, I almost laugh at the expression on Kristin’s face. The poor girl doesn’t know what’s going on.

She can’t know that next to Chloe’s genuine kindness, her sickly sweet manners are painfully phony. She can’t realize that next to Chloe’s womanly body, hers looks like a bony twig. She doesn’t understand that while a tight dress might get a guy to take a second look, it’s personality that will hold his interest for the long haul.

Someone should have told Chloe that long ago.

I should have told her. Because I knew it back when she sat running her mouth that first day on the tennis court. Her energy had pulled me in. And, like a fool, I let myself think it could be fleeting. Temporary.

I toss back the rest of my drink and make my way toward the exit, even though a part of me is itching to throw myself into the ring. To fight for the attention of the most gorgeous girl in the room.

Instead, I walk away.

This confident, put-together Chloe Bellamy can have any guy she wants, and I know how this story turns out.

She sure as hell’s not going to choose me.

Chapter 30


I always thought this moment would feel better.

Because, although it’s probably crass to admit it, I know what’s going on here.

With the help of a killer dress, the right hair products, an hour’s worth of makeup application, and the world’s most uncomfortable shoes, I am officially transformed.

I am a different Chloe.

For the first time in my life, I am the pretty one, and I know it.

And Devon’s noticed.

“Hey, want to grab some air?” he asks, bending down toward my ear.

I’m tempted to laugh and tell him that that’s the oldest line in the book. That I’ve read enough romance novels to know that he (a) wants to get me alone, and (b) wants to get me away from C. J. Tollefson, who I’m pretty sure is trying to get me drunk.

But when you’ve dreamed of a moment for this long, it’s not the time for jokes. So instead I smile. “Sure. That sounds great.”

He leads me outside, and I don’t miss the death glare from Kristin and her group of catty tennis friends.

I should probably feel guilty. This is her ex.

But you know what? He was my Devon first.

And I’m pretty darn sure Kristin knew that when she went after him.

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