Crushed Page 75

I watch as she draws herself up, wiping her tears way, straightening her shoulders. “I love you, Michael St. Claire. But this is a onetime offer. I’m done waiting for some guy to pull his head out of his ass. If you let me walk away, I will move on.”

My breath feels shallow now, my hands a little shaky.

But I do the only thing I can do. I stand silently.

I watch the light fade from her eyes.

And then I watch her walk away.

I watch until she goes back into the clubhouse. Back to her people. Back to Devon. Back to her life.

Numbly I open my car door and drop into the driver’s seat, staring blindly as I shut the door.

My eyes burn. “Jesus.” I swallow. “Goddamnit.”

I dig the heels of my hands into my eyes.

Letting her go was supposed to make it better. It was supposed to stave off the pain I’d felt when Olivia rejected me.

But I’ve never felt pain like this before.

Not ever.

I drop my head to the steering wheel.

I’ve never felt so alone in my life, and that’s saying something for a guy that’s been intentionally isolating himself for the past year.

I want Chloe. I want Chloe to hold me the way she did when I first met Tim Patterson. I want her to nod and make jokes the way she always does when she knows I need the mood lightened.

I want her to call me on my bullshit, to shine light where I’ve been an idiot….

I slowly lift my head.

Chloe’s words float back to me. Words from that day she found the picture in my nightstand drawer.

You’re in control of your own life, Michael. You get to decide.

She’s right. She’s so damn right.

Maybe I don’t have to be alone.

Then I pull out my phone and make the hardest call of my life.

Chapter 32


My parents are pretty chill, as far as parents go. I’ve never seen them lose their shit.

But then …

Then they found out that sister dearest kind of sort of tampered with our mail at the start of summer and made our report cards from Davis “disappear.”

And … eek. Nobody noticed. Not until now.

For a couple weeks in June, I checked the mailbox every day, dying to know what Professor Aden thought of my final paper on FDR’s economic policies.

But it never came, and I guess I figured that things were just taking longer than usual, and then … I forgot.


But, I mean, I was sort of busy this summer, with life, and oh, who are we kidding? When best case is an A– and worst case is a B+ it’s hard to care that much, ya know? It’s not like it’s expulsion-or valedictorian-type stakes here.

But … my parents forgot, too.

And, honestly, they shouldn’t have.

Because they’re parents and they’re supposed to care about things like the fact that their pretty eldest daughter is entering a fifth year of school for absolutely no good reason and that her last semester may or may not have been so bad that she had to freaking steal her report card from the mailbox.

But it wasn’t them who noticed. It was me.

It took me up until last week when I started to think about school to realize they’d never come. I called the administration office. They’d said they’d resend.

And, um, let’s just say that today was judgment day.

I can’t tell what my parents are more pissed about: the fact that Kristin had two Ds, a C–, and an F or the fact that she tried to hide the evidence.

It’s a toss-up which one makes them scream louder.

I almost feel sorry for her.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m pissed at Kristin, too. She was smart enough to realize that one of our report cards going missing would have been more suspicious, so she took both.

But considering I’ve been listening to the echoing booms of my dad’s voice for about forty minutes now …

Yeah, I feel a little bad.

Even if she deserves it.

Oh, and for the record, I got a B+ average. C’est la vie.

And in case anyone’s wondering: Yes. Yes, I am prattling on about my report card and my witchy sister because it prevents me from having to think about him.

There’s a knock at my bedroom door.

“Come in.”

Kristin’s standing there, and for the first time in a really long time, she looks … awful. She’s tiny, as always, in itty-bitty shorts and a red tank, but her hair looks limp, her nose is red, her eyes are swollen.

I hug her.

Her return hug is weak, but ya know … baby steps.

She comes in and sits on my bed, wiggling in between my huge suitcase and an oversized duffel. “You’re all packed,” she says with a little laugh. “Figures.”

I shrug. I don’t tell her that I started packing three days ago in a desperate attempt to keep myself from remembering that I’d been brutally rejected in a parking lot.

“You want help with your stuff?” I ask.

Kristin’s notoriously a last-minute kind of girl. And I could use the distraction.

She sniffles, pressing the back of her hand to her nose and mouth for a second, her eyes on the floor. “I’m not going.”

“What do you mean you’re not going?” I move my duffel to the ground and sit beside her.

Another snotty snuffle. “Mom and Dad are really pissed.”

Well … yeah. But still, this is major. “They’re not letting you finish?”

“They said I’ve had my chance. And that they’re not paying for another year’s tuition when it’s ‘obvious’ I don’t care about school.”

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