Crushed Page 77

“Um, it was like a month ago, so yeah.”

“Well … I know I did it to ‘get away,’ or whatever, and I thought I only needed a couple weeks. But now I’m kind of wondering if I shouldn’t get away for real. Like … move somewhere.”

I lift my eyebrows. “I thought you were a Texas lifer.”

She shrugs. “I thought so, too. But that vision always included Devon and a big house and a fancy college degree. That’s gone belly-up. Maybe it’s time to change the vision altogether, you know? Try a new city. New friends. New Kristin.”

I think about this. I admit, despite the fact that I’ve always wanted “bigger” for myself than to plop home in Cedar Grove and start popping out babies before the ink dried on my diploma, I’d never considered Kristin doing anything other than that.

So I’m surprised. And also proud.

“Do it,” I say, nodding. “Absolutely do it. Go to Seattle or Denver or New York or Miami. Go live.”

“Yeah,” she says, biting her lip. “I think I will.”

We both fall silent, lost in our own thoughts.

“Well, anyway,” she says after a while, tearing at the tissue in her hand. “Sorry things didn’t work out with you and Michael. I guess he was only here to fuck with Devon’s life. Did he tell you that Tim was his dad?”

“Yeah. I knew.”

She shakes her head. “That’s crazy. I didn’t know stuff like that happened in real life. Can you imagine spending your entire life thinking your parents were your parents, and then learning they’d lied to you?”

“It would suck, for sure.”

She stands. “Totally. Guess that’s why he was always so withdrawn all the time.”

Sure. One itty-bitty tiny part of the puzzle maybe.

Because while I feel bad for Michael, I’m fresh out of oh-the-poor-guy sentiments.

I lost all of that right about the time he told me that he couldn’t love me.

In hindsight, I should have carried a knife out to that parking lot. He could have just stabbed my heart and made the whole thing a hell of a lot less painful.

“You gonna be okay?” I ask as she heads for the door.

She gives me a bold smile “Absolutely.”

“I leave early tomorrow,” I say. “Should I wake you up?”

She snorts. “Don’t even think about it.”

Then she sighs, turns back, and holds open her arms. “Hug.” It’s a command.

“Gosh, when you put it like that …”

But I hug her anyway, loving her, despite her prevalent wretchedness. She’ll grow out of it. I think.

She leaves, but before she closes the door all the way, she sticks her head back in. “Hey. You should totally find a boyfriend this year, K? One you actually like.”

“Yeah, about that …” I drop the tissue back on my dresser. “I find them just fine. Getting them to want me back is the problem.”

She winks, and it looks horrid with her puffy red eyes. “Then quit picking the idiots.”

Kristin shuts the door.

“You hear that, heart?” I mutter. “Quit picking the idiots.”

My stupid heart has only one response.


Chapter 33



The best part about my new job?

No godforsaken Cambridge polo shirt.

The second best part?

No longer living in a one-room basement apartment in no-nightlife Cedar Grove.

Not that my new apartment is a penthouse or anything. But it’s on the eleventh floor of a sleek downtown apartment building, and my bedroom has actual walls.

Oh, and the job?

Working for Tim Patterson.

The job Devon was meant to take before he went off to law school.

I’m well aware that I was Tim’s backup option, and for once, I’m just fine with that.

Because I actually like this job. I love it, actually. It feels good to put my finance degree to good use, not just because I feel like I should do something with it, but because honestly?

I’ve always pictured myself as the guy in the suit who knows numbers.

It took me a while to get here, but … I’ve arrived.

And it feels damn good.

And if I’m lonely as fuck? Well, that doesn’t feel good. But it feels safe, and that’s enough.

Or at least it’s enough during the day.

At night, when I’m home alone, longing for long curly hair and sumptuous curves? Not as much.

But I’m getting by.

I’m three weeks into life without Chloe Bellamy, and I’m getting by just fine.

Sort of.

I drop my keys and briefcase by the front door, loosening my tie as I head to the fridge and pull out a beer.

It’s seven o’clock on Thursday, and the first night all week I haven’t had work-related dinner or drinks.

I tell myself I relish the free time.

The truth? The solitude fucking sucks.

I flip on the TV. The Yankees are in town playing the Rangers, so that’s something, I guess.

I’ve just pulled off the tie, dropping it to the back of the couch, when there’s a knock at the door.

I frown. Half the point of living in a fancy building is the doorman, who prevents drop-in surprises like this.

I think about ignoring it. But the knock comes again. Louder.

“Shit,” I mutter, setting the beer on the table.

I open the door and promptly feel all the oxygen sucked out of the room.

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