Crushed Page 78

For a moment, I don’t move. I can’t move.

And then I do. I don’t care that it’s not the manliest thing in the world.

I hug my best friend. I mean, it’s one of those back-thumping, man-hug affairs.

Which he returns.

“Ethan fucking Price. What the hell are you doing here?”

He smiles that old familiar golden-boy smile. “You sounded like shit on the phone a few weeks ago.”

I motion him in. “So you fly from New York to Dallas and hunt me down at my apartment like a motherfucking stalker?”

“I did. Actually. We did.”

A tiny brunette appears at his side. She’s wearing a black leather dress with girly platform sandals. Her dark hair is a bunch of feminine curls, but her dark eye makeup is tough as nails.

She’s … an enigma. A cute one.

She sticks out a hand. “Stephanie Kendrick. You must be Mikey?”

“Mikey?” I mutter as she moves past me. Nobody’s called me Mikey … ever.

I knew that Ethan was seeing a new girl, but this girl is not what I would have expected.

Ethan clamps me on the shoulder before following Stephanie into my apartment, but before I close the door I realize that when Ethan decided to swoop in, he brought the whole damn cavalry.


Olivia Middleton is exactly like I remember her. Tall. Slim. Perfectly put together in black pants and a white sleeveless turtleneck. There are pearls in her ears, her hair swept into a low ponytail, her face as beautiful as it is in my dreams.

No. Was in my dreams. I don’t have dreams about her anymore. The new star of my dreams is curvy, curly, and no longer a part of my life.

I push the painful thought aside.

“Hey, Michael.” Olivia looks nervous. I don’t blame her. The last time we saw each other, I professed my undying love, and she, well … didn’t.

I wait for the old gut-searing pain at seeing her. I wait for the sharp stab of want, the tormented longing.

It never comes.

I’m glad to see her. Damn glad to see her. But I don’t … want her. I don’t love her. Not like that. Not anymore.

I open my arms and she comes into them, her hug warm and friendly and everything I’ve missed.

I’ve missed her. I’ve missed them.

“Hi,” she says into my neck.

I put my hand on her hair. “Hi.”

Then I see him.




I release Olivia immediately.

She turns around, and the smile she gives this guy is, well, let’s just say that once I would have given anything to have that sort of smile directed my way.

Now, however, I’m more concerned that the big guy looks ready to kill me.

“Michael, you remember Paul.”

“Yeah.” I clear my throat. “Great memories of this guy.”

His lips twitch just the slightest bit, calling attention to his asymmetrical face. One side looks like a Hollywood action poster. The other has three pissed-off-looking scars.

He steps into the apartment, and after checking to make sure that this is the last of my surprise visitors, I shut the door. He surprises me by sticking out a hand. “I don’t think I ever said sorry about the way I set you up when we first met.”

I ignore the hand. “You mean when you stole Liv’s phone, texted me pretending to be her, and tricked me into going to motherfucking Maine to make a fool of myself?”

He withdraws his offered hand, instead rubbing it over his dark blond buzz cut with a sigh. “Yup. That’d be the time.”

I study the guy. Study the way Olivia moves to his side and looks at his face longer than necessary. Like she can’t get enough of him.

I sigh. “Whatever. Water under the bridge, whatever.”

“Great!” comes up a droll voice from behind me. “But forget about the water. How about booze?”

Ethan’s girlfriend begins unloading a grocery bag I hadn’t realized she was carrying. Vodka, white wine, bourbon, and scotch.

I move to the kitchen to get glasses. With this group all in the same room, we’re going to need every last drop of what she’s brought.

But then something weird happens. Just as I’m trying to figure out how to ease the awkwardness in the room, I realize it’s not awkward. The four of them are chatting like the best of friends, which makes absolutely no fucking sense. Olivia is raiding my pantry, pulling out a bag of chips. Paul is checking out Olivia’s ass, even as he and Ethan discuss the game that’s still on in the background. Ethan has an arm on his girlfriend’s butt, even as said girlfriend is hollering at Olivia to “search for chocolate.”

I rub my eyes, and Stephanie catches it.

“Weird, right?” she asks, her white teeth beaming at me. “All of us being besties?”

“Don’t make it weird, Steph,” Olivia says, searching for a bowl to put the chips in. That’s so Olivia. No eating out of the bag for her.

“Shut it, you,” Stephanie says, heading to the freezer for ice. “You don’t get to chime in here.”

“Why not?” Liv asks, eating a potato chip.

“Because you’ve made out with every hot guy in this room. It’s damn unfair. So I get to do the talking.”

“Oh my God,” I mutter, all but diving for the whiskey.

Olivia looks unperturbed. Ethan and Paul are still chatting like old friends.



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