Crushed Page 84

“Because you like the tight jeans and boots? Or because that’s where your job is?”

“Because that’s where my girlfriend is,” he says, eyes smiling down into mine.

I wiggle closer. “I like the sound of that.”

“Don’t get too attached,” he says, giving me a melting kiss. “I have every intention of upgrading you some day.”

For one perfect moment, I don’t think I can get any happier.

And then Michael takes my hand and leads me into the bedroom, and proves me wrong.

Duckling … swan … who cares.

With the right guy, it’s all happily ever after.



The knock at the bathroom door is impatient. “Chloe. Would you hurry up? What’s the point of going on a beach vacation if you don’t come out of the bathroom until after the sun sets?”

I roll my eyes at Michael’s melodrama, still smearing sunscreen on my face as I open the door.

“You know,” I say, “Had I known you were such a cranky traveler, I would have nipped this Cabo San Lucas vacation idea in the bud.”

He has both hands braced on the doorframe of the bathroom. “Really? You would have?”

I purse my lips and nod. “Definitely.”

Michael lifts an eyebrow. “Mm-hmm. So you’re not enjoying this oceanfront suite with its king-size bed and room service? Not digging the daily champagne? Because by all means, we can head back to the real world….”

“Okay, okay, I suppose I can tolerate it for another day or two,” I say in a mock-martyred tone.

Although, as amazingly wonderful as our spontaneous getaway has been, the truth is: Our real life isn’t so bad, either.

Correction: Our real life is amazing.

Two weeks ago I graduated from Davis. Summa cum laude, natch. And my boyfriend, yes, boyfriend, had planned this as a congratulatory vacation before I start my first “real job” as a data analyst at a Dallas biotech company. I know, I know. It doesn’t sound sexy, but trust me. It’s my dream job.

Michael still works for Tim Patterson, and just recently got promoted to Manager of Something-Something-I-Never-Remember, but he’s happy, and that’s all I care about.

Did I mention we’re living together?

My parents weren’t exactly thrilled about their baby girl living in sin, but they have bigger things to worry about. Say, like the fact that Kristin is four months pregnant with the child of a thirtysomething banker from Toledo who has a slight paunch, a receding hairline, and an absolute freaking heart of gold.

I know. Right? But here’s the funny thing. Kristin’s happy. Super happy. So’s Doug. They’re getting married next month, and Kristin says I get to be maid of honor so long as I make sure Daddy doesn’t actually bring a shotgun to the wedding. Her expectations are high, but I like to think I’m up to the challenge.

In other news, Devon, Michael, and I somehow survived the mother of all awkward Thanksgivings, when Dev came home from law school last year and we all passed mashed potatoes around the table and pretended that the situation wasn’t super weird. But for the most part, things are okay between me and Dev, and the two guys have quickly mastered the bickering part of being brothers, if not exactly the loving/supportive part.

Beefcake went back to New York for Christmas. He made amends with his parents, although his parents have so not made amends with each other. Their divorce is a messy one, which kind of pisses me off, because, really, they did enough damage to their son when they were together, the least they could do is break up peacefully. But, whatever. He seems okay with things. He still gets a little hung up on having a biological dad, the dad who raised him, a biological mom, and then a really awesome sorta stepmom.

It’s complicated, but he’s working on it.

I start to step back toward the mirror to make sure I’ve rubbed all the SPF 30 into my face (preventive skincare, yo), when Michael grabs a fistful of my cover-up and pulls me toward him until our chests bump.

I glance up and see the Look.

“Really?” I say, lifting my eyebrows. “Weren’t you just bitching about wasting daylight, or whatever?”

His hands are sliding down my sides, his fingers finding the hem of the knit cover-up and slowly sliding upward. “I thought I made myself quite clear about the no-cover-up policy I have for girlfriends in bikinis.”

“I thought that was just on Fourth of July,” I say, lifting my arms so he can pull the flimsy garment up and off. What can I say—I’m easy.

“Nope, it’s always,” he says, tossing the garment aside so I’m standing in front of him in only a tiny blue bikini.

I put my hands on my hips and glare at his T-shirt. He grins and pulls that off in one easy motion, his six-pack on display. So is the O tattoo on his arm, but it’s less obvious. He’s about halfway through the laser treatments to have it removed. His idea, but one I’m in favor of. Olivia’s a nice girl, but I so do not want her mark on my man.

He reaches out, cups my chin.

“You know I love you, right?” he asks.

I smile. “I know.”

“No matter what you look like.”

“Yes, yes, you’re very deep for appreciating a woman’s personality even while she’s wearing an itty bitty bathing suit,” I say, my hands finding his waist just above the band of his swim trunks.

He grins. “Actually, right about now, I’m having a hard time thinking about anything other than the fact that you’re very close to naked.”

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