Crushed Page 1



It’s been six months since I fled Manhattan for Cedar Grove, Texas.

Six months since I traded in Armani suits for Levi’s, Gucci loafers for cowboy boots, and a Fifth Avenue penthouse for a small-ass basement studio.

Six months since ditching Wall Street to be a country-club lackey and occasional bartender.

Six months since learning that my identity as Michael St. Claire is a lie. No St. Claire blood runs through my veins. The Michael is still mine. The St. Claire, it turns out, is a façade. Bestowed upon me by a woman’s careless affair and a man’s pride.

A man who is not my father.

It’s been six months since I betrayed my best friend.

Six months since I walked away from her. No. Since she walked away from me.

But more than that … more than any of that …

It’s been six months since I’ve bothered to care.

About anything.

Chapter 1


“Your shirt’s untucked in the back.”

I turn, giving a half smile of gratitude to the blonde who’s just followed me out of the unisex restroom at the Cambridge Country Club tennis courts.

She giggles as she runs a hand over her tennis skirt, smoothing it over tanned, toned thighs. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into doing that in a public restroom.”

Yeah. Right. I hadn’t talked Mindy McLaughlin into shit. Everything from the location to the position had been her idea.

But I don’t remind her of this.

If I’ve learned anything in my first month as tennis pro to the rich and richer, it’s that cougars don’t like being reminded that they’re the ones doing the pursuing.

I give her a wink as I finish tucking in my shirt, before scanning the courts to make sure we don’t have any witnesses to the fact that we just spent the first twenty minutes of Mindy’s sixty-minute tennis lesson fucking against the wall of a bathroom stall.

Luckily, it’s the middle of the day and hot as hell. Most people hit the courts in the early morning or not at all.

Mindy follows me to the benches, where we retrieve our rackets. “Should we finish up?” I ask.

She lets out a low laugh, running pink manicured nails down the front of my white polo. “I think we already did that.”

I ignore this, and hold up the tennis ball questioningly.

“It’s hot,” she whines.

It is. Way too fucking hot to play tennis. She still has forty minutes left, but I’m not all that surprised that she wants to bail. We both know she didn’t come down here for the tennis.

It’s just as well. I hate the damn sport. I only work the courts three days a week, and my lesson schedule is packed with women who are probably better at tennis than I am.

I’m passably decent at tennis, because, once upon a time, I was one of the spoiled brats taking lessons, not giving them. I don’t love the sport. I’m not like these other douche bags that work the courts and make a big show of how they could have gone pro if they wanted.

My tennis skills aren’t why I was hired, and I damn well know it. Growing up on the Upper East Side of New York taught me early that women of the idle rich class get bored easily. A boredom they often ease by taking up with men other than their husbands.

Fortunately for me, most of my life I was blissfully unaware that my own mother fell into that category of straying housewives.

Ignorance truly is bliss.

And when ignorance is over?

All hell breaks loose.

“Same time next week?” she asks, moving toward me and tilting her face up.

I know what she wants. A kiss that I have no intention of giving.

I sidestep, setting my racket and ball on the bench.

“Can I buy you a drink?” she asks. She does an unnecessary stretch that strains her white top across full—definitely fake—breasts.

For the briefest of moments, I feel chokingly bored by it all, but I force myself to embrace the boredom.

“No, thanks. I’ve got a lesson after this.”

“What about tomorrow? I was thinking I should maybe add a second lesson in the week. To keep me loose.” She winks.

Christ. Really?

“Can’t,” I say. “I’m working the gym tomorrow. I alternate giving tennis lessons and being a personal trainer.”

I like the latter a lot better. It involves air-conditioning.

Her eyes light up both with interest and a competitive gleam. “Do I know any of your personal-trainer clients?”

Probably half of your book club, Bible club, and Junior League.

I’d screwed a good portion of them, too, and it’s obvious that Mindy McLaughlin is eager to know her competition.

“Well,” she says, leaning forward when I don’t respond, “if you ever decide to take a little break, you know just who to call.”

“Sure do,” I say, giving her a sleepy look that’s always seemed to have a way with women.

Well, all women but one. The one who mattered.

Normally, I’d be more than happy to be late to my next lesson in order to scratch Mindy’s second itch of the day and help her forget that she’s married to a high-powered judge with a potbelly.

But Mrs. McLaughlin has one unavoidable disadvantage working against her.

Today is Wednesday.

And on Wednesdays, I have a client I want more than Mindy McLaughlin.

After a few more failed come-ons, Mrs. McLaughlin finally gives up, although I know she’ll be coming with her A-game next week. Her skirt shorter, her lips glossier, her invitations more blatant.