After (The After Series) by Anna Todd

  For a moment I find myself wishing I was someone else, someone braver. Like Steph. If I was Steph, I would strip down and jump into the warm water with Hardin. I would splash around and climb up the bank just to jump back and soak him. I would be fun and carefree.

  But I’m not Steph. I’m Tessa.

  “This is one beyond-boring friendship so far . . .” Hardin exclaims and swims closer to the bank. I roll my eyes and he chuckles. “At least take your shoes off and put your feet in. It feels amazing and pretty soon it will be too cold to swim in.”

  Putting my feet in wouldn’t be so bad. So I take my shoes off and roll my jeans up enough to dip my feet over the edge and into the water. Hardin was right, the water is warm and clear. I wiggle my toes and can’t help but smile.

  “It’s nice, isn’t it?” he asks, and I can’t help but nod. “So just come in.”

  I shake my head and he splashes me with the water. I scoot back and scowl at him.

  “If you come in the water, I will answer one of your always-intrusive questions. Any question that you want, but only one,” he warns.

  Curiosity gets the best of me and I tilt my head in concentration. There are so many mysteries about him, and here’s a chance to maybe solve one of them.

  “This offer expires in one minute,” he says and slips beneath the water. I can see his long body swimming under the clear water. It does look like fun, and Hardin drives a hard bargain. He knows just how to use my curiosity against me.

  “Tessa,” he says after his head pops back up above the surface, “stop overthinking everything, and just jump in.”

  “I don’t have anything to wear. If I jump in in my clothes, I will have to walk back to the car and ride back soaked,” I whine. I almost want to get in the water. Okay, I know I do.

  “Wear my shirt,” he offers, which shocks me, so I wait a second for him to tell me he was joking, but he doesn’t. “Go on, just wear my shirt. It will be long enough for you to wear in here and you can keep your bra and panties on, if you wish,” he says with a smile. I take his advice and stop thinking.

  “Fine, but turn around and do not look at me while I am changing—I mean it!” I try my best to be intimidating, but he just laughs. He turns around and faces the opposite direction, so I lift my shirt over my head and grab his as quickly as I can. Slipping it on, I can tell he was right, since it reaches down to the middle of my thighs. I can’t help but admire the way his shirt smells, like faint cologne mixed with a smell I can only describe as Hardin.

  “Hurry the hell up or I will turn around,” he says, and I wish I had a stick to throw at his head. I unbutton my jeans and step out of them. Folding my jeans and shirt neatly, I put them next to my shoes on the grass. Hardin turns around and I tug at the bottom of his black T-shirt, trying to pull it as far as it will go.

  His eyes widen and I watch them rake down my body. He takes his lip ring between his teeth and I notice his cheeks flush. He must be cold, because I know it couldn’t possibly be me he is reacting to.

  “Um . . . come in the water, yeah?” he says, his voice raspier than usual. I nod and walk slowly to the bank. “Just jump in!”

  “I am! I am!” I yell nervously, and he laughs.

  “Get a little running start.”

  “Okay.” I step back a little and start to run. I feel foolish, but I am not letting my tendency to overthink ruin this. As I reach my last stride, I look at the water and stop with my feet right on the edge.

  “Oh come on! You were off to such a good start!” His head falls back in laughter, and he looks adorable.

  Hardin, adorable?

  “I can’t!” I am not sure what is stopping me; the water is deep enough to jump in, but not too deep. The water in the spot where Hardin is standing goes only to his chest, which means it would reach just under my chin.

  “Are you afraid?” His tone is calm but serious.

  “No . . . I don’t know. Sort of,” I admit and he walks through the water toward me.

  “Sit on the edge and I’ll help you in.”

  I sit down and close my legs tightly so he doesn’t see my panties. Noticing this, he grins as he reaches me. His hands grip my thighs and once again I am on fire. Why does my body have to respond to him this way? I’m trying to make us friends, so I need to ignore the fire. He moves his hands to my waist and asks, “Ready?”

  As soon as I nod yes, he is lifting me and pulling me into the water, water that’s warm and feels amazing against my hot skin. Hardin lets me go too soon and I stand up in the water. We are closer to the bank so it only reaches just below my chest.

  “Don’t just stand there,” he says mockingly, and I ignore him but do walk out a little. The T-shirt bubbles up from the water going under it and I yelp and pull it down. Once it’s positioned, it promises to stay put for the most part.

  “You could just take it off,” he says with a smirk and I splash at him. “Did you just splash me?” He laughs and I nod, splashing at him again. He shakes his wet head and lunges for me under the water. His long arms hook around my waist and pull me under. My hand flies up to plug my nose; I haven’t mastered swimming without my nose plugged. When we emerge, Hardin is cracking up, and I can’t help but laugh with him. I am actually having fun, real fun, not that average watching-a-good-movie fun.

  “I can’t decide which is more amusing: the fact that you are actually having a good time or the fact that you have to plug your nose underwater,” he says through his laughter.

  I get a jolt of bravery and move toward him, ignoring the way the T-shirt floats up again, and I try to push his head underwater. Of course, he is too strong for me and doesn’t budge, so he only laughs harder, showing all of his beautiful white teeth. Why can’t he be like this all the time?

  “I believe you owe me an answer to a question,” I remind him.

  He looks off toward the bank. “Sure, but only one.”

  I’m not sure which one to ask, I have so many. Before I can decide, though, I hear my voice making the decision for me: “Who do you love the most in the world?”

  Why would I ask him that? I want to know more specific things, like why is he a jerk? Why is he in America?

  He looks at me suspiciously, as if he is confused by my question.

  “Myself,” he answers, and goes back underwater for a few seconds.

  He pops back up and I shake my head. “That can’t be true,” I say in challenge. I know he is arrogant but he has to love someone . . . anyone? “What about your parents?” I ask and immediately regret it.

  His face twists and his eyes lose the softness I was becoming fond of. “Do not speak of my parents again, got it?” he snaps, and I want to smack myself for ruining the good time we were having.

  “I’m sorry, I was just curious. You said you would answer a question,” I remind him quietly. His face softens a little and he steps toward me, the water around us rippling. “I really am sorry, Hardin, I won’t mention them again,” I promise. I really don’t want to fight with him out here; he would probably leave me out here alone if I upset him too much.

  He takes me by surprise when he grabs my waist and lifts me into the air. I kick my legs and flail my arms, screaming at him to put me down, but he only obliges me by laughing and tossing me into the water. I land a few feet away and when I come above water his eyes are bright with glee.

  “You’re going to pay for that!” I yell. He fake-yawns in response, so I swim at him, and he grabs me again—but this time I wrap my thighs around his waist without really realizing it. A shocked gasp falls from his lips.

  “Sorry,” I mutter and unhook my legs.

  But he grabs them and folds them back around his waist. That electricity between us can be felt again, this time more intensely than ever before. Why does this always happen with him? I shut my mind off from my thoughts and put my arms around his neck to steady myself.

  “What are you doing to me, Tess,” he says softly, and rubs his thumb over my bottom lip.

>   “I don’t know . . .” I answer truthfully into his thumb, which still traces over my mouth.

  “These lips . . . the things you could do with them,” he says slowly, seductively. I feel that burn deep in my stomach that makes me putty in his arms. “Do you want me to stop?” He looks into my eyes; his pupils are so dilated that there is only a slight ring around the now dark green of his eyes.

  Before my mind can catch up, I shake my head and press my body against his under the water.

  “We can’t just be friends, you know that, don’t you?” His lips touch my chin, making me tremble. He continues a line of kisses along my jawline and I nod. I know he is right. I have no idea what this is that we are, but I know I will never be able to only be friends with Hardin. As his lips touch the spot just below my ear, I moan, prompting Hardin to do it again, this time sucking the skin.

  “Oh, Hardin,” I moan and squeeze him with my legs. I bring my hands down his back and graze my nails against his skin. I might explode just from him kissing my neck alone.

  “I want to make you moan my name, Tessa, over and over again. Please let me?” His voice is full of desperation.

  And I know deep inside there’s no way I can say no.

  “Say it, Tessa.” He takes my earlobe between his teeth. I nod again, harder. “I need you to say it, baby, out loud so I know you really want me to.” His hand travels down and under his T-shirt that I am wearing.

  “I want to . . .” I rush the words, and he smiles against my neck, his mouth continuing its gentle assault. He doesn’t say anything and instead grabs my thighs, lifting me higher onto his torso as he begins to walk out of the water. When he reaches the bank, he lets me go and climbs out. I whine, certainly inflaming his ego even more—but right now I don’t care. All I know is that I want him, I need him. He reaches out for my hands and pulls me up onto the bank with him.

  Unsure what to do, I just stand on the grass, feeling Hardin’s heavy, soaked shirt on my shoulders and thinking he’s too far away.

  From where he stands, he dips down a little to meet my eyes. “Do you want it to be here? Or my room?”

  I shrug nervously. I don’t want to go to his room, because it’s too far—the drive will give me too much time to overthink what I am about to do.

  “Here,” I say and look around. There is no one in sight and I pray that no one will come here.

  “Eager?” He smiles and I try to roll my eyes, but it probably looks like a desperate flutter. The heat in my body is slowly burning out the longer Hardin’s touch is not on me.

  “Come here,” he says in a low voice and the heat returns.

  My feet pad quietly across the soft grass until I’m only inches from Hardin. His hands immediately reach for the hem of the T-shirt and he peels it upward off my body. The way he looks at me alone drives me crazy; my hormones are out of control. My pulse speeds up as he looks my body up and down one more time before taking my hand.

  He spreads his shirt on the grass like a blanket of sorts. “Lie down,” he says, guiding me to the ground with him. He lays me on the wet fabric and props himself up on his elbow, lying on his side, facing me on my back. No one has ever seen me this exposed before, and Hardin has seen so many girls, girls much better looking than me. My hands move up to cover my body, but Hardin sits up and grabs both of my wrists and pushes them down to my sides.

  “Don’t ever cover up, not for me,” he says and looks into my eyes.

  “It’s just . . .” I begin to explain, but he cuts me off.

  “No, you will not cover up, you have nothing to be ashamed of, Tess.” Does he mean that? “I mean it, look at you,” he continues, seeming to read my mind.

  “You’ve been with so many girls,” I blurt out, and he frowns.

  “None like you.” And I know I could take his answer many different ways, but I choose to let it go.

  “Do you have a condom?” I ask him, trying to remember the few things I know about sex.

  “A condom?” He chuckles. “I’m not going to have sex with you,” he says and I begin to panic. Is this all a game to humiliate me?

  “Oh,” is all I say and begin to pull myself up. But he grabs my shoulders and gently pushes me back down. I’m sure I’m flush red, and I don’t want to be exposed to his sarcastic eyes like this.

  “Where are you going—” he starts, but then realization hits him. “Oh . . . No, Tess, I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that you have never done anything . . . like at all, so I am not going to have sex with you.” He stares at me for a moment. “Today,” he adds, and I feel a little bit of the pressure in my chest dissolve.

  “There are many other things I want to do to you first.” He climbs on top of me, all of his weight supported on his hands. He is in a push-up position. His wet hair drips water droplets onto my face and I squirm.

  “I can’t believe no one has fucked you before,” he whispers and he shifts his body to lie on his side once again. He brings his hand to my neck and trails it down, touching me only with his fingertips, down the valley of my breasts, down my stomach until he stops just above my underwear. We are really doing this, me and Hardin. What is he going to do? Will it hurt? A hundred thoughts race through my mind but disappear as soon as his hand reaches into my panties. I hear him suck a breath through his teeth and he brings his mouth to mine.

  His fingers move a little, and it shocks me.

  “Does that feel good?” he asks into my mouth.

  He’s only rubbing me—how does it feel so good? I nod and he slows his fingers down.

  “Does it feel better than when you do it?”


  “Does it?” he asks again.

  “Wh-what?” I manage, even though I have no control of my body or mind right now.

  “When you touch yourself? Does it feel like this?”

  I’m not sure what to say, and when I just stare at him, something behind his eyes snaps to. “Wait . . . you’ve never done that, either, have you?” His voice is full of surprise and something else . . . lust? He goes back to kissing me and his fingers keep moving up and down. “You’re so responsive to me, so wet,” he says and I moan. Why are these filthy words so hot when Hardin says them? I feel a gentle pinch and it sends a shock through my whole body.

  “What? Was . . . that?” I half ask, half moan. He chuckles and doesn’t answer, but I feel him do it again and my back arches off the grass. His mouth travels down to my neck, then my chest. His tongue dips down under the cup of my bra and his hand massages one of my breasts. I feel a pressure building in my stomach—and it is pure bliss. I pinch my eyes closed and bite down on my lip; my back lifts off the grass once again and my legs begin to shake.

  “That’s right, Tessa, come for me,” he says, which makes me feel like I am spiraling out of control. “Look at me, baby,” he purrs.

  I open my eyes. The sight of his mouth nipping the skin on my chest sends me over the edge and my vision goes white for a few seconds. “Hardin,” I say, and then repeat, and I can tell by the way his cheeks flush that he loves it. Slowly, he pulls his hand out and rests it on my stomach as I try to return my breathing to normal. My body had never felt so energized before, and it’s never felt so relaxed as this now.

  “I’ll give you a minute to recover.” He laughs to himself and moves away from me.

  I frown. I want him to stay close, but I’m also strangely unable to speak. After the best few minutes of my life, I sit up and look toward Hardin. He already has his jeans and shoes on.

  “We’re leaving already?” The embarrassment is clear in my voice. I had assumed he would want me to touch him, too; even if I don’t really know what to do, he could explain it to me.

  “Yeah, you wanted to stay longer?”

  “I just thought . . . I don’t know. I thought maybe you would want something . . .” I have no idea how to say this. Lucky for me he catches on.

  “Oh, no. I am okay, for now,” he says and gives me a small smile. Is he going to
go back to being mean again? I hope not, not after this. I have just shared the most intimate experience I have ever had with him. I won’t be able to stand it if he treats me terribly again. He did say “for now,” so he wants something later? I am already starting to regret this. I put my clothes on over my wet bra and panties and try to ignore the soft wetness between my thighs. Hardin picks up his wet shirt and hands it to me.

  He takes in my confused expression and tells me “to towel off.” His eyes shift to the apex of my thighs.

  Oh. I unbutton my pants and he doesn’t bother to turn around as I swipe the shirt across my sensitive skin there. I don’t miss the way his tongue brushes across his bottom lip while he watches me. He pulls his cell phone from the pocket of his jeans and his thumb slides across the screen repeatedly. I finish doing what he recommended and hand him his shirt back. As I step into my shoes, the air around us has changed from passionate to distant, and I find myself wishing to be as far away from him as possible.

  I wait for him to talk to me as we walk back to the car, but he doesn’t say anything. My mind is already coming up with every possible worst-case scenario for what happens next. He opens my door for me and I nod to thank him.

  “Is something wrong?” he asks me while he drives back down the gravel road.

  “I don’t know. Why are you being so weird now?” I ask him, even though I’m afraid of his answer and can’t look directly at him.

  “I’m not, you are.”

  “No, you haven’t said a word to me since . . . you know.”

  “Since I gave you your first orgasm?”

  My mouth drops and my cheeks flush. Why am I still surprised by his dirty mouth?

  “Um, yeah. Since that, you haven’t said anything. You just got dressed and we left.” Honesty seems to be the best option right now, so I add, “It makes me feel like you’re using me or something”

  “What? Of course I’m not using you. To use someone I would have to be getting something out of it,” he says, so offhandedly that I can suddenly feel the tears coming. I do my best to keep them back but one escapes.

  “Are you crying? What did I say?” He reaches over and puts his hand on my thigh. To my surprise it soothes me. “I didn’t mean it like that—I am sorry. I’m not used to whatever is supposed to happen after messing around with someone, plus I wasn’t going to just drop you off at your room and go our separate ways. I thought maybe we could get some dinner or something? I am sure you’re starving.” He squeezes my thigh gently.

Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]