After (The After Series) by Anna Todd

  “Fine. You can stay, but I’m going back to sleep.”

  “Why? You don’t want to hang out with me?”

  “You are drunk and being mean.” I finally turn back around to face him.

  “I’m not being mean,” he says, his expression neutral. “All I said was you were being annoying.”

  “That’s sort of mean to say to someone. Especially when all I did was ask you about your job.”

  “Oh God, not this again. Come on, Tessa, just drop it. I don’t want to talk about that right now.” His voice is whiny and he slurs his words.

  “Why did you drink tonight?” I don’t mind if he drinks; I am not his mother, and he’s an adult. The thing that bothers me is that every time he drinks there is a reason behind it. He doesn’t just drink for fun.

  He looks away from me and toward the door as if planning an escape. “I . . . I don’t know . . . I just felt like having a drink . . . well, drinks. Can you please stop being mad at me? I love you,” he says and brings his eyes to meet mine.

  His simple words dissolve most of my anger and I find myself wanting his arms around me.

  “I’m not mad at you, I just don’t want to backtrack in our relationship. I don’t like when you turn on me for no reason, then just leave. If you’re mad about something, I want you to talk to me about it.”

  “You just don’t like to not have control over everything,” he says and wobbles a little.

  “Excuse me?”

  “You’re a control freak.” He shrugs as if it’s a known fact.

  “No, I’m not. I just like things a certain way.”

  “Yeah, your way.”

  “So I guess we aren’t done fighting, then. Anything else you want to throw in there while you’re are it?” I snap.

  “Nope, just that you’re a control freak and I really want you to move in with me.”

  What? His moods give me whiplash.

  “You should move in with me—I found an apartment today. I haven’t signed anything yet, but it’s a nice place.”

  “When?” It’s hard to keep up with the five personalities of Hardin Scott.

  “After I left here.”

  “Before you got drunk?” I ask.

  He rolls his eyes. The light from the lamp hits the metal of his eyebrow ring, and I fight to ignore how attractive that is.

  “Yes, before I got drunk. So what do you say? Are you going to move in with me?”

  “I know you are new at this dating thing, but people don’t usually insult their girlfriend and ask them to move in with them in the same sentence,” I inform him, chewing my bottom lip to suppress my smile.

  “Well, sometimes the said girlfriend needs to lighten up.” He grins. Even drunk, he’s charming as hell.

  “Well, then said boyfriend needs to stop being a jerk,” I say to retaliate.

  He laughs and moves from the chair over to my bed. “I am trying not to be a jerk, I really am. Sometimes I can’t help it.” He sits on the edge of the bed. “I’m really, really good at it!”

  “I know,” I sigh. Regardless of this episode tonight, I know he really has been trying to be nicer. I don’t want to make excuses for him, but he has done much better than I expected.

  “So you will move in with me?” He smiles hopefully.

  “Jesus, let’s take this one step at a time. I will stop being mad at you for now,” I tell him and sit up. “Now come to bed with me,” I instruct. He raises an eyebrow as if to say, “See, control freak,” but stands up to pull his jeans off anyway. When he removes his shirt he puts it on the bed before me, and I love that he wants me to wear his shirts as much as I want to.

  I pull my shirt off to slip his over my head when he stops me.

  “Fuck,” he blurts out and I look up. “What are you wearing?” His eyes are dark and wide.

  “I . . . I got some new underwear today.” I flush and look away.

  “I see that . . . Fuck,” he repeats.

  “You already said that.” I giggle. The light in Hardin’s eyes is blazing for me—and it makes my skin tingle.

  “You look incredible.” He gulps. “You always do, but this is just . . .”

  With a dry mouth I look down to where his boxers strain against his growing bulge. The energy between us has changed for the fifth time tonight.

  “I was going to show you earlier, but you were too busy being a jerk.”

  “Mmm,” he mumbles, clearly not paying attention to what I’m actually saying. He places his knee on the bed and looks my body up and down again before climbing on top of me.

  His lips taste like whiskey and mint, and the combination is heavenly. Our kisses are soft and teasing, coming together and drifting apart, his tongue playfully gliding over mine. His hand wraps into my hair and I can feel his erection press against my stomach as he brings his body closer to me. He lets go of my hair to hold himself up on his elbow and use his other hand to touch me. His long fingers run along the undersides of my lace bra, dipping down inside of it and back out. He licks his lips as he cups me with his large palms, rubbing up and down.

  “I can’t decide if I want this to stay on . . .” he says. I couldn’t care less; I am too mesmerized by his graceful fingers on my skin.

  “Off it is,” he says and unclasps my bra. I arch my back for him to pull it off and he groans as his crotch presses against mine.

  “What do you want to do, Tess?” His voice is shaky and uncontrolled.

  “I already told you before,” I say as he pushes my panties to the side. I wish he wouldn’t have drunk tonight, but maybe his half-drunken state will make me seem less awkward.

  I cry out as his fingers enter me and I wrap one of my arms around him, trying to grasp on to something, anything. I reach between us with my other hand to palm him. He groans and I squeeze gently and stroke him lightly.

  “You’re sure?” he pants. I can see the uncertainty in his clear green eyes.

  “Yes, I am sure. Stop overthinking it.” Boy, have the tables turned, that I’m the one saying this to him.

  “I love you. You know that, don’t you?”

  “Yes.” I press my lips against his. “I love you, Hardin,” I say into his mouth.

  His fingers continue pumping in and out slowly and his mouth moves to my neck. He sucks at my skin harshly, then slides his tongue over the ache to soothe it. He repeats this over and over, and my entire body is on fire.

  “Hardin . . . I am . . .” I try to say and he quickly pulls his hand from me, kissing me as I whimper. He scoots back and hooks his fingers around my panties, pulling them down my legs. He places both of his hands on my thighs and squeezes gently before kissing down my stomach and blowing on my wetness. My body involuntarily lifts off the bed and his tongue moves up and down while he wraps his arms around my thighs, keeping them apart. Within seconds my legs begin to shake and I grip the sheets and he continues lapping his tongue around me.

  “Tell me how good it feels,” he says against me.

  Strangled sounds escape my lips as I try to say something, anything. Hardin continues to say dirty things, licking me between them, forming a delicious pattern as my body shakes and my toes curl. When I regain consciousness he brings his mouth back up to mine, a strange taste on his lips. My chest is heaving and my breath is staggered.

  “Are you . . .” he begins.

  “Shh . . . Yes, I am sure,” I tell him and kiss him, hard. My hands claw at his back, then pull his boxers below his hips. He sighs as the restriction disappears, and we both moan as our skin touches again.

  “Tessa, I . . .”

  “Shh . . .” I tell him again. I want this more than anything and I don’t want him to keep talking.

  “But, Tessa, I need to tell you something . . .”

  “Shh. Hardin, please stop talking,” I beg and kiss him again. I grab his erection and slide my hand up and down its length. His eyes close and he sucks in a sharp breath. Instinct takes over my actions and I brush my thumb over the tip of him
, wiping away the dampness there and feeling him pulse in my hand.

  “I’m going to come if you do that again,” he gasps. Suddenly he pulls up and jumps off the bed. Before I can ask where he is going, he pulls out a small packet from his jeans.

  Oh. This is really happening.

  I know I should be afraid or nervous, but all I feel is my love for him, and his for me.

  The anticipation of what is coming next fills me with wonder, and time seems to slow down while I wait for him to return to the bed. I had always thought my first time would be with Noah, on our wedding night. We would be in a huge bed in some fancy bungalow on a tropical island. But here I am in my small dorm room, on my small bed with Hardin, and I would not change a single thing about it.

  chapter seventy-eight

  I have only ever seen condoms in sex ed class, where they seemed so intimating. But right here, right now, I just want to yank it out of Hardin’s hand and put it on him as fast as I can. I am thankful that Hardin can’t hear my indecent thoughts, even if his words are far dirtier than any thought I’ve ever had.

  “Are . . .” His voice is low.

  “If you ask if I am sure, I will kill you.”

  He smiles and laughs, waving the condom between his thumb and forefinger. “I was going to say, are you going to help me put this on, or should I do it?”

  I bite my lip. “Oh. I want to . . . but you have to show me how,” I say, realizing that learning about condoms in sex ed really didn’t prepare me for how this moment feels, and I don’t want to mess this up.

  “Okay.” He sits on the bed and I sit up cross-legged. Stretching out to me, he kisses me swiftly on my forehead. When he tears the packet open, I hold my hand out, but he just chuckles and shakes his head. “I’ll show you, this way.” Taking my hand, he pulls out the little disk and uses our entwined hands to place the condom above him. It feels slippery to the touch. “Now it goes down,” he says, his cheeks flushed. As both of our hands slide the condom over his hard skin, his eyes narrow and he grows a little larger.

  “That wasn’t so bad for a virgin and a drunk,” I joke.

  He raises an eyebrow at me and smiles. I am glad we are being playful and not so intense; it makes me less nervous for what is about to happen.

  “I’m not drunk, babe. I had a few drinks, but arguing with you sobered me up, as usual.” He flashes his dimples and runs his thumb across my bottom lip.

  I’m relieved by his answer. It’s not like I want him passing out halfway through or puking on me. I laugh a little at my thoughts and look at him again. His eyes are clear, not glazed like they were an hour ago.

  “Now what?” I say before I can stop myself.

  He laughs, taking my hand and wrapping it around his length. “Eager?” he teases and I nod. “Me too,” he admits, and I love the feel of his hard flesh in my hand. Shifting his body, he hovers over me. With one knee he parts my legs, spreading them wide, and I feel his fingers rub against me.

  I wonder if he will be gentle with me . . . I hope so.

  “You’re soaking wet, so that will make it easier.” He inhales. His lips meet mine and he kisses me slowly, his tongue teasing mine. His lips seem to be molded against mine, made just for me. Pulling back slightly, he kisses the corners of my mouth, followed by my nose, and then my lips again. My hands go to his back in a desperate attempt to pull him closer to me.

  “Slow, baby, we need to go slow,” he whispers against my earlobe. “It’s going to hurt at first, so just tell me if you want me to stop. I mean it, okay?” he says gently and looks straight into my eyes, waiting for my answer.

  “Okay.” I gulp. I have heard that losing your virginity hurts but it can’t be that bad. I hope not, at least.

  Hardin kisses me again. I feel the silky condom brush against me, causing me to shudder. Seconds later he presses into me . . .

  It’s such a foreign feeling . . . My eyes screw shut and I hear myself gasp.

  “You okay?”

  I nod and he moves farther into me. I wince at the pinching feeling deep inside. It’s just as bad as everyone says—if not worse.

  “Fuck,” Hardin groans. His body is still, unmoving, but it’s still incredibly uncomfortable.

  “Can I move?” His voice is so strained and raspy.

  “Yeah,” I say. The pain continues, but Hardin kisses me all over, my lips, my cheeks, my nose, my neck, and the tears forming at the corner of my eyes. I put my focus on squeezing Hardin’s arms and feeling his warm tongue on my neck.

  “Oh God,” he moans and rolls his head back. “I love you, I love you so much, Tess.” He breathes against my cheek. The comfort of his voice mutes my pain slightly, but it persists as his hips slowly roll against mine.

  I want to tell him how much I love him, but I am afraid if I talk, I will cry.

  “Do you . . . fuck . . . do you want me to stop?” he stutters. I can hear the pleasure and worry battling in his voice.

  I shake my head and watch him in amazement when his eyes close tightly again. His jaw is clenched in concentration; his hard muscles contract and pull beneath his inked skin. The pain almost completely disappears as I watch him coming undone. He brushes my cheekbone with his fingers and kisses me again before burying his head in the crook of my neck. His breath is staggering, hot and wild against my skin. Bringing his face to mine, he opens his eyes. I would take the pain over and over to be able to feel this way, this deep-seated connection to Hardin that takes me somewhere I never knew existed. The emotion in his brilliant green eyes as he looks into mine unleashes the tears from my eyes; it sends me reeling out into the oblivion and then tethers me back to him. I love him and I know without a doubt he loves me. Even if we don’t last forever, if we end up never speaking again, I will always know that in this moment he was everything to me.

  I can tell that it’s taking everything in him to control himself, to keep this slow pace for me, and I love him all the more for it. Time slows and stops, speeds and stops again as he moves in and out of me. The salty taste of sweat is on his lips as he kisses me, and I want more. I kiss his neck and the spot under his ear that I know drives him crazy.

  He shivers and moans my name. “You’re doing so good, baby. I love you so much.”

  It doesn’t hurt anymore, but it is still uncomfortable, and there is a slight sting each time he thrusts into me. My lips move to his neck and my hands tug at his hair.

  “I love you, Hardin,” I manage to say.

  He moans and brings his swollen lips to mine. “Oh, baby, I am going to come. Okay?” he says through clenched teeth.

  I nod and kiss his neck again, sucking gently on his skin. Hardin’s eyes never leave mine as he comes; promises of forever and unconditional love are made as he tenses and gently falls onto me. I can feel the heavy thrumming of his heart against my chest, and I kiss the top of his dampened hair. His chest stops heaving and he lifts up, pulling out of me. I wince at the sudden emptiness as he pulls the condom off and folds it over and places it on the floor atop the foil wrapper.

  “Are you okay? How was it? How do you feel?” His eyes search my face and he looks more vulnerable than I thought possible.

  “I’m okay,” I assure him. I press my thighs together to dull the ache. I can see the blood on my sheets, but I don’t want to move.

  He wipes his hair away from his forehead. “Was it . . . was it what you expected?”

  “It was better,” I answer honestly. Even with the pain, the whole experience was exquisite. I find myself already fantasizing about the next time.

  “Really?” He grins. I nod and he leans closer, pressing his forehead to mine.

  “How was it for you? It will be better once I have more . . . experience,” I tell him.

  His grin fades and he presses his fingers under my chin, tilting my head to make me look at him. “Don’t say that; it was great, baby. It was better than great, it was . . . the best,” he says and I roll my eyes. I am sure he has been with far better girls who actu
ally know what to do and when to do it.

  Answering my thoughts, he says, “I didn’t love them. It is a completely different experience when you love the person. Honestly, Tessa. It’s incomparable. Please don’t doubt yourself or degrade what we just did.” His voice is so soft and sincere, I feel my heart swell and I kiss the bridge of his nose.

  He smiles and wraps an arm around my waist, pulling me to his chest. He smells so good; even sweaty Hardin is my favorite scent.

  “Does it hurt?” He runs his fingers through my hair and twirls a piece over his index finger.

  “Sort of.” I laugh. “I’m afraid to stand up.”

  He squeezes me tighter and kisses my shoulder. “I’ve never been with a virgin before,” he says quietly.

  I look up at him and his eyes are soft, not mocking in the least. “Oh.” My mind produces a hundred questions about his first time. The when, where, who, and why. But I push those thoughts away—he didn’t love her. He has never loved anyone but me. I don’t care about the women in his past anymore. They are just that: his past. I only care about this beautiful, flawed man who just made love for the first time in his life.

  chapter seventy-nine

  An hour later, Hardin asks, “Are you ready to get up?”

  “I know I should, I just don’t want to,” I tell him and rub my cheek against his chest.

  “I don’t want to rush you, but I really have to piss,” he tells me and I laugh, climbing off him and the bed.

  “Ow . . .” I say before I can stop myself.

  “You okay?” he asks for the thousandth time. His hand reaches out to help steady me.

  “Yeah, just sore.” I cringe when I look at my sheets.

  He looks over at them. “Yeah, I’ll toss them.” He pulls the sheets off the small bed.

  “Not in here. Steph will see them.”

  “Okay? So where?” He bounces up and down on his heels. He must have been holding his bladder for a while.

  “I don’t know . . . can you put them in a Dumpster or something when you leave?”

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