After (The After Series) by Anna Todd


  “I didn’t know what the game was!”

  “You knew I didn’t want you to play, and the only reason you wanted to play was because Molly’s name was mentioned because of this crazy obsession you have with her!”

  “Excuse me? Crazy obsession? Maybe I don’t like the fact that my boyfriend used to sleep with her!” My cheeks flame. My jealousy and dislike toward Molly are a little crazy but Hardin just choked a guy for almost kissing me.

  “Well, sorry to break it to you, but if you’re going to have a problem with everyone that I slept with, you may want to transfer schools,” he exclaims and my mouth falls open. “You didn’t have a problem with the girls downstairs,” he adds and my heart goes frantic.

  “What girls?” My breath catches. “Those three that were playing with us?”

  “Yeah, and just about every other girl in this place.” His voice holds no emotion as he glares at me.

  I try to come up with something to say but I am at a loss for words. The fact that Hardin has slept with all three of those girls and basically the entire female population at WCU makes me nauseous—and the worst part is how he just threw it in my face. I must look like such a fool hanging around Hardin when everyone else figures I’m just one of the many girls he’s slept with. I knew he would be pissed-off, but this is too far, even for Hardin. I feel like we have gone back in time to when I first met him and he would purposely make me cry on an almost daily basis.

  “What? Surprised? You shouldn’t be,” he says.

  “No.” And I’m not surprised, not one bit. I’m hurt. Not about his past, just the way he treated me out of anger. He said it that way just to hurt me. I blink rapidly to stop the tears from coming, but when it doesn’t work I turn away and wipe my eyes.

  “Just go,” he says and walks toward the door.

  “What?” I ask and turn to face him.

  “Just go, Tessa.”

  “Go where?”

  He doesn’t even look at me. “Back to your room . . . I don’t know . . . but you can’t stay here.”

  This is not at all what I thought would happen. The pain in my chest grows with every second of silence that passes between us. Part of me wants to beg him to let me stay, and to argue with him until he tells me why he reacted the way he did downstairs, but a bigger part of me is embarrassed and hurt by his cool dismissal. I grab my bag off the bed and sling it over my shoulder. When I reach the door, I look back at Hardin and hope that he will apologize or change his mind, but he turns to the window and completely ignores me. I have no idea how I will get back to the dorms, since Hardin drove me here and I had every intention of staying the night with him. I don’t remember the last time I stayed alone in my room, and the thought unnerves me. The drive to this house seems like days ago, instead of hours.

  When I reach the bottom of the stairs, someone tugs at the back of my sweatshirt, and I hold my breath as I turn around, silently praying that it isn’t Jace or Dan.

  It’s Hardin. “Come back upstairs,” he says, his voice desperate and his eyes red.

  “Why? I thought you wanted me to leave.” I stare at the wall behind him.

  He sighs and grabs the bag from my shoulder and walks back up the stairs. I think about just letting him have the bag and leaving anyway, but my stubborn attitude is what got me in this situation in the first place.

  I huff and follow him back to this room. When the door closes he turns around and backs me up against the door.

  He looks into my eyes. “I’m sorry.” He pushes his hips against mine and puts one of his arms against the door close to my head so I can’t move.

  “Me, too,” I whisper.

  “I just . . . I lose my temper sometimes. I didn’t really sleep with those girls. Well, not all three of them.”

  I feel a little relieved but not completely.

  “My first instinct when I get angry is to come back even harder, to hurt the other person as much as I can. But I don’t want you to leave, and I’m sorry for scaring you by beating the shit out of Dan. I am trying to change, change for you . . . to be what you deserve, but it’s hard for me. Especially when you do things to purposely piss me off,” he says. He brings his hand to my cheek and wipes the drying tears left there.

  “I wasn’t scared of you,” I say.

  “Why not? It seemed like you were when I grabbed the towel.”

  “No . . . well, I was a little when you grabbed the towel, because of the stain on the floor. But really I was more afraid for you when you were fighting Dan.”

  “Afraid for me?” He puffs his shoulders up a little and brags, “He didn’t get a hit on me.”

  I roll my eyes. “I meant that you would end up killing him or something. You could get in a lot of trouble for assaulting him,” I explain.

  Hardin chuckles. “Let me get this straight: you were worried about the legal repercussions of our fight?”

  “Stop laughing. I’m still mad at you,” I tell him and cross my arms. I’m not exactly sure what I am upset about except him telling me to leave.

  “I am still pissed at you, too, but you’re very amusing.” He presses his forehead against mine. “You drive me crazy,” he says.

  “I know.”

  “You never listen to me and you always fight me on everything. You are stubborn and borderline intolerable.”

  “I know,” I repeat.

  “You provoke me and cause me a shitload of unnecessary stress, not to mention you almost made out with Dan right in front of me.” His lips touch my neck and I shiver.

  “You say the most annoying things and you act like a child when you’re mad.” Despite the insults he is throwing at me—complaints about things that, deep down, I think he really enjoys about me—my stomach is fluttering as he kisses my skin and continues his light verbal assault. He pushes his hips against mine again, more forcefully this time.

  “But all that being said . . . I also happen to be vigorously in love with you,” he says and sucks harshly on sensitive skin below my ear.

  I push my hands through his hair, making him groan, and he puts both of his hands on my waist, pulling me to him. I know there are more things to be said, more problems to be solved, but right now all I want is to get lost in Hardin and forget about tonight.

  chapter eighty-five

  In what feels like a desperate attempt to be closer to me as we kiss, Hardin moves a hand to the back of my neck. I can sense all of his anger and frustration being transferred into lust and affection—his mouth is hungry and his kisses sloppy as he walks backward with our lips still attached. He guides me with one hand on my hip and the other behind my head, but I trip over his feet and stumble just as his legs reach the end of his bed, causing both of us to fall back onto it. In an attempt to wrestle control from him, I straddle his torso and pull my sweatshirt and tank top over my head at the same time, leaving me in my lacy bra. His eyes widen and he tries to pull me down to kiss him, but I have other plans.

  Reaching behind my back, my rushed fingers find my bra clasp and I unsnap it before pulling the straps down my shoulders and letting it drop to the bed behind me. Hardin’s hands are warm as he reaches up and cups my breasts in his large palms, kneading them roughly. Grabbing his wrists, I remove his hands from my skin and shake my head. His head tilts in confusion before I climb down his body and unbutton his pants. He helps me tug them down to his knees along with his boxers. My fingers immediately grip his length—he gasps, and when I look at his face his eyes are closed. I pump slowly before dipping down and bravely taking him into my mouth. I try to remember his instructions from last time and repeat the things that I know he liked.

  “Fuck . . . Tessa,” he pants and wraps his hands into my hair. This is the longest he has been silent during any sexual experience we have shared, and I realize much to my own amusement that I missed his dirty words.

  I move my body while continuing to please him and end up between his knees.

  He sits up and watches me. “You look so sexy l
ike this, with that smart mouth of yours wrapped around me,” he says and grips my hair harder.

  I feel the heat gathering between my legs and move my head faster, wanting to hear him moan my name again. My tongue laps around the tip of him and he lifts his hips slightly off the bed, pushing himself down my throat. My eyes begin to water and I can barely breathe, but hearing my name fall from his lips over and over again makes it that much better. Seconds later, he removes his hands from my hair and cups my face, stopping me from moving further. The metallic scent of his bloody knuckles hits my nose, but I ignore the reflex to pull away.

  “I’m going to come . . .” he tells me. “So if there is anything else you . . . you know, want to do before then, you should stop blowing me.”

  I don’t want to speak, to give away how desperate I am to have him make love to me, so I simply stand up and slide my jeans down my legs and step out of them. When I begin to remove my panties Hardin’s hand reaches out and stops me.

  “I want you to leave these on . . . for now,” he coos. I nod and gulp, anticipation consuming me. “Come here.” He gestures and pulls his shirt over his head. Scooting to the edge of the bed, he pulls me onto him.

  Our feverish exchange in the beginning has slowed and the angry tension between us has decreased. Hardin’s chest is flushed and his eyes are wild. The feeling of sitting on his lap while he is completely naked and ready—and I am only dressed in panties—is exquisite. He presses the small of my back, the length of his one outstretched hand there holding me in place as his lips meet mine once again.

  “I love you,” he whispers into my mouth as his fingers move my panties to the side. “I . . . love you . . .”

  I gasp at the immediate pleasure of the intrusion. He moves his fingers slowly, too slowly, and I instinctively rock back and forth to create a faster pace.

  “That’s it, baby . . . fuck . . . You’re always so ready for me,” he groans and I continue to rock against his hand. My breathing and moans intensify—it still surprises me how quickly my body responds to Hardin. He knows every little thing to do and say.

  “You are going to listen to me from now on. Am I right?” he says against my neck, gently biting the skin.

  What?

  “Tell me you will listen to me or I won’t let you come.”

  He can’t be serious. “Hardin . . .” I plea and try to move faster, but he stops me.

  “Okay . . . Okay . . . just please,” I beg and he smirks. I want to slap him for doing this right now. He is using my most vulnerable time against me but I can’t find my anger through my need for him. I am all too aware of his bare skin against mine, only my thin panties between us.

  “Please,” I repeat and he nods.

  “Good girl,” he says in my ear and guides my hips to move again as his fingers pump in and out.

  I feel myself inching closer and closer to the edge in no time at all. Hardin whispers filthy things in my ear, the foreign words urging me on in a way that I can’t describe. They are completely filthy but welcome, and I grip on to his arms to keep myself from falling off the bed as I come undone under his touch.

  “Open your eyes. I want to watch what only I can do to you,” he instructs and I do my best to keep them open as my orgasm overtakes me.

  Afterward, my head falls onto his chest and my arms wrap under his arms, hugging him tight as I try to catch my breath.

  “I can’t believe you tried to . . .” I begin to scold him, but he silences me by running his tongue along my bottom lip. My breath comes out in spurts as I am still recovering from my high. I reach my hand down in between us and grab hold of him. He winces and pulls my lip between his, sucking lightly. I decide to take a page from the Hardin Scott sex handbook and grip him harder.

  “Apologize, and I will give you what you want,” I say as seductively as I possibly can into his ear.

  “What?” His face is priceless.

  “You heard me.” I keep my face neutral and pump him in one hand and slide my fingers over my soaking panties with the other.

  He whimpers as I rub him against me.

  “I’m sorry,” he blurts, his cheeks a deep shade of red. “Just let me fuck you . . . please,” he begs and I laugh. My laughter is cut short by him reaching over to the nightstand and pulling out a small packet. He wastes no time putting the condom on and kissing me again.

  “I don’t know if you are ready to do it this way, with you above me. If it’s too intense, tell me. Okay, baby?” And like that he’s back to the sweet and gentle Hardin.

  “Okay,” I answer.

  He lifts me up slightly and I feel the condom brush against me and then fullness as he lowers me onto him.

  “Oh my,” I say and close my eyes.

  “Is it okay?”

  “Yeah . . . just . . . d-different,” I stammer.

  It hurts, not nearly as much as before, but the feeling is still unpleasant and foreign. I keep my eyes closed and move my hips a little, trying to decrease the pressure.

  “Good, different, or bad?” His voice is strained and the vein in his forehead is showing.

  “Shh . . . stop talking,” I say and move again.

  He moans and apologizes, promising to give me a minute to adjust. I have no idea how much time passes before I move my hips again. The discomfort eases dramatically the more I move, and at some point Hardin wraps his arms around my back, hugging me close to him as he moves to meet my hips. This way is much better, him holding me as we move together. One of my hands rests on his chest, holding my weight as my legs start to tire. I ignore the burn of my muscles and continue to ride his body this way. I keep my eyes open to watch Hardin as a bead of sweat rolls down his forehead. Watching him like this, with his lower lip pulled between his teeth, his eyes so focused on my face that I swear I can feel the burn from them on my skin, is overwhelming in the best way.

  “You are everything to me. I can’t lose you,” he says as my lips move over his neck and shoulder. His skin is salty and damp and perfect. “I’m close, baby, so fucking close. You’re doing so good, baby.” He groans and moves his hands up and down my back as I try to pick up speed. He laces his fingers through mine and the intimacy of the gesture makes me weak. I love his encouragement and I love him.

  I feel my stomach tightening as Hardin grips the back of my neck with one hand. He continues to whisper how much I mean to him as his body grows tense. I stare, completely consumed by his words and the way his thumb is brushing over my clit, bringing me to a quick and powerful release. Our moans intertwine along with our bodies as we finish. He practically falls back, lying on the bed, and takes me with him. I barely notice him discarding the condom as I come back to reality.

  “I’m glad you followed me down the stairs,” I finally say after a long but pleasant silence. With my head lying on his bare chest, I can hear his rapid heartbeat slowing.

  “Me, too. I wasn’t going to, but I had to. I am sorry for telling you to leave. I can be an asshole sometimes,” he says.

  I lift my head up and look at him. “Sometimes?” I smile.

  He lifts one of his hands off my back and pokes me on the nose with his index finger, making me giggle. “You weren’t complaining five minutes ago,” he points out.

  I shake my head and lay it back down onto his clammy skin. My fingers trace the simple heart-shaped tattoo near his shoulder and I notice the goose bumps raise on his skin. It isn’t lost on me that the heart is colored in with solid black ink.

  “That’s because you’re better at that stuff than you are at dating,” I tease.

  “I won’t argue there.” He chuckles and moves my hair from my face. One of my favorite things that he does is when he caresses my cheek. His fingertips are rough, but they somehow feel like silk against my skin.

  “What happened between you and Dan? I mean before tonight?” I ask. I probably shouldn’t, but I have to know.

  “What? Who told you there was a problem between Dan and me?” He lifts my chin to look at hi
m.

  “Jace. He didn’t say what it was, though; he just said it was ‘coming for a while.’ What did he mean by that?”

  “Just some bullshit thing that happened last year. It’s nothing for you to worry about. I promise,” he says, and smiles a smile that doesn’t extend to his eyes but I don’t feel like pushing it.

  I’m just happy that we worked through our problem for once and that we are getting better at communicating with one another.

  “You’re going to meet me after you leave Vance tomorrow, right? I don’t want anyone to take that apartment before us,” he says.

  “We don’t have any furniture,” I remind him.

  “It comes furnished. But we can add things or change whatever we want after we move in.”

  “How much is it?” I ask. I know I don’t want to hear the answer to that. I can only imagine how expensive it is if it comes already furnished.

  “Don’t worry about that; all you need to worry about is how much the cable will be.” He smiles and kisses my forehead. “So what do you say? You’re still in, right?”

  “And groceries,” I point out and he frowns. “But yes, I am still in.”

  “Are you going to tell your mother?”

  “I don’t know. I will eventually, but I already know what she’s going to say. Maybe I should let her get used to the fact that we’re together first. We are so young and already moving in together, I don’t want to send her into a mental ward.” I let out a laugh despite the slight pain in my chest. I wish things could be simple with my mother and she could be happy for me, but I know that isn’t plausible.

  “I am sorry that this is happening between the two of you. I know it’s my fault, but I’m far too selfish to remove myself from the situation.”

  “It’s not your fault. She is just . . . well, she is the way she is,” I say and kiss his chest.

  “You need to get to sleep, baby; you have to be up in the morning and it’s almost midnight,” he says.

  “Midnight? I thought it was much later,” I say and roll off him and lie in front of him.

 
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