After (The After Series) by Anna Todd


  We put all the dishes away into the cabinets and Hardin orders a pizza. The polite person in me can’t help but offer to pay for it, which earns me a glare and a middle finger. I laugh and put all the trash into the box the dishes came in. They weren’t joking when they said the apartment came furnished—it has everything we could need, a trash can, even a shower curtain.

  “The pizza will be here in thirty minutes. I am going to go down and get your stuff,” he says.

  “I’ll come, too,” I say and follow him out.

  He has put my things into two boxes and a trash bag, which makes me cringe but I stay quiet. Grabbing a handful of T-shirts and a pair of jeans out of his trunk, he shoves them into the trash bag with my clothes.

  “Good thing we have an iron,” I finally say. When I look into his trunk, something catches my eye. “You never got rid of those sheets?” I ask.

  “Oh . . . yeah. No, I was going to, but I forgot,” he says and looks away.

  “Okay . . .” I feel a little uneasy about his reaction.

  We haul a load of stuff up the stairs, and right when we reach the top, the pizza guy rings our bell. Hardin goes back down to meet him, and when he comes back up the aroma coming from the box is heavenly. I didn’t realize how hungry I’d gotten.

  We eat at the table, and it’s strange but nice to be eating dinner with Hardin in our place. We’re quiet as we devour the delicious pizza, but it’s the good kind of silence. The kind that tells me we’re home.

  “I love you,” he says as I put our plates into the dishwasher.

  I turn and respond, “I love you,” just as my phone vibrates loudly on the wood table. Hardin looks over and taps the screen. “Who is it?” I ask him.

  “Noah?” he says as both a declaration and a question at the same time.

  “Oh.” I know this isn’t going to go well.

  “He says it was ‘nice talking to you today’?” His jaw clenches.

  I walk back over and grab the phone, practically wrestling it out of his grip. I could have sworn he was going to crush it in his hand.

  “Yeah, he called me today,” I tell him with false confidence. I was going to mention it to him. I just haven’t found the right time.

  “And . . .” He raises his eyebrow.

  “He was just telling me that he saw my mother and he was just seeing how I am doing.”

  “Why?”

  “I don’t know . . . just to check on me, I guess.” I shrug and sit down in the chair next to him at the table.

  “He doesn’t need to be checking on you,” he growls.

  “It’s not that big a deal, Hardin. I’ve known him half my life.”

  His eyes grow colder. “I don’t give a shit.”

  “You’re being ridiculous. We just moved in together and you’re worried about Noah calling me?” I scoff.

  “You have no reason to be talking to him; he probably thinks you want him back since you answered the call.” He runs his hands through his hair.

  “No, he doesn’t. He knows that I am with you.” I try my best to fight my temper.

  He gestures wildly at my phone. “Then call him right now and tell him not to call you again.”

  “What? No! I’m not doing that. Noah hasn’t done anything wrong, I have already hurt him enough—we both have—so, no. I will not say that to him. There is no harm in me being friends with him.”

  “Yes there is,” he says, his voice rising. “He thinks he is better than me, and he will try to take you from me! I’m not stupid, Tessa. Your mom wants you with him too—I won’t let him try to take what is mine!”

  I step back and look at him with wide eyes. “Would you listen to yourself? You sound like a lunatic! I am not going to be hateful to him just because you feel like you have some insane claim on me!” I storm out of the kitchen.

  “Don’t walk away from me!” he booms, following me into the living room.

  Leave it to Hardin to start a fight with me after the amazing day we have had. But I’m holding my ground on this. “Then stop acting like you own me. I will try to compromise and make an effort to listen to you more than I do now, but not when it comes to Noah. I would immediately stop talking to him if he tried to make a move or say anything inappropriate, but he didn’t. Besides, you obviously need to just trust me.”

  Hardin stares at me, and I wonder if his energy is dissipating when at last he simply says, “I don’t like him.”

  “Okay, I get that, but you have to be reasonable. He is not plotting to take me away from you; he isn’t like that. This is the first time he has even tried to contact me since I ended things with him.”

  “And the last!” Hardin snaps. I roll my eyes and head into the small bathroom. “What are you doing?” he asks.

  “I’m going to take a shower, and when I get out I hope you’re done acting like a child,” I say. I’m proud of the way I am standing up to him, but I can’t help but feel bad for him. I know he is just afraid to lose me to Noah; he has this deep jealousy because of the way Noah and I “look” together. On paper Noah is better for me, and Hardin knows that, but I don’t love Noah, I love Hardin.

  Hardin follows me into the bathroom, but when I start to undress he turns and leaves, slamming the bathroom door on his way out. I take a quick shower and when I get out Hardin is lying across the bed in just his boxers. I stay quiet as I open the drawers to find pajamas.

  “You’re not going to wear my shirt?” His voice is low.

  “I . . .” I notice that he folded it and put it on the table next to the bed. “Thanks.” I pull it over my head. The familiar minty scent almost makes me forget that I’m supposed to be mad at him. But when I look over at him and his dark mood, I remember all too well. “Well, this was a great night,” I huff and take my towel back to the bathroom.

  “Come here,” he says when I return.

  Hesitantly, I walk over to him and he sits up at the end of the bed, pulling me to stand between his legs.

  “I’m sorry.” He looks up at me.

  “For . . .?”

  “Acting like a caveman,” he says, and I can’t help but laugh. “And for ruining our first night here together,” he adds.

  “Thank you. We have to discuss these things instead of you blowing up at me.” I twirl the hair at the nape of his neck in between my fingers.

  “I know.” He half-smiles. “Can we discuss you not talking to him anymore?”

  “Not tonight,” I say with a sigh. I will have to find a middle ground with him, but I am not completely giving up my right to talk to someone I’ve known half my life.

  “Look at us working our problems out.” He chuckles ruefully.

  “I hope our neighbors won’t miss their quiet evenings.”

  “Oh, they wouldn’t have gotten any quiet anyway.” His smile shows his dimples to full fire-igniting effect, but I ignore his perverted remark.

  “I really didn’t mean to ruin the night,” he says again.

  “I know. It’s not ruined. It’s only eight.” I smile.

  “I wanted to be the one to take that dress off you,” he states, his eyes darkening.

  “I could always put it back on,” I say in what is an attempt to be sexy. Without a word he stands up and lifts me over his shoulder. I squeal and try to kick my legs at him. “What are you doing!” I scream.

  “Going to get that dress.” He laughs and carries me over to the laundry hamper.

  chapter eighty-eight

  Too bad we didn’t make it to the part about me removing the dress,” Hardin whispers into my ear as he pushes me farther onto the bed. As soon as I slid his T-shirt off over my head, he practically tackled me onto our bed and slid the condom on faster than I thought possible.

  “Mmm . . .” is the only word I can manage to form as he slides in and out of me. This is the first time we are making love that there is no pain, only pleasure.

  “God, baby . . . you feel so good,” he groans and rocks his hips against mine. The feeling is in
describable. His lean body fits perfectly between my legs, and his hot skin feels heavenly against mine. I consider responding, to urge him with dirty talk the way that he does me, but I’m lost in him and the pleasure coursing through me as he continues his tender assault.

  I grip on to his back, my nails rake down his skin, and his eyes roll to the back of his head. I love to see him this way, so out of control, so primal. He lifts my thigh to wrap around his waist, bringing our bodies even closer. Watching him pushes me to the limit; my toes curl and my leg tightens around his back as I moan his name repeatedly.

  “That’s it, baby . . . come for me. Show me how good . . . fuck . . . how good I make you f-feel,” he stutters, and I feel him twitch inside me. Though he finishes a few seconds before me, his perfect movements continue until I am turned into a pool of boneless mush and am spent. My body is completely relaxed and he collapses on top of me. We lie there in silence just enjoying the feeling of being so close to each other, and within minutes soft snores fall from Hardin’s lips.

  THE DAYS HERE PASS QUICKLY. Having freedom for the first time in your life will do that. It’s still foreign to be in my own place with my own shower, to make my own coffee in my own kitchen. Sharing all of this with Hardin only makes it that much better. I decide upon my navy blue eyelet dress with white heels. I am getting better at walking in them, but I still pack my trusty Toms in my purse just in case. My hair is curled and pinned back and I even put on a little eye shadow and liner. I am really liking this having my own space.

  Hardin refuses to wake up, sitting up only long enough to kiss me goodbye. I wonder how he manages to work and do all of his schoolwork when I have yet to see him do either. In a brave move, I grab his car keys and take his car to Vance. If he is skipping classes, he surely won’t miss it, right? I forget how much closer we live to Vance now, and I make a mental note to remember to thank Hardin for his foresight, even though he has to drive farther to campus now. That I don’t have to drive forty minutes makes my day much better.

  When I reach the top floor Kimberly is standing at the conference room table placing donuts in neat rows.

  “Whoa, Tessa! Look at you!” She whistles playfully. I flush and she laughs. “Navy is definitely your color.” She looks me up and down again. I feel slightly self-conscious, but her smile soothes my thoughts. I have been feeling much more confident and sexy lately, thanks to Hardin.

  “Thank you, Kimberly.” I smile back and grab a donut and a cup of coffee. The phone rings on her desk and she rushes over to answer it.

  When I get to my office, I have an email from Mr. Vance praising my notes on the first manuscript and saying that even though that one was a pass for the house, he looks forward to my evaluation of the next one. I dive right in and get to work.

  “Anything good?” Hardin’s voice startles me out of my work. I look up, slightly shocked, and he smiles. “Must be, since you didn’t seem to notice my arrival.”

  He looks incredible. His hair is pushed up in the front as always, but the sides are flatter than usual, and he has a plain white V-neck on. The shirt is tighter than usual, making his tattoos even more visible underneath. He is so incredibly hot—and all mine.

  “So . . . how was the drive?” he asks with a smirk.

  “Really nice.” I giggle.

  “So you think you can just take my car without my permission?” His voice is low and I can’t tell if he is joking.

  “I . . . well . . .” I stammer.

  He doesn’t say anything, just walks over behind my desk and pulls my chair out. His eyes move from my shoes up to my face and he pulls me to stand up. “You look so sexy today,” he says against my neck before gently pressing his lips against my skin.

  I shiver. “Why . . . why are you here?”

  “You aren’t happy to see me?” He smiles and lifts me onto the desk.

  Oh. “Yeah . . . of course I am,” I tell him. I am always happy to see him.

  “I may have to consider coming back here after all, just so I can do this every day,” he says and puts his hands on my thighs.

  “Someone could come in here.” I try to be stern, but my tone is shaky.

  “Nope—Vance is at a meeting for the rest of the afternoon and Kimberly has agreed to call if she needs you.”

  The idea of Hardin hinting to Kimberly what we could be doing in here makes my cheeks heat, but my hormones take over. I glance at the door.

  “Locked,” he answers cockily.

  Without thinking, I pull Hardin closer and immediately put my hand over his crotch, palming him through his jeans. He groans and unbuttons his jeans, yanking them down along with his boxers.

  “This is going to be faster than usual, okay, baby?” he says and slides my panties over.

  I nod with anticipation and lick my lips. He chuckles and pulls me by my hips to the edge of the desk. My lips attack his neck and I hear the foil packet being ripped open.

  “Look at you—three months ago you would blush at the mention of sex, and now here you are letting me fuck you on your desk,” he whispers and slams into me.

  Hardin clamps his hand over my mouth and takes his bottom lip between his teeth. I can’t believe I am actually letting Hardin have sex with me on a desk, at the place of my internship, with Kimberly less than a hundred feet away. As much as I hate to admit it, the idea actually drives me crazy. In the best way.

  “Are you going . . . to be . . . quiet . . .” he says in short spurts and moves even faster. I nod and pant, grabbing on to his biceps so I don’t fall off the desk from his assault.

  “You like it this way, don’t you? Fast and hard?” He grits his teeth. I gently bite down on his palm to keep quiet.

  “Answer me or I’ll stop,” he threatens.

  I lower my eyes at him and nod, too overwhelmed with sensation to actually speak.

  “I knew you would,” he says, and flips me over so my stomach is on the desk.

  Oh God. He thrusts back into me and moves slowly before wrapping my hair around his fist and pulling me up so he can kiss my neck. The tension grows in my stomach and his movements grow sloppier—and I know we are both close. With his final thrust he kisses my shoulder before pulling out of me and helping me off the desk.

  “That was—” I try to say and he silences me by kissing my lips.

  “Yeah . . . it was.” He finishes my thoughts before pulling his pants back up. I run my fingers through my hair and wipe under my eyes to make sure my makeup is in place before looking at the clock. It’s almost three. The day has escaped me once again.

  “You ready?” he asks.

  “What? It’s only three.” I point to the clock.

  “Christian said you can leave early. I spoke to him an hour ago.”

  “Hardin! You can’t just ask him if I can leave early; this internship is important to me.”

  “Babe, relax. He mentioned that he would be out all day and he was the one who brought up you leaving early.”

  “I don’t want anyone to think I am taking advantage of this opportunity.”

  “No one thinks that. Your GPA and your work speak for themselves.”

  “Wait . . . so then why didn’t you just call me and tell me I could come home?” I raise a brow at him.

  “I have wanted to bend you over that desk since your first day here.” He gives me a smug smile and grabs my jacket for me.

  I want to tell him how crazy he is to come here just to have sex with me on the desk, but I can’t deny that I loved it. Looking at him in that T-shirt with those inked muscles, I could never deny him anything.

  AS WE WALK to our cars, he squints at the sun and says, “I was thinking we should go get whatever we are going to wear to that dreadful wedding.”

  “Good idea,” I agree. “But I’m driving your car back home and we can leave my car, then go.” I jump into his car before he can protest. He just shakes his head and smiles.

  After dropping my car off, we go to the mall. Hardin whines and complains
like a child the entire time and I literally have to coerce him with sexual bribes to get him to buy a tie. He ends up getting black dress pants, a black jacket, a white dress shirt, and a black tie. Simple, but perfect for him. He refuses to try everything on, so I hope it all actually fits him. He would take any excuse not to go to the wedding, but I am not going to let that happen. Once we get him settled, it’s my turn.

  “The white one,” he says and gestures to the short white dress in my hand, the other option being a longer black one. Since Karen mentioned that the color scheme was black and white, I figured I would stick to it. Hardin seemed to really like the white dress I wore yesterday, so I decide to listen to him. Much to my annoyance, before I realize what he’s doing, Hardin goes from “just carrying” my dress and shoes to paying for them. When I protest, the young girl at the register smiles and shrugs as if to say, “What do you expect me to do?”

  “I have to do some work tonight, so I won’t be home for dinner,” he tells me as we walk out of the mall.

  “Oh. I thought you worked from home.”

  “I do, but I need to go to the library for a little bit,” he explains. “I won’t be gone too late.”

  “I’ll just go grocery shopping while you are gone,” I tell him and he nods.

  “Be careful and go before it gets dark,” he says.

  He makes me a list of things he likes and leaves as soon as we get back to the apartment. I change into jeans and a sweatshirt and walk to the grocery store down the street. When I get back home, I put everything away, catch up on some homework, and make myself something to eat. I text Hardin but don’t hear anything back, so I put a plate of food in the microwave for him to heat up when he gets home and lie on the couch to watch television.

  chapter eighty-nine

  When I wake up, it takes me a few moments to realize I am still on the couch.

  “Hardin?” I call out, untangling myself from the blanket. I walk to the bedroom in the hopes he will be in there. But the room is empty. Where the hell is he?

 
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