Chapter 28 – After

Chapter 28 – After

He’s not so bad, I guess,” Noah says when the door closes.

I laugh nervously. “What?” And when he raises his eyebrow at me, I continue: “Nothing, I am just surprised to hear you say that.” I lie back onto his chest. The electricity that filled the room moments ago has dissolved.

“I’m not saying I would want to hang out with the guy, but he was friendly enough.”

“Hardin is nothing even close to friendly,” I say, and Noah chuckles and wraps his arm around me. If he only knew the things that happened between Hardin and me, the way we kissed, the way I moaned his name while he—God, Tessa, just stop. I lean my head up and kiss Noah’s jaw, making him smile. I want Noah to make me feel the way Hardin does. I sit up and turn to face him. I take his face between my hands and press my lips against his. His mouth opens and he kisses me back. His lips are soft . . . just like his kiss. It’s not enough. I need the fire, I need the passion. I wrap my hands around his neck and pull myself onto his lap.

“Whoa, Tessa, what are you doing?” he asks and tries to push me off gently. “What? Nothing, I just . . . I want to make out, I guess,” I say and look down.

I am usually not embarrassed in front of Noah, but this isn’t something we usually talk about.

“Okay?” he says, and I kiss him again. I feel warmth from him, but not the fire. I start to rock my hips, hoping to light it somehow. His hands go down to my waist but he pushes them against me, stopping my movements. I know we

agreed to wait until marriage, but we’re just kissing here. I grab his hands and pull them away and continue to rock against him. No matter how many times I try to kiss him harder, his mouth stays soft and timid. I can feel him getting turned on, but he won’t act on it.

I know I am doing this for all the wrong reasons, but I don’t care at the moment—I just need to know that Noah can do to me what Hardin does. It isn’t actually Hardin that I want, it’s the feeling . . . isn’t it?

I stop kissing Noah and slide off his lap.

“That was nice, Tessa.” He smiles and I give him one back. It was “nice.” He is so careful, too careful, but I love him. I press play on the movie and within minutes I feel myself drifting off.

“I should go,” Hardin says. His green eyes looking down at me. “Go where?” I don’t want him to go. “I am going to stay at a hotel close by; I’ll come back in the morning,” he says, and after I stare at him a moment, his face fades into Noah’s.

I jolt up and wipe my eyes. Noah, it is Noah. It was never Hardin.

“You’re obviously really sleepy, and I can’t stay the night here,” Noah says gently and brushes my cheek.

I want him to stay, but now I’m afraid of what I will see or say in my sleepy state. Noah clearly doesn’t think it’s decent for him to stay in my room anyway. Hardin and Noah are polar opposites. In every way.

“Okay, thank you again for coming,” I mumble and he kisses me lightly on the cheek before sliding out from under me.

“I love you,” he says. I nod, bury my head back into my pillow, and descend into dreams I don’t remember.

THE NEXT MORNING, I wake up to Noah calling on the phone. He tells me he is on his way, so I roll out of bed and rush to the showers, wondering what Noah and I should do today. There isn’t much to do around here unless we go into town; maybe I should text Landon and ask what there is to do around here besides party at a frat house. He seems to be my only friend who would know.

Having decided to wear my gray pleated skirt and a plain blue shirt, I ignore Hardin’s voice in the back of my head telling me that it’s ugly, and dress in the stall.

Noah is in the hall waiting by my door as I return with the towel still in my hair. “You look lovely,” he says with a smile, and puts his arm over my shoulder as I open the door.

“I just need to do my hair and put a little makeup on,” I tell him and grab

Steph’s makeup bag, which I’m glad she didn’t take with her. I will need to get some of my own now that I know I like the way it looks.

Noah sits patiently on my bed as I dry my hair and curl the ends. I stop and give him a kiss on the cheek before I apply my makeup. “What do you want to do today?” I finish with mascara and fluff my hair.

“College really suits you, Tessa. You have never looked better,” Noah says. “I don’t know, maybe we can go to a park or something, then dinner?”

I look at the clock. How is it already 1 p.m.? I text Steph and tell her I will be out most of the day and she responds saying she will be gone until tomorrow. She basically lives at Hardin’s fraternity house on the weekends.

Noah opens the passenger door of his Toyota. His parents made sure he had the safest car, the newest model. The interior is spotless, no stacks of books, no dirty clothing. We drive around to find a park, which only takes a little bit. It’s a small, quiet space with half-green, half-yellowing grass and a few trees.

As we pull into a spot, Noah asks, “Hey, when are you going to start looking for a car?”

“I think this week, actually. I am going to apply for jobs this week, too.” I don’t mention the internship at Vance Publishing that Hardin dangled in front of me. I don’t know if I can still get it, or how I’d tell Noah if I did.

“That is great news. Let me know if you need any help with either of those,” he says.

We walk around the park once and then sit at a picnic table. Noah talks most of the time and I nod along. I find myself zoning in and out of the conversation but he doesn’t seem to notice. We end up walking a little more and come to a small stream. I snort at the irony and Noah looks at me quizzically.

“Do you want to swim?” I ask, not quite sure why I push this moment further. “In there? No way,” he says, laughing, and as I deflate a little, I mentally

smack myself. I need to stop comparing Noah to Hardin.

“I was just joking,” I lie, and drag him along down the trail.

IT IS SEVEN before we leave the park, so we decide to order pizza when we get back to my room and watch a classic: Meg Ryan falling in love with Tom Hanks through a radio show. I am starving by the time the pizza comes so I eat almost half of it myself. In my defense, I haven’t eaten all day.

Halfway through the movie my phone rings and Noah reaches over to grab it for me. “Who’s Landon?” he asks. There is no suspicion in his voice, only curiosity. He has never been the jealous type; he never needed to be.

Until now, my subconscious reminds me.

“He’s a friend from school,” I say and answer. Why would Landon be calling me so late? He’s never called me for anything other than to compare notes.

“Tessa?” Landon says loudly. “Yeah, is everything okay?”

“Um, well, no, actually. I know Noah is there but . . .” He hesitates. “What’s wrong, Landon?” My heart starts to race. “Are you okay?” “Yeah, it’s not me. It’s Hardin.”

Panic overtakes me. “H-Hardin?” I stutter.

“Yeah, if I give you an address can you come here, please?” I hear something crash in the background. I jump off my bed and I have my shoes on before my mind catches up. Noah stands up, too, almost as if in sympathy.

“Landon, is Hardin trying to hurt you?” My mind can’t make sense of what else could be going on.

“No, no,” he says.

“Text me the address,” I tell him and then hear another crash. I turn to Noah. “Noah, I need your car.”

His head turns sideways. “What is going on?”

“I don’t know . . . it’s Hardin. Give me your keys,” I demand.

He reaches into his pocket and pulls them out, but says insistently, “I’m coming with you.”

But I snatch the keys from his hands and shake my head. “No, you . . . I need to go alone.”

My words hurt him. He looks hurt. And I know it’s wrong to leave him here, but right now the only thing I can think about is getting to Hardin.

Series Navigation<< Chapter 27 – AfterChapter 29 – After >>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!