Chapter 33 – After

Chapter 33 – After

Hardin’s blazing eyes don’t leave mine as I make my way to him. I prop my knee up on the bed and push myself onto it. At the same time, Hardin lifts himself up so his back is against the headboard and holds his hand out for mine. The second I place my small hand in his, he wraps his fingers around it and pulls me onto him. My knees go around his sides and I am straddling his lap. I’ve done this before with him, but never wearing so little clothing. I hold myself up using my knees so we aren’t touching, but Hardin isn’t having it. He positions his hands on my hips and gently pushes me down. His T-shirt bunches at my sides, baring my thighs completely, and I am suddenly glad that I shaved my legs this morning. The second our bodies touch my stomach begins to stir. I know this happiness that I feel isn’t going to last, and I feel like Cinderella, waiting for the clock to strike and end my blissful night.

“Much better,” he says and gives me a crooked smile.

I know he’s drunk and that’s why he is being so nice—well, nice for him—but right now I will take it. If this is truly my last time around him, then this is how I want to spend it. I keep telling myself that. I can behave however I want tonight with Hardin because when the daylight comes, I am going to tell him never to come near me again, and he will oblige. It’s for the best, and I know that is what he will want when he isn’t intoxicated. In my defense, I am just as intoxicated by Hardin as he is by the bottle of scotch he consumed. I keep telling myself that, too.

As Hardin continues to stare into my eyes, I begin to feel nervous. What

should I do next? I have no idea where he wants to take this and I don’t want to make a fool out of myself by trying to do something first.

He seems to notice my uncomfortable expression.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, and brings a hand to my face. His finger traces over my cheekbone and my eyes involuntarily close at his surprisingly gentle touch.

“Nothing . . . I just don’t know what to do,” I admit and look down. “Do whatever you want to do, Tess. Don’t overthink it.”

I lean back a little to create about a foot of space between our torsos and bring my hand up to his bare chest. I look at him for permission and he nods. I press both hands against his chest softly and he closes his eyes. My fingers trace the birds on his chest and down to the dead tree on his stomach. His eyelashes flutter as I trace the scripture on his ribs. His expression is so calm, but his chest is moving up and down quicker than it was a few moments ago. I’m unable to control myself as I bring my hand down and run my index finger along the waistband of his boxers. His eyes shoot open and he looks nervous. Hardin, nervous?

“Can I . . . um . . . touch you?” I ask with the hope that he gets what I mean without me having to say it. I feel detached from myself. Who is this girl straddling this punk boy and asking to touch him . . . down there? I think back to what Hardin said earlier about me being my true self with him. Maybe he is right. I love the way I feel right now. I love the electricity shooting through my body when we’re like this.

He nods. “Please.”

So I lower my hand, keeping it on top of his boxers, and slowly I reach the slight bulge in the fabric. He sucks in a breath as I graze my hand over him. I don’t know what to do, so I just keep touching it, running my fingers up and down. I am too nervous to look up at him, so I keep my eyes on his growing crotch.

“Do you want me to show you what to do?” he asks quietly, his voice shaky.

The usual cocky demeanor has shifted into something mysterious.

I nod and he puts his hand over mine, bringing it down to touch him again. He opens my hand and makes my fingers cup around his length. When he sucks a breath between his lips, I look up at him through my lashes. He takes his hand off mine, giving me full control.

“Fuck, Tessa, don’t do that,” he growls. Confused, I still my hand and am about to jerk it away when he speaks up. “No, no, not that. Keep doing that—I mean don’t look at me that way.”

“What way?”

“That innocent way—that look that makes me want to do so many dirty things

to you.”

I want to throw myself back onto the bed and let him do whatever he wants. I want to be his—to be freed for a moment from whatever it is that makes me so scared sometimes. I give him a small smile and begin to move my hand again. I want to take his boxers off, but I’m afraid to. A moan escapes his lips and I tighten my grip; I want to hear that sound again. I don’t know if I should move my hand faster or not, so I keep my movements slow and tight, and he seems to like it. I lean in and press my lips against the clammy skin of his neck, causing him to moan again.

“Fuck, Tess, your hand feels so good wrapped around me.” I give him a little tighter squeeze and he winces. “Not that hard, baby,” he says in a voice that’s soft and sounds like it could never be the same one that mocked me before.

“Sorry,” I say and kiss his neck again. My tongue runs over the skin beneath his ear and his body jumps. His hands go to my chest and he cups my breasts beneath his hands.

“Can I. Take. Off. Your . . . bra?”

His voice is so uncontrolled and raspy; I’m amazed by the effect I am having on him. I nod and his eyes light up in excitement. His hands are shaky as he reaches under the shirt and up my back, unclasping my bra as soon as his fingers touch the strap with a dexterity that makes me think for a minute about how many times he has done this before. I force the thoughts to the back of my mind, and Hardin slides the straps down my arms, making me let go of him. Tossing my bra off the bed, he returns his hands up under my shirt and grabs hold of my breasts again. His fingers lightly pinch my nipples as he leans forward to kiss me. I moan into his mouth and reach down and grab his length again.

“Oh, Tessa, I’m going to come,” he says, and I feel the wetness growing in my panties even though he is only touching my chest. I feel like I may come, too, from his moans and his gentle assault against my breasts alone. His legs tense under me and his kiss becomes sloppier. His hands drop down by his sides, and I feel a wetness spread through his boxers and pull my hand away. I have never made anyone else come before. My chest heats, filling with a strange new sense that I’m now one step closer to being a woman. Staring down at the wet spot on Hardin’s boxers, I love the control I feel over him. I love that I could bring his body pleasure the way he does mine.

Hardin’s head rolls back and he takes a few deep breaths while I sit on his thighs, unsure what to do. After a moment, his eyes open and he lifts his head back up to look at me. A lazy smile crosses his face and he leans forward to kiss me on my forehead.

“I have never come like that before,” he says, and I am back to being


“It was that bad?” I ask and try to move off his legs. He stops me.

“What? No, you were that good. It usually takes more than someone just grabbing me through my boxers.”

A pang of jealousy hits me. I don’t want to think about all the other girls that have made Hardin feel this way. He takes in my silence and cups my cheek, brushing his thumb along my temple. I am comforted by the fact that the others had to do more than I did, but I still wish there weren’t any others. I don’t know why I bother to feel this way; Hardin and I are still unresolved. We are never going to date or be anything other than this, but right now, I just want to live in the moment, just the two of us. I laugh a little as the thought crosses my mind. I am not a “live in the moment” type of person at all.

“What are you thinking?” he asks, but I shake my head. I don’t want to tell him about my jealous thoughts. It’s not fair, and I don’t want that conversation.

“Oh come on, Tessa, just tell me,” he says, and I shake my head again. In a very un-Hardin move he grabs hold of my hips and begins to tickle me. I scream with laughter and fall off him and onto the soft bed. He continues to tickle me until I can’t breathe. His laughter booms through the room—and it’s the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. I have never heard him laugh this way, and something tells me hardly anyone has. Despite his flaws, his many flaws, I consider myself lucky to see him in this moment.

“Okay . . . okay! I will tell you!” I screech and he stops.

“Good choice,” he says. But looking down, he adds, “But hold that thought. I need to change my boxers.”

I blush.

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