Chapter 54 – After

Chapter 54 – After

After lying in Hardin’s arms for a few minutes, I begin to think about my agreement to stay with Hardin tonight.

“What about my shower in the morning?” I remind him.

“You can take one here, down the hall.” His lips meet my jaw, trailing kisses up and down. His lips on my skin cause my judgment to cloud; he knows exactly what he is doing.

“In a frat house? Who knows who will come in.”

“One, the door locks, and two, I would accompany you, obviously,” he says between kisses.

I scowl at his tone but decide to ignore it. “Fine. But I’d like to take a shower now, before it gets too late.”

He nods and stands up and reaches for his jeans. I climb off the bed and do the same, leaving my panties off.

“No panties?” He smirks.

Ignoring him, I roll my eyes and say, “Do you have shampoo? I don’t even have a hairbrush.” I am starting to get anxious thinking of all the things that I don’t have with me. “And Q-tips? Dental floss?” I continue.

“Relax, we have Q-tips and floss. We probably even have an extra toothbrush, and I know there is a hairbrush or two in there. There are probably even extra panties in every size lying about somewhere, if you want some,” he informs me.

“Panties?” I ask before I realize he means they were left by other girls. “Never mind,” I say and he laughs. I hope Hardin doesn’t have some weird collection of

underwear from girls he has slept with.

He leads me to the bathroom. I feel more comfortable in here than I imagined, only because I have been in this bathroom quite a few times.

Hardin turns on the water and pulls his shirt over his head. “What are you doing?” I ask.

“Taking a shower?”

“Oh, I thought I was taking one first.” “Take one with me,” he says casually.

“Um . . . no! I won’t.” I laugh. I can’t take a shower with him.

“Why not? I’ve already seen you, you have seen me. What’s the big deal?” he groans.

“I don’t know . . . I just don’t want to.” I know he has already seen me naked but this just seems so intimate. More intimate even than what we just did.

“Fine. You go first, then,” he says, but his voice has picked up a slight edge.

I smile sweetly and ignore his sour tone and undress. His eyes scan my body and then look away. My hand reaches behind the curtain to check the temperature of the water and I step in.

Hardin stays silent while I wet my hair. Too silent. “Hardin?” I call. Did he leave the bathroom?


“I thought maybe you left.”

He pulls back the curtain a little and pops his wavy head in. “Nope, still here.” “Is something wrong?” I ask him, frowning sympathetically. He shakes his head in response but doesn’t say anything. Is he really pouting like a child because I won’t take a shower with him? I almost want to tell him to join me, but I want him to get the point that he can’t just get his way all the time. His head

disappears from the shower and I hear him sit down on the toilet.

The shampoo and body wash are both strong musky scents. I miss my vanilla shampoo, but this is fine for one night. It probably would have made more sense for Hardin to stay with me in my room, but Steph would be in there, and it would be awkward to explain everything, and I don’t imagine Hardin would be as affectionate if she was around. The thought bothers me, but I push it back.

“Could you hand me a towel?” I ask him and shut off the water. “Or two, if you have enough.” I like to have one for my hair and one for my body.

His hand pushes through the curtain holding two towels. I thank him, and he mutters something that I don’t understand.

He pulls his jeans down as I dry off and turns the water back on. His long arms pull back the curtain and I can’t help but stare at his naked body. The more I get to see him this way, the more beautiful the designs printed on his skin are to

me. I continue to stare as he steps into the shower. The water sprays onto his dark hair and he closes the curtain. I should have taken one with him, not because he is pouting, but because now I really want to.

“I’m going to go back to your room,” I tell him, figuring he’s ignoring me anyway.

He jerks the curtain back, causing the rings to scrape against the rod. “No, you’re not.”

“Okay, what is your problem?” I snap.

“Nothing, you’re just not going back by yourself. There are thirty guys living here, so you don’t need to be wandering the halls.”

“No, there’s something else; you have been pouting since I said you couldn’t take a shower with me.”

“No . . . I haven’t.”

“Tell me why or I will go out there in this towel,” I threaten, knowing I would never actually do it. His eyes narrow and he reaches out for my arm to stop me, splashing water on the floor.

“I just don’t like being told no.” His voice is low but much softer than it was moments ago.

I imagine that when it comes to girls Hardin hardly, if ever, hears the word no. My mind tells me to tell him to get used to it, but I haven’t told him no until this point, either. As soon as he touches me, I do whatever he wants.

“Well, I am not like the other girls, Hardin,” I snap, my jealousy coming forward.

A small smile plays on his lips as the water runs over his face. “I know, Tess. I know.” He closes the curtain and I pull my clothes on and he turns the water off.

“You can wear some of my clothes to bed,” he tells me and I nod. I barely hear him because I am too focused on his glistening body in front of me. He rubs the white towel against his hair, leaving it sticking up all over his head, then wraps the towel around his waist. The towel hangs so low on his hips he looks like pure sex. It feels like the temperature in the bathroom has risen twenty degrees. Bending down to open a cabinet, he pulls out a hairbrush and places it into my hand.

“Come,” he says and I shake my head, trying to clear the dirty thoughts from my mind. We walk down the hall and turn the corner as a tall blond guy almost runs into me . . . I look up at his face and my bones chill.

“Haven’t seen you in a while,” he purrs and I feel nauseous.

“Hardin,” I squeak and he turns around; it takes him only a moment to remember this is the same guy who tried to make a move on me before.

“Get away from her, Neil,” he barks and Neil pales. He must not have seen

Hardin before he turned the corner. His mistake. “My bad, Scott,” he says and walks away.

“Thanks,” I whisper to Hardin. He wraps his hand over mine and unlocks his door.

“I should just beat the shit out of him, yeah?” Hardin says as I take a seat on the bed.

“No! You shouldn’t!” I beg. I can’t tell if he is serious, but I don’t want to find out. He grabs the remote off his dresser and switches the television on before opening the drawer and tossing me a T-shirt and a pair of boxers.

I remove my jeans and pull the boxers on, rolling them a few times at the top. “Could I maybe wear the shirt you wore today?” I don’t realize how weird it

sounds until the words are out. “What?” He grins.

“I . . . well . . . never mind. I don’t know what I was saying,” I lie. I want to wear your dirty shirt because it smells good? That sounds strange and crazy. He chuckles and picks the shirt off the floor and walks over to me.

“Here, babe,” he says and hands it to me. I am glad he didn’t embarrass me further, but I still feel a little silly.

“Thanks,” I chirp and pull my own shirt off and remove my bra, then slip his shirt on. I inhale and find it smells just as amazing as I knew it would.

Catching this, his eyes soften as he looks at me. “You are beautiful,” he says and looks away. I get the feeling he didn’t mean to say the words out loud, which makes my heart swell even more. I smile at him and take a step toward him.

“So are you.”

“Enough of that,” he says with a laugh as his cheeks flush. “What time do you need to be up in the morning?” he asks and sits on the bed, browsing through the channels.

“Five, but I will set my own alarm.”

“Five? Five in the morning? Your first class is at what, nine? Why do you get up so early?”

“I don’t know, just to be prepared, I guess?” I rake the hairbrush through my hair.

“Well, let’s get up at seven; my body doesn’t function before seven,” he tells me and I groan. Hardin and I are so different.

“Six thirty?” I try to compromise. “Fine, six thirty,” he agrees.

We spend the rest of the evening watching random television shows before Hardin falls asleep with his head on my lap, my fingers running through his hair. I slide down and lie next to him, trying not to wake him.

“Tess?” He groans and his hands move in front of him as if he is reaching for me.

“Here,” I whisper from behind him. He turns to his other side and wraps his arm around me before falling back to sleep. He says that he sleeps better when I am around, and I think that’s true for me as well.

THE NEXT MORNING, my alarm goes off at six thirty and I rush around to try to put yesterday’s clothes on and get Hardin up and dressed. He’s so hard to wake up. I feel flustered and unprepared, but we make it to my room by seven fifteen, giving me plenty of time to change and brush my hair and teeth again. Steph sleeps through it all, and I prevent Hardin from pouring a glass of water on her head to wake her. I’m also really happy that Hardin doesn’t make any rude comments as I pull on one of my long skirts and a plain blue shirt.

“See, it’s only eight; we have twenty minutes before we have to leave to walk to the coffeehouse,” Hardin brags.


“Yeah, I thought I would walk with you? If not, that’s cool, too,” he says and looks away.

“Yeah, of course it’s fine.” I am just not used to whatever this is that has changed between Hardin and me. It will be nice not to have to avoid him, or worry about running into him. What will Landon think? Will we even tell Landon?

“What should we do with our twenty minutes?” I smile.

“I have a few ideas.” His lips turn to a smirk and he pulls me onto him. “Steph is here,” I remind him as he sucks the skin under my ear.

“I know, we are only kissing,” he says, laughing, and he presses his lips to mine.

We leave before Steph wakes, and Hardin offers to carry my bag, which is a nice but unexpected gesture.

“Where are your books?” I ask him.

“I don’t bring them. I just borrow one every day, in every class. Keeps me from having to carry one of these,” he says and gestures to my bag on his shoulder. I roll my eyes and laugh at him.

When we reach the coffeehouse Landon is leaning against the brick and seems surprised to see Hardin and me together. I give him an “I will explain everything later” look and he smiles.

“Well, I better get going, I have classes to sleep through,” Hardin says and I nod. What should I do, hug him?

But before I can decide, he drops my bag and hooks his arm around my waist, pulling me to his chest before kissing me. I didn’t see this coming. I kiss him back and he releases me.

“See you later,” he says with a grin and looks at Landon. This couldn’t be more awkward. Landon’s jaw is practically on the floor and I find myself embarrassed by Hardin’s bold move.

“Um . . . sorry about that.” I don’t really care for public displays of affection. Noah and I have never done anything like that, except when I tried to kiss him at the mall to get Hardin off my mind.

“I have a lot to tell you,” I tell Landon, who picks up my bag.

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