Chapter 62 – After

Chapter 62 – After

When I wake up, it takes me a moment to remember that I am not in bed with Hardin. The sun is peacefully shining through the bay window and as I look over, I catch sight of a figure and sit up quickly, orienting myself. As my eyes adjust I am convinced that I am going mad.

“Hardin?” I say quietly and wipe my eyes.

“Hey,” he says from where he sits in a wingback chair, his elbows on his knees.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I snap. My heart aches already. “Tessa, we need to talk,” he says, the bags under his eyes prominent. “Have you just been watching me sleep?” I ask.

“No, of course not. I came in here a few minutes ago,” he says. I wonder if he had nightmares without me in bed with him. If I hadn’t witnessed them myself, I would think those were part of his games as well, but I remember holding his sweaty face between my hands and seeing the real fear in his green eyes.

I stay silent. I don’t want to fight with him. I just want him to go away. I hate that I don’t actually want him to go away but know that he has to.

“We need to talk,” he repeats. When I shake my head no, he runs both hands through his hair and takes a deep breath.

“I have to go to class,” I tell him.

“Landon already left. I turned your alarm off. It’s eleven already.” “You what!”

“You were up late and I thought you—” he begins.

“How dare you even . . . Just go.” The pain from his actions yesterday is still fresh, and actually overshadows the anger I feel at missing my morning classes, but I can’t show any weakness or he will pounce on it. He always does.

“You’re in my room,” he points out.

I climb out of the bed, not caring if I am only in a T-shirt, his T-shirt. “You’re right. I’ll go,” I say, the lump in my throat growing and tears threatening to spill out.

“No, I meant . . . I meant: you are in my room . . . Why?” His voice is bleak. “I don’t know . . . I just . . . I couldn’t sleep . . .” I admit. I need to stop

talking. “It’s not really your room anyway. I’ve slept here just as many times as you have. Actually more now,” I point out.

“Your own shirt didn’t fit?” he asks, his eyes focused on the white shirt. Of course he is making fun of me.

“Go ahead, tease me,” I say, the tears pooling at the bottom of my eyes. He makes eye contact with me but I look away.

“I wasn’t teasing you.” He stands up from the chair and takes a step toward me. I back away and raise my hands to block him and he stops. “Just hear me out, okay?”

“What else could you possibly have to say, Hardin? We always do this. We have the same fight over and over, only worse each time. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t.”

“I said I was sorry for kissing her,” he says.

“That isn’t what this is about. Well, that’s part of it, but there is so much more. The fact that you don’t get that proves that we are wasting our time. You will never be who I need you to be, and I am not who you want me to be.” I wipe my eyes as he looks out the window.

“But you are who I want you to be,” he says.

I wish I could believe him. I wish he wasn’t so incapable of feelings.

“You’re not,” is all I can say. I didn’t want to cry in front of him, but I can’t seem to stop myself. I have cried so many times since I met him, and if I get tangled back into his web, this is how it will always be.

“I’m not what?”

“Who I want you to be; you do nothing but hurt me.” I walk past him and cross the hall to the guest room. I hastily pull my pants up my legs and gather my things, Hardin’s eyes following my every move.

“Didn’t you hear what I told you yesterday?” he finally says. I was hoping he wouldn’t bring this up.

“Answer me,” he says.

“Yeah . . . I heard you,” I tell him, avoiding looking in his direction.

His voice becomes hostile. “And you have nothing to say about it?” “No,” I lie. He steps in front of me. “Move,” I beg.

He is dangerously close to me and I know what he is going to do as he moves in to kiss me. I try to back away from him, but his strong hands pull me closer, holding me in place. His lips touch mine, and his tongue tries to push through my lips but I refuse.

He eases his head back slightly. “Kiss me back, Tess,” he demands. “No.” I push at his chest.

“Tell me you don’t feel the same, and I will go.” His face is inches from mine, his breath hot on my face.

“I don’t.” It hurts to say the words but he has to go.

“Yes, you do,” he says, his tone desperate. “I know you do.”

“I don’t, Hardin, and neither do you. You can’t possibly think that I bought that?”

He lets go of me. “You don’t believe that I love you?” “Of course not, how stupid do you think I am?”

He stares at me for a second before he opens his mouth and closes it again. “You’re right,” he says.


He shrugs. “You’re right, I don’t. I don’t love you, I was just adding to the drama of the whole thing.” He laughs lightly. I know he didn’t mean it, but that doesn’t make his honesty hurt any less. A part of me, a larger part than I want to accept, hopes that he actually did.

He stands against the wall as I walk out of the room, my bag in hand.

As I reach the stairs, Karen smiles up at me. “Tessa, sweetheart, I didn’t know you were here!” Her smile fades as she notices my distressed state. “Are you okay? Did something happen?”

“No, I’m good. I was locked out of my room last night and I . . .” “Karen,” Hardin’s voice says from behind me.

“Hardin!” Her smile slightly returns. “Would you two like something to eat, some breakfast? Well, lunch, it’s noon.”

“No, thank you, I was just going back to the dorms,” I tell her as I descend. “I could eat,” Hardin says behind me.

She seems surprised as she looks at me and then back at him. “Okay, great! I will be in the kitchen!”

After she disappears, I head for the door.

“Where are you going?” He grabs my wrist. I struggle for a second before he releases it.

“The dorms, like I just said.”

“You’re just going to walk?”

“What is wrong with you? You act like nothing is happening, like we haven’t just been fighting, like you haven’t done anything. You are seriously insane, Hardin—I’m talking mental institution, medicated, padded-walls insane. You say horrible things to me and then try to offer me a ride?” I can’t keep up with him.

“I didn’t say anything horrible, actually; all I said was that I don’t love you, which you claim you already knew. And secondly, I wasn’t offering you a ride. I was simply asking if you were going to walk back.”

His smug expression makes me dizzy. Why would he even come here to find me if he doesn’t care about me? Doesn’t he have anything better to do than torture me?

“What did I do?” I finally ask. I have been wanting to ask this for a while, but I’ve always been afraid of his answer.


“What did I do to make you hate me?” I ask, trying to keep my voice down so Karen doesn’t hear me. “You can have practically any girl you want and you continue to waste your time—and mine—to find new ways to hurt me. What’s the point? Do you dislike me that much?”

“No, it’s not that. I don’t dislike you, Tessa. You just made yourself an easy target—it’s all about the chase, right?” he says boastfully. Before he can say anything else, Karen calls his name and asks if he wants pickles on his sandwich.

He walks to the kitchen and answers her; I walk out the door.

On the way to the bus stop, I figure that I’ve already missed so many classes lately I might as well miss the rest of the day and get a car. Luckily, the bus pulls up minutes later and I find a seat in the very back.

As I slump down in the seat, I think back to what Landon said about heartbreak, that if you don’t love the person, they can’t break your heart. Hardin repeatedly breaks my heart, even when I don’t think there are any more pieces to break.

And I love him. I love Hardin.

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