Chapter 75 – After

Chapter 75 – After

Hardin ends up staying the night in my room after Steph goes to Tristan’s apartment with him. The rest of the night we spend talking and kissing before Hardin finally falls asleep with his head on my lap. I dream of a time and place where we could actually live together. I would love to wake up every morning to find Hardin next to me, but it’s not realistic. I’m too young, and that’s moving too fast.

Monday morning, my alarm goes off ten minutes late, throwing my whole morning off. After I shower and do my makeup quickly, I wake Hardin before plugging in my blow dryer.

“What time is it?” he groans.

“It’s six thirty. I have to blow-dry my hair.”

“Six thirty? You don’t have to be there until nine; come back to bed.”

“No, I still have to do my hair and get coffee. I have to leave here by seven thirty; the drive is forty-five minutes.”

“You’d be there forty-five minutes early; you should leave at eight.” He closes his eyes and rolls back over.

I ignore him and turn on my blow dryer; he takes a pillow and covers his head with it. After curling my hair, I go over my planner again to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

“Are you going to just go to class from here?” I ask Hardin as I get dressed. “Yeah, probably.” He smiles and crawls out of bed. “Can I use your


“Uh, I guess . . . I’ll just buy a new one on my way back.” No one has ever asked to use my toothbrush before. I mentally picture myself putting it in my mouth after he uses it, but nothing good comes of that.

“I still say you shouldn’t leave until eight; think of the things we could do in thirty minutes,” he says, and I look over at him and his tempting dimples, and notice the way his eyes travel up and down my body. My own eyes travel to the bulge in his boxers and my body immediately heats. My fingers stop on the middle button of my shirt as he lazily crosses the small room to stand behind me. I gesture for him to zip my skirt, and he complies, but his hands brush my bare skin delicately as he does so.

“I have to. I still have to get some coffee,” I say frantically. “What if there is traffic? An accident? I could blow a tire or need gas. I could get lost, or not be able to find somewhere to park. What if I have to park in the very back and then I have to walk a long way and I will be out of breath, so I will need a few minutes to—”

“You need to calm down, baby. You’re a nervous wreck.” He sends a little breath across my ear. I look at him in the mirror. He looks so perfect when he wakes up, his sleepiness making him look softer.

“I can’t help it; this internship means so much to me. I can’t take the chance of messing it up.” My mind is racing. I will be fine after today, after I know what to expect and can plan my week accordingly.

“You don’t want to show up there nervous like this; they will eat you alive.” He places a string of small kisses down my neck.

“I will be fine.” I hope. Goose bumps cover my skin from his warm breath against my neck.

“Let me relax you first.” His voice is low and seductive, laced with sleep. “I . . .”

He trails his fingers over my collarbone and down to my chest. His eyes meet mine in the mirror and I sigh in defeat. “Five minutes?” I ask and beg at the same time.

“That’s all I need.”

I move to turn around, but he stops me. “No, I want you to watch,” he purrs in my ear. I feel the familiar twinge between my legs from his words. I gulp and he moves my hair over my left shoulder and pushes his body against mine. His hand travels down to the hem of my long skirt.

“At least you aren’t wearing tights today. I must say I am a fan of this skirt.” He pulls it up to my waist. “Especially when it’s like this.”

My eyes are glued to his hands in the mirror and my pulse is thrumming. His fingers are slightly cold as they slip into my panties; the contact makes me jump

slightly and he chuckles into my neck. His other hand is wrapped around my chest, holding me in place. I feel so exposed, but so turned on at the same time. Watching him touch me takes my mind places that I never knew existed. His fingers move slowly inside me and he kisses my neck softly.

“Look how beautiful you are,” he whispers against my skin. I look at myself in the mirror and barely recognize the girl before me. My cheeks are flushed a deep red; my eyes are wide and wild. With my skirt bunched up at my hips and Hardin’s fingers moving inside me, I look different . . . sexy, even.

My eyes close as I feel my stomach tightening. Hardin continues his beautifully slow assault and I pull my bottom lip between my teeth to stifle a moan.

“Open your eyes,” he instructs. My eyes meet his and it sends me over the edge—Hardin standing behind me, holding me, watching me come undone from his touch is all it takes. My head rolls back on his shoulder and my legs start to shake.

“That’s it, baby,” he coos and tightens his grip around me, holding me up as my vision blurs and I moan his name.

When my eyes open again, Hardin kisses my temple and tucks a curl behind my ear before tugging my skirt back down my thighs. I turn around to face him and check the clock. It’s only seven thirty-five.

He really did only need five minutes, I think to myself and smile.

“See, you’re much more relaxed and ready to take on corporate America, right?” He beams, obviously proud of himself. I don’t blame him.

“Yes, actually. But you make a terrible American,” I tease and grab my bag.

“I don’t claim to be otherwise,” he says. “Last chance for me to drive you.

Well, since my car isn’t here, I could drive you in your car?” “No; thank you, though.”

“Good luck; you’ll do great.”

He kisses me again and I thank him and gather my things, leaving him in my room. This morning has turned out to be great despite my alarm being ten minutes off. The drive is quick and clear, so when I pull into the parking lot it’s only eight thirty. I decide to call Hardin to pass the time.

“You okay?” he says on the other end.

“Yeah, I’m already here,” I tell him. I can picture his self-satisfied expression. “Told you. You could have stayed for ten more minutes and given me a blow


I giggle. “Always such a pervert, even this early in the morning.” “Yep, I am nothing but consistent.”

“I won’t argue with that.” We banter back and forth about his lack of virtue

until it’s time for me to go inside. I make my way to the top floor, where Christian Vance’s office is located, and give the woman in the front my name.

She gives someone a call and a few moments later gives me a huge smile. “Mr. Vance would like to come out himself; he will see you in a second.”

The door to the office I was interviewed in opens, and Mr. Vance himself comes out. “Ms. Young!” he greets me. He is dressed in such a nice suit that I’m a little intimidated, but thankful that I dressed professionally. He is holding a thick folder under his arm.

“Hello, Mr. Vance.” I smile and reach out to shake his hand.

“Go ahead and call me Christian. I will show you to your office.” “Office?” I blurt out.

“Yes, you will need your own space. It’s not much, but it’ll be yours. Let’s go over your paperwork there.” He smiles and then walks off so quickly that I strain to keep up in my heels. He makes a left turn into a hallway full of small offices.

“Here we are,” he announces. There is a black tag with my name in bold white letters next to the door.

I must be dreaming. The office is as big as my dorm room. Mr. Vance and I have different ideas of “not much.” Inside, there is a medium-sized cherry desk, two filing cabinets, two chairs, a bookshelf, a computer—and a window! He takes a seat in front of the desk, so I go and sit behind it. It’s going to take some getting used to the idea that this is actually my office.

“So, Ms. Young, let’s go over what your duties will include,” he says. “You will be expected to go over at least two manuscripts a week; if they are excellent and fit in with what we publish here, then you will send them to me. If they aren’t worth me looking at, toss them.”

My mouth falls open. This internship is literally a dream come true. I will be paid and receive college credit to read.

“You will start out at two hundred a week, and if you do well after ninety days, you will receive a raise.”

Two hundred a week! That should be enough for me to get my own apartment, albeit a tiny one.

“Thank you so much; this is all so much more than I expected,” I tell him. I can’t wait to call Hardin and tell him about all of this.

“It’s my pleasure. I have it on good authority that you are a very hard worker. Maybe you can even tell Hardin how great it is, so he’ll come back and work for me again,” he says jokingly.


“Hardin, he used to work for us before Bolthouse snatched him up. He started as an intern here last year, did great work, and I quickly hired him. But they

offered him more money—and let him work from home. Said he didn’t like the office setting, so he left us. Go figure.” He smiles and adjusts his watch.

I laugh nervously. “I’ll remind him how great this place is.” I had no idea he had a job. He has never mentioned it to me.

Mr. Vance slides the folder across the desk to me. “Let’s get this paperwork out of the way.”

After thirty minutes of “sign here” and “initial here,” we are finally finished and Mr. Vance leaves me to “familiarize” myself with the computer and office.

But as soon as he walks out and closes the door behind him, all I can think to do is squeal and spin myself around in my chair, at my desk, in my new office!

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