Chapter 76 – After

Chapter 76 – After

When I get back to my car after the best first day possible, I call Hardin, but he doesn’t answer. I want to tell him about how great my morning has been and ask him why he didn’t tell me that he has a job or worked at Vance.

By the time I get back to campus it’s only one, since they dismissed me early, being busy with some high-level meetings or something. I basically have the whole day to do nothing, so I end up going to the mall and walking around. After wandering in and out of almost every store there, I go into Nordstrom, figuring I could use a few more outfits for my internship. The memory of Hardin and me in the mirror this morning flashes in my mind, and I realize I could also use some new panties and bras. My undergarments are so plain and I have had them a while. Hardin doesn’t seem to mind, but I would love to see his face if I took my shirt off and had a bra that wasn’t plain old black or white. I pick through the racks and find a few promising sets. My favorite one is carnation pink and made almost completely from lace. Pulling it off of the rack alone makes me blush, but I really like it. A saleswoman with curly hair and way too much red lipstick walks over to try to help me.

“Oh yeah, that’s nice, but what do you think about this one?” she says and holds up something that resembles a hot pink bundle of strings on a hanger.

“Um . . . not really my style,” I tell her and look at the ground.

“I see you prefer the full underwear?” she asks. Why must we actually discuss my underwear choices? This could not be more humiliating.

“You should try the boy short style; it’s sexy without being too sexy,” she says

and holds up the same light pink set I am holding, only the panties are made differently. Boy shorts. I never cared too much about my panties because no one has seen them; who knew this would be so humiliating and complicated.

“Okay.” I give in and she pulls a few more off the rack: a white, a black, and a red set. The red is a little shocking to me, but I have to admit it’s intriguing. Even the black and white ones look more exotic than my usual choices because they are made of lace.

Her smile is a wide and scary chasm. “Just try them; they are all the exact same style.” I nod politely and take them from her, hoping that if I walk away she won’t follow me. Relieved when she doesn’t, I find a few dresses as well and a pair of comfortable dress shoes. I have to ask the cashier to repeat my total three times before I finally pay. Fancy underwear is much more expensive than I thought. Hardin had better like it.

When I get back to my room, Steph isn’t there and I haven’t heard from Hardin, so I decide to take a nap. My new clothes are put away and I shut off the light.

I wake up to an unfamiliar ringtone. I roll over and open my eyes. Sure enough, Hardin is sitting on the chair with his feet up on Steph’s dresser.

“Have a nice nap?” he asks with a smile.

“Yeah, actually. How did you get in here?” I rub my eyes. “Got my key back from Steph.”

“Oh. How long have you been here?”

“About thirty minutes. How was your day at Vance? I didn’t think you would be back already; it’s only six. But here you are passed out, snoring away, so it must have felt like a long one.” He laughs.

I prop myself up on my elbow and look at him. “It was great. I got my own office, with my name on the wall outside it—I can’t believe it! It’s wonderful. I will be making a lot more money than I thought, and I get to read manuscripts; how perfect is that? I’m just afraid that I will mess it up somehow because it’s so perfect. You know?” I ramble.

“Whoa, Vance must like you.” He raises a brow. “But you’ll do fine, don’t worry.”

“He said you worked there,” I tell him, testing his reaction. “Of course he did.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? Or that you have a job now? When do you even have time to work?”

“You always have so many questions.” He runs his hands through his hair. “But I will answer them,” he adds. “I didn’t tell you because, well, I don’t know why, actually. And I make time to work. Whenever I am not with you, I find the


I sit cross-legged and face him. “Mr. Vance really likes you—he said he wants you to work for him again.”

“I am sure he does, but no, thanks. I make more than I did there and have less work,” he brags and I roll my eyes.

“Tell me about your job. What exactly do you do?”

He shrugs. “Read manuscripts, edit them. Same thing you’ll do, but more involved.”

“Oh. Do you like it?”

“Yes, Tessa. I do.” His tone is a little harsh.

“That’s good. Do you want to work for a publishing house when you graduate?”

“I don’t know what I want to do.” He rolls his eyes. “Did I say something?” I ask.

“No, you just ask too many questions all the time.” “What?” Is he being sarcastic or serious?

“You don’t need to know every detail about my life,” he snaps.

“I am just making conversation, having a casual discussion about your job,” I say. “Those are just normal things people do—sorry for taking an interest in your everyday life.”

He doesn’t say anything. What the hell is his problem? I had an amazing day and the last thing I want to do is fight with him. I direct my attention to the ceiling and stay quiet as well. Eventually I learn there are ninety-five panels up there, and forty screws holding them up.

“I need to take a shower,” I finally say. “So go, then,” he huffs.

I roll my eyes and grab my toiletry bag. “You know, I thought we were past this, the whole you-being-an-asshole-for-no-reason thing?” I say and walk out of the room.

I take my time in the shower, shaving and reshaving my legs for the dress that I bought to wear tomorrow for my first real day at Vance. I am beyond nervous, but my excitement tops everything. I really wish Hardin wasn’t being so rude. All I did was ask him about a job that he didn’t tell me about. I should be able to talk to him about that, but there’s just so much about him that I don’t know, and it makes me really uncomfortable.

I try to figure out how to explain that to him, but when I get back to my room, Hardin’s gone.

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