Chapter 78 – After

Chapter 78 – After

I have only ever seen condoms in sex ed class, where they seemed so intimating. But right here, right now, I just want to yank it out of Hardin’s hand and put it on him as fast as I can. I am thankful that Hardin can’t hear my indecent thoughts, even if his words are far dirtier than any thought I’ve ever had.

“Are . . .” His voice is low.

“If you ask if I am sure, I will kill you.”

He smiles and laughs, waving the condom between his thumb and forefinger. “I was going to say, are you going to help me put this on, or should I do it?”

I bite my lip. “Oh. I want to . . . but you have to show me how,” I say, realizing that learning about condoms in sex ed really didn’t prepare me for how this moment feels, and I don’t want to mess this up.

“Okay.” He sits on the bed and I sit up cross-legged. Stretching out to me, he kisses me swiftly on my forehead. When he tears the packet open, I hold my hand out, but he just chuckles and shakes his head. “I’ll show you, this way.” Taking my hand, he pulls out the little disk and uses our entwined hands to place the condom above him. It feels slippery to the touch. “Now it goes down,” he says, his cheeks flushed. As both of our hands slide the condom over his hard skin, his eyes narrow and he grows a little larger.

“That wasn’t so bad for a virgin and a drunk,” I joke.

He raises an eyebrow at me and smiles. I am glad we are being playful and not so intense; it makes me less nervous for what is about to happen.

“I’m not drunk, babe. I had a few drinks, but arguing with you sobered me up,

as usual.” He flashes his dimples and runs his thumb across my bottom lip.

I’m relieved by his answer. It’s not like I want him passing out halfway through or puking on me. I laugh a little at my thoughts and look at him again. His eyes are clear, not glazed like they were an hour ago.

“Now what?” I say before I can stop myself.

He laughs, taking my hand and wrapping it around his length. “Eager?” he teases and I nod. “Me too,” he admits, and I love the feel of his hard flesh in my hand. Shifting his body, he hovers over me. With one knee he parts my legs, spreading them wide, and I feel his fingers rub against me.

I wonder if he will be gentle with me . . . I hope so.

“You’re soaking wet, so that will make it easier.” He inhales. His lips meet mine and he kisses me slowly, his tongue teasing mine. His lips seem to be molded against mine, made just for me. Pulling back slightly, he kisses the corners of my mouth, followed by my nose, and then my lips again. My hands go to his back in a desperate attempt to pull him closer to me.

“Slow, baby, we need to go slow,” he whispers against my earlobe. “It’s going to hurt at first, so just tell me if you want me to stop. I mean it, okay?” he says gently and looks straight into my eyes, waiting for my answer.

“Okay.” I gulp. I have heard that losing your virginity hurts but it can’t be that bad. I hope not, at least.

Hardin kisses me again. I feel the silky condom brush against me, causing me to shudder. Seconds later he presses into me . . .

It’s such a foreign feeling . . . My eyes screw shut and I hear myself gasp. “You okay?”

I nod and he moves farther into me. I wince at the pinching feeling deep inside. It’s just as bad as everyone says—if not worse.

“Fuck,” Hardin groans. His body is still, unmoving, but it’s still incredibly uncomfortable.

“Can I move?” His voice is so strained and raspy.

“Yeah,” I say. The pain continues, but Hardin kisses me all over, my lips, my cheeks, my nose, my neck, and the tears forming at the corner of my eyes. I put my focus on squeezing Hardin’s arms and feeling his warm tongue on my neck.

“Oh God,” he moans and rolls his head back. “I love you, I love you so much, Tess.” He breathes against my cheek. The comfort of his voice mutes my pain slightly, but it persists as his hips slowly roll against mine.

I want to tell him how much I love him, but I am afraid if I talk, I will cry. “Do you . . . fuck . . . do you want me to stop?” he stutters. I can hear the

pleasure and worry battling in his voice.

I shake my head and watch him in amazement when his eyes close tightly

again. His jaw is clenched in concentration; his hard muscles contract and pull beneath his inked skin. The pain almost completely disappears as I watch him coming undone. He brushes my cheekbone with his fingers and kisses me again before burying his head in the crook of my neck. His breath is staggering, hot and wild against my skin. Bringing his face to mine, he opens his eyes. I would take the pain over and over to be able to feel this way, this deep-seated connection to Hardin that takes me somewhere I never knew existed. The emotion in his brilliant green eyes as he looks into mine unleashes the tears from my eyes; it sends me reeling out into the oblivion and then tethers me back to him. I love him and I know without a doubt he loves me. Even if we don’t last forever, if we end up never speaking again, I will always know that in this moment he was everything to me.

I can tell that it’s taking everything in him to control himself, to keep this slow pace for me, and I love him all the more for it. Time slows and stops, speeds and stops again as he moves in and out of me. The salty taste of sweat is on his lips as he kisses me, and I want more. I kiss his neck and the spot under his ear that I know drives him crazy.

He shivers and moans my name. “You’re doing so good, baby. I love you so much.”

It doesn’t hurt anymore, but it is still uncomfortable, and there is a slight sting each time he thrusts into me. My lips move to his neck and my hands tug at his hair.

“I love you, Hardin,” I manage to say.

He moans and brings his swollen lips to mine. “Oh, baby, I am going to come.

Okay?” he says through clenched teeth.

I nod and kiss his neck again, sucking gently on his skin. Hardin’s eyes never leave mine as he comes; promises of forever and unconditional love are made as he tenses and gently falls onto me. I can feel the heavy thrumming of his heart against my chest, and I kiss the top of his dampened hair. His chest stops heaving and he lifts up, pulling out of me. I wince at the sudden emptiness as he pulls the condom off and folds it over and places it on the floor atop the foil wrapper.

“Are you okay? How was it? How do you feel?” His eyes search my face and he looks more vulnerable than I thought possible.

“I’m okay,” I assure him. I press my thighs together to dull the ache. I can see the blood on my sheets, but I don’t want to move.

He wipes his hair away from his forehead. “Was it . . . was it what you expected?”

“It was better,” I answer honestly. Even with the pain, the whole experience

was exquisite. I find myself already fantasizing about the next time.

“Really?” He grins. I nod and he leans closer, pressing his forehead to mine. “How was it for you? It will be better once I have more . . . experience,” I tell


His grin fades and he presses his fingers under my chin, tilting my head to make me look at him. “Don’t say that; it was great, baby. It was better than great, it was . . . the best,” he says and I roll my eyes. I am sure he has been with far better girls who actually know what to do and when to do it.

Answering my thoughts, he says, “I didn’t love them. It is a completely different experience when you love the person. Honestly, Tessa. It’s incomparable. Please don’t doubt yourself or degrade what we just did.” His voice is so soft and sincere, I feel my heart swell and I kiss the bridge of his nose.

He smiles and wraps an arm around my waist, pulling me to his chest. He smells so good; even sweaty Hardin is my favorite scent.

“Does it hurt?” He runs his fingers through my hair and twirls a piece over his index finger.

“Sort of.” I laugh. “I’m afraid to stand up.”

He squeezes me tighter and kisses my shoulder. “I’ve never been with a virgin before,” he says quietly.

I look up at him and his eyes are soft, not mocking in the least. “Oh.” My mind produces a hundred questions about his first time. The when, where, who, and why. But I push those thoughts away—he didn’t love her. He has never loved anyone but me. I don’t care about the women in his past anymore. They are just that: his past. I only care about this beautiful, flawed man who just made love for the first time in his life.

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