Chapter 79 – After

Chapter 79 – After

An hour later, Hardin asks, “Are you ready to get up?”

“I know I should, I just don’t want to,” I tell him and rub my cheek against his chest.

“I don’t want to rush you, but I really have to piss,” he tells me and I laugh, climbing off him and the bed.

“Ow . . .” I say before I can stop myself.

“You okay?” he asks for the thousandth time. His hand reaches out to help steady me.

“Yeah, just sore.” I cringe when I look at my sheets.

He looks over at them. “Yeah, I’ll toss them.” He pulls the sheets off the small bed.

“Not in here. Steph will see them.”

“Okay? So where?” He bounces up and down on his heels. He must have been holding his bladder for a while.

“I don’t know . . . can you put them in a Dumpster or something when you leave?”

“Who said I was leaving? So, what—you sleep with me and then kick me out?” His eyes dance with amusement. He grabs his jeans and boxers off the floor and puts them on. I grab his shirt and hold it out to him.

I smack him on the butt. “Just go pee, and take the sheets out on your way, just in case.” I don’t know why I care so much, but the last thing I need is Steph drilling me for information about losing my virginity.

“Sure. I won’t look like a creep or anything, carrying bloody sheets to my car at night.”

I scowl at him and he balls the sheets up and walks to the door. “I love you,” he says before walking out.

Now that he has left the room I have a little time to collect myself. I wonder if I look as good as I feel, which is warm and oddly at peace. The memory of Hardin hovering over me while he entered me makes my stomach clench. Now I know why people make such a big deal about sex. I really have been missing out, but I know that if my first time wouldn’t have been with Hardin, it wouldn’t have been so amazing. When I look in the mirror, my mouth falls open at my reflection. My cheeks are glowing, my lips are swollen. I squish my cheeks and move my hands around; somehow I look different. It’s the slightest of changes, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I like it. I take a second to admire the small red marks dotted across my breasts. I don’t even remember him making them. My mind takes me back to him making love to me, his mouth hot and wet against my flesh. I am snapped from my thoughts by the door opening, causing me to jump slightly.

“Admiring yourself?” Hardin smirks and locks the door.

“No . . . I . . .” I don’t know what to say, since I’m just standing in front of the mirror completely naked, fantasizing about his lips on my skin.

“It’s cool, babe, if I had your body I would stare at myself in the mirror, too,” he says and I flush.

“I think I’m going to take a shower,” I tell him while trying my best to cover myself with my hands. I don’t want to wash his scent off my body, but I need to wash everything else off.

“I’ll take one, too,” he says. I raise an eyebrow at him and he holds up his hands mockingly. “Not together, I know. However . . . if we lived together we could.”

Something has changed in him, too, I can see it. It’s the way his smile is a little deeper and his eyes brighter. I don’t reckon that anyone else would be able to spot it, but I know him better than anyone, despite the many secrets of his that I plan to uncover.

“What?” He cocks his head to the side.

“Nothing, I just love you,” I tell him and his cheeks redden slightly and his face splits into a grin, mirroring mine. We both seem to be giddy and high on each other. I love this. When I move to grab my robe, he steps in front of me.

“Have you at least thought about living with me?” he asks.

“You just asked me yesterday. I can only make one life-altering decision at a time.” I laugh.

He rubs his temples. “I just want to sign the paperwork soon. I have got to get out of that damned frat house.”

“You could just get it on your own?” I suggest again. “I want it to be ours.”


“Because I want to spend as much time with you as I can. Why are you so hesitant? Is it the money? I would pay everything, of course.”

“No you wouldn’t,” I scoff. “If I was to agree to this, I would contribute—I’m not looking for a free ride.” I can’t believe we are actually discussing this.

“Then what is it?”

“I don’t know . . . we haven’t known each other that long. I had always thought I wouldn’t live with anyone else until I was married . . .” I explain. That’s not the only reason; my mother is a huge reason, along with the fear of having to rely on someone else. Even Hardin. That’s what my mother did. She relied on my father’s income until he left, and after that she leaned on the slim possibility of his return. She always expected him to come back for us, but he never did.

“Married? That’s an ancient idea you have there, Tessa.” He chuckles and sits down in the chair.

“What’s wrong with marriage?” I ask. “Not between us. Just in general,” I add.

He shrugs. “Nothing wrong with it, it’s just not for me.”

This has taken too serious a turn. I don’t want to discuss marriage with Hardin, but it does bother me that he says marriage isn’t for him. I haven’t ever thought about actually marrying him, it’s way too early for that. Years too early. But I would like the option eventually, and want to be married by the time I’m twenty-five and then have at least two children. I have my whole future planned. Had, my subconscious reminds me. I had everything planned until I met

Hardin and now my future is constantly changing and shifting. “That bothers you, doesn’t it?” he asks, breaking my thoughts.

Hardin and I making love has tied an invisible string between us, uniting our bodies and minds. The changes in my plans are for the better . . . right?

“No.” I try to hide the emotion in my voice, but it comes out heavy. “I just have never heard anyone say flat-out they don’t want to get married. I thought that’s what everyone wants—that’s the central point of life, right?”

“Not exactly. I think people just want to be happy. Think of Catherine; look what marriage brought her and Heathcliff.”

I love that we speak the same narrative language. There is no one else who would speak in this way to me, the way that I understand the best.

“They didn’t marry each other—that was the problem,” I say with a laugh. I think back to the time when there had been so many parallels between my relationship with Hardin, and Catherine’s with Heathcliff.

“Rochester and Jane?” he suggests. Hardin’s mention of Jane Eyre pleasantly surprises me.

“You’re joking, right? He was cold and withholding. He also proposed to Jane without telling her that he was already married to that madwoman he had locked in the attic. You aren’t making very many valid points here,” I say.

“I know. I just love hearing you ramble about literary heroes.” He brushes the hair off his forehead, and in a childish moment, I stick my tongue out at him.

“So what you’re saying is that you want to marry me? I can promise you that I have no bat-crazy wife hidden in my house.” He takes a step toward me. There’s no wife, sure, but it’s the other things he hides that worries me.

My heart is beating out of my chest as he closes the gap between us. “What? No, of course not. I was just speaking in terms of all marriage. Not us specifically.” I am naked and talking to Hardin about marriage. What the hell is happening in my life?

“So you’re saying you wouldn’t?”

“No, I wouldn’t. Well, I don’t know—why are we even discussing this?” I hide my face in his chest and feel him shake with amusement.

“I was just wondering. But now that you’ve presented me with a valid argument, I may have to reconsider my no-marriage stance. You could make an honest man out of me.”

He sounds serious, but there is no way he is. Right? Just as I begin to question his sanity, he laughs and kisses my temple.

“Can we talk about something else?” I groan. Losing my virginity and talking about marriage is way too much for my mushy brain.

“Sure. But I am not dropping the apartment thing; you have until tomorrow to give me an answer. I won’t wait forever,” he says.

“How sweet.” I roll my eyes.

“You know me, Mr. Romantic,” he says and kisses my forehead. “Now, let’s get a shower. You standing here naked makes me want to throw you on the bed and fuck you all over again.”

I shake my head and pull out of his embrace before wrapping my robe around my body. “Are you coming or what?” I say and grab my toiletry bag.

“I would love to come, but I guess a shower will have to do for now.” He winks and I swat his arm as we walk into the hall.

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