Chapter One Hundred and One

After We Fell


one hundred and one




The morning arrives much too quickly, and when I wake up, I’m alone in the bed. The empty side of the mattress still bears the imprint of Hardin’s body, so he must have gotten up only a few minutes ago.

    Right on cue, he enters the room quietly, coffee mug in hand.

    “Good morning,” he says when he notices that I’m awake.

    “Morning.” My throat is tight and dry. Images of Hardin moving in and out of my mouth with furious thrusts makes my insides tighten.

    “Are you feeling okay?” He places the steaming mug of coffee on the dresser and walks over to the bed. He sits down next to me on the edge of the mattress. “Answer me,” he calmly adds when I take too long to respond.

    “Yeah, just sore.” I stretch my arms and legs out in front of me. Yes . . . definitely sore. “Where did you go?”

    “I went to get some coffee, and I had to call Landon to tell him I won’t be home today,” he tells me. “If you still want me to stay, that is.”

    “I do.” I nod at him. “But why do you have to tell Landon?”

    Hardin runs his hand over his hair, and his eyes concentrate on reading my expression. I get the feeling that I’m missing something here.

    “Answer me,” I say, using his own words back at him.

    “He’s babysitting your dad.”

    “Why?” Why would my father need a babysitter?

    “Your dad’s trying to get sober, that’s why. And I’m not stupid enough to leave him at that apartment by himself.”

    “You have liquor there, don’t you?”

    “No, I tossed it. Just drop this, okay?” His tone is no longer gentle; it’s urgent, and he’s clearly on edge.

    “I’m not going to just drop it. Is there something that I should know? Because I feel like I’m being left out of the loop here, again.” I cross my arms over my chest and he takes a deep, dramatic breath, his eyes closing with the gesture.

    “Yes, there is something that you don’t know about, but I’m begging you to just trust me, okay?”

    “How bad?” I ask; the possibilities terrify me.

    “Just trust me, okay?”

    “Trust you to do what?”

    “Trust that I will take care of all of this shit so that by the time I tell you what happened, it won’t matter anymore. You have enough shit going on right now; please, just trust me on this. Let me do this for you, and let it go,” he urges.

    The initial paranoia and panic that always come with these types of situations flutter through me, and I’m moments away from snatching Hardin’s phone from him and calling Landon myself. The look on Hardin’s face, though, stops me. He’s pleading for me to trust him on this, trust that he’ll be able to fix whatever it is that’s going on; and to tell the truth, as much as I want to know, I don’t think I can handle another problem on my already full plate.

    “Okay.” I sigh.

    His brows furrow, and he cocks his head to the side. “Really?” He’s astounded by how easy it was to persuade me to back off, I’m sure.

    “Yes. I’ll do my best not to worry about the situation with my dad as long as you can promise me that it’s better for me not to know.”

    He nods. “I promise.”

    I believe him, mostly.

    “Fine.” I finalize the agreement with the word and try my best to push my obsessive need to know what’s happening to the back of my mind. I need to trust Hardin with this. I need to trust him of my own resolve. If I can’t trust him with this, how can I entertain a future for us at all?

    I sigh, and Hardin smiles at my acquiescence.