Chapter One Hundred and Four

After We Fell


one hundred and four




It’s a little past eight, and I can see through the living room to the kitchen, where Tessa is fully dressed, eating breakfast with Kimberly.

    Shit, it’s Monday already. She has to go to work, and I have to drive back to school. I’ll miss today’s classes, but I couldn’t care less. I’ll have my diploma in less than two months.

    “Are you going to wake him up?” Kimberly asks Tessa just as I walk in.

    “I’m up.” I groan, still groggy from sleep. I slept more peacefully last night than I have all week. My first night here we were up nearly the entire night.

    “Hey.” Tessa’s smile lights up the dim room, and Kimberly covertly slides off the high stool she’s sitting on and leaves us alone. Which means she’s set a new record for not annoying me.

    “How long have you been up?” I ask Tessa.

    “Two hours. Christian said I could have an extra hour, since you weren’t awake.”

    “You should have woken me up earlier.” My eyes greedily rake down her body. She’s dressed in a deep red button-down shirt tucked into a solid black, knee-length pencil skirt. The material hugs her hips in a way that makes me want to bend her over the stool, push her skirt up to reveal her panties—lace panties, perhaps—and take her right here, right now . . .

    She calls me out from my thoughts. “What?”

    The front door closes, and I’m relieved that we’re finally alone in the massive house.

    “Nothing,” I lie and walk over to the half-full coffeepot. “You’d think they’d have a Keurig, rich bastards.”

    Tessa laughs at my remark. “I’m glad they don’t. I hate those things.” She leans on her elbows on the kitchen island, and her hair falls down to frame her face.

    “Me, too.” I glance around the spacious kitchen and back to Tessa’s chest as she stands up straight. “What time do you have to leave?” I ask. She crosses her arms in front of her chest, blocking my view.

    “Twenty minutes.”

    “Dammit.” I sigh, and we both bring our coffee mugs to our mouths at the same time.

    “You should have woken me up. Tell Vance you’re not coming in.”

    “No!” She blows at the steaming cup of coffee in her hand.


    “No,” she says with a firm voice. “I can’t take advantage of my personal relationship with him like that.” Her choice of words sends an unwelcome annoyance through me.

    “It’s not a ‘personal relationship.’ You’re staying here because you’re friends with Kimberly, and ultimately because I introduced you to Vance in the first place,” I remind her, fully aware of just how annoyed she gets when I bring this up with her.

    Her blue-gray eyes roll back dramatically, and she strides across the rich hardwood flooring, her heels clicking loudly as she passes me. My fingers hook around her elbow, halting her dramatic exit.

    I pull her to my chest and press my lips against the base of her throat. “Where do you think you’re going?”

    “To my room to grab my bag,” she says. But the heavy rising and falling of her chest completely contradicts her cool tone and cooler gaze.

    “Tell him you need more time,” I demand, barely brushing my lips over the flushed skin below her neck. She tries to appear unaffected by my touch, but I know better. I know her body better than she does.

    “No.” She makes a minimal effort to pull away, just to be able to tell herself that she did. “I don’t want to take advantage of him. They’re already letting me stay here for free.”

    I’m not budging. “I’ll call him, then,” I say. He doesn’t need her at the office today. He already has her three days a week. I need her more than Vance Publishing does.

    “Hardin . . .” She reaches for my hand before I can dig into my pocket to retrieve my cell phone. “I’ll call Kim.” She frowns, and I’m surprised and very grateful that she gave in so quickly.