Chapter One Hundred and Eleven

After We Fell


one hundred and eleven




Kimberly is waiting in the kitchen for me when I arrive home from school. Two wineglasses, one full, one empty, sit in front of her, letting me know that she took my silence as confirmation that I, in fact, didn’t know about Hardin’s plan to fly to England.

    She offers me a sympathetic smile when I drop my bag on the floor and sit on the stool next to her. “Hey, girl.”

    I swing my head dramatically to face her. “Hey.”

    “You didn’t know?” Her blond hair is expertly curled today, resting perfectly on her shoulders. Her black, bow-shaped earrings glitter under the bright lighting.

    “Nope. Didn’t tell me.” I sigh, reaching for the full glass of wine in front of her.

    She laughs and grabs the bottle to fill the empty glass that was originally intended for me. “Christian said Hardin hasn’t given Trish a definite answer yet. I shouldn’t have said anything until I knew, but I had a feeling he wouldn’t have mentioned the wedding to you.”

    I quickly swallow the white wine in my mouth before I spit it out. “Wedding?” I hurry to take another sip before I have to speak again. A wild thought shoots through me . . . that Hardin’s going back to get married. Like an arranged marriage; they do those in England, don’t they?

    No, I know they don’t. But the horrible thought electrifies me while I wait for Kimberly’s next words. Am I drunk already?

    “His mom’s getting married. She called Christian this morning to invite us.”

    I quickly look down at the dark granite. “That’s news to me.”

    Hardin’s mother is getting married in two weeks, yet he didn’t mention it to me at all. Then I remember . . . when he was being weird earlier.

    “That’s why she was calling so much!”

    Kimberly looks at me with wide, questioning eyes as she takes a sip of her wine.

    “What should I do?” I ask her. “Just pretend that I don’t know? Hardin and I have been communicating so much better lately . . .” I trail off. I know that it’s only been a week of improvement, but it’s been one amazing week for me. I feel like we’ve made more progress in the last seven or so days than we have in the last seven months. Hardin and I both have been talking through issues that previously would have turned into massive fights, yet here I am being transported back in time to when he kept things from me.

    I always find out. Doesn’t he know this by now?

    “Do you want to go?” she asks.

    “I couldn’t, even if I were invited.” I rest my cheek against my hand.

    Kimberly moves her stool to the side and grips the edges of mine to turn it to face her. “I asked if you want to go,” she corrects me, a hint of wine on her breath.

    “It would be lovely, but I—”

    “Then you should go! I’ll bring you as a guest, if I have to. I’m sure Hardin’s mom would love you there. Christian says she absolutely adores you.”

    Despite my mood over Hardin’s secrecy, her words thrill me. I absolutely adore Trish.

    “I can’t go, I don’t have a passport,” I say. And I could never afford a plane ticket on such short notice.

    She waves off my objection. “Those can be expedited.”

    “I don’t know . . .” I say. The butterflies I’m feeling in my belly at the mention of England make me want to rush down the hall to my computer and research how to get a passport—but the unwelcome knowledge of Hardin’s purposely keeping the wedding from me forces me to stay in my seat.

    “Don’t doubt it. Trish would love to have you come along, and Lord knows Hardin could use a push toward commitment.” She sips on her wine, leaving a deep red print of her full lips on the rim of the glass.

    I’m sure he has his reasons for not telling me. If he’s going, he probably doesn’t want me to tag along all the way to England. I know his past haunts him, and crazy as it sounds, his demons could easily be stalking the streets of London and find us both.

    “Hardin doesn’t work that way,” I say. “The more I push, the harder he pulls.”

    “Well then . . .” She moves her red-toed high heel and gently taps her foot against mine. “You need to dig your heels in the damn dirt and not let him pull you anymore.”

    I seize on her words and save them to analyze later, when I’m not under her watchful gaze. “Hardin doesn’t like weddings.”

    “Everyone likes weddings.”

    “Not Hardin. He thoroughly hates them and the entire concept of marriage,” I tell her and watch with a peculiar amusement as her eyes widen and she carefully places her wineglass back onto the countertop.

    “So . . . then, what . . . I mean . . .” She blinks. “I don’t even have anything to say, and that’s really saying something!” Kimberly bursts out laughing.

    I can’t help but laugh along. “Yeah, tell me about it.”

    Kimberly’s laugh is contagious, regardless of my mood, and I love that about her. Certainly, she can be excessively nosy at times, and I don’t always feel comfortable with the way she speaks about Hardin, but her openness and honesty happen to be the things I love the most about her. She tells it like it is, and she’s very easy to read. There’s not a layer of guile there, unlike so many people I’ve met of late.

    “So you’ll what? Just date forever?” she asks.

    “I said the same thing.” I can’t help but giggle. Maybe it’s the glass of wine I finished, or the fact that Hardin’s refusal of any type of permanent commitment had slipped my mind in the last week . . . I don’t know, but it feels good to laugh with Kim.

    “What about your children? You don’t mind having them out of wedlock?”

    “Children!” I laugh again. “He doesn’t want any children.”

    “This just keeps getting better and better.” She rolls her eyes and picks up her glass to finish it off.

    “He says that now, but I’m hoping . . .” I don’t finish the wish. It’s too desperate sounding when said out loud.

    Kimberly winks. “Ahh—gotcha,” she says knowingly, and I’m thankful when she changes the subject to this redhead in the office, Carine, who has a crush on Trevor. And when she describes a hypothetical sexual encounter between the two of them as being like watching lobsters awkwardly bumping into each other, I start laughing all over again.


BY THE TIME I get to my room, it’s past nine o’clock. I purposely powered off my cell phone so that I could have a few uninterrupted hours with Kimberly. I told her about Hardin’s plan to come to Seattle on Wednesday instead of Friday, and she laughed, telling me she knew he wouldn’t stay gone long.

    My hair is still damp from a shower, and I’ve been taking my time picking out my outfit for work tomorrow. I’m stalling, and I know it. I’m sure that when I turn on my phone, I’ll have to deal with Hardin, and confront him, or not, about the wedding. In a perfect world, I’d just casually bring it up, and Hardin would invite me, explaining that he waited to ask because he was trying to think of the right way to convince me to come. But this isn’t a perfect world, and I’m growing more anxious by the second. It hurts me to know that whatever Steph said to him bothered him so much that he’s back to keeping things from me. I hate her. I love Hardin so much, and I just want him to see that nothing she, or anyone else, says will ever change that.

    Hesitantly, I take my phone out of my bag and power it back on. I have to call my mother back and text Zed, but I want to talk to Hardin first. The notifications on the top of my small screen appear, and the envelope icon flashes, text message after text message appearing, all from Hardin. Before I read any of them, I just call.

    He answers on the first ring. “Tessa, what the hell!”

    “Have you tried to call?” I ask timidly, as innocently as I can, trying to keep the mood as calm as possible.

    “Have I tried to call? You’re joking, right? I’ve been calling you nonstop for the last three hours,” he huffs. “I even called Christian.”

    “What?” I say, but then, not wanting things to escalate, I follow up quickly with “I was just hanging out with Kim.”

    “Where?” he immediately demands.

    “Here, at the house,” I say and begin to fold my dirty clothes and place them in the hamper; I figure I’ll do a load of laundry before I go to bed.

    “Well, next time you really need . . .” He lets out a groan of frustration, and his voice softens as he begins again: “Maybe next time you could just send me a text or something if you’re going to have your phone off.” He releases a big breath, then adds, “You know how I get.”

    I appreciate the change in his tone and the fact that he stopped himself from saying whatever it was he had originally planned to say, which I’d rather not find out. Unfortunately, the small buzz I got from the wine has mostly disappeared, and the revelation of Hardin’s plans to go to England rests heavily on my chest.

    “How was your day today?” I ask him, hoping that if I give him an opportunity to bring the wedding up, he will.

    He sighs. “It was . . . well, long.”

    “Mine, too.” I don’t know what to say to him without coming out and asking point-blank. “Zed texted me today.”

    “Did he?” Hardin’s voice is calm, but I can detect a note of harshness that would usually intimidate me.

    “Yeah, this afternoon. He says he’s coming to Seattle on Thursday.”

    “And what did you say back to him?”

    “Nothing yet.”

    “Why are you telling me this?” Hardin asks.

    “Because, I want us to be open with one another. No more secrets, no more hiding things.” I emphasize the last part of the sentence, hoping it will elicit the truth from him.

    “Well . . . thanks for telling me. I appreciate it,” he says. And then says nothing more.


    “Yeah, so . . . is there anything you want to tell me?” I ask, still clinging to the dwindling hope that he’ll reciprocate my honesty.

    “Um, I talked to my dad today.”

    “Really? About what?” Thank goodness, I knew he would come around.

    “Transferring to the Seattle campus.”

    “Really!” The word comes out sounding more like a squeal than I intended, and Hardin’s deep laugh resonates through the line.

    “Yeah, but he says it will postpone my graduation, so it wouldn’t make sense to move, this late in the semester.”

    “Oh.” I feel myself pouting. I hesitate a moment before asking, “But after graduation?”

    “Yeah, sure.”

    “Yeah sure? That’s it? That easy?” The smile that overcomes me crowds out everything else. I wish he were here; I’d grab him by his T-shirt and kiss him, hard.

    Then he says, “I mean, why stall the inevitable?”

    My smile fades. “You’re speaking like moving to Seattle is a jail sentence.”

    He stays quiet.


    “I don’t think of it like that. I’m just annoyed by the whole thing—all this time has been wasted, and it frustrates me.”

    “I get that,” I say. His words aren’t elegant, but they mean he’s missing me. My head is still spinning from his agreeing to finally move to Seattle to be with me. We’ve been battling over this issue for months, and he’s suddenly given in without so much as a final fight. “So, Seattle it is, then? Are you sure?” I have to ask again.

    “Yeah. I’m ready to start fresh somewhere, may as well be Seattle.”

    I hug my arms around my body in excitement. “No England, then?” I give him one last chance to bring up the wedding.

    “Nope. No England.”

    I’ve already won the Great Battle of Seattle, so when the niggling irritation about the wedding flares up again, I don’t push my guy any further tonight. Whatever’s going on with that, I’m going to get what I want: Hardin in Seattle, with me.