Chapter One Hundred and Twelve

After We Fell


one hundred and twelve




When my alarm sounds the next morning, I’m exhausted. I barely slept at all. I spent hours tossing and turning, always on the brink of sleep but never achieving it.

    I don’t know if it was the excitement over Hardin agreeing to move to Seattle, or if it was the looming discussion we’re bound to have about England, but either way, I got no sleep, and now I look like hell. Dark shadows aren’t as easy to hide with concealer as the cosmetics companies would have you believe, and my unruly hair looks as if I stuck my finger into a light socket. Apparently the joy I felt about him moving here couldn’t completely eliminate the underlying anxiety about his lying by omission.

    I take Kimberly up on her offer to ride to work together this morning, buying myself a few extra minutes to apply another coat of mascara while she recklessly whips in and out of lanes on the freeway. She reminds me of Hardin, cursing at nearly every car and honking more often than any reasonable person needs to do.

    Hardin hasn’t mentioned whether or not he’s still planning on coming to Seattle today. When I asked him just before we got off the phone last night, he told me he’d let me know in the morning. It’s close to nine now, and I haven’t heard from him. I can’t shake the feeling that something is happening within him, something that if not handled properly will cause us more turmoil. I know Steph got to him; I can tell by the way he’s doubting everything I say. He’s keeping things from me again, and I’m terrified of the problems this could lead to.

    “Maybe you should go back this weekend instead of having him coming to you,” Kimberly suggests between cursing out a semi and a MINI.

    “It’s that obvious?” I ask, lifting my cheek from the cold window.

    “Yes, very obvious.”

    “Sorry, I’m being such a downer.” I sigh.

    Going back this weekend isn’t a bad idea. I miss Landon terribly, and it would be nice to see my father again.

    “You are.” She grins at me. “But that’s nothing a little coffee and some red lipstick won’t fix.”

    When I nod my agreement, she quickly exits the highway, makes a U-turn in the middle of a busy intersection, and says, “I know a great little coffee shop nearby.”


BY LUNCHTIME, my morning blues have disappeared, although I still haven’t heard from Hardin. I texted him twice but ultimately stopped myself from calling him. Trevor is waiting for me at an empty table in the break room, two plates of pasta in front of him.

    “They sent double my order, so I figured I’d save you from a microwave meal for at least one day.” He smiles, sliding a packet of plastic eating utensils across the table.

    The pasta tastes as savory as it smells. The delicious Alfredo sauce reminds me that I skipped breakfast this morning, and I flush when a small moan falls from my mouth as I take my first bite.

    “Good, huh?” Trevor beams, wiping his thumb across the corner of his mouth to capture a drop of the creamy sauce. He brings his thumb to his mouth, and I can’t help but think how odd the causal gesture looks on a man who’s wearing a suit.

    “Mmm . . .” I can barely answer, because I’m too busy shoving noodles in my face.

    “I’m glad . . .” Trevor’s deep blue eyes dart away from mine, and he shifts in his seat.

    “Is everything all right?” I ask him.

    “Yeah . . . I . . . well . . . I wanted to talk to you about something.”

    And like that, I begin to ask myself if the double meal wasn’t in fact purposely ordered.

    “Okay . . .” I respond, hoping this isn’t going to be too awkward.

    “It may be a little awkward.”

    Great. “Go on,” I say with an encouraging smile.

    “Okay . . . here goes.” He pauses and runs his fingertip over a silver cuff link. “Carine has asked me to attend Krystal’s wedding with her.”

    I take the opportunity to shovel a forkful of pasta into my mouth so I don’t have to speak just yet. Really, I’m not sure why he’s telling me this, or what I’m supposed to say. I nod, pushing him to continue, and try not to laugh thinking the funny Carine imitation Kimberly was doing yesterday.

    “And I was wondering if there was any reason that I should say no to her,” Trevor says. He pauses to look at me like he expects a response.

    I’m positive that the choking sound I make frightens him, but when he shoots me a look of concern, I hold up one finger and continue chewing, thoroughly, then swallow rather dramatically before responding. “I don’t see any reason for it.”

    I hope that’s the end of that. But when he goes on to say “What I mean is . . .” all I can hope is that he magically guesses that I, in fact, know exactly what he means and will just sort of let that sentence trail off without further explanation.

    No such luck.

    “I know you’re on and off with Hardin, and I also know this is one of those ‘off’ times, so I just wanted to be sure before I accept her proposal that I can give her my full affection. Without distractions.”

    I’m not sure what to say, so I quietly ask, “Am I a distraction?”

    I feel so uncomfortable, but Trevor is so sweet, and his cheeks have turned such a deep shade of red, that I feel an overwhelming urge to comfort him at the same time.

    “Yes, you have been since you came to Vance,” he says, rushing the words out. “I don’t mean that in a bad way; it’s just that I’ve been waiting in the background, and I wanted my intentions to be clear before I explored the possibility of a relationship with someone else.”

    My very own Mr. Collins sits in front of me—a much more handsome version, of course—and I feel just as awkward and embarrassed for him as Elizabeth Bennett did in Pride and Prejudice.

    “Trevor, I’m sorry I—”

    “It’s okay, really.” The sincerity in his eyes is almost overwhelming. “I get it. I just wanted to confirm it one last time.” He pokes at his pasta a little, then adds, “I guess the last few times hadn’t done it for me.” He laughs quietly, a nervous laugh, and I join in sympathetically.

    “She’s lucky to have you as a date to the wedding,” I say, hoping to numb the embarrassment I know he feels. I shouldn’t have compared him to Mr. Collins; he’s not nearly as aggressive or obnoxious. I take a long drink of water, hoping that will end things.

    “Thank you,” he says, but then he adds with a little smile, “Maybe now Hardin will stop calling me ‘fucking Trevor.’ ”

    I smack my hand against my mouth to stop the water from spewing from my mouth. I swallow quickly, then say, “I didn’t know you knew about that!” My horrified laugh fills the small room.

    “Yeah, I’ve noticed.” Trevor’s eyes shine with humor, and I’m so relieved that we can share a laugh, as friends, with no confusion.

    My momentary bliss is cut short when Trevor’s smile disappears, and I turn around to follow his gaze to the doorway.

    “It smells so good in here!” one of the gossips says to the other as she enters. I feel petty for the level of dislike I feel for them, but I can’t help it.

    “We should go,” Trevor whispers, eyeing the shorter woman.

    I stare back at him, puzzled, but get to my feet and toss the empty Styrofoam box into the trash can.

    “You look stunning today, Tessa,” the taller of the two says. I can’t read her expression, but I’m positive that she’s mocking me. I know I look like hell today.

    “Um, thank you.”

    “It’s such a small world, you know? Is Hardin still working for Bolthouse?”

    My purse slips off of my shoulder, and I quickly grab the leather strap before it hits the floor. She knows Hardin?

    “Yup, still is,” I say and straighten my back in an attempt to appear completely unfazed at the mention of his name.

    “Tell him I said hey, would you?” She smirks, and with that, she turns on her heel and disappears, along with her evil sidekick.

    “What the hell was that?” I ask Trevor after checking the hall to be sure the two aren’t lurking around nearby. “Did you know they were going to say something to me?”

    “I wasn’t sure, but I suspected it. I overheard them talking about you.”

    “What about me? They don’t even know me.”

    He’s uncomfortable again. Trevor is easier to read than anyone I’ve ever met. “It wasn’t about you, exactly . . .”

    “They were talking about Hardin, weren’t they?” I ask and he nods, confirming my suspicion. “What exactly did they say?”

    Trevor tucks the corners of his bright red tie into his suit. “I . . . I don’t really want to repeat it. You should ask him.”

    Given Trevor’s reluctance, I suddenly shiver at the thought that Hardin may have slept with one of them, or both. They aren’t much older than I am: twenty-five at the most, and, I have to admit, both beautiful—in an over-the-top, too-much-spray-tan way, but attractive all the same.

    The walk back to my office is long, and a strong feeling of jealousy starts gnawing at me. If I don’t ask Hardin about the woman, I think I’ll go insane.

    The moment I get to my office, I call him. I need to know if he’s coming here tonight, and I need some reassurance.

    Zed’s name flashes across my phone screen before I can bring up Hardin’s name in my contacts list. I flinch a little, but decide I might as well do this now.

    “Hey,” I say. But I sound “off”—too excited, too fake.

    “Hey, Tessa, how’s it going?” Zed asks. It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve heard his smooth voice even though that isn’t the case.

    “It’s . . . going.” I lay my forehead against the cool surface of my desk.

    “Sounds rough.”

    “It’s okay, just a lot going on.”

    “Well, that’s why I called you, actually. I know I said I was going to be in town Thursday, but I’ve had a change of plans.”

    “Oh?” Relief washes over me. I look up at the ceiling and let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. “Well, it’s okay. Next time it’ll work—”

    “No, I mean I’m actually in Seattle right now,” he says, and instantly my heart rate skyrockets. “I got in last night; had a hell of a drive. I’m only a few blocks away from your office, actually. I won’t bother you there or anything, but maybe we could grab some dinner or something when you’re done for the day?”

    “Um . . .” I glance at the clock. It’s fifteen minutes past two, and Hardin still hasn’t responded to my messages. “I don’t know if that’s good for me, actually. I think Hardin is coming in tonight,” I admit.

    First Trevor, now Zed. Did the extra mascara this morning bring along some weird juju with it or something?

    “Are you sure?” Zed asks. “I saw him out yesterday . . . it was pretty late.”

    What? Hardin and I got off the phone around eleven last night. Could he have gone out again after we got off the phone? Has he been spending time with his crew of so-called friends again?

    “I don’t know,” I say and dramatically hit my head against my desk, too gently to do any damage but hard enough that I know Zed can hear through the line.

    “It’s only dinner. Then I’ll let you get to whatever plans you have,” he coaxes. “It’ll be nice to see a familiar face, yeah?” I can picture his smile now, the one that I adore so much.

    So I ask, “I rode in to work today with someone, so I don’t have my car. Could you pick me up at five?” And when he happily agrees, I’m both thrilled and terrified.