Chapter One Hundred and Sixteen

After We Fell


one hundred and sixteen




Tessa’s professor smiles, checking her out fairly subtly as he does so. But I see it clearly.

    “Nice to see you again,” he says, but I can’t tell if he’s talking to me or Tessa, really, the way he moves about to the music.

    “Professor Soto lives in Seattle now,” Tessa informs me.

    “Convenient,” I say under my breath. Tessa hears me and gently nudges me with her elbow, and I wrap my arm around her waist.

    Jonah’s eyes briefly note where I’ve placed my arm, then move back up to her face. She’s taken, dick.

    “Yeah, I transferred to the Seattle campus a couple weeks ago. I applied for a job a few months back and finally got it. My band was ready for a move anyway,” he tells us with an attitude that indicates he thinks we should care about any of this.

    “The Reckless Few will be playing here tonight, and every other night, if we can talk them into it,” Christian boasts. Jonah smiles and looks down at his boots.

    “I think that might be possible,” he says, looking back up with a smile. Finishing his drink in one motion, he says, “Well, we better get ready to play.”

    “Yeah. Don’t let us keep you.” Christian pats Soto on the back, and the professor turns to give Tessa one last smile before pushing through the small crowd toward the stage.

    “The band is incredible; wait until you hear them!” Vance claps his hands together once before he wraps his arms around Kimberly and leads her to a table in front of the stage.

    I’ve already heard them; they are not incredible.

    Tessa turns to me with nervous eyes. “He’s nice. Remember, he gave you a character witness when you were about to be expelled?”

    “No, I don’t recall anything about him, actually. Except for the fact that he seems to like you and is mysteriously living in Seattle now, teaching at your fucking campus.”

    “You heard him say that he applied there months ago . . . and he does not like me.”

    “He does.”

    “You think everyone likes me,” she fires back. She can’t possibly be naive enough to assume that this guy has good intentions.

    “Shall we make a list, then? There’s Zed, fucking Trevor, that dickhead of a waiter . . . who am I missing? Oh, and now we can add your creepy professor, who was just eyeing you like you were dessert.” I look to where that dick is on the little bandstand, walking about with an attitude that’s both self-important and fake-casual.

    “Zed is the only person on that list that counts. Trevor is very sweet, and he never meant any harm. I’ll probably never see Robert again, and Soto is not a stalker.”

    One word in that spiel doesn’t sit well with me. “ ‘Probably’?”

    “I obviously won’t see him again. You’re the one I’m with, okay?” She pushes one of her hands into mine, and I relax. I need to make sure I burned or flushed that damned waiter’s phone number, just in case.

    “I still think this asshole is a stalker.” I nod toward the stage at the douche bag in his leather jacket. I may need to talk to my father just to make sure he isn’t as shady as I think he is. Tessa would approach a lion with fucking kid gloves—she’s no good at judging character.

    She proves my point when she beams up at me, smiling like an idiot because of the champagne running through her veins. She’s actually here with me after all the shit I’ve put her through . . .

    “I thought this was a jazz club, but his band is more—” Tessa begins to try and take my mind off the seemingly endless list of men who want her affection.

    “Shitty?” I interrupt her.

    She swats my arm. “No, just not jazz music. They are more . . . like the Fray, sort of.”

    “The Fray? Don’t go insulting your favorite band, now.” The only thing I remember about the professor’s band is that they fucking suck.

    She bumps her shoulder against my arm. “And yours.”

    “Not quite.”

    “Don’t act like you don’t like them; I know you do.” She squeezes my hand, and I shake my head, not denying it, really, but I’m not going to admit it either.

    I stare back and forth between the wall and Tessa’s tits while waiting for the godforsaken band to set up.

    “Can we just go now?” I ask.

    “One song.” Tessa’s cheeks are flushed, and her eyes are wide and glossy. She takes another drink. Her hands run over her dress, tugging it down and up at once.

    “Can I at least sit down?” I nod the toward line of empty stools at the bar.

    I take Tessa’s hand in my own and pull her to the bar. I sit on the last stool, closest to the wall and farthest from the crowd.

    “What are you having?” a young man with a goatee and a fake-ass Italian accent asks us.

    “A glass of champagne and a water,” I say as Tessa moves to stand between my legs. I rest one hand on the small of her back, the beads of her dress rough against my palm.

    “We only sell champagne by the bottle, sir.” The bartender gives me an apologetic smile as if he’s sure I couldn’t afford a bottle of his fucking champagne.

    “A bottle will be fine.” Vance’s voice sounds next to me, and the bartender nods, looking back and forth between the two of us.

    “She’ll have it chilled,” I cockily remark.

    The kid nods again and scurries away to fetch the bottle. Dick.

    “Stop babysitting us,” I tell Vance. Tessa scowls at me, but I ignore her.

    He rolls his eyes like the sarcastic twit he is. “I’m clearly not babysitting you. She’s underage.”

    “Yeah, yeah,” I say. Someone calls his name, and he pats my shoulder before walking off.

    A few moments later, the bartender pops a bottle of champagne open and pours the bubbling liquid into a glass for Tessa. She politely thanks him, and he responds with a smile even more artificial than his accent. His little pantomime of cool is killing me.

    She brings the glass to her lips and rests her back against my chest. “It’s so good.”

    Just then, two men walk by and give her a quick glance. She notices; I know she does, because she leans further into me and lays her head against my shoulder.

    “There’s Sasha,” she says over the sound of Professor Stalker’s guitar being tested on the sound equipment. The tall blonde is searching the room, either for her boyfriend or a random dude to nail.

    “Who cares?” I gently grip her elbow and turn her to face me.

    “I don’t like her,” she quietly states.

    “No one does.”

    “You don’t?” she asks.

    Is she insane? “Why would I?”

    “I don’t know.” Her eyes move to my mouth. “Because she’s pretty.”


    “I don’t know . . . I’m just being weird.” She shakes her head in an attempt to get rid of the resentment that is clear on her face.

    “Are you jealous, ‘Theresa’?”

    “No.” She pouts.

    “You shouldn’t be.” I open my legs further and pull her against me again. “That’s not what I want.” I move my eyes to her nearly exposed chest. “You are.” I trace the line of her cleavage with my index finger as if we aren’t in a crowded club.

    “Only for my boobs.” She whispers the last word.

    “Obviously.” I chuckle, teasing her.

    “I knew it.” Tessa pretends to be offended but smiles over the rim of her glass.

    “Yeah, well, now that the truth is out, you can let me fuck them,” I say, much too loud.

    Champagne spurts out of her mouth and onto my shirt and lap.

    “Sorry!” she squeals, reaching for the napkin bin on the bar. She dabs the napkin across this fucking horrendous monstrosity of a shirt and then moves to wipe at my crotch.

    I grab her wrist and take the napkin from her. “I wouldn’t do that.”

    “Oh.” Her flush spreads down her neckline.

    One of the band members makes their introduction into the microphone, and I try my best not to heave when the eardrum assault begins. Tessa watches intently as they roll from one song to another, and I continue to keep her glass full.

    I’m thankful for the way we’re sitting. Well, the way I’m sitting. She’s standing between my legs, her back toward me, but I can see her face when I slightly lean back against the bar behind me. The low red lighting in the place, the champagne, and her being . . . her, makes her glow. It’s impossible not to watch her smile and stare at the stage. I can’t even be jealous, because she’s just that . . . beautiful.

    As if she can read my mind, she turns around and gives me an eager smile. I love seeing her this way, so carefree . . . so young. I need to make her feel this way more often.

    “They are good, right?” She nods along to the slow yet edgy sound.

    I shrug. “No.” They aren’t terrible, but they sure as hell aren’t good.

    “Shurrrr.” She exaggerates the word and turns back around. Moments later, her hips begin to sway along to the whining voice of the lead singer. Fuck.

    I move my hand down to the curve of her hip, and she backs into me, still moving. The tempo of the song speeds up, and Tessa does the same. Holy fuck.

    We’ve done a lot of shit . . . I’ve done a lot of shit, but I’ve never had anyone dance on me this way. I’ve had girls and even a few strippers give me a lap dance, but not like this. This is slow, intoxicating . . . and achingly fucking hot. My other hand moves to her other hip, and she turns slightly to place her glass on the bar top. With her hands empty, she gives me a salacious smile and looks back to the stage. She lifts up one hand and runs her small fingers through my hair and places the other hand on top of mine.

    “Keep going,” I beg.

    “You sure?” She tugs at the roots of my hair.

    It’s hard to believe that this seductive girl, wearing a short, black dress, swaying her hips, and tugging my hair, is the same girl who spits her champagne when I talk about fucking her chest. She’s such a turn-on.

    “Yes, fuck,” I breathe and lift a hand up to the nape of her neck, bringing her ear to my mouth. “Move against me . . .” I squeeze her hip. “Closer.”

    She does just that. I’m thankful for my height as I sit on the bar stool, the perfect height for her ass to move against me, hitting the exact spot that aches for her.

    I pull my attention from her, only for a second, to scan our surroundings. I don’t want anyone else watching her dance.

    “You’re so sexy right now,” I say against the shell of her ear. “Dancing this way, in public . . . for me and only me.” I swear I hear her moan through the music, and that’s all I can take. I turn her around and push my hand under her skirt.

    “Hardin.” She groans when I slide her panties to the side.

    “No one is paying any attention. Even if they were, they can’t see,” I assure her. I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought anyone could possibly witness it.

    “You liked putting on that show, didn’t you?” I say. She can’t deny it, she’s soaking.

    She doesn’t respond; she only rests her head on my shoulder and pulls at the bottom of my shirt, fisting it in her hand like she normally would do our sheets. I pump in and out of her, trying to match the haunting melody of the song. Almost instantly, her legs are stiffening, and she’s coming on my fingers. She hums, letting me know just how much pleasure I’m bringing her. She leans in further, her mouth sucking at the base of my neck. Her hips rock into me, keeping a steady beat with my fingers pumping in and out of her wet pussy. Her moans are drowned out by the music and the voices around us, and her nails could possibly be breaking the skin on my stomach.

    “I’m going to,” she groans into my neck.

    “I know, baby. Come for me. Right here, Tessa. Come.” I gently persuade her.

    She nods, biting down on the tendon in my neck, and I feel my cock pulsing, pressing against the front of my jeans. All of her weight rests on me as she orgasms, and I hold her up. She’s panting, absolutely flushing, glowing under the lights, when she lifts her head.

    “Car or bathroom?” she asks when I bring my fingers to my lips, sucking her sweetness from them.

    “Car,” I reply hastily, and she downs the last of her champagne. Vance can pay for that shit; I don’t have time to hunt down the bartender.

    Tessa takes my hand and drags me toward the door. She’s eager, and I’m hard as fuck from her seduction game at the bar.

    “Is that . . . ?” Tessa stops in her tracks near the front of the club. Black hair, styled to stick up wildly, peeks through the crowd. I would have sworn my paranoia was causing me to hallucinate if she hadn’t seen him, too.

    “Why the fuck is he here? Did you tell him you were coming to the club?” I hiss. I’ve kept my cool all night, only to have it sabotaged by this asshole.

    “No! Of course not!” Tessa exclaims, defending herself. I can tell by her wide eyes that she’s being honest.

    Zed spots us, and a mischievous frown takes over his face. Being the fucking instigator that he is, he walks over to where we’re standing.

    “What are you doing here?” I ask him as he approaches.

    “Same thing as you.” He rolls his shoulders and looks at Tessa. I fight the urge to pull the top of her dress up and knock his teeth out.

    “How did you know she was here?” I ask him.

    Tessa tugs at my arm and looks back and forth between Zed and me.

    “I didn’t. I’m here to watch the band.” A man with the same tanned skin as Zed joins us.

    “You should go,” I tell the two of them.

    “Hardin, please,” Tessa whines behind me.

    “Don’t,” I whisper to her. I’ve had enough of Zed and his shit.

    “Hey . . .” The man moves to stand between us. “They’re doing another set. Let’s go tell them we’re here.”

    “You know Soto?” Tessa asks. Dammit, Tessa.

    “Yeah, we do,” the stranger says.

    I can practically see the conspiracy theories floating through her mind about how these people know each other, but just wanting to be away from Zed, I take her by the arm and guide us to the door.

    “See you around,” Zed says, giving Tessa his best I’m-a-lost-fucking-puppy-and-I-want-you-to-feel-bad-for-me-and-love-me-because-I’m-a-pathetic-fuck smile before following the other guy toward the stage.

    I rush out the door and into the cold air. Tessa follows closely behind, insisting, “I didn’t know he was coming here! I swear.”

    I unlock the car and open the passenger door for her. “I know, I know,” I say to silence her. I’m trying my best to talk myself down from going back inside. “Drop it. Please. I don’t want to ruin the night.” I walk around to the other side of the car and slide in next to her.

    “Okay,” she agrees, nodding.

    “Thank you.” I sigh. I slip the key into the ignition, and Tessa puts her hand on my cheek to turn my head toward her.

    “I really appreciate you making such an effort tonight. I know it’s hard for you, but it means the world to me.” As she utters her words of praise, I smile against her palm.


    “I mean it. I love you, Hardin. So much.”

    I tell her how much I love her while she climbs across the console and straddles my lap. Her hands are quick to undo my jeans and tug them down just enough . . . her mouth is quick against my neck, and she pulls at my shirt, popping the top two buttons off in a rushed attempt to gain access to my chest. I push her dress up to expose her tight little body to me, and she digs into my back pocket to retrieve the condom that I suspected I would need.

    “I only want you, always,” she reassures me, calming my racing mind as she slides the condom onto me. I grip her hips and help lift her body. In the small space of the car it feels closer, deeper, as she lowers herself onto me. As I fill her, completely and possessively, a low hiss escapes my mouth. She covers my lips, swallowing my moans as she moves her hips slowly, the way she did in the club.

    “It’s so fucking deep this way,” I say, taking her bun in my hand and tugging gently to force her to look at me.

    “So good,” she groans, taking me inside her, feeling every inch of me. One of her hands moves to my hair while the other rests at the base of my throat. She’s so fucking sexy this way, when alcohol is laced with adrenaline and she’s full of hunger and need—need for me, for my body, for this raw passionate connection that only we share. She couldn’t find this with anyone else, and neither could I. I have everything I need here with her, and she can’t ever leave me.

    “Fuck, I love you,” I breathe into her mouth as she tugs at my hair and her fingers tighten on my neck. It’s not uncomfortable, it’s fairly light pressure, but it’s driving me fucking insane.

    “I love you,” she gasps when I lift my hips to meet her, thrusting harder than before. I stare at her and revel in the sensation of her flexing her hips. The slow building of pleasure begins at the base of my spine, and I can feel Tessa tensing as I continue to aid her by lifting my hips with each thrust.

    She has got to get on the pill. I need to feel her skin-to-skin again.

    “I can’t wait to be inside you without a condom . . .” I say into her neck.

    “Keep going,” she urges me. She loves my dirty mouth.

    “I want you to feel me come inside you . . .” I suck at the salty skin of her collarbone, tasting the thin layer of sweat there. “You’ll fucking love it, won’t you? Me marking you that way?” The thought alone pushes me over the edge.

    “I’m almost . . .” she moans, and with one harsh tug at my hair, we ride out our highs together, panting, and moaning, and messy, and us.

    I help her off of my lap and roll down the window while she adjusts her dress.

    “What are you—” she begins, and I toss the condom out the window. “You did not just throw a dirty condom out of the window! What if Christian sees it?”

    I smile evilly at her. “I’m sure it won’t be the only condom he finds in this lot.”

    Her hands fumble with my zipper, helping me dress again so I can drive. “Maybe not.” She scrunches her nose and looks out the window as I put the car into gear.

    “It smells like sex in here,” she adds and bursts into laughter.

    I nod and listen to her hum along to every single fucking song on the radio as we drive back to Vance’s place. I almost tease her for it, but it’s actually sort of a lovely sound, especially after listening to that shitty-shitty band play.

    Lovely sound? I’m even starting to talk like her.

    “I’m going to have to physically remove my eardrums after tonight,” I remark as she carries on. She sticks her tongue out at me like a child and sings even louder.


I TAKE TESSA’S HAND in mine to steady her as we walk up to the driveway en route to the front door. The way she’s acting, I’m guessing most of that champagne finally hit her liver.

    “What if we’re locked out?” she asks with a giggle when we reach the driveway.

    “The babysitter is here,” I remind her.

    “Oh yeah! Lillian . . .” She smiles. “She’s so nice.”

    I grin at the level of her intoxication. “I thought you didn’t like her.”

    “I do, now that I know she doesn’t like you the way you led me to believe she did.”

    I touch her lips. “Don’t pout. She’s a lot like you . . . only more annoying.”

    “Excuse me?” She hiccups. “That wasn’t very nice of you to make me jealous of her.”

    “It worked, didn’t it?” I reply smugly as we reach the door.

    Lillian is seated alone on the couch when we enter the house. I take a moment to pull the front of Tessa’s dress up a little. She rolls her eyes at me.

    Seeing us, Lillian stands to her feet. “How was it?”

    “It was so, so much fun! The band was great!” Tessa beams.

    “She’s wasted,” I inform Lillian.

    She laughs. “I can see that.” After a pause, she says, “Smith is asleep. He almost had a conversation with me tonight.”

    “Good for you,” I say and lead Tessa toward the hall.

    My drunk girlfriend waves at Lillian. “It was nice seeing you!”

    I don’t know if I should tell Lillian to leave now or wait until Vance shows up, so I don’t say anything. Besides, let her deal with that little robot kid if he wakes up.

    When we get to Tessa’s room, I close the door behind us, and she immediately plops onto the bed. “Can you take this off?” She points to her dress. “It’s so itchy.”

    “Yeah, stand up.” I help her out of her dress, and she thanks me with a kiss on the tip of my nose. It’s a simple gesture, but it catches me off guard, and I smile at her.

    “I’m so glad you’re here with me,” she says.

    “Are you?”

    She nods and undoes the remainder of the buttons left on Christian’s shirt. Her hands push the garment down my arms, and she folds it neatly before walking to the hamper. I’ll never understand why she folds dirty clothes, but I’m used to it by now.

    “Yes, very. Seattle isn’t as great as I thought,” she finally admits.

    Then come back with me, I want to say.

    “Why not?” I say instead.

    “I don’t know. It’s just not.” She frowns, and I’m surprised that instead of wanting to hear how miserable she is here, I want to change the subject. Landon and I both suspected she felt this way; but still it makes me feel bad that it’s not exactly what she’d wanted. I should take her out tomorrow during the day to cheer her up.

    “You could move to England,” I say.

    She glares at me with red cheeks and champagne-glazed eyes. “You won’t take me there for a wedding, but you want me to move there,” she says, calling me out.

    “We’ll talk about it later,” I say, hoping she’ll drop it right now.

    “Yeah . . . yeah . . . always later.” She walks back to sit on the bed but misses completely. Her body rolls onto the floor, and she bursts into a fit of laughter.

    “Christ, Tessa.” I grab hold of her hand and help her to her feet, my heart pounding in my chest.

    “I’m fine.” She laughs and sits down on the bed, pulling me with her.

    “I gave you too much champagne.”

    “Yep, you did.” She smiles and pushes my shoulders back until I’m flat on the mattress.

    “Are you okay? Do you feel sick?”

    She rests her head against my chest. “Stop parenting me, I’m fine.” I bite my tongue instead of mouthing off to her.

    “What do you want to do?” she asks quietly.


    “I’m bored.” She looks up at me with that look. Tessa lifts herself up and stares down at me, eyes wild.

    “What would you like to do, drunk ass?”

    “Pull your hair.” She grins and pulls her bottom lip between her teeth in the most sinful way.