Chapter One Hundred and Thirty-Six

After We Fell


one hundred and thirty-six




What? What is happening? For one of the few times in my life, I find myself speechless. My mum’s hands move from Vance’s hair down to his jaw, her mouth pushing harder against his.

    I must have made a noise—probably a gasp, I don’t fucking know—because my mum’s eyes spring open and she immediately pushes at Vance’s shoulders. His head quickly turns to me, his eyes go wide, and he steps away from the counter. How did they not hear me coming down the stairs? Why is he here, in this kitchen?

    What the actual fuck is happening?

    “Hardin!” my mum says, her voice high with panic as she jumps down from the kitchen counter.

    “Hardin, I can—” Vance starts. I hold up my hand to silence them while my mouth and brain work together, trying to make sense of the fucked-up sight in front of me.

    “How . . .” I begin, the jumbled words flying through my mind not really connecting. “How . . . ?” I repeat, my feet beginning to move backward. I want to get away from them as fast as I possibly can, but I need an explanation at the same time.

    I look back and forth between the two of them, trying to reconcile the people before me with those that I thought I knew. But I fail to do so, and nothing makes sense.

    My heels hit the back of the stairs, and my mum steps toward me. “It’s not—” she begins.

    I’m relieved to feel the familiar burn of anger beginning to chip away at my shock, sweeping over me and pushing away any vulnerability that may have been present seconds ago. Anger I can deal with—I revel in it; shock and stunned silence, not so much.

    I’m walking toward them again before I realize what I’m doing, and my mum steps back, distancing herself from me, while Vance steps in front of her. What?

    “What the fuck is wrong with you?” I interrupt her, ignoring the selfish tears shining in her eyes. “You’re getting married tomorrow!”

    “And you,” I seethe at my old boss, “you’re fucking engaged, and here you are about to fuck my mum on the goddamned kitchen counter!” I lower my hand and strike a harsh blow to the already damaged countertop. The cracking sound of the wood splintering excites me, makes me want more.

    “Hardin!” my mum yells.

    “Don’t you fucking yell at me!” I nearly scream. I hear the rush of footsteps above me, a signal that our voices have woken Tessa up, and I know she’s on her way to find me.

    “Don’t talk to your mother like that.” Vance’s voice isn’t loud, but the threat in his tone is clear.

    “You don’t get to tell me what the fuck to do! You’re no one—who the fuck are you?” My nails dig into my palms, and my anger grows, gathering into a large mass, ready to explode.

    “I’m—” he begins, but my mum’s hand wraps around his shoulder and pulls him back.

    “Christian, don’t,” she begs him.

    “Hardin?” Tessa’s voice calls from the stairs, and she enters the kitchen only seconds later. She looks around the room, at the unexpected guest first, then her eyes settle on me as she comes to stand next to me. “Is everything okay?” she nearly whispers, wrapping her small hand around my arm.

    “Everything is just fine! Perfect, really!” I pull my arm out of her grip and wave it in front of me. “Although you may want to warn your friend Kimberly that her beloved fiancé has been shagging my mum.”

    Tessa’s eyes nearly fall out onto the floor at my words, but she remains silent. I wish she’d stayed upstairs, but I know if I were her, I wouldn’t have either.

    “Where is your lovely Kimberly? Staying at a nearby hotel with your son?” I ask Vance, sarcasm screaming through my words. I don’t like Kimberly, she’s fucking nosy and obnoxious, but she loves Vance, and I was under the strong impression that he was just as much in love with her. Clearly, I was wrong. He doesn’t give a fuck about her or their upcoming wedding. If he did, this wouldn’t be happening.

    “Hardin, everyone just needs to calm down.” My mum tries to defuse the situation. Her hand has dropped from Vance’s shoulder.

    “Calm down?” I scoff. She’s unbelievable. “You’re getting married tomorrow, and I find you here, in the middle of the night, laid out on the kitchen counter like a whore.”

    The moment the words hit the air, he’s on me. Vance’s body collides with mine, and my head smacks against the tile floor of the kitchen as he tackles me to the ground.

    “Christian!” I hear my mum scream. He uses the weight of his body to hold me there, but I manage to get my hands out from under his grip. The moment that his fist connects with my nose, my adrenaline courses through me, taking me over, and all I see is red.