Chapter One Hundred and Forty-Three

After We Fell


chapter

one hundred and forty-three

 

HARDIN

 

Gabriel’s is a pretentious bar set in the middle of the wealthiest section in Hampstead. Of course he’d choose this place to meet me. I park my rental car in the lot and walk toward the door. When I step inside the stuffy place, my eyes scan the room. Seated at a round table in the corner of the bar are Vance, Mike, Max, and that blonde. Why the fuck is she here? And more importantly, why is Mike sitting next to Vance as if he wasn’t on the verge of fucking his fiancée less than twelve hours ago?

    Everyone in the place is wearing a damn tie, except me. I hope I trailed dirt in behind me. A hostess tries to speak to me as I pass her, but I brush her off.

    “Hardin, nice to see you.” Max stands first and puts his hand out to shake. I ignore him.

    “You wanted to talk—let’s talk,” I snap at Vance when I reach the table. He brings his glass, filled to the brim with liquor, to his mouth and gulps it down before standing.

    Mike’s eyes stay focused on the table and it takes all of my strength not to tell him how fucking stupid he is. He’s always been a quiet man, the dependable neighbor that my mum would always pester for milk or eggs when she ran out.

    “How’s your trip going so far?” Sabrina’s voice rings out. I look at her, dumbfounded that she would even speak to me right now.

    “Where’s your wife?” I glare at Max. Next to him, the blonde’s smile drops from her overly made-up face and she starts swirling her empty martini glass in small circles.

    “Hardin . . .” Vance says, daring to try to shut me up.

    “Fuck off,” I bark at him. He stands to his feet. “I’m sure she and her daughter miss him while he’s here parading around with a skan—”

    “Enough,” he says and he gently grabs me by the arm in an attempt to get me away from the table.

    I jerk my arm from his grip. “Don’t you fucking touch me.”

    Stephanie’s shrill “Hey!” cuts through my growing anger. “That’s no way to treat your father, now, is it?”

    How fucking stupid is she? My father is back in Washington. “What?”

    Her smile grows. “You heard me. You should really treat your old man with more respect.”

    “Sasha!” Max grabs her thin arm with brutal force, nearly dragging her to her feet.

    “Oops, did I say something I wasn’t supposed to?” Her laugh rings through the bar. She’s a fucking idiot.

    Confused, I look at Mike, who has no color left in his round face. He looks like he could pass out at any moment. My mind begins to shift, and I look over at Vance, who is equally pale and nervously shifting from one foot to the other.

    Why are they being so dramatic over some dumb chick’s random nonsense?

    “You shut up, now.” Max removes the woman from the table and practically drags her through the bar.

    “She wasn’t supposed to—” Vance runs his hand over his hair. “I was going to . . .” He balls his fists at his sides.

    She wasn’t supposed to Make some stupid comment about Vance being my father when clearly my father is . . .

    I look at the panicked man in front of me, his green eyes on fire, his fingers frantically running over his hair . . .

    It takes me a moment to realize that my hands are doing the exact same thing.