Chapter Twenty-One

After We Fell

chapter twenty-one




I shake his arm again, roughly this time. “Hardin! You have to get We’re going to be late.”

    I’m already dressed and ready, our bags have already been placed in the car, and I’ve given him as much time to sleep as possible. Heck, last night I even did all the packing, not that he would’ve done a very good job of it anyway.

    “Not . . . going,” he groans.

    “Please get up!” I whine and tug at his arm. God, I wish he was a morning person like me.

    He covers his face with the pillow, and I grab it and toss it onto the floor. “No, go away.”

    I decide to take a different approach and bring my hand to the front of his boxers. He fell asleep in his jeans last night, and I had a hell of a time tugging them down his legs without waking him. But now he’s been left vulnerable, and manipulable.

    My fingernails gently graze the inked skin just above the waistband . . . He doesn’t budge.

    I dip my hand fully into his boxers, and he opens his eyes. “Good morning,” he says with a lusty smile.

    I remove my hand and stand up. “Get up.”

    He yawns dramatically and looks down at his boxers and says, “Looks like I . . . already . . . am.” When he doesn’t look back up, I see he’s pretending to be asleep again, and soon he starts making loud cartoon snoring noises. It’s inconvenient, but adorable and playful; I hope he remains this way for the rest of the week—really, I’ll settle for the rest of the day.

    I reach into his boxers again, and when his eyes pop open to look at me like an eager puppy, I say, “Uh-uh,” and pull my hand back out.

    “Not fair,” he whines.

    But he does get up, pulling yesterday’s jeans back on. He walks over to the dresser and grabs a black shirt, looks at me, then puts it back and pulls out a white one. He runs his fingers through his hair, making it stand straight up before pushing it back down.

    “Do I have time to brush my teeth?” His tone is sarcastic, and his voice is raspy from sleep.

    “Yes, hurry up. Brush your teeth so we can go,” I instruct and do a quick walk-through of the apartment to make sure everything is in order.

    Minutes later, Hardin joins me in the living room, and we finally leave.


KEN, KAREN, AND LANDON are waiting for us in the driveway when we arrive.

    I roll down the window. “Sorry we’re a few minutes late,” I apologize as we pull up next to where they stand.

    “It’s okay! We figured we’d all ride together since it’s quite a drive,” Karen says with a smile.

    “Fuck, no,” Hardin whispers next to me.

    “Come on.” She gestures to the black SUV filling the other half of the driveway. “Ken bought me this for my birthday, and we never use it.”

    “No; hell, no,” Hardin says a little louder.

    “It’ll be fine,” I say quietly, to him.

    “Tessa . . .” he begins.

    “Hardin, please don’t make this difficult, please,” I beg. Maybe, just maybe, I blink my eyes seductively, hoping that will work.

    After looking at me for a moment, his eyes finally soften. “Fine. Fuck, you’re lucky I love you.”

    I squeeze his hand. “Thank you.” Then I turn back to Karen. “Okay,” I say with a smile and turn off my car.

    Hardin puts our bags into the back of Karen’s SUV, scowling the whole time.

    “This is going to be fun!” Landon laughs as I climb into the car.

    Hardin sits next to me in the back row after making a comment about not having to sit next to Landon. As Ken pulls onto the street, Karen turns on the radio and begins to sing along softly.

    “This is some shit straight from a corny comedy,” Hardin says and puts his hand over mine before pulling them both to his lap.