Chapter Forty-Seven

After We Fell

chapter forty-seven




Hardin’s nostrils flare as he tries to control his temper. I glance over at Robert, who looks slightly uncomfortable, though not in the least bit intimidated by Hardin.

    “If you’re purposely trying to make me angry, it’s working,” Hardin says.

    “I’m not, I just don’t want to go.” And right as the music cuts off, I practically yell, “I want to drink and be young and have fun!”

    Everyone turns to me. I’m not sure what to do with all the attention, so I awkwardly wave my hand in the air. Someone gives a hoot of approval, and half the bar raises their glasses in salute and then goes back to talking. The music resumes, and Robert laughs. Hardin glowers.

    “You’ve obviously had enough to drink,” he says, eyeing the now half-empty glass that Robert brought to me.

    “News flash, Hardin: I’m an adult,” I remark in a childish tone.

    “Dammit, Tessa.”

    “Maybe I should go . . .” Robert stands.

    “Obviously,” Hardin replies at the same time that I say “No.”

    But then, looking around us, I let out a sigh. As much as I was enjoying my evening with Robert, I know that Hardin will stand here the entire time making rude remarks, threats, whatever he has to do to make him leave. It’s better if he does go.

    “I’m sorry. I’ll go and you can stay,” I tell Robert.

    He shakes his head with understanding. “No, no—don’t worry about it. I had a long day, anyway.” He’s so calm and easy­going about everything. It’s really refreshing.

    “I’ll walk you out,” I tell him. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see him again, and he’s been so kind to me tonight.

    “No, you won’t,” Hardin chimes in, but I ignore him and follow Robert toward the door of the small bar. When I look back at the table, Hardin is leaning against it with his eyes closed. I hope he’s taking deep breaths in and out, because I’m in no mood for his crap tonight.

    Once we get outside, I turn to Robert. “I really am sorry. I didn’t know he was here. I was just trying to have a fun night.”

    Robert smiles and slouches a little to better meet my eyes. “Remember when I said to stop apologizing for everything?” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small pad and pen. “I’m not expecting anything, but if someday you’re bored and alone in Seattle, give me a call. Or not. It’s up to you if you want to or not.” He writes something down, then hands it to me.

    “Okay.” I don’t want to make any promises that I can’t keep, so I just smile and tuck the small paper into the top of my dress. “Sorry!” I squeak when I realize that I basically just fondled myself in front of him.

    “Stop saying sorry!” He laughs. “And especially not for He looks at the entrance to the bar, then out at the dark, dark night. “Well, I better go. It was nice to meet you; maybe we’ll see one another again?”

    I nod and smile as he walks down the sidewalk.

    “It’s cold out here,” Hardin’s voice says behind me, scaring the shit out of me.

    I huff and walk past him back into the bar. The table that I was sitting at is now taken by a bald man and his supersized mug of beer. I grab my purse off the stool next to him, and he just gives me a dead-eyed look. Or rather, gives my breasts one.

    Hardin is behind me. Again. “Let’s just go, please.”

    I step over to the bar area. “Can I just get two feet of space? I don’t even want to be around you right now. You said some pretty hateful things to me,” I remind him.

    “You know I didn’t mean them,” he answers, defending himself, attempting to make eye contact with me. I’m not falling for it.

    “That doesn’t mean you can say them.” I look over at the girl—Lillian’s girlfriend—who’s watching Hardin and me from the bar. “I don’t want to talk about it right now. I was having a nice night, and you aren’t ruining it.”

    Hardin steps in between us. “So you don’t want me here?” His eyes flash with hurt, and something in their green depths makes me backtrack.

    “I’m not saying that, but if you’re going to tell me that you don’t love me or how you use me for sex again, then you need to go. Or I will.” I’m trying my hardest to keep my bubbly, giggly attitude instead of sinking down and letting the pain and frustration take over.

    “You are the one who started all this shit when you came here with him—drunk, might I add . . .” he begins.

    I sigh. “Here we go.” Hardin is the king of double standards. His latest one is walking toward us now.

    “Jesus, would you two shut up. We’re in a public place.” The beautiful girl that Hardin was sitting with interrupts us.

    “Not now,” Hardin snaps at her.

    “Come on, Hardin’s obsession. Let’s take a seat at the bar,” she says, ignoring him.

    Sitting at a table toward the back of the bar and having a drink brought to me is one thing; sitting at the bar top and ordering my own is another. “I’m not old enough,” I inform her.

    “Oh, please. With that dress on, you’ll get a drink.” She stares at my chest, and I pull the front up slightly.

    “If I get kicked out, it’s your fault,” I tell her, and she tips her head back in laughter.

    “I’ll bail you out of jail.” She winks, and Hardin stiffens next to me. He watches her with warning in his eyes, and I can’t help but laugh. He tried to make me jealous with Lillian all night, and now he’s jealous of Lillian’s girlfriend winking at me.

    All of this juvenile back-and-forth—he’s jealous, I’m jealous, the old lady at the bar is jealous, everyone is jealous—it’s annoying. Slightly entertaining, especially now, but still annoying.

    “My name is Riley, by the way.” She takes a seat at the end of the bar. “I’m sure your rude-ass boyfriend isn’t planning on introducing us.”

    I glance back at Hardin, expecting him to cuss her out, but he only rolls his eyes, which is pretty restrained for him. He tries to sit at the stool between us, but I grab the back, then place my hand on his arm to help myself get up onto it. I know I shouldn’t be touching him, but I want to sit here and enjoy my last night of this minivacation-turned-disaster. Hardin has scared away my new friend, and Landon is probably already asleep by now. I don’t have any other options except sitting alone in the room back at the cabin. This seems better.

    “What can I get you?” a copper-haired bartender in a jean jacket asks me.

    “We’ll have three shots of Jack. Chill them first,” Riley answers for me.

    The woman scans my face for a few seconds, and my heart begins to race. “Coming up,” she says finally, and pulls three shot glasses from under the bar and places them in front of us.

    “I wasn’t going to drink. I only had one before you came,” Hardin leans over and says into my ear.

    “Drink what you want; I am,” I say without looking at him. Still, I silently pray that he doesn’t get too drunk. I never know how he’ll act.

    “I can see that,” he says by way of scolding me.

    I look at him with scorn, but end up staring at his mouth instead. Sometimes I just sit and stare at the slow movements of his lips when he talks; it’s one of my favorite things to do.

    Perhaps noticing I’ve softened somewhat, he asks, “Are you upset with me still?”

    “Yes, very.”

    “Then why are you acting like you aren’t?” His lips move even slower. I really need to find out the name of that wine. It was really good.

    “I already told you, I want to have fun,” I repeat. “Are you mad at me?”

    “I always am,” he replies.

    I laugh a little. “Isn’t that the truth.”

    “What did you say?”

    “Nothing.” I smile innocently and watch him rub the back of his neck with his hand, pinching the top of his shoulders between his thumb and forefinger.

    A shot of brown liquor is placed in front of me seconds later, and Riley raises her shot glass to Hardin and me. “Here’s to dysfunctional, borderline-psychotic relationships.” She smirks and tilts her head back to take her shot.

    Hardin follows her lead.

    I take a deep breath before welcoming the cool burn of whiskey down my throat.


“ONE MORE!” Riley cheers, sliding another shot in front of me.

    “I dunno if I can,” I slur. “I’ve never b-been this drunk, never never.”

    The whiskey has officially taken over my mind, set up camp, and doesn’t appear to be leaving anytime soon. Hardin is up to five shots, I lost count of mine after three, and I’m pretty sure Riley should be heaving on the floor from alcohol poisoning by now.

    “I feel like this whiskey tastes good,” I remark, dipping my tongue into the chilled shot.

    Next to me, Hardin laughs, and I lean into his shoulder and put my hand on his thigh. His eyes immediately follow my hand, and I quickly pull it away. I shouldn’t be acting like nothing happened earlier—I know I shouldn’t, but it’s easier said than done. Especially when I can barely think straight and Hardin looks so good in his white button-down shirt. I’ll deal with our problems tomorrow.

    “See, all you needed was a little whiskey to loosen up.” Riley slams her empty shot glass on the bar top, and I giggle.

    “What?” she barks.

    “You and Hardin are the same.” I cover my mouth to conceal my obnoxious giggles.

    “No we aren’t,” Hardin says, speaking at that slower pace he resorts to when he’s intoxicated. So does Riley.

    “Yes—you are! It’s like a mirror.” I laugh. “Does Lillian know you’re here?” I swing my head to the side and ask her.

    “Nope. She’s asleep for now.” She licks her lips. “But I fully intend on waking her up when I return.”

    The music starts to increase in volume again, and I watch the copper-haired woman climb onto the bar for probably the fourth time tonight.

    “Again?” Hardin scrunches his nose, and I laugh.

    “I think it’s funny.” I think everything is funny right now.

    “I think it’s lame, and it interrupts me every thirty minutes,” he gripes.

    “You should go up there.” Riley nudges me.

    “Up where?”

    “The bar, you should dance on the bar.”

    I shake my head and laugh. And blush. “No way!”

    “Come on—you’ve been whining about being young and having fun, or whatever the hell you were going on and on about. Now’s your chance. Dance on the bar.”

    “I can’t dance.” It’s true. I’ve only danced, excluding slow dancing, once, and that was at the nightclub in Seattle.

    “No one will notice—they’re all even more wasted than you.” She raises a brow, challenging me.

    “No fucking way,” Hardin says.

    Through my drunken haze I remember one thing: I’m sure as hell done letting him tell me what I can and can’t do.

    Without a word, I reach down and unfasten the horribly uncomfortable straps around my ankles and let my high heels drop to the floor.

    Hardin’s eyes are wide as I climb on top of the stool, then onto the bar. “What are you doing?” He stands and looks behind us as the few patrons left in the bar begin to cheer. “Tess . . .”

    The song gets louder, and the woman who has been serving us drinks smiles wickedly at me and takes my hand. “Do you know any line dances, honey?” she yells

    I shake my head, suddenly unsure of myself.

    “I’ll teach you!” she yells.

    What the hell was I thinking? I just wanted to prove a point to Hardin, and look where it got me—on top of a bar getting ready to attempt a dance . . . of some kind. I’m not even sure what a line dance is, exactly. If I’d known I was going to be up here, I would have planned it out better and paid more attention to the women when they were dancing earlier.