Chapter Seventy-Seven

After We Fell


chapter seventy-seven

 

TESSA

 

By the time my plate is clear, I’m practically twitching in my seat. The moment we ordered our meals I realized that I left my phone in my car, and it’s driving me more insane than it should. No one really calls me much. However, I can’t help but think that maybe Hardin has, or at least sent me a text message. I’m trying my best to listen to Trevor while he talks about an article in the Times he read, trying not to think of Hardin and the possibility that he may have called, but I can’t help it. I’m distracted during the entire dinner and am positive that Trevor notices; he’s just too kind to call me out on it.

    “Don’t you agree?” Trevor’s voice pulls me from my thoughts.

    I scramble through the last few seconds of conversation, trying to remember what he could be talking about. The article was about health care . . . I think.

    “Yeah, I do,” I lie. I have no clue if I agree or not, but I do wish the server would hurry and bring our check.

    As if on cue, the young man places a small booklet on our table, and Trevor hastily pulls out his wallet.

    “I can . . .” I begin.

    But he slides several bills inside, and the server disappears back into the restaurant kitchen. “It’s on me.”

    I quietly thank him and glance at the large stone clock hanging just above the door. It’s past seven; we’ve been in the restaurant for over an hour. I let out a breath of relief when Trevor says, “Well,” claps his hands, and stands.

    On the way back to his place, we pass a small coffee shop, and Trevor raises his brow, a silent invitation.

    “Maybe another night this week?” I offer with a smile.

    “Sounds like a plan.” The corner of his mouth rises into his famous half smile, and we continue the trek to his building.

    With a quick goodbye and a friendly hug, I climb into my car and immediately reach for my phone. I’m frazzled with anxiety and desperation, but I shove those feelings back into the darkness. Nine missed calls, every single one from Hardin.

    I call him back immediately, only to get his voicemail. The drive from Trevor’s apartment to Kimberly’s house is long and tedious. The traffic in Seattle is terrible, bumper-to-bumper and noisy. Honking horns, small cars whipping from lane to lane—it’s pretty overwhelming, and by the time I pull into the driveway, I have a massive headache.

    When I step through the front door, I see Kimberly seated on the white leather couch, a glass of wine in her hand. “How was your day?” she asks and leans over to place her drink onto the glass table in front of her.

    “Good. But the traffic in this city is I groan and plop down on the crimson chair next to the window. “My head is killing me.”

    “Yeah, it is. Have some wine for your headache.” She stands up and walks across the living room.

    Before I can protest, she pours the bubbling white wine into a long-stemmed glass and brings it to me. Taking a little sip, I find it’s cool and crisp, sweet on my tongue.

    “Thank you,” I say with a smile and take a bigger sip.

    “So . . . you were with Trevor, right?” Kimberly is so nosy . . . in the sweetest way.

    “Yes, we had a friendly dinner. As friends,” I say innocently.

    “Maybe you could try answering again and use the word ‘friend’ a few more times,” she teases, and I can’t help but laugh.

    “I’m just trying to make it clear that we’re only . . . uh . . . friends.”

    Her brown eyes shine with curiosity. “Does Hardin know you were being friends with Trevor?”

    “No, but I plan on telling him as soon as I speak to him. He doesn’t care for Trevor, for some reason.”

    She nods. “I can’t blame him. Trevor could be a model, if he wasn’t so shy. Have you seen those blue eyes of his?” She exaggerates her words by fanning her face with her free hand, and we both giggle like schoolgirls.

    “Don’t you mean green eyes, love?” Christian says as he suddenly appears in the foyer, causing me to nearly drop my glass of wine onto the hardwood floor.

    Kim smiles at him. “Of course I do.”

    But he just shakes his head and gives us both a sly smile. “I suppose I could be a model as well,” he comments with a wink. For my part, I’m relieved that he isn’t upset. Hardin would have flipped the table over if he caught me speaking about Trevor the way Kimberly was.

    Christian sits down on the couch next to Kimberly, and she climbs into his lap. “And how’s Hardin doing? You’ve spoken to him, I assume?” he asks.

    I look away. “Yes, a little. He’s good.”

    “Stubborn, he is. I’m still offended that he hasn’t taken me up on my offer, given his situation.”

    Christian smiles into Kim’s neck and kisses her softly just beneath her ear. These two clearly have no issue with public displays of affection. I try to look away again, but I can’t.

    Wait . . .

    “What offer?” I ask, my surprise obvious.

    “Why, the job I offered him—I told you about it, didn’t I? I wish he’d come out here. I mean, he only has, what, one semester left, and he’ll be graduating early, no?”

    What? Why didn’t I know about this? This is the first I’ve heard about Hardin graduating early. But I respond, “Erm, yeah . . . I believe so.”

    Christian wraps his arms around Kimberly and rocks her a little. “He’s practically a genius, that boy. If he had applied himself a little more, his GPA would be a perfect four.”

    “He really is very smart . . .” I agree. And it’s true. Hardin’s mind never ceases to surprise and intrigue me. It’s one of the things that I love most about him.

    “Quite the writer, too,” he says and steals a sip of Kimberly’s wine. “I don’t know why he decided to stop. I was looking forward to reading more of his work.” Christian sighs while Kimberly undoes the silver tie around his neck.

    I’m overwhelmed by this information. Hardin . . . writing? I remember him briefly mentioning that he used to dabble a little in it during his freshman year of college, but he never went into detail. Every time I brought it up in conversation, he’d change the subject or pooh-pooh the idea, giving me the impression that it wasn’t very important to him.

    “Yeah.” I finish off my wine and stand, pointing to the bottle. “May I?”

    Kimberly nods. “Of course, have as much as you please. We have an entire cellarful,” she says with a sweet smile.

    Three glasses of white wine later, my headache has evaporated and my curiosity has grown geometrically. I wait for Christian to bring up Hardin’s writing or the job offer again, but he doesn’t. He dives into a full-blown business discussion about how he has been in talks with a media group to expand Vance Publishing’s in-house film and television efforts. As interesting as it is, I want to get to my room and try to call Hardin again. When an appropriate opening presents itself, I wish them both a good night and excuse myself to rush off to my temporary bedroom.

    “Take the bottle with you!” Kimberly calls to me just as I pass the table where the half-full wine bottle rests.

    I nod, thanking her, and do just that.