Chapter Seventy-Eight

After We Fell

chapter seventy-eight




I walk into the apartment, my legs still sore from kicking the hell out of that bag at the gym. Grabbing a water bottle from the fridge, I try to ignore the sleeping man on my couch. It’s for her, I remind myself. All for her. I gulp down half of the bottle, dig my phone out of my gym bag, and turn on the power. Just as I try to call her, her name pops up on my screen.

    “Hello?” I answer as I pull my sweat-soaked T-shirt over my head and toss it to the floor.

    “Hi” is all she says.

    Her response is short. Too short. I want to talk to her. I need her to want to talk to me.

    I kick at my shirt, then pick it up, knowing that if she could see me, she’d scowl at me for being such a slob. “What are you up to?”

    “I went out exploring the city,” she answers calmly. “I tried to call you back, but it went to your voicemail.” The sound of her voice soothes my temper.

    “I went back to that gym.” I lie back on the bed, wishing she were here with me, her head on my chest, instead of in Seattle.

    “You did? That’s great!” she says, then adds, “I’m taking my shoes off.”

    “Okay . . .”

    She giggles. “I don’t know why I told you that.”

    “Are you drunk?” I sit up, using one elbow to hold my weight.

    “I’ve had some wine,” she admits. I should have caught that immediately.

    “With who?”

    “Kimberly, and Mr. Vance . . . Christian, I mean.”

    “Oh.” I don’t know how I feel about her going out drinking in a foreign city, but I know it’s not the time to bring that up.

    “He says you’re an amazing writer,” she says, accusation clear in her voice. Fuck.

    “Why would he say that?” I reply. My heart pounds.

    “I don’t know. Why won’t you write anymore?” Her voice is full of wine and curiosity.

    “I don’t know. But I don’t want to talk about me. I want to talk about you and Seattle and why you’ve been avoiding me.”

    “Well, he also said you’re graduating next semester,” she says, ignoring my words.

    Christian obviously has no idea how to mind his own damned business. “Yeah, so?”

    “I didn’t know that,” Tessa says. I hear her shuffling around, and she groans, clearly irritated.

    “I wasn’t hiding it from you, it just didn’t come up. You have a long time before you graduate, so it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s not like I was going to go anywhere.”

    “Hang on,” she says into the phone. What the hell is she doing? How much wine has she drunk?

    After listening to her mumble incomprehensibly and futz around, I finally ask, “What are you doing?”

    “What? Oh, my hair was caught in my shirt buttons. Sorry, I was listening, I promise.”

    “Why were you grilling your boss about me, anyway?”

    “He brought you up. You know, since he offered you a job a couple of times and you refused, you were a she says with emphasis.

    “Old news.” I don’t exactly remember mentioning the offer, but I wasn’t purposely keeping it from her. “My intentions concerning Seattle have always been clear.”

    “You can say that again,” she says, and I can practically see her rolling her eyes . . . again.

    I change the subject. “You didn’t answer when I called you. I called so many times.”

    “I know, I left my phone in the car at Trevor’s . . .” She stops midsentence.

    I stand from the bed and pace across the room. I fucking knew it.

    “He was only showing me around as friends, that’s it.” She’s quick to defend herself.

    “You didn’t answer my calls because you were with fucking I growl, my pulse quickening with each beat of the silence that meets my question.

    Then she snaps: “Don’t you fight with me over Trevor, he’s only a friend, and you’re the one who isn’t here. You don’t choose my friends, do you understand?”

    “Tessa . . .” I warn.

    “Hardin Allen Scott!” she exclaims, and bursts into laughter.

    “Why are you laughing?” I ask, but I can’t help the smile that takes over my face. Fuck, I’m pathetic.

    “I . . . don’t know!”

    The sound of her laughter resonates through my ears and travels straight down to my heart, warming my chest.

    “You should put the wine down,” I tease, wishing I could see her roll her eyes in response to my scolding her.

    me,” she challenges, her voice thick and playful.

    “If I was there, I would—you can be damned sure of that.”

    “What else would you do if you were here?” she asks me.

    I drop back onto my bed. Is she taking this where I think she is? I never know with her, especially when she’s been drinking.

    “Theresa Lynn Young—are you trying to have phone sex with me?” I taunt her.

    Immediately she coughs violently—choking on a gulp of wine, I assume. “What! No! I . . . I was just asking!” she squeals.

    “Sure, you can deny it now,” I joke, laughing at her horrified tone.

    “Unless . . . is that something you want to do?” she whispers.

    “You’re serious?” The thought alone makes my cock twitch.

    “Maybe . . . I don’t know. Are you mad about Trevor?” The tone of her voice is much more intoxicating to me than any amount of wine I could consume.

    Hell yes I’m irritated that she was with him, but that’s not what I want to discuss right now. I hear her gulp loudly, followed by the soft clink of a glass. “I don’t give a shit about fucking Trevor right now,” I lie. Then I command, “Don’t chug the wine.” I know her too well. “You’ll get sick.”

    I hear a couple of loud gulps come through the phone. “You can’t boss me around long distance.” She’s chugging the wine again, to build up her nerve, I’m sure.

    “I can boss you around from any distance, baby.” I grin, running my fingers over my lips.

    “Can I tell you something?” she asks quietly.

    “Please do.”

    “I was thinking about you today, and when you came to my office that first time . . .”

    “You were thinking about me fucking you when you were with him?” I ask her, praying she says yes.

    “At the time, I was waiting for him.”

    “Tell me more about it, tell me what you were thinking,” I press.

    This is so fucking confusing. Every time I’m talking to her I feel as if we aren’t “taking a break,” that everything is the same as it’s always been. The only difference at the moment is that I can’t physically see her, or touch her. Fuck, I want to touch her, run my tongue across her smooth skin . . .

    “I was thinking about how . . .” she starts, but then takes another drink.

    “Don’t be embarrassed.” I coax her to continue.

    “That I liked it, and it made me want to do it again.”

    “With who?” I ask, just to hear her say it.

    “You, only you.”

    “Good,” I say with a smooth grin. “You’re still mine, even though you’re making me give you space; you’re still only for me—you know that, don’t you?” I ask her in the most gentle way I possibly can.

    “I know,” she says. My chest swells, and I welcome the flood of relief that comes along with her words. “Are you mine?” she asks in a voice filled with much more confidence than it had moments ago.

    “Yes, always.”

    I don’t have a choice. I haven’t since the day I met I want to add, but I stay quiet, nervously awaiting her response.

    “Good,” Tessa says with authority. “Now, tell me what you would do if you were here, and don’t leave out any details.”