I remain mute on the couch, unable to talk for some time.
“It’s nothing,” I finally manage to say with a shrug. But I need to say something real, anything.
After watching more of my painful silence for a moment, Tessa goes into polite hostess mode. “How will you get home? Wait . . . how did you even know how to get here?”
Shit. “Landon. He told me.”
Her eyes light up again. “Oh, he’s here?”
“Yeah, he’s outside.”
She flushes and rises to her feet. “Oh! I’m keeping you, I’m sorry.”
“No, you aren’t. He’s fine out there waiting,” I stammer. I don’t want to leave. Unless you’re coming with me.
“He should have come inside.” She glances toward the door.
“He’s fine.” My voice comes out much too sharp.
“Thank you again for bringing my car . . .” She’s trying to dismiss me in a polite way. I know her.
“Do you want me to bring your stuff inside?” I offer.
“No, I’m leaving in the morning, so it’s easier to keep it in there.”
Why does it surprise me that every single time she opens her mouth, she reminds me that she’s going to Seattle? I keep waiting for her to change her mind, but it will never happen.
As Hardin reaches the door, I ask, “What did you do about Dan?”
I want to know more about last night, even if Noah can hear us talking. As we pass him in the hallway, Hardin doesn’t so much as look at him. Noah glares, though, unsure of what to do, I assume.
“Dan. You said Molly told you. What did you do?” I know Hardin well enough to know that he went after him. I’m still surprised by Molly’s help—I was far from expecting it when she walked into the bedroom last night. I shudder at the memory.
Hardin half smiles. “Nothing too bad.”
I didn’t kill Dan when I found him; I only kicked him in the face . . .
“You kicked him in the face . . .” I say, trying to dig through the mess in my head.
He raises a brow. “Yeah . . . Did Zed tell you that?”
“I . . . I don’t know . . .” I remember hearing the words, I just can’t remember who said them.
I’m Hardin, not Zed, Hardin said—his voice in my mind feels so real.
“You were here, weren’t you? Last night?” I step toward him. He backs into the wall. “You were; I remember it. You said you were going to drink and you didn’t . . .”
“I didn’t think you remembered,” Hardin mutters.
“Why wouldn’t you just tell me?” My head aches while I struggle to separate drug-induced dreaming from reality.
“I don’t know. I was going to, but then everything got so familiar and you were smiling and I didn’t want to ruin it.” He shrugs one shoulder, and his eyes focus on the large painting of the golden gates of Heaven on my mother’s wall.
“How would you telling me that you drove me home ruin it?”
“I didn’t drive you home. Zed did.”
I remembered that earlier, sort of. This is so frustrating.
“So you came after? What was I doing?” I want Hardin to help me put together the sequence of events. I can’t seem to do it on my own.
“You were lying on the couch; you could barely speak.”
“Oh . . .”
“You were calling out for him,” he adds quietly, venom laced through his deep voice.
“Zed.” His answer is simple, but I can feel the emotion behind it.
“No, I wasn’t.” That doesn’t make sense. “This is so frustrating.” I sift through the mental mud and finally find a lump of sense . . . Hardin speaking about Dan, Hardin asking me if I can hear him, me asking him about Zed . . .
“I wanted to know about him, if you had hurt him. I think.” The memory is fuzzy, but it’s there.
“You said his name more than once; it’s okay. You were so out of it.” His eyes drop to the carpet and stay there. “I didn’t expect you to want me anyway.”
“I didn’t want him. I may not remember much, but I was afraid. I know myself enough to know that I would only call for you,” I admit without thinking.
Why did I just say that? Hardin and I broke up, again. This is our second actual breakup, but it feels like there have been so many more. Maybe because this time I haven’t jumped into his arms at the slightest sign of affection from him. This time I left the house and the gifts from Hardin; this time I’m leaving for Seattle in less than twenty-four hours.
“Come here,” he says, holding his arms open.
“I can’t.” I take a page from his book and run my fingers over my hair.
“Yes, you can.”
Whenever Hardin is around me, despite the situation, the familiarity of him always seeps into every fiber of my being. We either scream at each other or we smile and tease. There’s never any distance, no middle ground between us. It’s such a natural thing for me now, an instinct really, to let myself find comfort in his arms, laugh at his stale attitude, and ignore the issues that caused us to be in whatever terrible situation that we’re in at the time.
“We aren’t together anymore,” I say quietly, more to remind myself.
“I can’t pretend that we are.” I pull my bottom lip between my teeth and try not to notice the way his eyes dull at the reminder of our status.
“I’m not asking you to do that. All I’m asking is for you to come here.” His arms are still open, still long and inviting, calling for me, pulling me closer and closer.