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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 a 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.

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?”