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“He wasn’t being rude to me, specifically. I think that’s just his personality.” I shrug my shoulders, a gesture that doesn’t really calm Hardin.

“Well, either way, I don’t fucking like him, and it’s annoying that we have one night together and it’s with a full house.” Hardin brushes his hair back from his forehead and grabs a pillow to lie back on.

“I know.” I agree. I hope Max and his mistress leave soon. “I hate that he’s cheating on his wife. Denise seemed so nice.”

“I don’t give a shit about that, really. I just don’t like him,” Hardin says.

I’m a little surprised by his immediate brushing off such a betrayal. “Don’t you feel bad for her? Even a little bit? I’m sure she has no idea about Sasha.”

He waves his hand in the air and then tucks his arm behind his head. “I’m sure she knows. Max is an asshole. She can’t be that stupid.”

I picture Max’s wife sitting in a mansion in the hills somewhere, wearing an expensive dress, full hair and makeup, waiting for her unfaithful husband to return home. The thought saddens me, and the best I can hope for is that she has a “friend,” too.

The thought surprises me that I would wish for her to do the same thing back to him, but her husband is in the wrong here, and though I barely know her, I want her to find some happiness, even if it’s not exactly the best decision.

“Either way, it’s still wrong,” I insist.

“Yeah, but that’s marriage for you. Cheating, lying, so on and so on.”

“That’s not always the case.”

“Nine times out of ten.” He shrugs. I hate the way he views marriage so negatively.

“No, that’s not true.” I cross my arms over my chest.

“You’re going to argue with me over marriage, again? I don’t think we should go there,” he warns. His eyes meet mine, and he takes a deep breath.

I want to battle this out with him, tell him that he’s wrong and change his view on marriage, but I know it’s pointless. Hardin made up his mind about such things long before he met me.

“You’re right, we shouldn’t talk about this. Especially when you’re already wound up.”

“I’m not wound up,” he scoffs.

“Okay.” I roll my eyes at him, and he rises to his feet.

“Stop rolling your eyes at me,” he snaps.

I can’t help but roll my eyes, again.

“Tessa . . .” he growls.

I stand still, unmoving and unwavering. He has no reason to be short with me. Max’s being a pompous jerk is in no way my fault. This is a typical Hardin Scott tantrum, and I’m not caving this time.

“You’re only here for one night, remember?” I remind him and watch as the hardness and energy slip from his features. He continues to watch me, though, expecting a fight. I’m not giving him one.

“Dammit, you’re right. I’m sorry,” he finally sighs, impressing me with this sudden change in his mood and his ability to calm himself down. “Come here.” He opens his arms, the way Hardin always does, and I walk into them, the way I haven’t for so long. He doesn’t say anything; he only wraps his arms around me and rests his chin on top of my head. His scent is overpowering, his breathing has slowed since his little hissy fit, and he is warm, so warm. Seconds, or maybe minutes later, he pulls away from me and presses his thumb under my chin.

“I’m sorry for being a dick. I don’t know what my problem was. Max just bugs the shit out of me, or maybe it was the babysitting, or that obnoxious Stacey. I don’t know, but I’m sorry.”

“Sasha.” I correct him with a smile.

“Same thing—a whore is a whore is a whore.”

“Hardin!” I gently swat at his chest. The muscles underneath feel harder than I remember. He’s been working out daily . . . briefly, my thoughts travel to what he looks like under his black T-shirt, and I wonder if his body has changed since I last laid eyes on it.

“Just saying.” He shrugs and brushes his fingertips over the soft line of my jaw. “I really am sorry. I don’t want to ruin my time with you. Forgive me?”

His cheeks flush, and his voice is so soft, and his fingertips are gently scraping against my skin, and it feels so good. My eyes flutter closed as he traces the outline of my lips with his thumb.

“Answer me,” he softly presses.

“I always do, don’t I?” I say with a breath. I rest both of my hands on his hips, my thumbs pressing into the bare skin under his T-shirt. I expect to feel his lips on mine, but when I open my eyes, his guard has been drawn up. I hesitate, but ask, “Is something wrong?”

“I had . . .” He stops midsentence. “I have a headache.”

“Do you need something? I can ask Kim if—”

“No, not her. I think I just need to sleep or something. It’s late, anyway.”

My heart sinks at his words. What is going on with him, and why doesn’t he want to kiss me again? Only moments ago he told me that he didn’t want to ruin our short time together, yet now he wants to go to sleep?

I sigh out a quiet “Okay.” I’m not going to beg Hardin to stay awake and spend time with me. I’m embarrassed by his rejection, and honestly I do need a moment alone without his minty breath fanning across my cheeks and his green eyes piercing into mine, clouding the smidge of judgment I have left.

Still, I linger a little, waiting for him to ask if he can sleep in my room or vice versa.

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