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I glower at him. “You weren’t giving me many options.”

“We were friends once, remember?” Zed remarks.

I stay silent as we both remember how everything used to be, before all of this shit, before I actually gave a fuck about anything . . . before her. His eyes have shifted, his shoulders have tensed along with the air after his question.

It’s hard to recall those supposed days. “I was too shit-faced to remember.”

“You know that isn’t true!” he exclaims, raising his voice. “You stopped drinking after—”

“I didn’t come here to take a walk down memory lane with you. Are you going to back off or not?” I look at him. He’s different somehow, harder.

He shrugs. “Sure, yeah.”

But that was too easy . . . “I’m serious.”

“So am I,” he says with a wave of his hand at me.

“This means absolutely no contact with her. None,” I remind him again.

“She’s going to wonder why. I texted her earlier today.”

I choose to ignore this. “Tell her you don’t want to be friends with her anymore.”

“I don’t want to hurt her feelings like that,” he says.

“I don’t give a fuck about hurting her feelings. You need to make it clear that you aren’t going to be pining after her anymore.” The momentary calm I felt has ceased, and my temper is rising again. The possibility that Tessa’s feelings would somehow be hurt by Zed not wanting to be friends with her drives me fucking crazy.

I walk toward the door, knowing myself well enough that I won’t make it another five minutes in this musty apartment. I’m pretty damn proud of myself for remaining peaceful this long in a room with Zed after all the shit he’s done to interfere with my relationship.

As my hand touches the rusted doorknob, he says, “I’ll do what I have to do for now, but it still isn’t going to change the outcome of all this.”

“You’re right. It won’t.” I agree with him, knowing that he means the exact opposite of what I do.

Before his fucking mouth can utter another word, I get out of his apartment and walk down the staircase as quickly as possible.

BY THE TIME I pull into my father’s driveway, the sun is setting, and I still haven’t been able to reach Tessa, each call going straight to voicemail. I’ve even called Christian twice, but he’s yet to answer or return my calls.

Tessa’s going to be mad that I went to Zed’s apartment; she feels something for him that I’m never going to understand or tolerate. After today, I pray that I won’t have to worry about him any longer. Unless she clings to him . . .

No. I stop myself from doubting her. I know Steph was feeding me bullshit, and it seeped into every insecure crack in my stone facade. If Zed had actually fucked Tessa, he’d have used this afternoon as the perfect opportunity to throw it in my face.

I walk into my father’s house without knocking and search the downstairs for Karen or Landon. Karen is in the kitchen, standing over the stove with a wire whisk in her hand. She turns and greets me with a warm smile but also with troubled, tired eyes. An unfamiliar feeling of guilt spreads through me as I remember the planter I accidentally broke in her greenhouse.

“Hi, Hardin. Are you looking for Landon?” she asks, placing the whisk on a plate and wiping her hands on the bottom of her strawberry-print apron.

“I . . . I don’t know, really,” I admit. What am I doing here?

How pathetic is my life right now, that I find comfort in coming to this house, of all places? I know it’s because of the memories that were created when I was here with Tessa.

“He’s upstairs, on the phone with Dakota.”

Something about Karen’s tone throws me off.

“Is . . .” I’m not very good at interacting with people besides Tessa, and I’m particularly bad at dealing with other people’s emotions. “Is he having a bad day or something?” I ask, sounding like a dumb-ass.

“I think so. He’s having a hard time, I think. He hasn’t spoken to me about anything, but he seems upset lately.”

“Yeah . . .” I say, but I haven’t noticed anything different about my stepbrother’s mood. Then again, I’ve been too busy forcing him to babysit Richard to notice.

“When does he leave for New York again?”

“Three weeks.” She tries to hide the pain in her voice that comes along with the words but fails miserably.

“Oh.” I’m growing more and more uncomfortable by the minute. “Well, I’m going to go . . .”

“Don’t you want to stay for dinner?” she asks eagerly.

“Uh, no. I’m okay.”

Between the talk with my father this morning, the time I spent with Zed, and now this awkward shit with Karen, I’m on overload. I can’t take the chance that something is actually wrong with Landon. I won’t be able to deal with him being all emotional and shit, not today. I already have to go home to a recovering drug addict and an empty fucking bed.

Chapter one hundred and eleven


Kimberly is waiting in the kitchen for me when I arrive home from school. Two wineglasses, one full, one empty, sit in front of her, letting me know that she took my silence as confirmation that I, in fact, didn’t know about Hardin’s plan to fly to England.

She offers me a sympathetic smile when I drop my bag on the floor and sit on the stool next to her. “Hey, girl.”

I swing my head dramatically to face her. “Hey.”

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