“Get inside,” he scolds me.
“Don’t tell—” I begin.
“It’s cold; come inside.” Hardin’s eyes are blazing, and the heat in them keeps me from arguing. He surprises me by gently resting his hand on the small of my back as he leads me inside the house, past where Kimberly and Smith are playing some card game in the living room, and into my bedroom without a word.
Calmly, he closes the door behind him and turns the lock. Then he looks down at me, and my heart nearly bursts when he asks, “Why?”
“Hardin, nothing happened, I swear. He said there was a change of plans, and I was so relieved, because I thought he wasn’t coming, but instead he said that he’d arrived a day early and wanted to grab dinner.” I shrug, partly to calm myself down. “I didn’t know how to say no.”
“You never do,” he spits, holding my gaze.
“I know you went to his apartment yesterday. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because you didn’t need to know.” His breathing is harsh, barely controlled.
“You don’t get to decide what I need to know,” I challenge him. “You can’t keep things from me. I know about your mother’s wedding, too!” I blurt.
“I knew how you would react.” He throws his hands up, trying to defend himself.
I roll my eyes, stomping toward him. “Bullshit.”
He doesn’t even flinch. The veins in his arms are visible under the rare spots of white skin, soft blue laced with the black ink. His fists are tightly balled. “One thing at a time.”
“I will be friends with who I want to be friends with—and you won’t keep going behind my back, acting like a child throwing a damn tempter tantrum,” I warn him.
“You said you wouldn’t go near him again.”
“I know. I didn’t get it before, but after spending time with him today, I made my own choice not to be friends with him. It’s not because of you.”
I can see him flinch in surprise a little at that, but he maintains his dark intensity. “Why’s that?”
I look away, a little ashamed. “Because I know he’s a trigger for you, and I shouldn’t keep pushing you by seeing him. I know how much it would hurt me if you saw Molly . . . or any other female, for that matter. That being said, you don’t get to control my friendships, but I can’t lie and say that I wouldn’t feel the same way if I were you.”
He crosses his arms and breathes out roughly. “Why now? What did he do to make you suddenly change your mind?”
“Nothing. He didn’t do anything to me. I just shouldn’t have taken this long to get it. We have to be equals—neither of us can hold the power.”
I can tell by the glow in his green eyes that he wants to say more, but instead he just nods. “Come here.” He opens his arms for me the way he always does, and I’m quick to wrap myself in them.
“How did you know that I was with him?” I press my cheek against his chest. His minty scent invades my senses, pushing out all thoughts of Zed.
“Kimberly told me,” he says into my hair.
I frown. “She really doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut.”
“You weren’t going to tell me?” His thumb presses under my chin and lifts my head up.
“Yes, I was, but I’d rather have told you myself.” I suppose that I’m grateful for Kimberly’s honesty; it’s hypocritical of me to only want her to be honest with me and not with Hardin. “Why didn’t you come find us?” I ask. I assumed if he knew that I was with Zed, that’s exactly what he would have done.
“Because,” he breathes, staring into my eyes, “you kept going on about the cycle, and I wanted to break it.”
My heart swells at his honest and thoughtful answer. He really is trying, and it means so much to me.
“I’m still mad,” he adds.
“I know.” I touch his cheek with my fingertips, and his arms tighten around me. “I’m pissed, too. You didn’t tell me about the wedding, and I want to know why.”
“Not tonight,” he warns.
“Yes, tonight. You got to say your piece about Zed, and now it’s my turn.”
“Tessa . . .” His lips compress into a hard line.
“Hardin . . .”
“You’re infuriating.” He releases me and paces across the floor, putting a distance between us that I can’t stand.
“So are you!” I fire back, following his movements to get closer to him.
“I don’t want to talk about the fucking wedding right now; I’m already livid and barely controlling myself as it is. Don’t push me, okay?”
“Fine!” I say loudly, but give in. Not because I’m afraid of what he’ll say, but because I just spent two and a half hours with Zed, and I know Hardin’s anger is only serving to mask the anxiety and pain I’ve caused him by doing so.
Chapter one hundred and fourteen
I pull open my dresser drawer and dig out clean panties and a matching bra. “I’m going to go shower. Kimberly wants to leave at eight, and it’s already seven,” I tell Hardin, who’s sitting on the edge of my bed with his elbows resting on his knees.
“You’re still going?” he scoffs.
“Yes. I told you before, remember? That was the whole reason you wanted to come here, so I didn’t have to go alone.”
“That’s not the only reason I came,” he says defensively. I raise a speculative brow at him, and he rolls his eyes. “I didn’t say it’s not a reason, but it’s not the only one.”