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“That watch didn’t mean shit to me,” I say.

“Yes, it did. You’ll never admit it, but it did. I know it.” Her eyes are watering again. Fuck, this weekend is going to be hell.

“No, it didn’t . . .”

Did it?

Her hands stop moving, and she settles down slightly. I gently coax her back toward the elevator, her drug-dealer-chasing mission aborted, much to her chagrin.

“It’s not fair to you that he took that watch because of some stupid bar tab my father ran up! How much freaking alcohol does one consume that they actually owe people money?” Her temper is flaring, and I’m torn between thinking it’s amusing and feeling terrible for what I have to tell her.

“It wasn’t alcohol, Tess.” I watch as she tilts her head to the side, looking anywhere and everywhere but at my eyes.

“Hardin, I know my father and his drinking—don’t make excuses for him.” Her chest is moving up and down at an unhealthy pace.

“Tessa, Tessa, you have to calm down.”

“Then tell me what’s going on, Hardin!”

I don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry—sorry that I couldn’t shield her from her fuckup of a father, just like I couldn’t shield my mother from the devastation of mine. So I do something rather alien for me. I say something brutally honest. “It’s not alcohol. It’s drugs.”

Tessa’s reaction seems at first like no reaction at all. But after a second, she shakes her head and says, “No, he’s not . . . He’s not doing drugs.”

Quickly she steps into the elevator and punches the button for our floor. I jump on right after her, but she just stares into space as the doors close us in.

Chapter one hundred and twenty-two


As Hardin and I walk back into the apartment, it feels like the air has become stale and awkward.

“Are you okay?” Landon asks when Hardin closes the door behind him.

“Yeah,” I state simply, lying.

I’m confused, hurt, angry, and exhausted. It’s only been a few hours since we arrived, and already I’m ready to go back to Seattle. Any thought I had of wanting to live here again vanished somewhere during the silent walk from the elevator to the apartment door.

“Tessie . . . I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” my father says as he follows me into the kitchen. I need a glass of water; my head is throbbing.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” The sink creaks when I pull at the faucet, and I wait patiently for the glass to fill.

“I think we should at least talk—”

“Please . . .” I turn to face him. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to hear the hideous truth, or some well-intentioned lie. I only want to go back to when I was cautiously excited about trying out a relationship with my father that I never had as a child. I know that Hardin has no reason to lie about my father’s addictions, but perhaps he’s somehow mistaken.

“Tessie . . .” my father pleads.

“She said she doesn’t want to talk about it,” Hardin insists, suddenly appearing in the room. He walks farther into the kitchen and stands between my father and me. I’m thankful for his intrusion this time, but I’m slightly worried over the quick movements of his chest as his breaths become more shallow and labored. I’m grateful when my father sighs in defeat and leaves me alone with Hardin in the kitchen.

“Thank you.” I sag against the counter and take another drink of the lukewarm tap water.

A worried line forms along Hardin’s forehead, and he doesn’t attempt to hide his deep scowl. His fingers press against his temples, and he leans against the opposite counter. “I shouldn’t have let you come here; I knew this would happen.”

“I’m fine.”

“You always say that.”

“Because I always have to be. Otherwise, when the next disaster occurs, I won’t be prepared.” The adrenaline coursing through me only minutes ago has disappeared, evaporated along with the hope that for once, something could go right for an entire weekend. I don’t regret coming here, because I’ve missed Landon so much and I wanted to pick up my letter, e-reader, and bracelet. My heart still aches over the letter; it doesn’t seem rational for an object to hold such significance to me, but it does. It was the first time Hardin had ever been so open with me—no more hiding, no more secrets about his past, all of his cards were on the table—and I didn’t have to force the confessions from him. The thought that he put into writing it and the way his hands shook as he held it out to me will always remain in my mind. I’m not upset with him, really; I wish he hadn’t destroyed it, but I know his temper, and I’m the one who left it here, somehow sensing that he probably would destroy it. I won’t allow myself to dwell on it anymore, though it still hurts to think about the shred of paper that was left; that small piece could never hold all of the emotion packed into the words he had scribbled across the page.

“I hate that it’s like that for you,” Hardin quietly says.

“Me, too.” I sigh in agreement. The pained look on his face makes me add, “It’s not your fault.”

“Like hell it isn’t.” Exasperated fingers push through the wave of his hair. “I’m the one who ripped up that damn letter, I drove you here, and I thought I could keep your father’s habits from you. I thought that asshole Chad was gone for good when I gave him my watch for the money your dad owed.”

I stare at Hardin, who’s always so wound up, and I want to hug him. He gave away something of his; regardless of his claims to have no attachment to the object, he gave it up in an attempt to dig my father out of the hole he created for himself. God, I love him.