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I grab the small complimentary bottle of soap and squeeze it onto a cloth and carefully bring it to Hardin’s back. He finches and tries to move forward, but I follow him, stepping closer.

“You don’t have to talk to me, but I know you need me to be here right now.” My voice is almost a whisper, lost between Hardin’s deep breaths and the falling water.

Silent and still, he doesn’t move as I brush the cloth across the letters etched into his skin. My tattoo.

Hardin turns to face me, allowing me to clean his chest now, his eyes studying every stroke of the cloth. I feel the anger radiating from of him, mixing with the clouds of hot vapor, and his eyes are burning into me. He looks as if he’s going to explode. Before I can blink, both of his hands are pressed against my jaw, cupping my neck on either side. His mouth desperately collides against mine, and my lips part involuntarily under the rough contact. There is nothing gentle, nothing soft about his touch. My tongue meets his, and I pull his bottom lip between my teeth, gently tugging, avoiding his wound. He groans and presses me against the wet tile.

I hear myself whimper when he pulls his mouth from mine, but he quickly reestablishes contact and peppers rough kisses down the column of my neck and across my chest, then cups my breasts, rolling them beneath his busted and bruised hands while his mouth works back and forth, licking, sucking, biting. I roll my head back against the tile and bury my fingers in his hair, tugging the way I know he loves.

Without warning, he lowers his body even further, resting on his knees under the spraying water, and for a fleeting moment I’m reminded of something vague. But then he touches me again, and I just can’t remember what it is.

Chapter one hundred and thirty-nine


Tessa’s fingers rake through my hair, bringing my mouth to her flushed, already swollen skin. Touching her, tasting her this way, pushes everything else from my tortured mind.

She cries out as my tongue laps around her, pulling tightly at the roots of my hair. Her hips lift from the tile, meeting my mouth, desperate for more.

Too soon, I stand back to my feet and lift one of her legs to wrap around my waist, following with the other. She groans as I lift her, entering her slowly.

“Fuuuuck . . .” I draw the word out, my voice almost a hiss as I’m overwhelmed by the warmth, the wetness, of feeling her without the barrier of a condom between us.

Her eyes roll back into her head as I push forward, withdrawing and filling her again. I fight every urge to slam into her, to fuck her so hard that I forget everything around us. Instead, I move slowly but allow my mouth and hands to be rough on her skin. Her arms tighten around my shoulders as my lips latch on to the skin just above the curve of her full breast. I can taste the blood rising to the surface underneath my tongue, and I pull away in time to see the faint pink mark left in my wake.

Her eyes dart down between us, examining it herself. She doesn’t scold me or even frown at the bruise left by my lips; she only brings her lip between her teeth, staring almost adoringly at the mark. Tessa drags her fingernails down the slope of my back, and I press her harder against the tile wall. My fingers are pressed into her thighs, indenting her skin, and I thrust inside of her, repeating her name over and over.

Her legs tighten around my waist, and I push and pull, in and out, bringing both of us closer to our release.

“Hardin,” she softly moans, her breathing erratic as she comes around me. The realization that I can come inside of her without worry brings me to the edge, pushing me over. I spill into her with a shout of her name.

“I love you.” I press my lips against her temple before placing my forehead against hers to catch my breath.

“I love you,” she gasps, her eyes closed. I stay inside of her, allowing myself to simply enjoy the feeling of skin on skin.

On my back, I can feel the heat leaving the water; we won’t have more than ten minutes left of hot water. The idea of a cold shower in the middle of the night causes me to carefully help her back to her feet. As I withdraw from her, I watch shamelessly as the evidence of my orgasm seeps from between her legs. Fucking hell, that sight alone is worth waiting seven fucking months for.

I want to thank her, to tell her that I love her and that she brought me out of the darkness, not only tonight, but ever since the day she caught me off guard by kissing me in my old room at the frat house, but I can’t find the words.

I turn the hot water up and stare at the wall. I sigh in relief when I feel the soft washcloth on my back, continuing what she started only minutes ago.

I turn around to face her, and as she brings the cloth to my neck, I stay silent. My anger is still around, lurking and simmering below the surface, but she’s taken me beyond it in the way that only she can.

Chapter one hundred and forty


My mum is so fucked up.” Hardin finally speaks after long minutes of silence. My hand jerks at the sudden noise, but I quickly recover and return to bathing him as he continues. “I mean this is some shit right out of Tolstoy.”

My mind scrambles through Tolstoy’s works before landing on The Kreutzer Sonata. I shiver despite the heat of the shower.

“Kreutzer?” I ask, hoping I’m confused or that he and I have interpreted the dark story differently.

“Yes, of course.” He’s becoming emotionless again, crouching down behind that damn wall.

“I don’t know if I would compare this . . . situation to something so dark,” I softly argue. That story is filled with blood, jealousy, and rage, and I’d like to think this real-life one will have a better ending.