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“Then why not transfer to the Seattle campus with me?”

“I can’t hear the word ‘Seattle’ again tonight; I’ve had a long day and have a headache from hell now . . .” He kisses my forehead.

I snap my head back slightly, away from him. “You got drunk with my father and lied about being expelled—we’re talking about Seattle if I want to,” I say sharply.

He smiles. “And you wore those pants out after teasing me with them, and didn’t answer my calls.” He runs his thumb along my bottom lip.

“You don’t need to call me that many times. It’s suffocating. Molly even called you a stalker,” I say, but smile beneath his gentle touch.

“Did she, now?” He continues tracing the outline of my lips, and they part involuntarily.

“Yeah,” I breathe.

“Hmm . . .”

“I know what you’re doing.” I reach down and remove his other hand from my hip, where his fingers have begun to slip below the waistband of my pants.

He smiles. “What’s that?”

“You’re trying to distract me so I won’t be mad at you.”

“How’s that working for me?”

“Not well enough. Besides, my father is here, and there’s no way I’m having sex with you when he’s in the other room.” I reach around and smack him playfully on the butt.

Which only makes him thrust himself against me a little. “Oh, you mean like when I fucked you right there”—he points to the bed—“while my mum was sleeping on the couch?” He thrusts gently against me again. “Or the time I fucked you in the bathroom at my father’s, or the multiple times I fucked you while Karen, Landon, and my father were just down the hall?” He reaches down and touches my thigh softly. “Oh, wait, you must mean like when I bent you over your desk at work—”

“Okay! Okay! I get it, I get it.” I flush, and he laughs.

“Come on, Tessie, lie down.”

“You’re sick.” I laugh and step away from him.

“Where are you going?” he says with a pout.

“To see what my father’s doing out there.”

“Why? So you can come back in here and—”

“No! Gosh—go to sleep or something!” I exclaim. I’m glad he’s still being playful, but despite his confession, it’s still annoying that he lied to me and is being so stubborn about even really discussing Seattle.

I thought for sure that when I got home from my late lunch at Applebee’s, he’d be furious at me for not answering his texts. I never suspected that we’d talk things out and he’d admit to lying about being expelled. Maybe Steph had reassured him that I was on my way, so he had time to calm down. Then again, Steph’s phone was on the table when I turned back around . . .

“Did you say Steph didn’t answer when you called?” I ask.

“Yes; why?” He looks at me, confused.

I shrug, unsure what to say. “I’m just wondering.”

“Why, though?” His tone is off.

“I told her to tell you I was on my way, and I’m just wondering why she didn’t.”

“Oh.” He looks away, reaching for a cup on the dresser. This whole conversation is so awkward—Steph not telling him that I was on my way, him avoiding my eyes.

“I’m going out there. You can join us if you want.”

“I will. I’m just going to change.”

I nod and turn the door handle.

“What about your dad, though? He just came back into your life, and you’re going to leave?” His words stop me in my tracks. It’s not like I hadn’t thought about it before, but Hardin lobbing that question at me like a missile when my back is turned doesn’t sit right with me.

I take a moment to recover before leaving the room. When I get to the living room, my father is asleep again. Binge drinking at noon must be exhausting. I turn off the television and head to the kitchen for some water. Hardin’s words about leaving so soon after seeing my father again keep replaying in my mind. But the thing is, I can’t put my future on hold for a father whom I haven’t seen for nine years. If the circumstances were different I would consider rethinking this, but he’s the one who left me.

When I get back to the bedroom door, I hear Hardin’s voice speaking from inside.

“What the fuck was that shit today?” he says, his voice muffled.

I press my ear to the door. I should just walk in, but I get the feeling I’m not supposed to hear the conversation. Which means I really should hear the conversation.

“I don’t give a fuck, it shouldn’t have happened. Now she’s all upset and shit, and you’re supposed to . . .” I can’t make out the rest of the sentence.

“Don’t fuck this up,” he snaps.

Who is he talking to? And what are they supposed to be doing? Is it Steph? Or, worse, Molly?

I hear his footsteps approaching the door, and I quickly scoot into the bathroom and close the door.

Moments later, knuckles tap against the wood. “Tessa?”

I open the door. I know I must appear flustered. My heart is pounding against my rib cage, and my stomach is in a knot. “Oh, hey. Was just finishing up in here,” I say, but my voice too small.

Hardin cocks an eyebrow at me. “Okay . . .” He looks down the hall. “Where’s your dad? Is he asleep?”

“Uh, yup,” I say, which makes him grin wide.

“Well, c’mon back to the bedroom, then,” he says and takes my hand in his, turning and pulling me gently.