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His mouth opens and closes before he stands and paces across the wooden deck. “You . . .” he begins, but then stops himself, looking like he’s reconsidering his thoughts.

But being Hardin, things never change, and he chooses the harder, uglier path instead. “You . . . you know what, Tessa? No one gives a fuck about Seattle except someone like you. Who the hell grows up planning on moving to Seattle fucking Washington. Real ambitious,” he growls. He takes in a deep, violent breath. “And in case you forgot, I’m the only reason you have that opportunity to begin with. You think anyone else is getting a paid fucking internship as a freshman in college? Fuck, no! Most people struggle to get a paid internship even after they graduate.”

“That’s not even close to the fucking point here.” I roll my eyes at him and the nerve he has.

“Then what is the point, you ungrateful—”

I take a step toward him, and my hand flies at him before I really register what I’m doing.

But Hardin’s too quick and grabs me by the wrist, stopping me only inches from his cheek.

“Don’t,” he warns. His voice is rough, laced with anger, and I wish he hadn’t stopped me from slapping him. His minty breath fans across my cheeks as he tries to control his temper.

Bring it on, Hardin, my thoughts challenge. I’m not intimidated by his harsh breathing or his foul words. I can give them back to him in spades.

“You don’t get to talk to people like that without consequences.” My words come out low, threatening even.

“Consequences?” He stares down at me with burning eyes. “I’ve known nothing in my life but consequences.”

I hate the way he’s taking credit for my internship, I hate the way he pushes when I pull and I push when he pulls. I hate the way he drives my anger to grow so strong that I would try to slap him, and I hate the way I feel as if I’m losing control of something I’m not sure I’ve ever held. I look up at him, his hand still holding my wrist, using only enough pressure to keep me from attempting to slap him again, and he looks hurt, in a dangerous way. There’s a challenge behind his eyes that makes my stomach turn.

He brings my hand to his chest, his eyes never leaving mine, and says, “You know nothing of consequences.”

Then he walks away from me, that look still in his eyes, and my hand drops down to my side.

Chapter thirty-five


Who the fuck does she think she is? She thinks just because I don’t want to go to Seattle with her that she can say shit like this to me? She doesn’t want me to fucking go?

She fucking uninvited me to Seattle, and she’s the one trying to slap me? I don’t fucking think so. I was only seeing red as I spoke, and her trying to hit me surprised me—a lot. I left her with wide eyes, her pupils blown in rage, but I had to get as far from that bullshit as I could.

I find myself at the small coffee shop in town. The coffee tastes like tar, and the weird-ass muffin I got is even worse. I hate this bullshit small town and its lack of every goddamn thing.

I tear three sugar packets at once and dump them into the disgusting coffee, stirring it with a plastic spoon. It’s too early for this shit.

“Good morning,” a familiar voice greets. Not the voice I wanted to hear, though.

“Why are you here?” I roll my eyes and ask Lillian as she comes around from behind me.

“Well, you obviously aren’t a morning person,” she says saccharinely and takes the seat in front of me.

“Go away,” I huff and look around the small café. A line has formed nearly to the door, and almost all of the tables are full. I should probably do everyone in line a favor and tell them to find a fucking Starbucks, because this place blows.

She eyes me. “You didn’t apologize, did you.”

“God, you are so damn nosy.” I pinch the bridge of my nose, and she smiles.

“Are you going to finish that?” She gestures to the rock-hard muffin in front of me.

I slide it over to her, and she tears off a piece. “I wouldn’t eat that,” I warn, but she does anyway.

“It’s not that bad,” she lies. I can tell she wants to spit it out, but instead she swallows it down. “So are you going to tell me why you didn’t apologize to Tamara?”

“Her fucking name is Tessa, if you call her—”

“Whoa, calm down. Joke, joke! I was just messing with you.” She giggles, proud of her annoying self.

“Ha. Ha.” I down the rest of my coffee.

“Anyway, why didn’t you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do,” she presses.

“Why do you care, anyway?” I lean toward her, and she sits back in the chair.

“I don’t know . . . because you seem to love her, and you’re my friend.”

“Your friend? I don’t even know you, and you sure as hell don’t know me,” I declare.

Her neutral expression falters for a moment, and she blinks her eyes slowly. If she cries, I’m going to punch someone. I can’t handle this much drama this early in the fucking morning.

“Look, you’re cool and all. But this”—I gesture back and forth between her body and mine—“isn’t a friendship. I don’t have friendships.”

She tilts her head to the side. “You don’t have any friends? Not even one?”

“No, I have people I party with and Tessa.”

“You should have friends; at least one.”

“What would be the point of you and me being friends? We’re only here until tomorrow afternoon.”

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