Page 22 of Before (After 5)

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She plays with her hair from across the circle, and I imagine that blond hair wrapped around my fist, me pulling her closer to me as I fuck her from behind. I would slap her round ass, hoping to leave a mark there. She would be moaning my name through her pink, swollen lips. My name will sound so good coming from her mouth. I adjust my pants and watch Tessa again.

She licks her lips, and I internally groan.

I wonder how many cocks she’s had down her throat? I wonder if she’s ever tasted a man’s come before, and as the conversation continues, I learn that she has done next to nothing when it comes to sex, and I intend to show her every last fucking detail of what she’s missed.


There are so many mistakes to be made in life, and he made them all. Every ounce of respect he held for her seemed to disappear beneath the confusion of his mind. He loved her and cherished her more than his own breath, but he failed and failed and failed to show it. To remember it when it counted. He toyed with her, played immature games, and didn’t show her his truth. This truth that he had hidden away, locked away tightly and guarded by his upbringing, by the fact that he couldn’t remember the number of times he was hugged and cherished as a child. He wasn’t trying to make excuses, he was only used to doing so. He always blamed everyone else, never took credit for what he did or said. It was easier that way.

But eventually, he learned his lesson.

Dare.” I roll my eyes at the childish game. Like anyone thought I would choose otherwise.

I stare at Tessa, watching Mother Theresa fumble at the challenge of coming up with a good dare. “I . . . hmm. I dare you to . . .” She comes up short. Everyone is waiting, anticipating her question as she plays into our scheme.

“To what?” I push her to hurry along with this shit.

This girl, who doesn’t even know how much trouble she’s in with this pack of jackals . . . she still sits in silence, looking around the group in a dramatic panic. It’s only a party game, but I can tell she’s an overachiever, even when it comes to something this stupid. It’s entertaining to watch her worry over something so small. She has a habit of chewing on her bottom lip, the same way I play with my ring. Briefly I imagine her with a ring through her lip. She would look so fucking hot.

“Take your shirt off and keep it off the entire game!” Molly says for Tessa.

And Tessa’s cheeks flush. A pattern.

“How juvenile.” I lift my black T-shirt up over my head and catch Tessa’s eyes on my body. She’s staring, hard, so hard that she doesn’t even notice me catching her. Steph nudges her with her elbow, and she looks away, cheeks red and eyes downcast.

I’m officially winning this. Zed has no chance.

The game continues, and I sit here half dressed and watch Tessa try and keep her eyes off of me. I can’t read her—I can’t tell if she’s disgusted by my tattoos or intrigued by them. Her jaw keeps twitching; she’s trying her best to sit still.


“Tessa, truth or dare?” Tristan asks.

I lean back on my palms. “Why even ask? We know she’ll say truth—”

“Dare,” the stubborn girl says, surprising me with the challenge in her voice. It’s a defiant sound, different than I would have thought possible just a few moments ago.

“Hmm . . . Tessa, I dare you to . . . take a shot of vodka.” Tristan smiles.

“I don’t drink.” She sticks her chin out in refusal.

I figured as much, but I’m pleased by this revelation. Everyone around this place can’t wait for their next high; it’s refreshing to have someone who doesn’t rely on that.

“That’s the point of the dare,” Tristan counters.

“Look, if you don’t want to do it . . .” Nate starts to tell her.

“She’s such a pussy,” Molly says into my ear.

Pussy? Because she doesn’t want to drink?

“Fine, one shot,” she says. And like that, Little Miss Oh-I-Don’t-Do-X-Y-or-Z caves easily.

Honestly, I’m a little disappointed. Not sure why, but I thought there was something different about her. I thought she wasn’t like the rest of us, desperate to get the attention of our peers.

I was wrong about her, obviously.

“Same dare,” Zed says to her, and takes a large swig before handing vodka over. I’m annoyed by them drinking from the same bottle; it’s disgusting, really.

As the game goes on, drink after drink, she winces and wipes the burning liquid from her lips. Her eyes are red now, her cheeks matching. She looks lost and off balance, even when sitting down.

She lifts the bottle to her lips again, and I find my hand grasping it, pulling it from her. She doesn’t try to stop me—does she sense that she’s had enough to drink?

Does she see this as her first taste at freedom? Such a sheltered girl, out here in the big bad world of people who drink to numb themselves from whatever issues their shitty parents passed on to them. Maybe hers, like mine, is neglect. Was this girl neglected, too? I move my eyes to the neatly pressed collar of her shirt. Nope, she sure as hell wasn’t neglected. It’s possible that her low self-esteem is just a phase. She wants to break free of her controlling mummy and daddy and show herself that she can be a wild girl, too. She’s fully capable of hanging out with the bad kids and drinking herself sick.

The other possibility is that the lot of us are just that good at dragging people down.

“I think you’ve had enough,” I say, and go to hand the bottle off to Nate. But Tessa quickly grabs it at the last second and takes another drink. The trace of a smirk covers her full lips as she licks them clean. I watch her throat as she swallows in a defiant gulp, and want to push her lips open and drink the liquor from her mouth.

I shake the thought away. Molly glances at me, swirling her finger in the air to say that I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

“I can’t believe you’ve never been drunk before, Tessa. It’s fun, right?” Zed asks her.

She giggles and I roll my eyes.

“Hardin, truth or dare?” Molly asks.

“Dare.” Did she have to ask? Maybe I should have done what Tessa did, just to prove a point.

“I dare you to kiss Tessa.” Molly’s painted lips turn into a smile, and I hear Tessa gasp.

She speaks before I can get a word in. “No, I have a boyfriend.”