Page 33 of Before (After 5)

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“Pick those up!” she snaps.

I smirk at her, wondering if she actually thinks I would comply with her command. Maybe if she agreed to wrap her lips around my cock. Upping the ante, I grab another stack of papers and scatter them to the floor.

“Hardin, stop!” Her voice cracks through the air, threatening me.

I repeat the action, and then she surprises me by charging forward and shoving me away from her bed.

“You mean, someone doesn’t like their stuff being messed with?” I tease her, laughing at her expense. She’s so angry now, much angrier than a normal person would be over something so stupid.

“No! I don’t!” she shouts, and shoves me again.

I thrive off her anger. Her energy is breathing life into me. I’m just as pissed off as she is—and I need to have her. Now.

I take a quick step toward her, grabbing her wrists and cornering her against the wall. She stares at me, not even close to backing down, and I can see the way her eyes change from frustration to hunger for me. If I know anything about women, it’s when they are turned on, and Tessa is most definitely turned on. She gets off on this passionate anger, the same way that I do. She stares into my eyes before her gaze quickly darts to my mouth, and that’s when I’m positive that she wants this to happen. She fucking wants me. She may not like me, but she’s attracted to me. It’s mutual, I want to tell her. I stare back, wanting to tell her that I don’t like her either, that this thing between us is just pure lust. That we are on the same wavelength here. That it’s all animal hunger—a very high level of lust, but lust all the same.

“Hardin, please,” she whispers.

Her voice is low, wanting me to go away and to kiss her at the same time. I know this because I want to run as far as I can from this girl, but here I stand, too, my eyes on her mouth. Her chest is rising and falling fast. I reach up, just needing to touch her, and the moment my fingers graze her skin, she sighs. She’s staring at me, waiting. I release her wrist but use my other hand to take both of her wrists. Her tongue peeks out, covering her bottom lip, and I lose it. The noise is so faint, so weak, that I don’t even think she realizes she made it. I heard it, though. I heard it, and I’m broken by it.

I press my body against hers, pinning her gently to the wall. She groans into my mouth, and her arms reach up and wrap around my shoulders. Her tongue follows mine, moving perfectly in sync with my claiming lips. I grip the tops of her thighs and lift her up to me. As I hold her against me, my heart is beating so fucking fast and I’m so turned on by her that I don’t know how I will ever stop this. Tessa’s body clings to mine still, and her mouth doesn’t stop taking mine as I walk us back to her bed.

Tessa pulls at my hair and drives me fucking wild. I feel like every inch of my body has been scattered across this small room; then, when she moans, her breath coming out in rapid uncontrollable huffs, I sit back on her bed, bringing her with me. I move her to sit on my lap, keeping my hands on her full hips. I know my fingers are digging into her skin, a sign of my body trying to comprehend what’s happening. I’ve done this before, many fucking times, so why can’t I keep up with this? I can’t keep up with her.

“Fuck,” I mutter, feeling my cock straining against my jeans.

I move my hands from her waist and tug at the bottom of her shirt; she moans, and I pull my mouth away from hers to remove her shirt. My eyes trace down from her eyes to her full and swollen lips, to her chest. Her tits are covered by a black bra: no lace, no sparkles, nothing special. Just worn black fabric. So innocent and plain and normal I find it oddly appealing. I bite down on my lip, trying to have some control over myself and not rip her bra from her soft body. Her tits are full, swollen and bursting out of the material. There’s a freckle there, just under her neckline, and I want to kiss it. I want to cover her entire body with my mouth and taste her release on my tongue as I make her come.

“You’re so sexy, Tess,” I breathe into her mouth. She gasps, and I swallow the incredible sound.

My control continues to diminish as she rocks harder against my body. I wrap my arms around her back to bring her even closer to me—

Tessa jumps off my lap and reaches for her shirt. The trance we were in is broken as she pulls her T-shirt over her head and down to cover her body, and it’s only then that I hear the sound of the door opening.

How did she hear it—was she not as into it as I was? No way I would have stopped, even if her schoolmarm mum and Mr. Rogers had been coming through that door.

But instead it’s Steph, standing there faking a shocked expression. I’ve seen this look before, and it immediately makes me wonder if Zed paid her to come back and interrupt us.

I hope Tessa doesn’t genuinely like her or believe her to be her friend. Steph’s personality is faker than her Kool-Aid–dyed hair.

“What the hell did I miss?” Steph asks, her hands on her hips.

“Nothing much,” I respond, getting to my feet. Steph winks at me as Tessa stares at the wall, avoiding eye contact.

I leave the room without looking back.

I can’t say anything or else I’ll explode.

My chest is killing me, my heart is beating loudly, and I feel like a maniac.

In a trance, I get back to the house, to my room, and immediately decide to take the longest shower I’ve ever taken to try and forget the way this strange, sheltered girl makes me feel. This is getting fucking messy. It wasn’t supposed to be messy. I wasn’t supposed to crave her mouth and her mind equally. I wasn’t supposed to think about how tight she would feel around me as I rock into her soft body. I’m not supposed to get off, imagining my hand is hers.

I was supposed to get what I wanted, win the Bet, and move along with my damn life.

After however long, the water starts to run cold and I finally step out onto the cold tile. When I open the cabinet for a towel, the bottle of brown liquor hidden inside by who-knows-who smiles at me, reminding me of its control over me. I’ve gone this long without that draw to the cabinet—why am I focusing on it now? I half expected one of the guys in the house to finish it off by now, but had also secretly wished no one would.

I have this nasty need to control everything in my life. So far, since I’ve been sober, I’ve done a damn good job of being fully aware and in control of my thoughts and my actions; but Tessa’s gray eyes won’t stop looking at me, and her brilliant mind won’t stop begging me to unlock more of her secrets.