Page 40 of Before (After 5)

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Is she fucking with me?

I don’t kiss and tell.

I can practically hear her mocking tone through the screen as I push my feet back into my black boots. The insides are so worn out that I’m waiting to bust through to the street when I walk around in them, but I’ve had them for years and can’t seem to find anything else as comfortable.

I know that I’ve gotten everything I’m going to get out of Molly, so before I pull onto the street, I text Steph, Is Tessa with Zed?

Her reply is instantaneous. *Nope not here *

I immediately know she’s lying, and press my foot harder on the gas.


When I open the door, Tessa is on Steph’s bed with Zed, with her own bed empty. A small bed, with Zed. And with Steph and Tristan, too, and Tessa’s only sitting, nothing more, but still. She’s with Zed. On a bed. On a bed with Zed.

It sounds like the worst Dr. Seuss rhyme ever.

And it has me seeing red.

“Jeez, man, you could at least knock for once,” Steph says, trying to play stupid. She knew damn well I would come straight here. She wanted me to—that’s why she told Molly, I’m sure of it. I’m just surprised Molly told me, though. Steph meets my eyes and laughs. “I could have been naked or something!”

Could’ve been? Has been, her wild eyes tell me. Yeah, I’ve seen her completely naked, and so I know that her boobs aren’t half as big as those padded bras she wears make them seem. Still, she does have one of the nicest asses I’ve ever touched . . .

I walk farther into the room, and remark, “Nothing I haven’t seen before.”

Tessa and Tristan both look like someone took a morning piss in their Cheerios.

“Oh, shut up.” Steph laughs, loving getting the attention she’s always craving.

“What are you guys up to?” I ask, sitting down opposite them all on Tessa’s bed. At least Zed didn’t make it to her bed. I suppose that’s some consolation . . . somehow.

Zed smiles from across the tiny room. Why the fuck is he smiling?

“We were actually going to go to the movies,” he says. “Tessa, you should come.”

Tessa looks at me, then at him. She seems nervous. She’s going to say yes!

“Actually,” I interject before they can finalize anything, “Tessa and I have plans.”

I look directly at Zed, giving him a warning. He blinks slowly, challenging me. Tristan is silent when I look at him, not wanting anything to do with our drama. He’s actually not too bad, except he’s dating such a witch.

“What?” Zed and Steph both say.

“Yeah, I was just coming to get her.”

But Tessa is sitting still, making no move to leave with me.

“You ready or what?” I say nonchalantly.

She looks so conflicted, like she’s fighting against herself. Just as I’m ready to make a move to convince her, she nods and gets up from the bed.

“Well, see you all later!” My voice is too loud, and I push Tessa out the door so quickly it’s like I’m on speed or something.

Outside, Tessa follows me, taking quick strides to catch up. Her legs are pretty long. Her thighs are a little thick. I can’t stop thinking about holding on to them as I take her while she bends over the hood of my car. I try not to think about her when she’s so close. I can feel my cock aching, begging me to think about how soft she would be, how much I’d just like to squeeze her . . .

I break out of my thoughts when I realize we’ve reached my car and I’ve pulled the passenger door open for Tessa on automatic. However, looking at her, I see she’s not moving to get in, for some reason. Rather, her arms are crossed in front of her chest, pushing her tits up.

I’m sure she’s trying to convey anger, but right now this is just hot.

“Well, I’ll remember not to ever open a door for you again . . .” I say, giving her a sarcastic eye.

She shakes her head at me, and I know she’s about to spit fire. “What the hell was that? I know full well you didn’t come here to get me—you just got done telling me that you didn’t want to hang out with me!”

She’s yelling now. I look around the parking lot, and it’s not empty. She doesn’t seem to notice the people close by. Tessa doesn’t strike me as the public-argument type, even though we’ve fought twice together in public.

She drives me so fucking crazy.

“Yes, I did come to get you. Now, get in the car.” I gesture for her to climb inside. I cleaned it and everything—she better get inside.

“No! If you don’t admit that you didn’t come here to see me, I’ll go back in there and go to the movies with Zed,” she says defiantly.

What’s her problem? She says I’m rude, and look how she speaks to me? Judgmental hypocrite, she is.

What the fuck do I say to that?

Should I tell her that Molly told me? Hell, no—Pinkie will never tell me shit again. And why would Tessa threaten me with hanging out with Zed? Does she somehow know about the Bet? Is she in on it with Steph?

I barely know anything about her, and I can see something in her is a little off. I bet Steph told her.

“Admit it, Hardin, or I am gone,” she says.

I can’t tell if she’s taunting me or not. She looks genuinely annoyed, and her nostrils keep flaring—it’s quite comical. I’ll take this ego hit.

“Okay, fine. I admit it. Now, get in the damned car. I won’t ask again.” I want to win the Bet, but she’s becoming a messy project, and I’m not putting much more effort into this before I hand the trophy over to another classmate. I walk to the driver’s side of my car, leaving the passenger door open for her if she wants to get in.

And no surprise, she does.

I’m annoyed as fuck as I pull out of the parking lot. I’d opted out of this hangout—I got out of it—and now I’m here with her anyway. My head hurts, and my mind seems to be fighting against itself. Part of me wants to scream and roll all the windows down so I can choke on my own breath, but the other half feels a calm creeping through, slowly, but a calm filled with stillness. I turn the music up to shut my head off; that usually does the trick: a few screaming men singing about death and their own depression over repeating bridges—with thunderous drum solos adding to the rage.