Page 44 of Before (After 5)


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I’m not sure if I believe her. She’s up to something, I can feel it. She’s too intuitive and way too pushy. I don’t even know her, and she sure as hell doesn’t know me. Why does she keep thinking that she can ask such personal shit?

This afternoon is going to go one of two ways: with her and I fighting until she rushes into her dorm room in a pissed-off panic, or with me charming her, making her want to be around me.

I decide to keep it civil. I would rather not spend the drive back in awkward silence. I push my hands out toward her and lock my arms around her waist. Her body is light in the water when I lift her into the air and toss her to the side. She shrieks, and her arms flap around in the air like a bird. She pops up out of the water, her hair soaked and her eyes wild.

She’s happy.

This could have gone one of two ways, and somehow I made her happy.

“You’re going to pay for that!” she calls out cheerily, and wades toward me. She may actually believe that she has a chance at retaliation. Tessa moves even closer to me, water trickling down her face. Her skin is wet and shining, and why is she still moving closer?

I gasp when Tessa’s thighs wrap around my waist and she lifts her body to line up to mine. I’m supposed to be in charge here.

She tenses and loosens her legs. “Sorry.”

No, no.

I grip them, coercing her to put them back around my body. She feels so good pressed up against me, so warm. When she wraps her small arms around my neck, a twinge of panic flickers at the bottom of my spine. I look at her and try to read her mind. It’s impossible.

“What are you doing to me, Tess?” I wonder while slowly grazing her trembling bottom lip with my thumb. Her hot breath comes out in low, deep puffs. The taste of her mouth is still fresh in my memory. I want another taste, need it.

“I don’t know . . .”

She doesn’t know. I don’t know either. Neither of us has a grip on this, and it could escalate quickly.

I want it to.

Does this girl have any idea how sexy she is? Does she know that the shape of her mouth alone is enough to make me imagine very, very dirty things involving her? Picturing Tessa on her knees in front of me, her full lips open wide, tongue wet and eager to take me, to please me. I want to press my cock against her lips and tease the fuck out of her. I can drive her body insane, the way she’s doing to mine. Her lips are a light pink shade, and the curve of her top lip is dramatic, like the lips drawn on a cartoon character. A sexy one, though, like Jessica Rabbit.

Fuck, I’m losing my damn mind over her. This can’t be a good thing.

I guess it’s fortunate that I have no qualms about being bad.

“These lips . . . the things you could do with them.” I pause, remembering the way her mouth sucked at mine in my room and again in hers. “Do you want me to stop?” I stare at her, looking for any signs of nervousness. Her thighs tighten around my body, and I take that as a no, but give her a few seconds to respond before I make my move.

She wiggles even closer, pressing her body against mine under the water.

“We can’t just be friends—you know that, don’t you?”

At my words, she inhales a quick breath as I lean into her, pressing my lips softly against the line of her jaw near her chin. Her eyelids flutter closed, and I move my lips across her jawline, traversing her wet skin with affection. When my mouth touches the spot on her neck, just below her ear, a moan rises from her, surprising me. “Oh, Hardin.”

The words send a shock through me. Her voice is so thick, so needy. For me. She’s putty in my arms, and my heart is racing at the idea of molding her pleasure around me. She’s never been fucked, though I’m sure she’s at least gotten herself off before.

I want to hear her moan my name again, just like I need to taste her mouth again.

“I want to make you moan my name, Tessa, over and over again. Please let me.” My own voice is unfamiliar as I beg her.

It’s silent except for her heavy breathing and the low swish of the water moving around our bodies in a calm wave. She nods.

“Say it, Tessa,” I continue. I pull her earlobe between my teeth and gently bite down on her skin. She whimpers and rocks against me as she nods furiously.

A nod won’t do, Theresa. You want this, so tell me. “I need you to say it, baby, out loud, so I know you really want me to.” My hands move to her stomach and under my shirt covering her body.

“I want to . . .” Tessa’s declaration is rushed, desperate. I smile against the warm skin on her neck, and she sighs. Those three words are invitation enough for me. I hold on to her body, and she tenses—nervous that I may drop her, I assume. I begin to walk out of the water with Tessa attached to me. Her thighs are open, and she’s pressing against my hardening cock with every step I take.

I let go of her as we reach the bank, and she whines, literally whines. The sound sends my blood straight to my groin. I climb up the bank and turn around to help her out of the water. She reaches for me; her eyes are set on my bare chest. I watch as her eyes shift to the tattoo on my stomach, the dead tree inked into my skin. She probably hates my tattoos, coming from whatever prissy little town she came from. Her God-fearing mum probably taught her that people with tattoos are evil and will eat her soul or some shit.

Tessa’s probably used to seeing her clean-skinned, perfectly groomed boyfriend’s chest. I watch closely as she continues to stare, attempting to decipher my ink. Her boyfriend has no tattoos, I’m sure of it. He probably doesn’t even have a single scar on his skin, or in his mind.

I move away from her, and she stands still, waiting for instruction.

I find myself unsure what to do with her. She’s still staring at my skin . . . Why is she still staring at my skin? More importantly, why does it bother me so much? I got my tattoos for me, not for some judgmental chick.

Why the fuck am I justifying myself right now? I never give a shit what women think of me; I only think about fucking them and how they come undone from my touch, in a mutually distracting kind of way.

Stop thinking, Hardin. I’m just like her, overthinking everything. What is she doing to me?

I cut to the chase: “Do you want it to be here? Or in my room?”

Should I fuck her here? I could lay her on the grass, spread those thighs, and have her crying my name out as I draw circles on her clit with my tongue.

Tessa shrugs as I adjust my boxers. “Here,” she decides.

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