Page 63 of Before (After 5)

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Once again she tells me that I’m mean and drunk. I tell her I’m neither, and that she’s just acting like a child.

“That’s sort of mean to say to someone. Especially when all I did was ask you about your job,” she says.

My head spins; she doesn’t stop going in circles. “Oh God, not this again. Come on, Tessa, just drop it. I don’t want to talk about that right now.”

It dawns on me that if I just come clean, the majority of our problems would go away. The problem is, she would go with them.

“Why did you drink tonight?” Tessa questions me.

It seemed like a good idea. I was tense and miserable, and when I tried to come up with a clear thought, I failed. Liquor on my breath makes my confessions less important, less offensive. I can utter drunk ramblings, and if she’s appalled, I can deny the words tomorrow.

Fuck, I can’t stop lying.

“I . . . I don’t know . . . I just felt like having a drink . . . well, drinks. Can you please stop being mad at me? I love you.” I do love her and I need to be close to her. I hate when she’s mad at me, but in a sick way, the fact that she worries about me gives me comfort.

Her anger is softening with every second that passes. “I’m not mad at you. I just don’t want to backtrack in our relationship. I don’t like when you turn on me for no reason, then just leave. If you’re mad about something, I want you to talk to me about it.”

What is this, Dr. Phil? It takes me a moment to realize she’s talking to me as if we have a standard dating arrangement. Which we are the furthest thing from. She’s rambling on about communication, when all she does is roll over on the bed and give me the silent treatment. I’ve been busting my ass for this girl, and she still isn’t pleased. I’m trying to be reasonable, to not let my anger flare, but it’s so hard with someone like Tessa, who pulls every trigger I have.

“You just don’t like not having control over everything,” I fire back. I still can’t believe she’s trying to give me advice on how to handle shit. As if she knows everything, the way she thinks she does.

“Excuse me?” Her voice cracks. She leans up, resting her elbows on her knees.

I tell her she’s a control freak. She denies it.

She asks me if I have anything else to insult her with, and I ask her to move in with me. She looks as stunned as I thought she would. I’m right with her, surprised that my mouth chose this exact moment to bring this subject up. She studies my face intently, as if she’s memorizing what I tell her about the place. She’s excited, I can tell. But she’s also unsure, and not good at hiding it. I’ll show her that she has nothing to be afraid of. I can continue to be better for her and make her happy. I know that I can. The energy between us has shifted drastically and she’s biting into her bottom lip and teasing me and I can’t wait to move in with her.

The hurricane of truths is floating above us, swirling and building, ready to rain down any minute. I pretend we’re in a novel and that she’ll forgive me as Elizabeth forgave Darcy. If we were words on a page, she would find herself in my arms again, no matter the depth of my mistake, just like Catherine. She would crave the adventure that I bring to her life and find it impossible to stay away, just like Daisy. The disaster can’t touch us if we’re safe in our own world, our own apartment, our own novel.

This place will be a fortress, not a prison, I silently promise her. The words die on my tongue, and I turn to her again. She’s staring, glossy eyes full of controlled excitement.

“So you’ll move in with me?”

Say yes, Tess. Please say yes.

She rolls her shoulders, and a hint of a pink bra strap shows. I was under the impression she only owned white-and-black cotton lingerie. I keep my eyes on her shoulder, waiting for another peek.

“Jesus, let’s take this one step at a time. I’ll stop being mad at you for now,” she says, doing her version of compromising. “Now come to bed with me.” She lies down on the bed and pats a spot for me. Suddenly I’m a yappy little dog whose owner let them into the bed. I unbutton my jeans, pull them down my legs, and toss them on top of a stack of textbooks near Steph’s bed. I look at Tessa, and she’s focused on my shirt, silently suggesting that I take it off. The thin cotton T-shirt she has on is sexy enough, but there’s nothing like her wearing my shirts. I absolutely love when she wears them to bed.

When I take it off and lay it in front of her, her face breaks into a beautiful smile and she lifts up her own shirt. Her smooth skin is so sexy, the way her stomach curves into soft breasts. My eyes nearly pop from my head onto the floor at the sight of her lacy ensemble. I’m used to a soft cotton, no-form bra holding her tits up, not a structured push-up bra with lace lining the fabric.

“Fuck,” I can’t help but say. “What are you wearing?” This girl is so goddamn sexy and doesn’t even have a fucking clue. Her cheeks are a wild, deep red.

Her voice isn’t much over a whisper. “I . . . I got some new underwear today.” She’s embarrassed even though she looks like a goddess, with her long blond hair, her smooth legs, and her pouty lips just begging for my cock to push through them . . .

I immediately wonder what else she got today, and how hard it would be to convince her to try it all on for me in a private little show.

I’ve never been this turned on by a woman in my entire life. She’s so fucking sexual without even trying to be, and she has no idea how many women would kill to be her, to have her sexy curvy body. “I see that . . . Fuck.”

Tessa shakes her head. “You already said that.” She loves hearing it, though. Tessa blooms under my compliments, and it’s highly, highly satisfying. It amazes me every day that she doesn’t see herself for who she is. I repeat how beautiful she looks, and she smiles more. I can’t possibly look away from her tits, pushing up toward her, and I can’t possibly stop my cock from pulsing under my boxers. Tessa’s eyes are focused there, on my swollen cock straining against the black cotton of my boxer briefs.

Tessa’s eyes are hungry as she flicks her tongue over her top lip, gently sinking her teeth into it. She says something to me, but I couldn’t repeat it if my life depended on it.

“Mmm . . .” I agree with whatever it is that she’s saying. I can’t think of anything else except the way her body calls to me; it’s like she was made for me. Using my knee, I support my body weight over hers and press my mouth against her full, wet lips. Her tongue is velvet and scotch, soft and sharp as it swipes over mine, cutting through me and healing me at once.