“It’s just an assignment,” I say, fumbling to explain myself. “We were asked to do a freestyle essay as the first assignment and—”
“It’s good, really good,” he says, praising me, and places the book back on the desk for a moment before picking it up again and opening it to the first page. “?‘Who I am.’?” He reads the first line out loud.
“Please don’t,” I beg.
He gives me a questioning little smirk. “Since when are you shy about showing your schoolwork?”
“I’m not. It’s just . . . that piece is personal. I’m not even sure if I want to turn it in.”
“I read your religion journal,” he says—and my heart stops.
“What?” I pray that I heard him wrong. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t have read it . . .
“I read it. You left it at the apartment, and I found it.”
This is humiliating. I stand in silence while Hardin stares at me from across the room. Those were private thoughts that I never expected anyone to read, except my professor, maybe. I’m mortified that Hardin pored over my deepest thoughts.
“You weren’t supposed to read those. Why would you?” I ask, trying not to look at him.
“Every entry was about me,” he says by way of defending himself.
“That’s not the point, Hardin.” My stomach is in my throat, making it hard to breathe. “I was going through a really bad time, and those were private thoughts for my journal. You were never meant to—”
“They were really good, Tess. So good. It hurt me to read the way you were feeling, but the words, what you had to say—it was perfect.”
I know he’s trying to compliment me, but it only embarrasses me further.
“How would you feel if I read something you wrote to express your feelings in a private way?” I ignore the compliments from him about my writing. His eyes flash with panic, and I tilt my head in confusion. “What?”
“Nothing,” is all he says, shaking his head.
The look in her eyes almost makes me stop, but I have to be honest, and I want her to know how interesting I found her writing. “I’ve read it at least ten times,” I admit.
Her wide eyes don’t meet mine, but her lips part slightly and she replies, “You have?”
“Don’t be ashamed. It’s only me, remember?” I smile at her, and she steps closer to me.
“I know, but I probably sounded so pathetic. I wasn’t thinking clearly when I was writing them.”
I press my fingers against her lips to silence her. “No, you didn’t. They were brilliant.”
“I . . .” She tries to speak beneath my fingers, and I press them harder.
“Are you done yet?” I grin at her, and she nods. Slowly, I remove my fingers from her lips, and her tongue darts out to wet them. I can’t help but stare.
“I have to kiss you,” I whisper, our faces mere inches apart. Her eyes look into mine, and she swallows loudly before licking her lips again.
“Okay,” she whispers back to me. Her hands are greedy as she wraps her fists around the fabric of my shirt. She pulls me closer, her breathing heavy.
Just before our lips can connect, a knock sounds at the bedroom door. “Tessa?” Kimberly’s high-pitched voice calls through the half-open door.
“Get rid of her,” I whisper, and Tessa backs away from me.
First the kid, now his mom. We might as well invite Vance to join as well.
“We’re leaving in a few minutes,” Kimberly says without coming in.
Good for you. Now get the fuck out of here . . .
“Okay—I’ll be right out,” Tessa responds, and my irritation grows.
“Thanks, hon,” Kimberly says and walks off, humming some pop song.
“I shouldn’t have even fucking—” I begin.
When Tessa looks over at me, I stop myself from finishing my rude remark. It wasn’t true, anyway . . . nothing could keep me from wanting to be here right now.
“I have to go out there now, to watch Smith. If you want to stay in here, you can.”
“No, I want to be wherever you are,” I tell her, and she smiles.
Fuck, I want to kiss her. I’ve missed her so much, and she says she’s missed me, too . . . Why doesn’t she just . . . Her hands wrap around the top of my black T-shirt, and she presses her lips against mine. I feel as if someone has plugged me into an electrical outlet, every fiber of me igniting and buzzing. Her tongue enters my mouth, pressing and caressing, and I wrap my hands around her hips.
I pull her across the room until my feet hit the footboard of the bed. I lie back, and she falls gently on top of me. Wrapping her body into my arms, I turn us over so her body is under mine. I can feel her pulse hammering under my lips as they slide down her neckline and back up to the sweet spot just under her ear. Gasps and quiet moans are my reward. Slowly, I begin what I know are torturing movements, grinding my hips against hers, pressing her into the mattress. Tessa’s fingers move to touch the heated skin under my T-shirt, and her nails rake down my back. As I bring her earlobe between my lips—
The image of Zed thrusting into her flashes through my mind, and I’m on my feet within seconds.
“What’s wrong?” she asks. Her lips are deep pink and swollen from my gentle assault.
“I-it’s, it’s nothing. We should . . . um . . . go out there. Take care of the little shit,” I respond frantically.