Before: Part 2: During – Chapter: 11


When he began to see her in his dreams, it terrified him. She was now swallowing him whole, taking every ounce of him and running off with it. It terrified him to think about the things she could do to him once she was in. He didn’t want to allow it, but he didn’t have the strength to fight it. He had always thought of himself as strong. He ruled everything, until she came in and took his crown.

I wait and wait for Tessa’s dorm room door to open and for her mum and her minion to leave. Minute after minute goes by, and I begin to question my sanity.

Why am I waiting for her? What will I even say to her when her visitors leave? Will she want to talk to me at all? Maybe she will if I apologize for letting her kiss me. That may solve all of the problems here.

Finally, the door opens and her mum walks out, casting an imperious eye down at me where I lean against a neighbor’s door. On her heels is Tessa, her hand snugly wrapped around Noah’s.

I get to my feet, not quite sure what to say, but feeling the need to say, to do, something.

“We’re going to go into town,” Tessa tells me, and what can I do but nod and let them go on their way?

I can’t stop looking at Tessa’s hand in her boyfriend’s. She flushes and pulls away as her mum gives me the fakest smile I’ve ever seen.

“I really don’t like that guy,” I hear Mr. Rogers say.

“Me either,” Tessa quietly responds.

Which is for the best. Because I don’t really like her either.

WHEN I GET TO MY CAR, my phone’s vibrating in the cup holder. I reach for it and answer when I see Molly’s name across the screen. She says one word—“hairpulling”—and hangs up.

Five minutes later, I walk into Molly’s apartment without knocking, and her roommate glares at me, smoke pouring from her mouth. The whites of her eyes flicker beneath heavy mascara, and she takes another hit of her cigarette. “She’s in her room.”

Molly’s lying in her bed, her head propped up on a mound of pillows and her bare legs spread wide open. Her room is small, the light blue walls covered in photos from fashion magazines. Mostly black-and-white pictures that she’s clipped and taped up. Her bed is positioned against the wall farthest from the door, and her room has no windows. I would hate to be trapped in a room with no windows. No wonder she’s never here.

She gestures for me to join her on the bed; her pink hair is wild, tied on top of her head in a nest. “Well, well, well, look who it is,” she taunts when I sit next to her. Lifting her skirt up farther, she exposes black panties. She runs her hands down her thighs, circling them around their lacy edges.

“You called me,” I remind her.

“And you came,” she chirps, reciting the line in a sarcastic and proud voice.

“Don’t get too excited. I was bored and you made yourself available.” Shrugging my shoulders, I look over at her. Her brows are furrowed, and she’s pretending to be offended.

“This is true.” She laughs, and I shake my head at her shameless behavior.

Molly’s hand is cold when she wraps it around my arm and pulls me closer to her. The scars on her wrist shine in the half-light from the lamp on her side table.

Molly’s lips press to my neck, and I try not to picture Tessa’s full lips. Molly climbs down my body, her hands reaching for the buttons on my jeans. She pops them open quickly and drags my pants and boxers down my legs. I lift up, helping her undress me while trying to convince myself that I want this. This is fun. This is what people like me do for fun. People like me and Molly, fucked-up people. I have my issues, and she has her own—ones she fortunately hasn’t ever tried to tell me about, ones I don’t give enough fucks about to even consider asking her about. I know she’s like me. That’s all I need to know.

Her tongue licks at the head of my cock, teasing me. I don’t do teasing, so I reach for a handful of her pink hair, guiding her mouth to take all of me. She gags slightly, and I release her. I know she likes it rough—in fact, rougher than I’m willing to go with her, ever.

Tessa’s hair thick in my fist, I pull tighter. Her mouth is so wet, so warm. Her tongue moves over me with more aggression than I would have imagined. Her hands glide down my thighs; her nails are longer than I remember.

“Hardin,” she moans, and takes another lick, drawing me between her lips. Her voice is high-pitched and feels off.

“Fuck, Tessa.”

The moment the words come out, Tessa’s full lips deflate.

Molly immediately tenses and pulls away from me. “Really?”

I clear my throat. “What?”

She rolls her eyes. “I heard you.”

“You didn’t hear anything, and even if you did, don’t act like you haven’t called me Log—”

“Shut up.” She holds up a hand and waves it dramatically. “Do you want me to finish?” And just like that, her tone’s changed back to playful, and I realize she’s looking at me with this weird sympathetic expression, like she needs to feel sorry for me or some shit.

The idea infuriates me. She’s just as lonely and fucked up as I am… Who is she to feel bad for me?

“No.” I pull my pants back up, and when I stand up and push my phone into my pocket, she still has that look. My anger means nothing to her.

“I’m not walking you out,” she says with a laugh, back to her normal nihilism for a moment. But then she adds, “Be careful with this shit. Girls like her don’t ever end up with fuckups like you.”

Her eyes grow even sadder for me, and I feel like puking all over her black rug. I know she’s not even trying to insult me—she’s being real and honest, but I don’t need her advice.

I don’t want to “end up with” Tessa. I want to fuck her and win. That’s all.

Without another word, I walk out and drive back to my house.

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