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After We Collided (After, #2) by Anna Todd Read Online (FREE)

As she puts the plate in front of me, Trish says, “Hardin, you could take the pieces out of the tree out of box for us, make it a little easier?”

“Sure,” he says.

She smiles at me. “I got a few ornaments, too.”

By the time I’ve finished eating, Hardin has the branches slid into the slots and the tree assembled.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” his mom says. When he grabs the box of ornaments, she goes over to him. “We’ll help with those.”

Completely full, I get up from the table, and ponder how putting together a Christmas tree with Hardin and his mother, in an apartment that was ours, is something I’d have never thought I’d be doing. Ever. I enjoy the feeling while we decorate, and in the end, though the ornaments seem randomly hung on the miniature tree, Trish looks very pleased.

“We should get a photo in front of it!” she suggests.

“I don’t do pictures,” Hardin grumbles.

“Oh, come on, Hardin, it’s the holidays.” She bats her lashes and he rolls his eyes at her for the hundredth time since her arrival.

“Not today,” he replies.

I know it isn’t fair of me, but I feel for his mother, so I look at him with big eyes and say, “Just one?”

“Fine, fuck. Just one.” He stands next to Trish in front of the tree and I grab my phone to take a picture of them. Hardin barely smiles, but Trish’s cheerfulness makes up for it. Still, I’m relieved when she doesn’t suggest that Hardin and I take a picture together; we need to figure out what we’re doing before we start romantic pictures in front of Christmas trees.

I get Trish’s phone number and send a copy of the picture to her and Hardin, who walks back to the kitchen and makes himself a plate of food.

“I’m going to go wrap some gifts before it gets too late,” I announce.

“Okay, see you in the morning, sweetie,” Trish says and gives me a hug.

Going into the bedroom, I see that Hardin has already gathered the wrapping paper, bows, tape, and everything else I could possibly need. I hurry to start wrapping so we can have “the Talk” sooner rather than later. I really want to get it over with, but at the same time am afraid of how it will go. I know that I’ve made up my mind, but I’m not sure if I’m ready to admit it. I know how foolish it is of me, but I’ve been a fool since I first met Hardin, and that hasn’t always been a bad thing.

I finish writing Ken’s name on a gift tag just as he walks in.

“Done?” he asks.

“Yeah . . . I need to get those tickets printed for Landon before we talk.”

He cocks his head back. “Why?”

“Because I need your help, and you’re not helpful when we’re fighting.”

“How do you know we’ll fight?” he asks.