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

Trish softly clicks her tongue and shakes her head. “Tessa, I don’t think you’re either of those things. If anything, your forgiveness shows maturity and compassion. My son hates himself—always has—and I thought he always would, until you. I was mortified when your mum told me what he did to you, and for that I’m sorry. I don’t know where I went wrong with Hardin. I tried to be the best mother that I could be, but it was so hard with his father not being around. I had to work so much, and I didn’t give him the attention that I should have. If I had, maybe he would have more respect for women.”

I know that if she hadn’t already cried herself out today, she’d be crying now. The guilt in her is so thick, I just want to comfort her. “He’s not this way because of you. I think it has a lot to do with his feelings about his father and the type of friends he has, both of which I’m trying to work on. Please don’t blame yourself. None of this is your fault.”

Trish reaches across the table, and I give her my hands. Taking them in hers, she says, “You are certainly the most kind-hearted person I’ve met in all of my thirty-five years.”

I arch my brow. “Thirty-five?”

“Hey, just go with it. I can pass, right?” She smiles.

“Definitely.” I laugh.

Twenty minutes ago I was just crying and on the verge of a breakdown, and now I’m laughing with Trish. The moment I decided to let Hardin’s past be his past, I felt most of the tension leave my body.

“Maybe I should call him and tell him what I’ve decided,” I say.

Trish tilts her head to the side and smirks. “I think he could use a little time to stir.”

The idea of torturing him further isn’t appealing, but he does need to really think about everything he’s done. “I guess so . . .”

“I think he needs to know that there are consequences for bad choices.” She gets a twinkle in her eye. “How about I make us dinner, and then you can put Hardin out of his misery?”

I’m happy to have her humor and guidance to bring me out of my sad confusion over Hardin’s past. I’m willing to move beyond this, or at least try, but he needs to know this type of thing is not okay, and I need to know if there are any more demons from his past that are waiting to railroad me.

“What would you like?”

“Anything is fine. I can help,” I offer, but she shakes her head.

“You just relax, as much as you can. You’ve had a long day, what with everything from Hardin . . . and your mum.”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah . . . she’s difficult.”

She smiles and opens the refrigerator. “ ‘Difficult’? I was going to use another word, but she is your mother . . .”

“She’s sort of a B-word,” I say, not wanting to say the real word in front of Trish.