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

“Vance? As in Christian Vance?” she asks. I nod. “Oh, I haven’t seen Christian in at least . . . ten years.” She looks down at the glass of water in my hands. “Hardin and I actually lived with him for a year after Ken . . . Well, never mind, Hardin doesn’t like when I spout off at the mouth.” She chuckles nervously.

I didn’t know that Hardin and his mother stayed with Mr. Vance, but I knew that he was very close with him, closer than he would be if Christian were only his father’s friend.

“I know about Ken,” I say to Trish in an attempt to ease her discomfort, but then I immediately worry that I’ve implied I know about what happened to her, and I worry I’ve upset her.

So when she replies, “You do?” I try to hedge a little and follow up with, “Yeah, Hardin has told me . . .”

But when Hardin appears in the kitchen I stop, and I have to admit I’m happy for the intrusion.

He raises a brow. “Hardin has told you what?”

My tension goes through the roof, but to my surprise, his mother covers, saying, “Nothing, son, just some girl talk,” and walking over to him and wrapping her arm around his waist. He pulls away slightly, as if out of instinct. She frowns, but I get the feeling this is a normal interaction between them.

The dryer beeps, and I take that as my cue to exit the room and finish up my laundry so I can get out of here, fast.

I pull my warm clothes from the dryer and sit on the floor in the small laundry room to fold them. Hardin’s mother is so sweet, and I find myself wishing that I could have met her under different circumstances. I don’t feel anger toward Hardin; I have been angry long enough. I feel sadness, and a longing for what we could have been.

After I’m done with my clothes, I go to the bedroom to repack my bags. I wish I hadn’t hung any clothes in the closet or put food in the kitchen.

“Do you need some help, dear?” Trish asks me.

“Um, I was just getting my things ready to go to my mother’s for the week,” I reply, figuring I might as well just go there since the motel is expensive.

“You’re leaving today? Right now?” She frowns.

“Yeah . . . I told her I would come for Christmas.” For once I want Hardin to come into the room to help me talk my way out of this.

“Oh, I was hoping you would stay at least a night. Who knows when I’ll be able to see you again—and I would love to get to know the young woman who my son has fallen in love with.”

And suddenly something in me wants to make this woman happy. I don’t know if it’s because of my mistake about saying I knew about Ken and her, or because of the way she covered for me in front of Hardin. But I do know I don’t want to overthink this, so I silence my inner voice and just nod, and say, “Okay.”