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

If only he really knew what was going on.

“Of course I would love to go. I really appreciate your invitation!” I tell him, unable to contain my enthusiasm and the immediate relief that, finally, something decent is happening to me.

“Great! I’ll have Kimberly give you all the details, and explain how to expense things . . .” He rambles on, but I wander off while he does.

The idea of going to the conference soothes my ache slightly. I will be farther away from Hardin, but on the other hand, Seattle now reminds me of when Hardin wanted to take me there. He has tainted every aspect of my life, including the entire state of Washington. I feel my office getting smaller, the air in the room getting thicker.

“Are you feeling okay?” Mr. Vance asks, his brow lowers in concern.

“Uh, yeah, I just . . . I haven’t eaten today and I didn’t sleep much last night,” I tell him.

“Go ahead and go home, then, you can finish what you’re doing at home,” he says.

“It’s okay—”

“No, go on home. There are no ambulances in publishing. We’ll manage without you,” he assures me with a wave, then strolls off.

I gather my things, check my appearance in the bathroom mirror—yup, still pretty horrible—and am about to step into the elevator when Kimberly calls my name.

“Going home?” she asks and I nod. “Well, Hardin’s in a bad mood, so beware.”

“What? How do you know?”

“Because he just cussed me out for not transferring him to you.” She smiles. “Not even the tenth time he called. I figured if you wanted to talk to him, you would have on your cell.”

“Thank you,” I say, silently grateful she’s as observant as she is. Hearing Hardin’s voice on the line would have made the aching hole in me grow that much more quickly.

I manage to make it to my car before breaking down again. The pain only seems to get worse when there are no distractions, when I’m left alone with my thoughts and memories. And, of course, when I see the fifteen missed calls from Hardin on my phone and a notice that I have ten new messages, which I won’t read.

After pulling myself together enough to drive, I do what I’ve been dreading to do: call my mother.

She answers on the first ring. “Hello?”

“Mom,” I sob. The word feels odd coming out of my mouth, but I need the comfort of my mom right now.

“What did he do?”

That this has been everyone’s reaction shows me just how obvious the danger of Hardin was to everyone, and how oblivious I’ve been.

“I . . . he . . .” I can’t form a sentence. “Can I come home, just for today?” I ask her.

“Of course, Tessa. I’ll see you in two hours,” she says and hangs up.

Better than I thought, but not as warm as I had hoped for. I wish she were more like Karen, loving and accepting of any flaw. I wish she could just soften up, just long enough for me to feel the solace of having a mother, a loving and comforting one.