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

The cashier looks back and forth between Hardin and me, confusion evident in her eyes. I want to tell her it’s rude to stare, but Hardin speaks before I get the courage.

“Talk?”

“Yeah . . .” I say and watch the cashier remove the security tag. “After we put that tree up that your mom got when you two went out yesterday.”

“Talk about what, though?”

I turn to look at him. “Everything,” I say.

Hardin looks terrified and the implications of that word hang heavy in the air. When the cashier scans the tracksuit’s tag, a beep breaks the silence, and Hardin mumbles, “Oh . . . I’ll go get the car.”

As I watch the woman bag Trish’s gift, I think, Next year I’ll make sure to get everyone amazing gifts to make up for my terrible gifts this year. But then I think, Next year? Who says there’ll be a next year with him?

BOTH OF US STAY SILENT during the ride back to the apartment, me because I’m trying to organize my thoughts about everything I should say, and him . . . well, I get the feeling he’s doing the same. When we arrive, I grab the bags and rush through the freezing rain and into the lobby. I’d take the snow over this any day.

When we step into the elevator, my stomach grumbles. “I’m hungry,” I tell Hardin when he looks down at me.

“Oh.” He looks like he wants to say something sarcastic but decides against it.

The sensation is only heightened when we get inside the apartment and the smell of garlic takes over my senses, instantly making my mouth water.

“I made dinner!” Trish announces. “How was the mall?”

Hardin grabs the bags from my hands and disappears into the bedroom.

“It wasn’t too bad. Not nearly as crowded as I’d thought it would be,” I explain.

“That’s good, I thought maybe you and I could put that tree up? Hardin probably won’t want to help.” She smiles. “He hates fun. But the two of us could do it, if you don’t mind?”

I chuckle. “Yeah, of course.”

“You should eat first,” Hardin commands as he strides back into the kitchen.

I scowl at him and turn my attention back to Trish. Since my dreaded talk with Hardin is on the other end of my assembling the small tree with his mother, I’m in no particular rush. Besides, I need at least an hour to muster up enough strength to be able to say everything that I want to say. It’s probably not the best idea to have such an important talk with his mother here, but I can’t wait any longer. Everything that’s going to be said needs to be said . . . now. My patience is waning; we can’t stay in this in-between place much longer.

“Are you actually hungry now, Tessa dear?” Trish asks me.

“Yes, she is,” Hardin answers for me over his shoulder.

“Yeah, I actually am,” I tell her, ignoring her obnoxious son.

While Trish makes me a plate of chicken casserole with spinach and garlic, I sit at the table focusing on how delicious it smells. When she brings the plate over, I see it looks even better than it smells.