After (The After Series)

BOOK: After (The After Series)
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This story is amazing! I love it!
• Intense • Adorable & perfect • Hessa
• I’m addicted • So romantic • I’m crying an ocean • I will always ship Hessa • You don’t have to be a Directioner to read this • Nerve-racking • So cute I’m giggling • Anna is a genius • They fight and piss each other off, but that’s what makes it so realistic • LOL—love this! • I’m more up to date on this story than I am on my actual life

Wattpad readers agree—the After series is a wild, addicting rollercoaster of a romance. #Hessa forever!

He’s moody—but that’s exactly what made me fall for him • I love this way too much! • I just spit my water • This story is going to be the death of me! • OMG *facepalm* • I’m crying and I have goosebumps • I love them so much XOXO • My heart just melted! • Romantic bastard • I’m grinning like an idiot • Fangirling SO HARD! • Just buy her a ring already! • So dark and mysterious • Wow, that was hot. • I want more.

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To my readers from the start, with so, so much love and gratitude. You mean the entire world to me.

prologue

C
ollege had always seemed so crucial, such an essential part of what measures a person’s worth and determines their future. We live in a time where people ask which school you went to before asking your last name. From an early age I was taught, trained really, to prepare for my education. It had become this necessity that required an overwhelming amount of preparation and borderline obsession. Every class I chose, every assignment I completed since my first day of high school revolved around getting into college. And not just any college—my mother had it set in her mind that I attend Washington Central University, the same school that she attended, but never completed.

I had no idea that there would be so much more to college than academics. I had no idea that choosing which electives to take during my first semester would seem, just a few months later, like trivial affairs. I was naïve then, and in some ways I still am. But I couldn’t have possibly known what lay ahead of me. Meeting my dorm-mate was intense and awkward from the start, and meeting her wild group of friends even more so. They were so different from anyone I had ever known and I was intimidated by their appearance, confused by their pure inattention to structure. I quickly became a part of their madness, indulging in it . . .

And that’s when
he
crept into my heart.

From our first encounter, Hardin changed my life in ways that no amount of college prep courses or youth group lectures could have. Those movies I watched as a teen quickly became
my life, and those ridiculous plotlines became my reality. Would I have done anything differently if I had known what was to come? I’m not sure. I would love to give a straight answer to that, but I can’t. At times I am grateful, so utterly lost in the moment of passion that my judgment is clouded and all I can see is him. Other times, I think of the pain he caused me, the deep sting of loss for who I had been, the chaos of those moments when I felt as if my world had been turned upside down, and the answer isn’t as clear as it once was.

All that I’m certain of is that my life and my heart will never be the same, not after Hardin crashed into them.

chapter
one

M
y alarm is set to go off any minute. I’ve been awake for half the night, shifting back and forth, counting the lines between the ceiling tiles and repeating the course schedule in my head. Others may count sheep; I plan. My mind doesn’t allow a break from planning, and today, the most important day in my entire eighteen years of life, is no exception.

“Tessa!” I hear my mother’s voice call from downstairs. Groaning to myself, I roll out of my tiny bed. I take my time tucking the corners of my bedsheet against the headboard, because this is the last morning that this will be a part of my regular routine. After today, this bedroom is no longer my home.

“Tessa!” she calls again.

“I’m up!” I yell back. The noise of the cabinets opening and slamming closed downstairs makes it known that she is feeling just as panicked as I am. My stomach is tied in a tight knot, and as I start my shower I pray that the anxiety I feel will lessen as the day goes on. All of my life has been a series of tasks in preparation for this day, my first day of college.

I spent the last few years nervously anticipating this. I spent my weekends studying and preparing for this as my peers were hanging out, drinking, and doing whatever else it is teenagers do to get themselves in trouble. That wasn’t me. I was the girl who spent her nights studying cross-legged on the living room floor with my mother while she gossiped and watched hours of QVC to find new ways to improve her appearance.

The day my acceptance letter to Washington Central University came I couldn’t have been more thrilled—and my mother cried for what felt like hours. I can’t deny that I was proud that all my hard work had finally paid off. I got into the only college I applied for and, because of our low income, I have enough grants to keep my student loans to a minimum. I had once, for just a moment, considered leaving Washington for college. But seeing all the color drain from my mother’s face at the suggestion, and the way she paced around the living room for nearly an hour, I told her I really hadn’t been serious about that.

The moment I step into the spray of shower water some of the tension leaves my strained muscles. I’m standing here, under the hot water, trying to calm my mind, but really doing the opposite, and I get so distracted that by the time I finally wash my hair and body, I barely have enough hot water to run a razor over my legs from the knees down.

As I wrap the towel around my wet body, my mother calls my name yet again. Knowing that it’s her nerves getting the best of her, I give her some leeway but take the time to blow-dry my hair. I know that she’s anxious for my arrival day at college, but I have had this day planned down to the hour for months. Only one of us can be a nervous wreck, and I need to do what I can to make sure it’s not me by following my plan.

My hands shake as I fumble with the zipper on my dress. I don’t care for the thing, but my mother insisted that I wear it. I finally win the battle with the zipper, and pull my favorite sweater from the back of my closet door. As soon as I’m dressed, I feel slightly less nervous, until I notice a small tear on the sleeve of my sweater. I toss it back onto my bed and slip my shoes onto my feet, knowing that my mother is growing more impatient with every second that passes.

My boyfriend, Noah, will be here soon to ride up with us.
He’s a year younger than me but will turn eighteen soon. He’s brilliant and has straight A’s just like I did, and—I’m so excited—he’s planning on joining me at WCU next year. I really wish he was coming now, especially considering that I won’t know a single person at college, but I’m thankful that he’s promised to visit as often as possible. I just need a decent roommate; that’s the only thing I’m asking for and the only thing I can’t control with my planning.

“Ther-e-saaaa!”

“Mother, I am coming down now.
Please
do not scream my name again!” I yell as I walk down the stairs. Noah is sitting at the table across from my mother, staring down at the watch on his wrist. The blue of his polo shirt matches the light blue of his eyes, and his blond hair is combed and lightly gelled to perfection.

“Hey, college girl.” He smiles a bright, perfectly lined smile as he stands. He pulls me into a tight hug and I close my mouth when I catch his excessive cologne. Yeah, sometimes he overdoes it a bit with that.

“Hey.” I give him an equally bright smile, trying to hide my nerves, and pull my dirty blond hair into a ponytail.

“Honey, we can wait a couple minutes while you fix your hair,” my mother says quietly.

I make my way to the mirror and nod; she’s right. My hair needs to be presentable for today, and of course she didn’t hesitate to remind me. I should have curled it the way she likes anyhow, as a little goodbye gift.

“I’ll put your bags in the car,” Noah offers, opening his palm for my mother to drop the keys into. With a quick kiss on my cheek he disappears from the room, bags in hand, and my mother follows him.

Round two of styling my hair ends with a better result than the first, and I brush a lint roller over my gray dress one last time.

As I go outside and walk to the car packed up with my things, the butterflies in my stomach dance around, making me slightly relieved that I have a two-hour drive to make them disappear.

I have no idea what college will be like, and, unexpectedly, the question that keeps dominating my thoughts is:
Will I make any friends?

chapter
two

I
wish I could say that the familiar scenery of my home state calmed me as we drove, or that a sense of adventure took hold of me with each sign that indicated we were getting closer and closer to Washington Central. But really I was mostly in a daze of planning and obsessing. I’m not even sure what Noah was really talking about, but I know he was trying to be reassuring and excited for me.

BOOK: After (The After Series)
5.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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