When I finally wake up, it’s two in the afternoon. I can’t remember the last time I slept past eleven, let alone later than lunch, but I forgive myself by taking into account that I stayed up until four reading and browsing through Hardin’s wonderful gift. It is so thoughtful, too thoughtful, the best gift I’ve ever received.
Grabbing my phone off the nightstand, I check my missed calls. Two from my mother, one from Landon. A few “Happy Birthday” messages clog my inbox, including one from Noah. I’ve never been that into birthdays, but I don’t exactly love the idea of being alone today either.
Well, I won’t be alone. Catherine Earnshaw and Elizabeth Bennet are much better company than my mother.
I order a crapload of Chinese food and stay in my pajamas the entire day. My mother is irate when I call her and tell her that I’m “sick.” I can tell that she doesn’t believe me, but honestly, I don’t care. It’s my birthday, and I can do whatever I choose to do, and if what I choose to do is lie in bed with takeout and my new toy, then that’s what I’ll do.
My fingers try to pull up Hardin’s number a few times, but I stop them. No matter how wonderful his present was, he still slept with Molly. Whenever I think he couldn’t possibly hurt me worse, he does. I begin to think about my dinner with Trevor on Saturday. Trevor, who is so nice and so charming. He says what he means, and he gives me compliments. He doesn’t yell at me, or annoy me. He has never lied to me. I never have to guess what he’s thinking or how he’s feeling. He’s smart, educated, successful, and he volunteers at shelters on holidays. He’s so perfect, compared to Hardin.
The problem is that I shouldn’t be comparing him to Hardin. Trevor is a little boring, yes, and we don’t share the same passion for novels that Hardin and I do, but we also don’t share a damaged past.
The most infuriating thing about Hardin is that I actually love his personality, rudeness and all. He’s funny, witty, and can be so sweet when he wants to be. This gift is messing with my head—I need to remember what he has done to me. All the lies, the secrets, and most all the times he’s fucked Molly.
I text Landon back to thank him, and within seconds he responds asking for the address of my hotel. I want to tell him not to drive all the way here, but I also don’t want to spend the remainder of my day completely alone. I don’t get dressed, but I do slip on a bra under my shirt and read some more, waiting for Landon to arrive.
An hour later, he knocks at the door, and when I open it, his familiar, warm smile makes me smile in return and he pulls me into his arms.
“Happy Birthday, Tessa,” he says into my hair.
“Thank you,” I say and hug him tighter.
He lets me go and sits at the desk chair. “Do you feel any older?”
“No . . . well, yes. I feel like I’ve aged ten years in the last week.”
He gives me a small smile but doesn’t say anything.
“I ordered takeout—there’s plenty left if you want some,” I offer.
Turning, he grabs the white Styrofoam container and a plastic fork from the desk. “Thanks. So is this what you’re doing all day?” he teases.
“Sure is.” I laugh and sit cross-legged on the bed.
As he chews, Landon looks past me and raises a brow. “You got an e-reader? I thought you hated them.”
“Well . . . I did, but now I kind of love them.” I pick up the device and admire it. “Thousands of books right at my fingertips! What could be better?” I smile and tilt my head to the side.
“Well, nothing says happy birthday like buying yourself a gift,” he says with his mouth full of rice.