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|“||Nothing could ever change the way I feel about you.||”|
— Tessa to Hardin
Tessa is a dedicated student, dutiful daughter, and loyal girlfriend to her high school sweetheart. When she enters her first year of university with grand ambitions for her future, her guarded world opens up when she meets the dark and mysterious Hardin Scott.
She embarks on a great love story with Hardin filled with firsts, only to have her heart broken when she learns shocking truths about the start of their relationship. She struggles between her heart which pulls her closer to Hardin, and her mind, which tells her to flee from the boy and focus on her career.
Tessa Young is the only child of Carol and Richard Young. As a child, Tessa had to endure her parent's toxic relationship that often resulted in them having massive fights that she hated. One day, Richard didn't come home and she learned that he had left the women. After Richard left, Tessa's childhood best friend Noah Porter became the only constant in her life and he supported her throughout the troubling time.
During high school, Tessa and Noah started dating and this relationship carried into her Freshman year of college. She worked hard during high school and was obsessed with getting good grades which was supported by her controlling mother. She was later accepted into Washington Central University as an undeclared economics major. Her mother paid for her dorm room, admission fees, and even drove her to the university on her first day.
Tessa Young is a bright-eyed high school graduate eagerly awaiting her first day at Washington Central University. With her mother, Carol, and boyfriend Noah helping her, Tessa moves into her new dorm room where she is greeted by two girls. The girls introduce themselves as Steph Jones, Tessa's roommate, and her girlfriend, Tristan. Carol is initially turned away by Steph's nonchalant vaping and Tristan's excitement about getting Tessa into the best parties with a fake ID. Tessa follows her mother out of the room and assures her that everything will be fine, and to trust her as she is a good student and knows how important schooling is. Carol decides to do just that and Tessa bids her mother and Noah farewell.
Tessa returns to the dorm where she bonds with Steph, who remarks on Tessa's large book collection. The girls seem to get along and Tessa settles into her dorm by spending the night there alone. She texts with Noah about her excitement over her first class. It is at that class that she encounters fellow early class goer Landon Gibson, who shares the same interests as her. His kind nature allows them to become fast friends.
Later that day, Tessa takes a shower in the dorm. When she gets out, she realizes that her clothes fell on the ground and are drenched. She returns to her room in her towel and opens the closet door. She is started by a tattooed boy reading on her bed and nervously tells him that he's in the wrong room. He dismisses her claims and holds up a set of keys to her dorm. She asks him to leave so that she can get dressed, but he tells her not to flatter herself - he's not looking at her. When Steph arrives she tells Tessa that the boy isn't her boyfriend but is a friend, but hopes that he didn't make her uncomfortable. The boy iterates that he's been minding his business. Steph quickly invites Tessa out to the party that night but she declines her offer despite the boy's sarcastic comments about her not being the party type. The pair begins to leave when he hands back the book he borrowed, mysteriously telling her that he hates to ruin the ending of The Great Gatsby but it was all a dream. She corrects him saying that it was actually all a lie.
Tessa focuses on her studies despite glances from Hardin as they seem to find one another in common spaces such as a coffee shop near campus. She is studying in the library when Steph is finally able to convince Tessa to come out with her to another party, this time, at a fraternity house on campus. The girls bond as Steph helps Tessa pick out an outfit for the party, even though the red dress doesn't quite please her but they agree to compromise. Tessa sits with Tristan and Steph, where she is introduced to the rest of their group, including Hardin Scott, the boy she met in her dorm room days earlier. The rest of the group consists of Jace, the oldest of the group who encourages Tessa to drink, Zed whose eagerness is initially off-putting, and Molly, whose protective stance with Hardin creates instant friction between the two girls.
The group plays a game of truth or dare where Tessa is dared to make out with Hardin, though she shuts him down claiming that she is over the stupid game. She abruptly leaves earning surprised murmurs from his group fo friends who claim this is Hardin's first rejection. She wanders through the house and into a room where she admires a book collection. She is promptly surprised when Hardin enters saying that this is his room. They share a moment where their hands linger and they seem to have a connection. Tessa stops herself before anything happens and promptly leaves the party. She takes a call from Noah and he reprimands her for attending a party so she hangs up on him and leaves. When she returns to her dorm she reads messages from both Noah and her mother, who is unhappy upon hearing that Tessa attended a party.
The next morning, Tessa attends English class and enters a bantering match with Hardin over their differing views on Pride and Prejudice. They clash intensely and are stopped by Professor Soto who is pleased with their passion. Once the class is dismissed, Tessa vents to Landon over her frustration regarding the Brit, even mocking his accent. Landon tries to keep the peace but warns her about Hardin's games. She tries to keep her distance from Hardin and spends some time with Steph and Jace. The next morning, Hardin visits her at the coffee shop but she thinks that it would be best when he approaches her in a coffee shop. He wants to take her to a special place but she is uninterested. He persists and she concedes to his persuasion. He takes her to a lake tucked in the woods, explaining that this is his "secret place".
Tessa is hesitant to enter the water without a bathing suit, so he lets her wear his T-shirt, though she makes him turn around in the water so she can change. He helps her into the lake and they proceed to have fun before having a meaningful conversation about life and what they enjoy. She asks him who he loves most in the world. He quickly responds himself earning an eye roll from Tessa. They flirt and exchange longing looks before kissing in the water. They share a sensual encounter on land but stop before things progress. The pair go to a diner where they order casual food and continue to get to know one another.
They get along fairly well with her stealing his fries despite having plenty of her own, something that makes Hardin laugh. She is persistent in an attempt to get to know him, despite his resistance. They are interrupted by Molly and Zed. Molly comes onto Hardin and toys with him despite his annoyance. He gives the car keys to Tessa and asks her to wait in the car. She is aggravated but leaves to stand by the counter so the trio can talk. She watches their heated conversation before he joins her. He acts cool towards her and informs her that while the day was fun, he doesn't date. She is disgusted by this and shoves the keys at him before leaving the diner. Tessa returns to an empty dorm room where, despite her annoyance, she still dreams about Hardin asking her what she's dreaming about.
She awakens in the morning to a message from Noah asking her to come outside, and she is surprised to see her boyfriend waiting for her outside with a bouquet of flowers. They hug and spend the day together. They attend a bonfire on the outskirts of campus where Hardin and his group of friends are also present. The group begins to play another game, this time passing a card back and forth using only their lips. When it's Tessa's turn she attempts to get the card from Jace, who purposefully blows it in her face. He attempts to come onto her but Noah tells him to stop, sensing Tessa's discomfort. He still persists with Tessa pushing him away with her hand. Before another second passes, Hardin leaps across the circle and punches Jace. They wrestle around on the ground exchanging blows before Jace is pulled off Hardin by the other guys. Tessa stares at him in shock and their eyes meet as Zed attempts to calm him down. Hardin storms off leaving Noah confused as he consoles Tessa.
The couple returns to the dorms and watches a movie, which Noah falls asleep during. She receives a text from Landon asking her to come over and help him with Hardin. She obliges and bikes there, but is surprised to learn that Landon is Hardin's soon to be stepbrother. She is also disheartened by the mess in the kitchen of broken plates, glasses, and vases. Landon apologizes for asking her to come as he thought she might be able to calm him down since she was the reason he was so upset. She goes outside to the pool where Hardin is sitting with a bottle of liquor. Tessa sharply retorts that she thought he didn't drink, to which he tells her it's a special occasion - his father is getting married. He even drops his glass nonchalantly to prove his point of being upset. She is annoyed by his behavior and tries to clean up the glass despite his insistence to leave it be. She cuts her finger on the glass so he takes her inside and helps her clean the minor cut. He apologizes for his actions earlier, admitting that he's a mess. She returns the sentiment and they share a second kiss followed by another sexual encounter before they fell asleep together.
She woke up the next morning and hurried back to the dorms where Noah confronted her about where she had to go in the middle of the night. Hardin appears behind her and Noah pieces together what happened, and leaves despite Tessa's pleas for him to stay. This was the catalyst for Tessa's breakup with Noah and led to a fallout between her and Hardin. She spent the day being comforted by Steph before attending classes and ignoring messages from her mother and Hardin. She refocuses on her studies and tries to reconnect with Steph.
She eventually caves and visits the fraternity house where Hardin lives, much to his surprise. She admits to him that once her father left Noah was there for her and they grew close. He's her best friend. But she feels different being with Hardin then she did with Noah. The pair kiss and begin a committed relationship full of cute moments, secret readings in the library where they flee the security guard, and surprise kisses in class. Their relationship is observed from afar by Molly and Zed, who seems uncharacteristically interested in their relationship.
As they are studying in her dorm she notices Hardin watching her and writing in his journal. She asks what he's always writing but his coy response entices her to playfully grab at the journal before they being to kiss. They are interrupted by a surprise visit from Carol, Tessa's mother, who is disgusted by the sight. She demands that Tessa end things with Hardin so she can refocus on her studies, but Tessa refuses. Carol takes a moment before threatening to cut Tessa off financially if she doesn't end things with Hardin. Tessa still refuses and Carol angrily leaves.
Tessa spends the day with Landon, who warns her that Hardin can be dangerous so she should take things slow. But she insists that he's different around Landon's despite his warnings that Hardin is always up to something. He agrees to let her make her own choices. From there, Tessa met with Hardin who took her to an apartment as a surprise. He initially claimed the apartment belonged to a friend of his father's, but later admitted that he wants them to live there together. Tessa is reluctant at first but accepts his offer. This sets off the beginning of their seemingly perfect dating life, filled with picnics, laughter, kisses, and a trip to the aquarium where she claims nothing can ever change the way she feels about him. Their public displays of affection make Hardin's friends, specifically Molly and Zed, suspicious as they follow the couple around.
Hardin invites Tessa to his father's engagement party which she happily attends. They are greeted by Landon who is polite and excited about being a stepbrother to Hardin, who responds coldly to the boy. During the reception near the pool, Hardin opens up to her about his traumatic childhood, and the incident he witnessed happen to his mother. They shared a dance and had a good night despite the tension between Hardin and his father, Ken Scott. When they returned home they consummated their relationship. Their happiness continues as they share a bath with her trying to guess the words that he traces on her back. She fails miserably at the game but insists on another chance. This time, Hardin traces the words I love you on her back, but she still fails. He doesn't tell her what he traced and instead, kisses her.
A few days later, Tessa is in the bathroom of Washington Central University when she is confronted by Molly. The confrontation is awkward from the beginning as the tension between the girls is evident. Molly feigns concern over the freshman's well-being, then coyly gives Tessa an ominous warning about Hardin being up to something. She comments on her relationship with Hardin and how cool Tessa is with it. She leaves moments later, much to Tessa's confusion over the seemingly random event.
One night, Tessa is attempting to read when Hardin's phone continues to chime with messages from someone. She picks it up to turn the chime off when she discovers a slew of messages from Molly wanting to meet with him and talking about something going on. This sparks Tessa's jealousy and concern so she confronts Hardin about the messages. He brushes her off and begins to leave when she stops him, asking him to explain. He pauses then asks if she trusts him, which she responds that she does, so he doesn't see the problem. He leaves abruptly after leaving her confused and annoyed.
She waits hours for him to return before taking matters into her own hands. Jace responds to her message stating that if she comes to the Videodrome he'll tell her where Hardin is. She decides to go despite the pouring down rain and lack of a car. She meets up with Jace in his car, against her better judgment. Through him, Tessa is able to find Hardin at a diner with his friends, Molly, Zed, and Steph. Molly noticed Tessa enter the diner and toys with her. Tessa refuses to be baited into Molly's games, just as Hardin arrives at the table. Tessa demands that Hardin explain what is going on between him and Molly, to which Molly retorted that something is going on, but it's not what Tessa thinks. Hardin sharply tells Molly to shut up but she ignores him and asks if Tessa remembers truth or dare. Zed tries to silence Molly who ignores him. She shows Tessa footage of Hardin making a bet from the night of the truth and dare game. After she rejected Hardin, he sensed his friends mocking manners and made a bet that he could make Tessa fall in with him. He would then turn off his charm and loving demeanor to break her heart. Tessa turned to an emotional Hardin and asked if it was true. His silence was the confirmation she needed. She looks to Steph, Zed, and Molly, realizing that they all knew and didn't tell her. Steph refuses to look at Tessa. Hardin tries to speak to her but she doesn't listen and runs out of the diner.
He follows her outside begging her to listen as he can explain everything. She realizes their entire relationship was a lie. Hardin tries to protest but Tessa asks if it was all a game. He begins to tell her that the game was all before, but she cuts him off saying it was before he snapped his fingers and turned it all off. She thought that he cared and that their relationship meant something, but he's just a liar. He takes a moment before bringing up what she said at the aquarium about nothing changing the way she feels about him. She swallows hard before stating that they're both liars and leaves him standing alone. She takes a bus back to her childhood home.
Tessa takes this free time to rekindle her relationship with her mom. They exchange a hug and a dose of apologies. She doesn't tell Carol about the bet but merely states that things didn't go well with Hardin. Carol offers sympathy and suggests that Tessa try to fix things with Noah, who is still at soccer practice. Tessa agrees and visits Noah after practice. She apologizes for every having hurt him and for the way everything happened. He forgives her, explaining that he's been dating someone too and realized that he and Tessa never worked. They begin to talk about other things, laugh, and relax.
She returns to WCU and moves back into the dorms, though her friendship with Steph doesn't rekindle. Tessa applies for an internship at Vance Publishing, which she attends an interview for after being accepted. She focuses on her studies and attends classes over the weeks that she's apart from Hardin. She finishes her English class with Professor Soto, which Hardin is obviously absent from. As Tessa and Landon prepare to leave the classroom, Soto calls Tessa aside. She explains that Hardin turned in his final essay, but she thinks it was meant for Tessa and not her. She gives her the envelope which Tessa thanks her for and leaves.
Tessa and Landon sit on the campus lawn now that class is dismissed. She opens the packet and notices a photograph of a lake and a portrait of her. He asks what the lake is supposed to mean, but she merely responds that it's a special place. She reads the letter that surprisingly is letter of Hardin professing his feelings for her. He explains that she once asked him who he loves most in the world, and now he knows that it's her.
This unfortunately doesn't change Hardin's betrayal or how she is impacted by it, so she chooses to ignore the letter and attempt to gain some sense of normality. She begins her first day at Vance Publishing, where she has an unfortunate introduction to her new co-worker, Trevor Matthews, who she insults for not holding the elevator for her. He assures her that he was trying to hold it. Tessa immediately meets her new boss, Kimberly, who welcomes Tessa to the company and wants to introduce her to Christian Vance. Seeing this as an inopportune time, Kimberly shows Tessa to her new office which is initially cluttered who multiple boxes and objects. Tessa organizes the room to the best of her ability and begins reading the five manuscripts she is required to read that week.
She falls asleep reading and is awakened the next morning by Vance, who is sitting across from her. He whisks her away to Seattle alongside Kimberly and Trevor, as he hopes to win over a new investor, Neal. They arrive at the hotel and Tessa is mesmerized by the size of the hotel, but pleased to have been upgraded to a suite following an incident with her room. Vance recommends that Kimberly take Tessa shopping for a dress for that night, to which Kimberly happily obliges.
The pair return to the hotel late that evening to get ready, and Kimberly assures Tessa that she'll be fine in the nightclub - she's with the Vance's. She then nervously reveals that she and Vance are more than co-workers. She insists it was just a work thing at first, especially after Vance's wife died, but as she was helping take care of Vance's son, Smith, they fell in love. Tessa relates to love finding people in odd ways. Tessa joins Kimberly, Vance, and Trevor, who are waiting in the lobby to leave for the nightclub. Trevor and Vance comment on her looking nice, Vance in more of a professional capacity.
The group arrives at the bar where Tessa and Trevor find themselves isolated from the rest of the club, as neither of them are used to being in that kind of scene. He offers to get her a drink but she's sticking to water as that's all she can afford since she's been using Uber a lot. They talk for a moment before Neal, the potential investor who is also a millionaire, approaches the duo with a large bowl of alcohol. The drink is named Sex on the Beach. He commands the duo to drink with him. While Tessa doesn't speak his language, Trevor translates well and she obliges to drinking with them. She grows tired of the drinking after a while, but eventually, concedes and lets herself have fun. She suddenly feels like dancing and approaches the dance floor while Trevor attempts to talk business with Vance's client.
On the dance floor, she lets relax and dances with a stranger who begins to blur into Hardin in her mind. She impulsively kisses the man, who fades in and out of Hardin's figure. When she realizes it's not Hardin she instantly stops and pulls away, blinking as the man returns to his normal state. She hurries away and finds a balcony where she takes selfies, but upon realizing how good she looks, decides to call Hardin and brag. She gloats that she looks hot even though he's not here to see it, and when asked how much she's had to drink, she replies with five "sexes on the beach", giggling that could have been fun.
She refuses to answer where she is or who she's with, and instead, proclaims that she's not wearing any underwear. He asks who she's with but she deflects asking why he hasn't called her back. Now dumbstruck over her behavior he exclaims that he texted her a hundred times but she never replied. She claims she has to go, but it was nice talking to him, before hanging up on him. She is soon found by Trevor who plans to leave the nightclub, and she wants to join him for fries and ice cream. She bops him on the nose before stumbling off.
They return to the hotel room where he asks why she's in publishing. She responds that she loves books which makes sense to him. She asks what his favorite book is and he responds with The Principal of Economics by Alfred Marshall. She refuses to accept this and she teases him for not liking fiction novels. He claims they're boring and he'd rather watch paint dry. She throws a napkin at him teasingly and spills his wine all over his shirt and pants, instantly apologizing for the infraction.
She soaks the shirt in hot water begging him to trust her that it will remove the stain before it sets. She demands his pants which he reluctantly takes off. It is then that they hear loud banging on the door, followed by Hardin's angry voice. She yanks open the door angrily asking if he's trying to get her kicked out. He pushes through despite her anger, and notices a pair of mens glasses on the table. Angered, he kicks down the bathroom door to find Trevor in only his boxers, clutching his wet clothing.
She holds Hardin back while Trevor hurries out of the hotel room, trying to explain that it was all a misunderstanding. He angrily tells him to fuck off and slams the door shut. Tessa angrily calls him a dick before asking what he's even doing here. He claims that he's not the dick as he isn't the one trying to take advantage of drunk girls. She rebuttals that not everyone is trying to sleep with her, and that he can't tell her who she can or can't have sex with because they aren't together anymore. He asks if she was going to sleep with Trevor, which angers her, but he points out that she's avoiding the question. A moment passes before she begins to change her physical demeanor into that of a condescending one, and taunts him with the idea of sleeping with someone else. She then comes onto him but he is reluctant because she's drunk, even though she claims to have missed him. He eventually concedes and they sleep together.
The next morning, Tessa wakes up in bed with Hardin laying on her back sound asleep. She is confused at first then hears her phone ringing and climbs over Hardin to answer it in the other room. It's Kimberly asking her if she's awake and then to meet her in the lobby in five minutes so they can return home. They hang up and she frantically tries to find her clothes while Hardin yells for her to come back to bed. She is trying to find the rest of her things when he emerges to see what's wrong with her as she's clearly angry. He rebuttals that she called him, but she didn't tell him to come over.
He can tell that she isn't entirely okay with what happened last night to which she agrees, but she refuses to talk about it as he hurt her and she can't forgive him. She justifies her actions by not knowing what she was doing the whole night, accidentally mentioning the guy she kissed in the club. This upsets Hardin and she quickly leaves the room with him following her, naked, into the hall. She yells at him to put some clothes on so he grabs a tablecloth, wrapping that around his waist. He demands to know who she kissed and if it was Trevor, but she shouts that it wasn't. He's upset as "his" Tessa would never kiss a stranger. She angrily yells that she isn't "his Tessa" anymore. Now hurt by her words, he lies that while she was kissing that guy he was sleeping with Molly. This angers Tessa even more, who begins to stalk off when she grabs a roll of bread off a cart and hurls it at him.
She then storms off down the hallway to join Vance, Kimberly, and Trevor in the lobby downstairs. She meets up with Trevor who brought her a latte while she returns his glasses. He comments on the interesting night to which she apologizes, but he understands as he would feel the same way if he showed up to his girlfriend's hotel to see a half-naked man there. He is worried that Hardin is still lurking around, but she assures him that Hardin should be the one hiding and they aren't together. She asks how he knows Hardin to which Trevor explains that Hardin worked at Vance last year in the same position as Tessa. Kimberly and Vance descend, both hungover, and greet the duo. Vance doesn't know what they did or said to Neal last night, but he is officially a financer for their expansion. He tells them good job as he walks off, his arm around Kimberly.
Tessa returns to work that night when she receives a text from Landon telling her that Hardin came to see him, and that Hardin said he loves her and that he didn't sleep with Molly. Landon adds that he believes Hardin is telling the truth. She thanks him then looks at a photo of her and Hardin together, but then puts it away to return to work. Trevor knocks on her door and enters her office. He wishes her a happy holidays and a happy birthday, though her birthday isn't until tomorrow. He gives her a folder that he made that contains a cost analysis breakdown of her weekly Uber expensure versus owning a used car.
He did some research and found a 2013 Toyota Corolla in excellent condition. He went to the dealership and negotiated a fair deal; no money down and a hundred and fifty dollars a month. Vance agreed to put her auto-insurance on the company policy so that will be free, though he states she doesn't have to take the deal he just enjoys crunching numbers. She is elated and impulsively hugs him then kisses him. He tells her bye and leaves the office.
The next day, she takes Landon for a ride in the car, which he thinks is "very Tessa". She pulls into a parking lot where Landon's car is and parks next to him. She notices him on his phone and asks how his girlfriend, Dakota, is but he's really looking at her birthday horoscope. He reveals that she shares a birthday with Joseph Stalin and is a proud and idealistic person. He continues that she, "is more emotional then is obvious, may solidify romantic relationship or become involved with a mature partner". The mature part, he notes, doesn't sound like Hardin which Tessa agrees with. He tells her that Hardin left for London and asks if she's heard from him, to which she reveals that she blocked him. They say goodbye and she returns to her apartment.
She enters the formerly shared loft to find a mess of clothes, empty bottles, and food boxes scattered around the apartment. She remembers when Hardin first showed her the apartment then walks into the bedroom which is also a mess. She sits cross-legged on the bed and takes one of Hardin's shirts that he left on the bed, raising it to her face as she cries softly. She finds a wrapped package on the bedspread with her name on it. She opens it to find a Kindle inside along with a note that reads, "all your favorite books in one place". Already saved are her favorites including Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice among others. With this, she remembers Hardin reading to her in the library which makes her more emotional.
She spends the rest of the day cleaning up the apartment and packing the rest of her things, just as the door to the apartment opens and Hardin enters. Tessa hides out of sight so as not to be seen, and overhears him talking to an English woman and offering to run her a bath. The woman recounts when they used to take baths together and Tessa shows herself in the doorframe, only to be shocked to see Hardin with his mother. The woman is surprised to see Tessa, saying that she thought Tessa would be out of town and they wouldn't get to meet each other. Tessa instantly smiles at the woman trying to be nice as they hug. Trish can't believe how pretty Tessa is, even though Hardin told her Tessa was the prettiest girl in the world. She gushes over Tessa which embarrasses Hardin but Trish brushes it off, saying that she and Tessa are going to be the best of friends. She then excuses herself to use the bathroom.
With Trish out of ear shot, Tessa hurries to Hardin asking what he's doing here as he's supposed to be in London. He explains that he didn't want to go without her so his mother just came here. She asks why he didn't tell Trish they broke up, to which he explains that Trish was so excited when he told her that he couldn't ruin it for her. He couldn't tell her about the bet but doesn't expect Tessa to pretend they're still together. This takes Tessa by surprise and she's quiet for a moment before agreeing to play along, which elates him. He thanks her but she thanks him in return for the Kindle. He loudly curses then wishes her a happy birthday. Trish, who has returned, is excited at the prospect of celebrating with Tessa and begs her to stay another night instead of going out of town to see her mom. Tessa is reluctant at first, but Trish presses that they don't know when they'll see each other again. She then agrees reluctantly and Trish hugs her again, promising to make her a homemade birthday cake.
They spend the rest of the night looking at baby pictures of Hardin, including one where his butt is exposed. Tessa teases Hardin that it is a cute bum, much to his horror. Hardin excuses himself to do the dishes. Trish asks about Tessa's schooling to which Tessa claims she's in the process of switching from an Economics major to an English major. She brings up her internship at Vance Publishing, which surprises Trish who knows Christian from years ago. They stayed with Vance for a few years after she separated from Ken. This is news to Tessa, who didn't know that Hardin knew Vance from before.
When the night dwindles, Tessa watches Hardin cover his mom with a blanket and meets him in the bedroom. They agree to sleep in the same bed so he doesn't have to sleep on the floor. She believes they can share a bed without anything sexual happening. Once in bed, they say goodnight though Tessa rolls over to tell him that she's leaving early in the morning to head out of town. He rolls over to look at her, thanking her for staying that night. She thanks him for having her and he tucks a hair behind her ear, then instantly apologizes. She tells him it's fine and the tuck leads to a shoulder rub which feels nice for her. They talk about her birthday, to which she tells him she did. She thanks him again for the gift. He's glad she likes it. He tells him that she got a new car, a white one. He wishes her a happy birthday with her saying goodnight before kissing him, and they exchange kisses and goodnights.
The next morning, Tessa prepares to leave and says goodbye to Trish. Trish is pleased to see Hardin so happy with her. Tessa drives back to her childhood home where she is greeted by Noah who compliments her on the new car. They share a hug, both mutually happy to see one another. He knew that she would be in town today as he spoke with her mom, which Tessa asks if she had him on speed dial as soon as she crossed state lines. Noah quips back that Carol knows a good thing when she sees it and they laugh. She asks how senior year is and he awkwardly tells her that he's "breaking hearts and taking names" before deflecting back onto her, saying he heard about the internship. He then asks if everything is cool with the thing with her dad, but Tessa is oblivious to this and Noah quickly realizes that he messed up.
His phone rings and she sees that it's her mother so she answers for Noah, and Carol apologizes as she got stuck at work but asks if Tessa got there yet, unaware that Tessa is the one who answered. Noah quickly shouts that Tessa knows and Carol nonchalantly realizes that Tessa is with him, hoping that she didn't interrupt anything. Tessa asks about what is going on with her father, which Carol finds rude. After some bickering, Carol reveals that Tessa's father wanted to see her but she chased him off. They continue to argue with Carol believing Tessa is getting all worked up for no reason. Carol thought they were past all of this when Tessa got her heartbroken, but she can tell that isn't the case by her tone. She then tells Tessa that Hardin isn't good for her and is just like Richard. Tessa hangs up while Carol angrily protests. Tessa shoves the phone at Noah, realizing her coming home was mistake as she gets back in her car and leaves.
She returns back to the apartment where she shares a long hug with Hardin outside the building. That night, Hardin frantically awakens from a vivid nightmare and Tessa soothes him assuring him it was just a nightmare. In the morning, Trish greets Tessa with a cup of tea and asks if Hardin is okay. Trish heard him last night, to which Tessa assure her that he's asleep now. She then asks Trish how long the nightmares have been going on. Trish explains they started when Hardin was eight. Trish begins to explain what happened that night, when Tessa cuts her off, saying that he told her about what happened and what he saw.
She is surprised as he's never told anyone that before, becoming emotional. Tessa apologizes for what happened to her. Trish was hoping Hardin would forget everything but then the nightmares started so she took him to therapists, but to no avail. He then started self-medicating with alcohol and sex. But he told her the nightmares went away when he started seeing Tessa. This takes Tessa by surprise, emotion creeping in, as she didn't know this. Trish asks why her mother hates Hardin so much, and Tessa reluctantly explains that he lied to her - a massive lie. The woman understands and asks if Hardin is sorry, to which Tessa believes that he is.
Hardin awakens so Trish tells him to brush his teeth as she hands him a cup of tea. Tessa smiles saying that she loves his mom. He then gives her a belated birthday card which takes her by surprise as he already got her something. He knows but since she denied him the pleasure of seeing her open the said gift, so he's giving her another. Inside the card are the words, Tessa's perfect day. Love, H. It means that whatever she wants to do or go he will oblige with not snide remarks or tantrums. He counts down her time then kisses her.
Her day includes ice skating, which Hardin isn't particularly decent at due to being a novice, so they move onto yoga. He complains a little about the heat, remarking that the poses aren't what is melting away his tension but the heat. She reminds him that it's hot yoga and shushes him. He compliments her butt during a position earning another shush. They quickly realize that they aren't in beginners yoga but instead, acrobatic yoga. They sit out some positions but partake in another where he uses the time to tickle her ribs and break her concentration.
They eventually leave when they realize the heat is getting to them - in more ways than one. They return to the empty apartment where they share a shower whilst giggling, kissing, and accidentally breaking a shower gel cap which Hardin tosses to the side when he realizes he broke it. Tessa's phone rings in the midst of the shower and she realizes it's Kimberly and has to take it, which baffles Hardin. Especially when she asks Kimberly if they can help her with babysitting Smith instead of returning to the shower.
Hardin and Tessa go to Vance Publishing where they will be watching Smith. Tessa loves kids so she is happy to participate, though Hardin only agrees due to the birthday promise he made to Tessa. Kimberly thanks the couple for helping and tells Smith that Tessa will watch him, and that she will be back soon. Once she leaves, Tessa kneels in front of the child and asks if he wants markers to draw with. Smith dryly responds that he doesn't like to draw. She offers food but he isn't hungry. She looks over at Hardin who is unamused by the scene. Tessa then asks what he would like to do, and they set up his train set in the lobby. Tessa has to work for a while so Hardin watches over the boy. She visits them during her break and Hardin encourages her to get food for the pair, primarily so she won't hear Smith cursing.
Kimberly returns a few hours to pick Smith up, so Hardin ventures into Tessa's office. She is ready to leave when he hands a box wishing her a happy Christmas. She is surprised since Christmas isn't for a few more days, but he insists that he couldn't wait to give it to her. He stands by the window as she opens the box, taken aback by the bracelet. The book is engraved with the quote, "whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same". She is emotional over the gift and he mistakes this for her not liking it, but she assures him that she likes it. She just wasn't expecting to see him over the holidays so she didn't get him anything.
She sits on the desk and asks if there is anything he wants, to which he quickly responds with "another chance". She wants him to act like this everyday which he can't promise, but he promises to try his best. They kiss and Hardin begins to seduce her but she is reluctant since someone could walk in at any moment. He shouts out if anyone is there or can hear him, to which she merely sighs as he has an answer for everything. They continue to kiss and, eventually, have sex. Hardin then tells Tessa that she is the only one for him and that he loves her, to which she returns to the sentiment. He asks her not to say the word "too" since it sounds like she's agreeing with him. She smiles and repeats the line without the "too", and they continue to kiss and have sex.
The next day, Tessa attends a Christmas party at Ken Scott's residence alongside Hardin and Trish, who were invited by Ken. Tessa is noticeably awkward at the event but is happy to be greeted by Landon and meet Karen for the first time. She easily socializes with the group she falls into, which comprises of Trish, Karen, Landon, Ken, and a few strangers. Tessa notices when Hardin rejoins the group after disappearing for a while, though his excuse to her is that he went for a walk which she doesn't completely believe. She then bears witness to the fight that commences between Hardin and Ken, which turns physical when Hardin snaps at his father for not staying after that night. Once outside, she silently takes Hardin's car keys from him since he's too drunk to drive.
When they return to the apartment, Tessa leaves for a while to go for a walk. When she returns she finds the lamp by the door is broken and Hardin is listening loudly to his music through earbuds. She attempts a few times to call his name but a zoned out Hardin continues listening to his music. She finds him in the same place the next morning, though he is passed out from drinking. She leaves for work and the sound of the door closing awakens him.
Tessa is in the elevator at Vance Publishing when Trevor enters, reversing their first encounter. She jokes that they should stop meeting like this, than asks how his break was. He claims it was fine and asks about hers, to which she replies with "eventful". He asks if she wants to talk about it over food since he's buying. He offers to let her pick the food and she agrees so he sends her some menus. They catch up over their food a little while later, and she tells him about her issues with Hardin and wants his opinion. He doesn't have any advice to give her much to her humor.
As they are getting ready to leave, Trevor tells Tessa about his new promotion as the head of finances at the Seattle branch so this might be the last time they see each other before the New Year. She wishes him best of luck in his job and he awkwardly offers to shake her hand, to which she obliges. As Tessa is leaving, he calls to her so she turns. He tells her about his sister who struggled with addiction with her whole life. He warns her that this thing with Hardin isn't going to end well, and she takes a moment before saying that he's wrong and walking away.
The rest of the day is uneventful as Tessa works on manuscripts. She does, however, respond to Noah's text asking how the search for her dad is going. She replies that she's been trying to find him online but hasn't had any luck so far. Tessa returns to the apartment to find Hardin putting together a new lap to replace the one he broke earlier. He claims that this one is better anyway, to which she merely smiled at him as she passes by.
On New Years Eve, the couple stays in at their apartment as they curl up on the couch. Tessa puts down her Kindle, asking a writing Hardin if he's ever going to show her what he's writing in there, to which he responds that he might tell her one day. They return to their separate endeavors though his phone vibrating catches her attention. She asks if he's going to see who it is, but he already knows that it's Steph inviting him to the New Years Eve party. He doesn't want to leave her alone, and didn't think she would want to go after what happened, so he isn't going. She offers to go with him since she isn't scared of them anymore. She tells him that if it blows up in their faces they can stay in next year. He leans over and kisses her as he liked the way she said next year.
As she's getting ready, Vance calls Tessa to ask why she isn't at work which causes her to panic as she thought she had the night off. Vance laughs happy to have messed with her a little. He then tells her that with the Seattle branch funded, Vance and Kim plan to move to Seattle until things are settled there. He wants to bring Tessa with them in a permanent position at the company. He will pay for her schooling, living expenses, and anything else she needs. She is surprised by the offer and asks if she can think about it, to which he is a little surprised but agrees and wishes her a happy new year before hanging up. Hardin enters to see if she was talking to him, but she wasn't. He asks what's taking her so long to which she quips back that she's being a woman and to leave so she can get ready. He forces a smile and leaves her alone.
They head to the frat house where they are greeted by Steph, who hugs Tessa in the hopes they can leave the past behind them. Tessa assures her that it's ancient history, just before Ally asks Tessa if she wants to take her place in the next round of beer pong against Steph and Tristan. Tessa is reluctant to leave Hardin but he assures her that it's fine and he'll watch her - he likes to watch. She smiles at this before joining Zed at the table. He asks if she knows what she's doing - she doesn't. She throws the ball and misses drastically but finds the game fun, which exasperates Zed, and they find themselves becoming heavily intoxicated as they lose cups. After the game, Tessa joins Zed, Ally, Steph, and Tristan on the dance floor. Tessa is happily oblivious to Molly's outburst upon seeing that Tessa decided to show up.
Tessa is dancing when she finds Hardin coming downstairs, and they decide to leave. They are intercepted by Molly on their way out, and her snide remarks are enough to prompt Tessa to stay for one more drink against Hardin's better judgment. Tessa marches to the living room where she is joined by Hardin, and she sits on his lap. She squares off against Molly, confident in her decision. She kisses Hardin to assure him of this.
The bitchy banter begins instantly with Molly starting the game of Truth or Dare by asking Tessa if she's a virgin. She quickly corrects as she knows that isn't true anymore since Hardin slept with her. Tessa agrees then asks if it's true that Molly is a whore. Molly is offended by the term and shuts it down despite Hardin and Tessa's insistence that she is. Molly then asks if it's true that Tessa is a dumbass for getting back together with Hardin after their relationship was nothing more than a bet. When Tessa declines this, Molly presses that it is true and begins to taunt Tessa with innuendos regarding her previous fling with Hardin.
Overcome with rage, Tessa tackles Molly to the ground where they begin a fierce fight of hair pulling, slapping, and slamming each other into walls. Tessa is able to punch Molly twice while screaming at her, but Molly tackles her to the ground though Tessa quickly gains the upper-hand. Before the fight can escalate any further, Hardin pulls Tessa off Molly telling her to relax. He carries her upstairs. The girls hurl insults at one another, with Molly shouting for Hardin to "get the crazy bitch out of here", with Tessa flipping her off with both middle fingers and shouts "happy New Year, bitch!" before bursting into a fit of laughter as they make their way upstairs.
Hardin kicks open his bedroom door and sets Tessa down the bed while she giggles then sighs, as she needed the release. Hardin joins her on the bed and she instantly begins kissing him, though they roll off the bed and land on the floor seconds later. They exchange flirty banter before having sex while listening to the sounds of the party goers downstairs counting down to midnight. When they are finished, Hardin zips her dress back up and she excuses herself to use the bathroom. He calls to her that her phone is buzzing but she doesn't hear him. When she exits the bathroom Hardin is gone, so she follows him to the stairs where she finds him talking to a girl. He asks the girl to keep what happened between them a secret, to which she flirtatiously responds that she doesn't kiss and tell. Angered, Tessa mistakes the girls comment for Hardin having cheated and shoves him into the wall calling him a piece of shit as she storms past him.
She flees the party with Hardin running behind her. To spite him, she grabs a random party goer and kisses him in front of Hardin before stalking off. Hardin grabs her arm to stop her and she turns around while he demands to know what that was all about. She emotionally asks why he cares as he just kissed that girl. She begins to cry which angers him as she just kissed a guy right in front of him. She asks what he did and he emotionally proclaims that he didn't do anything. She doesn't believe him and quotes back what the girl said about not kissing and telling, then shoves him backward calling him a "fucking liar". Hardin is in disbelief since that's just an expression and Tessa should know he would never cheat on her. She asks if he was with Jamie tonight and if she is who he disappeared with. Hardin admits to it but quickly tells Tessa that he was trying to make Jamie forgive him, because he wants to be a better person for Tessa.
He wants to know what else he can do to make her believe him. A moment of silence passes and he emotionally realizes that she's never going to trust him. She asks if he really thinks she should try him, to which he does, and she loudly asks where that has ever gotten her. He realizes she's never going to forgive him and will just keep bringing it up every time they have a fight. She exclaims that it's because she doesn't trust him. Hardin is taken aback by this and angrily remarks that she acts so innocent, like she's perfect, even though she isn't. He walks backward from her while mutter "fuck this". As he storms off he shouts "fuck you" at her and she returns the sentiment as they walk away from one another, the rest of the party watching them.
Tessa wakes up the next morning to an empty bed with her text messages to Hardin asking her to forgive him and come home have gone unread. She drives around town looking for him as she worries that something might have happened to him. She tosses her phone on the passenger seat as she focuses on driving. Hardin calls her while she's stopped a red light, and she unbuckles in an attempt to reach the phone. When the light turns green she drives just as another car t-bones her. The ambulance is called and Tessa is taken to the hospital while Hardin, who was driving by and saw the accident, runs after the ambulance. She is discharged a few hours later and is escorted home by Trevor.
When she returns to the apartment she finds a letter from Hardin explaining everything that happened and why he's leaving for London for good. He breaks up with her in the letter, claiming that they aren't meant to be but they will eventually move on. Over the next nine days, Tessa looks at photos of them together, re-reads the letter, and remembers the good times they spent together. One of which includes them in the tub. As she's looking at a photo of Hardin, she receives a text from Vance about his party on Sunday that she's supposed to attend.
Tessa does attend the party and stands on the balcony next to Trevor as she happily witnesses Vance and Kimberly become engaged. Once the excitement dies down, Trevor and Tessa talk about the accident with him telling her that Vance agreed to put her hospital bills on the company policy so she doesn't have to worry about them. He then tells her that he answered her phone at the hospital and it was Hardin, who wanted to talk to her. Trevor reveals that he told Hardin to leave Tessa alone, but he realizes now that it was over the line and apologizes for the invasion. She is surprisingly understanding and though he has more to say, he excuses himself for now and hurries away. Tessa turns around and spots Hardin on the balcony where she was standing earlier. She is shocked to see him and the champagne flute she was holding slips from her hand and shatters on the floor. As the staff cleans it up she looks up again at Hardin then hurries away.
Hardin follows her outside and believes he missed her when he sees an Uber leaving. He is disheartened and she calls from the top of the stairs behind him. He turns and they gaze at each other as she walks down the stairs to stand in front of him. Her Uber pulls up and she silently walks away to the car. She opens the car door and stands next to it, looking at him as she does. He realizes that she's holding it open for him and gets into the car. Once inside, they listen to the driver ramble about the heat getting to people's brains and making them do crazy things. Tessa smiles up at Hardin who smiles back, and she sets her head on his shoulder.
That night, Tessa holds Hardin's hand as he gets another tattoo on his back. She reads the quote which says, "I never wish to be parted from you from this day on" and realizes that he got it for her. She smiles at this and they leave the tattoo parlor, walking hand-in-hand down the sidewalk. They appear to be back together and happy once again. A homeless man begins following them and the man touches Tessa's shoulder and calls her by name. Hardin reacts and slams the man against the wall, holding him by his shirt. Tessa instantly shouts at Hardin but then freezes when she sees the man's face, recognizing him as her father.
Tessa has an innocent appearance with dirty blonde hair, round blue eyes, and full plump lips. She either curls her hair or wears up in a ponytail or bun. Tessa has a slim but curvaceous figure. At the beginning of her freshman year in college, Tessa dressed conservatively, wearing oversized shirts and long skirts. When dressing up for a college party, she wore a maroon dress that fell below her knees. Her signature shoes were her white toms or sensible shoes. She wears a minimal amount of jewelry, usually only a necklace or simple bracelet. Her basic color scheme was whites, creams, light blues, and sometimes yellow. She paired most of her tops with fitted jeans or overalls. While lounging, Tessa usually wore one of Hardin's black t-shirts.
After their breakup, Tessa's wardrobe shifted slightly to reflect her more mature stance on life. At first day of work, Tessa wore a dark blue blouse paired with black jeans and an oversized brown bag. This style would reflect more of her color choices during this period in her life; darker blues, various shades of red, and conservative dresses with an open sweater over her shoulders. As she reconciled with Hardin, her scheme shifted back to light blues, creams, and reds. While attending Ken's Christmas party she wore a green dress that reached her knees. This is vastly different then the gold dress and shoes she wore for a work outing at a nightclub, or the more revealing red dress she wore on New Years.
Tessa is a dedicated student and dutiful daughter. She is altruistic, ambitious, empathetic, bright, studious, and well-behaved. She is soft-spoken but isn't afraid to state her opinions when asked, only preferring to stay quiet out of habit and not a lack of thought. She is an introvert, preferring to stay in to read or watch a movie than go out to a party. Due to being controlled and sheltered her whole childhood and adolescence, Tessa was rather naive about the dangers of the real world. She was rather inexperienced in relationships when she entered college, having only had one serious boyfriend that she didn't truly love or have a sense of passion with. This changed when she met Hardin Scott, a rebellious college student who tested her intellectually and mentally.
- Carol Young - Tessa's relationship with her mother used to be strong and doting. She shared everything with her mother. However, when Tessa went to college, Carol's overprotectiveness began to cause problems between the two. When Tessa cheated on her high school boyfriend Noah Porter with the rebellious Hardin Scott, Carol strongly disapproved and warned Tessa that Hardin would only break her heart. When Tessa refused to end her relationship with him, Carol cut her off financially and they didn't speak for some time. After finding out about the bet Hardin made, Tessa went home to her mother and rekindled their relationship before she returned to school. Their relationship was strained once again when Tessa learned that Carol made her father stay away when he tried to reach out.
- Richard Young - Richard is Tessa's absent father who left her and Carol when Tessa was still a young child. He stayed out of her life for many years, until he decided to reconnect with her. When Tessa learned Carol kept Richard from trying to reconnect with her, she was angered over the secret and tried to find her father alone. This proved difficult due to the lack of internet knowledge on Richard. But one night, he did track her down much to her surprise.
- Hardin Scott - ("Hessa)" Hardin and Tessa have a complicated relationship that started during Tessa's freshman year of college. They began a seemingly perfect relationship filled with doting love and sweet moments. They let their guards down around one another and even lived together, though this was a desperate move by Hardin that he made in order to help her financially by paying for the apartment. Despite their sweet moments, Hardin's harsh and jaded attitude often pushed Tessa away, though he gradually learned to let her in, even telling her about his traumatic childhood. Their relationship has been full of obstacles since the beginning, with parental damage, lies, bets, and misunderstandings often driving them apart. But their shared love for each other pull them back together like magnets. Hardin and Tessa are currently in a relationship.
- Noah Porter - Tessa dated Noah during high school and the first few weeks of college. They were high school sweethearts, but she didn't feel the same connection to Noah that she did Hardin. They later broke up when Noah discovered her affair with Hardin They have since formed a friendship that seems to be positive, with him moving on romantically during her tumultuous relationship with Hardin. They have remained friendly toward one another, with Noah holding onto past feelings for Tessa. He is supported by Tessa's mother, who has a strained relationship with Tessa.
- Trevor Matthews - Trevor and Tessa are co-workers at Vance Publishing who later became friends. Trevor often goes out of his to help Tessa, caring for her in a way that beyond friendship. However, her complicated relationship with Hardin Scott hinders his chances to explore a potential relationship between them. He went out of his way to procure a potential car for her so she wouldn't be spending so much money on Uber expenses. She was so grateful for the gesture that she hugged and then impulsively kissed him. They never discussed the kissed, with him leaving almost immediately after, though he was smiling when he did. Trevor wants the best for Tessa and actively pursues the avenues he thinks will accomplish that goal. She fails to see how much he cares for her, while he fails to express himself clearly. His protectiveness over Tessa led him to warn Hardin to stay away from her, calling him out on his toxicity. Trevor later apologized as he came to realize that his interference was over the line. She forgave him and Trevor planned to ask her out on a date later that evening, however, she left the party with Hardin instead and Trevor never got the chance to ask her out.
- Landon Gibson - Tessa met Landon her first day at WCU and they sat next to each other in class. They became friends and confidants. Because Landon was Hardin's soon-to-be step-brother, he had a unique insight on Hardin that he often shared with Tessa. He was her only true friend at WCU and looked out for her when it came to her relationships and friendships. He also helped bridge the gap of communication between Hardin and Tessa by texting her updates after his talks with Hardin. His patience and understanding makes him a confidant for Tessa, though she doesn't always reciprocate due to his lack of opening up about his own life.
- Steph Jones - Steph and Tessa were roommates in Tessa's first semester of college. Steph encouraged and pushed Tessa to break out of her shell and go to parties. She comforted Tessa after her breakup with Noah. Tessa moved out of their shared dorm and didn't tell her, which created a rift in their friendship. Their brief friendship ended when Tessa found out Steph knew about Hardin's bet and didn't tell her. This falling out lasted just over a month before Tessa forgave her on New Years Eve and they exchanged a hug.
- Kimberly - Tessa and Kim first met at Vance Publishing, where Kim is Tessa's boss. They bonded during their overnight trip to Seattle and became friendly afterward. Kim trusted Tessa enough to watch her future stepson, Smith.
- Trish Daniels - Tessa and Trish have an interesting dynamic and nearly instant connection. They empathize with each other and communicate openly in a healthy dynamic. Neither one of them pries for information regarding Hardin's past or Tessa's relationship with him. Trish is supportive of their relationship and understand that Hardin can be difficult. Trish, in many ways, is the supportive maternal figure that Tessa lacks in her life.
- Molly Samuels - Molly was Hardin's former friends-with-benefits, and rivaled Tessa for Hardin's affections. Her clingy nature with Hardin often made Tessa feel inferior, and Molly wanted the blonde out of her way. She later exposed the bet for the sole purpose of hurting Tessa and triggering Hardin and Tessa's breakup. Molly often tried to make a play for Hardin's affections and spoke down to Tessa, playing off her insecurities regarding Molly and Hardin's former relationship. Their intense disliking turned physical on New Year's Eve after Tessa suggested a round of truth or dare, which quickly spiraled into a clever way to insult one another. When Molly made sexual remarks about Hardin, Tessa tackled her to the ground and they exchanged blows with Tessa landing two punches before being pulled off Molly by Hardin.
Notes and Trivia
- Tessa's favorite novels are "Wuthering Heights" and "Pride and Prejudice".
- She hates ketchup and doesn't like it on any type of food.
- She is an undeclared economics major at WCU. She claimed in After We Collided that she was in the process of transitioning from an economics major to an English major.