After Ever Happy Page 1

Author: Anna Todd

Series: After #4

Genres: Romance , New Adult



Many times in my life I felt unwanted, out of place in the worst way. I had a mum who tried, she really, honestly tried, but it just wasn’t enough. She worked too much; she slept during the days because she was on her feet all night. Trish tried, but a boy, especially a lost boy, needs his father.

I knew Ken Scott was a troubled man, an unpolished wanna-be man who was never pleased or impressed by anything I did. The little Hardin who was pathetic in the way he tried to impress the tall man whose shouts and stumbles filled the cramped space of our shitty house would be pleased at the possibility that the cold man isn’t his father. He would sigh, grab his book from the table, and ask his mum when Christian, the nice man who made him laugh by reciting passages from old books, was coming over.

But Hardin Scott, the adult man struggling with addiction and anger passed down by the shitty excuse for a father he was given, is fucking livid. I feel betrayed, confused as fucking hell, and fucking angry. It makes no sense, the cheesy plot of the switched fathers that every shitty sitcom uses couldn’t possibly be my life. Buried memories resurface.

My mum, on the phone the morning after one of my essays was chosen for the local paper: “I just thought you would want to know, Hardin is brilliant. Like his father,” she softly praised into the line.

I looked around the small living room. The man with the dark hair, passed out on the chair with a bottle of brown liquor at his feet, wasn’t brilliant. He’s a fucking mess, I thought as he stirred in the chair, and my mum quickly hung up the phone. There were numerous times like this, too many to count, that I was too stupid, too young, to understand why Ken Scott was so distant with me, why he never hugged me the way my friends’ dads would their sons. He never played baseball with me or taught me anything except how to be a fucking drunk.

Was all of that a waste? Is Christian Vance actually my father?

The room is spinning, and I stare at him, the man who supposedly fathered me, and I see something familiar in his green eyes, the line of his jaw. His hands are shaking as he pushes his hair back from his forehead, and I freeze, realizing that I’m doing the exact same thing.

Chapter one


That’s impossible.”

I stand but quickly sit back down on the bench when the grass underneath me seems to sway unsteadily. The park is filling with people now. Families with small children, balloons and presents in their arms despite the cold weather.

“It’s true, Hardin is Christian’s son,” Kimberly says, her blue eyes bright and focused.

“But Ken . . . Hardin looks just like him.” I remember the first time I met Ken Scott, inside a yogurt shop. I immediately knew he was Hardin’s father; his dark hair and his height brought me to the easy conclusion.

“Does he? I don’t really see it, except the hair color. Hardin has the same eyes as Christian, the same facial structure.”

Does he? I struggle to picture the three faces. Christian has dimples like Hardin and the same eyes . . . but it just doesn’t make sense: Ken Scott is Hardin’s father—he has to be. Christian looks so young compared to Ken. I know they’re the same age, but Ken’s alcoholism took its toll on his appearance. He’s still a handsome man, but you can see where the liquor has aged him.

“This is . . .” I struggle for words and air.

Kimberly looks at me apologetically. “I know. I’ve wanted to tell you so bad. I hated keeping this from you, but it wasn’t my place.” She puts her hand on mine and squeezes gently. “Christian assured me that as soon as Trish gave him permission, he would tell Hardin.”

“I just . . .” I take a deep breath. “That’s what Christian is doing? Telling Hardin now?” I stand up again and Kimberly’s hand drops away. “I have to go to him. He is going to—” I can’t even begin to fathom how Hardin will react to the news, especially after finding Trish and Christian together last night. This will be too much for him.

“He is.” Kim sighs. “Trish hasn’t agreed fully, but Christian said she was close enough and things were getting out of hand.”

As I pull out my phone, my only thought is that I can’t believe Trish would hide this from Hardin. I had thought more of her, much more as a mother, and now I feel as if I’ve never met the woman.

My phone is already pressed to my cheek, Hardin’s line ringing in my ear, when Kimberly says, “I told Christian that he shouldn’t separate you two when he told Hardin, but Trish recommended that if he does it, he needed to do it alone . . .” Kimberly’s mouth presses into a hard line, and she looks around the park, then up at the sky.

I reach the dull tone of the automated system on Hardin’s voicemail. I dial again while Kimberly sits silently, only to get his voicemail for the second time. I shove my phone into my back pocket and start wringing my hands. “Can you take me to him, Kimberly? Please?”

“Yes. Of course.” She jumps to her feet, calling for Smith.

Watching the little kid walk toward us with what I can only call a cartoon butler’s stride, it occurs to me that Smith is Christian’s son . . . and Hardin’s brother. Hardin has a little brother. And then I think about Landon . . . what does it mean for Landon and Hardin? Will Hardin want anything to do with him now that he doesn’t have a real family tie to him? And Karen, what about sweet Karen and her baked goods? Ken—what about the man who tries so hard to make up for the terrible childhood of a boy who isn’t his son. Does Ken know? My head is spinning, and I need to see Hardin. I need to make sure that he knows I am here for him, and we will figure this out together. I can’t imagine how he feels right now; he must be so overwhelmed.