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Anna Todd

  Praise for Anna Todd and the After series

  “Todd [is] the biggest literary phenom of her generation.”


  “I was almost at the point like with Twilight that I just stop everything and my sole focus was reading the book . . . Todd, girl, you are a genius!!!”

  —Once Upon a Twilight

  “The Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet of our time . . . If you looked up ‘Bad Boy’ in the fiction dictionary, next to it would be a picture of Hardin alongside Beautiful Bastard and Mr. Darcy.”

  —That’s Normal

  “The one thing you can count on is to expect the unexpected.”

  —Vilma’s Book Blog

  “Anna Todd manages to make you scream, cry, laugh, fall in love, and sit in the fetal position . . . Whether you have read the Wattpad version or not, After is a can’t-miss book—but get ready to feel emotions that you weren’t sure a book could bring out of you. And if you have read the Wattpad version, the book is 10x better.”


  “A very entertaining read chock-full of drama drama drama . . . This book will have you from the first page.”

  —A Bookish Escape

  “I couldn’t put this book down! It went with me everywhere so I could get my Hessa fix every spare moment I had. Talk about getting hooked from page one!”

  —Grown Up Fangirl

  Thank you for downloading this Gallery Books eBook.

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  To all of my brilliant readers, who inspire me more than they will ever know

  Hessa Playlist:

  “Never Say Never” by The Fray

  “Demons” by Imagine Dragons

  “Poison & Wine” by The Civil Wars

  “I’m a Mess” by Ed Sheeran

  “Robbers” by The 1975

  “Change Your Ticket” by One Direction

  “The Hills” by The Weeknd

  “In My Veins” by Andrew Belle

  “Endlessly” by The Cab

  “Colors” by Halsey

  “Beautiful Disaster” by Kelly Clarkson

  “Let Her Go” by Passenger

  “Say Something” by A Great Big World, ft. Christina Aguilera

  “All You Ever” by Hunter Hayes

  “Blood Bank” by Bon Iver

  “Night Changes” by One Direction

  “A Drop in the Ocean” by Ron Pope

  “Heartbreak Warfare” by John Mayer

  “Beautiful Disaster” by Jon McLaughlin

  “Through the Dark” by One Direction

  “Shiver” by Coldplay

  “All I Want” by Kodaline

  “Breathe Me” by Sia

  part one


  When he was little, the boy used to dream of who he would grow up to be.

  Maybe a policeman, or a teacher. Mummy’s friend Vance read books for a job, and that seemed fun. But the boy wasn’t sure of his own capabilities—he had no talents. He couldn’t sing like the kid in his class Joss; he couldn’t add and subtract long numbers like Angela; he could barely speak in front of his classmates, unlike funny, loudmouthed Calvin. The only thing he liked to do was read page after page of his books. He waited for Vance to bring them by: one a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. There were periods when the man wouldn’t show and he would grow bored, rereading the same torn pages of his favorites. But he learned to trust that the kind man would always come back, book in hand. The boy grew taller, grew smarter, an inch and a new book every two weeks, it seemed.

  His parents were changing with the seasons. His dad grew louder, sloppier, and his mum grew more and more tired, her sobs filling the night, louder and louder. The smell of tobacco and worse began to fill the walls of the small house. As sure as the dishes overflowing the sink was the smell of scotch on his dad’s breath. As the months went on, he would sometimes forget what his dad looked like altogether.

  Vance came around more, and he barely noticed when his mum’s sobs changed in the night. He had made friends at this point. Well, one friend. The friend moved away, and he himself never bothered to make new friends. He felt like he didn’t need them. He didn’t mind being alone.

  The men who came that night changed something deep within the boy. What he saw happen to his mum made him harden, and he grew angrier as his dad became a stranger. Soon after, his dad stopped stumbling into the small, filthy house at all. He was gone, and the boy was relieved. No more scotch, no more broken furniture or holes in the walls. The only thing he left behind was a boy without a dad and a living room full of half-empty packs of cigarettes.

  The boy hated the taste the cigarettes left, but loved the way the smoke filled his lungs, stealing his breath. He found himself smoking every single one, and then he bought more. He made friends, if you could call a group of rebels and delinquents who caused more trouble than they were worth friends. He began to stay out late, and the little white lies and harmless pranks the group of angry boys would play began turning into more serious crimes. They turned into something darker, something that they all knew was wrong—the deepest level of wrong—but they thought they were just having fun. They were entitled and couldn’t deny the adrenaline rush that came with the power they felt. After each innocence they stole, their veins pulsed with more arrogance, more hunger, fewer boundaries.

  This boy was the softest one still among them, but he had lost the conscience that once made him dream of becoming a fireman or a teacher. The relationship to women he was developing wasn’t typical. He craved their touch, but shielded himself against any type of emotional connection. This included his mum, to whom he stopped saying even a simple “I love you.” He barely saw her anyway. He spent almost all his time running the streets, and the house came to mean nothing to him except for the place where the packages occasionally arrived. An address from Washington state was scribbled under Vance’s name on these packages.

  Vance had left him, too.

  Girls paid attention to the boy. They latched on to him, long nails digging crescents into his arms as he lied to them, kissed them, fucked them. After sex, most of the girls would try to wrap their arms around him. He would brush them off, placing no kisses or soft caresses to their skin. Most of the time he was gone before they caught their breath. He spent his days high, his nights higher. Hanging out in the alley behind the liquor store or in Mark’s dad’s shop, wasting life away. Breaking into liquor stores, making unforgivable home videos, humiliating naive girls. He had ceased being able to feel any kind of emotion outside of arrogance and anger.

  Finally, his mum had had enough. She no longer had the funds or the patience to deal with his destructive behavior. His dad had been offered a university job in the United States. Washington, to be exact. The same state as Vance, the same city, even. The good man and the bad man together in the same place again.

  His mum didn’t think he could overhear her speaking to his dad about shipping him off there. Apparently the old man had cleaned up some, though the boy wasn’t quite sure. He’d never be sure. His dad had a girlfriend, too, a nice woman who the boy was envious of. She got to see the benefits of the new side of him. She got to share sober meals and kind words that he never got the chance to hear.

  When he arrived at the university, he moved into a frat house, out of spite against the old man. But although he didn’t like the place, moving his boxes into the decent-sized room that would be his, he felt a slight twinge of relief. The room was twice the size that his room in Hampstead had been. It had no holes in th
e walls; there were no bugs crawling up the sinks in the bathroom. He finally had a place to put all of his books.

  At first, he kept to himself, not bothering to make any friends. His crowd came together slowly, and with it he fell into the same dark pattern.

  He met the virtual twin of Mark, all the way over in America, making him start to think this was the way the world was just supposed to be. He began to accept that he would always be alone. He was good at hurting people, at causing mischief. He hurt another girl, like the one before, and he felt that same storm coursing up and down his spine, fighting to destroy his life with its wild energy. He began drinking the way his dad did, being the worst type of hypocrite.

  He didn’t care, though; he was numb and he had friends and they helped him ignore the fact that he didn’t have anything real in his life.

  Nothing really mattered.

  Not even the girls who tried to get through to him.


  When he met the blue-eyed girl with dark hair, he knew she was there to test him in new ways. She was kind, the gentlest spirit he had met so far . . . and she was infatuated with him.

  He took the naive girl from her tidy, unblemished world and swept her into a dustpan, then scattered her across a dark and unforgiving world that was completely unfamiliar to her. His callousness made her an outcast, exiled from her church first, then from her family. The gossip was harsh, the whispers traveling from one judgmental Bible-clutching woman to another. Her family wasn’t any better. She had no one, and she made the mistake of trusting him to be more than he was capable of being.

  What he did to her was the last straw for his mother. Shipping him to America, to the state of Washington, to be with his would-be father, his treatment of Natalie got him exiled from his London homeland. The loneliness he’d felt all along was finally achieved in real life.

  The church is packed today, rows and rows of us, all joined together to worship on a hot July afternoon. Every week, usually the same people, all of whom I can call by their first and last names.

  My family lives like royalty here in one of Jesus’s smallest venues.

  My younger sister, Cecily, is sitting next to me in the very front row, her small hands picking at the chipped wooden pew. Our church has just received a grant to renovate some of the interior, and our youth group has been helping gather the supplies donated by the local community. This week, our task is to obtain paint from locals and paint these pews over. I’ve been spending my evenings going from one hardware store to another, asking for donations.

  As if to underscore the futility I feel about this task, I hear a faint snapping sound and look over to see that Cecily has broken off a small piece of wood from her seat. Her fingernails are painted pink to match the bow in her dark brown hair, but boy, can she be destructive.

  “Cecily, we’re fixing these next week. Please don’t.” I gently take her small hands in mine, and she pouts just a little. “You can help paint them to make them beautiful again. You would like that, wouldn’t you?” I smile at her. She smiles back, an adorable missing-teeth smile, and nods her head. Her curls move with her, making my mum proud of her work with the iron this morning.

  The pastor is almost finished with his sermon, and my parents are holding hands, staring toward the front of the small church. Sweat has been gathering on my neck, rolling in sticky drops down my back as words about sinning and suffering float around my head. It’s so hot in here that my mum’s makeup has started to shine down her neck and smear black rings around her eyes. This should be the last week without air-conditioning we have to suffer through. Or it better be; even I might feign illness to avoid this sweltering place if it’s not.

  At the end of service, my mum stands to talk to the pastor’s wife. My mum admires that woman a lot—a little too much, if you ask me. Pauline, the first lady of our church, is a tough woman, with little empathy for others, so really I get why my mum would be drawn to her.

  I wave to Thomas, the only boy my age who’s in the Youth Group. As he walks by, he and his entire family, following the line of people exiting the church, wave back to me. Ready to get some fresh air, I stand and wipe my hands on my pale blue dress.

  “Can you take Cecily to the car?” my dad asks with a knowing smile.

  He’s going to try to get my mum to stop talking, just like every Sunday. She’s one of those women who chat and chat after saying goodbye a minimum of three times.

  I didn’t take after her in that way. Instead, I strive to take after my dad, whose few words usually hold a lifetime’s worth of meaning. And I know my dad loves how much of himself has been passed down to me, from his quiet demeanor, to his dark hair and pale blue eyes (the most obvious traits), to our height. Or lack of height. The pair of us barely stand five and a half feet, though he’s ever so slightly taller than me. Cecily will surpass both of us by age ten, my mum teases us.

  I nod to my dad and take my sister’s hand. She walks quicker than me, the excitement of youth causing her to rush straight through the remainder of the small crowd. I want to pull her back, but she turns back to me with the biggest smile on her face, and I can’t bring myself to do anything but run with her. We break into a sprint, rushing down the stairs and onto the lawn. Cecily dodges an elderly couple, and I laugh when she shrieks and barely misses knocking down Tyler Kenton, the meanest boy in our church. The sun is bright and the air is thick in my lungs and I run faster and faster, chasing after her until she tumbles onto the grass. I drop down to my knees to check on her. I lean in and brush the hair back from her face. Little pools of tears are threatening to burst, and her bottom lip is trembling fiercely.

  “My dress . . .” She pats her small hands on her white dress, focusing on the grass stains on the fabric. “It’s ruined!” She buries her face in her dirty hands, and I reach for them, pulling them down to her lap.

  I smile and speak softly. “It’s not ruined. It can be washed, darling.”

  I swipe my thumb across the tear trying to roll down her cheek. She sniffles, not ready to believe me.

  “It happens all the time; it’s happened to me at least thirty times,” I assure her, even though it’s a lie.

  The corners of her mouth turn upward, and she fights a smile. “Has not.” She calls me out for my fib. I wrap my arm around her and pull her up to stand. My eyes glance over her pale arms to make sure I didn’t miss anything. All clear. I keep my arm around her as we walk across the churchyard toward the parking lot. My parents are approaching us from that direction, my dad having finally gotten Mum to stop gossiping.

  During the drive home, I sit in the backseat with Cecily, drawing little butterflies in her favorite coloring book while my dad talks to my mum about the raccoon problem we’ve been having in our bins out back. My dad leaves the car running when he parks in the driveway. Cecily gives me a quick kiss on the cheek and climbs out of the backseat. I follow her and hug my mum and get a peck on the cheek from my dad before I step into the driver’s seat.

  My dad looks down at me. “Be careful now, Junebug. There are a lot of people out today with the sun.” He lifts his hand to shade his squinted eyes. It’s the sunniest day Hampstead has had in quite a while. We’ve had the heat, but no sun. I nod and promise my dad that I’ll be safe.

  I wait until I’m out of the neighborhood to change the radio station. I turn the volume up and sing along to every song on my way to the center of the city. My goal is to get three buckets of paint from all the three shops I’m visiting. I’ll be happy with one from each, but my goal is to get three so we have enough to cover everything.

  The first shop, Mark’s Paint and Supply, is known for being the cheapest in town. Mark, the owner, has a really good reputation in our area, and I’m delighted to meet him. I park in the nearly empty lot; only a classic-style car painted candy-apple red and a minivan are parked in the entire lot. The building is old, made out of wooden planks and unstable drywall. The sign is crooked, the M barely legible. When I open the woode
n door, it creaks and a bell sounds. A cat jumps down from a cardboard box and lands on its feet in front of me. I pet the fur ball for a moment before making my way to the register.

  The inside of the shop is just as untidy as the outside, and what with all the clutter, I can’t see the boy behind the register when I first approach. His presence there shocks me a little. He’s tall and broad-shouldered; he looks like the kind of boy who’s played sports for years.

  “Mark . . .” I say, stumbling to remember his last name. Everyone just calls him Mark.

  “I’m Mark,” a voice behind the athletic-looking boy says. Bending to the side a little, I notice another boy, sitting in a chair behind the desk, dressed in all black. His frame is much leaner than the first, and yet the presence he exudes is somehow larger than the other boy’s. His hair is dark, grown down the sides, leaving a swoop of hair across his forehead. His arms have tattoos on them, randomly scattered black ink patches in a sea of tan skin.

  It’s not really my thing, but instead of being critical of him, all I can think is how everyone has a tan this summer except me.

  “He’s not, I am,” a third voice says. Looking to the other side of the first boy, I find a kid of average height, thin build, with a very tight buzz cut. “I’m Mark Junior, though. If you’re looking for my old man, he’s not here today.”

  The third boy has a few tattoos as well, though they’re more organized than the wild-haired boy’s, and he has a piercing in his eyebrow. I remember asking my family about getting my belly button pierced, and still to this day I have to laugh when I remember their horrified reactions.

  “He’s the better of the two Marks,” the wild-haired boy intones, his voice deep and slow. He smiles, and two deep, beautiful dimples cut through his cheeks.

  I laugh, suspecting this is not even close to the truth. “I somehow doubt that,” I tease. They all laugh along, and Mark Jr. steps closer, a smile on his lips.