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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(10)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(10)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Cookie, don’t hang up on me.”

“Good-bye, Ham, and I hope your shoulder healed all right.”

“Za—” I heard before I hit the button to hang up.

I turned the ringer to mute.

Then I fought back tears as I put away groceries in my tiny kitchen in my tiny studio apartment, which was the only thing I could afford on the shit wage I made at f**king Deluxe f**king Home Store. A big chain store that my friend Maybelline helped me get a job at when my life took its last major nosedive. A store that I liked working at only because Maybelle worked there, as did our other friend, Wanda. A store that was all right but so far from the coolness that I’d created in Karma, it wasn’t f**king funny.

* * *

Twenty minutes later…

I jumped when the doorbell rang and didn’t stop ringing.

“What the hell?” I whispered, pulling myself out of the couch.

I had a new couch. Not new new but new to me. My friend Mindy gave it to me. She’d put all her living room furniture in storage when she moved in with her husband, Jeff. The instant Mindy saw the state of what Maybelline gave me, she tasked Jeff and his best friend, Pete, with going to the unit, pulling out the furniture, and delivering it to my very humble new abode. Mindy also tasked Jeff and Pete with carrying away the stuff Maybelline gave me and, as she phrased it, “putting it out of its misery.”

Thus, I now had nice, but used, furniture that included an armchair. All of this was in one room, as studios tended to be, stuffed in with my queen-sized bed and Wanda’s mammoth so-not-flat-screen-it-wasn’t-funny-but-on-the-bright-side-it-had-a-remote TV.

It was good that I didn’t have to worry about furniture but I did have to worry about giving Mindy and Jeff money for their castoffs after Mindy breezily said, “Keep it. I don’t know why I did, except my obvious-but-to-this-point-unknown clairvoyance of knowin’ you’d eventually need it. Not to mention, you saved me the bother of havin’ to do something with it.”

She refused to take a cent mostly because, at the time, I didn’t have any. I still didn’t. But I was going to give her one (or a lot more than one) as soon as I had a few of them to rub together.

After giving Mindy some dough, next up, a new freaking TV.

In getting my life back in order, I had priorities. Thinking these thoughts, I went to the door cautiously as the bell kept ringing. Even in Gnaw Bone, a small town that was mostly sleepy but could do more than a decent tourist trade, or did back in the days when people had disposable income, one couldn’t be too careful.

And anyway, all sorts of freaky shit was happening in the county lately, starting with Curtis Dodd’s murder, which happened within days of Ham letting me walk away from him three and a half years ago.

It made me feel lucky that Gnaw Bone only had Dodd’s murder and all the resulting muss and fuss with his wife, a woman I’d always loved, Bitsy, and her friend, a guy I’d always liked, Harry, ordering the hit. Harry had even killed a few other people after losing his mind and not exactly going on a rampage, but any amount of bodies that dropped that added up to more than one seemed like a rampage to me. Holden Maxwell and his girlfriend, now wife, Nina, got involved in that mess, Nina by getting kidnapped and nearly shot on the side of a mountain.

This made me feel lucky because Gnaw Bone only had that.

Carnal, the town one over, had much bigger messes and that was plural.

In other words, next up, it was discovered that Carnal had a serial killer, thus making Ham the victim of one freaking me out even more, seeing as a lot of people lived their whole life not having a serial killer in it, not one town over and definitely not some whack job planting a hatchet in your ex-lover’s shoulder.

After that, again in Carnal, the fact their chief of police was a racist dick face became clear when it was discovered he framed a local but seriously hot if the pictures in the paper were anything to go by black guy for murder in freaking LA of all places. Not long after this dastardly deed was exposed, the dude lost his mind, that dude being the ex-chief of police. He kidnapped the black guy’s pregnant wife and, luckily, she shot him dead on the side of another mountain. This was “luckily” because that outcome was what it was, rather than it being the other way around.

Then another whack job in Carnal had been at work. This one was a fanatically religious woman who killed some lady up in Wyoming and kidnapped her kids, holding them captive for ages in her house before one was discovered by a local cop and his girlfriend, taken care of, and then that whole thing exploded in a mess that somehow got his girlfriend buried alive. Though I didn’t get that. Then again, I didn’t really want to. I quit listening at “buried alive.” That was enough for me.

Suffice it to say that, even though it was probably Mindy, Maybelline, Wanda, one of my other friends Becca, Jenna, Nina, or possibly Arlene, Cotton, or anyone else in Gnaw Bone seeing as I lived there all my life, everyone in town knew what had happened to me so everyone was watching over me, I still kept the chain on when I opened the door because my shitty apartment didn’t have a peephole.

When I saw who was outside, my mouth dropped open.

Luckily, the doorbell buzzing stopped.

Unluckily, the last person on earth I wanted to see was standing outside my door.

“Jesus, you don’t have a peephole?” Ham growled, looking incensed and Graham Reece looking, or worse, being incensed was a very bad thing. I’d learned that five months ago.

I didn’t have it in me to concern myself with Ham being incensed. I was more concerned with him being there at all.

To express this, I asked, “What the hell?”

“Open the f**kin’ door, Zara.”

I stared a beat, then pulled myself together.

This was not happening.

We were done.

I pushed the door closed.

The problem with this was it didn’t work, seeing as the toe of Ham’s boot was wedged between it and the jamb.

“Open the door, Zara,” he repeated.

“We’re done,” I told him through the gap in the door. “Move your foot.”

“Open the door.”

“We’re done, Ham,” I snapped.

“Right, then move back.”

“What?”

He didn’t repeat his order. He moved his foot but only so he could rear back and plant his shoulder in the door.

The chain popped right open, as did the door, and I went flying.

I righted myself as Ham, now in my apartment, slammed the door.

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