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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(13)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(13)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Ham let me.

Finally, I remarked, “You do know this is totally insane and will end in disaster.”

“Last time I had you under my roof, it led to five years of good with a number of times in those years that weren’t good. They were f**kin’ great. So, babe, no. I don’t know that at all.”

At that point, I decided I needed to stop talking mostly so he would stop talking.

So I did and I considered his offer.

What I knew was I couldn’t do this. I also knew I shouldn’t.

“You gonna strip your bed or you wanna air the sheets on the way?” Ham asked.

Damn.

I was going to do this.

Because he was right.

Dennis Lowe, who attacked Ham, hadn’t discriminated. He’d attacked men and women, including killing his wife. The dude in Carnal had discriminated. He’d only killed women. And Lexie Walker, the pregnant lady who got kidnapped by the ex-chief of police, had obviously been a woman. Not to mention, Faye Goodknight, who got buried alive but fortunately rescued before she became buried dead, had also obviously been a woman. A wife. A pregnant lady. And Faye Goodknight was a freaking librarian.

No one was safe.

And I didn’t even have a peephole.

“Strip it,” I answered.

Ham smiled.

I sighed.

He wasn’t insane. I was.

But, I told myself, at least I could be insane and safe at the same time.

Ham moved to the bed.

I stood there, hoping like hell I’d survive this.

Then I followed him.

Chapter Four

Easy

Two days later…

“Let me get this straight,” Maybelline, my friend, my boss, a plump, attractive black lady in her forties, sitting across from me in the break room of Deluxe Home Store, started. “You and this boy were together years ago. He took off. You both carried on an on-and-off fling for years. Mostly off. You let him go to explore things with Greg. He got axed by a psycho, you gave him a call, he shows, you rip into each other, now he’s livin’ in Gnaw Bone, and, yesterday, you moved in with him?”

Her brows were up and her face was a study in incredulity.

I understood her reaction. Breaking it down like that didn’t sound so good.

I’d known Maybelline a long time even though she lived in Chantelle. We became friends after she became a regular at my shop. She liked the candles a local candlemaker made. She also had a habit of giving the unique-looking and stunningly melodious wind chimes another local artist made as gifts to friends out of state. When I lost the shop, seeing as she was the staff supervisor who did all the hiring, she worked it so I got a position at Deluxe.

And I’d just handed in my notice.

“You did me a solid, honey, but you also know things are serious tough for me right now and I make just above minimum wage,” I reminded her. “Waitresses wages are crap but everyone goes to The Dog. It’s packed nearly every night. I worked there before and tips were unbelievable. I’ll at least double, if not triple, what I’m makin’ here and I need it.”

“Okay, I get that. I don’t like it, but I get it,” Maybelline replied. “You’re good here. Good with customers. Show up on time, and you work instead of sneakin’ into the stockroom or hiding out in the shelves to take calls from your boyfriend or to set up meets with your pot dealer. Most folk suck. Spend half my time dealin’ with them. Only ones on staff don’t have my head about ready to explode are you and Wanda. So I don’t wanna lose you. But I get it. What I don’t get is you’re suddenly livin’ with this guy who, sorry, baby, does not sound like a well-adjusted man who’s got it goin’ on.”

“Ham’s adjusted,” I protested.

“He’s a drifter,” Maybelline shot back. “That’s not adjusted. And then he shows at your house after midnight and lays into you?” She shook her head. “No.”

“We fought because he’d just got axed by an ax murderer,” I told her, thinking, of all reasons for emotions to run high, that was a doozy.

“I get he’d have issues after that, honey, but it isn’t like I haven’t learned anything, havin’ three sisters and three daughters, not to mention bein’ a woman myself. I see your face, Zara. You’re strung out more than you’re normally strung out and I know it’s because you spent the last two nights sleepin’ under this man’s roof and wakin’ up makin’ coffee for him.”

“I don’t make coffee for him, Maybelle. He doesn’t get up until nearly noon. I’ve barely even seen him except to move in.”

“You know what I mean,” she said gently.

I knew what she meant.

I held her gaze.

Then I told her, “I do. But he’s a good guy and he’s looking out for me. He talked to my landlord and got me out of my lease without any penalties or any hassle and it took him, like, fifteen minutes. He corralled Jake into coming around and they did all the heavy lifting with getting my stuff to his place. And his place is really nice. Clean. Newish. I have my own balcony. And there’s not only a peephole but a security system.”

“All that’s good for your life right now, Zara, but none of it is good for your heart.”

She was absolutely not wrong.

“I’m over him,” I declared and she sat back but didn’t let go of my eyes.

She didn’t speak for several beats before she stated, “I’ll remind you, you’re talkin’ to a woman with three daughters and three sisters, baby.”

Okay, so I couldn’t pull one over on Maybelline.

“Right, then, I’m not over him but I’m not doin’ that shit again with any man. I’m determined about that. I’m determined to get my life back together. So even if I was open to having another man, having one would take attention away from getting my life together. And that’s not going to happen so it’s lucky I don’t want one.”

Before she could reply, I leaned toward her and grabbed her hand.

“I’m thirty-two years old, Maybelle, and I’m starting fresh and that sucks.”

“I know, hon,” she whispered.

I kept talking, telling her stuff she knew because she lived through it with me.

“The bank took my house and I got so deep with my creditors for the store, my credit rating is totally in the toilet. I have to sit for seven years to wait out the black mark of the foreclosure and to get my credit history back on track. I’m screwed with all that. I have my two-hundred-dollar security deposit in the bank and that’s it. I don’t know what rent’s going to be at Ham’s but I do know that if I don’t have to drive all the way out here to go to work, I’m gonna save a whack on gas.”

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