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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(14)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(14)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Well, you got that right,” she mumbled.

I figured that meant I was getting somewhere so I went on.

“Like I said, my pay is going to at least double. And one thing I know, even with our history, Ham will do right by me. I’m hanging on to that for today. Tomorrow, I’ll build on that. And then build some more. Until this shit time is done and I finally, finally have something to look forward to again. I don’t know what that is. I just know I have to find it, Maybelle. Because not havin’ anything good, anything to look forward to, anything to work toward sucks. It can beat you. There were a bunch of times when I almost let it beat me. And I gotta do what I gotta do to keep that streak and not let it beat me.”

When I was done talking, Maybelline was holding my hand tight.

“You been doin’ real good, girl,” she told me.

“I don’t know how,” I told her. “Honestly, Maybelle, the times I wanted to run away or felt humiliated because I had to sell plasma, fighting tears the whole time my blood dripped out of me, just so I could buy some cereal and put a bit of gas in my car, jumping at the shot to babysit Nina and Max’s kids so I could make twenty bucks. It’s a struggle, not letting it beat me. Ham’s giving me a shot at pulling myself out. Bein’ with him while having feelings for him, that’ll also be a struggle. But it’s the best shot I’ve had for a really f**king long time and I gotta take it.”

Maybelline kept holding my hand tight as she held my eyes.

“You need me, I’m there,” she declared.

I smiled, let her hand go, and leaned back. “You always are.”

“Okay, no. What I meant to say, you need me or not, I’ll be there,” she amended.

My head tilted to the side in confusion. “What?”

“Me and Wanda, we’re gonna be on the case,” she announced.

I was still confused. “On what case?”

“Don’t know this boy. Gonna get to know him real quick. Gonna keep our fingers on the pulse. Make sure he doesn’t play games with our girl.”

I didn’t have a good feeling about this.

“Maybelle—”

She lifted a hand my way, palm out. “Love you, baby. You know it. Wanda thinks the world of you and you know that, too. But you’re not out of that hot water yet. We’re gonna make sure you don’t drown in hot guy.”

I leaned in again. “Maybelle, seriously, honestly, I’m not pulling wool. He’s a good guy.”

“He left you.”

“Yes, but—”

“Left you but kept you, then let you walk away from him.”

“This is true, but—”

“Boy’s gonna have to prove to me he’s a good guy.”

I sat back again and let it go.

Maybelline and I graduated from shopper and shop owner to meeting for coffee to having a gab over drinks to talking on the phone for hours about her boy-crazy daughters and man-eating sisters to her having me over to dinner twice a week so she could ascertain I got a decent hot meal in me so she could strike at least that worry off in all her worries about me. In other words, I knew her. I could talk for days and she’d still do whatever-it-was she was going to do with Wanda to keep an eye on Ham.

“Just don’t get me kicked out of my new pad. It’s the shit,” I said.

“You can move in with me and Latrell, that happens.”

“Latrell would lose his mind if the female quotient of his house upped from four to five,” I returned.

“This is true,” she muttered. “But I’ll give him regular foot rubs. He’ll get over it.”

Latrell, I knew, liked his foot rubs and Maybelline got away with a lot in utilizing them strategically.

Still, I thought it important to warn again, “Don’t get me kicked out of my pad, Maybelle.”

“We’ll go easy on your supposed good-guy hot guy.”

This was, most likely, a big fat lie.

Therefore, I repeated, “Don’t get me kicked out of my pad, Maybelle.”

That was when my phone on the table started ringing.

“It’ll all be good,” she assured me, getting up. “Now, I accept your resignation. Grudgingly. Get your phone. And you’re on register three when you’re done with your break.”

She gave me a finger wave and took off.

I looked at my phone and took the call.

“Hey, Arlene,” I greeted.

Arlene was the dispatcher at the local taxi company in Gnaw Bone. She also part-owned it. She’d inherited it when her husband, who had part-owned it with his brother, passed. Since Gnaw Bone wasn’t a thriving metropolis and taxis were needed sometimes for tourists but most times about thirty minutes after last call, this meant she spent her days having plenty of time to get in everyone’s business.

I could see it was now my turn.

“What’s this I hear you movin’ in again with that Reece guy?” she asked instead of saying hi.

“Arlene—” I tried.

“Didn’t that boy leave you high and dry years ago?” she pushed.

“Well, not exactly high and dry. I knew he was a rolling stone and it was a matter of time. But that’s not what this is. We’re just roommates. The place I was stayin’ at wasn’t safe. His place is. He’s just makin’ me safe.”

“Know that about that dump you lived in already, Zara. Told you you should never move in there. It doesn’t even have a blasted peephole.”

My eyes rolled to the ceiling.

“Anyway,” she continued. “Whatever. We’re meetin’ for drinks tonight at The Dog. Seven thirty.”

“Arlene, I’ve got boxes to unpack.”

“So? Unpack ’em tomorrow night. Seven thirty. See you there.”

Then she hung up.

I guessed I was going to The Dog that night.

Oh well, this wasn’t a bad idea. Outside of moving me in, I hadn’t seen much of Ham and we needed to iron some things out. Like rent and utilities.

I had two hundred dollars. I could afford a drink.

So The Dog it was.

I put my phone away in my locker and hightailed my ass to register three.

* * *

At a quarter after seven, I walked in to The Dog, saw Ham behind the bar, and caught my breath.

I hadn’t seen that in eight and a half years.

And I missed it.

Both my sister, Xenia, and I wasted no time getting out from under our parents’ roof the minute we could.

For me, this meant hostessing at The Mark from age eighteen to twenty-one when I could legally serve alcoholic beverages. It was then I moved to The Dog and went from existing on practically no dough and living with a girlfriend in an apartment that was a half step up from my studio to having loads of cash in my pocket every night and getting my own place that I kept until I moved into my house, even through the time when I’d all but moved in with Ham.

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