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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(16)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(16)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“We’ll get you there,” he promised.

“Thank you for being cool,” I replied and smiled. “That’s what I remembered of you. You bein’ hot and cool.”

His hand came up and reached out. I braced, hoped, but feared that it would drop away.

It didn’t.

Ham did what he used to do. He tucked my hair behind my ear, his fingertips running the full length of the shell to the lobe, then dropped to my neck. He ran them down the skin there and they fell away.

Depending where we were back in the day, his fingers didn’t stop at my neck.

But I’d take that. As desperate and wrong as it was, it felt good. It made my scalp tingle, my eyelids feel heavy, my skin heat, and I missed that from Ham, too.

And when I could lift my eyelids again and focus on Ham, the look on his face, his eyes aimed at the spot where his fingers last touched, made my breath catch because he looked like he missed it, too.

“Just makin’ you safe? Yeah, right,” Arlene broke the moment by grumbling as she hefted her ass up on the stool beside me. “Coors, now, player,” she ordered, her eyes sharp on Ham.

“Player?” he asked, his eyes on Arlene, and then they moved to me.

Arlene turned to me. “Isn’t that what they call a Lothario these days?”

“Ham’s not a player or a Lothario, Arlene,” I told her firmly.

Arlene ignored me and looked at a displeased-looking Ham.

She also ignored that Ham looked displeased.

“Know her, don’t know you ’cept what I knew of you years ago when you were right where you are now. Like her and have for years. Don’t know if I like you yet. Also want her to get on her feet, and she don’t need no man playin’ with her heart while she’s doin’ it. So, just sayin’, this thing you two got goin’”—she put her fist toward her face, extended her index and middle fingers, pointed to her eyes then to Ham then back again—“I’m watchin’ you.”

Terrific. Now Maybelle, Wanda, and Arlene were all going to be up in Ham’s face.

Instead of getting pissed, the Ham I’d always known came out and his lips twitched.

“You wanna watch me get you a beer?” he asked.

“Yeah. And incidentally, that’ll go a long way to making me like you,” Arlene answered.

“So it doesn’t take much,” Ham noted.

“I don’t have a beer,” Arlene prompted.

Ham smiled flat-out, turned it to me, then got Arlene a Coors, putting it in front of her, murmuring, “Girl time.”

“Damn straight,” Arlene replied.

Ham gave her another smile, shot it to me, reached out and touched my fingers that were curled around the beer, and wandered down the bar.

“Yeesh, didn’t know a bear matin’ with a human could create somethin’ that divine but there it is. Proof,” Arlene remarked and I looked at her to see her checking out Ham.

So I looked back at Ham, who was now down the bar, grabbing the empty glass from in front of a woman he was also grinning at.

She was giving him come-hither eyes.

I looked away.

“Yeah, he’s hot,” I agreed.

“Hot or not, you be careful,” Arlene warned.

My gaze went to her.

Arlene was ornery, nosy, and in your business, but still lovable mostly because she was only nosy and in your business because she cared. She also had short hair permed in tight curls dyed a weird peachy color. Last, she was petite and very round but had tiny, graceful hands and feet. I’d always found that strange, but at the same time beautiful.

“We’re just roommates,” I stated firmly.

“Mm-hmm,” she mumbled disbelievingly.

“Seriously,” I told her.

“Take twenty years and fifty pounds off me, I was under that man’s roof, I’d do my damnedest to be just his roommate for about five seconds.”

“Been there, done that. We’ve moved on,” I told her firmly.

Arlene speared me with her eyes. “Got some life tucked under my belt along with this belly, girl. Remember him. Remember you. Know you. Now he’s back and I got a good look at him, his behind, and his smile. A girl doesn’t move on from that.”

“Okay,” I gave in. “So let’s just say I have approximately five thousand seven hundred and twenty other things on my mind that don’t involve Ham’s behind or smile that are priorities.”

“Stay focused,” she ordered and I smiled.

“I will, Arlene.”

“I will, too, Zara.”

Right. Confirmation. Arlene was going to be in Ham’s face and mine.

I looked away, took a pull off my beer, swallowed, and muttered, “Do what you gotta do.”

“Always do,” she muttered back after her own pull.

“But don’t get me evicted from my new pad by being nosy and in your face with Ham,” I demanded.

Her brows shot up. “Girl, I got finesse.”

“The finesse of a rhinoceros,” I returned.

She looked away, put her beer to her lips, but didn’t drink.

Instead, she said, “I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear that.” Then she drank.

I put my beer to my lips but didn’t drink, either.

Instead, I smiled against it and replied, “Whatever works for you.” Then I drank, too.

“Suck that back. I’ll get us another one. Then another. And I’m payin’. I’m also not takin’ any lip about payin’. You can catch me on the flipside,” Arlene ordered.

“I drove here, Arlene,” I informed her.

“And I own a taxi company, Zara,” she shot back. “Bottom’s up. Girls’ night, on me. Live it up.”

That was an order, too.

Arlene, incidentally, was like Maybelline.

You just didn’t fight it.

So I bottomed up, caught Ham’s eyes, lifted my empty, and got another smile as he moved our way.

Yes, absolutely.

This was going to be a struggle.

Luckily, beer helped.

And so did knowing Arlene and Maybelline cared so much about me.

I just might make it through after all.

Chapter Five

Fair

Three weeks later…

I felt rather than saw Ham round the corner into the kitchen as I was wiping the counters.

“I’ll be ready in a few. Just gotta get this done and get my boots on,” I told him.

I’d been back at The Dog for three weeks now.

I’d also been wrong. Waitressing at The Dog didn’t double or triple my pay.

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