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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(17)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(17)
Author: Kristen Ashley

It quadrupled it.

It had been a long time I’d been away. I guess I didn’t remember how good it could be.

And it was good.

In fact, it was all good. Living with Ham. Working with Ham. Having cash in my pocket. Not freaking because my gas tank was edging toward empty. Having beer in the fridge.

And Ham and I were back. Not, of course, the good stuff like my having his fingers, his tongue, and other parts of his anatomy but the other good stuff, like Ham making me laugh, Ham being mellow and tucking me snug in that mode, Ham being cool about everything.

I couldn’t say that occasionally things didn’t hit me and sting. Like when I saw him flirt with a customer. Or when I’d let my guard down while looking at his hands or his lips and remember those used to be mine for a time, I was free to touch them, put them on me, put mine on him.

But I found my way to beat that back and move on. These ways mostly had to do with my having cash in my pocket, a job I actually enjoyed, and Ham in my life on a daily basis, even if it wasn’t how I would want him.

“We gotta talk,” he told me.

“We can talk in the truck,” I replied as I tossed the sponge into the sink. “I’m on shift in twenty.”

Incidentally, there was another reason I had cash and didn’t freak that my gas gauge was heading to empty. Nearly every night, Ham drove me to work.

“I know you’re on in twenty, babe. I wrote the schedule. Remember? We gotta talk now.”

At his tone, my eyes went from my hands, which I was drying with a towel, to him.

His tone wasn’t angry but it was unyielding and, therefore, surprising.

I looked to him even as I folded the towel and said, “Okay.”

“You did my laundry,” he stated.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

“You did it last week and the week before, too.”

“So?”

“You cleaned my bathroom yesterday,” he shared something I knew since I was the one washing his whiskers down the sink.

I felt my eyebrows draw together. “And?”

“Darlin’, we’re roommates.”

I was no less confused at this short explanation. “I know.”

It was then he moved into me. Not only moved into me, he lifted one of his big, calloused hands, curled it around the side of my neck, and pulled me to him so I had to tip my head way back and he had to dip his chin deep so we could hold each other’s eyes.

Ham had to be six-four, maybe even six-five. I was five-six. Even in heels, he towered over me.

I’d always loved that.

I especially loved it in times precisely like that one, where we were close, he was in boots, I was in socks, and his big bearness seemed to engulf my frame, surrounding me, protecting me, dominating me.

I held my breath.

Ham spoke and he did it jagged and sweet.

“I get you’re grateful, baby. I get it because you told me. You don’t have to show me.”

I was too overwhelmed by his nearness, the roughness of his hand on the sensitive skin of my neck, to understand what on earth he was talking about.

So I asked, “What?”

“I can do my own laundry. I can clean my bathroom. I come to the kitchen meanin’ to turn on the dishwasher, I find it’s been turned on and the dishes put away. I get up in the mornin’ ready to make coffee, you not only got the coffee made, babe, you’ve pulled down a mug and put sugar in it for me. Again, Zara, you’re my roommate not my maid.”

“I’m just tryin’ to keep things tidy,” I told him. “You like things tidy.”

“You’re attemptin’ payback,” he contradicted. “You live here. You pay rent. It’s your place, too. You aren’t an indentured servant. This is your pad. Just live and stop knockin’ yourself out to show gratitude to me. I don’t need that. I’m good knowin’ you’re safe and gettin’ on your feet.”

All right, it must be said, I was knocking myself out to keep things ordered and do bits here and there to make it easier on Ham because he was being so cool with me.

I just didn’t think he’d notice.

I should have known better.

“How about, until I’m in a place to go halfsies, I do a little bit extra,” I tried.

“How about you don’t worry about halfsies and just keep your shit sorted. I’ll worry about mine and the common space we take care of as it gets taken care of. Not you runnin’ yourself ragged to take care of it before I got a shot to take care of it in an effort at payback I don’t want. Deal?”

My eyes fell to his throat as my chest warmed but my throat tingled. “That’s not very fair.”

“Babe.”

That was all he said but it made me look back up into his eyes.

When I caught his gaze, his face got closer and I was back to holding my breath.

“Said it before, more than once, you matter. You beddin’ down in a bedroom I don’t use is no skin off my nose. Stop worryin’ about shit you don’t need to worry about and just breathe easy for a while.”

For me, it was him.

It had always been him.

And this was one of the myriad reasons why.

To be certain I didn’t let on to that fact, I said, “Okay, you’re all fired up to unload the dishwasher, have at it. I’ll go back to my slob ways. Just don’t bitch when I do.”

He grinned and unfortunately moved back.

But he didn’t move his hand from my neck. He gave it a squeeze before his calloused thumb glided out and stroked across my throat.

Then he let me go and moved away, ordering, “Get your boots. You’re gonna be late and the boss doesn’t like that shit.”

I smiled at the folded towel in my hand before I tucked it into the handle of the oven and started out of the kitchen to get my boots.

I stopped dead when I heard Ham call, “We’re enjoyin’ this weather but it’ll get cold later so dress for the bike.”

It was nearing on September, unpredictable in the Colorado Mountains. It could mean we’d be up to our knees in snow tomorrow and stay that way until April. It could mean we could go out in swimsuits tomorrow and get sunburned.

But every man who had a bike who lived in unpredictable weather took it out as often as he could before that unpredictable weather hit.

We’d been in the truck since I started at The Dog.

I hadn’t been on the back of Ham’s bike in years.

I loved being on the back of Ham’s bike, wrapped around Ham.

This was one of those times that stung.

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