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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(19)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(19)
Author: Kristen Ashley

I worried these two seconds would show he was done with being cool.

I could give him that. He deserved it.

But not with no warning, at work, and with Ham watching.

“Yes,” I answered.

He looked to the beer, the wall, then twisted on his barstool so as better to face me.

“It’s public record but I didn’t find out that way. Guy at work’s wife works for a judge and she talks. She mentioned you. He knew about you and me, so he mentioned you so I know you changed your name back to Cinders.”

Of all the things I thought he might say, and truth be told, I had no idea what he was there to say, I just guessed he was there to say something, that wasn’t it.

“Yeah, I petitioned the judge a while ago. Why?”

“You took their name back.”

I pressed my lips together.

He knew about my parents. Then again, everyone in town did but Greg knew more than most because I told him.

He hated them. He didn’t hate anyone. He was a kind soul and didn’t have a judgmental bone in his body. But he hated my parents and he’d never even met them.

“You said you’d never take their name back,” he went on.

“Greg—”

“You asked for us to be over, Zara, and I didn’t like that but I left and the only thing I could think of to make me feel better, not having you, was that I gave you that. I took away their name and gave you mine. I thought you’d keep it.”

“Honey, we aren’t married anymore. It’s not mine to have.”

“That’s the only good thing I gave you.”

Oh God, now this was stinging.

“That’s not the only good thing you gave me, Greg,” I told him gently.

“It’s the only thing you let me leave with you. Made me clear everything of mine away. I thought you’d keep something.”

“I asked you to take your stuff because it’s your stuff. That’s fair. I wasn’t making you clear everything of yours away,” I corrected.

“Well, it felt like that,” he returned.

Man, oh man, that wasn’t what I intended. I was trying to do right.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” I replied carefully.

“You’ve got nothing of me. You even gave back the rings.”

“You bought those, too,” I reminded him. “That’s also fair, honey.”

Again, his back went straight but this time with a snap.

“You know, stuff like this, Zara, it isn’t about fair. That has nothing to do with it. It’s about a lot of other stuff but not about being fair. I didn’t want to leave you but you wanted that so I let you go. Then you made me leave you like I left you and I hated that but you wanted it so I did it. But what I wanted was some indication that maybe a day or an hour or a second of what we had meant something to you. Enough you’d want to keep it. And I could live with all that, thinking that the best thing I gave you, the most important thing I had to give outside my love, was my name. I thought at least you’d keep that. But you got rid of that, too.”

“Greg—”

He stood, pulled out his wallet, and threw a twenty down on the table.

“Don’t make change. I know that tip is above fair but at least let me give you that,” he said before he turned and walked away.

Yep. He was done being cool.

I stared at his back long after the door closed behind him.

Long enough for Ham to get to me, come close, for me to feel his warmth behind me, his bigness surrounding me, but nothing was going to take away this sting.

“You’re on break,” Ham growled above my head.

“I gotta do a sweep of the tables.”

“You go back to the office, sit down, pull your shit together, or I carry you back there and lock you in until your shit is together.”

I turned and looked up at him.

He was wearing his scary look.

“My shit is together,” I lied.

“Bullshit. Motherfucker gutted you. I watched,” Ham returned. “Go. Now. Break.”

I held his eyes.

Then I went back to the office, took a break, and got my shit together.

Or, more truthfully, I got myself to a place where I could pretend that it was.

* * *

I was right.

When the night was done and Ham took us home on his bike, I was so exhausted from work and dealing with Greg, I couldn’t even enjoy the ride.

But I’d made a shitload of tips.

I was in my bedroom, sitting on the side of my bed yanking off my boots, so ready to go to sleep it wasn’t funny.

Because sleep would erase the sting of Greg, at least for a while.

My bedroom door opened, and I turned to watch Ham, in socks, his usual faded jeans, his navy shirt unbuttoned all the way down, a bottle of vodka in one hand, two shot glasses in the other.

“What the hell?” I asked.

“Get comfortable, cookie, story time,” Ham answered, and without delay, he got comfortable.

That was to say, he sat on my bed, stretched his legs out, poured two shots of vodka, put the bottle on my nightstand, lounged back against my headboard, and held a glass out to me.

“Ham, I’m exhausted. I need sleep.”

“You need sleep, stretch out, throw this back, and give it to me fast.”

“Give what to you fast?”

“The explanation you said you’d give me later. Just sayin’, darlin’, it’s later.”

I had the feeling Ham was in the mood to be stubborn and unyielding because he was lounged on my bed like he used to lounge when we were together-together and we’d relax in front of the TV. That was to say, stretched out, shirt open, boots off. And when we’d relax in front of the TV, Ham did it like he intended to do it forever. Which was the way he looked now.

So I decided to give in so I could get it over with and get some shut-eye.

I avoided looking at his broad, muscled chest and defined abs as I crawled into bed and took the shot glass from him.

Ham had a hairy chest. It wasn’t profuse. It wasn’t a dusting either. I’d never been one to like men with hairy chests but his was just so… Ham. If the first time we made love and he took off his shirt (or, if memory serves, as it actually happened, I yanked it off), and I found a smooth chest, I would have been disappointed.

Even though on another guy I did not like this, with Ham, I loved it. In the times he was mine, I slid my fingers through it. I trailed my nails down it.

And after a night like that night, I would have liked nothing better than to cuddle up next to him, put my cheek to his shoulder, sift my fingers through his chest hair, rest my hand against the warm hardness of him, and let his mellowness melt my physically and emotionally exhausting night away.

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