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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(20)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(20)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Alas, this was not an option open to me.

To get my thoughts off his chest hair and stop myself from even beginning to think about his abs, which would not bring on thoughts of relaxation and stress relief, but instead orgasms, which would be a better kind of stress relief, I threw back the shot.

Ham leaned forward, took the glass from me, his was empty, too, and he twisted for a refill, demanding, “Stretch out, babe.”

I stretched out, my head to the foot of the bed, on my side, up on an elbow, head in hand, eyes on him.

He reached out an arm with the filled glass toward me. I leaned to take it and settled back in.

“Talk to me,” he invited.

I didn’t sugarcoat it.

“I f**ked him over,” I declared.

“You cheat on him?” Ham shot back.

“No.”

“Steal from him?”

“No.”

“Lie to him?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“I loved him.”

Ham’s brows shot together, giving me his scary look. Or, I should say, scarier look and he asked, “What?”

I rolled to my back, rested the shot glass on my belly, and told the ceiling, “I loved him. When we got married, I was happy. I was thinking house, babies, settled, safe.” My eyes slid to Ham. “I really did love him, darlin’.”

“Okay. So… what?” Ham asked slowly.

“I didn’t love him enough,” I whispered.

His face lost the scary look, went soft, and his voice was jagged when he said, “Cookie.”

He got me.

He always did.

I turned to my side, got up on my forearm, and explained. “Six weeks in, Ham, six weeks into our marriage, I knew I didn’t do right. I had second thoughts, too late. He was a homebody. I knew that. I still married him even though I was not a homebody. I’m social. I don’t like stayin’ at home all the time. That’s all he liked. He likes foreign movies—you know, the ones with subtitles. He watches them a lot. I don’t like them. Reading and watching”—I shook my head—“did my head in. And half of them are just plain weird. After we tied the knot, he didn’t spring that on me as a surprise, tying me to a chair, and making me watch Polish movies. Before we were married, I knew that about him, too.”

“So you f**ked up,” he said in his jagged voice.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Huge. Time went on. He’d talk babies. I’d delay because I knew. I knew I wanted out and I didn’t want a baby caught in that mess. I wanted something he couldn’t give me. I didn’t try to change him. Make him into what I wanted. In the beginning, I just thought I could deal with who he was if I had all the rest.”

“All the rest of what, darlin’?”

“Babies. Home. Safety.”

“But you couldn’t deal.”

“In the end, it was a life changer,” I told him. “He tried to go out with me but I knew he wasn’t havin’ a good time, so much so he was even miserable, so we quit goin’ out. He tried to watch the shoot-’em-ups with me but he didn’t get into them so I quit suggesting we watch them. I just stopped doin’ more and more of what I liked doin’, what made me who I was, until I started feelin’ like I was losin’ me. Then the recession hit, the tourist trade dwindled, the shop started to get in trouble, and I got deeper in that bad place. I couldn’t control what was happening with the shop but I could control what was happening in our marriage. Or, that is to say, I could end a marriage that wasn’t makin’ me happy. In fact, it was like I was losin’ hold on all that was me, fading away, and weirdly lonely even though I had someone to come home to. So I did. I ended the marriage.”

“And he’s pissed,” Ham surmised and I shook my head.

“No. I hurt him. I…” I pulled in a breath and admitted, “I broke him, Ham. He was happy. He enjoyed our life, our marriage. He hated losing me. He liked me just the way I was.”

“Doesn’t seem like it to me, him not lettin’ you go out. Be you.”

“He never tried to stop me. I just stopped goin’ because he preferred to stay in and that’s what I thought I was supposed to do.”

“Darlin’, a man can put pressure on a woman to change without sayin’ a word,” Ham contradicted and that rocked me.

I hadn’t thought of it like that.

“All right,” Ham kept going. “So what was tonight about?”

“He heard I changed my name back to Cinders.”

“So?” Ham asked.

“So, the house was mine, we just never got ’round to puttin’ his name on it, so it was him that left because it really was always mine. He wanted to give me some money to tide me over but I wouldn’t let him. I didn’t think with what I was doin’ to him that was fair, takin’ his money after I broke his heart and essentially kicked him out. And I made him take his stuff. I told you that already. And I did do that. I made him. I was firm about it. He didn’t want to but I made him take everything he bought because I thought it was fair. I gave him back his rings. I didn’t know me doing that was sayin’ to him that I didn’t want any memory of him but he told me tonight that he took it like that.”

“Not your problem,” Ham stated.

“It is. I don’t want to hurt him…” I paused. “More.”

“This divorce final?” Ham asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Then you don’t worry about that either. He’s no longer your man. That’s also not your problem.”

“Ham, you’re making it sound like it’s okay I got involved with a man I shouldn’t. I hurt him and ended a marriage. You don’t just end marriages. This wasn’t a little f**kup. It was huge.”

“No, you’re right. You don’t just end marriages. You get in ’em knowin’ as best you can you’re in for the long haul,” Ham replied. “But you went into it like that, bein’ in love, thinkin’ you were gettin’ and givin’ what you wanted. It just didn’t turn out that way and, babe, you start losin’ you to anything, a guy, a job, to any-fuckin’-thing, you get out. If he loved you the way you think he loved you, he knew who he was marryin’, too. And he wouldn’t want you at home watchin’ fuckin’ Polish movies. He’d want you to be you.”

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