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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(3)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(3)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Then I watched Ham walk to me.

Ham Reece was not graceful. He was too big to be graceful. He didn’t walk. He trudged.

But he was built. He was a bear of a man, tall and big. His mass of thick, dark hair was always a mess. He constantly looked like he’d either just gotten off the back of a bike he’d been riding wild and fast for hours or like he’d just gotten out of bed after he’d been riding a woman wild and fast for hours.

Now was no different, even though he’d just spent hours in the cab of his truck.

It looked good on him.

It always did.

Although big, he was fit and he worked at it. It was not lost on him with the years he’d put in in bars that he needed to be on the top of his game so, although not quick, he was in shape. He ran a lot. He also lifted. Every time I’d been with him, he’d found time to do what he needed to do, even if he was doing crunches on the floor of a hotel with his arms wrapped around something heavy held to his chest.

This meant he had great abs. Great lats. Great thighs. A great ass.

Just great all around.

Yes, I should never have agreed to this.

He got close. His eyes that started out a tawny brown at the irises and radiated out to a richer, darker brown at the edge of his pupils were lit with his smile as his lips grinned at me while he approached.

I slid out of the booth.

Two seconds later, Ham slid his arms around me.

“Hey, cookie,” he greeted, his voice jagged. My lungs deflated. He was happy to see me.

“Hey, darlin’.” I gave him a squeeze.

He returned the squeeze and let me go but didn’t step away.

His eyes caught mine and he stated, “Pretty as ever.”

“Hot as could be,” I returned, and his grin got bigger as he lifted a hand toward my face.

I braced, waiting for it. No, anticipating it with sheer delight.

But I didn’t get it. His grin faded, his hand dropped away, and then he took a half step back and gestured to the booth.

That was when I felt it, all I’d lost with Ham. One could say it wasn’t much but when you had him for the brief periods you had him, you had him. His attention, his affection, his easy, sweet touches, his deep voice that could go jagged with tenderness or desire. I knew that others might look at what we had and think I hadn’t lost much, but they would be wrong. And I knew in that instant exactly how much I was losing.

It hurt like hell.

“Slide your ass in, darlin’,” he ordered but didn’t wait until I did. He moved to the other side.

I slid in, Ham slid in across from me, and Trudy arrived at our table.

“Drink?” she asked.

“Beer,” Ham answered.

“Got a preference?” Trudy went on.

“Cold,” Ham told her.

She smiled at him then at me and took herself off.

Ham didn’t touch the menu sitting in front of him. He’d been to The Mark more than once. Anyone who had knew what they wanted.

His eyes came to me.

“How much time you got?” he asked.

“Couldn’t find anyone to look after the shop so I had to close it down,” I said by way of answer.

“In other words, not long,” he surmised and he was right.

I owned a shop in Gnaw Bone called Karma. Ham had been there. Ham knew how much work it was. Ham also knew all about my dream of having my own place, being my own boss, answering to no one, and surrounding myself with cool stuff made by cool people. He also knew it was hard work and that I put in that hard work. There were things we didn’t discuss but that didn’t mean we didn’t talk and do it deep. Not only when we were together but when one or the other of us got the itch to call. We could talk on the phone for hours and we did.

So I knew Ham, too.

I nodded. “I did try to find someone but—”

“Don’t worry about it, darlin’,” he muttered.

“Are you stayin’ in town?” I asked. “Maybe, tomorrow—”

“Headed out after this, babe.”

I nodded again, trying not to feel as devastated as I felt, an effort that was doomed to fail so it did.

“Thought you’d look different,” Ham noted and I focused on his handsome face, taking in the exquisite shape of his full lips, his dark-stubbled strong jaw, the tanned, tight skin stretching across his cheekbones, the heavy brow over those intelligent eyes that was the source of him looking not-so-vaguely threatening.

“What?” I asked.

“Got a man, you’re into him, you two got some time in, thought you’d look different.”

I forced a smile. “And how would I look different, babe?”

“Happy.”

My smile died.

Ham didn’t miss it.

His intelligent eyes grew sharp on my face. “This a good guy?”

“Yeah,” I answered. It was quick, firm, and honest.

Ham noted that, too, but that didn’t change the look in his eyes. “Gotta find a guy who makes you happy,” he told me.

I did. You, I thought.

“Greg’s sweet. He’s mellow, Ham, which I like. He’s really nice. He also really likes me and lets it show, and I like that, too. Things are going great,” I assured him.

Ham’s reply was gentle but honest, as Ham always was.

“Things might be goin’ good, Zara, but I can see it on your face, babe, they’re not goin’ great.”

“He’s a good guy,” I stressed.

“I believe you,” Ham returned. “And he’s givin’ you somethin’ you want. I’m all for that, darlin’. But you can’t settle for what you want. You gotta find what you need.”

I did. You, I thought again and found this conversation was making me slightly pissed and not-so-slightly uncomfortable.

I knew this man. I’d tasted nearly every inch of him. He’d returned the favor. I had five years with him in my life. Four months of that solid and, for me and Ham, exclusive back in the day when I was waitressing at The Dog and Ham was bartending. Four months solid of me waking up in his bed every morning from our first date to the day he left town.

Now he was advising me on what kind of man I should settle for.

I didn’t like this.

“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about Greg,” I suggested.

“Might be a good idea,” Ham replied, his attention shifting to Trudy, who set his beer on the table.

“You two ready to order?” she asked.

“Turkey and Swiss melt and chips,” I ordered.

“Buffalo burger, jack cheese, rings,” Ham said after me.

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