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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(7)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(7)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Then again, Ham was an honest guy. He didn’t hide anything, even when he kept things from you. I knew that didn’t make sense. I couldn’t explain it. But I knew he was good at it.

He also didn’t pull any punches. If he liked something, he liked it and said he did. Same with the opposite. Same with anything. If he had something to say, he said it. That didn’t mean he didn’t have a filter. That just meant he was who he was, he did what he did, he said what he said, you liked it or you didn’t, and he didn’t give a f**k.

I, unfortunately, liked it.

Ham let me go, moved back so my arms were forced to drop away. He bent and carefully picked up a big black duffel that I hadn’t noticed was sitting on the concrete beside him.

This, I didn’t think was good. This meant Ham thought he was staying with me.

And Ham couldn’t stay with me.

“Uh… Ham—”

“Move back, babe.”

“But, your bag—”

“Babe, back.”

I moved back.

Ham moved in.

I shut the door and hustled in behind him.

“Got lights?” he asked.

I held my breath and flipped a switch.

Ham’s ability to notice pretty much everything all at once honed by years of working bars had not dulled and I knew this the instant he muttered, “Jesus. What the f**k?”

Of course, the state of my house was hard to miss.

On the whole, my house was awesome. The best of the five floor plans offered by far, even if it wasn’t the biggest. I loved it. It was perfect. The development was perfect, pretty, friendly people in it, well taken care of.

After growing up in a home that was not all that great, and living a life that had its serious down times, this house was all I ever wanted.

The narrow, cool, covered walkway outside was flanked on one side by the garage and the on the other by the recessed portion of the kitchen. The front door opened to a short entryway that led to an open-plan area, the living room straight ahead, dining area to the left back. The kitchen was also to the left, part of it recessed toward the front of the house with a wide, curved bar that fed into the overall space.

The living room was sunken two steps, which gave a vague sense of breaking up the space and a not-so-vague ratcheting up of the awesome factor.

The colors on the walls and ceiling were sand and cream, the carpeting a thick, cream wool, so the feel was warm but serene.

I’d gone with a variety of upgrades, something I was paying for now in a number of ways, all of them literal. I’d gone for premium cabinets, granite countertops, Whirlpool appliances, and a built-in unit in the living room, with glass doors and recessed lighting. It was the shit.

I’d also upgraded the doors, so instead of sliding glass, there were French doors leading from the living room, dining room, and the master bedroom to my backyard.

Most of the wall space was taken up by windows covered with custom-built Roman shades that I’d splurged on back in the day when things in Gnaw Bone were golden.

When Greg lived here with me, we’d decided to get rid of my old stuff, which wasn’t that great, and he’d bought furniture and decorations that made an awesome space spectacular.

That was all gone.

Now I had a couch, and beside it a standing lamp, and in front of it, a nicked, scratched, not-altogether-stable coffee table that I’d actually picked up on the side of the road. The coffee table was the worst of the lot, seeing as I purloined it from a Goodwill pickup. The lamp and couch were only slightly better and that slightly was by a small margin.

My friend Maybelline had donated the lamp and couch to the cause when Greg moved out. She hadn’t been thrilled to do it, knowing it was crap that had been sitting in her garage waiting for her husband to get the lead out and sell it on Craigslist, but she also knew something was better than nothing.

Except for a huge box television that saw the launch of MTV (donated by another friend, Wanda), the rest of the large space was empty.

“Greg got the furniture in the divorce,” I explained.

Ham dropped his duffel and slowly turned to me.

I pressed my lips together when I saw the look on his face.

“You’re tellin’ me your ex left you in a home that’s in this state,” Ham sought further details about the situation.

During one of my many freak-outs that day, I really should have figured out a way to keep Ham away from my house. Unfortunately, I was only thinking about seeing Ham, not about my house. In fact, I thought distractedly, I didn’t even know how he knew where I lived since he’d never been here.

I didn’t question this.

I thought, considering the look on his face, it was more pertinent to share. “I told him to take the stuff, Ham. It was his anyway.”

“You’re tellin’ me your ex left you in a home that’s in this state,” Ham repeated.

I decided not to reiterate my answer.

His eyes moved toward the kitchen then back to me, and when I got them again, I braced.

“Why don’t you have beer?” he asked.

Again, Ham noticed everything, and along with noticing everything, he was capable of making scary-accurate deductions about things he noticed. And Ham’s deductive powers, which could rival Sherlock Holmes’, made things very uncomfortable for me at that moment.

I should have called and told him I’d meet him the next day at The Mark.

I should not have answered the door.

And the idea of cutting and running from everything was getting more and more attractive by the second.

The problem was I didn’t have money for gas.

I took two steps forward, peered around the wall into the kitchen, saw my microwave clock said it was twelve thirty, and I looked back at Ham.

“You’ve been drivin’ awhile and doin’ it in that sling. Why don’t you crash and we’ll talk tomorrow?”

“Why don’t you have beer, Zara?” Ham asked again.

“You’ve got to want to relax, unwind, and get some shut-eye,” I said.

“What I want is to know why a woman who I’ve known eight years, five of ’em she never was without beer, and even once she dragged my ass out of bed to drive her two towns over to hit an all-night liquor store when we ran out, doesn’t have beer.”

That had been a good night.

I didn’t want an interrogation and I really didn’t want a trip down memory lane.

“Okay, how’s this?” I began. “I’m happy you’re here. I’m happy to see you safe and sound. I didn’t expect it but it’s cool if you want to crash here. But I have to open the shop tomorrow so I need some shut-eye. We’ll talk tomorrow night when I get home from the shop.”

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