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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(8)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(8)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“I don’t like you avoiding this conversation, babe, but I mostly don’t like why that might be,” Ham returned.

“And I don’t care, Ham,” I snapped, losing it and watching his eyes narrow. “In case you haven’t gotten it, I’ll say it straight. The answers to your questions are none of your f**kin’ business.”

I’d never spoken to him like that. In fact, we never fought. Ever. Not in all the time we were together, not in all the years we’d known each other.

Ham was mellow, funny, and fun to be around. He’d seen it all, done it all, and had an air about him that he knew that there were things worth getting riled up about, but not many, and life was precious enough not to spend it pissed and shouting at someone. I went with that flow. We had always been easy. I couldn’t remember once, not even once, when things had even gotten mildly heated. Ham made it that way. He just didn’t go there, kept you snug in his laid-back aura, and it felt so good you didn’t want to go there either.

Ham being laid-back, taking me along with him for that ride, and hearing me snap for the first time since I knew him had to be why he whispered a surprised, irritated, “What the f**k?”

“Three years have passed, Ham. Shit has happened. And none of it is your business,” I carried on.

“Zara—”

I shook my head and lifted a hand. “No. We’re not having this conversation now. I f**ked up, callin’ you. But I care. I never stopped caring. You matter to me, too, Ham, and it isn’t every day someone I know gets attacked by a serial ax murderer. I had to know you were okay. I wasn’t sure I wanted it but I’m glad actually to get to see for my own eyes you’re okay. But we’re not doin’ this now. I’m tired. You have to be tired. We need sleep. But I’ll warn you, I might not do this tomorrow either. You made a decision three years ago and we’re stickin’ with that.”

His eyes narrowed further and his face got hard. “I made a decision?”

“Yeah, you did,” I confirmed.

“You found a man, babe. You walked away from me.”

“You let me.”

He flinched and his torso swung back an inch.

I watched him in shock.

His flinch was not minor. My words cut him. Deep. So deep, his torso moved through the laceration.

What was that?

“Ham?” I called.

He recovered, wiping his face blank, or I should say wiping the pain away so it was back to hard.

“I told you to find a good man, not settle,” he stated.

“You told me that three years ago. That’s over and done. Now is now. And I’m tellin’ you now we’re not talkin’ about this shit.”

“You didn’t find a good man, babe. You settled.”

God, when had he become so stubborn?

I was already angry but I was getting angrier.

“Ham, this is none of your business.”

Ham ignored me. “I know this because no man who’s a good man cleans out his wife like this f**ked-up shit.” He used an arm to indicate the space and turned back to me.

“We’re not talkin’ about this.”

“I also told you, he f**ks you over, he did you wrong, you call me. You did not call me, Zara.”

What the hell?

“Are you serious?” I whispered.

“Fuck yeah, I’m serious,” he shot back.

“Rethink that answer, Ham,” I returned.

“No, babe, you think back to that shit your parents pulled, how that shit meant you landed in my bed and I kept you there and took your back through that nightmare.”

Again, memory lane, but this time, not such good memories.

“That was more than eight years ago, Ham.”

“Yeah, it was. And my point is, over eight years, I’ve always been there for you.”

“Only when you weren’t gone.”

His face turned to stone. “Bullshit, Zara, and you know it.”

I threw up my hands. “Jesus, Ham, I’m seeing you for the first time”—I leaned toward him and yelled—“in three years!”

He leaned right back. “And it was f**kin’ me”—he jerked a thumb at his chest—“who told you to keep that connection, babe, and you kept it. You dialed that line that connected us just last night.”

“A f**kup I knew was a f**kup last night but has now been elevated in status to a major f**king f**kup,” I fired back.

“Jesus Christ!” he exploded, shocking me. As I explained, we never fought so this meant I never saw him lose it like that. It was freaking scary but it also weirdly made me angrier, especially when he scowled and went on to inform me, “This is precisely why I don’t do this shit.”

“What shit?” I clipped.

“You find a woman you think is a good woman, you make the big f**kin’ mistake of lettin’ her in an inch, she tears her way through, leavin’ you bloody in her wake,” he answered.

“Oh my God!” I shouted, raking a hand through my hair. “Are you insane?”

“You walked away from me,” he bit out, jerking a finger at me. “And I see that took a bite outta you, Zara. I can f**kin’ see the hole it left behind right in your goddamned eyes.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” I scoffed on a snap.

That was when he threw my words of three years ago right in my face, using them to tear through me, leaving me bloody in their wake.

“It was always me.”

Standing there in tatters, unable to take more, I whispered, “Get out.”

“Gladly,” he returned, bent, and snatched up the handles of his duffel.

He stalked past me and I followed.

He used the only hand he had, the one carrying the duffel, to yank open the door and I watched him move through.

I also followed him out, stopping on my welcome mat, something I bought and one of the few things I didn’t encourage Greg to take, in order to give Ham my parting shot.

“I’ll give you a call, darlin’, let you know the state of hell, seein’ as I’m checkin’ in with Satan to sell my soul for the ability to shield myself from ass**les like you.”

At my words, he swung around and informed me, “Takes more than your soul, baby. He also takes his pound of flesh. I should know, seein’ as I made that deal with him years ago in an effort to protect myself from pain-in-the-ass women like you. Though, you might have noticed, seein’ as we’re havin’ this cheery conversation, sometimes his spell doesn’t work.”

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