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Home > Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(9)

Jagged (Colorado Mountain #5)(9)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Then he can take two pounds of flesh so I can buy a stronger one that’ll work,” I retorted. “After this shit, I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’m willin’ to pay a high price.”

“That number might be busy, darlin’, but keep tryin’ it. I ’spect, after you ran him through the ringer enough for him to be so pissed he cleaned you out, your ex is on the line right about now, makin’ his deal.”

Already in tatters, that struck so close to the bone, it was a wonder I didn’t dissolve.

“You’re a dick,” I hissed.

“Yeah, and a grateful one, seein’ as you led with this bullshit so I could get the lay of the land real f**kin’ quick, cut my losses, and get the f**k outta here.”

I felt my face start heating with fury. “I led with a hug, you ass**le.”

“It was not ten minutes ago, Zara. I remember. Then I got whiplash with your one-eighty. You sure you aren’t already tight with the guy downstairs?” he asked with deep sarcasm. “Five more minutes, I reckon I’d have watched your head spin.”

“God! Can you get worse?” I snapped.

“Yeah, there it is. All woman. Pure woman. You don’t know what you want, except the part where you want what you can’t have and, somehow, that’s my f**kin’ fault.”

“If you have heretofore unshared issues with women, Graham, work them out with another unwitting female.”

“Not a chance. Haven’t done this shit in years. Gonna do my motherfucking best not to do it again, ever. I drink, I eat, I f**k, I leave.”

“Well, you got that down to an art.”

“Why the f**k am I still standing here?” he asked.

“Beats me,” I answered.

I barely got out the second word before he turned to go.

But I wasn’t done.

“Now look who’s walking away,” I remarked and he turned right back.

“Yeah. And advice. Take a good look, baby, ’cause this is the last time you’ll see my ass and you like my ass. You want it. I know ’cause I still got the scars from your teeth the last time you took a bite outta me.”

Fury and remembered desire rushed through me. So much of both I was paralyzed. I could do nothing but stand immobile and stare.

Ham raked me with his eyes from head to toe and fired the final shot.

“Christ. All the proof I need standing right there. All that pretty. Shiny. Looks sweet. Tastes sweeter. So goddamned good, you f**k up, put your trust in that sweet, then she sinks her fangs in you and releases the venom. Only one woman I know not filled with poison, knew her own goddamned mind, her shit was f**ked up but she didn’t make it anyone’s problem but her own, and I let her walk away from me, too. The difference with her and you, babe, is that I regret lettin’ her do it. I drove here thinkin’ the same about you. Glad to know right off, I was wrong.”

After I took that bullet, he turned, prowled down the walk, and disappeared.

I stood there listening to the door of his truck slam.

I kept standing there as the powerful beast growled to life.

And I stayed standing there as I saw his headlights illuminate the drive and I watched him back out and drive away.

Only then did I move into my house, close and lock the door, and wander to my room.

I laid in the dark, stared at the ceiling, and let his words shift through my brain, over and over.

Then she sinks her fangs in you and releases the venom.

And as those words shifted through my brain, I thought, Yep, that’s me.

Chapter Three

Mendin’ Fences

Five months later…

With filled grocery bags in my hands, my phone ringing in my purse, I struggled through the door to my studio apartment. Dashing to the counter of the kitchen, I dumped the groceries, shrugged my purse off my shoulder, snatched my phone out, and hurriedly took the call before it went to voice mail without looking at the display to see who it was from.

“Hello?”

“Cookie.”

At the surprise of Ham’s deep voice calling me his nickname, my body sagged into the side of the counter even as my heart turned over.

“Are you okay?” I asked immediately.

“Yeah, but you aren’t.”

Just as quickly, I jerked away from the counter and my back went ramrod straight.

“Talked with Jake,” he went on.

God. Jake.

I hadn’t heard from Ham since that horrible night.

Now, he’d again talked with Jake, who I was distractedly surprised he was tight with, seeing as they worked together for just over six months eight freaking years ago and obviously kept in touch, which I knew Ham could do but Jake doing it shocked the shit out of me, and he was calling because Jake had spilled all my secrets. Again.

Not that they were secrets. Everyone in town knew that I’d had to close down my shop and had my house taken away from me by the bank.

This would have been humiliating if this freaking recession didn’t mean that not a small number of the residents of Gnaw Bone, most specifically the inhabitants of the now-dead, as in murdered, as in killed by a freaking hit man, Curtis Dodd’s developments weren’t in the same pickle.

“Baby, why didn’t you tell me?” Ham asked.

His voice was jagged.

I closed my eyes.

His voice sounded beautiful.

And it killed.

Damn it, I was not going through this again.

We were done. He clearly had issues with women. I wasn’t stupid. I sensed that during the five years we’d been friends with benefits, five years in which he wouldn’t commit to me or anyone.

But he’d made it plain during our last conversation.

“I seem to recall that I told you it was none of your business,” I reminded him.

“Serious financial problems that mean you lose your house and your shop, babe, are absolutely my business.”

“I’m not having this conversation again,” I declared.

He ignored that and asked, “And you’re workin’ at Deluxe Home Store? You? Zara. Jesus.”

“I need to eat, Ham. When a woman needs to eat, she does what she has to do. Thus the continued prevalence of prostitution, strip clubs, and  p**n  films.”

“Fuck, Zara,” he growled and I heard the sharp edge of alarm in his tone. “What the f**k are you talkin’ about?”

“I’m not talkin’ about anything, and by that I mean I’m done with the conversation, as in, hanging up, Ham. Don’t call again.”

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