Jagged | Chapter 11 of 33

Author: Kristen Ashley | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 23661 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter Six

Moving On

One week, two days later…

“Oh my God.”

“Baby.”

“Ham.”

“Oh yeah. Fuck. Love that, baby. Love you, Zara.”

I opened my eyes and saw sun peeking through the blinds.

I was hot, bothered, my nipples hard and aching, perspiration was dampening my chest and between my breasts, and my girl parts were throbbing.

I’d had another dream.

Since Ham talked me through the Greg thing, I’d had three.

This one made four.

All of them hot, so freaking hot.

All of them ended with Ham telling me he loved me.

This was not good.

I rolled to my back and turned to see my clock.

It was twelve fifteen. I often went to bed late, and slept in late, but today I’d slept in later.

I listened and heard no noises.

Back in the day, Ham had a routine and it hadn’t changed. Even if he went to bed at four in the morning, he woke up between eleven thirty and twelve, slugged back a mug of coffee, and went for a run with coffee as his only sustenance.

I not only didn’t know how he could run (at all); I didn’t know how he could run with only a cup of coffee fueling his endeavors.

I figured it was a macho guy thing. A test of endurance. If he could lug that big body of his five miles in what was considered his morning on just a cup of coffee that was the same as cage fighting a bruiser by the name of Butch Razor and coming out the unqualified victor.

Ham’s “morning” run meant I had time to do what I needed to do. And I hadn’t done it since I moved in with Ham.

So I was going to do it.

I reached into my nightstand and grabbed my toy. Pulling up my nightgown and sliding it in my panties, I turned it on.

Then I replayed the dream. I also made up more bits of the dream. They were really good additions, seeing as, when it came to Ham, I had an excellent imagination.

It had been a while so I came relatively quickly but it still snuck up on me. It was long. It was good. I gave a soft cry when it hit me and I moaned through it, whimpering at the end.

When I was done, I returned my toy to the nightstand, stretched, snuggled into my pillow, lounged, and when my body’s call for coffee could no longer be ignored I threw the covers back, put my feet to the floor, and headed to the kitchen.

I hit the door to the kitchen and stopped because a sweaty, track-pants wearing, tight-shirt-wet-and-plastered-to-him Ham was standing at the counter in the kitchen with his head turned, glowering at me.

“New rule. You don’t do that shit when I’m in the house,” he growled and I blinked.

“What shit?”

“You use your toy to get off when I’m not fuckin’ here.”

Oh my God. He heard me.

How humiliating was this?

“Ham—”

“Heard the toy. Heard you. Don’t do that again.”

“I—”

“Hear it again, make no mistake, babe, I’ll join you.”

Oh my God. Did he say what it sounded like he just said?

I didn’t have time to ask him to confirm, not that I could speak at that moment anyway. He came my way and I had to jump to the side to avoid him bowling me over.

He disappeared down the hall to the master bedroom.

“What the hell?” I whispered.

Okay, so that was humiliating.

Why Ham would be pissed about it, seriously pissed, pissed enough to bring it up, which he shouldn’t have—he should have never said a word—and lay down the law about it, was beyond me.

He told me straight up he didn’t want my body. We were roommates. We had been for over a month and he gave no indication whatsoever he wanted anything more or was even nostalgic for what we once had.

Until just then with what he said but it was said in anger so he probably said it just to be a dick.

I stared down the hall as my thoughts came into order.

He couldn’t tell me when I could or could not touch myself.

That was insane.

And why was he mad about it? He wasn’t a prude. Far from it. He’d helped me do what I just did to spectacular results more than once. And I’d participated and watched as he’d done the same to himself.

“What the hell?” I hissed.

Suddenly, I wasn’t mortified.

I was mad.

I stomped to my room and decided his penalty for being an asshole was my getting into the shower at the same time as he got into his. I was quick in the shower but he could stay in there a year. I didn’t know what he did in there but he took the longest showers of any man I knew.

And our hot water heater wasn’t that big.

“So there, dickhead,” I muttered to the shower spray.

Then I got ready and took my time. Blowing out my blonde hair with a roller brush, I used blasts of heat on my hair with the roller tight so it had big soft curls and flippy waves. Giving my makeup that tad bit of extra attention. Dressing for work, which was where I was going after I somehow whittled away the day, because once I left the condo, I wasn’t coming back until I’d calmed down. All of this was done in what I considered was an heroic attempt at not committing murder.

I was dressed, jacket on, purse on my shoulder, and ready to go but I made one stop.

Back at the kitchen where Ham was.

He was at the counter again, and he again had his head turned to me, face wearing a scowl.

“I’m in the shower after a run, babe, do me a fuckin’ favor and don’t jump in yours,” he growled.

“Kiss my ass,” I retorted.

His eyes narrowed dangerously.

I ignored that and kept going.

“FYI, bruiser, you can’t tell me when to touch myself. I may not be able to go halfsies but you told me yourself this is my pad, my home, and I’ll touch myself whenever I want in my pad that’s my home and if you walk in on me, I’ll throw my vibrator at you.”

On that somewhat pathetic parting shot that still managed to make me feel better, I turned on my boot and stomped out of the condo.

* * *

“Oh my God, that’s crazy,” Becca breathed.

I had chosen to whittle away my Saturday with my girls Becca, Mindy, and Nina.

Becca was a pretty brunette who used to work at The Dog but moved to waitressing at The Drake because her live-in boyfriend, Josh, was a musician who did acoustic nights there and she liked to be there when he played.

Mindy was tall, very pretty, with curly strawberry-blonde hair. She’d also worked at The Dog once upon a time but now she worked as a counselor at a rape crisis center while going to school to be a social worker. She was almost done. She was graduating next year.

Nina was a bit older than all of us, blonde, exceptionally pretty, and she dressed like a model. She was an attorney and married to Holden “Max” Maxwell. I’d met her yonks ago when she first came to Gnaw Bone for a vacation and visited my shop to buy some earrings made by my other girlfriend Jenna. We didn’t become friends until after she was kidnapped, nearly shot on the side of a mountain, went back to England to sort stuff there, and officially came home to Gnaw Bone to start her life with Max.

Looking at them as we sat at a table outside at the riverside café in town drinking coffees, I thought they looked like Charlie’s Angels, except without jobs as private detectives with a mysterious boss and the Pinto.

I’d just told them what happened with Ham earlier.

“That’s scary,” Mindy added.

“It’s not scary. It’s crazy,” Becca replied.

“It’s scary crazy and crazy scary,” Mindy stated.

Neither of them was wrong but Mindy was more right.

Becca’s horrified eyes suddenly lit and she sent a grin my way. “Though, it’s pretty funny, the part where you told him you were going to throw your vibrator at him.”

I was glad she thought that was funny since I thought it was lame.

It hit me Nina wasn’t saying anything so I looked to her to see her studying me closely.

“What?” I asked.

“You need to flirt,” she answered.

“What?” I asked again, but it was higher pitched this time.

Nina put her mug down on the table and sat back, still studying me.

Then she said, “Honey, I get your thing of swearing off men, focusing on getting stuff sorted because you need to do that. You need to take care of you, and you’re right, a man in that mix right now would probably not be a good thing.”

She’d said “probably.”

And, incidentally, Nina was half English and she had the kick-ass accent to prove it. So even if she said scary stuff, it came out cool.

“Okay,” I replied cautiously.

“But that doesn’t mean you should cut yourself off from having fun, forget you’re a girl and the good parts that come with that. So you should have fun and flirt,” she stated.

“I’m not flirting with Ham,” I returned.

“I’m not talking about him,” she said. “You work at The Dog. With your pretty face, fabulous hair, and fantastic figure, I bet there are tons of guys who would love to flirt with you.”

“Tips’ll get better, I know that as fact,” Becca put in.

I heard Becca but I was too busy trying to figure out what Nina was saying that she wasn’t exactly saying.

“I’m not sure how that will help me deal with what happened with Ham today, Neens,” I pointed out.

“You’re focused on getting your life in order, so determined you’re forgetting to have fun, and further, you’re mired down in the history you have with your roommate,” she replied and leaned toward me. “Things are better, Zara. You’ve landed on your feet. You have a good job. You’re making decent money. It’s time to let your hair down, have fun, remember you’re pretty and you can turn a man’s eye. Enjoy that. You’re young and you should. You shouldn’t miss a moment of feeling that feeling if you can. And if you do, if you remember to enjoy life a little bit and stop thinking all the time about how bad it’s been, your mind might clear of some of the things bogging it down and you can move on. Including move on from being hung up on a man you can’t have.”

This, as Nina was prone to do, made sense.

Still, I wasn’t certain I was ready for that, the flirting part that was.

Nina kept talking.

“You’re now at a place where you can find ways to move on from all the bad things that have happened to you, honey. You also need to move on from this guy. He’s being very nice, helping you out. And I’m not sure what was in his head this morning. What I am certain of is that you shouldn’t worry about it. That bothers him, that’s his problem.” She grinned. “Be quieter next time or, since you’re roommates and you doing that bugs him, do as he asks and do it when he’s out so you can avoid the drama. But you need to fill your life and mind with good things, fun times, happy times, and push out the bad things, what happened with Greg, your house, your shop, this guy coming back into your life. It’s time. And when you do, something like what happened his morning won’t mess with your head so much.”

I wasn’t certain this would work. I’d tried to “move on” from Ham for years and, in the process, I broke a good man.

But I was certain she was right about the rest.

I was in a good place, not back where I started but not living in an unsafe studio apartment and barely existing on close to minimum wage.

I had to stop obsessing about all that happened and rejoice in the fact that, with help from friends, I was making it through. I needed to have fun like I used to. I needed to begin to enjoy life again. I’d divorced Greg, hurting him, to be free to be me, to do all that, and I wasn’t doing it.

And maybe, if I did, if I got back to me a little bit, those stings I experienced being with Ham without getting to be with Ham wouldn’t bite so deep.

“You’re the shit, Neens,” I told her quietly.

She grinned.

“I say that to her all the time,” Mindy put in.

I grinned at Nina then I grinned at Mindy, lifting my latte and taking a drink.

Girl talk shifted but, fifteen minutes later, I caught Nina staring at the river, a small smile on her face. Becca and Mindy were in a deep discussion about when they were going to schedule their next facials, so I leaned toward Nina.

“Thinking about Max?” I asked on a smile.

She turned her eyes to me. “No. About you.”

My brows went up. “Me?”

She reached out a hand and squeezed my knee. “You.”

“Why?”

“Things are looking up for you, I feel it.”

“Uh… yeah, I know. And I know because I can afford a latte.”

She smiled but shook her head and sat back. “No, in ways you don’t know yet but I’m thinking I do.”

“And what are those?”

“Be more fun if you find out yourself.”

I was confused. “What?”

She leaned in again but, this time, took my hand.

“Life has certain things planned. I find, for some people, it takes you places you don’t want to go but the path leads to where you need to be. That happened to me. You just have to learn to trust it. And, for you, have fun while it’s happening. And last, honey, go with your gut. Take risks. Roll the dice. You’ve been beaten down but you kept getting right back up. Still, when that happens it can make you hesitant to roll the dice. Don’t be. You might find the payoff is beyond anything you could even dream.”

“Now I’m more confused and maybe a little freaked out,” I shared.

She squeezed my hand, smiled again, let me go, and sat back. “Like I said, it’s going to be fun as you find out for yourself.” Her eyes grew sharp on mine. “But only if you’re strong enough to roll the dice.”

“No less freaked out, Nina,” I informed her.

To that, she freaked me out more by smiling bigger and replying, “This is going to be fun.”

“I’m not sure I agree and I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” I returned.

She didn’t respond to my words.

She just said, “I can’t wait.

Nina was really smart and not just the kind of smart having a law degree made you. She was just smart.

And knowing that, I had a feeling that I could. I definitely could wait. What might be fun for her might not be such great fun for me.

But even so, because she was smart, when my time came, I was going to take her advice, blow on those dice, and let them roll.

* * *

That night at work proved positive that the reprieve I’d had spending time with the girls, after such a shaky start to the day, would not hold because it wasn’t a shaky night.

It was a disastrous one.

I knew this right off when I walked into The Dog to start my shift and Ham was already there. My laidback Ham was history, and scary, pissed-off Ham was still in his place because he scowled at me, didn’t say hi, didn’t even give me a chin lift. In fact, he didn’t say anything to me. He just glowered, then moved down the bar to get a customer a drink.

I decided to give him a wide berth and, since it was Saturday and things were hopping, thought I could lose myself in work.

Things looked up when Nina and Max came in and sat at one of my tables.

Max, by the way, was nearly as hot as Ham but what made him hotter was how into his wife he was. They’d been through hell together, but his love and affection for her and their two babies had not dulled and he wasn’t afraid to let it show. I thought that was the hallmark of a true man, being in love and not giving a shit if people saw how deep he’d sunk into that emotion.

I’d always liked Max. He was a seriously good guy. But I liked Max with Nina even better.

Things took a turn for the worse when Arlene showed up with Cotton.

Jimmy Cotton was a world-famous photographer. Cotton also had some reclusive tendencies, in so far as he didn’t stray much from the environs of Gnaw Bone and when he did, it was to travel the width and breadth of the Rockies to take his photos. Other than that, Cotton stuck with what and who he knew. He was old, crotchety, and, contradictory to the latter, entirely lovable. He liked me, always had and always showed it in his crotchety Cotton way.

So I gave that back but without the crotchety part. The jury was out on if I gave it back without a healthy dose of sass.

Now, he’d walked into The Dog, a place he’d come to but not often, and headed straight to the bar with Arlene. Not a table where a waitress could serve him. No, to the bar, where Ham would.

Once settled in, they made it very clear they were checking out the lay of the land with Ham and me. They did this by openly watching us nearly constantly, only taking breaks to huddle and confer, more than likely about Ham and me.

Things nosedived when Maybelline and Wanda wandered in and they took places at the bar, opposite Cotton and Arlene, but for exactly the same purpose, a purpose they didn’t try to hide either. I had hoped, since time had slid by after Maybelle threatened to wade in, that she’d forgotten she intended to get up in my business.

Alas, this hope that night was dashed.

Making matters worse, I saw them talking to Ham for not a short period of time during which his unhappy eyes cut to me twice and Maybelline’s hands gestured, a lot.

I continued with my strategy of giving Ham and the bar a wide berth, taking my drink orders exclusively to Jake and getting the hell away from the bar as quick as I could once they were filled. I added ignoring all that was happening because it was all scary and I was pretending it was occurring in an alternate universe. I decided to live in my own universe.

In other words, I found a guy who I didn’t know but who had been in a couple of times since I started there and I tested out the flirting business.

Matters degenerated significantly when, after a few jokes, smiles, and a bit of tension building of the good kind, I turned away from the guy to take his drink order to the bar and saw Ham leaned into his forearms in front of a very pretty blonde woman who was baring not a small amount of cleavage. He was grinning his flirtatious grin, one I knew was just that because it had been aimed at me enough times that I had it memorized.

That stung, the bite deep, the pain radiating, but I ignored it and went straight to Jake.

My friends saw what Ham was up to, and they didn’t like it any more than I did. Arlene was crinkling her nose Ham’s way. Cotton was scowling at him. Wanda and Maybelle were glaring. Max was studying him, looking weirdly displeased.

But Nina…

Nina was smiling at the table.

And it was her reaction that freaked me out the most.

I ignored all that, too. I flirted with my guy. I even gave him my number.

We had a packed house but Ham, like me, found his times to drift back to the blonde, lean into his forearms, and give her some attention.

This carried on for ages, nearly to closing. And even though Cotton and Arlene took off and Wanda and Maybelline had a brief visit with me before they took off and Nina and Max went back to relieve their babysitter, Ham kept flirting and so did I. This carried on to the point where I was finding it difficult to keep hold on my alternate world and not let the pain of what Ham was doing overwhelm me.

Finally, the situation ended but the ending wasn’t a relief.

The ending was me nearly bumping into Ham on my way to the bar. I had my head bent to my tray, my mind filled with cashing out tabs, so I didn’t see him until the last second.

I rocked to a halt, tipped my head back, and stared into his unhappy face.

“Call off your dogs,” he ordered, his voice not unhappy but downright pissed. “I don’t need you dealin’ with your shit walkin’ in this bar and I really don’t need me havin’ to deal with your shit walkin’ in this fuckin’ bar.”

Maybelline and Wanda had not gone cautious and Arlene and Cotton had showed zero finesse so I knew what he was talking about to the point that I couldn’t even lie to deny it.

He didn’t give me a chance to lie.

He walked away.

It was nearly closing, last call come and gone, and it was unusual, as in unheard of since I’d been back at The Dog and even before when we’d worked there together, but when Ham walked away, he walked to his blonde. Once there, he put his hand on her elbow and she slid off her stool, head tipped back to him. She smiled a sultry smile and Ham guided her to the back.

He didn’t come back out to help or even supervise clean up.

He wasn’t in the back when I went to get my purse.

And, when I checked, his truck wasn’t parked behind the bar where he always parked it.

And last, he didn’t come home that night.

* * *

The next morning, or more accurately, half past noon, I was sitting on my balcony in track pants, a hoodie, and thick wool socks, feet to the middle rung of the railing, holding aloft a steaming mug of coffee, when my door slid open.

I turned to see Ham walk out wearing his clothes from last night.

That didn’t sting. It burned.

But I battled the burn, telling myself I had to move on. We were roommates. He wanted nothing more. Even if he did, he couldn’t give me what I wanted. He wasn’t that man, not for me, not for anybody. He’d told me that himself. I had to find a way to unhook myself from a man who wanted nothing hanging on him. Not a house. Not furniture. Not a steady job. Not a woman. Not anything.

I had to find my way clear. Find a different happy that didn’t include him at the same time it did.

“Hey,” he greeted.

“Hey,” I replied.

Ham moved to the railing and leaned a hip on it, crossing his arms on his chest, all this while I watched.

“I was a dick yesterday,” he announced. “Was in a shit mood. Don’t know why but took it out on you. That was uncool. It won’t happen again. You’re right. This is your place, do what you want. I shouldn’t have said shit. It was a nasty thing to do, totally out of line, and you don’t need that crap.”

“You’re right. It was a nasty thing to do but it’s over. You’re bein’ cool about it now but I’d prefer it if we never discussed it again,” I said.

“I can do that.”

I nodded, put the coffee cup to my lips and my eyes to the mountains.

“Babe, just sayin’, I was a dick about your friends last night, too,” he stated and I looked back at him. “That said, cookie, be good you had a word with them and let them know what this is so they don’t give me anymore shit. I get where they’re comin’ from. I dig that you got that. Good friends are hard to beat. But just like you don’t need the crap I gave you yesterday, I don’t need that crap.”

“I can do that,” I told him.

“Thanks, darlin’,” he replied.

I looked back at the mountains.

“Zara,” he called.

“What?” I answered, eyes still glued to the mountains.

He said nothing.

I looked to him.

“What?” I repeated.

His head turned to the mountains and he muttered, “Nothin’, darlin’.”

I looked back to the mountains and took a sip of joe.

“More of that?” Ham asked.

“Plenty,” I answered.

“Need a refill?” he asked.

“I’m good,” I lied, but not about the coffee.

“Right, baby,” he murmured and I heard the door open and shut.

I kept my eyes to the mountains and pretended not to feel the wet gliding down my cheeks.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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