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Home > The Gamble (Colorado Mountain #1)(11)

The Gamble (Colorado Mountain #1)(11)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“I –”

“And why you been awake and functioning for at least half an hour and you haven’t phoned him?” he went on.

Drat!

Max leaned into me and I watched with not a small amount of fascination as his face grew soft. His face was always amazing, soft it was something else entirely and that something else was even better.

“You’re half a world away, Duchess, you been sick as a dog and your man doesn’t contact you? Even not knowin’ you’re sick, a man gives a shit, he phones.”

He, unfortunately, had me there.

Therefore, I just stood there staring at him not knowing what to say.

Max wasn’t so uncertain.

His hand came out and grabbed mine, lifting it between us, his fingers in my palm, his thumb toying with my diamond engagement ring.

“I was your man, you were halfway around the world from me, honey, I’d f**kin’ phone you,” he said quietly.

“Niles is reserved,” I whispered.

“Niles is an ass,” he returned and my brows drew together.

“You don’t know him.”

“I know men and I know he’s not reserved, he’s an ass.”

I pulled my head together, my hand from his and snapped, “Yes? And how do you know that?”

“Because I’ve seen you naked, I’ve seen you sweet, I’ve seen you unsure and I’ve seen you riled and, seein’ all that, I know, you were half a world away from me, I’d f**kin’ phone.”

“Perhaps that’s not the kind of relationship Niles and I have,” I suggested snottily but his words hit me somewhere deep, somewhere I didn’t know I had.

“You on a timeout?”

“What?”

“If you told me you needed a timeout, first, I wouldn’t f**kin’ let you have one, second, I wouldn’t give you reason to f**kin’ want one, last, you took off anyway, I’d f**kin’ phone.”

My head tilted to the side and I felt my body start warming up not, this time, with fever.

“You wouldn’t let me have one?”

“Fuck no.”

“Ergo, you would not be my man.”

“Ergo?”

“It’s Latin, it means ‘therefore’.”

“Whatever,” he muttered, “I gotta go.”

“Hang on,” I snapped. “You may think you know me but I was delirious. I didn’t get to know you.”

“You will.”

“I won’t.”

“So you think you’re leavin’?” He switched the subject.

“I am leaving,” I declared, happy to be on this subject.

He stuck his hand in his front jeans pocket, pulled out the keys to the rental, dangled them in front of me for a brief flash then his hand closed around them and he shoved them back into his pocket.

“Be hard gettin’ down the mountain on foot, carryin’ that huge-ass suitcase of yours, which weighs a goddamned ton, your overnight bag, your purse and a shitload of groceries,” he informed me.

“Give me those keys,” I snapped.

“I’d tell you to go for them, honey, but don’t have time to play.”

At his words, my mouth dropped open again, he grinned, chucked me gently under the chin with the side of his fist (yes, I will repeat, he chucked me under the chin) and then he walked away.

I stood staring at the space he used to be in then, when I heard the front door open, I ran to the railing.

“Max!” I shouted.

“Later, Duchess,” he called, a hand up, two fingers flicking out, he didn’t even look back.

Becca looked back though, and up. She gave me a wince-I’m-sorry-face and a finger wave and I knew she heard everything. I’d totally forgotten she was there.

Then I watched Max throw his now black leather jacketed arm around her shoulders and I wondered who Becca was and what she was to Max who was just upstairs, semi-fighting with me and also, if I wasn’t wrong, and I didn’t think I was, flirting with me in a rough, macho, mountain man kind of way

They talked for a few seconds at the side of her car then they separated. Becca got in her sporty, red, mini-SUV. Max got in his black Cherokee. They both drove away.

I looked down at the bottom floor and saw my cranberry juice, my coffee and my untouched oatmeal all sitting on the bar.

Then I looked out the window at the wilderness.

The internet advertisement for the A-Frame said it was fifteen miles away from the nearest town, secluded, quiet, the perfect holiday destination for a calm, relaxing, peaceful getaway.

The Nightmare Holiday Destination if you had to walk fifteen miles to town carrying a suitcase, an overnight bag, a purse and a shitload of groceries.

Tackle a problem prepared, Charlie advised in my head and I nodded like he was there with me.

Then I walked downstairs, heated up my oatmeal, warmed up my coffee and sat at the stool, preparing to tackle my problem.

Chapter Three

Buffalo Burgers

After I ate, I did my dishes, Max’s dishes, wiped down the counters, found the extra sheets in the closet and made the bed. Then I found the utility room around the corner from the recess in the living room. The dirty sheets were on the floor. As the advertisement said, washer and drier but also a bunch of man stuff that needed to be organized.

I let that stuff be. I put the sheets in the washer.

I packed my bags and decided that Max could have the groceries. He and Becca and the unknown Mindy could have a party. I didn’t care. I was out of there.

Then I poured myself another cup of coffee and found the phonebook. It was thin; I’d never seen a phonebook so thin.

I realized why it was thin when I looked up taxi companies. There was only one. But one was enough.

I went to Max’s phone, pulled it out of the receiver and punched in the number.

“Thrifty’s,” a woman answered.

“Hello, my name is Ms. Sheridan and I need a taxi to town.”

There was a pause and then, “Nina?”

My body jolted and then I froze with the phone to my ear.

“Hello?” the voice called.

“Um… yes?”

“This Nina?”

“How do you know who I am?”

“Welp, Max called, said a lady with a fancy accent by the name of Nina would call, askin’ for a taxi. You’re a lady with a fancy accent and you’re askin’ for a taxi. Get some of those callin’ with British accents, not a lot. So I’m takin’ a wild guess. You Nina?”

I wondered if I could make it to Denver then to England before anyone discovered Max’s body. Then I wondered if anyone would bother with extradition if they figured out it was me who did the deed. That was a lot of paperwork for one big, tall, domineering, jerky mountain man. Then I wondered, considering Max was so tall and big, how I’d kill him.

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