Home > The Gamble (Colorado Mountain #1)(9)

The Gamble (Colorado Mountain #1)(9)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Before I could stop myself, I announced in a wistful voice, “I miss grape jelly.”

His head twisted toward me and he had an expression on his face that looked like he thought I was funny at the same time he was slightly confused. “You miss grape jelly?”

I took a sip of cranberry juice, surveyed the microwave but didn’t answer. Talking to him was taking a lot of concentration and energy, neither of which I had at that moment. It was weird, he was acting like I’d been there a year, like we were chums, like he didn’t practically throw me out of his house two days ago, like he liked me.

You didn’t tease someone you didn’t like. At least that was what my mother told me years ago when I’d come home, complaining that all the boys teased me. She said boys teased girls they liked and, one thing I learned in life, my mother was rarely, if ever, wrong.

Max decided to let it go too and dumped his eggs on the plate, turned off the burner, moved the skillet to a different one and came to stand in front of me. He held his plate aloft and started eating.

“You need to rest today,” he told me while eating.

“Yes,” I agreed and I would rest that day but I’d do that once I found a hotel in Denver.

He munched bacon before he bizarrely informed me, “In the wall outside the bathroom upstairs is the TV. You just slide open the doors. Same below it to get to the DVD player. Got some DVDs down there. Remotes are in the nightstand.”

I stared at him as he forked up some egg. “Sorry?”

“You want to use the computer, the password is Shauna444.”

“Um…” I mumbled then repeated, “Sorry?”

The microwave beeped, he set down his plate and turned to the microwave, saying, “That’s with a ‘U’.”

I wasn’t following. “A ‘U’?”

He opened the microwave, got my bowl, walked back to me, opened a drawer, dropped a spoon in the bowl and put it in front of me.

“Shauna. With a ‘U’. S-h-a-u-n-a. Then 444. All together.”

“But –”

“Computer’s in the roll top,” he went on, picking up his plate and a rasher of bacon then his eyes went beyond me to the window before he took a bite.

“Max, I think –”

“You bought enough food to feed an army. You should be good for lunch.”

Oh my God. Did he think I was staying there?

“Max –”

He looked back at me. “You should go bland; make sure you’re over it. Wouldn’t be good to have anything rich in your stomach if you have a relapse.”

“Maybe we should –”

I heard a car door slam, I stopped talking and twisted on my stool to look around. Outside, parked beside the Cherokee, was one of those sporty mini-SUVs and making it sportier, it was red. Bouncing up the steps was a young woman with a mass of thick, gleaming, wavy, dark brown hair. She was wearing a baby pink, poofy vest with a sky blue thermal under it with what looked like tiny, pink polka dots on it. She had on faded jeans and they were tight. She also had on fluffy boots with big pom poms at the front that swung around as she bounced up the steps. She was pretty. Very pretty.

No, she was adorable. The epitome of a snow bunny.

And she was very, very young. Way younger than me. Way younger than what I suspected Max was.

I was thirty-six, he had to be my age, maybe older, maybe younger, but not by much either way.

She looked twelve. Though since she could drive, maybe she was sixteen.

She stopped on the porch and gave an over-exaggerated, over-cheerful wave in our direction, bouncing up on her toes. Even overdone, the wave looked adorable too, like it came natural to her, which it probably did since she was likely a cheerleader.

Good Lord.

“Becca,” Max muttered, I looked at him and he folded a piece of toast in half and said. “I’m gonna be gone awhile.” Then he took a bite out of the toast and turned toward the sink.

“I –”

“Hey!” A bright, cheerful, young, female voice called from the doorway.

I turned to look and Becca was inside, closing the door then she bounced toward the bar, her boot pom poms swinging wildly.

“Hey Becca,” Max greeted.

“Hey Max,” Becca called then she looked at me and said, still bright, still cheerful, still young, “Hey there.”


“You must be Nina,” she announced and I couldn’t be sure but I think I gawped.

How did she know who I was?

Her eyes went around me. “She’s pretty,” she told who I suspected was Max since he was the only other person there then she looked back at me and her eyes fell to my chest before she declared, still bright and cheerful and also somewhat loud, “I dig that top! Where’d you get it? I gotta have one.”

“I –”

“You can shop, Bec, but it’d be a miracle you find that top,” Max told her and she looked at him when he finished, “and be able to afford it.”

I looked at Max and said, kind of snappish mainly because of the way he’d said what he’d said, “It wasn’t that expensive.”

“Since she’s gotta get on a plane and fly to England to buy it, that makes it expensive,” Max returned.

He had me there.

“England,” Becca breathed but she did it brightly and cheerfully.

“Um… yes,” I said to her.

“I forgot, Max told Mindy you were English.”

Mindy? Who was Mindy? And why was Max telling her about me?

“I’m not English,” I told Becca.

“I love your accent.” She kept breathing.

“I don’t really have an accent.”

“It’s so cool!” she cried, her eyes going to Max. “Isn’t it cool?”

“It’s cool,” Max agreed but he didn’t sound like he thought it was cool, he sounded like he was trying not to laugh.

I was going to look at him to see if he was trying not to laugh and maybe ask what was so funny when Becca kept my attention.

“Oh my God. I’d so love to live in a different country,” Becca declared. “You are so lucky.”

Me? Lucky? England was beautiful but…

“Though, I’d wanna live somewhere where it doesn’t rain,” Becca decided.

“It does that,” I told her, “quite a bit.”

“If I lived there, how long would it take me to get an accent?” she asked.

“Um… I’m not sure,” I answered.

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