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Home > Lady Luck (Colorado Mountain #3)(4)

Lady Luck (Colorado Mountain #3)(4)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Just driving across a few states, picking up some guy from prison, taking him wherever. That’s what I thought it was.

It was never just that with Shift.

I should have known better.

“Toes,” he muttered, dropping his fork and going after a piece of toast.

“What?” I asked, going after another fry but finding myself not hungry though thinking that my situation was uncertain and therefore I should probably eat when I had the opportunity.

His eyes came to me.

They were light brown. I just noticed that. The shape and the eyelashes had taken all my attention so I missed that they were light brown. This was a little surprising considering his skin tone said he was a mutt and that mutt definitely included African-American. There was Caucasian in him, I was guessing, but no more than half. His skin was as perfect as the rest of him but dark-toned and not with Italian olive undertones but definitely black. Whoever’s genes formed him, they gave him the best of the both of them. At least in the looks department. Personality was seriously up for debate.

“Shoot up between the toes,” he explained and my thoughts went from the color of his eyes, the perfection of his skin and his luck with heredity to our annoying conversation.

“I told you, Walker, I’m not a junkie. I’ve never shot up anything, on my arms, between my toes, anywhere,” I stated then bit into the fry maybe a little angrily but still, what the f**k?

And further to what the f**k, why was he asking me these questions?

He studied me, eyes still blank, nothing working back there or nothing he’d give away. But his gaze didn’t leave my face.

This lasted awhile. It lasted while he chewed on his toast and I made a dent in my fries. It lasted long enough for me to wish he’d scan the restaurant or stare out the window again.

Then he declared on a low, knowing rumble, “You spread for him.”

I stopped avoiding his study of me and looked back at him. “What?”

“Surprising,” he muttered, going back to his fork and his pancakes.

I guessed as to his meaning and informed him, “I’m not Shift’s bookie.”

His eyes shot from his pancakes to me.

“Come again?”

“I’m not Shift’s bookie,” I repeated. “I don’t do a spread for him.”

He stared at me.

Then he whispered, “Jesus.”

“I work retail,” I told him.

He stared at me more.

“I’m a buyer,” I continued. “At Lowenstein’s department stores.”

He continued to stare at me.

Then he asked, “How’d he tap that?”

“What?” I asked back.

“A buyer for a f**kin’ department store. How’d Shift tap that?”

I shook my head again, my eyes narrowing and I repeated, “What?”

“Why do you,” he tipped his head at me as if I didn’t know who he meant by “you”, “spread for him?”

“I’m telling you, I’m not his bookie. He doesn’t place bets with me. And anyway, what bookie would run an errand for a guy like Shift?”

Jeez, maybe he had a hearing problem.

He leaned toward me and said quietly, “Spread.” I opened my mouth to reply but he went on, “Your legs.”

I blinked.

Then I got him.

Then my back went straight.

Then I snapped, “I don’t sleep with Shift. Gross! Are you crazy?”

He sat back and stared at me again. Then he dropped his fork, grabbed his cup of coffee and stared at me while he took a sip. Then he kept staring at me as he put his coffee cup back.

I was over the staring so I told him, “This conversation is bizarre. Maybe you might want to say what’s on your mind or ask what you want to know, like, straight out and try not to annoy me seeing as I’m not a prostitute, junkie, bookie or sleeping with Shift or anyone like him but instead I’m a buyer at a mid-to-upscale department store.”

“All right,” he agreed immediately. “What the f**k are you doin’ here?”

“Shift asked me to do him a favor.”

“And how does a buyer for a department store know Shift?”

“We had a mutual acquaintance. That acquaintance died,” I replied, just as immediately. “Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t die with that acquaintance because Shift’s an ass**le. He sometimes invades my life and asks me to do stuff. It’s healthier and less of a pain in the ass to agree. So, he asked me to do this, he’s footing the bill and I’m here.”

“No marker?” he asked.

“As in, Shift calling in one?” I asked back.

“Or you givin’ him one,” he replied.

I shook my head. “I don’t want anything from Shift so, no, I’ve never asked and there will never be a time when I’ll need to call on Shift to do anything for me. There’s no marker involved.”

“But you’re still here.”

I was sitting across from him so I didn’t think that merited a response.

“People don’t do somethin’ for nothin’, ‘specially bitches like you,” he noted.

I ignored him calling me a bitch, something Shift and his crew did frequently. I also didn’t get into what kind of “bitch” he thought I was.

Instead, I stated, “You obviously know Shift.”

“Unfortunately,” he answered and this surprised me. First, it indicated we had something in common. Second, it was a five syllable word. Third, Shift acted like this guy was important to him in some way. It occurred to me only then that when he phoned Shift, they didn’t have a heartfelt conversation about his joy at his newfound freedom. In fact, except for Shift (probably) greeting him, he’d said two words to him.

I found this intriguing.

I also didn’t get into that.

As far as I was concerned, I was going to drop this guy off wherever he wanted to go (and I hoped that wasn’t northern Canada) or, more to the point, let him drive himself wherever he wanted to go then I was going to go back to my apartment, my job and my frequent musings about pulling up stakes and getting far, far away from Duane “Shift” Martinez.

What I did do was take a chance.

And the chance I took was sharing, openly and honestly.

So I leaned forward and said quietly, “We’re connected, Shift and me, not by my choice. I do not want him in my life but he wants to be there and he stays there. He can make things difficult for me just being Shift. I know this. I avoid this. And the way I avoid this is, when he calls me and asks me to do something, I do it. He knows where my boundaries are and, so far, he’s respected them. I’m not stupid, I know he’ll push those boundaries and I know I have to get out from under this before he does but it takes a lot of shit to start a new life and I only have half of that shit, the half being me wanting to start it. The money, the job, the destination, all that I don’t have. So, until then, he calls, he asks, I do and he stays in the shadows of my life instead of taking center stage and f**king everything up. Hence,” I threw out a hand, “I’m here. Simple as that.”

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