Home > Hold On (The 'Burg #6)(2)

Hold On (The 'Burg #6)(2)
Author: Kristen Ashley

It was true. She did.

Mia Merrick did dick.

Which made the bitch the single stupidest female on the planet.

I was not around when they were married. I was not around when they got divorced.

I was around when every decent man in the ’burg got nailed down and happily allowed the ball and chain to be clamped around their ankle. And that meant I was around, and Mia Merrick was around, seeing all that and waiting for Merry to make his play to get the wife everyone in that ’burg said he loved more than anything back in his bed.

And now I was around, alone at J&J’s Saloon, the bar where I worked, watching Garrett Merrick drown his sorrows because the news made the rounds that day that Mia Merrick got engaged to another man. Not only that, he was a professor, had worked at IUPUI in Indianapolis, but this semester he’d taken a new position down at IU in Bloomington.

So she was getting hitched and leaving town. The For Sale sign had gone up in front of the house she’d shared with Merry that very day.

Moving on.

Leaving Merry behind.

“Was my play to make,” Merry told me.

“Yeah? How’s that?” I asked him.

“Cher, babe,” he said gently, “it’s cool you’re tryin’ to be there for me, but you don’t know.”

“I know she did dick,” I shot back.

His lips tipped up in a small, sad smile.

“Was my play,” he repeated.

“No,” I declared, leaning into my arms on the bar. “That’s bullshit, Merry, straight up. You got good, you don’t let it go. It lets you go, you hold on. It slips through your fingers, you pull out all the stops to get it back. You got somethin’ worth fighting for, you fight for it. You do not sit on your ass waitin’ for it to come back to you. You show whoever that is they mean something and you go all out on that, and the only way you go down is doin’ that shit swinging.”

Merry stared at me, which was good since I had his attention and I wasn’t done.

“I get you. I been around this ’burg for a while now so I get you, the kind of man you are,” I stated. “You think, you got a dick, you gotta do the work. Make the plays. Give the chase. Fight the good fight. But you’re wrong. It’s not like that woman was not in the know you had some serious history, and the seriousness of that history was the kind that hangs around a while. Your sister sorted out her gig with that because she had a good man at her back who kept her standing and swinging. But that isn’t the only way it goes. Any woman worth that kind of devotion, she takes her man’s back so he can stay standing. She does not wait for him to sort out his shit and then find her and kiss her ass.”

Merry continued to stare at me before one side of his lips bowed up in a small but not sad smile.

“Don’t hold back, Cher. Hand it to me straight,” he teased.

When he did, I felt it. I felt it like I felt it every time he was in. Every time he gave that kind of thing to me. Every time he gave anything to me.

The sting. The sting that made itself known. The sting that was a thorn that lived with me. A thorn I’d had so long that I could sometimes ignore the pain.

A thorn buried deep under my skin. A thorn that was Garrett Merrick.

A man who liked me. A man who laughed at my jokes. A man who smiled at me regularly. Who teased me often. Who shot the shit with me. A man who liked me a lot.

A man who was my friend.

A man who thought of me as a friend.

The man I loved more than breath.

“How long you known me?” I asked.

He just gave a slight shake of his head, his mouth still curled up on one end, making the beauty of his face a playful beauty that felt like a gift from God. A gift I wanted to call mine. A gift I wanted aimed at my son so he had a good man who could make him laugh, make him feel funny, and teach him how to be decent.

A gift that I got just like that, the way he was giving it to me now.

It was there.

But it would never be mine.

“A while,” he answered my question.

“I ever go soft?”

That got me a full smile and I knew I should feel lucky.

I never went soft. I was all hard. I’d built a shell around me no one could crack. I had reason. A really fucking good reason.

Problem was, I built that shell so hard, even I couldn’t break out of it.

That wasn’t exactly a bad thing. It could be considered good. It meant I couldn’t open myself up to the likes of Garrett Merrick, or the rest of the male population who were shades or whole freaking strides less than him, to walk all over me.

Still, I should feel lucky because Merry didn’t mind the hard. He looked past it to be my friend. A lot of folks didn’t.

That was good too. You didn’t put in the effort, why would I bother with you?

Merry put in the effort. A lot of folks in that ’burg did when I’d moved there, even after what had happened to make me move there.

Which was why I stayed.

Not for me—for my kid.

Ethan needed people around him like that.

“You aren’t drinkin’,” Merry pointed out, tipping his head to my glass.

I lifted it and shot the whole damned thing.

Merry burst out laughing.

I slammed the glass down and grabbed the bottle to pour more.

“Only you would shoot a fifty dollar glass of Feb and Morrie’s finest Scotch,” Merry noted.

I topped his off and poured myself another one.

Then I again shot it.

When I did, Merry burst out laughing again.

Which was precisely why I blew one hundred dollars I could not afford in less than thirty seconds.

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