Home > Hold On (The 'Burg #6)(14)

Hold On (The 'Burg #6)(14)
Author: Kristen Ashley

“Merry,” I answered.

His brows went up. “Why didn’t you take the call?”

He asked because he knew Merry was a friend. He knew this because, being a friend, we had occasions to be together outside me serving Merry drinks at J&J’s, times when Ethan was around. Parties. Barbeques. Picnics. Basketball and football games Colt would organize with adults and kids. Hanging at the carnival at Arbuckle Acres during the Fourth of July. Heading out with Colt and Feb and their speedboat to a lake.

Merry was in his life. Merry liked kids, dug Ethan, and often passed a ball or Frisbee with him, teased him, shot the shit with him, ruffled his hair, squeezed the back of his neck, laughed when Ethan was funny, made Ethan laugh by being funny.

There was no reason Ethan could imagine why I would not take a call from a good guy who might not be a staple in Ethan’s life but definitely had a firm foot in it.

“’Cause I’m with you at the grocery store and some stuff has gone down with Merry that’s pretty intense, so when I chat with him next, I wanna give him all my attention.”

This was the truth, thankfully.

Ethan’s head tipped to the side. “What stuff?”

“His ex-wife got engaged to someone else.”

Ethan was no less confused. “He still into her?”

That thorn drove deeper.


Ethan nodded like he was a one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old wise man with a twelve-foot-long white beard, sitting on a mountaintop, a pilgrimage destination for folks who wished to beg his wisdom.

“I see that,” he muttered solemnly.

“You got an ex-wife I don’t know about?” I asked, reaching for a bag of Funyuns as we made our way down the aisle.

“Three of them, actually,” Ethan answered.

I swallowed a laugh and tossed the Funyuns in the cart. I still grinned at the back of his head as he grabbed a bag of Fritos Scoops.

“Too bad you didn’t have a momma who taught you how to treat a woman right,” I remarked.

“Nah, me that got rid of them, seein’ as they didn’t treat me as good as my momma,” he shot back.

Suddenly, I needed to hold on to something because I felt weak in the knees.

My dad drank, slapped my mom around, then gave her the best gift he could: he fucked around on her with a woman he preferred, so he left us to be with her and then minimized contact in order not to deal with his responsibility, but it made it so we didn’t have to deal with his garbage.

I didn’t like school so I screwed around, graduating by the skin of my teeth, too young and too stupid to know one day I’d need it.

I liked wild because it felt good, so I found it everywhere I could find it and ended up with men so far worse than my father, it wasn’t funny.

I ate shit because I’d bought it and I ate shit because that was life.

But in all that, I’d done something right. Something so right, it was the anchor of my life that kept me steady and whole instead of allowing me to get chewed to shit and spit out, bloody and beaten.

I’d made Ethan. I’d kept Ethan. And I made sure my boy knew he was loved right down to my soul.

Which meant he loved me that way right back.

“You know I love you, baby?” I whispered.

He turned his head and gave me a glare. “Jeez, Mom. Gag.”

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing.

The last couple of years, the love and hugs and cuddles I showered on my kid had had to dry up. He might allow it, in private and in moderation. But affection was not big on his hit list any other time.

“You done bein’ gooey?” he asked through my laughter.

“Yep,” I said, fighting that laughter back. “Just hit my weekly quota of gooey. But, just warnin’ you, kid, next week I’ll have to fit more gooey in somewhere.”

He rolled his eyes, but his lips were tipped up again and those eyes were shining. He then headed to the Pringles selection.

We bought four tubes.

I found time in the pasta aisle to text Merry, With Ethan. Talk later.

I got back, You on tomorrow?

He could find out easily; my shifts at the bar were hardly a state secret.

Early, I replied.

Catch you there.


He was going to lay it on me while I was at work.

Morrie had talked Feb into putting a few TVs in, which meant Sundays at the bar, always steady but not busy, became the last—busy. Good for tips. Bad to have a bunch of folks around while I had to take the hit that Merry was going to deliver.

But Merry thought I was a woman who “got it.”

And I did “get it,” even if I didn’t want to.

So I’d take it, I’d understand it, and we’d carry on.

I just wasn’t looking forward to it.

Chapter Three



“All right! We’re rollin’ out!” I called to the house, walking out of my bedroom.

It was the next day and we were on our way to my mother’s so I could drop Ethan and then get to work.

In preparing, I’d managed to beat back the urge to go all out—or more to the point, not.

Part of me understood why Mia Merrick didn’t make an approach to her ex-husband (a small part of me), this being he had so far from remained celibate since their break it wasn’t funny. He’d tagged and bagged a lot of tail in the time I knew him, and although Mia rarely came into J&J’s and definitely didn’t attend any other events I’d been to when Merry was around, the amount of tail he’d hit in a town that small would be impossible to miss.

And I saw what he went for. Petite. Emphasis on hair. Talented hand with makeup brushes. Dressed like me, showing skin. They’d get their cling on, if not skintight, not much left to the imagination.

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