Old Wounds New Beginnings

Part 3

By Kim (KP) Pritekel

You don't know 'em, honest.

Subtext: Yes, this story is of an alternative nature, what else would come from me? So, basically if you aren't old enough to buy me a beer, wouldn't buy me a beer, or live some place where they don't sell beer, go away. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and let me entertain you.

Violence: Well, folks. I'm going to be honest here. I'm not real sure how far I'll take this, but know that part of this takes place in a prison, and it's not a pretty world. There will be violence, including murder, and also some scenes dealing with rape. If this bothers you, then please move on, or cover your eyes during the scary stuff. I think it'll be more disturbing than graphic, though.

Language: Yup. Be warned.

Note: The depiction of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) is accurate in this story, however some names and possibly some aspects have been changed to protect the innocent, and also my butt. Hey, I wanna keep my job, okay?

Note 2: I have changed LaGrange, Texas to fit into the story, so if it is not like the real thing, just pretend, and don't hurt me. : )

Thank you to Barbara. Your ideas and knowledge of the Gaelic language was beyond helpful. : ) Slan.

If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com

Part 3

Tyg watched as Jamie's long, dark hair blew slightly in the warm, early morning breeze, the rising sun shining off the sable color. She noticed a tattoo on Jamie's left bicep, but could not see what it was, only that it seemed to wrap around the arm. She watched as the muscles of Jamie's back moved slightly under the thin material of her shirt as the tall woman adjusted her stance at the fence. Her eyes continued down the long legs and the butt that fit so nicely in those jeans.

Hazelnut whinnied, snapping Tyg out of her reverie. Jamie turned at the sound, and walked over to the smaller woman and the golden horse.

"Why is that one in a pen by itself?" Jamie asked, hitching her thumb over her shoulder at the black mare.

"That one there is a wild one. She was found just runnin' her heart out over in the western fields by the stream. We roped her, and brought her here. No one can seem to break her, though." Tyg glanced over at the beautiful horse that had begun to buck again, clouds of dust thrown up around her. She shook her head sadly. Such a shame.

"Wow." Jamie whispered, then turned back to Tyg expectantly.

"Okay, I've got Nut here all geared up. Let me show ya what she's got on." Tyg went on to explain the workings of the saddle and headgear, and how to get the horse to do what you want. Tyg was pleased with Jamie's full attention, and good questions. She was proving to be a quick study. "You ready to head out?"

"I guess so." Jamie said, her stomach suddenly clenching in a nervous knot. Tyg smiled.

"Well, honey, you have two choices here. Ya'll can either wait and I'll saddle up Barley over there, or ya'll can jump on Hazelnut with me."

Jamie glanced over at the horse that Tyg indicated, the one called Barley, and noted the immense size of the Quarterhorse, then glanced back at Hazelnut. She by no means felt ready to ride a horse solo. She nodded toward the Palomino. Tyg grinned, chuckling slightly.

"Come on, then." Tyg hurled her solid frame up onto the back of the patient horse, and reached down for Jamie's hand. "Put your foot in the stirrup, and push. I'll pull." Jamie did as she was told, and found herself sitting snugly behind Tyg in the saddle, her body pressed up against the blonde's back. She took in a deep breath, and waited for Tyg to tell her what to do. She hated not knowing what was going on, giving someone else the control was a strange, nerve wracking experience for her. "Okay, honey, reach around here, and grab the reins." Jamie wrapped her arms around Tyg's waist, and wrapped the smooth leather around her fingers like Tyg had shown her. Tyg grabbed onto the saddle horn, but tapped one of Jamie's thighs "Put your feet into the stirrups, honey." Jamie did as she was told. Tyg felt nervous all the sudden, having Jamie so close. There had not been a female hand on the ranch in over five years. Tyg was used to living her life with men, and leaving the physical feelings out of her life. Ever since Carol. She mentally shook herself. She didn't need to think about her right now, nor did she want to. "Okay, Jamie, now lightly kick Nut in the flank with the heel of your boot."

Jamie held a bit tighter to the reins as the horse began to move. She was almost reminded of starting off on her bike. Almost. The ride was much smoother on the Harley.

"Okay, honey, click your tongue for her." Jamie did, and the horse began to move a bit faster. "Let's head up to the stream. Kill two birds with one stone. Show you how to ride, and see the rest of the ranch."

"Okay." Jamie said distractedly, her full attention on not killing them on the beast. Tyg seemed to sense her worry, and gently squeezed one of the arms that was partially wrapped around her, in comfort.

"You're doin' fine, honey."

Jamie felt the warmth of Tyg's skin on her own wash through her, sending slight jolts up her arm. Having the beautiful little blonde this close to her was becoming more and more unnerving.

"Okay, honey, you feel comfortable enough to get us up to a trot? At this gait, we'll be lucky ta hit the stream by dusk." Jamie smiled, hearing the smile in Tyg's soft voice. She kicked the animal slightly, clicking her tongue, and Hazelnut met the challenge though she figured the extra weight had to be taxing on the beast.

Tyg was proud of her horse, though she could hear the extra work in the mare's heavy breathing. Jamie was handling the animal beautifully. She was a natural it seemed, and told her so. There was no answer save for a soft, self-deprecating chuckle as she expected. She could feel the front of Jamie's thighs against the back of her own as her booted feet hung free in front of the stirrups. Not the most comfortable position in the world, but Jamie had to learn. Jamie's body was producing an immense amount of heat that flowed straight into her own body. Her thoughts began to disperse as Hazelnut found a smooth, but fast pace that she loved so much. The freedom of covering so much ground with the beast, a connection that she had as of yet to find with another human being. Ordinarily this was an experience that she treasured by herself, and whenever she'd been forced to ride double had felt that the other rider was encroaching on a most personal moment, but somehow she did not mind sharing it with Jamie. Deep down she felt that Jamie felt the profound experience, too. Ultimate freedom.

To Jamie's utmost surprise, she found that she was enjoying the ride, and almost wished she had chosen to ride Barley. Next time. She stared out at the scenery that whisked by them, the rolling hills crowned in green, the large rocks that jutted out of the ground like jewels that Hazelnut just seemed to know to avoid. The path they trod was well worn, narrow. She glanced up at the morning sky, the sun bright, beckoning the beauty of a new day, blue as far as the eye could see. One thing she missed about Colorado was that in this exact same place, far-off blue mountains would be visible in every direction. Though she had learned to hate the outlying area of Canon City, she had to admit that it held one of the most incredible views she had ever seen. She had stared out of the window of her cell in the early morning, drinking in the view, capturing it forever in gray, black and white on a piece of paper, wishing that she were part of it. She almost felt like screaming out to the world, hugging Tyg for being part of that world. Instead, she urged Hazelnut on even faster.

Tyg felt a change in Jamie, sensed it. The tall woman's body relaxed, and her grip tightened on the reins, and the Palomino was urged on, the strong, powerful legs eating up even more ground. She held on a bit tighter to the saddle horn. She wasn't sure what had brought on the sudden change, but knew deep down it was a good thing, a type of release for the dark woman. She felt honored to be part of it in some way.

The stream was coming up just about a quarter mile ahead. Tyg could see the sun glinting off the surface.

"Slow us down, honey. Just up ahead is the stream." she called back to Jamie. "Remember what I told ya. Just pull back slightly, bring 'er down." Jamie followed instructions, the mare responding immediately. She must be a well trained horse, Jamie mused. Hazelnut stopped, snorting at the tight pull of the bit. "Ease off on the reins just a bit, honey. Nut don't like for the bit to dig." Jamie handed the reins to Tyg, then swung her feet out of the stirrups, and jumped down from the animal with a grunt, a cloud of dust floating up around her. Tyg came next, her landing graceful and soft. She grinned up at Jamie's frown.

"Years of practice." Tyg took Hazelnut by the reins, and began to walk along the stream. Jamie followed, looking around. The stream was more like a small river. It ran in either direction for as far as the eye could see, and looked to be about a half mile across at its widest point. Tyg stopped, patting Hazelnut's neck. "That way it stretches clear to the Lower Colorado." Tyg said, nodding her head off to the left. "And the other way, well, just empties out into some unknown somewhere."

Jamie turned in a slow circle, taking in all that was around. Off to the left were a small stand of black oaks with their branches filled with plump leaves, reaching toward the heavens. The land was flat for the most part, soft rolling hills now and then. Certainly unlike the city Jamie had left behind.

"Ya'll are the first woman we've had on here in quite some time." Tyg said quietly, a small smile playing across her lips.

"Why is that?" Jamie asked, crossing her arms over her chest, staring out across the stream, and into the line of wild bushes that flanked its bank.

"Don't know, ta be honest. Guess it just ended up that way." Tyg began to walk again, Jamie fell into step with her. Tyg was quiet as her thoughts began to form questions in her mind. "So tell me something, Jamie. Why did ya chose ta go work on a ranch?" For just a second, Jamie felt a bolt of panic, but swallowed it down. She was tired of hiding. She wasn't about to tell the small blonde her life story, far from it. But the truth wouldn't hurt.

"Needed a change. Something different." she finally said.

"Hell, ranching has got to be a change from just about anything, I suspect." Tyg hooked her thumb into the belt loop of her jeans, her booted feet absently kicking at some pebbles that littered their path. "I want you ta know that you are entitled to have your own life while here, Jamie." Tyg said, glancing up at the tall woman. "Come and go as you please, just long as your ready to work, that is." she smiled, Jamie glanced down at the upturned face, and turned her eyes back to the stream. Tyg looked away from the dark woman. "Hell, it's even fun to go out with the boys sometimes. That's what I call the other hands. My boys. BJ sure seemed to take an interest in you this morning." Tyg chuckled thinking about the way the sandy-haired guy had just about slobbered all over himself to try and make Jamie smile. She can't say she blamed him. Jamie's smiles seemed to be so rare that it was quite the event when one showed itself. "In a few weeks the big to do of LaGrange is the carnival that's comin'. Usually fun." Jamie nodded, burying her hands into her front pockets.

"So why is the ranch called The Triple M?" Jamie asked. Tyg glanced at her, surprised to hear the taller woman speak.

"Well, the family name is McClure, and the M's are for my granddaddy, daddy, and me." Tyg explained, her voice filled with pride.

"Well, what about when your children take over the place?"

"Don't think that'll ever happen." Tyg said, her voice quiet, wistful. Jamie glanced down at her in question, but said nothing. "So are you alone in this big ol' world, or ya got family out there somewhere?" Tyg asked, heading for a log to sit on.

Jamie stared out into the sun, and sighed. "I have a brother."

"Where's he?" Jamie shrugged, glancing down at the toe of her boot as she kicked at a weed. Tyg sensed that Jamie did not want to talk about this. She noticed as some fiery highlights were brought out in her dark hair by the bright sun overhead. She sighed, and stared out over the water. Enough talk. Jamie would remain a mystery to her for at least another day.

Tyg covered the basics of what went on at the ranch, and what Jamie would be expected to do, and would be taught to do. Jamie listened attentively, forever grateful that Tyg hadn't pushed the personal issue. She had started to feel suffocated by the smaller woman's curiosity. She couldn't be mad at her, though. Who wouldn't want to know what they were spending money on?


Jamie collapsed back onto the mattress, legs dangling off the side of the bed. God, what a day. She had had no idea just how much work ranching could be. Her respect for Tyg had quadrupled. How that small woman accomplished so much in one day was beyond her. Her whole body ached, muscles tense, many worked that she had not realized that she even had.

With a groan, Jamie sat up and headed for the bathroom, needing a hot bath to soak her long body in. She stripped out of her clothes as she went, leaving a trail of dirty, sweat-soaked clothing crumpled on the floor. She sat on the edge of the tub as the water roared from the faucet. Closing her eyes, she sighed deeply. She felt good, like she had accomplished something that day, made a difference. During her years sitting in a prison cell, she had felt like she was just taking up space, was a waste of time, and a waste of a human being. Even during her days of illegal activity, she had never been dormant with her activity. She had always felt a need, compelled even, to keep going, make it better, faster, more lucrative. Whatever the case had been. Now she felt that way again. Felt like she were a part of something. A somebody.

Jamie glanced over her shoulder, and saw that the tub was just about full, and turned off the faucet when she heard a knock at the door at her cabin.

"Shit." she breathed as she looked around for something to put on. She was not a particularly modest person; inside you can't be, but didn't want to answer it in the buff. She grabbed a towel hanging on the towel rack, and wrapped it around her chest. The knock came again. "Yeah, yeah. Keep your pants on!" she hollered as she made her way through the main room, unlocked the door, and swung it open. Tyg stood on the front porch, her eyes widening to the size of saucers when she saw Jamie's state of undress.

The words Tyg had planned on saying flew right out of her head when her eyes took in the sight before her. Jamie stood with a white towel wrapped around her naked body, one hand clutching the ends together between her breasts. Her hair, still wild and unkempt from the day, fell around her shoulders, the darkness setting off the vibrant blue of her eyes. She was breathtaking.

Jamie's irritation died on her lips, her surprise at seeing Tyg overriding it. She blinked once, suddenly feeling very vulnerable, and very naked beneath the towel. She stared down at the woman, waiting for her to speak, do something to break the uncomfortable, surprised silence.

"Howdy." Tyg said, swallowing before she continued. "I forgot ta give this to you earlier." she brought up her hand to show Jamie a black felt cowboy hat with a thin leather band. "I know these harsh summer days can be brutal on the heartiest, most seasoned soul, so I can imagine how you must feel, the sun beatin' down, burnin' your scalp." Tyg cut herself off, realizing that she was beginning to ramble. "Anyway, here ya go."

Jamie reached out and took the hat, turning it over in her grip to stare at the fine workmanship of the obviously hand-tooled leather band with the silver buckle on the side.

"Thank you." Jamie said, her voice quiet. No one had ever given her such a considerate gift before. She used to just take it. "This is too nice, though. It'll get ruined."

"Hell, don't worry none. It's yours, make it yours. Every good cowboy should have a hat." Tyg smiled then, and Jamie couldn't help but smile back. "Some time this week we need ta get you to LaGrange, and get ya some good clothes. You'll fry in those jeans, and 'sides, don't want ya to ruin everything ya've got." with one more smile, Tyg stepped off the porch. Just as she was about to leave, she glanced over her shoulder. "See ya in the mornin', Jamie."

Jamie watched the small blonde walk away, wondering if the rancher was so considerate to all her new hands.


Tyg drove back up to the house, and parked in her usual spot beside the place, and headed upstairs. Her mind was still fully dwelling on the picture of Jamie opening the door, wearing only a towel. She had not expected that, and certainly had not expected to be affected by it as bad as she was. She was having a certain physical reaction that she had not allowed herself in quite awhile. She reasoned that it had to simply be that a woman had not graced the place in so long, that no wonder she was affected. She had not visited Torey's in a long time, but maybe it was time she started again. Though the bar may not be of the best class, it was worth the drive to Carmine to relieve some, uh,.... pressure. Mind made up, Tyg headed to the door at the end of the hall on the second floor.

"Get in here." came the muffled reply from the other side of the door. Tyg grinned, and turned the knob, entering the large room. The heavy, velvet drapes were pulled back from the large window that overlooked the southern pasture. Larry McClure's wheelchair was placed near it, the still figure in it looking out. I was wonderin' where you were."

"Sorry, Granddaddy." Tyg said, plopping down in a stuffed armchair in the corner. Larry turned his chair around until he was facing his granddaughter. "Been so busy last coupla days with the new hand an all." Tyg sighed, her body tensing from being able to relax after a rigorous day. She stretched her short legs out, crossing them at the ankle, her hands dangling over the arms of the chair.

"So? What do ya think of 'er?" Larry asked, a slight sparkle in his deep green eyes, the leathery skin from a life out in the weather, crinkling with the slight smile that played across his features. Tyg marveled at how handsome her grandfather still was. He had always been her hero, almost reminding her of the Marlboro man. In his seventy-three years, Larry McClure had seen more than most do in two life times. Now as he struggled daily with emphysema, hooked to an oxygen tank, she would do anything to keep him in her life forever. He had always been her guiding force, the one who kept her going. She drew her brow. Speaking of oxygen tank,

"Granddaddy, where is you air?" Tyg asked, sitting up in the chair, her eyes scanning the room.

"Ah, hell, I threw it away." the old man muttered, turning back to the window.

"You did not, either. Come on," Tyg stood, spotting the tank near the foot of the bed. She was lucky she hadn't tripped over it when she had walked in.

"Don't want it, Tyg. Had those damn things stuck in my damn nose all damn day." the last word was cut short by a wracking coughing fit. Tyg hurried over to her grandfather, gently rubbing his back, whispering words of comfort. She knew that her grandfather was in a lot of pain, but the stoic man would never say just how much. Everyday Tyg was grateful that she had another day with him.

Larry McClure wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and turned tired eyes on his granddaughter, patting her hand that rested on his shoulder.

"Put it on, for me?" Tyg asked, her concerned eyes pleading. Larry nodded, never able to deny the beloved girl a damn thing. Tyg grabbed the tank, and hooked the loop onto the back of the chair, and carefully eased the tube in place. "Thank you." she whispered, kissing his sandpaper-like cheek. She smoothed a couple of stray salt/pepper hairs back from his forehead.

"So tell me 'bout this new hand." Larry McClure said, breathing deeply of the cool oxygen that flowed through his nose. He would never admit it to Tyg, but he felt much better with the air.

"Well," Tyg sighed, plopping down in the chair again. "She's quiet, that's for sure. I think she'll do just fine."

"But what do ya think of 'er?"

Tyg sighed again, glancing out the window at the clear night sky, the moon shining bright and high. It was getting late, and she was tired. She thought about the question as her grandfather waited patiently for her to answer. What did she think of Jamie? She hadn't really let her mind explore that thought, though she had unsuccessfully posed it to herself many times.

"I guess she makes me curious." she finally said, glancing briefly at the older man. His lips quirked up into a grin.

"Jus' curious, eh?" Tyg narrowed her eyes.

"Don't even start. You are not too old for me ta kick your behind." Larry chuckled. "I got a call from Hector the other day." the grin slid right off of the older man's face. His eyes darkened, and he looked away from Tyg, staring out the window once more. "When's it gonna stop?" Tyg whispered, choking the emotion down. "How could he do this ta us, granddaddy? Ta the ranch?"

"I dunno, Tiger, I just don't know."


Tyg had picked Jamie up the next morning at four-thirty sharp. Tyg had felt nervous around the tall woman from the night before. She could barely meet Jamie's questioning look, afraid her eyes would reveal too much. Jamie seemed fine with it, as if it was everyday that she sauntered around another woman half-naked. It was at that moment that the small blonde wondered to herself if in fact she had. Was she? Did she-... She cut off her thoughts. What did it matter? She had never gotten involved with a hand, and wasn't about to start now. Besides, hadn't she learned her lesson already?

Jamie noticed that Tyg was quiet during breakfast, staring down at her plate as she devoured the fluffy pancakes. Jamie glanced over at her often. The rancher almost seemed embarrassed to look at her. She wondered if maybe Tyg had been offended and completely repulsed by the way that Jamie had answered the door the night before. She sighed as she sipped from her mug of steaming coffee. Damn. Jamie set the mug down, deciding right then and there that no matter how beautiful she might find Tyg, the woman was off limits, and she would put the whole damn thing out of her mind. She was there to work, not get laid.

Tyg called all nine hands to the front porch to gather around.

"Okay, ya'll, can ya hear me alright?" a muttering of yup filled the early morning air. Tyg hopped up onto a sturdy wrought iron table so she could see everybody. Sometimes being short was a real bitch. She glanced quickly down to her left to see two bright blue eyes staring up at her. She quickly looked away. "'Kay, good. Now. taday we gotta mend those fences in the southern and northern pastures. Now, don't start grumblin'. I'm gonna split ya'll up into two groups. Okay, boys, BJ and Briar, I want you two in the south field, about a mile past the gate. Get your butts in gear, 'cause those cows are about to take a field trip, got it?" the one called BJ turned pale blue eyes on Jamie, a slightly disappointed look quickly crossed his young features, then he and his brother, Briar, hurried to Briar's red and white Chevy. "Tommy, Bobby, Calvin and Wilbur, take the mile turn back in the south field. You'll need some more posts, too. The winter last year hit hard." the small group of men hurried off the porch without a word. Jamie watched the groups as they disappeared into the early morning, impressed with Tyg's surprising delegating nature. The men, some ten and more years older, took what she said without question. Tyg finally looked down at the newest member to her crew, and smiled down at Jamie. "Looks like yer stuck with me, Marty and Lyle here." she hopped down from her perch on the table, and without another word, headed for her truck.

The very young man with long, black hair, tied back in a tail, and slightly slanted brown eyes, headed for the door to the passenger side of the old green truck. Tyg stopped, her hand on the door handle, and looked over the bed of the truck at the young man.

"Marty, what in hell you doin'?" the boy looked at her, eyes narrowed. "You can't tell me your mamma didn't give you better manners than that, 'cause I know for fact that she did." the boy looked on, still confused. Jamie noticed the other man trying to stifle a chuckle. "Ya let a lady ride up front, ya bone head!" the boy's face reddened, and he lowered his dark eyes, stepping back from the truck. "I don't wanna have ta tell you again, got that?"

Marty's eyes darted in Jamie's direction.

"Sorry, ma'am." he mumbled. Jamie glanced over at Tyg, then back at the boy.

"You want to ride shotgun, kid, go for it. Don't matter to me." Jamie said, her hands in her pockets. The boy looked over at Tyg again, and saw her green eyes flaring. He looked back at Jamie, tipped his hat, and hopped over the side of the bed, landing next to Lyle Cody sitting on one of the wheel wells. Jamie shrugged, then climbed into the truck.

"Kids these days." Tyg grumbled as she slammed her door shut. "They got the manners of a goat." Jamie began to chuckle when she remembered her hat.

"Shit! I left my hat in there." she pointed through the side window at the front door of the house.

"Go on and get it. I ain't goin' nowhere." Tyg said, sticking the key in the ignition.

Jamie jumped out of the truck, and ran toward the house. The front door slammed behind her as she quickly made her way toward the kitchen. She had a feeling that today was not the day to piss Tyg off. She could hear Rosa moving around in the large room.

"Well, back so soon?" the older woman said over her shoulder from a sink full of dishes, not even bothering to turn to face the intruder.

"Forgot my hat." Jamie explained quietly, grabbing the black cowboy hat off the back of her chair.

"Yeah. Was wondering when you were going to decide to come back and get that." Rosa glanced at the tall woman briefly, then down at the hat she held in her hands. "Hmm. Tyg had that specially made, ya know."

"No, I didn't know." Jamie glanced down at the beautifully crafted hat. "So, does she do this for all the new hands that come on? That's got to be an awfully expensive welcome aboard gift." Rosa chuckled, her ample body jiggling slightly with the effort.

"Nope. Never seen her dole out howdy do gifts before." the older woman turned back to the dishes. "Now get on out there. I don't think Tyg is especially full of patients this morning."

Tyg drove over the bumpy road, the two men in the back hanging on like this was old hat. Jamie assumed it probably was. She stared down at the hat in her lap, thinking about what Rosa had told her. So this was not something that Tyg always did? So why did she do it for her? She glanced over at Tyg, and saw that the young woman's eyes were fully on the road as the sun was just beginning to make its way over the horizon.

"You ever mended a fence before?" Tyg asked. Jamie was surprised to hear the blonde's voice fill the cab of the truck. Jamie shook her head.


"Hell, it ain't that hard." she glanced over at her passenger, giving her a small quirk of one side of her mouth. "I'm sure you'll do fine, honey. Marty back there may be young, but he's one of the best with wire I've ever seen." Tyg hitched her thumb toward the bed of the truck. "You know he ain't no more than seventeen." Jamie was surprised as she glanced back at the young Hispanic boy. "Yeah, I think he's fixin' to head off to college come fall. He's been one a my crew for 'bout a year now." Tyg said no more as they made their way through the thick grassy pasture to a part of the fence that was nearly ground level.

"How have you managed to keep the cows in here?" Jamie asked, glancing over at the blonde as she pulled the truck up next to the section of fence, and killed the engine.

"Well," Tyg sighed, then looked over at the tall woman. "Ta be perfectly honest, they're too stupid to know better." she said with a grin. "I love 'em to death, but by god are they stupid animals." Tyg pulled her door open, and climbed out of the large truck. Jamie followed suit, plopping the black hat on her head as she went.

Marty and Lyle went straight to work, and Jamie was impressed with their speed and knowledge. Most boys their age that she knew didn't know shit from shit, and were in no hurry to learn. She was even more impressed with the little blonde who jumped right in. Tyg told Jamie to hold the wire tight as she looped a new piece onto the two ends of that that was broken.

"Hey, Jamie." Marty called as he began to pound in a lose post.

"Yeah." Jamie said absently, as she held the barbed wire taught for the rancher.

"Where ya'll from?" Jamie glanced over her shoulder at the boy. Here we go.


"No, shit, really?" the boy asked, his voice filled with excitement.

"Marty, pay attention, damnit!" Lyle exclaimed, irritated.

"Oh, hell, sorry." the boy grabbed the post again as Lyle re-positioned the wooden pole. "Yeah, I been up there once or twice. What part?"

Jamie glanced up to see two emerald eyes staring at her. She averted her eyes back to the wire in her gloved hands.


"Ain't never been there." Marty pounded the pole about a foot and a half into the ground, then they moved to the next one. Tyg tied off the fence, and walked over to the two guys. Jamie followed. "So why'd ya leave?"

Beginning to get irritated now, Jamie sighed.

"Look, it's a long story, okay?" the boy stood, and smiled at her.

"Hell, here we ain't got no secrets. We got time for a good tall tale."

Jamie's stomach began to turn, fear and panic beating butterfly wings around her ribcage. She was starting to feel trapped, cornered, and her anger was beginning to spark.

"Yeah, Jamie. Spit it out." the other boy threw in. In a flash the tall woman was in Lyle's face, the neck of his red t-shirt in her fist.

"Listen, boy, I've done my time. If I left Colorado, then I had one hell of a good reason. Got it?" she hissed, her eyes full of blue fire.

"Y-yeah." the boy stuttered, fear gripping him like a steel vice. The tall woman released his shirt, and walked away.

Tyg watched the whole thing, shocked, and just for a moment scared for the boy who had lost all color in his tan face. Marty stood, his mouth hanging open.

"You're gonna catch flies, boy." she muttered, turning away from her two workers, her hands shaking. Tyg glanced up through blonde bangs as she watched Jamie jog across the field, hopping the four foot fence easily, and heading up the road. The blonde took a deep breath, not sure what to do. She wished that there was some way, some thing that she could do to help Jamie. Just something. Suddenly an image flashed through her mind. Her father. A ten year old Tyg had been pulled back against her grandfather, his big, leathery hands on her slender shoulders, just off to the side of the front porch. Clay McClure had climbed out of the taxi, a large green duffel in his hand. She had stared up at the tall man through too-long, blonde bangs, suddenly frightened of her father. He looked down at his little girl as he passed, and what she had seen in his vibrant green eyes had made her suck in a breath. Nothing. His eyes were empty, defeated, and dead.

Jamie slowed to a fast walk as she realized that she was headed toward the horse corral. She closed her eyes, trying to get her breathing under control. God, what had she done? She had no idea how to fix it, but only knew that she had to be alone for awhile. She began to think what Tyg must think of her, but pushed the thought out of her mind. She didn't need to think about that now.

Just up ahead she could see two coal black eyes peering at her from beneath the black, coarse hair of a mane. The wild black horse. Slowly she made her way toward the smaller corral, the horse digging in one of its front hooves, and snorting as it tossed its head.

"So beautiful." she whispered as she stared up at the magnificent beast. The solid black coat shone in the early afternoon sun like onyx. The horse stared at her, almost as if she were trying to read her. The mare took a hesitant step forward, then stopped, rearing high on her powerful back legs, then landing with a soft thud. "You are probably nos gui. Like the wind." Jamie whispered, falling into the Gaelic tongue of her youth. "Or maybe you're just baol, dangerous like me, huh?" the horse dug at the earth, then took a step toward Jamie, keeping an eye on her the entire time. Jamie laid her forearms against the top rail of the fence, leaning on it. The horse took a couple more steps forward until she was just barely out of reach. Jamie stretched out a hand, palm up. "You're curious, aren't you?" she said. She could feel the heated breath of the horse as she sniffed the outstretched fingers. The bristly hairs on the horse's chin tickled her palm. "I think I'd call you astriocht. Because you are different, unlike any of these other horses. Like me." the mare whinnied softly, nodding her head, black mane falling over an eye. Jamie smiled. She felt at peace.

Tyg watched in wonder as the tall woman casually walked toward the wild horse that many of her hands had become afraid of. Jamie leaned against the rail, and it was almost as if woman and beast were connected as each had eyes only for the other. Jamie was talking quietly to the animal. She couldn't make out what she said, but could hear the dark woman's velvety voice carrying across the summer breeze.

Her father came to mind again. From the time Tyg had been five or six, just a few years after her mother passed on, Clay had begun to get heavily involved in gambling, and he lost often. His debts and illegal activity had forced him to sell of pieces of the ranch, and on Tyg's eighth birthday, he was hauled off by the police, and thrown in prison for two years. She remembered the day he came back like it was yesterday. He had been a shadow of his former self, a man who Tyg had seen as larger than life, tough and strong, and smart. Not smart enough, apparently.

Tyg stared at Jamie now, and it all dawned on her. The tall woman's words to Lyle echoed through her ears: ...I've done my time. If I left Colorado, then I had one hell of a good reason....

She thought to a time when she had overheard almost those exact words the night Clay McClure came home.

"Now, son, I know it's been rough, but ya'll done it to yourself!" Tyg's grandfather had yelled, his booming voice filling the late night stillness. "Ya've got ta be a daddy to that little girl now. Enough foolishness!"

"I've done my time for that, daddy, now let it lie!"

He had gotten his sentence reduced from ten to two if he agreed to act as an informant once he got out. Less than a year later, Clay McClure had disappeared.

Tyg shook the memories away, and concentrated on the woman who stood not ten yards away. She wondered what had happened, what had Jamie done? How long had she been away from the rest of the world?

She drew her brows, ready to run to Jamie's side at a moment's notice when she saw the tall woman extend her hand toward the horse. She had known many animals in her time who would stop at nothing to bite the hand that fed it. To Tyg's surprise the black horse merely sniffed Jamie's fingers, then whinnied softly, almost in answer to whatever Jamie was saying to her.

Emerald eyes moved on to long, dark, nearly black hair that flowed down Jamie's back, hiding part of the taller woman's white t-shirt. One of Jamie's long legs was propped up on the lower rail. She sighed deeply deciding then and there that it did not matter what had happened in the past, as long as Jamie worked hard for her. The hands were her family, along with her grandfather and Rosa. Family stood by family. No matter what.

With a sigh, Tyg moved away from the truck that she'd been leaning on, and walked toward Jamie.

"Hey." she said quietly. The tall woman turned to her, holding the black hat in front of her with both hands almost like a shield. Tyg smiled gently. "I'm not gonna hurt ya, honey." a small grin quickly spread across Jamie's features, but was just as quickly gone. She lowered the hat, staring down at shuffling boots.

"I'm sorry." came the soft voice. Tyg stepped up to Jamie, and ducked her head so she could catch those incredible blue eyes.

"Hey, don't'cha be sorry for nothin'. Your business is just that, your business." Tyg smiled as Jamie's head lifted. "There now. That's better. Thought I'd get a kink in my neck." Jamie gave her a self-deprecating laugh. "Now, come on. It's nearly lunch, and we got some shoppin' ta do."

"What about the fence?" Jamie asked, nodding toward the south field.

"Don't worry none about that. The boys just about got it done."


The large cab of the truck was tight as Tyg had swung by the main house to pick up Rosa on her and Jamie's way to town. The older woman needed to pick up her weekly supplies.

"You think it's easy feeding a bunch of hungry slobs?" the large woman had muttered to Tyg as she situated herself between the two younger women.

The town of LaGrange was not very big, around twenty or so thousand souls. Tyg drove the old Chevy through the heart of the town, the old courthouse the center of attention. Jamie looked around, interested to see a new place, and how the people lived. Small, locally owned shops lined the streets, small groups of people milling about.

Tyg pulled the truck into a space in front of a large family owned grocery. Rosa turned to Jamie. Jamie looked back, confused.

"Well, you gonna let me get my fat ass out of the truck?" the older woman asked, a smile in her voice. Jamie chuckled, and quickly climbed out of the green truck, holding the door open for her.

"Rosa, we'll back in a coupla hours. Will that do?" the older woman waved the two off as she made her way toward the store. Jamie followed the woman's progress with her eyes as she climbed back into the cab, shaking her head. "Okay, Miss Jamie, you're turn." Tyg grinned as she put the truck in reverse, and backed out of the space.

The Leather store was deceiving from the outside, looking like a small, hole in the wall place, which it was, but as you walked through the glass door that jangled as you entered, you entered into a leather wonderland, and rancher, biker dream world. Jamie looked around as the familiar smell of leather hit her senses. Leather jackets of every color and style hung on one wall, and adorned a large rack next to it. Boots and shoes were near the back with other work clothing, gloves, chaps, and tool belts. Tyg headed straight to the back, Jamie following, looking around in awe. She had missed stores like this.

"Okay, honey, we need to find you some decent boots for ridin'."

Jamie watched on in awe as the feisty little blonde picked out one thing after another for her, heedless of cost.

"Don't worry, honey. I'll get 'em ta come down on the price." Tyg had said with a wink.

She glanced at Jamie often to size her up for boots, a pair of chaps, a good wool-lined vest for the upcoming winter, and some good rope. Tyg piled everything on the counter, and Jamie took out a wad of money from her pocket.

"No, no." Tyg said, placing her hand over Jamie's. Green eyes twinkled up at her. "This is on me."


"Now, don't argue with me." Tyg's voice was soft but firm. Jamie sighed, and pocketed her money. "You can buy us lunch." Tyg whispered as she grabbed the large plastic sack from off the counter, and headed toward the door. Jamie watched the smaller woman, shaking her head.

Lucky's Cafe was right smack in the middle of town. Around the turn of the century it had been a bar and some said, brothel, so the old, room-length mahogany bar still stood, lined with wooden bar stools. Small round tables were scattered around the medium sized room, and a few wrought iron tables were set up outside on the sidewalk next to the old building.

"Well, howdy, Tyg. Ain't seen you in some time." the man behind the bar said, a wide, pleasant smile spreading across his plain featured, face. Tyg smiled warmly, and walked around to the small opening at the side of the bar where she gave the thin man a hug.

"How ya been, Roger?" she asked, slapping him on the back.

"Real good, real good. Me 'n Mary just had our fifth." he grinned.

"Hell, you ain't careful, and ya'll repopulate LaGrange."

"Hey, now." he grinned, a slight blush rising up his cheeks. Jamie watched all this from near the door, arms crossed over her chest, the bag from The Leather store hanging from one hand. Roger nodded toward her. "Who's this?"

"Oh, hell. There go my manners again." Tyg winked at Jamie, and placed a hand on one of the taller woman's shoulders. "This is Jamie. She just came to work for us at the M."

"Oh, well mighty nice ta meet you, Jamie." Roger flipped the towel he'd been holding onto his right shoulder, and took a step out from behind the bar, extending a hand. Jamie took the large hand in hers, and shook it. "Damn, you got yourself a firm shake there, Jamie." Roger pulled his hand away, massaging his fingers. Jamie reddened, and looked down.

"Sorry about that."

"Hell, don't be. A good, strong handshake shows confidence, character." the man smiled. Jamie gave him a lop-sided grin, averting his eyes. "Well, ya'll goin' ta eat?"

"Yup." Tyg said with a big smile. "We'll be outside, Roger." Tyg turned to Jamie. "That alright with you?" Jamie nodded, and led the way out of the hot cafe. Tyg plopped down into the hard chair of the nearest table, and let out a sigh. She pulled off her hat, and tossed it onto the table, running her fingers through long, blonde hair. Jamie watched her, gazing at the smaller woman's face as Tyg closed her eyes for a moment, her head leaning back against the outside wall of the building. Jamie lowered her eyes, taking in Tyg's tight, ribbed tank that was tucked into a pair of cut-offs, ending in her usual work boots.

Tyg felt as though she were being watched, and opened green eyes to find Jamie's gaze somewhere on her body. Tyg followed that gaze down to find it resting on her breasts, a slight sweat stain forming between them in the material of the tank she wore, and Jamie's heated gaze was not helping any. Suddenly she felt a trail of fire rush through her, and it was not the ninety-seven degree weather with one hundred percent humidity. Those baby blues were making her hotter than the afternoon heat ever could. She felt her heart begin to pound, blood flowing to parts of her body that she didn't even think existed anymore. She exhaled slowly when Jamie's eyes moved off of her, and concentrated on the people who were walking past them on the streets.

"What can I get you ladies taday?"

Tyg glanced up at the young waitress, grateful for a distraction.

Jamie plowed through the huge hamburger and fries with a side of onion rings dipped in her concoction of catsup and Mayo mixed. Tyg watched on with narrowed eyes.

"Honey, that is disgustin'!" the small blonde squealed at the pink sauce. Jamie grinned.

"Don't knock it 'till you've tried it." Jamie said, tossing a fry that dripped with the sauce into her awaiting mouth. Tyg shook her head with a grin, scrunching her nose up.

Tyg finished her chicken salad, and pushed the plate away, patting her stomach with a contented sigh.

"That was yummy." Jamie took a drink of her Coke to wash down the last bite, and studied Tyg's satisfied smile over the rim of the glass. She couldn't help but chuckle at the rancher. "What?" the blonde asked, her hands resting on her stomach. Jamie shook her head, setting the glass down, and pulled some money out of her pocket, glancing at the ticket the waitress left of the table, and tossing some bills on top of it.

"Nothing." Jamie brightened as an idea struck her. "Hey, want to get some ice cream? It's been-" she cut herself off.

"Awhile?" Tyg offered softly. Jamie nodded, and stood, refusing to meet understanding green eyes. Tyg wanted Jamie to know that she knew, and that it was okay. "Come on. I know of a real good place not far."

Tyg took them to the east side of town so they could stroll along the Lower Colorado River. The water was crystal clear, blue as Jamie's eyes. They walked along the rocky bank, each with a large dipped cone melting in their hands. Jamie grinned as she tried to catch the vanilla drippings with her tongue, pieces of the chocolate shell falling into her mouth in chunks. Tyg, who had half finished hers, chuckled at the taller woman.

"Havin' a problem there, honey?" she grinned.

"Yeah. Something like that." Jamie wiped her sticky hands and then her chin on one of the napkins that place had given her, and attacked with new vigor. She closed her eyes, savoring the creamy sweetness that she had not had in seven years. it was amazing the simple things you missed when locked up. It was teaching her to learn to enjoy and appreciate things more. You never knew when it would be gone forever.

Tyg bit into the golden cone, loving the crunching sound it made. She looked around at the still water, noticing a couple fisherman further up the bank, hoping to catch dinner.

"Do you like to fish, Jamie?" she asked, swallowing the last of the cone. She glanced over at the taller woman who still seemed to be having problems getting her ice cream eaten fast enough before the whole thing melted in her hand.

"Never been." Jamie muttered around a mouthful of vanilla.

"You're shittin' me?" Tyg said, stunned. Jamie shook her head. She swallowed the large bite before she spoke.

"Nope. Where I grew up wasn't exactly a nature oriented neighborhood."

"Arvada." Tyg said, more a statement than a question. The dark woman nodded. Tyg took a deep sigh, and stopped Jamie with a hand on her arm. Jamie looked down into bright green eyes that seemed to catch the rays of the sun, and lock them forever behind their emerald depths. "Honey, I want you to know that no one's life is perfect, and I know that. Nothin' that happened in the past is of any consequence ta me. All I care about is that ya do a good job for me an my ranch. And ya do." Jamie blinked, surprised by the blonde's words, but remained quiet. "I can only imagine what things have been like for you, and if ya ever wanna talk, just get out whatever is beatin' at your ribcage, know that I'm here, and am a really good listener. 'Kay?"

Jamie stared down at the smaller woman, not sure what to say. She stared deep into Tyg's eyes, and knew that the rancher knew her secret. She didn't know how, but felt fear grip her. She studied her, expecting to see fear, or repulsion in those eyes, but saw only understanding, compassion, and honesty. She had to take a step back, almost overwhelmed by the smaller woman. She couldn't ever recall feeling so close to another human being, if just for a moment; not even Johnny. She simply nodded, unable to speak. Tyg smiled warmly up at her.

"We better go. Rosa's probly done by now."


part 4

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