Disclaimers: These two lovely ladies may seem a bit familiar, but that's about it. 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
© Kim Pritekel 2001
diabhal (dee-of-all) Satan baol (bay-oil) dangerous
saoire (see-re) freedom aistriocht(ash-re-och) like no other
nos gui (nose) (gee) like the wind capall (cop-all) horse
Let me in. Tyg whispered. Jamie barely heard the soft words over the pounding of blood in her own ears. Please, let me in, honey.
Jamie stared into green eyes that held all the light from the dying day, mixed with the rancher's own inner light, they seemed to glow. Tyg's gaze was intense, unwavering. Jamie closed her eyes as she felt soft, gentle fingers begin to run through the short hairs at her temple, making her shiver. She covered Tyg's hand with her own, and gently took it from her hair, setting it on the ground. She opened her eyes, and stared into Tyg's, her own eyes tortured.
I can't. she whispered, and stood, walking over to Aistriocht. Tyg stared at the tall woman as she walked away, her hand quickly swiping at a tear that she felt trying to make its way down her face.
Jamie was perched atop the old barn again, some rough winds from the week before tearing at her previous handy work. She was irritated as hell at having to do the job again, and damnit all to hell! She tossed the hammer to the roof so she could re-position the shingle. She drew her brows when she heard a strange sliding noise, and turned just in time to see the hammer slide off the roof.
Fuck! she ran her hands through long hair, took a deep breath, trying to keep her temper under wraps. The past few days that had been one hell of a trick.
Yo, chill. Jamie's head snapped up to see a grinning Marty looking up at her. She raised a brow and glared down at him. His smile faltered, then slid off his face all together. He lowered his gaze, and Jamie could not help but chuckle. She did not mean to scare the crap out of the kid.
Hey, Marty. Sorry. she said sheepishly.
Mind if'n I come up? the boy called up to her. She beckoned him with a wave of her hand.
You gonna be able to make it? she asked giving him a devilish grin. He narrowed dark eyes at her and glared in good fun as he grabbed the dropped hammer and stuck it in his back pocket then leaned his shoulder into the ladder as his one hand pulled his slight bulk up to the next rung. He'd step up, and do the whole thing again. Jamie was impressed with how creative the kid was getting, creating ways to do just about anything. Rosa was slowly turning the kid into a master chef, too. The brunette was so glad to see much of his confidence in his own abilities coming back. He had a big heart with a stubborn soul.
Getting pretty good at that. she said as she helped him up the final rung, and held on to him so he could step onto the roof. He smiled, his dark eyes sparkling like a child's.
Didn't ya'll just fix this? the boy asked as he made himself comfortable next to Jamie.
Yup. Damn wind knocked 'em right off. she said tapping the shingles with her knuckles. The boy nodded. Jamie noticed that something seemed to be on his mind, and wondered what it was. Since the accident she and Marty had actually grown kind of close. She knew the kid looked up to her, and she tried to be there for him as much as possible. What's on your mind, kid? she asked as she yanked the tool from his jeans, and began to attack the nails again. Marty took a deep breath, almost as if her were contemplating what he would say.
Well, I've noticed that, well, that the last few days ya'll have been a bit on the, well, he chewed on his bottom lip for a moment. That ya've been real irritated all the time. Like ya got a real short fuse. he glanced over at her. An Tyg been like that, too. Ya'll get in a fight er somethin'? Jamie sighed, trying to figure out how to answer this. Since the day at the stream three days ago, Tyg and Jamie had been avoiding each other. She knew that the rancher was hurt with her, and had every right to be. But what Tyg didn't understand was that Jamie was keeping her distance for the blonde's own good. Tyg was a good, hard working woman who had every reason in life to be proud of what she'd built, and what she did. Jamie did not want to disturb that with her past, with who and what she was. She turned to the hand and sighed.
I hurt Tyg's feelings. Being insensitive. she said quietly. Marty nodded, staring off into the late afternoon sun.
That's what I thought. he took a deep breath and began to make his way toward the ladder. I got some stuff gotta finish up er Rosa'll have my hide. he maneuvered his way to stand on a rung, his hand gripping the top one. He glanced at her from over the top of the frame. We ain't as blind as ya'll are. he said quietly, then was gone. Jamie stared at the ladder, listening as the kid made his way down slowly, and walked away, boots crunching the dry gravel under them. She stared back out over the southern pasture watching as a small group of cows made their way to a water bin.
Damn. she whispered, and continued to hammer.
Jamie sat at the table in her main room, her bare feet resting on the table, a small piece of scratch paper wrapped around her index finger as she thought about who's number was scrawled on it. Johnny. She could not get her mind to stop thinking about the reasons why she shouldn't call him. Carlos had told her that he'd found out recently that her baby brother had his hand in some pretty heavy dealings, and had become quite powerful at the young age of twenty-two. Just like his big sister. Jamie could not help but feel responsible for it. He had learned well though she had tried to keep him out of it. To no avail.
Jamie sighed and stared up at the low ceiling of the cabin, noticing a hook for a plant drilled into one of the naked wood beams. Then she glanced over at the phone on the wall. What would she say to him? What could she say? She unwrapped the paper and stared down at the number. It was a Colorado Springs number. What was he doing there? Carlos said that's where the money is, the drug train getting huge in that area, and Johnny Madden was smack dab in the middle of it. Jamie plopped her feet on the floor, and walked over to the phone, stretching the long chord so she could sit as she talked. Her heart was pounding, the blood rushing through her ears as she dialed.
Hello? a woman answered. Jamie was taken slightly off guard. She was not expecting to hear a woman's voice. The last time she'd seen Johnny he'd been a fifteen year old boy. You gonna answer or not? the woman asked impatiently. Jamie detected a slight accent, eastern, maybe New Jersey.
Johnny Madden, please.
Who wants him? Is that you again, you bitch? Can't you get a clue? He ain't interested no more, got it? Jamie cringed as the phone was slammed on the other end of the line. She looked at it as if it were an irritating insect trying to crawl into her ear. Biting the inside of her cheek, she hit re-dial. Listen, you bi-
Yo, kill the attitude! Jamie growled into the phone. The woman sucked in her breath at her abruptness. Is my brother there or not? her patience were running out fast.
Yeah. Johnny don't have a sister, though. the woman stated, her voice low, uncertain.
Yeah, he does. Jamie muttered, her irritation growing by the minute. The woman was silent for a moment, Jamie could hear her chomping on a piece of gum. Look, tell Johnny that Jamie is on the phone for him, okay?
Yeah. the brunette heard the woman set the phone none-too-gently on a hard surface, then silence. She sat waiting, tapping impatient fingertips on the tabletop. The phone on the other end was picked up, but no one spoke for a moment.
Jai? came a deep, almost hesitant voice. Jamie swallowed. Hard. She felt the slight sting behind her blue eyes at the long lost voice of her beloved brother. He sounded so grown up. He was a man now. She had missed out on so much of his life. Did he have any children? Had he ever been married? Was that his wife who had answered the phone? Then she recalled the way the woman had answered. It was more than obvious Johnny had done something in the past to make her not trust him. What kind of a man was he?
Yeah. she finally answered.
Wow. I didn't believe it when Charlene told me, but it's true then.
Yeah, it's true. How are you, little bro? the deep voice on the other end sighed deeply. Jamie waited for him to reply, standing to get a beer from the fridge, but then found she couldn't sit still. She paced, feeling like a caged lion. There was so much she wanted to say to the boy she'd raised, and so many answers she wanted from him. She had to know if it was true. Was he just like her?
I'm doing okay, I guess. Having a bit of trouble with my woman right now.
Charlene? the hand asked.
Yeah. So, where you at, Jai? Why won't Carlos give me your number or address?
'Cause I don't want him to. Jamie said simply, leaning against the counter near the sink. She took a deep swig from her Guinness. I'm out of all that shit now, Johnny. And I need to know if what I hear is true. Are you back into that? Are you into trafficking? her voice was low, nearly dangerous as she growled out the words, her biggest fear. Johnny sighed again.
Don't judge me, Jai. I gotta make a living, you know? I got a kid to support now. Just like you did.
So get a real job, Johnny! she yelled into the receiver, her blood boiling. What's the matter with you? You want that kid of yours to be just like you? Like me? You can't- Jamie cut herself off, knowing that yelling at him would do nothing but estrange them even more. She wasn't sure she wanted that. She rubbed her forehead with her hand, her eyes closed. Taking a couple of deep, calming breaths, she spoke again. Look, I'm sorry, Johnny. I didn't mean to jump all over you like that. Why? Why are you doing this, little bro? Why not go honest? Do you want to end up like me, Johnny? Locked up in a cage?
Jai, you don't understand. You have no idea how things have gone. Jai, I got respect, power, and more money than even you could have dreamed of back then. I'm set. I got dealings up north, over in Kansas, California, Texas, Mexico. You name it. You taught your baby brother well, Jai.
Yeah, that's what I was afraid of. she mumbled, her voice dejected, feeling like she had failed. Why didn't you stay with Carlos and Luna when I went in? she asked, her voice soft.
I didn't want that, Jai. I wanted my own life. To see if I could do it. To prove it.
To who? Jamie asked, hopping up onto the counter, her heels beating softly against the cabinets below.
To you. To me. To God.
Oh, Johnny. she whispered, running a hand through her hair.
So you gonna tell me where you're at? came the soft, almost shy question.
No. I love you, little bro, but I want nothing to do with your business. I'm through. I'll get in touch with you soon. Jamie hit the disconnect button on the phone, and stared at the receiver, trying to figure out just how she felt, what she thought. With a jolt, she realized that she felt numb. Untouchable. Damnit, Johnny. Damn, damn.
Jamie sat where she was for a moment, her mind processing what Johnny had told her. He was proud. She could hear it in his voice. He was proud of what he had accomplished in his big sister's shadow. How could she possibly be mad at him? He knew nothing else. His own father had taught his kids that to get along in a life where the world owed you something, you just took it, not bothering with consequences, or who might get hurt. Their mother had tried to strip her kids of everything that they had learned, and she may have been successful if she hadn't died when they had needed those lessons the most.
Jamie jumped down off the counter, and hung the phone back on the wall. She grabbed her beer and took a long swallow as she stared out the back window toward the stream that ran behind her cabin, the vivid, white moonlight shining its brilliance down to reflect in the water. She thought about Johnny's connections outside of Colorado. He had said Texas. She wondered if he knew Hector; usually types in the business seemed to know each other no matter where they hid. She would bet money on Hector being in on the drug trade along with his gambling. How had the man gotten Cal to turn on Tyg? Jamie had never seen such a loyal bunch of workers in her life. She felt the same pull; work as hard as she could, do as much as she could, be as loyal as she could, to Tyg.
She sighed as she saw those green eyes flash before her mind's eye once again. Those eyes had begun to haunt her. She wanted to somehow get back the friendship that they had begun to build before the carnival. Now she felt as if the rancher didn't trust her. Not with her land, or as a worker, per se. No. Now Tyg didn't trust her with her feelings, or her friendship. Some sort of a hidden line had been crossed. Jamie missed the easy silence that used to fill the space between them. Neither feeling the need to speak, just be as they went on with their day and their work. The life that radiated from Tyg's eyes was incredible. She held the vitality of ten people inside that little body.
Jamie swallowed the rest of her beer, and decided not to think about it anymore that night. She was tired, and needed sleep.
Tyg looked out the window that faced the southern pasture, watching as a group of cows that had wondered away from the main herd, munched on grass, intermittent moos flowing through the open window. Her eyes were narrowed, her arms crossed pensively across her chest as she stared through the scene before her and thought of the phone call she'd had that morning. Hector had been his normal charming self, making her skin crawl. She had never actually met the man face to face, only heard his smooth, sugar-covered voice over the wire.
Well, Miss. McClure, I think I've made my position quite clear over these past few months, and I believe I have been more than patient with your family over the years. I see no room for any misunderstandings, do you? he had not waited for an answer, though the likelihood of him receiving one was slim to none.
She could sense her grandfather watching her. She turned to look down into concerned green eyes, and plopped down into the chair next to his.
So? the old rancher asked, his gravelly voice gentle.
He wants what's his. A third by next Monday. she ran shaking hands through long, blonde hair. Granddaddy, we can't afford to lose anymore land! she jumped out of the chair again like a Jack-in-the-box, unable to stay still. Anger and worry coursed through her veins like a drug, making her edgy, irritable. Though, in truth, she'd been that way for a couple weeks, anyway.
The thought of the ranch going under because of that bastard turned her cold. A part of her hated her father for what he had done. She used to wonder what had happened to him when she'd been younger, and her father had disappeared. Larry McClure had thought that perhaps Hector had gotten wind of Clay's deal with the authorities, and taken care of the rancher their own way. But now Tyg wondered if he had not just taken off rather than deal with the mess that he had created, and the scorn of his family. The McClure's had worked hard over four generations to make the ranch what it was. Clay McClure's cowardice was about to cost Tyg her livelihood, her love, her life. How could daddy have done this? she said, her voice quiet as if speaking to herself. That was not the first time she'd asked herself that, and certainly wouldn't be the last.
Don't matter now, Little Tiger. Larry McClure said, his eyes looking out into the pasture. For him it hurt, but he'd be dead soon, anyway. But he knew Tyg would never forgive herself if the ranch was lost. He didn't think his granddaughter would ever bounce back from something like that.
He thought of the money he had managed to save over the past twenty years that Tyg had no idea about. He had planned on giving it to her once he'd died, a nest egg for her. It totaled more than ninety thousand. He thought about telling her then. Maybe she could use it to pay that bastard off, but changed his mind. He knew that Tyg, who he had instilled so much pride into, would never allow it. Never take it. To her it was her problem, and shook the thought form his mind. So how's that new hand doin'? the older rancher was surprise to see Tyg's beautiful face fall at the question. He thought they got on well. And from what he'd heard from Bobby, they got on very well.
Fine, I guess. she mumbled. One of the hardest workers I ever saw. she stared up at the moon, wondering what it would be like to just hop a ship, and stay there forever. Why do ya ask? the blonde asked absently.
Oh, hell, just wonderin'. the old rancher studied his granddaughter's back. He knew something had gone down with the tall brunette, he just didn't know what. Rosa had sent Marty up to bring him his lunch that day, and had let the cat out of the bag that the two were not as close, were actually distant. I just noticed that Jamie been gettin' a ride with the boys ta the house in the mornin'. Ain't been but a week 'er so she been doin' that. no answer. Ya'll have a fight, Tyg?
No. she said quietly. Not a fight. she turned from the window, her hands running through her hair again. I don't understand her. she said. She won't let nobody in, an it's drivin' me nuts. Larry nodded and smiled, light dawning.
Honey, she ain't no Carol. he said softly. Tyg stared at him, but said nothing. This'in ain't no grown woman lookin' for some fun. Nah, she ain't no Carol.
It's drivin' me crazy. Tyg mumbled as she kissed her grandfather goodnight, and walked toward her room.
Jamie sat atop the Arabian, closed her eyes, her face toward the sky. She had a strange feeling in her gut. Something was coming, but she couldn't put her finger on it. The day was quickly darkening, the clouds above like iron. Blue eyes opened and studied them as they rolled in to form a solid sheet. The weather man had called for thunderstorms, and possibly hail, but this didn't look like any thunderstorm she'd ever seen. She reached down and patted Aistriocht's thick neck as the mare whinnied, and bobbed her head sharply.
You feel it too, don't'cha, girl? the hand muttered, staring out over the fields. The animals all seemed to be restless, the horses bucking and running around the pens, mane's flying through the air. Jamie clicked her tongue, and nudged the mare on. Come on, girl. Let's head on out.
Horse and rider were one as they passed miles of fence and rail, and herds of cows, the air thick with the smell of nature and manure, and rain with a slight sulfuric hint.
Jamie guided Aistriocht off the property, and over open fields, her hair blowing back, the rising winds stinging her eyes, making them tear. The hand gripped the reigns tighter as she urged the mare on faster, her tank billowed out from her back like a balloon, the tail of the work shirt she wore over it flying out behind her.
The mare made short work up the familiar hill with the worn dirt tracks straddling a grassy band worn from the tires of old farm trucks. The Arabian crested the hill, and Jamie pulled on her reigns, slowing the mare. The valley was heavily shadowed with the dark skies. She wondered for a moment if she should maybe head back to the ranch so she wouldn't get drenched once the storm started, but decided that she needed some time to herself, and her private little paradise was the place to do it.
Aistriocht made her way down the rocky embankment with ease, Jamie muttering soothing words to her as she went.
Good girl. she murmured. Aistriocht whickered in response. Horse and rider made their way down toward the stream that cut the valley in two. Jamie brought the Arabian to a slow gallop, running along the length of the water, her eyes scanning the beauty of the scene around her. The wind was beginning to come in cool gusts, the air around it heavy and hot. The building moisture could be felt in heavy waves on her skin. The mixture in temperatures was somewhat disconcerting.
Jamie looked up into the sky again, when her attention was grabbed by the sound of a far-off whinny of a horse. She slowed the mare, and looked toward the tall, thick stand of trees off to the south at the foot of a huge, rocky hill. She could just barely make out a lighter color against the dark green of the foliage. Squinting, she was surprised to see that it looked like Hazelnut. She clicked her tongue and Aistriocht headed in the direction.
Suddenly the wind picked up nearly ten-fold, the loud hissing filled Jamie's ears, her eyes barely open as she tried to keep the flying dirt out of them. Then the hissing was overtaken by a loud rush of air, like a freight train. Jamie pushed her mare on hard toward the trees as realization dawned on her. She glanced back over her shoulder in time to see the clouds above swirling, start to dip, then pull back up again to start all over again.
Turning back toward the stand of trees she heard the horse whinny again, and a shout that was nearly cut off by the intense wind, and then Jamie saw a figure thrown from the golden horse that bucked, spooked by the weather, landing at the base a black oak. Tyg, Jamie breathed, jumping from Aistriocht's back, and running over to the blonde who lay unmoving. Hazelnut stood near by, upset, rearing up. Jamie looked around frantically as the funnel began to dip again, getting lower, and closer. Just past the trees she spotted a deep overhang in the rock. She glanced down at Tyg's unmoving figure again, and quickly picked the petite rancher up, and began to run toward the rocky haven. She knew she shouldn't move the blonde, but there was no way she was going to leave her out in the open with a twister right at their heels.
Jamie was breathing hard, her body filled with fear and adrenaline as she reached the make-shift cave. She gently laid Tyg on the hard, dirt floor, and ran back out into the storm. She shielded her eyes with her hand as debris began to fly by in earnest, pieces of dead foliage, small limbs from trees that were still green, and not anchored very well. She searched for the horses, spying them running back toward the hill, out of the reach of the twister. The roar of the funnel was deafening. Relieved, the hand headed back toward the cave.
Tyg laid where she'd left her, and Jamie knelt down next to her. She studied the smaller woman's face and head, looking for any injuries. Small cuts and scrapes littered the rancher's face, but nothing severe that would need stitches. She assumed that the rancher had hit her head as she was out cold. A slight cut at the back of the head made Jamie a bit nervous, but the small flow of blood was slowing, the golden hair around it matted together with the sticky blood, dirt and a small twig. She carefully picked the stick out of Tyg's hair, and tossed it aside. Jamie moved down Tyg's body quickly, moving her arms and legs, feeling her torso and ribs, checking for anything broken. The rancher never moved or made a sound. Jamie laid her ear against the blonde's heart, a steady beat made her let out the breath she didnt know she'd been holding.
Jamie sat next to Tyg, lifting the smaller woman's upper body to lay in her lap so the blonde wouldn't have to lay on the cold, hard dirt. She stared out of the opening of their haven and was horrified as she saw the small valley she had come to love being stripped by the devastation of the storm; trees were uprooted and thrown into the water that bubbled and churned as if it were being boiled. The sky was stained black by blowing dirt and foliage. Jamie felt a slight pang in her chest, and a stinging behind her eyes as she watched how Nature could scour and scar its own face. She was saddened, and was startled as she felt a soft touch against her cheek. She looked down to see green eyes staring back up at her.
You're crying. Tyg whispered, running her finger over the salty tear that seeped from Jamie's right eye. Jamie smiled and nodded. Why?
Jamie glanced back outside of the overhang, then looked back down at the rancher, leaning down slightly to be heard above the screaming wind. It's being destroyed. she whispered back. This is my private place to go when I want to think. she explained softly. It was so beautiful.
It will be 'gain, Jamie. Tyg followed the path of the tear down the hand's cheek, ending at her chin. She caressed the skin there. She was so touched by the taller woman's obvious attachment to the land. I used ta come here as a girl. Still do. Tyg dropped her hand to rest on her stomach. She closed her eyes for a moment as a sharp pain ripped through her head. She would have one hell of a goose egg come tomorrow.
You okay? Jamie asked, her voice thick with emotion. Tyg stared back up at her, surprised to see those blue eyes swimming. She smiled at the brunette and nodded, the movement so slight Jamie almost missed it. Tyg had been utterly shocked when the darkness had parted, and she had been looking up into the face of the woman who haunted her thoughts and played in her dreams. Everyone'll be worried about us. Jamie said, a slight smile playing at the corners of her lips. Tyg returned the smile and again nodded.
They'll come searchin'. the blonde said
I'm sorry, Tyg. Jamie said.
The hand sighed and stared outside once more. The storm was calming some, the worst of it over, and moving on. For lots of things. she finally said, looking back down into emerald eyes. Their eyes met and held, so much being said through that look.
Jamie was sorry for hurting the blonde, confusing her. She knew now that she was drawn to Tyg. The very sound of her voice lifting the darkest of clouds from her day. When she had seen her bucked from Hazelnut's back, Jamie's heart had stopped in her chest. What if something happened to the rancher, and she never had a chance to tell her just how much she had changed her life? Made it better, fuller, richer. Tyg had given her a window of light to see through the darkness that she had known her whole life. That darkness that had enveloped her, and made her a part of it. Tyg made her want to be a better person, try that much harder, and hold all that mattered close. She just wished that she knew how. How to open herself and give what until recently she had no idea she even possessed.
Tyg seemed to be able to read all this as the softest smiles curved her lips, bringing Jamie's angel back again. The brunette brought her hand to Tyg's cheek, feeling the softness that she had wanted to touch for so long. She smiled as sensitive fingertips ran over the skin, memorizing the texture and planes. Tyg closed her eyes for just a moment as wave after wave rushed through her body, heading straight for her heart. Green eyes opened again and soaked up the light and feeling that shone from eyes the color of the calmest ocean. The blonde reached up a hand, and curled it around Jamie's neck, pulling gently. The face she had come to adore got closer until their quickened breaths were shared. Tyg closed her eyes as soft lips touched her own, feather light. She let out a small sigh as she pulled Jamie further, their lips meeting again.
Jamie felt the lips beneath hers open, and she welcomed the invitation, opening hers in turn, her tongue slipping between needing lips, and into the warm, wet, mouth of the beautiful blonde. Jamie heard a small moan escape Tyg's throat, and pulled the rancher closer to her, cradling her in strong, protective arms. The heat of the smaller body against her own was intoxicating, and she was already addicted.
She sighed as she felt fingers slip into her hair, gently rubbing her scalp, sending tingling sensations through her body. She held the smaller woman even tighter as the kiss deepened, a slow exploration of each other, neither in a hurry for it to end. Tyg brought a hand down, work-roughened fingers tracing the lines of Jamie's face, caressing her cheek, and moving down over her chin to rest on the side of the hand's neck.
Jamie pulled back slowly, kissing the tip of the rancher's nose as she stared down into her face. With her thumb she gently smoothed across full lips, still moist from the kiss. Tyg stared up into azure eyes, lost in the sensations that still lingered throughout her body. She found herself being pulled into a tight, embrace, her face buried in the warmth of Jamie's neck. She inhaled all the smells that were the taller woman; cotton, sweat, and the musky smell of her skin.
Jamie relished the feel of the blonde, so close to her that she could nearly hear her heart beating. She wondered if the beats would be as erratic as her own. She had no idea why she had allowed Tyg to pull her into the kiss, but she closed her eyes as she remembered how it had felt. So soft, so irresistible, like it truly were a drug. Jamie knew now that she had tasted the fruit that she had forbidden herself to try, she would not be able to stay away. She sighed deeply. So be it.
Tyg felt Jamie pull away, and looked up at her to see what was wrong when she saw the brunette's eyes fixed on something outside of the cave, then she, too heard it. Aistriocht stood outside the overhand, her front hoof digging into the ground, snorting impatiently. The hand chuckled lightly.
Ya taught her well. Tyg smiled, and started to stand, but stopped, a wave of nausea and dizziness washing through her.
You okay? Jamie asked, her voice filled with concern as she helped the smaller woman sit back on the ground. Tyg nodded.
Yeah. Jus' a little dizzy is all.
Come on. Jamie stood, helping the blonde to her feet, her arm around her waist. We need to get you back to the ranch. Think you'll be okay to ride?
Jamie helped Tyg up onto the Arabian's back, then climbed up behind her, wrapping a protective arm around Tyg's waist, the other holding the reigns as Aistriocht headed out of the devastation that once was a beautiful, peaceful valley. She looked around at all the downed trees, those still standing were naked and warped. Much of the natural vegetation had been uprooted and lay scattered, much floating in the water, turning and swirling in the light wind that still blew. Jamie held on a little tighter to the blonde, and urged the mare on.
Tyg rested back against the strong body behind her, her vision beginning to blur and darken from the raging ache in her head. She wondered is she didn't have a concussion from the fall she'd taken. It wasn't like she hadn't had concussions before, but they were never fun, and always different. Her thoughts began to turn to her ranch, and she was terrified to think of what she'd find once they got back. LaGrange hadn't had a good twister run through it in a few years. The storm had been unexpected, but not surprising. This was the time of year, and certainly the place for them.
The black Arabian made her way quickly to the Triple M, and as they entered under the arched gate, Tyg's eyes widened, and tears sprang up to make her green eyes sparkle. Off to the left in the southern pasture the fence was nearly completely gone for a half a mile stretch, the twisted boards nowhere to be seen. About ten head of cattle laid around, some in very unnatural positions as they had been tossed around, or battered with flying debris. The barn to the right was roofless, but still stood, though the camper shell from one of the pick-ups laid against the side, nearly blocking the door. Green eyes flicked to the northern field to see that it had been virtually untouched.
Jamie rode on toward the main house, her heart beating, afraid of what they'd find, and who they'd find. She felt Tyg tense, and the hand that covered her own tighten. They could see the house up ahead. It did not look too damaged. The porch on the south side of the house was gone, splintered bits of wood sticking out of the side of the wall like broken bones. The front door flew open, and Bobby ran out, followed closely by Marty and BJ.
Tyg! Jamie! Where ya'll been? the boys ran to the mare, and helped Tyg down when Jamie pulled her to a stop. When Nut returned but you didn't we got real scared.
We was down in the valley. Tyg answered, her voice low, unsteady. Bobby pulled the small blonde into a fierce hug, followed by the other boys and Rosa who had made her way down the stairs of the porch. Jamie watched the familiar scene, then was surprised when she felt herself tugged by the tail of her work shirt, and several arms flung around her. She had never felt so accepted before. So cared for. She was startled to realize that she also cared for these people; very deeply. They were her family now, and she would do anything to protect them, and make sure they stayed safe.
Jamie stood out on the front porch that remained attached. The boys and her had gone over the land with a fine-toothed comb to see what damage had been reeked on the ranch the day before. They had lost about two dozen head of cattle, and around three horses. Not bad considering, but it hurt all the same. Many of the buildings had been demolished, including two of the hand's cabins, though Jamie's had been spared by the grace of god. The one right next to it was nothing more than a pile of wood and ruble. She was, however, going to have to replace a few shingles. No one had been seriously hurt, and the main house had barely been touched. They had been extremely lucky.
Jamie paced back and forth, her hands in her front pockets, a piece of hay between her teeth, rolled back and forth with her tongue. The night before Dr. Burns had been called in to check out Tyg. The taller woman was worried about the rancher, knowing a good concussion when she saw one. The blonde refused to admit defeat, but ultimately she had had to succumb to the doctor's powerful drugs to alleviate the headache, and Rosa had to wake her every hour throughout the night until some of the swelling had gone down.
Jamie thought back to the first days when her mother had started to get sick. She had been so tired all the time, and had no appetite. She'd been so weak. Candy Madden had the same stubborn streak that Tyg had. Never admitting that she felt bad, and never slowing down, always working, trying to support her small family of three. The doctor had told her to quit one of her two jobs, but she had refused. Saying that she'd work until her dying day. How prophetic.
Jamie stopped pacing and stared out into the yard. She glanced up at the sky, her eyes squinting into the sun's rays. Her mother had loved the sun. On the rare day that she had a day off, Candy would pack up her and Johnny, and they'd head to Carter Lake which was just about an hour outside of Denver. They would stay all day, swimming, splashing each other while Candy laid on the shore and tanned herself until she would turn black. A smile spread across Jamie's lips as she thought of those days. Life had been hard, but simple. Only one goal in mind; to survive and stay together. How had everything gone so wrong?
The day had started off normal enough, but at lunch the boys had started talking about the storm, and past storms, and it had been a unanimous decision to call it a day, and everyone rest from the scare the previous day. Most of the hands had gone off to town, or to neighboring ranches and farms to see if anyone needed help putting buildings back up, or looking for lost animals. Jamie had stayed, wanting to be alone, to reflect, and to stick around if Tyg needed her. She thought of the time they'd spent together in that cave during the storm. What had it meant? Jamie sighed as she realized just how much it had meant to her. Did Tyg feel the same way? She was sure deep down that the little blonde did. She had never experienced that kind of connection with someone before. it had almost been like she and Tyg were meant for each other, that they had been born for that moment. Such a feeling of peace filled the tall woman. She leaned against the pole on the railing, her arms crossed over her chest, and stared out into the expanse of the bright day before her. It was amazing to think that just yesterday the sky had been black and menacing, a storm of enormous magnitude on its way. Yet now the only evidence of it was the destruction that was scattered throughout the yard. Such a shame.
You still here? Jamie turned to see Rosa standing in the open doorway. She smiled and nodded at the older woman. Ain't it a cryin' shame. she muttered as she walked out onto the porch, the screen closing behind her with a slam that echoed through the quiet afternoon. I wanna thank ya for what you did for that little pistol yesterday, Jamie. she said, laying a hand on the taller woman's shoulder. Jamie glanced down into the intense brown eyes of the house keeper. We was so worried about you two.
Yeah. That storm kind of took us by surprise. Jamie said, her smile sheepish.
Did ya'll ride out there together? Rosa stood next to the brunette, her hands wrapped in a dish towel she held. Jamie shook her head, ran her hand through long, dark hair.
Nah. I went out there to be alone. I didn't know she was there. the older woman nodded, staring out into the yard, the bright mid-day sun making her squint.
Yeah, Tyg heads out there quite a bit.
How's she doing?
Well, the house keeper said with a sigh. The doc said she'll be back on her feet in a few days. She just needs some rest right now. Ya should go up in see her. Jamie met twinkling dark eyes. She was askin' for ya earlier, ya know. Rosa gave Jamie one more meaningful look, then turned and walked back into the house. Jamie stared after her for a moment, then back out into the yard. With a sigh she headed for the screen door.
The old stairs once again squeaked under Jamie's boots as she made her way up to the second floor. Dr. Burns passed her on his way down with a smile and tip of his hat. She smiled back, and took the last few steps two at a time until she stood on the dark landing at the top, the long, dim hall stretching before her. She listened to see if she could hear if Tyg was alone, or if she were sleeping. She heard nothing except the occasional coughing of Larry McClure at the end of the hall. Taking quiet steps, she reached Tyg's partially closed door, and peeked her head in to see the blonde laying on her back, her head facing the window, breathing slow and even. Jamie debated on whether she should go, not wanting to wake her. Instead she decided to watch the rancher for a moment, make sure she was really okay. Quietly she pushed the door open a bit more to allow her to walk through, hoping that it wouldn't squeak.
Jamie looked around the room as she silently pushed the door closed behind her, leaving it open just enough so that it didn't click shut. Tyg's clothes from the day before were folded neatly on top of her hope chest under the window, her hat sitting atop the pile. The taller woman smiled fondly at the dusty, worn hat. She knew how attached Tyg was to it, but she needed a new one. Her eyes darted back to the still form lying in the middle of the bed, seemingly swallowed by the many pillows that laid around her as well as the soft, thick quilt that was tucked under her hips, and stopped just under her breasts where her hand rested, gently rising and falling with each breath she took. Jamie noticed how the dark blonde lashes rested against pale cheeks, the small worry line that sometimes rested between emerald eyes was gone, the skin smooth from the peace of sleep. She was beautiful. The slightest curve of those full lips that she remembered so well from the previous day in the cave. She saw the small scrapes on one cheek, and a large bruise on the other.
Jamie couldn't resist pushing a bit of hair from the rancher's forehead, tucking the long strands behind an ear with her fingertips. Her finger's grazed Tyg's cheek bone, feeling the hard bone, yet soft plane of her skin. She found herself leaning down, gently placing a soft kiss to Tyg's temple which made the smaller woman stir, and emerald eyes opened, her head turning to look up into the face that she had longed to see all day. Tyg smiled weakly.
Howdy. she whispered. Jamie smiled back.
Hey. How are you?
Fine. Tyg reached her hand up and covered Jamie's fingers that had stilled on her cheek, brought her hand down to chapped lips, kissed the palm. Jamie sat on the edge of the bed. Doc says I can get up tomorrow. Thank god. Tired of layin' round here all day. Jamie smiled.
Just think of it as a mini vacation.
I ain't had a vacation since I was a kid. Tyg whispered, a small smile playing across her lips.
See? Maybe somebody's trying to tell you something. Jamie smiled in turn, then her smile faltered as she stared into sleepy, glazed eyes. About yesterday, in the cave-
No. Tyg raised a hand and placed two fingers over the brunette's lips, shook her head. Don't ruin it with words, honey, and don't ya dare apologize. Jamie nodded, kissing Tyg's fingers before taking the rancher's hand in her own, setting their clasped fingers in her lap.
Okay. she said, her soft voice barely reaching the blonde's ears. Tyg squeezed the taller woman's fingers and smiled. I better go. Jamie said, standing from the bed, running her free hand through her hair. A wave of disappointment washed through the rancher, but she nodded and released Jamie's hand.
Like magic, overnight the skies went from iron gray to Texas blue. Tyg was out of bed, and was working a few hours a day trying to get the ranch back in order after so much of it had been devastated by the storm. She felt dizzy on and off, but was determined to get back to normal as quick as possible. The boys swarmed around her, wanting to help her do this, help her do that. She was about to give indefinite vacations to all of her hands.
Tyg, ya shouldn't be doin' that, now. Bobby said, his dark brows drawn as he ran over to the rancher who was trying to hitch the baler to the tractor. She turned to him, hands on hips, green eyes fixed into a glare. Bobby backed off a step, hands up in a conciliatory gesture of peace. Now, I'm jus' worried 'bout ya. Don't go tearin' my head off.
If ya'll don't lay off, I'm gonna tear inta ya'll like a goddamn tiger! she exclaimed, her head filled with cotton for a moment as her blood pressure rose. She hid the dizziness, fixing those emerald eyes on him in intimidation mode to cover. I'm not a child.
Okay, okay. Jus' tryin' ta help ya, boss lady. the hand grabbed his greasy baseball cap from sweaty hair, then replaced it farther back on his forehead. Then his eyes darted off toward the northern pasture. Who's that? he asked, gesturing with his bristly chin. Tyg turned and looked over her shoulder to see two men walking around near the fence. The two men were dressed impeccably, and it was obvious that they did not belong on a ranch. Their expensive, tailor cut suits were of a fine quality, shiny beneath the blinding mid-day sun. Dark glasses hid their expressions as they seemed to be scoping the land, one holding a tape measure in a well manicured hand.
What the? Tyg took a step closer, then had a nagging feeling in her gut. She snapped her mouth shut, jaw muscles working as she held back her temper and walked toward Bobby's Chevy that was parked just off to the side of the field road. She yanked open the old, squeaky door, and pulled the shot gun free of the back window rack, and the small .38 from the glove compartment, sticking it in her short's waistband.
Whoa, Tyg! Bobby exclaimed, placing a hand on the barrel. What 'er ya doin', girl? he hissed. The blonde yanked the gun away from the hand, and headed toward the two intruders.
Excuse me. she said as she neared them. The one with the tape measure continued to measure the depth of the half-empty ditch, the other one glanced over at the rancher, then looked back down at his partner. I said, excuse me. Tyg stood within ten yards of the two.
Yes? the one with the tape measure said, his voice filled with irritation at being interrupted. The other one watched the two, arms crossed over his large chest.
Ya'll are on my land. Wanna get off. she held the gun between arm and hip, one hand on the trigger, the other holding the barrel. The two men glanced down at the long gun, then at each other, a small smile playing at the corner of their mouths.
Listen, little lady. We're kinda busy here, so you wanna go play somewhere else?
I don't think so. Tyg cocked the shot gun, the smiles dripping right off the men's faces. I think ya'll should find somewhere else to measure before ya'll 'er measurin' six feet down for trespassin'.
This is gonna be my boss' land here soon enough, so we were sent out to get it ready. Hope ya'll don't mind having a casino for neighbors. he said, a smirk tipping the corner of his mouth.
Ya got ta the count a three. Tyg reached down and grabbed the hand gun, and pointed it at the ground. One, she pulled back the hammer with her thumb. The two men stared at her, the one with the tape measure stood from where he had been stooping on the ground. Two, Tyg raised her hand, pointing it somewhere near the men. They glanced at each other, then back at the small woman. Three. a blast tore through the still afternoon air, the tape measure flying from the man's hand with a sharp bang that echoed through the still air of the hot afternoon. He stared down at his hand in disbelief, a slight trail of black where the powder had singed his skin.
Ya'll don't want me ta count ta four. That'll get kinda messy. Now get out! with one last, long look, the two men headed off toward their Caddy that was parked along the fence. They got in the large, black car, and roared off toward the main road of the property. Tyg turned toward Bobby, her face deathly pale, hands shaking, and dropped the gun to the ground with a muffled plop.
Jamie watched as the man jumped, not expecting Tyg to actually shoot. She had been just as surprised. She had been about to run over from her place on top of the barn, fixing the roof, but then saw that the feisty blonde could take care of herself. She sat back on her haunches, and scratched her chin, thinking. There had to be some way to stop Hector. She was sure that was who those monkeys were working for. She knew the look, the poise, the bravado of the illegal dealings. She had an idea. Somehow she would get rid of Hector for good. Tyg would not lose one more inch of land to that shark if it was the last thing she ever did.