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Chapter 6

Other than the small spike in the grapevine’s activity over Casey’s dust up with Calandra, everything settled back into a normal routine, or at least as normal as it could get. The collaboration with the Tok’ra continued. They still didn’t have enough information to get a clear fix on the Tanoan situation. Jessie had compared it to trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces still missing. With the momentary lull in activity, Jessie decided to get a little work done at home.

When she moved to Colorado Springs, she had rented a house from Bertha Griffith, a tiny, elderly woman originally from Georgia who had moved to Colorado Springs ten years prior. The house had originally belonged to Bertha’s sister Mattie, and Bertha’s house was located right next door. Mattie passed away a couple of years ago, and Bertha inherited the home. She decided to rent it out instead of selling it. Jessie wasn’t sure exactly how old Bertha was, but she’d be willing to bet she was definitely past eighty. Not that Bertie, as her friends called her, let it slow her down. She was a friendly, affable woman with a mischievous sense of humor who was always into something.

The house itself was in good condition; it just needed a few minor repairs here and there. Jessie offered to do some of the work herself, and in exchange Bertie reduced her rent accordingly. Since she had some time this weekend, Jessie had picked up the stuff to replace the fascia boards running along the front. The guy who came out to give an estimate wanted to charge Bertie an arm and a leg to do it, and Jessie wasn’t going to let him rip her off like that. Jessie considered herself very lucky. Her parents had always held the belief that a person should be well rounded, regardless of gender. As such, her dad had taught her a lot of things that most people would consider to be "guy stuff". He also taught her to recognize when something needed a professional to be called in. Most of the things the house needed, like the fascia board, were simple fixes.

Jessica had gotten up early that morning. She went for a run while everything was still quiet, then took a shower before making a pot of coffee. In between bites of breakfast, she gathered up the things she was going to need—caulk, paintbrush, primer, paint, hammer, nails. Changing into a pair of old cutoffs and a tank top, Jessie grabbed her coffee and radio and headed out front. Positioning the ladder carefully, she made quick work of removing the old wood. Rot had eventually set in after years of being exposed to the elements, so not much effort was needed to pull it down. Thankfully the structures underneath were in good shape, so other than removing the old wood and nails there wasn’t that much prep work. She replaced the boards with the new wood, hammering each piece into place. A bit of filler hid the nails, and she got to work applying the primer while singing along to the music on the radio.

Bertie looked out her window and saw Jessie working on the trim. She grinned as she watched the young woman. Jessie reminded her of herself when she was younger. She was a real go-getter, that one. She tackled things that left other females quaking in their boots. If there was one word that described Jessie, it was efficient. There was little wasted energy; her determination shown through as she accomplished what she set out to do and moved on to the next step. If Bertie had had a daughter, she envisioned her being just like Jessie. Her musings were interrupted by something else that caught her attention; eyes narrowing, she watched for a moment before moving away from the window and heading to her bedroom.



Cam couldn’t stop the grin that spread across his face. It was a nice morning, so he jogged over to Jessie’s instead of driving the short distance. What he hadn’t expected was to find Jessie outside, on a ladder, doing repair work on the house. Nor had he expected to find her singing along to a song on the radio, and his steps slowed as his eyes came to rest on her nicely curved backside, which was keeping subtle time to the rhythm of the music as she sang:

"It was seven hundred fence posts from your place to ours,
Neither one of us was old enough to drive a car.
Sometimes it was raining, sometimes it would shine,
We wore out that gravel road between your house and mine.

I’d start walking your way
You’d start walking mine
We’d meet in the middle
’neath that old Georgia pine
We’d gain a lot of ground
cause we’d both give a little
There ain’t no road too long
When you meet in the middle.

Her southern accent was much more pronounced as she sang the lyrics to the Diamond Rio hit. Folding his arms across his chest, his grin grew wider as he stood quietly observing the scene in front of him.

"It’s been seven years tomorrow since we said our vows
Under that old pine tree, you ought to see it now
Standing in the back yard, reminding me and you
That if we don’t see eye to eye there’s something we can do

I’d start walking your way
You’d start walking mine
We’d meet in the middle
’neath that old Georgia pine
We’d gain a lot of ground
cause we’d both give a little

There ain’t no road too long
When you meet in the middle.

As much as he was enjoying the view, in good conscience he couldn’t continue to stand there without Jessie knowing. Before he could say anything, though, a movement out of the corner of his eye caused him to turn, and he found himself staring down the barrel of a .38 caliber six-shooter.



Jessie had just reached the end of the fascia board, applying the last bit of primer, when she heard a voice off to her right.

"Jessie, honey, does this young buck belong to you?"

Looking over, she found Bertie standing a few feet away, gun in hand. It took a couple of seconds for her brain to register the fact that the person Bertie had in her sights was Cam, and he was standing perfectly still with his hands raised. The shock hit her like a tidal wave.

"Good God Bertie, don’t shoot him!" she yelled as she came down off the ladder, almost tripping as she closed the distance between them.

"I take it you know him, then?" she asked, still eyeing him suspiciously.

"Yes, I…he’s…I work with him; he’s a friend of mine."

Bertie cocked one eyebrow. "Well, he’s been standing here watching you wiggle on that ladder long enough. I figured if he knew you, he would have said something by now." She slowly lowered the gun, grinning as Jessie and Cam both began to fidget.

"I, uh," Cam stammered, a bit embarrassed. "I never heard her sing before; I was waiting until she had finished."

"Uh huh," Bertie mumbled under her breath. She took a good long look at the young man in front of her.

"Bertie, this is Colonel Cameron Mitchell. Cam, this is Bertha Griffith, my neighbor and my landlady."

Bertie reached out and shook Mitchell’s hand. "Well, if Jessie says you’re a friend, you can’t be all that bad. Just mind your manners next time. I’d have a hell of a time explaining why I shot a Colonel because I thought he was a pervert!" Her words were gruff, but her smile told a different story.

"Yes ma’am. It’s good to know that Jessie has someone watching out for her."

With a twinkle in her eye and a wink for Jessie, Bertie made her way back home.

"So how many times has she pulled a gun on people before?"

"As far as I know, you’re the first," Jessie said with a grin. "You want some coffee?"

"Sure, that’d be great."

Stepping around the tools she had spread out on the porch, Jessie went through the front door with Cam close behind her. There was a sound of yapping, and Jessie reached down, picking up a small white puppy.

"You have a dog?"

"It’s not mine, it’s Bertie’s. He comes to visit every now and then." Jessie walked to the back door and let the little dog outside.

"I take it you’re renting this house?"

Jessie opened the cabinet, pulling out two fresh mugs. "Yeah. When I found out this was where I was going to be working, I called a realtor and had her look for housing rentals."

Cam watched her as she poured the coffee in the cups, adding the cream and sugar. "Why didn’t you just get an apartment? I mean, with the job that we do and all, you never know how long you might be gone, and with a house you have more maintenance to do."

Jessie handed him one of the mugs. "I grew up in the country. We were always doing things outside, and my mom and I did a lot of gardening. I need that to relax. When things get too stressful, I dig in the dirt. You can’t do that in an apartment."

Cam looked out the back window, noticing the flowerbeds placed randomly throughout. "But, what happens when you get stuck at work?" he asked, thinking of the extended time they had spent on Nanda.

Jessie shrugged. "I’ve run irrigation lines through all the beds and have them on a timer. Plus, it has a sensor, so if it rains they don’t get over-watered. Right before winter sets in I drain the lines; spring time comes, I hook everything back up, make any repairs, and I’m ready to go."

"You have someone come in and mow?"

Jessie shook her head. "Normally I do it myself. Bertie will have Joe run the mower over here if the grass is looking tall and she hasn’t seen me in a while."


"Her yard guy. She’s spry, but not enough that she needs to be out there pushing a mower."

"Spry is one word to describe her," he muttered as he took a sip of his coffee.

Jessie giggled. "Well, if you hadn’t been so busy enjoying the view, the little 80-year-old wouldn’t have gotten the drop on you."

Cam grinned as he followed Jessie into the living room. There was no arguing with that assessment as he eyed the sexy curve of her backside, accentuated perfectly by the cutoffs.

They settled down on the sofa, quickly falling into a comfortable cadence with their conversation. It wasn’t long before Cam was reclining in the corner, Jessie leaning with her back against his chest, his arms encircling her. Their conversation turned back to the subject they had started talking about the other night.

"I didn’t date in high school at all. I guess I was too much of an oddity. In college, there were a couple of guys." She grew quiet.

"How long had it been, until we got together?"

Jessie thought for a moment. "Two years."

He waited a second, then pressed a gentle kiss to her temple. "Anything you wanna talk about?" He heard the small sigh.

"Only if you want to hear what an idiot I was."

"I don’t think you and ‘idiot’ can go in the same sentence."

A derisive chuckle was his response. "I…I met John at the university, knew him for about four months before we started dating. He was majoring in psychology, following in his father’s footsteps. He seemed like a really nice guy—courteous, well mannered, thoughtful. We dated for little over a year before he asked me to marry him."

Cam was quiet, listening to Jessica, but even he was surprised at the way his stomach knotted up when she said John asked her to marry him. His arms tightened just a fraction, holding her a little closer.

"I really thought I knew him. So much so I told him yes. Within a few weeks, though, it was like someone had flipped a switch. It was subtle at first, but he became more self-centered, belligerent. One night he demanded to know when I was going to resign my position with the archaeology department and leave the university. I asked him what he was talking about, and he informed me that my job once we were married was to be his wife. Needless to say I got a little ticked. When I pointed out how long and hard I had worked to get to where I was at, he laughed and said my little hobby surely wasn’t worth arguing about, that it wasn’t like I was making any major contribution to society digging through the trash left behind by extinct civilizations."

Cam briefly wondered if this guy was still alive or not. "What happened?"

"I handed him his ring, told him he could shove it up his ass, walked out and never looked back." After a moment of silence she continued. "I don’t have anything against being a housewife, or a stay at home mom. As long as it’s a mutual decision, that’s fine. What really pissed me off was how he belittled my career, like he was Mr. Important and what I was doing was nothing."

"Sounds like he was an asshole."

"Yeah, he was. And that’s the problem. I didn’t see it until it was almost too late. I mean, I knew him for almost a year and a half, I slept with the jerk, and I didn’t realize he was so completely different than what I thought he was."

"Jessie, you can’t blame yourself for that. There are people out there like him, who hide their true selves so well no one can tell what lies underneath. They project what they want people to see. It’s like a split personality."

"Well, I felt like an idiot. The fact that I almost married him makes my skin crawl. After that, I didn’t trust myself, didn’t trust my judgment of people. I went with the one thing I was sure of, and that was my work. It was the one thing that didn’t turn around and bite me in the ass when I wasn’t looking."

Just then Cam’s cell phone began to ring. As he pulled it from his pocket, Jessie’s cell phone started going off. Giving him a glance she got up and grabbed hers off the table.

"Mitchell. Yes. Yes, Sir. I’ll be there shortly."

Jessie was having a similar conversation. "Give me about thirty minutes. Bye."

She turned and looked at Cam. "I tell you, these Tok’ra better have something relevant this time, or I’m going to start getting pissed." Heading out the front door, she began to quickly gather her tools together. Cam came out and grabbed the ladder, folding it up.

"Where does this go?"

"In the garage; through the kitchen, door next to the stove."

Jessie looked up at the house, and sighed. The fascia board was going to have to wait. At least she had gotten the primer on it.

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