A/N This story was posted once before, but for some reason refused to show up with any formatting whatsoever. So, I deleted the damn thing (and lost all those lovely reviews...sob), and here it is again, with formatting. Enjoy!

Ride a Cowboy

By Triple Vice


There was no comparison between city boys….and Cage. Andy'd always known that. When they were kids and she came to visit the ranch over the summer, he was always pulling her out of some ditch or other, or dragging her out of the river, or teaching her some new trick. Survival, mostly, but he'd taught her how to ride, and how to rope. Then he'd taught her how to throw a punch when she came one summer and complained that two of the boys at school were bullying her. She'd been plenty happy to kick those kid's asses, and even happier to tell Cage when she came back the next year.

Now though…she'd been away for five years and suddenly he didn't look like Cage anymore. He looked like a man.

Andy swallowed as she stared out the kitchen window at the muscular man chopping wood in her uncle's back yard. Shirtless. She'd been staring for the past ten minutes, and still couldn't look away. In the city, girls joked about cowboys. Save a horse, and all. She just doubted they had any idea how excruciating it was to watch a man chop wood.

Her fingers were gripping the sink hard enough to cramp. She could remember him being strong, even for the boys around here, but…Abercrombie boys looked like pussies compared to…this. What had happened while she was away? Her first day back and she felt like she'd never seen this guy before. If it hadn't been for the dark hair and the blue eyes…and that—she caught her breath at the memory—smile…oh hells. If she kept staring like this he was bound to catch her, and that would be damned embarrassing.

Dropping her head finally, Andy took a few calming breaths, and tried to forget why she hadn't been here in five years. It didn't work very well. She could still remember his lips on hers, a moment stolen behind the dance stage when he tugged her away from the boys that had been showing her more attention than they had in previous years. Then…what he'd said.

Andy hadn't even been ready to fall in love back then. She'd been eighteen. He'd been twenty two. She hadn't known how to respond to someone saying "I love you."

Pushing away from the sink, Andy walked into the living room and tried to get a hold on her rampaging hormones. Why now, at twenty three, was she having more problems than in her puberty? Damn female stuff.

Right then, the front door opened and Cage walked in, his shirt slung over his shoulder and an empty canteen in one hand. He froze when he saw her, and she stared at him in shock. Now was not the best time to make an entrance. Not when she'd been staring at him for half the morning, thinking: gods, he was gorgeous. Big, bulky, lean…he was tanned from years of work on the farm, and his cowboy hat sat forward on his head so his blue eyes were cast in shadow as he looked at her, one hand still on the door he'd pushed open. Worn blue jeans—the real kind, not the ones you buy 'distressed' in stores—topped off the quintessential boots that every cowboy was known for.

"Andy," he said softly.

She gave a weak grin. "I got in last night. How are you, Cage?"

He eyed her for a long, awkward moment. "I've been better," he finally said, and lifted his canteen. "Just wanted some water. It's hot out there."

The tension broke, and Andy nodded, relieved. She liked Cage too much to want awkwardness between them.

"Give it here. I'll fill it up for you," she said, and stepped forward to take the canteen from him. She happened to look up just as she took it though, and found him already looking at her. Their gazes met, briefly, and she felt a little chill run up her back before she turned away and walked into the kitchen.

"How have things been going?" she asked as she filled his canteen from the cool tap water. You could still do that out here, because the water was clean enough. Unlike in the city.

Andy heard his heavy footsteps lead from the front door into the kitchen. "Well enough. We haven't been having much trouble with thieves lately, so the herd is getting big. Your uncle's health could be better though."

She looked up. "What's wrong?"

"He's getting old," Cage said, watching her. "And he hasn't been the same since your aunt died."

Andy screwed the cap back on the canteen. "I noticed he seemed a little worried last night, but he wouldn't talk about it. So what's going on?"

Cage held his hand out and took the canteen back from her. "Well, it's all the usual stuff. We're shorthanded, nobody grows their stuff like we do anymore, the market keeps getting smaller, and on top of all of that he's lonely."

Something about the way he looked away at the end of that sentence made her feel a little…guilty. She rubbed her hands on her jeans, and shrugged.

"Well, I'm here for the next three weeks. What needs to get done?"

Andy had never been a weakling. She'd been raised a country girl and went to the big city to survive as a city girl. The best and toughest of both worlds had built on each other to make her a tough cookie, so even after getting back from the big city in skinny blue jeans, black blouse and high heels, she could get up with the dawn and get out to the fields with the rest of them. Cage didn't say much when he first saw her, just looked over her faded blue jeans, plaid shirt, and old muddy boots and nodded his approval.

"Guess you'll do," he said as he glanced down at the loose neck of her worn out tee shirt. "Let's go."

And thus the day began. He hadn't been kidding about how much work there was to do. There were eggs to gather, fences to mend, horses to tend, hay to move, cattle to herd, chickens to round up, the shed to re-roof, tools to repair, the porch to strip and repaint, the house's siding to patch, the chimney and fireplace to clean, wood to chop, etcetera and so forth. The cattle were kept a ways off from the house, and there were two other men besides Cage that kept things running. Andy did what she could to help out. It was like modern day cowboy-ing, except it didn't feel so modern from the back of a horse. It wasn't easy either. Cattle were bullheaded—ironic, no?—her ass blistered, her skin darkened to a deep tan, her clothes got raggedy in no time, and her muscles wept and hated her.

The days went on for ages. What they didn't get done they went out to work on the following day, along with the usual chores, and Cage was always right there with her. They didn't talk much until the fifth day, oddly enough. There was more chatter at the dining room table every night with her uncle Ted present than there was the rest of the time, mostly because it just wasn't needed. Cage and her had worked together before, and it was strange how things just came back to her, like she'd never left. He'd need something and she'd know without him having to ask. They worked in sync, so naturally it was almost uncanny.

She liked it. Cage trusted her to pull her own weight, and he set a fast pace and worked hard so she had to work hard to keep up. Her uncle stayed indoors mostly, on threat of getting duct taped to his lazy-boy in the living room for the duration of her stay. By the end of the second week she felt rejuvenated and content with a job well done.

Well, at least, that's what she told herself. Frankly, she was tired, aching, and wishing that Cage looked less sexy. People were supposed to look ugly when they were all doled up in work clothes, and sweaty, and…muscled…in jeans that had been worn so long they fit just right.

That was what she was telling herself right then in fact, while her face was planted on the hard planks of the living room floor. She was staring blankly at the front door, which she could see from her vantage point just a couple yards from the couch. Being too pooped to walk six more feet redefined exhaustion in her book…but she was more preoccupied with her frustrated hormones. Or frustrated with her preoccupied hormones. Whichever. Cage was outside finishing up, and as she thought about him out in the sun roasting away again, she wondered absently if he would have taken a shower with her if she asked.

Andy rolled her head around to thump her forehead against the ground, trying to jolt the immediate images out of her brain. The thing was, Cage was—or had been—serious about her. She wasn't sure she could feel for him the same way, so even with the engines crying "full steam ahead!", she'd kind of labeled him off limits.

"Having a conscience sucks," she said to the hardwood floors, right before they creaked somewhere off to her right. She jumped and turned her head, half way afraid it would be Cage.

"Haha, I know what you mean," said her uncle Ted, and Andy sighed in relief. He was carrying a few ledgers in his arms, which he had to look over to smile down at her.

"You scared me," she said with a grin.

"Oh, did I?" he asked. "I didn't mean to…" He shrugged, and moved on into his study, his slow gait beginning to show his age. Andy rolled to her feet to follow him, and took the ledgers away to carry them in for him.

"You stink," her uncle kindly informed her, and Andy chuckled.

"Believe me, I know. I was on my way up to shower just now," she said, and set the ledgers down on his desk.

"Mm, don't mind me then. I've just got some numbers to crunch before I head out to finish with those vegetables you left in the kitchen." He glanced up at Andy. "The meat smells delicious by the way."

"Thanks," said Andy as she opened one of the ledgers absently. "It's a recipe I learned from mom…"

Something caught her eye then, and Andy looked a little closer as her uncle settled down in the chair by the desk. She pointed at the page she'd been looking at.

"What is this?" she asked, disbelief filling her voice. Her uncle had been putting on his reading glasses, and leaned over to look at the page.

"Oh," he said, and Andy saw his jaw work. "That's nothing."

"Don't tell me—" Andy caught her voice rising, and cleared her throat to lower her tone again. "Don't tell me it's nothing. Why does this say that Cage owns the house?"

Her uncle leaned back in his creaking, old leather chair and crossed his arms. "I had hoped not to tell you. I…had some debt stacked up from your aunt's hospital bills, and hadn't been much inclined to deal with them." Ted reached out and flipped the ledger closed. "They told me I was going to lose the house, but after I lost Vera it didn't seem to matter much. I had been resigned to foreclosure, but Cage went in and paid for most of it himself. He never even told me. I had to find out from the bank."

"So you sold him the house?" Andy asked softly. She'd been unable to leave New York for more than a few days when her aunt died, but hadn't wanted to leave her uncle in the state he'd been in. She'd had the phone dialed in and was ready to quit her job then and there, but Cage had all but kicked her out. He'd said her uncle needed the money she sent, and promised he'd take care of everything. That he would have gone to this extent…left her completely speechless.

"I was so angry I went and signed part of the ranch over to him, since he owned more of it than me now anyway," said her uncle.

"What about the money I sent?" Andy asked as a tear slid down her face. "Wasn't that enough?"

Ted gave a tiny smile and pulled the ledger over to set it in front of him. "Your money…it's all in the herd right now. Cage's running the whole show. I didn't want to tell you this for some time, but I won't even be able to leave you much in my will. You're a joint owner of this ranch with Cage, but that is just about all I can give you."

Andy looked back at the ledger and swallowed past the lump in her throat. She tucked her hands in her pockets and turned to leave the room, not sure what else to say. What else could she say? Damn it, but she should have been here. Big New York lawyer indeed. Fat lot of good it had done. Her uncle had raised her after the death of her parents, and was everything she knew from her childhood. She should have been here.

A few minutes later she found herself crying under the soft spray of the upstairs showerhead. Cage had just replaced it the day before, and the gentle spray was eons better than the sporadic, almost painful barrage of the previous part.

Damn, she thought again. Damn to it all. Damn her selfishness, damn her absence, and damn her idiotic ignorance all those years ago when Cage had said he loved her. Was she stupid, or was she stupid? Seriously!

A knock came on the door then, and Andy pulled her face out of the stream of water to glance around the curtain. The house's foundations had settled oddly over the years, and as a result the door no longer fit the frame. Cage had promised to fix it before she left, but for the time being it only closed to within an inch of the frame, and she could see a shadow from someone standing beyond.

"You forgot the bucket of water for the toilet," came Cage's voice, and Andy couldn't help the chuckle that escaped her. After five minutes of showering, the only way to keep hot water running was to pour extra water in the toilet and flush it. No one had ever figured out why it worked that way, but it had been a trick Andy had used since her teenage years.

"Uh…" Andy glanced around. Her clothes were scattered on the ground and the only towel in the bathroom was half sized. Oops. She grinned. Damn again.

"Sorry," she said. "Would you mind bringing it in?"

There was a pause, then the door slowly creaked open, and she heard his heavy boots step into the little bathroom. He poured the water in and flushed the toilet. The hot water in her shower turned scalding for a moment, and Andy stepped out of the water with a hiss.

Cage looked up then just as she looked back out from the crack between the curtain and the wall. He had already set the pail down and was halfway to his feet, but he paused and locked eyes with her from beneath his cowboy hat. His brows scrunched up and she watched his jaw clench. He straightened and started to turn away.

Andy reached out before she thought, and grabbed the edge of his cutoff, sleeveless work shirt.

"Wait…" she said, and again, he paused. She took a deep breath, and… "Don't go."

She could hear him swallow this time.

"Andy," he said slowly, "you really shouldn't be so cruel."

"I'm not being cruel," she said.

He gave a bitter laugh. "Andy…dammit. Don't ask anything of me I can't say no to."

Andy reached out for his hand then, and tugged gently. He stepped back, but didn't turn right away. Andy edged to the corner of the shower to lean her head on his shoulder.

"I found out what you did for Ted," she said, "and it made me want to cry."

"Why?" Cage asked, his back still turned.

"Because…" Andy gave a soft snort. "I thought it was damn heroic, and it made me hate myself for not realizing I was in love with you five years ago."

She lifted her head to look at him, and watched the cowboy hat slowly turn, Cage's eyes cast down as his shoulder moved back a little and his profile came into view. He turned a little more, his jaw clenching and unclenching as his eyes trailed up the side of her body he could see….and then finally he had turned just barely enough to look her in the eyes.

"Don't lie to me," he said, his voice a little more ragged then he probably intended. Andy gave a small smile. Verbally, it almost sounded like a threat. Thing was, his eyes told her just how much he couldn't afford to be lied to. Being a guy and all, he didn't mean for her to see it…but the great thing about being a female is her stereotypical intuition.

Andy reached up to push his hat off his head and pushed his shoulder out of her way so she could reach up and kiss him. He sucked in a deep breath as soon as her lips touched his, and that was all it took to release the tenuous restraints. He stepped into the shower without a second thought, boots and all, and one hand went behind her head to press her deeper into his kiss, while the other reached around behind her to trail down her back, over her ass and then to her leg. She took the cue as he lifted her leg to his waist, and hopped up to wrap her legs around him. He leaned her against the wall, and a ragged sigh of lust escaped him when she mmmed her approval.

The water drummed down on his back as they kissed, and Andy reached up between them to start popping open the buttons on his shirt. There weren't many…he'd already had it halfway undone when he came in, probably intending to go use the downstairs shower. She pushed it back over his shoulders and his lips moved back to her jaw, and then down to her neck. Andy's eyes fluttered open as she sighed, and she watched his muscles move as he tried to shrug out of the clinging wet shirt. She ran a hand over one sculpted shoulder to push the shirt back, then ran her hands down his arm. He was…a little dirty from all the labor, but she wasn't really paying attention to the dirt. She had been admiring his arms for days, since he hadn't worked with his shirt off since the first time. His hands were massive and strong, and she liked the way his veins stood out just a little and wrapped back up his muscled arms.

Andy got one of said arms free, and Cage closed the distance between them to press against her, his billboard body god figure sending her into heady levels of guilty pleasure. Yep. Definitely keeping this one, she thought as they kissed again. His shirt had just hit the floor with a wet splat when she reached down between her legs to palm the front of his jeans. She felt a pretty well defined bulge already there, and Cage let out a pained grunt against her lips.

Andy put a hand on his chest then—a unique experience in and of itself, since she'd been wanting to feel exactly how firm a man's muscles could get from working a ranch…and the fit but flabby stereotype turned out to be a lie, she discovered. She pushed him away from the wall, and Cage fell back a step. Andy slid her legs down to stand in front of him and reached out to start unbuckling his pants.

The hot water randomly decided to quit working then, and Cage swore as an icy spray showered them. They both ducked out of the shower, and Cage reached back to shut off the water. Andy chuckled and took his hand.

"Come on," she said, and pulled open the door to lean out and glance around. Her uncle was nowhere to be seen, so she glanced back to see Cage's eyes more or less riveted to her derriere. Andy grinned and pulled him out of the bathroom to hurry over to the guest room where she was staying. Her wet feet splatted softly against the wood, and she hears his loose belt jangle. It sounded loud enough to raise an army and it made her giddy with childish glee, like she was a kid again and playing hide and seek…sort of. Maybe it was a little different since she was naked and hell bent on getting Cage that way within the next forty five seconds. She heard one boot hit the floor, and then the other.

Andy wasn't sure who pushed the door shut, but no sooner did it click closed than they were exploring each other's mouths again, and her fingers were working rapidly at Cage's jeans. Cage picked her up and walked her to the bed, where he settled down with her on her back.

Cage swore and reached down to grab her hand. "Wait," he choked out, and it sounded almost like the word killed him to say it.

Andy gave him a confused look. "What? I know I'm a little overdue, but I thought…"

Cage laughed bitterly, and dropped his head down into the crook of her neck. He inhaled against her skin, and his face moved like he was going to kiss her again. She felt his warm breath brush across her skin, cooling the beads of water scattered on her neck, and felt his lips just barely tease the surface of her nerves. She shivered, but it wasn't from the cold.

"Why now, suddenly?" he asked, and
his lips brushed her skin with each word. "Finding out about Ted is great and all, but not enough to just make you suddenly change your bullheaded mind about something like being in love…and I can't take it if you're not."

Andy cupped his jaw in her hands and lifted his head. "It's not just Ted," she said, and brought his head down to rest his forehead against hers. "It's the guy I grew up with that I can suddenly see as a man and not just my childhood playmate. It's the fact that I have loved the silly little moments we share for years and only just realized that missing them has made me crave them. I missed the way you talk, and the way you care about people, and the way you make me feel safe…I was just too dense to realize what it all meant back then. Ted's story just made the lightbulb finally turn on."

"You've made me wait for five god-damn years, Andy. You better make it up to me," Cage said, and immediately moved in the couple inches to make up for lost time. His kiss was as painful as it was pleasurable, but it drove her crazy with cravings that she hadn't known she could have with a man. Frankly she was a picky chick, and the couple of exes she'd left behind in New York had never made her hormones burn with desire like Cage did.

She was more than happy to make it up to him for being an ignorant idiot all those years back.

She finally got the jeans unbuttoned and unzipped, and gave them a good shove.

Cage chuckled when she had a little trouble. "Wet jeans," he said, and Andy started muttering a plethora of dirty language that had nothing to do with bed talk. He grinned, and Andy glared.

"Stand up," she said, and Cage smiled before dropping a kiss on her lips and moving off the bed. Andy slid to the edge of the bed and pushed his hands away from the top of his pants.

"I've got an idea," she said as she trailed her thumbs back along the top of his waistband, and then around to the front where she hooked her thumbs under the damp denim and started pushing down. Mmmmmmmm, yes, she thought, as her breath caught and her eyes trailed up tight abs and photo-worthy pecs to his face. Then her eyes met his, and it was almost like she'd never seen him before. She'd always loved how his dark lashes ringed his intense blue eyes. When he smiled they all but glowed. But this time, that whole "different light" thing was in play, and Andy felt a natural sort of connection fall into place.

"I have an apology to make," Andy said, and slowly slid his jeans down. The muscles at his hips trailed down to a perfect v, and her breath caught as she looked at him. She exhaled softly, and as her breath trailed across his skin, Cage sucked in a hard breath. Andy swallowed, and tried to concentrate. She was getting heady with need. Her body was tingling, and the pressure was building between her legs.

"First…" she said, and trailed off. Cage stepped out of his jeans, and Andy reached up to take his hands.

"You know, I always liked your hands," she said, and lifted them to press her face against them. "As kids you always looked out for me and made sure I didn't get my clumsy ass hurt, and you've always worked like crazy to keep this place going. These hands…they're strong, and they keep us safe."

Cage moved to lift her up, and she pushed his hands away. "Wait," she said, and looked up at him. "Hang on a minute."

Cage took a deep breath, and Andy dropped away his hands. She stood, running her hands up his arms, and kissed his chin, and then his neck. Her hands came up to his shoulders, and she started walking around behind him. Her lips trailed across his chest, then his arm, shoulder, and finally, his back.

"I figure, a little excitement is good for the heart…" Andy ran her hands up his back, over every defined muscle, to his neck, and then back down to slip her arms beneath his. She opened her hands over his chest, and pressed her breasts against his back and rolled her body against him from her hips up to her chest. "And I kinda owe you."

He groaned. Her fingers played over his nipples, and his breath caught. Then her hands slid lower down, over his abs, to his pelvis. Cage's head tipped back as her fingers touched him, massaging, and she felt his back muscles tense against her chest. His abs clenched, and he bent forward as her fingers wrapped around him.

"Andy…" he choked out. "Seriously, this is more cruel than anything…"

"Mm…" Andy's forehead dropped against his back. Her brain was all but fogging over. She felt like she was half asleep or something. Thoughts were shutting down and all that filled her mind was what she could feel.

Time to make her "apology"…she slipped around in front of him again, and trailed a path of kisses down his chest before wrapping her fingers around him and gently licking the tip. Cage hissed, and reached out to steady himself on the headboard. Andy opened her mouth…and proceeded to make her rather cliché apology.

Cage was breathing hard after a couple minutes, which made Andy feel just a little smug beneath the fog in her brain. One of her best friends back in NY had been a hooker, and she had been very adept at teaching techniques…

Cage groaned and reached down to wrap his hands around her upper arms. He pulled her up, and she ended up with her back pressed against him with his erection sitting between the cheeks of her ass. He reached down between her legs, and Andy's head dropped back on his chest as two of his fingers pushed into her.

"Feels like…you got about as excited by that as I did." His other hand went up to palm her breast, and a soft moan escaped Andy. His hand left her breast then after way too short a time spent there, and slid down to her hip and up her back. He pushed her upper body forward, and she reached out to brace herself on the mattress. He shifted behind her, and the head of his penis pressed into her. Then Cage eased in, and Andy moaned.

He pulled out and rocked into her, and Andy's jaw fell open. She hadn't expected it to stretch her that much…and he went so…deep…

"Oh god…" Her body curled in on itself, and then she lifted her head and her back arched. "Oh…"

Cage set a slow pace at first, his thrusts timed with his ragged breaths. Andy let out soft grunts every time he filled her, and she started rolling her hips into him. That turned him on, apparently, because his breathing got heavier and his pace picked up speed. It was just about deliriously heady by then. Andy felt every jolt with a feverish intensity, and her body all but vibrated with sensation. What was left of her awareness kept slipping away.

She wasn't even sure when they shifted, but suddenly Cage was on his knees on the floor, and leaning back to put his weight on his arms. She was on her knees too, straddling him as he thrust up into her. Andy reached down to run her hands up his body. He was sweating, and still wet from the shower. She felt the damp building up under her nails as she scraped down his skin and left tracks in the sweat down his chest.

"C-Cage…" she said on a moan, and Cage sat up to run his hands up her tight stomach to her breasts. Then his arms wrapped around her waist, and he stood in a motion so fluid that he made it look like she didn't weigh a thing. When he laid her back on the bed, he braced his hands on either side of her and looked down at her.

She hadn't really thought until that moment that he could have been any more attractive than he'd always been…but as he looked down at her, his heavy breathing, flushed color, and most of all…the look in his eyes…he took her breath away.

"We are going to be up a while, just so you know," Cage said.

Andy reached up to pull his head down so that their lips were just a hair's breadth apart.

"Promise?" she asked, and couldn't help the little grin that tugged at her lips.

Annnnnnd they did.

The following morning, work began as usual…with a couple of minor differences. Cage gave her a light smack on the ass at the kitchen sink, and they pretty much fell into the coat closet whilst making out in the entryway. Then Andy upended a bucket of water on Cage in the barn and fought him to get his shirt back off. Then they kind of ended up in the tack room…doing stuff other than work.

Annnnnnd the rest of the day went pretty much like that. Until the car pulled up in the lot just before suppertime.

Cage was walking up the front steps of the house, and Andy was just dropping off a saddle in the barn. When she came back, she saw Cage talking to someone from the top of the porch. He was leaning on the railing, but he looked tense. When she rounded the house, she saw why.

The sight of their visitor all but stopped her in her tracks, and erased the good mood she'd been in. He must have heard her, because he turned, and Andy got a good look at the face of the man she had come to the country to avoid.

"Jack?" She asked. "What are you doing here?"

Jack held up the bouquet of roses he'd been holding. "Trying to apologize," he said, and started toward her. Cage stepped down then and put a hand on his shoulder.

"You're already closer than I'd like you to be, buddy," Cage said, and he didn't sound very polite. "Don't push your luck."

Andy's jaw ground down tight. "I don't want an apology, Jack. I want you to leave."

Jack sighed and lowered his frilly gift. "I'd hoped to make it up to you. You're the only reason I kept it together for two years and the only reason they let me out early on good behavior. I never would have held up in that place otherwise."

Andy swallowed against the lump in her throat. "Still doesn't make it right, Jack. Saying sorry and handing off some pretty flowers won't fix the past."

"But it's a start," Jack said, and glanced back at Cage. "I figured, the only way to really make it up to you would be to go legit. So I've got the start of a business in the works. It's all above-board…strictly based on my own money. I want to start over—with life. With us, too. Don't you think it would be worth it to try? I mean…what we had was pretty special."

Her eyes were fogging up, but Andy kept up the pretense that she was being tough. "Yeah. Pretty special. I was living in an alternate reality. Way up in the clouds." She waved her hand at the sky. "Kinda hurt when I hit the ground and realized I'd been falling for a heap of lies."

"They weren't all lies…" Jack tried to say.

"I think she made herself clear, Jack," Cage said, and pushed off the railing to start down the steps. His cowboy boots gave an ominous thud with every step, and Andy felt glad that for once, a guy was coming to her rescue instead of being the problem.

Jack never looked away from her though. He seemed as obsessed with her in that moment as he had been for the past two years—prison included. So she made sure to break it to him gently.

"Turn around and go back to New York, Jack," she said. "And don't ever, ever come here again."

The muscles in Jack's jaw clenched. "I thought we had a good thing." He sighed, and dropped his gaze to the ground. "I fucked up. I figured you of all people would understand that."

Andy smiled, and shook her head. "All the right lines at all the right moments. Your Hollywood lingo is still impressive, but unfortunately I'm not as dumb as I used to be. Take your faux prince charming act and move on to the next blind little romantic, and don't waste any more of my time."

"In other words she's saying you have thirty seconds to get the hell off our property," Cage said, and stopped just behind Jack to cross his arms. "If you take any longer than that, we'll have to teach you how Texans treat trespassers, old school style."

Jack sighed then, and turned with a wild swing. Cage dodged and grabbed Jack's hand to twist his arm back, bringing Jack to his knees, and delivered one powerful punch to Jack's shoulder. Andy heard the violent pop as Jack's shoulder wrenched out of its socket, and didn't even flinch at his cry of pain. The bastard deserved way worse. She'd been the lucky girlfriend, but the others hadn't been quite as…pampered, as Jack liked to put it. Too bad she hadn't known when she met him what a sadistic asshole Jack was.

Andy walked past the two men and headed up into the house.

"You ready to leave yet?" she heard Cage ask.

She came back out with Cage's 12 guage pump shotgun and shoved a round in the chamber. It caught their attention when she yanked the pump forward, and Cage backed away.

"If I ever see you again, I will blow your head off," she said, and Jack gave a small, sadistic smile before pushing to his feet and spitting on the bouquet of flowers he'd dropped. Then he walked over them and headed for his car.

"Oh," he said, "by the way, you better be packing when you get back to New York."

Cage shot forward then and grabbed the back of Jack's head to slam it onto the hood of the car.

"You should be more careful," Cage said as he pulled Jack back up and delivered a solid blow to Jack's solar plexus. "A threat like that could cost you your life." Cage brought his elbow in from the side to knock Jack's jaw out of its socket, and Jack stumbled back, laughing, and put a hand up.

He said something garbled, and Cage paused for a second as Jack reached up with his good hand to manually pull his jaw back into place. Andy winced at the disgusting, grinding sound it made right before it popped back in. Jack's cry of pain was somewhat loud, but his low-pitched tone was eerily well controlled for someone who had to be in as much pain as he was. He glanced between Andy and Cage then before reaching down to pull his arm back into its socket. The pop was just as creepy as his expression while he did it, and a shudder swept up Andy's spine.

"I'm going, no need for any more temper tantrums," Jack said, and walked around to the driver's side of the car and opened the door.

"Nice to see you've found such a capable bodyguard, Andy," Jack said, and winked. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised he's a cowboy. Just don't be surprised if he can't measure up to us city boys."

Jack dropped into the car and shut the door then, before Cage could react to that comment. The car started, and he tore out of the yard, leaving a cloud of dirt in his wake.

"Great," said Andy as she lowered the shotgun. "Now what am I going to do?"

"Quit your job and move in here," Cage said, and turned to walk up the steps. He took the gun from hands that she hadn't realized were shaking til right then, and wrapped his other arm around her to pull her close.

"I take it you've never pointed a gun at anyone before," he said, trying to make light of the situation, and Andy snorted.

"Never needed to. I've always had you to do that." She looked up at him then, and gave him half a smile. "I guess this is one of those cheesy moments where I'm supposed to praise your manly manliness and gush over how big and strong and tough you were." She put a hand to her forehead and gave a half-hearted fake faint. "'Gasp! The big bad ex-boyfriend has come to torment me! Whatever shall I do?'"

Cage shrugged. "I dunno…maybe pull a shotgun on him. That was kind of sexy by the way."

Andy dropped her hand and gave him a look. "Not nearly as sexy as that elbow to the jaw. It was hanging from its hinges in a way most unbecoming."

Cage sighed. "Great. Shakespeare speak. Knock it off."

"Hey, you started the lighthearted banter. Don't chicken out when I bring in the big guns."

"Old English does not count as big guns. We've already discussed this like a thousand times. But ANYWAY, back to my comment," Cage said, and reached up to give her braided ponytail a playful tug. Andy's head dropped back so she had to look up at him. "I'm serious. Quit your job and move in here."

Andy sighed. "It's not that easy. If I ever want to be employable again I can't just quit out of nowhere. And even if I wanted to pick up and move I couldn't do it immediately."

"Soooooo, that sounds like a yes," Cage surmised, and nodded to himself. "Time to get a bigger bed."

Andy laughed. "I've already got a King size…"

"Do you now?" Cage interrupted, and Andy smacked him on his chest.

"Focus!" she said, though she couldn't help but smile. "You're doing an admirable job restoring my moxy but I'm seriously concerned here."

"I know. So am I," Cage said, and sighed. "Come on."

He led her inside then, and put up the shotgun and shut the door. "Okay, you said you can't just leave. Why not?"

"Well, I'd have to get my stuff moved, get my apartment sold…"

"All stuff you can do over the phone," Cage said, and Andy's jaw dropped.

"That's like trying to sing an aria over Morse Code," she said. "It's a pain in the ass and there's too much paperwork that I'd have to sign in person. Even if I were contemplating this—which I haven't made a decision on yet, by the way—I would have to go back for at least a few weeks to put in notice at work and to wrap up everything."

"Sounds like you made a decision to me," Cage said, and raised an eyebrow.

Andy held up her hands defensively. "Hey, don't try to make up my mind for me! I'm too skittish to take it kindly right now."

"Why?" Cage asked, and reached out to slip his hands back over her jaw. "I think it's a damn good idea. I want you here for selfish reasons anyway. I was hoping you'd come to that decision on your own, but with that bastard making threats about you back in New York, being polite became a little less important. You'd be safe here. I can go back with you to New York to make sure you're safe, we can stay a couple weeks to get everything taken care of, and you can come back here with me…for good if you're cool with it."

Andy swallowed again as she looked up at Cage, and wondered why in the hell she'd been so dumb for so long. If she'd just fallen for Cage instead of getting confused and running off to New York, she wouldn't have met Jack and wouldn't have fallen for such a douche. She wouldn't have had her heart broken, and sure as hell wouldn't have had to be scared every time she left the apartment because her boyfriend's 'colleagues' had men out watching her. Life sucked sometimes.

"Cool with it?" she asked. "You didn't just say what I think you said, did you?"

Cage chuckled, and leaned forward to drop a kiss on her head. "Maybe, maybe not. Meanwhile, I think you should go book a flight for tomorrow morning and I'm going to go find Ted."

Andy's eyebrows rose. "That soon?"

Cage shrugged, but he was already halfway across the room when he did it. "Sure. Might as well get this over with. Sooner I get you back here, sooner I can have you for myself. No more Jack."

Andy grinned at that. It sounded like a good idea.