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When Two Hearts Collide
It was nearly nine. He really did need to go home. Take a shower. Get some sleep. Maybe he'd finish reading the article about that dig in Jordan, the one that might possibly have uncovered Phoenician ruins. His stomach growled as he started the jeep. Hell, he hadn't had lunch today, had he? He'd slept a couple of hours, as per Jack's orders. Then he'd been given those images of P4X 321, and then…he shook his head. Then the most beautiful woman he'd ever laid eyes on had shown up, and turned the whole damned place upside down. Well, a TV dinner it was, then. He pulled on his coat, turned off the light, headed for the elevator.
Sam had stormed into his office when she'd returned from taking Ms. Webster to her car, her sapphire blue eyes blazing with anger, and had spent the better part of thirty minutes telling him what an inconsiderate, boorish ass he'd been. She'd actually been much kinder to him than he'd been to himself. She'd lost all her steam when he'd admitted that.
He had acted in self-defense, he'd argued, both with Sam and himself; not sure he was ready for any type of relationship, especially since she could wind up with a freaking Goa'uld in her head because of him. He insisted that he wasn't certain that he was willing to give his heart to anybody. Something, his brain told him, he had yet to do so far in his life. And that he might not have a choice in the matter.
His best friend had shaken her blonde head, muttered something under her breath about him being a stubborn idiot, and something else about men and testosterone and damaged brain cells. He hadn't caught most of it, and she'd turned around and left him just as abruptly, and feeling just as badly, as when she had arrived.
He hadn't missed the hurt that had flashed in those beautiful green eyes when he'd jumped up to leave the conference room. Hadn't missed the way she'd tried to push it down. How she'd wrapped her arms around her narrow waist, and seemed to close in on herself, slender shoulders hunched forward, as if she were trying to simply disappear. Trying to pretend it didn't matter. While he tried to pretend he didn't care.
Sam and Jack were already gone; their vehicles no longer parked beside his in their assigned parking stalls. The streets were dark as he drove through town, heading back to that cold, empty apartment. Alone. Again.
He pulled into the parking lot of the supermarket. Didn't notice the battered little car that sat alone beneath one of the tall lights. He went inside. He was hungry, and as a result he carried two grocery bags out. Mostly junk food. But it was food.
His headlights caught the car full on as he backed out. He could see her sitting behind the steering wheel. It looked like she was asleep. He moved forward. Yep, Washington state tags. Why was she here? Hadn't she found a room by now?
"I emptied my checking account for gas money, and…well, here I am."
Oh, God! Nobody had thought to ask, to make sure she had a place to stay! He parked beside her. Noticed how damned cold it was when he got out. Tapped on the window. Felt the panic rise in his chest when she didn't respond. How long had she been here? How long did it take for hypothermia to set in? He checked the door. Locked. He pounded on the window as hard as he dared.
Something was thumping beside her head. Darn it, she just wanted a little more sleep…so tired…sleepy…
"Ms. Webster!" He pounded again. "Casey! Come on, Casey, wake up," he begged.
She opened her eyes. Screamed out loud when she saw a face staring in at her. Put her hand over her heart and willed it to stop hammering so fast. Blinked when she looked into the incredible blue eyes of Dr. Daniel Jackson. She slowly rolled the window down. "What?"
"Come on, you can stay at my place tonight."
"Do you have a room for the night?"
She lowered her eyes. "Not yet."
"Plans for finding one?" He could tell by the way she refused to look at him that she had none. "Do you even have the money to get a room?" he asked softly.
Her cheeks were blazing red, she could feel it. "No," she whispered.
"Come on. I can sleep on the couch," he said gently.
"I couldn't inconvenience you," she replied. Thoughts of his behavior during the second meeting she had attended flashed through her mind. "I'll be fine. I've spent plenty of nights sleeping in the garage. This isn't any different."
The comment left him breathless with pain. "The garage?"
"Long, sad story. None of your business. Not that you'd be interested anyway." The latter was said so softly he barely heard it.
It might be a long, sad story. And maybe it wasn't any of his business. But he was interested. Wanted to know why a beautiful woman like her had been reduced to sleeping in a garage. Needed to know. Wanted to assure her that it was never going to happen again. "There is no way that I'm going to let you sleep in this car tonight. It's too damned cold."
"I'll be fine." She didn't dare look at him again. She'd seen the concern in his eyes when she'd first opened hers. The look of fear…of panic…on his handsome face. If she looked at him again, she'd give in…she could feel it.
"You're coming to my place-"
"I'll be fine," she hissed. Willing him to go away, leave her alone. Because being near him, knowing that he didn't like her, was just too damned painful.
He studied her, the stubborn tilt of her chin. Did she have any idea how damned cute she was when she was pissed off? The empty coffee cup in the holder beside that very sexy thigh sparked an idea. "I have coffee."
Oh, goddess, she'd do just about anything for a nice, hot cup of coffee.
"No strings, no pressure. You'll be safe, and warm, and you can take a shower."
Shower. Warm water. Instead of a cold water wash in a gas station restroom. Shower. She could wash her hair…hot coffee…
He could tell she was weakening. "Have you had dinner?"
Her eyes blazed. "Yes."
"What did you have? Something warm, I hope."
She pulled her lip between her teeth.
"Casey?" he asked softly. Neither of them noticed that he was using her given name.
He moaned. "That's it. Get in my jeep."
He had no doubt that she'd follow him until she could take a turn, and then would disappear before he could get the jeep turned around. "Because I don't trust you to follow me. And I am not about to let you spend the night in a parking lot!"
She felt her temper flare. "Just who do you think you are? I don't have to do a damned thing you say! Go bully someone else!"
He reached through the open window and unlocked the door. Had scooped her into his arms before he was aware of what he was doing. He looked at her face. Her eyes were wide, and he could see that she was surprised…and something else lurked in those beautiful green depths. Hope? He wasn't sure. "Have any luggage?" he asked gruffly.
"Duffel bag," she replied, too shocked to do anything other than answer. She was on fire. Every nerve ending in her body was on fire. Being held against his strong, broad chest was more incredible than she could ever have imagined. Not that it meant anything. He didn't even like her!
He glanced in the backseat. The only thing on the worn bench seat was the denim jacket she'd been wearing when they'd caught her on the base. Must be in the trunk. He opened the door of the jeep, and deposited her onto the seat, reached around her to fasten the seatbelt. Tried to ignore how damned good she smelled. He closed the door, went back and leaned into her car, pulled out the keys, grabbed the huge macramé and denim purse, rolled up the window and locked the door before he closed it. Yep, the duffel was in the trunk. He tossed it and the purse into the back of the jeep.
"This could be considered kidnapping, you know," she snapped, as soon as he was settled behind the steering wheel.
"Just trying to save a stubborn woman from freezing to death," he replied calmly, navigating the parking lot and onto the street.
She studied him for a moment. Yes, that was exactly what it was. Because that was the type of man he was: kind, gentle, generous…always willing to help others, no matter the cost to himself. "I would have been fine. I was going to go into the store and warm up for a few minutes," she replied. Tried desperately to remain angry. She would be lost if she allowed that anger to fade. "I'm capable of taking care of myself, I've been doing it for years."
He glanced over at her. "I'm sure you are…and that you have. It's okay to accept help when it's offered," he said softly.
"I wouldn't know," she replied, just as softly.
"You've never needed help before?"
She shook her head, turned her face to look out the window. "Never been offered."
Two small, seemingly insignificant statements. She'd 'spent plenty of nights sleeping in the garage'. Had 'never been offered' help. Something told him that this beautiful woman had suffered a bitter childhood, and led a lonely life. He didn't know how, but he was certain that he was right. And it hurt like hell! She was special, she was beautiful, and she should be treated like the amazing woman he knew instinctively that she was. A woman like her should be treasured...spoiled...adored…"Well, it is. And I'm offering."
"Why are you offering? You don't even like me!"
"Don't…don't like you? Where did you ever get an idea-" he broke off, thinking of how he had acted during the briefing, trying so damned hard not to look at her, because every time he did, he could feel her tugging at his heart. How he had literally run out of the room when General Hammond had asked him to take her to her car. "That's not true," he said quietly.
"Could have fooled me."
"Apparently I did," he said softly. Tried to fight down the ache that filled his chest at that thought.
She frowned. She had no idea what he meant by that! She tried to bite back the gasp when he pulled into the parking garage of a tall, brick building. There was a doorman out front! Good grief! She'd never been inside a building where there was a doorman!
He parked, handed her the purse and duffel, pulled the two grocery bags into his arms. "It's all junk food, I'm afraid," he said, smiling down at her.
She forced a smile. She had to be out of her mind. Yeah, she was. That had been established during the long drive to Silver Springs. Why change now? Staying with this man, even if it was just over night, simply to keep from freezing to death, was going to be the biggest mistake she had ever made. Because she was already attracted to him. Her heart, her very soul was reaching out for him…to him. She felt the connection. Knew that he was her Destiny. But he wasn't interested in her. Didn't really like her. Spending time with him, any amount of time with him, would just make things worse. She tightened her fingers around the handle of her duffel and followed him into the elevator.
Bad move. Should have taken the stairs. Because that sweet floral and vanilla scent was about to drive him out of his mind. His cock was awake and demanding an introduction. Something that hadn't happened since…had it ever happened to him before? Had he ever met a woman who had knocked him so completely for a loop? Had his body ever reacted so ardently to a woman before? Had he ever felt his heart…and his soul…reaching for a woman like this, reaching for her heart, her soul; needing, wanting to hold her, protect her, take care of her…love her. Destiny. This woman was his Destiny. His heart knew it. His soul knew it. His body knew it. It was only the mind that was fighting against it.
He smelled so good! She closed her eyes. Willed her heart to be still. He would never be hers, never love her like she loved him…oh, hell, when had that happened? When she had seen him in that room, after she had broken the mirror? Or during that first meeting, when he had offered her coffee? Or when he had scooped her into his arms, his body hard and warm and it had felt so damned right? She opened her eyes and stared at the floor of the elevator. She had to find a way to get out of this! There was no way she could spend the night with him…even if she was sleeping on the couch and he was in his bed, because no way was she letting him sleep on the sofa! Maybe…maybe she'd just sleep for an hour or so. Take a quick shower, and then she could just slip out…and try to find her way back to her car. This building was only a few blocks from that grocery store. Yes. That was it. She'd just be up and gone…she'd leave a note thanking him for his hospitality and generosity, of course. But the sooner she got the hell out of there, and away from him, the sooner she could convince her heart that it wasn't going to happen.
He watched her, how she closed her eyes as such sadness settled onto those delicate features. Wanted to put his arms around her. Hold her close and tight and never let her go. His arms still tingled where he'd held her, his chest burned where her body had pressed against his. Having her in his arms had felt so good, so…right! No, no it wasn't safe for her to let her life become entangled with his…look what had happened to Sha're, and Sarah! Oh, on some level he understood that he hadn't been responsible for what had happened to them. Had he been in the temple when Apophis had come through the 'gate, he would most likely be dead. Or infested with a Goa'uld himself. And Sarah…that had happened before he'd even made it to Chicago. Still, had his life not crossed paths with theirs…Sha're would still have been taken by Apophis, if Ra hadn't taken her, or killed her; and Sarah still would have opened that jar and been taken over by Osiris, his brain informed him. His heart grabbed at the thought. He'd been on this merry-go-round before. He'd exonerate himself. For about five minutes. Because he should have been there for Sha're. Had he been there, he would have ordered everyone to hide when the Stargate activated. Not that that would have stopped Apophis, his head pointed out. The bastard would have made his Jaffa search until they found the people who had left behind the food and clothing and sleeping blankets. And what about Sarah, what could he have done to have changed that situation? Nothing. Not one blessed thing. Still his mind demanded that he keep his distance from this woman. To protect her, his mind insisted.
He led her down the hallway, balanced the brown paper bags while he unlocked the door. "Be it ever so humble," he said with a smile, ushering her inside, turning on the light in the entry hall.
She gasped. It was…huge! At least, it was when compared to the tiny, one bedroom apartment she shared…had shared…with Kelley. They were standing in the entry hall. To her right were louvered closet doors, two singles and one double. To her left was the kitchen, open to the entry except for about three feet at either end of the room. White tile counters and backsplash, pickled oak cabinets, white on white appliances - goddess she could cook up a storm in there! The eight by ten room was, in her mind, the perfect kitchen.
Daniel led her farther into the apartment. The dining room was open to the kitchen through a large 'window', above the sink on the kitchen side. A round maple table surrounded by six high-backed chairs, the tops of which were intricately carved with leaves and grapes and vines, sat centered beneath an antique brass chandelier. Separating the dining room from the living room was a long pine sofa table, it looked antique, and a tall lamp that glowed softly, the base of which appeared to be a statue of some sort.
The creamy leather sofa was pushed against the sofa table, and faced a set of French doors, which were flanked by floor to ceiling windows. There was a breathtaking view of the city, although in the darkness she couldn't see the mountains that were also a part of the view, nor the narrow balcony that the doors led to. Adjacent to the sofa, on the left, were three massive bookcases, with leaded glass doors. Filled to capacity with books. The units stretched halfway into the dining room. On the opposite side of the room were three oak units, two that displayed a variety of artifacts…ceremonial masks, figures made of ivory and wood and jade. The center unit had doors, she assumed a TV was tucked inside of it. A large square coffee table, with heavy filigree iron legs and a thick wooden top sat between the sofa and two dark tan leather chairs. A dark red Oriental rug covered the hardwood floor. Several masks, and a couple of smaller rugs covered what wall space there was; an antique schoolhouse clock hung on the narrow wall that defined the corner of the kitchen, on the dining room side. It was absolutely the most beautiful place she'd ever seen! She'd seen rooms like this - in decorator's books, and on the decorating shows she'd watched on television.
He watched her eyes. Noted that they went wider with every passing second. Did she like it? Would she be happy here? And where the hell had that thought come from? Destiny, his heart whispered. Destiny, his soul told him. Destiny, his body insisted. Did he believe in destiny? Could he believe that this woman, this drop-dead gorgeous woman, so delicate, so strong, so brave…so incredible…was made for, meant for him?
"It's beautiful," she said softly.
He glanced around. This was the first place he had ever tried to turn into a home. Sam and Janet had been a lot of help during the decorating phase, helping him decide on furniture and colors. "Thanks. I'll show you the bedroom, you can sleep-"
"No, Doctor Jackson. I appreciate the offer. But I'll just sleep on the sofa. It looks quite comfortable," she said, her voice soft, but firm.
"Daniel," he said softly.
"I'm sorry?" she asked, confused.
"Call me Daniel," he said, smiling at her.
Yeah. Sure. That'll happen. "I'll sleep on the sofa," she repeated, not acknowledging his request.
He decided not to argue the point. He'd just wait until she was asleep, then carry her in and put her in the much more comfortable queen-size bed. Yeah, his brain taunted him. Do that. Then you'll be able to truthfully say there's been a woman in your bed! "Bathroom is at the end of the hall," he said quietly.
She nodded, stood awkwardly to the side as he went into the kitchen, put the bags on the counter.
"Would you like a cup of coffee?"
Is the Pope Catholic? "Yes, please," she replied. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
He turned around to look at her, gave her a smile that he hoped would reassure her, take that 'deer-in-the-headlights' look from her eyes. "Nope. Got it handled. I picked up a couple of TV dinners. They aren't bad, and they'll be something warm."
"That's all right, I'm not hungry." Not the truth, but if she tried to eat, she'd be throwing it up in an hour. Happened every time she was nervous. And she couldn't get any more nervous than she was right now!
"I'd rather not eat alone," he said casually, hoping to cajole her into eating something.
"Really, I'm fine," she insisted.
He frowned. Opened the pantry to put away the box of cereal he'd picked up. Took note of the can of soup. "I have chicken noodle soup, if you'd rather have it."
Soup…hot soup…oh, that did sound good…and chicken noodle would be gentle on her stomach, easier to keep down. She mentally shook her head. She didn't need to be obligated to this man. Staying here…just for a few hours, would indebt her more than she wanted to be.
The flash of hunger…physical hunger, that moved through those pools of emerald green had him reaching for the can.
"No, thank you. A cup of coffee will be fine. Is it…would it be all right if I took a shower?" she asked softly, hesitantly…shyly.
He sighed mentally. Maybe after her shower…"Sure." He led her to the bathroom.
Like the kitchen, the bathroom had pickled oak cabinets, although the countertop was white marble. It boasted twin sinks. Floor to ceiling cupboards were nestled between the counter and a wall that closed off the toilet. A deep, Jacuzzi tub was centered on the far wall, and a large glass walled shower stood adjacent to it. The double door of the shower had etched swans swimming among reeds. A door at the end of the counter, near the door where she stood, most probably led to the master bedroom. Definitely a beautiful apartment.
"Towels are here," he said, pointing to the top section of the cupboard. "Take your time."
"Thanks," she replied.
It took every ounce of self-control he possessed to keep from cupping her cheek, running his thumb over those full, pink lips when he passed by her. He flipped the lever that would lock the door, smiled at her, and pulled it shut behind him. He stood beside that closed door for a few seconds. His mind tried to conjure up images of her, naked and wet…and he'd better think of something else damned fast!
She stood uncertainly for a moment. His robe was hanging on a bar of hooks on the back of the door. His toiletries were lined with precision behind the first of the shell-shaped sinks. One towel was hanging on the bar that spanned one of the glass shower walls. Another was folded neatly in the middle of the counter. The room was stark, and her mind quickly decorated it. She shook those thoughts from her head. She stripped, rolled the dirty clothes tightly and put them in the plastic bag she'd brought along. She grabbed her shampoo and conditioner and shower gel. Took a towel and a washcloth from the cupboard.
The water was warm, and it felt so good to be clean again. She was always very fastidious about her cleanliness. A phobia ingrained in her, no doubt, by her upbringing. By the fact that one of her many punishments had been being denied the chance to shower or bathe. And then being tormented for not being clean. She scrubbed her body until her skin was pink, trying to rid herself of the bitter memories. She washed her hair, made sure to work the conditioner all the way from the roots to the ends. When she was finished, she applied the lotion that was her one luxury in life. Pulled on clean panties and a bra, a clean pair of jeans and a clean sweater. She opted to remain barefoot…just for a bit. She hated wearing shoes in the house. She brushed her hair, then carefully dried it.
A A A A A A
He puttered around in the kitchen. Started a pot of coffee. Finished putting the groceries away. Took the can of soup from the pantry, opened it and poured the contents into a saucepan, turned the unit beneath it on low. Opened the package of deli meat he'd picked up, laid it and a few slices of bread from the new bag and some cheese onto a plate, carried it to the table. He could hear the water running. Tried to remember if anyone other than he had ever taken a shower in his bathroom. Nope. Couldn't remember anyone ever being in there. Wondered if she would like making love with the warm water running down over their skin. He could see himself licking those water droplets from her skin, sucking them from her nipples…oh, damn it to hell! He had to stop it! When would he have time for a relationship anyway? He was gone for days, sometimes weeks at a time! When he returned, all he wanted was a shower, a hot meal, and sleep! No time for all the work that went into relationship.
The coffee was ready. He poured two cups. Automatically added milk and a teaspoon of sugar to one cup. His normal two teaspoons of sugar to the other. If she worked on the base, she would certainly understand his absences. Which was a huge hurdle, if locker-room talk was anything to go by. And if things went according to the way he thought they were going to, she'd be on the team anyway. So she would be just as tired after a mission. He tried to push the words of that damned letter out of his mind. As well as those of his friends, telling him that she was for him, that he could have a life filled with something other than work…could have happiness and love...
His senses alerted him to her presence…he could smell that incredible soft floral and vanilla scent.
She stepped shyly into the kitchen. "Coffee smells good," she said softly.
The very ends of her hair were still damp. Her jeans hugged her slender hips, accentuated those long legs, which could drive a man to distraction. Her sweater was form fitting, followed the soft curves of her breasts…his hands itched to hold them…didn’t hide that little inny bellybutton…his mouth watered to taste her skin, he wanted to thrust his tongue into that sexy navel…Her slender feet were bare, and good god did she have any idea how sexy that color was on her toenails? He smiled, handed her the cup he had prepared for her.
"Thank you." She'd watched his eyes as they moved over her. For just a few seconds she was certain she had seen lust flash in those incredible blue depths. A look she was more than familiar with.
"You're welcome. Soup's almost hot, and I thought a sandwich to go with it sounded good."
She could smell the tantalizing aroma of the soup. "I guess I could eat a little bit."
Daniel grinned, tried not to look too happy about his 'victory', and ladled the soup into two bowls. He carried the soup to the table, she brought the two cups of coffee. They ate in silence…both wrapped up in their own tumultuous thoughts.
She sat back, her stomach full, the coffee and the soup warming her from head to toe. "Thank you," she said softly.
"You're welcome. If you'll excuse me, I’m going to grab a quick shower myself. Make yourself at home," he said, waving a hand toward the living room.
She nodded. She sipped the coffee, walked into the living room and settled on the sofa, watching as the lights twinkled in the city below. Well, not that far below. They were only on the fifth floor. But still…it was beautiful. Peaceful.
There was a wooden chessboard on the coffee table, with large white ivory and black onyx chess pieces, beside a wooden Malaysian lap desk. She'd always wanted to learn how to play the game. She studied each of the pieces. The detail was amazing, the workmanship some of the finest. She glanced around her again. This room screamed 'class'. 'Money'. It was a place where she would never fit in…never be welcome.
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