I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 3: Coalescence

By S X Meagher


Disclaimers: See Part 1

***Part 16***


Ryan woke relatively early on the final day of their honeymoon and decided that she needed a nice, big breakfast. Eschewing her normal morning run, she prepared a six-egg ham and cheese omelet, two bagels with cream cheese, a big bowl of green grapes, a sectioned orange, a pot of coffee and two big glasses of juice. She carried her loaded tray up the stairs, setting it down on the floor as she slowly opened the door. Tiptoeing into the room, she could hear her lover begin to stir. It was just 6:45, but the sunlight was streaming through the big windows, creating lovely patterns all across Jamieís body.

The smaller woman had kicked the sheet off in her absence, and Ryan stood and stared at her for a long minute. The unguarded beauty of her lover caused her to reflect on how blessed she was to be able to spend her life with a woman who attracted her so strongly. She knew that she would love Jamie no matter what kind of a package she came in, but she was not unaware of how the strong, firm body called to her in some elemental way that she was powerless over.

Jamieís eyes slowly blinked open and locked upon Ryanís for a few moments. She caught the desire reflected in those deep blue eyes, and she responded with a slow, sensual smile, silently welcoming her lover to proceed in any way she wished.

Ryan beamed at her as she placed the tray on the window seat and crossed over to sit next to her on the bed. "Sometimes Iím so struck by how beautiful you are that I really have to struggle to keep my wits about me," she admitted as she ran her hands lightly across Jamieís smiling face.

"If I tried for a year, I couldnít think if a better way to wake up," Jamie said sweetly. "Your loving face, that gorgeous body, a wonderful compliment and a big breakfast waiting for me." She shook her head slowly. "Heavenís gonna have to pull out all the stops to top this."

"This is just one womanís opinion," Ryan mused as she fetched the tray, "but I think this is heaven." A small smile accompanied her words, but Jamie could see the grain of truth reflected in the vivid blue eyes. Ryan took a big bite of the omelet and closed her eyes in pleasure. "Boy, I sure can cook," she said happily. "Youíve done pretty darn well for yourself, Ms. Evans. I get up early and make a fabulous breakfast, and you donít have to lift a finger."

"I know how well Iíve done, Ms. OíFlaherty," she agreed with a big grin. "I thank my lucky stars every morning that you are my partner."

"I donít know if the stars have anything to do with it, but I give thanks for you every day too."

"Ryan?" The tone in her voice let Ryan know that a serious question was headed her way, and the dark woman paused to give her partner her full attention. "Do you think we knew each other in a past life?"

"Pardon me?" Ryan shot her partner a skeptical smirk, but when she saw that Jamieís question was sincere, she tried to control her reaction.

"You heard me, silly. Do you think itís possible? I just feel so close to you that itís hard to believe weíve only known each other since September."

Ryan grew pensive, giving the question the thought that it deserved. "I agree that we have a bond that seems to predate our meeting, but I think that past lives stuff is a lot of hooey. I believe you get one bite at the apple, Jamie. Thatís why I try so hard to jam my days with lots of activity. I donít believe you get a second chance at life. Itís a precious gift that leaves us all too soon, and I believe we need to savor each moment," she said sincerely.

"I suppose youíre right, Ryan. I guess it just scares me to think that our time together is limited to this one lifetime."

"Sweetie, we donít know what comes after this life. But Iíll tell you one thing: if it is possible to be reunited after death, we will be together. Nothing could keep me from you if there is any way at all that is possible." Her pledge was whispered softly into pale fragrant hair as she wrapped her arms around her partner and nuzzled her head into her neck. "Even though I donít believe in past lives, I do think that some force brought us together. I like to imagine that my mother had something to do with it," she said with a shy smile. "That might be a lot of hooey too, but itís a way I keep her involved in my life." She traversed Jamieís neck in sweet little butterfly kisses from her ear to her collarbone. "And I know she would love you, Jamie." she said solemnly. "She would see all of the beauty you possess, both inside and outside. She would be so happy for us, Honey, I am certain of that."

Jamie wiped a tear from her eye with the corner of the sheet and gazed up at Ryan with a look of pure love. Making a quick decision, she decided to share a very precious moment with her partner. "When we were at the beach the other day, I was suddenly struck by this really powerful feeling," she said as she shook her head a little, still trying to make sense of the incident. "I had this visceral reaction to watching you run and play in the surf. You acted like such a little girl, and I suddenly felt how your mother must have felt, knowing that she wouldnít see you grow up." She struggled with her emotions and eventually gave up the fight when she felt Ryanís tears rolling down her shoulder. "Itís odd, Ryan, but I felt like she could hear me, so I thanked her for the marvelous job she did in raising you. I swear that as soon as I did that I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I think she sees us, Ryan. And I think it does make her happy," she said as the tears rolled down both of their faces with abandon.

Ryan lifted her head and began to kiss the tears from Jamieís cheeks. Jamie's searching lips captured her own tears, and as the minutes passed, their kisses became more heated and more insistent. Within moments they were moving against each other sensually as they sealed their love with a sweet, tender communion. Their intimacy reached a new height, though it did not progress to intimate physical contact. Instead of touching each other sexually, they shared their raw emotions, holding nothing back, revealing all of their most fragile hopes and fears in the deep merging of their souls.

They were both shaken by the overpowering feelings that their connection had brought to the surface, and they held each other for a very long while, letting the feelings seep into their bones. It was almost eight oíclock when Jamie mumbled, "I should get up soon. Iíve gotta look like an adult today."

"Is that such a hard task?" Ryan asked softly, her voice a little rough from disuse.

Jamie chuckled lazily and began to stretch out her muscles. "Not usually, but Iíve gotten used to being naked for almost a week. Itís gonna take some time to get into nylons and a dress."

"Let me help you," Ryan offered. "We can make the time in the shower count."

"Okay," Jamie said brightly. "If weíre gonna do that though, Iíve got a good idea."

"You have yet to have a bad idea," Ryan decided, tweaking her partnerís nose.

Handing Ryan a robe, Jamie led her into her motherís bedroom.

"Um, are you sure this is okay?" Ryan asked hesitantly.

"Absolutely," Jamie replied. "Mother loves it when people enjoy her bathroom. Itís her favorite part of the house and she is always offering it to guests."

Ryan was rather stunned when they passed through the bedroom and into a massive walk-in closet. Neatly organized clothes covered three walls, with the fourth containing built-in cabinetry that functioned as chests of drawers and a generous dressing table with professional lighting for applying make-up. A large oak door led to a bath, the likes of which Ryan had never seen.

The first thing she noticed upon entering the room was that the floor was a beautiful, highly polished tan marble. The floor dropped off into a sunken tub, located beside a massive leaded-glass window that provided a stunning view of the wild, roiling ocean. Across from the door, two graceful pedestal sinks flanked a large oak armoire. Open shelving on the top half of the piece held decorative soaps, fluffy towels and other little knick-knacks.

To her right, Ryan noted a short wall with a wide marble top with a TV/VCR combination rested on an articulating arm so that the picture could be seen from any part of the room. Behind the wall, a commode with a very strange looking seat was visible. Jamie crooked a finger, and Ryan followed her over to the far wall. Turning to her right, Jamie led her partner into a large tiled shower with a curved seat that extended all along the back of the enclosure. A large skylight provided a clear view of the gray, foggy morning sky. Ryan rocked back on her heels and let out a low whistle through her teeth. "I...I...Iíve never seen anything like this," she said as she shook her head. "I can see why your mother likes to share this place."

"It is pretty neat, isnít it?" Jamie asked, just a little embarrassed at the opulent display. She removed her robe and asked for Ryanís, placing them on the marble counter.

"Iíll say," Ryan remarked. "Do we really shower in here?" She indicated the tiled enclosure. "Whereís the door?"

"There isnít one. Itís sloped just enough so that the water doesnít flow out. This took a lot of time to get right, but Mother loves the open feeling you get in here."

Ryanís face was covered by a wide smile. "Are you going to join me in this den of pleasure? Weíve never showered together, you know," she stated with an eyebrow wiggle.

"Iím all yours, Precious," she smiled.

"Let the games begin!" Ryan decreed with a laugh as she turned on the overhead rainfall shower, unexpectedly drenching her partner.

Sputtering the water out of her face, Jamie cried, "You are such a brat, Ryan OíFlaherty! Iíve got half a mind to leave you here all alone."

"Iíll be good," she replied with her most innocent expression firmly pasted to her face. "Iíll make it up to you, Baby," she cooed, running her hands all over Jamieís wet torso.

"Hey!" Jamie said sharply. "Where are those hands?"

"But Iím just helping to dry you off," she replied with a hurt look on her face.

"Yeah, right!" Jamie replied, already too familiar with her loverís tricks. "You wait right here while I get a few things, you naughty girl." Moments later she was back, and after adjusting the water temperature, the twosome got under the water. No sooner were they wet than Jamie turned off the flow, instructing, "Donít go away," as she scampered out of the enclosure.

Ryan heard the water running in the tub, and she sat on the wide seat in the shower and patiently waited for her lover to return. Jamie peeked in a few minutes later and beckoned her partner to join her. "Come here, Sweetie," she instructed. "Climb into the tub. You can grab the railing in the back so you donít slip."

Ryan did as she was told, letting out a huge sigh as the warm water came up to her knees. Jamie sat on the edge of the tub and motioned Ryan to come closer. She did so, rising from the water to sit on a ledge that surrounded the tub. Facing the wall, Ryan closed her eyes in pleasure as Jamie started to brush her hair with a round wooden hairbrush. She brushed it thoroughly, pulling all of her hair away from her face, and when she was satisfied with the look, she began to braid it into a thick rope. She put a covered band around the bottom to hold it together, and then clipped the braid up against the back of Ryanís head to keep it out of the water. She slid into the water right next to her partner and sat on her lap for a moment. "You look too tasty to pass up," she whispered as she wrapped her arms around Ryan and spent several minutes kissing her tenderly.

She slid off Ryanís lap and gently splashed some water on her face. Then she slowly spread a dark, gritty substance on Ryanís face and neck. It looked a lot like mud and had a rich, deep earthy smell. When she was finished, she handed the jar to Ryan and splashed some water on her own face. Ryan mirrored the application for her, and a few minutes later they each sat back in the tub and just soaked in the fragrant water.

Ryan was feeling deliciously relaxed after 15 minutes in the tub. Just when she was about to nod off, Jamie stood up and pulled the stopper, allowing the tub to drain. They climbed out together, then Jamie led her back to the shower where she unclipped her hair and pulled the braid apart, letting her hair hang loose down her back. "Sit," she commanded as she pointed to the bench and turned on the handheld shower that the lower set of fixtures controlled. She let the warm water run over Ryanís legs for a moment, then she squirted out a generous amount of shaving cream onto her hands and started to lather it onto one long leg. She rinsed her hands and sat beside and slightly behind her partner, then took a disposable razor and started to stroke smoothly up those strong legs, stopping just above the knee as was Ryanís habit. The very fine blonde hair that grew on her thighs was one of Jamieís favorite things, and she was loath to remove the downy covering. She worked all around the leg, getting up to pull the foot up into the air so she could reach the back of her loverís leg properly, then she followed the same procedure for the other leg, caressing each silky leg to test for perfection.

"Nobody has ever shaved my legs before," Ryan dreamily murmured as she leaned against her partner. "I guess itís your turn, huh?" She grasped the razor and the cream and, catching the bemused grin on her partnerís face, gave her a puzzled look. Following Jamieís gaze, Ryan slid her hands up the smooth legs and muttered, "You have hit puberty, havenít you?"

"Yes, Ryan," she smirked, slapping her on the shoulder. "I just donít have much hair on my legs."

"Hmm,,," the playful brunette mused. "Maybe youíd like to get rid of this little bit up here," and then playfully tried to remove the blond curls as Jamie slapped her hand and backed away.

"No way, Baby," she laughed. "Iím keeping every one of those!"

Ryan leaned over and placed a kiss on the springy curls. "I swear that you have the most perfect little triangle that Iíve ever seen," she marveled. "You could wear a thong and not have one little curl stick out."

"Just another example of my perfection," she gloated.

When Ryan was finished ogling her, Jamie pulled her to her feet and washed the masque off her face, using a soft cloth to help the process. When the masque was completely removed, she squirted a generous amount of fragrant shampoo onto her hands and guided Ryan under the rainfall showerhead. When her hair was properly wet, she jumped onto the seat and worked the shampoo into the ebony locks, giving her a thorough scalp massage in the bargain. Ryan let her head rest heavily against her partner, enjoying the unfamiliar sensation. When the temporarily taller woman was satisfied with her efforts, she again used the handheld fixture to rinse every bit of soap residue out of her partnerís hair. After she ran her hands through the tresses several times to remove excess water, she applied some conditioner and sat Ryan back down to let it work.

Jamie started to scrub off her own masque, but Ryan divined her intentions and insisted on returning the favor. Next, she washed and rinsed Jamieís short tresses, applying some firm pressure to various spots on her head and neck to relieve any lingering stress. An application of conditioner for Jamie preceded the thorough rinsing of Ryanís head. By the time all of the product was out of her thick hair, it was Jamieís turn, and moments later both heads were clean and conditioned.

Each woman lathered up a soft cloth and washed every square inch of her partner, spending extra time on some of the most prized real estate. Jamie was forced to snatch the cloth away when Ryan started to stray into forbidden territory, and gave her partner a playful slap on the hand.

They dried each other with fluffy beige bath sheets, and then Jamie used a smaller bath towel to remove the bulk of the water from Ryanís hair. Sitting the tall woman on a small stool, she carefully combed her hair to remove any tangles, pulled out a blow dryer and blew the dark hair dry, combing it straight back off her forehead. Ryan once again echoed her loverís actions, quickly blowing Jamieís hair dry.

They returned to their own room where they each playfully brushed the otherís teeth. This task was not particularly easy, but it was fun to try, and when finished, they kissed a few times to test for cleanliness.

Walking back into the bedroom together, Ryan checked her watch. "Itís just a little after nine, Hon. Weíve got an hour to kill."

Jamie tilted her head and considered their options for a moment. "We could go downstairs and see if Conorís up," she suggested. "We didnít get a chance to spend much time with him yesterday."

"Iíve been spending time with Conor for 24 years, Honey," Ryan said with a frown. "Iím not really interested in that proposition."

To Ryanís amazement, Jamie seemed unable to think of any pastime that could occupy them for an hour or so. She blinked up at Ryan and asked, "Do you have anything youíd like to do, Honey?"

"Gosh, Jamie," she said slowly, trying to hide a grin. "Itís the last day of our honeymoonÖweíve got over an hour to killÖweíre sparkling cleanÖmy legs are all smoothójust waiting to be touchedÖor licked." She shook her dark head slowly and muttered, "Nope. I canít think of a thing."

"Oops!" Jamie was truly embarrassed to be so oblivious, but when she considered the proposal, she realized why it had not occurred to her. "I donít really want to need another shower, Honey. Iíd really like to be close, but could we maybe just lie together for a while?"

"Of course we could." Ryan smiled as she gathered her in a hug. "Itís the closeness that I really need, too, Honey. Letís spend the last hour of our honeymoon in each otherís arms."

Obviously not as well rested as they had thought, they both fell asleep within minutes of climbing back into bed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

A small noise woke Ryan and, staring at her watch in amazement, she nudged her partner and asked, "Jamie, do you know what time it is?"

"No," she mumbled. "Canít we talk about this later?"

"No, Honey," Ryan insisted. "Itís 10:15."

"WHAT! How can that be?" Jamie shouted as she leapt from the bed and ran to her closet.

"Thatís more like it," Ryan decided, getting to her feet and trying to stay out of the way.

Only by rushing faster than she ever had, was Jamie ready by her-self imposed deadline. But even in her great haste she looked adorable to Ryanís appreciative eyes. She was wearing a sleeveless cotton batik dress in shades of yellow, gold, and orange. The dress was quite short and showed off her smooth, tanned legs, which were somewhat needlessly covered by sheer pantyhose. Simple gold earrings, a matching necklace, several gold bangles on one wrist and her slim gold watch on the other were the perfect accessories. She had on just a touch of makeup that accentuated the golden highlights of her tanned skin, and a little splash of perfume that made Ryanís mouth water. The dark woman was absolutely mesmerized, staring at Jamie the whole time she was getting dressed.

When Jamie was ready, she turned to make a comment to her partner and was struck by the lovesick expression on Ryanís lovely face. Her heart clenched in her chest, and she felt the first stirrings of desire flare. Echoing the longing she saw in the deep blue eyes, she murmured, "God, I donít want this to end."

Ryan closed the distance between them in the blink of an eye, wrapping her beloved in an emotion-filled embrace. "I donít either, Sweetheart, I donít either." They hugged so fiercely that Jamie was afraid she would have to change clothes to avoid being a wrinkled mess, but she didnít mind a bit. Being held in Ryanís arms was worth any sacrifice, she decided.

"You could go with me," a small voice floated up to Ryanís ears.

Pausing a second to make sure she gave the correct impression, Ryan demurred. "This is something you need to do alone, Honey. I really think Iíd be in the way."

Jamie started to disagree, but Ryan silenced her with a gentle kiss. "If youíre worried about going alone, or you need to talk about it some more, Iíll drive you and hang out in Palo Alto while you go to the ceremony, but I really think you need to go to the graduation alone to be able to let go of some of this, Honey."

"I have let go of him, Ryan! Really, I have!" The look on her face was a combination of embarrassment and fear as she tried to convince both Ryan and herself of the truth of her statement.

Ryanís hands lifted and gently grasped Jamieís face. She tilted her head just enough to be able to gaze directly into her eyes. Her voice was soft, but firm as she said, "I know you have, Love. But this chapter of your shared lives is still open. You would not have wanted to go if it wasnít, Baby. I think this is something that you need to do, and I support you totally, Jamie. I really want you to go." Ryanís face reflected her sincere wishes, even though she surprised herself a little when she expressed them.

"Youíre right," Jamie muttered, nuzzling her face against Ryanís chest. "I just donít want to go."

The mere fact that Jamie was so reticent to leave made Ryan feel immeasurably better. "I know, Honey, I know." They stood and held each other gently until Jamie absolutely had to leave. With a small kiss on the top of her head, Ryan said, "I love you more than words can say, Jamie. You make me happier than I ever thought was possible."

"Iím going to spend the rest of my life trying to make you happy, Ryan." And she reached up to kiss her. As she backed away, she brought her hands up and slipped the other blue diamond into Ryanís right earlobe. "I need to wear a matched set today. So you keep mine safe for me until weíre together again," she said as she stood on her tiptoes and kissed her ear.

They walked down the stairs hand in hand. As they entered the kitchen, Conor was sitting at the counter, fully dressed, with an anxious look on his face. "Thank God you finally came down!" he cried. "There was no way I was going to disturb the honeymooners!"

They both laughed at his predicament, with Jamie placing her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek. "Sorry we got such a late start, Conor. But youíve got plenty of time to get to the course."

He smiled up at her, all of his anxiety now gone. "I hope you have fun today too, Jamie. I just wish you could go with us."

"I do too, Conor. I donít know how Iím going to survive without this one for a whole afternoon," she said as she gave Ryan a firm hug.

Ryan leaned down to kiss her tenderly, grasping her hand and leading her outside. Conor followed along behind them and tried not to watch as his sister said her goodbyes. Jamie got into her car, and Ryan sat down on her haunches to be able to reach her through the low door. She kissed her several times, each kiss getting a little more fervent. She finally lifted her head and smiled at Jamie. "I think weíd better stop, or Conorís gonna get a show."

"Now you have fun today, Tiger, and donít forget to drive those other cars. Why donít you take one to the course?"

"Could I?" she asked with her eyes wide.

"Oh course, Baby, Daddy wants you to drive them. Itís okay if Conor wants to drive, too. Daddy really likes people to enjoy his little toys. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I already signed for your golf today. I also paid for Chipís time since itís going to be a playing lesson, and I left a nice tip for him so you donít have to worry about that. I opened a tab for you at the restaurant, too. Have lunch there and just sign my name. Iíve just gotten some weight back on you, so you eat up."

"Youíre much too good to me, you know," Ryan insisted. "Youíre really going to spoil me."

"I canít think of anyone Iíd rather spoil," Jamie said as she puckered up for another kiss. After several more tender kisses, she started to pull away, but stopped about 20 feet down the drive. Ryan trotted over as Jamie leaned her head out. "I need one more," she pleaded.

Ryan stuck her head in the window and gave her a doozy. Jamie had to fight to focus after the searing kiss. "Whew!" she breathed. "Hold that thought until I get home tonight, Tiger."

"If Conor wasnít here Iíd like one more little taste of you," she murmured in reply.

"You read my mind, Baby," Jamie agreed wistfully.

Ryan leaned in and gave her a final kiss, then reluctantly stood and waved good-bye.

Conor was standing on the landing by the back door, hands on his hips. Ryan just lifted her shoulders in a shrug as she gave him a guilty smirk. "Iíve got it baaaad, Conor."

"Itís the worst case Iíve ever seen," he agreed as his wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

They had less than ten minutes to get to the club, so rather than drive one of the muscle cars, Ryan decided to just go in Conorís truck, since his clubs were already loaded. They flew into the parking lot and had to run to get to the clubhouse on time. Chip was waiting for them and after quick introductions; they headed out to the first tee.

Conor was like a kid in a candy store, "ooohing" and "aaahing" at all of the sights. He and Ryan rode together, and she pointed out all of the interesting trivia that she had learned on her earlier round. Conor was really on his game and made quite a respectable showing. Ryan also played significantly better, and both Chip and Conor were generous in their praise of her improving game.

Conor had to brag about her a bit to Chip, informing him about what a natural athlete his little sister was. He had Chip in stitches by the time he finished regaling him with stories of a young Ryan beating her older brothers in nearly every game they played.

When they stopped at the snack bar after the ninth hole, Ryan grabbed $20 worth of food and Gatorade, with even Conor expressing astonishment at her purchases. "Jamie made me promise to eat a lot today," she protested.

Conor laughed at her as she gulped down the large bottle of Gatorade. "You wouldnít be so hungry if you came downstairs and had breakfast like normal people," he joked.

"I am sorry for worrying you this morning," she said sincerely. "It really would have been okay to come up and check on us."

"Well," he admitted, "I heard you playing in the bathroom at eight, so I just assumed you were up. But when you didnít come down by ten, I did tiptoe upstairs and I didnít hear a sound. So I made just enough noise to wake you up. I do respect your privacy, but I was not going to miss playing this course!"

As they drove to the tenth tee, Ryan leaned over and gave Conor a kiss on the cheek. "What was that for?" he asked.

"I just missed you these past two weeks. I was really disappointed that I didnít get to see you before we left to come down here."

He gave her a big smile as he patted her on the leg. "I missed you too, Ryan. Da and I were talking about it the other day. It just doesnít feel right at home when youíre not there."

Chip was waiting for them when they pulled up, so Ryan was unable to pursue the conversation. But she decided that she needed to revisit the topic at lunch.

The rest of the round flew by, with the threesome getting along quite well. Ryan loved seeing her brother enjoy himself so much, and she thought that one of Conorís most endearing traits was that he was unafraid to show his true feelings. He wasnít the type of man who felt he had to play it cool. He let his boyish enthusiasm show through in nearly everything he did. Ryan studied him as he stood on the tee to hit his shot. When she really thought about it, she realized that he had changed very little since they were children. He was still full of energy and always ready to play a practical joke or engage in some form of competition. She was pleased to see that being an adult hadnít hardened him, like so many people his age.

He came back to the cart, grinning widely at his excellent tee shot on 18. "I fail to see whatís so hard about this little course," he said smugly. "I see the pros out here every year just hacking away. I donít get it."

Ryan laughed as his bravado. "This is the very rare day when the wind isnít blowing, Conor. Add a 25 mile per hour wind, and this place can eat you alive."

"I donít know, Sis. I think Iíve just got what it takes," he said with a grin.

When they finished their round, Chip made Ryan promise to tell Jamie that he was always available to help her with her game. He gave Ryan his card and wrote his home number on the back. "If her relationship doesnít work out, Iíd be happy to help her in other ways, too," he grinned.

Ryan promised to relay the message; ignoring the tension she felt building from her brother. They said goodbye to Chip and began to walk toward the clubhouse for lunch.

"The nerve of that guy!" Conor fumed. "Who the hell does he think he is, trying to horn in on you!"

"Itís okay," Ryan said. "He doesnít know weíre together."

"Nonetheless, you shouldnít go sniffing around a woman when you donít know what the situation is. For all he knows, sheís going out with me!"

"I guess you do have a point there," Ryan agreed. "But if you were dating Jamie, you would have made a point to mention it at some time during the round. Iím not able to do that given our situation," she admitted.

"That just really makes me mad, Ryan. I donít see what the big damn deal is. So youíre both women. So what! You show each other more love than any ten straight couples Iíve seen. Why canít people just get over themselves?"

"Well, you know I havenít spent much time in the closet in the last seven years," she said. "But Jamieís not in the same place that I am with this. She needs time to figure out how and when to tell her parents, and the other people in her life. Iím afraid itís going to take a while for her to be comfortable being fully out."

"I wish this were easier for you both, Ryan. It must be hard for you having to hide how you feel about each other. Actually," he laughed, "I donít know how you do it. Itís so obvious how totally in love with each other you are, I donít know how you fool a soul."

"We havenít had to fool anyone besides Chip since weíve um...you know," she blushed. "I do think itís going to be a whole lot harder now than it was before."

"Yeah, you two have really turned up the volume," he grinned.

After they were seated they looked at the menu quickly. Ryan wanted two of everything, but she settled for a turkey club and a bowl of minestrone. Conor ordered a cheeseburger and fries. That sounded good to Ryan too, so she asked for fries also. After the server left Ryan asked, "Do you think it will be awkward having us around the house?"

"No!" he said emphatically. "Why would you even ask that?"

"I donít know. Iím just afraid that itíll upset our normal dynamic. Jamie and I touch each other every minute of the day, and I donít want to make you guys uncomfortable with that."

"Ryan, we are all perfectly happy that you are a lesbian. Being happy with that implies that weíre happy about you sleeping with women. Weíre all cool with it, honestly. Aside from the fact that weíre all jealous that you snagged Jamie, we want you to be happy, Sis. Itís obvious that Jamie is the best thing that ever happened to you, so why wouldnít we want her in our home?"

"You know, Conor," she said as a tear threatened to leak out, "I donít tell you nearly enough how much I love you and Rory and Brendan. I couldnít have chosen better brothers."

"We did pretty well for ourselves too, Ryan. Plus the added benefit of having a little jewel like Jamie added to the family is just icing on the cake." He smiled broadly as he added, "Although, if I got to play Pebble Beach once in a while, you could date a jerk and Iíd still be happy!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Their food was delivered promptly, and they tore into it quickly, all conversation at a standstill until a substantial dent was made in the repast. When her hunger was sated enough for her to be able to speak, Ryan brought up their living situation again. "Do you think Da is really okay with us living in Berkeley during the week?"

"I think he is. Now, Iím not denying that heís sad about it, but I know he understands your reasons."

"This really is going to be an adjustment for us, Conor. This is all so new for Jamie, I want her to be able to get comfortable with our relationship this summer. Itís so ideal having her roommates gone, I really feel we need to take this opportunity to get to know each other better."

"I understand, Ryan. But Daís still upset about Brendan moving out. His ideal would be to have all of us married, all living in the house, with a bunch of kids running around."

"Well, Jamie and I are going to do our best to fulfill some of his wishes," she said with a grin.

"Wow! I assume you mean Daís number one wish to have a bunch of grandchildren. Are you planning on doing that anytime soon?" he asked.

"Not soon, but eventually," she replied firmly.

"Do you.... um.... need any help?" His tanned face grew a little pink as he blushed at the implications of his offer.

Ryan gripped his arm and gave it a squeeze, reassuring him that she was comfortable with the topic. "It does seem a lot more real now that Jamieís in the picture, doesnít it?"

The relief showed clearly as Conor blew out a breath and nodded his head. "When we talked about this before it was so hypothetical," he agreed.

"Itís still pretty hypothetical," Ryan assured him. "But we discussed it a little bit this week. Jamie was kind of ambivalent about whether she wanted to bear a child or adopt one, but when I told her you had offered your services, she changed her mind immediately. She would love to have you be the father, if you were still interested."

"Do I get to do it the old fashioned way?" His leering face indicated that this was just the beginning of the teasing she would face.

"Yeah, no problem. We could have a three way!" she suggested, with a totally genuine looking smile on her face.

"Well, doesnít that just take all the fun out of it." He made a sour expression that caused Ryan to laugh out loud. "You really know how to spoil a party."

"Weíre a long way from taking that leap. We both want to go to graduate school, so itíll be a few years. And you never know what could happen during that time. You might be with someone who didnít want you to have a child by another woman."

"Not a chance of that, Ryan. I would never be with a woman who didnít understand my commitment to my family. You and the boys will always come first with me."

"I hope thatís always true for all of us, Conor. That is one of the things that I found most attractive about Jamie, you know. She was crazy about all of you from the first time she met you."

"Just another indication of her excellent taste," he said.

"Speaking of taste, whereís our server? I need some dessert!" she decided.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

On the way home Conor asked, "Are we going to take off now?"

"Not quite yet. I promised Iíd do a little favor for Jamieís dad. You could help me if you wanted to," she said.

"Whatís the favor?" he asked suspiciously.

"Heís got some old cars that he needs me to drive. Are you interested?"

"Since Iím guessing that he doesnít have a backyard full of junkers up on blocks, Iím definitely in!"

When they arrived back at the house, Ryan ran in to get all of the keys. Conor was walking around the yard when she returned, looking over the property. He pointed to Jamieís tree house and asked, "Was that for Jamie when she was little?"

Ryan nodded her affirmation. "Pretty nice for a kid, huh?"

"Iíll say. I wonder if itís big enough for an adult to fit in?"

Ryan blushed and replied, "Yeah, itís big enough."

"Ryan! You two didnít desecrate a childís playhouse, did you?"

A guilty shrug was his only answer.

"Boy, she is a little live wire, isnít she?"

"Sheís all that and a bag of chips," she smugly replied. As they approached the garage Ryan said, "Iím not sure what weíre driving today. I was so overwhelmed by the first two cars that I drove that I didnít have the strength to look at the last two."

"How many cars does he have?" Conorís blue eyes were dancing with excitement, and Ryan was very pleased that she was able to share this with her big brother.

"Iíve been afraid to ask. Heís got three muscle cars down here and a new NSX, plus a Suburban. I know heís got a seven series BMW and a Range Rover in the city. And you saw her motherís CLK. But I have a feeling there are more cars that I havenít heard about. Her dad is a real car nut."

"Why couldnít our dad be a car nut?" he whined.

"Conor, if Da was a car nut, all he could afford would be magazines with pictures of the cars he wanted. Jamieís dad can actually buy what he wants."

"Well then, why couldnít Jamieís dad be our dad," he amended his plea.

"I know youíre kidding, but you have no idea what youíre really asking for. Jamie really is the poor little rich girl, Conor. Weíve spent more time with Da this year than she has spent with her dad her whole life."

"What about her mom?"

"From what I hear sheís much worse than that. She took her to the opera and the symphony when she was three years old! Not that itís a bad thing to have some culture, but she didnít get to do any kid stuff. They never even took her to the zoo! They had all the money in the world, and sheís never been to Disneyland. Theyíve traveled all over the world, but what kid wants to see the Louvre?"

"Iím 28 years old and I donít want to see it. I canít imagine being dragged through museums when I was little. Gee, Mama hated to take us to church, and it was a mortal sin not to do that!"

She stopped and looked at him for a minute, "I donít remember that," she said with a somber look flitting across her features. "Tell me what it was like."

Conor truly hated that his sister had so few memories of their mother. The four-year difference in their ages gave him a much larger catalogue of impressions, and he did his best to share them whenever he got the opportunity. "I donít remember going when I was real little, but when I was six or seven I was in charge of you during Mass. Da would sit on one end and Mama on the other. Youíd be next to Mama, and she and I had to tag team you. Rory would be by Da, and he and Brendan would try to keep him quiet. By the time Mass was over, youíd be half undressed, and you would usually be next to Da since Mama and I had given up on you."

"Come on, I wasnít that bad," she argued, unable to dispute Conorís memory, but thinking it unlikely that she had been the little terror that he portrayed.

"You were worse than that!" he assured her. "You hated to wear dresses, but Mama always had a frilly little dress on you for church. You had those cute little ruffled panties on under it, and you loved to pull your dress up over your head and show everyone your underwear. Youíd get your socks and shoes off in no time flat, and it was a constant struggle to stop you from throwing them at people. You had a gun when you were just a baby. I swear you could hit the back of someoneís head from six pews back!"

"Hmmm, Jamieís always threatening to adopt so she doesnít have to have a kid like me-- maybe sheís right."

"I wouldnít have traded you for anything," Conor said sincerely. "You were wild, but you were always a ton of fun."

"Speaking of fun..." she said as she opened the garage door. Conor stood and stared in amazement at the condition of the Mustang, one of his all-time favorite cars.

"This car is a masterpiece," he said reverently as he walked all around it.

"Jamie said you can drive any of them you want," she informed him, unable to suppress a wide grin at the look of delight that sped across his features.

"Iím not worthy," he moaned, his eyes wide and unfocused.

Laughing at his reaction, Ryan moved to the next car. "Letís see what else we have here and then you can driveÖif youíre able," she added. He helped her take off the cover of a 1967 electric blue Chevy Malibu Supersport. "Wow!" they said simultaneously.

"This is soooo hot," Conor muttered. "I think Iím gonna try and hold out for those cousins of Jamieís. Itís worth the risk."

"Theyíre on her momís side of the family, so I donít know if they have the car nut gene," she warned him. "On the other hand, thatís where the dough is, so you could get them hooked on a new habit." She could nearly see the gears turning in his agile mind, and imagined that he was computing the minimum age at which he could make his move on the teenagers.

Next was a 1970 Pontiac GTO, in a brilliant da-glo orange. "This one is really rare," Conor said, walking around the pristine car. He looked like he wanted to run his hands over the paint, but there was not a smudge on the entire surface, and he didnít want to leave a mark. "There are tons of Mustangs around but not that many GTOís were sold. Itís hard to find one in perfect condition like this one." He walked around each car again, stopping to look carefully at each one from every angle. "Can I really drive them?" he asked somewhat tentatively.

"Jamie assures me that her father wants them driven, and that he wants some carbon burned off the plugs. You up for it?"

"Iím not sure I can move," he admitted. "These are works of art, Ryan. Are you sure he doesnít mind?"

"He left a note asking me to drive them, so Iím sure he doesnít mind."

"Then what are we waiting for?" he asked with a glimmer in his eye.

Ryan let Conor drive each of the cars in the collection. He was truly in his element when he drove a hot car, paying rapt attention to every detail of the experience. Ryan could tell that he was listening to each of the individual elements of the car, gauging their performance as he put each one through its paces, turning them quickly to judge their turning radius, mashing down on the brakes to determine their stopping power. He got each car up well over the speed limit, but she felt perfectly safe because of his dexterity with the machines. He pushed each one, but never past its limit.

Tooling down U.S. 1 in the GTO, Conor grew pensive. "Do you have a read on Jamieís parents yet?"

"Mmm, Iím not sure what you mean." The growl of the engine forced her to raise her voice a little higher than normal.

"I guess I wonder how theyíre going to be about you two." It was clear that Conor was a little worried about his sister, and Ryan sought to reassure him.

"Itís really hard to tell, Conor," she advised. "There have been some positive signs though. I met her Dad after the ride and he was very friendly. He knows that Iím gay, and he knows that one of the reasons for Jamieís breakup was because of her relationship with me."

"Yeah, but heís a lawyer, Sis, you know they can make you think theyíre your friend while they stab you in the back."

"Hey, Bren is a lawyer, too! Heís not like that!"

"Heís not the head honcho of a big firm either, Ryan," Conor reminded her.

She nodded her head at the truth of that statement. "Well, even if heís being disingenuous, her mom tried to pry the truth out of Jamie, and she didnít seem upset at the time. Jamie says she knows lots of gay people, so Iím hoping that sheíll be cool."

Conor gave her a small smile and patted her leg. "I wish this was easier for you, Ryan. It just pisses me off that it has to be an issue at all. You would be such a great addition to any familyÖ" His voice trailed off as he found it difficult to comprehend why anyone would try to subvert the obvious bond between his sister and her partner.

"Hey, donít worry about it, Con. No matter what happens, Jamieís a member of our family now. The worst things the Evans's can do are stop speaking to Jamie or withhold her money. I donít wish for either of those things to happen, but if they do, it wonít affect the way we feel for each other."

Conor shot his sister a fond smile. "Jamieís still a pretty good choice, even with no dough," he admitted.

"Sheís a damn good choice if she were ten million in debt!" Ryan decreed with just a touch of hyperbole.

When he finished with each of the vintage cars, Conorís lustful blue eyes lingered over the Acura. "Okay," Ryan said slowly, as she tossed the keys to him. "Hereís the keys, but be very, very careful with this one. Weíd have to become Mr. Evansí personal slaves if you wrecked it."

His eyes lit up as he snatched the keys out of the air and slid into the black leather seat, almost in the same motion. A deep sigh of pleasure came from his lungs, and Ryan smiled at the look of supreme satisfaction on his handsome face. As he turned over the engine he looked at her dreamily and said, "This is better than sex."

As the car backed out of the garage Ryan replied, "You, my boyo, have been having sex with the wrong people."

"Come on, Ryan," he argued. "You love cars nearly as much as I do. Are you telling me that driving this baby didnít make you hot?"

For the tenth time that day Ryan blushed deeply, causing Conor to laugh at her embarrassment. "You didnít do it in the car, did you?" He was having a very good time at her expense, but his teasing was gentle, and sprinkled with a good helping of envy, so Ryan didnít get angry.

She paused for a minute, debating whether or not to tell him the whole story. She had always been very open about her sex life, and even though she neither wanted nor needed to talk about her intimate life in detail, she had to admit that she liked having Conor as a confidante. She let a sly smile escape, as she replied, "No, not in the car, but I will admit that we couldnít wait to get home. We stopped at a motel." She couldnít stop the adolescent giggle that accompanied her revelation.

"You know, Ryan," he said as he narrowed his blue eyes at her, "youíre not making me any less jealous by telling me these things. Youíve got a gorgeous, smart, funny, rich girlfriend, who can cook no less, and sheís as hot as a pistol!"

"Itís all true, Conor," she admitted. "I havenít been able to find a fault in her yet. I keep waiting for the police to show up and tell me sheís a con woman perpetrating a massive fraud on this naive rich couple, but so far sheís legit."

"Iíve never been one to pry into your life, Ryan, but Iím telling you now, if you let her get away, Iím going to have you committed!"

"Not gonna happen, Bro." Her dark hair trailed over her shoulders as she tossed her head confidently. "If we ever split up, it will be her doing. Iím in for life."

"Youíre really sure, arenít you?" he asked thoughtfully.

"Absolutely positive. Jamieís the last woman in my life." The conviction in her voice caused him to offer his little sister a fond smile.

"Iím happy for you, Ryan. I really am." As he turned to glance at her he noticed the sapphire blue diamond in her ear. "Hey, whereíd you get that?" he asked as he pointed to her ear.

Her hand lifted to touch the jewel. "Little honeymoon present," she informed him with a laugh. "Jamieís great grandmother willed a pair of diamonds to her. She had never had them set, but when we fell in love she had them put in this setting and she gave them to me on Monday. I didnít feel right taking them, since theyíre a part of her family, so I made her a deal: Iíd wear one if she wore one. We went out yesterday and each got another piercing so we can wear normal earrings too."

As she turned her head he noticed that she wore both diamonds. "Why do you have both on?"

"Until the new piercing heals we have to leave a sterile stud in. Jamie wanted to wear a pair of gold ones today, so Iím holding hers for safekeeping."

"How did you hold up when you got it pierced?" he asked gently, knowing his sisterís propensity for fainting at the sight of needles.

"I went out like a light," she admitted, laughing at her foible. "I can hear Da now, ĎThatís your punishment for desecrating your body, Siobhán. If the good Lord wanted you to have another hole in your head, heíd have given it to you'," she said in her perfect imitation of her fatherís brogue.

"I donít know, he might go easy on you since itís a gift from Jamie. I donít think she can do any wrong in his eyes."

"Weíve got to figure out a way to use her to our advantage," Ryan said carefully, blue eyes narrowing in thought. "She might be a good foil for some of our misadventures."

"Yeah, but where was she when we really needed her? We sure could have used her assistance when I helped you buy your first motorcycle."

"I can still remember the look on his face when he saw it," Ryan remembered. "I honestly thought I saw steam coming out of his ears," she laughed.

"Yeah, well, you just got yelled at. I got the ĎIf you donít love your baby sister enough to stop her from spilling her brains on the pavementí speech."

"Youíve got to admit heís a master at the guilt trip," Ryan said fondly.

"A legend in his own time," Conor agreed with a smile.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

When all of the cars were put to bed with their covers tucked around them securely, they went back into the house. Conor wanted a quick tour and Ryan obliged, but his professional eye told him volumes about the home and the taste of the owners. He walked around the house, noting the craftsmanship of the carpentry and the quality of the fixtures and appliances. "The last house I worked on that was this well appointed was one of the mansions up in Pacific Heights. One of the chairmen of a Silicon Valley software firm paid about three mil for the house and spent another five mil fixing it up. This place isnít as high tech as his was, but the detail in here is just as amazing."

Ryan nodded her agreement as they went from room to room. He was truly impressed with the master bath. "These people spend their money on quality stuff," he said. "I really like this Japanese toilet," he said as he indicated the strange commode that Ryan had seen, but not commented on.

"Whatís the deal with this?" she asked.

"Itís a regular toilet and a bidet all in one. It saves you from having to have separate fixtures, which really comes in handy in older homes where space is at a premium."

"Oh, Iíve never used a bidet," Ryan said excitedly. "Meet me outside," she instructed. "Iíve gotta try this out."

Conor laughed at her excitement, but did as he was instructed. Moments later she emerged with a crooked grin on her face, "That wasÖdifferent," she said slowly.

"I would imagine theyíd take a little while to get used to," he admitted, as he returned her grin.

They finished their tour in the kitchen. Conor spent a few minutes looking at the butlerís pantry, again marveling at the efficiency of the design. "They spent some bucks hiring a good designer," he said. "In an older home like this you really need to hire someone who knows their stuff."

"Jamieís mom is really into the house. I assume it was her pet project to have it done right. And when money is no object, I guess you can take as much time as you need to have it done the way you want it."

"How do you feel about her money?" he asked seriously. "Has it been hard to get used to?"

"Weíve just started to work on that," Ryan admitted. "Weíre both going to have to give a little bit on the issue."

"Does it bother Jamie that you donít have any money?" He was reticent to ask this question, but the thought had been worrying him, so he decided to find out.

"No, not at all. She has a great attitude about their money. She feels like itís an accident of birth, rather than anything sheís entitled to. Itís gonna be a big adjustment, since she wants to be able to spend more on me than Iím comfortable with. Like these earrings," she said as an example. "I canít even imagine how much these are worth. And she bought me some clothes the other day that must have cost a ton. She practically crawled on the counter to stop me from seeing the receipt," she said with a chuckle. "I donít feel comfortable having her spend lots of money on me, so weíre going to have to work on it to reach an agreement."

"Well, I understand that it might be tricky to work out, but youíve got to admit itís a hell of a problem to have. ĎMy rich girlfriend buys me too many nice things,í next on Jerry Springer."

Ryan laughed as she admitted that it wasnít a terrible problem to tackle. "But one neat thing is that weíre going to work together to find a way to distribute a lot of her money to a cause that we both support. We havenít decided how to do it, but Iím excited about having the opportunity to help other people."

"I think you two are going to be a force to be reckoned with, Sis," he said admiringly as he wrapped his arm around her waist and gave her a squeeze.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Concluded in Part 17

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