I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 3: Coalescence

By S X Meagher


Disclaimers: See Part 1

*** Part 2***

During the walk to the church, Jamie quizzed Ryan about the service. She had never been to a Catholic Mass and found herself intensely curious. They arrived at about 9:25, and the pews were nearly full. They wound up sitting just three rows from the front, right in front of an open door. Ryan was quite pleased with their placement, since she was usually warm, but Jamie knew she would be cold with the rather stiff ocean breeze blowing in on her. To her great pleasure, they closed one side of the double door just as the service began and she was much more comfortable.

The service began with an upbeat song, which Ryan sang from memory. Next came readings from the New and Old Testaments, followed by the gospel reading and a relatively brief sermon. The priest looked around as he wound up his remarks, then asked how many people had participated in the AIDS Ride. Jamie was surprised and pleased to see about 15 people stand up, all wearing their T-shirts. She and Ryan hopped up as well, and the large crowd gave them a heartfelt standing ovation. The priest praised their efforts and congratulated them for their caring and dedication.

Jamie was quite touched when they took their seats again. "You knew that was going to happen, didn’t you?" she asked in a whisper.

"I had a feeling it might," Ryan admitted. "They have a really big gay and lesbian outreach group in this parish, and I know the pastor is very supportive. He rides a bike, too, so he knows what a big deal it is."

"Well, it was very sweet. Thanks for bringing me."

As they walked back down California after the service, Jamie asked Ryan about her current relationship with her church. "It’s funny, but I have been thinking about going more regularly. I just feel that I have so much to be thankful for, that it makes me want to thank God in a more formal way."

"Do you like your parish?"

"It’s okay. But if I had a church like St. Monica’s, I would really love to go. How do you feel about yours?"

"I love it, but maybe that’s because my grandfather is there. Would you consider going with me?"

"Yeah, let’s try your grandfather’s church and see if we can both be comfortable there. I’d really prefer to go with you, if possible."

"I would too. If you don’t like the Episcopal Church, I’d be very willing to search for a Catholic church that we both liked. I think that going to church together would be a very good thing for us."

"It’s a deal," she agreed.

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

It was eleven a.m. when they arrived home, and Mia was ready for the beach. Her father belonged to a prestigious city club in San Francisco that offered reciprocal privileges for her to use a local beach club in Santa Monica under his name. Since none of them had eaten, they decided to have breakfast when they got there.

They walked the short distance and were shown to a nice white, wrought iron table with a forest green umbrella that shielded them from the intense sun. An eager young man came to take their order, and Ryan ordered for all of them, choosing eggs benedict, banana pancakes, pecan waffles, a green chili omelet, and steel-cut oatmeal with cream and brown sugar. They each ordered another coffee and a glass of juice as well. Given the size of the order, Jamie thought she could see the waiter trying to figure out where the other members of their party were, and when he brought out the dishes, he was completely unsure of where to put everything. Ryan noticed his confusion and told him to just put it anywhere that it fit. He did so, looking over his shoulder as he walked away.

Jamie and Mia laughed at his confusion, but Ryan couldn’t spare the time. She dug into the oatmeal, performing her usual pleasure dance. Jamie knew that she had to get cracking if she was going to get any of the dishes, so she grabbed the plate of pancakes before Ryan could. "You’d better grab something, Mia. Time is of the essence with Ryan around."

Mia reached for the waffles just as Ryan did. Those big blue eyes narrowed dangerously, and a firmly held fork pointed right for her hand as Mia meekly relinquished her tenuous hold. Ryan threw back her head, laughing uproariously. "You’d starve to death in the O’Flaherty household," she chided. "You can never give up on a plate you’ve claimed. It’s a sign of weakness that the others will surely exploit!" She politely placed the dish in front of Mia, snagging only one quarter of the waffle as her prize.

"Is she like this at every meal?" Mia asked incredulously, starting to eat more quickly than normal to make sure she didn’t wind up hungry.

"Yep. It’s a constant struggle," Jamie acknowledged. "We almost always have to order three entrees if I’m going to get anything at all."

"What do you do with all of those calories?" Mia asked, turning to Ryan. "You’re just as lean as a greyhound."

"I don’t know," she replied through a mouthful of waffle. "I’ve always eaten this much. I must just be used to it."

"Don’t let her kid you, Mia," Jamie smirked. "She runs around like a hyperactive two-year-old, all day long."

Ryan was preparing her defense when three women beginning to limber up to play volleyball on a sand court caught her attention. Her eyes began to sparkle as she said, "I gotta check something out." She jumped up and ran over to the women, engaging them in conversation for just a moment before she was back again, grinning like the Cheshire cat.

"What was that all about?" Jamie inquired suspiciously.

"Jamie, sweetie, honeybunch," Ryan said, as she got down on her knees in front of her partner. "Would you mind terribly if I spent just a few minutes with my new friends over there?" she asked coyly, pointing at the women who were now watching her for an indication of her readiness.

"What are you going to do with your new best friends?" Jamie asked, as she affectionately fluffed the bangs out of Ryan’s innocent blue eyes.

"We’re just gonna play for a little while, if you don’t mind, that is," she said solemnly.

"Do you know how to play volleyball?" she asked, in her best maternal voice.

"I think so," Ryan said as she nodded her head, her face brimming with childlike innocence.

"Okay, you can play for a little while, but don’t get hurt." She leaned over and whispered into her ear, "You need to be in tip top shape for tomorrow."

"I won’t!" Ryan said happily as she stripped out of her clothes. Jamie noticed, with surprise, that Ryan’s swimsuit matched the outfits that the other volleyball players wore: high cut briefs and racerback sports bras. The other women sported logos on their outfits, but Jamie knew that Ryan hated to use her body as a billboard. When they were shopping for gear they had actually spent the better part of an hour finding bike shorts that did not have the manufacturer’s name on the thigh.

"Just wait one more minute," Jamie said, rooting around in her pack as Ryan fidgeted, anxious to start playing. "I have to put some sun block on your shoulders before you take off."

"The sand will stick to me," she whined.

"You won’t get sand all the way up here," Jamie reasoned, as she slathered gel on her shoulders and back.

"Hmrff," was all that Ryan could summon up as a rejoinder. She used the time wisely, though, grabbing the omelet and finishing it off while Jamie worked away.

When Jamie finished, she slapped her on the butt, saying, "Go get ‘em, Tiger."

Since breakfast was finished, she and Mia found a pair of comfortable Adirondack chairs and turned them so they were facing the court. She noted that, although Ryan’s new playmates were in fantastic shape, they were all less muscular than her generously sculpted partner, with long, lean bodies, rather like whippets. While Ryan was also very trim, she had a solid, muscular build that made her look somewhat formidable next to the other players. They warmed up for a few minutes, just casually tossing the ball back and forth.

"I didn’t know she played volleyball," Mia said, as they watched them prepare.

"I didn’t either," Jamie admitted. "I just found out on Friday that she played basketball in college. She seems to really like having little secrets that she only reveals when I ask her a direct question."

I just bet she does, Mia mused, not thoroughly convinced that Ryan was completely reformed, even though she believed that she was sincere in her attempts. "She doesn’t look like the other women," Mia observed, echoing Jamie’s earlier thought. "I wonder if she’ll be any good."

"I don’t know," Jamie said. "I’ve only seen her play rugby, and I had no idea what was going on in that madness. I do know one thing for sure. Whether or not she’s any good, she’ll play hard."

Their questions about Ryan’s abilities were answered about four minutes into the game. The score was tied, two to two, and Ryan’s partner had just served. The ball flew back and forth a few times, finally coming to Ryan who was standing right next to the net. The ball was high; actually so high that Jamie assumed it would sail over Ryan’s head and land between her and her partner. The green eyes grew wide as Ryan coiled, gathering her muscled legs beneath her, and then began to rise. She kept going, up, up, up, until her head was above the net. She pulled her right arm back as she rose and chopped at the ball, hitting it right at its apex with unbelievable force. At that instant, the opposing player dove to the spot that she anticipated the spike to hit. She misjudged and over-committed, falling to the sand as the ball hit her right on the butt with stunning velocity. The ball ricocheted as it hit her, changing direction and flying nearly over to where Jamie and Mia sat watching, open mouthed.

Ryan trotted over to retrieve the ball, a huge grin on her face. She cast a glance at her friends, wiggling one eyebrow at Jamie as she said, "That had to sting!" She grabbed the ball and headed back, both spectators watching her firm butt twitch as she ran.

"Did you see...?" Mia stuttered.

"Yeah, I think I did..." Jamie replied.

"That wasn’t human!" Mia finally spat out.

"Can you imagine the bruise that poor woman is gonna have on her ass?" Jamie finally gasped, as both she and Mia collapsed with laughter.

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

The game continued at a rather frenetic pace, and Ryan’s partner looked mighty pleased that she had been paired with the dark stranger. Jamie felt her ire begin to rise as Ryan’s partner beamed over at her. With some difficulty, she forced the jealous feelings down, knowing that Ryan was more interested in the match than in her teammate.

As the game wore on, the intensity of the match increased dramatically, and Jamie noticed that the women on the other team now seemed more interested in stuffing the ball down Ryan’s throat than in actually winning the game. "You know, she was telling me about how a player on another team beaned her with a basketball during a game. She didn’t seem to have any idea why that would happen, but after watching this, I think I have a clue," Jamie said reflectively. "It just looks so effortless for her. That could really start to piss you off if you were busting your ass playing against her."

Focusing on the game and the interaction of the players for a moment, Mia had to agree. "Yeah, she just looks like she’s having fun. The others look like they’re working." After a pause, Mia added in a quiet voice, "God, will you look at that body."

"Hey, I’ve got dibs on that body, you know," Jamie said as she poked her in the ribs.

"I don’t know, Jamie," Mia mused, surveying the lanky woman with studied interest. "You’ve just got a lesbian learner’s permit. Taking her on would be like driving a Ferrari," she observed with an obvious leer. "I mean, look at the power in those legs. You could bounce quarters off her ass! Whew, the thought of those legs wrapped around me just makes me want to swoon!" she said dramatically.

Casting a puzzled glance at her friend, Jamie tried to step back and look at her partner from a purely physical perspective. "Well, if we’re gonna analyze her, I’ve got to vote for her back and shoulders. I love the way her back tapers down to that lean narrow waist. And her shoulders are so broad and strong; you know, she tossed me over her shoulder the other night like I didn’t weigh a thing. She carried me all the way back to our tent, and it must have been 300 yards. She wasn’t even breathing heavily!"

"Oooh," Mia sighed deeply. "I love it when they pick you up and carry you. I just love to feel that power."

"You know, I hated it when Jack would pick me up, unless he was carrying me to bed after I fell asleep. With a guy, it feels like they want to show you how strong they are, and how weak you are. With Ryan, it’s just like … play. I know she would never use her strength to overpower me."

"How can you be so sure, Jamie? She might show you a whole different side when she gets you between the sheets."

"Nope," Jamie replied confidently. "You don’t know how she is, Mia. I’ve never been around anyone who is so considerate of my feelings. When we first started playing around, it all kind of freaked me out. She told me that I could do anything I wanted to her, and she wouldn’t go further than I did. And I have tortured her, Mia. I mean, I’ve really tortured her."

Jamie saw the mischievous glint in her friend’s eyes and knew that she had set herself up. The curly head tilted, and Mia said thoughtfully, "I never figured you for a dom, Honey. You’re just coming out all over the place, aren’t ‘ya."

"I’m hardly a dom!" Jamie cried, slapping Mia sharply on her bare leg. I think I know what that is, she thought to herself, but there was no way she was going to ask for verification of her guess.

"I don’t know, Babe," Mia muttered, rubbing the red handprint on her thigh, "you pack a wallop, and I think you enjoy it!"

"Only with you," Jamie replied, with an overly sweet smile affixed to her face.

"So how does Ryan react to your little torture sessions?" Mia asked, her brown eyes glinting playfully.

Jamie paused for a moment, recalling all of the times she had pushed the obviously turned-on woman further than she should have. "She’s been the soul of restraint. She never--not once--tried to go further than I wanted to. As a matter of fact, she tried to talk me out of doing stuff a couple of times."

"God, if I don’t want to do it two minutes after getting to L.A., Jason has a fit! Come to think of it," she mused reflectively. "I don’t think a guy has ever tried to talk me out of doing anything!"

Jamie shook her head briskly, reflecting on how proud she was that Ryan was so gentle with her. "She never gets mad about it, Mia. As a matter of fact, she’s downright adorable about it. There’s this hungry look she gets that just about breaks my heart. I know it’s hard for her, but she controls herself because she knows that I want her to."

"Jeez, maybe we’re both wrong about her," Mia mumbled. "Maybe she’s not really hot in bed. It could just be an act."

"No. Trust me," Jamie said slowly. "Just the way she kisses is enough to melt you into a puddle. Plus, I’ve…seen her in action."

"I don’t doubt it!" Mia cried. "I’m surprised she doesn’t run down the street grabbing the first woman she sees, after what you do to her!"

"It was before we…started dating," Jamie informed her with another smack to her thigh. "I saw her practically making love to a woman in a lesbian coffeehouse. She didn’t know I was there, and I assume she didn’t think anyone was watching her, but I got so turned on...whew! She’s not all talk, Mia. Trust me."

"God, that sounds hot!" Mia squealed. "What else 'ya got?"

Mia was getting so much pleasure out of this interchange that Jamie didn’t have the heart to tell her these topics were too private. Besides, if she was really honest with herself, she got a good deal of enjoyment from talking about Ryan in this frank manner. "Well, she took me to a women’s sex toy store, and they made a big deal about her not breaking any more of the toys in the try-on room."

"Yikes! How do you break a sex toy? Was she alone when she did that?"

"Nope. She apparently used to take dates there to have a quickie."

"Dates--sex toys, dates--sex toys," Mia mused, deep in thought. "That’s a match made in heaven! She’s a genius! What else?"

"Well," Jamie began, blushing mightily, "even though we haven’t made love…we’ve um…you know…"

"Touched each other," Mia supplied helpfully, batting her big brown eyes at Jamie.

"Yes, of course we touch each other," Jamie scoffed. "I’m not that hung up!"

"So…if you’re already touching each other, why do you keep insisting that you haven’t had sex? That’s all there is with a girl, Jamie."

"Oh…well…we haven’t touched each other…that way," the blushing blonde admitted. "I meant that we touched each other when we kissed."

"Oooh, you mean you don’t stand two feet apart, put your hands behind your backs and lean over to kiss," Mia drawled, obviously enjoying her friend’s embarrassment.

"God! Must you harass me like this?"

"Well, yeah," Mia laughed. "It’s what I’m best at, Jamie."

"I guess you have me there," Jamie agreed. "What I was getting at earlier is that even though we haven’t gone very far, I can just tell how passionate she’ll be by the way she responds to my kisses. She’s just so…I don’t even know the word for it," she admitted. "She’s…" A heavy sigh followed her comment, and she looked towards her partner with a wistful smile, "wonderful."

"Do you have any idea how many women she’s been ‘wonderful’ with?" Mia asked, shattering Jamie’s romantic reverie.

Jamie tilted her head back, dramatically rolling her eyes at her friend. "Does everything have to be about sex?!" she chided.

"Come on, do the numbers," Mia begged.

"Well, she’s been sexually active since she was 17--that’s six years. She’s basically never had a girlfriend, and until this year her able-bodied record for going without sex is two weeks--and that didn’t happen very often from what I can gather." As Jamie did the math, her eyes grew wider. She gulped noticeably when she considered the tally.

"Are you sure you don’t want me to break her in for you, Jamie?" Mia inquired solicitously. "I don’t want you to get hurt, you know."

Smirk firmly in place, Jamie patted her friend on the leg. "You’re a real pal, Mia. As much as I appreciate the offer, I think I can handle her. Besides, what makes you such an expert?"

"I’m not as naive as I seem," Mia scoffed, assuming a haughty look.

"You haven’t been naive since you were in diapers, Mia. Now what are you hinting at?"

"I have had a few bites of the lesbian apple," she replied smugly.

"You have not!" Jamie shrieked as she slapped her friend’s arm.

"Have too," she insisted, rubbing at the reddening skin and scooting back in her chair to avoid a repeat.

"When? With whom?"

"It’s a long story, Babe. I’m sure you don’t want me to bore you with it now."

"BORE ME?" Jamie cried, causing every one of their neighbors to turn in her direction. "Bore me?" she repeated at a more moderate level. "You’ve got to be on drugs, Mia! Now tell me the whole story—and don’t you dare leave anything out!"

The curly-haired woman sighed dramatically, but couldn’t keep the smile off her face for long. "Oh, all right," she said. "I should have told you before now, but I promised I wouldn’t."

"Promised? Who did you…"

"That’s part of the story," Mia chuckled. "Okay, here’s the whole deal. As you may recall, I started hanging out with Melissa Johnston during senior year."

"Yeah," Jamie agreed, a small frown settling on her brow. "What’s Miss Homecoming Queen got to do with it?"

"Well…" Mia drawled. "We started to hang out because our boyfriends were buddies. Remember?"

"Oh yeah, I forgot how close Mark and Trey were. You know, I was pretty jealous when you started spending all of your time with her. I felt like she was taking you away from me," Jamie admitted.

"You had nothing to worry about, Honey, but Mark should have been shaking in his boots!"

"What does your old boyfriend have to do with the story?" Jamie asked. "This is confusing the heck out of me, Mia."

"Patience, girlfriend. All will be revealed." Mia took another deep breath and continued her tale. "Melissa and I got to be really good friends. We were together a lot because of Mark and Trey, and over time we started to hang out when the guys weren’t with us."

"I recall," Jamie pouted. "I could hardly get a minute of your time."

"I know, and I’m sorry you felt shut out. Things were…complicated for me during that time. I really liked Melissa, and before I knew it we were inseparable."

"I’ve never understood why you stopped hanging out with her so abruptly," Jamie protested.

"Can I finish?" Mia chuckled.

"Sorry." Jamie shook her head. "It’s your story—run with it."

"Okay, we were getting to be really close. One night we had been out with the guys, and I decided to stay overnight at her house. We were just hanging out in her room, talking and smoking a little weed. My leg was bothering me—I forget what I had done to it, but it was stiff. Melissa offered to massage it for me. I thought that was nice, if a little odd, so I took her up on it. She gave me a short robe, and we got onto her bed… hey, don’t pass out on me here." Mia laughed when she caught sight of Jamie’s shocked expression.

"I…I…did you…?"

"Patience is a virtue, Sweetie. Just hold on a sec," she urged, patting her friend’s leg reassuringly. "Okay, I was on the bed, and she started rubbing my legs. She kept going higher and higher, well past the painful area, and as she kept going, something else started to throb."

Jamie’s mouth was open so wide that Mia was afraid her jaw was going to pop out of joint. "You…you slept with Melissa Johnston?"

"No…we didn’t sleep," Mia corrected smugly. "She slid her hand up between my legs, and within seconds we were rolling around on that bed like a couple of rabid chipmunks!"

"Mia! How can that be?" Jamie cried. "You’re both straight!"

The curly-haired woman tossed her head back and laughed heartily. "That’s so cute!" she cried. "You sound like my grandmother!"


"That’s so old school, Hon! Nobody’s into those silly labels anymore! She was attracted to me, and I was attracted to her. We were both in the mood, and had the opportunity—so why not?" She shrugged as if it were an every day occurrence.

"But…but…" Jamie sputtered. "She’s a girl!"

"I know," Mia agreed with a leer. "A very hot girl, who knew how to make me come better than any guy I’ve been with, before or since! She was a cheerleader you know. She was practically double jointed!!"

"Jesus, Mia! You can’t just sleep with every person who asks you to!"

"And that would be because…?" the chestnut haired woman asked, holding up her hands in a questioning gesture.

"Because…because…I don’t know why. I just know that you can’t!" Jamie finally decreed.

"Well, I beg to differ, Sweetie, but I can, and I do!" Mia stated defiantly. "No harm has befallen me, I might add."

Deciding to table her discomfort for the moment, Jamie let her curiosity take over. "So, what happened with Melissa? Did you stop seeing each other because it was uncomfortable?"

"No," Mia laughed. "We stopped seeing each other because she wanted me to be exclusive with her! Jeez! I certainly wasn’t exclusive with Mark, why would she think I would be with her?!"

"She fell in love with you?" Jamie was stunned at this revelation.

"She said she was," Mia mused, the smile vanishing. "It was really kinda tough for me, to tell you the truth, James. I liked her a lot, and I loved having sex with her. I still don’t see why we couldn’t have just kept on doing what we were doing."

"She wasn’t able to, huh?" Jamie knew that she wouldn’t be able to share someone she loved with another.

"No, she wasn’t," Mia said. "It just got to be too hard, so we finally had to stop seeing each other completely. The guys were kinda pissed off, because we had all gotten along so well. I honestly think that’s one of the reasons Mark broke up with me. I think he liked hanging out with Trey as much as he did with me."

"Maybe Mark and Trey…" Jamie began to suggest with a little eyebrow wiggle.

Mia tossed her head back and laughed. "Now that, I would pay to see!"

"I just bet you would," Jamie muttered as the server came by to ask if they wanted anything to drink. Mia was flirting outrageously with the twenty something man and Jamie sat back to watch a master at work. She decided that her friend possessed the perfect blend of openness and playfulness needed to flirt successfully. Mia didn’t seem overly aggressive, and her cherubic face made her appear more innocent than she was. She gave the accurate impression that she was funny, witty, open-minded and very interested.

By the time the server, Chad, left, Mia had received an invitation to attend a jazz concert on the Santa Monica pier on Thursday night. "You are really good at that," Jamie mused, as she watched her friend put Chad’s phone number into her bag.

"It’s a gift," Mia agreed, tossing her curls in the breeze.

"I take it you and Jason aren’t exclusive any longer?"

"Mmm, we’re taking it a lot more casually now," Mia admitted. "I’ve seen him about three times since I got here. I think he’s trying to make me miss him by playing hard to get."

"Oh yeah, that’ll work!" Jamie laughed.

"He obviously doesn’t know who he’s dealing with," Mia agreed with a sympathetic smile. "I invented hard to get."

Getting back to their earlier discussion, Jamie asked, "You said earlier that you had promised you wouldn’t tell. Did you promise Melissa?"

"Yeah, but I figure it’s safe to tell you now since you’re a member of the same club. I mean, I always knew I could trust you, James, but now I think you have a better sense of why she wouldn’t want this to get out."

"Yeah," she laughed wryly. "I’m certainly not ready to shout it from the rooftops. Just a stage in front of thousands of people," she added, shivering with the memory. "So…back to your story. Once you got it out of your system, you’ve stayed with men exclusively, right?"

"Nope. Not exactly," Mia said with a smirk.

"Give!" Jamie ordered.

"Okay, okay, jeez, you’re so pushy!" Mia laughed. "I had sex with a woman at Cal."

"When…with who?" Jamie persisted, unwilling to forego any of the details.

"Freshman year," she said quickly. "Remember Dave, that guy from Oregon that I dated for a while?"

"Yeah, vaguely. You didn’t see him for very long did you?"

"No, thanks to him, I didn’t," she admitted. "He wanted to do a three way with another girl. I didn’t really object, so he sets it up with this woman he knew. We all get together and have a pretty hot time. Problem is, he thinks I like it too much, which I did, as a matter of fact. The woman and I really went at it, and he got all pissed. He thought we would just both do him and be happy, but we spent most of our time on each other. He actually had the nerve to call me a lesbian, and say he didn’t want to see me anymore because he didn’t want to date a dyke! The nerve!"

"God, Mia!" Jamie said, wide eyed. "What haven’t you done?"

"Besides barnyard animals and children, not much," she admitted. "I figure you’re only young once, but if you do it right, once is enough."

"Is that it?" Jamie asked.

"No…I had one more little dip in the lesbian pool…last week.

A bunch of us from work went out to this club, and it turns out it’s mostly lesbian. We were all drinking and dancing and having a good time, and this fine-looking redhead asked me to dance. We had a really good time together, and she asked if I’d go home with her. I didn’t have any good reason to say no, so I went."

"Did you enjoy it?" Jamie asked tentatively.

"Oh, yeah!" Mia readily agreed. "This girl had been around the block a few hundred times. She really knew her way around a woman! I’m certain I’ve never had that many orgasms in one day. I could hardly walk the next day at work."

"What does all of that mean to you?" Jamie wondered how Mia could be so secure and carefree about such a tumultuous sexual history. "Doesn’t it make you question your sexuality?"

"Question my sexuality," Mia repeated slowly, tilting her head up, and staring pensively into the blue sky. "I should think that I’ve given pretty good evidence than my sexuality is quite robust."

"I mean your sexual orientation," Jamie insisted. "Doesn’t it ever make you think that you might be gay?"

"No. Why should it?" Mia asked blankly, clearly not understanding why that would even be a question.

"Well, when I saw that I wanted to be with Ryan…that way…I started asking myself if I was gay," she explained.

"I’m not gay, Jamie!" She laughed heartily, looking at her friend with a big smile. "I just love to have sex. I’m primarily attracted to men, but if I meet a hot woman, I can have just as good a time. Actually, in some ways being with women is a lot easier," she admitted.

"How?" Jamie asked, longing for support for her own choice.

"Number one--no birth control. That’s a very big deal for me. Number two--lots of orgasms. Also a big deal," she laughed. Number three--the women I’ve been with have been all about pleasing me. A very, very big deal, as you might have guessed."

"So why not just go lesbian?"

"I find men really hot. I like ‘em big, and strong, and powerful. And there’s nothing I like better than to have a guy show me how much I’m getting to him—they’re like compliant little pets. I gotta tell you, though--I might switch for a woman like Ryan. She is definitely a hottie. And boy, can she kiss!"

"Hey, that reminds me," Jamie scowled. "Now I’m mad that you kissed her after finals. I thought you were just drunk!"

"Oh, I was drunk," Mia laughed. "Just not too drunk to enjoy that sexy little mouth!"

"You have no idea," Jamie sighed, her pique replaced by the delicious thought of Ryan’s lips. "God, Mia, when I wrap my arms around her to kiss her, my knees get so weak I’m afraid I’ll fall. She’s so strong, yet she holds me so tenderly, like she’s afraid I’ll break."

"Sounds heavenly," Mia sighed, smiling sweetly.

"It is, it really is. I know we are going to have fantastic sex together, Mia. I’ve never, ever been this turned on by anyone. She gets aroused so easily, it’s amazing, but she’s been so tender and patient with me—it’s just been wonderful."

"Well, all I’m gonna say is, you’d better keep her busy, or I’m coming after her…and her brother!" she added with a defiant slap of her hand on the wide arm of her chair.

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

They had lost track of the game even though Jamie kept her eyes on her partner throughout her talk with Mia. She was surprised to see Ryan come trotting over, covered in sweat and sand, looking for a bottle of water. "Did you win?" Jamie asked a little hesitantly.

"Jeez, weren’t you keeping score?"

"Um, we got kinda involved talking, and I lost track."

"Um hmm," she replied, as she narrowed her eyes at the duo. "Let me guess what you were talking about." She put her hand up to her eyes as she closed them for a moment, pseudo-seeking psychic vibrations. "I’m gonna say...sex," she declared. As the blush on Jamie’s cheeks rose past her ears, Ryan leaned over to kiss her gently. "Don’t give away all my secrets, Love," she said, as she tweaked her nose and jogged back to her position.

"Okay, this time we pay attention," Jamie said fervently as the second game began. They kept their focus for less than two minutes before they were analyzing Ryan again, comparing her to the other women in the game, and to the hundreds of women who passed by on the bike path--walking, skating and jogging. "You know, the only thing she doesn’t have is a really ripped stomach. It’s rock hard when you push on it, but there’s just a thin layer of fat that’s kind of cushioning. Still, I think I prefer it that way," Jamie mused. "If she was all hard, I don’t think I’d like sitting on her as much as I do."

"Oooh, I bet it feels great to climb on top of her," Mia moaned.

"I’m drawn to do that like a moth to a flame," Jamie admitted. "I start to kiss her, and within minutes I’m straddling her hips. It’s like you’re sitting on a panther. She’s all coiled energy and power, but she’s just purring like a little kitten."

"Jamie, we’ve gotta stop this. I want your girlfriend as much as you do! Let’s talk about something else--anything else!" she begged.

"Okay, you’re right. Let’s talk about your job."

They tried to concentrate on Mia’s job, but the sweating, laboring bodies of the volleyball players drew them back into a discussion of what constituted the perfect body, and before long Jamie was waxing poetic over the gorgeous body of her partner.

A grinning Ryan, towering over them and blocking the sun, interrupted them. "You weren’t watching, were you?" she demanded, her hands on her hips.

"I had my eyes on your butt the whole time," Jamie replied honestly.

"Me too!" Mia smiled, proud of her powers of concentration, until Jamie knocked the smile off of her face with a punch in the arm.

Ryan just shook her head as she grabbed a bottle of water and ran back to play another game.

They did a little better on the third game but they got sidetracked when Ryan kept turning around to point at Jamie, then at her own eyes, reminding her to pay attention.

Jamie then started to regale Mia with the numerous ways that Ryan teased and played with her. They talked a lot about the ride and the little tricks that Ryan had used to get her up the hills. She talked about how thoughtful Ryan was, setting up camp every night, and went on and on about how wonderful it had been to hold her at night and wake up in her arms in the morning. She was just about to go into how cute she looked in her little bike outfits when Ryan towered over them again. "What’s the score, Jamie?" she demanded, eyes twinkling.

"Um…a whole lot for you and very little for the other side?"

Ryan tilted her head back and drank a bottle of water in one long gulp. Both women ogled the line of her throat and the play of her neck muscles. Oblivious to their admiration, discarding the empty, Ryan smacked her lips together, gazed at her partner and shrugged her shoulders. "That’s about right," she agreed with a wink, running back across the sand to finish the game.

"Hey, speaking of scoring, tell me about all of the ex-lovers you met," Mia asked with a mischievous grin.

"Got an hour?" Jamie replied dryly.

"So what…she just showed up at the ride every year, grabbed a woman and threw her in the tent?"

"No, I think she was a little more moderate than that…at least I hope she was," Jamie laughed. "Actually, it turns out that she trained for each ride with a different group of people. She usually hooked up with someone from the training group, and then slept with her during the ride."

"So…what did they look like? Were they all gorgeous?"

"Thanks." Jamie beamed a smile at her friend.

"You know I think you’re gorgeous," Mia laughed. "Are you her usual type?"

"I think her usual type is the double X chromosome," Jamie said with a smirk. "I have seen her with women from 20 to 50+, thin, chunky, tall, short, brown, black, and white. She claims that she’s more attracted to energy than looks, and I’d have to concur with that. But I’d also have to say that she didn’t always choose nice women."

"Ooh, somebody gave you a hard time?"

"Just a little," Jamie conceded. "One woman was kinda pissy at first, but she apologized later. Another one was a real bitch, though! She sought me out to give me a hard time because Ryan dumped her after the ride was over."

"Did ya deck her?" Mia asked, always loving a good fight.

"Yeah…that’s my style," Jamie agreed. "I loosened a couple of teeth and ripped out a handful of her hair." The smirk now firmly attached to her face belied her statement and, after a second, Jamie continued, "I told her not to dis my lover, and that was that."

"Mmm, I liked the story better the first way," Mia decided.

The imposing shadow of a sweaty, sand-covered woman interrupted the discussion. "Score?" Ryan asked.

"Um...you won?" Jamie guessed.

"That’s not a score, that’s an outcome," she said sternly.

"I...I...I guess I wasn’t paying attention," Jamie admitted with a little downward glance.

"Just for that, you have to go rent me a boogie board so I can cool off and get this sand out of my pants," Ryan said with a grimace, as she tried to shake some of the sand out of her tight suit.

"I’ll rent two, we can go out beyond the breakers, and I’ll help you get that sand out," Jamie teased, as she got up to run over to the rental stand.

Five minutes later they were frolicking in the cool water. Jamie had spent a decent amount of time in the ocean and she was fairly fearless. She was a good swimmer, and she really loved to hop on her boogie board and catch a good wave. Ryan was, of course, perfectly at ease on the ocean. They ranged farther and farther out until they were just beyond the waves, where they sat astride their boards and stared at each other lovingly for a long time. Jamie was perfectly content to just smile at Ryan and watch her sweet face, but they finally maneuvered their boards so they could kiss a bit without falling off. It was a struggle to remain upright, so they turned and rode the waves for a while. After a good hour of play they ran back up to Mia, who was lying on the sand on a large towel. Jamie went to the bar and got them all drinks, along with a club sandwich for Ryan. Her partner had not asked for any food, but she knew that it would be devoured in moments. Ryan’s eyes grew wide as Jamie put the plate in front of her. "I love club sandwiches," she said with delight, as she dove in happily. "Thanks, Jamie."

"I can’t ignore the most important person in my life all day," she said sincerely, as she gave her a little kiss. "You really kicked ass today, didn’t you, Tiger."

"Yeah, we did pretty well," she admitted. "My partner was really good."

"Um hmmm," she nodded. "I’m sure that was the reason."

"She really was good," Ryan insisted.

"I’m sure she was, Sweetheart," she agreed. After a beat Jamie asked, "Are there any more sports that you excel at?"

"There might be a couple more that I’ve played a little bit," she said with a twinkle.

"Do you want to tell me about them?"

"Nope," Ryan said as she happily munched away on her sandwich. "I like to keep an air of mystery about myself. I don’t want you to get bored too fast."

"I don’t think I could get bored with you in a million years," Jamie said as she gazed into her eyes with admiration.

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

"I need to run down to the Venice boardwalk to pick up a couple of things," Ryan said when she finished her snack.

"Yeah," Mia drawled lazily, clasping her unhooked top to her chest as she rolled over to tan the front of her body. "Two dollar sunglasses are pretty hard to come by."

"No, wise-ass," Ryan scoffed, leaning forward to tie her friend’s string bikini. "I need to buy a T-shirt for a friend."

"A T-shirt?" Jamie asked, in a cadence slightly slower than Mia had used. "Honey, who do you know that can’t get a T-shirt in San Francisco?"

"It’s just a…thing…that I do when I travel," Ryan explained. "I’ll run down the bike path and be back before you know it."

"Okay," Jamie said laconically. "We won’t move a muscle."

Jumping to her feet, Ryan surveyed the listless roommates. "I think you can both easily accomplish that goal."

Since they were now both lying on their backs, they jointly watched Ryan’s departing form. Jamie turned to catch Mia holding her head up to get a better look, and she warned her once again, "Off limits, Babe. She’s all mine."

"I wouldn’t dream of it," Mia assured her. "Well, I might dream of it," she amended, "but I wouldn’t actually do it."

"Thanks, Buddy," Jamie smirked, lying down and wriggling around to get comfortable in the sand. "I gotta admit, I’m starting to feel less nervous about tomorrow after talking to you."

"Why are you nervous, Hon?"

"I don’t know," Jamie mused. "I trust her, I love her, and she’s gentle and patient. It doesn’t make logical sense, but I’m…I guess that I’m afraid I’ll disappoint her. I mean, we’ve waited so long—I really feel like there’s a lot of pressure to make tomorrow perfect."

"I can see that," Mia agreed. "You’ve just got to remember that you’re in this for the long haul, Babe. Tomorrow isn’t a one shot deal."

"You’re right. I know I shouldn’t build it up bigger than it already is, but I want so badly to please her. She’s been with so many women—I worry that I’ll be a dud."

"It’s not that hard, Jamie," Mia soothed. "Really. You just start at the top and work your way down. Stop when you get to something that interests you, hang out there for a while, and move on when something else grabs your attention. It’s no big deal!"

"It’s that moving down part I’m worried about," Jamie admitted, getting to her biggest concern.

"What? Oral sex?"

Draping an arm over her eyes, Jamie muttered, "Yes, Mia, oral sex. It freaks me out to think that she’ll expect that."

"Well, hell yes, she’ll expect that!" Mia laughed, her outburst falling well short of the reassurance that Jamie sought.

"Now I feel better," came the mumbled reply from her friend.

Mia sat up, crossing her legs and resting her elbows on her knees. "Jamie, it’s no big deal because I guarantee you’ll want to do that to her. Trust me on this, Babe. You’ll get involved, and it will just happen. You’ll be munching away before you know it, and I guarantee that you’ll wonder why you ever had any doubts."

"God, I hope so," Jamie groaned. "Sex is so important to her…and it’s becoming important to me, too."

"It’ll be fine, Babe. You’ll call me when you get back, and I guarantee that you’ll laugh about your nervousness."

"Either that, or I’ll call you tomorrow night and beg you to come to Pebble Beach to be my stand-in."

"Either way, Babe," Mia laughed. "You know I’m a giver."

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

Forty-five minutes later, the sweaty shopper returned, amused to find her companions out cold. She tucked her purchases into her gym bag, kicked off her shoes and socks, and scampered across the hot sand for a refreshing dip in the 72-degree water.

When she returned, she could not resist the impulse to straddle Jamie’s somnolent body, allowing the cold droplets of water to rain down on the shocked woman.

"Yeow!" the blonde cried as she shot up into a sitting position. Only Ryan’s quick reflexes allowed her to jump back a foot to avoid having Jamie’s head do a number on her pubic bone. Shaking her head, the confused blonde asked, "Did you leave?"

"Ahh, I’ve been gone for over an hour, Sleepy," Ryan informed her.

"Oh, yeah," Jamie said, lazily scratching her head. "Did you shop?"

"Yep. All done."

"Lemme see." The tousled blond head looked around for a package but found none.

"Ahh, okay," Ryan stalled. "I…uh…Ally and I have this…thing," she stumbled. "We…ah…"

"This I gotta hear," Mia said, sitting up alertly.

Now two sets of eyes focused on the uncharacteristically bashful brunette. "Oh, all right," Ryan said, grabbing the bag and handing it to Jamie.

As the T-shirt fell out and was unfurled, brown and green eyes trailed from the fabric to Ryan and back again. "This is for…Ally?" Jamie finally said, as Mia got ready for the fireworks to begin.

"Now, Jamie," Ryan soothed. "It’s a … joke between us. I told you that I was going to keep her as a friend, and…"

"Sleeps well with others!?" Jamie finally uttered, her eyes focused on the writing on the shirt. "You’re giving your ex-lover a T-shirt, that you buy on our honeymoon, that says, ‘Sleeps well with others'?!"

"Well, when you put it that way, it sounds kinda bad," Ryan admitted, shifting her weight nervously from foot to foot.

Mia was utterly fascinated by this exchange. Her dancing brown eyes darted from one woman to the other, waiting for the next volley. Jamie spoiled her fun by taking a deep breath and neatly folding the shirt. "Whatever," she muttered, before placing it back in the bag.

"No, no, no," Ryan said, sitting down on a portion of Jamie’s towel. "Not so fast there, Sport. Here’s how it is," she explained, ignoring Mia’s presence. "Ever since we’ve known each other, we always, and I do mean always, buy each other a T-shirt on every trip we take. The game is to make sure you get the one with the most sexual innuendo, or the most politically incorrect one, that you can find. I like Ally as a friend, Jamie, and I want to keep the friendship part of our relationship just like it used to be. Do you understand?" She lifted Jamie’s chin with her fingers and leaned over to place a gentle kiss on her lips. "Please try to understand, Honey. I don’t want to hurt your feelings."

"Couldn’t you have gotten another one?" the smaller woman asked. "There had to be less…provocative ones."

"Well, I could have bought the one that said, ‘FBI’ in big yellow letters."

"That sounds better," Jamie said.

"Yeah, but underneath it said, ‘Female Breast Inspector.’" Ryan chuckled. "Most of the rest of the suggestive ones had something to do with penises, and that just wouldn’t do," she added righteously.

"Let’s go back to the boardwalk," Jamie offered, as she stood and extended a hand to her partner.

"Really? Why?"

"Because I want that ‘FBI’ shirt," she laughed. "And I’m starting with yours…tomorrow!"

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

After the second shopping trip, they relaxed on the sand for a while. All too soon they had to pack up and head back to the apartment. A thorough shower for Ryan was first on the agenda, and Jamie was next on the list. By rushing a little, they were cleaned and dressed just in time to head out to LAX. Traffic was pretty slow and, since none of them knew the shortcuts, they had to stay on the freeway. They wanted to be there an hour early, but Mia dropped them off at the departure gate barely 45 minutes before their flight. She quickly kissed Ryan on the cheek, and gave Jamie a heartfelt hug, whispering, "I know you’ll be fine tomorrow, Honey. Have a great time, James, and call me when you get back."

"I promise, Mia, and thanks for everything," she said as she kissed her. "You’re the best."

"I hope, for your sake, that I lose that title tomorrow!" she laughed as she pinched her friend’s blushing cheek.

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

An hour and 15 minutes later, they were in the air for the 50-minute flight to SFO. Martin had agreed to pick them up after Ryan had called earlier in the day. They were both excited about seeing the family again and Ryan jabbered throughout the trip about Caitlin, and Duffy, and how she’d missed them. "You are such a little love bug," Jamie said, giving her a kiss. "I just adore how much you love your family."

"I do love my family," Ryan agreed. "And now that you’re part of it, my whole world is complete."

"That definitely deserves a kiss." Jamie leaned in for a big, wet one.

Martin picked them up at eight p.m. They headed home in his truck with Ryan talking nonstop about the ride, and how proud she was of Jamie, and how pleased she was that Jamie’s father had made a special trip to L.A. to see her. Martin hardly got a word in edgewise, but he happily let his daughter speak her mind.

When they entered the house, Duffy leapt on Ryan and licked her from head to toe. She quickly got down on the floor with the squirming dog, as he joyfully began to lick her eyes and ears. She giggled like a child as the big dog lapped at her energetically. Both Martin and Jamie had to laugh at the spectacle the pair made. Ryan finally caught her breath and demanded that Jamie join her. The smaller woman rolled her eyes at Martin, but dutifully joined her partner for the tongue bath. Conor was out for the evening, but Martin had saved some dinner for the travelers. The three of them sat down at the dining room table as Ryan focused on her dinner, with Jamie taking up the slack in the conversation as she filled Martin in on the things Ryan hadn’t covered.

He asked a few questions about the ride and how Jamie had experienced it. She related a few small stories about her experiences and told him of how loving and thoughtful Ryan had been. She decided not to bring up Ryan’s near collapse on the last day, figuring that was for Ryan to tell, if she so chose.

Martin tried to draw Jamie out about their plans for Pebble Beach, but she ducked that question as gracefully as possible after sharing a surreptitious glance with her partner. She knew that their main plan was to have sex and plenty of it, but she guessed that Martin didn’t want to know those details. Since they really had no plans that called for them to be in a vertical position, she adroitly steered the conversation back to the ride.

By the time they cleaned up the kitchen, it was 9:30 and they were both beat. They hadn’t discussed how they would handle sleeping arrangements and, rather than bring it up at this point, Ryan decided that one last night alone wasn’t such a terrible thing. She took Jamie’s bag down to her room and snagged some sweats for herself. After Jamie had finished in the bath, she tucked her into the big bed, kissing her tenderly for several minutes. Ryan rose to leave, but Jamie tilted her head up and gave her such a winsome look that she couldn’t help but dash back for another round of tender kisses. They started to move against one another slowly, but Ryan called a halt to the escalating passion and wrapped her arms tightly around her partner. "Guess what we’ll be doing this time tomorrow?" she asked softly.

"Sleeping," Jamie said dreamily.

Ryan pulled her head up and stared at her with a quizzical look. "Sleeping?"

"Yep," she said with conviction. "We should be down there by 2:00, so by 9:30 we will have had seven solid hours of wild sex. I think we’ll need a little rest!"

Ryan gazed at her with love-filled eyes as she stroked her cheek with her fingertips. "You can’t imagine how much I’m looking forward to spending a full week exploring every little nook and cranny of your beautiful body," she whispered.

"If it’s half as much as I am, I’d say we’re in for a treat," she smiled.

"I don’t doubt that a bit. Just in case you have any worries about tomorrow, try to remember that the only thing that matters is that we’re together. We’re partners now, Jamie, in life and in love. We can go as slowly or as quickly as you wish. No matter what, I’ll never put pressure on you, or push you further than you want to go. You’re my one true love, and I intend to treat you like a priceless treasure for the rest of your life."

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

"Duffy," Martin called, as he was getting ready for bed. "Duffy boy, come on, lad, time for a trip to the yard." His call was greeted with silence, so he started to search for the reluctant pet. His first stop was the most logical one and after walking halfway down the stairs to his daughter’s room, he spied the pup, curled up against his mistress’s back. She, in turn, was curled up against her small partner, so thoroughly merged that a breath of air could not have passed between them. Martin immediately decided to let the threesome remain undisturbed. It seems that the days of "no overnight guests" have ended, the senior member of the O’Flaherty household mused, smirking to himself as he climbed the stairs.

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

Continued in Part 3

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