I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 3: Coalescence

By S X Meagher


Disclaimers: See Part 1


***Part 5***

They rinsed separately in the shower, to avoid temptation, and then slipped on the terrycloth robes that Jamie pulled from the closet. Jamie took her by the hand and started to walk towards the door, but Ryan wasnít ready to leave quite yet. "How long have your parents owned this place?" she asked as she looked around the large rectangular room, trying to get a feel for her loverís mark on this home.

"I think Mother bought it not too long after I was born," Jamie replied.

"Mother?" Ryan asked quizzically, tilting her dark head in question.

"Yeah, Daddy would never have bought a place like this," she admitted. "But heís really smart about things like that. He knows she wants this type of thing, so he doesnít interfere. I really admire how he deals with her money. I donít think they ever have issues with it, and thatís saying a lot."

"Are you worried about that with us?" Ryan asked as she turned to lock eyes with her lover.

"A little bit," Jamie admitted. "We havenít talked about it at all, Ryan. It is a pretty big issue, and I think we both need to feel comfortable with it."

"Why, Jamie?" she asked plaintively. "Itís your money, and you can do whatever you want with it. Why does it have to affect us?"

"It will, Ryan," she insisted as she wrapped her dark-haired lover in a hug. "Trust me. This kind of money changes everything," she said, rather sadly.

"Okay, Sweetie. I donít want to talk about it now, though. Letís just enjoy our honeymoon without getting into that, okay?" Ryan turned to look around the room again, but she stopped and looked at Jamie with a little grin. "Why am I doing this now? Iím starving!"

Jamie laughed and grabbed her hand, pulling her toward the door firmly. "You can take a tour later; letís get you fed."

They descended the stairs, hand in hand. They passed through the two-story foyer, where they stopped to pick up their discarded shoes, then through the huge living room and a formal dining room on the way to a gleaming gourmet kitchen. Ryan stood with her hands on her hips, surveying the massive room. "Jamie, this kitchen is bigger than our living room and dining room put together."

Jamie looked around, slightly embarrassed by the opulence of her familyís second home. "I guess it is a little ostentatious," she admitted.

"Itís not ostentatious at all," Ryan reassured her. "Opulent, yes. Grand, yes. Elegant, yes. Lavish, yes. But not ostentatious." She looked around the huge space as Jamie poked in the restaurant-style double refrigerator. The house was styled as an English country estate, and the designer had done a masterful job. The kitchen was a marvel of both design and utility. Large leaded glass windows looked out over the interior courtyard, but not much of the waning twilight came in through the heavy fog. Ryan walked over to the wall panel and flipped switches until she found the proper lights for the room. The soft halogen glow accented the room perfectly, and in the flattering light the room looked even more perfect. The walls were roughly divided in half, with the upper half covered in buff-colored wallpaper with a small print of dark green and maroon. The lower part of the walls was finished in rich tan stones, about 9x15 each, set horizontally. The stone looked a bit like limestone, and she noticed that it also covered the floors. Its rough, uneven surface felt surprisingly good on her bare feet, and she noticed that it was slightly warm. "Hey, Jamie?" she said, as she got down on her hands and knees.

"Yeah?" Jamie replied, as she took her head out of the refrigerator. "Hey, where are you?" She looked around the apparently empty room, seeking the owner of the voice that had called her.

Ryanís head popped up from behind the large center island. "Why arenít my feet cold?"

Jamie laughed at the way the question had been framed. "Because there is an under-floor heating system that goes on automatically," she replied.

"Cool," Ryan said as she got back to her feet.

Jamie just smiled at her and asked, "What are you in the mood for?"

"What are my choices? Is there much in there?" she asked doubtfully.

"Just about anything that your little heart desires," she said with an eyebrow wiggle.

"But how...?"

"I called a service from your house this morning and had them stock the place. I didnít want to have to leave in case we were unable to move," she said as she gave Ryan a sexy little look.

"So you just let strangers come into a house like this and fill up your refrigerator?"

"Yep. Pretty much," she agreed.

"Thatís so odd," she mused. "A multi-million dollar place like this, and you just treat it kind of casually. Yet with our little house, we donít even let the meter reader in unless somebody escorts him. It just seems kinda backwards."

"Well, we are insured, Ryan," she said with a tilt of her head, wondering why this arrangement bothered her partner.

"That may be, Honey, but how do you prove the delivery boy stole yourÖI donít know," she said in a frustrated tone, looking around for something that was obviously expensive. Her eyes settled on a lovely small painting that hung on a nearby wall. She jumped up and strode over to it, pronouncing, "your MonetÖyour MONET!" she cried, looking from her blushing partner and back to the painting several times. "Is that real?!"

"UhhhhÖyeah," Jamie gulped, feeling very uncomfortable.

"You have a Monet in the kitchen!!!?"

A small nod was Jamieís reply. She fervently hoped that Ryan didnít ask the obvious follow-up question and that her shocked partner wouldn't wish to investigate the rest of the collection. To her relief, Ryan sat down heavily on her stool.

"This isÖthis isÖdifferent," she mumbled, obviously trying to come to grips with the Evansí lifestyle.

"Okay, Hon," Jamie soothed. "Letís back up here for a second. We donít let just anybody in. Weíve used the same service to stock the fridge since we moved here. The owner of the company is the only one that has access to the house. As a matter of fact, we trust him enough to have his thumbprint entered into the security system, same thing for the maid. The gardeners and the pool man canít come into any of the residence units, they just have access to the grounds."

Ryan was shaking her head, trying to understand her partnerís point.

"Does this all bother you, Ryan?" she asked carefully, rephrasing the same question she had asked earlier in the sunroom.

"No. No. It really doesnít, Jamie. Itís gonna take some getting used to, but itís a real learning experience for me, and itís actually kind of fascinating," she admitted.

"I know itís a lot, Ryan, but you just let me know if you want to talk about any of it, okay? I donít want to you to be uncomfortable." She turned to go back to the refrigerator, stopping abruptly on the way. "Before I forget, letís decide how we want the security system set up for the week."

"Uhh, what are the choices?" Ryan asked, unfamiliar with security systems of any kind.

"Well, everything is alarmed now, but since they put this new system in, the keys donít work if itís turned on. Only my thumbprint will work, so if we leave it on you wonít be able to go into the various buildings without me."

Ryanís chin was resting on her hands, and she blinked up at Jamie ingenuously. "Iím not gonna let you out of my sight, Hot Stuff, so thatís not a worry."

"Not so fast, Tiger," she laughed. "You donít know what else we have around here."

"Tell me!" Ryan cried, always interested in investigating potential new playgrounds.

"Nope. One thing at a time," Jamie insisted. "I think we should turn off the alarms for the places that I know weíll want to visit this week. You can protect me, canít you, Buffy?" She gave her partner a helpless smile, blinking her eyes coquettishly.

"If somebody tries to break in, Iíll toss Ďem that Monet," Ryan laughed. "That oughta hold Ďem."

"You do that, Buff," Jamie laughed. She walked over to the display and pushed buttons for several minutes. "I hope I did that right."

"You said this was new?" Ryan walked over to the large display just as Jamie went back to the refrigerator. Most of the labels for the zones were self-explanatory. She noted and understood "main", "gar", and "pool", but she was confused by "gst" and "surv." "What are gst and surv?" she asked, pronouncing the zones phonetically.

Jamie had her head deep in the refrigerator, and she called out, "Probably guest house and servantís quarters. Iíve never worked this keypad before, but thatís my best guess."

Hmmm, how can you have this much money and not know how to abbreviate servant? Ryan thought to herself. She quickly put that thought into the file she was mentally preparing concerning the idiosyncrasies of the very rich.

"You know, you still havenít answered me. Doesnít Ďthe beastí need to be fed?"

"Yeah," Ryan agreed as she rubbed her empty tummy. "Dinner or snacks?"

"Letís do both," Jamie said decisively.

"I knew there was a good reason that I love you so much." Ryan sighed with pleasurable anticipation. She sat on a tall stool next to the center island and continued to look around while Jamie removed items from the fridge. She spent some time trying to figure out what the counters were made of, finally asking, "Are these concrete?"

Jamie looked over and nodded, "Yeah, Mother had the kitchen redone just last year. Those are polished concrete. Thereís a guy in the city whoís a real artisan. He was down here for weeks making sure they were just perfect." The counters really were perfect. They were just about the same color as the floor, but they were polished to a very smooth finish. It was cool and welcoming when Ryan rested her cheek on it. "Hey, do you know what would be kinda cool on a hot day?" she asked with a little leer.

"I think I have an idea," Jamie smiled. "But I donít think thatís what Mother had in mind for her precious counters," she added.

"You never know, Jamie. If sheís anything like her daughter...." Ryan left the thought for Jamie to finish as she cocked her head slightly.

"Thatís an image I would prefer to flush from my memory bank, thank you."

"Does it bother you to think of your parents being sexual?" she inquired, genuinely interested in Jamieís thoughts on the subject. She guessed that Jamie did not know that her father was having an affair, but she wasnít certain. She had debated with herself long and hard before deciding not to tell her partner about seeing her father in the apartment, and she was still not 100 percent sure she had done the right thing.

"Um...I guess not. I mean, I donít think about it a lot. Obviously Iím not around them much, but when I was younger, I got the definite idea that they enjoyed sex."

"What makes you think they enjoy sex?"

"I donít think I noticed anything before I started to be aware of sex myself, like during puberty. Once I started being able to read the signals, I would just notice that sometimes in the mornings theyíd be all sweet and tender with each other. Daddy would touch her a lot, and theyíd kiss a little longer than normal before he left for work. Mother would be humming or singing a little bit while she ate breakfast. She just looked happy and satisfied," she said with a shrug.

"Do they still do that now?" Ryan asked, having reason to be skeptical about their continued ardor.

"Again, Iíve not spent a lot of time with them in the last three years, but I would have to say that the dynamic seems to have changed. Mother doesnít get up for breakfast anymore, and Daddy seems to work a lot more than I ever remember." She looked at Ryan thoughtfully and said, "It just seems like Daddyís married to his job more than Mother. I donít think sex is a big deal for them anymore. Maybe itís just because theyíre getting older," she suggested.

"How old are they?" Ryan asked, now regretting pursuing the subject since she knew that Jim Evans still had a healthy, if misdirected, sexual drive.

"Motherís 41 and Daddy will be 46 this year."

"Well, you had better still be throbbing when youíre 41, Hot Stuff," she teased.

"Iíll be hot for you when Iím 91," she promised with a grin. "I can see you now, with a big shock of pure white hair and those clear blue eyes. Youíre gonna be the hottest nonagenarian around."

"With you keeping me young, I think weíll both be pretty spry," she predicted. Her attention was diverted as her hands ran over the wooden pedestal that the concrete counter sat upon. "Hey, what do you call the finish on these cabinets?"

"Thatís bleached oak," Jamie replied.

"Boy, Conor would love to take a look around this place," Ryan said appreciatively. "Oh, I forgot to leave him a note asking if he wanted to come down on Saturday."

"Call him."

"Iíll call him tomorrow. Heís probably not home from work yet, anyway," she replied as she started to fidget in her chair.

"You look like you need to get rid of some energy," Jamie said, immediately recognizing the signs.

"Well, I didnít do anything all day," Ryan replied logically.

"You certainly did me!" Jamie laughed.

"Yeah, I guess I did, huh?" Ryan blushed just a bit at the frank appreciation that lingered in her partnerís expression. " I mean I didnít do anything really strenuous."

"My answer still stands, Tiger. Iíve got an idea. You munch on these, and then go get some exercise while I make dinner." She indicated the cheese, fruit and bread that she had assembled.

"Okay. Should I blade or run?"

"I donít think you should do either in this fog," she said, scrunching up her face in dismay. "Donít you see what itís like out?"

Ryan walked to the window, unable to even make out the courtyard in the diffuse light. "Your point?" she asked neutrally.

"You big goof! Like Iíd let you RollerBlade when you canít see the hand in front of your face. The road is about ten feet from a sheer cliff, you know!"

"Again, your point?" she asked as a smile began to curl her mouth.

Jamie shook her head and chuckled in frustration at her foolhardy lover. "Do you swim well enough to get your cardiovascular workout in the pool?"

Her face broke into a smirk as she laughed at a private joke. "Yeah, I can swim well enough," she said. "But isnít it a little cold?"

"Nope. Finish your snack, and Iíll solve all your problems."

Ryan wolfed down the entire plateful of food, allowing Jamie one segment of an orange and a cracker. She stood and stretched and followed her lover toward the back of the house. They walked out through the butlerís pantry, past a mudroom, exiting through a Dutch door. Ryan could hear the surf pounding in the background, but it was too foggy to see a thing. They followed a steppingstone path towards a soft glow as they made their way across the lawn. As they drew near, Ryan assumed they were going to a greenhouse of some sort. The building was made entirely of glass, and she noted that it looked to be about 60 feet long but only 25 feet or so wide. Jamie opened the wide sliding doors, and Ryan was stunned to see that there was a long lap pool, a Jacuzzi and even a sauna tucked into a corner. Neither end of the building was glass, which struck Ryan as odd. "Whatís on the ends?" she asked, pointing to the nearest solid wall.

"Oh, there are separate apartments on each end of the building. They each have two bedrooms, a kitchen and a small sitting room. Itís really kinda cozy. When I had Jack down here, thatís where we stayed." This revelation caused her to look a little embarrassed.

"Jamie, donít be embarrassed to talk about your relationship with him. Itís part of you," she said understandingly.

"Iíll try," she said. "But it just feels funny to talk about sleeping with someone else. I just wish you were the only person who had touched me that way."

"Donít think like that, Sweetie. Every experience that you have prepares you for the next one. Jack was an important part of your life. If you hadnít had sex with him, you might not have been open to having sex with me."

"I guess thatís true," she finally agreed. Walking over to a door that led to a tiled bath and shower, she extracted a big fluffy bath sheet and placed it next to the pool. "You donít mind swimming nude, do you?"

"Mind?" Ryan asked incredulously. "Iíd never wear a suit to swim in, if I didnít have to." She dropped her robe on a rust-colored wrought iron chaise that was covered in a buff-colored cotton duck material and jumped into the pool, being careful to tuck her legs up after she judged the water to be about four feet deep. "Wow!" she said with glee as she stretched out in the water. "This feels absolutely fantastic!"

"The water should be about 80 degrees. Thatís another big fight around here. Daddy likes it at 77, and Mother likes it at 82. So theyíve finally compromised," she said with a smile. "Since weíre alone, you can change it if you want to."

"Nope. It is just perfect," she said as she turned over and started to swim. She smoothly stroked across the length of the pool, stopping at the end to execute a perfect racing turn. She came up near Jamie and popped her head out, shaking the hair out of her face as the water cascaded down her body. "This is absolute heaven," she enthused, as she tried to stay afloat.

Smiling at her friendís pleasure, Jamie turned her thoughts to more immediate, practical concerns. "I didnít ask you what you wanted for dinner," she said. "I could roast a chicken or grill some steaks, or I could make roast beef or..."

"You really did buy everything," Ryan laughed. "Chicken sounds good to me. Can you make mashed potatoes?"

"Of course I can make mashed potatoes," she said rather indignantly. "Would you mind if I did something a little creative to them?"

"Nope. Iíve yet to see you do anything creative that I didnít like," she said with a leer.

"Umm-hmm," she nodded. "Now will you be safe out here all by yourself?"

"Yep. Iím very careful, and the waterís not very deep. How many laps to a mile?"

"Well, the poolís 50 feet long, so..."

"So, about 105 laps," Ryan said immediately.

Jamie stared at her open mouthed. "How did you do that?" she asked incredulously.

"Do what?" Ryan asked, truly perplexed.

"How did you do that math so fast?"

"I donít know. It just seems obvious to me. Doesnít it to you?" she asked ingenuously.

"No, Ryan. It is not obvious to me, or to most of the rest of the world. You, my sweet, are just a little savant."

"Iíll take that as a compliment," Ryan grinned happily. "Even though I have no idea what youíre talking about," she added as she dove under the water to begin swimming her laps.

Jamie had to stay and watch her for a minute. She can swim all right, she marveled. The sleek body slicing through the water mesmerized her, barely creating a ripple as she moved effortlessly. Ryan ran through her whole repertoire of strokes, moving from crawl, to breast, to back and finally to butterfly. That was the one that Jamie loved the best. Ryan would burst through the water with a powerful surge, creating a massive explosion of sound with each stroke. As her dark head exploded from the roiling water, she shot upwards just high enough to cause her breasts to peek out before she ducked under again. She loved to watch the water sheet off of her head and shoulders as she shot upwards and slammed back into the clear blue water with a crash. Jamie finally tore herself away after she watched her finish her butterfly laps. When Ryan went back to the crawl, she left to begin dinner.

Ryan returned to the house nearly an hour later. Her cheeks were bright pink and she glowed with vitality. Her skin smelled vaguely of chlorine, but Jamie knew she had showered by the scent of her hair. As she buried her nose in Ryanís tresses, she thought of her Mother, who always used the wildflower scented shampoo that she kept in the pool house shower. "Did you bring any other shampoo?" she asked as she pulled away.

"Yeah, I brought my usual stuff."

"Good. You smell like my Mother, and I donít think I need that psychological scar."

"Do you want me to go wash it out now?"

"No, Iím just teasing. My Mother smells pretty good, actually. It just caught me by surprise."

"Youíre really no fan of hers, are you?" Ryan asked quietly as she sat down on a kitchen stool.

"ItísÖitís not that, Ryan. Iíve spent a lot of time talking about her in therapy, as you might expect, and Iíve finally come to realize that I just donít feel much love from her. I think that I snap off sarcastic little remarks about her because it hurts me so much to feel that she just doesnít care for me all that much. I just wish she loved me like I love her," she muttered softly, as she turned to the sink.

This information hit Ryan like a blow to the chest. She immediately regretted bringing the subject up as she saw the look of sorrow on Jamieís face. Rising from her chair, she crossed the kitchen and wrapped her strong arms around Jamieís slight frame. "If she doesnít know how to love you, itís her issue, Jamie. Youíre one of the most lovable people I know, and any emotionally healthy woman who was blessed to give birth to you would feel nothing but joy. If she doesnít realize how special you are, I feel nothing but pity for her," she said fervently, as she squeezed the small woman in her arms.

"Iíll probably overcompensate like crazy, but Iíve vowed that if I have a child, he or she will never wonder if theyíre truly loved." She sniffed as a few tears escaped.

"That will never be an issue for our children," Ryan promised as she made eye contact with her partner. "And it will never be an issue for you. I promise to show you every day how much you are loved."

"Iím completely confident about that," she agreed, as she hugged her one final time.

They broke apart, and Ryan went back to sit down, "Wow!" she said as she saw the chicken roasting on a spit in the huge stone hearth. "This is like being in the manor house, isnít it?"

"Yeah, I guess it is," Jamie agreed.

"But Iíd be the one cooking for you, Maíam," Ryan said with a thick Irish brogue as she joked to lighten the mood.

"Oooh, I love that accent. Can you do that for me when we make love?"

"Sure," she agreed amiably. "Iíll be the little Irish scullery maid, and you can be the lady of the manor. You can take me into the butlerís pantry and make me do unspeakable acts thatíll have me in the confessional for weeks."

"My, but you have a fertile imagination," Jamie purred as she came over to slip her arms around her lover.

"You bring out my wild side," the low voice rumbled in response. They spent several minutes kissing lightly until Ryan finally asked, "What is that delicious smell?" as her nose began to twitch.

"Iím caramelizing onions," she said as she trotted over to keep an eye on her sauté pan.

"Can I help?" Ryan offered.

"Nope. Just sit there and watch me work, "Jamie ordered. "Would you like some wine?"

"Sure. That would be good."

"The wine cooler is just behind the island. Pick out something for us."

Ryan hopped off her stool and walked around the big island. She noticed as she passed that there were doors on the other side of the island, right under the prep sink. She leaned over and pulled open a door, quite surprised to find that it was a small refrigerator. Next to that door were two drawers, also food chillers, obviously for vegetables. "Pretty cool," she said, almost to herself.

She turned and opened the glass door of the wine cooler, getting down on her haunches to turn the bottles. "Do you have any suggestions?" she asked. "Thereís some chardonnay, some white Bordeaux, some Ge..GeÖ"

"Gewürztraminer?" her partner assisted.

"UhÖyeah, I think so," she said as she pondered the label. "Germanís indecipherable for me," she admitted.

"Yeah," Jamie smirked. "This from a woman who can read Gaelic." Thinking about the wine for a minute, she chose the Gewürztraminer. "I think thatíll go well with the potatoes," she decided.

"Okay by me," Ryan said. "I know as much about wine as I do about brain surgery. No, check that. I know a lot more about brain surgery than I do about wine," she admitted.

Jamie just smiled at her, privately thinking it adorable that Ryan really wasnít very worldly. Finally she asked, "Do you want to do our own cleaning while weíre here? My parents usually arrange for a woman to come in every morning and clean, but I didnít know if you would be comfortable with that."

"I donít think I want someone in here while Iím making you squeal," she said with a twinkle. "I think we can clean up our own mess."

"I thought youíd say that," Jamie said happily. "I like it when I guess right."

Ryan had opened the bottle of perfectly chilled wine and went through the glass doors into the pantry to choose wine glasses. The pantry was a marvel of efficiency. Upper and lower cabinets lined the walls, and two full sized dishwashers bracketed a deep, wide sink. A long gooseneck faucet hung from the wall, obviously so that deep items could be washed with ease. All of the glassware, cutlery and china were kept in this narrow galley. Long, wide drawers held the family sterling in felt-lined safety. There was another small, waist-high refrigerator in here, filled with olives and cocktail onions and other ingredients for mixed drinks. A large commercial icemaker hummed in the corner. Ryan looked inside and saw that it had two separate compartments, one for cubes and one for crushed ice, and she smiled at the thought of indulging her penchant for chewing crushed ice. She finally chose two wine glasses decorated with an elaborately etched "S" and picked up the matching silver ice bucket, placing the bottle inside. Then she filled the remaining space with crushed ice and wrapped a bar towel around the neck of the bottle. She returned to the kitchen to take her place at the island and watch Jamie cook.

"Where do you want to eat?" Jamie asked.

Ryan looked around again. The island was large enough so that at least six people could sit around it and be comfortable. However, there was a more traditional eating area at the far end of the kitchen. Six barrel-style wooden chairs upholstered in deep, warm brown leather surrounded a round table. The table lay right below a wide bay window with a window seat decorated in a bright green print. The other wall hosted a large, deep fireplace stacked with split firewood. This area appealed to Ryan immensely, and she indicated her preference to Jamie.

"Why donít you start a fire?" Jamie asked. "Do you know how?"

"Harrumph!" Ryan muttered. "What kind of scullery maid canít start a decent fire?" she asked in her Irish accent. "My people have been lighting fires with nothing but peat for a thousand years!"

Jamie just laughed at her antics and watched her expertly place some kindling at strategic points between the logs. She stuck her head up inside the hearth to check the flue, satisfying herself that she had opened it properly. She lit one of the giant matches lying near the kindling and watched the fire slowly flicker to life, then stood watching the flames for a few minutes, thoroughly satisfied with her accomplishment.

After a bit, she walked back over to her stool and sat down to watch her partner finish dinner. Jamie was just starting to roughly mash the potatoes. She hadnít skinned the potatoes, and when they were the consistency she wanted, she added some chopped arugula and the caramelized onions. She stirred it all together and spooned them into a serving bowl, adding a handful of the onions to the top of the dish. Ryanís mouth watered as Jamie set the bowl in front of her. "Would you put that on the table, please?" Ryan did her bidding as the smaller woman expertly removed the chicken from the rotisserie. She placed it on a carving platter and handed it to Ryan when she returned.

Jamie then went into the pantry to fetch plates and silverware. She brought everything over to the table as she stopped to compliment Ryan on her fire-lighting prowess. Ryan grinned up at her as she removed the plates from her arms. She quickly set the table as Jamie poured the wine. When everything was set, Jamie carved the chicken, piercing a breast for Ryan and setting it on her plate. She took the other half breast for herself, knowing to take it right away if she wanted it, since it wouldnít last long with her lover at the table. Ryan spooned generous helpings of mashed potatoes on each plate, and when she finished, she grasped Jamieís hand. "Thanks for making such a nice dinner. Itís hard to believe that with all of your other talents youíre such a good cook, too."

"I like to cook for you, Ryan. Itís another way of expressing my love for you." That merited her a kiss, which Ryan tenderly delivered.

They sat up and began to eat, with Ryan reverting to her usual histrionics. Jamie absolutely loved to watch her eat. It was like watching a microcosm of her entire personality. She was thorough, inventive, playful, and sensual all at once. She used all of her senses to their limits, and this caused Jamie to put extra care into both her cooking and the presentation of the meal.

To say that Ryan loved the potatoes prepared in this manner would be a significant understatement. When she had finished her first helping, she spooned another very generous portion onto her plate. Jamie hurriedly grabbed a small extra bit for herself, as she could see where the trend was headed. Ryan was working on her second leg and thigh when she smoothly moved the serving bowl next to her plate. "Saves time," she said with a grin as she began to eat directly from the bowl. When she had thoroughly cleaned the bowl, she eyed the tiny spoonful still resting on Jamieís plate. One raised eyebrow caused Jamie to relent. She scooped it up with her index finger and popped it into Ryanís mouth, receiving a sensual little suck as payment.

"You are such a delight to cook for, Ryan," she said with appreciation as they cleared the table. Ryan was eyeing the one remaining wing as Jamie began to toss the carcass away. "Sweetie, youíll be sick if you eat any more," she cautioned.

"Okay," she agreed glumly.

"Iíll make it up to you by making you a really special treat for dessert," Jamie tempted.

"What?" Ryanís eyes went wide with the thought of dessert.

"Youíre gonna have to wait and see. I couldnít think of eating dessert yet, and youíre not going to get all of this," she threatened menacingly.

"Okay, Iíll wait," she agreed happily. "But you have to sit right there and let me clean up."

Jamie took up her post and watched Ryan methodically clean the entire kitchen. When she was finished, every utensil had been returned to its home, every bowl and plate was clean and every gleaming pot was hanging from the pot rack. They walked back to the dining area and sat down on the window seat. Ryan leaned back against the side wall of the unit with one leg raised so that her foot rested on the cushion. Jamie snuggled up between her legs with her head resting on Ryanís chest. They sipped their wine as they sat in peaceful silence for a long while.

Jamie broke the stillness when she quietly said, "I canít begin to tell you how wonderful this afternoon was, Ryan."

"You did seem rather pleased," Ryan teased. "Tell me how it felt for you."

"Well, the physical sensation was incomparable. Iíve never had more than one orgasm in a day, much less an hour," she said as she turned her head to smile at her lover. "You just seemed to know my body so well. Clearly better than I do," she admitted wryly. "You knew just how to touch me. It almost seemed like I was touching myself, it felt so right. But that element of surprise that you get from someone else made it obvious that it wasnít my hand." She lifted Ryanís left hand and kissed it gently, pausing just a moment as she detected a lingering scent. "Is that me?" she asked in surprise.

Ryan lifted her hand up and sniffed it. "Yep. Nice, isnít it?" she asked seductively.

Jamie blushed deeply as she fumbled for a response. But Ryan intercepted her. "Hey, Sweetie, does that embarrass you?" she asked gently.

"Um...yeah, I guess it does," she admitted. "I guess Iíve never smelled my scent on anyone before."

"Well I absolutely love it," Ryan intoned solemnly. "I almost didnít want to go swimming because I thought it would all get washed off. Itís like Iíve got you with me every moment." She lifted her hand again as she moved her fingers in front of her face. "I must have done this 20 times while you were cooking dinner," she admitted.

"Thatís what you were doing!" Jamie laughed. "I saw you keep closing your eyes and sniffing your fingers. I didnít have a clue what you were doing!" She shyly lifted her own hand and tried the experiment. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not pick up Ryanís scent. "Why doesnít it work with you?" she finally asked.

"You didnít have your fingers in me for as long," she said softly. "But we can rectify that later."

"Oh, donít worry, Tiger. Iím gonna have your scent on me from head to toe."

Now it was Ryanís turn to gulp audibly as Jamie burst into laughter.

"Ryan," she continued thoughtfully after a moment. "The amazing thing about this afternoon was the way I felt inside." She searched for words for a few seconds before she continued. "I just felt like I was home. Finally at home." She turned her head slightly as Ryan found her lips and painted gentle kisses on them.

"Welcome home, Sweetheart," she whispered as a tear escaped down her cheek.

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

After a long while Jamie sat up and offered, "Dessert?"

Ryan just nodded enthusiastically as she scooted off the window seat to join her partner in the kitchen. Jamie began to assemble all of her required components. She pulled out a nifty copper double boiler, various mixing bowls, graduated measures, spoons and a copper teakettle. She poured water in the kettle and set it on the stove to boil. Then she went to the pantry and pulled down white sugar, corn syrup and rum. She looked around the pantry and finally found the critical ingredient: Scharffen Berger unsweetened chocolate. Passing by the refrigerator, she pulled out the sweet butter then set everything on the counter by the stove.

She handed Ryan the block of chocolate and instructed, "Use this heavy knife and shave off some chocolate. I need four ounces." She handed Ryan a precision scale and went back to preparing the rest of the ingredients. When she turned back around, Ryan was just about done, but a sour look clouded her face. "You ate some, didnít you?" she asked sagely.

Ryan wrinkled up her nose as she nodded her head. "Thatís like letting a baby play with a gun," she accused. "You know theyíre gonna pull the trigger."

"Iím sorry, Sweetie. I should have told you it was unsweetened."

"Blaaach," was all that Ryan could get out.

Jamie went through the process of preparing the taste treat, working quickly until it was at the boiling point. Ryan leaned over and inhaled the rich scent, looking like she was going to stick a finger in to taste it. "Thatís boiling hot, Honey," Jamie reminded her.

"Is it ready now?" Ryan asked, looking up with hope-filled eyes.

"No, Baby. We have to let it boil for nine minutes."

"Nine minutes!" Ryan cried in outrage. "I canít wait nine minutes!"

"You're gonna have to, Honey," the stern cook insisted. She picked up Ryanís hand and looked at her watch. "Tell me when itís nine oíclock. And not a minute before."

Realizing that arguing would do no good, Ryan ran hot water in the sink to clean up while they waited. At precisely nine p.m., Jamie pulled some vanilla bean ice cream from the freezer and scooped it into bowls with an ice cream blade. She poured a tiny tablespoon of rum into the fudge and stirred it thoroughly, then spooned the fudge over the ice cream as Ryan watched from inches away. Her playful partner constantly nudged her pouring arm, and she wound up putting more sauce than ice cream in her bowl. They sat down at the counter and dug in. Ryan moaned and groaned and generally made more noise than she had when climaxing. Her face was deep in the bowl, licking every molecule away as Jamie laughed at her. Finally she lifted her head and said seriously, "Do you mean to tell me that making the best hot fudge in the world is that easy?!!!"

"Yep," Jamie replied.

"Is Scharffen Berger a publicly traded company?"

"Iím not sure," Jamie replied. "Why?"

"Buy! Buy! Buy! Cause their sales are gonna skyrocket now that I know about them," she predicted.

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

After Ryan cleaned up the few remaining dishes, they went back to the window seat. This time, Jamie reclined on her side, still nestled up between Ryanís legs. They chatted and kissed and just reveled in the joy of being together.

"Babe," Ryan spoke up after a while. "Iíve been thinking about these earrings," she said contemplatively.

"Are you uncomfortable wearing them, Honey?"

"No, not at all, but I hate to take them from you since they have so much family meaning. Tell you what," she offered. "Iíll make you a deal. Iíll wear one, if youíll wear one," she said as she fastened one perfect diamond in her loverís ear.

"Iíll make you a deal back," Jamie negotiated. "Letís go have another piercing higher on our ear lobes. That way I can still wear another pair of earrings."

"Deal," Ryan said. "But are you sure you want the piercing to be in our ears?" she asked seductively.

"Positive!" Jamie replied firmly.

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

After a few more minutes of slow kissing, they slowly made their way up to the bedroom. "Do you need anything to sleep in?" Jamie asked her partner, after they had each finished in the bath.

"Just your arms," Ryan said as she gave her a shy smile. Jamie happily granted her wish. As she lay on her back with Ryan pressed up against her side, she bent her head to kiss her lover goodnight. "This day surpassed all of my hopes and my dreams, Ryan. Thank you for being so patient and loving with me."

Ryan just gazed up at her fondly. "I love you completely, Jamie." Reaching over she grasped her hand, laying it above her left breast. "I love you with my heart, and with my body." She pulled her head down to place a deep kiss on her lips, "and most of all, with my soul."

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

Continued in Part 6

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