I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 3: Coalescence

By S X Meagher

Disclaimers: See Part 1


 

***Part 7***

When they arrived home, Ryan immediately got into the shower to remove the sand that had hidden itself beneath her clothing. She emerged a few minutes later, hoping to find Jamie in bed, but no such luck. Tugging on a bright yellow nylon tank top and a pair of blue and white print running shorts, Ryan went in search of her partner.

A thorough scan of the house failed to locate her, so the dark-haired detective walked out the back door to search the grounds. She stood outside of the door and scratched her head for a moment, thinking that the grounds were large enough to make her task rather monumental. "Jamie," she called, in a slightly raised voice. Hearing no response, she started to walk around the building. Both outdoor patios were vacant, so she jogged down to the pool house, which also failed to pay off. Trying her voice again, she yelled, "JAMIE!"

That did the trick as she heard a faint, "Up here, Honey."

"UP WHERE?"

"Up here," her elusive partner replied, shedding absolutely no light on the matter. Ryan looked around again, starting at ground level. The house was set back on the lot with a large expanse of lawn that led to the fabulous view of the ocean over a high cliff. The pool house was at a 45-degree angle to the house, fairly close to the cliff. Near the house, almost directly across from the pool house, she noted a possible hiding place. Built into a tall, gnarled cypress was an elegant little tree house. It was unlike any such structure she had ever seen, which didnít surprise her in the least, given that the Evans family was unlike any she had ever known. The house was sturdily built out of wood with real casement windows and a little Dutch door. The roof was shingled in shake and weathered a dull gray; the outside walls were clapboard and painted a complementary dove gray. The properly scaled casement windows were open, and the top half of the door was also propped open.

As Ryan walked under the tree house, she spotted the means of access--small rungs nailed to the tree at about nine inch increments. One had to climb around the circumference of the tree to reach the door, obviously so that a small child could maneuver up the height, but she managed it easily, even with her rather large feet.

She poked her head over the closed bottom door to see her lover, clad in madras plaid cotton boxers and a sky blue T-shirt. "Hey, little girl," Ryan said seductively. "Can I come over and play?"

Jamie regarded her pink face for a moment. "That depends," she answered quietly. "Do you play nice?"

"I havenít had many complaints," she admitted. "But Iím sure that Iíd be happy to let you choose the games we play."

"Okay, come on in," she decided.

Ryan just grinned as she clambered over the closed door. She sat down on the floor, imitating Jamieís posture and looked quizzically at her partner. Jamie didnít seem to be in the mood to explain herself, and it seemed that she was feeling uncomfortable again. Ryan was determined to draw her out, so she commented, "I bet you spent a lot of time up here as a kid."

A small smile lit Jamieís features as she recalled, "Yeah. It was one place that was my own. I could come up here with my dolls and toys or a book, and while away the afternoon."

"You know, itís funny," Ryan said. "Iíd guess that I didnít have an entire afternoon to myselfÖwellÖever. I mean, I guess I could have, once I was in college and the boys were working, but I was usually working or going to class. Being down here has made it clearer to me how differently we were raised." She kept a careful eye out for her partnerís reaction to her next statement. "I think weíre both going to have to make some adjustments."

"Like what?" Jamie asked, looking interested.

"Like having a need for quiet time, or alone time Öthose kinds of things. Iíd guess that you need time alone every day, donít you?"

"Yeah, I guess I do," Jamie said thoughtfully. "Iíve not thought about it much, but I am used to having time to reflect and write a little every day. I havenít been doing that much for the last few months, and I miss it a little bit. What about you?"

"I get my alone time in the morning, when I run. That time is pretty precious for me, you know."

"Iím not sure I knew that," Jamie said. "But it makes sense."

"Yeah, it lets me work out problems and plan my day. Iíve missed it a little in the last couple of weeks."

"I guess we have upset each otherís schedules," Jamie mused. "How do we get back to them?"

"Letís start now," Ryan suggested. "Iím nearly dressed for a run. Let me go on a nice long jog along the water, and you can spend some time up here in your little house."

"You donít think my house is silly, do you?" she asked with an embarrassed laugh.

"Not at all," Ryan insisted. "Any place that allows you to get in touch with your young self is a good place. I do some of my best thinking playing on a playground."

"Now that Iíd like to see," Jamie mused, with a cute grin on her face.

"Well, theyíre hardly any fun since they took out all the jungle gyms. Darned personal injury lawsuits."

"Yeah, well, it was kids like you that caused all of those lawsuits, Buffy. Now get a move on, and come get me when youíre done."

"Will do," Ryan promised, as she leaned forward for a kiss.

"Be careful on the road," Jamie warned. "Itís clear now, but the fog can come in quickly."

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

After Ryan had limbered up, she took off down the driveway, let herself out the small door in the large gate, and began to jog at a slow pace. There was a fairly steady stream of cars on the 17 Mile Drive, but the sound of the traffic was barely noticeable with the pounding of the surf in the background.

If she has some time alone, she might be able to snap out of her mood on her own. Iíll see how she seems when I get back, and if sheís still standoffish Iíll try a more direct approach.

She paid more attention to the pavement than the scenery, but she was aware of passing many beautiful estates as well as some more modest homes. Trashy little million dollar bungalows, she thought with a snicker, as she allowed herself to reflect on the tremendous wealth that Jamieís mother must have. Iím not sure I was prepared for all of this, she thought. I hate to admit it, but I think Jamieís right--weíre gonna have some issues about this. I hope I can be as easygoing about it as her father is. I wonder how heíd feel if he were in my position, though. Iíve got about 25,000 bucks to my name, which is more than I ever thought Iíd have, but Iíll probably be in school for at least three more years. If I do go to grad school, I might have a hard time working enough to be able to pay my own way, and I donít have any idea how weíll balance things so I donít feel like Iím being kept.

She turned a corner and came upon a clear view of the majestic Pacific just as the sun peeked out from a large cloud. My God! she thought, as she skidded to an abrupt halt. No wonder the rich people live here. The dark sea crashed violently against the massive rocks that lined this section of coast. The rugged shore precluded any type of beach, and no one with a lick of sense dared go out onto the rocks. Ironically, these multi-million dollar homes had absolutely no access to the sea, though it was so very close. She took off again, surveying the homes she passed. She admired the way that most of the homes snuggled in amongst the trees, trying to achieve a natural look. The homes were, for the most part, large and rambling, but they really were not overly grand. Even Jamieís home, while as large as any she had seen, was quite tasteful. It was set back far enough from the street, and was covered in enough mature landscaping, that it really did fit in to the more natural theme of the neighborhood.

She had reached the guard station at the end of 17 Mile Drive. Since she had no identification with her, she thought it prudent to turn around rather than exit the compound. Crossing the street and running back up the other side of the drive; she stopped once again to gaze at the fabulous view for a few moments. Sea birds of all sizes and shapes were busily looking for food, their calls and songs just barely audible over the intense thrumming of the waves as they crashed against the cliffs.

She started up again, spending a few minutes saying her usual morning prayers of thanksgiving. Little late for the morning prayers, Ryan, she gently chided herself. She realized with a laugh that she had so much more to be thankful for since Jamie came into her life that her prayers were taking up a lot more time. Small price to pay, she thought happily as she sped along the lovely drive. She thought about her mother and tried to imagine what she would think of Jamie. She was absolutely certain that her mother would love her, but she realistically assumed that there might be a little tension between them. Even though her memories of her mother were few, she had heard enough from her father and the boys to know how fiercely protective the small auburn-haired woman had been of her children. I think it would have been hard for her to let me go, she mused. I canít imagine that mothers donít have mixed feelings when their kids give their hearts to someone. And boy, mine is gone for good, she thought happily. She lifted her hand to touch the earring that Jamie had given her. This was so sweet, she thought. I should have known that she would figure out some way to make our honeymoon even more special. A more practical matter shot through her mind as she mused, Iíd better make sure she has these insured. Even as she considered that thought, she had to admit that the monetary value on the earrings was not the important issue. Just like her motherís wedding band, the sentimental value would be forever lost, no matter how much insurance money was received to pay for their replacements.

As she drew near the house, she debated as to whether she should go further or stop. It had been 50 minutes, and she knew she had only done about seven miles, but she really wanted to go figure out what was going on with Jamie. She let her desires overtake her discipline, deciding that her honeymoon was more important than her fitness. After she punched in the code, the gate swung open and she trotted down the drive, taking in all of the beautiful plants and trees that graced the path. Looking up at the house, she wondered how many bedrooms it held. I hardly got a chance to see much of the place, she mused. Oh well, what we did yesterday was a lot more fulfilling than looking at decorating schemes.

She took a detour into the pool house and used a towel to remove most of the sweat from her body, then jogged over to the tree house. "Anybody home?" she asked.

"Come on up, Love," Jamie called down.

Ryan hung her torso over the half-open door and said, "Do you welcome stinky guests?"

"Iíd welcome you if you were covered inÖwellÖanything," she decided. "You always perk up my day."

"Part of the job description," Ryan assured her as she climbed in. "Friend, lover, confidante, perker-upper."

"You do very well at all of them," Jamie decided.

"Thanks, Babe." Ryan placed her hand on Jamieís thigh, but the small twitch that greeted her touch was not the reaction she was hoping for. She decided to be a little more direct, and see if she could make some progress with her obviously uncomfortable lover.

"You know," Ryan said thoughtfully, "I think I need a confidante today. You in the mood?"

"Of course, Honey, whatís wrong?" Concern colored her features, and Ryan sought to reassure her.

"Itís not a huge thing. I just wanted to talk about yesterday a little bit. Is that okay?"

"SureÖof course it is," Jamie said, looking like it was far from okay. "Tell me whatís on your mind."

Ryan lay flat on her back and placed her feet on the floor, drawing her knees up in the process. She stared at the ceiling of the house, and was briefly distracted when she noticed that there were no cobwebs or other signs of insect activity. God, donít tell me they make the maid come clean this place, too! Mentally shaking her head, she forced herself to focus and began, "I want to talk about how yesterday felt for me."

"Okay," Jamie said, her voice now even quieter.

"IÖI was a little surprised at how powerful my feelings were," Ryan said carefully. "I mean, I knew it would be intense, but I wasnít prepared for how overwhelming the emotions were." She turned her head and made eye contact with her partner. "Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes, I do," Jamie replied, her voice no more than a whisper.

Looking at the ceiling again, Ryan continued, "Iíve had great sexual experiences. None as great as yesterday, of course, but great, nonetheless. The thing is, Iíve never had sex with someone who loves me like you do, and it was pretty trippy."

"Trippy?"

"Iíve never felt thatÖexposed," Ryan decided. "I think thatís the word. I felt like Iíd been stripped naked, emotionally." She turned again and locked eyes with her partner. "I actually feel a little bruised todayÖdoes that make sense?"

The relief that flooded Jamieís face was obvious as she nodded her head vigorously. "Yes, yes, thatís it!" she said excitedly. "I feel raw and exposed today. Like I let you see too much!"

"Yeah," Ryan said, "Thatís a good way to put it. Itís like we each revealed ourselves so much, that itís a little scary to be vulnerable again."

"Thatís it exactly," Jamie agreed. "I feel kinda shy around you."

"Me too," Ryan said, lying just a little. "How do you think we can get over it?"

The smaller woman pondered the question for a moment before coming up with a suggestion. "Maybe we need to pull back a little. You knowÖact like we had been before yesterday."

"Okaaay," Ryan drawled, inwardly cringing, and feeling angry with herself for trying to play psychologist. "Do you still want to sleep together?" Her stomach clenched, hoping that Jamie didnít want to pull back that far.

"Oh, of course! I need to sleep with you."

"Okaaaay." Slightly relieved, Ryan pasted on a smile and rocked a bit, trying to figure out a way into her partnerís mind. "How about kissing? Do you still want to do that?"

A broad smile answered that query. "Always."

Ryan rolled over and got to her hands and knees, crawling to her partner like a puppy. Tilting her head, she placed a light kiss on Jamieís still-smiling lips. "Did that feel okay?"

"Of course. Thatís the level of intimacy Iím used to. You can go a little further if youíd like, though. We werenít that sororal before."

"Good point," Ryan said, as she sat down and scooted next to her partner. "Refresh my memory," she requested, sitting patiently with an impish grin on her face.

Jamie smiled back at her, then did as requested. She leaned in and slid her hand behind Ryanís neck, tickling the damp skin on her tanned neck as she did so. Pulling the grinning face forward a few inches, she placed a few light, but slightly hot, kisses on Ryanís mouth. "Thusly," she declared smugly, sitting up when she finished.

"Ohhh, I remember now," Ryan said slowly. "You have very good powers of recall."

"Mmm-hmm," Jamie smirked, getting the idea that she was being set up, but minding not a whit. "Do you want to try for yourself, or do you still need help?"

Ryan scratched her head and nodded a few times. "Iím not sure I have it yet," she admitted. "Maybe one more try."

"Glad to oblige." Jamie repeated the demonstration, but this time the lesson lasted a bit longer than the previous one, and Ryan was seeing stars when she pulled away.

"Woo," she breathed. "Iím amazed that I didnít remember that."

"Well, you are a little slow," Jamie reminded her. "But you have other attributes that make up for it."

The dangerous right eyebrow twitched saucily, asking for specifics. "Hmm, these are very, very nice." Jamie trailed the tips of her fingers down Ryanís muscled shoulders. "And youíre quite pretty in some lights." She tried hard to hold back a giggle. "Youíre a decent kisser, too," she added as an afterthought.

"Would you like a demonstration?" the deep voice, now filled with desire, asked.

"If you want to," Jamie said, acting as though she could take it or leave it.

"You donít mind a little perspiration, do you?" Ryan asked as she leaned in close.

Jamie filled her lungs as a blissful smile crossed her face. "Itís positively mouth-watering," she replied, meaning every word. Ryanís body glowed with a thin sheen of sweat and, much to her surprise, Jamie found the scent heady in the extreme. The aroma reminded her of freshly turned topsoil, all rich and earthy, and she decided that she was overly fond of it.

Grasping Jamieís face with both of her hands, Ryan delicately nibbled on her lips, teasing every bit of skin until the pink flesh tingled with sensation. Her tongue traced all around the coral-tinted lips, causing Jamieís mouth to slowly open to receive more of the tantalizing caress. Ryan took a deep breath, trying to fill her lungs with her partnerís sweet scent, then she let her tongue explore every bit of flesh that it could reach. In moments, Jamie was hungrily sucking on the deep pink visitor, pulling it into her hot mouth with unbridled lust.

Both women began to breathe heavily as their mouths ground together, and before she knew it, Jamieís hands were tugging at Ryanís tank, trying to remove it from her body while their mouths were still joined. Ryan pulled away woozily and choked out, "Are you sure? This feels pretty intimaÖ"

Her question was cut off as Jamie grabbed the top and yanked hard, tearing it from Ryanís body in one move. The wet sports bra was next, and Ryan let out a yelp as the tight garment was drawn over her breasts, but her cries were effectively silenced when Jamie hurled her body at Ryanís, taking her down onto her back with a thud.

Oh, boy, Ryanís mind raced. Now what do I do? If we have sex now, Iím afraid sheíll be uncomfortable later. But if I tell her to slow down, Iím still serving as a member of the sex police, and I donít want to do that anymore. Shit, she mused. This could have some unpleasant ramifications later, but I think Iíve gotta risk it. Besides, it feels fan-fucking-tastic!

The little dynamo pulled away slightly and sat up just enough to be able to pull her oversized T-shirt from her body. Lowering herself again, she paused just inches above her loverís supine body and started to move, gliding her breasts against Ryanís, reveling in the feel of their sweat-slickened skin sliding sensually against each other.

Ryanís head was tilted back so far that her eyes were gazing vacantly at the wall behind her head, her dark hair splayed attractively against the worn floorboards. "Oh, God," she moaned, her chest rising as she took in a breath. "Feels so goooood."

Jamieís head was resting back against her shoulders, her eyes aimed at the ceiling. She moved slowly, deliberately, and her pace was unwavering. Her nipples were so rigid that they occasionally caught on Ryanís equally firm points, and the resulting tugs made her grind her teeth in pleasure.

Suddenly, she needed to see all of Ryan, so she lowered her body and rolled off her partner. Grasping the print shorts, she tugged them gently off her loverís body and tossed them into the corner. The running shoes and short, thin socks were next; Jamie's own madras shorts soon joined these items. As the shorts came off, Jamie felt the knot in her stomach once again. She took a deep breath and tried to reassure herself, running her hands over Ryanís body while she repeated the calming mantra. This is just you and Ryan, loving each other. Thereís nothing to be scared about. Looking down at her partner, Jamie saw nothing but love and support and desire reflected back in those deep blue eyes, and the anxiety began to lessen. You can do this, Jamie. Touch her like you like to be touched. Watch her reactions. Her body is telling you everything you need to know. As her hands continued to move, Ryanís actions gave credence to her thoughts.

Her loving gaze was unwavering, and Jamie felt like she could peer right into her partnerís soul. The large, warm hands covered hers, silently supporting, but never directing. As Jamieís hands began to roam once again, Ryanís eyes fluttered closed, seemingly involuntarily. The dark beauty struggled to open them again, and Jamie realized that she was much more confident when their eyes were locked upon one another. Her touch became bolder, more assured, and she felt her excitement begin to build once again.

Climbing astride her partner, Jamieís soft blonde curls left a slick trail down Ryanís belly as she thrust her hips gently against the softly moaning woman. Sliding farther down, she captured a firm pink nipple, raking her teeth over the tender flesh as Ryan grasped her head with both hands in an automatic gesture. The dark-haired woman didnít guide the warm mouth that hovered over her; instead she offered the gesture to encourage Jamie, in essence showing her that her efforts were being very well received.

The support that she felt from Ryan allowed the smaller woman to assert control, and in no time she seemed comfortable once again. Her newfound confidence allowed her to experiment. She switched back and forth between the nipples, driving Ryan nearly mad with the sensation coursing through her breasts. The dark woman felt every sharp nip shoot like a laser right between her legs, her thighs compressing rhythmically to enhance the feeling.

Ryanís head was lolling on the floor, her moans and whimpers driving Jamie to increase the ferocity of her attack. She drew each breast into her mouth, pulling on the tender flesh with firm suction.

Ryan could not stand much more teasing. Her moans slowly became words that caused Jamieís heart to race in response. "Touch me," she gasped out. "Please, Baby, please touch me!"

Taking pity on the moaning woman, Jamie moved her hand between Ryanís legs and gasped as her hand nearly slid off the drenched flesh. "So hot," she breathed right into Ryanís ear. "So wet."

A shiver that ran from the back of Ryan's head all the way to her toes accompanied a tiny head nod. Her voice was weak and wavered a bit, but she managed to gasp out, "Pleeeease."

Felling a stab of uncertainly, Jamie sought her loverís assistance. "Show me, Sweetheart. Show me how you like to be touched."

Ryanís hand flew between her legs and slid into her own wetness just as Jamieís had. Their hands worked together, teasing the soft skin simultaneously. In a matter of minutes, Jamie could feel her partner getting close as her breathing started to become labored, and before she knew it, Ryan was crying out loudly, startling the birds that had been peacefully nibbling from the birdfeeder attached to the side of the tree house. With the fluttering of the birdsí wings in the background, Ryanís spasms began to still, until she was able to regain control of her body.

"You frightened the wildlife." Jamie giggled as Ryan nestled cozily in her arms.

"Youíve turned me into a noisy comer," she drawled lazily as her body tried to calm itself.

"Weíll just have to make sure the childrenís bedrooms arenít too close to ours," she decided. "I donít want them to think Iím hurting you."

"Thatís sweet to think about." Ryan sighed as she pondered the future. "Maybe we can tell them that we lift weights in the bedroom."

"Well, weíd better have a lot of iron in there with the grunts you make, Buffy."

"Oh, and youíre just the demure little thing, arenít you?" Ryan teased, as she rolled onto her side and supported her head with her braced hand.

"UmÖI donít know," Jamie replied, with a tiny flush creeping up her cheeks.

Trying to take her mind off her embarrassment, Ryan jumped right back into the fray. "Letís find out," she growled.

Without hesitation, Ryan got to her knees and, grabbing Jamie around the hips, easily lifted her up so that her legs wrapped around Ryanís waist. She softly placed her on her back with her legs still tightly grasping Ryan. Jamieís open lust and obvious need propelled Ryan to be more forceful and decisive than she had been so far in their lovemaking while still remaining mindful of Jamieís earlier unease. It dawned on Ryan, as she covered her partnerís small form with her still-damp body, that Jamie didnít seem reluctant to be sexual. It actually seemed that it was the intimacy that had frightened her. This thought allowed Ryan to unleash some of her control and show her partner just a glimpse of her lust.

She glided over her slowly, hissing out a pleasured "yessss" as she closed her eyes tightly to soak up the sensation. The layer of sweat provided slick lubrication allowing their bodies to slide smoothly against one another. Ryanís mouth was locked onto Jamieís, her tongue probing the sweet cavity in a slow, thorough manner.

Ryan felt her desire as a pulsing need deep in her belly. Without thought, she gathered her lover up in her arms, unable to resist the need to hold her tightly. Her body needed sensation, and as a low growl sprang from her chest, her partner held on even tighter and tried to toss Ryan onto her back. Ryanís innate need for control reasserted itself, and the two sweating bodies began to roll over and over again, fighting for dominance. Tumbling across the floor, they clung to each other with a passion-fueled intensity.

As their bodies crashed loudly into the wall, Jamie wound up on top. Taking a deep breath, Ryan calmed her dominant side and allowed her partner to test her own assertiveness. Gazing up at the flushed face that stared at her with a mixture of lust and devotion, Ryanís hands roved all over her lithe body, teasing, taunting, gripping, grasping, pinching and pulling. She opened her hands and rubbed her palms over Jamieís firm breasts, increasing the pressure when the small woman urged her on with small thrusts towards her. She closed her fingers over each breast, grinding them rather roughly against her body. Jamie reacted strongly, thrusting into her with her hips, tossing her head from side to side. She arched her back and pushed strongly against Ryanís hands, demanding more.

Ryan slid her arms around her partnerís waist as she sat up. Looking deep into her eyes, she slowly tilted her head and began another tender assault on Jamieís desire-swollen lips. Ryan tried to convey every one of her dueling emotions with her lips and tongue. The need to toss her partner onto her back and take her was pulsing through her body, but she resisted the urge.

Without a word being spoken, Jamie seemed to sense the warring impulses thrumming in her loverís body. With a gentle, inviting smile, she lowered her body to the floor and held her arms out in invitation.

With a smile bright enough to light the tree house, Ryan dropped down to meet her partnerís slightly open mouth. Her desire began to spiral out of control again, and she rolled onto her side, trying to force her mind to work. Deciding that she could focus better without the constant temptation of Jamieís luscious lips, she slowly turned her onto her belly. Grasping her around the waist, she pulled her up so that she was on her hands and knees. Ryan imitated her position, placing herself above, but slightly to the left of her partner, with her right knee between Jamieís. Her longer arms and legs allowed her to rub slowly over her loverís sensitive back, and Jamie gasped at the sensation of the hard nipples trailing smoothly up and down her skin. She twitched her hips seductively, trying to increase the sensation of the soft, crisp curls rubbing up against her ass.

When it became too difficult to breathe, Ryan lifted off of her and sat back on her haunches, sucking in a lungful of the slightly humid air.

Jamieís head had dropped and now hung down towards the floor, her damp hair tossed forward, framing her face like a golden halo. Her eyes were tightly closed, and she was also having a difficult time getting control of her breathing. As Ryan watched her flushed chest deeply expand and contract, she felt another jolt of sensation shoot through her groin, and she had to struggle to control her aggression.

She began to kiss and lick every inch of skin, up and down her back and sides. Jamie was moaning continuously as Ryan slathered her with tender nibbles and warm wet kisses. Her arms finally gave out as she dropped down onto her forearms, her head hanging down loosely, small, soft moans tumbling from her mouth.

A delighted smile crossed Ryanís face as she paused for a moment to gaze at the overpoweringly erotic vision that her partner presented. Her mouth began to water at the thought of finally tasting the gorgeous creature that was so temptingly displayed before her. Ryan climbed between her legs and dropped her head as she leaned in to kiss the glistening flesh for the first time, but as her lips brushed the first dark blonde curl, Jamie moaned a short "NO" before falling limply to the floor. Ryan immediately dropped down beside her and took her into her arms, running her hand through the damp blonde hair in a reassuring gesture. "Itís okay, Baby, itís okay," she soothed, unsure of what had caused the reaction.

Jamie shook her head a few times, gasping with arousal as she said, "Itís too much right now. Just a little too much."

"My touch?" Ryan asked, confused and still a bit stunned.

"No." Jamie shook her head slowly, trying to explain herself. "That touch. That touch was too much."

Relief flooded Ryanís body as she sought to calm her partner. "Thatís fine, Love. No big deal. Weíll just do what feels good to you right now." Sliding her hand down the slick body, Ryan slipped the tips of her fingers between Jamieís overheated lips and started to stroke her with a very tender touch. "Howís that?" she soothed. "Feel good?"

A rapidly nodding head reassured Ryan that her partner was still receptive to her touch, and the little grunts of pleasure that followed enhanced that impression. Jamieís legs spread wider as the touch increased in speed, and within a few moments she cried out loudly, "Oh God, oh Ryan, ooooh, donít stop, donít stop, YES! Right there, Baby, Yes, Yes, YES!" One final gasp of air, and the small woman collapsed in a heap, panting roughly. Jamieís arms were raised up over her head, and her legs were splayed apart as she continued to gasp. Ryan leaned over her and just barely heard her whisper, "Hold me."

She gladly complied, lying down next to her and wrapping her arms around the limp body. Ryan fidgeted for a moment against the hard wooden floor until she could position Jamieís head onto her outstretched arm. She held the still panting woman to her tightly, until Jamie pulled away to roll over onto her back. She stared up at Ryan with largely unfocused eyes. "My God, what did you do to me?" she moaned.

Ryan beamed down at her, gazing fondly at the look of total, spent satisfaction that graced her face. "I just loved you," she said simply.

"Then Iíve clearly never been loved before," she said with a heavy sigh.

"Youíre going to be loved an awful lot, Sweetheart," she cooed. "Do you think youíre up to it?"

"Iím more than willing to try," she said gamely, as she gave her a bright but weary smile. Ryan continued to trace small patterns on her skin as they lay together in the afterglow. Jamie would occasionally turn to gaze at her or rise up to kiss her lightly.

"I love the way you respond to my touch," Ryan purred.

"Really?" she asked tentatively, seeking the reassurance that Ryan was happy to provide.

Ryan leaned over to rub her whole face against Jamieís neck, then slowly intoned, "I absolutely, positively, unequivocally love it."

Ryan was beaming such a happy smile that Jamie couldnít help but join her. "When I look into your eyes, I see such love and acceptanceÖ Itís wonderful, Baby. Just wonderful."

Ryan wrapped her arms around her partner and nuzzled her head into the crook of her neck. "Iíve been pleased beyond measure, Honey. I love you so much that when you touch me it feels like an electric shock! Iíve never experienced the kind of pleasure that Iíve felt so far from making love with you. And itís only going to get better," she promised with a big smile.

Jamie beamed a smile that equaled that of her partner in intensity. "Iím so happy that Iíve pleased you so far. I was worried that youíd be so experienced that I would just seem inept compared with your other lovers."

"You couldnít be more ept," Ryan teased, as she gave her a little kiss.

Jamie tossed her arms around her loverís neck and gave her an enthusiastic squeeze. "Will you always be this sweet and thoughtful?"

"No, of course not," Ryan laughed. "I was just trying to get you hooked on me. Now that Iíve got you, my real personality can come out."

Rolling onto her side, Jamie held her head up on one hand while the other slowly trailed over Ryanís face. She spent a moment staring intently at the strong features, while she tried to imagine what her partnerís "real" personality might consist of. Unable to determine where Ryan was going with her tease, she finally gave in. "SoÖtell me what your real personality is," she asked with a fond smile.

Ryan appeared to give the matter some thoughtful consideration. She pursed her lips and mused, "Oh, I expect Iíll come home late most nightsÖprobably drunk."

"Oh, you drink to excess?" Jamie asked, tilting her head in surprise.

"Oh yeah," Ryan agreed with a straight face. "Iím rarely sober. I figure Iíll get back into the habit of hanging out with my friends at various strip clubs. I wonít want to take you, of course, because youíll get in the way of the lap dances I like to get."

"Why would I get in the way?" Jamie demanded, getting into the game.

Ryan gazed at her for a moment with a thoughtful look. "You just seem like the jealous type," she decided. "I canít have you cramping my style."

"OhÖokay," she agreed. "Go on, Love, this is fascinating."

"Well, if I donít get lucky at one of the clubs or the bars we go to afterwards, Iíll stumble into the bedroom around three in the morning and wake you up with a rough shove and say, ĎDo me right, woman!í"

Jamie was laughing so hard at this inconceivable image, that Ryan couldnít maintain her poker face for long. "Okay, okay," she admitted, joining her partner in a hearty laugh. "Thatís not exactly how Iíll be."

"Tell me how youíll really be," the smaller woman begged. "I want to know what Iíve gotten myself into here." Jamie was clearly enjoying the game, so Ryan decided to keep it going.

"Okay," Ryan said. "Itíll be more like this. Youíll come home from school, and Iíll be in the kitchen preparing dinner. Iíll have the laundry all finished, and the house will be spotless, as usual. Iíll pour you a glass of wine the second you come in the door. After an artfully prepared dinner, Iíll make sure youíre comfortable, then Iíll clean the kitchen and go get ready for bed. When you come up, Iíll be clean and naked and ready for you, hoping that youíll want me. Of course, Iíll never ask for you to touch me or make any demands on you. Iíll just hope that you can find it in your heart to want me." Trusting, hopeful blue eyes blinked innocently at Jamie, and she couldnít resist the urge to grab her partnerís nose and give it a tweak.

"Given a choice between the two," the smirking blonde intoned, "I think Iíd prefer the first scenario. You would lose most of your considerable allure if you became my little lap dog."

"Hmmm," Ryan said, considering the alternatives. "Maybe we should come up with a compromise."

"Okay," Jamie said immediately. "Howís this? We get drunk together, and then I give you a lap dance. We order carry-out food and leave the kitchen dirty, go upstairs and make wild monkey-love until dawn."

"Iím not sure I know what monkey-love is, but Iím more than willing to learn," Ryan grinned. "I think your idea is fantastic, Ms. Evans. Youíre obviously the brains of this partnership."

"Thatís only fair, since youíre the brawn," the impish blonde replied. "Now letís go clean up, Tough-Stuff. Iím a little hungry, and if Iím hungry, you must be starving!"

"You know me too well," the darker woman replied. "And thatís just how I like it."

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

After their showers, they decided to have a cookout on the patio since the day was so nice. Ryan agreed to handle the grilling duties, while Jamie took care of the inside preparation.

"Do you like eggplant, squash, carrots or radicchio?" Jamie asked as she surveyed the contents of the refrigerator.

"Yep."

"Which would you like tonight?" the smaller woman clarified, as she closed the door.

"All of them, actually," Ryan decided. "Iím a little low on my vegetable intake today. Letís split a steak and cook all of the veggies on the grill."

"Hmm, split a steak, huh?" was the doubtful reply. "Do you mean Ďsplití like--each get half, or Ďsplití like--you get it all?"

"Half," Ryan agreed. "Well...maybe a little less than half. But I donít like to eat too much red meat."

"Okay," Jamie said warily, "but Iím gonna prepare all of the vegetables that we have. I need some food, too."

"Thatís my girl." Ryan beamed as she went outside to start the fire.

They hadnít spent any time on this particular patio, but Ryan had noticed it when she was searching for her partner earlier in the day. It opened off of the dining room and was obviously designed so that grilled food could be served quickly.

The large but cozy space was designed for both cooking and entertaining, so it had been built with a six-foot-tall dry-stacked stone wall to protect the inhabitants from the wind. Wrought iron flowerpot holders were spaced frequently along the wall, and each was filled with a brilliant fuchsia or other tropical plant.

The ground was covered in a soft, buff-colored flagstone, the spaces between the stones planted with curly thyme that emitted a nice scent when walked on. In the far corner of the area stood a gleaming stainless steel grill, just waiting for action. Ryan spent a moment figuring out how to turn on the flame before she finally got it going. There were separate gas burners on the far side that would allow for the cooking of an entire meal, and she wondered how often the Evanses used the massive contraption. Boy, at our house we could throw the oven away if we had one of these, she mused. Noticing a refrigerator tucked under the granite counter that flanked the grill, she opened it to find several kinds of beer and wine and mixers for cocktails. Snagging a Samuel Adams Summer Brew, she sat down on one of the generous spring chairs and put her feet up on the handy ottoman.

"Donít you look like you belong here?" Jamie joked, when she emerged with a big platter filled with cleaned and cut-up vegetables.

"Do I really?" Ryan asked, a little surprised that she would give that impression.

"Yeah, you do." There was a note of hesitation in the smaller womanís voice as she added, "That doesnít bother you, does it?"

"Bother me? No, it doesnít bother me, but I am a little surprised," she admitted. "I donít feel like I belong, and I would think that would show through."

Jamie set the tray on the counter and went to the refrigerator for a beer for herself. She handed the bottle to Ryan since her partner had a much easier time with bottle caps than she did. Pulling a matching spring chair over to face her lover, Jamie sat down and kicked off her sandals, placing her feet on Ryanís lap. "Tell me about that, Hon. Does it bother you to be here?"

"No, no, not at all," Ryan insisted. "Itís just not what Iím used toÖin the extreme," she chuckled. "I have spent some time thinking about what it must be like to take all of this for granted, and I find that I have a hard time doing so."

"You know," Jamie mused, "this is the first time youíre seen me in my native habitat. Does it change the way you feel about me?"

Ryan gave that question the consideration that it deserved, spending several minutes thinking about it. Finally she looked at Jamie and said, "No, of course it doesnít change how I feel about you, but it is odd for me. I mean, I know that you donít judge people by their net worth, but I wonder if you ever think Iím a culchie."

"Culchie?" Jamie asked.

Ryan chuckled a bit as she explained, "One of my grannyís terms. Thatís what she calls the people who live in the hills. Itís like a country bumpkin."

"Ryan!" Jamie cried, reaching out to touch her leg, "How can you even ask that? I feel inferior to you in every way except money! My God, I feel so incredibly lucky that youíve chosen me to spend your life withÖI canít imagine feeling that I was better than you because of money!"

Now Ryan blushed a little, having been caught in an insecure moment. "Sorry, Love. Iím just a little touchy about the subject. Letís get dinner started, okay?"

She was halfway out of her chair when Jamie placed a restraining hand on her leg. "Honey, waitÖplease." Ryan did so and looked at her attentively. "I think we need to talk about this."

"Canít it wait, Babe?" Ryan begged, wishing to forestall the discussion.

"I guess it can wait, but itís going to come up again and again, Honey. We need to set some ground rules."

It was obvious that Ryan did not want to have this discussion--now or later--but Jamie also realized that forcing her to talk when she didnít want to wasnít the solution either. She was about to try a different tactic when Ryan said, "I want to get dinner started, Honey. This issue will still be here after we eat."

Knowing that it was wise to back off, Jamie got up and took Ryanís hand, leading her over to the grill. "Okay, Hon. Weíll talk about it later. Have you grilled veggies before?"

"Nope. Just corn and baked potatoes, Iíve never done anything this delicate before," Ryan admitted, holding up a baby zucchini with the blossom still attached.

"Iíd suggest you start with the eggplant," Jamie instructed. The smaller woman had taken two eggplant and cut them in half, then cut a shallow crosshatch pattern on the creamy flesh. She liberally coated them with olive oil and coarse kosher salt, and now they lay on the platter, gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight.

"What do I do with them?" Ryan asked suspiciously, poking her finger at each of the vegetables in turn.

"Well, we have this vegetable insert that you put over the grill, like this," she instructed, placing the implement into the slot designed for it. "Then you put them flesh side down and wait until they begin to get soft. Then turn them, and let the skin side cook for a while. Put them face down again, until theyíre nice and soft, and youíre done. Theyíll take about three times longer than the other veggies, so have at it."

"Okay, but youíd better stay here and supervise. I might need assistance."

"No place Iíd rather be," Jamie happily agreed, as she pulled up a stool and perched right on Ryanís left side. "Need another beer, Hon?" she asked, when she noticed Ryanís empty bottle.

"A bird canít fly with one wing," was her partnerís glib reply. Since the comment was made in Ryanís Irish accent, Jamie knew that the game was for her to decipher the phrase and act accordingly.

"I get it!" she laughed, reaching into the refrigerator for a second beer. "A bird needs two wings to fly, and you need more than one drink to do the same." She was quite pleased with her ability to figure out Ryanís little phrases, and her pleasure showed brightly on her smiling face.

"Brilliant!" Ryan smiled in return and gave her a kiss for good measure.

As the eggplant cooked, Ryan stood behind Jamie, her chin resting on the smaller womanís shoulder. "Know what I like?" she asked softly.

The blonde head shook gently. "No, what?"

"I like how great it feels to touch you all the time. I mean, Iíve touched lots of women intimately, but Iíve never been around anyone, except Caitlin of course, that I wanted to have my hands on all of the time. Itís really quite addictive."

"For me, too," Jamie agreed. "Oh, I touched Jack a lot, but most of his touches felt sexual. Yours feel warm and soft and make me feel connected to you. I absolutely love it."

"How do you feel when my touch does feel sexual, like this afternoon?" Ryan said, getting to the point.

Jamie furrowed her brow just a bit as she considered the question. "It felt luscious," she decided, speaking the word just above a whisper. "I loved it," she added confidently.

Ryan walked around to stand in front of her, checking the eggplant as she did so. "Tell me why you loved it," she asked, lacing her hands behind Jamieís neck.

"Promise not to laugh?" Jamie asked, a hint of hesitation in her voice.

"Promise," Ryan declared.

"OkayÖI loved it because I felt in charge for a change. I only felt that way once or twice with Jack. Normally I felt like the passive one, just taking what he had to give and hoping for the best. But today, I felt likeÖan adult. Yeah, thatís it! I felt like an adult."

She had the most satisfied grin on her face that Ryan had ever seen, and her own grin quickly matched that of her partner. "Iím glad," Ryan said softly, wrapping the smaller woman in her arms. They stood that way for a few minutes, both enjoying the closeness. "This is really different for me," Ryan said. "I was usually the more active, controlling one when I slept with other women. It was nice to let you share in the decision making today."

"That makes sense," Jamie said, nodding her head in agreement. "I guess I always assumed youíd be the more dominant one, but Iím not sure youíve told me that in so many words."

"I think Iíve mentioned that," Ryan said, as she turned to flip the eggplant. "But Iím not sure, since Iíve told you so many things about myself. "

"You said it felt nice for you today. Tell me about that." Jamie was right next to her partner, and she unconsciously reached up to brush her bangs from her eyes. Ryan looked a little unsure of herself, but she did her best to explain her feelings. "Ummm, you might not be able to understand this, but people expect you to behave in a certain way when youíre physically imposing. Most of the women Iíve been with have been smaller than I am, and they always seemed to expect me to be in charge. That fits my personalityóat least most of the timeóso it wasnít generally a problem. Once in a while, though, I didnít want to be in charge, but I was still expected to be. That gets old after a while. To be honest, thatís one of the things I liked about being with Ally. She was always in charge. It was a nice break for me."

"Hmm, and you were bigger than she was?"

Ryan cocked her head for just a moment, her eyes widening as she thought about the question. She finally shook her head and revealed, "NoÖno I wasnít. She was the only woman Iíve been with who was bigger and stronger than I am. Jesus! I treated her just like people treat me! I just assumed that she would be in control!"

"Maybe thatís what she wanted," Jamie suggested gently. "You must have meshed if you saw each other for five years."

Ryan was shaking her head, her lips pursed. "I wish we would have talked about it. Maybe she didnít want that all the time."

"Well, weíre talking about it now, Hon, and Iím very glad that we are."

"Really?" Ryan asked, with a grin curling up the corners of her mouth.

"ReallyÖpartner."

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

By the time dinner was finished and the grill cleaned, it was after nine oíclock. They were both too tired to muster the energy to do much, so they decided to go to bed early.

"Do you think this is how most people spend their honeymoon?" They were climbing the stairs together, hand in hand, and Jamieís head rested companionably against her partnerís arm.

"Most? That I donít know," Ryan said. " Iíd guess that most people just relax and try to get over the stress of their weddings."

Jamie laughed at this guess and agreed that it was probably true. "Well, we didnít have that stress, but I bet most people didnít ride a bike 560 miles right before their wedding."

"Good point. Itís going to take a while to feel rested."

"Weíll just have to spend more time in bed," the smaller woman beamed.

"You have the best ideas," Ryan decided, bending to place a kiss on the top of Jamieís head.

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

When Ryan emerged from the bathroom, Jamie was already in bed, wearing one of Ryanís T-shirts. "A little overdressed, arenít you?" she asked as she hopped into bed.

"Iím used to wearing clothes. Even with you keeping me warm, I like to have my shoulders covered. You donít mind, do you?"

"Whatever you like, Babe," Ryan assured her. "As long as you donít mind me taking it off you regularly."

Jamie giggled at the thought. "I look forward to being undressed by your talented hands for many nights to come."

"The pleasure is all mine," Ryan responded. As they snuggled together to get comfortable, Ryan snuck her hand under the shirt and placed it gently on Jamieís hip.

"You always touch me there as we fall asleep," the smaller woman said through a yawn.

"Itís one of my favorite spots," Ryan mumbled into her ear. "The curve of your hip feels very womanly to me. And you know how I feel about women," she chuckled lazily.

"Iím beginning to understand," Jamie said softly. "And Iím beginning to share the passion."

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

Continued in Part 8

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