I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 4: Disclosures
by S X Meagher
See Part 1
By the time they reached the house, it was nearly ten o'clock. During their honeymoon, they had decided that it made sense for Jamie to take some classes during Ryan's work hours. That would allow her to take a lighter load during her senior year, which would allow her to try out for the golf team if she decided to pursue that goal. The classes she wanted were not terribly popular, but she wanted to make sure she got enrolled, so she decided that she needed to get going. If she was successful, she would be at class from one to three, then she had an hour to kill until her four o'clock therapist appointment. "I hate to leave you here all alone," she said sadly.
"I'll be fine," Ryan reassured her. "I'll just snoop around for a while and then head over to the gym. I'm scheduled from one to four."
"You don't have to snoop, Ryan. Everything I have is yours. I hope you know that."
"I'm just teasing, Honey. I've never been here alone, so I'll spend some time trying to feel at home. Where should I put my clothes?"
"I thought you would take Cassie's room. There's a big closet in there and some built in drawers for your folded clothes."
"I get my own room?" she asked with a quizzical grin.
"Sure. I want you to have a place that's yours alone. We've got the room, so why not use it? There are two medicine cabinets in the bath. I use the one on the right, so you get the one on the left. Okay?"
"Sounds great. I'll get my stuff squared away and head on over to the gym. I'll have my pager on, so page me if you need anything. I'll expect you home at about 5:30. Do you want me to have dinner ready?"
"Let's get carryout and drink our champagne. We need to get this house christened, too, ya know."
"I anxiously await your return," Ryan replied as she bent to kiss her tenderly.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Nice room, Ryan mused as she placed her bag on the queen-sized bed in her new room. She had never been in Cassie's old room, and she smiled a little as she considered the chain of events that led her here. It would frost old Cassie's ass to know that I took over her room. I have to make sure she finds out, she thought with uncharacteristic vengefulness. I wonder if I should have Father Pender come over and do an exorcism before I put my stuff in here?
The room was located on the other side of the shared bath, and overlooked the driveway, rather than sharing Jamie's view of the back yard. There were windows on only one wall, and Ryan guessed that the room would not get the nice cross-breeze that Jamie's room was afforded. But I bet this room is warmer in the winter. Maybe we'll have to move over here on really chilly nights.
It didn't take long to organize the little clothing she had been able to bring, and when she was finished Ryan started poking around the big house, trying to help herself begin to feel at home. She spent a few minutes looking at the items neatly organized in the bathroom cabinet. Hmmm I've never used any of these products but Jamie always smells great so it shouldn't be a problem to share them until I bring my usual stuff over. She removed some of the items and looked at them more carefully. Where does she get this stuff? I've never seen deodorant with the label in French. Upon closer inspection, Ryan realized that she had never heard of any of the manufacturers of Jamie's personal care products. I have a sneaking suspicion that my sweetie doesn't just go to Costco and buy whatever is the cheapest, she laughed wryly, thinking of the large discount store where the O'Flahertys shopped.
Heading into Jamie's room, she paused to take in the compulsively neat space. Every book was lined up one inch from the edge of the bookcase; every knick-knack was held down with a small dab of earthquake putty; the computer, printer and scanner were arranged on the desk to provide maximum accessibility. We'll get along just fine, Ryan mused confidently. She snuck a look at the wicker laundry hamper, relieved that it was completely empty. Gotta love a girl that does her laundry before she goes on a trip.
A good-sized television and VCR were located on a shelf in the built-in bookcase. Noticing that neither device was plugged in gave Ryan another cause for enthusiasm. Thank you, God, for not making her a TV addict! Surveying the twin towers of CDs next to the ultra-elegant Bang and Olufson stereo, she amended her praise, You could have made her have better taste in music, God, but I'll forgive you for one little error in an otherwise perfect package. At least she has a lot of classical selections. I don't know much about classical music, but I'm sure I'd like it a lot better than the rest of this stuff!
She was halfway down the stairs when the rear doorbell rang. Although she sped up, by the time she reached the door a delivery van was already pulling out of the drive. A double deadbolt was installed on the sturdy door, and it required the use of a key to open it from either side. That's a good idea for preventing burglaries, but a bad idea for fires or earthquakes, the firefighter's daughter mused. With only two exits on this floor you could be stuck in here if your keys were upstairs. Ahh, she amended, spotting a key hanging from a hook just far enough away so that a burglar could not break the window and reach it. My princess already thought of that little detail. Slipping the key into the lock, as she swung the door open, a bag of groceries practically fell into the house. What the ?
Stooping to pick up a pair of bags, she hefted them into the kitchen and placed them on the counter, repeating the action until all six bags were retrieved. Each bag was clearly labeled Web Van.Com. She buys groceries on the Internet??? Oh no, she decided immediately. That's got to be more expensive than going to the store.
She set about getting all of the purchases organized, with the job taking quite a while, since she had to learn where everything was kept. But when she was done, she felt much more familiar with everything, and she was happy that she'd had a little time alone to snoop.
By this time it was nearly noon, so she decided to get dressed for work and take off. Why didn't I bring my motorcycle? It's a good two and a half miles to the gym. Now I've got to run to get there and then I'll be sweaty all afternoon. Damn, I don't even have my Roller Blades.
Grumbling about her lack of foresight, she headed up to her room to change into running clothes. Stripping quickly, she was in the middle of hanging up her jeans and white shirt when she heard Jamie fumbling with the lock on the front door. Darn, she must have been too late registering to get the classes she wanted. She padded out into the hall, stark naked, calling out, Miss me?
AAAAHHHH!!!! cried the shocked young Latina who stared up at her like she'd been electrocuted.
AAAAHHHH!!! Ryan cried simultaneously, slapping her knees together as she tried to cover her nakedness with her arms. Who are you???
Quien es usted? the young woman cried.
That doesn't sound like Gaelic, Ryan muttered to herself as she considered the only foreign language in which she was fluent. Why couldn't I take Spanish like all the other kids in high school? Noooo, I had to take Latin. After a beat she asked herself, Why are you standing here having this discussion with yourself, while a stunned woman is staring at your naked body? She dashed into her room, struggling into some Lycra shorts and a sports bra, adding her Women Power polo shirt. Grabbing socks and her shoes, she ran back to the hallway, surprised to see the woman standing in the exact same spot, staring up at her.
She approached the poor woman carefully, almost amused at the wide eyes that still looked a bit glassy. Extending her hand, she pointed at herself and said, Ryan.
The woman nodded, looking more composed as she parroted, Maria Los, and accepted Ryan's handshake.
Do you speak English?
Not very good, she haltingly replied, looking regretful. Habla usted Espanol? the young woman asked.
No, Ryan replied, offering the same regretful look. Trying to communicate without words, Ryan mimicked putting the key in the door. Do you have a key? she asked needlessly, since that was the only way the woman could have gained entrance.
Regrettably, Ryan was no Marcel Marceau, and Maria Los had no idea of what she was attempting to ask. Lo siento, pero no entiendo, she offered. Vengo a limpiar la casa, she said, lifting her bucket filled with cleaning cloths. Es usted la amiga de la Señorita Jamie? The young woman wasn't sure if this tall stranger was another roommate or just a visitor. It was clear that Cassie, the blonde devil, had departed the house some weeks earlier, and she sincerely hoped that this woman bore no resemblance to her predecessor if she was a roommate.
Ryan nodded, understanding that the woman was there to clean, recognizing Jamie's name as well as the word friend. Sí, Jamie's amiga, she agreed, figuring the full extent of their relationship was not something Maria Los needed to hear.
Now both women nodded and offered smiles, their scintillating conversation at a standstill. Ryan was just about to say adios when she heard her partner's tread on the stairs. Jamie you got some s'plainin to do, she mused to herself in her admittedly awful Spanish accent.
The grinning blonde burst through the door, smiling sheepishly at Ryan and offering a quick, Sorry, as she greeted Maria Los affectionately. The young woman began to babble, Lo siento mucho, Señorita Jamie. No sabia que tenia visita. Entre a la casa sin tocar y sorprendi a su amiga." I'm very sorry, Miss Jamie. I didn't know you had a visitor. I entered the house without knocking and I surprised your friend.
The young woman was blushing furiously, and Jamie spared a glance at her partner who was rocking back and forth on her heels, whistling a little tune as she rolled her big blue eyes at the ceiling.
Esta perfectamente bien, Maria Los. Esta usted bien? Se ve molesta." That's perfectly all right, Maria Los. Are you all right? You seem upset.
"No, no," she said quickly. "Es que su amiga
estaba preparada para visita." It's just that your friend she wasn't prepared for a visitor.
Her blush deepened, and Jamie's mind reeled at the possible scenarios that flashed through her mind. Please, God, let it not be something that will scar Maria Los for life! Que es, Maria?" Jamie asked gently, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Que paso?"
Ryan was tired of being left out of the conversation, and she could tell just by their body language that they were discussing her, so she decided to cut to the chase. I was naked, Jamie. I heard the key in the door, I thought it was you, and I came out into the hall completely naked. Now her blush rivaled Maria Los', and Jamie bit back a laugh.
Completamente desnuda? she repeated in Spanish.
Maria Los nodded.
Bueno! Eso le dara algo para decirles a las muchachas cuando llegue a
la casa en la noche! Well! That will give you something to tell the girls when you get home tonight! Jamie laughed easily, and her relaxed posture allowed Maria Los to shed some of her anxiety.
The young woman laughed nervously saying, Nunca he visto a una mujer
como ella es una actriz?" I have never seen a woman who looks like that is she a movie star?
"No," Jamie laughed. "Ella es estudiante tambien. Pero es bastante
extraordinaria, no es asi?" She is a student also. But she is extraordinary, isn't she?
"Oh, si!" Maria Los nodded enthusiastically, relieved that Jamie was
taking this so well. "Su amiga tomara el lugar de Miss Cassie en la casa?" Oh please, oh please, she prayed. Will your friend be taking Miss Cassie's place in the house?
"Si, Maria Los. Cassie se fue para siempre." Cassie is gone for good. The young woman's smile became nearly radiant, and Jamie wondered again what had transpired between the two women. Maria Los would never reveal the
source of the tension that obviously existed between them, and Cassie's
flippant remarks about the young woman were not revealing either. It was
obvious, however, that Maria Los was jubilant about the change. "Ryan es
una mujer muy, pero muy amable. Le garantizo que no tendra problemas con
ella." Ryan is a very, very nice woman. I guarantee she will treat you well.
"Eso es muy bueno para saber, Senorita Jamie. Se ve que es muy amable." That is very good to hear, Miss Jamie. She seems very nice.
Ryan was shifting back and forth, uncomfortable with the glances she kept receiving from the two women. Ryan, let me introduce you properly, her partner finally said. This is Maria de Los Angeles Gallegos.
Ryan once again shook hands with the young woman, who now looked much less nervous. Pleased to meet you, she said, flashing a wide smile.
Jamie didn't translate these few words, knowing that Maria Los would understand them perfectly. Maria Los, this is Ryan O'Flaherty.
I'm pleased to meet you, Miss Ryan, the young woman said in precise, but heavily accented English, rolling the R in Ryan's name.
You don't need to call me 'Miss', Ryan began, but stopped abruptly when she realized that they were now conversing in English.
Jamie did not realize that this puzzled her partner, and she continued on with her explanation. Maria Los feels more comfortable using that term, Honey. We've discussed this before.
Okay, no problem, Ryan agreed, not liking the term one bit, but acceding to the young woman's wishes.
How about I offer you a ride to work? Jamie asked her partner.
I'll never make it if you don't, Ryan muttered, checking her watch.
After a much more relaxed goodbye, the twosome hopped into the Boxster for the trip to the gym. Have you eaten, Baby?
Nope. I was gonna get something before I left, but your little friend took up all of my available time.
It's only 12:20, why don't I drop you off at that little falafel place by the gym. I don't want you to go to work without anything in that tummy.
Best idea you've had all day, Ryan agreed, settling down in the seat for the short drive.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Traffic was slow, as usual, and as they progressed through town Ryan finally broke the silence. Today sure was full of surprises. She had an unreadable expression on her face, and Jamie had a sneaking suspicion that she was referring to more than Maria Los' appearance.
I bet Maria Los is thinking the same thing. Jamie laughed, trying to gauge her partner's mood.
Ryan just nodded, obviously not willing to share everything that was on her mind. They were nearing the restaurant, and she turned to face Jamie. I've got a few questions about the house and how you manage things, Honey. Can we talk about that tonight? She certainly didn't look angry, which reassured Jamie a bit, but there was something behind those blue eyes that was a little disquieting.
Are we okay, Babe? Jamie did not want to go to class worrying about whatever her partner wanted to discuss. If there was something seriously wrong, she needed to know now.
We're fine. Ryan smiled and leaned over for a kiss. I just want to figure out what's going on in the cabeza.
Jamie pulled back and furrowed her brow a bit before a quick laugh burst out. I think you mean cabaña, Honey. Cabeza means 'head'.
Ryan shrugged her shoulders amiably. Your head your house I'll settle for finding out what's going on in either of them.
Jamie had a sneaking suspicion that they were going to have another go-around on their finances. Even though she didn't look forward to these discussions, she realized that they were part and parcel of building a partnership, so she tried to swallow her anxiety over the issue. Ryan leaned in for another kiss and Jamie couldn't help but tease her a little bit. Bye-bye, my little movie star, she hummed seductively.
Movie star? Ryan asked, puzzled at the odd term.
Jamie just laughed as she pulled away from the curb, offering a quick wave over her departing shoulder.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan ran up to the house at around four thirty, stopping short when she spotted a well-used pick-up truck in the driveway. Now what? she grumbled to herself. Is our cook here? The masseuse? Her questions were answered when she got close to the truck and saw the staggering array of rakes, shovels, lengths of PVC pipe, lawnmowers, and leaf blowers neatly arranged inside the battered truck. A pair of young Latinos was just getting into the truck, and each waved and called out, Buenas tardes, Señorita! when they spied her heading up the walk.
Ryan pasted a smile on and waved back. Buenas tardes Señors, she replied, using up most of her vocabulary.
They drove off, the ancient truck sputtering as several cylinders misfired. A yard the size of a postage stamp, and she hires a gardener! This has got to stop! She strode into the house, determined to set things right before nightfall.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When Jamie returned home an hour later, she wasn't sure what to expect. She thought that Ryan might be a little miffed to learn that she employed a housecleaner, understanding that was not the O'Flaherty way. It actually took a few minutes to find Ryan; there was no sign of her presence anywhere in the house. Poking her head out the back door, Jamie came upon the sight she hoped would greet her every day for the rest of her life. Her lovely mate, sitting on the teak bench that rested under an arbor covered with fragrant white Lady Banks climbing roses.
Her breath caught as she took in the beauty of both the setting and the woman who held her heart. Ryan was freshly showered, judging by the still-wet hair slicked back off her face. Her skin glowed pink from what Jamie assumed was a combination of recent exercise and a good scrubbing.
The sun was low in the sky, the garage angling the rays so that they caught only the top of her dark head, creating a riot of highlights of gold and burgundy in the glossy tresses. The afternoon was warm, and only the briefest of khaki shorts covered her upper thighs, her black linen camp shirt draping attractively across her broad shoulders. Her feet were bare, and one long leg was drawn up so that her unshod foot could rest on the bench. A hardbound book rested on the raised knee, the intense blue eyes focused on the passage she was considering. Her eyes lifted, and she stared into space for a few moments, obviously deep in thought. Jamie decided right then that she could happily spend a few dozen hours just watching her beloved think.
The sparkling intelligence that was always apparent, but often slightly veiled, came to the fore when she was deep in thought. Jamie could practically see the synapses firing in her agile brain as her eyes flicked back and forth just a micrometer. Her dark brows knit together just a bit, as her head tilted a few degrees. With a blindingly white smile, the dark head nodded as some nugget of information became clear, and her eyes returned to the book to continue her study.
Unable to resist the lure of those blue eyes, Jamie descended the stairs and walked up to the bench. Ryan heard her coming and closed the book, placing it on a small table she had drawn close. A relaxed, warm smile covered her lovely face as her arms opened to welcome her partner home.
Climbing onto her lap, Jamie tilted her head to bestow a few gentle kisses on tart-tasting lips. Ummm you made lemonade, she breathed, allowing her face to stay right where it way.
Ryan's deep voice burred against her lips. Somebody bought a dozen lemons. I figured that was a good way to reduce the stockpile.
Jamie pulled back and reached for the sweaty glass of the pale yellow beverage. Oooh, this is good. She smacked her lips together for a moment, tilting her head as she assessed the drink. You put orange juice in this, too, she decided.
Yep. One orange really makes a difference, Ryan informed her. Adds sweetness without adding as much sugar.
It's divine, she decided. Just like you. A few more kisses followed, with Ryan finally pulling away, to Jamie's regret.
We need to talk, little one, and I'm not going to have you make me lose my rational mind again tonight. Startled green eyes looked down at her and Ryan quickly amended her statement. Yet, that is. You can knock me senseless later, of course.
Now placated, Jamie slid off her lap and sat next to her on the bench. So what happened today, Honey?
Are you hungry? Ryan asked, off topic.
Yeah, but I want to address this, since it's obviously something that concerns you.
Let's sit at the table and munch on a few tidbits, okay?
Jamie turned her head and caught sight of the attractive presentation that her partner had created upon the glass-topped dining table. Most of the items from the basket Martin and the boys had given them were arranged on small plates, all of them covered by wire mesh domes to keep the insects away. An ice bucket held the chilled bottle of champagne, and a pair of crystal flutes waited to be filled. You've certainly familiarized yourself with the kitchen, haven't you, Tiger? Jamie was delighted that her partner had taken the time to prepare such a nice repast, and she expressed her gratitude with a few more kisses.
They walked the short distance, hand in hand, and Jamie smiled sweetly when Ryan pulled out one of the heavy chairs for her. Ryan sat down, drawing her chair close enough so that their knees touched. Would you open the wine, Babe? I'm not very skilled in the champagne arena.
Let's do it together, Jamie suggested. She indicated that Ryan should hold the cork while she gently turned the bottle. After half of a turn the cork popped quietly, nary a drop of wine spilling. Teamwork, buddy, she said confidently.
Ryan poured the wine and clinked her glass against her partner's. To the life we'll build in our house. She used the term they had decided on for the Berkeley dwelling, acknowledging that the O'Flaherty home was now both of theirs.
Mi casa es su casa, Jamie agreed, drawing the conversation back to the issue she thought was bothering her partner.
Ryan smiled, knowing that her lover was allowing her an opening. She took a sip of the wine and said, A few things caught me by surprise today, Honey. The grocery delivery, the cleaning woman and the gardener. What order do you want to take them in?
Jamie started to reply, but a truck pulled into the drive just as she was opening her mouth. A slight grimace covered her face as she said, You'd better put the car detailing service on the list as long as you're at it.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After conversing with the young men who had arrived to clean her car, Jamie came back to the table and took her seat. Once again, Ryan's gaze was unreadable, so rather than try to figure it out she took the bull by the horns. Okay, here's the whole story. We've had someone clean the place since we moved in. Neither Cassie nor Mia would do a damn thing around here, and I was not going to clean up after those two.
Ryan offered a small smile at the vehemence in her partner's tone. Jamie took a breath and continued. We decided to hire someone to come in three days a week She paused as Ryan's eyes grew very wide. And since there were three of us, we each paid for one day. It's worked out well, and I see no need to change it at this point.
Ryan's brow furrowed and she interrupted. Can I jump in?
Sure, Babe. Anytime.
Okay. Ryan drew in a breath and held it for a moment, in a move Jamie had come to realize meant she was trying to remain calm. I don't mean to judge you, Jamie, but it's a pretty sad state of affairs when three able-bodied women can't keep a house clean. It's just not that hard!
Jamie bit back the sharp remark that threatened to burst forth and calmly muttered, Thanks for not judging me, Honey.
Ryan's heavy sigh showed she was having a tough time staying cool, so Jamie jumped in with more facts. Let me finish the whole story, Babe, and then we can discuss it, okay? Ryan gave her a curt nod and she continued. I wasn't happy with the first woman we hired, and over the next two years we ran through three more housecleaners. Most of them couldn't stand Cassie's demands, but some of them just didn't seem reliable enough for me to give them a key.
There she goes with the keys again! Ryan silently fumed. What is it with the Evans clan and giving out keys? I've got to have an inventory of the key holders before I can sleep soundly in this motel!
Jamie did her best to ignore the frown on Ryan's face as she continued with her explanation. I know I've told you about Marta, our housekeeper and cook. Ryan nodded, recalling Jamie's fond recollections of the woman, and the important role she served during Jamie's childhood. For as long as I can remember, she's worked at her church, teaching English to Spanish speaking immigrants. Last year her church started a program where they provide seed money to members of the parish who are trying to become self-employed. I know Marta would never give her time to something that wasn't worthwhile, so I've been supporting the program financially.
Ryan cocked her head at this news, having never heard Jamie speak about where she made her charitable donations.
A few months ago, Marta asked me if I would consider hiring some of the people from the program to do some tasks around here. That's how I met Maria Los, and Zaragoza and Estaban and Ramundo.
So all of these people are just starting out? Ryan asked, now both interested and somewhat excited.
Yes. Maria Los is just 19. She emigrated from El Salvador just after Christmas this year. She's a darling woman, and I think she's sweet on Zaragoza, the car detailer. She lives with two other women from the program in East Palo Alto.
Does she work for other people too?
No. She's in class or studying the other two days. I pay her well and she can afford to only work three days a week until she's more skilled in English.
She's been here how long? Ryan asked.
Since January, Jamie replied.
Um I hate to break it to you, Babe, but she doesn't know a bit of English.
Jamie slapped her on the thigh, seeing the gentle tease behind the impish grin. She does just fine, smarty pants. You just shocked the English right out of her with that scrumptious body!
Well I don't know about that, but she does seem like a nice woman. You said that Estaban and Ramundo are the gardeners?
Yep. They don't know that I know it, but they're lovers, Jamie said quietly, in case Zaragoza could hear them speaking.
Really? Ryan wasn't sure why this surprised her, but the thought of the two sturdy young men being gay was startling. Are they in business together?
Uhhuh. They're together all day. They work together and they live together. Two of Ramundo's cousins live with them too, and I think they're gay also.
That's cool that they're there to support each other, Ryan said thoughtfully. I assume it's not okay to be gay where they are from?
Yeah. Marta tells me they were basically banished from their town near Puebla in Mexico. Their families don't speak to them at all.
Ryan shook her head for a full minute, ruminating about the cruelty of families. So the bottom line is, by having all of these people work here we're actually helping them build their own lives in the U.S.
Yep. Jamie's smile was nearly radiant, and Ryan knew that she was trapped without an argument for letting any of them go.
Hey Her brow contracted as she came upon the flaw in the logic. Which one of these recent immigrants owns 'Web Van.Com'?
Jamie blushed as she admitted the truth. Umm that one is just because I'm lazy.
Satisfied that she had won at least a tiny bit of turf, Ryan decreed, From now on I'm in charge of grocery shopping. 'Web Van.Com' can serve every other yuppie in Berkeley, but they'll never darken our door again!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Zaragoza finished up by seven, and as Ryan observed her partner converse with the young man she reminded herself, You never asked how she learned to speak Spanish so well!
When they were once again alone, Ryan tugged her partner into her lap and asked, Did you take Spanish in school?
Yeah, a little in grammar school, Jamie informed her. But Marta taught me most everything. She had a ruleI couldn't help in the kitchen unless we spoke Spanish.
Smart woman, Ryan murmured, nuzzling Jamie's sweet-smelling neck. Better than my Granny's method'Go to your Irish lesson, Siobhán, or you don't get to eat dinner!' Both women laughed, knowing that food was always a sufficient motivator for Ryan.
Yeah, I'm really grateful to Marta. I was bilingual by the time I learned to speak, and it's sure come in handy quite often.
I'd like our kids to be at least bilingual, Ryan agreed. By the time they're adults, the majority of Californians will probably be Spanish speaking.
It's a deal, Jamie decided. I'll teach 'em Spanish, and you teach 'em Irish.
Great, Ryan muttered. They can hate me for making them learn a language that almost no one in America speaks!
True, but we've got to make your Granny happy, Jamie reminded her, green eyes dancing.
Good point, Ryan nodded, smiling broadly at the thought of her grandmother's happiness upon having her great-grandchildren speaking the native tongue.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The sun was just a memory as the two reclined on twin chaise lounges, pleasantly buzzed from the champagne and partially sated from the delicacies in the gift basket. They were holding hands and softly sharing their hopes and dreams of the future, while the cooling breeze wafted over their skin. I feel a lot better about living here, Ryan murmured, leaning over to place a gentle kiss on Jamie's cheek.
Why do you think so, Baby? The pace of her reply was much slower than normal, and Ryan was fairly sure the alcohol was to blame for that.
Not sure, the darker woman replied lazily, holding the last few sips of her wine up to gaze at the moon through the bubbles. Maybe because I got settled and spent some time checking the place out. Maybe because it was really convenient to have you get home in ten minutes. It's really nice not to have to cross the Bay Bridge during rush hour, too, she added as she let the last drops of the slightly warm liquid slide down her throat. But I guess the number one reason is because I can do this In the blink of an eye she was lying upon Jamie's prone body, her weight pressing heavily into her smaller partner.
Jamie looked up at the glittering eyes that held hers and immediately decided that she didn't care if Ryan weighed more than the offensive line of the 'Niners. She needed to be crushed by the coiled power that lurked just under the surface of the baby-smooth skin that she reached up to taste.
Wanna go to bed? Ryan asked softly, her desire boldly displayed on her lovely face.
I can't ever imagine saying no to that request, Jamie murmured breathlessly as she captured the rose-tinted lips that hovered over her.
As all rational thought began to seep from Ryan's brain, she got to her shaky feet and held out a hand. Bed. Her demand was clear, and Jamie willingly complied, taking her hand for the short trip to the house. A quick glance at the table brought the adult in Ryan to the surface, and she stopped to swoop up the little plates and wire domes. Ants, she intoned seriously, nodding judiciously at Jamie's giggles.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Once again, their evening ablutions were cast aside, neither woman willing to delay the expression of their passion for another moment. I love you so much. Jamie's endearingly sincere expression as she spoke made Ryan's heart swell with love for the woman who rested upon her body.
Hands shaking with desire lifted to run through the golden locks that had shifted forward, nearly covering the sea-green eyes that she so loved. I love you, too, Ryan murmured, finding that her voice was rough with emotion. I'll never stop loving you, Jamie.
A slow smile spread across the smaller woman's face, and she dipped her head once more to taste the lips that held her in their sway. Forever, she whispered, repeating the word that best expressed her love. It doesn't matter where we live. It only matters that we're together. Another series of achingly tender kisses followed, causing a low groan to escape from Ryan's slightly parted lips. Always together.
The slowly building passion had risen to irresistible proportions, and Jamie felt the demands of her body increase exponentially. She shifted just a bit, allowing her legs to spread when she felt Ryan's muscled thigh press against her need. She sucked in a short breath, lifting her head slowly as her eyes fluttered closed.
Ryan's head swirled with want, and the ache in her belly grew as Jamie's tongue peeked out of her parted lips and slowly, teasingly, traced all around their outline, wetting them just enough so they glistened in the candlelight. It was an unconscious gesture, but Ryan's addled brain considered it one of the sexiest things she had ever seen. Kiss me, the dark woman whispered, her need for the moist lips undeniable.
Jamie gracefully granted her wish, putting all of her tender feelings into the touch. She continued to move against Ryan, now sliding easily against the firm thigh, while their mouths met and merged.
The blonde head lifted once again as a shudder rolled through her body, sending chills down Ryan's spine in response. Ooooh, she moaned softly, continuing to drive her hips against her partner. I had no idea it could ever be this wonderful. Her voice was rough with desire as she gasped out the words. Her skin shimmered in the candlelight, droplets of perspiration threatening to slide down her flushed face. Tiny flecks of gold and amber glinted in her verdant eyes as she struggled valiantly to hold them open.
Ryan's hands slipped down to her lover's hips, holding her securely. Jamie was beginning to strain now, her eyes tightly closed as her thrusts became roughermore demanding. Let go, Love, Ryan cooed softly. Come on, let it go. Let everything out. Tell meshow me how it feels.
I love you! she gasped, speeding the beat of her hips in a wild fury. She blindly reached out and grasped Ryan's firm breasts, anchoring herself to her partner.
Covering Jamie's trembling hands with her own, Ryan whispered, I love you, too, Jamie so much.
Watery green eyes fought to open as she felt herself drown in the ocean of blue that gazed up at her with pure devotion. For ever, she gasped as waves of sensation buffeted her body, rolling over and over her as she cried out softly.
Ryan pulled her down, gasping in surprise at the wildly beating heart that pounded against her breast. The smaller woman was nearly limp in her arms, the heat radiating off her body. Shudders continued to rock her, each one causing a catch in her still-labored breathing.
You are so incredibly beautiful, Ryan murmured, running her fingers through the damp golden locks splayed across her chest. Your face your body the way you look at me when I'm loving you. So beautiful. Her voice was wistful and soft, and the slow, calming cadence was a powerful lure to Jamie to drift off. But her need to touch and taste her beloved was far greater than her need to sleep, and as she began to run her hands over her lover's body she felt her energy return.
I want to show you how I feel, she murmured, her voice capturing the slow, sensual tone that her partner had used. I want to show you with my hands, and my mouth and my tongue. I want you to know how much I love you.
Ryan gazed at her with a combination of deep love and nearly-painful desire. Love me, she murmured in a voice as soft as a breeze.
Never had a request been so willingly granted, and their bodies spoke for their hearts deep into the warm summer night.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The sun was just beginning to give evidence of the new day when a muffled voice that sounded like it was being forced out of a pair of lungs compressed under a heavy weight croaked out, Has anybody ever told you that you were a load?
Ryan chuckled at her partner's choice of words, her laugh constricting Jamie's chest even further. Others have mentioned that. With another laugh she rolled from her perch atop her smaller partner's body and gently examined her for signs of damage. No harm done, Sweet Pea. I don't think I was on top of you for long.
Jamie's fingers tangled in the dark hair that was draped across her chest. I like you on top of me, she murmured lazily. It just astounds me how heavy you feel, though. I don't crush you like this, do I?
Hardly, Ryan smiled. You're just a little heavier than Caitlin.
Funny, very funny. A few good tickles made Ryan retract her statement.
Well you're heavier than you look. Jack wasn't even she began, but cut herself short before she could finish the thought.
Ryan knew that her partner was trying to censor herself from bringing up a loaded topic, but she felt no need to be protected in such a way. I doubt that Jack weighed as much as I do, Ryan offered, trying to show that she wasn't bothered by speaking about him.
Jamie lifted her head to get a better look into her lover's eyes. Of course he did, she protested. Guys weigh lots more than women do.
Ryan laughed at this generalization. Not when the guy is really lean, and the woman is sturdy, she concluded, trying to find the correct term for her impressive musculature.
Honey, I think he weighed about 175 or 180. How much do you weigh? In all their time together, they had never discussed this bit of trivia, which was slightly surprising to the smaller woman.
Guess, Ryan teased, climbing astride her once again.
As the air was squeezed from her lungs, and her ribs felt like they were going to poke out of her back, Jamie gasped, 600 pounds!
Rolling off again, Ryan scoffed, You're way off. You'll never make a living guessing weight at the carnival.
Come on tell me, Jamie begged.
I'm really not sure, Ryan admitted. I fluctuate a lot, and I haven't gained back what I lost on the ride. I'm still pretty low.
You sure don't feel low, the smaller woman mused, hefting a weighty thigh in both hands.
We can check, if you have a scale, Ryan suggested. I might need the information later today, anyway.
Ryan hopped out of bed, stretching sensually while Jamie watched her in fascinated silence. I might need to know how much I weigh, she said absently as she bent to stretch her lower back.
Huh? This time, Jamie's confusion was mostly from her fascination with her lover's flexing body.
Ryan caught the difference in tone and chuckled at the look on her partner's face. Let's hop in the shower, Love.
No running today? Jamie asked, getting up to do a few stretches of her own.
Nope. I need my strength. I'm trying to arrange for an appointment this morning that will use up a lot of energy. She wandered into the bath and got onto the scale, nodding to herself as the needle settled down.
185 pounds! Jamie was bent over the display, and when she stood her face reflected her surprise. You weigh 185 pounds!?
Told you I was way down, Ryan remarked seriously.
Down?! Did you say down?
Yeah, I like to be about 200, but I've only been there once this year.
Jamie looked rather weak, and she sat on the edge of the tub for a moment, gathering her thoughts. Having a baby with O'Flaherty genes might actually kill me, she muttered.
Nah, Ryan reassured her easily. My mother was very slight and she popped all of us out without a problem. 'Course, she was in labor with me for 24 hours
Adopting. We're definitely adopting. The tone was firm, but Ryan detected the teasing in her eyes.
You're the boss, Honey, Ryan insisted.
Yeah. Wouldn't that be nice, she quipped, slapping her grinning partner on her muscular butt.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
They were in the process of drying each other with fluffy white towels when Ryan's pager went off. She looked up at Jamie and said, "That might be my call now."
"I'll get it," Jamie said as she walked into the bedroom to pick it up. "It's a local number but I don't recognize it," she said as she handed it to Ryan.
Yep, this is the call I've been waiting for. Ryan sat down on the bed and dialed. "This is Ryan O'Flaherty," she announced in her confident tone. "Thanks for calling me back." She nodded a few times and replied, "I'm very interested if you need my skills." Another series of nods and then, "Is that the only time you have?" Pursed lips and a clouded expression gave way to a sigh, "No, I'd rather see you today. I'll be there."
"What's going on, Tiger? Who besides me needs your skills?
"That was Coach Greene. I've got to go over to campus for a while. Want to come with me?"
"Who is Coach Greene, and why is he interrupting our lovemaking?" she asked, placing her hands on her hips and narrowing her eyes at her lover.
"Hmm, Ryan mused. I wasn't aware that we were in the process of making love.
Honey, we're either making love, on the verge of making love or on the verge of being on the verge. Get used to it. The charmingly confident expression on Jamie's face made Ryan grin from ear to ear.
I'm never going to argue with that logic, she immediately agreed. I'll call back and say I've become permanently indisposed.
WHO IS HE??? Jamie's curiosity had reached the boiling point, just the effect Ryan was seeking.
She is the women's soccer coach. I heard they had some open positions, and I thought I might fit in," she replied easily.
"You play soccer well enough to play at this level?" She knew that Ryan was gifted athletically, but playing a varsity sport in college was a very big deal.
Ryan shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I guess I'll find out. She can meet me in 20 minutes. Are you interested?"
"Do I get to see your cute little butt in those shiny, checkerboard patterned soccer shorts?"
"Sure, if that makes you happy I've probably got a pair in with my workout clothes. "
Jamie dashed into Ryan's room and rummaged through the drawers. She finally picked a pair of red soccer shorts and an old white jersey with red lettering that read, Sacred Heart.
She came back into her room and held up the jersey. "Is this from high school?"
"Yeah," Ryan said. "I forgot I still had that. It must have been hidden in with the shirts I packed. I wonder if it fits." She shrugged into the jersey and decided that even though it was a bit snug, it still looked presentable. Jamie came up behind her and helped tuck the jersey into the red shorts, grabbing a few handfuls of her favorite real estate in the process. Ryan had obviously prepared for this trip in advance, since she went to her room and retrieved a pair of white knee socks and some shin guards, which she snugged into place while Jamie got ready.
There was no time for breakfast, but Ryan got a couple of bananas and a plain bagel down while she was waiting for her partner. While Jamie drove the short distance, Ryan went to work on a quart of Gatorade, managing to polish it off by the time they pulled up to the soccer field.
Ryan started on an energy bar as she loped across the grass to greet the coach, Jamie following behind at a more leisurely pace. It was obvious that the two women already knew each otherrather well at that. The coach was very much interested in Ryan, looking her over appraisingly. Jamie hoped her interest was purely professional, but one could never tell with her lover.
Coach Greene looked like she was in her mid-thirties. She was not very tall, maybe 5'5" or so, but she had a very muscular build. She looked like she could be on the field herself with her Lycra shorts and tank top barely covering her tanned and toned body.
Jamie approached and was immediately pulled into the conversation by her grinning lover. "Coach, this is Jamie Evans," she said proudly. "Jamie, this is Coach Greene."
"Pleased to meet you, Jamie," she said with twinkling eyes. "Have a seat on the bleachers while I put Ryan through some drills."
Ryan and the coach went to the goal nearest where Jamie sat. After a few minutes of warm-up, Ryan took her position as the coach began to try to get the ball past her. She's a goalie? Jamie gaped. I swear, one day I'll find out she was a rodeo clown or a trapeze artist.
Watching Ryan defend her goal was closely akin to watching a wild animal safeguard her newborn pups from a predator. With a glare in her eyes that Jamie had never seen before, she prowled along the goal line, daring the coach to make a move. Her laser-like eyes never left the ball, ignoring all of the stutter steps and feints that the coach tried to lure her with. She bent at the waist and flexed her powerful thighs, weight balanced on the balls of her feet, so that she was poised to move in any direction at any time, and she easily moved her body at the same second that the ball moved toward her. Working at close quarters like this, the coach was able to get quite a few balls past Ryan, but she had to really work for every one. There was a wide smile gracing the older woman's face by the time they stopped, and she tossed her arm around Ryan's neck to give her a rough hug.
They came back to the bleachers laughing and joking with each other. "She hasn't lost a step," she reported to a very interested Jamie. "As a matter of fact, I think you're quicker now than you used to be," she observed.
"I think I am too," Ryan agreed. "My legs and my butt are a lot more powerful now, and I think that helps me get a bigger burst when I move."
What do you weigh now? The coach's eyes roamed up and down Ryan's body, pausing momentarily on some of her more ample curves.
I'm down to 185, but I'm trying to add a few, she remarked. I have more stamina when I'm over 190.
Oh God! Jamie shrieked to herself. She'll kill me with any more stamina!
"I don't know what you've been doing to keep in shape since you left USF, but you look absolutely fabulous," the coach marveled.
"I do a lot of weight training and I run. That's about it," she said modestly, omitting the 20 other things she did to keep herself fit.
"Have you ever injured your knees?" the coach asked, looking up as Ryan shook her head. She squatted down to move her kneecap gently. She continued to move her leg, trying to determine how much flexibility there was in the joint. Getting to her knees, she grasped Ryan's leg with both hands and tried to move her knee while instructing Ryan to keep her foot planted. She nodded to herself and moved to the other leg, accepting Ryan's hand for a boost when she was done.
She told Ryan to sit down on the bleachers as she performed the same ritual of flexing and testing her range of motion with each ankle. As she moved from body part to body part, Ryan answered negatively to each question about injury. Finally, the coach looked up and asked, "Haven't you ever been hurt?"
That brought a burst of laughter from both Ryan and Jamie. "I'm more into broken bones and concussions," she said with a smile. "But I've been terrifically lucky in that I've never injured a joint."
The coach had her squat down and leap as high as she could, gauging her explosiveness. She asked Ryan to tense her legs and felt all along her quadriceps and then her hamstrings, her nimble fingers poking and prodding deeply into what Jamie considered her exclusive territory. But Ryan didn't seem fazed in the least by the examination, and Jamie controlled herself from barking out a protest.
When the coach had finally stopped groping her, she flashed Ryan a wide smile as she firmly slapped her butt, shaking her head in amazement. "You are absolutely rock hard, Ryan. How much do you work out?"
"An hour or so a day, she said, minimizing greatly. I ride my bike a lot, too--about 100 miles a week. I try to run 5-10 miles every day, and since I live, or lived," she corrected, "in the Noe Valley, I do a lot of hill work."
"Well, you just look great," she said with her hands on her hips, a big smile covering her face. She turned to Jamie and asked, "Doesn't she look great?"
A thin smile covered Jamie's mouth but did not extend to her eyes. "Great," she agreed tersely as she watched the coach's eyes linger on her lover's sculpted body.
"I can't think of another test I could give you," she said as she shook her head.
"You could count her teeth," Jamie said only slightly under her breath.
"Pardon?" Coach Greene asked. "Did you say something?"
"No, I was just agreeing with you," she said sweetly as Ryan rolled her eyes.
"We start practice next week, Ryan. I don't have a scholarship to give, but I guarantee we could use you. Are you interested?"
"I'll have to think about it," she said slowly, a small frown gathering between her brows. "It's an awfully big time commitment, and without a scholarship She shook her head slowly, deep in thought. I would like to play a sport this year, so I'll give it some serious thought. I'm going to talk to a couple of other coaches this week. I'll let you know by Friday."
"I hope you decide to join us, Ryan. I've seen you play in all of your other sports, and I've always thought that soccer was your most natural game."
"Actually, that's not true," Ryan said with a cocky grin. "But I'm glad you think so." She shook the coach's hand, and as the compact woman gathered her equipment Ryan asked, Can I keep a ball to play around with for a while?
Sure. Those are old practice balls. You can keep one, she said, tossing one to Ryan. After she had assembled her equipment, she waved goodbye and trotted off the field.
"Well, I have no idea why, but I am amazed," Jamie said as she looked up at her lover in admiration.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know why it surprises me that you can play any sport so beautifully. You are just the most graceful athlete I've ever seen," she said.
"Thanks, Honey. But it's mostly genetics. My size and my speed enable me to do a lot of things, and they were gifts from God."
"Being given the gift is one thing. Making use of it is quite another," Jamie corrected her.
Ryan dropped the ball to the ground and started to kick it around in a lazy fashion. Have you ever played? she asked her lover.
Sure. I was on a team when I was a little tyke. But I was never very good. I guess my hand/eye coordination isn't very good.
No way, Babe, Ryan said quickly. You can't play golf without excellent hand/eye coordination.
Well, I admit that I didn't apply myself very much. I just liked putting on the uniform and running around.
I agree that the uniform is an important part of the game, Ryan teased. I bet you looked adorable in yours. Do you have any pictures?
I'm sure we do. I'll ask Mother when she gets home. How about you? Any pictures of you in action?
Yeah. A couple of hundred or so, she laughed. You know how Da is about family pictures. She started to play a little game with the ball, and Jamie quickly caught on that the purpose of the game was to keep the ball from touching the ground. She watched in awe as Ryan spent a good 15 minutes juggling the ball with every part of her body, save for her arms, of course. Her balance was so perfect that she could easily stand on one foot while she used the other leg to repeatedly tap the ball. She would lightly touch it with the toe of her cleated shoe, then her shin, knee, shin, toe, then knee again. She effortlessly switched legs and began the routine again. When she tired of that drill she spent a few minutes tapping it with one knee, then the other, bringing her knees up so that her thighs were perpendicular to the ground. When that became too easy, she made the game a little tougher by striking it just hard enough to fly above her head.
To Jamie's amazement she tapped the ball with various parts of her head at least 20 times, sending it to the exact same height with each tap. Jamie finally stuttered, C...Can you talk while you do that?
Ryan shifted her eyes, never moving her head from the level plane it was on, and easily replied, Sure, why not?
I thought maybe you, oh I don't know, had to concentrate or something! she said with bemused exasperation.
I am concentrating, she smiled as she started to hit the ball with each shoulder in turn. But I'm not using my mouth to concentrate, so I can talk.
You are something else, Ryan O'Flaherty. I'm not sure what, but it's definitely something else.
Wanna see me show off a little? The blue eyes were glittering with mirth and Jamie couldn't imagine who would be foolish enough to say no to that request.
Uh showing off starts when? she grinned, wondering what her partner called the impressive array of tricks she had already performed.
Now. Ryan popped the ball in the air a few times, getting a nice height on it. Suddenly, she leaned back precariously and kicked straight up in the air with one long leg, sending the ball darting over her head like a bullet. She hit the ground lightly, rolling as she touched down so that she was back on her feet before Jamie could blink.
Wide green eyes just stared at her, her open mouth preventing any comment.
Didn't you do drills like this when you played? Ryan asked in what appeared to be a serious question.
Ahh, no, Jamie replied. We had to kick the ball around little orange cones, but that's all I can remember doing.
After retrieving the ball, Ryan popped it high in the air, catching it on her instep, and quickly pulled her foot up so that the ball was firmly wedged between her foot and her shin. No wonder you never enjoyed it. Playing little tricks and games with the ball is half the fun. She abruptly tossed the ball in the air with her leg and in the same instant, kicked it to Jamie, who caught it from a purely defensive posture.
Hey, you almost clipped me!
Gotta look alive when you're on the field, she teased as she walked over to the bench to grab their things.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
On the way back to the car Jamie asked, Was soccer your favorite sport?
Umm, it's hard to say. I think my favorite was always the one that was coming up next. But I did love soccer. When I was in grammar school I don't think I ever went to school without my ball. I kicked it all the way there and all the way back every day.
Bu..bu but you had to climb those massive hills to get to school, Jamie stuttered as she recalled the thigh-busting streets between the O'Flaherty house and St. Phil's.
Don't I know it, she said with a laugh. But I think that's how I developed my ball handling skills. I had to run down the hills backwards to control the ball, and that exercise really helped my footwork.
Well, I would guess so! Jamie's mouth gaped slightly in amazement as she imagined her young lover running down the hills, with her books tucked under her arms while she tried to control a soccer ball. You said the next sport was always your favorite. What other sports did you play?
You'll just have to wait and see, she teased snatching the ball and tapping it along the ground in a dazzling display of footwork that once more left Jamie standing in place with her mouth dangling open.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
On the way home, Jamie glanced over and asked, Coffee?
Ooh, I'd love some, but I didn't bring my wallet.
As the green eyes rolled, Jamie said, No problem. You can just watch me have breakfast.
Okay, Ryan muttered, a little embarrassed that she had been caught in one of her habits. I'm just not used to relying on other people for money, Jamie. It's gonna take a while for me to adjust.
It's an adjustment for me too, Baby, Jamie reassured her gently. I've never wanted to take care of someone financially.
Not even Jack? Ryan was amazed at this little revelation, and she realized that they had never discussed how money was handled during their engagement.
Jamie laughed rather ruefully as she pulled into a parking space only four blocks from Sufficient Grounds. Especially not Jack, she admitted. As they walked along the quiet streets, she added, I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I don't think I paid for one thing while we were together. I bought him presents, but only for his birthday and Christmas. Even then I never went overboard. I guess I wanted to make sure that he was with me for me rather than my money.
Ryan squeezed her hand, grateful that Jamie was revealing something that seemed hard for her to admit. Why do you think you aren't bothered when you offer me moneyI assume that you aren't bothered, that is.
Not in the least, she said with a serious expression. It's actually important for me to be able to share my money with you, Honey. It means a lot to me.
But not with Jack? Ryan asked, once again.
Jamie shook her head, obviously trying to understand the dynamic herself. Maybe it was because he was a guy, and I bought into the stereotype that he should provide for me. I'm really not sure, Honey. I mean, we did so little that it wasn't hard for him to provide everything. I bought dinner if I picked up carryout, but that's about it. Other than that, we just hung out at his apartment.
Ryan mulled over this scenario as they walked along, finding it difficult to reconcile her energetic partner with the woman who was content to sit in an apartment and watch her fiancé study. It seemed much more like a pattern that an old married couple would fit into, and she knew that it would never make sense to her.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie took a big sip of her latté and broke off a piece of her chocolate chip scone for her partner. Remember the last time we did this? she asked with an exaggerated rolling of her eyes.
Yeah I seem to remember the 'face of evil' causing quite a scene over how familiar we were with each other.
I am soooo glad that she's in New York, Jamie mused. I hope she likes it so much she never returns to California.
It's gonna be weird seeing her around campus, Ryan agreed, wondering if Jamie would be more open about their relationship by the time Cassie returned in the fall.
Only at first, Jamie said confidently. She only has power over me if I give it to her.
True, Ryan nodded, pleased that her partner recognized the truth of that statement.
Hey, Hon, would you mind if I didn't go to summer school?
Huh? I thought you were all set? What happened?
I got into two classes, but they're real duds. I hate to give up my afternoons just for the hours. We didn't get a chance to talk about this yesterday, but I stopped by the golf coach's office yesterday and he agreed to talk to me about trying out for the team.
Really? Ryan's eyes were wide with excitement, and Jamie offered up a silent prayer of thanks for her partner's unfailing support.
Yeah. I'm gonna meet him at noon today and he's gonna take a look at my game. I think I'd rather spend my afternoons practicing than sitting in class.
I think it's a perfect plan. Ryan smiled, taking Jamie's hand and placing a gentle kiss on it. I'd always rather be active than sitting in class.
I've just decided that if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it right. That means three or four hours of practice a day. It just seems like the best time for that is when you're at work.
Sounds like a deal, Ryan beamed. I'll put some thought into how we should change your workout to focus on golf muscles.
Great. If you don't mind, I'll try to go out with you in the morning a couple of days a week. I think I have a plan for how you can still have solitude while I'm with you. Waggling pale brows showed that Jamie was pleased with her idea, and Ryan was looking forward to hearing it.
I can't imagine how I could ever concentrate when you're in sight, but I'm willing to try, she promised with a trusting smile.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 5
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