I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 6: Fidelity

by S X Meagher

Part 2

As soon as the kitchen was cleaned from dinner, Ryan got a fiery look in her eye and literally chased Jamie down the stairs to their bedroom. "Don’t forget to take water with you," Conor called out as they raced past him. Ryan did a quick about-face and ran back into the kitchen to snag a bottle of Gatorade. "Thanks, Bro," she replied with a grin as she blew by him on the return trip.

By the time she returned to their room, Jamie was already naked and waiting patiently on the bed, lying on her right side with her head supported by her braced hand. "What took you so long?" she inquired, attempting to look cross with her partner. "We don’t have a minute to waste!"

Ryan gave her a wide grin as she hurriedly started to strip, working on the buttons of her shirt with ruthless efficiency.

"I love the cute little face you make when you undress," Jamie murmured, her eyes fixed on Ryan’s face.

"I wasn’t aware I made a face when I took off my clothes," Ryan said, the adorable expression becoming a little brighter.

The smaller woman shook her head briskly, and tried to clarify. "You don’t make a face per se, and you don’t do it if you’re only getting undressed for a shower or something equally prosaic. But when I’m waiting for you in bed, and you think we’re going to make love, you get the cutest little sexy grin on your face when you start to strip. It always gives me chills."

"Chills, huh?" the dark woman repeated as she kicked off her boxers. Approaching the bed, she knelt down on the edge, perusing her lover carefully, her index finger tracing a path all over her back and sides. "Let me see...oh yeah, I see some chill action here."

Rolling onto her back, Jamie looked up at Ryan for a long moment, an appraising look in her eye. "Would you wear some sexy underwear for me if I bought them for you?" There was a touch of hesitation in her voice that puzzled Ryan.

She flopped down on the bed, grabbing her partner and pulling her down with her. "I’d wear absolutely, positively anything that would in any way please, excite, arouse, or titillate you, my pet. It surprises me that you even ask."


"Anything. But I can’t guarantee I’d wear anything outside of our room. I’m not going to work out in a thong, and that’s final!"

"Mmmm, you’d look so incredibly hot in a thong you’d never be able to wear it out of the house. I’d have it off you in moments."

"If you recall, I told you when we were in Pebble Beach that I’d willingly play any little dress-up games that you can come up with. I meant it," she said firmly.

Now Jamie looked embarrassed as she admitted her agenda. "I love you in your boxers, and I’m crazy about your new ‘uglies’, but sometimes I’d like you to wear sexy girlie kinda stuff. Would you mind that?"

"Of course not!" Ryan insisted. "I’ll dress up like those women in the ‘lesbian’ movies that they make for guys, if that pleases you, Babe. Camisoles, bustiers, thongs, G-strings, edible panties. Absolutely anything your heart desires."

Now Jamie was a little embarrassed by her hesitancy. "I know you’re particular about what you wear on a daily basis, and I just kinda thought you might not like the girlie stuff."

"Nope. I like girlie stuff just fine. It’s not comfortable for me when I work out, and since I work out at some point every day I’m not in the habit of wearing sexy undies. But I must admit that I like wearing soft, sexy things, and think it’s wonderful attire for the boudoir." Her heavy French accent cracked Jamie up, as usual, and she kissed her soundly as a reward.

"In that case, I think I’ll have some little--and I do mean little--presents for you when I come back," she purred. "I wonder if Mother will be scandalized if I take her shopping with me."

"Ummm, I think there are some things that parents just don’t want to know. It’s one thing to approve of your child’s sexual relationship, it’s quite another to think of your daughter and her girlfriend playing naughty dress-up games."

"You’ll think this is silly, but it still gives me a thrill to hear you refer to me as your girlfriend," Jamie admitted shyly.

Ryan turned over onto her stomach and leaned over her partner. "Why would I think that was silly? I get a thrill when I say it. I love that you’re my girlfriend," she said softly as she began to nuzzle her neck.

Jamie wrapped her arms around her lover’s neck and drew her in for a long kiss. "Mmmm, I love that I’m your girlfriend too. The hours are great and the benefits are fantastic," she teased.

Ryan could tell where they were headed, and she had a feeling that they were going to get there soon, so she tried to inject a note of caution. "Before we get too involved I want to set an alarm just in case. I don’t trust either of us to watch the clock," she said with an eyebrow wiggle as she set her trusty watch alarm. "If you need to be there by 11:30 we need to leave by 11. How long do you need to get ready?"

"Well, I hope I need another shower," she said seductively, "so I need a half hour."

"Okay, 10:30 it is." She tossed her watch onto the bedside table and resumed her position. "Now, where were we?"

"We were just starting to get sad that we’re leaving," she said with the beginnings of a pout forming on her lips.

"Hey now," Ryan soothed, wrapping her partner in a warm embrace. "We’ve got two and a half hours until we need to get up. Let’s give ourselves something to remember when we’re alone in bed for the next week." Moving away slightly so that she could see Jamie’s expression, Ryan trailed her fingers over her lover’s face, watching the small muscles react to her touch. "I’m sure I could put a smile back on that pretty face if you let me."

"Oh, I’ll let you, all right," she replied as she tilted her head and brushed her lips against Ryan’s. "I’d like to see who could stop me."

They moved against each other slowly, letting their desire dictate their actions. Jamie felt an insistent pull that demanded she take the lead this evening, and she expressed her desire to her partner. "I need to fill myself up with all of the sensations of your body, Ryan," she murmured, her lips very close to the beautifully formed shell-pink ear.

Without question, Ryan shifted position until she was lying on her back. Maintaining eye contact, she slowly extended her arms and legs until she was stretched out fully, her hands lying passively above her head. Her gaze burned with its intensity, and she softly said, "Anything you want…anything you need. My body is completely, eternally yours."

The selflessness of the proud, powerful woman struck a chord deep in Jamie’s soul, and she accepted the gift with reverence, knowing that her partner had rarely made herself this vulnerable with others. Smiling at the stunning beauty laid out before her, Jamie sealed the offer with a kiss, lingering for a long while as she languidly explored the warm, wet mouth that offered such comfort.

She kissed Ryan with such fervor that both women were struggling to breathe in moments, the dark woman’s chest straining from the effort. Knowing that she wanted to slowly explore her partner, Jamie backed off and started to move down the beautifully displayed flesh. Kissing, licking, suckling and nipping the tender skin, soon the smaller woman found herself at the end of the bed,

Deciding to focus on the soft, clean, soap-scented feet, Jamie sat cross-legged at the end of the bed and gently lifted one of the appendages and placed it in her lap. Her hands began to slowly and carefully massage, continuing her gentle movements, moving from one foot to the next and back again until Ryan drowsily said, "Honey, that feels great, but you’re about to put me to sleep. Remember, that’s the easy way to relax me, not arouse me."

"Oh, I must have gotten confused," Jamie said innocently. "I thought you said foot rubs excited you."

"Well, I guess they can," she mused. "After all, I do have a foot fetish. But generally they just feel so good that I relax and fall asleep."

"Hmmm, I certainly don’t want you to fall asleep," the blonde murmured. "Since I’m already down here, maybe I can think of something that would arouse you. Let me see," she said thoughtfully as she continued to rub the sensitized feet. "Would this arouse you at all?"

She lifted one foot and brought it close to her mouth, and then methodically licked each toe, one at a time, grinning to herself when she felt Ryan’s body twitch to attention, all traces of sleepiness gone in an instant. Slowly, teasingly, she moved her tongue up and down the perfectly formed arch, making a little wet trail from the tip of the toes to the base of the heel. Ryan responded as expected, emitting tiny little moans as each part of her sensitive foot was loved tenderly. "Is this having any effect on you?" Jamie asked softly, knowing the answer.

"Umm, hmm," Ryan groaned, her body taking on muscular tension as she tried to control her response.

Each little toe was pulled into Jamie’s warm mouth, with Ryan’s moans increasing in volume as the warm, wet tongue bathed each digit. She did not increase the pressure, nor did she suck very forcefully, wanting Ryan to feel the warmth of her mouth rather than the force of it. She continued to lavish her attentions on the pink feet, not stopping until Ryan was nearly beside herself with arousal, her hips unable to remain still.

Loving her partner’s feet proved to be nearly as stimulating for Jamie as it was Ryan, and by the time she was finished, her mind was no longer able to manage complete thoughts. Her body was clearly in charge now, and oddly it kept telling her to use her breasts to continue the foot worship. Not quite sure of what she was looking for, she scooted to the edge of the bed and poked around in the drawer of the bedside table. A small bottle of mango flavored ‘motion lotion’ caught her eye and she grabbed it before settling back onto the bed.

She placed some of the warming lotion on her fingers, and carefully applied it to each of her own nipples, which immediately stiffened under her delicate touch. Once again she lifted one pampered foot, slowly rubbing the toes over her slick nipples in a thoroughly arousing manner. The lotion began to warm, and tingle with the friction of the skin sliding across them, and soon Jamie was flying along at Ryan’s level, both of them groaning softly as the hyper-sensitive toes glided past the equally sensitive nipples. Soon, both points had grown so rigid that she could hold her breast in one hand and slide the nipple between two of her lover’s toes. Ryan’s moans were both loud and continuous by this time, and she tried to stretch her foot to get more pressure, but Jamie held her firmly, exerting full control. She finished by rubbing Ryan’s entire foot over her rock hard nipples, letting the little points tickle the wondrously soft instep.

Deciding to stop before they combusted, she crawled up Ryan’s squirming body, straddling her waist as she leaned over to kiss her deeply for a few minutes. "You do have a foot fetish, don’t you?" she purred.

Ryan just smiled up at her with a weak grin. "Umm-hmm," was all she could manage before a massive shiver darted up her spine, causing her body to twitch roughly.

After several more minutes of deep kissing, Jamie sat up with a slightly stunned look on her face. "I have to stop," she murmured. "Your kisses are too much for me tonight, Love." Ryan smiled up at her, obviously pleased with her ability to take her partner’s breath away. Reluctantly, Jamie slid off her partner, leaving a noticeable wet spot on her tummy. With a sexy grin, she wiped the moisture off with her fingers and moved her hand to Ryan’s face where she delicately transferred the slick fluid onto her cheeks and chin, just to remind her of what was to come. Ryan’s mouth tried to capture her fingers, but she kept them tantalizingly out of reach, reminding her, "I’m in charge, Baby. Your patience will be rewarded."

Surveying her prey, Jamie felt chills chase down her spine as she took in her partner’s stunning beauty. A very light sheen of perspiration had formed from her shoulders to her knees, and the subtle glow from the bedside lamp made her skin appear to shimmer. She was still stretched out in her submissive pose, her breasts riding high on her chest, plump from arousal. The pink glow of desire merged with the bronze highlights of her skin, reminding Jamie of a lavish oil painting by one of the masters of the Renaissance. How will I be able to stand being apart from her for a whole week? she sighed, a low-level depression settling over her. She spent a few minutes touching Ryan’s body languidly, not trying to increase her arousal, merely to imprint the look, the smell, and the feel of the warm skin on her memory.

Trying one of Ryan’s tricks, she reminded herself, Be in the moment. She’s here with you now, and if you spend this time pining away for her when she’s here, you’ve wasted this precious time! To her surprise, the little mantra was fairly effective, and she was able to focus her mind on the present, chasing her concerns away to concentrate on the time they had left.

Forcing her mind on the present, Jamie began to take in the signals that her own body was sending. As usual, her desire for her partner was tremendous, but today it had become nearly painful. It was a need to merge with her…to consume her…to become one. The need was familiar, but the rabid intensity of the need was wholly unfamiliar, and she wasn’t sure how, or if, it could be satisfied. All she knew was that the only chance she had of satisfying her goal was to touch and kiss every inch of Ryan before the night was through, so she began to do just that.

Since Ryan’s feet had been thoroughly worshipped, she began at the ankle and slowly, methodically worked her way up, finally finding herself at the glistening black curls that beckoned her to move just a little closer and sample the alluring sensations that they held.

Shaking her head firmly, Jamie smiled when she realized that she didn’t need to physically manifest her refusal to nuzzle her face between Ryan’s legs. The dark woman’s eyes were firmly closed so that she could more fully enjoy the sensations that buffeted her, so Jamie’s argument was purely internal.

She kissed two of her fingers and, with the lightest of pressure, touched the warm spot that called to her, promising, I’ll be back.

It had been a few moments since her hands were active, and the deep blue eyes finally blinked open. Ryan gazed at her partner with a slightly quizzical expression.

Smiling softly, Jamie revealed, "Some of your bolder body parts have been propositioning me."

With a broad smile, Ryan nodded slowly. "They do that. You have to keep them in line."

"I’m not sure I know how to do that, since some of my parts are ill mannered also." She paused in thought for a moment, and finally decided, "Time to roll over, Baby."

Ryan blinked slowly, obviously having assumed that her demanding parts would be attended to. Seeing the hesitation, Jamie assured her, "We’ll come back to the front half soon. I just can’t have the back half getting jealous."

Smiling serenely, Ryan forced her body to follow instructions. When she was on her belly she resumed her submissive pose, stretching her long arms out over her head, sighing deeply as she did so. Taking the warming lotion, Jamie squirted a cool stream right down the center of Ryan’s back, smiling when she saw every muscle tense from the chill. Neither the tension nor the chill lasted for long when she began to rub the lotion in, and in minutes, Ryan was simmering once again. Jamie repeatedly leaned over and blew a warm stream of air across her back, her breath warming the lotion even more.

As her body shifted and twitched, she made her way down Ryan’s long form, finally finding herself astride her thighs. When she worked the lotion into the soft, smooth skin of Ryan’s ass, her lover’s hips began to grind against the mattress, as her low, incoherent grunts begged for more. Responding immediately, the smaller woman squirted another stream onto the smooth cheeks and began to massage them in a very erotic fashion. She kneaded, and rubbed and pressed her fingers into the firm flesh, causing Ryan to squirm under her, too turned on to even moan. Without thinking, Jamie allowed her index finger to slip between Ryan’s cheeks, finding herself slightly stunned by the reaction her touch elicited.

All movement stilled immediately. It seemed as though Ryan was even holding her breath as she waited…but for what? Jamie wondered. Intensely curious about her partner’s reaction, her finger swiped along the area a second time, with Ryan still not uttering a sound. Her body was so unearthly still that Jamie reasoned that she was either on the verge of telling her to stop her exploration or was very interested in having it continue.

As she pondered the question, Jamie tried to still her racing heart and decide what she wanted to do. She had never considered touching her partner in this way, automatically putting this spot in the "untouchable" category. But tonight, she felt an intense desire to break down any remaining barrier between her and her partner, to have no secrets, no qualms about fully experiencing every possible part of each other’s bodies. She wasn’t absolutely sure, but she sensed that Ryan wanted this too, that her lover wanted to demolish any vestiges of discomfort that lingered between them. As much as she was tempted to explore, Jamie was loathe to ever cause her partner discomfort, so she leaned forward and placed her lips right next to Ryan’s ear. As her fingers dipped between the soft cheeks one more time she whispered, "Can I touch you…here?"

"God yes!" Ryan moaned, a massive expulsion of air leaving her lungs.

That was clear, Jamie smiled gently as she sat up again, still astride Ryan’s legs.

Worried that the warming lotion might irritate the ultra-tender skin, she reached back into the open drawer and found a bottle of thick gel lubricant. Her fingers brushed by a small package of latex finger cots, and she smiled in memory as she recalled the evasive answer Ryan had provided when she quizzed her about their purpose. Take one out of the pack, Jamie once again sat on Ryan’s thighs and resumed her exploration.

More lotion was applied as her fingers continued to play, one hand braced on Ryan’s lower back to provide stability. Her fingers continued to dip--lower and lower, the silky lotion easing her way. Frantic little pants and insistent thrusts made Ryan’s needs very apparent, and Jamie decided to follow her lead—wherever it took her.

She ran a bead of the gel right into the crease of Ryan’s cheeks, smiling at the heavy sigh that greeted her act. For the next few minutes, Jamie teased the incredibly soft skin, moving from one cheek to the next, then dipping inside, getting a little bolder each time. Needing a better angle to experiment with, she slid off the strong thighs completely, smiling to herself at Ryan’s disappointed groan.

Leaning over just enough to allow her erect nipples to dance across her lover’s back, she whispered, "Don’t worry, Love. All of your desires will be fulfilled tonight. Trust me."

Jamie had never heard her partner squeal, but that’s just what she did, almost causing the smaller woman to burst out in laughter. But Ryan wasn’t laughing in the least—she was about to explode—waiting only for Jamie to light her fuse.

Grasping the powerful hips that lay before her, Jamie was just beginning to guide her partner onto her hands and knees when Ryan flew into the desired position of her own volition. Smirking at her prescience, the smaller woman quickly got down to business, realizing from the labored breathing that Ryan was almost at the end of her rope. Slipping the latex barrier over her index finger, she smoothed more of the gel between the firm cheeks and slowly rubbed it in, this time focusing completely on the unexplored expanse of skin, but completely avoiding the tiny opening. Ryan was once again holding her breath, so Jamie humanely expanded her probing, and let her finger pause on the puckered star--pressing just a bit. "Yessssssss," Ryan hissed, thrusting sharply in the direction of her hand.

Finally taking pity on the moaning woman, and afraid that Ryan would faint from frustration, Jamie moved to satisfy her need. Covering her index finger with the gel, she knelt next to but slightly behind her lover with her right knee between Ryan’s shaking legs. Gently placing her left hand on Ryan’s lower back, Jamie stroked her softly to reassure her as she tried to part the cheeks with her right. The unfamiliar angle was a little difficult for her, so she decided to ask for a little help. "Open up for me, Love," she murmured softly.

Ryan’s hands immediately left their supporting position, causing her face to thump hard against the bed. Her fingers splayed apart as she grasped as much of the firm flesh as she could manage, and opened herself as wide as possible.

Her head throbbing with unquenched desire, Jamie sat back on her heels and ran her finger down the crease once more, taking in a breath as she reached her destination. Ryan sucked in an identical breath as the finger neared its goal once again, the air fraught with anticipation. Jamie squeezed out a few drops of gel right onto the puckered target, watching it flinch perceptibly as the cold liquid hit. Every fiber of Ryan’s coiled body seemed to freeze as Jamie slowly slid her index finger near the mark, one millimeter at a time. She began to enter the small opening, pushing in a tiny bit, then withdrawing, moving at a glacial pace to allow her partner to accommodate the intrusion. Her left hand resuming its gentle stroking of Ryan’s back as she moved deeper and deeper into her, her own arousal causing a near-painful ache between her legs.

Ryan’s body was still nearly frozen in its position, and Jamie was afraid that her muscles would start to cramp, so she gently eased the assisting hands away and guided her back onto her heels. The long legs splayed a bit as Ryan scooted back as far as she could, trying to increase the depth of the delicious penetration.

Jamie’s pulse was racing and her own arousal was making her head, as well as other parts, throb wildly as she gazed at her lover in the completely arousing position. A trickle of moisture trailed down her own thigh, and she knew that release had to come soon for both of them.

Ryan’s arms were straight out above her head, with her hands grasping handfuls of sheet. Her face was slightly turned to allow her to breathe, and it pressed hard into the bed. Her long, graceful back was slightly arched in anticipation, her legs as wide apart as they could possibly stretch, as she sat back completely on her feet. Jamie took in the vision, her heart thudding in her chest as she considered the most mesmerizing element of the scene--her hand, splayed out against Ryan’s smooth buttocks, one finger markedly absent.

Jamie began to slowly glide her finger in and out in a rhythmic fashion, Ryan’s hips grinding sensually as she swiveled and twisted her body to increase the pressure. Just when Jamie was sure they would both combust, Ryan grunted out her plea in a raspy voice, "Please…let... me...come, Baby. Please!!"

Jamie nearly came herself as her throbbing vulva reacted to her lover’s tortured plea. With a shuddering sigh she brought her other hand down and quickly slid two fingers into her lover’s lavishly wet opening. She slid in so effortlessly that she quickly added a third finger as she began to move her hands in unison. Chills raced up and down her spine as she felt the fingers of her left hand throbbing through the membrane that separated them from her right.

Ryan was moaning weakly as she continued to thrust back against her lover’s hands. Jamie knew that she needed just a tiny bit of stroking to achieve her release, but she was all out of hands and she was unwilling to remove either, so she leaned over and instructed, "Slide your hand down and touch yourself for me, Baby. Come for me while I’m so deep inside of you."

Faster than Jamie thought possible, the favored left hand shot down to rest between Ryan’s remarkably open thighs. With practiced ease two fingers slipped around the hood of her clitoris and began to stroke, causing a low growl of satisfaction to escape from both women. Within seconds, Ryan’s internal muscles began to pulse and spasm around Jamie’s fingers. The contractions began to flow through both openings in a series of waves, as Ryan grunted and moaned into the mattress, Jamie lodged deep inside of her. The spasms continued for a long while, longer than Jamie had ever been aware of. As they slowly stilled, the dark woman moaned softly for a few moments, then she became completely, almost eerily, still. When Jamie slowly, delicately, removed her fingers, she watched a shiver run down Ryan’s spine, but her spent lover made no other response. She was still stretched out in her rather lewd position, although she had impossibly sunk down even deeper against the mattress. Jamie knew that the poor woman could not possibly be comfortable, so she disposed of her accessories, crawled up next to her and rolled her over onto her back. This feat was made much more difficult due to the fact that Ryan offered absolutely no help, but Jamie was determined, and after a few hearty tugs the exhausted body teetered on the edge for a second, then collapsed onto the bed with a "thump".

The blue eyes were closed and the ruby-tinted lips were slightly parted as Ryan lay exactly as she had fallen when Jamie pushed her over, and if the smaller woman did not know better, she would have thought Ryan unconscious. The golden skin was covered with a sheen of perspiration, and a deep flush began at the still-plumped breasts, extending up to her shoulders.

After several minutes, one blue eye cracked open to regard Jamie with a mixture of surprise and startled amusement. Jamie merely rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders, sparing an adorable grin for her lover. The blue orb snapped shut again as Ryan’s chest slowed from its rapid cadence and her breathing evened out.

Jamie generously allowed her to rest for a few minutes, allowing herself the pleasurable sensation of watching her partner sleep. It was terribly difficult to resist the urge to continue to touch her, but she held out, reasoning that it would be cruel to wake her at this point. My God, she is so incredibly beautiful when she sleeps. There was not a hint of muscular tension anywhere in her body as the green eyes wandered over her from head to toe. I honestly don’t know how I will be able to stand being away from her for a whole week. My life revolves so completely around her that I feel lost when she’s not with me.

She was deep in her reverie when Ryan uttered a small sigh and began to stretch. "Are my hips still attached to my pelvis?" she asked lazily, swiping a hand down her torso to check.

Jamie laughed and placed her hand on the nearest hip, intently tracing the connection . "I believe so," she said. "I think you missed your calling, Love. You should be trying out for the gymnastics team at school. I don’t think I’ve ever seen legs spread that far apart." Ryan chuckled weakly as Jamie snuggled up next to her still sprawled out body. "You really loved that didn’t you?" she asked her partner curiously.

"Hmmm, let me see," Ryan mused with mock sincerity. "Do I usually almost faint from arousal?"

"Not usually," she admitted, giggling a bit at her partner’s hyperbole.

"Then I must have loved it," she declared decisively, "because I was almost unconscious there for a minute."

Scooting up to rest on one elbow, Jamie asked, "Have you done that before?"

"Mmmm-hmmm," she acknowledged, a small smile on her face, her voice a low rumble.

Jamie considered that for a moment, then asked the logical extension. "Have you wished I would do that to you?"


"More than once?"


"Why didn’t you ask me to?"

Pausing to take in a breath, Ryan considered her answer for a moment. "Umm, I guess because I thought you’d do it if I asked you to—even if it didn’t appeal to you. I don’t like to press you to do things you’re not ready for, Honey."

After a few seconds, Jamie traced a finger all over Ryan’s face, trying to memorize the strong planes that merged to create her stunning beauty. "I appreciate how you try to look out for me, but I give you permission to ask for anything that you want from now on."

"Um...I hate to tell you this, Honey, but we’re almost out of new frontiers. There is only so much territory to cover.

Tracing a bead of sweat that was creeping down her partner’s side, Jamie asked the question that she had been pondering. "Have you wanted to do… that…to me?"

"Do what?" Ryan drawled, being intentionally obtuse.

Long months of study gave Jamie a clue that she was being toyed with, and she slapped her lightly, asking, "I think you know what I meant, Tiger. Have you wanted to touch me…there?"

Ryan gave her a lazy, sexy grin, as her blue eyes narrowed dangerously. "Mmmm-hmmm," she growled. "Several times."

Her partner leaned over until they were nose to nose and said, "Ain’t gonna happen, Babe."

"Okay," Ryan said, giving in immediately. "But don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it."

"Honey," Jamie said hesitantly, not sure if Ryan was being serious or not, "don’t you think we can find ways to keep the already explored territory exciting?"

Realizing that her teasing had gone too far, Ryan wrapped her in her arms and insisted, "Baby, if you touched me in the same way every day I could maintain my excitement for years. You are a pure turn-on no matter how you make love to me. I am perfectly satisfied with the settled territory. I just have a fleeting desire every once in a while to touch you in a way that I enjoy. But I understand completely if you’re not comfortable with it." She reached up and trailed her fingers over Jamie’s cheek. "I have absolutely no complaints, Babe. I couldn’t hope for a hotter lover."

"You’re not so bad yourself," she said in her most sultry voice. "Wanna show me?"

"I thought you’d never ask," Ryan grinned, flipping her giggling partner onto her back.

She spent a solid hour teasing, taunting, caressing and loving every inch of Jamie’s burning body. Her head was buried in between strong thighs as she used her mouth to bring her to yet another orgasm, but as the strong pulsing began to signal the impending climax, her watch began to bleat its insistent alarm. Luckily, Jamie was too far gone to have the sound interrupt her concentration, and the contractions began to throb against Ryan’s mouth as she shook with her final release of the night, calling out weakly as she collapsed from exhaustion.

Knowing that their schedule did not allow much room to delay, Ryan regretfully pulled away from her lover’s limp grasp, slid out of bed, and stumbled into the shower. She turned on the water, letting it run until it was the temperature that Jamie preferred, then padded back into the bedroom to begin the difficult job of actually getting her weak partner to her feet. She finally had to carry her into the steaming water, letting the warm spray wash over them until she believed that her lover was strong enough to stand. Jamie was actually better at leaning than she was at standing at the moment, so Ryan allowed her to embrace the wall with her arms splayed out while she gently removed the significant evidence of their passion. It took several minutes to remove the copious lubrication, but she was finally satisfied with her efforts. She washed herself in the same manner while Jamie leaned against the wall, cleaning all of the natural and artificial moisture from all of her hidden folds, smiling to herself as she recalled the pleasurable sensations she had so recently experienced.

Turning off the water, she dried Jamie briskly, which concurrently helped to revive her. While Jamie dried her hair Ryan picked out an outfit for her, choosing a simple cream and light green print jersey dress. She wanted her to be comfortable on the long flight, and she reasoned that the unstructured dress would give her a lot of room to move. Since she assumed that the plane might be cold, she added a mint green cardigan sweater to protect her delicate skin from the chilled air. Next she chose some cream colored sandals that were simple enough to match the style of the dress, but substantial enough to allow her to run through the terminal if need be.

Jamie was pleased with her selections, and she smiled her approval as she stepped into the salmon-colored satin panties her partner had chosen. Ryan came around behind her to fasten the matching bra, bending to kiss her shoulders reverently as she did so. As the blonde started to put on her dress, she heard a sharp intake of breath and turned to see Ryan standing in the middle of the room, tears running down her cheeks.

Jamie nearly dove for her, and they held each other and rocked slowly until she absolutely had to leave. Neither spoke, there being nothing they could say to make their parting any easier.

When the emotion eased, Ryan slipped on some chinos and a bright blue oversized cotton blouse, crisply ironed, as usual. She laced up her Topsiders and picked up Jamie’s nylon suitcase as they slowly made their way up the stairs, holding hands to maintain contact as long as possible.

Martin was in his room, but the door was open and the light was on, so Ryan poked her head in. "We’re leaving, Da," she said, her voice still a little hoarse from emotion.

Putting his book down, he came out into the living room to kiss Jamie goodbye. "We’ll miss you, Sweetheart," he said as he hugged her. "I don’t know how I’ll keep her happy," he said with a smile towards his daughter as he pulled away.

"Take care of her for me, Martin," she said as a tear started to escape. She stood on her tiptoes and gave him another kiss as she took Ryan’s hand, and they made a dash for the car. Traffic was light, and for a change there were no off-hours highway projects on 101. After parking in the short-term section of the lot, they rode the long people mover through the airport, both still uncharacteristically silent. They were nearly at the terminal when Jamie pulled her lover into the boarding area for another airline. She reached into her bag and took a small purple object out, lifted the tail of Ryan’s shirt and clipped the little gift to her waistband.

"A pager?" Ryan asked in confusion.

"No, it’s a phone like mine, but I got you a cute little neoprene cover for it. I want you to wear it when I’m gone, and since you’re sweating most of the time I thought I should get you a waterproof cover," she said with a grin as she tweaked her nose, some of her humor returning.

"I don’t really need a phone," Ryan protested. "And it’s just another bill to pay every month, Honey."

"This will make me feel better, Baby. I’ll rest easier knowing I can get you quickly if I need you."

"Okay," Ryan said indulgently with a little smile. "Anything to make you feel better."

Jamie wrapped her arms around her neck and kissed her tenderly. Ryan held onto her tightly, fearing that she might leave a bruise, but completely unable to relax her grip. The kiss deepened until Ryan knew they must be attracting attention, but she felt powerless to stop. Jamie finally pulled away, resting her forehead against Ryan’s as they both closed their eyes and fought the temptation to begin again. She picked up her head and lifted her fingers to gently trace her lover’s cheekbone. "I love you so much, Ryan. You’re the most precious gift I’ve ever been given. Please take care of yourself while I’m gone."

"I promise," she vowed as tears welled in her eyes. "But you have to do the same for me."

"I will," she said as she hugged her fiercely. "We’d better go. Mother will be waiting."

They walked along the wide corridor and reached the gate just a few minutes after their desired arrival time. Catherine was sitting in a chair reading a clothbound book as they approached, and she looked up and smiled when she caught sight of them. Jamie leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek, and Ryan did the same when Catherine turned to her. "Just in time," she said brightly as boarding for the flight was announced.

Jamie took her bag from Ryan when they went to stand in line, and Ryan felt a sense of loss just from that simple act. They tried to make small talk while they waited, but neither had the heart for it, so a long silence settled over them. When the gate attendant had checked their tickets, Jamie stepped out of line and stood on her toes to give her lover one last kiss. Holding her chin in her fingers, she lightly brushed her lips against Ryan’s as her eyelids fluttered closed and she softly murmured, "I love you."

"I love you too, Jamie," she whispered, and immediately bit her bottom lip to keep from crying. Moving away from her lover, Ryan caught Catherine’s sympathetic gaze, and shyly waved to her. The older woman gave her a fond smile and returned her wave, then made her way onto the ramp. Jamie turned quickly and followed her mother, not turning around for another glance.

Ryan stood in the waiting area, unable to will her feet to move. Maybe, if she hurried, she could still get a ticket, could get Jamie off of the plane, could… An insistent burr penetrated her sense of loss and loneliness. She looked around in consternation before she realized that it was coming from her waistband, from…Jamie!

She hurriedly unclipped the tiny phone from her waist and fumbled it out of the cover. "H’lo," she said breathlessly, having been afraid that her lover would give up before she was able to establish the connection.

"Hi," came the loving voice of the other half of her heart. There was a hesitation. "I told you I wanted to be able to get you quickly if I needed you. Well, it’s been less than five minutes and I already need you, Baby."

Ryan drew a deep breath. This wasn’t going to be easy for either one of them, but she’d be damned if she’d make it any harder for the woman she loved more than her life. "I know, Love. I miss you, too." A touch of the cocky Ryan confidence returned to her voice as she teased, "But a wealthy admirer of mine gave me a little toy to play with that will make it easy for me to keep in constant touch with you, if you know what I mean."

Jamie could just imagine the eyebrow waggle that accompanied that statement and her mind flashed to their discussion about phone sex. Sitting next to her mother, as she was, she flushed slightly then smiled. "Wealthy admirer, huh? She’d better not let me catch her giving you gifts or I’ll kick her butt."

A full-fledged grin crossed Ryan’s face. "Careful," she drawled, "you might just find that she would like having her butt….kicked."

The blush deepened and Jamie crossed her legs, thinking of the evening’s activities. She cleared her throat and glanced at her mother, who was assiduously perusing her way through the flight magazine. She self-consciously lowered her voice. "Ain’t gonna happen, Babe," she said, repeating her earlier declaration.

"Uh-huh," Ryan smirked. "It’s gonna be a week, Love. A verrry long week. Filled with hours and hours of only phone sex. Speaking of which, I love those sexy panties you’re wearing. Know what I’d like to do…" She broke off and smiled at the barely audible moan issuing from the tiny receiver.

Jamie half-turned in her seat and lowered her voice almost to a whisper. "Ryan, behave yourself," Jamie scolded. "My mother is sitting right here!"

"Well, she’s gonna have to find her own phone pal, Baby."

"Eeeuuugh. Ryan!"

"Okay, okay," Ryan laughed. She was feeling a lot better. "Thanks for calling me, Love. And thanks for thinking of this way for us to keep in touch while we’re apart. I love you, Jamie."

"Love you, too. And if things get too bad, I’ll just get on the next plane and come home."

"To Santa Cruz," Ryan corrected.

"Absolutely. To Santa Cruz," Jamie agreed with a smile in her voice. "I’ll be the first volleyball groupie."


"I promise."

"And you’ll call me every day?"

"Several times," Jamie assured her.

Ryan’s voice took on a deeper, seductive timbre. "And we can really try out phone sex? You know what they say about the phone—‘It’s the next best thing to being there.’"

"Honey, if it will make you feel better, we can leave the line connected all night long and sleep together. At least I’d be able to hear you breathing."

Ryan chuckled. "I think that’s how the phone sex starts…" She could hear the muffled announcements crackling out of the loudspeakers in the plane.

"Ryan, I’ve got to go now. Time to shut down the cell phones. I’ll call you when I get there, okay?"

"Okay, Babe." There was a brief pause before Ryan added, "Uh, Jamie…"


The response was sultry and sexy and full of promise. "Be sure it’s from your room…and that you’re alone."

Jamie laughed. "That’s my girl."

"And don’t you forget it," Ryan threatened with a growl.

"No chance, Babe. Gotta go, I love you."

"Love you, too," Ryan answered, then heard the dial tone following the disconnect.

She took a deep breath and replaced the phone on her waistband, somehow drawing comfort from its presence there, as if it was a direct link to Jamie.

Ryan shook her head. In a lifelong relationship, there are going to be some times when we can’t help being separated. The thing to hold onto is that it is a lifetime commitment. We have the rest of our lives together.

Still smiling, she turned to go collect the Lexus, fingering the phone on her hip. Their being apart was going to be difficult, but it did present some interesting possibilities. Possibilities that she couldn’t wait to explore.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The opening bars of Beethoven’s "Ode to Joy" slowly invaded the sleep-clouded mind of the woman lying face down across a very disordered bed. She was clothed in a once neatly pressed blue blouse and a pair of equally rumpled khaki pants. Low black boots encased her feet, which dangled off the end of the bed.

A large, jet-black, curly haired dog lay at her side, her arm draped across his broad chest. His right ear twitched at the sound, and as the woman’s arm lifted from his body, he leapt to his feet and took off for the front door, growling ominously at the imagined intruder.

"Duffy," Ryan moaned, her voice muffled by the mattress. "Quiet!"

Still the music played on, persistently repeating the same sequence, and the woman tilted her head in an irritated fashion, searching for its source. "Shit!" she cried, getting to her hands and knees and scrambling across the bed. She grabbed the small neoprene-encased cell phone that rested on her bedside table and blinked rapidly, trying to focus her eyes clearly enough to find the "talk" button. "H’llo," she gasped, pushing the raven hair that had fallen forward in sleep back from her eyes.

"Good morning, Sleepy. Sounds like someone didn’t lie awake all night cursing my absence."

The teasing voice coming from the phone brought a smile to the dark woman’s face, and she nearly moaned in pleasure. "What a nice way to wake up," she said rather dreamily, forgetting about the irritations of the barking dog and the ringing phone.

"I miss you, Ryan," her partner’s voice murmured.

"I miss you too, Jamie," she said. "I was asleep, as you could tell, but I tossed and turned all night long. Worst night’s sleep I’ve had since we’ve been together." She surveyed the tangle of sheets that surrounded her, and looked down to see that she was still fully clothed. A small chuckle escaped as she admitted, "Although I am still in my clothes, so I guess I fell asleep rather quickly."

Jamie laughed gently, having a perfect image of her lover as she had left her five hours earlier at the airport. She allowed her mind to imagine how she must look now—mentally adding wrinkles to both her clothing and her face, mussing her hair thoroughly, and imagining her clear blue eyes cloudy and puffy from lack of sleep, "I think you look absolutely beautiful," she murmured, meaning every word.

"But you can’t see me," Ryan laughed. "We need those video phones." Oops, better watch that; she’d probably buy some.

"I can see you just fine, Babe," she disagreed. "I have very keen powers of visual memory."

Ryan’s voice dropped an octave, a feat easily accomplished so early in the morning. "Excellent," she growled. "That will come in very handy during your trip."

"Even from 3,000 miles I can see your blue eyes flashing when you think about sex, Ryan O’Flaherty." Her tone was very playful and filled with longing for the object of her affection.

"I miss you," Ryan said again, wishing desperately that she could reach out and touch her precious partner. "I know I’m repeating myself, but I can’t get past it. This is the first time since May that I haven’t woken to the feeling of you in my arms."

"I know, Love," she soothed, feeling their distance like an impervious barrier. "I fell asleep as soon as we got on the plane, and didn’t wake up until the landing gear dropped. I didn’t even feel that tired, but I didn’t want to be awake if you weren’t there to share the trip with me."

"Where are you now?" Ryan asked, thinking as she looked at her watch that this was far too early for Jamie and her mother to be at their destination.

"Boston. Mother’s waiting for her luggage, but since I didn’t have any I thought I’d let you know we made it safely."

"I’m glad you called, for several reasons," Ryan informed her. "One—because I miss you like crazy. And two—if you hadn’t, I might have slept all day. I forgot to set my alarm!"

Jamie laughed at her practical lover. At least her missing me was number one. "You’d better get going, Love. You have to get to Berkeley and get packed, you know."

"Yes, I know," Ryan agreed, uncharacteristically not looking forward to spending a week in Santa Cruz with her volleyball team, getting ready for the season. "I’ll have breakfast and get going. Jordan’s coming over at ten, and then we’re heading down together."

"Coach didn’t give you a hard time about driving yourself, did he?"

"No, not really. I just had to sign a waiver saying that I was over 21 and had voluntarily declined to accompany the team. He’s pretty easygoing about stuff like that. It really makes me glad that I chose the volleyball team."

"I’m glad too," Jamie agreed. "I think you’re gonna love playing, Baby, and I know I’m gonna love watching you. Oops…luggage is here. I’d better go help Mother."

"Are you going to sleep when you get there?"

"Yeah…probably for a while. Why?"

"Before you do, look in your bag. I put a little something in there to help you sleep."

Jamie paused for a moment, casting a quick glance to make sure her mother’s bags had not arrived on the conveyor belt. "Does it have to be plugged in?" she asked cautiously, knowing that her lover would most likely gift her with some form of sex toy to relax her.

"Nope. No batteries required either," Ryan chuckled. "It’s completely innocent, Babe. I’m turning over a new leaf."

"Don’t you dare!" she responded with some alarm. "I’m just starting to exploit the old leaf!"

Ryan laughed gently, the deep rumble causing a shiver of delight to travel down Jamie’s back. "You got it. I’ll stay my naughty self until you tire of me."

"Never," Jamie whispered fiercely, the longing she felt for her partner like a sharp pain in the pit of her stomach. "I’ll never tire of you in any way, Ryan."

"I love you, Jamers," she said with a catch in her voice. "I wish I didn’t have to go."

"I love you too, Sweetheart. I’ll call you tonight."



As Ryan disconnected, she replaced the phone on the table and flopped over onto her back, staring at the ceiling for a long while, the ache she felt for her partner nearly palpable. "Jesus, it’s gonna be a long week," she grumbled, finally getting to her feet to tread upstairs for breakfast.

* * * * * * * * * * *

After attending early Mass with her father, playing with Duffy in the park to deplete some of his energy while retaining as much of her own as possible, and driving back across the bridge, Ryan was hard-pressed to get organized before Jordan arrived. They didn’t have to be in Santa Cruz until four, so they didn’t have to leave as early as they were planning, but Jordan had a favorite place she liked to stop for lunch about halfway down, so they wanted to allow plenty of time.

The doorbell rang at nine, and Ryan uttered a small curse as she ran down the stairs to answer. "I’m barely going to be ready by ten, Jordan, give me a bre…" As she threw the door open, Jim Evans stood staring at her, a look on his face that could only be described as intense.

"May I come in?" he asked, not waiting for permission as he did just that.

"Uhhh…sure," Ryan said as she reached behind him to close the door. "You do remember that Jamie’s gone, don’t yo…"

He turned quickly, fixing her with his vivid green eyes, so like Jamie’s in color—so unlike hers in warmth. "I’m well aware that she and Catherine have left, Ryan. It’s you that I wanted to speak to."

Every instinct told her to turn and run as fast as her long legs would carry her, but she knew that was not a viable choice, so she walked slowly towards the sofa and sat on the edge of a cushion, waiting for him to choose a spot. He didn’t sit, instead pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace, not saying a word, marshalling his thoughts. Ryan briefly considered that he looked a little like a windup toy, but she feared that the energy he was mustering was going to be released in her direction very soon.

Her fear proved valid when he finally stopped and stared at her, his hands balled into fists. "What have you done to my daughter?" His question was simple, deceptively simple, but Ryan had no idea how to answer him.

"I don’t know what you mean…" she began, but he started to advance on her, finally standing dangerously close as he leaned over, his eyes blazing with anger.

"She’s not the same reliable girl she was before she met you, Ryan. There’s not one part of her personality that has remained intact, and Jamie was a wonderful person just the way she was. Need I recount the dramatic, unpalatable changes that have occurred?"

Ryan didn’t want to sit here and have him tower over her, but at the same time she certainly didn’t want to have a physical confrontation with him—even though she was sure she would come out on top if one became unavoidable. Deeming, for the moment, that discretion was the better part of valor, Ryan didn’t say a word, scooting back on the cushion to get some distance from the irate man.

He straightened up and began pacing again, ticking off the changes he found so objectionable on his fingers. "One—out of the blue, she starts having doubts about her engagement. Two—she decides to buy a bike and undertake a grueling physical conditioning program to support a charity that I’m sure she did not even know existed before she met you. Three—she starts picking fights with Jack, her mother and even me…something she had never done with any of us. Four—she pushes poor Jack until he’s forced to break off their engagement, just to preserve some semblance of his dignity. Five—she marches in here one day and declares that she’s entered into a permanent relationship with a woman. Six—she and I have had more disagreements in the few months she’s been with you than we have had in the blissful 20 years before you darkened our door. Seven—she decides that all of a sudden her investments are not aggressive enough…not earning enough…not growing enough. Suddenly she’s a market analyst, and she believes she’s competent to manage her own multi-million dollar trust. This from a girl who doesn’t know how to balance her own checkbook!"

She’s one of the brightest people I’ve ever met, you jerk! she cried to herself, knowing that she had to hold her tongue.

He stared at Ryan angrily, his face getting redder by the moment. "All of these things are so unlike Jamie. I want my daughter back!" he yelled, his voice so loud that Ryan’s ears rang.

Deciding that she didn’t want to be trapped on the couch again, Ryan got to her feet and started her own pacing routine, safely away from Jim with the couch as a barrier.

The silence hung heavily in the room until Ryan finally answered, "I don’t know what you expect me to say. It’s not in my power to give you what you want. Jamie is her own woman. Everyone changes, Jim…especially someone 21 years old. Jamie’s just growing up and learning to make her own choices."

"I don’t have a problem in the world with her growing up or making her own choices," he spat. "She did that when she became engaged to Jack, when she chose her course of study at school." He paused to look accusingly at Ryan. "My problem is that she isn’t making her own choices…you’re making her choices for her!"

Ryan could feel her anger start to boil, and she tried every trick to calm herself down. "I…am…not," she enunciated slowly, each word spoken with fervor. "I never have…and I never will. She’s a mature adult who is more capable of making her own choices than any ten women her age. You should be proud of the person she’s become…not angry that she’s not your little girl any more!" Oh shit! she chastised herself when she saw his anger blaze at her words. You went too far, Big Mouth! "I didn’t mean it like that Jim," she said in a conciliatory tone, knowing in her heart that it was too late.

To her surprise, her wounding words seemed to calm him down. He quickly controlled his temper and within seconds his face was an expressionless mask. In a monotone he responded. "I’ll not have you telling me to be proud of my daughter. I have always been proud of my Jamie. You know nothing of our relationship." As he spoke, his emotion grew until his voice was once again dripping with sarcasm. "You’ve been her lover for what…two months now?"

"Six weeks," Ryan supplied, constantly amazed that it had been such a short time.

"Six weeks," he mused. "Six weeks. And in these six weeks you’ve come to know her better than her mother and I do, is that right, Ryan? You know her better than Jack, who was her boyfriend, and then her lover, for three years. You know her better than her friend Cassie, who’s known her since preschool. Are you just naturally perceptive, or do you have some special skill at learning my daughter’s deepest feelings?"

"You’re always more perceptive concerning your soul-mate's feelings," she announced, a defiant look in her eye. "But I’ve never claimed to know her better than any of you do. I know her just well enough to know that she’s able to make her own decisions. And I love her just enough to allow her to do so…without interfering." She knew that she was inciting him, but she could not allow him to continue denigrating Jamie or their love.

He paced back and forth with his hands linked behind his back, head bowed in concentration, silently thinking of the young woman who had brought him so much joy before this interloper appeared on the scene. "This is getting us nowhere," he decided. "I think it’s time we stopped playing games and got to the point, don’t you?"

"I have no idea what your point is," she countered.

"Oh, I think you do, Ryan." He turned and sat in one of the upholstered chairs, reached into the inner pocket of his jacket, and extracted a cigar. While she waited for the punch line he fussed with the precious object, finally lighting it and taking several deep puffs. Blowing out a stream of smoke into the air above his head he gazed at Ryan and asked, "What exactly do you want from my daughter?"

"I have no idea what you’re getting at," she stated, folding her arms across her chest.

"Okay, let me make it more clear." His tone was now almost conversational, and Ryan realized that he was adopting his deal-making persona. "When Jamie comes to her senses and goes back to her true sexual orientation, as I am certain that she will, what do you hope to take away from this relationship?"

Ryan couldn’t conceive of her life without Jamie, but considered his question seriously since she assumed he was asking it in the same fashion. "I suppose I would take my shattered heart and try to recover enough to start over. But I would question my judgment for a very long time if I could be so wrong about someone."

Jim had expected her to be evasive concerning how she was using Jamie, so he phrased his intent more directly. "I think you know that I was referring to your monetary aspirations," he said quietly.

"I have no monetary aspirations when it comes to Jamie," she replied in a tone even quieter than his. "And if you knew how special she was, you would know that no amount of money could ever make up for the loss of her love."

He was taken aback by this simple declaration. He didn’t believe it for one minute, but the thought crossed his mind that Ryan could make a good trial attorney since she was able to come up with such ready, yet sincere-sounding lies.

"I know exactly how special she is, Ryan. Sometimes I think I know her much better than she knows herself. I love the Jamie that I know far more than you ever could. And I also know, with every fiber of my being, that she is not a lesbian."

"She may not be," she said agreeably, loathe to get into a full-blown argument over a definition, "but she loves me, and I love her, and we’re going to be together until death parts us." She made this last statement with such a determined look in her eye that he realized he would not be able to shake her confidence on the issue, though he doubted that—even left alone—their relationship would last, given Ryan’s past history.

"Fine," he said dismissively, waving his cigar in the air. "Let’s table the lesbian issue, since that isn’t the main point, anyway. I’m not happy about Jamie taking this little detour, but I know it’s a common thing for girls to try. You were something different, something intriguing that Jamie was duped into thinking she wanted to experiment with. You girls aren’t the first to try to shock society, Ryan. It was even going on when I was in school!" He tilted his head back, reminiscing about his youth. "We called them members of Phi Beta Lesbiana, as I recall. After graduation, most of them got married and forgot all about their little flings. I’m quite sure that’s what will happen with Jamie—even though I know you don’t share my opinion."

"That’s putting it very, very mildly," Ryan said flatly, her face a blank canvas. Her first impulse was to attempt to provide evidence that would sway Jim’s stance, then realized that nothing she could say would make any difference. She refrained from adding to her simple statement of disagreement.

"Be that as it may, it’s not the source of my worry. I am certain that Jamie will come back to her senses. In the meantime, my worry is about the financial harm that you can cause my daughter."

Ryan’s mouth gaped open, and she stared at him in amazement. "You DO know how much money she has, don’t you? What in the hell do you think I’m going to do…buy a yacht? A raft of classic cars?" She blinked slowly, reminding herself that using examples from Jim’s life was probably not wise.

He ignored the insult, acting as though he had not even heard it. "I think I’ve been quite generous with you, Ryan. I’ve paid for your golf, I’ve let you use our home, I’ve let you drive my cars. I’m sure that Jamie has bought some of your clothes and pays for your entertainment, as well as buying you a very expensive car."

"Yes, sir. You’ve both been very generous. You probably don’t understand this, but Jamie gets pleasure out of buying things for me. I don’t need the things she buys, and in some cases I don’t even want them, but it makes her happy, so I try not to complain."

"You’re too kind, Ryan," he drawled, his words dripping with sarcasm. "Be that as it may, the money she’s spent on you up until now is chump change compared to what she plans on doing in the future, and I think you know that. You plan on living in my house with my daughter supporting you for God knows how many years until you finish some form of graduate education. If you attend medical school that will be at least seven more years! The tuition alone could run over $100,000! Given her generosity, you could easily take her for several hundred thousand dollars by the time your education is complete."

"I don’t ‘take her’ for a dime!" she snapped, growing so angry she was beginning to shake.

"You’re willing to soak her for a quarter of a million dollars, and you have the nerve to say that you have no monetary aspirations with her?"

"I don’t!" she insisted.

To Jim Evan’s legal mind, the evidence to the contrary spoke for itself--was irrefutable. As her father, it was his obligation to protect Jamie’s interests, even if she did not agree with him as to what those were. "Then why were you down at Bank of America grilling Tuck Gray about the terms of her trust? Why have you convinced her to add you to her checking account? Why is your name on the title to the car? Those are not the actions of a woman who is not interested in money or what it can buy her!"

Money. Always the fucking money! Like it matters that was all Jamie’s idea! "I know you don’t believe me, but I swear that I would love Jamie just as much if she had less money than I did!" Ryan insisted.

"Fine!" he cried. "Then prove it! Live in your own house and support yourself! Get a scholarship or take out loans to go to medical school. Live like you lived before you had her to foot your bills!"

She ran her hands through her hair in an agitated fashion. He was really getting to her, but she didn’t want him to know it, so she tried valiantly to control her physical reactions. "It’s not fair to ask me to do that. It’s not what Jamie wants, and I won’t hurt her by rejecting her offer," she said quietly. "We are partners now, and she wants to support me. Our relationship is just as valid as her relationship with Jack was. I bet you never had this kind of talk with him," she added rather derisively.

"I didn’t have to," he said as he glared at her. "In three years he never took a penny from her. He took out loans to go to Stanford, he drove a ten-year-old car, and he lived in a small apartment that he paid for with his summer earnings. That’s after three years mind you, and with a formal engagement behind him!"

Ryan had no ready answers for this one. She knew that her intentions towards Jamie were completely honorable, but she had no way of convincing Jim that was the case. "All I know is that I love Jamie, and she and I have decided that it’s best if she supports me through graduate school. I can only hope that over time you come to realize that my love for her is in spite of her money, not because of it."

"Look, Ryan," he said carefully, backing off and changing topics as he had done several times—and keeping her severely off-balance. "Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that I’ve misjudged you. Let’s assume that your feelings are sincere. Monetary issues aside, neither of you know what it takes to make a successful long-term relationship. You’ve admitted that you’ve been with dozens of women, and given your age you obviously haven’t been able to make a go of a relationship. Jamie was trying to get back with Jack during the time she was supposed to be falling in love with you. She’s just experimenting, Ryan, and when she moves on, or tries to get back with Jack or another man, you’ll be left to pick up the pieces."

Much to her chagrin, she found that the mere mention of Jack still caused her to grind her teeth, and the thought of her partner leaving her made her crazy, even though she knew it would not happen. But she did not want him to know that he had gotten to her, so she tried to appear unconcerned. "She chose me over Jack. That’s the bottom line. And even if I’m dead wrong, and she is just experimenting, being with her has been so wonderful that I swear I would not regret one day that we’ve spent together. I’m willing to risk everything to be with her."

Regrettably for Ryan, Jim’s years of pouncing on weakness served him well. He could tell that the composed looking young woman was angry, and he had a perverse desire to poke her a little to test his assumption. He actually thought his daughter was quite steadfast with her affections, but he sensed a weakness in Ryan, and guessed that it was because of her own checkered past. "You know, the way Jamie tells it, she was engaged to, and sleeping with, Jack while she was falling in love with you."

She just glared at him, which encouraged him to continue.

"And, she was, in effect, cheating on you when she tried to reconcile with Jack. I know she was sleeping with him since our maid told us he slept at our home when we were gone. How can you be so sure she won’t cheat on you again?" he challenged triumphantly when he saw the fire in her eyes.

In retrospect, Ryan had to admit that she set the course of their future relationship when she uttered the words that flew from her mouth. She deeply regretted saying them, and she knew that she was wrong to do so, but he caught her at a weak moment and her tongue was quicker than her brain. "Don’t you dare paint her with that innuendo!" she yelled. "Just because she’s your daughter doesn’t mean she cheats on her partner!"

It took a few moments for her slur to really reach his brain. As it did, a mask of fury settled over his features. He glared at Ryan, a plume of cigar smoke settling over her like a toxic cloud. "I think you’d better explain that statement," he demanded icily, glowering at her as though he wished to tear her limb from limb.

She knew she had no way out. It was impossible to just write it off as a flippant comment, so she tried to extricate herself from the situation with as little damage as possible. "I apologize," she said softly. "Your personal behavior is none of my business."

He got to his feet and stood opposite the couch, glaring menacingly into her eyes. "Tell me what you meant by that statement," he repeated, ignoring her apology.

She took a breath and bit the bullet. "Last May, Jamie and I were trying to find a safe place where we could be together," she said softly, terribly angry with herself for having gotten into this position. "We went to your apartment one Saturday afternoon. We were in the guest room when you came in." She paused for a moment as she could see the recognition dawn in his eyes. "You weren’t alone."

"So Jamie knows, too," he stated with a pained expression that had replaced his anger.

"No, she doesn’t," she said softly. "She doesn’t know because I didn’t tell her. She went out to talk to you, and you went down to the garage with her. Your, um…friend came in after you left…I guess you told her to wait or come up separately. As soon as I could get out of there, I left too. I didn’t tell Jamie anything!"

He gazed at her with a haughty smile, feeling as if he had an out. "And your point is that having an associate at my apartment is proof of infidelity! I’ll have you know that my job is very demanding. I work nearly 24 hours a day, and quite often I conduct business at my apartment! How do you even know my associate was a woman?" he asked suspiciously. "You were sneaking around in my personal retreat!" he accused. "A civilized person would have made their presence known!"

"I assume it was a woman," Ryan said as she began to blush furiously, "because you were…umm…conducting your business on the floor of the hallway. I didn’t look closely, but I heard her voice…" She trailed off weakly, knowing that there was nothing she could say to make the situation any better.

He was so quiet that Ryan swore she could hear his watch ticking. Only the arrhythmic rasp of the breath leaving his lungs broke the stillness. His mind raced, falling back on a standard ploy he had used during his 20 years of practicing law. In times too numerous to count he had been cornered, and he had learned to deal with such situations in a very simple manner. When someone had him dead to rights, he attacked. It didn’t always work, but he had learned over time that the best defense was a very aggressive offense. His very real concerns for his daughter’s happiness and life choices were totally subverted as his personal welfare came to the fore. He used the only weapon he had at his disposal—Jamie.

"If you ever breath a word of this to my daughter…" he trailed off, leaving his unspoken threat hanging in the air. He leaned forward and let his body eat up the space that separated them. Resting his hands on the back of the sofa he stared at Ryan, and said in a fairly normal tone of voice, "It’s over, Ryan." The words sent a chill of fear down the frightened woman’s spine, even though the tone was relatively calm. "You’re in over your head, kid. Nobody—but nobody--tries to blackmail me."

She was shaking so hard she thought she would fall. All at once it became clear to her. Jim actually thought she was trying to use his infidelity as a weapon against him. Forcing her lungs to project enough air to make her voice heard, she gasped. "I would never do anything like that! I don’t want to hurt Jamie—that’s why I haven’t told her!"

"How stupid do you think I am?" he roared, looking like he was going to throttle her. She jumped back from him through instinct alone, trying to keep enough space to prevent an assault. "Nobody puts the screws to me, Ryan. Your little game is over. I’m going to put a stop to this nonsense right now."

"What are you going to do?" she asked, her voice quavering so badly that her words were nearly indecipherable.

"I’m going to make sure that you’re never alone with her again," he thundered, causing Ryan to break out in a sweat at the mere thought of never holding her partner again. "I’m going to see to it that she stays with her mother in Rhode Island until school starts." He leaned toward her once again, his body seemingly larger than it actually was. "I’m going to stop you, Ryan. You do not want to defy me on this. You can do it the easy way, or the hard way." Standing at his full height again he demanded, "Do I have your word that you will stay out of her life?"

Ryan took several deep breaths, fighting to maintain her equilibrium. Her brain was racing with the implications of his threat, but there was no hesitancy in her response. "I can’t do that," she said slowly, but with firm resolve.

"Can’t or won’t?" he asked menacingly, his green eyes boring into her like lasers.

"Both," she replied as she gulped audibly. "I won’t, because I love her with all my heart, and I promised I would never let anything keep us apart." She found that her hand had unconsciously risen to her ear and twirled the blue diamond that rested there. "That promise comes before anything. I can’t, because even if I stopped seeing her, she would not let me go. She loves me! Can’t you see that?"

"No, I can’t," he nearly spat. "I’ve given you the options, Ryan. If you’re as smart as you think you are, you’ll choose the easy way out."

He leaned even closer…so close that she could see the tiny blood vessels in his green eyes. His voice grew quieter, but the menace in his tone increased until Ryan began to shiver once again. "I’m going to see to it that you stop seeing each other. I’m not a person that you wish to have as an enemy, young woman. I’ve made short work out of far more formidable opponents than you." He stood up abruptly and walked towards the door. "I want you out of here by the time she returns." His hand was resting on the doorknob as he said, "If you can make it seem like this is your idea, I guarantee that your life will improve in some very significant ways." Walking halfway across the threshold he added ominously, "The converse is also true, Ryan."


Continues in Part Three


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