I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 1: Awakenings

By: S X Meagher

Disclaimers: See chapter 1

Feedback: I enjoy hearing from people who have enjoyed the story. If you have a comment or a question please let me know. Specific feedback is greatly appreciated. If a particular character or scene worked or did not work for you, let me know. I might even kill someone off if you ask really nicely.


Chapter 8

Jamie's cell phone rang just after 8 a.m. She scrambled out of bed and found the little phone as it rang for the 6th time. "Jamie?" rang out the deep familiar voice.

"Oh, Hi Daddy," she said as she tried to sound awake.

"Did I wake you, sweetheart?" he asked solicitously.

"No, not at all," she lied as she walked through the rest of the apartment trying to find Jack.

He was sitting at the computer in his office. He gave her a little wave and a shy grin as he gazed up and down her naked body. Even though they had been intimate for 5 months she still felt a little shy about being naked around Jack when she was just walking around the apartment. I donít know if Iíll ever get over my shyness, she mused. They had made love for a long time the previous evening. Jamie had never known Jack to be so needy. He caressed her like he was trying to absorb her through his touch. Jamie had enjoyed the tactile sensations, but she was turned off by his insecurities. He had begun to touch her again before dawn, but she had feigned sleep to avoid another needy encounter.

"How about a round of golf this afternoon?" her father asked.

"Hold on and let me ask Jack," she replied. She was still uncomfortable having her father know that she stayed at Jack's on the weekend, but he had never commented on their physical relationship, so it must not have bothered him.

She placed the phone on mute and said, "Do you want to play golf with Daddy this afternoon?"

"Yeah, that would be fun," he agreed. "I feel like I havenít been outside in weeks. I need to work until noon or so. Is that too late?"

"I'll see," she said as she spoke into the phone again, "How about 1 o'clock?"

"That's great honey, I'll call and make a tee off time. See you at the club."

After she hung up Jamie walked over to Jack and gave him a small kiss. "I'm going back to bed," she said with a smile. "You really wore me out last night," she said as she patted his cheek.

"Would you like me to help you relax?" he asked as he slipped his hands around her small waist and drew her close. He rubbed his face against her breasts and she giggled as his unshaved cheeks tickled her bare skin.

"No, Honey, I won't be able to walk if we make love again," she said with a little blush as she kissed him again.

"You know Jamie, I really like the way you look lately," he said as he stroked her concave stomach. "Working out has really improved your body. But you are getting a little thin. Are you going to try to put some weight back on?"

"Yeah, Iím going to start working with a nutritionist so I can learn to eat right. Iím using a lot more energy and I need to be able to fuel my body more efficiently."

Jack looked uninterested in her motivations for change. He placed his hands under her breasts and lifted them slightly. "I just donít want you to lose any more weight here," he said with a wicked grin. "These are just perfect."

"Thanks honey," she said weakly as she walked back into the bedroom. She fell to the bed and stared at the ceiling for a long time. She didn't really feel tired anymore, but she was feeling too depressed to do anything else.

I canít believe that we still havenít talked about our fight. He honestly thinks that making love solves all of our problems! He didnít even ask me about my doctor visit. I told him she was running tests, doesnít he even care if Iím ill? I guess it doesnít really matter as long as my breasts donít get small! After stewing for a long while she finally drifted off into a fitful slumber.

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

Jamie was glad to see her father and even happier to have a break from Jack's attention. He had woken her at around 10, once again trying to interest her in lovemaking. She had finally relented even though her heart was not in it. As he moved over her she had to bite her lip to stop from crying as she thought, I told him I was too sore to do this. But he doesnít even seem to hear me. I would never ask him to do something that was uncomfortable just for my pleasure. As he began to thrust into her even more forcefully she began to fantasize about turning the tables on him. Maybe Iíll get some of those sex toys that caller mentioned the other night. Iíd like to see how old Jack felt about having something shoved into him!

They teed off at around 1:30 after spending a few minutes warming up on the driving range. Jamie had not played since that day with Ryan, but it had been a lot longer for Jack. She was beating him handily and by the 16th hole she was ahead by 8 strokes. Usually he didn't much care how he played, but today it obviously bothered him.

"Have you been playing much, Jamie?" Jim asked with pride.

"No, not really," she answered.

"I remember that you used the club on Monday when you brought your friend, but I thought maybe you were playing more frequently in Berkeley," he said.

Jack was facing away from Jamie, but she saw him visibly tense at this comment. He turned to her and asked neutrally, "Who did you bring to the club, Jamie? You didn't mention to me that you had played here."

"I brought Ryan," she said simply as she prepared to tee off on the 17th hole.

After she hit an impressive drive she turned to Jack and gave him a thin little smile. "Your turn, honey," she said as she passed by him.

"Who's Ryan?" her father had noticed that something was going on between the two of them and he was now interested in finding out what it was.

"Just a friend of mine from school," Jamie replied after Jack had hit a powerful slice that landed on the 3rd fairway.

"A guy?" Jim asked hesitantly, thinking that perhaps this was an issue between the young couple.

"Only partially," Jack answered his question as he stalked off to find his ball.

Jim and Jamie watched Jack stomping his way across the fairway with shock on both of their faces. "What in the heck is wrong with him?" Jim finally asked her.

"He's just been in a mood for a while," Jamie replied neutrally. "I think he's got too much stress with law review and his class work."

"What did he mean by that comment?" Jim persisted as he refused to let the issue drop. After Jamie hit her second shot, a nice 5 iron that landed softly on the green, she replied, "She's a friend from school that Jack doesn't like."

"What did he mean when he said she was partially a guy?" he asked.

"Ryan's a lesbian. And for some reason Jack feels threatened by that," she finally admitted.

"Hmm," Jim replied. "That does seem strange," he finally said.

At least he's on my side, Jamie thought as Jack finally reached the green. They finished the hole in silence. Not another word was said until they finished up on 18. Jim looked at them both and said, "Let's go into the Grill. I don't want you two to leave like this."

Jack looked a little guilty about his belligerent attitude and Jamie had no reason to refuse, so they agreed. After they were settled with drinks Jim finally broke the silence again. "Do you mind talking about what's bothering you two?"

"It's not a big deal, Daddy," Jamie said. "Jack has been unhappy about my friendship with Ryan but I'm sure he'll feel better about it when he gets to know her a little." She really didn't want her father to know how childish Jack was being about this.

"I don't want to get to know her, Jamie," Jack said through gritted teeth. "If you really respected my opinion, you would stop spending all of your free time with her."

"I don't spend all of my free time with her, Jack," she defended.

"How many times did you see her this week?" he asked, bearing down on her like a prosecutor.

"We played golf on Monday, I saw her in class twice, we had to volunteer together on Tuesday and Thursday night, she trained me at the gym twice and then I made her dinner on Friday as you know."

Jack didnít say a word in response to her statement. He merely raised one dark blonde eyebrow and narrowed his eyes a bit in obvious triumph.

"But I donít see her that much all of the time," she said defensively. "This week was an anomaly."

"That's not what Cassie says," he said dramatically.

Jamie's face had been relatively composed, but now it grew bright pink with anger. "Do you have any others spies keeping track of me, or only Cassie?" she said evenly through her own set of gritted teeth.

"Jack, Jamie" her father finally said, trying to calm them down. "It's obvious that this is a big issue between you two." Jamie continued to glare at Jack who was glaring right back at her. "Jamie," he said as he turned to her, "I think the solution is rather obvious."

"I donít know if I can wait for Jack to grow up, Daddy," she said sweetly as she turned to look at her father.

"No Honey," he said firmly. "You canít put your friendships ahead of your commitment to Jack," he said patiently. "Friends will come and go, but your spouse is with you for life."

Jamie felt all of the color drain from her face. She turned from her father to Jack and then back again. She felt absolutely betrayed by both of these men. "So thatís what makes a good marriage? Giving in to every irrational request that your partner makes? Or is it only the woman who has to give in?" she added, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

The looks she was regarded with were identical. Neither man had ever seen her stand her ground so forcefully, and neither liked it. Rather than cause a bigger scene she stood and regarded them sadly. She just shook her head and fought to control the tears that desperately wanted to come as she turned and left the room.

After a half hour in the Jacuzzi she found an attendant in the locker room and handed her a note. The woman assured her that it would be delivered to her father immediately.

Jim and Jack were patiently waiting on a pair of overstuffed chairs within view of the women's locker room. The attendant recognized Jim and handed him the note. It read,

I've arranged for a ride home. Please respect my wishes and give me some time alone.

"Well, Jack, welcome to married life," Jim said as he handed Jack the note and stood to leave.

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

After Jamie had written the note she began to figure out how to get home. First she called Mia, but no one was home. Next she tried Mia's pager, but got no return call. Oh, right, she's in L.A. this weekend. I don't think she'll be home until tomorrow morning. Next she tried her grandfather, but no one was home at either his house or his office. I shouldn't do this, but I don't have enough cash for a cab. She dialed Ryan's pager number and waited just a few minutes for the return call.

"Hi," Ryan's voice called out brightly. "Are you calling to get a piece of birthday cake?"

"No," Jamie said meekly as she started to cry.

"What's wrong?" Ryan's voice was filled with alarm.

"I need a very big favor," she finally choked out.

"Anything," Ryan said firmly. "Just name it."

Jamie gave her a short version of her plight and Ryan immediately agreed to come get her. How does she do that? Two minutes of talking to her and I feel that everything will be okay.

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

Jamie showered and dried her hair. She rummaged in her locker to find a heavy lined warm up suit that she sometimes wore on rainy days. She decided she could use all the layers she had for the bike ride. She pulled her slacks and sweater back on and then put the warm ups on over her clothes. She left the locker room, glancing around carefully, hoping that her father and Jack had heeded her wishes, knowing there would be massive trouble if they saw her get on Ryanís Harley. She walked out to the circular drive and was very pleased to hear the Harley roar up the long entryway.

The attendant looked puzzled when Jamie came over to the bike. He was unsure of how to help, so he just let Ryan pull her on to the big machine. Jamie settled the spare helmet on her head and they pulled away.

When they got to the street Ryan pulled over to the curb and turned the bike off. She turned around as much as possible and gently asked, "Where do you want to go?"

"I'm not sure," she said as the tears overtook her again. "My car is in Palo Alto, so I guess I have to go there."

"I can drive you down there tomorrow," Ryan replied firmly. "You're too upset to drive back all that way by yourself. Why don't I just take you home?"

"I guess that's my only option," she said sadly. "I'm just afraid that Jack might be there waiting for me. And if I see Cassie, I might actually kill her," she said sadly.

"I've got a better idea," Ryan replied as she turned and kicked the big bike to life.

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

Jamie was pleased that Ryan had just taken control of the situation. She just knows what to do to calm me down, she thought dreamily as she rested her face between Ryan's shoulder blades to cut the wind. Her arms were wrapped tightly against her trim waist and she finally felt safe for the first time all day.

"Do you need anything for the night? I have some sweats and stuff but nothing will fit you right."

"Is there someplace that I could buy a few things? I also need a bookstore to buy a novel that I have to read by tomorrow."

"Sure. Weíll head over to 24th St."

They did just that and stopped at The Gap where Jamie purchased yet another pair of jeans and a bright blue chamois shirt along with a pale yellow T-shirt. Another stop at a cute little lingerie store added panties, a pair of cotton boxers, another bra and a pair of socks to her pile of purchases.

Luckily a used bookstore had a copy of her Barnes novel, and she was set.

They pulled up in front of the neat home in the Noe Valley just after 6. It was fully dark and she could see that the house was dark also. "Where is everyone?" Jamie inquired.

"Conor is helping my cousin Niall work on his new house over in the Sunset district. I assume they'll go out for a drink afterward, so he won't be home tonight. Da had to fill in for someone at work, so he's gone all night. Rory left on his tour today, so we have the place to ourselves for a change."

As they hopped of the bike Jamie regarded her thoughtfully, "You didn't have plans tonight did you?" she asked a little suspiciously.

"No, not really," Ryan prevaricated.

"I just thought that this could be a good opportunity to see your little friend," she replied. When Ryan's face showed no recognition, she continued, "You know; the one who lives at home."

"Oh, no, no. I'm not seeing her anymore," Ryan laughed. "I've sworn off all women who live at home," she replied seriously, "Unless they have a really big car," she added with a laugh. "I was thinking about calling my friend Ally," she said with a waggling eyebrow. "But itís never in my best interests to see her on a school night."

"How come?"

"Remember the day you had to let me sleep in your house?"

"Yeah."

"That was all due to Ally. Moderation is not her middle name," she said with a twinkle in her eyes. "You have no idea how much my body will thank you for saving me from going over there."

She felt herself shiver at the thought of what that really meant but just gave her a playful little poke in the ribs as they climbed the stairs. They were greeted enthusiastically by Duffy who acted as though Jamie was his long lost best friend.

"Boy, I've forgotten how much better a friendly greeting can make you feel," she said wistfully.

"Hey, Duffy isn't the only one who's friendly," Ryan said as she approached her and offered her arms for a hug.

Jamie gratefully accepted. As the warm, strong arms circled her she felt herself sucking up the comfort like a dry sponge. As she relaxed in the embrace she felt herself begin to let go again. She began to sob as Ryan rubbed her back in a calming, reassuring gesture. After a few minutes Ryan pulled away a bit and said, "You feel really warm. Why don't you take your jacket off."

Jamie numbly complied as Ryan did likewise. Next she removed her warm up pants and folded both of them neatly. Ryan placed an arm across her shoulders and guided her to the sofa. She gently pushed her down and leaned over to look at her face closely. "Do you drink alcohol?"

"Um, yeah," she replied, unsure of where this was headed.

"I'm going to make you a warm drink to relax you a bit," she replied.

Ryan ambled into the kitchen. Duffy looked from Ryan's retreating form to Jamie and back again. Making up his doggie mind he scrambled onto the sofa and lay his big black head on Jamie's lap, uttering a heavy sigh as he did so.

When Ryan returned Jamie was stroking Duffy's head and murmuring sweet nothings. "I can tell who his favorite is," Ryan stated as she gave him a mock glare. "C'mon Duff, I saw her first," she said as she snapped her fingers as he immediately leapt from the couch and onto the floor. "He steals all of my friends if I let him," she whispered conspiratorially as she handed Jamie a steaming mug.

Jamie took a bit sip and purred with contentment, "What is in this?" she asked with a big smile.

"Hot cocoa and Bailey's Irish cream," she replied as she sipped her own mug. "The Bailey's counteracts the caffeine in the cocoa, so it really relaxes you."

Ryan turned a little as she put her mug on the floor. She leaned over and grasped Jamie's legs, pulling them onto her lap. She began to unlace her boots and tossed them to the floor as she finished. "I want to know everything that happened since I last saw you," she said soothingly, as she began to massage her feet.

Jamie felt herself immediately begin to relax. "I went down to Palo Alto after I left here. The evening went okay," she decided to gloss over the sexual aspects of her evening. But something about the day was bothering her too much to ignore. "Can I ask you a really, really personal question?"

"Sure," she said immediately.

Jamie pursed her lips as she thought about how to frame her question. "Have you ever tried toÖ" she struggled a little as she tried to adjust the question for Ryanís sexual orientation. "Have you ever tried to get your partner to do something that was painful for her?"

Ryan looked at her with a slightly cocked head as she tried to think of how to answer. "Thatís a tough one," she admitted. "Iím not sure what youíre getting at, but there have been lots of times where Iíve pushed just a little farther than was probably wise. Sometimes itís hard to tell if a sound means ĎDo that harderí or ĎOUCH!í Is that what you mean?"

Now Jamie shot her a confused look. "I donít know what you mean," she admitted.

"Do you want me to be graphic? I donít mind giving you a blunt answer but I donít want to tell you more than you want to know about my sexual habits," she said with an embarrassed look.

A myriad of images flew through Jamieís fertile imagination. She shook her head to clear it and realized that she had to be the one to be more graphic. "Okay, hereís the issue. Jack was insatiable last night. He really seemed needy and sometimes he seems to express himself only through sex. I think itís his way of feeling close again after a fight."

Ryan nodded in complete understanding. "Thatís a common reaction to a fight," she agreed.

"Right. And even though his insecurities donít appeal to me I didnít complain. But he tried to make love to me three separate times this morning. I clearly told him that I was too sore but he would not stop. I finally gave in just to get him off my back, but I was really resentful. It really upset me that he wanted to have sex even when he knew it was causing me pain. And it pissed me off that he could enjoy himself when I was just lying there like a dead fish!"

Ryan was unsure of how to comment on this. She had never in her life tried to talk any woman into having sex when she did not want to. And she could no more enjoy sex with an unwilling partner than she could fly. But she did not want to reveal how mean she thought Jack was being. Jamie was engaged to this guy and even if he was sometimes a jerk she didnít think it was wise to be the one to point that out.

"I donít think itís fair to compare how people react to things that are really emotionally loaded," she said judiciously. "Whatís really important is how that made you feel. Tell me about that."

"I donít think thereís any lonelier feeling than lying in bed with someone whoís just using your body for their own pleasure," she murmured as she began to cry softly.

Ryan quickly got up and went to the other end of the loveseat. She lifted Jamieís torso and sat down, lowering her back down until her head was in her lap. She started to run her fingers through her hair in a soft, calming fashion. After a few minutes she said softly, "Iím so sorry, Jamie. I canít stand to see you hurt so badly. I wish I could do something to help."

"You are, Ryan. Youíre doing more than you know," she reassured her as she patted her hand. "But Iíve got lots more to bitch about so I may as well get it over with."

As she took a deep slow breath and furrowed her brow in concentration Ryanís soft voice wafted over her. "Is this okay?" She lifted a good portion of Jamieís shiny blonde hair and gave her scalp a little scratch to indicate the nature of her request.

Sea green eyes lifted and gazed at her, deep gratitude reflected back. "This is the best Iíve felt all day," she replied with a sad smile as she covered Ryanís warm hand with her own. "Actually," she amended, "Itís the best Iíve felt in weeks." She patted Ryanís hand softly as she stressed, "Itís more than all right. Itís keeping me sane."

Ryan gave her a gentle, sweet smile as her hand drifted lower and she began to trace the smooth planes of Jamieís face with her fingertips. It was difficult for the prone woman to keep her train of thought but she struggled to get through her story. "We played golf with my father this afternoon." Here she paused to concentrate. "I was playing well and it seemed to piss Jack offówhich is odd for him. Heís not normally competitive with me." Ryan nodded to encourage her, but did not speak.

"My father made a comment about bringing you to play on Monday and Jack flipped out," she replied. "He gets angry so rarely, and never, ever, in front of my parents," she said as her face clouded again.

Ryanís fingers grew more determined in their efforts to remove the stress from her friendís face. She worked at the tense lines with both of her thumbs, smiling to herself as she could see Jamie begin to relax a bit. "Then what?" Ryan softly inquired.

Jamie decided not to reveal the slur that Jack had made toward Ryan since it was not vital to the story. "After the round we went to have a drink and my father really wanted us to talk about it," she shook her head sadly. "Jack said that he didn't want me to see you anymore," she said as she began to cry in earnest. She nudged Jamie upright and sat down behind her as she put her arms around her shaking body. "That's not the worst part, though," she sobbed.

Ryan continued to smooth her hair and stroke her back. "It's okay, Jamie. It will all be okay," she soothed.

"The really bad part was when my father agreed with him," she finally got out through the raking sobs.

Ryan could hardly believe how much this revelation hurt her. She felt as though she had been kicked in the chest, but she did not want to make matters worse for her friend. She just held her tighter as she murmured reassuring words to her. After a long while the sobs turned to whimpers. Ryan said very softly right into her ear, "I don't want to cause problems with your boyfriend and your family Jamie. I understand if you need to stop seeing me so much."

Jamie sat bolt upright and got to her knees as she turned to face Ryan with a look of abject panic on her face. "Not you too!" she nearly shouted as she grabbed Ryan roughly by the shoulders. "Don't you understand?" she cried as she gave her a forceful shake.

"Jamie, Jamie, it's okay," Ryan said calmly as she removed Jamie's fingers from their death grip. "I just want you to know that I support you in whatever you choose to do," she said softly. "It would hurt me terribly to stop being your friend, but if you need to see me less I want you to know that I will understand. Iíd do anything to make this easier for you Jamie," she said with a tear in her eyes. "Anything!"

"Oh Ryan," she cried as she slumped against her friend's strong chest, sobbing once again, "you scared me," she finally said.

"How did I scare you?" she murmured as she wrapped Jamie in her arms and began to slowly rock her.

"I thought you were treating me like they were. Like I'm too stupid to make up my own mind about what I do and who I see," she said as she continued to cry softly.

"I will never do that to you Jamie," she replied solemnly as she stroked her hair. "Never! I see you as a mature woman who is very competent to make her own life decisions."

"I know one thing for sure, Ryan," she said with determination through her tears. "If Jack Townsend thinks he can control me, he's in for a very nasty surprise."

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

After Jamie had composed herself Ryan went into the kitchen to make dinner. "We've got turkey and some mashed potatoes left over from yesterday," she called into the living room. "Is that okay?"

"That sounds great," Jamie agreed. She sat on the loveseat with Duffy and when Ryan came back a while later, Duffy immediately jumped off and took his place on the floor.

Ryan ate in her normal hearty manner, but Jamie just picked at her plate. "I know I'm not a great cook, but it's not that bad is it?" she asked as Jamie moved the same piece of turkey around on her plate.

"No, it's delicious, really," Jamie said as she popped the piece in her mouth. "I just get an upset stomach when I'm tense. I'm always afraid I'll throw up so I don't like to eat much."

"You don't feel like you did at the help line do you?" Ryan asked cautiously.

"No, I don't feel faint. I'm just a little nauseous."

"I guarantee that you wonít throw up," she said confidently. "Would you humor me and eat just a little? I bet you havenít had much today, have you?"

"No, not really."

"And you didnít eat much yesterday either, did you?" she said knowingly.

"No," she admitted as she looked down at the floor.

"Come on then," Ryan said as she took her fork and loaded it up. "Here comes the airplane into the hangar," she teased as she did a few loop-the-loops with the turkey laden fork.

Jamie gave her a shy grin as she opened up and accepted the turkey. It really did taste a lot better now that Ryan was urging her on. They continued their little game until the plate was clean. "Good girl!" Ryan enthused as she rubbed her head, messing her blonde locks haphazardly. "Now you can have some cake for dessert!"

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

After they had cleaned the kitchen they went down to Ryanís room to study. Ryan sat at her desk and wrestled with some problems that looked so complex that Jamie was unable to tell what subject they covered. She sat on the big bed and read her book until she fell asleep sitting up.

When Ryan noticed that she was sound asleep she walked over to the bed and woke her with a light touch on her cheek. Jamie slowly batted her eyes and Ryan felt a catch in her throat at how terribly beautiful and completely vulnerable she looked. Damn you, Jack, she thought. How can you not realize what you have here? She trusts you but you kick her again and again! Your stupid insecurities are ruining your relationship, you jerk!

"I think you'd be more comfortable in Da's room. Then you'll have your own bath." She stood and pulled Jamie up with her. "I'll go change the sheets and get it ready for you. And you go get ready for bed," she said as she gave her a little push towards the bathroom.

Ryan brought her a new toothbrush and showed her where the towels were. "You like to wear a t-shirt to bed, right?" Jamie nodded her assent as she brushed her teeth. Ryan trotted over with two t-shirts, "You can have long or short sleeved."

"I think I'll take the long," she replied thoughtfully as she removed the garment from Ryan's hand. "Is it okay if I just wear the shirt and the boxers I bought? I donít want to scandalize Conor when he comes home."

"Iím sure Conor will think youíre seriously overdressed," she said with a smirk. "But I think it sounds appropriately modest. Do you need anything else?" Ryan inquired.

"No, I'm fine."

Ryan left her to change the sheets and a few minutes later Jamie walked into the room in her sleep clothes. "I'm just gonna hop in bed and try to forget about this whole day."

"I think that is a great idea," Ryan agreed as she pulled the crisp sheet back for her. "I'll be up for a while doing some homework. Just yell downstairs if you think of anything you need." When Jamie was situated Ryan pulled the sheet up and tucked her in. She sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over to plant a kiss on Jamie's cheek. "You sleep tight tonight."

"I'll try," she agreed. "Thanks for being there for me Ryan," she said as she looked up into those deep blue eyes.

"I'm always here for you, Jamie. I'm really glad you called me today," she replied as she ruffled her hair.

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

Around 10 o'clock Ryan heard Jamie get up. She listened for a minute and decided that she must just be going to the bathroom. After a moment she returned to her chemistry problem. She was sitting at her desk wearing her standard study outfit--her underwear. Her hair was pulled straight back into a tight ponytail with just a wisp or two sneaking out of the band and dangling around her face. Small, round silver wire rimmed glasses wrapped around her ears, giving her a very serious, almost professorial look that even the underwear didnít diminish.

She was slightly startled when she heard Jamie's soft voice right behind her. "Ryan?" she said softly.

"Hi, what's up?" she replied as she turned around in her chair. "Having trouble sleeping?"

"Yeah, I guess I am," she said as she looked down at the floor.

"Tell me what's wrong, Jamie," Ryan said as she stood and faced her friend.

You mean besides the fact that youíre in your underwear? "I woke up a while ago, and I can't get back to sleep," she admitted, still looking down at the floor. " I saw your

light on so I came down." The floor was still holding her interest. "But I don't want to disturb you. I mean you're in your Öpajamas and all," she said to the carpet.

"You're not disturbing me, Jamie. I was just studying a little." She lifted Jamie's head up to look her in the eyes, "I'm planning on being up for another couple of hours. Would you like to stay down here with me?"

"I don't want to invade your privacy," she said as she shot an awkward glance at Ryan's outfit.

"Does it bother you that I'm in my underwear?" she finally caught on.

"Um, that's underwear?" she asked sheepishly.

"Yeah," she said a little defensively. "Haven't you ever seen these?" Jamie studied her outfit closely. Ryan was wearing a gray ribbed tank top that fit like second skin. The tank top just covered the waistband of matching cotton knit gray boxers. Boxers?

"These are regulation women's underwear I'll have you know. I don't borrow my brothersí or anything," she teased as she made her way over to her built in dresser. "When I started working out at the gym I began to wear Lycra shorts. I really liked them and got used to not having elastic around my upper legs. I found these Calvin Klein women's boxers a short time later and I never plan on going back. They never ride up and you don't get the dreaded VPL."

"VPL?" Jamie asked.

"Visible panty line, of course. It's the scourge of womankind," she laughed as she pulled a pair of navy blue sweat pants out of a drawer and slipped them on. Next she found the T-shirt she had been wearing earlier and pulled that over her head.

"You don't have to get dressed just because of me," Jamie said weakly.

"It's okay, Jamie. I want you to feel comfortable around me," she said as she gave her a reassuring pat. "Now, what would you like to do? Do you feel like talking, or do you want to lie down while I study?"

"I think I'll just lie down here if you don't mind," she replied as she flopped down on the bed. "I'm really tired, but I just can't relax."

"Why don't you let me help you relax?" Ryan said as she sat down next to her. She opened a bedside drawer and pulled out a bottle of herbal scented massage lotion that she held up invitingly in front of Jamie. "Can I tempt you?"

Jamie flopped over onto her stomach with her arms stretched straight out at her sides. "If you must," she said with mock resignation.

"Do you mind taking this off?" Ryan asked as she tugged on the hem of the oversized T-shirt.

Jamie felt just a touch of embarrassment as she sat up slightly and pulled the shirt over her head. She dropped it right above her head and lay back down immediately.

Ryan swung her legs up on the bed and scooted over until she was right next to Jamie. She swung one knee over and straddled her slim hips. Thank you Jesus, for making her put on sweats.

Ryan poured a generous amount of lotion onto her hands and then rubbed them together briskly to warm it. She placed those strong hands gently on Jamie's shoulders and softly asked, "Ready?"

For anything, Jamie thought dreamily as she struggled to stay lucid. Ryanís hands were works of art as they worked over her tense muscles. Thereís no way those hands have ever forced a woman to do anything against her will, she decided. Although who would be crazy enough to refuse this touch is beyond me, she thought dreamily. They pushed and pulled and prodded each muscle in turn until Jamie was a quivering mass of relaxed flesh. Jamie could feel Ryanís powerful thighs flex and move against her as her friend leaned over to reach more distant muscles. She could feel the heat radiating from Ryan's body through hers as the massage grew more strenuous.

After a few minutes of very deep muscle work Jamie felt the intensity begin to wane. She felt her body grow heavy and sluggish and as Ryan continued to work she felt herself struggle to remain awake. Ryan obviously felt this too, as she continued to stroke her lightly, finally ending with a feather light touch all over her neck, shoulders and back.

Jamie was vaguely aware of Ryan's efforts to place her t-shirt over her head again and pull her arms through the long sleeves. She felt a soft blanket settle over her and then a tender kiss on her cheek. She allowed herself to take in the peaceful feeling and she quickly drifted off to sleep.

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

When Ryan was certain that Jamie was asleep she got up from the bed gingerly and returned to her desk. I cannot study with clothes on, she decided as she shucked her pants and T-shirt and settled down with her chemistry problems.

After another 2 hours of struggling with her studies Ryan heard Conor come home. She checked on Jamie to be sure she was warm, turned off her computer and put her pants back on. She climbed the stairs and greeted Conor just as he was about to go up to his room.

"Hey," he said when he spied her emerge from the staircase. "What are you still doing up?"

"I've been studying," she said through a yawn. "Oh, Jamie's downstairs. She had some boyfriend trouble. She's going to sleep in my room. I'll take Da's," she said as she fought another yawn.

"Is she okay?" he asked with true concern.

"I think she'll be fine. She just had a really tough day."

"What do you think of this boyfriend, anyway?" Conor asked, a bit too casually.

"I don't know him very well," she replied. "He doesn't care for me much. That's part of the problem," she said simply.

"Why wouldn't he like you?" Conor asked with a sharp tone.

"He doesn't think Jamie should spend so much of her time with a lesbian," she replied, just a bit embarrassed.

"Oh please!" Conor said, truly agitated. "What does he think you'll do to her? I'd like to give that jerk a piece of my mind, " he added as an afterthought.

"All I can guess is that he thinks I'll seduce her," she replied.

"Riiight" he said knowingly. "What Mr. Preppy doesn't get is that if you wanted to seduce her she would already be seduced," he said as he wrapped his elbow around her neck and gave her a gentle tap on the chin with his fist. "No woman is safe when my baby sister sets her trap," he teased.

"That's the stupid thing, Conor. I don't feel that way about Jamie. She's my friend and it infuriates me that he can't recognize that. Plus itís a terrible insult to her. Sheís totally faithful to him and to assume she would have sex with me is just rude."

"You really don't have any romantic feelings about her?" Conor asked. "You could do a lot worse you know," he said a little defensively.

"No, I don't have those kind of thoughts about her. I feel very close to her, and kind of protective, but not romantic," she shrugged a bit. "If she was single and interested I'm sure that would change, though," she added with a little leer. "She is quite a catch."

"We are in complete agreement, little sister," he said as he placed an arm around her shoulders and escorted her to their father's room.

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

Jamie woke with a start as she felt a wet nose and a warm tongue nuzzle her face. She blinked her eyes open and saw a smiling Ryan and a panting Duffy watching her. Ryan was obviously just back from a morning workout. She wore a gold turtleneck covered by a navy blue short sleeved t-shirt. Her legs were covered by black Lycra pants. Black and electric blue roller blades covered her feet. Her hair was styled in a loose braid and the few wispy bangs she normally wore were covered in perspiration. Her cheeks were very pink and her blue eyes were bright and mischievous.

"Duffy insisted on seeing you this morning, and I just could not refuse," she said as she shrugged her shoulders helplessly.

"Can he get on the bed?" she asked.

"If you don't mind, I don't mind," was the reply.

"C'mon Duffy, boy," Jamie said as she patted the mattress. Duffy did not need to be asked twice. He jumped up and began to lick every exposed inch of skin that was available to his bubblegum pink tongue. Jamie giggled helplessly as she tried to protect her mouth and eyes from the assault.

"I'm going to jump in the shower while you two cuddle," Ryan said as she stripped off her skates. She stopped at the dresser and chose clean underwear, a T-shirt and a pair of jeans which she took into the bathroom with her.

Jamie heard the shower start up and after a minute Duffy calmed down and nestled up alongside her. After a few moments spent idly rubbing his head she heard a light knock on the door. "Come in," she called out.

Conor's dark head poked in the door. "Are you ladies decent?" he asked.

"Ryan's in the shower, but I'm pretty decent," she answered with a grin.

He entered the room and shook his finger at Duffy. "Why do you always get to sleep with the pretty girls?" he said as he sat on the edge of the bed and ruffled his coat.

Jamie looked Conor over as he played with the dog. He was dressed in a bright white T-shirt covered by a deep red and black flannel shirt. The sleeves were rolled up to expose his very muscular forearms that were surprisingly covered with very light blonde down. Faded jeans and heavy work boots completed his outfit. His hair was still damp from the shower and he smelled great. He smells just the way I like a man to smell, she thought as she sniffed reflectively, nothing but soap.

"Ryan says you had a tough day yesterday" he said after a bit. "Are you feeling better?"

"Yeah, I am. Thanks for caring about me, Conor," she said shyly.

"You've been adopted by the whole clan, Jamie. We all care about you," he said as he stood to go. "If that ex-con gives you any more trouble, he's gonna have to answer to me," he said with a mock glower.

"I'll keep that in mind," she said with a grin. "Boy, would that ever be an unfair fight. I wasnít sure he could beat up Ryan," she admitted. "He wouldnít last a second with you."

"Thatís where youíre wrong, Jamie. Ryanís the one you need to be careful of in this family." Jamie was just about to ask what he meant by that when the door to the bathroom opened and Ryan called out, "Quit harassing the half naked women, Conor."

"Now you tell me she's half naked," he whined. "I never have any luck," he said as he gave Jamie a little wave and left the room.

"He's the sweetest man," Jamie said in wonder as she walked over to the bathroom.

"No, Brendan is the sweetest man. Conor is the most charming man," she said with a knowing smile.

"Well, I think he's sweet and charming," she said as she folded her arms in a defiant stance.

"No, thatís me," Ryan said with a twinkle as she stepped out of the steamy room. Her hair was very damp and combed straight back off her face. Every strong plane of that face was emphasized by the style and Jamie realized again how incredibly beautiful her friend was.

"I canít argue with that," she said fondly as she surprised Ryan with a very fierce hug. "I'm feeling a lot better today," she supplied. "I think a marvelous massage had a lot to do with it though."

"I'm only too happy to oblige. I don't give a lot of massages anymore, and I kind of miss it," she admitted.

"I will gratefully accept any time you feel the need. Remember, I am a certified pleasure hound," she grinned as she stepped into the warm room.

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

The trip to Berkeley was quick even in the heavy traffic. Jamie loved the freedom of being able to sail along between the slow moving lanes on the big bike. They were even allowed to use the express lane on the bridge which saved 15 minutes. As they approached Jamie's house Ryan slowed down and pulled to the curb. "Do you want me to let you off here in case your roommates are home?"

Jamie thought for a minute and finally nodded her head. "No sense in making matters worse than they already are," she said sadly. She hopped off and handed Ryan the helmet. Then she leaned over and gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. "This meant an awful lot to me Ryan. I just want you to know how thankful I am that you're my friend."

Ryan blushed just a little and returned the hug. "It's my pleasure," she said sincerely.

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

There were 10 messages from Jack, 2 from her father and 1 from Mia when she checked the answering machine in the empty house. She had turned off her cell phone the day before to avoid being harassed, and this was the obvious result. She dialed her father's office and left a message on his private line. "Hi, Daddy. Don't worry about me. I'm sure this will all blow over. Sorry about yesterday. I'll call later."

Next came the harder call to make. She dialed the number and closed her eyes, wishing that he wasn't home. No such luck. He answered on the first ring, clearly agitated. "Jamie! Where have you been!" he shouted. "I've looked for you all night!" Jamie was shocked. He really sounded like he was going to cry.

"I told you I wanted to be alone, Jack. I'm sorry you were worried about me, but I really did not think it was a good idea to speak with you given how I was feeling."

"Jamie, I feel like you're slipping away from me. I don't know how to hold on to you!" he really was crying now, she thought with alarm.

"Jack, the only way to hold on to me is to let me live my life," she said gently. "I can't stand to have you or anyone else try to control me."

"Are you still in love with me, Jamie? Do you still want to marry me?" he pleaded.

"I still love you Jack. But I don't like you when you treat me like your property. We've got a lot to talk about, but I've got to get to class. When will you be home tonight?"

"About 8 p.m. I've got a meeting for law review at 5, but I'll make sure I'm home by 8 if you'll come down."

"I'll be there. Now don't worry, honey. We can work this out, but itís going to take some effort," she reassured him.

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

Ryan agreed to drive her down to Palo Alto after rush hour. Jamie got through her day in a bit of a contemplative fog and was sitting in her living room when Ryan and Mia came in just after 4 p.m.

"Hi, guys," she said as she looked up from her book. "I forgot you were going to start working together today," she said as her memory clicked in. "How did it go?"

"She killed me!" Mia moaned. "I thought I was in pretty good shape from going to my gym, but I've obviously been wasting my time."

"You're the one who kept saying, ĎMore weight!í " Ryan laughed.

"Let Ryan massage your legs if they're sore, she has great hands," she said as she blushed a little when she heard the words come out.

"Either massage them or cut them off!" Mia moaned as she dropped to the floor and offered her legs to Ryan.

With a smirk, Ryan gamely worked on the stressed appendages while Jamie continued to read. The front door opened just as Ryan was finishing up the right leg. Cassie strode into the room and observed, "Am I the only one in this house that hasn't fallen prey to your charms, Ryan?"

Jamie heard the muttered, "You're the only one they haven't been offered to," but she was fairly sure that Cassie did not hear the reply. "Does anyone want a cold drink?" Jamie asked as she rose to go to the kitchen. Both Ryan and Mia answered in the affirmative.

Cassie entered the kitchen right behind Jamie who did her best to ignore her former friend. She grabbed 3 bottles of water and brushed past her on the way out. As she handed the bottles to Mia and Ryan she said, "Come on up to my room when you're done." Cassie exited the kitchen and stared at Jamie's retreating form, finally placing her hands on her hips and asking no one in particular, "What in the hell has gotten into her?"

Neither Mia nor Ryan responded to this rhetorical question. Ryan had loosened up Mia's legs and she instructed her to take a long hot shower to keep them flexible. "I'll see you on Wednesday," Ryan grinned as she began to climb the stairs.

Mia turned to a still fuming Cassie and shrugged her shoulders, "What can I say, she's got great hands?"

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

Jamie was lying on her bed with her hands knit behind her head when Ryan knocked lightly on the door prior to entering. "I'm glad you're here," she said as she looked at her strong friend. "You're the only person who might be able to pull me off her if I try to strangle her."

"I feel a little out of the loop," Ryan admitted. "I don't know how Cassieís involved in all of this."

"I found out yesterday that she has been fanning the flames with Jack again. He basically said that she had told him that I spent every free minute of my time with you."

"I should be so lucky," Ryan grinned a quirky smile. She had curled up on the loveseat under the window, looking very relaxed.

"You sure do know how to make a girl feel good," Jamie replied.

"That comes in handy in my line of work," Ryan waggled an eyebrow, just as she ducked a forcefully thrown pillow.

After a few minutes spent chatting about their respective days, Jamie grew pensive. "Would you mind if I wanted to talk about Jack for a bit?"

"Not at all, Jamie. I'd be happy to listen to anything you have to say."

"Do you think I'm crazy to be getting married so soon?" Jamie surprised herself with this question. Where did that come from?

"Thanks for starting with the simple question first," Ryan smiled sardonically. After a moment she answered, "I wasn't ready to make that kind of commitment when I was your age. But you are a lot more mature than I was then. Actually, you're more mature than I am now," she grinned.

"But you know me, Ryan. Do you think I'm ready to be married?"

"Before I can render my expert opinion," here she grinned fully, "I have to ask you some questions."

"Ask away," Jamie replied.

"What does marriage mean to you?" she inquired seriously.

She considered this for a long time. "I think of it as a lifetime commitment to share all of the joys and sorrows of life with one special person. I pledge to share my deepest thoughts and feelings with him. I promise to share my body with him alone. And I promise to do everything I can to make his life more complete."

"I would say that is the best description of marriage that I have ever heard," Ryan finally responded. "Do you feel able to honor all of those pledges to him?"

"I do," Jamie started to reply, but she caught herself. "I did," she corrected. "But now Iím less sure. It obviously isnít a marriage if he doesnít feel the same way about me. And Iím no longer sure that he wants me to be myself." Jamie got up from the bed and came over to sit next to Ryan. "I used to be quite sure that he felt the same way. But this whole argument about you has caused me to question a lot of things I once believed."

"How so?" Ryan inquired.

"He seems to feel entitled to tell me how to spend my time. I could see his point if it interfered with our time together, but it doesn't." Ryan nodded her understanding. "I'm really into the AIDS ride. And it disappoints me that he doesn't seem to support me at all. He doesn't ask about my training or anything." After a moment she added, "Although he has been complimenting me on my body," she said with a blush.

"Well at least heís not blind," Ryan teased as she felt an involuntary flush creep up her face. Getting back to the topic she asked, "Did he used to be interested in your life?"

"I think so, but I'm not really sure. I mean; I have changed since I've known you Ryan. I do want more from him than I used to want."

"Why is that, Jamie? What have I done?" she asked, a bit confused.

"You are interested in me. You make me feel like Iím important. You ask me about what I do and what I like. It's made me wish for that from him. I shouldn't have to get that from my girlfriends. My lover should care more about me than my friends," she explained logically.

"You might be right, Jamie, but I'm not sure. It's a rare man that can make you feel connected like a woman can. And believe me, I'm not knocking men. I just think there are things you can get from women that are hard for men to give."

"I suppose you are right. Like when we fight he doesn't want to talk about it or work it out. He just wants to um...be intimate. But that doesn't settle things for me. I don't get over my emotional pains through sex," she said pensively.

"I know that a lot of men express their feelings through sex. Maybe you just need to spend more time explaining what your needs are. There is a good chance he'll try to meet your needs once he know what they are."

"I suppose that's true. I haven't been very forceful in making him realize what my needs are. I've just been hoping that he would know what they are and try to meet them."

"That doesn't seem fair to him," Ryan agreed. "I know from dealing with my brothers that they are often clueless about emotional issues. They really need to be guided."

"You seem to know a lot about men. I guess being raised with all those brothers really gave you an advantage," Jamie said.

"All I know is that it's really different being in a relationship with a man versus a woman. With a woman I feel like I can use shorthand and she'll be able to understand. You need to be much clearer with men. "

"It sounds like it's so much easier being with a woman," Jamie lamented.

Ryan looked at her thoughtfully for a long time. "In a way it is, but there is a tendency for women to identify with each other too much and become too interdependent. In an opposite sex couple there is a push-pull, yin-yang kind of thing that creates a lot of tension. And tension can make for really hot sex," she said with a smile.

"Oh great!" she moaned. "I get all the tension and none of the hot sex!"

"Um...you don't want to talk about that too do you?" Ryan asked warily.

"No, I'll spare you those gruesome details," Jamie replied.

"Whew," was all that Ryan could utter.

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

Ryan dropped Jamie off in front of Jack's apartment just before 8 p.m. As Jamie got off the bike she leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek. "You're the best," she said with a smile as she made her way up to the staircase.

Jack was sitting on the couch waiting for her. He got up when she entered but he didn't make a move to come to her. She felt very awkward around him and she knew that her body language betrayed this.

"Do you mind if I kiss you hello?" he asked shyly.

"Of course not, Jack," she replied easily as she opened her arms to him. He was upon her in less than a second. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and nuzzled his head into her neck.

"I'm sorry, Jamie. I'm so sorry," he mumbled, over and over.

Jamie really felt empathy for him at that moment. She forgot about the fight and just gave herself over to his embrace. But as soon as he felt her begin to relax he leaned his head down and began to kiss her, slowly and tentatively at first, but then increasing in intensity and confidence. She felt him begin to get aroused and she pushed him away gently. "We need to talk, Jack," she said as she locked onto his passion filled eyes.

He gave her a hurt look as he moved back, but he respected her wishes and went back to sit down on the couch. He looked up at her and tentatively patted the couch cushion next to him. She smiled and sat down next to him, allowing him to wrap his arm around her.

"I know I was wrong, Jamie, but I am so jealous of that woman I can't see straight," he finally revealed.

"Jack, what on earth do you have to be jealous about?" she asked, completely astounded by his admission.

"Jamie, how would you feel if my law review partner was a gorgeous woman with a reputation for seducing every guy she could get her hands on?" he cut her off with a raised hand when she tried to interrupt. "And what if I spent a lot of my free time with her, not doing school work, just hanging out?" He cocked his head at her, "Wouldn't that bother you?"

"That's not a good analogy, Jack," she explained patiently. "A better one would be if your partner was a very good looking gay guy who had a reputation for dating lots of other gay men." He began to scowl at this analogy. "It would not bother me one bit if you became friends with a gay man," she added.

"That's not the same thing," he replied confidently, concurrently trying to figure out why it wasn't.

"Tell me why it isn't?" she said sweetly, knowing he could not.

"I don't know but it's not," he said firmly.

"Okay, let's start over. Tell me why you are jealous of her."

"I'm afraid she is just being friends with you to seduce you," he admitted with an embarrassed look.

"Well, I'm not sure who that insults more, but go on," she encouraged.

"I don't see how hanging out with her is any different than hanging out with a guy who is after you," he finished.

"Well, it's simple, really. One-she is not after me. Two-she is not a guy: she is a woman. Three-I'm committed to be married to you. I would not cheat on you with a man or a woman," she replied.

"How do you know she isn't after you?" he said.

"Because I asked her," she said simply.

"You what?!" he shouted.

"I had heard the rumors about her and I had seen her flirting with the other women in class so I asked her if she was interested in me," she stated patiently. "I had no interest in developing a friendship with her if she was going to be flirting with me the whole time."

"What did she say?" he asked, perplexed by this development.

"She said she knew I was straight and that she didn't like to date straight women. She also said that she thought I was cute and that she had been interested, but that she didn't like to date her friends."

"And you believed her?" he asked as though Jamie was slightly slow.

"Yes, I did and I still do. We spend a lot of time together Jack. She tells me all about her life and the women she sees. I know her family. I know what kind of person she is. She is loyal and honest and very forthright. She is very funny and bright and interesting. And I trust her completely, Jack." Just to tweak him a bit she added, "She's got 3 older brothers and about a dozen cousins who are just as good looking. And the best looking one of the bunch is always flirting with me. That's who you should be jealous of," she said with a smirk.

"Oh, now I feel better," he grumbled. "Look Jamie, I know you don't have a lot of experience with guys but we tell girls anything to get them into bed. A guy will spend years being your friend just in the hopes of one day sleeping with you."

"I may not have slept with other men, Jack, but I do have some experience," she replied. "I know many guys are like that. But in my limited experience lesbians are not. You seem to think sheís a man without a penis. But sheís a woman, Jack." She fished around in her head for an example. "How many women do you know who work really hard to get a guy to sleep with them?"

"If they're good looking, they don't have to," he said, slightly perplexed.

"Exactly. Women generally don't go to great lengths to hit on guys. The lesbians I know are more like that than they are like guys." He looked suspicious. "Oh they flirt with each other but they don't come on like guys do. It's much more subtle."

"That favors my point!" he said. "Itís harder to tell when sheís coming on to you. Itís more invasive than aggressive."

"Surely you agree that Ryan is great looking." He gave a slight nod. "She can have her pick of women at school. And believe me, they practically throw themselves at her. She certainly would not be wasting her time trying to turn me into a lesbian when she has so many to choose from. That just doesn't make sense."

"So you are saying that she treats you just the same as any of your other friends, right?" he finally asked in challenge.

She thought about this for a long while. She did not want to prolong this, but she wasn't going to lie. "No, that's not true," she admitted. "The dynamic is different with her. She's very comfortable touching other women and that makes her a bit more physically close than my other friends." She gathered her courage, "And she's very comfortable in her own body. She's a massage therapist as well as a trainer and she's very comfortable with physical affection."

"Like what?" he inquired suspiciously.

"Like rubbing my legs after a workout, or giving me a hug when I've had a bad day," she replied.

"And you truly don't think that she gets aroused when she touches you?" he asked warily.

"I'm certain that she does not," she replied firmly. Thank you; thank you for not asking the inverse question

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

After another hour or so of discussion Jack agreed that he would try harder to accept Ryan as a part of Jamie's life. He also agreed that he would do his best to not interfere in her choice of friends or activities. By now it was nearly 10 o'clock and Jamie had an early class.

"Can you stay over tonight?" he asked as he began to nuzzle her ear and neck.

"I've got an 8 o'clock class honey. I'd have to get up before 6 to make it," she replied as she kissed his cheek. He was not to be dissuaded however, and within minutes she found herself half naked on the couch. She decided that this intimacy was something that he really needed so she let him continue his quest. She felt gentle and loving towards him as he touched her body reverently. He pushed a bit faster than she would have liked, but all in all it was a pleasant experience.

His head rested on her breast as she rubbed his back and rocked him slightly. "I love you, Jack," she murmured into his ear. "I love you."

 

Chapter 9

When Jamie arrived home just before 1 a.m. there was a message on her machine from Ryan. "Hi. Call me if you need to talk. It doesn't matter how late it is."

She is so sweet to me. I don't know what I've done to deserve her friendship, but I'm really happy I have it. She didn't feel the need to take Ryan up on her offer and she didn't have any intention of waking her up needlessly so she refrained from calling.

She barely made it to her 8 o'clock class. After a rather tedious class discussion she stumbled out of the classroom sleepily, bumping directly into a grinning Ryan.

"Somebody didn't have their latté yet," she teased.

"It's that obvious isn't it?" she agreed. "I barely made it to class. Speaking of class, what are you doing here?"

"My lab was canceled so I had some free time. I thought I'd come see how you were."

"I didn't know you even knew what classes I had on Tuesday, much less where they were," she said, slightly amazed.

"Of course I know those little details," Ryan said, a bit puzzled. "Don't you know my class schedule?"

"Yeah, I guess I do," she admitted. "Is this what you meant about women being more connected than men?"

"Precisely," Ryan agreed as she guided her through the building in search of a latté.

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

Jamie spent a few minutes updating Ryan on her evening with Jack. "It sounds like it went pretty well," Ryan said thoughtfully. "Iíve got to admit that his assumptions about me are not uncommon. Hopefully heíll realize over time that all I want from you is friendshipÖand lasagna," she grinned. "But he really does sound like he wants to make you happy, Jamie."

"I know he does, Ryan," she acknowledged. "I think you're advice was right on point. I need to spend more time letting him know what I need rather than expecting him to just intuit things."

"I really hope it works out for you, Jamie," she said sincerely.

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

One Tuesday in early November Jamie showed up at the gym hoping to get a little cardiovascular work in. She looked around for her friend and found her in the rear corner of the gym chatting with a woman. Trying to be unobtrusive, she hopped on a Stairclimber to get warmed up. But being on the slightly elevated machine gave her an even clearer view of the action and she could not help but watch.

Ryan was leaning up against one of the chest press machines. The woman was seated on the integrated stool of the machine and she gazed up at Ryan with a very flirtatious look. Jamie was pretty sure that she was not a client and as she looked more closely she noticed that the woman was considerably older than Ryan. Sheís old enough to be my mother! she thought in alarm. The woman looked to be about 45 or so, but she was in great shape. She was about 5í6", very fit, with short dark hair. She looked very well taken care of, and the thought occurred to Jamie that this could be any one of her motherís friends.

Ryan had adopted a very casual pose. She had one of her long arms extended above her head to hang over the top bar of the machine. She was leaning against the bulk of it and the woman had to crane her neck to make eye contact with her. But even though her pose was casual there was that barely concealed force that just begged to be released from her body. Jamie had often seen her look completely relaxed and casual. But every time Ryan was sizing someone up she adopted this predatory posture. Jamie had to admit that it was very appealing and for one brief instant she was jealous of the seated woman. But she quickly brushed that troublesome thought from her brain as she tried to watch while appearing not to.

After a few minutes the woman tried to stand but Ryan was directly in her path. She did not budge one inch and the woman was forced to alter her path a bit. Since Ryan had a good 6 inches on her the woman still had to look up to meet her gaze, but she seemed unable to look away from Ryanís penetrating stare. They were standing terribly close to one another and Ryan was clearly not going to move. To get past her the woman placed her hands on Ryanís waist and gently guided her out of her path. Gotcha! Jamie thought. Once you touch her thereís no escape!

Ryan leaned over to hear a question and when she lifted her head again she had the confident smirk that she so often wore when she was hitting on someone. She nodded her head slowly and leaned back on her heels to watch the woman make her way to the locker room. She walked over to another trainer and spoke to her for a moment or two, and then she went to the front desk and chatted with the woman on duty. She didnít look into the cardio area, so she did not see Jamie. Next she walked over to the coat hooks and picked up her leather jacket and walked out the front door with a definite swagger.

A minute or two later her prey emerged from the locker room. She left quickly and Jamie spent a moment wondering if they were meeting up in the parking lot. Knowing Ryan they donít even have to leave the lot if that woman has a big enough sports utility vehicle, she thought as a shudder rolled down her body.

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

Ryan stood by her bike, grinning wickedly at the woman as she exited the building. "Wanna go for a ride?" she teased in her deep rumbling voice.

"Aaah, I donít think thatís such a good idea," Laura said hesitantly. "I really canít afford to be seen on the back of a motorcycle."

"Are you a spy or a fugitive from justice?" Ryan asked casually.

"Nooo, but Iím fairly well known around the East Bay, and myÖ"

"Husband?" Ryan supplied.

"Yes, my husband is well known too," Laura admitted. "Does that bother you?"

"It depends," Ryan replied. "Is this the first time youíveÖ"

"Hardly," she scoffed. "Weíve been married for twenÖa long while. We have an arrangement."

"Will this be the last time you do this?"

"Doubtful, unless you can keep me faithful to you," she purred as she moved to stand even closer.

"Doubtful," Ryan admitted with a smirk. "Any kids?"

"Yes, but not at home. Theyíre away at Öschool."

"So you would say that spending the afternoon with me will not alter your world in any significant way?"

"Well," she said, as she brushed up against the taller woman. "I hope it will. But I promise it wonít have a negative impact on my life. Or that of my family."

"One last question. And please donít think Iím as full of myself as this sounds. Do you have any interest in having an ongoing relationship with me?"

The womanís eyes grew wide with surprise. She shook her head briskly and said, "Honey, my life is nearly perfect. The only thing I donít get enough of is good sex. I have no interest in losing my husband or the fragile respect of my children so if thatís what you want letís stop right now," she said firmly.

"Youíre my kinda woman, Laura," Ryan said with a grin. "Where to?"

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

Laura hopped into the driverís seat of a new black Mercedes S class sedan. "Nice ride," Ryan said as she looked around.

"Thanks. I just got it a week ago. I like it pretty well but itís a little sedate, donít you think?"

"A little, but Iím sure you have other outlets for your wild side."

That earned her a little smirk and a gentle pat on the leg. "Do you prefer the Mark Hopkins or the Fairmont?" Laura asked as she got on the freeway leading back to the City.

"Never been in either, so itís your choice," Ryan said noncommittally.

Laura shot her quizzical look but continued the planning. "Okay, Iíll drop you off a block away. Then you go in and get us a room. Iíll pay you back of course. Then Iíll meet you by the elevator. Please donít talk to me or acknowledge me in any way, though. Okay?"

Ryan looked a bit askance as she admitted, "I donít have a charge card. Can you stop at an ATM?"

"Jesus! You are over 21 arenít you?" she asked tentatively as she turned to give Ryan another appraising glance.

"Yes, I am," Ryan replied with a smile. "Iím still in school at Cal. The personal training is just part time."

"How do you manage without a charge card?" Laura asked.

"Well, I live at home, I donít have a car, I donít buy groceries, I never go on vacation, and I donít buy things over the Internet. Other than that, why would I need one?"

"Good point, I guess," she admitted, giving Ryan another quick glance. "No oneís going to come looking for you if youíre not home for dinner, are they?" she asked, only partly in jest. "I donít want to see your picture on the back of a milk carton."

"Nope. I donít even have a curfew," she said happily.

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

Laura pulled up in front of an ATM and handed Ryan her card along with her security code. Ryan gave her a small scowl but she got out and withdrew the requested $600. When she hopped back in she remarked, "Itís not a terribly good idea to trust a stranger with your ATM card and your access number."

"Itís only money," she said lightly. As Ryan tried to hand the card and the money over. Laura took the card but instructed Ryan to keep the money. "You donít want to look like you donít have a little extra," she advised.

Ryan had been to hotels with women, but always cheap little places when neither she nor her date could find a better place. She had also been with older women, but they were always lesbians. This was a first for her and the thought of having sex with a married woman old enough to be her mother was both titillating and a little frightening. This woman had obviously been around the block a few hundred times and Ryan was a little afraid that Lauraís experience would upset Ryanís own natural dominance. And even though she was attracted to her she did not want to submit to a stranger. "So, do you usually go out with women?" she asked to flesh out the issue.

"No, not usually," she admitted. "But you just look like too much fun to pass up."

"But you have been with women before, havenít you?"

"Yes, dear, I have. Will you stop worrying? I promise I wonít fall in love with you," she said with a hint of exasperation. "Why are you so careful anyway? Youíre not the daughter of a famous politician are you?"

"Hardly. My dadís a firefighter. I just donít like to cause trouble or hurt anyoneís feelings," she said honestly.

They paused at a long red light and Laura turned to look at her closely, "You really are cute, you know." She reached over and cupped Ryanís cheek and trailed her thumb across her lips. "Why is a beautiful young woman doing something like this, anyway? Why not find someone to love?"

"I donít have time for that right now. Iíve got too much to handle as it is. After Iím finished with school Iíll start thinking about settling down. But until then, Iím only interested in good, clean, fun," she said with a leer. "And the clean part is optional."

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

Laura dropped her off about a block away from the hilltop hotel. "Get a nice room, Honey. I hate to feel cramped."

Ryan dutifully climbed the hill, smirking to herself that when Laura called her honey it reminded her of her aunts. She didnít fit in very well in the opulent surroundings in her blue jeans and leather jacket, but she carried herself with so much confidence that she received only appreciative glances. She walked up to the front desk and requested a room for one night.

"Very good, Maíam," the obviously gay clerk replied.

"What do you have available?" she asked.

He looked down his computer screen and informed her, "I have a single for $135. Thatís in the back of the hotel, no view. And the only other rooms I have are suites. Thatís two bedrooms and a sitting area. Those rooms are $450," he said.

"Is that really the best rate you can give me?" she asked with a friendly but determined look.

"Well," he said, "I could give you a discount on the suite. We still have, umÖ six of them left. Do you only need it for one night?"

"I only need it for one hour," she said with a wiggling eyebrow.

"OhÖ ohhh," he said as he saw the light. "How about $300?"

"Sold," she said as she peeled off $350 to cover room tax. He handed her the access card and gave her a wink. "I assume I can just fill in the name and address with any old thing that comes to mind?"

"Knock yourself out," Ryan grinned.

"Have fun," he said lightly.

"Oh I will," she promised. She walked over to the gift shop and purchased two toothbrushes and some paste, then strode confidently over to the elevator. She looked straight ahead and pushed the up button. Seemingly from nowhere Laura appeared a few feet away. They both got on along with a few other passengers. Their room was on the top floor and by the time they reached it they were alone. Ryan continued to ignore Laura, assuming that she would break the silence if she chose to. When the doors opened Ryan turned to the right but Laura hung a left. She walked to the end of the long hallway and opened the door to the suite, leaving it ajar as she entered. A few minutes later Laura came strolling in, and looked around with appreciation.

"You went all out, didnít you?" she said happily.

"Yep. You look like youíre used to first class," she replied. "But I got you a deal. I talked the clerk down from $450 to $300."

Laura looked at her very quizzically, but didnít comment. Ryan pulled the toothbrushes from her inner pocket and said, "My contribution to our little endeavor. Itís not much, but I didnít have time to shop."

Laura walked over and stood toe to toe with her. She draped her arms around her neck and purred, "How would you like to wash my back?"

"I thought youíd never ask," she growled as she began to gently but determinedly remove her dateís clothing.

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

Two hours later Ryan fought through the haze of her exhaustion as Laura slid out of the tangle of sheets and went back into the bathroom. She heard the shower running as she lazily thought, She sure is clean. But then she remembered that Laura was probably going home to her husband and he might not appreciate ĎEau de OíFlahertyí.

She reflected on the previous two hour long marathon. Laura had been nearly insatiable in her appetite for Ryan. She had pleased her in every way imaginable and Ryan once again mused that experience was a very good thing to have in a lover. She had found with a bit of surprise that she really liked being with an older woman. It had been a while and she reflected that there was something very sexy about an older womanís approach to sex. She found Laura to be very sensual and deliberate in her lovemaking. She knew what she liked and she knew how to get it in a very efficient way. She seemed to have a lot of fun exploring Ryanís body and she brought her to orgasm as though theyíd been lovers for years. Laura had obviously been telling the truth about having had other quick flings. When Ryan insisted on safer sex practices she went to her purse and pulled out a handful of condoms and they had managed to use every one of them. It wasnít the safest way but a cut open condom was better than nothing.

She dozed off while she was ruminating and the next thing she knew Laura was placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. "Iíve got to go, Honey," she said. Ryan started to hop up but she put her hand on her shoulder to hold her steady. "I canít afford to be seen going back to the gym with you. I have some friends who sometimes go there in the evening."

"Thatís okay," Ryan agreed. "I can take BART back. Your change is on the table over there," she said as she pointed to the sitting room.

That got her another puzzled look, but Laura just leaned over and gave her a very friendly kiss. "You could definitely become habit forming," she whispered. "I can see why you offer so many disclaimers."

Ryan blushed a little at the compliment. The sexy yet shy look on her face was too much for the older woman and she sat back down next to her and took her in her arms. A few more kisses started the fires burning again and it was very difficult for Laura to disengage. But she finally tore herself away from the lovely young woman and whispered, "Stay right there and let me see you spread out like that as I leave." She got up and walked over to the table. She turned and said, "Iím leaving you money for a cab, Honey. I donít think itís safe to take BART after dark. Actually, why not stay over and go back in the morning?"

"Hmm, not a bad idea," Ryan replied as she rolled over and stretched languorously. She was on her belly, lying in the rumpled bed with the sheet half covering her thighs. Her legs were bent at the knee with her clean pink feet pointing at the ceiling. Her hair was completely ruffled, but with that ĎIíve just had great sex lookí. She brought herself up onto her elbows and rested her head on her hands as she gave Laura one last sultry smile. "I had a marvelous afternoon," she said. "I hope you did, too."

"If you look at me like that for one more minute youíre going to have a marvelous evening, too," she said with a mock glower. "Iíve got to get back to my so called normal life, but youíre making it very difficult to leave."

"Just trying to keep the customer satisfied," Ryan teased.

Laura blew her a kiss and departed as she said, "You were completely successful, Honey."

Funny, Ryan thought. After two hours of having her munching on me she doesnít remind me of my aunts anymore. She stretched out and rested for a few minutes but she couldnít really fall asleep. Looking at her watch she noticed that it was only 6 oíclock. She picked up the phone dialed the familiar pager, putting in the full number of the hotel with her room number added at the end. A few minutes later she answered with a perky, "Hi, Conor, watcha doing?"

"Where are you?" he asked suspiciously.

"Iím playing grown up. What are you doing tonight?"

"Nothing, really. Daís at work so I was trying to decide what to do for dinner."

"Come over and play grown up with me," she cajoled.

"Where the heck are you?" he asked again.

"Iím at the Mark Hopkins. Room 2350. Bring your toothbrush and a change of clothes. Oh, and bring me some clean underwear and a T-shirt," she instructed as she hung up before he could ask any more questions.

A half hour later she was sitting on the big bed in her room watching cartoons. She had showered and was wearing the fluffy terry cloth robe that the hotel provided. She responded to the tentative knock on the main door, calling out, "Be right there," as she scrambled off the bed. She threw open the door to find a very confused looking Conor.

"Why are we staying at the Mark Hopkins Hotel?" he asked.

"I had a little date earlier today and she had to leave. It seemed an awful waste to let this neat 2 bedroom suite sit idle all night so I thought we should enjoy it."

"Hmm," he said suspiciously. "Why not call your little friend from the gym," referring to Ally.

"You know her name, Conor," she reminded him.

"Yeah? Well Iíve never been introduced."

"I know," she admitted. "Sheís not my girlfriend, you know. We just fool around together."

"So why not call her?" he persisted.

"Because the last thing I want is more sex," she said with a small grimace. "I had a great time, but enough is enough!"

"Wow," he enthused as he looked around the spacious dwelling. "Two bedrooms and a sitting room? What did this place cost you?"

"They tried to get $450 for it, but they settled for $300," she said, proud of her negotiating skills.

"Whereíd you get $300 for a hotel?" he scoffed as he investigated every nook and cranny.

"Are you nuts?" she nearly shouted. "I wouldnít pop for Motel 6! My date paid for the room; all I bought were the toothbrushes," she said with a little eyebrow wiggle.

"Gee, what kind of dough does she have? And why did you have to get a hotel room?"

"Well, she has aÖumÖ" she stammered as a deep blush covered her face and neck.

"Girlfriend?"

"Nope. Sheís normally on your team, but she likes to switch hit once in a while."

"Husband?" he asked, rather incredulously.

"Yep. Iím not terribly proud of that part but she does this all the time so I figured I wasnít a home wrecker."

"Wow, why would someone your age get married and then cheat with women?"

"When did I say she was my age?" she demanded rather impetuously.

"How old was she?" he asked rather hesitantly.

"Letís just say she would be a much more appropriate date for Da," she admitted.

"Gee, Sis, your moral code is just going down the toilet," he said as he shook his head. "Congratulations!"

"Thanks, Conor, you really know how to brighten my day. Now go look at the room service menu and Iíll buy you dinner."

"Cool!" he said as he walked over to the table to look for the menu. "Hey, whereíd you get all the money?"

"Oh, my date said she was going to leave me cab fare. She must have put it there."

"Where did you tell her you lived? Napa?" he asked as he walked back into the bedroom flapping the wad of cash.

"Shit!" she cried as she jumped off the bed and ran to grab the money. "I canít believe she left meÖ" she started counting the money, "$250!"

"Donít forget to declare this on your taxes," he teased as he grabbed it back and slapped her with the wad of bills. "I think there is a code for self employed prostitute."

She sank down in the nearest chair and dropped her head into her hands. "Conor I swear if you tell Da any of thisÖ"

"Oh sure, Ryan. ĎHey, Da, Ryan had sex with a 50 year old married woman at the Mark Hopkins who left her a $250 dollar tip! Cool huh?í Heíd beat me just for telling him!"

"I think I need to do a little soul searching," she admitted. "This is getting out of hand."

"Before you change your evil ways letís call room service and spend your ill gotten money. Then if the vice squad comes we will have eaten the evidence!"

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

As Jamie left the gym over an hour later she noticed that Ryanís bike was still in its place. "Gee, I wonder where she went?" she thought wryly.

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

Several hours later she drove by the gym on her way to a movie with Mia. She cast a quick glance and noticed the bike still sitting in the parking lot. Hmmm, thatís strange. I hope sheís okay.

When they drove by on their return trip the gym was closed but the Harley was still sitting there. Jamie really was worried about her friend, but she didnít want to call and disturb her if she was still with the woman. I guess itís possible that they went to her house and just didnít want to go out again, she thought.

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

The next morning in class Ryan was her usual bubbly self. Jamie casually asked, "What did you do yesterday?"

"UmÖI had a date."

"Anyone I know?"

"UmÖdonít think so," she said quickly.

"Someone from school?"

"Ahhh, no."

"Did you do anything fun?"

"UmÖyeah, we had fun."

"Think youíll see her again?"

"Jamie," she finally said. "What are you getting at?"

"Who, me? Getting at something? Oh, do you need a ride to pick up your bike from the gym? I saw it there at midnight last night."

Ryan nodded to herself and said in more of a statement than a question, "And that bothered you."

Jamie looked a little flustered as she said, "No, it didnít bother me. But I was worried about you, Ryan. Itís not like you to leave your bike like that and I was worried that something had happened to you."

Ryan asked the obvious question, "Why didnít you page me?"

"Good question. Iím not sure. But itís no big deal. You left your bike there all night. You had a date. You had a good time. Case closed."

"You saw me leave with Laura didnít you?" she asked as she fixed her blue eyes firmly on Jamie.

She looked very guilty as she admitted, "Yeah, I kinda did. I saw you leave, then I saw her leave, and then I saw that your bike was still there."

"What bothers you?" she continued. "Her age?"

"Partly. She could be one of my motherís friends!"

"Yes, and your point is that women over 40 shouldnít have fun?"

"No, thatís not my point at all. It just bothered me, but Iím not sure why. Do you have to make a big deal out of it?" she asked crossly.

"Nope. I wasnít aware that I started this. But I can stop it. See you later, Jamie," she snapped as she turned and quickly walked away.

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

"Shit! Shit! Shit!" She cried as she watched Ryan stride down the curving path leading to the biology building.

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

That afternoon Jamie showed up early for their training session. She had a healthy suspicion that Ryan would just blow her off and she wanted to get there while she was still with her pervious client. But as soon as she finished Ryan made a bee line over to Jamie. "I am so sorry for snapping at you today," she said sincerely. "You just hit a raw nerve and I let you have it."

"Itís okay," she reassured her. "I shouldnít have been butting into your business."

"Jamie, I love it when you are involved in my life. Please butt in as much as you wish," she said as she put her arm around her and gave her a small squeeze.

"SoÖwhy were you upset? If you donít mind my butting in."

She looked quite contemplative as she stuck her hands into the slash pockets of her warm up pants and rocked back on her heels for a moment. "Itís hard to explain," she admitted. "I guess I just feel like IÖI donít know, Jamie. Iím just a little disappointed in myself," she said softly. "This isnít who I expected to be." She had such an open, vulnerable look on her face that Jamie truly wanted to toss her arms around her friend and take all of her pain away.

Instead, she merely gripped her shoulder and assured her, "I think the person you are is absolutely fantastic, Ryan. If you could see yourself through my eyes you wouldnít have any doubts about the person that youíve become."

Ryanís face curled up into a crooked grin and she returned the pressure on Jamieís shoulder. "That was a terribly generous thing to say. Thanks for the vote of confidence."

"Iíd vote early and often for you," she said as she beamed up at her friend.

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

Jamie drove through the thick fog one early Sunday morning in mid-November. Traffic was light but the pace was slow due to the poor visibility. She arrived at Ryan's with very little time to spare. She was dressed in a pair of pressed khakis, a gold turtleneck and a dark green cashmere v-neck sweater. Ryan had told her to dress casually, but she had also brought along dressier clothes for later in the day.

She was a bit apprehensive about their plans for the day. Not that people haven't already thought that Ryan was my lover, she reflected. Her own aunt thought so for goodness sake. This experience was going to be a bit different, however. They had discussed all of the options available to them for their ĎGay for a Dayí project. It made sense to both of them to do something of a spiritual nature, so they agreed on this morningís destination, The Metropolitan Community Church. Jamie was surprised to learn that this denomination had been in existence for over 25 years. It was founded to serve the needs of disenfranchised gay and lesbian Christians but was open to all.

Ryan trotted down the stairs just seconds after Jamie pulled up in front of the house. She was dressed in a similar manner, wearing a light blue turtleneck sweater with a fisherman's knit cable crew neck over the top. She eschewed khakis for her usual blue jeans, but this pair was a little less faded than usual.

"Jeans for church, Miss O'Flaherty?" Jamie asked with an arched eyebrow.

"It's gay church, Jamie. No dress code," she said knowingly.

The church was close to the Noe Valley. They arrived for the 9:00 a.m. service about 10 minutes early. The church was rather small; Jamie guessed it would hold about 300 people, but it was obviously lovingly cared for. It was less traditional than most churches she had been to, but very familiar nonetheless. There was a large raised sanctuary that held a pulpit and a large altar. A beautiful stained glass window rose majestically from behind the sanctuary. There was a choir loft with a large organ and quite a few choir members already in place. Comfortable pews radiated out from the center aisle.

Three happy looking people were at the door to greet them. A tall, bearded man welcomed them and directed them to printed worship aids. They each took one of the little booklets and settled themselves into a pew not far from the front of the church. Jamie looked around with interest. The church was about half full and most of the people seemed to know one another. There were many hugs and kisses and handshakes being passed around. She guessed that the majority of people were gay, but she was fairly certain that she detected a few traditional family units as well.

Ryan had never attended the church so she was unable to shed much light on what to expect. After a few minutes the organ began to ring out a rather traditional hymn that Jamie recognized. A large procession began down the center aisle with the entire choir and various other acolytes and ministers following. Several people, men and women, were dressed as ministers.

The choir gathered in the sanctuary as the ministers took their places behind the altar. Both women were surprised to find that the service echoed the traditional Eucharist that both were familiar with. The main difference was that the service was concelebrated among 5 different ministers. An impressive looking black woman seemed to be the main celebrant, but a short pudgy Asian man read the Gospel and two Caucasian men read various scripture passages. The music varied between rather traditional Protestant hymns and very joyous African inspired melodies. A Caribbean themed Hallelujah sung before the Gospel had everyone swaying to the beat.

After the consecration the minister urged everyone to come forward and receive the Eucharist. Jamie and Ryan rose with everyone else and stepped forward. Ryan followed her but as they reached the front of the line the minister reached out and pulled Ryan forward until they stood shoulder to shoulder. After she handed each of them a host she placed her arms around them and pulled their heads together. She offered a prayer over them and solemnly blessed their relationship. She leaned over and kissed each of them on the cheek saying, "God loves you!"

Jamie was shaken by the experience as they returned to the pew. She cast a sidelong glance at Ryan who was kneeling down with her eyes closed. She did not detect anything out of the ordinary with her, so she sat quietly and reflected. Why did she assume we were a couple? Do we act like the other couples here? She looked carefully at the people approaching the communion rail. It was fairly easy to pick out who was together. People just seemed to fit as a couple. For some it was obvious, as they held hands or touched gently. For others it was their similar styles of dress. For still others there was just a clear bond between them that was obvious even to a casual observer. It was the way they stood next to one another, or perhaps an unconscious look or a smile. Whatever it was she wondered whether she and Ryan had it. We are dressed very similarly. We look about the same age, about the same socio-economic strata. But still...there is something more. Just then Ryan leaned over and whispered, "That was sweet, wasn't it?"

She found herself smiling at Ryan in the same way she had seen the other couples do. There is something about us that just fits. And I think it is obvious to others. Maybe that's what Cassie and Jack have picked up on. She worried about this for the remainder of the service. As they filed out the minister who had given them communion stopped them to shake their hands and offer a welcome. "Are you natives or from out of town?" she asked pleasantly.

"We're locals," Ryan replied easily. "But we've never attended services here before. It's a very impressive ceremony," she said with a smile.

"I hope you enjoyed it and that you'll come again. It's nice to have younger couples attend church together. How long have you been together?"

Jamie was completely tongue-tied but Ryan was clearly in charge anyway. "Gosh honey, how long have we known each other?" She counted off the months on her fingers. "It's been nearly 4 months," she said proudly.

"Ohhh newlyweds! That's very sweet. We perform a very nice service for members of the congregation who want their union blessed. You two should think about it."

Ryan grasped Jamie's hand and said decisively, "We'll do that, won't we sweetheart?"

Jamie mutely nodded her assent as Ryan dragged her down the stairs and led her to the car. "Work with me here, Jamie," she said teasingly. "You're gay today, remember?"

"I..I..I'm sorry," she stammered. "That just caught me by surprise."

Ryan looked at her carefully as she hopped into the Boxster and started the engine. "Maybe we should have talked about this a little bit more," she said carefully. "You look like that bothered you, and I do not want you to be uncomfortable." She paused and gave Jamie a small smile, "Especially just before going into enemy territory."

Jamie managed a smile in return. "No, it's nothing, really. I guess I just don't think I look gay, and it surprises me when people think we're a couple."

"Surprises you or bothers you?" Ryan asked as gently as possible.

"Maybe both," she admitted truthfully. "I just had so many preconceived notions about lesbians before I took this class. It makes me look more carefully at some of my stereotypes."

"Do you feel comfortable enough to go to our next destination?"

"Yeah, I do," she replied firmly. After a bit she continued on with the earlier topic. "I think what bothers me the most is that it bothers me," she said looking at Ryan quizzically. "Do you know what I mean?"

"I think so. Do you mean that you don't like the fact that you have a bit of an adverse reaction to people assuming you're gay?"

"Yeah. It really bothers me that it bothers me. How am I different from Cassie or Jack or my parents if it bothers me when people assume I'm with you? I give them these big lectures about how normal it all is. Do I really believe that?"

"Jamie, don't be so hard on yourself. You've gotten negative images about lesbians for a long time. You've been seeing a more balanced portrait for only 4 months." She smiled and took her hand, "I've got to tell you, I am very sensitive to negative vibes. And I've never gotten any from you. I feel perfectly comfortable touching you and hugging you. I wouldn't feel that way if I detected that it made you in the least bit uncomfortable."

"You know, Jack asked me about how we interact," she admitted. "I told him that you touched me more than my other friends, but that I felt very comfortable with it."

"Do I really touch you more than your straight friends?" she asked with a touch of surprise.

"Yeah, you do. I told him that I thought it was because you are so comfortable touching women in general, and you just treated me the same way."

"I don't always initiate it, do I?" she asked shyly.

"No, I do it a lot of the time. I just feel more comfortable around you physically than I do my other friends." She paused for a moment, "What about you?"

"I think you were correct. I am very touch positive anyway. I really believe you need a minimum daily requirement of hugs to sustain life. But because I'm so comfortable with women I guess I do just let that comfort flow to women that I'm not sexual with." After a bit she continued with a concerned glance, "You never feel I'm coming on to you, do you?"

"No Ryan, I never have," she said firmly.

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

By this time they were back at the house. Ryan looked at her seriously and asked, "Are you sure you want to make our next stop?"

"Definitely."

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

When they had discussed their options for the day they agreed that they needed to go at least one place where they might encounter some discord. Jamie suggested that they go to a lovely little tea room right in the heart of the Peninsula. "If there is a straighter place on earth, I'd hate to see it," she said at the time.

Now Ryan was a little concerned. She was afraid that Jamie might run into someone she knew, perhaps even her mother. But Jamie was firm in her resolve. They went downstairs to change, with Jamie taking the bathroom where she could hear Ryan rummaging through her closet, softly cursing. "Having trouble out there?" she asked.

"I have one acceptable outfit to wear. And I don't wanna wear it," she grumbled.

Jamie emerged from the bathroom looking every bit the young Hillsborough debutante. She wore a short dark tan skirt in a fine washable silk. Atop the skirt she wore a long silk jacket in a tan, black and cream paisley. The jacket was made to be worn without a blouse as the stand up collar buttoned all the way up to her throat. Large gold knots graced her ears and a heavy gold chain hung from her neck, resting just under her collarbones.

She gasped slightly at she took her friend in. She might not like her outfit, but it liked her very, very much. A pastel pink cashmere sweater set covered a simple short black shirt. A black velvet headband held her bangs back and the pearls again covered her ears and neck. She wore plain stockings and simple black pumps. The short skirt and heels managed to make her legs look tantalizingly long and her smoothly curved calves were very attractively displayed.

"Why on earth do you not like this outfit?" Jamie marveled. "You look beautiful."

"I hate, loath and despise skirts," she said with disdain. "Next to skirts, I hate heels," here she held up her foot to display the offending footwear. "They both change the way you walk and the way you sit. I am sure they are both an evil plot to subjugate women and render us unable to protect ourselves." After a pause she continued with a smile, "But thank you for the compliment."

She walked around Jamie slowly, examining her wardrobe. "This kind of thing looks like it was made for you," she said as she pulled the jacket up to look for a label. "But knowing your family, it might have been," she said teasingly.

"No, I bought this off the rack with the rest of you mortals," she replied haughtily. "But I did buy it in Milan if that makes you feel better," she said with a twinkle.

"My Aunt Maeve gave me this outfit 5 years ago for Christmas. This is only the second time I've worn it," she said proudly.

As they walked back upstairs they met Conor coming down from his room. "Wow!" he said with appreciation. "Where are you two going?"

"We're going to the Peninsula for tea," Ryan replied elegantly.

"I don't know how you did it, Jamie, but keep up the good work," he teased as he eyed his sistersí legs. "I forgot she was a girl," he said as he tried unsuccessfully to tickle Ryan.

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

As they drove along in the lifting fog Ryan did her best to prepare Jamie for the encounter. "The only way you will get a taste of what being gay is like is if we really act like girlfriends. But I want to be sure that is not going to bother you," she said solicitously.

"What do you plan on doing?" Jamie asked somewhat nervously.

"Nothing graphic, Jamie," she laughed and slapped her arm.

"I was afraid you were going to act like you did that night I saw you at the bookstore," she teased.

"That would get us arrested in the Peninsula," she said somewhat seriously. "No, I just plan on acting like I would with anyone I was seriously dating. I just want to be sure you won't be uncomfortable if I touch you or hold your hand."

"I guess that depends on where you touch me," she said with a mock leer. "No, I'm certain I'll be fine. I really do want to see the reactions you get when straight people realize youíre gay."

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

They arrived just before noon. The shop was located on a main business street and they were forced to park several blocks away. Jamie was amazed at the physical transformation of her friend. Ryan acted completely comfortable and natural in her outfit. Her gait was shorter and her hips moved noticeably more, as Jamie was all too happy to observe as she walked slightly behind her. Her posture was significantly less aggressive and she gave off an almost demure aura. She looked physically smaller and more feminine, and Jamie was unable to stop herself from staring. Ryan noticed her stare and teased, "I like to keep 'em guessing. I think I do a pretty good straight girl imitation, donít I?"

"ItísÖitís amazing," Jamie stuttered. "How do you do that?"

"I just try to look a little less imposing. I try to look less like a jock, too," she added with a grin. "Wearing a skirt and heels helps because they really donít let you take a normal gait."

"But your demeanor is so different."

"Having 3 brothers helps. I know what they like in a woman, so I try to be like that."

"Truly remarkable," Jamie remarked. "I donít think Iíve ever noticed before but you really are different from my straight friends."

"Arenít you observant?" Ryan smirked. "What was your first clue?"

Jamie gave her a pretty good elbow right in the ribs. "Not that difference, silly. It just dawned on me what is different about you. You donít look like youíre trying to please or appeal to men. You just look like yourself."

"Exactly!" Ryan cried. "Itís not that I donít like men, I just donít go out of my way to appeal to them."

"Right," Jamie agreed. "You relate to men as an equal. I noticed that when you met Jack. But when I see Cassie around him sheís always batting her eyes at him or acting kind of helpless. And I do that too. I always let him do things for me that I could easily do for myself but he seems to enjoy showing that heís stronger than I am."

"I think a lot of that is very unconscious, almost like itís hard wired into people. I donít consciously try to intimidate men but I do a really good job at it. Guys flirt with me all the time but it usually only lasts for a few seconds. Once they interact with me they almost invariably back off. Funny, huh?"

"Yeah, you just give off a vibe that says, ĎNot interestedí. But when I see you flirting with a woman the energy coming off you is almost visible."

"Really?" she asked as she blushed a little. "I donít think I realized that."

"Oh yeah," Jamie drawled. "Every ounce of your considerable charisma comes right to the surface. Itís fascinating to watch."

"Iíve got to be more discrete," she moaned as Jamie laughed at her discomfort.

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

They walked into the tiny shop a few minutes later. The room was rather stuffy and proper, just as Ryan expected. They were greeted at the door by an elegantly dressed woman who graciously showed them to a center table. After they were handed menus Ryan asked Jamie if she had noticed the admiring glances from the other diners when they had entered. Jamie admitted that she had not. "Pay closer attention," Ryan instructed. "People are definitely looking at us."

Jamie casually glanced around the room and noticed that people were still looking at them with approval. She looked back at Ryan and said, "I agree that people have noticed us, but I get that a lot. Don't you?"

"Why do you think people do that?" Ryan asked, ignoring the question.

"I guess because we're attractive and we're dressed well. We look like we fit in I suppose."

"Precisely," Ryan agreed. "Now continue to pay attention to the other diners." Jamie watched in fascination as the real Ryan returned. She slid her hand across the table and gently grasped Jamie's. Her eyes softened and she stared deeply into Jamie's eyes lovingly. After a moment she tenderly lifted Jamie's hand and kissed her palm, closing her eyes in pleasure, then softly placed Jamie's hand on her cheek, cradling it there for a moment. As she released her she whispered, "Still paying attention?"

"Huh?" she said vacantly. But she mentally slapped herself back into consciousness and looked around the room again. The formerly friendly faces had uniformly grown dark and disapproving. People were discreetly pointing them out to others who had not noticed. Jamie nodded her head to show that she was still doing her job.

"Want to make it worse?" she asked with one raised eyebrow. A small nod caused Ryan to pick up her chair and move very close. She took a roll from the basket on the table, broke it apart and put a little butter on it. She held up the morsel in front of Jamie and raised an eyebrow seductively. She cocked her head a little and raised the eyebrow again. Jamie mutely nodded as her mouth fell open. Ryan placed the bread in her mouth, tipping it in with her index finger. She gave Jamie an extremely sexy smile and grasped her hand again.

After a few moments of trying to make her mouth work again Jamie looked around. Now no one was looking at them. Every other diner tried to make them invisible. They continued to chat and observe the other patrons but as the time passed Jamie began to grow impatient. They had been at the restaurant for a good 15 minutes, but no one had come to take their order. After another few minutes passed Jamie signaled to the hostess but she blithely ignored her. So she got up from her chair and stormed over to the woman, ready for a fight. "Why haven't we been served?" she demanded, rather loudly.

"We're very busy today," was the arch reply.

"Every table that entered after we did has been served. I'm asking you again, why haven't we been served?"

"Why can't you people stay in the City?" she asked with an aggrieved sigh as she brushed past Jamie and into the kitchen.

Jamie stood in shocked silence for several minutes. Every other diner in the restaurant was looking at her, either blatantly or surreptitiously. She finally walked back over to Ryan with a very angry look on her face. "For two cents I'd throw you right down on this table and ravish you in front of these idiots!" she said fiercely.

As Ryan trotted out the door after her she said somberly, "That's why I hate to wear skirts."

Jamie turned to look at her with a puzzled look on her face. "What?"

"No pockets for change. I don't have two cents."

Jamie backhanded her right in her firm belly. "Wiseass," she muttered as they walked to the car laughing.

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

Ryan patiently listened as Jamie vented her anger all the way back to the Noe Valley. She was just about out of steam as they neared the house. "Ryan, why aren't you angry?" she finally asked out of frustration.

Ryan considered the question for a long while. Finally she replied, "I don't find anger that productive. I figure that if people are put off by me it's only because they are not used to seeing lesbians be authentic with each other." With a little shrug she added, "I try not to take it too personally."

"But how can you not?" Jamie insisted.

"Look, Jamie, I get my feelings hurt just like everyone else does. I wish that everyone could just get over making gayness such a big deal. But that's not going to happen very soon. I just can't afford to waste my energies caring what strangers think of me."

"Does it ever bother you?" she inquired.

"Of course it does. Every once in a while if I'm feeling vulnerable or I have PMS I'm tempted to really lash out when it happens. You saw how it bothered me when Cassie was giving me a hard time. It bothers me when Jack or your parents do it. But I still try not to get angry. Anger is just not an emotion that works well for me."

Jamie looked at her friend thoughtfully, "You are incredibly well adjusted you know."

"A lot of people wouldn't agree with that, but thank you anyway," she grinned.

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

As Jamie pulled up in front of the house Ryan asked, "Did you bring gay clothes?"

"I wasn't sure what to wear to a lesbian sex emporium. My charm class apparently didn't cover that occasion," she replied airily.

"Did you bring some jeans?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, some old 501's," Jamie replied.

"I can take care of the rest," Ryan said decisively.

After watching a few minutes of the Ď49ers game with Da and Conor, Ryan led Jamie downstairs. "Okay, let's see what you have."

Jamie pulled out a very old pair of 501's and a pair of black high top Converse basketball shoes. "Is this a good start?" she asked hopefully.

"What size are these jeans?" Ryan asked suspiciously as she searched for the inside tag. "Jamie, this is a 24 inch waist. How old are these?"

"Um, freshman year I think," she replied honestly.

"Freshman year of what?" Ryan asked, seeing through the deceit.

"Um, high school?" was the timid reply.

"Itís been obvious that you havenít been able to gain any weight but itís starting to look like youíre still losing. You are, aren't you?" Ryan inquired sadly.

"Yeah, a little I guess," Jamie admitted. "I know what I should be eating but I just can't do it when I'm tense. Iím kinda surprised you havenít been giving me a hard time about it," she admitted. "I was afraid you were going to really be on me."

"I reconsidered my threat to watch you like a hawk. The last thing I want to do is increase your anxiety. I want to be supportive of you, but I donít want to be another person who tries to control you. Youíve got enough of that already."

Jamie gave her a delighted smile as she slid her arms around her for a hug. "Thanks. I appreciate your concern but I really am glad that you havenít tried to supervise me."

"Iím confident that you now know what you should be eating. I assume the nutritionist can do her job and the rest is up to you. If you need any help I hope youíll ask, but other than that I just want to support you. Is your energy level okay?"

"Yeah, itís pretty good. I know I have to eat more but given that, I feel good."

"Okay, youíre the boss. If you feel good we can keep your workouts pretty intense even with your weight dropping. But I want you to promise me that youíll tell me if you start to feel tired or fatigued."

"Itís a deal, Coach," she promised.

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

After several attempts Ryan was finally satisfied with her choices for Jamieís lesbian look. She wore the smallest t-shirt that Ryan owned. It was a thick yellow cotton baby tee that was supposed to fit rather snugly. On Ryan it stopped about 4 inches above her waistband, but it was just below the waistband of Jamieís jeans. Over the tee she wore a light blue bowling shirt that proclaimed 'Holten's Mortuary' across the back in black script. Her own jeans and high tops completed the outfit and Ryan was quite satisfied that she could pass for a lesbian anywhere in town.

Ryan, of course, never had a problem looking gay. She wore one of Jamie's favorite outfits. A snug black short sleeved t-shirt tucked into amazingly well fitting faded jeans, a black belt, big, heavy black boots, and her favorite hat, the backwards black driving cap.

They walked back upstairs so Jamie could watch a bit of the game while Ryan made lunch. Conor jumped up from his prone position on the bed, his face wide open in shock. "Ryan, what have you done to her?" he said as he shot his sister a glare. "I thought she was rubbing off on you, but now this?" he said sadly as he waved his hand toward Jamie's outfit.

"Relax, Conor," Ryan said wearily. "It's just an experiment for our class."

"You'd better bring her back to her normal gorgeous self, Ryan. This is too precious a commodity to hide under bowling shirts," he said distastefully.

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

Ryan decided that she wanted another breakfast for lunch and Jamie readily agreed. Da and Conor had already eaten, so it was just the two of them at the kitchen counter. Ryan had made fabulous banana pancakes along with Irish bacon and big glasses of orange juice. "This is beyond delicious, Ryan. You are quite the little cook," Jamie said appreciatively.

"I would say that breakfast is my favorite meal to cook. You get quick feedback that I really like. I don't really have the patience to cook dinner. Everything takes so long," she reasoned.

While they munched away Ryan asked her again if she was comfortable with their next stop. "We could just go and look around like normal," she offered. "You don't have to make people believe we're together."

"No, we set it up this way for a reason, Ryan. I want to really get a flavor for all of the different facets of life as a lesbian. We had a little spirituality, we had a little homophobia and now we get a little sex," she waggled an eyebrow seductively.

"Have you ever been to a place like this for straight people?" Ryan inquired.

"No. I've never had much of an interest. It all seems so lurid," she said as she made a face. "I just don't get most porn. It is all so objectifying of women. I fail to understand how you can say you love women when you really just make different parts of them a fetish."

"So why do you want to go to 'Good Vibrations'?" Ryan asked.

"I didn't know there was an erotic themed store made for women. I guess I want to see if women are interested in the same things men are. Have you been there before?" she inquired.

"Uh...Yeah," she said simply.

They arrived at the little store just after 3 o'clock. Jamie was impressed with the set up. It looked just like a regular bookstore. Neat shelves were arranged along the outside walls. Books, videos and paraphernalia were neatly displayed in an open manner. There was nothing clandestine or lurid about the place. There were big windows that were whitewashed to keep out casual observers and the windows combined with the open shelving to make the store look clean and spacious and inviting. "Hi, Ryan," said a young woman shelving books. Ryan greeted her in a friendly manner as they continued to look around the store.

"Oh, hi Ryan," said the woman at the counter as they passed.

Jamie leaned in close and whispered, "Did you say you've been here or that you lived here?"

Ryan blushed all the way up to her hat. "Maybe I just have a memorable name?" she meekly replied.

A prominently displayed video caught Jamieís eye. The title was ĎBend Over Boyfriend,í and it was advertised as an instructional video for straight women who want to penetrate their male partners. Jamie stood in front of the display with her mouth hanging open and Ryan couldnít help but lean over and ask, "Getting ideas?"

She turned her head and made eye contact with her but she could not reply. She shook her head numbly as Ryan led her away. "I...I...I would never have guessed that women wanted to do that!" she gasped out. After a second she started to chuckle just a little bit under her breath and soon she was laughing out loud at her private joke.

"Whatís so funny?" Ryan finally asked.

"Even though I didnít know that people actually did that I had a very pleasant fantasy the other night about impaling Jack on something. I just didnít know that it was an approved form of sexual expressions!"

"Hey, sexual expression is pretty fluid. People seem a little less role oriented now."

"Jack would have me committed if I brought that home!" she muttered.

"Hi, Ryan. How have you been?" cooed a customer as she eyed Ryan with unconcealed interest.

"She's been busy!" said Jamie curtly as she grabbed Ryan's hand and dragged her away.

Ryan nearly doubled over with laughter. "What was that about?" she finally choked out.

"I'm supposed to be with you," she replied logically. "She was hitting on you right in front of me. I can't tolerate someone dissing me like that."

"You are a piece of work, Jamie. A real piece of work," she said admiringly. "So you want to play for real, huh?" she said with a glimmer of danger in her blue eyes.

"Yeah," Jamie said with more confidence than she felt.

"Come with me," Ryan purred, as she took her hand. They walked over to the counter where yet another woman greeted Ryan by name. "Hi, J.C." Ryan said with a friendly smile. "Got anything new in the try on rooms?"

"Yeah, we got some new things in this week. But remember, Ryan, you break it--you buy it," she said seriously. "And don't forget to put a condom on!" she said rather loudly as Jamie felt herself being led to a small dressing room in the back of the store.

Her eyes were wide with alarm as Ryan opened the door to the small room. As she closed the door she turned a little sign that read 'occupied' around to face outward. On a little table lay the most unique and mysterious sex toys that Jamie had ever seen. Actually, Jamie had never seen a sex toy, but there was little doubt that was what they were. "Yipes!" was all she could get out as she tried to avert her eyes.

Ryan laughed gently at her discomfort as she sat down in one of the two chairs in the small room. "Do you want to continue the game, or are you uncomfortable?" she asked solicitously.

"W..w..what do I have to do?" she asked with wide eyes.

"Nothing, nothing at all," Ryan reassured her. "I was just going to show you some of the toys if you want me to."

"Um ... Okay," she replied gamely. "What did that woman at the counter mean?" she finally asked.

Ryan blushed again as she answered, "I brought someone here last year and she got a little enthusiastic and broke one of these," she laughed as she held up what Jamie guessed was a vibrator. "I thought she should pay for it, since she broke it, but she didn't have any money, so I got stuck paying $40 for a vibrator I didn't use. It seemed quite unfair to me," she said reasonably.

"What was that about a condom? That confused the heck out of me."

"They're very careful about safer sex here. They clean everything with bleach between customers, but they still want you to put a condom on before you insert anything." Now Jamie blushed as Ryan continued. "The same woman who broke the vibrator wanted to play with some of these," here she held up a lavender latex object shaped like a dolphin, "and she refused to put a condom on. So when we left I ratted her out," she said proudly. "So now they think they have to remind me to use a condom when it was me who told on her." She shook her head, "I don't get it. I'm entirely innocent."

"Of all the adjectives in the world, innocent would be the last one I would use for you," Jamie said as she patted Ryan's pink cheek. After a moment she regained her poise and asked, "Do you bring dates here a lot?"

"Well, you've gotta remember that I live at home..." she trailed off.

"And sometimes the cars are too small, right?" Jamie offered helpfully.

"Yeeeah, that's about it," she agreed.

Jamie was really rather fascinated by the assortment of devices that the little room held. There was one vibrator that interested her in particular. It was a rather normal looking red plastic from the cord until about 4 inches up. But a clear, flexible rubber piece above that was filled with multicolor beads. When the vibrator was turned on that rubber piece began to twist, extend and retract in a rhythmic fashion. It looked much more like a child's toy than a sex object.

There was an assortment of dildos in pretty pastel colors. Some were shaped like women; some like animals and some were just plain cylinders. Jamie noted that none were made to resemble an actual penis.

A large bowl of various styles of condoms was centered on the table along with a box of baby wipes. 3 or 4 bottles of lubricant were also available for use. Jamie shuddered a bit to think of Ryan using these toys, especially with another woman, right here in public. She was very curious to find out if Ryan used things like this on a regular basis, but she realized that was too invasive a question, so she refrained.

"Do you think most lesbians use things like this?" she heard herself asking just a moment later as her curiosity got the best of her.

"I can't speak for most lesbians," Ryan replied with a smirk.

"What about the thousands of women you can speak for?" she asked sweetly.

"I think most women like to play around with toys once in a while. It spices things up a bit. But I don't think that most women need things like this to be satisfied." She reflected for a moment, "My philosophy is that sex should be fun. If playing with toys makes it more fun for both of you, why not?"

"Thatís a philosophy that I would like to be able to copy. Maybe someday," she said wistfully.

"Are you about ready to leave?"

"Yeah, I guess we made a statement of some sort by the amount of time we spent in here," she laughed.

As Ryan opened the door she wrapped her strong arm around Jamie's waist and whispered into her ear, "Look satisfied." Jamie was very glad that arm was where it was as her knees turned to rubber at the thought.

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

The next stop was back to the O'Flaherty house for their last change. They both got into workout clothes and covered their outfits with sweats. Jamie loaded all of her previously worn clothes into her garment bag and they took off for the gym.

They had decided to work out together since the day didn't allow for their normal bike ride. Jamie realized that in the nearly 2 months that she had worked with Ryan she had never actually seen her lift weights. They arrived at the gym at around 5 o'clock. There was almost no one else in attendance on this cool fall day. The Niners were locked in a big game for the lead in their conference and the game was obviously keeping people at home or at a sports bar.

They went to the locker room and removed their sweats. Jamie was wearing a pair of navy blue leggings with a matching sports bra covered by a lemon yellow oversized tank top. Ryan had on a bright red Lycra unitard. The garment was sleeveless and styled like a tank top and the legs stopped just at the largest point of Ryanís muscular thighs. I am so glad that she doesnít work out with me on a regular basis, Jamie thought with a shudder. Itís just not fair for any one woman to look that good.

They moved out into the gym and each spent a few minutes on the stair climber to loosen up and raise their heart rates a bit. After 10 minutes Ryan hopped off and went to the first machine. They had agreed that Jamie would do a very light intensity workout of all 6 of the major muscle groups, partly because Ryan was afraid of overstressing her already taxed system.

Ryan had been varying her own routine just to keep things interesting. She had done a lot of rollerblading and a good bit of running to keep herself fresh. She hadn't worked out in the gym for over a week, but it was now time to get serious, so she decided she needed a fairly high intensity session.

Jamie sat down on the seat of the chest press machine as Ryan adjusted the weight. She went through her reps in the usual manner, but Ryan advised against doing two sets. After she rose, Ryan adjusted the seat and the weights for herself. Jamie noticed with a bit of envy that she lifted over three times the amount of weight that she could handle. Ryan had been relaxed and chatty as she usually was when Jamie worked out. But the minute she sat down on that seat her entire demeanor changed. Jamie watched in fascination as the dramatic change came over her friend.

Ryan was a study of total focus. She did not look at herself nor did she glance in the mirror. She kept her eyes unfocused, staring out into space. Her face was unlined, but there was a level of concentration that Jamie had rarely seen before. She began to move the weight with a smooth cadence, with each rep exactly matching the one before. The plates barely touched down lightly before they were pulled into motion again. Ryan did not appear to strain nor did she make any sound. It was truly as though Ryan had become the machine. She did not look like she was lifting something. She was just moving gracefully and the huge stack of weight moved right along with her.

After her first set she paused for less than a minute. She was still in a deep state of concentration, but it was clear that her breathing was slightly elevated as she began the next set. By the time she had finished her third set Jamie could see the perspiration begin to pop out at her hairline. Amazingly, she increased the weight 10 pounds and sat back down for another set. She was obviously having trouble with this one, but she kept at it. Jamie could see that she struggled to make the reps perfect and she smiled when she saw Ryanís right foot begin to tap rather impatiently on the floor as she pushed. The exertion was making her veins bulge and Jamie couldnít help but notice that Ryanís nipples popped out as she strained with the heavy weight. She sat for a moment at the end and got up smoothly. "Oooh, that felt good," she purred.

It was all Jamie could do not to swoon as she followed Ryan around from machine to machine. Her friend followed the same routine for each exercise, but Jamie found each to be a thing of beauty. Ryan was a study of power, grace and fluidity. She reverted to her normal demeanor when Jamie was lifting, then effortlessly shifted back into the intense concentration that she obviously needed to work.

When Ryan had adjusted the Leg Press machine Jamie watched in rapt amazement at the amount of weight that she could push. Every muscle in those tanned legs stood out in start relief, and Jamie could see the strands of muscle jump and flex from the strain. The massive weight moved smoothly through all three sets, and by the end of the 3rd set Jamie had to fight to make herself stop staring before Ryan looked up. She was only partially successful but just received a grin in response. "Would you like to have quads like these when you grow up, little girl?" she said with a flourish as she slapped her pumped thighs.

Jamie could only nod her head as she struggled to shut her gaping mouth. The rest of the workout went smoothly and they were finished in a little over an hour. Jamie was sweating freely when they finished, but Ryan had been dripping onto the floor for some time now. "Do you always sweat so much?" Jamie asked in amazement.

"Yeah, I do," she easily replied. "Your output of perspiration follows your fitness level. I only worry when I don't sweat," she said as she chugged a liter of water.

"How much water do you drink in a day?" Jamie inquired.

"A minimum of 5 liters, much more if I'm doing something strenuous," she replied.

"Um, this wasn't strenuous?" she regarded Ryan's dripping clothing.

"I mean aerobically strenuous, like running or riding my bike on hills. You won't believe how much I will drink on the ride," she smiled in remembrance. "You haven't lived until you've tried to find your tent in a dark campground in the middle of the night when you have to get up to pee 3 times," she laughed.

"You know, Iíve never even asked you what the accommodations were for the ride. We sleep in big tents?"

"Nope. Little tents. Little two person tents."

"We each get one?"

"Nope. 2 per tent. Thereís barely room to change your mind," she laughed. "I thought weíd bunk together, if thatís okay with you."

After a short internal struggle to move her mouth Jamie croaked out, "Sure. Fine," as she was assaulted with images of sharing a tiny little space with her friend for a whole week.

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

After they had returned to the locker room Ryan began to shuck every stitch of her wet clothing. Jamie turned her back as she put her sweats back on over her own damp gear. Ryan was grumbling as she looked through her gym bag. "You don't have any extra clothes do you?" she inquired.

"No, why do you ask?" she replied.

"I guess I'm going commando," she grumbled as she dried off and put her sweats back on.

"What's commando?" Jamie inquired as she turned around to face her friend.

"That's what the boys call it when they don't wear underwear," she revealed. "I forgot to bring any and I can't go out in this weather with wet clothes on."

Why does she have to tell me everything? Jamie moaned as she followed behind Ryan, eyes cast downward in an attempt to avoid an independent investigation.

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

As she dropped Ryan off Jamie declined her offer of a warm shower. "I think I'm gonna go down to Palo Alto and try to make nice with Jack," she revealed. "I think heíd appreciate it if I came down to make him dinner."

Ryan nodded sagely and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I had a fantastic day, Jamie. Thanks for making it so much fun."

"Iím the one who should be thanking you, Ryan. It was really cool to be let into the inner sanctum," she said with a laugh.

"Well, you didnít really see the inner sanctum," she admitted. "You have to take the oath before we let you in there. More importantly, you have to learn the secret handshake," she said with a definite leer.

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

As Jamie headed back to the expressway thoughts about the day drifted across her mind. Images of the workout continued to flood her mind and by the time she reached Jack's her entire body was flushed with excitement and desire. She buzzed his apartment on her way up the stairs, taking them two at a time. He opened the door in surprise as she pushed him back in to the apartment.

"I don't want to talk, I just want to do this!" she growled as she grasped his head and kissed him thoroughly. He didn't utter a word as she began to strip off her still sweaty clothes. When she was naked she performed the same service for him. He was instantly aroused and as she pushed him back against the couch he finally muttered, "I missed you today, Jamie."

She cut off all attempts at further conversation as she straddled his seated form and locked his lips with hers, never letting them go until they were both collapsed in a post coital haze.

I guess I just need a gym in our house when we get married, she mused as they stumbled to the bedroom for another round.

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

She awoke at around 10 p.m. Jack was lying behind her with his arms wrapped tightly around her naked body. His head was snuggled against her back and she felt content for the first time in a long while. We get along fine when we don't talk, she thought disgustedly as she extricated herself from his arms. I wonder how many years we can stay married if the only way we communicate is with moans and grunts, she mused as she stumbled into her sweats to make the long drive home.

Continue to Part 6

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