I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 12: Lifeline
by S X
After Sunday Mass, Martin and Maeve came over for breakfast. As soon as the meal
was finished Kevin, Rory and Conor left to help Niall on a project, leaving just
Jamie, Ryan, Martin and Maeve to sit at the table and chat.
Ryan had been putting off telling her father about her decision to delay graduate
school for a year, but she knew she had to tell him eventually, so she sucked
up her courage and launched into it. Jamie and I have finally decided what
we're going to do next year, she began.
What's that, love? Martin asked, looking at her with interest.
We've decided to take a year off and apply next year at this time.
Oh, he said, his head cocked slightly. When she didn't elaborate he
asked, What will you do instead? Will you go back to your job at the gym?
No, I don't think so, she said.
Is there another job you're interested in, Siobhán?
No, I wasn't planning on working, Da, she said. We're going
to relax a bit.
For a whole year? His eyes had saucered, and his gaze darted from
Jamie to his daughter. You'll do nothing at all?
Now, Marty, Maeve said, I'm sure the girls have thought this
through. Let the child explain herself.
For some reason her aunt's comments struck Ryan the wrong way. She was on the
verge of telling her to mind her own business when she realized what she was about
to do. Forcing her mouth shut, she stared down at the table, looking like she
was torn between lashing out and crying.
Jamie reached over and grasped her clenched fist, saying, We have thought
it through, Maeve. And I'm sure we'll do something to keep busy we just
haven't discussed what that might be. All I know is that Ryan's been under more
stress this year than most people have in their whole lives, and she just can't
handle any more.
The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes in disgust and got up from the table, letting
her chair bang hard against the wall as she did so. Without a word, she made for
the front door, Duffy scrambling after her.
What in the holy name of God was that about? Martin asked, his expression
one of complete bafflement.
Jamie looked at him and quietly said, She needs your support, Martin. She
absolutely hates to admit how fragile she is right now. She shook her head
remorsefully and said, I never should have commented about her stress. She
absolutely hates that.
Is she close to a breakdown? he asked, his eyes wide.
No, no, not at all. She'll be fine, Martin. I really pushed her to take
a year off she didn't want to. I know it's the best thing for her, but
it was incredibly hard for her to do. Deciding not to go to graduate school right
away was a very, very big concession to how poorly she's feeling, and having you
question her judgment
She shook her head in frustration and added,
You always complain about how thin she is, and how tired she looks. Isn't
it obvious that enrolling in medical school so soon after graduation would just
wear her down even more?
He dropped his head into his hands and mumbled, I'm sorry, Jamie. I let
my big mouth spout off without thinking. Standing, he said, I'll go
find her and apologize.
Maeve gripped his sleeve and tugged on it. Marty, please sit down and think
through what you're going to say to her before you do that.
Giving her a puzzled look, he sat, but said, What is there to think about?
Don't make her feel worse than she already does, Maeve said. She
hates to have people believe she can't handle something, love. You know how proud
she is. Please try not to focus on how poorly she's doing, all right?
Okay, he said. Looking at Jamie, he asked, Any advice?
She smiled at him and suggested, She craves your respect, Martin. As long
as she knows she has that, she'll be fine.
He nodded, looking very embarrassed. I could kick myself. There's no harder
working girl than my Siobhán. Looking a little confused, he asked,
You said medical school, Jamie. I thought she wanted to get a Ph.D.?
That's part of the problem, Jamie said. She thinks she should
go into a joint M.D./Ph.D. program. I want her to just get her Ph.D., but she's
pretty adamant about the other program. The problem is that she doesn't want to
be a physician, and it's hard for her to commit to four years of med school and
a few years of a residency program for something she doesn't want to do.
Then why do it?
It's complicated, she said, knowing they could be there all day talking
about the various programs and how they would impact Ryan's future career plans.
But it has to do with how much autonomy she would have as a researcher.
She really wants to do genetics research, you know.
No, I didn't know, he said quietly. She never talks about her
goals with me.
Jamie smiled at him and revealed, What she really wants is to be a firefighter
just like her father.
He stared at her with his mouth open. She does?
Desperately. She told me she's wanted to do that since she was a little
girl. She looks up to you so much, Martin. If I hadn't begged her not to do it,
she'd be applying for the firefighters academy right now. She shook her
head and added, That's why this decision is so hard for her, to be honest.
She's picking between a number of inferior choices. Her first choice is to follow
in your footsteps.
He stood again, mumbling to himself, For the love o' Mike! Just when I think
I have her figured out
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan was sitting in a chaise on the deck, Duffy stretched out in front of her,
his big, black head on her lap. Hi, she said quietly when her father
pulled up a chair and sat next to her.
Jamie's been telling us some interesting things
Yeah? What, that I'm on the waiting list for the loony bin?
No, not at all. She doesn't feel that way, Siobhán, and you shouldn't
either. There's no shame in listening to your body, sweetheart. I'm just glad
you've got Jamie in your life to remind you and me, of that.
She grunted softly. She's all about reminding me of that.
The lass needs to, love. This is one part of myself that I wish you hadn't
inherited, he said. You and I both hate like the devil to admit any
weakness, darlin', but it's not good for either of us to be that way. He
reached over and grasped her hand and added, She told me something else.
Looking at him warily, she asked, What's that?
She told me that you're so tremendously gifted that you're having a very
hard time deciding which graduate program you want to attend. Jamie says that
the one you think you want will give you both an M.D. and a Ph.D. He shook
his head briefly and said, Thank God you take after your mother's family
in the brains department.
Chuckling mildly, Ryan said, I don't know about that, Da.
I do, he said soberly, drawing her attention to him. You're
a very gifted woman, Siobhán, and you're going to make a significant contribution
to the world. I'm very, very proud of you. He brought her hand to his lips
and placed a soft kiss upon it. You have a lot to give, darlin', and the
world can wait a year or two to have you start.
Ryan nodded, saying nothing. She just squeezed her father's hand and leaned back
against her chair, closing her eyes when the sun broke through the thin fog to
warm her face.
* * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as Martin left the room, Maeve looked at Jamie and sighed, They're
a pair, aren't they?
They are indeed. Like two peas in a pod.
Lucky for us that their redeeming qualities are so plentiful, Maeve
Yeah, Jamie said. The good qualities far outnumber the ones
that make you want to strangle them.
Maeve's laughter quieted, and she grew contemplative. Why do you think Ryan
wants to be a firefighter?
Jamie shrugged and said, I don't know. Probably to be like her father, maybe
a little because of the thrill of working in a dangerous profession. I'm sure
she also would get a lot of satisfaction out of saving lives.
The older woman nodded, her expression still pensive. That's probably right.
Jamie observed the thoughtful expression on the older woman's face. You
think it's something more, don't you?
I think I do, she said. I think she's afraid of standing
out in the crowd.
The O'Flaherty crowd, Maeve said. Being a firefighter would
give her a nice, acceptable, blue-collar profession just like the rest
of the family. She'd never have to show how special she really is.
Jamie nodded slowly, seeing exactly what Maeve was getting at. Few things
mean more to her than fitting in with the boys, she said.
And her father. My Marty is a bright man, as you know, Jamie, but Ryan's
intellect is profound. She has so much to give, but I think she's frightened to
make the commitment to give it. I think she's terrified of surpassing her father's
But Martin's accomplishment's are huge! Jamie cried. My God,
just raising his children alone these last 17 years is a tremendous feat!
I know that, Jamie, Maeve said. But to the outside world, Ryan
will be a medical doctor with a PH.D., while her father will always be a firefighter.
The world values professional accomplishments much more than it does familial
The younger woman chuckled mirthlessly, I know that to be true. She
didn't make the comment aloud, but she thought of the difference between her own
father and Martin, knowing that her father failed miserably in the comparison,
but that the world saw her father as the successful one.
I think Ryan will be able to make the choice to use all of her gifts, but
it will take her some time to get used to it. This year off might help her get
comfortable with it.
Jamie cocked her head. Do you think that's why Ryan never talks to her father
about her goals?
Yes, I do, Maeve said. She doesn't want to highlight the differences
between them. Over time, we can help her get past that, Jamie. She needs to use
her talents. Being a firefighter would be the worst choice she could make.
She smiled and added, Besides, she doesn't have the temperament for it.
She's far too brash, and she acts on her instincts too readily.
I think she proved that recently, Jamie said, shaking her head. If
she risks her life to save the guys who tried to kill her, can you imagine what
she'd do to save a helpless, innocent person? She shivered and said, My
heart couldn't take it.
Nor could mine, Maeve said. My Tommy has the ideal temperament
to be a firefighter, and even still, I worry about him every day that he's on
duty. I don't want that for you.
Jamie smiled and said, Even though she looks adorable in the outfit, I'd
much prefer to see her in a nice, boring lab coat.
Knowing her, it will be tie-dyed, Maeve said.
* * * * * * * * * * *
On Sunday afternoon, Sara sat in the exhibition hall at the Palace of Fine Arts,
waiting for Ally's group to begin. The meet began at 2, but she had some work
to finish, and didn't arrive until 3:30. The group before Ally's was just leaving
the stage when she got there, so she didn't know what to expect. Her eyes nearly
popped out of her head when the group of 10 women strutted across the stage a
few minutes later.
She was sure one of them was Ally, but if it hadn't been for her short hair, she
never would have picked her out. Sara hadn't read many comic books, but the women
on stage looked more like the stylized representation of muscular women that she'd
seen on the covers of the fantasy magazines, than actual human beings.
Ally hadn't specified what type of competition this was, but for some reason,
Sara had assumed that it would be a gay and lesbian meet. Looking at the women
posing, and the men hooting and hollering, she quickly changed her assessment.
It actually took her mind a few minutes to fully take in the group, and before
she had done so they exited the stage again, to be replaced by the individual
women posing. The first woman was unbelievably muscular, in a way that was actually
distasteful to Sara. Her muscles were very large, and very bulky and heavy looking.
She was quite dark skinned, but the hue was the result of an astonishingly dark
suntan that also looked less than attractive. The woman wore a bikini that barely
covered her obviously surgically enhanced breasts, the massive mounds not moving
an inch when she posed.
She had long, bleached blonde hair, styled in a way that Sara had seen in movies
from the 1950's, but never on a modern day Bay Area woman. Layers upon layers
of stiff, teased blonde cotton candy tresses floated about her head, made all
the more incongruous by the massive bulk of her muscles. She looked like someone
had taken a Barbie doll's head and breasts and had merged them with a G.I. Joe
and then had stuffed Joe into a tiny bikini.
She went through her entire routine, and by the end of it, Sara's face was curled
into a look of complete distaste. Everything about the woman looked artificial
and brittle and hard, and her heart began to beat heavily in her chest
wondering if Ally's look would be as much of a turn off.
The next 5 competitors didn't appeal to her either, and she was near panic when
they announced that Ally was next. Peeking through the fingers of the hand that
covered her eyes, Sara paused a second, then her mouth curled into a grin which
continued to grow.
The differences between Ally's body and that of the other women were rather stark,
Sara determined. While Ally looked very powerful and well defined, she didn't
have the heavy, masculine look of the competitors that received the most applause.
Her skin was nearly as dark as the other women's had been though, and it glowed
from the application of some sort of oil.
Even though Sara didn't care for the artificial color of her skin, the skin that
was revealed was wholly pleasing to the smaller woman. Ally didn't wear a teeny
bikini like most of the women did. Rather, hers was a bright red, combination
bikini top/thong bottom suit that showed off her unbelievably rounded ass to perfection.
Her mouth went dry as Ally began to work through her routine, her eyes barely
leaving the glowing cheeks of that delectable ass.
Finally, her 3 minutes were up, and the next competitor took the stage, allowing
Sara to catch her breath. When all had finished, the judges made the first cut,
narrowing the competitors to 5. Ally made the cut, and each of the women posed
again, this time for only two minutes. When the winners were announced, Ally wasn't
among them, the grand prize going to the woman with the most outrageous muscles
and largest breasts.
Sara waited in her chair, assuming that Ally would find her eventually. It took
about 15 minutes for the very drained-looking woman to catch up to her, and when
she did, she sank heavily into the chair next to Sara. I feel like I just
ran a marathon, she sighed. On my hands.
Giving her a gentle hug, Sara said, Congratulations on making the cut. That
was good, wasn't it?
Yeah, Ally said. Some of the judges like a more moderate look,
but others like the women to be as big as the men. There's no way to do that without
steroids, but what the hell. She shrugged her shoulders
and said, I'm done.
How are you feeling about your decision?
Good. Well, as good as I feel about anything, she said. I'm
on the verge of hallucinating. She lifted her sports bottle to her lips
and took a long gulp. To really look cut you have to be dehydrated. This
is the first thing I've had to drink since yesterday morning.
My God! Sara cried. That's terrible! You must feel awful.
That's about it, Ally said. I have to be really careful not
to overdo it, though. I have to let my body hydrate slowly.
Let's go to my house, Sara said. You can take a shower and have
something to drink.
With big doe eyes, Ally leaned against her, asking, Do you have any cookies?
I bought cookies and ice cream
just in case.
The woman of my dreams, Ally sighed, getting to her wobbly feet and
holding onto Sara's offered hand.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Luckily, Sara lived just three blocks away, so they walked the short distance.
As soon as they got into the apartment, Ally went to shower while Sara sat in
the living room and watched the start of the second half of the Warriors basketball
game. The bathroom door opened, and Ally emerged in a cloud of vapor. Well,
I'm clean, she announced, but now I'm even weaker.
Come here, Sara said, and when Ally walked over to her, she patted
her legs. Stretch out and take a little nap.
Really? You don't mind?
No, of course not. I'd like you to stay for a while, and you're obviously
too tired to interact right now. Rest for a while, and maybe you'll feel better.
Okay, Ally said, smiling wanly. Sara took the loose pillows from the
back of the sofa and piled them up at the far end, so Ally had some support for
her long legs which extended past the arm of the six foot long couch. It took
a little maneuvering, but she got comfortable, lying on her side, with her head
pillowed on Sara's legs. Are you comfy? she asked, her voice already
slow and sleepy.
Perfect. Mind if I rub your head?
Oh, yeah, Ally said lazily. That would be torture
Sara's fingers started to trail through the short, sandy hair, and by the time
she had made two passes, Ally was sound asleep.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Across town, in Noe Valley, Ryan was lounging on her bed, studying for a quiz,
when Maggie came down, surprising her a bit. Hi, the attorney said.
Did Brendan mention that he asked me to get involved in the negotiations
with the Bay Area BMW dealers for you?
Ryan blinked, having forgotten all about her hasty, impetuous decision. N
no, he didn't, Maggie. I'm not sure I was in my right mind when I told
him to pursue it, though. After all that's happened, it's obviously ridiculous
to encourage any form of publicity.
I agree, Ryan, she said, her voice becoming more businesslike. Seeing
how you've handled this entire matter gave me a clear indication that you couldn't
handle any more exposure.
Thanks, Maggie, she said, relieved not to have to worry about another
thing. We'll just buy a car with the insurance proceeds. No problem.
Let me tell you what I've negotiated, Ryan. You might still be interested.
As you can imagine, the dealers wish is to have you and Jamie standing in
front of BMW regional headquarters, with dozens of photographers, and all of the
media outlets in attendance. They want a big press conference, with you making
a speech about how great BMW is.
Oh, that'll happen, Ryan said dryly.
Right, Maggie said. I know that what you want is to have
them drop off a car at a secret location, and never tell anyone they gave it to
You read my mind, Ryan said. Did they go for it?
Not hardly, Maggie said. But my proposal is closer to your wish
Let's hear it.
Brendan told me that you were considering consenting to the ceremony they
wanted to have for you two at City Hall.
we discussed it, Ryan said, but
Well, I have some contacts over there, and we've got a proposal from the
city to start a new program urging people to get involved when they see someone
in trouble. They want to call it, 'Be a hero San Francisco'. It would be
an ongoing program, and BMW would be one of the corporate sponsors. Once a year,
they'd pick the citizens who went out of their way to help other people in need,
and they'd have a ceremony honoring the nominees. Some committee would chose the
most deserving person, and they'd get a new BMW. There would be some cash awards
to people, too, and some other corporate sponsors will probably want to jump on
the bandwagon. The thing I liked about this was that BMW would definitely be in
the background. It wouldn't be like you were doing an ad for them.
Wow, Ryan said slowly. That's a pretty cool idea. So this would
be ongoing, huh?
Yeah, Maggie said. There would be a publicity campaign urging
people to get involved when they saw someone who needed help, and then there would
be the awards at City Hall once a year.
what do you think, Maggie? Will this be dignified and understated?
I can't be involved in another media circus.
Here's the best news, she said. Because of all the hype, they're
more than willing to do the presentation without you guys even being there. Mayor
Brown is very sympathetic about how you've been harassed, and he thinks it would
make a powerful statement that you two couldn't even be present to get your awards.
I knew that I liked that guy, Ryan said. Now if I could just
get him to get out of bed with all of the pro-growth people, I'd be happy!
Different issue, Maggie said. So what do you think?
I'll have to talk to Jamie, of course, but I think it's a great deal, Maggie.
I really appreciate that you've worked on this for us.
It was fun, Ryan. I just want a ride in your new car.
You've got it, she said. Now I just have to find Jamie, and
see if she thinks it's as good an idea as I do.
* * * * * * * * * * *
As expected, Jamie agreed with the plan, and Ryan immediately got on her motorcycle
and rode over to the BMW dealer on Van Ness to get a brochure on the car. She
spend the rest of the afternoon trying to decide on color and options, after Maggie
told her that BMW was amenable to ordering her any car, with all of the options
she might wish.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The loud ticking of a clock woke her, and Ally looked around confusedly, finally
meeting Sara's eyes. A clock? she asked, fuzzily.
Sixty Minutes just came on, Sara said, running her fingers across
the furrow in her friend's brow.
Wow, how long was I out?
A couple of hours. You must have been exhausted.
I was, she said. She struggled a little to sit up, then
took a few long pulls off her sports bottle. Mmm
How about some dinner? You must be starved.
I am, but I have to be careful there, too. I have to ease back into eating
normally or my system gets all screwed up.
What could you handle?
Oh, a salad would be good.
I can make a salad, Sara said. She got up and went into the kitchen.
You can have dressing now, right?
Indeed I can, Ally said. She sat on a kitchen stool and watched her
friend work, commenting, You look like you know your way around a kitchen.
Only for simple things, like salads and sandwiches. Nothing too fancy.
Ally was obviously not very verbal, and she sat with her chin on her hand, watching
Sara with a vaguely dopey looking smile. She continued to drink from her bottle,
and when she drained it, she refilled it with plain water. Passing by Sara on
her way back to her chair, she put an arm around her waist and gave her a squeeze,
placing a soft kiss on the side of her neck. Dinner's ready, Sara
said, pulling Ally's arm tightly against her body. Hungry?
I've been hungry for eight weeks, she said, releasing her hold.
They sat in the living room, munching on their salads, Ally nearly swooning over
the simple Italian dressing. She continued to hydrate herself, and when she finished
dinner she patted her stomach and said, By tomorrow I'll have lost ten percent
of my definition.
Sara's eyes widened and she gasped, That much! That fast?
Uh-huh. Ally got up to put her bowl in the kitchen, then refilled
her water bottle. How about a cookie? she asked.
Walking into the kitchen, Sara took a bag of chocolate chunk, macadamia nut cookies
out of the cabinet. These were the most decadent ones I could find,
she said, tauntingly holding the bag over Ally's head. In keeping with her usual
laidback style, Ally just cocked her head and rotated her eyes, giving Sara a
sexy half smile, her eyes crinkling a little as she did so. Want one?
Sara asked, lowering the bag to eye level.
Uh-huh, Ally drawled, her accent thickening slightly. One of
these will knock another ten percent off me.
Hiding the bag behind her back, Sara said, Then I don't think I want you
to have one. I know we're taking it slow, and I agree that we should. But if this
was your last competition I'll never get to
cut body. Maybe you should stay in training for a while, she said.
Ally moved a little closer, and her voice dropped to a low, sexy drawl. You
know, that's about the third time you've alluded to my current body. Does it really
interest you? By the time she finished her question she was inches
from Sara, and the smaller woman could smell the clean scent of her own shower
gel on the muscular body.
Yeah, Sara said softly, lifting her hand to slide it across Ally's
chest and down her arm. It fascinates me. I've never been out with a really
strong woman, and I don't have a clue what a sculpted body feels like.
It sounds like your interest is almost academic, Ally purred, coming
even closer and pinning Sara against the kitchen counter. She placed one hand
on either side of the slim hips and hovered over her, giving her a slow, sexy
just academic, she said, swallowing audibly. Kind
of an anthropological study.
I'm all for the pursuit of knowledge, Ally murmured, bending just
enough to be able to place tiny kisses along Sara's jaw. Give me your hands.
Blinking up at her, Sara extended her hands and Ally took them and ran her thumbs
across the palms. Then she took one slightly trembling hand and slipped it under
her roomy sweatshirt. Sara's eyes closed, and her mouth twitched into a grin as
Ally guided her fingers along the ripped muscles of her abdomen. Ooo
sweet, the brunette sighed.
The larger woman slid the other hand under her shirt as well, then pushed them
up until they trailed across her sports bra and came to rest atop her shoulders.
When Sara's hands were in place, Ally struck a pose, flexing her deltoids and
her pectoral muscles rhythmically. Good God, Sara murmured, her eyes
still tightly closed.
Like that? Ally's honeyed voice purred.
it's definitely love, Sara said.
Slide your hands down my arms a little, the body builder instructed.
Doing so, Sara growled with delight when the biceps flexed and released repeatedly.
So nice, she moaned softly.
Now feel my back, Ally said, tilting her head just enough to place
a gentle, tender kiss on Sara's slightly parted lips.
Sara's soft, warm hands slid across the larger woman's ribs, then slipped up her
powerful back. Ally moved and stretched and flexed her muscles, while Sara allowed
her fingers to trace every dip, every curve, every contour of the perfectly sculpted
expanse. Her breathing was becoming audible, but rather than easing off, Ally
bent her head and started to kiss her, increasing the passion as Sara's fingers
began to dig into the powerful muscles. The large hands went to Sara's hips and
pressed her hard against the counter, as Ally's mouth claimed her completely.
Unable to stop herself, and unwilling to even try, Sara's hands trailed down the
strong back and slipped under the waistband of Ally's sweat pants. Her hands grasped
the twin mounds of her ass through a thin covering of silk as she gasped in delight.
My, God, you're perfect.
Suddenly, Ally's hands were around Sara's waist, and she effortlessly lifted her
to the counter. Long legs hooked around Ally's midsection, drawing her in close
as their lips met once again in a searingly hot kiss. Sara's hands were everywhere
caressing every firm, starkly defined muscle, while Ally braced her forearms
against the upper cabinet and leaned in to lavish her captive with warm, wet kisses.
Unable to keep her hands from exploring, Sara continued to lean into Ally as her
hands dipped lower and lower. The larger woman moved back just a few inches, but
in her weakened state she lost her firm hold on Sara and the brunette started
to slide off the counter. Ally wrapped her arms around her, but gravity won, and
they slowly collapsed onto the floor.
Sara was panting softly, her eyes hooded and slightly unfocused. She maneuvered
Ally onto her back and grasped her sweatpants, pulling them down to her knees.
Dark blue print silk boxers modestly covered the prone woman, and Sara left them
in place, entirely focused on exploring the muscular legs and ass that she hadn't
yet been able to experience.
The short break and altitude change gave Ally time to collect her thoughts, and
she reached out and put her hands on Sara's shoulders. What happened to
Slow? she asked hazily. Oh! She looked down, seemingly
just then realizing what was happening. I
Her warm brown eyes rotated back to Ally, and she shrugged her shoulders. I
don't know what happened.
We got carried away, Ally said, caressing Sara's flushed cheek. I
guess our libidos are tired of waiting.
Sara dropped her head onto Ally's chest, hearing her heart pounding away furiously.
Mine's been waiting a long time. I haven't been with anyone for months
I guess it caught up with me.
I want to be with you, Ally said softly, but I don't want it
to be rushed like this. Can you be patient, Sara? It really means a lot to me.
She looked into Ally's eyes, their color a soft gray in the dim light. Nodding
her head, she said, Yes, Ally. You take as much time as you need. I'll do
my best to behave. Leaning forward, she kissed her gently. But it
won't be easy, she said, laughing softly. I'm so attracted to you
that I'm about to combust!
Reaching down, Ally tugged on her friend, then settled her against her side. Is
it my body?
Yes, but only partly so. I've never dated anyone who looks like you, and
I'm finding that I'm incredibly turned on by your muscles. But it's not just that,
she said. There's a dichotomy between your easygoing personality and your
powerful body that's a real turn on. And underneath that slow, easy, laid-back
style there's a very determined, very forceful woman, she added, her lips
curling into a sexy smile. I looooove that part. She placed a gentle
kiss on her lips and said, That's been a surprise, too.
A nice surprise? Ally asked, her slow smile melting Sara's heart.
A very, very nice surprise, she sighed. She kissed Ally tenderly,
teasing her lips with the tip of her tongue. It's deeply thrilling to be
with a woman who knows what she wants
and isn't afraid to get it.
I do know what I want, Ally said, I just need to wait to get
it. She patted Sara gently, indicating that she wanted to get up. She rose
to her feet, her journey a little ungainly because of her pants still around her
knees. Sara looked up at her and started to rise also, but Ally put a restraining
hand on her shoulder. Just because I want to wait, doesn't mean you have
to. She kicked off her sweatpants, then pulled her shirt off and stood in
front of Sara, revealing her body to the wide, but appreciative eyes. This
is more than I had on earlier today, she said. Their eyes met again, and
Ally said, I want both of us to get what we need. I'm not ready to have
sex, but I want you to have your pleasure. Feel free to explore.
Immediately complying with the invitation, Sara sat on her heels, her eyes fixed
on the powerful, sharply defined thighs just a few inches from her. Incredible,
she said, running her fingertips over the taut skin.
My legs are my best feature, Ally said, smiling down at the look of
rapture on the mesmerized woman's face.
No, no, no, Sara murmured. Your ass is
a work of art.
the judges don't like it, because you can't actually see the
glutes. They like a really hard, taut look.
I'm not a judge, Sara murmured, just a fan. Crawling around
to the back, she ran her thumbs just under the swell of Ally's ass, shivers rolling
down her spine as she did so. Unable to resist, she wrapped her arms around her
and nuzzled her face against the firm mounds, her breath growing ragged as Ally
reached behind and stroked her hair. Ungh
I've got to stop,
Sara said thickly. I'm gonna start begging and that's just unseemly.
Laughing softly, Ally said, I'd stick with bodybuilding if the judges were
half as interested in me as you are.
Sara put her hands around Ally's waist and pulled herself up. Her eyes landed
on her abdomen and she said, Just one more little spot?
Sure. Go ahead, Ally said, standing tall and tensing her abs.
Moving to stand behind her, Sara pressed her cheek against Ally's shoulder and
reached around, letting her fingers play with the tight bands of muscle. Not
ticklish, are you?
Not at the moment, she murmured. It comes and goes
on the mood.
Sara started to kiss Ally's neck, closing her eyes as her lips met the soft, slightly
damp skin. Now both hands played across her belly, with one daring hand moving
under the waistband of her shorts. Perfect, she sighed, her cool fingers
probing lower and lower into the rock hard muscle, finally brushing against soft
Ally's hand covered hers, and she turned to kiss Sara's cheek. That's about
as much as I can take, she whispered. You're bordering on an erogenous
zone that has a mind of her own.
Note to self
tickle Ally's belly the first chance you get.
Pulling the warm hand from her shorts, Ally turned and locked her arms around
Sara, intentionally holding on with every bit of force she could muster. Sara's
arms were pinned tightly at her sides, and she could not have moved an inch of
her own volition had she wanted to, which she most decidedly did not. Ally gazed
down at the serene look on her face and kissed her firmly. We're gonna get
along just fine, counselor, she murmured. I think we're a perfect
fit. I just hope it's not too perfect a fit, she thought, slightly
* * * * * * * * * * *
Late that night, as Jamie cuddled up to her partner, the taller woman jerked awake
and looked at her with wide eyes. I think I want blue!
Jamie said softly, rubbing her back to relax her. You
don't have to make up your mind right now. Your little brochure will be there
when you wake up.
Do you like blue? she asked sleepily as she started to drift off once
Of course I do, Jamie said. It's my favorite color since I met
you and got to look into those beautiful blue eyes every day.
Ryan was nearly asleep when she once again jerked awake and said, Maybe
green! Then I'd think of your eyes.
Sleep now, Jamie said, rubbing her back comfortingly, color
* * * * * * * * * * *
When Jamie woke the next morning, Ryan was lying on her back, eyes wide open.
Nightmare? the blonde asked softly, running a hand over the soft cotton
that covered Ryan's belly.
No, I'm just lying here trying to convince myself that it's okay to quit
the basketball team.
Now wide-awake, Jamie sat up and looked at her. I thought you'd decided
I have, Ryan said, nodding. But there's a difference between
deciding and getting up the nerve to actually do it.
Tell me what's going through your mind, Jamie said.
Well, I guess the bottom line is that even with all that's happened, I still
keep coming back to the one thing I can't get around. In essence, when I joined
the team, I gave my word. Quitting because I'm unhappy with the way things went
just cheapens my reputation. She paused for a few minutes, then said reflectively,
I've never quit anything before, Jamie. This is really hard for me to do.
I understand, the smaller woman said. But you and I have slightly
different perspectives. I think the bottom line is whether you think you're worth
it. Do you think that you deserve a little peace?
That's not how I was raised, Jamie, and it's really hard to go against that
conditioning. Following through on your obligations is paramount in my family.
I worry that Da will be disappointed in me if I quit, even though
he says he won't. I saw the look in his eyes when I told him that I was quitting.
He looked like he wanted to give me a lecture.
He might have been, she said honestly. Over time it's impossible
not to occasionally disappoint the people that we love. But the fact remains,
Ryan, if this is the right decision for you you have to make it
even if it might disappoint others.
What about you, honey? How will you feel about me if I quit? She asked
this in a very quiet voice, and Jamie ached for her partner, knowing how fragile
and vulnerable she felt at the moment.
Every day that you don't have to wear that monstrosity of a uniform is a
good day in my book, she joked. When Ryan tugged playfully on a lock of
her hair, she gave her a more serious answer. It doesn't really matter to
me. You're either going to be playing basketball or softball. You'll still be
gone for a few hours every afternoon, and you'll still have to travel for away
games. I really don't have an opinion. All I know is that I'm confident that you'll
make the right choice even if it's not the most popular one.
I'm glad one of us is sure of that, Ryan grumbled quietly.
I have enough confidence in you for both of us, Jamie said.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After her morning class, Ryan knocked lightly on Mary Hayes' door. The coach looked
up, and favored her with a warm smile. Ryan! It's great to see you again.
Come on in.
Ryan sat down and said, How ya doin, Coach?
I'm good, how about you?
Better, she said, smiling tentatively. Uhm
I wanted to
talk to you about my place with the team.
Are you considering coming back, Ryan?
The way she framed the question gave Ryan pause, and she asked, Do you
think I should?
The coach avoided replying directly, saying, Ryan, if you want to come back,
we'll figure out a way to make it happen.
Ryan cocked her head and asked, That wasn't a ringing endorsement, Coach.
Level with me, will you?
Folding her hands on her desk, she said, The school is very concerned, Ryan.
The athletic director was very, very upset about what happened in North Carolina.
If you come back, we're going to have to come up with procedures to ensure that
unauthorized photographers can't get into the arena. And some of the schools have
already expressed their concern about you being hurt in their gyms. Nothing that's
insurmountable, but it's something we're going to have to look into.
Ryan shook her head, finally letting out a short laugh. Has anything gone
right this season?
Not a whole hell of a lot, Mary said.
I think I'll just bow out gracefully, Ryan said. It really doesn't
seem worth the trouble at this point. Mary nodded, seeming like she had
expected the decision. Only one thing bothers me, Ryan said.
I know this is the end of your contract. If my staying could help you land
a new deal, I'd do it.
Mary smiled at the earnest young woman and shook her head slowly. You know,
Ryan, I don't think I've ever misjudged a person as badly as I misjudged you.
I'm not even sure what it was, but I didn't trust you from the moment you joined
Glad to know I'm not just paranoid, Ryan said.
No, you aren't, she said. Over time, I've come to see how wrong
I was about you, but it's really too late now to do much good. I'm really sorry,
Ryan. If I hadn't let my first impressions get in the way, we could have had a
fantastic year, and you would have had a much better experience with us.
Shaking her head, she commented, Hell, if I hadn't switched our practice
schedule around, you wouldn't have been carjacked. You would have been sweating
your butt off right here in the gym.
Ryan chuckled wryly and recalled, As my grandfather says, 'If if's and but's
were candied nuts, we'd all have a hell of a Christmas.'
Mary gave her a puzzled look, and Ryan clarified. You can't look at it like
that. Going through 'what if' scenarios just makes you crazy. I should know,
she added ruefully.
I really appreciate your willingness to stick around to help me out, Ryan,
but much to my surprise, they're giving me a one year extension. The fact that
we've done as well as we have with so many injuries and so much turmoil has apparently
impressed the athletic director.
Good for you! Ryan said. I hope it goes well for you next year.
You know, Ryan, I've got to be honest, the coach said. You're
the least spoiled rich kid I've ever met. Your parents did a wonderful job with
Ryan tossed her head back and laughed heartily. Coach, my dad's a cook for
the fire department. We're blue collar all the way.
Jamie's the one with the dough, Ryan said, still laughing. And,
by the way, she's not very spoiled either.
The coach shared her laugh, and asked, How's a woman supposed to get by
if she can't stereotype people, Ryan? Is nothing sacred?
Ryan stood to leave, and extended her hand. It's been interesting, Coach.
it's been that. I still haven't been able to find out who spoke
to the tabloids about you, Ryan. I'm sorry I wasn't able to find her and kick
her ass off the team.
I have my suspicions, Coach, but I'd rather not get into it. I've just started
to calm down, and I don't need any more stress in my life. I just want to move
on and get back to the things that keep me happy.
I hope you get there, Ryan. You're a special woman, and I'm sincerely sorry
that things didn't work out with us.
I am too, she said. But it's only January, Coach. I've got five
months left of my college career. You might not have seen the last of me.
I think I might play softball for Hank Roberts.
Softball? At your height?
Smiling wryly, Ryan said, This is the only height I have. It'll have to
Wow, the older woman said. That's an excellent team, Ryan, you
must be pretty damned good to be able to walk on.
Fixing her with her intense blue eyes, Ryan said, I am good. I could have
easily snared a softball scholarship, but it's not my favorite sport.
That was soccer, wasn't it? Mary asked, giving Ryan a sad smile.
Yeah. Soccer, field hockey, volleyball, basketball and softball in
Leaning back in her chair, Mary gazed at Ryan for a moment and said, An
athlete like you comes along once in a coach's career if she's very, very
lucky. I sure did blow my chance.
You know you really did, Ryan said, giving her a crooked grin.
But that's a moot point now. I think I'm going to join the softball team
just to go out on an up note.
I wish you all the best, Ryan, Mary said.
Just one thing, Ryan said. Coach Roberts might ask you for a
recommendation. Will you give me one?
That depends, Mary said. She got up and walked around to the edge
of her desk and sat down. Looking into Ryan's eyes, she asked, How are you
mentally. Did you see someone?
I did, Ryan said. It's been helping quite a bit, Coach. I'm
doing well, and I know my doctor would clear me to play if she were asked.
I'd prefer that she not be asked, though.
Are you sure you're well? Are you sure you can put up with the crowds? The
I am. I still have issues, Coach, and I will for a long while, but I'm not
going to melt down again. I can handle things better now.
Mary Hayes reached up and placed her hand on Ryan's shoulder. I sincerely
hope that's true. You don't deserve any of the things that have happened to you
this year, Ryan.
With a warm, full smile, Ryan said, I hope I deserve Jamie. She and I just
got together this year.
Yeah, you deserve Jamie, the older woman said, smiling warmly. How
does she feel about your playing softball?
it wouldn't be her choice. She thinks I extend myself too much.
Well, at least one of you has a good head on her shoulders, Mary said.
If Hank calls, I'll sing your praises, Ryan. That's the least I can do.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie rode her bike home for lunch and was pleased to find her partner in the
kitchen making an impressively large vegetable salad. Is that all for you?
the smaller woman teased as she got a good look at the serving-bowl sized meal.
Yeah. Want one? Ryan turned to give Jamie a hug, and said, I
thought there was a chance you'd come home for lunch. I think there's enough here
You're such a good provider, Jamie sighed as she sat down at the table.
How'd your morning go?
It was interesting, Ryan said slowly.
Interesting and you are often a dangerous combination, Jamie said.
Was it good interesting or bad interesting?
neutral, Ryan said. I quit the team, but not before
Coach Hayes let me know that it would be a big hassle for the school if I returned.
They're all paranoid about lawsuits if I or some other player got injured
because of the press. Even though it's died down, some of the other schools are
worried about it. We just kinda agreed that it was best to part ways.
Weird, Jamie sighed. Everything about this season was just plain
Can't disagree with you on that one, babe. Oh, I ran into Janae when I was
over at Haas. She's back at school, and she seems to be feeling pretty good.
That's a relief, Jamie sighed.
Yeah. She's even able to work out a little, but she's definitely not going
to return to the team.
I don't blame her a bit. Does Coach Hayes know?
Yep. Janae said she seemed relieved. Ryan shook her head and said,
I'll never understand Mary Hayes if I live to be 100. But I feel better
now that it's all resolved. I'm ready to move on.
Jamie laid her head on her companion's shoulder and sighed deeply. Can I
stay here? I was lonely today at school. I got used to having you all to myself
Sure, you can stay here. We can come home every day for lunch, and you can
sit on my lap to eat.
Jamie speared a crisp baby carrot and eased it into Ryan's mouth, alternating
bites until they had made a substantial dent in the meal. So, when do you
start softball practice? she asked lightly. Today?
Nope. I'm not going into this blindly. I pulled the schedule off the Internet,
and it's a little more aggressive than I'm used to, to be honest. I uhm
I thought they'd play a couple of games a week, but it's a lot more than that.
How many more? Jamie asked warily.
A lot more. Ryan gave her an adorably sheepish look and said, They
play 70 games this season, she said, gulping slightly.
70 games! Jamie gasped. In how many weeks?
15, Ryan said.
that's a game almost every day! she cried.
Ryan gave her an indulgent smile and said, No it's not, silly. It's only
four and two thirds games a week.
Slapping at her shoulder, Jamie said, Like that's a lot better? Ryan, you
can't afford to play four and five times a week
you'll never get your studying
No, no, I didn't make myself clear. The team doesn't play a lot of single
games. They play double or triple-headers quite often, so most weeks they just
play two or three days. But they play every weekend
and I do mean every
weekend, she said for emphasis. Usually all three days of the weekend.
Is there a lot of travel, too? the blonde asked hesitantly.
More than I'd like, Ryan said. The problem is that they play
a lot of tournaments in the beginning part of the season, and they're all over
the place. Florida, Las Vegas, New Mexico
Jamie sighed heavily, and got up from her human chair. She walked over to the
refrigerator and took out a bottle of water, opening it and leaning her head back
to chug most of it. Coming back to the table, she stood behind her partner and
began to run her hands through the long, black hair, letting the calming action
soothe her so that she could think clearly. After a few long minutes of rhythmic
stroking she said, You wouldn't even propose this if it wasn't important
to you. If you think you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of this, and you're sure
it won't be too stressful I want you to do it.
Ryan reached behind herself and grasped Jamie's arm, giving her a gentle tug until
she was back on her lap. She nuzzled her head into her chest for a moment and
finally said, You're not happy about this, are you?
Jamie chuckled mildly and said, Given that I'm one semester from graduation
and still kicking around the idea of switching to a math major just to have extra
time with you, no. Having you fly all over the country without me isn't my idea
Ryan looked up and gazed into green eyes as she said, Then I won't do it.
Case closed. She patted Jamie on the butt to indicate she wanted to get
up, but the smaller woman stayed right where she was.
Nope. The case is not closed, Jamie said. My season is starting
at the end of February, and I'm going to be traveling a lot. Is that something
that makes you happy?
Well, no, of course not, Ryan said. But you've gone through
this for both volleyball and basketball with me. It's your turn now, Jamie, and
I should have realized that before I even brought this up. I was just being selfish,
she said dismissively.
Jamie placed her hands on her partner's cheeks and gently tilted her head up so
that they gazed into each other's eyes. If I could get you to be more selfish,
I'd be happy. Competition means a great deal to you, Ryan, and when you do the
things that make you happy you're a better partner.
Ryan gave her a slightly puzzled frown, but Jamie sought to reassure her. You're
a marvelous partner no matter what, but I fully believe that the best way for
us to each be happy is to fully be who we are. You're an athlete, Ryan. That's
who you are in your heart. There's a joy within you when you play a sport
a joy that you don't have many other ways to achieve.
You bring me joy, Ryan said softly.
Yes, we bring each other joy, Jamie said. But this is a different
kind of joy. I can hardly explain it
but I see it on your face. The smile
you gave me after the first Stanford volleyball game will be imprinted on my brain
for the rest of my life, she said. I'd never seen it before, but I
saw it several more times. I saw a little glimpse of it every time you and your
teammates did something extraordinary. She dipped her head and kissed her
partner softly, trying to express herself through her caresses. It's worth
the sacrifices we have to make for me to see that look, Ryan.
It feels unbelievably wonderful to be so thoroughly loved, Ryan whispered
as she pulled her lover close to bestow a flurry of kisses on her soft lips.
I do love you, Ryan, the smaller woman said. I want you to do
this if you think it will bring you joy. Besides, I'll get to have you all to
myself next year. I don't mind sharing you a bit now, as long as I can look forward
The dark woman nodded, and said. I'm going to do a little more investigative
work, she said. If I'm satisfied with the answers, can I talk to Coach
Roberts and accept?
Yes, Jamie said decisively. I'm ready to let you go. I've had
a nice long time to savor you now it's time to share you with your jock
I think you've just coined another expression, Ryan said. A
strange one, to be sure, but I think it's unique.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When Jamie got home that night, Ryan was sitting on the front porch, a big smile
on her face. An even bigger first baseman's mitt was on her right hand, and she
was methodically snapping a softball into the pocket.
Been at practice? the blonde asked, assuming that Ryan would dive
in as soon as possible.
Nope, she said. I surprised myself, to tell you the truth. I
approached this in a methodical way.
Wow, Jamie said, rolling her eyes. You
Giving her a pinch on the side, Ryan explained the decision process. First
I called Heather and asked her how she was leaning. She said that she'd play if
Jamie smiled, thinking that development didn't surprise her in the least, given
the crush she knew the freshman had on her partner.
So I went over and talked to Coach Roberts and asked him to clarify a few
I told him some of the things that had happened on the basketball team,
Ryan said, surprising Jamie thoroughly. I tried not to bitch too much, but
I wanted to make sure that you could travel with us
that we could sleep
that I could go to a game separately if necessary.
What did he say? Jamie asked.
He said he didn't care if I went on a three-day drunk and rolled up to the
stadium stinking of gin, Ryan said. He said he learned a long time
ago that what matters is performance, and as long as I can perform, he doesn't
care about the details.
Smart man, Jamie said.
Yeah, Ryan said thoughtfully. He said that he realized I was
older, and hopefully more mature than some of the other players. He realizes
that we're, in essence, married. He said that he understood that our schedules
would be tough to coordinate, and that he would cut me as much slack as he could.
That sounds really good. What else?
Well, I told him about the fears the athletic director had about my playing
basketball. While I sat there, he called the A.D.'s office, and told him I was
thinking about playing softball. They had a long talk, and both agreed that the
situation was not nearly as worrisome for softball as it was for basketball.
couple of reasons. One, having photographers around isn't very
distracting. We play almost all day games, so there wouldn't be flashes going
off. Two, the fields we would play at are small, so the crowds aren't very big.
Heck, the photographers could lie down on the benches at most of the fields, and
snap away as long as they liked. No one would even notice.
That makes sense, Jamie said. So the athletic director wasn't
opposed to your playing?
He gave the all-clear, Ryan said.
Well, I can see why you accepted, Jamie said.
Not so fast there, Jamers, Ryan said. I'm not done yet. I went
over to the field a half hour before practice, and introduced myself to the players
as they came in to change. I liked the vibes, she said thoughtfully. The
players acted like they were buddies. Everyone was pleasant, and they all said
they were excited about having me join them. She gave her partner a sheepish
look and said, I think they might have seen me play basketball.
Jamie chuckled, I think everybody in the Bay Area watched that game down
in North Carolina. The Nielsen ratings must have gone haywire that night.
So, after I was satisfied there, I said that I'd join the team. Here's the
funny part though, she added. I told him I didn't want to start for
another week. She looked very proud of herself, and Jamie smiled her approval
Wow! What made you do that?
It was a tough call, Ryan said. I know I'll get along better
if I'm there early, but I also know that I'm still a little off stride. I decided
to do what felt right for me! The smile she gave her partner was
luminous, and Jamie rewarded her with an enthusiastic kiss.
I'm proud of you, sweetheart. That's very, very good news.
There's a season-opening tournament that first weekend, Ryan said
smugly. I probably won't be ready to play because I'll have so little practice
time. Isn't that great?
You're making progress, Jamie said.
Yep, Ryan said. Over time, I'll be a self-involved egotist,
and it's all thanks to you!
Oh, I think that will take a while, Jamie said. I'll be happy
if you begin to believe that your needs are as important as other people's. That's
My goal is to play a game I like, with nice people, and try not to make
it the focus of my life, Ryan said seriously. I want that focus to
remain on you.
Now you're talking, Jamie said. Just for that, you get to pick
where we go to dinner tonight.
It took Ryan less than a second to say, Zachary's. I'm gonna try to pack
a few more pounds on before I start practicing. Zachary's can always be counted
on to contribute to the cause.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Where's Ryan? Mia asked when she came home a few minutes later.
She ran to Zachary's for a pizza. Hungry?
I could eat a Zachary's if I'd finished dinner three minutes ago,
Mia said. She climbed up on the counter and watched Jamie prepare a salad to accompany
the pizza. Did Ryan follow through and quit the basketball team?
She sure did, but as usual, she's gonna jump right back into another sport.
The blonde shook her head and said, She's gonna join the softball team in
That woman is something else, Mia said. One thing I'm sure of,
Jamie you're never gonna get bored with her.
Jamie shared her laugh and said, No, never bored. She may drive me mad
but she won't bore me. She gave her friend an aggrieved look and said, You
won't believe this, but she honestly thinks that she can still participate in
the AIDS ride, even though she hasn't started training yet.
Didn't you start in the fall last year?
Yep. October. Here it is, almost February, she hasn't ridden more than three
miles at a time since June, and my doofus girlfriend thinks she can do it with
Well, she is pretty phenomenal. Maybe just being in good shape is enough.
Jamie was shaking her head while Mia was still talking. No way. Getting
used to being on the seat for hours at a time, and stressing your legs from hill
work are really critical, Mia. I'm worried that she'll hurt herself if she tries
to do this without putting in the prep time.
So, what are you going to do? She sure as hell doesn't take well to being
told what to do.
There's an understatement, Jamie said. I'm not sure, yet, but
I'm gonna try to penetrate that very hard head.
Ryan came in as they were speaking, and waved the pizza box under Mia's nose.
Starved! Let's just stand here and eat it out of the box.
Now, now, let's at least try to act civilized, Ryan said. She put
the pizza on a platter and carried it into the dining room, where Jamie had already
set out the salad.
They dug in, and in no time, a sizeable dent had been made in the large pie. Ryan
commented, I'm gonna work on my training schedule tonight. The one I made
up when we were down in Hillsborough won't work with my softball schedule.
Congratulations on making the team, Mia said. That's pretty
cool, Ryan. Are the uniforms more attractive than those horrible basketball ones?
You Hillsborough girls, Ryan said. All you care about is fashion.
She thought for a moment and said, I think the uniforms are pretty cute.
Why don't you bring your schedule down, and I'll help you work on it,
Jamie said. I know you'll sit here and pick at the pizza until it's gone
we might as well have something to do between bites.
Ha ha, Ryan said, but she nevertheless got up and went to her room
to gather her things. When she returned, she handed Jamie the softball schedule,
and she took her eraser and removed most of her proposed training rides from her
organizer. Okay, the challenge is going to be squeezing the rides in without
using many weekends.
That will be a challenge, Jamie said. Where do you want to start,
Well, I'm not going to start softball until next week, so I can ride a lot
this week, just to kick-off my training. She made a few notes and commented,
I can probably get in 100 miles this week.
That's a lot! Mia said around a massive bite of pizza.
No, it's really not, Ryan said absently. I should be doing 150
miles a week by February. I'm really behind already.
They started going through the schedule, week by week. It rapidly became clear
that Ryan was going to have to start riding before dawn most days to get her saddle
time in. This doesn't look good, the dark woman said. I guess
I'm just going to have to do what I can, and hope for the best. Maybe I'll take
the two weeks before the ride and really grind a lot of miles out.
Jamie tapped at the softball schedule, and said, Not if you make the playoffs.
The final game of the College World Series is less than a week before the ride
Ryan dropped her head onto the table, and groaned, Then I'll have to just
do my best. I'll ride in the damn SAG van if I have to.
You know as well as I do that you'd walk the whole way before you'd get
in that van, Jamie said.
Yeah, well, I might just have to re-think some of my notions about the ride,
Ryan said. It's important to me to participate even if I can't do
it as well as I have in the past. It's going to be very odd for me, she
said. I mean, for one thing, I won't be able to lead training rides this
year. That was always one of my favorite things about the ride, you know.
Yeah, Jamie said, echoing her partner's tone. That's one of
the ways you stayed connected to your fellow riders, wasn't it?
Exactly, Ryan said. Training people made me feel like I was
part of the whole. I'm afraid that I won't have that same feeling this year. I'm
going to have to just concentrate on myself.
Mia interrupted to ask, Aren't you going to do the ride, Jamie? I thought
it was going to be an annual thing for you two.
Shrugging her shoulders, Jamie said, There's no way I can train enough to
even consider it, Mia. I'd have to ride in the SAG van half the time and
that just seems silly.
Wow, the curly-haired woman said, I thought that doing this
together was a really big thing for you.
It is, Ryan said soberly. It's a very big deal to me.
This is just one more little challenge, Jamie sighed, giving Ryan
a hug. It'll work out, baby.
Yeah, I guess it will, Ryan said, gazing at her partner with sad blue
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie was ready for bed when Ryan came out of the bathroom, and the taller woman
approached her from behind to see what she was working on. She was sitting at
her desk, and it looked like her calendar was up on her computer. As Ryan got
closer, she became fascinated by the top Jamie had on.
It had been cold recently, and they'd both been sleeping in T-shirts. But tonight,
the house was quite warm, and Jamie had on just a camisole. It was an ivory-colored
knit, and it fit very close, following her curves like a second skin. The bodice
was trimmed with a satin appliqué that was significantly stiffer than the
rest of the material, and that was the detail that caught Ryan's attention.
An appliquéd flower was covering the top of Jamie's left breast, and it
gapped a bit, revealing a firm, pink nipple. Ryan felt her mouth go dry, her eyes
unable to tear themselves away from the sight. Her hand reached out to touch her
partner, but she stilled in mid-motion. They had expressly agreed to ask permission
before touching each other, and she wasn't about to break that agreement
but at the same time, she was afraid to ask for what she wanted.
Standing there, unable to decide what she should do, Jamie reached back and patted
her leg absently, silently indicating that she knew Ryan was there.
Ryan sat down on the bed, trying to make up her mind. The first tendrils of desire
had already faded, and she cursed herself for her indecision. She tried to remind
herself of what Amanda had told her. That at first, things would seem awkward
and fairly stilted. Amanda had urged her to struggle through those awkward moments,
promising that once they got past them, things would open up and begin to feel
Jamie was just about finished, and she started to shut her system down. When she
was done, she began to stand, but Ryan impulsively said. Stay there for
The smaller woman complied, something in Ryan's voice giving her pause. What
is it, honey? She started to turn her chair around, but Ryan reached out
and grasped the chair back, pulling it close.
Swallowing, Ryan quietly asked, Can I touch your breasts? She felt
like a very formal thirteen-year-old boy, but she didn't know how else to ask,
and she wanted to make sure that her request was framed properly.
Jamie started to turn again, but Ryan held the chair in place. She didn't want
to see the look on her face knowing it must reflect puzzlement at the very
least. Sure, she said softly, I'd like that.
Rubbing her hands together nervously, Ryan leaned over and cupped both of her
partner's breasts in her hands. She could feel a little bit of sweat start to
gather on the back of her neck, but her breathing was fairly even and she
didn't think she was going to have a panic attack. Jamie was still consciously
trying to allow Ryan to explore without comment or suggestion.
It felt much more clinical than erotic, but Ryan kept at it, letting her hands
grow used to the tactile sensations once again. Jamie's breasts felt just as glorious
as she remembered them, the firm flesh yielding to her touch. But even though
the physical sensations were the same, Ryan felt a definite barrier between her
body and her libido. A barrier as real as the fabric that kept her fingers from
feeling her partner's warm skin. The two parts of her seemed to have severed communications
her libido completely unaware that it was supposed to be enjoying itself
at the moment.
To Ryan's dismay, Jamie's body didn't seem to be having the same communication
breakdown as her own did. The blonde shifted in her chair and sighed deeply, then
placed a hand over Ryan's and pressed down. Nice, she purred sexily.
Her nipples grew firm, and Ryan could feel the mauve flesh around the peaks start
to pebble. She could feel her partner's breathing start to pick up, but she knew
she couldn't go any further without having a stroke, so she leaned over and kissed
her cheek. Thanks, she whispered. They looked too luscious to
With a question in her eyes, Jamie swiveled around in her chair and gazed at her
partner. Immediately, she saw a hint of regret in the sad, blue eyes, and she
intentionally tried to make light of the situation. We're making progress,
baby, she said. You just keep asking anytime you want to touch a little.
Standing, she grasped Ryan's hand and took her over to her side of the bed. Tucking
her in, she leaned over and kissed her gently, then placed the hand upon her breast
once again and squeezed Ryan's hand under her own. We'll get there, Ryan,
I promise you.
For some reason, having Jamie leaning over her like that gave Ryan a little bit
of a jolt, and she felt greatly reassured when she felt a familiar tingle between
her legs. A warm smile bloomed, and she said. I know we will. Thanks for
being patient with me.
We're being patient with each other, Jamie said. I haven't been
making many moves on you either, sport. She released Ryan's hand and stood
up, then impetuously crawled over the long body to her own side of the bed, making
Getting under the covers, they cuddled together for a few minutes and Ryan got
up the nerve to ask the question that Jamie's comment had sparked. Do you
ever want to touch me?
Yeah, she quietly said. It's always when it's impossible, though.
She was silent for a moment, then added, I think of you a lot when I'm in
class. And sometimes just seeing a certain curve will remind me of some part of
your body. She chuckled softly, and said, I must confess that I've
really turned into an ass-woman. Most of my images are of your perfect butt.
Wanna feel it? Ryan asked tentatively. I uhm
Before she could complete her sentence, Jamie's hand was palming her cheek through
her thin flannel pants, an impish look on her face. Just like I remember,
she sighed. Maybe a little leaner.
Yeah, I lost a little weight at the beach.
My hard-won gains, Jamie said. I'd just started to see some
progress, and then you stopped eating again.
My appetite's getting better, Ryan said. I think I'll start
You'd better, the blonde decreed. She leaned over Ryan and rubbed
noses. When I grab your ass, I want two handfuls. And I do mean hand 'fulls'!
Yes, ma'am, Ryan said. I'll make every effort to pump up the
Giving the butt another squeeze, Jamie slid her hand up and tucked it around Ryan's
waist, smoothing her T-shirt into place. G'night, honey, she said.
I love you.
I love you, too, Jamie. Ryan tightened her embrace and whispered,
More than ever.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The next morning, Ryan got up and put on her running clothes. As she opened
the front door she was rewarded with the sight of
no one. There was not
a reporter, nor a news van, nor a photographer in sight. She poked her head out
cautiously, then started to creep out of the door, making slow but steady progress.
Finally, she hit the sidewalk, where she stared in every direction, finally standing
still and scratching her head for a minute. No one? Who are the poor, miserable
wretches whose turmoil is more newsworthy than mine? May God have mercy on their
As she ran along the quiet streets, she considered that Jim had really had
a hand in quelling the feeding frenzy. There had only been one lone guy with a
camera in Noe this past weekend, and it was obvious that he was a free-lancer,
and now this. She was still observing a news blackout, but Jamie was back to her
normal habits, and she had informed Ryan that the media dialogue had now switched
to an outraged recitation of the sins of the media in hounded the poor, innocent
by the very same media that had committed the sins, of course.
Ryan didn't much care how the discussion morphed at this point. She was just immensely
glad that the focus had shifted from her and Jamie. We should call Jim this
evening to give him an update, and thank him for his efforts, she reminded
Thinking of one more task to accomplish, she varied her route, swinging by the
group home where Jennie lived. She was pleased to find her young friend sitting
on the front steps, neatly dressed in her uniform, massive book bag at her feet.
Hey! Ryan called out, startling the young woman from her reverie.
hi, Ryan, Jennie said, looking everywhere but into her eyes.
What are you doing over here?
I was out running, and I decided to see if you were around. I figured your
ride would be here soon, she said as she performed a few gentle quad stretches
to keep her legs warm. You look like something's bothering you, sport. Everything
Yeah, she said, still looking at the ground. I'm sorry, Ryan,
she said softly. I've been trying to figure out all week how to make it
up to you, but I can't think of a thing. Ryan saw the girl's lower lip start
to tremble, and then the tears started to flow.
How about a sweaty hug? Ryan asked gently, placing her hand on Jennie's
You're not mad at me? she said, her expression so heart-rendingly
sad that Ryan nearly started to cry, without even knowing why.
Of course not, Jen. Why would I be mad at you? She wrapped her in
a hug, trying not to transfer too much of her perspiration onto the neatly ironed
'Cause of what my mom did, she said, looking up at Ryan like the
older woman must be missing something.
Jen. You're not responsible for your mom. You're only responsible for yourself.
Your mom's got some problems, and she's not one of my favorite people right now,
but nothing she does will ever impact how I feel about you. She grasped
the young woman by the shoulders and held her out at arm's length. That
is the absolute truth, Jennie. You and I are friends. There's nothing anyone can
do to change that.
She tumbled into Ryan's arms again, sobbing pitifully. I
I was afraid you'd never talk to me again. I thought I'd have to quit sch
Oh, Jennie, I know it's hard to trust that I won't abandon you, but I won't.
I swear I won't. I'm so sorry that I didn't call you after your mom's comments
came out. I
I just let myself get too busy, and I didn't stop to think
how that would affect you. Tilting her chin up with her fingers, Ryan looked
into her eyes and asked, Forgive me?
Sure, the young woman said, wrapping her arms around Ryan so tightly
that she let out a soft grunt.
A Lincoln Town Car pulled into the drive as they were hugging, and Ryan took a
quick look at her friend's face. You'd better go inside and get a tissue.
Oh, that's okay, she said. Robert has some in the car. He's
nice, Ryan. Wanna meet him?
I'd love to, Ryan said, walking the short distance with Jennie's arm
snugged around her waist.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When she came home from her run, Jamie had already left for golf practice. Ryan
puttered around the kitchen for a bit, making herself an English muffin with some
peanut butter on it, and then eating a nice, ripe pear. Her hunger partially sated,
she went upstairs to get ready for school.
A shower was the first order of business, and as she cleaned her body, she felt
a familiar, but long absent, sensation. A fluttering of desire began to bloom,
and as she made the water a little cooler, she trained the hand-held showerhead
upon her vulva and let it work its magic. In moments, she felt fully aroused,
and spread her legs wider to increase the sensation. Bracing one hand against
the wall, she relaxed into the experience and let her body respond feeling
an overwhelming sense of relief at how quickly everything fell into place. Just
like old times, she angled the showerhead just so, letting it thrum right onto
Moments later, she felt the pulsing start in her uterus and radiate out, leaving
her weak-kneed and fully sated. Good Lord, that felt fine, she sighed.
Too bad Jamie wasn't still home. But even as the thought still rumbled
around in her head, the truth hit her. She would not have felt that wave of desire
if Jamie were still home. It was the fact that she was gone that Ryan was
sure she wasn't coming back for hours that let her relax enough to get
aroused. Her libido wanted to come out and play, but it wanted to play alone
and that thought filled her with dread.
* * * * * * * * * * *
She checked and double-checked to make sure that Jamie knew she was about to call
Amanda for their evening session. Ryan, go make your phone call, the
blonde finally insisted. I won't disturb you, and I won't pick up the phone
by mistake. Now shoo!
Feeling guiltier than she had since she was in grade school, Ryan made the call,
unable to think of even one topic to waste time and delay having to admit what
she had done. Getting to the point, she said, I feel like crap, Amanda.
I finally got sexually excited today, and instead of holding off until Jamie came
home, I masturbated. She said this with a voice full of self-loathing, certain
that her actions signaled a very deep and lasting problem between her and Jamie.
you're upset by this? Amanda asked.
Ryan wished that she could see the woman, knowing there was at least a hint of
censure showing on her face. Yes, of course! I haven't masturbated just
to please myself since we've been together. I don't do that any longer, Amanda.
My sexuality is for Jamie and me to share.
Oh, I see, Amanda said. Well, if that's how you feel comfortable,
I'm sure that you'll go back to that habit once things are back to normal.
You act like this isn't a big deal! Ryan cried, her voice rising much
higher than she wished.
It's not, the therapist said. Look, Ryan, your sexual response
has been shut down for weeks now. When it starts to wake up again, it's going
to do so slowly. It makes perfect sense to me that it would feel safe to touch
yourself for a while, then you can risk a little more and allow Jamie to touch
you. Your body is just trying to keep you safe, Ryan. Listen to it.
The young woman was fairly stunned by this advice. You really think my body
is talking to me?
Of course it is, Amanda said. Just listen to the signals it
gives you, Ryan. It knows what your mind needs. Let it guide you.
Ryan nodded slowly, starting to see Amanda's point. Okay, I'll try that,
she said. I just hope my body wants Jamie soon, 'cause my heart needs her
* * * * * * * * * * *
The next day, when Jamie returned from school, Ryan was lying in bed on her back,
her legs elevated, one ankle crossed over a knee. Her hands were laced behind
her head, and she bore a contemplative look on her handsome features. Thinking?
Jamie asked quietly, careful not to disturb her partner when she was focused on
Yeah, Ryan said, but not about anything too deep. She
patted the bed and said, C'mere for a minute.
Jamie kicked off her shoes and climbed up next to her, sighing deeply when Ryan
wrapped an arm around her.
You always do that, Ryan said softly.
Let out a breath when I first put my arms around you. It always makes me
Leaning over to kiss her, Jamie said, It feels like I'm home. Like I'm safe
and protected, and nothing can hurt me.
It feels like that to me, too, Ryan said. She nuzzled her face into
her partner's sweet-smelling hair, and said, No place on earth is as welcoming
as your arms.
That will always be true, Ryan, the blonde said. Always.
She rolled onto her side, and started to trail her fingers down Ryan's arm, watching
a smile slowly form on her lover's features. Feel good?
Uh-huh, Ryan whispered.
Her hand moved slightly, and she let her fingers explore a little, moving over
Ryan's ribs, along her side, then across her shoulder. Tracing a collarbone with
her index finger, she asked softly, Can I touch your breast?
Ryan swallowed audibly, then nodded. Jamie could feel her take in and hold a breath,
so she kept her touch brief, and light. She knew that over time they'd get past
this discomfort, and she knew that the only way was to work slowly but
it broke her heart every time she saw how Ryan struggled with the tentative intimacies.
Ryan was the most emotionally vulnerable person she had ever met and to
have their blissfully intimate connection taken from them had taken a massive
toll on her.
Even though it was hard on Jamie, she pushed on knowing that they had to
get through this awkward time. Using just her fingernail, she scraped along the
soft cotton of Ryan's shirt running all around her breast. Then she let
all of her short nails rake across the rapidly firming flesh, tweaking the nipple
gently. Does that feel good? she asked softly.
Ryan nodded, not saying a word. She was breathing regularly, but just then Jamie
noted a quickening of her respiration, that didn't seem like arousal. Go
on, the larger woman whispered. Do that some more.
Complying immediately, Jamie continued to tease her lover through her clothing.
After a minute, she slipped her hand down between Ryan's slightly spread legs
and asked, Can I touch you here? Just for a moment, she qualified,
when Ryan hesitated.
Another nod, and Jamie touched her in much the same way, using her short nails
to rake up and down the seam of her jeans. Ryan's eyes were closed, and her body
was stiff, but she allowed the touch, which cheered Jamie greatly. Patting Ryan's
belly, she said, That's enough for today. I just wanted to have a little
visit to some of my favorite places.
Ryan wrapped her in a bruising embrace and whispered, I love you so very
much. It means so much to me that you're so patient and gentle with me.
Sweetheart, Jamie sighed. We're going to be together for seventy
or eighty years. Spending a few weeks getting comfortable with each other again
is nothing in the scheme of things. Our sex life is tremendously important to
me, Ryan. I promise to treat it like the precious gift that it is.
It is precious, Ryan whispered. Hugging Jamie tight once again, she
asked, Are you sure we'll get back to where we used to be?
We'll get back all that we had, and then we'll just keep going, baby. There's
not a doubt in my mind. We'll take as long as we need, no rush at all.
Thank you, Ryan murmured. Thank you for trusting in us.
Concluded in Part 11
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