I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 6: Fidelity

By S X Meagher






Part I


Early on a Monday morning in August, a young blonde woman slowly became cognizant of the world around her. Her eyes had not yet opened to greet the day, but that did not prevent her from taking in a great deal of information about her environment.

Shifting her body slightly, she refreshed her nerve endings, allowing them to recognize the surfaces they had been in contact with. Her right hand informed her brain that it rested on a warm, soft plane that was moving in a slow, steady cadence–up and down, up and down. As a small smile settled onto her face, the woman realized that her hand rested on her lover’s stomach, which chose that moment to rumble, signaling that it was time for breakfast.

The message from her right leg conveyed that her knee was pressed up against a cushioning tuft of curly hair, and it didn’t take her brain long to recognize the familiar sensation. She moved her leg slightly, delighting in the soft tickle that the wiry curls caused.

Before she opened her eyes, she consciously filled her lungs with the scent of her lover. The aromatic notes that wafted up from the body that she loved always made her senses reel, and today was no different. Her partner had run around like a hyperactive child the day before, the energy rolling off of her in waves. When she'd finally collapsed shortly after nine o’clock, it was all Jamie could do to peel the clothes off her body and get her under the sheet. That being the case, Ryan had not showered before bed, and now all of the various elements that made up her natural scent surrounded the very appreciative blonde woman.

The artificial aromas that usually adorned Ryan’s body were long gone. Her hair no longer smelled of ginger and green tea, and the light scent of soap was completely absent. In place of the artificial, the natural aromas were allowed to shine. Jamie often wished that Ryan would use only unscented personal care products, but her partner liked the scent of the items she used, not sharing Jamie’s fondness for her own fragrance. Therefore, the smaller woman had to wait for opportunities like this one–which were all too rare for her tastes.

Breathing in the distinctive, spicy scent, she let the various notes fill her senses, her head moving slowly to allow every element to reach her olfactory bulb. From the pattern of her breathing and the muscular tension she could feel in the warm body, Jamie knew that her partner was awake. She also knew that Ryan knew that she was awake, the perceptive woman never missing a trick. But over their weeks together they had developed the habit of lying together quietly in the morning, generally not speaking until they wished or needed to arise, and she had no desire to change that pattern today.

Jamie loved this quiet time together, and cherished each moment. Sometimes she woke almost an hour before they needed to get out of bed, and she was always happy to sense that it was still dark out, since that meant more time communing with Ryan’s body.

When she thought of it, that’s exactly what she was doing–she was experiencing Ryan’s body. Allowing the warm, soft, strong, powerful aura of her partner to fill her up–to nourish her soul before the events of the day slowly drained her reserves. It wasn’t that their days were particularly stressful–they weren’t. It was just that these stolen minutes of their busy day refreshed her spirit in a way nothing else ever had, and she guarded them zealously.

Feeling the sun begin to warm the room, Jamie knew that they would have to rise soon, and she forced one eye open to see how wide awake her partner was. Not surprisingly, Ryan’s bright blue eyes were fully open and an adorable half-smile graced her handsome face. Unable to contain her curiosity, Jamie uttered the first words of the day, "Whatcha thinking about?"

A deep, rumbling chuckle preceded Ryan’s reply. "Who says I’m thinking?"

"You’re always thinking, Love," Jamie correctly declared. "I can see those blue eyes darting, and can almost hear you thinking. What’s going on in that pretty head?"

Letting out a heavy sigh, Ryan said, "I don’t feel like I’m thinking, Love. I feel like I’m feeling."

That enigmatic reply didn’t shed much light, so Jamie tried again. "Okay, what are you feeling?"

Ryan turned her head, locking her gaze onto her partner, the intensity of her crystal eyes a little startling this early in the morning. "I’m feeling happy," she said with a voice full of conviction.

"Happy?" Jamie asked softly, feeling like her very soul was being lured into those hungry blue eyes.

"Yes, happy," Ryan declared. "Happier than I can ever remember being. Happier than I was as a child when I would lie in bed and make my plans for the future. Happier than I ever thought I could be." Her head dipped just enough to be able to capture the coral-tinted lips that had automatically moved closer. Several tender, emotion-filled kisses followed, the final kiss softer than a sigh. "You make me happy, Jamie," she whispered. "With you in my life I feel that everything will work out–that everything I ever wanted is attainable. You make me feel powerful and strong and vital. You’ve made my dreams come true."

Overcome with emotion, Jamie couldn’t reply with words. With trembling lips she showed her lover how much her beautiful words meant to her. Their tender kisses continued to speak for their souls, long past the insistent chirping of the alarm clock.

* * * * * * * * * * *

After waking up to such blissful happiness, Ryan was uncharacteristically grumpy on her morning run with the volleyball team. She had been forced to rush to get there on time, and had never gotten into a good groove, probably because she hadn’t been able to warm up properly. She was lying on a small patch of grass in front of the football stadium, trying to stretch her long body out when Jordan came over to sit beside her.

"Question," Jordan said, in her usual clipped manner.

"Shoot," the dark woman said, cocking her head slightly.

"You wanna room together?"

Ryan frowned slightly, puzzled as to why Jordan would want to wrap up this little detail at this point of the year. She felt pretty confident that Jordan didn’t want to make a move on her, but she still had enough doubts that she wasn’t really ready to make a season-long commitment yet. "Gee, Jordan," she kidded, hoping to put off the decision. "Pretty early to be thinking about road trips, isn’t it?"

Now Jordan looked puzzled. "We leave on the eighth, Ryan. That’s the end of the week, if they haven’t changed the calendar recently. They’re making room assignments today."

"What!?" Ryan exclaimed, causing the other players to stare at her. She consciously lowered her voice to a more normal level. "We don’t have a road trip for weeks!"

"Call it what you will–road trip, training camp–all I know is that we leave at the end of the week. No big deal if you don’t want to room with me, Ryan. I just want to know..."

"Jordan, what in the hell are you talking about?" Ryan was getting quite agitated, and it showed in her voice as well as her demeanor.

The tall blonde sighed heavily and explained as she would to a child. "We leave for our volleyball training camp on Sunday, Ryan. Haven’t you been paying attention at all?"

Jumping to her feet Ryan cried, "I had no idea we had a camp. Nobody told me one damned thing about it!"

"Uh-huh," Jordan nodded blithely, "I just told you, so the problem’s solved."

"It most certainly is not!" Ryan retorted. "I have commitments, and plans…I can’t just take of for…where in the hell are we taking off for, anyway?"

"Santa Cruz," Jordan supplied.

"I can’t just take off for Santa Cruz with no warning!"

She was really fuming now, and Jordan didn’t even try to calm her down, preferring to wait her out. Ryan stomped around in a small circle, muttering to herself until her anger had abated. She finally stopped and looked at Jordan accusingly, "Why didn’t you say something?"

"Me? Last time I checked I’m not the coach, the assistant coach, or the student manager. Take it up with them, pal."

Dropping to the ground in defeat, Ryan held her head in her hands, muttering, "This is what I get for trying to play a sport when I’m 23 years old. They treat me like I have no life outside of volleyball…and I do, damn it, I do!"

Jordan finally let some compassion show for her friend, and she placed a hand on her shoulder. "If you’ve really got a conflict, talk to Coach about it. He’s very easy to get along with."

"No," Ryan grumbled. "I don’t really have a conflict. I just don’t want to be away from Jamie. How long is this damn thing, anyway?"

"Just a week," Jordan informed her. "You’ll hardly know you’re apart."

Smirking, Ryan corrected her. "It bothers me to go to work without her, and that’s only for three hours."

"Ooh, right," she winced. "Forgot about that conjoined twin thing you two have going."

"Well, enough of my bitching," Ryan declared.

"You still didn’t answer my question," Jordan reminded her.

"Oh, right. Sure. No problem. I’d love to room with you," she decided, realizing that she had to make the decision quicker than she wished. "You don’t snore, do you?"

"I’ve never had any complaints," she said blithely as she sauntered off.


* * * * * * * * * * *

"Hey," Ryan mumbled, falling into one of the kitchen chairs with a thump.

Looking up from the newspaper, Jamie gave her a puzzled look and asked, "What’s wrong, Honey?"

"Do you want to go to Rhode Island on Sunday?"

"Huh? I thought we decided I’d go the week before school started."

"We did," she said, a definite pout forming. "But that was before I knew that I had to go to Santa Cruz for a week starting on Sunday."

"Santa Cruz, what on earth is in Santa Cruz?"

"Apparently, the team goes there for a week to start training. Believe me, Hon, it was news to me."

Pushing her chair from the table, Jamie walked over to Ryan and climbed aboard her lap. "You poor thing," she soothed, giving her a generous hug.

"Me? Why am I a poor thing? I thought you’d be angry that our plans got screwed up."

"Of course I’m not angry," she protested, surprised that Ryan would assume such a thing. "I feel bad for you because I know you don’t like being away from home for that long. It sounds like it will be a lot of work, and you won’t have me there to baby you. That’s why you’re a poor thing," she gently teased, pinching Ryan’s cheek.

Giving her a huge smile, Ryan said, "You are, by far, the best girlfriend in the whole world."

"No, you are," Jamie insisted, getting in a tickle on her ribs.

They wrestled for a few minutes, finally calling a draw when it started to get a little too rough. "Do you think you can arrange your trip this quickly?" Ryan asked.

"Oh sure. We fly into Boston. There are quite a few daily flights, so there shouldn’t be a problem. I guess I’ll call Mother and let her know I’m coming, huh?"

Ryan tossed her arms around her waist and gave her a hug that felt as desperate as it did fond. Burying her face in Jamie’s neck she whispered, "I don’t want you to go."

"Oh, Sweetheart, I don’t want to go, either. But at least this way you’ll be really busy. You’ll hardly have time to miss me."

Looking up at Jamie with a fragile look in her vivid blue eyes, she heartily disagreed. "I’ll always have time to miss you, Jamie. You’re the best part of every day of my life."

"You are the sweetest, most loving person I’ve ever known, Ryan. Being with you is so much better than I could have ever imagined." They were wrapped around each other so tightly that it was difficult for Jamie to take a deep breath. Pulling back a little, she tugged at Ryan’s wet T-shirt and suggested, "Let’s go upstairs and take two showers."

"You don’t want to take one together?"

"Of course I do," she affirmed, sliding off and extending a hand to help her partner up.

"Then why two?"

She tossed her arms around Ryan’s neck and pulled her down so that she could whisper into her ear. "One is to get clean…two is to get clean after we get dirty. And we’re going to get very…very…dirty."

Taking her hand, Ryan immediately started for the stairs, commenting, "I don’t know how you come up with these fantastic ideas, but you are truly a genius!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

Catherine was very pleased by Jamie’s change of plans, since they would be able to fly to Rhode Island together. The older woman offered to make all of the travel arrangements, and Jamie agreed to let her. Now the only item remaining was to spend as much time with Ryan as possible to store up enough hugs and kisses to last for an entire week.

The Friday team run was cancelled to give the players an extra day of rest before training camp began. Since Ryan would not have to go across the bridge during rush hour, they decided to go back to San Francisco on Thursday afternoon. Jamie played golf that afternoon at Olympic, and didn’t arrive home until after six. Going downstairs, she nearly tripped over the stroller on the landing. Ohhh, Caitlin’s here, she thought happily.

She dashed down the stairs and was just about to call out when she spotted the baby and Ryan lying on the bed, sound asleep. Oh my God, this is just too precious. I’ve got to get a picture.

Ryan was in her bright white underwear, lying on her right side with her knees drawn up a little. Her left arm was draped across the baby, who was nestled tightly up against her, her posture a baby-like imitation of her big cousin’s. She was in just her diaper and was also on her right side. Her little back was supported by Ryan’s chest and her left arm hung over the bigger one that cradled her body.

Jamie crept across the room as quietly as she could and found her camera. She turned off the flash to avoid waking them and moved around until she could perfectly capture both of their peaceful faces. The late afternoon sun was still warming their bodies and creating deep shadows across the bed. With the flash off she was able to take several pictures without waking the pair. She moved around the room stealthily, trying to capture the simple beauty of their slumber. She knew that Ryan would wake soon, since she seemed to have a sense for when Jamie was in the room, but she cherished every moment of her intense observation. It was so rare to find Ryan asleep and her expression unguarded that she went over to the loveseat and sat down to just gaze at them. When she caught the first vague stirrings of awareness moving through her lover’s body, she turned on the flash and took several more quick shots, then she laid the camera down and crawled into bed behind her. Snuggling up to the warm back, she rested her face on the smooth skin as she felt her partner begin to fully wake up.

"I feel like I’ve been drugged," Ryan mumbled sleepily.

"When did the baby get here?" Jamie asked.

"Tommy paged me when I was still at work. He got called in to work, and Maeve wasn’t home. So I went and got her at about 3:30."

"What did my two favorite babies do all afternoon?"

"She wanted to play her favorite game of ‘try to kill Ryan by running up the hills in my jogger,’ so we did that for about 45 minutes. Then we played in the yard with Duffy. We came down here at about 5:30."

"Ryan," she asked thoughtfully, drawing little patterns on the smooth skin right in front of her. "How did you know she wanted to run in the hills?"

"Oh, you can just tell. We communicate nonverbally, but it’s just as effective," she replied airily.

Just then they heard the front door open. "You guys there?" Conor called.

It was a measure of her comfort in their home that Jamie answered for them. "Yeah, we’re all down here."

Since their open door was visible from the landing, he went down, but stopped in the doorway. "Can I come in?" he asked rather hesitantly.

"Sure," Jamie replied quietly. "We’re helping Caitlin take a nap."

He took in the tableau of the three on the bed and shook his head. "I hate to get all mushy," he said, "but this is about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I should take a picture of you three."

"My camera’s right on the loveseat," Jamie informed him, "but I’m so overdressed," she teased as she snapped the waistband of Ryan’s boxers.

"Good point," Conor replied sagely. "I’ll wait..."

"Take the picture while you still have fingers that work," Ryan threatened.

"Yet another good point, Sis," he laughed as he snapped a few. "Hey, aren’t you on dinner duty tonight?"

"Looks like takeout," Jamie suggested. "What sounds good?"

"Italian combos," the siblings said in unison.

"I don’t know why I bother to ask," she complained aggrievedly. "Are you sure you’re Irish?"

"The Irish are just Italians with bad weather, bad food and no opera," Ryan confidently informed her.

"Don’t forget the pubs," Conor reminded her.

"I didn’t forget the pubs," Ryan insisted. "The Italian version of the pub is the espresso bar," she elaborated. "We could have had espresso too, but we need the pubs to have someplace to drink away the rain."

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

After the adults had finished their combos and Caitlin had consumed her brown mystery meat with carrots and peas, they walked her home since her parents were both due home by seven.

Jamie decided that this was a perfect time to bring up the subject of a small vacation for Tommy and Annie, and she and Ryan discussed the particulars during their walk.

"We have a proposal for you two," Jamie began when they were all sitting in the living room. "Ryan and I have talked about doing this ever since we got back from the ride, and it seems like we’re about to run out of free time. So, if you approve, we’d like to watch Caitlin for a few days after I come home from Rhode Island."

Annie looked at Jamie, then at Ryan. "You know you can have her any time you want. But why on earth would you want to have her around the clock?" She obviously realized how harsh that sounded and moderated her question. "I mean, I know it’s fun to be with her for a few hours, but it’s quite a different thing to have her for days at a time. You wouldn’t have a moment to yourselves."

"That’s our point," Jamie said. "We think you two need some time alone. Ryan tells me that your anniversary is coming up, and we’d like to do this as a little present for you."

"Are you serious?" Tommy asked, since Annie couldn’t make her mouth work. "You want to give us time alone? Completely alone?"

"Yes," Ryan confirmed. "We really think you need some time to just relax. We see how hard you both work to take care of the munchkin here, and your schedules don’t allow you to be alone enough. We’d really like to give you this little gift."

Annie finally got her mouth to relay the messages that her brain was firing. "But we can’t…" she stuttered. "We can’t impose on you for something like that. It’s just too much."

"Look, Annie," Ryan explained. "Once school starts I’m going to be busier than I’ve ever been. I have a game almost every Friday and Saturday, and I’m going to have a ton of homework. My time with Caitlin will really be reduced and spending time with her now will fill my tank up a little bit. We really want to do this–both for you and for us."

"How much time are we talking about here?" Annie asked, her excitement showing in her dancing blue eyes.

"We could go for a week," Ryan said, "but whatever you think is best for her would be fine."

Annie cast several questioning glances at Tommy, but he was apparently content to let her make this decision. "I’d guess that four days would be her capacity," she mused. "Would you just hang around the house, or what?"

"Well, we were really planning on going to Disneyland," Jamie proposed. "Neither of us have been, and we thought it would be more fun if we had Caitlin with us."

Annie smiled broadly, charmed by their naïveté. "I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but at her age, she would be just as happy to sit in the back yard and dig a hole with her little shovel, but if you don’t mind taking her, I certainly don’t mind her going."

"Fine with me," Tommy agreed. "Then when she’s 20 and complains that she never got to go anywhere, we can point to this trip that she won’t remember, just to make her mad!"

"That’s what parents are for," Ryan agreed with a laugh. "Taunting the kids is one of the biggest perks."

"Are you sure you know what you’re in for, guys?" Tommy asked seriously. "She can really be a hellion nowadays, and I’d hate for you to have your trip ruined."

"I know there’s a chance that she’ll hate it and want to come home," Ryan agreed. "But I think it’s worth the risk. Besides, we’ve discussed our plans for having a family, and it would be nice to get some firsthand experience. It might give us a more realistic impression of what it’s like to have a baby."

"I’m sold," Tommy said. "I’ll put in for a few days off when I get to work tomorrow."

"So where do you plan on going for your trip?" Jamie asked, very excited at the prospect of them having their first vacation in nearly two years.

They looked at each other in rather stunned silence as they both realized that they were free to leave the house alone for the first time in a year. "I’m happy to turn off the phone, lock the door and sleep," Annie admitted.

"That sounds a little boring to me," Tommy said thoughtfully. "I’d like to go to a nice resort where we can turn off the phone, lock the door and sleep," he said with a laugh. "But we have a lot of bills coming up. So I don’t know if that’s possible."

"Maybe something will turn up," Jamie said with a sly smile that only Ryan caught. "You never know."

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

When they were getting ready for bed, Jamie prevailed upon Ryan to pose for a picture of the temporary tattoo that Jordan had bought for her. She had her in just her undershirt, lying on her side with one leg drawn up. She finished the roll, and took it out of the camera, slipping it into her bag to drop off for developing. "I think that might be a nice picture for our Christmas card this year," she teased.

"Just remember, paybacks are a bitch!"

"And knowing you, it will be a doozy," she acknowledged wisely.

"Count on that, Babe," she agreed as she pulled her onto the bed. "I’ll have lots of time on my hands during the next week to think of an apt punishment."

"Speaking of hands," Jamie teased, pulling Ryan’s hands to her face and kissing them tenderly. "How many times a day do you think your hands will be in my favorite place while I’m gone?"

"I don’t know. This will be a new experience for me," she admitted. "Since you’re my major erotic stimulus I don’t know if I’ll have the need with you gone."

"I don’t know, Baby. I think your drive will continue unabated," Jamie guessed.

"We could have phone sex every night," Ryan said suggestively.

"We could," she agreed. "My cell phone has nationwide access. Have you ever had phone sex?"

"Does having sex in a phone booth count?" she asked with her most innocent face.

"No, Ryan, it does not, you little exhibitionist."

"Then I have not had phone sex," Ryan said proudly.

"Oh boy, virgin territory," she said sleepily as she snuggled closer and drifted off, wrapped around her partner like a human blanket.

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

As soon as Jamie thought her mother would be awake on Friday morning, she gave her a call.

"Hi, Mother," she said in greeting. "Feeling generous today?"

"For you? Always, Dear. What do you need?"

"I wanted to ask a favor of you, Mother."

"Anything in my power, Sweetheart. Just ask."

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

Ten minutes later, Annie was staring at Jamie in open-mouthed shock. "But...but...but Jamie, we can’t just go use your parents house," she stuttered.

"Why not? It’s my mother’s home, and she is very happy to share it with me and the people I care about. She was very enthusiastic when I asked her. You’ll offend both of us if you don’t accept," she threatened.

"But won’t they want to use it?"

"No. Mother will be in Newport for the rest of the month, and my father doesn’t go down very often at all. Mother said he’s sailing in a race the weekend you’d be there, so there’s no chance that he could go even if he wanted to."

"But Jamie, this is just so generous. I don’t know if we can accept. You know how Tommy is about gifts."

"It’s not a gift, Annie. It’s a big house that’s sitting empty on a week that you’d like a little vacation. It won’t cost my parents a dime more to have you there. They have the pool heated all the time, the lights come on every evening at dusk, there’s a maid who comes in even when they aren’t there. It’s a waste not to use it."

"Did you say a pool and a maid?" she asked weakly, finding a chair and sitting down before her legs gave way.

"An indoor pool that you can go skinny dipping in," she added, keeping up the pressure.

"Okay, we accept," she said decisively. "And if Tommy makes a fuss he can stay home. I’ll go alone!"

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

Jamie didn’t play golf that afternoon, deciding to stay home and get ready for her trip. When Ryan returned home from work, she lay with her head hanging from the end of the bed and watched her partner pack. "You really are good at this, aren’t you?" she queried from her upside-down perspective.

"Years of practice," the blonde admitted. "I can pack for a month in one suitcase if I need to."

"Where did you ever go that you were limited to one suitcase?" she teased, knowing that the Evans family would never be concerned with paying for excessive weight on a flight.

"I’ve had some pretty rugged trips," she informed her with a scowl.

"Like what, Provénce on $2000 a day?"

"No, smarty pants. Like riding llamas up to a remote mountain in Peru. Or a wildlife preserve in Kenya, or..."

"Your mother rode a llama??!"

"No. I took a lot of vacations with just my father," she recalled fondly. "We were quite the pair when I was young. I looked forward to those trips for months," she said with a faraway look in her eyes.

Ryan rolled over quickly and jumped to her feet. The quick motion made her very dizzy, and she stumbled drunkenly until she reached her lover. "Whoa!" she said as she grabbed her head. "Head rush!"

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, you just looked sad, and I wanted to give you a hug," she said, doing just that.

Jamie let out a heavy sigh as she snuggled into the hug. "Who’s going to do this for me next week?" she asked in a small voice. "I’ve become very hug dependent, you know."

"Can you store up some extras? I could hug you all afternoon."

"I didn’t think about how hard this was going to be when I agreed to go," she admitted. "I used to just pack up and leave and not give it another thought. But now, I don’t think about anything but when I’ll be with you again. It’s really going to be hard to live without you, Baby. I don’t know how I’ll be able to sleep."

"Why don’t you call me late every night? We can cuddle over the phone, and I can tell you bedtime stories about the fair princess in the faraway castle and her handsome lover, the dark, brooding Celt."

"You’re as far from brooding as people get, but I would love to have you talk to me while I lie in bed."

"Just make sure that your phone works nationwide and make sure you take your charger."

"Okay, I’ll make sure it’s on my list." She walked over to a neatly typed sheet and read it carefully. "Yep. It’s on here," she said.

Ryan walked over and checked the list. "This isn’t very long, and there’s almost no clothes mentioned. Are you nudists?" Her waggling eyebrows indicated how receptive she would be to that practice.

"No," Jamie laughed, snatching the list from Ryan’s hands. "What we do best as a family is shop. I just thought it made sense to take clothes for the first day and then let mother buy me all new things. She’ll do it anyway, so I might as well have less to carry."

"I can take you to your flight, can’t I?" Ryan asked.

"Sure. I assumed you would. Why do you ask?"

"I thought you might feel uncomfortable with me kissing you madly and making a dramatic scene in front of your mother. I was afraid you’d be embarrassed when I fell to the ground and wrapped my arms around your ankles and begged you not to leave me."

"How can I be embarrassed when I’ll be glued to you like a moray eel?" she teased back. "The airport personnel may have to pull us apart."

"When’s the flight again?"

"Sunday at 12:20 a.m."

"That’s just a nice way of saying really late Saturday night," Ryan admonished her.

"I know, but the red eye really makes the most sense. I can sleep the whole way and not feel like I’ve lost a day with you. Think you can really wear me out tomorrow so I fall asleep as soon as we leave the ground?"

"Now that I can do," she promised with a kiss.

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

They set a new record for early bedtime on Friday night. Even Martin had to tease them a little as Jamie dramatically stretched and yawned at 7:15, just minutes after the dinner cleanup.

Their passion for each other was much fiercer than normal, the upcoming separation making them nearly wild with desire. By 9:30 they were limp, sweaty, and unbearably thirsty. "Why don’t we remember to bring something to drink with us when we come down?" Jamie whined.

"I don’t understand why we can’t learn a simple lesson, ‘making love makes you thirsty’."

"I hate to have to get dressed to go upstairs," Jamie moaned pathetically as she gave her lover a surreptitious glance to see if she would take the bait and run upstairs.

"I feel exactly the same way," Ryan replied, not noticing, or choosing to ignore the obvious plea.

"What should we do?" she asked in her best helpless voice.

"I’ve got an idea," Ryan replied with a gleam in her eye. She crawled out of the mess of tangled sheets and stumbled over to Jamie’s phone. She shot her lover a smug smile as she dialed. "Hey," she said in her traditional greeting.

"Can I help you?" Conor asked with a chuckle.

"Do you remember when you thought that Mary Beth Ennis was pregnant?"

"What!?" he shouted.

"Do you remember?" she asked slowly.

"Well, yeah, that did tend to stick in my mind, since I thought my life was over."

"If you don’t bring down two huge glasses and a pitcher of ice water I’m telling," she declared defiantly.

"Gee, Ryan," he laughed. "That threat would have a lot more punch if I was still 19. I think Da knows that I’m having sex now. You know, you could just ask nicely, rather than trying to coerce me," he suggested.

"What fun would that be?" she asked, as though it was totally obvious.

"You do have a point there. Trickery is always more fun," he admitted with a laugh. "I’ll be right down. Do you have the energy to come to the door? Or should I snake a hose under it and pour the water through it?"

"No, the cubes wouldn’t fit. I’ll come to the door...after you leave," she said sternly.

"I never get to have any fun," he grumbled.

"Why don’t you get your own girl, rather than sitting at home on a Friday night? That could be fun."

"But who would bring you little sex maniacs your water?" he reminded her.

"Good point. My needs are paramount. Now make it snappy," she ordered. "We’ve had tremendous fluid loss down here. Lives are in the balance."

"Okay, okay, I’ll be right there," he said with a laugh.

Several minutes later Ryan opened the door to find the requested pitcher of water, two 64 oz. Big Gulp cups filled with ice, two oranges, and four Oreos. As she brought the tray in she looked at Jamie and said with a grin, "Living here isn’t half bad, is it?"

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

"Are you sure you don’t mind me playing golf with Daddy this morning, Honey?" Jamie asked for the fifth time.

"Jamie," Ryan soothed, wrapping her arms tightly around her. "If I had my way, I’d slap a pair of handcuffs on you and throw away the key. But I don’t in any way wish to stop you from spending time with your family. I think it’s important that you do, so you’ll never hear a complaint from me."

"I like the thought of being handcuffed to you," the smaller woman purred, thinking that it was impossible to have too much togetherness.

"Let me get my bag of tricks, and I can make it happen," Ryan assured her, starting to head towards the closet.

"After I play golf," Jamie decided, placing a fond kiss on the tip of Ryan’s nose. "Having you bound to me would screw up my swing."

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

They played their round very quickly since the course was wide open on this foggy Saturday, and it was only eleven when they finished up. "Can I convince you to have lunch with me?" Jim asked with just a touch of uncertainty in his manner.

Jamie desperately wanted to get home to Ryan, but she wanted to send up the first trial balloon about her distribution, and she thought it best to do that when Ryan wasn’t there. "That would be great," she agreed, tucking her arm around his waist as they walked into the clubhouse.

After their order was taken Jamie took a deep breath and launched into her speech. "I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my financial situation, Daddy."

He cocked his head but didn’t comment, even though she thought she could detect some irritation in his intent green eyes.

"Looking carefully at my trust portfolio, I’ve been distressed to see that I’m barely keeping pace with passbook interest."

"You do understand that the funds are invested very conservatively in compliance with your grandfather’s instructions, don’t you, Jamie? His intent was to preserve principal, not to grow the fund."

"I understand that, Daddy, and I think that philosophy might have been valid when he made that decision, but it doesn’t seem wise at this point in my life. I’m just 21 years old, and I can afford to be a little more aggressive with at least some of the money."

Folding his hands on the table, he looked at her and asked, "Just how do you plan on accomplishing that, Jamie?"

"I’d like to take the 25% percent distribution that I was entitled to on my birthday," she said.

He looked like he was trying to remain calm as he took in several deep breaths. His hands were clasped together so tightly that she could see his fingers digging into the spaces between his knuckles. "Entitled is not the correct term, Jamie," he finally said. "You’re entitled to the distribution of your entire account upon your 30th birthday. Up until that point, all distributions are purely discretionary. The mere fact that there is a schedule of possible distribution dates should not lead you to believe otherwise."

She was stunned by both his tone and the formality of his speech, and she sought to determine what the cause of both was. "You sound like you’re angry, Daddy. Is something wrong?"

He consciously tried to appear relaxed, and was fairly successful at doing so, years of practice in the courtroom once again paying off. "No, nothing is wrong, Jamie. I just like to be clear on matters like this. I’m just sounding like a lawyer. Sorry about that." He gave her a smile and added a pat on the hand, and this seemed to reassure her.

"That’s okay," she said dismissively. "So, to phrase it correctly, I suppose I’m asking for a discretionary distribution of 25% of my trust." Her vivid green eyes were locked upon his, and both of them could feel that this was turning into a test of wills.

"What do you plan on doing with the money?" he asked. "This is a very large sum, as you know."

"Yes, I know that, Daddy, and at this point I’m not sure how I want to invest it. I assume I’ll hire a broker to help manage it. I don’t want to be reckless with it, if that’s what you’re worried about," she insisted.

"What does Ryan think about this?" he asked, almost casually, as the server delivered their meal.

Jamie waited until they were alone, then spent a few moments arranging her BLT to her satisfaction, intentionally keeping her father waiting. "She’s in favor of it, of course. I wouldn’t make a decision like this without her support."

He waited her out this time, making his next comment when she took the first bite of her sandwich. "I received a very interesting call from Tuck Gray this week. He tells me that you and Ryan were at his office interrogating him about your trust." His smile was still affixed to his face, and a casual observer would not see the rancor behind those words. But Jamie knew him well, and she recognized the tone all too well.

"If taking an interest in my finances and asking my own trust officer for clarification on certain items should be called ‘interrogating’, then he’s absolutely correct," she smiled disingenuously.

"Look Jamie," he said, giving her an intense stare. We’re both concerned about the level of trust you’re bestowing on Ryan."

"I thought you were supposed to trust your spouse," she said quietly.

"Jamie," he began in a derisive tone, but when he saw the look on her face he softened his reply. "I understand that you believe this is your last love, but I beg you to go slow with this. The choices you make now will have a long-lasting effect, Honey. Please don’t be so rash!"

She could tell that he was being completely sincere but she could not let this point pass without comment. "Daddy, I want you to be able to tell me whatever is on your mind, but I have to do the same. I love Ryan, and I swear this is not some fling. The first time I kissed her, it was like the pieces of my life snapped together like an intricate puzzle. She completes me, Daddy, and I love her more than I can express. Please don’t belittle my feelings."

"I swear that I am not trying to belittle you, Jamie. But I can’t stand by and let her influence you like she has been doing. Tuck told me how she interrogated him about your trust! Can’t you see what is going on?"

"Yes, I can," she said with a simmering fire in her eyes. "You’ve decided that you don’t trust her, and my opinion is not as valid as your gut instinct!"

"Jamie, that is not true! I trust you, but you’re 21 years old! You haven’t been exposed to the types of things that I have. I only say this because I love you, Honey, but I believe that Ryan is trying to take advantage of you."

"That’s not acceptable, Daddy," she said firmly as she stood to leave. "I can’t let you insult her like that."

"Jamie, Jamie, I’m sorry," he said as he got to his feet and placed a gently restraining hand on her arm. "I admit that I don’t know her well, but it just looks terribly suspicious."

"You could take my word for it," she snapped.

"I know, I know, Honey," he soothed. "But this is incredibly hard for me, Jamie. Can’t you at least try to see things from my perspective?"

She sat down again, glancing around the room at the members at the other tables, all trying to look like they were not staring. It took her a moment, but she tried to have some empathy for her father’s feelings. "I’m not hungry, and it doesn’t look like you are either. Let’s go outside and talk about this without an audience, okay?"

He nodded gratefully, signaling their server for the tab and signing it immediately when it was presented. They walked outside and took seats by the swimming pool, waving off the attendant who scampered out to see if they wished to order.

"Can we start over?" she asked after a few minutes of silence. "Yelling at each other is not very productive."

"I’d like that," he said gratefully. He stared at her for a moment, and admitted, "Few things upset me more than arguing with you, Jamie. It feels like a physical assault." He dropped his head slightly. "You won’t understand this until you have children of your own, but this honestly tears me up inside." He looked more vulnerable than she had ever seen him, and her heart immediately went out to him.

"I do understand, Daddy. I hate this too! It just doesn’t have to be this way. All I’m asking is that you honor my decisions!"

Looking up slowly he reminded her, "All I’m asking is that you slow down in making them, but it appears that neither of us wants to give in."

Shaking her head slowly, she said, "I can’t for the life of me figure out why you distrust Ryan so much. I know that my being in a lesbian relationship is hard for you to adjust to, but other than the fact that she’s a woman, I would think you’d be overjoyed that we were together."

He cocked his head, encouraging her to go on.

"She’s so mature, Daddy, and she really encourages me to have a relationship with you and Mother. She understands that you feel uncertain about her, and she doesn’t try to cut you down because of it. But the biggest reason is that she makes me so happy, Daddy. If you really love me, don’t you want me to be with the person who best fulfills my needs?"

"Yes, of course I do, Jamie…" he began.

She cut him off quickly, insisting, "I’m the only one who knows what I need and what I want, Daddy. Only I can judge who makes me happy. And I swear–Ryan is the one. There isn’t a doubt in my mind."

"Jamie," he said fondly, patting her hand, "I know that you believe that. But it was just over a year ago that we had a similar discussion about Jack. As much as your mother and I liked him, neither of us thought it was wise for you to get engaged at such a young age. Do you remember what you told me then?"

Hanging her head she recalled the conversation, and her insistence that Jack was the love of her life. "I don’t know how to convince you of this, Daddy, but Ryan has opened a whole new world for me. At that point, Jack was the love of my life–and I could have been moderately happy if I had married him. But life with Jack would have been monochromatic. With Ryan, it’s like I see the world through a kaleidoscope of colors. The difference is so huge as to be unbelievable, Daddy."

Realizing that he was getting nowhere fast, Jim took another avenue. "I realize there is no way to convince you to take it slow with Ryan, Jamie, so let’s just leave that issue. My problem is, and always has been, that no matter her gender, she has you asking questions and making decisions that just don’t sound like you. That is what has me worried!"

"Daddy, I’m just growing up! It makes total sense that I want more of a say in my finances."

"Jamie, you were completely uninterested in your trust when you were with Jack. How can I not wonder about the change, when your interest coincides with Ryan’s arrival on the scene? All of a sudden you need a bigger car, you need a copy of your trust agreement, you try to have her granted the ability to make distributions from your trust. Don’t you see how bad that looks?"

She waited a long while to answer his question, even though it was most likely rhetorical. "It only looks bad if you don’t trust either of us," she murmured, unable to look up at him.

"I don’t trust her, Jamie, I’ll admit that freely. She is going to have to earn my trust, and so far, she has done a poor job of that. I do trust you, but I still feel that she’s exerting undue influence on you. I will consider your request for the distribution, but I seriously doubt that I’ll grant it at this time."

"I already spoke to Mother about it…" she began.

"Your mother doesn’t look at these matters from a business perspective, Jamie. As you know, either of us can veto a distribution, and at this point my vote is ‘no’. That’s not an irrevocable decision, but I’m going to need much more convincing evidence before I decide to make a payment."

"Even though it’s money from Mother’s family," Jamie muttered, hitting a nerve.

Narrowing his eyes, Jim gave his daughter a glare that nearly caused her to gasp. "There was obviously a reason that your grandfather gave me veto power, Jamie. If he had trusted your mother’s judgment, he likely would not have done so, would he?"

"Funny how you inherited that trait from him, even though he wasn’t your father," Jamie snapped, pushing her chair back roughly and stalking out of the pool enclosure.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan was sitting at her computer responding to her e-mail when she heard Jamie’s tread on the stairs. Swiveling around in her chair, her bright smile fell when she saw the look on her partner’s face. Most people would have only seen the anger sparking in the bright green eyes, or noticed the grim set of her mouth, but Ryan knew that just beneath the angry appearance was a very sad young woman. One concerned look from Ryan brought the sadness to the fore, and without a word Jamie fell into her embrace and finally allowed the tears to flow.

Ryan didn’t ask what was bothering her, knowing that Jamie was in no position to speak right then. She adroitly maneuvered her to the bed, where they snuggled together, with Jamie holding on rather desperately. She wasn’t crying all that hard, but she certainly didn’t seem very verbally expressive, so Ryan continued to provide the physical comfort that Jamie was soaking up like a sponge.

Her first words came as if in response to her partner’s unposed query. "I hate to be treated like a child," she finally said, confirming Ryan’s suspicions.

She knew of Jamie’s plans to speak to her father about the distribution, and she had tried to gently dissuade her partner from bringing it up quite yet. But dissuading Jamie from her intended path was easier said than done, and Ryan desperately wished she had not been right about her predictions regarding Jim’s reaction. But now her concern was for her lover’s injured feelings, not about who had been right or wrong. "What happened, Babe?"

Jamie rolled over and sat up on the edge of the bed, grabbing some tissues to dry her eyes. "Oh, the usual," she said bitterly. "He’s in charge…he doesn’t think I know what I’m doing…"

She looked like she was going to say more, but she stopped herself, shaking her head angrily. Ryan knew what she was holding back. She looked at Jamie with compassion and asked, "He thinks I’m behind this, doesn’t he?"

Jamie nodded slightly, a few more tears falling when she saw the understanding in Ryan’s eyes. "I just don’t get it, Ryan. He’s spent time with us…he sees how you are, and how we are together. I honestly thought that once he got to know you…" She wiped at her eyes viciously, angry with herself for crying about this.

"We knew this was going to take some time, Love. I think we need to be more patient," Ryan said softly, reaching out to pull her partner against her chest. This was a recurrent discussion, and Ryan knew that it was one that her partner did not want to hear, especially not right now.

"I shouldn’t have to be patient," she pouted, looking like an adorable little tow-headed child. "He should trust me, Ryan. Even though he doesn’t know you well, he knows me! My word should stand for something, shouldn’t it?"

"Of course it should," Ryan agreed, nuzzling her head against Jamie’s neck in a move that usually relaxed her. "I really believe that over time, it will. I mean, look at how good things are going with your mom. He’s going to realize that he’s outnumbered eventually…and it’s not like you need the money right now, right?"

Her warm, calm voice was slowly relaxing Jamie, and she felt some of the tension start to leave her body. She slumped heavily against her partner, enormously happy that she had her in her life. "No, I don’t need it now," she agreed. "It just upsets me more than I can even say, Ryan. Being autonomous is very, very important to me, and it irks me every time I have to go to him or Tuck to get money for something."

"I can understand that, Honey. It would drive me wild to ask Da for money, so I really get why it bothers you. But being upset about it and butting heads with your father isn’t going to make the problem go away. I’m afraid that it will actually exacerbate it over the long term, and I know you don’t want that. Let’s just keep the status quo for a while. We can spend the time learning more about investments and money management, and when you do get the distribution we’ll know what we want to do with it." Leaning her head around so that she could see Jamie’s eyes she asked, "Deal?"

The blonde head reluctantly nodded, her pursed lips not allowing for a smile, but Ryan was satisfied with her agreement, even though it wasn’t enthusiastic. Thinking it would be wise to get Jamie’s mind off of her encounter with her dad, Ryan sought a diversion. "It’s one o’clock," she announced. "We’ve got the whole afternoon and evening to ourselves. How do you want to spend it?"

Jamie considered the soft breast on which her cheek rested and felt some of her stress drain away. "Gosh," she said innocently, nestling and nuzzling, "the symphony is in town. We could go hear some Chopin concertos. There are a couple of new movies out that I’d like to catch…Maybe a visit to the park?" As she offered this suggestion, she turned around and started to undo the buttons of Ryan’s chambray shirt, a little grin tugging at the corners of her mouth. "We could probably get a reservation to tour Alcatraz…Have you ever been?" The shirt was pushed off Ryan’s shoulders and tossed aside, then Jamie reached behind her and unhooked her bra.

Even though the day was warm, there was a chill in the room, and as Ryan’s clothes fell, goose bumps covered her body, slowly traveling across the expanse of skin until her nipples became rock-hard. Both women watched the transformation of the deep pink skin, their eyes glued to the small points. Swallowing audibly, Ryan tried to continue their conversation. "Uh-huh," she murmured. "I went to Alcatraz with my class in grammar school." She swallowed again, realizing that her mouth was bone-dry. "Given those choices, I think I’ll take the symphony," she decided, whisking Jamie’s polo shirt away. "I’ve never been, you know."

"Really?" Jamie asked lazily, as she watched her bra being removed and felt Ryan’s warm breasts rub against her own. "What were you saying, Love?"

"I was saying," Ryan purred, lowering her lover to the mattress to efficiently remove her shorts, "that I’ve never been to the symphony."

"What an odd thing to bring up now," Jamie breathed. "Does your mind often wander like this while we’re making love?"

"Is that what we’re doing?" Ryan asked, as her mouth traveled slowly down the center of Jamie’s body. "I thought we were going to the symphony."

"You can call it that if you want to," Jamie allowed. "I suppose that’s as good a term as any, since you always make me hear the most beautiful music when we make love."

Smiling seductively, Ryan sang a few bars of music from her extensive mental catalogue. "Whenever you’re near me, I hear a symphony…"

* * * * * * * * * * *

A few hours later, Jamie was lying on her back with Ryan’s head resting on her chest. She repeatedly ran her fingers through the dark hair, pulling a handful of strands up and letting them slowly fall back down. "I love your hair this length," she said as she continued to play with the shiny locks. "It actually allows me to play with it more than I could before. It’s so thick and heavy that it just glides through my hands."

Somewhat remarkably, they had not yet technically had sex, but they had been making love for hours. They were both sad about their imminent separation, and it seemed that prolonged touching of each other and talking were more reassuring than the rush of sexual desire that usually overtook them when they were intimate like this.

Ryan lazily rolled her head from side to side to allow her lover full access. "I could honestly lie here and let you play with my hair for the rest of the day. It almost puts me in a trance to have you run your hands through it so rhythmically."

"What’s most relaxing for you? Head rubs, backrubs?"

She thought about that question for a while, going over the merits of each style of pampering. "I think a really good foot massage works best," she said decisively.

"Really? I would have bet that your head would win."

"Well, to be honest, it’s almost a tie. Both head rubs and foot rubs can put me to sleep. I just prefer to have my feet rubbed since I have a foot fetish," she said with a leer. "How about you?"

"I don’t know. I love to have my back rubbed, but it certainly doesn’t relax me," she said with a chuckle, remembering how nearly every backrub Ryan had ever given her had evolved into sex. "I suppose a head rub is the most relaxing for me, although I’ve never had you rub any part that wasn’t enjoyable."

"Why don’t you let me rub your back for a while? Dinner isn’t for another hour..."

"Oh, gosh, Ryan, I don’t know..." she said as she picked up her lover’s head and turned over quickly. She was spread out and waiting for the ministrations to begin by the time her sentence was finished.

"I always have to talk you into everything," she teased as she reached into her bedside table for the massage lotion. She climbed onto Jamie’s upper thighs to begin the massage, and within moments Jamie was humming with pleasure. Ryan got so totally focused on the massage that she failed to notice when her lover peacefully fell asleep, until the heavy, rhythmic breathing caught her attention. She slid off her hips and snuggled down next to her, chuckling to herself. Backrubs don’t relax you, huh? Good thing I love snuggling as much as making love, Ryan thought with a smirk as she nodded off minutes later.

Continued in Part 2

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