I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 9: Intentions

By S X Meagher

Part Ten

Jamie looked nearly as tired as she felt as she walked down the stairs to find her keys. She briefly regretted the fact that she hadn't gone down to her mother's house the night before, since that would have taken forty-five minutes off the trip, but Ryan had class this morning and they would have had to sleep apart, and Jamie was loath to be apart when it wasn't absolutely necessary.

Much to her pleasure, Ryan was in the kitchen making her a big bowl of oatmeal to give her something to stick to her ribs and get her through the morning. "I don't know if I can eat at five a.m.," Jamie grumbled as she sat down at the kitchen table.

"Come on, Love," Ryan urged. "You've got to eat, and this will give you a little energy."

"Okay, I'll eat it…but only because it's made with love," she decided, smiling up at her partner.

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

The first pair to tee off strode up to the tee box at eight o'clock on the dot. Jamie was scheduled for the fifth group, and she was in the process of limbering up on the driving range when Jim quietly approached. "Hi, Cupcake," he said softly.

She turned and gave him a generous smile. "Hi. I'm glad to see you, Dad." Looking over his shoulder she asked, "Are you alone?"

"Yes. Your mother is going to come over separately. I think these early tee times aren't to her liking," he chuckled.

"No big deal," she said. "If you're not into it, I realize that watching golf is a little like watching grass grow. I appreciate that she makes the effort." She smiled at her father and added, "I'm really happy that you made the effort too, Daddy. It means a lot to me that you flew across the country just to see me play."

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world, Honey. I'm so proud of you, I could burst!" he exclaimed with more enthusiasm than she thought she had ever heard from him. "I don't even mind that you're not playing for Stanford!"

She knew that sentiment was a lightly veiled jab, since he was a Stanford man through and through. Actually, her decision to attend Cal was the first real disagreement they had ever had, and she knew that he had always considered it a particular slap that she had chosen to attend Stanford's biggest rival. The thought flitted through her mind that her decision to attend Cal had allowed her to make more than one momentous change in her life, none of them particularly welcomed by her father.

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

Ryan's class was over at 9:30, and as soon as she could get away she went home and grabbed her car and swung by Jordan's. Next they headed over to Amy's, and then Michelle's. Most of the players were taking the bus to Palo Alto later that afternoon, but Ryan had talked a few of her friends into going down early to watch Jamie's match.

Traffic was not too bad on that Friday morning, and they were at the golf course by eleven. Jamie's foursome was on the 15th hole when they approached, and as she looked around, Ryan was delighted to see four more of their teammates already trailing the group. All four freshmen were raptly watching play when Ryan went up behind Heather and said, "Boo!"

The poor young woman nearly jumped out of her skin, but luckily Jamie had just rolled in her putt so the startled scream that came from her throat did not disturb anyone's play. Heather blushed furiously as Ryan put her arms around her for a hug. "This was so sweet of you guys to come!" Ryan declared as she hugged each of the other women. Ashley, Lauren and Cami all blushed at the praise, but Ashley admitted, "You should thank Heather. She's the one who got us organized."

Ryan gave her young protégé another hug, and this one caused the young woman to blush a deep pink. Catherine was also following her daughter's foursome by this time, and she walked over to the volleyball players to greet them all. Most of them recognized her, and after a moment of small talk she reminded them all of the party at her home after the game. Ryan stayed with her to talk privately while the Cal group followed Jamie to the next hole. "Do you really think this is a good idea?" Ryan asked, her anxiety beginning the get the better of her. "I can't imagine that Jim will like all of my friends hanging out at your house."

"Jim is the one with the problem, Ryan. Coddling him hasn't made things any better, so I'm going to live my life as I see fit. He's the one who has to change this time. It's his problem."

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

Ryan said hello to Jim as they caught up with the group, but she quickly grabbed her teammates and went to stand with the gallery along the fairway where the balls would land rather than standing close to the golfers. She didn't want to make Jamie nervous so she thought it best not to actually talk to her during the round, plus she wanted to give Jim as much space as she could.

She had never told Jordan the extent of the animosity that Jim had for her, but Jordan knew about Jim's edict that Ryan move out-which had obviously not come to fruition. The blonde woman stole glances at Jim occasionally, finally commenting, "Jamie looks a lot like her dad, doesn't she?"

"Yeah, physically, she does; but in my opinion, she gets most of her wonderful qualities from her mother. She's really special."

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

When she putted out at 18, Jamie finally looked up and made eye contact with her partner. Ryan gave her a brilliant smile and a wink, but waited patiently until Jamie shook hands with the woman she had beaten. Jim and Catherine were standing relatively close to the volleyball team, but when Jamie trotted off the green she immediately went to give Ryan a hug and a kiss. "That was so sweet of all of you to come watch me!"

"It was fun!" Ashley piped up. "I've never been on a golf course before."

"Well, I admit it doesn't have the drama that your games do, but the atmosphere is nicer." Turning to Ryan she lightly patted her stomach and asked, "Isn't it time for your midday feeding?"

To the chuckles of her teammates, she grinned indulgently and admitted, "I could use a little snack. Can you go with us?"

"I have to stay until my team is finished. But you need to get a good meal in you now so you can digest it before your game. Why don't you guys go on and have lunch?"

"I hate to leave you," Ryan said.

"Go on now," Jamie smiled. "I should spend some time with my parents anyway. When the match is over, we'll have a late lunch together."

"Okay with you guys?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, I'm starving," Jordan admitted. "And if I'm hungry, Boomer here is probably close to eating small animals."

"Let me suggest a few places," Jamie said, describing a few spots close to Stanford.

When the eatery was agreed upon, they began to say goodbye to Jamie. Giggles broke out among the group when Jamie asked, "Ryan, do you have enough money?"

"Yes, Mom," she grinned.

"Now remember to eat enough to get you through until 9:30."

"I will, Jamie," she said to the snickers of her friends.

"You play well tonight, Boomer," she added, standing on her tiptoes for a kiss.

"I will, Jamie," she said mechanically. That got her a hard pinch that she fended off by wrapping the pincher tightly in her arms. "I'm proud of you," she whispered while everyone looked away. "You played great!"

"Thanks," Jamie replied. "It meant a lot to me to have you here."

As Ryan released her, she looked over to Jim to wave goodbye. The unguarded look on his face was far less than friendly, but as soon as he realized she was looking at him, he forced himself to smile. "See you later, Ryan," he called out.

When they walked away, Amy said, "What's up with Jamie's dad? He looked like he was ready to kill somebody."

"I hope that's not the case," Ryan worried without verbal elaboration. 'Cause I'd be the victim!

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

By the time they had finished lunch, it was time to head over to the gym. Coach wanted them to spend an hour getting used to the court, so they practiced some low-intensity drills and worked on service technique for a while. At around three he released them until 5:30, but that wasn't really enough time to go anywhere, so most of the team dressed in their warm-ups and wandered around campus.

Ryan did not want to spend another afternoon looking through a campus bookstore, so she opted to hang out at the gym. "I think I'm going to take a nap," she decided.

"Are you going over to Jamie's?" Jordan asked.

"No. Since we didn't arrange that, I don't think I'd better. I don't want to seem like I think it's my home too."

"So where are you going to go?"

"I've had some of my best naps on the training table," Ryan said happily. "Care to join me?"

"Sure. It's better than looking at Stanford T-shirts for two hours."

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

When the student manager came in at 5:15, she had to laugh at the sight of the two six-foot tall women sound asleep on the five-and-a-half-foot-long training tables. They had fashioned pillows from towels, and even though the tables were too short, both women looked quite comfortable. At the first small noise that she made, Ryan's eyes popped open. "You two look happy," the woman said.

"Nothing better than a long nap before a big game," Ryan smiled.

Jordan woke a little more slowly than Ryan, but within a few minutes she was her normal perky self. "Now what do we do?" she asked. "We can't start warm ups until six."

"How about a little game of horse?" Ryan asked seductively.

"You're on, Boomer."

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

Jordan actually had a great touch for someone who hadn't played basketball in years. "Hey, you're damn good," Ryan said as her shot was matched again.

"Why's that?" she asked airily. "Just because I can keep up with you?"

"Well, uhh, yeah, I guess that is what I meant," she conceded with a little blush.

"To be honest, I played on my high school team. I was recruited by a lot of colleges, but I just liked volleyball better."

"You should come try to walk on with me," Ryan said, missing from center court.

"I don't think I can risk it," Jordan admitted. "I can't afford to blow out a knee."

"I see your point," Ryan said, her mouth dropping as Jordan swished it from center court, "but we would kick ass if we played together."

"Well, I would kick ass if I played alone," she said, patting Ryan on the cheek indulgently, "so I suppose it wouldn't hurt to have you tag along."

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

All three of the Evans family members rode down to Stanford in one car. On the way over to campus Jamie warned, "All of Ryan's family will be there tonight. Knowing Martin, he hasn't told the extended family about how you behaved this summer, Daddy, and I'm not even sure what the boys know, but don't expect a rousing welcome from him."

"I won't," he said with yet another fake smile, already feeling a little jealous of the man of whom Jamie obviously felt so fond.

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

Everyone was very warm and friendly to Jim even though there had been a buzz in the group when he appeared at the door with Jamie and Catherine. The family didn't understand why this was the first time the man had gone out of his way to attend any of the family functions, but they didn't show it. Tommy and Annie were in attendance together for the first time, and as soon as they were introduced to Jim they began to thank him enthusiastically for the use of his home for their little vacation. It was obvious to Jamie that her father had no idea that these people had been in his house, but his years of training as an attorney prepared him to handle the situation smoothly. As the young couple went back to their seats, Jim leaned over towards his wife and whispered, "Why do all of these people act like they know you so well? And who was the couple that stayed at the house? You've never mentioned any of this."

She shrugged mildly and said, "They're a lovely group of people, and they've welcomed me into the family, Jim. If you play your cards right, they'll do the same for you."

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

Martin and Maeve had been in line for refreshments when the Evans family had entered, and as they came back to their seats Martin made eye contact with Jamie and escorted his beloved up to meet Jim for the first time.

Maeve had given Martin a rather stern talking to on the way down to Palo Alto, finally convincing him that he should not even allude to the trouble that the lawyer had caused for Jamie and Ryan. Martin wasn't happy with the order, preferring to take Jim aside and tell him how close he had come to paying him a little surprise visit, but he knew that Jamie wanted the evening to go smoothly, so he agreed to keep his anger bottled up.

After the introductions, Jim tried to make small talk. "So, Jamie tells me that Ryan is quite the gifted athlete," he said with a smile. "Was she always involved in sports?"

Martin stretched his mouth until he could contort it into a reasonable facsimile of a smile. "Yes," he said without elaboration.

"Well, it must have been hard raising such a big family without your wife. You've obviously done a fine job," Jim commented, trying to butter up the stern-looking man.

"Thank you," Martin said, with his steely-eyed gaze never softening. The tense interlude was mercifully brought to a close as the game was set to begin. Martin pointedly picked out seats next to his brother Francis, four rows away. "Not a very friendly bunch, are they?" Jim asked his daughter.

"They usually are," she said softly. "They're just very protective of Ryan…and me." She patted her father's arm and said, "I have to go say hello to everyone. Be back in a few."

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

Caitlin hadn't been able to properly greet her friend, and just before the game started she made it clear that she wanted to go to her. The giggling baby was passed down the row, finally reaching her target. She threw her chubby arms around Catherine's neck, slobbering all over her extremely expensive sweater. "Since when are you a fan of babies?" Jim asked with a puzzled glance, wincing as he heard how harsh his words sounded.

"Since I realized what I lost by being so distant from my baby," she said with uncharacteristic honesty.

"It's drooling on your sweater," he helpfully pointed out.

"She may drool wherever she wishes. That's why God made dry cleaners," she said.

He leaned back in his seat, staring at the interaction between his wife and the small child. "She looks a little like Jamie did at that age," he commented, sticking his finger out for the baby to play with.

Caitlin looked mildly interested in him, but she was fascinated by the heavy silver chain that Catherine wore around her neck, and she occupied herself by trying to make a dental imprint on the smoothly polished metal. "Yes, she does a little bit," his wife agreed. "Less so now than when I met her. She looked more like Jamie when her features were still a little indistinct. I suppose it was the blonde hair and the green eyes."

"That's a nice combination for a little girl," he said, once again trying to engage the baby. "I miss my little Jamie," he said softly as he trailed a finger down the baby's pudgy cheek.

"With any luck, we'll have a grandchild or two in a few years," she said lightly, now beginning to look forward to the possibility.

"Yeah," he said tersely. "There's always that to look forward to."

Catherine gave him a look and shook her head. "They are planning on having children, Jim. You have a few years to get used to the idea, but you're not going to dissuade them. I think they'll be fantastic mothers."

He nodded somberly, unwilling to even imagine his daughter being that adult. "I'm sure Jamie would be," he admitted.

"Ryan is the one," Catherine disagreed. "She had the proper example at home. Jamie will learn how to mother from her."

Catherine looked up when the three O'Flaherty brothers entered the gym. All three lumbered up the stairs, greeting everyone as they passed. Since Jim and Catherine were in the top row of the group, the men squeezed into the row behind them for their introductions. Conor, of course, was friendly, asking Jim all about his adventures in Washington. Brendan was very reserved, being formally polite-nothing more. Rory was his usual shy self, but he acted as though he bore no animosity towards Jim. After just a few seconds, Brendan indicated that their cousin Frank had saved them seats, and he and Rory climbed through the crowded bleachers to reach their spots.

"I have the feeling that your brothers aren't in my fan club," Jim mused to Conor.

"I don't think Rory knows much about what happened," Conor informed him, "but Brendan knows enough. He's not the kind of guy that can tolerate having Ryan hurt."

Jim looked at his young friend and asked the obvious question. "What about you, Conor? Why do you still speak to me?"

Conor thought about the question for a minute and decided to be honest with the older man. "It helped when you called me to tell me what had happened," he revealed. "I don't approve of what you did, but I guess I tried to put myself in your shoes. If my kid was doing something that I really didn't approve of, I'm sure I'd be pretty heavy-handed, too."

Jim nodded and said, "It's been hard, Conor, but I really am sorry for hurting your sister."

"You didn't really hurt her, Jim. You've upset her, and made her really anxious, but you haven't actually hurt her."

"Are you sure of that, Conor?" he asked, casting a glance down at the young woman playing her heart out down on the court.

"Oh yeah," Conor assured him. "If you had, you'd be dead." He gave him a friendly pat on the back, his face curling into a smile. Jim couldn't help but notice, however, that the normally warm blue eyes now bored into him like a pair of surgical lasers.

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

There was a small break between the first and second games, and some of the other players' parents came over to say hello to Catherine and Jamie, and finally meet Jim. Jim nearly gagged when Amy's mother introduced Catherine to her husband as 'Ryan's mother-in-law', but he managed to smile and graciously accept a few compliments about his recent appointment.

As the couple left, Jim leaned over to his wife and whispered, "How many of these games have you been to?"

"All of them," she said lightly. "It's important to Jamie."

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

The match was the most emotionally draining one that Ryan had ever played in. Stanford had gotten so much better since they had last played each other that they seemed like a different team. But against all odds, Cal was having an extraordinary night. The match was so close that every game extended beyond the normal 15 points. Cal won the first 17-15 with Stanford taking the second 18-16. When Stanford also took the third 16-14, Jamie was afraid that the tide was turning. But Cal roared back and rescued the fourth game on a beautiful dig by Michelle that Ryan put away for a kill to take it 17-15.

Every point in game five was hard fought, with neither team ever being up by more than two points. When Stanford missed an easy block that would have given them the match at 15-13, Jim's voice echoed through the gym as he shouted out, "Hit the damned ball!"

20 pairs of mostly blue eyes turned and stared at him in shock, but Jamie did her best to avert a mutiny when she said, "He's a Stanford alum. He gets carried away!"

Most of the relatives smiled at his faux pas, but Brendan locked his gaze on Jim, looking like he wanted to take him outside and teach him a lesson. Martin put his arm around his eldest and whispered something to make him turn around and concentrate on the game again, but he couldn't keep himself from turning around another time or two, his eyes burning with unveiled animosity.

The match was knotted at 18 when Jordan and Ryan rose as one to extend their arms up and over the net to block a ball powerfully off the Stanford setter. All of the O'Flahertys stood with the other Cal fans as Erika served for the match. She looked entirely focused as she tossed over a high percentage serve just to be safe. The rally went on so long that Jamie's stomach was in knots, but to everyone's amazement, the shortest person on the team, 5'4" Michelle Chang, leapt as high as she was able to record her first kill of the match. The Stanford team was so utterly devastated that they could hardly bring themselves to go to the net for the traditional handshake. Even the crowd lapsed into silence, except for the very vocal Cal rooting section.

Jamie noticed that Ryan was wiping her eyes as she hugged the seniors from Stanford, obviously feeling empathy for the team that had never lost at home. The Cardinal coach came up to the net and threw an arm around both Jordan and Ryan and spoke to them for a few moments, finally releasing them to continue their celebration.

Ryan could not contain her joy for another moment, and she raced over to the bleachers and gingerly climbed up to grab Jamie in a powerful hug. "Oh, Baby, I'm so proud of you!" the smaller woman cried, hugging the overheated and thoroughly drenched body.

Catherine started to put a hand on her back, but she pulled it away quickly when she felt the sweat, not sharing that particular affinity with her daughter. Jim shook Ryan's hand, sincerely praising her efforts.

She smiled at him as she turned to head back down, saying, "Next time you'd better sit with the Stanford rooting section, Jim. Your comments could be dangerous to your health with my family around."

Jamie just smirked at her, amazed at Ryan's ability to focus so intently on her game and still hear nearly everything going on in the gym.

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

It was ten o'clock by the time the last of the guests arrived, and Catherine and Maeve spent a minute marveling at the energy that flowed from the young women as they cavorted in the pool. "Ahh, youth," Maeve said fondly.

"I never had that kind of energy," Catherine admitted. "I think athletes are just different kinds of animals."

"You could be right there," Maeve agreed as Ryan went barreling into the deep end, executing a perfect cannonball.

"Come sit and tell me how married life is treating you," Catherine urged, leading Maeve over to a table.

"Ahh! I just so happen to have some snapshots of the trip," the older woman said. "Your daughter arranged to have a professional photographer come, I'll have you know," she said with a big smile, "but we don't have those pictures yet. I just had my nephew take a few rolls of film with my little camera."

Catherine looked at one of the first pictures, taken the day Maeve arrived in Ireland. "Oh, these must be your parents," she exclaimed.

"Yes, that would be them. John Ryan and Bridget Casey-married 59 years in July," she said proudly.

"My, oh my," Catherine remarked. "Such a long time to be married."

"They're still daft about each other," Maeve chuckled, and Catherine had to admit that she could see the affection the two shared, even in a simple photograph. "I don't think Martin and I will have anything close to their longevity, but I certainly wish our time would come," she said, looking a little disappointed.

"I was a surprised when Jamie said you weren't living together yet," Catherine said slowly. "Is that because you haven't had your church wedding?"

"Yes," Maeve sighed. "I didn't mind at first-I suppose I was still so excited about the trip and everything. But I'm 57 years old, Catherine. I don't want to waste a quarter of a year waiting to live with my Martin. It's actually been wearing on my mind…I'm afraid I'll be so cranky by late January that he won't want to marry me any longer."

Catherine chuckled and assured her that would not be the case. "I think it would take more than a bad mood to scare Martin off. He's clearly very much in love with you, Maeve. How's he faring?"

"Well, Martin is nothing if not disciplined," she commented. "He believes that one just does what one has to do. We're actually spending a little less time together than we did before." She blushed mildly as she admitted, "I think it's too tempting for him to spend our evenings snogging."

"Snogging?" Catherine asked.

"Oh…you know…kissing," she said, still embarrassed.

"Then why wait, Maeve? Surely you could come up with an alternate plan. Would it bother Kevin if you and Martin lived at your house for a few months while you waited for Niall's house to be completed?"

"We haven't even asked him," she admitted, looking a little puzzled as she said this. "I suppose we hatched this plan, and now we're stuck with it."

"Nonsense," Catherine said. "We can put a wedding together in a week or two. Talk to Martin and see if he feels like you do."

"All right," she said tentatively. "I suppose I could be ready sooner-although I had planned on buying a nice dress." She shook her head briskly and said, "Ahh…no need. I can wear the one my sister bought for me in Ireland."

Catherine was thumbing through the pictures, and she came upon the ones from the actual wedding. "Is this the dress you mean?" she asked curiously.

"Yes, that's it," Maeve said. "It's perfectly serviceable," she insisted.

Catherine surveyed the plain ivory colored gown and thought privately that it did nothing for her friend. The color was too close to her skin tone, making her look exceedingly washed out, and the dress was of a style more suited to an older woman, not showing off Maeve's trim figure in the least.

The older woman continued, "My darling younger sister took me shopping, since I had not brought anything special enough to get married in. We could have done a better job if we had the time, but we were forced to go to a little shop in Ballina. They only had three dresses in my size," she commented. "This was really the best of the lot."

"I would love to go shopping with you, Maeve," Catherine said. "This dress is very nice, but it won't do to wear it twice. Isn't that some kind of bad luck?" she asked teasingly.

The older woman looked a little unhappy as she said, "I can't spend the money on something so frivolous, Catherine. I have a nice navy blue dress that I can wear. I'm sure that will be fine."

Catherine cocked her head and asked, "Do they have the good luck aphorism in Ireland that you should wear something borrowed for your wedding?"

"No, but I know what you mean," Maeve said.

"Let's go up to my room for a few minutes. I'd like to test a theory," the smiling blonde woman said.

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

Maeve was more than taken aback as Catherine led her to her walk-in closet. She looked around with a wide-eyed expression and finally was unable to stop herself from exclaiming, "My goodness, this looks like the finest clothing store in Kinsale!" She had never been to Kinsale, but the tony Dublin suburb was well known for having some of the most elegant boutiques in all of Ireland.

"It's rather ridiculous," Catherine said, acknowledging that she spent far too much money on clothes. "I had to attend so many social functions with Jim and for my own charity work," she said. "It's just not done to wear the same thing to multiple functions, so most of these things have only been worn once," she admitted.

Maeve gazed around at the gorgeous clothing that was arranged according to color, shaking her head in amazement the entire time. Her hand lifted as she fingered some of the garments, stunned by the rich feel of the fabrics. "Remarkable," she murmured, unable to come up with anything more complex.

Catherine placed a hand on Maeve's shoulder and said, "My theory is that you and I are about the same size. Would you be interested in testing it out?"

Maeve blanched noticeably, as she said, "You want to lend me one of these gorgeous things?"

"No, I want to give you a dress to wear to your wedding," she said, her eyes locked upon her friend's. "I would be honored if you would do me that favor."

The green eyes were dancing with delight, but Maeve felt duty-bound to try to refuse. "Oh, Catherine," she said, "that's really not necessary. I have a perfectly serviceable…"

"Maeve," Catherine interrupted softly, "no woman wants to get married in a serviceable dress. Some of these dresses would look positively wonderful on you. Will you at least try a few on?"

Giving Catherine a nearly giddy smile she said, "Well, it couldn't hurt to just try a few, now could it?"

"That's the spirit!" Catherine enthused, running her eyes down the long racks, trying to pick the dress that would allow Maeve to stand out as the lovely woman that she was.

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

Jamie noticed her mother's absence, and after a half-hour she went to search for her. She was a bit surprised to find Maeve standing in her mother's closet, wearing only a full slip, but when the task was explained she immediately pitched in to help.

Another half-hour later, both Jamie and Mia were sitting on the floor of the big closet, giving their expert opinions on the fashion show. They had been trying to focus on the colors that would go best with Maeve's hair, the auburn clashing badly with much of Catherine's wardrobe, which tended towards the colors that highlighted her light blonde hair.

Mia finally jumped up from the floor and went to an untapped source, pulling out a sterling silver silk shantung two-piece suit that immediately caused Maeve's eyes to light up. "Oh my goodness," she said as she lightly touched the fabric. "I don't think I've ever seen anything so gorgeous!"

"Give it a whirl, Maeve," Mia insisted, having warmed up to the delightful woman immediately.

She did so, fastening the tiny covered buttons and twitching the jacket into place. The skirt was a little shorter than she was used to wearing, hitting her a little above her knees, but she had very shapely legs, and the look was extremely flattering. As she gazed at herself in the three-way mirror, she shook her head slowly as three other heads nodded in tandem. "I hardly look like myself," she mused, wondering who the sophisticated woman was who looked back at her.

"We have a winner!" Mia declared, settling the issue to everyone's satisfaction.

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

At around eleven, Jim had had enough of making small talk with the O'Flahertys, so he excused himself to Jamie by saying, "I need to get up early and go in to the office for a few hours. You don't mind if I say goodnight, do you?"

"No, but are you sure we won't disturb you?"

"No, no, I'm sleeping in a guest room in the front of the house. I won't hear a thing."

"Okay, goodnight, Daddy. And thanks for trying so hard tonight. I really appreciate it."

"Anything for you, Cupcake," he said automatically, before he realized that he really meant it.

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

It was after midnight when they finally were able to pluck the tiring baby from her 15 baby-sitters and get her back into her clothes. All of the O'Flahertys thanked Catherine profusely for her generosity as they slowly departed. The team finally got squared away with dry T-shirts and their warm-ups, and they took off shortly thereafter. As Coach Placer got ready to leave he took Ryan aside and said, "The luckiest day of my year was when you walked into my office. It has been a pleasure to be your coach, Ryan."

"Well, given that volleyball was my least favorite team sport, I have to thank you for elevating it significantly in my estimation," she teased.

"I don't know what your favorite is, but I'd switch to be able to coach you in something you really love," he said fondly as he patted her back.

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

One of the things that the O'Flahertys had trouble with was refraining from cleaning up after a party at Catherine's. "We can't just leave this mess," Martin wailed as he surveyed the damage.

But even as he spoke, Marta, Helena, and Helena's son, Antonio, came out to attack the mess. Antonio did not work for Catherine regularly, but the 19-year-old college student helped out on an hourly basis when Marta thought they needed an extra pair of hands.

"It's okay, Da," Ryan assured him. "Jamie and I will help out. You guys head on home. It's late, and I know the boys have had a long day."

"All right, Darlin'. But it just doesn't feel right to expect other people to clean up after us."

"I know, Da," she said indulgently. "But things are different down here."

"You can say that again," he muttered so that only she could hear. "The nerve of that sorry excuse of a man to root for Stanford! And then to leave in the middle of his own party! I'll tell you one thing, Siobhán, wealth doesn't assure good manners!"

"That's for sure," she agreed, giving him a kiss on the cheek.

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

By the time the mess was cleared away it was nearly one a.m., and Catherine decreed that the dishes should be washed in the morning. The staff gratefully retired to their quarters, exhausted from the rare flurry of activity that the day had brought.

"It's awfully late, Mia," Catherine said. "Would you like to stay over so you don't disturb your parents?"

"Gee…I guess I could do that," she said, thinking, My bag's already in Jordan's room.

"I'll have Helena prepare an extra room for you, Honey," Catherine said, starting off in the direction of the servants' wing.

"No, don't bother, Mom," Jamie insisted. "We'll set Mia up. Helena's already in bed."

"All right," Catherine agreed. "Just let me know if you need anything, Mia."

The grinning brunette smiled at the older woman. I've got everything I need, all wrapped up in one big, tall package, Catherine.

Catherine kissed the girls goodnight and headed straight for bed, one o'clock being close to her normal bedtime. Jamie looked at her partner with very alert eyes and said, "I'm still keyed up."

"Yeah, I am too. I should be exhausted, but I just have a surplus of nervous energy bubbling out of me."

"Let's hop in the spa," Jamie suggested. "Maybe that will relax us." Turning to their friends she asked, "You guys wanna come?"

Mia batted her eyes at her friend and said, "I haven't been able to touch Jordan all night long. I think I need to make up for lost time."

"I'd hate to disappoint Mia," Jordan smiled as she took her friend's hand and led her into the house. "'Night, girls," she said over her shoulder. "Don't do anything we wouldn't do."

Ryan looked down at Jamie and said, "I'm not sure what that would preclude at this point. The house feels like it's gonna shake off its foundation some nights!"

"Jordan's making up for lost time, Hon." She gave Ryan a smirk and said, "Mia just loves sex."

"I think she loves more than sex, Jamie. I think she loves Jordan."

"You could be right, Buffy," the smaller woman agreed, grinning up at Ryan. "It's easy to fall in love with a big, sexy volleyball player. I know I have."

"Flattery will get you everywhere," Ryan joked, taking Jamie's hand to lead her to the spa. They spent a good 15 minutes soaking in the warm water and were both beginning to relax a little as the water worked its magic.

As she always did when she was relaxed, Jamie started to get a little frisky and she asked, "Wanna burn off a few more calories, Boomer? I'd really like to get you onto that chaise over there," she indicated the extra-wide piece, "and have my way with you."

"Ohh…I like your way," Ryan agreed, "but I think it would be nice if we went upstairs."

"You know," Jamie purred as she slid onto Ryan's lap and started to nibble on her neck, "I think you're right about my exhibitionistic tendencies. There's something so totally erotic about making love outside." She shivered as she tried to describe the sensations. "I love the cool air that flows over my hot skin, and the little goose bumps you get when I touch you. I love the contrast between your hot skin and the cool breeze as it glides over my body." Her head dipped as she started to work on Ryan's sensitive ears with a focused intensity. "What do you say, Baby?" she asked seductively as she rubbed her breasts against Ryan's, intentionally trying to influence her vote.

"But people can see us," Ryan protested weakly, her resolve easily swayed when Jamie put her mind to it.

"No, they can't," the smaller woman insisted as she wrapped her arms around Ryan's neck and twitched her hips in a slow, sexy beat, making her partner's eyes roll back in her head. "The servants' quarters windows face the street, not the pool," she added, bending to kiss Ryan's full lips tenderly. "Daddy is in a front guest room, so the only person who could possibly see us is mother, and that's only if she went to the window and really tried to focus. There is a lot of foliage between the upstairs and the pool, so it would be hard even if she tried."

"But you can see from the kitchen," Ryan protested, knowing full well that she could see the pool area while she was eating breakfast.

"Yeah, you can, but no one is in the kitchen, Honey. It's after one a.m."

"Jordan and Mia?"

"Yes, they have a good view of the pool. Now tell me, what are the odds of them going to the window to watch us?" She raised one eyebrow, reminding Ryan of where their friends' priorities lay.

"Uhh…" Ryan's head had dropped back against her shoulders as Jamie escalated her attack, working on her neck with a relentless enthusiasm. "I guess I'm out of excuses," the tall woman murmured, nearly forgetting what they were discussing.

Backing off for a moment, Jamie sat upright and grasped Ryan's face in her hands. "If you want to go inside, that's what we'll do," she said. "I never want to make you uncomfortable."

"Jamie, I've had sex in a phone booth," Ryan reminded her. "You know I'm a shameless hussy," she laughed. "I'm only concerned for you."

"I can take care of myself, Ryan," she reminded her. "I wouldn't ask for things I didn't want."

The time out for discussion had allowed Ryan's mind to focus again, and she discovered that she was having as much fun playing the game as she expected to have when she gave in. "I like it when you try to seduce me," she whispered, drawing Jamie's ear close so that she could give it several long swipes with her warm tongue. "I really love it when you act like you're dying to have me."

"I like it too," the smaller woman agreed. "It's different for me-but really nice."

"You're not finished, are you?" Ryan asked, batting her big blue eyes at her partner. "I'm not thoroughly seduced yet."

"Oh, I'll seduce you, Tough Stuff. And if my charms don't work, I'll drag you out of here with brute strength and have you on the pool deck."

Ryan chuckled, the sound rumbling deep in her throat. "You'll have to call for reinforcements, Love," she said, laying down the challenge. "If I don't want to get out-you can't make me."

"And I suppose that you could make me?" the blonde asked archly. "You think I can't defend myself?"

Ryan crossed her arms against her chest, narrowing her eyes as she surveyed her opponent. "That's exactly what I think," she said. "You can't touch me."

Unable to resist a challenge, Jamie spent a moment looking for a weakness, deciding to launch a full-scale attack in the hope of catching Ryan off guard with her ferocity. She hurled herself at the taller woman, tickling every spot she could sneak a hand. Ryan fended her off pretty well, finally dunking herself under the water to escape the questing fingers. When she emerged, Jamie was draped over her shoulder, the smaller woman slapping at Ryan's back, the blows sounding much worse than they were on her partner's wet skin.

"I want some privacy," Ryan declared. "We're going into the pool house."

"I don't want to!" Jamie cried, her laughter mingling with her outrage at being handled so effortlessly. She continued to slap at Ryan, demanding, "Put me down right here! I want to make love to you under the stars!"

"Nope. You'll see stars all right," Ryan promised, "but they won't be in the sky. I'm gonna make you scream," she growled, "and no one will hear you. No one will rescue you tonight, Jamie. You're mine-all mine."

"Put me down, you brute! I don't want to go in there!" She was slapping furiously now, the sharp sounds echoing off the stucco walls that surrounded the yard.

"Quiet!" Ryan cautioned, becoming afraid that Catherine might get up and look out.

Jamie complied, knowing that she had been a little loud. Instead of complaining verbally, she contented herself with trying to wriggle out of Ryan's grasp, finding her efforts largely futile. Ryan had a very firm hold on the backs of her thighs, using one of her tricks of letting Jamie dangle far down her back to render her largely helpless. All the smaller woman could do was slap at Ryan, or tickle her, and the infuriating woman had the capacity to convince herself that she wasn't ticklish when the situation warranted it. It seemed as though Jamie had to either go along or utter her safe word, and it would be a cold day in hell before she voluntarily said, "Ryan rules."

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

Concluded in Part Eleven

Return to Main Page