I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 9: Intentions

By S X Meagher

Part Four

When Catherine found Jamie in the stands at the Oregon game on Friday night, it didn't take long for the younger woman to lean in close and ask, "What's wrong, Mom? You look really upset."

Catherine sighed and said, "I received a very upsetting letter from your father today, Honey. I wasn't going to bring it up, but it's obvious that I can't hide how I feel about it."

Jamie clasped her mother's hand and said, "Let's go out in the lobby, and you can tell me all about it, okay?"

"There's really not much to tell, Dear. I made a flippant comment last week when he was at the house, and he obviously took it very much to heart." She reached into her purse and pulled out an official-looking set of papers atop a plain blue backing.

"He's filing for divorce!" Jamie said this much louder than she had wished, and she noticed a rather shocked look from Martin, who was sitting a few seats down the row.

"After a fashion," Catherine said. "It's my fault this time, Jamie. I made an issue of it."

"Tell me what happened?" she begged, feeling like her mother was beating around the bush and not getting anywhere near the point.

"When he was at home on Friday I made a comment about how much stress a divorce would be, and that I didn't want to pursue one-mainly because I knew he would make my life a living hell." She shook her head, angry with herself for being so snappish with him.

"Sounds reasonable to me," Jamie said, expecting nothing less from her father.

"He insisted that he would not put me through that," Catherine said, "but I didn't believe him and said I'd love to have his assurances in an affidavit, where they meant something." She took the papers back and shook them as she concluded, "Here's his proof."

"So is he filing for divorce or not?" Jamie asked confusedly.

"Not really," Catherine said. "These are fully executed papers. All I have to do is sign and file it, and we're done."

"What did he ask for?" Jamie asked, assuming he would want half of all of their assets.

"All he wants is his clothing, the gifts I've given him over the years, and the cars," Catherine said, shaking her head at the paucity of Jim's request. "He meant it, Jamie. For once he told me the truth, and I doubted him. Now I feel like I've pushed him to do this when neither of us is ready."

Jamie took the papers from her mother and read the cover letter. "This doesn't sound like he's pushing you, Mom. He says that you can file if you wish, or wait and see how things progress. That sounds kinda hopeful," she said, trying to put a good spin on it.

"I suppose," the older woman sighed. "It just looks so formal, so final," she said softly.

"Don't do anything now, please," Jamie said. "There is still a glimmer of hope that you can get back together. I can see it on your face, Mom. You're not finished with this marriage."

"No, I suppose I'm not," Catherine admitted. "I felt a stirring of emotion for him on Friday that I haven't felt for years. Granted, much of it was anger, but it was still emotion!"

"Don't give up yet, Mom. See what happens. You might pull this one out yet."

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

"Are we having dinner tonight?" Jordan asked brightly as they left volleyball practice on Sunday afternoon.

"Did you ever eat before you met me?" Ryan realized that her comment sounded a lot sharper than she had intended, and the flash of hurt she saw cross Jordan's face confirmed her worry. "Hey, I'm sorry. That didn't come out like I meant it."

"How'd you mean it?" the blonde asked, warily.

"I meant that I'm really grouchy today," Ryan admitted. "We've having a guest for dinner, and I think it's a very bad idea."

"Who's coming? You look really pissed."

"We ran into an old lover of mine the other day, and Jamie asked her over for dinner. I'm feeling really weird about it, and I guess it's affecting my mood."

"What kind of lover?" Jordan asked.

"Someone I knew really well, but we weren't really girlfriends," Ryan said with a blush.

"Oohhh, so it was more physical than emotional?"

"Yeah. Very much so."

"Hmm, how many times did you sleep with her?"

Ryan knit her eyebrows together and was deep in concentration for a few moments. "God! That many?!" Jordan cried.

"I would give a conservative guess of 75 times," Ryan admitted, nodding her head.

"Jesus, Ryan, I bet my parents didn't have sex 75 times! Are you insane?"

"I didn't say I'd had sex with her 75 times," Ryan corrected. "We had about 75 dates. Many of those dates lasted for three or four days. The actual number of times we had sex is beyond my ability to count."

She looked a little sick as she said this, and her mood was not improved when Jordan said, "Jeez, Ryan, that's the last person you want to have at your house."

"I didn't invite her," she groused. "Jamie asked her without even asking me first. But once she asked her, I couldn't withdraw the invitation." She mused contemplatively, then said, "You know what really bothers me? It's that I know Jamie has an agenda. She always does with this kind of thing. I just have a feeling that I'm going to be under the microscope tonight."

"I can see why Jamie wants to investigate this a little bit," Jordan said. "It surprises me that you slept with someone that much but didn't have an emotional attachment. That doesn't seem like you."

"I guess I would have taken more, but it was never offered. Ally made it clear from the start that we would have sex only. I was just a kid, and she was such a good teacher that I just forced myself not to fall in love with her. But I could have," she said wistfully.

"Is she like Jamie at all?"

Ryan choked out her first true laugh of the day. "They hardly seem like the same species!"

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

Ryan was already home when Jamie came barreling up the drive. The tall woman dashed out with a worried expression to help her drag in the three bags of groceries. "God! Where have you been! We can't possibly get dinner ready in time!"

"Hi, Ryan," Jamie said slowly, blinking up at her partner. "I missed you too. Did you have a good day?"

Ryan ran her hands through her hair in one of her chronic nervous habits. "I'm sorry. I just expected you home a lot earlier. I didn't know if I should go to the store or what was going on, so I just kinda stressed."

"Can I have a kiss hello?" she asked patiently.

"Of course you can," Ryan said as she stooped to give her a kiss and added a hug for good measure. "I missed you," she said as the hug continued.

"Okay, you can let me go now. We've got dinner to prepare!"

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

Earlier in the week Ryan had informed Jamie that Ally was not a strict vegetarian, but that she leaned heavily in that direction. She also told her that Ally was very careful about her diet in general and did not eat much fat or refined sugar. So when she strolled down the aisle at the grocery she ran through her mental menus until she decided on a low-fat, vegetarian meal.

Ryan pulled everything out of the bags, looking suspiciously at the contents. "What are we having?"

"We're having cannelloni with low-fat ricotta cheese, a vegetable salad with low-fat poppy seed dressing, and fruit and cheese for dessert."

"Oh, you remembered everything I told you," Ryan beamed with pleasure. "You are just the best partner in the world."

"Anything to keep you happy, Boomer. Now you go get ready, and I'll start dinner."

"Um, I am ready," Ryan slowly informed her. "Do I look stupid or something?"

"No, of course not." She surveyed Ryan's big black Doc Martens, her skintight black sleeveless T-shirt, and her new custom-made black jeans, and decided to be honest. "You look too good for an ex, Honey. You're supposed to tone down your magnificence when you're with people that can't have you any more."

"Oh, is that right?" she asked with a smirk. "Since I've never had a lover, I didn't know the rules. Should I wear my warm-ups?"

"No, those are too cute too. Maybe one of my sports bras and your baggiest sweats."

"Your bra?"

"Yeah. It'll be skin tight so it can hold those beauties down," she said as she cupped one of the beauties in her hand.

"Do you really want me to change?" Ryan asked seriously as she looked into Jamie's eyes.

"No, I'll do my best to fend her off if she makes a grab for you."

"Jamie, we stopped seeing each other long before you and I were intimate. It's not like we were going at it hot and heavy until you came along. Ally decided to pursue a serious relationship with someone right about the same time I did. It was really mutual."

"I'm sorry if I'm acting jealous. I know that I have no cause to be that way."

"Absolutely no cause at all," Ryan assured her.

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

As it got closer to eight o'clock, Ryan got more and more tense. She had canvassed each stereo but had been unable to find what she was looking for. Mia came home as she rummaged through the CD's for the third time. "Mia, you're just the person I was looking for. Do you have any country CD's?"

"Yeah, I think I do," she said thoughtfully. "No-wait-oh darn, they're in my other trailer. Sorry, Hon." She smiled sweetly as she strolled past the scowling Ryan and into the kitchen.

"What's up with the odd musical selections that Ryan's looking for?" she asked after she had hugged Jamie.

"Oh, one of her old girlfriends is coming over for dinner, and she wants her to feel comfortable. Apparently she only likes country music."

"Ooh, old girlfriend, huh? Maybe I'll stick around and get introduced. I'm not too proud to take Ryan's rejects if I can't get anywhere with Jordan."

"I don't think this one would be your type," Jamie warned.

"Not cute?"

Jamie thought about that question for a moment. "No, she's not the type that would ever be called cute. She's really big--taller and heavier than Ryan."

"Ooh, a beefy girl," Mia teased.

"No, not really. I would bet that she has less body fat than Ryan does. She's just got an extra 30 pounds of rock-hard muscle on a very big frame. She also growing out what Ryan says was a crew cut," she related.

"She sounds like one of those Bulgarian weightlifters!" Mia cried.

"No, she's not a weightlifter, but she is a body builder. She works as a personal trainer, but she spends most of her free time working out and training for competitions."

"Was Ryan with her long?"

"They were never 'together' per se," Jamie informed her. "They just slept together--a lot. Apparently, neither of them wanted a relationship, or they weren't that interested in each other at the time." Her mouth twitched into an impish grin as she added, "Whatever it was, I'm finding out tonight!"

"I'm with you," Mia declared. "I'm interested in seeing this specimen."

"You can stay and eat with us if you want to," Jamie offered.

Mia placed her hands upon her hips and glared at Jamie for a moment, "You're trying to hook her up with someone, aren't you, you little sneak!"

Jamie tossed her hair as she said, "Why, Mia! That would be unseemly. Besides, you're involved with Jordan."

"Uh-huh," the curly-haired brunette said, not letting her friend's protestation of innocence fool her one bit.

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

"She'll be on time, Jamie. Are you sure I can't help you move things along?"

"Ryan, we don't have to serve dinner the moment she walks in the door! Chill out. Everything is under control."

"Are you sure I look okay?" she asked with a hint of a whine in her voice. "You got me all worried when you told me to change."

"You've asked me five times now. May I remind you that you're not going to get to sleep with her this time? Goodness, you act like you're going on your first date!" Ryan looked completely nonplussed, and Jamie immediately regretted shining a light on her insecurities. "Sweetheart, you look good enough to eat, and as soon as Ally leaves I plan on doing just that," she promised as she tweaked her nose.

Ryan sighed and turned to walk back into the parlor to pace for a while, much to Mia's amusement. "Do I look okay?" Ryan asked worriedly as she checked her hair in the mirror--again.

"You look great," Mia said sincerely, deciding that since Ryan had asked her three times she must want a complete assessment. She crossed her arms over her chest and appraised her friend critically for a long moment. "I like how that shirt shows off the muscles in your arms. You have great triceps, you know," she said, her intent brown eyes critically surveying Ryan's body. "You have on a sports bra, don't you?" she asked, not waiting for confirmation. "I might choose something that gives your breasts a little more definition, but then you lose some of the softness that the sports bra gives you." Her eyes raked up and down the long form as she said, "Those jeans look really nice, too. They fit nice and snug on your ass, but they still look comfortable, not too tight in the crotch. The Doc Martens are a nice touch…pretty butch, but nice." Grinning slyly, Mia added, "I'd do ya."

Ryan had been staring at her in shock through this entire soliloquy, amazed that her roommate paid that much attention to her. Mia summarized by saying, "In my opinion, you look too good for an ex, and if I was Jamie I'd make you put on some heavy sweats."

Ryan's brain was still trying to accept the fact that Mia had just been checking her out--thoroughly. One point stood out and she jumped on it. "She's not an ex!" Ryan explained again. "We just had sex."

"How often?" Mia asked conversationally. "Once, twice?"

"A few times a month for around six years," Ryan mumbled, as she ran her hands through her hair while gazing into the mirror once again.

"Oh, well then, I understand completely," Mia said somberly. "Just sex partners."

Ryan was just about to explain once again when the bell rang. "Yipes!" she said weakly as she moved towards the door. When she was almost there she looked over at Mia and whispered loudly, "You're not staying, are you?"

"Gee, thanks for the heartfelt invitation," she scowled. "Don't worry, Ryan, I'm just staying for a peek."

Ryan rolled her eyes dramatically as she reached for the door. As she flung it open, Mia witnessed the most abrupt change in a human that she thought she had ever seen. "Ally!" Ryan cried happily.

The very large, very well built woman stepped into the foyer and rumbled out, "Hey, Sugar," as she wrapped her massive arms around her friend, lifting her slightly off the ground.

Ryan's face broke into a wide smile, and Mia was amazed to see that there was something shy and demure about her entire demeanor. As the woman deposited her back on the ground, Ryan clasped her hands behind her friend's neck and leaned back to let the larger woman take a good look. "As usual, you're more beautiful every time I see you," the deep voice murmured. "Jamie is one lucky, lucky woman."

Ryan blushed so deeply that she looked like she'd been slapped. She leaned in and gave her friend a sweet kiss on the lips as Mia privately mused that it was lucky that Jamie wasn't there to see the emotion lurking just under the surface. Sex partners my ass! she thought derisively.

As they released each other, Ryan took her by the hand and led her into the parlor. "Mia, I want you to meet an old friend of mine. This is Ally Webster. Ally, Mia Christopher."

Mia hopped up from the sofa and extended her hand, "Good to meet you," she said as she batted her eyes at the handsome stranger.

"The pleasure is all mine," she rumbled out in her soft southern accent.

"Mia is our roommate, Ally," Ryan explained.

"Ahh, will you be joining us for dinner?" she asked with a twinkle in her eyes, holding onto Mia's hand just a little longer than necessary.

"Yes," Mia replied as Ryan concurrently said, "No, she's got a prior engagement."

Ryan shot her a glare but Mia shrugged it off as she said, "I can cancel that engagement, Ryan. I'd much rather stay home tonight." She batted her eyes again and extended her hand to Ally. "Come sit down and tell me about yourself while Ryan gets you something to drink. What would you like?"

"Sparkling water?" Ally suggested.

"Coming right up," Ryan gritted out through clenched teeth.

"Mia's staying for dinner!" she hissed out as she passed Jamie on the way to the refrigerator.

"It's okay, Hon, I told her she could stay if she wanted to."

Ryan stopped dead in her tracks and glared at the back of her partner's head. "You did what?" she asked flatly.

Jamie turned and started a bit at the look on Ryan's face. "I told her she could stay if she wanted to. Why, is that a big deal?"

"Do I have any say in anything around here?" she demanded. "Or am I supposed to be put on display for the whole neighborhood?"

"Display?" she asked slowly.

"Don't act like you don't have a hidden agenda," Ryan hissed out. "You always do!" She stuck her head in the refrigerator and yanked out a sparkling water. As she passed by she muttered, "I'm just a pawn in your little game!"

As she stalked out the door, Jamie stood rooted in place. She shook her head forcefully to clear it and muttered aloud, "I don't know who that is, but I'd like my Ryan back!"

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

During the meal they spoke of common interests and current events in the Bay Area. Ally was unfailingly polite and expressed a quiet interest in almost all of the topics they covered, but she spoke very little of her own accord. Jamie tried to draw her out a bit by asking about her family. Ryan shot her a warning glance, having specifically told Jamie not to ask about them, but to her surprise, Ally easily began to speak about her history.

"So where are you from again, Ally?" Jamie asked.

"Chapel Hill, North Carolina," she said with a heavier accent than she usually displayed.

"Interesting," Jamie said. "I don't think I know anyone from the South. What was it like to grow up in a university town?"

"Well, my parents were both affiliated with the university so it was a little like a company town for me. Most of our social circle revolved around the school, so I suppose it just seemed like any other large employer in a small town."

Ryan had no idea that her parents were affiliated with the school; in fact, she had even forgotten what town she was from. Jamie continued, "What did your parents do?"

"My father is a professor in the chemistry department and my mother is a lecturer in the English department."

Ryan's eyes bugged out at this revelation. She had always assumed that Ally was from a poor, uneducated family, and she had to admit that she was following a blatant stereotype. Since Ally was from the South, hadn't attended college, and had been molested by a family member, she had just assumed that she was poor white trash--but white trash didn't teach at the University of North Carolina.

"That's fascinating!" Jamie said. "But you didn't go to college, did you?"

"Nope. I wanted to get as far away from academia as possible," she conceded. "I think I've done a pretty good job of it too," she laughed. "Hanging out in a gym all day is the antithesis of academia. I must say, though, that my mother's influence still shows up in my choice of reading material."

"Really? What do you read?" Jamie asked. Ryan couldn't wait to hear this since she had never seen a book anywhere in Ally's house.

"I am a sucker for anything from the Victorian period," she admitted with a little blush. "I know I don't look like the type, but a good romantic heroine gets me every time!"

"That's fascinating," Jamie said. "I'm an English lit major and the Victorian period is one of my favorites also!"

They went off on a wide-ranging discussion of their favorite works while Ryan just stared at them, unable to contribute much since she had only read the bare minimum of fiction require to get through school. Instead, she sat back and tried to reconcile what she was learning with what she knew of Ally, and she found that nothing fit. She was just wondering where all of these books were stored, when Ally admitted that she didn't keep books in her house, since she thought they needed to be actively read. So a few years earlier she had begun to donate every book she bought to her local high school as soon as she was finished with it.

Ryan just shook her head as she took in each new detail about her friend. Why haven't we talked like this? she wondered. Did I just never bother, or didn't she want to share this stuff with me? Maybe she thinks I'm not well versed enough to have a serious discussion about the things that interest her, she mused. God knows I have no friggin' idea of what they're talking about.

After their extended tour of English literature, Jamie brought the conversation back to something they could all participate in. "So, are you seeing anyone now, Ally?" she asked, smiling at her sweetly.

Subtle, Jamie, really subtle, Ryan thought.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I started seeing someone just a couple of months ago. She's a student at San Francisco State. She's an English major too, Jamie. I bet you'd like her."

"Why didn't you bring her?" Ryan asked.

Now it was Ally's turn to blush as she admitted, "I don't know if she's ready to meet my exes. Especially the ones that look like you," she said as she leveled her gaze at Ryan.

For the tenth time that night, Ryan blushed to the roots of her hair, and Mia actually expected to hear her say "aw, shucks" at any minute.

The ringing phone saved Ryan from having to reply, and she hopped up to answer it. "Mia, it's for you," she said as she walked back to the table. "Jordan."

When Mia returned, she announced that Jordan was coming over to take their usual after-dinner stroll. She dashed upstairs to put her running shoes on, then said her good-byes and went out to meet Jordan halfway.

After Mia took her leave, they went into the parlor to digest their meal prior to having dessert. Jamie sat on the end of the sofa and, since Ryan sat right next to her, she assumed she had been forgiven her earlier transgressions. Within moments Ryan's arm was around her, and she had her hand resting on the inside of Ryan's thigh, as usual.

"You two seem absolutely perfect together," Ally observed, smiling at them fondly. "You finish each other's sentences, and you seem to communicate without words a lot. It's really great to see you look so happy, Ryan. You truly deserve the best."

Since Ryan's embarrassed grin didn't look like it was going away any time soon, Jamie jumped in. "You're the only person I know who knew Ryan when she was just coming out. Do you mind talking about what she was like when you first met her? I'm terribly curious about her youth."

Ryan started to protest, but Ally smiled and said, "Happy to. I have nothing but fond memories of Ryan."

"What was she like when you met?"

"Well, I'd have to say she was a lot different than she is now," Ally said thoughtfully. "She was very sweet--which hasn't changed--but she was so naïve that you could have convinced her the sky was green without half trying," she said with a laugh. Ryan just smiled over at her and rolled her eyes a little bit.

"I have a hard time picturing that," Jamie said.

"It's a little hard to explain," Ally said. "In some areas Ryan was very mature for her age, but she was clueless about dating and relationships and sex."

Ryan was again blushing furiously, and Ally gave her a concerned look. "Do you mind us talking about you, Sweet Pea?"

Jamie bristled just a bit at the endearment, but she reassured herself that it was probably a pet name that just seemed natural to them. Ryan shook her head lightly and said, "No, I don't mind. It's kind of interesting to see myself through your eyes."

Ally continued, "I don't know how many women you had been with, Ryan, but you were just like a big black Labrador puppy when I first met you. You were so enthusiastic and playful. You were just willing to dive in and give everything you had, but I recognized that was going to get you hurt badly. So I tried to give you some advice on how to be a little more careful about giving your heart away. Up until now I've been worried that maybe you took me too literally. I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever find someone that you could love."

"You did me a bigger favor than you'll ever know, Ally," Ryan said sincerely. "I would have had my heart broken 50 times by now if you hadn't showed me how to determine if someone was right for me before I jumped in with both feet. And you taught me some lessons that Jamie here has benefited from also," she said as she pinched her lover on the side.

"I'll say!" Jamie replied through her giggles. "And I owe you a debt of gratitude for teaching my sweetie about safer sex. She would have been on antibiotics all the time if you hadn't knocked some sense into her."

"My pleasure," Ally grinned. "This little one was too precious to waste." She laughed at her own joke and said, "Although I hadn't planned on conducting the safer sex lessons in person."

"What do you mean?" Ryan asked.

"Is it really okay if I talk about this?" Ally asked. "Most women would be uncomfortable hearing ex-lovers talk about their sex life."

"It's fine, really," Jamie assured her. "The only time we have trouble is when we don't talk about things."

"Okay, I can see that," she conceded. She furrowed her brow a bit as she began, "I've never told you this, Ryan, but I think I should tell you why I was never interested in being exclusive with you."

Ryan sat up with a deeply interested look on her face. She cocked her head just a bit and gazed at Ally, urging her to continue. "I had a pretty tough childhood, Jamie," she said as she addressed her. "I got involved with drugs and alcohol at a very early age. I'd say I was an alcoholic by fifteen," she admitted softly. "After I had been in San Francisco for a while I met a woman who helped me get sober. It was really tough for me to stop, but I was managing pretty well. My sponsor worked very, very closely with me and I would say I had been sober for about six months when I met Ryan. I've got to tell you, from the first day I laid eyes on her I was a goner!"

Ryan looked up in surprise as she said, "You barely seemed to notice me! I didn't think you even knew my name when you took me to Good Vibrations!"

"Oh, I knew your name all right. But as soon as I told my sponsor about you, she warned me to steer clear. It's usually dangerous to get into a relationship during your first year of sobriety, and she strongly urged me to avoid you. I didn't want to listen to her, but she told me something that has proven to be very true. She said that people with serious issues like I had should avoid people that they were very powerfully attracted to. She said that kind of visceral attraction generally led you to find people who appealed to your most wounded self. So I decided to follow her advice and ignore this gorgeous young thing," she said with a smirk.

"So that's why you acted like you didn't know I existed?" Ryan asked.

"Yep. But I heard you talking to one of the other trainers about going out with Shelly Sterns, and I knew you needed some advice. That woman had run through every lesbian in the city, and I knew you were headed for trouble if you started hanging out in her crowd. So I asked if you knew how to have safer sex and when you confessed your abject ignorance, I knew I had to instruct you."

"But why did you…?"

"Show you in person?" she asked with a wink.


"Well, I am only human, Ryan," she laughed. "I decided to listen to my sponsor and not fall in love with you, but you were so willing, and beautiful and ripe…just like a luscious peach waiting to be picked." She shook her head a little as she shot Jamie an embarrassed glance and said, "Sorry, I got carried away."

"It's okay," she said easily. "It happens to me on a daily basis."

"Anyway," Ally continued, "I let my lust get the better of me, and I showed this innocent young thing how to have a very good time without putting herself at risk. Ooh, she was such a good student that I had to fight valiantly not to fall in love with her." She turned to Ryan and said earnestly, "That's why I couldn't see you very often, Ryan, and why I didn't let you get to know me very well. I knew I was risking my sobriety every time we were together, but I just couldn't stop!"

"I thought you just didn't want to see me that often," Ryan said softly.

"No, far from it," Ally insisted. "It was only this past year that I came to terms with the fact that I had begun to use sex just like I had used alcohol and drugs. That's why I decided to stop sleeping with you, Ryan. I knew we shouldn't be together, but I also knew that I wouldn't look for another woman if I knew I could have you whenever I needed you, so I decided to go cold turkey."

"Was that hard for you?" Jamie asked sympathetically, wondering how one could voluntarily stop seeing someone as wonderful as her partner.

"It was nearly as hard as when I stopped drinking," she acknowledged softly. "But it really has been for the best for both of us. I can see how happy Ryan is with you, Jamie. And I think I have a chance to build a relationship with Ellen. I think it's worked out for the best."

"It certainly has for me," Jamie said as she gave her partner a squeeze.

Ryan was still shaking her head as she commented, "I just never knew you felt like that about me. I wish I had known," she said sadly.

"That would not have been a good idea, Ryan. I knew that you were interested in me, and I couldn't have stood my ground if you had tried to convince me to get closer. I just couldn't risk it. You're not an addict, Ryan. You don't know how powerful the pull is."

"Do you really think I appealed to your most broken self?" Ryan asked, a confused and slightly hurt look on her face.

Ally blushed again. Jamie took her cue from the look on her face and said, "I'm going to get dessert ready." When Ryan started to stand, she pushed her down easily by just resting a hand on her shoulder. "You two stay and chat. I'll be back in a few."

Ally smiled at her departing form and said, "She's special."

"I know that," Ryan agreed. "I thank God every day for bringing her into my life."

Ally looked at her for a minute and said, "This is a little hard to explain, Ryan. You were not bad for me, in general. The real problem is that I'm trying hard to give up my need to control my partner in bed. I don't know if I could have done that with you," she said softly as she stared at the floor. "Our personalities just fit together too well."

Ryan pursed her lips and furrowed her brow, trying to understand Ally's statement. The larger woman came over to sit next to Ryan on the sofa, then lifted her hand and brushed her thumb down Ryan's pink cheek as she said, "I've told you that I was sexually abused by my brother." Ryan nodded slowly as Ally continued. "He was a few years older, and he overpowered me--not so much by force as by his presence and his personality. I found myself acting that out with you almost immediately. And there was a very big part of me that was afraid those urges would get worse over time. I've been fighting the need to physically dominate women, and I don't know if I could have fought it with you. There's something about you that just makes me want to own you," she said softly as she bent down to place a very tender kiss on Ryan's lips. "You're just too tempting, my little peach."

Ryan rested her head on her friend's shoulder as she took in a deep breath. "I'm glad you told me, Ally. I've always been a little insecure about why you didn't want to get closer. There was a part of me that thought you just didn't like me enough."

"Nothing could be further from the truth," she whispered, gathering her in her arms for a tender hug. "I love you, Ryan, and I always will. But I want you to be with someone who can love you for yourself, without the echoes of the past invading constantly."

"I'm so glad you told me," she sniffed as she tried to stifle her tears.

Ally grabbed a tissue and gently wiped the tears that threatened to escape from Ryan's red-rimmed eyes. "It's okay, Sugar," she said softly as she patted her back. "It's okay."

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

Jamie could hear nothing but low voices coming from the parlor, and she knew that if Ryan wanted her to come back she would appear in the kitchen, so she busied herself making a very attractive platter of cheese and fruit. She was in the middle of brewing espresso when she felt herself being enveloped in a warm hug. "Thank you," Ryan whispered as she leaned over her.

"For what?" Jamie asked as she turned in her lover's embrace.

"For inviting her, for asking her all of those questions, for being my lover, for putting up with me when I'm cranky, and for being the prettiest girl in the whole Bay Area."

"Most of those things are part of the job description, Love. And I think you're a little biased about the prettiest girl thing."

"I am biased," Ryan admitted. "But I still think you're the most wonderful woman in the world."

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

It was quite late when Ally finally said goodbye. Jamie accepted a hug, but when Ally turned to Ryan the smaller woman suggested, "Honey, why don't you walk Ally out to her car?"

Ryan shot her a grateful look as she escorted her friend to the street. "She seems like a very understanding woman," Ally said, grasping Ryan's hand.

"She is that," Ryan said fondly. "And given my past, she has reason to be insanely jealous. But she seems more interested in my past than suspicious of it. Like tonight. I thought she wanted to know more about you, but I think she really wanted to know more about me."

"Well I think you did very well for yourself. I hope you bring each other a lot of happiness."

"We do," Ryan agreed. "We really do."

"I just find one thing kind of funny," Ally said as she folded her long frame into her small car. She looked up at Ryan with a grin and revealed, "I think it's cute that such a little woman can top you so easily."

"Hey!" Ryan complained good-naturedly. "I told you-I am not a bottom!"

"Keep dreaming, Sugar. But I will let you in on a little secret," she said as Ryan leaned down into her open window. "The fact that you don't recognize it is what makes it so darned cute!"

For the final time that night, Ryan blushed deeply as she shook her head and smiled down at her friend. "You keep in touch, Big Girl," she said fondly as she leaned in for a kiss.

"I will. Take care of your precious self." She gave Ryan one final broad smile and a little wave as she drove off down the dark street.

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

When Ryan came back in the house, she stood behind her partner at the sink and wrapped her arms around her tightly. Jamie didn't speak, didn't ask her why she was nearly squeezing the breath out of her…since she had a fairly good idea. Drying her hands quickly, she leaned her head back against her partner and stroked her bare arms for a few moments.

"Thanks," Ryan said softly, after a long time had passed.

Turning in her embrace, Jamie just looked up at her and said, "You're welcome, Sweetheart." She ran her hands through Ryan's hair, tossing it behind her shoulders and fluffing the bangs. "You had a pretty tough night, didn't you?"

With a ghost of a smile, Ryan nodded, pleased that Jamie seemed to understand that the discussion with Ally had taken a lot out of her. "How about you? Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm great," Jamie said sincerely. "I learned a lot about Ally, and, more importantly, a lot about you."

"I learned a lot, too," Ryan agreed. "I guess I feel better…but I feel a little raw, you know?"

"Yes, I know," she soothed. "Why don't we go to bed now? We can finish cleaning up in the morning."

Ryan looked around suspiciously, her eyes wide as she said, "You don't think Da can see dirty dishes from Noe, do you? He'd rather we leave the front door open all night than leave the kitchen dirty."

"You look like you need some hugs," Jamie declared, taking her partner's hand. "Sometimes hugs are more important than anything else…even something as vital as a clean kitchen." She gripped the tip of Ryan's nose between her thumb and index finger and gave it a gentle tug. "That'll be our little secret, Sweetie. We'll never admit that we broke the cardinal rule of the O'Flaherty family."

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

When Jamie came out of the bath, Ryan was in the process of unlacing her boots. She kicked them off and stood to unbuckle her belt, with Jamie watching her out of the corner of her eye as she went to get a T-shirt for herself from the dresser. The jeans fell to the floor, and Ryan bent over to pick them up, showing off her cute little butt to Jamie's appreciative eyes. The taller woman hooked her thumbs into her shorts to peel them off, but Jamie came up behind her and placed a hand on her arm. "Leave 'em," she said softly, meeting Ryan's surprised eyes.

The full, pink lips curled into a grin, blue eyes sparking interest as her voice dropped a little and she said, "All right."

Jamie pushed her back onto the bed and crawled up next to her, resting her head on Ryan's chest. The dark woman still wore her sports bra and sleeveless black T-shirt, and Jamie decided to leave both garments on her for the time being. She pulled the shirt up just enough to be able to reach her hand inside the shorts and begin to rub gentle circles on Ryan's belly. "I don't think of you with other women much," she said. "I used to," she added with a chuckle, "but I don't anymore."

"Tell me about the used to part," Ryan asked, loving it when her partner talked about the beginnings of her sexual desire for her.

Jamie laughed softly, her fingers never ceasing their gentle stroking. "We had a few pretty intense discussions when I was with Jack," she reminded her. "Especially when I got comfortable enough to tell you how bad things were with him sexually."

"Yeah…" Ryan said, urging her on.

"Yeah…we had a really uh…intense discussion when I was down at my parents'…I guess it was Thanksgiving…or maybe Christmas…"

"Thanksgiving," Ryan said emphatically. "We went for a bike ride and we stopped at a picnic table and started talking about sex." Her eyebrows popped a few times as she said, "It was fun."

Jamie sat up just enough to be able to face her, then asked, "Were you…um…did you think…did you…um…what do you mean, fun?"

"Not that kinda fun," Ryan smiled. "I didn't allow myself to consciously think of you in a sexual manner back then. But even though my mind didn't participate, I think my body was reacting to you." She smiled gently and said, "It was a long ride home."

"Oooh," Jamie smiled as her hand slipped out of the shorts and came to rest between Ryan's legs. She gave her a gentle pat and asked, "Got your motor running, huh?"

"Yep. I got home, stripped, and climbed into bed without even taking a shower." She gave her partner a rakish grin and added, "I had myself good that day."

Jamie smiled at her choice of words and echoed them. "I had myself, too," she admitted. "We'd been talking about oral sex, and I had this image that I could not banish from my brain. I saw you, on your back, with some unspecified woman between your legs, loving you with her mouth." She shivered violently as she recalled the image, still clear in her mind. "I could just feel what you were feeling as she licked and nibbled on you-thanks to your excellent powers of description, I might add," she said, patting Ryan's belly.

"I hadn't thought about the woman that introduced me to oral sex in the longest time," Ryan smiled. "But she had me again that afternoon." She chuckled low in her chest as she added, "She'd gotten even better over the years."

"I just bet she did," Jamie smiled. "Anyway, back to my original point. I don't often think of you with someone else, but when Ally was talking about how you were when she was with you the first time, I started to get excited."

"Really?" Ryan smiled, rolling onto her side to see her partner more fully.

"Really. I had this image of you…all cute and innocent and naïve…lying in Ally's bed while she uh…played with you." A very becoming blush stole across her cheeks, and Ryan had a need to find out what was behind it.

Ryan's voice grew low and took on a very sexy timbre. "What did you imagine her doing to me, Babe? Be specific," she added, nudging her partner with her hip.

"Mmm…I don't think I can," Jamie said. "I don't really know what you two did together…and I don't really know how it would be to um…use things on each other…so I just had this mmm…I don't know," she said, sighing heavily.

"Embarrassed to tell me?" Ryan's expression was welcoming and open, and Jamie found her head nodding up and down.

"I know I shouldn't be embarrassed," she said, her cheeks still pink. "I mean, I share everything with you…"

"Hey, don't feel like that, Jamie." She wrapped her arms around her and gave her a comforting squeeze. "I was just trying to knock off a few minutes of foreplay," she teased, "but I'm confident you can rev me up pretty quickly." Jamie still looked uncomfortable, and Ryan sought to convince her that it wasn't necessary to reveal everything she felt. "It's perfectly normal to have some things you don't want to share. They're your fantasies," she reminded her.

"Thanks," Jamie said softly. "I'm a lot more comfortable showing you that I'm excited than I am telling you how I got there." She let out a small, wry chuckle, and Ryan nodded her head in understanding.

"Makes sense," the dark woman said. "I'm that way sometimes, too."

"I can share one thing with you," Jamie said, her eyes beginning to sparkle again. "I got excited thinking about Ally being kinda dominant with you." She looked up at her partner with an embarrassed giggle. "You're normally pretty clear about what you need and what you want when we're together. I guess it was kinda hot to think about you being more…compliant."

"I'm not compliant with you?" Ryan asked softly as her fingers slipped under her partner's T-shirt and started playing with the soft skin they found there.

"Well…in a way you are…but in another way you're pretty forceful. It makes me hot to think of you being completely at someone's disposal…letting them totally control what happens." She cocked her head and asked, "Will you tell me what it was like between you two? How you touched each other? How she pleased you?"

It certainly didn't take Ryan long to form her answer to the question. "No." She gave Jamie a warm smile, but her head was shaking decisively, emphasizing her refusal. "I don't think that's a good idea, Love. I show you things we did together…all the time," she laughed gently, "but the details of what we did together is between Ally and me."

"Embarrassed?" Jamie asked softly, returning Ryan's question.

"A little, yeah," she admitted. "But I want us to have a future relationship with Ally, and I don't want the things I tell you to get in the way." She hitched herself up against her propped up hand and said, "I used to go out with a certain woman fairly often, and one of her exes was a mutual friend of ours. The woman I was dating told me that her ex could only get off if she was lying on her stomach with her hands between her legs, masturbating. The woman I was going out with had to spank her-hard--at the same time." Ryan pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes slightly as she said, "I thought about that every time I saw this other woman. I wondered what had happened to her to narrow her sexual expression down to such a constricted form, and I wondered about the woman I was seeing, too. I knew she didn't like to spank this other woman, but she did it anyway, for a couple of years. It made me wonder if she was doing things for me that she didn't like either. Do you know what I mean?"

"I do," Jamie nodded. "Sorry I asked, Ryan. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"You didn't, Jamie. I just want you to understand why I don't want to talk about details. It's not quite like attorney/client privilege, but it's close," she chuckled. "You should be able to freely express yourself with a lover without worrying that the things you share will be revealed to others. It's kind of a sacred bond to be intimate with someone." She traced the gentle contours of her partner's face as she reflected, "Ally and I didn't just have sex, Jamie. You were right about that. We were intimate with each other…very intimate at times, and I treasure those moments. She trusted me, just like I believe you trust me. I would never, ever, tell anyone the details of what we share, and I'm sure you feel the same way."

"I do," she agreed. "I guess what I was asking wasn't for details as much as for you to tell me if there are things you want that I'm not doing for you." She had her hand on Ryan's side, and she started to run her fingers up and down the smooth, well-defined muscles of her torso. "I want to please you in every way you've ever dreamed of, Ryan."

"You do, Jamie," she assured her, giving her a wide smile. "I'm always very, very satisfied, and I can't think of a think we're lacking. I never lie here and think 'if only she would…'."

"Sure?" the blonde asked one more time.

"Positive." Ryan wrapped her up in a hug, their faces just inches apart. "Absolutely positive. Now, all of this yakkin' has thoroughly cooled my engines. You've got your work cut out for you if you want to get busy." Her bouncing eyebrows indicated that her challenge was a playful one, but Jamie took up the gauntlet immediately.

Pushing Ryan onto her back, the smaller woman climbed aboard, always loving the feeling of lying completely atop her partner. A few playful kisses segued into many, each one growing a little hotter, a little wetter. In minutes Jamie was sucking gently on her lover's tongue, feeling her desire rise quickly as the agile visitor slid sensually into her mouth.

She needed more skin to work with, so Jamie rolled off and removed her shorts, then tugged the T-shirt over Ryan's head and eased the sports bra from her body. As she tried to toss it away, Ryan managed to hold onto it, and she methodically wrapped the fabric around her hands, gently binding them.

Jamie cocked her head slightly and locked eyes with her partner, seeing the shy, almost hesitant look in Ryan's dark blue orbs. It was clear that Ryan was making an offer, and she realized that the offer was to make herself vulnerable…compliant…obviously trying to satisfy Jamie's expressed fantasy. The smaller woman swallowed nervously, and then took a few deep breaths, reminding herself that this was just Ryan, and that she had nothing to worry about. They were just going to play a little, and if she didn't like it, she didn't have to continue.

Ryan blinked up at her and extended her hands in front of her body, asking, "Would you like to tie them?"

Shaking her head, Jamie looked at her speculatively and decided, "I don't think so…I think I'd rather see you struggle to control them yourself."

Oh Lord! A born top! Ryan cried to herself in dismay.

"I want you to keep your hands above your head, Ryan," Jamie instructed her. "You can hold onto the headboard, but I don't want you to touch me…or yourself."

"I won't," the dark woman quietly agreed.

"I think your eyes should be closed, too," Jamie decided, her brow slightly furrowed.

The blue orbs shuttered, Jamie looked around the room for something to tickle her partner with…just to test her resolve. On the top of one of her bookcases was a dried flower arrangement that her mother had sent to her when she was out of town on some holiday or other, and she noticed that a few of the dried grasses would serve well as feather substitutes. She got up and walked over to the case, standing on her tiptoes to retrieve it. Two suitable specimens were found, and she came back to bed, intent on taking her partner to the limits of her self-control.

Rather than get onto the bed, Jamie stood next to it so her lover couldn't tell how she was leaning, or where she would strike next. She began to stroke Ryan's long body with the stalks, delighting as she saw the flesh begin to pebble wherever they traveled. A soft pink lip was drawn into Ryan's mouth, and Jamie could see her bite down firmly to keep from crying out. Ryan was essentially very ticklish, but she could suppress her urge to giggle when it was absolutely necessary. It appeared that she was struggling with her ability today, and Jamie was glad to see that this would not be easy for her lover to bear. She had no interest in actually hurting her or causing her pain, but she wanted to push her a little bit-just to watch her squirm.

The dark beauty was already squirming a little, and Jamie smiled at her as she directed her, "Put your feet together, and lift your legs straight up in the air."

Dark eyebrows lifted, but the eyes stayed closed as Ryan immediately complied. Jamie knew the position would be hard to maintain, but she wanted to tickle the backs of Ryan's thighs, easily her most sensitive spot. Ryan knew just what her intent was, and she renewed her grip on that lower lip, knowing she was going to need it.

The long, muscular legs rose straight up into the air, the muscles already twitching even though Jamie hadn't touched her yet. Moving to the foot of the bed, the smaller woman could already detect the first faint signs of her partner's arousal, and she smiled in satisfaction. The stalks of grass swiped across Ryan's buttocks, causing her to jerk sharply and let out a strangled whimper. Quickly moving from the tip of her toes, to the backs of her knees, the arch of her foot, back to her buttocks, Jamie never let her prepare for the next touch. It was always a second faster or slower, and always fell onto a part of her body that she hadn't anticipated. By the time Jamie urged her to lower her feet, Ryan was shaking like a wet dog, her hands grasping the underside of the headboard so fiercely that Jamie could see the tendons in her arms in raised relief.

She allowed her small hands to roam all over Ryan's body-soothing and reassuring her that she would receive substantial pleasure in return for her compliance.

When Ryan's body was loose and relaxed, Jamie urged her onto her stomach, where the feather-torture continued. The sexy hips were twitching rhythmically, even though the touch was never predictable.

The soft moans that continued to flow from the struggling woman were music to Jamie's ears and she cranked them up a notch when she took an ice cube from her glass and knelt between Ryan's spread legs. She popped the cube in her mouth, and started to kiss and lick her way down the ultra-sensitive body…letting the warmth of her lips and tongue contrast sharply with the cold, hard cube. Again, Ryan never knew if the touch would be hot or cold, soft or hard, wet or dry.

Once again, the smaller woman got up and stood next to the bed, trying to keep her partner's equilibrium off balanced. Jamie noticed that the dark woman had shifted her legs far apart and was trying to get a little satisfaction from pressing her vulva hard against the mattress. Walking to the end of the bed, she placed the feet shoulder width apart, and instructed, "Keep them there." Ryan whimpered a little, but otherwise held her tongue. Next, Jamie took two pillows and placed them under her belly, effectively precluding her from obtaining any pressure against her most demanding need.

Now that the dark woman was once again under her dominion, Jamie started at the sensitive instep of each delicate foot, and raked her short nails over the skin, watching in delight as Ryan's whole body convulsed, her struggle with control nearly at the breaking point. The moan that issued from her throat was low and rough, more of a growl than a moan, and Jamie was determined to wrest a few more just like it from her before the night was over.

Her short, smooth nails carved fiery paths up and down Ryan's body, the skin growing heated under her touch. The force and intensity varied, sometimes gentle, almost a tickle, sometimes so intense that it left pink trails along the expanse of smooth skin.

Fishing out another ice cube, Jamie grasped her partner's legs and pulled forcefully until they were dangling off the side of the bed. She continued to urge Ryan towards her until the tips of her toes were touching the ground. Kneeling between her widespread legs, Jamie began to tease her trembling cheeks with the ice, alternating sharp little bites with cold, wet, kisses.

Without the headboard to provide stability, Ryan's entire body was as taut as a bowstring, every muscle standing out as she struggled to not only stay still, but refrain from forcing Jamie's head right where she desperately needed it.

Jamie grasped her tightly around her thighs and forced her legs a little further apart, giving her clear access to her goal. Ryan sensed that she was finally going to get some satisfaction, and she let out a massive sigh of relief. Just as she did so, however, Jamie put the last bit of ice to good use, pressing the sliver into Ryan's overheated wetness, where it melted instantly.

"Oh my God!" the dark woman moaned as Jamie's ice-cold tongue laved her indulgently, touching every aching spot, and wringing a deep, raspy growl from her partner. In seconds, her body flew into a shattering climax, her stressed legs giving out completely as she sank to her knees before tumbling to the floor, her partner holding on tight to cushion her.

Their entwined bodies lay in a sprawled heap, the sheet tangled between them-a casualty of Ryan's mad grasp for stability. It wasn't easy, but Jamie finally maneuvered onto her back and Ryan immediately sought the comfort of her embrace. The dark head lay pillowed against Jamie's chest, her breathing still ragged, her body still mostly limp.

"Like that?" Jamie chuckled, her partner just a few brain cells above plankton at the moment.

Ryan didn't speak…actually, she couldn't speak. Summoning every bit of strength she could amass, she raised one elegantly arched eyebrow and rotated one astonishingly blue eye in her partner's direction-the sum total of her ability to comment.

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

When Ryan came home the following Monday, she had to push the door open firmly since the mail was wedged behind it. They had a large mail slot right in the door, and while it was usually convenient, sometimes it made opening the door a little difficult. Ryan wished their mail carrier would leave the larger items on the porch, but the young woman seemed to enjoy the challenge of forcing large items through the small slot.

Huh…United States Senate…well, la di da, she thought to herself as she hefted the large envelope onto the desk.

When Jamie arrived home a few minutes later, her eyes lit on the package and she opened it with barely contained glee. "I loooove getting surprise packages," she said, her childlike enthusiasm showing brightly.

She shook out the contents, finding an attractive navy blue sweatshirt with the seal of the U.S. Senate on the breast, along with a similarly styled T-shirt. A few note pads, a fistful of pencils, and two lovely, engraved pen and pencil sets also littered the desk. She read the enclosed note aloud. Dear Jamie and Ryan, her eyebrows popped up a few times as she read the salutation, and Ryan gave her a gentle smile of acknowledgement.

I thought you two might enjoy a few mementos of my new job. I'm trying to turn over a new leaf, now that I'm a public servant, so I'll have you know that I actually paid for these things. Your fellow taxpayers will not have to bear the expense of these gifts. Jamie looked up and said, "That was a joke."

"Got it," Ryan smiled. "Go on."

I wasn't sure if Ryan liked to use her first name or not. I hope I guessed correctly. Love, Daddy.

Ryan picked up one of the writing sets and removed one of the pens. S. Ryan O'Flaherty was neatly engraved in gold on the dark blue pen. "Sweet," she said approvingly. "I love swag."

"Swag?" Jamie asked, tilting her head.

"Oh…that's just free stuff. You know, like stuff they give away to promote radio stations and the like."

"This is pretty nice swag," Jamie said, holding up the T-shirt. "Extra-large," she said, giving Ryan another pointed look.

"He can swag me all he wants," Ryan grinned. "He can't buy my love, but he can make me happy about bringing the mail in!"

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

The next morning Jamie used her break between classes to call her father and thank him for the gifts. "Hello," she said when a very official-sounding woman answered the phone. It was extremely odd to hear the woman refer to her father as Senator Evans, but she collected herself and said, "This is Jamie Evans, Senator Evans' daughter. Could I leave a message for him?"

"Oh, Ms. Evans, the senator has left explicit instructions that we are to find him when you call. Will you hold, please?"

"Uh…sure. I can hold."

She waited almost five minutes, but his voice came on the line, sounding a little out of breath. "Hi, Jamie."

"Hi, Daddy. I was just calling to thank you for all of the nice gifts that you sent to us. It was really nice that you included Ryan. The extra-large fit her perfectly."

"That's good to hear, Sweetie. I wear an extra-large, too, and even though she's not as large as I am, I know that people your age like your clothes to be a little roomy."

"Thanks for noticing, Dad. Also, thanks for telling your secretary to find you if I call. I appreciate that."

"You know, Honey, I had hoped that you were calling to say that you were able to spare a few days to come visit."

"Oh, I uh…I don't see how I can manage that during the fall season, Dad. My winter schedule will be much more open. Is it okay if we wait until then?"

"Sure, Honey," he said, his voice betraying his disappointment.

An idea occurred to her and she suggested it before she had time to censor herself. "Could you manage a quick trip to Portland next week, Dad? I'm in a three-day tournament, and I'd love to have you there for at least one day if you could manage it."

Without even checking his calendar he said, "I'll figure out at way to be there, Jamie. If not for the whole tournament, I'll come for the Monday match."

"Are you sure?"

"This means a lot to me, Jamie," he said softly. "I'm sure."

"It's nice that golf means a lot to both of us, isn't it?" she asked.

"I wasn't referring to golf, Honey. I was referring to the fact that you asked me to come."

"Oh…well…I want you to be there, Dad. Ryan can't come, and Mother isn't planning on coming either. We can have some time alone to just chat."

"Either I or my secretary will call you with my travel plans, Honey. Thanks again for thinking of me."

"I think of you often, Daddy. I look forward to seeing you."

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

Continued in Part Five

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