I Found My Heart In San Francisco

Book 11: Karma

By: S X Meagher

Part 6

"Ryan, sweetheart," Jamie said quietly early the next morning. "I’ve got to leave for practice now. Are you awake?"

Stretching languidly, Ryan nodded and mumbled, "I’m fine. Don’t worry about me."

"I am worried about you," she insisted. "You’ve never slept through my getting ready in the morning. I couldn’t even get a response out of you when my alarm went off."

"I’m just tired, Jamie. No big deal." She kicked off the covers and placed her feet on the floor, pushing her hair from her eyes with a swipe of her hand. She caught hold of Jamie’s sleeve and pulled her over to stand between her legs. "Now give me a kiss and scoot. You’ll be late."

She did so and then grasped her partner’s chin and lifted it so she could look directly into her eyes. "Are you sure you’re awake?"

"Of course I am. We’re having a coherent conversation, aren’t we?"

"Just checking." She kissed her again and said, "See you tonight, babe."

"Okay," Ryan said, adding a wave. She got up and went to the bathroom, and when she was done relieving herself she stood in the doorway for a moment. "Fuck it," she muttered, then climbed back into bed and was asleep before she could change her mind.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Mia came home for lunch, puzzled when she heard some muffled sounds coming from the second floor. Walking upstairs cautiously, she detected that the noise was coming from her own room. "Jordan?" she asked.

"Nope. Just me."

She poked her head into her room to find Ryan lying atop the neatly made bed, watching TV and eating dry cereal directly from the box. The long body was clad in just a black T-shirt and a pair of gray knit boxers. "Are you sick?"

"Huh-uh," Ryan said, shaking her head. "Just tired. Do you mind that I’m in your room?"

"No, especially not since you made the bed. Why don’t you just plug your TV in?"

"Too tired," she sighed.

"Did you just get up? It’s almost noon."

"Not just," she said. "I got up about a half hour ago. I should be studying for my chemistry final, but I just couldn’t force myself to get up this morning. I felt like I’d been ridden hard and put away wet."

"You were and you were," she teased, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Jamie was beside herself last night, buddy. I thought she was gonna run down there and throttle that woman."

Ryan gave her a curious look and asked, "Do me a favor?"


"Don’t tell Jamie I stayed in bed all morning. She’s upset enough about last night. If she thinks I was too zonked to study, she’ll make me go to the doctor."

She looked at Ryan carefully and said, "Maybe you should. It’s not like you to lie in bed all morning, buddy."

"I’m fine," Ryan insisted. "I just knew I couldn’t get up and drag through a whole day and then be able to practice tonight. And there’s no way that I’m going to ask out of practice. Mary Hayes has her head up her arse if she thinks I’m gonna ask for any slack."

Mia scooted closer and laid the back of her hand on Ryan’s forehead. "No fever?"

"No, really, Mia, I’m fine. I was just bone tired and a little dehydrated when I woke up. Being dehydrated gives me a headache, so I took some pills when I woke and I feel better now. I’m gonna force fluids down and chill a little, then I should feel fine by tonight."

"Okay," the curly-haired woman decided. "I’m gonna go make lunch. I’m bringing you some, too."

"Thanks, pal," Ryan smiled warmly. "What are we having?"

"Whatever I can stick into the microwave," she chuckled. "If we don’t have leftovers, it might be popcorn!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie got home from her day at the library on Tuesday, Mia was already poking around in the kitchen looking for dinner. "So what’s on the agenda for tonight?" she asked as Jamie set down a couple of big grocery bags.

"Do you mean the menu?" she asked perceptively.

"Well, I was getting a little hungry," Mia admitted. "I was almost reduced to making something for myself."

"Oh, Mia, I want you to promise me you’ll call me if you ever get a crazy notion like that again!" she cried as she wrapped her arms around her friend, and tossed her back and forth roughly.

"Okay, okay," she giggled. "You might think I’m helpless in the kitchen, but I’ll have you know I made lunch for your girlfriend today."

Jamie gave her a quizzical look and said, "You made lunch for Ryan? I thought she was planning on staying at the library all day."

Mia gave her a wry smile and said, "For as smart as she is, she’s really a dope sometimes. She slept in because she was so tired, and then asked me not to tell you. Does she really think I’d keep something like that from you? Lord, she needs a full time supervisor!"

Striding purposefully to the phone, Jamie muttered, "I’m calling my doctor."

"No, you don’t need to, James. She didn’t have a fever and she was acting totally normally. She was just bone tired and had a headache."

"For her to voluntarily stay in bed all morning …"

"She did that so she’d be rested enough to go to practice. It was apparently some big deal for her to show that last night didn’t bother her." She rolled her eyes and said in exasperation, "Jocks!"

Shaking her head slowly, Jamie muttered, "What am I going to do with her?"

"You’d better not tell her that I told you," Mia warned. "If she thinks she can trust me, she might tell me things that you’d never learn otherwise."

"Good point," Jamie mused. "Okay, I’ll keep my mouth shut." She walked over and gave her a hug. "Thanks for telling me, babe. I need all the help I can get in watching out for my big girl."

"Big girls do need a lot of pampering," Mia agreed. She looked at the bags of groceries and offered, "Let me help you make dinner."

"Help?" Jamie laughed. "What on earth has come over you?"

Mia looked slightly embarrassed, as she hemmed and hawed for a moment. Finally she looked up through her dark brown eyelashes and said, "I need to talk to you, Jamie. And this is probably the only time we’ll have alone today."

"I don’t really need help, since I’m just going to put things out for sandwiches," Jamie explained. "I have my first final tomorrow and I’m stressing, not cooking. But I’ve got time to spend a few minutes with you, pal. Come in the living room and tell me what’s bothering you."

Mia allowed herself to be led into the room, where she flopped down into an overstuffed chair. "I’m kinda freaking about Jordan leaving," she said quietly. "I … I … I’m really gonna miss her." She was staring at a spot on the coffee table in a blank daze, but Jamie recaptured her attention when she patted the loveseat beside her.

"Come sit by me," she urged her friend. Mia shot her a grateful look, and scampered over to curl up under Jamie’s outstretched arm. Jamie hugged her housemate tightly, then brought her hand up to trail through the curly brown hair. "You’ve fallen in love with her."

There was a long silence as Mia tried to organize her thoughts. "I shouldn’t … or I mean … I don’t know … oh, shit," she cried. "I have fallen in love with her. But I know she doesn’t feel the same about me!" Her head grew heavier against Jamie’s shoulder, as soft sobs began to flow from her shaking body. "I just know she doesn’t love me."

"How do you know?" Jamie asked as she began to rock her gently. "Have you told her how you feel?"

"No," she said, shaking her head forcefully against Jamie’s cotton-clad shoulder. "I mean, it’s so stupid. She likes me because she thinks I’m safe. She doesn’t want to get tied down for at least five years, Jamie. She’s told me that a number of times! She knows I’ve been with guys almost exclusively, and I think she thought there wasn’t a chance in the world that I’d stop seeing guys for her. But I would, Jamie," she said earnestly. "I’d give up guys permanently for Jordan. She’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a lover."

Jamie squeezed Mia tighter as she suggested, "I think you need to tell her. You’ll never know what’s going on in her mind if you don’t talk to her about it."

"I just can’t do that to her, Jamie! She’s got six finals jammed into the next three days, and then we have the weekend together, and she’s gone! I want to be with her this weekend even if she doesn’t love me," she sighed. "And if I told her, she wouldn’t want to make love to me anymore. I know her, Jamie. She’s very honorable like that."

"Oh, Mia, I hate to have you keep this to yourself if there’s a chance she feels the same way …"

"Jamie, that wouldn’t be fair to her," she cried. "She needs to be able to concentrate when she gets to Colorado Springs. You just don’t know how much this means to her," she emphasized. "I mean, if she makes the team, I might be able to tell her, but until then I really think I have to back off and let her have her freedom … even though it’s killing me," she said through her tears.

"You poor baby," Jamie said softly. "I really do know how you feel."

Mia sat up and wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "I’ll be okay," she said stoically. "I just never expected that a woman would throw me for a loop like this. I thought only guys messed with your mind."

"No," Jamie smiled. "Women are just as good at mind-messing as men are."

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

They went into the kitchen together and started to arrange the cold cuts and cheeses that Jamie had purchased on her way home. "Do you feel like talking about why you love her?" she asked as Mia leaned over her work, concentrating fiercely.

She dropped the cheese she was slicing and got a faraway look on her face. "I don’t know, James. It’s really snuck up on me," she said as she bent to focus on her task again. Looking up at her friend she said, "I do know that I’ve never felt more special than I do when I’m in her arms. She just makes me feel cherished," she said softly as she pursed her lips together to fight back the tears. "That’s never happened to me before," she let out in a strangled cry. "Never!" She placed her hands on the counter and let her head drop down while she struggled to regain her composure. "I thought I was in love before, James, but it felt nothing like this. Jason said he loved me, and in some ways I think he did, but it always felt like he loved having sex with me more than he loved me. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I think I do," Jamie agreed.

"It’s not like that with Jordan," Mia continued. "I mean, we obviously love to have sex, and she’s a horny as Jason ever was, but there’s something so different about it." She grew thoughtful and paused for a minute, trying to put her feelings into words. "Jason wanted to have sex because he needed the release. He wanted me to have fun, too, and he was always concerned with my pleasure, but it was mostly just a way for both of us to get off." She lifted her head and stared out the kitchen window for a moment, then said, "Jordan wants to have sex to show me how she feels about me. She’s a very physical person. I guess all jocks are," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "I think she finds it easier to express herself with her body than with words." Wiping at her eyes again she continued, "Damn, Jamie, she makes me feel like she treasures me. That’s such a powerful feeling."

Her tears returned in earnest, and Jamie went to her friend to offer comfort. It took a long while for Mia to calm down, but she eventually sucked in a shaky breath, and stood up. "She’s so gentle and sweet with me, and so totally concerned with my pleasure. She’s just so kind … I guess that’s what I find most lovable about her," she said reflectively. "I mean, I know she teases Ryan all the time, and she tries to act like she’s cool, but that’s not how she is when we’re alone." Pausing to come up with the right term she blinked slowly a few times and said, "She’s very fragile, Jamie. Very open and accessible – even though it’s obvious that it’s hard for her. But she risks it when we’re together. It’s such a gift to be able to see her fragility. I just can’t hurt her, or put any more pressure on her right now. Do you understand?"

"I do, Mia, I really do," she replied softly as she brushed the curls from the dark eyes. "But you’re describing someone who loves you, Mia, not someone who’s just marking time until she leaves for Colorado."

"I … I … I think she might love me," she admitted quietly. "But I don’t think she wants to. I don’t know what would be more painful, James – having her not love me, or having her try to deny her feelings."

"Mia, you’re trying to deny yours too," Jamie reminded her.

"Yeah, but only because she’s been so adamant about not falling in love or having attachments."

"Mia, you still insist that you’re straight," Jamie said. "You haven’t given her much to go on, either."

"Shit!" the curly-haired woman mumbled. "We’ve managed to screw this up massively. This just couldn’t come at a worse fucking time."

"You still have time, babe. I can see that you don’t want to talk about this during her finals, but you have the weekend."

"Yeah. I don’t know, I guess I’ll see how things go. I’ve got to get myself under control," Mia mumbled. "She’s coming over soon, and I don’t want her to know anything’s wrong."

Just then they heard the door open, and Ryan and Jordan’s voices sounded in the parlor. Mia ran over to the sink to splash water on her reddened eyes, and she was wiping them dry when the twosome entered. Jordan immediately looked at her with concern. "What’s wrong, Mia?" she asked, swiftly crossing the kitchen.

Mia immediately pasted on her normally sunny disposition and answered lightly. "The first time I volunteer to help get dinner ready, and Jamie makes me slice onions," she said as she patted her on the butt. She tossed her arms around her lover’s neck and said, "Dinner’s almost ready. Hungry?"

"Famished," she replied with a grin as she nibbled on Mia’s lips, "for you."

Giving Ryan a small frown, Jamie demanded, "Come over here and kiss me like you love me." Ryan dutifully did so, adding a tender squeeze of her own volition. Their friends went into the dining room to set out the platters, and Ryan leaned down and whispered, "There aren’t any onions here, what’s really wrong with Mia?"

She hated to be disingenuous with her lover, but she felt that Mia would want her secret kept. "Just stress, you know … end of term … a little PMS."

"Is she okay?" Ryan asked solicitously.

"Yeah, she’s just a little sensitive. Be nice to her tonight," Jamie warned.

"When am I not nice?" she asked as she stood up abruptly.

"Oh, you’re always nice, you big dope! Just be nicer!"

"I’m going to be so busy with you that I won’t even know they’re here," Ryan murmured, grabbing Jamie from behind and grinding her pelvis into the tempting butt in a sexy movement.

"Mmm," Jamie murmured as she reached back with a free hand and grabbed a handy cheek. "Hey, you’re making me lose my train of thought. How’s Janae?"

Ryan shook her head. "It doesn’t look good. She has a severe concussion. She was just kept overnight, and they claim she’ll be fine, but my bet is that she’s done for the season. I got her address – I’m gonna go by tomorrow before practice."

"The poor thing," Jamie sighed. "Is there anything we can do? Anything she needs?"

"I don’t think so," Ryan said. "When I’ve had a concussion, all I wanted to do was sleep."

"If there’s anything she needs, you make sure she gets it, okay?"

"I will."

Jamie took a long look at her partner and said, "You look like you’re all recovered. Are you feeling okay?"

"Yep," she whispered as she nibbled on a tasty ear lobe. "I actually feel great. My thighs are a little stiff, but I bet you could help me work out the kinks." Ryan grasped her lover’s hand and placed it on her thigh, then started to thrust her hips just a little. "Mmm, feels better already. They just need a little love."

"No way! Just because you’re able to get by without cramming, doesn’t mean I can too. I’ve got a final in the morning, and I’ve got to study."

Ryan gave her with a theatrically injured look. "I’m always supportive of your scholastic efforts!"

"Yeah, yeah," she said as she patted her on the butt. "Now go get some warm clothes on, babe. It’s cold in here tonight."

"Be right back," she promised as she gave Jamie a devastatingly sexy kiss along with a firm two-handed squeeze of her butt.

"Give me strength," Jamie muttered as she tried to remind herself that her studies had to come before she did.

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

"So, Ryan," Jordan asked after they had been munching on their sandwiches for a few minutes, "what’s up with that ignoramus coach of yours?"

"Don’t remind me when I’m eating," she complained. "She’s got this really inflexible set of rules, and when you break one, she makes you take 25 wind sprints."

"What in the hell did you do?" Jordan asked. "Jamie told us about getting 25 for not taking the bus, which sounds stupid enough. What else did you do, slug her?"

"No, not yet at least," Ryan chuckled. "I got another 25 because Jennie came down to hug me."

At that, Jordan nearly spat the food out of her mouth. "Are you shitting me?" she cried.

"Nope. She has a very firm rule about not making contact with people in the stands before the game. She thinks it destroys your focus."

"That just sucks," Mia said sympathetically. "How are you supposed to control what people in the stands do?"

"She’s a control freak," Ryan said, shrugging her shoulders. "She believes you should have a chat with your friends and family members and tell them that you can’t make contact with them. She thinks that we spend as much time obsessing about the game as she does."

"It’s ridiculous," Mia decided.

"What’s really ironic is that I went out of my way to stop by the U.S.F. locker room before warm-ups, since I know the coaches and the seniors on the team from when I played there. I knew Coach Hayes would go ballistic if any of them even acknowledged my presence. I’m really trying not to hit her hot buttons," she said with a wan smile. "I hope I’ve finally learned all of them."

"That’s my Tiger, always seeing the bright side," Jamie said, giving her a sweet smile.

"In her defense, she did give me the option of doing the laps after practice, but our practices are much harder than our games. I was afraid of hurting myself if I did them when I was really exhausted."

"I’m glad you did what you thought was safest," Jamie said. "Although it was torture to watch you."

"Thanks again for not making a scene," Ryan smiled. "I’m not sure I would have been able to control myself if I’d been in your shoes."

Jamie grinned at her. "It would have been harder if I’d been alone. But trying to keep a handle on your father and brothers helped focus me. I love the family, but I didn’t want us all to have to go to jail together."

Ryan gave her a smile, and made the small announcement she’d been saving. "I’m not sure why, but I guess I’m the starting center now."

Jamie and Mia didn’t look particularly surprised by this, and they voiced their congratulations. "Why do you act like that’s a puzzling thing, honey?" Jamie asked. "You’re the biggest player, next to Janae."

"True – from a height perspective, at least. Jaleesa is a little shorter than I am, but as you can tell, she weighs more."

"Yeah, her hips and thighs are massive," Jamie agreed. "I’d think that would make you better, though. You’re obviously in much better shape."

"Probably," Ryan agreed, "but as long as you can get up and down the court, conditioning isn’t the key for a center. Her lower center of gravity is a big plus."

"Is your coach an escapee from a mental asylum?" Jordan asked, her face contorted in anger. "You’ll get tossed around like a doll in the PAC-10!"

"That’s a definite possibility," Ryan informed her. "And if I don’t get beaten up by the other centers, the ones on my own team might take me out. Jaleesa was not happy about the announcement, and La Trice didn’t look like she thought it was a good idea, either."

"Just what you need," Jamie muttered, "more enemies."

"Yeah, I sure don’t need help in that department," she mused. "You know, I think Coach tried to cut me a break today. After she made the announcement that I was going to start, she had me spend the entire time in Andrea Scoggins' office going over plays. I think she did that just so I didn’t have to exercise today."

"Is Andrea the really tall coach?"

"Yeah," Ryan nodded. "She’s actually my age. She was a pretty good center when she played, and when she graduated two years ago she stayed on as an assistant. I haven’t really worked with her up until now, but from here on in we’ll be joined at the hip. Lynette mainly works with the forwards, so I have to get used to a new coach, too."

"Do you think you’ll get along with her?"

"Oh, sure, she seems fine. I don’t think she agrees with Coach Hayes that I should be the starter, but that shouldn’t interfere."

Jamie just gave her a worried look, thinking that nothing was ever as it seemed with this team.

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

Ryan cleaned up after dinner, since she was the only one who didn’t have a final the next day. Mia was pretty calm about her tests, but Jordan and Jamie were both stressed, Jordan even more so than Jamie. Ryan padded back out to the library where Jamie was ensconced, and slid across the leather surface to sit next to her. "Are you going to behave?" Jamie asked warningly as she looked up through her dark blonde eyelashes and batted her eyes at her partner

"Me?" Ryan asked in amazement as she jerked her thumb sharply towards herself. "Me?" she asked again in a higher voice.

"Yes, you sexy thing. You," her partner whispered fondly as she leaned in close for a long kiss.

"I think you should spend a moment looking in a mirror, my sweet," Ryan grinned as Jamie backed up just an inch. They were so close together that Ryan felt her eyes cross slightly as she tried to keep her lover in focus.

"Good point," she smirked as she returned to her own seat. "We just haven’t … you know … in a couple of days," she murmured as she let out an embarrassed chuckle.

Ryan dropped her half-lidded eyes a little and gazed at her partner. "It’s so cute that you’re too shy to put a name to it," she chuckled. "But just for the record, it’s more than a few days, babe. What with going to bed early so I could study in the morning, and my road trip, we haven’t had sex in a week."

"God, Ryan, I just don’t know how we can keep these schedules and still have time for love! How do people manage?" she asked, letting out a frustrated growl.

"Well, I guess the good news is that we still have desire," she soothed softly as she nuzzled against the soft skin on Jamie’s neck. "You do have desire, don’t you?" she purred as her voice dropped to its deepest register.

Jamie tilted her head back to give Ryan better access to her always-sensitive neck. "Mmm-hmm," she purred as the assault continued. "I’m hungry for you, baby," she whispered as her hand snuck under Ryan’s shirt and started to tease her skin.

"You guys want any coffee?" Mia’s voice drifted through the house.

Shaken from their embrace, Jamie gently lifted Ryan’s head with both hands and gave her a tender kiss. "I think I can use some, Mia," she called back. "And you can use a cold shower," she decided, kissing the tip of her partner’s nose.

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

It was after eight before Jamie really began to concentrate, and she puttered along until ten without another break. Ryan got out her chemistry text and reviewed some problems for her Friday exam, but she wasn’t very concerned. Her mind easily grasped the fine points of chemical properties and their interactions, and she found the undergraduate level classes to be almost childishly simplistic, even if she would never admit that to another soul.

Her mind began to wander and immediately turned to sex, as she felt Jamie shift against her. God, just the slightest touch and my skin tingles, she thought with delight. I am so eternally grateful that I chose a partner who arouses me so thoroughly. I just can’t imagine ever growing immune to her allure.

To give herself a better full-length view, Ryan slid back across the long sofa and stuck a pillow behind her back. She tucked her feet under Jamie’s thigh, smirking to herself when her partner idly patted her leg.

Jamie was really concentrating, which allowed Ryan to spend some time gazing at her intently. As usual, what attracted her most was the way Jamie’s nose wrinkled up when she was really puzzled by something. It was all Ryan could do to stop herself from scampering across the sofa to kiss the adorable little nose, but she behaved herself admirably.

When the smaller woman would solve a problem that was vexing her, the coral-hued lips would curl up in the most delighted smile, sending Ryan’s heart into overdrive. I’m not even sure what it is, she idly thought, but something about her attracts me more than any other woman I’ve known. It’s not just her body or her face – it’s just the magical sum of all of her wonderful parts.

She found herself beginning to hum a low, slow tune, and after a few moments she noticed that her hips had started to move very slowly against the leather surface. It was quite cool in the house, so she was fairly bundled up, wearing a turtleneck with a hooded navy blue sweatshirt and sweatpants. Because she wasn’t planning on going out she had omitted any undergarments, and as her hips moved, she felt the fleece of her pants rub against her sensitive skin as another chill skittered down her spine. I’m gonna have sex tonight, she decided. If Jamie won’t play, I’m going solo! But I like it so much better when she touches me … hmm, it’s about time for her to pack it up anyway. Maybe I can convince her to have a little tumble, she thought with a smirk.

She continued to hum the song in her deep alto. The chemistry book was placed neatly on the side table, and she spread her legs apart as she sank down into the leather. As Jamie glanced at her out of the corner of her eye, Ryan twitched her hips a couple of times as her opening volley. She detected the little grin that graced her lover’s sweet lips, and decided that Jamie was at least moderately receptive to a little intimate connection.

To her surprise, Jamie didn’t make any move to acknowledge her gyrations. I’m getting the definite impression that someone’s feeling a little voyeuristic, Ryan decided. She considered the issue, and found that she didn’t mind putting on a show for her partner – in fact, she found the idea quite compelling.

She had never just laid back and masturbated in front of another woman, even though she had helped in one way or another quite a number of times. As she had mentioned to Jamie a few weeks earlier, her childhood feelings about her grandmother’s censure concerning masturbation had never really vanished, and she was a little embarrassed to show her need. But Jamie was so completely trustworthy that she decided to push her boundaries a little and demonstrate how she performed this most private act.

Ryan wasn’t really sure where to start, since she was trying to entertain as well as excite herself. When she was alone, she usually just fantasized and waited until she was wet and then started to touch herself. But she didn’t think that would create enough visual interest for her partner. She knew this was as much about pleasing Jamie as it was getting off, so she decided to add a few flourishes that she didn’t usually partake in.

She continued to hum the low song as she wet her index finger and thumb and slid her left hand under her shirts. A small gasp snuck out of her mouth as her cold fingers hit her warm nipple, and her face curled into a sexy grin. After a few tentative squeezes, she opened her hand and grasped her breast firmly, tugging on it with increasing pressure. A low moan came from her as her right hand joined her left, and she began to play with both breasts simultaneously. Umm … this feels good, she said to herself. Maybe I’ve been missing something by neglecting my breasts. Still not a word from Jamie, but she noticed that a page had not been turned since she began her little tease.

Going for broke, she dropped her head to the back of the sofa and started to sing the tune she had been humming. It was a song she hadn’t heard in quite a while, but the lyrics were absolutely on point.

I love myself I want you to love me

When I feel down I want you above me

I search myself I want you to find me

I forget myself I want you to remind me

I don't want anybody else

When I think about you I touch myself

Ooh, I don't want anybody else. Oh no, oh no, oh no

Continuing to sing, Ryan caressed herself between her legs through her sweatpants. She could feel her heartbeat pick up as she pushed her hand against herself with a forceful intensity, her hips grinding hard against the leather.

She was getting into the act now, but she remained mindful of her engrossed though silent audience. Jamie’s eyes were burning into her, but she acted as though she were all alone, satisfying only her own needs.

You're the one who makes me come running

You're the sun who makes me shine

When you're around I'm always laughing

I want to make you mine

I close my eyes and see you before me

Think I would die if you were to ignore me

A fool could see just how much I adore you

I get down on my knees I do anything for you

Her feet came up onto the coffee table as her left hand slid down her hard belly and slipped under her waistband. "Oh, yeah," she mumbled as her head dropped back again and her eyes languidly blinked closed. Her fingers slipped down to gather the blossoming moisture, and she heard the leather squeak loudly when Jamie slid off the sofa. She heard the rough scrape of shoes against the carpet, as her partner scooted across the floor to settle right in front of her.

Ryan took the opportunity to slide around and lie down, with Jamie still in place next to her hip. Now that she had a little room to move, she slipped her sweats down, and sighed when her legs fell wide open. The satisfied growl that arose from her when her hand touched her moisture was almost too much for Jamie to take. Watching Ryan pleasure herself was more exciting than she had would have thought possible, and keeping her hands to herself was remarkably difficult. She finally stuck her hands under her thighs, just to prevent an involuntary grab.

Ryan’s tremulous voice gasped out the last few stanzas of the song, her low, sexy tones giving the tune a whole new sound.

I don't want anybody else

When I think about you I touch myself

Ooo, I don't want anybody else

Oh no, oh no, oh no

I want you, I don't want anybody else

And when I think about you I touch myself

Ooh, ooh, oo, oo, ahh

As the last ahh turned into a lusty groan, Jamie lost her struggle and grasped Ryan’s shirts, tugging them up above her breasts. Her hungry mouth latched onto a full breast, suckling greedily while Ryan continued to purr.

The dark woman was so into acting out her role, that she didn’t tacitly acknowledge the warm, wet mouth that was practically swallowing her breast. Jamie was making an incredible variety of sexy sounds, smacking her lips noisily while she fed, and Ryan just laid back and enjoyed them fully.

Ryan could feel the desire and heat that radiated from her lover, and she felt herself crest unexpectedly – the feeling rushing through her body like a wildfire. She was pulsing and throbbing against her own fingers, the feelings magnified by the rabid desire she felt flowing from her partner.

Without warning, Jamie was on top of her. "You make me so hot," she whispered roughly against her ear as she pinned her to the sofa.

They wrestled around on the supple surface for a few minutes, kissing madly as they shared the unbridled passion that was flowing between them.

Small hands flew to her fly, fumbling with the zipper while her mouth remained locked upon Ryan’s. She groaned in frustration, unable to contain her need for her partner’s touch.

Ryan’s hands joined hers, aiding her quest. Soon Jamie's jeans were pushed down, and Ryan’s strong fingers effortlessly snapped the thin bit of fabric over each hip, flicking the panties to the floor. She raised her leg, grasped Jamie by the hips and settled her against her muscular thigh. The smaller woman let out a satisfied growl as her sizzling flesh met the smooth, toned column of skin, bone and muscle; and her head tossed back against her shoulders.

Questing hands reached down, both to steady herself and eagerly cup Ryan’s breasts, squeezing the flesh rapaciously. Ryan’s hands covered Jamie’s, urging her on with whispered entreaties and her smolderingly hot gaze.

The curvaceous hips were beating out a strong rhythm, the friction building swiftly. Jamie began to grunt with each thrust, her breasts swaying tantalizingly before Ryan’s gaze. The larger woman reached up and grasped them hard – giving them a powerful squeeze. Jamie’s eyes saucered, then she cried out lustily, her voice finally drowning out the persistent squeak of wet bodies sliding against well-worn leather.

She collapsed abruptly, knocking the wind from Ryan’s lungs. The larger woman recovered quickly, and she wrapped her enervated partner in her strong arms and rocked her gently. "Damn, that was fun," she murmured into Jamie’s ear.

"Umm-hmm," Jamie murmured. "I love to make love, but every once in a while it’s nice to just have sex. Just nice, hot sex."

"Mmm … just hearing you say that makes me want to have it again," Ryan murmured while she tried to position Jamie’s hand right where she needed it.

The smaller woman beamed at her lover and wiggled her fingers teasingly, "Far be it from me to ever quash a good idea."

* * * * * * * * * * *

On Wednesday afternoon, Ryan knocked lightly on the door in the surprisingly quiet dormitory, and waited patiently for her friend to answer. It took her a while, and Ryan correctly guessed that she had been sleeping. "Hi," Janae mumbled, immediately turning to head back to her bed. "Come on in." she added. She fell onto the bed heavily, the springs creaking loudly. "I’ve never been this tired in my whole life."

"I know the feeling," Ryan said, grabbing a desk chair and straddling it. "I’ve had a few concussions myself. They suck," she sympathized.

"Yeah. That about sums it up," the larger woman agreed. She looked at Ryan through her droopy lids and said, "During my moments of wakefulness, I decided I’m not coming back – even if they clear me to."

"I don’t blame you," Ryan said. "That team is a virtual hornet’s nest."

"It is that," Janae agreed, "but my bigger reason is that I’m not going to risk another concussion. My scholarship is paid for the year, as well as my room and board. That’s the whole reason that I play at this point – so it’s silly to even try to come back."

"I can understand that," Ryan nodded. "If I had a brain in my head, I’d quit too. I guess I’m just too stubborn to know when to stop."

"You’re not stubborn," Janae mused. "You’re a jock. It’s hard to walk away from a team, no matter how much they suck."

Ryan nodded. "There’s some truth to that," she agreed.

"You’ll make some headway," Janae assured her. "You’re easy to like, Ryan."

"Thanks," she smiled. "So are you. I’m really gonna miss you, Janae. You were the only person I looked forward to seeing on a daily basis."

"Well, I’ll still be around, and if I get into med school, I’ll stay in the bay area after graduation."

"Med school? I didn’t know you wanted to be a doctor."

"Oh, yeah. Always have. I’ve already got my applications in to U.C.S.F. and Stanford."

Ryan rolled her eyes and said, "I wish I could say that same. I still can’t force myself to get going on mine."

"Where are you applying?" Janae asked.

"My main problem is that I can’t decide," Ryan admitted. "I think I’ve finally decided that I don’t want to be a physician, since I think research suits me better. The only problem is that it looks like I’d have many more opportunities if I were a medical doctor. But I hate the thought of going to med school when I don’t want to practice medicine."

"What field are you most interested in?" Janae asked.

"Honestly?" Ryan asked. At Janae’s nod she said, "That’s another problem. I like biology as well as math. I really can’t decide. I know that if I get my Ph.D. in math, that I’d be giving up biology permanently, and I don’t want to do that."

"Why not get your Ph.D. in bio, then? You could focus more on the mathematical aspects of biology."

"I guess I could do that," Ryan mused. "I’m getting a lot of pressure from the math department to continue on – and that’s where my real talents lie." She shrugged and said, "I get so confused that I just try to put it out of my mind."

"But what do you like, Ryan? What would make you happy?"

Rocking in the chair for a moment, Ryan turned to her friend and said, "I’d love to work on some basic research in genetics. With the Human Genome Project just finishing up their mapping of the gene pool, I think there will be some fantastic opportunities in the next few years. I’d really love to help unlock the building blocks of our species," she said, her eyes bright with interest. "Part of the reason I don’t want to be a physician is that I want to help as many people as possible. Doing some basic, pure research seems like the best way to do that. One day we’ll be able to cure dozens of diseases with genetic engineering — and I’d love to help make that possible."

Janae looked at her for a long while, finally nodding her head. "Looks to me like you only have one option. You’re gonna have to go for a joint M.D./Ph.D."

Ryan grabbed her head with her hands and moaned, "I’ve really tried to avoid thinking about that! Must you pull me from my denial?"

Laughing softly, Janae joked, "Hey, it’s only a six or seven year commitment, pal. Then, of course, you have to do a residency. Piece o’cake!"

"Jamie’s not gonna like this," Ryan predicted. "She’s not gonna like this one little bit."

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Ryan entered the locker room later that day, the place was empty. She went into the separate area to use the rest room, and when she returned to the main room she heard her name mentioned. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she recognized the voices as Lily and Hilary from over the tops of the lockers that separated them. "She’s been with the team for like two seconds," one of the voices said. "Why would you put someone with no experience in over someone like Ella?"

"I don’t have a clue," the other woman whispered loudly. "How’s Ella supposed to get any experience if she doesn’t get to play?"

"Ella’s really pissed. She thinks it looks really bad to put a forward in over her and Jaleesa."

"It does!" the other woman agreed. "I mean, how bad must you be if someone who doesn’t know how to play your position gets to start over you. Ella’s humiliated!"

"Derrick says he heard that you know who was gay. Do you think she is?"

"Oh, yeah!" the other woman chuckled. "That was her girlfriend with her on the Colorado trip. They’re like married or something."

"Good!" the first speaker laughed. "Jarret keeps saying how hot he thinks she is. That ought to shut him up."

"Maybe he’d like it," the other one giggled. "Guys love to fantasize about lesbians."

Ryan rolled her eyes, having heard the comment too many times to count. "No way!" the voice that Ryan assumed was Lily, said. "Jarret’s old girlfriend turned lesbian. He’s totally weirded out about dykes. Once he finds out, he won’t even want me in the locker room with her! I’m staying as far from her as I can get."

"Oh, she’s not interested in you," Hilary chuckled. "She’s all over that girlfriend of hers. I’m really glad coach doesn’t let her go on trips with us any more, though. I don’t mind being around gay people, but I hate it when they insist on shoving it in your face. They should just keep that kinda thing private."

Since Ryan was separated from the women by a set of lockers, they would have never known she was there had Lynette not come in right then. "Hi, Ryan," she said loudly. "Ready to get to work?"

There was immediate silence from the other side of the lockers. Ryan rolled her eyes, and decided that she had her work cut out for her to win over this little clique as well.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Practice did not go well. Everyone was lethargic, and play was sloppy at best. They worked on a set of plays with Janet at point guard, Franny as the off guard, Drzislava and Wendy playing forward, and Ryan in at center. No matter how many times they tried to execute one particular play, the ball never got to Ryan. She had a sneaking suspicion that Janet was intentionally trying to screw with her, but Ryan wasn’t about to say so. Janet wasn’t as considerate, however. She pointed the finger at Ryan continually, until Coach Hayes finally asked her what the problem was.

"She’s not in position," Janet complained. "Every time I try to throw the ball to her, all I see is her back."

"Concentrate on getting into position, Ryan," the coach reminded her. "Janet has a point. You look like you’re still playing forward out there."

Ryan nodded and tried to change her style, but she wasn’t doing very well at it. The practice dragged on, with everyone growing more frustrated. Seven o’clock finally rolled around, and Ryan breathed a heavy sigh of relief. She went into the locker room and tossed her wet jersey and shorts into the laundry, and slipped into a dry set of clothes. On her way out she made eye contact with the coach, and saw the disappointment in her eyes. She wasn’t sure why she did it, but she approached her and asked, "Got a few minutes?"

Shrugging her shoulders wearily, Coach Hayes motioned Ryan towards her office. She sat down and nodded towards the empty chair, and Ryan sat and faced her. "Coach, if you want me to play the low-post, I promise to do whatever I can to learn the position. I know it’s not going to be easy, and I know you’ll be frustrated with me – but I promise I’ll do my best."

The older woman nodded. "I think I know that, Ryan. No one works harder than you do at practice."

"I must admit that I’m puzzled as to why you chose me," she said. "I think I’d make a better point guard than a center."

For the first time since she met her, Mary Hayes actually laughed. "It must be late, because I’m slap-happy," the coach said. "The thought of your 75 inches dribbling that ball up the court is just too funny."

"It is," Ryan chuckled. "But I always play point guard when I play with my family. I’m the short one," she grinned.

"I assume there’s a point to this story?"

"Yeah. There is. I’m wondering if you’d have any interest in mixing things up a little."

"Such as?"

"Well, you must have a good reason for playing me over Jaleesa and Ella, and I know it’s not because you think I’m going to be good. I saw your face tonight, Coach, and you looked profoundly disappointed in me."

She nodded, saying, "I was hoping for a miracle. I know this isn’t your position, but I still feel more comfortable with you than with either of them."

"Okay," Ryan said, her enthusiasm growing. "Then why not let me do what I’m best at?"

"And that would be …?"

"Let me play center like a third forward," Ryan suggested. "I’m never going to be able to bang bodies with the really big girls in the league, and I have no experience playing with my back to the basket. That’s a skill that takes years to learn, Coach, and we don’t have time for that."

"But if you played as a third forward …?"

"Then I could use the skills I already have," Ryan explained. "And not only that, it would confuse the hell out of our opponents until they got used to it."

Mary Hayes leaned back in her chair and gazed at the earnest young woman who had just pled her case. She nodded her head slightly and said grudgingly, "Well, given how you practiced this afternoon, I suppose we don’t have many options. I’m willing to give it a try. Will you work your ass off between now and this weekend’s tournament?"

"I’ll come early, I’ll stay late, I’ll sweep the floor when we’re done," Ryan grinned.

"Don’t go crazy, Ryan," the coach insisted, a very small grin curling her mouth. "You have your work cut out for you just doing your own job."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss this," Jordan said wistfully from her perch on the landing of the stairs leading to the neat back yard of the Berkeley house. She and Ryan were both sitting with their long legs dangling over the side, watching their friends dance to the music provided by the massive boom box that Mia had brought down from her room.

"Yeah, it’s tough to have a party outdoors in December in Colorado Springs," Ryan teased.

"That’s the last thing I care about," she said somberly as Ryan straightened up a bit to look at her. Jordan had been giving off depressed vibes all week, but didn’t really seem as if she wanted to talk, so Ryan had let her be. Tonight, however, she was in one of her introspective moods, and it was obvious that she had some things to get off her chest.

Ryan placed her hand on her friend’s smoothly muscled thigh and asked, "What do you care about?"

She chuckled a little as she took a long draught of her beer. "I feel like a kid leaving home for the first time," she admitted with an embarrassed blush. "It sounds funny, but I really feel like we’ve created our own little family in these last few months. I feel like I belong."

Ryan snaked a long arm around her shoulders as Jordan dropped her head onto her friend’s chest. "It doesn’t sound funny at all," she said quietly. "I feel exactly the same." After a moment she added, "I have a lot of people in my life that I’m close to, but it’s always been hard for me to forge close friendships with women – especially those that I don’t sleep with," she clarified with a smirk.

Jordan blinked slowly and said, "It’s too weird to think of sleeping with you. I mean … I had a little crush on you when we first met, but in no time at all I stopped thinking of you like that."

Ryan smiled and said, "Well, since I was with Jamie when you and I met, I never got the crush thing. It’s funny though – I very quickly started to think of you as a sister. I think it’s because we’re so much alike it seems like we share a common gene pool."

"Yeah, it does seem like that," Jordan agreed softly. "I’m really going to miss you, Ryan. You’ve been a great friend, and if I got to pick a sister – it would be you."

"Hey, you sound like this is the end of our friendship," Ryan complained. "You’d better not be trying to dump me so readily."

"I have no intention of dumping you," she said. "But we probably won’t see each other for the better part of a year if I make the team. We play almost straight through until the Olympics finish in October."

"You won’t come home for Christmas?"

"The schedule only provides for two days off," she said glumly. "I don’t think I can afford the air fare for such a short visit."

"Well, maybe something will turn up," Ryan said obliquely. "So, besides me, what will you miss?"

"Well, Jamie of course," she drawled, giving Ryan a sidelong look.

"Anyone else?"

She shook her head unhappily as she mused, "I had such firm ideas about not getting involved with anyone. I knew that volleyball was my focus, and I should have kept to my plan." She looked up at Ryan helplessly as she held her graceful hands out in front of her. "How did I let this happen?"

"I told you, pal, you don’t have much choice when it hits you." She leaned back and gazed at her friend for a moment, then asked, "Do you love her?"

"Of course I do," she said with a note of resignation in her voice. "I mean, I guess it could just be the fact that I’m leaving, but I feel sick about leaving her. I didn’t think this could happen so suddenly, Ryan. I have plans!"

"Have you told her?" Ryan asked quietly. Jordan shook her head briskly, and Ryan could see the chills run up her body. "Hey, it’s not a bad thing," Ryan said gently. "Would it be so bad to have a steady girlfriend?"

"It’s just not how I planned things, Ryan. I wanted to be free this year. I didn’t want to be pining for someone 1000 miles away."

"We don’t always get to choose the timetable for our lives," she said as she gave Jordan another squeeze. "Don’t you think you owe it to each other to at least talk about it?"

"I don’t know, Ryan. If I were going to be here permanently, I think we might have a chance. But Mia’s … you know how Mia is," she said with a smile. "I think she might need close supervision."

"I think you’re selling her short," Ryan corrected. "She was completely faithful to her boyfriend until they were just about broken up."

"Oh, I don’t mean that she’d cheat on me," Jordan said quickly. "She hasn’t been in a relationship with a woman before, and as you know, people tend to need a lot of hand holding to get comfortable with that. I’m afraid that she might waver in her lesbian resolve if I’m not here to work things through with her."

Ryan cocked her head and gave her friend a wry smirk. "When did you become the lesbian voice of experience?"

"I’m not," she agreed, blushing a bit. "But I think I know who I am, now. It feels right to call myself a lesbian, even if I’m not willing for the world to know. But Mia’s in a very different space. She’s just a visitor to our land, Ryan. I’m afraid she might want to go back to her home country if I’m not around."

"Shouldn’t she be able to decide if she’s willing to give it a try?" Ryan asked.

"Yes, and if I were going to be here, I’d trust that she’d be able to make an informed decision. But I’m not going to be here, Ryan. I’m going to be very far away, and it just feels unfair to expect her to wait around for me. God knows how long I’ll be gone," she said glumly.

"I guess I see your point," Ryan mused, "and it would be hard to carry on a long distance relationship, but is it fair to give up without trying?"

Jordan rubbed her face with her hands in an irritated gesture. "I’ve been kicking that around in my mind all week," she admitted. "It was so hard to focus on my exams, when she was all I could think about." She leaned back and sighed, "This is too much, Ryan. We’re both really upset about my leaving. Things are just too emotionally volatile right now for me to think clearly. I think it’s safer to just see how things go. I should be able to get a read on her after I’ve been gone for a while."

"You could just ask her," Ryan pointed out. "Or bite the bullet and tell her how you feel."

"Now where’s the challenge in that?" she laughed as she gracefully rose to her feet. "Come on, Boomer," she said as she extended a hand. "Let me show you how to dance."

* * * * * * * * * * *

There were about 40 people jammed into the small yard. Many of the players had brought dates, but the dancing had been very free form, with everyone dancing together, rather than pairing off. As the evening wore on, the volunteer DJ’s had mixed in an occasional slow, romantic song, and when one such song began, Mia found the guest of honor and took her hand. "Dance with me?" she asked.

With a puzzled look, Jordan said, "Uhm … I don’t think this is a very good one to dance to, honey."

"Why not? We like this song."

"I know, Mia, but …" she looked around at the five heterosexual couples moving to the beat and said, "we won’t be able to blend in, baby."

Standing very close to her, and looking up into Jordan’s clear, blue eyes, Mia said, "Do you honestly think I care?"

"Well … uhm … yeah, I do." Tilting her head, she asked, "Don’t you?"

"There’s only one thing I care about," Mia answered, staring right into Jordan’s eyes, "and that’s staying as close to you as I can until Monday morning."

"But, Mia," Jordan protested softly, "there are a lot of people here that we don’t know. You don’t know that these guys will keep their mouths shut."

"I only care about your mouth," the brunette vowed. "And after I take a little taste of it, I’m going to dance with you." She slipped her hand up Jordan’s arm, slowly moving over her skin until she caressed the back of her neck and pulled her down with gentle pressure. Jordan’s eyes grew wide as Mia’s lips met hers, but the smaller woman was oblivious to the few surprised looks shot their way. She released her hold and took Jordan’s hand, leading her to the small knot of dancers. Jordan’s eyes started to shift around the space, trying to see who was watching them, but Mia reached up and held her face between her hands, forcibly capturing her attention. "No one else matters. Just you and me."

The tall blonde took in a deep breath and let Mia’s words sink in. "All right," she said, smiling warmly. "Just you and me."

Mia slid one arm around her back, and placed the other against Jordan’s shoulder blade, holding her in a snug embrace. Jordan responded by draping her forearms across her partner’s shoulders and loosely linking her hands behind her back. "How’s that?" she asked, pulling Mia towards her slightly.

"That’s perfect." Mia’s chin lifted, her warm, brown eyes met Jordan’s, and a flash of deep sadness passed between them. "I don’t want you to go," she whispered, her voice catching.

Pulling her even closer, Jordan’s lips pressed against her curls as she murmured, "I don’t want to go. I want to stay right here with you." Pulling back just a little, she looked into the watery eyes and said, "Oh, please don’t cry, Mia. Please."

"I’m sorry," Mia sniffed. "I can’t help it." She dashed into the house, tears streaming down her face, Jordan in hot pursuit.

Jamie saw them run up the back stairs, but she had no idea what had happened. Looking around the dimly lit backyard, she spotted her partner, sitting in an Adirondack chair that she had maneuvered into a quiet, dark corner. "Honey?" she asked as she approached from the side.

Ryan sniffed and wiped at her eyes, turning to meet Jamie’s concerned gaze. "Hi," she said.

Climbing into her lap, Jamie draped an arm around her shoulders and hugged her close. "What’s wrong, sweetheart?"

"Nothing … really," Ryan said. "I was just watching Mia and Jordan dance, and I started to feel so damned sad." She let some of her feelings out, resting her head against her partner’s breast and crying for a few moments. "This is so hard for them, and it breaks my heart to see them both in pain."

"You poor, sweet, baby," Jamie sighed, rocking Ryan a little in her arms. "It’s really hard for you, too, isn’t it."

"Yeah. Harder than I thought it would be. It really hit me tonight, Jamers. I mean, I knew that Jordan was important to me, but it dawned on me how much I’ve come to think of her as family."

"She’s the sister you never had, isn’t she?" Jamie asked, rubbing Ryan’s back.

"Yeah. That’s what it feels like. She ‘gets me’ as much as my brothers do. I mean, God knows that you know me intimately, but Jordan understands my motivations … what drives me."

"I know," Jamie soothed. "I know she fulfills a role that I can’t, and I know that it’ll be very hard for you not to have her here. But you can still stay close, baby. You can call her, and e-mail her. You don’t have to let the distance keep you from getting what you both need from each other."

Ryan nodded. "I know it’s possible, but it won’t be like it has been. We have our best chats when we’re running together or working out. We both talk better when we’re active."

"You talk just fine when you’re sitting in a chair in the back yard," Jamie teased gently. "You’re gonna have to work at it a little bit, but staying connected to Jordan is worth it, isn’t it?"

"Uh huh," Ryan nodded. "It’s definitely worth it." She offered up a weak smile, and said, "Sisters don’t come along every day."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 7

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