I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 12: Lifeline
By: S X Meagher
Part 11 (conclusion)
Since both women had arranged their schedules to provide for Fridays off, they were able to go to Noe when the mood struck them. Jamie played golf in the morning, while Ryan worked on her independent study, and just after noon they headed over, then spent most of the afternoon working on their respective homework. Ryans watch alarm went off at 4, and she stood as she shut it off. "Im gonna go out for a little bit."
"Want company?" Jamie asked, stretching a bit. "I could use a break."
"Uhm no. I have something I have to take care of. I wont be too long." She gave Jamie a quick kiss and said, "We can take Duffy out for a long walk tonight."
"Youre not taking Duff with you now?"
"Huh-uh. Im going alone." She went into the bath and combed her hair, then gave Jamie a little wave and took off.
Now whats she up to?
Duffy was disappointed, as he always was when his company was refused. But Ryan wasnt able to take him with, so she promised a long walk later in the day. Walking down the quiet streets of her neighborhood, she considered her plan. Look, youve tried every other avenue. Hes been very helpful at times. What can it hurt to give him a chance? A few minutes later, she spotted him going into the side door of the church.
"Hi, Father Pender," she called out.
"Siobhán! How are you?"
"Not great," she said. "Thanks for calling me over in Berkeley. That was sweet of you to look me up."
"Well, I would have gone by the house that first night, but I didnt think Id be welcome," he said. "Its hard to know how much to press my luck."
"I dont agree with my fathers decision to cut you out of our lives, Father, but hes not the easiest fellow to talk out of things."
"No," he said, "hes a man of strong convictions as am I. Thats not a good combination, love."
"Maybe someday," she sighed. "Id like us to be able to acknowledge our differences, and just move on from there."
"That would be nice," he said. "I hope you know that I have nothing but warm feelings for you and your friend, Jamie."
"I do," she said.
"Are you just passing by, Siobhán? Ive got to get inside to hear confessions, even though I usually just sit and read. Not many people avail themselves of the sacrament any longer."
"Thats why Im here," she said, surprising him thoroughly.
"You are? I havent seen you in the confessional for years."
She shrugged her shoulders and said, "Better late than never, Father. Im having a hell of a time, and Im looking for peace anywhere I can find it."
"They dont call our Lord the Prince of Peace for nothing, Siobhán. Lets go talk."
* * * * * * * * * * *
A few minutes before 6, Ryan came sauntering into the house, a surprising spring to her step. Martin, Maeve, Jamie, Kevin, Rory and Conor were just getting settled at the dinner table, and everyone looked up when she entered. She stopped at Jamies spot first, offering a quick kiss.
The blonde narrowed her gaze and asked, "Have you been drinking?"
"Just a pint," she said. "A little before dinner drink." She greeted every other member of the family, then took her seat. "What?" she asked, seeing every set of eyes on her.
"Its not like you to be drinking in the afternoon," Martin said. "Are you quite all right?"
"I ran into someone I know. No big deal." Unfolding her napkin, she said, "If I were trying to hide my drinking habit, Id drink vodka. You can smell Guinness on my breath from across the room."
"Well, I suppose youre old enough to have a wee pint when you want one," Martin said, seeing his daughters ire start to rise.
"Thank you," she said. "So, whats for dinner?"
"Risotto," Martin announced proudly, pronouncing the word in such a way as to make an Italian grimace.
Raising an eyebrow at her partner, Ryan asked in the same Irish accent, "And where did you get the recipe for this risotto?"
"Young Jamie showed me how to make use of everything I had in the ice box," he announced.
"Well, good for young Jamie," Ryan said, wondering if her fathers family actually ever owned the icebox he continually referred to.
"This would be perfect with a nice steak," Conor said.
"Mind your manners, boy. You need to eat more vegetables."
"Yes, Da," he said, hiding a smirk. "Ryan needs to drink less, and I need more vegetables. Got it!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie was given a dispensation from cleaning, since shed participated in dinner preparation. So after the remaining children finished cleaning the kitchen Ryan went downstairs to find her partner on the phone. "No, that will be great, Daddy. I think she might like to come, but if not, Ill see if Mia wants to play. Sure, Id love to have brunch first. Lets meet at 10. That will give us time to go to 8 oclock Mass. I look forward to it, too. See you then."
She hung up and smiled at her partner. "That was my dad. Hes in town until Monday, so were going to get together on Sunday. He specifically asked if youd be able to join us."
"Thats nice. I think Ive finally made some progress with him, Jamers."
"I think you have, too. So, do you want to play golf?"
"Mmm no, I dont want to. But if you want me to go with you, I will."
"No, this is voluntary. If youre not into it, you dont have to. Ill see if Mia wants to go. Maybe she and her dad can join us."
"I think Id enjoy helping out over at Nialls this weekend. Some physical labor sounds like just the ticket."
"Do you uhm want to talk about your afternoon? I dont want to pry, but "
"I went to confession," Ryan said, sitting down on the bed and gazing at her partner with an unreadable expression on her face.
"Confession? Have you ever done that I mean since weve been together?"
"No. I used to go every week, but I got out of the habit when I started having sex. It seemed silly to go confess a sin that you had every intention of committing again, the first chance you got," she said.
"What made you go today?"
"Im looking for solace, babe. Im trying every possible avenue."
Sitting next to her on the bed, Jamie asked, "Did it help, sweetie?"
Ryan laughed gently and said, "You know, it really did. Father Pender reminded me that God would forgive me if Id killed the guy in cold blood so long as I was truly sorry for my actions. It seems silly, but he really reassured me, Jamie. He put his hands on my head and prayed over me." She gave her partner a shy, childlike grin and said, "I feel lighter somehow."
"Im so glad," Jamie sighed.
"We had a nice time together," Ryan said. "I was the only person to show up for confession, so we talked for the entire hour. He wasnt able to help much at getting me to let go of my anger at the unnamed traitors, but it was a start. He locked up when we were finished, and we went over to The Dubliner for a pint. Just like old times."
"You were afraid to tell your Da, huh?"
"Mmm not afraid, but I didnt want to bring up a sore subject. He doesnt want to have a relationship with Father Pender, but I do. We dont have to agree on everything."
"Im glad you got what you needed from talking to him. Now, how about that walk. Duffy tells me you promised him one."
"That dog never could keep a secret," Ryan said, taking her partners hand.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Kisses?" Jamie asked, drawing her arms around Ryans warm body when the larger woman crawled into bed that night.
"Sure," she said. "Kisses are just the thing to help me sleep."
Ryan rolled onto her back and cuddled Jamie to her chest. "Kiss away, sweet lips."
"Okay I think I can live up to that title." She snuggled close and started to kiss Ryan gently, putting just a little heat into her caress. For the first time since they had returned from the Bahamas, Ryans mouth slowly opened during the kiss, and Jamie slipped her tongue inside. A tiny, soft moan escaped from the pink lips, and Jamie went a little further, and let her breasts press firmly against her partners.
They continued to kiss and suck on each others tongues, slowly increasing the passion until Jamies breathing became erratic. Panting softly, Ryan pulled away, and lay her head down on her pillow. Not wanting to lose the connection, Jamie rested her head upon her partners breast, pleased to feel the rapid heartbeat. "I can still make your heart race," the blonde sighed, very pleased by her lovers reaction to her kisses.
"Sure can," Ryan said, relieved that theyd stopped when they had. She knew that some of her excitement was desire, but that another element was fear. She kissed the top of Jamies head, and they both relaxed together for a long while. When Jamie was just about asleep, she rolled onto her side, and Ryan followed her, pressing her body against her back.
In moments, Jamies breathing evened out, and she fell into her usual state of near-unconsciousness. But Ryan wasnt able to relax, even with her partners soothing presence so close to her. The heat of their kisses had turned her on more than she was willing to admit to Jamie, and now the insistent throbbing between her legs was keeping her from relaxing.
Fighting the guilt that lurked just under the surface, she slipped her hand between her legs and touched herself, the reassuring feel of her own fingers soothing her wounded psyche. Thoroughly relieved that Jamie was such a sound sleeper, she explored herself in painstaking detail, letting her experienced fingers glide over all of her most sensitive spots. As much as she loved her partners touch, there was something wonderfully reassuring and familiar about touching herself, and she did her best to allow her body to fully relax and enjoy the sensation. She held off for as long as she could, trying to wring the most pleasure possible out of the experience. Gasping sharply, she came unexpectedly, her toes curling as the rush hit her. She felt so sated and calm that she started to nod off immediately, her wrinkling fingers pressed into her still-pulsing tissues.
* * * * * * * * * * *
On Saturday morning Jamie came upstairs to find Ryan and Conor at the breakfast table. "What are you two up to today?" she asked.
"Id like to play golf," Conor said. "Any interest, Jamie?"
"Mmm Im always up for a round. Ryan?"
"If I have to," she said, shrugging her shoulders.
"Its not a sentence, its a game," Jamie said. "What would you rather do?"
"Ride my bike. I need to get some miles in today."
"Okay, Conor. Youre on. Let me call the club and see when they can fit us in."
She went to the phone and dialed the number, while Conor looked at his sister. "Youre really gonna do the AIDS Ride, huh?"
"Is that a wise thing to do, Ryan?"
"Nope." She stood up and cleared the table, placing the dishes in the sink. Without another word she went down to her room to put her biking clothes on.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Just on the other side of Colma, Ryan got on her cell and called her mother-in-law. "Hey, Catherine," she said in greeting. "Would you like to have lunch today?"
"Of course, dear. I dont have any plans for the afternoon. Where would you like to go?"
"Uhm your house. Im out riding my bike, and Id like to have a break. My butt is killing me!"
"Oh, Ryan, thats such a long way to come. Let me come to you."
"No, no, I can make it. Ill see you in an hour or two. Ive forgotten how long it takes to get down there. Wish me luck."
"Good luck, honey, and be safe!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan arrived just after 1, her body covered with sweat, a bit of road grime on her flushed cheeks. "Damn! Have they moved Hillsborough a few dozen miles down the 101?"
"You look exhausted, dear! Come on in and cool off." Ryan entered, then immediately took off her shoes so she didnt scuff the floors. Catherine took a long look at her and asked, "You didnt bring any other clothes, did you?"
"Nope. I really didnt think Id get this wet. Its warmer than I thought it would be."
"Go in the kitchen and get a drink, honey. Ill get you something to put on. Jamie will never forgive me if I let you catch a cold."
Ryan gave her a slightly aggrieved look, then obediently went into the kitchen, where Marta gave her a tall drink and a long lecture. Catherine returned, holding a light blue dress shirt and a pair of navy blue boxer shorts. "Nothing of mine will fit you, honey, so I brought one of Jims shirts. I bought some boxers for him when I was in Italy, but I havent seen him to give them to him. This is the only kind hell wear, and they dont do mail order, so I always stock up for him when I visit."
She handed Ryan the shorts, and the dark woman gave her a broad smile. "Silk? These are the softest things Ive ever felt."
"Its a silk and cotton blend, so theyre machine washable. I know you and Jamie like to wear boxers around the house, so you just keep those."
"No argument," Ryan said. She went into the nearby bath to put on the clothes, and emerged a few minutes later. Marta snatched her biking clothes out of her hand so quickly that she didnt have a moment to react. "Marta! Those clothes are disgusting! I can just toss em in the dryer for a few minutes."
"No, no, no. The sweat will irritate your skin. Ill wash them for you." She was reading the laundry care tag in the shorts as she walked away, leaving Ryan to shrug her shoulders and take a seat at the table.
"Would you like to take a shower, honey? Im sure your muscles are stiff."
"No, Ill be fine. Its going to take me a little longer than I had planned to get back into riding shape. Ive never gone this long without logging some saddle time."
"This is terribly important to you, isnt it, dear?"
"Yeah. I wont miss the ride, Catherine. I cant."
"Oh, I wasnt trying to talk you out of doing it, Ryan. Far be it from me to attempt that."
She smiled slightly and said, "I hate to be so hard-headed about things. I know this isnt wise, but it means more to me than I can put into words. It gives me a full week to think of my cousin and remember all of the good times we had together. He deserves at least a week of my time, Catherine. He meant so much to me."
"I know, sweetheart," she sighed. "I only wish that you didnt have to torture yourself to get in shape to do the ride. Thats going to tax you severely, and you dont have many reserves."
"I know. But I cant worry about that. Im going to do my best to get ready, and then do the ride as best I can. Jamie doesnt believe that Ill ride in the support van if I need to, but I will," she said, looking into Catherines eyes. "Ive learned that it doesnt matter how you overcome obstacles, the mere fact that you overcome them is enough."
"Thats the spirit, Ryan," the older woman said.
Marta came back into the room, bent over and kissed Ryans dark head. "What can I make to tempt you, Ryan?"
"Oh, just about anything, Marta. Im not very picky."
Catherine recalled the lunch shed had with the girls recently, and wondered if she was going to have to feed the lanky young woman just like her daughter had. Shrugging her shoulders, she decided that she was up to the task, if duty called.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After lunch, which Ryan managed to eat all on her own, they went out to the patio and sat by the pool. "Could I prevail upon you for a bit of advice, Ryan?"
"Sure." She sat up a little and looked at Catherine attentively.
"I received a letter from Jamies former nanny the other day. I dont like to keep things from Jamie, but I know that shed be hurt by it, and I hate to do that."
Ryan scowled and said, "Given what shes told me about Elizabeth, I can only imagine the content."
"Shes very old fashioned," Catherine said. "Flexibility isnt part of her makeup. Shes antagonistic to nearly every bit of progress since the Second World War."
"Sounds like my granny," Ryan said. "So, what did this missive say?"
"It was quite odd, to be honest. I started to think that Elizabeth might be going a little senile, but other parts of the letter made her seem just as sharp as ever." She sighed and said, "She wrote to apologize for any role she might have played in Jamies downfall." Shaking her head she continued, "She theorized that faulty genes might have played a role, but she was quite adamant that environment had to be at least partially responsible. She didnt seem quite sure of what she should have done differently, but she mentioned that she should have probably used corporal punishment on her. Her reasoning seems to be that Jamie was brought up in such a permissive way that she feels free to indulge in her darker urges."
"If you add a few references to Jesus dying for our sins, my grandmother could have written that," Ryan said, shaking her head in dismay. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I agree that it will hurt Jamies feelings to read that, but she really hates it when things are kept from her. Why dont you tell her you got it and briefly synopsize it. Just tell her that, as expected, Elizabeth was unhappy to read that Jamie was a lesbian."
"Thats a good idea, dear," Catherine said. "Ill burn the damn thing so she cant read it even if she asks to."
"It hurts me when my grandmother is so judgmental," Ryan said. "I know its just her upbringing, but it still hurts."
"I can imagine that it does." She patted Ryans hand and asked, "But you still love her, dont you."
"Of course. Shes had a tough life, Catherine. She grew up dirt poor, with an abusive father. The Church was the inviolate authority when she was growing up, and it provided a vision of eternal happiness so long as one toed the line. I can only imagine how appealing that was for a woman like my granny. She only made it through sixth grade, so she didnt ever have the opportunity to really examine the teachings of the Church on her own from an intellectual standpoint. She never learned critical thinking skills. She followed the law to the letter, but given her situation it makes perfect sense."
"I suppose it does," Catherine said.
"She also believed that punishing a child could take some of the evil out of her. I suffered more than my share of beatings, but Granny still thought I had too much starch in my sails."
"Oh, Ryan, I didnt know," Catherine said, reaching out to cover her hand. "I Im speechless "
"Its okay," she said softly. "I went through a short period where I thought that I deserved to be beaten, but it didnt last too long." She pursed her lips and said, "Kids minds are very funny. You cant understand that your elders are acting irrationally, so you have to believe that youre the problem. I used to feel kinda purged, when shed spank me like shed taken some of the evil out."
Catherine closed her eyes, looking like she was on the verge of tears.
"Really, Catherine, its okay," Ryan said. "My aunt Moira found out what was happening, and she got involved. It was a good lesson in a funny way. It made me realize that adults make mistakes, too, and that there are some people in your life who you can always depend on." She smiled gently and said, "Aunt Moiras never let me down."
"Have you heard from your grandparents since the carjacking?" Catherine asked, not sure if Ryan had revealed her lesbianism to the elderly couple.
"Yeah. I think she was proud of me for what I did, but she reminded me that if I hadnt led such a sinful life there wouldnt be anything scandalous for the newspapers to print." She gave Catherine a sly grin and added, "Jamie got the condensed version of that one, too."
"Yeah, she never misses an opportunity to point out the error of everyone elses ways. Jamie really wants to go visit Ireland this summer, but I know the experience will be mixed, at best. Id hate to have my little protector deck my Granny."
"You can return the favor," Catherine said. "Jamie would never be that close to England and fail to visit Elizabeth."
"Oh, boy! An elder abuse tour!"
Catherine laughed heartily, then patted Ryans shoulder. "Youll get through it. You two have been through worse."
"Now, thats the truth," Ryan said. "And I should be able to use that line for years to come."
* * * * * * * * * * *
They whiled away most of the afternoon, and at 3 oclock Catherine said, "Why dont you let me give you a ride home, sweetheart? Im afraid it will be dark by the time you reach San Francisco."
Ryan scrunched up her face and thought for a moment, then she nodded decisively. "My instinct is to ride home," she said, "but Im going to deny my instinct this time. Im tired, my butt hurts, and it probably will be dark by the time I get home." Her expression turned a little sad when she said, "I have to be more careful. The carjacking showed me just how fragile life is. I have to remind myself every day how much Jamie loves me and how much she needs me. I cant afford to be so cavalier about how I behave."
"Thats a hard lesson to learn, isnt it, honey?" Catherine asked gently.
"It is," she said, "but its a very valuable one. Ive told Jamie before that Id be much more careful, but it obviously didnt sink in. I hope this time it does."
"I do, too," Catherine said. "Do you want to go now?"
"Sure. Stay for dinner?"
"Oh, I wish I could, but I have an event tonight."
"Let me have Conor come pick me up then. You dont want to spend your afternoon driving me around."
"Yes I do. Besides, I want to see my girl for a few minutes. I want to spend every minute with her that I can."
"You and I think alike, Catherine. Lets rock."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Walking home from church on Sunday morning, Ryan held Jamies hand snugly in her own. "Im gonna miss you today," she said, giving her a shy smile.
"Are you disappointed that Im going without you?"
"No, not disappointed. Im sure Ill have a better time hanging with the boys. Construction work suits me so much better than playing golf. I just wish you were going to be with me."
Jamie smiled up at her and reached around to hold onto her arm tightly. "This is one small area of our lives that I think we have to agree to disagree on. I dont mind helping once in a while, but it doesnt bring me joy."
"Youre entitled to a few flaws," Ryan said. "The fact that you like to stay clean is a quirk that Ive learned to live with." She leaned over and kissed the top of her head. "I just hope our children dont inherit your clean gene."
"Watch it, dirt devil. We clean people have our pride, ya know."
"Your dad wont be offended that I didnt want to come, will he?"
"No. He knows youre not a golf nut. He doesnt understand it," she said, "but he knows it."
"Come by Nialls when youre finished, okay? Maybe you can bring us some snacks or something."
"Yes, dear," Jamie said, rolling her eyes. "Ill bring snacks. Ive got to remember to take my ATM card, though you guys could clean out an entire 7-11!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jim stopped by to pick Jamie up, and when they were finished, Mia offered to drop her off at Nialls. After a trip to the store, they pulled into Nialls driveway which the others had thoughtfully refrained from using so Jamie would have a convenient place to park. "God, Jamie, weve never bought this much for a week at home!"
"I guarantee it will all be gone within an hour," Jamie said. "Well, technically it wont all be gone. They always leave one chip in the bag and one cube of cheese on the tray. No one likes to eat the very last piece for some reason."
The door was open, as usual, and they immediately went out to the back yard, their arms laden with snacks. "What in the hell are you doing?" Jamie cried when she saw the awful mess.
"Break in the main sewer line," Niall said, wiping his face with the hem of his shirt. Weve got to dig the whole thing out. Theres no water in the house, by the way." He gave her a grin and said, "Its good to see you two, even if you hadnt brought food."
"You guys cant eat this stuff! Youre filthy!"
"We filled up a couple of buckets with water before we turned it off," Ryan called out. "We thought ahead so we could wash our hands."
Walking over to the trench that the workers were digging, Jamie stood above her lover, with her hands on her hips. "You are absolutely filthy, Ryan OFlaherty! Youll catch a disease if you eat with those hands!"
"Then youll just have to feed me," she said, giving her a cheeky grin.
Jamie rolled her eyes and looked at the other members of the group. "Only six of you? Where is everyone?"
"People got busy once they heard we were hand digging a trench through the entire back yard," Niall said. "Wimps."
The group was made up of only Rory and Ryan, Niall, Kieran, Colm and Donal, and each one looked like theyd done the work of three. "The drain wouldnt have been so bad, but someone, and Im not saying who, got a little enthusiastic with a pick and poked a hole in the water line. Thats why we had to shut it off, as well as why its so damned muddy."
"Im a tile setter," Colm mumbled. "If you wanted a plumber, you should have hired one."
"I didnt say your name," Niall said. "You could have spared yourself the humiliation. You should just be thankful that the two lines are right next to each other. If wed had to dig a separate trench, we wouldnt be quite so jovial."
"Dont worry about it, Colm," Jamie said. "I know Ryan loves to play in the mud. I guarantee shes happy you broke the water line."
He gave her a grin, then looked at his brothers smugly.
"Well go in the house and get the snacks ready. Are you ready for a break?"
"We were ready for a break at 11 a.m.," Niall said. "Were starving now!"
"Just hold on," Jamie said. "Well call you when its ready."
She and Mia went inside and started to unload the groceries, then Jamie remembered that she had a container of baby wipes in the car, and she ran out to get them. "We can at least clean our hands with these," she said.
"I have to pee," Mia said. "Does the toilet work?"
"Let me ask," Jamie said. "I doubt it, though."
"Hey, guys, does the toilet work?" she called out the back door.
"Nope. Weve been using the sink," Niall said, grinning boyishly.
Jamies hands went to her hips once again, and she scowled at the chuckling men. "Ryan? Youd better not have been sticking your butt in the sink."
She twitched her head, indicating the side of the house. "They tried to convince me to go over there, but the neighbors windows were open. I walked down the street and went to the little burger joint on Sloat. I was so filthy, they didnt want to let me in, but I bought some burgers so they relented."
Mia was listening to the interchange and she said, "Cover me, Jamie. Ill never make it to the corner." She scampered out to the side of the house, much to the amusement of the work crew. "Why is the urge to go always so insistent when you know theres nowhere to do it?" she moaned. Luckily, she was wearing a short skirt, so she accomplished her goal rather easily. "Damn, this feels good," she said.
"Im certain it does," Jamie said, rolling her eyes once again. "Never a dull moment with the OFlahertys."
When Mia was finished, they went back inside, and after she followed Jamies instructions to use two baby wipes on her hands, they started to make the snacks. Niall had almost nothing in the kitchen, but he had managed to procure a few big, plastic bowls and a pair of plastic platters. He also had a few knives and a couple of spoons and forks. "Coming over here is like going camping," Jamie said. "You have to pee outside, the rooms are entirely empty, and the only furniture is a picnic table and benches."
"I think its fun," Mia said. "No one in my family would ever be this casual."
"Oh, theyre casual, all right," the blonde said. "Will you just look at them? Ive never seen people that dirty."
"Or that hot," Mia gave Jamie a bump with her hip.
The curly-haired woman paused, then stared at her friend. "Dont tell me you dont think shes sizzling hot today! Im about to proposition her and Im not even that crazy about muscles!"
Jamie looked out the window and stared at her partner for a moment. The group had done a tremendous amount of work, and the trench had been dug to a depth of about 2 and a half feet with a matching width. It ran from the water main in the alley all the way to the foundation of the house, and it looked as if each member of the group had been assigned a section to work on. Ryans was from about 10 feet from the house down to Rorys section, which was about 10 feet from the start of hers. She had worked quickly, and her task was just about finished. As Jamie watched her, she stood for a moment and stretched, her muscles rippling as she did so.
Since the carjacking she had lost the bulk that Jamie had managed to put back on her over the previous month. But the blonde was sure that the scale wouldnt reveal all of the weight her partner had lost. For while Ryan had not been eating much, she had been exercising so vigorously that Jamie was sure she had put on a good deal of muscle all in her shoulders, arms and back.
She was wearing a khaki green tank top, and a pair of buff-colored cargo shorts, with a pair of ragg socks and her constructions boots. Always attuned to her breasts, the blonde noted that Ryan was not wearing a bra and she reasoned that she wanted to be unencumbered while she worked. A few months ago she couldnt have gotten away with that but her breasts were always the first to go when she lost weight much to Jamies regret. It was still obvious that Ryan was a woman she was just a rather modestly endowed woman at this point.
Getting back to work, she hit the bank of the trench with her spade, and every muscle flexed from the effort. Her weight loss had highlighted every well-defined striation of sinew, and as Jamie watched her work, she slowly realized that she had stopped looking at her partner as a sexual being.
"I dont look at her like I used to," she whispered, grabbing onto the sink so tightly that her fingers paled.
Mia tucked an arm around her waist and gave her a squeeze. "Hey whats going on? You look like youve seen a ghost."
"I thought it was all her but its not! Im doing it, too!"
"Doing what too?" Mia asked, thoroughly confused.
Jamie turned away from the window and leaned against the counter. "Ive been blaming the fact that were not having sex on Ryan but its my fault, too!"
"I didnt I didnt know you were still not," Mia said quietly. "I just thought that once you got home "
"No, things havent gotten any better," Jamie said. "Well, thats not true. Were trying to push things a little bit. We kissed for a couple of minutes the other night, and Ryan even let me slip my tongue into her mouth."
Wrapping her arms around her friend, Mia whispered, "Oh, Jamie, I had no idea it was that bad. I didnt know that you werent even kissing each other."
"Things are very, very strained, Mia." She leaned against the counter again and said, "I just feel like shit. Ive convinced myself, and my therapist, that Im back to normal but Im not! Im sleeping with one of the most desirable women Ive ever seen in my life, but I dont even feel a stirring anymore when I look at her."
"How do you feel?" Mia asked.
Jamie turned back to the window and gazed at her partner for a long minute. "Protective. I want to wrap her in my arms and never let another thing hurt her." Her eyes closed as she tried to fight back the tears that were always so close to the surface. "Shes had so much pain in her life, Mia. It breaks my heart that this had to happen to her."
"It happened to you, too, James. I know youre all about protecting Ryan, but you need some protection, too."
"I know. It still bothers me a lot, and Im sure it will for months to come; but Ryans wracked with guilt and remorse and anger in addition to the trauma. Thats whats so hard for her." She leaned against the counter, letting her head drop down. "Damn it, Mia, I dont know if I have the strength to resuscitate my own sex drive as well as help Ryan get back on track."
"Jamie, how could you feel sexual if you want to mother her? You have to think of her as an adult to be attracted to her."
"Yeah I guess youre right. It has been hard to think of her as an adult. She seems so childlike, Mia. So very fragile."
"Are we talking about the same woman?" Mia twitched her chin, and Jamie stood and looked out the window again. The crew was cutting the pipe out of the trench, and Ryan was at the front of the group. She had her arms wrapped around the cut end and she was straddling it as they all tugged on it to free it from the earth. The pipe was made of clay, and over the years roots from nearby trees had grown into the slightly porous conduit, making the task all the more difficult. "That is not a fragile woman," Mia said. "She looks like the Incredible Hulk on an estrogen high."
"She does," Jamie said, smiling fondly at the straining woman. "But she doesnt send off her sexy vibes any more. Thats what I respond to."
"Wanna see a sexy vibe?" Mia asked in challenge.
"Uhm sure. What are you going to do?"
"Flirt with your girlfriend. You stay right here and watch. I guarantee I can make her flirt back."
"Great! Be right back."
Mia darted away, leaving Jamie to stare after her in shock. A second later the curly-haired imp was leaning over Ryan, saying something that the dark woman found quite funny. Jamie couldnt hear a word, but whatever Mia was saying was completely entertaining Ryan.
There was a problem with the pipe down at Colms end, and the other guys ran down to cut away some of the hardier roots. Ryan looked up at Mia and wiped her face with the bandana she had in her back pocket. Then she sat on the bank of the trench and crossed her arms, in what Jamie could only hope was an unintentional highlighting of her braless breasts. The perky mounds strained against her tank top, both nipples hard as pebbles. Again, Jamie hope that was because of the cool breeze blowing across her sweaty body but she couldnt be completely sure. Mia squatted down and said something else, and Ryan gave her one of her patented lopsided grins, and Jamie felt her knees weaken. That was the grin that had captured her heart the very first day she had ever laid eyes on the dark beauty, and the simple gesture had the same dramatic impact on her today that it had then.
"My God, shes gorgeous," she whispered aloud, letting herself really see Ryan in a way she hadnt been able to lately. The guys were ready to pull again, and Ryan got back into position. Just when they had the pipe lifted, Mia said something funny and Ryan started to laugh, the kind of unrestrained belly laugh that Jamie hadnt seen in a month. Her breasts bounced, her head was thrown back, and she struggled mightily to hold on to the heavy pipe. With one final tug it came free, and she swung one long leg over it to be able to push it up onto the ground. When it settled with a thump, she and every one of the boys leaned onto it, trying to catch their breath. Jamie could see how her top was stained with sweat, so she rushed to take the beer and soda out to the workers. She was tremendously pleased to feel an old, familiar throb between her legs, and she had a definite spring to her step when she went outside.
"Heres something to drink, guys. Ill be out with food in a minute." She ran back inside and threw a bag of chips into one bowl, then ripped open the containers of salsa and guacamole. Boxes of crackers and a mound of cheese cubes filled one tray, and cut-up vegetables and dip filled the other. It took her two trips to bring it all out, but that gave the crew time to wash their filthy hands.
Ryan sauntered over, her skin the color of the fine clay soil. "How about a kiss, baby?" She pretended to grab Jamies off-white slacks, and the blonde danced away from her.
"You keep those dirty hands to yourself!"
"Theyre not dirty. I just washed them."
"You just sit right down on the picnic table and let me feed you. Youre an absolute mess!"
Ryan did as she was told, smiling when Jamie popped a cube of cheese in her mouth. "Cracker, please."
Jamie placed one between her teeth, expecting her to bite, but Ryan pulled the whole thing in and chewed noisily.
"My little barbarian," the blonde said.
"Have I told you how nice you look today?" Ryan asked, batting her eyes.
"No. Now what do you want?" she asked, grinning at her.
"Me? Cant I just give my beloved one a sincere compliment?"
"Sure you can. Im sorry for doubting your motives, sweetness."
"Uhm Jamie? Would you go get me a beer? Its awfully far."
"Scamp!" she said, pinching her nose, which was about the only clean part of her. Walking the 3 feet, she bent and took a beer from the cooler, then presented it to her partner.
"Thanks," Ryan said. "Nice ass, by the way."
"Oh, you are a feisty one today," Jamie said. "I like you feisty."
The boys had cleaned up as well as they could, and they all stood around the table, demolishing the food like a swarm of locusts. Mia watched in amazement as the bowls and platters were cleaned methodically, most of the guys not even taking the time to speak. "That was astounding," she said to Jamie.
"Yeah, theyre keeping Frito-Lay in business," Jamie said.
"Well, I think Ill head home," Mia said. "You dont need a ride, do you?"
"You drove, didnt you, sweetie?" Jamie asked her partner.
"No, I came with Rory, but we can all squeeze into his truck. Thanks for delivering my sweetie-pie," Ryan said, smiling at Mia.
"My pleasure. See you guys later tonight?"
"We might stay over and come home in the morning," Jamie said. "It depends on if I have to soak Ryan in the tub overnight."
"Funny," the brunette said, wrinkling her nose.
"See you all later," Mia said, kissing each of the workers on the top of the head to avoid being slimed. She took off, then the boys went back to the pipe to cut it into manageable lengths for disposal.
Jamie continued to feed her hungry lover with the pieces of cheese she had managed to snare from the other vultures. "You know what I thoroughly enjoyed today?"
"No, what?" Ryan asked.
"I enjoyed watching you laugh while you were flirting with Mia."
"I was not flirting. But I was laughing." She looked down at the ground and said, "It felt good. Like I was using muscles that were beginning to atrophy." She gave her partner a smirk and said, "I dont know what game you two were playing, but she told me that shed bet you she could make me flirt with her. Howd I do?"
"Oh, what a bad girl! You were intentionally showing off your breasts!"
"Nah. I was just cold," Ryan said. "But I did give her my flirty smile. Is that what you two wanted?"
"Precisely," she said. "Youre in your element today, Tiger. I think thats why you loosened up and got out a few belly-laughs."
"Youre right," she said. "I felt like a kid today. It was wonderful."
Jamie looked at her dirty face and dirtier body and said, "I dont think I ever played in the mud. Elizabeth had a real thing about keeping my clothes nice."
Ryan almost bit off a sarcastic remark, but she realized that Catherine had probably not had time to tell Jamie about the letter. Instead, she tried to make light of it. "Aw, come on. Everybody played in the mud at some point. Maybe when you were real little."
"I doubt it. When wed see other kids playing in the dirt, shed always make some comment about how uncivilized they were. She was a real neat-freak." She grew pensive, then added, "I did get to be a little wild with Poppa sometimes. Every once in a while hed take me out and let me play like a real kid. He always brought play clothes for me so I could pass inspection when I got back home." Looking at Ryan for a moment, she said, "Boy, it astounds me to think of how outraged Elizabeth would be by you, baby."
"Is that part of what you like about me?" Ryan asked, cocking her head slightly.
Jamie thought for a moment, and finally said, "You know, I think it might be. Of anyone Ive ever met, youre the only person that I know Elizabeth would completely detest." She chuckled softly and said, "As much as I did care for her, I used to have dreams of doing something to shock her so badly that she quit and ran back to England, never to be heard from again."
Ryan stood and regarded her partner for a moment. Jamie was sitting atop the table, looking perfectly crisp and clean. "What would shock her the most about me?" Ryan asked.
"Now? Or when you were little?"
"Mmm shed hate the fact that you were gay and happy about it."
"Obvious choice," Ryan said.
"Oh, its more than that, though. Shed hate how comfortable you are with expressing your sexuality." She paused a second as she said this, and Ryan could see her hesitation.
"I have my moments," she said. "Itll come back." She said this with a confident tone, but there was just a small undercurrent of doubt in her blue eyes.
Looking up at her, Jamie closed her eyes for just a moment and said, "I know it will, sweetheart."
"I still have glimmers of it," Ryan said. She took her bandana and dipped it into the cooler, soaking it with the ice-cold water. Carefully, she cleaned her mouth, then tried to do the same for her entire face, making good progress. Once she was as clean as she could manage, she approached the table and put her hands on either side of her partners hips. Leaning in to avoid getting her dirty, Ryan gave her partner a sexy smile and asked, "What would Elizabeth think of this?" Then she leaned even further and planted a scorcher on her lovers lips. She lingered for a long while, teasing Jamie mercilessly, only stopping when the boys started to harass her.
Blinking slowly, Jamie mumbled, "Shed be dead before she hit the ground. A big, muscular woman, scandalously dressed, disgustingly dirty, and kissing me like she owns my body and my soul shocking, I tell you. Simply shocking!"
"Aw, that was nothing. I could do much better," Ryan said. "I was hardly even trying to shock." For the first time in weeks, the blue eyes were twinkling with glee.
"What would you do if you were trying?" the blonde asked, starting to feel a little tingle in a very nice place.
"Oh, I think I could make old Elizabeth swallow her teeth if I were to try." She backed up a couple of inches and looked down at her partners feet. "Nice. Are those new?"
"Uh-huh. I needed some new black shoes." Reaching down, Ryan removed the slip-ons and placed them on the table. "Uhm why are you taking my shoes off?"
"Just felt like it. Youre a little overdressed." Looking at the attractive green sweater her partner wore, Ryan asked, "Wool?"
"Uh-huh. Its chilly out for mortals."
"You dont need it." She reached down and grasped the hem of the sweater, whipping it off her partner before she could utter a word of complaint.
"Ryan!" Jamie hugged herself against the chill, her cream-colored camisole scant protection against the late January temperatures. "Im practically naked!"
Out of the corner of her eye, Ryan could see her cousins trying to look like they were not watching their play. "Youre a long way from naked," she purred. "I should know." As she spoke she was unbuckling Jamies belt. "Are you wearing panties?"
"Of course Im wearing panties! Have you lost your mind?"
Suddenly, Ryan gave her a completely serious look. "I hope not. Im trying like hell to find it again. Playing helps."
Giving her a look filled with love, Jamie placed her hands around Ryans mud-encased shoulders and said, "You play away, sweetheart. Ill be mortified, but you can undress me in front of the boys if you really need to."
"No, no, I just wanted to know if you could take your pants off if you had to. Your pants arent wool, are they?"
"No, theyre micro-fiber. Uhm Ryan the look in your eyes is starting to frighten me. I can tell youre going to do something nutty, but Im not sure what."
"Nutty? Nah. Muddy? Yeah!" She grabbed her partner and threw her over her shoulder, then made a beeline for the trench.
"Oh, no! No! Not the mud! Ryan!"
The boys were stunned into inactivity all 5 of them watching with gaping mouths as Ryan ran the last few yards and leapt into the muddy trench, sliding several feet as she hit. Ceremoniously, she dumped her kicking lover onto her butt, then got to her knees and started to cover both of their bodies with the cold, wet goo, laughing the entire time.
Jamie was remarkably filthy in seconds, so rather than getting out, she decided to wallow in it. But she wasnt going down without a fight. She got to her knees and pushed Ryan onto her back, then grabbed two handfuls of slop and shoved it down her tank top, slapping it to her skin as she did so. "Shit! Thats cold!" the dark woman cried.
Ryan tried to get some traction, but she had a tough time. Finally, she grabbed her partner, who was trying to escape. They tussled briefly, then Jamie went down, face first. Ryan steeled herself for the reaction she knew would be swift to come. As expected, Jamie was furious all of her feistiness emerging. "Ill get you back, OFlaherty." She hurled herself at Ryan, and the fight was on. The boys came out of their stupors and ran to the pit, watching as the two wrestled with all of their might.
Obviously stronger, Ryan was nonetheless at a disadvantage in the narrow pit. She wasnt able to extend her arms out to the side, hampering her power and her leverage. Jamie used the narrow confines to her advantage, shoving fistfuls of the cold mud everywhere down Ryans waistband, up the legs of her shorts, into her tank top her actions making the larger woman laugh so hard that she was absolutely powerless.
Rory watched for a moment, then noticed a goofy grin on Nialls face. "What in the hell are you looking at?" he asked.
"Jesus, Rory, Ive got lesbians mud-wrestling in my backyard! Why does one of them have to be my cousin! Wheres Mia when we need her?"
"Out!" he cried, turning each of the boys and marching them into the house.
"I can cover one of my eyes so I only see Jamie," Niall said, frantically trying to think of a way to be able to stay and watch.
"Out! The next guy that sneaks a peek gets my boot up his arse!" He eventually managed to corral the boys, giving the wrestlers their privacy.
Neither woman knew they were alone, just as neither had known they were being watched. They were both so intent on torturing the other that they were completely oblivious to everything in the world except each other and where to put the next handful of glop.
Jamie launched a cruel offensive, managing to get past Ryans slapping hands to sneak up the leg of her knit boxers. She shoved the mud right between her legs, then slapped it in place with her other hand making a wet plopping noise. "Oh, thats cold! Thats fightin dirty," Ryan moaned.
"Thats the intent during a mud fight, goofball," Jamie said.
Ryan knocked the smirk off her face when she hurled herself at her, knocking Jamie to her back. Lifting her camisole with one hand, Ryan grabbed a handful of mud and covered each breast with it, laughing loudly while Jamie screamed.
Dropping down to hover over her, she grinned and asked, "Cold?"
"You know it is, you big lug. Now get off of me so I can get some of this slop out of my clothes. Its starting to itch."
"Do you give up?" Ryan asked.
"No, I most certainly do not!
"Well, then Im not getting off." She looked around for the first time and asked, "Whered everybody go?"
"Search me," Jamie said, poking her head up.
"Okay." Ryan started to slide her wet, cold hands into every possible place they would fit.
The blonde started to fight again, unexpectedly getting a knee up to kick the air right out of Ryans lungs. She fell onto her in a whoosh, then lifted up just enough to say, "That wasnt very bright, cookie. I could have crushed you."
"I can think of worse ways to go," Jamie said, making Ryans body bounce as she laughed.
"Oh, you can, can you?" Ryan leaned in and kissed her tenderly, and all of a sudden the mud wasnt so cold, her skin didnt itch so badly, Ryans body didnt feel so heavy, and the ground underneath her wasnt very hard. All that she felt was a slow rush of warmth that seemed to start at her toes and move up as the kiss continued.
Someone moaned throatily, and Ryan shifted a little, pressing her firm breasts into Jamies. Her tongue slipped into her lovers mouth and Jamie began to suck on it greedily, moving a leg to let Ryan snuggle a little tighter against her. In a matter of moments they were moving against each other, tortured groans springing from one woman, only to be matched a moment later by the other.
Ryans kisses were so breathtaking that it took a moment for Jamie to realize that her lovers hand was palpating her breast. Shuddering, she spread her legs as far apart as she could get them, and Ryan pressed her leg firmly between Jamies thighs. The blonde started to tilt her hips, getting a good rhythm going, when reality broke through and she realized where they were and what they were doing.
For just a second she tried to still her mind and let her body have free rein. This was the most unencumbered shed felt in weeks and she didnt want to destroy the magic. But she knew there was a very good chance that at least one of the boys would catch them and the thought of that was just too much to take. "Sweetheart," she panted out, "we have to stop."
"Stop?" Ryan lifted her head and stared at her, her blue eyes glassy and unfocused.
"We cant have sex in a trench, sweetheart can we?" she asked, willing to be convinced.
"What?" The dark head swiveled, and Ryan obviously became aware of her surroundings for the first time. "Oh, my God! Were humping in a trench!"
"Yeah. That about sums it up," Jamie said.
Ryans head dropped onto her breast and she moaned, "Fuck! The first time I get out of my head, and we have to stop!"
Jamie grabbed her and held on tight. "Well get there again, baby. I promise you that. This felt really good really natural. We can get back here again Im sure of it."
"I hope so," Ryan said, worry lines creasing her forehead. She started to get up, but Jamie pulled her back down.
"You cant leave until I see a smile on that pretty face. I have confidence in us, Ryan, and I want to hear that you do too."
The dark woman took a deep breath, then nodded her head, showing her partner a small, but genuine smile. "I believe in us," she said, adding a gentle kiss.
As they climbed out of the trench, Jamie asked, "Got any bright ideas on how to get home?"
"Hmm Rory has cloth seats, and there arent any sheets or towels here. Looks like were riding in the bed of the truck, punkin."
"Boy, you really know how to show a girl a good time, OFlaherty," the blonde said. "A bag of chips, a few cheese cubes, a couple of beers, and a tussle in a mud hole. No wonder you had so much luck with the ladies."
* * * * * * * * * * *
They were both nearly frozen by the time they reached the house. Jamie had steadfastly refused to put her sweater back on, insisting that the mud would ruin it. The same went for her shoes, so she rode home with only Ryans chilled body covering her. "You know that Ill never let you have a moments peace if I catch pneumonia from this, dont you?" she asked, moments before they arrived.
"Pneumonia is transmitted by a virus or bacteria, honey. Being cold has nothing to do with it. Thats a commonly held, but incorrect perceptio " Her words were cut off by a muddy hand clapping over her mouth.
"Can you just let me make an idle threat without injecting reality into the mix?" she asked, chuckling at the look on Ryans face.
Rory pulled into the drive and got out to help them from the bed. To his surprise, he had to help both his normally agile sister and Jamie, since Ryan was nearly frozen. "Get in the shower and stay there until you warm up," he ordered sternly.
"Yes, Da," Ryan said, giving him a wink. They entered the house through the door next to the garage, confusing Duffy greatly. He quickly calmed down when he was allowed to spend a few minutes sniffing them suspiciously, trying to lick a little of the mud from Ryans bare legs.
As the minutes ticked by, the emotional tone in the room began to change. It had been less than a half hour since theyd been grinding against each other, but Jamie knew the spell had been broken. Ryan seemed a little distant and withdrawn, and hadnt met Jamies eyes since they entered the house.
"Uhm I guess Ill go up to Rorys shower," Jamie said. "Ill just get undressed down here so I dont track dirt through the house. Can I use the bathroom first?"
Ryan turned and looked at her, holding her gaze past the point that made Jamie uncomfortable. "Stay here."
"No, I dont mind "
"Stay here. Please."
Ryans eyes closed briefly, and she looked like she was about to cry. "I dont want it to be like this, Jamie. Jesus! Were hiding in the bathroom to change!"
"This is temporary, honey. Just until we feel like ourselves again."
"No!" Her eyes were blazing as she said, "This has gone on long enough! Im letting this thing control me, and Im sick of it!" She reached for the hem of her top and pulled it over her head, staring into Jamies eyes the whole time. She unlaced her boots and pried her socks off, and Jamie noticed that her hands were shaking. Her shorts were next, then her boxers, which still held a handful of mud. Suddenly, she started to laugh, shaking her head as she said, "Caitlins diapers arent this disgusting. Youre an evil, evil woman."
Jamie chuckled right along with her, trailing her hand down her own filthy clothing. "Im evil, huh? These slacks have to be dry cleaned, you know. What am I supposed to say when I take them in? I fell into a cesspool?"
"Ill take them in for you," Ryan said. "Mr. Assarian is used to my antics. He wont even blink."
"Youre a generous woman," Jamie said. She took off her camisole, then dropped the slacks to the floor. As she was taking off her panties, Ryan stuck her head in the shower and turned on the water.
"Hop in," she said. Jamie did, and was surprised to find Ryan climb in right after her. "I need you to wash my back," she said. "With a scrub brush and Comet cleanser."
Jamie looked her over as the water made the mud streak down her body. "I think your hair is gonna be the hardest. Need some help?"
"Sure." Ryans body was a little stiff and unyielding, but she bent at the waist and let Jamie lather her up. Two vigorous applications of shampoo did the trick, then Jamie put some conditioner on the long tresses and left it on to penetrate.
"My hairs a mess, too," she said, running her hand through a few clumps.
"Let me return the favor." As Ryans fingers massaged her scalp, Jamie let herself savor the gentle, desperately missed touch. Ryan had a way of making her feel completely loved when she washed her hair, and she tried hard not to think of whether this was an anomaly, or if Ryan would be able to share this with her again.
All too soon it was over, and Jamie felt the suds cascading down her body as Ryan rinsed her with the hand held showerhead. "All done?" she asked.
"Uh-huh. I got your head, neck and shoulders. You still need some work on your ears, though."
"Thanks." Jamie smiled at her, but Ryan was already withdrawing. She turned her back and started to wash the rest of her body, not uttering another word. Jamie did the same, feeling heartsick over the walls that seemed to rise so easily and fall so slowly. She was just about finished when Ryan draped her washcloth over the rod. "Honey, youve still got mud on your back and on the backs of your thighs," Jamie said. "Want me to get it for you?"
Ryan stood stock still for a moment, and Jamie could nearly feel her struggle with her answer. "Sure," she said briefly, her voice tight with tension. Jamie took her own washcloth and lathered it up, then started to work on Ryans back. The long body was nearly rigid, but that only lasted for a few moments. Ryan obviously tried to loosen up and let Jamie touch her, and after a bit, her posture relaxed significantly. "That feels good," she said.
"Youre probably stiff and sore, arent you?" the blonde asked.
"Yeah actually I am. That was damned hard work."
"How about a little massage?" Jamie asked, cringing in anticipation of the rejection.
Again, Ryan struggled with her answer for a moment, then nodded. "Okay. That would help."
Jamies eyes nearly bugged out of her head, but she hurried to take advantage of the opportunity to touch her partner. She took the tube of shower gel and squirted a generous amount onto her hands, working up a good lather. Starting at Ryans shoulders, she massaged the gel into her skin, using her thumbs to press hard into the muscles, just the way Ryan liked it. "Boy, youve developed these muscles," she murmured as she worked.
"Boxing really does it," Ryan said. "I was able to work harder today than I ever would have been able to before I started banging on the heavy bag."
"I like em," Jamie said. "Although Id prefer to have them covered with a thicker layer of fat."
"Ill get there," Ryan said. "Now that I dont have those grueling basketball practices, I should be able to keep some weight on." She leaned over a little bit more, giving Jamie a better angle. "Boy, that feels good," she sighed. "I miss our massages."
"Then lets start them up again. Its a nice way to get reacquainted with each others body."
"Kay. Ill try."
When Jamie reached the small of her back, she worked the muscles hard, making Ryan moan with pleasure. "Ive never known anyone who likes it this hard," the blonde said.
"Ive never had a massage that was too firm," Ryan said. "I just love the pressure."
Jamie squatted down a little to work on Ryans legs, digging into the thigh muscles with as much force as she could generate. "Nice," Ryan purred. "Youve got very good hands."
"Thanks. I think youre finished. Wanna do me?"
"Uhm sure. If youd like."
"Im a little stiff, too. Just work on my back for a few minutes, okay?"
Ryan did so, letting her strong hands caress Jamies muscles in a firm, but tender fashion. "Hows this?"
"Perfect. I could never take it hard like you do. I like to be pampered."
Ryan slid her arms around her partner, hugging her tight. "Im gonna try my best to pamper you more, sweetheart. Im so sorry for abandoning you for so long."
"Hey, you didnt abandon me, baby. You just needed some space. Its okay, really."
"Tell me what you need," Ryan said. "I want you to have what you need, Jamie."
"Im getting what I need, Ryan. Really, I am." She turned in her warm embrace and looked up at her partner. "What do you need, love?"
Her eyes closed and she whispered, "I need to be touched. I ache to feel your hands on my body."
"Honey, Ill touch you any time you want. All you have to do is let me know."
"Thats the hard part," Ryan sighed. "Im afraid to let you touch me, cause Im afraid of where it will lead."
"Oh, baby, it doesnt have to lead anywhere. And even if it did, we can work through any problems that come up."
"Im afraid to have sex," Ryan murmured. "Im afraid to be that vulnerable again. Im afraid I wont be able to relax, or that I wont be able to please you again. I worry about it all the time."
"Oh, sweetheart, you have nothing to worry about. We just need to start slow. Today was a good start, wasnt it? Were naked, and were touching each other really nicely. It will come."
"I guess," she said, looking glum. "Its a start."
"We had a good start over at Nialls," Jamie said, giving her a playful grin. "We could have had a good finish if the boys hadnt been there."
"Yeah," Ryan said, giving her a crooked grin. "I just let my body react for a change. Thats what I need to do. Let my body speak to me."
"Our bodies will speak again, Ryan. Dont you worry that pretty little head. Everything will be fine, love."
* * * * * * * * * * *
It was still fairly early when they got home the early OFlaherty dinner hour helping to assure that. Ryan sat up in bed and started answering e-mails, while Jamie sat at her desk, working on some problems for her real estate investing class. After hearing Ryan sporadically fidgeting for a half hour, the smaller woman finally turned around and asked, "Whats bothering you, babe?"
Ryans face bore a scowl, and she shifted once more. "Im having a hard time getting comfortable. My back hurts."
"Whats troubling you specifically?" Jamie asked. "You didnt hurt a disk, did you?"
"No, not really. Im just stiff. I think I tweaked a muscle under my scapula."
Without another word, Jamie got up and approached her. "Let me give you a real massage. I didnt get to work on you much in the shower."
"Uhm okay. Would you grab me something to sleep in?"
Sighing heavily, Jamie fetched her partner a T-shirt and a pair of boxers. Handing the clothes through the bathroom door, Jamie went back to her computer and tried to work. Eventually, Ryan came out, looking absolutely lovely her simple beauty making Jamies breath catch in her throat.
The outfit that she had chosen was one she had purchased for Ryan in Pebble Beach. A blue silk T-shirt, just a shade darker than her eyes, and matching silk boxers in the same vivid blue, with tiny red, white and yellow sailboats on them. The deep hue brought out the vividness of Ryans eyes, and made her hair look jet-black. Even her dark eyebrows and lashes stood out, and Jamie found herself fascinated with their color and texture.
The outfit was made for a man, but Ryan filled it out beautifully, the round globes of her ass straining the soft fabric just slightly.
Her hair was put up in a haphazard twist, and a few strands had fallen from the clip that held it up, and were now curling slightly around her face and neck. Her freshly-scrubbed face made her look clean and bright and healthy the pink hue of her cheeks enormously appealing to Jamie.
Ryan gave her a curious look, and then she looked away quickly after seeing the open admiration, and unveiled interest on Jamies face. "I uhm I think Ill just hit the sack," she mumbled.
"Let me give you that massage," Jamie said, trying to ignore the tension in the room.
"Nah I think Im fine."
Before she could change her mind, Jamie was on her feet. Grasping Ryans hand gently, she said, "Id uhm really like to massage you. I miss touching your body, sweetheart, and I know you miss it, too. We need this, Ryan. We need touch."
The smaller woman could see the stab of fear that darted across Ryans eyes, could hear her start to breathe a little heavier but she didnt withdraw her request. With deep admiration, Jamie watched her partner face her fears, and refuse to give into them. "I miss it too, Jamie." Without another word, she took Jamies hand and led her to the bed. Ryan lay down, face first, and pointed at the areas that were troubling her. "Its under the right scapula," she said.
"Okay, I can handle this," the blonde confidently said. "I think Ill go all out," she said. "Ill give you the whole professional treatment."
"You dont have to "
"Hush now," she said. "I want to create a nice atmosphere and get you thoroughly relaxed. As soon as Im done, you can just drift off to sleep. Its your first day of practice tomorrow, you know," she said. "I want to you be well rested."
"All right," Ryan sighed. "I leave myself in your capable hands."
Jamie lit a few candles and placed them on the nightstands, then turned on one of Ryans favorite CDs: a nice collection of traditional Irish songs performed by an assortment of women artists. As the soft strains of the first tune began, she sat on the edge of the bed and tried to decide how to approach her task.
Momentarily pleased that Ryan was willing to extend herself and allow the touch, Jamie sighed in dismay when the larger woman made no move to remove her clothing. Not wishing to push her further than she wanted, Jamie decided to work around the impediments. She took a container of lightly-scented body powder, and pushed Ryans shirt up with one hand, while she sprinkled the powder all over her back.
"Nice," the reluctant patient murmured when knowing fingers started to glide over the smooth skin. "Is that powder?"
"Uh-huh. I didnt want to get lotion on your clothes."
"Mmm good idea," Ryan said, her clothing obviously purposefully intact.
Following the example that Ryan had shown her many times, Jamie patiently moved up and down her back, never remaining in one place for too long. Ryan was completely silent, providing very little feedback in stark contrast to her usual grunts, groans and moans. It was like she was holding back trying to control her response, but Jamie didnt let that deter her. She just kept working, focusing on Ryans muscles.
She had to tug the print shorts down a little, and she felt a wave of sadness when Ryan tensed noticeably. But when she showed that she was merely trying to get at the strained muscles in her lower back, Ryan relaxed a bit. Jamies mind drifted to the previous spring when shed given Ryan a massage after their bike ride up on Mt. Tam. The fact that Ryan had seemed so blasé about her near nakedness that night even though they were just friends struck a painful chord, and Jamie had to struggle to keep from crying. It felt like they had so very far to go that things had grown so stilted and tentative between them in such a short time that she was overwhelmed with sorrow. The only way she could continue was to try to still her mind, and just concentrate on the movement of her fingers, and the reaction of the individual muscles.
It took a lot of concentration to be able to ignore the pain in her gut, but Jamie put all of her self into the effort. Even though she was sad, she forced herself to let Ryans body feel her touch to in some way let those nerves feel her, to experience her as a long-absent friend.
With a frustrated moan, Ryans entire body tensed noticeably. She let out a growl and rolled away, a fine sheen of sweat appearing on her forehead and upper lip. "My brain wont give me a fucking break!"
"Its all right, sweetheart," Jamie murmured, her heart heavy. "Time and patience are the keys. Well get there eventually."
"Huh-uh," Ryan said, shaking her head defiantly. "Im tired of being patient. Im tired of waiting. Im nearly phobic about really being open, baby, and Im sick of it."
"I know that, honey, but this isnt the kind of thing you can force."
Ryan rose up on an elbow and cocked her head a little. Looking like an idea had just occurred to her, she asked, "Says who? Says who? Im sick of this touchy feely crap, Jamie. Im sick of everybody telling me to just wait for the right time. Thats not who I am!" She disentangled herself from her partner and stood up, staring at her with eyes blazing. "I have to be who I am! And that includes this! Im a person who takes action. Spending all of this time reflecting has been helpful, but its not helping any more. Now Im just stuck, and Im fucking sick and tired of it!"
"How can I help you get unstuck? Ill do anything," she said.
It took only a second for the dark woman to make up her mind. "I want to make love," Ryan said. "I want to look you in the eye and touch your body then I want to touch your soul." Her stern expression gentled, and she sat on the edge of the bed, running her hands through Jamies hair. "My soul needs your touch to heal." Taking her partners hand, she brought it to her lips and kissed it gently. "My soul is hungry, Jamie. Its slowly starving and only you can give it sustenance."
Looking up at her partner, Jamie saw the grim determination in her sparkling blue eyes. She was filled with respect for the risk Ryan was willing to take, and immediately sought to soothe her. Nodding briefly, she said, "Youre right. Its time to stop talking and live." Extending her arms in welcome, Jamie murmured, "Come lie with me and let me love you, Ryan."
She did so, pressing her body against her partners. Jamie tugged her T-shirt off, then tucked her thumbs into the waistband of Ryans boxers and slipped them off her. She let her hands roam unfettered all across the smooth expanse of skin, feeling her breath catch as she did so. The feeling was so glorious that she would have been satisfied to just gently caress her partner, but Ryan was on a mission, and she had no intention of stopping until she had broken every barrier that had been erected.
Sitting up, Ryan started to unfasten the buttons on Jamies pajama top. When it was open she slipped it from her shoulders and dropped it to the floor, then spent a moment letting her hand play upon the treasures now revealed. With a small, shy grin, Ryan gazed into her lovers eyes and said, "God, Ive missed this."
"I have, too." Maintaining her gaze, Jamie pulled the tie to her waistband, and slid out of her pants, then cuddled up against her partner, relishing the skin on skin contact. "This is divine," she sighed.
"Lie on top of me," Ryan said. "I want to feel your weight pressing against me."
"Mmm my favorite position." Shifting her weight, Jamie climbed aboard and gazed into Ryans eyes for a moment. "Hows this? You okay?"
"My hearts beating a little quickly, but Im gonna ride it out," Ryan said. "Just stay with me." She started to perform her deep breathing exercises, and after a few minutes she nodded her head. "Im okay now. I started to think too much."
"Maybe I can distract you a little. Turn your sweet little brain off and just feel." Jamie dipped her head and started to kiss her, keeping her touch slow and gentle, lazily playing with her lover. Tenderly, she caressed Ryans lips, nibbling a little, then sucking each lip into her mouth. Ryan started to breathe heavily, but it didnt seem like anxiety this time. Persisting in her explorations, Jamie leisurely probed Ryans mouth with her determined tongue.
"Mmm," Ryan purred as the blonde head pulled away. "Thats nice very nice."
Reaching up with her hand, Jamie ran her fingers through Ryans hair and looked at her with concern. "Are you okay, baby?"
"Fine. Im fine," Ryan said. "Uhm lets just keep going without analyzing it, okay? It makes me nervous to have you ask if Im all right. If I need to stop, Ill tell you, okay?"
"Perfect." She gave Ryan a small kiss, and asked, "Do you want to lead, or should I ravage you as usual?"
Chuckling softly, Ryan said, "I think Id better lead, if you dont mind being submissive for a change."
"I can manage," Jamie said, intentionally trying to keep the tone light and playful. "Do you remember how? Its been months since youve had a submissive woman in bed."
"Smart ass," Ryan said, giving her partner a pinch. "Youre in a pretty vulnerable position there, babe. Youd better watch it."
"Especially when Im lying on top of a big, strong, dominant woman like you. Goodness knows what youre capable of."
"Goodness has nothing to do with it," Ryan said, rolling Jamie onto her back. "Now, where was I?"
"You were about to dominate me," the blonde said, blinking up at her innocently.
"Ahh, yes. Having my way with fair, young maidens. My favorite hobby." She settled much of her weight on her arms, as she hovered above her partner.
Jamie reached up and tenderly brushed her hair back, smiling up at her as she said, "This is the way I picture you when I fantasize about making love. I think of you poised over me ready to pounce." Trailing her fingers over her face, she continued, "I love to feel your body on mine. Its so heavy and dense, and just bursting with muscles." She managed to free both hands and started to stroke the smooth muscles in the arms which strained a little as Ryan held herself up. "I feel like youre totally in charge that Im completely under your control. I know youd never hurt me, but I feel a tiny, tiny bit of trepidation when you hover over me like this. Kinda like when youre on a roller coaster. You know its safe, but still "
"But still you never know when the tiger might strike," Ryan finished for her, purring softly. She started to nibble all over Jamies body, latching onto every spot she could sink her teeth into. After a moment, her bites started to tickle, and Jamie started to squirm under her. Ryan didnt slow her assault, continuing to nibble and bite her breasts, the soft skin on her belly, the backs of her arms. Flailing hands tried to keep her at bay, but Ryan merely grasped both wrists and held them above Jamies head, rendering her completely helpless. The blonde struggled for a moment, then started to move under Ryan in a decidedly sensual fashion, looking up at her with smoky green eyes.
Panting softly, Jamie told the truth that resonated in her soul, "I put myself in your hands, Ryan."
"Oh, sweetheart," she sighed, her eyes fluttering closed for a moment. "Making yourself so vulnerable to me is such a gift."
"I trust you completely," she whispered. "I never feel safer than when youre in complete control. I can hardly move a muscle, but I feel totally cared for and protected."
"You are, baby. Youre always safe with me."
"Do you feel the same with me?" Jamie asked softly, staring deeply into Ryans eyes. "Do you feel safe?"
"Uhm yes mostly," she said. "I mean, I did before, but now "
"Tell me," Jamie said. "Tell me exactly what frightens you."
"I told you before," she said, looking away, then biting her lower lip. "I think of how I almost lost you, of how I put your life in jeopardy. Then I start to panic." She released her grip upon Jamies wrists and brought her arm down to brace herself more firmly, since her body had begun to tremble.
Jamie reached up and grasped her face, forcing her to make eye contact. "Ryan, what those men did to us was horrible. The things that could have happened, but didnt, are equally horrible. But none of those dreadful things happened. At this point, those men cant hurt us anymore we can only hurt ourselves, and each other." She pulled the dark head down and kissed her hard. When she released her, her eyes were blazing. "We need each other now, more than ever. But we have to focus on the reality of the situation. We cant let our imaginations run wild. Focus on the here and now, Ryan. Please!"
"How?" she asked, her question so simple, yet so complex.
Her hands were still holding Ryans face, and she pulled her down onto her chest. "Feel my heartbeat, baby. Can you hear it?"
"Yeah its beating nice and strong." She placed a soft kiss on the skin just over her partners breast.
"Feel my arms around you, holding you tight," she said, doing just that.
"Mmm safe and warm," Ryan sighed. "Theres no nicer place on earth."
"Feel the warmth of my skin, Ryan, and watch my chest rise and fall as I breathe. Im alive, and so are you." She kissed her lover again, then looked into her eyes as she said. "Every day we have is a gift. We saw how quickly our world can be turned upside down, but we cant let that stop us from cherishing the gift. I firmly believe well enjoy a very long life together, but even if thats true, we still dont have a day to waste! Lets do our damnedest to not let our fears keep us from exploiting the most precious gift the gift of life."
Ryan raised up a little, letting her focus more clearly on the strength and determination in her partners eyes. "Thats always been my philosophy," she said softly, looking puzzled. "Ive managed to lose track of that, somehow."
"You can get it back," Jamie said. "Its easy to learn, baby," she said. "After all, I learned it from you."
"You did?" Ryans face creased into a warm, child-like smile. "Really?"
"Of course. A couple of months after we met, you explained your philosophy of life, and it was so appealing that I started doing some reading on it. My grandfather and I talk about it all the time, Ryan. It it helped change my life."
"Remind me," she said softly, closing her eyes.
In a soothing tone, Jamie said, "Be in the moment. Experience life as its presented to you not how you want it to be. Open your senses and feel every sensation. Disengage your mind, and let your body rule."
Ryan closed her eyes and did her breathing exercises for a few minutes. Jamie lay beneath her, watching the stress lines start to fade from her face. Her chest rose and fell rhythmically, with each breath becoming fuller and easier. "I can do this," she said quietly. "I know I can do this."
"I know you can, too. I have nothing but confidence in you. And in us."
Giving her the crooked smile that always melted Jamies heart, the dark beauty whispered, "Especially us."
Tossing her arms around Ryans back, Jamie hugged her fiercely. "Come on, you big, powerful dom. Make me your woman."
"I cant make you mine," Ryan said. "You have to come willingly."
Raising a dark blonde eyebrow, the smaller woman said, "Sometimes you give me such a set-up that its too easy to bother with. Like shooting fish in a barrel."
"Such a clever girl," Ryan said. "I love clever girls."
"And I love you." Jamie kissed her gently, then lay back and waited for Ryan to begin.
She was a little hesitant at first, her touch not bearing its usual easy poise. But slowly, with Jamies steadfast encouragement, Ryan began to regain some of her normal confidence. "Thats it, baby," Jamie said. "Yes touch me just like that. Feel my body, let your body react to mine."
Time and again Ryan started to feel a faint tingling of dread creep into her consciousness, but each time she locked her eyes onto her partner, allowing Jamies fierce confidence in her to pull her back from the edge. They worked together, determined to dispel the darkness and let the light back into their hearts. Sharing everything, Ryan slowly felt her heart open wide, and soon Jamie was nestled deep inside, right where she belonged. Cradled next to her partners body, Ryan whispered, "I can feel you inside of me. Like youre part of me once again."
"I feel it, too," Jamie whispered. "God, Ive missed this. I need this, baby. I need you to make me whole."
"Ill never leave you again," Ryan said, a few tears slipping down her cheeks.
"Stay with me now," Jamie said, snapping her from her musings. "Stay right here, Ryan. Dont go away."
The dark head nodded, and Ryan bent to kiss her. As her tongue slipped into Jamies warm mouth, her fingers simultaneously slid inside of her, making her gasp. Kissing her gently, lovingly, possessively, Ryan whispered, "Im here, baby. Im here for you. Feel me deep inside of you." She dipped her head and rained kisses down on her partner, probing her mouth and her slick channel with the same determined intensity.
As though she were being swept away on a thunderous wave, Jamie let go and felt her entire body react to Ryans love. The climax that raced through her was nearly frightening so great was the release she felt, but Ryan was right there with her and for her. Grasping the dark beauty with every ounce of her strength, she let the larger womans sheer bulk anchor her to the earth, lest she float away on a cloud of pure sensation. Her body thrummed with pleasure, every nerve dancing with feeling. "Hold me," she whispered when she found her voice. "Never let me go."
"Such a nice thought," Ryan murmured, nuzzling her face into her lovers moist neck. "Holding you like this feeling this close for the rest of our lives."
Smiling lazily, Jamie started to stretch. "An impractical, but utterly delicious thought. Mmm my muscles were starting to cramp." Running her hand up Ryans arm, she asked, "I didnt bruise you, did I?"
"I wouldnt have noticed if youd broken my ribs," she said. "That would have been a small price to pay for being close to you."
"It was just like it used to be, wasnt it?" the blonde asked gently, a touch of wonder in her soft voice.
Ryan gazed at her for a moment and said, "I think it was better. Much better. Ive never felt so close to you, sweetheart."
"It feels so much more precious now, Ryan," she said. "Losing that intimate connection even though I knew it would come back, made things so much harder."
"I know, I know," Ryan said. "I felt like I was drowning, Jamie, and I just wasnt able to save myself." She kissed her gently and said, "You saved me."
"No, not me," she murmured. "It was our love. Thats whats pulled us through this, baby. Its a force greater than either of us, and it has the power to save. Our love is our lifeline, Ryan, and it will always lead us safely home."
(To be continued in Book 13 Monogamy)
As always, I thank my partner for the tremendous assistance she provides in helping me to write the series; and Day, The Wonder Woman for all of her efforts in beta reading and editing.
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