I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 12: Lifeline

By: S X Meagher



Part 4

"Ryan, if you don’t take your nose away from the window, you’ll break it if we have a bumpy landing." Jamie was peering at her partner from the seat behind Ryan’s, the narrow plane necessitating that they sit single file.

"Don’t you love tiny planes?" the dark-haired woman asked, her voice nearly giddy. "It’s like you’re really flying!"

"We are flying, love," Jamie gently said.

"No, no," Ryan said, trying to make her point understood. "It’s like you’re flying … rather than a plane flying you."

"I guess I can see your point," she said. "You do feel a lot more in one of these little guys."

"This is one thing I’d love to learn how to do," Ryan said, her excitement nearly bubbling over.

"We can’t afford it," Jamie said to the back of her head, uttering that phrase for the first time in their relationship.

"WHOA!" Ryan’s face was plastered against the glass as the plane made a steep, banked turn. But she wasn’t commenting on the turn … she was commenting on the beautiful island that had just come into view. "Oh, baby!"

"Looks pretty nice," Jamie said, peering out the window.

"I can’t see!" Mia said.

"Shoulda picked the right side of the plane," Ryan said. "You got first choice."

"You’ll see plenty when we land," Jordan said. "I won’t let you miss a thing."

"Who am I kidding? You’re the only thing I want to see," Mia turned and smiled at the slight blush that colored Jordan’s pale cheeks. "You’ve been inside so much you lost all of your tan. I hope you don’t burn this weekend."

"Not to worry. I generally don’t burn, but I brought a lot of sun block, just in case. You can put it on me," she said, her voice dropping to send a tingle down Mia’s spine.

After a few good bounces, the small plane finally skidded to a halt, and the excited tourists climbed down the stairs and into a very warm, salt-infused breeze. "Thank you, Jesus!" Ryan cried as soon as the tropical air hit her lungs.

"What are you crying about, Boomer?" Jordan asked. "I’ve been ass-deep in snow for a month!"

"True, but I’ve been ass-deep in reporters. I’ll take the snow any day."

"I think we’re safe here," Jamie said tentatively, looking around the small airport terminal. "I don’t see a news van or a satellite dish anywhere."

"Jamers, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again … you and your mother have the best ideas in the whole world!" As they walked out to hail a taxi, Ryan could feel some of the tension and stress she had been carrying begin to float away. She conjured up the mental image of letting the stress rise from her body and float up to the ceiling of the terminal, then turned and gave the ceiling a stern look, growling under her breath, "And stay there!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

"For such a short distance, we sure have been in a lot of vehicles!" Ryan said as they got into their third. The first phase of their trip was in a cab from the airport to the ferry. From there, the short ferry ride placed them on Harbor Island, and now they were in their last conveyance – a cab headed for their hotel.

"I haven’t been here before, so this is new to me, too," Jamie said.

"We’re gonna have a blast, aren’t we, Jordy?" Mia declared, smiling at her partner.

"Jordy?" Ryan asked, grinning wickedly. "Did you say Jordy?"

Mia pinched the pale cheek of her lover, beaming a smile at her. "Doesn’t she look like a Jordy?"

"She does indeed," Ryan said, always happy to have another weapon in her teasing arsenal. "She’s just a little Jordy-Poo."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Wow." Ryan was on her fourth tour of their two-bedroom cottage, and so far that was the only word that had come out of her mouth.

"Honey, you’ve wowed your way around the whole place. Is that all you’ve got to say?"

"Wow." The dark-haired woman walked out onto their teak deck, the wind off the ocean blowing her hair straight back off her forehead. She stood at the railing, the spa bubbling quietly next to her, and looked across the wide pink sand beach, into the crystal clear waters of the ocean.

When Jamie came up next to her, Ryan’s arm encircled her shoulders. "I have never been so happy to be anywhere in my life," she said, letting out a heavy sigh. As she filled her lungs with salt-air, her eyes grew wide and she hastily amended, "Except for Pebble Beach, of course."

"That’s a given," Jamie said, patting her side.

"I’ve never felt as stressed as I have this past week," Ryan said softly, her voice barely audible as it competed with the snapping of the fabric on the beach umbrellas on their private deck. "I hate to think of what would have happened if we’d had to go back home after that debacle in North Carolina. Knowing we were coming here was the only thing that got me through that last game."

"It’s just bad luck that this all happened during your season. Having to give those vultures the opportunity to get at you is just sickening."

"Yeah. Thank God you’re not playing your golf season now. You’d be shooting scores up in my range!"

"Well, we’re here now, and we’re not moving for three whole nights. And since you’ve had the harder time lately, you get to choose what we do. I’ll go along with anything … surfing, snorkeling, rock climbing, horseback riding, deep sea fishing, sailing, kayaking …"

Ryan placed her fingertips on her lips and said, "You … me … a tropical drink … two beach chairs … that’s it."

"That’s all you want to do for three days?" Jamie was certain that her partner was kidding. Ryan had an insatiable curiosity for places she had never been, and the smaller woman figured she would want to explore every inch of the small island.

"I would prefer to just stay on this deck, but I’m going to extend myself and go all the way down there," Ryan said, pointing to the ocean … not 500 yards away.

"You’re the boss. If you want to lie on a lounge chair for three days, I’m your woman."

* * * * * * * * * * *

They went into the cottage where Jordan and Mia were already lying on their bed, their bodies fully entwined. Ryan reached in to close their door, quietly saying, "We’re going to the beach. Enjoy!"

She smirked at her partner as she headed into their room. "Were we all over each other when we were first together?"

"Some observers would say we’re all over each other now. Is your memory that poor?"

"No. It just seems like we’ve been together forever, you know? Seeing people just starting out reminds me of how much we’ve grown in the last few months."

"Just over six months," Jamie said. "We’re gonna have to have a big celebration for our anniversary."

"Sounds good to me. A celebration with you always includes good food, a lot of kissing and a lot of bare skin. Who’s gonna argue?"

"Speaking of bare skin, here’s a little present I bought for you." Jamie tossed her partner two pieces of fabric, and Ryan caught them defensively when Jamie’s aim was a little high.

"A new suit?"

"Yeah. I thought you’d look cute in that color."

"It’s nice," Ryan said.

"It’s called raspberry. The top covers your tummy," she said. "I know you don’t burn much, but your cute little tummy hasn’t seen the sun since September, and I don’t want you to hurt your precious skin."

Ryan wrestled herself into the new suit and modeled for her partner. The tone on tone print -- in a color very reminiscent of the berry – becomingly flattered Ryan’s body. The camisole-style top sported a deep v-neckline and sturdy spaghetti straps, designed to stay up even while surfing. The bottoms, which the manufacturer called "surf riders," featured square cut legs with a one-inch inseam. The suit was made by a company that specialized in surfing gear for women, and Ryan decided that the ensemble would fill the bill very nicely.

"Those bottoms are for when you’re active, like surfing or snorkeling," Jamie informed her. "They’re long enough so they won’t ride up on you – since I know that’s your pet peeve."

"Indeed it is," Ryan said. "Bottoms that ride up are pure evil."

Jamie stuck her hand back into her suitcase and held out another pair of bottoms and dangled them in front of Ryan. "Can we play little dress-up games on the beach?" she asked tauntingly, a sexy smile affixed to her face.

"I suppose so," Ryan said. She held up the bottoms, her eyes widening when she saw how little fabric there was. "Oh my! Will you protect my virtue when I’m out in public in this?"

"I’ll protect yours if you’ll protect mine," Jamie said. She started to put her own new suit on, but was almost forced to stop by a very interested pair of hands.

"Oh, Jamie," Ryan moaned, "I’ve never seen so much of you put on display … I can’t guarantee that I won’t get into a fight with the first guy who leers at you."

"Do you like it?" the blonde asked. "That’s all that matters."

Ryan started to walk around her slowly, her head swiveling up and down to assess her partner’s look from every angle. The suit was also a print … at least Ryan assumed it was. There was so little of it that the pattern barely had space to repeat, but she assumed that it was, indeed, a pattern. The background was somewhere between melon and peach, and that contrasted beautifully with the second color--a sunny yellow.

Every time Ryan tried to walk around her partner, she had to stop as soon as she saw her from the back. Four thin bands of material were all that covered Jamie’s … assets. One band looped around her neck, and another mid-back, working together to hold up the top. A third came just above the swell of her cheeks, and the fourth bisected the lush mounds, making Ryan’s mouth begin to water. That was the full extent of coverage, and Ryan decided that from that day forward, all other clothing was really superfluous. If Jamie could wear this and not be arrested, why on earth would she ever choose to wear more?

Blinking slowly, Ryan finally made a complete circle, pausing to gaze at her from the front for a long time. The suit consisted of two tiny swatches of the print fabric, just barely covering her perky nipples and a portion of her breast, and another little triangle that made the suit vaguely decent.

"Honey, you honestly look like you’re gonna drool," the blonde said. "Do you like it that much, or have you had a stroke?"

"Both, I think," Ryan murmured, unable to keep her hands to herself. "Are you just trying to cut down on foreplay? ‘Cause ya have," she said. "I’m good to go."

"It’s a little early for that, because I have big plans for you for later tonight. You just slip into those tiny little bottoms, and we’ll have a nice afternoon … simmering in the sun."

"Oh, I’m simmering already," Ryan growled.

"Easy, Tiger," her partner said. "We’ve got a long day, and a longer night, ahead of us."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Jamie?" Ryan said as she batted her big blue eyes at her partner.

"Yes, love?"

"Will you go get me some more conch chowder?"

"Sure. There’s a waiter right over there. I’ll call him."

"No," she said, "I’d like it better if you went." She was trying to look innocent, but her act always backfired, making her look especially decadent.

"You just want to watch me walk over there, Ryan. I’m on to your tricks." She leaned over and kissed her partner lightly and said, "I love every one of them, too." She got up, giving Ryan an additional hip thrust for good measure, and walked back to the small carry-out restaurant that the hotel maintained right on the beach.

When she returned, Ryan thanked her profusely, her devilish grin unstoppable. The dark-haired woman ate her soup with profound pleasure, having decided that conch should be one of the four basic food groups. When she finished, she smiled over at Jamie and said, "One more plate of those chicken skewers with mango and ginger, and I’ll be satisfied."

"Ryan," Jamie’s uncharacteristically deep voice asked, "did you know that you wanted the chicken when you sent me for the soup?"

"Uh-huh." Big blue eyes danced merrily, giving the woman the appearance of a mischievous twelve-year-old.

"And you think that’s funny, don’t you?" Jamie asked sternly.

"No, it’s not funny," Ryan said. Now her blue eyes darkened, and she took on the appearance of a woman … a woman who had romance on her mind. Their chairs were touching along their lengths, and as Ryan spoke she leaned over so far that she was more on Jamie’s chaise than her own. "When you walk across that deep sand, you have to sway your hips more than usual. Watching your body move when you walk that way is one of the most erotic things I’ve ever seen. The first time you walked over there, it was all I could do to not slip my fingers into this tiny suit and bring myself off," she growled.

Jamie rolled onto her side, her face just inches from Ryan’s. She traced her features with a finger, smiling when Ryan’s eyes fluttered closed. "What about the second time?" she asked softly.

In response, Ryan grinned rakishly and averred, "I refuse to answer on the grounds that my answer might tend to incriminate me."

Jamie blinked and asked, "Ryan! You didn’t touch yourself in public!"

"No, I didn’t," she said. "But you made me so hot I almost had one of those rare spontaneous combustions."

"You are randy today," the blonde said. "Just the way I like you." She got up again and said, "Luckily, I love you enough to walk back and forth across this sand all afternoon if it pleases you."

"Ooo, it pleases me … Yes, indeed, it pleases me," Ryan said as she rolled onto her stomach and placed her head on her braced arms to watch the show.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie returned, her partner was just as she had left her, and her dark sunglasses could not hide the decided leer that had settled on her face. "I honestly don’t know if I like you better coming or going."

An impish smile flickered across the blonde’s features and she said, "I know I prefer to be coming …"

"When I’m through with you, you won’t know whether you’re coming or going," Ryan said, waggling eyebrows punctuating her point.

"Sit up and eat your snack," Jamie said. "You’re gonna need your strength."

Ryan propped up her chair and took a big cube of chicken into her mouth. "Boy, this is good!" she said, munching happily. "Can we move here? I think this place suits my personality perfectly."

"Try the drink I brought you," Jamie said. "It’s the local specialty."

Ryan shrugged and took a big sip, pausing reflectively while she let the liquid roll around in her mouth for a moment. "It’s like coconut, but it also tastes like milk. A lot of sweetness, but the gin cuts that pretty effectively." She smacked her lips together a few times and said, "I like it. A lot!"

"Then I guess we can move here," she said. "I got a soft drink called Switcher … It’s made locally, I think." She took a sip and smiled broadly as she said, "This is good, too. Try it."

Ryan did so, and decided that she liked it as well. She finished off her skewers quickly, and her coconut milk drink, then lowered her chair again and said, "I’m fed and watered. Time for my nap."

"You do have simple needs, don’t ya?"

"Yep. I just have four. I’m either hungry, horny, thirsty or sleepy. Cover those and you’ve solved the riddle of Ryan."

"You’re really not very complex," Jamie said, "but I think you’re a little more complex than that."

"Maybe just a little," Ryan said, "but it is time for my nap."

"Let me put some extra sun block on your paler parts," Jamie said. "I refuse to have those pink cheeks burned."

"But I’m lying on my tummy."

"Those aren’t the cheeks I meant," Jamie said. "You’re not used to having this pair of cheeks exposed."

"No, but I kinda like it," Ryan said. "One step closer to nudity … my ultimate goal."

Jamie sat on the edge of her chair, and started to rub the SPF 45 into Ryan’s soft skin. She performed the job rather clinically, but Ryan’s motor was running and she murmured, " ‘I’m horny’ is just about to overtake ‘I’m sleepy’."

"Behave!" Slathering some of the lotion on the small of her back and down her thighs, Jamie said, "We really will be up late. You need a good long nap."

"Okay," the dark woman grumbled, a tiny smile threatening to overtake her fake frown. "You know what?"


"I couldn’t be happier. Lying under a nice palm tree on a pink sand beach, with clear blue water lapping against the shore, my best girl by my side, our best friends … somewhere around here, my tummy full." She sighed and let out a satisfied purr. "Thanks so much for arranging for this." She sat up a little and said, "I’m not sure why, but I really feel like I’m on vacation."

"We are on vacation, silly," Jamie said.

"No, no," Ryan said. "I feel like I’m on vacation up here, too. I feel like I can turn off my movie for the first time since Thursday."

"Best news I’ve heard in days. Now close those baby blues and sleep for a good, long time. I’ll be right here beside you when you wake up."

" ‘Kay," she said, her voice already sleepy. Jamie lightly rubbed her back, watching her eyes as they stilled momentarily, and then began to dart about behind her lids.

That was quick, she said. Her tank was just about empty. Thank God we could get away for a few days. She needed this even more than she admits.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan stretched and twitched for a few minutes, trying to wake up slowly. Turning her head to the side she saw her partner, sound asleep, lying on her side. Oh, my, that’s a nice sight to wake to. The tiny top that barely covered Jamie’s breasts while she was sitting up did not do the trick when her partner lay on her side, and the dark pink edge of one adorable little nipple peeked out at Ryan. A nice woman would just lie here and wait for her to wake up, she said. Yeah, and who ever said you were a nice woman? Good point, she answered herself. Hmm … how best to wake her? There’s no ice left in her glass so that’s out … nothing around here but sand … Oh! What do we have here? A bamboo skewer … with a nice, sharp point. I can do all kinds of tricks with this.

She knew that Jamie was a tough one to wake in almost all circumstances, so she decided to indulge her desires and give that cute little nipple a poke to make it stand up and take notice. With a fiendish look on her face, she reached across the chair to take her first tentative tickle, not sure how much pressure she could apply while she entertained herself.

With reflexes faster than a cat, Jamie ripped the stick from her hand and broke it in half, all without the green eyes even blinking.

"What if that had been my finger?" Ryan gaped. "That crack would have been my bone!"

"That’s the risk you take when you mess me with, cowboy."

She couldn’t stop the grin from showing, and Ryan asked, "How long have you been awake, you little faker?"

"Just a few minutes. You still looked like you were out, so I closed my eyes again. You caught me in a rare moment of lucidity."

"Just my luck. I was all excited about torturing you for a good long while."

"You are such an adolescent boy some times," Jamie said, shaking her head at the silly grin her partner wore.

"You like my inner adolescent boy, and you know it," Ryan said. "Remember, behind every adolescent boy is a furious libido just waiting to get out."

"That randy libido can come out and play any old time it wants," Jamie said, meaning every word.

"Great name!" Ryan said. "I think I’ll keep that one."

"Okay," Jamie said. "If you ever become a porn star, your name will be Randy Libido." She cocked her head and said, "It fits!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

When they returned to the room, their roommates had emerged from their bedroom. Now they were ensconced in the spa, their mouths still attached to one another, their bodies completely bare. Glancing outside to the hot tub, Ryan commented dryly, "I don’t think we’re gonna see much of those two."

"I’m actually seeing a little more of them than I wish to see," Jamie said, rolling her eyes a bit.

Ryan shot her a look and said, "I’ll speak to them if it bothers you."

Jamie shook her head and said, "No, I’m joking. If they want to make love on the deck, it’s okay with me. I wanted them to come because I really think they need some time alone." She came over and pushed Ryan into a chair, climbing onto her lap and snuggling in. "Besides, when they’re busy, I don’t have to share you."

"Oh … feeling jealous?" Ryan rubbed her face into Jamie’s neck, delighting in the scent of her tanning lotion mixed with the tang of salt.

"Always. I want to hoard you like a precious metal." They kissed, softly and slowly, taking their time with each other … letting the emotion build at a glacial pace. The tender kisses went on and on, and soon Ryan lost track of where they were and the fact that their friends were just outside. She reached down and took Jamie’s hand, then placed it on her own breast and squeezed firmly, letting out a little grunt.

Vaguely becoming aware of a rustling sound and a flurry of motion in her peripheral vision, Ryan slowly came to her senses. "Do you two ever give it a rest?" Mia asked, her pink body wrapped in a towel.

Lifting her head just long enough to utter the word, "No," Ryan returned to her partner, continuing to nibble on her lips.

"Uhm … do you wanna have dinner together?" Mia continued hesitantly, unused to her friends playing intimately in her presence.

"Mmm," Ryan purred sexily, mumbling around Jamie’s mouth and tightening her embrace, not giving any indication of stopping her exploration.

"Uhm … okay. Uhm … talk to you later?" the curly-haired woman said, as she started for her bedroom.

Ryan started chuckling, and soon Jamie joined her, both of them laughing harder every time they looked at each other. "Mia, come back here. You have to forgive Ryan’s atrocious manners," she said. "She’s very bratty today."

"I’m not bratty," Ryan said. "I’m playful. Big difference."

"Okay, Ryan’s playful today. Whatever you call it, watch out."

"I like it when Ryan’s a little wild," Mia said. She was standing by the pair, and she ran her hand through Ryan’s messy hair, settling it a little. "You haven’t been very goofy in a while, Ryan," she said, her concern evident. "I hope you can relax down here."

"Doing my best, Mia. I had a nice lunch, a nice nap … even a nice coconut milk drink this afternoon. Just what the doctor ordered."

Jordan had slipped on some running shorts and a mesh tank top, and she came into the living room and sat on the sofa. She adopted one of her favorite poses, sitting with her feet pulled up on the cushion, the soles of them touching.

"I will never understand how you can get into that position," Ryan said.

"Yoga," she said. "I’ve been slacking off for a while, but I’m concentrating on it again now that I’m not in school. You should try it, Ryan. It’s great for your balance and posture."

"I think the last thing I need right now is another thing to do," Ryan said, "but I may look into it when the season’s over. I know a bit, and I was on the verge of really getting into it, but I uhm … lost my motivation."

"Was your motivation by any chance a yoga instructor?" Jamie asked, recognizing the look her partner had on her face.

"Yup. She was one flexible woman," Ryan said, grinning at the memory.

"Goodness, I have a lot to compete against," Jamie said. "Body builders, yoga instructors, what else don’t I know about?"

"You don’t have to compete with anyone," Ryan said. "You’ve won the contest … hands down."

"Awww … that’s so sweet," Jamie said. "You deserve a kiss for that."

As she leaned in to give her partner her reward, Mia advised, "Let us know about dinner … if you come up for air by then."

* * * * * * * * * * *

They came up for air quickly, and Jamie suggested a dip in the spa. Ryan was stripping as she walked, unconcerned as usual about her nudity. Jamie decided to shed her inhibitions as well, and given that her suit was nearly invisible, she didn’t have many to shed. It felt strangely decadent to be sitting on their private deck, the warm sun and even warmer water caressing their nude bodies.

"Yo, Jordan!" Ryan called toward the open door to their roommates’ bedroom.

"You rang?" The blonde head poked out of the room. Ryan was pleased to see that her friend was still clothed, and she didn’t look like she’d been in bed for a change.

"Could you go into the mini bar and get me a beer?"

"Sure. Jamie? One for you?"

"No. I’ll have some of Ryan’s."

Jordan went into the bar and called back out, "Kalik okay?"

"Sure. I love all things Bahamian," Ryan said.

"Mind if I join you?" Jordan asked, bearing two bottles.

"Please do," Ryan said. "Keep us company."

The dark-haired woman took a long swallow, then leaned her head back against the edge of the tub. "I swear I’m Bahamian at heart. I love everything about this place." She looked up at Jordan and asked, "Can’t you see me running a little surf shop down here? Surf early in the morning, work for a few hours, eat a little conch for lunch, work a little more, then go snorkeling for a bit … maybe a nice ride across the beach on my horse, play my steel drum while my baby makes dinner, have a couple of Kaliks while we watch the sun set." She gave her partner a devilish look and said, "Make love on the beach with the moonlight playing across Jamie’s body. What could be better?"

"I can see it," Jordan said. "I think it suits you."

They were all quiet for a while, thinking of how peaceful it all sounded. The realistic part of Ryan knew that it would never happen – that she could never be away from her family – but the fantasy was like a balm for her spirit, given the tumult of the previous week.

"So, tell us all about life at the training facility," Jamie asked. "I know you talk to Ryan on the phone, but she never tells me a thing." She playfully poked her partner in the ribs.

"Okay." Jordan leaned her head back and thought for a moment, then said, "It’s kinda like being in college, only you don’t have to go to class. They have dorms and a big cafeteria, and fabulous training facilities, but most of the women on the team don’t live in the dorms. It’s sort of a college atmosphere in the dorms, and they allow high school kids to stay there when they come to the facility for a short time. It’s not a very relaxing atmosphere."

"Sounds like it," Jamie said.

"As soon as I go back, I’m moving into an apartment with three of the players. I can live in the dorm for free, but I don’t think I’d be happy there long term. We practice so much that when I don’t have to be there I want some normalcy in my life."

"Tell Jamie how much you practice, Jordan," Ryan said. "She thinks I have a tough schedule."

"It depends on the day, but with skills drills, plyometrics, weight training, scrimmages and matches, we usually work around 8 hours a day – with weekends off, of course."

"8 hours a day! How can you do that? And what is a plyo … what?"

"Plyometrics," Jordan said. "That’s the training we do to make us jump and leap with more power. And yeah, 8 hours a day is a lot, but we usually only stick with one drill for an hour or so. There’s enough variety that you don’t mind it so much."

"Do you like it?" Jamie asked, having been unable to get a read on Jordan’s enthusiasm.

"Yeah, I like it well enough. I’ve been to a lot of intensive camps and training programs in my life, and this one is about the same. The quality of the athletes is better, of course, but other than that it’s about the same as all the rest. It’s a lot of work, some time to rest, and then you go to bed early." She shrugged her shoulders and said, "There’s really not much to report. I like the women well enough, but not many of them took the time to get to know the college women – since only a couple of us were going to hang around. I assume we’ll get to be friendlier as time passes."

"Do you go out and do anything?" Jamie asked.

"Mmm … not really. Making the team was all that mattered, Jamie, so we all worked our asses off. When we get back to Colorado, they’re supposed to have a big party at one of the local bars to celebrate the new team members. That should be fun."

"But you’re happy you made it, right?" Jamie asked, still not seeing much emotion.

"Oh, yeah," Jordan said, giving one of her full, warm smiles. "It’s been tremendously rewarding, Jamie. It’s a life-long dream come true. Not many people get to live their dreams."

"Not many people even have them," Jamie said. "Most people just muddle along and let life take them where it may."

"I’m not one of those people," Jordan said.

"No, I’d say not," Jamie said.

Mia came out, fresh from a shower, and she sat next to Jordan as the pair shared a beer. "Ryan wants to move here," Jordan said.

"I’m in," the smaller woman said. She looked up at her partner for a moment and asked, "Can you imagine how gorgeous this one would be after a few months down here? All of that tanned skin, with her hair just getting lighter and lighter. I’d never let you wear more than a bikini top and a sarong."

Jordan looked at Mia with a fond expression and said, "Oh, you wouldn’t, would you?"

"Nope. Just a sarong, worn really, really low on your hips. Of course, some part of me would be under that sarong most of the time," she said. "You wouldn’t have a moment’s peace."

"I don’t need a moment’s peace," Jordan said quietly, looking like she was about to cry. "I just need you."

Jamie shot Ryan a look, and they decided to give their friends a little alone time. They got out of the spa quietly, sparing a quick glance at Mia, who looked like she was on the verge of revealing her feelings for the tall woman. It was all Jamie could do not to say, "Go for it, girl!" but she just took Ryan’s hand, and went back into the cottage to shower and get ready for dinner.

As soon as they were gone, Jordan took Mia by the hand and lay down on one of the chaises, cuddling the smaller woman tightly against her body. "It just hit me that I probably won’t have any time off until the end of September," she said, her voice quavering with emotion. "I can’t stand to think of not seeing you for that long, Mia. The team doesn’t pay me much, but I can get some modeling jobs to get some extra cash. Will you come see me if I pay for your ticket?" she asked, her eyes filled with a mixture of hope and despair.

"Of course I’ll come see you," Mia said. "How could you even ask that?" She kissed her softly, spending a moment experiencing the incredible softness of the full, warm lips. "You don’t have to pay for me to come see you, Jordan. I get a very decent allowance. I just don’t always manage it well. But I’ll save every penny if I get to see you in the bargain."

"You are so good to me," Jordan sighed, looking into Mia’s warm brown eyes with wonder.

"You deserve to be treated well, Jordan. You’re a very special woman."

"When I’m with you I feel special," she said softly, a faint blush coloring her cheeks. Jordan’s eyes fluttered closed as she whispered, "I … I love … I love … how you treat me, Mia." Her whole body was shaking, and Mia held her close, wishing she could get her hands on Jordan’s parents and kick their butts for making this wonderful woman feel like she deserved so little.

"I care for you, Jordan. I care very, very much," she said, rocking her slowly as she held her close and placed a wealth of delicate kisses on her brow.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Honey," Jamie said as Ryan was getting out of the shower. "Mia and I are going to walk down to the liquor store."

"Let me go too," she said. "I’ll just be a sec."

"No, you stay here and dry your hair. We’ll be right back."

"I don’t dry my hair in the tropics," Ryan sniffed. "I’m free and wild down here." She tossed her dark head, hitting her partner with a scattering of water droplets.

Giving her partner a silly grin, Jamie said, "Okay … then, how about I tell the truth? I want to spend a few minutes with Mia alone. She looks a little upset."

"Coulda started there," Ryan said. "Saved me from speaking a few needless sentences."

"You relax with Jordan for a bit. I’m sure she’s got some things on her mind, too."

"Sensitive chat time, huh?"

"Not sure," Jamie said. "I just feel like something’s up."

"You’re rarely wrong, hon. You two be careful, okay? You have a propensity for getting into trouble."

Jamie gave her a smile and said, "Look who’s talking. Trouble is your middle name."

Ryan had finished drying off and was looking around for something to put on. Jamie handed her one of the terry cloth robes the hotel provided, and as she shrugged into it she said, "I don’t know why that’s true. Especially when my personal motto is, ‘Is fear rith maith ná drochsheasamh’."

"Which means?" Jamie asked, cocking her head a little.

"A good run is better than a bad stand," Ryan said, adding a rakish wink.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ryan sat on the deck, her long legs propped up on the railing. The sun had just set, and as she watched the small waves breaking on the shore she allowed herself to enjoy the deep sense of tranquility that enveloped her.

Jordan came out and sat next to her, reaching over to grasp her dangling hand. The blonde brought it to her lips and kissed the knuckles, smiling at Ryan when she lazily turned in her direction. "Thanks so much for this, Boom. It’s gonna be a long nine months, and being able to remember this weekend will get me through some lonely nights."

"I’m glad you’re both here," Ryan said. "It wouldn’t seem like New Year’s without our friends here with us."

"This is slightly preferable to last year," the blonde said. "I went on a blind date with some guy who got stinking drunk and grabbed me so many times that I actually had bruises. He was one of those tonsil ticklers, too." She shivered from the memory and said, "I think that was my last date until Mia."

Ryan gave her a smile and said, "Mine wasn’t bad, but I had a few bruises myself." She shook her head as she recalled, "Thanks to Jamie’s urgings, I’d finally decided to find a steady girlfriend."

"Jamie’s urgings?"

"Yep. I’m not sure what her real motivation was … she probably doesn’t know either … but she thought I would be happier if I let someone get close." She gave Jordan a smile and said, "I am happier, by the way, so I can’t fault her reasoning."

"Who was the woman?" Jordan asked.

"A woman from school. Nice person … met her in the same psych class where I met Jamie. Anyway, I decided to do things differently with her and not sleep with her until I knew her well. She was generally cool with that, but she got a little drunk on New Year’s Eve, and she tried her best to get me to give it up." She shook her head in memory and related, "I was close … but I kept thinking of Jamie, and that she would be disappointed in me if I didn’t follow through like I said I would." Glancing at Jordan she said, "I think both Jamie and I knew there was something going on between us, but we just couldn’t admit it. I think that’s why I didn’t sleep with my date that night. She just wasn’t Jamie."

Jordan nodded somberly and slowly tilted her head back until she was gazing up at the faint stars, barely visible against the pale blue background of the sky. "Speaking of admitting something, I almost told Mia I loved her this afternoon."

"You know," Ryan said, "I don’t know why, but it seemed like you were both headed there. That’s why we left. It seemed like there was a lot of emotion whirling around out here."

"Yeah, there was," she said. "I lost my nerve right in the middle of it, of course. I told her I love … how she treats me."

"Ouch," Ryan said, wincing. "Well, look at the bright side … you can always do it later. Some poor woman told me that she loved me once. I gave her this totally stupid look and said, "That’s nice." She slapped herself in the head and grumbled, "Think I was stuck on myself enough?"

"Aw … don’t be so hard on yourself. What else can you say when someone tosses that at you when you’re not ready for it?"

"Is that what you’re worried about, Jordan? Are you afraid Mia doesn’t feel the same?"

The blonde hair brushed against Jordan’s shoulders as she shook her head. "No, not any more. I mean … she talks about us like we’re a couple, Ryan. Did you hear her talking about living down here? I think she really wants us to be together for a long time … I think she does love me, Ryan."

She said this with so much regret in her voice that Ryan was completely puzzled. "Is that a bad thing?" she asked.

"No, no, it’s a good thing. It’s a very good thing … but only in some ways." She looked up at Ryan and said, "What do I do, Ryan? I can’t have her just hang around and wait for me to quit playing my little game. I’m gonna be all over the world this year … we play in Asia, and Europe and South America. That’s not the way to start a relationship, Ryan. I just don’t know that it’s fair to her."

"You have to let her determine what’s fair for her, Jordan. She’s a big girl, and she can make her own decisions. Be honest with her and let her decide … You owe her that much."

She nodded, acknowledging that Ryan had a point. "I’ll see if the time is right. I’m thinking about asking her to stay in Florida for a few days to watch our tournament. Would she have any trouble switching her tickets?"

"No, they’re fully refundable. She can change them as many times as she wants."

"Maybe I’ll talk to her at the end of the tournament and see if she thinks we should commit to each other. Then she’ll know what it’s like to be around the team, and if she can see herself fitting in."

"She’s not trying out for the team, Jordan. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t like the other women."

"Well, in a way it does, Ryan. I’m gonna share an apartment with three of them. It would be a long year if Mia hated ‘em."

"Are they nice women?"

She shrugged and said, "Two are. They’re a couple, so they’re gonna share a room – which will give me a single. But the other woman is kinda … oh, I don’t know. She seems to have a thing for me … makes me a little uncomfortable."

"You don’t have a lot of experience with this yet, pal. You’ll figure out how to say no without being rude."

"Yeah, I know. Hey!" she said. "If I bring Mia to Florida that will give my teammate the message."

"Her and everyone else you encounter," Ryan said.

Jordan blinked at her and said, "I don’t know why I was so freaked about anyone finding out about me. The whole team is totally cool with the lesbians, and the coaching staff is as well. I’m gonna poke my head out of the closet and see how the world looks."

"I think you’ll like the view," Ryan said. "Just make sure that Mia wants her head poked out as well."

Jordan rolled her eyes and said, "If it’s not one thing, it’s another! Damn, sometimes I envy straight people. All they have to work on is the relationship. They don’t have to spend time worrying about what society will think of them."

"Yeah, but they don’t get to have a parade," Ryan said, her eyes crinkling up in a grin.

"Well, that makes it all even out," Jordan said, slapping Ryan playfully.

They relaxed for a few more minutes, just listening to the distant sound of the waves hitting the shore. Jordan reached over, and placed a hand on Ryan’s shoulder and asked, "It’s been over a week now, buddy, how are you?"

"Really?" Ryan asked. "Sure you want to know?"

"Of course!" Jordan said. "Damn, Ryan, I’ve shown you the darkest corners of my psyche. Of course I want to hear how you’re dealing with this. That’s what friends are for."

"You’re right," she said. She spent a moment thinking of her current emotional state, then said, "It’s a little hard to describe … the only way I can think of it is in terms of weather."


"Yeah. It feels like it’s one of those nice, warm, breezy days in the middle of summer. It looks just perfect out, but there’s something – some indefinable feeling – that gives you the sense that things aren’t what they seem. Without warning, the weather changes dramatically, and you get a horrible thunderstorm – with rain, and hail and maybe even a tornado. In retrospect, you knew something bad was going to happen, but you just couldn’t put your finger on it." She shrugged her shoulders and said, "That’s how I feel. I know something bad, and dark and devastating is right under the surface – but I’m in this wonderful place with the woman I love, and our best friends. I’m trying my best to really enjoy this – but it’s hard to relax, because I know it won’t last long." She shivered from head to toe and added, "It’s hard for me to talk about this. Can we stop?"

Jordan got out of her chair, and crouched down in front of her friend. "Sure, we don’t have to talk about it. But if you change your mind, I’m never more than a phone call away. I’ve been through some tough times, too, Ryan, and I want to help you through this if I can."

Leaning forward, Ryan kissed the silky blonde hair and said, "Thanks. I know you’ll be there for me. I’m just trying to keep a lid on for a few days, buddy. I’m trying to hold reality off for as long as possible."

Jordan wasn’t at all sure that was the best idea, but she knew that Ryan wasn’t easily dissuaded when her mind was made up, so she just gave her a hug and stood up. "Another beer?" she asked.

"Yeah. I’d love one," she said, giving her friend as relaxed a smile as she could fashion.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Walking down the shop-filled streets of Eleuthra, Mia patted her friend’s shoulder and asked, "How are things, babe? You both seem remarkably sane, given what you’ve been through in the last week."

"I’m afraid that ‘seem’ is the operative word," Jamie said. "We’re both really shaky, Ryan more so than I am."

"She doesn’t seem shaky. Is she good at hiding things like that?"

"Yeah, she is," Jamie said. "She seems to think that she can just stuff her feelings down, and they’ll eventually go away. She’s balking at going to therapy with me, which scares me. I’m afraid it’s really going to be a struggle."

"Is she antagonistic to therapy?"

"No, she’s very supportive of my being in therapy, and she’s benefited from it herself when she was younger."

"Why the change?" Mia asked. "If it helped her before, it seems kinda odd that she’s resisting now."

"I can only assume that she’s never been this frightened and this angry," Jamie said. "I think the intensity of her feelings really scares her. In the past, she’s mostly been dealing with grief – this is so much more than that. She’s angry, she’s frightened, she feels guilty about contributing to that guy’s death … It’s so much for her to deal with."

"If you ever want to talk about it, you’ll let me know, right, James?"

"You’re first on my list, Mia. Well, the emergency number for my therapist is technically first – but you’re the first one that I call when I’m not on the clock!"

"I don’t mind being second to a professional," Mia said. "I just want you to remember that both of you were involved, hon. This isn’t all about Ryan, you know."

"I know, Mia," Jamie said. "I have my issues, too. It’s just easier for me to focus on Ryan right now. As soon as we get back, I’m going to be sitting on Anna’s doorstep when she arrives every morning. She’ll yank me out of focusing on Ryan," she said.

They walked along, looking into shop windows, and Mia pulled to a stop in front of an elegant jewelry store. Wistfully, she asked, "Do lesbians get engaged?"

"Uhm … I guess so," Jamie said. "I mean, I’ve never known any who have, but I don’t see why you couldn’t." She tucked an arm around Mia’s waist and said, "You’re really hooked, aren’t ya?"

"Oh, God, it’s awful! I desperately want to quit school and go back to Colorado with her." Looking at the rings, she said, "I used to pass by jewelry stores and pick out the ring that I thought would look best on me. Now I try to find the one that would show off those long, elegant fingers." She gave Jamie a racy grin and asked, "Have you ever looked at her hands? I swear, she has the longest fingers I’ve ever seen!"

"Is that a good thing?" Jamie asked.

"Now that I’ve taught her how to use them, it is," Mia said, giggling. She took Jamie’s hand and they started to walk again. "I’ve got to tell her how I feel, James. It’s just not fair to hold it in any longer."

"You’ll do it as soon as you think the time is right," Jamie said. "Be honest with her, honey. That’s always the best option."

"But I have so much training in deceit," the curly haired brunette said. "I’m ill prepared for this honesty stuff."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"I had a feeling that you couldn’t resist a little shopping," Ryan said as she watched her partner and Mia struggle up to the cottage.

"They had the coolest stuff!" Mia said. "I’m gonna dress my sweetie like a Bahamian princess!"

"I’m game," Jordan said as she stood to help her friends bring their loot in. "I’m a little bummed I didn’t get to go with you, though, I love to shop."

"You are the perfect woman," Mia sighed, standing on her tiptoes to offer a kiss. "Gorgeous, sexy, fun-loving, athletic … and you like to shop. It’s like being with a gay man!"

"A gay man has one asset I lack," Jordan said playfully.

"Not really," Mia said. "He might have one, but I couldn’t make it work right, so why bother? Besides," she said, flicking a finger across Jordan’s breast, "You have two assets that a guy doesn’t have, and I’ve discovered that I’m remarkably fond of them."

Jamie said, "You know, this is Ryan’s one weakness. She dislikes shopping so much, it’s almost like being with a guy – a straight guy, that is."

"Hey! I resent that!" the dark beauty cried.

"Do you dispute it?" Jamie asked.

"No, but I still resent it," she said. "You know I’ll shop with you if you ask me to."

Jamie rolled her eyes at her friends and said, "She just doesn’t get it. Shopping is no fun if your companion accompanies you just because you ask her to." She shook her head regretfully, and said, "She just doesn’t have the gene."

"Let me show you what I got for you," Mia said to Jordan, her excitement building. "You’re gonna look soooooo sexy."

"Just put it on, guys. Take it off each other later," Ryan said. "I want to have dinner soon."

"We’ll be ready in a flash," Mia said. "Where are we going?"

"Dinner is included with the room," Jamie advised. "Do you want to go to the restaurant, or have dinner delivered here?" She shot Ryan a look and said, "I already know your vote."

"Here’s fine with me," Jordan said. "We can turn on the radio and dance on our deck."

"That works for me," Mia said.

"I’m surrounded by agoraphobics," Jamie said, but she dutifully went to phone in their order.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Are you in a blue mood, a red mood, or a pink mood?" Jamie asked when they reached their room.

"I’m not in any particular mood," Ryan said. "You may dress me up like your little doll."

"Okay," Jamie said, a happy smile on her face. "I think I’ll dress you in the outfit I brought for you from home."

"You brought me something from home?"

"Yeah. I got a few things when I bought your new suit. I knew you hadn’t packed hardly anything, and I was not going to have you wearing your warm-ups all weekend."

"So, let me see what I’m wearing," Ryan said, as she doffed her robe. "What kind of underwear do I need?"

"None," Jamie said, batting her eyes. "I’ve taken care of everything."

She handed Ryan a pair of satin panties in a pure white. "Ooo, a thong," Ryan said. Stepping into the panties, she slid them up her powerful thighs and smoothed them into place, adding a sexy hip shake to keep her partner interested.

Smacking her dry lips together, Jamie handed her a long strip of dark blue and white print fabric. Ryan accepted it and gazed at her partner in question. "It’s a bandeau top. Let me help you put it on." Ryan smiled at her, and stole a few kisses as Jamie urged her to bend over so she could more easily reach her. She slipped the material around Ryan’s back and cradled her breasts into the fabric, then she tied the ends together, a neat little knot nestling between Ryan’s full breasts. "Stand up, and let me make sure you’re covered." Ryan did so, and Jamie fussed with the fabric for a moment until she was satisfied with the look. "Perfect," she said, bending to place a gentle kiss on each breast.

"Do I get more, or am I finished?" Ryan said.

"I’ve got a little more for you," Jamie said. She handed her a pair of slacks–unstructured, with a drawstring waist. The casual nature of the slacks was offset by the luxurious fabric -- a pure silk, white as the moon.

"These are gorgeous," Ryan murmured, stepping into them. Jamie adjusted them so they hung down low, just past her navel, which the smaller woman tickled for good measure.

"One more tiny item," Jamie said, handing Ryan a blouse made out of the finest, most translucent fabric she had ever seen.

"What is this?" Ryan gaped, holding the fabric up to the light.

"It’s gossamer," she replied. Jamie settled it on her shoulders, then buttoned the two buttons and tied the tail off just under Ryan’s breasts. She stood back to take her partner in, but decided that she needed to see her under the moonlight. Taking her by the hand, they walked through the open doors of their room and stood on the deck, the brilliant light of the moon shining down on them. "You are an absolute vision of beauty," the smaller woman murmured, her eyes unable to stop raking up and down her partner’s body.

"I feel beautiful when I see how your eyes sparkle when you look at me," Ryan said softly, her blush visible even in the moonlight. "Not many people have made me feel beautiful. It’s a very nice feeling." She bent and kissed Jamie softly, letting her emotion spill out through the kiss. "Now let me revel in your beauty," she whispered.

Smiling up at her, Jamie took her hand and went back into their room. "One more thing," the smaller woman said. She took out a thin band of the blue and white print and tied it around Ryan’s hair as a headband, keeping the untamed, slightly wavy locks back from her face. "Okay, you can go outside now," she said.

"I don’t get to watch you get dressed?"

"Nope. Go make us a drink. I bought everything to make your favorite new concoction."

"All right," Ryan grumbled, her shoulders drooping a little in disappointment.

Jamie patted her on the butt and chided, "Don’t pout, now. I like to fuss a little, and that’s hard to do when you watch me."

"Well, given that I always enjoy the finished product, I guess I shouldn’t complain."

"That’s the spirit. Now scoot."

Ryan walked into the living room and started to concentrate on re-creating the rich local drink, throwing out her first three attempts. Tasting her fourth try she mused, Hmm … a little more coconut water and I’m there.

A pair of warm arms encircled her waist and she lost track of what she had been doing as her body reacted automatically, her hips unconsciously swaying against her partner. Placing her drink on the bar, she turned in Jamie’s embrace and immediately let out a low whistle. "Good God," she whispered. "Are you sure I didn’t die when I fell on the court in North Carolina? There’s no way that a creature as beautiful as you are can be a mere human."

"I bet you say that to all the angels," Jamie said, leaning back in her embrace to regard her lovingly.

"No, I don’t," Ryan said. "I’m a one woman woman … here in heaven as well as on earth."

"Is that true, Ryan?" Jamie asked softly. "Would you choose me over every other person on earth as well as in heaven?"

"In this world … in the next. No matter what form we’re in … if it’s possible to be with you for all eternity, that is my choice. You’re the only woman in my life," the dark-haired beauty whispered. "Forever and ever."

"I love you, Ryan." She stood tall and let her partner come to her. Their lips met gently, just tasting each other for a few moments, knowing they had plenty of time to savor each other later in the evening.

Ryan pulled back a little and murmured, "I haven’t had a chance to fully appreciate your dress. Will you model for me?"

"Sure." Giving her partner a sexy grin, Jamie stepped back and did a slow turn, twitching her hips a little as she did so. Ryan took in the grass-green and sunny yellow print, marveling at the fine, intricate pattern of the material. The dress was sleeveless and nearly backless, obviously held up by some temporary suspension of the laws of nature. The bodice fit like a second skin, and then the dress flared just enough to allow Jamie to move freely. It was short … just about the perfect length in Ryan’s educated opinion…with a slit in the back that allowed the cool blue eyes to get an occasional glimpse of creamy white thigh.

"That is the perfect dress," Ryan said. "I don’t know how you do it, but you’ve once again managed to highlight every one of your many glorious assets. Just spectacular, Jamie."

"Aren’t you glad one of us likes to shop?" she asked rhetorically as she took her partner’s hand and led her onto the deck.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jordan and Mia had just emerged from their room at the opposite end of the cottage. Their outfits were tailor made for each woman’s individual style, highlighting her distinctive coloring. Jordan wore a sky blue bandeau top covered with a print of bright white hibiscus flowers. A low-slung sarong hung on her hips, the fabric the mirror opposite of her top – pure white with sky blue hibiscus dotting it.

Mia wore something she described as a pareo dress. A long swath of fabric draped over one shoulder, then covered her chest and wrapped around her waist, covering everything required and not much more. The background was a deep tan, almost the color of café con leche, with a bright white over-print.

"Very nice, girls," Ryan said, enormously glad they had decided to stay in. There were a large number of single men on the island – mostly college guys from the States–in Eleuthra for a little warm-water surfing. She knew that they’d be fending guys off all night, given their alluring styles of dress – and the last thing she wanted was any more stress.

"Who knew such a beautiful woman lurked under those big T-shirts and jeans?" Jordan said, drawing a slight flush from her tall friend.

"I might surprise you, but surely Jamie doesn’t," Ryan said, trying to get the spotlight off herself. "She’s gorgeous in everything she wears."

"This is true," Jordan said. "You look fabulous, Jamie," she said, her eyes reflecting the sincerity of her compliment.

They heard a sharp knock on the front door, and Jamie went to answer. Two young men delivered four trays, with a cornucopia of delectable scents bursting from beneath their metal coverings. They efficiently set the outdoor table with linen, then arranged the meals, adding a bottle of wine in a chilled bucket. Jamie signed for the meal, then said, "Oops! We forgot to set the candles out, Mia!" She ran into their room and brought out eight large candles, each covered with a hurricane-style glass cover.

She and Mia arranged them along the deck railing and got them all lit. The candles provided a warm glow to the table, and a flattering golden blush to their faces.

The restaurant featured four different entrees, and Jamie had ordered one of each. They looked at the choices, and each woman gravitated to the one that most appealed to her, luckily, each drawn to a different one. "I thought you’d pick the tenderloin of beef," Jamie said to her partner.

"Do they raise cattle in the Bahamas?" Ryan asked, continuing her quest for all things authentic.

"No, dear, they do not," Jamie said.

"Then it is not for me," she said, planting herself in front of the mahi-mahi.

Given the contented look on Ryan’s face, Jamie decided it was not the time to tell her that mahi-mahi was a Hawaiian fish.

The food tasted even better than it looked, which was tough to accomplish. "What is the name of this soup again?" Ryan asked, looking like she was going to eat the bowl.

"That’s a tiger shrimp bisque with a dash of cognac," Jamie said. "You seem a little fond of it," she added.

"I knew I loved soup, but between this and that conch chowder, I honestly think I could live on it."

"Try mine," Jamie said. Ryan took a sip and rolled her eyes in pleasure. "Leek and potato with a little smoked mahi-mahi."

Ryan batted her eyes and begged, "Can you make that at home, honey? I’ll love you forever."

"Sure. I think I could get close to it," she said.

"I miss our dinners," Jordan sighed. "Wasn’t it nice to come home from volleyball practice and have Jamie and Mia waiting for us, dinner just about on the table? That’s the most normal family dining experience I’d ever had," the blonde murmured.

Mia reached over and grasped her hand, saying, "We’ll have that again, I promise you."

Jordan blinked at her, her eyes growing wide as she let the dream settle in her brain. Her eyes fluttered closed as she said, "Thanks, Mia, that means a lot. It’ll give me something to look forward to."

"Yeah, and while Jordan’s perfecting her volleyball skills, you can perfect your cooking skills," Ryan said.

Mia smiled sweetly and said, "I was promising that one day we’d live with you two again. Don’t get carried away, Boomer."

"I misspoke," Ryan said, giving Mia a fond glance. "We’d love to have both of our dependents back."

* * * * * * * * * * *

When they finally finished their leisurely meal, they covered the demolished platters with the metal domes as Jordan went in to find some acceptable music. She tuned to a local station that featured a slow, sexy reggae beat, hoping that the song wasn’t an anomaly, then stayed in front of the stereo for a few minutes, pleased when the next song carried the same theme. The announcer, in his clipped, British-accented English, proclaimed that it was a night for love … and Jordan knew she had found the correct station.

"Nice choice," Ryan said when she came back onto the deck.

Jamie approached, extending her arms towards her partner, who immediately wrapped her in a light embrace as they began to sway to the music. Jordan and Mia did the same, and within a few minutes each couple felt like they were all alone on their deserted island of peace.

"I will never be able to thank your mother enough for suggesting this, and making it happen," Ryan murmured.

"I hope she’s having a good time," the smaller woman said. "I worry about her being in Italy all alone."

"I don’t think she’s alone," Ryan said.

"Ryan," Jamie said, looking directly into her eyes, "what would make you feel more lonely? Being alone, or being here in the Bahamas while I was here with my husband? Even if I could spare several afternoons to be with you and make love, wouldn’t you feel completely alone?"

Ryan nodded slowly, forced to look at the reality of Catherine’s situation. "I don’t like to think about it," she admitted quietly. "I try to convince myself that she has this set up the way she wants it." She shook her head as she acknowledged, "Nobody really wants it that way, do they?"

"Giacomo might," Jamie said, "but he’d probably rather have someone that satisfied him completely, too."

"She can have that," Ryan said. "She just has to decide that she won’t settle for less."

"She’s settled for so long that I think it’s second nature to her now," Jamie said. "I hope it’s not too late for her to wake up and demand more."

"It’s not," Ryan said, her eyes showing her confidence. "We’ll help her get her self-esteem back. That’s all she needs … a view of herself like we see her."

"I love that you say ‘we’," Jamie whispered. "It makes me feel so good to know that you love her, too."

"I do," Ryan said. "I love her, and I want the best for her. We just have to support her until she wants the best for herself. She’ll get there; I know it in my heart."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"May I?" Mia asked after tapping Jamie on the shoulder.

"Sure," Jamie said. "May I dance with your girlfriend?"

"Yep. Don’t wear her out though, I’ve got big plans for her," she said.

"Like I don’t?" Jamie asked. She placed Ryan’s hand in Mia’s significantly smaller one, and patted them both on the back.

Mia placed her arms around Ryan’s bare waist and leaned in close. "I’m so glad we’re here with you," the smaller woman said.

"It is idyllic," Ryan said.

"No, even though the place is wonderful, I’m talking about how nice it is to be with you and Jamie." They swayed to the music for a few minutes, just relishing the warm, salt-tinged air. "You know, I was afraid she was never going to get the love she deserved, Ryan." Her big brown eyes looked up at the tall woman and she said, "She has it with you."

"That’s nice of you to say," Ryan said, giving her a squeeze. "I feel the same about the place you hold in Jordan’s life, you know. You’re just the woman I would have picked for her."

"Really?" Mia’s face was lit up by a wide grin as she looked up at her friend.

"Yes, really. You bring out all of her hidden attributes, Mia. She’s not just a competitive jock when she’s with you. She’s vulnerable and open, and she really risks. That’s very hard for her to do – but you make her feel safe."

"Thank, Ryan," she said softly. "I care for her a lot."

"It shows, Mia. You treat her like you care."

"You know," the curly-haired brunette said, "I knew you looked marvelous, but I didn’t notice how beautiful those pants were. Are they silk?"

"Yeah, I think so," Ryan said.

"They feel wonderful," Mia said. "The fabric is exquisite."

"Uhm … could you feel the fabric somewhere other than my ass cheeks?"

"Oh, Ryan, you’re such a prude," the smaller woman said, giggling as she slipped her hands up to rest on her waist.

Ryan blinked at her, shaking her head as she laughed, "You’re the first person in my entire life to call me that!" She leaned over and kissed the smaller woman gently, just brushing her lips against Mia’s. "You’re definitely gonna keep old Jordan busy."

"That’s my goal," Mia said. "By the time she gets bored with me, we’ll be ready for the retirement home."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"It’s nearly eleven o’clock," Jamie whispered into her partner’s ear after they had been dancing for hours.

"Mmm-hmm," Ryan replied, not seeing what the time had to do with anything.

"How about going for a walk on the beach? I’d love to see the New Year in walking along the surf with you."

"Sounds good," Ryan said. "Course, staying right here and dancing sounds awfully good, too."

"I have never seen you so laid back," the smaller woman said. "You’re practically inert!"

"Yep. When we move here and I open my surf shop, you’ll barely recognize me."

"Come on, lazy bones. I want to be all alone with you at midnight."

"Should we bring a glass of wine or something to toast with?" Ryan asked.

"Nah. I only need your sweet lips."

"You’ve got ‘em."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 5

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