I Found My Heart In San Francisco

Book 13 Monogamy

By: S X Meagher


Part 1

The first faint hint of dawn crept into the slightly chilled room, and with it, a bright blue eye cracked open, shifting around to orient the fuzzy mind of the owner. The eye closed; having recognized the approaching dawn, its task was complete.

The tall, lean woman was lying on her left side, and a substantial weight was pressed heavily against her back. Her right leg was drawn up towards her chest, and another leg was plastered to her own, mirroring her pose. She could feel skin, and a tuft of springy curls tickled her ass when she twitched it slightly, so she knew she was bare from the waist down.

A warm hand gently held her breast, and she could feel her heart beat against the soft skin of her lover’s palm.

Her ears got into the game then, picking up the slow, steady sound of Jamie’s breathing. Judging by the volume, she guessed that her partner shared her pillow, one of the blonde’s favorite morning habits.

Then her nose performed its duties, and her mouth twitched into a slow smile when she filled her lungs with the lingering musk of their lovemaking. That was clearly not a dream, she told herself, immensely pleased by the confirmation.

Only one sense remained, and for unassailable proof of the previous evening’s activities, she held her hand under her nose, then licked the tips of her fingers, grinning broadly when she tasted the unmistakable essence of her partner. "Nice," she purred, not even realizing she had said the word aloud.

"What’s nice?" a soft, raspy voice whispered into her ear.

"Waking up like this," Ryan sighed. "Feeling so close to you … feeling so well loved … having you hold me like this … It’s incredibly nice." She shifted out of Jamie’s hold and lay on her back, snaking an arm around her partner. "Thank you," she whispered.

The blonde woman placed a kiss on her chest, then nuzzled her slightly cold nose against the warm skin. "You’re welcome. The pleasure was equally mine."

"I guess that’s true, isn’t it?" Ryan dipped her head and gently kissed the pink lips, tasting herself on her partner. "You had me in every way imaginable."

"Huh-uh," the blonde said. "I’ve concocted lots more ways in my little head to have you."

"I eagerly anticipate being on the receiving end of that quest."

There was a slight pause, then Jamie hesitantly asked, "Uhm … really?"

"Really." Ryan hugged her tightly and said, "You helped me break through my fears last night, sweetheart. I think we’re gonna be fine."

"Hey, now," Jamie began, soothingly stroking her partner’s belly as she spoke. "Don’t push yourself too hard. If we have trouble again, or if you need to go slow or change anything that we do, it’s okay with me …"

Mid-statement, a pair of warm lips cut off her words. After kissing her thoroughly, Ryan said, "I don’t need to go slow. We’ve got a lot of time to make up for." She hugged her again and said, "This is like falling off a horse. The best cure for your fears is to get on her back and ride her."

"With pleasure." Pulling Ryan’s arm from around her neck, Jamie rolled her over and sat astride her ass, hips thrusting lasciviously. "I’ll ride you all day."

"Ya gotta love a woman who takes you literally," the brunette purred, not caring if her riding lesson made her miss an entire day of school.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie only had time for a quick ride, and she scampered out of bed just minutes after her usual wake-up time, much to Ryan’s amazement. The brunette wasn’t usually so completely enervated by early morning lovemaking, but Jamie had managed to rock her world thoroughly, and before she knew it she was out like a light.

Waking at 7, Ryan stretched and rolled around the bed like a big cat, twitching her body into a multitude of contortions to get the kinks out. My God, Jamie nearly loved me senseless. Ooo, but what a way to go. She linked her fingers and stretched her arms straight up over her head. I’d love to wake up exactly this way every day for the rest of my life. She lay quietly for a few minutes, the thought of having Jamie right by her side for all of her days making her hum with pleasure. Every day for the rest of my life.

Suddenly, she sat up in bed, thoroughly bedazzled. What in the hell are we waiting for? We talk about having a commitment ceremonyof publicly declaring how we feel about each otherwhy haven’t we done it? Good, God, we almost died during the carjackingand if that taught me anything, it taught me that every day is precious. I want toI need toshow Jamie how precious she is to me. I want to marry her in front of everyone we knowand to give her a ring that she can look at every day for the rest of her life and know that I love her with all my heart. I can’t waste another minute!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Minutes after she had made her decision, Ryan paced in front of a buff-colored telephone, which rested on a small, wooden table near the front door of her home. She had been pacing for quite a few minutes, and was no closer to picking up the phone and dialing than she had been when she had begun.

This is silly, she reminded herself. There’s nothing to be nervous about. You’re only being polite, and you know it. His opinion means little at this point. Her mouth curled into a smirk as she looked down at her roiling stomach and said aloud, "Hear that? The brain is telling you to calm down. Don’t you realize the brain is in control around here?"

Okay, now I’m talking to individual body parts. Not a good sign …

Decisively, she picked up the phone and dialed the long series of digits. "Senator Evans’ office, this is Margaret Aimes. May I help you?"

"Hi, this is Ryan O’Flaherty. I’d like to speak to Senator Evans if he’s available."

"Ryan O’Flaherty," the woman repeated, pleasing Ryan by getting the pronunciation correct. "I’ll see if he’s available, Ms. O’Flaherty."

She waited just a moment before his voice came on the line, sounding slightly agitated. "Ryan? Is anything wrong?"

"No, not at all, Jim," she said, acknowledging to herself that a call from her was a pretty rare occurrence. "I have a couple of things to ask you, if now’s a good time."

"Yes, it’s fine," he said. "What’s on your mind?"

Avoiding the more difficult issue, she chose the easy one. "I wanted to make sure you’re still planning on coming to Jamie’s birthday party. just trying to get a final count."

"Of course I am," he said immediately. "That uhm … does bring up one issue, though, Ryan, so I’m glad you called. I uhm … know you’ll tell me the truth."

"Sure. What is it?"

"I was going to bring Kayla with me. Do you think that will present a problem?"

"Kayla, huh?" She let the question rumble around in her mind for a moment.

"Catherine claims that she doesn’t mind if I start to see her again," he said, obviously trying to convince her.

"Jim, I don’t have an opinion about who you date. I’m only trying to consider how it will affect Jamie. I know you don’t want to make her uncomfortable on her birthday."

"Of course not, that’s why I asked."

She spent a moment thinking of the dynamics of the group that would be at the party, and she answered him as honestly as she could. "I can’t imagine that it won’t make Catherine uncomfortable, no matter what she says. If Catherine is uncomfortable, that might make Jamie uncomfortable, too. But, she claims that she wants you both to move on – so I imagine she’ll do her best to get over her discomfort."

He sighed and said, "That’s what I thought."

"Let’s be honest, Jim, Jamie would prefer that you and Catherine were still together, but since that can’t be, she’s actively trying to get used to the fact that you’re both free now."

"I’ll call Catherine and ask her directly," he said. "I wouldn’t press this, but I’m in kind of a bind here, Ryan. Kayla’s going to be with me for some meetings on Thursday and Friday, and I don’t want to exclude her from this if I don’t have to."

"Well, I’m sure Catherine would appreciate the ‘heads up,’ if nothing else."

Letting out a breath, he asked, "What else did you want to talk about, Ryan?"

Her mouth was suddenly very dry, and she wished she had brought a glass of water into the living room. Clearing her throat, she forced herself to say, "Circumstances didn’t allow me to do this in April of last year, even though I wish that I could have."

"Go on," he said warily.

"As you know, we’ve had a rough month. One thing the carjacking reinforced for me was the fact that life is very short, and it’s best not to put off doing the things that are important to you."

"Yes …?"

"One thing that we’ve been putting off is having a formal commitment ceremony to celebrate our union. We both very much want to do this, and have from the beginning, but we’d agreed to hold off until everyone we loved was willing to celebrate with us." She took in a breath and added, "Up until now, you were the only hold-out. But, it seems that things have been going well between us for a while now, and I hope that you’ll agree to not only come to the ceremony, but to participate in it."

Stunned silence came from Jim’s end of the phone line, but Ryan let it go on, knowing that it would take him a while to get used to the idea. "Why didn’t Jamie call to ask me?" he finally got out.

"She doesn’t know I’m planning this. I want to give her a ring for her birthday, but I don’t want to even bring up the topic if you’re unwilling to attend. We’re only going to do this once, and I know she’ll always regret it if you don’t share this with her."

Ryan could hear him exhale sharply, and heard a slight squeaking as he probably rocked in his desk chair. "You’d wait until I was ready to do this?" he asked quietly.

"That’s the only reason we didn’t do it originally. Ideally, we would have had a ceremony before we moved in together, but that wasn’t possible."

"I suppose not." He was quiet for a minute and finally asked, "Did you predict I’d be so opposed to your relationship, Ryan?"

She paused for a moment and tried to recall how she’d felt before they spoke to Jim and Catherine about their love. "No, I didn’t. I actually thought Catherine would have the harder time with it. So did Jamie," she added quietly. "She was pretty sure you’d be behind her."

"She’s always given me too much credit," he muttered, as much to himself as to Ryan. With his voice at normal volume, he said, "I’ll be there for her this time, Ryan."

"That’s great to hear, Jim. Jamie will be very pleased." A moment passed, and she added, "I’m pleased, too. Having both of our families there will mean a lot to both of us."

"Uhm … forgive my being dense, Ryan, but this feels like you’re asking for my daughter’s hand in marriage, but given all of the recent tumult about Proposition 22, I know that’s not possible."

Ryan gritted her teeth slightly, her anger over the statewide ballot proposition prohibiting gay marriage very much on her mind. "No, not technically," she said. "We’re going to ask your father to perform the ceremony, of course, so it has religious significance, but it has no legal import."

"I see," he mused. "But you’re not an Episcopalian, Ryan. Will the ceremony satisfy your spiritual needs?"

She chuckled mildly and said, "There will be a long wait before my church comes out of the Dark Ages to acknowledge same-sex relationships. Besides, I don’t think God belongs to any particular denomination. To be honest, what matters are the vows we’ve already made to each other – it doesn’t matter who blesses us if we don’t honor those."

He was quiet for a moment, reminding himself that she wasn’t aiming her comments at him. "Ahh … that’s what I thought. Well, I’m sure it will mean a great deal to you both, even without the state’s recognition."

"It will, Jim. We pledged our love to each other before we … moved in together," she said, deciding not to mention that it was actually right before they made love for the first time. "This is an occasion to repeat those vows in front of our families and friends. It’s a lot more formal and a lot more public, but the meaning is the same."

"I see. Now, you say you’re going to do this for Jamie’s birthday, correct?"

"Yes, that’s right."

"Good. I won’t say a thing when I talk to her."

"Thanks, Jim. I really appreciate that you’re being supportive of something that I know you don’t approve of."

"I approve of my daughter – and her choices," he said quietly. "I’ve come to learn that being supportive of her is sometimes difficult … but always rewarding. Besides," he added, laughing softly, "you’re pretty easy to like, Ryan."

"I suppose I have my charms," she said, joining him in the laugh.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Less than an hour later, Jim picked up his private office line to hear his daughter’s cheerful voice on the other end. "Hi, Daddy. Have you got a few minutes?"

"Sure, Jamie," he said absently as he made a note to mark his place in a document he was reviewing. "Funny that you should call today. I just talked to Ryan." The words were out of his mouth before he realized what he was saying.

"Pardon?" she asked. "Why did Ryan call?"

"Oh! Well, she wanted to make sure I was still planning on coming to your party," he explained, hoping she’d buy it.

"Odd … the O’Flahertys never care how many people show up. Oh, well," she said, unable to divine Ryan’s intent. "I hope that your answer was yes."

"I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Now, why did you call? Same reason?"

"No, I don’t think so," she said. "I want to bring up a subject that might be a little difficult for you to come to terms with, Dad, but it’s something that’s important to me."

"Okay," he said. "What is it?"

She let out a breath and steeled her nerves. "Ryan and I both want to have a celebration of our commitment to each other, Dad."

Good Lord! These two really do belong together! They even think alike! "Yes, go on, Jamie," he said, feeling grateful that Ryan had prepared him already.

"We’ve wanted to do this ever since we became a couple, but … well, things didn’t quite work out that way."

"That’s putting it mildly," he said, surprising her completely.

"Yes, well, I was playing golf this morning, and something hit me, Daddy. None of us knows how long we’re going to have on earth, so it seems wasteful to delay doing the things that mean the most to us. Nothing is more important to me than showing everyone the place Ryan holds in my heart," she said quietly, her voice catching with emotion. "We wanted to do this earlier, but it was obvious that you wouldn’t have participated then. I want you to be a part of our ceremony, Daddy. It would make me very, very happy. But whether or not you’re able to support us – we need to make our plans. I can’t wait any longer to do something this important."

"I’ll be there, Jamie," he said, the emotion welling up inside of him. "You can count on me."

"Really?" she asked with a voice that reminded him of when she was a small child. "You’re okay with this?"

"I think it’s a wonderful thing, Jamie, and I’m touched that you gave me some time to come around. I know how hard that must have been for you," he added, his voice heavy with regret over his actions.

"I wish you were here, Daddy," she whispered. "I’d give you the biggest hug you’ve ever had!"

Leaning back in his chair and gazing at the ceiling with unseeing eyes, he let the warmth and love that filled her voice wash over him. "Not many children would be able to forgive the things I’ve done. I’m eternally grateful that you’re an extraordinary woman, Jamie. I mean that in every sense of the word."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Standing right outside of the locker room at Levine-Fricke Field, Ryan adjusted her baseball cap to keep the sun from her eyes and called Catherine. "Hi, there," she said, long past the point of having to identify herself.

"Hi, Ryan. How goes it?"

"Good. Very good, as a matter of fact. I uhm … have a favor to ask, Catherine."

"Anything in my power, Ryan. All you need do is ask."

"Okay." She sucked in a breath. "I’d like to borrow your daughter for, oh … I’d say, the rest of her life. Is that okay?"

Catherine’s amused chuckle soothed the slight bit of anxiety that had been building up in Ryan all afternoon. "You want to know if Jamie can come over to play for seventy or eighty years?" she asked lightly.

"Well, that’s a fairly modest goal, Catherine. I’m hoping to squeeze an even hundred out of her. She’s got very good genes."

"I can’t think of anyone I’d rather entrust her to, Ryan. But now that that’s been established, can you tell me what you’re getting at?"

She laughed softly and said, "I think it’s about time we made honest women out of each other, Catherine. I’d like to have our long-delayed commitment ceremony, if you approve, of course."

"Oh, Ryan," she sighed, "of course I approve! I’m wholeheartedly in favor of it." She paused for a moment and asked, "If you don’t mind sharing, could I ask why you’ve decided to do this now?"

Ryan cleared her throat, not having prepared herself for the question. She surprised herself by speaking straight from her heart. "Because I love her so much it makes me ache," she said softly. "She’s the most important person in my life, Catherine, and I want my creator and everyone I know to hear me pledge my life to her."

Catherine was quiet for a moment, then asked, "Do you speak like that to her?"

"I do," Ryan said, just a little embarrassed about being so open. "I try to tell her every day how much I love her."

"She’s a lucky woman," Catherine said. "And so are you. She loves you with all of her heart, Ryan."

"I know. And as much as you try to avoid taking credit, part of her ability to love comes from you, Catherine, and I’m very thankful to you for giving her that."

"We weren’t always the best parents, but we both tried to show her that we loved her – even though I know she didn’t always feel what I tried to convey."

"More got in than you realize," Ryan said.

"Well," the older woman said, wiping at her eyes, "I support you both completely. The question remains about Jim though, doesn’t it?"

"Surprisingly not," Ryan said, the bright tone of her voice telegraphing her news. "I spoke to him earlier today, and he’s agreed not only to come, but to participate. He was very gracious, Catherine," she insisted, still surprised, but very pleased.

"Well, I give you credit for having the nerve to ask, and I give him credit for the progress he’s made. This is very good news, Ryan."

"I certainly think so," she said. "Now all I have to do is buy Jamie a ring as special as she is, and I’m good to go."

"You should know there’s no such thing, Ryan," she teased. "But I might be able to lead you to a place that can help you to come close. What’s a good time for you?"

"How about Thursday morning? I’ve got a few hours then."

"That would be great. Call me on Thursday morning and we’ll arrange to meet."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Charlie? It’s Ryan," she said as she reached the last key player.

"Well, hello, Ryan. To what do I owe the honor?"

"How would you feel about blessing Jamie and my commitment to each other?"

"I’d feel great about it, Ryan! Just great!" Are these two sharing a brain? I haven’t been off the phone for ten minutes from Jamie asking me the same question! And she used practically the same words!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie had to rush, but she managed to arrive at Levine-Fricke Field in time to watch the last half hour of her partner’s first softball practice. She was a little surprised to see Jennie standing over on the grassy shoulder of the field, playfully tossing a ball with Ashley. Both of them waved at Jamie, and Jennie came running over, giving her an enthusiastic hug. "Ashley’s gonna go over my homework with me while we watch practice," she gushed.

"That’s great, Jen," Jamie said. She walked the girl back to Ashley and shared a hug with the freshman. "How does Heather feel about starting a new sport?"

"Good, I think," Ashley said. "She’s a little nervous, since she doesn’t know many people." She grinned at Jamie and said, "I think having Ryan here made all the difference."

Jamie patted her on the back and said, "I think having Heather play pushed Ryan over the edge, too."

Ashley blinked at her and her mouth gaped open. "Really? I … uhm … really?"

"Yeah," Jamie said, smiling brightly, reminding herself that the freshmen from the volleyball team considered Ryan to be slightly god-like. "She wanted to have a friend on the team. She likes Heather … and you, of course."

Ashley beamed a luminous grin at her. "Ryan’s the best, Jamie. She and Jordan made this the best year I’ve ever had playing volleyball. I know she’s gonna have the same kind of impact here."

"I sure hope so," Jamie said, her worry evident. "She sure didn’t make much of an impact on the basketball team."

"I still don’t know what that coach’s problem was," Ashley said, shaking her head. "Ryan could have lifted that team into the top three in the PAC-10."

Jamie nodded and said, "It was a complicated team. I’m really glad she’s off of it."

Ashley shot a look at her young friend and said, "We’d better start looking at your schoolwork, Jen. It’s starting to get dark."

Jamie looked at her watch and said, "Those are some nasty looking storm clouds. It’s only 4:30. It shouldn’t be nearly this dark yet."

Smiling, Ashley said, "Good thing the bleachers are wood, huh?" She and Jennie went up into the stands to have some quiet time, but Jamie stayed close to the field, wanting to closely observe her partner. She noted that most of the players were wearing sweats, and a few had on jackets over their sweats. Yet, there was Ryan, wearing only a pair of navy blue Lycra shorts, with a little Cal bear near the hem of one leg, and a bright gold T-shirt with "Cal Softball" imprinted on the chest.

Looking around, Jamie spent a moment checking out the other players. She recognized Heather, of course, and she remembered Michelle, the woman that Ryan had worked out with, but no one else looked familiar. Her perusal led her to decide that these women looked more like average women than either the volleyball or the basketball players. They were mostly of average height and weight, and even though they looked fit, their bodies didn’t scream "jock." Ryan was, of course, the exception, and she stood out on many fronts.

Ryan was the tallest woman on the field, topping Heather by a few inches, and most of the other woman by a lot. Jamie noted that one woman looked to be less than five feet tall, and when Ryan stood next to her, the top of her head didn’t quite reach Ryan’s breasts. I like her view, Jamie said, but I wouldn’t like having to stand on a step stool to kiss my sweetie.

As the minutes passed, the wind picked up until it was blowing fiercely. Jamie thought she had dressed warmly enough, but a few minutes of sitting still and she was chilled to the bone. Ryan’s in shorts and a T-shirt? I wonder if I’d embarrass her if I took off my jacket and made her put it on? She entertained the idea for only a second, recognizing that Ryan would rather freeze than be embarrassed in front of her teammates. Besides, she’s probably not even cold, she reasoned. She hasn’t stood still once since I’ve been here.

A light drizzle began to fall, and Jamie climbed the stands to join her friends. "I’m taking off. How about you two?"

"I have my bike," Jennie said. "I don’t mind riding in the rain." Jamie gave her an assessing look and immediately removed her Gore-Tex jacket and handed it to the girl with the admonition, "Put this on, Jen. You’ll freeze to death once your sweatshirt gets wet."

"I’m really oka …" she started to say, but Jamie tapped her on the head and said, "Humor me."

"I’m gonna wait for Heather," Ashley said. "They’ll stop soon."

"Okay, guys. Tell Ryan I’ll see her at home, okay? Tell her not to rush."

"Later, Jamie," Jennie waved. "See you tomorrow?"

"Maybe," Jamie said, unwilling to commit until she got a look at the weather. "I’ll see you at some point in the next few days. We’ve gotta keep our girls motivated, huh?"

"Right," Ashley said. "They don’t have much of a rooting section."

Jamie looked around at the completely empty stands and said, "Maybe it’ll fill up a little when the games start, huh?"

"Couldn’t help it," Ashley said as Jamie waved goodbye and carefully climbed down the now-slick stands, feeling colder by the minute as she got wetter and wetter. She ran as fast as she could, darting into buildings whenever possible, finally arriving at the student store, where she purchased a rain jacket in a woman’s extra-large, knowing that Ryan could always use a spare.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Ryan came home an hour and a half later, Jamie came into the living room as soon as she heard the door close. She stood with her arms crossed; a scowl on her face, watching the rain drip from Ryan’s thoroughly drenched body. The tall woman had on a pair of jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, both of which were utterly sodden.

"Did it look like rain when you left the house, love?" she asked, narrowing her eyes dangerously, while slapping the wooden spoon she held in one hand against the palm of the other.

"Mmm … not really," Ryan said, knowing that she was stretching the truth to dangerous limits.

"It looked like rain when I left this morning, Ryan," she said, the spoon cracking sharply as she continued to whap it against her hand. "Did it clear up on just this side of Berkeley?"

"Uhm … no?" the dark, dripping woman said, her blue lips twitching into a guilty smile.

"Good answer. I’ll go a little easier on you for not lying." She came up behind her partner and said, "Take off your pants and your sweatshirt. I don’t want you dripping all over the wood floor."

Ryan kicked off her shoes, which squished audibly as she did so. Next came the jeans, which she had more than a little trouble peeling off, due to their water content. The sweatshirt was easy, and she breathed a sigh of relief as the wet, heavy garment hit the floor. "Cold," she said needlessly, her hands chafing her bright pink arms as she hopped back and forth from one foot to the other.

"I want you to go upstairs and get into the shower. Stay there until you’re warm," Jamie ordered. "Dinner’s ready, but it can wait until you’ve warmed up."

"You’re so sweet to me," Ryan cooed as she bent over to press her ice-cold lips to her partner’s. "Trying your best to keep me nice and warm."

"Oh, I’m not done," Jamie said. "I’m gonna heat up another part of you, right now." She cracked her partner across the buttocks with the spoon, laughing evilly as Ryan’s hands shot to her butt to protect it.

Even her large hands couldn’t protect everything, and Jamie got in a few more sharp slaps. Realizing she was allowing herself to be vulnerable by remaining in place, Ryan took off, running for the stairs with Jamie right on her heels slapping at her wet bikinis as she gave chase. They made such a ruckus that Mia popped her head out of her room as they came thundering down the hall. The curly-haired woman stood in her doorway, arms crossed over her chest, smirking widely. "I always knew there was a dominatrix in there waiting to get out," she said.

"Help me, Mia!" Ryan cried, running behind her smaller roommate and trying to use her as a shield.

"Jamie," her old friend soothed, "violence isn’t the answer. Come on … give me the spoon."

The blonde gave her partner a narrowed glance, but complied. Ryan gave Mia a hug for being such a good protector, but her chilled skin made the smaller woman squawk. "Jesus! Have you been in the freezer?"

"She’s trying to catch pneumonia," Jamie complained. "She practiced in a T-shirt and shorts, then came home in the driving rain in a sweatshirt and jeans." A further narrowing of her gaze accompanied the rest of her comment. "It’s not like you don’t have proper raingear. We bought it for you after the last such incident."

"I have to take it somewhere to get the bullet hole sewed up," Ryan said.

Turning to the miscreant, Mia shook her head and said, "I think you can afford a new jacket, Ryan. That’s a ridiculous excuse." She gave her another swat, snapping the spoon much harder than Jamie had. "Get in the shower and warm up, or there’s more where that came from," the feisty brunette ordered.

"What is it with you Hillsborough girls?" Ryan cried as she covered her stinging butt with her hands and ran into the bath. "Bunch of sadists," she grumbled as the door closed on the laughing friends.

"What ever are you going to do with her?" Mia asked, smiling sympathetically at her friend.

"Everyone on that field had on sweats today … but not my Buffy. She thinks it’s a sign of weakness to stay warm and dry."

Mia shook her head. "My Jordy has the jock gene, but she doesn’t have the ‘I’m tougher than you’ gene. You have my sympathies."

"Please don’t say that it’s a gene," Jamie begged. "Then she might pass it down to our kids."

"Tough break, babe," Mia said. "I think you’ll have a bunch of kids just like her. You’d better stock up on wooden spoons, 'cause you’re gonna break a few on those cute little O’Flaherty asses."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie went into the bathroom while Ryan was still in the shower. The room was steamy, and she could tell by the way her partner moved that she was nice and warm now. When the dark woman heard her come in, she turned around and placed her butt up against the glass door, showing Jamie the bright pink stripes that crisscrossed her cheeks. "You do good work," she said, a wry tone to her voice. "You can take my Granny’s place as the enforcer in the family when she can’t carry the load any longer."

Jamie winced when she considered that Ryan might not see the humor in being spanked, even though she'd meant it as a joke. As Ryan turned off the water, Jamie handed her a towel, and then took another and rubbed her back briskly. Kissing her warm, damp skin, she said, "I apologize for hitting you. I was only teasing, but it probably didn’t seem like that to you. I hate to act like your mom, and I know you don’t like it in the least. It was particularly insensitive of me to make a joke of spanking you. I don’t want to bring back bad memories."

"It’s okay," Ryan said, giving her a big smile. "I don’t mind when you do it. As a matter of fact, it’s kinda … kinda hot."

Letting her hand drift lower, Jamie smiled back and said, "Oh, you’re hot, all right. You’re positively sizzling back here." Her hand caressed the warm skin, gingerly touching the fading pink stripes. "Does it hurt?"

"No. It marked up more because of my wet underwear. Wet skin makes it smart a lot more, though," she said knowledgably, having been spanked under a variety of conditions. "It just tingles a little now. If you haven’t spanked anyone before, you don’t realize how hard to do it."

"I’ve never spanked anyone before, and I won’t do it again," Jamie said. She gave her partner a sexy grin and added, "Unless you ask me to, of course."

"We’ll see," Ryan said, not yet willing to commit to incorporating that practice into their sex life … even though her tingling butt did give her the urge to get horizontal. "I’m as hungry as a wolf," she said. "Can we eat?"

"Go put on your warm clothes," Jamie insisted. "I want some form of fleece on every square inch."

"Yes, Mom," Ryan said as she gave Jamie a playful tap on the butt. She smiled as she added a kiss. "You might like a little swat once in a while, too. Tingling in that area can be a good thing."

"Un-unh," Jamie said firmly, shaking her head. "I don’t have a butt fetish like you do."

Ryan started to object, but realized that she did have more than a casual interest in both her own, and other’s butts, so she shrugged her shoulders and went to follow orders.

* * * * * * * * * * *

After thoroughly encasing herself in fleece, Ryan joined her partner and Mia at the dinner table. "How’s your ass?" Mia asked, giving her a leer.

"Excellent," Ryan purred, dropping her voice an octave and intentionally trying to be provocative. "How’s yours?"

"You’d better watch it, buddy," Mia said. "If she spanks you like that for getting wet, imagine what she’d do to you if you checked out my butt."

"The mind reels," Ryan said, her eyes round with imagined fear.

"Knock it off you two. I wanna hear all about Ryan’s first day." Jamie turned to smile at her partner and asked, "Were the other girls nice to you?"

"Yes," Ryan said, a playful grin on her face. "I’m glad I hung around for a while. I found out that they’ve already got a nickname for me."

"Ooo … let me guess," Mia said.

"You won’t get this one," Ryan said. "They’ve been calling me Notorious R.O.F. because I was in the paper so much. It seems that Coach Roberts informed them that I might join the team, and their interest in my celebrity was piqued."

"I loved Notorious B.I.G.," Mia sighed. "Biggie came correct."

Ryan smiled at her, always amused when Mia spoke of her deep love of rap and hip-hop music. The art form had always eluded Ryan, but she assumed that was because she hadn’t gotten in on the ground floor. She had developed her musical tastes from her much older cousin and her mother’s old records, which were still stored in boxes in her closet, and had never had an interest in exploring the developing genre when she was young. Mia was a true fan, though, and she knew most of the performers and could imitate some of her favorites to near-perfection.

"I want a rap nickname," Jamie said, grinning.

"You’ve already got a porn name all picked out if you ever shed your good girl image," Ryan reminded her. "Isn’t that enough?"

"Tell! Tell!" Mia begged as Jamie jumped up and tried to muzzle Ryan with her hand.

After being spanked, Ryan was in no mood to go easy on her partner, and she grasped both of Jamie’s hands while she choked out, "Cinna Bunz! Her name’s Cinna Bunz, ‘cause they’re so sweet and tasty!"

Mia laughed long and hard at that one, as much at the outraged look on Jamie’s face as the nickname. "That’s awesome, Ryan. Just awesome."

"Well deserved," the dark woman insisted as she grabbed a handful of the sweet cheeks and gave them a squeeze.

"Ryan’s is Randy Libido," Jamie revealed, joining in the laughter.

"I want one," Mia pouted.

"You’ve gotta have Jordan pick it out for you," Jamie insisted. "It doesn’t work if you self-name. It’s an honorific."

"I’ll get on it tonight," Mia said. "It’s my turn to call her, so I can keep her on the phone as long as I like."

"Your portion of the phone bill was obscene last month," Jamie reminded her. "Your dad’s gonna wonder what’s going on with you."

"Nah … he never seems to care what the bills are. He just hates it when I spend a lot on clothes and stuff."

"Okay," Jamie warned, "but you’d better have a good excuse if he asks why you have a $300 bill – all to Colorado Springs."

"One more indication of why you’re not a good liar," Mia insisted. "All of the naturals lie best when it’s extemporaneous." Mia looked at Ryan and sighed as she said, "She’ll never be good at it."

"My loss," Ryan said, patting Mia on the hand sympathetically.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"So, sweet cheeks," Jamie said when Mia got up to clear the table, "tell me how you feel about your new team."

Ryan sighed and stretched a bit, getting some of the kinks out of her shoulders. "I like softball, Jamie. It has such a different energy from the other sports I play. It’s kinda slow, and the action is sporadic, but you have to be mentally ready, and your reflexes have to be really sharp."

"I know yours are," the blonde said, smiling sweetly.

"Yes, well," Ryan sniffed, tossing her dark hair over her shoulder. "I think softball is the perfect sport for me right now. I’m still toast emotionally, as you might have noticed, and it feels good to join a team that’s already established. I’m not the only senior … they went to the College World Series last year, so they’ve got a strong nucleus … they’re not looking for me to make a big contribution. I can relax and enjoy myself."

"I didn’t know that they were that good. I must have been otherwise occupied last spring. I don’t remember a thing that happened around campus," Jamie said, her brow furrowed slightly as she tried to remember what had kept her so entertained.

"It’s all a blur to me, too," Ryan said. "I only remember trying to find out where a certain blonde was at every possible moment, and keeping my lips on her when I caught her."

"Same problem," Jamie said, as though just having the memory hit her. "Only my fixation was for a gorgeous black-haired beauty with the most incredible blue eyes in the known world."

Ryan leaned across the table, closing those incredible blue eyes as she drew near. They kissed softly for a few moments, just long enough to start a slow fire burning in each of them. "Nice," she sighed as she sat back down in her chair. She placed her elbows on the table and set her chin upon her hands, gazing at Jamie with her best lovesick expression.

"Do you think your team will be as good this year?" the blonde asked.

"Mmm-hmm. I think so. We have our starting pitcher back, and as you know, softball is mostly about pitching. I watched Heather warm up for a while, too, and she has a gun. She’ll be the third pitcher, from what I can tell. That’ll give her a nice opportunity to get comfortable without having too much pressure put on her."

"That sounds perfect," Jamie sighed. "I didn’t even ask, but what position will you play?"

"Well, the first baseman is good, and is the best hitter on the team, but she’s not real agile. I’ll probably be a defensive replacement for her in tight games. I can also help out in the outfield wherever they might need me. I can play second and third, too, but those positions are locked up by seniors, and I don’t expect to get any time there, unless there’s an injury. Looking at the team critically, I’d say I’m probably the first call off the bench."

"Must be some team," Jamie said, knowing that her lover was being modest.

"Yeah … they’re good," Ryan said. "I’ll be happy just to be a part of it. It would be a thrill to get to go to the World Series."

"I know you’ll do everything you can to get there. You’re indefatigable."

"I’m gonna try not to be so indefatigable," Ryan informed her, smiling wryly. "I learned something important playing basketball, Jamie."

"What’s that?"

"I learned that winning isn’t the most important thing." She smiled as she said, "Most people learn that before they’re 24, but I’m a little slow."

"Yeah … that’s how I think of you. Slow and plodding."

"What I mean is that if the basketball team had been undefeated, I still would have hated it. The chemistry sucked, and I hated being the one who everyone looked to when we were behind. That’s not teamwork. As far as I can tell, that won’t happen here. I wanna be one of the guys," she said. "That’s what I’m comfortable with."

"That’s how it is with you and the boys, isn’t it?" the smaller woman asked reflectively.

"Yeah. They’re bigger and stronger, but my speed and my quickness help equalize us. I never dominate when I’m playing a game with the boys. I like that. Now, lord knows I like the limelight. I love to show off. But I don’t like to have to. Do you see what I mean?"

"Yeah, I think so," Jamie said, thoughtfully. "It puts a lot of pressure on you, doesn’t it?"

"It does," Ryan said. "But more than that, I don’t want to be where I’m not wanted. I don’t want to try to force my personality onto a group of people who don’t want it. That’s another thing I learned this winter. I learned that I couldn’t change a team that didn’t want to be changed."

"When did you realize that they didn’t want you?"

Ryan chewed at her lower lip for a moment, trying to be honest with herself. "Before I started practice," she said. "I knew Coach Hayes was gonna be difficult, and I knew that Lynette was giving me fair warning." She looked at Jamie with a sheepish grin and said, "I thought I could change them."

"It must have been hard when you realized that you couldn’t," Jamie mused.

"It was a bit of a blow to my ego. That had never happened before," she said, smiling gently at her partner. "Usually, I’d go onto a team that wasn’t very good and make an immediate impact. Within a few games I’d be the leader, and eventually, we’d start playing as a team." She looked at Jamie and said, "It’d always worked before, and I guess I couldn’t imagine that it wouldn’t work this time. I was a casualty of my hubris."

"That’s one way to look at it," Jamie said. "Another is to acknowledge that something that had always worked didn’t work this time. As a scientist, that should be something that you expect to happen every once in a while, shouldn’t it?"

"I suppose so," Ryan said. "But I want you to know that I did learn something this winter. I learned that it’s the relationships that matter … not the box score."

"That’s true in most areas of life." Jamie said as she moved to her and climbed into Ryan’s lap, straddling her. She bent her head and kissed her thoroughly, smiling to herself as she felt her partner respond enthusiastically.

They were about to head for the bedroom when Mia emerged, dishes washed and put away. "Gosh, look what you two are doing. How rare."

"It’s not what it looks like," Jamie murmured, her lips not more than an inch from Ryan’s. "We’re working on our relationship."

"Hmm …" the brunette mused thoughtfully. "Jordan and I call that foreplay … but the nomenclature isn’t important. Have at it, girls. I’ll give Jordy your regards."

"Hey," Ryan called out as Mia started to climb the stairs. "I’ve got a tournament in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks. See if Jordan is able to fly out and meet us."

"Cool! I’ve never been to Las Vegas!"

"That makes two of us," Ryan said.

"Neither have I," Jamie chimed in, stunning the other two.

"Well, that’s a first!" Ryan said. "I thought you’d been to every place large enough for a zip code. This sounds like the makings of an adventure."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 2

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