I Found My Heart In San Francisco
Book 13 Monogamy
By: S X Meagher
Early the next morning, Jamie reached out and tucked her arm around Ryans waist. "Are you sneaking out of bed this early?"
"Yeah. Ive uhm got to go to a meeting."
"What?" The blonde sat up and switched on the bedside light, rubbing her eyes as they adjusted to the brightness. "What meeting do you have at this time of the day?"
"Uhm Amanda wants me to go to a group or something, I guess." Ryan slid out of bed, gazing down at her partner with an unreadable expression on her face.
Seeing the hesitancy and unease on Ryans face, Jamie gentled her expression and said, "Its okay, honey, you dont have to tell me about it if youd rather not. I know you like to keep things between you and Amanda."
"No its not that its well, Im nervous about it."
"Do you want me to go with you? Drive you there?"
"Thats sweet," Ryan said, her expression softening into a smile. "But, I think I have to do this for myself. I uhm might want to talk about it but I might not, okay?"
"Okay," Jamie said. "Youre entitled to your privacy."
"Thank you," Ryan said, sitting down on the bed and stroking Jamies cheek. "That means a lot to me."
The blonde turned her head to kiss Ryans palm. "I know," she said quietly. Giving her partner a hug, she asked, "Want me to make you breakfast?"
"Thanks, but I dont think so. My tummys a little upset, and I dont feel like eating. Ill stop and get a latte on the way."
Jamie put a hand on her lovers bare shoulder and gazed into her eyes for a moment. "Baby, whatever comes up today, Im sure you can handle it. No matter what life throws at you from now on youve been through worse." Her face eased into a smile, and Ryan returned it immediately.
"You have a good point there, partner. Talking about the carjacking can never be as frightening as that night was." She kissed Jamie soundly, and said, "Thanks for reminding me of that."
"All part of the job description," the smaller woman said. "Im merely trying to suck up to my supervisor."
* * * * * * * * * * *
At five minutes to 7, Ryan paced up and down the sidewalk in front of a small office building in downtown Oakland. She held a large latte in her hands to warm them, desperately wishing shed worn gloves. A middle-aged woman approached and asked, "Are you Ryan, by any chance?"
"Yeah, I am." Extending her hand, she said, "Ryan OFlaherty. Are you Doctor Moss?"
"Yes, but feel free to call me Ellen. Everyone in the group does. Come on in and let me introduce you."
Swallowing nervously, Ryan followed her in, and made eye contact with the 4 other women shed seen enter the building while she waited. Ellen opened the door to the office and the group filed in, with the others chatting companionably. Ryan shrugged out of her down vest, then took off her ski cap and muffler. She noted that a few of the other women gave her puzzled looks for wearing shorts on such a cold morning, but the brunette was very glad she had done so when the room started to heat up past her comfort level.
"Okay," Ellen said, "it looks like everyone brought coffee this morning, so I wont make my usual offer. We have a new member of the group that Id like to introduce. This is Ryan," Ellen said, smiling at the newcomer. "To give you a little time to acclimate, we normally go around the room and introduce ourselves when we have a new member. So, why dont we do that? Helen, would you mind starting? just say who you are, and what brought you to the group."
A cheerful looking, middle-aged woman smiled at Ryan and said, "Im Helen, and Ive been with the group for almost two years. My husband, God rest his soul, had been embezzling from his company. Things had been going poorly for Stan for a couple of years, and he was sure he was going to be fired. Ill never know what caused him to do what he did, and Ill never know why he didnt trust me enough to tell me how frightened he was." She took a deep breath, and gave Ryan a sad smile. "But, he didnt. When he was found out, he hanged himself in our home. We lost our house and our car; and I had to find a job to care for our teen-aged children." She looked into Ryans eyes, as though she could see the dark places in her soul, and said, "This group has saved my life."
Ryan nodded, feeling her stomach start to churn from hearing Helens tale. The woman next to Helen then spoke. "Hi, Im Pamela. Ive been with the group for about 6 months now. I was " She looked out the window for a moment, took a deep breath, then looked up and continued. "I was raped and severely beaten by my ex-husband. Id recently gotten into a relationship with a man I liked, but Jerry couldnt stand to have me move on with my life." Ryan looked at the angry red scar that ran from Pamelas eye to the base of her ear. "I really like the group but its hard its hard to come here and talk about it. I know its something that I need to do, and I know it will help me, but its still hard to get to sleep on Sunday and Wednesday nights."
Nodding even more dramatically, Ryan tried to unclench her hands from the arms of her chair, feeling her muscles contract painfully.
The next woman said, "Im Arlene, and Im about to leave the group. Ive been here for a little over a year, and I think Im ready to graduate." Her comment drew nods and smiles from the others, and she continued, "I was in a very bad auto accident. The driver of the car that hit me was killed, and I was badly injured. But Im nearly healed physically, and Im feeling pretty good mentally, too."
"Thats good to hear," Ryan said, smiling nervously.
The woman next to Arlene shifted in her seat, looking tense and unsettled. "Im Barb, and Ive been coming here for two months." She looked around the room, her gaze brushing the top of each head, but never meeting anyones eyes. "I am or I was a police officer. Im on disability, but I dont think Im going to go back." She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I change my mind about that every other day, so maybe I should keep my opinion to myself." She gave a stilted laugh, then took a breath and studied the carpet for a moment, then said, "I shot and killed my partner during a robbery. The review board declared that I wasnt negligent in Phils death but, Im not the review board."
The room was completely quiet, so quiet that Ryan could hear her own heart beating. Her anxiety increasing by the moment, she was about to grab her jacket and run, but Barbs voice pulled her back from the brink. "I hate coming here, but its helping. It really is." Ryan met her eyes, and could tell that the older woman could see the fear and anxiety that poured from her. "Hang in there, Ryan. We all help each other here."
Biting her lip, Ryan tried to twitch her face into a smile, but it didnt come off very well. "Ill try," she said. Knowing it was her turn, Ryan looked at Ellen, hoping for a reprieve, but the psychologist merely nodded encouragingly, so Ryan took a big breath and told her tale, in a very abbreviated form. "My lover, my niece and I were carjacked. All of us made it out alive, but I made some choices that night that still haunt me. Id Id like to get past my guilt. Ive also had a few people betray me mostly to get money from the tabloids, and Id like to get a better handle on my anger." She took a nervous breath and said, "I know I should be grateful that were all alright, but some dark urges keep pulling at me." Unable to think of another thing to say, Ryan looked at Ellen, hoping to be rescued.
Smiling warmly, Ellen said, "We all welcome you, Ryan. Now, this might surprise you after hearing the stories, but everyone in this room has experienced some level of guilt and anger over what happened to them. Every one of us has a different story, but there is some part of your experience that each of us can empathize with. I think youll find that this is a safe, caring place to talk about whats troubling you. I only ask that everything we say here stay in this room. The only way we can trust each other is if we keep each others confidences."
"I understand that," Ryan said. "Ive had a little experience with having my privacy invaded, so Im hypersensitive to that."
Ellen smiled at her and said, "Well, after that glaring understatement, lets begin. We normally spend about 10 minutes each, checking in and talking about anything thats come up in the last few days. Helen? I think its your turn to check in first."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan hadnt been out of the session for five minutes when her phone rang. "Guess who loves you?" a warm, cheerful voice asked.
A big smile covered Ryans face as she replied, "An adorable, sweet, kind woman loves me. I never have to guess."
"Good answer," Jamie said. "How ya doin, buddy?"
"Im all right. A little shaky, but all right. I cant talk about the group, because I promised to keep everything confidential, but I think theres a chance this might help me. Hearing these other women talk about their struggles put some of mine into perspective."
"So, youre okay? Need me to hang around for a few minutes to hug you?"
"Do you have time?"
"Ill make time for you. Are you coming home?"
"For one of your hugs? No question. Ill be home in 10, then we can walk to school together."
"Hurry home, baby. I love you."
"I know that. I know it in my soul, Jamie."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie scampered down the stairs that evening, still shoving things in her open duffel bag. "Are you sure you dont want to come with us tonight, Mia?" she called down to her roommate, who was sitting in the living room.
"Nah. I have to go to class tomorrow. Besides, you two probably want to have an evening alone in Las Vegas. You can use all the togetherness that you can manage."
"We havent really been apart all that much, since Ive been going on road trips with my sweetie. I feel like her groupie."
"Lets go!" Ryan poked her head in the front door, pointedly glaring at her watch.
"Bye, Ryan," Mia said, getting up to offer a kiss and a hug.
"See you tomorrow," the taller woman said. "Ill try to leave some money in the casinos for you to win."
"My little jackpot is a sure thing," Mia said. "As soon as I pick her up from the airport Im gonna get lucky!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Standing with the group of people gathered around the gate, Jamie said, "When I see your coach tomorrow, Im going to thank him again for treating you like an adult."
"It has been nice, hasnt it? Its pretty cool to be able to go a day early and enjoy the sights."
"Are you excited about seeing the Cirque de Soleil show?"
"Yeah," Ryan said, actually more excited about Jamies excitement than she was about seeing a circus act. "I havent been to the circus since I was a little kid. Michael took me," she said wistfully. "He, of course, had to constantly critique the clowns makeup, but we still had a ball."
Jamie squeezed her arm and said, "Ive told you, sweetie, that this isnt your typical circus."
Ryan shrugged amiably. "Whatever. If youre excited about it, it must be good."
She wasnt paying rapt attention, and after a moment, Jamie started to look around, trying to determine what Ryan was looking at. Backhanding her in the stomach, she hissed, "Will you quit staring at the women!"
"Oh!" Ryan turned back to her and said, "I wasnt staring at them for the usual reason. Im trying to figure out why theyre here. Is there a convention or something in Las Vegas this weekend?"
"Im sure there are many conventions there," Jamie said. But as she took yet another look, she had to admit that she couldnt guess what kind of convention the women would be attending. Young, thin, well built very well built, actually, uniformly blonde, and dressed in a manner that could only be called revealing; the collection of women stood around looking very bored. There were about ten of them, and they seemed to know each other, but they didnt, for the most part, seem like friends. When Jamie turned back to say something to her partner, Ryan was gone. It took Jamie a moment to locate the tall brunette up at the check-in counter, and a few minutes later she was back.
"The attendant says were on the call girl express," Ryan said.
"Every Thursday night, sex workers from here and L.A. apparently fly to Vegas for the weekend. Theyre commuters, after a fashion," she said. "Wanna strike up a conversation get some tips?"
Raising an eyebrow, Jamie regarded her partner for a moment. "Are you inferring that I need tips?"
"Makeup tips," Ryan said slowly, obviously trying to get her brain to work quickly. "I thought they could give you some tips on how to get those long fake eyelashes to stay on."
"Pitiful save," Jamie said, shaking her head. "Truly pitiful."
They boarded a few minutes later, and managed to take off nearly on time. Ryan had to stop herself from laughing at the parade of men who happened to stop by some of the working girls seats on their way up and down the aisle to nowhere at all. When she tired of the show, she popped the last of her peanuts in her mouth and eyed Jamies unopened package. One twitching eyebrow convinced the smaller woman to hand them over. "How have you avoided coming to Las Vegas?" Ryan asked.
"Mmm I didnt have any desire to come until I could gamble," she said. "Im not even sure my mother has been here, as a matter of fact. Shes not much for gambling. We were in Monaco a couple of years ago, and she sat in the bar while Daddy and I blew our bankroll."
Grinning playfully Ryan mused, "Some heavy hitters in Monaco, right?"
At Jamies cautious nod, Ryan commented, "Must be weird, not being the richest people in the room, huh?"
"Yes, it was very traumatic," Jamie said, rolling her eyes. "Now I understand how people in developing countries feel." She slapped her partner hard on the thigh, whispering, "Brat."
They landed at McCarran Field, and after a short cab ride, were delivered to their hotel. In return for agreeing to stay with the team on Friday and Saturday, Ryan allowed Jamie to book them into any hotel she chose for Thursday. She wasnt terribly surprised when the cab dropped them off at The Bellagio, an elegant, massive hotel, situated on a calm 7 acre lake. Having guessed that they would be staying somewhere nice, Ryan had dressed up, wearing her neatly pressed chinos, a crisp blue and white checked blouse and her marine blue crew neck sweater, one of Jamies favorites.
The lobby was massive, and filled with people lined up in neat queues to check in. The lighting in the room was provided by a spectacular canopy of blown glass flowers of every type and color. As they stood under the warm lights, the smaller woman found herself lost in her partners bright blue eyes, made even bluer by the sweater. "These lights are beautiful," Jamie sighed, "but they pale in comparison to you."
"Excuse me," the clerk said when the previous customer departed. "Maam. Maam!"
"Oh! Sorry," she said, blushing madly while Ryan chuckled. "I wasnt paying attention."
"You were paying attention," Ryan whispered into her ear after Jamie had handed the clerk her credit card and he stepped away. "You were paying attention to me and thats exactly how I like it."
Pressing her finger against the shirt button that peeked out of Ryans sweater, Jamie let it slip into the placket and reach in to tickle the soft skin. "Ahem. Maam?" the clerk asked as the flush grew once again.
"I can upgrade you to a suite with a spa tub for a $50 additional charge. Would you be interested in the upgrade?"
"Uhm sure," she said, still looking at the magnificent color of Ryans eyes.
The clerk scampered away again, and Ryan whispered, "You cant catch a break. Hes gonna think youre one sexually frustrated woman."
"I am," Jamie said, grinning wickedly. "Im intensely sexually frustrated. Dont you think its time to satisfy me?" As if on cue, the clerk returned, and his expression made it clear that hed heard every word.
She looked at him, shrugged her shoulders and twitched her head in Ryans direction. "Do you blame me?"
"Not in the least, Maam," he said, smiling primly. "I hope that all of your needs are completely satisfied this weekend."
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Well, that was the first time in my life that a check-in clerk said he hoped I got lucky during my stay," Jamie said, rolling her eyes at Ryan on the way up in the elevator.
"Its happened to me a time or two," Ryan recalled, "but never in a place that didnt charge by the hour."
"Such a life youve led," Jamie said, grinning at her randy partner.
Ryans ego had been thoroughly stroked by the interactions with the desk clerk, and she was ready to spend the better part of the evening fulfilling Jamies stated wish. Her hands were already probing some sensitive spots as the otherwise empty elevator whisked them to their floor, but the smaller woman had other plans. "Youd better calm down, hot stuff. The shows at eight, and weve got to get going if were going to have time for dinner."
Glancing at her watch, Ryan said, "Its only six. Cant we go to one of those $4.99 buffets I keep seeing signs for? That shouldnt take long."
"I assume youre kidding," she scoffed. Tossing her head she declared, "It doesnt matter if you are or not because we are never I repeat never going to have dinner at a $4.99 buffet."
"Youre no fun," Ryan pouted dramatically.
Jamie stood on her tiptoes and kissed her extended lower lip. "Im plenty of fun, and you know it, tiger. When we get back to the room Ill remind you of exactly how much fun I can be."
The bellman with their luggage was waiting for them when they exited the elevator, and Ryan gave him a puzzled look. "We have a separate set of elevators for luggage," he explained. "Let me show you to your room."
The room was absolutely gorgeous. Sumptuous, yet understated by Las Vegas standards, it reminded Jamie of a 4-star hotel in Rome or Milan with 21st century amenities. They passed through the marble foyer into a large sitting room, with a small dining area off to the side. "Let me show you some of the rooms features," the bellman said. His short tour took only a few minutes, and Jamie left Ryan to push all of the buttons and investigate the room while she called the concierge desk to arrange for dinner. After a short discussion, she called out to Ryan, "Honey? Can I have some input here?"
"Yep." Ryan dashed out of the bath and leapt onto the sofa, causing Jamie to juggle the phone to keep it from falling to the floor.
"Brat!" she whispered. "We have a few choices for dinner. We can go French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, or American."
"Doesnt matter to me. Your choice."
Picking up the phone again, Jamie said, "I think wed like to dine at Le Cirque. I assume it wouldnt be difficult to be seated now, would it?" She nodded her head and said, "Yes, were ready. Thats great. Thanks a lot."
Hanging up, the blonde stood and extended her hand. "Were on, babe. Lets chow down."
"Can I go like this?" Ryan asked.
"Well, I wouldnt think of going to Le Cirque in New York dressed this casually, but this is Las Vegas. I think well be fine."
"You look great," Ryan said, eyeing her partner. "But, then, you always do." She put her hand on the shoulder of the simple but elegant-looking, vivid blue, linen shift that Jamie was wearing, smiling gently at her partner. "You look fantastic, honey. Are you sure Im okay?"
"You look adorable, Ryan. Really." Standing on her toes, Jamie gave her partner a few, quick kisses. "You look so comfortable in your skin that I dont think people notice what you have on. You command attention, no matter what youre wearing."
Ryan shrugged and said, "Its because Im so tall. When youre taller than 99% of all women, people always look at you."
"Yeah, thats probably it," Jamie agreed, not believing it for a minute.
* * * * * * * * * * *
As Jamie had expected, the restaurant was nearly empty at the early hour, having opened only a half hour before. The maitre dhôtel was very accommodating, seating them at a table right next to the window, where they could overlook the lake. The restaurant was decorated in a whimsical fashion, with a multicolored recreation of a circus big top dominating the entire ceiling of the smallish room. "This place is beautiful," Ryan said, craning her neck to see everything. "Im guessing that Le Cirque means the circus?"
"Good girl," Jamie said, nodding. "That semester of French is paying off."
Chuckling, Ryan said, "Ive barely figured out what le means. Good think Im not fixated on grades, cause I might get my first C this term."
"Wow. Your first C in college, huh?"
Ryans dark head shook, and she took a drink of water, continuing to look around the room.
"High school?" Jamie tried.
Another shake of the head.
"Oh, please! Youve never had a C?"
"Nope. It wont kill me if I get one, though. Im not going to let little things like that bother me any more."
"Hey, I thought your grades went down when you were a senior in high school. Are you not counting that?"
"No, Im counting that. I got two Bs and two incompletes my first semester. Those were my first Bs," she said, shrugging sheepishly.
"I hope to God that our kids get your brains," Jamie said, chuckling softly.
"Well, the ones that I have might, but youre rolling the dice if you use my brothers or my cousins. Donal and Declan barely got through high school, and Padraig is dyslexic. He had a hell of a time in school. Conors bright, but he was no scholar. Come to think of it, Brendans the only one who had any desire to go to college. The boyos were glad to be done with it after high school. Im an anomaly for the OFlahertys. The Ryans are the ones with the book-smarts. Maybe we should consider my cousin Cormac."
Jamies lower lip stuck out. "He doesnt look like you. Remember, my main goal is to have a carbon copy of your sweet little face."
"Then, youd better stick with Brendan. He at least likes to read. I dont think the lads have opened a book since high school, unless you consider Playboy and Penthouse a book."
"I dont," Jamie said, smiling sweetly. "And youd better not, either."
"Im completely unfamiliar with the genre," Ryan said, boldly lying. "I prefer Scientific American."
* * * * * * * * * * *
When their server arrived, Ryan, as usual, left the ordering to Jamie. The blonde chose a 5-course tasting menu; accompanied by 5 wines chosen for their compatibility. The pair was happily consuming a delightful cream of watercress soup when something caught Jamies eye. Signaling for their server, she asked, "Could you possibly open this door?"
"Of course, Maam." The man pushed the drapes aside, letting Ryan see what had captivated her partner. As the door opened, they were delighted to see a massive, synchronized, water show from the normally hidden fountains of the lake. There must have been a thousand of the huge streams of water; some going so high that Ryan supposed they must be forced from fire hoses. As the streams of water danced against the night sky, powerful speakers broadcast Frank Sinatra singing Luck Be A Lady, Tonight.
"Not too cool," Ryan said, smiling warmly at her partner. "Of course, my lady always brings me luck."
Reaching across the table, Jamie grasped her lovers hand and gave her a somewhat shy smile. "Are you having fun, sweetheart?"
"I am," Ryan agreed. "And Im very glad that we didnt go for the $4.99 buffet. The meal is fantastic, Jamie, and Im happy that you didnt let my cheapness carry the day."
"Youre not cheap," Jamie said. "Youre careful and thats not a vice. Its just that we dont go out very often, and when we do, I like to make it memorable."
"Im certain this will be a very memorable weekend. Being with you for 4 days will assure that."
"Such a romantic little Irish heart you have."
"I dont have it any longer," Ryan said, her eyes sparkling in the reflected light of the fountains. "I gave it to you."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Just as Jamie had predicted, Ryan was in thrall during the entire performance of "O." The Cirque de Soleil had constructed a theatre at The Bellagio expressly for the elaborate water-themed show, and they had done a masterful job. Every seat had excellent sightlines, the music was perfectly suited to the theme, and the performances flawless. At the end, Ryan turned to her partner, and said, "Theres an eleven oclock show. Can we go again?"
Jamie would have moved mountains to satisfy the hopeful expression on her lovers face. But she had already had to move a mountain of greenbacks into a ticket brokers pocket to secure the tickets to this performance, and she knew that Ryan would have a fit if she learned how much the tickets had cost. "Theyre sold out," she said. "I can try to see if theres a ticket broker "
"No, no, thats okay," Ryan said, looking like Jamie had suggested armed robbery. "Its better to leave wanting more."
"If youre sure "
"Positive. Lets hit the blackjack tables and let me win back what this evening cost us."
Youd better be one very, very lucky woman, Jamie thought to herself.
Ryan was a very lucky woman, and after playing for two hours, she had recouped over half of what theyd spent so far. Jamie didnt let on, however, praising her abilities lavishly. "Your cousins think you cheat," Jamie teased when they were outside watching yet another performance of the fountains.
"Do not! They think I cheat because I have such a good memory." Her lips curled into a grin, adding, "Those boys are some of the worst card players youll ever find. I was born into the perfect family. They think theyre great, and they cant back down from a challenge but they suck! Absolutely perfect," she said, humming with satisfaction.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The soft click of the door woke Jamie the next morning, and she pushed her hair from her eyes to witness her grinning partner trying to sneak into the room. "Where have you been?"
Eyes wide with delight, Ryan ran over to the bed and dumped two huge plastic cups filled with quarters onto Jamies startled body. "I won a jackpot playing video poker! A great, big, fat royal flush. 2,500 quarters!"
"Ryan!" Looking at the clock, she saw that it was 6:30, and she was none too happy to have been woken by having a few pounds of dirty metal thrown onto her. "Why do you run out on me like that?" she asked grumpily. "I dont like to wake up and not know where you are."
"I left two notes," the brunette muttered, a little pout forming.
"Cant you stay in bed like normal people? The dawn can come without your help, ya know."
"Im here now." The grin that won her heart began to form, and Jamie felt her own lips respond in kind. "Id love to stay in bed and cuddle you until I have to go to the game. Isnt it better to be in this nice, soft bed when were both awake?"
Jamies bad mood began to lift. She glanced at her watch and asked, "How long do we have?"
"Four and a half hours," Ryan said. "But I should get a bite to eat before I go."
"Oh, Ill give you a bite," Jamie purred, drawing her partner down on top of her coin-covered body. "Ill give you a bite to remember!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
The pair enjoyed one of the best mornings that either could recall. A large helping of each other, a long, playful shower in the sumptuous bath, and a delightful dim sum brunch in the hotels Chinese restaurant.
With great regret, Ryan exited the cab at the softball complex, with Jamie promising to return after shed checked into the team motel. The blonde liked to watch the games, but watching warm-ups, batting practice and two seven-inning games while sitting on a backless bleacher was a little much even for her.
After she got settled into their small, utilitarian room at the team motel, she flipped on the TV to while away an hour. The bed was firm, and the room was overly warm, but neither fact stopped her from falling asleep almost immediately. She woke slowly some time later, her neck stiff from the odd angle shed been in. Stretching languidly, she looked at her watch and nearly jumped out of bed. "Two oclock!"
Jumping into her shoes, she grabbed her backpack and ran for the lobby, only to have to wait twenty minutes for a cab. By the time she reached the field, the first game was in the top of the seventh, and she was almost relieved that Ryan was sitting on the bench, still in her warm-up jacket. At least I didnt miss seeing her play, she thought in relief. I never would have heard the end of it.
The game was over in moments, and she waited patiently by the entrance to the locker rooms. Ryan might not have even noticed that I didnt come on time, she mused. I dont think she can see all of the stands from the dugout. The players started straggling out of the locker room, all of them giving her a friendly hello and a wave. Heather came out, obviously looking for her. "Shes okay, Jamie. It looks worse than it is."
Jamies eyes grew wide as her lover came limping out of the locker room, a massive ice bag secured to her knee, another to her elbow. Ryans face was a stoic mask of nonchalance, but Jamie ran to her, grasping her frantically. "Honey! Are you all right?"
"Hell, no, Im not all right!" she said, wincing in pain. "Would you be all right if that had happened to you?"
"Well " She started to say that she hadnt seen what had happened, but she didnt have the nerve to admit it at the moment.
"Have you ever seen such a collision? Jesus, its a wonder that I wasnt carted away in an ambulance!" Ryan was shaking her head, grumbling to herself the entire time. "I guess youre going to want me to go to the hospital, huh?"
"Didnt a doctor look at you?"
"Nah. No doctor was available. Ill probably be okay," she said, not looking very convinced. "Im still a little woozy, but the double visions about gone."
Just then Coach Roberts came out of the mens locker room, took one look at Ryan and asked, "What the hells wrong with you?"
"Nothin," she said. "Only injury I might get is splinters from sitting on the bench."
"Ill give you a splinter," he grumbled, cuffing her affectionately. "I thought maybe youd sprained your arm playing the slots last night."
"Nah Im all about poker and blackjack."
"Doesnt surprise me a bit, OFlaherty. Go get those ice bags off and warm up. You might get off your butt for a change in the second game."
"Cool!" she cried, turning to share a smile with Jamie. She winced noticeably when she saw the cold fury in the jade green eyes. "Uhm I was playing a practical joke on you. Funny, wasnt it?"
Jamie didnt say a word, but she took off after her, chasing her lover all around the field; nearly catching her several times since the ice bag on her knee slowed Ryan down. "Youre gonna need those ice bags when Im done with you!" she cried.
"Cant you take a joke?" Ryan gasped, leaping over a low bench.
"Yeah, I can take a joke," she panted. "Now were gonna see how well you can take one."
"What are you gonna do?" Ryan asked, eyes wide.
"Be ready, OFlaherty. Thats all Im gonna say. Be ready."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan did indeed get the nod to start the second game, taking over for Jackie, who needed a rest after the heat of the Las Vegas sun proved to be too much for her. Ryan looked so darned cute with her cap pulled low over her eyes that Jamie couldnt bear to be angry with her even though she would have been well justified. Right before the game started, she called her over to the fence and handed her the little present she had been carrying ever since the start of the season. "Ive been saving this for the first game you started," she said, pushing the package of Big League Chew through a link of the fence.
Ryan smiled broadly and opened the foil packet. She took out a huge wad of the shredded bubble gum and stuck it in her mouth, chewing noisily until she got it down to a manageable size. "Thanks," she said, her expression bordering on a leer. "Hey, you busy after the game? Ive got a single room." Merrily dancing eyebrows indicated that she didnt expect to be alone in the room for long, and Jamie played along.
"It depends on how you play. Im a Cal groupie, you know. Im going home with the star of the game," she said. "If thats you fine. If not thats fine, too." With that, she tossed her head and went to her seat, turning before she sat down to confirm that Ryan was, as usual, staring at her ass. Giving it a little twitch, she sat and waved her off. "Play well," she drawled.
To prove her star status, Ryan ran out to first base full-tilt, performing a flawless flip right before she reached the bag. Jamie heard Coach Roberts yell, "For Christs sake, OFlaherty!" and she knew he too had seen the extemporaneous performance.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Luckily for Ryan, she was the star of the game, thanks to a single in the sixth inning, which knocked in the winning run. She was filthy, as expected, having slid into second base, and Jamie was surprised to see yet another ice bag when the brunette emerged from the locker room, Heather in tow. Jamie grabbed the younger woman by the arm and pulled her close. "An accessory after the fact still goes to jail, kiddo." Heather looked at her with wide eyes, but Jamie slapped her on the seat and said, "I know shes impossible to say no to."
"She really is, Jamie," Heather insisted. "I dont know how you ever do it."
She smiled and said, "I dont very often. She has an odd, but effective, charm."
"Hey!" Ryan scowled. "Who you calling odd?"
"Shoe fits wear it," Jamie tossed back. "Now whats with the ice?" Ryans makeshift ice bag was a zip-lock plastic bag, taped to her knee with a strip of what looked like clear plastic wrap.
"No biggie. When I slid into second, I banged it a little. Its not even swollen, but the trainer looooooves to make us look goofy."
"Not a long trip when youre involved," Jamie said. "Bus or cab?"
"Bus. The way I look, I dont think I could get a cab to stop."
Jamie took a long look at the sweaty, bedraggled looking woman and shook her head. "Youve got a point there, sport. Thankfully, Heather is still fresh as a daisy. I think Ill sit with her." She grabbed the young womans arm and led her to the bus, sparing a teasing wink at her smirking partner.
* * * * * * * * * * *
As soon as Ryan was clean, she lay down on the bed and stretched out. "Time for a nap?"
"Yeah, I think so. Jordans flight comes in at seven, and Mias is due right around then, too. I told them wed be in the casino at Mandalay Bay, since its close to the airport and that youd probably be playing poker."
"No probably about it," Ryan said. "You gonna nap with me?"
"I had a pretty good one earlier in the day," she reminded her. "I fell asleep sitting up watching Oprah!"
"Come snuggle for a minute, then," Ryan said, giving a hopeful look. "You can watch TV or read, once Im out."
"Love to." Taking one of her textbooks, she lay down on the bed next to her always-cuddly partner and smiled when Ryan soon had her pinned firmly to the mattress. The larger woman was asleep in seconds, and Jamie knew that her study plans would go unrealized. She could run a sleep clinic for insomniacs, she mused before she nodded off. Ten minutes of cuddling with her could knock anyone out.
* * * * * * * * * * *
They were waiting for a cab in front of their motel when Jamie asked, "Isnt it kinda funny how much freedom Coach Roberts gives you guys? Not many coaches would let you all run wild in Las Vegas. You dont even have a curfew!"
"Its a little odd, but its how Id run the team if I were in charge. Seniors dont have a curfew, but the rest of the team does. He likes to give each class a little more freedom so he can keep an eye on them until hes sure they can handle it. The juniors have to be in by two, the sophs by one, and the freshmen by midnight."
"Huh. But, doesnt that preclude the freshmen going out with any of the upperclassmen?"
"Yep. Thats part of his plan," Ryan said. "He wants us to play as a team, but he doesnt think its mandatory that we all hang out together. He realizes that since the seniors have the ability to go to casinos and have a drink, theyll be resentful if they have to stay home because the younger players cant come with. Plus, if he keeps the freshmen on a short leash, theyre less likely to get into trouble by tagging along with the older women. His style is unconventional, but its worked for him."
"Coach Hayes should work for him for a few years after her lame ass is fired," Jamie said.
Ryan laughed, "He wouldnt put up with her for five minutes. Ive never met two coaches with such different styles. Youd think shed take a look at his consistently successful record and take a clue but thats not gonna happen."
"Her loss," Jamie shrugged.
"Literally," Ryan said.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie was playing the slots when Mia and Jordan arrived. "Hey, girlfriend!" The blonde smiled at Mias bubbly voice, gathered up her cup full of quarters, and went to greet her friends.
"Wow! You look fabulous, Jordan," Jamie said, staring openly at the lanky blonde.
"Free product," she said, giving Jamie a quick pirouette to show off her new clothes. "I got a suitcase full of things after that Polo ad that I did, so I brought everything with me. This is the first chance Ive had in weeks to be out of sweats or warm-ups."
"I think Ive only seen you dressed up at Martin and Maeves wedding," Jamie said, eyeing her critically. "You should get out of sweats more often."
"Can you see why Ralph Lauren wanted her?" Mia asked, letting her eyes wander up and down the long body. "The clothes were made for her."
Jamie had to admit that the items did fit Jordan perfectly. The tall woman wore a beautiful cashmere, crew-neck sweater and a pair of pleated wool slacks, both in a warm, winter white. A well-cut, navy blue blazer with the large RL crest on the pocket was draped over her shoulders, making her look more like her model-self than her athlete-self. "Youre sure not going to get carded tonight," Jamie said. "You could pass for thirty!"
"What about me?" Mia asked rather petulantly.
Jamie gave her a fond glance and said, "You and I could both pass for 20. Regrettably, were 21 and 22. You do look very nice, though. That suit looks great on you. You should buy one like it." Mia was wearing one of Jamies favorite outfits since it was, in fact, Jamies. The dark emerald pants suit made of very fine velour looked marvelous on Mia, and made her look very sophisticated; but she still looked a good ten years younger than Jordan.
"I didnt have anything that Jordy hasnt seen before," Mia said. "You dont mind, do you?"
"You know I dont," Jamie said. "Besides, it looks great with your eyes. Gives them some green highlights."
"It does," Jordan sighed. "Ive been staring at her ever since we met in the airport, and it just dawned on me that its because her eyes are so complex-looking tonight."
Mia squeezed her hand and said, "You can look at them all night, honey cause were staying up 'til dawn!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
It took a while, but they finally found the poker tables. The Mandalay Bay followed the custom of most of the Vegas casinos, and had created a separate room for the game. Blackjack, pai gow poker, Caribbean stud, three-card poker and Texas hold em could be played at any one of a number of tables dispersed around the gaming floor. But, regular poker was still king, and it was treated as such by the casinos. The poker room was raised up a few steps from the casino floor, and was surrounded by a half wall. They found Ryan at a table near the back of the room, seated with 6 men and one young woman, deeply engrossed in her game. "Odd crowd," Jamie said, looking around at the players.
Mia nodded, a look of faint distaste on her face. "They look like a bunch of guys who should be pluckin chickens."
Jamie took another critical look and had to agree with her friend. The room contained about 20 tables, and the vast majority of them had a game going on. The average age of the players was around 65, and very few of the men had bothered to shave that week. The players contrasted so dramatically with the younger, wealthier looking crowd that populated the rest of the casino, that she was unable to reconcile the variation.
Something about the way the room was set up made Jamie reluctant to go in and tell her partner they were there. The place was very, very quiet also strange for a casino. Oddly, there was a no smoking sign prominently displayed; the only place Jamie had seen such a restriction. Gazing at her partner again, Jamie asked, "She looks hot, doesnt she?"
Due to the angle of the table, they had a side view of her, and both women agreed with Jamies assessment. Ryan was wearing a cream-colored, heavyweight, silk blouse and her leather pants, which gleamed in the muted light of the room. Her hair was loose and draped around her shoulders, the highlights almost blue where one of the pin-spots hit her. She had a long, thin cigar in her mouth, but Jamie noticed it wasnt lit due to the prohibition. Rather than smoking it, she seemed to be using it as a prop of some sort. But whatever her motivation, it made her look sexy and confident two of Jamies favorite attributes.
The hand was over quickly, and Ryan stood and started to put her chips in a plastic carrier. Another man stood and approached her, motioning with his head towards a small room labeled "High Stakes." Ryans brow furrowed and she shook her head, but the man didnt want to take no for an answer. He gestured towards the room again, but Ryan held her ground, sticking her chin out the way she did when her mind was firmly made up. Disgusted, the man stalked away, passing by the three spectators as he did so. "Fuckin bitch," he grumbled to himself.
Ryan looked up as she walked away from the table, and gave her friends a beaming smile. "Wow, three of the best looking women in Las Vegas all in one spot!" With warm hugs and kisses for Mia and Jordan, she draped her arm around Jamie and asked, "Let me take you all to dinner. The skys the limit." She pointedly eyed her chips, giving Jamie a wink.
"Who was the guy who was talking to you?" Jordan asked. "He was cussing you out when he left."
"Sore loser," Ryan said, looking unimpressed. "I cleaned him out, and he wanted to play for $100 a hand in the high stakes room. I never bet that much," she said, shaking her head. "You can lose your shirt in 10 minutes. Besides, if my luck held, hed probably be betting the mortgage on his house. I hate to play with compulsive gamblers, and he had all the signs."
"How much did you win?" the blonde gaped, seeing chips of many different colors in the tray.
"Enough." Her self-satisfied smile was all Jamie was going to get out of her, and she let Ryan cash out in private since she obviously didnt want to share the extent of her success.
They decided on drinks at The Red Square, an opulent vodka bar and Russian restaurant at the hotel. The chic, trendy bar was filled with the beautiful people of Las Vegas, and to Ryans surprise, her foursome fit right in. Her burgeoning wealth and social status didnt hit her very often, but in a setting like this, she was unable to exert her powers of denial. Face it, OFlaherty, Jamies always going to be one of the beautiful people, and since youre her spouse, youre at least mildly attractive. She laughed softly, and Jamie caught her eye, giving her a raised eyebrow.
Leaning over, Ryan said, "I was having one of my I cant believe this is my life moments. Itll pass."
Jamie leaned right back into her, saying, "I cant believe that youre my lover, and I hope thats a feeling that never passes."
"Lets skip dinner, and go make out," the brunette whispered.
"Oh, no! Youre gonna need all of your stamina tonight. I need you well fed."
"Then lets get some food, cause Im all about goin home early."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie had been busy during Ryans poker game, making reservations at a lovely restaurant in the hotel. Aureole was known for both fantastic food and a very unique wine cellar. The cellar was actually a 4-story glass tower, located right in the middle of the room, and Ryan was spellbound by the display. "If I had to move to Las Vegas, thats the job Id have," she said, her voice filled with longing.
Jordan was imitating her stare, and she nodded her complete agreement. "Without a doubt."
Jamie and Mia exchanged aggrieved looks, each of them rolling her eyes. "Jocks," Mia said.
"Well, it is kinda cool," Jamie had to admit, but I think Id get tired of it."
The foursome stared for a few more minutes, watching a lithe, graceful woman glide up and down the tower via a system of pulleys; her athletic body secured by a nearly invisible harness. The lovely sylph wore a headset, and was obviously being given instructions by the sommelier. Up and down the tower she went, barely pausing long enough to slip a bottle from its cache and return to the ground. "I could do that for 24 hours straight," Ryan said, transfixed.
"Easy," Jordan agreed. "Id do it for free."
"Lets go, you two," Jamie said, tugging on her partners hand. "Youre goofy enough to try to wrestle the poor woman out of that harness."
That comment got Ryans attention, and she leaned over and whispered, "You have no idea how many times Ive wrestled a woman out of a harness."
Jamie swatted her on the seat, no longer caring if people saw her. "Big talker," she whispered back. "I think youve made up half of your supposed debauchery."
Not rising to the bait, Ryan waggled her eyebrows, "Wanna bet?"
"No thanks," Jamie said, smiling up at her. "I dont want to lose my shirt like that poor old chicken farmer did."
"Chicken farmer?" Ryan asked, scratching her head as Jamie tugged her over to their table.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Leaving the restaurant, Ryan clutched the complimentary box of handmade chocolates to her breast, leaving no doubt that they were hers alone. Deciding to walk their dinner off, they began the long stroll back to The Bellagio.
On the walk along the crowded Strip, they passed a near-constant stream of young Latin men, handing out full-color ads for prostitutes. The men were respectful, doing their best not to give the ads to children or women. But there wasnt one who did not thrust one of the ads into Ryans hands. After the twentieth such encounter, her friends were laughing helplessly; and the look on the dark beautys face was as funny as the situation. "Do I look like a guy? Or can everyone tell Im a big dyke looking for a woman?"
"Neither honey," Jamie assured her. "Its your height. They dont look at your face; they see that youre a foot taller than they are, and shove a flyer at you."
Ryan stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, giving Jamie a scowl. "Jordans a half inch taller than me, and she hasnt gotten one."
"Hmm I guess you look like a big dyke then," Jamie said, giggling, "cause you sure dont look like any man Ive ever seen."
"Thanks, I think," Ryan said, and shrugged her shoulders, only to have another young man put a particularly lewd picture in her hand. "I dont have to pay for it!" she shouted, waving the picture at him.
"Id pay you," Jamie said, pulling her down so that only she could hear. "Any price, any time."
"Thats more like it," the brunette sniffed, her dignity somewhat restored.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When they reached The Bellagio, they walked past the throngs of people waiting to enter the theatre to see "O." Ryan walked over to the ticket window while Jamie paused to regale their friends with how much they had enjoyed the performance, and moments later she was back, beaming a grin. She extended a pair of tickets to Jordan and said, "Eleven oclock tonight. Be there."
Jordan gaped at her. "Jamie said they were sold out! How did you ?"
"They had some cancellations," she said. "Never hurts to ask."
"Ryan!" Mia cried. "You didnt have to do this!"
"I enjoyed the show so much," she said, "that I want you to see it, too." Her face grew serious and she said, "I love winning money but its like a gift it doesnt feel like mine. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to share it with my friends."
Mia wrapped her in a hug and grasped her hand as they walked towards the elevators, the pair a few steps in front of Jordan and Jamie. "You know," the curly-haired woman said thoughtfully, "I used to worry about Jamie. I honestly never thought she could find anyone as generous and loving as she is and I thought she might not be able to share that part of herself with her husband. Its so nice to see her with someone whos as kind as she is. You two deserve each other, Ryan."
Ryan leaned over and placed a kiss on the crown of Mias curly head. "Thanks. I appreciate that. Being compared to Jamie is the nicest compliment you could give me."
* * * * * * * * * * *
After Jordan and Mia dropped off their bags in the room Jamie and Ryan had vacated, they prevailed upon their friends to do a little gambling with them before returning to the team hotel. The found a bank of slot machines in a quiet corner of the casino, so they could talk while they gambled. Ryan and Jordan were sitting on the cushioned, brocade chairs, while their smaller girlfriends each perched upon one of their athletes legs. "We made our reservations for Sydney this week," Ryan said. "Im so damned excited about coming to watch you. I dont think Id be any more excited if I were going to compete."
Jordan gave her one of her most luminous grins. "Its gonna be so great to have you all there. Do you remember what flight youre on?"
"Were on Quantas, and we get in the day before the opening ceremonies," Jamie said.
"Oh, good. You wont be on the same flight with my parents," Jordan said, obviously relieved.
"Both of your parents are coming?" Ryan asked.
"And my brother and my grandmother," the blonde said, looking unenthused.
Mia rolled her eyes, and Jamie could tell something was up, but she didnt want to pry. Switching to what she assumed would be a safer topic, she asked, "What does your brother do, Jordan? I dont think Ive heard you talk about him much."
Jordan pursed her lips, her brow knit into a frown. "Hes kind of an actor."
Jordan turned to Jamie and shrugged her shoulders. "Theres a breed of people in LA who manage to live with no visible means of support. He claims that hes an actor, but Ive never heard of him appearing in anything. I think hes still in Actors Equity, but last I heard he was in danger of losing his card since he hadnt worked."
"And he doesnt do anything else?" Jamie asked.
"Not that I know of. He has an apartment in Brentwood, and he always has a nice car, but I dont have a clue how he pays for it."
"Maybe your father ?"
That got a laugh from Jordan. "Not hardly. I dont think they speak."
"Oh." Jamie knew this conversation had run its course, but she didnt want it to end on such a down note. "Maybe he takes jobs here and there that you dont know about."
"Im sure thats true," Jordan said, smiling enigmatically, and letting the issue drop.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"This game is too dull," Ryan declared. "Lets play blackjack together."
"I dont know a thing about it," Mia insisted. "Ill go broke in two minutes."
"No, no, no, its fun. Lets find some good blackjack slot machines, and Ill explain it to you," Ryan suggested. "Youve gotta play a few hands of a real game on your first trip to Las Vegas. Come on."
She confidently led the way, and her friends dutifully joined her when shed located the right type of machine. A cocktail waitress came by, and Ryan gave her a charming grin and said, "If youd bring us a bottle of water every time you come by, wed sure appreciate it." She slipped the woman a five dollar bill, and received a warm, friendly smile in return.
"Ill be back in a minute," she said, and Jamie could see a brief flash of connection between the women.
Leaning in, the blonde asked, "You could get her if you wanted her, couldnt you?"
"Mmm Im not sure," Ryan said thoughtfully. "You can never tell with women who work for tips. Most of them have a very well developed sense of people. If they pick up that youre gay, a lot of them will play with you, to make you think you can get them."
Jamie gave her a curious look, and asked, "Do you ever want to try to pick a woman up to see if you still have the magic?"
Ryan smirked at her, shaking her head. "Nope. No interest." At Jamies pleased smile, she added, "I know Ive still got it."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan launched into a rather detailed explanation of her usual strategy, but quickly realized that she had lost both Mia and Jamie. Jordan was paying rapt attention, however, so she kept going, figuring that shed think of another way to keep the stragglers involved.
Mia had disconnected so thoroughly, that she didnt notice when all eyes turned to her.
"Uhm Mia, why are you staring at that couple?" Jordan asked when she caught her attention.
"Oh!" The brunette actually blushed not an easy thing to make her do. "Uhm I was thinking."
"About what, baby?" Jordan asked. "You look like somethings bothering you."
"Uhm no, Im okay." She looked uncomfortable, but all three women were looking at her, and she swallowed and said, "I was thinking about attraction and stuff."
"Huh?" Jordan cast another glance at the extremely attractive couple playing the nearby slot machines. The dark haired man looked Italian or Spanish, and his fair-haired companion appeared to be a typical California actress/model. They were beautifully dressed and both oozed sex appeal. The man was playing the machine, with the woman leaning on a column, watching him intently. She gave off a vibe that said she was waiting for him to finish so that she could take him to their room and have her way with him.
"I was thinking about sex appeal and sexual orientation and things like that," Mia explained vaguely.
Jordans look was still blank, and Jamie and Ryans exhibited similar confusion.
"Okay," she explained, knowing shed painted herself into a corner. "When you look at a couple like that, who do you notice first?"
Jordan scratched her head and said, "I dont look at other people very often. If I dont know them, I hardly notice that someones there."
Mia knew this was true, even though she didnt understand it. She loved to look at people, and she noticed nearly everyone she encountered on a given day. Jordan, on the other hand, seemed to glide through her own little world, concentrating on something or other that only she was aware of.
"What about you?" the blonde asked Mia. "Who do you notice?"
"Mmm " she said, wishing she hadnt gone down this path. "It depends."
Jordan grasped her hand and gave it a squeeze. "Its okay, Mia. Who do you notice? It wont hurt my feelings. Im interested."
She nodded and told the truth. "I see the guy. I always see the guy. If the womans extraordinary I notice her, too, but its the guy who catches my eye." She shrugged her shoulders, looking slightly bothered by this fact.
Trying to take the spotlight off Mia, Jamie piped up. "I see them both," she said. "Its like my mind looks at them as a couple, like Im trying to assess their chemistry then I check out the woman ... thoroughly." She was blushing a little as she said this, but Ryan thought it was adorable, and gave her a little pat to encourage her to be honest. "What about you, Ryan?" she asked.
Ryan took in the scene, letting her mind assess it as she normally would. The man was giving off a powerful vibe, his attention fixed on the spinning reels, his fit, muscular body beautifully displayed in a tight black T-shirt and black slacks. The woman was very much in the background, most of her energy fixed upon him. He pulled on the handle with gusto, thrusting his hips with each forceful yank. Ryan noted that he was playing 3 coins in a ten-dollar machine, tossing away thirty bucks with each unsuccessful spin. Satisfied with the information that her brain had registered, she shrugged and said, "I see a really hot woman leaning against a pillar." That drew a hearty laugh from her friends, but Ryan wasnt trying to be funny. She didnt notice men most of the time unless there werent any women around to capture her attention. "Im being serious, guys," she insisted. "Its how were programmed and how weve trained ourselves."
Still looking concerned, Mia turned to Jamie, and asked, "After you came out, did the way you look at people change?"
"Mmm to be really, really honest," Jamie said, drawing out her answer, "no. It didnt. Ive always noticed women. I used to try to convince myself that I was checking out their clothes, or their style, but in reality I was looking at their asses," she said, giggling. "Im more honest about it now, but nothing has changed."
Ryan loved to hear her partner talk about her still-developing sexual personae, so she encouraged her to continue. "What do you look at when you see a nice-looking woman?"
"Hmm " Jamie turned her attention to a lovely brunette standing at a slot machine. She cocked her head and let herself look at her like she normally did, then relayed the process. "I start at the top and think, Ryans hair is much nicer." She shot a grin at her partner, and continued, "Then I think, Ryans face is so much prettier. I go down her body, comparing her bit by bit. And let me tell ya, not many parts ever beat yours out, tiger."
"That is absolutely adorable," Ryan said, leaning it for a kiss. "I had no idea that you did that."
"Do you do that, too?" she asked, a hopeful look on her face.
Oh boy! "Well, I uhm I guess that I kinda "
"Never mind," Jamie said, shaking her head in disappointment.
"Hey, theres a very good reason that I dont compare you to other women," Ryan said, trying to rescue herself. "First off its not a fair comparison. I love the whole you not only your beautiful face or fabulous body. I dont know the women I see on a daily basis, so its like comparing apples and oranges. Theyd lose before the comparison could even begin."
"Hmm should I accept that answer?" Jamie asked her friends.
"Yeah, give the poor thing a break," Mia urged. "Shes been very nice to us tonight."
"Okay," Jamie said, sparing a glance at the puppy-dog look on Ryans face. "I accept your rationale."
"Im being serious," Ryan insisted. "The women I look at are merely bodies and faces. They dont touch me or move me. Theyre only assemblages of protoplasm."
"Wow!" Jamie gasped as a woman with a massive assemblage of protoplasm arranged on her chest walked by. "Were those real?"
"If you mean real versus illusory, then yes, they were," Ryan teased. "But if you mean real versus manufactured no, they werent."
"How can you be so sure?" Jamie asked. "Maybe she got in the breast line twice when God was handing them out."
"Nope. You can tell. Look at the movement," she instructed. "Breasts that large have to move when you walk, and hers dont. Theyre far too firm and rigid to be real."
"Have you ever sampled a surgically enhanced pair?"
Ryan shrugged and said, "Only partially."
"Explain," Jamie insisted.
"Well at my old gym, one of my clients had hers done. She told me I could feel them so I did."
"A client let you feel her tits?" Jamie gasped in surprise.
"Well I think she suspected that I was an aficionado," she said. "Shed recently had them done, and she asked if Id like to give her some feedback. So, we went into the locker room when we were done with our session, and I felt them."
"Amazing," Jamie said, shaking her head.
"They were kinda weird," Ryan revealed. "Not bad weird different weird. They had a very, very different feel much more resilient than natural breasts. Id have to get used to them before I could enjoy them."
"Not to worry," Jamie said. "I wont be having mine done in the near future, and weve agreed that you dont get to sample anyone elses."
"Not true," Ryan said. "Weve agreed that I dont want to sample anyone elses. Small, but vital difference. You dont force me to want only you. Its the simple truth."
* * * * * * * * * * *
They walked over to the blackjack tables together, with Jamie asking Ryan a few detailed questions about the enhanced breasts. She knew shed never experience any, but she was a more avid aficionado than Ryan was, so she felt it mandatory to live vicariously through her partner.
Finding an empty table, the foursome took their places, Mia and Jamie agreeing that Ryan would signal them when she wanted them to hit. They played for quite a while, and managed to lose only about a hundred dollars among the three of them. Jordan, however, was on a roll even though shed never played before. She didnt ask for Ryans help, and she proved that she didnt need it getting up to $500 before she cashed out. "What a rush!" she moaned to Ryan when they stood in the cashier line. "That was hot!"
"It does feel good, doesnt it?" Ryan asked. "I think gambling is one vice I could easily become addicted to. Thank God Im too cheap to be able to tolerate losing money!"
Jordan peeled off $200 and extended it towards Ryan. "Let me pay you back for the tickets to O."
Ryan firmly pushed the money back at her. "Nope. Use it to buy a plane ticket to come home. Mia misses you something fierce."
"I know. Its hard to tell which of us is more miserable."
"I think its a tie," Ryan said. "Were gonna head home now. You two have a great time tonight, okay?"
"We will. Well try to get to your game tomorrow " she began, but Ryan hushed her.
"Please dont come. Id like it if you stayed up late and made love until dawn. You need to spend your time together."
Jordan nodded and gave Ryan a kiss. "I would have had a best friend years ago if I could have had one like you."
"Youve got one now," Ryan promised, wrapping her in a hug.
* * * * * * * * * * *
After their friends left, Mia and Jordan went to another quiet bar to have a drink before the show began. The smaller woman sipped her Cosmopolitan, deep in thought.
"Whats going on behind those pretty eyes?" Jordan asked.
"I didnt hurt your feelings when I said I noticed men first, did I?"
Reaching across the table, Jordan took her hand and gave it a tug. Mia smiled and moved her chair closer until they were shoulder to shoulder. "Do you have any desire to break up with me to be with one of the guys you notice?"
"No! Of course not!" She leaned her head against the soft wool of Jordans jacket and said, "I apologize for bringing the topic up. It was tacky," she said. "I feel like Im fixated with sexual desire and orientation these days."
Stroking her thigh, Jordan leaned in close and asked, "Why, babe?"
"Ive been thinking," she sighed. "Sometimes I wish I were gay. It would make things easier."
Laughing gently, Jordan said, "Thats a new development. You know things have changed when being gay is easier than being straight."
"Not for everything," Mia said. "But it would be easier for things like telling my parents about us. I think theyd understand if I told them I was a lesbian. Its this damned mixed-up orientation that I have thats hard to explain."
"Baby, youre not mixed up. Youre perfectly, logically, Mia. You are what you are."
"I know," she sighed. "But I think its gonna be hard to make them understand my Mia-ness."
"Are you thinking about telling them? I uhm thought that you were certain that you didnt want them to know."
"Things are different now, Jordan," she said, reaching down to grasp her hand. "Were not merely dating now. Ive never kept anything important from them and youre very, very important."
"Thanks," she whispered. They sat in silence for a few minutes while each tried to think of a solution. "Maybe you could wait until the summers over. That will give you six months to prepare maybe drop a few subtle hints."
"That wont work. I uhm have to tell them before that because I have to make a decision about grad school."
"What do you mean?" Jordan asked.
Mia had been delaying discussing the issue, since she knew Jordan would feel strongly about it. "Im not sure Im going to go."
"Pardon me?" Jordan gasped. "Youve got to go!"
"But school starts at the end of August. Id have to take over a week off to go to the Olympics and believe me Im going to the Olympics!"
Jordan let out a massive sigh and forced a smile onto her face. "Well figure it out, Mia. Im not sure how well do it but well figure it out."
* * * * * * * * * * *
Continued in Part 14