I Found My Heart In San Francisco

Book 13 Monogamy

By: S X Meagher


Part 14

The Saturday softball games went as well as the Friday ones had. Once again, Jackie was toast after the first match, and Ryan ably took her place. They beat the University of Virginia handily, 6-1, with Ryan getting her first home run of the year, a solo shot in the first inning.

As usual, Jamie was waiting outside of the locker room when Ryan emerged, grimy, sweaty and smiling. The smaller woman tossed a ball at her, which Ryan caught defensively. "What’s this?" she asked.

"Your home run ball. You don’t think I’m going to let them throw it back in with the rest of the balls, do you?"

Ryan blinked at her, surprised and puzzled by her feat. "But how …?"

Jamie smiled and let her in on her scheme. "I saw a kid who works at the facility run out there to retrieve it. I caught him before he entered the clubhouse and gave him $20 for it." She waggled her eyebrows Ryan-style, breaking her partner up, as usual.

"You’re the best," she said, giving her a sweaty squeeze.

"I’m inspired to greatness."

* * * * * * * * * * *

After a quick clean-up, the pair headed to The Mirage to meet up with Jordan and Mia. "Have a nice day?" Ryan whispered into Mia’s ear when they found them playing quarter slots.

"Yipes!" She turned and gave her a light slap in the gut. "You scared me!"

"Well, did you?" Ryan asked, unrepentant.

"Yes, we did, as a matter of fact. We’ve been vertical for nearly an hour now." She had a very pleased smile on her face, and Ryan nodded her approval.

"Good job. Now I won’t feel bad demanding that you come to the game tomorrow. We swept today, so we’re in the championship game tomorrow. It’s not until two, so you can get your beauty rest."

"In my case, the correct term is resting with my beauty, but I get your point," Mia said. "We’ll be there. Did you play?"

"Yep. Started the second game. Hit my first home run."

"Way to go, boomer!" Jordan said. "You rule!"

"Thanks. We’ve been playing great. Haven’t lost one yet."

"We’ll definitely be there to root you on," Jordan said. "I can’t wait to see Heather, too. How’s she doing?"

"Good. I wish we could have brought her tonight, but she skipped a grade and hasn’t even turned 18 yet – much less 21. Oh, she and Ashley are tutoring Jennie, you know. It’s been going well."

"Does she get to play much?"

"Nope. She hasn’t played in a real game yet – but she doesn’t seem to mind. Coach likes to go with a hot hand – and Stephanie and Courtney are mowing people down. She’ll play plenty if she sticks with it next year, though. I think she’ll be good once she matures into her body a little bit. She pitched in the alumni game and did very well."

"So, what do you guys want to do tonight?" Jamie asked.

"I wanna go see ‘O’ again," Jordan said. "That show was so totally fine! We can’t thank you guys enough."

"It was great, wasn’t it?" Jamie asked. "Once Ryan got over her disappointment at not having lions and tigers and bears, she was goofy for it."

"Speaking of tigers," Mia said, "Let’s see if we can get tickets to see those weird guys with the white tigers."

Jordan rolled her eyes and Ryan’s mirrored her. "No interest," the blonde said.

Jamie, however, completely agreed with Mia’s desire. "Come on, you two. It’ll be fun."

"Doesn’t sound like fun to me," Ryan said. "I don’t like those big, staged shows."

"You enjoyed ‘O’ more than I’ve ever seen you enjoy anything," Jamie reminded her.

"It was awesome," Ryan said, "but watching those guys with the tigers is not in the same category. I wanna play poker, blackjack, or maybe craps."

"Me, too," Jordan said. Turning to Ryan, she asked, "What’s craps?"

"Fine. We’ll see if we can snare a couple of tickets," Jamie said. "And we won’t tell you any of the cool things that happen."

Ryan had a perfect mental image of Jamie as a six-year-old, snubbing her little friends for refusing to go along with one of her ideas. Unable to resist her allure, she bent her head and kissed her soundly, pressing their bodies tightly together until Jamie relaxed against her. "I would have loved to have known you when you were a little girl," she murmured into her ear.

Struggling to get her bearings, Jamie responded, "I didn’t do things like that with my little girl friends. Elizabeth would not have approved."

"I’m glad she went back to England," Ryan said. "She doesn’t sound like any fun at all."

Giving the long body a squeeze, Jamie sent the jocks on their way. "You two have fun. The show’s over at ten, so we’ll come find you at either the poker or the blackjack tables."

"Okay," Ryan said. "Miss you already."

"Uh-huh. That’s why you don’t want to come with me," she scoffed.

"How can I miss you if you won’t go away?" Ryan teased over her shoulder, drawing a fierce scowl that quickly turned into a smile and a blown kiss from her partner.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan’s luck was holding, and she amassed quite a little nest egg from her two hours at the poker table. Jordan stuck with blackjack, making the $100 bankroll she’d started with triple over the course of the evening. It was not yet ten o’clock, but because her concentration was beginning to wander, Ryan decided to cash out. She and Jordan went to the slot machines that bordered the blackjack area, thinking that Jamie and Mia would try that area first.

Jordan went to fetch some mineral water for them, since the free drinks were slow to come. Ryan wasn’t paying much attention, slowly putting one quarter at a time into the machine. She felt a warm hand on her shoulder and turned, expecting to find Jamie. To her surprise, the woman now touching her back was part of the reason her concentration had flagged at the poker table, and she swallowed hard when she found herself face to face with the object of her distraction.

The woman looked like a model or an actress, and Ryan had a very vague sense of having seen her somewhere. She racked her brain, trying to remember any recent movies she’d seen, but came up blank. "You play well," she said in a very friendly voice. Ryan swallowed, trying not to stare at the long, lean legs, shapely body, and generous breasts; or the long, light brown hair held back in a simple braid, showing off the well-defined planes of her face. Her eyes were hazel, and they were gazing avidly at Ryan.

Ryan shrugged, trying to avoid looking into the woman’s beckoning eyes. "Anybody can pull a handle. The skill is in designing the computer program that sets the random payout for the machine."

The hand returned to her shoulder and squeezed a bit, sending a shiver down Ryan’s spine. "I meant that you play poker well. I think you saw me watching you … didn’t you."

A faint flush climbed Ryan’s cheeks and she nodded. "Yeah. I thought maybe you were looking at someone else."

"No. Only you," the woman said. "You held my attention."

Ryan made a show of holding up her left hand, flexing her ring finger – hoping to blind the woman with her diamonds. "Thanks. Uhm … but my attention is taken. I’m permanently partnered."

A tiny frown crossed the woman’s face and she said, "You’ve been by yourself all night … I assumed …"

"That makes perfect sense," Ryan said. She rose from her stool and started to move away, wanting to remove herself from this discussion as soon as possible.

The woman moved right with her, however, and put a hand on her arm, stopping her. "Are you forbidden to talk to people?"

"No, no, of course not," Ryan said, slightly flustered. She honestly didn’t know what to do in this situation. She knew that the woman didn’t want to discuss how the program for the slot machine might work, but she didn’t want to be rude. Something inside told her that Jamie wouldn’t be very happy to find her spending time with a beautiful stranger, no matter how innocent the situation. "I can talk to whomever I want, but you’re wasting your time talking to me."

"You’re pretty fond of yourself, aren’t you?" the woman asked, tilting her head.

"No, I’m not," Ryan insisted, backing away from the woman. "But I have a lover, I don’t live around here, and we’ll never see each other again; so why not find someone who can show you a better time than I can?"

The woman tried unsuccessfully to hold back a smirk. "I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more henpecked than you are. Does she beat you for having fun?"

Ryan’s eyes darkened, and she gave the woman a withering look. "That’s not even remotely funny. I’m in love with my partner, and I’ve never met a woman who I’d prefer to spend my time with. Including tonight." She brushed past the woman, who followed right along beside her, trying to get in one last dig. But when they got to a small seating area, the stranger tripped on something and violently banged into Ryan. The dark haired woman fell onto the cushion of an overstuffed chair, with the other woman falling right into her lap. Those dangerously long legs were now exposed up to mid thigh, and Ryan struggled to catch her breath.

"Did I hurt you?" the woman asked, feeling gently around Ryan’s body to check for damage.

Trying to remove her wandering hands, Ryan sputtered, "No! Now, please get off my lap!"

"Fine," the woman huffed. "Look, I fell. I’m not trying to assault you! You’re a good-looking woman, but I’ve had better. Get over yourself!"

Ceasing her attempts to extricate herself from the chair, Ryan gave the woman a chagrined look and said, "I’m sorry if it sounded like that. Really. I’m sorry."

"That’s okay," the woman said. "You just shot me down awfully quickly. I’m … not used to that." She was sitting across Ryan’s lap, with one arm draped around her shoulders. "Damn, my watch snagged on your sweater. I think I’ve almost got it … okay! I’m free."

As the woman started to get up, Ryan heard Jamie’s outraged voice. "Ryan! How could you!"

Grasping the woman by the waist, Ryan pushed her to her feet, crying after her lover’s departing form," Jamie! It’s not what it looks like! She fell!"

"Is that the best you could come up with?" Mia growled, giving Ryan a menacing look before she ran after her friend.

Ryan quickly made sure the woman had regained her balance, and ran as fast as she could, barely able to see Jamie’s blonde head in the distance. Her heart was pounding so hard that she felt faint, but she kept going until she lost her partner near the progressive slots. Not having a clue of where to look, she started back for where she had left Jordan. She got no more than ten feet when a pair of hands pushed her into a quiet corner. Now, a very familiar pair of lips met hers, and she immediately relaxed into the kiss. "You got me back, didn’t you," she mumbled as her knees began to weaken.

"Yep." Jamie kissed her again, ratcheting up the passion. "You’ve been had."

"You can have me any time you want me," Ryan said, smiling down at her. "And, for the record, I’ll never play another practical joke on you. You’re fucking vicious!"

"Sure am," she said. "I’ve got to pull out all the stops when I’m dealing with the likes of you."

Both laughing, they walked back to find their friends, Ryan pausing to ask, "How did you find someone to play that joke on me?"

"I recognized her from the Bimbo Express," the blonde said. "Cost me $100." She cocked her head at Ryan and said, "See how serious I am about getting revenge? I could have had sex with her for twenty minutes, but I spent my whole allotment getting back at you."

"Uhm … thanks, I think," Ryan gulped.

"She assured me that she was the best in the business, but she’s a rank amateur compared to you, babe. You’re the tops."

"Even though your opinion is based on pure speculation, I’m very glad to hear it," Ryan said, giving her lover a blissful smile.

* * * * * * * * * * *

After they saw Jamie and Ryan off, Mia grinned up at her partner and asked, "Where to now?"

Jordan shrugged. "I don’t want to gamble any more. I’m up $500, and I’m using it for a plane ticket." At Mia’s raised eyebrow, Jordan tapped the brunette’s nose with her finger, then placed a tiny kiss there. "A plane ticket to come see you. I can’t bear to be away from you for longer than a month."

"Let’s not talk about being apart right now, okay?" Mia asked gently, her face reflecting her sadness over their separation. "Let’s try to stay upbeat. I hate to waste a minute that we have together."

"You’re right," Jordan said. "Let’s go back to our room. There’s nothing that appeals to me more than being alone with you."

When they reached the room, Mia said, "Let’s fire up that spa tub. Jamie said they didn’t have time to use it, and I hate to see it go to waste."

"Good deal. I’ll go get us some ice while you fill it. I brought a bottle of white wine for us to share."

Several minutes later, the pair was comfortably ensconced in the deep, whirling waters of the tub, sipping at the wine Jordan had brought. "I’ve been thinking about what you said last night," the blonde said. "I hope you know that I’ll do anything I can to help you if you decide to tell your parents."

"I do," she said quietly, "but I don’t know how to do it. I need to think about it for a while."

"What about Peter? Could he tell them first?"

"Mmm … I’ve considered that, but I think it would hurt them to think I was afraid of telling them. I’m sure he’d do it, though. He’s always willing to go to bat for me."

"I can’t wait to meet him," Jordan said. "He sounds like a great brother."

"He is," Mia said. "You know, I think you’ll like my parents, too. They’re nice people, Jordy; and once they get over their shock, I’m sure they’ll be fine." She gave her a squeeze and said, "Someday we’ll be sitting around the dinner table at their house, laughing about how afraid we were to tell them about our relationship."

Jordan had been cupping her hand and pouring water over Mia’s shoulders, but she stopped abruptly. "Do you honestly see that happening?"

"Uhm … yeah," Mia said tentatively. "What’s wrong? Don’t you want to have a relationship with them?"

Letting out a relieved sigh, Jordan closed her eyes and shook her head. "Of course, I do. I just didn’t know that you wanted to have a … normal relationship. You know, like Ryan has with her family, and like Jamie has with her mom."


"I don’t even know what I’m talking about," Jordan said quickly, her head shaking roughly. "Forget it."

Grasping her arm, Mia held her still and said, "No, I don’t want to forget it. What did you mean?"

Jordan looked chagrined, but she completed her thought. "I guess I’m still fixated on what you told me when we were in L.A. with Ryan and Jamie. You were so clear that you didn’t want anyone to know about us, and it throws me when you talk about things like we’re a regular couple."

Mia leaned back against her, murmuring, "We are a regular couple, sweetheart." She turned as much as she could so that she could look into Jordan’s eyes. "When I said those things in L.A., I was in a very different place. I thought we were only playing, and I didn’t want things to get complicated between us. It seemed to me that if no one knew, it wouldn’t be a big deal if it didn’t work out. Do you know what I mean?"

Nodding briefly, Jordan waited for her to continue.

"We’re not playing any more," Mia whispered, snuggling closer as she tilted her head upwards. Her breath was warm and sweet, and Jordan was drawn towards her, their noses nearly touching. "I’m deeply in love with you, Jordan, and you can take everything I said in L.A. and trash it. I want to tell my parents about us. I want to tell my friends about us. I want everyone I know to know how special you are, and how much you mean to me." A few hot tears slid down Jordan’s face and Mia kissed them away as they fell. "I love you," she whispered between kisses. "I want to share my life, and all of the people in my life, with you."

"How much of your life?" Jordan’s faint voice asked.

"All of it," Mia promised. "I want to share everything with you."

"For how long?" The look on her face was one of pure terror, and Mia couldn’t answer fast enough.

"Forever," she whispered. "I want to love you forever."

* * * * * * * * * * *

The sun peeked over the mountains, spreading a warm orange glow over the room. The heat radiated through the large window, painting the glistening bodies with a vivid, golden light. "Is this what being in love feels like for everyone?" Jordan’s lazy, soft voice asked.

"Don’t know," Mia mumbled. She was lying on her belly, too enervated to even think of moving. Not that she could move much even if she’d wanted to, since Jordan was sprawled on top of her, her head pillowed between Mia’s shoulder blades. When the smaller woman spoke, the vibrations hummed against Jordan’s cheek, making her smile serenely. "It’s never been like this for me."

"Am I crushing you?" Jordan asked, hoping the answer was no, since she was quite sure she couldn’t move.

"Uh-huh." Mia’s voice was a little wispy from her inability to take a deep breath, but as Jordan tried to roll off, she placed a restraining hand on her hip. "I like it."

With a gentle laugh, Jordan said, "You like to be crushed?"

"No. But, I want to share your skin. This is the closest I think I can get."

"Let’s try it the other way," Jordan suggested. Summoning a burst of energy, she rolled off and lay on her back, then pulled Mia on top of her. "How’s this?"

Nuzzling her head against the softest breast imaginable, Mia sighed deeply. "Preferable. My ribs thank you."

"Tell me how it’s been for you before," Jordan asked, trying to understand how Mia experienced their love.

She tried to recall how things had been for her, and finally said, "I’ve thought I was in love before, Jordy. But, now I’m not so sure. It never – ever felt like this."

Jordan reached up and started to run her fingers through Mia’s curls, delighting in the feel of the soft ringlets. "How is it different?"

"Mmm … lots of ways. But, it’s hardly fair to make the comparison, because I know that I wasn’t really in love before."

"But, you thought you were," Jordan said.

"Yeah, yeah, I did. But I’ve decided that it’s easy to confuse desire with love – especially when you’re young."

"Did you think you were in love with your high school boyfriend?"

"Who, Mark?"

"Uhm … was he the guy you were with during your senior year?"

"Yeah, that was Mark. It’s hard to believe that was only 4 year ago," Mia said thoughtfully. "Looking back, I was only a girl then. I’m starting to have more empathy for my parents." She started to laugh, making Jordan’s body jiggle as well. "They knew I was just a kid, but I was sure I was an adult, and should be able to make all of my own decisions."

"Tell me about Mark," Jordan said. "You’ve never spoken about him much."

"That’s because there isn’t a lot to tell. He was a good catch: tall, good-looking, popular, a good athlete – and a total goof-off in school. My ideal man," she added, giggling a little. "I liked him, we got along pretty well in bed, and he was a lot of fun when we went out."

"When did you realize that you didn’t love him?" Jordan asked, obviously not willing to let the topic drop.

Mia thought for a minute, trying to recall the chain of events. "I guess I was certain that I didn’t love him when I started wishing he and Trey would leave so I could be alone with Melissa. I don’t think that’s the normal reaction of a woman in love." She gave Jordan a sad, wistful smile, and the blonde squeezed her a little tighter.

"Does it make you sad to talk about this?"

"Mmm … a little I guess. I … I wish I’d had the guts to let myself face my feelings for Melissa. I think I could have loved her."

"Do you really? I got the impression she was only a sex partner."

"Well, that’s the impression I wanted her to have. And that’s what I tried to make myself believe. But, I had feelings for her, Jordy. I felt so much when she held me – so much more than I did when I was with Mark." She shook her head, her ringlets trailing across Jordan’s chest. "I wish I’d let myself explore being vulnerable with her. I’m not sure it would have worked out, but of the people I’ve slept with, I felt more for her than for anyone else – until you, of course."

"It’s okay if you loved her, Mia, you can be honest with me."

Lifting her head so she could stare into Jordan’s eyes, Mia said, "If I’d loved her like I do you, I wouldn’t have been able to be in the kind of denial I was in. I’d risk anything for you, Jordy – I wouldn’t even give Melissa a hint that I had feelings for her. That’s not love."

"I guess you’re right," Jordan said. "You have to be able to risk to love someone."

"You do," Mia agreed. "You also have to be a bit selfless. That’s another big difference for me. I think of you first. That’s never happened to me before. Like with Jason," she explained. "I spent a lot of time trying to make sure he wasn’t getting the better end of the deal. I used to try to protect myself in case he hurt me, too. But, I don’t do that with you. I’m as open with you as I am with my family – and that’s very different for me." Seeing the cautious look in the blue eyes she added, "It’s good different."

"I think of you first, too," Jordan said. "I get up and turn on my computer every morning, and I have the weather for San Francisco on my start page. I think about you waking up, and I actually say, ‘It’s gonna be chilly today, Mia. Make sure you wear a jacket to school’." She laughed softly and said, "I don’t normally notice if the people around me are even clothed. But I’m fixated on your comfort and your safety and your happiness. I’ve never – ever felt this close to anyone … It scares me to death."

"I know," Mia whispered. She tucked her hands under Jordan’s body and rocked her gently. "I know it’s hard for you to trust me not to hurt you."

"I feel so exposed, Mia. I’ve never let anyone in like I have you. I’m not used to being so vulnerable."

"We’re both vulnerable, baby," Mia said. "We have to treat each other’s heart like it’s the most fragile thing on earth. I promise to do everything I can to make it safe for you."

"I do, too," Jordan whispered. They sealed their promises with a tender kiss, then Mia began to relax, and in a few minutes she was sound asleep, her body limp and heavy upon Jordan’s chest. The larger woman wrapped her arms around her and forced herself to remain awake, savoring the weight and feel of Mia’s body … the scent and texture of her skin … the pattern of her breathing. As the sensations flooded her brain, she sighed and allowed herself to experience the depths of emotion she felt for her lover. A small grin split her face, and she gratefully acknowledged, This is what it feels like to love and be loved.

* * * * * * * * * * *

They were nowhere near on time, but Jordan and Mia finally arrived at the stadium as the third inning began. "Did we miss anything good?" Mia asked Jamie as she squinted into the amazingly bright sun.

"Nope. No hits, no runs. Ryan and Heather are both on the bench."

"Sorry we’re late," Jordan said. "We had a hard time getting organized."

Jamie grinned back at her. "It’s happened to me a time or two, also, Jordan. Sometimes Ryan organizes me so thoroughly that I’m nearly paralyzed."

The blonde blushed fiercely, but she didn’t dispute Jamie’s tease. "Softball’s kinda slow moving, huh?" she said, to take the focus off of herself.

Jamie revealed the textbook on her lap. "It can be like watching paint dry," she said. "I’m only interested if Ryan’s playing."

"You’re a good partner," Jordan said, patting her thigh. "I’m sure Ryan appreciates that you come to her games."

"Oh, she’ll have her fill of watching me play golf," Jamie said. "That’s not her favorite thing in the world, either. The only difference is that I’m actually playing."

Jordan shook her head. "Doesn’t it bother her to sit on the bench? It would drive me crazy!"

"It honestly doesn’t seem to," Jamie said. "It surprised me, too, but she seems perfectly fine with it. I think she enjoys the team experience as much as the playing experience – and she likes her teammates a lot."

"I like my teammates as long as I’m on the court," Jordan said. "If I were on the bench for long, I’d be plotting a debilitating accident for one of them."

* * * * * * * * * * *

As usual, Mia needed something to munch on, and she went in search of junk food. Jamie looked at Jordan and noticed a peacefulness to her expression that was quite rare. She patted her leg and commented simply, "You look happy."

A wide smile telegraphed her reply. "Mia makes me happy."

"I think it goes both ways, Jordan. She talks about you with a depth of emotion that I’ve never heard from her. You’re good for each other."

Jordan cocked her head a bit, and looked at Jamie speculatively. "I assume you know about her getting into Stanford?"

"Yeah. Pretty awesome, huh?"

"It didn’t surprise me," Jordan said thoughtfully. "I know she’s capable of anything that interests her. She’s a very bright woman."

"She is. She doesn’t always want people to know it – but she is."

"Do you think she wants to be a lawyer?" Jordan’s face reflected her doubt, but Jamie wasn’t able to reassure her.

"I’ve known her for almost eight years, Jordan, and when she told me she was admitted, that was the first time she’s ever mentioned the idea. If it’s been a burning desire, she’s kept it well hidden."

"That’s what I’m afraid of," she mused. "I don’t know what’s behind her desire to go – maybe it’s only to please her father."

"Mmm … maybe. She’s very fond of him, and I know he’s thrilled." She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I think it might be a way to stay in school for a while. She’s not crazy about school, but I know she’s not terribly interested in any particular line of work. Maybe a few more years of school will help her make up her mind about what she wants to do." Jordan nodded, but didn’t look convinced. Jamie patted her leg and asked, "What about you? What do you want to do when your time with the team is over?"

"Oh. I’m going to be an architect." There wasn’t a glimmer of doubt in her statement, which surprised Jamie a bit.

"I’ve never heard you mention that. Is that a new goal?"

"Oh, no. I made up my mind when I was in grade school." She gave Jamie her usual enigmatic smile, and the smaller woman pondered that she didn’t know one thing about Jordan that she hadn’t learned as a result of a direct question. Jordan would reveal her secrets – but you had to know exactly what questions to ask.

"You’ll be quite the power couple," Jamie teased. "An architect and an attorney."

"The power part means nothing to me," Jordan said, "but the couple part means everything." She turned her attention back to the game, and Jamie gave her another puzzled glance. There’s a lot going on behind those blue eyes, and Mia’s just the one to pull it out of her.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan didn’t get the call until the top of the seventh, when Coach Roberts sent her in to pinch-run for Jackie. All three of her fans focused their attention on her, with Jordan commenting, "God, she looks like she’s seven feet tall!"

Jamie giggled at her comment, but she had to admit that it was accurate. "I think it’s because so many of the women are particularly short. This obviously isn’t a tall woman’s game."

"It’s kinda cute," Mia said. "She looks so comfortable with her height that it looks very natural."

"She is," Jamie said. "I’m not sure how Martin did it, but he helped her have confidence in her body." Turning to Jordan, she commented, "You seem very much at ease with your height, too."

"Yeah, I am," she said. "Probably because I got so much acclaim from my sport. It’s a good thing to be a tall volleyball player, and I got praise heaped on me when I grew an inch. Plus, my mother’s tall, and she thought it was a good thing if I wanted to model."

"She encouraged you to do that, honey?" Mia asked, never having heard of a single encouraging word from Jordan’s mother.

"Yeah," she said absently, her attention focused on Ryan. "She was a pretty well-known model in the seventies. She thinks it’s a great way to make a living."

"Your mom was a model?" Mia had never heard a whisper about this fact.

"Yep. Cover girl. She’s got most of the important ones framed. She quit when she had Gunnar." She turned to Mia, and added, "My dad says that she was planning on going back, but she got pregnant with me – unexpectedly. Apparently, she wasn’t aware that she was pregnant – she was so thin that she often missed a period. She didn’t know she was pregnant until she was 4 months along – too late to have an abortion." She shrugged and gave Mia a half smile. "Good thing she didn’t gain much weight, huh?"

"Oh, Jordy, why would anyone tell you that?" Mia reached out and grasped her lover’s hand, giving it a squeeze while looking at her with tears in her eyes.

"I don’t know," the blonde said quietly. "But, I remember her telling me dozens of times that she would have been one of the top models of her era – if it hadn’t been for me. I guess she wanted to make sure I knew it was my fault."

Mia stared straight ahead, her eyes focused on Ryan, who was moving around on her base, but her mind filled with thoughts of a young Jordan. "I’d sacrifice anything to have a daughter as wonderful as you are," she sighed. "I wish she appreciated what she has."

"Not gonna happen," Jordan said briskly. "No sense wishing for what will never be." She said this so matter-of-factly that only Mia noticed the flash of pain and longing that briefly flitted across her features.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan was dancing around first base, trying to distract the pitcher, but her tactics were ineffective. The next two batters struck out – leaving her stranded. Jamie sighed and shrugged. "Oh well, at least she didn’t get hurt."

"That’s not a small accomplishment for her," Jordan said. "Coach Placer used to get so pissed off at her. She’d go running up into the stands to return a ball – nearly breaking her neck to get to it – and this was during warm ups! She gets so focused that it doesn’t matter to her that the play is meaningless."

"She’s like that about everything," Jamie said, sparing a fond glance at her partner, who was throwing the ball around the infield to warm up. "If Ryan does something, she does it with every bit of effort and concentration that she has." She thought about her statement for a moment and added, "It’s her best and her most frustrating trait."

Mia giggled and tucked an arm around Jordan, giving her a squeeze. "My Jordy’s no slacker in the effort and concentration department, either. But, I’d have to say it’s all good, in her case."

Jordan blushed while Jamie elaborated. "I admit it’s a wonderful thing most of the time – but I’d like to see you try to pull her away from her computer when she’s working on a math problem. She doesn’t know I’m talking to her – she doesn’t see me if I stand right next to her – and if I touch her, she nearly jumps out of her seat! I swear I’m going to give the poor thing a heart attack."

"You’ve gotta take the bitter with the sweet," Mia said. "Having the full concentration of these big girls is worth whatever little problems we have to put up with, Jamie."

"Can’t argue with you, Mia," Jamie said, delighted to wring yet another blush from the usually unflappable Jordan.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The bottom-half of the seventh inning passed without incident – securing Cal’s victory. Ryan was upbeat and relaxed when she emerged from the locker room, Heather in tow. The three former teammates started chattering about volleyball, the Olympic team, and some of their former pals. Jamie and Mia finally sat down on the bleachers and watched the threesome for a few minutes. "Heather sure comes out of her shell when the topic turns to volleyball, doesn’t she?" Jamie asked.

"I’ve never heard two words from the girl," Mia observed. "She’s pretty bubbly when you get her going."

"We’d better break up the party," Jamie said. "We’re gonna have to rush to make the plane."

Mia shook her head, staring at Jordan as she said, "I’m on the verge of dropping out of school to go to Colorado with her. It’s tearing me apart to let her leave."

"I know," Jamie sighed, "but I’m sure she doesn’t want you to do that. You’ve only got three months left. Can’t you tough it out?"

"I guess so," she said. "I feel so good when I’m with her, Jamie. She … makes me see the world in a whole new way. Everything is brighter when we’re together."

"I know exactly what you mean. There’s nothing better than being loved."

"And there’s nothing worse than being away from the one you love." With a dejected slump to her shoulders, Mia went to fetch her partner so they could get to the airport in time for yet another parting.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Mia was able to secure a seat on the plane taking the team back, and after a few ticket swaps the threesome was able to sit together. Jamie preferred the window, and Ryan was partial to the aisle, so Mia sat between them. She was uncharacteristically glum and non-communicative; and once the plane was in the air, Ryan took one look at her face and tucked an arm around her shoulders. "Come here," she urged, drawing Mia close. The smaller woman raised the armrest and cuddled up to her body, resting her head on Ryan’s shoulder. Jamie gave her partner an appreciative grin and started patting Mia’s leg, to show her support. "It’ll be okay," Ryan soothed, her voice soft and gentle. "You’ll be together soon, Mia. As soon as you graduate, you can go to Colorado and be together."

"This will be the longest three months of my life," Mia sighed, and both Jamie and Ryan knew that statement was the absolute truth.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When they were lying in bed later that night, Jamie cuddled up next to her partner and asked, "How’d you make out this weekend? I saw a lot of greenbacks bulging in your wallet."

"Mmm … I’d say I came out even," Ryan said. "I had about a hundred dollars of change that I’d collected before I started, and now I’ve got a hundred dollar bill and a pocketful of change."

Jamie sat up abruptly, her hand on Ryan’s chest for support. "What? I didn’t see you lose a lot. Where did it all go?"

Ryan shrugged, and made a non-committal gesture. "Easy come, easy go. I’m happy."

With a quick knock, their door flew open, revealing a sobbing Mia. She was holding some papers in her hand and she shook them in the couple’s direction. "Which one of you did this?" she asked, her voice nearly incomprehensible.

"Did what?" Jamie asked.

"No biggie," Ryan said simultaneously.

Mia gave both of them fervid hugs, reserving a bone-crushing one for Ryan. "You are the most thoughtful woman on earth," she murmured, her lips pressed against Ryan’s hair.

"I told you before, Mia. Money I win gambling is like Monopoly money to me. It gives me a lot of pleasure to share it with my friends."

"Anybody want to clue me in?" Jamie asked, still befuddled.

"Your girlfriend bought me a roundtrip ticket to Denver," Mia informed her. "You are a remarkable woman, Ryan O’Flaherty."

"She has a point, Jamie," the dark woman said, drawing smiles from her audience.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 15

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