I Found My Heart In San Francisco

Book 13 Monogamy

By: S X Meagher


Part 15

Early the next morning, Ryan paced in front of the Oakland office building, waiting for the therapist to open the office door. She had staked out a spot as far as possible from the door –giving herself the ability to spot Ellen when the therapist went inside. From her previous visit, she knew that the lobby was open, but she didn’t have any interest in making small talk with the other women, so she paced and drank her coffee, trying not to look as nervous as she was.

She nearly spit a mouthful of latte when a quiet voice right behind her said, "Hi, Ryan."

Whirling, she stared, wide-eyed, at Barb, the police officer who had accidentally shot and killed her partner. "How did you get behind me?" she asked, her heart racing. "I can always hear when someone approaches."

"I’m a cop … or I was a cop," the woman said, looking towards the door of the building. "The lobby’s open, you know."

"Yeah, I know," Ryan said, not making a move to go there.


Ryan nodded, saying nothing.

"I was, too. Still am, sometimes. Every Monday and Thursday morning, I have to give myself a pep talk to make myself come here again."

"I only come because I don’t want to disappoint my lover. I know she wants me to get over my anger and my guilt, and I want her to know I’m doing all I can to work through this."

"I promise this will get easier," the police officer said. She took a long look at Ryan and said, "If you’re anything like me, having strangers know about your demons is really painful."

Ryan nodded again, her hands shoved into the rear pockets of her jeans. "It sucks."

"The most encouraging thing I can tell you is that over time, these women won’t be strangers any more. They’ll be your friends."

"I’ve got all the friends I need," Ryan said, giving Barb a half-smile. "I’m only looking for someone who can help pull me out of this funk."

"I think you’re at the right place, Ryan. It might take a while, but I think we can be more help than you might imagine."

"Ellen’s here," Ryan said, twitching her head towards the door. "Let’s go spill our guts."

Barb laughed softly, saying, "You remind me more of a cop than a student at Berkeley. Aren’t you supposed to be into that touchy-feely stuff?"

"My dad’s a firefighter," the brunette said. "We don’t go in for touchy-feely much."

"No wonder I liked you immediately," Barb said. "My dad was a firefighter, too. What house is your dad with?"

The pair walked towards the building, talking about the fire department, and laughing in surprise at the large number of people they both knew. As they got to the office door, Ryan took a breath, feeling significantly lighter than she had mere minutes earlier.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Jordan reached Mia that evening she was uncharacteristically lethargic. "Hi."

"What’s up, Jordy?" Mia bubbled. "How was practice?"

"It was okay. Hey, I got a call from my agent tonight and she’s got another ad for Ralph Lauren lined up for me."

"That’s great! Are you gonna take it?"

"Yeah, I guess I have to," she said, obviously not enthusiastic with the prospect.

"What’s up? You don’t sound like yourself."

Jordan yawned loudly, unable to stop herself. "I’m so tired," she said. "I had a great time with you this weekend, but I’m paying for it today. I felt like I had lead shoes on at practice." She chuckled softly, but Mia knew her well enough to recognize that Jordan was not a whiner, and would only mention it if she was remarkably tired.

"Jordy, if you’re complaining about it, it must be bothering you a lot. Now what’s going on?"

"I guess it’s hard for me to get used to the pace," she said. "Even though I’ve played the sport for years, I’ve never focused on it to the exclusion of everything else, ya know?"

"I’m not sure I do. Tell me what you mean."

Jordan sighed and said, "We practice twice a day, for two hours at a time. There isn’t a moment that we’re not flying around the gym like lunatics, either. It’s very high intensity stuff. Then, I have to weight train three times a week, and I work on my jumping twice a week. We also run three days a week; and in this thin air, that’s tough to get used to. I need my weekend to veg," she said quietly. "I wish I didn’t have to, but I can’t keep up if I don’t sleep for most of the weekend."

Fighting the hurt that her lover’s words caused, Mia said, "I understand. We won’t schedule any more weekend trips. I don’t want you to wear yourself down."

"No, that’s not it," Jordan insisted. "I get such a boost from seeing you that it’s worth the fatigue. It’s the modeling that’s worrying me. This shoot is in LA, and it’s three full days. That’s good money, but I’ll be sitting or standing around most of the time while they adjust lights and fuss with my hair. It’s truly mind numbing. God, I wish I didn’t have to do it!"

"Jordan," Mia soothed. "You don’t have to do it. It’s only money. Don’t let that be the only factor you consider."

"It has to be, Mia," she said. "It’s gonna cost a load to buy business class plane tickets for my mother and grandmother and brother …"

"You’re paying for all of them?"

"Well, yeah," she said defensively. "Gunnar’s gonna pay for their hotel, but I have to pay for the air fare, and his and Grandmom’s tickets to the opening ceremonies. Then, I’ll have to pay for all three of them to go to whatever other events they’re interested in. And believe me, if Gunnar doesn’t come through, I’ll have to pay for the hotel, as well."

"Jordan, you don’t have to do that. If you want to, that’s one thing, but you don’t have to."

"But, I said I would," she said quietly. "I have to, Mia. You don’t know …"

Realizing that she was pushing her friend too far, Mia backed off. "I’m sorry. You’re right. I don’t know what it’s like for you. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying about you."

"I’ll be okay," she said. "I’m gonna grab a bite and go to bed. I’m thrashed."

Looking at her watch, Mia saw that it was only 7:30 in Colorado Springs. "Please take care of yourself. You can’t afford to get sick."

"Don’t I know it. I’ve got to make an impression on the coaches. The last thing I want is to be an alternate on the damned team! I’ve got to start kicking ass!"

Pausing a moment, Mia asked, "When do you have to go to LA?"

"Thursday night," Jordan said through another massive yawn. "I got permission to miss practice on Friday."

Making a snap decision, Mia said, "I’m going to drive down to be with you. I want to make sure you’re eating right, and that you’re in bed early every night."

Jordan paused for a beat, unable to wipe the smile from her face. "I have to go to bed early to sleep. That’s not what we’re best at. Don’t you remember seeing the dawn on Saturday and Sunday?"

"Holding you while you sleep is the second most pleasurable thing we do in bed. I’ll take that over sleeping alone any time."

"If you’re sure," Jordan said, her voice taking on a hint of her normal sparkle.

"I’m positive," Mia insisted. "I’m your support team."

* * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning, the ringing phone woke her earlier than she would have liked, but Mia stumbled to her feet and croaked out a hello.

"Oh-oh," her brother’s amused voice replied. "Someone was still in bed."

"That’s okay, Peter," she yawned. "What’s up?"

"I had an idea, Mia, and I thought you could investigate it a little."

"Shoot," she said, struggling to wake up, since Peter’s ideas were usually very sound.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Mia headed down to Palo Alto that afternoon and spent quite a while speaking with a sympathetic woman in the Admissions Office of the law school. When she was satisfied with her answers, she headed north for Hillsborough.

Anna Lisa was shocked, but very pleased, to see her daughter stroll into the kitchen. "Mia! What a nice surprise! Is everything all right?"

"Yep," she said, snitching a carrot from the salad her mother was making. "It’s the four a.m. phone calls from the lock-up that you have to worry about. An in-person appearance is usually good news."

Her mother gave her a playful swat on the seat and said, "So, tell me some good news."

"Is Dad home?"

"Yes, he’s upstairs changing."

"Is that Mia’s voice?" Adam called out as he descended the stairs.

"Sure is," she replied, going to meet him for a hug and a kiss.

"What a nice surprise! Are you staying for dinner?"

"Of course. I even brought one of my books. I thought I’d hang out with you guys this evening." Adam and Anna Lisa exchanged puzzled glances that Mia caught. "I miss you both. Is that okay?"

"Of course it is, honey, but you haven’t been around much lately. Is everything all right?"

"Yes, Dad, everything is fine. As a matter of fact, I’m in the neighborhood because I spoke with the people in the Admissions Office at the law school, and they’ve agreed to let me defer my admission for a year."

"What does that mean?" Anna Lisa asked.

"It means that I’ll enroll in 2001 instead of this fall. I’ll still go – I’m merely going to wait a year."

"Does this decision make your boyfriend happy?" Anna Lisa asked, guessing that the unknown boyfriend was directing Mia’s decisions.

She looked at her mother for a few moments, then said, "I haven’t discussed this with anyone but you. You know, you might not see it, but I’ve grown up a lot in the last year. I think I need another year before I can throw myself into law school. My brain’s tired!"

"How about coming down to the firm and clerking for a year?" Adam asked hopefully.

Peter had warned her about this potential development, and she had a ready answer. "No, as tempting as that sounds, I’d like to do something different – something that I’ll never be able to do once I’m in the working world."

"Like?" Anna Lisa asked suspiciously.

"I’m not sure yet," Mia said. Especially since Peter just gave me this delayed admission idea this morning! "I might do some volunteer work," she suggested, hoping that her father would bite the hook.

"I think that’s a fine idea," he said. "I’d be more than happy to support you while you did that, Mia."

YES! "Okay, Dad, I’ll check out the opportunities, and see if there’s something I can do for a year that’ll be rewarding."

He tucked his arm around her and gave her a gentle hug. "You’re turning into a fine young woman, Mia. We’re lucky to have you."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Late the next night, after a long discussion with the cousins, and more beer than she should have drunk, Ryan suppressed a yawn as she followed her partner up to bed, switching off the lights as they moved through the house.

"That went better than I had hoped," Jamie said, falling onto the bed.

"Me, too," Ryan said. "It was so nice to see Frank and Niall walk out together with their arms around each other’s shoulders. If Frank’s excited about the concept, everyone else will be, too."

"I’m glad they decided to think about it over the weekend," Jamie said as she walked into the bathroom to begin brushing her teeth. "I didn’t want them to jump into the plan too quickly. Better to make sure they all agree."

"I think it’ll work," Ryan said. "And I want you to know how grateful I am that you’ve worked so hard to make this happen. There’s no better way to show me that you love both me and my family."

"Right on both counts," Jamie said. "And thanks for letting me drive home. I guess I’d better get used to being the designated driver when we’re with the boys, huh?"

"Not a bad thought," Ryan said, smiling slowly. "But, I don’t normally drink this much on a school night. I kept looking at you, and thinking about being away from you for 5 days. I kept drinking so I didn’t start crying."

"I’ve been trying not to think of it," Jamie said. "I didn’t used to mind your being away for a few days … but now …"

"Yeah, that’s it. I feel like my mental health is dependent on having you near, honey. I’m a little freaked about leaving."

"This should be the last time this happens," Jamie reminded her. "It’s bad luck that my first spring tournament starts on Sunday. I would have gone with you – even for a couple of days, but I can’t miss class tomorrow."

"That’s all right," Ryan said. "I need to get some of my confidence back. Being alone and surviving is good practice."

"You’ll survive," Jamie whispered, pressing her lips against the edge of Ryan’s ear. "You have me in your heart, baby. I’ll watch over you every moment."

"Will you hold me tight tonight, Jamers? I need to feel your arms around me."

Quickly, Jamie stood and undressed, then she undressed her partner as well, looking into Ryan’s eyes with total understanding. "Come on, love," she urged, pulling back the covers. She scooted up higher than normal, and patted her chest. Ryan gratefully lay alongside her and placed her head just above Jamie’s soft breast.

"I don’t want to leave you," Ryan murmured, and Jamie felt her partner’s warm tears roll down her skin.

"I don’t want you to leave, baby. But, we’ll both be fine. I’m only a phone call away – any time of the day or night. Promise me you’ll call if you’re feeling scared or lonely."

"I promise," Ryan said, sniffling softly.

"Come on, now, sweetheart. You’ve got to get up early to go to your group."

"Oh, great! I get to sit in a room with a bunch of strangers when I’m feeling this bruised. Now I feel better."

* * * * * * * * * * *

At 3 a.m., Mia woke to feel a shivering body slide into bed next to her. "Hey, what’s wrong?" she mumbled, trying to clear her mind.

"Nightmare," Jamie said, her teeth chattering noisily.

"Why are you so cold, honey?"

"Not cold … scared."

"Oh, come here," Mia said, wrapping her arms around her friend. "Cuddle up tight, James, it’s gonna be all right."

"I’m … worried about her, and about me," Jamie muttered. "We’re gonna be apart for 5 days, and she won’t have anyone to watch over her."

"She has friends, James. Isn’t Jackie her roommate?"

"Yeah, but she’s a jock roommate. I’m sure Ryan would never tell Jackie about her fears. My baby is a long, long way from normal, Mia, and I’m worried that being all alone will hurt her progress."

"Can’t you go with her for the first couple of days? I know your golf thing is on Sunday …"

"No, I can’t. I’ve got a full day of class tomorrow, and I have a test in the afternoon. The last flight’s at 5:30, and I’d never make it." She fell back against the pillow and said, "I thought it would be okay, but Ryan seemed very fragile tonight. Damn! I should have prepared for this. I could go on Friday morning, and come back on Saturday night."

"But that would only give you one night together, hon. That’s a hell of a trip for one night."

"I know, and that’s why I didn’t do it. But, isn’t one night better than none? I was being selfish," Jamie muttered. "I hate to spend the better part of two days flying to New Mexico, when I have so much homework to catch up on. The flight takes at least 5 hours, with a stopover in Phoenix, and I know I wouldn’t get any work done on the plane. I was honestly looking forward to having a couple of days alone." She shook her head, wiping at a few tears. "I wasn’t thinking of her."

"Hey, hey, you’re always thinking of her," Mia insisted. "You need to think of yourself, too, James. It’s not a sin to want some time to catch up on things."

"Fuck! What am I gonna do? I’ll be worried about her all weekend if I don’t go for at least one day."

"Look, let me call Jordan in the morning and tell her I’m going to go to New Mexico, instead. I can stay for the whole weekend. It’s what Jordan would want, James. I’m sure of it."

"Oh, Mia, I can’t let you do that. Jordan needs you right now, and you need to see her."

"Yeah, we do, but neither of us is traumatized like you two are. I’d be happy to do it, James. Ryan means so much to me."

Jamie slipped her arms around her friend and cried softly, letting Mia gently run her fingers through her hair. "I love you, Mia. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had."

"I love you, too, James, and so does Jordan. I’ll call her in the morning and tell her of the change of plans."

Jamie sat up and straightened her hair. "No, you don’t have to do that, baby. You’ve given me an idea that I think can work. Thanks so much." She leaned forward and kissed her friend tenderly on the lips. "Thanks for being my friend."

"That’s one job that has no down-sides, James. It’s always a pleasure."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Damn, Jordan," Mia gaped after the bellman left them in their spacious room in the Bel Air Hotel on Thursday night, "this is living large!"

"Yeah," she said, "I actually haven’t traveled for many jobs, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is pretty sweet."

"I’m starved," Mia said, peeking into the mini-bar. "Can I raid the bar?"

"You can, but why don’t we go down to the pool and have an early dinner? They serve until five."

"Cool. I wish it were warm enough to swim."

"No such luck. We used to start swimming in April or May, just like the rest of the country. You get an occasional 90 degree day, but it’s still usually 50 at night – not warm enough for the pool to retain any heat."

Mia grasped her hand as they exited the room and headed towards the pool. "It’s hard for me to picture you growing up down here." Cocking her head slightly, she said, "Maybe it’s because you don’t talk about it much. It’s like your life started when you got to Berkeley."

With a half-smile, Jordan tossed her blonde hair over her shoulder and said, "In a way it did. My bad memories about growing up are as plentiful as the good ones. I guess I try to erase them all."

"Would you show me around a little?" Mia asked tentatively. "I’d like to see the house where you grew up, where you went to school … stuff like that."

"Okay. We can do that. I can have the limo drive us by my mother’s home – but I’m not going in." She lapsed into pensive silence while they walked, not speaking again until they were seated at a nice table right on the edge of the pool deck. Mia scooted her chair out from under the large, buff-colored market umbrella so the late-afternoon sun could warm her. Looking around, she asked in a quiet voice, "Isn’t that Steven Spielberg?" pointing discreetly at the next table.

Jordan sighed and said, "Yeah, as a matter of fact it is. That’s Jeffrey Katzenberg with him. I’d better go say hello. Want to come?"

Mia stared at her, nonplussed, sure that Jordan was toying with her. When she didn’t answer, the blonde shrugged and pushed her chair back. She approached the two men with her confident, smooth gait, looking like she was completely used to rubbing elbows with the power brokers of Hollywood.

Gaping openly, Mia watched in amazement as Jordan conversed cordially for a few minutes then tilted her head in Mia’s direction and said goodbye. Both men stood and kissed her cheek, offering a little wave to Mia when Jordan sat back down.

It took the stunned woman a moment to collect herself enough to ask, "You know them?"

"Yeah. I told you that my dad’s in development at Paramount. He’s worked with both of them – Steven more so than Jeffrey, since Jeffrey was with Disney doing animated features for so many years. I’ve been to Steven’s house on a couple of occasions – I actually like the house he and Amy Irving had better than the one he lives in now." She was being remarkably casual about the whole thing, and Mia struggled to take it all in.

"I guess I’ve never thought of you as being a Hollywood kid," she finally said.

"Well, I’m not really. You’ve got to be in the biz to know my dad. His connections are more to producers and directors than to actors. We were just another family who makes a living in Hollywood rather anonymously."

Their server arrived, and after Mia ordered a chicken Caesar salad, Jordan asked for something not on the menu, much to Mia’s surprise. "I’d like a vegetable salad," she said. "Blanched or steamed, no oil, no butter. Green or yellow vegetables only. No carrots or cauliflower."

"Would you like a dressing for that?" he asked.

"No. Plain, please. And an iced tea."

Mia pondered her order for a moment as the waiter scribbled a note. Jordan was usually the type who would gratefully take whatever was placed in front of her. In their time together, Mia had never seen her put much thought into what she ate, as long as it filled her up – not always an easy task. She must have looked a little puzzled, because Jordan gave her a shrug and said, "My belly has to be flat for the shoot."

Mia had seen every delicious inch of Jordan’s body, and the perfectly smooth abdomen she loved didn’t have a spare cell. "Honey, you’re practically concave as it is," she reminded her.

"Yeah. It’s the practically part that I’m worried about. This is an ad for Polo sportswear. I’ll be showing a lot of skin."

"Ooo, I’m glad I came," Mia said. "The more the merrier."

"Mark my words," Jordan said, nodding to the server as he placed their drinks on the table, "there’s nothing less sexy than a photo shoot."

"We’ll see about that," Mia said. "You’ve never had my perspective."

* * * * * * * * * * *

During their late lunch, Jordan was much quieter than normal, finally compelling Mia to ask what was on her mind. "I think I’d better let my dad know I’m here," she said. "Do you mind if I try to find some time to see him?"

Mia took notice of the "I" and tried to hide her hurt. "Of course not. You do what you have to do."

When the server brought their meals, Jordan asked for a phone, which was delivered immediately. She dialed the number by heart, spent a few minutes trying to get past his secretary, then was put through. "Hi, Dad, it’s Jordan," she said. "I’m in LA for the weekend, and I thought you might have a few minutes to get together."

"What are you doing here? Aren’t they keeping you busy enough in Colorado?"

"Oh, yeah, I’m busy, but I got a shoot for Ralph Lauren, and I couldn’t turn it down. I’ll be working all day, but it’s an outdoor set, so I’ll have my evenings free."

Mia didn’t like the sound of Jordan offering up one of their precious evenings, but she tried to concentrate on her salad, rather than her growing pique.

"Hmm … this isn’t the best weekend for me, honey," he said, and Jordan could hear him flipping through his omnipresent calendar. "I have a premiere to go to tonight, and we’re having a dinner party tomorrow night. I promised Candy that I’d reserve all day for her on Saturday. We see so little of each other. Damn," he mumbled, "this is two times in a row that I can’t swing it. I’m really sorry about that, Jor."

"That’s okay, Dad. I’m gonna be wiped anyway."

Even though Mia didn’t like to be ignored, she was even more insulted by the fact that Jordan’s dad wouldn’t go out of his way to see her. She knew that she couldn’t say what was on her mind, since Jordan was unable to see her father in a less-than-positive light, but it incensed her nonetheless.

"I think your mother’s in town," Jorgen Ericsson said. "Maybe you could drop by and see her."

"Well, that wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list," she said. "You know we don’t have much in common, Dad."

"Count your blessings," he said. "I uhm … hoped you might go to bat for me a little bit."

"What do you need?" she asked, straightening in her chair.

"Well, since you’re out of school now, I was going to try to petition the court to reduce the total amount I pay her. For Christ’s sake, Jordan, do you know that woman gets $8,000 a month in alimony and $3,000 a month for your support?"

She knew full well what her mother received on a monthly basis, and she kept to herself the fact that she hadn’t seen a penny of it since she left for Berkeley.

"How can I help, Dad?"

"I’m not sure you can, but I want to propose that she receive no more than $5,000 a month. It’s going to be a fight, of course, and I’d appreciate anything you can do to ease the way."

She rolled her eyes, already able to picture the pathetic moaning she would be subjected to. "I’ll think about it, and see what I can do, Dad. I uhm … can’t make any promises, though."

"That’s fine, honey. No promises needed. I know you’ll come through for me – you always do."

A wan smile lit her face as she wracked her brain to think of a way to reach her mother. "Do my best. See you next time I’m in town, Dad."

"How about a little notice next time? My calendar for June is almost filled and it’s only February."

"Will do. See you."

She placed the receiver down, and picked up her fork, lackadaisically picking at her salad. "He wants me to go pave the way so my mother doesn’t stroke out when he tries to cut her alimony."

Mia had gathered as much from Jordan’s side of the conversation. She held her tongue, since the only thing she could think of was how cruel it was to place your child in the middle of money arguments. "You gonna do it?" she asked gently.

Placing the fork down, Jordan cocked her head and said, "I have to. He’s counting on me."

Counting to ten, Mia wondered why the words "have to" were always mentioned when either of Jordan’s parents was discussed. "Want me to go with you?" she asked.

Jordan had picked up her fork and was angrily spearing each defenseless vegetable in turn, oblivious to Mia’s question.

* * * * * * * * * * *

On Thursday afternoon, the softball team was lounging around the gate at the America West terminal, killing time until they were allowed to board. They were finally called, and the group got in line. As usual, Ryan stayed right where she was, her intrinsic hatred of waiting in line compelling her to be the last one to board every flight.

When the last person was nearly at the door, she stood and slung her carryon over her shoulder. She was about at the door when the person behind her tapped her on the shoulder. "Hey, good lookin’, wanna sit next to me?"

Whirling around, Ryan’s eyes bugged out when she saw her brother, Rory, grinning at her. "What are you doing here?"

"I’ve never been to New Mexico, and this seemed like the ideal weekend to go. I haven’t been to any of your games yet, you know."

She tossed her arms around him, hugging him so tightly that he could barely move. "Oh, Rory, you’re the sweetest guy in the world." Pulling back, she gave him a fond smile and said, "You don’t have to do this, though. I know Jamie’s worried about me, but I’ll be all right."

"I know you will, sis, but I want to go. I didn’t have a thing planned for the weekend, and this will give me a chance to spend some time with my favorite sister."

Shaking her head, Ryan hugged him again, saying, "Let’s go, favorite brother. The flight attendant is giving us the evil eye."

* * * * * * * * * * *

As soon as her test was over, Jamie called her mother. "Hey, Mom, how would you like a guest for a few nights?"

"Oh, honey, you don’t have to call to ask that. Nothing would make me happier than to see you. Has Ryan left for her trip?"

"Yeah," the younger woman said. "I miss her already. You don’t mind me sitting around and moping all night, do you?"

"You come right down here, sweetheart. We’ll have a nice dinner, and then you can get on the phone and talk to Ryan all evening."

"Sounds great, Mom. I’ll be there within an hour or two."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Marta pulled out all of the stops, making her famous arroz con pollo, one of Jamie’s favorites. The Evans women then went out to the spa to relax and chat. Catherine gave her daughter a warm smile and asked, "You’ve been here for over an hour and haven’t called Ryan once. Are you two having a tiff?"

"No, not at all. Ryan’s plane didn’t leave until late afternoon, and she has a layover in Phoenix. She could call when she gets to El Paso, but I told her to wait until she arrived in Las Cruces so we could talk longer."

"How do you think she’ll handle being away, honey?"

Jamie got an impish smile on her face and said, "I meddled a tiny bit. She was very anxious and sad last night, so I got on the phone and called around until I found someone to go with her. Rory was only too happy to fill in for me." She chuckled and said, "I was prepared to start hitting the cousins, but luckily, I didn’t have to."

"You, young lady, are a very, very good partner. I don’t know where you got your skills, but I’m very glad that you have them."

The younger woman was about to reply when her cell phone rang. Jamie hopped out of the spa and reached for the little phone, hitting the talk button. "Hello?"

"Do you know who I love more than anyone on earth?" a deep, sexy, voice asked.

"Mmm … with a voice like that, I hope the answer is me," Jamie said, giggling.

"Oh, it’s you all right. I love you with all of my heart and soul, Jamie Dunlop Smith Evans. The day I met you was the luckiest day of my whole life."

"Aww … you’re making me blush."

"Well, you made me cry, so we’re even. Seeing Rory at the gate was about the nicest surprise I’ve ever had. Thank you, Jamie. Thank you for loving me so much."

"I do love you, Ryan, and I couldn’t bear to have you be alone for 5 days. Rory was actually excited about going, too. I didn’t have to coerce him."

"Yeah, he loves to travel, and he’s never been to New Mexico. He’s going to rent a car and drive around tomorrow. He’s pretty jazzed."

"Did you get any comments from your teammates, honey? I know how they like to tease you."

"No, surprisingly, I didn’t. I don’t think they believed he was my brother, to tell you the truth. I think they’re worried that I’m cheating on you," she said, chuckling softly.

"Oh, God! What will they think when you share a room?"

There was a short silence, then Ryan said, "Uhm … Jamie? I’m 24-years-old, and Rory’s 28. That’s a long time past cuddling in bed together. I’m bunking with Jackie, same as usual."

"But … what if you wake up and need to talk to someone? That’s why I sent Rory."

"If I wake up and get freaked out, I’ll sneak out of my room and go talk to him. He already promised that he wouldn’t mind if I woke him. Don’t worry, babe. I’ve got it covered."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, love. I’m a little shaky, but I’d be a lot shakier if my teammates knew I brought my brother on road trips, and then slept with him!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

After chatting for a long while, Jamie hung up, giggling to herself. "You know, sometimes I’m a little goofy."

"How’s that?"

"Well, I thought Ryan would sleep in Rory’s room over the weekend, so he could comfort her if she was upset during the night. It didn’t dawn on me how that would look to her teammates. I mean, Ryan’s odd enough without sleeping with her 28-year-old brother!"

Catherine laughed heartily at that, shaking her head. "That’s more than a little funny, Jamie."

"I don’t often think of the boys as boys – do you know what I mean? It doesn’t occur to me that they’re different from Ryan … even though they clearly are."

"Clearly," Catherine agreed. "I’ve seen all of them in bathing suits, and the differences are quite stark."

"You’re telling me," Jamie said. "I much prefer the distaff version of the O’Flaherty model."

"To each her own," Catherine said, smiling wryly. "If I were 20 years younger, I’d make a play for any one of the boys."

"They are a fine bunch," Jamie agreed. Glancing at her watch, she said, "I guess we might as well go to bed. It’s getting late, and I want to go on your morning walk with you."

"Oh, that’ll be fun!" Catherine emerged from the pool and dried off quickly. When they went inside, she asked, "Do you need anything before bed? Some warm milk, maybe?"

"No." Jamie hesitated for a moment, then summoned the nerve to ask, "Uhm … would you rub my head for a few minutes? That really relaxes me."

"Of course!" Catherine beamed a smile at her daughter that made Jamie’s heart swell with love. Taking her mother’s hand, they walked up the stairs together. "I’ll go rinse off, and be back in a minute, honey."

Jamie nodded, and did the same. She was lying in bed, waiting patiently, when her mother knocked a few minutes later. "Come on in."

"Hi." Catherine sat down on the edge of the bed and patted her child’s back. Jamie was wearing a thin, cropped, cotton tank top, and Catherine slipped her fingers under the material. "When you were a tiny baby, you liked to have your back scratched exactly like this." The older woman ran her short, perfectly manicured nails across Jamie’s shoulders, then moved down her back, making her daughter giggle.

"I didn’t know that," Jamie murmured. "I … I didn’t think you … did things like that when I was little."

Her hand stilling, Catherine said, "Elizabeth didn’t like it, because she said it riled you up too much. She believed in putting a baby into her crib and then leaving her to cry herself to sleep. But when I heard her close her door, I’d sneak into your room and rub and tickle you until you were sound asleep." She laughed softly and said, "She thought her methods were the most sound in the world, since you never cried when she put you in your crib. Little did she know that I was subverting her rules – God only knows what kind of scene it would have created if she’d ever caught me."

"How long did you do that?" Jamie asked, amazed that her mother would risk Elizabeth’s wrath.

There was a long pause, and then Catherine said, "Until you didn’t want me to do it any longer."

Jamie flipped over onto her back staring, wide eyed at her mother. "Why wouldn’t I want you to do that?"

Catherine wiped at a tear and said, "It was after I went to Europe for two weeks. You never … you never seemed to feel the same about me after that. You were very angry that I’d left you, sweetheart, and I think you stopped trusting me."

"Oh, Mom." Jamie wrapped her arms around her mother and they both cried for a long while. "I’m sorry I hurt you like that."

"I’m the one who should be sorry, Jamie. I was so hurt that I pulled back from you. It was honestly the worst time of my life. I felt so unnecessary." Sniffling a little she added, "But, there’s never a valid reason to distance yourself from your child. I let my hurt affect our relationship, and that’s unforgivable."

"No, it’s not," Jamie said. "I forgive you, Mom. I swear I do. You did your best with a job you weren’t prepared for."

"That’s an understatement," Catherine said. "I wasn’t mature enough to have a cat, much less a child. But, that’s my fault, too. Having unprotected sex was merely one more indication of my immaturity."

"Daddy was in law school, Mom, he should have known better than to risk it."

"I know, honey, but you know how men are. They expect the woman to take care of birth control. I … I didn’t know the rules."

"Well, even though it’s been painful for both of us, I’m glad you had me when you did. If you’d waited until you were older, I’d never have met Ryan. And, believe me, she’s a once in a lifetime woman."

"I believe you, Jamie. I know you’re right for each other."

"Now, let’s stop thinking about the tough times, and start creating some good memories." She rolled over onto her belly and put her arms over her head, saying, "Work your magic, Mom. Elizabeth is thousands of miles away."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 16

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