I Found My Heart in San Francisco: Book 15


By SX Meagher



Jamie grinned when they left the calm, protected waters and she slowly eased the throttle forward. Ryan’s heart picked up at seeing the pleasure in her partner’s eyes at doing something a little risky. They were moving pretty quickly, the mist hitting them in the face and whipping their hair around—even though Ryan had tied hers back. “We can’t ski at this speed,” Ryan said, projecting her voice to be heard over the engine.

“We’re not going skiing!” Jamie smiled and shook her head. “You’d get hypothermia in two minutes!”

“Okay. Just riding around is fun. But you’ve gotta go faster to make me happy.”

“Wanna drive?” Jamie asked nonchalantly, already knowing the answer.


“Have you ever driven a power boat?”

“Nope. But I’m sure I could. How hard can it be?”

Ryan was smiling so brightly, that Jamie ignored her lack of experience and cut the throttle to switch seats. “Now, don’t go nuts,” she warned. “I’m not sure whether this engine could flip the boat, and I don’t wanna find out.”

Ryan scowled at her. “I’m not reckless. Just … reck-deficient.”

“It responds very quickly,” Jamie said. “Doesn’t take much to change direction, so don’t over steer. You do know that the stern turns when you steer, don’t you?”

“I forget what the stern is.” Ryan said with a grin. “Just let me play a little. I’ll go slow and see how it moves.”

She did as she’d promised, keeping the boat at low speed while she eased it through a series of gentle, then sharp turns. Then she increased the speed to see how that changed the dynamics. “You could easily lose your tail-end at full throttle,” she said. “Easily.”

“That’s the stern, by the way,” Jamie provided. “And it’s very easy to get into trouble with a small, fast boat. Add a little alcohol and you’ve got an express ticket to the trauma unit.”

“You’ve had enough trauma for one lifetime,” Ryan said, making a sad face when she looked at Jamie’s splint. “I’ll be a good girl.”

“You don’t have to be too good. Just don’t flip it.”

“Can I go anywhere I want?”

“Sure. But do me a favor and head down south. You’ll like it better there.”

“Cool. We can go under the Bay Bridge.” Ryan headed for the massive structure and gazed up in wonder as they passed underneath it. “Cool! Way cool!” Frowning, she said, “Could use a little maintenance. I’m gonna cross my fingers next time we drive over it.”

Ryan followed Jamie’s suggestion and continued to head south, picking up speed as they went. She kept increasing the speed until she began to doubt her ability to handle the boat, then backed off a hair. The thrill of the water flying in her face, the wind whipping her hair and clothes, and the thud of the boat hitting the small swells had Ryan giddy with happiness. “You sure do know how to give me a treat,” she yelled.

“That’s my job,” Jamie yelled back.

They continued hugging the coast until they approached the new ball park. “Looks so cool from this perspective!” Ryan marveled.

“Slow down!”

Ryan did, slowing until they could hear each other. “What?”

“Pull into the cove.”

Ryan grinned. “Really?”

“Yeah. If we hang out here and turn on the radio, we can listen to the game and catch home runs.”

“Cool!” Ryan slowly motored around, surprised at how many other people were doing the same thing.

“In case you haven’t noticed, there aren’t any brakes, so go super slow. When you get to where you want to be, just put it in neutral. I’ll set the anchor when you’re ready.”

Ryan looked at the stadium, then at the position of the other boats. There were sailboats and powerboats, and a row boat that made her wonder how in the heck it had gotten that far. She made a guess at how far a ball would have to travel to clear the low, right field fence, then said, “This is good.”

Jamie got up and moved carefully to the bow, where she opened a small hatch. She grabbed the anchor and tossed it. “Just let the current position the boat properly to keep us still.” When she got back to the cockpit, she said, “Good job.”

“You shouldn’t have been up there,” Ryan said. “I’m worried about your balance.”

“I’m fine,” Jamie assured her as she sat and turned on the radio, tuning it to the station that carried the Giants. The announcer was talking about the park, noting that the visiting Dodgers were just about to take batting practice.

“They won’t announce when a ball’s gonna reach the wall,” Ryan said, frowning. “Not like they will during the game.”

“True. But why would you want to hear an announcer describing batting practice?”

“So I’d know where to look to see a ball fly out.”

Jamie looked at her, a little puzzled. “I guess you’ll just have to look up.” With a little help from Ryan, she took off her jacket then leaned her seat back. Looking up into the clear, blue sky, she sighed dramatically. “La dolce vita, eh?”

Oui,” Ryan said, grinning back. She lowered her seat as well, lacing her hands behind her head. “I guess I don’t mind some of your connections and some of your money.”

“My dad has to pay his quarter share every month, whether he uses the boat or not, so all we have to do is fill ’er up when we get back.”

“I don’t know how much that’ll cost, but it’s probably less than paying a scalper for tickets. I heard they were going for up to a thousand bucks.”

“I probably could have had my dad get us a pair,” Jamie said, shooting a glance at her partner, “but I know you don’t like that.”

“No, not so much. Although it was cool when he gave us the tickets his law firm had.”

“I don’t think he has access to those like he used to, but I’m sure they’d jump through hoops to give them to him if he asked.”

“That’s why I don’t like to ask.” Ryan took in the raised eyebrow. “He was powerful before, but now …” she shook her head, “he could get whatever he asked for.”

“I hope he doesn’t abuse his power,” Jamie said idly. “I’m sure it’s hard not to.”

They heard the crowd start to murmur, then people started to cheer. “Somebody must have hit one out,” Ryan said, craning her neck.

“Cool. The crowd will tell us what’s happening. That’s as good as having an announcer.”

They bobbed in the water, basking in the warm, sunny day. They could feel the excitement from the capacity crowd, and Ryan pointed out that pedestrians could stand just outside the stadium and watch the action through a large gate.

The announcer’s voice was soothing and calm, and the sun was making Jamie so sleepy that she wished she’d had an extra coffee before they’d left. The Giants were taking batting practice and she vaguely heard the crowd start to roar, just as Ryan tried to stand up. Jamie’s quick reflexes, combined with Ryan’s difficulty in getting out of the small cockpit, allowed her to throw herself at Ryan and grab her jeans pocket an instant before Ryan tried to jump into the water.

A ball made a splash about ten feet in front of their boat, and several nearby boats converged, trying to reach the ball before anyone else. Jamie yanked hard, pulling Ryan back down into her seat just a moment before another boat hit them just to the right of the bow. Their boat was pushed hard to the left, as they both shifted hard to the right. Hitting the gunwale with her right arm, Jamie yelped in pain.

“Fuck!” Ryan cried. “Mother-fucker hit us!”

“God damn it! If I hurt my good arm, somebody’s gonna pay!” Jamie cradled it close to her body.

Ryan reached for her and carefully inspected her arm from wrist to shoulder, seeing nothing but a faint red mark. “Does it hurt?” she asked, moving it gently.

Jamie rubbed the spot, testing it, then shook her head. “Not too much. I think it’s just a bruise.” She looked over and saw the passenger from the boat that hit them fighting over the ball with another man who’d jumped out of his boat, leaving it idling with no one in the captain’s seat. “What in the hell do these idiots think they’re doing?” She turned and punched Ryan hard on the shoulder. “What in the hell were you doing?”

Ow!” Looking thoroughly chastised, Ryan rubbed her shoulder. She shifted her eyes downward as she answered, “I was gonna jump in to get the ball.” She met Jamie’s eyes and said, “It was irresistible!”

“Change seats,” Jamie said, nearly growling.

Ryan got up and stood behind the two chairs, seeing and waving down a police boat. The officers acknowledged her, but first went to the two men who were still in the water. They helped the pilot of the large boat get back into his craft, then fished out the other man. The second man held the ball while the first tried to lean over and take it from him, reaching around the police officer to try and grab it.

The policemen separated them, then began writing citations. Amid loud accusations and complaints, they cited each man then moved back to Jamie and Ryan. “What happened?” one officer asked.

“When the ball landed, the guy in the navy blue Chris Craft zoomed in on it and hit us. He didn’t even stop to see if we were all right.” Jamie cast a look of disbelief at the offending pilot.

“Where’d he hit you, ma’am?”

“Just off the bow, on the starboard side. He was the give-way vessel!” she fumed. “I was at anchorage, you dim-wit,” Jamie shouted to the other boat. “Have you ever heard of the stand-on vessel!”

“He can’t hear you, ma’am,” the officer said, flinching when Jamie shot him a withering look. The police boat moved up a little and an officer jumped onto their boat. “I don’t see any damage,” he called back to his partner.

“Great,” Jamie snapped. “But he should be cited for being reckless.”

“He was,” one officer said. “And the other guy was too. Are either of you ladies hurt?”

“I bumped against the gunwale pretty hard, but I’m just bruised. How about you?” she asked, looking at Ryan.

“I’m fine. But I’d like to get one free swing at that idiot. Any chance of that?”

“’Fraid not, Ma’am,” the officer said, trying not to laugh. “I can give you his registration number if you want to make an insurance claim.”

“I’d like that,” Jamie said. “If I get whiplash …”

The officers took their information for a police report, then motored away, leaving Jamie toglare at her partner. “And you’re almost as bad. Do you have any brains?”

“No,” Ryan mumbled contritely.

Jamie grasped her ponytail and pulled until Ryan had to look at her. “How do I convince you that you can’t react like a dog when you see something you want?”

Shaking her head, Ryan said, “I don’t think you can. My father’s been trying since I was a baby.”

“Damn it, Ryan!” Jamie was so angry she was shaking.

“I’m so sorry, really I am.”

“If you’d dived in when you intended, you could’ve been hit by one of those propellers. Do you think those idiots would have cared?”


“Do you think they would’ve even noticed if they’d run over you?” Jamie prodded


“I just don’t understand what gets into your head, Ryan.”

“Nothing. Really. Nothing. I just … react.”

“Well, you’d better learn to react less and think more.” She pushed Ryan’s forehead with the heel of her hand. “You’ve got a huge brain. You’ve got to use it!”

“I know I should,” Ryan said plaintively. “I just … don’t.”

“Don’t talk to me, right now. Just … don’t talk.” Jamie turned her head and stared out at the dozens of boats surrounding them. After a few minutes, she said, “I don’t wanna be in this crowd. I’m gonna pull the anchor. Start the boat and go forward just a little bit.” Silently, Ryan followed instructions, letting Jamie bring the anchor back up. “Now take us over there,” she said, pointing. Ryan gave her a quick look, but did as she asked. When they were well away from any other boats, Jamie told her to cut the engine and she set the anchor again.

By the time they were settled, Bobby McFerrin was singing the National Anthem and a squadron of jets flew by in formation. Jamie didn’t speak again until the bottom of the first inning, when she said, “Will you sit in the back with me?”

Ryan nodded, then got up and helped Jamie to make sure she had her balance. There was a nicely padded bench that curved around the stern, and when Jamie sat down, she patted the bench next to her and Ryan joined her. Looking into Ryan’s eyes, Jamie quietly said, “I’m sorry.”

“You? What’ve you got to be sorry for?”

Sighing, Jamie said, “For trying to make you be who I want you to be.”

Ryan smiled tentatively. “Aww, honey, you can’t help that. You don’t want me to be an idiot. That’s not asking a lot.”

“It’s the same as asking you to be right-handed.” She took Ryan’s hand and kissed it gently. “You are who you are. And you react to things in your own way. I don’t have to like it, but I can’t change you. I’ve obviously got an impulsive nature, too. Yelling at you and hitting you are just as instinctive for me, but I’m going to do my best not to give in to those instincts. It’s wrong of me to get that angry with you for something you can’t control. And I’m very, very sorry for that.” Still holding Ryan’s hand, she placed it over her breast. “Will you forgive me?”

“Jamie,” Ryan soothed, stroking her hair, “you don’t owe me an apology. I could’ve gotten myself killed! What I did was incredibly stupid and if you weren’t upset, you’d be as crazy as I am.”

“Will you behave differently in the future?”

Ryan looked into those open, trusting eyes and told the truth. “No.”

“Then what purpose does it serve for me to scream at you and hit you? That’s like hitting a little kid for running after a toy. If you don’t have the ability to control yourself … it’s just not fair of me to be so punitive.”

Ryan took her hand and chafed it between her own. “You lashed out because you were worried and scared, right?”

“Of course. I can’t bear the thought of losing you. Especially to something so pointless.”

“So … how will you stop? I know I’ve told you that Da never hit us, but he’s grabbed me so hard he pulled me off my feet. Heck, he pulled out a handful of my hair when I was little. He cried when he saw what he’d done, but he couldn’t help himself.”

“My God!” Jamie’s face drained of all color. “What had you done?”

“I don’t remember. I did so many dumb things, there’s no way to remember half of ’em. I think he caught me, like you caught the back of my pants, only I didn’t stop. He wound up with a handful of my hair.” She shrugged. “I didn’t blame him. It hurt like hell, but I didn’t blame him. I felt really bad when he cried. I knew it was all my fault, but I didn’t … and still don’t know how to stop.”

Jamie leaned against her partner. “What are we gonna do? I hate myself for being rough with you! No one has ever raised a hand to me, Ryan. Why do I react like that? Where did I learn that?”

“I don’t know, babe. I guess it’s just instinct. But I really, really don’t blame you. The boys have done much worse when they were watching me.” She smiled, but Jamie didn’t. “Rory’s as gentle as a lamb, and he once tackled me and knocked out my front teeth.”


“I was about to run into traffic chasing a ball. They were just baby teeth,” Ryab added, as though that made it better. When Jamie didn’t lighten up, she said, “Come on … don’t let what you did bother you. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to being afraid.”

“I don’t think it’s normal. And I don’t want to do it again.” Jamie’s jaw was set and her eyes had gone steely.

“Let’s both work to not get in that position again.” Ryan kissed her head. “Okay?”

“All right.” Jamie gave her a grudging smile. “I’m gonna talk to Anna about this and see if she has any advice. I refuse to act like this with our kids, and if I can’t stop myself from doing it with you, I’m worried that I won’t be able to control myself with them.”

“Don’t worry about that.” Ryan put an arm around her and held her close. “Da grabbed me, and yanked on me, and picked me up roughly, and all sorts of things. He had to do something or he would have gone mad! I understood, Jamie. I really did.”

“I’m gonna find the two most calm, gentle, least-impulsive people on earth and pay them to have babies for us. It’s clear that neither of us should pass on our genes.”

Ryan looked at her for a long time before she spoke very seriously. “Please don’t say things like that. Even if you’re kidding—it hurts me.”

Jamie rested her head against Ryan’s shoulder. “I was kidding. But you’re right—I shouldn’t kid about something like that. I want all of your sweet genes in our babies.”

“And I want yours. You’re the woman I love, and I’d love nothing more than to have a little girl just like you.”

“Not a little boy?”

“Ahh … no. A little boy just like you would get the snot kicked out of him,” Ryan said, laughing. “The boys have to be more like me.”

“It’s a deal. Boys like you, girls like me. But without the impulse-control or anger-control issues.”

“Tall order, but we’ll work on it.”


That night at dinner, Ryan told Catherine about their afternoon, including her attempt to jump into the water. Catherine was justifiably shocked, but after considering the picture for a moment, she laughed. “Jamie, you must have been beside yourself!”

“Don’t remind me,” Jamie grumbled. “I hit her, Mom. I slugged her on the shoulder and she has a bruise!”

“Well, I’m not a big believer in violence, but I think you were justified, honey.” She and Ryan laughed, but Jamie didn’t join in. “You don’t mind getting a punch for doing something so foolish, do you, Ryan?”

“No. As a matter of fact, I prefer it. If she didn’t hit me, she’d cry, and that’s much worse. I’d rather make her angry than sad.”

“See?” Catherine said, smiling at Jamie. “Ryan’s able to look at this logically.”

Jamie shook her head. “If the two of you think punching is logical … you’ve both lost your minds!”


When they got home from dinner, Ryan took the phone into the living room, flopped down on the sofa, and called Conor. Jamie smiled when she heard her telling him about their afternoon, but when Ryan started to complain about the lack of hitting with men on base, she went up to their room. She had no idea who won the game or under what circumstances, but she knew that Ryan’s capacious mind hadn’t missed a trick.


Part Six

On Wednesday morning, Conor’s cell phone rang and he stepped outside the room his crew was working on to answer it. “Hello?”

“Mr. O’Flaherty? Catherine Smith.”

“Well, hello, Ms. Smith. Nice to hear from you.”

“My, that sounded odd to my ears,” she said. “I haven’t called myself Catherine Smith since I was in college.”

“Still testing it out?”

She considered that. “Yes, in a way. But I’m going through with it. When my divorce is finalized it’ll be official. Now I’m just slowly telling people.”

“I think it sounds great. Catherine Smith,” he said, testing it out. “Yep. It’s great.”

“Thank you,” she said, her voice tinkling with laugher. “Surprisingly, that’s not why I called.”

“That would’ve been enough. I’m always glad to hear from you,” Conor said gallantly.

“You might not be when I ask my question.”

“Oh, sure I will be. Ask me anything.”

“Okay.” Catherine took in an audible breath. “Are you busy on Saturday night?”

“This Saturday?”

“Yes. I know it’s very short notice, but I wasn’t going to go to this benefit for the symphony until a friend of mine called and practically begged me. I hate to let her down, and I don’t want to go alone …”

Conor didn’t hesitate. “I’ve got a tuxedo and I’m ready to use it. What time should I pick you up?”

“Oh, Conor, you’re a doll!”

“Nah. I just like to party.”

“The symphony crowd is about the same age as the crowd for the opera benefit, Conor. I’m fairly sure your normal crowd is a few decades younger.”

“Maybe. But you’ll be there and we’re practically the same age.”

“Ha! You must not have your sister’s math abilities.”

“I can add pretty darned well. And when you’re added to a party, everyone has a good time.”


After a trip to the orthopedist to pick up her new splint, Jamie and Catherine headed over to the Castro to meet with Ray to look at four properties.

They got into his Mercedes and drove to a modest home in Noe, but the footprint of the house was so small that they agreed it wouldn’t work. Back in the car, Jamie said, “Are the other houses bigger than this one?”

“Not really. You just can’t buy much in Noe or Castro for the kind of money you’re talking about. I know you want to flip the building, and you’ll be able to, but …”

“But we won’t make much money,” Jamie finished for him.

“Probably not,” he agreed. “Houses are so overpriced that even the real dogs are selling quickly.”

Jamie stared out the window, looking at the very modest homes. “What about small apartment buildings or duplexes? Wouldn’t they be a better bet?”

“Well, yeah,” Ray said, chuckling. “But you’re talking a lot more money.”

“What if money wasn’t a big issue?”

He gave her a quick look. “Money’s always a big issue.”

Sighing, she said, “Okay. The idea is to take Niall’s money and use it for a down payment. That’s $200,000. We figured we’d get a loan for the balance and to pay for materials. I know the boys didn’t want to have to make a very large monthly payment on the loan, but we could arrange for private financing. Why don’t you show us something that wouldn’t take too many months to fix up, but that we could make a good profit on?”

“Like a three flat?”

“Yeah. Something like that. No more than … what do you think, Mom? Five apartments?”

Catherine considered, then  nodded. “The bigger the building, the bigger the profit if you’re going to be landlords, right, Ray?”

“Usually,” he said. “But if you’re going to do all of the work yourselves, I’d limit it to five or six units. Do you think your … partners will go for being landlords?”

“They might not look it, but they’re pretty malleable,” Jamie said, sharing a smile with her mother.


Ryan stepped out of the shower that afternoon, having delayed her normal morning clean-up until her mind was completely boggled by the myriad of ideas she was trying to get to jell for her independent study. She’d been in her room, laboring over her computer with every spare moment for weeks, not bothering to comb her hair or put on decent clothes until she had to leave the house.

Maria Los had grown used to seeing her in a T-shirt and boxer shorts or sweats, depending on the weather, even though she privately wondered why such a lovely woman didn’t put any care into her appearance. The cleaning woman was itching to give the room a thorough cleaning, but Ryan was home every day she came to the house, and she’d been told politely but firmly that the room was off limits.

Hearing the phone, Ryan dried off hurriedly and sprinted for it, catching it just before it went to the answering machine. “H’lo?”

“Hey, good-lookin’,” the familiar tones of Ally’s voice said.

“Hey, yourself! Give me a sec, will ya? I’m just getting out of the shower.”

“Sure. Want me to call back?”

“Yeah. Give me five minutes.”

“You got ’em.”

Ryan finished drying off and put her towel back in the bathroom, then put on her usual softball clothes—a long-sleeved shirt that wicked away sweat and a T-shirt over that, plus some compression shorts covered by baggy athletic shorts. She jogged down the stairs and grabbed a bottle of water, then went into the living room to wait for Ally’s call.

Maria Los poked her head out of the kitchen and gave Ryan an inquisitive look. “I clean room?” she asked, pointing to the second floor.

Si,” Ryan said, smiling at her persistence. “I’m leaving.”

“Good,” Maria Los said, giving Ryan a big smile as she took her bucket of cleaning supplies and headed upstairs.

I wonder if she knows that was an insult? The phone rang and Ryan picked it up. “Talk to me,” she said.

“That’s why I called. Sara said she read that Jamie’s out for the rest of the season. What happened?”

“Ooo … Right. I forgot that she reads the Bears newsletters. I should have called.”

“Right. You should have,” Ally said, her tone light but her message clear.

“I’m just so busy …” Ryan started to say, but she stopped herself. “Ahh … that’s bull. I need to make time to keep up with our friends. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right, Rock, you’re not in the confessional. Just tell me what happened.”

Laughing, Ryan told the story, leaving out the long-simmering animosity between Jamie and Juliet. “So, she’s done for the season and walking around with a splint from her shoulder to her wrist.”

Hoo! I bet she’s madder ’n a hornet! To work for all those months and get shut down at the end of the season really bites.”

“You know,” Ryan said, giving the thought some consideration, “she’s not as mad as she should be. I think she was kinda tired of the whole thing. She didn’t have any good friends and … Huh.” She paused at the realization that struck her. “I bet she’s glad that she’s not gonna have to be away from home and from me.”

“Well, who could blame her?” Ally said, laughing. “As modest as ever.”

“No, no,” Ryan said, laughing at the way her comment had been perceived. “She’s worried about me. I’m still not really back at normal speed yet, and she feels like she has to keep an eye on me. It’s been wearing on her.”

Ally was quiet for a moment, then said with concern coloring her voice, “Are you that bad off, sugar?”

“Nah,” Ryan said, lying just a little. “I’ll be fine. It’s just taking me a while. Kinda like after I was gay-bashed.”

“You were pretty down then, buddy. I was afraid I was never gonna see those blue eyes sparkle again.”

“Well, they did. I’ve just had a run of back luck in the last couple of years. Thankfully, there’ve been more great things than bad things, so I can’t complain.”

“You never do. You might feel better if you did.”

“Ugh … right … you’re another therapy shill.”

Ryan was clearly teasing and Ally took it as such. “Not lately,” she admitted. “I think I might have seen the man behind the curtain or something. It’s lost its magic.”

“What’s going on?”

“Ahh … just the same things you and I talked about a few months ago. I’m trying to change some pretty elemental stuff and neither my brain nor my …” she paused, not comfortable enough to use her usual slang, “…private parts are cooperating.”

Ryan looked at her watch and saw that she had nearly an hour before she had to leave for softball practice. “Tell me about it. I’ve got time … and interest.”

“Sure? I don’t wanna make you uncomfortable.”

“I wasn’t uncomfortable having sex with you, why would I be uncomfortable just talking about it?” Ryan chuckled.

Ally didn’t voice the obvious reason, she just said, “If you’re sure.”

“I am. Hit me.”

“Well … it’s hard to change my patterns,” Ally said. “My therapist says that some of the things we do and the ways we react are kinda hard-wired and it’s really tough to change them.”

“I’m sure that’s true. But if you’re really motivated I’m sure you can make some headway.”

“Uhm … I am … or I was … but Sara’s making things tough for me. This is the part that I thought might make you uncomfortable.”

Ryan was uncomfortable, very uncomfortable. It was one thing to think of Ally and her sexual responses, but she didn’t like to think of Sara and Ally together. Stilll, she had no intention of letting her friend down. She knew Ally wouldn’t ask to talk if she didn’t need to, so she swallowed her discomfort and said, “I’m still here. Tell me whatever you want.”

“Okay.” Ryan could hear her friend taking in a breath and letting it out. “You know how I am in bed, right?”

“Uh, yeah, I have a vague recollection.” She laughed. “Spit it out, Webster!”

“All right, all right. When we got together, I told Sara I wanted to change how I responded and how I related to her. I wanted to make things more equal … more give and take. I didn’t want to start a serious relationship with someone and have those old images creeping into my bed.”

“That makes sense,” Ryan said soothingly. “Perfect sense.”

“But Sara doesn’t really want me to change,” Ally said. “She likes how I am.”

Ryan silently sucked in a breath, her brain assaulted by images of Ally dominating her first love. But she fought through them enough to say, “I know I sure did.”

“Uhm … thanks? Well anyway … she likes it a lot, and it’s so easy to give in, ya know? To let myself get carried away and not have to think; to just act on my instincts. But that’s not what I want!”

“Because …?”

“Because I adopted those ways of coping to protect myself. If I’m the top, I don’t have to be as vulnerable. I don’t have to feel like I did when my brother—”

“Ally,” Ryan said gently, “you were vulnerable with me a lot of the time. Give it some time … it’ll happen.”

“Uhm … it’s happening already. That’s part of the reason it’s hard for me to change. It’s surprisingly easy to be vulnerable with her. But she’s such a natural sub, Ryan. She says she’s always dreamed of someone dominating her. Honestly … she seems so happy and satisfied, that now I’m afraid I’ll screw things up if I can change.”

Trying to get some moisture into her mouth, Ryan smacked her lips together, then recalled that she had a bottle of water. She took a long drink, then said, “But you don’t enjoy it anymore, huh?”

“Oh, no! I love it! We fit together like pieces of a puzzle. I can let myself go with her and go places I’ve never been with a woman. But this isn’t what I want,” she said plaintively. “I want us to be equals … all of the time. I don’t wanna play with power.”

“Because it reminds you of your brother?” Ryan asked tentatively.

“No, not when it’s going on. When we’re having sex, I feel great. It bothers me afterward, when I beat myself up for letting go.”

“Ally,” Ryan soothed, suddenly feeling more comfortable, “do you let her in? Do you let her touch you…everywhere?”

“Uhm … yeah, pretty much. There are still a couple of things I don’t like and I don’t think I’ll ever like ’em, but they don’t interfere too much.”

“And you stop thinking and let her make love to you?”

“Yeah. I do,” she said without hesitation. “I trust her.”

“Then … why change?”

“I want it to be clean,” Ally said. “I don’t want the things from my past to have any influence on us. I want to start fresh with her, Ryan, but our desires have me stuck!”

“Ally, Ally,” she murmured, “you can’t stop being who you are, and neither can Sara. There has to be some reason—no matter how benign—that she’s a natural bottom. It’d probably be just as hard for her to stop that inclination as it is for you to try and suppress yours. Why take away her pleasure?”

“I don’t want to do that!”

“I’m sure you don’t. But if she’s most turned on by being dominated … she’s gonna miss it if you change. And, besides, for all you know, you’re a natural top. Maybe you developed those instincts in reaction to things that happened to you, but it’s possible they were always there. It could be a coincidence; maybe your brother didn’t have anything to do with it.”

“But I feel like he did. I’ve convinced myself it’s … dirty … tainted to touch Sara that way. I feel like I’m taking my brother’s role and she’s the victim.”

“But Sara doesn’t feel that way.”

“No, not at all …” She hesitated. “I don’t think so. We haven’t really talked about it in much detail. I’m pretty skittish about it.”

“How long have you been working on this in therapy?”

“Months,” Ally said. “Seems like years. And I don’t feel like I’ve changed much, if at all.”

“Mind a suggestion?”

“Not from you.”

“Try to open up and talk to Sara about this. She knows all about your brother, right?”

“Yeah. I told her at the very beginning.”

“See what she thinks,” Ryan suggested. “If she really wants you to dominate her, she’s probably not helping you keep things equal all of the time.”

Ally laughed and pulled out one of the expressions Ryan had always thought cute. “That’s for shit’n’sure! I don’t even think she knows she’s doing it, but she puts herself in my hands. She gives herself to me, Ryan. Totally.”

“We all have histories, buddy. All of us. And I think we do get hard-wired. So you can try to change your electrical circuitry—as well as Sara’s—or you can work on getting more comfortable with who you are and how you relate to each other. To tell you the truth, I think that’d be an easier sell.”

“Hmm … my therapist doesn’t say that directly, but she’s been nudging me in that direction.” She chuckled. “I’ve just been trying to ignore her.”

Heh. I know what that’s like. And I know what it’s like to try to change something fundamental, Ally, and I’ve gotta tell ya, I think your road is gonna be smoother if you and Sara let yourselves go and work on being proud of who you are. No matter how you got there, you’re the best top in the Bay Area, girl! And you know this city is filled with leather-clad butch bottoms just dreaming about being topped!”

“Like you,” Ally chuckled.

“Hey! Don’t go spreading that around! I’ve got a rep to maintain!”

“Your secret’s safe with me, sugar. And I’ll think about what you said, talk to Sara about it.” She paused and added, “But I don’t think I’ll tell her we talked about this. I don’t—”

“Don’t sweat it. This is between us, just us.”

“Thanks, Rock. Once again, I call to ask about you and wind up talking about me. How do you work that?”

“I’m a natural,” Ryan said, giggling girlishly.


Ryan walked into the house that night, stopping short when she spied Jamie walking down the stairs. “Wow,” she said, her eyes showing frank appreciation. “You look fantastic.”

“Really?” Jamie smiled and continued to descend. Standing on the bottom stair, she cocked her head. “More fantastic than usual?”

Smiling, Ryan said, “Good point. You always look fantastic.” She dropped her gym bag and put her arms around Jamie’s waist. She stood perfectly still for a few moments, gazing into her partner’s eyes. “You look particularly fantastic in that shirt. You’ve been wearing a lot of Indian-style shirts. They look really nice on you. This color is good, too,” she said, fingering the brick-colored linen.

“They fit a little loose, so I can get away with not wearing a bra if I wear a snug camisole.” She kissed Ryan, ignoring the tiny bit of grit from the softball field on her lips. “You’re so involved with your work by the time I leave, I don’t want to break your concentration enough to have you dress me.”

“Ooo … don’t feel like that, hon. It’s fine to interrupt me.”

“You kissed my eye this morning,” Jamie said, re-enacting the misplaced kiss. “And you didn’t even realize it.”

“Uhm … I meant to do that,” Ryan said, giving her a sparkling grin. “Your eye looked … very kissable this morning.”

“Don’t bother kissing the Blarney Stone when we go to Ireland. You don’t need any help.” She patted Ryan’s side and scooted past her. “Dinner’s almost ready.”

Ryan followed her, nose twitching. “I smell … Mexican.”

“Yep. And I made refrijoles the way you like ’em.”

“From scratch?”

“That’s how you like ’em, isn’t it?” Jamie responded with a smile.

They passed into the kitchen. “I didn’t know it until you made them for me, but now that’s the only way I like them.” Ryan grasped Jamie’s left hand. “Hey, you got your new splint.”

Jamie hiked up the loose-fitting sleeve. “Yep. Cool, huh?”

Ryan inspected the molded gray plastic and the black Velcro straps. “Totally. Can you put it on yourself?”

“Yeah. I think I might even be able to shower alone now.”

“Don’t rush; I like helping,” Ryan said, grinning. She looked at the stove and calculated that dinner was imminent. “Speaking of which, I’d better go shower and change.”

“Eh … don’t bother. You can get clean enough to eat by washing your hands and face at the sink.”

Looking down on her dusty, slightly damp clothes, Ryan said, “You sure?”

“Yeah. You can shower before bed.” She went to the cabinet and took out plates and glasses.

Uncertainly, Ryan took a peek at Jamie. “Why don’t you mind if I look like this?”

Jamie smiled at her and gave her a quick tap on her butt. “Not much difference, honey. A T-shirt and sweats is a T-shirt and sweats. A little added dust won’t hurt.”

Ryan reached out and stopped Jamie’s progress. “Hey,” she said, making eye contact, “what did that mean?”

Blinking, Jamie said, “Nothing. It just seems like a senseless delay to go shower when I know you’re hungry. You’re not gonna get the food dirty.” She laughed a little, but trailed off when she saw the look on Ryan’s face.

“No. I meant what you said about the T-shirt and sweats.”

Nothing,” Jamie moved away and went into the dining room to put the plates on the table. Ryan was right on her heels, and Jamie said, “I didn’t mean anything, honey. It’s just that since you’ve been playing sports, you don’t generally vary your wardrobe much. No big deal.”

“Really?” Ryan grasped her arm and held her still. “You don’t mind?”

“No. It makes sense. When we first met, you weren’t playing a sport. It’s understandable that you spent more time on looking nice when you didn’t have to change three times a day.”

Ryan let her go and slowly followed her into the kitchen. She went to the sink and washed her face and hands, then took the brush Jamie had bought for her and scrubbed under her nails. She was still working diligently when Jamie scratched her back and said, “Dinner’s on the table. Let’s go.”

Nodding, Ryan dried her hands and followed her. Ungainly, she stood behind her chair and fussed with her hair, smoothing it back into a neater-looking ponytail.

Seeing the look on her face, Jamie stood by her and put an arm around her waist. “Before dinner kiss?”

Ryan complied, brushing her lips quickly. “Looks good,” she said, nodding at the dinner.

“Thanks. Now sit down and tell me about your day.”

Ryan didn’t have much to report, so she listened to Jamie talk about a few things that had happened to her at school. “Oh, Anna said she could see me earlier in the day, since I don’t have golf anymore.”

Lifting an eyebrow, Ryan said, “I didn’t know that was something you wanted to do.”

“Yeah. I’d like to be home earlier so I can take a little more time with dinner. I hate to rush.”

Spending a moment looking at her, Ryan said, “You made this fantastic dinner from scratch, you look like a million bucks, your hair’s perfect, you’ve got just the right amount of perfume on and you brushed your teeth seconds before I got home. I could taste the mint on your lips.”

Shrugging, Jamie said, “So?”

“You’re always trying,” Ryan said. “You go out of your way to look nice and smell nice and make our home nice. And you do most of it for me.”

“Yeah …” Looking puzzled, Jamie said, “Is that a surprise?”

“No, no, not a surprise, but I’m not keeping up my end of the deal. I’m not making that extra effort … making sure I look nice for you.”

“Oh, don’t be silly. You always look good to me. You’re so beautiful you don’t need to make an extra effort.”

“That’s not true,” Ryan said earnestly. “I really noticed you today. And it made me feel good. Made me feel like I was important.”

“Jeez, Ryan, of course you’re important!”

She reached across the table and took Jamie’s hand. “But you make the effort to show me that. That’s important. I appreciate it.” She kissed Jamie’s hand tenderly. “I really appreciate it.”

“You’re such a sweet girl.” Jamie pushed aside her plate and got up, standing by Ryan’s chair while she pushed away from the table. “Let me sit on your lap.”

Ryan smiled at her as Jamie squirmed around, getting comfortable. They kissed, slowly, for a few minutes, until Jamie put her forehead against Ryan’s and took in a few slow breaths. “You take my breath away … every time,” Ryan murmured.

“I don’t wanna take your dinner away. I know how hungry you are.” She started to get up, but Ryan held onto her.

“I’m hungry for you too,” she whispered and lavished several more heated kisses on her partner.

“Mmm,” Jamie said, licking her lips. “You might not be dressed well, but you sure as heck can kiss!”


Ryan was in her room working at her computer, when Jamie came in to get ready for bed. Ryan dutifully helped Jamie take off her blouse, since putting clothes on was easier than taking them off. “Want a T-shirt?” Ryan asked.

“Yeah. I’ll go get one.”

“I’ll give you one. You like ’em big anyway.”

“It’s not that I like them that big, I just like to wear your clothes.”

“Ally’s the only woman I could do that with,” Ryan said wistfully. She opened a drawer of shirts that Ally had given her over the years and chose a nice, bright yellow one. Tugging it over Jamie’s head, she asked, “Mind if I take your splint off? I wanna see how it works.”

“No. Go ahead. Wanna try it on?”

“Nah. I’ve had enough casts, not much allure there.” She gently undid the Velcro straps and slipped off the plastic pieces. “Cute little sleeve.”

Jamie looked at the snug knit piece of material that covered her arm from wrist to shoulder. “That’s so the plastic doesn’t stick to me. Thoughtful, huh?”

“Yep.” Ryan drew it off her arm, wincing and making a face at the Technicolor bruising. “How does it feel?”

“Not too bad. It aches a little, but not much.”

“This is some bruise. I think I’ll take a picture so you remember the only significant injury you’re ever going to have.” She leaned over and kissed several spots, touching blue, purple, and maroon skin. “My poor little chipmunk.”


Sliding the sleeve back on, Ryan started to reassemble the splint. “You seemed chipmunkish just then. What did the doctor tell you about using your arm?”

“He said I should keep it elevated when I can, and that it’s okay to use my hand. I haven’t felt like it, though. It’s still too stiff and swollen.”

Ryan held her hand and inspected it. “Can you flex it?”

Jamie did, lips pursed as she slowly moved her hand. “It doesn’t look or feel like my own hand. It’s weird.”

Ryan nodded her understanding. “It is a weird feeling, isn’t it? A swollen hand always feels like I’m wearing a tight rubber glove.”

“Hey, it does!” Jamie said, her nose wrinkling when she smiled.

“You’re doing well, babe. When we’re sitting around in the evening, you can still keep ice on it. That’ll help the swelling.”

“I forget to do that.”

Ryan kissed her gently. “Then I’ll remember for you. Need help in the bathroom?”

“I can manage. It’s much easier when I’m not wearing pants.”

“Most things are,” Ryan said, giving her a wicked grin.

Jamie went into the bathroom and started to brush her teeth. She emerged a few seconds later, her mouth covered with white foam. “Nice shirt.” She glanced down at the slogan, then back at her partner.

Grinning, Ryan looked up. “A girl can hope.”

Jamie took the brush from her mouth and leaned over, wiping her mouth on Ryan’s cheek. “Such a bad girl.”

Ryan wiped the bubbles from her face, saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever worn that one.”

“If I see you walking around town with an ‘I’ve saved you a seat’ shirt on, you’re not gonna be sitting anywhere for a while.”

“It’s not the words,” Ryan decided, grinning, “it’s the arrow pointing at your face that gives it meaning.”

“That’s the meaning that’ll get your hide tanned, O’Flaherty. That seat is reserved for moi!”


After a relatively somber lunch, Jordan took Mia to the airport for her late afternoon flight. When they got there, Jordan started to head for short-term parking, but Mia said, “Just drop me off, Jordy. It’s easier for me.”

Giving her a quick glance, Jordan saw that Mia’s mind was made up. Grumbling quietly, she did what Mia asked, pulling up in front of the terminal a few minutes later. “I like to go to the gate with you.”

“Too risky,” Mia said. She leaned over and kissed Jordan, ramping up the emotion until she heard her lover groan. Mia felt a little light-headed, but she managed to say, “It’s too tempting to grab you and drag you onto the plane with me. I know I’m not strong enough to carry you from here.”

Her smile was sad, and Jordan’s gaze didn’t move from Mia’s eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. And I’m gonna be thinking about you every minute.” With great care she smoothed Jordan’s hair into place, straightened her collar and the placket of her shirt. “But you, my Olympic beauty, have to concentrate on your game. I want you to be completely self-indulgent. Don’t think about anything other than your body, your game and your team.”

The corner of Jordan’s mouth curled up in a half-smile. “You’ve gotta give me some time to think about you. I’m only human.”

“Okay.” Mia looked up, thinking. “You can think about me when you get into bed at night. You think about how nice it feels to be loved for being exactly who you are. Think about how we don’t have to be together to be connected. And that whenever you think about me, I’m thinking about you.” She slipped her arms around Jordan and kissed her again and again; their bodies pressed together, lips feverishly seeking the sweet softness of each other’s mouth.

“I love you,” Jordan finally said, her voice thin and soft. “And I love Jamie and Ryan for loving you.”

“They love you too.We’re family.”

“We are,” Jordan said. “And having you be with them makes this so much easier. I know you’ll be happy.”

“I will. But I’ll be happier when we’re back together. Now kiss me and get going before that cop over there has a stroke!”


Jamie was sitting in the backyard, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a textbook when the back door opened and Ryan started down the steps. Glancing up, Jamie’s eyes opened wide and she gave Ryan a wolf whistle. “Whew! Did you have a date this morning?”

Grinning, Ryan stood on the grass and did a slow turn. “Just therapy. You like?”

Jamie let her eyes roam over her lover’s body, her pulse quickening a little as she took in the crisply ironed denim shirt that was only partially buttoned. A very snug tank top was visible, but not visible enough for Jamie to see what were surely braless breasts. The fact that she knew Ryan never wore a bra with the spandex top piqued her interest, and made her strain to see if she could get a peek at what she hoped were erect nipples.

The shirt was tucked into wheat-colored jeans that Jamie’d recently had custom tailored for her long-legged partner. They fit even better than Jamie had hoped, and she was glad that she’d lowered the measurements an inch in the waist and hips. Ryan still hadn’t gained back all of the weight she’d lost after the carjacking, but she finally looked healthy and fit. And the fact that she fills out that bra now, doesn’t hurt either.

The shiny, dark brown, ankle-length boots and leather belt made Ryan look fully put together—for the first time in quite a while. Her hair hung loose around her shoulders, a plus, in Jamie’s opinion. It seemed like she’d had it in a ponytail or a braid ever since softball had started, and Jamie smiled when she saw the sun glinting off the raven strands, highlights leaping out at her.

“You look ravishing,” she finally uttered, her voice husky. “And that’s just what I’d like to do to you.”

Feigning insult, Ryan put her hands on her hips. “I finally dressed up for you and now you want to ruin it?”

Standing, Jamie closed the small distance between her and her partner. “We can’t get in sync. You’re dressed and I’m in my jammies.”

Ryan bent and kissed her tenderly, moving her lips slowly and gently over Jamie’s. “Mmm … you may be in your jammies, but you still took the time to brush your teeth. I can taste … something clean through the coffee.”

“Baking soda. I use the unflavored stuff when I’m gonna drink coffee. I can’t stand the taste of mint competing with my java.”

“How did I not know that? All these months and you’ve still got secrets.”

“Sure do.” Jamie took her hand. “Let’s go upstairs and I’ll show you another couple.”

Regretfully, Ryan stood her ground. “Can’t, baby; I wouldn’t be able to relax. I’ve got so much to do. Besides,” she looked at her watch, “don’t you have class in an hour?”

“Yeah, but I’d skip it to wrap my lips around you.” She sidled up to Ryan and started to nuzzle at her neck, interspersing teasing licks with sharp little bites. Her uninjured arm circled the jean clad waist, and she rubbed her face against Ryan’s breasts, feeling them move and shift with the pressure. “I’m a needy girl,” she murmured, grasping Ryan’s ass and sending a jolt of feeling through her partner.

“How needy are you?” Ryan purred. Her hands were roaming over Jamie’s back and sides, feeling the swells and dips of her muscles, her ribs expanding and contracting more quickly as her breathing sped up.

Sliding her foot between Ryan’s to give her better access, she pressed her center against Ryan’s leg, swirling her hips as she ground against her. “Very. It’s been forever,” she pouted dramatically.

Ryan had a very vivid memory of “congratulations on the Putnam/thank you for the game/let’s make up from our fight” sex on Tuesday, but she didn’t think that was relevant. If Jamie thought it had been too long, that was all that mattered. “Show me how needy you are,” she said, hearing that her own voice was now as deep and rough as Jamie’s.

Smoky green eyes met hers and Jamie pulled her down for a dazzling, dizzying series of kisses. By the time her lover paused, Ryan’s knees were weak, but she was supported by Jamie’s body—still astride and pressing against her leg. “Let’s go.” She quickly made for the stairs, a little shocked when Jamie impudently slid her hand right between her legs as she took the first step. But she didn’t try to dislodge it. It felt so good to have Jamie get bolder and more confident about her sexuality that Ryan wouldn’t have considered putting a damper on any of her playfulness.

As they reached the kitchen, Ryan turned and wrapped Jamie in her arms, kissing her with a nearly frantic passion. Jamie responded, holding on to Ryan as well as she could with one arm. Their bodies were pressed feverishly together, Ryan’s hands running through her hair, along her body, and back to her face, where they held her as gently as a china doll.

Panting, Jamie backed away. “Bed. Now.”

“Counter. Now.” In a flash, Jamie’s panties were on the floor, and her long T-shirt joined them a few seconds later—since Ryan was much more careful around her splint. She was lifted and settled on the cold granite, letting out a gasp that was captured by Ryan’s eager mouth. Again, Ryan was relentless in her assault upon Jamie’s lips, the soft skin on her throat, her flushed ears. Slowly, she worked her way down the willing body, finally gathering Jamie’s breasts in her hands and pressing them together firmly, where she worked at the rigid nipples with unflagging interest.

Jamie held on with her right arm, wishing desperately that she could grasp and hold her lover with her left as well. Ryan seemed to sense her need and she released her breasts and held her tightly, not missing a beat with her warm, wet mouth.

“That’s it,” Jamie urged. “Hold me tight. Hold me …”

Ryan followed her command, holding her firmly while her mouth moved further down her body. She grasped her hips in a nearly bruising grip and nuzzled between her legs, filling her lungs with the musky aroma of desire. Jamie’s legs spread immediately, welcoming Ryan with alacrity. Blindly reaching behind herself for a chair, Ryan’s foot found one and dragged it across the floor. She knelt on it, then sat back on her haunches to reach her prize.

As soon as Ryan’s mouth covered her, Jamie slid closer to the edge of the counter and lifted her legs until they rested on Ryan’s shoulders. She was braced on her good arm, her body contorted in a pose that would have been unimaginable if she weren’t shaking with desire. But the only sensation she felt was Ryan’s hot breath on her, and when that delectable tongue swiped along her from bottom to top, she cried out with need. She would have fallen if she’d moved her good arm, so she had to lie there, passively letting Ryan work her magic. Though she couldn’t move her arms, her hips were unrestrained, and Jamie swiveled and twitched them across the counter—trying to position herself to force Ryan to hit the magic spot.

Ryan knew exactly where Jamie’s hot spots were; she just wasn’t ready to probe them. Few things gave her more pleasure than watching and feeling Jamie’s body writhe under her touch, and she hated to bring the fun to a close any sooner than necessary. She lingered around Jamie’s opening, delicately inserting the tip of her tongue again and again, then swirling it around in a tiny circle.

Jamie thumped the counter with her splint, her moans music to Ryan’s ears. “Please,” she begged. “Please make me come.”

Ryan growled like a big cat protecting her kill.

“Please,” Jamie said again. “Come on, baby, do it!”

Placing a wet kiss on her lips, Ryan tilted her head, her mouth shining in the morning light. “Tell me what you need. Exactly what you need.” She loved to hear Jamie give voice to her desires; it always made her pulse quicken.

“My clit,” she begged. “Suck my clit. You know just how I like it.”

“Is that all?” Ryan asked innocently, slowly lowering her head while keeping her eyes locked on Jamie’s.

“No, no! Fingers! Put your fingers inside me. I need you inside me, baby. Inside!”

Grinning lustily, Ryan slid two fingers inside, pressing down, then spreading her fingers apart to give Jamie the pressure and the fullness she needed. As she elicited the deep, throaty moan that sent chills up her spine, she dipped her head and covered her lover’s clit, sucking gently but firmly. As soon as her tongue brushed across the tip, Jamie cried out and her body stiffened. She was completely still, save for the first spasm that rolled through her vulva, making Ryan smile. Another gentle swipe of the tongue sent Jamie over the edge, and she thrust her hips hard, pushing against Ryan’s hand as if she was trying to pull the talented fingers deep within herself.

Jamie’s body was expressing itself clearly, but her mouth was unable to form a single syllable . She slid down to let her upper body fully rest on the counter, her torso winding up in a remarkably uncomfortable-looking position.

Ryan stayed where she was, pressing tender kisses into the still-throbbing flesh, watching the moisture trickle from her unabated. While Jamie recovered, Ryan pressed her cheek against a thigh and took in a deep breath, feeling remarkably sated. She knew she was dripping wet and could come in a matter of moments, but she was satisfied—thoroughly satisfied. She got up and pushed the chair away, then wrapped her arms around Jamie, pulling her partner’s limp body into a sitting position.

Her head resting on Ryan’s shoulder, Jamie murmured, “The things you do to me …”

“The things you do to me,” Ryan said, laughing softly. “Watching your body respond and hearing you beg for what you need makes me so hot … it’s … unreal.”

“Take me upstairs. I’ve got plans for you. Big, big plans.”

Ryan turned her head and caught Jamie’s lips—licking, sucking, teasing them with her mouth and tongue. Jamie was moaning again, rubbing her breasts against Ryan, who somehow managed to stick to her agenda. “I have plans for you, sweetheart. You’re gonna get in the shower, get dressed, and go to class. Then I’m gonna clean up a little, change my undies, and get to work. I just have to.”

Jamie sat back and stared at her, unblinking. “You’re not serious.”

“Yeah, I am. I told you I had to get moving.”

“But … that was before we started to make love! Aren’t you turned on?”

“Heck yeah,” Ryan said, laughing. “But I’m happy. I had a lot of fun this morning, and I didn’t even have to take off my new pants!”

She looked very happy at her declaration, and Jamie, puzzled by her usually hair-trigger-response lover, could see that she was serious. “Did I pressure you, baby?”

“No, not a bit! If I really wasn’t into it, I would have told you. But I thought this would be a great way to start the day. I got to feel love and tenderness and passion—not a bad way to get the juices flowing.”

Jamie put her good arm around Ryan, and was helped off the counter. “Come on, hot stuff, let’s go rinse off some of these juices. I don’t want my whole class to know how I spent my morning.”

“They’d be jealous,” Ryan smirked. “I bet every guy and half of the girls wish they were in my shoes.”

“Yeah, that’s probably true,” Jamie said, humoring her partner. “But you’re the only one I want. Although, next time, I’d like your shoes and your pants and your shirt on the floor, rather than on your body.”

“That can be arranged. As a matter of fact,” she said, leading Jamie up the stairs, “I don’t have a thing on my agenda at about ten o’clock tonight.”

 “You’re on. Pencil me in, babe.”


After a somber lunch, Jordan took Mia to the airport for her late afternoon flight to SFO. Jordan was following the signs to short-term parking, but Mia said, “Just drop me off, Jordy. That’ll be easier for me.”

A quick glance showed Jordan that Mia’s mind was made up. Grumbling quietly, she did what Mia asked, pulling up in front of the terminal a few minutes later. She made one last try. “I’d like to go to the gate with you.”

“Too risky,” Mia said. She leaned over and kissed Jordan, ramping up the emotion until she heard her lover groan. Mia felt a little light-headed, but she managed to say, “I know I’m not strong enough to carry you from here, but if you came inside, it would be too tempting to grab you and drag you onto the plane with me.”

Her smile sad, Jordan’s gaze didn’t move from Mia’s eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, and I’m gonna be thinking about you every minute.” With great care she smoothed Jordan’s hair into place, straightened her collar and the placket of her shirt. “But you, my Olympic beauty, have to concentrate on your game. I want you to be completely self-indulgent. Don’t think about anything other than your body, your game, and your team.”

The corner of Jordan’s mouth curled up in a half-smile. “You’ve gotta give me some time to think about you. I’m only human.”

“Okay.” Mia looked up. “You can think about me when you get into bed at night. You think about how nice it feels to be loved for being exactly who you are. Think about how we don’t have to be together to be connected. And that whenever you think about me, I’m thinking about you.” She slipped her arms around Jordan and kissed her again and again, their bodies pressed together, their lips feverishly seeking the sweet softness of each other’s mouth.

“I love you,” Jordan finally said, her voice thin and soft. “And I love Jamie and Ryan for loving you.”

“They love you too. We’re family.”

“We are,” Jordan said. “And having you with them makes this so much easier. I know you’ll be happy.”

“I will. But I’ll be happier when we’re back together. Now kiss me and get going, before that cop over there has a stroke!”


Continued in Part 7

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