I Found My Heart in San Francisco


Book 1: Awakenings


By: S X Meagher


Disclaimers: See Chapter 1


Feedback: I'm consumed by self-criticism; therefore only positive feedback will be read. If you enjoyed the story please stroke my fragile ego, if not, flush it from your memory bank and move on. You can email me at sx_meagher@mindspring.com


Chapter 12


Morris & Foster traditionally held a very large, very elegant New Year's Eve party for partners and their spouses. Jamie had never been invited and she had never regretted the oversight. But this year her father had broached the subject just after Thanksgiving. After the disagreement they had she was more amenable to doing small things to please him but she was very leery of attending this party. She rather doubted that Jack would want to go since he seemed almost agoraphobic lately but she decided to ask him anyway just so she could tell her father that she had brought it up.


She was as surprised as she had ever been when Jack's reaction turned out to be not only favorable, but downright enthusiastic. "I think that would be a lot of fun," he said with more enthusiasm than she had heard all year. "It'll give us a chance to get dressed up for a change. I would love to be able to dance with you when you're all sexy looking," he said winsomely. Dance, she thought with surprise. He dances?


As the day approached Jamie spent a fairly enjoyable afternoon with her mother shopping for new dresses. Catherine probably had enough formalwear to clothe a small fashion deprived country but she hated to wear the same dress twice so she needed something too. At her current weight Jamie could have easily worn one of her mother's dresses but Catherine would not hear of it. "My things are far too mature for you, Dear. You need something that fits your age and your style." And so they descended on the small shops of the South Bay.


The recent glut of Internet and software millionaires in the Silicon Valley created a new market for formalwear and Jamie was surprised at how many little shops now dotted the tree lined streets of the small towns from Hillsborough down through San Jose. Luckily since many of the nouveau millionaires were in their 20's and 30's the dresses were much more to Jamie's taste. She finally decided on a nice little navy blue velvet dress that Catherine wholeheartedly approved of.


On the day of the party she waited until she was alone in the house to page Ryan. She had just seen Ryan the day before but she hadn't remembered to even ask her about her plans for the night. She assumed she would be with Tracy but she still felt the need to wish her a Happy New Year.


Minutes later her phone rang. "You rang?" Ryan's cheerful voice asked.


"I forgot to wish you a Happy New Year," she said. "I couldn't let that oversight ruin my evening."


"Your evening? Ha! What about my evening? I would have been the one without your good wishes. You could have ruined a whole year for me, Jamie," she teased. "I hope you're more careful in the future!"


"Maybe I should just call you every day and give you my good wishes."


"Now that's the best idea you've had in weeks," Ryan said happily. "I'll expect your call from here on in. So what are you up to tonight?"


"We're going to a big formal party at The Fairmont Hotel," she said with much less enthusiasm than Ryan thought normal.


"Well that sounds pretty cool. Do you have a new dress?" she asked, knowing Jamie's penchant for shopping.


"Yep. Navy blue velvet. I look pretty good in it if I do say so myself," she said with a light chuckle.


"I've known you since August and I've yet to see you look anything but fabulous," Ryan said. "But I would bet navy blue velvet is just perfect for you given your hair color and skin tone. Jack will be the envy of every guy there."


"So what are you two up to?" Jamie asked, momentarily nonplussed that Ryan had obviously spent some time assessing her physical attributes.


"We're going to a big party at The Mark Hopkins," Ryan said.


"Really? That surprises me a bit. I thought you didn't like large gatherings."


"I don't. But you have to make some sacrifices for a relationship," she said wisely.


Tell that to Jack, she thought, but decided to keep her gripes to herself. "Is this for girls only?"


"Yep. It's put on by one of the promoters who puts on big weekend parties in the City. I told Tracy I'd take her anywhere she wanted to go and this is what she chose."


"Do you have a new dress?" Jamie taunted.


"I have my version of a new dress," she conceded with a little laugh.


"And what might that be? Did you find formal jeans?"


"No, but that does sound appealing. Maybe I should have spent more than 10 minutes shopping."


"Come on, tell me what you bought. I'm not familiar with formal lesbian attire."


"Well the dress code is pretty darn flexible. I guarantee the diversity of my group will surpass yours," she teased.


"Spill it, O'Flaherty."


"Okay, I bought some black leather pants and a white pleated shirt...kind of a woman's tuxedo shirt. It's got little bitty black studs rather than buttons." She paused for a moment and said, "Jamie, are you still there?"


Jamie physically slapped her head to make her brain start to work again. "My cell phone must have blanked out for a second," she said hurriedly. "Your outfit sounds cute. I'd like to see it someday." Yeah, like tomorrow, she thought dejectedly. I'd rather tag along on Ryan's date than hang out with a bunch of lawyers. And I sure can't imagine a person who would look better in leather pants.


"I hope you have a very good time tonight, Jamie. I send you every good wish for the New Year. But you'll have to wait for your kiss," she promised.


"Happy New Year, Ryan. I hope you and Tracy have a wonderful evening. Make sure you pay attention so you can tell me all about the unique outfits."


"Will do, Buddy. I'll call you tomorrow."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Dinner was scheduled for 8 o'clock and Jack showed up right on time at 7. Jim and Catherine had arranged for the firm's limo to pick them up and Jamie decided that it made sense to all ride together.


Jamie came down the stairs to the appreciative gazes of both her father and Jack. "Wow," was all that Jack could get out.


"You look wonderful, Honey," Jim gushed as he walked to the stairs to kiss her cheek.


"Thank you both," she said as she waited for Jack's kiss. "You look pretty wonderful yourself," she said softly as he leaned in for a kiss. He had purchased a tuxedo for himself, figuring that he would need one once he started his full time job. He asked his law review partner to help him pick it out and Jamie had to admit that Natalie's taste was exquisite. The suit was quite traditional but it had a shawl collar which set his broad shoulders off quite attractively. It was impeccably tailored and Jamie knew that it had cost more than he could comfortably afford but she had to admit that it looked fabulous on him. His wing collar white shirt and black tie completed the traditional look but he looked anything but stodgy. She thought that he had never looked more handsome and she began to feel a little better about attending the party. If he cares enough to dress this carefully he must really want to attend, she thought. Maybe he really does want to cut loose for a change.


Catherine made her entrance a short time later and gracefully accepted the compliments of the small crowd. She also looked particularly lovely this evening. A deep emerald green silk cocktail dress showed off both her figure and her pale blonde hair to good advantage.


"Shall we?" Jim asked as he took Catherine's arm to lead her to the waiting limo.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


The evening started off well enough. Dinner was the standard hotel banquet room fare: nothing special except the prices. They sat at a table with the other senior members of the firm but the ambient noise forced them to speak mostly to each other. But as soon as dinner was finished Jim invited Jack to join him and the other senior partners down in the bar to have a cigar. Jamie watched in horror as Jack immediately agreed. He doesn't smoke! she thought in alarm. That is such a disgusting habit! And he'll reek of the smell all night long, she groused to herself.


She was in quite a little funk when Catherine leaned over and said, "You may as well get used to it, Honey. These events are not made for us. It's just an extension of the office. Our job is to look good and not get drunk enough to cause a scene," she laughed wryly at her own joke but Jamie caught the bitter edge to her voice. "I'm having vodka tonight. How about you?"


"I think I'll stick with Champagne," she said since she had already had a glass.


Catherine called the waiter over and signaled for him to come closer, "I'd like an Absolut on the rocks and a bottle of decent Champagne."


"We're serving Mumm's tonight, Ma'am," he informed her politely.


"I know what you're serving but that's not what we're drinking," she said sweetly. "I'd like a bottle of Crystal. I can sign for it separately," she decreed.


"Yes ma'am," he said as he snapped to it. A few minutes later Jamie was sipping the excellent Champagne while various wives and fellow partners paid homage to her mother.


When they were alone for a moment Jamie asked, "Do you really know all of these people?"


"I know quite a few of them. We've been friends with some of these people since we were your age," she laughed. "But many of them are complete strangers. I have no idea why they insist on talking to me. It's not like you father quizzes me at the end of the evening, 'So Catherine, did all of the partners and their wives kiss your ring?' "


Jamie laughed at her mother's usually hidden sense of humor. She's kind of fun when Daddy's not around, she thought to herself.


After a while a well dressed woman who looked a little older than Catherine came up and asked, "Could I have a word with you in private, dear?"


Catherine looked like she wanted to refuse but she got up and followed the woman to the side of the room. It was almost 10 when the men returned. They reeked of cigar smoke and Jamie felt a little nauseous when Jack sat next to her and spoke in her direction. But she had no interest in making a big deal about it so she tried to ignore the strong odor. After a few minutes he asked her to dance and she accepted mostly to see if he really knew how. They had never been in a situation that required them to dance and she hoped that he had some idea of what to do since she didn't think it would be wise to lead.


Her mouth nearly hit her chest as he gracefully placed one hand behind her back and grasped her other hand in his. As the music started he led her around the floor as though he had been dancing for years. He seemed so self-assured and elegant that she had to question her long held perceptions of him. They didn't speak as they danced but that didn't bother her one bit. She just let him lead her with his calm but determined manner.


They remained on the dance for a several more songs and when they returned to their table he looked at her with his normal boyish face and whispered, "How'd I do?"


She sat back in her chair to regard him for a moment. He looked like nothing but a young boy seeking approval from his teacher for a well written essay. "You dance beautifully Jack," she said sincerely. "I had no idea that you knew how."


"I didn't," he said rather proudly.


"But how...?"


"When you invited me I knew I couldn't stumble around looking stupid so I signed up for lessons," he said with a big boyish grin.


"You...you took dance lessons?

"Yeah. It's important to look like you belong, Jamie," he explained patiently.


"I think I get that," she said, trying to hold the edge from her voice. "But when did you have time to take lessons?"


"Natalie and I took a course together. She didn't know how either so it seemed like a good way to learn," he explained happily.


"You took dance lessons?" she asked for the second time; still unable to get her mind around the concept.


"Yes, Jamie, this evening is important to me," he said as he gave her a little squeeze.


She had never considered herself slow. As a matter of fact she usually thought that she caught on rather quickly. That's why this revelation hit her with such force. How stupid am I? I honestly believed he wanted to come to this party to be with me! She silently berated herself for a few minutes and shortly thereafter her father whisked Jack away for 'face time' with some of the other important people at the party.


She had to force herself to adopt a pleasant countenance after Jack departed. When she really thought about it she had to admit that she had rarely felt so alone. The walls of the huge banquet room seemed to be closing in on her and she fervently wished she was at home watching 'Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve', never one of her favorite shows, but supremely more enjoyable than this debacle. Turning to her mother, she caught a look of unguarded despair on the older woman's normally placid face. The look was so heart rending that she quickly averted her gaze to avoid making her uncomfortable. "You'll never survive a lifetime of these events if you don't learn how to drink, Jamie," her mother's voice floated past her ear a few minutes later. "You've barely had a full glass."


Just then the waiter ambled past. Jamie looked up at him and asked in a clear voice, "Morphine and soda please."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Ryan was dressed and ready to roll at 9 o'clock. Martin had insisted that she take his truck for the evening since he would be at work and would have no need for it. "It's not wise to be gallivanting around on New Year's Eve on a motorcycle," he decreed. Rather than risk worrying him Ryan had dropped him off at work in the afternoon.


She actually felt pretty good in her new outfit. She had taken the time to polish her boots and she gazed at her bleary reflection in the black leather while she waited for Tracy to buzz her up.


As the door to the apartment opened Tracy pulled her in and spent a moment looking her up and down. Ryan patiently waited for her to finish and was rewarded with a low whistle. "You look so totally hot," she purred as she pulled Ryan in for her first kiss of the night.


When she broke free Ryan stood back and regarded her date. Tracy looked more beautiful than Ryan had ever seen her and that was saying a lot. She wore a heavyweight silk white tank top and a very short, very tight black velvet skirt. Shimmery black stockings showed off every inch of her long legs and her two inch heels brought her up much closer to Ryan's hungry mouth. Her shoulder length chestnut hair was swept up off her face in a tight chignon and the attractive style highlighted the delicate planes of her lovely face. "You look so beautiful," Ryan murmured softly as they came together in another series of passionate kisses. Ryan wasn't sure if it was Tracy's luminous beauty or her mesmerizing perfume but something was ratcheting her desire out of control. She knew that if they did not leave soon they would see the New Year in from a horizontal position. "We'd better go," she said softly as she finally pulled her mouth from Tracy's voracious one.


"Maybe we should just watch the countdown on TV," she suggested. "It's very dangerous to be out on New Years you know."


"It's more dangerous in here," Ryan decided. "Let's go, Babe," she said as she held out a matching collarless black velvet jacket for Tracy to slip into.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


By the time Jack returned to ask for another dance Jamie could hardly feel her feet. But she was not in the mood for a lecture so she sucked it up and gamely followed him out to the dance floor. She was a bit surprised to see her mother being led out seconds later and she thought, Now being displayed for your viewing pleasure, Catherine and Jamie Evans. They walk, they talk, they dance!


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Ryan had been to many lesbian dances and parties but this was by far the most elegant event that she had ever attended. The room was decorated beautifully and the music was not ear-splittingly loud. People were drinking but it was nearly 10 o'clock and she did not detect any obviously drunk women yet.


Almost as soon as they entered the room Tracy led her to the dance floor and they spent a good half hour moving against each other so sensually that Ryan knew her resolve didn't have much of a chance at holding out tonight.


When Tracy first agreed to go out with Ryan it was with the caveat that she did not want to be a short term fling. Ryan agreed immediately since she was finally in the market for a steady girl friend. But Ryan made a promise to Tracy at the very beginning. She pledged that she would not try to sleep with her until she was sure of her feelings. Tracy had readily agreed but Ryan was getting the message that her friend was changing the rules on her.


At first she wasn't sure if she was reading her signals correctly but the sultry glances were a good first clue. But even if she had not noticed the glances the torrid kisses would have been another indication. But no matter how oblivious Ryan was she could not ignore the bare thigh that kept sliding between her legs on the dance floor. Tracy had the most arousing dance style that Ryan had ever seen. She danced so close that their breasts continually rubbed against one another but the kicker for Ryan was the way Tracy insinuated her leg right between Ryan's and thrust her hips in time to the music. After a few such numbers Ryan's head was throbbing from her unquenched desire and her will was way past weak.


They were both thirsty from the workout so Tracy led her by the hand to one of the small bars set up around the large ballroom. Ryan knew the last thing she needed was alcohol so she stuck to her usual sparkling water. But Tracy seemed to wish to lower her inhibitions as she ordered a Scotch and soda. Ryan watched her slug her drink down in a very rapid style as she turned and gazed at her like a panther stalking prey. The wild look in Tracy's eyes caused Ryan to move back a few steps, but that was right where she wanted her. She pushed Ryan against the rear wall and began to work on her mouth again. By the time Ryan came up for breath she was all in favor of seeing if she could snag another good deal on a room upstairs.


But just when she was about to suggest that they head home Tracy pulled her back onto the dance floor and began to sway to the music once again. "Give me strength," Ryan moaned to whatever saint was in the neighborhood.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


At 11:50 Jamie tried to focus on the blurred vision of her mother. "Will they come back at midnight or do we kiss each other?"


"Oh they'll be back," Catherine replied knowingly. "It wouldn't look right to leave us alone then."


Even from her fog Jamie could tell that her mother really didn't look very drunk at all. How in the hell does she do that? she marveled. She's had as many as I've had and she's drinking vodka. That's 3 times as much alcohol as champagne. But as she regarded her for a moment she really let herself see the vacant, almost desolate look in her mother's eyes. Why is she so unhappy? she wondered. Is it her life or her self or is it just physiological?


Jack and Jim flew up with 3 minutes to spare. "Miss me?" he whispered into Jamie's ear as he pulled her to the dance floor to join with all the other couples as they welcomed in the New Year.


"Desperately," she replied in the same flat monotone her mother used with her father.


"Good," he said happily as he wrapped her in his arms and kissed her with enough intensity to shock her out of her fog.


Oh right, she said to herself as she caught her breath. He has to look like he's passionate.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


The stroke of 12 found Tracy looking up into Ryan's deep blue eyes and murmuring in a soft voice, "I love you, Ryan," as she pulled her head down for a tender, emotion filled kiss.


Ryan was a bit shocked by this declaration but she realized that she was very close to declaring her love for Tracy too. But since her mouth was very happily occupied she decided to wait a bit to commit herself.


When she considered her feelings she had to admit that Tracy was exactly what she had been seeking in a woman. She was a lot of fun, smart, sexy, very passionate, and probably great in bed. As Ryan's mouth was invaded by Tracy's searching tongue she rethought that statement. No, she's definitely gonna be great in bed, she thought with a knowing smile.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


By 12:30 the Morris & Foster party was winding down. The younger partners and their spouses were still on the dance floor but the more senior members of the firm were starting to drift off. Jim approached and asked, "A few of the managing committee members want to have a nightcap over a the Top of the Mark. Will you two join us or would you rather stay here and dance?"


Jamie knew the answer before the question was fully out of her father's mouth. "We'd love to join you," Jack answered without even looking at her.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


As they waited for the elevator to the top floor of the Mark Hopkins Jamie turned to scan the sign that listed the location of every event. Hmm, Ryan's party is on the lower level. "I'm going to use the rest room down here, Jack. I'll be up in a few minutes. Will you just order me some sparkling water?" He looked like he knew he should wait with her but all of the big kids were going to play and he didn't want to be left out. "Go on," she urged. "I'll be up in a few minutes." His smile of relief was actually kind of funny and she patted his cheek and stood on her tip toes for a kiss. "See you soon," she promised as she started off in the direction of the rest rooms.


After a quick stop to check her makeup she made her way down to the lower level. It didn't take long to figure out which party was Ryan's. Women of every shape, size and color were streaming in and out of the largest room on the floor. Jamie noted with relief that no one was checking tickets so she slid right in and looked around for a few minutes.


She was just about to give up when she felt a warm presence behind her. A deep voice floated past her ear, "Are you here to learn the secret handshake?"


Jamie's entire face broke into a delighted grin as she turned to greet her friend. Ryan's arms enveloped her in a hug and she relaxed into the embrace feeling all of the tension leave her body. "Mmm, you smell good," Jamie said as she pulled away. "And you look fabulous," she enthused as she stood back and got a good look.


"Actually it's Tracy that smells good. I just smell like her," she said with a lascivious eyebrow wiggle. "Boy, Jack must be unconscious somewhere to let you get away tonight," Ryan said with a twinkle in her eye. "You look as good as your lasagna tastes."


Jamie playfully slapped her on the shoulder as she looked around. "Speaking of dates where's yours?"


"I just left her in a ridiculously long line for the rest room. Where is Jack by the way?"


"He's with the other fascinating conversationalists from Morris & Foster. They're having a drink while they try to bore each other to death."


"Oh oh," Ryan said playfully. "Is somebody grouchy?"


"I shouldn't be," she said with an embarrassed smirk. "But I had the crazy notion that Jack wanted to be with me tonight."


"And he doesn't?"


"Nope. It's just business."


"I'm sorry, Jamie," she said as she squeezed her shoulder. "I wish you were having more fun."


"That's okay. I need to get used to this since it will be my life for the next several hundred years."


Mainly to lighten the mood Ryan revealed, "I think I'm going steady."


"Are you, now?" she said as she placed her hands on her hips and regarded Ryan carefully.


"I think so. Tracy told me she loves me," she said with an adorable blush covering her cheeks.


"That's so sweet," she said sincerely as she gave her friend a hug. "That woman has excellent taste!" After a beat she asked, "Do you feel the same?"


"I think so," Ryan said slowly. "I'm not quite ready to commit yet but I'm close."


"I'm really happy for you," she said as she hugged her again. "She's one lucky woman." As Ryan released her she said, "I've got to get back. Within an hour or two they'll miss me."


Ryan considered how little Jack must pay attention to her when she realized that Jamie's party was next door at the Fairmont. God, he doesn't even know when she leaves the building for a half hour! Ryan gave her a sad smile and said, "I really wish you were having a better time. You deserve so much more." But as soon as the words were out of her mouth she wished she could pull them back in. But Jamie did not seem offended in the least. She slid her arms around Ryan and hugged her tenderly as she rested her head against her chest.


"Thank you," she whispered as she pulled away. "It really helps to know that someone thinks I'm special."


"I do and I always will," Ryan pledged as she tilted Jamie's head up with her fingers. "Happy New Year, Jamie," she said as she bent and placed a soft kiss on her lips.


She stifled the tears than threatened to flow and patted Ryan gently on the cheek. "Congratulations, " she said sincerely. "I hope you and Tracy have a wonderful year together." Another quick hug and she was gone.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Minutes later Tracy was back. As she wrapped her arms around Ryan for another deep kiss she could feel the passion flare up again. "Umm, let's go somewhere where we can talk quietly," Ryan suggested.


"Why don't we get a room?" Tracy purred. "That would be quiet...for a while."


Ryan looked down into her sultry dark eyes and wrestled with her conscience. Tracy was definitely a little drunk but Ryan thought that she was still able to make thoughtful decisions. Ryan was completely ready to take her upstairs and ravage her all night long but she felt that she needed to discuss a few things first. So rather than jump into bed she suggested an alternative. "Let's have a drink first," she insisted. "Where would you like to go?"


"Let's stay right here," she said as she took Ryan by the hand and led her to the elevator.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


By the time they were shown to a small table by the window Ryan was so focused on her date that she completely failed to notice Jamie in a large group of lawyers and their wives. But Jamie most definitely noticed Ryan. My God she looks great tonight, she thought as she watched the supple leather stretch taut against her legs as she sat down. And Tracy looks fantastic, too. But I wonder why they're here? I would think Ryan would have her in a horizontal position by now.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


On the way upstairs in the elevator a thousand thoughts flew through Ryan's mind. I feel almost ready to take the plunge but there's just something holding me back. I guess I'm just a little phobic about commitment but still...


Ryan actually ordered her first real drink of the night. When the server brought their Scotches she lightly grasped Tracy's hand and said, "Are you really ready to be intimate?"


A slow nod accompanied by a sly grin was ample evidence of her readiness. "Are you?' she asked as she squeezed Ryan's hand.


"I...I think so. I mean in one way I've been ready since the first time I saw you in class. I find you incredibly attractive and extremely desirable," she lifted Tracy's hand and gave it a gentle kiss. "But I made you a promise and I want to be sure we're both aware of where we stand. I feel close to being able to make a commitment but I'm not quite there," Ryan admitted.


"I'm not very interested in standing tonight, or tomorrow for that matter," Tracy replied with a leer. "I want to take you home and not let you out until school starts."


"But that's two weeks!" Ryan squeaked.


"I know," she whispered. "It'll take me that long to love you thoroughly."


"But I have to be home for the football games tomorrow," Ryan replied lightly in a partial tease, just trying to break the sultry mood.


"There's plenty of time for football some other time, Ryan. But just to keep you happy I promise I'll have you screaming about my illegal use of hands," she promised as she slid her hand up Ryan's leather clad thigh, coming dangerously close to her inseam.


"I'd sure like to get my hands on your tight end," Ryan replied winsomely as she gasped a bit for a deep breath. She shook her head to clear it and said, "I was serious about needing to be home for football tomorrow, though. I thought it would be a good time to introduce you to the whole family."


"But I've met your family," she said. "We had dinner right before I left for Christmas, remember?"


"That was just my father and brothers," Ryan informed her. "Now you need to pass inspection from my uncles, aunts and cousins."


"How many are there?" she asked hesitantly.


"About 25. They'll all be at the house tomorrow."


"I...I...I'll let you know if I can make it," she said slowly. "I do have some things I need to get done tomorrow."


On New Year's Day? What could you possibly have to do on New Years Day? Just to test the theory that was slowly forming in her head Ryan asked, "If I decide to skip the family party could I come over?"


"Sure," she said easily. "Any time. Or you could just avoid putting all those miles on your car and stay over."


"I don't think I'm ready yet, Tracy. I made a promise and until I'm ready to commit to you I don't feel right about it."


Tracy's hand was wandering up her thigh in the most alluring manner that Ryan had ever felt. "I release you from your promise," she purred. "Turn your vigilant little conscience off and follow your desire. It's okay if you don't love me yet...or ever for that matter. I just want you to take me home and love every little inch of me--slowly."


"Oh God," Ryan moaned weakly as she felt her resolve float away in a cloud of erotic thoughts.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


After a solid 10 minutes of staring at Ryan Jack finally turned his eyes to follow Jamie's. "Isn't that...?" he started to say but Jamie faced him again and leaned in for a kiss.


"Take me home," she begged. "I want to feel you inside me."


His eyes opened as wide as they were capable of opening and he completely lost his prior train of thought. God he's easy, Jamie thought to herself as Jack immediately leaned over to ask Jim if he was ready to leave.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Just as they were getting ready to leave the bar a couple that Tracy knew came in. "Don't even bother trying to get your car," they informed them. "There's a half hour wait."


Ryan hopped up and gallantly offered, "I'll go wait in line. Why don't you all have another drink and come down in a half hour?"


Tracy's friends handed Ryan their valet ticket and gratefully accepted her offer.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


As she stood in the bracing cold wind Ryan felt some of her determination return. I'm really not ready yet, she thought. I have to get to the bottom of this family thing. It might be my imagination but I get the impression that she's not interested in meeting and getting to know my family. And there's no way in the world I'll get seriously involved with anyone who doesn't like my family.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


The last drink was obviously the kicker since Tracy was sound asleep with her face pressed against the window of the truck by the time they reached the Marina. She was lucid enough to get in to her apartment but as soon as they hit the door she was on Ryan like a hungry dog on a bone. But now that Ryan had made up her mind the erotic temptation was quite a bit less than it had been in the bar. She lovingly undressed her friend with only a momentary desire to jump on top of her. After waiting for Tracy to finish in the bathroom Ryan guided her back to the bed. "Aren't you going to undress?" she asked hazily.


"I think these leather pants will feel really good against your skin," Ryan said softly. "Let's try it and see."


Tracy was obviously in the mood for a little experiment since she dropped face forward onto the bed. Ryan climbed on top of her thighs and forced herself to concentrate when Tracy let out a sexy low moan. God she had a gorgeous body, she thought as she fought to keep her desire at a manageable level. Ryan began to massage that gorgeous naked body; starting at her shoulders and slowly working her way down. By the time she reached her waist she heard the soft, deep breathing that signaled sleep. Leaning over her prone body she kissed her cheek and slid off her hips. She covered her with the sheet and duvet and carefully removed all of the pins that held her hair up. When she finished she ran her fingers through the silky tresses and thought, I would love to have that hair trailing over my breasts right about now. But a promise is a promise!


* * * * * * * * * * * *


As the days of winter break passed Jamie felt so close to leaving so many times that she lost count. The most frustrating thing was that her parents were absolutely no different than they had ever been. She felt like a blind person who has been given the gift of sight. She saw things that she had never seen before, in the interactions between her parents; in the way they treated her; even in the way they treated the staff. The insight was driving her crazy however, and she yearned to go back home to Berkeley. Seeing Ryan on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons were the only thing that kept her sane.


She worked out with a frenzy in order to keep her mind off her family. She put in 2 or 3 hours of riding every day except Friday since she trained her legs that day. She had seen the nutritionist a few times, but she was so tense during this time that she continued to lose weight. She knew she was down lower than she had been when she fainted at the talk line, and she began to wear more modest work out clothes so that Ryan wouldn't notice.


She had to admit that Ryan was truly going out of her way to help cheer her up. After her workouts she took her over to the big empty parking lot of the local high school and patiently explained more of the intricacies of the motorcycle, allowing Jamie to ride the big bike for at least an hour each time. A week before break was over she surprised her by driving her over to the Department of Motor Vehicles and announcing that Jamie had an appointment to take her driver's test for her motorcycle license.


To her shock, she passed the test easily and after breezing through the written test she proudly displayed the temporary license to her beaming friend. "I'm proud of you," Ryan said fondly as she enveloped her in a generous hug.


"This was a wonderful gift, Ryan," Jamie said sincerely. "Spending your time with me and being so patient has really made me feel special."


"You are special," she insisted as she leaned over and kissed her lightly on her blushing cheek.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


As she got ready for her ride on the Thursday before she was to leave Hillsborough she heard a knock on the door. Before she could reply her mother opened the door and came into the room. Jamie was only wearing her underwear and her mother dropped her jaw in pure shock. "My God, Jamie what have you done to your body?" she said in alarm.


"What do you mean?" she replied defensively as she grabbed her jersey and yanked it over her head.


"You know perfectly well what I mean," her mother replied sternly.


"I've lost some weight, but I'll put it back on soon," she replied, feeling very uncomfortable at this invasion of her privacy.


"That's not what I mean. Your weight is fine, Jamie, it's those muscles. You've done this intentionally and I want to know why," she stated firmly.


Jamie was baffled at her mother's behavior. Now she's interested in me? "I have been working out quite a bit, Mother. I'm going to participate in a big charity bike ride and I need to get in shape to complete it."


"That makes no sense at all, Jamie. What does riding a bike have to do with looking like this?" she accused as she pointed at Jamie's sinewy body.


"I need to be in good shape overall to be strong enough to ride 500 miles. I look a lot more muscular than normal because of the weight that I've lost," she said meekly.


"Do you mean to tell me that you plan on riding that bicycle of yours over 500 miles?" she nearly shouted. "I'll not have it, Jamie. That is a ridiculous feat to even attempt. There is no reason on earth for you to do that and I forbid you to even try."


Jamie was absolutely dumbfounded. She stared at her mother for a few long minutes. Neither woman spoke as the gulf between them widened perceptibly. Jamie simply turned and removed her jersey. She folded it and put on a t-shirt. She then began to pack up her clothes in silence.


Her mother stared at her back for a few minutes. "Jamie, I want your word that you will stop this nonsense right now."

"I can't do that Mother. I refuse to lie to you just to make you happy," she replied. "I make my own choices in life and this is a choice I have made that I intend to pursue. I would prefer that you support me, but I don't require it."


"Don't forget that we do support you Jamie, quite well if I do say so myself. I believe we do have a right to express our opinions about your choices so long as you are our dependent."


She picked up her heavy suitcase and dragged it towards the door. "Mother, I appreciate your financial support, but we both know that I don't need it." She continued down the stairs, leaving her mother to stare at her in shocked silence from the doorway of her bedroom.


As soon as she was in her car she dialed Ryan's pager. Moments later she heard the reassuring tones over her cell phone. "Hi, are you going to be at home for a while?" Jamie inquired.


"Yeah, until 6 or so. I'm having dinner with Tracy. Why, do you want to come over?"


"Yes, if you don't mind. I just had a really bad fight with my mother and I need to talk about it," she replied shakily.


"I'll be waiting for you," Ryan replied.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


When Jamie arrived an hour later she saw Ryan rollerblading down the street at breakneck speed. I can't believe she can blade up these hills. I have trouble walking up them! Boy, I bet my mother would love her body. "I think I understand why your father had to take you to the emergency room all the time if this is the kind of stuff you used to do," she chided her sweating friend.


"Actually, most of my injuries were from skateboarding," she related. "I used to go down to the financial district and zoom down all those cool plazas and walkways. He would have to come get me from the security guard's office and take me straight to the E.R."


"Did you hurt yourself badly?" she inquired.


"Mostly broken bones," she replied nonchalantly.


"Boy, my parents think I'm tough to handle," she shook her head in dismay at her cavalier friend.


They went down to Ryan's room, the house actually being empty for a change. Ryan took a quick shower while Jamie just looked at the pictures on the walls. She particularly loved the pictures of Ryan when she was a little girl. There were at least a dozen framed shots of her taken at various stages of her youth. Her favorite was one of her as a toddler, no more than 2 years old. She had the cutest little round face and with that shock of black hair and those crystal blue eyes she looked like a beautiful little china doll.


When Ryan came out, wearing a long sleeved red T-shirt and faded navy blue sweats, Jamie crossed the room and asked for a hug. Ryan responded quickly and Jamie just stood in the embrace for a very long time. "You're the only person I feel safe with anymore," she mumbled into the strong chest.


"Come over here and relax," Ryan said as she tugged her over to the bed. Ryan lay down first, scooting to the middle of the big bed. She pulled a couple of pillows behind her back to elevate herself, and then she held out her arm in invitation. Jamie gratefully accepted the offer and climbed right up next to her. Ryan wrapped her arm around Jamie's back, resting her hand on her hip.


"Tell me what happened," she urged.


"She came into my room and saw me in my underwear," Jamie said as though that explained everything.


"I didn't convert you to boxers, did I?" Ryan asked with a hint of levity in her voice.


"It wasn't the underwear--it was my body," she said as Ryan nodded her understanding.


"I remember we talked about this at the beginning. We talked about how Jack would feel but we didn't discuss her or your father," Ryan reminded her.


"She was unbelievably proprietary about how I looked. She forbade me to participate in the AIDS ride and she threatened to cut off my support," Jamie muttered, still shocked by the events of the afternoon.


"Can you survive if they cut you off financially?" Ryan asked.


"Yeah, I've got a good chunk of money in my personal account and I get a part of my inheritance on my birthday. I'm certain they can't do anything about that ....unless they try to have me declared incompetent," she said with disgust.


"Is it enough to live on?" Ryan inquired delicately.


"Yeah," Jamie finally smiled. "It's enough for your extended family to live on, including the ones still in Ireland."


"Does that mean you're finally gonna start paying me to be your best friend?" she asked as she began to tickle Jamie's waist.


The smaller woman began to giggle uncontrollably at the attack. "How did you know I was ticklish?" she howled.


"You just look like the sort who would be," Ryan replied deviously as she began another round of the assault.


After Jamie recovered her breath Ryan got serious again. "What can I do to help you, Jamie? You know I'll do anything I can."


"Just knowing you're here and that I can count on you is an immeasurable blessing," she said sincerely.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


When she returned to Berkeley there were 4 messages from her father and two from Jack.


I wonder who will be less supportive? she thought glumly. She decided to call Jack first. He was very upset that she had left the Peninsula without calling him, and he did not understand why she would upset her parents like this. "Jamie, don't you care enough about their feelings to give up this stupid ride?" he finally asked out of exasperation.


"Why does no one ever suggest that they give up their desires to please me?" she asked plaintively. "Why is it assumed that in every one of my relationships I have to be the one to give in?"


"I assume that we're talking about us now, Jamie. I certainly think I've been more than understanding about all of your changes and your new friends. Don't think I haven't noticed all of the muscle you've begun to put on. I've got to admit it's kind of a turn-off for me. I like you to look like a woman Jamie. I like your softness. Your baby fat was so soft and comforting when I would rest my head on your stomach," he said wistfully. "I've just been hoping that you will get this out of your system and things will get back to normal."


"Keep dreaming, Jack. It's not gonna happen," she said with finality as she hung up.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


The conversation with her father went just as well as the one with Jack. Her father did not understand what had come over her. He thought her new friends were responsible for these changes and he thought that perhaps she should live at home for a while and commute. She thanked him for his concern and said she would think about it. February 11 cannot come soon enough. I'll be 21 and legally responsible for myself in every way.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


On the first Sunday morning of spring term Jamie drove into the city at 7 a.m. After receiving permission, she stopped at her father's city apartment to trade the Boxster for the larger Range Rover. When she reached Ryan's home she was pleased to find that Martin was at home. He made a big breakfast for the three of them which she ate with gusto. After the meal she and Ryan thoroughly cleaned the kitchen. "Whose job do I have?" she asked brightly.


"You're Brendan and Conor," Ryan replied. "I'm me and Rory."


"Well, I certainly feel like part of the family." She added after a pause, "More like two parts, actually," she laughed.


By 8:30 everything was in order and Ryan drove the very short distance to her Aunt Maeve's home. Maeve's son Tommy was a fireman, and he generally had two or three days off in any given week. His wife Annie was a nurse anesthetist at San Francisco General. She worked second shift so she could be with the baby during her most active hours. When Tommy was at work the baby slept at Maeve's, an arrangement that had so far worked out beautifully. They tried to arrange their days off so that one of them was home, but one or two days every week Maeve took over. "You know, Ryan," she chided her niece, "I shouldn't let you have my precious little one for a whole day. I only saw her once last week, you know."


"I know, I know," Ryan agreed. "If only all babies could have it so good," she added soberly.


Caitlin was as delighted as a 4 month old can be to be in her big cousin's arms. They took the carrier for the baby, the stroller, the car seat and the huge diaper bag out to the car and struggled to load it all securely. They hooked the car seat into the rear passenger side so the baby could see the driver, who for a change was Jamie. She had offered to drive so that Ryan could sit next to the little passenger to keep her entertained.


After a short drive they arrived at their destination; Golden Gate Park. Jamie loved the big old park, but she had not visited it since she was on a field trip with her 4th grade class. They strapped Caitlin into the infant carrier and Ryan stood patiently while Jamie attached the giggling baby onto her big cousin's back. The stroller came out next and they put the diaper bag on the shelf of the bottom of the sturdy vehicle. Jamie had a feeling that the stroller would be used as a carry-all more than a carry-Caitlin. Ryan seemed to have almost a primal need to have the baby attached to her body, and Caitlin seemed to be much happier when she was able to feel Ryan's sturdy body moving against her own.


They walked around the park for a long time, pausing to watch people play tennis, ride horses and bikes and generally enjoy all that the park had to offer. Leaving the stroller at the gate they carried the now dozing baby into the gravel lined paths of the Japanese Tea Garden while they walked along chatting comfortably.


After a diaper change and a snack from the Italian deli that Jamie had snuck into the diaper bag they continued to walk rather aimlessly around the park. But after several hours of walking, stopping and being carried Caitlin began to get a little cranky. Ryan had Jamie remove her from the carrier and she patiently swooped her up and held her securely in her strong arms until she gave up the fight and fell asleep on her shoulder.


"You sure do have a way with her," she marveled. "Have you spent a lot of time with babies?"


"No, not really," Ryan reflected. "I just think about what I would want and I try to give that to her," she said simply. "I think every person just wants to be understood, no matter what age they are. It's tough when she's this young because she can only communicate through her cries. But when you really pay attention you begin to notice that her cries each mean something different. The main thing is to just stay connected so you can understand her even when she makes it hard."


"I don't think I've ever heard a more true statement," Jamie said with admiration as she linked her arm with Ryan's. "Everyone does just want to be understood."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


They found a peaceful grassy area near the large windmills that dotted the grounds. Jamie spread out a thick blanket on the dry ground and Ryan gently placed Caitlin down. She artfully constructed a tiny little tent out of another small blanket and some rigid toys to keep the sun from the baby's body. They sat peacefully eating sandwiches from Jamie's secret stash. "You sure do know how to throw a good picnic," Ryan said as she happily munched away.


"I come from a family of football tailgaters, remember? You're just lucky I didn't bring a grill and a bag of charcoal."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


As they relaxed on the grass Ryan turned to Jamie and said with a serious expression on her face, "I need some advice. Are you in the mood to hear about my problem?"


"Sure, what is it?"


"I need some advice about sex," Ryan said quietly.


"You need MY advice about sex? What's your question? 'How do I have less sex?' Or 'How do I make sex feel worse?' "


"Actually, you won't believe this but Tracy and I haven't had sex," she said after a moments hesitation.


"What!" Jamie said with alarm. "I thought your record for abstinence was two weeks! You've been seeing her almost 2 months!"


"I know, I know. But when I first asked Tracy out I promised that I would attempt to be serious about her. I've really struggled a bit keeping that promise. I just cannot play around with her because I like her so much." Here she paused as she looked at Jamie with wide blue eyes. "Do you understand? I don't want to have sex with her until I'm sure there is a future for us. I just don't want to hurt her if it doesn't work out."


"Has it really been hard for you?" Jamie inquired solicitously.


"It really has and Tracy hasn't made things easy for me either. She is so attractive and she turns me on so much that it's a constant battle when we're together. To tell you the truth she's a little angry with me about New Year's. She really wanted to sleep together but I stuck to my promise. I mean, this probably sounds stupid to you but I've always looked at sex as purely fun. I never really let it effect me emotionally. This is really new territory for me and it confuses me a little."


"What confuses you about it?" Jamie asked gently, reading the fragile look in her friend's eyes.


"How do you know if you're falling in love with someone?" she asked with the sweetest, most innocent look that Jamie had ever seen on her face.


"That's a very big question, Ryan. I know you were in love with Sara. How did you know that?" she asked.


"Sara just felt like a part of me," she said sadly. "But that still confuses me. How could I love someone who didn't love me back?"


"I think Sara did love you, Ryan. I can't believe that your feelings for her were one sided. It's possible that she loved you deeply but wasn't able to love you physically. It is possible to have a deep soul bond with someone and not consummate that bond."


"I guess you're right," she said as she thought for a minute. "I guess I'm confused because I don't know how to separate my feelings for her with my desire for her. I'm afraid that my need to be with her physically is obscuring my feelings. That's why I'm trying to hold off on having sex. I want this to be about love rather than sex."


"I really admire your restraint, Ryan. I know it's not easy for you. But, I can empathize. That's why I waited so long with Jack. I wanted to be sure of my feelings before I let sex confuse the issue."


"How did you know that you loved Jack?" she inquired.


"I just felt right with him. I admired him, I respected his moral sense, I trusted him completely. I could really picture being with him for the rest of my life and sharing everything together." She shook her head a little at the memory. "But maybe I'm not the right person to answer that question right now." She admitted.


"I'm really sorry things are so tough for you right now, Jamie. But I'm sure they'll turn around soon. Have you made up from your last little tiff?"


"I guess we have," she prevaricated. "We've talked on the phone several times and things seems pretty much back to normal. But normal just doesn't satisfy me anymore," she mused. "I want to be closer, Ryan. I just wish he'd spend as much time trying to understand me as you do Caitlin."


"I wish that too, Jamie," she said fervently. "I can't tell me how happy that would make me."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


After a long while spent talking and listening to the birds fly overhead Jamie finally said, "I really envy Caitlin. She can just curl up and go to sleep whenever she wants to," she shook her head with envy at the sleeping infant.


"You can too, if you have the right equipment," Ryan said as she scooted up next to a sturdy eucalyptus tree. She rested her back against the trunk as she stretched out her legs and patted a strong thigh. "C'mon over and catch a little nap. I don't want to have to carry both of you," she grinned.


Jamie grinned shyly but did as she was told. She crawled over to Ryan and placed her head on that firmly muscled thigh. Ryan gently ruffled her hair for a few moments and within minutes Jamie was sound asleep.


Caitlin was the first to wake. She began to fuss a little and Ryan carefully lifted Jamie's head and placed it on the blanket. She crawled back to the baby and expertly changed her diaper and fed her a bottle. She had a diaper over her shoulder and was burping her little charge when Jamie awoke. She smiled over at Ryan who returned the grin. After a little stretch she began to get up when she saw Ryan's face freeze in fear. The next sensation was that of a strong hand against her mouth and another arm sliding under her left arm and crossing over her chest to drag her to her feet.


"Don't say a word; don't fight and don't scream," said the hiss right behind her ear.


Jamie could see Ryan's face grow unnaturally calm and heard her utter slowly, "Don't you dare hurt her."


"Oh, I'm not gonna hurt her," the low voice rumbled. "She's gonna like what I do to her, aren't ya blondie?" Jamie could feel his hot breath on her neck and she felt the all too familiar sensation of total blackness overcome her. The last thing she felt was the heaviness as her legs could no longer support her.


Minutes later she woke, lying in Ryan's arms. She gathered her wits and finally focused enough to see Caitlin giggling from atop a very tall horse, in the arms of a very tall mounted police woman. She shook her head to clear the cobwebs and saw an unconscious man lying on the ground, bleeding from his nose, with his right arm at a very unnatural angle. Several other people stood around them offering statements to another officer, this one on foot.


"What happened?" Jamie foggily inquired.


"Hey, are you all right?" Ryan asked as she looked carefully at her eyes.


"Yeah, I think so," she admitted. "But what happened?" she repeated.


"This poor excuse of a human," here Ryan indicated the prone man, "tried to abduct you," she said simply.


"And I fainted?" she pressed for details.


"Like a champ," Ryan said proudly.


"Why is that a good thing?" Jamie asked, clearly confused.


"It gave me the opportunity to stop him," Ryan said, again skimping on the details.


"How did you stop him, Ryan?" Now she struggled to sit up. "Will you please tell me everything that happened?"


"Your girlfriend is being modest, Ma'am," the mounted officer finally said. "After this perp tried to drag you into those bushes," she indicated a deep stand of camellias right behind them, "she laid your baby down and executed the most perfect flying kick I have ever seen." The officer beamed at Ryan, who blushed thoroughly. "He didn't let go of you fast enough for her, though, even though I think he was unconscious already, so she dislocated the arm that he held the weapon with," she shot Ryan another big smile. "We don't encourage citizens to go up against armed attackers, but I must admit that was a thing of beauty."


"H.h.h.he was armed?" Jamie stuttered out.


"Yes, Ma'am" said the officer. "He had a knife that he was holding to your neck," she said helpfully over Ryan's scowl and fiercely shaking head.


When Jamie woke up from her second unplanned nap Ryan was again cradling her in her arms. "Don't you get enough sleep at night?" she teased.


Jamie just shook her head and stared at her in appreciation. "Once again Ryan, you're a lifesaver." She shuddered a bit, "Although this time I mean it literally." She again struggled to sit up with Ryan's assistance. She threw her arms around her neck and sobbed into her shoulder. Ryan stroked her back as she murmured words of comfort into her ear. The mounted officer still held Caitlin securely and she turned her big horse a bit so the baby did not see Jamie cry. After a long while Jamie composed herself enough to stand on shaking legs. Ryan supported her firmly until she felt confident enough to walk unaided.


The officer handed Caitlin back to Ryan and said to Jamie, "You're a lucky woman, Ma'am. I have a child at home just a little older than yours. I know how you must feel," she said sympathetically.


Jamie was too tired to argue about the details. She simply said, "I know how lucky I am," as she grasped Ryan's available hand.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


After assuring the officers that they would return to make their statements they bundled the baby up and returned her to her grandmother. They decided to downplay the incident to avoid upsetting the family so they merely said that there had been a small incident at the park and they needed to return to make a statement. Since everyone seemed fine, Maeve left it at that as she made over the baby and her big adventure at the park.


Hours later the pair finished up at the police station. The perpetrator had been booked into the hospital ward for treatment of his various injuries, and he would be charged with his crimes when he was released. Jamie was still very shaky as Ryan drove them over to the apartment to exchange cars. She had not asked Ryan for any more details and Ryan was concerned that she was still in shock. After they had retrieved the Boxster Ryan drove them back to her home. Due to her concern for Jamie she decided to tell Da the whole story. He looked at Jamie's still face repeatedly before he called his station. Within minutes a paramedic was at the house. She examined Jamie thoroughly and agreed that she was in a mild state of psychological shock. The woman was a little concerned with Jamie's low blood pressure, but Ryan assured her that this was normal for her friend.


Jamie assured them that she was all right but neither believed her. Da thought that they should call Jamie's parents or her boyfriend, but Jamie was adamant that they not be involved. Ryan decided to cancel her date with Tracy but Jamie insisted that she keep it. She agreed to keep the date only if Jamie would agree to stay at the house that night and eventually Jamie reluctantly agreed.


Before Ryan left for her early date she bundled Jamie up in some too large sweatpants and a soft fleece pullover. She put her on the big bed in Da's room and turned on the television for her. Jamie refused her offer to go rent some movies, being content to just channel surf for a while.


After Ryan was gone Da made dinner for the two of them. Conor was out on a date and to avoid any more stress Da did not tell the boys what had happened. Jamie didn't have much of an appetite, so after he removed her plate Da tried to tempt her with ice cream or cookies. That finally got a laugh out of her. "You're just like Ryan," she grinned. "She's always trying to get me to eat."


"Someone has to try, darlin," he said affectionately. "A good stiff wind would whip you right into the bay."


Da sat down in his favorite chair to read the paper and curse the poor light in the room, angling the paper until he could make out the small print. Jamie half heartedly watched a few game shows, shifting from channel to channel. After a while she broke the silence, "I owe her my life, you know," she said solemnly.


"You don't know that for sure, Jamie. It's best not to allow yourself to speculate on what could have happened. But I thank the good Lord that she was with you," he said sadly as he shook his head. "I've never been so happy that she decided to get involved in martial arts."


"Has she ever had to use it before?" she asked.


"Not that I know of, but she could be involved in a lot of things that I don't know about," he laughed wryly. "She's a tough one to keep out of trouble," he said proudly.


"You know how special she is, don't you?" she finally asked softly.


"Jamie, there is no man on earth who is more proud of his daughter than I am," he said sincerely. "She has been an extraordinary person since the day she was born."


"Was it hard for you when she told you she was gay?" she delicately asked.


"I can't say that it would have been my choice for her, but it certainly doesn't bother me," he said reflectively. "I do wish she would find a nice woman that she could really love, but that will come in time, I suppose."


"Maybe it'll be Tracy," she commented.


"Perhaps," he said shortly and without elaboration.


"How would her mother feel about it?" she ventured to ask.


"You know, Fionnuala was a very insightful woman. When Maeve told her about Michael she claimed she had always known the lad was gay. She really made her sister see that it was the same Michael we had always known and loved. We didn't find out about his illness until my poor Fionnuala was just about gone, but she summoned every ounce of strength she had to stick up for that boy." He grew quiet for a while but finally continued. "She couldn't make a dent in old Charlie, though. His rejection of Michael weighed very heavily on her heart. About six months before she died we were just talking one night and she made me promise that if any of the kids turned out to be gay that I would love them just the same. I looked at her and made that promise without hesitation." His eyes filled with tears as he acknowledged, "I think she knew that Siobhan would be the one. There was something about her that was just different from the other little girls," he reflected. "And I don't mean her activity or her athleticism. It's hard to describe but there was something different about her spirit. And she has that same confident spirit today, Jamie." After a long pause he continued with a quavering voice, "When I think of making that promise to my Fionnuala I realize that I've never made a promise that was easier to keep," he said with a small smile.


"I think she is a very lucky woman to have a father like you," she said as she caught a tear escaping from her eye.


"We're the lucky ones, Jamie. I think it was our love for her that kept us all so close. She was such a small child when her mother died that we all had to join together to make sure we could do our best for her."


"You've done a marvelous job, Martin. And I know your wife would be proud of you all."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Ryan was home early, around 10 o'clock. She found them both in the bedroom, Da asleep in his chair, Jamie in the bed. She quietly went to the bed and slipped her arms under her friend and gingerly carried her down to her own room. I've never met an adult that conked out like this, she thought as she struggled down the stairs with her burden. After wrestling her limp body into the covers she went back upstairs to turn off the TV and wake Da. He gave her a smile when he saw her, pulling her down for a kiss to both cheeks. "I love you, baby," he said as he released her.


"I love you too, Da. Thanks for watching over Jamie for me tonight."


"Did you have a good time on your date?" he asked as he neatened up the newspaper.


"Yeah, I really did. I like Tracy a lot."


"Do you think she's the one, Darlin'?"


"I don't know, Da," she said as she sank to the bed. "But I'm doing my best to find out." She shot him a grin and he ruffled her hair in an affectionate gesture.


"Why don't you bring her around more often?"


"I think I will Da," she said happily as she got up to return to her room.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Back in her room she changed out of her clothes and put on a thin pair of flannel pajama bottoms. Then she removed her bra and slipped on a long sleeved t-shirt. After she brushed her teeth she got on top of the covers, unfurling a blanket over herself. She spent a long time reviewing the day; shuddering each time she saw the terror in Jamie's eyes when those evil hands had grabbed her. Finally she offered up her prayers of thanksgiving finishing with an audible, "Thank you, Mama," as she closed her eyes and fell asleep.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Jamie sat bolt upright as she felt the panic tighten in her chest. Ryan flew up a second later and wrapped her in her arms, holding on tight as Jamie struggled to breathe. "Calm down, it's all right. I've got you. You're all right. I'm here," she repeated in a soothing cadence as she rocked her gently. When she was able to breathe normally Jamie pulled back and asked, "How did you get here?" Looking around in confusion, she added, "How did I get here?"


"We're in my room," Ryan said soothingly. "I carried you down here about 4 hours ago," she said as she glanced at the bedside clock.


"You had to carry me again?" she said with a hint of embarrassment.


"Yep," she replied. "I think I'm gonna train you to sleep walk. It'll be easier on my back," she teased.


After a while Jamie said slowly, "I'm afraid to go to sleep again. That nightmare really scared me."


"C'mere," her friend replied as she lay down and opened her arm in invitation. Jamie accepted the offer and cuddled up next to her warm side. Ryan wrapped her arm around Jamie's back as she gently rubbed her side. She brought her other hand around to softly tousle her hair back and forth in a slow rhythm. Within a few minutes she could feel Jamie's breathing even out and felt her relax in sleep. She followed her moments later.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Just as dawn broke Jamie woke, still nestled in Ryan's powerful embrace. I don't think there is anyplace safer, she thought happily, as she closed her eyes and let her friends steady heartbeat lull her back to sleep.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Later that morning as they drove back to Berkeley in the Boxster. Ryan hesitantly suggested that Jamie visit the student health service for a few sessions with a counselor.


"I don't really want to talk about this to anyone, Ryan," she said defiantly. "The sooner I can put this out of my head, the better."


"I'm afraid that's not how the mind works, Jamie," she said after a moment. "If you don't process this fully it will just stay in the back of your mind. And the chances are that it will come up again and again."


"But it scares me to think about it," she finally admitted.


"Of course it does," she soothed. "But your mind will make you think about it either when you're awake or asleep. I'll make you a deal," she offered. "I'm really upset about the whole thing too. I'll go with you and maybe they'll let us talk about it together."


Jamie finally agreed, and promised to go over that afternoon.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


As promised, Ryan showed up on time for their joint session with the counselor. The young Ph.D. candidate was a bit uncomfortable seeing them together, but she agreed to one session before she made a decision on further treatment.


As usual, Ryan was right. Jamie felt significantly better after just 45 minutes of facing her fears. She was surprised by how much the incident had affected Ryan, however. Ryan admitted to having had nightmares the night before, and she stated that she felt panic overtake her once or twice during the day. They both agreed to see the counselor for another session or two alone.


As they walked along the tree lined path outside of the student health center, Jamie looked up at her friend pensively. "What bothers you most about the attack, Ryan?"


She thought about the question for a long time, "I go over it in my mind, again and again. What really bothers me is that I didn't have a plan for what to do if you had not passed out," she shook her head to clear the image from her brain. "I was holding the baby and he had a knife to your neck. If you had been able to walk I'm afraid you would have been gone by the time I could do anything." She looked at Jamie with the most pain filled eyes that Jamie had ever seen. "I don't think I could have saved you," she choked out as Jamie threw her arms around her and let her sob into her neck.


"But you did, Ryan, you did save me," she murmured. "You would have thought of something. I know you would have. You would not have let him have me," she whispered fiercely.


Ryan looked up with those beautiful blue eyes clouded by tears, "You really trust me, don't you?"


"With my life," Jamie uttered right into her ear as she once again held her close.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Jamie considered her decision not to tell Jack about the attack. I can try to convince myself that I did it to protect him from worry. But there is a part of me that wanted to see if he noticed that anything was wrong. How could he not have noticed? But Jack had not noticed. The first weekend after the attack she had cried inconsolably when he approached her from behind and put his hands on her. He was clearly puzzled but he did not pursue the issue after she told him not to worry about it.


As she drove back down to Palo Alto on the first Friday in February Jamie mused about the upcoming week. She and Ryan were due to meet with an assistant district attorney to go over their testimony regarding her assault and she was quite worried about the meeting since she was afraid that the meeting would rekindle her nightmares. Ryan reassured her that the dreams might come back, but they would be less severe and stay with her for a shorter time period. She stressed that the best thing they could do was continue to talk about the attack and all of their fears and projections.


Friday night went pretty well for a change. They had a pleasant if not earth shattering sexual encounter and she was almost successful in convincing herself that it was not harmful to have to picture Ryan sweating in the gym in order to become aroused. They're fantasies because you don't act them out, she patiently explained to her conscience.


Saturday was moving along as usual. Jack went to school to work with his law review partner while Jamie went on a long ride. He returned in time for lunch and actually helped Jamie clean up the kitchen as part of his new campaign to be more connected.


After they cleaned up they went out for a walk to the bookstore so he could pick up some notebooks. The day was warm and clear as they walked along holding hands. They decided to stop at Palo Alto Coffee Co. for a latte' and sat outside watching the constant traffic on University Av. for a few minutes.


"You're not moving around as easily as usual, Honey," Jamie commented as she gently ran her fingers down his back. "Is your neck stiff?"


"Yeah, you know how it tightens up when I'm concentrating for too long. I wish I could remind myself to get up and move every half hour or so, but I just get too absorbed."


She moved her chair over behind his and worked on his tense neck and shoulder muscles for a few minutes. His head was hanging loosely by the time she was finished and he let out a deep relaxed sigh as her fingers left his body. He turned his chair around to face her, moving as close as he could. Smiling gently he lifted his hand and tenderly traced the planes of her face. "It makes me feel so good to have you notice when a little something is wrong with me. It really shows me how much you love me," he said softly, gazing steadily into her eyes.


"I do love you, Jack," she whispered. Turning her head slightly she placed a kiss on his large warm palm. "Even when we're fighting I still love you."


He leaned over even closer and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. He kept his head right where it was, staring into her eyes for a few moments. She slid her arms around his neck as she felt her desire for him begin to stir. As she lifted her head his dropped a bit until their mouths met for several slow kisses. "Make love to me," she asked softly as he began to pull away.


He didn't reply with words but he quickly stood up and took her hand again. As they walked home she mused that even though she did not like the way she had been reaching orgasm she had to admit that those few little seconds of pleasure cut the tension dramatically between them. He was more playful and lighthearted and his playfulness made her feel more relaxed. When she was relaxed she was able to be more physically affectionate which led to better sex. It was all terribly interconnected, but she was glad for the increase in affection.


As soon as they got into the apartment he began to strip her clothing off. She realized that she would not make it through their lovemaking without a quick trip to the bathroom, so she pulled herself away with the admonition, "Don't move a muscle. I'll be right back."


She thought she heard her cell phone ring but she assumed whoever it was would call back. But when she came back he was staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face. He held the phone out and said flatly, "It's Assistant District Attorney Mendez."


She felt all of the color drain from her face as she accepted the phone. It was obviously too late to try and hide the issue any longer, so she flopped down in the closest chair and dropped her head into her left hand as she answered the phone. "Hello," she said weakly.


"Ms. Evans? Sorry to call you on Saturday but I'm just getting caught up on my paperwork. I need to reschedule our meeting for this week. Can you make it at 2 on Monday?"


"Yes, I can," she replied, feeling drained and slow.


"Good. I can't find the name of the other witness right now. What was it again?"


"O'Flaherty," she said with resignation. "Ryan O'Flaherty."


"Right...here it is. Can you let Mr. O'Flaherty know about the time change?"


"Ms. O'Flaherty. She's a woman," she corrected.


"Okay, sorry about that. See you on Monday."


She switched off the phone and gently placed it on the table. But the silence in the room made the soft tap sound like a gunshot. "Jack, something happened that I didn't tell you about. Please try not to get angry until I can explain," she begged.


He was sitting on the couch with his legs splayed out, looking like she had punched him in the stomach. "What?" he asked with a voice filled with fatigue. "What now?"


"Ryan and I were in the park with her little cousin just after Thanksgiving. A man tried to abduct me," she said as an involuntary shudder ran down her spine. "I assume he was going to rape me," she continued, "but I passed out before he could get me to go with him of my own volition. Ryan stopped him, and now we need to go to court to testify."


He blinked at her slowly, trying to take all of this information in. He said nothing, but his eyes relayed his fear.


"Nothing happened to either of us," she said quickly. "Ryan knocked him out before he could do anything. I just got a few bruises from when he dropped me. But I didn't tell you or anyone else because the whole thing just upset me too much. I saw a counselor at school and she helped me see that I did need to talk about it. I wanted to tell you but I knew you'd be mad and hurt that I hadn't told you originally, so I just didn't," she admitted weakly.


He got up in total silence. He walked over to this books and calmly picked out two that he needed to study. Placing them in his book bag he slung it over his shoulder, letting out a tired sigh as the relatively light weight hit his strong back. Glancing around the room, he found his keys and his sunglasses and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


She spent the rest of the day and all of the evening in a state of panic. A heavy weight had settled in her stomach as she came to grips with the knowledge that she had probably torn the foundation of their trust from its moorings. He didn't call and he did not wear a pager or a cell phone so she had no way to get in touch with him. At around 8 she got in her car and drove to the law library, but a thorough search of every cubicle failed to find him. The next hour was spent in a rather dazed inspection of every possible place that he could have hidden himself on the campus. Every library and every student lounge was thoroughly investigated. Next she got back in her car and parked on University, just outside the gates of the school. She walked from one end of the long street to the next, looking carefully in every restaurant and bookstore. But her hour long search proved fruitless. In fact, she preferred to walk around aimlessly to the terror she felt when she was alone in the apartment but after a while she had no more ideas so she returned to the apartment and flopped down on the couch. She fell asleep in the same position that she had collapsed in, exhausted and terribly depressed. Around midnight she woke with a start to the sound of his key in the lock. She dashed to the door before he was even in the room and tried to speak to him, but he brushed her aside as he placed his book bag on the floor and walked into the bathroom.


She was waiting right outside the door but again he walked past her like he didn't know she was in the room. He stripped down to his boxers and got in bed, turning his back to the door as he turned off the bedside light. "Aren't you even going to speak to me?" she asked, slightly dumbfounded.


Silence was his only reply. She considered getting in her car and going home, but she didn't think it was wise to further escalate the issue. The sofa was big enough for her but she thought her physical closeness might thaw him out at some point. So she got ready for bed and slid in next to him, being careful not to touch him.


She lay awake for hours, going over the events that she had clearly set in motion. I'm so angry with myself for not telling him! How would I feel if he withheld something so big? I'd feel utterly betrayed. I just don't know how he will ever be able to forgive me for this.


Some time during the early morning hours she drifted off into a fitful sleep. But every half hour she woke with the fear of the incident burning in her chest. Around 4 she woke and let out a startled gasp as she turned to find Jack's intense gaze fixed upon her, the moonlight glinting off his steely blue eyes. "Did you ever love me?" he asked with a flat, emotionless voice.


"Of course I do," she said quickly as she turned fully to face him. She lifted her hand to stroke his face but he caught it and held it tightly, actually causing her a slight bit of pain. "Please, Jack, please let me touch you. Let me hold you," she begged.


He closed his eyes and let go of her hand. She took that as a sign of acceptance so she quickly moved closer and wrapped her arms around his body. She pulled him to her as tightly as she could and murmured into his ear, "I'm so sorry. I know I hurt you, and it's all my fault. It's all my fault, Jack. Please forgive me," she pleaded.


The tears were streaming down her face as she began to kiss his rigid body. She started at his neck and breathed in his musky scent as she worked her way down to his collarbones. His scent became a vital need as her lungs filled with the fragrance and she sought to increase their capacity just to satiate her need. Licking and kissing down his body more for sustenance than to arouse she continued on her slow, torturous path. When she finally began to nibble around the waistband of his shorts she grasped them by the legs and pulled them half way from his body, then lifted them to slide over his erection.


She kissed and sucked her way down his belly and found to her amazement that she had an overpowering need to take him into her mouth. She was an inch from her goal when he pushed her onto her back and quickly entered her, completely without warning. The combination of her need and the fear of losing him combined with his raw aggression to make her more aroused than she had ever been. She moved with him, urging him on more vocally than she had ever done. Feeling no control whatsoever her climax washed over her like a tidal wave, washing some of the pain and dread from her soul. Her release pushed him over and he finished quickly, panting and sweating until he collapsed on her body.


But he was not satisfied. He started the same intense examination of her body. He kissed and sucked and bit his way from her face to her toes, needing the constant stimulus of her flesh vibrating against his mouth. She was fully ready for him when he climbed on top for another connection. Every muscle ached for rest but she managed to merge with him for another debilitating climax. He could not be satisfied for a long while, but he finally groaned out his release. He moved down a few inches as he withdrew and collapsed with his head against her breast. His weight was mostly on the bed, but even the small portion that rested on her was terribly heavy. But she would not, could not bear to move him. They fell asleep in that same awkward position, and remained nearly motionless until morning.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


When they woke they struggled through an hour or so of embarrassed silence. But as the day went on things got more familiar and settled back into a relatively normal day. Before dinner he turned to her again, and while she knew the encounter would be painful she willingly gave herself to him, just trying to maintain their connection. She could not overcome the discomfort and she knew that he would not be satisfied unless she reached climax so for the first time in their relationship she successfully faked an orgasm. Her performance must have been Oscar caliber because it pushed him over immediately. He nuzzled against her breasts tenderly for a long while before he relaxed and fell asleep against her in much the same position as the night before.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


The rest of the weekend passed quickly. He was never more than a few inches from her, and by the time she got back into her car she felt like she was breathing her own air for the first time in 24 hours. Well, we settled absolutely nothing, she mused. We never did talk about what happened or how I felt about it. I have no idea how it affected him. What if I had been raped? Would he still refuse to talk about it then? Is this really the way it will be for our entire relationship? Fight, have sex, fight, have sex...all the while ignoring the huge issues that are bearing down on us?


* * * * * * * * * * * *


"Jamie?" the deep voice reverberated through the phone on Sunday night, just minutes after she arrived home.


"Hi, Daddy," she said with a mental rolling of her eyes. She had conversed with her parents infrequently since their last argument and each of the conversations had been rather stilted, if not contentious. Her father had not again brought up his ridiculous idea about her moving back home, though, and for that she was grateful.


"Jamie," he began again, clearing his throat, "I don't like the distance that seems to have developed between us. What can I do to make things right?"


Wow! Someone noticed! "Well, um...first of all, I'm really glad that it's important to you to stay close," she said fondly. "That means a lot to me, Daddy."


"Of course it's important to me," he insisted. "My relationship with you is the most important one in my life, Jamie. You mean the world to me, and I want you to know that I'll do whatever I can to work on this. I mean...I know we've each said things that we regret and I want you to know that I'm sorry for upsetting you."


"I'm sorry too, Daddy," she murmured as her voice caught. "I don't want you and mother to be angry with me, but I have to learn how to be my own person," she said with conviction.


"I know dear," he soothed. "That's just part of growing up. We'll try to be more supportive of your choices, honey. It's just...well, I guess it's just hard to have your baby become independent," he admitted.


"Thanks, Daddy," she said quietly. "Sometimes it's hard for me too. But I guess growing up is never easy."


"Well, another reason for my call is to discuss your official growing up," he said with a small chuckle. "You know that you're entitled to your first major distribution from the Smith trusts on your birthday. Have you given much thought to that?"


"Um...well, I knew it was happening, but I haven't really spent much time thinking about it. What do I need to do?"


"There are hundreds of decisions to make, Jamie. We're talking about a massive amount of money here," he reminded her. "Do you want to keep the money managers I've hired? Do you want to sell off the securities and take a cash distribution or in kind? Who do you want to represent you?"


"Wait...wait," she begged. "I don't know what I want to do! Do I have to make all of these decisions immediately?"


"Well...yes," he said slowly. "If you want the distribution, you need to be prepared to handle it, Dear."


"What do you mean, 'If I want it?'," she asked slowly.


"The trust makes the first two distributions discretionary," he said easily. "I thought you knew that."


"Okay...back up a bit, Daddy," she said in frustration. "Give me the whole story."


He took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. "All right, Dear," he soothed. "Here's the story. The bulk of your inheritance will come from the Dunlops, and other than the discretionary income that has been used on your behalf you get nothing from that trust until you are 30. But the Smith money can be distributed in several ways. Your mother and I are the trustees for your funds and we can make 3 distributions to you---25% at age 21, 25% at age 25 and the remainder at 30. But the first two distributions are entirely at our discretion. If you don't want the money or we don't think you're ready for it, we can wait. And as I'm sure you remember, the entire trust is due to be distributed when you marry."


"Yeah, I do remember that," she mused. "I guess I thought I would just take it all at once and Jack could help me figure out what to do with it."


"There's no reason we can't do it that way, Jamie," he assured her. "There are many, many decisions that you have to be prepared to make if you want the money now. If you don't feel up to it, there's no reason to force any more change upon yourself."


"Maybe that would be best," she mused.


"Are you happy with the way things are now?" he asked.


"Yeah...I guess I am," she admitted.


"Then let's hold off," he suggested gently. "Or do you want to discuss this with Jack first?"


"No," she said firmly. "This isn't really Jack's concern."


"Well it will be, Honey," he reminded her. "He's going to be a very, very wealthy man when you marry."


"No..." she explained with more patience than she felt. "He's going to be married to a very wealthy woman...there's a difference, Daddy.


Her father's wry chuckle surprised her a bit, but when he said, "I'm well acquainted with the difference, Jamie," she blushed at her unintentional gaffe.


"I'm...I'm sorry, Daddy, that came out all wrong."


"No offense taken, Jamie," he said easily. "You're absolutely right, of course. And believe me when I tell you that it's vital for you to work out an agreement about how you will handle your money before you marry. Otherwise it will be a constant source of contention."


Oh boy! Another constant source of contention! Just what we need!


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Chapter Thirteen Return to Main Page