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@yahoo.com


Chapter 16 (conclusion of Book 1)

Monday afternoon found Ryan patiently waiting in the gym at 4 o'clock. Jamie made light of the weekend, mentioning that she had decided to go to Hillsborough and that she had forgotten to wear her phone.

"Did you have a good time?" Ryan asked behind slightly hooded eyes.

"Yeah, pretty good," she said absently. "Hey, let's work extra hard on my legs since I didn't ride this weekend."

Ryan just nodded professionally, never asking why Jamie didn't give her prior notice that she would skip their Sunday ride. She was pretty much her normal self, but when they were done she just gazed at Jamie with an absolutely neutral expression on her face. They had been having dinner together at least 3 nights a week, usually on Monday, Wednesday and Friday after their training. But she made no mention of that as she shoved her hands in the pockets of her warm ups and continued with that penetrating gaze.

The last thing Jamie wanted to do was talk about Jack at this point so she just smiled and said, "See you Wednesday, okay?"

"Sounds good," Ryan said as her normally open face shut like a steel door.

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

"I have never been so surprised by anything in my whole life!" Jamie nearly cried with elation as she recounted the events of the weekend to Anna.

"Tell me about how you felt when he made the overture," Anna urged.

"Just like I told you before," Jamie said with a touch of irritation. "I felt great! It was so validating to have him admit that he was in the wrong about so many things! It just made me feel great!"

"And you accepted his offer immediately," Anna said, stating the obvious.

"Well, yes! Why wouldn't I? He apologized for everything, Anna! I must not be making myself clear! He took away every issue that bothered me in our relationship. And he showed me in very concrete terms how willing he was to change. That's what really made me believe him."

"He didn't take away every issue, Jamie," Anna reminded her. "He didn't take away Ryan."

Jamie had to bite back a sharp retort. Anna obviously did not understand the gravity of Jack's actions but her slowness was beginning to irritate. "Anna," she said as patiently as she could, "He forced me to seek comfort and understanding from another person. I wouldn't have even noticed her if she had not been such a good listener. And I'm not accusing her of being opportunistic but I was in a really vulnerable space during all of this. She just filled a void that Jack should not have created!"

"So you believe that your attraction to women was just a reaction?" she asked with one raised eyebrow.

"I'm not attracted to women!" Jamie nearly shouted. "I was attracted to Ryan. Just Ryan. But if I can have a normal relationship there's no reason to even explore those feelings. I mean, what if Jack and I were married and I met a guy who I thought was just a tiny bit more compatible with me. I wouldn't explore that possibility. I would be committed to Jack and by its very nature that commitment precludes me from doing that. It's the same with Ryan. I might be able to have a sexual relationship with her, but how is that different from the scenario I just laid out? Just because I could love her doesn't mean I should! Besides, Ryan has never shown an ability to love one woman. I can't imagine anything worse than turning Jack down to be with her and have her find that she can't be monogamous! God, I'd kill myself!"

"Well, our time is about up, Jamie," she said as she stared directly into her eyes. "But before Wednesday I think you should spend some more time thinking about this. Your life doesn't have to come down to a decision between these two people, either. Try thinking in terms of what you want from a person rather than Jack versus Ryan. Think of your attractions in general...the men and the women that you've been attracted to."

"Well I can save the time," Jamie said confidently. "I've never been attracted to another woman. Ryan's the only temptation I've ever had. And if I can keep her as a friend I think I would have everything that I want."

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

Just before she got into bed Jamie's cell phone rang. "Hello," she said as she fumbled with the flip up cover.

"Hi," Jack's deep voice replied. "I wanted to make sure I got home in time to catch you before bed. How did I do?"

"I was half in," she admitted. "So I'd say you did well. How was your day?"

"Slow...very slow in fact. I was counting the hours until Friday when you come down." He paused a second and quickly said, "God! That was presumptuous of me! Do you want to see me this weekend, Jamie?"

"Yes, of course I do," she replied.

"Okay, would you like me to come up to Berkeley? I'd be happy to."

"You would?"

"Sure. Your house is lots nicer than my apartment. I'd be happy to stay with you. I don't even know how we got into the rut of you coming down here, anyway."

"I'm not sure myself," she said slowly. "But I like to get away from my roommates for a while. So I'll come down there," she offered.

"I still don't think I can wait until Friday," he mused. "How about dinner on Wednesday?"

"Okay," she said, completely charmed by his neediness. "I'm busy until 6:30. Meet me here?"

"Deal. I'll call you tomorrow," he said decisively. "I love you, Jamie."

"I love you too, Jack." I really do, she thought as the happiness welled up in her chest.

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

Wednesday afternoon was a replay of Monday except that Jamie kept up a constant dialog during their session. At the end she smiled at Ryan and said, "Gotta go, don't want to be late for therapy."

But this time Ryan didn't even reply. She nodded almost imperceptibly and turned to start her own workout, leaving Jamie standing in the middle of the gym, alone.

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

Her frustration was at the boiling point as she unloaded on Anna. "She acts like I owe her an explanation for my whereabouts! Just because we've had dinner together quite a few times does not mean that I'm obligated to do so does it?"

But Anna recognized that this question was rhetorical so she wisely kept her opinion to herself.

"She told me clearly that if I wanted to find a man she would support me totally! But now she acts so possessive! You should have seen her, Anna. She barely made eye contact with me!"

"Tell me again what she told you when you made that overture to her."

"She told me that if I wanted to be with men all I had to do was tell her and she would understand," she said with a glower.

"You haven't upheld your end of the bargain, Jamie," she gently reminded her.


"You haven't told her anything. You're rolling along as usual and all of a sudden you don't go on your bike ride, you don't answer your phone and you don't keep your normal dinner plans. You've told me how perceptive she is. Don't you think she knows something is going on?"

"I shouldn't have to report every little thing," she scoffed.

"Jamie, this isn't a little thing. You can obviously make your own choice but if you want to retain Ryan's trust I think you should at least tell her that you need some space. That would be much more generous than just ignoring her."

Jamie took in a deep breath as she shook her head and grumbled, "This is why I've never had many close friends. They're too much trouble!"

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

Jack showed up at 7 on the dot, carrying a big paper bag that emitted a delicious aroma. "I thought you'd be tired after running around all day. I remembered that you liked that Dim Sum place down by me, so I stopped and picked up dinner."

"That is so sweet!" she cried as she tossed her arms around his neck. "Kitchen or dining room?" she asked as she led him into the kitchen to obtain plates.

"How about your room? We can be a little more casual up there."

She gave him a knowing grin but quickly acceded to his wishes.

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

An hour and a half later they were sprawled across the loveseat. Her torso was on his lap with her legs spread wide, one over the back and one over the arm of the small piece, jeans and panties on the floor. His fingers were busily working away at her throbbing vulva, guided gently by her own hand. Their foreplay was so extensive that a few minutes of the soft stroking propelled her towards a very fulfilling orgasm. She had slid lower and lower on his lap and by the time she recovered her face was level with his painfully erect penis. "Can I help you with that, Mister?" she asked with a sly grin.

"Much appreciated, Ma'am," he said as he grimaced and tried to unzip. She gently pushed his hands away and took over for him, feeling bolder as she proceeded. He lifted up and she pulled his jeans and shorts down fully, then lay right back down where she had been.

She used her hands again but her mouth was so temptingly close that she could not help give him a few gentle kisses. She got a perverse thrill from his reaction, smiling broadly as his penis actually jerked rather dramatically at the sensation. The mere thought of her mouth on him was obviously arousing and he finished almost immediately, sinking back against the cushions of the loveseat, satiated and content.

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

She knew that Ryan was generally free on Thursday evenings, so after her last class she paged her. It only took a few minutes for the return call. "Hi," she said rather neutrally. "What's up?"

"Can we have dinner tonight?" Jamie asked hesitantly.

"Um...let me think about that for a moment," Ryan replied. "Okay," she finally said, "I can do it."

"If it's not convenient..."

"No, I was just trying to remember what we were having since I'll have to eat it for lunch tomorrow," she said with a chuckle.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. You're worth cold pork chops. I'll be there in 15 minutes."

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

"So..." Ryan said after they were seated at her favorite little Chinese restaurant on Telegraph. "Why did you want to see me?"

"Gosh, can't I just want to have dinner with you?" she asked rather sharply.

"Sure you can, you just haven't seemed to want to lately," Ryan replied as she leveled her gaze and stared right into Jamie's shifting green eyes.

"I've uh...I've just had some things to do. I didn't know we had any plans that I was breaking," she said defensively.

"We didn't," Ryan assured her as she reached over and covered her small hand with her own. "You just seem like something's bothering you and I've been concerned."

"No, nothing's bothering me," Jamie assured her. "But I do have some interesting news to report." Ryan didn't reply verbally, but her eyebrows lifted in question. "Um...I've re-established contact with Jack," she said quickly, afraid of the look she would see in Ryan's eyes. But her friend either did not have a reaction or she was very good at hiding it. Ryan just tilted her head slightly and nodded, encouraging Jamie to continue.

Ryan still held her hand while she maintained her gaze. A couple of guys, obviously students, walked by the table. The one in the lead muttered, "Dykes!" as they passed, much to the enjoyment of his friend. Jamie yanked her hand back roughly, shocking Ryan in the process. A look of quiet sorrow flashed across her handsome features, but she composed herself almost immediately without commenting on the men.

Jamie couldn't bring herself to mention it either so she jumped into her reason for the dinner. "I'm ah...not sure where this will lead but he seems very sincere about changing the things that bothered me about our relationship."

"That's encouraging," Ryan said absently as their food was delivered. She dug in immediately, savoring the spicy tastes as her attention was fully occupied. After several bites of everything she said rather flatly, "Tell me more if you want to."

But Jamie did not feel safe with her tonight. She wasn't sure if Ryan had a barrier up or if she just didn't feel comfortable but she had said all she was willing to say. "Not much else. I'll let you know how it goes."

"Do that," she said with a 10 watt smile.

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

"Let me get the check, Ryan," Jamie said as she tried to tug the bill from her friend's hand when they were finished. The rest of the dinner was filled with periods of very stilted silence and Ryan slowly drove her crazy as she fixed her with a penetrating stare every time she looked up. But the dark, enigmatic woman had nearly nothing to say. Jamie had to carry the entire conversation and by the time they were done she was really ready to go home.

"Not necessary," she assured her. "Your portion is $11.26," she added after a quick glance as she pulled her neatly folded bills from her side pocket.

Jamie tossed $15.00 at her and quickly got to her feet. "Keep the rest for tip," she mumbled as she stumbled out the door, trying to stop the tears from flowing. Ryan quickly settled the bill and chased her down the street, having to grab Jamie's shoulder to slow her down.

"Jamie, please stop and talk to me," she begged. But Jamie was resolute in her determination to hide her face from her friend. No matter how Ryan approached she turned her back quickly, brushing her aside with finality.

"I tried to talk to you...that's why I asked you here tonight. I...I thought you'd be happy for me," she sniffed, still unable to face her.

Ryan came up behind her back and silently wrapped her arms around her small waist. She leaned in close and closed her eyes as she felt her stiff body start to relax into the hug. "Jamie, I am happy for you if this is what you want," Ryan whispered. "It just hurt my feelings that you've been so distant. I swear I support your decision, no matter what you choose, but I don't want to lose you as a friend. You've been avoiding me for a week and it's really hurt my feelings," she admitted. "I'm sorry that I didn't hide that better."

"You don't have to hide anything, Ryan," she tearfully assured her. She slowly turned in her embrace and rested her head on Ryan's chest. "I'm sorry," she sniffed. "I didn't mean to do that but I've just been feeling overwhelmed," she admitted.

"That's what makes me your friend," she insisted. "I want to be there for you when you feel overwhelmed. Don't shut me out, Jamie." She looked down at her with pain-infused eyes and Jamie immediately felt disgusted with herself for doing just that.

"I...I was afraid that you'd..."

Ryan gripped her chin with her fingers and tilted her head up so she had to look into her eyes. "I want you to have what you want...what you need...I am your friend, Jamie. I meant what I told you. If you want to be with men I just want you to have the man who makes you happy. If that's Jack, I say good for him." Her eyes gave credence her sincerity but there was a tiny hint of sadness that was impossible for Jamie to ignore.

She dropped her head again and nestled against Ryan's broad chest. "Thank you, " she whispered. "Thank you for being my friend."

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

Friday afternoon found her once again in Anna's office, musing about her relationship with Ryan. "Thank God I was right about her," she said with relief. "She was very supportive and I really believe that she wants what's best for me."

"She has been an extraordinary friend," Anna agreed.

"Yeah, I haven't proven worthy of her a few times, but she always welcomes me back." She hesitated a moment and then told Anna, "I think I'm going to sleep with Jack this weekend."

She just nodded non-committally.

"Do you think that's a good idea?" Jamie asked.

"Hmm, do you really want me to make those decisions for you, Jamie?" she asked her seriously.

"I guess not," she replied glumly. "I just wish I knew I was doing the right thing."

"Right thing?"

"Yeah. Am I sure I want to be back with him? Should I be certain before I sleep with him? All that stuff."

"Have you tried to stay present and just let yourself feel your feelings?"

"Yeah, I think I have, but it's sometimes hard for me to stop analyzing things."

"That is hard," Anna agreed. "But it's the best advice I can give you, Jamie. Just open your heart and let your emotions guide you."

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

Just to be safe she carried a box of condoms in her overnight bag. She knew she was over reacting a bit since she was still on the pill but she was not sure that Jack had not been with anyone else during their hiatus and she did not really want to know if he had, so she thought it was best to make him think the condoms were a necessity. She also had not told her parents she was coming down, reasoning that she would just go over there if she didn't feel comfortable sleeping with him.

Their dinner was a very pleasant affair. He had ordered carry outs that were waiting for her when she arrived. "I hate to see you spend your Friday evenings cooking for me," he said sweetly. "I know you have a long week too, and it just seems unfair."

"You," she said as she tapped his nose, "are making a lot of brownie points with me, Mister."

"I'm not trying to make brownie points, Jamie," he said with a sincere look on his face. "I'm just trying to be considerate."

After dinner he proposed a walk in the neighborhood or even a movie. "No, I'd rather stay in and concentrate on you fully," she said with a smile.

They relaxed together on the sofa, talking about their respective weeks. The time flew by as they sipped several glasses of cabernet, getting closer and closer until they were fully entwined. Jack placed their glasses on the coffee table and started to kiss and caress Jamie with a relentless intensity. He kissed her more and more passionately until she was squirming against his weight. "Let's go to bed," she murmured into his ear. He was on his feet in a nanosecond, tugging her up with him.

When they reached the bedroom he tenderly undressed her, slowly running his hands over each part of her body as it was revealed. "You look so awesome, Jamie," he said in a nearly reverent voice. "Your body is so firm and sleek. The muscles really make you look hot," he whispered as he nibbled her neck.

She spent a long time undressing him, gazing at his long, lean body with complete approval. She crossed the room and retrieved her bag, pulling the box of condoms from it with a flourish. "A whole box?" he said with a rakish look.

"Don't be a glutton," she chided with a toss of her head. She went into the bath and got ready for bed, stopping to stare at herself in the mirror for a moment. I want this, she said firmly to her suspicious conscience.

When Jack had finished brushing his teeth she was lying on the bed with the covers pushed back. He slid in next to her and started to kiss and touch her again. It didn't take long to yank her right back up to her previous heights of arousal and a few minutes later she whispered, "I'm ready for you, Jack."

But instead of entering her immediately he started to lightly touch her vulva just as he had at her house on Wednesday. This surprised her but it felt divine so she did not complain. Automatically her hand went to his groin and she began to touch him in a similar fashion. They began to kiss again as their hands worked away and the dual sensations caused her to be swept away to a delightful orgasm rather quickly. He followed close behind, uttering soft little moans of pleasure as he climaxed.

They rested for a brief time and she finally broke the silence when she murmured, "We didn't get to use a condom."

"No big deal," he assured her. "I had a great time."

"That was exactly what I have wanted sex to be like," she murmured slowly as she sank into a peaceful, satisfied sleep.

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

He woke up on Saturday ready to go again but he very happily settled for a little manual assistance. Jamie got all of the cuddling she wanted so they both started the day in an ebullient mood. They both had studying to do so they spent the better part of the day in front of their respective books. But at around 6 he suggested they take a walk and have dinner in the neighborhood. When they returned at 9 she was beat and she found that she had no interest in sex. He accepted her choice without complaint, cuddling against her after a few chaste kisses.

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

Sunday was another day of surprises. "How about brunch?" he asked with a sunny smile as she woke from a nice dream.


"Sure. We can go somewhere in the neighborhood, or we could go to the club if you want to go with your parents."

"Hmm, I'd rather be with just you," she said, not mentioning that she didn't want her parents to know of the reconciliation attempt quite yet.

"Great, you pick the place and we're there."

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

They had a great time together and he even let her pick up the check, smiling sedately as she whipped out her American Express card.

Heading back to his apartment they each spent a few hours reading. She had already decided that she needed to be home early to work on a paper on her computer. At around 3 she looked up to see him eyeing her hungrily. He's been such a darling, she thought to herself. Come on and make the first move. She didn't say a word as she got up from the sofa. Rather, she extended her hand and led him into the bedroom. He smiled shyly at her as she started to undress him, but he happily allowed her to continue. After he had returned the favor he picked her up and carried her the short distance to the bed.

The next 15 minutes were spent driving her absolutely wild. He placed her on her stomach and started at her heels, slowly kissing and licking and sucking every bit of skin that he could reach. She just hummed with pleasure, murmuring small words of encouragement. He rolled her over onto her back and started at the bottom again. Unable to hold back her question any longer she lifted up onto an arm and said, "Where did you learn all of this?"

He chuckled deep in his chest and released her foot from his grasp. "I...um...read some books," he said with an adorable blush that covered him from his chest to his hairline.

"You read books?" she asked in amazement.

"Yeah, that's how I learn everything else," he explained. "Why not this?"

She flopped back down on the bed and spread her arms out in surrender. "Those were some very, very good books," she murmured compliantly as he continued his quest.

He moved up her body an inch at a time, smiling at her encouraging entreaties, but not moving any faster than his current torturous pace. When he reached her breasts he worshiped them for long minutes, ignoring Jamie's small, soft moans and her invitingly spread legs.

She felt more turned on than she had ever been before, finally feeling safe to abandon some of her inhibitions and show him just exactly how she felt. He seemed to be enjoying himself just as much as she was which increased her arousal even more. But try as she might she began to grow tense as he tentatively moved between her legs and gingerly spread her lips apart. She could actually feel her heart thumping in her chest and she tried to breathe deeply to relax. But a quick glance down showed a look on Jack's face that mirrored that of an anxious father trying to assemble an intricate bike on Christmas Eve. His brow was furrowed and he looked very hesitant but he took a deep breath and moved forward.

"Oh my God!!" she cried aloud when his soft, smooth tongue glided across her aching flesh. Her legs spread even further open in an unconsciously automatic gesture. His forehead was still knotted in concentration but he began to move his head slowly, like a cat lapping milk from a saucer. How can anything that feels this good make me this anxious? she asked herself in recrimination. But she was anxious, very anxious in fact, and her anxiety was compounded by the fact that she knew this was a seminal event in their sexual relationship. She desperately wanted to be able to enjoy oral sex if she was going to be with Jack for the next 50 or 60 years but she knew that he would not have the confidence to try again if she was not receptive. But he just looked so tense and rigid lying between her legs that she fought with the instinct to just tap him on the shoulder and pull him up.

You have to concentrate on the feeling! she reminded herself over and over. The feeling is fabulous! Don't look at his face, that's throwing you off! She closed her eyes tightly and tried to concentrate fully on the sensations flooding her body but it was rough going. She realized that the only way to enjoy this experience was to shut off her conscious mind, something that she found difficult to do in the best of situations. But this act required an openness that she was not sure she possessed. She desperately tried to force herself to think of calming thoughts and experiences but something kept creeping into the corners of her mind.

Her unconscious mind knew the truth, though, and it kept reminding her that the most relaxed she ever felt was when she was with a certain dark haired beauty. She tried to keep those images out of her head but eventually she grew tired of fighting and just succumbed. Jack's rigid body was immediately replaced in her mind's eye by the long, smooth body with the soft sensual curves. His tense face gave way to the dark flowing hair, so silky and smooth as it trailed over her sensitive thighs. The dark head lifted just a touch, and those clear blue eyes, so confident and experienced, twinkled up at her as one brow lifted rakishly. The crystal blue eyes stayed locked on her own as that soft pink tongue dipped down to take another taste. A look of indescribable pleasure settled onto her beautiful features and her eyelids fluttered heavily as she dropped her head to lustily consume the tortured flesh. Suddenly, nothing existed except those few precious inches of real estate. Every sensation in her body went to and came from her vulva. Before she was even conscious of her actions she grabbed a handful of sandy blonde hair and thrust herself hard against his face, moaning deeply as her orgasm permeated every nerve and muscle in her body.

She was vaguely aware of Jack making some annoying motions as she tried to gather her composure but before she could even open her eyes his rock hard penis was poised at her lips, demanding entrance. She remembered Ryan's advice about being on top but she was too enervated to breathe, let alone manipulate him onto his back. Making the best of the situation she opened her mouth and took his latex covered member into her mouth. She fought hard to keep him shallow and after a few moments she adjusted to the odd sensation and began to actually try to think of ways to enhance his enjoyment rather than just lie there and let him control the movement. She found that the condom made the experience much more enjoyable for her since she would not have to deal with his climax. Her receptivity and his intense arousal combined to send him over the edge just a few minutes after he entered her mouth. It was strangely thrilling to feel him jerk and pulse inside her mouth, but the condom gave her a confidence that she would not have expected. His softening member remained within her and she delicately withdrew it as she gave it one last kiss. God, another minute or two and I would have come again, she mused from her satiated fog. She knew something was bothering her but she was too exhausted to think of it, instead just wrapping her arms around Jack's heavy body and drifting off into a dreamless sleep.

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

Soft lips nuzzled her neck and she shifted slightly to increase the sensation. Oh God, Ryan, you are so good, she mused from her sensual haze. She turned to kiss those rose tinted lips but as she turned and met Jack's twinkling eyes she nearly screamed in shock.

"What's wrong, Honey?" he asked quickly upon seeing her jerk.

"Oh, nothing, nothing," she insisted. "I was just dreaming...I must not have been fully awake." She shook her head roughly, trying to focus on who she was, where she was, and why she was in bed with Jack, since Ryan had just made love to her.

Oh shit, not this again, she moaned to herself as she became fully conscious. Why did I have to use her again? Jesus! He's doing everything I ever wanted him to do! Get out of my god damned bed, Ryan! But even though her emotions blamed Ryan she knew in her soul that it was not her fault. She couldn't help that she was gorgeous and sexy and alluring and so smooth and warm and soft when Jamie was wrapped in her strong arms. STOP IT! Just stop it right now! she ordered her mind. You're in bed with Jack and he's being the sweetest man on earth! Concentrate, damn it!

"Are you really okay, Jamie?" he asked rather tentatively, trying to connect with her far away look.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," she said as she tried to shake the image of that beautiful face from her brain. She smiled up at Jack and said shyly, "I think you sent me into another world with that orgasm."

He smiled down at her, beaming proudly at his accomplishments. "Should I send in a reader's review to Amazon.com on the books I bought?"

"Definitely," she said with a matching smile. While you're on there see if you can find me something on self-hypnosis, will ya?

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

She had to head home and work on that paper. Yep, definitely time to get to work. But even though the shortest way to Berkeley from Palo Alto was straight up she found her little Porsche heading north on the 101 winding up in the Noe Valley. Her fingers automatically dialed the pager, waiting patiently for her friend to return the call. As usual it took mere minutes. "Hi," she said in a reasonable facsimile of her normal tone.

"Finished with dinner?" Jamie asked.

"Yep. I just finished being me and Brendan," she said with a chuckle, referring to their clean-up regimen.

"Any plans for tonight?" she asked as lightly as possible.

"I was going to spend the evening with a few thousand pairs of chromosomes but I could easily be persuaded to put my biology homework aside. What do you have in mind?"

"How would you like me to buy you dessert?"

"Sure. When will you be here?"

"About 30 seconds? I'm in front of your house."

"Get in here, you loon!"

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

They decided to do the 'Double Rainbow Death March' as Jamie affectionately called it. The walk was not only long, it was terribly hilly, but it allowed her to gather her thoughts. They spoke of their respective weekends, and Ryan regaled her with a hilarious description of a frazzled ride leader who got over 50 people terribly lost in the Berkeley hills that afternoon. Ryan could clearly tell that something was bothering Jamie but she tried to keep the conversation light and let her go at her own pace. But by the time they reached the ice cream shop Ryan was out of interesting stories about her weekend with Caitlin and Duffy's latest exploits. They got their ice cream and started trudging back, the silence descending upon them until Jamie finally broke it.

"Can we talk about sex?"

"Uhh, sure," Ryan said carefully. "What do you want to talk about?"

"I want to talk about some pretty graphic stuff. Are you sure you're okay with that?"

"Hit me with your best shot," Ryan said with a confident smile.

"Well, you know I'm trying to work out some issues with Jack to see if we should get back together permanently." A nod urged her to continue. "Well, since one of our biggest problems is sex I decided to sleep with him this weekend." She wasn't sure but she thought she caught just a glimmer of pain flash across that beautiful face. But Ryan turned slightly and smiled at her, still not commenting. "Something really bothered me about it and I don't know who else to talk to."

"Go ahead," she urged. "I can take it."

"Okay," she said as she took a breath. "Um do you ever...ahh...fantasize while you're having sex?"

Ryan nodded just a tiny bit and said, "I think that's a very common thing for women to do. Some women do it once in a while, some do it every time. But I don't think it's necessarily anything that should concern you."

"You didn't really answer my question," Jamie said rather shyly.

"I didn't?"

"No. I asked if you ever fantasized."

"Oh...I guess you did, didn't you," she blushed. "Well, um...sure I have. I think everyone does some times."

"When do you do it?" she persisted.

"When? Like specifically when?" she asked lamely.

"This bothers you," Jamie said firmly. "We don't have to talk about it any more."

"No, no, it's not that it bothers me," Ryan admitted. "I'm just worried about why you want the information. I'm afraid of saying something that you'll misinterpret as the norm."


"I don't want you to assume that the way I have sex is the right way, Jamie. I'm happy to tell you anything you want to know, but I just don't want you to over-interpret."

"Okay. I promise I'll view your opinion as a sample of one," she smirked.

Ryan shot her a quirky grin and finally answered her question fully. "I have fantasized in order to have an orgasm. But it's not something I do routinely. I would have to say it's a last resort."

"Last resort?"

"Yeah, if I can't come any other way I'll fantasize to get there."

"But it doesn't happen often."

"No. And it never happens with anyone I know well. I'm all about connection when I have sex. I'm really into experiencing my partner. You know...like on every plane. I love to taste and smell and feel them...just let them in as much as possible. If I'm having sex with someone I really like that feeling just gets more intense. I try to open myself up even more with people I trust to experience everything they have to give. A fantasy is something I have to use to be less connected to my partner...like if I misjudged someone."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Well, I don't know if I've mentioned this but if don't know the person I'm sleeping with I often don't let them touch me...genitally at least," she added with a smirk. "But once in a while I let someone I don't know touch me and sometimes I misjudge them and find that they don't arouse me or their technique just doesn't work for me. But rather than hurting their feelings and telling them to stop I'll just fantasize so I can have an orgasm and get out of there." Her lips quirked up in a grin as she added, "Pretty romantic, huh?"

"The first part was," Jamie said wistfully as she let out a heavy sigh.

They were back at the house by now and after a few minutes of small talk with Da they walked down to Ryan's room. Jamie sat on the loveseat and Ryan pulled her desk chair over, climbing onto it back wards and leaning forward to face her friend. "Tell me what's really going on, Jamie. It's clear that something is really bothering you."

"God, I really want to talk about it with you, Ryan, but I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

"You won't," she said sincerely. "I really can take it, Jamie."

She nodded briefly as she bit her lip in a nervous gesture. "Okay," she finally said. "We had some of the best sex we've ever had this weekend. He was like a different guy, Ryan. He was gentle and very loving and he tried really hard to be experimental. And things went great! They really did," she said emphatically.

Ryan continued to gaze at her with a penetrating stare. "But..." she said softly.

"But, this afternoon bothered me...a lot," she admitted. "He tried to make love to me with his mouth and even though it felt fabulous I had a lot of trouble concentrating and staying connected to him. I mean, he was really doing a good job!" she exclaimed rather defensively.

Ryan just nodded, not saying a word.

"I had to...fantasize to have an orgasm and it really bothered me," she said as tears welled up in her eyes.

"Why did it bother you?" Ryan asked softly, her deep voice surrounding Jamie's senses like a dense fog.

"Because I had to think about ...you," she sniffed as she broke into tears. Immediately, Ryan was next to her, cradling her in her wonderfully warm and comforting embrace. She rocked her slowly, making soft 'shushing' sounds to calm her.

"I...I don't know what to do, Ryan," she sniffed. "Part of me only wants to be with you and no one else for the rest of my life. But another part knows that Jack is safe and reassuring and...and..."

"Normal," Ryan finished for her quietly.

Jamie lifted her tear streaked face and gazed at her pathetically. "Is it so wrong to want to be like everybody else?"

"No, it's not wrong, Jamie," she said softly. "But it won't work if it's not right for you."

"But how do I know, Ryan? I'm so afraid..."

"I know, Jamie. I really do know," she said with her voice full of emotion and empathy.

"I just wish there was some way that I could...you know...kind of experiment before I had to make a decision." She looked up a Ryan with the barest hint of a question in her green eyes.

"What exactly do you mean?" Ryan asked carefully as she sat up slightly.

"I don't know," she grumbled. "I mean I know what it's like with Jack but I don't know if I'd really be happy with a woman. I wish I could...you know...experiment a little before I had to jump in."

"And you would like to experiment with me?" she asked in that same calm tone of voice.

"Well, yeah," Jamie laughed with an embarrassed giggle. "I'm not attracted to any other woman."

"Oh," Ryan said as she released her hold and stood. "You want me to make love to you so you can make sure I really do turn you on." She was obviously getting angry and Jamie tried to stop her to explain but Ryan was on a roll. "So if I fuck you well enough I win, but if your orgasm doesn't reach a certain height you put me back in 'friendville' and go marry Jack, right? Now correct me if I got any part of this wrong, Jamie," she said with biting sarcasm. "Do I get two out of three tries? Do I immediately go to oral sex or can I pull out a big dildo to help me out?" She was towering over Jamie's now shaking body, glaring at her with an intensity that was terrifying to the smaller woman. "I'd tell you where you can stick your idea, Jamie, but that might be another area I might be expected to satisfy!" She turned and ran up the stairs, yanking the front door open violently and shutting it with a glass rattling slam.

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

She wasn't sure of many things right then. But she was most definitely sure that she had never been more bereft. She was as sure as she had ever been that she had destroyed her friendship with the closest friend she had ever dreamed of having, and she was equally certain that Ryan would never have her as a lover. She hovered over the commode, heaving every morsel of food and acid from her clenching stomach, hoping fervently that she did not pass out, since that would only make a worse mess for Ryan to clean. She was crying so violently that she did not hear her come back into the room but soft warm hands lifted her gently from her kneeling position and scooped her up into Ryan's embrace. She carried her back to the loveseat and placed her gently on the cushions but Jamie's fragmented brain could hardly accept the generous gesture. Seconds later a warm cloth whisked the tears from her face and wiped her mouth gently. Then the cushions compressed as Ryan sat down right next to her and pulled her onto her lap.

The dark head leaned forward and planted tiny, soft kisses all over her face, reassuring Jamie with her physical intimacies. When the great, heaving sobs calmed she tugged the smaller woman close and whispered, "I'm so sorry, Jamie. I'm so very sorry."

She accepted the apology even though she did not believe that Ryan had anything to apologize for. "I'm the one who should apologize," she murmured against her damp neck.

"No," Ryan said firmly. "I told you to tell me what was on your mind and when you did I blasted you for it. That was just wrong of me, Jamie. And I'm very sorry for doing that."

"I hurt your feelings, Ryan," she mumbled softly.

"Yes, you did hurt me," she agreed. "But you didn't mean to. You're just trying to find a way to make this whole thing less frightening for yourself and I should have realized that."

"Are you still my friend?" she asked tentatively.

"Always," Ryan replied confidently. "I will always be your friend, Jamie." After a second she explained, "But if we were to sleep together on a whim I don't think I could be your friend. You mean far too much to me to cheapen what I feel for you, Jamie. I can't and I won't reduce my feelings for you to mere lust."

"I'm so sorry I made you feel that way, Ryan. I don't know where that even came from," she said sadly as she shook her head. "I find myself saying and doing things that are just not me! I hardly recognize the woman who propositioned you just to try lesbian sex out!"

Ryan's gentle chuckle caused her to look up. "It wasn't that bad," she teased.

"Yes it was," Jamie said firmly. "That's not who I am, Ryan. I don't even know where that thought came from but it's not how I think of you."

"Thank you," she murmured as she gave her a gentle squeeze. "That makes me feel better."

She uttered a deep sigh and moaned, holding her stomach. "I should get home. I need to get something in my stomach."

Ryan sat back and regarded her carefully. Jamie was still terribly pale, her face nearly ashen. Her hands were clammy and shaking a little, whether from nerves or vomiting, Ryan wasn't sure. She was however, sure that she would not allow Jamie to drive in this condition. "Two options," she said firmly. "You stay here or I drive you home. Your choice."

She knew that nothing could budge Ryan when she had that determined look on her face so she pursed her lips and said, "I'll stay."

Ryan got her a pair of flannel pajamas but she could not keep the pants up so she decided to sleep in the roomy top and her panties. She tucked her into bed and went back to her desk to study for a while but it was clear from the tossing and turning that Jamie could not sleep.

Without even asking if she wished comfort Ryan took her book and got into bed, lying in the center of the king sized surface. She urged Jamie to rest her head in her sweatpants covered lap and began to slowly run her fingers through her short blonde locks. As expected, her breathing evened out and deepened almost immediately as Ryan smiled down at the gently dozing woman nestled up against her body. Come on, Jamie, she urged in silent prayer. Face the truth!

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

"I understand that the dream upset you, Jamie, but maybe we can make some sense out of it if you'll talk about it," Anna urged.

"All right," Jamie begrudgingly agreed. "I was swimming in my parents pool at home. Everything was fine, nice day and all that, but the water was chilly so I had to keep moving. But all of a sudden I was in the ocean. It was weird because I couldn't see land but the water was so calm and still that it was just like the pool had been. Nice and calm but still a little cold. But it was definitely the ocean and I knew that it was really deep so I had to keep floating. There were all sorts of things floating right by me; a life preserver, a thick pool float, even one of those floating chairs. But I didn't want any of them for some reason. I just kept on trying to swim. It went fine for a while but eventually I got tired of trying to just stay afloat. But here's the weird part. Instead of grasping on to one of the nice safe life rafts I started to venture into the choppy, rough water that I could see in the distance.

"I don't know why I did it," she marveled. "The place I was in was so much calmer and safer, but I had to reach that turbulent water. The closer I got the more energized I felt," she said in wonder. "It was really rough going but I had to continue farther and farther out. Even though the water was wild and rough it was much warmer and clearer. I could actually see all of the marine life surrounding me and that made it very exciting. The water was so blue and clear it was like I was in the Caribbean rather than California. But again, the waves continued to grow. The chop must have been two feet and I felt like I'd never make it. But out of nowhere Ryan appeared. She swam right up to me so confidently that I immediately started to relax. I really needed her help but she didn't grab me like I thought she would. Instead, she gave me a beautiful smile and turned so that she was lying on her back. She started to kick and move farther out into even rougher weather. Her eyes were on me the whole time and seeing her encouraged me but she wasn't giving me the kind of help I needed. She just smiled and kept kicking. I knew that I had to follow her because she was my only chance at survival! But as I soon found out, she was not going towards shore. I could now see the shore and the calm waters but I was inexorably drawn to follow her. It made no sense to me!" she said in a frustrated tone. "The shore was the other way! All of those things that kept me afloat were in the other direction. But I followed her into those deep, treacherous waters."

"Is that all you remember?" Anna asked.

"Yeah, that's it."

"Have any ideas about the meaning?"

"Yeah, that choosing Ryan's going to be the death of me," she grumbled. "I mean I had that nice pool, I had the nice calm ocean but I just had to let her lead me into the depths."

"Maybe," Anna mused slowly. "Or maybe she wasn't leading you at all. Maybe she was supporting you on a journey that you were determined to take."


"Yes. A journey of discovery, Jamie. Tell me again about the water."

"Well, the water in the pool was nice. A little cold, but nice. Then the calm ocean water was about the same. But as I went into the rough water it became warm, almost my body temperature. Wait a minute!" she said excitedly. "It was my body temperature! The farther out I got, the less I could even feel the water. It must have been exactly my temperature."

"What else?"

"It was warm and very, very clear. The water in the calm part had been like regular ocean water. You could only see a few inches. But the rough water was so clear you could see everything around you. It was really exciting," she related. "Kinda like scuba diving."

"Were you afraid to follow Ryan?"

"Yes! I was scared spitless!"

"But you chose to, even though you could see the shore and the nice calm water."

"Yes, I did," she said quietly.

"Why do you think you chose to follow her into dangerous waters rather than go back to safety?" Anna asked.

Jamie was quiet for a long while. She had closed her eyes to allow herself to think more clearly. The silence continued until she lifted her head and opened her eyes, focusing on Anna with a defiant look in her eyes. "Because the calm water was going to kill me," she said firmly. "The only chance I had was to risk the turbulence."

"Was it Ryan's decision to lead you out there?" she asked gently.

"No." Jamie shook her head forcefully and took a deep breath. "She came out to the turbulence for me. She was risking her own security to help me save myself."

Anna nodded briefly and asked the critical question. "What does the dream tell you, Jamie?"

She closed her eyes and involuntarily shivered from head to toe. Her eyes blinked open slowly and her voice grew quiet but determined, "It tells me to say goodbye to Jack."

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

She considered every permutation of plan. Should she have him come to Berkeley? Should she go to his apartment? Over the phone? In a letter? But none of the options seemed optimal. She had never broken up with anyone special before and she truly hated that Jack had to be the one. Finally deciding that she had to get it over with she called his apartment at 7 o'clock.

"Jamie, hi," he said warmly. "I didn't expect to hear from you so soon."

"I need to talk to you, Jack. Can I come down?"

"Tonight?" he asked in surprise. "What is it, Jamie? Is something wrong?"

"Yes, Jack, something is wrong but I think I need to tell you in person."

"No," he said firmly. "I don't want to wait an hour. Don't hold me in suspense, please," he begged.

She drew in a breath and let it out slowly, trying to steel her nerves. "It's about us, Jack," she said with a tremulous voice.

"I assumed that, Jamie," he said calmly. "What about us exactly?"

"We...we can't be together," she whispered as the tears began.

"Why?" he asked so softly that she could barely hear him. "I thought that I had..."

"You did nothing wrong, Jack. You were absolutely perfect," she said as the sobs shook her body. "It's not you...it's me."

"What is you?" he asked, again in a barely perceptible voice.

"I'm not able to commit to you fully Jack. I...I...I have sexual feelings for other women," she mumbled, refusing to make Ryan be the villain.

"So do I Jamie," he said with as light a tone as he could muster. "But I don't act on them because I love you. Don't you love me enough to put those feelings aside?"

She was shaking her head even though he could not see her. "It's not like that, Jack. It would always interfere between us. You're too wonderful a person to settle for someone who wasn't able to give you all of their love."

"Shouldn't I be the one who decides that, Jamie?" he asked flatly. "Please don't try to make my decisions for me."

"This isn't just for you, Jack. I've tried to focus only on you but I haven't been successful. This is something I have to experience. It will haunt me forever if I don't. I swear the pull is just too strong."

"Stronger than your love for me?" he asked quietly.

"It must be," she admitted as her voice broke. "God! I wish it wasn't, Jack!" she sobbed. "I want to be with you, and have a bunch of kids and close this part of myself off. But I can't. I just can't," she added weakly. "It would be unfair to both of us and our children because someday the pull would be too great and I would ruin all that we had built together."

A long silence developed since she had nothing more to add. Finally he asked, "Are you absolutely certain?"

"Yes," she said quietly. "I'm certain."

He blew out a long breath and quietly said, "I love you, Jamie." Then the phone went dead.

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

The phone rang again at 10 and she was tempted not to answer but she stumbled to the handset and picked it up. "Hello?" she said with her stuffy nose and raspy voice.

"Jamie?" Ryan asked, a little unsure if it was her.

"Yeah," she said flatly.

"What's wrong?" Ryan asked amid the noise of wherever she was.

"I had a tough evening," she mumbled.

"Well, you looked upset while we were working out. That's why I called. I was getting ready to go home and I wanted to make sure you were all right."

"I'm all right," she said very unconvincingly.

"Jamie, we talked about this last week," she reminded her. "You can tell me what's bothering you. That's what friends do."

"I can't," she muttered as she started to cry. "I've been crying for 3 hours and I don't want to start again!"

"I'll be there in 5," Ryan said decisively as she hung up.

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

True to her word Ryan knocked softly on the door mere minutes later. Cassie poked her head out but she nodded when she saw Jamie open her door to go answer the knock. Her eyes were swollen from crying, and red blotches covered her face and neck. Her hair was seriously askew from trying to sleep and her nose was running continually. But Ryan just gently placed her hand on her back and led her back upstairs. When they reached the room she put a calming CD in the changer and turned it on to disguise their voices from prying roommates. "You don't have to tell me anything," she promised. "Just let me hold you and comfort you."

Even though she did not speak the tears started again. Jamie stood in the middle of the room looking lost and small and frightened. Her shoulders shook from crying and she was sobbing so hysterically that she could not have been understood if she had tried to speak. But she nodded her head at Ryan's offer and closed her eyes as the warm embrace enveloped her. "Bed or loveseat?" she asked gently.

Rather than respond Jamie started moving towards the bed and Ryan released her tight hold to drape an arm around her shoulders. She half fell onto the mattress and Ryan kicked off her shoes and climbed right up next to her, snuggling behind her and stroking her arm. She asked no questions and Jamie offered no explanations but after a few minutes she felt the aching sadness begin to lift a little bit. She knew she was close to collapsing from exhaustion so she asked, "Stay with me?"

"Of course," she murmured. Ryan got up and removed her jeans and slithered out of her bra, a difficult feat when one doesn't take off the t-shirt covering it. But she quickly returned to the bed and cuddled up behind her friend, wrapping her arm around her waist.

Jamie was almost asleep but just before she drifted off she mumbled, "I broke up with Jack tonight. Permanently," she added.

Ryan felt a huge amount of empathy for her friend but the tiny glimmer of hope in her heart that had nearly been extinguished flickered and grew warmer, causing a small smile to grace her lips as she tilted her head up to gently kiss Jamie's tear streaked cheek.

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

On a cloudy, damp afternoon she sat in Anna's warm office and declared, "I think I'm ready to move forward with Ryan if she's still interested after my meltdown," she added with a smirk.

"Have you spoken to her about your relationship since that little incident?" she asked delicately.

"No. We've become strangely silent about the whole thing. But we seem to be even closer than we were before," she admitted. "She hovers over me like a hawk, always making sure that I'm doing all right. We're together almost constantly and when I don't see her she calls me right before she goes to sleep."

"That sounds encouraging. What makes you think you're ready?" Anna inquired.

"My feelings for her just get stronger all the time. I just feel so good when we're together. It's like she is just so complementary to me. I can honestly say that she helps bring out the best parts in me," she replied thoughtfully.

"Do you have any doubts about moving forward?"

"Yeah, oh yeah!" she laughed. "I'm scared spitless, to be honest. I know in my heart that this is right for me, but I'm really scared about sex," she admitted, a bit embarrassed.

"What is it that scares you?" Anna asked gently.

"It's just that I've never been with a woman and she's been with...let's just say that she's been with a lot of women," she blushed. "I worry that I won't be able to please her, or that she'll get frustrated with my inexperience."

"Would you feel comfortable talking to her about your fears?"

"I think I would. I mean I tell her everything else. I may as well own up to this too," she laughed. "It's funny, but I dated boys for almost 6 years before I had intercourse. I just wish I could spend a little time just exploring with Ryan before it got too intense. I wish I could get a 'lesbian learner's permit'. But that didn't go over very well the last time I brought it up," she added with a noticeable shiver.

"That was a completely different situation, Jamie. You're asking for something very different now. There is no outside force that compels you to do things that you're not ready to do. If you want to go slow and just explore there is no reason that you can't do that."

"I'm just afraid that Ryan wouldn't be able to do that," she added shyly. "She has needs that she's not used to denying."

"If she's the person that you think she is you might be surprised at what she would do to make you comfortable, Jamie. I think you owe it to yourself to make this experience as safe as you need it to be. I think you need to talk to Ryan," she said firmly.

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

They met at the Ferry Building in the foggy chill of a late April morning. Both had several layers of clothing on to guard against the stiff breeze that constantly fluttered through the Golden Gate. They loaded their mountain bikes onto the first ferry to Sausalito and found places on the rail to watch the panorama unfold before them

"You really can talk me into anything, can't you?" Ryan said as she smiled down at her companion.

"Don't you think the ferry is fun?" Jamie replied.

"I haven't been on one since my 4th grade class went to Alcatraz," she admitted. "All I remember is that Shelly Blake got sick and spent the whole time hanging over the rail. We thought that was pretty cool, so I guess I do think ferries are fun," she replied with a smile.

"Well, I like them a lot, so you have to too," Jamie confidently stated. "I can't remember the last time I was in Sausalito, though. I think it's fun to do touristy things once in a while, don't you?"

"I'm learning that I do," Ryan admitted. "We didn't do a lot of touristy things when I was growing up, so a lot of this is new for me. Actually, I'm not sure I've ever really been to Sausalito. I mean, I've gone through it on the way to someplace else, but I don't think I've ever explored it. I'm really looking forward to it, Jamie. Thanks for taking me," she said happily.

The trip was almost too short for Ryan. She loved the feeling of the fresh breeze in her face, loved the smell of the sea and the feeling of the heavy air as she drew it into her lungs. Jamie just stood back a bit and watched all of Ryan's senses enjoy the trip.

When they arrived in Sausalito they unloaded the bikes and took off. It was around 10 o'clock and Ryan was hungry as usual, even though she had consumed a rather large breakfast. They found a little outdoor coffee shop right on the water and sat outside in the damp mist while they drank their hot lattés and ate warm muffins.

Ryan looked particularly adorable today. Several weeks ago Jamie accompanied her to the Patagonia store near Fisherman's Wharf to buy some new bike clothes. Ryan was making enough money now that she was able to bring her savings up to a comfortable level for the first time in years. She decided to splurge and buy several items that she had been lusting after for a long time.

Due to her fitness level Ryan sweated a ton when she rode her bike. She hated wearing cotton t-shirts because the sweat just stuck to her body. She had always liked the silk weight underwear from Patagonia, but had never had the money to buy it. Now that she was slightly flush she was ready to shop.

She bought 3 silk weight t-shirts that would pull moisture away from her body. She also bought 2 bike jerseys, one short sleeved and one sleeveless that would also wick her sweat away. She had a number of jerseys in her wardrobe but they were all from various races that she had entered and were covered with logos. She absolutely hated to be a walking billboard so the sedate little logo on the Patagonia tops were very welcome. Jamie had talked her into buying two sports bras made of the same type fabric. Her favorite purchase though, was the fluffy fleece jacket that she had on today. It was electric blue and toasty warm on this cool day. Under the jacket she wore a thin nylon vest in a brilliant yellow. This cut the wind and would be handy for wearing later in the day when the weather warmed up.

Jamie had purchased a fleece jacket for herself and a new jersey. Her jacket was a bright blue and green print that complemented her golden hair. Both women wore long black bike pants and their heavy off road shoes.

After watching the morning harbor traffic for a while Jamie asked as casually as she could, "So, have you been dating anybody lately?"

"No, I haven't," Ryan said as she removed her gaze from the harbor and fixed it upon Jamie. "What do you think I do? Leave your house at 10 and go trolling for my nightly fix?"

"What about all those girls I've seen you around campus with?" she teased.

"I am polite, Jamie," she said seriously. "But just because I'm talking to women doesn't mean I'm sleeping with them," she said rather curtly as she picked up her trash and walked to the nearest bin to toss it away. When she returned her smile was back in place and she held a hand out to help Jamie to her feet.

As they got on their bikes Jamie asked gently, "Did I hurt your feelings, Ryan?"

"No. It's nothing. I'm just a little sensitive today. I'm in the throes of PMS and sometimes my mouth has a will of its own." As she rode away she turned to Jamie, "Thanks for asking though," she said with a sweet smile.

They rode for a long while in companionable silence. The trip to Muir Woods was rather arduous, but well worth the effort. The scenery was breathtaking as bit by bit the morning fog lifted and more of the scenery was revealed. Finally they reached their destination. Both women had doffed their jackets due to the exertion. Jamie had hers tied around her waist, but Ryan's was stowed in the pack that was securely attached to her bike. The packs also held a delicious picnic lunch they had purchased at a deli in Sausalito. Ryan had the honor of carrying all the food and drink since she was both the stronger rider and the bigger eater.

As they rode around Muir Woods, Jamie had to put her jacket back on. The path they were traveling was densely populated by some of the oldest and tallest coast redwoods in the state. The tall trees obscured the weak sun and made the path rather dark. It was still and quiet in the forest, the only sounds those made by the two women.

As they drew near Redwood Creek they got off their bikes and stood on the bank of the quick running stream. The sun was stronger now as it neared noon. It poked through the tall canopy of trees and cast deep shadows on the glistening creek. They decided to eat lunch so Ryan went to her packs and removed their purchases. She had brought a neatly folded reflective space blanket which she spread on the ground and the shiny metallic surface gathered what sun there was to warm them.

They sat and ate, mostly in silence, content to listen to the stream and the birds and the wildlife that surrounded them. After the remains of their meal were cleaned up and placed back in the pack Jamie looked up at Ryan with a little smile and said, "Guess what I want?"

"Hmm, let's see," she reflected as she tiled her head up. "What would a little pleasure hound want after a long ride and a big lunch? I would guess that you want either a leg massage or a little nap." She glanced over at her companion as she asked, "How did I do?"

"Pretty good," she admitted. "I choose the second option."

Ryan just shook her head and grinned at her friend as she scooted over to the nearest tree and patted her thigh, "Come on, Sleeping Beauty, it's time for your nap."

Jamie happily complied by crawling over to Ryan and lying down parallel to her stretched out legs. She lay her head on the Lycra covered thighs and moved around until she was comfortable. Ryan's hand dropped to rest on her golden hair and she began to run her fingers through the soft locks. "I don't think it's possible to feel more content than I do right now," she murmured as she heard Ryan begin to hum a slow soft tune.

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

She awoke after a short but very restful nap. She heard Ryan's rhythmic breathing and turned her head just enough to see her friend's head resting against the redwood bark, sound asleep. Ohh, she looks so pretty, I want to scoot up there and kiss that beautiful mouth awake, she thought longingly. In lieu of that she just let the peaceful feeling wash over her as she lay there on Ryan's lap. She let herself drift off again and eventually woke as a blade of grass was drawn over her eyelids and lips. "Hey, no fair tickling me awake," she complained.

"How would you prefer to be woken up, Princess?" Ryan replied with a twinkle in her eyes.

I can think of a hundred different ways but they all involve your mouth and some level of nudity, she thought. "I'll consider that and get back to you," she said with a grin as she sat up and stretched. "Oooh, my thighs did not appreciate that last hill." She turned to Ryan and smiled coquettishly, "Is it too late to order option one?"

"I hope you brought me here for more than my thighs and my hands," she playfully groused as she began to massage the stiff legs.

Well, those are two of the biggest reasons, but it's too early to talk about that, she thought privately.

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

When the massage was complete they hopped back on the bikes and began the ride to Mount Tamalpais. Jamie had been here numerous times, but she had never experienced it in quite the way she did today. The feeling of slowly climbing the 2200 ft. hill was completely exhilarating. It really allowed her to test her aerobic capacity as well as the strength in her legs and her overall fitness. To her surprise she was quite pleased with the results. While the ride was clearly not easy she managed it with very little serious trouble.

The climb was made even more pleasant by the profusion of wildflowers that sprouted from every meadow and glen. This was a particularly spectacular year for the wildflower crop and she offered up a silent prayer of thanks that they had come to this place on this beautiful day.

They stopped frequently on the ride. At one point they spotted a family of deer in the distance and they stopped for a long while to watch them graze peacefully, seemingly unconcerned by the presence of humans. It was nearly 4 o'clock by the time they reached the peak. Daylight savings time would begin that night, but today the sun was scheduled to set at around 6 p.m. "I'm a little concerned that we're going to have trouble making it back while it's still light out," Ryan said as they paused to drink a bottle of water. "Are you up to starting back right away?"

"That was not really what I had in mind," Jamie replied. "I really wanted to stay up here for a while--maybe watch the sun set." She thought about the problem for a minute and then extracted her cell phone from her seat pack. "Let me see if I can resolve our little problem," she said mysteriously.

Moments later Jamie had booked the last remaining room at the Pelican Inn. This adorable little inn was near where Redwood Creek emptied into Muir Beach and it would take no more than 1/2 hour to ride there. Ryan was a little reticent to allow Jamie to pay for the room, but she was finally convinced when Jamie insisted that she was staying over whether Ryan did or not. Of course she did not mention that only the largest, most expensive room was still available and she had no plans to reveal that information later either.

They stood on the peak, alone in the waning sunlight. There were several large boulders and they climbed onto the biggest one to talk and watch the sunset. The view from the peak was stupendous with the huge panorama spread out in front of them. They could see for miles in all directions on this terribly clear afternoon. The fog was still off in the distance and the sun beat down, warming them on their rock.

Ryan was half reclining on the large stone, her torso supported by her forearms. Jamie gathered up her courage and did her best to calm her racing heart. She crawled around until she was sitting right next to her, facing her directly. "You're missing the beautiful view, Jamie," Ryan chided her.

"No, I'm not," she replied soberly. "I'm looking at the most beautiful view I ever hope to see," she said softly as her eyes locked onto Ryan's.

That clearly got her attention. Ryan sat up carefully, keeping her eyes on Jamie's. Her expression was open and very interested. She cocked her head just a tiny bit in question as she continued to stare into sea green eyes.

Jamie reached out and took each of Ryan's hands in hers. They sat directly in front of one another, crossed legs just touching at the knees. "Ryan, I've given a lot of thought to how I feel about you," she said in a very quiet voice. "And I know that I hurt you when I tried to go back to Jack. But I did that out of pure fear, Ryan. I never wavered in my desire for you. I was just too afraid to express it. But in a strange way that incident finally knocked some sense into me and made me face my true self. I know that you are the person that I love," she dropped one soft hand and reached out to touch an even softer pink cheek that began to tremble slightly under her fingertips.

She leaned in closer as her eyes bore into Ryan's with a fierce intensity. "I'm absolutely certain about this and I want to move forward and build a life with you. But our friendship means more to me than anything, and if that's all you can offer, I can live with that."

Ryan squeezed her hands tightly and whispered, "You have no idea how I've prayed for this. I know I told you that I'd be fine if you decided that you were straight, but I was lying--to myself and to you. I've thought of nothing else since you told me that you were attracted to me and when you went back to Jack I didn't know how I would survive. And the worst part was that I had to support your choice even though it was ripping my heart out." She let herself shed the tears that she had been forced to conceal from her friend, relishing the soft embrace that Jamie now offered.

She sniffed as she continued, "Every night when I say my prayers I ask for the chance to love you like you deserve to be loved." A shiver ran down her body as she took in a deep breath, closed her eyes tightly and pledged, "I offer much more than my friendship, Jamie. I offer you everything that I am and everything that I can become. I want to give myself to you, totally, completely, and eternally."

Jamie gazed at her with every tender emotion she felt clearly displayed in her eyes. "I love you completely, Ryan, and I want to be with you." She leaned close and said even more quietly, "Emotionally, spiritually..." Here she leaned over until she was right next to Ryan's ear as she whispered "and physically."

Ryan's heart was pounding so loudly that she was certain Jamie could hear it. She removed the graceful hand that covered her cheek and she slowly turned it until it was right before her lips. She closed her eyes and kissed the palm reverently. She placed kiss after kiss on the small hand as she slowly nodded her head in acceptance of the offer placed before her. Her eyes remained closed the whole while and Jamie could see the first small tear slide down that beautiful face as she rose to her knees and felt Ryan do the same.

She lifted her hands to rest on the smooth planes of Ryan's face. She used her thumbs to tenderly trace over the dark brows, across the prominent cheekbones, down the strong line of her jaw, finally finding the soft, warm lips. One lucky thumb continued the task, softly moving over her moist lips, as they slowly opened to envelope the thumb in their warm wetness.

A jolt of sensation shot up and down Jamie's spine with a force so great that she felt dizzy. But Ryan stayed right where she was, waiting for Jamie to proceed as she felt comfortable. It took her a few seconds to gather herself but she finally was able to move forward. She took in as deep a breath as she could manage and cradled Ryan's face in both of her hands. Tilting her head just an inch she leaned forward and captured those incredibly soft lips without hesitation.

A tiny moan escaped from Ryan as Jamie's mouth sealed hers with the promise of her love.

Their arms slid around one another's waists as their lips came together again. The kisses were slow and soft and gentle but unceasing. There was a great depth of emotion behind each tender kiss, but they did not vary in their intensity. These were not the passionate kisses of lovers about to consummate their union; rather, this was the first stirring of promises to come. Knowing there would be plenty of time to explore in depth, they reveled in the first tender meeting of warm mouths.

Jamie placed her hands on either side of Ryan's face and delicately kissed each closed eyelid, chasing each tear away. "I love you, Ryan. I love you so much," she said as she kissed the tender lips again and again.

Ryan's eyes fluttered open and she gazed at Jamie with a depth of emotion that she had never before felt, "I love you too, Jamie. I do, I swear I do," she whispered fiercely as she drew her into a forceful hug.

They remained just as they were for a seemingly endless time. They alternated soft kisses with warm tender embraces, occasionally shedding a tear or two at the overpowering feeling generated by their bond. As the sun began to slip into the sea the boulder provided warmth to their entwined bodies. But as the chill in the air began to overtake even this heat they reluctantly parted. "I don't ever want to lose this feeling," Jamie whispered as they gripped each other tightly once last time.

"We can't lose this feeling," Ryan said firmly. "This feeling is just the cornerstone of a lifetime of wonderful moments. It will always be with us, reminding us of how we began. But I promise you, Jamie," she said fiercely as she locked onto her sea green eyes, "this is just the first step of a journey that will take our entire lives to complete. We've just barely begun."

"I'll follow you anywhere, Ryan," she pledged as she lifted her head for several more loving kisses.

But Ryan pulled her head away and gazed at her with a look of pure devotion. "No, Jamie, I don't lead you. We go together," she promised. "Always together."

THE END (at least until Book 2)

Book Three: Coalescence

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