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 email@example.com
Jamie's cell phone rang just after 8 a.m. She scrambled out of bed and found the little phone as it rang for the 6th time. "Jamie?" rang out the deep familiar voice.
"Oh, Hi Daddy," she said as she tried to sound awake.
"Did I wake you, sweetheart?" he asked solicitously.
"No, not at all," she lied as she walked through the rest of the apartment trying to find Jack.
He was sitting at the computer in his office. He gave her a little wave and a shy grin as he gazed up and down her naked body. Even though they had been intimate for 5 months she still felt a little shy about being naked around Jack when she was just walking around the apartment. I don't know if I'll ever get over my shyness, she mused. They had made love for a long time the previous evening. Jamie had never known Jack to be so needy. He caressed her like he was trying to absorb her through his touch. Jamie had enjoyed the tactile sensations, but she was turned off by his insecurities. He had begun to touch her again before dawn, but she had feigned sleep to avoid another needy encounter.
"How about a round of golf this afternoon?" her father asked.
"Hold on and let me ask Jack," she replied. She was still uncomfortable having her father know that she stayed at Jack's on the weekend, but he had never commented on their physical relationship, so it must not have bothered him.
She placed the phone on mute and said, "Do you want to play golf with Daddy this afternoon?"
"Yeah, that would be fun," he agreed. "I feel like I haven't been outside in weeks. I need to work until noon or so. Is that too late?"
"I'll see," she said as she spoke into the phone again, "How about 1 o'clock?"
"That's great honey, I'll call and make a tee off time. See you at the club."
After she hung up Jamie walked over to Jack and gave him a small kiss. "I'm going back to bed," she said with a smile. "You really wore me out last night," she said as she patted his cheek.
"Would you like me to help you relax?" he asked as he slipped his hands around her small waist and drew her close. He rubbed his face against her breasts and she giggled as his unshaved cheeks tickled her bare skin.
"No, Honey, I won't be able to walk if we make love again," she said with a little blush as she kissed him again.
"You know Jamie, I really like the way you look lately," he said as he stroked her concave stomach. "Working out has really improved your body. But you are getting a little thin. Are you going to try to put some weight back on?"
"Yeah, I'm going to start working with a nutritionist so I can learn to eat right. I'm using a lot more energy and I need to be able to fuel my body more efficiently."
Jack looked uninterested in her motivations for change. He placed his hands under her breasts and lifted them slightly. "I just don't want you to lose any more weight here," he said with a wicked grin. "These are just perfect."
"Thanks honey," she said weakly as she walked back into the bedroom. She fell to the bed and stared at the ceiling for a long time. She didn't really feel tired anymore, but she was feeling too depressed to do anything else.
I can't believe that we still haven't talked about our fight. He honestly thinks that making love solves all of our problems! He didn't even ask me about my doctor visit. I told him she was running tests, doesn't he even care if I'm ill? I guess it doesn't really matter as long as my breasts don't get small! After stewing for a long while she finally drifted off into a fitful slumber.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie was glad to see her father and even happier to have a break from Jack's attention. He had woken her at around 10, once again trying to interest her in lovemaking. She had finally relented even though her heart was not in it. As he moved over her she had to bite her lip to stop from crying as she thought, I told him I was too sore to do this. But he doesn't even seem to hear me. I would never ask him to do something that was uncomfortable just for my pleasure. As he began to thrust into her even more forcefully she began to fantasize about turning the tables on him. Maybe I'll get some of those sex toys that caller mentioned the other night. I'd like to see how old Jack felt about having something shoved into him!
They teed off at around 1:30 after spending a few minutes warming up on the driving range. Jamie had not played since that day with Ryan, but it had been a lot longer for Jack. She was beating him handily and by the 16th hole she was ahead by 8 strokes. Usually he didn't much care how he played, but today it obviously bothered him.
"Have you been playing much, Jamie?" Jim asked with pride.
"No, not really," she answered.
"I remember that you used the club on Monday when you brought your friend, but I thought maybe you were playing more frequently in Berkeley," he said.
Jack was facing away from Jamie, but she saw him visibly tense at this comment. He turned to her and asked neutrally, "Who did you bring to the club, Jamie? You didn't mention to me that you had played here."
"I brought Ryan," she said simply as she prepared to tee off on the 17th hole.
After she hit an impressive drive she turned to Jack and gave him a thin little smile. "Your turn, honey," she said as she passed by him.
"Who's Ryan?" her father had noticed that something was going on between the two of them and he was now interested in finding out what it was.
"Just a friend of mine from school," Jamie replied after Jack had hit a powerful slice that landed on the 3rd fairway.
"A guy?" Jim asked hesitantly, thinking that perhaps this was an issue between the young couple.
"Only partially," Jack answered his question as he stalked off to find his ball.
Jim and Jamie watched Jack stomping his way across the fairway with shock on both of their faces. "What in the heck is wrong with him?" Jim finally asked her.
"He's just been in a mood for a while," Jamie replied neutrally. "I think he's got too much stress with law review and his class work."
"What did he mean by that comment?" Jim persisted as he refused to let the issue drop. After Jamie hit her second shot, a nice 5 iron that landed softly on the green, she replied, "She's a friend from school that Jack doesn't like."
"What did he mean when he said she was partially a guy?" he asked.
"Ryan's a lesbian. And for some reason Jack feels threatened by that," she finally admitted.
"Hmm," Jim replied. "That does seem strange," he finally said.
At least he's on my side, Jamie thought as Jack finally reached the green. They finished the hole in silence. Not another word was said until they finished up on 18. Jim looked at them both and said, "Let's go into the Grill. I don't want you two to leave like this."
Jack looked a little guilty about his belligerent attitude and Jamie had no reason to refuse, so they agreed. After they were settled with drinks Jim finally broke the silence again. "Do you mind talking about what's bothering you two?"
"It's not a big deal, Daddy," Jamie said. "Jack has been unhappy about my friendship with Ryan but I'm sure he'll feel better about it when he gets to know her a little." She really didn't want her father to know how childish Jack was being about this.
"I don't want to get to know her, Jamie," Jack said through gritted teeth. "If you really respected my opinion, you would stop spending all of your free time with her."
"I don't spend all of my free time with her, Jack," she defended.
"How many times did you see her this week?" he asked, bearing down on her like a prosecutor.
"We played golf on Monday, I saw her in class twice, we had to volunteer together on Tuesday and Thursday night, she trained me at the gym twice and then I made her dinner on Friday as you know."
Jack didn't say a word in response to her statement. He merely raised one dark blonde eyebrow and narrowed his eyes a bit in obvious triumph.
"But I don't see her that much all of the time," she said defensively. "This week was an anomaly."
"That's not what Cassie says," he said dramatically.
Jamie's face had been relatively composed, but now it grew bright pink with anger. "Do you have any others spies keeping track of me, or only Cassie?" she said evenly through her own set of gritted teeth.
"Jack, Jamie" her father finally said, trying to calm them down. "It's obvious that this is a big issue between you two." Jamie continued to glare at Jack who was glaring right back at her. "Jamie," he said as he turned to her, "I think the solution is rather obvious."
"I don't know if I can wait for Jack to grow up, Daddy," she said sweetly as she turned to look at her father.
"No Honey," he said firmly. "You can't put your friendships ahead of your commitment to Jack," he said patiently. "Friends will come and go, but your spouse is with you for life."
Jamie felt all of the color drain from her face. She turned from her father to Jack and then back again. She felt absolutely betrayed by both of these men. "So that's what makes a good marriage? Giving in to every irrational request that your partner makes? Or is it only the woman who has to give in?" she added, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
The looks she was regarded with were identical. Neither man had ever seen her stand her ground so forcefully, and neither liked it. Rather than cause a bigger scene she stood and regarded them sadly. She just shook her head and fought to control the tears that desperately wanted to come as she turned and left the room.
After a half hour in the Jacuzzi she found an attendant in the locker room and handed her a note. The woman assured her that it would be delivered to her father immediately.
Jim and Jack were patiently waiting on a pair of overstuffed chairs within view of the women's locker room. The attendant recognized Jim and handed him the note. It read,
I've arranged for a ride home. Please respect my wishes and give me some time alone.
"Well, Jack, welcome to married life," Jim said as he handed Jack the note and stood to leave.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After Jamie had written the note she began to figure out how to get home. First she called Mia, but no one was home. Next she tried Mia's pager, but got no return call. Oh, right, she's in L.A. this weekend. I don't think she'll be home until tomorrow morning. Next she tried her grandfather, but no one was home at either his house or his office. I shouldn't do this, but I don't have enough cash for a cab. She dialed Ryan's pager number and waited just a few minutes for the return call.
"Hi," Ryan's voice called out brightly. "Are you calling to get a piece of birthday cake?"
"No," Jamie said meekly as she started to cry.
"What's wrong?" Ryan's voice was filled with alarm.
"I need a very big favor," she finally choked out.
"Anything," Ryan said firmly. "Just name it."
Jamie gave her a short version of her plight and Ryan immediately agreed to come get her. How does she do that? Two minutes of talking to her and I feel that everything will be okay.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie showered and dried her hair. She rummaged in her locker to find a heavy lined warm up suit that she sometimes wore on rainy days. She decided she could use all the layers she had for the bike ride. She pulled her slacks and sweater back on and then put the warm ups on over her clothes. She left the locker room, glancing around carefully, hoping that her father and Jack had heeded her wishes, knowing there would be massive trouble if they saw her get on Ryan's Harley. She walked out to the circular drive and was very pleased to hear the Harley roar up the long entryway.
The attendant looked puzzled when Jamie came over to the bike. He was unsure of how to help, so he just let Ryan pull her on to the big machine. Jamie settled the spare helmet on her head and they pulled away.
When they got to the street Ryan pulled over to the curb and turned the bike off. She turned around as much as possible and gently asked, "Where do you want to go?"
"I'm not sure," she said as the tears overtook her again. "My car is in Palo Alto, so I guess I have to go there."
"I can drive you down there tomorrow," Ryan replied firmly. "You're too upset to drive back all that way by yourself. Why don't I just take you home?"
"I guess that's my only option," she said sadly. "I'm just afraid that Jack might be there waiting for me. And if I see Cassie, I might actually kill her," she said sadly.
"I've got a better idea," Ryan replied as she turned and kicked the big bike to life.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie was pleased that Ryan had just taken control of the situation. She just knows what to do to calm me down, she thought dreamily as she rested her face between Ryan's shoulder blades to cut the wind. Her arms were wrapped tightly against her trim waist and she finally felt safe for the first time all day.
"Do you need anything for the night? I have some sweats and stuff but nothing will fit you right."
"Is there someplace that I could buy a few things? I also need a bookstore to buy a novel that I have to read by tomorrow."
"Sure. We'll head over to 24th St."
They did just that and stopped at The Gap where Jamie purchased yet another pair of jeans and a bright blue chamois shirt along with a pale yellow T-shirt. Another stop at a cute little lingerie store added panties, a pair of cotton boxers, another bra and a pair of socks to her pile of purchases.
Luckily a used bookstore had a copy of her Barnes novel, and she was set.
They pulled up in front of the neat home in the Noe Valley just after 6. It was fully dark and she could see that the house was dark also. "Where is everyone?" Jamie inquired.
"Conor is helping my cousin Niall work on his new house over in the Sunset district. I assume they'll go out for a drink afterward, so he won't be home tonight. Da had to fill in for someone at work, so he's gone all night. Rory left on his tour today, so we have the place to ourselves for a change."
As they hopped of the bike Jamie regarded her thoughtfully, "You didn't have plans tonight did you?" she asked a little suspiciously.
"No, not really," Ryan prevaricated.
"I just thought that this could be a good opportunity to see your little friend," she replied. When Ryan's face showed no recognition, she continued, "You know; the one who lives at home."
"Oh, no, no. I'm not seeing her anymore," Ryan laughed. "I've sworn off all women who live at home," she replied seriously, "Unless they have a really big car," she added with a laugh. "I was thinking about calling my friend Ally," she said with a waggling eyebrow. "But it's never in my best interests to see her on a school night."
"Remember the day you had to let me sleep in your house?"
"That was all due to Ally. Moderation is not her middle name," she said with a twinkle in her eyes. "You have no idea how much my body will thank you for saving me from going over there."
She felt herself shiver at the thought of what that really meant but just gave her a playful little poke in the ribs as they climbed the stairs. They were greeted enthusiastically by Duffy who acted as though Jamie was his long lost best friend.
"Boy, I've forgotten how much better a friendly greeting can make you feel," she said wistfully.
"Hey, Duffy isn't the only one who's friendly," Ryan said as she approached her and offered her arms for a hug.
Jamie gratefully accepted. As the warm, strong arms circled her she felt herself sucking up the comfort like a dry sponge. As she relaxed in the embrace she felt herself begin to let go again. She began to sob as Ryan rubbed her back in a calming, reassuring gesture. After a few minutes Ryan pulled away a bit and said, "You feel really warm. Why don't you take your jacket off."
Jamie numbly complied as Ryan did likewise. Next she removed her warm up pants and folded both of them neatly. Ryan placed an arm across her shoulders and guided her to the sofa. She gently pushed her down and leaned over to look at her face closely. "Do you drink alcohol?"
"Um, yeah," she replied, unsure of where this was headed.
"I'm going to make you a warm drink to relax you a bit," she replied.
Ryan ambled into the kitchen. Duffy looked from Ryan's retreating form to Jamie and back again. Making up his doggie mind he scrambled onto the sofa and lay his big black head on Jamie's lap, uttering a heavy sigh as he did so.
When Ryan returned Jamie was stroking Duffy's head and murmuring sweet nothings. "I can tell who his favorite is," Ryan stated as she gave him a mock glare. "C'mon Duff, I saw her first," she said as she snapped her fingers as he immediately leapt from the couch and onto the floor. "He steals all of my friends if I let him," she whispered conspiratorially as she handed Jamie a steaming mug.
Jamie took a bit sip and purred with contentment, "What is in this?" she asked with a big smile.
"Hot cocoa and Bailey's Irish cream," she replied as she sipped her own mug. "The Bailey's counteracts the caffeine in the cocoa, so it really relaxes you."
Ryan turned a little as she put her mug on the floor. She leaned over and grasped Jamie's legs, pulling them onto her lap. She began to unlace her boots and tossed them to the floor as she finished. "I want to know everything that happened since I last saw you," she said soothingly, as she began to massage her feet.
Jamie felt herself immediately begin to relax. "I went down to Palo Alto after I left here. The evening went okay," she decided to gloss over the sexual aspects of her evening. But something about the day was bothering her too much to ignore. "Can I ask you a really, really personal question?"
"Sure," she said immediately.
Jamie pursed her lips as she thought about how to frame her question. "Have you ever tried to..." she struggled a little as she tried to adjust the question for Ryan's sexual orientation. "Have you ever tried to get your partner to do something that was painful for her?"
Ryan looked at her with a slightly cocked head as she tried to think of how to answer. "That's a tough one," she admitted. "I'm not sure what you're getting at, but there have been lots of times where I've pushed just a little farther than was probably wise. Sometimes it's hard to tell if a sound means 'Do that harder' or 'OUCH!' Is that what you mean?"
Now Jamie shot her a confused look. "I don't know what you mean," she admitted.
"Do you want me to be graphic? I don't mind giving you a blunt answer but I don't want to tell you more than you want to know about my sexual habits," she said with an embarrassed look.
A myriad of images flew through Jamie's fertile imagination. She shook her head to clear it and realized that she had to be the one to be more graphic. "Okay, here's the issue. Jack was insatiable last night. He really seemed needy and sometimes he seems to express himself only through sex. I think it's his way of feeling close again after a fight."
Ryan nodded in complete understanding. "That's a common reaction to a fight," she agreed.
"Right. And even though his insecurities don't appeal to me I didn't complain. But he tried to make love to me three separate times this morning. I clearly told him that I was too sore but he would not stop. I finally gave in just to get him off my back, but I was really resentful. It really upset me that he wanted to have sex even when he knew it was causing me pain. And it pissed me off that he could enjoy himself when I was just lying there like a dead fish!"
Ryan was unsure of how to comment on this. She had never in her life tried to talk any woman into having sex when she did not want to. And she could no more enjoy sex with an unwilling partner than she could fly. But she did not want to reveal how mean she thought Jack was being. Jamie was engaged to this guy and even if he was sometimes a jerk she didn't think it was wise to be the one to point that out.
"I don't think it's fair to compare how people react to things that are really emotionally loaded," she said judiciously. "What's really important is how that made you feel. Tell me about that."
"I don't think there's any lonelier feeling than lying in bed with someone who's just using your body for their own pleasure," she murmured as she began to cry softly.
Ryan quickly got up and went to the other end of the loveseat. She lifted Jamie's torso and sat down, lowering her back down until her head was in her lap. She started to run her fingers through her hair in a soft, calming fashion. After a few minutes she said softly, "I'm so sorry, Jamie. I can't stand to see you hurt so badly. I wish I could do something to help."
"You are, Ryan. You're doing more than you know," she reassured her as she patted her hand. "But I've got lots more to bitch about so I may as well get it over with."
As she took a deep slow breath and furrowed her brow in concentration Ryan's soft voice wafted over her. "Is this okay?" She lifted a good portion of Jamie's shiny blonde hair and gave her scalp a little scratch to indicate the nature of her request.
Sea green eyes lifted and gazed at her, deep gratitude reflected back. "This is the best I've felt all day," she replied with a sad smile as she covered Ryan's warm hand with her own. "Actually," she amended, "It's the best I've felt in weeks." She patted Ryan's hand softly as she stressed, "It's more than all right. It's keeping me sane."
Ryan gave her a gentle, sweet smile as her hand drifted lower and she began to trace the smooth planes of Jamie's face with her fingertips. It was difficult for the prone woman to keep her train of thought but she struggled to get through her story. "We played golf with my father this afternoon." Here she paused to concentrate. "I was playing well and it seemed to piss Jack off...which is odd for him. He's not normally competitive with me." Ryan nodded to encourage her, but did not speak.
"My father made a comment about bringing you to play on Monday and Jack flipped out," she replied. "He gets angry so rarely, and never, ever, in front of my parents," she said as her face clouded again.
Ryan's fingers grew more determined in their efforts to remove the stress from her friend's face. She worked at the tense lines with both of her thumbs, smiling to herself as she could see Jamie begin to relax a bit. "Then what?" Ryan softly inquired.
Jamie decided not to reveal the slur that Jack had made toward Ryan since it was not vital to the story. "After the round we went to have a drink and my father really wanted us to talk about it," she shook her head sadly. "Jack said that he didn't want me to see you anymore," she said as she began to cry in earnest. She nudged Jamie upright and sat down behind her as she put her arms around her shaking body. "That's not the worst part, though," she sobbed.
Ryan continued to smooth her hair and stroke her back. "It's okay, Jamie. It will all be okay," she soothed.
"The really bad part was when my father agreed with him," she finally got out through the raking sobs.
Ryan could hardly believe how much this revelation hurt her. She felt as though she had been kicked in the chest, but she did not want to make matters worse for her friend. She just held her tighter as she murmured reassuring words to her. After a long while the sobs turned to whimpers. Ryan said very softly right into her ear, "I don't want to cause problems with your boyfriend and your family Jamie. I understand if you need to stop seeing me so much."
Jamie sat bolt upright and got to her knees as she turned to face Ryan with a look of abject panic on her face. "Not you too!" she nearly shouted as she grabbed Ryan roughly by the shoulders. "Don't you understand?" she cried as she gave her a forceful shake.
"Jamie, Jamie, it's okay," Ryan said calmly as she removed Jamie's fingers from their death grip. "I just want you to know that I support you in whatever you choose to do," she said softly. "It would hurt me terribly to stop being your friend, but if you need to see me less I want you to know that I will understand. I'd do anything to make this easier for you Jamie," she said with a tear in her eyes. "Anything!"
"Oh Ryan," she cried as she slumped against her friend's strong chest, sobbing once again, "you scared me," she finally said.
"How did I scare you?" she murmured as she wrapped Jamie in her arms and began to slowly rock her.
"I thought you were treating me like they were. Like I'm too stupid to make up my own mind about what I do and who I see," she said as she continued to cry softly.
"I will never do that to you Jamie," she replied solemnly as she stroked her hair. "Never! I see you as a mature woman who is very competent to make her own life decisions."
"I know one thing for sure, Ryan," she said with determination through her tears. "If Jack Townsend thinks he can control me, he's in for a very nasty surprise."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After Jamie had composed herself Ryan went into the kitchen to make dinner. "We've got turkey and some mashed potatoes left over from yesterday," she called into the living room. "Is that okay?"
"That sounds great," Jamie agreed. She sat on the loveseat with Duffy and when Ryan came back a while later, Duffy immediately jumped off and took his place on the floor.
Ryan ate in her normal hearty manner, but Jamie just picked at her plate. "I know I'm not a great cook, but it's not that bad is it?" she asked as Jamie moved the same piece of turkey around on her plate.
"No, it's delicious, really," Jamie said as she popped the piece in her mouth. "I just get an upset stomach when I'm tense. I'm always afraid I'll throw up so I don't like to eat much."
"You don't feel like you did at the help line do you?" Ryan asked cautiously.
"No, I don't feel faint. I'm just a little nauseous."
"I guarantee that you won't throw up," she said confidently. "Would you humor me and eat just a little? I bet you haven't had much today, have you?"
"No, not really."
"And you didn't eat much yesterday either, did you?" she said knowingly.
"No," she admitted as she looked down at the floor.
"Come on then," Ryan said as she took her fork and loaded it up. "Here comes the airplane into the hangar," she teased as she did a few loop-the-loops with the turkey laden fork.
Jamie gave her a shy grin as she opened up and accepted the turkey. It really did taste a lot better now that Ryan was urging her on. They continued their little game until the plate was clean. "Good girl!" Ryan enthused as she rubbed her head, messing her blonde locks haphazardly. "Now you can have some cake for dessert!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After they had cleaned the kitchen they went down to Ryan's room to study. Ryan sat at her desk and wrestled with some problems that looked so complex that Jamie was unable to tell what subject they covered. She sat on the big bed and read her book until she fell asleep sitting up.
When Ryan noticed that she was sound asleep she walked over to the bed and woke her with a light touch on her cheek. Jamie slowly batted her eyes and Ryan felt a catch in her throat at how terribly beautiful and completely vulnerable she looked. Damn you, Jack, she thought. How can you not realize what you have here? She trusts you but you kick her again and again! Your stupid insecurities are ruining your relationship, you jerk!
"I think you'd be more comfortable in Da's room. Then you'll have your own bath." She stood and pulled Jamie up with her. "I'll go change the sheets and get it ready for you. And you go get ready for bed," she said as she gave her a little push towards the bathroom.
Ryan brought her a new toothbrush and showed her where the towels were. "You like to wear a t-shirt to bed, right?" Jamie nodded her assent as she brushed her teeth. Ryan trotted over with two t-shirts, "You can have long or short sleeved."
"I think I'll take the long," she replied thoughtfully as she removed the garment from Ryan's hand. "Is it okay if I just wear the shirt and the boxers I bought? I don't want to scandalize Conor when he comes home."
"I'm sure Conor will think you're seriously overdressed," she said with a smirk. "But I think it sounds appropriately modest. Do you need anything else?" Ryan inquired.
"No, I'm fine."
Ryan left her to change the sheets and a few minutes later Jamie walked into the room in her sleep clothes. "I'm just gonna hop in bed and try to forget about this whole day."
"I think that is a great idea," Ryan agreed as she pulled the crisp sheet back for her. "I'll be up for a while doing some homework. Just yell downstairs if you think of anything you need." When Jamie was situated Ryan pulled the sheet up and tucked her in. She sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over to plant a kiss on Jamie's cheek. "You sleep tight tonight."
"I'll try," she agreed. "Thanks for being there for me Ryan," she said as she looked up into those deep blue eyes.
"I'm always here for you, Jamie. I'm really glad you called me today," she replied as she ruffled her hair.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Around 10 o'clock Ryan heard Jamie get up. She listened for a minute and decided that she must just be going to the bathroom. After a moment she returned to her chemistry problem. She was sitting at her desk wearing her standard study outfit--her underwear. Her hair was pulled straight back into a tight ponytail with just a wisp or two sneaking out of the band and dangling around her face. Small, round silver wire rimmed glasses wrapped around her ears, giving her a very serious, almost professorial look that even the underwear didn't diminish.
She was slightly startled when she heard Jamie's soft voice right behind her. "Ryan?" she said softly.
"Hi, what's up?" she replied as she turned around in her chair. "Having trouble sleeping?"
"Yeah, I guess I am," she said as she looked down at the floor.
"Tell me what's wrong, Jamie," Ryan said as she stood and faced her friend.
You mean besides the fact that you're in your underwear? "I woke up a while ago, and I can't get back to sleep," she admitted, still looking down at the floor. " I saw your
light on so I came down." The floor was still holding her interest. "But I don't want to disturb you. I mean you're in your ...pajamas and all," she said to the carpet.
"You're not disturbing me, Jamie. I was just studying a little." She lifted Jamie's head up to look her in the eyes, "I'm planning on being up for another couple of hours. Would you like to stay down here with me?"
"I don't want to invade your privacy," she said as she shot an awkward glance at Ryan's outfit.
"Does it bother you that I'm in my underwear?" she finally caught on.
"Um, that's underwear?" she asked sheepishly.
"Yeah," she said a little defensively. "Haven't you ever seen these?" Jamie studied her outfit closely. Ryan was wearing a gray ribbed tank top that fit like second skin. The tank top just covered the waistband of matching cotton knit gray boxers. Boxers?
"These are regulation women's underwear I'll have you know. I don't borrow my brothers' or anything," she teased as she made her way over to her built in dresser. "When I started working out at the gym I began to wear Lycra shorts. I really liked them and got used to not having elastic around my upper legs. I found these Calvin Klein women's boxers a short time later and I never plan on going back. They never ride up and you don't get the dreaded VPL."
"VPL?" Jamie asked.
"Visible panty line, of course. It's the scourge of womankind," she laughed as she pulled a pair of navy blue sweat pants out of a drawer and slipped them on. Next she found the T-shirt she had been wearing earlier and pulled that over her head.
"You don't have to get dressed just because of me," Jamie said weakly.
"It's okay, Jamie. I want you to feel comfortable around me," she said as she gave her a reassuring pat. "Now, what would you like to do? Do you feel like talking, or do you want to lie down while I study?"
"I think I'll just lie down here if you don't mind," she replied as she flopped down on the bed. "I'm really tired, but I just can't relax."
"Why don't you let me help you relax?" Ryan said as she sat down next to her. She opened a bedside drawer and pulled out a bottle of herbal scented massage lotion that she held up invitingly in front of Jamie. "Can I tempt you?"
Jamie flopped over onto her stomach with her arms stretched straight out at her sides. "If you must," she said with mock resignation.
"Do you mind taking this off?" Ryan asked as she tugged on the hem of the oversized T-shirt.
Jamie felt just a touch of embarrassment as she sat up slightly and pulled the shirt over her head. She dropped it right above her head and lay back down immediately.
Ryan swung her legs up on the bed and scooted over until she was right next to Jamie. She swung one knee over and straddled her slim hips. Thank you Jesus, for making her put on sweats.
Ryan poured a generous amount of lotion onto her hands and then rubbed them together briskly to warm it. She placed those strong hands gently on Jamie's shoulders and softly asked, "Ready?"
For anything, Jamie thought dreamily as she struggled to stay lucid. Ryan's hands were works of art as they worked over her tense muscles. There's no way those hands have ever forced a woman to do anything against her will, she decided. Although who would be crazy enough to refuse this touch is beyond me, she thought dreamily. They pushed and pulled and prodded each muscle in turn until Jamie was a quivering mass of relaxed flesh. Jamie could feel Ryan's powerful thighs flex and move against her as her friend leaned over to reach more distant muscles. She could feel the heat radiating from Ryan's body through hers as the massage grew more strenuous.
After a few minutes of very deep muscle work Jamie felt the intensity begin to wane. She felt her body grow heavy and sluggish and as Ryan continued to work she felt herself struggle to remain awake. Ryan obviously felt this too, as she continued to stroke her lightly, finally ending with a feather light touch all over her neck, shoulders and back.
Jamie was vaguely aware of Ryan's efforts to place her t-shirt over her head again and pull her arms through the long sleeves. She felt a soft blanket settle over her and then a tender kiss on her cheek. She allowed herself to take in the peaceful feeling and she quickly drifted off to sleep.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
When Ryan was certain that Jamie was asleep she got up from the bed gingerly and returned to her desk. I cannot study with clothes on, she decided as she shucked her pants and T-shirt and settled down with her chemistry problems.
After another 2 hours of struggling with her studies Ryan heard Conor come home. She checked on Jamie to be sure she was warm, turned off her computer and put her pants back on. She climbed the stairs and greeted Conor just as he was about to go up to his room.
"Hey," he said when he spied her emerge from the staircase. "What are you still doing up?"
"I've been studying," she said through a yawn. "Oh, Jamie's downstairs. She had some boyfriend trouble. She's going to sleep in my room. I'll take Da's," she said as she fought another yawn.
"Is she okay?" he asked with true concern.
"I think she'll be fine. She just had a really tough day."
"What do you think of this boyfriend, anyway?" Conor asked, a bit too casually.
"I don't know him very well," she replied. "He doesn't care for me much. That's part of the problem," she said simply.
"Why wouldn't he like you?" Conor asked with a sharp tone.
"He doesn't think Jamie should spend so much of her time with a lesbian," she replied, just a bit embarrassed.
"Oh please!" Conor said, truly agitated. "What does he think you'll do to her? I'd like to give that jerk a piece of my mind, " he added as an afterthought.
"All I can guess is that he thinks I'll seduce her," she replied.
"Riiight" he said knowingly. "What Mr. Preppy doesn't get is that if you wanted to seduce her she would already be seduced," he said as he wrapped his elbow around her neck and gave her a gentle tap on the chin with his fist. "No woman is safe when my baby sister sets her trap," he teased.
"That's the stupid thing, Conor. I don't feel that way about Jamie. She's my friend and it infuriates me that he can't recognize that. Plus it's a terrible insult to her. She's totally faithful to him and to assume she would have sex with me is just rude."
"You really don't have any romantic feelings about her?" Conor asked. "You could do a lot worse you know," he said a little defensively.
"No, I don't have those kind of thoughts about her. I feel very close to her, and kind of protective, but not romantic," she shrugged a bit. "If she was single and interested I'm sure that would change, though," she added with a little leer. "She is quite a catch."
"We are in complete agreement, little sister," he said as he placed an arm around her shoulders and escorted her to their father's room.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie woke with a start as she felt a wet nose and a warm tongue nuzzle her face. She blinked her eyes open and saw a smiling Ryan and a panting Duffy watching her. Ryan was obviously just back from a morning workout. She wore a gold turtleneck covered by a navy blue short sleeved t-shirt. Her legs were covered by black Lycra pants. Black and electric blue roller blades covered her feet. Her hair was styled in a loose braid and the few wispy bangs she normally wore were covered in perspiration. Her cheeks were very pink and her blue eyes were bright and mischievous.
"Duffy insisted on seeing you this morning, and I just could not refuse," she said as she shrugged her shoulders helplessly.
"Can he get on the bed?" she asked.
"If you don't mind, I don't mind," was the reply.
"C'mon Duffy, boy," Jamie said as she patted the mattress. Duffy did not need to be asked twice. He jumped up and began to lick every exposed inch of skin that was available to his bubblegum pink tongue. Jamie giggled helplessly as she tried to protect her mouth and eyes from the assault.
"I'm going to jump in the shower while you two cuddle," Ryan said as she stripped off her skates. She stopped at the dresser and chose clean underwear, a T-shirt and a pair of jeans which she took into the bathroom with her.
Jamie heard the shower start up and after a minute Duffy calmed down and nestled up alongside her. After a few moments spent idly rubbing his head she heard a light knock on the door. "Come in," she called out.
Conor's dark head poked in the door. "Are you ladies decent?" he asked.
"Ryan's in the shower, but I'm pretty decent," she answered with a grin.
He entered the room and shook his finger at Duffy. "Why do you always get to sleep with the pretty girls?" he said as he sat on the edge of the bed and ruffled his coat.
Jamie looked Conor over as he played with the dog. He was dressed in a bright white T-shirt covered by a deep red and black flannel shirt. The sleeves were rolled up to expose his very muscular forearms that were surprisingly covered with very light blonde down. Faded jeans and heavy work boots completed his outfit. His hair was still damp from the shower and he smelled great. He smells just the way I like a man to smell, she thought as she sniffed reflectively, nothing but soap.
"Ryan says you had a tough day yesterday" he said after a bit. "Are you feeling better?"
"Yeah, I am. Thanks for caring about me, Conor," she said shyly.
"You've been adopted by the whole clan, Jamie. We all care about you," he said as he stood to go. "If that ex-con gives you any more trouble, he's gonna have to answer to me," he said with a mock glower.
"I'll keep that in mind," she said with a grin. "Boy, would that ever be an unfair fight. I wasn't sure he could beat up Ryan," she admitted. "He wouldn't last a second with you."
"That's where you're wrong, Jamie. Ryan's the one you need to be careful of in this family." Jamie was just about to ask what he meant by that when the door to the bathroom opened and Ryan called out, "Quit harassing the half naked women, Conor."
"Now you tell me she's half naked," he whined. "I never have any luck," he said as he gave Jamie a little wave and left the room.
"He's the sweetest man," Jamie said in wonder as she walked over to the bathroom.
"No, Brendan is the sweetest man. Conor is the most charming man," she said with a knowing smile.
"Well, I think he's sweet and charming," she said as she folded her arms in a defiant stance.
"No, that's me," Ryan said with a twinkle as she stepped out of the steamy room. Her hair was very damp and combed straight back off her face. Every strong plane of that face was emphasized by the style and Jamie realized again how incredibly beautiful her friend was.
"I can't argue with that," she said fondly as she surprised Ryan with a very fierce hug. "I'm feeling a lot better today," she supplied. "I think a marvelous massage had a lot to do with it though."
"I'm only too happy to oblige. I don't give a lot of massages anymore, and I kind of miss it," she admitted.
"I will gratefully accept any time you feel the need. Remember, I am a certified pleasure hound," she grinned as she stepped into the warm room.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The trip to Berkeley was quick even in the heavy traffic. Jamie loved the freedom of being able to sail along between the slow moving lanes on the big bike. They were even allowed to use the express lane on the bridge which saved 15 minutes. As they approached Jamie's house Ryan slowed down and pulled to the curb. "Do you want me to let you off here in case your roommates are home?"
Jamie thought for a minute and finally nodded her head. "No sense in making matters worse than they already are," she said sadly. She hopped off and handed Ryan the helmet. Then she leaned over and gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. "This meant an awful lot to me Ryan. I just want you to know how thankful I am that you're my friend."
Ryan blushed just a little and returned the hug. "It's my pleasure," she said sincerely.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
There were 10 messages from Jack, 2 from her father and 1 from Mia when she checked the answering machine in the empty house. She had turned off her cell phone the day before to avoid being harassed, and this was the obvious result. She dialed her father's office and left a message on his private line. "Hi, Daddy. Don't worry about me. I'm sure this will all blow over. Sorry about yesterday. I'll call later."
Next came the harder call to make. She dialed the number and closed her eyes, wishing that he wasn't home. No such luck. He answered on the first ring, clearly agitated. "Jamie! Where have you been!" he shouted. "I've looked for you all night!" Jamie was shocked. He really sounded like he was going to cry.
"I told you I wanted to be alone, Jack. I'm sorry you were worried about me, but I really did not think it was a good idea to speak with you given how I was feeling."
"Jamie, I feel like you're slipping away from me. I don't know how to hold on to you!" he really was crying now, she thought with alarm.
"Jack, the only way to hold on to me is to let me live my life," she said gently. "I can't stand to have you or anyone else try to control me."
"Are you still in love with me, Jamie? Do you still want to marry me?" he pleaded.
"I still love you Jack. But I don't like you when you treat me like your property. We've got a lot to talk about, but I've got to get to class. When will you be home tonight?"
"About 8 p.m. I've got a meeting for law review at 5, but I'll make sure I'm home by 8 if you'll come down."
"I'll be there. Now don't worry, honey. We can work this out, but it's going to take some effort," she reassured him.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan agreed to drive her down to Palo Alto after rush hour. Jamie got through her day in a bit of a contemplative fog and was sitting in her living room when Ryan and Mia came in just after 4 p.m.
"Hi, guys," she said as she looked up from her book. "I forgot you were going to start working together today," she said as her memory clicked in. "How did it go?"
"She killed me!" Mia moaned. "I thought I was in pretty good shape from going to my gym, but I've obviously been wasting my time."
"You're the one who kept saying, 'More weight!' " Ryan laughed.
"Let Ryan massage your legs if they're sore, she has great hands," she said as she blushed a little when she heard the words come out.
"Either massage them or cut them off!" Mia moaned as she dropped to the floor and offered her legs to Ryan.
With a smirk, Ryan gamely worked on the stressed appendages while Jamie continued to read. The front door opened just as Ryan was finishing up the right leg. Cassie strode into the room and observed, "Am I the only one in this house that hasn't fallen prey to your charms, Ryan?"
Jamie heard the muttered, "You're the only one they haven't been offered to," but she was fairly sure that Cassie did not hear the reply. "Does anyone want a cold drink?" Jamie asked as she rose to go to the kitchen. Both Ryan and Mia answered in the affirmative.
Cassie entered the kitchen right behind Jamie who did her best to ignore her former friend. She grabbed 3 bottles of water and brushed past her on the way out. As she handed the bottles to Mia and Ryan she said, "Come on up to my room when you're done." Cassie exited the kitchen and stared at Jamie's retreating form, finally placing her hands on her hips and asking no one in particular, "What in the hell has gotten into her?"
Neither Mia nor Ryan responded to this rhetorical question. Ryan had loosened up Mia's legs and she instructed her to take a long hot shower to keep them flexible. "I'll see you on Wednesday," Ryan grinned as she began to climb the stairs.
Mia turned to a still fuming Cassie and shrugged her shoulders, "What can I say, she's got great hands?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie was lying on her bed with her hands knit behind her head when Ryan knocked lightly on the door prior to entering. "I'm glad you're here," she said as she looked at her strong friend. "You're the only person who might be able to pull me off her if I try to strangle her."
"I feel a little out of the loop," Ryan admitted. "I don't know how Cassie's involved in all of this."
"I found out yesterday that she has been fanning the flames with Jack again. He basically said that she had told him that I spent every free minute of my time with you."
"I should be so lucky," Ryan grinned a quirky smile. She had curled up on the loveseat under the window, looking very relaxed.
"You sure do know how to make a girl feel good," Jamie replied.
"That comes in handy in my line of work," Ryan waggled an eyebrow, just as she ducked a forcefully thrown pillow.
After a few minutes spent chatting about their respective days, Jamie grew pensive. "Would you mind if I wanted to talk about Jack for a bit?"
"Not at all, Jamie. I'd be happy to listen to anything you have to say."
"Do you think I'm crazy to be getting married so soon?" Jamie surprised herself with this question. Where did that come from?
"Thanks for starting with the simple question first," Ryan smiled sardonically. After a moment she answered, "I wasn't ready to make that kind of commitment when I was your age. But you are a lot more mature than I was then. Actually, you're more mature than I am now," she grinned.
"But you know me, Ryan. Do you think I'm ready to be married?"
"Before I can render my expert opinion," here she grinned fully, "I have to ask you some questions."
"Ask away," Jamie replied.
"What does marriage mean to you?" she inquired seriously.
She considered this for a long time. "I think of it as a lifetime commitment to share all of the joys and sorrows of life with one special person. I pledge to share my deepest thoughts and feelings with him. I promise to share my body with him alone. And I promise to do everything I can to make his life more complete."
"I would say that is the best description of marriage that I have ever heard," Ryan finally responded. "Do you feel able to honor all of those pledges to him?"
"I do," Jamie started to reply, but she caught herself. "I did," she corrected. "But now I'm less sure. It obviously isn't a marriage if he doesn't feel the same way about me. And I'm no longer sure that he wants me to be myself." Jamie got up from the bed and came over to sit next to Ryan. "I used to be quite sure that he felt the same way. But this whole argument about you has caused me to question a lot of things I once believed."
"How so?" Ryan inquired.
"He seems to feel entitled to tell me how to spend my time. I could see his point if it interfered with our time together, but it doesn't." Ryan nodded her understanding. "I'm really into the AIDS ride. And it disappoints me that he doesn't seem to support me at all. He doesn't ask about my training or anything." After a moment she added, "Although he has been complimenting me on my body," she said with a blush.
"Well at least he's not blind," Ryan teased as she felt an involuntary flush creep up her face. Getting back to the topic she asked, "Did he used to be interested in your life?"
"I think so, but I'm not really sure. I mean; I have changed since I've known you Ryan. I do want more from him than I used to want."
"Why is that, Jamie? What have I done?" she asked, a bit confused.
"You are interested in me. You make me feel like I'm important. You ask me about what I do and what I like. It's made me wish for that from him. I shouldn't have to get that from my girlfriends. My lover should care more about me than my friends," she explained logically.
"You might be right, Jamie, but I'm not sure. It's a rare man that can make you feel connected like a woman can. And believe me, I'm not knocking men. I just think there are things you can get from women that are hard for men to give."
"I suppose you are right. Like when we fight he doesn't want to talk about it or work it out. He just wants to um...be intimate. But that doesn't settle things for me. I don't get over my emotional pains through sex," she said pensively.
"I know that a lot of men express their feelings through sex. Maybe you just need to spend more time explaining what your needs are. There is a good chance he'll try to meet your needs once he know what they are."
"I suppose that's true. I haven't been very forceful in making him realize what my needs are. I've just been hoping that he would know what they are and try to meet them."
"That doesn't seem fair to him," Ryan agreed. "I know from dealing with my brothers that they are often clueless about emotional issues. They really need to be guided."
"You seem to know a lot about men. I guess being raised with all those brothers really gave you an advantage," Jamie said.
"All I know is that it's really different being in a relationship with a man versus a woman. With a woman I feel like I can use shorthand and she'll be able to understand. You need to be much clearer with men. "
"It sounds like it's so much easier being with a woman," Jamie lamented.
Ryan looked at her thoughtfully for a long time. "In a way it is, but there is a tendency for women to identify with each other too much and become too interdependent. In an opposite sex couple there is a push-pull, yin-yang kind of thing that creates a lot of tension. And tension can make for really hot sex," she said with a smile.
"Oh great!" she moaned. "I get all the tension and none of the hot sex!"
"Um...you don't want to talk about that too do you?" Ryan asked warily.
"No, I'll spare you those gruesome details," Jamie replied.
"Whew," was all that Ryan could utter.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Ryan dropped Jamie off in front of Jack's apartment just before 8 p.m. As Jamie got off the bike she leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek. "You're the best," she said with a smile as she made her way up to the staircase.
Jack was sitting on the couch waiting for her. He got up when she entered but he didn't make a move to come to her. She felt very awkward around him and she knew that her body language betrayed this.
"Do you mind if I kiss you hello?" he asked shyly.
"Of course not, Jack," she replied easily as she opened her arms to him. He was upon her in less than a second. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and nuzzled his head into her neck.
"I'm sorry, Jamie. I'm so sorry," he mumbled, over and over.
Jamie really felt empathy for him at that moment. She forgot about the fight and just gave herself over to his embrace. But as soon as he felt her begin to relax he leaned his head down and began to kiss her, slowly and tentatively at first, but then increasing in intensity and confidence. She felt him begin to get aroused and she pushed him away gently. "We need to talk, Jack," she said as she locked onto his passion filled eyes.
He gave her a hurt look as he moved back, but he respected her wishes and went back to sit down on the couch. He looked up at her and tentatively patted the couch cushion next to him. She smiled and sat down next to him, allowing him to wrap his arm around her.
"I know I was wrong, Jamie, but I am so jealous of that woman I can't see straight," he finally revealed.
"Jack, what on earth do you have to be jealous about?" she asked, completely astounded by his admission.
"Jamie, how would you feel if my law review partner was a gorgeous woman with a reputation for seducing every guy she could get her hands on?" he cut her off with a raised hand when she tried to interrupt. "And what if I spent a lot of my free time with her, not doing school work, just hanging out?" He cocked his head at her, "Wouldn't that bother you?"
"That's not a good analogy, Jack," she explained patiently. "A better one would be if your partner was a very good looking gay guy who had a reputation for dating lots of other gay men." He began to scowl at this analogy. "It would not bother me one bit if you became friends with a gay man," she added.
"That's not the same thing," he replied confidently, concurrently trying to figure out why it wasn't.
"Tell me why it isn't?" she said sweetly, knowing he could not.
"I don't know but it's not," he said firmly.
"Okay, let's start over. Tell me why you are jealous of her."
"I'm afraid she is just being friends with you to seduce you," he admitted with an embarrassed look.
"Well, I'm not sure who that insults more, but go on," she encouraged.
"I don't see how hanging out with her is any different than hanging out with a guy who is after you," he finished.
"Well, it's simple, really. One-she is not after me. Two-she is not a guy: she is a woman. Three-I'm committed to be married to you. I would not cheat on you with a man or a woman," she replied.
"How do you know she isn't after you?" he said.
"Because I asked her," she said simply.
"You what?!" he shouted.
"I had heard the rumors about her and I had seen her flirting with the other women in class so I asked her if she was interested in me," she stated patiently. "I had no interest in developing a friendship with her if she was going to be flirting with me the whole time."
"What did she say?" he asked, perplexed by this development.
"She said she knew I was straight and that she didn't like to date straight women. She also said that she thought I was cute and that she had been interested, but that she didn't like to date her friends."
"And you believed her?" he asked as though Jamie was slightly slow.
"Yes, I did and I still do. We spend a lot of time together Jack. She tells me all about her life and the women she sees. I know her family. I know what kind of person she is. She is loyal and honest and very forthright. She is very funny and bright and interesting. And I trust her completely, Jack." Just to tweak him a bit she added, "She's got 3 older brothers and about a dozen cousins who are just as good looking. And the best looking one of the bunch is always flirting with me. That's who you should be jealous of," she said with a smirk.
"Oh, now I feel better," he grumbled. "Look Jamie, I know you don't have a lot of experience with guys but we tell girls anything to get them into bed. A guy will spend years being your friend just in the hopes of one day sleeping with you."
"I may not have slept with other men, Jack, but I do have some experience," she replied. "I know many guys are like that. But in my limited experience lesbians are not. You seem to think she's a man without a penis. But she's a woman, Jack." She fished around in her head for an example. "How many women do you know who work really hard to get a guy to sleep with them?"
"If they're good looking, they don't have to," he said, slightly perplexed.
"Exactly. Women generally don't go to great lengths to hit on guys. The lesbians I know are more like that than they are like guys." He looked suspicious. "Oh they flirt with each other but they don't come on like guys do. It's much more subtle."
"That favors my point!" he said. "It's harder to tell when she's coming on to you. It's more invasive than aggressive."
"Surely you agree that Ryan is great looking." He gave a slight nod. "She can have her pick of women at school. And believe me, they practically throw themselves at her. She certainly would not be wasting her time trying to turn me into a lesbian when she has so many to choose from. That just doesn't make sense."
"So you are saying that she treats you just the same as any of your other friends, right?" he finally asked in challenge.
She thought about this for a long while. She did not want to prolong this, but she wasn't going to lie. "No, that's not true," she admitted. "The dynamic is different with her. She's very comfortable touching other women and that makes her a bit more physically close than my other friends." She gathered her courage, "And she's very comfortable in her own body. She's a massage therapist as well as a trainer and she's very comfortable with physical affection."
"Like what?" he inquired suspiciously.
"Like rubbing my legs after a workout, or giving me a hug when I've had a bad day," she replied.
"And you truly don't think that she gets aroused when she touches you?" he asked warily.
"I'm certain that she does not," she replied firmly. Thank you; thank you for not asking the inverse question
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After another hour or so of discussion Jack agreed that he would try harder to accept Ryan as a part of Jamie's life. He also agreed that he would do his best to not interfere in her choice of friends or activities. By now it was nearly 10 o'clock and Jamie had an early class.
"Can you stay over tonight?" he asked as he began to nuzzle her ear and neck.
"I've got an 8 o'clock class honey. I'd have to get up before 6 to make it," she replied as she kissed his cheek. He was not to be dissuaded however, and within minutes she found herself half naked on the couch. She decided that this intimacy was something that he really needed so she let him continue his quest. She felt gentle and loving towards him as he touched her body reverently. He pushed a bit faster than she would have liked, but all in all it was a pleasant experience.
His head rested on her breast as she rubbed his back and rocked him slightly. "I love you, Jack," she murmured into his ear. "I love you."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
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