Disclaimers in Part 1

Chapter Twelve

Since Ryan had to work from two until five, Jamie decided to go home and pack up her things for the next four weeks. Even though they both knew the situation was less than optimal, they had decided to stay at Ryan's until the ride. Ryan wouldn't stand for Jamie paying for another night in a hotel, and Jamie couldn't stand the thought of being with Cassie for another moment, so it was the best option.

Upon arriving at her home, Jamie jogged up to the second floor and poked her head into Mia's room to see if she was there. Her friend was sitting in the middle of a chaotic jumble of clothes, shoes and suitcases. Her father had used some of his contacts to get her a summer job reading scripts for a small film company. Since her boyfriend was in L.A., she had been very excited about the job when she landed it; now that things had cooled between them she was a little ambivalent about the trip. The office was in Santa Monica, and she'd found a nice apartment to sublet for the summer on her last trip to L.A., but her sadness at leaving the Bay Area--and all of her friends--was affecting her mood.

When Jamie came in, Mia looked up in dismay, "How can I possibly take all of this stuff with me?"

"Um...you can't?" Jamie replied helpfully.

"I just don't know what I'm going to need. I'm not sure how casually people dress at this place, and I don't want to look like a geek." As she gazed around the room she added with a smirk, "I guess I could buy all new clothes after I figure out the dress code."

"That would go over big with your father," Jamie reminded her.

"Do you think you'll have a few minutes to see me when you're in L.A.?"

"Yeah, actually I was going to invite you to the closing ceremonies. They're on the 13th in Century City, and I think you'd enjoy it."

"Are you coming back that same day?" Mia inquired.

"We're not sure. One option is to take our bikes apart and fly back that night. But I think we'd enjoy it more if we could stay over one night just to relax."

"Why don't you stay with me? My sublet is two bedrooms, and I'd love to have you. You won't by any chance have Conor with you, will you?" Mia asked coyly as she batted her eyes.

"No. Just Ryan. You haven't spoken of Conor much. What do you think of him, Mia?"

"Because of school and everything we've only gone out once. We've talked on the phone a couple of times, but it's clearly not a big deal between us. I like him a lot though," she said thoughtfully. "If I was going to be here this summer, I think I'd really concentrate on getting to know him better."

"Would I be prying if I asked if you have..."

"Yes, you would be prying," she teased. "But I have no secrets from you, James," she replied. "No, we haven't. But, if he's still available in the fall, I'd like to give it a try. I'm guessing I'll officially be single by the time I get back"

"Not much hope with Jason, huh?"

"I'd say our relationship is on "life-support,"" she muttered. "It's gonna take some extraordinary measures to save it."

"Well, I'm sorry to hear that," Jamie said. "But you seem to have pulled back an awful lot anyway."

"Yeah, you're right. Jason's not right for me long term. Conor, on the other hand…"

"He's really a nice guy, Mia. He's a little sold on himself, but underneath that he's very sweet."

"It's not his sweetness that I'm attracted to," Mia said with a grin. "But I guess that's a nice side benefit," she said as Jamie rolled her eyes.

"When do you leave for L.A.?"

"Monday afternoon," she said with a sigh. "I wish I was more excited about it, though. I am just not in the mood to have to make all new friends for the summer. And part of me wishes I could spend a little time finding out if there's any chemistry between me and Mr. Muscle."

"Hmm, I can't help on the first part, but maybe we could arrange for something for the weekend. If he's available would you like to do something with us?"

"Like a double date?"

"Yeah," Jamie said with a smile. "A date, huh? I've never been on a date with a girl." She had a cute little grin on her face as she considered the prospect. "We haven't had time to actually go out since we've been together."

"Well I've never been on a double date with two girls," Mia laughed. "I think it would be fun. See what you can come up with."

"Will do. I've got to get packed too. I've decided to stay with Ryan until the ride. Then we have our little vacation, so I've got to pack almost as much as you do!"

"Yeah, but for one of those weeks you probably won't be wearing clothes," Mia predicted with a wiggle of her brow.

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

The foursome decided to borrow Jamie's father's boat and go for a sail around the Bay on Sunday. Just to make sure, she called her father in Italy and got his enthusiastic permission to go and enjoy.

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

Ryan and Jamie both had a tough time with the prospect of sleeping apart on Friday. They had become so dependent on feeling each other's warm bodies during the night that they knew it would be another big adjustment to forego that connection. Summoning their collective willpower, they managed to pry themselves apart after only a few minutes of passionate smooching. Once Jamie was ensconced in Rory's room, Ryan trotted back downstairs, running into her father. "This is hard for you, isn't it, Darlin'?" he asked when he saw her flushed face.

"Yeah, it is," she admitted somewhat shyly. "But I'll get through it, Da. She's well worth the wait."

"She's a lovely girl, Siobhán," he heartily agreed. "And I'm very pleased that she's kept her word about sending you home rested and well fed. You actually look like you've put on a few pounds."

"Yeah, I think I have," she agreed. "I really like to add a few before the ride, but finals usually stress me out too much to eat right. Jamie really took care of me, though. She fed me, made me stretch every hour, and made sure I was in bed early every night."

"That's a good sight more than I was ever able to do," he said in amazement.

"You never batted your big green eyes at me like she does," Ryan teased. "That's obviously the key!"

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

On Saturday morning, they got up early and went for a very long, very strenuous ride. They had decided that they would do a big blowout that day, then cut way back for the next two weeks. This would allow them to work on their cardiovascular fitness and keep their legs strong, while giving their butts a thorough rest before the ride. On this cool late spring day, they rode all the way to Half Moon Bay, following the route that the actual ride would take, so that they would feel less nervous.

They slowly pedaled back up the hills of the Noe Valley at around four o'clock. They once again blew through all the hot water as they tried to relieve some of the soreness from their muscles. After a couple of gentle massages, they were sound asleep in their respective beds.

Around six, Jamie tiptoed into Ryan's room and sat down on her desk chair to just watch her lover sleep. She was unable to resist the siren call of her steady breathing and sweet, open expression, so she climbed into bed behind her, gently wrapping her in her arms. Ryan woke slowly, nestling back into her partner, trying to increase the contact of the embrace. "Dinner's going to be ready soon," Jamie whispered.

"Mmmm, I'm starving," she replied as she began her normal series of stretches. After a minute of slow, feline moves, she lay on her back and slipped her arm around Jamie. They lay together, enjoying the contact until they heard Martin call them to dinner.

After dinner and the ensuing cleanup operation they decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood, even though Jamie's legs were pretty darned tired. She tried to hold firm when Ryan wanted to go to the Castro for ice cream but, since she could never resist those baby blues, a few minutes later they were climbing the hills towards their destination.

"Okay, Thunder Thighs," Jamie joked when they started off. "You promised a massage as payment for me trudging up these hills. How long will it last?"

"As long as you request, my queen," Ryan replied while performing a deep bow.

"No falling asleep?"

"Scout's honor," she replied seriously.

As they walked along, hand in hand, Jamie said, "I have such fond memories of the first time we took this walk."

"I had a great time that night too," Ryan said. "You were so helpful to me when I was trying to sort out my feelings for Tracy."

"Ohhh, don't remind me!" she moaned dramatically. "I wanted so much to tell you to drop her, but I knew I had to be neutral. It would have been unfair to you to try to influence you, but God, I wanted to."

Ryan stopped and stared at her for a long minute. "I guess I didn't put this time line together in my mind until now. I can't believe I was asking you for relationship advice when you had decided that you were in love with me." She grasped both of Jamie's hands in hers, "I can't imagine how hard that must have been for you. I'm so sorry that I didn't know."

Jamie smiled up at her, "I'm not sorry at all, Ryan. Hearing you talk about what was important to you was very helpful for me. It actually made me even surer that I loved you. It was just so gratifying that the exact same things were as important to you as they were to me." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed her softly. "I'm just so happy that it all worked out."

They continued to walk up the tall hill, pausing every few minutes for a kiss. As they reached the crest, Jamie said, "You told me that night that one of the things you were concerned about with Tracy was that she wasn't close to her family." Ryan nodded as she turned to look at her. "How do you feel about my relationship with my family?" she asked tentatively.

Ryan thought about the question for a few minutes; her eyebrows knit together as she stared straight ahead at the sidewalk. "I would prefer that you were close to your family," she admitted. "But I wish that for you rather than for me. It hurts me to know that you've never known the unconditional love that I have. I truly wish that I could go back in time and make them see how precious a gift you are." She faced Jamie and wrapped her arms around her. "You are so very precious," she whispered fervently.

After soaking up the warmth for a few minutes, Jamie pulled back to wipe the tears from her face, laughing as Ryan tried to help with the hem of her t-shirt. "It doesn't concern you that I haven't known that deep love? I mean, are you worried that I won't be able to love you completely?"

"No, Jamie. I have no worries in that area. You've shown me such love in the months we've known each other, it's clear that you know how to love. I'm absolutely confident that you love me totally. And I'm absolutely confident that you'll be a great parent, too." She wrapped an arm around her partner's shoulders as she continued, "Do you think Da is a good parent?"

"He's the best I've ever seen," she replied without hesitation.

"His family situation was pretty bleak. His mother was ill during much of his life, and she died when he was only 13. They hadn't gotten much mothering when she was alive because of her illnesses, and my grandfather was largely absent. My Uncle Francis and Da raised the two younger boys, basically without any guidance. My grandfather's drinking became worse and worse after my grandmother died. Da couldn't tolerate the way he treated my Uncles Pat and Malachy, so he and Francis worked their tails off to be able to afford airfare for all of them. They all came over in 1965, just as soon as Malachy graduated from secondary school. Just three years later, my grandfather died of alcoholism, " she said sadly. "My point is that Da is a marvelous father, and I'm certain that he was a wonderful husband. I don't know where he learned to be that loving, but I couldn't ask for anything more from him. You don't have to come from a lot of love to know how to love, Jamie."

"Well, I'm surrounded by love now, and it's the nicest feeling I've ever experienced. I'm eternally grateful for this gift, Ryan."

Ryan gazed at her fondly as she held her hands, "Even though I've always been surrounded by love, there is a euphoria to being in love with you that I had never imagined. The love I feel from my family is a nice, warm, safe feeling. With you it's ...it's...joyous," she said with a satisfied smile.

"Just for that, Ms. O'Flaherty, you get extra hot fudge," Jamie said as she enveloped her in a hug.

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

Ryan was very playful and lighthearted that evening, and it was obvious that she needed to release some energy. It was unlike her to remain indoors as much as she had the last two weeks, and she continually ran ahead of Jamie and sprinted back just to burn up some power.

About halfway to the ice cream shop, she started to muse about their upcoming trip to Pebble Beach, and by the time they got there they both needed a little cooling off. They hadn't been very intimate for the last two weeks, and Jamie knew she was ready for some action. They sat in the small shop and stared at each other with desire-suffused faces. Jamie resigned herself to another night of self-pleasuring, but Ryan got a fiendish look on her face and asked, "Can I borrow your phone?"

After she dialed an obviously familiar number, she paused for a second and said, "Weight room, please." She looked up and made a cute little face while she waited to be connected. "Hi, is Ally working tonight?" Her face lit up as she paused again and winked at Jamie. "Hey, it's Ryan," she said with a big smile on her face. "No, no, I'm keeping the faith, how about you?" Another pause while her friend spoke. "Excellent! I'm glad it's going well. I'm actually calling for a tremendous favor. Could I possibly use your apartment for a hour or so?" She blushed a little and said, "I know an hour isn't very long, but it's more than enough for what I have in mind." She nodded happily and said, "I'm just down the street. Can you leave the keys at the front desk?" She stood up and motioned Jamie to join her as she said, "Thanks a million, Ally. You're a pal."

Jamie grasped her hand as Ryan practically pulled her down the street. After the quick stop at Castro Fitness, they climbed back up the hill to Ally's neat little apartment. As soon as the door was closed Ryan was on her like a tiger, locking their mouths together with a passionate fury as she pushed her against the nearest wall. "Hey, hey, slow down a little," Jamie soothed as she pushed Ryan away and tried to catch her breath.

Ryan looked a little chagrined as she blushed and said, "I'm sorry, I'll try to control myself."

"It's okay," she assured her as she absently patted her shoulder and looked around warily. "I just have to get my bearings a bit. It feels odd to be in someone else's apartment. Especially somewhere that you've obviously been a lot," she added, getting to the real issue.

"Is this okay with you?" Ryan asked gently. "I guess I didn't consider that this might be uncomfortable for you."

"No, I'll be okay," she said as she looked around. She immediately noticed that the room was obsessively neat, but also that there were no books or any personal items to identify the owner. "This place is kind of cold," she said.

Ryan looked around and had to agree with her lover, "I guess I never noticed," she said.

"Have you been here often?" Jamie asked, trying to fish for information without being too obvious.

"I've told you about Ally," she patiently reminded her.

"You've told me some things, but not a lot," she protested. "How often would you say you were together?"

"Um…define together," Ryan hedged, not really in the mood to have this particular discussion.

"What is this, 20 questions?"

"No, but I've told you how it was with us. We saw each other for sex. So are you really asking how many times we had sex, or do you want to know something else?"

Jamie pursed her lips as she flopped down on the sofa. "I want to know what she meant to you," she asked softly as she met Ryan's gaze.

Ryan joined her on the sofa and tried to banish thoughts of how well used that piece of furniture had been in their sex play. "She meant a lot to me," she replied slowly. "I met her not long after the Sara debacle, and she really helped me a lot. If she had been willing, I could have loved her, but she wasn't interested."

"Why not?" Jamie asked indignantly.

Ryan laughed at her defensive reaction. "Not everyone thinks I'm all that hot, Jamie."

"Oh don't be ridiculous, Ryan. If she wasn't attracted to you, why would she have had sex with you so often?"

"Okay, I admit that she liked me, she probably even cared for me, but she absolutely did not want to have a relationship with me. I'm not sure why, to tell you the truth," Ryan said, even though she thought that Ally's molestation had a lot to do with it. "When we got too close or too intimate, she would pull away and refuse to see me for a couple of months."


"Yeah. It was hard at first. I really felt kinda used. Over time I came to accept that all she could give me was as much sex as I could handle, as long as it wasn't too emotionally charged. So I accepted her terms, and we had a nice sexual partnership for over five years."

"Five years!"

"Yeah, I said it was right after Sara. It was the end of the summer after my senior year. A month or two before my 19th birthday."

"And you've seen her consistently ever since then?"

"Yeah. I last slept with her the day I broke up with Tracy."

"Did you love her, Ryan?" she asked softly.

Giving the matter the serious consideration that it was due, Ryan sat quietly for several minutes. "I don't think so," she said reflectively. "I was infatuated with her, and I loved having sex with her. She had my number like no one else I had ever been with. I didn't really know her well enough to love her, Jamie. We probably had five meals together outside of her house. We never even went to a movie together!"

"It just amazes me that you could have sex with her dozens of times and not form a deeper attachment."

"I took what she was able to offer, Jamie. You don't always get to choose what someone can give you," she said seriously. "If I wanted her in my life, I had to take her on her terms. And I'm glad that she was in my life. She was a good friend when I really needed one, and she really helped set me straight on safer sex. If not for her I'd probably have contracted a couple of dozen venereal diseases, if not worse," she added ominously.

"Is it painful to think of the time when you wanted more but couldn't get it?"

"Not really. Over time she helped me realize that sexual chemistry wasn't enough. I don't think we could have been a successful couple, and if we had tried, we probably would have lost what we did have. So I think it worked out well in the end. She still means a lot to me, Jamie, and I plan on keeping her as a friend."

"I'd like to meet her," she replied with a small smile. "I should spend a few days with her and pick her brain," she added wryly. "I'd like to have your number too, you know."

"Oh, you've got my number. Believe me, you've got it," she promised as she placed a scorcher on Jamie's lips and unsteadily got to her feet.

"What are you doing?" Jamie asked in surprise.

"This wasn't a good idea," Ryan declared as she extended her hand. "I want the places we caress each other to be as special as the experience." Looking around with a smirk firmly attached to her face she added, "This place has far too many miles on it!"

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

On the way back home Ryan broke the silence, "I have good news," she said, rather solemnly.

"Really, what is it?" Jamie inquired.

"I'm HIV negative, and I don't have any sexually transmitted diseases."

"That's really nice, Ryan," she said tentatively. "Are there any other diseases that you don't have?"

"Lots of them I hope," she laughed. "I had to go to the doctor to get my medical release for the ride, and as long as I was there I had him do an AIDS test and check me for STD's."

"Were you concerned?" Jamie asked.

"No. Not really. I've been pretty careful with safer sex practices, thanks to Ally, but I absolutely refuse to take any chances with you, my little gem," she said as she pinched her cheek.

"That is so thoughtful of you, Ryan. Would you like me to do the same?"

"Well, you only have to worry about Jack, so it depends on how confident you are about his status," she said logically.

"I'm quite confident. I made him have a test before I would sleep with him, and then I made him have another six months later. He wasn't very happy about it, but he did it."

"Did he also get checked for STD's?"

"Yep. All clear," she said happily.

Ryan cleared her throat nervously as she brought up a sore subject. "What about when you…um…started to see him in April?"

"No problem," she said confidently. "No bodily fluids were exchanged." Oops, I guess I should clarify that he got my bodily fluids that one day but I never got his. Mmm, that's not something she needs to know, she thought judiciously.

"Then I guess all systems are go," Ryan said with a leer.

"Pebble Beach can't come fast enough for me," Jamie agreed.

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

On Sunday morning at eight a.m. on the dot, the big, black Dodge Ram crew cab pulled up in front of Jamie's home. Much to her surprise, her curly-haired roommate came running down the stairs before she could even make a move to go fetch her.

"Hi, guys!" Mia said brightly, as she opened the front passenger door and climbed inside. "Oooh, who's my best friend?" she gasped in delight as Jamie handed up a steaming hot latté.

"I am, and don't you forget it when you're gone all summer," Jamie warned as she leaned over the seat to give her a kiss.

"You're my goomba forever!" she declared, reverting to her mother's Italian slang. Turning to Conor she asked, "Have you been sailing before?"

"Nope. Even though our relatives came from the coast, neither of us has been sailing. We've both been on more fishing boats and row boats than we can count, but we're sailboat virgins."

Mia shot him a look, guessing that was the only area in which he could make that claim. "Well, you're gonna love it," she promised. "Jamie's really a pro. Her dad loves it when she crews for him 'cause she's so good. And now that she's got those muscles, she's really gonna be in demand."

"Uh-uh," her friend corrected. "I'm the captain today. I've got tons of O'Flaherty muscle here for the crew, and I'm gonna use it."

"I shoulda known you had an ulterior motive for choosing a strong girlfriend," Ryan chided her.

"Oh yeah, I had an ulterior motive all right," she agreed as she leaned over and took a little nibble of a soap-scented earlobe.

"Are we gonna have to watch you two smooch all day long?" Conor whined.

"Don't worry, Conor," Mia assured him as she patted his thigh in a friendly manner. "If they get too irritating, we can focus on something else."

He shot her a quick glance and was pleased to find a sultry gaze that belied her deceptively cherubic countenance.

"Looks like a great day for sailing," he decided with a return leer.

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

It was just a short drive to the Berkeley marina where Jim Evans kept the boat. He'd begun sailing when he was dating Catherine, and took to it like a duck to water. Something about the freedom of the ocean and the inherent risk in the sport formed an attractive combination for him.

Catherine's father had been a sailor, and he had enjoyed having his young son-in-law crew for him on his yacht. It was a few years before Jim could afford his own boat, and it was an important sign of his independence for him to pay for his hobby with his own money. Eventually he began to work his way up, trading in his small boats for progressively larger ones. He had owned a 45-foot Swan for about four years now, and he thought he would probably stick with it, not needing any more length or speed to feed his habit. This was just what he had always wanted—a large boat, built for speed, but with enough amenities to easily sleep six or eight people for overnight trips. It was far from luxurious, but that wasn't an issue for him; he wanted as little excess weight as possible so he could stay competitive in his frequent races, and the Swan fit the bill perfectly.

Normally a boat as large and as nice as his would be berthed in one of the marinas in the city. Catherine's father had kept his boat in Berkeley and when he died Jim had taken over his slip as a small tribute to the man who sparked his love for the hobby.

Jamie had been sailing with him since she was a tiny child--much too tiny for Catherine's more cautious nature. She loved the ocean as much as she loved being with her father and, up until this year, had never refused an invitation to crew. She knew he'd been disappointed when she had begged off several times this year because of training rides, but he seemed to understand.

The marina parking lot was nearly empty, as always, but the few prime spots were taken this morning so they had to walk quite a way with all of their gear. The girls had prepared a large, if not gourmet, lunch the night before, and Ryan now lugged the big bag they had packed it in. Conor carried a cooler filled with beer, wine and bottled water, while Jamie carried nothing but a large thermos of hot cocoa. Mia came up beside her on the walk and snaked an arm around her waist. "Thanks for arranging this, Sweetie. I can't think of a better send-off."

"You're starting the flirting a little early, aren't you pal?" she teased, referring to Mia's earlier comments to Conor.

"Hey, I don't want him to get the wrong impression," she said rather defensively. "I've only got one day to make an impact!"

"Oh, I think you made an impact. He gave you the same look Ryan gives me before she jumps me!"

"He's following my evil plan perfectly then," she grinned mischievously.

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

The boat was docked near the edge of the marina with the other large vessels. The two strapping stevedores had no trouble climbing aboard, even with their loads, and within a few minutes they had everything stowed away and were ready to sail.

Mia had been sailing many times. It seemed that most families on the Peninsula sailed, and she had frequently accepted invitations to spend a day on the ocean. While not nearly as competent as her friend, she had enough experience to make her a perfectly acceptable first mate.

The first order of business was a short lecture on the basic elements of sailing. Since both O'Flaherty's were practical people, with a good understanding of the natural world, they immediately grasped the basic concepts. "I've got it," Ryan said. "You can't sail directly into the wind, but you can sail directly with the wind. If you don't want to go the way the wind is blowing, you have to cut across it and use the sails and the rudder to provide lift and thrust."

"Uhh, maybe you should give the lecture," Jamie mumbled.

"No, no, not at all. You just explain it very well," Ryan said with a grin. "It makes it obvious."

"Riiight," she drawled. "Anyway, let's cover some basic terms. The sails are pretty obvious, but the ropes that move them are called sheets."

"Shouldn't the sail be the sheet?" Conor asked, his forehead wrinkled in question. "It looks like a big sheet."

"Ahh, probably," she agreed. "But they're not. The big pole down the center of the boat is the mast. You put the mainsail up the mast via this rope called the mainsheet. A very important piece of equipment is the boom," she said as she slapped the heavy canvas-covered piece that stuck out at a right angle from the mast. "The term is important, because that's just what it feels like if it hits you."

"Why would it hit you?" Ryan asked.

"Well, remember how we have to 'tack' across the wind?"

Two dark heads nodded.

"The boom moves from side to side, holding the sail out to catch the wind. You 'trim' the sail by moving the boom using the sheets. The boom moves independently, and rather abruptly, if the wind changes unexpectedly. So it's best to never let your attention wander too much if you're in the path that it travels."

"Got it," Conor stated. "Don't get hit by the boom."

"A few more terms are mandatory," she instructed. "The front of the boat is the bow, but if you're going towards the bow you're also moving fore. Likewise the rear of the boat is the stern, but moving towards the stern is aft."

"Huh?" Ryan asked, actually scratching her dark head. "Why not just say bow and stern?"

"Umm, think of fore and aft as signposts leading you to the destination of the bow and stern."

"If you insist," she replied, casting a dubious glance at her teacher.

"Two more must-knows. Port is the left of the boat when you face forward. And starboard is the right."

"What is the left of the boat when you face the stern?" Ryan asked, obviously trying hard to lock this information into her brain in some semblance of order.

"It's the starboard," Jamie said slowly, now casting a dubious glance at her student.

"OH! I get it. You just meant that each side has a fixed name no matter which way you're facing!"

"Well, yeah," she said slowly.

"She could have just said so," Conor muttered a little under his breath.

Jamie ignored his grumbling and started to discuss casting off, but was once again stopped by her partner. "What is the term for going towards the port or the starboard?"

"Uhh, just port and starboard," Jamie replied confidently.

"Shouldn't they have signposts too?" Ryan asked sincerely.

"Let go, Ryan, just let go," she said soothingly as she massaged her temples.

"All right," she agreed as she shrugged her broad shoulders. "Just trying to get some consistency here."

Jamie continued to instruct her small class for a few minutes. It wasn't important that they learn too much at first, since she really only needed them for one task. "Okay," she said as she handed each O'Flaherty a pair of leather-palmed gloves with shortened fingers. "Your main job is to be my grinders. You keep the sheets taut by sticking those big cranks in the winches here and grinding for all you're worth when I tell you to."

The bright blue eyes shared a glance and then fixed upon Jamie again. "So you and Mia do the fun stuff, and we work our asses off?" Ryan asked.

"Pretty much," she said brightly.

"Sounds good to me," Conor said happily.

"Me too," his little sister agreed.

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

Since they knew the drill, Jamie and Mia inspected each line, shackle, bolt, screw, winch and strap they could get their hands on. When they were certain the boat was shipshape, Jamie instructed Conor to stand on the dock and cast them off. After checking the fuel tanks, she started the surprisingly powerful inboard engines. Conor's eyes bugged out a bit as she motored the Swan out of the slip. "Wow, why learn all this sailing stuff if you can just hit those babies hard and cruise around the Bay?"

"These are just big enough to get us in and out of the slip and help us get in if we can't sail in. The fuel tanks aren't really huge anyway, Conor," she called over the growling of the engines.

He released the lines, one at a time, and hopped back on just as she started to clear the dock. Mia showed them how to remove the small bumpers that protected the boat in the dock, but looked rather unsightly when under sail. When all of the gear was stowed away, they were clear of the marina and ready to rock.

"Okay, Buffy," Jamie called to her partner. "Ready to hoist the mainsail?"

"Aye, aye," her lover answered happily. Following the instructions that Jamie had given earlier, Ryan did an admirable job of hoisting the huge piece of fabric up the very tall mast. The halyard that pulled the material up was engineered to make the work fairly easy, but she used most of her arm and shoulder muscles in the task. When the mainsail was secure, Conor got to work on the jib.

Mia helped him secure it properly, and then scampered aft to await instructions from the captain. "Okay, we're going to start off on a port tack. Mia, set the sails," she ordered. With a small salute, Mia quickly reminded Ryan how to trim the main and sat next to Conor to help him with the jib. Just to keep them on their toes, Jamie executed a few little tacking drills, forcing them to grind almost constantly just to keep up.

"Hey! Make up your mind!" Conor called as he stopped to wipe the sweat from his brow.

"Just a little test," she called back, satisfied with the rigging. "Come on back, Ryan," she called.

Ryan walked back to the stern, grinning a bit when she paused a moment to take in her lover. The day was warm and dry on shore, but the always-brisk wind of the Bay constantly required plenty of clothing. Jamie's head was covered by an orange nylon baseball cap, its closure pulled snug to keep it secure in the breeze. A wind and waterproof navy blue anorak covered a bright yellow turtleneck, and under her matching navy blue pants, she wore a silk thermal union suit that Ryan had teased her about when they were getting dressed. She had never been too warm while on the Bay, and she doubted that this day would be any different. Her navy blue leather topsiders, which obviously had a lot of miles on them, covered two thin pairs of nylon socks.

To Ryan's appraising eye, she was the cutest thing on water, and her approving gaze told Jamie just that as she approached. "What's that look for?" the blonde asked, knowing full well what that look usually meant.

"Just thinking that the Sirens' song wouldn't mean a thing to me if I could just get one look at you," she said with a lovesick grin on her sweet face.

"Come sit down and let me sit on your lap, you sweet thing," she demanded.

Ryan did just that, happily nuzzling her lover's neck while Jamie expertly steered the boat, using the very large wheel. "Wanna take over?" the blonde's voice carried back to the human chair.

"Yeah! Can I?" she asked with all of the excitement of a seven-year-old at Christmas.

"Absolutely. Come stand in front of me, and I'll let you get a feel for the action," she instructed. Ryan did so, and after a few moments of resting her hands on top of Jamie's, she was given control of the big boat. Jamie would have given anything to have a camera at that moment. Her broadly grinning lover was standing comfortably on widely-splayed legs, her proud face staring into the wind, dark hair streaming behind her. Surprisingly, she did not wear a hat; her hair was unrestrained. She wore a white turtleneck under the bright blue wool sweater that was a favorite of Jamie's. Her yellow nylon windbreaker covered both, but it was unzipped enough to show both of her sweaters. Her ever-present jeans and running shoes completed her outfit that did not have Jamie's approval. The blonde had strongly suggested that they buy proper sailing gear, but her proud lover would not let her buy it and was reticent to buy it for herself until she was sure she would enjoy the sport. "I might be hanging over the side the whole time," she had joked the previous evening. Jamie let her win the round, but she was determined to have an outfit for her the next time they went out. She knew from experience that wet jeans were no fun when the brisk wind hit them, but she had decided to let Ryan find that out for herself.

As acting captain, Ryan, of course, had to make her brother jump from port to starboard several times to trim the sails, but she knew he would get her back at some point during the day. The wind was picking up, making the Bay a little rough, but neither sibling seemed to mind. In fact, Ryan seemed to smile wider and wider every time they hit a depression, making the boat thump hard against the water. "Wanna do something really fun?" Jamie asked as the wind gained even more velocity.

"I'm in!" Ryan stated dramatically, hardly caring what the event was.

"Hey, Mia!" she called, interrupting her friend's flirting.


"Show our guests how to ride the rail!" she called out over the howling wind. "Get them some foul weather gear and life jackets first," she added.

Mia scampered below and retrieved two bright red rubberized overalls for Ryan and Conor. They both looked adorable in their matching gear, which covered them to mid-torso. Jamie turned the boat just a bit, causing the starboard side to lift off the water at a dramatic angle. Showing, rather than explaining, Mia sat on the deck and wedged her torso between the two rubber-covered safety lines that ringed the boat. Her butt was resting right on the toe rail, her small feet dangling over the waves. It was a fairly dangerous move, given the conditions, but she seemed totally confident so the O'Flahertys followed suit.

There was something so elemental and free about the experience that Ryan wished it could last for hours. The ride was jarring and rough and very wet, and she knew that she would be chilled to the bone in a short time, but she just loved it. Looking at the smile on her brother's face, she knew that he felt the same. When she turned back to Jamie, they locked eyes for just a moment—just long enough for Ryan to experience a stab of connection right in the pit of her stomach. Having Jamie understand what this felt like, and having her know that Ryan would totally love it, was a very powerful experience. She wanted to wrap her arms around her partner and give her a big squeeze, but that would require climbing back up on the deck, and she just was not ready to give up her perch.

Catching Mia's eye, Jamie signaled that she wanted to tack again. Mia informed the siblings, and they scrambled to trim the sails and jump to the port side to ride that rail.

They continued in a similar vein for almost half an hour. They looked like they were having a very good time, but Jamie was worried that they would freeze if she left them out there much longer. A small adjustment righted the boat, and the rail sitters slid from their positions and crawled along the now-slick deck to join Jamie at the helm.

"God, that rocked!" Ryan cried, tossing her arms around her lover. "I could stay out there all day!"

Conor echoed her sentiments, adding, "The only thing I still have to do is steer, and I'll be happy," as he gazed at Jamie with puppy dog eyes.

She smiled back and crooked a finger, beckoning him to join her. "Come on, Mia, you help out here, and I'll tend the sails with Buffy."

Conor did well at his task, carefully piloting the boat. Ryan had ditched her overalls--claiming they had more water in them than they had repelled--and judging from her now dark blue pants, Jamie thought she might be right.

Conor didn't really take advantage of his position, but they still had to scamper back and forth a few times to keep up with his tacking. They had just gotten the sheets set after one such tack when he began to turn in the opposite direction. Ryan jumped to her feet to help her partner, but she forgot the cardinal rule for just one short moment. A moment was all it took for the boom to come flying at her so quickly that she only had time to grab on and let it yank her off her feet, her long body dangling precariously over the choppy water.

Jamie was well used to situations just like this one, and she did not panic. She slowly began to pull on the sheet, reeling her partner in. She yelled as loudly as she could to Conor to maintain his position, but he obviously didn't hear her or couldn't make his body follow her instructions. He did what most beginners would do--he yanked the wheel in the opposite direction, thinking that would bring his baby sister back. Instead, it jerked the sail so abruptly that Ryan's tenuous grip failed, and she slid into the ocean with a small splash.

"JAMIE, HELP!!!" he cried, stunned and panicked.

She wanted to take the time to reassure him, but she couldn't waste a second. She grabbed the closest life preserver, tossed it in the general direction of her partner, and then ran back to the helm. "Drop the sails!" she ordered, Mia and Conor scrambling to obey her command. While they made a mess of the deck, with yards of sail billowing around them, Jamie started the engines and quickly turned the boat around.

She knew that Ryan would not drown, since she was wearing a buoyant life vest, but she was terribly worried about her being in the frigid water for any length of time. The ocean was about 58 degrees during the spring, and she knew that hypothermia could set in quickly, especially with the cold wind that was still blowing fiercely.

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

When the unbearably cold water rushed over her head, Ryan thought for one panicked second that either her heart would stop, or she would be unable to take a breath once she surfaced. To her eternal gratitude, neither happened, but the painful shock of the water nearly made her wish they had. Actually, it had taken a few seconds to be able to feel anything, but once her heart stopped beating double time, she was able to feel the terrible needle-like sting of the frigid water on every square inch of her body. Ryan had been in the ocean in May on many occasions, but had been wearing a full wet suit each time. This experience was a unique one, and she made a promise to herself that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime treat.

She could see the sails drop and a question formed in her mind, but when she saw the boat turn quickly she realized that was the only way for Jamie to come back into the wind. Faster than she would have imagined, she started to feel her mind disconnect from her body, which felt so terribly heavy that she knew she would be useless in the rescue effort. Thank God Conor's here, she thought as the boat raced towards her.

She was aware of being pulled up to the hull by the long rope that attached to her life ring, but she was unable to help as her anxious friends tried to haul her in. Conor finally leaned over the deck so far that Mia had to sit on his legs to stop him from going over as well. He used every ounce of his substantial strength to drag his limp sister onto the deck.

Adrenaline was still pumping through his system, giving him the strength to pick her up and carry her below decks with Jamie right on his heels. Mia stayed topside to tend the wheel as the threesome descended.

"What do we do?" Conor asked, his skin ashen from fear and shock.

"Get her clothes off and wrap her in blankets," Jamie said briskly. "She'll be fine once she's warm." Looking down at her partner, who shivered painfully, she asked, "Won't you, Honey?"

Ryan nodded, but her entire body was shaking so hard that it was hard to tell what was nod and what was shake. Jamie looked up at Conor for the first time and saw how devastated he was. Summoning all of her composure, she took a deep breath and did her best to reassure the shaken man. "This happens all the time, Conor," she said soothingly. "I swear she'll be fine. Go in the forward cabin and change into some of my father's warm clothes," she commanded. "Then go get me the hot cocoa."

He obeyed her orders, but with a slight change. He ran up to get the cocoa first, handing the large mug to Jamie with shaking hands.

"Go change and then help Mia," Jamie repeated firmly.


"Go," she said firmly. "I can undress her just fine. I've been getting lots of practice you know," she added, trying to draw a smile from the poor man.

"Okay," he said softly, gently patting his sister on the leg as he departed.

As he left, Jamie leaned over and asked, "How are you, really?"

"G.g.gotta g.g.get out of these c.c.clothes," she stuttered, unable to hold her chin still to speak clearly.

"I'll do it, Honey, drink some of this and then just try to relax." Jamie set about the normally fun task of undressing her partner that, in addition to not being fun, this time, was damned difficult. Ryan was often weak with desire, but this was much more extensive. She was barely able to help at all, and the soaked garments were so ungainly that Jamie gave a quick thought to cutting them off of her. The life jacket came off easily, as did the wool sweater. The turtleneck was a little tougher, and as soon as she got it off she tucked a blanket around Ryan's shaking shoulders, not having the patience to deal with her sports bra just yet. With persistence and patience she finally had the shoes, jeans, and socks off, and she could feel Ryan's body start to relax a bit as the ice cold clothes were removed. Taking a break, she wrapped the second blanket around shivering legs and gave in to her overwhelming need to wrap Ryan in a fierce hug. "God, you scared me," she whispered.

"I scared me too," she agreed, her voice sounding much more normal. "Do me a favor?"

"Anything," Jamie promised.

"Go tell Conor and Mia that I'm okay. I know he's worried."

"Okay, Honey. Be right back," she said with a wan smile.


"Yes, Honey?"

"I've heard the best thing for hypothermia is to snuggle with another warm body while you're both naked."

A fond smile greeted that suggestion. "You are feeling better," she said with a genuine grin.

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

They followed Ryan's suggestion, but their approach was a little more chaste than the purported life-saving prescription. Ryan had taken off her soaked undergarments while Jamie was topside. She had quickly snuggled back into the blankets after turning them to their dry sides, and when Jamie returned, she shucked her jacket and pants and climbed in with her.

It was an odd feeling, cuddling a stark-naked Ryan while in thermal underwear and a turtleneck, but Jamie quickly put aside her discomfort and snuggled closer, allowing her body heat to warm her partner.

"That was the oddest feeling," Ryan mumbled, her voice now completely normal, if a bit sleepy.

"It's happened to me several times," Jamie sympathized. "It's amazing how quickly you become helpless, isn't it?" she asked, knowing that the feeling would be very uncomfortable for her powerful lover.

"Yeah, I felt like I'd been given a big dose of Novocain right into my central nervous system. I couldn't feel my hands at all, and I couldn't pick my arms up to help you guys get me out."

"I know, Honey," she soothed. "It's okay now, Baby. Just close your eyes and feel safe for a little while. I've got you, Honey. Just relax." Her hands were slowly rubbing her partner through the blanket, comforting and relaxing her simultaneously.

"Can Mia handle the boat?" she asked, jerking awake abruptly.

"Yes, Honey, she's fine," she soothed. "The sails are down and we're just motoring slowly. We've got plenty of fuel, and the wind is behind us, so we'll be fine."

"Okay," she muttered wearily as she fell asleep in Jamie's protective embrace.

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

When Jamie woke up a short time later, she was immediately aware of the stillness of the boat. The engines were clearly off, and she hoped it was because Mia had turned them off. She got her answer a minute later when Conor stuck his head into the cabin.

"Everything okay?" she whispered.

"Fine. But Mia doesn't want to blow all the fuel, so she shut off the engines. She thinks it's safe to just drift for a while. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, but you should at least raise the jib in case you need to get out of trouble," she said. "I want Ryan to sleep as long as she can, so go ahead and have lunch if you're hungry."

"That was my second question," he grinned.

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

Moments after he departed, Ryan started to wake. "Mmm, this is nice," she mumbled as she snuggled a little tighter against her lover's body.

"You feel okay?" Jamie asked.

"Yeah," she replied as she stretched languidly. "I actually feel fine. I mean, I wasn't hurt or anything—just really cold."

"Well, you certainly feel warm now," Jamie whispered as she ran her hands up and down her partner's body through the blanket. "This is a terribly delicious feeling, you know."

"Our attire is a little discordant," Ryan agreed with a chuckle.

"I wouldn't change a thing," she breathed right into her ear.

"I would," Ryan complained as she tried to snake her hand under her partner's clothes only to be stopped by her all-encompassing union suit.

"Everything I need is readily available," she insisted as she turned Ryan onto her tummy and started to kiss her neck.

"N…no, Jamie," she muttered into the pillow. "Too much emotion."

Clambering up to cuddle behind her, Jamie asked, "Are you all right, Honey?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," she said. "Falling into the water freaked me out a bit. I don't feel like I'm in control."

And in that instant Jamie not only knew just what her lover meant, she agreed with her fully. "Let's just snuggle and try to get our equilibrium back, okay?"

Ryan nodded, and they spent the next 15 minutes nuzzling and kissing lightly. Things were just starting to escalate when they heard a terribly amused voice say, "Look who feels better!" Two heads jerked to attention to focus on the open door of the cabin. Mia stood with her arms folded across her chest, a wide grin plastered on her face. "Sorry girls, I just came down to check on you and use the head. I take it that moaning was not from pain?"

Her quick reflexes allowed her to dodge the pillow that her roommate tossed at her, but the laughter of the two women assured her that there were no hard feelings.

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

Luckily, Jim Evan's clothing was the perfect size to fit Ryan's large frame. She pulled on proper sailing gear, without complaint this time, even agreeing to the thin navy blue Polarfleece stocking cap that Jamie insisted she wear. She put it on in the same quirky style that Jamie had seen her adopt for other hats; rather than have the cap rest on the rear of her head, she pulled it straight down her forehead so that it rested an inch or so above her eyebrows. It was an odd affectation--and it would have looked stupid on Jamie--but Ryan pulled it off beautifully with her strongly planed face and square jaw line.

When they climbed up the few stairs to the deck, they both cleared their throats a few times to announce their presence. Conor tore his mouth from Mia's and gulped, blinking a few times to get his bearings. "How do you feel, Ryan?" he immediately asked.

"Just fine," she assured him. "No harm done."

"You scared me half to death!" he said emphatically, as he pulled away from Mia's embrace and went to wrap his sister in a hug. "I'm so sorry I did that to you," he whispered sincerely.

"It's okay, Con, really," she soothed as she gently patted his back. "Jamie says that happens all the time, even with really experienced crews."

"I've gone over three times," the smaller woman piped up.

"Just once for me," Mia added. "The guys I was with were so drunk they almost couldn't turn the damn boat to come get me!"

"See?" Ryan asked as she pulled away to get a good look at his eyes. "It's not a big deal."

"Okay," he conceded, nodding briefly. "You're never going sailing in jeans again. If you hadn't grabbed that ring and weren't wearing your life vest you couldn't have tread water that long with those heavy pants on."

"But I did, and I was and you guys rescued me easily," she reminded him. "Let it go, Conor. It's really okay."

"Will you let me buy you sailing gear and call it even?" he asked, looking down at her with a sweet smile.

"Deal!" she happily agreed. "Hey, I'll jump over for a nice set of golf clubs!"

"Don't press your luck, Sis," he warned as he playfully thumped her on her cap-covered head.

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

Jamie sat on Ryan's lap as the dark haired woman lovingly fed her bites of a delicious turkey sandwich. They were steering the boat together using only the jib. Not trying to get anyplace in particular, and not caring how long it took them to get there, they were just enjoying the solitude of the now calm day. Their companions had gone below, ostensibly to use the head, but after fifteen minutes the girls assumed they were engaged in some sort of merger.

Much to their surprise, Conor's dark head popped out of the hatch, his face looking green around the edges.

"I don't feel so hot," he muttered, looking at them pathetically.

"Come up here and breath some fresh air," Jamie urged. He complied, climbing over the gear to sit right next to his sister.

"How could you stay down there so long?" he moaned, as he took several deep, cleansing breaths.

"Uhh, I hadn't just had lunch and," she leaned over to count the empties, "Three beers."

"This fresh air makes you thirsty," he argued.

"Yeah, but going below after a few beers makes you sick," she reminded him. "So you can either be thirsty or frustrated. Take your pick."

"Shoulda picked thirsty," he grumbled as his sister and Jamie burst out laughing.

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

When Mia returned to the group a few minutes later, they decided to hoist the mainsail and prepare to return. It was about two o'clock, but the wind wasn't terribly favorable, and Jamie predicted--accurately, as it turned out—it would take a while to get back; it took a full two hours to return to the marina. Conor offered to jump onto the dock to secure the boat, and they all had to stifle a laugh when it took him a moment to get his land legs. His stumbling gait only lasted a few steps, and he smoothly secured the big boat to Jamie's satisfaction.

It took much longer to put the boat to bed than it did to take it out, and by the time everything was perfectly ordered, it was after five. Mia still had a ton of things to do to get ready for her departure, so she declined their invitation to join them for dinner. Conor walked her to the door and stayed inside for several minutes, but he returned with Jamie's mail and a few phone messages, so he was forgiven.

Martin wasn't at home, so they were left to forage on their own. By the time the pizza arrived, they were all dozing on the big bed in Martin's room, Ryan across the bottom with Duffy curled up against her chest and Jamie and Conor in the traditional position.

Their lethargy was such that they barely finished a medium sized pizza. By nightfall, all three were snug in their separate beds, Duffy being the happiest of the group since he got his mistress all to himself.

Chapter 13

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