Disclaimers in part 1

Chapter Seven

On the way home from school the next day, Jamie stopped to do a little shopping. She found some new Ralph Lauren boxers that came down even lower than Ryan's current Calvin's. She got her two pair in white, two in gray and two in black, as well as the matching ribbed knit tank tops and a few close fitting t-shirts in the same colors and material as the shorts. Then, just as a tease, she bought one pair of panties that would have had to grow a bit to even be considered a thong. I know she won't like to wear these out but I could explore her body a lot better isf she was wearing these. Actually I could explore her body from across the room in these!

Ryan wasn't due for another hour, and she had just laid the gifts out on the kitchen table when the doorbell rang. She waited for a second, but when she didn't hear anyone else come downstairs, she realized she was alone in the house. She spotted a blonde head through the leaded glass window of the front door, but it took a moment for the realization to actually hit her brain. "Mother!" she nearly gasped when she opened the door.

Although Jamie lived only 45 minutes away from her parents' home, her mother had not once paid a visit to the Berkeley house in the three years she had lived there. She and Laura Martin had furnished the place before the girls moved in, but once they were firmly ensconced, Catherine made herself scarce.

"Hello, Jamie," she said softly as she lifted her head for a kiss. Catherine Evans was one of the few people who actually had to stretch to reach Jamie's lips, a fact that had pleased Jamie to no end when she was fourteen and finally surpassed her mother's height.

"W…What's wrong, Mother?" she asked hurriedly.

A flash of pain raced across the smaller woman's face, but she hid it quickly and asked, "Is it that odd to have me visit?"

Jamie didn't want to say the truth so she quickly replied, "Of course not. I'm just surprised to see you, especially without warning."

"Warning?" she asked quietly as another hurt look passed over her patrician features.

"I mean notice," she amended, but quickly decided that wasn't much better. "It's just a long trip to make, given that I'm home so little during the day."

"That's all right dear," her mother reassured her, sensing her discomfort. "I suppose I can't blame you for being surprised when I visit so infrequently."

Yeah, never is pretty infrequent, she had to admit. "So why visit today?" Jamie asked. She was getting a very strange vibe from her mother, but since she couldn't read her very well, she had a hard time guessing what the issue was.

"I just came by to chat for a while," she said, rather mysteriously. "I'm not interrupting you, am I?" she inquired, her impeccable manners always on alert.

"No, not at all. Would you like something to drink? I have some bottled water."

"That would be nice," Catherine agreed. "I like your kitchen quite a lot. Could we sit in there and chat?"

"Sure, Mother," she agreed somewhat nervously, with her feeling of unease growing.

Jamie went to the refrigerator as her mother pulled up a chair at the table. "Been shopping, Dear?" she asked rather absently as she held up a pair of the boxer shorts. It was obvious that the large shorts would fall off of Jamie, and the t-shirts were extra-large as well. She picked up the tiny black panties that were also clearly labeled large, though they were anything but, and stared at her daughter with a puzzled expression on her face.

"Uh…yeah. Just shopping for a friend," she explained as she gathered up the clothing and shoved it back in the bag.

Catherine did not comment but her expression grew troubled as she took a deep breath and asked the question that had been burning in her brain since the previous day. "Jamie, I know that we've not been as close as I wish we could be, and I know I've not been your confidant. But I have to ask you a question that's deeply personal. If you choose not to share the answer with me I'll understand. I merely ask that you not lie to me."

Jamie knew that all of the color had drained from her face and she felt that familiar clenching in her stomach. Oh, please, oh, please, she begged as she braced herself for the inevitable.

"Laura Martin called me yesterday. She says that Cassie called her in a frantic state over a dispute that you two had."

Jamie merely nodded, hoping against hope that Cassie had the decency to only speak of the fight and not the underlying reason. Her hopes were dashed when Catherine continued. "Cassie claims that you're involved in a lesbian affair, Jamie." She locked her big brown eyes on her daughter's and gently asked, "Is that true?"

She sucked in a few deep breaths, trying to regain her composure without making it too obvious that she was panicking. "I know that one thing is totally true, Mother. Cassie Martin is no friend. She has developed an intense, almost irrational, hatred of my friend Ryan, who is a lesbian. She's tried to convince me not to hang around with her merely because of her sexual orientation, and when I refused, she obviously made up a ridiculous story about us."

"Jamie, the things Laura said were really quite troubling. She said you were feeding each other and kissing and sucking on each other's fingers." Catherine looked embarrassed to even relate this tale, but she had such a worried, pained expression on her face that Jamie felt compassion for her.

"Mother, you know from listening to Daddy talk about trials that the easiest thing in the world is to take things out of context and use them to impeach someone. That's what Cassie does!"

"But how…"

"Look, Mother, Ryan and I were kidding around in a very public place. I'm not the kind of person who would be kissing and sucking on anyone's fingers in public. I gave her a bite of my food, and she acted like she was going to bite my fingers! It was totally innocent, and anyone else would have come up to the table and either teased me about it or at least said hello. But she went home and jumped all over me when I came home. She wouldn't listen to any of my explanations, and we finally had a very big fight. I basically told her that I chose Ryan's friendship over hers, and now she's running to her mother just to get back at me for that. She's a very small-minded, mean-spirited person, Mother, and I feel like I'm well rid of her!"

"But what about living together next year?"

"I've had it with her. I refuse to allow her back in next year!"

"Oh, Jamie, is that really wise? You've known each other since you were children!"

"I can't feel comfortable having her in my house if she's going to go behind my back to try to create trouble for me, Mother!"

"But Jamie, Laura claims that she's concerned about you. I didn't get the impression that she was trying to cause trouble."

"Mother, if you were concerned about one of your friends would you run to her husband or her children with the problem? Of course not! You'd work it out with her alone, if you really cared for her. Cassie telling her mother was a sure fire way to get you upset! That was her goal. I'm certain of it!"

"So you're telling me, unequivocally that you are not involved in a relationship with this woman?" Her deep brown eyes were still intently focused on her daughter's, and Jamie knew that she would be betraying her trust for the first time in her life if she was not honest with her now.

"I'm most definitely in a relationship with her, Mother. She's my very close friend, she's my training partner for the AIDS Ride, and she's my personal trainer. But I do not have sex with her!" She honestly could not decide what felt worse--lying to her mother so blatantly, or once again denying her love and her passion for Ryan. Part of her actually felt that the lie to her mother was the more egregious wrong, since her main reason for lying was that she did not trust her enough to tell her the truth; but she acknowledged that she felt worse about the denial of her love for Ryan.

Catherine looked at her carefully for a moment and finally raised her hand to cup her daughter's flushed pink cheek. "I'm sorry if all of this upset you, Jamie. I know you feel betrayed, but please give it some more thought before you do anything rash."

"I will, Mother. And thanks for your concern."

"Jamie, no matter what you think of me as a mother, I hope you know that your happiness has always been paramount for me. I really regret the distance that has built up between us and I would do anything to close that gap." She reached across the table with her elegant, perfectly manicured hand and lightly grasped Jamie's hand. Gazing into her eyes with a winsome look on her face she explained, "That's the biggest reason that I wanted you to go to Italy with me this summer, Dear. I miss the time we used to spend together when you were younger. It just seems like we have so little time before you'll be involved in a career or married. Will you work with me to try to regain some of our connection?"

"Of course I will, Mother. I miss those times too," she admitted truthfully.

"Remember how we used to try out all the new restaurants in the Peninsula and the South Bay?' She smiled softly at the memory. "That was fun, wasn't it?" The fragile, pained expression on her mother's face made Jamie want to take her in her arms and comfort her like a child. But physical expressions of their love were just something they had never done and she didn't feel comfortable enough with her mother to start now.

"They were fun, Mother. We've had lots of fun together and there's no reason not to have more in the future. We just need to work on making more time for each other."

"Thank you, Dear," she said as she patted her cheek. "Your father and I are just so lucky to have you as our child. You make us both very proud of you."

Jamie fought back a tear as she grasped her mother's small hand. "Thank you, Mother. That means a lot to me."

"Well, I'd better get going if I want to beat traffic," she said as she stood. "How are things going with your preparation for your ride, dear?"

"They're going well, Mother, very well. I'm really excited about it."

"Will you call me when you get back? I'll be worried about you the whole week, you know," she said with a small smile.

"I promise I'll call."

"So what will you do the rest of the summer?"

"I actually had a favor to ask concerning the rest of the summer," she related. "Would you mind if I took Ryan down to the weekend house for a little rest after we get back?"

"No, of course not. You're welcome to bring any of your friends at any time, Dear. Just let the maid know if you want daily cleaning service. And call ahead to have them stock the refrigerator if you wish."

"Thank you, Mother. I really appreciate your generosity."

"Jamie, you're my only child. I'd do anything for you," she said as her voice caught a tiny bit. She gave her daughter a firm hug and turned to leave. As she reached the door she said, "Please be careful, Honey. You're very important to me."

Wow, what was that all about? Jamie thought as she stared after her. She seemed so…interested.

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

Perhaps betraying her lover on a regular basis was making the task easier but, for whatever reason, Jamie didn't feel all that bad when Ryan showed up at six. She decided to hold off on the presentation of the new underwear and grabbed her book bag for the walk to Telegraph. As they were descending the stairs, Mia came walking up the sidewalk. "Hi guys," she said when she caught sight of them.

"Hi," both women replied. "We're going to grab some dinner and then go study. Wanna join us?" Jamie asked.

Mia looked a little uncomfortable, and she stumbled over her words a bit as she obviously tried to come up with a reason to demur. "Ahh, no I don't think I can. I've got to, you know, um…study, and I might go out later, so…"

"That's okay," Jamie assured her. "Some other time."

"Yeah. Okay," she said as she dashed into the house without another word.

As they walked down the street Ryan said, "Was she acting funny or is that normal?"

"She's acting funny. I think she might be having an attack of homophobia."

"Really? She's never seemed uncomfortable with me before."

"It's not you," she said quietly. "It's me."

Ryan stopped abruptly and gazed at her partner carefully. "Did you tell her?"

"No. This is what I was hiding from you on Friday. Cassie was at Sufficient Grounds on Thursday night and she saw us feeding each other."

Ryan closed her eyes and allowed her head to drop back against her shoulders. She shook it slowly a few times, long dark hair twitching against her back. "Oh, Jamie, I'm so sorry," she soothed. "I…I forget what it's like to not want others to know. I really apologize for being so obvious."

"No, it's certainly not your fault, Ryan. I just need to get over it."

"Jamie," she said quietly as she took her hand. "This is a big change for you. I want you to have the time and the space to only go as fast as you are comfortable with. I feel responsible for encouraging you to be more open than you're probably ready for, and I truly apologize for that."

"No, I'm the one that needs to apologize, Ryan," she insisted as she blinked her eyes and tried to summon her courage.


"Because I told her she was mistaken," she said in a voice so small Ryan had to bend over a little to hear her.

"Why on earth would that make you feel the need to apologize?" Ryan asked, clearly puzzled.

She stopped in her tracks and stared at her companion. "Because I denied our love! I didn't have the courage to face her and admit the truth!"

"Jamie, Jamie, Jamie," Ryan murmured as she slid an arm around her shoulders. "That would not have been a courageous thing to do. That would have been self-defeating. You're not ready to tell everyone about us yet. Confirming our relationship to Cassie would have been like putting an ad in the Chronicle. I thought you understood how I felt about this after that incident with your father. It's perfectly okay with me if it takes you a very long time to be open about us. Please don't worry about my feelings."

"Oh, Ryan, how can you even say that? Your opinion of me means everything!"

"I know, Honey," she soothed. "And I'll admit that I'm really invested in having you be honest with everyone about us. That's something that I think we both need to do in order to feel like our relationship is something we're proud of. I just meant that I don't need for you to worry about my feelings about this right now. You need time to work on this on your own without worrying about me."

"But…I don't understand why you're not upset about this, given how you felt at my dad's apartment."

"It's simple, Babe," she insisted. "You denied me that time. It felt like you didn't want him to know that I was even your friend. This time it's about you. This is all about your relationship with Mia. My feelings about it should have no bearing."

"Thanks," she said as she gave her a gentle hug. "I think I get it. But now I have another person to worry about. Cassie told her mother!'

"How do you know that?"

"Because I got a visit from my mother this afternoon. Actually it was the first time she's visited since we moved in three years ago, just to show you the level of distress this created."

Ryan was nearly speechless as she blinked her eyes slowly. The Evans family was a breed she was unfamiliar with, but this was too much even for them. To have their only daughter live 45 minutes away and never visit her was so alien to Ryan that she had to force herself to not comment, lest she say what was really running through her mind. "What happened?" she asked instead.

"I lied to her too. I said that we were just playing and Cassie misinterpreted. I…I've never lied like that before, Ryan. I'm…beginning to doubt who I even am anymore."

"Did you consider just telling her that you didn't want to speak about it?" Ryan asked gently.

"That's the funny thing. She wasn't angry or confrontational at all. She gave me a perfect out, but I didn't take it. That's what puzzles me, Ryan. Why did I feel the need to lie?"

"Only you can answer that for sure, but I have a theory."

"Besides that I'm a spineless slug who's never going to be trustworthy again?" she said with a bitter laugh.

"Yeah, besides that," Ryan said as she squeezed her hand. "I think you were put into a really tough place by Cassie. I assume she didn't approach you in a gentle fashion and ask if you were ready to talk about this?"

"No. She and Mia were sitting at the kitchen table, and she jumped on me like a district attorney. I thought Mia felt the same way, and I just felt overwhelmed and trapped."

"So, once you lied to both of them, you were in a bit of a bind. I assume your main reason for not confirming our relationship to Cassie was because you're not ready to tell your parents?"

"Yeah, basically that's true."

"So telling Cassie is the same as telling them since you know what a gossip she is. Then when your mother asks, it only makes sense to keep up the lie since she was the reason you lied in the first place. It all fits, Jamie, and it's all understandable. I'm just concerned about how you feel about yourself for lying," she said, her face full of genuine concern.

Jamie stopped and took in a few deep breaths, trying to stem the tears that were trying to get out. With her lower lip quivering, she closed her eyes and grasped Ryan in a tight embrace. "I can't believe how sweet you are to care more about my feelings than your own. I thought you'd be badly hurt by my betrayal and that's why I was afraid to tell you. I was so ashamed."

"Did you tell any of them that I was a big scary dyke that was trying to seduce you?"

She jerked noticeably and stared at Ryan in shock. "Of course not! I said you were my closest friend, and I told everyone how fond I was of you."

"Then why would I be hurt? Jamie, this is about you and your relationship with these people. What you tell them about us is purely your decision. I only care about how these things affect you, don't you see that?"

"As usual, Anna was right," she said with a little laugh. "She said you'd be understanding and reassuring."

"She sounds like she knows me pretty well," Ryan agreed with a smile. "Maybe you'd better describe her for me. We might have gone out!"

Jamie chased her laughing friend down the street, not stopping until she ran her into her favorite restaurant for a quick dinner.

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

After dinner, they walked to the library and studied until ten, with only one short kissing break. Ryan was really pretty frantic about her studies, and Jamie didn't even mention going to the coffeehouse or bar. On the walk home they talked about the other victim of Jamie's lies. "I feel dreadful about lying to Mia," she admitted. "I really feel like I need to come clean with her, but she's been acting so funny towards me since it happened that now I'm afraid to."

"It might lighten things up if you told her the truth, Jamie. You trust her, don't you?"

"Yeah, at least I always have. But if she's gonna be weird about it I'd rather wait until I'm more comfortable."

"Why don't you spend a little time thinking about it? You'll know when you're comfortable."

"I will," she promised. They were nearly at Jamie's house by this time and they both locked eyes when they noticed that the house was dark. "Come on," Jamie urged as she tugged at Ryan's hand. "Let me give you a proper good-night kiss."

"But don't you have to be more careful than normal? I don't want this to get worse for you."

"I've got yet another fiendishly brilliant idea," she said with eyes dancing.

Ryan let herself be dragged along the sidewalk, and they quickly dashed inside. Instead of going upstairs, Jamie led her to the lovely redwood-paneled library just off the parlor. She had seen the room when Jamie took her on a tour of the house, but she'd never seen anyone use it. The room was accessed through pocket doors that silently glided along tracks to disappear into the wall. She slid one of the pair open and led Ryan inside. After she closed and locked the door she led Ryan to the dark brown leather sofa that rested underneath the leaded glass windows at the front of the house.

Moments after they entered the room, they heard one of the roommates enter the house. Ryan's sensitive hearing picked up that the person was in the living room, and she seemed to stay there for quite a while.

They heard her dial the phone on the entryway table and after a few seconds Cassie's voice drifted through the room clearly. "Hi, Mom, it's me," she said. Jamie rolled her eyes and gripped her stomach like she was going to vomit. Ryan just smirked at her and motioned for her to be quiet, then carefully got up from the sofa to avoid having the leather squeak. She sat on a straight-backed wooden chair, and Jamie quickly straddled her lap. They started to kiss softly, but neither could ignore the conversation going on in the other room.

"What do you mean she believed her? Oh, come on, Mom. I saw them nearly making out! What is she, delusional?"

After a moment she barked out a laugh and agreed, "Yeah, she probably was drunk. What time was it?" Another pause. "Yeah, three o'clock is plenty of time for her to get hammered," she laughed.

Ryan badly wished that she was not here to listen to the agitated woman's slurs, since they were clearly embarrassing Jamie.

"Well she can deny it all she wants but sooner or later I'm going to catch her red-handed. No," she added after a pause. "I'm not surprised. I've suspected ever since she brought her over here in September. I'm not sure what it was, but there was just something between them from the start."

Jamie's mood lightened at that comment. She patted her lover's face and smiled sweetly as she nodded her head in complete agreement.

"Yeah, I suppose she's pretty." Now Ryan gave her a smirk and an eyebrow wiggle. "But in a really mannish way." Ryan's eyes shot open and her shocked expression caused her mouth to form a wide circle. Jamie had to bury her head in Ryan's chest to stifle the laugh that tried to burst from her. "No, I don't think it's anything but a conquest for her. I mean, not to be cruel, but would you choose Jamie if you were just interested in sex?" she said with a snicker. Ryan had to grab her feisty partner by the shoulders to hold her down and stop her from running into the living room to pummel her roommate at that comment. "She's so, I don't know, reserved," she finally decided. "She just looks like she'd be a cold fish." Partly to prove Cassie wrong, Jamie started to work on Ryan's mouth with a fiery intensity. They quickly lost track of Cassie's conversation but they did hear Mia come tromping in a few minutes later.

Cassie was just hanging up, and they greeted each other casually. "Hi," Mia said.

"Your mail's over there, and here're your phone messages," Cassie replied.

"Jamie home?" Mia asked.

"No. I assume she's out with the whore of Babylon," she replied drolly, as Ryan pursed her lips and scowled.

"Knock it off, Cassie," Mia snapped.

"What?" she asked, rather stunned.

"I said, knock it off!" she replied at higher volume. "I like Ryan and I love Jamie. She's been our friend for years and no matter what you think of her sexual orientation, you owe her at least a little civility!"

"You heard how she was with me last week! Would you call that civil!"

"Look," she said in a calmer tone. "If she is having an affair, I agree that she hasn't been very honest with us. But have you ever considered that it might be too hard for her to talk about it? Maybe she just doesn't trust us."

"But we're the only ones she can trust," Cassie fumed. "Ryan certainly can't be trusted. She's the one who got her in to this!"

"Maybe you're right. But no matter what, Jamie has been a good friend and a great roommate for both of us. We have to cut her a little slack while she tries to figure out what's going on in her life. I'm just really sad that she isn't being honest with me. I thought we really trusted each other."

Jamie looked physically ill at this revelation. Ryan wrapped her arms around her tighter to comfort her as Cassie snapped, "Jamie might have been a friend before, but she's made sure that's no longer true for me. She's basically told me to leave if I don't want Ryan in the house. She's made me look foolish by denying that they were making out together, and I don't tolerate that type of treatment! I'm going to catch her, and when I do the whole campus will know about it! Then her stupid alcoholic mother won't be able to dispute the truth!"

"What!? You told her mother?!"

"I told my mother. What she did with the information is her business," she sniffed.

"You are really a piece of work," Mia said with disgust as she stomped up the stairs.

"If you're really her friend, you'll help me catch her, Mia," she called after her. "She needs to have someone help her before she gets into this too deep. It's going to be all over campus soon."

"With friends like you…" Mia snarled before she slammed her bedroom door.

The inhabitants of the library stared at each other for a few minutes in shocked silence. Jamie was outrageously pleased that Mia had defended her so staunchly, but now she felt even worse about lying to her. She couldn't get much angrier with Cassie, but she was irate about her comment concerning her mother. Although her mother did drink too much for her comfort, she thought it both rude and mean-spirited to characterize her as an alcoholic. But she realistically didn't for a minute doubt her roommate's vow to catch them in the act.

Even though she was confident that loving Ryan was exactly the right thing to do, Jamie was not at all ready to talk to her parents about the matter. She rested her head against Ryan's broad shoulder for a few minutes, feeling overwhelmed with the weight of keeping their love a secret. Ryan patted and rubbed her back as she rocked just a tiny bit in the chair. To their dismay, Cassie immediately got on the phone again. She obviously called her mother again to start slamming Mia this time. Ryan couldn't stand to listen to another minute of this drivel, but she knew they were stuck until Cassie went upstairs. The call lasted for almost fifteen minutes, during which time Jamie nearly fell asleep on Ryan's lap. Deciding that she needed to go home herself, Ryan finally motioned for her lover to get . She tiptoed to the window and saw that she could easily climb out and drop to the ground without harming herself. She whispered her plan in Jamie's ear and, after checking out the drop herself, Jamie kissed her goodbye and watched her go.

Jamie now had two options. She could lie down on the couch and sleep until Cassie went upstairs, or she could walk right by her. The debate lasted less than two seconds as she took out one of her texts from her book bag and strolled right past a startled Cassie while she was hanging up the phone. As Jamie hit the stairs, she turned to her and sweetly said, "Busy sharpening your knives, Brutus?"

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

While Jamie was brushing her teeth the next morning Cassie came barging into the bathroom. "That was really cheap of you to eavesdrop on me last night," she spat.

"I was studying, Cassie. I believe that I am allowed to use all of the rooms of my house aren't I?"

"Any decent person would have let us know they were there!"

"Any decent person? What on earth do you know about decency?" Jamie asked as she rinsed her mouth and walked back into her room. Cassie started to follow, but Jamie stopped her with a withering glare. "We have nothing more to discuss. When you leave for New York, take your things with you."

Cassie glared back for a full minute. Her face was screwed up into a very unflattering grimace as she turned on her heel and stomped back into her own room.

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

Mia made herself so scarce over the next few days that Jamie began to doubt that she was even sleeping at the house. She accidentally ran into her on campus on Friday morning, but Mia was late for a class and didn't have time to stop. As she scampered away she called, "I'm going to L.A. for the weekend. See you Monday!"

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

That night over dinner Ryan asked, "Busy tomorrow?"

"Well, I should study, but I'm sure you could talk me out of it. What do you have in mind?"

"Two things. First, I'm going to play rugby in the afternoon, and I thought you might like to come watch…"

"You play rugby?!"

"Sure. We've played as a family since I was in high school."

"You play with your…family?" she asked carefully.

"Yeah. Why do you look surprised?"

"Um…couple of reasons. One--cause you're the only girl."

"I am?" she asked in mock horror.

"Come on, Ryan," Jamie laughed as she pinched her playfully. "Is this a girls' team or a boys' team?"

"You're gonna have to come to find out. Interested?"


"What's your other reason for being surprised?" Ryan asked.

"Because I've kept a very tight watch over you in the last few months, Missy. And I'd know if you were doing something like this on a regular basis. So what gives?"

"We're not together every night, Jamie," she reminded her.

"Nooo…that's true," the blonde admitted. "But I always ask you what you did on the nights we're not together, and I'm certain I'd recall you saying that you were going to play rugby."

"Well, it sounds like your questions have just been a little too broad then, doesn't it?" Ryan asked playfully, blue eyes twinkling with mischief.

"Oh, so I should say, 'What did you do last night, Ryan? Play any rugby?"

"Well, that would be the best way," she mused as she tapped her chin thoughtfully with her index finger.

"Ryan! You've got to be kidding!"

"Nope. I'll tell you anything you want to know, babe. But I don't give up my secrets easily. Ya gotta work for 'em."

"Sheesh!" Jamie shook her head roughly and asked with some trepidation, "What's the other thing you wanted to ask me? Although now I'm afraid to find out!"

"Oh, Rory's leaving for the entire summer on Sunday morning. So we're having a big goodbye party for him tomorrow night. You have to come to that, so I don't even know why I'm asking."

"Speaking of asking, how long ago did you know about these events?"

"Um…a while."

"You're already starting to take me for granted!"

"Never," Ryan insisted. "I just forget that you don't know every thought in my head. You're such an integral part of me that I forget I have to actually tell you things." She had the most innocent, angelic look on her face that Jamie had ever seen on an adult human.

"Good recovery," she said with a smirk as she patted her cheek.

"Years of practice," Ryan agreed as she ducked her pinch.

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

After three solid hours of studying, they headed back to Jamie's. The house was dark, and since Mia was gone, she knew that they would be totally alone if Cassie was with her boyfriend. Jamie talked Ryan into chancing it and they once again went to the library since that offered the most inconspicuous escape route. After a quick detour up to her room, she handed Ryan the little gifts she had purchased for her and grinned shyly as she opened the bag.

"You bought me a present?" Ryan asked in a delighted voice. "This is the first present you've bought for me since we've…you know." She opened the bag and said in surprise, "Underwear?"

"Yep. Although it your case it's underwear/pajamas," she teased. "Do you like them?"

"Yeah, they look cool, but I have lots of underwear."

"Not here, you don't," she explained. "You need to leave some here and I chose these because they are a couple of inches longer than your Calvin's. Since you hate to have them ride up, I thought these might be even better for you."

"I like them a lot," she said happily as she pulled all of them out. "But you didn't have to buy so many," she protested.

"You seem to run through them pretty quickly when you stay overnight," Jamie teased as she blushed just a tiny bit.

"Good point," Ryan agreed. "I'll let you know if they fit well."

Jamie looked a little uncomfortable as she said, "I uh…thought you might try them on for me…now."

"Are you sure?" Ryan asked, worried about Cassie coming home.

"Yeah. I'd really like it. If you don't mind that is," she quickly added.

"No, I'm happy to drop my drawers for you," the grinning brunette said as she began to unbutton her fly.

Jamie immediately turned her head even though she really, really wanted to watch. She heard Ryan's shoes be kicked off, and then the rustle of fabric as her jeans hit the floor. "Color choice?" the deep voice asked.

"White," said Jamie decisively.

She heard the fabric sliding up Ryan's legs and her resolve almost left her but she waited until Ryan said, "What do you think?" to turn around.

Jamie was very disappointed to find that Ryan had put her jeans back on over the new shorts. "I can't tell how they look with your pants on," she complained.

"I know that," Ryan purred. "So why don't you come over here and take them off of me."

She had to smack her lips together to make the saliva return to her mouth. There was just a way that Ryan had of knowing exactly what would turn her on, and she had yet to be wrong. Jamie walked over, returning Ryan's sexy grin. When she got right next to her, she pulled her tall lover down with one hand while the other grabbed her sexy butt. Once their mouths were firmly attached, she dropped her other hand and felt every inch of those strong thighs and that firm butt. They both let out a little gasp when she started to unbutton the fly, and her hand slid in to get a really good feel for the fit. After a dizzying minute of kisses and cautious explorations, she shoved the jeans down and stood back to take in the view.

Ryan looked hotter than she thought she had ever seen her, and she had seen her look pretty darn hot. But there was something so totally sexy about her confident relaxed posture as she stood there in her sky blue polo shirt, tight white boxers and a pair of jeans pooled around her ankles that Jamie was nearly faint with arousal. Ryan lowered her eyes just a touch and let her deep sexy voice rumble up from her belly, "Don't you want to check the fit?"

Jamie had never heard such a brilliant idea in her whole life. She stood so close that she could feel Ryan's breath flutter across her face as she closed her eyes and let her hands drop. She sucked in a deep breath to imprint Ryan's sweet smell on her brain, smiling a bit to herself as she considered how important smell had become to her in the few weeks they had been intimate. She had obviously noticed Jack's scent when they were together, but it didn't seem to play a big role in her arousal. With Ryan, however, she felt like she needed to smell her body to start the chain reaction of her sexual response. Part of the attraction was that Ryan was an absolute scent junkie and Jamie could just imagine her nose twitching with pleasure as they shared the sensation.

Her hands could no longer behave themselves and almost of their own accord began to roam all over Ryan's body. But as much as she needed to smell and feel her, she also needed to see how those sculpted legs looked in the new garment. She sank to her knees and took in another deep breath as she saw Ryan's body shudder just a bit at her closeness.

The shorts clung snugly around her lover's thickly muscled thighs, and Jamie slowly realized that she had been holding her breath. Shaking her head to order her thoughts, she lifted the long polo shirt just enough to see the entire fit. She smirked a bit as she noticed that Ryan could probably fit into a medium if they stopped at the traditional spot, but her thighs definitely demanded a large.

She ran her hands up and down each rock hard leg, delighting at the way the muscles twitched under her touch. The fabric bagged a little from her slim waist to her pubic bone in the front but there wasn't an extra centimeter in the back. Ryan's round ass filled the shorts out so perfectly that Jamie's heart actually skipped a beat as her hands cupped the firm flesh.

Jamie rested her cheek on the concave belly as her hands continued to stroke and palm her rear. As she continued to excite her lover, she noticed that Ryan's scent began to change from sweet and clean to musky and spicily exotic. Her heart began to thump loudly in her chest as she let herself acknowledge that she was the cause of Ryan's arousal, and that she controlled the expression of her desire. The feeling was both heady and frightening, and she trembled slightly as she considered it. Ryan noticed her apprehension and began to run her fingers lightly through her hair in a reassuring gesture. The gentle touch effectively stilled her fears, and she rubbed her face against the white fabric in grateful acknowledgement.

Emboldened by her newly discovered power she pushed the shirt up but had a hard time keeping it there. Ryan reached down and tugged it off to provide her lover full access to her body. She was wearing a white sports bra that hid her assets quite well, much to Jamie's relief and disappointment. But seeing all of that smooth skin so close to her face made her just a bit more daring than she would normally have been. She stretched as tall as she could and began to kiss Ryan's adorable little midriff.

She could tell that her kisses were having a powerful effect on her partner but she was getting so much enjoyment from the intimate contact that she started to lose track of Ryan's responses and to concentrate only on her own pleasure.

She grasped the waistband of the shorts and pulled them down a few inches. She placed delicate little kisses around Ryan's navel, finally poking her tongue right into the little depression. Next she began to kiss down the centerline of Ryan's belly, pushing the waistband lower and lower, when her nearly frantic lover unexpectedly abruptly gripped her head. "I can't," Ryan moaned, shivering with unquenched desire. "I'm sorry, Jamie, but I can't!"

Jamie immediately regained her senses and realized what she was doing to the poor woman. She looked up at Ryan and saw the lines of stress creasing her beautiful face. "Oh, Honey, I'm sorry," she gasped as she got to her feet. "I'm so sorry for torturing you."

"S'okay," Ryan mumbled, her legs feeling a bit rubbery. "I'll just ahh…get dressed and ahh…get going."

"Oh, Honey, you're in no shape to ride home. Can't you stay here tonight? I really need to feel your warm body next to mine."

They were startled out of their musings by the sound of Cassie coming home. She wasn't alone, and Jamie recognized her boyfriend Chris's voice as they spoke softly in the living room. They both sounded a little drunk, and it sounded like Chris definitely had love on his mind as he urged her to follow him upstairs. Cassie quietly complied, and moments later they heard two sets of feet climb the stairs.

Ryan quietly asked, "Is it safe to go upstairs together?"

"No, I don't think so. Would you be willing to stay right here? You could leave before they got up in the morning."

"I'd love to stay with you, Jamie. Even sleeping on the floor would be pleasurable with you. Let me call home and tell them not to expect me," she said as she bent to pick up her pants.

"You call home and I'll go to the bathroom. Be right back," she whispered as she slid the door open and snuck out.

Ryan left a message since no one was home, and by the time she was done Jamie was back. "Why don't you go freshen up a bit," she suggested. "Use the bath by the kitchen," she said as she handed Ryan a clean pair of underwear and a t-shirt. "See what I mean about how fast you run through clothes?"

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

When Ryan returned, her grinning lover was lying on her side in her panties and Ryan's polo shirt. "You don't mind sharing do you?"

"No," she said with a big smile. "That's a really nice color on you, as a matter of fact." She walked towards the sofa after carefully locking the door again.

"Wait right there," Jamie instructed. "That's a completely different look." She gazed up at her smirking lover and signaled for her to turn around. "The black shirt with the gray shorts gives you a very dangerous aura," she mused. "I actually think you look sexier in those."

"Ahh, maybe I should go home after all," Ryan said, just a trifle nervously.

"Do I frighten you?" Jamie asked with a sexy leer. "Come here little girl," she urged as she crooked her finger.

Ryan returned her smile and joined her on the sofa. "You're not going to drive me out of my mind again are you?" she timidly asked.

"No, Honey," she assured her. "I just want to hold you." She patted the deep leather cushions of the sofa and eased her arm around Ryan's back when she joined her.

"I have a little proposal for you," Jamie murmured as she snuggled up. "How would you like to take a little vacation with me once the ride is over?"

"Vacation? Um…I guess I'd like that. I mean, of course I'd like it, but I don't know if I can afford it."

"What if I could arrange for us to stay at a private little getaway where we could enjoy each other thoroughly at absolutely no charge?"

"How could you do that?"

"We have a weekend house down in Pebble Beach. Mother said we could use it for a week after the ride. I think it would be wonderful to just relax and get our strength back don't you?" she asked as she drew little patterns on Ryan's belly.

"Well, I've never had a more tempting offer but knowing you I'll come home twice as tired as I was after the ride!"

"We'll just have to pace ourselves," she promised.

"Do you think you'll be ready to enjoy each other…thoroughly by then?" Ryan asked, eyebrows waggling wildly.

"I'm ready now," she moaned. "If we had somewhere to go I'm sure I'd be ready. But I've been thinking of what we spoke about before and I know that once we start I won't want to stop. I think it would just be too frustrating to spend every evening trying to find a place to be together. It would really take the special feeling out of the experience."

"I want it to be a time we'll both remember for the rest of our lives, Jamie. Going to Pebble Beach sounds perfect. I'll arrange to take a second week off."

"Are you tired yet? I could probably sneak upstairs and get us a pillow and a blanket."

"I'm beat," Ryan conceded. "But I don't want Cassie to hear you. The arm of the sofa looks perfect for my head. Would you mind using my chest for a pillow?"

"Let's give it a try," she agreed. Ryan scooted up until her head rested on the soft, low, wide arm of the leather sofa. Jamie cuddled up against her side and rested her head just above her breast. "Umm, I think I'm going to throw my pillow away permanently," she murmured. "I love it here. I can feel your heart beat and hear your steady breathing…It's perfect."

"You won't be cold will you?"

"Not with your hot body next to me. I think I can throw my blankets away too."

"That's a little premature. We can't sleep together every night you know."

"How about tomorrow?" Jamie asked with a grin.

"Tomorrow would work fine. We'll figure out some place to put you. Our game starts at two, so come over by 1:30. Don't forget your toothbrush."

"I'll bring my books on the off chance we might do any studying on Sunday."

She could feel Ryan stiffen perceptibly. "Jamie, I have to study on Sunday. Finals are in one week!"

"Okay, Ryan, I promise I'll behave. I won't kiss you, I won't even touch you if you don't want me to."

"Hey, you don't have to be a lunatic about it," she teased. "But I've got at least ten hours of work to get through this weekend and I'll start stressing if I don't finish it."

"I promise I'll put your needs ahead of my desires," she promised. "But I can play with you tomorrow night, can't I?"

"My body is yours to do with as you will. But at midnight, I'm reclaiming it."

"It's a deal, Cinderella," she promised as she kissed her one last time and snuggled up contentedly.

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

Ryan woke a little after three a.m. with an insistent pain in her bladder. As she struggled into consciousness, she realized that the pain came less from fluid consumption and more from Jamie's knee that was pressing firmly into her abdomen. She gazed down at her still face, so open and guileless in sleep, and brought her hand up to lightly touch her cheek. A strong burst of emotion welled up in her chest as she regarded the woman she loved. Jamie looked so childlike and trusting as she clung to her body, that Ryan was reminded once again how vulnerable each of them was now.

Ryan trusted her family as much as she trusted herself. That confidence had been with her since birth; and even though they fought like any other family, she knew that none of them would ever hurt her intentionally or betray her. But she had always been very leery of allowing an outsider to get close enough to even risk being hurt. Jamie was the first to ever really get inside, and even though Ryan would lay down her life for her lover, she had to admit that the unfamiliar vulnerability sometimes frightened her. Just the few minor spats they had already gone through had hurt her in a way she had not considered possible. Jamie's opinion of her meant everything now, and she realized that for the rest of her life she would have to consider Jamie's view on every major decision that she made.

Even though the exposure and vulnerability would take time to get used to, she honestly felt that choosing to be with Jamie was the best decision she had ever made. No one had ever excited her as much as the small woman who now cuddled up against her side, but the overpowering sexual attraction was one of the least compelling reasons for her commitment. It was Jamie's soul that was the most beautiful part of her. Her kindnesses, her empathy for others, and her deep moral convictions were the qualities that attracted Ryan so powerfully.

The small blond shifted just a tiny bit in her sleep, causing Ryan to smile down at her as her mouth worked slightly. A stirring in her groin reminded her of just how powerful her attraction was, and she smiled contentedly as she thought of spending a whole week with her sometimes unpredictable but always frisky little partner. She could no longer resist the lure of those sweet pouty lips, and she allowed herself the guilty pleasure of lightly kissing them. Luckily, Jamie could sleep through anything, and she didn't stir at all. Ryan closed her eyes and let herself dream of their upcoming trip, unable to keep the broad smile from her face.

Chapter Eight

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