I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 3: Coalescence

By S X Meagher



See Part 1

***Part 15***

Sliding into the car, Ryan placed her dark glasses on her face, once again lifting a dark eyebrow and giving Jamie a sexy leer. As her lover’s eyes blinked in surprise, Ryan removed the glasses and allowed a goofy grin to replace the leer, her normal personality once again back in place.

"You are such a brat!" Despite her scolding tone, Jamie was charmed by her partner’s ability to switch between her various personas so easily. A gentle squeeze of her leg showed Ryan as much, and the knowing grin that met her gesture gave silent affirmation of Ryan’s understanding.

Deciding that Conor would get even more pleasure from the muscle cars than she had, Ryan decided to defer the other test drives until he arrived. "He’s really gonna flip when he sees your home, Jamie," she mused as they neared Pebble Beach.

"How much does he know about my financial situation?" Jamie asked. They had never discussed what the O’Flaherty’s knew of her family or their wealth, and she was curious as to how much Ryan had revealed.

"He only knows what you’ve told him." Ryan placed a hand on her thigh and gave it a squeeze. "I talk about you at home, but I would never talk about something as personal as your money. Of course, when we went to the Giants game I think he got a pretty good clue that you had some bucks, but I’m sure he has no clue how much."

Jamie looked over at her with a shy little grin. "What do you say about me when you talk about me at home?"

Ryan gave her a sidelong glance as she drove along. "I don’t know, just things like how sweet you are, or how good you make me feel. I’ve talked about how great you are with Caitlin, and I’ve told them about how you talk to strangers and make friends out of them in two minutes flat," she said with a chuckle. "I’ve told them how smart you are, and how I love the way your mind works. And I’ve talked a lot about your determination, and how you stuck with your training and workouts for the ride."

Jamie was charmed by Ryan’s recounting of her talks with her family. "You are such a dear woman," she marveled. "I am so lucky to have you." Her head shook slowly as she counted her blessings once again.

"You’re not half as lucky as I am, Babe," she said sincerely, returning the little pat.

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

When they returned home it was fully dark, and as they walked across the crushed stone drive Ryan said, "I’m in dire need of a shower, Babe. You can spare me for a while, can’t you?"

"I suppose so," the blonde mused. "But I think it would be more fun to get clean together, don’t you?"

Ryan stopped and gazed up into the night sky, deep in thought. "Hmm…I guess that would be okay," she said after a minute. A quick pinch to her side caused her to reconsider the enthusiasm of her response. "I mean, absolutely! You’re right as usual, Dear," she corrected herself.

"Don’t push me, O’Flaherty," the small blonde glowered. "You know I have a short fuse!"

Ryan produced her most innocent look as she said, "I’ve never considered the length of your fuse, but if it looks like the rest of you, I would guess that it was short." Her laughter rang out as she raced her partner to the kitchen door.

"Of all the women in the world, I had to pick the one with the smartest mouth and quickest feet!"

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

Entering the kitchen seconds after her partner, Jamie opined, "My guess is that you need a snack before you can manage a shower."

"Mmm…snack," Ryan murmured, heading for the refrigerator immediately.

Jamie helped her to prepare a large platter of cheese, crackers, fruit and vegetables. Grabbing a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio she took Ryan’s hand and led her down the stepping-stones to the pool house.

"I don’t believe I have my bathing suit," Ryan commented innocently, batting her eyes at her partner.

"It’s a birthday suit kinda pool," the smirking blonde assured her.

Ryan set the platter down on a small table that she placed between two chaise lounges. She looked up to see Jamie going to a series of controls near the main door and looked up in surprise as the huge, glass roof panels slid open, revealing the crystal clear black sky. "Wow," Ryan marveled, smiling broadly as the scent of the ocean filled the space. "The enclosed pool was the only thing less than perfect about this whole place," she commented. "And now you’ve even remedied that!"

"Told ya I was perfect," she smirked.

"No need to tell me that," Ryan insisted. "You’re preaching to the converted, Babe."

"So…do you want to swim first, or eat first?" the bemused blonde asked.

"Hmm…if you were really perfect, you’d know the answer to that question," Ryan grinned. Her grin widened when Jamie stripped off her clothes, took a seat on the chaise, and began making a plate of tidbits for her partner. "Just as I suspected," she beamed, happily accepting the plate.

They plowed through the plate in record time, with Ryan pulling more than her share of the load, as was her custom. A glass of wine accompanied the repast for each woman, and by the time the platter was clean, both were pleasantly relaxed and mostly sated. Neither felt like swimming after the wine and food, so they got into the hot tub to relax a bit further.

The water was hot–102 degrees–so they could only remain in the bubbling tub for a few minutes at a time. After about 15 minutes of jumping in and out, Jamie got out and turned off the heat, allowing cool water to flow into the tub through the still-running jets. The temperature dropped quickly, getting down to 98 degrees in just a few minutes. The relaxing water, the wine and the long day started to catch up with them and after another 15 minutes of relaxing, they got out and went to lie on the double chaise that was set near the as-yet-untested fireplace.

Since the pool house shared a common wall with one of the guest apartments, the Evanses had the foresight to include a double fireplace in their building plans, and now both spaces had access to a cozy fire on a cold night. It wasn’t particularly cold this night, but with the roof open, a little extra heat seemed like a perfect idea.

Jamie pulled the chaise even closer to the fire, while Ryan lit the artificial gas logs. "I’ve never seen a fake fireplace that didn’t look silly," the larger woman commented as she watched the gas flame dance. "But this one is pretty darned good."

"Yeah, they didn’t want the hassle of worrying about guests lighting too big a fire and burning the place down," Jamie informed her.

"You dad is always thinking about lawsuits, isn’t he?" Ryan teased.

"I’ve never thought about it that way, but I guess you’re right," Jamie agreed. "He’s…well, I guess I’d say that he’s careful, and very protective of the things that mean a lot to him. He really loves this place, particularly the pool house. I’m sure he went out of his way to make sure it was well taken care of."

"Can’t blame him," Ryan said. "I like to take care of my things too. Speaking of which," she asked, fingering her new diamond, "are these insured?"

"Of course," Jamie informed her. "I have a rider on my homeowners policy that covers all of my jewelry. These are on it as well."

"Whew," Ryan said, wiping the imaginary sweat from her brow. "I’ll be careful with it, but I know I couldn’t replace it if it was lost or stolen."

"Honey," Jamie said with a look of serious concern. "These are yours now. You wouldn’t have to replace them if you lost them. You could sell them if you wanted to, Babe. They are a gift."

"Uh-huh," Ryan nodded. "That sounds like me. ‘Oh, I think I’ll go hock these family heirlooms that Jamie gave me and buy some crack.’ "

"You could do that if you wanted to, Honey," the smaller woman said sincerely. Noting Ryan’s surprised look, she quickly amended. "Not the crack, of course. That’s off limits. But if you wanted to sell them, you could. They’re yours."

Ryan snaked an arm around her shoulders and gave her partner a firm squeeze. "They’re ours, Babe. And I’ll treat them with the same level of concern that you would. They mean a lot to you, so they mean a lot to me."

"Like my ring," Jamie murmured, lifting the band to her lips for a quick kiss.

Ryan threaded her fingers through her partner’s hair for a few minutes, smiling to herself when the pale head nudged against her, begging for more. "You know," she said softly, "I thought tonight would be a good time to talk about our week a little bit. Even though we have part of tomorrow together, Conor will be here and I don’t think we’ll be alone much. So in a way, this is the end of our honeymoon."

Jamie snuggled up against her chest. "Ooh, I hate to hear you even say that. Let’s drop out of school and just live here."

Ryan knew her reply was fanciful, and she steered the conversation back to the subject. "Reality has to hit sometime, Honey," Ryan reminded her. "Tomorrow night, we’re back in the city."

"In our new home," Jamie whispered.

"One of them," Ryan gently corrected.

"Huh-uh," Jamie disagreed. "Tomorrow we’ll be in our new home. On Monday we’ll go to our new house. Big difference, Babe, big difference."

Ryan paused a moment, letting Jamie’s comment sink in. "Do you really feel like that…like my family’s home is yours too?"

"Yeah…in a way I do," she admitted. "I feel so much a part of your family that it just seems natural to feel like the house is mine too. When we go for Sunday dinner, I feel like I’m coming home."

Ryan turned and wrapped her in an embrace so tight that the small woman had to pull back just to get a breath. "That means so much to me, Jamie," she said fervently. "I never even dreamt that I could find a lover who would feel that close to my family…I thought it was hopeless."

Jamie pulled back severely to get a good look at her partner’s face. "Hopeless? What do you mean, Babe?"

Ryan took a breath and pursed her lips for a moment, then cocked her head and took a long sip of her wine, collecting her thoughts. "This is part of what I wanted to talk about tonight," she finally said. "I want to talk about our honeymoon, and how things have gone for each of us, but I also want to talk about what you mean to me, and how you’ve changed my life."

Jamie gave her a charmed smile and said, "I can’t imagine anything I’d rather hear. Fire away, Love."

"All right," Ryan grinned. "I’ll start, but you need to join in, okay?"

"Like you could stop me from going on and on about you," Jamie teased, patting her lover’s bare thigh.

Ryan tilted her head back, staring at the clear, black sky, noticing the first star of the evening. "I’m not sure where to start, so I guess I have to put this in context. As you know, I’ve known a lot of women." Jamie nodded her head, a small smile affixed to her face. "My motto was always that it was a mistake to date a friend. Now I realize that I would have been denied this gift if I had stuck with that stupid idea. The whole reason that we were able to get together is because of our friendship. It’s silly, Jamie. There have been two women in my life that I loved. Two–out of all of the women I have known. And both of them were close friends long before I knew I was in love with them. Why was that so hard for me to figure out?"

"I don’t know, Honey," Jamie replied. "But I’m glad you’re a slow learner–otherwise, I’d just be a classmate that you encouraged to do the AIDS Ride. If you had been open to love, you would have been snatched away years ago."

"I’m not so sure," Ryan said thoughtfully. "I don’t think I was ready before."

"You must have been ready, since you were willing to try to be serious with Tracy," Jamie reminded her.

"Ahh, Tracy," Ryan said, considering the name. "She was actually very helpful to me."

"How so?"

Since they'd broken up, Ryan had rarely mentioned Tracy, and Jamie wondered if it was just to spare her feelings. Ryan quickly set her mind at ease when she revealed, "Without her, I don’t think I would have seen the dichotomy between how I felt with you and with her. I still remember how I felt on New Year’s Eve." Ryan smiled in remembrance. "I was on the verge of going to bed with her for the first time, but after you came over to say ‘hi,’ I spent more time thinking about you than her!"

"I didn’t know that!" Jamie gasped.

"Yep. After you left it was like, ‘Back to work, Ryan.’ It’s hard to explain, but it felt so easy and comfortable with you, and with her I felt like I had to play a role."

"A role?"

"Yeah. Actually, I almost always had to play a role with the women I knew. Most people know one facet of my personality. A few knew me a little better, but no other woman…except Sara, of course, knows all of me." After a brief pause Ryan amended, "No, that’s not quite true. Sara never knew the sexual predator."

"I sure got a healthy dose of that one this afternoon," Jamie laughed. "I want her to come out and play more often!"

"My pleasure," the sexy voice rumbled.

"I don’t think I knew that you felt that way, Babe. I assumed that at least your special friends, like Ally or Alisa would know you well."

"Nope. Ally knows me pretty well, but she’s never seen my ‘baby side’, as you call it. I didn’t ever act childlike around her. With her, we were just sex-loving jocks–lots of wrestling and trying to show who was stronger and things like that."

"Mmm, that would be fun to see," Jamie mused. "I’d love to see two big, buff girls wrestling." Upon Ryan’s twitching eyebrow Jamie added to her wish, "In my dreams, Buffy. I’ll see it in my dreams."

"Just as well," Ryan agreed. "I’d lose face when you saw me get my ass kicked!"

"So tell me more about this role thing," Jamie inquired. "How were you with Tracy?"

"Mmm, I had to be a full-time adult with her. She was pretty serious, even though she had a decent sense of humor. Honestly, I don’t think she was really very into me," Ryan theorized. "I think she wanted to have sex with me, and when I played hard-to-get she took it as a challenge."

"I got the impression that you two were getting pretty close," Jamie said. "We had that talk about falling in love…"

"Yeah, but I learned that if you have to ask someone else’s opinion, you’re not in love. I just didn’t know how it was supposed to feel. I guess I’d say that we were getting pretty close, but there was a barrier there that we could not get past."

"What was it, Hon?" Jamie asked, very much wanting to know these details.

"I never felt like she wanted to know all of me. She seemed to like me quite a bit, but she wanted to know me just as I was…She wasn’t interested in how I got that way."

"Give me an example," Jamie requested.

"Okay. The first time I was going to bring her to the house, she asked a few questions first. She asked about my parents, and I said that my mother was dead. There was a pause, and she said she was sorry to hear that. That was the only time the topic came up. To this day, she doesn’t know when she died, or what she died of, or how her death affected me."

"Why didn’t you tell her?" Jamie asked, stunned that Ryan wouldn’t reveal the details of this momentous event in her life.

"That’s not my style," the dark head shook rapidly back and forth. "I tell people the bare minimum. If you want more, you’ve got to ask for it."

"You don’t do that with me," Jamie reminded her.

"I used to," Ryan insisted. "This is one of the primary reasons I fell in love with you, Babe. Early on, you made me feel like you were deeply interested in me. You wanted to know what made me tick. And I felt the same about you. That trust and openness went both ways. That had never happened with another woman."

"Now that you mention it, I guess I do remember you being pretty close-mouthed about a lot of things. But it didn’t seem to last too long."

"No, it didn’t," Ryan agreed. "I’m really very open with my family. It’s how I feel most comfortable. Maybe since I can be myself at home, it’s not a big deal to have a more reserved mask in public. But with you, I was able to take the mask off pretty quickly."

"I’m so glad that happened," Jamie replied, leaning over for a kiss. "I fell in love with your true self…not one small part of you."

"You get the whole quirky package," Ryan agreed. "Now, I’ve blathered on long enough. It’s your turn, Honey."

Jamie poured another glass of wine for each of them, taking a sip before she began to speak. "I’d have to say that one of the biggest ways you’ve changed my life is that you’ve given me another chance to be a child." Ryan smiled and squeezed her hand, encouraging her to continue. "I was thinking about this when we were running in the sprinklers and sliding across the grass. I never did that sort of thing when I was young. Elizabeth would not have stood for that type of frivolity! I got to play with other kids at the park, but if I got too rowdy we would go home…immediately. She didn’t like it when I yelled or ran around too much–said it wasn’t ladylike."

Ryan’s eyes were nearly bugging out of her head at this thought, but she held her tongue since Jamie seemed to have more to say on the topic. "I’ve got to admit, that was one of the things that most appealed to me about you. You just seemed so casual and free–like you weren’t listening to some inner voice telling you not to do things."

"No, I’m pretty free of inner voices," Ryan joked.

"Yeah, that comes across really clearly," Jamie nodded. "I remember when you broached the AIDS Ride to me for the first time–I thought you were nuts! It seemed absolutely fantastic that you would mistake me for someone who could do something like that. I doubted your sanity!" she laughed.

"That really wasn’t evident in the way you behaved," Ryan assured her. "You acted pretty happy-go-lucky."

"That was an act," Jamie declared decisively. "I always had some kind of tape playing in my head, telling me not to step outside of the rules."

"So why did you agree to do the ride with me?" Ryan asked.

Jamie thought of her answer for a moment, and then realized, "Because you assumed I could do it. You treated me like an adult, who could have a goal, work towards it, and accomplish it. I swear that you were the first person in my life who ever encouraged me in that fashion."

"Not even your grandfather?" Ryan gaped.

"No…not really. I think he was always very careful not to get too involved in voicing his opinion about a lot of things because he didn’t want to contradict my parents or Elizabeth. He was always loving and supportive, but he wouldn’t have encouraged me to be too independent."

"God, we could not have been raised more differently," Ryan mused. "It’s truly amazing."

"I think it’s amazing that our differences have allowed us to come together," Jamie said. "I can get a little dose of wildness from you, and you can hear the voice of reason from me."

"Yeah, I can use a little moderation every now and again," Ryan admitted with a big grin.

"So I guess I’m saying that, in a way, I think we give each other the same gift. You allow me to find that hidden child inside me and let her out. I allow you to be a child around me."

"You let me be vulnerable," Ryan added.

"You let me be wild," Jamie smiled.

"It’s a pretty sweet deal," Ryan concluded.

"Indeed." Jamie leaned over and expressed her appreciation by giving Ryan several tender, gentle kisses. "Now do we get to talk about the honeymoon?" she grinned.

"Go for it," Ryan murmured, looking like she could spend a lot more time on the kissing part of the discussion.

"I am amazed beyond description with how quickly this all felt absolutely normal to me," Jamie said. "I know I was a little freaked out on Tuesday morning, but since then, it’s been so easy. I swear I would never have believed it, but it really has been!"

"Tell me how you mean," Ryan urged.

"It’s hard to describe, Babe. When I was with Jack, sex was so much in my head! I thought about stuff the whole time–was this gonna work, was he enjoying himself, was I gonna have an orgasm. It was this constant running analysis. If I wasn’t having fun, my mind would just wander to school, or I’d think about my to-do list, or something like that. I know it sounds horrible, but I could disconnect really easily and just be in a whole different world–while he was actually inside of me!"

"Yikes!" Ryan grimaced, a sour look on her face. "I take it that you don’t do that now?"

"No! Just the opposite! I’m all about feeling now–it’s really weird, Honey. I just react to your touch, and I touch you with that same instinct. I don’t think about what you’re doing, or worry about what I’m going to do to you. It just happens. It feels so free and natural, Babe. Do you know what I mean?"

"I think I do," Ryan agreed. "I mean, sex has always felt like that to me–I’ve never spent a lot of time thinking in bed. But you’ve shown me a whole new facet of lovemaking that I didn’t expect."

"Tell me," Jamie urged, eyes shining.

Ryan took a sip of wine and let the amber liquid roll around on her tongue for a moment, collecting her thoughts. "Obviously, I’ve enjoyed having sex in the past," she began. "And some of those encounters were very fulfilling. But there is a whole new feeling I have when we’re together," she mused. "It’s hard to explain, but I’d have to say that my focus has changed."

"Focus?" Jamie asked.

"Yeah. My focus," Ryan decided. "I’m more generous and more giving now. Even though I love being touched more than I ever did, I feel like I also love touching more than ever before. I know I’ve told you that I loved touching women–it was a very big deal for me. But in retrospect, I was touching them more to fill myself up, than for them. In a way, it was a power trip. I liked to see what my touch could do…how I could make a woman respond." Taking another sip of wine, Ryan continued, "It’s not like that with you, Jamie. When I touch you, I’m trying to give you pleasure, and I’m trying to show you how I feel about you. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s a very important one."

"It’s important to me," the smaller woman murmured, tilting her head to kiss the wine-flavored lips. "I can feel how you put yourself into our lovemaking–it feels like you’re giving me everything you have, Sweetheart."

"I try to," Ryan agreed. "I’m always going to try to show my full self when we make love."

"I’ll try too," Jamie whispered, smiling as Ryan leaned down to kiss her several times. As the dark head lifted, Jamie asked, "So…is there anything you’re unhappy with about our honeymoon? Did you get everything on your list?"

"I did not have a list!" Ryan cried. After a pause she gave her partner a sly grin and revealed, "Well…maybe I had a short list." She laughed softly and added, "You fulfilled every wish on Monday afternoon."

"Tell me what was on the list," Jamie begged, eyes intent on her lover.

"Well…I’d say that my biggest wish was that by the end of the week we’d be comfortable with each other." She turned just a bit, lay on her side, and trailed her hand down her lover’s body. Starting at her collarbones, she traced a path that included every erogenous zone, and as she finished she looked up and said, "I think we’ve done pretty well on that score."

"That was all that you wanted?" the suspicious blonde asked.

"No, I desperately wanted you not to be afraid of me," Ryan admitted. "I thought you might have a very hard time being open to me." Leaning in for another kiss she added, "That didn’t happen either."

"Come on…there’s more," Jamie insisted.

"I hoped that we’d be able to talk about little problems and concerns that came up about sex," Ryan said. "And I think we did great on that issue."

"Yeah, we did, didn’t we?" Jamie smiled. "It’s actually been fun talking about sex…who knew?" After a short kissing break, Jamie asked, "What about the sex itself? Didn’t you have any expectations?"

"Mmm, not real specific ones. I mean, I did consider every possible permutation of how to touch you during these past weeks, but it wasn’t like it was a wish list."

"Well, no matter what was on that list, I’m sure we’ve done it," Jamie mused.

Ryan paused for a moment, expecting Jamie to laugh but when she didn’t her own laughter bubbled up from her chest. "Oh…that’s rich!" she cried. "Do you really believe that, Babe?"

"Well…um…yeah," the embarrassed blonde replied. "I mean, there are only so many things you can do, and it seems like we’ve done them all."

"Whoo! You’re in for a treat, Sweetness. We’ve just begun to explore each other!"

"Really?" Jamie asked, her voice now hesitant. "But…what…um…there are only so many…I mean…"

"Relax, Babe," Ryan soothed, wrapping her in a hug. "We’ve got all the time in the world."

"But Ryan," she complained, sitting up a little bit. "How much more can girls do?"

"Trust me," Ryan said, a crooked grin covering her face. "We have barely scratched the surface…but that isn’t what matters, Hon. What matters is how we make each other feel. And you are an expert at making me feel loved."

"Me too," Jamie assured her, snuggling into her arms.

They sat in front of the fireplace for a long while, sipping their wine, each lost in her own thoughts, and plans, and dreams. Some time later, empty wine bottle on the table next to them, they drifted off to sleep, holding each other in a warm, love-filled embrace.

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

At nine o’clock, the huge, black Dodge Ram crunched along the drive, pulling up to the rear entrance of the house. Conor hopped out and rang the bell, patiently waiting for his sister to answer. After a few minutes, he tilted his head and looked around the property, spotting the Boxster next to the garage. They’ve got to be here, he mused. Probably passed out from too much sex!

He followed the path to the front door and rang again, now a little impatiently. Come on, you two! I’ve gotta go to the bathroom! After a few tries at rapping sharply, he kicked the door in frustration, and began to peer into every window that he could see into. No signs of life were apparent, so he placed his hands on his hips and started to look around the grounds.

The stepping-stone path to the pool house was lit with graceful tulip-shaped verdigris metal lamps, and he followed the stones to the main door of the glass house. Conor’s big blue eyes scanned the space, stopping first on a pile of clothes dropped haphazardly onto the floor. Turning his gaze to the flickering fireplace the big blue eyes got even bigger when he spotted a blonde and a dark head–two figures reclining together on the wide chaise lounge. Oh shit! he cried. I finally get to see Jamie naked, and my stupid sister is wrapped all around her! Doesn’t that just ruin everything! He fought with his conscience for a moment, finally deciding that the pleasure of peeking at Jamie was not worth the guilt he would feel for spying on his sister. Maybe I could create a diversion, his always-mischievous mind mused. Ryan would get up to see what the noise was, and then I could get a good look at Jamie. He smiled evilly, but quickly quashed his plan. It’s not the same anymore, he had to admit. Now that she’s with Ryan, it’s almost like I’ve got two sisters…just what I always wanted, he groused. There’s finally a hot woman in the house, and my sister gets to sleep with her!

Deciding to avoid embarrassing them, he went back to his car and honked the horn a few times, smiling to himself when Ryan came barreling down the path a few moments later, wrinkled clothes hanging haphazardly from her long frame. Jamie was nowhere to be seen, but he figured that she didn’t have a lot of experience in getting dressed quickly like his sister did.

"Nice key and set of directions you left for me, Sis," he shouted when she was within earshot.

"My bad, my bad," she admitted. "I’m sorry, Con, you haven’t been waiting long, have you?"

"Nah," he lied. "Just got here. You didn’t answer the bell so I thought I’d announce myself."

"Well, I’m glad you’re here," she said, wrapping him in a fond hug.

"Where’s Jamie?" he asked innocently.

"Oh…ahh…we were in the pool house…swimming…and she needs to close it up."

"Nice…" he mused, looking around. "Uh…is she Bill Gates’ illegitimate daughter or something?"

"No," she laughed. "She knows who her parents are. This place is unreal, though, isn’t it?"

"I’ll say. I’ve worked on some pretty nice places, but this one is sweet, and I haven’t even seen the inside."

"Come on in," she urged. "Have you had dinner?"

"Nope. I just got in the truck and drove. I got a snack right before I left, but it’s long gone."

Jamie ran up the path just as the O’Flaherty’s were entering the kitchen. "Hi, Big Guy," she smiled, giving him a kiss on the cheek.

"Hi yourself," he said. "Wow, you look great, Jamie," he added. "You both look really healthy and happy. The honeymoon must be going well."

She batted her eyes at Ryan and enthused, "I think it’s the best one on record."

"Conor hasn’t eaten, Babe. Can I make him something?"

"I’ll make you both something," Jamie decided. "How about a frittata?"

"Sounds good to me," Conor said, smiling broadly. Turning to Ryan he asked, "Do I like frittatas?"

"Yes, Goofball, you’ll like it," she laughed, rolling her eyes. "That sounds good, Honey. I’ll get Conor set up in a guest room, okay?"

"Fine," Jamie replied. "I think Conor should stay in the main house, don’t you?"

"Okay, come on, Conor, I’ll give you the nickel tour."

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

After his bag was placed on the guest room most distant from her and Jamie’s, Ryan said, "You in the mood to work on our little problem?"

"Yep," he agreed. "Show me the scene of the crime."

An elbow to the ribs kept the comments to a minimum as Ryan led her brother to the gym.

"So…the honeymoon went well?" he teased.

"Conor, I had no idea what I was getting myself into," she said with a chuckle. "I plan on being with Jamie for the rest of my life, but at this rate, that might not be very long!"

"I’m really happy for you, Ryan," he said as he leaned over to give her a kiss. "I’m happy for you both, actually. She’s pretty lucky to have you, too, Sis." As they climbed the stairs he cocked his head a little and asked, "What do you mean, you had no idea what you were getting into? Was this your first time together?" he asked incredulously.

"Yep. It was truly our honeymoon," she said with a big grin.

"You waited this long? You?"

"Believe me Conor, she was worth waiting for," she said, sliding her arm around his waist.

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

Conor’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head as Ryan opened the door to the gym. "Holy crap!" he shouted as he looked around the lavishly appointed space. "Ryan, how much money do these people have?"

"They’ve got plenty," she said succinctly, leading him over to the control room.

"And this is just their weekend house? What does their main home look like?"

"I don’t know. I’m a little afraid to find out, to tell you the truth," she admitted.

"Have you even met her parents?"

"Huh-uh," she said as she shook her head. "Well, actually, I briefly met her dad after the AIDS Ride. He came down to L.A. to see Jamie, but he was only able to stay for about five minutes. I had dinner with her grandfather, though. He’s a real sweetheart. To tell you the truth, I’d like to meet her nanny. She’s the one who really raised Jamie."

"Boy, that’s weird," he said. "I guess your family backgrounds couldn’t be more different, huh?"

"We’re not from different worlds, we’re from different solar systems!" she agreed.

She opened the door to the control room and Conor spent a few minutes looking at the equipment with Ryan anxiously looking over his shoulder. "This is not a problem, Sis. These tapes are easy to erase."

"But they’re electronically marked with the date and the time. It’ll be obvious that we edited them," she argued.

"Obvious to whom?" he inquired.

"To whoever reviews them," she explained.

"Oh, that’s the problem," he said with a smile. "You obviously don’t know how these systems work. Here’s the deal. The security company installs these as a part of their total home protection system. The cameras take a still shot every so often, depending on how you set it up. When the tape is full it rewinds to the beginning and starts over."

"But who looks at the tapes?"

"No one, unless an alarm goes off. Then the monitoring company comes out to investigate. They go through their normal procedure, and then they enter the house and review the tape to see what triggered the alarm. Usually it’s just a malfunction or some foliage that brushes against a door. But if there really was a security breach, they have pictures to help identify the intruder."

"But the homeowner can review the tapes if they want to, right?"

"Yeah, and most of them do so for a couple of weeks, but the novelty wears off really quick. So if you just leave this alone, it will rewind itself and start over."

"Can you tell how often they rewind?"

"Yeah, give me a minute." He looked at his watch and timed the cameras. "They shoot every 30 seconds. These are standard videotapes and they hold six hours of pictures. Can you do the math?"

"I think I can handle it," Ryan smirked, her math abilities legendary in her family. "They rewind every seven and a half days," she said after thinking for just a few seconds. "I don’t want to take the risk of a alarm going off before they’ve rewound themselves. Is there a way to erase them?"

"Yeah, we can just rewind the tape, hit this erase button and scroll through the whole thing. It’ll only take a few minutes. Which tape are you worried about?"

Ryan blushed to the roots of her hair, "All of them," she mumbled.

"Jeez, Ryan!" he laughed. "Even the garage?"

She mutely nodded, still blushing.

"What about this one?" he asked pointing at the machine that recorded the perimeter of the buildings and the front entrance.

She gulped noticeably, "That’s one of the worst ones," she admitted, thinking back to their arrival.

"The gym?" he asked incredulously.

"That’s the worst one," she declared as she stared at the floor, thoroughly mortified.

"Well, well, well, you girls have had a gay old time, haven’t you?" he teased.

"Conor, don’t make this worse than it already is, and please don’t tease Jamie about this. She’s embarrassed to talk about it with me, and I was the one doing it with her!"

"Hey," he said as he wrapped his sister in his arms. "I’m sorry, Ryan. I didn’t mean to upset you. I think it’s great that you two are having such a good time together. And I promise I will never mention this whole thing in front of Jamie."

"Thanks, Conor. You really are the best," she said as she stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "Now go play in the gym while I erase these babies."

He left the room with nary a teasing comment, for which Ryan was eternally grateful. She erased the tapes one by one, but the one that captured the scenes from the gym caused her to pause and consider whether she wanted to erase it. Scanning through it with Jamie had aroused both of them, and she considered that the tape could be just the ticket for a little spice when they hit a sexual lull. She was fairly confident that Jamie would not approve, so she acknowledged that she would have to inform her if she kept it. Knowing Jamie, she would agree to keep it, even if she was opposed, if she thought it was important to me. Hmmm, my sweetie would be mortified if anyone else ever saw this tape. No matter how safe we think it is, there is always the chance that it could be discovered. Deciding that her partner’s feelings were worth more than the thrill they could get from watching the tape, Ryan popped it in and erased it, rewinding and playing it again, just to make sure. We can always re-create the scene, she mused. That’ll give us a good excuse to come down here again. When she exited the room, Conor was playing around with the exercise equipment while he watched the Giants on the big screen TV. "This is some sweet setup," he said as he shook his head.

"You ain’t seen nothing yet, Bro," she assured him as they left the gym.

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

When they returned to the kitchen, the table was set, the wine was chilled and dinner was being served. "I was just about to come and get you two," Jamie said as Ryan came up and gave her a little kiss.

"Mission accomplished," she said in a low voice.

Jamie gave her an anxious look, but Ryan shook her head a little. "It’s perfectly all right, Honey. Don’t worry about a thing."

They sat down at the table after Ryan and Conor spent a few minutes arguing about the proper way to light a fire, finally managing to get a roaring blaze going using a combination of their techniques.

The siblings agreed that the vegetable frittata was a perfect bedtime snack, and Conor was effusive in his praise of Jamie’s culinary talents. "Jamie, it’s just not fair that you can cook, too," he whined. "You truly are the perfect woman. I know you don’t have any sisters, but do you have any cute cousins?"

"Yeah, I do have two cute cousins. One of them is 16 and other is 14. Can you wait a few years?"

"Hey, if they’re gonna turn out like you...except for that one little thing...I’ll gladly wait."

"No guarantees, Conor," she laughed. "And I didn’t find out that ‘one little thing’ about myself until I was 21. I’d hate to see you waste all those years waiting, only to be disappointed."

"Good point," he admitted. "I guess I’ll have to find a woman on my own. Now that Ryan’s off the market, the pickings should be easier."

"Hey," she warned, "I didn’t date many straight women."

"You had your share," he reminded her with a smirk. "But it’s just not fair that you got the best one in the whole Bay Area," he complained with a grin as he patted Jamie’s hand.

That got him a kiss from Jamie as she stood to collect the dishes. "Not so fast there, Jamie. The cook does not clean," Conor said firmly, pulling Ryan to her feet. "The O’Flaherty’s will have this place shining in no time."

"Did you make dessert?" Ryan asked hopefully.

"No, but we’ve got another bar of Scharffen Berger chocolate," she replied with a grin.

"Excellent!" Ryan said. "Conor, you’re going to get a hot fudge sundae the likes of which you will never forget."

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

By the time they finished dessert and clean up it was 10:30, and Ryan was fading fast. Conor was still wired from his drive, so they showed him the game room, and within moments he was racking the pool table while watching the Giants extra-innings game on the big-screen TV.

When they were alone in their room, Ryan provided some details about the tape erasing procedure. "I erased each tape myself, Hon," she assured her anxious partner. "Conor knew just how the system worked and he walked me through it, but he stayed out in the gym while I did the work."

Shy green eyes peeked out through golden bangs. "Did he tease you really bad?"

"No, he really didn’t because I told him it was off limits. We all respect each other’s boundaries if we know what they are. I think he’ll drop it after today."

"Whew, that’s such a relief," Jamie said dramatically, falling to the bed.

"I agree, Love. The next time we come down here, we’re sticking to the bedroom."

"Will you come again?" Jamie asked.

"I love it down here," Ryan assured her as she stood in the bathroom doorway, brushing her teeth. "I’d certainly hope we can come down often. Especially on our anniversary," she added with a gleaming smile.

"I thought you’d enjoy it," Jamie replied as she ducked under Ryan’s outstretched arm to grab her own toothbrush. "It feels like you’re really away from people, even though Carmel is full of tourists."

"I like the whole lifestyle down here on the coast. Partly, I think I like it because it reminds me of the Atlantic coast of Ireland. I like the fog and the rocky cliffs, and I really love the wildness of the ocean. And I could sure get used to playing golf at Pebble Beach."

"What do you think of golf? Is it a game you’d like to play?"

"Don’t you mean play better?" she teased. "I do like it. I usually pick up sports really easily. But golf doesn’t come naturally for me. I’m going to really have to work at it to get better, but I don’t want to be a golf widow, and if you’re going to try to play for Cal, you’re going to have to really work on your game. So if you don’t mind me slowing you down, I’d really like to play with you."

"Let’s figure out our schedules sometime this weekend so we can play together once or twice a week. Would you mind playing with my father on Sundays?"

"No, I think that would be a good opportunity for him to get to know me a little bit. I do like to have dinner with my family on Sunday, though."

"So do I, Ryan. I’ll never ask you to give that up."

Ryan gave her partner a toothpaste enhanced kiss, silently thanking her for understanding and sharing in the pleasure of her family dinners.

"Speaking of kissing," Jamie murmured, "let’s get into bed and give our lips a little workout. You didn’t kiss me nearly enough today."

"You know, you’re right," Ryan said as she helped Jamie pull the covers back and climb into bed. "We had sex today with hardly a kiss."

"That is pretty rare, isn’t it? You just got me so hot, so fast, I couldn’t waste any time with the preliminaries. I had to have your mouth on me right then."

"Today was fun," Ryan agreed, "but I enjoyed last night just as much. It doesn’t really matter what we do, or how we do it, Babe. What matters is how much we love each other, and how clearly we express that love."

"You are such a romantic, Ryan O’Flaherty. I love your little Irish heart," she said as she dipped her head to kiss over her left breast.

They spent a few minutes kissing, not increasing the pace or the intensity. They just enjoyed the closeness and the intimacy for a while. Ryan was lying on her back with Jamie resting against her side. As the smaller woman placed a few more soft kisses on Ryan’s lips, she felt her body begin to lose its muscular tension. She snuggled up tighter and laid her head on the broad shoulder. "Goodnight, sweet baby," she whispered to her sleeping lover. "I love you."

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

Continued in Part 16

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