I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 4: Disclosures

By S X Meagher



General Disclaimer: If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. Oops…sorry, I was channeling J.D. Salinger there for a minute.

Sex/Love Disclaimer: Yes, please. To both.

Continuing Story/Serial Disclaimer: This is the fourth installment of a long series. Feel free to read this piece, even if you have not read the others. If you choose that course, however, prepare to be befuddled.

Dedication: As always, my life-partner, Carrie has been supportive, helpful, and inspiring. She’s also as cute as a button.

Acknowledgement: I receive a considerable amount of help from some very talented people who beta read for me. They do much more than correct my admittedly poor grammar. If you enjoy this piece, much of the credit should go to them, since they are instrumental in making this story significantly better than it otherwise would have been. Thanks to JTD, Natasha, Day and Stacia for all of their help.

A website has recently been created to acknowledge the people who give so tirelessly of their time to help improve fan fic. Towards that end, they’ve chosen Oct. 13 as Beta Reader Appreciation Day. Check out the website, and take a moment to thank your local beta reader. http://devoted.to/BRAD As they say, "the author makes the story, the beta makes it good." I completely agree.



Part 1

Glittering blue eyes sparkled with mirth as an impossibly long, leather-covered leg gracefully swept over the bulk of an aqua and cream colored Harley-Davidson. Muscular legs wrestled the silent beast into position as a pair of shorter but similarly muscular thighs slid into place.

The driver turned and caught the gaze of her passenger. Stunningly white teeth were revealed behind luscious, full, rose-tinted lips. "Ready?" the deep alto voice rumbled.

"Let’s go," the confident voice of her passenger agreed.

The right leg of the driver sprang into action, giving the lever under her boot a hearty kick, causing the machine to roar to life. The small blonde passenger was, as usual, slightly stunned by the crescendo of sound and sensation that flooded her body as the bike thrummed under her. She spread her fingers apart to gain additional purchase on the waist of the driver, smiling slyly as she reveled in the feel of the supple leather that covered her lover’s torso.

This is so trippy, the blonde ruminated. A year ago I was having my new engagement ring fitted. I was 20 years old and I thought that I had already made most of the important decisions in my life. She laughed softly, shaking her head at her callowness. I knew who I would marry, I knew where my husband would work and what kind of life we would lead. I knew we would have children, join a country club, and participate in the social scene of San Francisco. I’d never been on a motorcycle. I’d never given conscious thought to even kissing a woman. And I’d certainly never even heard of such a thing as a "Dyke March!"

The motorcycle turned onto the quiet street and was immediately guided up a steep hill. Jamie tightened her hold, slipping her right arm snugly around her lover and smiling to herself, as she considered the woman she clung to.

When Ryan told me that she was going to teach me the secret handshake I almost lost it! she mused as they rolled through the streets of the Noe Valley. I mean, she had been teasing me about that for months, but I certainly never expected her to make good on the offer!

The trip was a short one, lasting only until they reached Dolores–just six blocks from Ryan’s home. As the bike was maneuvered into a semi-legal parking space near Dolores Park, Jamie looked up to witness one of the most amazing sights she had ever seen.

Women…lots of women…lots and lots of women. Women of every size, shape, color, and age. Women in wheelchairs, with walkers, with guide dogs. Women alone, with partners, with groups of friends. Women with children, women and their dogs, and even a woman with a loquacious parrot balanced upon her shoulder.

All of them were converging on the park, filling the flat expanse of ground that made up most of the land, and even now beginning to dot the rather abrupt hillside that surrounded it.

"Pretty impressive, isn’t it?" Ryan commented with a note of pride in her voice as she held the bike steady so that Jamie could hop off.

Removing her helmet, Jamie tossed her short blonde hair from her eyes and shook her head in amazement. She had been in many large groups in her life, but never…never had she been in the midst of this many women. She guessed that there must be at least five or six thousand women already gathered, and the streets near the park continued to funnel more in, adding to the number.

"I’m stunned," she mumbled, as Ryan set the bike on its kickstand and came to stand next to her.

Ryan chuckled at her astonishment, then locked both helmets onto the bike before taking Jamie’s hand and tugging her in the proper direction. "Let’s go, my little neophyte. It’s time you met the family."

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

When Ryan had posed the suggestion earlier in the afternoon, Jamie had been reticent to attend the gathering. "Dyke march?" she asked, a slightly sour expression on her face. "Dyke march?" She had a hard time picturing herself in such an assembly. First off, she didn’t think of herself as a dyke. Oh, she was most definitely sleeping with…well, sleeping wasn’t the activity that she participated in that would cause many to characterize her as a dyke. Nonetheless, though she was having lots of hot, girl-on-girl action with the lovely woman who gazed down at her, she did not think that made her a dyke. Ryan had assured her that she was just the same person she had been before they were intimate, and she believed her completely. She had not been a dyke a week ago–so she was surely not one now.

Aside from the label, though, Jamie had never been to a march of any kind, and she wasn’t at all sure that she wanted to break that pattern. There was something vaguely sinister about the term "march" that she was uncomfortable with. She had a strong suspicion that this gathering would not be just a friendly little "meet and greet" with other women. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area her whole life, she knew that the gay and lesbian communities were very willing to express their displeasure with any number of issues, often in a truculent fashion. She was not angry with anyone–nor did she have an interest in civil disobedience of any kind. She was mulling over her qualms when Ryan tried to draw her out.

"What’s going on in that cute little head?" An elegantly shaped finger tapped at Jamie’s skull.

"Ummm," she stalled, trying to think of the best way to explain her reservations. "I guess I’m just not a protest-y kinda girl."

"It’s not a protest… Well, it’s kind of a demonstration, but not in the traditional sense."


Ryan's dark hair tumbled around her shoulders as she shook her head slightly, chuckling at her own abstruseness. "I didn’t do a very good job with that, did I?" She smiled and tried again. "It’s a demonstration of the power of women in the community, Babe. It’s a way to remind people that the gay community has a very large lesbian contingent. Sometimes society lumps us all together, and this is a way to say that we are different people with different agendas."

Hmmm, Jamie thought to herself. I’ve never had an agenda in my life…and I’m not sure I want one now.

Ryan could see the hesitancy that was still evident in Jamie’s body language, so she tried another tactic. "Okay, how about this. I’m gonna get dressed in my dykiest outfit and ride my motorcycle to meet a bunch of my friends and ex-lovers. Wanna go?" A crooked grin accompanied this statement and Jamie felt her heart melt at the disarmingly charming woman’s expression.

"I’m in!" she declared, tossing her head back and laughing at how easy Ryan made everything.

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

As they crossed the street, Jamie held on to her partner’s hand a little tighter than usual. Her reservations had diminished now that she saw the gathering was really more of a party than anything else. These women looked far from angry. They looked… well, for the most part, they looked incredibly hot! Jamie knew that she was just starting to develop an appetite for looking at other women, but her limited experience led her to acknowledge that she was crazy about dykes–the butchier the better! Yet, every time she stopped to think about this fact, she was puzzled. It stood to reason that she would be attracted to the slightly androgynous Armani-wearing art dealers of SOMA or the preppy lesbians who lived around Union Street. Oddly, those types of women did nothing for her. Give her a leather-jacketed woman with muscles to spare and her knees grew weak. Looking up at her partner, she had to acknowledge that she had snagged the best-looking specimen of the species that she had ever seen.

To Jamie’s appreciative eyes, Ryan always looked hot. But there was something about her today that made the smaller woman question whether it was safe to be in public with her for fear that she would not be able to control herself.

After Ryan announced her intention to come to the march, she had led Jamie down to their new room to present her with a few gifts. It took a minute for the blonde to get her mind around the idea that Ryan wanted to see her in the outfit presented, but her partner had been so generous in her willingness to dress up to please Jamie that she had to give it a go.

She had been gifted with many items of clothing throughout her life. Since her mother was more of a compulsive shopper than she, it was rare that she did not receive a little something when she went to visit. But in all of her 21 years, she had never been given an outfit like this.

"Is this how you see me?" she asked slowly, as she held up the scuffed brown bomber jacket and green khaki pants.

"Ummm, I’m not sure what you mean by that." Ryan hesitated, thinking that perhaps Jamie misunderstood the purpose of the gift.

"I guess I mean that I never wear clothes like this. If this is how you want me to look, we’re gonna have to do some negotiating."

Ryan crossed the room and gave her partner a gentle hug, inhaling deeply to take in another whiff of her perfume. "No, Babe, I don’t see you this way. I don’t want to change the way you dress."

"Then why…"

Ryan interrupted to explain, "I just thought you’d feel more comfortable if you had some dyke clothes. If you wear your normal stuff, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb." Seeing the hurt look that started to form, she added, "I know you don’t feel like a lesbian, Babe. And I’m sure you don’t feel like a dyke. I just thought you might feel more comfortable if you at least looked the part. It’s kinda like wearing a long dress and a head covering in Iran. It doesn’t mean you are Muslim, but it helps you to fit in."

"You sure you like how I normally look?" she asked, suddenly insecure about her personal style.

"I positively love how you look," Ryan averred. "I love that you don’t look like all of the other women I’ve dated. You’re…special," she decided. "That’s it. You’re special."

Jamie’s hands laced behind Ryan’s neck and pulled her down for a lingering kiss. Without conscious thought, Ryan’s hands slipped under the short dress and started to play.

"Uh-uh-uh," Jamie chided, as she removed the questing hands from her butt. "We’ve got a march to attend."

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

Ryan went to shower while Jamie got into her new outfit. To her amazement, everything fit perfectly. The green fatigues hung low on her waist and hugged her hips snugly, while the matching green ribbed cropped undershirt allowed a good view of Ryan’s favorite part–her abdomen. She laced up the black Doc Marten’s, tucking her pants into the tops of the boots to complete her "basic training" look. I wonder where the dog tags are, she mused as she went to the closet to pick out something for her partner to wear.

When Ryan came out, the first words out of her mouth were, "No, Honey. Oh no, not that!"

The blonde head nodded slowly, intent on seeing her vision come to life.

"I don’t think I can even get into that," the dark beauty complained, her voice taking on an uncharacteristic whine.

Another nod as Jamie approached her with the garment in question. "Oh, all right," she grumbled. "I’ve got to put some baby powder on or we’ll never get it zipped."

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

Looking up at her partner as they approached the crowd, Jamie had to congratulate herself one more time on her choice of attire. Besides the supple leather pants that fit like a second skin, Ryan wore a short leather vest that left a few inches of her midriff exposed. The vest was held closed by an aggressive-looking metal zipper that stopped just at the top of her cleavage. And oh, what cleavage she had today! The top was so tight that a bra was completely unnecessary--they even had to work together to get the darned thing zipped. Ryan had to bend at the waist, holding her breasts together while Jamie got on her knees to work the recalcitrant zipper, but eventually the struggling breasts behaved themselves and went along peaceably.

Pulling her partner to a halt, Jamie was compelled to toss her arms around her neck and give her a hearty thank you, both for bringing her to this event and for agreeing to wear the chosen outfit. Ryan grinned down at her in surprise, but quickly got into the mood and returned the kiss. Seconds later she yanked away in shock as a large hand slapped her soundly on her leather-covered ass. "Hey!" the dark-haired woman cried as she whirled around to confront her attacker.

A tall redhead wearing nothing but a big smile and a pair of jeans grinned impishly at Ryan. "Candace!" she cried, wrapping the half-naked woman in a hug.

Jamie immediately began to reassess her pleasure at having come to this party. Seeing Ryan holding a bare-breasted woman was not on her top ten list of favorite things to do, and she had to force herself not to let her displeasure show.

"How’ve you been, ‘O’?" the woman asked, using the moniker that several women on the AIDS Ride used for Ryan.

"I've been great!" Ryan nearly cried. She was filled with energy and enthusiasm, and even though Jamie didn’t like to see her in a clinch with another woman, she reveled in seeing her this happy. "I’d like to introduce you to the woman who makes me great," she added quickly. "Candace, this is Jamie…my spouse."

Ryan had never used that term in public, and Jamie immediately sensed that she had chosen the term to make the nature of their relationship crystal clear to the women they would meet this day. Jamie couldn’t keep the wide grin from her face as she extended her hand to greet Ryan’s friend. "I had no idea, Ryan," Candace said as she shook Jamie’s hand. "Congratulations, girl!" She had to give Ryan another hug, but this time Jamie smiled at the scene, feeling very reassured by the introduction.

"Yep," Ryan beamed. "I’m off the market." She gave Candace a pointed grin and added, "Tell your friends."

"Will do, Babe," she agreed with a playful wink.

Candace slapped them both on the shoulder and started to walk away but Ryan called out, "Hey, is Ally here?"

"No, she went to New York for their Pride Celebration. I’ll tell her I saw you, though."

"Cool. See ya, Candace."

Jamie’s smirk was firmly affixed to her face as they gazed at the departing woman. "That was?"

"That was Candace," Ryan said, a big smile gracing her mischievous face.

"Was she one of the lucky many to experience your charms?" It was clear that Jamie was joking, and that she was comfortable with meeting past lovers, so Ryan answered without hesitation.

"I’m charming with everyone, Babe." She had an ingenuous grin on her face that forced Jamie to admit the truth in that statement. "She, however, has been allowed to nibble on my charms." Another stingingly sharp swat on the butt was beginning to make Ryan regret wearing her leather pants.

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

It took a few minutes to struggle through the crowd, but Jamie finally found what she was looking for. Nearly every woman wore a bright da-glo sticker on some part of her anatomy, and the determined blonde had made her selection as soon as they got in the slow-moving line. She plunked down three dollars and affixed the stickers to her satisfaction. All three four-by-six inch stickers bore the same saying, and she stuck one above Ryan’s heart, another over her own and the third right above the swell of Ryan’s shapely ass.

"Very funny, Jamie," her partner glowered as she looked over her shoulder to read "Happily Married" imprinted on her butt. "Not that I disagree with the sentiment, but did you have to stick one there?"

"Just trying to guard my assets." Wiggling eyebrows forced Ryan to chortle along with her smirking partner. "You seem to draw an exorbitant amount of attention there, so I thought I’d better nip it in the bud."

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

In order to get a good view of the entire crowd, they decided to climb the bank of the small hill that surrounded the park. A few women were lounging on blankets, and several larger groups were having parties where they could spread out a little. The members of one such group recognized Ryan and waved her over. "Do you mind?" she asked Jamie before heading in their direction.

"No, of course not, Honey. I want to meet your friends."

Giving the group a happy wave, Ryan led her partner towards them. They were still 20 feet away when the catcalls began. "It’s true!" "I never thought I would see this!" "Ryan O’Flaherty in a relationship! Not possible!" "I’m gonna faint!"

"Very funny, guys, truly hilarious." Ryan stood at her full height, hands on hips, and glowered at the group. There were about fifteen women lounging around who looked like they had been there a long while, judging from the sunburned skin, empty beer bottles and somewhat vacant expressions.

"How did it happen, Ryan?" one small woman asked. "Did ya knock her up?"

"Yeah, did ya have to marry her?" another comic chimed in.

"As a matter of fact, I did." Ryan slung a long, bare arm around her partner and pulled her close. "And I marry her again every time I look into those beautiful eyes."

Jamie beamed a smile up at her partner, ignoring the groans and the retching simulations. When everyone had quieted down, she grabbed a spot on the blanket and plopped down as she introduced herself. "I’m Mrs. Ryan O’Flaherty, but you can call me Jamie."

Ryan did the honors of pointing out each member of the group as she sat down next to her partner. A woman named Molly, just to her left, looked up as she opened a fresh beer and offered, "Sip?"

Ryan took one look at the glassy eyes of the woman and accepted the icy can. Tilting her head back she drained the entire can in one long gulp, with Jamie and Molly watching in shock. "That’s the biggest damn sip I ever saw," Molly drawled as she collapsed onto the woman next to her.

Trying to find the most sober member of the crowd, Ryan asked, "How long have you guys been here?"

"Since about noon," Wendy replied, looking at her watch in amazement. "Jeez, no wonder the beer’s all gone–it’s six o’clock!"

"Why don’t you all take a little nap before the march starts," Ryan suggested. "They won’t leave before eight."

"Damn good idea, Rock," Wendy said, as she grabbed the woman next to her and collapsed. In a matter of moments, everyone except the two newcomers was out cold. Ryan stuck her hand in the cooler and pulled the last beer from the ice, handing it to Jamie to open.

"I like your friends," Jamie smirked. "Sparkling conversationalists."

Ryan looked out at the group with a fond smile. "They’re nice women," she said. "Most of them work at my old gym."

"I’m sure they are nice," Jamie quickly agreed, hoping that her comment had not been offensive. "I’m sure they’re a little more interactive when they’re not hammered." Just then, the woman next to Jamie started to snore loudly, and the green eyes met Ryan’s as she suggested, "How about a change in scenery?"

"Not a bad idea," Ryan grinned. They moved about 25 feet away, close enough to watch over the sleeping women, but far enough away to escape their sound effects. "Hey, Babe?" Jamie asked when they were settled. "How many more nicknames do you have?"

"Huh? Ohhh…I forgot that Wendy used that one." Ryan smiled in remembrance. "Some of the people at the gym called me that."


Ryan blushed just a bit as she was forced to admit, "I uh…won the trainer’s challenge a couple of years, and uh…some of the people thought I was um…rock hard." She gulped a little in embarrassment, the rare emotion completely charming to Jamie.

She trailed the tips of her fingers down the exposed flesh of Ryan’s muscular arms, lingering for a moment at the blue vein that bulged across her bicep. Leaning in close to Ryan’s ear she whispered, "You are, you know. You’re rock hard and baby soft, all in one big, luscious package."

Ryan’s arm draped across her partner’s shoulders, the scent of baby powder wafting up to make both of them giggle. "See?" Jamie teased. "You’re my big, rock hard baby."

"I’ll always be your baby," Ryan promised, tilting her head to nibble on the lips that called to her.

They sat in companionable silence, sipping the beer and gazing out at the assembled throng. The huge stage was slowly filling with musicians, and before long some thrumming rock started blaring from the massive speakers. Even though the music was loud, they could speak in normal tones since they were so far away from the stage.

The sun was warm on this clear June afternoon, and after just a few minutes Jamie felt the day catch up with her. "I think I’m gonna go crawl onto that empty space with your friends," she said as a yawn escaped.

"Could I interest you in a little cuddling right here?" Clear blue eyes blinked over at Jamie, who smiled as she considered a lifetime of saying "yes" to whatever question this wonderful woman asked.

"Let’s do it," she agreed. Ryan spread her leather jacket onto the ground and lay down on half of it, extending an arm as she waited for Jamie to cuddle in. They wriggled around for a while but managed to get comfortable, and nodded off a short time later.

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

"Mmmm," Jamie murmured as she tried to swat the annoying insect that had been bedeviling her for long minutes. No matter how quickly she slapped at the silent bug, it managed to evade her until she was fit to be tied. "Damn it!" She sat up and turned her head to find twinkling blue eyes gazing up at her, a long stalk of grass between her teeth.

"Something wrong, Babe?" The grass fluttered in the even, white teeth as Ryan spoke.

Grabbing the stalk from her partner’s mouth, Jamie attempted to shove the annoying stem into her skin-tight top. The work was slow, but rewarding, and both women were collapsed in a tumble of limbs when a passerby stopped abruptly and said, "Jamie? Jamie Evans?"

All movement stopped as Jamie’s head peeked out from around Ryan’s armpit. "Melissa Johnston?" she squeaked out in astonishment, catching site of Mia’s erstwhile lover from prep school. Ryan lifted her arm and helped her partner sit up and compose herself as much as possible. Scrambling to her feet, Jamie continued to stammer. "W…w…what are you doing here?"

Melissa glanced at the "Happily Married" stickers that covered both women’s breasts, the deep blush that covered Jamie’s face, and the G.I. Jane outfit and lifted one eyebrow. "Same thing you are, it appears," she said with a smile.

"Hi, Melissa," Ryan said quietly, nearly causing Jamie to faint dead away.

"Ryan? Jesus, I didn’t even stop to look!"

To Jamie’s eternal gratitude, Melissa merely extended a hand for Ryan to shake. Thank God I don’t have to witness them kissing! she grumbled as she fleetingly rued the day she hooked up with an "experienced" woman.

Melissa was smiling so brightly that she looked like she would burst. "Of all the people to run into! My God! Jamie Evans…and with Ryan O’Flaherty, no less! This is just too, too much!"

"Yeah, it is too much," Jamie agreed, trying to maintain her composure, but feeling sick to her stomach.

"When was the last time we saw each other, Jamie? Wasn’t it our coming out party?"

"Yeah…" Jamie had to chortle at the irony of the question. "I guess it was. So here we are again…three years later. I guess we’re destined to come out again and again and again."

Both Ryan and Melissa laughed at the helpless look on the obviously-flustered woman. "So how long have you two been together?" Melissa asked. "I’ve never heard word one about you being gay, Jamie."

"Great," she said with no enthusiasm. "I guess that won’t last long, huh?"

"Oooh, not out to the family?" Melissa asked with a surprising amount of concern in her voice.

"We’ve just um…made it official," Ryan broke in. "Jamie’s not out to hardly anyone yet." Ryan fixed Melissa with her most serious gaze and added, "She’d really like to be the one to tell her family."

"Oh, of course!" Melissa looked taken aback at the suggestion that she might "out" Jamie. "I’m out to my parents, but I haven’t told anyone from Hillsborough. It’s just not worth the trouble!"

"So things are good with you and your family?" Jamie asked, trying to turn the spotlight back to Melissa.

"God no!" she laughed. "They’ve practically disowned me! If I didn’t have a full scholarship, I’d have had to drop out of school!"

"Are you kidding me?!" Jamie was shocked at this news. She didn’t know the Johnstons very well, but Melissa’s mother was involved in a lot of charity functions on the Peninsula, and Jamie was sure their mothers were well acquainted.

"My mother went berserk," Melissa commented dryly. "It wasn’t a very long trip, I might add."

"God, I’m really sorry," Jamie said.

"No big deal." Melissa acted as though the matter really did not trouble her. "My dad’s fairly cool. He slips me some money once in a while, and my grandmother is supportive. I’m doing fine, actually. Getting out of Hillsborough was the best thing I’ve ever done." She looked over her shoulder when a woman called her name. "Hey, here’s my sweetie now."

A lanky blonde came over and joined the group, and Melissa introduced her. "This is Andi. Andi, this is Jamie Evans. We went to high school together. And this is her partner, Ryan." Jamie noted that Melissa omitted any detail on how she had come to know Ryan. Hmmm, I wonder if Andi is the jealous type?

They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before Melissa asked in a casual tone, "Who are you living with now, Jamie? Still with Cassie and Mia?"

Jamie gave her a bright smile and nodded. "Cassie won’t be back, but Mia will come home in September. She’s in L.A. this summer with her boyfriend." Jamie didn’t want Melissa to think that Mia had come over to the other side, too.

"Cool," Melissa said with a dampening of her cheerful voice. "Tell them I said ‘hi’ next time you see them."

"Will do, Melissa. Give me a call sometime–I’m listed." Ryan was surprised to hear the sincerity in Jamie’s voice.

"It’s a deal," the smiling woman promised. "I’d really like to, Jamie."

"See ya." They both waved as the visitors strolled away, hand in hand.

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

"I need a list. Preferably in alphabetical order, but if you can’t manage that, I’ll take whatever you can give me. I want the name or the description of every woman that you have ever slept with, copped a feel from, or French kissed. I can’t take another one of these surprise attacks, Ryan. I mean it."

Expecting to see anger flashing in the green eyes, Ryan was surprised and saddened to see only resigned frustration. Taking a deep breath, Ryan spoke the truth. "I didn’t sleep with Melissa, Jamie. I also didn’t cop a feel, or kiss her–French or otherwise." Ryan’s voice was subdued, and when Jamie met her eyes she looked like a small child that had been punished unjustly.

Lying down upon the leather jacket, Jamie blew out a long, frustrated breath. She knew that Ryan was telling the truth, since Ryan always told the truth, but the entire incident had left her feeling bruised and vulnerable. "I’m sorry, Ryan," she said softly. "I shouldn’t have jumped to that conclusion."

Ryan lay down next to her and patted her cheek gently. "S’okay, Babe. Not like you wouldn’t have been right 19 times out of 20."

Sadness laced with regret clouded the eyes that Jamie loved, and her heart clenched in shame. "That’s no excuse, Ryan. It’s unfair of me to assume that you’ve slept with every woman you know by name. Besides, even if you have, what difference does it make?" She sat up and tried to order her thoughts before speaking. Ryan was looking at her with a curious gaze, but she didn’t comment. "It just doesn’t matter, Baby," she finally decided, and as she said the words, she knew them to be true. "All that matters is that we love each other now…and that we’re faithful to each other now. The past is past."

Ryan sat upright, her shoulder brushing against Jamie’s as she did so. "I just wish…" she began in a soft voice, but Jamie placed her fingers against her lips, effectively silencing her regret.

"I wished for a wonderful mate, and I got one. That’s all that matters, Honey…really." Ryan still looked a little down, and Jamie made another try. "Look, Babe, when we were in Pebble Beach you told me that I shouldn’t regret having had Jack in my life. You said that loving him made me open to loving you. I think you were right about that, Baby. But you’ve got to know that the same thing holds true for you."

Ryan shot her a quizzical gaze, still not speaking, but obviously waiting to be reassured.

"You are the woman…and the lover… that you are because of the experiences you’ve had." Jamie’s voice had grown soft, and there was a hint of seduction in it. She lifted her hand and started to trace her finger around the outlines of Ryan’s leather vest, turning the hint into a definite overture. "I know you’re a very creative woman, but I bet you learned a lot from the women you’ve been with." Jamie’s breath was floating across Ryan’s skin like a warm breeze, and the dark woman shuddered from the sensation. "I owe those women a debt of gratitude," she whispered. "Especially the one who taught you to do this…"

Forcing her surprised lover onto her back, Jamie illustrated one of Ryan’s favorite moves, performing a credible rendition of the fluttering tongue movement her lover had perfected through her years of experience. Ryan let out a low groan as the gentle assault continued, finding herself powerless under her partner’s relentlessly probing tongue.

Coming up for air, Jamie panted out, "This is the longest we’ve gone without making love all week. I…I don’t know if I can control myself."

Ryan gazed up at her and stated the obvious. "We don’t have to wait, Baby. We’re among friends."

Her waggling eyebrow made clear just what she was suggesting, but Jamie found her head rapidly shaking. "You mean…here?!"

The seductive grin on Ryan’s flushed face indicated that was exactly what she meant. "I’ve done worse."

Small fingers paused at the tab of the zipper that held the objects of Jamie’s desire captive. A very large part of her wanted to yank that zipper down and let all of that creamy flesh spill out of the leather and into her waiting hands. But another part of her didn’t want to share their intimacy with anyone, much less the dozens of women on the plateau that would have ringside seats. Ryan wasn’t pushing–she had merely stated an option–but Jamie decided that she didn’t want to have public sex with her partner–today or ever.

"I don’t want to," she said in a quiet voice. "I mean…I want to…really, really badly. But not here…not now."

Ryan wrapped her in a gentle embrace and whispered into her ear, "I’m glad. I didn’t want to either."

Jamie’s head shot up as she tried to focus on her too-close partner. "What? Then why did you…"

"I was just laying out the options, Babe. I’ve done that type of thing before, and if you wanted to, I wouldn’t have objected." A gentle smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she gazed at Jamie and softly stroked her face. "But it’s not what I want…for us. Sex can be public–but making love is private. And we make love," she declared softly, kissing Jamie with a tender passion that made her body go limp.

Pulling away several minutes later, Ryan teased, "Hey, where did your muscles go?" She grasped a nearby hand, picked it up, and chuckled when it fell to the ground as she released it.

"My muscles wanna have sex," the smaller woman moaned. "The message from my brain has been completely ignored by the rest of my body."

"Poor body," Ryan crooned, running her warm hands down the sensitive flesh. She leaned over and placed gentle kisses on every part she could reach, murmuring, "Don’t worry, body, you’ll be taken care of as soon as we get home."

"Promise?" Glittering, desire-filled eyes begged.

"Promise," Ryan vowed, bending to kiss Jamie’s lips one last time. "I think I can satisfy your body and your mind." Her flashing blue eyes made Jamie believe every word, and she was able to relax and settle into a long, leisurely, loving hug.

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

It was close to eight when the last band finished. A long string of announcements called the group to some semblance of order, and the energy started to pick up. "Let’s walk around a little bit," Ryan suggested.

They stopped to make sure that Ryan’s friends from the gym were awake enough to look out for themselves and then made their way down the hill. "Look, Honey," Jamie enthused when they went past the large playground in the corner of the park.

"That’ll be us in a few years," Ryan laughed as she came up behind her partner and clasped her hands around her in a loose embrace. They both smiled at the scene as they watched women play with their young children on the various pieces of equipment. Several couples had babies in strollers or packs and, as Jamie expected, Ryan was drawn to them like a bee to honey. When they got close, Ryan pointed out a pair of women playing with a young boy on the swings. "Hey, that’s Stacy and Melinda from the AIDS Ride." They dashed over and greeted the couple enthusiastically.

"Stacy, Melinda, how are you?" Ryan cried, wrapping each woman in a warm embrace. Jamie offered an equally friendly, but slightly less demonstrative welcome, smiling as her partner dropped to the sand to greet Jared, the adorable little six-year-old who was trying to touch the sky with each push of the swing.

"That’s high enough, Jared," Melinda said, afraid that his small body would slide out of the seat if he went much higher.

A devilish look came over Ryan’s features as she looked up at the mothers and asked, "Mind if I give him a little excitement?"

"Uhh…I guess not…umm…" Stacy hesitated.

"She’s careful with others," Jamie assured them. "She’s only really wild when she’s on her own."

"Okay," Melinda decided. "Go for it."

"Hey, Jared," Ryan said in her most conspiratorial tone. "Wanna make your mamas’ eyes bug out?"

The small boy nodded an enthusiastic yes, even though he looked a little hesitant to align his fortunes with this tall stranger. Ryan lifted him as she sat in the canvas sling, then placed him on her lap, facing her. "Okay, pal, hold on tight," she advised as she began to pump her powerful legs. In seconds they were going higher than Jamie had ever seen a human go on a swing. Three sets of eyes stared in shock as both Ryan and Jared threw their heads back and laughed hysterically. The little boy held on as tight as his thin arms would allow, but Ryan had taken the extra precaution of wrapping her arms around the chains and then securely locking her hands around his back.

"Mama! Mommy! Look!" he cried, reassuring himself that his parents were sharing in his joy.

Both women smiled and waved at the wildly laughing boy, with Stacy saying to Jamie, "Would this be a good time to tell her he sometimes gets sick to his stomach on the swing?"

"Nah," Jamie decided, unwilling to take one moment of joy from her partner. "She’s got on leather–I’ll just hose her down."

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

"Did you have a good time, little girl?" the small blonde asked her tall companion when they departed the playground.

"Yep." Ryan was beaming from ear to ear, a look of such satisfaction on her face that Jamie nearly cried. "You go lots faster if you swing with a buddy. You spur each other on." Wiggling eyebrows showed that Ryan thought this maxim could apply to other situations also, and Jamie was beginning to wish they were at home to explore some of them. But the remarkable sights that they continued to observe made her glad they had decided to stay.

Not the least of her pleasure came from the wide variety of friends and ex-lovers that Ryan introduced her to. It was very reassuring to Jamie that very few of the exes seemed to show anything but fond feelings for her partner.

After the AIDS Ride, she had been a little concerned that running into former lovers would be a constant strain, with woman after woman trying to give them a hard time or even trying to cause trouble in their relationship. But this group seemed to be on exactly the same wavelength as Ryan had been during her dating days. They seemed to be very open-minded about their sexual experiences. In fact, they seemed to be experimenting with their sexuality–trying to get and give pleasure without any major emotional commitment. Jamie knew that lifestyle would never work for her, but it had seemed to work for Ryan, and she was glad that these women were able to play the game in the same way, if that met their needs.

They were heading back towards the stage when a hand snaked out from the crowd and landed on Ryan’s shoulder. "Piernuda!" called a honey-toned, lightly-accented voice.

"Alisa!" Ryan cried, looking genuinely happy to see her former lover. They embraced, holding on for a moment longer than Jamie would have preferred, but she was beginning to get accustomed to Ryan’s near-constant hugging and kissing of practically every woman they ran into. "How’ve you been?"

"Good, I am good, Cariña." Alisa released Ryan and turned her head to Jamie. "Introduce me to your love, Ryan."

Jamie had seen this self-confident woman on the mountain bike ride up on Mt. Tam. They hadn’t spoken that day, so her memory was vague, but seeing her again, Jamie had to admit that she would never forget her face. The strong, angular features would not be described as traditionally beautiful, but on Alisa, the strong features blended with her near-black eyes to create a face that was truly mesmerizing. As Alisa extended a hand, Jamie had to admit that she was happy she would never have to face her in a trial. There was something almost regal in the woman’s bearing–some indescribable elegance in her carriage that made Jamie feel small and awkward and immature. "I am Alisa Guerra," she supplied before Ryan could do the honors.

Jamie grasped her cool, strong hand and nearly curtsied. It took her a second, but she got out, "Jamie Evans," even managing to add a weak smile.

Ryan was at her side, slipping an arm around Jamie’s waist while she beamed at both women. "I’ve never seen you look so happy, Querida," Alisa said, looking at Ryan fondly. "You seem…at peace."

"Thanks for saying that," Ryan smiled. "I am at peace. I’m calmer and more relaxed than I’ve ever been in my life."

Jamie looked up at her with wide-eyed astonishment. "What were you like before?!" she gasped, causing both Ryan and Alisa to break out in exuberant laughter.

"Don’t ask!" both women supplied nearly simultaneously.

There was something about the way the Alisa looked at Ryan that made Jamie feel like she was intruding. She decided to give them a little time alone, so she excused herself to go wait in the long line for the restroom.

"Are you sure you want to go alone?" Ryan asked with concern.

"Positive. You two stay here and chat. I’ll come back for you."

"Okay, Hon," Ryan agreed, lowering her long frame to a comfortable spot on the ground. "I’ll stay right here."

Jamie struggled through the crowd to get in the slow-moving line. Nearly everyone she saw wore some type of sticker or slogan somewhere on their bodies. I wouldn’t say most of these things to Ryan, and I DO most of them with her! She was truly amazed at the number of women who paraded around on the streets of the city proclaiming, "Butch in the streets, femme in the sheets," "orgasm addict," "got lube?" "pro choice/pro pussy," or the thoughtful, "breakfast included." Nevertheless, her favorite had to be the T-shirt that begged, "Dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians." Now that’s one thing I’d like to try, she smirked. But there’s only one chocolate-loving lesbian I’d like to be thrown to!

Standing in the line, Jamie mused about the crowd and the event. I never would have believed this, but I feel pretty comfortable in this crowd. I’m not sure what it is….but I feel like…myself. An idea struck her and she thought about it for a moment, trying it on for size. That’s it! she thought with excitement. These women aren’t judging me! As she looked around at the women surrounding her, she considered her thought. I don’t feel like I’m on display! They think I’m gay and that should make me fair game, but I don’t feel like they’re looking at me the way that six thousand young straight guys would!

Aside from the lack of sexual vibes I’m getting, I’ve gotta admit it’s weird to be with this many women and not feel like they’re assessing what I’m wearing or how my hair looks. This is really odd, but it feels very freeing!

With a start she recognized that this was one of the things she most loved about being with Ryan–right from the very start. They never–not once–spent any time analyzing anyone else. She blushed at the thought of how many times she and Cassie had sat on the Sproul steps and critiqued people as they passed through the gates of the campus. She had thought that was what everyone did, until she began to spend time with Ryan. But Ryan was so self-assured that it would never occur to her to spend her time comparing herself to others. In a way, that behavior was beneath the confident woman, and for that Jamie was truly grateful.

As soon as she was finished, she threaded her way through the crowd to find her wonderful woman. She was right where Jamie had left her, sprawled across the ground, head held up by one braced arm. Alisa’s pose roughly mirrored Ryan’s, and they were having an obviously intense discussion. The assistant district attorney was making a point of some import, pushing her finger into the softness of Ryan’s breast to punctuate her words. Jamie felt a flash of irritation, but she tried to swallow the feeling before she reached the pair. Ryan, for her part, looked like she was paying attention, but Jamie could tell that Alisa’s words were not really reaching her.

The blue eyes seemed to sense her approach, and they rotated in her direction, tracking her for the last 30 or so feet of her journey. Alisa sensed that her audience had deserted her, and she turned to catch a glimpse of Jamie’s arrival. Her smile seemed less than genuine, but Ryan’s made up for any luster that her friend’s lacked. "Hi, Babe," she murmured, getting to her feet to welcome Jamie back with a kiss.

"Ready to go, Hon?" Jamie asked, sensing that Ryan was feeling antsy.

"Yeah, I think so." Turning to Alisa, Ryan said, "It was great to see you again, Alisa. Maybe we’ll catch you up on Mt. Tam some Friday night."

Jamie could see the longing in the deep brown eyes as the lovely woman said, "Maybe." She turned to Jamie and extended her hand again, gripping the smaller hand tightly. "Take care of her, Jamie," she intoned, nodding in Ryan’s direction. "She’s precious to me."

Jamie met the intense gaze and felt all of her normal confidence bubble to the surface. "I will, Alisa. She’s precious to me, too." Both women nodded to each other, acknowledging that only one could claim this prize.

Alisa wrapped Ryan in a hug, pulling back to kiss her softly on the lips. "Hasta luego, Cariña," she whispered, then turned and strode back to her friends.

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

"Wanna talk about it?" Jamie asked softly as they neared the street.

Ryan had been nearly silent during their walk, seemingly lost in her reflections. "No." She shook her head briskly, running a hand through her hair to order her bangs. "I’d rather not, if you don’t mind."

Jamie had a ton of questions for her partner, not the least of which was "Why is your former lover still calling you ‘hottie’, ‘sweetheart’ and ‘dear’?" But she knew that Ryan needed some private space, so she forced herself to say, "No problem, Honey," and grasped her hand, lifting it for a gentle kiss.

Ryan beamed a smile at her, silently thanking her for her understanding. When they reached the street, the taller woman said, "I don’t really feel like marching that far. Would you mind riding?"

Jamie was astounded to hear her lover plead fatigue. She stopped abruptly, pulling Ryan to a halt with her. "Are you all right, Babe? It’s not like you to beg off something because you’re tired."

"Mmm…I’m not really tired–I just don’t want to walk all the way to Castro. I think it would be more fun to ride."

Jamie was actually a little disappointed. She was just getting comfortable with all of this feminine energy and she wasn’t really ready to leave the protective cocoon of women. But Ryan’s behavior was unusual enough that she felt the need to heed her request. "Sure, Hon. Riding is good, too."

They got on the bike and headed off, slowing severely when they reached Valencia and 23rd. Lined up in a neat queue stretching for nearly two blocks were motorcycles of every make and model. Most were riderless, but many held a driver or even a passenger.

"Is there some big biker bar around here?" Jamie asked over the thrumming of the engine.

Ryan flipped up her face shield and turned to say, "No…no biker bars around here."

As they crossed the street and began to slowly make their way past the assembled bikes, Jamie was shocked to notice that every driver was a woman. She was just about to comment when she heard, "O’Flaherty! I saved you a space!"

Ryan’s laugh wafted back to Jamie, and the passenger got in a good pinch to the exposed skin that lay just under her fingers. The bike slid into the space reserved for them and as they got off, Jamie stood in slack-jawed silence at the scene that stretched as far as the eye could see.

There were hundreds of bikes, hundreds of women, and a few moments after they arrived, the women began to break up their small groups and climb astride the bikes. Ryan dashed over to the woman who had saved them a space, giving out yet another kiss on the lips for her thoughtfulness. Well, one good thing, Jamie mused. If we ever break up, at least I still get to kiss her!

Before Ryan made her way back, she was stopped at least six more times for kisses and hugs. When she finally stood before Jamie, the smirking blonde grabbed her and planted a scorcher on her oft-kissed lips. The kiss continued for long minutes, with Ryan finally leaning against the bike to support her weak legs. When Jamie released her she blinked slowly and mumbled, "Is this making you hot?"

"Yes," her impish partner drawled. "But that’s not why I kissed you. I’m just trying to keep those lips busy. If I’ve got ‘em under control, nobody else can get at ‘em."

"I like your style," Ryan decided, returning the favor as the bikes started to rev. Just as they got on, a bare-breasted woman ran down the street in their direction. She had painted her chest in the wide stripes of the rainbow flag, but just above her belly someone had created a perfect rendition of a street sign. It read "One Way" but the arrow pointed down into her jeans. Jamie was just about to comment when the woman cried, "Ryan!"

Just before she reached them, Jamie whispered the warning, "That street has been permanently closed, Baby!"

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

After everyone was ready, the lead bikes gunned their engines repeatedly, signaling that they would soon start. No one was wearing their helmet, but Jamie was still reticent to take hers off. "It’s against the law, Baby," she insisted, needlessly adding, "and stupid, for that matter".

"This ride’s illegal, too, Honey, and the march, for that matter," Ryan chuckled. She nodded her head in the direction of the police station they were idling in front of. At least a dozen officers stood in the parking lot, watching the assembled women. Some looked bored, some interested in the bikes; a few looked less than happy, but none of them looked like they had any intention of getting involved.

"You sure?" Jamie asked again.

"I’ll pay your ticket, Babe. It’s perfectly safe. I guarantee we won’t go over ten miles an hour the whole time."

Feeling like a miscreant, Jamie finally tugged off the bright yellow helmet and handed it to Ryan. In return, Ryan handed her some neon orange foam earplugs. "Trust me," she intoned, and as usual, Jamie did. As soon as they had their earplugs in place, the lead bikes roared away and every other bike in the group began to rev their engines. The sound was bone-shaking as every one of the beasts let out a throaty growl that reverberated against the two and three story apartment buildings and shops.

Every part of Jamie began to thrum, and after a second or two she was struck by another erotic daydream of just how much leather she could leave on her partner while still having access to every vital spot.

Ryan’s prediction was accurate, and they spent much more time idling than they did riding, but Jamie decided that she did not care one bit. She was so overwhelmingly glad to be sharing this party with her partner that she didn’t care if they had to push the bike the rest of the way.

Ryan and C.J., the friend that had saved them a spot, had a little competition as they rode along. The game seemed to be "see who has the loudest bike," and with what little hearing she had left, Jamie decided it was a draw. Both women had fun though, and Jamie had to admit that as long as Ryan had fun–she had fun.

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

When they finally reached the last big hill leading down into the Castro, Ryan turned and shouted, "Turn around, Babe." Jamie did so, and practically fell off the bike as she took in the scene behind her. From the bottom of the hill to the top, the women of the march filled the street. There were so many women that they also filled both sidewalks to capacity. As the bike rolled slowly down the street, more and more marchers crested the hill–looking to Jamie like a huge invasion of women warriors. But this invasion was clearly welcome, as the assembled throng gathered on the flats began to clap and cheer for the riders and marchers.

The Castro was filled to bursting on this Saturday night of Pride Weekend. The street had been closed for hours, every recalcitrant car towed away long ago. Now the bikes rolled down the normally congested street freely, police holding back the onlookers who struggled against the restraints.

Jamie had never been greeted so exuberantly–even the crowd at the closing ceremonies of the AIDS Ride dimmed in comparison to this. Music blared from the stage that had been set up, people yelled, bikes roared–it was a sensory overload for everyone involved.

They were led to a side street, where the police had thoughtfully provided a place to park the four hundred motorcycles. It was clear that if they got into this mess they would have to stay until the last of the revelers left, but as usual Ryan had a plan. She separated from the pack and started to wind her way through the streets and alleys of the Castro, finally finding a sliver of a spot about two blocks away.

When she killed the engine, Jamie’s ears could not adjust to the silence for several minutes. It sounded like they were still in the pack, although much more muffled. She extracted the earplugs that Ryan had provided and gave her partner a big kiss for her prudence. "I would be permanently deaf without these babies," she marveled. "As usual, my little Girl Scout comes through again."

"Your ears are very important to me, Jamie," Ryan said with a touch of seriousness. "I always want you to be able to hear me whispering how much I love you."

That merited her another kiss, a long, emotion-filled one, delivered right in the middle of 22nd St.

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

They didn’t stay in the Castro for long. There were so many people that it was a little overwhelming for both of them, and Ryan had never been fond of huge crowds. They stayed on the periphery as much as possible, enjoying the cavalcade of diversity.

They saw nearly every permutation of leather, denim and rubber imaginable. Jamie had never considered the leather/rubber cottage industry, but judging from this display, business was booming.

Ryan was perched on the back of a bus bench, Jamie between her thighs, when a good-looking woman walked by. She was sporting a T-shirt that read, "Vegan lesbians taste better."

Turning around to look at her partner, Jamie raised an eyebrow in question. As she expected, Ryan gave her a shrug and a small nod, adding, "I wouldn’t say ‘better,’ but definitely different."

"I thought safer sex prohibited that," Jamie smirked, turning around fully to make eye contact.

"It does, but I had a pretty wild first year, you recall. Ally didn’t knock any sense into me until I’d been around the block a few times."

"So…why is it different?" Jamie persisted. "Do you want me to be a vegan?"

"Nope." Ryan shook her head decisively. "I could tell you a lot more than you want to know, Babe, since this is all about chemistry and biology. But the details aren’t important. The bottom line is that your taste is absolute perfection. I love it more than words can say, and I can’t think of a reason why we’re out in this crowd when I could be at home feasting upon it."

Jamie could not argue with that logic. She merely grasped Ryan’s hand and let the sexy brunette lead her back to their new family home.

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

After a very quick check on Duffy, the youngest and furriest member of the O’Flaherty family, they dashed down the stairs to their room. Ryan was preparing to toss her lover onto the bed but stopped short when she noticed a huge basket filled with gourmet delicacies and a large bottle of champagne. "Jamie," she asked in surprise, "did you see this?"

The smaller woman had been thrown over Ryan’s shoulder, and they both laughed as she stated the obvious. "All I can see right now is a very scrumptious looking leather-covered butt." She reached down with her dangling arms and gave the butt in question a good swat.

Ryan placed her onto the bed gently, allowing her to see their gift. "That's so sweet!" she said enthusiastically. "Is there a note or a card?"

Ryan pulled off the transparent lavender wrapping paper and dug around in the items. "Here it is," she said triumphantly. The note was addressed to "Siobhán and Jamie" and was obviously in her father's handwriting. She ripped it open and read aloud,

This is just a small token to express our feelings for the both of you. We are overjoyed that you have found each other and we hope that your love continues to grow each day.

Welcome to the family, Jamie. We love you like one of our own!

Love always,

Martin, Brendan, Conor and Rory

"This is sooooo adorable," Jamie gushed. "I can’t get over how thoughtful your family is. They’ve really made me feel at home, Baby."

"I’d like to make you feel at home, too," Ryan murmured, falling to her knees in front of her partner. Her eyes were dark with desire, and Jamie felt her heartbeat pick up again as she met and held her gaze.

"What kind of welcome do you have planned for me," she asked softly, running her hands through Ryan’s dark hair.

It was all that Ryan could do to concentrate on the question her lover posed. Her head pushed against Jamie’s hands, willing the touch to continue. "Huh?" she finally murmured, lost in the sensation.

Jamie loved the little seduction games they played, and she decided to continue this one for a while. There was something so arousing about watching Ryan’s normal control collapse bit by bit that she doubted she would ever tire of the game. "I asked," she whispered, as her fingers joined behind Ryan’s head and started to scratch her scalp, "what kind of welcome you had planned for me."

Ryan looked like all she wanted to do was lift her rear leg and scratch behind her ear just as Duffy was wont to do when Jamie hit a particularly good spot. It was obviously hard for her to form a coherent thought, but this was when the game became particularly pleasurable for Jamie. Watching her lover struggle to speak turned her on in a way she would never have imagined. There was something unspeakably delicious about watching the normally glib woman fight to string together a two-word sentence, all because of her touch. "Welcome?" she asked, haltingly. "Huh?"

Lowering her hands, Jamie used her short nails to lightly scratch every exposed bit of skin that she could reach, starting at Ryan’s sensitive neck. When she was only halfway down her exposed arms, the dark woman was shivering noticeably, her eyes tightly closed, relishing every touch. ‘Don’t you want to give me a special welcome?" Jamie persisted, leaning in close to lick and suckle on Ryan’s thrumming pulse point.

"Aaahhhhh," Ryan gasped, presenting her neck to her tormentor, the question never heard, much less answered.

Jamie backed off just enough to allow her victim to form a rational thought. As she pulled away, Ryan stayed just where she was–kneeling on the floor, swaying slightly as she waited for more of her lover’s touch. Her eyes were closed, head tilted just a bit, lips moist and slightly parted. Jamie knew that she was near the breaking point, and she was determined to push until her lover snapped and claimed what she so badly needed.

She slid off the bed and knelt behind her partner, her right knee between Ryan’s so she could get close. Lifting the dark hair she started to lick and suck at the smooth, sensitive skin of the taller woman’s neck. Ryan’s whole body twitched with need, her shivering driving Jamie absolutely wild. The game lasted just a few more seconds until Ryan let out a sound that was as much groan as growl before claiming her need and her tormentor, in tandem.

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

"Is this the x-rated section?" Jamie asked idly, sometime later that night. Her finger slid down the spines of the books that rested just a few inches from her face.

Ryan rolled over with a grunt, stretching muscles stiff from the position they had been in, as well as the unforgiving floor. "Oh, no…" she muttered, "that’s where I put the textbooks I want to sell back. I thought they’d be out of the way there." A small chuckle left her lips as she added, "I thought we’d be on the bed–not under it."

"Hey, you’re the one who dropped to her knees," Jamie teased gently. "You started it, Buffy."

Ryan’s laugh bubbled up from deep in her chest. "Yeah, that’s a laugh. I’m your pawn and you can do anything you want with me–and you know it." She punctuated the last part of the sentence with a gentle jab into Jamie’s exposed ribs.

A slightly embarrassed laugh acknowledged the truth of the statement. "It’s…it’s just so much fun," she said rather helplessly. "I’ve never played like that, and I really like it."

Ryan rolled over again, wrapping her arms around her lover. "I like it too, Baby. I couldn’t be happier that we play and tease each other like this. I hope we always have this much fun playing with each other."

Jamie nuzzled her head into her partner’s sweet-smelling neck. "I am so grateful that sex has been this much fun," she mused. "I was afraid it would be all serious and…I don’t know…too emotional, maybe."

"Ohh…" Ryan nodded, understanding her partner’s worry perfectly. "You thought every time might be like merging souls or something."

Jamie giggled at that description, but she had to admit that had been her fear. "It’s funny," she murmured. "Every time is a little like that…but for just a few seconds, or a minute. Like tonight," she rolled onto her side and braced her head on her hand to be able to see Ryan’s eyes. "You were poised over my body, and you held yourself there for a second…I could see all of your muscles straining, and your eyes were like sapphires as the lamplight hit them. When our eyes met, I felt like you held my soul in your hands…like I was yours completely. Do you know what I mean?"

Ryan bent her head to kiss the lips that were so perfectly able to express the feelings of her own heart. "I do, Jamie. I felt the same way…It was a very moving moment." She wrapped her partner in a soft embrace, murmuring, "I think we can only process a moment or two like that at a time. It would be too much otherwise."

"Yes! That’s it exactly! I was afraid it would be like that for hours at a time. I’m so glad that it’s mostly fun and play with a little bit of emotion."

"Me too," Ryan agreed, placing a kiss on her cheek. "It’s been just perfect." She rolled into a sitting position and shook her hair into place. "God, it’s been a long day," she moaned as she slowly got to her feet. She extended a hand to her partner, then sat on the bed and grabbed their gift basket, taking a careful look inside.

It was nearly eleven o'clock and Ryan was famished. She had eaten everything she could find in the refrigerator when she and Conor had returned home from Pebble Beach, but had not had a proper dinner, so she started pulling things out of their basket, looking for something to eat right then. "Aunt Maeve must have had a hand in this," Ryan decided.

"Why do you say that?" Jamie asked.

"This stuff is too classy for Da or the boys to have picked out. If it was up to them, they'd bring us a couple of Italian combos as a present," she laughed.

"Well, I don't really care who thought of it. I think it's about the sweetest thing I've ever seen in my life. I swear, Ryan, if you ever dump me I'm making a play for one of the boys. Yours is the nicest family I've ever had the privilege to know."

"We were just being on good behavior until we had you hooked," she teased. "Now you'll see our true nature." As she lifted the champagne from the basket she shook her head slightly. "It's warm. We'll have to have this when we get to our second home," she said with a twinkle in her eye.

"We do have a lot of places to celebrate, don't we?" Jamie asked with a little laugh. "I guess we'll have to christen our bed sober."

Ryan hopped out of bed and dashed upstairs. "Not necessarily," she said over her shoulder. She returned with two rocks glasses filled with ice and a bottle of amber liquor. "Irish whiskey," she said as she wiggled both eyebrows and presented the half-filled bottle of Connemara whiskey, brought back from Ireland on Ryan’s last trip.

"You want to get me drunk, don't you?" Jamie teased, batting her eyes innocently. "Are you trying to lower my resistance so you can have your way with me?"

"I think I've done pretty well in the last week without any outside help," Ryan said smugly.

"Oh, you do, do you?" Jamie scoffed, narrowing her eyes to stare at her lover.

"Yep," she said. "I think I've got you hooked on me. You've got the jones now."

"So resistance is futile?"

"Completely," Ryan stated in a confident drawl.

"Okay." Jamie flung herself down on the comforter, drawing her forearm over her eyes while softly begging, "Be gentle."

Ryan smiled at her theatrics and leaned over to kiss her tenderly. "I'll always be gentle with you," she whispered fervently.

Jamie looked up at her and brushed her cheek with her hand. "I know you will." There was a slight quiver to her voice as the events of the day threatened to catch up with her. "You've only shown me kindness, and gentleness and love."

"That's the least that you deserve. You are precious to me, Jamie. I treasure you." She leaned down to kiss her softly for several minutes. As their kisses grew in intensity, their bodies began to slide against one another. With her last shred of rational thought, Ryan sat up and removed the basket from the bed. Grabbing the two glasses, she handed one to her partner, then removed the top from the bottle. She poured a small amount into each glass and lifted her glass while she gazed into Jamie's eyes. "To the keeper of my heart and the guardian of my soul. To my anam cara."

They each took a sip of the smooth amber liquid and smiled. Jamie lifted her glass and touched Ryan's. "To my one love." They sipped again, and then Ryan gathered the glasses and placed them on the table.

Jamie lay on her back, gazing up at her partner with a slightly quizzical look. "Anam cara," she murmured, rolling the words around on her tongue.

"It's Gaelic for soul friend," Ryan said softly. She lifted her hand and brushed the hair from Jamie’s eyes and placed a kiss on her forehead. "It's a concept that isn’t commonly spoken of here, I guess because it’s a Celtic mindset that doesn’t really fit into Western tradition." She struggled a bit as she tried to explain the amorphous concept to her partner. "I guess the best way to describe it is to say it’s the one person to whom you are most bonded, but your relationship is not just temporal. You’re joined in an eternal way with your soul friend. There are no boundaries of time or space between you and your anam cara." Wrapping her lover in her arms she whispered, "That's exactly how I feel about you, Jamie." She dipped her head and captured the warm lips that smiled up at her. The taste of the liquor was still on those tender lips as Ryan ran her tongue all around the delicate mouth. They kissed for endless moments, sometimes tenderly, sometimes fiercely, but always coming back to slow, gentle, loving touches.

Ryan's gentle touch mirrored her kisses. She softly ran her hands all over her lover's body, loving her with the tenderness that their bond demanded, while slowly, but inexorably drawing her towards fulfillment. When Jamie's breath caught, Ryan increased the pace of her touch until the smaller woman was shaking with desire. As she felt her glide near the edge of release, Ryan shifted her weight so that they were face to face. Jamie struggled to stay with her, and as they gazed deeply into each other’s eyes, Ryan whispered her most tender feelings of love and eternal devotion. A blissful smile graced Jamie's beautiful face as she shuddered a few times, unable to hold her eyes open any longer. Her soft cries were captured by Ryan’s warm mouth, and they clung to each other as the waves of sensation and emotion washed over them both. Several moments passed as their intertwined bodies twitched slowly and then relaxed completely.

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

Ryan wasn’t sure how much time had passed when the sound of the front door closing woke her. A quick glance at the clock showed that it was 12:30, but she had no idea when they had fallen asleep. She pulled Jamie close to her body and drew the sheet over them both. Jamie stirred briefly, and tried to voice a complaint about not reciprocating, but Ryan silenced her almost comical mumblings with a gentle kiss. She reached out and turned off the light, then began to hum the tune of an old lullaby as she lightly stroked her lover's bare back. Within seconds, Jamie's breathing had settled into a familiar rhythm. Ryan lay awake for a few minutes, saying her nightly prayers. She bent her head occasionally to lightly kiss the smooth skin on Jamie's forehead and cheeks. "Go gcoinne Dia thú," she whispered as she closed her eyes, reciting the simple prayer that her mother had said to tuck her into bed at night. May God keep you.

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

Continued in Part 2

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