I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 4: Disclosures

By S X Meagher



See Part 1

Part 5

Later that morning Ryan continued to fuss over her partner, nearly driving the smaller woman to distraction. "Do you have a snack in your bag in case you get hungry?"

"Yes, Mom."

"Let me check your neck to make sure you have enough sun block on."

"Ryan, I'm sure I have enough," Jamie said affectionately. "I'll be fine, Sweetie."

"I just hate that I can't come to watch you," she whined for the twentieth time that morning, finally getting to the true source of her discontent. She was terribly pleased that Jamie had been given the opportunity to meet with the golf coach, but having to go to work rather than accompany her partner was about to make her scream.

"I know, Baby, but you can’t miss work, and you know it. Besides," she said as she slid her arms around Ryan's waist, "I might not be able to concentrate with you watching me."

"But I can come to your matches when you make the team, can't I?"

Jamie couldn’t resist the childlike hopefulness on her face, and she leaned in for a slow kiss. "Of course you can come. If I make the team," she amended gently.

"Oh, you'll make it all right."

Ryan’s confidence was contagious, and Jamie allowed herself a moment to agree with her optimistic prediction. "Now you know that this is not a real tryout," she cautioned. "The coach just wants to see me play a round. If he thinks I'm good enough, I can try to play my way onto the team in August."

"I know." Ryan’s patient tone belied her excitement and enthusiasm. "But I also know that you'll make the team. You're really good, Honey, and I know that you'll work hard this summer to be even better."

"I’m gonna have to play a lot, Ryan. A whole lot. Are you sure you won’t mind playing on the weekends?"

"Honey," she drawled, lacing her hands behind Jamie’s neck, "I’d play tiddly-winks all weekend if you were going to be playing with me."

Jamie’s mouth opened for a rejoinder, but instead she smirked slightly while shaking her head. "Too easy. That was just too easy."

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

After her workday was finished Ryan walked home, mulling over the possibility of playing soccer again. Damn, I’d love to play again…but it just toasts me that I can’t get a full ride. I know Jamie will never be able to understand this, but that scholarship means more to me than I can express. It’s not just the tuition. Even though the money is important, the most important thing is that giving me the scholarship is an acknowledgment that they gave up on me too soon in high school. Of all of the coaches from Cal who recruited me, Coach Greene knew me the best. She had to know that I could shoulder the work here. It just would not have been that big of a risk for her to take. Hard to believe that one bad semester in high school made her ignore everything I'd done up until then.

She had been walking a long while before she realized that she had gone quite a bit out of her way. Providentially, she found herself near the large farmer’s market, and she stopped to load up on organic fruit and vegetables. Nearly every stone fruit found its way into her backpack–peaches, plums, apricots and nectarines. Stopping by an herb stand she chose fresh basil, oregano and thyme, then decided that she might as well make tomato sauce for dinner since she already had most of the ingredients. The heirloom tomatoes were too beautiful to resist, and she added six of them, after grabbing a couple of pounds of romas. Quickly adding some red, yellow and orange peppers, she headed towards home before her empty stomach demanded anything else. I think I'm going to have to have Conor bring my bike tomorrow, she grumbled as she struggled with her purchases during the rest of the long walk home.

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

When Jamie pulled into the drive at 4:30, Ryan was sitting on the front porch, clutching a beer and looking anxious. The impatient golf widow bounded off the porch and opened the car door before Jamie could even get the key out of the ignition. "How did it go?" Ryan asked excitedly.

Jamie smiled up at her as she got out of her car. "It went well," she said rather neutrally.

"Tell me!" Ryan demanded.

Jamie laughed gently at her partner’s impatience, grateful to have such an enthusiastic reception. "Okay, okay. Let me get out of the car." While she slid out of the car Ryan ran around and grabbed her golf bag, running back to slide her arm snugly against Jamie’s waist.

"You’re out of the car," the taller woman whispered, nudging Jamie’s hip with her own.

"Okay, I give! Let’s sit down right here and I'll start at the top."

They sat side by side on the stone steps of the porch, with Jamie taking a long pull from Ryan’s beer. Ryan's eyes were wide open and she leaned forward a little in anticipation.

Jamie laughed at her posture. "I've got to tell you, Honey, it really makes me feel special to have you be so interested in this."

"Shouldn't you reward that interest by telling me what happened?" she pleaded.

"Yes, I should," she agreed firmly. "The coach met me at the course and we spent a couple of minutes talking. He seems like a nice guy. He's about 30 or so, married, with a baby girl. He was very laid back, asked me to call him Scott."

"What questions did he ask?"

"He wanted to know how long I'd been playing, where I usually played, if I'd been in much competition. You know, the usual background stuff."

"Then what?"

"We went out to the driving range and he had me work through my bag. I must have hit 150 balls. I was kinda tired when I was done. But he seemed pretty impressed. I was really glad that I had spent some time working with Chip because he asked me to fade and draw the ball about 2 dozen times. It seemed to surprise him that I could do both pretty well."

"That's ‘cause you're really good!" her number one fan said happily as she bounced around excitedly on the edge of the porch.

Jamie smiled again and continued, "Then we played 9 holes. He had his clubs, but he only played one or two holes. Luckily, I hit some really nice drives today. I was afraid I'd be too tired to boom them after all that time at the range, but I was really smokin' 'em," she said with a hint of pride.

Ryan lifted her open hand and slapped Jamie's loudly. "You're a stud, Honey."

"You're the first person I've ever dated who's called me a stud," she said with a laugh.

"Well, you are a stud," she insisted.

"When we were finished, he said that he was really impressed with my game. Then he said he hoped I would come out in August and try to make the team."

"What were his exact words?" Ryan asked with a big smile.

"Hmmm, I think he said, 'I'm really impressed with your game, Jamie. I hope you come out in August and try to make the team.'" She stuck her tongue out and Ryan tried unsuccessfully to grab it.

"Then what?" she asked brightly.

"I asked how many spots he had on the team. He said he could carry twelve, there are already nine scholarship players, so he has three spots to fill. Last year about twelve women tried out for two spots, so I guess the competition is pretty tough. I'm really going to have to work to be ready." Jamie’s voice and face became more serious as she considered her chances.

"I'll help you in any way that I can, Honey. I gave some thought to your program, and I think we should do a lot more work on your shoulders and back, and we should keep working your legs. If we can get you in top shape, that will really give you an edge."

Jamie got to her feet and extended a hand to her partner. "You give me an edge, Buffy. Just knowing you’re there to support me is all I could ever ask for."

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

When they entered the house, Jamie turned and gazed at her partner with a puzzled grin. "Did Martha Stewart come by here this afternoon?"

"Whatever do you mean?" Ryan batted her eyes ingenuously, trying to play dumb, but failing.

Jamie looked at the neat piles of laundry folded on the dining room table, caught the tangy scent of tomato sauce bubbling away in the kitchen, and marveled at the simple, elegant arrangement of gladioli on the coffee table. "I had no idea you were this domestic," she mused, just the hint of teasing in her voice.

"It’s just laundry, tomato sauce and a bunch of flowers, Honey." Ryan’s head was cocked just a bit, trying to figure out why Jamie was so surprised. "I’ve been cooking and doing laundry since I was seven."

For reasons that she could not understand, Jamie was a little taken aback by this fact. She sat down rather heavily on the sofa and made an admission that embarrassed her greatly. "I’ve never done laundry in my life," she said softly.

"Sure you have, Babe," Ryan laughed gently. "You washed our bike clothes out when we got back from the ride. Remember?"

"Oh, I’ve washed things out in the sink when I’ve traveled, but I’ve never sorted a bunch of clothes and figured out how to use a washer and dryer." She was blushing furiously, and Ryan knew there was something going on in her head, but she could not, for the life of her, figure out what it was.

"And that bothers you…why?" Ryan assumed that Jamie never had to perform the mundane tasks of daily life, and it was very puzzling that her partner looked so upset about this.

Jamie sat back and looked at Ryan for a few moments, finally lifting her hand to gently tuck some stray hairs behind her ear. Her touch was very tender, and she gazed deeply into Ryan’s eyes the whole time. "It’s never really it hit me how it must have been for you," she whispered. Her eyes filled with tears, and a few drops slid down her cheeks, where they were caught by Ryan’s fingertips. "I’ve never really considered how many adult tasks you had to take on–but it makes perfect sense. I just suddenly feel like a big overgrown child–and you were a little adult when you were only seven years old."

Ryan wrapped her arms around her partner and tenderly kissed her head, finally coming to her forehead, where she swept the fine blonde hair away with her lips. "It wasn’t that bad, Baby," she soothed. "We had lots of help–my aunts and my older cousins were over every day when I was little. I wanted to help out, Babe. I wanted to do my own laundry and help with meals. It made me feel like I was a part of the family. You know?"

Jamie nodded her head slowly…that was the difference. Working together made the O’Flahertys grow closer; having servants cater to their every whim made each Evans family member function as a separate, autonomous entity. It took a second, but she realized that she was not crying for Ryan and the hardships she had experienced; she was crying for herself, and for the tremendous emotional distance that existed between her and her parents. "I’m sorry for going off like that, Babe," she finally murmured, not ready to share her thoughts at the moment. "I feel kinda shaky this afternoon."

Ryan brought her hand up to feel Jamie’s forehead. "You haven’t looked quite right since you got home. Tell me what’s wrong, Babe."

"Nothing big." Jamie got up and ran her hands through her hair, shaking her head a bit to clear it. "I got my period today, and I’m a little crampy and a little emotional."

Slipping an arm around her shoulders, Ryan pulled her partner close and gently rubbed her back. "My poor baby," she soothed. "Let me take care of you tonight, okay?"

Uncharacteristically, Jamie shrugged off the offer and pulled out of the embrace. "It’s no big deal, Honey." She got to her feet and offered a smile to her puzzled partner. "I started to feel twinges when we were on the golf course, and I didn’t have any pain pills with me. I’m sure I’ll be fine after I take some ibuprofen."

Ryan remained seated on the couch, casting a thoughtful glance at Jamie’s departing form, while the smaller woman went up to her bedroom. That was odd. Either something else is bothering her, or she just doesn’t like to be touched when she’s feeling under the weather. She shook her head and got to her feet, Guess I’ll find out eventually.

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

A few minutes later Jamie came into the kitchen wearing one of Ryan’s oversized tank tops and a pair of her roomy cotton boxer shorts. The bright blue shirt was so huge that it nearly covered the pink striped shorts, and Ryan toyed with her by ostentatiously peeking into the armholes to observe her bare body.

"Nice look for you, Sparky," she said conversationally.

"I like big clothes when I don’t feel well. You don’t mind, do you?"

"Nope. You can start wearing my jeans if you want," she gently teased. The fact that you want to wear my clothes lets me know you’re not mad at me, she silently surmised. That takes one possibility off the list. "Did everything go okay today, Babe?"

Jamie was leaning against the counter, legs crossed at the ankles, looking more like a five-year-old than her true age. She nodded, sparing a small smile. "Everything’s fine, Ryan. Really." Her tone was friendly, but it was clear that she didn’t want to converse any more about her mood, so Ryan tried a different tactic.

"Why don’t I bring in one of the chaise lounges, and you can sit down and have a glass of lemonade while I finish dinner?"

Pushing away from the counter, Jamie walked over to the stove and stirred the delicious-looking sauce. "This looks absolutely great, Hon. Thanks for working so hard."

"No problem," Ryan assured her. "Umm…do you want me to bring in that chaise?"

Although her lover's back was turned to her, the taller woman could see the sigh that caused her shoulders to rise and fall. "Honey, I have cramps. I’ve been getting them since I was thirteen. It’s no big deal." Jamie turned to face her with a slightly exasperated look on her face. "I took some pills, and that’s all that can be done."

Ryan crossed the room and gently slid her hands onto Jamie’s hips. "No, it’s not," she said softly, rubbing her thumbs across the cotton material that engulfed her lover’s torso. "I could give you a massage, or get you a heating pad. I’m sure you’d feel better if you laid down until your pills started to work, too. I can tell by the way you move that it’s bothering you, Jamie. Why won’t you let me help?"

She dropped her head onto Ryan’s chest, embarrassed that she was acting so hardheaded. "I don’t like to give in to minor little aches and pains," she admitted. "I try to ignore them, you know? It kinda seems like they go away faster if you don’t acknowledge that they’re there."

Ryan considered this tactic for a moment, finally agreeing that it had some merit. "That works for me if I’m out in public and don’t have time to think about pain. But once I get home and relax, it always come back full force. Then I do my best to pamper myself a little."

Jamie cocked her head and gave her a slightly puzzled look. All at once it became clear to Ryan that her partner really had no idea what she was talking about. "Weren’t you pampered when you were sick?"

"No, not really," she muttered, looking a little embarrassed.

"Well, you’re going to start now," Ryan decreed, the tone in her voice allowing no argument. "Go get your mail while I get you set up here. I swear, you get more mail than my whole family does. Go on," she shooed her out of the kitchen, smiling at the puzzled look she got as Jamie left the room.

When Jamie returned, one of the chaises from the yard was sitting in the kitchen. A little wrought iron table was placed next to it with a cool glass of lemonade just waiting to be savored. "This is kinda weird," Jamie said as she plopped down on the lounge chair, but she looked immediately grateful when she allowed her cramping body to relax against the thick cushion. Ryan bustled over with some pillows from the living room and spent a few minutes making sure that her lover was completely comfortable.

"I like being pampered when I don't feel well, so I assume you’ll feel the same way once you get used to it," she said as she bent to kiss her tenderly.

"Were you really pampered when you were ill?" Jamie wasn’t sure why she thought this, but she had assumed that the O’Flaherty household would be filled with Spartan ideas about dealing with illness.

"Oh yeah. If Da couldn't be home to watch me, Aunt Maeve would come over. They'd make me cocoa and play cards with me, or read to me if I was really sick. The boys would even take a turn at nursing me back to health as they got older. How were you treated?" she asked, slightly afraid of what she might hear.

"Not much nursing," she admitted. "Elizabeth didn't think it was good to coddle a sick child. She said it gave you no incentive to get well. She would provide the bare necessities, then give me little rewards when I would get out of bed."

Ryan suddenly was hit with the image of little Jamie in an observation room, with Elizabeth watching her though a one-way mirror, taking notes about the experiments she was conducting. "Well, you are going to be coddled from now on, Princess. This is one more area in which Elizabeth had her head up her ass!"

"Of all the places that I can picture Elizabeth's head, that is one that I cannot begin to imagine," she said with a laugh. Ryan went back to her chores and Jamie looked up at the stove again. "Where did you learn to make spaghetti sauce?" she inquired.

"My father is a cook you know. It wouldn't do to serve nothing but Irish stew and soda bread to a bunch of hungry firefighters. He has a rather international range," she said proudly.

"Your father is an excellent cook," Jamie agreed. "I'm really a little nervous about cooking for your family tomorrow."

"You could serve peanut butter sandwiches and Da would rave about them. He's quite over the moon with you, you know."

"If he likes me half as much as I like him, I'm doing well," she said with a grin. "And, speaking of liking people, Ms. O'Flaherty, tell me all about this soccer thing."

Ryan crossed her arms and leaned back against the counter, a relaxed grin covering her face. "Sure, what do you want to know?"

"I didn't even know you played soccer seriously, Ryan. Now I find out that they want you to play for Cal. I think this is a very big deal!"

"You know I'm athletic," she said by way of explanation. "I told you I played basketball at USF"

"So I should assume you played soccer?"

"It's a different season, Honey. Soccer is a fall sport, and basketball is in the winter." The slightly puzzled frown crossing her face indicated that this should have been obvious to Jamie.

She blew her bangs off her forehead in frustration. "I swear, Ryan, sometimes it's like playing 20 questions with you."

"Jamie, I'll tell you anything you want to know. I just don't always reveal things if I'm not asked. It's how I was raised, Honey. It's considered impolite to brag about your accomplishments."

Jamie nodded slowly, recognizing that her partner was always going to be a bit reticent about blowing her own horn. "Okay, let's start over. I want to know everything, so I’ll just cross-examine you."

Ryan’s grin brightened as she assured her partner, "You can examine me in any way you want, Hot Stuff."

"Right. Don’t try to distract me, now. I’ve got business to conduct here." Her tone did not extend to her eyes and Ryan was happy to see the sparkle return to them. "Tell me how you know this Coach Greene."

"Oh…I’ve known her since I was a freshman in high school. She practically lived with us during my junior year."

"WHAT?" Jamie’s mind reeled from this information. Wait a minuteMartin wouldn’t allow that!

"Don't take that literally, Honey. She recruited me to play for Cal when I was in high school."

"Yeah…"Jamie nodded, assuming that was the case. "But why was she at your house all of the time?"

Ryan laughed a little and set the record straight. "I was exaggerating, Babe. NCAA rules are very stringent on how many home visits you can have, but you can call and write and attend games that the recruit plays in as long as you don’t have any contact with them. So she called me every day for almost two years. She attended every one of my soccer games, and she sent me a handwritten note after every game. She'd tell me how my performance that day would have fit into the Cal system, and all that type of nonsense. Since she had a little more free time during the winter, she’d come watch my basketball games too. We’d be playing some team down in San Jose, and I’d look up and she’d be sitting in the stands–watching me like a hawk."

"Wasn’t that weird? I don’t think I could perform well if someone was evaluating me all of the time."

Ryan thought about that for a moment and agreed. "It’s hard at first. But you get used to it after a while. I actually think that’s one of the prime predictors of how successful an athlete will be. Being able to block out distractions is a very important factor, Jamie. I learned early on not to pay attention to my family, or the crowd. It actually helps my focus if there are a lot of distractions. Kinda funny, huh?"

Jamie nodded, slowly beginning to understand some of the many factors that made Ryan such a gifted athlete. "So, you saw her a lot, but you didn’t really speak that often, right?"

"Kinda," Ryan agreed. "If you’re on a high school team, you can go to all of Cal’s home games without charge. So some of my teammates and I would take BART over here for the home soccer games. I’d say that we saw nearly every game my freshman, sophomore and junior years." Ryan had a wistful look on her face, remembering the carefree days of her youth. "No matter where we were sitting, at the end of the game she’d always catch my eye and give me a smile or a thumbs up. It was kinda nice."

"When did you see her last?" Jamie knew something was bothering her partner by the sad look in her eyes, and she was a little reluctant to bring up bad memories. But Ryan looked like she wanted to talk, coming over to sit on the edge of the chaise. Jamie began to gently stroke her back as a small sign of encouragement.

"I played in two games senior year." Her flat monotone was very uncharacteristic, giving evidence of how difficult it was to talk about this period of her life. "She was at both of them. In my final game we had a shoot-out. You know what that is, don’t you?" Blue eyes shifted to look for confirmation.

"I’m not sure," Jamie admitted. "Is that when each team gets to take a shot?"

"Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Five players get to try to score with only the goalie defending the goal. Anyway, it was tied four to four when my team made their final score. I made a pretty good save and we won because of it. It was pretty cool, and everybody came over to congratulate me. I looked into the stands for Da, but I saw Coach Greene before I caught sight of him. She gave me a smile that I still remember, and…it meant a lot, Jamie. It just meant a lot." The uncharacteristic slump to Ryan’s shoulders reflected the burden that she still bore over the entire incident.

"Then what happened, Honey. What did she say when you quit the team?"

Ryan barked out a bitter laugh, shaking her dark head slowly. "She said nothing."

"What do you mean, nothing?"

"She said nothing." Ryan got up and went to the refrigerator, pulling out a beer and taking a moment to open it and take a long pull. "After I quit the team, she fell off the face of the earth. Not one phone call, not one letter. No one from Cal called to try to figure out what happened. They just abandoned me." Her head dropped a little, the dark hair shifting forward to drape around her regret-filled face. "When it was time to make my choice about college I called her, and she said she had decided to offer the scholarship to another girl."

"But why?" Jamie was off the chaise immediately, wrapping her arms around her partner. "Why would they do that, Honey?"

"I don’t know," Ryan murmured. "They must have figured I was doing drugs or something. I mean, my grades did plummet…I did stop participating in every sport…I did start acting pretty wild, and I’m sure that information got back to the Athletic Department. I guess they were just being cautious."

"So is today the first time you talked to her since then?"

"No, she contacted me last year when she heard I transferred. I couldn’t play then because of NCAA transfer rules, plus I wouldn’t have been given medical clearance because of my head injury. But she told me then that she wanted me to try out for this year’s team. She called me several times last year, actually. It felt like she was recruiting me all over again." She gave a small, bitter laugh as she added, "I told her I wasn’t interested and she finally quit calling."

"How do you feel about her?" Jamie had to admit that she was puzzled by Ryan’s behavior. She'd treated the coach as a best friend rather than a person who Ryan thought had betrayed her.

"Okay, I guess," she said. "We talked about it last year when she called me. She said she couldn’t give me any details, but that she was really sorry how things had worked out. I have no way of knowing everything that went on then, so I just chose to believe her." Ryan looked up with one of her guileless expressions, and Jamie felt the emotion well up in her chest as she once again considered how Ryan tried to see people in the best possible light.

"Could you play for her, or do you feel too betrayed?"

"I think I could." Ryan took another pull on her beer, and stared up at the ceiling for a moment. "I’m trying to get past that part of my life, and in some ways I think this might help me."

"Okay, that makes sense. But it seems like there’s another part of you that doesn’t want to play. Tell me about that."

"I guess I don't want to give them the satisfaction of being able to blow me off and then get me for free. It really irks me that they still won't give me a free ride."

"Is that it? Really?"

"Yeah. I’m just pissed."

"Okay, why do you want to play?"

"I love to compete," she said simply. "And for women, playing at the NCAA Division One level is usually the highest level of competition. Obviously you could go higher and be on a national team or the Olympic Team, but the NCAA is still pretty good. I also think I'd feel pretty proud of myself to be able to walk on and play when I'm nearly 24 years old. I like being able to kick the butts of younger women."

"It sounds to me like you really want to play and if you don't, it's only to get back at someone. That doesn't sound like you, Honey."

"You're right, Jamie," she said as she let out a frustrated breath. "I'm letting my pride get in the way. But then I have the money issue. I can’t work and study and play soccer. I’d have to quit my job. Then I’d have to take out loans to get through the year."

"Can you try to ignore the money issue for the time being?" she asked. "You know there are many ways we can take care of that."

"Okay," she slowly said. "If I ignore money, I guess I need to decide if I want to play, and if I do, I need to just throw myself into it and ignore the side issues. But my next problem is that I can't decide what I want to play. If I'm not able to get a scholarship anyway, I might choose to play a sport that doesn't award scholarships. Maybe I need to talk to those coaches too, and see which sport fits my current life the best."

"What other sports are you talking about?" Jamie pursued.

"All in due time, my dear," she teased, patting Jamie’s cheek as she guided her back to her sickbed.

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

As the dinner preparations continued, Jamie watched with delighted interest as Ryan made a salad, layering sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil, and then topping it with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

The dryer buzzed and Ryan dashed over to the washer and dryer to take out the last of the laundry. As she meticulously folded each piece Jamie commented, "Maria Los does laundry, Honey. You should just leave it for her."

"No thanks. I’ve been doing my own laundry since I was a kid. I prefer to do it myself."


"Jamie, I prefer to do my own. I’ll do yours too, if you’d like, but I don’t want a stranger cleaning my clothes."

"She knows how…" she began again, but Ryan cut her off.

"I know it sounds odd to you, Honey. But I’m not going to change my mind, so you might as well drop it. I’m going to clean my own room and do my own laundry. I’m not sure I can ask Maria Los to stay out of my room without resorting to drawing pictures, so I’d appreciate it you’d mention it to her."

"Okay." It was obvious that Ryan was not going to budge, and Jamie realized there would be other, more important disagreements down the line, so she gave in gracefully. "I’ll tell her tomorrow."

"Thanks, Babe. Oh, how much do I have to chip in for Maria Los?"

"Well, nothing if she’s not going to clean your room or do your laundry. Mia and I will just split it."

"No, that’s not fair. She’ll clean the rest of the house, and I’ll benefit from that. So I’ll pay my share."

Once again, Jamie gave up quickly. "$75," she said, wishing she had lied when she saw Ryan’s eyes bug out.

"Seventy-five dollars?" Each syllable had been enunciated so perfectly that Jamie was certain Maria Los would have been able to understand the thought perfectly.

"Honey, if she’s not worth that to you, I don’t have a problem in the world with paying two-thirds myself."

"No, no, don’t worry about it," Ryan assured her. "I just didn’t realize it cost that much. I can handle it." It’s only the equivalent of 45 minutes of work after taxes, Ryan. Don’t be such a Scrooge. "While we’re at it, how much do I owe for my share of the gardeners?"

"$100 a week will cover both, Honey." This was only a tiny fib in Jamie’s book, and one that she felt entirely justified in telling. "How much do I owe for the groceries you bought today?" she asked, trying to catch Ryan in her own trap.

"Nothing," Ryan insisted. "I’ll pay for groceries until I balance out what you paid to Web Van. com. I still have 96 bucks to go until we’re even."

Damn math major, Jamie grumbled to herself while Ryan went back to check on the sauce.

Now that her domestic duties were done, Ryan asked, "Would you like to go sit outside for a while? I could open some wine and make us some appetizers."

"Do you ever have a bad idea?" Jamie got to her feet and stretched a bit, getting out all of the kinks from a long day of golf. Pausing to take a long appraising look at her partner, she smiled at the very appealing look that she was sporting. Ryan was wearing the cute red and white board shorts that she had purchased for her in Santa Cruz. Tucked into the waistband was a tight white tank top with spaghetti straps. She obviously was not wearing a bra, and when Jamie grabbed her by the rear to pull her in for a kiss, it became obvious that she had also neglected to wear panties. "Didn't you ever hear that you're not supposed to go out without clean underwear?" she teased, palming the firm cheeks to good advantage.

"I paid close attention to that maxim," Ryan murmured as she maintained the tiny distance between their bodies. "But I only have about four pairs of traditional panties, and they're all dirty. My regular underwear would stick out the bottom of these little things," she said as she tugged on a leg of the shorts. "So rather than flaunting one of the tenets of womanhood by wearing dirty underwear, I decided to go without."

Jamie smiled up at her as she gripped the muscular flesh. "I like this a lot," she whispered. "I might throw out all of your underwear when you're not looking."

"You sound like you feel better," Ryan said as she pulled away and held her lover out at arm’s length to gauge her appearance.

"My cramps are just about gone," she admitted. "I come home to a gorgeous woman, a good dose of pampering, and I’m gonna have a great meal soon. I think I like having a wife," she mused as she leaned in for another hug.

With a send-off kiss, Ryan patted her butt and guided her towards the back door. She strolled outside and sat in the still-bright sun while Ryan scrambled around in the kitchen trying to find everything she needed. She came out a few minutes later carrying a tray filled with the last items from their welcome-home basket. She had some cheese and pates and an olive tapenade along with some water biscuits and a loaf of crusty Italian bread that she had picked up on the way home. The tray also carried a crisp Pinot Grigio and two chilled glasses.

After she set the tray down she dashed back inside to bring the chaise back out and set it in place. They chatted about their respective days and, after a few minutes, Jamie began to feed some little tidbits to Ryan. She reciprocated, and soon her fingers were being drawn into Jamie’s mouth as she handed her each bite. Mere seconds later they were both on the same chaise, making out furiously. After several minutes of passionate groping, Ryan tore herself from Jamie’s voracious mouth and announced, "No matter what, I'm having dinner tonight! I swear you're trying to starve me to death. I've missed more meals in the last week than I have in my whole life!"

Jamie pulled her back down and answered her with a torrid kiss. They rolled around on the narrow surface of the chair for a few more minutes before Ryan sat up again. "I'm not kidding, Jamie. I'm going to eat dinner tonight!"

"I know what I want for dinner," she rasped out in reply. "It's tasty, and delicious, and decidedly Irish." A few more minutes of passionate wrestling made Ryan forget her vow completely. Jamie had unlaced her shorts and was beginning to tug them down when Ryan pulled away one last time to dash up the stairs and turn off the sauce. She looked longingly at it and shook her head as she ran back down the stairs to Jamie's eager mouth.

Ryan stood at the edge of the chaise and unlaced her shorts completely. Her hips swayed sexily and the fabric began to slide from her body of its own accord. As the shorts fell, she crossed her arms in front of herself and grasped the hem of her tank but Jamie shook her head briefly, asking her to leave it on. "Let me," she murmured, her gaze never leaving the blue eyes that she so loved.

"My pleasure," Ryan whispered as she gingerly climbed astride her partner to once more express the love that they shared.

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

"If we’re gonna do this very often, we’ve got to get some wider chairs." Ryan bit back a groan as she slid off the chaise, landing on her knees. Her head slipped down Jamie’s body until it rested on her upper thighs. "I think we’d better move inside to continue this discussion," she murmured against the soft cotton of her boxer shorts.

Jamie ran her fingers through Ryan’s damp hair, smiling as her lover’s pulse point throbbed against her leg. "I’m not up for it, Baby," she said softly. "I’m still feeling too crummy."

The dark head tilted until Ryan could make eye contact with her partner. "Really? You seemed pretty interested a few minutes ago." Her hand had begun to tickle the baby-soft skin on her partner’s thigh, and the involuntary shiver that chased across the smaller woman’s body belied her claimed disinterest.

"I was, silly," she laughed. "I was very, very interested in making love to you. I just don’t feel like being on the receiving end right now. I’m more interested in getting some dinner and taking more pills. If I really knock these cramps out tonight, I should feel fine by tomorrow."

"Okay, Babe," Ryan said, getting to her feet and offering a hand to Jamie. "Let me go rinse off, and I’ll get you fed." Ryan picked up her clothes and took Jamie’s hand as they crossed the small patch of grass that made up the back yard. "I could be convinced to administer my 100% guaranteed cure for cramps if you’re in the mood after dinner."

Jamie turned to make eye contact, and it became clear just what that cure involved. Ryan’s eyes were twinkling, and her wolfish gaze was roaming up and down Jamie’s body in a very proprietary fashion.

"I just bet you would," Jamie laughed, slapping Ryan’s bare butt. "I should have known that all of your home remedies would involve getting me into bed."

"Not all of them," Ryan started to protest, but then thought better of the denial and corrected, "Okay…that’s true, but how many doctors can claim that they’ve never been sued for malpractice?" Her confident smirk was too irresistible for Jamie, and she had to pull her partner to a halt to reward her with a kiss for her bedside manner.

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

Just a little after nine Ryan was curled around her soundly sleeping partner. I’ve never seen a person sleep through a massage. She was out like a light before I reached her lower back! I have a feeling that my little princess is not often plagued by insomnia, she mused as she let the slow, steady cadence of Jamie’s breathing lure her into a similarly sound sleep.

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

Ryan was amazed to open her eyes and find Jamie's green orbs gazing at her. "Wow, I didn't know you could open your eyes before 6:30," she said slowly, blinking her eyes into focus.

"When you put me to sleep at nine o'clock, it's amazing how early I can wake up," she responded as she leaned over to give her lover a little kiss. "Can I go out with you today?"

Ryan gave her a broad smile and replied, "There's nothing I'd like better than that. Do you want to run?"

"I can’t keep up with you, and I don't want to slow you down. I had the thought yesterday that it might work if I rode my bike and stayed in your general vicinity while you ran. Wanna try it?"

"Sure," she said. "I don't know the neighborhood very well, so you can lead me through some of your favorite streets."

"It’s a deal." Jamie hopped out of bed, feeling completely normal and very well rested. A few moments later she was dressed in her bike shorts and an emerald green jersey, watching from the doorway of their bath while Ryan chose an outfit. Jamie was vigorously brushing her teeth when Ryan finally decided on her attire, and she realized that she was lingering just to watch the dark beauty get dressed.

As Ryan stepped into a pair of bright blue running shorts, Jamie marveled at how much of her long legs were exposed beneath the lightweight nylon. When Ryan bent over to pick up her shoes, her curious lover could see the white liner peeking out from the back. She crept up behind her and slid both of her hands up the legs of the tiny shorts, rubbing the firm buttocks that were so easily reached. Ryan maintained her bent position and slowly twitched her hips, causing her nylon clad cheeks to slide against Jamie's hands. "Ummm," she moaned after a few seconds of this tender caress. "Are you sure you want to go outside? We could probably work up a sweat without leaving the house."

Jamie stood and slapped her rather forcefully on the butt, causing Ryan to snap to her full height. She rubbed her cheek while giving Jamie a narrowed-eye glare. "That's gonna leave a handprint," she accused.

"When we get home, you're going to have my prints all over your luscious body," she whispered as she wrapped her lover in a firm hug.

"We're going to bed early every night if this is how you wake up," Ryan teased. She pulled her sports bra over her head and then yanked on a white nylon singlet, tucked in her shirt, and twirled around once asking, "How do I look?"

"Good enough to eat," Jamie said with a leer. "I think those are the sexiest shorts I've ever seen you in. But you don't normally wear running shorts, do you?"

"Not very often. It's usually cold or foggy, so I wear compression shorts to keep my thighs loose. But I don't see any fog today, so it's probably warm. It's going to take me a while to get used to the different weather here. There's rarely a bright morning in the Noe Valley."

"You're also going to have to get used to running on level ground," Jamie reminded her. "Unless you want to go up into the hills, that is. That would let me get in some more strenuous riding while you stressed those pretty thighs."

"Let's do that later in the week. Today I want to retain a little strength in my legs. I might need it when we get home," she said, waggling one eyebrow.

"You're going to need every ounce of strength you can marshal," Jamie promised, her leering gaze promising lots of fun.

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

They started off slowly, but within a few minutes Jamie was racing down the street and doubling back to fly by her grinning lover. Ryan found it rather difficult to get into her normal cadence with the near constant distraction from her partner, but she reminded herself that was a small sacrifice to make to have the companionship of her beloved.

She watched as Jamie went flying down the quiet street, butt twitching as she left her seat and mashed the pedals hard. There is something so appealing about her body, she thought, as she admired the departing form. I don't think I'll ever get tired of looking at her. She felt a familiar tingle begin to grow and she laughed at her reaction, I don't normally get aroused during my morning runs, either. I guess living together will produce all sorts of unexpected surprises.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie looked down at her odometer and was surprised to see that she had already gone five miles. She was getting a pretty good aerobic workout since she was, in essence, doing sprints. She hadn't slowed down since they started, so she lagged a bit and rode behind her lover for a few minutes. God, she has the best looking ass in the Bay Area, she thought as she watched Ryan's running form. Her hair was gathered in a high ponytail, and Jamie loved watching it twitch back and forth as she ran. It reminded her of a horse's mane as it slowly swayed across her broad shoulders in time with her steps.

Jamie didn't know a lot about running, but it was obvious that Ryan's form was very natural, as well as efficient. She had a long stride that seemed to eat up distance, and it seemed that she came down lightly on her feet. It looked as though she spent a lot of time with both feet off the ground, even though that seemed physically improbable to Jamie. In fact, it looked like she was gliding along three or four inches off the ground with an occasional touchdown for propulsion. Her heels barely hit the ground at all, Jamie noticed from her position directly behind her lover. The lanky woman seemed to just lightly push off with the balls of her feet, rolling gracefully through her stride until the toes of one foot lifted from the pavement as the ball of the other foot touched down.

Jamie also noted that her attitude was slightly forward. Rather than standing completely upright, her whole body was tilted a few degrees. Oddly, it didn't appear that she was bending from the waist. Rather, it looked more like her momentum carried her forward a bit, allowing her to slice through the wind aerodynamically. Jamie was studying her so intently that she nearly ran into her as she slowed to a stop. Ryan turned around with a look of shock on her face at the closeness of the bike. "Did you almost hit me?"

Jamie blushed as she admitted, "I was watching your butt so closely, I didn't notice that you were stopping."

"Jeez! You’re either going to love me to death or run over me! You’re really randy today, aren't you?"

"I guess I am," Jamie agreed with a little blush coloring her cheeks. "Don’t know why, but I’m really focused on you."

"Hey," Ryan panted. "Don’t misunderstand, Babe. I’m not complaining in the least. Nothing I like better than to have you chasing me around the streets of Berkeley with love on your mind."

"Oh, it’s on my mind," Jamie agreed with a wink. "I'm gonna rock your world as soon as we get home."

Ryan beamed up at her as she leaned in and gave her a small kiss. "I'm very ready to be rocked," she replied. As she looked down the quiet, tree-lined street, her mouth quirked up into a grin as she asked, "Wanna do some speed work?"

"Sure," Jamie replied happily. "What do you want to do?"

Ryan pointed to a deep red house about 50 yards down the street. "Let's race to the number painted on the curb. Since you have an advantage, I'll take off and you start at the count of three. Agreed?"

"Yep. Are you ready?"

Ryan got down in a three-point stance. She adjusted her feet until she felt they were properly centered under her body, then twitched her butt until she was a mass of coiled energy waiting to be unleashed. "Ready, set, go!" She burst from her start and quickly found her stride. Jamie noticed that her heels did not touch the ground at all when she sprinted. She was watching her so intently that she nearly forgot to count to three for herself. But she rallied and took off as quickly as she could. Ryan was well ahead of her, but her bike allowed her to eat up ground far quicker than Ryan's feet could manage. She thought she had her, but just as the finish line came up Ryan leaned forward as she raised her arms and stuck out her chest. She had nipped her partner by just a few inches, but from the little "whoop" she gave, it was obvious that the victory was important to her.

"How did you do that?" Jamie marveled, panting as much as her partner.

"I used to run track," she admitted, sucking in a deep breath. "It's just a trick to get a few more inches at the finish line."

"Is there any sport you can't do?" she asked with a grin as she started to pedal in a slow circle around her lover.

Ryan thought about that as she bent forward from the waist and rested her hands on her knees in order to fully catch her breath. Finally she looked up with her face deeply flushed and said, "Polo."

"Are you serious?" Jamie asked with a laugh.

"Yeah," Ryan said rather defensively. "I've never been on horseback, so even though I could probably swing the mallet pretty well, I wouldn’t have any idea how to work in conjunction with the horse."

"No, silly," Jamie said, amazed that her partner had given the matter some deep thought. "I'm not surprised you can't play polo, I'm surprised that you think you can play every other sport!"

"I'm not good at every other one, but I've played almost everything at some time or another in my life. There really aren't that many differences between the major sports. You either need hand/eye coordination, or speed, or quickness, or agility, or stamina, or power from some particular body part."

"That's a lot of attributes, Honey," she teased. "But I have no doubt that you possess all of them."

The flush had still not left Ryan’s face and she finally mumbled, "You don’t think I’m bragging, do you?" She was staring at the ground, and Jamie expected her to start kicking the dirt with the toe of her shoe any minute.

"Of course not," she insisted. "You never brag, Honey. Well…you brag a little, but only about sex."

Ryan’s head shot up to find the teasing grin affixed to her partner’s face. "It’s not bragging if you can back it up," she drawled, blue eyes dancing. "Got any claims in particular that you’d like to dispute?"

"Never! You’re the real deal, Hot Stuff. Now let’s go again."

"Thought you'd never ask," Ryan readily agreed.

They sprinted through their 50-yard course at least eight more times. When they finished, they were both panting from the effort, and Ryan was covered in sweat. She decided that she needed to run home at a pretty good clip to avoid tightening up, so they got home in good time.

When they got into the house, Jamie went into the bath to start the shower, but Ryan went into her room, lay down on the floor and started to stretch. "Want to shower together, Babe?" Jamie called out.

"No, I’ve got to stretch. You go ahead."

Jamie hopped in and let the hot water remove the stiffness from her fatigued muscles. Her cramps had not returned, and she felt amazingly good. I guess that’s what love will do for you, she mused happily.

She lingered much longer than normal in the shower, but to her surprise, when she got back in the bedroom, Ryan was still on the floor, doing some particularly painful looking contortion. She was on her back, with one foot resting on the floor, and the other foot propped against the raised knee. Grasping the top leg with both hands, she pulled it across her body until the tendons in her hip stood out in stark relief.

Ryan looked up to see her partner staring at her in slack-jawed silence, her look a mix of desire and amazement. "You okay, Babe?" Ryan asked, drawing her out of her trance.

"Wha…oh…yeah," she said weakly. "I’ve just never seen that muscle stand out like that on another human being."

"Muscle? Which muscle?" Ryan ran a hand down her leg, trying to identify the muscle her partner spoke of.

"Do it again," Jamie asked.

Ryan did so, and nodded when Jamie touched the part in question. "That’s not a muscle, Babe. That’s my ilio-tibial band. It’s a ligament." She rolled over onto her stomach and did a series of leg/arm lifts that looked particularly painful, causing her pelvis to be the only part touching the floor. "The strength and flexibility of my hips is probably the main reason I can play most sports," she grunted out as she lifted both arms and legs simultaneously.

"Really?" Jamie was fascinated by this tidbit of information, having no idea what separated the gifted athletes from the rest of the population. "Why is that, Honey?"

"I get most of my speed, balance and thrust from my hips. I was blessed with a really good set of wheels, and they let me do things that a lot of people can’t."

Jamie nodded, thinking that Ryan’s synopsis might be true, but that it also minimized the reality of her work ethic. "Do you always stretch this much when you run, Babe?"

"Mmm…not always…but almost always. Stretching after I exercise has been a life-saver for me."

Jamie looked at the clock and realized that Ryan had been at it for over 20 minutes. God-given talent is one thing, Ms. O’Flaherty. Working your butt off to exploit that talent is quite another.

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

Ryan had just exited the shower when a pair of hands gripped her around the waist and began to guide her to the bedroom. "Hey, I’m still dripping wet," she protested as she was tossed onto the bed.

"Your point?" Jamie growled, climbing astride her hips. "You’re gonna be dripping wet in one way or another for the next hour, Hot Stuff."

Ryan chuckled at the determined look of lust on her partner’s face. "You don’t look like you could be dissuaded anyway, so I surrender." She tossed the towel onto the floor and prepared herself for a full frontal assault.

"Smart girl," Jamie murmured as she bent to claim the spoils of war.

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

Thirty minutes later, Ryan was stretched out spread-eagle across the bed, badly in need of another shower. "Did anybody get the license number of that truck," she muttered slowly, almost unable to form words.

"JDSE 211," her partner giggled, reciting her own license plate number. "It’s about to back up for another run, so you’d better fasten your seatbelt, Baby."

"Whoa, whoa," Ryan drawled. "I need a serious rest after that little overhaul. It’s your turn now, big talker."

To Ryan’s amazement, Jamie rolled over, shutting off her view of her favorite parts. "I'm not up to it right now, Honey."

"Not up to it!" Ryan gaped in incredulity. "You’re about ready to slide off the bed, Baby. You’re obviously terribly turned on. Why don't you want to?"

"I don't really like to have sex when I have my period. It kind of bothers me," she admitted.

"During your whole period?" Ryan asked, eyes wide with alarm.

"Umm...yeah," she finally said.

"But you do feel desire, right?"

"Yeah...it's not that. I get turned on, I just think it's gross."

"But aren't I the one who should decide what's gross when I make love to you?"

Ryan’s logic was, as usual, correct and irritating. "I suppose, but I don't think I could relax enough to enjoy it."

"Do you want to abstain while I have my period, too?" Ryan had shimmied up the bed so that her back was now resting against the headboard.

"I guess I didn't think that far ahead. But now that you mention it, I guess I thought that we would."

"You realize that when our cycles don't match we could be abstaining for ten to twelve days out of the month, right?"

"I guess I didn't do the math," she admitted, slightly embarrassed.

"Do you mind giving up 1/3 of our opportunities?"

"That does seem like a lot, huh?"

"That it does," Ryan murmured, pulling Jamie up against her chest. "I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, Honey, so we’ll just do without. It’s not that big of a deal."


Her small voice carried a large dose of doubt, and Ryan quickly sought to reassure her. "Of course, Love. If you’re not 100 per cent into it, we’ll hold off. We’re not animals, you know. It won’t be that difficult to abstain."

"You are so sweet, Ryan," she murmured. "Thanks for not making fun of me because of this."

"I would never make fun of you, Jamie. I want sex to be nothing but enjoyment for you. If you’re uncomfortable about something, we just won’t do it."

Jamie’s blonde head nuzzled tenderly against Ryan’s chest. "Thanks," she whispered. "Thanks for making me feel like I’m so special to you." She scooted up just a bit and gave Ryan a few kisses to thank her for her patience. A few turned into a bunch, and before long she was flat on her back, Ryan pressed tightly against her body.

"I think you’re trying to compromise my position," she murmured, coming up for air.

"I think you're right," Ryan whispered. "Do you want me to stop?"

"N...n…no, I want you to keep going," she said as she leaned in for another torrid session. After another few minutes of searingly hot kisses, Jamie pulled away again, her unfocused eyes carrying a hint of panic. "I don't know if I can do this, Ryan. I feel funny about it."

"Tell me exactly what bothers you about it," Ryan asked in a calm, neutral tone.

"It's messy and it smells bad. It'll get all over the sheets. And I....I....I'm afraid you'll be grossed out and you'll be funny with me."

Ryan rolled over and sat up straight, looking at her carefully. "Did something like that happen with Jack?"

Jamie blushed deeply and nodded just a bit while she bit her bottom lip.

"Tell me what happened," Ryan soothed, pulling her close, and wrapping her in a gentle hug.

"This is kind of embarrassing," she whispered, hiding her head against Ryan’s chest.

"Take your time, Babe. Just tell me what you feel comfortable sharing."

"Okay. He wanted to have sex once when I had my period and I didn't want to, but he finally talked me into it. He tried to take my tampon out and he couldn't…of course. I don’t know what is so complicated about taking out a tampon but he practically took my uterus with it. When I got it out he acted like it was radioactive or something. I honestly thought he was going to call in the HAZMAT team to scrub the place down. As soon as that tampon was out, his…well, let’s say that his desire deflated, and he suddenly had to go to sleep. I swear that ever since then he was weird about using his mouth on me." She added in a timid voice, "I just don’t ever want you to be grossed out by something and have it affect how you feel about me."

Ryan gave her a gentle squeeze. "I don't mean to brag, but I think I have more experience in this area than Jack had. I've made love to women at every stage of their cycles, and I swear I have never been grossed out. There's nothing mysterious about it, Jamie. It's just another part of you. How could I find a part of you distasteful?"

"But it smells funny," she maintained, just the hint of a whine in her voice.

"No, it does not," Ryan said patiently. "I don’t find the scent offensive in the least."

"I don't know, Ryan. I don't want to disappoint you but..."

"No, no, no, Honey," she said firmly. "This isn't about disappointing me. I want to help you get over this, but not for me. I think overcoming these little phobias is good for your self-image. But if you don't want to, please tell me and I'll drop it."

"I guess I'm more worried about your reaction than my own. Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Yes," she replied solemnly as she gazed steadily into her partner’s eyes. "I'm sure."

"Okay," she finally said. "I'll try."

"Would you feel more comfortable if I could guarantee that I couldn't taste or smell you?"

"Er...how on earth could you do that?"

"Trust me, I'm a doctor," she teased. "Plus I can guarantee that we won't make a mess…at all."

"That's a pretty good guarantee, Doc. Are you sure you can deliver?"

"I haven't lost a patient yet," she said with a wiggling eyebrow. "You go change your tampon; I'll be right back." Ryan gave Jamie a final kiss and dashed into her bedroom.

When she returned, Jamie was lying in bed, looking more like a woman waiting for the oral surgeon than her lover. "Ready if you are," she said gamely.

Ryan gave her an encouraging smile and held up her hand. She waved a good-sized sheet of latex at her partner, waggling her dark eyebrows as she did so. "I’m already salivating," she smirked, harking back to the declaration she had made on their honeymoon that dental dams made her hot.

"Why do I ever doubt you?" Jamie mused with a giggle as her partner climbed into bed.

"Search me." Ryan shrugged her broad shoulders and snuggled in close. "Now, did someone around here call a doctor?"

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

Some time later, Ryan heard a low groan come from Jamie's open mouth and leaned down, placing her ear close. "I told you I couldn't relax enough to enjoy that," Jamie said with a weak smile.

A gentle laugh caused Jamie’s head to bounce a bit, given its position atop Ryan’s chest. "I assume the moans were signs of your reluctance?"

"Yes," she drawled, enjoying the tease. "I was moaning from tension."

"How about the little gasps and groans?"

"Same thing," she murmured, playfully scratching Ryan’s exposed tummy. "Tension…tension."

"Hmm, that may fly, but let’s see you explain away the hands laced through my hair, the thighs locked around my neck and the commands that I touch you ‘harder’ and ‘faster’?" Ryan’s hand had been idly resting upon Jamie’s waist, but as she asked her question she got in a lightening-quick tickle of her sensitive ribs.

"Yow!" Jamie cried, curling up in a ball to prevent further attacks. "No fair! I was in a very vulnerable position!"

"Speak the truth," Ryan intoned, "or face my torture!" Her wiggling digits underscored her threat, and Jamie knew a loser bet when she saw one.

"Oh, all right," she huffed dramatically. "Once again you’ve proven your mettle between the sheets, Tiger. One more phobia down the drain."

"That’s my goal," Ryan crowed. "I’m really an operative from the American Psychological Association. We’re going to stamp out sexual phobias–one woman at a time."

Cuddling up contentedly against her talented lover Jamie murmured, "I’m just glad I’m near the front of the alphabet."

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

"Senorita Jamie?"

"Yikes!!!!" Jamie flew out of bed, scampering across the floor to close the bedroom door. Out of the corner of her eye she caught Ryan throwing her clothes on faster than she would have thought humanly possible. "It’s okay, Sweetheart," she soothed, smiling a bit at the wild look on her partner’s face. "I’ll go ask Maria Los to start on the first floor." She slipped on a robe and gave Ryan a wink as she left the room.

Jamie returned a few minutes later, puzzled to find that Ryan was still sitting on the bed, her singlet haphazardly pulled over her head. "I don’t like having strangers in the house, Jamie." Her tone was slightly regretful, but there was a steely determination in her eye that Jamie was not used to having directed at her.

The smaller woman let out a heavy sigh and came to sit next to her partner. "What do you want to do about that?" Jamie’s expression was neutral, her posture open. Ryan had expected her to be defensive, and this attitude caught her by surprise.

"Umm…I don’t know," she said somewhat hesitantly. "I uh…I guess I’d like to fire her."

"Okay." Jamie stood and tightened the closure of her robe. "I’ll go tell her now." She took a step towards the door but was stopped by Ryan’s hand grabbing her wrist firmly.

"You’d just fire her?" She was staring at Jamie with an absolutely stunned expression on her face. "With no notice, or anything?"

"Well, no," she admitted. "I’ll continue to pay her until I find her another job. It’s not her fault that you don’t want her in the house."

"Aww, jeez, Jamie, you’re making me feel like a jerk." Ryan had fallen into full-on pout mode. Her arms were crossed over her chest and her chin was nearly touching her folded arms.

The smaller woman came back to join her partner on the bed. "I certainly don’t mean to, Honey," she soothed. "But if you’re adamant that you don’t want her here, I don’t see how a compromise is viable."

"Well…why do I get the final vote?" Blue eyes peeked out from too-long bangs, and Jamie had a perfect image of Ryan as a five-year-old.

"For the same reason that you told me I would have the final decision on what we do sexually," she said softly as she rubbed her hand across Ryan’s bare thigh. "If something bothers you, or makes you uncomfortable, your vote wins."

Her mouth quirked involuntarily into a sardonic smirk. "I hate it when you use my own logic on me." Jamie ruffled her bangs, but said nothing, waiting for Ryan to decide what to do. "Will her feelings be hurt?" It was clear that Ryan was having a tough time with this, but Jamie honestly did not know how to reach a compromise.

She pondered this for just a second, knowing the answer immediately. "Yes, Honey. Her feelings will be hurt. She’s very proud of the work she does here, and I think she’ll assume that she offended you on Monday."

"Damn!" Ryan got up and paced in a small circle. "I don’t want to hurt her feelings, Jamie. I just don’t want someone coming and going without warning."

"Well, we have warning," she offered. "She comes at ten on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and she leaves at three."

Ryan nodded, and crossed her arms against her chest. She was silent for a moment before she offered a compromise. "Since Mia’s not here, I don’t expect the house to be very dirty. I want to do the laundry, so that will save her a lot of time. Until school starts let’s have her come from noon to three. We’ll pay her the same amount, of course–tell her it’s like a little vacation."

"And that would work better because…?"

"Because that’s when I’ll be at work. This will be easier for me to adjust to if I don’t have to be at home when she’s here. Plus, I want to spend most mornings making love to my best girl, and I hate to have my concentration ruined." The sparkle was back in the azure eyes, and Jamie shot her a grateful grin for her willingness to give a bit on the issue.

"I’ll go talk to her now." Jamie started towards the door, anxious to get the issue settled. Once again she was pulled back by Ryan’s grip.

"Nah. She’s here now," Ryan reasoned. "Tell her this starts on Monday. That way she won’t think anything’s wrong."

"You’re a very sweet woman." Jamie slid her arms around her partner and gave her a generous hug.

"I have my moments," Ryan admitted with a grin. "But don’t let it get out."

"Your secret is safe with me." Jamie placed a few kisses on her smiling face before leading her into the bath for their second shower of the morning.

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

Continued in Part 6

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