I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 5: Entwined

By S X Meagher


See Part 1

Part 8

When they walked into their room Ryan turned her back to the bed, flexed her knees, and jumped neatly right into the center of it. Linking her hands behind her head, she crossed her booted feet at the ankle and smiled serenely at Jamie. "Sleepy?"

Jamie shook her head slowly, trying to determine if she was being flirted with. She allowed a seductive smile to show–just in case--and said, "Be right back, Love. I had one too many glasses of tea tonight."

When she returned, still dressed in her outfit from dinner, Ryan looked even more relaxed, but her eyes were flashing playfully. "Wanna play?" Her voice took on its usual stunningly sexy timbre, and Jamie immediately felt the first stirrings of arousal tug at her. Even though Ryan’s tone and look were familiar, she didn’t usually ask for sex quite this way, and Jamie thought she had better seek clarification.

"Wanna play what?" she asked slowly, tilting her head as she approached the bed.

"Stay there," Ryan cautioned, taking the cigar from her pocket and pointing at Jamie with it, her eyes narrowing dangerously. "Stay right there."

Following orders, Jamie did just as her partner had asked her to do, and she waited patiently to receive the next request.

"I wanna play a game," the dark beauty murmured, her honey-toned voice causing Jamie’s knees to grow weak. "Do you wanna play with me?"

"There isn’t a game in the world I’d ever refuse to play with you, Ryan. Name it."

Ryan rolled over and turned on her bedside CD player, flipping through the discs until she found the one that she wanted. The soft, slow strains of a sensual jazz beat filled the air, and as Ryan rolled onto her back, she once again linked her hands behind her head. Blinking slowly, she stated her request. "I want you to dance."

"Dance?" Jamie asked, extending her hand in invitation. "Okay…but you’re gonna have to get up to dance with me, Babe."

"I didn’t ask you to dance with me," Ryan averred. Her deep blue eyes grew even darker as they bore into Jamie’s. "I asked you to dance for me."

"For you…like…for you?" she asked hesitantly, as she felt her stomach do a little flip.

"Exactly," Ryan murmured, sticking the cigar in her mouth and nodding her head slowly, a sexy grin tugging at her lips. "For me."

Indecision combined with her increasing arousal to render Jamie absolutely speechless. She stood in the middle of the room, her arms folded over her waist as though she was chilled. Sensing her unease, Ryan looked her in the eye and said, "If you’re not into it, it’s no big deal, Babe. I just thought it would be…interesting." Her eyes still emitted an overpoweringly sensual lure, even though her words were giving Jamie an out if she didn’t want to play.

Given that, before Ryan, she had only been fully intimate with Jack, and they'd never played sexy games, Jamie had never done the type of thing that Ryan was suggesting, and a part of her wanted to dismiss the idea and stick with their norm. But another, more insistent part told her to go for it. One of the things she most enjoyed about their lovemaking was that Ryan was apparently hell-bent on keeping it fresh and exciting, and she wanted to encourage that as much as possible, even when it meant doing something that was outside of her comfort zone. Dancing in a sexually suggestive manner was, in fact, way outside of her comfort zone, but Ryan had yet to have a bad idea when it came to sex, and she doubted that she was going to break that streak tonight. Summoning her courage and chasing her doubts to the back of her mind, Jamie smiled at her lover and nodded her head decisively. "I think it would be very…interesting," she agreed, mimicking Ryan’s tone as well as her choice of words. "Just remember–I’ve never done this before, so don’t expect a professional caliber performance."

A self-satisfied grin met her disclaimer, and Ryan assured her, "I have a sneaking suspicion that you have hidden talents in this area, Babe. Give it a whirl."

Taking a moment to decide on how to approach the matter, Jamie assessed her outfit and found it perfect for the plan she was conjuring up. Keeping her gaze fixed on Ryan’s face, she began to sway with the music, letting the beat be her guide. Her hips started to move in a gentle rhythm, and within a few measures she was moving gracefully, slowly losing herself in the music.

As her body took over, she recalled one of the sayings that Ryan had written in the training journal that she had given her for Christmas. The motto had stuck with her ever since she had read it, since it perfectly described Ryan’s outlook on life and was the type of behavior that she wanted to emulate. "Sing as if no one can hear you. Dance as if no one can see you. Love as if today is your last day on earth." Taking the aphorism to heart, Jamie let her body express her desire, closing her eyes as the slow, steady beat became her world. She moved gracefully about the room, not even considering Ryan’s reaction to her display. She was truly dancing as if no one could see her–that simple motto allowing her much more freedom to express herself than she would have if she was doing this only "for" Ryan.

As the song drew to a close, Jamie opened her eyes to see her lover sitting up on the bed, looking very…alert. Her eyes were wide and flashing with desire as she stared, mouth slightly open, at the spectacle that was being presented before her. "That was absolutely fantastic," she murmured, her appreciation evident.

"Another?" Jamie needlessly asked as the next song began.

Unable to form complex sentences, Ryan just nodded, licking her lips in anticipation. Jamie walked over to the bedside table and grabbed the small box of wooden matches they kept there for lighting candles. Moving around the room, she lit every candle in the place–and there were quite a few scattered about. She flicked off the overhead light, crossed back to the bed, and extended her hand for Ryan to take. Pulling her to her feet, she moved her backwards until she was in front of her desk chair, then gave her a little push, smiling when Ryan sank into it. Lighting another match, she put the cigar to Ryan’s lips and instructed, "Suck." Wide eyes greeted her order, but the tanned cheeks pulled inward as Ryan complied, puffing on the cigar to light it fully.

Leaning over from the waist, Jamie gave her partner a seductive smile while her hand slipped into the pocket of Ryan’s chinos, pulling out the substantial wad of bills. "Don’t be stingy," she warned, slapping both of Ryan’s cheeks with the bundle. She nearly laughed at the absolutely stunned expression on her partner’s face, reveling in her ability to continually surprise the vastly more experienced woman.

Gathering her courage, Jamie began to put on a show for her partner, dancing much more suggestively this time. The dress she wore was a relatively unstructured print that closely followed her curves. Tiny covered buttons, running from the neckline to the hem, held the dress closed, and as her body began to move once more, she leaned over right in front of Ryan, her cleavage presented in a most inviting fashion. Her hand dropped to the hem of her short dress, where she began to unfasten the buttons, one by one. Ryan’s hand lifted to examine the treasures being displayed right in front of her face, but Jamie shook her head decisively. "Uh-uh-uh," she teased. "House rules. You can look, but not touch."

Once again, she had to stifle a laugh at the flummoxed look on Ryan’s face. I don’t know why I get nervous about playing with her, she thought wryly. She’s sooooo easy!

Ryan’s hands dutifully fell to her thighs, the still-massive cigar drooping dangerously from her lips. Jamie playfully pushed it into a horizontal position, leaning over to whisper, "You’re getting limp."

Ryan grinned up at her, some of her usual confidence returning now that Jamie was clearly showing that this was still a game. She removed the cigar and rocked back in the chair, smiling up at her partner. "There’s not one part of me that’s limp, Baby. Everything’s alert and ready for action."

Jamie had not stopped dancing throughout this interchange, still moving gently to the beat. She turned around and wiggled her hips, her short dress swaying seductively. "I’ll be the judge of that…if you’re lucky." With that threat, she turned and began to undo a few more buttons, stopping at mid-thigh this time.

Lifting her foot, she insinuated it between Ryan’s spread legs, the heel of her delicate sandals catching on the edge of the chair. The motion exposed her leg nearly to her crotch, and Ryan looked up the expanse of toned thigh, a very pleased smiled gracing her face. "Like ‘em?" Jamie asked, referring to her stockings. Since they had been together, she had only worn a dress a couple of times. On the last occasion, Ryan had made a teasing comment about the unattractive red line that normal pantyhose made on her stomach, and Jamie had privately sworn that the offending hose would never again touch her body. True to her vow, she had discarded every pair that she owned, replacing them with thigh-high stockings, a lacy band of elasticized material holding them tight.

The dark head nodded slowly as Ryan struggled to obey Jamie’s orders that she was not allowed to touch her. Having the muscular thighs displayed in such an arousing manner was almost too much for Ryan. Having to do something with her hands, as well as needing a little oral stimulation, she popped the cigar back into her mouth and took a few puffs, blowing the smoke well away from her partner. "I like them very, very much," she finally said, once she had calmed down a bit.

Satisfied with her answer, Jamie proceeded to undo another dozen of the tiny buttons, moving her body tauntingly the entire time. Now the dress hung open from her waist to her thighs, her lacy white panties peeking out occasionally as she twirled.

Ryan was beside herself with desire, the pulsing between her legs nearly painful. She reached down to adjust a bit, but once again, Jamie interrupted her. "Can’t touch yourself, Sport. House rules. And speaking of rules, this isn’t a charity, ya know. How about prying some of those bills out of your fist?"

Ryan blinked slowly, gazing vacantly from her hand to Jamie’s lips, trying to ascertain if this was really her lover speaking, or some remarkable look-alike.

"Maybe you need a little more incentive," Jamie purred, once again bending at the waist as she opened all of the remaining buttons, her lace-clad breasts just an inch from Ryan’s face.

Ryan knew she was expected to participate in this game, but she was having a very tough time getting that message to her extremities. She finally managed to grasp a few bills from her wad and tuck them into the top of Jamie’s stocking, pausing just a moment to caress the unbelievably soft skin of her upper thigh with the back of her fingers.

Standing up quickly, Jamie dropped the now loose dress from her shoulders, shaking her shoulders quickly to aid in the process. Of course, that action caused her breasts to jiggle, creating heightened interest from her partner. Ryan immediately nestled two twenties right into the heart of her cleavage, earning her a grateful smile from her dancer. "Good girl," she praised. "That just earned you another dance."

Luckily for Ryan, the next number had a decidedly sexy beat, and Jamie used the song to excellent advantage, bending, squatting, shimmying her hips and shoulders–all in a fiendishly contrived plot to drive Ryan absolutely stark raving mad. The plan was working perfectly, judging by the vacant look in her eyes and the fidgeting she was doing. Turning up the heat, Jamie shoved her foot right between Ryan’s thighs, using the rounded toe of her sandals to scrape up and down the seam of Ryan’s cotton pants.

The reaction was a little more than Jamie had anticipated, with Ryan bending over at the waist, trying to close her legs to avoid any more contact. "Don’t you like that, Sweetie?" Jamie hummed into her ear.

Her head nodded furiously, and she gasped, "I can’t let you do that and not touch you. I’m trying to behave." She looked up at Jamie with a pathetic expression on her face and reminded her, "I’m only human."

"You’re a fine human, too," Jamie insisted, and as a reward, she grasped the back of Ryan’s head and rubbed it into her cleavage, letting her breathe in her scent while the lace tickled her face. When she released her, Ryan flopped back against the back of her chair, gasping for breath, eyes comically wide.

"Like that?" she asked needlessly.

At Ryan’s slow nod, she reminded her, "Then pay for it." She smiled when another packet of folded bills was gently tucked between her full breasts. Turning around, she removed all of the money and tossed it to the bed, not wanting its scent or appearance to get in the way of Ryan’s enjoyment.

Even though it was obvious that Ryan didn’t need, and couldn’t stand, much more teasing, Jamie had to give her the full treatment, so she asked, "Would you like a private dance?"

Smacking her lips together, Ryan croaked out, "Yeah. That’d be great."

Slowly, seductively, Jamie lifted her leg, grasping Ryan’s shoulders as she slid it over her thigh, then repeated the action with her other leg. Now firmly straddling Ryan’s lap, she began to gyrate to the music, continually shaking her shoulders as she thrust her hips into the incredibly aroused woman. As she rubbed her breasts into Ryan’s nearly drooling face she whispered, "Twenty dollars for each minute, Baby." She nearly burst out laughing when Ryan took her entire bankroll and offered it up to Jamie, her face never leaving the milky white cleavage that she was so happily nuzzling.

"Just for that, you can take off my bra," she whispered, amazed when the lacy garment was hanging from her shoulders just a nanosecond later. Boy, she’s good, she mused, considering that practice really did make perfect. Now Ryan’s entire face got into the act, ably aided by her warm, soft hands. The tables began to turn once she got her mouth and hands on those perfect mounds, and within seconds Jamie was grinding herself against her lover, the pretext of the game completely forgotten.

In an impressive show of strength, Ryan rose from the chair, Jamie still attached to her lap. They fell to the bed as one, and Ryan began tearing at her own clothes to free herself from their confines. However, once her mouth left Jamie’s breasts, the smaller woman was able to think once again, and she grasped her hands firmly, instructing, "Let me."

Even though she knew this would prolong her torture, Ryan willingly let her hands drop, never wanting to deny her partner any wish she was capable of granting. The sky blue cotton broadcloth blouse was fairly easy to remove, and the white cotton bra went quickly, too. But Jamie got a little sidetracked when she saw her favorite parts of Ryan’s anatomy revealed, and she had to pause to greet them lavishly.

When Jamie realized that she was on her back, with Ryan humping her leg, she decided that it was time to slow down a tiny bit and at least get her partner’s pants off of her. She wrestled her onto her back, and unbuckled her black leather belt, getting the button and zipper undone with little difficulty. Ryan lifted her hips to aid in the removal of the wrinkled, generously cut slacks over her boots, and Jamie laughed aloud when she saw what she was wearing underneath. "Where did you get those?"

Ryan had on a pair of cotton boxer shorts, in a blindingly bright mélange of Hawaiian patterns. Rolling her over, Jamie saw that five separate patterns covered her–bright blue, navy blue, red, green and gold, all with different designs stenciled upon the backgrounds.

"Brendan gave them to me," she chuckled.

The mere thought of that was slightly troubling to Jamie. "You wear your brother’s underwear?" Smoking, betting, wearing Brendan’s clothes…this is a little too much information!

"No, silly," Ryan laughed. "His girlfriend gave him a bunch of these. He hadn’t worn these. They were still in the package."

"But why…?"

"Cause you said they were cute when you saw him in them this morning. I thought you’d like ‘em on me, too," she replied logically.

Jamie surveyed the look and found that she liked them even better on Ryan. They somehow fit her personality–a wild, untamed side lurking just beneath the surface, that only an intimate few got to experience. "I love ‘em," she decided. "I’m buying you more immediately."

"They’re called Uglies," Ryan informed her with a smirk. "Their slogan is, ‘So ugly she’ll beg you to take them off.’" Her rapidly waggling eyebrows were a clear invitation, and Jamie was only too happy to accommodate her.

She moved down Ryan’s body, kissing a seductive path from her breastbone to her navel, stopping to tease around the sensitive skin with the tip of her tongue. Then, just to keep the game going, she bent and unfastened each of the five buttons of the shorts with her teeth. Ryan was groaning continually as Jamie’s soft hair tickled her belly as she worked away, and the soft, wet kisses that the smaller woman continued to bestow on her stomach were not helping matters in the least.

Finally finishing her task, Jamie grasped the now-open fabric and teasingly commented, "I’m a little afraid to take these off of you. Playing poker, smoking cigars, wearing men’s underwear…I’m afraid of what I’m going to find down there."

"You can find anything your little heart desires down there if you let me get my toy chest," she responded, throwing the gauntlet at her lover’s feet.

Jamie shook her head almost immediately. "I think I’d like the girl that I married back. I don’t feel ready to have you that much like your brothers."

Grasping her around the waist, Ryan rolled her partner onto her back, twitching her hips to help the fabric from her body. "I’m back, Baby, and I’m all yours."

* * * * * * * * * * *

The watch alarm chirped at 5:15 on the button, and with practiced hands, Ryan turned it off before the third chirp, managing, as usual, to avoid waking her partner. Oh Lord, why did I drink all that beer and smoke that damn cigar? I feel like I haven’t had a sip of water in days! She rolled to the edge of the bed, disentangling her arms from around Jamie’s body as she moved. Tossing her leg over the bed, she abruptly flew off its surface, landing hard–face first. Luckily, her hands shot out before her head hit the floor and she was spared injury. The very loud noise, and the ensuing string of curses, woke Jamie, who scrambled to see what had happened. "Honey?" the room was still dark, and when Jamie flicked on the bedside lamp she erupted in giggles. Ryan was lying face down on the floor, her print boxers down around her ankles, her smooth black leather motorcycle boots still firmly laced on her feet.

"We have got to start going to bed barefoot!" she grumbled, rolling over to extricate herself from her predicament.

Reaching down beneath the covers Jamie realized that she still wore not only her stockings, but her sandals as well. "Let’s make it a rule," she agreed, leaning over the bed to offer an early morning kiss to her partner. Pulling back quickly she amended, "One more rule. No smoking unless both of us do it. It was sexy last night…now it’s just vile!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jamie wasn’t up for another run alone at the back of the pack, so she stayed in San Francisco to give Duffy a little exercise while Ryan ran with the team.

Pleased to encounter a cool, fog-shrouded Berkeley, Ryan took off with a small group of her teammates and struggled through their required five miles. Just as she was cruising to a stop, Jordan sidled up beside her and said, "I’m going to do another five. Want to come?"

"No way," she demurred. "I had a tough night last night. I need some breakfast."

"I can go that way too," Jordan smiled. "Let’s hit the showers."

As they walked toward the locker room, Ryan had to comment on the fact that her new teammate never seemed tired at the end of five miles. " I think I’ve figured out why you’re such a good runner," Ryan declared. "You’re part cheetah, aren’t you?"

"I was the state champion in the 1500 in high school," she admitted a little smugly. "I’ve run cross-country for years, also. Running is what I do best."

"I don’t come up against many people who can beat me that easily," Ryan said. "You really put me in my place. Again."

"Let me buy you breakfast to make up for humiliating you," Jordan offered with a teasing gleam in her eyes.

"Okay," Ryan said. "I just need to find a phone to tell Jamie."

"Short leash, huh?" Jordan smirked at Ryan’s rolling eyes and reached into her gym bag to hand her a cell phone.

"I wouldn’t call it a leash, but I will admit that there’s no one I’d rather spend my time with," Ryan said sincerely, deciding to be very clear about where her allegiances lay.

Jordan didn’t seem offended by her statement. Instead she laughed softly and challenged Ryan’s sincerity. "So…why would you accept my invitation? Shouldn’t you be running home?"

Ryan concentrated on dialing the phone for a second, looking back at Jordan as the phone began to ring. "If traffic wasn’t so bad getting across the Bay Bridge, I’d be gone already." She smiled at her teammate and gave her a playful wink, smiling even more broadly when Jamie picked up the phone. "Hi, Love," she said softly, shaking her head as Jordan rolled her eyes and went into the locker room to take a shower.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Jordan was just stepping out of the shower as Ryan started stripping. "Did your mistress grant permission for you to have a meal without her?" the lanky blonde asked.

Ryan was just kicking off her shorts, as she turned to look at Jordan. Whoa, she thought. Find somewhere else to look! Even though they had run together several times, they had never been in the showers at the same time, and Ryan was astounded by the vision that greeted her. Jordan was a very good-looking woman in clothes, but much to Ryan’s chagrin, she was nearly flawless naked. Just a tiny bit taller than Ryan, she was as fair as Ryan was dark. Her long blonde hair hung straight down her back, and her fair skin was kissed by the sun everywhere except the area covered by the very sexy white thong she was shimmying into. Jordan was of Swedish extraction, and she possessed the dichotomy of lovely blonde hair contrasted with skin that tanned to a beautiful light golden bronze. She had the long lean look of an elite runner, but she also had a sleekly powerful upper body. Her breasts looked natural, but they were so perfect that they could have been silicone enhanced. Even though Ryan had told Jamie that she thought she would always look at women, this one was way too attractive and way too naked for her to feel comfortable in her presence.

"Um, not really," she said as she looked deep into her gym bag for nothing at all. Jordan came over to stand right next to her, completely unconcerned with her near-nudity.

"So we’re not having breakfast together?" she asked, puzzled by Ryan’s odd response.

"What?" her somewhat muffled voice asked. "Oh…yeah, we’re having breakfast. Sure. No problem."

"Do you need something, Ryan?" she asked. "I’ve got everything you might need in my locker."

"Oh, that’s what I need. I need to talk to the equipment manager about getting a locker."

"And you were looking in your gym bag for that?" she inquired with a little furrow in her brow.

"Um, I forgot what I was looking for," she said as her face flushed. "I’ll be right out. You can meet me outside if you want." She stripped off the rest of her clothes so quickly that she could have created a friction spark, and scampered toward the shower area.

"Hey," Jordan said, "before you get in the shower, would you put some moisture lotion on my back?"

Ryan knew she had to acquiesce since there was no logical or believable reason to refuse. Gee, Jordan, I’d love to but I’ll go into anaphylactic shock if I touch lanolin. She took a breath, walked back to the bench, and started to rub a big glob of the aloe scented lotion into the sleek, yet muscular back. She had rarely dated a woman as tall as she, and as she rubbed her fingers over the long expanse she briefly considered that it would be nice to have a big girlfriend. There was something kinda nice about having all of that smooth real estate sliding under her fingers, but as soon as the thought came in she shoved it out of her brain. Your shopping days are over, Ryan. Very good things come in small packages! Count your blessings!

She finished her task as quickly as she could, and took a longer-than-normal shower to make sure Jordan would be dressed when she finished. What’s up with you? It’s impossible to be more satisfied than you are. Why on earth do you let a beautiful woman get you all flustered? She didn’t really have an answer for that question, reasoning that years of conditioning were going to take a while to overcome.

When she came out of the shower a few minutes later, Jordan was sitting right where she had left her, although, thankfully, clothed this time. Feeling Jordan’s calm, appraising gaze linger on her body, Ryan got dressed quickly --so quickly that she did not even tie her shoes properly. As they started to leave the locker room, she tripped on a lace and nearly flat fell on her face. Jordan caught her as she fell, grabbing her firmly around the waist and holding on tight as Ryan regained her feet. They were facing each other, only inches apart, and Ryan felt a stirring of desire shoot through her groin as those perfect breasts pressed against her. Oh for God’s sake! she chastised her body. Don’t do this to me. I'm very happily married! But her body insistently reminded her that an extremely attractive woman was holding her very close, and it was only doing the job that she had rigorously trained it to do for so many years.

She stood under her own power and thanked Jordan for catching her. "You must be pretty strong," she grinned nervously. "I’m a handful."

"I’ve handled bigger than you," she smiled, with a little more innuendo than Ryan was comfortable with. As they left the building Jordan asked, "Hey, would you mind driving? I’d like to go to North Berkeley. There’s a good place there that I never get to go to."

"No problem," Ryan said, and led her friend to the Lexus.

"Nice wheels," whistled Jordan, admiring the car.

"Um…it’s actually Jamie’s car. I own a motorcycle," she explained, finding herself embarrassed to admit that her partner had, in fact, bought the car for her.

"Ooh…I looooove bikes," the lanky blonde enthused. "Will you give me a ride someday?"

"Sure," Ryan said, privately thinking, As long as Jamie sits right between us. I don’t want those breasts anywhere near me again!

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

Thankfully, Ryan overcame her nervousness and they had a very pleasant breakfast together. As they talked about school and their athletic careers, Ryan learned that Jordan’s resume was just as impressive as her own-- more so, actually, when one considered that she was only 21 and very much in the running to make the women’s Olympic volleyball team.

They were working on another cup of coffee when Jordan casually asked, "So are you exclusively lesbian?"

Barely avoiding spitting all over her teammate, Ryan swallowed while nodding furiously. "Absolutely!" she sputtered.

"Chill, babe," Jordan laughed. "I’m just trying to get to know you better."

Once again Ryan flushed, thinking that she spent a lot of time doing so around Jordan. "I’ve always identified as a lesbian," she said, taking her friend at her word. "How about you?"

"God no!" Jordan was shaking her head slowly, a small frown drawing her dark blonde eyebrows slightly together. "I have a very open-minded view of sexual expression. I’m much more attracted to people than to their gender."

"Oh, I’m attracted to people, too," Ryan agreed. "As long as they have breasts and a vagina." Her slightly goofy smile caused Jordan to laugh heartily, and Ryan was struck by how much more attractive she was when she was relaxed. Great…just what I need is for her to be more attractive!

Thankfully, Jordan’s increased attractiveness was accompanied by an increased level of comfort for both women, and by the end of breakfast Ryan was pretty confident that Jordan was just being friendly, not flirty. Jordan seemed very comfortable with herself, and she also seemed quite frank–even blunt--in her questioning. But Ryan didn’t get any sexual vibes from her, and she was pleased that her new friend seemed very interested in hearing about Jamie and how they had become a couple.

"So, what about you? Are you seeing any ‘people’ now?" Ryan playfully asked.

"No one in particular," Jordan replied airily. "I don’t allow myself to get too involved. My focus is on volleyball, and it’s hard to meet anyone who wants to come in second to my passion."

"So, you’ve never been in love?"

Jordan’s icy mask slid into place, and her hooded eyes concealed every emotion. "I didn’t say that," she said rather brusquely. "But I’m not in love now, and I don’t expect that to change for quite some time. Nothing is going to prevent me from reaching my goals, Ryan. Nothing!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie returned home that evening, Ryan was sitting on the front porch, a beer in her hand and a contemplative look on her face. "Hey, Babe," Jamie called in greeting, getting out of the car.

"One question," Ryan demanded, getting right down to business. "Where in the holy hell did you learn how to give a lap dance like that?!"

The smaller woman nearly collapsed in laughter, the look on Ryan’s face so completely puzzled that she was tempted to extend the torture and milk it for all it was worth. Taking pity on her partner, her humanitarian side took over and she sat down next to her to explain. "When Mia turned 21, the only thing she wanted for a present was for a group of her friends to go to a strip club." Jamie rolled her eyes, recalling how adamant her friend had been about her wishes. "I assumed we’d go to some place where guys dance for women, but since half of Mia’s friends are guys, and they’re the ones who picked the place…" she trailed off, shrugging her shoulders at the memory.

"Where was I when this happened?" Ryan asked, thinking that she wouldn’t have minded tagging along on that little excursion.

"Her birthday’s around Christmas," Jamie informed her. "We were on break at the time."

"Did ya have fun?" Ryan asked, eyebrows twitching.

Jamie shrugged once again, pursing her lips as she recalled, "It was okay. I mean, Mia had a great time, of course, and we all got so drunk that I could hardly see straight. Thank God we had the foresight to rent a limo."

"So…the women didn’t do anything for you?" Ryan was constantly trying to determine how her lover had progressed from no interest whatsoever into a full-fledged lover of women.

"No," Jamie said decisively. "I mean, if it was just me and one of the women, I might have been more interested, but watching a group of women try to sexually excite people for money didn’t do a thing for me." She cocked her head, trying to remember exactly how she had felt at the time. "It seemed kinda sad, you know?"

"Sad?" Ryan asked, never having heard that term used to describe a strip club.

"Yeah. Sad that the women had to do that for money, and sad for the men that had to pay someone to dance for them. I thought it was just sad that they couldn’t do that with their own partners."

"Like I can," Ryan beamed, nuzzling her head into Jamie’s sweet-smelling neck. "Being married to you is a very good thing, Jamie. A very good thing, indeed."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now that her therapist, Anna, was back in town, Jamie arrived home a little later than usual that Wednesday evening. She poked her head in the refrigerator, staring at the contents for a moment, wishing some of them would transform themselves into immediately edible food. "I’m starving! What do you want to do for dinner tonight?"

"I’d be happy to cook," Ryan offered. "I didn’t start anything because I didn’t have any idea of when you’d be home."

Jamie opened the door again, her nose twitching while her brow furrowed slightly. "The refrigerator doesn’t smell right," she said, poking her head all the way inside.

"It will by tomorrow," Ryan informed her. "I spent an hour cleaning every darned surface in there after I got rid of that stinky cheese you forgot about."

"MY CHEESE!!" Jamie dashed to the trashcan and pulled out two loosely wrapped bundles of very fragrant cheese. Luckily, they were the only items in the fresh plastic bag, since Maria Los had cleaned the kitchen and thrown out the trash earlier in the day.

Ryan shoved her hands into the pockets of her khakis and rocked back and forth on her heels. "Umm…now I think I understand what in the heck Maria Los was trying to say." She looked a little embarrassed, but it was obvious that she found the situation rather funny. "I took the cheese out…she put it back. I took it out again, and she put it right back in. She got about two inches from my face and actually wagged her finger at me! I had to wait until she left to throw it away again."

Now Jamie burst out in laughter, grabbing a chair to support her weak legs. "I had a long discussion with her about this right after she started to work for me," she admitted. "She thinks I’m absolutely nuts, I’m sure, but she has protected my cheese ever since!"

Ryan looked very skeptical as she approached and took the packets from Jamie’s hands. Lifting them to her nose, she sniffed, making a face as she did so. "Do you really plan on eating these? They smell like…jeez, I don’t even know what they smell like!"

Jamie gave her a knowing smile and said, "Our dinner plans have been made, Babe. Let’s hop on your bike and go pick up a few things. We’re gonna have a little cheese tasting tonight."

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

It took over an hour to go to the correct bakery for French baguettes, the correct cheese store for a few wedges of hard cheese and three types of olives, and a small wine shop for two bottles of red wine.

Once they arrived home, Ryan was put in charge of slicing some peaches and making melon balls, while Jamie prepared the cheese and sliced the bread. When everything was ready they repaired to the back yard to begin the lesson/meal.

"Okay," Jamie began, assuming her best professorial demeanor. "I love soft cheese, but it’s impossible to find it properly ripened. So I practice affinage in my own home." She laughed at her statement, but Ryan gave her a very blank look. "Affinage is the practice of ripening cheese, Honey," she explained. "I am trying to teach myself to be a fromagier affineur."

"Umm…how do you know if you’re doing it right?" Ryan asked, thinking that this sounded suspiciously like the all-too-common news items recounting dozens of people at a church picnic dying from spoiled potato salad.

"I know what I like," she explained. "It’s mostly a matter of taste, Honey."

"Uh-huh," Ryan nodded, not looking even a little bit convinced. "I think I’ll stick with the nice yellow stuff in the safe, hermetically sealed plastic wrapper."

"Oh, come on. When have you been afraid of a new sensual experience?"

That did the trick. Blue eyes brightened, a sly smile creeping onto Ryan’s face. "Did you say sensual?"

"Yep. Trust me on this one, Babe. We’re gonna have fun tonight."

Ahh…what’s a little botulism between friends? "Let’s boogie."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"I like the Pont L’Eveque, slathered across the small of your back, with a little Châteauneuf-du-Pape to wash it down." Ryan was sitting cross-legged on the ground, using her discarded jeans to keep the grass from tickling her sensitive skin. Her head was resting against Jamie’s back, the soft rise of her partner’s buttocks filling her vision.

"I knew that you’d like properly aged cheese," the smaller woman mumbled.

"Oh, I liked it all right," Ryan agreed, "Of course, the delicious serving platter affected my enjoyment a little bit, too. I was very, very glad that it didn’t taste as strong as it smelled, though."

"That’s funny, isn’t it? You smell it when it’s aged and it nearly overwhelms you, but the flavor is much more subtle and complex."

"I swear, if I told Da you have me eating fruit and cheese for dinner, he’d think I lost my mind. At my house, that would be a very small appetizer."

"You’re not still hungry, are you, Babe?"

"Nope. All of my senses and appetites have been completely satisfied."

"All of them?" Jamie chuckled.

"Yep. How about yours, Love?"

"Oh, yeah." She rolled over, dislodging Ryan’s head for a moment. "I was just thinking about that, as a matter of fact."

"Tell me," Ryan asked, placing her chin on Jamie’s hipbone.

"I’ve always been focused on taste and texture when I eat something I really like, but you’ve helped expand my focus. It’s like the world is opening up for me–do you know what I mean?"

"Kinda…" Ryan began.

"It’s like this," Jamie explained. "I love the Morbier that we had tonight. Those two glossy, pale yellow layers of cheese have always reminded me of fruit and nuts. I’ve had it dozens of times…but I’d never noticed how delightful the aroma was. Tonight it hit me–it smells just like you do when you work out!"

"I smell like cheese!" Ryan looked rather insulted, so Jamie hastened to reassure her.

"No, you don’t generally smell like cheese, Honey. But this cheese and you both smell a little like new-mown hay."

Ryan grinned up at her. "Hay, huh? I guess that makes sense since I eat like a horse."

"That you do," she said fondly. "But there was more than that. I spread some of that creamy yellow cheese on your breasts, and I was hit by how absolutely wonderful the color and the texture was. It was just so glossy–almost luminescent! And then when I licked it off of you…wow! I mean, it just amazed me how an experience I’ve had so many times is made brand new when I share it with you."

"Or on me," Ryan added for the record.

"Especially on you," the smaller woman agreed. "I guess my point is that in the short time we’ve been together, you’ve made me so much more aware of my senses. I feel like I’m just starting to experience everything that life has to offer!"

"'Just starting' is the operative phrase, Babe," Ryan insisted. "We’ve got a lot of years ahead of us to fully exploit all of our senses."

Jamie leaned over and tugged on her partner, urging her to lie atop her body. She looked deeply into Ryan’s eyes and said, "For that journey, I could not have picked a better traveling companion."

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

Continued in Part 9

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