I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 17: Quandary
By S X Meagher
Both Ryan and Jamie acted as hostesses for the party, making sure that everyone had enough to eat and drink. When Ryan was sure that everyone's gustatory needs had been fulfilled she caught her partner's eye and pointed towards the pool house. Their paths crossed just before the building and Jamie said, "What's up? You look a little…”
Nodding her assent, Jamie said, "That's exactly it. What happened?"
Ryan looked around and saw that everyone in the pool could see them talking. "Let's go inside."
Jamie took her hand. "It's such a nice night, let's go for a walk. I don't think I've ever taken you on a thorough tour of the yard.”
"Cool. I'd always rather be outside."
They started walking past the pool house and Jamie rested her head against Ryan's. "I know that about you. So, what's up? Why are you deflated?"
"Every once in a while I get too big for my britches and my father knocks me down a notch."
Jamie put her hand on Ryan's ass again and gave it another squeeze. "Those britches are perfect."
Ryan put her arm around her and held her in a loose embrace. They were just past the pool house, and no one could see them. "I told him I was miffed about your buying me new clothes and he reminded me that it was really none of my business.”
"That's one of the main reasons I love him. He's the voice of sanity.”
"Yeah, he is. He just went on a little bit, and I'm feeling down about it.” Jamie didn't say anything, she merely waited for Ryan to continue. "He pointed out that you're good natured when I overcommit, but then I started thinking about how doing that hurt you and Jennie this spring."
“No lasting harm done, love. Let it go.”
“You know that's hard for me. Rory kept up his end of the bargain, as did Ashley and Heather and your mom and Marta. I'm the only one who blew it."
"But you were so busy…”
Ryan silenced her by squeezing her lips together. "Everyone is busy. I took one class this term and didn't have a job. If not for sports, I could have spent three hours a day with the kid. But I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and that sucks."
"I agree that you were too busy, and I agree that you were busy doing things that gave you pleasure. But you're allowed to do that, Ryan. This was your last chance to play at the college level, and I don't want you to look back on this with regret.”
"How about basketball?" Her delivery was very dry, and one eyebrow rose.
"That was stupid." Jamie started to giggle and Ryan eventually joined her. "You have a real problem with overcommitting, and you're going to have to work on it. But don't work on it tonight, honey. You didn't teach Jennie how to play the clarinet, but she enjoyed hanging around with the softball team more than you did. I guarantee you she wouldn't trade that experience for being…Kenny G.” she cocked her head. "He plays the clarinet, right?"
"I have no idea who that is."
"He's a pretty famous guy. He's sold a zillion CDs."
“So that explains it. You know I don't like anybody who's sold more than a thousand CDs.”
“My little iconoclast.”
The skin between Ryan's brow furrowed for a moment. "I think that means…" She shook her head. “The icon part throws me. I'm stumped."
"Your Latin class serves you well. And iconoclast is someone who would destroy an icon or something that most people believe. It's not a perfect word for you, but it's the best one I could think of."
Ryan looked around, finally noticing they hadn't moved more than three feet past the pool house. "This wasn't much of a walk. Is this the whole tour?"
"Nope. We just got waylaid." She took her partner's hand and started to walk toward the tennis court.
As they walked, Ryan said, "I have some good words to describe you. Like thoughtful, generous, patient, loving…”
“Nice words. Why do I deserve them?"
"Because they're true. And because I want to apologize for being such a jerk this morning.”
"We already covered this. You can officially stop berating yourself.” She squeezed Ryan's hand. “Even though I know it's your favorite hobby.”
Giving her a sick-looking smile, Ryan said, "We didn't cover all of it. I wasn't properly grateful for you going out of your way to make sure I didn't have to go to the party in your dad's boxer shorts. I don't know where I get off thinking that I have the right to criticize you for giving me a gift. That's just asssholic.”
Jamie leaned against her, partially pushing her off the gravel path. "That's a little harsh. I know you don't like it when I waste money and I shouldn't…”
Ryan held up her hands. "Nope. Stop right there. It's your money and I've got to get over thinking that I have the right to supervise how you spend it."
"But it's our money, not mine, and I should consider your views."
Ryan sighed. "How about this. If you start spending more than you earn on your principle, we should have a talk.”
Jamie laughed, her eyes almost closing. "I don't spend a 10th of what I earn. Maybe you should adjust your figures.”
Ryan peered into the darkness that bracketed the tennis court. "Where are we going?”
"Over there." Jamie pointed at the path that curved away from the main house.
"It's as dark as pitch!”
“Uhm…something Kenny B told me about.”
Jamie pinched her cheek. “Kenny G. Now, don't be a big baby. Give me your hand and I'll protect you.”
“Who's gonna protect you? There could be all sorts of critters out here in the woods.”
Jamie continued on the path, her vision adjusting now that the bright lights of the tennis court were behind her. “This isn't the woods. This is Hillsborough.”
“This is as far into the woods as I've ever been.”
Stopping in her tracks, Jamie stared at Ryan in the darkness. “Is that true?”
“I've been to Golden Gate Park in the middle of the night, does that count?”
“What about camping?”
“Only on the AIDS Ride. Does that count?”
“Not really. That was more like being in a shelter after a storm.”
Ryan laughed. “True.”
“You show me where the woods are in Ireland, and I'll eat them.”
“You really aren't outdoorsy?”
“I'm plenty outdoorsy. I'm just a city girl.”
Smiling with delight at having found a weakness in her partner, Jamie said, “I think you're chicken. I really do!”
Ryan shrugged, looking charmingly embarrassed. “I'm just not used to the darkness. But I can handle it.”
Soothingly, Jamie put her arm around Ryan's waist. “I didn't mean to make fun of you. I'm just shocked that you've never been in the woods.”
“I've been to Marin,” she said, still sounding defensive.
"I just assumed you've been camping. It wouldn't have surprised me to learn that you went into the forest with nothing but a knife and came out two weeks later, healthy and well fed."
“No, we didn't go to summer camp or anything like that, and we never took a vacation. I just never had the opportunity. Did you?”
“Yeah, I went to camp in New Hampshire for a few summers, and my dad and I went on some pretty rough trips. We went white water rafting in the Grand Canyon for a week, and we slept under the stars every night. And we went to Costa Rica and stayed in these cool raised tents way out in the middle of the rain forrest."
Sounding a little nervous, Ryan said, "Are we going much further?”
"No, we're almost there. It seems like we're going far, but that's just the way my mom had this part of the garden laid out. We're almost serpentining. You can't see it, but this spot is really lushly planted. It's kinda tropical.”
“It smells good.” Ryan sniffed audibly. “What is that?”
“Jasmine? Gardenia? I'm not sure.” They proceeded on, going very slowly, even though they were on a path. “This is a great place to walk when you're thinking something over.” She squeezed Ryan's hand. "I thought about you a lot last year when I used to come home for a weekend. I never dreamt…I never allowed myself to dream that someday we'd be here together.”
Ryan put her arm around her and pulled her close, kissing her cheek. "I'm really glad we're here together.”
"I am, too." Jamie turned and slid her arms around Ryan's waist. Then she tilted her chin and let their eyes lock upon each other. "I love you."
Ryan's smile was just visible in the moonless night. "I love you, too." She tilted her head and pressed her lips against Jamie's. That first touch seemed positively electric. It was so quiet and peaceful in the small glade, surrounded by tall, exotic plants. The sounds of the partygoers were very muted; the quiet noises of suburban wildlife were, in comparison, much more pronounced. A small animal skittered among the foliage, and Ryan tried not to tense up. She focused on the warmth of Jamie in her arms, the familiar, reassuring scent of her body, and the musty smell of rich earth and flowers. It was still quite warm out, but the area they stood in was significantly cooler than it had been by the house. As Ryan adjusted, she felt the flush of desire spread through her body. Just being in this secret, quiet place let her focus all of her senses on her partner, and whenever that happened her body took over.
She went back for another kiss, and this one had more heat behind it. Jamie obviously felt the same way, because she returned the kiss with even greater intensity. In seconds, Ryan felt like she had to have her hands and her mouth on Jamie, so she broke the kiss, took her hand and started back towards the house.
But Jamie was not to be moved. "Where do you think you're going?”
"To your room.”
"Honey! We can't walk past all those people and go to bed.”
Befuddled, and she often was when she was aroused, Ryan said, "Why not? No one will notice."
"Yes, they will. Now, just behave and give me another kiss.”
Ryan sighed, looking dejected. But she did as she was asked, and gave Jamie what she thought was a kiss to tide her over until bedtime. But Jamie had other plans. She once again ratcheted up the passion between them, kissing Ryan again and again, each kiss more filled with desire. When Ryan was panting and grinding against her Jamie took her by the hands and pulled her down to sit on the thick, cushiony bed of curly thyme that carpeted the glade.
"Here?" Ryan said, looking around confusedly and sounding far from convinced.
With a gleam in her eye, Jamie said, "Right here." She pushed Ryan, knowing that her agile body would fall effortlessly. Lying on her back, Ryan looked up, an expressive mix of desire and surprise on her face. “Is this really a good idea?”
“It is.” Jamie grasped her firmly and started to place incendiary kisses on her plump lips. A few soft moans slid from Ryan's mouth and Jamie knew that resistance had ceased. “I'm going to have you,” she whispered hotly. “Right now.”
Now the gaze that settled on Jamie was anything but confused or tepid. It was fervid, and stated the unspoken promise that they were going to have some fiery sex.
"You've been neglecting me," Jamie said, holding Ryan's head with both of her hands and kissing her until she had to break away to breathe. Panting, her cheeks pink, Jamie added, "It seems like I've been chasing you for weeks. But you're all mine now, and I'm staking my claim."
Immediately, Ryan's expression morphed into one Jamie had seen all too frequently recently. "I'm really sorry," she began, but Jamie cut her off with a kiss that was more possessive than reassuring.
"Stop apologizing. It's time to move on.” She started to unbutton Ryan's blouse, pleased when her partner's avid gaze followed her movements closely. "I've been waiting for you to carry the load, and then getting mad when you don't. That's not fair. Tonight I'm going to show you that I can be in charge, too."
Ryan's smile now showed a little of the cocky self-assurance that always spiked Jamie's temperature. "Are you going to top me?"
"I sure am."
“I might not give in so easily. You know I'm used to being in charge.” This was clearly a challenge, and Jamie was up to it, having fantasized about this for weeks, just waiting for the right moment.
She wrapped her arms around Ryan and squeezed her tightly. “You couldn't get away if you tried.”
Unable to give in so easily, Ryan moved her elbows out to the sides, easily breaking Jamie's hold. But the gasp of pain that broke the silence stopped her immediately. “What's wrong?”
“My arm,” Jamie said, rubbing her recently healed elbow. “It's still tender.”
“Shit! I'm sorry, sweetheart.” Ryan scrambled to get up to take a look, but Jamie put her left hand on her chest and pushed her back down.
“You wouldn't hurt me, would you?” she asked, disingenuously. “I'd hate to tell everyone that you broke my arm again.”
Ryan's eyes nearly bugged out. “You're using that to hold me off?”
“It's all I've got.” Jamie looked very proud of herself, and Ryan had to laugh.
“Really weak. Amazingly weak.”
“If it works, it works.” Still pushing against Ryan with her “bad” arm, Jamie said, “Actually, I shouldn't have to do all of the work, since I'm injured. Unfasten your belt.”
Grinning up at her, Ryan did.
“Now unzip your shorts and unbutton your shirt. I want to see some skin.”
Ryan slowly revealed her body, gazing at Jamie with a heated look. “Should I take my clothes off?”
“Did I tell you to?” The look she gave was fairly imperious, and Ryan struggled not to giggle.
“No, you didn't.” Ryan lay back down, her blouse and shorts open, revealing the new cream-colored bra and bikinis Jamie had purchased. In the darkness the new garments shone from the weak ambient light, making the distinction between Ryan's skin and her clothing sharp.
Jamie lay on her side, her head resting on Ryan's extended arm. They lay in the quiet glade, a few stars showing overhead as the muted sounds of the party provided some white noise. For a few moments they looked into each other's eyes, enjoying the lull before the storm of lovemaking. Jamie loved these quiet seconds; had come to cherish them. The promise of intimacy, the excitement of the unknown, the scent of Ryan's body all combined to make her throb with desire.
She put her hand on Ryan's bare belly and stroked her soothingly. “My very fragile arm is going to be right here, so don't even think of making a move. You're mine tonight, and I want complete compliance.”
“I live to serve.” Ryan's eyes glittered with good humor and a dash of playfulness.
“That's how I like you. Following orders.” She sat up and unhooked Ryan's bra, which by plan had a front opening. Opening the blouse and bra as far as they could go, she gazed with pleasure upon Ryan's loveliness. “Ahh, there's nothing prettier than your breasts waiting for my mouth.”
“Why don't you…”
“Ah! My arm!” Jamie cried quietly. “Every time you try to assert yourself my arm hurts.”
Ryan shook her head, but didn't say another word. She put her finger to her lips, promising silence.
“You can talk, you just can't tell me what to do.”
“It's a deal.”
“No, it's not a deal,” Jamie primly informed her. “That would mean that you were letting me be in charge. In reality, you're powerless, remember?”
Ryan had rarely been forced to be so complicit in being topped, but she was charmed by it. “I am,” she said, trying to convey her love with her voice. “I am completely powerless over you.”
“That's better. I don't want to have to get tough with you.” She lay back down and started to delicately run her hand over Ryan's chest, making her firm nipples harden even more. “Nice,” she purred. “Nice and hard.”
“Mmm, feels good.” Ryan arched her back, pressing her breasts against Jamie's hand
“Put your hand between my legs and squeeze me,” Jamie whispered.
Slightly surprised, and feeling her pulse quicken, Ryan complied, getting a nice growl from her partner. “Good?”
Languidly, Jamie's head fell back and she pushed against Ryan's hand. “Very. Do it again, a little harder.” She gasped at the sensation, smiling sexily while pumping against Ryan's hand a few times. “That's enough. I just wanted a little jolt.”
Chuckling, Ryan said, “I'll never understand your sex drive. A little is not enough for me.”
“I know that.” Jamie reached down and squeezed Ryan's sex firmly, making her whimper. “That's why I don't start with you until I'm ready to go all the way.” She kissed her, then probed her gently. Sucking Ryan's tongue into her mouth she nibbled on it, then released her. “I'm ready.” In a flash, she was atop her partner, one leg pressed between her thighs, her mouth affixed to a hard nipple.
Ryan was taken aback by Jamie's force, but it worked wonders on her clit, which had hardened in seconds. She moved her hips an inch or two, trying to get more pressure where she needed it. Jamie sensed her need and pressed against her until Ryan grunted her satisfaction.
“If you like my knee, you're gonna love my mouth,” a grinning Jamie promised, her teeth shining brightly in the dim light.
“I love your mouth right where it is.” Ryan purposefully moved her shoulder to force more of her breast into that warm mouth. “You're so good at that.”
Grasping the other breast with her hand, Jamie gave it a good, firm squeeze, making Ryan twitch. She moved back and forth for a few feverish minutes, loving the firm flesh until Ryan mewed in pain. “Too much?” Jamie asked, looking into Ryan's eyes.
“Only for a second. You know I like it a little rough.”
“I do. Pain and pleasure live at the same address in your libido.”
Ryan chuckled. “I like that.”
“I like this .” Jamie grasped between her legs and gave her a very firm squeeze. “I love to make you shiver.” She bent her head again, laving the warm, luscious skin while she pinched and pulled Ryan's lips.
“Damn, you're good,” Ryan whimpered.
“It's a gift.” Jamie regretfully left the sensitized breasts and assessed Ryan's body. She had to taste her, that wasn't in question. But the logistics were a little complicated. Finally, she reached down and grasped the hems of the shorts and started to pull them down. Ryan raised her butt, aiding the maneuver. Then Jamie put them back onto the ground and instructed, “Move over so you're lying on the shorts. I don't want you to get scratched.”
Ryan got into place and gazed up with the hungry look she always bore when she was ready for sex. The look alone made Jamie's clit hurt, but the powerful lure of Ryan's body was almost too much to bear. She rested her head on Ryan's belly, relishing the feel and the scent of her heated flesh. It was like coming home to a warm, loving welcome, and she knew she'd never tire of this closeness. She felt so peaceful that she almost regretted having to move, but Ryan's hips started to gyrate and she knew she had to provide some relief to the poor woman, whose fuse was so much shorter than her own.
“What should I do?” she asked idly. “How should I have you?”
“Any way. Any way at all.” Ryan's voice was tinged with need.
“I think I have to taste you,” Jamie decided. “That's what I've been missing the most.” She moved down so her head was right above Ryan's sex. Their eyes met and she continued, “When you're gone I go to sleep thinking about how delectable you are. I pull up a sense memory of you and nod right off.”
“You don't touch yourself?”
“No, not usually. I want the real thing.”
Grinning, Ryan said, “Again, I don't understand you, but to each her own. If I spent a moment thinking about how you taste and feel I'd be a goner and Jackie would probably ask for a new roommate.”
“You're the best roommate ever. No competition.” She put her face on the soft fabric that covered Ryan. Nuzzling her gently, she murmured, “The absolute best.”
Ryan put her hands on Jamie's shoulders, trying to restrain herself from guiding her. “Goood,” she purred at the soft touch.
“I love having this little barrier between us,” Jamie said, teasing and caressing Ryan through the fabric.
“I don't.” It was clear that Ryan's teeth were clenched, but Jamie ignored her plight.
“Quelle triste.” Jamie continued to mouth her gently, never giving her the pressure she needed. When Ryan continued to push against her she slid her hands up and grasped her breasts with a calculated pressure just short of pain.
Ryan nearly bucked against her partner. “Ooo, give me more,” she begged.
Jamie responded by squeezing her breasts even firmer, but devilishly lightening up on her gentle mouthings. Ryan beat her fists against the ground, and squirmed under the bevy of touches, but Jamie played by her own timetable, intentionally oblivious to Ryan's demands. It was hard to stay in place, but she kept kissing and rubbing against her gently, giving her just enough pressure to drive her mad.
“You've gotta…” Ryan began, but stopped when she realized she was directing too much. “Please?”
Jamie pulled away and looked at for a moment, then asked, “Can you tell me what you're thinking?”
Ryan's eyes were closed, and she continued to press her hips forward obliviously. She didn't say a word, or even show that she'd heard the question.
“Baby? Did you hear me?”
Bright eyes popped open, although they bore clear signs of distress. “What?”
Jamie rested her cheek against a smooth thigh and repeated her question while she gently trailed her index finger all around Ryan's mound.
“I'm thinking of what I'd like that pretty mouth to do, and talking wasn't on the list.”
“Come on, this is important.”
“It is? Why?” Now Ryan sounded just a little annoyed, but Jamie didn't let that stop her quest.
“Because I want to know you better. I don't know what goes through your mind when I'm making love to you, and if I wait until we're done you probably won't remember.”
Ryan's head lifted off the carpet-like ground cover. “What if I promise to remember?”
“Come on.” Jamie moved her mouth and blew a warm stream of air right onto Ryan's clit. “I'll keep touching you if you tell me.”
Through gritted teeth, Ryan said, “That's a disincentive. You're killing me!”
“No, I'm not. You're very impatient. I want to know what's in your head when you're speeding along.”
With a heavy sigh, Ryan lay back down. “All right. I…hmm…I wouldn't say I have real thoughts. Not clear thoughts, anyway.”
“No thoughts? That's surprising.”
“No, it's not. My whole brain is busy feeling.”
“Okay. What do you feel?”
Ryan blew out some air, making a soft whistling sound when it went through her teeth. “Uhm, it's like I become my clit. I have this image of my whole vulva and it fills my mind. It's like I focus where I want you, and that's all I see.”
Jamie rolled onto her belly and supported her head with her hand. “Fascinating.”
“Don't get too comfortable. You're supposed to stay busy.”
“Ooo, right.” She leaned down and kissed the soft skin that bracketed the panties. “This is my favorite skin on your whole body.”
“I like it, too, but I like the adjacent neighborhood better.”
Jamie gave her another long, warm kiss, continuing to bathe her with her heated breath until she could feel Ryan's body relax. “Isn't that nice?”
“Yeah, it is. Are we done talking? Please?”
“Almost. If we stopped now could you get aroused again in a half hour or so?”
“No, probably not. I'd be too swollen. You probably couldn't even find my clit.”
Jamie put her hand on Ryan's mound and twitched her fingers, acting like she was looking for a missing clit. “I'd find it. I'm very determined.”
“Yeah, but you'd definitely have to use the big vibrator on me to get anywhere.”
“Why is that?” Jamie looked completely perplexed. “I don't get the mechanics of your sexual response.”
“It's all about swelling. I'd have to wait until all of the congestion drained away.”
“Yuck! That's a gross way of thinking of it.”
“Not gross, just factual. Vasoconstriction and all of that stuff. Just science.”
“I think of it as love lube,” Jamie said, giggling.
“Works for me. Just think of it as something you want your mouth to meet—real soon.”
“Always in such a hurry,” Jamie tsked. “I wish you could go for hours.”
“I do. I go for as many hours as you want, and you get to benefit from it. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. I think you've found the perfect partner. Ten minutes for me, and hours for you.”
Jamie smiled at her. ‘You have a point. Now, where was I?”
Pointing with both index fingers, Ryan directed, “Right here.”
Gazing at her for a moment, Jamie said, “Roll over.” Ryan did, then turned her head and looked over her shoulder. “Up on your knees.”
As soon as Ryan was on her hands and knees Jamie lowered her panties and, with Ryan's help, slid them off her legs. She sat back on her heels and delicately traced patterns all over Ryan's skin, doing just that until her partner was shaking. “I love to feel how turned on your are,” Jamie said quietly. “Watching your body tremble always turns me on.”
“Mmm,” Ryan mumbled, which Jamie now understood as a response that came from a basic understanding that she was being addressed.
Nonetheless, Jamie liked talking, so she continued. “I love these long muscles on the backs of your thighs.” She ran her fingers down the muscles, which were tense and hard. “Nice. And this is a spot no one with any appreciation of beauty could ignore.” She palmed Ryan's ass, one cheek at a time, marveling at how the muscles were so strong and tense that the flesh barely moved. “You have the most beautiful ass in the world.”
Ryan's addled brain must have registered something, because she twitched her cheeks, as if begging Jamie to touch her more.
Soothingly stroking her flanks, Jamie murmured, “I'll satisfy you, baby. I promise. I just love playing with you.” She put her hands on Ryan's lower back and pressed down, making her thrust her ass higher in the air. Jamie reached down and spread her partner open, finally nuzzling her head between her legs to taste her.
Ryan shivered roughly while letting out the most erotic groan that Jamie had ever heard. She pressed her head forward, lapping greedily at the succulent flesh. Ryan dropped her head down and supported herself by her forearms, giving Jamie better access. She used it to full effect, sucking Ryan's swollen lips into her mouth and pulling gently.
The pleasured moans increased, and Jamie knew she could push Ryan over the edge in mere moments. But she wanted to reward her for her patience, so she lightened up on her touch, even when Ryan backed into her, trying to get her to increase the pressure.
“You don't want to finish so soon, do you, baby?” Jamie asked, even though she was fairly sure Ryan did, indeed, want to finish. But Jamie related sex to the experience of eating a delicious meal. Even when you were very hungry it wasn't usually a good idea to eat too quickly. A meal was something to savor, and she was sure her partner would come to agree once she'd schooled her in temperance.
“Wouldn't you like to feel my fingers touching you all over?” She posed the question while slipping into Ryan's heated wetness and both of them growled in pleasure. “I love being here,” she whispered. “I love feeling how wet and hot you are.” Her fingers slid back and forth, stretching Ryan just the way she liked it.
“Good. Good,” Ryan whispered, almost to herself. “That's good.”
“I know it is.” Jamie leaned over and kissed all along Ryan's lower back and ass while she pumped her fingers deep inside of her. “I know how you like to be filled up.” She slipped out of her pussy and used her slippery index finger to probe Ryan's ass. As if she'd been turned to stone, Ryan stilled, seemingly not even breathing as Jamie slowly insinuated her finger inside her. Slowly, Ryan started to shiver, and by the time Jamie was deep inside her whole body shook roughly, making Jamie pulse with desire. Slowly, she slipped a finger back into Ryan's pussy, then rocked her hand gently, filling her and making her moan with pleasure.
“Good, good, good, good.” Ryan was almost breathless, but her gratitude was clearly registered. “Do that all night.”
“I'd love to.” Jamie used her other hand to stroke and caress every inch of warm skin she could find. But after just a few minutes Ryan grasped her wandering hand and placed it firmly on her vulva. Even though Jamie had a fleeting desire to refuse, she acknowledged her partner's patience and rushed to quench her need. “You need to come, don't you,” she whispered, thrusting firmly with her right hand while her left barely brushed against Ryan's sensitive clit. “Come for me, baby. Come on.” With that, Ryan gasped out her release, pushing hard against Jamie and shaking all over. The sounds that came from her were gibberish, but, to Jamie, they were a well-thought-out, very articulate love poem, composed from the depths of Ryan's soul; meant only for her ears.
It took Ryan a few moments to come to her senses, and when she did she immediately burrowed her face into Jamie's neck. “My God, you are so good.” She nuzzled against her, placing tiny kisses upon her skin.
Jamie slid her arm around Ryan's shoulders and squeezed her gently. She kissed the top of her head, letting her lips remain there for a few moments. “I love you,” she whispered.
Ryan rolled onto her back and stared up at the night sky. “I like being out in the wilderness.”
“You're a silly girl, but you're my silly girl, and I'm keeping you just like you are.”
Rolling onto her side again, Ryan met Jamie's eyes while she reached down and started to unfasten her shorts. But Jamie's hand went down to meet hers and still it. “We've been gone a long time. We'd better get back before anyone misses us.”
Stunned, Ryan stared at her. “You can really go back to the party without any...?”
Jamie shifted her weight and got to her knees, and then stood. She brushed her hands together. “Sure can.”
“That is beyond my comprehension. On any level.”
Jamie put a hand out and Ryan took it. She got to her feet, mumbling to herself. “I don't see how anyone can just stop in the middle of lovemaking and pick it up again hours later.”
“We're different, cupcake. Haven't you come to terms with that by now?”
Ryan was struggling to get into her panties and shorts. Jamie put a hand on her shoulder, steadying her. Chuckling, Ryan said, “I will never come to terms with it. It's so alien to me it's as if you drank food and ate water. It's beyond my ken.”
“Then you'll just have to get used to me.”
Ryan finished buttoning up and tucking in. “I think I can manage. Barely.”
They decided to split up on the way back to the party to avoid being too obvious. Once they passed the pool house Ryan went to the right and Jamie to the left, forcing them to walk along different sides of the pool. There were more guests on Ryan's side since the food tables were on the right. Ryan was pleased to see Brendan and Maggie having arrived. They were chatting with Marta, who was making sure that everyone was well fed. “Hi, guys,” Ryan said. “Did you just get here?”
“We've been here 15 or 20 minutes,” Brendan said. “Where have you been?”
Maggie indiscreetly tugged on his shirt sleeve and whispered, “That's a pretty personal question, honey.”
“It is?” Both Brendan and Ryan said simultaneously, all three of them laughing at the response.
Maggie eyed Ryan from head to toe. “It is when you look like you've been wrestling.” She pointed at her muddy knees. “In the dirt.”
“Jamie had better be dirty, too, Sis,” Brendan said looking around to see if he could spot her.
Grinning, Ryan said, “ I think she's still pretty clean.” She looked across the yard and spotted Jamie speaking with her grandfather. “Heh. Her knees are as bad as mine.”
“But the rest of her doesn't look as wrinkled,” Maggie said.
“What were you doing?” Brendan asked, looking puzzled.
“Now, that's pretty personal,” Ryan said, happy at having made her brother blush. “I'd better get inside and neaten up. Thanks for the alert, Maggie.”
“There's no sense in giving your family any more ammunition to tease you with.”
Ryan put an arm around her shoulders and hugged her. “It's so nice to have someone in the family who doesn't want to add to my pain.”
Ryan dashed upstairs to change, smiling with delight when she saw that Marta had finished washing all of her clothes, which were now lying on the bed neatly folded. Having someone take care of all of your needs is something I could get used to. I'm going to have to stay on my guard to fight the urge.
Next to her clothes she found a new swimsuit, obviously from Jamie. Shaking her head, Ryan held it up, deciding it was clearly meant for her partner's enjoyment. She doffed her wrinkled clothes and slipped into the new suit, moving over to the mirror to check it out. It was a one-piece, sky blue with white edging with a cutout in the back that made it barely cover her ass. Da might make me wear a shirt over this! But she decided it was worth a potential lecture from her father to make Jamie happy. She put on Jim's shirt that she'd worn earlier in the day, and a pair of her own shorts and went back outside. Finding her father starting to close up the grill, she went over to him. “Can I help?”
“There's not much to do,” he said, looking a little befuddled. “Marta says everything disassembles and fits into that dishwasher.” He pointed at an industrial-looking machine under the counter. “It hardly seems like barbecuing at all.”
“I think we can figure out how to take this thing apart. Let's save Marta some work.”
Martin smiled. “The poor woman begs for work. She knows the value of labor.”
“True,” Ryan said absently, leaning over the grill to see if she could see where the various parts connected. “But she'll have plenty of work to clean up this mess.” She was surprised to feel her father's arms circle her waist and hug her tightly.
“I hope you always keep that kind of thing in mind. Having all of this...” he paused, clearly trying to come up with the right word, “excess can make you forget your values.”
Ryan stood and returned the hug. She lingered in her father's embrace for a moment, always loving how cared for and safe she felt in his arms. “I won't forget, Da,” she said, tilting her chin so she could look into her eyes, “but I agree that it's a struggle.”
“You fight the good fight.” They parted and spent the next few minutes working on the mechanics of the grill. They managed to disassemble it, then had to figure out how to load and turn on the dishwasher. Their task finished, Ryan went to one of the nearby tubs and pulled out two cold beers. She handed one to her father and each of them sat on a stool and gazed out at the party.
“It's nice having Jennie here to take some of the load of keeping the baby entertained,” Martin observed.
“True. Caitlin wears me out.”
“I worry about Maeve sometimes. Now that Caitlin is so mobile it's not as easy to mind her.”
“Now that I have nothing but free time staring me in the face you should call if you think she's over extending herself. There's nothing I have planned in the next few months that I couldn't put aside to watch the baby for a day or two.” She watched several of her team mates playing in the water with Caitlin and Jennie. “I've got Jennie pretty busy this summer, but she could be a resource for babysitting too. I'd be happy to pay her a couple of bucks an hour. It'd be a good way to keep her busy, also.”
“What do you have the girl doing?”
Ryan took a long pull on her beer and thought for a few seconds before she answered. “I wouldn't normally talk about this, but I'd like to hear your advice.” Martin didn't say anything. He just cocked his head, looking alert and interested. “Things aren't working out very well for Jen. She and her roommate don't get along well, and I don't think her house mother understands the root of the problems. Jennie has been spending a lot of time with the softball team and now that the season's over I'm worried about her having too much free time.”
“That's always a concern with teenagers.”
“It is. But particularly so with Jen. She was largely unsupervised when she lived at home, and she still doesn't understand that she can't just do as she pleases.”
“Well, she wanted to go to our games in Fresno, but she had finals that week so both Jamie and I told her she couldn't go.” She sighed, her shoulders rising and falling. “She went anyway. And the worst part is that she hitchhiked there.”
Martin's eyes nearly popped out of his head. “I'd have beaten Conor if he'd tried something like that when he was in high school. But to have a young girl do it...” he shook his head roughly, as though he was trying to settle his thoughts. “Did you just find out about this today?”
“No, last week.”
“And she's at a party?” His voice had risen enough so that people 50 feet away turned towards them. “She'd be lucky to see the light of day for six months if she were mine.”
“I know, I know,” Ryan said, regretting bringing the topic up at all. “I wanted to be more punitive, but I talked to Jamie and Mia and they had some good points for being more lenient.”
“Forgive me, Siobhan, but neither Jamie nor Mia have an inkling of a thought about good parenting.”
Stung, Ryan scowled. “That's not fair. they've both been teenagers. Their views count.”
“I didn't mean to insult either of them. But neither had consistent, thoughtful parenting. Mia obviously had no supervision, and Jamie was largely ignored or coddled. They're lovely girls but neither knows how to get a wayward child in line.”
Ryan wasn't sure how her father knew about Mia, but she had to admit he was at least partially correct. “You're probably right, but they convinced me that part of Jennie's problem is that she hasn't had any consistency. I was supposed to be much more involved with her this year, but I selfishly put my own schedule first.”
His voice gentled, but his tone didn't remove the sting from his words. “It's good that you can acknowledge your failings, but if you don't change your actions your mea culpas are as useful as a chocolate teapot.”
“I realize that,” she said somberly. “I'm going to put as much effort into changing my priorities as I did to school and my sports.”
He clapped her heartily on the back. “Then it's as good as done. now, let me ask you a vital question. Why are you in charge of Jennie?”
“I'm not really in charge...”
“Exactly! You're not her guardian, and I don't think it's fair to the child or to her house mother to have you be so involved.”
“But Jen is really involved in our family. She's been completely abandoned, Da. I can't give up on her.”
“I'm hardly suggesting that. But you never saw me disciplining any of my brothers' children. I reported their misdeeds, of course, but it wasn't my job to punish them, and it's not your job to punish Jennie.”
“A second ago you were mad at me because I hadn't punished her more thoroughly.”
“That was just a reaction. Someone should have punished her, but that someone is her legal guardian. What does she... what's her name again?”
“Right. What does Sandy think about this?”
Ryan wanted to jump up and run but she knew her father would catch her eventually. “Uhm, I don't think she knows.”
Martin crossed his arms over his chest and nodded sagely. “Has she been suspended from school?”
“Uhm, they think she was sick.”
“Did you aid in their thinking that?”
Ryan nodded, ashamed she had to.
Martin was quiet for a few moments, his cool blue eyes gazing out at the partygoers. Ryan fidgeted, wishing she was in the pool with her friends. Finally, Martin broke the silence. “What are you trying to teach the girl?”
“I guess I haven't been focusing on what she needs to learn. I've been trying to make her feel wanted and that she's part of our extended family.”
“Members of our extended family don't lie and risk their lives while being willfully disobedient. In our family you don't put your own needs first. I'd think those would be important lessons for you to pass on to Jennie.” He trained his gaze on his daughter and she felt like it was burning into her skin. “I would have thought those values would have aided you in helping her do the right thing.”
She put her head in her hands, then briefly massaged her temples. “I screwed up royally, Da. From start to finish. I haven't set a good example and I haven't helped her make good choices.” She looked out at Jennie playing in the pool. “I keep thinking that part of the problem is that she doesn't have any consistency. I haven't seriously spoken to Jamie about this, but I think it might be good for Jennie if we were to become her guardians.”
“You're both too immature,” he said immediately, not even bothering to spend a moment thinking about it. “That would be like placing a pit bull with a first-time dog owner.”
He had finally pushed Ryan too far. “We're not idiots! Everyone makes mistakes with kids. We'd catch on quickly.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head with finality. “Her guardian is used to dealing with children like her. Now if you have some evidence that the woman isn't up to the task, let me hear it. If not, you need to get out of the way and let her do her job. Your job is to be the girl's friend.”
“She needs more than that, Da. I don't want to go into it but there are some serious problems with her roommate. I don't think it's safe for Jennie to be around her.”
“And Sandy doesn't agree with you?”
Ryan let out a deep breath. “Jenny hasn't told her, and I haven't either.”
He looked at her again, his gaze kind but firm. “Do you see why I don't think you're mature enough to be her guardian? How would you feel if the court appointed you her guardian and one of her other friends knew about a serious problem and didn't speak to you before trying to solve it?”
She rolled her eyes, looking markedly immature. “ Do you ever get tired of being right?” She saw the flash of hurt cross his features. “Oh, shit. I didn't mean that.”
“Yes, you did, but it's all right. It's human nature to dislike being told when you've handled something poorly. But it's my job and my privilege to be your father, Siobhan, and part of that job is to tell you when you've fallen short. First, I don't like your cursing. It's wholly inappropriate.”
“I'm sorry,” she mumbled.
“Secondly, I don't think you've done Jennie any favors in the last few months, but I don't think you've done anything that can't be repaired.”
“Okay,” Ryan said, nodding. “I'll talk to Sandy and tell her the entire story.”
Martin stood up and put his hand on Ryan's cheek. He brushed his thumb across it gently while she gazed up at him. “I know you tried your best. Your only fault in this is your lack of experience. You're going to be an excellent parent, love, I'm certain of that.”
Ryan stood up and hugged her father again. “I think I prefer being a child. It's a heck of a lot easier.”
“It's much easier if you start with a baby,” he said, pulling back to tickle under her chin and make her giggle. “But there's no more rewarding job. Especially when you've been gifted with one of the most extraordinary young women on God's green earth.”
Ryan made eye contact for a brief moment, knowing that her father would make her cry if she held his gaze for too long. She hugged him again, enormously glad that the stork had delivered her to his doorstep
Continued in Part 14
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