I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 8: Honesty
Chapter Nine

By S X Meagher


Part Nine

"I don't want to let you go," Jamie pouted early the next morning as she curled her body all around her lover's in a python-like embrace.

"And I don't want to go," Ryan agreed as she nuzzled her face into her partner's neck.

"Whose idea was it that we be on teams competing at the same time?" Jamie moaned as she snuggled even closer and trailed her fingers down Ryan's concave belly.

Ryan caught the wandering hand and brought it up to her mouth, kissing the warm palm and each of the fingers in turn. "I think it was a joint decision, Baby, but I have to get up now. We're having a quick run through of our defense and then heading to the airport." She tossed her legs from the bed but found her partner's 120 pounds still tightly coiled around her. "Come on, Honey," she said softly as she lovingly stroked her back. "It's hard for me too."

"I know it is," she said. "I think I hate it so much not just because you'll be gone, but because I won't see your first game."

"That's exactly how I felt when you went up to Oregon. I mean, think of it. I made three long distance calls in one day to check on you. That's unheard of!"

Jamie laughed at her partner's claim, knowing it was close to the truth. "It was hard to play those matches without you. It really helped to have Mom there, but it didn't stop me from missing you."

"I know. I hate to think of looking up in the stands and not seeing your sweet face. I know we'd win if you were there, but without you..."

"I'll let you go," Jamie finally relented, "but you have to promise to think of me every minute."

"I promise," Ryan intoned as she solemnly crossed her heart with her index finger.

"Okay, you can go," she said as she released her grip and withdrew her entwined body parts from her lover's body. Ryan bent down for a quick kiss and then dashed into the bathroom to take a shower. Jamie graciously got up and began to pack her bag, since she had kept her so thoroughly occupied the night before. As Ryan was drying her hair Jamie finished her packing and went back into the bathroom to present her with one little gift.

"I know you like to carry your big organizer with you because it's got all of your important numbers and your schedule, but I thought you might like a little money clip for carrying just a few things." She handed her a very small money clip with tan leather compartments for her license and two credit cards. The brass clip on the outside securely held an abundance of folded bills.

Ryan gave her an amused grin as she opened the compartment to find that Jamie had already filled it with her license and her debit card. But when she looked closely, there was a new card in with the others. She extracted the platinum American Express card as she lifted one eyebrow at her partner.

"I can't have you going all over the country without a credit card! You can't use your debit card for car rentals or even some hotels."

"Uh...I think the school covers the hotel, Jamie. They don't just throw us out there and hope for the best."

"I know, Love, but I'll feel much more secure if I know you can take care of yourself in case of a financial emergency."

"Platinum?" Ryan asked weakly. "Why not a nice little Visa card?"

"I just called American Express and had them put you on my account as a signer, and since my card is platinum, so is yours."

"I'm not going to win this argument, am I?" Ryan asked as she bent for a kiss.

"Not likely," Jamie honestly replied, pulling her down even closer for a much longer kiss.

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

Jamie drove her over to the gym a few minutes before seven. They were parked in front of the building for quite a while, as Jamie had a very difficult time letting her go. "I love you, Ryan," she said, holding her face in her hands and kissing every available surface.

"I love you too, Baby," she agreed when she was allowed to use her mouth for speech, "but I've got to go."

She pulled herself away and grabbed her bag from the back seat. Running around to the driver's door, she placed several more delicate kisses on Jamie's lips and was just about to turn when she was grabbed firmly and given a scorcher. When she was released her eyes were nearly crossed, and her legs felt a little rubbery as she heard a low laugh from behind her. "Time to go, O'Flaherty," Jordan's voice rang out.

Jamie patted her cheek and gave her one last gentle kiss as she waved to Jordan. Ryan gathered her wits and approached her smirking friend. "You get more action on the street than most people do in bed," Jordan teased, tossing an arm around her shoulders.

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

All in all, Ryan was quite pleased with the outcome of her first NCAA Division I volleyball game. They won their first match of the weekend three games to one over a young team from the University of Washington. They had worked well together as a team and even though she did not play as many minutes as she wanted to, she was a significant contributor.

These weekend matches were particularly important since they were the first PAC-10 matches of the season. Obviously, it hurt to lose their first five games, and realistically speaking they had probably ruined their chances to play in the NCAA tournament, but they still had the PAC-10 to think about. The conference champion received an automatic bid to the tournament, and even though there were some very strong teams in the PAC-10 this year, Ryan thought they had a chance to beat anyone on any given night.

Ryan's diminished stamina barely got her through the game, but by the time the match was finished all she could think of was a warm bed. She knew she wasn't fully recovered when bed sounded better than dinner, but she satisfied herself with a couple of energy bars and a bottle of Gatorade.

Of course, Jordan was raring to go, and when she could not coerce Ryan into joining her she rounded up most of the other players and headed off for a late dinner.

After a quick call to Jamie, Ryan hit the sack and slept so soundly that she did not even hear her roommate come in.

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

She woke at seven and stretched for a bit. Ummm, I think I need a little cuddle before I can face the day, she thought happily as she snuggled up against her lover and blew the long blonde hair away from her face...LONG? God damn it, Jordan! Get out of my damn bed! She was unreasonably cross at her friend for climbing into her bed again, and she decided to read her the riot act as soon as she woke. Who the fuck does she think I am? I'm not a human teddy bear! If you want sex-look elsewhere! If you need comfort-get a girlfriend of your own! I'm sick of being put into this position!

She didn't need to get up yet, but she was so ticked off at Jordan that she decided to get up and go out for breakfast. Just as she started to roll out of bed, Jordan started to stir. She draped her arm around Ryan's waist and muttered, "This doesn't bother you, does it?"

Ryan was on the verge of telling her how much it did bother her but paused for a moment to make sure she didn't sound too harsh.

"Ryan?" she asked with a tone of voice Ryan had never heard from her. It was the voice of a young girl, and it seemed very incongruous coming from her friend.

"Yes?" she replied softly.

"This doesn't bother you does it?" she continued in the same fragile, childlike voice.

"No, it doesn't bother me," she wavered, but before she could finish Jordan added.

"I got scared in the middle of the night and I woke up in a panic. But I saw that you were here and I ran over to your bed and crawled in with you. I felt so much better," she said softly. "I fell asleep almost immediately just by being close to you."

Ryan's compassionate nature took over immediately. She opened her arms to her friend and smiled down as Jordan cuddled up against her side. "I don't mind, Jordan. I'm sorry that you get scared though. I really wish you didn't have things that tormented you at night."

"That's the perfect word," she admitted. "I am tormented." She snuggled deeper into Ryan's arms and let out a heavy sigh as she sank back into sleep.

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

The second game of the weekend, this one in Pullman, Washington, went even better than the one the night before. Ryan played over half of the match, and she felt awfully good about her contribution. They won the first two games handily, 15-7 and 15-5, and were rolling towards victory in the third when Coach Placer took her out and refused to put her back in even when Washington State tied them at 14-14. Ryan was actually glad that he didn't put her back in, since it gave their talented but raw freshman outside hitter Heather a chance to play in a game that was nearly in the bag. Luckily Jordan rescued the game with a kill, and their defensive specialist, Michelle Chang, served out the match 16-14.

Once again she was more tired than hungry, so she took the shuttle back to the hotel, leaving some of her teammates and Jordan to go out for a snack.

As soon as she got to her room, she dialed Jamie. "I love you," she said softly when her partner's sweet voice answered.

"And I love you," Jamie replied immediately. "I heard the whole game on the Internet," she said proudly.

"Cool! I was afraid that Broadcast.com wouldn't work that well."

"No, it was pretty good, actually. It comes through the RealAudio player, just like any other radio broadcast. I was pleased to hear that my teddy bear played such a good game. The announcer said you were one of the most talented athletes in the PAC-10."

"Ooh, the bribe paid off," Ryan joked, quite pleased to hear that she had been mentioned. "I must admit that I played better than I thought I would. I assume you noticed that I had twelve kills, six digs, six blocks, and a pair of aces," she said happily.

"Oh, Ryan, I'm so proud of you," Jamie gushed, while she wondered where to find out what kills, digs, blocks and aces were. "I just wish I could be there to see you. You know, I haven't even seen you in your uniform yet."

"Boy, I took a lot of shit about my uniform yesterday and today. Jordan gave me the hardest time for not wearing underwear under my shorts."

"You go commando?" Jamie said, using the O'Flaherty boys' term.

"Yeah. I would wear something, but everything rides up. As long as I'm going to be yanking I just want one thing to yank on."

"What does she wear?"

"Most of them wear thongs. The rest wear normal panties."

"Maybe you should try a thong too," Jamie suggested.

"I've never worn one for anything active. Well," she amended, "that's not quite true. But I've never worn one for anything athletic." She paused just a second before she added, "Well, technically that's not true either..."

"I get the picture, Tiger," Jamie giggled, always enjoying it when Ryan spoke of her randy past. "How is it going sharing a room?"

"Fine. She doesn't snore, and I wake up before she does so I get the bathroom first. She went out last night and I didn't hear her get in, so I would say she's been a pretty good roommate. But no one can compare with you. You are the ultimate!"

"Thanks, Baby. Just come home to me as quickly as possible."

"I will. We're scheduled for a six a.m. flight out of here."

"Six a.m.!"

"Yep. There are only two flights a day to Seattle. We get there at 7:15 and take off again at 7:58. We're scheduled to be at SFO at 10:00. A couple of vans will pick us up and take us back to Haas. I'll call you when we're there, okay?"

"You hurry up and get to sleep so you're well rested, okay?"

"I will. See you tomorrow. Think of me tonight."

"I think I'm going to sleep with that little topographical survey the computer did of your body," Jamie joked, referring to the little printout they had been given after Ryan had her new jeans fitted.

"Whatever works for you, Love. Sleep tight."

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

An hour later Ryan was still tossing and turning while trying to unwind when Jordan came in. After spending a few minutes getting ready for bed, she put on a T-shirt and came to stand by Ryan's bed. "Can I?" she asked longingly.

Ryan did a quick run through of the rest of their schedule and decided that the four remaining road trips would not be too big a burden to bear. She pulled the covers down and opened her arm to her friend as she gave her a big smile. "Come on, Cuddles. The sooner we go to sleep, the sooner we'll be home."

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

They had to run like hell to make the 7:58 flight back to San Francisco, but luckily they all managed to hop on the 737 moments before the door was secured. Amy Pali sat in the third seat, and Ryan was just glad that Jordan had another ear to bend on the trip. As soon as she thought it polite, she put on her headphones and let the soothing tones of Clannad lull her to sleep.

Ryan had chosen the aisle seat and a sharp bout of turbulence jerked her out of a very pleasant dream. "Hey, are you okay?" Jordan asked as her eyes flew open.

"Yeah," she said as she stretched and yawned. "It felt like somebody slugged me," she added, rubbing her cheek.

"Somebody did," Jordan replied helpfully. "Your head was on my shoulder and we jerked quite a bit. Your head bobbed around like a rag doll's, and you hit the top of my shoulder with your cheek."

"I was asleep on you? I'm sorry, Jordan. I must have really been wiped."

"You were definitely asleep. This is your drool isn't it?" she teased as she pointed to a dark string of spit that trailed down her chest.

"Oh shit! I'm really sorry. But why didn't you wake me up? You didn't have to let me drool on you!"

Jordan leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on Ryan's flushed cheek. "After all you've done for me this weekend, you get a lot of leeway, Sport."

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

Ryan was very pleased, if not very surprised, to see a little blonde head peeking around the door as they made their way off the plane. The last 20 feet of the trip consisted of chuckles, giggles, loud smacking of lips in imitation of kisses and a few verbal taunts, but Ryan was happy to endure the razzing of her teammates for the pleasure of seeing her lover a few minutes early. Even though she knew the whole team was watching, she gave Jamie an appropriately emotion-filled kiss as soon as she could push past her playful teammates to reach the waiting arms. "I missed you," she whispered fervently.

Several more kisses followed until they were interrupted by a grinning Jordan. "I missed you too, Jamie," she said seductively, puckering up for a kiss.

Jamie opened her arms to give the tall blonde a generous hug and a tamer version of the kiss than she had requested. "I missed you too, Jordan. Thank you for watching out for my precious one."

"It's a full-time job, but I think I did well," she smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow, Slugger," she said as she leaned in and gave Ryan a kiss on the lips. In a lower tone she said, "Thanks for everything. You were a lifesaver." She ruffled her hair affectionately and waved goodbye as she trotted after their teammates.

"What was that all about?" Jamie asked as she took Ryan's hand.

"She had trouble sleeping again, Babe. I think she'll be in my bed for the whole season. Are you okay with that?"

Leaning her head against the broad shoulder of her partner, Jamie sighed, "Of course. It must be hard for someone like Jordan to admit to being frightened. I'm glad you're there for her." She gave Ryan another tender kiss as she added, "If she ever tries to get fresh I'll beat her to a pulp, but other than that, it's perfectly all right with me."

"Duly noted," Ryan smiled. "I would kill for a latté. Join me?"

"Absolutely. Then we'll head home so we can help get ready for Rory's welcome home. Too bad we can't pick him up, but his flight isn't until late afternoon."

As they started their walk to the car, Jamie said, "Stop for a second and let me take a good look at you. I've never seen your warm-up outfit." She took a long look at a grinning Ryan, surveying the navy blue warm-up from every angle. The raglan sleeves of the lined nylon jacket accentuated Ryan's broad shoulders and gave her an even more athletic look than she normally had. The back of the jacket bore the traditional gold script that read 'Cal' but underneath, 'Volleyball' was emblazoned in bold block letters. The matching navy blue pants were devoid of lettering, but they had long zippers at the ankle that Ryan had opened to reveal bright gold fabric. The white high top basketball shoes that she wore did nothing to hide her jock aura, and Jamie had to admit that the outfit was totally pleasing to her critical eye. "You look so..." she mused as she walked around her one last time. Finally deciding on the correct adjective she stood on her tiptoes and kissed Ryan lightly on the lips as she pronounced her, "scrumptious."

"Thank you," Ryan replied with a smirk. "You don't look so bad yourself," she added. Leaning over to whisper in Jamie's ear she promised, "But there's an outfit that I'd like to see you in as soon as possible." A light nibble on her ear was followed by, "Your birthday suit."

"Works for me," Jamie replied happily as she took her hand.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"You know, I didn't think it was possible, but you might actually wear a hole in the carpet by the end of the day," Ryan observed later that morning, watching her father pace across the living room.

He gave her a slightly embarrassed shrug and said, "I just wish Brendan would get over here. I'm really worried about him, Siobhán. Out of all of the children, I think he'll have the hardest time accepting my plans for marriage."

"Why do you think that, Da?" she asked, having firsthand knowledge of her father's prescience.

"Brendan doesn't like change, Love. Never has, and I doubt that he ever will. He likes to keep things nice and simple, and I'm afraid that he'll be worried that this will upset the order." He paused in his pacing and added, "I also think he'll have a hard time thinking of Maeve as a replacement for your mother. He was, by far, the closest to her of all of the children."

"Really?" Ryan asked, thinking that honor would have gone to her.

"Oh my, yes," Martin insisted. "They were cut from the same cloth, Siobhán. You probably don't see it like that, since you were so young, but Brendan was nearly a duplicate of your mother. He changed after she died," he said thoughtfully. "He grew more cautious and somber about things. Then, of course, I had to ask him to take on so many of her duties that he lost a lot of his childhood." Turning to his daughter, Martin said, "If there's one regret that I have, it's that I wish I could have hired someone to take over running the household. Having a young boy be in charge of so many adult responsibilities was just asking too much."

"So Bren was really different when he was young?"

"Oh yes," Martin admitted. "He was quite a lot like you. Very open and forthcoming about his feelings...always in a good mood...very optimistic about life in general." His face took on a sad, resigned expression as he said, "He'd lost most of that by the time your mother was gone. It was a very, very difficult time for him, and he has never gotten that spark back. I know that would break your mother's heart." He pursed his lips, looking like he was holding back tears. "I wish I could have helped him more, but it was overwhelming for all of us. Brendan got the short end of the stick more than he should have." Martin shrugged his shoulders and decided, "Accident of birth, I suppose. Rather like my brother Francis."

Ryan had heard a number of stories that indicated stark parallels between her father's upbringing and her own. Martin's mother had also been ill for much of the boys' youth, and she died when Martin was also thirteen, just Brendan's age when Fionnuala died. The significant difference, however, was that Martin's father had fallen into a deep, alcohol-enhanced depression after his wife's death, and the boys had to care for him as well as each other.

Francis O'Flaherty was the most serious, and clearly the most taciturn, of the brothers. Ryan could see some similarities between her uncle and her brother, but she held out hope that falling in love might loosen her brother up a bit, even though she wasn't able to share her thoughts on that topic with her father just yet.

"I think both of our families were pretty lucky to have oldest brothers like Uncle Francis and Brendan," Ryan allowed. "Can you imagine what would have happened if Conor and Uncle Malachy had been the eldest ones?"

Martin burst into laughter, finding the images of the most carefree sons heading the families too funny for words. "It would have been interesting, that's for sure," he agreed.

* * * * * * * * * * *

As usual, Martin had an orderly plan for how to share the news of his engagement. He decided to speak to the boys in order of their birth, so Brendan was first. Martin asked Conor to stay close to home for a while, so the second son was reclining on his father's bed, watching a baseball game originating from the east coast.

Just to keep an eye on things, Ryan and Jamie were hanging out too, and they both looked up sharply when Brendan entered, and flopped down on the bed. "Da wants to talk to you, Conor," he said. "He's in the yard."

"Oh shit," Conor said, his eyes wide. "This must be bad if he has to do it outside." He scooted off the bed, pausing to give Jamie a dramatic hug. "Been nice knowing you, Jamie," he sniffed. "Remember me."

As soon as he was gone, Ryan asked her brother, "How'd it go?"

"Not bad," Brendan allowed. "I think I did pretty well at acting surprised. Da seemed happy."

Conor came scampering back into the room just a few minutes later, looking at the television as he asked, "What did I miss?"

"Nothing!" Ryan laughed. "Barry Bonds is still up!" After a slight pause she asked, "Did Da talk to you?"

"Uh-huh," he said, rather distracted by the game.

"What do you think about his news?" she persisted.

"Cool with me. Aunt Maeve's the bomb."

Unable to resist teasing him a bit, Ryan asked, harkening back to their conversation about Mia, "Do you think Da's getting a four for four?"

His head swiveled to allow him to gaze at his sister with a shocked look on his face. "Ryan! What a way to talk!" He turned back to the TV, intent on the action, but after another few minutes he turned back and said, "I think she's a three for four. She spends altogether too much time looking nice. And I don't mean hot nice," he added pointedly, in case there was any doubt.

* * * * * * * * * * *

By the time Martin returned from the airport with Rory, the relatives were already arriving, keeping up with the O'Flaherty tradition of being extremely early for every occasion.

The house was nearly full when Brendan poked his head in the front door. Ryan spotted him and nearly gasped when he came into the room escorting a woman. "Oh my God," she said to Jamie, giving her a poke in the side. "It looks like this is Brendan's coming out party!"

Immediately heading across the crowded room, tugging Jamie along with her, Ryan reached her brother's side quickly. She wrapped him in a big hug, whispering, "Good thinking, Bren. Da's announcement will take the focus off of you."

"Ha!" he replied triumphantly, having thought his plan through thoroughly. Stepping back he said, "Maggie Reardon, my sister, Ryan and her spouse, Jamie Evans."

The dark haired, dark eyed woman smiled broadly, showing bright, even teeth. "I think I could have picked Ryan out in a crowd," Maggie laughed, a light, lilting sound that Ryan found very attractive.

"We certainly never had any doubts about being adopted," Ryan agreed, giving Maggie a long look while Jamie spoke. She was tall, Ryan guessed close to six feet, and very slender, not a visible muscle on her entire body. Her eyes were very dark and very striking, nearly dominating her attractive, but not distinctive, features. Long straight dark brown hair was brushed off her face and held back with a tortoiseshell headband, giving her a clean-cut, preppy look. Bright red slim fitting cotton slacks and a navy blue silk shell added to her tidy appearance, and Ryan immediately decided that this woman fit Brendan's style very well.

Ryan slung an arm around her partner and sent Brendan on his way. "You've got your work cut out for you tonight. Give me the sign when you're half-through with the introductions and I'll buy you a beer."

"It's a deal, Sis," he agreed, smiling broadly and looking surprisingly relaxed.

"Cute woman," Jamie said as the couple started their rounds.

"Yeah. She looks like the type that Brendan would choose. He seems happy, doesn't he?"

"Yeah. He does. Just two more, Ryan, and all of the O'Flahertys will be locked up." Jamie paused in thought, wondering, "I wonder who will finally snare Conor?"

"I think he's waiting for Pamela Anderson to hunt him down," Ryan decided, not even considering sharing Conor's thoughts about Mia.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The welcome home party had been raging for six hours by the time Ryan could finally pull Rory away for a quiet chat. They stood out on the landing of the stairs that led to the yard and sipped on their beers as they cooled down from the overheated atmosphere indoors.

Ryan spared repeated glances at her brother, always finding the differences between him and the rest of the family fascinating. Rory was not nearly as small as the typical Ryan, but he shared every other feature with their mother's side of the family. His deep auburn hair looked as dark as every other O'Flaherty when the light was dim, as it was now, but when the sun shone, the deep red tones predominated. He was also the only member of the family to inherit the sea-green eyes that were common to the Ryans, with both of Ryan's grandparents bearing similar shades of green.

Rory's facial structure also didn't resemble his siblings', the strong jaw and deep-set eyes absent from his face. He most closely resembled their Uncle Brendan, their mother's only brother, who had died before any of them were born. The family had only a few precious photographs of the young man, tragically killed when hit by a car while riding his bicycle to a nearby town. Fionnuala had been pregnant at the time and unable to travel to attend his funeral, but she and Martin had immediately agreed that their child would bear her brother's name.

As Ryan snuck another glimpse of her brother she thought once again how very much he looked like the talented young man whom everyone had such high hopes for. He was considered a math prodigy, and Ryan assumed she took after him with her abilities in the field. It struck her that her grandparents had basically lost three of their four children in just a few years-two gone for America, the third lost to death.

Rory broke her reverie when he commented, "I've got to tell you, Sis, it was quite a surprise to see how firmly ensconced into the family Jamie's mom seems."

"Yeah, it's been amazing, to tell you the truth. I started out thinking things would be great with her dad, and he's turned out to be...well, I'm not sure how that's going to work out," she admitted, not wanting to go into details. "I was sure that I would never like her mom since Jamie felt so abandoned by her. But Catherine's trying so hard to rebuild their relationship that I started to like her the moment I met her. I guess it really is unfair to prejudge people."

"Oh, I forgot that I have a message for you from Granny," he said with twinkling eyes. "I have a letter for you, but she also gave me clear instructions on a physical aspect of her message."

"Oh-oh," she said. "It must be bad if you have to hand deliver it. It's not a beating, is it?" She was clearly kidding, but both siblings knew that their grandmother had a tendency to express her displeasure with their behavior through a physical manifestation.

"Nope." He put his beer on the railing and wrapped his bigger but younger sister in a generous hug. As he pulled back Ryan gave him a curious smile and said, "That's it?"

"No, that's never 'it' with her. She said that just because you were big enough to go giving your heart away to the first pretty face you saw didn't mean that she couldn't still take you over her knee if you misbehaved yourself."

"Wow, that's a ringing endorsement from Granny. Do you think it bothered her that I wrote to her about my relationship?"

"I think she would have preferred to hear from you in person, but she seemed to take it well. Aunt Moira said she showed her the letter and asked, 'Does the child think I'm senile? I could have predicted this when she was six!'"

"That's a good one," Ryan laughed. "She probably could have, too. As I told Jamie, she really does know people."

"Yep. She's also good at telling people what she knows!"

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

The party was reaching its zenith when Martin climbed a few stairs so that he could be seen and called the gathering to attention. Maeve was standing at the foot of the stairs, waiting a little nervously for the announcement.

"Give us a listen, eh?" he called out in his clear baritone voice. The crowd quieted slowly, the boisterous group not used to being asked to settle down.

When he was satisfied with the noise level he began. "I have some very good news to share with all of you, and this seemed like the perfect time to do so. My family is all together once again, and there are some indications that we may be expanding soon." He leveled a pointed glance at his blushing oldest son, who chose that moment to hide his face behind Maggie's head.

"Never let it be said that any of the O'Flaherty children got the drop on their old man," he insisted, smiling broadly. "The last wedding we celebrated was my own," he said. "As luck would have it, the next will also be mine." There was a muffled whisper that rushed around the room, the conjecture focusing on one blushing woman who gazed up at Martin with a look of pure adoration.

"Not many men are gifted with the love of one of the Ryan sisters of Killala, County Mayo," he smiled. "Against all reasonable odds, I've been lucky enough to have won the hearts of not one, but two of the gorgeous colleens." He extended his hand and Maeve climbed the few stairs, settling herself against his body, beaming a brilliant smile at the assembled guests. "Maeve Ryan Driscoll has made me the happiest man in the world by agreeing to become my wife," he announced, his happiness bursting forth from every fiber of his being.

For just a second, the room grew so still that the ticking clock on the mantle provided the only sound. Then all of the O'Flaherty and Driscoll children simultaneously began to cheer and clap, the other members of the family joining in as the shock faded. Eventually, every one of the assembled throng was hooting and yelling, the boisterous approval perfectly in keeping with the O'Flaherty family style.

Everyone had to hug and kiss both members of the happy couple, with a few rather pointed, teasing comments about Martin having lured another of the Ryan sisters into his snare. Patrick had to remind Martin that Maeve had already gained her citizenship, and therefore didn't really need his help to stay in the country. Martin accepted the teasing with good spirit, pleased that his family felt comfortable enough to include his late wife in the jokes.

After all of the family members had flocked around them, Catherine finally approached and offered a hesitant hug to both Martin and Maeve. "I am so happy for you both," she enthused. "I'm sure you'll have a very successful marriage."

Maeve smiled sweetly at her betrothed. "I made a foolish mistake the first time, Catherine. I was too young and too headstrong to listen to people who urged me to take some time to get to know my husband before we married. I certainly haven't made that mistake this time." She grasped Martin's hand and gave it a tender kiss. "I've seen this man show exactly what it means to be a good husband. He's been through the worst of times, and I'm going to do my best to make sure he enjoys nothing but the best."

"You know," Catherine said thoughtfully, "people are always impressed by young love. But there is something so rewarding about seeing mature adults deciding to merge their lives. It's quite touching."

"Thank you, Catherine," Maeve said. "I may be 57 years old, but I'm as happy as a schoolgirl!"

"Having the support of our family is all that really matters," Martin insisted.

Deirdre O'Flaherty and Niall approached, the young man smiling shyly. "Go on, Niall, tell your uncle your idea," Deirdre urged.

Niall looked a little sheepish as he admitted, "Well, Mam here was just pointing out that at the rate I'm going I'll still be working on my house when I'm ready for Social Security..."

His mother tossed her arm around his waist and said, "The lad doesn't want to leave home, but he's too proud to admit it!"

"That's not true, Mam," he insisted. "I'm just very particular about things." His mother gave him an aggrieved sigh as he continued, "There are a lot of big things I'd still like to do, but it sure would be nice to have a little income to help pay for the repairs. I thought that if you two needed a place to live, you might want to rent my place for a couple of years, while I save up a few bucks."

Martin shot a look at his beloved, their faces merging into twin smiles. "What do you think of that, Mrs. Driscoll?"

"I can't think of a better landlord, Mr. O'Flaherty. And we're assured of the quality of the craftsmanship since the construction workers are our own children."

"You've solved our biggest problem, lad," Martin said, wrapping his arms around his nephew and giving him a grateful hug. "If we can afford the rent, you have a deal."

"Don't worry about that, Uncle Marty," Niall assured him. "I'm sure we can reach an agreement."

"Now we just have to start planning this wedding," Catherine joined in, always excited to participate in a joyous celebration.

Martin rolled his eyes dramatically, "Let's just savor the fact that we'll have a roof over our heads. I can't take too much more excitement for one day!"

Catherine and Maeve both shook their heads at his exaggeration. "The poor man has a terribly weak constitution," Maeve informed Catherine. "Let's go make a cup of tea and we can give him some peace."

Jamie and Ryan had wandered over during the discussion with Niall, and they stayed behind as the older women departed. "That pair could be dangerous," Ryan decided, giving her father fair warning.

"Indeed you're right, Siobhán," he agreed, smiling broadly. "But as you know, strong-minded women make life worth living."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Hey, Slugger," Jamie said in greeting as she sat down to join her partner on the small porch that overhung the neat backyard.

"Hey there yourself," Ryan smiled and leaned over for a small kiss. "What's up?"

"Not much. Haven't seen you for a while, so I decided to come find you. Everything okay?"

"Yeah, sure," Ryan said, giving her partner a reassuring grin. "I was just thinking about my granny."

"Did Rory say something...?"

"Yep. I got a letter and a hug," she said. "I'll show you the letter when we get back into the light."

"Don't keep me waiting! What did she have to say?"

Ryan looked up into the night sky, trying to decide how to characterize the missive. "You won't think it's very positive," she guessed, "but knowing her like I do, I'm pleased."

"That sounds a little ominous," Jamie said, furrowing her brow slightly. "Tell me."

Ryan grasped her hand and gave it a squeeze, then placed it on her thigh before she rested her own hand atop it. "She wrote it, of course," she smiled. "I'm certain that my grandfather has the ability to write, but I must admit that I've never seen his handwriting. Granny is the voice of the Ryan family."

"I've gotten that impression," Jamie said dryly.

"Right. Well, I can condense her message into a few main points. One...she's a little sorry that I'm gay."

With her brow furrowing deeper Jamie nodded, having a feeling that might be the reaction.

"Two...she thinks that gay people have an obligation to be celibate."

She flinched as Jamie convulsively squeezed her thigh, then patted the clenched hand reassuringly. "I just don't get that, Ryan," she sighed, leaning her head against her partner's shoulder.

"I certainly don't agree, but it does fit with the entire world view," the dark woman said thoughtfully. "It doesn't surprise me in the least that Granny feels that way." She turned to Jamie and smiled as she said, "The good part is that she's very glad that I've found my life-mate. She said that she understands that Americans don't feel the need to be monogamous..." She snuck a peek at her partner, her eyes dancing impishly, "and she was happy that I wasn't one of those Godless heathens."

"Well!" Jamie leaned back on her hands, shaking her head a little. "You think this is good news, huh?"

"Yeah," Ryan said, her smile showing her happiness. "I really do. You won't see it this way, but that's a big show of support from Granny. She's very old-school, Jamie, and to be happy that I've partnered with a woman is a real sign of her love for me."

Patting her partner's thigh, Jamie said, "If you're happy-I'm happy. I really can't wait to meet this woman, Ryan. She sounds interesting, to say the least."

"I want you to meet the whole clan," Ryan said. "I wish we would have gone this summer. I really miss them all...especially my aunt and Aisling."

"Has your cousin always been okay with your sexuality? You've never talked about that."

Ryan chuckled as she said, "She's known practically as long as I have." She turned slightly and faced her partner. "We're close, Jamie. As close or closer than sisters, but I didn't tell her about Sara when it happened...I just couldn't make myself talk about it. I went to Ireland just a few weeks after the entire thing went down and stayed for the whole summer, mostly because I just couldn't stand to think about running into Sara. I tried to talk about it-Aisling knew something major was wrong-but I just couldn't get it out," she said softly.

"How did you finally tell her?" Jamie asked.

"I didn't exactly tell her," Ryan grinned. "We went in to Ballina...that's the big town in North Mayo," she added. "I think it was a Pioneers dance, or something like that."


"Don't ask,' Ryan said, rolling her eyes. "The Pioneers Total Temperance Association. Granny's a big fan, and she had to make sure Aisling and I were properly indoctrinated."

"Ooh," Jamie laughed. "Temperance and you? I don't know, Buffy."

"Hey, I still remember the pledge," she chuckled. "Thy greater glory and consolation, 0 Sacred Heart of Jesus. For Thy sake to give good example, to practice self-denial, to make reparation to Thee for the sins of intemperance, and for the conversion of excessive drinkers, I will abstain for life from all intoxicating drinks." 

Her eyes twinkling merrily, Jamie asked, "How long did that pledge last, Love?"

"That's part of the story," Ryan assured her.

"Okay," Jamie chuckled. "You were out dancing and not drinking. So what happened?"

"Gráinne happened," she said wistfully, giving her partner a doe-eyed look. "I met this adorable woman, and while Aisling was dancing with the boys, I was out in the car-park with Gráinne."

"Oh, you were quite the prodigy, weren't you," Jamie teased, giving her a playful tickle.

"Well, I don't like to brag..." she grinned. "Anyway, Gráinne had a scooter, just a tiny thing, but she moved it to the far edge of the car-park and we got on, facing each other. We started making out furiously...I mean, we were really going at it. I certainly wasn't the voice of experience, and Gráinne hadn't done much either, but we were practically tearing each other's clothes off. All that pent up energy from practicing self-denial," she said, laughing softly.

"On a scooter," Jamie said dubiously.

"Yep. On a scooter. She had unclasped my bra and had one hand under my shirt, the other inside my pants, when we heard this startled cry. I whipped my head around to find Aisling, just about to get into some guy's car to do the same thing I was doing with Gráinne," she chuckled.

"Oh my God," Jamie moaned, dropping her head into her hands in sympathy for her partner. "What did you do?"

Ryan tossed her head back and laughed, remembering her cousin's expression. "Aisling is one of the most laid-back people you will ever meet," she said. "Nothing ruffles her feathers. She put her hands on her hips and said, 'Siobhán! What's come over you, showing your knickers to every Pioneer in Ballina!'"

"Was she really upset?" Jamie asked tentatively.

"Yeah, but she was upset because I was being so blatant, not because Gráinne was a girl. She orders us into the backseat of this poor guy's car, and we just looked at each other and climbed in." She was chuckling louder now, remembering the scene. "That poor fellow had my cute little cousin in the front seat, and a couple of women making out in the back. Aisling told me later that he...um...didn't take long to uh...you know," she said delicately. "She didn't even have to help."

Jamie was shaking her head the whole time, charmed by her lover's youthful misadventures. "You two sound like quite the pair."

"Oh, we are. She was such a pal that summer. I saw Gráinne the whole summer, and no one ever knew a thing. Aisling would come with me to Ballina and go to a movie or hang out in a bookstore while Gráinne and I attacked each other wherever we could find a little privacy."

"She sounds like a good friend as well as a cousin."

"She is," Ryan agreed. "She's my best friend...next to you, that is."

Jamie got up and tried to get her blood moving again. "I want to hear more about this scooter," she said. "That sounds like it could be fun."

"Oh, it was fun," Ryan agreed. "That little thing got a good workout that summer."

"I bet you could have even more fun on a slightly bigger bike," she ventured. "Like...I don't know...on a Harley?"

"Heh heh heh," Ryan laughed, her low voice taking on a very sexy timbre.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Ready to take off, Catherine?" Ryan asked as she slid her arm around her mother-in-law's shoulders.

"Yes, I should. Now that you have me living the good life, I can't stay up most of the night any longer. You've turned me into a morning person, Ryan, much to my amazement."

"My Granny always says that every hour you're up after midnight takes two hours off your life," Ryan joked. "Funny thing is-she believes that."

"She might have a point," Catherine smiled. "Goodness knows I feel younger than I have in years."

"You look like you feel better," Ryan agreed, leaning over to place a kiss on her cheek.

Jamie wandered up and put her arm around her mother's waist. "Going home soon?"

"Indeed I am."

"We'll walk you to your car," Jamie offered.

"Be right there," Ryan said, slipping through the crowd to have a quick word with her father.

They deposited Catherine next to her car and on the walk back Ryan made a suggestion. "Wanna go for a little ride to watch the lights of the city?"

"A ride?" Jamie asked, her face scrunching up in question. "During a party?"

"Yeah," Ryan agreed. "I told Da that we might be gone for a while. Don't know why, but I have a real hankering to hop on my bike. Can I persuade you?" she asked, her eyes glittering in the moonlight.

"Oh gee, Ryan, I don't know," she replied, looking like she was seriously considering the proposition. "A warm, moonlit night, sitting behind you with my arms wrapped around your waist, all of that power thrumming through my body." She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I suppose I could be persuaded."

"Come on," the dark beauty said, grasping her hand firmly and tugging her along. "My temperature's rising, Baby, and I want to share my heat with you."

"Yet another fabulous idea from the fertile O'Flaherty mind," Jamie decided as she scampered along.

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Come here often?" Jamie asked as Ryan placed their helmets on the ground.

Ryan looked down at the twinkling lights of the city and considered how often she had been up at the top of Twin Peaks. "Yeah, quite often. This is one of my favorite places," she admitted.

"And just how many young women have lost their virtue to your voracious appetites up here?" She was clearly kidding, but Ryan could hear just a tiny shred of disappointment in her voice.

"You'll be the first," Ryan assured her. "No retreads for you."

"That was silly of me to even ask," Jamie conceded. "I know how you feel about that."

"I will never suggest that we go any place that I've taken another woman," Ryan pledged. She reached out and captured her lover's hand in hers and tenderly stroked her face with the tips of the fingers of her other hand. "Even though being with you would eradicate the image of any other woman, I'll never do that."

"I never told you this," Jamie said, "but I bought a new mattress the week after you told me that you loved me. I thought about the fact that I had slept with Jack there a few times, and it just seemed...wrong somehow to share that bed with you."

"How do you feel about tonight?" Ryan asked. "I mean, fooling around on a bike is clearly something that you know I've done before."

Wrapping her partner in a hug, Jamie said, "We can't make everything brand new, Ryan. There are limits to the imagination, you know. I mean, unless we figure out a way to make love in zero gravity, I assume you've done most of what we've done previously."

"Who says I've not made love in zero gravity?" Ryan huffed playfully.

"Point well taken," Jamie said with a smile. "It's not that I need or want everything to be brand new, but it's nice to know that the venues are ours alone. That's all I want."

"You'll have it," Ryan smiled. She looked around at the deserted street and said, "There isn't much traffic up here at this time of night, but I don't think it's wise to go too far. I thought it would be nice to just kiss and touch each other a little...just a little foreplay for the main event when we get home."

"Sounds good," Jamie agreed. "It's so quiet and peaceful and romantic here that I'm happy to just stand here and have you hold me."

"One of my favorite activities," Ryan agreed, doing just that.

They stood in the warm, still night, Jamie leaning up against her partner's sturdy body, Ryan's arms draped over her shoulders. The lights of the city were mesmerizing from their vantage point, and they both took them in, conversation unnecessary. After a while, Jamie lifted her hands and grasped Ryan's forearms, and let her head rest against her shoulder. "I feel so incredibly peaceful," she sighed. "This is magical."

"It is," Ryan agreed, her voice soft and gentle. "I've been here many, many times, but this is the time I'll think of when I think of Twin Peaks."

"That's what I mean," Jamie said emphatically, turning in Ryan's loose embrace to face her. "Even though we do things that each of us might have done before, it doesn't seem like something we've done before-it feels fresh and new because we create our own memories. The past just fades away."

"It does," Ryan agreed. She smiled gently at her partner and said, "Want to create some new memories on my bike?"

"You're on!" Taking Ryan by the hand, they walked back to the bike, which was mostly hidden by the shrubs that dotted the hillside. Ryan got on first, facing the rear, and held the bike steady as she helped Jamie climb aboard. The two-step seat allowed them to position themselves to good effect. With the back half of the seat three inches higher than the front, Jamie was able to drape her legs across Ryan's thighs, and not cut off her circulation, and after a little squirming around, they were both quite comfortable.

Even though the night was warm, there was still a cool breeze coming off the Bay, and after just a moment or two, Jamie could feel the stark contrast between the chilled air and the heat that radiated from between her partner's legs. "You're a good 20 degrees warmer right here than anywhere else on your body," Jamie teased, giving her a gentle pat.

"Complaining?" the dark woman asked.

"Hardly," she scoffed. "I love it." She locked her hands around Ryan's neck and said, "Sometimes I get up in the night and when I come back to bed my hands are cold. I cuddle up behind you and put my hands down between your legs just like a quarterback does to the center on a football team. Two seconds...I'm warm."

"That's why quarterbacks do it," Ryan teased. "You should see the tryouts for center." She rolled her eyes and said, "Talk about homoerotic!"

"You are sooooo goofy," Jamie giggled. "I love goofy."

"Hmmm...I'd prefer that you found me sexy and seductive and completely alluring...but I'll take goofy." She bent her head and kissed her partner, all traces of goofiness gone as soon as their lips met. Teasing Jamie's lips open with the tip of her tongue, Ryan delved into her warm mouth, exploring languidly as Jamie's tongue slid over hers, twin moans breaking the silence of the night.

Drawing back, Jamie sighed as she rested her forehead against Ryan's. "Nice," she breathed.

"More," Ryan insisted, lifting her partner's chin with her fingers. Their mouths merged again, the passion flaring between them as their embrace grew tighter.

Jamie started to pull away again, but Ryan pulled her even closer and once again whispered, "More." Before she leaned back in, she took in the expression on Ryan's face. Her blue eyes looked nearly black in the moonlight, her desire having rendered them dark and smoldering. Jamie had a feeling they were not just going to kiss a little, but she didn't mind a bit. No one had ventured along this part of the road, and even if they did, they would likely not see them. Throwing caution to the wind, she settled down into Ryan's fervid embrace and let the dark beauty lead wherever she chose.

It didn't take long until Ryan's hands were on her ass, pulling her against herself roughly. As the sexy hips thrust against Jamie, she couldn't help but return the sensation, and they kissed frantically as their hips ground against each other.

In the blink of an eye, Ryan's hands were under her sweater, expertly unhooking Jamie's bra. The tips of her fingers were cool, but her palms were warm, and the smaller woman shivered all over as the twin sensations washed over her body. Her nipples reacted immediately, tightening into almost painful points as Ryan's hands teased them mercilessly. With a few gentle tugs on the pebbled flesh, Jamie's hips thrust more sharply, grinding roughly against Ryan.

The seam of her jeans hit the perfect spot, and Jamie rocked against Ryan slowly, her arousal building steadily. As her body gave off all of the usual signs of her impending climax, Ryan slipped a hand between them and rubbed against her lover with the pad of her thumb, managing to hit the exact spot that Jamie needed to let go. Her arms locked around Ryan's neck, and she latched onto her mouth with a rabid intensity, kissing her so hard that the dark woman whimpered under the ferocity of her touch. Finally satiated, she clung limply to her partner, breathing in the moist air, filling her lungs with the wild scent of the hills.

"Good Lord," she moaned as she finally caught her breath. "I thought we were going to just kiss and cuddle."

"Didn't work out that way," Ryan chuckled gently. "Do you mind?"

"Aren't you the woman who once said she never met an orgasm she didn't like?" Jamie teased mildly.

"That would be me," Ryan agreed. "Have I brought you around to my way of thinking?"

"Indeed you have. I didn't think I could relax enough up here to let myself go, but you have a way of making me forget my usual inhibitions."

"That's another motto," Ryan smiled. "Eradicate inhibitions. Words to live by."

"Let me get my little hands on you and eradicate a few of yours, Buffy. Come to mama!"

"Love to," Ryan agreed, "but I've been holding this bike up the whole time-despite your thrashing around there at the end. I have my doubts that you'll be able to step in for me."

"Oh ye of little faith," Jamie said, rolling her eyes dramatically.

A few minutes later, the bike ably supported by the kickstand, Ryan was leaning against her partner, her feet up on the handlebars, Jamie's hand inside her pants, slipping through her wetness. She knew Ryan was so aroused that she could bring her off in seconds, but she wanted to draw her pleasure out as long as she could. Her fingers played gently with the swollen skin, teasing her as she lightly stroked her all over. She never let a rhythm build, and as soon as Ryan started to pant she'd move to another spot, determined to give her a ride to remember.

Sliding her left hand up to grasp Ryan's breast, she began to squeeze the flesh rhythmically, easing off a bit with her right hand. "Oh yeah," Ryan growled, feeling the sensations hit her right between the legs. "Squeeze me hard."

Jamie complied immediately, grasping even more of the firm flesh when she did so. As she palmed the sensitive breast she moved her thumb up to flick the protuberant nipple, making Ryan squirm. The nearly prone woman brought her right hand up and grasped her other breast, mirroring Jamie's touch. Her head tossed back and forth, the throbbing between her legs driving her to distraction. "Come on, Baby, let me come," she begged, her hips grinding as a tortured moan escaped her lips, splitting the silent night.

Immediately fulfilling her request, Jamie's fingers probed deeply, then skimmed lightly over the slick flesh, and she watched with delight as she saw Ryan's chest begin to heave. Her feet jutted straight out as her climax washed over her body, her taut muscles shaking incessantly as she spasmed around Jamie's fingers.

After helping the shaking woman into a more upright position, Jamie wrapped her arms tightly around her and teased, "How did that compare with old Gráinne?"

"Who?" Ryan asked weakly.

"Good answer, Buffy."

* * * * * * * * * * *

On Monday afternoon volleyball practice was rather sluggish, and it was obvious to Ryan that the team needed an infusion of confidence. Even though they had won the two games in Washington, their record was still two and five, not the kind of tally to be happy with when the upcoming opponent was Stanford. The Cardinal had won the recruiting sweepstakes the year before when the most heavily recruited outside hitter in the country decided to attend the university. Since they also had the NCAA player of the year on their team, they were formidable at any point in the season, even though they had barely squeaked past an unranked team from St. Mary's the week before. They were currently ranked number two nationally, and everyone on Ryan's team knew that the ranking was well deserved.

She hung around after practice and approached Coach Placer. "Hey Coach, would you mind if I tried to liven things up a little tomorrow?"

"I'd be eternally grateful if you could bring some life to this team, Ryan. We were walking around like robots out there today."

"I think a lot of the girls are scared about the game tomorrow. It's never easy to play Stanford, but with a record like ours I think a lot of the younger players feel like they're being led to slaughter."

"Well, what do you have in mind, Ryan?"

"I'm not sure yet. But I think we need to loosen up a lot to have a chance tomorrow. I want to do something playful to take some of the pressure off."

"Did you read about the Ohio State women's rugby team?" he asked, his eyes twinkling impishly

"No, I don't get the reference."

"They were at a tournament in D.C. and they posed at the Lincoln Memorial-bare-chested. It made national news and the school eventually suspended the players who participated."

"Okay," Ryan said slowly. "What's your point?"

"As long as you don't make national news or get suspended, you have my permission to stir these girls up any way you can think of," he said with a laugh as he draped his arm around Ryan's shoulders.

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

Ryan had been home no more than two minutes when the phone rang. "Hey, Slugger, what are you doing for dinner?" Jordan asked.

"Warming up some leftovers. We're just hanging out tonight. Why, do you want to come over?"

"I want to do something," she whined. "All we do is practice, play matches, and study. I need some excitement!"

"I can't guarantee excitement, but you're welcome to join us. Dinner will be ready in about 20 minutes."

"Okay, I'll be there. Maybe I can convince you to go out with me afterwards."

"Well, you can try, but I can't imagine that you'll succeed," she warned, feeling quite confident that she'd be in bed by ten, as usual.

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

The foursome had a very enjoyable time together and afterwards Jordan begged Ryan and Jamie to hit a few bars with her. "Come on, it'll be fun. We can go to the White Horse. Nobody will hit on us there."

"Isn't that a gay bar?" Mia asked, eyeing the lanky blonde carefully.

Jordan flushed slightly and cleared her throat. "Yeah, it is. Have you ever been?"

"Huh-uh." There was a moment of quiet as Mia cast a slow glance up and down Jordan's body, looking like she was really seeing her for the first time. "Are you gay?"

"Umm, no," Jordan said, the pink flush growing brighter. "Well, um...I'm gayish, but I'm not a fanatic about it."

"Hmm...gayish, huh?" Her face crinkled up in a delighted grin as she leaned slightly closer and said, "That's a really cute term. Did you make it up?"

"I guess so," Jordan smiled. "I uh...don't really consider myself gay or straight, so at the moment I feel kinda gayish." Her clear blue eyes were twinkling, the woman obviously enjoying playing with Mia. She turned towards Ryan once again and asked, "So, are you in or out?"

"I'm out," Ryan decided. "I'm just not in the mood."

"I'm not either," Jamie added, just for the record.

"I'll go," Mia piped up, a big smile on her sunny face.

"You want to go to a gay bar?" Ryan asked suspiciously.

"Yeah, it sounds like fun," she said easily. "Is that okay with you, Jordan?"

"Works for me," the blonde agreed. "Are you ready to go?"

"I'm not sure," Mia said. "Is this outfit okay?" She stood up while three pairs of thoughtful eyes assessed her. A white baby tee stopped just under her bra, and a pair of hip-hugging black denim jeans showed off her recently developed abs. A summer in Santa Monica evidenced itself by her golden tan and her new naval ring, which glinted in the lamp light.

Ryan and Jordan shot each other matching smirks as Ryan said, "That's just fine, Mia."

"Okay. I'll go put some shoes on. Be right back."

Jamie got up and said, "I'll start the dishes, Love."

When they were alone, Jordan leaned over and whispered, "Is she gay?"

"No, no, she's rabidly heterosexual. I think her thing is playing and teasing. She's always kidding me about sex and my body, so it's obvious she's very comfortable with gay people, but she's definitely straight."

"She seems like a lot of fun," Jordan speculated, looking up the stairs thoughtfully.

"Oh, she's fun, all right. She has a tendency to have fun by getting wasted, so keep an eye on her, will you? The last thing I want is for her to end up in some woman's bed and not know how she got there."

"Well, you know I don't drink much, so I'll look out for her. We'll just have a couple of beers and hang out."

Mia came trotting back downstairs after applying some lipstick and a little perfume. After both women gave Ryan a kiss goodbye, she led the way out the door with Jordan trotting after her, nose twitching like a beagle's to catch a whiff of her perfume.

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

After the unlikely pair left, Ryan went into the kitchen to help her partner with the clean-up. "I'm glad Jordan's with Mia tonight. She can keep an eye on her drinking."

"Who's gonna keep an eye on Jordan?" Jamie asked, thinking that the tall beauty wouldn't need much motivation to make a play for her friend.

"I don't know what Jordan's deal is," Ryan mused. "Near as I can tell, she hasn't had a date since I've known her. Who knows? Maybe she's just not interested in sex at this point of her life."

"Mmm-hmm," Jamie thought, reasoning that her roommate could help just about anyone spark their sexual interest if she chose.

Ryan obviously didn't detect the tone of concern in Jamie's voice. She was still focused on her earlier discussion with Coach Placer, and she finally asked for help in her motivation plan. "Do you have any ideas on how to loosen up the team for tomorrow? This is a really big game, but they're so stiff I don't think there's any chance of playing well."

Jamie thought of her own mental preparation before a big golf match and asked, "What do you do as a team to get psyched?"

"Umm, nothing that I know of. I mean we grasp hands and give a 'Go Bears' yell, but we really don't have any traditions that I know of." She looked at Jamie carefully for a minute. "That's a good idea, Hon. We need to institute a playful tradition."

"I know one thing you could do," she suggested. "What time do you get dressed?"

"We start warm ups at 6:30, so I'd say most people will be dressed by 6:15 or so. Why?"

"I want to come over and give you all a little team spirit. Can I come in the locker room?"

"Umm, what do you want to do?" Ryan asked with a waggling brow. "I know how you lift my spirits, but that could get us expelled."

"It's a secret," she said smugly.

"Okay, you're the boss," Ryan said happily.

"I'm glad you've finally seen the light," she said with a satisfied smile.

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

Continued in Part Ten

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