I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 9: Intentions

By S X Meagher

Part Eleven (Conclusion)

After tossing and turning in the unfamiliar bed for over two hours, Jim finally decided that he needed a drink. Slipping into his slacks, he stumbled downstairs and found the Scotch, but he couldn't really stomach hard liquor without ice so he poured two fingers worth and went into the kitchen to fetch a few cubes. What in the hell? He thought when he heard muffled voices and splashing.

He had to strain a bit to finally focus on the sound, but he could just make out his daughter's small body being hoisted from the spa by her much larger partner. Oh, Jesus! he moaned, just what I wanted to see. That should make me sleep better!

He averted his eyes and went to the ice machine to fill his glass. He was just about to go back upstairs when he heard Jamie's voice rise...sounding like she was being hurt. What in the hell is she doing to her? he screamed to himself in outrage as he went back to the window to see Ryan carrying his daughter towards the pool house, Jamie's legs kicking in the air as she beat on Ryan's back. She's forcing her! he cried. She doesn't want to go with her! I'll kill her, he vowed as he gripped his glass so firmly that it shattered in his hand. He bit his lip to keep from screaming, not wanting all of the servants hovering about him if they heard him. Sparing a glance at his hand, he watched as the blood gushed from the sizeable gash, the pain not really registering because of the adrenaline that flowed through his body. When he looked up again, Ryan had lowered the smaller woman a bit, rendering Jamie even more helpless as she struggled valiantly.

He opened the back door, unable to hear every word, but he caught his daughter calling the large woman a brute and Ryan ordering her to be quiet. He padded across the pool deck while wrapping a kitchen towel around his hand, the blood coloring the white cloth immediately. His pace grew quicker until he was running across the slate surface, finally catching up with the pair. Before either woman knew what was happening, Jim grabbed Ryan by the back of her suit and yanked her to a halt. "Put her down...now!" he cried, his face so red with anger that it looked like it would explode. "PUT HER DOWN!"

Ryan blinked at him, unable to form a single word. She crouched down and gently set Jamie onto the ground, staring at the man as Jamie said, "Daddy, we were just playing. Really!" She was blushing wildly, her face nearly as red as his.

Trying to make the reality fit his perceptions he said, "But you were fighting, Jamie. I saw you struggling! You don't have to defend her!"

His last sentence pissed Jamie off, and she heard herself say, "I was seducing her, Daddy! We like to do that sometimes. She was not hurting me...we were on our way to the pool house to make love." She gave him a withering gaze as she stated unequivocally, "I wanted to make love. Neither Ryan nor anyone else has ever forced me to do that."

He felt sick to his stomach and a little faint, and he remembered about his hand. His eyes went to the bloody towel just as Jamie and Ryan's eyes tracked to the same spot. "What did you do?" Jamie cried, trying to grab his hand to assess the damage.

"Nothing," he growled, his embarrassment over spying on them merging with his reaction to Jamie's words to make him start to run in the direction of the house. He grabbed another towel and ran back upstairs, sticking his bare feet into his loafers before running back downstairs. He grabbed his keys and ran for the door, not bothering to turn off the alarm before he jumped in the car to drive himself to the emergency room.

Within seconds, the entire household was awake, most of them gathered near the kitchen. The servants reacted quickly, getting the alarm turned off while Catherine ran across the living room to find Jamie and Ryan in the kitchen, a vivid trail of blood smeared across the kitchen floor. "My God! What happened?" she gasped, grabbing Jamie by the shoulders as she anxiously surveyed her from head to toe, looking for the source of the blood.

"It's Daddy," Jamie said, feeling sick to her stomach as she focused on the blood. "He cut his hand somehow."

Jordan and Mia poked their heads in the kitchen, both looking wide-awake but very haphazardly put together. "Are you okay?" Mia asked, looking at the two women.

"Yeah. Fine," Ryan said. "Sorry guys, you can go back to bed."

Jordan gave Ryan a doubtful glance, but did as her friend asked, tugging Mia along with her.

Helena went to the supply cabinet and took out some cleaning cloths, then set to work on the sink and the floor, trying to get the blood out before it soaked into the stone.

Catherine exchanged meaningful glances with her daughter and twitched her head towards the stairs, leading the way to the second floor. Both women followed her into her room, where Jamie immediately began to explain. "We were in the spa," she said, already embarrassed, "and we started playing with each other."

Catherine furrowed her brow a little, but didn't comment.

"I don't know why, but all of a sudden we were playing that, 'you can't make me' game," she said weakly, looking a little ill.

Catherine smiled and nodded as she said, "I'm familiar with that one, girls. Everybody does that at some point."

Ryan interrupted, not seeing the need to go into details. "We were going into the pool house...I was carrying Jamie over my shoulder...and Jim showed up."

Catherine's eyes bugged out as Ryan continued.

"He grabbed me by my suit and demanded that I put Jamie down. He apparently thought I was trying to force her to..."

"I get the picture," Catherine said, holding up a hand. "But where did the blood come from?"

"He cut himself in the kitchen," Jamie said. "There was broken glass all over the sink. I guess that's where he was when he heard us."

"Well," Catherine said, running her hands through her disordered hair, "I suppose the excitement is over now. I hope he wasn't hurt too badly," she said worriedly. "There was an awful lot of blood."

"It didn't look good," Ryan agreed. "What hospital would he have gone to?"

"Probably San Mateo," Catherine mused. "Should we call?"

"Yeah. If he's not there, I'll go look for him."

"Oh, Honey, I don't want you to go out driving around here. You don't even know the neighborhood."

Ryan didn't want to worry her unnecessarily, but she was honestly quite worried about the cut. She thought it entirely possible that he could have lost enough blood to render himself unconscious...or worse.

Catherine got on the phone to the hospital, and after wasting ten minutes trying to get an answer, was finally satisfied that he had not gone there. In the interim, Jamie had pulled out the phone book and was dialing all of the urgent care facilities that were reasonably close by-with no luck.

Ryan knew that her partner was correct and that she should not be driving around aimlessly. She didn't want Jamie to go with her, since she didn't know how long she would be gone and Jamie needed some rest to be able to play golf in a few hours.

Her musings were interrupted by the ringing doorbell, and all three women shared a puzzled look as Jamie ran to answer it. She opened the door to a Hillsboro police officer who asked, "Is everything all right here? We were notified that your alarm went off."

Jesus, you could have a four-alarm fire in my neighborhood with a slower response time! Ryan thought.

"Yes," Jamie said, but Catherine came up behind her and said, "Actually, officer, we have a little problem."

She explained the entire situation to the man, and he asked for the information about the car. Jamie found the paperwork from the rental car company. The officer went to his car and got on the radio, notifying the station to be on the lookout for the car that Jim was driving, and promised to call the house with any news.

After the officer left, all they could do was sit and wait, and they decided to do so together.

After going upstairs to put on some sweats, they went into the living room, and within a few minutes Jamie was curled up on the couch, her head on Ryan's lap as the indulgent woman gently trailed her fingers through her hair. Seconds after the tender touch began, Jamie was sound asleep, much to Catherine's amusement. "She has the most uncanny ability to sleep anywhere, at any time. I envy her."

"Yeah, I do too, a little," Ryan agreed. "I tend to lie awake and worry."

"I tend to sit in the living room and drink myself into a stupor," Catherine said wryly, getting up to fix the first of what she assumed would be many.

"Catherine?" Ryan asked, looking up at her intently.

"Yes, Dear?"

"Why don't you try Jamie's tactic, instead?" She picked up her lover's head and laid it back down on a soft pillow, taking a moment to cover her with a throw. Moving to the other couch, Ryan sat on the end and patted her lap, smiling at her mother-in-law as she issued the invitation.

"This works very well, thank you," Catherine said, holding her glass up.

"Humor me," Ryan insisted. "Come on. You might need to have your wits about you later on." She didn't want to sound like such a pessimist, but she thought there was a chance that they would, at the least, have to go to the hospital, and she didn't want Catherine to be looped if they did.

"All right," she said, understanding Ryan's unspoken worry. She lay down and placed her head gingerly upon Ryan's lap, moving her head around a little to get comfortable. Ryan pulled the chenille throw from the back of the couch and covered Catherine with it as she began to run her fingers through her soft blonde hair.

"Your hair feels very much like Jamie's," Ryan said, as she continued to trail her hand through the tresses. "I'd love for one of our kids to have hair like this." She laughed softly and said, "I guess that precludes using one of my brothers as a sperm donor."

"Don't forget Caitlin," Catherine reminded her. "There must be some gene for blonde hair in your mix."

"No. Don't think so. Tommy's dad was very fair. I think that's a Driscoll thing. The O'Flahertys go from dark to darker." She sighed and said, "Eh...less chance of sunburn. No big deal."

"It must feel odd to know that you can't create a child together," Catherine said, her voice growing soft and a little sleepy.

"Mmm, probably odder for Jamie," Ryan decided. "I never had the fantasy of being able to do that. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be able to merge with her and create new life from our love. I've just never assumed I would do it, so it doesn't seem odd now."

"That makes sense," Catherine agreed. "I suppose you have a different way of looking at the world than I do, Ryan."

"I think everyone has their own view, Catherine. It's only when we think our way is the way that we get into trouble." Her thoughts drifted to Jim as she considered that was his main problem.

"True," the older woman said, a yawn escaping. She cuddled up a little tighter and slowly fell asleep, her face losing the few lines of tension that it carried when she was awake.

Ryan leaned back and regarded the two women, so similar and yet so different. Some day I'll sit back and watch Jamie and our daughter and think the same thing, she mused, smiling to herself as she also drifted off.

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

The young clerk looked up as a man walked quickly down the hallway, heading for the exit doors. "Oh...Mr. Jones?" she asked, certain that she had identified the correct patient. The tall, sophisticated man stood out from the crowd, not just because he wore only a pair of slacks and shoes. There was something that was vaguely familiar about him, but she just could not place him.

She turned to the woman at the next desk and asked, "That last patient left without his receipt. Did he remind you of anyone?"

The other woman looked at the receipt and said, "Oh yes, he reminded me of the fifty other John Joneses we've had in here in the last year. Can't these guys think of something more original?!"

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

As he pulled up to the house, Jim surveyed the place and pondered why the lights were on in the living room. Well, time to face the music, he decided. He had a notion to just head over to his apartment, but his briefcase was in the house and he couldn't leave without it, much as he wanted to.

He entered through the kitchen, noticing that the alarm had been turned off. Could I have screwed up any worse tonight? he grumbled as he walked towards the living room. Coming up to the room at an angle he saw bodies lying on both couches, with Ryan sitting up, sound asleep. They probably stayed up so they could all watch when Jamie tells me to go to hell, he mused. Walking a little closer he saw his daughter sleeping on Ryan's lap and begrudgingly thought, Well, she does look very content lying there with her. As he crept closer still, he gasped when he saw that it was not Jamie but Catherine who lay so contentedly in the dark woman's loose embrace.

Jesus Christ! he cried, feeling irrationally angry at witnessing the tableaux. She's taken my daughter, now she's got my wife! Thank God we don't have a dog! He shook his head slowly, carefully observing the woman as she slept. I don't understand the attraction, he decided. Yes, she's pretty, but I don't think that's it. It's something more than that, he knew, although he couldn't get a handle on it. She has potential, but no track record. Jack was a much surer bet. He's definitely going somewhere. Ryan might be content to just run around playing sports; she might turn into another freeloader like Catherine's cousins. But even as he thought this, he knew it wasn't true. His investigation had showed a very determined, very focused young woman about whom very few people had a bad word.

Well, he thought as he slowly trudged upstairs, I doubt that I'll have the chance to find out what her allure is. I'm sure that I've finally pushed Jamie over the edge this time.

He gathered his things, packing quickly, then put on a fresh set of clothes, throwing his bloodstained shoes and slacks into the trash bin. When he was ready to leave, he removed a notepad from his briefcase and sat down to write.

You were all sleeping so soundly that I thought it best to leave you alone. I'm fine-nothing that a few dozen stitches couldn't mend. I'm going to work a bit at the office, and then go home as planned on Sunday evening.

I would apologize, but there comes a point at which even I have to acknowledge that my words mean little. I guess I'm just too set in my ways to even try to change. I truly wish that I wasn't so angry and suspicious of people-it just seems second nature to me now, and I don't have a clue how to stop.

I'm sorry for being such an abject failure as a father, Jamie. You deserve so much more-I hope that Martin can serve in that role for you.

I'm heartsick over how this weekend turned out, but I know it's too late to repair the damage I've done. For what it's worth, I am very sorry. I hope...well, I suppose my hopes and wishes won't come true-but it's no one's fault but my own.

He didn't sign the note, not having a clue how to refer to himself. He was addressing all three of the women who slept on the couches, but his role was so nebulous that he was utterly confused. No longer a husband, no longer a father...who was he? Placing the note on the writing table near the front door, he hefted his bag onto his shoulder, blew a kiss to the women who meant more to him than he could fathom, and left quietly, fully expecting this visit to be his last.

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

The phone rang at four, and Ryan jerked awake, slipping off the couch when Catherine sat up halfway, a dazed expression on her face. Jamie, of course, didn't flinch, sleeping away contentedly on the other couch. "Hello?" Ryan managed to say, fighting with the cobwebs that still choked her mind.

"Mrs. Evans?" a brusque voice asked.

"No, but I can take a message for her. Can I help you?" The phone was on the writing table, and as Ryan spoke she scanned the note that Jim had left.

"This is Sergeant Hallihan of the Hillsboro Police Department. I wanted to give her an update on our search for her husband."

"Oh," Ryan said, thinking quickly. "Actually, Mr. Evans just got in contact with us. He seems fine, officer, so you needn't continue the search."

"All right, Ma'am," he said, a little warily. "I'd prefer to speak with the senator, just for our records. We like to have a statement from the missing person before we close our files."

"I don't think he's reachable right now," Ryan said. "Give me your name and number, and I'll have him call you when he's in contact again."

The officer did as requested and hung up after obtaining similar information from Ryan.

Catherine was running her hands through her hair, trying to organize her thoughts, when there was a sharp rap on the front door. "Now what?" Ryan moaned, going to the door to open the tiny window that allowed a view of guests. "Yes?" she asked the young man who stood on the steps.

"Steven Hawkins," he said. "San Francisco Chronicle. I'm here investigating the missing persons report filed on Senator Evans earlier this evening. Will you comment for the record?"

"Sure," Ryan said, hoping to nip this in the bud. She thought quickly, deciding to give the bare bones of the incident just to appear like they had nothing to hide. "The senator cut his hand on a glass earlier this evening. It was in the middle of the night, and he thoughtfully didn't want to wake his family up to drive him to the hospital. He obviously thought he'd return before anyone woke, but that wasn't the case. His wife was alerted to the blood in the kitchen, and she wisely thought to call the police in case he was disoriented from blood loss."

"Where is the senator now? What hospital did he go to?"

"He's resting now," Ryan said, assuming that he was resting somewhere...just not in his bed upstairs. "His choice of hospitals is a private matter for the moment, but I'm certain that he will authorize the doctor who attended him to release a statement. Anything else?"

"Can you comment on the reports that there was a rather wild party at this address earlier in the evening?" he asked, obviously having been told this by a disgruntled neighbor-made more disgruntled by being awakened at four a.m. for a comment. "Was the senator's injury connected to the party?"

Ryan smiled through the tiny opening and said, "His daughter is a senior in college. The party was just a few of her friends gathered for dinner. It would hardly qualify as wild, I assure you. The guests had been gone for hours when the senator cut his hand. No connection whatsoever."

"All right," he said thoughtfully, glad that he could wrap this one up and get back to his desk. "Any further comment?"

"No. That's the whole story," she assured him. Or the whole of the story that you're going to get!

"Who are you, ma'am? You didn't identify yourself."

"You may attribute my comments to an unnamed family spokesperson," she smiled, having always wanted to attach that moniker to herself.

As Ryan returned to the living room, Catherine was beaming a grin at her. "You do that very well, Ryan. Have you ever thought of a career as a public relations specialist?"

"I'm Irish," she smiled. "Telling tales is our birthright!"

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

Saturday morning found Jamie wrapped around Ryan's body, snug in her childhood bed. She opened her eyes and tried to figure out how they had gotten there, finally deciding that it wasn't really important-they were there now, and that's all that mattered.

Ryan felt her move and lazily commented, "Maybe I do want you to take off a few pounds."

Jamie smiled as she understood the reference. "Had to carry me again, huh, Tough Stuff?"

"Either that or leave you on the couch, and that's just not acceptable."

Jamie sat up, brushing her hair out of her eyes. "What happened, Honey? Did Daddy come home?"

"Yeah. We were all asleep on the couch, and he came in and went out again. He left a note," Ryan said.

"Oh, please! He took off?"

"Yep. Hard to tell if he was mad at us or just himself. It sounded like he was pretty depressed," Ryan admitted.

"What am I going to do with that man?" the smaller woman moaned, falling back to the bed heavily.

"He is pretty high maintenance," Ryan agreed. "We need to get in touch with him at some point. A reporter came to the house and wanted details. I placated him, but your dad needs to issue a statement of some sort."

"Jesus! It's not like things weren't bad enough! Now we have reporters interested in our little drama?"

"Yep. Never a dull moment with you people. I've got 30 people in my family, and we have less going on than your little threesome does," she chuckled.

"Well, let's go see what awaits us today," Jamie said, getting to her feet.

"Hopefully nothing," Ryan said, knowing that the odds of that were unlikely.

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

Their attempts to contact Jim were fruitless, but they did leave messages at his apartment in Washington and the one in San Francisco, where they assumed he'd spent the remainder of the night.

Jamie had to get to the golf course, so she and Ryan took off, Jordan and Mia still sound asleep-or not, depending on the moment.

Catherine stayed behind for a while, finally deciding to use all of her resources to track down her elusive husband. It took quite a few calls, but she finally found someone in his senate office who was working on Saturday. They provided her with several numbers, and she finally reached his secretary at home. The efficient woman was able to provide his new cell phone number.

Dialing the number, Catherine smiled to herself when Jim answered on the first ring. "You can run, but you can't hide," she said in a gently mocking tone.

"Oh...hello, Catherine," he said, sounding more wary than she could ever remember.

"What's going on, Jim? Why the need to play hide and go seek?"

"I'm ah...I'm at work, Catherine. I have some things that I have to clean up here."

"Uh-huh," she said calmly, not buying his story for an instant. "We're concerned about you, Jim. Really."

"I've...I've caused enough harm for one weekend, Cat," he said softly. "Let's just move on, shall we?"

"Jim, please don't be so melodramatic. This was a small incident...don't act like it's fatal."

"I don't think I can do it, Catherine. I just don't think I can change." He sounded totally defeated and very sorry for himself, neither trait particularly appealing.

"Maybe you'll feel better after you talk to Jamie," Catherine offered. "She wants to speak with you, you know."

"I'll call her when I get back to Washington," he said, obviously trying to evade the issue. "I've got a lot to take care of today, and I'm really struggling with these damn pain pills."

Ahh, that's probably why he seems so depressed. "Did you get proper medical care, Jim?"

"I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. I'm going to find a specialist in DC to have it checked out."

"You do that, Dear," she said, surprised that she had used that term for him. "I assume you know that the newspapers picked up on the story," she said, hoping that he wasn't too angry with her for getting the police involved.

"Yes. I was on the other line with my press secretary when you called. Public life sucks," he groused, using a term that she had never heard him utter before.

"You'll get through it, Jim. You always do," she reminded him.

He sighed, his voice a little slower and his mind a little less sharp than usual. "How do you get through it, Cat?" he asked softly. "Have you ever seen them...together?"

It took her a second, but she finally understood his question. "I've had a couple of close encounters, Honey. I've learned my lesson now. When we're in the house together it would take an act of God to get me to leave my room once I've announced I'm going to bed. A pair of earplugs is also not a bad idea," she laughed, hoping to lighten the tone of the conversation.

"I don't think I can ever get to where you are with this," he said, the sadness flowing through the phone lines. "I just don't think I can."

"Honey, you're tired, and you're not yourself when you're taking pain medication. Give it some time, Jim. I think you did very well this weekend, to tell you the truth. Don't give up."

"Thanks for saying so, Cat, but I think you're being too generous. I think I've blown it for good this time."

She found herself wanting to reassure him, but it was obvious that he wasn't in a receptive mood. "I don't think so, Jim," she said, "but we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?"

"Yes. That's what we'll have to do," he agreed, his voice sounding raspy and full of dread.

In retrospect, she wasn't sure why she said it, but Catherine heard herself say, "It's possible to severely disappoint people and still have them forgive you and want you in their lives, Jim. Don't give up hope...for either Jamie or me."

There was absolute silence coming from his end, lasting a good minute. "Do...do you mean that?" he whispered.

She sighed heavily and said, "I honestly don't know what I mean, Jim, but I certainly haven't done anything about moving forward with the divorce. There must be a reason that I haven't wanted to do so."

"Catherine...Cat...if there's anything that I can do..."

"No, Jim, really. There's nothing you can do right now. Let's just take it slow and see how things develop."

"Okay, okay," he said, an eager tone replacing the morose one of moments earlier. "I'll um...wait to hear from you, Catherine. I look forward to it."

"Goodbye, Jim. Take care of your hand. I'll call you in a few days to see how you're faring."

"Excellent!" he said enthusiastically. "I'll be waiting for your call."

Well, wasn't that odd? Catherine thought as she hung up. I swear don't have a clue what will come out of my mouth next!

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

When they all returned from the golf course on Saturday afternoon, Jordan and Mia were gone. They'd left a nice note, thanking Catherine for her hospitality and wishing Jamie good luck in the remaining match. "They seem like they've become good friends," Catherine commented.

"Oh yes, they're close all right," Jamie agreed. "They don't have much in common, but they hit it off very quickly." She omitted just how quickly or how deeply their relationship had developed, knowing that Mia would not appreciate having her secret revealed.

"I'm really glad that you and Mia have stayed such close friends," Catherine said. "She seems very fond of Ryan, too."

"Well, that's an entrance requirement for any of my friends, but it's really nice how well we all get along. I think Mia genuinely likes Ryan."

"I always thought she had good taste," Catherine smiled. "Now I'm sure of it."

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

Waking early on Sunday morning, Jamie stretched and cuddled up to her partner, feeling immensely glad that her tee time wasn't until eleven.

"You awake, Love?" she asked, not able to see Ryan's face.

"Umm-hmm. Have been for a while. You just keep lulling me back to sleep," Ryan yawned.

"Wanna have a nice big breakfast with me? I don't have to be at the course until ten."

"Yep. Sounds great," Ryan agreed. "Are you ready for another round today? Three days in a row would be a lot for me."

Rolling over to lie on her back, Jamie looked at her partner carefully and asked, "Do you get any pleasure out of playing golf?"

"Yeah, I do," Ryan said, sounding unconvincing. "I mean, I would never play alone, but I like to play with you or with my brothers. It's kinda like bowling for me. It's not something I love, and it certainly doesn't seem like exercise. Although I guess it's superior to bowling since it's a decent way to spend time outside."

"So, you don't think you'll ever get the golf bug, huh?" Jamie asked, a little wistfully.

"No. Don't think so, Babe. It's a little slow-paced for me, and I kinda suck at it, which always hinders my enjoyment." She was chuckling gently, but Jamie knew that she was serious.

"I've been a little surprised that you haven't gotten better at it," she admitted. "I think your height is actually part of the problem."

"Yeah...that makes sense. I think I'd be okay if I'd started young, but I've got a lot of body flying around during that swing. Lot's of things can go wrong. I actually remind myself of Michael Jordan when I play. He's obviously a talented athlete, but he'll never be great at golf. Too tall."

"Things do tend to go pretty wrong for you," Jamie laughed, a small part of her quite happy that she could so thoroughly kick Ryan's butt at something.

"You know, I don't generally handle being humiliated very well," Ryan mused. "I think you should prop up my self-esteem a little before we leave." The blue eyes were twinkling, and Jamie had a very good idea where this train of thought was heading.

She rolled onto her side again and snuggled up tight to Ryan's long body. "How can I help improve your poor self-esteem?" she whispered.

"Mmm, let me think," Ryan murmured, grasping Jamie's hand and slowly trailing it down her body. "Maybe you should remind me that being tall and having long arms can come in handy sometimes. Like this," she said, wrapping her arms around Jamie from behind and slipping a hand into a warm, humid place. "I couldn't do that if I wasn't blessed with a large wing span."

As her right leg lifted to allow for better access, Jamie sighed softly, extremely pleased that her lover's reach equaled her grasp. "You have beautiful wings," she whispered thrusting her hips against the soft curves that she nestled against.

Turning to face Jamie fully, Ryan enveloped her in a warm embrace and promised, "Wait until my beak starts sipping your nectar. That's when my talents really shine."

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

The entire immediate O'Flaherty family, along with a smattering of cousins, showed up to watch the team championship on Sunday. Catherine and Maeve walked along at the back of the large group, chatting quietly, more about the plans for the wedding than the golf, but their main purpose-to show support for Jamie-was accomplished perfectly.

Cal did not prevail on this dry, warm day, but Jamie wasn't terribly disappointed. She didn't have the same drive to win that Ryan did, usually being happy as long as she put forth her best efforts. She had played well, shooting a 71 on the difficult course, and she was happy with the play of her teammates against a team that was superior in every way.

Even though Catherine offered to host another dinner, the family decided to head home after the match, not wanting to get stuck in the usual Sunday night crawl along 101.

Jamie and Ryan decided to head home also, and after stopping in Hillsborough to pack up their things, they returned to 101 and started for home. As they drew near the airport, Ryan turned and asked, "What time was your dad's flight out tonight?"

"Mmm...I think around five," Jamie mused. "He didn't want to get back to Washington too late. Why?"

"Wanna take a chance and see if we can find him? I bet you'd feel better if you could see him in person before he leaves." She paused a second and added, "I know he'd feel better." Jamie tilted her head and stared at her partner for a long while, with Ryan finally turning to give her a questioning look. "What?" the dark haired woman asked.

"This is one of those 'I'm falling in love with you again' moments," she sighed. "I can't think of another soul that would put up with his shit like you do, Honey, and I love you for it."

Ryan gave her a warm smile and said, "I feel bad about Friday night, Love. Playing around like that outside was really rude. We should both know better. He was really making an effort to be nice to me, and I paid him back by going into my caveman routine." She shook her head and said, "I should have been more considerate."

Jamie patted her leg and said, "No, it's my fault, Ryan. I was pushing you. I know better."

"You gave me a perfectly acceptable cooling off period," Ryan disagreed. "There's an insolent part of me that got off on being sexual outside, knowing that we could have been discovered. I know that I'm a bit of an exhibitionist, but this was more than that."

Jamie sighed and said, "Let's try to find him. Mom will know how to get in touch with his secretary."

Several phone calls later, they were waiting at the gate for the flight, having nearly an hour before the scheduled departure. They didn't have long to wait before Jim showed up-with Jamie gasping aloud when she saw the massive bandage that covered him from forearm to fingertip, making his hand look more like a club.

She waited until he had checked in, then got up and approached him, Ryan staying in her seat to allow Jamie to have some time alone with him.

"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" she asked, when he did a double take upon seeing her.

"Do...do you want to?" he asked tentatively.

"I don't normally hang out in the airport on Sunday afternoons looking for men to pick up, so I'd say that I do," she smiled, slipping her hand under his elbow to guide him to a coffee bar.

He looked over his shoulder at Ryan, but she just gave him a nod and a wave, and opened one of her textbooks to get a little studying in. "Is Ryan...?"

"She's fine," Jamie assured him. "I want to talk to you alone." As they walked along the concourse she asked, "Your hand is pretty bad, isn't it?"

"Yeah," he admitted, casting a quick glance at it. "I think I might have some nerve damage. I'm going to see a hand specialist as soon as I can get an appointment."

"You broke the glass when you saw us, didn't you?" she asked softly, deciding there was no other logical explanation, given the chain of events.

He nodded, looking very embarrassed. "I got so angry," he whispered, his face full of pain. "Thank God I don't keep a gun in the house, Jamie. I might have killed her."

She shivered at the mere thought, but managed to say, "I don't blame you for being angry, Dad, but wanting to kill her is just too extreme of a reaction. I think you need to figure out some way to control your anger...It's going to get you into trouble some day that you can't get out of."

They approached the coffee bar, and he led her to a seat, grabbing a chair for himself which he pulled up close. "Do you mean that, Honey?" he asked, looking more than a little pale.

"Yes, Dad. It's dangerous to let yourself get that out of control."

He shook his head briskly and said, "No, no, Honey, I know that's true." He blinked at her slowly and asked, "Do you mean that you're not angry with me for what I did?"

"No, I'm not angry, Dad," she assured him, while placing her hand upon his uninjured one. "Are you angry with me?"

He blushed deeply as he said, "I know that you and Ryan are um...that you enjoy each other's company, Jamie. I'm doing my best to get comfortable with it..."

He looked helpless as she gave his hand a squeeze and said, "I know that, Dad. That's not what I meant. I'm wondering if you're angry with me for being inappropriate with her in your house. That was irresponsible of us, and I'm really sorry that you had to see it."

His body collapsed back against his chair, and he gave her a thoroughly dumbstruck look. "You're apologizing to me?"

"Yes, of course," she said earnestly. "I know this is hard for you, and I know you're doing your best to control yourself. Playing around like we did is really improper where there's even a chance that someone could see us. It's disrespectful-and I'm really sorry."

Running his good hand through his hair, he stared at her for a few long minutes. Finally, he smiled and said, "I think we should have gone to a bar-bar rather than a coffee bar. I could use a drink!"

She shrugged and indicated, "There's one right over there."

"No, I shouldn't drink with this pain medication. I've had enough publicity for one day-causing a scene on the plane isn't a good idea." He was smiling as he said this, and it looked like some of the tension was leaving his body.

"Let me get you something," Jamie said. "Coffee? Latté?"

"Do you know what I'd really like?" he asked, looking like his answer surprised himself. "I'd like a cup of hot cocoa."

"Cocoa it is," she said. As she rose from her seat, she leaned over and kissed the top of his head. "It's okay, Dad," she said softly. "We'll get through this."

He sat quietly and watched his daughter as she strode to the counter. I don't deserve her, he thought to himself. I never have.

When Jamie returned, they sat in silence for a few minutes until Jim said, "What do we do now, Honey?"

"We don't have to do anything, Dad," she said. "This isn't going to go quickly, and if that's your goal, you're going to be very disappointed."

He looked a little sheepish as he said, "I'm not a very patient man, Honey. This is going to take some getting used to."

"We've got time, Dad. As long as we each try hard, we'll get there."

"I do better with tasks that I can beat into submission," he chuckled. "That's not going to work this time, is it?"

"No. Neither Ryan nor I do well with a heavy-handed approach. You're going to have to finesse this one." She smiled at him and joked, "This will be good practice for your day job. I imagine that a little consensus building is a good thing for a senator, isn't it?"

"So they tell me," he chuckled. "So they tell me." Patting Jamie on the shoulder he said, "No time like the present, Honey. Let's go try to mend some fences."

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

When they arrived back at the gate, Ryan was nowhere to be seen. Jim looked around, assuming she had gone to the rest room or was in one of the shops, but Jamie said, "Look for a quiet corner."

True to form, the tall woman was curled up on the floor in the corner of the gate opposite Jim's. Her knees were drawn up nearly to her chin, her heels just inches from her butt. Long arms were wrapped around her knees, and her head was resting atop them. Jim and Jamie were just a few feet away, but Ryan didn't twitch. "She's asleep," Jim said softly.

"No, she's not," Jamie insisted. "She's thinking." Looking up at her father, she wrinkled up her nose in a grin that reminded him of her youth and said, "She thinks a lot." Leaning over, Jamie gently touched Ryan's head, which turned and swiveled to allow her clear blue eyes to lock upon her partner's.

"Ready?" she asked, a placid expression on her face.

"In a few," Jamie said. "Daddy won't be able to board for fifteen minutes or so." She extended a hand and Ryan grasped it, allowing Jamie to help her up.

"So, what were you studying, Ryan?" Jim asked, a little puzzled by her study posture.

"Oh, I wasn't really studying," she said. "I was just thinking about something."

"What subject are you working on?" he asked, trying to make a little small talk.

"Oh...well...they all kinda merge at a certain level." She looked over at Jim and asked, "Do you know what I mean?"

"Ahh...no," he said, "I don't have a clue."

She searched for a way to explain herself, finally saying, "I'm working on a math problem, technically, but the way I'm thinking about it today seems a little more like quantum physics." She shrugged her shoulders and said, "If you open your mind, things tend to surprise you."

His mouth started to curl into a grin, growing wider and wider as the impact of her words hit him. "You know, Ryan, you are absolutely right. As a matter of fact, that's going to be my personal motto from now on." He stretched his arms out, the young women bracketing his body. Wrapping both of them in a hug he looked from one to the other, each returning his bright smile as he tried Ryan's statement out for himself: "When you open your mind, things tend to surprise you."

The End

To be continued in Book 10


As always, to Carrie.


My sincere thanks to Day and Stacia for their time, skill and efforts in beta reading this piece.

Thanks to Tenara this piece, as well as the previous one, both have names.

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