I Found My Heart In San Francisco

Book 13 Monogamy

By: S X Meagher


Part 3

On Friday night, Ryan dragged into the house at 6:15, tossed her bicycle helmet onto the front table, and called out, "I’m home, babe." Idly looking through the mail, she barely noticed when Jamie came up behind her and wrapped her in a hug.

"How’s my sweaty girl?" the blonde asked. "Ready for dinner?"

"Yeah, I guess." Ryan turned around and gave her partner a proper hug. "Let me go get out of these wet clothes, okay?"

"Sure, honey." She pulled back and gazed at Ryan for a moment. "You okay?"

"Yeah, sure. Glad it’s Friday, though. It’s been an extraordinarily long week. I guess it’s gonna take me some time to get used to practicing every day."

"That’s probably it," Jamie said, patting her lightly. "Go take a quick shower. You’ll feel better."


Ryan started up the stairs, and Jamie could just see the fatigue in her body. Of course, you might be tired because you’re up before dawn riding your bike for two hours every morning, and another hour after softball … but I’m not going to say ‘I told you so.’

* * * * * * * * * * *

Over dinner, Jamie put on her brightest smile and asked, "So, how do you think your first week of practice went?"

"All right," Ryan said, nodding while she chewed thoughtfully. "I really do like the other girls, and the coach is pretty cool. The assistants are nice, too. I think it’s gonna work out. I just have to shake this lethargy." She gave Jamie a very perturbed look and said, "I’m not bouncing back the way I normally do. Maybe I should start taking some supplements, or something."

"Want me to call the doctor for you, and ask what she recommends?"

Ryan shrugged. "Whatever. I can do it if you don’t."

"Hey," Jamie reached out and covered her partner’s hand, "what’s bothering you? I know something is."

Putting down her fork, Ryan pushed her plate away and leaned over, resting her chin on her stacked fists. "I’m not having fun."

"Why, honey? Isn’t softball like you remembered it?"

Staring across the table, Ryan muttered, "Not softball."

"Huh? What is it, then?"


She said it like a curse, and Jamie got up from her chair and pulled her partner upright. Drawing Ryan’s head against her, she stroked her back and said, "Tell me, Ryan. Tell me why it’s not fun."

"It’s only work this time," she said, her voice muffled by Jamie’s sweater. "No camaraderie, no teamwork, no … getting pleasure from helping people – like you – reach a goal."

Jamie pulled back and looked into her eyes, seeing the deep sadness that lurked within the blue depths. Screwing up her nerve, she made the proposal that she’d been working on all week. "I have an idea I’ve been kicking around."

"Yeah? What’s that?"

"Why don’t we consider volunteering this year? You’ve always said that the volunteers are the most vital contributors. Why don’t we see what it’s like to be on that team for a change?"

Ryan was quiet for a minute, while her hands nervously played with her silverware. "I don’t know," she muttered. "I meant it when I said the volunteers were important. But I’m not sure I could stand to drive people around in one of those little vans all day. I’d feel all cooped up."

Jamie smiled at her, and said, "How would you feel about it if you could still be on a bike; you could still be outdoors; you and I could be together; and you didn’t have to train?"

Ryan crossed her arms and gave her partner her most dubious look. "This I’ve gotta hear."

"I’ve been talking to the people at the Ride office to see what I could do as a volunteer," Jamie said, surprising her partner completely. "Mostly because there’s no way I’m going to let you share a tent with some stranger."

"So possessive," Ryan said, reaching out to tweak her partner’s nose.

"Damned right! Anyway, one thing that we could do together is motorcycle support," she said, waiting for Ryan to respond.

"Motorcycle support?" she asked slowly.

"Yep. I thought it would be fun. We’d be able to interact with a lot of people – heck, we’d be chatting all day."

Ryan looked skeptical. "Where would you get a bike?"

"I found a place that rents ‘em. I think I’ll rent a Harley Sportster. It’s much more my size." She blinked her eyes at her partner and said, "Soooo … someone’s Fatboy is still available for use."

Ryan shook her head slowly, letting all of the information digest. "I don’t know, honey. I mean, motorcycle support is very important, and the people who do it seem to love it – but I don’t think it’s my style."

Jamie’s heart sank, knowing that Ryan wasn’t likely to budge from her first impression. Sighing, she asked, "What is your style, baby? What would make you happy?"

"I need time to think," Ryan said. "Give me a little quiet time, okay?"

"Sure. Uhm … there’s not much to do to clean up from dinner. Why don’t you go upstairs and take a bath or something."

"All right. I’ll go chill for a bit."

Jamie did the dishes in a leisurely fashion, and just as she was finishing, Mia came in. There was a decent amount of food left over, so she sat at the table while Mia had dinner, and they chatted about their respective days.

Nearly an hour had passed, but Ryan hadn’t reappeared, so Jamie went upstairs to check on her. There was no sign of her in the bath, so Jamie poked her head into Ryan’s bedroom, slightly surprised to find her sitting on the floor, in a yoga pose – looking like she was meditating. Sneaking out quietly, she went into their room and worked at her computer for a long while. It was nearly bedtime when Ryan came in and lay down on the bed, her head down at the foot so she was closer to Jamie. "Well, I think I sorted out what about the Ride means the most to me."

Swiveling around in her chair, Jamie gave her partner her full attention. "Tell me."

"It’s always been a multi-step process for me. The training – meeting new people – sleeping with new people," she added, chuckling a little. "All of that was a lot of fun, and made me feel part of the whole. The months leading up to the ride let me share my excitement with a lot of people, and that really meant something to me."

"And that’s why not being able to lead training rides has been so disappointing for you."

"Yeah … that’s exactly it."

"Well, maybe there’s some way we can figure out …"

"No," Ryan said, holding up a hand. "It dawned on me tonight that as much as I enjoyed all of that – it’s not why the Ride has so much meaning for me. The bottom line is that all of the other things were nice incidentals. What mattered the most was the quiet time I had every day – to think and reflect about Michael. Those few hours each day seemed like a culmination of several months of work that I dedicated to him, Jamie. It was a way to keep him close to my heart."

"I understand," Jamie said, quietly. "Really, I do, baby."

Ryan nodded. "I knew you would – once I figured it out for myself. So, I’m gonna have to do the work the hard way this time – because those hours during the ride mean more to me than the pain I’m gonna have to go through to get there." She didn’t look terribly happy, but the look on her face was one of resolution, and Jamie knew that Ryan would stick to her path – now that she was clear about the goal.

With some trepidation, Jamie got up and lay next to her partner, pulling Ryan’s head to her chest. As she stroked the soft, dark hair, she offered the suggestion that had occurred to her as Ryan was speaking. "Let me be sure I understand, okay?"


"You’re willing to give up all of the fun parts just to have a couple of hours of quiet time a day during the ride?"

"Yeah. I am. Being out there in nature, making my body do something that’s difficult lets me concentrate in a way that I’m not usually able to do. Those few stolen hours mean too much to let them go."

"How about this?" Jamie asked. "I agree completely that you need to spend time honoring your cousin’s memory. I know how easy it is to let things like that slip by when your life is as busy as yours is. I get that, Ryan – I do."

"Thank you," the brunette said quietly.

"But this year, with all that you have going on – I worry about you, sweetheart; and if there’s any way to fulfill your needs without stressing you more, I want you to consider it."

"I know you worry about me, Jamie, but I can take care of myself. Really – I can."

Looking into her big, blue eyes, Jamie steeled her courage and told the whole truth. "I can’t stop worrying, Ryan. I’ve tried to – I swear that I have. I’ve talked to Anna, I’ve prayed over it, I’ve talked to my mom – but I can’t stop worrying."

"Hey," Ryan soothed, shifting to wrap her arms around her partner. "I didn’t know it was bothering you this much."

"It is. I lie in bed in the morning worrying about you riding in the dark. And my stomach’s a nervous wreck when you ride after practice; there is so much traffic around here, honey. It makes me crazy!"

Ryan was quiet for a minute, her hand softly stroking her partner’s hair. "Then I’ll quit. This is important to me – but it’s not important enough to cause you pain. I’ve given you enough to worry about for a lifetime."

Jamie lifted her head and gazed at Ryan for a long time. "You love me very much, don’t you."

"I do," Ryan whispered. "I love you more than I ever knew was possible. You’re my life, Jamie."

Kissing her tenderly, Jamie rolled her partner onto her back and stared at her for a minute. "You’re mine, too. So, let’s figure out a way for both of us to get our needs met."

"Sounds like you’ve got something brewing up in that active, little brain," Ryan said, smiling up at her partner.

"I think I do," Jamie said. "I know you need some solitude, Ryan. But I happen to think that you need more than a few hours a day during the AIDS Ride."

"Go on," Ryan said. "I know there’s more."

"I think that you should take a week – by yourself – to meditate, and pray and reflect. I think you need it now more than you ever have, sweetheart. You could schedule it during the same time as the AIDS Ride, and spend some of your time praying for the people on the ride – I know that would mean a lot to them, and to you."

"Where would I do this?" Ryan asked.

"Anywhere you wanted to, honey. There are a lot of retreat centers within an hour or two of us, or you could be wild and go to Sienna, or Assisi, or to any of the places that have spiritual meaning for you."

"Damn," Ryan said, her eyes glazing over. "It’s … too much to consider how much money we have. Let’s stay local so I can keep the top of my head on."

"Okay, sweetie. I’m sure my grandfather has a list of retreat centers, and Father Pender could hook you up, too. Actually, Poppa went to one a couple of years ago that I’ve wanted to go to. It was a silent retreat, and it was for Christians – but it was conducted on an Eastern model – with guided meditation led by a Buddhist monk."

"Wow, I’d love that," Ryan said softly. "Damn, I haven’t been on a retreat since I was in high school – and we just goofed off at that one."

"Will you consider it, babe? I’ll be happy to get all of the information for you."

Ryan was quiet for a minute, then nodded her head. "Yeah. I’ll definitely consider it. Uhm … could we still give a contribution to the Ride?"

"Of course, honey. We can give as much as you want. You know," she said thoughtfully, "there’s a retreat center in Santa Barbara. You could go over to UCSB on Saturday and have lunch with some of your buddies – maybe feel connected to them that way."

"That’d be nice," Ryan said, nuzzling her head against Jamie’s chest. "So, you wouldn’t want to go with me?"

"Mmm … no. I could never keep my mouth shut for a week if you were nearby. I think this is something you need to do alone. Maybe I’ll go to a spa with my mom. I’d like to spend some time alone with her this year."

"Wow, we’re not even together a year, and we’re planning separate vacations," Ryan said, smiling sadly at her lover.

"It’s been a unique year," Jamie said, smiling back and adding a gentle kiss. "But next year, you and I are going to be on our bikes – just like normal."

"That’ll be nice," Ryan sighed. "I wanna be normal again."

"Me too, sweetie, me too."

* * * * * * * * * * *

"Want me to go pick up the sushi?" Ryan asked, late on Saturday afternoon.

"Sure. That’ll give me time to finish a few last-minute details," Jamie said.

"You know," Ryan said, twirling her keys on her finger, "you aren’t putting much of your energies into this party. It’s not like you to only order a couple of sushi platters when you’re entertaining. What’s up with that?"

"Well, I don’t know most of the girls very well, so I don’t know if any of them are vegetarians. I figured there’d be something for everyone with a big assortment of sushi, since I made sure that at least a quarter of the things are meatless."

"Okay," Ryan said, picking up her wallet. "Whatever."

She started to walk out, but Jamie dashed across the room and grabbed her by her waistband. "Truth?" the blonde asked.

"Yeah, that’d be nice – for a change," Ryan said, smiling warmly.

"I think the party’s gonna be a big bust, and I don’t wanna spend too much time working on it. I’m making an effort to try to draw these girls out a little bit – but I’ll admit that I’m not making too much of an effort."

"That’s cool," Ryan said, bending to kiss her. "I’m not complaining. I merely wanted to see what was going on in that decidedly pretty head."

"Just being practical," Jamie said. "And thanks for helping me out. I’m counting on you charming the pants off a few of these shy little introverts."

"Well, that should make the party interesting," Ryan said. "I didn’t know that was allowed under the rules of monogamy – but I’m up for it." She gave Jamie a lecherous grin and palmed her ass, adding a firm squeeze.

"You’d scare these girls half to death if you looked at them that way," the blonde said, chuckling. "That sexy grin had better only come out if you’re looking at me."

The sexy grin appeared on cue. "That’s the only time it wants to come out," Ryan said. "Only you inspire me."

* * * * * * * * * * *

The party had been in full-drone for almost an hour when Mia came downstairs, fresh from a long talk with her beloved. She was feeling quite anti-social, evading everyone in the living and dining rooms to sneak into the kitchen – hoping that Jamie had stowed the excess food in there.

She nearly ran into Juliet, or at least the woman who looked like Juliet – without a tee stuck between her teeth, or a visor covering her face. "Hey," Mia said. "Juliet, right?"

"Uh … yeah," she said, giving Mia a blank look.

"I’m Mia, Jamie’s roommate. We played golf together on Tuesday."

"Oh, right. Hi."

Damn, maybe she isn’t a lesbian. I didn’t even get into her short-term memory. "Were you looking for something, Juliet? I live here, so I know my way around."

"Uhm … no, not really," she said, her nervousness showing. "I’m not much for parties, to tell the truth. I try to find the quietest place and just hang out."

Sensing an opportunity to probe Juliet’s defenses, Mia pulled out a chair and said, "Have a seat. You can sit and chat with me for a while. I don’t like crowds, either."

Looking grateful, the golfer sat down, then gazed at Mia, waiting to be led.

"Would you like a drink?" Mia asked. "Jamie didn’t want to put alcohol out, since so many of the girls are underage – but you’re a senior, aren’t ya?"

"Uh-huh." She looked a little uncomfortable, and said, "I don’t drink much, though. I never got used to the taste."

"Ooo … let’s have some fun, then," Mia said. "Let’s make Jell-O shots."

"I’ve never had those," Juliet said.

"Well, you will soon. I’ll get the Jell-O and the vodka, you put a little water in the tea kettle – and we’re on our way."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan caught Jamie when she saw the smaller woman near the library. Pulling her into the quiet space she whispered, "I’m about to take poison! Isn’t there anything we can do to spice this party up?"

Jamie shrugged her shoulders. "Naked Twister? Body shots? Russian Roulette? I’ll try anything. Actually, why don’t we take off? Let ‘em sit here until they bore each other to death, and then sweep up the bodies."

"Damn, if staying at this party isn’t a sign of my undying love, nothing is," Ryan said, her grumbling obviously good-natured.

"I can’t believe that no one brought a date," Jamie said. "Guys would have at least added a little volume. I’ve been to livelier wakes."

"Well, let’s try to get ‘em playing a game or something. Anything to make people start talking about something other than golf!"

They started to leave the room, but Ryan pulled her aside to whisper, "Oh, and your friend, Juliet? Big dyke. We’ve gotta sit over at Sproul Plaza one day so I can teach you how to pick ‘em out, baby. If you weren’t sure about Juliet, you clearly don’t know what to look for!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

While Mia and Juliet waited for the Jell-O to set, Mia decided to probe a little to see if she could get the monosyllabic woman to open up. "So, I’ve never seen you around campus. What’s your major?"

"American Studies."

"Really? That’s mine, too. Weird … I would have thought we’d have been in the same classes."

"I always try to get all of my classes in on Tuesday through Thursday," Juliet said. "That way I’m free for tournaments and things. I’ve been forced to take some of the worst classes in the major, just because of when the class meets."

"What else do you do for fun, Juliet? I know golf takes up a lot of your time, but where do you hang out?"

"Mmm … nowhere, really. I have a room in a private home not far from here. I eat my meals with the family I live with – so I don’t go out very much. The couple has two young kids, and I watch them in the evenings when the parents go out. I tend to hang around the house a lot."

"Wow … that must inhibit your … love life. I mean … can you have dates stay overnight?"

"Oh, no, Matt and Patricia have asked me not to do that. It sets a bad example for the kids." She shrugged and said, "It’s not a problem, though. I don’t date."

"You don’t?" Mia asked. "At all?"

"No, not really. Not since I’ve been at Berkeley."

"Juliet! You’re a senior! You’re wasting your prime dating years!"

The young woman laughed softly and said, "I’ve had other priorities, Mia. My goal is to make the LPGA tour. After that I can start to concentrate on my social life."

"Damn," Mia said, shaking her head. "Did you date in high school?"

"Yeah." Juliet got up and pulled open the refrigerator. "Think these are ready yet?"

Mia walked over to her and peered over her shoulder. "Yeah, I think they’re close. Let’s have one and then put them back in to firm up a little." She cut 2 generous squares and handed one to Juliet, while letting her own slide down her throat. "Smooth, huh?" she asked when Juliet swallowed.

"Yeah," the taller woman said, smiling. "Really smooth. It didn’t taste like alcohol at all."

"That’s the beauty of the Jell-O shot," Mia said. She sat back down and asked, "Would you be interested in going out on a date or two? I’m sure I could fix you up – if I knew your type."

"Ah … no, really, I’m not in the market." To get the focus off of herself, Juliet asked, "What about you? Are you dating anyone?"

"Mmm … I’m not dating. I’m in love – big time." She gave Juliet a very warm smile and asked, "Wanna see a pic?"

"Uhm … sure." She shrugged, looking less than fascinated, but when Mia went to the refrigerator and removed an action picture from a volleyball game – showing Jordan and Ryan rising in tandem to block a shot, Juliet’s eyes nearly popped from her head.

"This … this is your …?

"Lover," Mia said helpfully. "That’s Jordan Ericsson. You might have seen her play volleyball, but if you missed her there’s still time to catch her in action. She’s on the U.S. Olympic team," she said with a great deal of pride in her voice.

"Wow! She must be great."

"Oh, she is," Mia said. "In many, many ways. Only problem is that she’s in Colorado Springs at the Olympic training facility. We can’t be together until school’s out."

Staring at the picture, Juliet said softly, "It’s horrible to be separated from someone you love, isn’t it?"

"Yeah, it really is." Mia walked back to the refrigerator and took out the Jell-O. "Care for another?"

"Sure. I didn’t even notice that first one."

"Uhm … they tend to catch up with you," Mia said, offering fair warning. "There’s over a cup of vodka in here."

"Is that a lot?"

"It depends on what your goal is," Mia said, wrinkling her nose in a grin. "It’s just about right if you wanna get wasted."

"Wasted, huh?" Juliet asked. "I’ve never been wasted – maybe it’s time."

"Stick with me," Mia said, chuckling. "I’ll make sure your first trip to Wastedville is a pleasant one."

* * * * * * * * * * *

At 10:30, Jamie stood in the doorway, waving to the last of her teammates. As she closed the door, Ryan grabbed her from behind, then turned her and pinned her into the corner where she pounced upon her lips. Raining a torrent of kisses upon her sweet lips, Ryan growled as she pressed her hips against Jamie’s, murmuring, "Finally, a way to get my blood moving again."

Jamie slapped her hard on the butt, unable to stop giggling. "You’re such a bad girl, Ryan O’Flaherty. I looooove bad girls." She gave her a rough squeeze and said, "Help me clean up a little and I’ll let you do as many bad things to me as you want."

"Mmm … motivation," the brunette said, releasing her captive. They started to pick up a wealth of paper cups, plates and napkins, and when Ryan’s hands were full she popped the kitchen door open with her hip. The dark woman let out a gasp when she spotted Mia and Juliet, sitting – or, rather slumping at the kitchen table. "What in the hell is going on in here?" she asked.

Jamie came scampering over, peering around Ryan’s shoulder to get a good look. The two drunken women looked up at them, two pairs of unfocused eyes trying to think of an appropriate response. "We’re doing Jell-O shots," Mia said, her words slightly slurred. "Want one?" She looked down at the empty glass baking dish and scratched her head. "We made two batches. Where’d they all go?"

"Right to your heads," Ryan said, walking into the room and depositing the trash she carried onto the counter. Turning to Jamie, she said, "Help me load Juliet into the car. I’ll take her home." Twitching her head towards Mia, she added, "You can get Sir Drinks A Lot into bed."

"No, no, I’ll take Juliet," Jamie said. "I know where she lives."

"All right. Let’s get Mia into bed, and we can take off."

"You don’t need to go with, love. I’d rather you stayed and kept an eye on Mia."

"Are you sure?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, I’m positive. Put the rest of the things in a trash bag, carry Mia to bed, and by the time you’re in bed I’ll be back."

"I’m not undressing her," Ryan said firmly. "She’s so damned ticklish, it’s like wrestling a puma."

"I don’t need undressing," Mia said, her dignity still intact. "Only Jordy undresses me." As she said those words, she started to cry. "I miss my Jordy." She laid her head on the table and sobbed, with Juliet trying to find her back to pat it.

Ryan met Jamie’s eyes and said, "No more parties. Clean-up is a bitch!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

With Ryan’s help, they poured Juliet into the BMW, then Jamie dashed around to the driver’s side. "I’m gonna have to help her get into bed, so it might take me a few minutes. She lives with a family – and I’m sure they wouldn’t like to have the kids find her passed out in the hallway."

"Don’t be long," Ryan said. "Do you have your cell phone?"

"Of course. I’ll be back as soon as I can, love. Be nice to Mia, okay? She’s awfully sad."

"I will," Ryan said, smiling. "I’ll nicely dump her butt into bed."

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie pulled into the driveway of the home where Juliet lived, she was pleased to see the lights out. At least I don’t have to attempt this maneuver in front of an audience. "Okay, Juliet, I’d appreciate some help here." She went over to her friend’s side of the car, and found that Juliet was a bit more cooperative than she’d been a few minutes earlier. "The fresh air must have revived you a little," she said.

Working together, they got up to the house, and Jamie got the key into the door – hoping fervently that there was no alarm. When nothing chimed, beeped or buzzed, she smiled to herself and helped Juliet up the stairs. Luckily, the golfer was sober enough to find her own room, and after stumbling and crashing into the wall once or twice, they reached the door. Jamie got it open, then helped Juliet in, looking around quickly to make sure they were in the right place. When all she saw were textbooks on a desk, and an LPGA calendar on the bare walls, she knew they’d hit pay dirt.

"Okay, Juliet," Jamie said as she got her to the bed. "I’ll get your shoes off, then I’ll help you with your jeans. After that – you’re on your own."

"’Kay," the taller woman said, struggling to get that much out.

When Jamie had her as undressed as she was willing to go, she pulled down the covers and helped her into a horizontal position. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, she asked, "Are you going to be all right? I worry that you won’t be able to get to the bathroom without hurting yourself."

"Fine," she said, pointing in the direction of the bath. Jamie got up and made sure the path was unobstructed, then turned the light on, pulling the door halfway closed so Juliet could find it during the night.

Returning to the bed, Jamie said, "I’m gonna go now. I left your keys on your desk there. I assume the front door will lock behind me," she said, trying to think of what she’d do if that weren’t the case. Shrugging, she said, "I hope you feel okay, tomorrow, even though I’m sure you won’t."

"I have to pee," Juliet said, looking at the bathroom, which seemed very far away.

Taking pity on her, Jamie helped her up, then waited outside the door, hoping that Juliet didn’t lose any of her Jell-O shots. She heard her friend noisily brush her teeth, which seemed like a good sign, then Juliet emerged, looking a little more put-together.

Jamie got her back to the bed, but the larger woman just sat on the edge of the bed, rather than lying down. "Thanks for the help," she said, her voice still slurred, but understandable.

"Hey, no problem. I’ve been in worse shape." Jamie reached over and ruffled Juliet’s hair.

Jamie was surprised when Juliet grasped her hand and held it to her cheek, nuzzling her face against the palm. "You’re such a nice woman," she said, sighing.

"No problem," Jamie said. "We’re teammates, Juliet. You’d do the same for me."

"No one else would," she said, a few tears sliding down her cheeks. "No one else cares enough."

"Hey, don’t say that," Jamie said, her maternal instincts coming out in full force. "You’re a very nice person. You don’t let people get to know you."

"I … I can’t," she said, sounding defeated. "I just can’t."

Jamie stroked her back with her free hand, feeling sorry for the woman – who obviously had some serious problems with intimacy. "Sure you can, Juliet. You have to be more open with people, and let them get to know the real you. But you can do it."

"No, no, I can’t," she said again, crying harder. "I’m so damned lonely."

"Hey," Jamie said softly, stroking her hair, "you don’t have to be lonely. You’re a nice woman, you’re very attractive, and you’re gonna be a big success in your field. I think you’re quite a catch, Juliet."

Suddenly, the larger woman’s arms were around Jamie’s waist, and Juliet was holding on tight, crying her eyes out. Jamie didn’t know what to do, so she continued to stroke her hair and her shoulders, murmuring soothing words. "Come on, now, lie down," Jamie said.

Juliet did as she was told, but she failed to remove her arms from Jamie’s waist first. The pair tumbled to the bed, their legs entwined. For a second, Jamie was too surprised to move, but when Juliet started kissing her chest, making her way towards her mouth, the shock turned to outrage. "Hey!" Jamie got her hands between them and pushed Juliet roughly, then disentangled her legs and stood up. "Don’t you ever try anything like that again!" she said, her face flushed with anger. "Only Ryan touches me that way!" She straightened her shirt, then ran her hands through her hair, trying to control her temper.

By this time Juliet was crying helplessly, and Jamie’s conscience reminded her that scolding the woman at this point was a complete waste of time. "Juliet," she said, putting her hand on her leg, "get some rest and try to sleep it off. I know that being drunk can make you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do."

"I’m sorry," she got out, sobbing roughly.

"It’s all right," Jamie said, soothingly. "Just go to sleep. We’ll talk about this later."

"Do you hate me?" she asked timidly.

"Of course not. Not at all. Now, just relax, will you? I’ll see you on Monday morning."

"I’m sorry, Jamie," she said once again. "I’m so sorry. I couldn’t help it …"

"We’ll talk later, Juliet. Now, get some sleep, and try to feel better, okay?"

"All right."

A few tears were still sliding down her cheeks, and Jamie gave her a compassion-filled look and said, "It’s all right, Juliet. Don’t worry about it."

"I’m sorry," she murmured, lying down with a heavy thump.

"Goodnight," Jamie said, quickly backing out of the room before she had to hear another apology. As soon as she was on the street, she called the house, and Ryan answered on the first ring. "Hi, speedy. I just left the house, so I’ll be home in a few. I didn’t want you to worry."

"Oh, good. I wanted to get into bed, but I wasn’t gonna take my clothes off until you were home. I wanted to be able to come get you if you ran into any trouble."

"I’m fine, hon. Get in bed on my side and warm it up for me, will ya?"

"Will do. Hurry home, baby-doll."


Ryan shrugged, even though Jamie couldn’t see her. "They just pop out. Lord knows why."

"I’ll be right there," Jamie said, smiling at the image of her partner, knowing that she had likely shrugged her broad shoulders when she was explaining herself.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When Jamie got home a few minutes later, her side of the bed was toasty warm – at least it looked warm underneath Ryan’s soundly sleeping body. Well, I guess we’re switching sides, the blonde decided, getting in on the other side. Ryan immediately cuddled up to her, her warm, sleep-heavy body feeling like a familiar, warm blanket. Damn, Juliet, Jamie sighed, I can’t believe you had the nerve to make a move on me after you saw your competition. Do you have a death wish?

* * * * * * * * * * *

After sleeping in, and taking a few minutes to check on Mia, Jamie and Ryan went to Noe Valley to spend the day with the family. Martin and Maeve and Caitlin had saved them seats at Mass, and the five-some spent the service passing Caitlin from one person to the other – playing the usual game of "who can entertain a 16-month-old for more than 10 minutes."

Ryan had possession of the toddler when it was time to file out of the pew for communion, and as usual, she and Jamie stood side-by-side in the line. It wasn’t a common thing at their parish, but a few couples stood next to one another while receiving the Eucharist, and Ryan liked the idea, so she and Jamie had adopted the practice not long after they’d started attending St. Phil’s. When they got near the front of the line, the usher directed them to a Eucharistic Minister who stood to the right of Father Pender. Jamie started to go where she was directed, but Ryan tugged on her, staying right where she was. Jamie looked up at her quizzically, then shot a glance at the man from whom they were supposed to receive the sacrament. He gave her a very perturbed look, but she merely shrugged slightly, waiting for Father Pender as Ryan was intent on doing.

After Mass, they went out to the patio to purchase some coffee and donuts that the parish Girl Scout troop was offering. While they waited in line, Jamie asked, "Hey, why were you so intent on receiving communion from Father Pender?"

"Oh, I wasn’t," Ryan said. "I didn’t like the alternative."

"Well, that guy was pissed off. He gave me a look like he wanted to throttle me."

"No, honey, he was giving us that look before we were directed to go to him. That’s why I refused to do it. That kindly soul is Robert Andrews, Sara’s dad."

"Oh! So, I wasn’t imagining the look!"

"Nope. As soon as he saw us, he started to put a puss on. No way I’m having him try to choke me with a communion wafer."

While they were chatting, Father Pender came up to say hello. Martin and Maeve were sitting at a table with Caitlin, everyone knowing that having the child near the donut table was a recipe for disaster. "Siobhán, Jamie, how are you both?"

"We’re good," Ryan said. "Buy you a cup of coffee, Father?"

"That’d be lovely," he said, smiling.

"Could you steer me to a list of good retreat houses, Father?" Ryan asked. "I’m thinking about going away for a week this summer, and I’d like to find a good place."

"Oh, certainly. What type are you looking for?"

"Well, I’m not sure how many options there are," she said.

"There are more styles of retreat than snakes in Ireland before St. Patrick," he said, his eyes crinkling up. "Stop by the rectory before you leave. My secretary has a list of all of the places in the Archdiocese."

"Thanks, Father. I will."

Looking at her for a moment, he asked quietly, "How are things going with you personally, Siobhán? Feeling better?"

"Yeah, I’m feeling less guilty about shooting that guy," she said, "but my temper’s still pretty explosive. I’m about out of cheeks to turn, Father."

"You’ll get there," he said, gripping her shoulder. "You’re a very forgiving girl."

"Up until now I have been," she said, "but I’ve never really been tested before."

Jamie gave her a look that questioned her sanity, and Ryan chuckled softly, "Okay, I guess I have been pretty even-tempered before now. My reserves are dangerously low."

"Time and prayer will help you store up all the reserves you need," the priest assured her.

"I hope the reserves are back up before I need them," Ryan said. "I don’t want to find out what I’m capable of."

* * * * * * * * * * *

Martin and Maeve stayed behind to socialize, since Caitlin had found a boyfriend and was playing happily with the little fellow. On the walk home, Jamie held Ryan’s hand, looking up to ask, "How are you feeling?"

"Uhm … good?" Ryan replied.

"Nice and peaceful? Full of good will towards your fellow person?"

"Who am I going to want to kill, and why?" Ryan asked, giving Jamie’s hand a squeeze.

"Mmm … maybe Juliet."

Stopping dead in her tracks, the blue eyes narrowed and Ryan turned slowly, gazing at Jamie for several seconds before she asked, "What did she do?"

"Uhm … you know how drunk she was last night, honey …"

Giving her a look that could peel paint, Ryan repeated herself, slowly this time. "What … did … she … do?"

Knowing that she was unable to make it sound better than it was, Jamie told the tale. "I got her into bed and she started crying, saying that no one liked her and things like that. I patted her back and smoothed her hair a little bit – just being nice," she said. "She either got the wrong impression from that, or she just lost it, because she put her arms around me and we fell onto the bed together. She uhm … kissed my chest, and my neck, and was on her way to moving up when I pushed her away and got up. I told her off, Ryan, and warned her to never do anything like that again."

Jamie looked up at her partner, practically able to see steam coming out of her ears. Without a word, Ryan turned and started to walk home, her grip on Jamie’s hand just short of painful. Knowing that her partner needed a few minutes to calm down, Jamie didn’t say a word. When they got to the house, Ryan strode up to the BMW and beeped the doors open. As she started to get in, Jamie asked, "Where are you going?"

"We’re going to Berkeley," she said, her voice flat, but bursting with menace.

"Oh, no, we’re not. No, way, Ryan!"

"There is no way in hell that I’m gonna let her get away with that, Jamie. You are not some piece of meat that she can paw whenever she wants to."

"I’m also not an airhead who can’t protect herself," the blonde said, her voice starting to rise.

"Get in the car!"

"I will not!"

"Get in!"


Jamie started for the stairs, not slowing down when she heard the car door slam loudly.

Conor and Kevin were in the kitchen when Jamie entered, and they called out a greeting. Before Jamie could reply, Ryan strode into the house, saying only one word – in a very loud voice. "Downstairs!"

Rolling her eyes at the boys, who each gave her a wide-eyed look, Jamie shook her head and followed her furious partner down to their room. Closing the door, Jamie gently pushed her partner down onto the loveseat and straddled her. "Listen to me," she said, her cheeks pink with anger, "you have every right to be upset by someone trying to touch me against my will, but it was me who was touched, Ryan. I’m the one who should be indignant – not you. I’m not your property, and I don’t like being treated as such. Now, calm down and chill." She got up and went to the built-in drawers, pulling out a sweater and a pair of jeans. While Jamie changed, Ryan didn’t say a word, she just sat on the loveseat, looking like she was about to explode.

When Jamie was finished, Ryan rose, changed into sweats and laced up a pair of running shoes. "I’m going out for a run," she said, not waiting for a response.

The blonde shook her head and went upstairs to chat with the boys, trying to think of an excuse for her partner’s bad manners that wouldn’t reveal anything too personal.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Ryan was gone for a long time – a very long time. Jamie had called her father, her mother, her grandfather, and had made a good dent in her accounting homework by the time the sweat-drenched woman returned home.

Jamie looked up from her book, trying to meet Ryan’s eyes to see if the dark woman’s mood had brightened. From her initial glance, it seemed unlikely, and she mentally rolled her eyes – hoping that their entire day wasn’t going to be ruined. But Ryan surprised her; sitting down on her desk chair and gazing at Jamie with a contrite look. "I’m sorry for how I behaved. I don’t have a lot of control now, Jamie. My mouth gets away from me."

The blonde reached out and stroked Ryan’s wet arm. "I know things are hard for you, honey. Having something like this happen doesn’t help the situation in the least."

"No, it doesn’t," Ryan said, nodding. "But I’m in bad shape when I can’t shrug off some woman making a fairly harmless pass at you. I’m not normally jealous of things like that."

"I know you’re not, Ryan. Don’t worry, this will pass."

Ryan sighed, stretching in her chair. "I went over to the church and talked with Da and Maeve for a while," she said. "Then Father Villareal came over, and I asked him for some advice. But even after having 3 people, whose opinions I trust tell me the same thing – I was still steamed. So, I ran until I could finally feel my anger start to dissipate." She chuckled softly, and said, "It’s a good thing I don’t know where Juliet lives, ‘cause I could have easily made it to Berkeley – on foot."

"I can handle her, Ryan. I’m gonna tell her in no uncertain terms that she is never allowed to touch me again. I won’t stand for that kind of crap – from anyone. I feel sorry for her because she seems so lost and alone – but I don’t feel sorry enough to let her touch me."

"I know you can handle yourself, Jamie. I have to make the irrational part of my brain listen to the rational side a little more."

"Hey," the blonde said, giving Ryan a sultry smile, "remember when we were on our honeymoon and you told me that your father said you should always get naked to have an argument?"

"Yeah," Ryan said, nodding. "Are we still arguing?"

"Noooo … but it might be a nice way to make up. Let’s hop in the shower and see if we can wash away some of the remnants of our little spat."

"But you’re not dirty," Ryan said, giving Jamie a sexy grin.

Standing, Jamie extended her hand and pulled her partner to her feet. "I can be as dirty as the next girl – given the right motivation. Come motivate me, hot stuff."

* * * * * * * * * * *

After their make-up shower and a nice nap, the girls went upstairs to socialize a bit. Martin and Maeve had come over to start Sunday dinner, and Brendan, Maggie, Conor, Rory and Kevin were all jammed into Conor’s room, watching a basketball game. Since there wasn’t room for them in the bedroom, Jamie and Ryan went into the kitchen to chat with Martin and Maeve. Ryan sat on a stool and pulled her partner to her, nuzzling her neck and hugging her constantly. "Looks like someone’s feeling a little better," Martin said, giving his daughter a wry look.

"Nah, this is how we fight," Ryan said, kissing a path across the back of Jamie’s neck, while the blonde giggled and wriggled on her lap.

"Why don’t we fight like that, Marty?" Maeve asked, giving her husband a bump with her hip. "The girls have the best ideas."

"It’s never too late to learn a few new tricks," he said. "Maybe we should fight right now." He wrapped his arms around his bride and started to kiss her neck with as much gusto as his daughter had just demonstrated.

"My eyes! My eyes!" Ryan cried, dramatically cupping her hands over the bright blue orbs.

Jamie laughed at her partner’s antics, while encouraging the older couple. "Go for it, Martin!"

"I’ve had to get used to seeing the two of you rubbing against each other like a pair of cats in a sack. It’s high time you had a dose of your own medicine," he said, laughing evilly while he continued to kiss the giggling Maeve.

Ryan pushed her partner from her lap and ran from the room. "I’m gonna go watch the game – if my retinas haven’t been burned out!"

* * * * * * * * * * *

The only spot available to Ryan was on the floor, next to her cousin. "I haven’t had much time to talk to you lately, buddy. How’s it going living with us and the boys?"

"Good," Kevin said, smiling brightly. "Better than I thought, really. It’s like when Tommy and Michael were still at home. Ya know, I think I’d rather stay here than move back to my ma’s place."

"Have you told your mom that, Kevin? You know, the whole reason they’re gonna move to Niall’s is to give you the house."

"I’ve kinda hinted at it," he said, "but we haven’t had a serious discussion. I guess we should, though. I like being around the guys, Ryan, and it’s nice to share the responsibilities, not to mention the expenses. Now that we’ve gotten rid of that ‘no overnight guests’ thing, it’s perfect living here."

‘Do my father and your mother know you’ve abolished the rule?" Ryan asked with an impish grin.

"What they don’t know won’t hurt them," Kevin said, adding a wink.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Tommy, Annie and Caitlin joined the already full house, and while they were eating, Ryan brought the subject up again. "When is Niall’s place supposed to be ready?"

"It’s going well," Martin said. "I think, a few weeks, at the maximum."

"Well, Ryan and I were talking about it, and I don’t think I want to move back to the house, Ma," Kevin said. "I like living with the guys."

"Really?" Maeve asked. "Well, goodness, Kevin, if you don’t want the house, it doesn’t make any sense for us to move."

Ryan had a hard time keeping the obvious signs of relief from her face. A persistent thread of worry had been niggling at her over the thought of her father and aunt moving several miles away, and the possibility that they would stay right where they were was overwhelmingly heartening.

Martin sensed her relief and said, "If we don’t have to go, we’ll stay right where we are. I need to stay close to keep my eye on you children." He spoke to all, but his eyes were firmly planted on his smiling daughter. "I’ve been worried about prowlers," he said, scowling a bit. "I saw a young woman walking down the stairs just after dawn the other morning. I think she may have been casing the joint."

Conor, Rory, and Kevin all put on their most innocent faces, no one willing to confess to that particular encounter.

Partially to deflect the focus from his brother and cousins, Tommy piped up and said, "If you don’t take Niall’s, I think Annie and I might. Our place is too small to change our minds in, and we just found out we’re getting another rent increase. We’ve got to do something."

"Well, that would work, Tom," Martin said. "Although we’d hate to have you so far away."

"Oh, my yes," Maeve said. "Sunset is far too distant to walk to."

"It can’t be that far. You were going to live there, Mom," Tommy said. "It’s too good of an opportunity for all of us to pass up. The rent is less than we currently pay, and the place is twice as big."

"I realize that," she said. "I just wish there were a better way."

"Well, it’s not decided," he said. "Let’s see how things go."

"All right," Maeve said, but it was obvious she was very unhappy at the thought of Caitlin being so far away.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Continued in Part 4

Return to Main Page