Disclaimers in Part 1

Chapter Ten

When Jamie called her mother on Tuesday, neither woman mentioned the incident with Cassie. Catherine asked about the ride and quizzed her daughter a little bit on her preparations, but she seemed perfectly normal, and their interaction was the same as always. The incident still puzzled Jamie, but she finally chalked it up as unexplainable and got back to her studying.

When she got home from her last class, the keys to her car were lying on the floor under the mail slot. A sealed note explained that Ryan was working on an important problem for her biology class and, since she needed her computer to do some computations, they wouldn't be able to meet at all that evening.

Jamie was unreasonably depressed to not even be allowed to kiss Ryan's sweet lips and she spent more time than she should have moping in her room. At eight o'clock her phone rang and a little smile graced her face when she heard the familiar voice. "I miss you," the deep voice murmured.

"I miss you too," Jamie agreed. "It seems like forever since I've kissed you."

"It almost is forever," Ryan concurred. "It was a whole 24 hours ago."

"If you'd let me, I'd drive over to your house for a good night kiss," she offered.

Ryan paused for a long minute but finally said, "I don't think that's a good idea, as tempting as it is, Jamie. I'm really having a hard time concentrating. It worked well when you were with me on Sunday, but seeing you for a little bit and getting all worked up just isn't working for me. I don't really need to come back to Berkeley this week since my last class was today and my first test isn't until Monday. Would it be too terrible for you if we didn't see each other this week?"

Jamie was stunned that Ryan would even ask such a thing. She tried to force herself to be mature and sensitive to her lover's needs, but was wounded that she could even make the suggestion. As the silence stretched on for a while, Ryan realized that she wasn't taking well to the idea. "Jamie," she said softly. "I'm sorry if that hurt your feelings. I just don't know what else to do. I want to see you and touch you so bad my teeth ache, but after we touch for a while you're all I can think about."

"Ryan, I know things are hard for you right now, but I don't think I can concentrate if I don't see you at all. Isn't there some other way?"

"Well, you could stay over here until finals are over. We'd at least be in the same house."

"But we couldn't sleep together," she said glumly.

"No, I don't think Da would like that. Saturday was an exception, but I don't think he'd want us to continue that."

"Why don't you come sleep with me?" she asked tentatively.

"But Jamie, you know there's no way to avoid Cassie and Mia."

"I have some good news on that front," she said brightly. "I told Mia last night, and she took it really well. She wouldn't mind if you came over, and after we talked she really insulted Cassie, so I doubt that she'll come home."

Ryan was quiet for a few minutes, so quiet that Jamie finally asked, "Tell me what's going through your mind."

A deep sigh began the reply. "I…I just don't feel right sneaking into your house, Jamie," she said softly. "I mean, I guess it shouldn't bother me, since I've done it so many times before, but something about it really gets to me."

Jamie's return sigh was just as deep. "I think I know what it is," she said softly. "You told me that you never want me to feel ashamed of our love. And even though I think you know that I'm not ashamed, a little part of you is still hurt by having to hide."

"I guess you're right," Ryan agreed. "It's just such a joyous time for me that it really hurts to have to sneak around. It just seems to put a bad taste in my mouth. I'm sorry, Jamie, I really am," she sighed. "But it's really starting to get to me."

"Let me think for a minute," Jamie said, rather brusquely. "I'll call you back."

Ryan started to protest, since it was obvious that she had hurt her lover's feelings, but the phone had gone dead before she could utter a word.

Almost 15 minutes passed before the phone rang. Ryan had actually been pacing across the living room floor for 10 of those minutes, driving Conor and her father slightly mad. Both men were watching the Giants play the Dodgers, but the incessant pacing was diverting their attention. "Who says love is bliss?" Conor muttered just loudly enough for his father to hear.

All three O'Flaherty's were relieved when Jamie's happy-sounding voice came through the phone. "You have twenty minutes to pack," Jamie informed her briskly. "Bring everything you need for the week—including your computer."

"What? Jamie, we don't have to do this," Ryan urged. "I know you're not ready to tell…"

"I'm not telling anyone anything," she reassured her. "Now pack up and kiss your father goodbye, Ryan. I'll be there soon."

Conor poked his head out of the bedroom door to see his sister standing in the middle of the room, receiver still in her hand, dial tone echoing loudly. "Uhh, Ryan?" he said softly, trying not to startle her. "You okay?"

She shook her head to clear it and gazed at him for a minute. "I'm gonna be gone for a few days," she mumbled as she started to walk to her room.

"Where are you going?" he asked her departing form, narrowing his eyes at her normal bedtime attire of an old t-shirt and baggy sweats.

"Don't know," she replied as she shrugged her shoulders.

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

Jamie was a little optimistic on her estimate; the drive actually took her 30 minutes. Ryan needed every minute--getting her clothes ready was not a problem, but she had a massive amount of books, notebooks, lab notes and floppy disks that she regularly used. She had recruited Conor to help her load everything into a big box and they were just finishing when Jamie came running down the stairs in an ebullient mood. Conor greeted her warmly and started up the stairs with the heavy box. "Be back for the computer," he called as he climbed the stairs.

"All set?" the perky blonde asked.

"I guess so," Ryan replied with a rather helpless look on her face. "Did Cassie move out or something?"

"Nope." Jamie started to carry Ryan's suitcase up the stairs but she stopped and asked, "Did you pack your swimsuit?"

"Huh? No, of course not." Putting her hands on her hips she demanded, "Jamie, what's going on?"

"All in due time, my dear. Just stuff a suit in here and let's get shaking!"

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

The Boxster was filled to capacity once Conor got everything loaded into the very petite trunk. They had to remove Jamie's suitcase in order to squeeze in Ryan's books, but they finally got the trunk closed. Conor and Martin stood on the sidewalk in front of the house. "Goodbye, Darlin'," Martin said as he kissed his youngest. "Have fun or study hard or, well, be safe," he finally decided since he had no knowledge of her itinerary.

"Oh, I'll take very good care of her, Martin. I promise to return her on Friday well fed, well rested, and ready for her exams."

"I trust you completely, Jamie," he said fondly. "I know my precious one is in good hands." He kissed the smaller woman and hugged Ryan again. Then Conor did the same to both of them.

"See you soon, I guess," Ryan said, still looking shell-shocked. Conor hoisted Jamie's suitcase over the door through the open window and Ryan spent a moment maneuvering it into a comfortable place. When she was finished, she waved at her family, a nearly dumbstruck expression on her face.

As they drove off, Conor opined, "I've never ever seen her so compliant?"

Martin laughed at that characterization but he had to admit it was accurate. "You'll be the same some day, lad," he predicted.

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

Jamie drove since Ryan had no idea where they were headed. It appeared that they were headed for the Berkeley house, but she took a different turn and went towards Oakland. A few minutes after they left the freeway, they pulled into the massive grounds of The Claremont Hotel. Ryan had seen the huge white edifice many times, but had never actually been on the grounds. Looking around excitedly she asked, "Are we staying here?"

"Yep," Jamie said firmly. "We're staying here until Friday. I'm paying so don't even bother to argue. We're going to pamper ourselves outrageously," she declared.


Jamie quickly cut off Ryan's protest, "I can't stand to be around Cassie for another minute, and I can't stay at your house and not sleep with you—it just drives me crazy! So even if you don't want to join me, I decided to do this. I just want to study and have someone else take care of every need. Room service…maid service…swimming pool…Jacuzzi tub…"

"SOLD!" Ryan agreed as they pulled up in front of the valet.

Exhibiting her typical take-charge attitude, Jamie hopped out and began instructing the bellman on how to unload the car. Their luggage looked a little odd, consisting of two computer towers, two monitors, one printer and two small suitcases, but the young man took it in stride.

That attitude continued as Jamie dealt with the pleasant woman at the front desk. "We need the top floor," she instructed. "The quietest room that you have. We're working on an important project and we need privacy."

"How many beds?" the woman asked, with a completely neutral expression.

"One king bed," she replied firmly, obviously, not afraid of coming out to strangers.

"Hmm," the clerk mused as she considered her choices. "I'd say the quietest room we have is in the rear corner of the hotel, facing the hills. But that's a suite…"

"Fine," Jamie informed her briskly. "Four nights."

"Are you sure?" she asked, looking closely at the young woman in front of her, seemingly for the first time. The confident young woman met her gaze evenly. She wore a dark green fleece lined anorak, a gold turtleneck and a pair of jeans, and could have passed for a high school student. Ryan didn't help matters much, dressed as she was, in her hooded 'Cal' sweatshirt and jeans. Their luggage was on a cart right next to them and they looked like what they were--students from Berkeley trying to have a little peace during finals. To avoid potential misunderstandings, the woman printed off a sheet that showed the charge for the room and the applicable tax and parking fee and handed it to Jamie.

She cast a cursory glance, handed it back with a smile and her platinum American Express card and said, "I'll need two keys."

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

The bellman that escorted them chattered non-stop on the short elevator ride. He was about their age, and it was obvious that he was intensely curious about the two young women he was escorting.

He started with Ryan. "So how long are you planning on being in the Bay Area?"

She replied with her normal habit of responding only to the question she was asked. "Mmm, I suppose the rest of my life," she said thoughtfully. "You're not planning on leaving, are you, Jamie?" she asked as she turned her gaze to her partner.

"Nope. I think we're lifers," she agreed.

"Oh! You're locals?" he asked.

"Yep," Ryan replied, once again giving the barest response.

"Here for a convention?" he tried again.


His brow was furrowed in concentration and frustration as he tried to find a way to pry information out of the enigmatic raven-haired woman. As usual Jamie couldn't stand the silence and she offered, "We're students at Cal. We just need a quiet place to study for a few days."

He gave her a look that implied he had heard better stories, but he quickly put on his polite face and said, "I hope you enjoy yourselves then." He walked ahead of them down the hall, and the smaller woman could not stop herself from pinching her tall partner as they walked after him.

"Brat!" she whispered.

Ryan gave her normal 'who me?' look as the bellman opened the door and guided their things into the spacious room. "Here we are," he announced as he spent a few minutes showing them all of the amenities.

Jamie was satisfied with both the layout and the orientation of the lovely room. It faced the gently rolling Oakland hills, giving them a nice view of homes and young trees. A tragic fire had dramatically altered this view, but the homeowners had done their best to replant with varieties of trees that would not explode in a fire the way the firs and eucalyptus had done. Since the new homes were so outrageously large, the landscape would never approach its former beauty, but it was still a lovely view. "I do need a modem line," she announced. "Is there one?"

"Oh yes," he replied. The jack was conveniently located right next to the small writing desk that she had already decided would be Ryan's.

"One more thing," she said, looking around quickly. "I need another desk chair. Can you help me out?"

"I'll arrange to have one sent up," he confidently replied. "Anything else, ma'am?"

"No that's fine," she said, handing him $20.

He left with a smile and a promise to have the chair sent up. Ryan gave her a curious look and asked, "$20?"

"Yes, that seemed about right," she said thoughtfully. "He was with us for almost a half hour, the box of your books was really heavy, and he was very careful with the computer equipment. I usually give $3 a bag and I think this stuff is the equivalent of about seven bags."

"I think that's sweet," Ryan said as she gave her a squeeze and a kiss on the forehead.

"What is?"

"That you really think that out. You considered how heavy the stuff was and acknowledged that it was kind of hard to wrangle it all up here without dropping anything." She cocked her head a bit and added, "I just really like the way you treat people in the service industry. You act like they're professionals too."

"Well they are," she said easily. "You don't have to have a title to deserve respect for doing a good job."

"That's what I think is sweet," Ryan restated as she swooped her into her arms and flopped onto the bed. "You're very sweet and very tasty," she growled as she tossed her onto her back and started to nibble on her neck.

But Jamie placed her hands flat against her lover's chest and reminded her, "Study time, Tiger. Let's get organized and do a little work tonight."

"Party pooper," Ryan grumbled as she got to her feet and pulled her partner up with her.

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

It took a good twenty minutes to get organized, but when they were finished they were both satisfied that they could get their work done very nicely in the comfortable room. Jamie chose to work at the table near the window, and once her desk chair was delivered, it was just perfect. Ryan took the writing table, and as soon as she was hooked up, she sat down at her chair and started working. Jamie needed a little more time to ease into studying, so she spent a little while unpacking their clothes and neatly arranging their things in the large dresser. In her rush, Ryan had not brought any toiletries and Jamie chuckled to herself that her partner would probably not even get up to shower if she wasn't there to remind her to.

After she pulled a can of Diet Coke from the mini-bar, she sat cross-legged on the bed and started to organize her notes for the paper that she had to write. The evening zoomed by; the next thing she knew, it was eleven o'clock. After a few stretches she walked over to her partner and started playing with her hair. "Hey," Ryan said absently. "Need something?"

"Yeah," she whispered into her ear. "I need you—in my bed."

That broke Ryan's concentration and after a few more keystrokes she shut down her computer and stood to stretch for a few minutes. "I could work for a couple of more hours," she mused as she checked her watch.

"I'm sure you could," Jamie replied as she reached for the hem of the dark blue sweatshirt and started to tug it over her partner's head. "But I promised your father I'd make sure you were rested. I know you'll be up by six, so I've got to put you to sleep relatively early."

Ryan stood there in her jeans and a gray ribbed knit t-shirt that Jamie had recently bought for her. "You look nice in this," the blonde murmured as her hands glided up Ryan's smooth back. "And I love it when you don't wear a bra." As her hands slid down to unbutton the snug jeans, she asked, "What color are your shorts?"

"Not wearing shorts," Ryan whispered in her ear, as her own hands buttoned back up. "I was already in my jammies when you called, so I just threw on my jeans. "I didn't think ahead to the ritual undressing," she said with one wiggling eyebrow.

"Are you gonna sleep in the nude?" Jamie asked teasingly.

"Not for another four weeks," she replied with a look of regret. "I brought underwear. But since you seem to care, you can decide on color."

"Hmm," she said appraisingly as she squinted and tried to imagine the different combinations. "Let's go with white. The gray/white combo is a bit unconventional, but so are you," she added as she slapped her partner rather hard on the butt.

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

Ryan feared that they would spend half an hour wrestling with their desires and her self-control, but to her amazement, when Jamie got into bed she kissed her sweetly and whispered, "Goodnight, Ryan."

"That's it?!" the stunned woman asked. "One kiss?"

"Yep. We're here to study. I have no interest in getting all hot and bothered and spending the night frustrated. Let's just be loving rather than passionate towards each other for the next few days." Seeing the amazed look on her lover's face she teased, "Think you can control yourself?"

"Uhh yeah, I think I can," Ryan said. As she cuddled her partner against her body she whispered, "Thank you, Jamie. It means a lot to me that you take me seriously when I say I have to work. And I love how you've found a solution that's going to allow each of us to get our needs met."

"My main need is completely satisfied," she sighed as she contentedly cuddled even closer.

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

6 a.m. saw Jamie's prediction come to pass as Ryan slid from her limp embrace and stretched languidly for a few minutes. Nice day, she mused as she surveyed the sun peaking out of the slim band of clouds on the horizon. A delighted little grin graced her face when she considered that she could begin her day with a nice long swim rather than her traditional run. Minutes later she was wrapped in a thick terry cloth robe that the hotel provided and padding down to the very large heated pool.

She didn't swim any longer, but it wasn't for lack of interest. She hadn't really had a pool available to her except for the one at Cal. That one she no longer used since she hated to go to class in the mornings with wet hair, and her evenings were completely occupied by a certain blonde. Swimming was a pleasant change of pace from the pounding of jogging, and she had to admit that she felt more relaxed after a nice long swim. Since her anxiety was building about finals, this seemed like a perfect morning to indulge.

The water was cool, about 80 degrees, but she really appreciated the temperature. Since she swam hard, an overly warm pool was actually unpleasant for her. A few slow laps to warm up and she switched into high gear, grinding out the laps by doing ten each of crawl, back, breast and fly. When she completed a 40-lap set she started over, churning through the water unceasingly until she had completed 200 laps. Her heart was really pumping, and she floated rather unsuccessfully for a few lazy laps of backstroke. After ten minutes in the spa to stay loose, she returned to their room, only to find her partner still sound asleep. She tugged last night's clothes on and ran across the street to Peet's, one of her all-time favorite coffee spots. A nice little bakery next door yielded some delightful pastries, and she crept back into the room a little after 7:30, laden with goodies.

As she expected, her lover's cute little nose twitched a bit as the smell of the lattés and baked goods wafted over to her. Those adorable green eyes blinked open moments after Ryan had arranged everything on the table. "You went out to buy breakfast?" she mumbled as she tried to focus.

"Have you seen these prices?" Ryan asked with wide eyes as she held up the room service menu. "I'm going to the grocery later to buy snacks. No more mini-bar Cokes for you!"

"Yes, Mom," she said contritely as she held out her hand. "Do I get coffee?"

"In bed, no less," Ryan sweetly informed her as she brought the tray over to the bed. The cardboard carrier from Peet's neatly held not only the coffee, but also two flaky pastries for the hungry woman.

"You're the best," she moaned as she gulped down a mouthful of the strongly flavored coffee. "Wow," Jamie said as the full impact of the coffee hit her. "I forget how strong Peet's is. Been out running?" she asked with a cock of her head at Ryan's sweatshirt and jeans.

"Nope. I swam for over an hour. It was bliss," she informed her with a big smile. "You know, I kinda like this lap of luxury stuff."

"It does have its rewards," Jamie had to agree. They ate their breakfast rather quickly, and by eight both were back at work, neither lifting their head until Ryan's stomach began to rumble just at noon.

"We could set our watches by 'Old Faithful' there," Jamie observed as she stared at Ryan's tummy.

"Mmm," Ryan said, completely absorbed by her studies.

"I'm ordering lunch," Jamie informed her. "Want me to chose for you?"

"Mmm," was the absent reply.

"I'll take that as a yes," she decided.

When the tray was delivered twenty minutes later, Ryan swore she had not heard any of the conversation that led to the food's arrival, but she was pleased with Jamie's selections nonetheless. She ate with one hand while she typed with the other, completely absorbed again in a matter of seconds.

This routine was also followed at dinner, but Jamie heard a sharp intake of breath at around seven as Ryan stood up to go to the bathroom.

"What's wrong?"

"Stiff. Very stiff," she added. "I should get up every hour or so but I forget. I really enjoyed my swim, but it stresses muscles in a different way. I'm paying for it now," she admitted.

"How much more work do you have to do tonight?" she asked, hatching a plan.

"Hmm, I'm actually doing great. An hour or so to finish something up and I could stop. Why?"

"Just asking…no reason," she said innocently as Ryan closed the bathroom door.

At eight o'clock on the button, she jumped up to open the door after the gentle knock pulled her from her focus. Ryan actually heard it too and she gave Jamie a very curious glance as a very large, very muscular man in a white polo shirt and white poplin slacks entered the room. "You ordered a massage?" he asked in a slight Slavic accent.

"There's the client," she informed him as she pointed at her partner.

"I'm Vlade," he said as he held out his massive hand to Ryan. She grasped it in reflex, and then shot Jamie a glare. Vlade went back to the door to pull his massage table in. As he was setting up he asked Ryan, "What type of massage do you like?"

Deciding that she was stuck and might as well enjoy it, she revealed, "I like any kind as long as it's deep."

"Excellent!" he boomed. "I like to be able to use my muscles."

Ryan ducked into the bath to drape the pink sheet Vlade provided around her body. Moments later she was face down on the table moaning in delight as Vlade used every one of the muscles in his strong arms and hands to turn her into a quivering ball of mush.

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

As the first glimmer of dawn broke through the open curtains, Ryan stirred and stretched her body out, smiling at the response from her well-rested, well-massaged muscles. She was lying mostly on her stomach, an odd position for her, but the odder sensation was the sheet separating her from her clinging partner. How did we get twisted up in this sheet? she wondered for just a moment. Once she started to investigate, she determined that she was under the sheet and Jamie was on top of it. She found a crucial clue to this situation when she realized that she was as naked as the day she was born. God, I don't remember Vlade leaving, I don't remember getting into bed, and I certainly don't remember Jamie joining me, she marveled. That massage knocked me into another world!

Deciding not to repeat her swim of the previous morning, she tugged on her running gear and silently exited the room, remembering to put $20 in the pocket of her windbreaker for breakfast. When she returned to the room, Jamie was in the shower, so she stripped and dried her body with her t-shirt before slipping into her sweats from the previous day.

The morning passed in the same fashion as the day before, but this time Jamie had ordered her to set one of her watch timers for an hour. Every time the little beep sounded Ryan dutifully got up and spent five minutes stretching on the floor. The break helped keep her body limber throughout the long day, and it helped keep Jamie's motor running as she studiously watched her lover twist and grunt.

For dinner Jamie decided that she needed a Zachary's pizza; her wish became a requirement when Ryan informed her that she had never been to the place. Ryan stayed to finish up her studies for the day; when Jamie returned just after seven, she nearly grabbed the box from her hands. "I frankly don't care how good this is," she said with wide eyes as she yanked the top open. "I'm so hungry I could eat…well, I can't think of anything big enough!" she finally conceded. "But I might have met my match here," she amended as she looked carefully at the food in her hands.

The scrumptious-looking deep-dish pie was stuffed with all of Ryan's favorites: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, red peppers, and black olives. Jamie's assessment of the quality was right on, and Ryan ate with her normal litany of moans, groans, whimpers and exclamations. "This is the best pizza I think I've ever had!" she cried during one small break. "The crust is soooo good. And the sauce is just the right combination of sweet and tart. I love the big pieces of tomato on the top!"

"Told ya," she smirked. "I can't believe that you, of all people, have never had one."

"Word obviously hasn't traveled over the Bay Bridge," she mused. "But Mr. Zachary and I are going to become better acquainted in the very near future!"

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

To help their digestion, they went for a stroll around the grounds of the hotel. There were neat little gardens and tons of tennis courts, but Ryan noticed the fitness course they had set up. "I think I'll do this in the morning," she declared. "I've been getting bored with running."

"Well you know you're going to have to give up running soon anyway," Jamie informed her regretfully.

"What? Why do you say that?"

"Cause I'm not going to let you out of bed," she growled right into her ear, sending chills down Ryan's suddenly warm body.

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

When Jamie came out of the bath after preparing for bed, Ryan was sitting on the bed, a large bottle of Jamie's body lotion in her hand. "Your turn tonight," she declared.


"Yep. Wrap that pretty little body up in a bath sheet and come get it."

The smaller woman did not have to be told twice. She was jumping across the bed in a heartbeat, wrapped only in a big towel.

Ryan put on her usual professional attitude and got to work, expertly moving the towel as she labored, never leaving Jamie's body more exposed than it needed to be. Just to be prudent, Ryan avoided her buttocks and didn't go as high on her thighs as she would in a few weeks. Turning her over onto her back, she took the same precautions, staying well away from any erogenous zones. It took a lot of willpower to avoid sneaking a few peeks, but she didn't really need any more temptation. Just touching Jamie's firm, toned body in this intimate way was more than enough to cause her to throb, and throb she did. When she was finished, Jamie was limp and nearly asleep. She returned the courtesy of the previous night and pulled the sheet up to her chin, gently removing the towel as she did so. When she was ready for bed, she got between the sheet and the bedspread, finding the arrangement to be perfectly cozy if not a little sterile. As she cuddled up to her partner's warm, relaxed body, she felt all of the tensions, sexual and otherwise, leave her, and she sank into a peaceful sleep, dreaming of more intimate massages to come.

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

Ryan kept her promise and ran around the little fitness layout the next morning. It was more fun than just running and she enjoyed it enough to run it three times. Once again she brought breakfast to her partner, again having to wake her to consume it.

"I hate to have you leave me in the morning, but I truly love to wake up to a Danish and a steaming hot latté," she said gratefully as she took a big sip

"Tell the truth, Sleeping Beauty," Ryan playfully chided. "You don't really know I'm gone, do you?"

"Mmm," she batted her big green eyes seductively. "Not consciously, but my body misses you."

"Mine misses you too," Ryan agreed. "It's gonna miss you tonight for sure," she added.

"I was going to bring that up," Jamie said, sitting up completely to order her thoughts. "Do you have to study all weekend?"

Ryan thought for a minute and slowly nodded her head. "I've got a good ten hours to slog through each day. Why?"

"Let's just stay here," she urged. "This is working for you, isn't it?"

"Well, yeah," Ryan agreed. "It's actually been idyllic. I don't have to make meals for myself; I don't have to exercise Duffy. I'd say it's been the most productive studying I've done all year."

"Then why not stay?" she reiterated.

She pursed her lips and considered her reasons, finding that they were purely financial. "I hate to have you spend this kind of money," she explained. "I know you say you'd do it anyway, but it still feels like you're doing it for me. I just feel like I'm taking advantage of you," she said rather shyly.

Jamie carefully placed her coffee on the nightstand, and yanked the sheet from its moorings to carefully wrap it around her bare body. She carefully scooted across the bed to climb into Ryan's lap. "Why won't you let me spoil you once in a while?" she begged as she trailed her fingers down her partner's smooth, warm cheek. "I can easily afford it; it makes me happy; and it's allowed me to study without interruption. I've almost got my big paper done, and if we stayed, I could finish up everything by Sunday."

Ryan could feel her resolve weakening, as it so often did when Jamie was astride her lap. But she felt like she needed to hold out for at least some concession. "Could we go to my house for Sunday dinner?"

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," she promised as she bent to kiss her grinning mouth.

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

Jamie's businesslike mind could not rest until she called down to the front desk and asked to speak to the manager on duty. After a brief conversation she hung up and smirked at her partner. "He cut the room fee by 50% if we stay for another week," she said with a waggling eyebrow. "That will take us through finals for only the cost of the weekend!"

"That's amazing!" Ryan cried. "Especially since we were already here."

"I think he took a peek at how much we've spent on room service and quickly decided that he could give us the room for free and still make a profit," she teased as she patted her partner's perennially empty stomach.

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

The weekend was spent in rapt concentration for both women, with an intense hour-long run through the hills on Sunday as the only break. By late Sunday afternoon, they both felt good about their upcoming finals. Jamie actually only had two tests now that she had finished her final papers, but Ryan had five finals in classes that Jamie could barely pronounce, and her two hardest ones were both on Thursday. The good news was that by Thursday evening they would both be finished for the term.

They drove over to the O'Flaherty home, pleased to find that Maeve would be joining them. They related their adventure of the past few days, causing quite a few laughs when Jamie related how much they had spent on room service. Ryan, of course, got her back when she told of Jamie's negotiations with the manager.

They decided to take Duffy for a long walk in the neighborhood since he was nearly wild with excitement to finally have his mistress home. Ryan spent an extraordinarily long time letting him lick her thoroughly before they left, but it was obvious that the intelligent dog knew his fate. "He knows we're leaving again, doesn't he?" Jamie asked as they bid the family goodbye.

"Oh yeah, he can definitely tell," she agreed, looking at his sad brown eyes. "He's gonna have a tough summer," she said wistfully, anticipating their absence for the AIDS ride as well as Pebble Beach.

"He's just a love junkie like his mommy," Jamie whispered for Ryan's ears only.

"Look who's talking, Cuddle Junkie," Ryan laughed. "Let's get back to our hideout so you can get your jones."

"Mmm, I might be a junkie, but I can only get my fix from you," she purred.

Chapter Eleven

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