I Found My Heart in San Francisco

Book 3: Coalescence

By S X Meagher



See Part 1

***Part 13***

Anxiety over the cameras caused Ryan to rise even earlier than normal. She hadn’t really slept that well, with thoughts of her partner’s anguished face waking her repeatedly. Jamie’s really depending on me to make this right, she mused as she crept around the room, trying to successfully dress herself in the dark. There has to be a way to find out how the system works and to stop the Evans's from ever seeing any evidence of our lovemaking. God, Da knows I’m gay, he knows I’m a horn-dog, and he loves Jamie. With all of that, even he’d freak if he saw photos or tapes of us together…like we were. She blushed a bit as she considered how they had pleased each other in the gym. That wasn’t just sex, she reminded herself with a sly grin. That was…that was…I don’t even know what that was, she laughed to herself. But I want to make sure we do more of whatever it was in the very near future! After a stop in the kitchen for a small snack, she paused in front of the alarm display and shook her head at her own lack of imagination. How in the holy hell did I not understand that "surv" meant surveillance? She was quite angry with herself over her failure not to pursue her question about the various zones, knowing that if she had pressed the issue Jamie would likely have remembered the cameras. Water under the bridge, Ryan. You can’t change the past, but you can get your butt in gear and fix this problem as quickly as you can. Grabbing the keys, she headed over to the gym to investigate her idea of the night before.

Bounding up the stairs, she walked around and looked carefully at the cameras, noting the manufacturer and the model number. Going to the locked door, she checked the lock manufacturer and then went to the phone located on the wall, making a quick, but productive, phone call. After checking a few more minor--but possibly important--details, she felt her anxiety begin to ease now that she was taking some action. Her mood lightened appreciably, she took off for her run, a bounce to her step, singing softly to herself most of the way.

After an hour she was headed back up the drive, but stopped short when she remembered that there was a very attractive alternative to cooling off in the shower. By the time she reached the pool house most of her clothes were off, and she reflected on how delicious it felt to be able to strip outdoors. She kicked off her shoes as she entered and immediately dove in, using a racing start. The water felt divine, and after 20 graceful laps she hopped out. She was just about to grab a towel and dry off when a childlike grin crossed her face as a delicious sounding idea lodged in her head. Leaving her clothes where they lay, she opened the door of the glass building and stood on the stone entryway for a few minutes, gauging the safety of her plan.

Since she had awakened so early it was only 6:45, and she was fairly confident that no one would be on the grounds that early, even if they did have business to attend to. Deciding the reward was worth the risk, she started to run across the wide expanse of perfectly manicured grass that separated the pool house from the oceanside cliff.

Naked as the day she was born, chlorine-scented water droplets covering her body, the lanky woman began to cover ground at a quick clip–no destination in mind. Her goal was not to reach a destination at all–it was to revel in the journey. And today’s journey consisted of enjoying the delightful sensation of running on thick, spongy grass on a dark, foggy morning, completely naked.

One of Ryan’s favorite sensations was to expose every inch of her skin to the great outdoors. When she was a small child, her parents fought a constant battle to keep clothes on her, and she had never lost the desire to feel the kiss of a breeze on normally covered skin. The dense population of San Francisco prevented her from indulging her wish very often, but this isolated, protected estate was made to order. She had traveled only a hundred yards or so when the telltale hiss of an automatic sprinkler alerted her just prior to erupting from the lawn and emitting a fine, cold spray in a wide, pulsing pattern.

The chance to experience this new sensation beckoned, and she found her body propelling itself towards the streaming water as one sprinkler after another kicked in.

The water was colder than she would have guessed, the fine, icy needles pricking her skin everywhere it hit. But she did not let that detail deter her–instead it urged her on, and she picked up the pace until she was running at her limit. The sensation was so intense that she heard her own voice let out a joyous whoop of pleasure as she ran through the water. Not surprisingly, the fine, short grass, the foggy morning and the cold spray did not provide a good running surface, and after a short while, she took a header–falling onto her belly, arms extended. She slid a good ten yards, grass tickling her chilled skin. But the fall did nothing to disrupt her enjoyment of the experience–instead it allowed her to create a variation on the game.

Getting to her feet, she took off in a mad sprint, and then intentionally flopped onto the ground, sliding as far as her momentum would take her. This wild romp continued for some minutes until she heard a gentle, bemused laugh floating up from the pool house.

Turning quickly, she spotted her lover, clad only in one of Ryan’s T-shirts. The small, shivering woman smiled engagingly at her wild lover, shaking her head in amusement at the antics.

Ryan started to run over, waiting until she was about 20 feet away to launch herself again, sliding on her belly until she stopped just a foot or so from her laughing partner.

"You obviously didn’t get the memo, Sweetie, but you ceased to be a three-year-old twenty years ago," she said with a warm smile.

The dark head shook forcefully as Ryan returned the smile. "I never read memos," she declared. "And if you take that shirt off and join me, you can act like you didn’t read it, either." Dark eyebrows twitched in challenge, and Jamie knew that she had made a tactical error in coming outside in the first place. Still, the luminescent smile on her lover’s face compelled her to whisk the shirt off and grasp the hand her playful partner extended.

They took off together, Jamie screaming at the shock of the ice-cold water pelting her body. Ryan’s joyful laugh caused her to forget the discomfort and revel in the experience–forcing herself to feel only the exhilaration of the moment.

They got up a good head of steam and dove across the ground together, hands clasped as they slid through the spiky blades of grass. Ryan grasped her lover’s chilled, soaked body and wrapped her in a joyful hug, their joined bodies almost immediately creating warmth everywhere that they touched.

"That was fabulous," Jamie cried, throwing her head back to let out a yell.

"That rocked!" Ryan released her partner and took off one last time, this time executing a stylish feet-first slide, then rolling onto her back and spreading her arms and legs out fully. "Race you to the spa!" she yelled, scampering to her feet and taking off.

Shaking her wet hair like a dog, Jamie ran after her mischievous companion, laughing the whole way.

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

After 15 minutes in the spa, both women were warm and invigorated. Jamie had thoughtfully brought a set of sweats for each of them when she noticed her partner’s antics, and they now each put the welcome outfits on.

"Got any plans in mind?" Jamie asked.

"Nope. Not a one," Ryan smiled. "You?"

"Let’s drag a couple of chairs out by the cliff and watch the sea birds eat breakfast," the smaller woman decided.

"Okay," Ryan warned. "But watching those birds eat sashimi is definitely gonna make me want a big breakfast."

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

It took a few minutes to drag a pair of heavy, wrought iron chaises from the pool house out to the cliff, but the view was worth the effort. It was 7:30 now, and the fog, while still thick, showed signs of dissipating. The temperature was in the high 50s--brisk, but not too bad with the warm sweats covering their bodies.

They watched the surf crash and thrum against the rocks for a long while, each silently lost in her own thoughts. Jamie finally broke the silence, squeezing her partner’s hand as she asked, "What goes through your mind to cause you to do wild things like that?"

"Wild?" Ryan laughed. At Jamie’s nod she answered, "I don’t know, Hon. I love to be naked outside–always have. Whenever I get the chance to be out in the elements I jump at it. Today was a perfect opportunity." She smiled broadly.

"But how do you feel when you do something like that?" Jamie asked, wanting to understand her partner better.

Ryan mused about her answer for a few moments. She finally turned and said, "I feel…alive. I don’t have a better way to put it, Jamie. I love to feel sensation–the cold, the wet, the sharp blades of grass tickling my tummy–all of those things just remind me that I’m alive."

"Have you always been like that, Babe?"

Ryan’s face darkened noticeably. She paused a second, then answered. "I had to make a decision about how I was going to live my life when I was young. I could choose to let the fear of death ruin my life, or I could consciously embrace every day that I had on earth. I try, with all my heart, to do the latter."

Jamie squeezed her hand firmly, then drew the hand close and kissed the warm palm. "It always hurts to think about that time, doesn’t it?"

Ryan nodded, lips slightly pursed.

"I’ve um…been thinking, Honey," the smaller woman said. She had been mulling an idea around in her head ever since the AIDS Ride, and this seemed like a good time to bring it up. "I might not have any idea what I’m talking about, but it occurred to me that you never talk about your mother or Michael without ending on a really sad note. Now, this might not help at all, but I thought maybe you could try to talk about the happy times with them, rather than just their deaths."

Ryan nodded again, lips still pursed, but a thoughtful look on her face. She ran her hands through her dark hair, fluffing it in the breeze to help it dry. Jamie was resigned to have the short nod be Ryan’s only reply, but after another minute of silence, the dark woman finally spoke. "Do I really never talk about them in happy times?"

Jamie shook her head, smiling briefly as she grasped Ryan’s hand again. "Um…you might with your family, but…you never have with me," she said softly. "I think I understand more about your mom, but I really don’t know what Michael meant to you when he was alive. I don’t know about the good times you had together, Baby."

Ryan turned her head enough to make full eye contact with her partner. "Do you really want to know?"

Jamie did want to know, not just to make Ryan feel better, but so she could feel more like a member of the O’Flaherty family. "Yes," she said, just loud enough to be heard over the waves. "I want to know because he means so much to you, Honey."

"That he does," Ryan murmured, her gaze returning to the sea. "Okay, I’ll make an attempt. I’ll do my best to tell you about the fun we had together." Her face was set in a stoic grimace, and she looked like she was about to have a few important teeth pulled.

Jamie wasn’t at all sure that this exercise would help, and she briefly regretted bringing it up. "You don’t have to do it all at once," she cautioned. "I just want to help you get some of the sadness out of your system. It might help to temper it with some good memories."

"It might," Ryan agreed. "I mean, I know that the family should talk about this stuff, but we really don’t. We talk about my mother, but Michael is still pretty much off-limits."

"There’s a lot of pain there." Jamie empathized, knowing that his youth, his devastating illness and the split with his father had to make the loss all the more traumatic.

"Yeah, of course there is, but there’s a lot of joy there too, and I’ve ignored that for a long while. Let’s give this a try, Babe. Maybe we can chip away at some of this frozen grief." She gave Jamie her most winning smile, but the smaller woman could see the sadness hiding behind the bright blue eyes.

"I’m game," Jamie declared.

Ryan set her jaw and gathered her thoughts for a moment. "What did Michael mean to me…Let’s start with music. That’s one of his biggest influences on me."

"Really?" Jamie was a bit startled by this revelation. "I had no idea…"

"He got all of us started," Ryan smiled. "His life was music…either playing, singing, or getting others to play. He played the piano, the guitar, the mandolin, the fiddle…He could pick up almost any instrument and figure out a way to make something pleasant come out of it."

"Did he take lessons?"

"Yeah…he took lessons in a number of things, but I think it was mostly just his natural talent that shone through. We all wanted to be just like him when we grew up, so we all started taking lessons in something as soon as we were able."

"That’s so neat," Jamie said, green eyes twinkling. "What kind of music did he like?"

"Ha! Let’s start with what he didn’t like! He didn’t like…I don’t think there was anything he didn’t like," Ryan laughed. "I’d have to say his favorite was R&B and soul, but he was an aficionado of traditional Irish music, he knew a lot about African music, and he liked a lot of artists from Western Europe. He didn’t know much about classical music or opera, but he probably would have gotten to them if he’d had time." She laughed gently, but the sadness started to show through again.

Trying to get back on the positive track, Jamie asked, "R&B and soul were his favorites? That surprises me."

Ryan laughed and agreed. "It was kinda funny. Here was this big, buff, white gay kid, totally into Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Al Green. I’m not sure how he was first exposed to those artists, but it clicked with him."

"I’m sure you realize this, Honey, but your tastes are the same as his," Jamie gently pointed out.

Ryan laughed a bit at this. "I know, Babe. I’m just a female clone. If Michael liked it, I liked it. Who knows, if he had been alive when I was developing my sexuality I might have been into guys!"

"That’s a stretch!" the blonde laughed, confident that Ryan’s sexual orientation was the narrowest part of her expansive personality.

"Yeah, you’re right there," Ryan agreed. "Hero worship could only go so far!"

A happy little smile covered Ryan’s face, and Jamie gave her hand a squeeze. "Thanks for talking about him a little bit, Babe. This was helpful for me."

Ryan nodded her dark head, looking pensive. "It was for me too," she agreed. "We’ll have to do this again."

"I’ll hold you to that promise," Jamie assured her, leaning over to kiss the smiling lips.

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

After the chairs were returned to their rightful spot, the twosome walked back to the house, hand in hand. They were nearing the house when Ryan said, "I think I have a pretty good idea on how to solve the security camera issue."

"WHAT!! And you’re just telling me this now?!"

"Uhh…yeah," Ryan laughed. "I’m not certain of the details, so I didn’t want to get your hopes up. I think my expert might call soon, though, so I thought I’d warn you."

"Your expert?" Jamie blocked the entry to the house, standing with her hands placed firmly on her hips. "Ryan, what is going on?"

The phone rang in the middle of this exchange, and Jamie dropped her hands and led the way into the kitchen, where they heard Conor’s voice over the answering machine, "Hey, Secret Agent, pick up," he demanded.

Ryan gave Jamie a crooked grin and trotted over to grab the receiver. "Hi, Conor, it’s me," she said. She rolled her eyes at Jamie as she added, "Yes, it’s really me." Another pause and a second bout of eye rolling had her providing further identifying information. "Siobhán Ryan O’Flaherty. October 30, 1975." Jamie giggled as Ryan shook her head at her brother’s playfulness.

Ryan listened attentively for a few moments as a big smile spread across her face. "I owe you big time, Bro." Mere seconds later she shook her head violently, "I don’t owe you that much, and it’s kinda sick to even ask." She pursed her lips as she said sarcastically; "It wouldn’t have the same impact if you cut me out, Dummy." Her smile returned as she said, "I love you, Conor. You’re the best."

She hung up the phone and sat on her stool with a self-satisfied grin on her face. She crossed her arms and grinned at Jamie, waiting for her to ask about the phone call. The blonde tried to wait her out, but was totally unsuccessful. She finally jumped at her and tried to tickle the information out of her. Ryan fought her off pretty well, finally grasping her around the waist and picking her up until she had her comfortably placed in her lap. Jamie wrapped her arms around Ryan’s neck and kissed her a few times, pulling away with a big grin on her face. "Well, I can’t tickle or kiss it out of you, how do I get you to tell me what that phone call was about?"

Ryan smiled down at her partner and batted her big blue eyes. "You could just ask, Sweetheart."

"Where’s the fun in that?" Jamie asked incredulously. "But if that’s all it takes, I give. What was that call about?"

"I called Conor this morning before I went for my run. I told him the manufacturer of the cameras and gave him a description of the room and where they were located. Then I told him about the door and gave him the manufacturer of the lock. When he got to work, he made a few calls and found the company that makes the system. They gave him the name of the local distributor, and he talked to them, too. "

Jamie was jumping up and down with delight. She couldn’t bear the tedious recitation of facts, but she knew that she had to bear with Ryan’s thorough style.

"Now, don’t get too excited, Cupcake." Ryan’s face grew serious as she tossed a major problem into the mix. "Not surprisingly, the local alarm company wasn’t willing to give out too much information to a complete stranger. They wouldn’t even confirm to Conor that they had done the work here."

"What do we do now?" Her frustrated plea was accompanied by a frightened look that caused Ryan’s heart to clench.

"Worry not, Babe. We have other avenues. Conor’s gonna work on finding out who put the lock on the door. If he can’t find that out, he’s gonna buy a new lock and replace the one on the door after he cuts it off. Then we can have the new lock re-keyed tomorrow to match your parents’ original keys, but we do have to find those keys if we can’t find the lock installer."

Jamie leaned back and gazed at Ryan with open-mouthed surprise. "I can’t believe you two got all that done and it’s only eight o’clock."

"Yep. Actually, the best time to reach a lot of these guys is between seven and eight. Most of them are in their shops during that time, so it worked out great. Plus, the alarm manufacturer is on the east coast, so it was normal business hours there."

The frightened look was beginning to disappear from Jamie’s face, but she still didn’t have any idea about what their next step should be. "What can we do on this end, Honey?"

"Do you have any idea where your parents keep documentation on work they’ve had done?"

"I looked around pretty carefully yesterday, but I didn’t think to look for receipts for the work. Daddy is a real neat freak when it comes to paperwork, and my guess is that they would keep all the bills and stuff for this property in the library. Let’s look through it all and see if we can find the original paperwork from when the lock was installed."

They walked hand in hand to the library, both relieved that Conor was on the job. Ryan sat perched on the edge of the desk while Jamie sat in the big leather chair and sorted through the neatly labeled file folders. "Bingo!" she cried after just a few minutes. "Here’s the work order for the alarm company, and here’s the receipt from Pebble Beach Lock and Key."

Ryan took the papers and quickly decided on her course of action. "Let’s pursue the lock issue first." Her brow was furrowed with concentration as she slapped the receipts against her open palm. "I think it will be easier to get a duplicate key made than to have to call the alarm company and admit we don’t know a thing about the darned system. Let’s get that door open and hope for the best."

"What will we do if that isn’t where the system is set up?"

"Conor thinks it’s the most likely place, and he’s quite knowledgeable about systems like this. The worst thing that will happen is that we have to stay here until Monday and come up with some ruse to get the alarm company out here." Sliding her fingers through Jamie’s soft hair, Ryan added, "Staying here through the weekend isn’t the worst thing in the world, is it?"

Jamie finally smiled at that question. "No, Honey. It wouldn’t be bad at all."

Ryan’s eyes held a hint of playfulness as she dialed the lock company. She explained that she was Catherine Evans and that she had lost the key for the door to her security camera room. After a few more minutes of discussion, the locksmith agreed to bring over a spare key later in the day. She thanked him profusely but remembered to ask," What will the charge be for the key?" After a pause she said, "That’s quite generous of you, Michael. So there will be no bill or statement that comes to the house?" She paused again, then said in a conspiratorial tone, "My husband gets so angry when I lose things. I really don’t want him to find out about this." Another pause. "You’re a dear! Thanks so much." She hung up with yet another satisfied smile on her handsome face. "Mission accomplished!" she said happily.

"My hero!" Jamie said, pulling her from the desk and enveloped her in a firm hug. "Hey," she said as she sat up. "How did you learn to lie so well?"

"All those years of Catholic school have to come in handy for something," Ryan said with a grin. Standing up, she looked around the room and asked the question that had been in the back of her mind since the previous day. "Are there any other cameras in the house, or are they just in the gym?"

Jamie looked up with a shocked expression on her face. "Shit! Shit! Shit!" she fumed as she furiously stomped her feet on the floor. "They’re in all of the public areas, like the foyer and the living room, and the main staircase. There might be one in the kitchen, too. And I’m sure there’s one outside the front and side doors. And probably one in the pool house."

Ryan slid around her to pick up the paperwork from the alarm company, carefully reading the work order, since she knew plenty about contractor jargon. "This clearly says that the controls for everything are in the gym, so we should be able to figure out how the system works once we get that key." She fell back into the big chair and let out a heavy sigh, "Jeez, Jamie, why did we have to be naked, or touching, or kissing, in every imaginable square inch of this house?"

The smaller woman climbed onto Ryan’s lap again, sitting sideways with her head resting against the leather chair back. "Do you regret being adventuresome?"

Ryan slid her arms around her and squeezed her tight. "Not in the least, Honey. I think we’ve had one of the most memorable honeymoons on record. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of starting a journal, and writing down all of the fun we’ve had here. I thought it would be nice to have a keepsake that we could look at in future years."

"Beat you to it, Baby," Jamie said with a smile. "I’ve been keeping a journal since I was in high school. I haven’t had a lot of free time since we’ve been here, but I wrote the other morning when you were running, and I made a few notes when you were jogging on the beach. It would be cool to start a new book just on our honeymoon, though. We could do it together if you wanted to."

"I would love that, Sweetie. When you go for your golf lesson, we can stop at a bookstore and buy a new journal. Then we can spend some time this afternoon reflecting on the week."

"Hey, that reminds me, what was Conor giving you a hard time about?"

"You couldn’t figure that out?"

"Well, I guess it was about the surveillance system. Did you have to tell him what we were doing?" She looked a little cross, and Ryan sought to defend herself.

"All I said was that there were closed circuit cameras that we didn’t know were on. He asked why that was a big deal, and I said that your parents didn’t know about us, and we didn’t want them to see us being affectionate. I certainly didn’t tell him how affectionate we had been," she said, "but he’s a sharp boy, and he knows me pretty well…"

"So he knows," she stated flatly.

"He knows we were doing things that we don’t want your parents to see. But I’m sure he doesn’t have any idea exactly how important it is to prevent them knowing what we have been doing."

Jamie nodded briefly, her worry ameliorated by Ryan’s explanation. "I just don’t want Conor to think less of me," she explained with a shy smile.

Ryan began to laugh so hard that Jamie had to throw her arms around her to stay on her lap. "Oh, Jamie!" she said, after she caught her breath. "That is priceless!"

"What?" she asked, slightly embarrassed.

"He might change his opinion of you, but it wouldn’t be in a downward direction!"

"What do you mean?"

"If he had any idea of how totally hot, and sexy, and wild you are, he’d hang himself!"

"But why?" Jamie asked, rather incredulously.

"He’s not kidding when he teases you about having a crush on you, Babe. He really likes you, and I guarantee he would have made a very big play for you if I hadn’t asked him not to."

"Are you serious?"

"About which part?" Ryan’s brow twitched in question.

"Start with you telling him not to make a play for me. Why did you do that?"

"Why?" she asked with a puzzled grin. "Would you rather he had made claim on you before I did?"

Jamie laughed heartily at the very idea. "Hardly. I love Conor, but even if I were straight, I wouldn’t have gone for him. I’ve never been attracted to bad boys, and he is their poster child."

"But you seem to like bad girls," Ryan purred as she nuzzled up against Jamie’s ear.

"Uh--uh," she disagreed, shaking her head. "I thought you were a bad girl for exactly one day. When we met in class I thought you were a total bad girl, but when we went for our drive the next day, I immediately changed my opinion of you, and you’ve never given me a reason to go back to my original impression."

"That’s fascinating," Ryan mused. "So you really don’t think of me as bad?"

"Not at all!" Jamie cried. "You’re so sweet and thoughtful and kind. You care so much for other people’s feelings, and you’re so upstanding and moral. You seemed to use that bad girl aura like a shield, but for some reason you took the shield down really quickly with me."

"The truth is that Conor does the same thing. He’s easily as sweet as I am," she admitted.

"He could be Mother Teresa with testosterone and I’m still glad that I got you. Now what was that other little thing you were trying to convince me of?" she teased.

"I was pointing out the obvious, Jamie. You’re one gorgeous example of womanhood, but I don’t think you’re even conscious of how attractive you are."

Jamie blushed deeply at this compliment. She looked up at Ryan shyly and said, "I don’t think of myself as being very attractive. I feel like I’m kinda cute, but in a little girl way."

"No way, Babe. I am attracted to women, Jamie. Not little girls." She leaned in to give her a deeply passionate kiss, "You are a very sexy woman." Reaching up with both hands, she tenderly lifted Jamie’s full breasts. "These are a woman’s breasts." Then she trailed her hands down to the round hips, "These are a woman’s hips. Everything about you is full and ripe and sexy." She leaned in for another deep kiss. "Definitely a woman," she said as she closed her eyes and leaned in close for another hug.

"I’m your woman, Ryan. Always yours," she said fervently as she leaned her forehead against Ryan’s.

After they had cuddled for a while, Ryan asked, "Does it bother you that Conor has a crush on you?"

"No, it doesn’t. I think of him like a big brother, so it is a little disconcerting when he teases me, but it doesn’t bother me."

"I can ask him to stop teasing you, you know. He’ll stop if I tell him that it bothers you."

"No, I actually think it’s kinda cute. He’s so obvious about it that it doesn’t seem like any kind of a threat."

"Well, my guess is that he’ll stop doing it when he sees us together for a while. Once they get used to you being their sister-in-law I think they’ll feel funny about having sexual thoughts about you."

"What do you mean, ‘they’?" Jamie inquired suspiciously.

"Oh, Brendan and Rory have a crush on you, too. And Padraig and Niall had a big argument about which of them you would prefer," she said with a hearty laugh at Jamie’s shocked face. "I’m telling you, Jamie, you’re a hottie!"

Jamie just shook her head in embarrassment and leaned against Ryan’s chest. "I’m reserving my heat for you alone, Tiger. For the rest of my life," she intoned with finality.

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

"So...." Jamie asked when they went back into the kitchen to plan their day. "What would you like to do today?"

"Oh, I don’t know," Ryan said thoughtfully. "I’m kinda torn between taking you back upstairs and ravishing you until you scream for mercy..."

Jamie placed her arms around Ryan’s neck and leaned her head down until they were nose to nose. "Or what?"

"Or having you take me upstairs and ravishing me until I beg for mercy," she replied with a crooked grin, as she kissed her partner lightly on the lips. "Do your plans differ from mine?" she asked, as she gave her a few more gentle nibbles.

"I’ve got that little golf lesson, and then I have a surprise for you that might take a while, but other than that…" she teased, eyebrows wiggling. "Would I be able to satisfy you this afternoon?"

"I’m completely unfamiliar with the level of desire I have right now, Jamie," Ryan replied as she tilted her head and rested her chin on her lover’s shoulder. "I’ve never been with anyone that kept me so constantly aroused. I truly feel like I could make love to you all day long."

"Believe me, Sweetie," Jamie said as she kissed Ryan tenderly, "if I didn’t feel the need to retain my ability to walk, I’d definitely want to be in bed all day. But I know what you mean about the level of arousal. It’s a little overwhelming for me," she said shyly. "How about you?"

Ryan thought about that for a minute before she answered, "Yeah, I guess it is. I’m used to a lot of sex, so it’s not that part that’s strange for me. It’s the intimacy that overwhelms me," she said as she wrapped her arms around Jamie and held her tight. "I’ve just never felt this connected to anyone."

Jamie was touched and pleased by this admission, knowing how close Ryan felt to her family. "I feel the same about you, Baby," she said.

She looked up at her partner with a very shy grin curling up one corner of her mouth. "I like it when you call me ‘baby’."

"Well, you are my big, sweet, beautiful baby, and I love you more than words can ever say."

Ryan nuzzled her face into her partner’s soft breast and sighed deeply at the comfort and warmth she felt in her embrace.

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

Since her golf lesson was at noon they had an hour to kill, so they decided to go into town to shop for a honeymoon journal. They found a small but well-stocked bookstore and decided on a clothbound book with spaces for pictures. They hadn’t used their camera much but Jamie wanted some pictures, so they decided to ask Chip to take some at the course and then have Conor take some that evening.

While Jamie worked on her game with Chip, Ryan jumped into the sand bunker again and worked for a solid hour. Having learned her lesson from her previous experiences, she placed herself so that the prevailing wind blew the sand away from her body. She was actually quite successful, both in her improved bunker play and her nearly sand free face.

Chip obliged their request and took a few shots of them by the clubhouse. They didn’t feel free to be too demonstrative, but did manage to drape their arms around each other casually. Jamie insisted on getting a few shots of Ryan hitting balls out of the sand, since she had spent so much of her time there. Ryan retaliated by having Jamie hit some big drives while she clicked away, getting some very good shots of her big follow through.

It was a little after one and Ryan was starving as usual. To get nourishment into her body as quickly as possible, they chose to eat at the club. "I gotta tell you, Jamie, it’s good to be rich," Ryan said with a big, satisfied grin as they relaxed at their table.

"I’m glad you like it, Sweetie. Maybe I can make a hedonist out of you after all. Gosh, maybe you can join Mother on some of her shopping sprees!"

"Do you think I’ll like her?" Ryan asked as she cocked her head slightly.

The earnest, nearly fragile look on her partner’s face made Jamie tread carefully. "Ummm, I’m not sure," she hedged. "She has impeccable manners, and she’s very good at making people feel like she’s interested in them, so I guess you might," she said with a thoughtful expression.

"Gee, that was quite an endorsement," Ryan laughed. "Do you describe me in such glowing terms?"

"Of course not," Jamie said a little abruptly.

"Jamie," Ryan said slowly. "Did that hurt your feelings?"

"No, not really." A small shake of her head and a frown preceded her answer. "I guess I’m just in a bad space right now about my mother. I’m really glad that I’m in therapy, Ryan, but I’m realizing things that I’ve ignored for my whole life." She looked down at her plate and sadly admitted, "I don’t much like the person I’m uncovering."

Ryan stared at her partner for a moment as a realization dawned on her. She had always focused on how much she had missed by losing her mother at such a tender age. Looking at the hurt in Jamie’s eyes reminded her that even though her memories of her mother were few, they were uniformly positive. She had been spared the normal mother/daughter fights and the distance that naturally grew as a child matured. She did not know one woman who had escaped adolescence without some major problems with their mother, and she briefly considered that she was happy that she had such loving memories. "I’m sorry, Baby. That must be hard for you," she said sympathetically. "You’ve told me a little bit about your childhood, and about how little time your mother spent with you, but you’ve never really talked about her. I’ve got to admit that I don’t know a darn thing about her."

Jamie nodded at the truth in this statement. "I feel like a jerk talking about her like this. I know I shouldn’t be so hard on her," Jamie admitted. "She was truly an awful mother in terms of care giving, but as I got older, and lowered my expectations, we got along quite well. When I was in high school we spent a lot of time together, going out to dinner and the theatre and things like that. I’d have to say we act more like rather reserved friends than mother and daughter. All in all, she’s really pretty interesting, Ryan. She’s bright and actually kind of funny, in a reserved way."

"How are you like her?" Ryan asked, knowing that she would be drawn to any similarity between her partner and her mother.

Jamie had to think about that for a long while. "I’m not really sure. I like to think that I’m a lot like my father, since I respect him more, but I know there are a lot of things I get from my mother, too." She pondered the idea for a few more minutes. "I’ve got to admit that I like to shop, and I really like clothes," she said with a blush. "I think I get my sense of style from her. I love architecture and art, and those are two of her passions. I also really enjoy classical music and opera, and that’s purely from her. Come to think of it, I guess I got my love of language from her." She sat back in her chair with a smile as she continued. "When I was little, she spent a lot of time correcting my speech and grammar. I sounded like an English teacher by the time I went to grade school. You know," she said with a laugh, "I have to force myself to speak like other people my age. I actually try to dumb my speech down so I don’t sound like I’m being pompous."

"You don’t have to do that around me," Ryan said sincerely. "I don’t mind sounding like a dolt compared to you."

"Ryan, you speak beautifully," she chided. "You actually speak more like a European than a Californian. You know, the first time I heard you speak I thought you might be foreign born. Now, when I think about it, it was the way you pronounced your name. Did you know that your accent comes out when you say it?"

"It does?" Ryan gaped in surprise. "I had no idea."

"Yep," Jamie grinned. "It really does. You sound Irish when you say your name and when you talk about Ireland. It must be subconscious."

"Weird," Ryan mused. "I mean, in a way I was raised in Ireland, but in other ways I’m entirely American. It really surprises me that I sound Irish."

"Don’t misunderstand, Babe," Jamie insisted. "Your accent is very subtle. You sound European mainly because you speak more formally than most people your age."

Ryan nodded, now understanding her partner’s point. "Da would not tolerate us speaking like the other kids. I let myself fall into sloppy grammar in college. Funny, isn’t it? The more educated we get, the dumber we sound!"

"Well, if you can avoid splitting infinitives or dangling any participles, my mother will love you!"

"Oh, not me," Ryan vowed. "That is the type of nonsense up with which I shall not put!"

Jamie laughed at her partner’s borrowing of the famous Churchill quote. After a moment she became serious again. "I’m not sure how she’ll feel about our relationship, but since she’s never very genuine, I guess it really doesn’t matter," she opined somewhat flippantly.

"Is she really that bad, Honey? I mean, is there nothing about her that you really like?"

She pursed her lips for a moment, deep in thought. "No, she’s not that bad," she admitted. "I’m just so down on her that it’s hard for me to see her good traits. "Let me try to focus on the things that I do admire." When another few moments passed, Ryan felt a pang of sorrow that her lover had such a hard time being positive about her mother. Jamie blew out a breath and began her list, "She spends a lot of time doing charity work–although I think she does it just to be seen by the right people," she added in a disparaging tone. "She’s a devoted student of whatever little topic she is currently interested in. Of course, she has nothing else to fill her time, so she can spend hours and hours on minutiae."

Ryan shot her a glance and widened her eyes as she said, "I don’t think this is a good time to talk about the things you like about her, Jamie. You’re really damning her with faint praise."

"You’re right," she agreed, blushing a little. "Anna assures me that I will eventually get my anger out, and then I won’t have to spend so much time grousing about her. But that remains to be seen," she grumbled.

"I hope you get to a point where you like being around each other again," Ryan said. "I want you to feel closer to your family, if it’s at all possible. But if it’s not, you know you’re fully accepted as an O’Flaherty."

"Maybe I’ll change my name," she said thoughtfully. "Jamie O’Flaherty. It has kind of a ring to it doesn’t it?"

"Not bad," Ryan agreed. "It’s not all that easy to merge a lot of names with O’Flaherty, but yours is darned good."

"Don’t I know it!" she agreed. "I’ve been thinking up names for our children, and you almost need an Irish given name for it to sound good."

Ryan flashed a high wattage grin as she asked, "Have you really been thinking of names for our kids? That’s so totally adorable!"

"Yep. If Conor is the sperm donor, I’ll name mine O’Flaherty, too. That way they’ll feel more like siblings."

"That is so precious of you, Jamie. You have to tell me what names you like." The nearly giddy look on Ryan’s face made Jamie’s heart beat double-time as she considered how much she loved this emotion-filled woman.

"Well," she mused. "I don’t know many Irish names, but I think our first daughter has to be Fionnuala," she said softly, barely touching the tips of Ryan’s fingers with her own.

Ryan immediately pulled her lips in between her teeth in what Jamie recognized as an effort to avoid tears. She closed her eyes slowly and whispered, "Thank you for understanding that’s important to me."

"It’s important to me too," she replied; as she battled her own emotions. "She’s important to me since she gave me you. I’m forever in her debt." Their fingers moved on the table and gripped a little tighter in a totally unconscious gesture, ignoring all of the other patrons of the busy restaurant, seeing only each other.

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

The conversation reverted to a teasing game in which Ryan tried to think of the most awkward Irish names for their children. Jamie finally called a draw with Phelum and Fergal for a boy, and Dymphna or Gobnait for a girl. As they prepared to leave the club Jamie felt a brief flash of panic as she mused, She’s kidding, right? Please God, don’t let her grandmother’s name be Gobnait!

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

Continued in Part 14

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