I Found My Heart in San Francisco
Book 3: Coalescence
Chapter Three

By S X Meagher

Disclaimers: see chapter 1.


Shortly after dawn on Monday morning, Ryan woke to the delightfully delicious sensation of being snuggled up behind Jamie in her own bed. Spooning up against her partner's sleep-warmed back; she started to slowly stroke her thighs, not trying to wake her, but needing the contact. Jamie was a long way from consciousness, but she nestled up against Ryan in an automatic, and now familiar, instinct. Ryan felt so warm and happy that, after a few minutes, she let herself drift off to sleep again. She woke nearly an hour later to the sensation of gentle kisses being planted all over her face. She gave Jamie a broad smile as she stretched like a cat for several minutes. "When did you sneak down here?" Jamie whispered into her ear.

"I never left," was the languid reply as Ryan stretched her arms over her head. "I was unable to move from your tempting embrace."

"Ohh, that's so cute," Jamie grinned. "You jumpstarted our honeymoon!"

"Yeah, but honeymoons are much more fun when you're both awake," Ryan replied with a smirk.

"I couldn't agree more. And speaking of honeymoons, are you ready to get up and go, or do you want to cuddle for a little while?"

"I want to cuddle a lot, but I think I'd rather do it in Pebble Beach," Ryan said thoughtfully. "How about you? Are you ready to go?"

"Yep. I can't wait," she said, snuggling up against her warm partner.

"We probably shouldn't leave until ten or so, to avoid traffic. Would you mind if I do some laundry before we go? I just hate to leave all of those sweaty clothes lying in my suitcase for a week."

Jamie sat up a little and gazed at her lover thoughtfully. "You know, that's one of the things I love about you. I know how much you're looking forward to this, but you still want to take the time to get organized and neaten up. You're just so mature," she said, as she tickled her a little bit.

"So, do you agree?"

"Yeah, that's probably a good idea. Let's get some breakfast and I'll wash out all of our bike clothes in the sink. You can start a load of underwear in the washer. Do you mind doing mine along with yours?"

"I think it's about time that our underwear got used to spending time together," Ryan said with a chuckle.


Jamie threw on some sweats and they sorted their dirty clothes. They only had three loads, besides the bike clothes, and Ryan trotted upstairs to get started while Jamie made a phone call.

When Jamie went upstairs, Ryan was hard at work making a huge breakfast. Conor had left for work already and Martin had eaten with him, so Ryan made oatmeal for just the two of them, and a big omelet with ham and cheese for herself. She was toasting a bagel and chatting with her father when Jamie appeared. "Did you sleep well, Jamie dear?" he asked brightly, as she gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"I slept like a baby," she replied sincerely. "I don't know if it's the room or the bed, but I always sleep great down there."

"Jamie, Da and I were just talking about our plans for the summer. I just finished telling him that we plan on staying at your house during the week and then coming back here on the weekends."

"How do you feel about that, Martin?" Jamie asked.

He let out a deep breath and looked down at his hands. "Do you want the unvarnished truth?" he finally asked.

"Yes," they replied in unison.

"I hate the thought of my baby leaving home," he said sadly. "I know it had to happen sooner or later, but it just doesn't feel like home without you here, Siobhán. Conor and Duffy and I just bumped around here all week waiting for you to come back. We're quite hopeless on our own, you know."

Ryan walked over and put her arms around her father, hugging him soundly. "Oh, Da, I hate to leave you, too, but I feel that Jamie and I need some time alone. This is going to be quite an adjustment for both of us, and I think we need to just focus on each other for a bit."

"Siobhán, I know exactly what you mean, and I agree with you completely. When your mother and I were first married, we hardly knew anyone else existed," he said with a laugh as he shook his head. "Still, I want you to know how I feel about this. I know this makes sense for now, but I want you to consider living here after you're finished with school. Nothing would make me happier than coming home at night to see your smiling faces."

"We'll seriously consider that, Da. There's nothing to hold us in Berkeley after we graduate. There's no reason that we couldn't live around here." She walked over to Jamie and slipped her arms around her shoulders. "Besides, I wouldn't want to have to drive all the way over here to drop the kids off with their babysitter," she teased.

Martin's eyes lit up at the thought of grandchildren. "Are you two serious about that?" he asked with unabashed glee.

"Definitely," Jamie said. "We both want to have a child, and you've done such a marvelous job raising your kids, I'd feel blessed to have you help us raise ours."

"So, Darlin'," he said to Ryan with a grin. "This sounds suspiciously like you're past the dating phase and into the commitment phase."

"We're definitely into the commitment phase." Ryan grinned in return as she hugged her partner. "This is it for me, Da. 'Til death do us part," she said seriously, and then kissed Jamie softly on the cheek.

"I feel the same way." Jamie gazed up into her partner's big blue eyes.

Martin wiped a tear from his cheek as he got up to wrap the two of them in a hug. "You couldn't have chosen better, Siobhán. Your mother would be so happy for you." He brushed a tear away as he patted Jamie on the cheek, "I'm so glad you're a part of our family, Sweetheart."

Both women wiped the tears from their eyes as they each kissed Martin. "Thanks, Martin," Jamie finally choked out. "That means more to me than you'll ever know."

"So, Siobhán," he said after a moment. "Do you need anything for your honeymoon suite?" Then he added with a twinkle in his eye, "Besides a sturdy lock on the door?"

"No, Da," she said happily. "The room is perfect. I am a little concerned about the boys, though. Do you think they'll mind having Jamie here?"

"Mind?" he asked in amazement. "They're thrilled about it! I spoke to Rory before he left, and both he and Conor are very excited to have you here, Jamie. And they both agree that we should make an exception to the house rules since you can't formally marry."

"That makes me feel a lot better," Ryan said. "I don't want to do anything to make the boys feel slighted."

"Not a worry, Sweetheart."


After a quick breakfast with Martin, and a bit of ironing, they took all of their clean laundry downstairs and started to pack. "Do you think I should go get the Range Rover?" Jamie asked teasingly as Ryan assembled her gear on the bed. She had her RollerBlades, running shoes, running shorts and tank tops, swimsuit, wetsuit, sweats, slacks, blouses, a heavy jacket, and golf clubs, and she was still debating whether or not to bring her boogie board.

"Well, the Boxster is a little small for all this stuff," Ryan admitted, scratching her head as she stared at the enormous pile. "Do you think I'll need everything?"

"I think you could get by in just your birthday suit," Jamie cooed into her ear as she wrapped her arms around her tightly.

"Aren't you going to let me out at all?" Ryan tilted her head down to peer into her partner's eyes to gauge her seriousness.

"Nope. You're going to emerge on Saturday like a possum coming out of its den. It'll take you a day to get used to sunlight again," she promised. "But seriously, Sweetie, you could borrow my father's clubs, and we have lots of sports equipment for the beach. You just need to bring some clothes. Oh, and that reminds me," she added. "I want you to have Conor come down on Saturday and play Pebble Beach with you because I'll be at the graduation almost all day. It starts at 1:00, so I have to leave by 10:30. Also, if Conor comes down, he can give you a ride home and we can meet back here in the evening."

"That sounds great. He'll be thrilled." Ryan did her best to disguise her disappointment at Jamie's plans, but she couldn't help but rue the day she had agreed to them. At least one O'Flaherty will be happy about the plans for the day. Hmmm...I wonder what the penalty is for calling in a bomb threat...

Ryan continued to pack her clothes, musing about various forms of mayhem she could conjure up to stop Jamie from going to the graduation. She was deep in thought when her partner emerged from the shower.

Ryan looked up and spent a moment gazing at Jamie, a slow smile spreading across her face. She wore a pair of deep rust-colored shorts and cream-colored cotton polo, with a braided belt and a pair of woven leather loafers that matched the color of her shorts. Her hair was even blonder than normal, due to the sun, and her skin was a beautiful golden color. She looked fresh and clean and absolutely beautiful to Ryan's appreciative eyes. "Wow," she said as she wrapped her in her arms. "You look fantastic." A moment of nuzzling her partner's neck led to a few gentle nibbles, and Ryan smiled as she pulled away. "You taste divine, too."

"Thanks," Jamie grinned. "Now you go get ready, because I've got big plans for you today." Her tone was stern, but underneath, it held a great deal of promise. Ryan nearly ran for the shower in her haste to comply.

Jamie, with Martin's help, was already upstairs packing their things in the car when Ryan strolled out 15 minutes later, wearing a pair of bright white pleated shorts that fell just a few inches above her knee. An oversized black linen camp shirt hung out over the crisply ironed shorts, and black leather loafers and her favorite backwards black knit driving cap completed her ensemble. The long black hair hung loose and her skin glowed bronze from the recent time in the sun. She still had some pink in her cheeks, though--partly from sun and partly from anticipation. Jamie's mouth went dry when she saw her, and Martin couldn't help but tease, "I hope Siobhán's going to drive today, Darlin'. You don't look like your mind could focus on the road."

She blushed a deep red as she gave him a hug. "I hate being so transparent," she moaned into his chest.

"It's one of your most winning traits, little one," he said soothingly. "It's altogether adorable, Jamie. Don't you change a bit."

As Ryan draped an arm around her partner, she had to agree with her father. "It's not possible to improve on perfection, Da." The elder O'Flaherty smiled at his daughter and her mate, pleased beyond measure at their obvious joy.

Duffy had bounded down the porch stairs right behind Ryan, and she spent a few minutes petting him and whispering last minute instructions. Duffy looked terribly sad, knowing that his mistress was leaving again. "I don't know if I'll be able to keep him happy without you here, Siobhán. You may have to take him with you when you go to Berkeley," Martin said as he cast a loving glance at the pair.

"I'd love to have him, Da, but I think you two need each other." Ryan stood and dusted off her knees. "We'll see how it goes for a while, and if he's unhappy, I'm sure we could take him."

Jamie kissed Duffy's head and gave Martin a firm hug and a kiss before she hopped into the passenger seat of the little yellow car. Ryan spent a long minute hugging her father. They both had their eyes closed, and Jamie was deeply touched by the tenderness of the moment. Finally, he released his daughter, giving her a kiss on each cheek. Obviously struggling with his emotions, he turned and strode back up the stairs and into the house before Ryan even got into the car. Duffy sat looking at them sadly for a minute, until Ryan ordered him back into the house. He gave her another sad look and slowly climbed the stairs, giving her one last, baleful glance as he entered the open door.

"They don't make it easy, do they?" Ryan asked, as she sniffed a little and slipped her dark sunglasses on.

"No, they certainly don't," Jamie agreed. ""They can't help it though, Honey. They're both mad about you." She squeezed Ryan's thigh in a comforting gesture and asked, "Would you really like to have Duffy in Berkeley?"

"Oh yeah, I really would. We could go for our long run in the mornings, which we both really enjoy. Duff challenges me to go farther and faster than I do on my own. Da doesn't like to have to exercise him before work, so it's asking a lot to expect him to take over. In a lot of ways, it would work out better if he was with us." She looked at Jamie shyly. "Should I have checked with you before I said that? I..."

"No, Ryan." Jamie looked at her and patted her leg to reassure her. "I want you to think of it as our house. I want you to do whatever you need to do to feel at home there. If that means having Duffy, I would be happy to do so," she said agreeably.

"Our house," Ryan said as she tried the concept on. "That sounds kinda cool, doesn't it?" she said with a twinkle in her eyes. "It's kinda nice to have a house and a home, isn't it?"

"It certainly is, Sweetheart. It certainly is."


Traffic was relatively light on this clear, warm Monday morning. Jamie knew Monterey Bay would likely be fog covered when they got there, so she enjoyed the warm sun as it beat down on them. They were making good time, playing some of Ryan's favorite CD's and just enjoying being together.

Their musical tastes did not complement each other and they could never find a radio station that both enjoyed, so they had reached a compromise. The driver got to play whatever music she liked. In practice, that meant that Ryan always played her CD's, and over time, Jamie eventually took her own music back into the house so she could hear it occasionally. Still, she had to admit that even though she would never choose the music her partner favored, it was well worth listening to it to watch her favorite body move sensually to the beat. She was often gifted with Ryan singing along, and few things made her happier than listening to her partner's deep, sexy voice. Jamie had her hand on Ryan's thigh; watching her drive and listening to her harmonize with some Jamaican singer. She felt so totally content, soaking up every sensation, she thought she would burst with happiness.

Three hours later, they drew near their destination. Ryan looked at Jamie and mentioned, "You know, I've never been to Monterey."

"Are you serious?" Jamie was a little shocked at the revelation, assuming that most Bay Area natives would have made at least one trip to Carmel.

"Yep. I've been to Half Moon Bay to surf, and I've been to Santa Cruz, but I've never gone any further down the Bay. I never really had a reason to. Until now, that is."

"Well, I guess we're both in for some new experiences this week, aren't we?"

A very sexy smile lit up Ryan's face, and she shot a glance at her partner, one waggling eyebrow poking up from the frame of her dark glasses. "I certainly hope so," she purred, laughing gently at Jamie's wide-eyed response.

As they neared the heavily populated areas, they slowed down to about 40 mph. Jamie still had her hand on Ryan's thigh, and when they hit a stop light, she leaned over and gave her a deep kiss. She couldn't keep from running her hand up the leg of Ryan's shorts until the driver firmly grasped her hand and pulled it out, returning it to its former resting place. "I just wanted to see what you had on under those." Jamie played innocent even as she tried to slip her hand under again. Ryan's vise-like grip stopped the intrusion.

"You're just gonna have to wait and see," she teased. "I'm not going to wreck your car just so you can feel my underwear. Especially since you can pull them off of me with your teeth in about a half hour," she added with a wicked leer.

Even with the top down and the background noise, Ryan could hear her partner's audible gulp.


"Hey," Jamie said after a beat. "Did you say you surfed Half Moon?"

"Yep," Ryan said smugly. "Mavericks," she added, naming the famous surfing spot known for having the biggest waves on the West Coast.

"Long boards?"

"Yep."

"Uhh, Ryan, I hate to tell you, but no woman has ever successfully surfed Mavericks."

At the next stop, Ryan pulled her blouse away from her chest and peeked inside. "Well, you can tell me later after you've made your inspection, but I'm pretty sure I'm a woman," she said with a crooked grin.

"But surfing there is a really big deal for a woman, Ryan," she insisted.

"Well I'm sure that's true if you want publicity, Jamie. But I just want to surf and blend in as much as possible. I bet nobody even noticed I was a girl."

"I didn't know you could surf if you were blind," she replied with her own grin, as she let her eyes linger on her partner's obviously womanly curves.

"To be honest, I try to look as masculine as possible when I surf. Guys hate to share with women. It's the most sexist group of people I've ever been around, and I've worked construction!"

"Could you surf a little for me? I'd really love to see you in action," Jamie begged.

"I haven't been in a year or so, but I think I could still rip a few for your viewing entertainment," she grinned.

"You're on, Tiger," Jamie concluded happily.


The signs indicated that they were nearing 17 Mile Drive, and Ryan knew it would not be long before they reached their destination. A very strong physical pull urged her to keep on going, but she had been planning a little something, and her heart told her that she needed to follow through with her plan.

"Is there somewhere quiet and private where we can stop for a few minutes?" she asked her partner.

"Stop?" The look that accompanied Jamie's exclamation questioned Ryan's sanity.

"Yeah. I know we're both in a hurry, but today is really special for me, and I want to stop for a little while to commemorate it."

"You are such a romantic," Jamie mused as she graced her partner with a luminous smile. "I know a really nice place not too far ahead. I think it will be perfect."

They were driving right along the ocean when Jamie indicated they should stop. Hopping out, she went to the trunk and rooted around in her suitcase for a few moments. Finding what she was looking for, she quickly tucked it into the pocket of her rust colored shorts. Ryan waited patiently, lifting an eyebrow at the delay, but Jamie just shrugged and gave her a look that said, "Don't ask".

The smaller woman took her hand and led her along a rocky path through the scrub that covered the harshly beautiful landscape. Around a bend they saw the spot and it was, indeed, perfect for Ryan's purposes. Very well hidden by the rocky boulders was a lone cypress tree that looked out over the wild ocean. The roar of the surf was muffled by the height of the cliff they were perched upon, but they could feel the violence of its crashing waves through the earth as they sat down under the sturdy branches of the huge old tree.

"Have you been here often?" Ryan broke the silence after they had stared out at the sea for a few minutes.

"Yeah," she said softly. "When I was a teenager, I used to ride my bike down here, just to be alone. I'd bring a book or just sit and think for a while."

"Did you always come alone?"

A brief nod was her reply. "I considered this my most private space," she said in a whisper. "Up until now, I've never wanted to share my special spaces with anyone." She gazed up at Ryan as she said this, her eyes filled with love. "It's different now. I want to share everything with you, Ryan. Everything I have is yours. All of my dreams and hopes and plans mean so much more when I think of sharing them with you."

She raised her head just a bit, and Ryan simultaneously lowered hers until their lips met in a soft, tender communion. "I love you with all my heart, Ryan," she whispered as they parted.

Ryan lifted her hand and traced the features of her lover's face with the kiss of her fingertips. "There's nothing I wish more than that my mother could know you," she said, with a slight shadow of grief overtaking her features. "She loved me so much, and I know that nothing would make her happier than to know what peace I've found with you." Jamie scooted closer and pulled her lover into a tender embrace, holding her close for a long while.

"I wish that, too," she murmured softly. "I'd love to thank her for the gift of your love. She helped make you the woman you are, Ryan, and for that, I'm eternally grateful."

Lifting her head to stare at the sky for a moment, Ryan took a deep breath and reached into the rear pocket of her shorts. She removed a small packet of tissue paper and grasped it firmly in her hand for a moment. Taking another breath, she unwrapped it and said, "You know that things generally don't mean a lot to me, but this..." she paused to compose herself for a moment, "is my most treasured possession." A brilliant beam of light filtered through the leaves onto the object, illuminating the simple gold band. "This was my mother's wedding band." Silent tears fell from her eyes. "I'd...I'd be honored if you'd wear it."

"Oh, Ryan." Jamie gasped as her hand reached out to cover her lover's shaking fingers. "Are you sure you want that? Shouldn't you wear it?"

"No, I'm sure I want you to wear it, Jamie. It's far too small for me, and I'd ruin it if I tried to have it enlarged to fit. Besides," she locked her clear blue eyes onto her partner, "my mother's always with me. It feels like wearing her ring will make her a part of you, too."

Jamie rotated her wrist, turning Ryan's fingers up to expose the ring. She extended her left hand and slightly raised her ring finger, waiting patiently as her partner slipped it on. "Forever," Ryan said in a strong, confident voice. Jamie draped her arms around the strong neck, holding her tightly as she slowly moved her finger, exposing the shiny band to the filtered sunlight.

"It fits perfectly," she marveled. "Like it was made for me."

"I think it was," Ryan agreed. As she pulled back, she gazed at her partner with a long, thoughtful stare. "I've been thinking about this a little bit, Jamie, and even though this doesn't make a lot of sense to me, I have a theory. I don't believe that our lives are pre-ordained. I think the choices we make and the way we behave is because of our free will. But something about you has called to me from the day we met," she said firmly. "I have no choice but to be with you for the rest of my life. I don't know what is behind this, but it's a pull I am absolutely powerless against."

A gentle laugh floated up from Jamie's diaphragm. "You think it's a powerful pull for you? It yanked me out of a relatively happy engagement, and threw me into a whole new sexual orientation!"

"Any regrets?" Ryan asked, blue eyes twinkling.

"None whatsoever," she pledged. "I've never been happier with any choice I've made in my life. I just wish I had a ring for you," she said with a hint of regret. "Could I have a matching one made?"

"Absolutely," Ryan smiled. "I know that now isn't the time, but I would love to stand up in front of all of our friends and family and publicly proclaim my love for you. I'd really like to exchange rings then."

Jamie graced her with a beatific smile, heartily agreeing with the wish. "I would love that, Sweetheart. Until then," she bent her head to kiss the finger where she would one day place a ring, "this space is reserved." A tender kiss sealed the vow, and they rested in each other's arms for a few minutes, with Jamie occasionally holding out her left hand to gaze at her ring.

"I'll never take this off," Jamie murmured as she leaned in for another kiss.

"Luckily, it's already engraved," Ryan informed her with a sad smile. The smaller woman immediately slipped the ring off and stared at it for a minute, turning it a bit to allow the sun to hit the letters on the inside of the band.

"Mmm, I'm having a little trouble with this, Honey. Fighte fuaighte," she said haltingly. "Is it Latin?"

"No," Ryan said. "It's Gaelic." She pronounced the words properly, in her soft Irish accent.

"What does it mean?" The smaller woman stared at the inscription.

"It's an expression that roughly means: 'woven into and through each other.' You would use it to refer to things that were inextricably intertwined," she said softly. "Like my parents...like us."

"Like us." Jamie echoed Ryan's commitment as she lifted her head again to kiss her partner for several long minutes.

"Ready to go?" Ryan asked, her twinkling eyes turning dark with longing. "I think it's time you officially changed that sexual orientation thing."

Jamie's gentle laugh was accompanied by a smirk. "I think we've been putting a pretty good chink in the armor of my supposed heterosexuality already." Ryan returned her smile and nodded her agreement. Jamie leaned over and gave her another gentle kiss. "Before we leave, I've got a little something for you too."

Ryan looked down at her quizzically as Jamie reached into the front pocket of her shorts and extracted a small black velvet box. Smiling broadly, she handed her partner the gift. Ryan reached out to accept it with a slight tremor in her hand. She lifted the top to find two perfectly shaped round brilliant-cut blue stones set in simple platinum collars.

It was obvious that Ryan didn't quite know how to respond, so Jamie helped her out. "These mean a great deal to me, Ryan. My great-grandmother Smith owned them. She wore them in a really ornate setting, and when I was little I really loved them. I just loved the blue color. They looked so nice next to her blue hair," she laughed. "Anyway, she left them to me when she died. I never knew what to do with them, but when I look at them now, all I can think of is your eyes." She leaned over to kiss each closed eye in turn. "Maybe that's why I liked them so much. Maybe I somehow knew that eyes that looked like these would one day belong to my mate."

Ryan's voice was rough with emotion. She was terribly touched at the sentiment, but a little hesitant to accept the gift. "Jamie, these earrings are a family heirloom. You can't just give them away."

"Ryan, I've given you something much more precious than simple diamonds. I've given you my heart," she said sincerely. "Let me commemorate that gift with these."

"These are diamonds?" She stared at the crystal clear, ice blue stones.

"Yeah, they're really rare, but diamonds are sometimes blue. Something to do with the type of carbon or something."

"They're just gorgeous, Jamie," she muttered as she moved them slowly in the sunlight.

"Now you know how I feel when I look into your eyes," she murmured as she draped her arms around her partner and pulled her close for a few tender kisses. When she pulled away, she removed the gems from their box and delicately placed one in each perfectly shaped earlobe. "Perfect. Just perfect," she whispered.

They sat in silence for a long while, just watching the crashing waves beat against the shore. Their hands were laced together and their heads touched lightly just above their temples. Finally, Ryan broke the silence. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yes, I am." Jamie chuckled as she stood and extended a hand to her partner. "I'm ready to have you make a woman out of me." Ryan grinned up at her as she was pulled to her feet. "You know, this is a much better way to get married," Jamie mused as they walked to the car, hand in hand. "Just the two of us, pledging our love to each other. As soon as we finish, no fancy party, no long reception lines--it's time for the honeymoon! This is clearly the better alternative-for our first wedding, at least!"

"I agree completely," Ryan beamed. "Let the honeymoon begin!"


As they drove along, Jamie could feel the restraints she had placed on her libido start to loosen. By the time they reached 17 Mile Drive, her hand was running up and down Ryan's thigh, and both women could feel their hearts starting to beat faster. Scenes from their weeks together began to play in Jamie's head and she could almost taste Ryan's luscious lips as they drew closer to her home. Thinking of the rabid desire she saw radiating from Ryan's eyes when they were at Mia's caused her heart to skip a beat, and she turned to say something to her partner. Ryan's head turned simultaneously and even behind the dark glasses Jamie could see that her partner's thoughts were headed in the same direction. Suddenly speechless, both women sighed deeply as they shared a smile that promised their desires would soon be sated.

Jamie called out the turns and right after they passed the Cypress Point Country Club, she indicated that Ryan should slow down. They pulled up to a gated driveway and Jamie gave her the entry code, which just happened to be her birthday. Ryan shot her a little grin as the massive gates swung open. She drove up the curved drive, through lush landscaping, finally arriving at a lovely covered carriageway that led to a crushed gravel courtyard. Jamie curtly instructed, "Leave it right here," as she scrambled out of the car while it was still slowing to a stop.

Ryan got out and started to stretch her back, only to be stopped mid-stretch by a hand that grasped hers and pulled her insistently up to the front door. Jamie lifted the cover of a small touch pad and pressed her thumb onto the device. A disembodied voice said, "Welcome home, Jamie," and then the door latch clicked open. Ryan gasped in surprise and tried to take a look at the device but was pulled roughly forward. She stumbled a bit as she fell over the entryway, regaining her balance only to have the air knocked out of her lungs as she was thrown back against the massive oak door with an audible 'thud!'

Before she could open her mouth to protest, Jamie was on her with a fury. She started to unbutton her linen shirt as she ground her mouth onto Ryan's. In seconds, the shirt was hanging loosely from Ryan's shoulders and she was frantically working on the zipper of her shorts. Ryan was still trying to catch her breath. She was well aware that a very wild woman was hidden just beneath the normally placid exterior of her partner, but she hadn't counted on that side appearing so dramatically. She desperately needed to feel some sense of control, so she tried to slow Jamie down a bit by lightening the intensity of the kisses raining down on her. Undeterred, Jamie roughly grabbed the back of her head and held on tight, intent on maintaining the frantic pace that she had set. Now her hands dropped to grab Ryan's rear, pulling her forward as she ground her hips against her partner's. Ryan's heart was beating loudly and she felt a little weak as Jamie so totally devoured her. She summoned every ounce of her composure to finally rasp out, "Can't we go to a bed?"

Jamie looked up at her and paused for just a moment, a look of total confusion quickly replacing her fervid groping of moments before. Her face was flushed and her forehead was a little damp from her exertions. She looked as though that option hadn't occurred to her, but finally nodded her approval. Ryan wasn't sure what she was supposed to do. She had no idea where the bedrooms were, but Jamie just stood there, looking blank. She chose the only course of action that she could think of. She tossed her hat off, picked Jamie up in her arms and, after kicking off her shoes, started walking. She heard Jamie's shoes drop as she carried her toward a winding staircase. As they climbed the lushly carpeted stairs, Jamie latched onto her mouth again, forcing her to grab onto the railing with a free hand to guide their progress. Ryan passed two bedrooms and, as she neared the third, an arm shot out to grab onto the doorjamb. This must be the place, she thought happily, as she softly lowered Jamie to the king-sized bed. She realized she was still wearing her sunglasses and carelessly threw them over her shoulder as she lowered herself to cover her partner with her body.

Jamie was waiting for her with a look of unbridled lust in her eyes. Ryan was actually a little tentative, not knowing what to expect and a little surprised by the suddenness and ferocity of this neophyte's attack. Jamie rolled over onto her, straddling her hips as she sat up and ran her hands up and down her chest. Since her partner had often expressed a preference for unhindered breasts, in lieu of a bra Ryan wore a tight black cotton knit tank top with delicate straps and a small lace inset at the neckline under her linen shirt. As Jamie's hands feverishly trailed over the nearly bare mounds, her green eyes grew wide and unfocused. Slowly her hands stilled completely and she gave Ryan a near-panicked stare.

Ryan sat up and pulled her down to the bed, embracing her tenderly while she tried to soothe her. She trailed her fingers through Jamie's soft blonde hair as she asked, "It's not as easy as it looks, is it?" Jamie shook her head shyly, burying her face in Ryan's neck as her partner added, "That's why we tell newcomers not to try this at home without an experienced member of the club to guide them along."

When she lifted her head to meet Ryan's understanding gaze, the green eyes were still clouded by doubt. "I'm...I'm a little freaked," she whispered with a quavering voice.

"Hey," Ryan's smooth, deep voice replied. "There's no rush here, Jamie. Let's just regroup a little, okay?" Even though Ryan was throbbing with desire, she didn't mind slowing down one bit. She had been dreaming about this day for months, and she didn't really like the idea of treating each other with the urgency of dogs in heat-at first, that is, she amended with an internal smirk. She had dreamed of making love with her partner for hours their first time and she hoped that a little break might allow them to slow the pace down considerably. She rolled off the bed and re-fastened her clothing, which now looked like she had slept in it for several days. Extending her hand, she pulled her partner to her feet and held her tenderly for a few minutes. "What's your favorite room?" she asked softly.

"Umm, I have a couple, but on this floor I like my old playroom."

"Come on," Ryan suggested as she held out her hand. "Show it to me."

"Ummm..." Jamie held back, hesitation evident in her face. "Do you want to um...in there?" she asked quietly.

Ryan beamed a gentle smile and assured her, "I just want to regroup a little, Honey. Let's take this slow."

A quick nod showed that Jamie agreed completely, and she gripped Ryan's hand and led her down the hall.

As they walked along the thickly carpeted hallway in their bare feet, Ryan wondered about the need for a quiet, only child to have a "playroom". The O'Flaherty children could have really used a place to keep the toys and games that littered every square inch of their tiny house when they were small, but she couldn't imagine what went on in the playroom of Jamie's house.

At the end of the rather long hallway, they came to an exceptionally sunny room that looked more like a solarium than a playroom. The rear wall was nearly all glass, allowing a stunning view of the ocean. As Ryan looked up she saw that the majority of the sunlight came in through the narrow skylights that ringed the chamfered ceiling. The room was so big that there were 20 of them, each about three feet long by a foot wide. They allowed a great deal of light to enter but, since they were at the edge of the room, the early afternoon sun did not shine directly on them. "Boy, this must be a great place to curl up with a book on a winter afternoon," Ryan mused as she surveyed the wall of books that flanked an attractive fireplace.

"Yeah, it really is. Mother had this converted to a sun room/library combo when I was in high school. It's one of my favorite places down here. I used it as a study room." Ryan looked around and noticed a beautiful writing desk set on an angle in the corner of the room. The very comfortable looking upholstered chair that was snugged up under the table was obviously an office chair, now that she looked closely at the casters on the bottom. A laptop computer sat on the desk and Ryan had a vision of her young lover sitting at the desk, working on some term paper for school.

"Very nice setup," she approved as Jamie showed her the printer and other various office supplies hidden in the armoire just behind the desk.

"Mother uses this as her office now," Jamie commented. Ryan couldn't for the life of her figure out why a woman who did not work outside the home needed an office at her weekend getaway, but she didn't think now was the time to ask.

As Ryan walked around to the front of the table, she noticed one solitary ornament besides the pencil holder--a beautifully framed picture of Jamie as a baby, no more than Caitlin's age. She was wearing a little navy blue dress covered by a white eyelet pinafore, and she was gazing up at the photographer with the calm, interested gaze that she so often gave Ryan when she was trying to understand something. "God, this is precious." Ryan stroked baby Jamie's face through the glass as she held the frame in her hand.

Jamie chuckled at the tone of her partner's voice. "I've got a million of 'em if you want to look at pictures," she said lightly.

"No, there's something about this one that just captures you," she mused. "You hardly look any different than you do now. I've seen that look a thousand times."

"Hmm," Jamie speculated as she looked around Ryan's shoulder to view the photo. "I don't think I've seen that one before. Mother must have dug it out when she redecorated last."

Ryan placed the picture on the desk and looked around again. The room was mostly unstructured and was clearly meant to be a place to relax and read or contemplate, rather than entertain. There wasn't much furniture, just a pair of upholstered wing chairs that flanked the fireplace and a large, wide fainting couch in a delicate looking cream colored silk that faced the wide expanse of glass.

Taking Jamie by the hand, the larger woman led her to the couch and sat down. "We can use the furniture, can't we?" she asked a little tentatively.

"Well, sure," Jamie agreed as she flopped down beside her, puzzled that Ryan would ask such a question.

"Wow, this is awfully comfortable." Ryan bounced a little on the piece.

"Yeah, one of mother's many indulgences," she scoffed. "This bottom cushion is made like an innerspring mattress and covered with down. And the back cushions are all down."

"Wow, I always wanted a down pillow," Ryan said rather wistfully. "Sar...my...ahh...best friend in high school had down pillows on her bed, and they just seemed so luxurious." Ryan mentally slapped herself for almost bringing up Sara's name. The last thing she wanted was to dredge up those painful old memories, and she was sure that Jamie didn't want the past to intrude on their honeymoon.

Jamie was struck by her partner's wistful expression, and she briefly considered the disparity in their upbringings. "All of this stuff doesn't bother you, does it?" she asked, gently placing a hand on Ryan's knee.

"Huh uh, not at all," the dark head shook decisively. "It's kinda like being in a really elegant hotel. I mean, I know it's kinda your house, but it's not really yours, so I can just observe rather than feel overwhelmed."

"I think I understand," Jamie agreed, as she leaned against the gracefully curved back of the couch. "It would probably bother you if my house in Berkeley was like this, and we were gonna live there, but since this is my parents' place you can be a little bit removed."

"Exactly." Ryan tossed her head back against the squooshy pillows. Sticking her arm out, she motioned for Jamie to curl up against her. "Come here, Sweetness," she demanded.

Only too happy to comply, Jamie cuddled up against her side. "Umm, better than down," she muttered as she rested her head upon Ryan's chest.

"And hypo-allergenic," she supplied with a chuckle.

"Mmm, I don't know about that," Jamie mused. "I think I had an adverse reaction in the bedroom."

"Hey, don't give it another thought," Ryan insisted. "We've got the entire week to get comfortable with each other. There's no rush, Jamie. I really mean that."

"Really?" she asked, in a most fragile, childlike voice.

"Honey," Ryan soothed, trailing her fingers through her soft hair. "If we go back to the city on Saturday having done nothing more erotic than this, it will be completely okay with me." Well, that's the biggest lie I've ever told her. But after going so slow these past weeks I'm not going to blow it now! "I want you to go as slowly as you need to, Jamie. I figure we've got a good 60 years ahead of us. That's 3,120 weeks. What's the big deal about spending a few of them getting to know each other?" Please make it not take weeks, she silently begged.

A delighted smile beamed up at Ryan as she said these words. "Do you really mean that?" Jamie asked shyly.

"Of course I do! I'm here for you, Jamie. To love, honor, and cherish you. I wouldn't dream of rushing you into anything you didn't feel comfortable with." As she said that, Ryan realized that she meant every word. As much as she wanted to consume the woman in her arms, she realized that their emotional connection and the trust they shared were the most important elements of their relationship.

"I love you, Ryan," Jamie whispered. "It's so wonderful how you constantly show how much you love me." She pulled the dark head down and spent several minutes kissing the soft pink lips.

"This is enough for me," Ryan murmured into her clean, floral scented hair. "To hold you and kiss you just makes me so happy." She gave her a strong squeeze as she felt her heart fill with the emotion that often overwhelmed her when she considered the love she felt for her partner.

"I...I don't know why I got so scared before," Jamie muttered in confusion. "I know you so well, Ryan, and I've touched you so many times. Why do you think it bothered me?"

Ryan considered the question carefully before she answered. She ran her fingers through her partner's golden hair as she thought, but she finally postulated, "I think we were forcing it a little."

"Forcing?"

"Yeah. Normally we start out kinda slow and let our emotions and our hormones take us where they may. Today it seemed like we came here for the purpose of making love, and I think the pressure got to be too much for you. I think we just have a little honeymoon anxiety."

"We?" she asked uncertainly, having seen no evidence of anxiety from her partner.

"Sure," Ryan said easily. "I was a little freaked too, Hon. This is your first time with a woman, but it's my first time with you." Glittering blue eyes that held just a little mirth looked down at Jamie, and for the thousandth time she thanked God for the precious gift of this wonderful woman.

A heavy, contented sigh left the small woman's lips. She was feeling much better, but she wasn't sure how to get past the confusion that had befuddled her. "How do...we...get through our discomfort, Honey?" She knew that Ryan was toying with her a little bit, but she was grateful for the note of levity.

"Don't worry about it, Babe. It's not a race. If we just act naturally, it will happen. Let's not make it our destination," she offered. "If our bodies lead us there, it's fine. Try not to put pressure on yourself to go there if you're not ready."

"Okay." She lay her head back down on Ryan's chest. "I'll chill out a little." Looking at her watch she said, "It's nearly two. Don't you need some lunch?"

Ryan pursed her lips together, appearing to consider the idea. "I could eat," she finally conceded.

"There's a news flash," her partner teased as she got up and pulled her perennially hungry partner with her. "Let's get a little something in that tummy." As they walked back down the hall, Jamie suggested a division of tasks. "If you bring in the bags, I'll make you a sandwich."

"Is there stuff here?" Ryan asked, wrinkling her brow.

"Yep. I'll make some lunch, and we can eat on the patio."


When Ryan returned from lugging their bags upstairs, she noticed that the huge wooden doors in the living room were wide open, the ocean breeze causing the heavy drapes to flutter. She poked her head out and saw her lover sitting at a rectangular glass topped table that could easily seat ten. The table and the matching chairs were a natural wrought iron with tan and cream striped cushions covering the seats. Several lounge chairs and chaises were placed around the granite patio, all covered with the same fabric. The patio faced the ocean, but the three-foot-tall, dry-stacked stone wall that surrounded the space was topped by equally tall Plexiglas panels that effectively blocked the near-constant wind. Jamie had set the table with placemats and linen napkins and was sipping a glass of lemonade, looking out at the ocean, when Ryan arrived.

"You really look like you belong here," the dark woman mused, as she appraised her lover in her native habitat.

"Umm, is that a compliment?"

"No, but it's not a criticism either," Ryan assured her as she pulled out a chair and sat down. "It's just an observation. I just meant that you seem comfortable and self-assured in this setting."

"Well," she said thoughtfully. "I've spent a lot of time here, and I do feel comfortable. I actually feel more comfortable here than I do at my parents' home," she admitted. "When we were down here we acted more like a family, so it guess it feels more like home."

"What exactly do you mean?" Ryan asked, not sure why the change of locales would affect the family dynamics.

"Well, we were usually all together here. Daddy couldn't go to the office, and he almost never brought clients down. Mother was away from her friends and activities, so they both paid some attention to me," she said softly. "We'd play golf or just hang out. It was nice."

Ryan felt the stab of anger that often overwhelmed her when her lover talked about her childhood. Jamie had such a sad and wistful expression on her face that she just wanted to hold her and make all of those lonely days disappear. Still, she knew that even though her wish was genuine, there was nothing that she could do to make the old pain go away. All that she could do was help prevent her lover from ever having another lonely day.

They ate their turkey sandwiches in a companionable silence. The brisk wind and the still warm sun made Ryan's appetite greater than usual and, after a few puppy dog looks, her partner went back into the kitchen and emerged with another complete lunch. Jamie sat and watched her demolish the second sandwich, hands laced together with her chin resting upon them, grinning the entire time. "I gotta put that weight back on," Ryan smiled, as she gobbled down another forkful of creamy coleslaw.

"Umm-hmm," her lover agreed with a smirk.

When the second entrée was finished, Jamie went into the kitchen once again and returned with a plate of huge, dense cookies. "What are these?" Ryan asked as she took a big bite.

"Snickerdoodles," she informed her. "Chocolate chips, walnuts, and caramel in a Toll House base."

"Wow," she drawled, nearly swooning with pleasure. "These are fannnnn-tastic."

"Thought you might like them." Jamie smiled as she ate just one of the treats. Ryan didn't disappoint, consuming the other three cookies in short order.

"Anything you wanna do this afternoon?" Jamie asked as Ryan leaned back in her chair, looking very satisfied.

"Hmm, not really. I feel like just lazing around a little bit. That chaise lounge looks pretty good right now." Ryan indicated a wide chaise resting under a big umbrella made of the same fabric as the chairs.

"Let's do it," Jamie agreed, taking her hand.


Continued in Part 4

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