Authors: Meagher, Susan X
Tags: #Lesbian, #Romance
In the first two books of this series, Jamie and Ryan forged a friendship, and realized that they had fallen deeply in love.
This book brings the two of them together for their honeymoon in idyllic Pebble Beach. Here they commit themselves to sharing their lives together. They begin to experience and explore the emotional and physical expressions of their love, as well as the conflicts and compromises that plague all new relationships.
The massive six-lane thoroughfare was jammed with people. Some sat upon sleek, brightly colored racing bikes, unwilling to dismount even after so much saddle time. Small packs of people clad in bright, primary-colored Tshirts said their goodbyes with emotion-filled hugs. Coworkers, family members, friends, and lovers shouted greetings and ran to meet their loved ones, welcoming them home from their long journey. So many people—so much emotion; the scene was close to chaotic, save for one small oasis of tranquility.
Two young women sat alone on the edge of a large, balloon-bedecked stage. They were holding hands and the smaller of the two, a young blonde woman, leaned heavily against her taller, brunette companion. Her fair head rested against the broad shoulder of her friend, who supported her with a strong arm tucked around her waist. A banner over their heads proclaimed, "California AIDS Ride 6---Welcome Home, Riders," but neither woman seemed particularly cognizant of her surroundings.
They gazed blankly at the throng of people below them, their unfocused eyes only partially taking in the joyous celebration that showed no signs of abating. As a group of stagehands jumped onto the platform and began to break down the stage, the smaller woman spoke. "I know we should go, but if we do, I feel like the spell will be broken."
"Spell?" Her dark companion’s voice rumbled huskily, its normally smooth tones rough from singing and shouting farewells.
"Yeah," the blonde answered, feeling a little shy. "This week has been so magical for me that I’m afraid to have it end."
"Jamie," the deep voice crooned, "the magic has just begun, Baby."
Sighing heavily, the blonde cuddled up tighter against her partner. "Really, Ryan? Are you sure we’ll be able to hold on to this feeling?" Her voice held a wistful note, and it was clear that she hoped that her friend would reassure her.
The brunette sat up tall, separating a bit from her companion. She allowed her considerable confidence to show as she sought to convince her partner. "Guaranteed, Babe. This feeling is all about love, and passion and commitment. We’ve got tons of that!" A gentle laugh floated up to Ryan, and both women smiled as they considered that thought. "I could sit here all day, but I guess we’d better go find Mia or she’ll ditch us," Ryan suggested, a small chuckle showing that she was partially kidding.
"More likely she’ll hook up with someone, and then ditch us," Jamie laughed, well aware of her roommate and long-time friend’s tendencies.
She got to her feet and stretched for a minute to get some of the kinks out of her back. She was bent over at the waist loosening up her hamstrings when Ryan chortled, "You know her too well, Hon. She’s hooked up alright—ooh—an older man."
"Probably the head of the studio," Jamie said absently, alluding both to her friend’s propensity to attract attention from a wide variety of males, and her summer job working for a movie studio in L.A.
Ryan jumped to her feet and gave a hearty wave as Mia jogged over while holding the hand of a middle-aged, sandy-haired man. Ryan turned to comment on Mia’s date but caught sight of her partner’s stark white, terror-stricken face. "Jamie, what’s wrong?" she cried, grasping her by the shoulders.
"M…m…my f…f…father!" she squeaked out, looking like she was going to faint.
Ryan’s hands dropped as she whirled to stare at the approaching pair. Her eyes focused on the tall, athletic-looking man and immediately saw the resemblance to her partner. Not bothering to process the information her brain was receiving, she leapt from the platform and intercepted Mia, grabbing her in an enthusiastic hug, while Jamie’s father, his attention centered on his daughter, continued towards the stage.
"Miss me?" Mia giggled, her feet dangling a foot and a half off the ground.
"What did you see?" Ryan hissed into her ear.
Mia leaned back in the embrace, staring at Ryan for a moment. "What do you mean? We saw a bunch of people on bikes."
"You didn’t see us on the stage?" the dark woman demanded, her heart still racing.
"Well, yeah, we saw you on stage. It was like 30 seconds ago, Ryan. Do you have heat stroke or something?" the curly-haired woman asked with concern as she looked into Ryan’s eyes.
Exhaling heavily, Ryan placed Mia back on the ground and leaned over, resting her head on the small woman’s shoulder. "Thank you, Jesus," she breathed.
Mia placed her hands on Ryan’s shoulders and moved back a few inches, staring at the normally implacable woman. "What in the hell is going on, Ryan?" she asked. "You look like you had the scare of your life!"
Turning her head to catch sight of her partner, Ryan murmured, "We almost did, Mia. We almost did."
"Daddy," Jamie whispered, her voice far too soft for her father to hear. The beaming man extended both of his strong arms, and without a second thought, she clasped his forearms and let him grab her waist and lower her to the ground. "Daddy," she whispered again, the weak voice now filled with tears. Her panic had morphed into shock, but when she saw how happy her father looked her mood changed once again—now she was filled with appreciation that her father had gone out of his way to be here for her. "How…when…God, I’m glad to see you," she finally got out.
"Nothing could stop me from being here for you, Cupcake," he murmured, his voice cracking with emotion. "I’m so proud of you, Jamie. So very proud." The hug in which he had enveloped his child had grown progressively tighter as he spoke, and he had to force himself to loosen his hold. "I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder in my whole life," he finally whispered. "I’m so happy that you’re my daughter."
Hot tears began to course down Jamie’s cheeks, her body weak with emotion. "Thank you…thank you for coming, Daddy." She wiped the tears away with the back of her hand, the gesture ineffectual since the flow had not stopped. Jim Evans retrieved his clean linen handkerchief and gently dabbed at her eyes, the tender gesture causing the emotional woman to cry even harder. "It…it just means so much to me," she sobbed. "I’ll never forget this, Daddy."
"There, there, Baby," he murmured, hugging her tightly. "It’s all right, Honey. It’s all right."
It took another minute or so for Jamie to control herself, but she finally took a deep, ragged breath and stood tall. "Wow, that just knocked me out," she said, a little embarrassed at her uncharacteristically emotional display.
"This was a very big deal, Jamie. It’s perfectly understandable that you would be emotional about it. While we were waiting, Mia and I heard some of the families talking about their loved ones who were participating. There are a lot of very courageous people on this ride, Honey."
"Oh, I know, Daddy," she smiled. "And here’s one I want you to meet." She extended her hand and grasped Ryan’s arm, pulling her close. "Daddy, this is Ryan O’Flaherty." She didn’t know quite what adjectives to use to express the deep bond she had with her partner, so she chose to say nothing else.
Ryan stepped forward and extended her hand. Her eyes grew wide as the grinning man enveloped her in a hug, whispering, "Thank you for helping Jamie accomplish this, Ryan. I know how instrumental you were."
Ryan was stunned, at both the display of emotion and the warm appreciation that the man offered. "I…I’m…pleased to meet you, Mr. Evans," she got out.
"Forget the ‘Mr. Evans’ stuff, Ryan," he said, releasing her. "Please call me Jim."
"Me, too?" Mia piped up, poking her head around Ryan’s shoulder.
"You too, Mia," he laughed. "You girls are adults now, and it’s time we treated each other that way."
"Cool," the cherub-faced brunette beamed.
"I’ve gotta get my bearings here," Jamie muttered. "I still don’t know how you got here, or why you’re not still in Italy, Daddy."
"It’s simple," he said as he slung his arm around his daughter. "Let’s go get your things and I’ll tell you all about it." As they started for the "Meet and Greet" area, he explained, "I needed to be at work on Monday for a meeting, so I decided that if I had to be in California on Sunday, I might as well come on Saturday. I called Mia’s dad, got her number, and she and I met up this morning."
"So, you’re staying over?" Jamie asked, hoping that was not the case. As grateful as she was for her father’s generous act, she had a deep need to spend the evening in her partner’s arms, and she doubted that would happen if her father were to stay the night.
"No, Baby, that’s why we came to look for you. I’ve got very little time. My flight is at seven o’clock, so I need to be at LAX by six."
"It’s nearly five now," Jamie said, looking quickly at her watch. "You have to leave now to be sure you make it."
"My point exactly," he smiled. "We thought you’d never get over here, so we had to come find you."
They were now at the gear pick-up area, and since they were so late, their things were easy to find. "It’s amazing you found us in this crowd," Jamie mused.
"Not really," Mia piped up. "I saw a big group of women with matching Tshirts that said…um…that said…that they were from San Francisco." Mia discreetly failed to mention that the complete slogan was, '
The Lavender Menace—San Francisco
'. "On a whim, I asked if they knew you or Ryan, and they did! One of them said you guys were still over at the stage, so we high-tailed it over there."
Mia’s huge, rather impish smile indicated that she had more to add, but Jamie, wary of Mia's propensity to reveal all, didn’t want to ask for too many details. Therefore, she tailored her query to obtain the minimum of information. "Did you see the whole ceremony?"
"Yeah, but we didn’t hear it," Mia laughed. "We watched from your dad’s office." She turned and pointed to one of the gleaming stainless steel office buildings that flanked the wide street. "Up there, on the 15
Jamie offered up a silent prayer of thanks that her father had an office in the neighborhood, since he surely would have seen the impromptu serenade if he had been in the crowd. "That’s fantastic," she said, the relief evident on her face. "I’m so glad you saw it all."
"Yeah, it was pretty cool from that perspective," Mia commented. "It was just a sea of people and bikes."
Jim nodded enthusiastically, smiling broadly at his daughter. "It was very impressive, Jamie." He took a quick glance at his watch, pursing his lips as a worried frown settled on his forehead. "I hate to leave so abruptly, but I really have to run."
Mia and Ryan busied themselves with grabbing all of the gear so that Jamie could have a moment alone with her father. Once the gear was secured, Ryan paused to take in her future father-in-law. Her previous glimpses of the man only allowed her to identify him from an angle that she hoped she was never unlucky enough to see again. Viewing him fully clothed allowed her to concentrate on the overall package, and she was pleased with what she saw.
He was tall, much taller than Ryan would have guessed--actually about Ryan’s height--and his build was amazingly similar to Jack’s. His hair was mostly blonde with a good smattering of gray that, with his vibrant demeanor, actually looked premature. After another minute of reflection, however, Ryan amended her opinion. Jim Evans did not really look that young when judged solely by his features or his hair, but there was something absolutely boyish about his sparkling eyes and energetic enthusiasm. Ryan had always prided herself on being able to judge people based on their physical appearance and energy level. After spending a moment looking at Jim, she decided that things would probably go just fine between them. He looked friendly, and open, and very at ease with his emotions. He reminded her a bit of Jamie’s grandfather and she prayed that Jim took after his father in personality and open-mindedness as well as in appearance.
No matter what happens when Jamie comes out to him, Jim has shown that Jamie means a great deal to him
, Ryan thought, watching the father and daughter talk quietly.
He really went out of his way to be here to support her and for that, I’ll always be grateful
Jamie stared at her father for a few minutes, enormously pleased that he had realized how important this event was to her. He seemed to understand her unspoken words as he placed his hands on her shoulders and smiled broadly. "Your mother and I worried about you all week, Honey. We must have mentioned you at least 20 times on Sunday alone." His smile broadened as he revealed, "I called my secretary as soon as the office opened on Monday to see if she had watched the news about the start of the ride. She went on and on about how many people were riding, and how much money had been raised, and I decided that if I could rearrange my plans a little in order to be here with you, it was well worth the effort."
As she wrapped her arms around his waist for another hug, he continued, "You know, Jamie, it’s one thing to give money to a charity, but quite another to make this kind of physical and emotional sacrifice. You’ve really shown me what you’re made of."
She snuggled into his embrace and just let the sobs take over. He patted her back and rocked her slightly, just as he had when she was young. When she was in control, he held her out at arm’s length to inspect her. He was both surprised and pleased by how muscular and fit his little girl looked. Her skin had tanned during the ride, even with Ryan’s obsessive sun block application, and she looked healthy and vigorous and very mature. Tears formed in his eyes once again as he held her tightly and allowed himself to share in her accomplishment.