The Homecoming by Janet Lynne

The Homecoming
by Janet Lynne

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and Eve are owned by Pacific Renaissance/MCA Universal/USA Studios. I have only borrowed some of their identifying characteristics for this Work of original Fiction.

Content Warning: This is a Story of two Women who are very much in love and there are many descriptions of lovemaking, some of which are explicit. If you are under the age of consent where you live, please reconsider reading this Story. Thanks!

Language: Imagine Xena in the 1990’s – yep, she swears. And she’s a cop, so there’s some violence too.

“New Age”/Religious Content warning: I’m a “new age” kind of girl, so my characters are too. All new age/metaphysical and healing occurrences presented here are actual phenomena that I have personally experienced. By presenting my characters’ religious views, I by no means wish to diminish the views of others. IMHO, each person’s religious view is the “right” one (smile).
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Part One

-Prologue-

July, 1994

A pair of hawks, the fourth such that she had seen over the last several miles, soared above the highway on thermals of air rising from the foot of the low mountain range. The late morning sun glared brilliantly off the windshield of the black Jeep Wrangler as it traveled east along California 580, a 2-lane ribbon of highway cutting between sculptured golden foothills of dried, knee-high grass. Hundreds of giant electricity-generating windmills on either side of the road stood like sentries above the San Joaquin Valley below. Most of them were idle, oddly enough, during this heat wave. The driver scowled under mirrored Ray Bans, marveling at the incredible inefficiency of the current State Government and wondered if anything would change when (not if!) a Democrat returned to the Governorship. One would hope, but probably not. At least we have a Democrat in the White House now, the political activist thought.

She glanced up at the hawks again, enjoying their graceful beauty as she tried to remember the hawk’s message from traditional Native American lore. She nodded as it came to her: Hawk is the messenger, reminding you to look for omens and signals in your life and to take the long view. Circle over your life from above if necessary and examine it. Thank you hawk-friends. That is exactly what I’ve been doing.

The hot wind blowing in through the half-opened side window blew her shoulder-length blonde hair across her face. She smiled, enjoying the feeling of freedom that the wind and the road beneath her wheels gave her, forgetting for the time being her pessimism and her disgust at the current state of politics. It was good to feel free again. Well, not so much free as unencumbered. Home. Wonder if it will still feel like home? she mused. Even as seemingly sure as she was that this move was the right one for her at that point in her life, she still had trouble believing that anyplace other than her beloved San Francisco could ever truly be home for her again.

Janna Norden, at thirty-two, felt almost like a teenager again. She felt an enthusiasm and an excitement not unlike that which she had felt the first time she had left home. This time, of course, it was tempered by maturity and by life experience, but it was a definite enthusiasm nonetheless: an eagerness to begin anew. It had been a long six months. Six months? If she were really honest with herself she would have to admit that it had actually been a long fourteen years. Fourteen years since she had left home, at eighteen, to “find herself”. Find herself she had, eventually, in San Francisco’s punk rock and GLBT activism scenes. She had, through sheer self-determination and hard work, become a successful musician – in a field where success is most often fleeting at best, especially for a woman. She had plugged away as a guitarist, or a bassist, or a drummer (whatever was needed) in increasingly competent bands until she had landed in one that had, for a brief time, hit the “big time”. That brief stint at the top had been all that had been required to establish herself as a serious, accomplished musician and to set herself up in the relatively stable career of a session artist and occasional producer.

But the lifestyle of her chosen profession had slowly eaten away at her. Not that she was particularly self-destructive, she wasn’t, but being immersed in that world and seeing friend after friend dragged down, and worse, dead, had taken it’s toll. She was ready for a change. Her excursion into photography had given her the opportunity to make that change. Gigs and recording sessions had slowly given way to photographing concerts and artists, which had in turn increasingly given way to scenic and nature shoots. She began spending much more time outdoors than in and was enjoying it immensely. She had begun to dread the days when she would be trapped in a studio all day, thinking about how she would rather be at the seaside or in the mountains, rather than about the task at hand. So, recently, she had quit the music biz completely. She felt very lucky, and grateful, that through prudent investing of residual earnings, she had acquired financial independence and was now able to support herself in her new career. Almost at once she had started to feel more balanced – happier.

With the career change, however, came imbalance in her personal life. Most of her friends and all of her lovers whom, remarkably, you could count on one hand, given her profession (if you didn’t count half-remembered drunken early-years encounters with fans), had been musicians. Her last serious relationship had ended nearly a year ago and she had been so badly burned that she had not even been tempted to date since. She had made some good friends in the queer scene, though and that had helped to fill the void she felt. She was able to do good work, helping others, lending her “name” to charity events and fundraising organizations. Unfortunately, the fulfillment and joy of helping others, and especially, that of working with pediatric AIDS patients, was offset by the pain of losing friends to the dread plague. In the last year alone she had lost two close friends to the disease. It was not without surprise that she had recently begun to feel complete with that stage of her life, but it was with tremendous astonishment that she had started to feel a pull back towards home.

It was a strong gut feeling, an intuition, which had started to nag at her. She had learned somewhere along the line to trust her intuition, so here she was, on her way back to the hot, dry agricultural town where she had grown up. A town which held, as it’s main claim to fame, its location halfway between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains and was very proud of its inland seaport. It was a predominately conservative, homophobe ridden town existing somewhat uncomfortably within a predominately liberal state. Am I nuts? she wondered. Not receiving an answer, she drove on, musing silently about how strongly she felt that she needed to return home, despite the hot, flat ugliness of the place and the overriding narrow-mindedness of many of it’s residents. Little did she know that she would very shortly have an encounter that would make the reason for her yearning all too obvious.

As an L7 song blasted from the sound system, the driver drummed her fingers on the steering wheel and began her descent into the great valley below, and into a new era of her life.

~~~~~~~~~~

Officer Ryan Zamora wiped her brow with a handkerchief and then readjusted her sunglasses under the bicycle helmet. God, it’s hot, she thought, as the sun beat down incessantly and was soaked up by her dark uniform. The heat was made all the more unbearable by the bulletproof vest which she wore under her shirt. Only a few more hours of patrol and then she would have three days off. Her time off couldn’t have come at a better time, she thought, what with this early July heat wave.

As a bicycle patrol cop she didn’t have the luxury of an air-conditioned patrol car to escape the heat in. Normally, she loved her job. Loved being on the bike, keeping fit, interacting with people, and of course, loved being of service, but this prolonged heat was wiping her out. This despite the exceptional health and fitness level she enjoyed.

It was four o’clock in the afternoon, so her shift was heating up as well. Her beat was downtown and the office workers would be heading home soon, creating a two-hour mass exodus from the center of the city. She had two hours of (hopefully) minor traffic accidents to look forward to, as well as the perpetual problems encountered when young, upwardly mobile business people were forced to interact with street people, as they were here, on her beat.

Her partner, John Stewart, was up ahead of her, foot braced against the curb as he waited for her to catch up. He watched over his shoulder as she pushed off from the curb and approached him, admiring her tan, fit body and her self-assured attitude.
She glided past him, grinning as she said, “What’s the matter John, too hot for ya?”

He laughed easily, knowing that it was indeed too hot for him, but it wasn’t the weather that was affecting him – it was his beautiful partner. His beautiful, gay partner. Some girls have all the luck, he thought, not for the first time, with an internal shake of his head. He pushed off from the curb, still grinning as he followed his partner down the street.

As they maneuvered along between the grid locked traffic heading north and the sidewalk equally grid locked with pedestrians, Ryan couldn’t help but grin sardonically at the fact that her partner, once again, had managed to situate himself behind her. Guys! She shook her head, her short, dark hair waving gently, momentarily cooling her overheated neck, as she pedaled on.

33-year old Ryan Zamora had been a cop for over a dozen years and had found it to be an extremely fulfilling and exciting career. She was doing the only thing that she had ever really wanted to do. Despite that fulfillment, in the last six months or so she had begun to feel as if something were missing from her life. She had an inkling that it might have something to do with her private life, or lack thereof, but that was such a disquieting idea that she refused to stop and examine it. After the unparalleled disaster of her last relationship she wanted nothing more to do with love, romance, relationships, or commitment. She wanted only to throw herself into her vocation and her main avocation, which was softball.

So driven was she in both her love of career and loathe of personal relationships that she had not seen anyone romantically in over two years. She had not had a single casual affair or even a one night stand, an activity with which she had been quite familiar in the past. She had not been so much as attracted to, or tempted by, any woman, much to the displeasure of many.

So it was that she would not have been able to fathom the depth of the changes coming into her life very soon. Changes that would be initiated by her chance meeting with a 32-year old musician turned photographer on a hot, dry San Joaquin Valley evening in July.

-1-

Her first two weeks back home went relatively smoothly for Janna. Her reunion with her family had been a happy one, despite their conservative (or was it just “old fashioned”?) beliefs. They had known, of course, of her “lifestyle”, but the physical distance between them had softened their differences some. Now that she was home and they were seeing a lot of her, they had been forced to confront their attitudes and had been somewhat surprised to find that it wasn’t all that big a deal – they loved their daughter for the good woman that she was, regardless of her sexual preference.

Both parents had even come to believe that their daughter’s homosexuality hadn’t actually been a choice on her part, nor had it been caused by something they had done wrong in raising her, but that she had simply been born that way. Janna considered this to be representative of significant growth on both her parents’ parts and was extremely proud of them. For her part, Janna had tried to tone down that aspect of her life – not to hide who she was, for she would find that personally morally reprehensible, but simply to not be quite so “out”. This was, after all, no longer San Francisco, where one could go about acting naturally in nearly complete safety. Here, she needed to be cautious. There were plenty of gay people, but they tended, of necessity, to either be inconspicuous or fairly well closeted.

Janna had also reconnected well with her brother, Dan. They had been very close growing up, due mainly to the fact that he was only a year younger than she was, and they were again enjoying a close, if mildly antagonistic, relationship. He was now a married father of two, and Janna absolutely doted on her young niece and nephew. They also enjoyed a good working partnership, as he was the General Contractor making the renovations to Janna’s “new” home.

Her transition to self-employed homeowner was also progressing relatively smoothly . Six months earlier she had purchased a one hundred-year old Victorian-style home in the historic district near the center of town and was having it renovated, as well as adding a photographic studio and darkroom. As a renter in San Francisco, she had never had to concern herself with repairs or home improvement tasks but had found that she was enjoying these jobs very much. She left the heavy carpentry to the experts, of course, but surprised herself at how capable she was at the more basic tasks, such as painting, wall papering and light plumbing. She discovered that there was a certain amount of satisfaction in doing these things herself and was quite pleased with the results of her handiwork.

Also immensely satisfying was the newfound freedom to work her own hours and at her own pace, with the ability to leave for several days, on a whim, to work in the mountains or at the coast or in the foothills above her home valley. She had already had some success in finding local galleries and places of business in which to display her photographs, and had sold some to a few national publications, as well.

The only aspect of her life that wasn’t entirely satisfactory was her social life. She hadn’t been able to connect with a lot of her old friends, for various reasons, but mainly because she returned home a very different person than the teenager who had left there. She had left as bright-eyed, naïve girl, in search of adventure and had returned an experienced, somewhat jaded woman who had seen and done much more than almost all of her childhood friends had. So she now found herself alone most of the time and was unused to that. She really didn’t mind being alone, in fact had always treasured her independence, but while living in the City had become accustomed to having plenty of gay and lesbian friends around. There, there was always something interesting to do and someone to do it with. Here, there was very little to do. At times she almost felt as if she had been transported to some vast wasteland. She, knew, before returning, that the slower pace of life would take some getting used to, but still found herself unprepared when the newness wore off and she found herself feeling lonely. There was so much to do around the house however, that she gave herself little time to be bored or to dwell on her situation.

It was on a Thursday that she heard from several friends from the City, who would be driving to Lake Tahoe and wanted to stop by to see her on the way. With tremendous joy, she greeted her friends Doug, Jay and Melissa. Missy’s partner, Lisa was away on business for two weeks and since she was missing her lover very much, Doug and Jay decided that Missy needed some cheering, away from the City, and that Tahoe was the perfect place for this. Of course, Doug and Jay thought anyplace was a perfect place to party and needed little coaxing to do so.

Upon arrival, all announced that they were famished, so Janna took them to a favorite brewpub. They had a great time getting caught up, over burgers and beers, and Janna felt more happy and relaxed than she had in weeks. Wanting to prolong the fun, Janna suggested that they check out one of the very few gay bars in town. “I have no idea what to expect because I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve heard that they have live music on Thursday nights.”

“Sure”, responded Doug, “how bad can it be?”

Laughing, Janna replied, “Well, keep in mind that this isn’t the City, ok? We may be the only four in there tonight!”

Jay replied sarcastically, “Jesus, this place is hopping isn’t it?” Then in his very best drag queen voice, “Well, we’ll have to liven the place up won’t we? Come on girls!”

To which Missy remarked, “I don’t know Jay Jay, we don’t want to shock the hicks too much. You’d better tone it down some!”

“All right you guys, it’s not that bad here. At least there are gay bars!” growled Janna.

“Yeah, two whole gay bars – how progressive!” responded Dougie.

“Did you guys come to have fun or to sit around ragging on my home town all night?”

“Fun, baby!” squealed Jay.

“Yeah, let’s go guys!” suggested Missy.

“All right then, let’s go. It’s only a few blocks away. Why don’t we walk? It’s Street Market night and there’s lots to see on the way,” suggested Janna.

“Lead on, babe” said Jay.

As they left the brewpub, the many sights, sounds and smells of the popular outdoor farmer’s market and craft fair assailed their senses. The air was full of the rich aromas arising from the many food booths and coffee vendors. Muted strains of several styles of music drifted to their ears, carried on the light breeze. Though early evening, the sun still created a brilliant glare and warmed them as they wandered slowly among the vendors.

As they made their way down the street and in and around the various street vendors, they tried to remember, though it was difficult at times, to cut down on the swish and swagger. Not an easy feat for a happily married gay couple who have had a few beers, or for two out dykes used to their own brand of swagger. Had they been back home in the Castro, they all would have proudly displayed, and even reveled in, their homosexuality. Here they had to stifle their natural tendencies, but they tried not to let it dampen their fun.

They made quite a picture, for those who cared to look. Two cute guys and two attractive women all dressed smartly. Janna wore an emerald green tank top that highlighted her sculpted, lightly muscled arms and shoulders, tucked into faded jeans. Missy was clad in a navy polo and cargo shorts, while the guys wore khaki shorts and cotton shirts. The four of them made two attractive couples; Missy was statuesque with shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes, and Janna was shorter, with blonde hair and vibrant green eyes. Doug and Jay were a similar complement of light and dark: Doug with his blonde hair and light eyes, and Jay, African-American with gorgeous brown eyes. They were all enjoying the atmosphere of the street fair and laughed and joked happily as they walked along the avenue.

As she sat perched on her patrol bike, surveying the avenue, Officer Zamora watched the two couples with a barely noticeable, perceptive grin, paying particular attention to the short blonde. She felt grateful, and not for the first time, that this town offered a relatively safe place for her gay brothers and sisters to gather. Her partner asked, “What are you grinning at?”

“Oh nothing! Just enjoying the evening.”

“Whatever!” replied John, and then added, “Come on, let’s keep moving. Only another couple of hours and we can close this thing down and open the street back up to traffic. I’d like to get home to Sara at a decent time tonight.”

“Sure thing”, Ryan said, taking one last quick glance at the retreating friends. As she watched the small blonde woman, a curious, comfortable warmth crept into her soul.

-2-

“Whoo hoo, I feel good!” trilled Jay Jay as the four friends left the bar. They had had a good time. The drinks had been good, the company even better and the young band decent, playing a cool mix of their own stuff and classic queer punk covers.

When Dougie went up to the stage and told them that they had a former member of ‘The Tribe’ in the room, they enthusiastically encouraged Janna to join them on stage for a few numbers. Janna somewhat reluctantly picked up a spare ax, but then proceeded to blow the room away. She had quickly fallen into the familiar old groove, strutting and snarling along with the singer.

Though diminutive in stature (she stood five and a half feet tall in shoes), she more than held her own among the young punk musicians. Despite no longer truly looking the part of a punker (her one remaining concession to her old lifestyle being the 3 piercings in one ear), she had a stage presence and a mastery of her art that was truly impressive. The familiar old chords returned easily, her permanently calloused fingers flying over the neck of her instrument. The way that she had strutted and pogoed along with her fellow musicians gave the appearance of their having been playing together for years. She exuded a joy while playing that charged her fellow musicians and the entire room.

When she had finished with her short set, the fair-sized crowd had cheered enthusiastically and the kids in the band fell all over themselves thanking her. Later, during their break, the young band mates crowded around her, talking biz and getting autographs and production advice. Janna got the band’s manager’s phone number and promised to keep in touch with them.

It felt good, she had to admit, being back up there. But it had felt even better to be able to quit after a few songs and go back to having a good time with her friends. There was no way that she would want to do that all night any more! After she returned to her friends’ table, the bar’s owners, a middle-aged gay couple, approached, thanked her graciously for her contribution to the evening’s entertainment and informed her that her party’s tab would be complementary. They were both gregarious and fun and Janna felt she had made two new friends, promising to return to the appropriately named ‘Rainbow Lounge’ often.

When they left the bar, the four friends noted that the street was fairly empty of people, the market having ended an hour before sunset. Now there were only a few vendors remaining who were still packing away their wares. They were accompanied only by the police officers and firefighters who were removing barricades and preparing to return the avenue to its normal function as one of the main thoroughfares in town.

As they stood just outside the bar, a pickup truck roared by, its occupants yelling raucously. “Welcome to the valley, my friends,” Janna quipped, frowning.

They walked down the street arm in arm, joking happily and loudly. It was about a quarter mile to where they had parked at the brewpub and the night was finally, mercifully, cooling down some. Janna took a deep breath of the night-chilled air and looked up at the sky, as was her habit, enjoying the brilliant hues of the lingering sunset. It ranged from a deep blue at the zenith to an intense turquoise at the horizon. She loved the beauties of nature and exulted in them with all of her senses.

As her gaze swept downward from the sky another natural beauty caught her eye. Across the street a gorgeous lady cop was talking with a group of young men. She was tall and buff, her uniform shorts and short-sleeved shirt displaying her strong, muscled arms and legs. Wavy, dark hair curled out from under her helmet. Even from across the street Janna could see that she had piercing blue eyes. Another cop, her partner Janna supposed, stood nearby, watching the discussion with arms crossed casually in front of his chest, his mountain bike propped against his backside. The cops were focused intently on their task and didn’t see the group of friends. Janna elbowed Missy and nodded toward the cops.

“Jesus! What a babe”, Missy gasped.

“Shhh!” warned Janna, “She’ll hear you!”

“Like I care!” Missy replied.

“Re-mem-ber, you’re mar-ried,” sang Jay Jay gleefully.

“Thanks for reminding me. Now I really miss Lisa,” she pouted.

“Oh, it’s all right Mis, she’ll be home before you know it”, comforted Janna, patting her friend on the back and taking another look at the cop. Then added, “But oh my God, are you right, she’s gorgeous! She can arrest me any old day she wants too!”
“Too bad you’re just a regular old law-abiding citizen now, huh babe?” teased Dougie, grinning.

Janna only sighed as she led her friends to their car up the street. She took a quick look back at the cop and wondered why it felt hot again all of a sudden.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan and John finished their conversation with the young men and started walking up the street, removing and stacking barricades as they went.

As he reached for another barrier John commented, “You know, I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. You have a really good way with young people. You warned those guys about the noise ordinance so calmly and professionally that they didn’t even seem bothered by it. And you scored some major points with all that baseball and basketball talk.”

Ryan rested her hands on the police barricade in front of her and said, “They weren’t bad kids, John. The fact that they’re young doesn’t mean they’re immune to good sense.”

“True but so many young guys today think they have to be so macho. They usually resent authority figures and aren’t afraid to let us know it.”

Ryan dropped the barricade she held down onto the stack with the others and replied, “Well, I just try to put myself in their place and talk to them the way I like to be talked to: with respect. Everyone deserves respect. I knew they were just trying to have a good time and I just reminded them that the other people there were trying to have a good time too.”

“Yeah well, it doesn’t hurt that you’re drop-dead gorgeous either!”

“Oh come on! I like to think that they listen because I’m a fair cop and they respect me. Also, I’m not that much older than they are, or don’t appear to be anyway. I think they think of me as an equal. I like that they do. I am an equal,” she said sincerely.

“That you are my friend. No question about it” smiled John.

As they neared the end of the avenue, they heard loud, angry voices coming from down a side street up ahead and to their right. They glanced seriously at each other and made their way purposefully toward the clamor. As they rounded the corner they saw the four friends that Ryan had seen earlier. A gang of four guys about a block ahead now surrounded them, near the brewpub. As they cautiously approached they heard, “…teach you a lesson you fuckin’ faggots!” and saw one of the toughs advance on one of the men, raising his arm and swinging something toward the man’s head. At the same time a woman screamed, “No! Please!” and the other woman in the group jumped toward the thug who was advancing on her friend.

Ryan and John shouted in unison, “Police! Drop it now!” and pulled their batons as they raced toward the fray. Before they could get there, the tough with the bat swung around and tried to hit the blonde woman challenging him. She turned slightly and brought her arms up in front of her face and the bat glanced off of her right shoulder before grazing her head. As she went down she lunged at the attacker, catching him at the knees and taking him down with her. Another of the youths, who had been about to start kicking at her male friend on the ground, now turned and tried to free his friend from the tenacious grasp of the little woman. At this point the two cops were so close that the other two toughs ran off down the street, leaving their comrades to fend for themselves.

As the cops arrived, the brunette woman and the two men were attempting to help their friend escape the grasp of the two toughs by kicking at them. The weapon, a wooden baseball bat, lay nearby, forgotten and Ryan kicked it away, out of reach of the combatants. The cops quickly scrambled over to the thugs, and straddling them, pulled handcuffs from their pockets, subduing them in swift, sure movements. As Ryan pulled the toughs roughly up by their cuffed arms, her partner radioed for backup. Within thirty seconds there were three squad cars at the curb, having been still nearby clearing the street market. As the thugs were read their rights and loaded into the police cars, Ryan went to see to Janna as John briefed the other officers.

Janna was sitting on the ground, surrounded by her friends, when the cop came over and squatted next to her. She reached toward Janna’s face, where a large gash above her right eye was dripping blood.

“Here let me have a look, OK?” she said gently, inclining her face to peer at the cut and tenderly grasping Janna’s chin.

As Janna turned her face toward the cop she cradled her right arm with her left hand and said, “Sure. Thanks. It doesn’t feel too bad though.”

As the cop squinted at the injury in the poor street lighting she replied, “Well, I think it needs to be looked at. You may have a concussion.” Her low voice was full of compassion.

Janna replied, “Nah, I don’t think it’s a concussion. I’ve had one before.” When Ryan looked at her quizzically she added, “This isn’t my first run-in with ‘phobes, I’m afraid.”

Ryan asked, brows burrowed, “Did that happen here too?”

Janna replied, “No, that was in Seattle.”

Ryan looked at her seriously and said, “Still, it’s better to be sure, okay?” Turning toward her partner, she said, “John, better call for paramedics.” She turned back to Janna and quietly said, “There’s help on the way, just stay still.”

“Okay”, Janna relied quietly.

While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, John took Janna’s friends aside and took down the details about what had happened. Ryan kneeled by Janna’s side, gently cupping her face, feeling that her presence was comforting, all the while listening to what the injured woman’s friends were telling John. Even through her slight haze, Janna could feel her skin tingling where the other woman was touching her. Ryan noticed it as well, but dismissed it as merely interesting: possibly an artifact of the adrenaline rush she had just experienced, though she had never felt such a sensation before.

Doug related to John, “Just as we came up to the brewpub, these loud guys came up the sidewalk from the parking lot and when they saw us they stopped in front of us. They started taunting us, calling us ‘queers, ‘dykes’ and ‘perverts’. While this was happening one of them ran back toward the parking lot and then came back with a baseball bat and said he would teach us a lesson. That’s when he went after Jay with the bat and then Janna went after him and brought him down. Then you guys showed up and we tried to get them off of Janna.”

Missy added, “I think they were the same rowdy guys in the pickup who saw us coming out of the Rainbow Lounge.”

Ryan absorbed this information and looking seriously back at Janna said, “That was a pretty brave thing to do.”

Janna grinned sheepishly and said, “Pretty brave, Officer or pretty stupid?”

Ryan just shrugged and smiled gently at her.

Janna thought for a moment then said, “Seriously though, I didn’t even really think about it.” Then, feeling for some reason that she could trust this cop, she grinned sheepishly and added, “Look, I’m with two nellies and a femme. I’m about the butchest of the bunch so I guess I felt I needed to protect my friends.”

Ryan looked at her with understanding. She didn’t think Janna appeared to be particularly butch, but she certainly understood the desire to protect one’s friends. Ryan’s beautiful eyes softened and she smiled as she said, her voice rich and low, “Your friends are very lucky to have you.”

Janna shyly said, “Thanks… um,” and squinted to see the Officer’s nametag, “Officer Zamora”. As she said Ryan’s name she gingerly reached up and lightly touched the metal nametag on Ryan’s chest. Their eyes met and locked and at Janna’s touch Ryan felt a pleasant sensation, not unlike an electrical shock. It quickly spread throughout her body and she suddenly felt warm all over. Normally not one to blush easily, she was embarrassed to note that hers ears felt hot.

Clearing her throat quietly and looking away she replied, “No problem. Glad to help. Okay, I think I hear the ambulance coming.” After a moment she looked thoughtfully back at Janna and impulsively said, “Did you go to school here in town? You seem familiar.”

Janna looked surprised and answered, “Yes. I grew up near here and went to City High, class of 80. Then to Valley College for a while.”

Ryan smiled and said, “That must be it then. I was in your class.”

Janna peered at Ryan, looking puzzled, and then blurted, “Sissy Zamora?”

Ryan’s face lit up in a wide, beautiful smile and she said, “Yep, that was me!” Then whispered conspiratorially, “I go by Ryan now though. I hated my name when I was younger but I think it suits me now.”

It certainly does…much more so than ‘Sissy’, Janna thought as she gazed up into the strong, beautiful planes of the cop’s face. She felt as if she were staring at an ancient Greek statue. Far from cold or stony, however, this “statue” seemed to exude warmth and magnetism. Suddenly, as if she’d been shocked, Janna started and gasped, “Oh my God – I had a crush on you in Junior High!” She then added with a mock scowl, brows creased, “You, however, didn’t know I was alive.”

Ryan looked down at the ground between them and then shyly back up at Janna through long, black lashes and responded, “Oh, yes I did, Janna Norden.”

Janna’s heart suddenly leapt and she thought she might pass out, though not from her head injury. At that point the medics arrived and she and Ryan were separated. As the medics worked over Janna, Ryan backed away hesitantly, not wanting to leave her. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from Janna and wondered, Why on Earth am I feeling so protective of her? And was I actually flirting with her? I don’t flirt! She also found herself wanting to wring the necks of the redneck assholes that had hurt her.

She was brought out of her musing when she heard one of the paramedics say, “But you’ve got to go, Miss, for your own good.”

To which she heard Janna reply, ” I really don’t want to go in the ambulance. I’m not seriously hurt, can’t my friends drive me?”

Missy then spoke up and said, “But sweetie, we have no idea how to get to the hospital and you really need your injuries looked at.”

At this point Ryan stepped back into the fray and said, “I’ll drive her there in one of the patrol cars. Her friends can follow me over. John, will you get my bike back to the station?”

John, looking confused said, “Sure, no problem. I guess I’ll see you later then.”

“Thanks John. I can take care of the reports if you want. I’ll go in tomorrow and do them.”

“Sounds good bud. Have a good night.” John walked away feeling somewhat confused at his partner’s interesting behavior but he quickly shook it off, feeling that she surely knew what she was doing. She always did.

As the paramedics picked up their equipment Ryan reached down to help Janna to her feet. Janna accepted the cop’s outstretched hand and as she rose to her feet, she looked up into Ryan’s face. Their eyes locked again, mildly cloudy green meeting serious blue. “You’re very stubborn, aren’t you?” spoke the perfect Cupid’s bow lips below the striking blue orbs.

“Well, I’m worried about my friends. They’re not from here and don’t need to be spending the night with me in the emergency room. Besides, if they think I’m badly hurt they’ll insist on canceling their trip and staying with me. I don’t want them to do that. Dougie and Jay Jay work really hard and need a break and Missy needs the distraction.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you, but you do need medical attention. Careful getting into the car here.” She gingerly helped Janna lower herself into the front seat of the patrol car, feeling a warm fuzzy feeling in her belly as she did so. She couldn’t help but wonder again at the fact that helping this woman made her feel very good – she helped people all the time, it’s her job after all – why was she getting all warm and fuzzy this time? She was afraid that she knew why but didn’t want to consider that scenario, so she refocused her attention on the task at hand and, after seeing that Janna was comfortably seated, went over to instruct Janna’s friends to follow her to St. Joseph’s.

The short ride to the hospital was a quiet one at first. Janna appeared to be in quite a bit of pain, so Ryan didn’t prod her with questions. That could wait until later. Janna shifted slightly in the seat to try to get more comfortable and winced as pain streaked from her shoulder to her fingers. Ryan, ever observant, didn’t miss it and said, “We’d better have them take a look at that arm too, huh?”

“Yep, ‘fraid so. Good thing I’m not making a living playing the guitar any more. It kind of puts a crimp in my softball plans, though.”

“You play ball?” asked the cop with interest.

“Used to. I checked out a few games last week and found myself wishing I were out there playing. I thought I might look into the City League and see if any teams were in need of late-season subs.”

“Oh they’re bound to be. Always are. What do you play fast, slow?”

“I’ve played both. I prefer fast.”

“What level?”

“The last team I played for was B Division. But that was about 15 years ago. I’m probably pretty rusty now.”

Ryan replied, eyebrows raised in approval, “If you played at that high a level, you should have no problem getting back into it. You look to be in pretty good shape,” Ryan remarked as she glanced at Janna. Yep, she thought as she surreptitiously scanned the other woman’s compact but lithe body, nice shape. Then shaking off the unprofessional feelings thought, Jesus what is wrong with me?

As Ryan pulled the car into the emergency room parking area, Janna said, “So do you play?”

“Yes. I’m playing on two teams right now, as a matter of fact.”

“Wow, you’re a serious ballplayer then, huh?”

The officer pulled the car to a stop and seeing that Janna’s friends had not yet arrived behind them, turned to face her passenger. “Well, I enjoy it and it’s a great way to stay in shape for the job. I play on a coed Peace Officers League team and on a Woman’s Fast Pitch team.”

“Sounds like fun,” smiled Janna. “What position do you play?”

“I pitch, mainly, and fill in at the other positions. How about you, what do you play?”

“Infield, mostly but I can fill in in the outfield too, and I’ll catch in a pinch.”

Grinning, Ryan replied, “Shortstop huh?”

“Is that a smart-ass remark about my height?” responded Janna mock-indignantly with furrowed brows and cutely scrunched up nose.

Still grinning, Ryan replied, “Absolutely not!”

“Yeah right. Just wait until I’m healed…I’ll show you a shortstop!”

“You promise?” Ryan asked with a raised eyebrow and a rakish grin. She regretted the remark immediately when a warm blush crept up Janna’s face and was mirrored on her own face. Why the hell did I say that?

“Yeah, I promise. You think I could come check out your teams sometime?” Having recovered her composure, now Janna was grinning rakishly, despite the throbbing in her head.

“Um, sure, I guess. Yeah, any time,” stammered a now flustered cop.

“Cool”, replied Janna, feeling as if her belly were full of warm butterflies. The feeling then wrapped itself around her heart and she realized that she was in deep, deep trouble.

The usually reserved cop was experiencing a remarkably similar sensation and her reaction to it was equally unsettling.

-3-

Officer Zamora sat, her tall frame stretched out uncomfortably, in the soft waiting room chair. Hospitals made her extremely uncomfortable. For reasons unknown to her, she always felt very claustrophobic in them, and she hated feeling confined. She sighed and returned her attention to the packet of forms in her lap. Her partner, John, had wisely realized that she might have a long wait before being allowed to question the victim, so had dropped off the necessary report forms for her to start filling out. They would be classifying this attack as a hate crime and that entailed extra paperwork, so Ryan was glad to be getting a start on it rather than sitting doing nothing. She was glad, also, of the diversion, as she did not like the path her thoughts were taking.

Her mind kept straying to the cute, brave blonde, wondering how she was doing and trying to think of ways to prolong their encounter. What I am doing? she thought yet again. I do not want to get involved again! With anyone. Stop thinking about her that way! She knew that she needed to retain a degree of professional detachment, but it was becoming increasingly hard. Especially when that damn warm feeling insisted on continuing to envelope her gut and her heart.

Janna’s friends sat together across from Ryan, talking quietly and trying not to disturb the intense cop who seemed intently focused on her paperwork. Missy kept stealing surreptitious glances at the strikingly beautiful woman, admiring her classically defined features. Her high cheekbones and long, straight nose, coupled with darkly tanned skin and black hair, hinted at Native American bloodlines, yet her pale blue eyes made guessing her exact heritage difficult. Whatever her heritage, she certainly is gorgeous…and she seems drawn to Janna.

Despite the officer’s obvious preoccupation with her work, Jay couldn’t help trying to get to know this intriguing woman a little better. He thought happily to himself, I am just a nosy nellie, after all!

“So” he started, “Officer Zamora. How long have you been on the force?”

Ryan gritted her teeth but looked up pleasantly and said, “Twelve years. I started right out of college.”

“Oh, I see. That would make you about the same age as our Janna, wouldn’t it? Early 30’s?”

“Yes, actually we’re the same age. We went to school together here.”

She bent down to return to her writing but Jay Jay continued unabashedly in his sing song voice, “Well, what a small world! Our little one returns home from the big city and is immediately saved by a tall, dark knight from her past! How lucky she was that you were nearby!”

Embarrassed, Ryan scowled mildly and replied, “Actually sir, she didn’t seem to need much in the way of saving. It appeared that it was she who was acting as your protector. My partner and I just showed up and did our jobs.”

“Oh you’re much too modest.” Then he added conspiratorially, “You’re just her type you know – tall, dark and mysterious. Did you know that she’s a famous rock musician – now retired of course, but still…”

Now acutely bothered, Ryan didn’t try to hide her irritation. “Sir, no offense, but I really need to concentrate on this paperwork.”

“Oh, sorry. No offense taken. You go ahead.” He waved his hand at her and turned back to Doug, who scowled at him while Missy just shook her head.

Jesus Christ, that’s all I needed to hear, I’m her “type”. She stopped writing and contemplated her pen as she mused. Rock musician, huh? Doesn’t sound like my type at all. She continued to comprehend the enigma who was Janna Norden, now oblivious to the presence of the clipboard and file folder on her lap.

Just then, a lean, middle-aged doctor in blue scrubs appeared and asked, “Is there someone here with Ms. Norden?” Janna’s friends and Ryan immediately stood and the doctor addressed them all. “Are you family?”

Missy answered, “No, we’re friends visiting from San Francisco. She has family here but we don’t know how to get in touch with them.”

The doctor turned to Ryan and said, “I’m Dr. Turner, Officer. Do you have her emergency contact information?”

Ryan’s gut clenched in fear as he said this, but her face remained impassive, as she replied, “No I haven’t been able to get that yet. Is she all right?”

Her heart beat wildly until the doctor finally responded, “She’ll be fine. She has a mild concussion and a badly bruised humerus in her right arm, as well strained ligaments in her shoulder. She is resting now, but was concerned that her parents be notified. Apparently she had planned to stop in at their house tonight and thought they might be worried when they couldn’t reach her.”

Ryan sighed visibly with relief, an action that did not go unnoticed by Jay Jay, who raised an eyebrow perceptively, and by Missy, who smiled inwardly at her friend’s good fortune. The doctor continued, “We’ll need to keep her here overnight for observation, but she should be able to go home tomorrow.” Looking at Ryan, he said, “Officer, she may not be up to answering questions tonight, but you’re welcome to wait around and see if you want.”

“I think I’ll do that, thanks.”

Turning to Janna’s friends he said, “You can see her briefly if you’d like to, but don’t tire her. She needs to rest.”

“Sure, doctor, thanks,” said Missy. As Dr. Turner left, Jay turned to his friends and said, “Let’s go see our girl, kids! Officer, are you coming?”

Startled, Ryan replied, “Um, no. You go ahead. I’ll wait until you’ve had your visit.”

“Suit yourself”, sang Jay and Doug and Missy smiled at her as they walked by.

A short time later the three friends emerged from Janna’s cubicle and returned to the waiting room. As they approached Ryan, Doug said, “Officer, she says she feels up to talking to you now. She gave us her house keys so we’re going to her place now. We also have her Mom’s phone number so we’ll let her know what’s going on.”

Missy reached out for Ryan’s hand and grasped it gently, saying, “Thanks so much for your help, Officer. If you need to talk to us again we’ll be at Janna’s…here’s her number,” and she handed her a scrap of paper.

Ryan replied, “Thanks, I appreciate that. I think I have all the information I need though. Janna mentioned that you were on your way to the Lake…I don’t see a problem if you want to go ahead and go tomorrow.”

“Oh, okay, we’ll keep that in mind. But I think we’ll wait and see how she’s doing tomorrow before we decide. Thanks again.” Doug and Jay repeated their thanks, Jay with a twinkle in his eye, and both shook the officer’s hand.

After they left, Ryan took a calming breath before turning and heading toward the cubicle where Janna Norden rested.

As she lay on the uncomfortable gurney, Janna heard someone approaching her area and looked at the entrance expectantly. When she saw Officer Zamora peek her lovely, concerned face around the doorway, the butterflies in her stomach started fluttering again and a pleasant warmth spread throughout her being. She smiled weakly and said, “Hi Officer. Sorry to keep you here so long.”

Smiling gently, Ryan responded, “Call me Ryan, please, and don’t worry about it. It’s part of the job.” As she pulled a chair up next to the gurney she said, “So do you feel up to answering some questions for me?”

Janna grinned mildly and said, “Sure do. Shoot!”

At that Ryan winced and said, “Ooh, don’t ever say that to a cop!” then smiled.

“Ah, right. Got ya’. Go ahead.”

Ryan’s grin disappeared, though her expression remained soft and concerned as she resumed her role as police officer and set about asking Janna about the attack.

Sometime later, her last question answered, Ryan sat back in the large vinyl-covered chair and relaxed a little. She looked thoughtfully at Janna and said, “So, how are you feeling? Is there much pain?”

“Not much right now, no. They gave me some pretty heavy painkillers. I ought to really feel it tomorrow though.”

“Well, try to take it easy and get a lot of rest. These things take a little time to heal.”

“Yeah, I remember. I think it will be a little easier to follow doctor’s orders this time, since I’m not in a touring rock band.” She grinned wryly at the pleasant cop.

Ryan raised her eyebrows in interest and asked, “Oh, is that why you were in Seattle? At the time of the other attack I mean?”

“Yes and no. I was living there at the time but we had just finished the first gig on a U.S. tour. We left the next day for California. On a bus. God, I do not miss those days!”

“It must have been an exciting way of life though.”

“Actually the excitement wore off for me pretty early on. I’m basically a homebody, not at all into heavy partying and that type of scene. It was the love of performing that got me through. As soon as that went away, I quit. Started doing only session work, then producing. Then when the joy went out of that I drifted into photography. That’s what I do now.”

“Oh, I see. I would have thought that being in punk bands would have generated a pretty wild lifestyle. That’s another confirmation, I guess, that generalizations can be unfair.”

“In my case yeah. I’ve always been into a pretty natural, healthy lifestyle. And the people in the bands I was in tended to be cerebral and idealistic. ‘Striving to enact social change through our music’. Obviously we were quite naïve as well.”

“But well-meaning. That’s a pretty noble cause as far as I’m concerned.”

“Well thanks, I think so too.” Janna smiled warmly at Ryan as she said this and received a warm smile in return. “Um, our main ’cause’ was civil rights, especially for gays and lesbians. Obviously, tonight’s little episode was proof positive that we still have a long way to go in that area.”

“I’m afraid you’re right about that. People will always fear what they don’t understand, and the weakest lash out in anger.” She gazed intently at Janna and added, “I’m no fan of ‘phobes myself, if you know what I mean.” One of her dark eyebrows lifted knowingly as she said that and Janna nodded, warmed by the intimate confession and curiously elated as well.

Ryan continued, “I guess coming here from the City, you were unprepared for the degree of backward thinking here. I’m sorry you received such an awful reminder of just how far we have to go here, compared with there.”

At that Ryan stood up and moved closer to the gurney. She rested her hand lightly on Janna’s arm and said, “Well, listen, I’d better let you get some rest. Will they be moving you into a regular room for the night?”

Janna gingerly reached over with her injured arm, which was resting in a sling, and covered Ryan’s larger hand with hers, saying, “Geez, I hope so. This ‘bed’ is far from comfortable. I wish they’d just let me go home. I’ve got friends there if I need any help.”

“Yeah, I know” Ryan replied with compassion. “But regulations, you know. They don’t want any unnecessary liability.” She looked down at Janna’s hand on hers but made no move to leave. She allowed herself to revel, momentarily, in the warmth their shared touch created in her. Then she briefly covered Janna’s hand with her other one, giving it a gentle squeeze as she did and said, “Well, goodbye then. I hope you have a good night. I think I’ll stop by in the morning on my way into the station and see how you’re doing.”

Janna reluctantly let go of Ryan’s hand and said, “Thanks Ryan, but that’s not necessary, you must be busy.”

The cop grinned pleasantly and said, “Nope, tomorrow’s my day off. I’m just going in for a while to catch up on some paperwork. I live nearby so it’s no trouble at all. You take care now.” She smiled gently at Janna and left, stopping and turning briefly at the doorway to give a little wave.

Janna sighed and said to the empty room, “‘Night Ryan. Sweet dreams.”

Ryan sat in her borrowed patrol car, unwilling to leave the hospital parking lot and dwelling on the reasons why. She shook her head softly thinking, I am in a lot of trouble here. She looked up at the emergency room doors and softly said, “Good night Janna. Sweet dreams.”

-4-

The next day dawned hazy and warm, a typical July day in the arid San Joaquin Valley. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as Ryan drove the short distance to Janna’s hospital. As she drove, she reflected on her meeting with the interesting young woman the night before. She had made quite a strong impression on the usually implacable and unimpressionable cop. In fact, Ryan had not slept well for thinking of the cute blonde and the effect she was having on her resolve not to become involved, not to mention the effect it was having on her libido. When she did sleep, it was fitfully, fraught with strange dreams of herself and Janna in a strange and ancient land. She awoke feeling confused and somewhat shaken, but upon remembering that she was going to visit Janna, her disquiet disappeared instantly, replaced by an uncharacteristic giddiness.

Ryan strode through the front entrance of the hospital and stopped at the information desk to enquire as to Janna’s whereabouts. She was told that the patient had been moved during the night to a room on the 3rd floor. As she rode the elevator up, she realized that she was feeling apprehension at seeing her new friend again. Friend, she thought. Yeah I really do want to be her friend…Actually, I feel like we’re already old friends…Strange. Feeling apprehension in any situation was rare for her. She was usually able to maintain a calm reserve, even in the most stressful and heated situations. But this little blonde really had her going. She felt almost like a teenager on her first date.

As she approached room 329 she heard laughter and gay voices. Gay, she smiled inwardly, how appropriate! So, it was with a soft, warm smile that she came through the open doorway and stood looking at the room’s occupants. Janna was sitting in the bed, right arm still in a sling and butterfly strips on the wound over her right eye, looking adorably rumpled (in Ryan’s estimation). Her friends from last night as well as an older man and woman surrounded her bed. Janna looked up as Ryan entered the room and a large smile appeared on her pretty face. Ryan returned the smile unabashedly and quietly said, “Hi. How ya feeling this morning?”

As if her sustained wide grin weren’t enough, Janna answered, “Pretty good. I’ve got lots of company as you can see!”

At that Jay Jay jumped up and trilled, “Beth, Marv, you just have to meet the brave police officer who saved us last night!” He flitted over to Ryan and touched her arm.

As a blush swept swiftly up her face, Ryan said, “Hi, I’m Ryan Zamora. Janna’s friend here is prone to exaggeration, as you probably know.”

“Nonsense!” trilled Jay, adding, “If you and your partner hadn’t shown up when you did we all would probably have been killed! Don’t you dare downplay your bravery. I won’t hear it!”

“Well, thank you Mr. Sampson, but like I said last night, it was Janna who was the brave one and my partner and I were just doing our jobs.”

“Oh you! Janna how will you put up with this one?” At that remark Janna blushed crimson, Missy coughed, and Doug grabbed his mate by the arm and dragged him out of the door. All the while, poor Ryan stared down at her shoes, which had apparently suddenly become fascinating.

Janna’s mother Beth broke the tension by saying, “Officer Zamora, we realize that you were only doing what you are paid to do but we appreciate it tremendously nevertheless. So thank you.”

“Yes, we can’t thank you enough,” added her husband Marv.

Ryan looked up at Janna’s parents and graciously said, “Your welcome. I’m so glad I was there to help. I appreciate your kind words.” She felt very warmed in the presence of these nice people and glanced shyly over at Janna, who gazed back at her fondly and smiled, then quickly looked down at her hands.

Missy cleared her throat and said, “Well, buddy of mine, since you’re doing so well and have assured us that you don’t need us hanging around, we’re gonna take off for the Lake, okay?”

“You bet, Mis. You guys go and have great time. You all deserve it.”

“Oh, I wish you could come too” she pouted. “Who knows what those guys are gonna put me through without you there on my side.”

Janna beckoned her friend closer and as she leaned in, whispered, “I happen to know that they plan to take you to all the big stage shows. They figure you’ll enjoy seeing the topless showgirls while they get to ogle the cute gay dancers. You’ll have a blast!”

Grinning, Missy answered with interest, “Oh really? All right, sounds good to me. And while I’m there and taking in the beautiful sights I’ll be thinking of you!” Janna smirked and Missy added, “I’m talking the beauties of nature: the mountains, the lake, the fresh air? You naughty girl!”

Janna grinned, “I know what you were talking about!” Then she glanced over at the beautiful cop lounging against the wall, one knee bent and propped behind her on the wall. She was dressed for her day off in faded jeans and a white tank top, which showed off her dark tan. Her position, arms crossed behind her back, served to highlight her full breasts and strong shoulder muscles. Janna sighed softly and said, “I’ve got all the natural beauty I need right here.”

“Whoo baby you sure do! Good luck with that!” Missy whispered. “I’ll tell the guys that you said goodbye and for them to be good at the Lake!” With that Missy kissed her friend goodbye, bid her parents farewell, thanked the cop once again and left in search of her trip mates.

With the room suddenly much quieter, Ryan leaned forward, intending to step up to the bed to say goodbye, when Janna’s mom said, “Well honey, we have to get going. We have a date at the gym. Now you be sure and give me a call when you’re ready for a ride home.”

“Thanks Mom, Dad. I’m sorry to have to trouble you. I know you’re both working today.”

“Oh honey, it’s no trouble. I’ll be glad of the excuse to stop for a while and get out. See you later.”

She leaned forward and kissed her daughter on the cheek as her husband said, “You get some more rest now sweetie. I know you won’t once you get home.”

“Okay, Dad, I will. Bye.”

They each shook Ryan’s hand as they left and then the two women were left alone. They gazed quietly at one another in comfortable silence, both of them simultaneously sharing the identical thought: I want to get to know this woman. Ryan broke the silence by clearing her throat quietly and said, “Um, you know, I only have to work for a few hours. I’d be happy to swing back by and take you home. You only live a few blocks from me.” She gazed at Janna expectantly and waited for her to answer.

When Janna did answer, it was somewhat sadly. “Oh, I can’t ask you to do that Ryan, but thanks anyway.”

Ryan pushed down the feelings of disappointment those words caused and tried again. “Really Janna I don’t mind. And um, to be perfectly honest, I’d like to see you some more.” Then she quickly added, “If that’s what you want, I mean, and you don’t find it inappropriate.” She gazed hopefully and somewhat shyly at Janna, and this time her heart was warmed when her friend smiled happily and nodded.

“Oh God, Ryan, that would be great, and not at all inappropriate”, Janna gasped with relief. She added, grinning, “In fact I’ve been sitting here wondering what I could possibly do to get your attention again. Short of committing a crime that is!”

Ryan let out her held breath with relief and grinning rakishly, said, “You certainly wouldn’t have to go to any trouble to get me to notice you.” Jesus, did I really just say that? Then, “Well, um, I’ll see you in a few hours then. Try to get some rest until then, okay?”

Yeah right! Not when I have seeing you again to look forward to! Janna thought just before replying, “All right, I’ll do that. See you in a bit.”

At that Ryan pushed away from the wall and started to leave but then abruptly stopped and tentatively came to the side of the bed, where she leaned over and planted a quick kiss on Janna’s cheek. Then she quickly turned and left the room. Janna was left sitting in shock, eyes wide, mouth open in a silly grin. Oh my God, I think I’m gonna die! Now there’s no way in hell that I’ll be able to get any rest. The warmth left by Ryan’s lips on her cheek quickly spread to every part of her body, aided by the pounding of her heart.

As soon as Ryan escaped Janna’s room, she leaned back against the wall and ran one hand through her hair. Fucking Christ, what did I just do? What is this woman doing to me? She shook her head in disgust but then grinned at the tingling warmth still lingering on her lips. The silly grin was still plastered on her face as she entered the station house ten minutes later.

~~~~~~~~~~

Needless to say, 3 hours later, Janna had neither slept, nor had Ryan accomplished anything productive at the office. Both women were shocked at the intensity of their attraction for the other and puzzled both over the reasons for it and how to handle it.

Janna was a voracious reader, and had a lifelong fascination with metaphysics and mysticism, so in her spare time on long road trips she had made an exploration into esoteric studies. As a result, she believed in the concept of soulmates, but had never given much thought to ever actually meeting hers. In fact, she had become somewhat jaded in her views on love. She had only given her heart away a few times, but each time she had been hurt a little more when the relationship had ended.

Now, however, she was starting to believe that she might have met her soul’s match. A small part of her didn’t want to believe it, because it would mean committing to the idea of being in a relationship again – something she would have sworn only days ago that she was not yet ready to do. Yet, whenever she was with Ryan, she felt a deep familiarity, a comfort, as if they had been very close their whole lives. She was experiencing an intense physical and emotional longing to be close to Ryan, more than she had ever experienced with anyone else before. Janna was beginning to believe that there was a strong possibility that the two of them had been together before, in another life – possibly in many other lives. This concept both thrilled and terrified her. On top of all that, she was at that very moment feeling an actual physical pain, near her heart, at being separated from Ryan.

Ryan, on the other hand, had very little use for what she considered to be impractical, abstract, “new age” ideas. Though she had been raised to believe in the wisdom of traditional Native American knowledge, she was still a realist. She believed in what she saw with her own eyes and in what she could quantify. She liked dealing with facts, not relying on elusive theories pulled from the ether. She had never particularly believed in the concept of soulmates. She had certainly never met hers, if she even had one, nor did she expect to.

She had enjoyed some satisfying relationships, but she had also endured a few truly horrible ones. So bad were a few, in fact, that she didn’t particularly care to commit herself to anyone ever again. She wasn’t even sure that she believed that humans were capable of monogamy – at least not over a lifetime. She had surely not been lucky enough, she thought, to find someone who wanted to be with her forever, nor had she ever felt that way about anyone else. Her longest previous relationship had lasted not quite a year, and she had been badly hurt at the end. The majority of her past relationships had consisted mainly of meaningless affairs and one night stands. She liked to be in control of her own destiny, but in this situation with Janna, she felt like she had no control over what was happening.

Yet here she was, feeling as if she couldn’t go even an hour without seeing this woman. A woman she had only just met yesterday. Yes, she remembered Janna from school, but they had run in completely different crowds and she had quickly squashed the schoolgirl crush that she had developed on the little blonde. This was a skill that she would become adept at in adulthood. This whole attraction was just incredibly strange. She felt that she needed Janna. Needed to be near her, to touch her, to protect her. Needed to love her. Ryan had never needed anyone before. And way the hell does my heart ache when we’re apart, like it does right now?

After almost three hours of trying to concentrate on her paperwork, Ryan came to the realization that she needed to be with Janna. Needed to get to know her. Was, in fact, falling in love with her. How could this be?

A few miles away in her hospital bed, Janna came to the same realization about Ryan. She admitted to herself that she was falling in love with her. Is this really happening?

At noon Ryan finally threw in the towel and decided to leave for the hospital. Driving there her palms were so sweaty that she had to repeatedly wipe them on her jeans, despite the air conditioning in her truck. As the large hospital came into view she still had no idea of how to proceed with Janna. She only knew that she would do everything within her power to become close to the woman. She had no choice but to do so. God, I want her. I hope I don’t jump her like some horny beast and scare her away.

Janna’s doctor finally released her at 11:00. In the ensuing hour she felt like a nervous wreck. She was too wired to eat or to watch TV or even to read. She didn’t even notice the dull throbbing in her head or the sharp, knife-like pains in her shoulder. All she could think about was Ryan, but she hadn’t a clue what she would do when she arrived. Just play it by ear and pray that it goes well, I guess. God, please don’t let me act like a lovesick idiot and scare her off!

-5-

When Ryan walked into Janna’s hospital room she found her new friend standing by the window, gazing out at her tree-filled hometown. Through the haze, she could just barely make out the faint outline of the Coast Range of mountains to the west. The more distant Sierras to the east were not visible at all. She was still wearing her hospital gown, but now had her jeans and sandals on again. Ryan was struck by how the sunlight turned Janna’s hair golden, bringing out faint red highlights and she had the strongest impression that she had seen Janna just that way many, many times before. Her heart clenched at the lovely sight and a lump formed in her throat. Oh my God. I have fallen in love.

As she heard Ryan enter, Janna turned. Her heart warmed impossibly at the sight of her new friend and smiling, she greeted Ryan with a, “Hi there”.

“Hi”.

Janna’s smile became apologetic. “I’m sorry, I’m not quite ready to go yet. I was having trouble getting dressed with this sling on so the nurse said she’d be in shortly to give me a hand. That was about twenty minutes ago” she scowled.

“That’s ok. I’m not in a hurry” Ryan replied, smiling warmly, as she sat at the end of the bed, facing the wall. Her first inclination was to offer to help Janna dress, but she quickly quashed that idea, as it would put Janna’s virtue at extreme risk. She sat on the bed, feeling somewhat nervous, not quite knowing what to say or do, but feeling happy at being in the small blonde’s presence again.

Janna approached and sat tentatively next to her, wriggling clumsily up onto the bed and bending a leg under her. As she faced Ryan she said, “So, did you get all your paperwork done?”

“Oh, I uh, made a dent in it” Ryan lied. She hadn’t really wanted to finish the arrest report today anyway. Let the asshole cool his heels in jail all weekend. Fucker. The better she got to know, and care for, Janna, the more she hated the son of a bitch.

“Oh. There must be a lot of it huh?”

“Oh, yeah.” Lying again. She had been all caught up before Janna’s incident.

“Sounds like a drag.”

“Oh, God, it is. Worst thing about the job.”

“Huh. So, do you really enjoy the other aspects of the job? I hope?” Janna asked with an expectant smile.

Smiling, “Yeah. Yeah I really do. It’s all I ever really wanted to do. I love bike patrol duty. When the department created the unit a few years ago I jumped at the chance to do it. Before that I drove a patrol car and hoped to one day get on a motorcycle.” Turning now to face more toward Janna, she then asked, “How about you – are you happy with your career?” She mentally kicked herself. God what a fuckin’ dorky question. Shit.

Janna apparently didn’t find the question at all dorky because her face lit up as she answered, “Oh yeah. I’m loving it, and already have had a few small successes.”

Ryan felt curiously warmed at hearing Janna say that she was happy. “Oh that’s great. I’m really glad to hear that. You said you were a photographer now, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did. I’m working mostly freelance, doing a lot of nature work. I absolutely love being outdoors so much. And traveling. I adore the mountains and have been spending a lot of time up there.”

Ryan found Janna’s lovely smile infectious and sported an equally lovely smile of her own. “Oh, that sounds fantastic. I love the mountains too. I do a lot of mountain biking and backpacking up there. Maybe we can make a trip together some time?” Ryan asked hopefully.

“Oh, I’d love that, Ryan!” Janna responded happily, with a smile that warmed Ryan to her very core. Janna added, “You’ve got to really love biking to spend so much time on one, don’t you?”

“Yeah” Ryan smiled shyly. “It’s not just the biking. It’s the whole package. Being outdoors, exercising, breathing in the fresh, clean air…in the mountains I mean!”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. It sounds like we have that in common too.” Janna’s smile widened and then she looked down at her hands shyly, warming Ryan’s heart even more. “Hey, I got some good news from the doctor today!” She said as she looked back up at Ryan.

“Oh yeah, what’s that?” delivered with an endearing rakish grin and one lifted eyebrow.

“He said that I should be able to play ball in a few weeks…if I’m good and let the ligaments heal properly. Any strenuous activity too early will also stress the bone bruise. Cause inflammation I think he said.” Then she added, “I didn’t tell him that I heal pretty fast though.”

“Well, I’ll have to make sure you stick to the plan then. I’d like to see you play.” That’s not all I’d like to see you do.

“I’m dying to get out there and play so I will definitely be following doctor’s orders, Coach.”

As she said this she picked up Ryan’s hand and looked at her fondly. They held each other’s gaze and both became lost in a timeless moment. Shining emerald eyes locked with brilliant sapphire and the message conveyed was not lost on either woman, nor was the intense tingling sensation where they touched.

Ryan looked down at their hands and intertwined their fingers. She cleared her throat gently and holding the other woman’s gaze said, “Janna, I’m really looking forward to spending some time with you.”

Janna’s face became even more radiant as she replied, “I’m very much looking forward to that too, Ryan. I must say that I, um, feel like something very special is happening here. As strange as it may seem.”

“I’m feeling the same way, Janna.” Ryan said as she brought their linked hands to her lips and gently kissed Janna’s fingers, her eyes never leaving Janna’s.

Janna’s heart lurched violently at the electric contact, but the moment was broken when the nurse suddenly returned, completely oblivious of the fact that she had just interrupted a very special moment.

“Okay, hon, let’s get you dressed and out of here!”

The two friends, who had been sitting cross-legged facing each other, clumsily unclasped their hands and parted, and Janna dropped her feet to the floor.

Ryan, somewhat embarrassed, quickly said, “I’ll wait outside in the hall.” She sought refuge, as before, just outside the door and took a shaky breath. One more second and I would have kissed those beautiful lips. Jesus. I am gone…totally and completely gone on this woman. She marveled at the fact that her heart was pounding and she was shaking. No one has ever had this kind of effect on me.

The nurse stepped out a few moments later, with Janna trailing her. “Okay ladies, let me grab a wheelchair and we’ll wheel you out to your car.”

When Janna started to protest, the nurse held up her hand and said, “I know. But it’s hospital policy. I have to wheel you to the curb. Just sit down and enjoy the ride, hon.”

Janna grudgingly sat down in the chair and scowled as Ryan unsuccessfully smothered a grin. Then, smiling, added, “Just you wait, Coach. I’ll have you in an embarrassing situation some time, then who’ll be smiling?”

Oh, I am so counting on that, baby…you have absolutely no idea! Ryan thought, but said instead, “Yeah, yeah, babe, promises, promises!” She winked at Janna as she bestowed upon her another of her patented rakish grins.

Janna’s blush lasted all the way down to the parking lot.

~~~~~~~~~~

With Janna seated comfortably in Ryan’s Ford Explorer, the cop made the short drive to Janna’s place. They both lived within the nearby historical district, their homes only a few blocks apart.

“Small world, huh, that we live in the same neighborhood? Coincidental, but nice.”

“Yeah”, replied the cop. “Very nice.” She glanced thoughtfully at Janna. “I’d call it a case of mutual good taste and yet another thing we have in common.” She began to blush and looked quickly back to the road in front of her.

Janna smiled as her heart lurched. She’s got the cutest blush I’ve ever seen. Probably because she doesn’t do it much.

Ryan scowled inwardly at herself and thought, Jesus, she’s got me blushing again.

A companionable silence ensued before Janna said, “So, you have my address, right?”

“Yeah, I got it from the file. It’s just about a block ahead on the left isn’t it?

“Yep. It’s the gray two-story in need of a paint job, just up there” and she pointed to an attractively styled large, two-story Victorian with a rather new Jeep parked in the driveway. There was construction scaffolding lining one entire wall of the house.
Seeing the house, Ryan smiled and said, “I thought that might be your house. I was glad to see that someone finally bought it a while back. I’ve been curious as to how much renovation the new owner might do.”

Janna grinned and said, “Well the new owner is planning on restoring it completely to its original state – on the exterior anyway. I’m modernizing it on the inside.”

“Sounds great. What was the original color, do you know?”

“Yes, I researched that. It was a warm yellow with white trim. I think it will be really bright and cheery.

Ryan nodded, agreeing, “Oh, yeah, sounds real nice.” She then looked warmly at Janna and added, “I’m glad you’re taking an interest in restoring it correctly. This neighborhood was in really poor shape, but now it’s really starting to come back again.”

“Oh, I know. I couldn’t believe it when I first came back here and saw it. When we were kids this was a pretty rough neighborhood, remember?”

“Sure do.”

“And downtown! I can’t believe how much redevelopment is going on. When we were kids it was called ‘skid row’, but I went down to City Square to eat lunch the other day and I was truly impressed.”

Ryan smiled proudly because it was her beat that Janna was talking about. “Oh, yeah? My partner and I eat lunch in the Square a lot. Yeah, downtown is changing dramatically. I’ll have to show you the master plan sometime. In a few years the waterfront will be completely redeveloped as well. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Ryan pulled the Explorer to a stop behind Janna’s Jeep and jumped out to assist her friend.

“Nice Jeep!”

“Thanks! Your Explorer is nice too. We both drive SUV’s – typical lesbians!” Janna giggled.

Ryan threw her head back and laughed. It was a deep, full-throated laugh that turned Janna’s knees to jelly. “Yep”, she said, “I guess we are!” She walked Janna to the porch, her hand on the small of her friend’s back. When they got to the door Janna reached into her pocket for her keys, saying, “Will you come in for a bit?”

“Um, well, you really should rest shouldn’t you?”

“Nah, I slept pretty well last night – I must have been wiped out. I’m really not tired now. Please come in, just for a while? I’d like to show you the renovations I’m doing.”

“All right, if you’re sure you’re not tired, I’d like that.” Janna’s open smile melted her heart even further and Ryan followed the smaller woman into the house.

Janna commenced the grand tour, pointing out finished and future renovations. She started with the completed rooms, which were upstairs. The first to be completed was the large master suite. It occupied fully one half of the upper floor and contained a large bedroom with sitting area, fireplace and large walk-in closet. Adjoining it was a large, luxurious bath with double sink, shower and a large, square whirlpool tub set into a corner. A skylight in the ceiling flooded the room with light.

“Wow,” exclaimed Ryan with a wide grin. “You don’t do anything halfway do you?” With a raised eyebrow she added, “I love the tub.”

Janna blushed mildly and smiled. “I plan to stay here so I wanted to do everything right. And I happen to love bubble baths.”

Ryan clamped down on what she almost said and just grinned jauntily instead. Janna grabbed her hand and said, “Come on. There are two more bedrooms and an office finished. Then we’ll go back downstairs.”

Ryan followed along happily, not unlike a puppy dog, relishing the warm contact with Janna’s hand. For both women, the warmth in their clasped hands shot straight to their hearts and stayed there, the first tendrils of a life-long bond forming.

During the rest of the tour, Ryan nodded thoughtfully, making occasional knowledgeable comments, having had experience with that type of historical renovation.

The tour finished on the bottom floor at the back of the house where the studio and darkroom were under construction. “This will be my pride and joy,” Janna said happily. “I designed it myself to be both functional and comfortable. I plan to spend many long, happy hours in here”. At the same time she thought, Although with you in my life I can think of another room where I’d rather spend many long, happy hours.

Coincidentally, Ryan was having remarkably similar thoughts and as they looked at each other, they both were blushing slightly. Ryan recovered first and leered at Janna shamelessly, watching her friend’s face turn beet red. Ryan quickly took pity on her and, offering her hand said, “Come on. I think we both could use something cold to drink.”

“You better believe it,” mumbled Janna, still holding Ryan’s hand. Ryan led them to the kitchen and leaned back, elbows on the counter.

“I see you’ve finished the kitchen too,” Ryan said as she looked around, admiring the large space. It had whitewashed cabinets with glass fronts, matching white appliances and a large central island.

“Yep, the most important rooms first!” Janna grinned as she walked to the refrigerator and asked, “What would you like?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Whaddya have?”

“Let’s see. Spring water, beer, iced tea, soda, wine…”

“What are you having?”

“Well, I’m still on painkillers so alcohol is out. A Coke I think.”

“Sounds good. I’ll have one too.”

Janna inclined her head towards the living room and Ryan went on in. The room was very comfortable looking with a large, soft sofa, two overstuffed armchairs and a loveseat positioned in a semi-circle around a rough pine coffee table. The room was done up in a Southwestern motif, the furniture sporting muted desert colors. Opposite the loveseat was a large entertainment center, which housed state of the art audio and video equipment. Two electric guitars and one acoustic sat on stands on either side of the entertainment center, as did a large Peavey amplifier. Next to the amp stood a large pine tower filled with CD’s. The titles represented an amazingly eclectic mix of musical styles. Besides the expected punk titles there were titles ranging from classic and modern rock, to new age to classical.

On the other side of the entertainment unit stood a tall tower filled with videotapes. Quickly scanning the titles, Ryan noted many current and classic favorites, a large percentage of which were science fiction and action films. The top shelf, she noted with a smirk, contained gay and lesbian titles, including her current favorite, the recent lesbian classic, “Desert Hearts.” Smiling inwardly, she thought, I’d love to watch that one with her some time!

The walls of the attractive room held several Native American art prints, and numerous Native American ceremonial and artistic objects dotted the various surfaces in the room. Smiling, Ryan realized that the Native American décor made her feel right at home. Every surface in the room contained at least one candle. Against another wall stood a floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with books.

Janna returned with their sodas and took a seat at one end of the sofa and Ryan sat next to her. From where she sat, Ryan could see that the bookshelf contained numerous books on music and almost as many esoteric titles. There were also many books on science and astronomy, as well as science fiction. The top two shelves were filled with Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual titles, ranging from novels to essays, to art books to self-help and instructional books. She noticed more than a few titles matched some in her own library and was struck again at how very similar their interests seemed to be, as well as how well-matched they seemed to be intellectually. I don’t believe I’ve ever found anyone so attractive in every way, she thought as she casually looked around the room and sipped her drink. My God, I want this woman. I want to know her completely.

Janna noticed Ryan thoughtfully observing the room and asked, “Do you like what you see?”

Ryan turned to her and replied seriously, “Yes I do. Very much so.”

“Good. I’m glad. I’d like for you to feel comfortable and welcome here Ryan.” She smiled quietly at her new friend and held her gaze.

“I do Janna. Thank you.” She looked down at the drink sitting on her knee and played with the moisture on the rim with her thumb. “Um, Janna, I want to be honest with you about something, if you’re feeling up to having a serious discussion.” She looked back up at Janna expectantly, her blue eyes serious.

Janna, concerned, said, “Sure, Ryan, I’m feeling okay right now. What is it?”

Ryan looked back down at her glass and began, stammering a little, “It’s just that, well, I want you to know… um…how I feel.” A look of dejection marred her perfect features and she shook her head, saying, “I’m sorry, I’m not good at expressing my feelings. Damn.” She took a sip from her glass and set it on the table in front of her.

Janna’s heart filled with compassion for this woman whom she was beginning to love. She reached over and picked up one of Ryan’s hands, holding it in hers, and said, “It’s okay Ryan. Just take your time. I care and I’m listening.”

Ryan smiled weekly and began, “Okay…I’m sure you’ve noticed the feelings passing between us, right?”

Janna nodded in the affirmative and smiled gently, squeezing Ryan’s hand.

Ryan took a breath and continued, “Right. Well, I’m feeling myself very strongly attracted to you Janna. Not just physically, although that’s undeniable”. She smiled crookedly and suddenly her words were upheld by a warmth which shot from her groin and spread out in every direction.

She cleared her throat again. “Not entirely physical. It’s emotional as well. I’ve never been so strongly attracted to anyone before and certainly not this fast. I mean, I’ve only known you for one day, for Christ’s sake.” At this she shook her head and continued, “What I’m trying to say, besides that I’m starting to care deeply for you, is that, I’m not used to this. I haven’t been in a relationship for a long time – several years – by choice. The last relationship I was in ended very badly and I haven’t wanted to risk that again. It just wasn’t worth it. But now, I don’t know…I think I very much want to be involved with you. I can’t fight it, and it’s scaring the hell out of me.” Her face was etched with concern, her brilliant eyes misty, as she looked up into Janna’s loving gaze.

Janna found herself moved beyond all reason. Her eyes filled with tears and took on a depth of compassion and love that Ryan had never before witnessed, warming her instantly and easing her fear. She reached out for Ryan with her good arm and pulled her tightly to her, holding her close. In a breaking voice, she said, “Oh Ryan, thank you for telling me that. I feel exactly the same way for you. I don’t completely understand it myself and it scares me too, because I’ve been burned as well.”

She added, somewhat embarrassed, “At the risk of sounding hokey, I think we just might have an ‘eternal soulmates’ type thing happening here.” She chuckled nervously and a similar laugh bubbled up from Ryan’s chest.

Her head still buried against Janna’s uninjured shoulder, Ryan replied, “Yeah, well I used to think that stuff was hokey too but now I’m not so sure.” Lifting her head and looking deeply into Janna’s eyes, she said, “I feel like I’ve known you forever…um…like I’ve loved you forever.”

Janna answered her by gently capturing Ryan’s lips with her own. Immediately they were both swept up in an all-consuming warmth and the rest of the world seemed to fall away from them. Ryan returned the kiss gently, broke away for an instant, then kissed Janna again passionately. She lightly brushed her tongue against Janna’s lips, which parted instantly in acceptance. The kiss deepened, tongues dancing and intertwining ardently. A soft gasp escaped from Janna’s throat as Ryan moaned. The kiss continued until both women were breathless. They separated a little, still holding one another and Ryan gasped, “Jesus!”

Janna, eyes closed and breathing hard, could only smile and nod her head. Finally she said, “My God Ryan, I’ve never felt this way about anyone!” Looking seriously at Ryan, she added, “I’ve never wanted anyone so much.”

Ryan pulled her into another tight embrace, resting her cheek against Janna’s blond head. “Neither have I, Janna. Not even close.” She lightly kissed Janna’s hair and reluctantly said, “I hate to say this, but we’d better stop now. You’re really not up to this, I know, and you should be resting.” With a wry look, she added, “Not to mention the fact that we should slow this down some.”

Janna nodded tearfully and said, “I know, you’re right. I’m feeling kind of faint at the moment. However,” she added with a smile, “I think that’s your fault, not the concussion’s.”

Ryan laughed her wonderful, deep laugh and nodded her agreement. “Will you rest now then?”

“Only if you stay with me,” said Janna looking up through long blonde lashes.

“I’d love to, more than I can say. Come ‘ere.” She grinned as she kicked off her Birkenstock’s and sat back against the end of the sofa, beckoning to Janna with outstretched arms. Janna snuggled happily into her arms, head resting on her chest, and closed her eyes. Ryan wrapped her arms around her new love and realized immediately that she felt utterly complete. Her entire being was filled with a warmth that emanated from her heart center and expanded out to include the woman lying in her arms. Janna felt the same unique sensation and knew, from the very depths of her soul, that she had just become bonded for life. Both women could feel the strong cord which now linked their hearts, and they silently, simultaneously, thanked whatever Universal powers that existed for bringing them together. For bringing them home.

-6-

Ryan awoke several hours later with Janna still resting in her arms, feeling a peace and a contentment that she had never ever experienced before. She had been awakened by a soft groan and as she opened her eyes she could see Janna grimacing in her sleep. Ryan bent her head and lightly kissed the top of her friend’s head. Janna shifted slightly, moaning again. “Janna, hon, are you ok?” whispered Ryan.

“Hurts” came the mumbled reply. “Pain pill must have worn off.”

Checking her watch, Ryan saw that it was 4:00 and realized that Janna’s painkiller would definitely have worn off. “Sit up hon and I’ll go get one for you.”

“Don’t wanna move” came the grumbled reply.

“Well, honey, I’m sorry but you really need to take one so you can get the rest you need. You should eat something with it too or it could upset your stomach.”

“Stomach’s already upset. I can’t eat anything.”

“Just a couple of bites then, please? I’m hungry myself. Can I make a sandwich for us?

“Ok, let me show you…” came the tired reply.

“Oh, no. You stay right here”, Ryan interrupted vigorously. “I think I can find my way around your kitchen all right. You care what I make?”

“Nope. Anything’s fine. Thanks” came the tired reply.

“No problem” replied Ryan as she extricated herself from her sofa mate, grinning. Then, shaking her head, “I can’t believe I slept. I never do that.”

“Well, I guess this whole thing has taken something out of you too” replied Janna quietly, rubbing her face.

“Guess so” smiled Ryan in agreement as she started toward the kitchen. She returned a moment later with a pill and a glass of water, which she handed to her friend before returning to the kitchen.

She returned several minutes later, a plate with two sandwiches balanced on it in one hand and two bottled waters clasped in the other. She set the meal on the table next to the couch and turned to see Janna cradling her injured arm, with her head resting on the back of the sofa, grimacing again in pain. Ryan sat down next to her and tenderly kissed Janna’s forehead and caressed her cheek. Two cloudy green eyes returned her concerned gaze and at Ryan’s touch, some of the tension seemed to leave Janna’s face.

“Thanks for taking care of me Ryan. You really shouldn’t feel that you have too” said Janna, an anxious expression on her face.
“I know I don’t have to. I want to. Very much.” Then she added tenderly, “Janna, please let me. There’s no place on Earth I would rather be right now.”

“God, what did I ever do right to find you?” expressed Janna, looking lovingly into Ryan’s striking eyes and receiving a loving look, full of longing, in return.

Ryan replied quietly, “I feel like the lucky one here.” Then, changing the subject while handing Janna a ham and cheese sandwich said, “Here, eat a little something for me now”.

At that Janna’s mouth twisted into a leer and she said seductively, “Anytime baby. I thought you’d never ask!” The tips of Ryan’s ears and her high cheekbones rapidly became red and hot, and she quickly picked up a sandwich, cramming a large bite into her mouth. Janna grinned at Ryan’s reaction and patted her friend’s jeans-clad thigh comfortingly.

They ate in silence, Ryan wondering, not for the first time, just what she had gotten herself into here, and Janna marveling at her good fortune, injuries notwithstanding of course.

When they had finished their snack and Ryan had cleared the dishes, she returned to her end of the sofa, motioning for Janna to cuddle up to her again. This time she spread her legs and Janna sat back against her, between them, head resting on Ryan’s chest. Ryan wrapped her arms around the small blonde’s waist protectively. Both women noted that a wonderful tingling ran through their bodies, and was especially strong wherever skin touched skin. Two pounding hearts began to beat as one.

“Mmm, this is nice,” murmured Janna contentedly.

“Sure is,” agreed Ryan. Then, “If it’s ok, I’d like to hang around until about 6:30. I have a game at 7:15.” Then quickly added, “But if you don’t want to be alone, I can miss it, no problem”.

“Oh please, stay around until then, I’d like that, but don’t miss your game on account of me. Maybe after some more rest I’ll feel like going with you. Would that be ok?” asked Janna, turning slightly to see Ryan’s face.

Smiling widely, Ryan said, “Sure, I’d like that. But only if you’re up to it”, she added pointedly. “The bleachers aren’t that comfortable and the game will last about an hour and a half.”

“That sounds okay. I hope I feel like going. Then she added playfully, grinning, “I’m dying to see you play.” At that Ryan looked a bit apprehensive but smiled and pulled Janna back against her, thinking, What the hell am I afraid of? I love this woman. She won’t make me nervous on the mound will she? Not likely! No one ever has before. At which the little voice of reason in her head reminded her that she had never known anyone like Janna before. Or loved anyone so much. Oh shit. The team may be in trouble.

A few minutes later, Ryan wriggled uncomfortably and Janna asked, “Are you comfortable?”

“Oh, fine, yeah. I’m just a little warm in these jeans. You don’t happen to have a pair of shorts that would fit me do you?”

“Oh, sweetheart no, I doubt it. I’m sorry. Why don’t you take them off? I won’t mind, in fact…”

“No!” Ryan responded pointedly, eyes wide. Janna tensed a little in her arms, so Ryan added softly, “Um, the truth is that you have aroused me numerous times today. If I take off my pants the scent of that arousal will make me insane with desire for you and I won’t be responsible for my actions”. She grinned wickedly, nuzzling Janna’s hair.

“Oh, I see”, replied the blonde, enormously pleased at the admission. She intertwined the fingers of her left hand with Ryan’s, which rested on her abdomen. “If it makes you feel any better, I’m soaking wet too.”

Ryan swallowed convulsively as another surge of warmth and wetness emanated from her groin area and the throbbing there increased. “Yeah, lots better, thanks”, she replied sarcastically. Janna smiled, picking up on Ryan’s body’s reaction, and snuggled more deeply into her arms, feeling profoundly happy. Her joy spread quickly to Ryan through their connection and both women sighed contentedly. The warmth that permeated and surrounded them soon lulled both of them back to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~

Sometime later, a soft nibbling on her neck awakened Ryan. As her pulse quickened, she opened one eye and saw that Janna had turned in her embrace. She smiled and tightened her arms around her love and Janna responded by planting tender kisses on Ryan’s neck, moving up her jaw line and ending at her mouth. Ryan placed a hand behind Janna’s head, deepening the kiss. They spent long minutes exploring each other’s mouths, tongues caressing and cavorting lovingly. Ryan’s other hand caressed Janna’s back sensuously, then dipped down to move under her shirt. At the touch of Ryan’s warm hand on her bare flesh, Janna gasped and turned so that she straddled Ryan’s lap. Now face-to-face, their necking intensified, only slightly encumbered by Janna’s slinged arm between them. Ryan put her other hand under Janna’s shirt, caressing the soft skin of her back with both hands and pulling her more tightly against herself. Ryan was experiencing a physical reaction that shocked her in its intensity. Her pulse pounded and she felt as if every nerve ending in her body were on fire.

Janna, feeling much the same thing as Ryan was feeling, ran the fingers of her left hand through Ryan’s raven hair as she kissed her deeply, until, lips still on Ryan’s she gasped, “Oh, God Ryan. I want you so!” Then pulling back slightly, she said dejectedly, “I want to love you so badly, but this is making my head throb”.

Ryan, eyes wide in alarm, pulled back and said, “Jesus! I’m sorry! Are you ok?” and with concern caressed Janna’s injured brow.

Janna caught Ryan’s hand and kissing it said, “No my love, I’m sorry. I want you so much but my body is just too sore yet.”

Sighing, Ryan relied, “I know Janna. It’s ok. Shit. I just can’t keep my hands off of you.” Then sheepishly added, “Sorry about that.”

Placing her fingers on Ryan’s lips, Janna whispered, “Shh.” Then smiling tenderly added, “I’m not at all sorry. Just hold that thought for another day or so, okay?” Ryan returned the tender smile and leaned forward for one more gentle kiss.

The kiss ended and Ryan rested her forehead against Janna’s. With a look of quiet exasperation she stated, “Lord, woman, what you do to me!”

They sat holding each other for a few minutes before Ryan checked her watch and declared that she should leave to prepare for her softball game. “Are you feeling up to accompanying me this evening?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

“Why yes, I do believe I am, ma’am”, Janna replied in a mock Southern accent. “Thank you kindly.”

“Why anytime ma’am”, Ryan delivered with a rakish grin. They came together for one more hug and a short, sweet kiss and then Ryan helped Janna from the couch.

-7-

As they drove to Ryan’s house, she and Janna talked about the neighboring homes, Ryan pointing out and explaining various renovations that she was familiar with. As Ryan slowed the truck in front of a beautiful home, Janna gasped, “Ryan, is this yours?” It was a somewhat smaller Victorian than Janna’s, a two-story with gingerbread siding and a cupola. The color scheme was a very attractive brown with trim done in green and red.

Ryan smiled with pride and said, “Yep. I’ve been here for over two years and I’m still not quite finished with it.” Pointing to the house, she added, “Those are the original colors, as nearly as I could match them.”

“It’s absolutely beautiful Ryan. I’m very impressed.” Janna offered Ryan an unabashed adoring gaze and Ryan had to look down to hide her embarrassment. Looking back at Janna, she quietly said, “Thanks Janna.”

Ryan pulled her hunter green Explorer into the driveway and helped Janna out. They made their way up the front walk hand-in-hand, Janna admiring the tidy yard and home. The front door sported a beautiful stained glass window depicting a sun and moon design, using colors that matched those of the house itself. “Oh Ryan”, she exclaimed. “That window is gorgeous! Maybe I should do something like that with my door.”

“Sure”, Ryan beamed. “The artisan is a friend of mine. I’ll give you her name if you’d like.”

“I would, thanks.”

Ryan opened the front door and ushered her friend inside ahead of her, placing her keys in a dish on a small table just inside. The front door opened into a hallway and Ryan led Janna through a doorway to the right, saying, “I’ll just be a few minutes. You can wait here in the sitting room if you’d like. I’m afraid I don’t have time to show you around right now.” Then displaying the charming smile that Janna just could not get enough of, she said, “For some reason I’m in need of cold shower.” As Janna blushed, Ryan’s grin grew wider and she disappeared out the doorway and down the hall.

Janna thought, Ok, but I’d rather go with you and watch you shower. As she made herself comfortable on a cotton-covered sofa of country blue, she glanced around the bright, cheery room. It appeared to be used mainly for reading as there were several bookshelves utterly overflowing with books and several comfortable chairs, in addition to the sofa. Janna noticed that Ryan’s taste in reading very nearly paralleled hers, with the addition of many books on criminal justice and police science, as well as a number of sports titles. Janna noticed the current issue of “The Advocate” sitting on the coffee table and glanced through it as she waited for Ryan to reappear.

Ryan made her reappearance only about ten minutes later, running a towel through her still wet, dark locks. Janna stood and admired the vision before her. Ryan was dressed in a dark green uniform of shorts and shirt, which read, “Bob’s Shell” on the front. She wore matching wristbands and white leg guards, which were at the moment resting casually around her ankles. She looked up from under the towel, and seeing Janna’s unabashed stare, grinned widely, tossed the towel onto the back of the couch and opened her arms. Janna fell into the embrace and Ryan hugged her tightly. “You sure you feel up to this?” she said after kissing Janna’s head.

Janna smiled just as widely and answered, “Absolutely. Wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

To which Ryan replied, “It’s not that big a deal Janna, just a regular game.”

Janna placed her good hand on her left hip mock-indignantly and demanded, “Oh yeah? Tell me Coach, what division is your team in?”

Embarrassed, Ryan replied modestly, “A”.

“Just as I thought. A highly competitive regular game! And probably as good as women’s softball gets, short of college and pro teams. Am I right?”

The self-conscious reply was, “I guess so, yeah.” Then, recovering quickly, she grinned crookedly and said, “You know you look really, really scary, what with your arm in that sling and all. Don’t hurt me, please!”

Janna scowled playfully and replied, “Oh you! You’d better watch it woman or I will hurt you! I’ll hurt you but good!”

Ryan suddenly scooped Janna into her arms and asked, “Make that a promise, will ya’?”

Meeting Ryan’s sparkling eyes, Janna’s face broke into a radiant grin and she said sincerely, “I promise.”

Ryan pulled her close and whispered in her ear, “I love you so much Janna.”

Janna’s breath suddenly caught and her heart began to pound as tears sprang to her eyes. She whispered hotly into Ryan’s ear, “I love you too Ryan. More than I can possibly express with words.”

They pulled apart slightly, still holding each other, and green eyes met blue for another timeless moment before they came together for a passionate kiss. Ryan ended the kiss and as they gazed at each other again proclaimed, “At this rate I’ll never make it to the game! Come on love.” She led a grinning, slightly discombobulated Janna by the hand toward the door, picking up an athletic bag and her car keys on the way.

As they made their way to the truck hand in hand, they both shared the same thought: She loves me!

~~~~~~~~~~

The two almost-lovers made it to the ballpark just in time for Ryan to warm up. On the short ride to the softball complex they both had admired the beautiful sky in the west. The sun, intensely orange behind thin lines of bluish clouds, was beginning its final descent and had painted the sky in a brilliant palette of oranges and reds. Janna remarked, “It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the dirtier the air is, the more beautiful the sunset?”

“Mmm, I’ve thought the same thing, yes” agreed Ryan, and quietly admired the wash of color on Janna’s peaceful face as she watched the sky before her in awe. Ryan pulled into the lot at the park and they walked in side-by-side, arms touching, both filled with a bubbly joy just from being in each other’s presence.

Janna sat next to Ryan on the bleachers as she put on her cleats. Noticing her pitcher’s arrival, a stout older woman approached and said, “Jesus Ry, cuttin’ it a little close tonight weren’t you? We were startin’ to worry.”

Glancing up with a small grin, the cop replied, “Relax Sharon, how many times have I let you down?”

Sharon replied over her shoulder as she returned to the dugout, “Well, never, but there’s a first time for everything you know.”

With that, Ryan ducked her head and glanced sideways at Janna and they smirked in unison. “Ok”, said Ryan, standing and resting her hand on Janna’s shoulder. “I’ll see you later.”

Janna reached up and squeezed Ryan’s hand on her shoulder and quietly said, “Later, love. Have a good game!”

“How could I not?” came the jaunty reply. “I’ve got you here.” With that she turned and made her way down to the warm up area, feeling Janna’s smiling, loving gaze following her the whole way. I have never been so much in love in my life. I hope I never let her down.

As Ryan passed her dugout, Janna could hear laughing voices: apparently her teammates were kidding Ryan good-naturedly. A that point Ryan turned slightly and looked back at Janna, then turned back toward her teammates and grinned rakishly at the women on the bench, who erupted once again, some displaying the thumbs up sign to their teammate. Oh boy, thought Janna…I guess we’re officially an item.

After fully warming up, Ryan returned to the dugout, but not before sparing a quick glance at her friend in the bleachers, who was, of course, also looking at her. They shared a quick, loving smile and both women’s hearts warmed in unison, their bond strengthening another fraction.

It was still several minutes before game time when Ryan sat on the team’s bench. As she watched Ryan sit down with her teammates, Janna felt someone arrive and sit down next to her. She turned to see who it was as she heard, “Hi there! It looks like you’re feeling better!” and looked up into the face of Ryan’s partner, John.

Janna replied, “Hi. Yes, I am. Good to see you again Officer Stewart.”

“Good to see you too Miss Norden. But, call me John, please” smiled the friendly man.

“Ok, John, and please call me Janna.”

“Will do Janna. So, are you a softball fan?” he inquired.

“Yes, and a player too. I had hoped to get on a team soon but I’ve had a damper put on those plans, I’m afraid” she replied good-naturedly. She casually added, “I mentioned to Ryan that I’m on the lookout for a team that needs subs, so she invited me out.” Janna decided to offer the information, not being at all sure whether or not Ryan wanted her partner to know about their relationship.

“Well, you’re in for a treat. Ryan’s an awesome pitcher. Some teams can barely hit her at all”, he added with pride. He glanced past Janna to his left where a commotion in the dugout had caught his attention. They both heard raucous voices and phrases like, “Ooh, baby!”, “Nice babe!”, “Good going Ry!”, “You dog!” as her teammates looked toward Janna. Ryan was sitting on the bench, head tilted back against the chain link fence, trying unsuccessfully to cover her beet-red face with her arms, as her teammates taunted her mercilessly about her new girlfriend. John looked at Janna with a confused grin, which slowly became a huge smile as she blushed.

“You and Ryan?” he asked incredulously. Janna nodded weakly, feeling about two inches tall. Then John said, “That is so great! She deserves someone nice, she really does. After that last bitch, pardon my French, I was really worried about her for awhile. What a friggin’ user.” He shook his head in disgust.

Janna’s brow furrowed in concern and she nodded. John went on, “Well, why don’t you go over there and throw it right back in their faces?” His grin continued as Janna looked at him in shock.

“What?”

“I mean it. Look at how they’re embarrassing her. Go plant a big one on her. Show them that she really is the stud they’re making her out to be. She never brings girls out here, that’s why they’re doing it. I’ll betcha they shut up real quick.”

Janna looked doubtful but John encouraged, “Look, she’s the best looking woman out here and no one has ever gotten anywhere with her – and believe me, many have tried. They’re all jealous of you. Go on. I know my partner – she’ll enjoy it.”

Still not entirely convinced, but somehow excited by the prospect, Janna got up, adopted some of her old punk attitude and sauntered over to the dugout, eyes riveted on her quarry. As she approached, the clamor of voices died to a murmur and Ryan glanced up at her.

Janna leaned down seductively in front of her, her tank top revealing her lovely assets to Ryan, and said, “Baby, have a great game. I’ll be waiting for you.” Then she bestowed an intense kiss on her partner, as her teammates looked on, mouths gaping open. Ryan returned the kiss hungrily, proving John right. Janna then stood up, turned on her heal, looked back over her shoulder and said, “Bye now!”

As she sauntered back to her seat, Ryan’s teammates looked from her to Ryan and back again, some shaking their heads, most smiling. Ryan sported the biggest smile of all and looked exceptionally pleased with herself.

As Janna sat down, John said, “See, I told you!”

Janna grinned, shaking her head in disbelief as she patted him on the back and watched her partner saunter out to the field. The partner whose pitching, by the way, blew the other team away that night.

~~~~~~~~~~

The game went very well for the Bob’s Shell ladies. Ryan pitched a 3-hit shutout and helped her team to score five runs by singling twice and tripling, rounding the bases twice. The players were now lounging in the bleachers, congratulating each other and visiting, Ryan with her arm draped casually around Janna’s waist.

Janna listened to the friendly banter with half an ear as she recalled the vision of her beautiful partner out on the field. She had pitched with a single-minded focus that was truly inspiring to behold and her poise and grace were unmatched by anyone else on the field (in Janna’s estimation at least). And then there was her base running. My God, she was poetry in motion. Janna smiled warmly as she recalled Ryan’s natural, long, loping stride and how her leg muscles rippled and flexed as she ran.

She was pulled from her reverie by the sound of Ryan’s voice warmly asking, “What are you smiling at?”

Janna returned the warm smile and replied, “Just remembering something beautiful.” As Ryan cocked an eyebrow and tilted her head in question, she said, “I’ll tell you later.” She received a warm squeeze in reply.

As they sat together, enjoying each other’s company, one of Ryan’s teammates finally spoke up and said, “So Ry, are you going to introduce us to your friend or what?”

Grinning, Ryan answered, “Yes, Carrie. Ladies, though I use that term loosely for some of you, this is my friend, Janna Norden. Janna, meet Carrie, Liz, Sarah, Jackie, Elaine and our slave driver, Sharon.”

As greetings were exchanged one of the girls asked Janna if she had known Ryan long. She replied that she and Ryan had gone to school together but had only just recently become closer. Ryan smiled approvingly and thought, Good girl!

When asked about her injuries, Ryan became serious and quietly said, “I’m afraid she was the victim of a gay bashing the other night after leaving the Rainbow.”

“Fuckin’ Christ!” gasped Carrie, amid other exclamations of disbelief from the rest of the group.

“I’m afraid it’s true. Luckily for my friends and me, Ryan and John were on duty. They caught and arrested two of the guys.”

“I hope you guys beat the shit out of them”, this from Liz, looking pointedly at John and Ryan.

Ryan smirked, replying, “No, but I took my time turning in the report. They’re cooling their asses in County lockup all weekend – couldn’t get a bail hearing set until Monday, maybe Tuesday.”

“Thank God for that. Assholes.” Responded Sharon disgustedly.

Another player, Jackie, asked, “Hey, aren’t you the guitar player that got up and played with the band there Thursday night?”

Janna nodded, “Yeah, you were there too?”

“Oh, yeah, my partner and I were there. You were awesome girl!”

Janna grinned, “Thanks. It was fun.” Glancing at Ryan, she noted raised eyebrows, looking impressed.

Jackie, continued, “And you were attacked that night? Shit, there were a lot of people there too. I never heard anything about it. Was it in the paper guys?” she asked, looking around at her friends.

“Well it happened over by the brewpub where we were parked. I didn’t even think about it being in the paper – would it have been Ryan?”

Ryan shook her head, “I don’t know. The department likes to be careful with these cases, I think not wanting to publicize them too much in the fear that it will give other creeps the same idea. They may not have released the information yet. If it goes to trial though, it will definitely become public.”

Liz spoke up, “Well maybe we should make it public. Let people know, if only to warn the GLBT community.”

Sarah added, “Yeah, can we at least get in touch with our advocacy and support groups and tell our friends?”

Janna nodded and responded, “Oh, whatever you want to do is fine with me. I’m a long-time activist, and I’m used to getting down and dirty and fighting about these things. I’ll be glad to cooperate with anyone who wants to do something about this.”

Ryan tempered the discussion by saying, “It’s great to want to make something good happen from this guys, but lets remember where we are, huh? Our community doesn’t have a whole lot of support from the community at large and it could backlash on us.” Looking at Janna apologetically and giving her a squeeze, she gently added, “Remember, babe, this isn’t the City anymore.”

Janna nodded, “You’re right. We do need to keep that in mind. But I want to do something. At the very least we need to get the word out to our friends. Remember, two of the jerks got away.” Then looking thoughtful, she added, “You know, my Mom goes to a pretty liberal Methodist church that recently voted to welcome gays to the congregation, maybe we could start with them.”

The idea was greeted with a chorus of, “Yeahs” and nodded heads and Janna received a look of approval and a nod from Ryan.

Carrie then added, “Yeah and my partner and I are members of the Unitarian Church up the street… I think half the congregation is gay…I’ll let them know too.”

As the friends sat discussing the incident further, a men’s team arrived at the diamond to prepare for their game.

Carrie, spying them approaching, said, “Heads up guys, here comes Jake’s Bait.”

The women all became wary and started to pick up their stuff and to leave when one of the guys was heard to say with a sneer as he walked by, “Oh, Jesus, we get to have the lezzy bench again. Someone grab a towel and wipe it down before we sit will ya?”

Carrie replied mockingly, “Just use your tongue Roy, you know you want to.” He flipped her off as her teammates laughed and she gave him a parting, “Fuck you”. Carrie looked pointedly at her teammates and asked, “How’d we get so lucky to be on the same schedule as those dickheads. Most homophobic team in the league.”

Most of the guys moved off to the dugout, but one, upon seeing Janna, wandered over and stood a little too closely and leered at her, saying, “Hey baby, what’s a cute little thing like you doing hanging around with these mean old dykes?”

Before Janna could respond, her partner was on her feet in a flash, standing in front of the guy and tensed like a coiled spring. With waves of anger emanating palpably from her body, she said in a calm, but menacing voice, “Back off buddy before I arrest your sorry ass for harassment.”

The guy immediately held his hands up and backed away, though more from the implied threat of violence than from the danger of arrest.

Ryan watched the men leave and then sat back down next to Janna. Her face was an unreadable mask, but her fists clenching at her sides revealed the anger coursing through her. Janna, sensing her partner’s disquiet, lightly touched her arm and said, “Thank you, Ryan. It’s over now and I’m fine, so let’s go home.”

“Yeah, let’s”, came the forced reply.

Among the group of guys watching the confrontation were two who, upon seeing Ryan, quickly turned and ducked away, one of them saying to the other, “Whoa, shit, it’s that cop from the other night.”

They quickly went around behind the bleachers where Ryan and Janna were sitting and watched as the women got up to leave. When it was safe to do so, they reemerged, the other man saying, “Yep, that’s the same dyke who arrested Joe and Brian the other night. I think Joe will be interested to know that we saw them here. When he gets out of the can, that is. Looks like she’s hooked up with the cute blonde too.”

As they walked out of the complex with their friends, Ryan declined their invitation to go out for pizza and beer, citing Janna’s need for rest. As they arrived at the truck and sat down, Ryan said apologetically, “Janna, I’m sorry if you wanted to go out, but I’m not really in the mood for it right now.”

Realizing that her friend was struggling with her emotions, Janna replied, “It’s okay, honey. I really am too tired and my head is starting to throb again. I’d just like to go home and go to bed.”

During the drive to Janna’s, Ryan was very quiet. Janna glanced at her, concern written on her face. She gently touched Ryan’s thigh and said, “Would you like to talk about it?”

“Yes, I would, but not right now, okay?” She glanced hopefully at Jana and smiled weakly.

“Sure, whenever you’re ready, Ryan.” She rubbed her friend’s thigh again tenderly.

Ryan glanced down and covered Janna’s hand with hers saying, “I appreciate that. Thank you Janna.”

-8-

Ryan stood just inside Janna’s front door, not wanting to leave, but realizing that her friend needed to get some rest. She pulled Janna into an embrace and said, “I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?” Then suggested hopefully, “Maybe we can lounge around all day again.”

Janna grinned and answered, “Yes, I’d like that.” She stood on her toes and captured Ryan’s lips for a long kiss before they parted reluctantly.

“Okay, bye” said Ryan regretfully.

“Bye love. See you tomorrow.”

Ryan sat in her Explorer and watched Janna’s house until she saw the lights in the front room go out, and then she drove home to her quiet house.

Ryan shifted uncomfortably in her bed, staring at the off-white ceiling of her bedroom. Moonlight filtered in, giving the room outside the range of her small reading lamp an eerie, yet comforting, glow. A book sat next to her, forgotten. It was after midnight but she was unable to sleep.

The evening’s events had left her feeling very unsettled. She had never reacted to a situation with such anger before. Even though she had seen many, many terrible acts of violence and stupidity, none had affected her so much as seeing Janna in possible danger again. Not even the senseless acts of violence against children that she had witnessed had angered her more. She had learned to steel herself against such acts in order to do her job. She had always focused her anger on doing everything within her power to catch the perpetrator.

But she couldn’t steel herself against seeing Janna hurt or threatened. She had no protection from that. She had nearly throttled the stupid, arrogant prick tonight. The barely controlled rage and the violence that lay just under the surface terrified her now. She knew without a doubt that she could have killed that man tonight with her bare hands.

In addition to that restlessness, she felt a disturbing emptiness at Janna’s absence and couldn’t get the little blonde out of her mind. She ached, both physically and emotionally, to be with her. Physically, there was that dull ache in her chest that she associated with missing Janna and had never experienced with anyone else before. I’m filled with her. I need her.

Suddenly, the phone ringing startled her out of her thoughts. Checking the Caller ID, she noted Janna’s number. She sat up and frowned as she answered in a worried voice, “Janna, what’s wrong?”

“Hi. How did you know it was me?” came the confused voice.

“Caller ID”, was the matter of fact response.

“Oh, I don’t have that yet. That’s pretty cool” Janna stalled.

“And? Are you okay? Do you need something?” Ryan asked, her voice still full of concern.

“Oh, no. I mean yes. I’m okay.” Then meekly added, “I um, I just needed to hear your voice. I hope I didn’t wake you.”

Relieved that Janna was all right, Ryan relaxed and sighed. “God, I needed to hear your voice too. I’m not sleeping either.” With confusion, she blurted, “Janna, I have the most uncomfortable feeling in my chest when we’re apart. It’s an actual ache. Does that sound crazy? Am I just imagining it because I miss you?”

“No hon. It’s real. I feel it too. It’s because of our link, I think. I’ve never experienced this before but I’ve read about it.” After a moment she added, “What we have, some call a ‘heart link’. There is an actual cord of energy linking us at our heart centers. Soulmates can often feel what their partner is feeling, physically and emotionally, and physical separation can be painful.”

“Well, I’ve never really believed in those things Janna, but what you just said makes sense to me.” She shifted back onto her back. “Is there anything that can be done about it?”

Janna smiled into the phone and said, “Short of never being apart you mean?”

“Yeah, but that sounds like a doable plan, actually.”

Janna grinned and blushed, despite the fact that she was alone in her bedroom, and the pain in her heart lessened a little. “Yes, I think it’s a good plan too. But since we’re not together right now, I think there is something I can do to help you.”

Ryan grinned her patented rakish grin and said, “You mean phone sex?”

Janna giggled, “No silly!” She sat up, crossing her legs and continued, “Where are you?”

“In bed…in my bedroom…in my house” she carefully reported.

“Great, smart-ass. Do you want some relief or not?” came the teasing reply.

Ryan grinned and said with her deepest, most alluring voice, “Oh, yes, baby…please…give me some relief.”

“You know, Jay Jay may have been on the right track when he asked me what I will do with you. You can be a complete pain in the ass, did you know that?” Then she softened her voice and added, “You’re just lucky I have no choice in the matter and love you so damn much.”

Ryan suddenly became serious, realizing that she was, in fact, very lucky. “I’m sorry Janna. Yes, I am very lucky. What did you want me to do?”

Mollified, Janna began, “Okay. I’ve had some success as a healer – now don’t laugh!”

Ryan interjected, “Honey, I have no intention of laughing at you. I know that you’re sincere in your beliefs. Please, go on.”

“Okay. I use an ancient Tibetan healing technique called Reiki. Some good friends of mine who are master healers trained me. I’ve actually had some real success with healing different ailments. I can send healing energy to you that will help to balance you and soothe the ache.”

“You mean you can send it through our link?”

“No, though our link should definitely intensify it. I do a little ritual with the healing symbols and then send the energy to you. It is part of the Universal Consciousness and will know where to go and what to do, although I do guide it somewhat.”

“Sounds cool love. I’m game”, Ryan said sincerely.

Janna was heartened beyond belief. I do believe that I want to spend every minute of the rest of my life with this woman. She sighed and began, “Okay, is the room dark?”

Ryan reached to the bedside table and switched off the small lamp. “It is now.”

In a soothing voice, Janna said, “Okay, lie comfortably on your back and let yourself become completely relaxed.”

Ryan did so after placing the phone on the pillow next to her ear. The room, now bathed in a comforting moonlight, helped her to relax.

Janna gave her a few moments, and then she continued, “I’m going to visualize the symbols now and start sending the energy. Just relax.” With that she set the phone down and took a moment to center herself. She then drew each of the four healing symbols in the air before her. Then, holding her hands in front of her, palms out, she directed the energy out through her palms and into Ryan’s heart chakra. She visualized Ryan lying in her bed asked the Reiki to heal and balance her.

Ryan lay on her bed, surprised at her own open-mindedness: she actually believed that Janna could do this. She lay calmly, not knowing what to expect, but trusting in her new partner. After a few moments she thought that she felt a comfortable warmth in her chest. Soon, the warmth became more distinct and was accompanied by a pleasant tingling sensation. The warm tingling slowly, gently, filled her heart center and then expanded, suffusing her entire being with an intense feeling of love. After several minutes she began to feel giddy and a laugh bubbled happily up from her belly.

From the nearby phone, Janna heard Ryan’s laugh and smiled. Picking up the phone she said, “Tell me what you feel.”

Ryan chuckled happily, “Janna this is incredible! I started feeling really warm and tingly and then I was filled with a feeling of love that was so incredible that it made me laugh. Sweetheart, this is better than a drug! You ought to be selling it.”

Janna smiled warmly, her heart soaring. She said, “Honey, what you’re feeling is my love for you and I have no desire to sell that. Our bond is intensifying the Reiki. Normally people just feel warm and/or tingling, or sometimes cold, though it can cause an emotional release too. I’m so glad you like it. Is the pain gone?”

“Oh, yeah, completely!”

“Super! Just lie there and enjoy it for a bit. I’ll wait.” Janna stretched out on her bed and relaxed, also enjoying the moonlight suffusing her room. She silently thanked Luna, the moon spirit, and then closed her eyes and visualized something else.

A few minutes later she heard an uncertain voice say, “Um Janna, are you directing the energy to another place now?”

Janna grinned slyly and replied, “Possibly. Where are you feeling it?”

“My breasts and … oh, uh, Janna…”

“Mmm, hmm?”

“This feels waaaay too good honey” she drawled.

“Okay…we’ll save this for some time when we’re together then. Now what do you feel, love?”

A great, jolly laugh answered for Ryan and Janna’s face became radiant. Ryan recovered somewhat and said, “Oh, sweetheart, message received. I love you too! Here, I’ll try to send my love back to you.”

As Ryan furrowed her brow in concentration, Janna waited a moment and then felt a soft, sweet feeling of love wrap around her heart. She exclaimed, “Wonderful love, I feel it!”

“Oh baby, thank you. This is so great!” Ryan beamed but then her eyes closed involuntarily and she yawned.

Janna heard it and said, “Okay, love, we should both be able to sleep now. I love you Ryan.”

“I love you Janna, sweet dreams.”

“Sweet dreams, love, night.”

“Good night.” With that, and despite their physical separation, two extremely contented partners spent the rest of the short night sleeping soundly and having sweet dreams.

-9-

At 7:00 the next morning, the buzzing of her doorbell downstairs roused Janna. Who the hell? she thought, confused. She padded sleepily to the door, clad only in an oversized Pansy Division t-shirt that hung halfway down her thighs, and peered through the peephole. A smile lit her face as a large blue eye through the glass greeted her. She pulled the door open and welcomed Ryan into her arms. “Honey, what are you doing here so early?”

Ryan returned the embrace and kissed Janna sweetly then said sheepishly, “I missed you.”

Janna smiled tiredly and said, “I missed you too, honey, but don’t you sleep?”

“Not all that well without you” came the honest reply. It was true. Ryan, normally a very light and fitful sleeper at best, had enjoyed her deepest sleep in ages while napping with Janna the last several days. Ryan peered closely at Janna’s arm and exclaimed, “Hey, where’s your sling?”

“I didn’t need it last night. All that Reiki flowing through me seemed to speed the healing along. Come on”, she said, grabbing Ryan’s hand and pulling her toward the bedroom. “We’re going back to bed. I need a lot more than five hours sleep.”

Ryan grinned crookedly, eyes twinkling, “Ah, I see. Not a morning person, huh?”

“Absofrigginlutley not” came the gruff reply. They entered the bedroom and she pushed Ryan, who was clad in a blue t-shirt stamped, “POLICE” in bold yellow letters, and biking shorts, toward the bed.

As Janna climbed into bed, Ryan stood at the foot looking uncertain. “Are you sure about this Janna?”

“Yes, come on” came the certain reply.

With a grin similar to that of a kid in a candy store, Ryan deftly stripped her t-shirt off over her head, leaving her clad only in her sports bra and shorts, and kicked off her sandals. She would have been an incredibly alluring sight had Janna’s eyes been open. Ryan climbed into the bed next to Janna, who immediately snuggled up against her. Janna lay on her uninjured left side, head resting in the crook of Ryan’s shoulder, arm about her waist. Ryan circled her arm around Janna and pulled her close. The small blonde was asleep again before Ryan could say, “Sweet dreams.”

Several hours later, as the sun streaked in through partially opened blinds, Ryan awakened, confused. As comprehension as to her whereabouts dawned, she realized also that Janna was sprawled mostly on top of her, her head now resting between Ryan’s breasts. In her sleep, Janna’s t-shirt had hiked up, revealing a luscious naked behind. As if that weren’t enough to arouse Ryan’s desire, she also realized, rather quickly, that she felt soft, damp curls against her thigh. She swallowed convulsively as an involuntary shudder ran through her. At this, Janna stirred, shifting slightly and pushing more firmly against the center between Ryan’s legs. Ryan’s breath caught and she couldn’t stifle a low moan. Janna opened one eye sleepily and smiled up at Ryan, then realized in what position she lay, and it was her turn to shudder and try to catch her breath.

As she gazed up at Ryan, Janna had been absentmindedly stroking the skin above Ryan’s taut abdomen with her thumb. Ryan calmly reached down and covered it with her hand, stopping the movement. Her blue eyes were dark with desire as she gazed at Janna. Janna brought her hand out from under Ryan’s and covered a breast, gently caressing it through the material of the bra. Ryan closed her eyes and moaned softly. Before she could open her eyes again, Janna had bent her head to Ryan’s other breast, kissing it softly through the thin material. Ryan gasped as her eyes flew open. In a voice thick with desire she said, “Are you sure about this Janna?”

Janna replied, voice equally thick and breaking slightly, “Yes. Very.”

At that Ryan sat up, gently pulling Janna upright and onto her lap, embracing her tightly. Ryan softly kissed the earlobe next to her lips and then turned her head to find soft lips. They kissed passionately for long minutes, two pairs of hands roaming sensuously, before Ryan ducked her head and nibbled at Janna’s soft neck, which arched, allowed greater access. Then Ryan parted slightly from her love and carefully pulled off Janna’s t-shirt, revealing the blonde’s beautiful, full breasts.

Ryan gasped, “Oh Janna, you are so beautiful!”

Janna smiled and reached for Ryan’s bra, using both hands to pull it over her head. Janna gasped as Ryan’s lovely breasts were freed, dark nipples erect with pleasure. They embraced, kissing hungrily and Ryan pulled Janna down on top of her, crushing them together.

Their bodies intertwined, beginning a dance of passion that reunited their souls and rekindled a timeless love that they had shared through many lifetimes before. They spent the rest of the day repeating their dance of love, and finally lay together mutually sated as the daylight began to fade.

~~~~~~~~~~

Later that evening, after a quick meal and a long, sensual shower together, Ryan and Janna lay in bed in what they now considered “their” position: Ryan on her back, Janna snuggled up against her side, head on Ryan’s chest, enveloped in her arms. Between their many lovemaking sessions that day they had lain just like this, completely content, talking and sharing bits and pieces of their lives with each other. They talked of their families, their jobs, their desires, their hopes and fears. Janna related many stories of her life as a rock musician: many funny, some tragic. She had had a wonderful, successful career but it had been fraught with pitfalls and she had lost some very good friends. Ryan had laughed and cried with her, sharing both Janna’s joy and her pain.

Ryan became pensive and, coming to a decision, said seriously, “Janna, I need for you to know some things.”

Janna kissed the pulse point under her lips and murmured, “Okay. I’m listening.”

Ryan bit her lip, wondering how to begin, and then started, “You’ll probably hear some things about me from the people I hang around with. Things about my past and old relationships. Um, things I’m not proud of.”

Janna interrupted, “Ryan honey, we all have a past. Even though it has helped to shape the person that you are, it has no bearing on how I feel about you. I adore the person that you are right now, today.” She sealed her statement with a kiss to Ryan’s chin and wrapped her arm more tightly around her waist.

“I agree with you, Janna, and I feel the same way about you and your past, but I need to be honest with you. I believe in complete honesty.”

“So do I honey, go ahead then. You share, and then I will.”

Ryan cleared her throat and began. “I’ll tell you the whole sordid tale now so I’ll never have to repeat it.” She took a breath and began, “Ok, during my first few years on the force, I saw some really bad things…some truly horrifying things. I had a hard time, then, distancing myself from the job and not bringing that pain home. So, after a really bad day I would end up in a bar – sometimes at the Rainbow, sometimes at one of the cop bars. I would drink heavily and almost never left alone.

Those women meant nothing to me. It was just sex, and I always left before morning. In my first five years or so on the force I had three committed relationships that each lasted less than six months and numerous one night stands. While in a relationship I was monogamous, but after breaking up, would fall into the same old pattern. It was unfulfilling and I disliked myself for using the women for sex with no intention of forming a relationship with them, but I did it anyway.

Eventually I learned to handle the tough stuff at work better, and didn’t try to lose myself in meaningless sex, but I still did some sleeping around.” She sheepishly shrugged her shoulders and added, “I was lonely, I guess…unfulfilled.

Then about three years ago I met a woman named Bethany. She worked in public relations for the department. She was beautiful, driven, ruthless and openly bisexual. She loved her reputation as a player and enjoyed the rumors and gossip her conquests created. She also happened to be a favorite niece of the then Police Commissioner, so she held a lot of power and enjoyed controlling people with it. She was a real bitch,” Ryan added, shaking her head disgustedly. “I only wish I hadn’t been so blind to the fact at the time.” Then, with regret clouding her face she added, “Or that I had listened to my friends.”
Ryan glanced down at Janna, who had become still in her arms, trying to gauge her reaction. Janna smiled and squeezed Ryan’s hand where it lay on her waist, urging her to continue.

“Anyway, to make a long story even longer, for some reason she set her sights on me. Maybe because I had a reputation but generally stayed away from women on the force, I don’t know. In retrospect, I think she viewed me as some sort of prize. I had been attracted to her physically but had never asked her out, mainly because I had no problem finding female company when I needed it. Also, I didn’t really feel the need to play with her brand of fire. Anyhow, she pursued me and eventually I turned the tables on her and seduced her. It was exciting at first and we both thought we were in love – or so she led me to believe anyway. After dating for a few months, she invited me to move in with her.”

Ryan gathered her thoughts for a moment, then continued, “At first I really liked the whole domestic thing. I loved being responsible for someone other than myself. For a while before meeting her I had been pretty tired of the one-night stands, so, when she came along, I felt ready to try another relationship.

A few months after I moved into her place though, I started seeing warning signs of how controlling she was. Little things started adding up, you know?” Janna nodded and Ryan went on. “She would try to control, subversively I now realize, who I saw and what I did, even aspects of my career. All the while, John and other friends tried to get me to see how she really was. But I basically told them they were just jealous and to fuck off.” Ryan groaned and shook her head, “Jesus! What an asshole I was. It’s a wonder any of them are still my friends.”

Ryan cleared her throat and continued the narrative. “Well, when we’d been together for not quite a year, John came to me one day and told me that she was screwing around behind my back, and that he had proof. He said he knew I didn’t want to hear it but he cared for me and was gonna tell me the truth, even if it destroyed our partnership.

He said that the Sunday before, he and his wife had been out boating on the Delta with some friends. They had motored way out, to a protected little cove they liked that was halfway to Antioch. He said that as they rounded the cove they came upon another boat already anchored there. Since they were so far into the cove already they had to float pretty close to the other boat before turning, and when they did, they saw two women making out on the deck. They both had their tops off and weren’t even all that put out at having been seen, in fact they waved to John’s friend at the wheel. John and Sara were in the cabin and couldn’t be seen. John said he was sure it was Beth and so was his wife Sara. I called him a liar and he said, ‘Fine, but tell me Ry, does she have a big tattoo in the small of her back? And was she home yesterday?’ Well, she has a tattoo and she had been away all weekend, supposedly at a conference in the City, so I knew he was probably telling the truth.

When I confronted her about it, she didn’t deny it. She was nasty. She laughed and said that in fact, she had had several affairs right under my nose and was ready to move onto better things. She said she was tired of being with a beat cop who didn’t aspire to do anything greater.”

Ryan’s voice sounded bitter as she added, “God, that hurt. Even though I wasn’t sure that we had ever really been in love, I had liked coming home to someone instead of to an empty apartment for a change. I moved out that day and she left the department for a better job in L.A. a few months later.”

She received a reassuring hug from Janna before finishing, “After that I never wanted to trust anyone again. And I didn’t until you came along. I haven’t been with anyone except you since then.”

Before she could say another word, Janna shifted so that her body was above Ryan’s. Looking deeply into Ryan’s eyes she said, “I’m so sorry you went through that sweetheart. I know how much it hurts to be betrayed.” She continued, caressing Ryan’s cheek, “Who you were doesn’t bother me Ryan. I love you with all my heart, and I always will.” The heartfelt sincerity written in her beautiful features nearly moved Ryan to tears, and Janna leaned down and sealed her promise with a passionate kiss.

When the kiss ended, Janna settled back down into Ryan’s arms, and Ryan nuzzled her head with her chin.

“Now it’s my turn, I guess” Janna began. “My story isn’t nearly as sordid as some might imagine, given my line of work, but there are things I’m not proud of.” After receiving a kiss on the head and a reassuring squeeze from her lover she continued.
“I’ve had four previous committed relationships. One was right after I arrived in the city…I was nineteen and it lasted about a year. Another was in Seattle a few years later, with a rock superstar who was up there doing a lot of producing of young dyke bands. We cared for each other deeply, but she was into pretty wild sex…bondage-type stuff…and I just never really got into that. It was more of a turn off than a turn on. She was great about it for a while but I knew our white-bread sex life wasn’t fulfilling her, so I ended it. We stayed friends and I still talk to her once in a while…in fact I still love her like a sister. She’s an awesome lady, wild and tough on the outside but so warm and sweet on the inside.

Before that there was only mild fooling around. Sex is a very private and intimate act for me and I never wanted to enter into it casually. In my early years in the City though, I would usually drink beer while performing and after a show the combination of the alcohol, the adrenaline rush and the second hand weed smoke would usually have me pretty high and very open to suggestion. There would often be girls waiting for me, wanting to um…for lack of a better term, fuck. I would always tell them that I wouldn’t screw them but that they could do whatever they wanted to me. So, we’d make out a little and I’d let them do various things to pleasure me. I never wanted to let it go too far, because I didn’t want to use them, but at the same I was usually so wasted that I wasn’t in complete control. There were some occasions, I know, where I went all the way with them and had no memory of it later. That I am not proud of.

I gradually grew out of that, mainly through maturity I think, but also because I hated the self- destructiveness of it, and disliked hurting people. But there was this one show. I was in The Tribe and we were starting to hit big…we’d just landed a big national tour. After a pristine show I was my usual sky-high self and this really cute baby butch grabbed me as I left the stage and kissed me hard. I let her drag me to a chair stage-side and she sat me down and straddled my lap. We started making out heavily and before I knew it, she had one of my breasts in her mouth. I was only vaguely aware of a crowd gathered around us, watching, but I was too high and too turned on to care. I quickly turned the tables on her, ripped off her shirt and went at her breasts hungrily. Then I suddenly needed much more so I got up and dragged her backstage. Some of my band mates were using the couch back there for the same sort of activity but I screamed at them to get the fuck off and threw the girl down. We screwed there until we both passed out.”

Janna stopped and took a breath adding, “That was a real low point for me but it led to a relationship with the girl. Her name was Jordan and she was an art student ten years younger than I was. We were together for six weeks, until I left on tour. She had wanted to come with me but I wouldn’t let her. She was a talented artist and I didn’t want her to quit school for me. I ended up leaving a day early without telling her. I knew I was hurting her, but felt it was for her own good…I knew I wasn’t ready to settle down. I didn’t see her for almost a year. We became friends again later and she’s now a successful graphic designer. She’s committed to a great lady and they have a baby girl.

While on that tour, I got involved with the new singer, Diana Marshall. She was on her way to becoming huge, it turns out, and would eventually find me hindering her. But before that happened we were pretty happy. It was a very exciting time. Our album was selling well and we were playing incredible venues in great cities, opening for some big names and doing some headlining of our own. It was a very heady experience and we rode it for all it was worth. Diana and I were talking about getting a house together when we got back to the City, and I really thought that she might be “it”.

But at the very end of the tour, she was offered a solo contract by a major label, and she dropped us, all of us, so fast, we didn’t know what had happened. She left for New York with nothing much more than a, ‘Thanks babe, it was fun’. Janna grimaced and swallowed hard, remembering the pain, and Ryan hugged her closer.

“That was the last relationship I was in. I was crushed for a while, emotionally, and just threw myself into my work, including activism work. By that time I was doing more producing and session work than playing with the band and I let them replace me. My heart just wasn’t in it after Diana left us. They never did find a singer to fill her shoes and aren’t doing much any more. Soon after that I threw myself into my photography. So…that was over a year ago and I haven’t been with anyone until you.”
She sighed heavily, a load off of her mind and heart and Ryan scooped her closer and wordlessly held her tightly. They then proceeded to spend the rest of the night showing each other just how special and loved they were.

-10-

The next morning, shortly after dawn, Ryan awakened and stretched long arms and legs. The movement didn’t stir the small beauty sprawled across her body and she thought, Nothing short of an earthquake could possibly rouse Janna this early in the morning! Ryan sighed, filled with a warm sense of peace as she gazed down at her love, who was bathed in a pinkish gray light. She’s so damned cute when she sleeps…hell, she’s just plain damned cute. She closed her eyes again and pulled Janna up closer to her, deciding uncharacteristically to catch a little more sleep herself.

A few hours later she herself was roused from sleep as Janna stirred. Peeking one eye open, she saw bright green eyes gazing at her. “Morning, ” Janna said with a smile.

“Morning baby. What time is it” Ryan asked groggily, yawning.

Janna turned to glance at the bedside alarm clock. “8:30” she replied.

“Jesus, why do I do that when I’m with you?” Ryan asked, scowling.

“Is there something else you would rather be doing?”

“Oh no, absolutely not.” She gathered Janna more tightly to herself and kissed her head, proving her point. “It’s just that normally on Sundays I go to the gym at the station to work out at 7:00.”

“In the morning?” came the disbelieving response.

“Yeah. I also stay late on Tuesdays and Thursdays to work out.”

“After being on a bike for eight hours? Jesus, you’re not quite human, are you?”

A rich laugh erupted from Ryan’s chest and she squeezed Janna lovingly again. “Maybe not” she agreed.

Almost afraid to ask, Janna said, “So, are you going to go work out now?”

“Nope. In fact, I’m not budging from this spot for quite a while yet.” Ryan grinned as Janna let out her held breath.

“Cool!” came the reply as she turned in Ryan’s embrace and their lips met.

Some time later, they lay languorously together, enjoying a bath in the large whirlpool tub. Janna sat back against Ryan’s chest in what had become another of their favorite positions. As she gently caressed Janna’s arms, which rested on her long legs, Ryan asked, “Honey, I’m curious, why do you have such an interest in Native American art?”

Janna sighed, “Mmm, that’s feels so nice. Because my Mom’s Dad was part Cherokee. Even though we’re just barely blooded, I was brought up with many Native American ideals and I’ve always been proud of that part of my heritage. He didn’t teach me a lot of religion or ritual – we were Christian – but he instilled in me a love of and respect for the Earth and for animals.”

Ryan nodded as she kissed Janna’s neck, eliciting a moan from her partner. “So, that’s where you get your green eyes from, huh?” She grinned and kissed the other side of Janna’s neck.

“Oh, yeah, right” Janna said as she slapped playfully at her lover’s leg. “Those I get from my Irish and Scandinavian Dad.”

Ryan grinned again and responded teasingly, “Oh, okay. That makes sense. I’d sure love to know how I got my blue eyes though, seeing as how I’m one quarter Comanche.”

“You are?” came the incredulous reply.

“Yep. What’s wrong, don’t I look it?

“Oh, you do actually. I guess with a name like ‘Zamora’ I figured you were part Hispanic.”

“I am, some, but I have more Comanche blood than anything else. My mother was Irish and Greek, my Dad Comanche, with some Navajo and Mexican.”

“So, honey, how do you explain your blue eyes? I thought that brown eyes were supposed to be a dominant genetic trait or something, and Native Americans generally have brown eyes.”

“That’s true. But my father and a long line of our Native ancestors before him were reported to have these eyes. Some weird genetic screw-up, I guess.” She shrugged, her breasts softly caressing Janna’s back.

“Oh, don’t do that to me” Janna sighed. “Not unless you’re prepared to do a whole lot more.”

Ryan responded sensuously, “What? You mean something like this?” As she spoke, she moved one hand from Janna’s waist up to a breast, caressing it softly.

“Oh, God, yes, that’s exactly what I mean” gasped Janna, arching back into Ryan and covering the large hand with hers. This only served to encourage Ryan and she moved her other hand to points farther south, caressing Janna tenderly and eliciting more panting and moaning. Soon Janna’s cries of pleasure mingled with the quiet hum of the whirlpool’s jets, soon to be replaced by similar sounds from Ryan.

It was quite some time before their bath ended.

~~~~~~~~~~

As they sat eating a brunch of scrambled eggs, waffles and bacon, Janna said, “So, what do you have planned for today?”

Ryan took another sip of coffee and replied, “Well, I have a Peace Officers League game at 3:00. Until then I can hang around here if you want.”

Janna smiled, “Oh, I want.”

Ryan returned the smile and said, “Sounds like a plan then. Though, after the game I really need to go home and do some laundry. For some reason I didn’t manage to get it done yesterday,” she added as she caressed Janna’s hand and smiled.

“Oh, imagine that!” Janna giggled. “I know…I have a big pile of it to do too.” She added with a groan, “Not my favorite chore.”

“Well, how about I help you with yours and then you help me with mine later?” Ryan suggested with a smile.

“Sounds great, love. It’ll be nice to have some help for a change.”

“Yep, it’s one of the nice things about cohabitating.”

Janna stopped chewing her waffle, swallowed and said, “Ryan, are you thinking about some kind of permanence here?”

“I do want to think about it, yeah, Janna. Lets face it, it’s god damned hard being apart, isn’t it?”

Janna nodded.

Ryan continued, “We probably shouldn’t rush into it, but I would like to talk about it. I know one thing: I don’t care to spend another night apart from you.”

Janna grabbed her hand and gazed at her seriously, love written all over her face, “Then we won’t, okay?”

“Okay” replied Ryan with a quiet smile.

~~~~~~~~~~

It was early afternoon and Ryan stood looking out the French doors into the backyard as she folded a towel. “Janna, who’s doing your landscape design?”

“Dave’s, why?” came the reply from the nearby laundry room.

“I like the design. The curve of the deck leads your eye right along to that perennial flowerbed. Its very well done,” she said, returning to grab another towel.

“Yes, I think so too. I think it’s turning out beautifully. They’ve managed to capture my vision for the yard almost perfectly. I can’t wait until they get the hot tub and gazebo in.”

Apparently, judging by Ryan’s reaction, the phrase “hot tub and gazebo” held some sort of magical power. She dropped what she was folding and sauntered over to her lover with a silly grin on her face, wrapping her arms around her from behind and nuzzling her neck. “Did you say ‘hot tub and gazebo’?” she mumbled into Janna’s neck.

Janna grinned as she wrapped her arms over Ryan’s and replied, “Yes. Shall I take it that you approve of the plan?”

“Oh, yeah” she grinned, kissing Janna’s neck. “You have great taste.”

Janna turned into Ryan’s embrace and met her gaze, “I know that. Just look at my girlfriend.”

Ryan kissed her deeply and then nuzzled her hair, “I want to be a lot more than just your girlfriend Janna.”

“You already are love.”

The rest of the laundry sat unfolded until later.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan’s Peace Officer game was at the huge, modern softball complex south of town. As she drove along the highway that cut between furrowed fields of corn, tomatoes and peppers, Ryan glanced at Janna and asked, “So, you played with the band at the Rainbow the other night?”

Janna turned to Ryan, her Ray Bans mirroring Ryan’s similarly bespectacled face, grinned and said, “Yeah, Doug told them who I was and they asked me to join them. I had a great time…although, I really am glad that I’m ‘retired’. Those few songs were plenty.”

“Think you’ll do it again sometime? I’d like to see you play.”

“Sure, I guess I could. I plan to keep in touch with that band, help them out if I can. Um, I have videos of some concerts you can watch too.”

“Yeah, I’d like that if you don’t mind.”

“Nope. It’s what I did and I had a great time while I did it. I was pretty wild then, just so you know.” Janna returned to watching the countryside pass by.

“Oh I think I can handle your wild side”, delivered with her rakish grin. “You certainly do handle mine.”

Janna smiled into her reflection in the window and marveled, yet again, at how warm, happy and loved this incredible woman made her feel. Her thoughts mirrored Ryan’s exactly as the cop drove on down the highway.

Ryan pulled the truck into the complex and Janna exclaimed, “Wow! Look at this place. What does it have six diamonds? Eight?”

“Eight” came the reply. “This complex is only about a year old. It’s a great place to play. Sunken dugouts, bullpens, crushed brick infields. Very nice.”

“Yeah, sounds cool. Does the City League use it?”

“Yeah, for the higher divisions and for tournaments. It’s actually a County facility” Ryan replied, parking the truck and then glancing at Janna.

“Great. I’d like to get a chance to play here.” She looked happily at Ryan.

Ryan returned the happy grin and replied, “Well, let’s get that arm healed and sign you up then! Speaking of which”, she added, eyes twinkling as she lifted her athletic bag from the back seat, “I had a thought. Do you think you’d like to give ‘A’ division a try”?

Janna looked surprised. “Whoa, I don’t know. I’ve never played at that level and I haven’t played competitively in years. I don’t know if I can cut it”, she responded, a frown marking her pretty features.

“Well, how’d you like a personal coach and trainer to help you get back into shape?” Ryan’s sparkling grin dazzled Janna as they walked towards the fields. Spotting her team up ahead warming up, she steered them in that direction.

“Hmm, would this trainer happen to be tall, dark and gorgeous?” grinned Janna.

“Well…tall maybe” came the self-deprecating reply.

“And dark, and gorgeous. Believe me, love. Yeah, I’d love some personal attention like that from you. In addition, of course, to the personal attention that you’re already showing me” she clarified.

“Oh, of course”, laughed Ryan as they arrived at a bleacher area. “The reason I’m asking is that our second baseman, Linda, is leaving in two weeks on sabbatical and we’ll need a replacement for her for the rest of the season.”

“Second base huh?” pondered Janna. “Well, I did use to turn a mean double play” she added with a grin.

“I’ll bet you did!” Ryan wrapped an arm around Janna’s shoulder. “Think you can be ready in two weeks?”

“With your help, probably, yeah, but you still don’t know how good I am.”

“Oh, baby, I certainly do” Ryan leered. She sat down on a bleacher seat and took her shoes out of her bag.

“At softball!”

“Oh, that too!” laughed Ryan as she tied her cleats.

Slapping her lover playfully on the arm, Janna said, “You are so bad!”

“But you love it, don’t you?” Ryan asked playfully.

Smiling and shaking her head, Janna replied, “I do. I really do.” Then sitting down next to Ryan, added thoughtfully, “Seriously though, I would like to give it a try. But I’d hate to let the team down. I would want your manager to give me a tryout.”

“Sure, that’d be fine. Honey, if you don’t feel up to that level of play or don’t think you’re ready, then don’t worry about it. I just thought that since you want to play, it would be fun if we could be on the same team.”

“Oh, sweetheart, it would be more than fun.” She leaned her head on Ryan’s shoulder and felt their love passing between them through their link.

“Yep, that it would” Ryan said as she turned and gently brushed a kiss on her love’s head. “I’ve got to go warm up. Enjoy the game.”

“You betcha! Have a good one.”

Ryan did have a good one, of course.

~~~~~~~~~~

That evening, they sat together on the couch in Janna’s family room, watching some of her old concert videos, with beers and popcorn. Though she had never really been a fan of punk rock music, Ryan found herself intensely interested in understanding Janna’s love for it. As they watched, Janna deciphered the mostly unintelligible lyrics for her and Ryan was impressed at the social relevance of the songs. With Janna’s help she gained an understanding of the punk genre, and even an appreciation for it.

More than anything though, she gained a deeper appreciation of the woman with whom she now wanted to share her life. Janna had written the lyrics for many of the songs and was an incredibly exciting and agile performer on stage. Ryan was most surprised at the wild abandon with which Janna played her instrument. The woman she knew and loved was much more calm and reserved now, except in bed, Ryan thought with a smile. Perhaps it was maturity. Perhaps she was simply not as angry any more. But on stage, she had seemed completely carefree, jumping, cavorting, singing, stage diving, crowd surfing, all the while with a huge smile plastered on her face. She seemed to be truly in love with her craft and the crowds responded to her ecstatically. Most of the videos they were watching tonight were of the most successful band Janna had been a part of, ‘The Tribe’, an all-woman dyke punk group.

During a break between videos Ryan had admitted to Janna that before watching the tapes, she had had difficulty reconciling the warm, loving woman she knows with the snarling, angry punk that she must have been. But now, she admitted, she understood that Janna’s anger had been borne, not of apathy, but of her deep love for humanity. She had been angry at the injustice, the inequality, the selfishness, and the greed which infects humanity, not at humanity itself. She told Janna of her understanding and received a warm hug in return.

Janna then told more of her ex, the rock superstar. Society tends to view her as simply a leather biker chick, or a tattooed dyke, or a hardcore rocker with a bad reputation and a foul mouth who has no redeeming qualities. In reality this woman is one of the warmest, most caring people she had ever met. And one of the most talented. “Joanie loves to say that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and she, and I, are perfect examples of that.”

As they sat snuggled together, Ryan thoughtfully asked, “Baby, you seemed so happy on stage, though your songs were very angry. Tell me about that.”

Janna laughed, “Strange dichotomy, huh?” Then she added, “Playing live did make me happy…ecstatic, actually…joyous. The only thing that even comes close to it is sex – with you.” She leaned back more deeply into Ryan’s embrace and continued, “The songs were angry but putting them out there, having them heard, made us happy. We were trying to make the world a better place. Make people aware of the injustice. I like to think that we succeeded somewhat. I hope so anyway.”

“Oh, I think you must have had a tremendous influence on many kids” Ryan said sincerely, feeling very proud of her partner.

“If we helped even one kid feel okay about her sexual identity, or one boy to realize that girls are not simply playthings, or one kid to rethink suicide, or to realize that being a musician is cool, then we were very successful. I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to make a difference. Or to try to anyway.” She shrugged.

Ryan became very still and quiet and when Janna turned to look back at her, she saw tears streaking her lover’s cheeks. “Sweetheart what…”

Wrapping her tightly in her arms, Ryan choked out, “Janna, I love you so much, words don’t even exist for what I feel. I don’t even know if I can show you adequately, ever.” Burying her face into Janna’s’ she continued, “You are my Universe, Janna. Forever. Thank you so much for coming into my life.”

Turning and straddling Ryan’s lap, Janna kissed her tenderly. “I feel the same way about you my love. I tried to make a difference while doing something fun. You’re out there every day making a difference by putting your own life on the line. You’re quite literally saving people’s lives. You’re the hero here Ryan. You are my hero. My Universe. Forever. I love you with all that I am, Ryan.” As she tenderly kissed Ryan again, Ryan wrapped her arms around her and gently laid her down on the couch.

As she leaned above the love of her life, Ryan looked deeply into her eyes and said, “Janna, I know that we’ve only been together for a very short time, but in that time you have completely changed my life. This all seems so incredible, but it’s not: I know, with all that I am, and with no doubt whatsoever, that we have loved each other forever, and will continue to do so, in this life and beyond.” She reached down and picked up Janna’s hand, bringing it to her lips and imploring, “Janna, I want you to consider making a commitment to me…to us. Will you, please?”

Janna’s immediate response was to reach up and pull Ryan’s face to her own, kissing her with more passion than she ever had before. When they finally parted slightly she said, “Ryan, in my heart, I am already fully committed to you…to us. There is no question in my mind that we were meant to be together. I only wish we had come together sooner, so that we could have had sixty years together instead of only forty. You are everything to me Ryan, and it doesn’t matter how long we’ve known each other, we both know that what we have together is timeless. I’m yours forever, Ryan Zamora.”

With that, Ryan, tears streaming down her face in a highly uncharacteristic manner, gently lay her body along the length of her lover’s and kissed her, from the center of her soul. Their tears intermingled as their heart link surged, encompassing both of them in a loving vortex of energy, sweeping them away on a wave of ecstasy and love. They made love then, as they never had before: gently, slowly, tenderly. Each touch, each caress, conveying the depth of their love. Each kiss, each taste, each embrace, a promise. Their love was solidified, for that lifetime and every other to come.

Later they would both remember that night as the beginning of their lifelong commitment to each other.

-11-

The next morning was the most beautiful that Janna had ever seen. She didn’t notice the hazy overcast, or the already stifling heat (made all the more uncomfortable by the morning humidity), nor the oppressive, polluted air, which sat over the valley due to the absence of the Delta breeze. As far as she was concerned, this was the most beautiful and the happiest day of her life. She was still floating on a billowy cloud of love from the night before. She felt that today was, in all practicality, truly the first day of the rest of her life. The commitment that she and Ryan had made to each other the night before would surpass any other they would ever make: no ceremony or legal document could mean more to them than last night had.

They had sealed their commitment with soul-searing kisses and blazing hot touches. Janna’s skin tingled in remembrance of Ryan’s caressing hands and fingers. Of her stroking tongue and soft lips, and she shivered with pleasure.

Her partner felt the same way. She felt as if her feet hadn’t touched the ground all morning long. As she pedaled along on her route, she almost felt as if her bike were flying. Her face was a peaceful mask of calm joy. The gentle, happy smile rarely leaving it, despite the necessities of her job and the ugliness she was faced with as a matter of course throughout her day.

During their morning break, she and John stopped at a downtown flower shop and she had a dozen red roses sent to Janna. The card read simply, “To the love of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. -Ryan”. Her patrol partner was speechless at her behavior and at this act. As far as he knew, his stony partner had never, not even when involved in a relationship, thought enough of a woman to send her flowers. Not even as a kiss off. This woman, whom he had jokingly referred to for years as the “Lone Wolf”, had very obviously lost her heart. As he watched her, for the umpteenth time that day, gaze into space with a faraway look and a happy smile, he thought, boy, when she falls, she falls hard. Never thought I’d see it. Her happiness was so contagious that he couldn’t even kid her about it. I must be getting soft in my old age.

Janna’s flowers arrived while she was in her temporary darkroom, trying to concentrate on getting some work done but having little luck. The beauty of the roses and of Ryan’s gesture took her breath away. When she returned to her work and her tears of joy kept dropping into the photographic solution that she was working over, she finally admitted to herself that today was just not going to be a workday and had given up.

She went into the front room and picked up her acoustic guitar. Sitting on the couch where she and Ryan had made such beautiful love the night before, she played, over and over, her favorite love song, thinking of her Ryan all the while. A few moments after she strummed the last chord, tears falling anew, the telephone rang. She knew before picking it up that it was Ryan, because their link started thrumming. “Hi love”, she said with a warm smile.

“Hi. I’m glad it was me” came the warm, loving reply.

“I felt you. God, I miss you.”

“I miss you too sweetheart.”

“Thank you so much for the flowers. They’re beautiful, Ryan.”

“If only they could match your beauty, Janna.” Ryan sighed softly and continued, “Hey, listen; things have been pretty quiet today. Why don’t you meet us for lunch if you’re not too busy? We’re at the little café near City Square, next to the theatre.”

“I’m there love. See you in a few. I love you.”

“I love you too Janna, bye.”

As Ryan hung up the phone and looked longingly at it, her partner stood watching her, not believing his eyes. He’d have bet anyone any amount of money that nothing like this could ever happen to his tough partner. He would have lost. Badly.

As Ryan turned away from the payphone she met her partner’s direct gaze. He said, “Okay, who are you and what have you done with my partner?” a smile creeping onto his face.

Ryan blushed mildly and just shrugged her shoulders. “I love her John. I feel like she’s been my best friend forever. I’m going to marry her.” With that, she met John’s gaze again and grinned at his look of surprise.

“Jesus Ry! That’s great! But, uh…”

She interrupted him, “Yes, I’m sure. And so is she. This is it, John. No question.”

His partner’s direct gaze was so compelling that he knew that she knew what she was doing, and trusted in that. A very levelheaded woman was Ryan Zamora.

He grinned and slapped his partner on the back, saying, “Well, all right then buddy. I’m happy for you. Let me take you out for a beer after work, okay? We need to celebrate!”

“Actually, why don’t you and Sara come over for a barbecue? You can bring the beer – Janna likes Foster’s.”

“What, you’re actually giving up your beloved Coronas? Shit, you must be in love!” he grinned wickedly as she blushed again.

“Yeah, all right, come on. She’s meeting us at the café for lunch. Give Sara a call about tonight will, ya?”

As they sat at a small wrought iron table under a dark green umbrella awaiting Janna’s arrival, Ryan felt she was seeing her familiar world through new eyes. Everything seemed brighter today. Colors seemed more vivid, people seemed to be smiling more and were friendlier, and John was only being a slight pain in the ass.

John watched his partner, apparently lost somewhere in her own happy little world for the moment, and felt warmed. He was glad she had finally found a good woman. Glad she was so happy. He loved her like a sister and cared for her more than anyone he knew, after his wife. As he watched her, she suddenly looked up from the table she had been quietly gazing at, and swiveled her head, as if sensing something were amiss behind her. Her face, however, broke into a happy grin as she spotted her new mate striding toward them. Huh, how on Earth did she know Janna was coming up behind her?

As Janna arrived at their table, Ryan arose to greet her and the lovers grasped each other’s arms and stood smiling at one another. Then Ryan abruptly said, “Come ‘ere for a minute” and not waiting for a reply, pulled Janna behind her into the café. Entering a small, empty hallway that led to the kitchen, Ryan pulled Janna tightly against her and kissed her soundly. Janna wrapped both arms around Ryan’s neck, prolonging and deepening the kiss. As they parted, Ryan rested her cheek against the top of Janna’s head and said, “I’ve missed you this morning.”

“Oh, Honey I’ve missed you too. I haven’t been able to concentrate on a thing today!”

“I’ve had a little trouble staying focused too. Even John noticed, ” she added wryly.

Janna winced. “Ooh, is he giving you a hard time?”

“No, surprisingly not. He’s happy for me. He’s really a good guy,” she said warmly. Then she turned and, holding Janna’s hand, led her back out to the café patio, adding, “I’m gonna ask him to be my Best Man.”

Janna nearly stumbled as the impact of Ryan’s words hit her. Best Man? She squeezed Ryan’s hand warmly as tears sprang to her eyes, thankfully hidden behind her sunglasses.

They arrived back at the table and John politely stood, prompting Ryan to say with a smirk, “Who are you trying to kid?”

“Zamora, you wouldn’t understand, but some of us have class.”

She grinned widely at him as she held the chair for Janna, “Bite me, Stewart.”

“Nah, I’ll leave that to Janna, thanks!”

He was immensely pleased at the blush the remark brought to his partner’s face and smiled as Janna reached for her mate’s hand in comfort and pulled her into the chair next to her, a smile gracing her features as well.

Ryan recovered quickly and looking pointedly at her partner said, “Tell me again, John, how many martial arts degrees do you hold? Versus my 3rd degree black belt?” Shining blue eyes under raised black eyebrows awaited a response.

“Okay, I give. Shit, Ry, just trying to have a little fun. Let’s eat,” he said as he busied himself with a menu.

Ryan smirked at Janna, who grinned and squeezed her hand again.

The three friends enjoyed a scrumptious lunch of sandwiches, salad and sodas. John’s wife had accepted Ryan’s dinner invitation so they discussed those plans. Ryan was anxious for her closest friends to become close to her mate as well. They lingered as long as they could, none of them really wanting to part and return to work, but eventually duty called, literally, when a call came over Ryan’s and John’s radios simultaneously. Ryan bid her love goodbye, looking around quickly before placing a peck on her forehead. “See you later love. My place tonight, right?”

“Right, love. See you then.” As Ryan started to leave, Janna’s face took on a concerned look and she called “Be careful.”

Ryan gave her a sober smile and replied, “Always love. Don’t worry.”

Janna smiled weakly and nodded, knowing there was no way in hell that she wouldn’t worry. Not as long as her partner was in this line of work. Oh, God…Now I so understand what cops’ wives go through.

~~~~~~~~~~

John and his wife Sara arrived at 7:00, John with a twelve pack of Foster’s under one arm, and another twelve of Corona under the other, his wife carrying a bottle of fine champagne. As their noses detected the delicious aroma of barbecued food, they heard the strains of a Melissa Etheridge song coming from the rear yard, so they walked around that way, along the perfectly sculptured flowerbeds that lined the driveway. As they rounded the corner into the backyard, they stopped short and gazed with wonder at the lovely sight before them.

Ryan and Janna were dancing together on the deck, swaying slowly to a quiet love song in a tight embrace. Ryan had one arm wrapped around her love’s waist, while holding a barbecue utensil in the other hand. Janna’s hands were wrapped around Ryan’s waist, her head resting on Ryan’s chest. They both had expressions of pure bliss on their faces, and John and Sara were loath to interrupt them until the song had ended.

As the last of the song died out, they shared a quiet kiss, and as they parted and Ryan turned back to the grill, John announced their presence by clearing his throat. “Very nice guys” he grinned as his wife stood next to him, her face mirroring his. Ryan grinned cutely and seeing that they were loaded down with drinks, hurriedly dropped her utensil and rushed to unburden them as she introduced Janna to Sara.

“Nice to meet you, Sara”, Janna said as she clasped Sara’s hand. “I’ve heard some nice things about John’s “better half!”

Sara grinned and replied, “And I’ve heard wonderful things about Ryan’s. Nice to meet you Janna.” She then offered her help in the kitchen and followed Janna inside, the two women immediately comfortable with each other and chattering away. After loading the beer bottles into a large cooler, Ryan returned to her grilling, Corona in one hand. John sauntered over and said, “Uh, you did remember that Sara’s not much of a beef eater, didn’t you?”

Ryan directed a sharp gaze at him and replied, “Yes, John. Hence the chicken here on the grill. See, it has Sara’s name written all over it.”

“All right smart ass, just making sure” he answered as he grabbed a Foster’s for himself and came to sit on the bench near the grill.

“Actually”, Ryan added, “Janna’s not much of a meat eater either, so she’s made a couple of salads and some sort of quiche-type thing.”

At that John wrinkled his nose a little and Ryan laughed, saying, “I know, but do me a favor and at least try it. It really is good.”

“Well if she got you to try it then it must be safe.” He grinned as she swatted him with her dishtowel.

Eyeing her partner, Ryan commented, “You’re sure in a good mood. What happened, you get lucky?” She grinned around her bottle as she took a jaunty swig.

“Nope, but I’ll bet you did.”

Ryan nearly sprayed her beer across the deck. “Shit, John!” then bringing her hand up to wipe her mouth added, “Jesus!”

“Well?” John awaited her reply with a grin.

Looking humbled, she replied, “Yes, but…”

“Hah! I am so good! I knew it. I can read you like a book, pardner!”

“Oh, you think you’re good. That’s not what I hear Sara says” smirked Ryan, trying to even the score.

“Ryan, I am the bes…” John started but was interrupted by the reappearance of their ladies, who were bearing dishes of food. Ryan and John both rushed to their aid and received pleased smiles from their mates.

“Good timing ladies, the meat’s about done. Why don’t we have a seat?” suggested the chef.

Seating herself next to her husband, Sara commented, “Oh, Ryan, Janna, everything looks and smells wonderful!” Sara was a short, blue-eyed blonde, who complemented her husband’s fair looks. Her bubbly disposition also matched his.

Janna replied warmly, “Thanks Sara”. Nodding her agreement, Ryan announced, “Okay, dig in everyone!”

Ryan started to go for the plate of meat but John stood and held up his hands, saying, “Wait a minute! I have a little business to conduct first. Sara, honey, hand me the Champagne, will you?”

Ryan and Janna looked at each other, puzzled, as Sara complied, producing four wine glasses as well, and John carefully popped the cork and poured the champagne.

“I want to offer a little toast.” He raised his glass and waited for the others to follow. “To Ryan and Janna, may your obvious happiness be long-lived”, then looking at Janna, he continued, “and to you, Janna, for coming into my partner’s life and making her so happy. She’s a hell of a lot easier to work with now!”

Everyone laughed as Ryan groaned and they happily downed their drinks. They all went on to enjoy both the meal and the company enormously.

Later, over a dessert of strawberry shortcake and coffee, the four friends sat companionably around Ryan’s comfortable family room, visiting and sharing stories. John and Sara were regaling Janna with stories of Ryan’s exploits and achievements, to her embarrassment. Janna loved it however, getting a further glimpse into her complex partner. She was snuggled against Ryan’s side on the loveseat, while John and Sara shared the couch.

During a lull in the conversation, John quietly said, “So, guys, if you don’t mind my asking, are you planning on moving in together?”

Ryan and Janna both looked surprised, with Ryan answering, “Uh, yeah, we haven’t talked about it in detail yet, but it’s what we both want, eventually.” She looked questioningly at Janna, who nodded her agreement. Then, warmed by her lover’s smile, added, “I think it will be sooner rather than later though” and gave her love a squeeze.

Clearing his throat, John continued, “The reason I ask is… and I don’t want to put any pressure on you Ry, but well, now that Sara has finished her degree, we want to start a family, and well…” he stammered before his wife took over for him.

“Ryan, what he’s trying to say is that we want to buy a house in this neighborhood, and is there any chance that yours might become available in the near future?” She patted her husband’s knee as she smiled at Ryan.

“You’re starting a family? Oh, you guys that’s great!” exclaimed Ryan.

“Congratulations” said Janna warmly.

“Well, we’re not pregnant yet. I just went off the pill last month. It could take a little while.”

“Still, Sara, John, I’m happy for you. You’ll make great parents.” Ryan said sincerely. Then added, “As far as the house, yeah, I guess I need to give that some thought. There’s no one I’d rather see in it, that’s for sure.” Looking thoughtfully at Janna she added, “Janna and I need to discuss it, but I suppose we would use her place. It’s bigger and she’s building a darkroom and studio so she can work at home.” Then thoughtfully, “I guess that would be the most practical move.”

Beside her, Janna rubbed her leg, and added, “Plus, honey, I don’t have a mortgage – just a construction loan, which is nearly paid off.”

“That’s a definite plus” she responded with a grin. “Not to mention the gazebo and spa arriving next week,” she added with a wink. Then she directed her gaze to the Stewarts and said, “Yeah, I guess you probably can count on the house.”

Janna nodded, intertwining her fingers with Ryan’s, which rested on her side.

“We appreciate that a lot, Ry, but you take a while to think about it and then let us know, okay? We kind of just wanted to let you know we were interested,” John said.

“Yes, please don’t feel pressured. There are plenty of available houses around here,” Sara added.

“Okay, we’ll definitely talk about it and let you guys know soon,” responded Ryan.

“Great, thanks guys” John said sincerely.

“Yes, thank you,” added Sara. Then, checking her watch, she noted the time and suggested they get going.

After bidding their friends farewell and cleaning the kitchen, Ryan and Janna made their way arm-in-arm up the stairs to Ryan’s bedroom. Janna had not yet seen the room and was very pleasantly surprised to see several Native American prints on the walls, including two large R.C. Gorman paintings.

“Oh, my God, honey, this room is beautiful.” Her eyes were drawn to the beautiful images of Native American women above the bed. “Are those R.C. Gormans?”

“Yep”, Ryan replied proudly, “they cost me an arm and a leg, but I love them.”

“Oh, they’re gorgeous. I love his work!” Janna sighed.

Giving her lover a squeeze, Ryan replied warmly, “I’m so glad you like them. That makes me happy.” She thought for a minute and then added, “You think you can find a place for them in your house?”

“Oh, honey, could I! How soon would you like to move yourself and your R.C. Gormans into my place?” She asked with a twinkle in her eye.

Eyes sparkling as well, Ryan replied, grinning “How about yesterday?”

“Have I told you today how much I love you?” the small blonde asked.

“Yep, and you showed me too. Wanna show me again?” Raised eyebrows and a wolfish grin accompanied the question.
Janna answered her by slowly removing her own clothes and then approaching Ryan and, oh so slowly, removing hers as well. The process was slowed considerably by the fact that as she removed each article of Ryan’s clothing, she thoroughly kissed and tasted each newly bared area. By the time she was naked, Ryan could barely contain her desire and Janna was quickly scooped up bodily and carried to the bed, where both women commenced showing each other how very loved they were.

~~~~~~~~~~

After their lovemaking, and before falling asleep, they lay in each other’s arms and discussed their ideas for settling down together. Though Ryan loved her home and had put much love and sweat equity into it, she was not displeased with the idea of John and Sara making their home there. And, of course, she wanted very much to live with Janna and was looking forward to their spending all of their time together in their own home. The more she thought about it, the more convinced she became that a move very soon would be appropriate.

Janna agreed. Her head was full of ideas for how to make Ryan comfortable there. Her first plan, after the spa was installed of course, was to add an exercise room. She had two unused bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs that they could make use of for that purpose. She also thought that Ryan might like an office of her own, perhaps in the room next to her office. She presented these ideas to Ryan and they discussed them late into the night. Or, rather, early into the morning.

The next morning, it became apparent to both Janna and Ryan that they were already falling into a comfortable routine. This morning, as yesterday, they awoke at 6:00, spent some quality intimate time together, then showered together (ostensibly to save time, but in reality for completely different reasons altogether that actually prolonged the event), and after a quick breakfast, they were out the door by 7:30.

This early morning experience was a very new one for Janna. For the better part of fifteen years she had kept a very late-night schedule and rarely woke before the crack of noon. Once she arrived at her place, however, Janna surprised herself by not returning to bed. She found that all the early-morning activity with Ryan actually energized her, and she was eager to get to work. Focusing on the work, however, was another matter. This day she found herself in the same dilemma as the previous, having a difficult time concentrating on anything other than her absent partner.

After some soul searching, she decided that the answer might be to try to center herself better after Ryan’s departure. She devised a routine consisting of Reiki, meditation and yoga, and committed herself to practicing it daily.

Janna started by smudging the family room with sage and cedar to cleanse the space, and she lit some candles. Then she put on a quiet, new age cd, and placed a large pillow on the floor in the center of the room, which she sat on. She then entered into a Reiki meditation that she had been taught by her teachers. The Reiki left her feeling incredibly relaxed and balanced and she thanked God/the Creator/the Universe once again for bringing it into her life.

During the meditation, she connected strongly with Ryan. Besides the strong, constant feeling of love that she now identified with her partner, she felt, for a few minutes, a feeling of acute stress and anxiety. She noted the time: 10:15 and determined to ask Ryan about what had happened then. She sent calming energy to her partner and felt the anxiety melt away.

After the meditation she did yoga for half an hour, after which she felt very serene. She picked up her acoustic, sat on the couch, and slowly ran through some fingering exercises. Suddenly, Janna was filled with an inner peace and she realized that she had achieved the balance that she had been seeking by coming home. Her balance was Ryan. With great tears of joy, she realized that she had found the key to life, to happiness. “Thank you God!”

As she sat there contemplating her happiness, her link with Ryan began to vibrate pleasantly, or thrum as she like to think of it. She smiled and reached for the telephone even before it began to ring.

“Zamora-Norden residence” she answered cheerily, and was rewarded by a rich, hearty laugh from her soul mate.

“Sweetheart, one day you may be wrong about who’s on the line, do you realize that?” came the happy voice.

“Nah, not when it’s you, love” she replied, settling her legs comfortably over the arm of the couch and lying down. “Our link gives you away.”

“Janna, that is so incredibly cool!” Ryan laughed. “What a gift it is. What a gift you are” she said, sincerity filling her voice.
“Thank you sweetheart. You are too, you know.”

“Thanks love.” Then changing the subject, “Hey, I had a minute so I wanted to ask you something. About an hour or so ago we had a sticky situation to deal with and I was feeling pretty tense, but then it just went away and I felt our link. Or, our love or whatever that is. What was up with that, do you know?”

“Yeah, hon. I was meditating with Reiki and just naturally reached out to you. I felt your tension so I sent calming energy.” Then alarmed, she added, “Was that okay Ryan? I didn’t consider that I might be interfering, it just sort of happened without my thinking about it.” Confusion knit her brows.

Ryan answered, “Oh, babe it was fine. Great actually. I think it may have helped me to get a clear enough head to defuse the situation. We were trying to get a knife away from an unstable homeless guy who was threatening a cashier and he suddenly came at me. There were several kids around complicating the issue, so we were walking on eggshells. But when I suddenly felt calm it was as if I could see all the angles at once and I knew what I had to do. I got the knife and John subdued him easily. It was a very cool experience. John’s looking at me like I just walked on water, but I thought you might have had something to do with it, Janna,” she added with a smile.

“God, Ryan, I’m so glad I could help. Honey, I really want to start tutoring you on these techniques. I need for you to be as safe as possible out there. I couldn’t bear…” She suddenly became choked up with emotion and couldn’t continue.

“Shh, sweetheart. I’m okay. I feel like I now have a guardian angel watching over me. We make a great team Janna.” Now Ryan was choked up.

“Yes we do. The best. We truly complete each other Ryan.”

“Yes, love, we do.” She cleared the emotion from her throat and went on, “Hey, we’re at the station now making a report. Want to meet for lunch?”

“Oh, yeah, lets. Where?”

“Why don’t we meet in City Square, near the fountain, in an hour? Would you mind picking up some sandwiches and drinks?”

“Sounds good, love. Lunch and I will see you in an hour.”

“Super. Bye sweetheart. Love you.”

“Bye Ryan. Love you too.”

Janna clicked off the phone and rested it absentmindedly on her chest as she mused. Oh my God. What is going on with this link? This situation just gets more and more incredible by the minute. But it’s really happening…cool!

-12-

Ryan and Janna had a wonderful lunch together. They had met by the fountains in the middle of City Square. The Square, a shady, tree-filled plaza bordered on two sides by the Police Station and the County Courthouse and on the other two by recently redeveloped avenues of small shops, cafes and restaurants, was the center point of the city’s redevelopment efforts. It was a beautiful day, the Delta breeze having returned, both blowing away the polluted haze and cooling the region somewhat. It was a downright chilly (for July in the valley) 90 degrees in the shade. With the return of the breeze, the sky had regained that beautiful, intense blue shade which matched Ryan’s eyes.

Ryan waited for Janna on a shady bench facing the fountain, enjoying the play of the water against the brilliant sky and the cooling mist it created. Her right arm rested along the back of the bench as she stretched her long, tan legs out in front of her. Her appearance was that of a cop relaxing on her lunch hour, but in reality she never completely relaxed. She was always observant, always alert and prepared to react. Through her mirrored sunglasses, nothing escaped her notice. She was aware of all of the activity on her periphery at all times.

And so it was that she noticed Janna’s approach long before the blonde saw her. She watched her lover striding toward the square wearing a running tank, shorts and running shoes, and carrying a white paper bag. She admired Janna’s pleasant veneer; blonde hair blowing in the breeze, her happy smile indicating her enjoyment of the nice day, sunglasses reflecting the sun and the tall buildings surrounding her and her lean, fit body. Ryan’s heart warmed at her lover’s beauty and at her growing proximity.

As Janna approached City Square she looked around briefly, trying to spy her partner. Then she saw her, an absolute vision before her, relaxing on a bench, oblivious to all but Janna at the moment, including the stares from admiring passersby. Ryan was looking directly at her, a huge, crooked grin on her face. Janna’s heart began to race, her pulse pounding, as she approached her beautiful partner. My God, she looks great in that uniform.

Ryan stood to greet her and reached for her hands, taking the bag from her at the same time. “Hi sweetheart”, she greeted Janna warmly before kissing her cheek and helping her to her seat on the bench. Chivalry is so not dead Janna thought happily as she held Ryan’s outstretched hand and sat.

“Hi love. Are you at all aware of how gorgeous you look?” Janna grinned.

“I could say the same for you.” Ryan smiled. “Did you walk here?”

“Yep. I need to start getting into shape and it’s so gorgeous out that I couldn’t resist.”

Ryan leered at her gently and drawled, “Baby, you are already in perfect shape.”

“Thank you, sweetheart, but I’m not. If I’m going to try out for your team, I have a lot of strengthening to do first.”

“Well, that’s true. If you don’t prepare your body, you’ll injure it for sure. We can start right away if you want, concentrate on your legs until your right arm is ready” Ryan replied thoughtfully, then added,” You want to meet me at the gym after my shift? We can get started on a program. This is my regular workout day.”

“Yes, that would be great. Are you sure it’s okay for me to work out there?”

“Yes, spouses are welcome. There are usually a few wives in there when I work out.”

Janna sat numbly, staring at the fountain, tears filling her eyes behind her sunglasses. She considers me her spouse? That realization made her happier than she had ever felt in her life. I had no idea that it was possible to love someone this much.

Ryan, oblivious to Janna’s bewildered joy, peered into the bag she held. “Whatcha bring for lunch?” she asked as she pulled out two large deli sandwiches and sodas.

Janna shook herself back to the present and replied, “Oh, um, I got veggie for me and a hoagie for you, okay?”

“It’s perfect sweetheart!” Ryan smiled warmly and rejoiced in the connection she shared with this woman. She already knows me so well. And loves me anyway. Amazing. She dug into her sandwich, amazement written on her beautiful features as she chewed.

They ate in a companionable silence for a while, enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful day.

“So, how has your day gone – besides that little incident I mean” Janna asked between bites of her sandwich.

“It’s been pretty quiet except for that. Mainly just the usual stuff” Ryan replied and then took another bite.

“So tell me, what does ‘the usual stuff’ entail,” asked Janna curiously.

“Oh, things like moving loiterers along, domestic problems, mediating minor disputes, traffic problems, a variety of stuff, really. Mainly though we just maintain a presence. The department calls it ‘Community Policing’. We get to know all the business owners and residents, become a friendly, constant presence in their lives. It comforts the law abiding folks and discourages the less than reputable types from doing their business here.”

“Sounds like a good arrangement for the neighborhood.”

“Yes, it is. And you know, with all the redevelopment down here, they want people to, number one, feel this is a safe enough place to visit, and number two, to be safe once they’re here. The crime rate here has dropped so I think we do a good job of it, personally.”

“It appears that you do. Are you and John the only bike patrol cops? I haven’t noticed any others.”

“No there’s a squad of us, eight in total. We share this twenty-square block beat, plus the malls out north once in a while. We also rotate other duties, like policing special events and community outreach in schools and the malls. John and I are the main beat cops here downtown though. I also usually volunteer to work most of the special event jobs. I really like the change of pace – interacting with the public and with kids, especially.” Ryan turned her attention back to her sandwich.

Janna nodded thoughtfully as she sipped her Coke, then said sincerely, “It sounds like a wonderful career, Ryan, and you seem to be a fine police officer. This city is lucky to have you.”

Ryan caressed the hand lying between them and said, “Thanks, honey. I appreciate hearing that.” She glanced around them and returned her steady gaze to Janna, saying, “I wish I could kiss you right now.” She smiled wryly and shrugged.

“I do too, sweetheart. How about we plan a special evening?” Then she added seductively, “Perhaps something involving melted chocolate, strawberries and the whirlpool?”

Ryan’s breath caught and the look of pure longing on her face warmed Janna from the inside out. She could also feel Ryan’s desire through their link.

“I’ll just take that as a yes, love!”

Ryan simply grinned and nodded dumbly.

Janna giggled. She can be so much like a guy sometimes – but only in the cute ways, thank God!

Ryan eyed her suspiciously, “What are you giggling at?”

“You. You’re so cute! And I love you very much” she added sincerely.

That produced a big, warm smile and, “I love you too baby.” Then she checked her watch and groaned, “Well, I need to get back to the station. You wanna come with me and I’ll show you where the gym is?”

“Sure!” She collected all of their trash into the bag and tossed it into a can near their bench as they got up to go across the street to the station. As they walked, Janna asked Ryan, “Honey, are you okay with your coworkers knowing about us?”

Ryan placed her hand on Janna’s back as they crossed the busy intersection and replied, “Yes. I’ve always been out, so it’s no secret that I’m gay, and I have no problem with them knowing that I’m with someone now.” She glanced shyly at Janna and smiled, adding, “I’m actually very proud of my beautiful girlfriend and won’t mind showing her off a little.”

Janna blushed at the compliment. “And I’m exceptionally proud of my beautiful girlfriend, and I won’t mind letting the other women know that she’s off limits now”, she replied smugly.

“Oh, I am huh?” Ryan grinned, then added, “I’ve gotta tell ya sweetheart, I’ve been off limits here for years.”

Janna found herself inordinately pleased at that revelation, and Ryan felt that through their connection and smiled widely as they entered the Police Station.

The Police Station was housed in an attractive, modern two-story building and the front doors opened into a wide reception area. Ryan walked straight ahead to a desk and checked in with the Sergeant.

The big man behind the counter looked up at her from his paperwork. “Zamora, I’m glad you stopped by. This just came over. You have an arraignment hearing at 4:00 on that gay-bashing case.”

“Good, thanks Gary. Does Stewart know?”

“Nope, I haven’t seen him yet.”

“I’ll let him know, thanks.”

The desk Sergeant buzzed the security gate open for her and Ryan led Janna through and down a straight hallway. She sensed her partner’s disquiet, and glanced at her.

“Janna, honey, it’s okay. There’s no way he’ll be able to make bail. In fact, the charges against him are so serious that bail may not be an option.”

Janna sighed and took Ryan’s arm. “I know that, on an intellectual level, but on an emotional level, all I can think about is that baseball bat hitting me. Or how I felt thinking he was going to kill Jay Jay with it. My gut’s tied up in knots.”

They arrived at the doorway to the gym, and seeing no one inside at the moment, Ryan led Janna in. Once inside she wrapped Janna into an embrace and held her for a long moment. The knot at Janna’s center eased somewhat at the loving contact.

“Sweetheart, I’m here for you, in whatever capacity you need me to be. We’ll work this out together.” Then pulling back slightly and looking pointedly at Janna, she added, “I want you to know, without any doubt, that he will never hurt you again. He would have to get past me, and that just is not gonna happen.” She pulled Janna back tightly against herself and kissed her head, lumps forming in her own gut and in her throat, vowing silently to herself. There is no way in hell that anyone will ever touch her again. I’ll kill any fucker that so much as thinks about it.

Janna felt Ryan’s resolution and was comforted by it. She nuzzled Ryan’s chest and mumbled, “My protector, huh?”

Ryan embraced her more tightly and replied, “Forever.”

“I have a strong feeling that you always have been.”

Tears coming to her eyes, Ryan answered, “And I have a strong feeling that you’ve always been by my side.”

“And always will be love.”

They stood holding each other there just inside the gym for long minutes. The comfort they provided each other was immeasurable. Ryan broke apart slightly and leaned in for a kiss, which Janna responded to sweetly.

“God, I love you Janna.”

“I’m so glad for that Ryan, because you are everything to me.”

Grinning, Ryan stepped back from her lover. “Well, I could stand here and do this all day, but I think my other partner would object. Think you can find your way here again later?”

“Sure can. Will the desk sergeant know to let me in?”

“Let’s go talk to him now. I’ll sign you up for gym privileges and get you an ID badge.” They left the gym and started back down the hallway, hand in hand. More than one of Ryan’s coworkers raised eyebrows or smiled as they passed them but the two lovers were oblivious to the attention.

“Cool, what will the badge say?” Janna grinned.

“How about, ‘Janna Zamora’?” Ryan replied, only half joking.

Janna stopped and looked at Ryan seriously, “I can live with that.” Ryan’s face broke into a wide grin and Janna added, smiling, “But how do you feel about ‘Janna Norden-Zamora’?”

“I love it!” Ryan beamed, then added more seriously, “We’re gonna have to do something about that real soon.”

Looking up at her love with complete devotion, Janna answered, “Yeah, we are. Real soon.”

They arrived at the front desk and Ryan completed the necessary forms that would allow Janna guest privileges at the gym. The no-nonsense sergeant didn’t so much as bat an eye when he looked over the form and noted that under “Privilege type”, Ryan had checked “Spousal”.

The Sergeant asked Janna to step over to another counter where a camera was set up in front of a screen and he took her photo as Ryan looked on proudly. Sixty seconds later, a photo ID badge was emitted from the printer and he handed it to Janna.

“Okay, Ms. Norden, you’re all set. If you come before end of the day shift, you’ll see me here and I’ll just buzz you through. If its one of the other shifts, just show your ID”, he instructed. “You’ll need to wear it at all times while you’re in the station here.”

“Great. Thanks Sergeant.” He nodded industriously and returned to his paperwork.

Ryan took Janna’s arm and they stepped through the gate and into a small alcove, away from prying eyes.

“Ok, sweetheart, I’ll meet you back here later. I should be here between 6:00 and 6:15, but if I’m delayed, I’ll leave a message for you at the desk.”

“Okay, love.” Then, seriousness clouding her green eyes, “Good luck at the hearing.”

“Don’t worry Janna. Those assholes are going down.” Ryan rubbed her partners arms and pulled her into a hug. “I love you sweetheart. See you later.”

“Love you too. Bye.”

As Janna walked home, she had much to contemplate. She was worried about the outcome of the hearing, and that of a trial if it came to that, but she actually felt surprisingly reassured that all would turn out well. And she knew, with every fiber of her being, that Ryan would do everything within her considerable power to not let anything happen to her. She trusted in Ryan completely. She fingered her new ID badge as she walked along the busy avenue and recalled Ryan’s look of pride as she was photographed. I need to marry that woman very soon, I think.

As she thought of Ryan, she felt warmed. Through their link, she knew that Ryan was feeling the same warm, fuzzy feeling at that very moment. She marveled at the incredible good fortune that the Universe had bestowed upon her. Ryan is my destiny. I came home to find her…to find the other half of my soul. Now she wants to marry me! I have truly found heaven on Earth. She said a silent prayer of thanks and made her way home along the busy streets of her partner’s patrol beat.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan entered the woman’s locker room and sat on the bench in front of her locker. She took a long swig from her large water bottle and began removing her uniform. The cool, conditioned air felt good on her overheated skin. She removed her vest and sat for a few minutes in her sports bra and shorts, enjoying a brief rest and reflecting on her day.

It had been a long day, despite the pleasant interlude with Janna. The hearing had gone quickly, and pretty much as she had expected: Joe Simpson, the batsman, had been ordered held without bail. His cohort’s bail was set at $250,000.

The three hours prior to the hearing, which had seen Ryan pedaling out in the heat and dealing with a seemingly inordinate amount of human stupidity, left her in a sour mood by the time she and John entered the courtroom. As the accused were brought in, she had to fight the urge to vault the divider separating them and rip the guys’ heads off. She sat, seething with a boiling anger. The perpetrators had smug grins on their faces, obviously unrepentant and without remorse, especially as they glanced at Ryan. When they did so however, she fixed an icy, hate-filled glare on them and they both visibly paled, looking quickly away. When the Judge administered her decree, Ryan immediately stood, fixed them with another menacing glare, followed by a cold, snarling smile and turned to leave, her partner following quickly behind her.

“That went as expected, at least, ” her partner remarked as he caught up to her.”

“Yeah” she answered coldly.

“Hey, Ry, those guys are going away-there’s no question.”

“They’ll probably plead it down and be out in two years, after which you may be arresting me for murder.” Ryan stopped and took a breath. “I want to kill those sons of bitches John. With my bare hands.” The anger was visibly rolling off of her now, and John knew to watch his step.

“Maybe not. They seemed pretty arrogant in there, at first, anyway.” He grinned and she relaxed a bit. “They may be stupid enough to try to beat it. They certainly look stupid enough to try it.”

“Yeah, maybe”, Ryan conceded. “Come on, we’ve only got another hour left, let’s just finish up some paperwork.”

Ryan was brought back to the present when two cops entered the locker room. She stood up to leave and heard, “Ryan!
What’s this we hear about a girlfriend?”

“So I’ve got a girlfriend, Mary, so the hell what?” she growled.

“Ooh, sorry, bad day?” her coworker asked, rather sincerely.

Ryan blew out a breath, responding, “Yeah Mary, sorry. I had the gay-bashing arraignment this afternoon.” As she passed the two women she added, “I’m gonna go work out. See you tomorrow.”

“Sure Ry, see you then. Hey, take it out on the machines all right?” she added as she shrugged at her friend.

As Ryan entered the gym and spotted her soul mate, most of the pent up anger left her body. She made a beeline for Janna and wrapped her in her arms, not caring that there were several men and another woman in the room looking on.

Janna could sense her partner’s frustration, indeed had been feeling it for the last hour, and held Ryan tightly. “Hi baby, rough day?”

“Oh, God, yeah.” She pulled back and looked at Janna sheepishly. “I barely restrained myself from committing murder in the courtroom today.”

“Why, what happened?”

“Oh, those two assholes were just so god damned smug. The one that hurt you looked at me and grinned and I could’ve ripped his fucking head off.”

“Then you would be in jail. Ryan, promise me that you won’t do anything to those guys, no matter what happens. Please?” she pleaded. “I need you here with me”, she implored with serious green eyes.

Ryan’s anger softened even more as she gazed at Janna’s concerned features. “Okay, I promise.” She caressed Janna’s cheek and leaned down, kissing her soundly.

A chorus of hoots and whistles accompanied the action and Ryan grinned and flipped them the finger as Janna blushed. “Come on”, Ryan said, pulling Janna along, “I’ll show you the locker room.”

After returning from the gym’s locker room and showers, where they had shared another, more private, kiss, Ryan introduced Janna to the various Nautilus and weight lifting machines, as well as the free weight area. They chose three leg machines for Janna to start out on and Ryan coached her through three sets of ten repetitions each. After that, Janna spotted for Ryan as she did bench presses and then they returned to the machines, where Ryan did an upper-body work out.

As Ryan sat at the chest press machine, using a very impressive amount of weights, Janna sat on a nearby bench and watched her partner in awe. She was breathtaking. She was clad only in her sports bra and shorts and her body was covered by a thin sheen of sweat. As she lifted, her arm, shoulder and chest muscles rippled, and her tight, six-pack abdominals were highlighted. Oh my God. She’s a Goddess. An absolute Goddess. As she continued to watch Ryan work out, admiring the sight, she devised a plan for their intimate pursuits later that evening. By the time Ryan was finished, Janna was more flushed than she was.

Part Two

-13-

Janna’s breath came in ragged gasps as she panted, “Oh yes…oh God…Ryan…” She followed up with a breathless, “Thank you,” as Ryan crawled back up her luscious body and cradled her in her strong arms while the delightful tremors subsided.

“I love you, Ryan.”

“Love you too, baby. So much.” As Ryan leaned down for a kiss Janna saw that she had a little chocolate around her mouth and on the tip of her nose. It was too adorable and she giggled.

“Honey, come here. Let me clean you up a little now.” She pulled Ryan’s face closer and slowly licked the chocolate from her face. Ryan slowed her progress with an errant tongue and they enjoyed the taste of one another for another few minutes.

As they parted again Ryan sighed happily. “That was such a good idea love. I have a whole new appreciation for chocolate now. Not to mention strawberries.” She grinned happily and pulled Janna into an even tighter embrace, so glad that Janna had kept the promise she had made at the gym.

“I thought you’d like it. I’ll have to make that dessert for you more often,” she said saucily.

“Oh yeah, at least once a week, love.” Ryan grinned widely as she squeezed Janna.

After their workout they had skipped showers down at the gym in favor of their planned interlude in Janna’s tub. They ate a quick, light meal of salads and bread and practically skipped up the stairs to the master suite, both barely able to control their enthusiasm. What began in the tub by candlelight quickly escalated and had to be moved, candles and all, to the bedroom. Both women now lay sated in each other’s arms. The nearly full moon shining in through the open blinds bathed them in a warm, silvery glow, as if in approval.

Ryan lay enjoying the feel of contentment that holding Janna in her arms filled her with. “Janna, I’ve never had such a fulfilling physical relationship before. Is it because we’re soulmates, do you think?”

“I guess so honey. This is the best ever for me too. It could be because I love you so very much. I’ve never experienced love on this level before.”

“Yeah, this is new for me too. I never would’ve thought it possible to love someone this much…to… to feel so completed by someone else. It’s incredibly emotionally satisfying too.” She kissed Janna’s hair and sighed contentedly. “I never want this to end Janna. I don’t like being apart from you, even for a little while.” She shook her head and grinned self- deprecatingly, “Look at me…big tough cop who never needed anyone before, can’t leave her little lady without feeling lost and so lonely that she can’t concentrate. But Jesus, I just feel so incomplete without you.”

Janna kissed the breast near her mouth and replied, “I certainly know the feeling love. I can no longer imagine life without you. I want to spend every minute of every day with you.”

“But Janna, do you know what’s cool?” Ryan’s excited look charmed Janna.

“What, love?”

“Our link! With it, it’s almost like we’re not apart. I can feel you even when we’re miles apart. I’m even starting to be able to tell which feelings are mine and which are yours. And you know what else? The other day when you met John and me at the café, I felt you before I saw you…I knew you were coming up behind me. God, I love this!” She embraced Janna more tightly and lifted her up so that she could kiss her.

Janna returned the kiss and felt absolutely giddy at Ryan’s enthusiasm. “Sweetheart, I know. I’ve read about these links, but never imagined that I’d experience one of my own. We’re very blessed. I wish everyone could experience this.”

“So do I. You know, I used to laugh at John. After he met Sara, he never wanted to hang out with me and the guys anymore. And if he did he always insisted on including her. Some of our friends called him, ‘Whipped’, and I guess I went along with that, but now I understand it completely. I have no desire whatsoever to do anything separate from you… and I don’t see that changing, ever.”

She looked Janna deeply in the eyes, serious blue meeting enchanted green. “In fact, I want to set up housekeeping with you Janna. I don’t want to wait. I want to move in here with you. Jesus, I’d marry you tomorrow if it were legal.” She squeezed Janna tightly and a single tear slid down her cheek.

Janna matched her tear with some of her own and answered, “Then let’s do it honey. Why don’t we do as much, legally, as we can? I mean, like, power of attorneys and life insurance beneficiaries, and such? And I’d like to add your name to the title of this house.”

“Okay, yeah, let’s do that. I mean, if you’re sure about it.”

“Oh, I’m positive. I know this is moving fast, Ryan, but I’ve never felt so sure about anything.”

“Neither have I. Hell, Janna I’d be willing to move us to the first State that legalizes gay marriage. Country even. I hear there’s talk of it happening in Canada, and Norway, I think.”

“Yeah. I’ve heard that Hawaii is thinking about it. And Vermont. Also the Netherlands. I’d be willing to, love. In a heartbeat.”

Ryan’s eyes gained an additional sparkle and she grinned as she said, “In the meantime, we can have a good old-fashioned commitment ceremony.”

“Yeah…lets do that sweetheart. Um…why don’t we talk about it in the morning though?” The sparkle in Janna’s eyes matched Ryan’s as she turned and lay atop her lover, re-igniting their passion.

Luna watched silently as the two lovers began their now familiar dance of love again, smiling in approval in her own special way.

~~~~~~~~~~

As it turns out, Ryan and Janna were much too busy the next morning doing other, more enjoyable, things to talk about their near-future plans. That talk had to wait until later, as they ate dinner at Ryan’s place. Over a dinner of grilled beef and veggie burgers, French fries, salad and wine, the ladies discussed their plans. They sat on the deck under a beautiful sky, the sun still warm as it sank in the west. The edge of the deck was bordered with planters and flowerpots and the sweet scents sat heavily on the warm air.

Over a mouth full of burger, Janna said, “This is really good, honey. And you say you can’t cook!”

“I can’t cook. But I can grill up a storm!” Ryan replied jauntily as she popped a French fry into her mouth.

“You sure can. I’d be happy with a grilled meal a few times a week if you were so inclined” Janna replied with a grin.

“You got it, babe. I’d be more than happy to do that. I usually grill three or four times a week anyway.” Ryan sat back in her lounge chair and sipped her wine, eyes sparkling as she watched her love enjoy her meal. Janna enjoyed few things as much as she enjoyed a good meal, it seemed, and it pleased Ryan immensely to not only cook for her, but to watch her savor a meal.

“So,” Janna started, around another mouth full of food, “When do you want to move in to my place?” She washed her food down with a sip of wine and smiled contentedly.

“Well, how about this weekend? Did you have anything else planned?”

“Nope, nothing else planned. This weekend it is.” She took another few fries and munched them contentedly.

“Great! You know, unless you want anything in particular, I think I’ll leave most everything here. What John and Sara don’t want to use I can put into storage. I’ll basically just need my everyday stuff: clothes, weights, sports equipment, books, music, and movies. I think I can leave most of the furniture and appliances here. ” Then as if as an afterthought she added with a smile, “And I’ll bring my R.C. Gorman prints of course.”

“Of course! Thank you love.” Janna’s soft smile melted Ryan’s heart just a little bit more and she leaned over and snared a kiss.

“Mmm, good fries…they taste like you.”

“Here, love, have some wine with your fries,” Janna suggested, then took a sip from her glass and leaned over to share with Ryan.

“Mmm, tastes so much better when you share it. Come ‘ere.” Ryan beckoned to Janna to sit on her lap and she happily complied. Ryan commenced hand feeding her the rest of her meal and Janna shared a little of each bite with her love. Very shortly they became more engrossed in the meeting of lips than in the sharing of food and soon became breathless.

“God, Janna, I never get tired of kissing you. I can’t seem to get enough.”

“I feel the same way, so why don’t we get dinner cleaned up and go upstairs?”

Ryan liked that idea immensely and nearly dropped Janna in her haste to get up. They got the food and dishes squared away in record time and had lots of time for more intimate pursuits upstairs.

As they lay together in Ryan’s bed a few hours later, light from the full moon poured in through the large, open window, accompanied by a cool breeze. The night-cool air felt good on superheated and sweat-slicked skin and Janna sighed. Ryan moaned contentedly as she traced lazy circles on the skin of Janna’s back.

“I’ve always loved the moon”, Janna remarked quietly. “I always have the blinds open on moonlit nights…to let the light in.”

“Mmm, me too love. I miss her when she’s not out.” Ryan commented.

“So you consider it a female spirit too, huh?” Janna grinned.

“Yeah, Native American lore. I’ve never known whether or not to believe in that stuff, but I think deep down I want for it to be true.”

“Same here. Only I do tend to believe a lot of it now. I believe there is a consciousness, or a spirit in the moon, and in the sun too, though it’s a more masculine energy.”

“Yep, so say the Natives. It’s hard to argue with information passed down from so many different ancient cultures that all basically agree with each other, you know?” Ryan turned her face toward the window and enjoyed the feeling of the silver light on her face.

“Mm hmm. That’s so right. I’ve studied a number of ancient belief systems and I find what I believe are bits of truth in all of them. That goes for religions too,” Janna said as she turned to look into Ryan’s beautiful face. She reached up and lovingly caressed a high cheekbone.

“So you’re a Christian but you are open to other belief systems?” Ryan looked at Janna with an open curiosity as she grabbed Janna’s fingers and brought them to her lips.

“Uh huh. I believe in Christ’s basic message of love being the way, but the dogma of organized churches turns me off. I find some truth in Taoism, and in Buddhism and some of the old pagan religions too. It works for me.” Janna shrugged and smiled meekly.

“I basically feel the same way, honey. I think that similar information came to the planet in different ways and by different messengers, but that the source was the same. I think that when each bit of information came it was right for the time and delivered in a way that the people of the time could understand and identify with.

“You know”, Ryan continued, “I read once where someone said that in the Universe there is only love and fear, and that every negative emotion and energy is just a different manifestation of fear, including what we consider evil. I’ve given that a lot of thought, because of some of the awful things I see as part of my job. A thing might appear to be evil, but if you really think about it, it could just be a manifestation of fear. It makes sense to me when I look at it that way.”

“Yes, sweetheart, that mirrors my belief exactly! Like, anger is the fear of unmet expectations. Someone doesn’t do what you expect them to and you get angry. It’s better not to have expectations. Or, um… impatience is the fear of missing out on something. I read a whole list of them once and it really made sense to me. I’ll have to see if I can dig that up again…I need a refresher if we’re going to have a lot of conversations like this.” Janna smiled as she caressed the strong arm around her waist.
Ryan replied, “Cool love, I’d like to read that. You know I saw a lot of books on your shelves that looked really interesting. There was one on the use of medicinal herbs that I’d like to take a look at. I’ve always been kind of interested in that but never studied it. Probably goes back to my great-grandfather who was a shaman.”

“Oh, cool. Or it could be a past life thing too. You may have been a healer before.” Janna remarked.

Ryan looked interested and replied, “Yeah, I suppose so. That’s another thing I’ve never been sure about…reincarnation…but sort of want to believe in. It would explain a lot of things, especially having to do with you. Like some dreams I’ve been having lately.”

“What kind of dreams Ryan?” Janna became still, waiting for Ryan’s answer.

“Well, they’re very strange, but also very realistic…not abstract or symbolic like dreams tend to be…but more like real images of my life. Only it seems to be a very long time ago. I’m usually wearing leather and a sort of armor outfit. I have a beautiful tan horse and an even more beautiful companion…Janna, she looks just like you.”

Janna took up the story. “But her hair is shorter than mine and she rides a white horse, or else rides behind you on yours. They’re warriors, or you are anyway, although sometimes she fights too, either with a quarterstaff or with small dagger-like weapons.”

“Jesus Christ, Janna. What’s going on here? I’ve seen the same things.”

“I’m not completely sure…how can you be sure about something like this? But I think its recollections from a past life we shared. A very significant past life, apparently. I’ve had the dreams every night we’ve been together, Ryan. All of them so far have been different, but the one common element is our love for each other. We were a couple then too, and as much in love as we are now, I think.”

“Yep, that’s the same impression I get, love. This is very strange but also cool!” Ryan hugged her mate closer as she yawned. “Sweetheart I want to look into this some more, but right now I need to get some sleep, okay?”

“Sure honey. I’m tired too. You wear me out, you know?” She could make out Ryan’s rakish grin in the moonlight and laughed quietly just before Ryan gathered her up for a goodnight kiss and embrace. Ryan’s grin continued as realization dawned as to just why she and Janna slept so well together…it was always after great sex.

Luna smiled down on her friends compassionately as they drifted off into sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~

All that Ryan was aware of was a mind-numbing, bone-chilling cold. She was lying in snow, vaguely aware of it falling on and around her. The cold filled her awareness to the exclusion of everything else…except…what was that? Janna’s voice, weak, as if miles away, yet she felt nearby.

Suddenly, she realized that Janna was lying not far from her and calling her name. What is she calling me? It sounded like, “Zena”. Her mind cleared somewhat at the sound of her soul mate’s voice and she realized that they were both strapped by their arms and legs to planks of wood and were surrounded by soldiers.

She looked to her right and saw Janna looking back at her.

Her faced filled with love as she said, “I love you, Zena”.

Ryan felt some of the ice melt from around her heart and replied, “I love you too, Gabrielle.” As she said this, a soldier approached her soul mate, knelt beside her, and placed a large iron nail against her open palm. In his other hand he held a hammer, which he quickly brought down on the head of the nail, driving it through Janna’s (Gabrielle’s?) palm. At this, Ryan screamed, “No! Janna!”

Ryan’s scream awakened Janna from a sound sleep. She sat up and looked down at her mate. Ryan’s face was covered with perspiration as she tossed in her sleep, apparently still in the throes of the nightmare.

She reached for Ryan’s face, caressing it gently as she said softly, “Ryan, sweetheart. Wake up. It’s just a dream.”

Ryan continued to twist on the bed, agony and grief written on her beautiful features. Janna reached down and folded her into an embrace, repeating, “Ryan, it’s okay. Wake up now.”

Ryan’s eyes flew open, terror emblazoned on them. She sat up in a daze, automatically wrapping her arms around Janna. After a moment of confusion, she looked at her mate and relief replaced the terror on her face. She burst into tears as she pulled Janna tightly to her chest. “Oh, God, Janna, they were killing you.”

Janna returned the embrace, squeezing Ryan tightly. “Shh, sweetheart. It was just a dream. I’m fine.”

Ryan relished the comforting contact with her mate and slowly rocked them back and forth, tears still spilling from her eyes.
“But it was so real. I think you were being nailed to a cross. Oh, God Janna. I know we died together that day.”

“It’s over Ryan. Long over. We’re here now, and we’re fine.” She kissed the pulse point that throbbed beneath her lips and felt Ryan relax a little.

They held each other in silence for long moments, comforting each other with their closeness and with gentle touches. Ryan broke the silence with, “It was one of those warrior dreams. You called me, ‘Zena’ and I called you, ‘Gabrielle’. I think the soldiers were Roman.” Feeling somewhat better, she then remarked wryly, “We musta pissed off Caesar or something.”

“We must have”, Janna grinned. Then she added thoughtfully, in a quiet voice, “So we lived in the time of the Caesars. I thought it seemed to be around then. I was thinking it was in Greece though, or someplace hot and dry like that.”

“It was Greece”, Ryan remarked offhandedly, unsure of how she knew that. “And my name was Xena.” She shivered as the cool breeze hit her damp skin and remembered the awful pain of seeing her love put to death. She swallowed hard and kissed Janna’s hair. “Jesus Christ, it hurt to see them do that to you. I feel it as if it really happened.”

“It did really happen Ryan. We carry those memories in our bodies…in our chakras. There’s probably a reason why you’re remembering that life now. Something having to do with your soul’s growth and evolution. It’s part of this life’s lesson.”

“Well, I was doing just fine without that horror, thank you very much. I prefer the other dreams I’ve had, where we’re swimming or relaxing together, or making love. Hell, even the fighting dreams are better, at least we always kicked their asses.”

“Yeah, most of my dreams have been happy ones too. Tomorrow, lets talk about what we remember of those dreams, okay?”

“Sure baby.” Ryan groaned as she noted the time: 3:15. “Come on, let’s try to get back to sleep or I’m not gonna be worth shit tomorrow.” Quietly, she added, “I’m glad you were here, Janna. It would’ve been even more terrifying to wake up alone.” Her mate gave her a reassuring squeeze and she lay back down, bringing her Janna with her.

As her mate settled back against her side, Ryan silently asked Grandmother Moon to protect them from further nightmares. Luna complied.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna awakened as a dabble of warm sunlight hit her face. She could feel a hot breeze caress her mostly bare skin and smelled the scent of sun-warmed grasses. As she stirred and opened one eye she realized that her head was pillowed in Ryan’s lap.

Before she could open the other eye she heard Ryan, using the softest voice she’d ever heard, say, “Sweetheart, looks who’s finally awake. It’s your other mama. Yes, it is.”

She was answered by a sweet baby’s gurgle and a, “Goo!”

Janna turned to face her mate and the baby she was nursing. Warmed to the core by the sight of her family, she sat up and moved to sit against the tree, next to her partner. She wrapped an arm around her mate’s waist and leaned down to kiss their child.

“Hello my sweet little Eve. Is it dinnertime again?”

“Sure is. Didja have a nice nap, love?” her Warrior asked with a grin and a twinkle in her brilliant blue eyes.

“Of course. I had my favorite pillow didn’t I?” Equally twinkling green eyes met her gaze.

The Warrior looked down as the infant’s suckling slowed. “She’s getting sleepy. We might as well just camp here for the night. We made good distance today.”

“Mmm.” The Bard stretched and then reached into a nearby saddlebag, pulling out a scroll. “Sounds good to me. I want to get this scroll finished while that last adventure is fresh in my mind.”

“Mmm”. The tall warrior gently shifted the now sleeping infant to her shoulder and softly patted her back. She watched as her mate brought a quill to her mouth, deep in thought. She reached out a long arm and folded it around her partner’s shoulders, her mate instinctively moving against her side. The warrior sighed contentedly and leaned her head back against the tree, thinking, I have, right here in my arms, all I will ever need to be happy. I am finally complete.

The Bard, sensing her mate’s feelings, put her work down and turned in her lover’s embrace. “And I have everything I will ever need. I love you Xena.” She reached up and pulled the Warrior’s face down to meet her lips.

The feel of the sun on her face and Ryan’s lips softly kissing hers awakened Janna. She was greeted by a rich, low, “Morning sweetheart. Were you having a sweet dream?”

Janna blinked and pulled Ryan back down for another kiss. After it ended, she gazed at Ryan and said, “Oh, love, it was a wonderful dream. You were nursing our baby. We were incredibly happy.” Her eyes shone with love and she let their link communicate her feelings to her partner.

“That does sound wonderful. Was it one of the Warrior dreams?”

“Yeah. And you know what? I was a writer…a bard, I guess they called it back then.”

“Ah, that makes sense. You’re still a bard, you know.” Ryan rolled over onto her back, pulling Janna down against her, and kissed her cheek. “So, we had a baby, huh? Or I did?”

“Yep, but she seemed to be truly both of ours. I felt an intense love for her. Her name was Eve.”

“Eve. I’ve always liked that name. So, we were Xena, Gabrielle and Eve. I wonder how the baby happened.” Janna giggled, so Ryan continued, “Okay smarty, I know how it happened, but there had to be a guy involved somewhere…we were a couple weren’t we?”

“Definitely. I don’t know…maybe we used some ancient form of sperm donation.”

“Honey in those days, there was only one form of sperm donation.” She grinned wryly.

“I know. I’m just fooling with ya. We could find out you know. Do a past life regression with a therapist and find out all about that life, and others.”

“Or we could just keep sleeping together and have these incredible dreams…visions…whatever you want to call them.”

“Mmm, I think I like that idea best. Know what else we did a lot of in that life?” She nibbled on a nearby collarbone to give Ryan a clue.

“Mmm, I think I have an idea, yeah. No wonder we’re so compatible Janna. We’ve been doing this for two thousand years.” She embraced her mate and sought out her lips, arms slowly caressing her back. Janna responded with a moan and deepened the kiss, enjoying the feel of Ryan’s hard body under hers. She inclined her head and lightly kissed Ryan’s breastbone, eliciting a moan and an intake of breath from her partner. Her lips then moved farther down to more sensitive spots and the moaning intensified. “Ohh, baby, we don’t have time for this do we?” Ryan groaned. Janna stopped her loving ministrations long enough to glance at the clock.

She groaned and replied, “Uhh, no, actually. It’s almost 7:30 already.”

“Shit! I’m gonna be late.” Ryan gently disengaged herself from under Janna and jumped up out of bed. Janna enjoyed the view as she made her way into the bathroom.

“I guess separate showers are in order then?” Janna asked, disappointment coloring her voice.

A tousled dark head appeared from around the bathroom door, grinned and said, “You can join me if you promise to be good.”

“Oh, love, I don’t know if I can promise that.” Then she added with a grin, “But I can try.” With that she jumped up as well and joined her partner, who in turn admired the vision approaching her.

Janna was not good, as it turns out, and neither was Ryan. Ryan made it to roll call just as the Captain began the morning briefing, her stomach empty but her soul fulfilled.

-14-

As he pulled up to his sister’s house, Dan Norden noticed that the green Explorer was parked in her driveway again. As he attempted to smother a smug grin, the front door opened and the beautiful cop that he’d seen there previously exited, followed by Janna. He watched as the cop glanced his way before climbing into her truck. Janna walked over with her and leaned in the driver’s side window, where the two women shared a short kiss. As the dark haired woman backed out of the drive, Dan caught her eye and waved. She returned the wave with a big smile and returned her attention to her mate, who blew her a kiss. After watching Ryan’s truck turn the corner, Janna sauntered over to her brother’s pickup and greeted him with a wide smile that closely matched his own.

“Morning Dan”.

“Good morning, Sis! Looks like your day got off to a great start.” He enjoyed the mild blush that crept into his sister’s features, then added, “This is the second time this week I’ve seen her leave in the morning. Is there something you feel like sharing with me Sis?”

“Yes, Danny, I guess there is. Come on in for some coffee.” As she waited while he gathered his jobsite papers, she took a deep breath of the slightly cool morning air, enjoying the fragrance of roses and iris that hung on the damp atmosphere. Her brother, who was of medium height and build and shared Janna’s coloring except for blue eyes, joined her and they walked up the curved paving to the front porch.

Dan sat himself at the kitchen table and said, “Okay, Sis, spill it. Who’s the beautiful babe?”

Janna handed him a mug and sat opposite him with her tea. They both added two sugars and two creams in nearly perfect synchrony and grinned at each other. “Do you remember Sissy Zamora from school?” She hid a smug smile behind her mug as he stopped his movement, mug hanging in midair, a look of incredulity sweeping his features.

“No way! Sissy Zamora?”

“Ah, so you remember her then?” Janna’s eyes twinkled as she enjoyed her brother’s surprised reaction

“Hell, yeah I remember her. Shit, Sis, half the guys in the junior class were hot for her, even though she made no secret of the fact that she was gay. Do you remember when she dated that cheerleader? Half the school was scandalized and the other half was titillated. What was her name…April?”

“Hmm, I don’t remember that. In my senior year I was pretty focused on my music, remember? I didn’t pay much attention to anything else.”

“Yeah, that’s right, you were. Sissy Zamora…”

“Actually, her name’s Ryan.” She met her brother’s eyes over the rim of her mug.

“Oh, didn’t know that. Yeah, she was a lettered athlete wasn’t she? Soccer, softball and track?”

“Mmm, probably, yeah. She’s an amazing ball player still. She plays on two teams right now. In fact, I may be joining her on the fast pitch team soon.” Janna sat back in her chair and savored her tea. “So, anyway, yeah, we’re involved. To be honest, Danny, I’ve never been this much in love in my life.” Her face became radiant as she made the admission and Dan smiled gently at her.

“Sis, that’s great. I’m happy for you.” He let his brotherly concern show a little on his face and he added, “So it’s pretty serious huh?” and waited for his sister’s reply.

“Very. Um, she’s moving in here this weekend. This is it for me Dan, I’m sure of it. It’s like we’ve been best friends forever. We both feel that we complete each other.” Janna’s smile warmed his heart and he leaned forward and grabbed her hand across the table.

“That’s super, Jan. Congratulations!”

“Thanks Danny!” She intertwined their fingers for a moment, then separated and leaned back in her chair again.

“So, have Mom and Dad met her?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

“Yes, briefly, at the hospital last week. They don’t know how involved we are though. I thought I might have you all over for a family barbecue soon and introduce her around.”

“Sounds good. We haven’t all been together since Dad’s birthday. I’ll bet the kids will like her. You know how into cops Robbie is right now.” Janna smiled at the mention of her darling nephew, only three and already the most headstrong member of the family.

“She’ll like them too. She interacts with kids a lot as part of her job and loves it. She’s one of the new Bike Patrol cops.”

“Oh, really? I’ve seen them around. That’s cool. So, tell me Jan, what’s she like?” He finished his coffee as he awaited her reply.

How to answer that? She’s the most perfect woman on the planet. “Well, God, Dan, she’s just awesome in every way. I mean…she’s warm, funny, caring, strong, independent, smart, and ethical.” Then she added jauntily, “Not to mention gorgeous and sexy as hell.” Her slight blush gave away the extent to which she believed the latter and her brother grinned.

“Sounds like you’ve hit the jackpot, Jan. Way to go!” He smiled as he got up and walked to the sink, placing his cup in the dishwater there.

“Thanks Dan. I really feel like I have. We’re talking Publisher’s Clearinghouse, Reader’s Digest and Super Lotto all combined here!” Her brother laughed and gave her a hug.

“Great Sis. I’m gonna get out there now so when my guys get here they’ll think I’ve been doing something constructive. Oh,” he added, “I think we’ll be finished with the darkroom early next week. I have the painter set for Monday.”

“That’s great Dan, thanks. It’s really starting to come together. If you need anything I’ll probably be in the temporary darkroom down the hall most of the day.”

“Okay Sis, have a good day.” He grinned rakishly and added, “Hey, don’t work too hard…save some strength for that babe of yours.”

“You better believe it!” She threw a rakish grin of her own right back at him and saw his face take on a blush before he turned quickly away, saying over his shoulder, “Shit Sis, I do not need that picture in my mind. You’re my sister for chrissakes!”

Janna laughed as she dropped her own mug in the sink and then made her way to the family room for her morning meditation.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna manipulated the tongs, carefully removing a print from the solution. She held it up and examined it closely in the red glow of the room. Yes, I like that tone a lot better. She carefully pinned the black and white print onto the drying line. I will never tire of photographing that gorgeous hunk of rock she mused as she studied the photo of Yosemite’s Half Dome. Speaking of gorgeous hunks, I can’t wait to take Ryan there. She smiled warmly at the prospect. A large part of the joy, for Janna, of shooting in Yosemite National Park, besides the obvious natural splendor, was the hiking required to attain some of the best shots.

As she turned from the sink and reached for the negative sleeve to choose her next shot, her heart center began to thrum pleasantly and she reached for the cordless phone instead. Clicking it on barely before the first ring had finished sounding, she answered, “Hi sweetheart. What’s up?”

“Jesus Janna, you’re starting to freak me out, babe” her partner’s voice replied cheerfully. Ryan sat casually on the edge of her desk. John sat at the desk backed up against hers and raised his eyebrows in question. Ryan lifted a finger, indicating that she would tell him about it in a minute.

Janna balanced the phone between her ear and her shoulder and picked up the negative sleeve while answering, “Just wait until you get the hang of it. Then it won’t be freaky at all.”

“I know sweetheart, actually I’m starting to do it too. I think I need to learn to trust my intuition more.”

“Exactly, love.” She found the shot she liked and slipped the negative carefully out of the clear plastic sleeve, then placed it gently into the enlarger’s tray.

“Honey, I’m calling because Jackie, one of the girls from my team, called. She and another teammate, Carrie and their partners are going to the Rainbow tonight and wondered if we’d like to join them. I told her that I’ll be there working the Avenue Market but can join them a little later. I said I’d need to check with you first to see if you were up to it. What do you think love? There’s no pressure, now” she added, concern coloring her voice.

At the mention of the Rainbow Lounge, Janna’s gut clenched in fear as her Power Chakra reacted to her prior experience there. She took a calming breath and answered honestly, “Wow, I don’t know Ryan. My Power Chakra is doing back flips at the thought of going back there. But at the same time, I want to go out with you and your friends…very much so, actually.”

Reaching a decision, she added, “Yeah, hon, I think I’ll give it a try. I feel fine physically and I think going back there will help me to heal emotionally as well. As long as I’m with you I think I’ll be fine.”

“All right honey, that’s great.” Pride at her lover’s courage filled her heart and her voice and nearly choked her up. She continued, “I’ll let Jackie know to expect us around 8:00 then. You want to park at the Starbuck’s at the north end? I’ll meet you there and we’ll walk over together.”

“Okay, Ryan sounds like a plan. How’s your day going, love?”

“Oh, same ole, same ole. Been pretty quiet today, actually.”

“Good. Quiet’s good. Quiet’s safe.” Janna’s voice nearly broke and she tried to clamp down on the emotion she was feeling.

Ryan felt her concern however, through their link, and softly urged, “Janna, love, please don’t worry about me. I’m very careful out there and I’ve never been hurt…and I don’t intend to be…ever.” She looked at her partner and shrugged at his understanding look. “Besides, I have a great partner backing me up.” She winked at John.

“Okay, Ryan, I’ll try…I promise. This is just taking some getting to used to.”

“That’s my girl. I love you Janna. I’ll see you in few hours, okay?”

“Okay. I love you too, Ryan. See you later.”

As Ryan hung up the phone and glanced at her partner, he said, “You know, it helped Sara a lot after we first got married when one of the veteran cop’s wives called her and had a talk with her. Why don’t I ask Sara to give Janna a call? It might help her work through this.”

“I think that’s a good idea John, thanks. I appreciate it and I know Janna will too. She likes Sara a lot.”

“Sara likes her too. Hey what was that stuff about her freaking you out, anyway?” He stepped in at her side as they made their way back out through the squad room.

“Oh…uh… well we’ve got this kind of a link thing going. It seems she can always tell when I’m about to call her and she answers the phone in some sort of a cute smart-assy way. Um…we can also feel what the other one is feeling, even when we’re apart. It’s strange, for sure, but kinda cool too.”

“So that’s how you knew she was behind you the other day at the café?” As his partner nodded he continued, “I knew there was no way you had seen her. That is cool, Ryan. Kind of like a woman’s intuition thing. Sara’s that way with me. I can’t get a thing past her.” He grinned as he glanced at her and put his sunglasses on as they exited back out into the glaring sun.

“Good for her!” Ryan grinned widely as she pulled her sunglasses out of her shirt pocket.

~~~~~~~~~~

By 7:00 that evening, Janna was famished. She had elected to wait to eat with Ryan when she got off of duty. She was not used, however, to missing meals, so she decided to go down to the street market a little early and grab a quick bite from one of the food booths.

As she drove south down the wide avenue and approached the block where the market started, her heart began to pound and her stomach tightened nervously. As she pulled into the lot near Starbuck’s she took several deep, calming breaths. She locked her Jeep and headed toward the Market. As she approached the first side street, where the brewpub was located, her heart began to pound furiously and she felt sick to her stomach. She stopped and rested against an old-fashioned lamppost, trying to catch her breath and slow her heart rate. What am I doing? I should have waited for Ryan. I must be an idiot, she berated herself.

A few blocks south, Ryan stood, her bike between her thighs, talking to a man with two young children. As she handed one of the kids a police badge decal, she suddenly felt the pleasant buzz in her heart center that she associated with her mate and smiled inwardly. She’s early She reached into her pocket for a second decal for the girl’s older brother, but then stopped mid-motion when the pleasant buzz suddenly turned into a gut-wrenching fear. She looked up quickly, her brows furrowing in concern and turned her head toward the north end of the avenue.

Sensing that her lover was in that direction, she quickly said goodbye to the man and kids and called over her shoulder, “John, I think Janna’s in trouble.”

She hopped up onto her bike and took off at a breakneck speed, down the center of the street, dodging booths and the many pedestrians who found the sidewalks too crowded, her partner following. As she neared the beginning of the market she sensed Janna’s presence to her left and looking in that direction, saw her leaning against a lamppost, appearing stricken. When she reached Janna, she fairly flew off of her bike and let it crash to the ground. She ran to her mate and seeing that she didn’t appear to be physically injured, scooped her into an embrace.

“Janna, honey what’s wrong?” Concern etched deep lines into her beautiful features as she held her shaking partner.

“Oh Ryan, I’m so glad you’re here. I’m sorry. I thought I could handle it on my own…I got hungry,” she added sheepishly.

Ryan laughed quietly with relief, “Of course you did honey.” She patted Janna’s back consolingly and added, “It’s okay. I’m here now.” She kissed the top of her partner’s head, not caring who might be watching. John pulled up to a stop and stood nearby.

“It’s not okay. I feel like an idiot. Like a six-year old idiot.” Janna’s face flushed in embarrassment and she turned into Ryan’s embrace, burying her face against her mate’s shoulder.

“Janna, listen. You had a very traumatic experience here. This is a natural reaction to your returning to the scene of your attack. Attempted murder is a very serious crime…you have every right to be feeling the way you are. Come on now. Don’t be down on yourself. I’m proud of you for trying.” She kissed Janna’s head again and caressed her back through her t-shirt.

John stepped forward and suggested, “Ry, why don’t you knock off for the day and take care of Janna. I’ll take care of things here.”

Ryan started, “John, I don’t…” but was interrupted by his upraised hands.

“No Ryan, you go ahead. I mean it. I know you’d do the same for me…hell, you have done the same for me. Go on now. I’ll see you tomorrow. Lock up your bike here and I’ll take care of it for you later.”

“Thanks John. I owe you another one. I’ll see you tomorrow then…or Monday rather…we’re off tomorrow.”

“No problem.” He directed his gaze at Janna and said, “You take care Janna.”

Janna looked at him gratefully and said, “Thanks a lot John. We both owe you.” He waved them off and leaned over to pick up Ryan’s bike.

“Well, honey, feel like going on to the Rainbow, or would you rather go home?” Ryan asked with concern.

“I’m feeling a lot better now.” Then she added sardonically, “For some reason.”

Ryan grinned and turned, wrapping an arm around Janna’s shoulders. “Let’s go then.”

“Oh, wait. I brought a change of clothes for you. Thought you might want to get out of your uniform and relax. They’re in the Jeep.”

“Janna, that was very thoughtful, thanks. I would like to get out of these grimy clothes. I can clean up at the bar.”

After retrieving the gym bag with Ryan’s clothes in it they made their way to the bar, deciding to eat there with their friends. They entered the cool, dark bar and stood briefly, waiting for their eyes to adjust. Then they saw Ryan’s friends sitting at a table across from the bar and joined them. Ryan reintroduced Janna to Jackie and Carrie and they in turn introduced her to their partners while Ryan went into the bathroom to clean up and change. She joined them just a few minutes later, stopping first at the bar and picking up a pitcher of Foster’s.

She reached the table and sat next to Janna, her hand automatically gravitating to her mate’s thigh. Janna smiled and reached down, covering Ryan’s hand with hers.

As Ryan filled mugs for herself and Janna and refilled everyone else’s Carrie said, “Hey Ry, thanks for the brew!”

“No problem. Thanks for the invite.” She took a large gulp of the ice-cold brew and enjoyed the fresh coolness of it as it slid down her dry throat.

Janna mimicked her action and sighed contentedly. “Ah, that’s good. Thanks honey.” Ryan smiled at her warmly and caressed her thigh again. She found that she didn’t want to break contact with Janna and could feel Janna’s gratitude for that through their link. She momentarily felt overcome with love for her mate and silently thanked the Creator, again, for her great blessing. Janna, not surprisingly, did the same thing at the same moment and then laid her head happily on Ryan’s shoulder.

Spying this, Carrie laughed, “Ah, aren’t you two cute!” Her partner, Michelle, elbowed her good-naturedly as Ryan, equally good-naturedly, flipped her off, a huge grin lighting her face. Everyone at the table laughed heartily and commenced their good time.

A few minutes later, Ray and Jose, the bar’s owners caught sight of Ryan and Janna and came over to the table. “Ryan Zamora”, Ray boomed, “Long time girl!”

“Hi Ray, Jose, yeah it has been a while…how ya doin’?” Ryan graced them each with a lazy smile.

“We’re doing great girl, but it looks like you’re doing better!” remarked Jose, glancing at Janna and smiling. “I didn’t know you and Janna were together! Honey, I want to hear all about it” he said as he parked himself next to Janna. Ray joined him at the table and they had a nice visit with their old and new friends.

“So, Ray, how’re the burgers tonight?”

“As if you need to ask!” her old friend replied disapprovingly.

“Okay, we’ll have two then, with the works, make one of them veggie.” Looking at Janna she asked, “That sound okay, love?”

“Just perfect” was the response.

Just as their meal arrived and Jackie’s partner, Kathy retrieved another full pitcher of beer, a band took the stage. Ryan and Janna enjoyed the meal, the beer, the camaraderie and the music immensely and finally called it a night after 11:00.

Friday morning was uncharacteristically gray, the overcast holding in the moist, stifling heat. Ryan wiped her brow with the back of her hand for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning and lugged another box of books to her truck. Janna followed behind with a box of clothes and Ryan said, “This will do it for this trip hon. No more room.”

“Okay” came the reply and after settling her box next to Ryan’s, Janna climbed into her Jeep as Ryan locked the house and then got into her Explorer. Since Ryan had the day off, she and Janna decided to start moving her things into Janna’s place. As Ryan drove the short distance to Janna’s house, her mate following, she reflected on the lovely morning they had shared.

Even though she had turned off the alarm, Ryan awakened with the dawn, as had long been her habit. She had lain, full of contentment, watching the shifting colors of the new day play over her lover’s features. She became filled anew with the tremendous sense of love and completeness that Janna brought to her life. Her mind wandered to their plans for the future and she found herself thinking about locations for their commitment ceremony. She knew that Janna loved the mountains, as did she, so was leaning towards Lake Tahoe as a possible location. She had a friend with a large cabin right on the lake and considered looking into procuring it for a weekend. She felt herself giddy at the prospect of discussing it with her partner. If she ever wakes up, that is.

She grinned, thinking of her mate’s typical morning lethargy, until she realized that the habit was beginning to rub off on her. She decided to move the day along a little and bent her head to nibble on a nearby earlobe. This maneuver earned her an indecipherable grumble and her mate shifted slightly in her arms, moving away from the offending lips. Deciding to take another tack, she ran her fingers slowly down Janna’s bare back, stopping to caress a smooth buttock. This time she was greeted with a low moan and a clenching of the muscles that rested against her body. She continued the caresses and, without opening her eyes, Janna slid higher up Ryan’s body and captured her lips. They explored each other’s mouths sensuously for long minutes, tongues meeting playfully, then more ardently until both women were breathless.

“Mm, that’s my favorite way to wake up. Thank you, love” Janna expressed lovingly after they parted.

“Anytime baby, I aim to please”, Ryan drawled. She then sought out one of her favorite earlobes again and sucked it gently, suggesting, “Why don’t we take this into the whirlpool?”

As Ryan’s warm breath tickled her ear, Janna gasped, both at Ryan’s intimate touch and at her suggestion, and said breathlessly, “Let’s go baby.”

Ryan rose from the bed and held her hand out to her lover, who grasped it tenderly and followed her tall partner into the bathroom. They took care of their morning needs while the tub filled and then Ryan climbed in and sat down at one end, gesturing for Janna to join her. Janna complied, but instead of taking up her usual position with her back against Ryan’s chest, she sat in her lap, facing her. Ryan moaned sensuously as Janna settled into place and she wrapped her arms around her small blonde’s body, bringing their bodies close together. Janna leaned forward and licked at Ryan’s throat, then nibbled and kissed her way up to the full lips. Ryan’s lips met hers hungrily and her hands played slowly up and down Janna’s back, bringing forth moans from her mate. Janna broke the kiss and leaned down to caress the curve above a breast with her tongue. Ryan gasped and stiffened, bringing more of her luscious anatomy out of the water, which Janna immediately took advantage of. Ryan straightened and sat taller, bringing her hands gently up behind Janna’s head and urging her to continue her devoted attention to her breasts.

She moaned, “Oh God, baby, I love that” and gasped as a talented tongue flicked out and caressed an aroused nub.

Janna spoke around a mouthful of velvety dark areola, “I’m gonna love you like this forever, Ryan.” Her mate’s sweet voice rumbling against her aroused anatomy sent Ryan careening toward the abyss of pleasure she was beginning to know so well. Janna moved her fingers lower down Ryan’s body and caressed her, joining her tongue’s rhythm, sending Ryan completely over the edge into ecstasy.

Ryan shivered behind the wheel as she recalled their lovemaking, her skin tingling and center throbbing in remembrance. She realized that they had made love every day that they had been together, usually more than once, and was determined to continue the wonderful habit. Janna had mentioned something about the Tantric practice of connecting sexually every day being very healthy and she decided to look into that idea more thoroughly.

She was dragged from her reverie when she realized she had pulled into Janna’s driveway. Janna was already walking up to the Explorer and looked at her comically, saying, “Honey, are you all right? You looked about a million miles away.”

Ryan grinned shyly and responded, “Only about fifty feet away, honey…in your bathtub.”

Janna grinned radiantly, “You liked that huh? Well, there’s a lot more where that came from you know. I picked up some more chocolate and strawberries at the store yesterday too.” She grinned back at Ryan saucily and sauntered ahead of her into the house, with Ryan grinning and following like a panting puppy dog. She was sent back to the truck, however, to bring in her boxes first.

Late that night, they lay together in the whirlpool again. The room was lit only by a single candle and by moonlight streaming in through the room’s skylight. They had made love repeatedly for several hours and were now content to simply remain touching. Both were unwilling, in fact, to break their contact. They kissed and caressed and washed each other. They talked and made plans. They both felt gloriously happy and complete and tears came more than once with confessions of love.

Ryan kissed the back of Janna’s neck and quietly asked, “Sweetheart, would you like to be married at Tahoe? I know someone who has a nice home there, right on the lake.”

Janna quietly exclaimed, “Married at Tahoe? My love, that would be an absolute dream come true. But so are you, so I shouldn’t be surprised.” She turned and faced Ryan, straddling her once more. “Yes, Ryan, I would be delighted to marry you at Lake Tahoe. Overjoyed.” She leaned forward and sealed her declaration with a passionate kiss.

“Thank you, love” Ryan replied graciously and added, “You are my dream come true Janna. Thank you for agreeing to be my wife.” Then she showed her gratitude with an adoring kiss. When the kiss ended Ryan suggested that they retire to the bed and Janna happily complied, eager to curl up against her favorite body and to be held within Ryan’s loving arms until morning.

~~~~~~~~~~

They spent the rest of the weekend moving Ryan in and getting her settled. Though she had thought that she wouldn’t be bringing much with her, Ryan was surprised at how much stuff she actually did want to bring. Janna’s house was large however, so they had no problem finding a place for everything. Janna really wanted to add an exercise room, for both their benefits, and they decided to put it in the spare room closest to where she would spend most of her time while working: the darkroom.

On Sunday morning, Janna announced that they were going down to the athletic equipment supplier and outfitting their exercise room. This led to their first tiff (albeit a very small one). Janna wanted to make a gift of it to Ryan, but Ryan wanted to contribute to the cost, which was no small amount. Ryan already had a bit of a problem with the fact that Janna would not accept rent from her, since there was no mortgage payment to contribute too. Being a very self-sufficient and proud woman, Ryan said that she didn’t want to feel “kept”. Janna found the notion ridiculous: she had plenty of money and didn’t see the problem with sharing it with Ryan. So, instead of going down to the athletic store, they found themselves sitting at their kitchen table hammering out the details of a mutually equitable financial plan.

It was decided that since Janna was providing the home, Ryan would pay all utility costs. Their shared salaries would provide for groceries and all other needs. Any large home improvements and renovations to come would be paid for with funds in an account which Janna had already set up for the purpose and which Ryan would also begin paying into. They would also open up joint savings and checking accounts. Actually, Janna had insisted on converting all of her existing accounts to joint accounts, and Ryan finally gave in and agreed. They sealed their agreement with a kiss and tender words of apology and decided to go out for lunch to celebrate, before Ryan’s game at 2:00. After the game they would go down and order their exercise machines.

Ryan’s Peace Officer game was again held at the large County softball complex. Janna took her seat and watched Ryan throw warm up with a tall man. As she sat on the sun-warmed bleachers watching her mate she felt a curious sense of being right where she belonged. It was a sensation that she had never quite grasped before. Even though she had felt at home in the City, in rock bands, and in activist groups, that sense of belonging never quite approached what she was feeling now. She wondered if it had everything to do with finally being with her soul mate. A cop’s wife. A photographer and a cop’s wife. If anyone had told me that’s how I would end up I would never have believed them. And Ryan. Wow. I’ll bet she never ever, in a million years, thought she’d ever be married. The Lone Wolf. A warm smile lit her pretty face.

As she sat lost in her musings, several people, apparently wives and husbands of Ryan’s teammates joined her on the bleachers and she was startled out of her reverie. Two women approached and sat near her. She looked over at them and smiled as they greeted her. Cops wives? Indeed, one the women introduced herself and her friend as wives of cops on the SCPD #1 team. She asked Janna if she was there watching anyone in particular and she thought Well, here goes. Let’s see just how accepting these people can be.

Janna replied, “Yes, I’m here with my partner, Ryan Zamora. I’m Janna Norden.” She was surprised; indeed almost startled at the pleased look both women’s faces took on.

“You’re with Ryan?” the first woman asked, incredulous. Before Janna could do more than nod, the other woman remarked, “That’s wonderful! Welcome to the team!”

“Thank you. Actually, I came out to watch last week too, but I was the only one here.”

“Oh, we had a charity event last Sunday. The rest of us were all there. Pat, we’ll have to introduce Janna to the rest of the ladies.” Her friend nodded her agreement.

The first woman, Georgia, sat next to Janna and began a pleasant dialogue, pointing out players and telling her their names and ranks within the department. She also added funny little tidbits about each person and Janna found herself liking the older woman. The other woman, Pat, sat on Janna’s other side and when her friend had finished she casually inquired as to the status of Janna’s and Ryan’s relationship.

“Pat! That’s her business, not ours” scolded her friend.

“Oh Georgie, I know, but it must be serious-Ryan’s never brought a girlfriend out before. I think our stoic friend may have finally fallen in love…wouldn’t that be wonderful!” She looked so pleased at the prospect that Janna decided to take a leap of faith and confide in the women.

She began, “Ryan and I are serious…um…in fact, we’re living together.”

“See! I knew it! That is good news. Honey, we’ve been trying to fix her up with nice women for years and she would have nothing to do with it. Now she’s gone and done it on her own.” Pat seemed beside herself with pleasure.

Her friend Georgie added, “So how are you doing, honey? It’s not easy living with a cop, we know.”

Janna blew out a breath and replied, “Yes, I’m finding that out. I nearly drive myself crazy with worry every day when she leaves for work.”

“I think you might be interested in the spouses’ group, Janna. When I first married Sam I found it very useful at helping me to cope. We’ve been married fifteen years and I still feel the need for support from time to time.”

Pat nodded her agreement and added, “I’ve been with Mike almost twenty-five years. Being a cop’s wife doesn’t get any easier but our coping skills improve, mainly with the support of our friends. I hope you’ll consider joining us.”

“I will. I’ve definitely felt the need to talk to someone about what I’m feeling…about my fears mainly.”

“Well, we meet for lunch every Wednesday, usually at a restaurant downtown, near the station. Please join us when you feel ready.” She retrieved a business card from her purse and handed it to Janna. If you’d like to give me your number, I’ll let you know where we’ll be meeting each week. Janna nodded and gave the woman her phone number.

“I would like to join you for lunch. Thanks so much.”

Just then their mates returned from warming up and entered the nearby dugout. Janna’s mate, however, came to join her in the stands. “Hi sweetheart. These ladies aren’t giving you any trouble are they?” She grinned as she faced her old friends.

“No honey, as a matter of fact they’ve been giving me some good advice on how to live with a cop.” Janna grinned widely.

“Oh, God, I’m in trouble then.” Ryan mock-groaned.

“Yes, you are! Now, go have a good game.” She gave her partner a warm smile and a loving pat on the arm and sent her off.

“Okay, bye love. Georgia, Pat, watch what you say to her please? I don’t want to lose her when I’ve only just landed her.”
Ryan smirked before she turned and sauntered back to the dugout.

“Oh, she’s awful!” Pat pulled a mock frown.

“Janna, you’ve got your hands full with that one, I hope you know.” Georgie laughed.

“Oh, I know. I definitely know.” Janna smiled warmly as she watched her mate take the mound. She added quietly, almost to herself, “But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The SCPD #1 team played well against the firefighters, winning a close game and maintaining a slim lead in the league standings. Janna enjoyed watching Ryan play, of course, but also enjoyed seeing the camaraderie that the police officers enjoyed, not only with each other, but also with their friendly rivals in the fire department. Regardless of the sporting rivalry, it was obvious that the city police, county sheriffs, firefighters and paramedics all considered themselves members of the same large family.

After the game, the players and their families sat around for a long time laughing and visiting with each other, many with a beer in hand. It was evident that these dedicated public servants made the most of their time off and were enjoying themselves. Ryan sat behind Janna on the seat above her, with Janna leaning back between her partner’s legs. They endured, or rather Ryan did, much ribbing about their obvious devotion to each other. The kidding was much more intense than what Ryan’s other teammates had thrown at her the week before but Ryan was a good sport. Janna figured (correctly) that Ryan had probably doled out her share of teasing in the past and was just now receiving her due. Janna was surprised to find herself blushing more than once at some of the comments being made, including some of Ryan’s own. She smiled inwardly as she thought, she is truly just one of the guys.

She took a swig from the beer bottle and handed it back up to her partner. Ryan caressed her shoulders lovingly as she joked with Georgia and her husband, Sam, a Captain in the department. Janna lay back against Ryan and enjoyed the pleasant day. A prevailing Delta breeze was moderating the intense heat and the sky was dotted with beautiful white, puffy cumulus clouds. Her partner’s low voice rumbled pleasantly through Janna and she felt their link not only binding them, but also surrounding them, wrapping them in its loving energy. At that moment, life was perfect.

-15-

Ryan removed another pair of jeans from the moving box and laid them in a drawer. Her mind was only partly on her task, however: the majority of her focus was upon the small woman downstairs cooking their dinner. She felt so connected to Janna; it was as if their souls had merged. It was an incredible feeling, making her feel bubbly and joyous. The delicious aroma wafting up the stairs wasn’t helping her concentration any either. Ooh, smells like Mexican. She nearly rubbed her hands together in glee as she left the half empty box sitting on the bed and made her way downstairs to see what smelled so good.

As she descended the stairs she heard the Indigo Girls singing about Galileo. Love that song. She hummed along with the tune as she rounded the doorway into the kitchen. She was greeted with the site of her mate singing and swaying to the music as she stood in front of the stove. Ryan stood watching Janna for a moment, enjoying the sensual sway of her slim hips. Quietly, she crept up behind her mate and wrapped her arms around her waist.

At the contact, Janna nearly jumped out of her skin as she exclaimed, “Jesus Ryan! You nearly scared me to death. How do you do that?” Without turning, she relaxed back into Ryan’s embrace; enjoying the touch so much that she forgot her startlement.

Ryan nuzzled her neck and mumbled, “I’m sorry baby. It must be an Aikido thing. What’s cooking? It smells great.” She delicately kissed the soft skin under her lips. “Mmm, and so do you.”

“Chicken fajitas and Spanish rice,” replied Janna, smiling.

Ryan continued to nuzzle Janna’s neck while softly caressing her stomach through the t-shirt the blonde wore. “I love the way you smell.” Janna moaned softly at the tender caresses and arched back into her mate, dropping the large spoon into the pot of rice and turning the burner off.

“Oh, and what do I smell like?” she murmured, nearly overcome by the sensations playing across her body.

“Like a summer breeze, with just a hint of flowers.” She nibbled an earlobe as her hands began to roam both above and below the firm abdomen where they had rested. “Oh, baby, I can’t get enough of you. What are you doing to me?”

Janna moaned as Ryan’s hands caressed her more fervently and turned in her embrace, meeting her lips. She kissed her mate deeply and then pulled away and went for Ryan’s neck, licking and then kissing her pulse point. She moved lower and nipped at Ryan’s breastbone; which was easily accessible above the tank she wore. Ryan gasped and moaned, then quickly turned them around so that Janna’s back was against the island countertop in the center of the large room. Janna threw her arms around Ryan’s neck as Ryan tightened her grasp around the small blonde’s waist and gently lifted her onto the island. Ryan laid her mate down on the counter, kissing her neck and moving down toward her breasts as she did so. Janna wrapped her legs around Ryan, bringing her partner even closer to her. Ryan’s breath caught as her center was brought into firm contact with Janna’s. She nipped at Janna’s breasts through her shirt before bending her head and grabbing the bottom of Janna’s shirt with her teeth, pulling it up.

Breathless, Janna moaned, “Oh, God, Ryan…”

Ryan’s deep voice rumbled against her abdomen, hot breath tickling fine hairs, “Tell me what you want baby.”

“Ohh, mmm…” Janna mumbled incoherently. But Ryan needed no words. She instinctively knew what her partner wanted most at the moment and reached up to caress a breast with skilled fingers. At the same time she moved her head down to the waistband of Janna’s running shorts and grabbed at it with her teeth, pulling the shorts down.

Janna brought her hands up and tangled them in Ryan’s hair. “Oh, Ryan, yes…please…” but she was interrupted by a knock at the kitchen door.

“Fuck!” Ryan hissed against Janna’s underwear.

Janna, suddenly realizing who it must be at the door, pushed Ryan away and jumped to the floor, exclaiming, “Shit…it’s my Mom!”

Ryan suddenly looked stricken, completely forgetting her dashed libido, and she tried to help Janna pull her clothing back into place. “Jesus, baby I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have…”

Janna interrupted her with a quick, “It’s okay love. Let’s finish this later, okay?” She gave her partner a warm, somewhat embarrassed smile as she reached for the kitchen door, then terror struck as she saw her mother’s concerned face, eyes wide, looking at her through the small leaded window in the door and realized that she had witnessed the erotic display. Her face drained of color as she turned to look at Ryan, whose face was also now devoid of color.

Janna opened the door for her mother, cleared her throat, and squeaked, “Hi, Mom”.

Her mother replied cautiously, eyebrows raised, “Hello honey. I’m sorry for just dropping by, but I have some fruit for you.”

“Um, it’s okay Mom…you know you’re welcome any time…uh, do you remember Ryan…uh, Officer Ryan Zamora from the hospital?” She weakly gestured towards Ryan, who was standing right behind her.

Ryan quickly pulled herself together and stepped from behind Janna, offering her hand. “Hello, Mrs. Norden. It’s good to see you again. Let me apologize for that uh…display of affection. I happen to be very much in love with your daughter and I sort of lost control there for a minute.” She stepped back next to Janna and wrapped an arm protectively around her shoulder.

Beth Norden could see the obvious devotion in the tall cop’s manner and her look softened as she replied, “I see. Well, let me apologize for barging in. I should have called first.”

At that point Janna stepped forward and grabbed her mother’s hand, saying, “No, Mom, you don’t need to call first. We should have been more discreet. Come on in, have some coffee. We need to talk to you.” She took the large grocery bag from her mother as she gestured her toward the kitchen table, and she and Ryan busied themselves making a pot of coffee.

When they were all seated around the table with mugs in hand, Janna began, “Thanks for the plums Mom. Looks like you had another great crop.”

The attactive, silver-haired woman replied, “Oh, you’re welcome sweetie. You know your father and I can’t possibly eat them all, and I’ve made all the pies that I intend to this year.”

“Mom, I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch the last week or so. I’ve…um…kind of had a lot going on.”

“I can see that honey.” She smiled at her daughter and offered Ryan a smile as well.

Janna smiled shyly and Ryan laid a warm hand on her thigh in encouragement. “Yeah, Mom, um…Ryan has moved in here.” She looked lovingly at her mate and Ryan leaned over and kissed her cheek. She moved her hand from Janna’s thigh to her shoulders.

Janna’s mother knew that her daughter didn’t give her heart away easily, so she realized that their relationship must be very serious. She smiled warmly at her daughter and her new mate and said, “Honey, I’m happy for you. For both of you. I can see that you’re very close.”

Janna reached up and intertwined her fingers with Ryan’s, which rested on her shoulder. “Yes, we are Mom…and we’re very happy. Um…I thought that maybe we’d have you and Dad, and Dan, Kris and the kids all over for a barbecue soon, so you could all meet Ryan properly. Maybe next weekend?” She looked at Ryan, who nodded her assent.

“Oh, honey that sounds like a wonderful idea. We’re available either day. What can we bring?”

“Oh, I don’t know Mom…oh, wait, how about one of those awesome plum pies?” Her eyes sparkled at the prospect and Ryan shook her head lovingly. Janna elbowed her good-naturedly and looked to her mother expectantly.

“Sure, sweetheart. I’ll be happy to. Are you sure that’s all?”

“Yes, Mrs. Norden, that will be plenty.” Ryan spoke up.

“Please Ryan, call me Beth.” She smiled pleasantly at the attractive, dark-haired cop.

“I will. Thank you Beth.”

Janna turned to Ryan and asked, “So honey, which day is best?”

Ryan thought for a moment and answered, “I have to work for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. How about Sunday? I have an early game and we should be home by 2:00.”

“Okay, Mom, how about Sunday afternoon, around 3:00 or so?”

“That sounds good, Janna. We’ll see you then.” She finished her coffee and stood up. “I have to get dinner started. Ryan, it was good to see you again.” She smiled somewhat devilishly.

Ryan, blushing mildly, replied, “Yes, well…it was nice to see again too. Please give Mr. Norden my best.”

“I will Ryan, thank you. Sweetheart, you take care. I’ll talk to you in a day or two.”

“Okay, Mom, bye.” Janna walked her mother out and to her car, where they shared a hug.

Upon returning to the kitchen, Janna made a beeline for her partner and they collapsed against each other, laughing.

“Shit, Janna, we are so busted.” Ryan laughed.

“How much do you think she saw?”

“Judging by her expression, I’d say a hell of a lot.”

“Oh, God…” Janna groaned.

Ryan wrapped her in a warm embrace and kissed her head. “Sweetheart, she’s an adult and so are you. Don’t worry about it. She knows we love each other.”

“Ryan, she knows a whole lot more than any parent wants to know about their kid’s love life, and way more than I’m comfortable having her know. Jesus, I could have crawled into a hole.”

“Come on baby. Let’s have some of that wonderful dinner you made and then we’ll take the lovemaking discussion upstairs, huh?” Twinkling eyes accompanied her trademark rakish grin and Janna’s heart melted just a little bit more at the sight.

“You got it love.” Suddenly, Janna’s complexion paled again and she looked at Ryan wide-eyed.

Ryan’s brows knit in concern and she caressed Janna’s check as she exclaimed, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”

“Oh my God, Ryan, what if my Mom had come just a few seconds later…think of what she would have seen.”

Ryan’s face suddenly became as white as Janna’s, not an easy task with her complexion, and she gasped, “Oh, shit Janna…”

“Yeah, oh shit.” Janna smiled up at her mate.

Ryan pulled Janna back within her embrace and declared, “Baby, the first thing I’m gonna buy for this house is a blind for that window.” She raised her eyebrows sexily and continued, “I wanna be able to love you in every room of this house.”

“Okay, love. It’s a deal.” Janna kissed the collarbone below her lips and suggested, “Um, how hungry are you Ryan?”

The answer came in a sexy drawl. “It depends on what kind of hunger you’re talking about Janna…hungry for food or hungry for you?”

Their dinner required reheating a few hours later.

-16-

Late that night, the rich scent of myrrh incense and the light from the waning gibbous moon lent an air of magic to the candlelit bedroom as Janna gave Ryan a relaxing Reiki treatment. She sat Indian-style on the bed, next to her mate, who was stretched out on her back. Ryan was the very image of relaxation as she lay in shorts and bra with her hands resting lightly on her stomach, her face a calm mask.

Janna slowly drew her hands back from Ryan’s chest and gracefully rose to her knees and moved around to sit at the crown of her head. If Ryan noticed Janna’s change of position, she gave no indication of it. Her peaceful visage remained unchanged and Janna wondered if she had fallen asleep. She reached down and gently laid her hands on each of her partner’s shoulders. Janna took a deep breath, enjoying the feel of the energy flowing through her. Reiki is as calming and healing for the practioner as it is for the recipient.

“Mm, honey…your hands are so warm,” Ryan murmured contentedly.

“I thought you might have fallen asleep…you were so quiet,” Janna replied softly.

“Just about. This is so relaxing.”

“I’m glad you enjoy it. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to share it with you.” She leaned down and gently kissed Ryan’s brow.

“What’s not to enjoy, love?” Ryan smiled as the warm, loving energy soothed tightened muscles and left behind a gentle tingle.

Feeling that Ryan’s shoulders had received all the energy they required, Janna gently removed her hands and placed them on either side of Ryan’s head, covering her ears. After a few minutes she felt complete in that position and gently removed her hands. She then placed one on Ryan’s forehead and one on the top of her head.

After a moment, Ryan giggled and remarked, “Oh, that’s so nice. It’s a pleasant buzz. What do you feel hon…while you’re giving the Reiki?”

“I feel the same pleasant buzz all through my body, starting where the energy comes in at the top of my head, through my crown chakra. Plus, my hands feel hot and my palms tingle where the energy comes out.”

“This is so cool. I’ll bet you’ve done it in other lives, haven’t you?”

“I think so, yes. I think you have too.” Janna, feeling the session was complete, pulled her hands back and sighed deeply. Then she stretched out next to her partner on the bed and Ryan folded her into her arms.

“Thank you sweetheart. It feels wonderful. Could you teach me to do it?”

“Sure. Anyone can do it. That’s the beauty of Reiki. All you need is an attunement and then you can start using it.”

“So what does an attunement involve?” She ran her fingers gently along Janna’s back and the touch felt as good to her as it did to her partner.

“Mm…um…an attunement? Oh, it’s basically just a simple little ritual where a Reiki Master places the ancient symbols into your aura. Only takes a few minutes. It actually feels very nice, similar to what you’re feeling now,” she smiled at her partner’s obvious state of bliss, and added, “And afterwards you have a period of adjustment. Usually for about a week afterward, your body detoxifies and becomes used to the increased energy flow.

Honey, if you’re serious about becoming a practioner I’ll give you a book to study so you’ll understand what it’s all about and also so you can learn the beginning symbols. If after about six months you feel that you’d like to advance your knowledge, I’ll teach you the more advanced symbols and give you a second level attunement…after which you’ll be able to do distance healing. If you want to advance even further and get a third level attunement you will have reached the master level…that’s my level.”

“Yeah, babe, I think I’d like to go all the way with it. I’m really fascinated by it, especially after experiencing it last week over a distance. That was amazing!” She squeezed her blonde mate and kissed her head.

“I know, it’s great…you know, the first day after I moved in here, my Mom was helping me bring boxes in and she wrenched her back. It was so bad that she couldn’t move…couldn’t straighten up or bend over or twist, and she was in agony. She asked me to drive her to the doctor and I convinced her to let me give her some Reiki first…I was sure it would relieve the worst of the pain. Well, she wasn’t sure about it but she let me try it.

I stood behind her and applied the energy all along her spine…Ryan it was so cool! I gave her Reiki in about four different places and as I got to the base, her spine, from the top all the way down, popped. Pop…pop…pop…pop…pop…right back into place. We could both hear it and I could actually see her vertebra moving back into place.” Janna giggled as she remembered the scene. “Honey you should have seen her, she was going, ‘Oh, wow…oh, my…goodness!’ and her face was just precious. The pain was almost completely gone right away, and the next day completely. She never needed to go to the doctor for it.” Janna sighed with pleasure and added, “She was so grateful and has been asking me for an attunement ever since.”

“Honey, that’s awesome. Jesus, it’s like having a doctor in the family!”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far! Although my teachers and their teacher have cured every possible human condition, I think. Including cancer. Their teacher, Diane, has reportedly mended broken bones on the spot.” Janna grew somewhat reflective and continued, “It’s truly an awesome gift and I feel blessed that it came into my life. I’m more than happy to share it with anyone who wants it. Especially with those that I love.” With that she snuggled more deeply into Ryan’s embrace and kissed the collarbone next to her lips.

“Mm. So Janna, can you give Reiki to yourself…I mean when you’re sick or hurt?”

“Yep, sure, although I prefer to get it from someone else if I can. Sometimes it’s hard to place your hands correctly on yourself. Although as a practitioner, I have lots of energy in my body all the time. I hardly ever get sick any more.”

“Is that why your injuries healed so fast?”

“Mm hmm, yep.”

“Cool babe. Tell me Janna, what other cool little ‘new-age’ type secrets do you have?” She smiled devilishly, her eyes glowing in the candlelight.

“Hmm, I don’t know. What’ll you give me for the information?” She matched Ryan’s wicked look with one of her own.

Ryan rolled over on top of her mate as she drawled, “I think I have something you want, baby” and leaned down and kissed Janna passionately. Which was all the negotiating she needed.

~~~~~~~~~~

As Ryan buttered her toast, she remarked, “I feel really good this morning, even though you didn’t let me get a lot of sleep.” She glanced slyly at her mate in the chair next to her and grinned.

“Well, you know honey, most people have to pay for Reiki sessions…you’re just lucky you have something valuable to barter with.” She smugly took a sip of her tea and watched Ryan’s eyebrow’s rise in surprise.

“Well, babe, if that’s how you care to conduct Reiki transactions, I think I’d like do business with you on a daily basis.” She grinned rakishly as Janna’s face was transformed by a huge smile.

“Sweetheart, need I remind you that we conduct that business daily anyway?”

“Mmm, we do don’t we?” She leaned over and stole a kiss. “How’d I ever get so lucky?” Her eyes shone with love as she gazed at her mate.

“We’ve discussed this before…I’m the lucky one.” Janna grasped her hand and brought it to her lips, then to her cheek.

“Okay, why don’t we agree that we’re both lucky?” She smiled and returned her attention to her breakfast. “Seriously, Janna, I feel like I spent yesterday at a spa or someplace like that. I feel renewed.”

“That’s the idea love.”

“What does ‘Reiki’ mean, anyway?”

“I think the literal translation from Japanese is ‘universal life force energy’.”

“Ah, I thought it sounded Japanese. It has ‘ki’ in it…like in ‘aikido’.”

“Mm, hmm. Although it’s origins are most likely ancient Tibetan, it was rediscovered by a Japanese man in the 1800’s and brought to the west by his students. ‘Ki’ means energy. Aikido uses the movement of energy for defense doesn’t it?” Janna took another sip of her tea as she gazed at Ryan.

“Yeah, it does. I guess the two disciplines are connected some how, aren’t they?” Ryan’s brows rose in thought.

“Yes, everything is connected. Literally. By energy. By the ki. It’s how the Universe works.” A thought occurred to Janna and her face lit up. “Hey, I’ve been wanting to learn aikido for years…how about I trade you Reiki treatments and attunements for aikido lessons?”

Ryan’s face fell in a mock pout. “But I like the trading that we’ve been doing.” She looked up expectantly at Janna through long, dark lashes.

Janna grinned and said, “Okay honey, you can still throw in the other stuff too if you want.” She reached over and ruffled her mate’s hair.

“Thanks baby!”

“Don’t mention it love. So, will you consider teaching me aikido?”

“Yeah, as a black belt, I could. Actually, the owner of the dojo where I work out has asked me to consider teaching a beginner’s class in the fall. I hadn’t given him an answer yet, but now that I already have a prize student, I think I’ll tell him yes.”

“I’d rather be teacher’s pet.”

“Oh, you are baby. You are!” Ryan’s sexy drawl nearly stopped Janna’s heart, as usual, and she let herself be pulled over into Ryan’s lap for a long, deep kiss.

As they parted slightly, Ryan rested her forehead against Janna’s and sighed before asking, “How did I ever get along without you?”

“I ask myself the same thing my love.” She pulled Ryan into another embrace and held her there.

As they sat holding each other, a sunbeam slowly played across the room and illuminated them, almost as if it were a physical manifestation of their glowing bond…or perhaps the Universe spotlighting their union. At least that’s how Janna would have interpreted it. Ryan probably would have noted the dust motes floating in it and determined that she had done an imperfect job of dusting the previous morning.

Oh Janna, that hug is gonna last me all day…thanks baby.” Ryan kissed her forehead as she settled her mate onto her feet. She drank her last swallow of coffee and got up with her dishes.

Janna sighed as she gazed at her mate. “Me too love, but I’ll still miss you.”

“I know baby, but we’ll still be together, won’t we?” Her sparkling eyes lifted Janna’s spirits immediately.

“Yes, Ryan. We will.” She followed Ryan out into the hallway where she picked up her gym bag and car keys.

“Would you like to go down to the dojo later? I’d like to introduce you to the owners, Joe and Ellen. They’re good friends of mine.” She added with a smile, “And they share a lot of your metaphysical interests. They’re both healers and sell incense and that aroma stuff.”

“Aromatherapy? Cool. It’s hard to find decent supplies in a town with not a single metaphysical shop.” Janna frowned her displeasure at her hometown’s seeming resistance to leave the dark ages.

“Okay. You can get an introduction to aikido too. Maybe I’ll take my gi and work out some…I’ve been neglecting that part of my workout lately. Would you mind?” Her eyebrows rose expectantly.

“Mind? Honey I’d love that…thanks!”

“Great. We’ll get something to eat afterward, so you may want to grab a late afternoon snack.” With that she patted her mate playfully on the rump and got a swat in return.

“Have a good day, love. Please be…”

“I know, Janna. I’m always careful…especially now. Please try to remember that baby. I love you.”

“I love you Ryan.” She reached up and embraced her mate, who in turn scooped her into her arms and held her tightly. They shared a loving kiss and Janna followed Ryan out to her truck. As was now her habit, she watched the truck turn the corner, sighed, and went back into the house to begin her morning meditation.

~~~~~~~~~~

“The Tribe”, with Janna on lead guitar and background vocals, sang sarcastically about the joys of being a teenaged queer as Janna drove them to the dojo in her Jeep.

Janna took another admiring glance at her partner. She looked as wonderful in her bleached-white gi as she did in her dark cop’s uniform. The stark white of the gi accentuated her deep tan and Janna loved the fact that Ryan wore only a sports bra beneath it. As she sat turned slightly toward Janna, her gi opened partially, revealing some cleavage. Janna leered gently as she refocused her eyes on the road, trying to ignore the gentle throbbing beginning between her legs.

“Honey, did you write that song?” Ryan asked with disbelief.

“Um, yeah…is it that a good thing or a bad thing?” Janna glanced sideways at Ryan and wrinkled her nose.

Ryan laughed and said, “Oh, it’s good! I love it! It’s very sardonic…captured what the teen years were like for me anyway.”

“Whew, I was worried there for a minute.” She grinned and looked at Ryan again, adding, “Honey, if I remember correctly, you seemed very together in high school. You appeared to be comfortable with your sexuality anyway.”

“I wasn’t Janna. I mean, I knew I was gay, but the bravado was an act. I had lost my father a few years before and it hit me hard. He had been my best friend and biggest supporter. I felt very alone after he died…my mom and I weren’t that close and my brother was four years younger. I became the ‘big man on campus’ basically out of insecurity. That’s when the promiscuity started too. What I really felt, deep down inside is exactly what you wrote about in that song: very alone, very insecure, like a freak. Hell, I never even dated gay girls…I didn’t want to identify with them. I only went out with straight girls. I didn’t really come to honest terms with who I was until I was at the police academy.”

She looked at her mate and touched the hand that rested on the gearshift knob. “Jesus, Janna, why didn’t we hook up then?”At Janna’s perplexed look and timid shrug she looked away and swallowed hard. “I had a crush on you but I just couldn’t handle it.” She caressed Janna’s hand and added, “I’m sorry.”

“Ryan, don’t apologize. We were kids. I know I wasn’t ready for a serious relationship then…with anyone…and I was attracted to you too. Anyway, I was so focused on my music by then that I noticed little else. I think it filled the lonely, painful void for me. Helped me not to face the truth. I could go on stage and get so high on the music that it had the effect of a drug for me. It removed me from reality.”

She looked at her mate and smiled. “It was only later, after I’d gone to the City that I began to really come to terms with my sexuality. That’s when I started writing the songs that specifically dealt with being queer and that’s when I learned to value the company of people like me.”

“Yeah, but honey, we could’ve been friends at least. That would have helped both of us. We could’ve skipped a lot of the painful shit.”

“No honey, I don’t agree with that. Neither one of us was in a place to be able to deal with a friendship on those terms. And that ‘painful shit’ was a crucial part of our growth…and of this life’s lesson. It helped to shape who we are today. I agree that it would have been wonderful to have your friendship, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us. I think that what we have today is so special because of some of the things we lived through. It’s like a great big beautiful, awesome, happy, warm, loving reward. Which we’ve both earned, by the way.” As she turned to check for traffic she noticed Ryan’s adoring gaze and her heart lurched.

“You’re right Janna. Absolutely right.”

The music continued, and Janna sang along quietly.

“Did you ever sing lead Janna?”

“Oh my God, no!” Janna looked almost stricken. Then she grinned and added, “I can’t carry a tune to save my life.”

“That’s not true!” Ryan protested. “You sound fine to me” she added petulantly.

“I do all right, but only as a background vocalist and only after many years of practice.” She grinned at Ryan and continued, “In fact, at some of my earliest shows, the rest of the band had the sound guy turn off my mike. I’d be singing my heart out and not even realize that my mike wasn’t on.” She laughed, “God, I never knew it until my girlfriend at the time ratted them out.” She smiled and shook her head fondly in remembrance.

“Christ, baby, I’m sorry!” Ryan grinned despite her sincerity.

“Oh it’s okay. Live and learn right? I went out and got voice lessons.” She grinned and drove on as the music continued.

Ryan listened to the music with half an ear and began to fill her mate in on some of the history and philosophy of aikido. Janna was somewhat surprised to learn just how seemingly metaphysical in nature the art was. The martial art didn’t simply theorize on the existence of ki within the body, it embraced the concept wholeheartedly. In fact one of the basic concepts of the art is learning to harness that energy for defense.

Ryan instructed Janna to pull the Jeep to a stop at the curb in front of the old building that housed the dojo. At the small city park across the street, figures in white judo gi’s could be seen practicing graceful movements with staves, or jo’s, as Ryan pointed out they were called.

Janna watched for a moment, impressed, and felt something else as well. She identified that feeling as familiarity and remembered one of the recent “warrior” dreams that she’d had. Yes, I’ve used that weapon before. Ryan touched her elbow and guided her toward the front door.

As they entered, a wind chime jingled, announcing their presence. Janna immediately noted the scent of incense. Sandalwood. The foyer was clean and spare, with only a single Japanese-styled art print on a wall. As Ryan led her straight ahead down a hallway, pleasant new age-styled music could be heard. Sounds like Gabrielle Roth.

As they passed a small office they heard, “Hey, Ryan!” and a compactly built, handsome middle-age man popped out of the office.

“Hi Joe, how are you?”

“Just fine. What’ve you been up to? I haven’t seen you around here in a few weeks.” As he spoke he gestured them into the office, out of the way of a class of young people that were exiting the mat area en masse.

“Oh, I’ve been busy, you know how it is. Joe, I want you to meet Janna Norden.” She turned and put her arm around Janna’s shoulders, smiling proudly. “Janna, this is Joe Swift. He and his wife Ellen run this place.”

Janna extended her hand and the friendly man grasped it warmly. “Hi Joe, it’s nice to meet you. This is a lovely dojo.”

“It’s nice to meet you too, Janna. Thank you. Come on in and see the rest of it though. Do you practice aikido?”

“No, but I intend to start. It seems fascinating.” Her eyes sparkled a vibrant green, proving her sincerity.

“Joe, Janna shares some of your more interesting hobbies. She’s a healer and into incense, crystals, candles, you name it, just like you are.” Ryan grinned as Janna slapped playfully at her arm.

“Oh, I see…a very intelligent woman. And she’s with you?” His warm smile softened his words.

“Yes, she’s most definitely with me.” Ryan grinned warmly and pulled Janna closer.

“Ryan, that’s super. Congratulations. I see she’s a saint as well.” The three of them shared a laugh as he guided them back out into the hallway. He continued, “Janna, what kind of healing do you do?”

“Reiki.”

“Oh, wonderful. My wife and I are Reiki Masters.”

“Wow, so am I. I had no idea that there were any others here in town.”

“There aren’t many yet, but the word is spreading. You know how it is here. A few of us have to act as trailblazers.” He smiled and shrugged.

“Yep, so true.” Ryan had kicked off her sandals and placed them on a shelf so Janna did likewise. Joe was already barefoot.
“Whom did you study with, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Some good friends in the Bay area who were trained by Diane Stein.”

He nodded his approval. “Diane is super. She’s revolutionary, but I think it’s a long time past due. That’s a good lineage to be associated with.”

“Well, thanks, I agree, though many people don’t. I intend to carry on her tradition of sharing the symbols openly and not charging for training” Janna said, sincerity filling her voice.

“That’s our philosophy as well. It’s a small Universe isn’t it?” He smiled warmly at the both of them and gestured them through a doorway.

Upon entering the mat room, Janna was struck by three things: a gentle, pleasing aromatherapeutic scent filled the large room; the pounding beat of one of Gabrielle Roth’s more energetic songs; and the twenty or so graceful figures on the mat who were moving separately, but also seemingly as one in time to the music. All of the participants wore black belts and some, like Joe, wore wide black, skirt-like pants.

Ryan leaned close to Janna and quietly explained, “Janna this is aikido-mai. We feel the energy in our bodies and move it around as we let it move us around the mat.” Janna was transfixed by what appeared to be a modern dance. Every person was moving as if to a song that only they could hear, but all were keeping time to the beat. It was almost magical.

Ryan pointed across the room to some chairs. “You can sit over there sweetheart. If you need to walk on the mat, bow first to either the Sensei, Joe, or to the altar. She pointed to an altar against one wall. It consisted of a table which held a large framed picture of an elderly Japanese man, a vase of flowers, and an incense burner. Next to it, on the floor, stood a large ceremonial gong.

Ryan continued, “Also bow as you leave the mat. Like this”, and she demonstrated a low bow, facing the center of the room.

“Okay Ryan. Have a good session.”

“I will sweetheart.” Her face glowed with love as she added, “I’m so glad you’re here.” With that she stepped onto the mat, bowed to the Sensei, and joined in the dance.

Janna took her seat against a far wall and soon became entranced watching her partner. She had thought that Ryan had looked graceful on the softball diamond, but that didn’t even approach her beauty and grace here. She swirled and swayed and turned, her flowing movements at one with the music and with the ki within her body. It was almost like a ballet and she was breathtaking. Her appearance was of one at peace with the Universe and that is what Janna felt through their link. She has found it too…balance…peace…the meaning of life…the other half of her soul.

The realization brought tears of joy to Janna’s eyes and a lump to her throat. She reached out through her link to Ryan and communicated her love to her mate. At that instant Ryan faltered almost imperceptibly in her movement and looked at Janna, her eyes mirroring the love showing in Janna’s, and she smiled radiantly. The love surged through their link and was solidified permanently. It became indissoluble and the rest of the Universe, for just an instant, faded away, leaving the two lovers alone, but as one.

The timeless moment passed, but not before Ryan’s friend and Sensei became aware of it. His soul was warmed at the sight of the wide, glowing cord of energy that he could see linking the two women, it’s power surrounding and engulfing them as their auras blazed and merged across the room. It was a memory that would remain engraved on his mind and in his heart for the rest of his life. He had only ever seen such a link once before: his own, which he shared with his wife and soul mate.

The dance music slowly faded and was replaced by peaceful Japanese flute music. The students stopped their movements and lined up in the center of the mat, each facing the Sensei and bowing to him. Then they moved as one to the far edge of the mat and Joe gestured for two of them to join him in the center of the mat, while the rest of the class sat, hands resting on their knees, and watched.

Ryan and another woman joined Joe in graceful defensive movements, effortlessly ducking, rolling, blocking, pinning. It was almost a dance in itself. In reality it was attack and defensive countermoves, the participants often using the ki within their bodies to force the opponent off balance. It was a beautiful art and Janna became thrilled with the prospect of learning it with Ryan.

At one point Ryan gracefully brought her hands up in front of her body and brought them closely together, as if she held an invisible ball, and then gracefully lunged at the Sensei, throwing the “ball” as she did so. Joe went to the mat, as if he’d been thrown and Janna, who was directly in Ryan’s line of attack, felt a gentle surge of energy hit her. She looked up, startled, to see Ryan grin and mouth, “Sorry!” Janna just sat, momentarily dumbfounded until a silly grin crept onto her face.

Later in the session, the Sensei gestured to Ryan and instructed her to pick up a bokken. Ryan gracefully rose to her feet, walked to the equipment shelf and grabbed a wooden practice sword. Her opponent, a very large man who even towered over her, picked up a wooden knife, or tanto.

They met at the center of the mat and respectfully bowed to each other. Her opponent quickly went on the offensive but Ryan feinted and dodged him expertly, spinning and swinging the sword gracefully as she did so. My, God…she looks like she was born with that sword in her hand. As they continued to parry and feint for several more minutes, Janna was awestruck at Ryan’s skill and grace. Before she knew it, Ryan’s opponent was flat on his back on the mat, grinning up at his conqueror. She returned the grin and reached down to help him to his feet.

“Beautiful Ryan, George, thank you. Okay, Cheryl, take tanto and Bill, bokken” the Sensei instructed.

For the rest of the hour Janna sat completely transfixed and in awe of the skill of the black belts. Most particularly that of her partner.

Before they left the dojo that evening, Janna had purchased a gi and signed up for the new beginning class which would be starting in about a month, and which would be taught by her mate.

As she drove them to the restaurant, Janna couldn’t stop her excited chatter about what she had witnessed. “Honey, why didn’t you tell me that aikido was so metaphysical?”

“I’ve never looked at it that way Janna. It just is…what it is.” She shrugged her shoulders.

“Honey, you were throwing balls of ki at each other…I’m afraid you don’t get much more metaphysical than that!”

“Oh, I can think of some pretty off the wall things that I’ve heard of that are way more metaphysical than goshin-mai.”

“We’ll have to discuss that in depth, because I find very little that is not within the realm of possibility” Janna declared matter-of-factly.

“It’s a deal then…I look forward to having my mind opened by you.” Ryan’s sincere statement was accompanied by a warm smile.

Janna returned the warm smile and a feeling of gratitude passed through their link. “You know what else I was struck by? It seems very non-violent…as if only used for self defense.” She glanced at her partner.

“That’s exactly what it is honey. You know, a lot of cops are starting to learn it too. There were four other cops in that black belt class tonight. It’s been a great help to me personally. When disabled non-violently with aikido, perps are usually so stunned that they give up willingly.” She looked thoughtfully at Janna and remarked, “I think I’ll put some flyers up at the station…try to get some cops signed up for my class in the Fall.”

“Sounds like a great idea love. ” Janna pulled into the parking lot behind a small café on the Avenue, a few blocks from the Rainbow Lounge. “Come on, I’m starving!”

Ryan laughed, “Why am I not surprised?” She took her mate’s arm as they made their way inside. The growing twilight had receded to a quiet darkness by the time they exited and made their way home.

Many, many thanks to the kind souls who have offered me feedback. I can’t express how much I appreciate it!

-17-

A few days later, on a breezy, partly cloudy Thursday afternoon Janna oversaw the completion of the installation of her mate’s long-awaited spa, complete with gazebo. It sat on the rear deck just outside the French doors. She hadn’t told Ryan that it was arriving that day, wishing to surprise her. They had planned to have a relaxing evening after Ryan’s extended shift was over, with Janna giving Ryan her first Reiki attunement, and the new spa could be worked into those plans beautifully.

After the installer showed Janna how to operate it and handed her the owner’s manual, he began filling it with water. She could barely contain her excitement at the thought of bringing Ryan out there later and showing it to her. Even the weather is cooperating: it’s not too hot. Too bad there won’t be any moon until very late.

After the installation men left she stood back and admired the new structure. It was a large, white, octagonal building with built-in decking up to the edge of the spa. It had removable lathe privacy screening on the sides and on the top, allowing the occupants to view either the yard or the night sky if they wished but also afforded complete privacy if that was desired. Janna had a very strong suspicion that the complete privacy option would be exercised more often than not. She blushed mildly as a vivid picture entered her mind. Fanning herself, she went back inside to try to complete more work on her latest photo project.

Ryan and John finally extricated themselves from the scene of their latest altercation. Ryan looked at her watch and noted that it was nearly time to get over to the Avenue Market. She blew out a breath, wishing she didn’t have to work the extra shift tonight. She wanted to be home with her mate, relaxing. Plus, she was looking forward to receiving her attunement. They had decided that tonight would be a good night to do it because she didn’t work the next day.

As Ryan stuffed her notebook back into her pocket she shook her head in disgust and looked at her partner, “Jesus Christ, John, didn’t the full moon end two days ago?” She spoke into the uniform radio on her collar and cleared them for further duty.

“Yes, but you’d never know it would you? Fourth day in row we’ve had way more than the usual number of wackos.” He reached down and snapped the catch on his weapon holster.

“I am so ready for my three days off, John, I gotta tell ya.” She ran her fingers through her hair and put her helmet back on.

“Uh, I hate to break it to ya buddy but we’re working Saturday, remember…the music festival…2 to 6?”

“Aw, shit…that’s right.” She shook her head in dismay then added, “Well, it shouldn’t be too bad. It’s a short shift.”

“Hey, Sara plans to come out…maybe Janna would like to hang out with her?”

“She might. She’s certainly into music.” Ryan flashed a wide grin…the mere mention of her soul mate had dispelled her sour mood. “Let’s get over to the Avenue, John.” She looked over her shoulder, checking traffic, then added hopefully, “Hey maybe the threat of rain will keep people away and we can knock off early”.

“What’s the matter bud, you got plans for later?” He smirked, but then thought better of the remark and added, “What am I thinking, of course you have plans.”

“Yep, you should be so lucky.” She smirked at him and took off, forcing him to play catch up.

As The Cranberries’ Delores O’Riordan serenaded her with a lilting song about dreams, Janna put the casserole in the oven and set the timer. Good, it should be done just about when Ryan gets home. After cleaning the kitchen she turned the family room stereo off and returned to her new darkroom.

She stood in the doorway for a few moments, admiring the new space. The workmanship was pristine and she admired her brother’s handiwork. One wall was lined with built-in cabinets for all of her supplies. The opposite wall had a built-in countertop with shelving above it and more cabinets below. Here the enlargers, both color and black and white resided, as well as a set of large light-tight paper drawers and a compact stereo system. The third wall had formerly housed a window but now sported more shelving and cabinets above and below a long, divided sink. To the left of the sink hung a drying line and in the corner sat a tall drying cabinet. In the center of the room was a large, square worktable, which held large paper cutters and sported more cabinetry in the base for matting and other mounting supplies. There were several lovely matted and framed landscape photos on the walls, examples of Janna’s handiwork.

She entered the room and pushed the play button on the sound system. Bad Religion blasted forth with a diatribe against television as Janna, head bobbing to the beat, flipped the light switch and the yellow incandescence was replaced by a warm red glow. The smell of fresh paint still hung faintly in the air, soon to be replaced, however, by the acrid aroma of developing chemicals. I should bring an aromatherapy diffuser in here.

Janna, still moving to the beat…always moving to the beat…flipped the light on the enlarger on and checked the image projected onto the base. Before she could focus on her work, however, her mind wandered to her partner. I wonder how her day has been? I haven’t heard from her.

She sat back on her tall work stool, closed her eyes and focused on their link, reaching out over the miles to her partner. She immediately felt the rich, loving warmth that she associated with her mate. She concentrated further; detecting what seemed like irritation. Ooh, I don’t think she’s in a great mood. I’ll have to see what I can do about that. She brought her love for her mate into focus, and then projected it outward through their link. After a few moments she felt the irritation evaporate, to be replaced by a loving warmth and then by a sharp pang of erotic desire that shot straight to her groin. She swallowed hard as her eyebrows rose in shock. Well, I guess she showed me huh? She’s a quick study. She smiled at the evidence of yet another of her partner’s many skills. She is absolutely amazing.

While she sat contemplating that revelation her telephone rang and she answered (seriously this time), “Zamora-Norden residence.”

The business-like female voice on the other end said, “This is SCPD dispatch with a message for Ms. Janna Norden.”

“Speaking.” Janna held her breath, more in confusion than in fear, as she would certainly have felt if anything were wrong.

“Ms. Norden, I have a message for you from Officer Ryan Zamora. It reads: ‘Message received. Thanks’.”

Janna released her breath and chuckled. “Thanks. May I give you a reply?”

“Go ahead.”

“Return message received. Don’t be late.” She thought she detected a slight chuckle on the other end of the line but couldn’t be sure.

“Thank you Ms. Norden. Good evening.”

“Good evening Officer.”

Janna clicked off the phone and sat on the stool in front of the enlarger station, smiling and shaking her head in disbelief. I have a strong suspicion that life with her will never be boring. She said another silent prayer of thanks to the Universe; about the one thousandth she had uttered in the weeks she had known Ryan.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan and John quickly locked up their bikes and made their way into the station. As they strode purposefully down the brightly lit cream-colored corridors Ryan informed John that she would take care of her portion of the day’s reports at home. He tried (unsuccessfully) to hide a grin and told her it was fine with him. She ignored his glee and headed for the exit. “See you Saturday John.”

“Later Ry.”

She strode with long, quick strides across the parking lot to her truck, beeped the security system from twenty paces and quickly hopped behind the wheel, dropping her gym bag on the seat beside her. It was a pleasant evening. The cool breeze and partial cloudiness had kept the temperature down and the sky in the west still held a hint of red from the sunset and was bisected with black lines of clouds. She noticed none of that however. Her mind held a single- minded intent at the moment and nothing would deter her progress toward home and the reward that awaited her.

Within three minutes she had pulled into their driveway and quickly exited and locked the truck. She nearly jogged into the house, the gym bag containing her utility belt and holstered weapon swinging with her arm’s purposeful motion. As she reached for the kitchen door, it swung open and her mate, who had a cold bottle of Corona in one hand, greeted her. Ryan stepped inside, closed the door behind her, drew the new aluminum blind, set her bag carefully on the floor, and swept her mate into her arms.

Janna threw both arms around Ryan’s neck as their lips met passionately. Ryan lifted her off her feet with the force of her embrace and told Janna, with her lips and tongue, just how much she had missed her all day. Janna moaned and nearly lost her grip on the slick beer bottle in her left hand. Ryan gently set her down, parting from her slightly and Janna took the opportunity to press the bottle to her partner’s lips. Ryan threw her head back and downed half the bottle in one gulp. Then she set the bottle behind her on the counter and returned her attention to Janna, scooping her back into her arms.

With lips pressed against Janna’s she said, “Hi honey I’m home.”

Janna’s response was a moan and a demanding tongue prodding Ryan’s lips apart.

Ryan’s response to that was to pick Janna up and set her on the kitchen table, still kissing her deeply as she did so, with both hands working the buttons open on her mate’s blouse. Janna wrapped her hands around Ryan’s neck, forcing their mouths into even deeper contact. Ryan pushed the now unbuttoned shirt off of Janna’s shoulders and covered her breasts with her large hands. Janna arched at the contact and wrapped her legs around Ryan’s waist. Ryan’s lips left Janna’s and migrated down to her neck, sucking and nipping lightly at the sensitive skin while her palms caressed hardened nipples through her bra.
Janna panted, “Ryan…”

A deep, desire-roughened voice answered, “Yes, love?”

“What about the kitchen window?”

“I’ll get a blind for it tomorrow.” Her hands pulled the bra down off of Janna’s breasts, freeing and lifting them temptingly and bent her head to taste them hungrily. Her freed hands moved around to Janna’s back and pulled her closer.

“Ohh, God…ohh, but Ry…Ryan it’s a guh…garden window” she panted breathlessly.

With a mouth full of delicious coral-colored nipple Ryan grumbled, “Then I’ll fuckin’ have one custom made and put a rush on it.”

Her tongue resumed it’s stroking and Janna gasped, “Oh…kay…good…ohh Ryan, I love that…”

“Good” was the mumbled response and Janna felt her hips lifted slightly as Ryan attempted to pull her shorts and panties off. Janna impatiently pushed Ryan’s hands away and removed them herself, unlinking her legs from around her mate’s waist just long enough to allow the clothing clearance to drop to the floor.

Ryan moaned and moved down from Janna’s breasts, trailing kisses along her abdomen, down across the top of a leg and down the inside of a thigh. Janna gasped and writhed, using her hands to gently guide Ryan’s face to where she desperately wanted it. Ryan tenderly kissed the thigh where her lips rested and pulled away, straightening just long enough to pull her own shirt off, followed quickly by her bra. Then she undid and dropped her shorts and underwear and stepped back against her lover, removing the rest of her clothing as well and explaining, “I want to feel all of you baby.” Then she embraced Janna and kissed her lovingly, deeply before returning to the precious area between her legs.

“Oh, God Ryan, yes, right there baby…” Janna implored as Ryan bent to her task with loving devotion. Ryan delighted in the sweet nectar of her soul mate and nearly cried as Janna’s release came quickly and powerfully, accompanied by a piercing scream. She continued to kiss her lover tenderly as the spasms continued, and then finally faded and she rose to embrace her. She kissed Janna deeply and then buried her face against her neck as they held each other close. “God, I love you Janna. So very much.”

“I love you too Ryan, more every minute. Thank you.” As Janna tried to catch her breath, Ryan gently caressed the sweat-slicked skin of her back.

As soon as her legs would support her, Janna slowly moved off of the table and turned Ryan so that her backside was leaning against the rounded edge. Janna stepped between Ryan’s legs and kissed the pulse point throbbing visibly at her neck. The kiss ended in a gentle nip as she brought one hand up to a hardened nipple and bent her head to tend to its companion with her mouth, her left hand caressing and stroking in time with her tongue. Ryan threw her head back and moaned loudly, leaning back on her hands to support herself and pressing the center between her legs firmly against Janna’s stomach. Janna felt her lover’s moist need and slowly lowered a hand, caressing soft skin as she circled lower and lower. Her fingers lovingly caressed Ryan, soothing her swollen need while her lips and tongue continued their loving devotion to both breasts. When she felt her lover’s velvet-smooth inner walls begin to tense and clench she brought her mouth and tongue down to join her fingers, matching their rhythm. Ryan gasped and tangled her hands in Janna’s hair, hanging on for dear life as she tumbled over the precipice in rapturous release, screaming incoherently. Janna kept her mouth firmly in contact with her mate and lovingly tended to her as the spasms went on and on and then finally, slowly ceased.

As Janna rose to embrace her, Ryan’s legs buckled and she slowly collapsed to the floor, bringing Janna with her. They curled up on the cool tile together, both completely spent and unable to move for long minutes. Neither of them could communicate their intense feelings…not with words at any rate. As they held each other, their devotion passed between them through their bond, both Ryan and Janna understanding completely the depth of the other’s feelings. The silent communication bordered on telepathy and Ryan gazed at Janna in awe as she held her tightly in her arms.

As they basked in the afterglow of their love, tears slowly trailed down both women’s cheeks. Ryan regained the power of speech first and said, “Janna, what just happened? That was without a doubt the most intense orgasm of my life. And I thought all the others with you were fuckin’ awesome.”

Janna tried to answer, though she was feeling faint and tingly, “I don’t know Ryan. It just gets better and better every time. If it keeps up at this rate I’m afraid I’ll die in your arms one of these times.” She nuzzled Ryan lovingly before adding, “Intense is not even the word for it. I have no explanation for it, except that it must have to do with our bond.”

“Jesus.”

“Right.”

-18-

“Honey, let’s get off this cold floor, huh?” Ryan stretched uncomfortably, dislodging Janna from her comfortable nest.

“Okay. Follow me. I know the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the aftereffects of whatever that was that we just experienced.
Come on.” She stood and beckoned to her life mate, green eyes still dark with passion but sparkling again.

Ryan’s eyes, also still dark with passion, took on a glimmer as she stood and faced her mate with a sly grin. “What are you up to Janna?”

“Just come and see. And leave your clothes where they are.”

She took Ryan by the hand and led her out of the kitchen and down the hallway to the utility room, where she grabbed two towels from a folded pile. “Here, better cover your beauty up for a minute. I need to turn the light on in back.” Ryan looked perplexed as they wrapped themselves in the large, soft towels. Then Janna flipped the light switch next to the French door, illuminating the deck area and the beautiful gazebo that now sat to one side.

“Fuck, Janna!”

“Mmm. Again?” She giggled and Ryan blushed.

“I’m sorry, I mean, oh my God, the spa is in?” Ryan looked at her incredulously and then burst out the door, forgetting to secure her towel, which dropped to the deck. She picked up her mate and spun her around gleefully. “Oh, baby it’s beautiful. I love it!”

“I’m glad Ryan. Consider it yours.” She gazed at her partner with such obvious devotion that Ryan’s eyes misted.

“Oh Janna, not mine. Ours.” She kissed Janna’s head tenderly then turned to look at the spa, wiping her tears away with her hand. “Can we use it now?”

“Absolutely. It should be ready…I’ve got it set on warm…so it’s not too hot. After you, love.”

Ryan entered the gazebo and climbed slowly into the spa. She moaned with pleasure as the comforting warmth bathed her skin and she immersed herself in it. She quickly found a very comfortable corner and settled back, motioning for Janna to join her.

Janna lit the four candles that she had strategically placed around the spa decking earlier and stepped back into the house to turn off the deck lights. After securing the privacy screen in the gazebo’s doorway, removing the roof panel, and shedding her towel, she stood before Ryan, warm candlelight glinting softly on her skin.

Ryan’s blood began boiling anew at the sight of the naked beauty before her and she gasped. Janna slowly, seductively lowered herself into the water and joined her mate, sitting back against her chest. Ryan wrapped her arms tightly around Janna and kissed her neck, mumbling, “Jesus, Janna, what you do to me. I just spent my self completely loving you, but I want you again already.”

“Mmm, I feel the same way. Why don’t we relax for a while and then see what happens?” She inclined her head and arched her neck as Ryan continued her soft kisses. “Dinner’s ready too. In case you’re hungry.”

“I’m always hungry, baby,” Ryan drawled as she began soft, slow caresses of Janna’s abdomen and delighted at her partner’s sharp intake of breath.

“I’m…um…I’m…oh, Ryan.” She sighed as Ryan’s hands began roaming more fervently. “I’m talking about food sweetheart and you kn…know it…oh God, Ryan!” At that moment she forgot her empty stomach completely and turned around in Ryan’s lap, meeting her lips hungrily.

They made love again, this time slowly and gently in the Tantric position, face to face. Janna showed Ryan how to feel their connection and her body’s responses in each of her seven major chakras. The Tantric practice served to lengthen and intensify their climaxes and Ryan resolved to make a deeper study of the ancient tradition. If they ever left the magnificent, bubbling comfort of the spa, that is.

Later, they both lay against the side of the spa, Janna’s head pillowed against Ryan’s shoulder. They gazed up at thousands of stars in the dark sky, which glittered and twinkled gently through the warm summer air. Empty dishes and half-full wine glasses sat nearby on the decking.

“Janna what is it with you and tubs,” Ryan asked lazily.

“It’s a fish thing…Pisces. I find water to be the most soothing of all the elements. I hope to add a pool back here some day too.”

“Huh…so what would my element be?” she asked as she idly traced shapes in the bubbles on her mate’s chest.

“Virgo? Let’s see, that would be Earth. You like to keep your feet firmly on the ground. You’re stable and practical.”

“Oh, right on! And you’re a fish…and what else?”

“A dreamer…a visionary.” She grinned shyly at her mate and added, “I’ve certainly got the ‘dreamer’ part down pat. Reality seldom lives up to my dreams. Except where you’re concerned that is. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine something as wonderful as this happening.” She kissed the inside of the arm that was wrapped around her shoulder.

“I never would have believed it either Janna. If anyone had told me this would happen to me I would have told them they were nuts.” She chuckled quietly and added, “John says that the ‘Lone Wolf’ has been captured and tamed.”

“Well, domesticated possibly, but never tamed.”

“Oh, you tame me Janna, believe me. I’ve always had this restlessness in me. I always had to be doing something, and the more productive the better. But now I’m content just to be with you. I feel complete now…like I’m not searching for something anymore. I feel like I’ve finally come home.”

Ryan turned slightly and brought a wet hand up to run though Janna’s hair. “You know, I always thought it was absurd when I heard people, especially women, say that their mate completed them. I wondered why in the hell they felt that they needed someone else in order to feel complete…I thought it was sad. But now I realize that they weren’t necessarily invalidating themselves or their own worth, some of them were simply acknowledging that there is another human being that complements them completely. Like being two sides of the same coin…or the light needing the dark and vice versa.”

“Yin and yang.”

“Yeah. I totally understand that concept now.” She warmly wrapped her arms around Janna again and kissed her hair.

“Cool, love. Yeah, it’s my favorite esoteric symbol, I think. I used to have a yin/yang decal on my guitar and kids would often ask me about what it meant.”

“Yeah, I like that t-shirt you have…the psychedelic one.” She leered gently at her mate who smirked at her.

“That’s because it’s short and tight. I know you Ryan…you are a wolf. That I will never tame.”

“Oh, but baby, you’re welcome to try. I respond to pleasurable stimuli.”

Janna laughed quietly. “Oh, God, don’t I know it!”

They kissed gently for a few minutes, until Ryan pulled back, sighed and said, “I’m sorry we didn’t get the attunement done tonight love.”

“That’s okay Ryan. We’ll do it tomorrow. It will be better then anyway. You had a rough day and it’s best to be rested and relaxed.” She glanced up at the sky.” We should think about getting some sleep. It’s pretty late.”

And late it was, as the last quarter moon was just rising above the trees in the yard. The lovers each greeted their friend silently and thanked her for watching over them so well. She smiled her light down upon them as they rose from their pool of bliss.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan sat in a straight chair, her hands quietly resting on her knees and feet flat on the floor as Janna circled her with a smoking smudge stick. Several candles burned throughout the family room, adding a soft warm glow. Janna had partially closed the vertical blinds, cutting the glare from the bright sun and enhancing the relaxing atmosphere. On the table near where Ryan sat, a large cluster of rose quartz held a small candle in its center, suffusing the vicinity with a soft pink glow and a gentle, loving energy. Ryan thought that she could feel the warmth from the crystals gently nudging her heart center, but was unsure about it.

After smudging Ryan, Janna set the still-smoking wand of sage and sweetgrass in an abalone shell on the table. The acrid-sweet scent filled the air and cleansed the space and it’s occupants of all old and negative energy. Janna approached her mate and gently took her hands in her own, bending and bringing them to her lips and kissing each one tenderly. She gazed deeply into her love’s eyes and let her love for her pour out of her heart center. Ryan’s eyes filled with tears and she swallowed hard. Janna smiled warmly and then she stepped back and closed her eyes, visibly centering herself. She opened her eyes and instructed Ryan to take a deep breath and relax. She then began the short, ancient ritual that would give her partner the ability to conduct Reiki through her body to use for healing, for herself and others.

The attunement, or the placing of the knowledge of the ancient symbols into Ryan’s aura, only took a few minutes. When it was finished, Janna instructed Ryan to keep her eyes closed for a few moments. As she did so, Janna silently asked the Reiki Masters if they had a message for Ryan. She could feel the presence of the ancient ones in the room with her and let her love for them and her gratitude for their support of her fill her being. In answer, they surrounded her being and suffused it with the loving energy from the Other Side.

In answer to her question, a thought, clear and distinct, popped into her mind: “She has always known to trust in her instincts. She should now extend that trust to include her psychic intuition. If she does, nothing will be hidden from her.” Janna thanked the Masters and felt them leave the space, leaving behind an intense feeling of love.

Janna instructed Ryan to open her eyes when she felt ready to, and after several more minutes she did. Ryan’s eyes opened slowly, blinking as if trying to clear them. She looked up at Janna somewhat fuzzily and grinned weakly.

“How do you feel, Ryan?” Janna’s voice was gentle and warm.

“I’m not sure. Strange. My whole body is buzzing and…it’s like my soul is vibrating.” She shrugged and grinned lopsidedly, “It’s hard to explain.”

“No need to love. I’ve been there. I’m there now, actually, through our link.” She added, “And your observation about your soul vibrating is right on target. You are literally now vibrating at a slightly different frequency than you used to. A slightly faster frequency.”

She kneeled before Ryan and added, “I have a message for you from the Ancient Reiki Masters…the ones who brought the gift to the planet millennia ago. I’ll share it with you verbatim and let you work through it’s meaning on your own.” She did so and watched Ryan’s eyes widen in surprise.

“Janna, I know that. That idea has been nagging at me for about a week now. How did you know?” She looked at her partner with disbelief.

“I didn’t. The Masters did. See, they were right, weren’t they? Think about the message Ryan. Give it time and digest it thoroughly.” She smiled gently at her partner and held out her hands. “Wanna try to stand?”

Ryan got up, wobbling a little and Janna grasped her by the arm.

“Whoa, that kinda hits you hard, doesn’t it? But feels really good”, she added with a grin.

Janna matched her grin and nodded her head in agreement. She picked up a large glass of water and handed it to Ryan. “Here love, drink this. It will help to ground you. You’ll need to drink lots of extra water for about the next week too…to help your body detoxify. The Reiki now in your system is purging it of impurities.”

Ryan, throat parched, downed the entire glass as Janna held on to her. Then Janna led her mate to the French doors overlooking the backyard. As they stood together gazing at the lovely view, Janna asked, “Take a look around for a few minutes, Ryan and then tell me what you notice.”

Ryan gazed at the attractive yard, which was ringed with flowerbeds that were alive with summer color, the small lawn separating them from the deck.

After a few moments, Ryan responded, “Janna, the colors are so intense! Is it possible that I’m seeing shades that I never saw before?” She looked at Janna, the question knitting her brow.

“Yes! That’s it Ryan! That was the first thing that I noticed too. In fact, I had been mildly colorblind before that…now my vision tests are perfect.”

Ryan continued to gaze out the windowed door with wonder, her head turning from the grass, to the flowers, to the trees, to the sky, and then to her mate’s gentle face beside her. Her face gained a look of wonder as the stared a little beyond Janna’s head.

“Janna, um…you’re surrounded by colors.” She drew her bewildered gaze back down to Janna’s face just in time to see a tear slide down her mate’s cheek.

“Oh, Ryan, that’s my aura! I was hoping the Reiki would open that up for you, like it did for me.” She embraced Ryan and wrapped her arms tightly around her, sobbing quietly.

Ryan returned the embrace and felt tears leave her eyes as well. “Janna, what an incredible gift this is. Thank you so much!” She rubbed her cheek against Janna’s hair and reveled in their shared warmth.

Janna pulled apart from her slightly and wiped Ryan’s tears and then her own, saying, “Come on. Lets go sit and I’ll answer all your questions and tell you everything you need to know about this new gift you have.” She took Ryan’s hand and led her back to the peaceful quiet of the family room.

-19-

Ryan sat on the edge of the bed as she lit the large pillar candle that sat on the nightstand. The wick sputtered into flame and added it’s light to that of the several others nearby; it’s rich scent of ylang-ylang adding to the romantic ambiance of the room.

Her task complete, Ryan stretched her long frame out on the bed. She was a vision of loveliness as she reclined, naked, against the large, soft pillows with her hands behind her head and her ankles crossed. The candlelight shone on her bronzed skin, highlighting her sculpted muscles, and her light eyes shone with a fire and a brilliance of their own. She could hear her mate puttering around in the adjacent bathroom and eagerly awaited her appearance.

It was Monday and she and Janna had overslept that morning. Someone had forgotten to set the alarm the night before (someone whom Ryan wished to remain nameless) so they had not had the time to make their daily intimate connection.

Their habit of making a sexual connection every day had become so much more than simply having sex, or even making love: it had become an important part of their daily affirmation of their love, and usually occurred as soon as Janna became fully awake. Some mornings it didn’t include intercourse at all, but simply a gentle touching and sharing of their bodies and their energies in the ancient tradition of Tantra Yoga. More often than not, though, intercourse was involved and Ryan found herself on this night with a physical need, which only her mate could provide relief for.

As Ryan relaxed on the bed in quiet anticipation, a gentle curse reached her ears. Before she could get up to investigate, Janna appeared in the doorway, a look of regret marring her pleasant features.

“Janna, what’s wrong?”

Her mate’s voice mirrored her face’s dejection as she said apologetically, “Oh, honey, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I’ve got my period.”

Ryan looked somewhat bemused but grinned as she said, “Well, then bring a towel, love.” She patted the empty place next to her on the bed, raised black eyebrows and crooked grin beckoning to her jauntily.

Janna’s brows knit in mild concern. “Are you sure honey? I won’t be hurt if you’d rather not.”

“Sweetheart, get your gorgeous naked bod over here right now please!” Her face became a little more serious as she added, “Nothing is going to prevent me from loving you, Janna. Ever.” She patted the bed again. “Come on. Please?”

Janna, still standing in the doorway, reached over and pulled a large towel off of the rack next to the shower and then made her way uncertainly to the bed, where she stood before her partner.

Ryan’s face took on a look of concern as she reached up and took Janna’s hand. “Honey, are you in pain? If you are then we’ll save this for another time.”

Janna shook her head. “No, I feel alright. It’s not that…I’m just not used to making love during my cycle, that’s all.”

Ryan kissed the hand that she still held and quietly said, “I don’t mean to sound demanding, Janna. I just want you to understand that it really doesn’t bother me. Not with you.” She looked into her partner’s eyes. “Does it bother you?”

“No, I don’t think it does. But, um, do you think it’s safe?” She set the towel on the bed next to Ryan and sat on it.

“You mean STD-wise?” her partner asked. Janna nodded, after which Ryan added, “Honey I think we’ve shared enough body fluids already to make that a moot point, don’t you?”

Janna’s face took on a slightly embarrassed grin as she shrugged and nodded.

“As far as that goes,” Ryan added, “I get tested about every three months when I donate blood.”

Janna added, “And I get tested every six months.”

“And, I was celibate for two years before you came along”, Ryan added matter-of-factly.

“And I was celibate for one.” Janna smiled. “I guess I see your point.”

Ryan opened her arms as her rich voice drawled, “Well come ‘ere then, baby!”

Janna happily fell into her embrace and her partner kissed her tenderly. Then Ryan gently laid her mate down on the bed and lay above her, soft black curls brushing lightly against golden blonde. She gazed down at her soul mate lovingly.

“What?” Janna quietly asked.

Ryan reached down and pushed a wayward strand of blonde hair behind an ear. “Just thinking about how much you mean to me. There aren’t words for it Janna.”

“Then show me, love.”

~~~~~~~~~~

After the busy weekend that they had shared, the beginning of the workweek was almost a relaxing break for Ryan. Not quite, as the realities of semi-big city life soon set in, but almost.

On Friday, after receiving her Reiki attunement, Ryan and Janna had talked for hours about the nature of the healing gift and about its applications. Janna had shown her the ancient symbols and coached her in their use. Ryan then spent the rest of the day practicing her new craft: giving Reiki to her partner, to herself, to their house plants and even to her car, which had been running a little roughly for several days. Ryan delighted in her new ability and showed an almost childlike wonder at its magic, which in turn delighted Janna.

Later that evening, during her game, Ryan had a bit of a hard time maintaining her focus, but her skill pulled her through. She and Janna had to once again turn down her teammates’ invitation to share pizza and beer with them, because Ryan’s body was in a heavy detoxification stage and alcohol consumption wouldn’t be prudent.

Saturday morning they had taken delivery of their exercise machines and had spent the rest of the day setting up their home gym. Janna started her conditioning program in earnest, including some light upper-body work. She had casually remarked to her coach that she might not need to use the department gym after all, but was reminded that a well-rounded workout routine included free weights, which they had not yet purchased. So it was decided that the Tuesday workouts would take place down at the station for the time being.

On Sunday, after Ryan’s Peace Officer’s game, they had hosted a family barbecue. Ryan found, to her delight, that every member of Janna’s family was as warm and genuine as she was. Even though they were unused to seeing their loved one behaving in an intimate manner with a woman, they didn’t seem bothered by it. Janna’s parents, brother and sister- in-law could clearly see how devoted the two women were to each other.

Ryan had worried beforehand, not at whether or not they would accept her, but at how their lack of acceptance of the relationship could hurt her partner. Ryan found herself surprisingly relieved at her new family’s attitude and was able to relax and have a good time. Had the family not been supportive of their daughter’s situation, they would have had to deal with her very angry and protective mate. An angry Ryan Zamora is not someone that a mere mortal human would care to have to contend with.

Janna had been warmed beyond measure at Ryan’s interaction with her six-year old niece, Brittany, and three-year old nephew Robbie. The children had gravitated to her immediately and Ryan treated them warmly and graciously, even spending a lot of time playing with them. The end of the long day had found the family spread around the large family room relaxing over coffee and dessert, Ryan in one of the large chairs with a lap full of small, sleepy towheads.

Janna was so happy to see Ryan enjoying the kids, not only because she loved her niece and nephew dearly and wanted Ryan to do so as well, but also because, since becoming involved with Ryan, she had begun to feel some definite maternal leanings. As she sat in the chair across from Ryan and gazed fondly at the warm scene, Ryan flashed her a brilliant smile. Janna knew at that moment that Ryan would make a wonderful parent one day. A silent communication passed between them through their link and Ryan smiled knowingly and nodded slightly.

Then earlier that evening, they had gone to the dojo and Janna had watched Ryan’s class again. She enjoyed herself as much as she had the week before, and felt at times that her mate might possibly showing off a little for her. She denied it vehemently afterward though.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan did indeed show Janna just how much the small blonde meant to her. She made one final, slow thrust and then slowly pulled out, eliciting a long, low moan from her partner that matched her own. She lay briefly atop her lover catching her breath, then lifted up on one arm and with the other deftly unsnapped the harness she wore, pulling it and its appendage away from their bodies and dropped it to the floor.

When she recovered her breath, Janna said, “I’m so glad you didn’t leave that particular appliance at your place for John and Sara.”

Ryan, lying fully atop Janna again, chuckled, the deep tone reverberating through her partner, and replied, “Sweetheart, I seriously doubt that they’d have much use for this particular appliance. At least I hope not,” she added, eyebrows rising above her bangs.

Janna giggled as she wiped damp bangs from Ryan’s eyes, saying, “Too true!” She wrapped her arms tightly around her love and relished the contact that she just couldn’t get enough of. Ryan burrowed her face against Janna’s and kissed her neck, mumbling sweet nothings. After a moment she pulled back and rolled off of her partner and onto her back. Janna immediately assumed her favorite position and they basked quietly together in the afterglow of their love.

“God, that was nice honey. You truly have many skills.” She sighed and let out a long, contented breath.

“I aim to please, baby. Anything for you.” Ryan smiled crookedly as she pulled her love more tightly against herself.

Janna broke the comfortable silence a few moments later when she asked, “Ryan, have you ever thought about having a family?”

Ryan smiled, having been expecting that question. “Yes, I have. Growing up, I always figured I’d have a few kids. I knew I wasn’t marriage material so I figured I’d adopt.” She glanced at her partner and grinned. “Why do you ask, sweetheart?”

Janna bit her lip, as if not knowing how to begin, but decided to just dive in. “I’ve been thinking about it…for us. I’ve always wanted kids too. How would you feel about talking about it?” She turned her head slightly and looked expectantly at her mate.

Ryan creased her brows as if deep in thought but then quickly grinned as she said, “I thought you’d never ask sweetheart!”

Janna’s look of shock became a radiant grin as she hugged her partner tightly. Ryan kissed her mate’s brow as she gently rocked her in her arms. “Janna, I would love for us to have a family together.”

“You don’t know how happy that makes me Ryan.” Janna’s voice broke slightly and she looked at her mate with misty green eyes.

“Yes, I do sweetheart,” Ryan replied sincerely, rubbing Janna’s arm lovingly. “What kind of timeline are we talking about here?”

“Well, I’m thinking not real soon. Call me selfish, but I want quite a bit more time for just the two of us.”

“That’s pretty much what I’ve been thinking too.”

“So you’ve actually been thinking about this too?”

“Yep.”
“Cool! So, have you worked out the technical details yet?” She looked up at Ryan, eyes sparkling.

Ryan laughed. “Um…no. I guess we have several options available to us though.” She thought for a moment and then suddenly stiffened and swallowed before asking, “Um… we are talking about your carrying these kids aren’t we?”

Janna giggled at her mate’s discomfiture. “Yes, I did figure that love. Are you sure you don’t want…”

“No!”

Janna rubbed the arm that circled her waist. “Okay, honey, no problem.” She smiled inwardly at her mate’s reluctance to become pregnant. Her big tough partner. Maybe that’s the problem.

“Janna, are you sure. I mean…I just don’t think I…I mean I hate hospitals and…” she stammered.

“Yes, I’m sure Ryan. I actually want to experience pregnancy…very much so. I’m fine with it.”

Ryan’s sigh of relief was palpable and Janna grinned again. “So, do you want to talk about options?”

“Okay. Um…there’s the donor question and then the method.” Now that the extremely uncomfortable possibility of Janna wanting her to be the one to get pregnant was a moot point, she warmed up to the discussion, her practical mind kicking into gear.

“Honey, if it’s at all possible, I’d like them to look as much like the both of us as possible. Um… a friend of mine used her partner’s brother as a donor…so not only does the baby resemble both of them, but she’s also related to both.”

“Huh, that’s a really nice idea. But, honey, I’m really not close to my brother. I don’t know how comfortable I’d be asking him to do that, or if he’d even consider it. I’m sorry.”

“I realize that could be a problem. There is another option. It’s sort of a newer idea and I don’t know anyone personally who’s done it, but I’ve read about it. In this procedure, eggs are harvested from one partner, fertilized in vitro, and then the embryo is implanted in the other partner. That way there is the added benefit of both partners being the biological mother, so to speak. Legally, it seems to be a strong way to go. Plus, I’m pretty certain that my brother would be more than happy to help us out.”

“Wow, you’re kidding! That’s seems like a great idea. I know I’m most concerned about custody issues cropping up.” She looked at her mate and smiled. “Plus, it would be related to both of us. I think I like the idea Janna.” She squeezed her partner affectionately. “And who knows, maybe one day my brother will be a viable possibility too. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

“Ryan, I wouldn’t agree too quickly. That procedure is much more complicated and invasive than simply borrowing some semen and having an intimate encounter with a turkey baster would be. Not to mention very expensive. We should gather all the information about it and make an informed decision.”

Ryan laughed. “An intimate encounter with a turkey baster? Oh God, Janna!”

“Well, that’s basically how it would be you know.”

“I don’t know. I think I’d rather trust my most precious gift to the hands of a capable doctor.”

“Well, I kind of like the idea of my most precious gift impregnating me herself,” Janna replied smugly.

“I can still do that in a doctor’s office. I know people who have. The other partner pushes the plunger or whatever it is, on the needle.”

“Okay, the method can be agreed on later, right?” Janna conceded. “The important thing is that we both want this.” She kissed the breast under her face.

“Yes, love. That it is. Janna, I would want to wait until after we have had a commitment ceremony. Is that okay?” She kissed the blonde head below her chin.

“Yes, I would too. I guess we should start planning that first, huh?”

Ryan grinned widely. “Yep. I’m already working on it.”

“You are?” Janna looked so pleased that Ryan laughed aloud.

“Yes. I told you that a friend of mine… a guy I work with actually…has a cabin on the lake. I’ve already asked him if we can borrow it. He said we could have it anytime after the season ends…after Labor Day…for as long as we’d like it. How’d you like to take a ride up to the Lake, maybe this weekend and take a look at it?”

“Oh honey, that’s great! I’d love to. And actually, I need to get up that way for some good shots before summer ends. I’ve been thinking about our taking a few days and going together. Think we can?”

“Yeah. You know what? I have a ton of vacation and sick time saved up…why don’t we go during the week when it’s not quite so crowded?”

“Cool! How much notice do you need to give before taking time off?”

“A week should do it. Maybe less. There’s a young guy on the bike squad, Micah, who’s getting married and is looking for all the extra shifts he can get before then. John likes him, so I’m sure there’d be no problem with him subbing for me.”

“It’s settled then. As soon as you can get the days off, we’re gone. Ryan, there are some very special places up there that I’d like to share with you. May I?”

“Absolutely Janna. I’d love that. Shall we make it a backpacking trip? Biking? Do you want to camp?” Her enthusiasm was catching and Janna fell right in with her. They didn’t get to sleep until much later and the next morning Ryan barely made it to the roll call on time. Again. She did, however, find time for some intimacy with her wife-to-be. Of course.

-20-

The guard strode down the blue-carpeted hallway of the ultra-modern County Jail complex. He stopped and spoke to another guard who sat at an electronic control console. The second man pushed a button and a large door thirty feet ahead swung open with a swishing sound. The first guard strode through it, waited for it to click shut again, and entered a roughly octagonally shaped room, where a dozen or so guards shared the space with about fifty inmates.

The room itself was lined on all but one side by tiers of cells. The cells were enclosed by windowed doors, rather than by bars. The jailer walked straight ahead and ascended a staircase, which curved around to the left. He walked about half way around the level and stopped at an open door.

He called gruffly to one of the men sitting on a bunk within, “Simpson. You have a visitor.”

A disheveled looking brown haired man in his late twenties looked up as the guard called his name. He stood cockily and stated, “‘Bout fuckin’ time that bitch came to see me.”

“Put it to her hard, Joe,” laughed his cellmate.

“Yeah, she won’t know what hit her.” He swaggered toward the doorway, the guard following him.

“Alright, calm down Simpson. This ain’t no lady come to see you,” corrected the guard.

“Then it’s for damn sure my woman!” The inmates from the surrounding cells laughed as he exited the block.

They left the unit and made their way down the same blue hallway that the guard had walked down minutes earlier. They approached another control desk and the guard there buzzed them into a large room which was divided down the center by a polyethylene partition.

As he made his way to a partitioned section and sat down, Simpson was disappointed to see his buddy Billy sitting there, waiting for him.

Simpson sat on the hard chair and faced his friend. A small hole cut at face level allowed for conversation.

“Aw, fuck Billy. Get the hell out here. You got a lot of nerve, asshole. If you and Adam hadn’t run off and left us we wouldn’t be in this shit hole.” Simpson shook his head with disgust and looked as if he needed to spit.

“Don’t look like much of shit hole to me Joe. Looks pretty plush in here if you ask me” replied the twenty-something with stringy brown hair.

“Trade places with me then asshole. What do you want?” Simpson snarled angrily.

“I just thought you might like to know that me and Adam saw that little blonde queer woman you beat up. She was with the dyke cop that arrested you…hanging all over her like a slut.” Billy puffed out his chest and adopted an air of importance that he really didn’t feel.

The bored, angry look on Simpson’s features was replaced by a look of interest. “Oh yeah? Where was this?”

“At the ball diamonds out by the port. The cop plays on one of them all-dyke teams. I checked and she plays every Friday night. We seen her again last week.”

Simpson’s face lit up in a sneer. “Now ain’t that interesting? The blonde there too?”

“Yeah. I figured maybe Adam and me could give her a little payback for what she done to you. Teach her and her little queer girlfriend a lesson.”

“Yeah. You guys owe me that much. I’d say if you do that we could pretty much call it even.”

“Sure. Hey, how long you gonna be in here?”

“Shit, I don’t know. Those queer-loving liberals got some kind of new law passed where you get more time for queer bashing…it’s a federal crime or something. My lawyer wants me to plead out, cop to assault instead of attempted murder and get two to five. But I figure maybe I could get a jury with some decent jurors on it and beat this fuckin’ charge. I don’t wanna go to fuckin’ San Quentin or some real shit place like that.”

“Oh, I don’t know Joe. It seems like the queers are getting more and more people on their side. You better listen to your lawyer.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

The door clicked open and the guard entered the room, announcing, “Okay Simpson, time’s up.”

As Simpson stood up he said, “Yeah, okay Billy, you let me know how that goes, huh?”

Billy, ever the intelligent one, responded, “Yeah, okay Joe. I know where to find you!”

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan and Janna entered the kitchen, laughing, and Ryan deposited her gym bag and truck keys on the tile countertop adjacent to the door.

Janna sidled up next to Ryan and wrapped an arm around her waist as she asked, “How about chef’s salads and wine out in the gazebo?”

“Mmm, sounds great. Why don’t we grab a quick shower first and then I’ll help you fix it?” Ryan replied as she turned and wrapped both arms around Janna.

“Ooh, that sounds even better. I’ll make a chef out of you yet, won’t I?” Janna smiled warmly at her as Ryan brought her hands up to her partner’s shoulders and rubbed them gently.

“Yeah right!” Noting how tight her partner’s shoulder muscles were, Ryan remarked, “You worked hard tonight Janna. You’re gonna be ready for some extreme softball real soon at this rate.”

“Mmm, I feel like I worked hard. My arm and shoulder muscles aren’t too happy right now.” She raised her shoulders and tried to stretch the kinks out of them as she spoke.

“Why don’t I give you a little Reiki in the spa then?” Ryan leaned forward and kissed an earlobe.

“Oh, I won’t turn that offer down. Thanks love.”

“Okay, I’ll pass on the wine then and have tea.”

“I’ll do the same so I can give you some Reiki too.” She smiled fondly at Ryan, her pride in her mate’s newfound healing prowess written all over her face. “You’re a wonderful healer Ryan…definitely a natural.” She looked thoughtful for a moment, then smiled as she asked, “Is there anything you don’t do well, honey?”

“I don’t exist well without you.” Ryan’s sincerity warmed Janna’s heart and they made their way arm in arm upstairs to the master suite.

Ryan stood behind Janna, the pulsating stream of water from the showerhead hitting her back, and poured lavender-scented soap into her palm. She gently rubbed the soap onto her mate’s silky skin. “How’s the injury feeling honey?” she asked as she ran her hand over the mostly faded bruise on Janna’s shoulder.

“It’s a little sore tonight actually. I may have overdone it on the overhead press machine.”

“I’ll concentrate the Reiki there then.” Ryan leaned forward and kissed the top of her partner’s shoulder. As she did so her breasts caressed Janna’s back and her mate leaned back into her.

“Mmm, baby, you feel so good.”

“Janna, don’t get me started. We’ll miss dinner again, and I know you don’t want to do that.” She kidded her perennially hungry mate good-naturedly, a wide grin gracing her striking face.

“You know good and well, Ryan Zamora, that I’ll gladly miss a meal or two in favor of playing with you.” She turned seductively in Ryan’s embrace and smiled coyly just before she leaned forward and nipped at her mate’s collarbone, her hands dropping to Ryan’s firm buttocks and caressing them gently. Ryan found her absolutely gorgeous with her hair wet and slicked back and felt a surge of warmth spread outward from her groin.

Ryan closed her eyes and moaned. Jesus, this woman has complete control over me. Powerless to resist her little dynamo, Ryan wrapped long arms around Janna’s torso and pulled her close. She searched out Janna’s lips and kissed her thoroughly, causing Janna to moan.

“God, baby, why are we so hot for each other? What is it that we do to each other?” She mumbled as her lips moved from Janna’s lips down to find a pert breast.

“Ohh…Jesus…um, pheromones?” came the muttered response.

“Gotta be more than that.” Large hands found Janna’s buttocks and pulled their bodies closer together. Despite their difference in height, or perhaps because of it, their bodies fit together perfectly: as if they had been molded for each other. Janna’s face fit flawlessly into the crook of Ryan’s neck and her breasts rested just under her partner’s.

As one of Ryan’s talented, long-fingered hands migrated around in front of her and sought out soft golden curls, Janna once again became lost in the sensations that her mate so expertly coaxed from her body.

~~~~~~~~~~

The brilliant turquoise sky offered them just enough natural light to see by as Ryan leaned forward to take the bite of salad from Janna’s fork. “Mmm, that’s good. Sweetheart you’re as good a cook as my Mom was.”

“Honey, there’s nothing to making salad.” Janna accepted the morsel offered her from Ryan’s fork and savored it.

“You must be right ’cause I helped make it. If it were actual cooking I would have screwed it up somehow.”

“Oh, you’re not that bad!” Janna fed Ryan the last bit of julienned ham from her plate and then took a sip of her sweet, lemony iced tea. She pushed her plate farther back on the decking and turned back toward her mate.” Okay, who’s first?”

“Let me do you first, since you’re hurting.” Ryan pushed away from the side and got behind Janna. “Lean back against me, baby.” As Janna complied, she took several deep breaths and calmed herself before visualizing the symbols, then placed her hands on her mate’s shoulders. Ryan felt the energy start to flow immediately and experienced her usual excitement at what she still considered an amazing gift. She let the energy enter her being and flow through her into her partner’s body.

Janna moaned softly and settled more deeply against Ryan, feeling the warmth in her mate’s hands grow and spread to her shoulders. “Mmm, your hands are very hot tonight Ryan.”

“Yeah, it feels like it’s flowing really strongly.”

“I must need it then.”

“Mmm, yeah. I feel like you do. Hey, did you notice that the truck is running better?” Pride and wonder filled Ryan’s voice as she spoke softly.

“Mmm hmm, I did. Nice job honey. It’s cool isn’t it…that Reiki works on basically anything?” Ryan could hear the smile in her voice. “I used to have an old clunker and once when I was driving home to see the family on Christmas Eve, the transmission went out about halfway here…it went down into like first or second gear and wouldn’t change…made the engine race loudly. So I stopped and gave the car Reiki for about five minutes. When I started on my way again it was fine. It lasted another few months before I had to get a new transmission.”

“God, that’s cool Janna!” Ryan moved her hands down to Janna’s deltoids.

“Oh, good Ryan, I’m sore there too.” She sighed and smiled.

“Yeah, I felt I should do there next. It’s true that the Reiki enhances my intuition. I definitely feel it.”

“That’s super Ryan, because that’s one of the hardest concepts to grasp. You’re actually channeling information from your Higher Self and probably also from some Reiki Guides that you have. When we channel, it’s very easy for doubt to creep in and we wonder if the wisdom is truly that or if it’s just our imagination.” She tilted her head back and rested it against Ryan’s. “You’re doing so well with this. I’m very, very proud of you.”

Ryan kissed the temple resting against her face. “I had a wonderful teacher.”

“Thanks, love.” They enjoyed a quiet stillness for several minutes.

“How’s that baby? Good?” Ryan spoke softly into Janna’s ear.

“Mmm, yeah. You got all the sore spots and I’m nice and buzzy now.” She moved away from Ryan and turned toward her. “Come on, your turn now.”

Janna centered herself and looked Ryan over briefly. “Hmm, upper back and neck tonight?” She looked at her mate expectantly.

“Exactly!”

Janna scooted in behind Ryan and placed one hand on her back and one on her neck. She felt the tension start to melt from her mate’s shoulders almost before the energy started to flow, as if her touch alone had the power to heal her soul mate.

“Oh, Janna, that’s nice. Your touch all by itself feels great.” Janna smiled knowingly and enjoyed the feel of Ryan’s soft skin. After a few minutes Ryan added, “Oh I got my time off all set for our trip next week. Monday through Thursday. Sound good?”

“Sounds awesome. I’ll make the reservations at the lodge tomorrow. I can’t wait to get up there honey!” Feeling that Ryan had received all the energy she needed, she squeezed her shoulders and massaged them gently.

“Shit, Janna, you could make a living at that. It feels incredible.” She rolled her head from side to side and reveled in the soft touch.

“Thanks, Ryan. You don’t mind that we’re not camping do you?”

“No, not at all. I usually only camp when I do long treks. I’m looking forward to having a relaxing trip with you.”

“Great. We should have a nice moon too. Between first quarter and full. The nights should be beautiful if it’s clear.”

“Cool babe. It will be great being with her out there.” Ryan looked somewhat sheepish. “Um, does that sound silly?”

“No Ryan, not at all. Remember you’re talking to a fellow moon worshiper here!” She caressed Ryan’s cheek. “Don’t be embarrassed about your beliefs, Ryan. Embrace them. We know they have substance…we’ve seen the proof time and again, haven’t we?”

“Definitely babe. Thanks.” She pulled Janna into a hug. “I love you baby. You are so perfect for me. Thank you.”

“No, thank you Ryan.” She pulled back a little and gazed seriously at her mate. “I know it wasn’t easy for you to trust again…to give your heart away again. Thank you so much for taking the chance with me. I feel like the most blessed woman on the planet.” Her voice cracked and tears spilled down her cheeks.

Ryan reached forward and wiped her tears lovingly then pulled her into an embrace. “Thank you for the same things baby…my destiny.” She kissed Janna’s forehead. “Come on, I’m prunin’ here. Lets go to bed, huh?”

Janna laughed. “Sure. Lets go.”

Though she wasn’t visible to her two worshipers, Luna felt their love for her and smiled, sending loving energy into their souls.

~~~~~~~~~~

The rest of Ryan’s work week made her very glad that she was taking the next week off. It seemed that she and John had way more than the usual number of drunk and disorderly calls, domestic disturbances, traffic accidents and all manner of other altercations. The previous night at the Street Market there had been an abnormal number of brawls, and arguments between vendors and buyers as well.

The city seemed to be in minor chaos, nearly approaching the lunatic fringe feel of full moon days and nights. John blamed it on the heat, but Ryan sensed that here was some sort of underlying energetic cause: perhaps something astrological. She reminded herself to ask Janna’s opinion when she got home that night.

They talked about it on their way to Ryan’s game. The only thing Janna could come up with was that Mercury might be retrograde, causing all manner of communication breakdowns.

The game was way out at the big complex so they had the chance for much conversation during the drive. Janna drove the Jeep and as per usual she had her music playing quietly as she drove and they talked.

Ryan remarked, “Janna I like your music. It’s really melodic. I thought all punk rock was screaming and cacophony, but yours was enjoyable. Almost poppy.”

“Thanks. There are a few groups playing that style now. Some old buddies of mine have a huge album out right now. Here, let me play it for you.” She popped her cassette out and fished around in the tape box for another. “Ah, here it is.” She slid the cassette out and handed its case to Ryan as she inserted the tape into the player.

“Dookie?” Ryan asked incredulously, grinning. “They named their CD ‘Dookie’?”

Janna laughed, “Yeah. They’re just a bunch of crazy young guys. I love them though. They’re a lot of fun. I think you’ll like a lot of the lyrics too. They remind me of some of mine. Irreverent yet socially relevant; sarcastic. Though I don’t have quite so many songs about masturbation.” She grinned and glanced at Ryan, who raised her eyebrows.

The first song began. The beat was pounding, driving, yet there was a definite catchy melody and the singer had a unique style that made you want to picture him with a happy snarl. Ryan found herself bopping along to the music, just as her mate always did.

Ryan laughed above the loud music and exclaimed, “I do like this Janna. God, honey, you’re rubbing off on me!”

Janna grinned at her rakishly and drawled, “As often as I can baby!”

Ryan rolled her eyes and groaned. “Oh, Janna don’t do that to me now. I’ve got a game to play and I can’t be feeling all horny on the mound.”

“Horny on the mound?” Janna smiled impishly at her mate and got a playful slap on the thigh.

“You are a bad girl…stop that!” Ryan had to bite her lip to keep from laughing and encouraging the imp.

“Now you know how I feel, babe. Payback’s a bitch huh?” Janna’s playful grin excited Ryan even further and she groaned and leaned her head against the cool window. She tried to focus her attention on the farmland passing by, but the very proximity of her mate was foiling her. Jesus Christ, she turns me on!

Janna soon took pity on her mate and decided to change the pace. She popped Dookie out and put a new tape in. A loud, but very melodic and lilting song began. “This is a newer group that I like a lot. They’re not punk, but when they play live they have a punk-like intensity. They’re really cool…from Ireland. Their music has an almost Celtic flavor to it, even though it’s undeniably rock.”

Ryan read the cassette jacket, “The Cranberries. Oh, yeah, I like them too. What’s that song? ‘Dreams’?”

“Yeah, that was their first big hit a year or so ago. It’s on this tape.”

“Do you know them?”

“No, I’ve never met them. But I’ve heard good things about Delores, the singer. She seems really cool.”

“Mmm.” They enjoyed the music together as they made their way down the highway.

It was still early evening, so the mid summer sun was quite intense and still high in the sky as Ryan took the mound.

The sun’s heat, it turned out, had nothing on Ryan’s arm and she absolutely smoked the other team. So her team was in very high spirits as they sat around after the game, joking around. Ryan soaked up the accolades heaped on her by her teammates and decided to take them up on their offer to take her and Janna out.

As the happy group made their way out of the complex, they didn’t notice the two young men who seemed to be watching them intently from a short distance away. As they reached the parking lot however, Ryan felt a prickling sensation at the back of her neck and stopped and looked behind her. She didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but still didn’t dismiss the feeling. She let a wariness seep into her consciousness and drew a little closer to Janna, instinctively wanting to protect her.

As they got into the Jeep and drove away, Ryan relaxed and reached out with her aikido, and now Reiki-sharpened senses, and determined that whatever had bothered her momentarily was no longer a threat. However, she resolved to stay on guard because that was what her intuition was nudging her to do, and she was now comfortable with listening to her inner voice.

She drove on, relaxing more fully with her mate, and decided that they would have great time at the Rainbow Lounge with their friends. And so they did.

-21-

As she descended the stairs with a suitcase in each hand, Ryan slowed as she heard a beautiful melody being gently strummed on an acoustic guitar. She paused at the foot of the stairway and quietly set the bags down.

From where she stood she could see her partner sitting on the loveseat in the family room, playing her guitar. The song was hauntingly beautiful but Janna was even more so. As her right hand expertly plied the strings and the fingers of her left hand danced over the neck of the instrument, she quietly nodded her head to the beat, eyes closed. Her partner’s talent struck Ryan deeply and her heart filled with pride. Janna looked serenely beautiful and as if the music had carried her to another realm.

In reality, Janna was feeling very grounded at that moment. The haunting chords of the medieval-era song seemed to evoke ancient, long buried emotions. It reminded her, at a very primal level, of how connected she and Ryan were and of how strong their bond was. Her heart center began thrumming then and she realized that Ryan was nearby, watching her.

As Ryan gazed at her in adoration, a tiny smile crept onto Janna’s face and she slowly looked up and opened her eyes, meeting Ryan’s gaze. She smiled warmly at her mate and inclined her head, inviting her into the room, as she continued to play.

Ryan joined her mate on the loveseat, leaning back against the arm so that she could observe Janna. Her lover was dressed comfortably in running shorts and a clean white t- shirt, her bare feet up on the coffee table, gently tapping out the beat. Her hair danced lightly on her shoulders as her head swayed to the rhythm of the song.

Ryan relaxed against the upholstery and closed her eyes, letting the lilting melody carry her away. As she listened to the almost melancholy song, she was reminded of a recent dream, forgotten until that moment.

In the dream, she was the warrior woman again. She was aboard a ship and as it slowly made its way out of port, she could see her soul mate on the dock, waving goodbye. She felt an acute sense of loss, and a painful emptiness filled her heart at leaving her friend. The feeling she had as her partner faded from view was that she would never see her again. She felt hot tears slowly travel down her cheeks and a painful lump form in her throat as her heart was gripped by an icy cold. She could feel her mate through their bond and knew that she was feeling the loss just as deeply. Yet, the small blonde’s pain was tempered by a glimmer of hope. This glimmer of hope, in turn, warmed the warrior’s heart some and lessened the cold constriction infinitesimally.

Ryan swallowed hard as she recalled the dream and experienced the pain that her counterpart had felt. How many times had she and her love parted in that lifetime? She shivered at the remembered pain, feeling it as if it were her own, in this life. As she opened her eyes, she realized that the music had stopped, and Janna was gazing at her, a look of concern in her eyes.

“Ryan, what is it? She asked softly.

Ryan bit her lower lip as her brows knit in confusion. “I’m not quite sure. I was enjoying your beautiful music when I was reminded of another one of those warrior dreams that I had recently. In the dream, I was leaving on a ship, leaving you, and feeling an intense pain because of it. I was in agony, and I could feel your pain too, through the link. Just now I was experiencing the pain again.” She shook her head as if to clear it.

“You were leaving me behind?”

“Yes. I had the sense of there being something important that I had to do and that you couldn’t help me with it. I don’t understand that Janna. I could never leave you like that. Nothing could separate us.” She gazed intently at her partner, her brilliant eyes serious.

“It doesn’t seem likely, I know, Ryan, but those were very different times. Very dangerous, I think. If you were anything then like you are now, I can imagine that you would do almost anything necessary to protect me. Including separate from me.” Janna set her guitar on the floor next to the loveseat and scooted closer to her mate.

Ryan shook her head. “I don’t know Janna. It seems to me that I would be best protecting you by staying by your side. I can’t believe that there would have been anything more important than staying with you. I really can’t. Especially since I’ve felt how deeply the warrior loved the bard: it’s like what I feel for you.”

“Well, we must have been reunited, right? Since in another dream you experienced our deaths?” Janna suggested.

“Yeah, that’s true. And I guess we had a baby after that too. It’s strange…I think the warrior thought she wouldn’t be returning, but her mate felt that she would.” She leaned forward and pulled her present-day mate into her arms. “I’ll bet that little blonde had the warrior wrapped around her little finger just like you do me.” Her blue eyes twinkled as her mate’s green ones took on a look of disbelief.

“What? Oh boy is that not true!” She poked a firm abdomen.

“Shit, Janna, one look from you and I melt, and you know it. Come on…admit it. And you love it too.” She grabbed the offending finger and brought it to her lips.

Janna’s lips curved into a warm smile. “I do. And I love you.” She stretched up and captured her protector’s lips, not releasing them for long minutes.

Breathless, Ryan asked, “Is it time for bed yet?” Her darkened eyes gazed hopefully into her mate’s.

“Almost. I just need to finish packing my cameras. Everything else is ready.” She looked coyly up into her mate’s eyes again. “You wanna help me? I’ll be ready for bed sooner if you do.”

“Lets go.” Ryan was on her feet in one lightning fast movement.

Janna grinned widely as she followed Ryan into the studio. I really do have her wrapped around my finger!

When they reached the studio, Janna pulled open a large cabinet and grabbed three camera bags, two tripods and a monopod, setting them on a worktable.

“Three different cameras, love?”

“Yes. A 35mm for color and one for black and white, and a large format camera.” As she checked the contents of the bags she explained, “I like to be prepared.” She made sure each bag had plenty of the correct film and that the cameras were packed safely and then closed them up. “Okay, all set. You want to grab those two, hon? I’ll get the other bag and the ‘pods.”

Ryan followed her out of the room and down the hallway, a bag in each hand, and they set them by the front door with their other luggage.

Ryan turned to her partner and said, “Looks like we’re all set, baby. All we need to do in the morning is get up and go.” Her eyes gained a twinkle as she added, “‘Course that’s easier said than done for some of us.”

Janna took exception to the comment and chased her playmate up the stairs, tackling her on the bed, both of them breathless from laughing. The small blonde soon gained the upper hand as she straddled her larger mate and began tickling her mercilessly.

Ryan finally panted, “Okay, I give…I give! I’m sorry!”

Janna accepted Ryan’s apology by leaning down and kissing her. Ryan’s arms quickly came up and enfolded her, pulling her down on top of her. Their kiss intensified and within minutes all of their clothes were strewn about the room haphazardly and the two lovers were once again completely lost within each other.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan opened one eye lazily as a pink-tinged shaft of light entered the room through a crooked vane of vertical blind. She frowned and turned her head slightly, gazing at the errant blind to see why it wasn’t properly closed, and noted that a shirt lay against it. Near the shirt lay a pair of panties and near them, a bra. She grinned as she remembered the previous night’s gymnastics and gazed down lovingly at the small woman sprawled across her.

She decided that if they wanted to get an early start and make it to their destination by mid-morning, she’d better wake up her sleepyhead. She slowly drew the sheet off of her partner’s lithe form and ran her hands up along the small body, starting with the backs of her thighs and moving up toward her smooth back. The roaming hands stopped to caress firm, round buttocks on the way. At this, her mate shifted and mumbled something against Ryan’s chest.

“Sweetheart…morning…time to wake up. We have a long drive today.” Her low voice rumbled pleasantly through Janna but did not have the desired effect.

Okay, on to plan ‘B’. She gently rolled her mate off of her body and onto her back, then leaned down and kissed her soundly. As she did so, Ryan reached down with a hand and stroked Janna in a very sensitive place.

At the tender touch, her mate stiffened briefly, then relaxed and returned the kiss, rolling back into Ryan’s embrace.

“Mmm, you don’t play fair Ryan.”

“Just trying to wake you up sweetheart.” Ryan grinned as she continued to caress her mate tenderly.

“Well, it worked…now what’re you gonna do about it?” Janna asked as she nipped at Ryan’s neck.

“How about this?” came the low reply as she pulled Janna more tightly against herself and connected with her, using fingers and mouth simultaneously.

“Mmm” was the only reply that was forthcoming.

They lay together, gently entwined, and passed loving energy to each other through mutually connecting fingers and mouths, creating a closed circuit through which their shared energy could flow. The loving ministrations went no further than that. Their love was reaffirmed in this gentle, loving, ancient method every morning and often did not evolve into more strenuous lovemaking. After about ten minutes of sharing, they kissed again and parted; ready to begin their day.

A long, pleasant shower followed, which, as was usually the case, involved additional loving affirmations. By 8:00 they were on the road in Janna’s Jeep, heading toward their beloved mountains, Ryan behind the wheel.

The pounding, chiming guitars blended and rose in a crescendo, creating a fluid, melodic wall of sound. As the singer’s New York-inflected voice smoothly delivered the words to one of Janna’s favorite songs, she felt as if she were flying, aided by the scenery rushing by.

** Sinking into the stars
Diving in for a swim
Soaring like a super hero
Past the end of Disneyland

Through dragon mist
Above alpine peaks
To the cloudy lace
To the highest trails above

I feel so safe
I feel content
Send you all my love…

Every wish comes true
Most desired dreams
Happy endings too
Finally you find love

I feel so safe
Flying on a ray
On the highest trails above…

That song never failed to transport Janna, and now, heading into the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains with her beloved by her side, its magical effect on her was intensified. She sat with her head back against the headrest, bobbing to the beat, eyes closed, her face rapturous and graced with a huge, contented smile. She gave every appearance of being about to leave her body and launch into ecstatic flight.

Ryan glanced at her and grinned. She could feel Janna’s joy through heir bond and gained a small measure of understanding of Janna’s love for her craft. The song ended and Janna came back to Earth, leaned forward, rewound the tape a ways, and repeated the song.

When it finished playing once again, Ryan said, “I like that, Janna. Who are those guys?”

Janna took a deep breath and sighed, replying, “The Ramones. That’s my all-time favorite song of theirs. It absolutely transports me very time I hear it. I’m surprised I haven’t worn this tape out yet: I recorded it off of vinyl, must have been more than ten years ago.”

“I’ve heard of them. They haven’t had a lot of hits though, have they?”

“Um, no! And I don’t think they care all that much…though they really do deserve the recognition. They were the original punk band, in my book. The punk explosion in England in the mid-seventies just happened to take place right after the Ramones toured there. I have every one of their albums, mainly on vinyl.” She sighed again.

“I love these guys…they’re the masters of three-chord rock and roll. I think they were my biggest single influence, after Joan Jett…from my playing style to my stance to my attitude.” She mused silently for a while, then added, “They have inspired so many of today’s bands. I used to dream about being the first female Ramone…heck, I used to want to be Johnny Ramone.” Janna grinned as she shook her head in remembrance.

Ryan smiled at her mate. She became extremely enthusiastic when she talked about music and it was almost excruciatingly cute.

Ryan glanced over her left shoulder to make a lane change and then looked back at Janna. “Why don’t you hit rewind again? I like that song.”

Janna grinned widely at her and pushed the button. “Okay, but then we’ll listen to some of your favorite music.”

“Oh, honey, I don’t really have a favorite: just classic rock and some of the lesbian artists. You pick the music. I like hearing the music you love and that inspired you.” She favored her partner with a sincere smile.

Janna smiled her thanks and picked up Ryan’ s right hand. When the Ramones were finished, she returned to her body and inserted Melissa Etheridge’s first album, knowing that Ryan loved it as much as she did. Ryan squeezed her hand in acknowledgment and drove on, enjoying the company and the beautiful landscape rushing by.

As they traveled east, the dry valley slowly gave way to rolling golden foothills dotted with oak trees. As the road rose in elevation, the landscape that it cut across gradually appeared less dry, revealing more and more hints of green. The scrubby, drought tolerant native plants and trees diminished in number, making way for manzanita and pine as the land became increasingly rocky and the soil turned a rich red color.

As the highway climbed toward the clouds, the temperature dropped steadily. At two thousand feet elevation it was a relatively mild eighty degrees, ten degrees cooler than the valley floor.

Ryan smiled as the sun glinted off of her Ray Bans, glad beyond measure that she wasn’t working today…it would reach one hundred five degrees by the end of the shift. Poor John. Up near Lake Tahoe, in the cool forest where they would be staying, it might reach seventy-five. If they were lucky, there would be a late-afternoon thunderstorm too. Ryan and Janna both loved summertime rain.

The two lovers shared a simultaneous shiver of delight in anticipation of their little vacation together and both turned toward each other and smiled, then laughed at their synchronicity.

“Jesus, Janna, this link is something else!” Ryan shook her head as she grinned and brought Janna’s hand to her lips.

Janna fed her an adoring look and replied, “I know…it’s incredible. I’ve heard of such things, but never imagined it happening to me. We are so blessed Ryan.” She brought their linked hands to her lips and returned the kiss.

At the touch of her mate’s soft lips, Ryan felt a now very familiar stirring within and asked, “So, uh, what’re we doing first when we get there?” She tried to look innocent as she gazed expectantly at her mate.

Janna knew fully what her partner’s motivation was, thanks to their link, and after waiting a moment and smiling, replied, “You mean after we make love?”

Ryan looked guilty as she grinned weakly. “Busted huh?”

“So busted babe! But I’m feeling the same way, so don’t feel bad.” Blue eyes met green yet again in silent communication before Ryan returned her attention to the highway, which was growing increasingly curving as they ascended the mountain.

** Song lyrics are copyright Joey and Dee Dee Ramone, 1983

-22-

Forty-five minutes later Janna exclaimed, “Oh Ryan, look there to the right…that cabin with the green roof was ours.” She pointed out the right side window, directly across the highway to a redwood-stained cabin with a metallic green snow roof and a large porch, which sat high above the raging white water of the American River below.

“That belonged to your parents?”

“My grandparents…my mom’s parents. I grew up spending my summers here. It was magical. When my grandpa got really sick with cancer they had to sell it. It was just like losing a part of ourselves…for all of us. That was just before I left home.” She gazed fondly at the rustic home as they quickly passed by and Ryan squeezed her hand.

“Okay, the Lodge is just a quarter mile or so up the highway at Strawberry, on the right.”

Ryan slowed somewhat as they approached a small town…actually not much more than a wide spot in the road. It consisted of a gas station/garage, a general store, a horseback riding and cross country ski business, the lodge and a handful of cabins. Janna instructed Ryan to turn in and park in front of a large rustic-looking building that had a long, covered porch.

As they exited the Jeep they were hit with a breeze of refreshingly cool, pine-scented air and they both stood and breathed deeply of the fresh air.

“Oh, God, Ryan. Smell that air will you?” Janna took another deep lungful as Ryan grabbed her hand and did the same.

“Awesome, babe. Lets go check in,” she said and pulled Janna behind her to the front door.

As her mate led her into the inn, Janna nearly giggled at Ryan’s impatience to get to their room. They entered a dark but pleasant lobby. The surrounding tall pines, besides adding a beautiful ambiance to the site, also cut down on the available sunlight. The room was done in a tastefully rustic décor, with beautiful knotty pine paneling on the walls, which sported paintings of scenic mountain vistas.

As they approached the front desk, a pleasant older woman greeted them cheerfully, “Welcome to the Strawberry Lodge”.

“Hi. It’s great to be here. We have a reservation…Norden-Zamora.”

The woman took care of their registration, handed Janna a key and directed them down a hallway to their right, but not before wishing them a happy stay with a little wink of her eye. Janna led them down a hallway of the same pine paneling and they stopped at the room at the end, which was set a bit apart from the surrounding rooms.

Janna unlocked the door and opened it into a large, beautiful room with a large picture window looking out over a meadow and the river beyond. Next to the window was a sliding door, which opened onto a deck, complete with a hot tub.

“Shit, Janna, this is a suite!” Ryan gaped wide-eyed at the luxurious suite.

Janna giggled and responded, “Yep…it’s the honeymoon suite. I thought it was appropriate.”

Ryan blushed and rolled her eyes, groaning, “Oh Christ…that’s why the woman winked at us!”

“Oh my God, you’re embarrassed! I never thought I’d see that.” Janna wrapped her arms around her mate and hugged her.

“I am not embarrassed. I’m just…” she stammered, not completing the sentence.

“What?”

“Shit…I’m gonna go get the bags.” Her clearly not-used-to-being-embarrassed partner quickly turned to leave the room.

“I’ll help you and we can make it in one trip.” She followed Ryan out and locked the door.

After returning with their bags and checking out the rest of the suite, which included a large master bath and a small kitchenette, Ryan commenced their “honeymoon” by picking Janna up and carrying her back to the main room and depositing her on the bed.

She fell onto the bed, straddling her mate, and slowly leaned down to kiss her. Janna’s arms went around her neck and pulled her fully down on top of herself.

Ryan laughed, saying, “It looks like you’re just as anxious to begin this honeymoon as I am.”

“Oh, yeah!” Janna grinned as she pulled Ryan’s face back down to meet hers. As she kissed her mate deeply she heard the Ramones singing in her head.

You could make my life complete
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Baby, you’re my kind of a girl
~~~~~~~~~~
After a quick, but very intense and satisfying romantic interlude, Ryan and Janna left the lodge and Janna led them through the meadow that surrounded the building. It was just after noon and Ryan carried a backpack with a lunch and one of Janna’s camera bags in it. Janna carried the rest of her equipment in her backpack and in a fanny pack. She wore the camera loaded with color film around her neck, anticipating using it the most.

As they walked through the lush green meadow of thigh-high grass, they could smell the wildflowers and sage that were growing liberally in the space. There was still a bit of morning dew on the blades, which tickled and caressed their bare legs as they passed through it.

“Lotta snakes around here Janna?” asked Ryan as she followed her mate on the narrow path.

“Yeah, there are. Several kinds. I’ve seen garter and king snakes in this meadow and rattlesnakes up on the mountain. Right about now there are probably rattlers sunning themselves on the granite up where we’re going.

“Just checking. Glad I brought my snake bite kit.” Ryan grinned as she turned to look at her partner.

“Oh, yeah, I never come up here without that.” Janna returned the grin and then stopped to point out the peak above them. “Would you like to hike up there tomorrow?” she said as she pointed to the cliff that loomed above the small valley they were in.

Ryan craned her neck to peer up at it. “Sure! How high is that?”

“Well, lets see. We’re at about 6500 feet right here and I think up there at the top it’s around 8000. It’s called Lover’s Leap.”

Ryan stopped in her tracks and slowly turned to face her lover. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope. It’s from an old Native legend. Apparently a brave and his maiden jumped off together because they weren’t allowed to marry.”

“Jesus!” remarked Ryan as she gazed at the tremendous height of the craggy face. “How long does it take to get to the top?” She started walking again when Janna put her hand on her back.

“About three hours. It’s strenuous in a few places, but overall not a bad hike.”

“Sounds cool, babe. I’ll bet the view from the top is fantastic.”

“Oh, God, yes…it’s beautiful.” Janna stopped and considered the cliff. “Hold up a minute honey. I think I’ll get a few shots here.” She swung her pack off of her back and set it on the trail at her feet.

As her partner set up her equipment and started taking pictures, Ryan gazed around at the splendor around them. They were in a cleft between two large peaks that had been cut eons ago by the American River just below them. She could hear the water raging, even this late in the summer and imagined without seeing it that it might make a good rafting trip some time.

Ryan gazed at her partner, who had walked out into the meadow and was snapping pictures. She looked gorgeous in khaki hiking shorts and a white tank top. The sun shining through her hair brought out golden highlights and created almost a halo effect around her head. Am I seeing her aura again? Well, whatever, it’s appropriate…she is definitely an angel. My angel. She smiled and was still gazing at Janna with wonder when her mate dropped the camera back down around her neck and approached her.

“See something you like, babe?” her imp asked, and Ryan answered her with a swat on the fanny. “Just checking!” Janna said as she removed the camera from around her neck and handed it to her mate. “Will you hold this for a minute, hon? I want to get some shots with the large format…the light’s great right now.”

“Sure. Would you mind if I snapped a few of you while you work?” Ryan asked, almost hesitantly.

Janna looked a little perplexed but shrugged and said, “Sure, if you’d like. Um, I’d like to get some of you too while we’re up here.”

It was Ryan’s turn to look perplexed but she shrugged her agreement as well. “How do I work this thing?” she asked as she examined the camera she held.

Janna approached and reached around her to show her the controls. Ryan enjoyed the proximity of her mate and her mind wandered briefly, conjuring up a hot tub scenario for later.

“Ryan, are you listening?”

“What? Oh, sorry. Mind wandered off there for a minute.” She grinned and then leaned into her mate and added, “God, you smell good.”

“Honey, you are incorrigible.” But as she spoke she noticed Ryan’s alluring scent as well. Mmm, there’s that sweet, spicy musk I love so well.

“Janna, are you listening?”

“Hm, what?” Janna looked up into her mate’s grinning face, then scowled as she added, “Alright, so we’re both completely lost in each other, so what?” Her half growl only served to turn Ryan on even more and she pulled Janna in for a hug. They enjoyed the closeness, and each other’s scents, for a few minutes, relishing their bond and the beauty that surrounded them.

They parted and Janna set up the larger camera and proceeded to take some shots of both the meadow and the mountain that loomed above it. Ryan enjoyed the view from where she stood. She was not looking at either the meadow or the mountain, however.

About an hour later they sat together on a large granite boulder, looking out at the valley below and the peaks that stretched out beyond it. The cool breeze felt good on sun-warmed skin and the lovely sound of the wind in the pines lulled them with its almost musical quality. Janna sat back against Ryan and they both felt both completely at home and completely lost in each other at the same time.

As she rested against her mate, feeling an intense sense of peace and belonging, Janna quietly commented, “I used to come up here and sit for hours. The peace would just envelope me and no matter what was happening in my life at the time, I could regain my equilibrium. I could come up here and feel totally complete and at peace.”

Ryan sighed and quietly said, “Baby, for me, this is what life is all about.” She kissed the blonde head that rested against her and pulled her lover closer.

Janna sighed as well, before answering. “Yes, love. This is my idea of perfection. It was already one of my favorite spots on the planet, but now, with you here, it’s like heaven. Thank you for coming here with me.”

“Thank you so much for bringing me. I can’t wait to see your other special places.”

“Cool, Ryan. This is where I grew up, in the summers. Dan and I owned this mountain! At least we felt like we did. We jokingly called it ‘Norden’s Mountain’. I don’t remember what the actual name is. But the peak across the way over there is Pyramid Peak.” She pointed to the beautiful triangular peak to their right. It sat across the highway from the Lodge, now some distance away and lower than they were. “Just down from this ledge is the cabin. We can take a look at it if you’d like.”

“Oh, I would like. Can we see the river from there?” Ryan spoke of the river that she could still hear, though now they were high above it.

“Yes, for sure. The cabin sits practically right on it. We can swim in it if you’d like. There’s a nice calm area just downstream. It’s ice cold, even in the summer, but so refreshing after hiking.”

“Oh, so that’s why you had me wear my suit under my clothes?” Ryan grinned and kissed the back of her mate’s neck.

“Yep! Hey, I’m hungry. Wanna eat?” Janna half turned so she could see her mate.

“Anytime, baby” Ryan drawled and nipped lightly at the spot she had just kissed.

“Yep, you are definitely incorrigible! I’m talking lunch, honey, not me.”

“You’re dessert.”

“If you’re good, maybe.”

“Mmm, I’m the best.”

Janna, knowing she had lost the verbal duel, could only mumble, “Yes, you are”, because her lover had captured her lips. They parted after several wonderful minutes, before things could get entirely out of hand.

Ryan stood and reached down for Janna, helping her to her feet and Janna led them back to the tree where they had left their packs. They shared a log under the tree and sat side-by-side enjoying the sandwiches that Janna had made that morning.

“Janna, did you ever notice that sandwiches taste best when you’re on a hike?”

“I have! And also at the Lake. I have the best memories of packed lunches up here. I still can’t make a salami sandwich at home that tastes like the ones my mom and my grandma used to make up here.” She sighed contentedly and took another bite. Overhead, an eagle soared majestically on unseen thermals of air. Hm, what’s the message of eagle? I need to remember to look that up when we get home.

Ryan finished her lunch and pulled her mate against her side. Janna munched happily in that position for a few minutes, then cleaned up their trash. They sat and enjoyed the peace and quiet – the only sounds were the wind whispering through the trees and the river rushing below – for several more minutes. Then Janna led them back down the mountainside to the road that curved up its side and in the other direction led down to the tract of summer cabins along the river.

They walked hand-in-hand along a dirt lane. Rustic-looking cabins were spaced sporadically along either side of the road amongst the pine forest. Tall, majestic pine and cedar loomed over them on every side.

Janna looked around as she walked, memories flooding back. She and her brother had played there as children, amongst the rocks and trees, pretending they were Indian braves – never cowboys – always Indians. They had honed their outdoor skills there: hiking, fishing, tracking, climbing, and swimming. It was here that Janna had also felt most at home. She felt a connection to the mountains and the forest that she had never experienced any other place. Later, through her metaphysical studies and journeys, she would learn the reason for that, but as a child she knew simply that she loved it there. More so there than anywhere else she had ever visited.

They approached a lot that had a small brown cabin sitting at the back of it. There were so many pines in front that the cabin could only just be glimpsed through the trees. Janna pulled Ryan toward a pathway leading to the front door.

“This is it. Our cabin. God, how I loved this place.” She looked wistfully around the small space of forested land. “I had thought that I would raise my kids here some day.”

Ryan instinctively pulled Janna closer and kissed her head.

“It looks like a wonderful place to have grown up sweetheart.” She turned Janna toward her and continued, “Maybe we can get a place like it one day. A special place for our own kids.”

A tear slid down Janna’s cheek and she hugged her mate tightly. “Oh Ryan, that would be wonderful. Lets put some thought into it okay? It would mean a lot of hard work, but I think it would be so worthwhile.”

“Sure baby. Lets do that. I love the mountains too. I can’t think of a better legacy to present to our children than a home in a place like this.” She grinned and rubbed Janna’s back, adding, “We can raise a coupla’ little environmentalists. Just like their momma.”

“Just like both their mommas.” She gazed up at her partner, who leaned down and gently captured her lips. They stood there, amongst the Ponderosa and Sugar pines, embracing and kissing for long minutes, their already incredibly strong bond growing stronger still.

Janna pulled back and smiled fondly at her mate. “Come on, I’ll show you around and then we’ll go down to the river.”

They walked, arm-in-arm this time, down a gentle slope toward the river. The ever- present roaring of the river grew louder as they approached it.

“Janna, did the constant roaring of the river take some getting used to?”

“Not that I recall. I guess coming here from birth, before that actually, I was just used to it. Friends occasionally mentioned that it was hard to get used to, especially at night, but they eventually found it as relaxing as we did.”

“Hmm, I guess it would be relaxing. They make CD’s of this stuff now and sell them for sixteen bucks.”

“Yeah, that’s right, they do!”

They reached the edge of the rock face and could see the river below, tumbling and coursing over boulders, between the granite walls of the narrow river canyon. Directly in front of the cabin, there was a small, picturesque waterfall, created by boulders that had lodged together, possibly millennia ago. About thirty yards downstream, a massive tree had fallen across the canyon and nearly bridged the river, it’s sides covered with moss.

Ryan stopped, stunned, and gasped, “Oh, Janna…this is beautiful! Like something out of a painting, or a postcard.” She gazed in awe at the pastoral scene and felt a semblance of the love that her partner felt for the place.

“I know, isn’t it? Can you imagine how many photographs I’ve taken here?” She chuckled. It probably numbered in the thousands, as she had been bitten by the photography bug as a very young girl.

“Sweetheart, I think I can imagine it. I’ve seen the incredible number of negative books you have!”

Janna grinned and looked quizzically at her. “But you know what I don’t have?”

“No, what?” Ryan returned her quizzical look.

“A picture of you here.” She looked at her partner matter-of-factly with lifted eyebrows.

“Ah, yes. That would be true. Okay, but can you do one of the both of us too?”

“No problem!” She smiled and grabbed Ryan’s arm, leading her to where she wanted her to stand.

“Okay, love…just act naturally…look at the river, then at me…whatever makes you comfortable.” She lifted the camera to her eye and Ryan did as she had been instructed. Her beauty in this natural setting took Janna’s breath away. Jesus, she could be a model. She’s absolutely gorgeous.

Ryan tolerated the attention for as long as she could stand it, but then returned to Janna’s side and removed the camera from her hands.

“Okay, now it’s your turn.”

“Oh, Ryan, I’m the photographer, not the subject.”

“Tough. Pose for me”, came the gruff reply that was softened by a smile.

Janna scowled but complied, not quite lasting as long as Ryan had however.

“Okay, give it back and I’ll put it on a tripod and set the timer.”

With the camera set and aimed correctly, she and her partner stood together in several different poses, the river providing a breathtaking backdrop. After that they made their way down the rest of the way to the river, to a small, sandy patch of beach, where they deposited their backpacks and began shedding their clothes.

Janna watched, stunned, as Ryan pulled her shirt off over her head, revealing a black one-piece swimsuit. The dark, form-fitting suit accentuated her hard body and sculpted muscles under bronzed skin. Janna swallowed hard as warmth shot in every direction from the vicinity of her second chakra, setting every nerve ending in her body on fire.

She shook her head and blew out a breath, making her own plans for later that evening. She kicked off her shorts and pulled her own shirt off; unaware of the similar effect she was having on her partner. She wore a pale green bikini that left very little to Ryan’s imagination. Ryan was, at that moment, however, imagining removing it from Janna’s body. With her teeth.

Janna glanced up to see her partner, desire clouding her blue eyes, advancing on her. Before Janna could react, Ryan had swept her in her arms and pulled her in for a hungry kiss, running her hands sensuously down her sides. Janna returned the kiss just as hungrily but quickly came to her senses and pushed slightly away.

“Honey, it’s not exactly private here,” she said weakly, her resolve fading as Ryan’s hands and lips roamed further.

“I don’t give a fuck. I want you, baby,” was the half-growled response. Ryan’s lips responded further by nipping and sucking a prominent breastbone.

“Oh…God. Ryan, stop. Please.”

The seriousness of Janna’s voice halted her in her tracks and she looked her mate in the eye, confusion clouding her features. “I…I’m sorry Janna. I…you just turn me on so much. I thought you’d like it here…”

“No, baby, I’m sorry. I just can’t make love here. It’s not so much that’s it’s not private…it’s my beliefs. Um, I believe it’s disrespectful. From a Native American standpoint…they believe it bothers the nature and animal spirits when humans have sex in their realm. I believe it is too. Can we save this for a little later?” She implored Ryan with a look so sincere that it tore at her heart.

“Yes, baby, yes. Of course we’ll wait. I’m sorry, Janna. I don’t know what happens to me sometimes…I can look at you and have the most primal reaction and it just takes control of me.” She brought Janna’s hand to her lips and kissed it tenderly. Apology filled her eyes and lined her face.

Janna caressed her cheek saying, “It’s okay my love. I understand how you feel, believe me. It took all of my willpower to stop you just now. Lets make it a very special night okay?” Looking coyly into her mate’s eyes, she added, “I brought the chocolate.”

Ryan closed her eyes and swallowed hard, “Oh, God. Yes…okay, baby…later it is then.” She took a deep breath and blew it out. “I don’t know about you, but I can really use a dip in this ice cold river right now.” She raised her eyebrows expectantly and received the affirmative nod that she had anticipated.

Taking Janna’s hand, she led them carefully out into the current, staying where it was relatively shallow.

“Oh, shit, Janna, you weren’t kidding. This is like ice!”

“It’s snowmelt, babe.”

“Jesus! Come ‘ere and keep me warm.”

“Ryan! You are the most hot-blooded woman I know…you keep me warm!” Ryan gladly met her small mate’s demand, pulling her against her body.

They carefully sat on a large rock together, with their legs in the water up to their thighs. The strong current buffeted them, the cold quickly numbing their skin. Hot, tired feet were quickly and thoroughly soothed.

“Well, my libido has been shot to hell, what about yours?” Ryan remarked comically.

“That may be true now Ryan, but I’ll bet it doesn’t last long,” her partner responded wryly.

“I’ll bet you’re right about that baby,” she drawled, presenting her mate with another of her famous rakish grins. Janna’s libido returned with a vengeance and she had to look away, clearing her throat.

A few minutes in the icy stream was plenty and they retrieved towels from Ryan’s pack, laying them on a large, flat, sunny rock and lying down on them to sun. They lay side-by-side on the rock, enjoying the sound of the river rushing around them as well as the warm sun on their skin.

After only a few minutes, Ryan spoke to Janna and didn’t receive an answer. Glancing at her mate, she saw that she had fallen asleep. The term “sleepyhead” doesn’t nearly describe her…my little sleeping beauty. Ryan’s soul was so filled with warmth and love for her partner that tears filled her eyes. It just keeps getting better. Thank you, God.
~~~~~~~~~~
After a delicious dinner in the inn’s dining room, the ladies retired to their suite. Ryan poured champagne into glasses while Janna readied the hot tub on the rear deck.

The deck overlooked the moonlit meadow and as Janna settled down into the warm water, she looked up and saw two deer standing gracefully on the path. They stood stock-still for a minute and then bent their heads to the succulent green grasses. Janna watched them in awe, their beauty and grace captivating her. When she heard Ryan approaching she motioned for her to be quiet and pointed toward the meadow.

“Aren’t they beautiful?”

“They are. Looks like a doe and a fawn. God, that’s cool, babe.” Suddenly, the pair looked up in the direction of the river and as one, bounded out of the meadow.

“Wow, that was awesome.” Janna looked after them.

“You know what I think is awesome?” Ryan entered the tub and handed a wine glass to Janna.

“What?”

“You. And me. Here.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled as she tilted her glass towards Janna’s. “Here’s to us babe. Happy honeymoon.”

Janna grinned and clinked her glass against Ryan’s. “Happy honeymoon to you too Ryan. Maybe we can do this once a year or so?”

“I’m there, baby.” Ryan slipped in behind her mate and wrapped her arms around her, gently caressing her stomach. They both wore their swimsuits, feeling that the location of the hot tub didn’t quite offer the requisite privacy, despite the fact that a roof covered it.

“Mmm. I love it when you do that.”

“Then I’ll keep doing it. Forever if you want.” She kissed Janna’s ear.

“Oh, you know I want.” Janna took another sip of champagne and set down her glass so that she could cover Ryan’s arms with hers.

Ryan brought her legs up and wrapped them around Janna’s waist, intertwining them with her legs. She began kissing Janna’s neck, starting at the back and working around to each side. While her lips caressed Janna’s neck and throat, her hands began an exploration of their own. Her hands and fingers burned trails of fire along Janna’s skin.

As her hands met resistant material she mumbled, “This suit has to go, baby. It’s in the way.”

“Then lets go inside” was the unhesitating response.

Ryan was up out of the water, hand extended down to Janna, seemingly before her mate could blink. Janna grinned in amazement as her partner gently leered at her, and stepped out of the tub. Ryan wrapped a large beach towel around them both and walked her mate inside, closing and locking the door behind them. She didn’t close the drapes however, in favor of letting the beautiful silver light of the moon enter the room.

Ryan left the room lights off as she stood in front of her partner and removed the towel from her shoulders. The moonlight was bright enough for them to see by and provided a romantic ambiance. She leaned in and lowered her lips to Janna’s, taking them gently, savoring their sweet taste and silky texture. Janna moaned into her mouth and wrapped her arms around Ryan, responding to the kiss more fervently. As they kissed deeply, slowly, Ryan gently pushed the bikini straps off of Janna’s shoulders and reached around, undoing the clasp in the back. As the top hung open, Ryan pushed it down off Janna’s arms and it fell to the floor.

Still kissing her lover, she then reached long arms down and slipped her hands under the bikini bottom, gently pushing it down over her mate’s slim hips, caressing as she did do. As the article of clothing joined its mate on the floor, Ryan’s hands cupped Janna’s smooth behind, softly kneading. Janna moaned into Ryan’s mouth again and moved her hands to Ryan’s swimsuit straps. In one smooth motion she pushed the suit down off of Ryan’s torso, letting it settle at her waist.

As soon as her mate’s lovely breasts were freed, Janna bent to suckle them, first one and then the other. Ryan moaned loudly and brought her hands up behind Janna’s head, encouraging the loving contact.

“God, baby, I love that,” she moaned. “Your touch feels like fire…”

“Mmm…and I love doing it. You taste so good…” Janna swirled her tongue around a hard nub as she gently rolled its twin between her fingers.

“Fuck, baby…”

“Anything you want love…”

“On the bed, now,” came the gentle demand.

Janna backed up and fell onto the bed, pulling Ryan with her. As they lay on their sides, facing each other, Janna pulled Ryan’s suit all the way off and gently caressed soft, black curls as she hungrily resumed her attention to her mate’s breasts. Ryan arched her back and threw her head back at Janna’s intimate touch, the fire within starting to burn uncontrollably. She wrapped her legs around Janna’s, forcing their bodies closer together.

“Oh fuck, Janna, please, baby…now.” Janna’s loving fingers, three of them, complied, stroking and fondling her mate intimately until, just moments later, she cried out her release. Janna continued stroking and Ryan’s tremors continued for several more minutes, until she cried Janna’s name over and over, ending breathless and spent.

Janna held her for several minutes, until she regained the ability to move and her breath no longer came in ragged gasps. Ryan rolled away from her lover and lay on her back, listless.

“Goddamnsonofabitch, baby. What did you do to me?” she gasped as she glanced over at her partner, who wore a very smug grin and shrugged innocently.

After several minutes, Ryan took a deep breath and pushed herself up onto an elbow, enticing Janna with a luscious close-up view of two gorgeous, dark-nippled breasts. “I hope you’re ready baby, ’cause I’m coming for ya’,” came the cocky drawl.

“I thought you just did that baby…numerous times.” Janna grinned wickedly.

Ryan’s response came from her lips, but not in the form of speech. Before Janna knew what was happening, her partner had turned and buried her face between her lover’s legs, quickly robbing Janna of intelligent thought and of her ability to speak. Fingers, tongue and lips worked flawlessly as one to bring Janna to an ecstatic release that matched that of her partner and left her similarly listless and spent.

They decided to save the chocolate for the next night.

-23-

Ryan stood on the deck, arms leaning on the redwood railing, cradling a warm mug of coffee in her hands. She closed her eyes briefly and breathed deeply of the cold dawn air. As she released the breath, it vaporized in front of her face. Don’t see that this time of year at home. The early-morning chill cut through her unzipped leather jacket and she pulled it more tightly closed. She sighed, very much enjoying both the warmth of the coffee and the beautiful setting that she found herself in.

She gazed up at the cliff that loomed over the river valley. In the gray dawn light it appeared dark and ominous, much different than it had looked yesterday in the bright sunlight. She shivered when she remembered Janna’s story about how it got its name. Wonder if it’s true? She found herself understanding the depth of a love that would make two people think suicide their only recourse against a life spent apart.

As she took another sip from her mug, she saw a small group of deer tentatively step into the meadow from the surrounding forest and proceed warily a few yards into the meadow. As she enjoyed the lovely scene, she wondered if she should awaken Janna. I’ll bet she’d want to photograph this. She decided to wake Janna, at least giving her the opportunity if she desired it. Quietly, she slid the door open and went inside, relishing the warmth from the fire she had set earlier.

She approached her sleeping mate on the bed and gently sat beside her. Tenderly, she reached down and caressed Janna’s brow. “Sweetheart” she whispered.

“Mm?” Janna didn’t open her eyes and snuggled farther down under the downy covers.

“I’m sorry to wake you, sweetheart, but I think you might want to see this. There’s a group of deer in the meadow.” She continued to caress Janna’s brow. “I thought you might want to get some pictures.”

At that, Janna’s eyes flew open. “A group of deer?”

Ryan smiled and gently pulled the covers down as Janna quickly sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Thanks honey.” She gave Ryan a quick kiss and jumped out of bed. She quickly found the camera bag she needed and removed the equipment she wanted, deftly removing the standard lens from the camera body and replacing it with a long telephoto.

As she made her way to the deck door, Ryan grabbed her arm saying, “Whoa baby…it’s freezing out there.” Noting that Janna was dressed only in a t-shirt, she added, “Here” and removed her jacket, placing it around her mate’s shoulders.

“Thanks love.” Janna graced her with a smile before hurrying out the door. As she spied the deer she gasped and murmured, “Beautiful! And the light is gorgeous.” She quickly began snapping away, exclaiming all the while at the beautiful scene.

Ryan stood against the wall; arms crossed in front of her, and enjoyed Janna’s display. Not only was her enthusiasm very entertaining, but also the fact that she looked adorable clad in not much more than Ryan’s large jacket. It hung nearly halfway down the backs of her thighs.

She was pulled from her musing several minutes later by Janna’s exclamation at the animals’ departure.

“Oh Ryan, thank you. They were gorgeous! I think I got some great shots.”

Her smile warmed Ryan so much that she no longer noticed the cold. She opened her arms for her mate and welcomed her into her embrace.

“I’m glad you were able to catch them.” She nuzzled Janna’s head lovingly.

“Mm, this jacket smells like you. I think I might borrow it more often.” Janna peered up at her mate coyly.

“Anytime, baby. Come on. We haven’t had our cuddle time.” She wrapped an arm around Janna’s shoulders and guided her back into the room, shutting the door and closing the drapes this time.

As they hiked through the dense pine forest several hours later, Ryan had a sense of being very much at home. Coming to the mountains always made her feel that way, but now, with Janna, she felt it much more acutely. Have I lived here before? As she followed her mate up the narrow trail, she looked around, trying to grasp at what made her feel so comfortable. It’s peaceful here. Quiet. Calm. Relaxing.

Seemingly picking up on her mate’s musings, Janna stopped and quietly said, “Do you feel the energy here Ryan? How calm it is?” She swept her gaze around the surrounding forest, adding, “So different from the city. There are very few devas left in the cities.”

“Devas?”

“Devic energies…nature spirits. They assist the natural world, the animals and plants. You can learn to become aware of them. Beyond simply feeling their calming influence I mean.”

“That’s so cool, babe. You know what? I’m starting to think that everything my Grandfather ever told me about the natural world was true after all. When I was a kid I thought they were just stories.”

Janna smiled and nodded knowingly. “Try reaching out with your senses. See what you can pick up.” Janna waited quietly while Ryan closed her eyes and her bemused expression was replaced by a calm one.

Eyes still closed, Ryan said, “I feel some sort of presence right here, to my right.” She raised her hand, as if touching something.
Janna gazed in that direction with her second sight and replied, “It’s the cedar tree next to you. It has a wonderful energy. Open your eyes and try to see its aura.”

Ryan did so, focusing her vision somewhat beyond the tree, and exclaimed, “Oh cool, babe, I see it. It’s like…well it’s sort of gray with some gold sparks, or something.”

Janna smiled. “Very good! You’re not only seeing its aura but also some of the ki running through it. Come here and feel it.”

She approached the tree and held her hands out, palms forward. Ryan did likewise.

“Tell me what you feel, Ryan.”

“It’s sort of like a resistance, and kind of tingly. It tickles my palms.” Ryan looked at her and grinned.

“Yes, I feel the same thing.” She dropped her hands and looked seriously at Ryan before saying, “There’s something you should know about me right now Ryan. Before we become any closer.” She held Ryan’s gaze with serious green eyes.

Ryan swallowed a jolt of fear that arose from her belly. “What is it Janna?”

Janna’s face softened into a radiant grin as she stepped toward the tree and wrapped her arms as far around it as they would go. “I’m a treehugger. I thought you should know.”

Ryan exhaled and doubled over in laughter. “Jesus Christ baby, you scared me!” Still laughing, she came up behind her partner and wrapped her arms around both her and the tree. She kissed her mate’s cheek and added, “I wouldn’t have you any other way. In fact, you’re converting me as we speak.”

Janna leaned slightly back into her partner’s body and sighed. “Feel this tree’s energy Ryan. Isn’t it awesome?”

“It is.” She actually did feel the tree’s strong, warm energy, getting a sense that it was, if not sentient, then surely conscious in some form.

They stood together, sharing energy with the majestic being for a few minutes before Janna stepped away and softly said, “Thank you tree-friend.” She sighed and smiled. “I’m so glad you can share this with me Ryan, if only so you don’t think I’m a nut.” She giggled as Ryan stood behind her and put her hands on her shoulders.

“If you’re a nut, baby, then it’s contagious. Why have I never noticed these things before? Is it the Reiki that makes it possible?”

“Partly, yes. Partly because you just weren’t aware of the possibility. This sort of thing isn’t exactly common knowledge in our society. Now, in other places, it is. But in the west, scientific thought basically overrides everything else.”

Ryan gazed up at the beautiful cedar. “Janna, do think it’s sentient?”

“Sentient…as in having a soul and a series of lives, like the other sentients on the planet? No. But I think that this particular tree, and many others around here, does have a sort of consciousness…an awareness on some level. It’s sort of like that devic energy I was telling you about. You know where else the energy is awesome? Hawaii. God, it’s calming there. Even for a group of hyper punk rockers.” She laughed and grabbed Ryan’s hand, pulling her back to the trail.

Ryan turned and said a silent goodbye to the tree, thanking it for it’s beauty, and then followed her mate up the trail.

Two hours and about 1500 feet later and hot, tired and dusty, they reached the summit of Lover’s Leap. Immediately upon reaching the top, Janna shed her packs, removed Ryan’s and grabbed Ryan’s hand, pulling her over to a large rock at the edge of the precipice. They stood hand-in-hand, being buffeted by the wind, enjoying the cool breeze and the magnificent view. They could see the valley far below, including the lodge where they were staying, the river, and the highway. Cars crawled along it, appearing like ants from their great height. All around them, the Sierra range stretched, seemingly forever, in varying hues of greens and purples, with a few of the highest peaks still capped by snow.

“Janna, my God…it’s beautiful!” Ryan yelled into the wind. She pulled her mate around in front of her and wrapped her in an embrace as they stood gazing at the peaks and valleys that surrounded them.

“Worth the hike, isn’t it?” Janna smiled as she half turned to look at her mate.

“It sure is. Let’s sit here for while, okay?” She sat on the large, warm rock and pulled Janna against her. For a long while they sat in silence, both contemplating many things as they reveled in nature’s majesty, not the least of which was how connected they felt to one another, especially there.

After a long while, Ryan stood and helped Janna to her feet. They walked back from the edge about twenty yards, to the scraggly pine where they had left their packs. Ryan pulled Janna closely to her and declared, “I love it here, baby, thank you.” She ducked her head and kissed her mate, affirming her love for her. They held each other for another long while, lips returning to each other repeatedly for more kisses. Finally, Ryan held Janna, chin resting on the blonde head, and just sighed, feeling more content than she ever had in her life and realizing there was no possible way to put the feeling into words.

As they sat a short time later, eating their lunches under the tree, Ryan looked thoughtfully at Janna and asked, “Janna, what did you mean earlier when you mentioned the other sentients on the planet?”

Janna swallowed her mouthful of sandwich and replied, “I meant that there are several other sentient species, besides humans. The cetaceans, meaning dolphins and whales, are sentient and so are gorillas.” She looked at Ryan and shrugged, adding, “That’s my belief anyway. My guides told me that once and I since have checked with lots of other psychics and channels and they have all verified it.”

Ryan looked at her wide-eyed. “Shit!” She then swallowed her food and added, “If that’s true Janna, humans are committing mass murder on a grand scale, aren’t they?”

Janna responded seriously, “Yes, we are. Why do you think I tithe to Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund? Twenty percent of my earnings, right off the top, every year.” She shook her head. “Money can only do so much though. Things won’t really change until people are made aware…but how do you do that? Since it’s channeled information, for the most part, most people would dismiss it out of hand.”

Ryan shook her head glumly. “Still, something has to be done. Janna, we kill those beings. We cage them!”

“Yes, love, we do. Unfortunately, the Bible teaches that man has dominion over the land and the animals and people take that to heart.”

“It’s bullshit Janna. Absolute bullshit!” Now seething with anger, she continued, “The Native peoples knew thousands of years ago how to coexist with nature, why can’t so called ‘modern man’ do the same?”

“It will happen, honey, in time.” Janna’s calm countenance soothed Ryan’s anger some. “The world is changing quickly now. We’re about to enter the Aquarian Age. People’s awareness and intuition will begin opening up and in time, everyone will have this knowledge. Everyone in their own time and at their own pace. Not all souls progress at the same rate, baby.”

“Still, Janna, this makes me absolutely fuckin’ sick.” She looked at Janna, her face full of pain.

Janna caressed her cheek. “It makes me sick too, Ryan. We’ll do what we can, okay? Try to get the information out…teach by example…support the groups that are trying to help those species. That includes protecting their environments and habitats. Don’t worry, love, I know for a fact that all turns out well for them in the future. And as ensouled species they know what they’re entering into when they come to the planet.”

“How in the hell do you know all that?” Ryan shook her head, looking extremely perplexed.

“Deep conversations with my spirit guides, for one. Sessions with gifted – authentic – psychics and channels, including my two closest friends. Knowledge handed down through many ancient cultures. Books. Many sources, Ryan. This is a way of life for me. I’ve made a study of these subjects. I absorb a lot and what feels right, I keep. What I can’t personally validate, through intuition, visions or whatever, I discard. But a lot, I mean a ton, of people are bringing this information to the planet right now and most of it gels. Most of it agrees.” She sighed. “This is a very complicated topic, Ryan, probably best discussed in a comfortable setting over wine and dinner, rather than on a windy, precipitous mountaintop.” She looked apologetically at her mate.

“You’re right Janna.” She grinned crookedly and added, “Remember when I told you I look forward to having my mind opened by you? Well, babe, I’m there. Enlighten me. Over dinner and a bottle of wine. Or two.” She picked up her mate’s hand and kissed it, then sighed and pulled her close. She shook her head and sighed again. “This just fuckin’ blows my mind Janna…”

Janna got up and sat on the ground, pulling her partner down next to her. They snuggled together against the fallen tree they had been sitting on and comforted each other silently.

The wind whistled through the nearby trees and the sun beat down on them through the scraggly branches of the Ponderosa Pine they sheltered under. As they held each other they silently pondered life’s mysteries and injustices, humanity’s selfishness, and Universal truths, or more correctly, the interpretation of them. Ryan found herself wanting to lay her mate down on that mountaintop and lose herself in the pleasures of her body. To bury her anger in pleasure. But she deferred to her partner’s wish not to disturb the benevolent spirits that oversaw the earth. So she held her desire in check and simply held and caressed her beloved mate. They sat there on the mountaintop for what seemed like hours and communicated only silently, through their link. It was all they needed.

-24-

The Jeep climbed along the sunny ridge, nearly above the tree line. The dusty road, in reality not much more than a wide trail, was deeply rutted and dotted with rocks. The mountainside fell away on both sides of the trail, providing a thrilling, if not hairy, ride. Janna skillfully flung the steering wheel from side to side, dodging the largest rocks. In the passenger seat, Ryan held on for dear life, trusting completely in her partner, yet unused to not being in control of the situation. As Janna skillfully dodged another series of rocks and kept the Jeep safely on the road, she turned to her partner and grinned widely, receiving a matching grin in return.

“Jesus, baby…you are good!” Ryan laughed and let go of the dashboard long enough to pat Janna’s thigh.

“Now do you see why we needed to bring the Jeep? Superior clearance!” Janna worked the gearshift again and returned her eyes to the pseudo road.

“I do, baby, I do. My Explorer is good, but not this good!”

Ryan spared a glance away from the road to the gorgeous vistas that surrounded them. They were still heading uphill, seemingly into the sky. They were apparently very near the summit of the mountain, as no trees could be seen ahead. Only the limitless blue of the sky was visible. However, if she looked down, to either side of the Jeep, she could see the valley slope away, with this mountain’s sister ridges and peaks spreading out beyond. God, this mountain range is gorgeous. I will never get tired of seeing it.

Finally, the road began to flatten and the tops of trees appeared again, and then gradually lengthened into the stories-tall majestic giants that they were. Ryan glanced to the left of the Jeep and was awestruck at the sudden appearance of a small alpine lake. Her partner had slowed the Jeep and was watching her, gauging her reaction to the tranquil scene.

Ryan’s mouth dropped open and her eyebrows lifted into her bangs, above her sunglasses. “Oh my God, Janna. It’s breathtaking!”

The lake sparkled and shone in the mid-afternoon sun. It was a brilliant blue, reflecting the sky like a mirror. Janna silently likened the color to the blue of her partner’s eyes.

“Shit, baby. It’s like a jewel sitting there. Like a sapphire.” Ryan grinned, unable to tear her eyes from the beautiful scene.

“Mm, I like sapphires. They remind me of someone special’s eyes.” She removed her hand from the shift knob and linked her fingers with Ryan’s.

“Thanks baby. I kinda like emeralds for the same reason.” She grinned widely at her mate and lifted their linked hands to her lips. Janna stopped the Jeep and they sat on the ridge above the lake for a few minutes. Its pristine beauty was almost otherworldly. The lake’s beauty was so far removed from their everyday existence in the city that they were both enormously grateful for the opportunity to view it. And to share it with each other.

“Are you ready to go down there and see it up close, Ryan?”

“Absolutely, love. It’s not a long hike is it?”

“No, only about a mile. The last time I was here there wasn’t much of a trail left though. We may have to do some trailblazing.” Janna grinned, knowing her partner would enjoy the task.

“Cool! Lets go, babe.” Ryan’s enthusiasm showed clearly on her face and in her stunning smile and it rubbed off on her mate.

Janna restarted the Jeep and drove the short distance to where the trail/road ended at a trailhead. They exited and pulled their backpacks from the rear of the Jeep and Janna led the way to the trail, or rather to where it used to be. Fortunately, she had been there many times before and didn’t really need a trail.

She led Ryan overland through the dense forest, their hiking boots crunching on the pine needle-strewn ground. The tall, densely packed trees provided a welcome shady respite from the sun, which blazed through the thin atmosphere. They crossed over two small, fern shrouded, crystal clear streams that fed into the lake. The water was nearly pure enough, at this high elevation, to safely drink. Ryan chanced a few sips of the incredibly fresh water, but Janna ran her portion through a filter before transferring it into their canteens.

“Oh, that’s good. There is nothing like fresh mountain water.” Ryan relished the pure water and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

They gradually made their way down the mountainside to the lake. Boy Scouts who used to make their summer camp there had carved the last, steep stretch of the trail into steps many years before. As they descended the steps, some of which had worn away with time, they were treated to an up-close view of the majestic little lake. This close, they could hear the gentle lapping of wind blown waves. The lake was bordered on one end by huge boulders, which had lodged there, possibly in the last ice age, and blocked the flow of the several streams trying to run down the mountain. The other sides were bordered by trees running right down to its edge, except for one small patch of sandy beach.

It was on the beach that they stopped first, to dip their hot, tired feet into the ice-cold water. They had done many hours of hiking that day and were both extremely grateful for the chance to soak their feet.

Ryan sat on the damp granite sand and began to remove her boots and socks as Janna plopped down beside her. Rather than remove her shoes, she leaned back on her hands and threw her head back, breathing deeply of the clean air. She reached out with all of her senses and exulted in the beauty around her.

She could hear the water gently lapping at the beach, Blue jays squawking nearby, and the wind in the trees. With her psychic sense she could feel the energy of the living things surrounding her. She felt a part of the natural continuum and yet separate from it at the same time. Separate in the sense that she could discern the distinct energies of her natural counterparts, yet a part of the whole, in the sense that all things are connected and part of the same oneness. Like a drop of water in the ocean: separate yet part of a whole.

She was drawn from her musing by the gentle touch of her partner’s hand on her calf. Ryan softly caressed her leg with one hand as she untied a boot with the other. She bestowed the same treatment on the other leg before gently, slowly removing Janna’s socks. When her partner’s feet were free of their garments she spun Janna slightly and rested her legs in her lap. Janna sighed as Ryan began to gently massage her calves and feet.

“Oh, yes. God, thank you love” Janna whispered.

Ryan continued her loving ministrations and ended the massage by lightly kissing each foot. She followed up by kissing her mate, just as gently.

“Ryan, sweetheart. You will never cease to surprise me, will you?”

“I hope not, baby. I need to keep you on your toes.” She giggled, adding, “So to speak.”

“Mmm, yes. Well, it’s your turn now. Let me do you.”

Ryan’s leer was automatic and Janna shook her head in dismay at setting herself up for that one. “You know what I meant. Now put your legs in my lap.”

Ryan complied willingly and Janna took her massage even farther, venturing up past Ryan’s knees. When it became obvious that her partner was beginning to lose her composure, Janna stopped, but not before running a line of kisses down her mate’s legs, stopping at her toes.

“Jesus, baby. Please tell me we’ll continue this later.” Ryan’s face was seriously imploring.

Janna leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “Of course we will love. And more…I promise.” She smiled coyly and added, “We still haven’t used that chocolate sauce I brought.”

Ryan groaned, “Oh Christ” and quickly jumped up and ran into the lake, splashing water back onto her partner as she did so.

Janna watched in amazement and tried to stifle a grin as her lover stood in thigh-high water and splashed water onto her face. Whoa…I guess I’d better be careful with how far I take my teasing. She does get incredibly turned on. Janna rose and joined her mate in the shallow water.

Reaching her, she placed a hand on her mate’s back. “Ryan, I’m sorry. I took that too far. I didn’t mean to tease. I’m afraid I lose control where you’re concerned.”

Ryan took a deep breath and smiled wryly at her. “It’s okay Janna. I need to learn to handle this better. I lose control with you too, and I’m not used to that. You just do something to me baby. I don’t know what it is.” She shook her head and pulled Janna close.

“It’s this link, I guess. It’s a double-edged sword. What we feel for each other seems to be magnified…doubled. Does that make sense?”

“Yeah. You feel what you feel for me in addition to picking up on what I feel for you. The feelings would be incredibly strong just going one way, but this two-way thing we have going here makes it way intense.”

“Way, way intense.” Janna smiled.

“Mega intense.” Ryan smiled and kissed her partner’s head, “We’re very blessed.”

“Mm. Lets take advantage of that mega intensity when we get back to the lodge, okay?”

“Oh, yeah. I see a Janna sundae in my very near future. I think I’ll stop in at the little store and pick up some cherries and whipped cream.” Her face broke out into another leer and Janna suddenly felt the need to splash water on her own face.

They hiked the short distance around to the other side of the lake and stretched out on a flat rock, which sat a few yards out in the lake, soaking up the sun. Janna sat with Ryan’s head in her lap, gently playing with the short strands of hair as she leaned back on one hand. They were completely relaxed, simply enjoying each other’s company, as was becoming habitual for them.

“Janna, I’ve never relaxed like this in my life. I’ve always gotten off on action. Keeping moving…keeping busy…working my body. But now I’m perfectly content to just laze. I could get used to this honey.” She grinned up at her mate.

“I could too. Though, to be honest, it comes pretty naturally for me.” She returned Ryan’s grin.

“I don’t know, baby. You’re far from lazy.”

“Lets just say that I’m more low key. Spiritually speaking, I’m probably a lower frequency than you are.”

“Mm.”

Janna tilted her head back and let the sun warm her face. As she enjoyed the warmth of the sun, Ryan turned in her lap and softly kissed her stomach. When Janna mumbled her pleasure at the touch, Ryan lifted her shirt slightly and kissed her bare skin. At the more intimate touch, Janna’s muscles clenched slightly, both above and below the waist, and she wrapped an arm around Ryan’s head, encouraging the contact.

With the encouragement, Ryan’s tongue snaked out and licked gently at the soft skin around Janna’s navel. This caused an outright moan, which encouraged her even more, so she wrapped an arm around Janna’s waist and pulled her mate’s stomach firmly against her mouth. She began kissing and sucking the skin of Janna’s abdomen and started working her way upwards, towards her two very favorite peaks.

Janna, becoming aware of where the activity was leading, leaned down and hijacked Ryan’s lips with her own. She kissed her lover passionately before mumbling into her mouth, “Why don’t we get back to the lodge?”

Ryan continued the kiss before replying, “Absofuckinlutley baby. Lets go.” They stopped to catch their breath before jumping from the rock to the shore and making their way rather quickly back up toward the trail. On the way back to the trailhead they only stopped briefly once, so that Janna could catch some photos of the lake. To add to the hundreds that she already had.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna wriggled uncontrollably as Ryan sprayed whipped cream onto several very sensitive spots.

“Hold still, baby, you’re gonna knock it off before I can lick it off.”

“Ooh, but honey, it’s cold and it tickles.”

“Baby, you haven’t even begun to feel tickling.” She leaned down and proved her point, running her tongue slowly across a white-tipped breast.

“Ohh, but it’s a much more pleasant tickle. Velvety. Do it some more.”

“Okay, baby, but wait just a minute. My sundae needs chocolate and cherries.” Ryan reached for the small container of warm chocolate and then slowly dribbled it on and around the dabs of whipped cream.

“Ohh…Ryan…”

“Just a minute babe. I’m almost done.” She grabbed a few cherries and added them to the mix.

“You’d better not be almost done”, Janna growled.

Ryan drawled as she brought her mouth close to her mate’s body, “Baby, I mean done in the sense that you’re almost ready to eat.”

“Go for it, Ryan. Please.”

“Here I come, baby, and I’m hungry.” Ryan brought her mouth close to Janna’s chest and her mate’s breath caught in anticipation.

“You’re always hun…oh, God…” Ryan’s tongue snaked out and circled a sweet breast, snagging a cherry in the process. She moved up slightly and shared the cherry with her mate, smoothly transferring it into her mouth.

“Mm, I love maraschino cherries.”

“And I love Janna sundaes.”

“I hope you realize that you’re gonna be a sundae next.”

“Sure, you need to eat too.”

She bent her head again to the task of devouring her dessert. Her talented tongue blazed a trail over her lover’s skin, eliciting various moans, groans and pants. By the time she reached the nexus between Janna’s legs, her partner was already teetering on the edge of climax. One single, devoted swipe of her tongue along her mate’s cleft sent her over the edge and the continued stroking and kissing there prolonged the sensation for long minutes, Janna’s body consumed by wracking, ecstatic tremors.

“Ohh, Ryan…I can hardly breathe…God, that was nice…mmm.” Janna lay on her back, rolling her head from side to side, absolutely content.

“I’m glad you liked it baby. I enjoyed it too.” Ryan leaned down and kissed her mate tenderly.

The kiss turned passionate as Janna rose, pushing Ryan down on her back and straddling her. As she continued kissing Ryan, she reached over and grabbed the still warm chocolate. She pulled back and then dribbled the sweet, syrupy liquid all over Ryan’s body, concentrating on her many erogenous zones.

“Oh, shit, baby. I’ll never last long enough for you to lick all that up.”

As Janna began licking, starting with her mate’s breastbone, she mumbled, “Use the Tantric breathing I showed you, love.”
As Janna’s tongue found a nipple, Ryan closed her eyes and tried to remember the breath control lesson. Janna’s tongue was severely hampering her thought processes, however, and she could only groan, grabbing Janna’s head and running her fingers through her hair.

“Ohh, baby…Janna…yesss…”

Janna mumbled around the other nipple, “Don’t you want to breath right, love…make it last?”

“Fuck breathing right…eat me Janna. Please”, came the growled reply.

Despite the gruff request, Janna took her time, using their link to settle her mate down, allowing her to enjoy the process, rather than rushing to the goal.

As she reached Ryan’s silky curls, she could tell that her mate was spiraling toward a long, powerful climax, so she thrust her tongue deeply into her lover, allowing her sweet release. Ryan’s sweet nectar blended with the chocolate, creating a powerful aphrodisiac that quickly sent Janna back over the edge and she enjoyed simultaneous convulsions with her mate.

They rode out the powerful climaxes together; bodies entwined, and created more of the same long into the night. Their kissing, tasting, suckling, stroking, with mouths, hands and bodies, declaring and reaffirming their deep love and connection. All the while, their friend, Luna, bathed them in her loving glow. They felt her energy as well as the sacred energy of their shared bodies and of the sacred space they had created in which to share their love. It was a honeymoon to remember, unofficial though it was.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna awoke the next morning to feel a large hand on her breast and a demanding tongue in her mouth. She returned the kiss enthusiastically and murmured a question into her mate’s mouth.

“Mm, baby, what’s up?”

As garbled as the question was, Ryan understood it. She broke the kiss, but not her hold on Janna’s anatomy and sheepishly replied, “Um, I was just remembering last night and sorta lost control again. Do you mind?” She looked down through her lashes at Janna, who answered by pulling Ryan’s mouth back down to hers.

Ryan rolled onto her back and pulled Janna on top of her, giving her mate permission to take control. It was a gesture that Ryan had never shared with anyone else, but that she felt completely at ease giving to Janna. It was not just a matter of trust, but also of respect and worship. Janna returned the gesture by pulling Ryan up and settling in her lap, bringing them together face to face, as equals.

They wrapped their arms around each other and embraced warmly as their mouths met ardently, yet lovingly. Slowly, caressing soft skin as she did so, Janna brought her right hand around and gently connected with Ryan’s center. Ryan followed her lead and they completed the circuit. Warm hands gently, slowly caressed and stroked hot nether regions.

As the passion built, Janna reminded Ryan, by example, how to control her breath, timing it with the synchronous strokes of both their hands. The self-control allowed for intensely pleasurable climaxes, which alternately crested and plateaued repeatedly, each crescendo and plateau becoming more intense than the previous. In this manner, the rapture lasted for many minutes, rather than just seconds. With practice, they could learn to draw it out for hours.

As another surge of pleasure hit her, Ryan moaned loudly into her lover’s mouth, feeling so high that she thought she might pass out. Janna, feeling her mate’s sensations through their link, wrapped her left arm more tightly around her lover, letting her know that she was secure, safe and loved. She gently ended the kiss and burrowed her face into her mate’s neck. She kissed her lover’s throbbing pulse and tightened her grip around her as another surge hit them. This time, at the crest, they both arched away from each other, crying out in unison. They rode the final, intense crest for several minutes, letting their stroking and breathing slow and finally, rest. As they held their embrace, slowly rocking back and forth, Ryan shed tears of joy. Janna joined her in empathy, realizing that the intensity takes some getting used to.

“Janna, baby…oh, Janna…” Ryan couldn’t form any other words at the moment, but she didn’t need to.

Janna understood her fully. Understood that she simply needed to be held as she fell back to Earth. Janna sat in her lap and rocked her gently, stroking her back and her hair. Whispering words of love and encouragement.

Finally, Ryan released a deep, shuddering breath and nuzzled Janna’s hair. She regained her composure and parted slightly from her mate. Looking at Janna with an adorable, crooked grin she said, “The next time you suggest to me that I control my breath during sex, I’m gonna do it…no questions asked.” Her grin widened and she added, “Baby that was too incredible for words.” She shook her head, as if disbelieving what she had just experienced.

“The word is Tantra, love.” She added with a grin, “We’ll be covering Taoist sacred sexuality in our next lesson.” She smiled warmly as her mate threw her head back and laughed deeply.

“Oh, Janna, what did I do to deserve you? God, baby, I love you so, so much.” Ryan bestowed a look upon her that was so full of love that Janna’s breath caught in her throat.

“You were born.” Was the soft, matter of fact reply. “Or should I say reborn?” Her twinkling green eyes shone straight through to Ryan’s heart.

“Reborn. For you and only you. Janna, I want to know about our other lives together. Lets look into that, okay? Soon?”

“Sure, honey. I’d like that too.”

“I’m safe in assuming, aren’t I, that you know someone who can help us do that?” Now sapphire eyes were twinkling.

“Oh, of course! I just spent the last fifteen years of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, didn’t I? The metaphysical Mecca of the West!”

“I knew I could count on you babe.” Ryan grinned and pulled her mate close again. They held each other for a while longer before heading for the shower and breakfast.

They decided to spend their last full day in the mountains at Lake Tahoe. That morning’s connecting time had lasted longer than usual, unregrettably so, leaving them with less than a full day there. Thundershowers were forecast for the late afternoon, so they decided to hit the beach first and play the rest of the day by ear. They could check out Ryan’s buddy’s cabin in the rain if need be. Possibly after that they could visit some of the big casinos at Stateline.

Ryan drove the Jeep, negotiating the curving mountain road smoothly. Even though it was the busy season, being mid-week, the highway was relatively uncrowded for most of the twenty-mile trip. As they passed many more favorite places that Janna had known most of her life she was warmed by the idea of sharing them all with Ryan in their long future together. As she scooted a little closer to her mate and grabbed her hand, Ryan intertwined their fingers and grinned widely at her, her bright white teeth contrasting with dark sunglasses and tanned skin. Janna thought, she wonders what she did right to earn me, but I wonder which goddess I pleased enough to be rewarded with the most beautiful woman on the planet. She shook her head in wonder as her incredible mate drove on.

As they descended from the summit and came around a turn, the gorgeous lake came into view for the first time. Ryan was the first to exclaim her delight. “I will never get tired of that particular site.”

“Neither will I. Even if I didn’t have so much history here, it’s a breathtakingly beautiful lake.”

“That it is, baby. And what about in the winter?”

“Oh, God, I know! Gives the term ‘winter wonderland’ a whole special meaning. Do you ski honey?”

“Yep. You, babe?”

“Yeah! Oh, Ryan, I can see what we’ll be doing to keep busy in the winters!”

“Number one will be the same thing we’re doing now, baby.”

“Yes, of course, love. I mean besides that!” Janna gave her a mock exasperated look.

“Oh right! Ever snowboard, babe?” She raised an eyebrow in question as she glanced back at the twisting highway.

“No, but it looks cool. I used to skateboard…it looks pretty similar.”

“It is, I think. I’ll have to give you some lessons. They’ll cost you though.”

“Yeah, the same thing my Reiki is costing you, right?”

“Absolutely.”

“Well, we’re all set then.” Janna smiled at her before returning her gaze out of the window at her favorite mountain range.

“That we are, my love. That we are.”

-25-

Ryan stretched out on the large towel and luxuriated both in the warmth of the sun and in the feel of her lover’s gentle hands as they spread lotion on her back. “Oh, baby. That feels nice.”

Janna, sitting beside her, grinned. “My hands are very happy right now too.” She squirted another dab of coconut-scented lotion into her hand and rubbed her palms together, then attended to the backs of Ryan’s thighs and legs. She thoroughly enjoyed running her hands along the long, muscular legs, and grinned widely as she did so.

“Mm.” Ryan turned her head to look at Janna and added, “You know who else is enjoying this?”

“No, who?”

“Those two guys over there.” She turned her head back toward the expanse of beach to the south of them. “I’m starting to feel like a piece of meat.”

“Honey, they’re just guys. I don’t think they mean any harm. They probably think that because we aren’t wearing wedding bands that we’re available.” She brought her hands back up to Ryan’s shoulders, not because they needed more lotion, but because she wanted to continue her mate’s massage.

“Well, baby, we’re gonna have to do something about the lack of wedding bands then. Shit, I like to look at women too, but I don’t stare like that. It’s rude, and I’m just about ready to get up and kick some ass.”

Janna laughed. “I’m sure you don’t need to go that far. Lets just give them a little hint, shall we?” She glanced around and noted that the beach was relatively uncrowded around them.

“A hint?”

“Yeah, turn over.”

Ryan did so and Janna proceeded to lotion her chest and shoulders. As she did so, she leaned down and gently kissed Ryan, lingering just a bit.

Ryan opened her eyes, looked up at Janna and smiled. “Mmm. Did they take the hint?”

“I would say so. One of them grimaced like he’d been shot and the other’s laughing. They’re walking away.”

Ryan laughed deeply. “Great job, babe.” She turned back over and laid an arm along Janna’s thighs. “I didn’t really feel like getting up and kicking ass anyway.”

Janna joined in her laughter and lay down beside her mate, linking their hands. She sighed deeply and said, “This is so nice. The sun feels great.”

“The whole thing feels great.”

“Mm, hmm.” As they lay together on the granite beach, a slight breeze picked up, whispering its song through the pine trees that edged the sand and separated the shore from the parking area.

“I love that song.” Janna sighed again.

“Yep. Someone ought to record it.”

“Someone probably has.”

Janna turned her head and rested her chin on her left arm, looking straight out over the brilliant lake. It was a deep, clear blue, many miles wide and bordered by majestic peaks, the highest of which were still capped with snow. She could feel her partner’s warmth as she lay to her right and Janna breathed deeply of her essence. She reveled in another of her life’s most perfect moments and gave another silent prayer of thanks to the Universe.

Ryan unlinked their fingers and turned onto her side, facing Janna. She reached over and pushed a strand of blonde hair behind Janna’s ear. “I love your hair, baby. It’s such a pretty blonde. Does the sun lighten it in the summertime?”

“Mm, it does, yeah. It’s more golden in the winter.” She turned to face Ryan. “I love your hair too.” She reached out to stroke it. “So thick and silky…I love to run my fingers through it. Have you ever worn it long?”

“No, not since I was a kid. Long is just too much trouble…too hard to manage, especially when I spend the majority of my day sweating. This is actually the longest it’s been in years.”

Janna caressed Ryan’s locks where they fell behind her neck, nearly to her shoulders. “Really? I like this length on you.”

“I like it too…and since it pleases the only two people on the planet who have a say in the matter, I think I’ll keep it status quo.” She graced her mate with a lopsided grin.

Janna smiled in return. “Good. You’re so beautiful, and the way it frames your face accentuates your beauty.”

Ryan gave a slight smirk and said, “Beautiful? I wouldn’t go that far. You, on the other hand, are.”

“Ryan, you’ve got to be kidding. I’ve never, in all my life, encountered a more beautiful woman than you are.” Her sincere look warmed her mate. She added, “And as for me…I might say ‘cute’ but definitely not beautiful.”

Ryan smiled warmly, but said, “That is bullshit my love…no offense. Do you ever look in the mirror?”

Janna looked down, embarrassed, then shyly back at her mate. “Thank you Ryan.”

“Anytime. You know, in those warrior dreams…your hair was shorter. In most of them anyway.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen that too. I’ve been thinking about cutting it…I’m used to it being shorter. Would you mind?”

“Not a bit, love. I’ve had the opportunity to see how cute it is short. Do whatever you’d like.”

“Thanks, love. Your hair is long in all of the dreams. You were stunning…you looked almost exactly like you do now.”

“So did you. Is that typical, do you know?”

“Looking the same in other lives? Well, sometimes. But usually, no. The body type stays generally the same, but looks and gender usually vary. Anything’s possible though. Maybe we work the best together in this configuration.” Janna grinned and rested her arm on Ryan’s back.

“Probably so, baby.” They both turned back onto their stomaches and linked hands again.

A half hour later, her body beaded with sweat, Ryan announced, “I need to take a dip, babe. You coming?”

“Sure!”

They hopped up and walked across the coarse granite sand, gingerly stepping into the cold water and stopping when it reached their stomaches. Janna shivered and remarked, “Geez, this water never warms up. Once…only once…as a kid, did we come here and find it almost comfortable.”

“Oh, but it feels good. That sun is intense. Come on baby, plunge right in…you’ll get used to it faster.” She held her hand out to her mate, who looked very unsure of the idea. “Come on Janna. Lets swim.” Ryan grinned at her encouragingly.

“Okay.” Janna gave in and grabbed her mate’s hand and they lunged forward into an incoming wave.

“Whoo!” Ryan exclaimed as Janna shrieked.

“Come on baby, keep moving”, Ryan said as she swam away a little distance. Janna plunged forward again and followed her. She forgot the cold very quickly as she watched her lover’s graceful strokes. Nope, there’s not a single thing that she does not do well.

Ryan stopped some distance away, treading water, and waited for Janna to catch up. As her mate approached, Ryan held out her arms and Janna entered them, wrapping her body around her mate. They only held the position for a few moments, as they were aware of the lack of privacy, and they both had to struggle to put down the intense desire to kiss.

“Janna, one day, I’m taking you away to a very private island somewhere.” Ryan put what they both were feeling into words, the sincere statement matching the intention written on her face.

“I get you, love. I’m right there with you.” They separated and swam a little more, and then played some, before exiting the pristine water and returning to their towels for more sun worship.

A few hours later, the appearance of stormy clouds and an accompanying strong breeze forced them from the beach. As Ryan drove them north on the narrow highway that ran along the western shore of the lake, they admired the beauty of the area with the quaint shops, and bicycle and snow and water equipment rental places that sat interspersed with campgrounds and expensive homes. All set in and amongst thick evergreen forestland.

Spying a cute little gift shop housed in a log cabin, Janna proclaimed, “Lets stop here Ryan. I need to update my t-shirt collection.”

Her mate dutifully pulled to a stop at the mock hitching post in front and they entered the little store. Offered for sale inside were items running the gamut from ‘Tahoe’ inscribed glassware, to clothing, to camping supplies, to framed art prints. Janna made her way to the clothing section while Ryan checked out the glassware. She picked up a shot glass with the charming inscription, “I got laid at Tahoe” and after briefly considering the item (it was an appropriate sentiment after all), shook her head with a small smirk and moved on to the various other offerings.

As she perused the selections and grabbed a tasteful set of antique-styled beer steins she heard, “Ryan, look here.”

As she made her way over to her partner, Ryan saw that Janna held up an attractive navy blue tank top with a tasteful “Lake Tahoe” emblem and said, “This looks like you…may I get it?”

Ryan did indeed like it and nodded her acceptance, grinning. She joined her partner at the shirt rack and picked up a tiny tube top.

Grinning jauntily she drawled, “And this looks like you, baby…may I?”

Janna rolled her eyes and held up another, less scanty shirt. “How about this one instead?” Ryan mock pouted but then laughed and smiled her approval. Janna then found several others, as well as matching blue baseball caps and a hiking guide and they made their purchases.

On the road again, and wearing their new caps, they only drove a few more miles before they found Carl’s vacation home. On the western shore of the lake are many year-round homes: some are permanent residences while others are rented out full time to both summer and winter guests. Carl, a captain in the department, used his as both a personal vacation home and as a rental for friends and coworkers to use. It had been in his family for more than half a century and was now considered absolutely prime real estate. Had he wished to sell it, he could probably ask upwards of a million dollars for it.

As Ryan drove, Janna watched for the address on the lake side of the highway.

“Here it is.” Janna pointed to a home up ahead on their right and they approached a beautiful home of log construction, which sat behind a stand of pine trees and a wrought iron gate, which paralleled the highway. A circular drive divided the home from the front gate and, along with the trees, provided both a measure of security and a natural sound barrier.

The gate was closed, so Ryan pulled the Jeep to a stop on the shoulder of the road. As they exited the Jeep and peered through the fence, both women were astounded at the understated grandeur of the home.

Janna’s jaw fell as she gasped, “My God…Ryan…it’s beautiful!”

“Shit, Janna…if this is what Carl considers a cabin, I’d like to see his home.” Ryan grinned as she shook her head in bewilderment. “He’s always talking about his ‘retirement home’…now I see what all the fuss is about. Jesus…would you look at this place?”

It was an extremely attractive two-story constructed of golden pine with an attached garage and was quite large compared to the neighboring homes. It sat on a wider than average lot as well, hinting at its construction in an earlier era.

Janna walked to the far edge of the property and craned her neck to see past the trees, around the side of the house to the beach.

“Ryan, it has a private dock and beach too! Oh, my God, it’s just gorgeous!” Janna couldn’t contain her excitement at the prospect of staying there, much less at being married there.

“Well, babe, I guess I know what to tell Carl then. It just won’t do. Way too big.” Ryan shook her head seriously as Janna turned and looked at her in shock.

“Ryan, you’re not ser…”

Before Janna could finish, Ryan was betrayed by an involuntary smile, unable to pull off the joke.

“Oh, you! You had me going for a second.” She approached her naughty mate and swatted her on the behind. “Ryan Zamora, you’d better watch yourself.”

Ryan grinned and grabbed her arm. “Oh, yeah…and what are you gonna do about it, huh?”

“You just watch it. I might surprise you sometime.” Janna’s serious green eyes took on a twinkle, as she couldn’t seriously threaten her mate any more than her mate could successfully tease her.

They linked hands as they turned to take one more look at the home.

“Janna, I can’t wait, baby.” Ryan turned to face her partner. “I absolutely cannot wait to come back here to this beautiful home and marry you.”

Janna matched Ryan’s sincere look and opened her mouth to speak just as the electric gate they were standing next to lurched open. As they turned in surprise, a car approached from the highway and turned into the drive. As the minivan drove past them, the front passenger waved.

Janna gave a short wave back, though she couldn’t see the person’s face. They turned to walk back to their Jeep and heard, “Ryan, Janna…hi!”

As they both turned in surprise at hearing their names, they were shocked to see Ryan’s coworker, Sam and his wife Georgie, followed by two boys.

“Zamora, what the hell brings you up this way?” Sam laughed as he approached and grasped Ryan’s outstretched arm.

Ryan grinned widely as she shook his hand. “I guess we’re doing the same thing you are, Cap. We’re up here on vacation. We were thinking about renting this place sometime in the next month or so and Carl suggested that we stop by and take a look at it. He didn’t tell me you were up here though.”

“My what a small world!” Exclaimed Georgie. “Ryan, you know our boys. Janna, these are our sons, Nate and Sammy.”

Janna smiled warmly at each boy and said, “Hi guys. Are you enjoying your vacation?”

The older boy, thirteen-year old Nate, answered, “Oh, yeah. It’s totally rad here. Dad’s taking us parasailing tomorrow.”

“Wow, that sounds so cool!” replied Janna, genuinely interested.

“It sure does,” piped in Ryan. “You gonna get your Dad up there too?” She smiled crookedly at Sam, mildly challenging him.

“Zamora, do you think I’d let these kids do something that I haven’t’ already tried out myself?” their father asked, his gruff statement softened by smiling eyes. Sam had married somewhat later in life than most of his friends, and at nearly fifty, his wife and kids were his entire world.

“No, Cap, I don’t.” Ryan grinned, conceding the point.

“Ryan, Janna, come on in and see the place.” Georgie grabbed a bag of groceries from the rear of the van as she beckoned with her head toward the house. Her husband and sons also each grabbed a bag and headed inside.

“Oh, no Georgie…we don’t want to intrude. We’ve seen enough.”

“Don’t be silly! You have to see the rest…it’s just gorgeous inside. Come on!” She smiled her invitation and Ryan glanced at Janna, whose eyes were alight with curiosity.

“Okay. Thanks Georgie…but we’ll only stay a few minutes.” Janna followed Georgie in to the house while Ryan grabbed a grocery bag.

As Sam reappeared to retrieve the last bag from the car he said, “Actually, we were just going to barbecue up some steaks and burgers…why don’t you join us?”

“Cap, thanks…but we can’t do that.” Ryan smiled apologetically.

“Why the hell not, Zamora. You got other plans?”

“Well, no…Cap, this is your family vacation…we just don’t want…”

“To intrude…yes, I know.” He looked her in the eye and added, “If it were an intrusion, I wouldn’t be inviting you.” Then he glanced up at the house to make sure that their mates weren’t within earshot and added, “Besides…Georgie’s dying to know more about the little lady who’s got you so wrapped up. Says she seems real nice. I’m kind of curious myself.”

Ryan smiled warmly at the compliment paid to her love and nodded her acceptance of the invitation.

“Alright, Sam. Thanks very much.”

“No problem. You can give me a hand with the grill.”

Ryan followed the Captain into the house and tracked down her mate, who was gushing over the view out of the picture window that overlooked the rear deck and the lake just beyond.

“Ryan, honey, can you believe this view?” Janna’s look of utter joy convinced Ryan on the spot that her idea to hold their ceremony there had been a good one.

“Yes, love, it’s incredible. I think this will be perfect.” Her eyes spoke the volumes of love that she felt for her mate. Two sets of eyes communicated the love and devotion that they felt at that moment, allowing them to refrain from a more public display in front of the family.

The moment was broken when Sam announced that the ladies would be staying for dinner and they separated: Ryan going with Sam to help with the barbecue, and Janna to help Georgie in the kitchen.

Forty-five minutes later they were all seated at a large table on the deck, enjoying a simple, but delicious meal. The view was one that could be matched by few five-star restaurants in the entire world.

Later, they sat visiting over cold beers as the kids chased around the yard with their large Irish Setter. The threatened thunderstorm never materialized, the earlier clouds having been chased into Nevada by the prevailing winds.

Suddenly, their conversation was interrupted when they heard a shriek from one of the boys and Nate ran up to his parents yelling, “Mom, Dad, Sammy got stung! It was a huge yellow bee…I saw it.”

The adults quickly jumped up and ran to aid the ten-year old who was crying and writhing in pain a short distance away. As his parents reached him and tried to comfort him, Ryan knelt next to him and grasped the already swollen arm. Gently, she flicked the large stinger from the wound with a fingernail and then pressed her lips to the stung skin and sucked the poison from the boy’s arm.

As he continued to cry in agony, a look passed between Ryan and Janna, and Ryan nodded, saying with a serious gaze, “Sam, Georgie, Janna knows a technique that can soothe the pain almost instantly. May she use it?” She looked from husband to wife expectantly.

The parents, both looking somewhat confused, but anxious to relieve their child’s suffering, nodded their assent and backed away. Janna sat beside Sammy and motioned for his mother to sit behind him, holding him. Janna quickly visualized the symbols and called up the Reiki. She held her hands just above the boy’s arm, realizing that direct pressure may not be comfortable at first. Ryan crouched next to her partner and placed one hand on the boy’s back, one hand on his mother’s shoulder, and also called up the energy.

The Reiki from Janna quickly soothed the acute pain and initiated healing while the Reiki from Ryan comforted both patient and parent. Little Sam’s tears slowed and his sobs became less frequent as the soothing energy acted like a balm to his injury.

He looked back at his mother, wonder replacing the pain in his eyes, and said, “Mom, her hands are hot and it stopped hurting.” He looked back at Janna’s hands, which hovered just above his arm, then he glanced at Ryan and said, “Your hand is hot too.”

“Yes, Ryan, it is.” Georgie looked pointedly at her friend and smiled, adding, “I’d like to hear more about this healing ‘technique’, if you don’t mind.” She looked over at Janna. “It seems like something every mother should know about.”

Janna smiled her agreement and nodded before removing her hands from Sammy’s arm.

“There, Sam. How does it feel now?” She looked kindly at the young boy and rested a hand on his head.

“It feels a lot better. It’s just tingling now. It doesn’t hurt.” He looked back at his mother. “Can I go back and play, Mom?”

Ryan answered before Georgia could, “Hold on there sport. Why don’t you let your Dad put some ice on that first? It’s still a little swollen and you don’t want the pain coming back later, do you?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Come on buddy. Lets get you some ice.” His father helped him to his feet, directing raised eyebrows at his coworker.

As Ryan got up and reached for Janna’s hand she smiled and said, “Well, I guess we’re out of the closet, huh?”

Janna laughed. “Out of the healer’s closet? I guess so, yeah!”

Georgia stood up, brushing the mountain dirt from her pants and said, “Would you two care to enlighten me about what you just did to help my son? A yellowjacket sting is very, very painful, yet he’s ready to run off and play already.”

Ryan linked her arms through those of her mate and her friend and headed them back toward the deck. “Yes, we’ll tell you all about it. Lets get comfortable.”

-26-

Before returning to their lodge, Janna convinced Ryan to make one more stop. There was a favorite little tie-dye shop that she tried to visit every time she went to the Lake. Over the years, Janna had become friendly with the owner, a friendly, sixtyish ex-hippie who did all of her own work. She colored everything from a full line of clothing, for infants to adults, to rugs, tapestries and flags. The free spirit in Janna had always loved tie-dye and she couldn’t seem to ever get enough of it.

Ryan glanced over at her passenger, now clad in her new “Tahoe” cap and matching blue-hued tie-dyed “Lake Tahoe” t-shirt and grinned. “You look great, babe.”

Janna looked at Ryan and thought that she looked great in her new cap as well, with her hair tucked behind her ears. Smiling, she said, “So do you, love…of course. That hat is you.”

Ryan smiled warmly at her mate and returned her attention to the highway. “Georgia seems really excited about getting an attunement.” She shook her head. “You just never know about people, I guess. I would have thought she was a little too conservative to be interested in an alternative practice like that.”

“Honey, remember about not judging a book by its cover?” Janna raised her eyebrows at her mate and grinned. “And never underestimate the lengths a mother will go to for her children.” She turned toward Ryan and added, “Besides…how conservative could she be, really? She’s your friend, after all, and has been very accepting of us.”

“That’s true. Actually, politically, they’re pretty liberal, but they do seem to epitomize American family values.”

“Well, we know, possibly as well as anyone can, that the definition of the American family is changing. Quickly. Or we will know in the near future anyway.” She caressed her mate’s hand where it rested on the gearshift knob, and was filled with love and joy at the prospect of beginning a family with Ryan.

Ryan lifted their hands to her lips and kissed Janna’s fingers. “Right, baby. Before too long.” Her blue eyes mirrored the love that shone in her mate’s green ones. “Um, you know…Georgie cornered me about why we were coming back up to the Lake again so soon. I told her about our ceremony, but said that I thought it would only include immediate family.”

She looked back to the road and continued, “I know we hadn’t talked about that aspect of it yet, honey, but my feeling is that if we have all of our friends too, it will be just a big drunken party. Or, it would be with my friends at least. I don’t want that, Janna. I just want something very small and very special. Is that alright?”

“Yes, honey. It’s fine. I understand completely. It would be the same way with my friends too, believe me. I can’t tell you how many commitment ceremonies I’ve been to that were so big they had to be held in Golden Gate Park.” She quickly added, “Don’t get me wrong…they were all beautiful weddings. But I don’t feel the need to ask every lesbian and gay man that I’ve ever met to share our joy with us. I’ve been thinking that I’d like it to be just us, John and Sara, my best friends Anna and Terry, my family and your brother. How does that sound?”

Ryan bestowed a radiant smile upon her and said, “Sounds perfect, baby. Just perfect.” She sighed happily and added, “Georgie told me that the house sleeps between twelve and fifteen, depending on how people want to double up. So, I was thinking…” She paused and looked at Janna with sparkling eyes.

“Oh no…should I be afraid?” Janna laughed.

“You might, yeah! I’m thinking…we exchange vows just as the sun is rising over the lake.”

Janna was speechless for a moment. “Oh, Ryan…that’s a beautiful thought.”

“Um, I thought it might be significant…you know, symbolic of our love for each other?” She looked almost sheepish at having suggested something so romantic.

“Honey, it’s a beautiful idea. I love it.”

“Thanks baby. So, um, that would mean, to make it easiest on the guests, everyone should be staying nearby, preferably in the house there.”

Janna continued the thought. “Right…it has four bedrooms and the loft. Lets see…there’s the master bedroom for us, another bedroom for John and Sara, one for my parents, one for Anna and Terry and then the loft for Dan and his family. Your brother…do you think he could use the loft or maybe one of the sofa sleepers?”

“He probably wouldn’t mind either…if he even comes. I can’t be sure he will, Janna. Though, um, I did write to him recently and tell him about you…that we’re living together and planning our commitment ceremony.”

“I hope he does come, Ryan…I look forward to meeting him. If John is your best man, you’ll need someone to give you away.”

“Do I? Even though I’m basically standing in as the groom?” Ryan laughed, her eyes mirroring her mirth.

“Well, you’re the one who mentioned a best man, you know.” Janna reminded her.

“Yeah, baby, I know. Actually, that works for me. He’s my very best friend, after you. I can’t really get behind the idea of having a maid of honor.” Ryan shook her head to dislodge the image of herself in a bridal gown which had just entered her mind. “How about you, love? Have you thought about it?”

Janna looked at her as if she’d lost her mind. “Have I thought about it? You’re kidding, right?” She laughed. “It’s about all I think about lately, sweetheart.” She caressed Ryan’s hand again. “Yeah, I want my Daddy to give me away and Terry to be my bridesmaid. I’d ask Anna too, but I don’t think she’d enjoy it. She’s very similar to you in the butch quotient department. I don’t think she owns a dress.”

“Butch quotient? Janna, I thought you didn’t like labels.”

“I don’t Ryan, but there is a very definite level of butchness in your identity. It’s just an identifier Ryan, not a stereotype.”

“Would you care to enlighten me on what my ‘butch quotient’ is?”

“On a scale of one to ten? Fifteen,” Janna giggled.

“So you like butch women?”

“I don’t like labels.”

“Answer the question.”

“I tend to be attracted to strong, nice women who lean in that direction, yeah.”

“So you consider me a bulldyke.”

“No, I don’t. You’re more androgynous than that.”

“So what would a bulldyke rate?”

“Well, ten or so, but Ry…”

“Janna! What?”

“Ryan, you are one of a kind. Very strong, very independent…so you rate a ten plus, but you also have an incredibly loving soul. And you’re gorgeous. Off the scale gorgeous.”

“So, bulldykes aren’t gorgeous?”

“Jesus Christ, Ryan…”

“Just trying to see where you’re coming from babe.”

“Yes, bulldykes can be gorgeous. My ex, Joanie, is gorgeous. As far as I’m concerned, every woman is beautiful. It’s more than that. There’s a softness there too…in you.”

“I am not soft.”

“You are incredibly soft…but I promise, I’ll never tell a soul.”

“You fuckin’ well better not, baby.”

“Ooh, you talk big, don’t you?”

“I talk big and I have the power to back it up.” She narrowed her eyes playfully at Janna but then grinned, softening her words. “I have complete control over you, my little love.”

Janna’s voice became very soft. “Ryan, you’ll get no argument from me over that particular point.” Her eyes filled with tears as she added, “The bottom line, Ryan, is that you are the perfect woman for me. No label does you justice and you can’t be pigeonholed…no one really can be…not fairly anyway. That’s why I don’t like labels.”

“And you are the perfect woman for me…my little soft-butch, semi-femme baby.”

“Ryan!”

“Hey, it’s just an identifier, baby, not a stereotype!”

“I love you Ryan.”

“Love you too Janna.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“Mmm” Janna giggled. “I think you’re trying to get me drunk, Ryan.”

“Janna, I’m not trying, I have succeeded.” She added with a jaunty grin, “More champagne, baby?”

“Absolutely!”

Ryan reached for the bottle, which sat in the ice bucket at the edge of the spa. She poured the last bit into Janna’s glass and then tilted the bottle into her mouth, capturing the last few drops for herself.

Luna shone brilliantly down upon her two faithful worshippers, whom, at the moment were so enormously wrapped up in each other that she might as well have not even existed. She didn’t mind, however, as their adoration for each other was obvious. Deliriously obvious, actually, at the moment, and she was nothing if not all about love.

“Baby, how are we gonna top this with our real honeymoon?” Ryan whispered in Janna’s ear as she drew her love more tightly against herself. She had managed to coax the swimsuit off of her modest mate and was exceptionally pleased with the situation at the moment.

“I’m gonna make love with you on the beach in the moonlight.” The matter of fact response surprised and delighted Ryan.

“But, Janna, what about the ‘no sex out in nature’ rule?”

“We’ll ask permission of the spirits present. We’ll do a ceremony. And we’ll ask Luna to bless our union.”

In her slightly foggy state, Ryan wasn’t sure, but she thought that Janna might possibly be completely serious. “Um, sure, baby…okay.”

“I’ll figure out the best way to do it. And I have a shaman friend I can call…she’ll give me…”

“You’re serious?” Ryan was incredulous.

“Of course I am…I’m not that drunk, Ryan!” She continued, not the least bit deterred by the interruption, “I’ll also find out how to do a protection ritual, to protect us from prying eyes. Oh, lets get married at the Full moon, Ryan! Oh, God…it’ll be near the equinox…cool! And right after your birthday too, baby.” She threw her arms around her lover gleefully and kissed her.

As Janna’s pert breasts caressed her own, Ryan realized that she had already received the perfect birthday present. It sat right there in her arms, in the hot tub, overlooking a meadow, in their favorite mountains, bathed in the light of their favorite goddess.

The mid-morning sun shone brilliantly through the thin atmosphere, illuminating the honeymoon suite of the Strawberry Lodge and the two entwined occupants of the king-sized bed. Even avowed early-morning riser Ryan was loath to leave the warm comfort of the bed, and especially that of her mate’s arms. She was wide-awake but had absolutely no desire to get up, thus ending their wonderful vacation.

Suddenly, an idea struck her and she became so excited by the prospect that she sat up in bed, pulling her sleeping mate up with her. The blankets fell away from them, exposing their bare skin to the early morning chill, and Janna mumbled a complaint. Ryan nuzzled her partner’s hair and whispered, “Sweetheart, wake up…I have an idea. She kissed Janna’s temple to try to speed the pace along.

“Don’t wanna…” Strong arms wrapped themselves more tightly around Ryan’s muscled torso.

“Baby, listen. I want to do something special before we go home.”

“Don’t wanna hear the ‘h’ word, Ryan…please?”

“Sweetheart, come on…wake up. It has to do with our wedding.”

Janna’s eyes flew open right on cue. “Our wedding? What?” She brought one hand up to rub the sleep from her eyes but kept the other arm wrapped around her mate.

“There are Indian Reservations around here, right?”

“Yeah, all over…um, not too far across the state line, and in the foothills on the way home. Also down south towards Yosemite. Why?” Her interest piqued, Janna was fully awake.

“Did you have anything in particular in mind for our wedding rings?”

“Um, no, actually. But perhaps you do?” Sleepy green eyes gained a sparkle.

“Yeah, it just occurred to me. We share a Native American heritage, Janna. Why don’t we celebrate that with Native American styled rings?”

Janna thought briefly, then asked, “You mean with something like silver and turquoise?”

Ryan beamed. “Baby that is exactly what I pictured in my mind, yes!”

“Ryan, I adore silver and turquoise!” She threw her arms around Ryan again and kissed her happily.

Ryan returned the kiss and fell back onto the bed, pulling Janna fully atop her. Strong, talented hands started a sensual exploration of her mate’s curves as the kiss continued and deepened, only to be stopped abruptly when Janna sat up and exclaimed, “Ryan! There’s a beautiful Native jewelry and art shop in South Lake Tahoe. I think the owner is a member of the Paiute Tribe. He does beautiful silver work.” She gazed at Ryan with excited, twinkling eyes.

Ryan’s eyes held a sparkle of another sort as she replied, “Lets check it out before we leave, baby. It sounds perfect.” Then she pulled her mate back into her arms. “But not for a little while yet.”

-27-

The morning after their return home from the mountains, Janna stood in front of the dresser that she shared with Ryan and gazed with wonder at the small, velvet-lined box that sat open, exposing the two lovely silver rings sitting side-by-side within. They were inlaid with beautiful turquoise in a stylish zigzag pattern. A lump formed in her throat as she thought about what the rings signified.

They were a physical representation of a love that defied description. As Janna stood there and tried to come up with words to describe what she felt for Ryan, tears began to flow. That was how Ryan found her several minutes later when her workout partner failed to appear when expected.

Warm, strong hands grasped Janna’s shoulders as soft lips kissed her hair. The hands then slid down her arms and her mate enveloped her from behind. They stood together then, gazing at their rings, neither of them able to find words for what they were feeling. Fortunately, their link made verbal communication unnecessary. Their emotions were communicated precisely through the energetic bond.

Eventually, Janna broke the silence. “They’re beautiful, aren’t they, Ryan?” she asked quietly, as if in awe.

“Yes, baby, they are. I feel so lucky that we found them. They’re exactly what I’d had in mind.”

“Those rings were waiting for us Ryan. That’s the way the Universe works. Didn’t you get the impression that the craftsman had been expecting us?”

“Yes, I did, actually. The whole thing had a really special feel about it…magical, almost.” She was quiet for a moment before adding, “God, Janna, he reminded me of my grandfather. With his intelligent, quiet manner, his way of speaking, his looks. He felt like an old friend, and I felt…I don’t know…comfortable there.” She turned her face into Janna’s temple and kissed her softly. “And being there with my soon-to-be wife made it even more special…extraordinarily special. Beyond words special.”

“Fortunately for us, we don’t always need words, do we?” Janna wrapped her arms around Ryan’s, which were wrapped around her waist and leaned back into her embrace.

“No, we don’t, my destiny.” She reached out and picked up the ring box. “I can’t wait to wear mine, Janna. I’ve never been into jewelry, but I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to putting this on. It’s a declaration of my love for you…one that I’m so proud and happy to make.”

The sweet declaration tore a small sob from Janna’s throat. “Ryan…that would make a beautiful vow.”

Ryan nodded against Janna’s head and removed her other arm from her waist and, reaching around Janna, gently picked up the smaller of the two rings. She held it up so that she could read its inscription aloud.

“Janna, my destiny. Love, Ryan.”

Janna did likewise with Ryan’s ring.

“Ryan, my destiny. Love, Janna.”

They both replaced the rings in the box and Ryan set it back on the dresser. Then Janna turned in Ryan’s embrace and held her tightly, burying her face in her mate’s chest.

“God, Janna…this love between us is unreal. I never, never would have thought it possible to love someone so much.”

Janna shook her head, mirroring Ryan’s sense of disbelief. “I know, Ryan. But it was destined. Just like the rings say. There was no fighting it. We made the agreement to be mates again before this life began.” She pulled back slightly and looked up at her mate with a twinkle in her eye. “Not that we’d try to fight it, as amazingly good as it is.”

“We’d be absolute fucking idiots if we did, baby.” Ryan grinned and kissed Janna’s head again. “I’ve been called hard-headed in my day, but even I’m not that stubborn.”

“Thank the Gods!”

“Come on, my destiny, we were gonna work out before throwing the softball around.”

“Let’s go. I’ll show you how good I am.”

“Oh, baby, I know full well how good you are!”

“At softball, honey.”

“Oh, right!”

Their cheerful, now routine, banter continued all the way down the stairs and into the exercise room.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Alright, Janna, nice pick up!” Ryan stood at home plate with the bat resting on her shoulder, pleased beyond words at Janna’s skill and proficiency at softball. It meant that they would most likely be able to play together on Ryan’s team for the remaining few months of the long season.

The hot August sun beat down on them, but Ryan didn’t notice it. She was entirely too enraptured by her mate’s grace, agility, and beauty. Also, she found her looking completely adorable in her form-fitting biking shorts, t-shirt and new “Tahoe” cap.

Janna was feeling much the same thing. Ryan displayed an absolute mastery of her sport and a natural leadership ability. I’ll bet she ends of coaching one day…she’d better! And Janna knew she would never get enough of seeing Ryan in uniform, be it softball, cop, or otherwise.

As her mate trotted back to her position at second base, Ryan’s thoughts drifted briefly back to the first time she and Janna had thrown the ball around together a few weeks before. She grinned as she remembered her relief at seeing Janna throw the ball for the first time. She repeated the thought again that she had back then, as it pleased her immensely: “She doesn’t throw like a girl…thank God!” Her grin widened further as she remembered how their practice session had morphed into a playful wrestling match on the lawn and then into more sensual wrestling and had to be moved quickly into the house.

She was startled out of her delightful reverie when her teammate, Carrie, who was catching for her, snickered and said, “Earth to Ryan!”

Ryan simply turned to her friend and grinned widely, then nodded toward Janna and said, “Can you blame me?”

“Absolutely not, buddy!”

Ryan re focused on the task at hand. She and Janna had arrived for the game an hour early and were working out with some of the other players. It allowed a more extended workout opportunity for Janna than just the two of them working together did. Janna was exhibiting a definite proficiency at the position and a strong grasp of the basics. She looked to be a definite asset to the team, and Ryan was eager for the team manger to arrive and give Janna her informal tryout before the game started.

The ball came back in to the catcher, who tossed it to Ryan. Ryan tossed it up and brought the bat under it gracefully, placing a high fly out to short center. Janna quickly trotted backwards, calling the ball and waving off the advancing center fielder. She deftly made the catch and immediately set herself, making a bull’s-eye throw to the catcher at home.

“Jesus…what an arm!” gasped Carrie, at home plate.

“I guess fifteen years of playing rock guitar builds muscle,” Ryan offered proudly.

“Well, Ryan, I see she can catch flies and throw line drives, lets see how she handles grounders.”

Ryan turned to see the manager, Sharon, leaning against the fence behind her.

“Hi, coach. You want to do the hitting?” Ryan offered her the bat.

Sharon’s arms remained crossed in front of her chest and she waved Ryan on. “Nope. You go ahead.”

Ryan called the play, “Okay, play’s at first” and hit a blistering ground ball to Janna’s right, near second base.

Her nimble mate was ready, and dove to her right, stretching out across her body and stopping the ball with her glove, quickly transferring the ball to her throwing hand, then setting herself and making a long throw to first, right on target. Ryan’s teammates clapped and yelled encouragement.

The next shot was to Janna’s far left and she had to literally dive to make the stop, ending on her stomach in the dirt and completing a shovel toss the remaining few feet to the first baseman. The play was accompanied by whoops and hollers and Ryan grinned unabashedly.

“Beautiful, Janna!” She shook her head in wonder. Her partner was much better than she had dared hope. “Okay, double play!”
She hit a hard, bouncing grounder to the shortstop, who stopped it and made a quick toss to Janna at second, who in turn pivoted gracefully on the bag and made a blistering throw to first.

“Jesus” muttered Sharon. “Okay, I’ve seen enough defense. Lets see some offense, Janna.”

As Janna dutifully trotted in to home plate, kicking up yellow dust as she ran, she smiled and said, “You got it coach.”

Sharon walked her star pitcher to the mound. “Okay, Ryan, I want to see some hot stuff. Give her your best. If she can hit you, she can hit anyone in the league.” Looking Ryan pointedly in the eye, she added, “I don’t want you taking it easy on her because she’s your lover.”

“No problem, Sharon. She’s good.” Ryan stared pointedly right back at her.

Ryan took the mound and waited for Janna to step to the plate. As she did, pitcher grinned at batter encouragingly and winked. The batter grinned and waggled her bat, setting herself in her stance. The pitcher hesitated momentarily, distracted by the batter’s cute body, but then pulled herself together with a shake of her head, wound up, and made the pitch. Janna swung and missed, unused to the sheer velocity of Ryan’s pitching. Undiscouraged, she took a deep breath and set herself again. The pitch was delivered, right down the middle of the strike zone, and when she swung, she caught a piece of it, fouling it down the third base line.

“Okay, babe, you got a piece of it. Just wait on it a bit more,” Ryan yelled with encouragement.

“Zamora…are you supposed to talk to the opposing batters?” Her coach yelled out gruffly.

“Chill out, Sharon, for Christ’s sake. She hasn’t played in fifteen years. Give her a little time to get her swing back.” Ryan eyed her coach pointedly with raised eyebrows until Sharon conceded the point by nodding and waving her hand.

Ryan set herself and gazed at Janna, eyebrows raised in encouragement. Janna smiled and nodded, then set herself. The pitch came in, again, in the strike zone and she stretched out and connected with it solidly, sending a line drive just over the shortstop’s head.

“Yes!” Ryan jumped up and pumped her fist in the air triumphantly as her mate stood at the plate grinning widely, the bat resting on her shoulder.

The coach yelled from the sideline, “Okay, Norden, show me that wasn’t a fluke.”

Janna proceeded to do just that, having regained her rhythm and become used to Ryan’s pitching, spreading balls all over the field, including one that landed just inside the left field fence.

“Okay, okay, that’s enough.” Sharon approached Janna with an outstretched hand and added, “Welcome to the team, Norden.”

“Thanks, Sharon! I’m glad to be here.” Janna smiled warmly at her new coach.

Ryan jogged in from the pitcher’s mound and threw her arms around her mate, lifting her triumphantly off the ground. “Great job, baby. I knew you’d do fine!” She refrained from kissing Janna, though she wanted to very badly. The rest of the team approached and congratulated Janna, welcoming her to the team.

Sharon, her manner less brusque now that Janna had proven herself said, “Okay, Janna, we’ll need you to start the next game. Come on over to the dugout and fill some forms out for me and you’ll be all set.”

Ryan walked Janna to the dugout with an arm draped around her shoulders, pride written all over her face. They sat down together and gulped cold water while Janna filled out the player’s registration forms.

Ryan felt so happy that she was nearly floating and the feeling continued throughout the entire game, aided by the fact that her mate now sat in the dugout, much closer to her.

Two pairs of watchful eyes kept up a vigil on the two women throughout the game, and the slimy owners tracked them from a distance after the game ended.

As the team sat together in the bleachers after the game, Ryan kept getting an uneasy feeling, accompanied by the prickling sensation at the back of her neck that she associated with danger. Listening to her inner voice and becoming wary, she pulled Janna closer to her side and looked around. She didn’t see anything or anyone out of the ordinary, but didn’t let her guard down.

She was intelligent enough to realize that as out gay women, she and most of her teammates were targets. Problems in the past with harassment and outright physical abuse were behind the reason that she always carried her service revolver with her to games, securely fastened into it’s holster in her locked athletic bag.

The attack on her precious mate further ground the need for safety into her consciousness, so she was not about to dismiss any seemingly out of place feelings she experienced, thereby letting down her guard. She pulled the athletic bag more firmly between her feet and looked around again.

Janna sensed her disquiet and asked with concern, “What is it Ryan?”

“Oh, probably nothing Janna, just an uneasy feeling.” She didn’t want to alarm Janna, but she didn’t want to hide anything from her either, especially if she was in danger. She firmly believed that the better-informed one was about situations and environments, the safer one was. She looked seriously at her mate. “I feel like I’m being watched.”

Janna returned the serious gaze. “Listen to your gut, Ryan. It usually speaks the truth.”

“Yes, I’m realizing that, babe.” She gave Janna a reassuring squeeze and looked around again. She kept her awareness on alert but didn’t feel the uneasiness again.

As Billy and Adam, the slimy owners of the watchful eyes, climbed into Billy’s beat up car in the complex’s parking lot, he said, “Shit, Adam. I swear to God, every time we follow that fuckin’ woman she can tell, and she looks around for us. This might not be so easy.”

“Come on Billy, they’re just a couple of stupid dykes. We won’t have any problem with them.”

“What are you, a moron? The big one’s a cop! I think we’re gonna have to maybe get a couple more guys to help.”

“Yeah, that might be a good idea. I know a bunch of guys that wouldn’t mind helping out.”

Billy pulled his rolling piece of shit out of the lot and continued to think aloud. “Okay, yeah, we’ll line up some help and do it after a late game here. They usually hang out and bullshit for a while and by the time they leave, there’s hardly anyone left around here. That park over there next to the lot is nice and dark too. Yeah, that’s the plan.” He smiled cruelly as he silently contemplated the beating he would give the uppity women.

Unfortunately, or fortunately for Ryan and Janna, the idiot hadn’t a clue as to whom he was dealing with, and would find his task far from easy when it went down.

-28-

Warning: This chapter contains a brief description of violence against children and explicit sex.

As Janna finished a set of leg curls she heard the kitchen door bang open. Surprised, she glanced at her watch and noted that it was only 5:00. Strange…she’s rarely home before 6:30 on Mondays. She let the bar slowly come to rest and got up from the seat, grabbing a towel from an overhead bar as she stood up. She dried her face as she walked down the hallway to the kitchen and could hear her mate banging around noisily in there. When she entered the cheery room she was shocked to see Ryan sitting at the kitchen table, an uncapped fifth of Jack Daniels and a shot glass sitting in front of her.

Ryan looked at her coldly, filling Janna’s heart with pain, and downed another shot. I knew she was having a bad day. I didn’t do enough to try and help her. I was too wrapped up in shopping with my mom and planning the friggin’ ceremony. At Janna’s pained, crestfallen expression, Ryan’s turned from one of ice, to one of pain, and Janna felt a glimpse of the pain and horror in her heart.

Ryan looked down at the shot glass wrapped in her large hand and said apologetically, “I’m not upset with you Janna. I had the fucking shittiest day that I think I’ve ever had.” She poured another shot and downed it, and then another, then leaned back in the chair and threw her head back, blowing out a breath before exploding, “God damn it! God damn those mother fucking, child abusing assholes!” She slammed her fist down onto the table, making the shot glass jump six inches in the air and land on its side. She rubbed a hand through her hair, obviously in agony.

Janna slowly approached her and laid gentle hands on her shoulders. “Tell me about it, Ryan…please.” As she reached out and began to soothe her partner’s shattered nerves with her physical touch, she also reached out through their bond and sent love and reassurance cascading into her partner’s soul.

The ice in Ryan’s heart began to melt quickly under the loving barrage and she reached one hand up to link it with Janna’s on her shoulder. She shook her head as tears began to track down her cheeks. “Jesus, Janna. Two babies. Two little kids…beaten to death by their so-called mother’s methed out boyfriend.” She took a deep breath. “John and I got the call…we were the first ones there…we knew right away it was too late. Fucking shit, Janna, they were…” She shuddered and brought her fist down hard on the table again. “Fuck!” she screamed. “I want to kill ’em…both of ’em. The mother never even tried to help. Drugged out, white trash, piece of shit.” She glanced back at Janna, her eyes dark and bleak. “I nearly beat the shit out of the fucking prick. The paramedics had to pull me off him.”

Janna continued her gentle touch from behind Ryan and leaned down, wrapping her in her arms. “I’m so sorry Ryan…for them and for you. Tell me what I can do.” She spoke softly and gently kissed her mate’s temple. Ryan closed her eyes and took a breath, exhaling pain and anger and sorrow.

The alcohol coursed through her veins, aided by her anger, and her pounding pulse intensified the effects of Janna’s touch. She half turned and pulled Janna down into her arms, crushing her to her chest. Her throbbing pulse seemed to pool in her groin and she sought out Janna’s lips, taking them forcefully. Janna gave herself up to her partner willingly, letting her take what she needed, and Ryan’s kiss immediately became less demanding.

Ryan stood suddenly, pulling Janna with her and stormed out of the room, pulling her mate by the hand. She led Janna quickly through the house and up the stairs to their bedroom. When they reached the room, she shut the door behind her and wordlessly turned Janna and backed her up against it. She captured Janna’s lips again hungrily and thrust a hand up the front of her shirt, roughly fondling a breast. When Janna moaned her consent, Ryan thrust a thigh between her legs, lifting her slightly off the floor, and wrapped her other arm around her waist. They stood there for several minutes, Ryan thrusting against Janna’s center with her thigh, kissing her deeply. As Janna began to cry out her pleasure, Ryan stopped suddenly and guided her to the bed, pushing her down on her back.

She looked intensely at Janna and said, “I need you Janna. Right now.”

Janna simply nodded her assent and opened her arms to her mate. Ryan fell into them and reached down, removing Janna’s shorts and panties, then stepped back from the bed and struggled out of her own clothes, kicking her shoes off against the wall. She leaned down and kissed Janna, much more gently than before, and reached a long arm over to the bedside table, opened the drawer and snagged a leather harness, along with its accompanying hard latex cylinder.

“Is this okay Janna?”

“Yes. Always.” Janna quickly shrugged out of her shirt and bra while Ryan prepared herself.

Ryan deftly secured the harness into place around her waist and hips and secured the appendage, her breath catching as it lodged against her anatomy. She leaned down over her mate and with one hand, guided the phallic object into her partner. Janna sucked in a breath and moaned, pulling Ryan firmly against herself and wrapping her legs tightly around her mate as she began to thrust.

With each thrust received by her loving and willing partner, the pent up pain, anger and horror in Ryan’s body was slowly released. Janna held her securely and kissed her tenderly. The violence of what Ryan had seen that day was not mirrored in their lovemaking. The anger she wished to impart on the perpetrators of the horrendous crime was not inflicted on her mate. Their mutual love altered the emotion from one of negativity and fear to that of devotion and tenderness. They lost themselves and their pain and horror in the giving of pleasure. In life.

After Ryan had brought about Janna’s release, she still needed more. She lay atop her mate, waiting for Janna’s breathing to return to normal, then slowly pulled out and lie on her back. Janna sensed Ryan’s need and gently reached down and undid the harness, removing it from her partner’s body.

“May I use it now, Ryan? I haven’t had a lot of practice, but I want to try.” Janna’s voice was soft and gentle.

Ryan’s blood began boiling at the prospect and without a word, she sat up and helped to adjust the harness to her mate’s smaller body. With the appliance in place, Janna rose to her knees above Ryan’s reclining body. The off-white of the vibrator, which hung below Janna’s hips, matched the creamy white color of her abdomen and breasts and at the erotic sight, Ryan was nearly consumed with lust.

She reached up and pulled her mate down on top of her, reaching down at the same time with one hand and guiding the vibrator into her body. Her breath caught as the instrument glided in: she had never ever allowed anyone to enter her in that way before. But at that moment she needed to be taken, gently, by her mate.

As Janna started a slow, rhythmic thrusting, Ryan moaned loudly and arched, wrapping her legs tightly up around Janna’s back, the strong muscles in her legs aiding her partner’s thrusts. Janna pressed her body firmly against her lover and kissed her deeply, then bent her head to her breasts and tended to them with her lips and tongue.

As the pleasurable sensations built within her own body, Janna found that she had to focus intently on not losing the rhythm that her partner so desperately needed. She remembered her Tantric breathing principles, which served to calm and balance her, also allowing her to enjoy the sensations more fully. Ryan opened her eyes when she felt the change within her mate, and mimicked Janna’s actions, synchronizing their breathing.

“Oh, God, baby…yes!” She gasped. Ryan closed her eyes again as a long moan was torn from her throat, the pleasure escalating out of control. She felt too far gone to try the Tantric technique any further and just let the spasms carry her away, the horror of her day dissolving as she left her body, carried on the waves of love delivered by her beloved mate. Janna felt the climax rock her partner’s body violently and slowed her strokes, holding her mate tightly and speaking soothing words of love into her ear as the spasms slowed and faded.

Afterward, Janna held Ryan for hours and they talked about everything she had witnessed. Janna soothed her mate with her touch, her words of devotion, her support, and her love. Ryan’s tears shifted from those of pain, sorrow and anger to tears of love and gratitude. During the night, when nightmarish images interrupted her dreams, Janna was there to help soothe them away. There was one image, however, that would continue to haunt Ryan for the rest of her life.

The warrior sat astride her horse, surveying the scene before her. With bloodlust coursing through her veins, she raised her sword triumphantly and, filled with a primal joy, she gave her battle cry. Her men, spurred on by her excitement, redoubled their efforts. Their maiming, killing and looting took on a new intensity under the proud gaze of their leader. The warrior watched the carnage, pleased at the control she wielded over her men and at her good fortune at finding the small, but wealthy village.

Suddenly, from the corner of her eye, she spied a young man rushing toward her with an ax in his upraised hand, a look of sheer hatred haunting his eyes. She smiled with a pure evil intent, knowing she could dispatch him easily and that it would bring her great pleasure to do so. Just before entering within range of her sword, however, he stopped and flung his ax at her. She reacted instantly, so fast were her reflexes that she even had the time to feel a thrill at his surprise maneuver. She vaulted from her horse’s back, sword in hand, flipping through the air, and landed in front of the shocked man. The shock barely had the time to reach his brain however, for as she landed, she fixed him with an icy smile and brought her sword to bear, running him through. As he fell to the ground, dead, she laughed with glee and wiped her sword on his pants.

She gazed around at the carnage that surrounded her and breathed deeply of the essence of war, letting it fill her dark soul and plunge her heart further into an icy darkness. As the thrill of the battle captivated her soul, she threw her head back and shrieked her battle cry once again. Her men responded in answer, their war whoops momentarily drowning out the screams and cries of the villagers.

Ryan sat bolt upright, flinging her mate off of herself and nearly off of the bed in the process. She looked around the room in confusion as her heart pounded wildly and sweat dripped from her face.

“Ryan! What’s wrong?” Janna’s terrified voice broke through her haze and Ryan found her mate’s face in the moonlit room.

“A dream” she croaked. “A nightmare.” She rubbed her hands through her damp hair. “But it was real.”

Ryan hung her head in her hands as the horrible memories battered at her psyche. She shuddered and shivered involuntarily as she tried to comprehend the meaning of the horrendous images. Finally, it came to her with a startling, shattering clarity: she had been a monster. A cruel, bloodthirsty, inhuman monster. She swallowed hard and grimaced as a jolt of pain shot from her belly to her heart.

“Ryan, what is it? What’s wrong?” Janna moved closer to her and tried to put an arm around her mate’s shoulder, but Ryan winced and shied away from her.

With pain breaking her rough voice, she exclaimed, “No…don’t touch me Janna.”

Shrinking back as if she’d been hit, Janna sat, shocked by the statement. She swallowed the jolt of pain that had just hit her heart and implored, “Ryan…tell me what’s going on…please.”

Ryan felt the shocked hurt that her mate was feeling and let it jolt her back to her senses somewhat. She gingerly picked up Janna’s hand and said, “I’m sorry, Janna. You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s me.” She closed her eyes and swallowed before continuing. “I had another warrior dream…but it was different this time…I was different.” She looked at her mate with dark, pain-filled eyes. “I was evil, Janna. I was murdering people…leading an army that was killing innocent villagers.” She swallowed again and shook her head, dislodging tears from her eyes, and Janna felt the horror that filled Ryan’s heart for the second time that day.

“Janna…my God…I…I got off on it. The killing gave me pleasure. I killed a man with my sword and felt ecstatic.” She buried her face in her hands, momentarily unable to handle what the dream was implying.

Janna wrapped her arms around her partner and pulled her close as the tough cop began to sob. “It’s okay, Ryan. We’ll figure this out. We’ll talk it out. It will be alright.” She rocked her mate slowly in her arms, wondering how she could possibly help ease that particular pain. During her own dream journeys into that past life, she had glimpsed some of her warrior’s darkness. Though she had never seen any images of brutality on the woman’s part, she had sensed that there was an underlying mystery to her.

“Janna, what kind of monster was I?” Ryan whispered.

“You weren’t a monster, Ryan. The woman that I loved was warm and loving and protective.”

“How could I have been both, Janna?” Ryan raised her head and looked at Janna, confusion coloring her eyes and knitting her brows. “The woman that I was in that dream wasn’t capable of loving anything…I know it…I could feel it, Janna. She was filled with hatred and darkness. Consumed by them.” Ryan shivered, remembering the uncomfortable, icy cold that had filled her being. Janna wrinkled her brow and shrugged slightly, not having an answer for her mate. She gently brought Ryan’s face back to her chest.

As Janna held her and caressed her back gently, Ryan could feel her mate’s warmth soothing her soul and realization slowly dawned. “It was you, Janna…you came into her life,” she breathed. She looked at her mate, blue eyes wide with wonder. “That has to be it. I know we ended our lives together, I mean, I’m pretty sure…I must have been that way before we met.” She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know…God, I can’t shake the image of killing that man…of the feeling it gave me. I’m not sure there was any humanity in me.”

Janna pulled her face around and gazed at her warmly. “There had to have been a glimmer of humanity, Ryan, for me to think that you were worth loving.”

“So, you think that’s a possible explanation…that I started out evil and you redeemed me?”

“I think it’s possible, yes. I believe that love can conquer anything.”

A small smile curved Ryan’s lips. “You showed me that earlier tonight, didn’t you?”

“I tried to baby, yeah.” She pulled Ryan into a tight embrace. “God, I love you Ryan. Try not to let the dream bother you too much. I have no doubt that you became a wonderful human being at some point in that life…I’ve felt that. I know it without a doubt.”

“Yeah, but Janna, what does it mean for me now? Is that darkness still in me?” She took a deep breath and let it out. “I’ve known, at times, that I’m capable of great violence, but I’ve always kept myself in check. I think the aikido has helped a lot with that. But, lately… earlier today with that scumbag and a few weeks ago when that jerk taunted you at the ballpark, I barely controlled myself. Actually, I think that I might have killed that guy today…he’s lucky the paramedics and John were there.”

She pulled back from her mate and faced her. “That’s not good, Janna. I can’t be that way and still be a good cop. I can’t be having violent outbursts or impulses like that.”

“Ryan, maybe that’s why you had the dream: to remind you that you can control it. Dreams happen for a reason, even if they’re not symbolic. I think the message of that dream is that you can overcome whatever darkness may exist in your soul. Ryan, we’re all a combination of light and dark. You know that…we’ve discussed it.”

She leaned forward and kissed her mate, then gazed at her seriously. “I have no doubts whatsoever about the composition of your soul, Ryan. You are an incredibly good, warm human being. It’s natural to have anger at times; to lash out…it’s human. I have no doubt that you can control your impulses. And, frankly, I don’t blame you one bit for hauling off on the guy. Lets face it baby; any animal that kills kids deserves whatever punishment you can level on him, as far as I’m concerned.”

Ryan reached forward and brought Janna’s head to her chest, then lay back down. As they wrapped themselves around each other, Ryan said, “Help me get through the rest of the night Janna.”

“With pleasure, my destiny.”

The full moon looked upon her friends with empathy and sent an extra measure of healing energy to them within her silvery light.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan entered the kitchen and set her bag on the countertop. A delicious aroma was wafting from the oven and she tiptoed over and had a peek. Oh, yeah…chilies rellenos. My wife is a goddess! As the thought of her mate brought a smile to her lips, she realized that she could hear a pounding beat emanating from the back of the house. Smiling widely, she walked down the hallway towards the darkroom. The music was pulsating so loudly there that the framed photos on the wall were dancing to the beat.

She stopped at the closed door and shook her head, grinning, as she knocked. She had quickly learned never to enter the room unannounced after doing so the first time and flooding the room with white light, ruining several photos in the process. Her knock went unanswered, so she banged harder, at which the decibel level of the music instantly dropped ten or twenty points and the door opened.

Her mate’s face greeted her, smiling somewhat sheepishly. “Hi, sweetheart. I’m sorry, I lost track of time.” Her brows suddenly contorted in worry and she exclaimed, “Oh, crap…dinner!” and started to race from the room.

Ryan gently caught her by the arm and laughed. “It’s okay, baby. I checked it. There’s still ten minutes on the timer.” She pulled her mate into a hug and relished the contact, running her hands along Janna’s back. “Mm…I’ve needed this all day.”

Janna responded to the touch by wrapping herself tightly around her mate. “Me too. I felt your tension today. Did you get my care package?”

“I did…thank you very much. I think you sent me two of them, didn’t you?”

“Yep! Glad they helped, love. I felt the energy come right back from you too…along with that great jolt of Ryan-love. I will never get tired of that feeling.”

“You’d better not.”

“Count on it.” She stretched up and kissed Ryan’s lips, lingering there until they both had to part for air. She stepped back and looked at her lover coyly. “There’ll be more of that later. Come here…I want to show you something.”

Ryan, still stunned from the kiss, dumbly followed her, a silly grin plastered on her face. Janna switched on the room light and led her to the worktable in the center of the room. On it sat a very large, 18×20 print that consisted of a collage of images from their mountain trip.

“See what I’ve been working on? I’m thinking of doing it in a nice matte and frame and putting it over the couch in the living room. What do you think?”

Ryan stared at the image, dumbfounded. “Janna…how…how did you do this?”

“It’s a composite image. I exposed each image separately on the same sheet of photo paper.” She looked at Ryan expectantly. “Do you like it honey…if not…”

“My God, Janna…it’s stunning! I love it, baby.” She looked at Janna with eyes full of pride. “It’s incredible…you are so talented, Janna.”

Janna beamed at her mate. “Thanks!” She leaned over the photo and pointed to an image. “This is my favorite.” It was a picture of the two of them standing in front of the American River. They stood arm-in-arm, both grinning widely. Their love for each other was obvious: it lit their faces and practically glowed in a halo around them.

In the upper right corner of the photo was an image of the full moon, on the left was a shot of Lover’s Leap, and there were various other shots from locations they had visited, all combined artistically to flow together as one, with the image of the two of them and the river in the center. The resulting image was breathtakingly beautiful and conveyed, somehow, the true meaning of the trip for them.

“Janna, honey, this is so incredibly good…I can’t believe it. I’ve never seen anything like it.” She turned proud eyes on her partner again and added, “You are truly an artist, Janna.” Another thought struck her and she added, “Will you do something like this from our commitment ceremony? That would be so special.”

“I’d love to Ryan. That’s a wonderful idea.” Her cute, coy look returned and she said, “I’m working on another one too. Wanna see?”

“Sure!”

Janna led her around to the other side of the table, where she had laid out a handful of 4×6 prints. They were all shots of Ryan in vastly different poses and states of dress. The cop’s jaw dropped open as she stared at them. “So this is why you’ve been following me around with a camera lately?” She looked at Janna expectantly.

“Yep! I hope you don’t mind, Ryan…you just make such a gorgeous subject. You really could have been a model, you know.”

Ryan burst into laughter. “Oh, yeah, right…I can just see that…me, prancing around and looking pretty.”

“I didn’t say you should be one, only that you could be. You’re easily beautiful enough.”

“Give me a break, baby, I am not.” She threw an arm around her mate’s shoulders.

“Ryan Zamora, you most certainly are. Do you ever look in the mirror?” She placed an indignant hand on her waist.

“Jesus, you look cute when you do that!”

“Don’t change the subject! Here, this is one of my favorites.” It was a shot of her beautiful partner in her swimsuit, lounging seductively on the beach at Lake Tahoe. “And here…I think this is my very favorite.” She pointed to a picture of Ryan sitting relaxed against a fence at the softball field. Her usually ever-present sunglasses were missing, so her brilliant blue eyes were the focal point of the image. They seemed to glow from within, radiating the love she felt for the photographer.

“I remember when you took that last week. You looked so god damned cute in those biking shorts. That’s lust you see there in my eyes.” She grinned at her mate and pulled her closer.

“Yes, I recognize the emotion honey…I see it quite often, you know.” Janna returned the grin. “Ooh, lets go…dinner’s about ready.”

They walked arm-in-arm to the kitchen, both hungry and ready to consume a delicious Mexican meal.

Janna set her fork down and sipped from her bottle of Foster’s. “So, honey, was it really rough today…after yesterday? You felt very upset several times.” She grasped Ryan’s hand with her free one and rubbed it gently.

Ryan sighed. “It was, yeah. We got called into the big guy’s office…because of the condition of the prick when we brought him in. Apparently, the paramedics couldn’t say how he’d been injured and neither could the booking Sergeant or any of the other cops on the case, so it fell on us. He knew, of course, that it had to have been us…or one of us…and he said he didn’t blame us…but it’s his job, you know? To make sure we stay in line. John tried to claim responsibility, but it was all my doing, and I said as much. I guess the perp isn’t saying anything at all.”

“So, that means, what?”

“Possible disciplinary action of some sort. The Lt. said he’d keep it under wraps as much as he can, but it may come down on me. It’s possible that nothing will come of it, because of the nature of the guy’s crime…he said the department’s behind me 1000%, and that a bunch of people have actually recommended me for a commendation.” She took another bite of chili and shrugged. “I know I was wrong, so I’m ready to take whatever punishment they think I deserve.” She looked pointedly at Janna and added, “I can’t go around making my own rules just because I get pissed off at a perp. That’d make me a lousy cop.” She picked up her Corona and took a large swig.

Janna continued caressing her hand. “Is that all?” She knew it wasn’t, but wanted to give her partner the opportunity to offer the information.

“No…um…we had to go back to the scene for a while. That was tough.” Her eyes misted and she cleared her throat. “That’s when the energy you sent really helped me, Janna. It got me through it in one piece. You’re a Godsend, my love.” She leaned over and stole a kiss. “Mmm, love those rellenos.”

“Lets share some more then.”

-29-

A slight breeze blew Janna’s hair into her eyes as she stood beside Ryan, enjoying the 70’s cover band, and she absentmindedly brushed it aside. Ryan, who had her bike resting between her thighs and one arm casually resting on her partner’s shoulder, turned and grinned at her. John Stewart stood nearby, talking with some Street Market patrons.

“These guys are tight” Janna remarked with appreciation, head nodding to the music as the band played the familiar tunes.

“They are. The singer’s good, too.” Ryan’s fingers tapped out the beat against her lover’s shoulder as her head bobbed along in time, matching her mate’s movements. “I used to love this song.”

“Me too. I love the Eagles.” She and her mate grinned at each other as they both sang along quietly, in unison with the female singer.

**Well, I’m running down the road
Tryin’ to loosen my load
I’ve got seven women on my mind,
Four that wanna own me,
Two that wanna stone me,
One says she’s a friend of mine
Take it easy, take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels
Drive you crazy.

They sang happily together, laughing and grinning, and then, as the band reached their favorite part of the song, they looked each other in the eye and sang more loudly:

Well, I’m a standing on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona
And such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is
Gonna save me…

Ryan laughed and pulled Janna against her side. “Oh, God, Janna, I used to love that part.” Then she looked at her mate quizzically and added, “You know what? I always pictured that girl in the Ford with blonde hair blowing in the wind.” She smiled warmly at her partner.

“Really? I always pictured a girl with dark hair. That’s amazing!” Janna returned her mate’s adoring gaze and reached out to tuck a strand of hair back under her helmet. “Ryan, you have a beautiful voice.”

“Oh, baby, I don’t know…I’m completely untrained.”

“Then it’s all the more impressive. We should sing together more often. That was fun.”

“Yeah, we should.” Ryan gazed at Janna with love written expressively on her features. “I’m afraid we’re making a spectacle of ourselves.” She raised her dark eyebrows to punctuate her point, but still grinned.

“Screw ’em.” Janna grinned right back at her. “I love you, baby.”

“Love you too, my destiny.”

“Ah, Jesus…” They turned to see Ryan’s other partner standing behind them, grimacing. He frowned as he added, “Janna, what the hell have you done to her?” He was betrayed by a small grin, softening his grumble.

Ryan returned the grin and grumbled back at him, “Tough shit, Stewart. Get used to it.” She pulled Janna close again and added, “Because I’m marrying this lady in a few weeks.”

“Shit, Ry…how could I forget that?” He grinned again. “Oh, Janna, I forgot…Sara wants to know how we can help out…you know, with the food, or anything else.”

“Thanks John. I’ll give her a call. Between us and my parents, we pretty much have everything covered, but I’ll think about it.”

“Sounds good. Well, partner…lets get a move on. We’re supposed to be patrolling, you know.”

Just then, Ryan felt a peculiar hunger pang and realized that it didn’t belong to her. She looked at Janna and grinned then turned to John and said, “Why don’t we take our dinner break now, John? I’m kinda hungry.”

“Sure thing…good idea. I think I’ll go up to the Café…you want something from there?”

She looked at Janna, who shrugged indifferently. “I think maybe we’ll hit the taco booth back down the street.”

“Okay, bud…see you in a few.” He threw a leg over his bike and took off slowly down the street, returning waves to friendly kids who greeted him.

“Good call on eating now, honey…I’m starving!” Janna patted her mate’s back.

Ryan grinned, knowing very well just how hungry Janna was. “I know, baby…I can feel it!”

“You’re feeling my hunger?” Janna’s face lit up as Ryan nodded. “Cool!” She shook her head in wonder, adding with a smile, “You feel it when I’m hungry, and I feel it when you’re horny!”

Ryan grinned. “I guess that says something about the nature of our respective appetites, doesn’t it?”

“It sure does. And yes, baby, we’ll do something about your hunger a little later.”

“I know we will…thank you baby.” Ryan gave Janna a squeeze around the waist before removing her arm and grasping the handlebars of her bike. She started slowly pedaling as Janna walked beside her. They headed happily in search of tacos, both heads with wheels turning, planning their late-night recreational pursuits.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan leaned back against the wall of the booth and took another draught from her mug of ice-cold Corona. She felt completely relaxed as she enjoyed the evening with Janna. At the moment, her mate was up near the stage, speaking with the manager of the young band she had played with the previous month, on that infamous night when both their lives had been changed forever.

The young musicians were tuning up their instruments and the slightly cacophonous sounds were clashing with the Smiths tune that was blasting forth from the jukebox. The Rainbow Lounge was packed: apparently the young band, Attack of the Pansies, had been enjoying good word-of-mouth. Ryan wondered if word had leaked of Janna’s intention to play with the group again. She suspected that it had, as she had noticed more than a few interested looks in her mate’s direction, and not just from women.

There was an air of excitement and expectancy in the room, and Ryan nearly shivered in anticipation. She had never seen her lover play live and was looking forward to it very much. She had heard Janna practicing quite a lot over the previous few days and knew that the crowd was in for a treat. It had sounded to her as if the group and their guest artist planned to tone down some of the songs a bit: decreasing the punk edginess, perhaps to appeal to a wider range of listeners. Janna had mentioned that the band had asked her advice regarding some of their arrangements and knew that her mate had been busily faxing sheet music back and forth with the band’s manager.

As the musicians warmed up, Ryan’s mind drifted, slowly going back over the last five weeks. They had been the happiest, most fulfilling five weeks of her life. Mind-bendingly so. Her life had changed so enormously in that time that she almost couldn’t comprehend the changes. She couldn’t even attempt to rationalize them. She could only re-experience them through her emotions, which in itself was rather shocking for her, as she had a rational, logical mind. More so than an emotional one. She grinned and shook her head as her disbelief at her great fortune made itself felt once again. I’ve fallen deeply in love and am getting married…in three weeks. Jesus Christ! And I’m not the least bit uncertain or hesitant. I’m looking forward to it so much that I’m practically counting the minutes until we’re joined. Incredible!

She glanced over at her mate again. No, she’s incredible. Absolutely incredible. At that moment, Janna grinned at the manager, Jeff, and patted his arm before turning and making her way back to the booth where Ryan sat, legs outstretched on the seat. Ryan withdrew her legs so that Janna could sit next her and her mate slid into the booth beside her. Ryan lazily threw an arm around her shoulders and drew her in for a long, slow kiss.

They parted slightly and Janna gazed into Ryan’s sparkling blue eyes, saying, “Mmm, Ryan, maybe I won’t play with the band tonight after all. Maybe we’ll just leave now and I’ll play with you at home.”

“Later, baby…definitely later. I want to see you play first.” Ryan pulled her in for another long kiss. “Mm, though I do see the advantages to your idea.”

“I thought you would.” Green eyes sparkled, mirroring hers. As they sat gazing into each other’s eyes, lost in the depths as only lovers can be, they were both startled when they heard someone speak.

“Oh, my goodness Ray, do you see this?” An effeminate voice spoke, rich with merriment.

“I do, baby, and I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. The toughest cop in town, Ryan Zamora, star struck by love. Will wonders never cease?” Ray’s deep voice was also filled with merriment.

“Alright you fairy asses, cut the crap, huh?” Ryan fairly grumbled the request. Janna was amused to note that her stoic mate was blushing slightly.

“Hush, you!” Jose cajoled. “You just let us have our fun. This is a once in a lifetime moment and we are going to enjoy it.” He and his mate seated themselves in the booth across from the women and Jose grabbed Janna’s hand.

“Janna, we’re so happy for you two. We’ve been in love with this terrific lady for years and are so glad to see her finally happy…and with someone so nice too.”

Janna’s face lit up with sincerity and she replied, “Thank you Jose. That’s very nice of you to say.” She looked at Ryan and clasped their hands together on top of the table.

Ryan cleared her throat. “Um, Ray, Jose…we want to share something with you.” She shifted her gaze back to Janna and became lost again in her eyes momentarily. “Um…Janna and I are getting married…in a few weeks.” She smiled at her mate and brought their linked hands to her lips. She continued, “We’re having the ceremony up at Lake Tahoe, with just family, but a week or so later we’d like to have a party here for the rest of our friends. Would you guys take that on for us? We’re probably talking a few hundred people.”

“Oh, my God!” gasped Jose. “I knew it!” He clasped his hands together with joy. “Ray, honey, didn’t I tell you? Oh, this is wonderful! Yes, yes, yes we’ll do your party!”

Ray smiled. “Yes, that is wonderful. Congratulations. I think a toast and a round on the house is in order. Do you mind?” He looked from Ryan to Janna expectantly.

“Thanks Ray, but don’t make a fuss, huh?” Ryan looked as uncomfortable as she suddenly felt.

“Oh, honey, I don’t mind. I’d love to share a little bit of our happiness with everyone here.” Janna squeezed Ryan’s hand and implored her with serious, yet twinkling, green eyes.

Ryan gave in under the assault and smiled weakly, nodding her assent.

“Wonderful!” Jose exclaimed.

Ray stood up and went over to the bar, where he asked the bartender for a mug of beer. Receiving it, he tapped on it with a spoon to get the attention of the room’s occupants. When a hundred or so pairs of eyes were trained on him he began, “Ladies and…ladies! I want to offer a toast. My good friends, Ryan Zamora and Janna Norden have just informed me that they are to be married very soon.” He raised his glass and looked to his two friends. “To Ryan and Janna…here’s to a very long and happy life together. May you always be blessed with the love of each other and of good friends!”

A chorus of, “Here, here!” went up as everyone in the room raised their glasses and mugs and drank to Ryan and Janna’s happiness.

Ray then added, “The next round is on the house” and an even louder cheer went up.

Under the intense attention, Ryan turned mildly red, but raised her glass to the room in thanks while Janna grinned widely beside her and then lay her head happily on Ryan’s shoulder.

With that, the room lights went down, and the already relatively dim room became even darker. The murmur of voices rose somewhat in anticipation and then the band took the small stage.

Ray joined them and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming one of our most popular young bands, Attack of the Pansies, along with former Tribe member, session artist and producer, Janna Norden!”

The crowd applauded enthusiastically and Janna arose, leaned down, kissed her mate deeply and made her way through the tables to the stage. She picked up a guitar, slung it low from her shoulders and waited for the drummer to sound the opening beats.

“One, two, one, two, three, four!”

As one, Janna and the other two guitarists jumped up and pounded out the opening chord as they hit the ground, launching into a powerful, lightspeed rendition of a Pansy Division song.

Janna quickly fell into the groove, as she had the month before, and let the joy of playing overtake her. She looked luminous: completely at one with her instrument and the music, with a transfixed expression of pure joy on her face. Ryan’s breath caught in her chest and she sat enraptured. Janna’s playing was flawlessly good, but it was her beauty that took Ryan’s breath away.

Uncharacteristically, Janna’s attention became separated from the music as she saw her lover’s gorgeous countenance, seemingly mesmerized. A huge smile lit her face as she felt Ryan’s love and admiration for her through their link. She sent the love right back to her mate, accompanied by a wave of ecstasy borne of her musical high. Ryan felt the hit of energy like a jolt and her eyes closed involuntarily. She rode the ecstatic wave and experienced a natural high the likes of which she had never felt, except during sex with Janna. When she opened eyes still glazed with delight, Janna was still watching her and smiled her love. Ryan pressed her hand to her heart and swallowed hard as tears sprang to her eyes. She silently mouthed, “I love you” and Janna did likewise, never missing a beat of the song.

The exchange was noted by more than a few of the patrons and deeply touched them all. Ray and Jose stood near the bar, arm in arm, swaying to the beat, as Jose witnessed the loving exchange between his two friends, and felt tears begin a path down his cheeks.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Ryan” Janna gasped. “You take my breath away every time.” She sat on the edge of the whirlpool, surrounded by candles, whose light glinted warmly off of her skin. Her mate’s head still rested against her lower abdomen and Janna ran her fingers through her thick, silky hair, gently coaxing Ryan up and then slipping down into her lap.

They embraced tightly and kissed. Janna tasted her body’s essence on her partner’s lips and moaned deeply. Ryan’s arms rose out of the warm, bubbly water, and gently pressed her mate’s head more firmly against her mouth. Their tongues danced and teased, tearing a deep moan from Ryan’s throat.

“God, baby, what you do to me” she mumbled into Janna’s mouth.

“What would you like me to do to you, love? Right now?” Janna bent her head and her words tumbled out against the sensitive skin of Ryan’s throat.

Ryan’s only answer was an incoherent moan, but Janna was able to translate. She bent her head to her mate’s breasts, the tips of which sat enticingly just above the water line. After paying them some devoted attention with her lips and tongue and filling her mate’s body with a swirling desire, she gently coaxed Ryan up onto the side of the tub where she had been moments before and paid Ryan the same loving devotion that she had so recently bestowed on Janna.

Ryan gently wrapped her legs around Janna’s head, which encouraged her mate to kiss and lick her inner thighs in addition to her more sensitive anatomy. Ryan quickly lost all control under the loving barrage and plummeted into her favorite pleasurable chasm.

A few hours later, they were again entwined in love, this time in their bed, in their favorite Tantric position. As they rode a wave of ecstasy together that had lasted long minutes, Ryan felt that she might pass out from the pleasure, so Janna slowed the pace, bringing her mate a little closer to Earth.

“Are you okay, love?”

“Yes, baby, perfect. Thanks for…ohhh…yesss…thanks…for slowing it down some.” Ryan’s lips left Janna’s and she suckled at the soft skin of her mate’s neck, feeling her pulse pounding beneath them.

“Mmm…yes…your welc…welcome.” She turned her head and captured Ryan’s lips again, renewing the surge of passion between them. They rode out the remaining cascading waves of passion and finally rested, still entwined, bodies coated with a sweet sheen of sweat mixed with aromatic bath oil.

Sometime later, Ryan murmured, “Janna, I had the best time watching you play tonight.” She gently played with a strand of yellow hair as her mate lay in her arms.

“And I had a great time too. It meant so much having you there.” She softly caressed her mate’s firm stomach with gentle fingers. “I haven’t felt such a love of playing in years and years. Your presence there made it so special for me.” She softly kissed the delicious breast beneath her lips. Ryan swallowed the jolt of desire the action caused, knowing that she no longer had the strength to act on it.

“Um…uh…why don’t you consider playing more often?”

“I might, but only occasionally and only as long as it remains a lot of fun. Actually, the band asked me tonight if I would produce their CD and I agreed. It’s something I can do in my spare time, here in town, and I really do enjoy working with them.”

“That’s great, honey. I’m sure you’ll do a great job for them. So there’s a studio here in town?”

“Yeah, believe it or not! It’s right over on the Avenue, next to the music store. We’ll probably start sometime next week, maybe even this weekend if they can get the studio time.”

“Cool, baby.” Ryan nuzzled Janna’s hair and yawned. “G’night my destiny.”

“‘Night, love. Sweet dreams.”

“Mm, I hope so. You too.”

The bard sat in a small cleared area within a forest, on a log that sat before a cozy fire. The fire warmed her body, but the events of the day had warmed her soul. Her incredible soul mate, who had physically died several days prior, had had her life restored by the food of the gods, ambrosia. Her best friend and soul mate now stood nearby in a larger clearing, bidding their Amazon friends and their friend Autolycus goodbye.

As she stared into the fire, the bard felt the tremendous joy that having her friend back brought to her. She was overjoyed beyond words. Beyond all reason. And there was more. Her friend had kissed her. Her right hand unconsciously rose to her mouth and caressed her lips where they had kissed. Yes, her friend’s spirit had been in Auto’s body at the time, and technically it had been he who had kissed her, but she knew without a doubt that her soul mate had been behind the loving kiss. She found herself wanting to kiss her friend again. She ached to do so. She loved her more than life itself and was ready to take their friendship to a higher level. And apparently so was her friend.

The friends now gone, her warrior approached and tentatively sat beside her on the log, holding her hands out to the fire, trying to warm them. She glanced shyly at her bard friend from the corner of her eye. “I can’t seem to shake the cold tonight.”
“I’m not surprised, Xena, since your body was lifeless for three days. Come here.” The bard held her arms open to her friend. The warrior hesitated, but only briefly, and then moved closer to her friend, who then wrapped her arms around her. The bard rubbed her hands along her friend’s chilled skin, trying to increase the circulation. The warrior stiffened at the touch and started to pull away.

“No, Xena. Let me…please.” She implored her friend with love-filled green eyes. “You’re always taking care of me. Let me take care of you for a change.”

The warrior’s eyes, violet in the glow of the campfire, softened as she smiled. “Okay, Gabrielle. Thanks.” She sank back into her best friend’s embrace and shivered, more from the closeness than from the cold. “That feels nice.”

“Mm, hmm. It does.” The bard turned her head slightly and kissed the black hair under her lips. “Xena…you kissed me.”

The warrior cleared her throat. “Yes…yes I did.” She turned her head slightly to look at her friend. In a quiet voice she muttered, “I’m sorry, Gabrielle…I just…I…”

The bard quietly interrupted her. “I’m not sorry, Xena. I’ve wanted you to do that for a long time now.” She locked a serious gaze on her friend, adding, “And I’ve wanted to tell you…”

This time the warrior interrupted. “I know, Gabrielle.” The warrior gazed at her almost shyly. “When I was…gone…I could hear your thoughts.”

“You heard my thoughts? Then you know how I feel?” Her bard returned the shy gaze.

The warrior reached up to caress her cheek. “Yes…and I love you too, Gabrielle. I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, too.” She continued the tender caress and slowly leaned forward and captured the bard’s lips. As soft lips met and the kiss deepened, an energetic bond between two heart centers took root and a warm fire began that filled the two souls, beginning a lifelong and beyond, deep, all-encompassing love.

Ryan and Janna both smiled in their sleep and tightened their grips on each other at the culmination of their happy, shared dream.

** Song lyrics are copyright J. Browne and G. Frey, 1972.

-30-

“Girls, here’s to our new second baseman!” Sharon’s deep-pitched voice rose above the din of the Rainbow as her players raised their glasses, saluting the new player whose skilled play had helped them to another victory. The new second baseman’s mate grinned even more widely than she did, clinking her mug against her partner’s and happily downing the rest of her brew. She refilled her glass, stood suddenly and held up her mug, preparing to offer another toast. Janna looked up at her quizzically, wondering what she was up to. She’s drunk!

Janna was right. Her mate was slightly drunk. However, she held herself very well in spite of the fact.

“Ladies, one more toast.” Ryan gazed down at Janna beside her, not trying to hide the adoration in her eyes. “To the special lady who has agreed to become my wife in…” She glanced at her watch, “Twenty-two days.” She grinned widely as her mate blushed and hid her face.

The pronouncement was met with a chorus of hoots and cheers, accompanied by hugs and backslapping.

“Way to go, Ry! Where’s the honeymoon?” Carrie asked with a glint in her eye.

“Wouldn’t you like to know, Carrie?” Ryan smiled as she shook her friend’s hand.

“Okay, Ry…when and where’s the bachelor party?” Jackie looked at her expectantly from behind her beer mug.

This time it was Ryan who blushed and hid her face. She recovered and waved her hands as she proclaimed, “Oh, no! There will be no bachelor party…just like I told my partner John.”

“Oh, come on Ry…you can never have too many double-ended dildos or pairs of edible panties!” The group laughed and Janna blushed even redder as someone else chimed in, “Not to mention strippers!”

“If you guys even so much as think about doing something like that to us, I’ll kill you all.” Ryan’s voice was so menacing, despite the slight grin, that her friends immediately dropped any ideas that had begun to form in their warped minds.

Janna reached up and grabbed her mate’s hand, pulling her back down into her chair. Leaning over, she kissed her soundly and gave her a thankful smile. Ryan leaned her forehead against Janna’s temple and closed her eyes, reveling both in the jovial atmosphere and in her mate’s closeness. She whispered so that only Janna could hear, “I love you, Janna.”

Janna breathed deeply of her mate’s essence and sighed as she felt Ryan’s devotion carried through their bond. She could also feel something else and let the alcohol she had imbibed speak for her as she leaned into her mate and whispered hotly into her ear, “I wanna fuck you silly later, Ryan.”

Janna’s uncharacteristic use of the harsh word set her blood aflame and Ryan swallowed hard as her breath caught in her throat. She let the desire she was feeling for her mate escalate nearly out of control and she leered at her as she drawled, “Why wait until later, baby?” Her eyes sparkled with more than love as she gazed at her partner.

Janna reflected the leer with one of her own and drawled as well, “What do you have in mind?”

“Follow me and I’ll show you.” Ryan stood up and held out her hand. Janna grasped it, stood and was pulled by Ryan away from the table and toward the restroom. They entered the surprisingly tidy room and Ryan led her into a stall, closing the door behind them.

She immediately turned Janna and pushed her gently against the door, capturing her lips hungrily as she did so. Janna returned the hungry kiss, growing more ravenous for her mate by the second. As they kissed, a large hand found its way up Janna’s shirt and caressed a breast. Janna wrapped a leg around her partner, pulling her closer.

“Jesus, baby, I want you.” Ryan’s voice was rough with desire and only served to excite her partner more. Janna pushed Ryan’s shirt up above her bra and attacked her breasts with her mouth through the sports bra. Ryan threw her head back and moaned, at which Janna found her exposed throat and began nibbling while her hands roamed under the waist band of her shorts.

“No, baby, me first…please?” Ryan’s lips muttered the request against Janna’s hair. Janna complied by bringing her hands up to Ryan’s face and pulling it down, kissing her deeply. Ryan responded in turn by pushing Janna’s shorts down off of her hips and beginning sensual caresses, one hand in back, one in front.

“Oh, Jesus, Ryan…” Janna’s breath became ragged as her partner started a rhythmic stroking and her lips traveled down her chest. Their surroundings lent an illicit air to the encounter, which seemed to escalate the excitement for both women, their passion skyrocketing. “Oh, God…” Janna surrendered completely to the intense pleasure and rapidly moaned her release into Ryan’s mouth. Ryan supported her partner in strong arms as her body was racked by the climax, their mouths never losing contact.

Before Ryan could react, Janna had turned her and switched their positions. She lifted the tight sports bra up, pushed it above her lover’s breasts and consumed them hungrily. Ryan threw her head back hard against the stall door and grasped Janna’s head in her hands. “Oh, baby…yesss…”

When Janna had her fill momentarily she turned Ryan so that she faced the stall door. She pulled her tall partner against her body, kissing and gently biting her back while reaching her arms around in front of Ryan. One hand found its way to an excited breast while the other dipped down below her shorts into soft, wet curls. Ryan moaned loudly and arched back into her mate. The two strong, talented hands began a synchronous double massage that very quickly had the strong cop writhing uncontrollably and calling her mate’s name over and over. Janna reached up and gently covered Ryan’s mouth with her hand to muffle her screams of pleasure. She held her mate as the spasms subsided and then turned her around, embracing her tightly.

They held each other without speaking and then kissed again, this time slowly and gently, communicating their devotion. As they helped each other to straighten their clothes, Ryan said with a warm smile, “We’re gonna talk about this later, okay?”

Janna returned the warm smile and nodded. As they exited the restroom, Janna leading Ryan by the hand, more than a few knowing looks and smiles met them as they made their way back to the table. Neither woman could fight the sappy, contented grin that lit her face, so neither even tried.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna lay back in the cooled spa water, hands behind her head, eyes closed, completely relaxed. She enjoyed the twittering of birds in the many trees surrounding her property. The slight breeze also carried on it a lovely fragrance from the multitude of flowers that inhabited the yard. She and Ryan had gone nuts on a recent weekend and added even more in pots, surrounding the gazebo on three sides with them.

As she enjoyed the quiet late afternoon, she felt the spa water stir and smiled as she felt her partner quietly creep up between her legs. I must have fallen asleep, because I didn’t feel her coming home. She smiled and kept her eyes closed as the thought wound itself lazily through her relaxed brain and she felt her partner’s tongue gently stroke her lips. She opened her mouth with a grin and let her partner’s tongue wrap itself around hers. Their tongues danced lovingly before Ryan dipped her head and stroked a happy nipple with the same playful tongue.

“You forget your suit baby?” she mumbled against Janna’s breast.

“Nope, just too lazy to…uh…ahh…put it on.” She opened her eyes, finally, to see two sparkling blue eyes looking up at her through black lashes. “Where’s yours?” she asked playfully.

“You know I’d much rather be in this suit.” She bent her head and tended to her loving strokes with renewed vigor.

“Oh, my God, Ryan…”

Some time later, they reclined together lazily. “Lets get Chinese take out tonight baby.”

At her mate’s silent nod, Ryan reached a long arm out of the water and grabbed the cordless phone, quickly placing their usual order with their favorite Chinese restaurant. “That was easy!” She grinned and wrapped her arms around her mate’s waist again. “It’ll be here in about a half hour.”

“Mmm.” Janna rolled her head against Ryan’s chest, enjoying the feeling of her mate’s supportive body under her tired back.

“You seem tired tonight, Janna. You okay?” She kissed her mate’s head as concern colored her voice.

“A bit, yeah. My back got really tired leaning over the control console at the studio all day. I forgot how tiring that could be.”

She smiled as hot hands placed themselves against her back, the energy already flowing strongly. “Oh, yes…thank you Ryan. That feels so good.”

“Anytime, love. You should have asked.”

“Too lazy. And you feel too good…I didn’t want you to move.”

As she shared Reiki with her partner, Ryan’s mind drifted back a few days. On Saturday Janna and her young musical charges had begun work on the group’s first CD at the small recording studio in town.

Ryan smiled as the recalled walking in on the proceedings with bags of burgers for everyone. She had called around lunchtime to see if her mate had had lunch, and hearing that they planned to work through lunch, had offered to make an In and Out Burger run. Her offer was accepted gratefully by her always-hungry mate and she had been more than pleased to help out.

Ryan entered the cool, dark lobby, which provided a welcome respite from the glaring, burning sun, and knocked her glasses from her eyes, letting them hang from the cord around her neck. She approached the young, heavily pierced and tattooed girl who sat at the front desk.

“Hi, I’m looking for Janna Norden…she’s producing Attack…”

The young thing interrupted her with a wide smile. “Oh, Janna, yeah…they’re in studio one. It’s the first door on the right.” She pointed vaguely in the direction of a hallway beyond the desk.

“Thanks.”

As Ryan made her way towards the appointed doorway, she could hear the thump, thump, thump of bass and drums reverberating against the walls. She pushed open a heavy wooden door with her foot and entered the small control room. The music was blasting, so the room’s occupants were unaware of her entrance. She quietly set the many white bags of food on a couch that sat against the wall next to the door, and stood and watched the proceedings.

The wall in front of the control board was mostly glass, with a door set to one side that led to a room beyond. The small room beyond was packed with equipment and musicians. Good thing they aren’t a large group. Ryan thought as she surveyed the scene. Her attention didn’t stay on the recording room long, as her mate’s frenetic activity at the soundboard drew her attention away.

As Janna sat working controls on the enormous board, her whole body was in motion, bopping along to the music, head nodding boisterously in time to the pounding beat. My little headbanger…God, I love that woman! Ryan smiled as she watched her mate and her own foot began tapping in time to the beat. She watched as Janna’s hands flew skillfully over the masses of controls and was struck by pride at her mate’s obvious skill.

Suddenly, Janna’s head stilled and she straightened, then turned around and spotted her mate. She returned Ryan’s wide, warm smile and mouthed, “Hi babe.”

Ryan returned the silent greeting and pointed to the food bags on the worn sofa. Janna nodded and raised a finger, indicating she would be finished shortly. Jeff, the band’s manager then turned and waved at Ryan before getting up and checking out the food bags. He leaned toward Ryan and said, “I’ll hit the soda machine…what would you and Janna like?”

“Cokes, if they have ’em. Thanks!”

A minute or so later, the last power chord faded into feedback and then into silence and Janna said enthusiastically, “Great take guys…lets stop and eat!”

The idea was met with enthusiasm and the young men poured into the control room, each of them greeting Ryan with friendly waves.

“Hi guys…you sound great.” Ryan returned the friendly greetings and then Jeff returned, arms laden with cans of soda.

“Thirty minutes, guys. We only have the studio until 2:00” Janna directed and motioned Ryan to the sofa as the band mates spread out around the room, using up the available chairs and the rest of the short sofa. Ryan sat and pulled a grinning Janna onto her lap. Janna handed her a wrapped cheeseburger and grabbed the solitary grilled cheese for herself.

After lunch Ryan asked if she could hang out and watch for a while and was told it would be fine. She stretched out on the sofa, one arm lying along the back and one leg stretched along the cushioned seat. She watched with interest as Janna guided the musicians and their young manager (who doubled as the drummer’s older brother) through the recording process. She was able to offer the expertise that her own experience provided, as both musician and producer. More than once, she entered the recording room and picked up an instrument to better get an idea across. The young men eagerly accepted her input, very obviously respecting her ability.

As she watched, Ryan wondered if perhaps the young men’s respect of Janna had less to do with her musicianship and more to do with their shared queerness. She wondered how well most young male musicians would accept a female producer, regardless of how talented she was. Janna shared a unique bond with the young band in that they all played in all-gay bands. Bands whose repertoire consisted almost entirely of queer-based songs.

Janna demonstrated the chord change one more time and then grinned and launched into several loud measures of the song. “Sorry, couldn’t resist!”

Jeff’s laughing voice floated in over the speaker from the control room, “Hey Janna, why don’t you just join the band?”

Janna threw her head back and laughed as the band members voiced their agreement. “Sorry guys, I have so been there and done that!” She set the guitar back on its stand and returned to the control room, smiling at her mate who was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “Don’t you start now, Ryan!”

Still grinning, Ryan replied, “I wouldn’t dream of it babe!”

The next few hours had flown by as the band accomplished quite a lot. Ryan stayed the whole time, enjoying immensely watching her mate work, as well as the friendly camaraderie between everyone involved.

Ryan returned to the present when she felt her mate settle more fully against her and realized that the energy flow had slowed, signaling its completion.

“You still here baby?” Janna asked lazily.

“Yeah. I was thinking about Saturday. I had a great time at the recording session.”

“Good. I’m glad you didn’t find it boring.” She added with a grin, “Or the music too loud.”

“Nah, I’m getting into it, actually. And the recording process itself is fascinating. Your knowledge really impressed me too, love.” She kissed her mate’s head and leaned a cheek against the yellow hair.

“Thanks Ryan. You’re welcome to hang out down there as much as you’d like. The guys all really like you and of course, I enjoy your company.”

“I’ll do that baby. How many more sessions will you need, do you think?”

“Not many, I think. It’s going very smoothly. I’m not doing a lot of complicated producing…they have such a great live sound…they’re so accomplished…that I’m really doing minimal production. It’s one of their strongest points, along with the strong songwriting.”

“They played a couple of your songs didn’t they?”

“Yeah, they did. They asked if they could and I don’t mind. I’m flattered, really.”

“You should be baby. They’re great songs.”

“And you’re not the least bit biased are you?” Janna asked, grinning as she turned slightly in her mate’s arms to see her face.

“No, I’m not. I’m being honest with you, Janna” came the honest reply.

“Thank you Ryan.” She lifted a long-fingered hand to her lips and kissed it.

“No problem Janna.” She stretched under her mate. “You’ve got me prunin’ again, baby. Lets get out, huh? The food should be here any minute anyway.”

-31-

Ryan stopped the mower and leaned against it as she attempted to mop up the sweat that was pouring off of her brow. She had thought that by mowing the lawn at 9:00am she would bypass the worst of the day’s heat. However, the heat wave that was currently tormenting the valley was cruel. It was only 10:00 and the thermometer had already nearly hit the century mark. Jesus, it’s gonna hit 115 today. Glad I have the day off. She replaced the old baseball cap on her head and trudged on, pushing the roaring machine around the flowerbed that she had weeded the previous weekend.

Janna, likewise, stopped to mop up her own rivulets of sweat as she stood on the hot brick walkway. She was sweeping up grass clippings behind her mate. When she saw that Ryan was nearly finished, she rested the broom handle against a nearby tree trunk, enjoying the momentary shady respite from the hot sun, and went into the kitchen. She returned minutes later with two large glasses of iced tea and walked to where her mate was dumping clippings into the compost pile.

“Oh, baby, thanks” Ryan grinned as she took the offered refreshment and quickly downed it.

Janna shook her head and grinned at her, asking, “Would you like another one?”

Ryan put on her best, “Yes, please” face and grinned widely, offering her mate the empty glass. Janna grabbed it and returned to the house for more.

Ryan called after her, “Thank you baby!” and then pushed the mower into the small shed and secured the door.
As she walked back along the walkway and finished her partner’s sweeping she heard a cheery, “Morning!” and turned to see the mail carrier.

She waved a friendly hello and approached him. “Hot one today, huh?”

“You better believe it. I’m glad I have the weekend off.” He handed Ryan a handful of mail. “Here you go Ms. Zamora. Have a good one.”

“Thanks Eric. Hey, drink lots of water today!”

He waved and nodded as he turned and headed back down the driveway.

Ryan set the broom back against the tree and went around to the back deck, taking a seat on the redwood steps. Janna returned to find her mate reading a letter, the rest of the mail sitting beside her on the deck. She handed the glass to Ryan, who grabbed it absentmindedly as she continued to read. “Thanks, Janna.” She took a sip and then added, “I got a letter from my brother, Zac.” She looked up at Janna with surprise and continued, “He wants to come to the commitment ceremony!”

“Oh, Ryan, that’s wonderful!” Janna picked up the rest of the mail and sat beside her. “I can’t wait to meet him.”

“Hm, that’s what he says about you.” Ryan stared at the letter in her hand with amazement. “Um, he says he’s been wanting to stay closer in touch with me and was thinking about coming up for a visit anyway.” She looked at Janna with sparkling eyes. “He says he won’t believe that someone has tamed me until he sees it with his own eyes.”

Janna laughed and threw an arm around her mate’s shoulders. “It sounds like he has your sense of humor.”

“Yeah, he does, sort of.”

“He’s in New Mexico, right?”

“Yes, Los Alamos. He’s an MP.”

“Another cop? Oh, God!”

“What?”

“Nothing! I happen to love cops. And it looks like I’ll be surrounded by them at the wedding.” She leaned over and kissed her mate’s temple. “I need to take a dip, how about you?”

“You betcha!” Ryan hopped up and reached down to her mate, helping her to her feet.

“You are so chivalrous Ryan!”

Ryan grinned rakishly and Janna suddenly felt even hotter. “Thank you, baby!”

Janna grabbed her mate’s arm and pulled her toward the spa. “Come on, hot stuff, I’m scorched.”

“Baby, if you get in that spa with me you’re gonna be on fire.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

They entered the gazebo and Ryan started stripping off her clothes.

“Honey, wait until I close the screen.” Janna scrambled to protect her mate’s modesty.

Ryan pulled the tank top over her head, revealing the fact that she hadn’t bothered with a bra that day, as if Janna hadn’t already noticed. “Janna, forget that, I don’t care. I just wanna get out of these sweaty clothes.” She pushed her shorts and underwear down and stepped out of them, then approached Janna to help rid her of her clothes.

Janna giggled and playfully slapped her hand away. “Stop that!” Ryan continued her playful advance and pulled at Janna’s tank. She managed to remove it with one smooth motion and was pleased to note that Janna had felt like going braless as well. She eyed her lover appreciatively and ran her hands along her mate’s sides.

“Honey, it’s too hot to fool around.” Janna didn’t sound at all convinced herself.

“Baby, it is never too hot…besides, the water’s cold.” She pulled Janna close and nuzzled her neck, as she skillfully pushed her mate’s lower garments off.

Janna enjoyed the feel of her mate’s body against hers and wrapped her arms around Ryan. “Mm, it is isn’t it?”

She nibbled a nearby earlobe as her hands dropped to Ryan’s waist. She noted the familiar, pleasant tingling sensation that occurred wherever skin touched skin and breathed deeply, letting the gentle electricity begin to course throughout her body. She could feel Ryan doing the same thing and knew her mate’s desire was beginning to build and swirl like hers was.

Ryan dipped her head and captured Janna’s lips passionately. They kissed for several minutes, tongues dancing and hands roaming sensuously. Warm hands and loving fingers blazed trails of fire along warm skin, igniting, once again, a passion that could not be ignored. Ryan bent down and scooped Janna into her arms, never losing contact with her lips, and Janna laughed into her lover’s mouth and threw her arms about her neck as Ryan skillfully stepped into the spa and sat them down together in one corner. The cooled water of the spa chilled hot skin but was powerless against their passion. They sat together and necked ardently for long minutes before Ryan lifted Janna and turned her so that she straddled her mate.

In that, their favorite position, they were able to mutually pleasure each other and engage in their special sacred sexuality rituals: loving, honoring, respecting, and worshiping each other. The intense heat of the day went unnoticed for more than an hour.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan sat behind the wheel of her Explorer, fingers tapping to the beat from the radio. She smiled as she watched her mate flit down the walk towards the car. God, she looks great in that uniform…green is definitely her color. Janna hopped into the truck and Ryan patted her thigh. “Ready babe?”

Janna threw her a happy smile and covered the larger hand with hers. “Yep!”

“Good!” Ryan glanced at her mate and added warmly, “It’s gonna be great playing with you again.”

“But, honey, we play together all the t…”

“Softball!”

“Oh right!” Janna laughed, enjoying the fact that she had turned the verbal tables on her mate.

Ryan glanced at her sideways, and then grinned. They drove into the sunset, toward the softball complex.

Since they were in Ryan’s vehicle, the musical choice was classic rock. Recently, feeling that she couldn’t tolerate the five billionth replay of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Janna had tried to find another radio station but found to her dismay that all of the preset buttons were tuned to the same station. Her practical partner had explained that she didn’t like to take her eyes off the road while driving and, until recently, had really only cared to listen to classic rock anyway, so she had made all the buttons the same.

However, both women smiled in unison as a familiar tune started playing. “Oh, Ryan, it’s our song!”

“‘Take It Easy’ is our song huh?” Ryan smiled widely before adding, “I kinda thought maybe ‘Teenaged Queer’ was.”
Janna mock glared at her. “Are you making fun of my music?”

Ryan dropped her smile. “No, Janna…absolutely not. I’m serious. Honey, it’s the first song of yours that I really related to…that helped me to understand who you were.” Her serious gaze warmed her mate’s heart and Janna softened her serious expression.

“Thanks, Ryan. It’s just that it’s not my most serious song.”

“It is serious, Janna. It’s clever and witty, but very serious.” She picked up her partner’s hand. “Janna, I sincerely hope that teenaged kids are still listening to that song…and others of yours.”

“They may be soon. I have a good feeling about this Attack of the Pansies CD I’m producing. These kids are really, really good. And that type of music is big right now…plus, I’ve been in touch with some distribution people I know in the City who are very interested.”

“Very cool, babe. So, are the kids looking to sign with a big company?”

“Actually, no. One of their main goals for the time being is to remain indy, and I think that with my connections I can get them heard without their having to sell out.”

Ryan nodded and they sang along with the Eagles once more, each envisioning her own version of the girl in the flatbed Ford.
Janna giggled. “Honey, you know what?” She looked at Ryan, who inclined her head and smiled. “My very first ever lesbian fantasy was about that girl.” She squeezed Ryan’s hand.

“Oh? Care to share?” Ryan threw her a lopsided grin.

“Well…I’ll give you the details later, when you’re not driving.” She leered gently at her mate. “I will say that she was a Native American girl, though.”

“Jesus!”

“Yep. And I must also say, Ryan Zamora, that you have more than fulfilled all of my fantasies.”

Ryan smiled widely. “She looked like me huh?”

“Oh, she more than looked like you. She was you.” Janna looked seriously at her partner and added, “I must have been channeling the future or something because the similarity is uncanny.”

“Shit…”

“Again, yep.” Janna brought her mate’s hand to her lips and kissed it tenderly. “You’ve made all my dreams come true Ryan.” She sighed contentedly.

“And so have you for me, my destiny.”

As she drove on, Ryan noted that the sky above was the color of the turquoise in their wedding bands. She sighed contentedly as well, gazing at the bare finger that would soon hold the ring.

Janna threw warm up with Ryan, then sat on the grass beside her mate and stretched taut leg muscles. As she leaned over and touched fingers to toes she remarked, “I never did like playing these late games.”

“I know…me either. I usually feel washed out by game time. This thing won’t end until after ten and I’d rather be curled up with you by then.” Ryan’s features perked up then, as she added, “But tonight I’ll have my lady out there with me, and I know that will keep my blood pumping.”

“I aim to please, love!”

“And you certainly do, Janna.” Ryan stopped stretching and smiled warmly at her lover.

“Ahem.”

Ryan and Janna both looked up, startled out of their mutual reverie.

Their manager, Sharon, stood looking stonily down at them, arms crossed in front of her chest as she grumbled, “If the mutual lovefest is over, I’d like to talk to my new recruit.” She looked and sounded every bit the retired soldier that she was.

“She’s all yours, Sharon…for now.” Ryan leered at her mate, mainly for Sharon’s benefit.

“Shit, Ryan, you’re so sappy I could tap ya for syrup. Get over there and throw some heat to Carrie, will ya?”

“Aye, aye ma’am.” Ryan drew the line at saluting, but just barely, and grinned at Janna as she headed for the bullpen area.

“Okay, Janna. This team is tough…they’re right behind us in the standings and gunning for our asses. Keep your head up out there. A couple of their girls are dirty players.” She looked Janna squarely in the eye, getting her point across.

“Will do, coach. Thanks for the heads up.”

“Janna, you played well last week…looked real sharp…just keep your focus and you’ll do fine again.”

“Thanks Sharon. I feel good, and ready, and I know the team will back me up.” Janna patted the coach’s back and turned and headed toward the dugout.

She sat on the warm concrete bench and uncapped her water bottle as she watched Ryan warm up with her catcher. She looked to be throwing extreme heat. Looks like someone is pretty hyper tonight. Maybe I should have kept her in the spa longer this morning. She smiled at the fond memory and her body did as well, shivering in all of Ryan’s favorite intimate spots. She tilted her head and took a large swallow of the cold water. It felt good on her parched throat but she remembered to drink slowly and sparingly.

She was joined on the bench a few minutes later by her thoroughly warmed up and sweating profusely mate. “Sharon give you the old pep talk?” Ryan took a large swallow of water as well and waited for Janna’s reply.

“Yep.”

Ryan could feel some of her nervousness through their link and she rubbed her mate’s thigh. “You’ll do fine again, you know, Janna.”

“Yeah, babe, I feel ready. I can’t wait to get out there.”

“Great. Well, it’s about time.” They were joined in the dugout by their teammates and they all took the field as home team a few minutes later.

Janna jogged onto the field beside Ryan, who gave her a slight pat on the rear with her glove as they reached the pitcher’s mound, and she continued on, settling into position between the first and second bags. She looked around the ground briefly, making sure there were no rocks or debris that would cause a ball to take a nasty hop.

Janna felt some anxiety and jumped up and down a few times to try to dispel the nervousness. She took a deep breath and let it out as the umpire yelled, “Play ball!” and the first batter took the plate quickly. Ryan held the ball chest high in both hands, then wound up and made her first, powerful pitch, beginning the game.

Ryan, definitely throwing major heat, retired the first two batters on strikeouts. The third batter, the opposing shortstop, came up to bat. She was a compactly built young woman with shoulder-length blonde hair who sneered at Ryan, then gazed over the pitcher’s left shoulder and fixed a menacing glare in the direction of the second baseman. Ryan glanced over her shoulder at Janna and saw her bend over slightly and hit her glove with her hand, winking at her mate and nodding to indicate that she was ready. Ryan turned back toward the batter and narrowed her eyes, fixing her own menacing glare on the batter, who responded with a snarl.

Ryan put her first pitch high and inside, intending to send a message to the batter. The woman jumped back to avoid being hit in the face and started to raise her bat at Ryan in challenge, but apparently thought better of it and simply glared at her before stepping back into the batter’s box.

Ryan set herself and smiled menacingly before delivering the next pitch. The batter jumped on the strike pitch and sent a powerful line drive directly at Janna. Janna reacted as the ball was hit and jumped a good three feet off the ground, reaching with her arm fully outstretched and snaring the ball in the webbing of her glove. As she landed with the ball in her glove, she threw her right hand up in the air victoriously as a cheer went up from her teammates.

Ryan yelled, “Yes!” and pumped her fist in the air, grinning like an idiot. “Beautiful, Janna!”

Her teammates patted her on the back and on the behind as they all made their way back to the bench. Before they sat, Ryan grabbed her mate and picked her up bodily in a tight hug. They both laughed and enjoyed the contact, lingering as long as they felt was prudent.

Ryan whispered in her mate’s ear, “Love you, baby.”

“Love you too, Ryan.” She grinned as her mate set her back on the ground. “Nice pitching out there, honey!”

“Thanks, baby.” Ryan smiled warmly and sat beside her mate.

Carrie approached and sat next to her pitcher. “Ry, I think you really pissed off that shortstop. She’s giving you the eye.” She looked back at the irate player. “Either you or Janna…I can’t tell who she’s glaring at.”

“Well, if she knows what’s good for her, she’ll give it a rest.”

“Yeah, I don’t know what her problem is tonight.” Carrie remarked.

“Jealous, maybe?” Liz piped in. “Maybe she has a thing for Ryan.” She glanced at Janna and grinned, adding, “Apparently that’s not an impossibility.”

Ryan shot her a glare while Janna laughed.

Carrie continued. “I don’t know…could be, I guess. She’s generally a bitch, but not this bad.”

Sharon yelled from the other end of the bench, “Alright ladies, give it a rest and lets get some runs.”

The team complied, but only insofar as quieting down. The first two batters flied out and the third struck out, and the ladies returned to the field. They retired the other team handily again and returned to the bench, the game scoreless in the bottom of the second inning. Ryan sat next to Janna again, pleased to be able to be near her, and uncharacteristically losing some of her intense focus on the game. It’s great having Janna here.

From her spot at the other end of the bench, the coach shook her head and looked confused as she looked down toward Ryan. “Zamora, did you forget you’re cleanup hitter? You’ve only been batting in that spot for five years.”

Ryan grinned, somewhat embarrassed, and replied, “Sorry coach!”

As she made her way to the plate, bat on her shoulder, Ryan eyed the shortstop, rather than the pitcher. The woman glared at her and frowned. Ryan shook her head slightly but didn’t let the woman’s attitude bother her. She stepped to the plate and swung the bat out towards the pitcher, then brought it up above her shoulder and awaited the pitch. The pitch arrived, right down the middle of the zone and Ryan stepped forward and confidently swung in a graceful arc, sending the ball over the heads of the opposing team and over the center field fence.

Her bench erupted in raucous cheers as Ryan rounded the bases and scored the team’s first run. Her teammates surrounded her as she neared the dugout, offering congratulations and providing enough privacy that her mate was able to give her a quick congratulatory kiss.

“Beautiful hit, honey!”

“Thanks, baby!” They sat together on the bench and clasped hands.

Carrie approached and said, “Hey, Ry, what’d the shortstop say to you when you ran by her?”

“Lucky shot.”

“Yeah? And what did you say?”

“Bullshit.”

Carrie laughed. “Goddamn right!”

The next two batters singled and flied out respectively and then Janna was up.

As Janna stood at the plate and took a few practice swings she heard the unfriendly shortstop say to her pitcher, “Okay, Bobby, this little twerp can’t hit…put her away.”

Janna just grinned at the pitcher and took her stance. After taking one ball and one strike, Janna swung at the third pitch and connected, sending a hard grounder between third and short. The shortstop had to dive to her right to make the stop and after picking herself up out of the dirt was only able to get the leading runner at second. Janna was safe at first with two outs.

Ryan yelled from the bench, “Alright Janna…nice! Two outs babe.”

Janna nodded and eyed the batter, pointedly ignoring the offensive woman playing shortstop.

The next batter, Sarah, jumped on the first pitch, as was her habit, and grounded to the shortstop, who made a quick throw to second to get a sliding Janna out, ending the inning. As Janna stood up and brushed the dirt from her legs the shortstop said derisively, just loudly enough for Janna to hear, “You’re out, bitch.”

Janna looked at her incredulously and replied, “Right. Nice play” and calmly walked to the dugout.

In the top of the next inning, the unfriendly woman came up to bat with one out and a runner on first. After taking Ryan to a full count, she hit a fly to short center field, which dropped for a hit, advancing the runner to second. She stood on first and graced a nearby Janna with quiet taunts and disparaging remarks, some having to do with her sexual orientation. So that’s her problem…what a loser. Janna shook her head disgustedly but didn’t respond, not wanting to stoop to the woman’s level.

The next batter took two strikes from a sharp-eared and increasingly agitated Ryan and then hit the next, sending it to Jackie at shortstop, who, thinking double play, got it very quickly to Janna at second base. Janna smoothly caught the toss and as she pivoted to make the throw to first for the next out, saw the runner sliding into the bag with her leg upraised, aiming deliberately for Janna’s legs. Janna reacted by jumping as high as she could as she made the throw, but it wasn’t high enough and the runner’s rubber cleats caught her on the ankle, throwing her off balance and causing her to land on the edge of the bag, turning her ankle and tumbling to the ground.

As Janna writhed in pain on the ground, grasping her ankle, the dirty runner snorted down at her derisively, “Now you’re really out, bitch” and laughed.

Her laughter was short-lived however, as Janna’s mate ran up, screamed, “What the fuck was that?” and pushed her hard, sending her flying backward into the dirt and landing on her butt.

Just then the infield umpire pointed at the blonde woman on the ground and screamed, “You are out. Ejected. Get off the field now!” He then turned to a seething Ryan and yelled, “Back off, Zamora, or you’ll be joining her.”

“But Blue…that was blatant! Shit!”

“Yes, it was…that’s why she’s out of the game. Now you calm down or you’ll be out too.” He looked back at the offending player. “One more incident like that Jones, and you’ll be out of the league. For good.”

Ryan’s teammates surrounded her, preventing her from causing any more trouble for herself as the other woman slowly picked herself up and limped into the dugout.

Ryan then went immediately to Janna on the ground, who was already being tended to by Sharon, who had removed the shoe, sock, and leg guard. She reached out and laid a gentle hand on Janna’s leg, above where a nasty bruise had already formed above her ankle. The ankle itself was also showing signs of nasty bruising and swelling. “Janna, baby, are you okay?” With her other hand she caressed her mate’s cheek.

Janna grimaced and tried to smile but wasn’t very successful, and her eyes filled with tears. “It feels like it’s sprained, honey.”

“Jesus fucking Christ…I’m gonna kill that bitch” Ryan muttered angrily.

Janna covered her hand and quietly said, “No, you’re not Ryan. I mean it. This is part of the game. I should have been quicker.”

“Fuck, Janna, she was gunning for you! There’s no way you could have avoided her. That is not part of the game.” She looked furiously over toward the opponents’ dugout.

“Still, Ryan, it stops here.” She looked seriously at her mate. “I mean it Ryan. We’ll repay them by beating them fairly.” She looked around at her teammates. “That goes for all of you…promise me.” Her teammates, and finally Ryan, nodded dejectedly, and Ryan and Sharon helped her to her feet. When she tried to put her weight on the injured left foot, it would hardly bear any weight at all and streaks of pain shot up her leg. “Yep, it’s sprained.”

Ryan grimaced and bit off another choice swear word. Then she looked at her mate and grinned lopsidedly. “But you made the double play Janna. Beautiful play, baby…beautiful.” Her eyes shone with love and admiration, in addition to the concern.

“Thanks love, but I’m not sure it was worth it.”

Three pairs of slimy eyes watched the scene with interest from the bleachers on the opposing side of the diamond. “Look at that Billy, she’s hurt. This should be easy now.”

The owner of the beadiest set of eyes nodded. “Should be.” He looked at each of his two partners in slime. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens. They might leave early or the dyke might have help getting her to the car.”

The umpires approached and one of them gently patted Janna’s back. “Sorry guys, I hate to see this. Coach, do you have a replacement?”

Sharon nodded and let Jackie take her place in helping Janna to the bench. “Okay, Sarah, you’ll move to second, Liz, you’ll take third.” She turned to Elaine, who was on the bench. “Elaine, I know you’re not feeling great, but you’re all I’ve got…I need you in the outfield.”

Elaine nodded, “No problem Sharon.”

Sharon made her way across the field to speak with the score keeper.

Ryan helped Janna to settle on the bench and retrieved ice packs from the cooler, wrapping one around her ankle with an elastic bandage and placing another above it on the contact bruise. She rubbed Janna’s leg and said, “I’m so sorry, baby. Can I give you some Reiki?”

“Yes, please.”

Ryan put the cooler on the bench and then gently placed Janna’s foot on the cooler, elevating the injured ankle. She then sat beside the cooler and placed her hands on her mate’s injured ankle joint. The energy started to flow immediately, and quite strongly, relieving the pain enormously almost instantly.

The other players were interested in what was going on but gave the two women their space, and then the game resumed.

Spurred on by their teammate’s injury, the girls played with renewed vigor, hitting well and scoring two runs before Ryan came to bat with no outs. As she approached the plate, she spotted the dirty player sitting in the stands and glared at her with a look full of hatred and malice. The woman looked away, uncomfortable under the scrutiny.

The pitcher delivered the ball and Ryan teed off on it, just like in her previous at bat, sending it flying over the fence. She made it look effortless. It was almost as if she controlled the elements and could do as she pleased, at will. The members of the other team sat on their bench, dumbfounded, while Ryan’s teammates whooped and hollered across the field. Ryan adopted a look of calm reserve as she trotted around the bases and didn’t stop long enough after crossing home plate to accept her friends’ accolades. She went immediately to her mate’s side and resumed the healing treatment.

“Ryan, honey, at this rate, you’ll have me walking by tomorrow.” Janna grinned at her serious mate.
“That’s the idea Janna.” Ryan spoke quietly, obviously trying to control her emotions. Besides the torment of seeing her mate hurt, she was also feeling the uncomfortable prickling sensation that acted as her internal warning sensor. She looked up briefly, quickly scanning the surroundings. The darkness of the areas beyond the field prevented her from seeing a lot of the peripheral activity.

“What is it, Ryan? There’s something else.” Janna rested her hand on her mate’s shoulder and gazed into serious blue eyes.

She returned Janna’s direct gaze and sighed, knowing that she couldn’t hide anything from her mate, not that she wanted to. “I feel like we’re being watched again. My gut is telling me to be on alert.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s probably just the tense atmosphere around here right now.”

Concern knit Janna’s brow. “I don’t know, Ryan, you’ve felt it the last few times we’ve played here. Something may be going on. Remember what the Reiki Guides told you. I trust your instincts, Ryan, and you should too.”

The Reiki finished, so Ryan clasped the hand that rested on her shoulder. “Okay, love. I will.” She turned and leaned against the fence, closed her eyes, and stretched out with her senses. She felt a very definite sense of danger, of malice directed at her. She sighed deeply. “I feel something, Janna. A sense of malice, almost. Maybe it’s the bit…woman who hurt you. She’s still sitting over there.” Ryan indicated the stands on the other side of the field.

“It could be, honey, but she hasn’t been at our other games, has she? I doubt we can consider her as a threat. Anyway, I think you got through to her pretty clearly with that shove. She won’t even look in your direction now.”

“Not if she knows what’s good for her she won’t,” Ryan mumbled. Janna pretended not to hear the statement and leaned back against the fence, letting the buzzing energy in her body sooth her nerves. The adrenaline having worn off now that she was no longer playing, she noticed the intense, uncomfortable heat again. The evening air was heavy and hot, especially so near the water. The softball complex sat next to the channel leading into the port, and there was a small lake in the park that bordered the other side of the complex.

The inning ended shortly and Ryan and the other ladies returned to the field. The rest of the game passed quickly, with the opposing team having had the wind sucked from their proverbial sails by the strange situation, and Janna’s team having been invigorated by their anger. The Bob’s Shell ladies won handily, increasing their lead in the league standings.

Carrie and Ryan helped Janna out of the dugout and over to the stands. Though the throbbing had subsided greatly thanks to the Reiki, she still didn’t want to stress the injury by putting any weight on the foot. She also didn’t want to rush home. She wanted the team to know that she was okay and that the injury wasn’t serious. So she asked Ryan if they could hang around and visit, like they usually did. Her overprotective mate had grumbled about it, but had given in.

They sat in the bleachers with their friends, Janna’s left foot resting on Ryan’s gym bag on the seat in front of her. Ryan sat behind her, supporting her and gently massaging her shoulders. They had a little while before the remaining games finished and the lights would be turned off, so someone passed around some beers, and they all relaxed somewhat.

The three pairs of watchful eyes remained riveted on their quarry, now from a discrete distance in the bleachers at the adjacent diamond.

As the friends sat joking and visiting, several players from the opposing team approached and one of them said, “Um, we want you to know that we don’t all condone what our shortstop did. We hope you’ll be okay.”

Janna smiled and thanked them. Then Carrie piped up with, “What’s her problem, anyway?”

The same woman shrugged and replied, “She’s a bitter person. I’m not sure why. She’s also, well, um…”

Ryan interrupted, “Homophobic?”

“Yeah.”

Ryan shrugged and shook her head. “Takes all kinds, I guess.” She gazed at the other players. “Thanks for coming over here.
We appreciate it.” She gave her mate’s shoulders a squeeze as Janna nodded in agreement.

“It’s the least we could do. Good luck.” They turned and left.

Movement across the field at the opposing bleachers caught Ryan’s sharp eye and she gently rubbed Janna’s shoulders and said, “I’ll be right back, honey” and extricated herself from behind her mate.

Seeing where her mate was headed, Janna said, “Ryan, please…”

“Don’t worry, Janna…I’ll keep my promise. I just want to talk to her.”

Ryan quickly caught up with the blonde woman, Jones, and her two friends as they left the complex. She cleared her throat as she approached their backs and said, “Excuse me.”

When she turned and saw who was trying to get her attention, the blonde became defensive, a look of fear entering her eyes.

She raised her hands and backed away a step as she said, “Stay the hell away from me Zamora, or I’ll call the cops.”

“Didn’t you know, Jones, that I am a cop?” She grinned wickedly, thoroughly enjoying the acute look of discomfort that arose in the woman’s features. She continued, “And technically, I could arrest you on assault charges.” She raised her expressive eyebrows smugly.

The woman started to sputter a protest when Ryan interrupted. “Oh, I’m sure the charges wouldn’t stick, but it’d be a hell of an inconvenience for you.” Ryan took a step forward and entered the woman’s space, letting angry energy spill from her being as she stated quietly, “All I want, Jones, is to know why you did it. Why did you deliberately hurt my girlfriend?” Her questioning look was sincere as she awaited the woman’s reply.

The woman looked about to make a malicious comment, because her lip began to curl into a snarl, but the anger rolling off of the tall woman in front of her apparently convinced her to hold her tongue. “I don’t know,” she said weakly as she shrugged her shoulders. She looked up at Ryan somewhat defiantly, but plainly not wanting to challenge her.

Ryan, clearly not happy with the answer, but determined to keep her promise to her partner, shook her head. “Well maybe you oughta think about it so it doesn’t happen again, huh?” She bestowed a penetrating gaze on the woman before turning and walking away. She walked a few yards and then stopped, turned, and called out to the woman, “Oh, and if it does happen again, you will be very, very sorry.” Ryan’s tone left no doubt as to the sincerity of her words and the three women hurried on their way.

Ryan stood and watched the women exit the complex, letting the anger drain from her body before returning to her mate. As she turned to return to the bleachers where Janna sat with Sharon, Carrie, Jackie and their partners, the bright field lights all shut off; leaving the complex bathed only in the orange glow of the security lights. Time to get my baby home.

Just then she heard the loud sound of shattering glass, followed by a blaring car alarm, coming from the parking area. Her first instinct was to look for Janna, and as she ran toward her mate, she saw that she was fine, surrounded by her friends. Ryan quickly ran to the bleachers and grabbed her athletic bag as her cop’s instincts kicked into gear. As Janna and their friends stared in disbelief, she rapidly keyed the combination lock on the bag and grabbed her police ID and her holstered weapon, removing it from the leather holster and stuffing it into the waistband of her shorts, and shoving the ID badge into a pocket. She looked pointedly at Janna and said, “Stay here.”

Janna nodded as her teammates gathered more closely around their injured friend and they watched Ryan race away and head out of the complex.

As she made her way toward the blaring alarm, Ryan’s senses were on full alert and her inner alarm was screaming danger. She scanned her surroundings, noting the locations of the few remaining bystanders, possible ambush locations, and routes of escape for the perpetrators of the apparent break in that was in progress. As she passed a handful of people exiting the complex gates she said, “I’m a cop…stay back here for a few minutes folks, while I check this out.” They eagerly complied.

As she entered the nearly deserted, dark parking lot, Ryan noted with vague interest that the car alarm sounded like hers. She looked toward her truck and noted that the front driver’s side window was broken. Glass littered the pavement, as well as the grass strip in front of the truck. The many trees in the parking area drastically cut the illumination from the few lights but she could see the shards shining dully.

Suddenly, her hackles rose and her instincts sent her into full defensive mode, and she crouched, grabbing her weapon as she heard a shout and saw several bodies jump from the shadows, surrounding her.

Over in the bleachers, Janna felt an acute jolt of fear through their link and looked over toward the parking lot. She stood up; wobbling on her injured foot, and murmured, with fear tingeing her voice, “Ryan’s in trouble.”

-32-

When she realized that she was surrounded by three men, one behind her and two in front, slightly to her left and right, and that two of them held baseball bats, Ryan felt a very brief jolt of fear. But with the rush of adrenaline that accompanied it came a sense of self-confidence, and she also felt a stirring of Janna’s strength.

“Drop the gun, dyke. You can’t shoot all us at once,” the man in front of and to her right growled.

“Why don’t you drop the bats and no one will get hurt?” Ryan’s reply was so calm that it unnerved two of the guys.

The first man laughed and was joined by his cohorts, though with noted nervousness in their voices. “There’s only one of you and three of us…do the math.” He laughed evilly and added, “When we’re finished with you maybe you’ll think twice about arresting guys for beating up queers. You’re all fucking perverts.”

Ryan calmly maintained her position, gun pointed straight ahead. In the brief instant before they made their move, she smiled maliciously, looking each of the guys in front of her in the eye. As she eyed the leader, his eyes shifted almost imperceptibly, revealing to Ryan that the man behind her was attacking.

As the first man attacked, he seemed to be moving in slow motion, and Ryan felt an extreme sense of peace settle over herself. She could see him, as clearly as if she had eyes in the back of her head, and she turned just as the bat descended and caught it in her left palm, yanking it forcefully from the guy’s hands and tossing it over the fence into the softball field. As he stood dumbly in front of her, she executed a smooth aikido maneuver that threw him to the pavement roughly.

Before he hit the ground, his two buddies advanced on the cop, and she skillfully evaded the double-pronged attack, sliding gracefully around one guy and grasping his arms tightly behind him. She addressed the other thug as she brought her gun up and trained it on him, “Drop the bat. Now!” Her voice was deep and full of menace.

Billy, being much more intelligent than he appeared, did as the cop ordered and dropped the bat, holding up his hands.

“Now, on the ground, on your stomach!” She ordered. When he complied, she pushed the man she had a hold of down next to him and kicked the bat away. “Hands behind your backs and spread your legs!” She looked at the first man she had disarmed. “You, join them, now!” As the third idiot joined his friends and assumed the position, Carrie and Jackie ran up.

“Ryan!” Carrie yelled. Both their faces held looks of disbelief. “Are you alright?”

“Fine. Do either of you have a cell phone?”

“I do,” Jackie responded and pulled the item from her jacket pocket.

“Call 911 and report an assault…tell them there’s an off-duty officer involved.”

Jackie nodded and made the call while Ryan kept her gun trained on the thugs. She addressed Carrie. “Where’s Janna?”

“Sharon and Kathy are helping her out.” She glanced toward the complex gate. “Here they come.”

Ryan didn’t chance taking her eyes off of the perps as she said, “Go tell them what’s going on and tell them to stay away until my backup arrives. Should just be a few minutes.”

Carrie and Jackie left to join their friends as Ryan had instructed. She eyed the three scumbags on the ground. “So, friends of Simpson’s are you?”

“Fuck you, bitch.” Billy seemed to have lost some brain cells in the previous few minutes.

“You wanna see what dyke cops do to homophobic assholes who beat up women?” She snarled so menacingly that the guy’s face visibly paled. The half that wasn’t smashed against the ground, that is. None of the men uttered another word.

A minute later, sirens could be heard and presently two squad cars raced into the lot. Three cops made their way quickly to Ryan and she briefed them on what had transpired.

After loading the creeps into the cars, one of the cops, Tom, smiled at Ryan and said, “Zamora, you attract trouble like clover does bees!”

She grinned but quickly sobered. “Tom, I think these guys may have been in on the attack on my partner last month…she may be able to identify them.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because I think they had targeted me. One of them said they would teach me a lesson about arresting guys who beat up gays.”

Her coworker shook his head. “Jesus. Where do these guys crawl out from, huh?”

“You got me.” She looked up and saw that her friends were helping Janna over and went to meet them. Janna fairly leapt from her friends’ arms and fell into Ryan’s.

As they embraced tightly Janna muttered, “Ryan, sweetheart, what happened?”

Ryan kissed Janna’s hair and breathed deeply of her summer scent. “First of all, baby, I’m fine. They were pretty inept. Secondly, I think they were waiting for me, and thirdly, I think they were involved in your attack somehow. One of them insinuated that.”

“Oh, my God, Ryan…” Janna began to sob quietly.

“Shh, it’s okay, baby. We’re fine and the jerks are on their way to jail.”

“But Ryan, there were three of them…they could have killed you…”

“No way, babe.” Ryan smiled. “They didn’t have a chance.”

“But what if they’d had a gun…what if…” Janna closed her eyes and swallowed hard. “It would have been my fault.

“Janna! What?” Ryan looked at her in shock and grasped her shoulders. “This in no way was your fault. It was the fault of those warped assholes who couldn’t stand the fact that women, gay women, had bested them. They’re small, slimy, pathetic excuses for men who are going to jail now, where they belong.” She pulled Janna close again and added, “Honey, please don’t blame yourself. Anyway, I was ready for them and able to handle them easily.”

“Thank God, Ryan. Thank all the gods.” She sighed and wrapped her arms tightly around her mate.

“Yeah, thank you.” Ryan looked up towards the heavens. “Hey, we need to get you off of that ankle…come on.” She helped her mate over to the back seat of her Explorer. Some of her coworkers were still gathering evidence around the left front side of the truck but they indicated to Ryan that she could seat Janna in the back.

As she stood beside Janna, their friends approached the truck.

“Hey, you guys, is it safe now?” Sharon shook her head and grinned. “You two can find more trouble together in two months than I did in twenty years in the Army.”

Ryan grinned and pulled her gruff coach in for a hug. “Yeah, ya big lug. It’s safe. Thanks for taking care of my girl while I was otherwise engaged.”

“Shit, Ryan, you really took care of those guys. Remind me never to cross you!” Carrie grinned and punched her arm playfully.

Ryan shrugged. “It’s what I’m trained to do. No big deal.” At that statement all of her friends, including her mate, rolled their eyes and stated, nearly in unison, “Yeah, right!”

Ryan blushed mildly and looked down at her shoes, at which point Janna took pity on her and pulled her closer so that she could kiss her cheek.

It was after midnight when they finally got home after dealing with all the police necessities. Despite the several Reiki applications she had received, Janna’s ankle was throbbing painfully again. The stress of the attack on her partner, and the ensuing investigation had prevented her from treating it properly with elevation and icing. Now, however, as she lay in bed, her mate was applying another ice wrap and settling her foot comfortably on pillows.

“There, babe. Twenty minutes of ice, then we’ll wait an hour and do it again before going to sleep.” She lay down beside her tired mate and scooped her into arms, kissing her cheek. “You rest, I’ll take care of the ice for you.”

“Nope, if you’re staying up then so am I.”

“You are so stubborn!”

“I am?” Janna looked mystified. “You take the cake, my love.”

“I do not.”

“You do too.”

“This will get us nowhere, because we’re both stubborn. Give me a kiss.”

Janna willingly complied and forgot about her pain for a little while.

~~~~~~~~~~

A stray sunbeam found its way to the bed, where it illuminated two entwined figures writhing in ecstasy. The tall, dark figure caressed the smaller one below her with every part of her body at once. Her mouth, hands, legs, torso, and thighs all moved together in unison, giving exquisite pleasure to her life mate. As the smaller form received pleasure from her mate, she returned it in kind, matching her sensual caresses, strokes and kisses.

As one, they arched and cried out, their movements slowing and then stopping, their sated bodies melding together as they lie still, catching their breath. Words escaped them for long minutes, but weren’t really needed. The two joined souls were able to communicate silently everything that truly needed communicating through their unique bond.

A person gifted with second sight would have seen the golden energetic bond that linked their heart centers and spread out to envelope them in it’s loving glow. They would also have seen how their auras merged fluidly and filled the room.

The lovers lay together, quietly embracing, for nearly an hour, neither wanting to break their physical bond. Finally, the dark one spoke quietly. “Did I make you forget about your ankle, love?”

“What ankle is that honey?”

Ryan tilted her head back and laughed, then squeezed her partner and kissed her tenderly once more.

“God, it’s great with you Janna. I’ve never experienced anything like it before.” She wiped a drop of sweat from her mate’s temple. “I know we’ve talked about it before, but it’s just so incredibly good that it blows my mind over and over again.”

“I know, Ryan. I have trouble finding words for it myself.” She kissed the throat near her lips. “Honey, you are so incredibly good at finding my two most sensitive spots…every time. Every single time, Ryan.”

“Hmm, would those be your little g and c type spots?” She grinned as Janna giggled, then added, “I was made to love you, baby. There’s no doubt in my mind.” She kissed the tip of her mate’s nose. “And you’re expert at finding my special spots, too.”

“There’s no doubt here either, love.” Janna giggled and shuddered happily. “And two weeks from tomorrow I’m marrying you.”

“Yep…God, Janna, I can’t wait!” She picked up Janna’s hand and caressed her ring finger. “I can’t wait until you’re wearing my ring, and I’m wearing yours.” She wiped away a tear as it escaped from her eye. “I never thought I was cable of loving like this, Janna, but you’ve shown me that I am. Thank you.” Ryan hugged her partner gleefully, experiencing fully the love that bound them and knowing with every shred and fiber of her being that she was home.

-33-

Acoustic guitars chimed loudly as the Indigo Girls serenaded Ryan while she powered through another set of bench presses. She lay on her back on the padded bench, feet planted flat on the floor and pushed the weighted bar up with all she had left.

“Uh…” Ryan groaned and exhaled loudly as she locked her elbows and held the massive weight above her face.

“Yes, babe…that’s five!” Janna grabbed the heavy bar and helped to settle it onto the supports in front of her before moving around and standing beside her partner. “Great job, honey!”

Ryan dropped her weary arms to her sides as Michael Stipe joined his friends in the song’s chorus, asking, “Are you on fire?”

“Oh, yeah, guys, I’m definitely on fire.” Ryan wiped her brow with the back of a hand. “I am feeling the burn…whoo!” She sat up and grabbed her mate, pulling her down to join her on the padded bench. “You are one pushy coach, lady.” She said as she nuzzled Janna’s neck. Her smile against Janna’s soft, warm skin became a gentle kiss.

“Oh, Ryan, don’t start that now…we’re not finished in here yet.” Despite her request, Janna closed her eyes and sighed deeply as she sat straddling the bench in front of her mate.

“Mm, baby, I know…we haven’t made love in here yet, have we?” Gentle kisses turned into nibbles as Janna giggled.

“Ry…Ryan…honey…remember, Sara’s due any minute…and I want to finish my circuit fir…first…oh, yes…” Ryan was like an incorrigible child who wouldn’t take no for an answer. She continued her loving attentions until her mate was breathless and found herself settling into her larger lover’s lap. Janna wrapped her arms around Ryan’s neck and pulled her close as she captured her lips possessively.

“Mm, God, Janna…” Ryan returned the deep, passionate kiss and wrapped her arms around Janna’s back. “Lets finish our workout with our clothes off.”

In answer, Janna broke the kiss, and leaned back, pulling her shirt off as she did so. She sat face to face with her mate in a gray sports bra and black running shorts that matched exactly what Ryan was wearing. Ryan grinned widely, brilliant blue eyes sparkling, and reached toward the straps of Janna’s bra. She slowly pushed them down Janna’s arms, caressing as she did so and had them half way down her partner’s arms when the doorbell rang.

“Oh, shit…” Ryan’s face collapsed in despair. “Fuck, baby…”

Janna rested her forehead against her mate’s, similarly dejected, and sighed. “Later, love…in here…I promise.” She sealed her promise with a loving kiss before removing herself from Ryan’s lap, and slipped her shirt back on over her shoulders as she left the room.

Ryan blew out a breath and picked herself up off of the bench. She grabbed a towel and wiped her face and neck before settling at the shoulder press machine.

Janna could see her friend through the new stained glass window in the door and pulled the door open.

“Hi, Sara!” She greeted her friend warmly and invited her in.

“Hi, Janna…thanks for having me over.”

“Anytime, you know that. Come on back for a minute…we were working out and I need to grab a towel.”

“Great…I’d like to see the exercise room that John’s been raving about.” She followed Janna down the hallway toward the back of the house.

Sara stopped in the doorway next to Janna and followed her enraptured gaze to the vision of beauty in front of them.

As the Girls sang, “The higher the leap, the harder the ground,” Ryan powered the bar up, highlighting large, sculpted, biceps, triceps, lats and six-pack abdominals. The bronzed skin above her rippling, bulging muscles was covered with a sheen of sweat and her bangs were plastered to her forehead, making her look incredibly sexy.

“Oh, my God…” whispered Sara. “I’ve never seen muscles like that on a woman.” She looked at Janna, who gazed at her mate proudly, smiling. “So well-defined…but not masculine.” She elbowed her friend in the ribs and added with a grin, “If she wasn’t taken, I might make a move on her myself”.

Janna turned a shocked grin on Sara. “What?” She slapped her friend playfully. “Sara, is there something you’d like to tell me about your college days?” A raised eyebrow matched her jaunty grin.

“There might be!”

Two heads turned back in unison to the strong beauty at the machine who was unaware of their presence as she continued to lift, the beat of the folk rock music accompanying her. They stood admiring the view until Ryan was finished and spotted them.

Noting the admiring, borderline-lecherous grins on the two faces, she grinned and grabbed her water bottle. “Like what you see?” She tilted her head back and took a long drink.

Janna walked into the room, still smiling lecherously, picked up a towel and tossed it at her haughty mate, hitting her squarely in the face.

“Hey! What was that for?” Ryan adopted a mock-injured look.

“That’s for thinking a little too much of yourself. We were just admiring the new Nautilus machines.”

“Yeah, Ryan…sexy machines…they have beautiful lines.” Sara drawled.

“You two are so full of shit.” Ryan picked the towel out of her lap and wrapped it around her neck.

Janna stood before her, arms crossed in front of her chest with blonde eyebrows raised. She couldn’t hold the mock-stern look for long, however, before she approached her mate and leaned down for a kiss. Ryan pulled her into her lap and ravished Janna’s lips with her own, ignoring Sara for the moment.

“Always the stud, eh Ry?” Now Sara’s arms were crossed in front of her chest.

“When it comes to this woman, yes…absolutely.” Ryan looked up from her prey with glinting eyes and smiled rakishly. Her lips returned to Janna’s briefly before she mumbled, “Later, baby.”

“Mmm.”

Ryan spoke around the small blonde who had wrapped herself around her strong body. “So, Sara, are you guys all settled in the house?”

“Yeah, we are. We love it Ryan…there’s so much more room, and it’s close to the station…it’s perfect for us. We can’t thank you enough for letting us move in there.”

“Hey, I was more than happy to let you two have it. Who better?”

She stood up, Janna and all, and stepped away from the exercise machine, settling her mate on the floor and leaning down for a gentle kiss. She embraced her soon to be wife and stepped back, to see Sara smiling warmly.

“John’s right…you two are amazing.” Her eyes held the same warmth that her smile did.

“Thanks, Sara.” Janna looked back up at her mate and grabbed her hand. “Wanna come visit with us?”

Ryan smiled down at her mate and squeezed her hand. “Yeah, sounds good. Let me shower off first though.”

“Okay, love. We’ll be in the kitchen.” She grabbed the towel from her mate’s neck and used it herself, then turned to Sara. “Have you had lunch?”

“No, actually, I haven’t. Are you offering?”

“Sure…if salad’s okay. I started one earlier.”

“Sounds good, thanks.” She followed Janna out of the exercise room and down the hall toward the kitchen. “Let me give you a hand.”

Janna glanced over her shoulder and remarked, “I won’t turn that down!” They entered the large, sunny room and washed their hands before setting about finishing the large chef’s salad.

As they stood side-by-side at the counter and visited, the topic drifted to the upcoming wedding. “So, how are the preparations coming along?” Sara asked as she diced onions.

“We’re all set. Everything is basically ready to go, and everyone is set to meet there around noon on Friday. Ryan’s brother is arriving some time on Thursday from New Mexico.” Janna looked over her shoulder toward the kitchen doorway, then leaned closer to Sara and whispered, “Ryan asked me not to make a big deal out of her birthday, so I hope she doesn’t get upset about the dinner.”

“Janna, I wouldn’t worry. In her eyes, you can do no wrong…believe me. Besides, it’s just your closest friends and family…I really don’t think she’ll mind.”

“Well, we’ll see. I have a huge gift for her. I hope she doesn’t freak out…at least, not too badly.” Janna frowned, worried.

“What on Earth did you get her, Janna?”

“I think I want to keep it a surprise, Sara, if that’s okay.” She eyed her friend apologetically and added, “It’s something that she picked out and has been saving for years to get.”

“Then it sounds wonderful, Janna. If she lets her pride get in the way of accepting it, we’ll all sit on her for you.” They were laughing together as the subject of their conversation entered the room.

“What’s so funny, you two?” Ryan asked as she stole a strip of ham from the salad bowl between them.

Janna slapped at the offending fingers and said, “Oh, just discussing an impending ceremony.”

“Oh, is that it?” Her eyes twinkled as she addressed Sara. “We really appreciate your helping out with all the drinks.”

“We’re happy to Ryan…it’s the least we can do. Are you sure there’s nothing else we can bring or do?”

“Nope, everything’s all taken care of. We’re taking care of the food and the house, Janna’s parents are doing what little catering there is and the flowers, Janna’s friend Anna is photographing, and we found a minister. All we need are our friends there to share it with us.”

“So, who is the minister?”

“A woman some friends found through their church. She’s Unitarian Universalist and they have no problem with either gays or doing gay ceremonies…in fact she’s a lesbian herself and sort of specializes in gay unions.”

She wrapped her arms around her small mate and hugged her from behind. Janna grinned and covered Ryan’s arms with hers. “Hey, why don’t you open a bottle of something that goes well with salad?”

“Your wish is my command.” She kissed her mate’s neck and then stepped away.

“Ooh, Janna, always take advantage of it when they say that!” Sara grinned.

“I do, Sara, believe me!” She watched as her beautiful partner, her hair still wet and slicked back, walked across the large kitchen and opened the refrigerator. She stood perusing the selections before grabbing a bottle of white Riesling. She reached into the nearby drawer for a wine opener and skillfully removed the cork, setting the bottle on the table and retrieving three glasses from a cabinet. After setting the glasses on the kitchen table, she disappeared out of the doorway and a minute later, muted strains of Jefferson Airplane floated in.

Janna glanced at Sara and giggled. “She’s living in the past, but I love her anyway.”

Sara laughed and offered, “I know…John’s the same way. He couldn’t care less about today’s music. Just let him listen to his Journey, Styx and Rolling Stones and he’s happy.”

Ryan returned, humming along happily to ‘Somebody to Love’ and joined Janna, grabbing a hunk of cheddar cheese to grate.

“My, God, Janna…if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it!” She eyed Ryan with disbelief.

“Sara, when did you become so fuckin’ funny?” Ryan grumbled, but her eyes betrayed her humor, and she made quick work of the block of cheese, dumping the gratings into the large bowl.

“Yeah, Sara, Ryan helps me out in the kitchen all the time.” Janna patted her mate’s hand.

“Damn right.” Ryan nodded emphatically.

“Well you certainly have trained her well Janna. You’re a credit to wives everywhere.” She popped a piece of carrot into her mouth and picked up the salad bowl, carrying it to the table.

“Didja ever stop to think that maybe she started out with more to work with than the typical straight woman does, with a man?” Ryan looked pointedly at her old friend.

Sara smiled as she replied, “Yes, Ryan, I have…and you may have a point there.”

The three friends sat at the table to enjoy their lunch together. Before they could start, Sara picked up her wine glass. “To my two wonderful friends, who will joined in marriage a week from tomorrow. I’m very, very happy for you.”

Ryan and Janna both choked up at the warm sentiment, Janna more visibly so, and smiled their thanks to their friend.

“So, you’re all set, huh?”

“All except for the vows. Though, I think Janna has hers done. Right honey?” Ryan took a sip from her wine glass and dug into her salad.

Janna looked skeptical. “I don’t know…I keep rewriting them. I want them to be perfect.” She shook her head. “For how many years have I been making a living at writing? And here I’m stuck on what to say when I marry the woman of my dreams.”

“Same here, babe. It’s just so hard to put into words what you mean to me and what I want from a life with you.”

“Why don’t you both just say that?” Sara looked from Ryan to Janna. “Just declare your love for each other honestly. No one expects any more than that.”

“We know, Sara…we know that this should just be for us, but I think we both want the words to be perfect.” Janna looked at her mate sitting beside her and they clasped hands.

“It will be perfect, I know it will.” Sara sighed. “I can’t wait, really. And you know what? John is so nervous!”

“Hah! I’m glad to hear that. The best man is more nervous than the groom…I gotta give him hell for that!” Ryan smiled gleefully and speared a chunk of lettuce.

Janna stared at her mate comically. “Ryan, I didn’t realize that I was marrying a man…I thought I was gaining a wife next week.”

Ryan stopped chewing and stared at her wide-eyed. “What did I say?”

“You called yourself the groom.” Janna grinned.

Ryan returned the grin somewhat self-consciously and replied, “Shit, did I?” She looked thoughtful for a moment and continued, “Well, honestly baby, I feel more like a groom than a bride. I’m not the most feminine woman, you know.”

“True, but you’re no man, and I intend to consider you my wife.”

“Well, that’s what I consider myself already, love. So, two brides it is, then!” Her sparkling grin matched her eyes.

“Two brides, baby.” Janna’s eyes conveyed the enormous love she felt for Ryan.

“You know, it’s really a good thing that I’m a girl and enjoy this sappy romantic stuff, or else I’d be barfing on the table right about now.” Sara matched her friends’ grins.

“Sara, I do believe that your husband is rubbing off on you in unattractive ways. I’m gonna have to speak to him.”

Sara poked her tongue out at Ryan and they all laughed.

A short time later, Sara brought up the reason for her visit. “Guys, I’d like some advice, if you wouldn’t mind.” She looked to each of her friends, who nodded. “I’m counseling a young girl, she’s fifteen, who attempted suicide because she’s gay.”

Ryan and Janna both froze in unison, and dropped their forks to their plates.

“Fuck…” Ryan muttered as Janna nodded, agreeing with the sentiment.

“I feel that I’m relating to her well, and we’ve established a tenuous bond, but I’d like to better understand where she’s coming from…why she could feel so desperate.”

Janna asked, “What’s her family situation like?”

“It couldn’t be worse, I’m afraid.” Sara shook her head sadly. “When she came out to them, they kicked her out. Then her girlfriend broke up with her because she didn’t want her family finding out. She’s in foster care now, in a relatively stable home, but she was basically rejected by all of her classmates and she says she feels like she has no one…she feels completely alone…isolated.”

Ryan nodded knowingly. “In this town, that’s not hard for a gay kid. There are a few support groups popping up…do you know anything about them?”

“No, I don’t…that’s one of the things I wanted to check with you about. So, there are some resources?”

Janna nodded. “A few, yeah. Let me get you some numbers.” She got up and headed toward her office.

“Do you think the girl will be open to trying to connect with a group?”

“I really don’t know, Ryan. She’s bright…she has a lot going for her, really…so she might. Yet, she feels that no one could possibly understand what she’s going through.”

“Jesus, I feel for the kid.” Ryan sat back in her chair and ran her hands through her hair, her distress at what the girl was going through evident in her actions. She looked at Sara and continued; “You know, Janna and I would be happy to talk to her, if you think she’d be open to that.”

“Ry, that’s sort of what I had in mind to ask you.” Sara looked at her old friend thankfully. “I think that the two of you, and maybe some of your friends, could be wonderful role models, and even mentors for her. She’s become a ward of the State, so she’s free, basically, to follow whatever line of treatment I deem appropriate for her. You wouldn’t have to worry about angry, narrow-minded parents disapproving of her contact with you.”

Janna returned to the table and pushed a piece of paper toward Sara. Grinning at her mate, she said, “Like that would stop Ryan anyway.”

“God damn right. Jesus, what kind of fucking losers kick their kid out of the house? I don’t care what their reasons are!”

“It’s hard to understand, love, but we can’t know how other people think, or why they think like they do.”

“I really appreciate this, guys, and I’m not asking for a big commitment from you. Maybe I can bring her out to a softball game some time…start out that way?”

Ryan and Janna both nodded in agreement and Ryan said, “Sounds like a good idea, Sara. How about in two weeks when we get back from the honeymoon?”

“It’s a date…thanks so much. You two are terrific!” She grinned at her friends, who both returned the smile.

“We know!”

“Geez, Ryan and so modest too!” Sara poked her husband’s best friend from across the table. “Hey, Janna, how’s the ankle? I forgot all about it!”

“It’s fine…I hardly feel it at all now.” She glanced conspiratorially at Ryan and added, “I heal quickly…I even played last night. I had it taped really, really tightly, at my partner here’s insistence, and I did just fine.”

“Good thing for us too…she played her heart out and helped us win again. I think Sharon’s gonna want her to sign up again next year. She’s even better in the position than Linda was, which I don’t think will be a problem for Linda. I’ve had the feeling lately that she’s been wanting to quit.”

“I hope so, hon…I want to play but I don’t want to step on any toes in the process.”

“Don’t worry, baby.”

“And hey, Ryan, what about those jerks that attacked you last week?”

“They’re sittin’ in the can, where they belong. One of the guys squealed. Apparently it was the other two of them that were in on the attack on Janna and her friends, and they were basically recruited for this job by the guy who actually beat her.” She looked at her mate and knit her brows in concern. “He was pissed at being bested by women and wanted to get back at me…at us.” Ryan looked seriously at her friends as she added, “They’re just lucky they didn’t try to hurt Janna again. If they had, they’d be dead now…every one of them.”

“I believe you, friend. And you’d have had plenty of help if you’d needed it.”

“I wouldn’t have needed it Sara.”

Sara nodded and asked, “What about the two guys who beat Janna? What’s happening with them?”

“They’re both heading to federal prison. They made deals, so there won’t be a trial, and they’re only getting a few years each.” Ryan shook her head angrily. “Fuckin’ pricks.” She looked up apologetically at her mate and their friend. “Sorry.”

“No problem, Ryan. They are fucking pricks.” Sara said matter-of-factly.

“Right, love. Don’t worry about it. It’s over…it’s done. Lets put it behind us.” She clasped her mate’s hand as she added, “I’m all healed, thanks mainly to your love and support.”

“Thanks baby.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“Janna, are you about done, honey?” Ryan’s voice held a definite note of eagerness, and Janna smothered a grin as she cleaned her equipment. She glanced over to the darkroom’s doorway to see her partner’s smiling face peeking around the doorjamb. She looks adorable. She’s really excited about this little tryst. I’ll have to try to make it special for my very special lady.

Janna turned the large trays over so that they could drain and then wiped her hands on a towel. “Yes, love, I’m done.” As she turned to look at Ryan she adopted an innocent look and said, “Was there something you needed, honey?”

The expression on Ryan’s face dropped so quickly that Janna’s heart lurched. She moved to her mate’s side and wrapped her arms around the strong waist. “Because you definitely have something that I need.” With one hand, she pulled her lover’s head down to meet her lips.

Ryan smiled widely through the kiss and responded passionately, caressing Janna’s tongue lovingly with hers and pulling their bodies closely together. She tore her lips from Janna’s and kissed her throat, murmuring, “I’ve been wanting you all day, baby.”

“Mm, me too, love. I’m sorry I had to finish this photo project first.” Janna’s eyes closed involuntarily as her lover’s gentle lips explored the sensitive skin of her throat. She ran her hands gently up under Ryan’s shirt, caressing the soft skin of her back, causing a sharp intake of breath.

“That’s okay Jan…Janna. If a gallery wants your work, then by all means finish up…oh, Christ, baby…that feels good.” She forgot to finish her thought as Janna’s lips and tongue began matching the rhythm of her hands in their caresses. Ryan placed her hands gently behind Janna’s head as her eager mouth sought out breasts, their excitation visible through the cotton of Ryan’s t-shirt.

Ryan moaned and muttered, “Baby, do you have any idea how much I love it when you kiss me there?”

Janna’s soft lips spoke around a mouthful of cotton surrounding a hard nub, “Mm, hmm…I think I do, yeah.” She turned Ryan so that her back was against the wall and as she looked her lover in the eye, coyly lifted her shirt above her breasts, pleased that there was no bra to block her easy access to the lovely peaks. She gently kissed the curve above each breast as Ryan wriggled beneath the soft touch.

“Janna, lets go into…into the…um…workout room.” She moaned loudly as a talented tongue circled a very happy nipple, leaving velvety bumps in its wake.

“I kinda like it right here.” Janna tuned her attention to the other breast as she brought a hand up to caress the first one.

“Oh, baby, no…” Ryan’s voice actually held a small pout and Janna smiled, removing her mouth from Ryan’s anatomy and looking up into her eyes. “Baby, don’t stop…come on…right here’s fine.” Ryan gently coaxed Janna’s face back down with her hands.

Janna smiled widely, still looking up at her mate and ran her tongue roughly over the sensitive nub, where Ryan loved it so much, then smiled coyly again and led her tall lover by the hand to the exercise room.

She sat Ryan on the end of weight bench and straddled it, sitting behind her. “Janna, baby, what’re you doing to me?”

“Loving you, baby.” Janna wrapped her arms around Ryan’s waist and kissed the back of her neck. Her hands roamed sensuously higher on her mate’s torso, finally landing on her breasts. She stroked them in a circular motion, with the taut nipples in her palms, and Ryan’s breath began to come forth in ragged gasps.

Ryan felt the desire swirling and building within her body, unable to slow it. “Janna…”

“I know, love,” Janna whispered hotly in her ear as one hand left a breast and moved below Ryan’s waist, beginning a slow, circular descent. Each hand kept up its circular caress in symmetrical motion, and Ryan tilted her head back against Janna’s, moaning loudly. Janna slowed the motion and brought her hands up to lift Ryan’s shirt off over her head. She tossed the shirt to the floor and began her caressing again in earnest, suckling at Ryan’s neck as she did so. As she felt her partner’s body respond to her touch and felt her passion through their link, Janna’s own desire began to build.

“God, Janna, that feels so good…I…I never…let anyone else take me…ohhhh…like this before.”

Janna murmured her answer against Ryan’s soft skin.” I’m glad I’m special, Ryan, because you are the sun and the moon to me. You’re the earth and the sky. You’re my Universe, baby.” She punctuated her point by thrusting a hand gently under the waistband of Ryan’s shorts, finding slick curls and a throbbing center.

Ryan leaned back against her mate, letting her have her way with her body. Leaving herself in the gentle, loving, yet talented hands of her partner. Janna gently urged Ryan to raise her hips off of the bench and she gently pulled her shorts and underwear off, tossing them aside and leaving her beautiful mate sitting naked in front of her.

Her hands resumed their loving attention and Ryan muttered, “Take your clothes off too, baby, please. I want to feel you.”

Janna quickly, silently complied, and sat back down, pulling Ryan against her as her hands took up their caresses again. Her lips, tongue and teeth gently kissed and nipped at Ryan’s back and shoulders as her hands brought her to full arousal. Janna’s right hand dipped into Ryan’s cleft, caressing the hard, ultra sensitive nub there and Ryan groaned her pleasure. As Janna’s fingers dipped and stroked more deeply within her lover, her left hand paid continued devoted attention to full breasts and their hard centers.

“Oh, fuck…here I come baby…” Ryan fairly gasped the words as the orgasmic spasms began. Janna kept up the rhythmic stroking as her partner rode the crest of pleasure, calling out her mate’s name in ecstasy. As the tremors eased and slowed, Ryan became limp in her lover’s arms and Janna held her tenderly. “Oh, God, Janna…oh God…”

Janna felt tears sting her eyes as her heart swelled with love for her mate. “I love you Ryan.”

“Not half as much as I love you, Janna.” Ryan brought a small hand up from her waist and kissed it tenderly.

“No way, love. You can’t possibly love me more than I love you…not possible.”

Ryan brought Janna’s fingers to her lips again and gently sucked them into her mouth, caressing them with her tongue. Janna swallowed hard and her breath caught in her throat. “Mmm, Ryan…”

“Come ‘ere, baby.” Ryan arose from Janna’s embrace and helped her love to her feet, leading her to the padded, inclined bench of one of the leg machines. She sat Janna against the incline and straddled the bench in front of her.

Janna shivered in anticipation as Ryan leaned forward and gently captured her lips. As they kissed, their breasts met gently and then more firmly as the kiss intensified, and Ryan pressed her body against her mate’s. Ryan moved slowly up and down, gently caressing Janna’s body with hers, knowing that her partner loved that, and possessed her tongue ardently.

When Janna moaned into her mouth, Ryan bent her head and began trailing kisses downward, down an elfin chin, across a jaw line, down her neck, to the hollow of her throat. She sucked and nipped gently at twin pulse points before moving down again, across a prominent collarbone, bringing large, but graceful, gentle hands against erect nipples at the same time.

“Oh, yes, Ryan…yes…”

Lips replaced hands on soft, full breasts; licking and caressing with a soft tongue, making Janna arch her back involuntarily against the seat back. Teeth gently raked over nubby coral nipples, alternating with a swirling tongue, leading Janna toward oblivion. A skilled hand moved lower, finding Janna’s center and gently caressing there in time with her tongue.

When Janna began moaning incoherently, and her inner walls began to contract and clench rhythmically, signaling her plunge into the depths of pleasure, Ryan moved down so that her tongue could join her fingers at Janna’s center.

“Oh, God, Ryan, yes…yes…deeper, please…ohh, Jesus, yes!”

As Ryan’s tongue alternately licked and stroked deeply at her love’s center, Janna wrapped her hands in her dark hair and her legs around Ryan’s shoulders. The convulsions came quickly and powerfully, drenching Ryan’s mouth with the sweet nectar that she loved so much.

“Ryan!” Janna screamed her mate’s name, setting her lover’s passion aflame again and Ryan rose and covered Janna’s body with hers, straddling a thigh. She kissed Janna passionately and rocked against her lover, prolonging Janna’s orgasm and instituting her own. They arched together as one at the simultaneous peak and screamed each other’s names in unison.

As the tremors subsided, Ryan slowed her movement and wrapped Janna in her arms. Their sweat-slicked bodies melded together comfortably and they rested.

“Fuck, baby…fuck…”

“God, Ryan…oh Jesus…”

When her breath returned, Ryan laughed quietly and nuzzled her mate. “Honey, have you ever noticed how when we come, I always swear and you always call on God or Jesus?”

“Mm, hmm. What do you think it means?”

“That you’re a lady and I’m a fuckin’ animal.”

“Shut up and kiss me, goddammit. Or better yet, fuck my brains out again.”

Ryan laughed as she laid her eager mate on the floor and happily complied with the demand.

~~~~~~~~~~

As she sat quietly strumming her guitar, Janna watched Ryan try to concentrate on her book. Her mate was having a terrible time staying focused as she nervously awaited her brother’s arrival. She’s really anxious…I’ve never seen her so unfocused. Seeing him must mean a lot to her.

“Honey, he didn’t think he’d be here before noon. It’s just now that…why don’t you come over here and relax?” She patted the sofa next to her. Ryan glanced over at her and tossed the book onto the table as she stood up.

“Yeah, okay. I don’t know why I’m so unsettled…I guess it’s just because it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. Must be three years.” As Ryan sat beside her, Janna set her guitar on the floor against the sofa and reached for her mate’s thigh. Ryan scooted close and settled her arm around Janna’s shoulders.

Janna rested her head against her mate’s shoulder and said, “Tell me about him while we wait.”

“Well, babe, you know the basics. He’s four years younger than I am and spent most of his teen years in Texas, with cousins who live on Indian land. Before he left, before our Dad died, we were pretty close…as close as could be expected, I guess, with the age difference. After that we basically only saw each other in the summer, when our Mom and I would visit Texas or he would come here. He joined the Army right out of high school and has advanced well. He’s an MP and had been attached to the Los Alamos National Lab, but in his last letter said that he’d just been transferred to the White Sands Missile Range, with a high security clearance.” Ryan looked down at Janna as she added, “In his letter he sounded happy. I hope he is. His teen years were rough.”

“It sounds like he’s found his niche. And he was looking forward to seeing you, he said.” She rubbed Ryan’s bare thigh absently.

“Yeah, and you too, apparently.” She smiled, and then looked perplexed. “He made it sound like he couldn’t believe I’m settling down. As if he ever knew me that well.”

“That’s just it, Ryan…he didn’t know you well.” She smiled up at her mate coyly as she added, “You didn’t, um, brag about your conquests a lot back then did you…by any chance?”

Ryan looked a bit guilty as she replied, “Well, you know…maybe some.”

“Well, there you have it. He knew you as a womanizer.”

“Janna!”

“Ryan!”

Janna took pity and halted the teasing. “I don’t care, love…you’re all mine now…of that I have no doubt.”

“Good…’cause you’re right.” She pulled Janna into her lap. “You’re more than woman enough for me.” As they kissed and petted softly, a loud rumbling could be heard from outside, coming down the street.

When the rumbling, obviously from a motorcycle engine, appeared to enter their driveway, Ryan slowly looked up from her kiss and out the front window.

A large smile graced her features as she saw her brother’s leather-clad form lift itself from the back of what appeared to be a Harley. “Well, I’ll be a son-of-a-bitch! The asshole rides a Harley!” She looked back at her mate and gave her a quick squeeze before Janna got up.

As Ryan made her way toward the front door, dragging Janna by the hand, Janna tried to hide her knowing grin. They burst out the door as the man lifted the helmet from his head.

A face almost identical to Ryan’s, with a wide, white smile and piercing blue eyes, though framed with closely cropped black hair, met them. “Hey there, Sis!”

“Zachary Redhawk Zamora, you fucker…when did you get a Harley?” Ryan clasped her brother’s arms as she eyed his ride with obvious envy.

Zac pulled his sister in for a proper hug before answering. “It’s nice to see you too, Ryan! I got it a few years ago.”

“I’m sorry, Zac…how ya doin’?” She stepped back and looked at him. “You look fuckin’ great, man.”

Zac looked over Ryan’s shoulder at the cute blonde standing behind her. “And this must be the saint who’s putting up with you.” He spoke to Janna, “Does she always talk like a sailor in front of you?”

Janna grinned, “Pretty much, yeah.” She approached him and held out her hand. “I’m Janna, Zac…It ‘s great to meet you.”

“It’s great to meet you too, Janna,” he said as he grasped her hand warmly. His wide smile was so much like Ryan’s that she felt comfortable with him immediately.

“Alright…don’t even think about it, bro.” Ryan grinned as she stepped between them and wrapped an arm around Janna possessively.

“Wouldn’t think of it, Sis. Honest!” He held up his hands as he grinned at his sister and her mate.

“Show me this ride of yours, Zac.” Ryan walked herself and Janna over to the gorgeous machine and stroked its handlebars. “Sportster?”

“Yep. Have a seat, Sis.” He gestured for her to give it a try.

Ryan grinned and eagerly hopped on. She straddled the large bike and grabbed the handle grips, looking completely at home on it. It was black and sported black leather saddlebags.

My God, she looks good on that! Maybe my decision was a good one after all. Janna’s wide grin matched her mate’s as she gazed at the attractive site. Ryan looked like she was in heaven, as she ran her hands along the handlebars, the tank, and the engine that sat between her legs.

She began asking her brother knowledgeable questions about it’s specifications and as they lost themselves in motorcycle talk, Janna lost herself in a vision of a leather-clad Ryan on a bike of her own, with Janna behind her, arms wrapped happily around her waist. She envisioned them joyfully motoring together along a mountain road, both clad in leather. She could actually almost feel the sun on her face and the wind in her hair. I can’t wait!

She returned to the present when she heard Ryan say, “Yeah, I’ve had my eye on a Dyna Wide Glide…been saving for a few years now.”

“Whoa, Sis…going for the big bucks ride, huh? No flies!” He smiled widely, silently agreeing with Janna’s assessment of how good his sister looked on the bike.

“Yeah, that’s why I don’t have one yet. Some day though.” She ran her hand longingly along the tank one more time before climbing off the bike. “Nice ride, Zac.” She threw one arm around her brother’s shoulders and the other around her mate’s waist and walked her family into the house.

Ryan sat back against the back of the booth and stretched her long legs, relishing the cool brew as it slid down her throat. She glanced to her mate’s lovely face next to her and slid an arm around her shoulders. She watched as Janna enjoyed the conversation with her brother, who was regaling them with stories of his military adventures. She was enormously pleased that the two of them had hit it off so well.

They sat in a downtown Mexican restaurant after enjoying a delicious meal. Mexican music emitted from little table top juke boxes clashed with the loud audio from a large televison tuned to a Mexican station as Ryan looked around at the partly gaudy, partly down home décor and felt very much at ease. This is my kind of place: totally unpretentious, with great food and beer. And these two are my kind of people: warm, loving and down-to-earth. My family. As Janna and Zac continued their laughing conversation, Ryan’s mind flashed forward, and she imagined herself and Janna in this very restaurant with their children. The thought filled her with joy and with hope and she had to close her eyes as tears threatened to appear. I’m gonna do it…ask Zac to be a donor for us. I can’t wait to start a family with her.

As Ryan’s heart center filled with joy, Janna felt it and glanced over at her mate. Ryan sat with her eyes closed, looking as if she were either about to laugh or to cry. She laid her hand on Ryan’s thigh and caressed it lightly. Ryan opened her eyes and Janna saw that they were filled with tears.

“Are you okay, love?”

“Great, baby…better than great. Just thinking about us…about the future.” She laid her hand on top of Janna’s and squeezed it, communicating silently her love for her mate. She felt it return to her and nearly choked up. She sighed and looked across the table at her brother and added, her voice cracking slightly, “I’ve hit the jackpot here, Zac.”

“I can see that, Sis. You two seem very happy.” He reached across the table and grabbed his sister’s free hand. “You deserve it, Ryan. You’re a good lady.” He glanced at Janna as well and added, “You deserve each other. I’m glad you told me about your wedding… and I’m glad I could make it.”

“We’re glad too, Zac.” Janna cleared her throat before continuing, “So, how do you feel about giving your sister away to me on Sunday?”

Zac looked wide-eyed from Janna to Ryan before saying, “Really? You want me to give you away, Sis?”

“I do, yeah. Do you mind?”

“Shit no, Sis…I’d be glad to… I’d be honored.” He shook his head and took a swallow from his frosty beer mug.

Ryan grinned, enjoying her brother’s near-miss emotional display. Jesus, he looks like Dad. She took a gulp from her own mug as memories of her father threatened to overwhelm her.

Janna missed none of the proceedings and smiled with an internal shake of her head at the supposed toughness of the Zamora siblings. They’re just a couple of big, mushy, softies.

Zac cleared his throat. “So, Sis, what’s the plan for the weekend?”

Ryan tried to surreptitiously wipe at her eye but was unsuccessful, as a tear escaped. Her mate reached up and wiped it away for her. “Um, yeah…well, we leave tomorrow morning. Everyone plans to gather at the house around noon. Are you taking your bike or do you want to ride with us?”

“Since I have a week and a half before I have to report for my new duty, I thought I’d travel around a little…so I’ll take my bike and leave Tahoe on Sunday or Monday.” He grinned and added, “You don’t need your younger brother hanging around for your honeymoon, do you?”

“Absofuckinlutley not, bro. And it’s little brother.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled a challenge.

“Younger.”

“Whatever. Then tomorrow night, since its someone’s birthday, Janna has a dinner planned.” She looked askance at her mate and mock-frowned, but Janna just grinned coyly at her.

Ryan continued, “Saturday is do whatever you want until dinner: hike, swim, gamble, laze. Janna’s parents have something nice planned for dinner and that’s when we’re meeting the minister and rehearsing. Then…” She looked at her mate and nearly choked on her words and had to swallow, “Sunday at sunrise I marry this woman of my dreams.”

Janna gazed at her with adoration and didn’t bother trying to choke back the sob that rose from her throat. Ryan wrapped her in an embrace and kissed her head, not caring about where they were. She held her mate for a minute and let the love flow between them.

“Then after the ceremony, we’re having a big breakfast/brunch type thing and celebrating. After that everyone will stay or leave as they want. There’s room for everyone there at the house, and you’re all welcome to stay as long as you’d like. We’ll be there until Thursday.” She adopted a rakish look as she glanced at Janna. “Just so long as no one plans to see much of us after the wedding. We are gonna be honeymooning big time…aren’t we baby?”

Janna blushed mildly but answered, “Yes, love, we are.”

Zac laughed. “I’ll bet you are! Okay, Sis, I can take a hint…I’m outta there Sunday night.”

“Zac, that’s not what I meant…”

“I know, Sis, I’m just yanking your chain!” He grinned at his older sister.

“Hey, we’re just meeting up again…I’d like to see some of you before you leave.” Ryan matched her heartfelt statement with a look of sincerity.

“Why don’t you guys come out my way soon? It’s beautiful down there and I’d love to have you there.”

“We’ll do that, Zac, thanks. I do want to take Janna down there. She’s into spirituality in a big way and I want to share some things with her.” She looked at her mate. “She’s part Cherokee and has never visited the res.”

“No shit…part Cherokee? That’s cool Janna. Then you definitely need to visit the res. Do you know your ancestor’s roll number?”

Janna frowned. “No, we haven’t been able to track that down. My Mom is till trying though. I’d love to be able to join the tribe.” She looked from Zac to Ryan. “Are you guys tribal members?”

Ryan answered, “Yeah, though our tribe isn’t nearly as well organized as the Cherokee. There isn’t even a res. left. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

Zac continued, “Right, though the members are starting to pull together a little more now. There’s even a government compound in Oklahoma now. But, I guess, historically, the Comanche and Shoshone were a pretty fierce, independent people.”

“I can see that in their offspring…and I mean that in the best possible way.” She picked up Ryan’s hand and kissed it.

“Hey, we’re only one quarter Comanche, you know.” Ryan returned the gesture and kissed Janna’s hand as she winked at her small mate.

“I want you guys to plan to come out for sure, okay? I’m getting a nice little place, with a few horses…I think you’ll like it there.”
“Jesus, Zac, the military’s done well by you, huh?”

“Well, I guess success has its perks, yeah. But, you know, I’ve worked hard. Been a damn good solider, I think.” He finished his beer and poured himself another, offering to refill the ladies’ glasses as well.

“What’s your rank now, Zac?” Ryan nodded her thanks at the refill and lifted the mug to her mouth.

“Lieutenant Colonel.”

“Shit! Zac, you’re barely thirty, for Christ’s sake.”

Zac shrugged nonchalantly. “Yeah, I’ve done alright there.”

“You like it a lot, don’t you?” Ryan asked sincerely.

“I do. At first…” he shook his head in remembrance and laughed, “I never thought I would make it through boot camp…much less my first tour. I was one angry Indian kid.” He looked up at Ryan and Janna. “But I settled into it and made it my home.”

“What about personally, Zac…any special ladies in your life?” Ryan smiled warmly at her brother.

“Well, Sis, there just might be. I, uh, met someone interesting a while back when I was doing an orientation at White Sands.” He grinned, adding, “Lets just say that we’re both looking forward to my transferring there.”

“Alright, Zac…that’s super!” Ryan pounded her brother’s fist with hers. “What’s her name?”

“Marty. Captain Martha Greyeagle.” His look of pride was unmistakable.

“A native woman? Jesus, that’s awesome, bro!”

“Thanks, Sis.”

Janna sadly interrupted the moment. “Hey, guys, why don’t we continue this at home? I still have some packing to do. Do you mind?” She looked at her soon to be wife and brother-in-law. “We’ve got plenty of Corona at home…”

Ryan laughed. “Sounds great baby.”

Later that night, Luna’s partial face sent faint light in through the bathroom skylight, adding it’s gentle glow to the candlelight as the lovers reclined together in their whirlpool.

“It was a great night, Janna.” Ryan squeezed her mate tightly from behind and rested her temple against blonde hair.

“Mm, yes. It was. Zac is really a great guy, Ryan.” She dipped her hands in the still-warm water and gently rinsed the bubbles off of Ryan’s arm. “Um, sweetheart? Do you think he’d consent to be our donor?”

Ryan smiled against her lover’s hair. “I’m hoping he will Janna. I plan to ask him this weekend. I have a feeling that he’ll be okay with the idea.”

“Me too. I think that maybe the Universe brought you two back together for that reason. I mean right now. You probably would have reunited at some point anyway, but it seems synchronistic that it’s happening now. Don’t you think?”

“Mm. Yeah. I do.” Ryan cupped water onto her mate’s arms and back. “Do you realize that this is our last night together here as an unmarried couple?”

“I hadn’t thought about it that way, no.” Janna picked up Ryan’s arms and wrapped them around her torso. “God, love, it’s wonderful.” She sniffed. “Jesus, here come the tears again.”

“Baby, don’t cry, please…every time you do, I do too, and I’m too tough for that.”

“Oh, you are? You could have fooled me, you big softie. Both you and your brother were getting a little teary at the restaurant tonight.”

“Hey, watch it!”

“I’d rather watch you.” Janna turned in her lover’s embrace and sat in her lap. “I’d rather watch you make love to me on our last night at home as an unmarried couple.” She leaned forward, pressing her body against Ryan’s and kissed her deeply.

Ryan mumbled into the kiss, “Your wish is my command, baby.”

-34-

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Ryan, happy birthday to you!” The crowd of friends and family shouted, “Hurray!” as Ryan blushed even more fiercely and threw Janna a look the likes of which the small blond had never received from her partner.

“Ryan, for God’s sake stop glaring and blow out your candles before they set the cake on fire,” John urged vehemently.

Ryan sighed, sucked in a breath, called up the reserves of her dignity and blew out the thirty-four candles with one irritated breath.

As her friends clapped and Janna began cutting the cake, eying her mate warily, John grabbed his friend by the elbow and led her away from the table and into a hallway.

With an air of irritation, he asked, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Shit, John, you know what’s wrong…don’t give me a fuckin’ hard time about it. You know I never celebrate my birthday, and you know why…why didn’t you clue her in?”

“Why didn’t you?” He eyed his friend pointedly. “She’s your girlfriend.”

“Because I love her, that’s why. She was all excited about this and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Besides, I thought I might be able to handle it, but now that it’s happening, it’s making me nuts…I can’t handle these things John.”

“You love her? You could have fooled me tonight. You’ve hurt her Ryan, with this childish behavior, and she fucking well doesn’t deserve it.” He grabbed his partner’s arm and made her look him in the eye. “She’s only doing this because she loves you and wanted to make this day special…look at her family…this is what they do…and they’re your family now, so you’d better get used to it. Now you get in there and enjoy the party she’s put so much effort into and then you apologize to her, or I swear to God, Ryan, I’ll kick your ass.” He stood in front of her, refusing to back down, and she saw how serious he was.

“Jesus Christ, John…you know why this is so hard for me. I didn’t intend to hurt her… God, it just all kinda caved in on me. All of a sudden I was thirteen again and my Mom was getting the phone call during my birthday party.” She leaned back against the paneled wall and slid down to the floor, cradling her head in her hands as tears began to flow. Her friend crouched beside her and laid a comforting hand on her back.

“I know, Ry, I know. But she doesn’t. You should have told her. You need to tell her now. She has no idea why you’re acting this way…she thinks you’re mad at her.”

Startled red-rimmed blue eyes looked up at him. “I’m not mad at her, John.”

“You need to tell her that. Ryan, she’s terrified. You two have never fought before, have you?”

The question was met only by a sullen shake of the dark head.

“Shit…Do you want me or Sara to talk to her? Someone has to Ryan, you owe her that.”

Ryan blew out a breath and ground her palms into her eyes, willing the unwanted tears to stop. “No, I’ll talk to her. I just wish she’d listened when I asked her not to make a fuss.”

“Jesus, Ryan, she’s not a mind reader…despite that special bond thing you two have. You blew this Ryan, not her, so face up to it, or your whole wedding will be ruined. I know you don’t want that.”

Ryan looked up into John’s face, terrified. “No! I don’t want that. She’s everything to me and I want to marry her on Sunday.” With a voice filled with pain and self-loathing she added, “Christ, John, why am I such a fuckin’ asshole?”

“You’re not, Ryan, you’re just acting like one. I know how bad you’re hurting but you have to suck it up, partner, and participate…and talk to her.”

In the next room, Janna swallowed the pain that had formed as a lump in her throat as she handed out the last piece of birthday cake, and went looking for Ryan and John. As she rounded the corner into the hallway, she saw her partner sitting on the floor in tears, with her best friend crouched beside her, speaking softly to her.

Suddenly, she felt Ryan’s pain…the pain that had been blocked by her own…and she rushed to her mate’s side.

“Ryan, sweetheart, what’s wrong?” She knelt beside Ryan and laid a gentle hand on her head.

Ryan looked up with tear stained eyes and sobbed, “Oh, Janna, I’m so sorry!”

Janna sat and wrapped her mate in her arms as John quietly stood and left.

As Janna held and rocked her love, she whispered, “Shh, it’s okay…I’ve got you. I love you Ryan, it’s okay.” She kissed her mate’s soft, dark hair as her own tears began to flow. “Ryan, please tell me what’s wrong. Please let me help. I’m so sorry that I’ve upset you, please…”

In a small voice, Ryan croaked, “Janna, it’s not your fault. I should have told you. This is all my fault.” She sighed and was racked by another sob. “Janna, my father died on my birthday when I was a kid…it was the worst day of my life and I haven’t been able to celebrate it ever since.” She looked up apologetically at her mate as she added in a small voice, “I usually get shit-faced drunk.”

“Oh my God…Ryan, love, I’m so sorry. I had no idea.” Janna’s tears were renewed and fell vigorously. “You asked me not to make a fuss, but I didn’t listen…I thought you were just being stubborn…you can be you know.” She met her mate’s eyes and saw the faintest hint of a smile.

“I know I can be…sometimes I have the hardest fuckin’ head on the planet. Janna, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about this. I didn’t mean to keep it a secret, it was just too painful to talk about, and I thought that maybe this year, with you, it would be different. Plus, you were so excited about it.” She pounded a fist into her forehead. “But I had to blow it and ruin everyone’s night. Fuck!”

“Ryan, stop. I had to go and make a big production of it. Maybe if it had been just the two of us, you would have been fine.”

“I think I might have. It’s the party…my Mom got the call during my thirteenth birthday party. But Janna, how could you know? I wasn’t big enough to share it with you.” She wrapped her arms around her mate and kissed her hair. “I’m so sorry, Janna. Your friends must think I’m a complete asshole.”

“Who cares what they think? You’re not an asshole. Here, I’ll go put an end to this and we’ll go to bed. Okay?”

“No, Janna. I need to go out there and apologize.”

“No you don’t honey…you don’t owe anyone anything…”

“Janna, come with me and help me?” Ryan implored Janna with big, blue, tear-stained, red-rimmed eyes that melted her heart.

“Whatever you want, Ryan.” She stood and helped her tall mate to her feet.

Ryan stood and pulled Janna into an embrace. “I love you so much, Janna…I’m so sorry, baby.”

“It’s okay, Ryan, I’m sorry too.”

They walked hand in hand into the large family room where their friends were eating cake and ice cream. As they entered the room, the conversation died. At the sight of an obviously distraught Ryan, her best friend and her brother rose and stepped in behind her, offering their support. Janna dropped her mate’s hand and wrapped her arm around her waist.

“Um…” Janna began.

Ryan smiled weakly, interrupting her partner. “No Janna, let me. This is my mess.” She looked at their gathered friends and family, two of whom she had only just met earlier that day.

“I want to apologize for my behavior tonight. I’m afraid I don’t handle my birthday well, and neglected to be honest with Janna about that.” She glanced at her mate and added, “We have no other secrets from each other, so I’m not sure why I didn’t share this with her, except that it was very painful.” Ryan’s voice cracked and she faltered.

Janna squeezed her and kissed her cheek, sharing her strength.

Ryan continued, clearing her voice. “Um, my father died on my birthday when I was thirteen and I was devastated. He had been my world. My, uh, my mother got the call about his accident during my party and I haven’t been able to celebrate this day ever since.” She looked at their gathered loved ones. “I’m really sorry that I broke down and acted like such an assh…um, like such a jerk.” She looked at her mate. “If I had been honest with Janna when she first mentioned the idea, you all wouldn’t have been subjected to this. I’m sorry.” A single tear that tracked down her cheek marked her sincerity.

Janna’s mother, Beth, suddenly stood and approached Ryan, embracing her, and was joined by Janna’s sister-in-law Kris and by Sara. They stood in a circle and embraced both Ryan and Janna, sharing their tears and supporting them with their love. Then one by one, starting with Janna’s best friends, Terry and Anna, all of their guests approached Ryan and offered words of comfort and support.

Ryan was so heartened by the outpouring of love that the dark, painful shard of ice that had been hidden away in her heart on that terrible day twenty-one years before, began to melt. Her tears of pain became tears of release and of love. Janna held her mate tightly and as their friends returned to their seats, she led Ryan to a loveseat and sat beside her.

Zac remained where he had been standing behind Ryan. “I think that, thanks to your love and support of my sister, she can begin a new tradition of celebrating the day of her birth with her wife. Maybe now she can remember it not so much as a day of loss but as a day of love. I want to thank you all.” A lump formed in his throat and he walked over and kissed first Ryan, and then Janna. “Happy birthday, Ryan. I love you.”

“Love you too, Zac, thanks.” Ryan’s eyes communicated the love and appreciation she felt for her brother.

Marv, Janna’s dad, stood, then, with an upraised glass. “To Ryan…happy birthday.”

The chorus of voices repeated, “To Ryan.”

A short time later, after even getting Ryan to share a piece of cake with her, Janna quietly asked, “Honey, how do you feel about presents?”

Ryan looked down at her lap and then back up at Janna, a smile forming on her lips. “How many presents are we talking about, Janna?” She looked expectantly at her mate, some expression finally returning to her normally expressive features.

“Only a few…from me. I told everyone else no presents, because, well…I knew you wouldn’t want that.” She laughed, “I knew that much at least.”

“Thank you, Janna. I appreciate that. If there are only a few, then I’ll be happy to open them now.” Ryan knew that it was bound to be an embarrassing experience, but she didn’t want to let Janna down any more than she already had that evening.
“Only if you’re sure, Ryan. They can keep until we’re alone.”

“Nah, I think I owe it to you all. It’s okay.” She squeezed her partner’s thigh reassuringly.

“Okay, I’ll be right back.” Janna returned a minute later, carrying two large, flat boxes.

As she set them in front of Ryan, her mate exclaimed, “How did you get those up here without my seeing them?”

“Mom and Dad brought them.” Janna’s smile further warmed Ryan’s heart and she sent a silent thank you to the gods for her precious mate. “Here, this one’s first.” Janna placed a box wrapped with golden paper on Ryan’s lap.

Ryan looked around at the assembled faces and grinned, then carefully tore at the paper.

Her brother’s voice spoke up, “Come on, Sis, rip it open!”

She looked up at him and replied, “But it’s so pretty…I don’t want to tear it.”

At which John exclaimed, “Oh, come on, Ryan…this is no time to start acting like a girl!” The room erupted into laughter, led by Ryan herself and she gave the lovely paper a hearty rip.

She removed the top half of the garment-sized box and pulled back the tissue paper to reveal a woman’s white tank top with a small Harley Davidson logo above the left breast.

“Janna, thank you, I love it!” She kissed her mate on the cheek, genuinely pleased with the shirt.

“Keep going, honey, there’s more.” Janna grinned.

Perplexed, Ryan pulled away more tissue paper to reveal black leather. She glanced at Janna before pulling the item completely out of the box. It unfolded into black leather riding chaps. Her jaw dropped but she remembered to smile as she said, “Sweetheart, these are great…I had planned to get some just like this when I get my bike…um, thanks.”

“Now you already have them. Here, this one’s next.” She removed the chaps from her perplexed mate’s hands and set them back into the box, setting it on the floor at her feet and setting the other box in her lap.

The second box was wrapped in silver paper and Ryan tore right into it, extremely curious as to the contents. She could feel Janna’s seemingly inordinate amount of excitement through their link and knew that something was up.

The second box revealed another white tank top, identical to the first, but smaller…Janna’s size. Ryan held it up and eyed her mate suspiciously, smiling but saying nothing. Under the shirt, sat more black leather and she picked it up to reveal a shovelhead-style leather motorcycle jacket, size small, identical to the one she already owned.

“Alright Janna, what’s going on here?” Her curiosity and confusion were beginning to get the best of her, but she retained her good humor.

Janna simply smiled and pointed to the box, saying, “There’s one more.”

Ryan removed the last bit of tissue paper to reveal an envelope. As she picked it up, she glanced sidelong at her mate with raised eyebrows. She opened the envelope and pulled out a card. As she did so, and saw the image on the card, her breath caught in her throat and tears sprang to her eyes. She closed her eyes and swallowed, holding the card to her chest.

“God, Janna, you didn’t…” she breathed. She opened her eyes to see her mate’s brilliant green eyes shining with love and a wide, beautiful smile on her face.

Janna nodded as tears began to flow from her eyes.

Ryan took a deep breath and looked again at the card, reading it for the first time. Her voice cracked as she read the card aloud. “Congratulations! You are the now the proud owner of a 1995 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide Motorcycle.” The image was of a gorgeous machine with candy blue paint and a double bucket seat with a small passenger backrest.

Ryan’s vision blurred as tears filled her eyes and she tore them from the image and suddenly threw her arms around Janna, embracing her tightly. “Oh, Janna, thank you! Thank you so much, baby. I love this more than I can say.” She pulled back slightly and looked at her mate, shaking her head as confusion knit her brows. “It’s exactly what I wanted, right down to the seat and the color…how did you know?”

“I found the brochure on your desk when I was cleaning…you had conveniently circled everything that you wanted!”

“That’s because I’ve been saving for it…Janna, I was only about halfway there…are you sure you want…”

“Yes! Ryan, it’s been ordered. It will be delivered in about three weeks. Happy birthday, my love!”

Ryan clutched the card to her breast again before giving Janna another huge hug, which then became a long, loving kiss. Their friends let them have their moment but as soon as their kiss ended and they had torn loving eyes from each other, all the men jumped up to get a look at the card.

As Ryan’s loved ones congratulated her, Janna sat back and enjoyed the moment. The evening had started out horribly, but through love and understanding, had become a beautiful event and Ryan was visibly extremely moved. She reached through the arms of her surrounding friends and found Janna’s hand, grasping it tightly and sending a strong burst of love to her mate through their bond. The evening ended magically, setting the stage for the rest of the magical weekend to follow.

-35-

Ryan reclined in bed, relishing the feel of her lover in her arms. She had been awake for an hour, since the first rays of the sun had first peaked above the mountains and in through the open blinds, but Janna still slept soundly. She was lying on her stomach, across Ryan’s torso, her head pillowed on her tall mate’s chest.

Ryan ran her fingers gently through fine, blonde hair as she contemplated where her life had brought her. In just a few short months she had gone from being a lone wolf, firmly set in her solitary ways, to a happily involved partner in an incredibly loving, giving relationship, about to be married.

She marveled at her good fortune, thanking the Universe silently for bestowing its providence upon her. She smiled as she realized just how many times she had thanked the Universe for bringing Janna into her life. Are you getting tired of hearing it?

“Never.” The answer rang loudly and clearly in her head, startling her. She blinked and shook her head, and a smile slowly played across her features. Incredible. This Universe that Janna has introduced me to is absolutely incredible. I so look forward to exploring it fully with her over the next forty or so years. The thought of the life ahead of her with her beloved brought a wide smile to her face and she hugged her mate tightly.

The object of her affection stirred and stretched, but instead of waking, settled more comfortably into her living pillow. Ryan grinned, perfectly content to remain in the same position for hours more if needed. She wrapped her arms around Janna and settled in for the duration.

Her mind drifted back to the previous night. She grimaced as she recalled her behavior earlier in the evening, embarrassed and disappointed in herself. But that pain quickly receded as she recalled how Janna’s love and acceptance had transformed her. And then she thought about her mate’s incredibly generous birthday gifts. She became choked up with emotion as she thought about what those gifts said about Janna’s love for her.

She shuddered and sighed deeply as the emotion passed through her, closing her eyes and feeling as if she were floating. A surprising thought greeted her: I’m high! High on this woman and high on our love.

As she thought about their love, her mind drifted quite naturally to their lovemaking at the end of the evening. It had been intense, but exceptionally gentle. She had wanted to convey to Janna the depth of her remorse at how she had acted earlier. Janna had felt similarly, blaming herself for putting Ryan in the position that she had. They had shared tears and apologies, as well as promises to always be completely honest with each other.

Ryan’s smile widened as she recalled her body’s response to Janna’s touch, and at Janna’s response to hers. With the memories came a renewed response within her body. Her heartbeat sped up and her skin tingled where it was most sensitive to her mate’s special touch. A gentle throbbing began between her legs and she swallowed, taking a deep breath to calm herself.

It was ineffective and she suddenly realized that some of what she was feeling was coming through her link with Janna. She must be having an erotic dream. Ryan smiled at the thought, knowing that she, more than likely, was playing a prominent role in the dream. Or, rather, my ancient counterpart is. A happy chuckle bubbled up from her heart center and she closed her eyes, trying to imagine what her mate was experiencing.

Janna sat on her bedroll in a tiny forest clearing, writing on a parchment scroll with a quill. As she stared at the ancient Greek symbols on the parchment, her focus drifted to the warrior sitting next to her, on her own bedroll. She noted offhandedly that her warrior was uncharacteristically dressed in Chinese-styled garments, and as she looked down at her own body, noted that she was as well.

The light from the campfire glinted off of the sword that her mate was cleaning. The bard felt joyfull at witnessing the nightly ritual again. It had been much too long since she had. Distance had separated them, until, with Ares’ help, she had joined her partner in Chin. There, they had been physically separated again by the warrior’s incarceration and emotionally so by her apparent betrayal of her warrior’s trust. But their strong love had reunited them and her extraordinary warrior had overcome the odds, escaped her bondage and completed her mission, and now they were on their way home. Together again.

As she watched the warrior’s skilled, determined movements, her eyes traveled to her lovely features, now furrowed in concentration. She was warmed by the sight of her lover and an insistent throbbing began in the center between her legs. She absentmindedly set the forgotten parchment on the bedroll and continued to watch her partner.

The warrior could feel, of course, the bard’s intense gaze, as well as her love and desire through their link, and was warmed by the effect that she had on the small blonde. She sped her strokes just slightly, eager to be done with the usually calming task. She wanted to feel her mate in her arms, wanted to feel their bodies united as one. It had been much, much too long since she had. She felt her mate’s desire and the beating of her heart increased, it’s beat matching that of its twin in her soul mate’s chest.

She set aside her sword, laying it next to the bedroll with its partner weapon and carefully packed away the polishing cloth. Then she slowly looked up to meet her mate’s gaze, a rakish grin and raised eyebrows silently inviting the bard into her arms. The young blonde smiled and fairly leapt into her embrace. The dark warrior wrapped her strong arms around her mate’s body and hugged her close, laying her cheek against the soft, blonde hair.

“Gods, I’ve missed you Gabrielle.”

“I’ve missed you too, Xena.” She pulled back slightly from the strong body and added, “It’s been much too long.”

“Mm.” The tall warrior gently caressed her bard’s cheek and her mate leaned into the touch. As she stared deeply into her lover’s eyes, the warrior slowly leaned forward and captured her lips. The kiss was very gentle at first, as the two women reacquainted themselves with each other, but quickly became passionate, and the warrior gently pushed the bard down onto her bedroll.

As she covered the smaller woman’s body with her own, the warrior felt the full force of their love and they were both consumed by their passion. They made love there by the campfire, under the stars, all night long, and greeted the dawn tired, but sated.

Ryan’s eyes drifted open and she realized that she had fallen asleep. She looked down to meet a steady green gaze.

“Morning.”

“Morning, Ryan.”

As she came to full wakefulness, Ryan realized also that she was still feeling the aftereffects of the highly erotic dream. She cleared her throat, but her voice was still raspy as she said, “I just had a hell of a romantic dream.”

“Did you?” Janna nuzzled Ryan’s chest. “Hmm, so did I.”

“Mm…um, it didn’t happen to be warrior dream did it?”

“Mm, hmm. Yep, it did, as a matter of fact.”

“And it didn’t happen to take place in China, did it?” Ryan’s expressive eyebrows rose in expectation.

“Why, yes, I believe it did.” Janna giggled as she added, “Who was on top in your dream?”

Ryan laughed. “I was…and then you were…and then I was…and then no one was, and then…”

“Yep, same dream!” Janna kissed the breastbone under her face. “We had been separated for a while. It was linked to that dream where the warrior left on a ship…when she thought it was for forever. But they were reunited again. I knew they would be.”

“Oh, you did, did you?” Ryan punctuated her question with a tickle.

Janna laughed through the tickling and gasped, “I sure did.” She rolled fully onto her mate’s body, and looking her in the eye, declared, “We are forever, Ryan.”

“Forever, Janna.” She drove her declaration home with a sensuous kiss.

They were late joining their guests for breakfast.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna threw her head back and laughed as she smeared lotion on Ryan’s back. Her friend Anna lay beside them, stretched out on her stomach on a beach towel with a huge yin and yang symbol on it.

“I’m completely serious,” Anna continued. “Right there on the floor!”

“Oh, my God…” Ryan choked out, “I wish I could have seen that!”

Terry piped in from where she sat on the other side of her mate, “And that’s not the funniest thing…the funniest thing is that she blamed it on the Reiki Guides!” She continued, laughing, “I can still hear her, ‘It was the Reiki Guides, I swear!'”

Anna chortled. “You know, it probably was them! It’s a weird sense of humor they have there on the other side.”

The friends erupted into laughter again, and bent over, holding her sides, Ryan remarked, “I have got to go to one of those Reiki gatherings of yours…it sounds like a blast.”

“It is, honey. Besides the camaraderie and hanging out with these two characters, the energy that fills the house is incredible…not to mention the awesome healing treatments.” Janna looked fondly at her two closest friends. “It’s always a great day.”

Anna spoke up. “We’re about due for another one, aren’t we honey?” She looked over at her dark-haired mate, sitting next to her.

Terry nodded and suggested, “Why don’t we have one in the next month or so, before we leave for Sedona?”
“Lets plan on it. Janna, I’ll let you know.” Anna, a warm, black-haired, brown-eyed Hispanic woman smiled at her friend and student.

“I can’t wait, Anna.” She finished lotioning Ryan and patted her shoulder. “You know, Ryan here is quite a healer. I’m pretty certain she’s done it before.”

Anna turned onto her side, resting her head in the palm of her hand and watched as Ryan and Janna switched places so that Ryan could lotion Janna’s back. “Yes, she has, in many, many lives. Are you guys aware that you go way, way back together?”

Ryan grinned from behind her mate. “Oh, yeah!” She looked at Anna, adding, “We revisit one particular life almost nightly in dreams.”

“How interesting…it must have been a very important life for you two.” Terry laid a hand on her partner’s hip. “We do that a lot too, only not just in dreams. We can pretty much regress on the spot. It’s freaky sometimes, but at least we understand what it’s about.”

Anna laughed and looked over her shoulder at her wife. “Yeah, remember the time you were giving me Reiki for a sore throat and I spontaneously remembered a life where you tried to choke me to death?”

Terry laughed, “Oh, yeah. God…that was funny!”

“Funny? Shit, I’m glad you guys can find humor in something like that!” Ryan looked comically at her new friends.

“Why not? Life is just a big game…it’s all about experience. We just keep coming back until we get it right.” Anna grinned and continued, “You know, when we ‘die’, we wake up on the astral and it’s just like waking from a long, involved dream. Sometimes it was a good dream and sometimes it was a nightmare…but it was experience nonetheless.”

Ryan shook her head and laughed. “You know, I think I really like that viewpoint…I could get into that mindset.”

“Hey, why not?” their easygoing friend asked, grinning.

Terry leaned over and kissed Anna’s cheek, adding, “It works for us!”

Janna glanced over her shoulder at her mate. “Ryan, we should have Anna channel for you sometime. She brings the most amazing information through, and it’s always been dead on accurate…for me anyway.”

“Sounds cool, babe, we’ll have to do that.” Ryan finished applying Janna’s lotion and wiped her hands before pulling her mate against her. The home’s private beach afforded them the luxury of being able to display their affection openly. The forest ran down almost to the lakeside at each side of the property, and the occupants of the home behind them were well aware of their relationship, obviously.

“Anytime, guys.” Anna lifted up and rested on her forearms as she looked out over the lake before her. “God, this place is so pristine. I love the energy here.” She glanced over at her two friends, who were sitting spooned together. “You picked a wonderful place for your ceremony. The energies are clean and pure here.”

“I know, aren’t they?” Janna breathed deeply of the clean, pine-scented air and exhaled happily. “I come up here to recharge my batteries several times a year.” She leaned back into her mate’s strong body and Ryan kissed her hair.

“We come here at lot too…usually stay at Harrah’s.” Terry added as she grabbed her wife’s hand. She looked thoughtful for a moment and then asked in her sweet, slightly accented Kentucky twang, “Janna, do you all plan to have a family? I hope you don’t mind my asking.”

Janna replied, “Ter, of course we don’t mind your asking…don’t be silly. Yes, we do plan to have kids.” She looked back at Ryan, who smiled warmly at her. “We’ve both been feeling drawn to have two, so we think there are a couple of souls who’ve been waiting patiently for us to get together.”

“Good, because I’m really picking up on that family feeling around you two.”

Janna looked back at Ryan. “Terry’s empathic, honey.”

Ryan grinned, “I picked up on that, love!”

The four friends enjoyed the beauty of their surroundings and their shared love silently for several minutes, then were greeted with happy chatter coming down the beach from behind them.

“Hey! Who’s ready for lunch?” John’s cheery voice greeted them.

Janna’s face lit up and she exclaimed, “Ooh, I sure am!” She turned in Ryan’s embrace to see John and Dan, each carrying an ice chest, and Sara and Kris, who each held picnic baskets. Her niece and nephew trailed along, their small arms full of beach toys.

Janna’s parents and Zac brought up the rear, arms laden with beach chairs.

Ryan watched as their loved ones set up a lovely picnic for everyone. “Hey everyone, thanks for this…it’s great.” Her voice was warm with affection.

Janna echoed her mate’s sentiments and got up to help distribute the food. The large group of friends and family enjoyed themselves immensely on the beach for the rest of the afternoon, everyone basking in the abundant love, good cheer and sunshine.

Ryan sat in the waning light, reclining in a lounge chair on the deck, enjoying a moment of solitude as she worked on her vows. Actually, the vows were finished, what she was really doing was reading them…over and over.

She looked out over the beautiful lake as the words of love and devotion for her wife rang in her head, and was struck by the majesty of the surrounding mountains. The sinking sun was spreading a yellow-orange glow across the distant peaks, and she found the shifting colors fascinating. The lake itself, much of it no longer in direct sunlight, was also changing color. In just a few hours it had gone from a shimmering aquamarine to a deep blue, and soon would be black, until the moon rose and painted it with shimmering bands of light once more.

She felt her mate’s presence before she heard the French door open. Without turning, she quietly said, “Hi, love. I thought you were helping with the dinner.”

Warm hands caressed her shoulders as a soft kiss was placed in her hair and her mate replied, “I was trying to but they kicked me out…told me to keep you company.”

“Well, come ‘ere and sit then. Tell me what you think.” She pulled Janna around the chair and into her lap. Her mate wrapped herself into her embrace and took the proffered index card.

Janna quietly read what Ryan had written and then closed her eyes and dropped her hands into her lap.

“What, Janna…don’t you like it?”

Janna opened her eyes, releasing tears in the process, and breathed, “My God, Ryan…it’s almost identical to what I wrote…nearly verbatim.”

Ryan closed her eyes and swallowed, then pulled Janna’s face against her shoulder and held her tightly as her own tears flowed. They sat quietly that way until the minister’s arrival was announced some time later, letting their bond communicate emotions for which mere words were ineffective.

The day ended quietly, with a cool wind blowing off the lake as the sun set fully. Their friend, Luna, nearly full, rose soon thereafter, bathing her acquaintances in her loving glow.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan laughed heartily as she flubbed her entrance yet again. She looked over at her best man and grinned, saying, “Maybe I am a little nervous, after all!” Her brother, who held her arm, patted her on the back consolingly and turned her around, ready to try again.

Janna, standing near the deck railing with Terry and the minister, smiled widely before laughing with her mate.

While meeting with the minister over dinner, they had decided to modify the traditional ceremony to allow for the entrance of both brides, because both women wanted to be “given away” by family members. That, however, was about the only concession made, as the rest of the ceremony would be far from traditional – as many commitment ceremonies are, by default.

The rehearsal continued, but this time, Ryan and Zac entered first. The minister, wisely so, realized that it was probably the sight of her bride that was flustering Ryan, so she reversed the entrance order.

As Terry and John stood to either side of the minister, Sara cued the music once again as Ryan and Zac exited the house and slowly made their way to the end of the wide deck. The nearly full moon rising above the lake created an extraordinarily beautiful backdrop, and Ryan’s attention was almost diverted yet again, but her brother tightened his grip on her arm and kept her on course.

Zac delivered his sister to her best friend’s side, to the minister’s left, and kissed her cheek before stepping back behind them. John took Ryan’s arm and squeezed her hand, providing another departure from the norm. As one, they turned to watch Janna’s entrance.

Despite the fact that it was only the rehearsal, Janna looked radiant standing at her father’s side. She and her father sported nearly identical, wide smiles: his born of pride and love for his daughter, his daughter’s born of love for her mate and joy at their union.

As they made their entrance onto the deck, Ryan began swallowing convulsively and her heart pounded furiously. She closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath, but when she opened them, Janna was even closer to her and she nearly lost containment completely. What the fuck is wrong with me? This isn’t event the real thing…how bad am I going to fuck up tomorrow? Suddenly, she felt both John’s hand at her back and Janna’s steadying influence through their bond, and recovered her composure somewhat.

As Janna and Marv approached, Ryan couldn’t take her eyes off of her mate’s smiling eyes, and that helped to steady her as well. Janna’s steady gaze pinned her into the point in space in which she stood.

Janna smiled inwardly at Ryan’s discombobulated state. I wonder why she’s so nervous? I’m nervous too, but not to the point of nearly falling down. Janna winked at her mate and grinned widely, further settling her nerves, and gladly took the arm that Ryan offered after her father handed her off and kissed her.

Ryan grasped Janna’s arm and pulled her close, kissing her cheek. “Ah, ah, ah!” scolded the minister cheerily. “Not yet!”

Ryan grinned lopsidedly and shrugged cutely. “Can you blame me, Kim? Honestly?”

“No, Ryan, can’t say I do.” The friendly, curly-headed minister grinned and shook her head in agreement. “Okay, you both made it to the front.” She aimed a quick grin in Ryan’s direction. “Now I say my part, which consists of the opening, then your poem, then the statement of intent, and then, each of you will say your vows.” Looking first at Janna, then at Ryan, she continued, “Would you like to practice your vows, or save them for tomorrow?”

Ryan and Janna exchanged a glance and a silent communication, and Ryan replied, “No need, Reverend. You can go on.” She looked back at Janna and squeezed her hand, feeling infinitely better now that she had Janna to hold onto.

“Okay, after your vows, you will exchange the rings, I’ll read the short blessing, and then I will ask you to kiss,” she smiled widely, “Then I announce you as a married couple.” She continued to smile at the beaming couple in front of her and added, “Are you comfortable with the routine now, or should we run through it again?”

Janna looked at her mate and grinned, then directed her gaze to the minister. “I think if we can just get Ryan up here without falling down, we’ll be fine.” Ryan chuckled and looked at her sandals in embarrassment.

Looking up at Kim, she said, “Janna’s right. I don’t think we need run through it again.”

“Alright. Well, I guess you’re all set then.” She smiled warmly at the happy couple, adding, “You’ll do fine. It will be a lovely ceremony.”

Janna stepped forward and grasped her hands, “Thank you, Kim.”

“Your welcome. I’ll see you in the morning, then.”

Ryan turned to her brother and asked, “Hey, Zac…you caught the sunrise this morning…what time was it?”

Zac threw a wide, white grin at his sister and answered, “Grandfather Sun rose above the mountains in the east at exactly 7:09.”

Ryan turned and looked pointedly at the minister. “I guess we’ll shoot for 7:10 then, Kim.”

“I’ll be here with bells on.”

“Thank you, Kim. Will you have some dessert now?” Janna motioned toward the house.

“Oh, I’ll have a little something, thanks. I did tell my wife that I wouldn’t be too late though.”

As their guests and minister moved inside for more from the delicious catered buffet, Ryan pulled Janna into an embrace at the deck railing.

“Sweetheart, I don’t know what’s wrong with me…I’m sorry.” She looked down at Janna apologetically.

Janna buried her face into her mate’s shoulder. “It’s okay, baby. You’re just nervous. I almost lost it too, when I saw you standing up there.”

“Yeah, I just hope I don’t fuck it up tomorrow.” She kissed Janna’s head. “I’d never forgive myself if I ruined your wedding.”

“Our wedding, Ryan, and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it, my love.” She looked up at her mate and grinned, “Course, maybe I should get a hold of some valium, just in case.”

“Oh, very funny!” She pulled her almost-wife tightly against herself and leaned down for a kiss. Their lips met softly and parted simultaneously, their tongues meeting and stroking sensuously.”

Ryan slowly broke the kiss and mumbled, “Mmm…I wish everyone would go to bed. I want you in the hot tub, baby.”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that in the next few days, love, when we’re on our honeymoon.” Janna leaned up and captured Ryan’s lips again, not releasing them until they were both breathless. “And remember…I promised you a special encounter on the beach.”

At the reminder, Ryan’s eyes nearly glazed over and she pulled Janna into another embrace, muttering against her hair, “I remember, baby. I absolutely cannot wait.”

“Monday…on the night of the full moon, okay?” Janna pulled away slightly and looked up at her mate. “Can you wait another day?”

“I can, love.”

Zac, John and Dan stood watching the lovers from the window as they ate their cake. “Whew, is it hot in here or is it me?” Zac and John laughed at Dan’s question and nodded their agreement.

“They sure are crazy about each other, aren’t they?” Zac commented.

“They are that. I gotta tell you guys, Ryan is a different person since meeting Janna. It’s like she’s finally found peace or something.” He shook his head. “It’s amazing.”

“I never thought I’d see this happen, that’s for sure,” added Zac.

Dan commented, “Janna too. She was always pretty wary about getting involved. I guess when you find the right person, there’s just no question.”

“Well, I can attest to that,” supplied John honestly.

“Me too, actually,” added Dan, and Zac nodded thoughtfully as well.

From another nearby window, Janna’s parents also stood arm-in-arm watching their daughter and her mate. “They look so happy, Marv.”

“Yes, they do, honey. For a long time I figured we’d never get to celebrate this day with our Janna, but she surprised us.”

“When has she not surprised us, Marv?” His wife remarked with a smile.

Luna continued her observation of her friends, noting the aura of happiness that surrounded them. She sat in her celestial throne and watched as they shared their love with family and friends, and mostly, with each other, and she smiled.

-36-

On the morning of her wedding, in a manner highly out of character, Janna awoke first. The gray light of the predawn barely illuminated the room enough to see her partner’s face, at peace in sleep. That’s something that I don’t see often, but that I will never tire of seeing. My God, she’s gorgeous. She is every possible adjective denoting physical beauty and she’s completely unaware of the fact. Janna sighed as the love she felt for her mate threatened to overwhelm her. It filled her heart center to overflowing and brought tears to her eyes.

She snuggled more firmly into her partner’s arms, delighting in the feel of Ryan’s warm, strong body. The movement awakened her partner, who tightened her hold on her small mate as she stirred. A few moments later, her eyes opened groggily and eventually focused on the alert green ones that were gazing at her.

“Hi, baby,” she mumbled. “You awake already?”

“Hi, love. I just woke up. We can’t dawdle this morning…we have someplace to be.”

“Mm…where’s that?”

Janna gave her a few seconds to figure it out for herself and then giggled as she saw the lights go on behind the pretty eyes.

“Oh, shit!” Startled blue eyes that shone gray in the morning light widened. “It’s our wedding day, Janna!” She started to sit up, bringing her lover with her, but met with resistance.

“Hold on there, tiger. We don’t have to get up immediately, and I want to start this day off right. It is the most important day of my life, you know.”

Janna’s matter-of-fact tone surprised Ryan and she promptly lay back down, smiling. “Okay, what’s the plan then, boss?”

“You’re gonna let me be boss this morning?”

“Sure.”

“Mmm, I think I like that idea!” Janna moved her body fully on top of Ryan’s, then rose to her hands and knees above her. Slowly, she lowered her mouth to her mate’s and ever so gently touched their lips together. Then she stroked Ryan’s lower lip with her tongue and pulled back to look at her lover.

Ryan moaned and mumbled, “God, baby, you’re turning me on. I hope you intend to have your way with me.”

“Hmm, well, I don’t know…we’re not married yet…”

Ryan turned her head to look at the bedside alarm clock, then growled, “We will be in an hour and a half.” She wrapped her arms around her lover and tried to pull her back down on top of her.

“Hey, I thought I was in charge this morning!”

“You are, baby, just please don’t tease me.” Ryan’s plea sounded more like a whine but Janna took pity on her.

“I’m not teasing, love. I fully intend to make love to you. Can you be patient?”

“I don’t think so.”

Janna laughed and laid her head on Ryan’s chest, giving up. Ryan wrapped strong arms around her and hugged her tightly.

“I love you so much, Janna.”

Janna mumbled against the bare skin of Ryan’s chest, “I love you too, my destiny.”

“You feel so good, baby.”

Ryan’s low voice rumbled sexily through Janna’s body, causing goose bumps to form from head to toe and she shivered. She slowly slid up Ryan’s body, creating a pleasant friction in several of their erogenous zones, and it was Ryan’s turn to shiver. Janna’s lips met Ryan’s again, this time solidly and forcefully, with her tongue demanding entrance to Ryan’s mouth.

Ryan’s lips parted instantly to admit one of her favorite playthings and she savored Janna’s taste. Their tongues slid together sensuously as Ryan rolled them onto their sides and reached a long arm down to connect with Janna sexually. Janna did likewise and they completed the energetic circuit, as they did every morning.

Today, however, neither woman was content to simply share energy passively. Their mutual anticipation of their impending nuptials ignited their passion and skillful fingers began to caress inner folds lovingly in unison.

Ryan was the first to moan her pleasure, eliciting an echo from Janna and hands and fingers stroked deeper and faster. They both fell toward blissful orgasms, spurred on simply by passionate kisses, loving strokes and a deep, abiding, all-consuming love.

Their auras merged once more as their chakras pulsated in synchrony, adding a highly spiritual component to their act of love and intensifying the physical sensations. As they plunged into ecstasy together, they called out each other’s names in unison and rode out the waves of pleasure together for long minutes.

As Grandfather Sun began his ascent, the dawn light began to merge from toneless gray into shades of pink, highlighting the entwined lovers on the bed who were sharing sweet proclamations of love. As the sun’s companion, Grandmother Moon, dipped below the western horizon, she sent one last beam of loving energy to her devoted friends, which carried with it a loving wish for a blissful marriage and many more lifetimes of love together. Her wish for them would come true.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Ryan, sweetheart, stop!” Janna giggled as her frisky mate helped her to towel off. “We’re going to be late.”

“Oh, we’re not gonna be late…let me have my fun, baby.”

“You already had your fun this morning, Ryan Zamora, now hands off or we really will be late.”

“Okay…shit.” Her pout was interrupted by a knock at their door. She stuck her head out of the bathroom and yelled, “Yeah?”

“Ry, it’s John…I need the rings, bud.”

“Be right there, John.” Ryan walked to the bedroom door, clad only in a towel wrapped around her waist. As she passed the pine dresser she snagged the double ring box. Before opening the door she paused and opened the box, gazing longingly at the beautiful set of rings within. She sighed and smiled before pulling the door open.

“Shit Ryan! Put a fucking shirt on, will ya!” John winced as if he’d been subjected to torture.

“Oh, Christ, John, you’ve seen ’em before. Here.” She thrust the box at him and smirked before shutting the door again.

As John, red-faced and flustered, met Zac in the hallway, Zac said, “Hey, something wrong?”

“Ah, nothing…only that your fucking sister forgets she’s a beautiful woman and not a guy.”

Zac’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion as he asked, “What did she do?”

“She handed me the friggin’ rings without bothering to put a shirt on…or a bra.”

Zac laughed. “That sounds like my sister!” Then he raised his eyebrows and added, “Look at the plus side…it made your day, didn’t it?”

John frowned. “Shit, no! She’s like my sister…is that something you want to see?”

“Uh, no…I guess not. Sorry bro!” He clapped his new friend on the back and escorted him to the living room, where everyone was busily preparing for the ceremony. Marv stood talking with Kim, the minister, who looked elegant in long, white robes. Kris was sitting with her two children, trying to keep them corralled until it was time for them to lead the procession.

Out on the deck, Beth and Sara finished placing the flowers as Anna photographed the preparations.

“Ryan, did you talk to John dressed like that?” Janna stood looking at her incredulously.

“Yeah, so what? He’s seen me naked before.” Ryan whipped the towel off and walked to the bed, where her clothes were neatly laid out.

Janna raised her eyebrows in surprise as she replied, “I don’t think I want to hear about that right now…but I will later. Come on, now…get dressed.”

Ryan grinned. “Yes, dear!”

Janna’s retort was interrupted by a knock at the door. She opened the door a crack to see Terry holding her flower garland. “Come on in, Ter. Pay the naked woman over there no mind…she doesn’t have the modesty God gave a gnat.”

Terry laughed and tried not to look too closely at the stunning woman dressing by the bed. “Here, hon, I’ve got your garland…are you ready for it?”

“Yes, thanks.” Janna sat at the nightstand and let her friend affix the flowered wreath to her hair. “Oh, Janna, it’s beautiful…you’re beautiful.” Terry’s eyes misted as she gazed at her friend. “I’ll see you outside in a few minutes, Janna.”

“Thanks, Terry.”

Terry gave her close friend a hug and a peck on the cheek and left.

“Shit…Janna, honey, will you help me please?” Ryan shook her head in disgust as her usually nimble fingers refused to cooperate.

Janna stepped into her sandals and approached her mate, reaching up to clasp the choker necklace that was giving Ryan so much trouble. “Honey, why don’t you leave the top button open? I think it looks nice undone…you can see the choker better and it’s kind of sexy.” She grinned at her mate.

“You think?” Ryan questioned. “I don’t want to look sloppy.” She rested her hands on Janna’s slim hips and grinned warmly at her love. “You look so pretty, Janna. That dress is you.”

“Thanks, sweetheart. I’m not a big fan of dresses normally, but I think this works nicely. It goes perfectly with your outfit. Which, of course, you look incredible in.” She leaned forward and gave her very soon-to-be-wife a sweet kiss.

“Thanks, baby. Yeah, these outfits look great together…you did a great job, love.” Ryan took a deep breath and blew it out. “Well, baby, are you ready?” She grabbed her mate’s hand and brought it to her lips, where she gently kissed Janna’s fingers as she gazed deeply into her emerald eyes. Janna became similarly lost in Ryan’s sapphire depths.

“I am, love. Lets get married.” She swallowed hard as the words left her mouth, and a tear escaped, trailing down her cheek.

Ryan’s breath caught at Janna’s words and at the sight of her lovely wife and a tear escaped from her eye as well. She pulled her soul mate in for a loving hug and took another deep breath.

“Lets go, Janna. They’re waiting for us.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan took Janna’s arm and they walked together toward the family room, where their guests and the minister were gathered. They were both experiencing an indescribable joy at their impending joining. For them, it was as valid as any marriage ceremony. The fact that it would not be legally recognized by the State made no difference to them or to their loved ones. As far as all gathered were concerned, Ryan and Janna were to become wives to each other in a very few minutes.

As they entered the room arm-in-arm, all activity and conversation stopped. Almost as one, twelve heads turned to gaze upon the beautiful, glowing couple. Janna wore a simple, but understatedly elegant white cotton sundress, with a wreath of miniature white and pink roses, baby’s breath and fern in her hair. A lovely triangular nugget of turquoise on a silver chain graced her neck. At her side, her tall mate stood proud in a white cotton peasant shirt with a banded collar and loose-fitting white cotton drawstring pants. A delicate pink rosebud was pinned above her left breast, and she wore a wide Native American bone choker which had inset turquoise beads. They wore matching tan Birkenstock sandals on their feet and radiant smiles on their faces.

Beth and Marv rushed to them and hugged and kissed them each on the cheek, and then the minister asked everyone to take their places. Terry, John, Sara, Dan and Beth exited to the deck behind the Minister and sat in the neatly arranged chairs while Kris positioned her children side-by-side at the French doorway. Anna stood back taking photographs, while Marv and Janna, and Zac and Ryan stood side-by-side behind the children.

Outside, as morning began to break and the sky lightened, a yellow-orange glow rose from behind the glorious peaks east of the lake. The surface of the water shimmered like fiery, golden diamonds.

As the Reverend, Terry and John took their places at the garland-shrouded deck railing overlooking the beach and the lake, Sara pushed a button on the stereo system, starting the music. A beautiful, solo acoustic guitar began, playing a lovely classical arrangement of the traditional and aptly named, “Here Come the Brides”.

Ryan’s tears started then, as she heard her mate’s beautiful rendition of the song. Zac wrapped his arm around his sister’s shoulders and pulled her close for a moment before dropping his arm and linking it through hers.

Beside them, Janna felt her mate’s love, pride and joy through their link, and her tears began to fall as well. She looked to her father at her side and he squeezed her arm in encouragement.

Kris nudged Britanny and Robbie gently out through the doors to the deck and they walked slowly, arms linked. In her left hand, Brit carried a bouquet that matched Janna’s wreath and in his right, little Robbie held the ring box tightly in his chubby palm. They made their way slowly to the front of the deck, both wearing white outfits that complemented those of the brides, and the white roses decorating the deck. When they reached the bridesmaid and best man, they each handed off their treasures and then moved to stand beside them.

As she saw the procession begin, Ryan’s stomach tightened and her heart began to pound. She took a deep, calming breath, like Janna had shown her earlier, and used her aikido knowledge to feel the energy at the center of her being and to ground herself within it. Zac took a step, pulling her slightly, and exited the house, following Ryan’s future niece and nephew.

As they proceeded slowly toward the end of the deck, Ryan felt as if she were floating. She would have sworn that her feet were not touching the ground. The brilliance of the sunrise before her took her breath away and she had to remind herself to continue to breathe. They reached the front, where John stood to the Minister’s left, and Zac kissed his sister, and then handed her over to her best friend. John took her arm and grinned at the wide-eyed stare on his tough partner’s face. He leaned toward her and quietly reminded her to breathe as he turned them to face the French doors of the house.

As she turned and saw Janna standing at her father’s side, Ryan’s tears began to flow unabashedly. She felt suddenly that everything that she had ever done in her life had simply been a preamble to this moment. She watched as her future walked slowly toward her. Their eyes were locked together: they saw only each other. Janna would remark later that she had noticed neither the lake nor the sunrise. Ryan filled her vision just as she did her heart.

Her father walked her to the front, to the accompaniment of her own music, and, after kissing her, handed her to her matron of honor. Terry grasped her hand and kissed her cheek before stepping back and placing a hand on the small blonde flower girl’s shoulder.

At that point, she and Ryan turned to face each other briefly and joined hands, before turning to face Kim. Ryan eyed the minister briefly, and grinned as she brought Janna’s hand to her lips, kissing it gently. The Minister gave her a sparkling smile and nodded before beginning her speech.

“Loved ones. Ryan and Janna have asked you to be with them here today as they join in marriage. We come together not to mark the start of a relationship, but to recognize a bond that already exists. This marriage is one expression of the many varieties of love. Love is one, though its expressions are infinite.

Ryan and Janna have asked me to share with you a traditional Apache wedding poem:

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other.

Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.

Now there is no loneliness for you, for now there is no more loneliness.

Now you are two bodies, but there is only one life before you.

Go now to your dwelling place, to enter into your days together.

And may your days be good, and long upon the earth.”

She looked at Ryan. “Ryan, do take Janna as your partner for life? In the presence of this warm circle of friends and family, do you pledge to love, comfort and protect her? Will you respect her ideas, values and convictions and support her in times of wealth and in times of need? Will you foster her individuality while committing to grow, love and advance together in faith, honesty and determination?”

Ryan looked at Janna as she answered, tears streaking her cheeks, “I will.” Janna smiled warmly, tears glistening on her own cheeks as well, and Ryan closed her eyes and remembered to take a breath.

The reverend addressed Janna and continued, “Janna, do take Ryan as your partner for life? In the presence of this warm circle of friends and family, do you pledge to love, comfort and protect her? Will you respect her ideas, values and convictions and support her in times of wealth and in times of need? Will you foster her individuality while committing to grow, love and advance together in faith, honesty and determination?”

Janna’s voice cracked as she answered, “I will.”

Addressing the assembled guests again, Kim continued. “Ryan and Janna have prepared their own vows. Ryan, will you face Janna and recite your vows to her please?”

Ryan turned and faced her mate, grasping her hands. She steadied herself with a calming breath and began, “Janna, your presence in my life has given it meaning. Your love has transformed me. I no longer live only for myself, but worship you above all else. I believe with all of my heart that we were destined to be together. I promise to cherish you always as I do today. Thank you for agreeing to become my wife. I love you.” She lifted Janna’s hands to her lips and kissed them tenderly.

Kim smiled and looked at Janna. “Now your vows to Ryan, Janna.”

Janna looked at Ryan with a depth of love and devotion that Ryan would not have thought possible and her heart swelled.

“Ryan, you came into my life and gave it meaning. Your love transformed me. I no longer live only for myself, but worship you above all else. I believe with all that I am that we were destined to be together, and that we have been together for all time. I promise to cherish you always as much as I do today. Thank you for agreeing to become my wife. I love you with all that I am.”

She kissed Ryan’s hands, as Ryan had kissed hers. At this point, not even the male guests had dry eyes, and even the children sat enraptured. Such was the beauty of the moment.

The Reverend smiled warmly at the two women before her who could not tear their eyes from each other, and then at their guests. Addressing John, she said, “May I have the rings, please?”

John opened the box, removed the rings and handed them to Kim, who held them in her palm and recited, “The circle is the symbol of the sun, the earth and the universe. It is a symbol of holiness and perfection and of peace. This ring is a symbol of unity, in which your two lives are now joined in one unbroken circle.”

She handed the smaller ring to Ryan and said, “Ryan, please place this ring on Janna’s finger and repeat after me: I give you this ring to wear upon your hand as a symbol of our unity.”

Ryan gently placed the ring on her beloved’s finger and stated, “I give you this ring to wear upon your hand as a symbol of our unity.” She looked up into love-filled green eyes and smiled.

“Now Janna, please place this ring on Ryan’s finger and repeat after me: I give you this ring to wear upon your hand as a symbol of our unity.”

“I give you this ring to wear upon your hand as a symbol of our unity.” As she slid the ring onto Ryan’s finger, she closed her eyes and looked as if she might faint, but took a deep breath, opening her eyes to see misty blue orbs radiating love back to her.

“Ryan and Janna, may the love you have found grow in meaning and strength until its beauty is shown in a common devotion to all that is compassionate and life-giving. May the flow of your love help brighten the face of the earth. May the source of all love touch and bless us and grace our lives with color and courage.

In closing I would like to read a poem called ‘Two Trees’ by Janet Miles.

A portion of your soul has been entwined with mine.

A gentle kind of togetherness, while separate we stand.

As two trees deeply rooted in separate plots of ground, While their topmost branches come together,

Forming a miracle of lace against the heavens.”

She looked at Ryan and Janna and smiled warmly. “Ryan and Janna, I now declare you married. Please seal your joining with a kiss.”

Ryan looked down at their still joined hands and back up into Janna’s eyes before leaning down and capturing her lips tenderly. They both prolonged the kiss just a bit, relishing the loving contact and letting it ground them.

When they finally parted, their guests applauded and Kim beamed as she declared, “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Ryan and Janna Norden-Zamora.”

Ryan pulled Janna happily into her arms and kissed her again before they turned and faced their loved ones.

Sara was so overcome with emotion that she nearly missed her cue, but remembered just in time to press the play button. The stereo then emitted Melissa Etheridge’s, “Come to My Window” as Ryan and Janna were congratulated by the Minister and then walked between the rows of chairs back toward the house and were mobbed by their family.

Grandfather Sun bore witness to the beautiful ceremony and smiled upon them, much as his Lunar counterpart was in the habit of doing. At the moment that Kim had declared them married, he had made his glorious appearance, bursting from behind the jagged Sierra peaks, as if to make his own proclamation. His brilliant orange countenance made a fiery show of the beginning of the new day, and of Janna and Ryan’s life together.

-37-

As the early morning sun rose steadily, warming the chilled air through the thin atmosphere, Janna felt as if she were floating several feet above the ground: as if her new wife’s grip on her arm was keeping her from taking flight. Ryan and Janna Norden-Zamora?

Ryan had not told Janna that she had intended to take her name, wanting to surprise her. Surprise her she had. After Kim made the pronouncement, it had taken Janna a few moments to realize what she had said.

They were already surrounded by their guests, who were wishing them well, when Janna turned to Ryan and said, “Ryan, what did she say?”

Ryan maintained a serious expression. “I present to you, Ryan and Janna Norden-Zamora.”

Her cute features looking puzzled, Janna asked, “Um, she didn’t mean Ryan Norden-Zamora, did she?”

“Yep, I think she did, love.” Now she grinned and her smile lit up her beautiful face.

“Ryan!” Janna threw her arms around her wife, nearly knocking her over.

Ryan grasped her wife about the waist and held her in her arms. “Shall I take it that you approve of the idea, Janna?”

“Oh, Ryan…” Janna finished the statement by kissing her soundly.

Melissa Etheridge’s romantic song faded, to be replaced by the Eagles singing, “Take it Easy.”

Hearing the favorite tune, Janna released Ryan ‘s lips and pulled back somewhat, smiling as she said, “You’re just full of surprises today, aren’t you?”

Ryan smiled, pleased. “I am, baby. Are you happy?”

“Deliriously, Ryan. I’m absolutely deliriously happy!” She gazed deeply into her new wife’s eyes. “I love you Ryan Norden-Zamora.” She kissed her wife again and Ryan continued to hold her, not letting her feet touch the ground, either literally or figuratively. They stood together, kissing, oblivious to the presence of their guests, who stood around wondering what to do.

When the kiss finally ended, Ryan addressed no one in particular when she said, “Sorry, but we just got married!”

Laughter erupted around them and they were guided back over toward the railing to stand for pictures. As they posed for pictures together, the music changed again, this time fading into Janna’s ex band’s, “Teenaged Queer.”

“Oh, God, Ryan…you shouldn’t have gone there, love!” She giggled as she buried her face in Ryan’s strong chest.

“Why not? That song means a lot to the both of us.” Ryan wrapped her long arms around her mate and kissed her hair.

Janna’s reply was a gentle kiss.

After Anna had procured shots of the brides with all of their guests, and in front of various backdrops, the ladies were ushered into the house to sign the certificate of union.

Their friends had also thoughtfully acquired various other forms for them to fill out at their leisure. Having been through the process of gay union, Anna and Terry were familiar with all of the ins and outs of lesbian couplehood, and knew what all of the options were, legally. Processes, such as becoming life insurance beneficiaries and legal next-of-kin, that straight couples took for granted, had to applied for in sometimes agonizing detail by gay spouses.

The formalities taken care of, Ryan and Janna were then shown to the immense breakfast spread that filled the large dining room table nearly to overflowing.

As they stood looking at the beautifully appointed table, both brides felt overwhelmed at the generosity of their loved ones. While Ryan and Janna had been focused solely on each other the last two days, their family had been busily arranging this wonderful and breathtaking celebration for them.

“My God, Ryan…look at the food.”

“I see it, baby. What’s everyone else gonna eat?” Her eyes and smile sparkled as she pulled her hungry mate closer to her.

“That’s a very good question, love…I am hungry!” Janna eyed the bowls of fresh fruit, plates of waffles, bowls of scrambled eggs, platters of meat, dishes of several varieties of toast, bread, rolls, and pastries and all of the accompanying condiments, and was floored.

“I don’t know where to start, Ryan.” Janna gazed wide-eyed at the display in front of her.

“I’m sure you’ll figure it out, babe! Come on, let’s share.” Ryan kept one hand glued to Janna’s waist as she grabbed a large China plate and let Janna fill it with their favorite items.

As the lilting, Celtic strains of an Enya CD played softly in the background, the newly married couple sat together and shared a plate of delicious food. Ryan speared a strawberry with her fork, then dipped it in whipped cream before feeding it to her mate.

Janna’s eyes sparkled as she accepted the sweet morsel from Ryan. “Mm, I love strawberries and whipped cream.”

“I know you do, baby. So do I. Though,” she looked around to make sure she wouldn’t be overheard and whispered into Janna’s nearby ear, “I prefer to eat them off of you.” She leaned more fully into Janna and kissed her, receiving some of the sweet fruit in return.

“Let’s save some of these for later, then.” Janna raised her eyebrows in invitation, and Ryan’s pulse quickened. She felt Janna’s desire as well, and needed to close her eyes and take a calming breath. After a moment, she rose, gave her wife a quick kiss, and said, “Be right back.”

Janna watched her go into the kitchen, grab a bowl from a pine cupboard, return to the table, fill the bowl with strawberries, and place the bowl in the refrigerator. She then wordlessly returned to her wife’s side and said, “Now…where were we, babe?”

Janna grinned and shook her head as Ryan stabbed a bite of syrup-drenched waffle to share with her.

From across the room, Zac and John also shook their heads, having not missed any of the amusing scene. John remarked, “Jesus, sometimes I think of what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on their bedroom wall…but then I realize that it would be sort of like seeing my sister in a porn film, and the moment is ruined.” He took a sip of his coffee as Ryan’s brother burst into laughter.

Spying her brother’s fit, Ryan remarked, “I wonder what’s up with them?”

“No telling, honey.” Janna speared a hunk of ham and fed it to her mate.

“Mm, good. Thanks love.”

A short time later, John stood and held up a champagne flute, tapping it gently with his spoon. As the room quieted, he said, “Folks, it’s time for me to offer a toast.”

Looking at his partner, he began. “I’ve known Ryan for over ten years, and been her partner for six. We’ve been through a lot together, seen a lot, and I consider her my best friend. I can honestly say that I’ve never known a finer human being…or a finer cop. But as fine a lady as she is, she wasn’t complete. Even if she didn’t know it, I knew that something was missing from her life. A few months ago, we both learned what that something was. A wonderful little lady named Janna came along and turned her world upside down…in a good way! Ryan told me that Janna completes her, and I can see, I think that we all can, that it is true for the both of them.”

He looked pointedly at Janna and smiled. “Janna, this is for you…for coming along and settling her down. She’s a lot easier to work with now…she comes to work in a good mood and never wants us to stay and work late anymore.” As their assembled friends chuckled, led by Ryan, he continued, “And for Ryan, I’m so glad to see how happy you are now. You deserve the happiness that Janna has brought you. You both deserve each other and the happiness that you share.” He raised his glass high, “To Ryan and Janna and a long, happy marriage!”

“To Ryan and Janna!”

After taking a sip of her champagne, Ryan stood and embraced her friend, hugging him tightly and kissing his cheek. She whispered in his ear, “Thank you John…I love you, buddy.”

“I love you too, Ry.” He pulled away from her and wiped the tears from his cheek, then punched her gently in the arm.

Ryan sat and was embraced by her mate, who then wiped the tough cop’s errant tears away. They sat and enjoyed their champagne together, drinking from the same glass.

Theirs was a true partnership and was beginning in the right vein. It would continue as such, unabated, for fifty-three more years.

~~~~~~~~~~

Grandfather Sun was high in the sky, at the zenith in fact, when Terry gathered everyone out onto the deck to watch the gift opening. Lake Tahoe was in its full splendor. The day was a beautiful one. A deep blue sky was unmarked by clouds and a slight, refreshing breeze blew in off the lake, which sparkled like diamonds in the brilliant sunshine. Its surface was sparsely dotted with sail and other boats, some trailing skiers and parasailers, and the large paddlewheeled cruise ship that slowly made its way across the twelve-mile span.

Ryan and Janna sat together by the deck rail, in the same spot in which they had exchanged their vows hours earlier. They still wore their wedding clothes, but both now wore their trademark Ray Bans and identical wide, brilliant smiles. They made a stunning picture, and Anna, using Janna’s cameras, captured dozens for them to enjoy in the years to come.

Kris handed Janna a card, which sported a large golden bow, and addressed the brides. “We know that you asked that no gifts be exchanged, but we wanted to do something special to commemorate this special day, and you two special ladies. So we picked three charities that we know that you support and we each gave a gift to one of them. These cards represent the charities we chose and the amounts donated to each in your name.”

Janna looked at Ryan as tears began to flow anew from her eyes. Ryan simply shook her head in amazement and said sincerely, addressing their loved ones, “That was a wonderful idea. Thank you all so much.” She shook her head as tears threatened her own eyes and encouraged Janna to open the first envelope.

Janna opened the card and read, “A gift in the amount of $200 has been donated in your name to the World Wildlife Fund.” Janna looked up at her friends and family and gently shook her head, speechless. Ryan simply looked at the ground.

Kris handed the next envelope to Ryan, who took it, and after a moment with which to gather herself, read, “A gift in the amount of $200 has been donated in your name to the San Joaquin County Women’s Crisis Center.” She squeezed her eyes shut as she was overcome by tears. Janna pulled Ryan into an embrace and kissed her hair as she gazed lovingly at their family.

Kris handed her the last envelope as she smiled warmly and said, “One more.”

Janna took a deep breath and exhaled before reading the card. “A gift in the amount of $200 has been donated in your name to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.” Janna’s voice broke as she read the last words and her tears of joy became a fitting thank you to their loved ones, as she and her mate were too choked up momentarily to speak.

As Ryan and Janna sat and tried to compose themselves, Terry approached carrying two packages. They were both wrapped in beautiful white paper sporting embossed dreamcatchers. As Terry set them at their feet on the wooden deck, both brides wiped their tears, replaced their sunglasses and leaned forward to glimpse the tags on them.

“You gave me a gift?” Ryan asked Janna incredulously.

Janna matched her tone and said, “You gave me one?”

They both shook their heads in disbelief, smiling widely as they each leaned forward to pick up a box.

Dan piped up with, “Knowing you two, you got each other the same thing.” Everyone laughed, knowing that he might very possibly be right.

“You first, baby.” Ryan sat with her gift on her lap and gazed expectantly at Janna.

“Thanks, love.” Janna carefully undid the paper, wanting to preserve it, and removed the top of the box. She gasped as she saw the contents, and carefully reached in, lifting out a beautiful Navajo Wedding Basket. “Oh, Ryan, it’s beautiful. Thank you, sweetheart!”

“Your welcome, baby.” She leaned over to touch the lovely article as Janna lovingly caressed it. It had a stunning, large star-shaped design in the middle, surrounded on the outer edges by a symmetrical stair-step design that very nearly matched that of their wedding bands. The design was used in many tribes to denote mountains.

Janna leaned over and kissed her wife tenderly. “I love it, Ryan.” She nodded at the package in Ryan’s lap. “Your turn.”

Ryan proceeded to open her box, just as gingerly as Janna had, looking up pointedly with raised eyebrows at her male family members, challenging them to tease her about it. They all remained silent, but their faces were lit by smiles. As she opened the box and its treasure was revealed to her, she gasped, “Oh my God, Janna…where did you find this?”

“Probably at the same place where you bought the basket…where we got our rings.”

Ryan shook her head, smiling, as she lifted the beautiful blanket from the box. She addressed their guests, “It’s a Cherokee Wedding Blanket.” She held it up, displaying the lovely symmetrical designs done in hues of blues and greens. She set the empty box on the deck and stood, reaching for her partner’s hand. As Janna stood before her, Ryan leaned forward and wrapped the large blanket around her shoulders, and then stepped in at her side and wrapped it around herself as well. It easily enveloped them both and Ryan pulled it up over their heads and greeted her new wife with a private kiss in the traditional Native way.

Their guests applauded and waited for them to reappear…and waited…and waited. Within the privacy of the blanket, the two brides were kissing deeply, overcome by several different emotions. Gratitude and love warred with desire, spurring on the deep kiss. As their lips and tongues slid sensuously together, hands began to roam gently, prompting Zac to suggest that they get a room.

With that, Ryan’s head popped out from under the blanket, grinning widely. “Sorry about that!”

She let the blanket fall to their shoulders, revealing Janna with her head resting on her chest, arms wrapped tightly around her waist.

“Thanks, everyone…from the bottom of our hearts. You’ve made this day more special than we could have possibly imagined.”

“You’ve done the same for us, guys.” Terry smiled warmly at her friends. “Come on in for some cake now.”

Ryan and Janna’s deep love and respect for one another prevented them from making a spectacle of the sharing of the cake, despite the encouragement from most present to do so. They gently and lovingly fed each other bites from the cake and kissed, sharing more of the delicious morsel with each other. The two small bridal figurines from the topmost layer were gently cleaned and packed away by Janna’s mother, to be presented to them later.

~~~~~~~~~~

Several hours later, as the party continued in full swing, Ryan held Janna as they danced slowly together on the deck. She kissed her mate passionately and then laid her cheek on the blonde head. “I’m beginning to detect some real drawbacks to having our wedding night at the same place as the reception. These people may party all night.”

Janna didn’t look up as she mumbled against Ryan’s throat, “I’m glad they’re having a great time. We’ll manage to find some privacy…you know that, love.”

“Yeah, I do. But I’m really starting to want you bad, baby.”

“And this is different from every other day, how?” Janna asked impishly.

“I’ve never made love to you as my wife before. I can’t wait Janna.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled seriously at her.

“I can’t wait either, Ryan.” Janna reached up and captured her wife’s lips for another long, deep kiss. Tongues danced and caressed before Janna moved her lips down Ryan’s throat, to her choker. “I love this choker on you, Ryan. My Warrior.”

“I’ll wear it for you more often, then.” Janna’s lips and tongue continued their gentle assault. “Oh, Janna…you don’t know what you’re doing to me baby…”

“Yes, I do. I feel what you feel, remember,” she mumbled against Ryan’s throat. She looked up into Ryan’s eyes. “Do you think it would be rude if we retired for a while?”

Before Ryan could answer, John appeared at her side. “Hey guys…we’re all going down to the South Shore for dinner and some gambling.” He grinned, “I don’t suppose you’d like to come with us, would you?”

Ryan swallowed the elation that she felt, and grinned warmly back at her friend. “Not on your life, buddy…have a good time!”

“Okay. Dan and Kris will be back around 9:00, to get the kids to bed.” He smirked, adding, “Just so you know.”

“Thanks.”

A short time later, they followed their guests around to the front of the house and saw the small caravan off. As she waved goodbye to Janna’s parents, Ryan checked her watch and gleefully exclaimed, “Five hours…we have five hours of alone time, baby.”

“Well let’s get this honeymoon started, then.”

-38-

Ryan entered the master bedroom carrying a champagne bucket in one hand and a bowl of strawberries and whipped cream in the other. Janna sat demurely on the edge of the bed, wearing nothing but a smile and her wedding necklace. And her wedding band, of course.

Ryan grinned wickedly and, kicking the door shut behind her, made her way quickly into the bathroom to deposit her goodies. As she exited the large bath she was pulling her shirt off over her head.

“No, love…let me.” Janna stood and approached her. Ryan let the blouse settle back down and grinned, leering at her wife unashamedly, greatly enjoying the view.

Janna stepped up to her and reached for the topmost button, undoing it as she gazed into Ryan’s eyes. Two sets of desire-darkened eyes communicated their devotion before Janna leaned forward and kissed Ryan’s chest where the shirt lay open. Ryan closed her eyes at the gentle, yet sensual touch and brought her fingers up to run through Janna’s hair. Janna continued until each button had been unfastened and she had left a warm trail of kisses down Ryan’s abdomen.

As Ryan stood with her shirt hanging open, Janna reached up and gently pushed it off her shoulders. She brought her hands up to caress her mate’s breasts through the silky bra.

“You wore a pretty bra today.” Janna’s voice was soft, matching her touch.

“Mm. I wanted to impress my new wife. Does she like it?” Ryan’s silky voice vibrated pleasantly through Janna, setting her nerve endings aflame.

“Mm, hmm.” Janna nuzzled Ryan’s chest briefly, enjoying her mate’s warmth and then gently kissed the curve of a breast above the bra. Ryan encouraged the contact with her gentle touch behind Janna’s head and a moan and Janna happily complied. She reached around and unhooked the bra, then pushed it off Ryan’s shoulders and let it drop to the floor.

As she began paying devoted attention to Ryan’s breasts, her hands adeptly untied the drawstring in Ryan’s pants and she pushed them off, snagging her mate’s panties as well. Ryan stepped out of them and pulled her wife close to her, then embraced her head in her hands as she kissed her.

They stood pressed together, kissing deeply until they became breathless with need and Ryan bent and dipped her head, drawing a soft breast into her mouth. Janna threw her head back and grasped Ryan around the waist, thrusting their hips together.

“Let’s move this into the tub, baby,” Ryan murmured insistently.

Wordlessly, Janna grabbed her hand and pulled her toward the bathroom. Before they could enter the large tub, she pulled Ryan tightly against herself and kissed her again, caressing her wife’s body with her hands possessively.

“I’m all yours baby…take me.”

Janna looked up at Ryan, her green eyes burning with passion, and nipped at her neck, snaking her tongue under the choker. Ryan’s eyes rolled back in her head before she recovered and picked Janna up bodily, setting her in the tub. She stepped in after her and sat her tall frame against one side and pulled her wife into her lap, devouring her lips all the while.

“Ryan, yes…God, I love you Ry…Ryan…” Janna fairly moaned the words into her mate’s mouth and then the dark head dipped lower, lavishing devoted attention on excited nipples. Her tongue swirled and stroked them hungrily, as if Janna were a meal and she had not eaten in ages.

Janna moaned loudly, quickly becoming overcome by the pleasant sensations coursing through her body. “Baby…slow…slow down a little. Let’s make this…last.”

Ryan mumbled around a delicious pink nipple, “I can’t help myself, Janna…you taste so good, baby.”

Janna reached over to the bowl of strawberries sitting on the edge of the tub and snared a piece of the fruit. “Here, love, taste this.” She held the fruit to her lover’s lips and as she met Janna’s eyes, Ryan bit it in half. Janna then seductively rubbed the red, juicy fruit against her nipple, her eyes never leaving Ryan’s.

“Oh, God, Janna…” Ryan bent her head and her tongue snaked out in a long, sultry stroke against the excited nub. They moaned in unison as Ryan removed all of the juice from her mate’s breast, and then reached for another piece of fruit. She had Janna bite it and then she coated the other nipple with the sweet juice. As she licked it off her mate, she mumbled, “This is good baby, but not as sweet as you are.”

“Here, let me try.” Janna picked up a strawberry and had Ryan bite it, then rubbed it slowly all over a dark nipple.

“Fuck, baby…that alone feels great…” Janna silenced her with the addition of her loving, skilled tongue on the anatomy in question and Ryan could only moan incomprehensibly.

Janna then scooped up a handful of whipped cream from the same bowl and smeared it all over Ryan’s breasts, covering them completely. She then spent long minutes devotedly licking it all off, working Ryan into a frenzy as she did so. Finally, she gently urged her wife up out of the water, onto the rim of the tub, so she could attend to her immediate need. She lovingly spread the sweet white cream over her wife’s dark, silky curls and dutifully licked it off, interspersing long, gentle strokes with deep, erotic thrusts of her tongue. Ryan didn’t last long under the loving barrage and joyously screamed her release. Janna’s name reverberated off the bathroom walls.

Janna rested her head between Ryan’s thighs, catching her breath and trying to slow her breathing. Ryan’s scream, and the release of her sweet nectar, had nearly sent her over the edge as well. When she regained her senses, Ryan reached down and ran her hands gently through Janna’s hair.

Breathless, Ryan murmured, “Thank you baby…that was so good…” She took a deep breath and settled back down into the water, pulling Janna in for a sweet kiss.

“Mm, your welcome, but it was my pleasure. You taste so sweet, Ryan…I could do that all day.”

“And I wouldn’t stop you, baby.” Ryan embraced her wife and nuzzled her hair. “My turn to love you, my destiny.” She kissed Janna’s cheek. “What would like, love?”

Janna looked coyly at her mate. “I think I’d like to be a dessert too.”

Ryan’s grin was breathtaking and nearly stopped Janna’s heart. “Your wish is my command, baby.” She wasted no time in reaching for the whipped cream and proceeded to fix herself a luscious dessert, which she slowly, gently, erotically licked, stroked and sucked and from her wife’s body.

“Oh, my God…Jesus…yes…Ryannnn…” Her scream matched Ryan’s in sheer decibel level. When her breath returned, Janna exclaimed, “Oh, Christ, are you good, Ryan…” She reached down to caress her mate’s hair.

“Thank you, baby. Nothing makes me happier than pleasing you. Nothing.” She gently pulled Janna back down into her lap and held her close.

“I think I need a drink, my wife. Will you open the champagne?”

“I’m your wife…God, Janna!” Ryan gazed at her wedding band through teary eyes, and Janna brought the ring to her lips and kissed it tenderly.

“Yes…you’re my wife, love.” She grasped Ryan’s left hand in hers and they gazed at their wedding rings. “Get used to it, babe.”

“No problem there, love.” She grinned as she reached for the champagne bottle and deftly opened it. The contents bubbled up out of the bottle and she quickly lifted it to her lips, but then a better idea occurred to her and she held the bottle near Janna, letting the pale amber liquid flow onto her chest.

Janna squealed, but then giggled as Ryan began to lick up the spilled alcohol. Her giggles soon became moans, however, as Ryan’s talented tongue didn’t miss a drop.

The beautiful Lake Tahoe day faded into early evening as the lovers danced their dance of love once again and Luna prepared to arise. They would still be entwined in love hours later when the first rays of her silvery light entered their abode.

Ryan smiled in her sleep as the dream vision danced in her head. Her bard was writhing wildly in her arms, and the joy the warrior felt at giving her mate pleasure filled her soul nearly to overflowing. A light tapping noise pulled her from her dreamy reverie and she awakened, fuzzily shaking her head. The tapping continued and she realized that someone was gently knocking at the bedroom door.

She pulled the covers up over her wife, who was, naturally, sprawled across her, and in a sleep-roughened voice, called, “Yeah…come in.”

She yawned and stretched as the door quietly opened and Terry poked her head in.

“Are you all up?” Terry grinned, because it was obvious that the lovebirds were nowhere near up.

“Not quite, but come on in. We’re decent.”

Terry raised her eyebrows at the comment as she gazed around the disheveled room and drawled in her soft twang, “I hardly think so, hon.”

Ryan blushed as she suddenly realized what a state the room was in. She lifted her head slightly to look around, and seeing clothes strewn everywhere, and plates, bowls, glasses and champagne bottles littering the floor, lay back down with an embarrassed groan. Several candles sat on the bedside tables, burned nearly down to nothing.

Anna, who had stepped into the room behind Terry, commented, “It looks like it was quite the wedding night.” She grinned and winked at Ryan.

“Shit…” Ryan’s low voice rumbling through her roused Janna and she stretched, then settled more comfortably against her mate’s torso, nuzzling her neck.

“Janna, love…we have company.”

“Tell them to go away.” Was the grouchy, mumbled reply.

Ryan grinned at Janna’s closest friends, and shrugged as best she could under the one hundred twenty pounds of dead weight.

“Janna, babe…we’re sorry to bother you, but we need to get on the road. We wanted to say goodbye.” Terry drawled softly, amused.

Ryan felt Janna stiffen upon hearing her friend’s voice, and she slowly turned over, grasping the sheet to ensure that it didn’t slip down. She grinned, embarrassed. “Hi…what time is it?

“Almost ten.”

Both newlyweds groaned in unison and Ryan exclaimed, “Oh, shit…sorry …”

“Hey, don’t worry about it. You’re on your honeymoon…everyone understands. Stay in bed all day…we did!” Terry smiled at her mate and Anna smiled and winked at her in return.

At that, Ryan grinned and kissed the blonde head under her chin. “We would probably do that, but my little dynamo here needs refueling, I’m sure.” She looked down at her wife, who was scowling gently at her. “Can you give us just a minute to throw some clothes on, so we can see you off?”

“Sure thing.” After taking one more amused glance around the room, they both left and closed the door.

“Jesus, Janna…10:00!”

“Hey, we had a very busy night.” She kissed the prominent breastbone beneath her and rolled off her mate.

“That, we did, baby…that we did.” Ryan stretched and lay contentedly, watching her mate look for her clothes. “God, Janna, last night was great. Mmm…,” she moaned happily.

As she slipped into one of Ryan’s t-shirts and shorts, Janna approached her wife and leaned over her, saying, “It sure was. And tonight’s gonna be special too.” She gently kissed Ryan as she reached down for her arms and pulled her up, helping her from the bed.

Ryan gazed lovingly into Janna’s eyes and smiled affectionately. “I can’t wait, love…again. But right now, let’s go spend some time with our guests.”

After making plans to get together before Thanksgiving, they saw Anna and Terry, who had a long drive back to San Francisco, off. They sat at the kitchen table with Beth, Marv, Dan, and John. Ryan savored a warm cup of coffee, while Janna enjoyed a mug of tea with some toast.

Apparently, their guests had enjoyed a late night as well, most of them returning from the casinos well after midnight. Ryan smiled as she heard the laughter of the children in the yard beyond the deck. She could hear them playing a game of tag with Kris and Sara. She glanced at her mate and grasped her hand.

After a few minutes of enjoying the peaceful morning, Ryan finished her coffee and sat back in the chair. “I need a shower, babe.”

“Okay, I’ll, um…go with you and, uh, tidy up the room.” Janna glanced shyly at her parents and brother, but they didn’t seem to notice her discomfort.

As she and Ryan left the room, Janna’s brother casually remarked, “Have a good time…we’ll see you in a few hours.” Beth playfully slapped her son’s arm and scowled at him as her daughter and daughter-in-law stiffened and half-turned, blushing.

“Um, thanks. We’ll, uh, see you in a bit.” Ryan grabbed Janna’s arm and pulled her out of the room.

Janna buried her face in Ryan’s chest and giggled as they made their way back to the master suite. “I guess we’re not fooling anyone, are we, love?”

“Nope, so we may as well do what we want, since they know what it is anyway…right?” She gazed at Janna happily, as a lopsided grin brightened her face. “It is our honeymoon, after all!”

“Right! Come on…” Janna pushed Ryan toward the large shower stall.

The large bathroom was filled with steam, and water vapor covered every surface in the room. Gentle murmurs arose from the large shower stall and the vague shape of two entwined bodies could just be discerned through the opaque glass of the door.

Suddenly, the quiet ambiance was shattered by a low voice moaning loudly, “Jannnna…oh, Jesus…fucking…Christ!”

Janna stood pressed against her wife with one hand down in between them and one behind her mate, both hands stroking Ryan in unison. Ryan leaned back against the shower wall and writhed uncontrollably, moaning and very near release under her wife’s loving attentions.

“Oh, God, baby…yessss…” Ryan’s head rolled from side to side as she lost control and Janna stilled it by capturing her lips passionately. She felt the rhythmic clenching of muscles within in her mate’s body and stroked her powerfully and deeply, sending her over the edge once again. As the spasms faded, Ryan slid down the tile wall to the floor, bringing her mate with her. They sat together in each other’s arms for several minutes, until both no longer felt weak.

Ryan chuckled. “I hope no one else needed to use the hot water this morning.”

“Oh, God, I do too. We kind of hogged it, didn’t we?”

“Mm.”

Janna sighed deeply, feeling completely sated and fulfilled. Ryan felt the same way and echoed the sigh.

Ryan kissed her wife’s forehead and quietly asked, “What do you want to do today, love?”

Janna simply looked at her pointedly with raised eyebrows.

“I mean in between, baby! Like right now. I hate to admit it, but I’m spent.”

“Well, I could do with some lunch. Why don’t we take a picnic down to the beach? I’m spent too and laying on the beach for the rest of the day sounds wonderful.”

“That sounds nice. Maybe Zac would like to come…I want to talk to him about our baby plans before he leaves later.”

“Mm, right…good.” Janna settled more deeply into Ryan’s embrace. “But I don’t want to get up yet. This feels so incredibly nice.”

Ryan answered her with a loving squeeze, agreeing completely.

It was a beautiful day, for the last day of summer in the mountains. Remarkably, there was not yet even a hint of fall in the early afternoon air. The sun shone brilliantly and the sky was sparsely dotted with cumulus clouds, which chased each other slowly across the enormous lake into Nevada. A moderate breeze kept the temperature in the mid seventies and the friends on the beach enjoyed their last day together.

Janna, Kris, Dan and the kids were playing in the sand, making an enormous walled fortress, while John and Sara cavorted together in the water. Beth and Marv sat in the shade of nearby pine trees, with a radio between them, listening to a Giants ballgame. Ryan and Zac sat together on towels, watching the activity and visiting quietly.

Ryan glanced at her brother and saw herself mirrored in his driving glasses. “Zac, I’d like to talk to you about something…would you like to take a walk?”

“Sure, Sis. Let’s go.” He stood and reached for her hand, helping her to her feet with a smile, though her six feet of height nearly matched his.

“Oh, so you’re a gentleman now, huh, Zac?” She grinned widely at him. “I’m glad to see it.”

“You’re a riot, Sis. Come on.” He started up the private beach.

As they walked, Ryan began, “Zac, this is a tough thing to ask, so I’m just gonna come out with it.” She looked at her brother and smiled, receiving a smile in return. “Um, Janna and I want to have a family,” at Zac’s wide grin, she blushed, but continued, “And we want the baby to be related to both of us, if possible. So, our first option is to use sperm donated by one of our brothers.”

They came to the dock at the edge of the property and climbed the steps. As they walked along the pier, Ryan continued, “Um, Janna wants to carry the baby, so our first choice for father would be you.” They reached the covered bench at the end of the dock and sat, overlooking the lake.

Ryan looked hopefully at Zac. “Would you feel at all comfortable helping us with that?” She quickly added, “Before you answer, please know that we don’t want you to feel any pressure. We know that this is a huge and very serious request, and believe me, we don’t make it lightly. We both will understand completely if you aren’t comfortable with the idea, and we won’t be upset…there will be no hard feelings.” She removed her glasses and looked warmly into his eyes. “We would want you to be completely comfortable with the idea, Zac.”

Zac looked out at the lake for a long minute before answering, then turned to his sister and said, “Sis, I can’t think of a single thing that would make me happier than to do this for you and Janna.” He smiled warmly at his sister’s shocked face. “Yes, Ryan…I would be happy…more than happy…to be your sperm donor.”

Ryan sat speechless, seemingly in shock, and Zac waved his hands in front of her eyes. “Ryan, are you in there?” He laughed.

A large smile slowly lit Ryan’s face and she threw her arms around her brother.

“Oh, Zac, thanks so much!” She gazed seriously at him. “You don’t know what this means to us, Zac.”

“I think I might, Sis. I’ve, uh, been having family-type feelings myself…ever since meeting a certain pretty Captain.”

“Zac, that is so awesome! I’m happy for you, bro…I really am.” Ryan stated warmly.

“Thanks Sis, but let’s not get carried away. She and I are just starting out.”

Ryan raised her eyebrows in question. “But you two are…you know…”

“Engaging in the type of behavior that you and Janna seem to be constantly engaged in?” He grinned. “Yeah…we’re not quite at your level, but we’re getting there.” He shook his head. “I thought this might be special, but I wasn’t quite sure, you know? But being away from her this week has convinced me that I don’t want to do it again. I’m missing her bad, Sis.”

“You’ve called her while you’ve been here, right?”

“Yes…every day…actually, sometimes twice.” He looked away, embarrassed.

“Oh, yeah, you’ve got it bad!”

“Oh, and you’re one to talk, Ms. Norden-Zamora.”

“Hey, I’ll admit it…happily. She’s my world. Hell, Zac, she’s my Universe.” She gazed down the beach and a smile touched her lips when she spotted her mate holding her young nephew. She turned back to Zac. “I gotta tell ya, you definitely scored major points with your lady by calling her every day. You’re gonna be one lucky guy when you get home.” She smirked at her brother and enjoyed his blush.

Zac cleared his throat. “Speaking of which, I’m leaving in an hour or so, Sis.”

Ryan sighed. “I’m sorry to see you go, Zac. I’ve really enjoyed this.” Her eyes teared up and she put her sunglasses back on.

“I’ve enjoyed it, too, Sis. It was way long past due.” He put his arm around his sister’s shoulders and pulled her close.

“Yep. That it was. We’re gonna stay in touch now, Zac.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes, we are. Especially since I’m gonna be doing that special duty for you.” He grinned. “When are you thinking about doing this?”

“Sometime within the next year, I think. We’re both really looking forward to it. Um, we haven’t worked out the details yet, but I would think that we should probably make a visit out your way and stay for a week or two…do it there. Uh, also, I think there’s some testing that we would have to have done…both Janna and you…at a clinic first. Would you mind?”

“Shit, no! Whatever’s needed. And I want you guys to come out…sooner if you’d like.”

“Great, Zac, we’ll plan on it.” She leaned forward and hugged her brother. “Thanks so much, Zac. We can’t ever thank you enough.” Ryan swallowed hard and tears fell from beneath her glasses, but she let them go.

As she and Zac approached their party on the beach, Ryan made a beeline for her wife. Janna spotted her coming toward her with a large grin on her face and straightened to meet her. Janna thought she looked stunning in her new, white Harley tank over her black swimsuit and treasured the vision of Ryan’s long, lean legs walking barefoot through the sand.

When Ryan reached Janna, she pulled her into an embrace and picked her up off the ground. She whispered into her mate’s ear, “We’re gonna have a baby, Janna!”

“Ryan…he said yes?” Janna looked excitedly into her wife’s eyes.

“He said yes, baby.” Ryan returned her lover’s intense gaze and kissed her. Their family gave them the space they needed for their private moment and the newlyweds didn’t return to them for several minutes.

~~~~~~~~~~

Twilight was beginning to settle over the lake and the lovely cabin that sat at its edge, and Janna waved as the minivan carrying her parents, her brother and his family turned onto the highway to begin the two-hour journey back home. They had bid farewell to John and Sara minutes earlier, and to Zac a few hours before that.

“Well, baby, it’s just us now…what’re we gonna do with ourselves for three days?”

Janna shook her head at her incorrigible mate and led her by the hand back onto the deck. They sat together in the swing and quietly watched dusk settle over the beautiful lake that they both loved so much and that now held such special meaning for them.

As they sat in the swing, quietly rocking back and forth and enjoying the peaceful surroundings, Janna went over in her head the short ritual that she would use later. She would basically simply be asking the moon spirit and the other benevolent spirits of the area to bless their union and allow them to express their love physically within their realm. It would involve using sacred materials to create a protected space for them and stating their intention that they wished for their act of love to be respectful of all beings present.

Their intention was to make their union as sacred as possible and to show respect for the earth, animal and nature spirits there. In all things metaphysical and spiritual, intention is of the utmost importance. Janna had consulted with a shaman friend, who had assured her that the ceremony that she had in mind would be acceptable.

Janna’s plan involved waiting until midnight, when the moon would be at her highest point in the sky that night, and would also roughly mark the autumnal equinox: the start of fall. She found herself filled with anticipation and excitement and could feel that Ryan was experiencing the same feelings. Only, hers may quite possibly have more to do with being horny than spiritual, she told herself with an inward smile.

Just then, Ryan broke the silence when she said, “Sweetheart, I’m really looking forward to later.” She looked down at her wife. “And not just because I’m a horny fucker, but…I don’t know…it just seems so sacred. I love the sacred sex techniques you’ve shown me…I think they’ve enriched me as a human being… and I just can’t wait to share this with you. I love the moon…I feel at times like she blesses us, and I can’t wait to make love with you in her light.”

My God, could she be any more perfect? “I’m so glad to hear that, my love. I’m looking forward to it for exactly the same reasons.” She picked up Ryan’s hand and kissed it before laying it in her lap. “My spirituality is very important to me and it means so much to me that you’re taking an interest in it too.”

“It’s my heritage Janna. It is about time I took an interest in it, don’t you think? In addition to that, apparently it is my spiritual heritage too…remember the Warrior dream I told you about where I was acting as a shaman? I wasn’t only a warrior in that life, I was also a shamaness and a healer. I’m very proud of that fact and I’d like to regain some of that knowledge if I can.” Janna watched with admiration as Ryan became pensive, looking out over the darkening lake.

I will help her. I’ll teach her what I know and help her to achieve greater knowledge. We’ll take the journey together. Janna picked up the long-fingered hand that sat in her lap and brought it to her lips. “Let’s get some dinner, love, and then come back out here and watch Luna rise.”

“Sounds great, baby.”

Near the northern edge of the lakefront property, a small copse of trees sat near the shoreline. It provided shelter on three sides, with the fourth facing the lake, creating the perfect location for Ryan and Janna’s special encounter.

Ryan unzipped the sleeping bags and laid them out, one on top of the other, within the circle that Janna had created out of stones. She then laid their wedding blanket over the top. The aroma of sage still sat heavily on the air from the smudging that her mate had done earlier, and the glow of several candles added their light to the rising moon’s silvery glow.

Luna was now high in the east, her light creating a yellow-silver path along the surface of the lake, as if showing the way to heaven. Ryan sat quietly on the blankets as Janna conducted her ritual, silently admiring her beautiful mate and respectful of her views and of her knowledge. I want her to teach me what she knows. I want to share this aspect of her life.

Janna respectfully offered the sacred tobacco to the four directions of the earth, and to the moon and other spirits present. When the ritual was complete, Janna sat beside her mate and took her hand.

Ryan could feel how centered and balanced Janna was at that moment. She feels complete…this is truly one of her callings. The wholeness that Janna felt at that moment translated to joy, and Ryan felt that as well, through their link. Silently, Ryan pulled her wife into her arms and held her, and they waited in that position for Luna to take her place at the zenith, on her throne, so to speak.

A short time later, with Luna high above and her celestial companions twinkling dimly in her brilliant light, Janna turned in her mate’s embrace and calmly sat in her lap, wrapping her legs around her torso in the Tantric fashion. She leaned forward and kissed her wife, communicating all of her love through the touch of her lips and the energetic connection that they shared. The kiss was loving without becoming passionate.

Then, she looked into her wife’s eyes and recited her wedding vows. Ryan did likewise, and as tears trailed down both faces, they kissed again, letting their desire build and their love for each other begin to cascade. As they kissed deeply, Janna pulled Ryan’s sweatshirt over her head, baring her upper body. Ryan did the same with Janna’s heavy shirt and gasped as their torsos came together in the chilled night air.

They necked passionately for many minutes, in no hurry. When her desire began to pool in her groin, Ryan groaned, signaling Janna to help her to remove her pants. They stood together and disrobed completely before sitting again in their sacred position and resuming their lovemaking.

As their kisses deepened, hands began to roam sensuously and breasts brushed together erotically, creating the buzzing electricity that the lovers had become accustomed to when they touched. As she kissed her wife, Janna felt not only the physical sensation of building desire but a sense of emotional completeness. Of connection. Not only to her mate but to all of existence. Her body’s physical reaction to her mate’s sensual touch seemed to magnify the spiritual connection that she felt.

Ryan whispered into her mouth, not breaking their connection, “Janna, love…I’m starting to feel very high…I’m a little afraid.”

Janna tightened her embrace around Ryan and whispered, “It’s okay, love…I’ve got you. Just breathe, sweetheart. Here, follow me.” Janna breathed slowly and deeply, guiding Ryan by example back to a safe place. “We’ll go more slowly. You make our connection when you feel ready.”

“Thanks, baby.”

Ryan relaxed and soon felt the completeness that Janna was feeling. She let the spiritual high escalate in conjunction with her mounting physical desire and very shortly felt ready to connect with Janna.

She reached long fingers down between them and found Janna’s soft, warm center. She entered her mate gently, slowly, reveling both in her partner’s slick readiness and in her sharp intake of breath at the contact. She began a slow, rhythmic stroking and at the same time felt Janna enter her in the same manner.

Each stroke sent shockwaves of pleasure up their spines and caused a mounting pressure as the desire within their bodies soared. They began to moan in unison, increasing the pleasure even more. They synchronized their breathing with their stroking and when the first orgasmic wave hit, they rode it out, lengthening their breaths, which in turn lengthened the crest of the wave. The pleasure plateaued and then crested again, at a higher intensity than the first, and the cycle continued, over and over for nearly a half hour.

Luna gazed down at the entwined lovers, noting how her light bathed their slick skin in a silver glow as their bodies thrusted and gyrated rhythmically as one. She reached out with her essence and bathed their spirits with her energy, allowing them to enjoy the incredible gift of oneness with her.

Within the throes of the incredible ecstasy, Ryan felt sky high and as one with the Universe. For a brief instant, she felt omniscient; as if all the knowledge of the Universe were available to her. She gazed through glassy eyes into her mate’s similarly glassy eyes and saw the same awareness. Janna smiled joyously at her and captured her lips fervently, sending them over the highest pleasurable peak yet, and causing both of them to arch and shriek their pleasure. The final orgasmic thrust ebbed and flowed for another few minutes, gently guiding them back to earth.

They stayed within each other’s arms, rocking gently, silently, for long, timeless minutes. At one point (she couldn’t say exactly when), Ryan pulled their wedding blanket around their bodies to keep out the chill. When they finally changed position and lay down, Luna was already in the western sky.

As the lovers lay in each other’s arms, under the moon’s loving light, they both felt as if they were among the most blessed humans on the planet, and felt a gratitude unlike any other they had ever experienced. Their love, as well, felt limitless: for each other and for all of creation.

As they gently kissed each other to sleep, their lunar friend smiled on them, and remembered the first time she had done so. It had been in a much earlier life. A life in which the small woman had helped to redeem the soul of her darker companion.
At the instant that Grandmother Moon set in the west, her counterpart rose in the east, bathing their friends in soft, pink light. He smiled, picking up on the energy of the scene and sent a silent question to the moon. Her answer returned, and he smiled once more. He enjoyed interacting with enlightened humans: he knew that overcoming their ignorance was a nearly impossible task and respected those who were able to shake off their modern programming. He watched as the dark one stirred, waking her mate in the process.

“Ryan…”

“Morning, Janna.” Ryan stretched, letting cold air seep under their blanket, then shivered and pulled her bodywarmer closer. “Janna, was last night a dream?”

“Mm…nope. Real…all of it.” She smiled against her wife’s breast. “Intense, huh?”

“Janna, the word hasn’t been invented yet for what that was.”

Jana smiled again. “Yeah, it surprised me too. I, um, hadn’t planned on the Tantra part…it kinda just happened that way.”

“What did you think would happen?” Ryan gazed expectantly down at her mate in her arms.

“Well, I guess…that we’d just go at it like…like we usually do…and…”

“You thought I’d be my usual take charge, horny self and we’d fu….”

“I thought that we’d make love…beautifully, like always…I just didn’t plan the Tantra as part of the ritual.” Still sleepy green eyes gained a twinkle as she gently corrected her mate.

“Well, it certainly worked for me.” Ryan looked down at her wife. “I want to talk about it. I want to understand what happened, Janna…and I want you to help me learn what you know.”

“Let’s go do that, love. We need to make our morning connection, so let’s go inside and do that.”

They shared a sweet kiss and rose, the dark one wrapping them in their blanket and walking her mate up the beach, onto the deck and into the house. At the door to the house, they turned as one and looked out at the lake, and Grandfather Sun winked at them. Janna felt it and smiled.

-39-

As the wind whipped in from the open window, Janna felt supremely content. She absentmindedly brushed the hair from her eyes as she drove on and reflected on her storybook wedding and honeymoon. Storybook in the sense that it had more than fulfilled all of her expectations while filling her with tremendous joy, rather than storybook in the sense that American society considered storybook.

Her partner, sitting next to her in the Explorer, felt her contentment and smiled. “I feel your happiness Janna.”

“Good. I hope you enjoy it, Ryan, because I have the strongest feeling that it will only get stronger as the years go on.” She looked at her wife quizzically. “I don’t know why I feel that way, because it’s natural for love to fade somewhat, but in this case I believe it will only get better. I believe that with everything that I am…it’s what my intuition is telling me.”

“God, Janna, that makes me happy.” Ryan swallowed hard as tears sprang to her eyes. She reflected, as she rode, on the incredible week they had just shared. The lovemaking…my God…was beyond description. She grinned and Janna felt her emotion as a mixture of glee and lust.

“Ryan…you’re thinking about the sex again!”

“Well, yeah, baby, I am…shit…don’t you? I mean, come on Janna…it was incredible beyond words.” She shuddered slightly and shivered in remembrance.

“Yes, love, you’re right. But I’ve gotta drive right now!” Janna turned her head and grinned at her mate, who bestowed a brilliant, if apologetic smile on her.

“Sorry, love. Let’s talk about something else then.” She half-turned to face her wife. “It was good seeing Ben Blackhawk again. I think he was really happy to see that we’d married and were wearing his rings.”

“Yeah, he seemed to be…he’s a neat guy. And I love the pottery we bought…I can’t wait to display it when we get home.”

“Me too, love…I’ve been looking for a good, nearby source for native objects and Navajo pottery. I love the blankets we got, too.” She rubbed Janna’s thigh and added, “Though I love a certain special blanket the most.”

“Thanks, love.” Janna glanced at her briefly, and her sparkling, vibrant green eyes warmed her wife through and through. “I love this music we picked up, too. That’s a great store that Ben has there. We’ll have to visit whenever we’re in the area.” She grinned again as she added, “And, I now have a year’s supply of smudge sticks and incense. Mmm, love that pinon incense.”

“I don’t know, babe, I think at the rate you use those things they’ll last six months at the most.” Ryan grinned widely at her New Age girl, happy beyond words to have found her. She added, “If you love pinon, then you’re gonna love it in New Mexico when we go to visit Zac. When go make our baby.”

Janna looked sharply at her wife. “Is that how you want to do it, honey?”

“It’s just a thought, but I thought that would make it easier on Zac, yeah.”

“I think it’s a great thought, love.” Janna bestowed a heartfelt look on her mate and turned her eyes back to the highway.
Ryan sighed as she watched her mate drive them back home. “The last week was magical Janna…but it’s back to reality now.”

Janna spared a glance at her wife and grinned. “Yeah, but honey, our reality is pretty damn nice, don’t ya think?” As Ryan nodded and grinned, she added, “I’m looking forward to our game tomorrow, and beginning your aikido class with you on Monday, and, we have a big party to plan, too, don’t we?”
“Ooh, yeah, we do. I was thinking…”

“Oh, no!”

“Hush! I was thinking about how cool it would be to arrive at our reception on our new Harley.”

“Oh God, Ryan, yeah…in our matching jackets. That’s a great idea.”

Ryan grinned and looked somewhat expectantly at Janna. “Um, when is it arriving, again?”

“It should be here by the first weekend of October, love. When we get home, I’ll give the factory a call and see how it’s coming along.”

Ryan’s smile said it all, but she thanked Janna anyway. “Thank you, baby…for everything.”

“It was my great pleasure, Ryan. I, uh, actually am really looking forward to its arrival too.” As she recalled how Ryan had looked astride Zac’s bike, a surge of lust shot through her body.

Ryan felt it and raised her eyebrows as she commented, “I’m picking up on that, baby.” She then added wryly, “Are we almost there yet?”

Janna laughed and shook her head, realizing that she was just as bad as Ryan was at resisting her mate. “Soon, love. We’ll be home soon.”

“I’m already home, Janna.”

The Native American flute and drum music played softly as they drove on, reminiscing both together and silently about their special week and looking forward to arriving back home, and beginning their married life together.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan drove them south towards the large softball complex as the sun set to their right, casting the landscape in an orange brilliance. A rash of forest fires up and down the state had filled the air with particulates, which had the side benefit of creating fiery, luminous sunsets.

Ryan glanced to her right to say something to Janna and instead exclaimed, “Oh, my God, Janna…look at El Diablo.”

Janna looked out the window to her right, at the twin peaks of Mt. Diablo, directly behind which sat the huge orange ball of the setting sun. “Jesus…that’s gorgeous.”

Ryan returned her eyes to the road, but her mind remained on the otherworldly sight. “It’s living up to it’s name, at the moment, isn’t it?” She spared another glance at the enchanting sight.

“It is. I’ve always been kind of amazed that the earliest residents of this area knew that it was a negative energy vortex, and that the Spaniards picked up on it too, and named it after the devil.”

“They either picked up on it or took the Natives’ word for it.”

“Hmm, yeah…possibly…most likely, actually. As far as I know, the original natives were much more in tune with the Earth’s energy than the Caucasian settlers, er, conquerors, were.”

“Conquerors, baby. They were conquerors.”

“Yes…I was taught the same thing by my grandfather, Ryan.”

“I wish I’d known him, Janna.”

“I wish he were still here, too. And Grandma. They were special people. They spent a lot of time in his hometown in New Mexico…went back every few years until he was too sick to. My Mom was born there, too.”

“Whereabouts, love?”

“Deming…down in the south…not too far from the Mexican border.”

“Jesus, babe, I’ve been there!” Ryan glanced at Janna, eyebrows raised in surprise. “Nice town.”

“Wow, Ryan…what a small world.”

“Small Universe, Janna. Small Universe.”

“We’re finding that out, aren’t we Ryan?”

“Janna, babe, I have a feeling it’s only gonna get more interesting as time goes on.”

“Without a doubt, love.”

They both became pensive and quiet as the Jeep covered the last few miles to the ballpark.

As they approached the seats at the diamond where their game would shortly begin, Ryan and Janna spotted John and Sara sitting with a teenaged girl, and talking with Carrie and Jackie.

“Hey, guys!” Ryan called out to their friends as she and Janna approached hand-in-hand.

“Hey! There they are…the newlyweds!” Carrie laughed and jumped from her perch several rows up in the stands. She wrapped Ryan in a bear hug.

“Shit, Carrie…I didn’t know you cared.”

“I don’t, Ryan…I’m just glad our pitcher’s here…we’re too close to the end of the season to start losing.” She pulled away from her teammate and grinned.

“Okay, that’s more like it!” Ryan returned the grin and clapped her on the back.

Carrie looked askance at Ryan. “Is it okay if I give your wife a hug?”

“Oh, I guess.” Ryan tried to suppress the warm grin that threatened to destroy her tough façade. Janna slapped her mate playfully and greeted Carrie with a warm hug.

Carrie kissed her cheek. “Congratulations, Janna. We’re happy for you.”

“Thanks Carrie. It was wonderful, but we’re glad to be back.”

Ryan stepped up and retrieved her wife, wrapping an arm around her shoulders as she asked, “So…how did the team do last week?”

Carrie looked sheepish. “Let’s just say we’re glad to have you back, Ryan, and leave it at that.”

“Oh, shit, no! What happened?”

“It was a bad day, that’s all. Elaine was wild and we were all pretty out of sorts. It was only about 110 degrees…in the shade…after dark.”

“Shit…”

“That pretty much sums it up. Hey, the other team only scored five runs…it’s not like it was a complete blowout.”

As Ryan scowled at her teammate, Sara got their attention. “Ryan, Janna, we’d like you to meet a friend of ours.”

Janna and Ryan climbed onto the bleachers where their friends and their guest were waiting for them.

“I’d like you to meet Ashley Davis. Ashley, these are our best friends Janna and Ryan Norden-Zamora.” At the mention of their teammate’s new name, Carrie and Jackie’s mouths dropped open and they looked at each other, but they remained silent.

The teenager, a lanky brunette with big brown eyes, held out her hand somewhat shyly, and mumbled, “Hi.”

“Hi, Ashley, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Janna and this is my wife, Ryan.”

“Hi, Ashley. Do you like softball?” Ryan extended her hand warmly.

“Yeah, I do. Thanks for having me out to watch.” She shook Ryan’s hand rather meekly.

“No problem, we’re glad you’re here. Do you play?”

“Oh, Jesus, Ry, always recruiting, huh?” John grinned as he rolled his eyes.

“Absolutely, John…what’s wrong with that?” Ryan smiled at her friend and looked back at the teenager.

“Um, yeah. I mean, I used to. I was on the team at school.”

“That’s great. Well, I hope we give you an interesting game to watch. We have to warm up now, but maybe we can do something after the game…get pizza or something?” She looked expectantly at Sara and John, who nodded their approval. “Cool. See you guys later.”

“Bye.” Janna added as she and Ryan walked to the dugout to put their cleats on and prepare for their game.

“She seems like a nice kid.” Ryan commented as she held Janna in her arms.

“She sure does. She seemed pretty overwhelmed at first, but then really started to open up at the end of the evening.” Janna absentmindedly played with a bit of foam that had formed on the spa.

Ryan lazily reached for her wine glass and took a dip of the white zinfandel. “Mm. I feel terrible about what’s happened to her.” She shook her head. “Jesus, Janna, what kind of parent throws their child out into the street?”

“Fear-based reaction, love. People fear what they don’t understand, and when religious zealotry comes into play, things can get really screwed up.”

“Talk about screwed up…they think their daughter is evil and perverted…they should take a look in the mirror. Christ, how did this society become so fucked?” Ryan took a breath and blew it out, ruffling Janna’s hair. “She really does seem like a good kid. I hope we can help her out. Jesus, Janna, it would be tragic to lose a kid like that.”

“That it would, love. We’ll do what we can, and I know that John and Sara are devoted to her too. I think she’s on the right track now. Half the battle was getting her to realize that she’s not alone…not a freak…that there are people who care. I’m pretty sure we, and our friends, showed her that tonight.”

“I think so too, love.” Ryan squeezed her mate and kissed her neck. “I love your hair this way, baby. It’s so much easier to get at your tasty neck.” She tasted Janna’s soft skin, which had, until recently, been hidden beneath her shoulder-length hair.

“Thanks, love. I like it too. For the same reason.” She turned and faced her wife. “Did you want to make love here, or go to bed?”

Ryan grinned widely. “Oh, is that the plan? We’re gonna make love?”

“It’s bedtime, isn’t it? When have we not made love at bedtime?” She leaned forward and tasted an earlobe.

“Um, uh…what was the question?”

“Never mind, it was moot anyway. Answer the first one.”

“Let’s go to bed, baby.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“Oh, Ryan…I love these on you.” Janna’s pulse began to pound as she slowly pulled the zipper along the outer leg of Ryan’s motorcycle chaps.

“I’ll have to wear them for you later then…perhaps with nothing underneath?” Ryan smiled wickedly at her wife.

“Ohh, God, don’t give me that image now, please, when we’re due to leave, or we’ll never make it.”

“Our guests will understand. We’re newlyweds.” Ryan pulled her wife up into her arms and kissed her hotly. Matching Harley tanks rubbed together erotically before large hands caressed excited nipples through the cotton of Janna’s shirt.

Janna tore her lips from Ryan’s, but held her tight grasp around her waist, exclaiming, “Ryan, God…it’s time to go, love.”

“I think it’s time to come, baby.” She drawled and snaked her tongue into Janna’s ear.

“Oh, Jesus…it must be the leather…” She pulled Ryan’s face back around and stole another hot kiss. “We can be a few minutes late.” She sank to her knees and undid the buttons on the the fly of Ryan’s jeans, which were easily accessible under the crotchless chaps.

The grin on Ryan’s face when she pulled her beloved new Harley up outside the Rainbow Lounge with her wife holding tightly to her waist left no doubts as to the reason they had been late. The several friends who were gathered outside all grinned knowingly and shook their heads as the ladies pulled up on the gorgeous bike. Ryan’s rakish grin, visible when she pushed the visor up on her helmet, didn’t dispel the interpretation one iota and as she lifted herself off the bike and turned to help her wife off, she added a strut to punctuate the point.

Several of Janna’s musician friends from San Francisco stood with her friends, Missy, Lisa, Doug and Jay. Her old bandmates Marci and Donna gazed at Ryan wide-eyed as she removed her helmet. She shook her head, freeing her shoulder-length hair, and grinned widely as she threw her arm around Janna’s shoulders.

Janna removed her full-face helmet and handed it to Ryan as she exclaimed, “Hey guys…thanks for coming!”

“Janna, baby!” Jay Jay squealed. “Girl, you look marvelous!” He threw his arms around his friend and kissed her cheek as he hugged her.

Janna returned the kiss and said, “Thanks, Jay. I feel great.” She pulled back and looked at her other friends. “It’s great to see you all!” Looking back at Ryan she said, “Ryan, honey, come here.” Ryan stepped forward and Janna wrapped an arm around her waist.

“Honey, you’ve met Missy, Doug and Jay. This is Missy’s partner, Lisa.”

Ryan reached for the dark-haired woman’s strong grasp and shook her hand warmly, meeting her eyes. “Hi Lisa, I’m glad to meet you.”

“Glad to meet you too, Ryan…I’ve heard a lot about you.” She grinned as she returned the handshake.

Janna then addressed her musician friends with a bright smile. “Donna, Marci, meet the wife!” They both stepped forward and exchanged greetings with Janna’s glowing wife.

“It’s great to meet you…Janna’s told me some amazing stories!” Ryan’s dazzling grin captivated both tough dykes and they were rather uncharacteristically quiet.

“Hey, the sun’s sweltering in this jacket…let’s go in, huh?” Janna motioned for everyone to enter the building ahead of herself and Ryan. As their friends walked in ahead of them, Ryan leaned into Janna and whispered, “And I’ve gotta get out of these leather pants.”

“Want some help, love?” Janna glanced up at her with a coy smile.

“No way, babe…if you do we’ll end up having another restroom encounter. Later, though, for sure.”

“Absolutely, Ryan.” Janna was definitely feeling their combined desire, almost overwhelmingly so, but she did manage to maintain.

Ryan and Janna sat at the bar together, looking adorable in matching white tanks, Levi’s and riding boots. They were having a great time visiting with all of their friends. Musicians, cops, ballplayers, family, and queers of every possible persuasion were all mixing jovially in the joyful atmosphere.

Missy and Lisa sat at a nearby table with Donna and Marci and a few other friends from the City. “Wow…they make a great looking couple, don’t they?” Lisa remarked.

Donna added, “Amazing, huh, after living in a City full of dyke babes for all those years, she comes here and finds her woman?”

“And it was love at first sight, no less. I was there.” Missy took a swig from her beer mug.

“Unreal. It’s fuckin’ unreal. And she rates a perfect ten on the babe scale, too.” Marci, former drummer for The Tribe, shook her head.

“God, they look so perfect together. So happy…like, I don’t know…soulmates or something.” Donna added.

“Well, Janna says that’s what they are. Says they’ve had hundreds of other lives together…and that they recognized each other again immediately.”

Marci laughed. “She’s still into the metaphysical shit, I see!”

“Oh, yeah, big time. I don’t know, though, the stuff she’s told us has made a lot of sense…so I can’t knock it.” Lisa nodded, agreeing with her wife.

“Jesus, look at them. I wish I’d meet my soulmate…any fuckin’ day now would be fine with me.” Marci nodded towards Ryan and Janna, who were sharing a quiet kiss, and at the moment were existing in their own private little universe.

“Hey, does Janna know that Joanie’s coming?”

“No, it’s supposed to be a surprise.” Donna looked toward the door. “She’s due any minute…coming in on a private jet. No, she told me that when Janna called and invited her, she told her she’d be stuck in Seattle, working on an album.” She shook her head wistfully. “Now there was another cute couple. Janna certainly goes for the dark ones, doesn’t she?”

“No kidding. Yeah, I was really surprised when they broke up. They were crazy about each other.”

“Too different, I guess. Anyway, Joanie’s happy now too…got a real cute Janna clone.”

“Marci! That’s not fair.”

“Hey…I call it as I see it, Don.” Marci took another healthy gulp of her beer.

A few minutes later, the front door opened again, admitting bright light into the cool, dark room. Ryan glanced up to see who had entered and was struck by the vision of a charismatic woman dressed all in leather. She had short, spiky black hair and big brown eyes, and though she was short, she exuded a sense of power and magnetism. Ryan nudged Janna gently. “Sweetheart, I think this is another friend of yours.”

Janna set her beer down and looked up to see her ex-girlfriend. An immediate smile lit her face. “Oh, baby, it’s Joan. Come meet her.”

“It’s okay babe…go greet her alone if you’d like.” Ryan magnanimously offered.

“Ryan, my dear wife, get your butt over there with me. Now.” She pulled Ryan off the bar stool and marched them hand in hand to where her old friend still stood.

A deep, gravely voice greeted them as they approached. “Hey, Janna.”

Janna threw her arms around her ex and exclaimed, “Joanie! You said you couldn’t make it!” She pulled back and looked at her friend.

“Ah, I got out of it. I couldn’t pass this up.” Her pretty face was brightened by a smile.

“So you flew in…from where? Seattle, New York?”

“Seattle. Not that far, babe.” She looked at Janna. “God, you look good, Janna. You’re glowing.”

“Thanks, Joanie. Here is the reason. Meet Ryan, my wife.” She beamed as she wrapped an arm around Ryan’s shoulders.

“Joan, it’s a pleasure.” Ryan extended her hand to the rocker with a warm, friendly smile.

“Same here, Ryan. I just had to come see who had made my old friend so happy. I’ve heard some great things about you.”

“Thanks Joan, but it’s she who has made me happy.” Ryan wrapped an arm around Janna’s waist and Janna kissed her cheek.
“Come on, you two, let’s sit and visit.” Janna led her old and new loves toward a private table.

“I’ll get drinks…Joan, what’ll you have?”

“Carbonated water, thanks.”

“Baby, Foster’s?”

“Absolutely, love.” As Ryan headed to the bar, Janna and Joan sat and commenced a long overdue visit.

A few hours later, the party was still in full swing and showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down when an impromptu jam session took place on the stage. Most of the musicians present had traveled with instruments, knowing from experience that incredible jam sessions could erupt at any given time whenever a group of them got together.

As Janna, Joan, and about ten other friends took the stage and began jamming together melodically, Ryan sat with John, Sara, Ray, Jose, Dougie, and Jay Jay and proudly watched her beautiful, ecstatically happy mate play with her friends. They meshed impressively, playing rock and punk classics, as well as a few of Joanie’s hits. They ended with the dark rocker’s number one hit from 1982, Janna and Joan pounding out the lead power chords and singing in unison, putting on an incredible show and entertaining everyone present.

As the feedback faded after that particularly impressive number, Janna turned and faced her band mates. They all nodded and a few changed the tuning on their instruments, nodding when they were ready. Marci hit her drumsticks together and shouted, “On four…one, two, three, four!” and the large group launched into a somewhat louder, slightly faster rendition of Ryan and Janna’s mutual favorite, “Take it Easy”.

Ryan grinned widely, matching Janna’s grin as she eyed her mate, but it faded into surprise when Janna took the mike and said, “Okay, everyone, we have a special vocalist for this song, but I think she needs some encouragement. Ryan, love, come on up here!”

Ryan turned white as a sheet as she sat stock still, wide-eyed. She slowly shook her head, mouthing, “No!” but Janna continued to encourage her, smiling. She turned to the unfair advantage of using their bond and sent reassurance and love to her mate, as well as putting on big, sparkling, imploring green eyes.

As their friends yelled their encouragement and her table mates pushed her out of her chair, Ryan mumbled, “I’m gonna kill her.” However, she took the stage and was pulled into a hug by her wife, who also kissed her deeply, causing a rousing ovation.

Still embracing Ryan, Janna whispered, “I love you, baby…come on…you can do this. You have the best voice here…even among all these musicians.” She kissed a beet-red Ryan again. “You’ll love it, I promise.” Her sincere look convinced Ryan, who grinned and nodded.

Janna handed her the microphone, turned to her friends, and called, “From the top…on four.”

Ryan and the band then launched into a beautiful rendition of the classic rock song. Her voice was strong, smooth and soulful and had her wife in tears by the time their favorite verse rolled around. Ryan faced Janna and they sang it to each other, with both voices catching briefly from emotion. The makeshift band jammed on, drawing the song out for many minutes, with Ryan following along on vocals as if she had been doing so for years.

When the last chord died out, the crowd erupted into a standing ovation and Janna pulled her wife into a powerful embrace. They stood holding each other, basking in the excitement of making music together, in the love of their friends and in the glow of their own incredible love.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Shove it in!”

“Give it to her Janna!”

“Show her who’s boss, Ryan!”

The newlyweds pointedly ignored their rowdy friends and, just as they had on their wedding day, each gently fed slices of cake to the other.

They leaned toward each other and shared a gentle kiss as well, again sharing the delicious cake, as they so loved to do. When they finally parted, there were few dry eyes in the house.

Ryan reached down and tenderly wiped her wife’s tears of joy from her cheeks and whispered, “I love you Janna…with everything that I am. For all time.”

“Ditto, my love. My destiny.” As their girlfriends, led by Jose and Jay, came forward to distribute the cake, they moved from the table as one and sat at the long head table, between their family members and bridal party.

At another table along one wall sat a large display of photographs from the wedding, which was receiving a lot of attention. As it’s centerpiece sat a large, framed photo collage that Janna had made, which garnered appreciative accolades from everyone who saw it.

As they sat at a table near the head one, Joan remarked to Donna, “You know, Don, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a couple more obviously in love than they are.”

Donna gazed at her seriously. “Not even you and Janna, J?”

Joan looked up to where her old love sat with her wife. “No, not even us. Our love wasn’t like that. I wanted it to be, Don, I really did. But it wasn’t.” As she gazed at the head table, the newlyweds shared a sweet kiss, and then bites of food from their plates. “She’s a fuckin’ awesome lady, and I’m glad to see her so happy.”

“Yeah, me too. I’ve missed her, but now I see what drew her here.” She shook her head and gazed back at Joan. “It sounds crazy, but I think she knew, on some level. Something told her that her soulmate was here.”

“It doesn’t sound crazy at all, Don. I’m convinced that’s how everything works.”

“Listen to you, tough rock chick, sounding all spiritual!”

“I am spiritual Donna, and you fuckin’ well know it! Hey, the bonus track on the CD I’m cutting now? It’s me chanting, ‘Om’.” At Donna’s wide-eyed gaze, she added, “No shit! I’ll send you an advance copy…or ask Kat, she’s doing background vocals with me.”

“Way cool, Joanie!” The two friends continued their visit as the party went on around them.

“She’s beautiful, Janna.” Ryan nodded toward her ex.

“Yeah, on the inside, too.” Janna looked deeply into her wife’s eyes. “But she has absolutely nothing on you, Ryan. I hope you fully realize that.”

Ryan leaned forward and gently captured Janna’s lips, capturing her eyes with a pointed gaze as well, as she pulled back. “I do, my love. Completely.”

“Good.” Sparkling eyes sent a message of desire. “This party can end any old time now, love. I’m dying to get you home.”

Ryan picked up Janna’s hand and kissed it. “I want that too, baby. But can we take a short ride first?”

“Ryan, I will go anywhere with you at any time…especially on your bike.”

“Our bike, Janna.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna held tightly to her mate’s waist as she drove the large motorcycle down the curving highway. She found that the rumbling of the machine below her created pleasant sensations within her body, but at the moment they held nothing over the sensations that were coursing through the bond that she shared with her soulmate.

Through their very special bond, she was able to share Ryan’s exuberant joy at being on the bike. Suddenly, she felt something else, which was even stronger than the exuberance. Ryan had just sent her a burst of love that nearly took her breath away. She answered with a burst of her own as she tightened her grip around Ryan’s waist and lay her helmeted head against her mate’s strong back. Jesus, it gets stronger every day. It doesn’t seem possible, but it does. She was overwhelmed by tears as they drove into the sunset. I wonder where she’s taking me? Besides the paradise that represents the rest of my life.

They were traveling west along the twisting two-lane highway that paralleled the rivers of the delta region. Twenty minutes outside of town, they found themselves amongst fertile peat fields of asparagus, the ferny tops of which blew gently in the slight wind. Ryan slowed the bike and turned north onto a gravel road. After just a short distance she pulled up under a copse of oak trees which sat along the bank of the river.

“We’re here, baby.” Ryan’s voice was muffled behind her own full-face helmet. She allowed her smaller mate to dismount first and as Janna stood removing her helmet, Ryan threw her left leg over the bike and stood next to her. She set their helmets on the bike seats and pulled Janna close.

“My Dad used to bring us fishing out here. I would come mainly for the view and for the company.” She led Janna to a comfortable spot against one of the tree’s trunks and sat them down. “While they fished, I would birdwatch and wait for the sun to set. I loved watching it sink below Diablo.”

As she gazed at the setting sun, with her wife cradled against her, she continued, “My Dad and I had some of our closest talks out here.” She turned her gaze to her wife’s lovely features, which reflected the orange sunset. “I just wanted to show it to you, Janna. And watch the sun set. Do you mind?”

The look that Janna gave Ryan just before kissing her deeply communicated just how much she didn’t mind, and in fact just how much she loved the gesture. As the sun began to sink below the low mountain range to the west, the lovers held each other tightly and shared their love through kisses and gentle touches. They sat under the majestic oaks until the sun had long past set, enjoying the tranquility of the evening.

Grandfather Sun was pleased to see his two new friends paying him homage, and he put on a spectacularly brilliant show as he journeyed below their horizon.

Epilogue
Six years later – September, 2000

The pleasing scent of lavender, emitted by an aromatherapy diffuser, filled the air of the bright, pleasant room, while a soft, old Irish song sung by Loreena McKennitt played softly in the background, setting the mood for the tranquil scene. Ryan sat blissfully stretched out on the large sofa in the family room, cradling Janna against her as she nursed their son.

“When are they gonna be here, Momma?” The four-year old girl hung on the back of the sofa behind her mothers, observing as her two-month old brother fed.

“Soon, sweetheart. What are you and John John going to do today?” Ryan looked up from watching her tiny son eat voraciously at her wife’s breast and gazed lovingly at her daughter beside her.

“We’re gonna play cops and robbers, Momma!” Ryan grinned proudly and reached up to ruffle her daughter’s short, black hair.

“Of course! What else?” Janna laughed softly, so as not to disturb their son. “Halley, please take turns today. John John doesn’t like to be the bad guy all the time.”

“Okay, Mommy…but I make the best police lady.”

“Oh, you do?”
“Yep!” Just then, the doorbell rang and the tot jumped from her perch and ran to the front door.

Ryan called after her, “Halley Rebecca! Don’t forget what you’re supposed to do.”

A petulant little face reappeared in the doorway and proclaimed, “I know, Momma. Look through the window, ask who it is, and only open the door if it’s Gramma or Grampa or Auntie or Uncle.” She turned and ran to let their guests in.

Janna shook her head as she smiled. “I wanted a miniature Ryan and I definitely got one.”

“Oh…she only looks like me, love. She takes after you in every other way.” Ryan squeezed her wife and nuzzled her neck, before resting her chin on Janna’s shoulder to watch their son finish his meal.

“I do not think so, baby. She is you through and through.”

“Janna, come on…that hand on the hip is totally you.”

A moment later, Halley ran back into the room, pulling a slightly shorter, though nearly one year older, boy by the hand. “Mommy, Momma, John John and Kelley are here. Oh, and Auntie Sara.”

“Yes, and Auntie Sara.” Sara entered the room, carrying a two-year old girl. “Hey, guys. Oh, is he eating again?”

“Yes…and ‘again’ is the operative word. It has only been two hours since his last feeding. I’m trying to fill him up for you, Sara.” Janna smiled down at her infant son as she wiped some milky drool from the corner of his mouth. Ryan grabbed a cotton diaper from where it rested on the back of the sofa and handed it to her wife, who wiped her fingers and handed it back.

Ryan threw the diaper over her left shoulder and grinned at Sara. “He should sleep for you too, after this feast.”

“Well, I’ve heard that one before. Out of my own mouth, as a matter of fact.” She grinned at her two favorite babysitters, who grinned back at her.

Little Joshua’s suckling slowed and his mouth released it’s tenacious grasp on Janna’s breast as he nodded off. “It looks like he’s done. Honey, will you burp him while I show Sara where his bottles are?”

“Sure, love. Hand him over.” Janna gingerly sat up and turned, gently handing the baby to her wife, who immediately raised him to her left shoulder and began patting his back lightly. Janna fastened the closure on her nursing bra and buttoned her shirt, then stood and kissed her small son’s fuzzy blonde head and then her wife’s forehead before leading Sara to the kitchen.

Janna led her friend down a hallway filled with photos of her wife and children and into the bright kitchen. She opened the refrigerator door and indicated the top shelf. “There are three bottles here. If he needs more than that, page me!”

“With your son, it’s a distinct possibility, Janna! He must get his appetite from you.”

Raised eyebrows and a grin greeted the statement, but the three children running into the room prevented her from coming up with a retort.

“Halley, sweetie, no running in the kitchen, remember?”

“Sorry, Mommy, I forgot. The bad guy needs some water.”

“Does the bad guy have a name?” Janna pulled a small plastic cup from the cupboard and filled it from the spigot on the spring water bottle which sat on the counter.

“Mommy! Yes, it’s John.” The little raven-haired tyke giggled, as her brilliant blue eyes sparkled mischievously.

“Okay. John John, here’s your water, honey.”

“Thanks Auntie Janna.”

“Your welcome, John.” Janna grinned at Sara. “Sara, Halley has eaten too, but you know where the snacks are. No sugar after, oh, right about now, is usually preferable…if you want any chance of a peaceful evening.”

“Gotcha, Janna. What time is your movie?”

Ryan entered the kitchen, holding her infant. “7:15, so we’d better get going, babe, if we want to take our time with dinner.”

“Right, hon. I just need to throw on a shirt that doesn’t baby spit on it, and I’ll be ready.”

“Good luck finding one, sweetheart!” Ryan winked at Sara, who smothered a giggle. Ryan turned a sincere look on her friend. “Thanks so much, Sara. This means a lot to us. We know you have your hands full here.”

“Ryan, I’m happy to help. You two haven’t had a night out since he was born. It’s time. Go…enjoy yourself. And don’t worry about me. I plan to put them all down at 8:00 and watch a movie myself.”

“I hope it works out for you, Sara, I really do!” Ryan smirked, knowing full well that it wasn’t at all likely that her children would cooperate with their “aunt”.

“Oh ye of little faith!” Sara reached for the sleeping infant. “You need to change your shirt too, Ryan. Here, I’ll put him down.”

“Shit…oops, I mean, shoot.” Ryan looked down at her shirt and then glanced up to make sure her wife wasn’t within hearing range and grinned at Sara before exiting the room.

Janna passed her on the stairs. “I heard that, Ryan.”

“Jesus Christ, baby, how could you possibly have? You were upstairs.”

“I have many skills.”

Ryan turned and grabbed her wife, pulling her close. “You certainly do, love. Will you show me some later?”

Janna closed her eyes as her mate softly kissed her throat. “Oh, God, I hope so, love. Let’s aim for that, huh?” She wrapped her arms around Ryan’s neck. “I’m all healed, and I’m needing you badly.”

“Mm, hmm. I can’t wait, baby. I love you, Janna.” Her lips sought out her wife’s and they stood kissing gently on the stairs, until youthful giggles let them know they were being covertly observed. “Halley Rebecca Norden-Zamora…what did I tell you about spying?”

“But I’m a deteckive, Momma. Just like you.”

Ryan’s chin dropped to her chest and Janna whispered, “We need to have that talk with her again, I see.”

“Looks like it. Halley, take your friends into the playroom, please, so Mommy and I can get ready to go.”

“Okay, Momma.” She replied sweetly, but then turned to her little cohort and whispered, “We can spy on your mommy now…she’s in the playroom.”

Janna took her tired, exasperated wife’s arm and dragged her up the stairs to their bedroom. She closed the door, locked it, and wrapped herself into her tough cop’s embrace.

“Oh, baby, that feels good. Why don’t we just stay here?” Ryan breathed deeply of Janna’s scent, which these days, in addition to her summer breeze smell, also carried a hint of baby cornstarch and vomit.

“Nice idea, sweetheart, but they’d find us within minutes. Come on, we’ve been wanting to see this movie and now’s our chance.” She kissed her wife’s chin. “We’ll have a nice dinner.” She kissed her left cheek. “We’ll see a good movie.” She kissed her right cheek. “We’ll get coffee.” She kissed her wife’s lips, and lingered. “Then we’ll come home and make love until the baby wakes up at 3:00.”

“God, Janna, that sounds perfect. Let’s go!” Ryan stripped off her soiled shirt and took the clean one Janna handed her. As she pulled it over her head, she added, “You forgot something: at the movie, we’ll make out.”

Janna grinned, and her eyes regained a sparkle as she met Ryan’s sparkling eyes. “Yes, we will, won’t we?”

Janna pulled her wife close and kissed her deeply before saying, “Happy anniversary, my love.”

“Happy anniversary, my destiny. I love you more every day, Janna. Let’s have forty-six more of these, shall we?”

“Absolutely, my love.”

And they did, more or less.
~~~The End~~~

Continued in part 2

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