I Found My Heart in
By SX Meagher
“I don’t think Ryan considers me a good influence.” Mia laughed demonically while jumping down the stone steps of the house.
“She can tease you all she wants, but it’s the pot calling the kettle black. She was every bit as wild as you were. Just in different ways.”
“How was she wild? She seems so … sedate in everything except sports. And sex … but that’s just your opinion. I don’t have any independent verification.”
Jamie patted her friend’s arm. “Thanks for the reassurance.”
Mia turned and walked backwards to face Jamie. “Come on … what’ve you got on her?”
“I don’t have anything on her.” Jamie scowled briefly but couldn’t maintain it.
“You can’t be in a long-term relationship unless you have things to use against each other, James. You’ve gotta have something to pull out and hit ’em with when they get something on you.”
Smirking, Jamie said, “So that’s how it goes? I didn’t realize that was the key to happiness.”
“Yeah, yeah. If she says you shouldn’t drink too much you hit her with “well, I’m not the one who had to spend the night at the Hillsborough … or wherever … police station.”
“Sounds like the voice of personal experience. I remember when you got locked up. I bet your mom had to handcuff your dad to stop him from bailing you out.”
“They don’t have handcuffs,” Mia tossed off. “I’ve searched every inch of that house. My mom has a vibrator, though!”
Jamie stuck her fingers in her ears. “Nah, nah, nah, I can’t hear you!”
“You’ve never poked around your parents’ house?”
“No! I don’t wanna know what goes on there. Actually, I don’t think much was going on in the bedroom. My dad was too busy poking young associates.”
Mia moved to walk beside her friend. She was quiet for a moment, then asked, “Does it bother you to talk about that?”
A light went on and Jamie stared at her. “Did you know? Before I did?”
“Uhm … kinda.”
Pushing her shoulder roughly, Jamie demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“No way! I heard my parents arguing a couple of times and my mom said she’d be damned if my dad was gonna uhm … be like Jim Evans. But knowing my mom she could’ve been talking out her ass.”
Jamie slapped her forehead and let her fingers slowly trail down her face. “The whole friggin’ town must have known. My mom must have been a laughingstock.”
“Nah. All the men cheated. Everybody had a mistress. Your dad was just … a little more obvious than most of the guys. He didn’t try very hard to hide it. At least that’s what my mom said.”
“Great. Just great.”
“He had a powerful job and a lot of young women working for him. Not many men resist when you dangle toys right in front of ’em.”
“But you think your dad did.”
“I’m not sure he was faithful. But if he wasn’t … he was damned careful about it. My mom would have neutered him. No doubt in my mind. And she wouldn’t have let ’em reattach it either. She would have put it down the garbage disposal. She’s vicious!”
“My mom should have threatened my dad early on. She might have had a fighting chance.”
Slipping an arm around Jamie’s waist, Mia hugged her and kissed her cheek. “You look sad. What’s going on?”
“Eh … just some stuff with my mom … and Ryan.” She looked at Mia and said, “Does Jordan ever give you a hard time about stuff you did before you met?”
“No! Hell, no! She acts like I was born the day before we met. No way I’d put up with that!”
“Really? You seem so … pliant around her. I’d think you’d let her do whatever she wanted.”
“Nope. She must just have a sixth sense, ’cause she’s never asked many questions about my past. When I talk about things I did she just smiles at me. No questions … no comments.”
“Huh. I wish I could keep my mouth closed some times.”
“You’re not like Jordy. She keeps her thoughts to herself most of the time.”
“No, I’m not like that, but sometimes it’d be better for us if I did.”
“You said something about Ryan doing things you thought were morally wrong. Is that what you’re talking about?”
Nodding, Jamie pursed her lips. Then she turned and said, “She’s done some things that I think are wrong. Wrong in any situation. And I thought she agreed with me. But now … now she’s kinda backpedaling and it worries me.”
Half-closing one eye, Mia twitched her head towards the bar. “Let me get a drink. Then I can try to figure out what in the hell you’re talking about.”
They entered the nearly-empty bar and flinched a little from the overly loud music. The bartender than Ryan always flirted with was there and she gave both women a long, appreciative look. Jamie led the way and they sat at the bar. “Hi,” she said. “Can you make a good appletini?”
“I can make anything you want, honey,” the bartender said, grinning wolfishly.
“Two appletinis then.”
“You girls old enough to drink?”
“Sure are,” Jamie said. “I was here on my 21st birthday with my partner. You know her. Ryan O’Flaherty.”
“Shit! You’re Ryan’s girl? Still?”
Smiling was difficult, but Jamie managed. “Yes. Still.”
“Oh, shit, I didn’t mean that like it sounded!”
“Yes you did,” Jamie said wearily. “I know her history.”
“Guess I’d better keep my mouth shut and start making some drinks, huh?”
“It’s fine. No problem. I knew what I was getting when I signed on.”
The bartender started to turn when Jamie said, “Can you lower the volume until it gets more crowded?”
“Sure. I just keep it loud so it doesn’t seem so lonely in here.”
She walked over and turned down the volume, then started to make their drinks.
“Ooo … is that what you were talking about?” Mia asked. “About Ryan having a lot of … partners?”
“Ryan didn’t have partners,” Jamie said flatly. “She had sex.”
“But is that what bothers you?”
“No. Not really. Not usually.” Jamie put her good arm on the bar and lay her head on it. “None of this usually bothers me. But when my parents do things that bother me I tend to start spouting off about their behavior and it always bleeds over into Ryan’s.”
Their drinks were delivered and Jamie put a $20 down on the bar. “I’ll buy the first round.”
Mia touched the rim of her glass with Jamie’s. “To good friends.”
Smiling, Jamie leaned over and kissed her friend, briefly brushing her lips across Mia’s. “To best friends.”
“Even better.” Mia took a sip. “Not bad.”
Jamie drank a bit and said, “It’s a mix. I had one not long ago that was made with apple schnapps and fresh lime juice. It wasn’t this weird green color and it wasn’t as sweet.”
“I like ’em to taste like candy,” Mia said, grinning. “Now tell me more about things bleeding onto Ryan.”
Contemplatively taking another drink, Jamie said, “I promised her that I’d ignore her past. But I’m not doing a good job of it. Every time I do it I wish I could bite my tongue. But … you know how I get.”
“You get pissed and you spout off.” Mia pinched Jamie’s cheek playfully.
“Wish I could argue, but that’s about it. I did it the other night and I know I really hurt her.”
“Does she hold a grudge?”
“Mmm … not one that I can see. But I think she stores her hurt feelings up. She rarely blows up and gets things off her chest. She really hates to fight.”
“So what’s your question? How to forget about her past or how to keep your mouth shut?”
“I guess it’s gonna have to be the mouth shut option. ’Cause I don’t think I can forget her past.”
“Damn, did she kill someone? What’s so bad that you can’t let go of?”
Jamie shook her head. “No, nothing like that. She just … had sex with people she shouldn’t have.”
“Kids?” Mia’s eyebrows were raised to their full height.
“No! Damn it, I shouldn’t have started this whole conversation. Now you think she’s a pedophile!”
“What could be so bad?” Mia persisted. “Did she share needles?”
Frustrated, Jamie said, “She had sex with people who were in committed relationships with other people.”
Grunting, Mia said, “No she didn’t.”
“Yes she did! She told me so!”
“I mean that the people weren’t committed. If they were they wouldn’t have had sex with Ryan.”
Jamie gulped her drink and signaled for another round. “Now you sound like her.”
“That’s ’cause she’s right. I wouldn’t go after a guy … or a girl who I knew was hooked up. But if he … or she came after me.” She shrugged. “It’s not my job to protect that relationship. It must suck or the person wouldn’t be cheating.”
“That’s what she said the other night. But a few months ago she said she thought it was wrong and she wished she’d never done it.”
Mia waved her off. “She was on good behavior. You’d only been together a short time, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“You regret everything when you’re first in love. You wish you were a virgin … you wish you’d never had a venereal disease … all that stuff.”
“You’ve had V.D?”
“I didn’t say that,” Mia sniffed. “But I’ve had sex with a guy who had herpes. He really regretted that. I’d barely let him do anything to me. And I’d only give him a hand job when he was wearing a condom.”
“Charming,” Jamie said, wrinkling her nose. “So am I supposed to assume everything Ryan told me when we were first together was a lie?”
“No, of course not. Only the “I wish I’d never known I had a clitoris until I looked in your eyes” stuff. That’s all a lie. You don’t know it’s a lie when you say it, but you come to your senses over time.”
“I haven’t,” Jamie grumbled. “I wish I’d never met Jack. I wish Ryan was the first person I’d ever kissed.”
“That’s ’cause you had a shitty sex life before you met her. Ryan didn’t.”
“Don’t remind me. I’m sure other women rocked her world in ways I never will.”
“Did she wanna marry them?” Mia asked dryly. She whipped out $10 and handed it to the bartender when their second round was delivered.
“It’s $14,” the woman said.
Jamie took her change and handed it to the bartender. “Thanks,” she added.
“I’ve got more money,” Mia said.
“I know. But mine was out. And no, Ryan didn’t want to marry anyone before me. Besides Sara of course. I think she’d grab her in a minute if I wasn’t around.”
“She is cute. And she looks kinda slyly sexy. She’s tasty looking.”
“Thanks. You’re building up my self-esteem every second.”
“James! Will you knock it off! If Ryan wanted Sara she could have had her. Yes, she would have broken your heart—but if she really felt she loved her more I believe she would have done it. I don’t think she’s the kinda girl to settle for second best.”
“No, she’s not. And she swears she has no desire to be with Sara. I just know that she would have tried to make it work if we hadn’t been involved.”
“So what? I’d try to make it work with Ryan Phillippe or Ashton Kutcher if I could. But I’m not gonna.”
Jamie blinked, staring at her friend.
“What? Ryan Phillippe was really hot in “I Know What You Did Last Summer.””
“Aren’t there any women on your “to do” list?”
“Sure. I could go on all day. But I’m with a girl now, so if I was gonna branch out I’d go with a guy. Mix it up. You know.”
“No, I don’t know. Believe me. I don’t know.”
“Don’t be such a tight-ass, James. Ryan loves you. It doesn’t matter if she was a virgin or a prostitute. What matters is how she treats you now. What don’t you get about that? Jesus, it’s hard enough to find someone you love. You wanna find someone who treats you like a princess and was kept in a locked room until you met her.”
“I’m not that bad,” Jamie said irritably.
“I think you are. I really do. And if you keep hurting Ryan’s feelings she might start wishing she’d picked someone a little less …” She shut her mouth, her eyes shifting around the bar.
“What? Someone less what?”
Rolling her eyes, Mia said the word she knew would upset her friend. “Judgmental. You can really get on your high horse about things. It’s not good to feel like you’re with someone who thinks she’s morally superior.”
Jamie’s voice rose dramatically. “I don’t think that!”
“What’s it called when you think your partner’s done morally wrong things that you’d never do? Easy-going? Open-minded? Don’t think so, babe. All I’m saying is that you’d better chill.”
Staring at the mirror behind the bar, Jamie took a drink. She stuck her tongue out at herself and finished her drink, signaling the bartender for another.
Ryan’s prediction did not come true. Jamie and Mia stumbled into the house just after 1:00, missing her guess by over an hour. Ryan had been sound asleep, but she woke as soon as Jamie’s key missed the lock several times. Reminding herself not to lecture her partner, she turned on the bedside lamp and smiled when the door opened. “Missed you,” she said.
“I stayed out too late,” Jamie said, slurring her words just a touch. “Drank too much too.”
Ryan got up and helped her lover undress. “Did you have fun?” she asked, kissing her neck.
“Yeah. Drank too much though.”
Patting her butt, Ryan sent her to the bath. “Brush your teeth and come cuddle.”
“Okay,” Jamie said, yawning. “I shouldn’t have drunk so much.”
“I’ll be waiting for you. Hurry up.” Jamie went into the bathroom and closed the door. Getting back into bed, Ryan mused, I miss Mia, but if she were back Jamie might be in detox by now.
“Hi, Conor,” Catherine said when she reached him on Wednesday morning. “Are we still on for Friday?”
“My dance card is ready to be filled, Catherine. I’m looking forward to it.”
“I think you’ll like this crowd a little better than the last group. It’s a few decades younger than the symphony mavens.”
“What’s this for again?” he asked, not really caring, but wanting to be prepared.
“This is for a new scholarship fund at Stanford law,” she explained. “Jim usually handles these things, but I think it’s important to continue my separate support.”
“I’ll spend a few minutes with Brendan,” Conor said, “and ask for some legal terms I can drop.”
“You don’t need to do a thing,” she chided him. “After sailing through that opera benefit, you can face any crowd.”
“Well, that has been the toughest so far,” he agreed with a chuckle. “But it was also my debut, so to speak. I think I’ve gotten better with each one, don’t you?”
“I do indeed,” she said, smiling at his well-deserved pride.
“So, I’ll come down as soon as I can get away from work, okay?”
“That’s fine,” she agreed. “By any chance are you going to be home later today?”
“Yeah, I’ll be home by 5:00 or so. Why?”
“I’d like to drop off a little something for you.” Before he could ask what the gift was, she added, “See you later.”
Jamie was reclining on a swath of grass, using the slight incline of the hill as a backrest, reading one of her textbooks. Her cell phone rang and she rolled onto her side to retrieve it from her pocket. “Hi, Dad,” she said when she’d checked the caller ID.
“Hi, honey. I’m in town. How about dinner tonight?”
“Tonight?” She thought for a moment. “Yeah, I can make it. Ryan’s got a double-header in
“But I’ll see her this weekend, right?”
Pleased, Jamie said, “You sound like you’re looking forward to seeing her.”
“I am.” He was quiet for a second. “Does that surprise you?”
“Oh … I guess not. I’ve learned that you’re as full of surprises as she is. The only consistent person in our family is Poppa.”
“He sure is. Sometimes annoyingly so.”
“I’m teasing … mostly. You know how parents are. No matter how perfect they are, they can still get under your skin.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jamie said drolly.
“Sarcasm is best used sparingly, honey. What time is good for you?”
“Whatever you want, Dad. You’re the one on Eastern time.”
“Let’s eat early then. How about 6:00?”
“Great. Should I make reservations?”
“No. Someone in my office can do it.”
“Okay. Shall I meet you?”
“No. I’ve got the Range Rover. I’ll pick you up around 5:45.”
“Great. And Dad, I won’t be sarcastic tonight. I was just making a joke.”
“Not a problem. I was, too. See you tonight, honey.”
Conor was fresh from the shower when Catherine arrived. She carried so many bags that he had to back away from the door to allow her to squeeze through. “What in the heck?” He scratched at the back of his head, looking at her with a puzzled smile.
“Okay, I got carried away. I don’t know why, but I like to shop for men’s clothes more than I like to shop for my own. You don’t mind indulging me a little, do you?”
He was unable to say no to those guileless brown eyes, and found himself shaking his head. “Uhm … let me help you with this stuff.” He set things on the dining room table and began to unwrap his bounty. Eventually, two pairs of shoes—one black and one brown, a black, chalk-striped suit and one of a warm brown light-weight wool, three shirts and four ties were laid out neatly against the worn wood. “My Lord, Catherine! This is … this is … fantastic!”
“Do you like it all? I know that you’re perfectly capable of picking out your own clothes, but I also know you don’t have much free time and I wanted you to have a few things to choose from for the event on Friday.”
“It’s all great,” he said. “You have fantastic taste, Catherine, and you sure don’t skimp on quality. I just wish you hadn’t gone to so much expense. God, this must have cost—”
“Please,” she said, shaking her head, “you know that doesn’t matter. I want you to feel comfortable going to these events with me, Conor, and having a selection of clothing to choose from will help.”
“I do feel comfortable, Catherine. I really do. But you’re right. The same people were at both events we’ve been to, and I’ve just got two suits … plus a tux,” he added, grinning. “This is … well, this is just great. Thanks.” He beamed a warm grin at her, which she returned in kind.
“You’re easier than your sister,” she said, laughing, but when the words hit her own ear she blushed deeply. “I am so sorry. That did not come out like I meant it.”
“No problem,” he smiled, adding a wink. “Anyway, since Jamie’s got her locked up, it’s true.”
She patted his arm, still laughing softly. “I’ll let you go before I say anything even more embarrassing.”
Gazing at her, he impulsively asked, “What are you doing the rest of the evening?”
“Nothing, to be honest. I thought I’d go home and read.”
His eyes widened. “Read? What kinda fun is that? Let’s at least go get a little dinner together. What do you say?”
“I suppose I do have to eat.” She smiled at how easily he could talk her into things. “Where would you like to go?”
“I’ve seen how the upper crust lives. Wanna slum a little?”
“Conor, just having you enter would class up the slummiest place.”
He dressed up a little, and since Catherine had dressed down, they were just about evenly attired. He brushed some lint from his navy blue Dockers, then checked to see that his multi-color stripe, button-down shirt was tucked in properly. He ran a brush across his black loafers, then added a braided black leather belt. Satisfied with his look, he cast a glance back to his dresser, trying to decide if he should add some cologne. He rolled his eyes at his own indecision, then shook his head and went back into the living room, where Catherine was gazing raptly at the photographs that lined the bookcases.
“Your mother looks so very much like Moira,” she said softly, as she heard his tread.
“She does.” He snuck a peek over her shoulder. “That’s just how I remember her.” The woman in the photo was sitting in a rocking chair, holding a very tiny baby that Catherine assumed was Ryan. She was obviously cooing to her or perhaps singing, looking very peaceful and calm. The composition brought a smile to Catherine’s face, because of the demonically grinning child that had to be Conor, standing on the rungs of the rocker and holding onto the top rail of the chair, trying to give his mother and sister a rocking they would remember. “She was absolutely unflappable. And we could have flapped nearly any sane woman. Not her though,” he added, fondly gazing at her image.
“Sounds a bit like Ryan,” Catherine smiled at him as she placed the photo back on the shelf.
“Yeah, I guess it does,” he considered. “I’ve never thought of the similarities—probably because they look so different physically. Ryan’s an O’Flaherty, through and through.”
“That’s not a bad thing to be.”
Jamie dressed carefully, assuming that her father would be wearing at least a sports coat. She also acknowledged that her father’s higher profile attracted attention that would fall upon her, too. He was right on time, and she checked her lipstick before opening the door. “Hi!”
His eyes sought out her left arm, and he felt up and down her splint, shaking his head. “Terrible,” he said. “Just terrible.”
“Oh, it’s not so bad.” She reached out and hugged him with her good arm, holding on for almost a minute.
“It’s so good to see you,” he murmured. “I’ve missed you.”
Letting go, Jamie stood back and gave her father a long look. “I miss you too, Daddy. You look great, by the way.”
“So do you. You look more like your mother all the time.”
“I do? Since when? I’m like a female Jim Evans—minus the height.” She picked up her purse and coat and closed the door behind her.
He guided her by the elbow, leading her to the car in the driveway. “I have a driver tonight. Do you mind?”
“No … I guess not. Did you let your license lapse?”
“I still have a license. Karl and I were going over a few things when I had to leave, so we continued our meeting on the drive.”
“Is Karl going to join us for dinner?”
Jim opened the back door of the car and kept his hand on Jamie’s arm to make sure she didn’t slip. “You’re not going to have dinner with us, are you, Karl?”
“No, sir. I’m going to my mother’s house for dinner. No matter what you order, I bet I’ll have a better meal.”
“Hi,” Jamie said, extending her hand between the seats. “I’m Jamie.”
“Hi, Jamie. Karl Thomas.”
“Where does your mother live?”
“It’s a deal.” She sat back and asked, “Where are we going, Dad?”
“A new place Karl told me about. What’s the name, Karl?”
“Bistro Jean? Bistro Jeanne? Something like that.”
“Oh, that’s the new place that’s so popular,” Jamie said. “I’ve been wanting to go there, but it’s almost impossible to get Ryan to go out to dinner.”
Jim’s eyes twinkled. “Are you sure you’re destined to be together? You’d eat out every night.”
“Opposites attract. And I’m not sure destiny had anything to do with it; I just think I got lucky.”
“All that matters is that you’re happy together.”
Jamie looked at her father while he made a comment to Karl. He took her by surprise nearly every time they spoke. And hearing him express his wishes solely for her happiness was the best kind of surprise.
Catherine sighed, pushing her plate far enough away so that she wasn’t tempted again. “If I eat another bite I’ll surely explode!”
“You certainly seemed to enjoy it,” Conor chuckled, surprised and pleased by the appetite she’d displayed. She’d only had a tamale and some chips and guacamole, but that was near gluttony for Catherine.
“I probably have Mexican food once a year, if that. I don’t know why I have it so infrequently, since I truly love it.”
“I have it around seven times a week,” he laughed. “I’m the only Anglo on my crew, and I’m never in charge of ordering lunch. Luckily, I love Mexican food too.”
“When we were dating, Jim used to take me to a place in
“Why did you stop once you were married?”
“Oh … lots of reasons,” she mused, as she picked up her water glass and drained it. “We had Marta then, and we ate most of our meals at home. She’s Spanish, and even though she could manage to prepare Mexican dishes, they aren’t her specialty.” Looking up and meeting his eyes she said, “Things just changed after we married; I’m not even sure why.”
“It was never great for you, was it?” he asked, seeing the sadness in her eyes.
Shaking her head briskly, she admitted, “No, it never was. We were too young, too immature. We were married at the end of July, and after a short trip to
She looked tired and defeated, and he reached across the table and grasped her hand.
“You deserve another chance, Catherine. I really hope you take it.”
“Someone has to want to take a chance on me, Conor,” she reminded him with a wry smile. “I haven’t had much interest from people on this side of the
“You’re talking crazy again,” he chided gently, giving her small hand a squeeze.
Jim and Jamie were led to a table immediately, gliding past a bar full of hungry-looking patrons. They ordered a cocktail and sat back in the comfy chairs to wait for them to be delivered. “Do you still want to know why I think you look like your mother?” Jim asked.
“Oh. Sure. ’Cause I don’t see it.”
“It’s not your features. Those are more like mine … but prettier, of course.”
“Uh-huh.” She smiled at him, waiting.
“It’s the way you carry yourself. Your … style. As you mature, you remind me more and more of her at your age. She … and you have a real presence. You’re much more mature and sophisticated than other girls your age.”
“Thank you. That’s nice to hear. It’s always nice to be compared favorably to Mom.”
“You have a lot more self-confidence than your mother had at your age.” He looked up and nodded at their server when their drinks were set down. “Sometimes you have too much for my comfort.” The beginnings of his smile were covered by his lifting his drink to his lips.
“It’s too late to turn back now, Dad.”
He shook his head quickly. “I don’t want you to change. Well … that’s not always true. But in my sane moments, I admire your spunk.”
Brows knitting, she asked skeptically, “You do?”
“Only in my sane moments. Those aren’t frequent.”
She chuckled at his words and his self-effacing look. “I don’t think that’s true. Poppa says all parents and kids go through some tough times. I’ve made a lot of changes in the last year or two. I can’t expect you to welcome all of them.”
“There you go with that maturity again.” He grinned at her, his eyes crinkling up just like hers did.
“I have some less-than-sane moments, too. Even though I know you have a lot of adjusting to do, I’m not always patient with you. I expect too much sometimes, and I’m sorry for that, Dad.”
He waved her off. “No need. I’ve done so much I’m ashamed of. I’m dozens of points behind you in the maturity tally.”
Jamie sipped at her drink and tilted her head. “Has Poppa been talking to you?”
“Good thing I’m not on the Intelligence Committee; I’m utterly transparent!”
“Not really. You just seem … reflective. And I know Poppa visited you a few weeks ago. He had a great time, by the way. He went on and on about how impressed he was with you and what you’ve accomplished.”
“I hope he thinks that. But I know I’ve disappointed him a lot through the years. He reminded me of that when we were together.”
“He called you out?”
Puzzled, Jim said, “He didn’t lecture me or anything. You know he’s not like that. But he told me that he didn’t think I’d done a very good job with the women in my life.”
“Glad he didn’t lecture you,” she teased.
Jim shrugged. “It’s not like I had a very good defense: a failed marriage, a tumultuous relationship with my only child, what will probably wind up being a meaningless relationship with Kayla. All in all …”
“Meaningless? Are you and Kayla not getting along?”
Their server returned and took their order, nodding politely when Jim told him they weren’t in a hurry. “I want to make sure Karl gets some pie,” he said. “It sounded good, didn’t it?”
“Kayla?” Jamie reminded him.
He sighed. “I thought we were getting serious, but she doesn’t seem to feel the same way. She thinks she’ll stay in
“Does she … want you to stay with her?”
With a resigned smile, he shook his head. “She didn’t ask. She said she assumed I’d tire of her and move on, so she thought she’d do the same. She plans to find another job—with someone in Congress or a lobbying firm.”
“Hmm … sounds like she’d thought this out from the beginning.”
“I think she has. No, I’m sure she has. She was surprised that I wanted her to move in with me when I returned to
“Wow. Did you really want to make it permanent?”
Jim dipped his head, looking chagrined. “I hadn’t thought it through. But it was stupid of me to think she’d want to stay with me. She’s a young woman who wants a career. Being with me makes her look like a user.”
Nodding, Jamie took another sip of her drink. “It does. That’s what I assumed. But I liked her when I met her. She seems kinda good for you.”
“I think she is, but I’m sure I’m not good for her. I may have already put a blot on her reputation that she can never erase.”
A busboy delivered their salads and after a judicious grinding of fresh pepper, Jamie took a bite. “Delicious. Really well dressed.”
“Mine’s good, too. Karl was right.”
“So, is Kayla ready to move on now?”
“She plans on staying until my term is over. But I assume she’ll start looking for a job during the summer recess.”
“You seem pretty down about it, Dad.”
“Your grandfather thinks I’m getting some return on my bad investments.”
“I set things up this way. I dated young women in my firm and didn’t mind that people found out. I treated them well—made sure they weren’t harmed in terms of promotions and things like that—but I certainly never gave anyone the impression I was serious about having a relationship.” He stared at his salad for a moment. “Except your mother.”
“And you lied to her again and again, didn’t you.” There was no malice in her voice, but the words themselves stung.
“Yes. I did.”
“You know … Ryan and I had a terrible fight a few weeks ago.” His eyebrows popped up, as if she’d pinched him. “Yeah, it’s not that common,” she continued. “But I told her that I was worried about her cheating on me—”
His face started to redden. “Has she done anything—”
“No! Nothing! That’s not the point. Jack didn’t cheat on me and Ryan wouldn’t, but I’m still worried about it. Just knowing that you cheated on Mom has made me doubt Ryan, just enough to put a little kernel of suspicion in my mind. I don’t worry that she’s doing anything now. More that she’ll eventually get tired of me, like you did with Mom.”
“Why are you telling me this? You’ve never given me the slightest hint that you doubted Ryan. And I never tired of your mother. Never.”
Jamie shrugged. “I’m just trying to explain why neither Mom nor Kayla nor any woman who knows your history will be able to trust you. I’m on the periphery and your cheating affects me; I can’t imagine how Mom feels.” She reached across the table and covered his cool hand with her own. “You have made some bad investments, Dad, and you’re gonna have to do some work to convince a woman that you’ve changed—if you have.”
He looked away and took a bite, chewing slowly. “It’s probably useless. You’re right, honey—no decent woman will trust me. I’ll just have to keep dating until women get tired of me or find someone better.”
“Oh, you sound like you’re a big loser. I think you just want what you can’t have. You were perfectly happy going from woman to woman before. It wasn’t until Mom decided to divorce you that you wanted her back.”
“That’s not true,” he said, staring into her eyes. “I’ve always loved your mother, and I never, ever wanted to hurt her. She’s the brightest, funniest, warmest woman I’ve ever known. I was a complete idiot to betray her, but I swear I’ve never cared for any one like I have for your mother.”
“But you did things that would hurt any woman, Dad. Your actions are what counts.”
“I know. Believe me, I know.” He looked down at his salad and casually asked, “Is she seeing anyone?”
“Heh. No chance, Dad. If I did know Mom was dating someone, I wouldn’t tell you. Just like I wouldn’t tell her the things you tell me.”
“Has she asked?”
He looked so hopeful that Jamie felt a stab of pity for him. Trying to sidestep the question she said, “She’s not the type to ask. You know how private she is.”
“True. She also has good manners. She wouldn’t want to put you in an uncomfortable position, like I just did.”
“Who are you?” Jamie laughed at her father’s befuddled expression. “You’re so … introspective!”
He shrugged, looking embarrassed. “It won’t last. Your grandfather’s influence doesn’t tend to stick.”
“How about walking around the neighborhood to digest our dinner?” Conor asked as he and Catherine stepped out into the rather bracing evening. She was wearing warm clothes—a knee-length dark brown leather coat and a matching pair of gloves—to fend off the chill, so she agreed. As they walked along, she slid her hand around his arm, finding that she couldn’t even get it halfway around the muscled structure. The warmth just radiated from his body, and within a block she was as warm as toast.
They walked along
“Yeah. Quite a few. Do you speak Spanish?” he asked, sparing a glance at her intent perusal of the signs.
“Not well. I speak French and Italian, so I can guess at most words, but I’m far from fluent. Jamie is, you know.”
“Yeah, I knew that. Ryan’s actually a little jealous of the languages she speaks, now that she has to learn French.”
“She’s mentioned that,” Catherine smiled. “She says her Gaelic doesn’t help her a bit.”
“In this country, speaking Gaelic is a nice trick to show off at parties,” he grinned. “Not much use for it.”
They had passed the most populated parts of the street, so they crossed the street to return on the other side. As they passed in front of an all-night donut shop, one of the patrons caught sight of Conor. Martin was being waited on, so he couldn’t step outside just then, but as soon as his order was paid for, he went outside to say hello to his son. Ahh, he thought to himself as he saw Conor escorting a stylishly dressed woman down the street. They were arm in arm, and occasionally stopped in front of a store to comment on something. I didn’t know he was dating anyone, he mused as he turned to take his purchase back to the firehouse. I suppose I’m always the last to know, he reminded himself with a chuckle.
Ryan was already in bed when Jamie got home. She was half asleep, but she sat up the minute Jamie’s foot hit the stairs. “Jamers?”
“Yeah, honey. I’m home.”
“James?” Mia called out, giggling.
“Yes, dear?” She poked her head into Mia’s room. “May I help you?”
Mia was lying on her bed, watching TV. “Miss me?”
“Always.” Jamie went to the bed and kissed Mia’s curly head. “But I have to go. As soon as Ryan’s asleep, I’ll come back.” She ruffled Mia’s hair and went into her own room, waggling her fingers at her lover. “I had to make sure the little one was tucked in properly.”
“I tucked her in. After rubbing her feet and moisturizing them.”
Jamie bent over and kissed her. “Good girl.”
Ryan got up and started to undress her. “Did you have fun?”
“Ahh … yeah, I did. Things were very different between us. I have no idea what’s gotten into him, but he was Mister Sensitive. He actually sounded like he was related to my grandfather for the first time that I can recall.”
“Weird. Has he gotten religion?”
“Do you need to take your splint off?”
“No, I’m fine. I’m gonna brush my teeth. Get me a T-shirt?”
Ryan turned and took the shirt that was lying on Jamie’s pillow. “All ready for you.”
“You … my little spouse … are very nice to come home to.”
Ryan put her arms around Jamie and hugged her tightly. “Are you gonna sneak off to Mia’s room when I’m asleep?”
“Damn, you’ve got good ears!”
Taking a playful nip from one of Jamie’s, Ryan growled, “I’m keeping a close eye … and ear on you.”
When Martin arrived home from work on Thursday morning, he asked Maeve if she wanted to go to the children’s house, so they could all eat breakfast together. As usual, she was amenable, and they showed up just as the boys were getting up. When Conor appeared, bright-eyed and alert, Martin couldn’t help but tease him. “I thought you might be a little bleary after your date last night.”
Conor blinked at him. “I didn’t have a date.”
“It’s all right, son.” He chuckled. “You don’t have to hide such things from me at this point in your life.” When Conor still looked blank, he informed him, “I saw you walking down
Conor nodded slowly in comprehension. “I wasn’t on a date, Da; I was with Catherine.”
“Catherine?” Martin gaped. “Really?”
“Yeah. She came by in the afternoon and neither of us had plans, so we just hung out. Why didn’t you say something?”
“You know I don’t see clearly in the darkness,” he explained. “I was fairly sure it was you, but I didn’t want to run down the street carrying two dozen donuts only to find out I was wrong.”
“No, it was me,” the younger man said agreeably. “Sorry we didn’t get to chat. Catherine could have told you what a great meal we had. She’s never been to The Mission so I took her to La Cabana. I think she really enjoyed herself.”
Martin nodded, giving his son a concerned look before he went into the kitchen to pour himself a cup of coffee. “Anything wrong, Marty?” Maeve asked quietly.
“No, no, of course not,” he said brightly. “Nothing at all.” As he walked into the kitchen, he thought, There had better not be.
At six o’clock on Friday evening, Ryan pulled up to the three-flat in The Mission. She waved to her cousins, uncles, and aunt and said as she let Jamie out, “We’re the last ones. Go on and start looking around. I’ll find somewhere around here to park or go home and run back.”
“Got your running shoes?”
“No. I tried to dress nice for my girlfriend. But if I have to run back, I’ve got plenty of single-girl clothes at home.”
“Take your time, honey. With all of these people, we might be here until dawn.”
Ryan did have to go to Noe to park, so she decided to take Duffy with her. It had been so long since she’d run with him that it took both of them a few blocks to get in synch, but they were both smiling when they arrived at the building. Her uncles Francis and Malachy were outside, looking at the foundation.
“I predicted you’d have the dog with you,” Malachy said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“She likes to have Duffy around to remind her that she used to be the one in charge,” Francis said, laughing. “Now she’s the one on the leash.”
“Not funny, but true.” Ryan kissed her uncle. “Everybody upstairs?”
“Yeah. We thought we’d better check out the important parts. A bad foundation is what costs big money.”
“How does it look?”
“Remarkably good,” Malachy said. “And I think we can take these shingles off. The wooden siding looks like it’s in good shape. These ugly things might have protected it.”
“Jamie said the real estate guy thought they were asbestos. Won’t it cost a lot to have them removed?”
“Depends on who’s watching,” Francis said, adding a wink.
Ryan nodded, deciding not to discuss the issue with her pragmatic, cost-cutting uncle. She was determined to follow all of the city codes … especially where they involved hazardous waste, but her cousins would be much easier to manipulate than her uncle.
It had taken her so long to park, change and run back, that the crowd was almost finished touring when she and Duffy ran up the stairs, almost knocking down her Aunt Peggy in the dimly lit staircase. “Whoa! Sorry!” she said.
Her aunt kissed her and patted Duffy. “This place reminds me of a building my family lived in when I was a girl. It could be nice if the boys do everything that needs to be done.”
“I haven’t seen it yet,” Ryan said, “but Duffy likes it.” The big dog hadn’t stopped sniffing since they’d stopped, his nose detecting scents from many, many years of use.
They decided to go to Francis’ house for soup and salad while they discussed the pros and cons of the building. Ryan and Jamie stopped for the salad ingredients and what her uncles called “fancy bread.” Despite the gentle derision, they always seemed to enjoy the baguettes and filoni Jamie and Ryan contributed. Francis still didn’t understand why a salad had to contain more than a quartered head of iceberg lettuce with a half-cup of Thousand Island dressing, but he ate everything except the arugula, which he declared a weed.
Everyone agreed that the building was a good one—if they wanted to be landlords. That aspect of the discussion took quite a while, but Brendan had done some homework and explained that it would help them secure future loans if they already owned some property. And given that rents were always climbing, having two units to rent at market price could be very beneficial. The biggest sticking point was price. Niall’s money would make a good down-payment, but they’d need a construction loan and money for supplies.
Jamie raised her hand. “I’d like to make the loan.”
“You?” Frank said, his voice squeaking.
“Yeah, me. I’m ready to take my money out of the stock market and put it in something more secure. I think this is a good investment.”
Never one to beat around the bush, Frank asked, “Do you have that kinda money?”
Kieran punched him gently on the shoulder. “Are you the only one who hasn’t figure out that Jamie’s rich?”
“You’re rich?” Frank asked, clearly surprised.
“She’s rich,” Ryan said, sparing Jamie the need to reply.
Frank’s eyes narrowed and he glared at his cousin. “Damn you, Ryan. It was bad enough that she was good-looking …”
“Behave,” Francis said. “Don’t embarrass the girl.”
“Oh, who’d be embarrassed?” Jamie asked, blushing furiously.
Ryan put her arm around her. “She can’t help it. She was born rich and beautiful. But if Jamie wants to invest some of her money, I think we should do it.”
“I don’t like it,” Niall said. “What if we lose money on the deal?”
“That’s the risk of investing,” Jamie said. “I know you won’t lose money because you do bad work or buy materials that are overpriced. The only reason we’d lose money is if the real estate market crashes. And if that happens, it happens. If I lost this money it wouldn’t make me have to start working nights. This is just an investment to me—not any different than investing in stocks or bonds. And I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t afford to lose the money.”
“Mortgage rates are about 8% now, right?” Ryan asked. “Is that good?”
“I don’t want that,” Jamie said. “I want Treasury Bill rates. That’s the safest investment, and that’s where I was gonna park this chunk of money.”
“Is that less than 8%?” Ryan asked.
“Yeah. But it’s fair. I shouldn’t profit off the family. I should just stay even.”
When she saw her cousins all looking at one another and nodding, Ryan smiled. Jamie was clearly one of the family.
Catherine was already sitting in the stands when Conor and Rory arrived at the Cal/Stanford game on Saturday afternoon. She saw them and waved, and they made their way through the crowd to join her. “Saving a lot of seats, aren’t you, lady?” Conor asked. He bent and kissed her cheek, then Rory leaned around him and did the same.
“I’ve been getting some dirty looks,” she admitted. “I hate to save seats, but I thought today it was necessary.”
“We’re the only two from the family. Everyone else had something going on.” Conor looked around, nodding happily. Then he stretched his arms out and his deep voice proclaimed, “These are my people.”
“You shouldn’t take him to nice places, Catherine,” Rory said. “He thinks he’s a
“He fits in beautifully, Rory. You know … you would, too. I have more appointments than Conor could possibly help me with.”
The younger O’Flaherty held up a hand. “No, thanks. I mean, I’d go anywhere you needed me to go, but Conor’s your man. He’s always been sure he was delivered to the wrong family.”
“Someday, when my real parents find me, I won’t forget you guys. I’ll have you over every Christmas, when I have the party for my servants.”
“I hate to add to his delusions,” Catherine said, “but he honestly does seem like he was born to money.”
“He was born to blarney,” Rory, said, chuckling.
“Hey, look who’s here,” Conor said. He pointed to Jim walking along the third base line, watching heads turn and people elbow each other to point him out. “See. I want people to do that when I walk into a place.”
“They do,” Rory teased. “They say, ‘Isn’t that the jerk who led my sister/daughter/cousin on?’”
“He’s got your number,” Catherine said, giggling.
“That was the old Conor. The new Conor is much more serious and mature. I’m looking for a relationship now.”
“That I’ll believe when I see it,” Rory said.
Conor jumped up. “I’ll go tell Jim where we’re sitting.”
“You just want people to see that you know him!” Rory called out.
“He’s impossible to offend, isn’t he?” Catherine commented. “It’s so nice that you can all take a good tease.”
“You either learn to take it or end up in tears … or fights. Only one of the cousins doesn’t take well to being made fun of.”
“Donal?” Catherine asked.
“You know us well,” Rory said, smiling.
“He seems like his skin is a little thin. I’ve heard him give some pretty sharp responses to some pretty benign comments.”
“He’ll burn your ears if you really get to him.” He looked at Catherine for a second. “Is it okay that Jim’s here? I can ask Conor to sit with him in another section—”
“It’s fine. But thank you for asking. We’re getting along well. We’re united in being friendly, for Jamie’s sake.”
“That’s what good parents do. Too bad there aren’t more good parents.” He stood and shook Jim’s hand as Conor led the senator to their seats. “Rory,” he said, assuming Jim would have trouble remembering all of the O’Flaherty names. “Welcome home.”
“How are you, Rory? Is the music business treating you well? I’m surprised you’re here. I thought you went to
“I do,” he said, smiling. “But not until May.”
Jim put his hand on Rory’s shoulder and squeezed it. “I’m glad to see you again. I may give you a call before you leave. I’m considering joining in the sponsorship of a bill to ease imports of certain Irish goods. Maybe you can do a little investigation for me while you’re there.”
“Sure. I have a lot of free time, and we travel all over the country.”
“That’s great!” He turned to Catherine, took her hand and kissed it. “The ever lovely Catherine Evans, I believe?”
She flinched, realizing she hadn’t told him about changing her name. Deciding that now wasn’t the time, she smiled and inclined her head, silently inviting him to sit next to her. When he did, she leaned over and kissed his cheek. “How’s the distinguished junior senator from
“I’m good,” he said. “Very good.”
He’d barely settled in his seat when people began to approach him, wishing him well or reminding him they’d met fifteen years ago at a golf tournament or something similarly forgettable. Catherine watched him work, a little surprised at how comfortable he seemed to be in the unfamiliar spotlight. When they had a moment alone, she said, “Maybe you should have gone into politics. You’re a natural.”
He smiled. “Not really. Practicing law for all those years helped me get comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I truly prefer being a lawyer.”
“I suppose you’ll be back to that fairly soon. That is still your plan, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I’ve enjoyed my time in
She found herself almost reaching up to touch his cheek, but stopped herself an instant before her hand moved. She would have never guessed that she would make the offer that was to come from her mouth, but as the words left her lips, she didn’t regret them. “Don’t do that, Jim. I haven’t been down to the house in so long I hardly recall what it looks like. And even though Jamie loves it, she doesn’t want to spend her weekends down there. I want you to use the house whenever you want. It was always your refuge, and there’s no reason in the world that it can’t continue to be.” His eyes widened, then he tucked his lower lip into his mouth, a gesture she recognized as his guard against showing too much emotion.
“I … can’t believe you’re being so generous.”
Laughing softly, she said, “Am I usually not?”
“Oh, no!” He touched her arm, looking almost panicked. “You know how much I admire you, and one of your best traits is your generosity. It’s just that … I don’t deserve a gift like that.”
“That’s for me to decide, isn’t it? When you get back, treat the place as your own. If I’m ever planning on being there, I’ll call you. You’ve kept up your golf membership, haven’t you?”
He grinned, looking like a little boy. “They waived my fees for my term in office. It’s just like you always said, ‘If you don’t need the money, everyone is willing to give it to you.’”
Charmed that he’d recall her having said that, she smiled at him. “It’s sad, but very true. The club would never do that for a man who’d lost his job.”
“Not unless he lost his job as the head of a law firm to become a senator,” Jim said, his eyes twinkling with mischief.
Jamie and Mia showed up just before the band play the National Anthem. “Hi!” Mia said to everyone, kissing each as she moved down the line. Jamie followed along behind her, doing the same. They ended up next to Catherine and Jim, and Jim moved aside so that Mia would sit between him and Catherine, leaving Jamie next to him.
“What took you so long, honey?” he asked Jamie.
“Nothing important. I wanted to wear a long-sleeved shirt to cover up this stupid splint, but all of my nice ones were at the cleaners, so we had to stop and buy something.”
She smiled placidly, and her father chuckled at her expression. “You look very nice,” he said. “But are you sure you didn’t have even one long-sleeved shirt?”
Catherine reached over and patted her daughter’s leg. “He’ll never understand, dear. Your father and I have had this discussion too many times to count.”
Jim turned to Mia. “How’s life treating you? Are you enjoying
She made a face. “I’ve seen about one one-hundredth of a percent of it, and that much of it was nice. Jordan’s so busy that we have almost no time to do anything fun, but being with her makes it worthwhile.”
“I’m going to see your father tomorrow. Are you and he…?”
“We’re getting along pretty well. He knows I’m here, so you don’t have to plead the fifth to protect me.”
“I’d gladly stand up for you, Mia. Let me know if your father gives you any trouble. I might be able to arrange to have him named ambassador to … someplace very, very far away.”
“Cool! Could you have me named ambassador for
“Really? Adam isn’t taking good care of you?”
“Oh.” She looked at Jamie, then back at Jim. “I thought you might know that my parents stopped supporting me.”
Jim cocked his head, his brow narrowed. “They stopped? Why?”
“Because of Jordan. They don’t think I’m a lesbian.” That got Conor’s attention, and he leaned over and raised an eyebrow. “Which I’m not,” she added, sticking her tongue out at Conor. “But I’m in love with Jordan … no matter what you call me.”
“I have some experience with being unreasonable, Mia. I’d be happy to try to knock some sense into him.”
She laughed and leaned against him, pushing him a little, treating him just like one of her friends. “No, but thanks for the offer. We’ve made some progress, but I think it’s better if I don’t take money from my parents. It’s hard for my mom to keep her opinions to herself if she’s footing the bills.”
“I understand,” Jim said. “Far too well. But by the time your child is ready to graduate from college, you don’t have much control.”
“You don’t know my mom very well,” she deadpanned. “I’ll be fine. I just have to find a job that pays well, gives me unlimited vacation, and requires no experience.”
“Sorry, but I got that job,” Jim said, laughing as hard as Mia did.
Continued in Part 11
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