Disclaimers: See Part 1. Warning: There is a somewhat explicit scene of two women making love in this section.

Thanks again to my beta readers, Alina, Kimly, MyWarrior, and Wendy. And thanks to Fanatic’s mom, my honorary beta reader for Part 6!

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Take Time Out

Part 7

By RJ

cappaert@proaxis.com

December, 1999

No part of this text may be reproduced in whole, or in part, without the express consent of the author.

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Chapter 20

Robin awoke to the feeling of something being draped over her upper body. She blinked open her eyes to see Jess wrapping the blanket from the back of the couch around her shoulders. She was still sitting on the floor, nestled between Jess’s legs, and her head was resting against a thigh.

"Sorry…I didn’t mean to wake you up, but I thought you’d want to be covered, and I knew I’d wake you if I tried to put your shirt back on," Jess said apologetically. Robin looked down at herself and saw that her hands had dropped to her lap, taking the t-shirt with them, and leaving her torso completely bare. She immediately felt the blood rush to her face, not because she was modest, but because the thought of being that close to Jess while naked from the waist up sent a rush of heat through her body. She gathered the blanket closed in front of her and tried not to let Jess notice her discomfort.

"I can’t believe I fell asleep on you again. I seem to be making a habit of that, aren’t I?"

"Hey, it’s not a problem," Jess said reassuringly. "It’s a compliment to my massage technique."

"Believe me, your technique is flawless!" Robin replied while rolling her head around and noticing how much better her neck and shoulder muscles felt. "If you ever lose your job as a coach, you can start a new career as a massage therapist."

"Oh, I’m not willing to put my hands on just anybody."

"Oh really?" Robin replied inquisitively. "Then I count myself as very lucky that I get to be one of the chosen few."

"Well, it would be more correct to say the chosen ‘one,’" Jess said with a lopsided grin in return. "I’m really not a very ‘touchy’ person. I don’t know what it is about you that brings it out in me."

"Probably the fact that I am a touchy person!" Robin laughed. "I don’t really give you much of a choice."

"Yeah, I guess that’s true," Jess acknowledged.

Robin yawned, and blinked her eyes sleepily.

"Hey, what do you say we get you up off the floor and in to bed before you fall asleep again?" Jess said while standing up and holding her hand out to help the younger woman up.

Robin gripped the blanket in front of her with one hand and let Jess pull her up with her other one. To Robin’s surprise, Jess didn’t let go of her hand, but just turned toward the bedroom and pulled Robin along behind her. The two women quickly prepared for bed and crawled between the cold sheets, each gravitating toward the middle to try to share some of the other’s body heat.

"Jess?"

"Hmmm?"

"This has been the best birthday I’ve had since I was 8 and got to go to Disneyland."

"Wow, as good as Disneyland?" she teased. "But you know, it’s not over yet, so maybe it will end up being better than Disneyland."

"I can’t imagine what you can do to top this day," Robin replied sincerely. To herself, she thought, except take me in your arms right now and make mad, passionate love to me. Oh, Robin, don’t even go there!

"We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings, won’t we?" Jess said mischievously.

Robin rolled over on her side facing Jess. "And just what is that supposed to mean? Do you have some surprises planned?"

"I’ll never tell!"

"Oh yeah? I have ways of making you talk," Robin threatened as she pounced on Jess, straddling her waist and grabbing her wrists. Jess put up a token struggle, letting Robin pin her wrists to the bed next to her head, grinning back at her. As she felt Robin relax slightly, she quickly freed her wrists and arched her back, sending Robin flying off of her. Before Robin could react, their positions were reversed and the taller woman had Robin immobilized underneath her. She started tickling Robin’s ribs, causing the younger woman to convulse with laughter so hard that tears sprang to her eyes. Robin’s arms were flailing at Jess, trying to stop the torture, and Jess grabbed each of Robin’s hands and forced them over her head. The action brought Jess’s face mere inches above Robin’s, and the two women looked deeply into each other’s eyes, breathing hard from the playful exertion. Just when Robin thought sure that Jess was going to kiss her, the older woman closed her eyes with a sigh, and rolled off to the side.

I can’t do this yet. I’m not ready for it. She put her forearm over her eyes and breathed deeply, trying to calm her racing heart.

Robin raised herself onto one elbow and gently put a hand on Jess’s arm. "Hey, are you OK? What happened?" she asked softly.

"I’m fine. I just got a little out of breath there," Jess said lamely. Please don’t push it, Robin. I won’t know what to say.

"Do you want me to get you some water?" Robin asked worriedly.

"Yeah, that would be great," Jess said, relieved to have a minute to compose herself. By the time Robin came back from the kitchen with a glass of water, Jess was sitting up in the bed with a relaxed smile on her face. She took a long drink from the glass and said, "Thanks. I feel much better now." She laid back down on her pillow and closed her eyes. "Come on, we’d better get some sleep or we’ll never get up in the morning."

"And that’s a problem…why?" Robin quipped. Jess laughed and Robin settled back down into the bed, facing the taller woman who was lying on her back.

Jess reached over and put her hand on top of Robin’s. "Goodnight. Sleep well."

"You too," Robin said as she took the hand and brought it closer to her body. Jess didn’t pull away, and Robin smiled contentedly, quickly drifting off to sleep.

 

Jess let Robin sleep in the next morning, finally bringing her a cup of coffee in bed around 9. She sat down on the edge of the bed and watched as Robin slowly blinked her eyes open and focused on her surroundings.

"Happy Birthday, sleepy head," Jess said with a smile, holding out the cup of coffee for Robin. The smaller woman sat up and leaned against the headboard, taking a long swallow of the coffee.

"Mmmmm, thanks. Can I wake up like this every day?"

Jess laughed and replied, "Not unless you win the lottery and pay me a lot of money to deliver your coffee in bed."

"Remind me to buy a megabucks ticket on the way home."

"Hey, that reminds me…" Jess reached into her pocket and took out an envelope and handed it to Robin. The young woman took it with a questioning look on her face.

"What’s this?"

"Open it and you’ll find out," Jess said, grinning.

The envelope said ‘Happy Birthday, Robin’ on the outside, and the young woman put her finger under the flap to open it. Inside were two tickets between a folded piece of paper. She opened the paper and read, ‘I hope you’ll invite me to go along – J.’ She looked closer at the two tickets and a big smile lit up her face.

"Two tickets to the Wisconsin women’s game versus Washington in Seattle! Jess…how did you…you can go with me? You won’t have a game?"

"It’s still preseason, so everybody’s schedule is different. And this will give me a chance to scout Washington anyway," she said, pleased at the happy reaction from Robin.

"This will be great! I haven’t gotten to see my alma mater play for over 5 years. I heard they were coming out here for a holiday tournament, but I hadn’t gotten any of the details yet." She looked at the tickets again, then up at Jess, who was still smiling at her. She set her coffee down on the nightstand and crawled over to Jess. She put her arms around the taller woman’s neck and hugged her tight.

"Thank you," she whispered into the ear next to her face. "Thank you for the tickets, thank you for dinner last night, thank you for this whole weekend. It’s been the best birthday ever."

Jess shivered at the breath in her ear, and hugged Robin back, feeling the emotion of the woman in her arms. "You’re welcome. I’m glad I could make you so happy," she said sincerely.

Robin felt the tears running down her cheeks, and pulled back, wiping them away with her sleeve. "Sorry, I didn’t mean to get you wet," she said while smiling sheepishly.

"No problem. You can cry on me any time you want, as long as it’s because you’re happy," Jess said, returning Robin’s smile.

Robin sniffed, regaining her composure. "Guess what?"

"You’re hungry."

Robin laughed and swatted Jess on the arm. "Am I that predictable?"

"Yup. Come on, I’ve got breakfast all ready to go," she said, holding her hand out to Robin as she got up. They walked into the kitchen hand-in-hand, both women thinking about how close they had become, and how wonderful it felt.

 

Jess and Robin packed up to leave in the early afternoon, after spending a couple more hours fishing. As they stood at the car, they took one last look at the cabin and the river.

"It’s going to be hard to go back to work tomorrow," Robin said wistfully.

"Yeah, I know what you mean. The inside of the weight room is going to feel pretty stifling after this."

Robin put her hand on Jess’s shoulder and smiled up at her. "So when did you say your birthday was?"

"I don’t recall saying," Jess grinned back. "But if you’re going to bring me someplace like this, I might be willing to tell you."

"Hmmm, I think I’d rather surprise you," Robin replied mischievously. "Come on, let’s get going so we get back in time for dinner."

"There you go again, thinking about food..."

The two women had a quiet ride back home, each lost in their own thoughts about the weekend.

It feels like something fundamental has changed about our relationship, Robin thought, but I still don’t get the feeling she wants things to go to the next level. And I’m just not willing to make the first move that way. It’s pretty clear that she’s never been with a woman before, and I don’t want to scare her away by pushing things too fast. But what about the hugs? And holding hands? And that near kiss?! Maybe she’s just too scared to take the next step and she’s waiting for me. Oh God, why is this so hard?

Across the car a similar scenario was playing out in the mind of the basketball coach.

OK, so I admit that I’m attracted to her as more than a friend, Jess thought. So how do I know for sure that she really feels the same way about me? Do I just ask her? What if I’m wrong – how embarrassing would that be? But how could I be wrong? I can feel something when she touches me – I can see something in her eyes when she looks at me. So what’s stopping me? Am I afraid of rejection, or am I afraid of learning something about myself that I don’t really want to know?

 

 

Chapter 21

The next couple of weeks flew by, with Jess getting ready for practice to start and Robin getting into the thick of the term. In mid-October, Robin attended Midnight Madness, where they introduced the men’s and women’s teams, and had the first practice allowed by NCAA rules. It was mostly a fun night, with contests for the fans and scrimmages by the teams. Robin sat in the upper stands with Capi, watching Jess direct her players and have some fun with the men’s coaches. She seemed relaxed and confident, and Robin could tell that Jess was in her element – she belonged on a basketball court, guiding and encouraging these young athletes.

Capi looked over at Robin and saw the proud smile on her face. "See something you like down there?"

Robin blushed. "You could say that. I don’t get to see enough of it, though," she said ruefully.

"Ahh, college coaches have a busy life, I suppose," Capi said sympathetically. "Are things going well otherwise?"

"I guess so. We manage to see each other pretty often, for coffee or dinner or something like that, but I really miss the intimacy we had that weekend on the Metolius."

Capi raised her eyebrows. "Intimacy? I don’t think you told me about that part," she admonished.

"No, not like that. I just mean that we spent every minute together, and we could hug, or hold hands, and it just felt right."

"Whoa! What do you mean, ‘hug and hold hands?’ I thought you said things hadn’t progressed to a physical level."

"They haven’t…Not really. It’s more like when good friends hug or hold hands, but yet I feel like there’s more behind it than just ‘good friends.’" She looked down at her hands in her lap. "But neither one of us has said anything, or done anything to really cross the line and see how the other one reacts. So we just keep going along in this state of limbo, and it’s driving me crazy!"

"So why don’t you do something about it?" Capi asked gently. "Have some confidence in yourself – you would know if she didn’t return your feelings. Just believe in it and go with what you feel."

Robin thought about what Capi said, and decided that she couldn’t live with the regret if she lost this chance for love without ever even trying. Feeling like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, she took a deep breath and said, "You’re right, Capi. I will."

 

"OK, 2 on 1, full court," Jess called out. The players split into two groups, half at each baseline. "Bennie, start out on defense on that end. Chris and Heather, you ready? Go!" The two players sprinted down the court, passing the ball back and forth between them. As they neared the other basket, Bennie faked a move toward Chris, prompting her to pass the ball, and then quickly stepped in front of Heather and intercepted the pass.

"Nice job, Bennie," Jess yelled. "Chris, don’t give up the ball until you’re sure the defender has committed to you. Go again with Julie. Natalia, play defense on that end," she called out. Chris and Julie took off toward the other end of the court, and this time Chris kept the ball until Natalia was within a foot of her before passing it off to Julie.

"That’s the way, Chris! Nice pass!" Jess congratulated her. The drill continued, Bennie staying in the defensive position for a few rounds, and repeatedly getting steals. God she’s quick, Jess thought. If I can just get her to play up to her potential…

Jess blew her whistle. "I want 3 on 2 now, half court, 2 groups, point guards in the middle." The players again split into two groups, this time at mid-court. Two from each group positioned themselves in the key to play defense, and the others formed three lines at mid-court. On one end of the court, Bennie had the ball in the middle and started dribbling toward the top of the key, her wing players sprinting ahead on either side. The top defender picked her up at the free throw line and she took a step to the right, looking at her right wing player. The bottom defender went for the fake and Bennie threaded a no-look pass to the wing on the left for an easy lay-up.

"Great pass, Bennie. Just make sure you don’t get too deep in the key before you pass it. If you get too close together, one defender can guard both of you." Bennie didn’t acknowledge Jess’s comments, just ran back to get in line for the next round. She’s just going to have to learn to take a little constructive criticism, Jess sighed to herself.

After another ten minutes, Jess blew her whistle again. "Take a break and get some water." As she was walking over to the bench to check her notes, she noticed someone watching practice from the upper stands. She did a double-take, and saw Robin give her a little wave and a smile. Her spirits immediately soared, and she gave Robin a big smile in return. Amazing what she can do for my mood, Jess thought.

"OK, let’s get back out there! I want to run some half-court offense against a player-to-player defense. Bennie, Chris, Natalia, Heather, and Julie on offense, the rest of you rotate yourselves in and out on defense." Bennie took the ball near mid-court and dribbled upcourt, her defender shadowing her. When she got to the top of the key, she made a quick behind the back dribble, lost her defender, and drove down the lane for a lay-up.

"Nice move, Bennie. But where’s the help on defense, people? Everyone is responsible for more than just her own player. You have to see the ball and your player, and if the person with the ball is heading for the basket unguarded, there better be somebody stepping up, OK?" Heads nodded and the players set up to run it again. The next two times, Bennie again easily beat her defender, but someone else stepped in to pick her up. Using her quickness and excellent vision on the court, Bennie dropped the ball off to the player whose defender had come to help, and another easy lay-up resulted. This isn’t exactly giving us any practice in running our offense, Jess thought. And pretty soon, Bennie’s head is going to be so big there won’t be any room in the gym for the rest of us.

Jess blew her whistle again. "Pam, step in there and guard Bennie." The player who had been trying to guard Bennie hung her head and walked to the sidelines. Jess walked over to her and said softly, "Just keep working hard, Tara. You’re doing fine. Bennie is a tough assignment." She gave the player a soft pat on the back, and walked back to mid-court. Pam, the assistant coach, took up the defensive position opposite Bennie. Pam was not only equal in quickness to Bennie, she had a few more years experience. Bennie, of course, took this as a personal challenge and dribbled towards the key, doing her best to lose Pam, but completely ignoring her other teammates. Pam anticipated Bennie’s spin move, and deftly stole the ball from her.

After a repeat of this the next time through, Jess blew her whistle again. "Bennie, the last time I looked, our offense included 4 other players. If you have an open shot, or an open lane to the basket, I want you to take it. But if you don’t, I want to see you run the offense, OK?"

Bennie just looked down at her shoes, her hands on her hips.

"I didn’t hear you, Bennie," Jess said with a warning tone to her voice.

"OK," Bennie mumbled without looking at Jess.

Why does she think it’s her against the world? Jess asked herself. And how am I going to make her a part of this team…no, the leader of this team? Jess sighed and returned her attention to the court, watching the offense run smoothly. Bennie was distributing the ball to her teammates, all the while trying to maintain a bored look on her face. Well, I’m not sure I’d call that ‘coachable,’ but at least she can follow directions, Jess thought resignedly.

The team practiced for another half hour, ending with a relay race that injected a little fun into what otherwise would have been windsprints. The players then gathered at mid-court with the coaches for a team cheer. As they walked away, Jess saw Robin had come down from the bleachers and was walking towards her. Just as their eyes met, Robin’s attention was diverted.

"Robin! Nice to see you again!" Pam said, flashing a bright smile at the economics professor and reaching out to shake her hand. "Did you come by to watch practice?"

Robin had to pull her hand away from Pam, who seemed reluctant to let go. "Yeah, I wanted to see how the team was coming along," Robin said with a polite smile back at Pam. Jess walked up next to Robin, and took a possessive stance close to Robin’s shoulder.

"That was some pretty amazing defense you displayed out there," Robin complimented the assistant coach.

Pam beamed back at Robin, not noticing the scowl on the head coach’s face. "Well, these youngsters have to be convinced that they can still learn a thing or two from us, right Coach?" Pam said, glancing over at Jess.

Jess immediately tried to hide her irritation and muster up a smile while agreeing with Pam.

Pam seemed oblivious to Jess’s demeanor, and returned her attention to Robin. "Say, any chance you’d be interested in dinner? I’d really like to try out that restaurant you said your friends run."

Robin gave Pam an apologetic look and said, "I’d really like that, Pam, but I’m afraid I’ve got other plans tonight. Maybe we can do it another time?"

Pam looked disappointed but said, "Sure. I’ll call you sometime." She gave her another big smile and walked off to talk to some players.

"Geez, why do you encourage her?" Jess said with annoyance.

"What do you mean, ‘encourage her?’" Robin asked with a look of disbelief on her face. "I was just being polite." Robin looked closer at Jess, trying to read her facial expressions. Could she be jealous? Robin softened her look and tried to get the coach to relax a little.

"The truth is, I don’t have any plans yet tonight, but I was hoping I could have dinner with you."

Jess looked guiltily away and took a deep breath. She looked back at Robin and said, "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you. And I would love to have dinner with you tonight." She gave Robin a warm smile and her eyes were asking for forgiveness.

Robin smiled back, being the type who was always quick to forgive. "Where do you want to go for dinner?"

"Well, if you don’t mind, how about if we pick up some Thai food and take it back to my place? I need to watch a scouting video of our first opponent so I can plan part of tomorrow’s practice."

"You have practice on Saturday?"

"Hey, it’s preseason! We have practice of some kind every day."

"Oh," Robin replied, thinking again what life with a coach would be like. "Well, why don’t I go get the food while you finish up here, and then I’ll meet you at your place in a half hour?"

"Sounds great. See you there," Jess said with a lingering look at Robin before turning away.

 

"Hey, isn’t that Dr. Grant, the economics professor?" Chris whispered to Heather, nodding her head toward where Robin and Jess were talking.

"Yeah, it is! What do you think she’s doing here?" Heather whispered back.

"Maybe somebody’s flunking her class," Chris speculated.

"I don’t know…they don’t look like they’re talking about someone flunking class. Have you ever seen Coach smile like that before?"

"No, I can’t say I have. You don’t think…" Chris looked disbelievingly at Heather.

"Well, if it is, all I can say is she has great taste!" Heather said with a cocky grin.

 

Chapter 23

Robin arrived at Jess’s just five minutes after the coach got home. They quickly got out some plates and dug into the cartons of Thai food.

"Do you mind if we watch this video while we’re eating?" Jess asked. "It will only take about a half hour."

"No, it will be interesting to see what kinds of things you scout," Robin replied.

Jess plugged in the video and the two women settled in on the couch, Jess balancing a clipboard on her knee. The top sheet had a number of diagrams of a basketball key area, and some spaces to write the defense, offense, starting line-up, and other key pieces of information.

"Hey, if you’d like to help, you could fill out this shot chart for me," Jess said, handing another sheet of paper to Robin. "Just write the number of the player shooting in the location she’s shooting from, and circle it if she makes it."

"OK," Robin replied, impressed at the amount of detail that was involved in game preparation. Jess was using her sheet to diagram in-bounds plays and variations of the offense. The two women ate in silence, diligently recording the opponent’s strategies between bites.

Jess turned the VCR off when they were finished and said, "Well, it looks like my predecessor managed to schedule somebody we could beat in the preseason. Let’s just hope we play up to our potential."

They cleared the dinner dishes and returned to the living room, settling once again on the couch.

"It was nice of you to come by practice today," Jess said.

"Hey I owed you one since you sat through an entire economics lecture!"

Jess looked startled. "I didn’t think you saw me there."

Robin smiled. "You think I don’t know exactly what’s going on in my classroom?" she teased. "I have to admit it made me a little nervous."

"Well, you could have fooled me. I thought you were great - I was ready to sign up for credit!"

Robin blushed and said, "Thanks. You know, I don’t know how you can do your job in front of all those fans. I’ve always thought about what it would be like if everyone had to do their job like that. Like there would be somebody yelling at me from the back of the lecture hall, ‘Hey Grant, that’s the stupidest example for elasticity I’ve ever seen!’ And the next morning some newspaper reporter would be calling for my resignation, saying too many of my students got D’s on the last test."

Jess laughed. "It’s not really that bad. You just learn to tune all that stuff out. And if you’re good at your job, you get to hear a lot more good things than bad. That’s probably something you don’t get to enjoy, either."

"Well, that’s true. Nobody much cares if I manage to explain production theory so well that every student understands it," she said with a chuckle.

"Hey, I’m sure those students care," Jess said seriously. "I think you’re a great teacher."

"Thanks. That means a lot to me," Robin said sincerely. She felt a little embarrassed and decided to change the subject.

"I thought your team looked really good today. That Bennie is a great point guard."

"Yeah, she is, but she’s got a chip on her shoulder the size of Manhattan. I just have to figure out a way to bring her into the team concept."

"Well, I thought that having Pam guard her was a good move. A little reality check for her."

Jess’s expression clouded at the mention of her assistant coach’s name. "Yeah, well Pam could use a little reality check herself. I think she’s used to getting her way with people most of the time."

"Well, she is a very attractive woman," Robin noted.

"Do you think so? She’s a little too perfect for my taste."

"How can someone be too perfect? Isn’t that an oxymoron?"

"You know what I mean. I like someone who’s a little more real. They might have a few flaws, maybe a couple of insecurities, something that makes them human."

"Well, I’m sure that Pam has plenty of flaws, just like the rest of us. But I have to admit, I don’t find her particularly appealing either. She comes on just a little too strong for my taste."

"So what do you find appealing?" Jess ventured, looking up shyly into Robin’s eyes. "What are you looking for that you can’t seem to find?"

"Who says I can’t seem to find it?" Robin asked mischievously.

"Well, unless you’ve been hiding someone, you appear to be quite single," Jess replied with a smile.

Robin smiled back and reclined on the couch, laying her head next to Jess’s thigh with her feet up on the armrest. "What am I looking for?" she repeated, staring at the ceiling deep in thought. "I’m looking for someone who sets my heart on fire. Who makes my mouth go dry. Who consumes my every waking thought. Who makes me laugh, and feel more alive than I’ve ever felt before."

Jess smiled down at Robin and gently ran her fingers through her hair. "You don’t ask for too much, do you?"

Robin laughed softly, closing her eyes at Jess’s gentle touch. "But I don’t care if the person is short or tall, blond or brunette, black, white, or purple…I’m not that concerned about what they look like, or what they do for a living – I’m concerned with how they make me feel. So no, I don’t think I do ask for too much," she said with a self-satisfied smile.

"Have you ever found someone who made you feel that way?" Jess asked softly.

Robin was silent for a moment. "I’m not sure," she finally replied. She sat up next to Jess, drawing her feet underneath her and facing the taller woman. "Look at me," she said gently, drawing Jess’s eyes into her own. She reached over and took Jess’s hands into hers. I really hope I’m not making a mistake here…"The only person who has ever made me feel even close to all those things…is you."

Jess felt like the room was closing in on her. Her mind was switching back and forth between feelings of elation and panic faster than she could keep track of them. She couldn’t hold Robin’s gaze, and looked down at their hands, still unable to respond.

"Hey, I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable," Robin said quickly, looking away and feeling like she was going to die right then and there. "I shouldn’t have assumed…"

"No! No, don’t be sorry," Jess interrupted, finally getting a grip on her emotions and looking up again. She gently reached over and put her fingers under Robin’s chin, turning her head to look at her again. "I…I want you to feel that way. I feel that way about you, too. I’m just scared…I’ve never felt like this before."

"What are you afraid of, Jess?" Robin asked gently. "Are you afraid to be with a woman?"

"No…yes…" Jess closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I don’t know what I’m so afraid of. But I know that I can’t deny what I feel for you anymore. And I don’t want to." She opened her eyes and looked into Robin’s once again. They were mere inches apart, and Robin’s eyes started to close slightly as she leaned closer to Jess.

It was like a magnet, more powerful than anything Jess had ever experienced, and she found her own eyes closing as she turned her head slightly and parted her lips. The touch of Robin’s lips was soft and electrifying at the same time. The sensation quickly spread throughout her body, as if her lips held the switch to every nerve ending.

Robin drew away slightly and looked at Jess with hooded eyes. When she saw desire mirrored back from the pools of blue, she leaned forward again and drew Jess’s bottom lip softly between her own, the tip of her tongue lightly reaching out.

Jess moaned softly at the contact, and parted her lips further, seeking out Robin’s tongue. Robin shifted on the couch, never breaking contact with Jess’s mouth, and settled herself in Jess’s lap while wrapping her arms around her neck. Her fingers wound their way into Jess’s hair, pulling the taller woman more forcefully to her. Jess’s hands were everywhere on Robin’s back, reaching underneath her shirt and caressing warm, soft skin. Robin groaned at the contact and deepened the kiss, pressing herself so close to Jess that they were almost one. Desperately needing air, Robin slowly withdrew her mouth from Jess’s, leaving small kisses on her upper and lower lip as she pulled away.

The two women looked at each other in silence, both breathing heavily.

"Are you sure this is what you want?" Robin asked softly.

"Do you need to ask?" Jess replied, leaning forward and giving Robin another small kiss.

Robin chuckled and returned the kiss, drawing away again after a moment. "I know this is hard for you, and I don’t want to push you to do anything you’re not ready for," she said sincerely.

"Why don’t you let me worry about that," Jess said, smiling gently. "Right now I don’t feel like worrying about anything. I just feel like kissing you." She put her hand behind Robin’s head and drew her closer, kissing her forehead, then her temple, then drawing a breath next to Robin’s ear and gently taking the soft lobe between her lips. Robin shuddered at the sensation and leaned her head back, exposing her neck. Jess didn’t miss the invitation, and placed gentle kisses up and down the soft skin. Robin’s audible response was arousing a passion in Jess that she had never experienced before, and with a soft moan of her own, she began to unbutton Robin’s shirt, kissing the soft skin as each inch was uncovered. Her lips traced the breast above the laced top edge of Robin’s bra, her fingers softly touching the delicate material. God, how can anything be this sensual? Jess thought. She laid her cheek against Robin’s chest and breathed deeply, inhaling the intoxicating scent of the younger woman.

Robin was breathing hard, trying desperately to keep her emotions under control and let Jess set the pace. She was more than a little surprised by Jess’s assertiveness, and was barely able to keep herself from responding with total abandon. She put her hand over Jess’s cheek and held her head tight against her chest, hoping that Jess could hear her heart pounding in response.

Jess pulled back from Robin and without a moment’s hesitation, rose up off the couch, lifting the smaller woman in her arms. Robin looked startled, but then put her arms around Jess and planted soft, wet kisses on her neck and ear while they moved quickly toward the bedroom. Jess laid the smaller woman gently on the bed, following her down and laying softly on top of her. Her lips found Robin’s again, and she could feel the young woman’s hips moving up toward hers as their passion increased.

Jess broke away and looked at Robin in the dim light coming from the hallway. "I want you so much, but I don’t know if I know how…"

"Shhhh," Robin hushed her, placing her fingers over Jess’s lips. "You couldn’t possibly disappoint me." But knowing that Jess was probably anxious about being with a woman for the first time, Robin gently pushed on her chest and turned her over, reversing their positions. "All we have to do is communicate," Robin said softly, placing a kiss on Jess’s cheek. "Tell me if I do anything you don’t like." She took her finger and ran it lightly down Jess’s neck and around a breast, eliciting a soft moan. She smiled and said, "I think I’ll be able to tell if I do something you like." She tugged on Jess’s shirt, and the taller woman lifted her shoulders so Robin could strip off the shirt and the sports bra underneath. Robin sat back, her gaze lingering over Jess’s full breasts. "You are so beautiful," she whispered.

Jess pulled Robin back down into a searing kiss, her bare breasts touching Robin’s lace covered ones. She pulled Robin’s unbuttoned shirt off her shoulders, and reached around to unclasp her bra. Pulling the lace garment out from between them, she heard Robin gasp as skin touched skin for the first time.

Robin slowly kissed her way down Jess’s neck, her body sliding down so that her thigh was between the taller woman’s legs. She could feel Jess’s hips start to move, and Robin could no longer hold back. She slid her hand up to the side of a breast and covered it with her mouth. Jess drew in a breath sharply and arched her back in response, her hips picking up their rhythm against Robin’s thigh. Robin lavished attention on Jess’s breasts, delighting in the moans and ragged breathing from the woman beneath her. She shifted slightly to the side and moved her hand over Jess’s bare stomach, gently raking her fingernails over the soft skin. She dipped her fingers under the waistband of Jess’s pants, feeling the muscles clench in response. She lifted herself off the taller woman, rising up to her knees, and put both hands on the top of Jess’s pants, pausing to look in her eyes before giving them a gentle tug.

"You too," Jess replied while sitting up and reaching for Robin’s belt.

"I thought you’d never ask," Robin smiled back.

Jess rose up to her knees, mirroring Robin’s position, and slowly tilted her head to meet the shorter woman’s lips. Her hands moved to release Robin’s belt and she gently lowered the zipper. She put the palms of her hands on Robin’s stomach and slowly moved them under the top band of the exposed underwear. She hooked her thumbs over the top of the pants as she moved her hands lower, and slid them over Robin’s hips, taking the underwear along with them. Her hands kept contact with Robin’s skin as they moved down to her knees, causing a shiver to run down the younger woman’s legs.

God, I can’t believe she’s never done this before! She’s driving me crazy! Robin lifted one knee, and then the other, as Jess slid the pants the rest of the way off. Robin quickly reciprocated the act with Jess’s pants, then put her arms around the taller woman’s neck and drew their bodies together, feeling the heat radiating from Jess’s skin. She kissed the full lips that were now parted with desire, and pushed Jess back onto the bed, entwining her legs with the longer ones beneath her.

Robin murmured sweet, reassuring words to Jess as she kissed her way back down to her full breasts. Her hand was caressing Jess’s stomach, occasionally making a foray down her hip to her thigh. She pushed gently on the inside of Jess’s thigh, making room for her own hips as she continued to kiss her way lower on the tall woman’s body. As her lips found the soft inside of a well-muscled thigh, Robin heard Jess moan loudly.

Jess grasped the blanket under her hands, trying to control her breathing. Oh my God, if she kisses me there I’m gonna die. Jess could feel Robin’s warm breath against her wetness, and was about to hyperventilate from anticipation. But if she doesn’t kiss me there soon, I’m gonna die anyway. Robin didn’t disappoint her, and Jess gasped as she felt Robin’s tongue caress her intimately.

Jess’s hips bucked in response, and Robin realized that Jess wasn’t going to last very long. She reached up and took one of Jess’s hands while the taller woman quickly spiraled out of control. Robin held on as Jess’s hips jerked beneath her, and she could feel the muscles clench as Jess cried out loudly. Robin stilled her motion, and squeezed Jess’s hand tightly. She slowly released her pressure, kissing Jess softly as the aftershocks shook her body. Robin turned her head and kissed the inside of Jess’s thighs, not wanting to leave this most intimate of places.

"You’re so beautiful," Robin murmured between kisses.

Jess finally opened her eyes as she felt her breathing return to normal and her heart rate slow down. She reached down for Robin, saying, "C’mere. I want to see you…I need to see you."

Robin gave one last kiss to the inside of Jess’s leg and slid back up her body. She looked into the desire-darkened eyes and lowered her lips to Jess’s. When she pulled back, Jess had a look of wonder on her face.

"I can’t believe what you just did to me. That was incredible."

Robin smiled shyly. "I think you were more than ready."

"Yeah, I guess so. Thirty-four years is a long time to wait."

Robin was struck by the significance of what they had just done, and tears sprang to her eyes.

"Hey, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?" Jess asked worriedly.

"I just can’t believe I’m the one who gets to experience this with you for the first time. You don’t know how much that means to me," Robin said sincerely.

"No, you don’t know how much it means to me," Jess said softly. She hugged Robin to her tightly. "I’m so glad I waited for you. It would never have felt this wonderful with anyone else."

They lied together like that for awhile, Jess rubbing Robin’s back soothingly while the smaller woman was draped over her. Robin started kissing the bare skin that was next to her lips, and Jess felt desire stir in her again. Robin’s hips started moving in a slow rhythm, and Jess raised her knee slightly, bringing her strong thigh between Robin’s legs. She could feel the wetness on her skin, and it inflamed her senses. She took Robin’s head in her hands and brought their mouths together. Robin was breathing hard as she kissed Jess passionately. She grabbed one of Jess’s hands and said, "Please, Jess. I want you now." She guided the hand between their bodies, lifting slightly to allow room. Jess didn’t need to be told twice. She quickly matched Robin’s rhythm, their perspiration-slicked bodies sliding together easily. Jess watched as Robin threw her head back, eyes closed, crying out in ecstasy, and thought she had never seen anything more beautiful in her life.

Robin collapsed again on top of Jess, kissing the shoulder where her head was laying. Jess continued to rub Robin’s back, listening as the smaller woman’s breathing returned to normal. She felt Robin shiver as the cool air moved over her sweat-covered body, and Jess pulled the blanket over the two of them. She sighed contentedly and closed her eyes, not ready to think about how much her life had just changed. Their exhausted bodies adjusted to a more comfortable position, and sleep quickly claimed them.

 

Chapter 24

Jess awoke early the next morning, the unfamiliar sensation of bare skin touching bare skin alerting her senses that something was different. She looked over at the small woman sleeping peacefully beside her, blond hair tousled and an incredibly peaceful look on her face. Jess couldn’t help but smile slightly, even while her mind was racing with the implications of what they had done last night.

Feeling nervous and self-conscious, Jess quietly slipped out of bed and headed for the bathroom, picking up her clothes that were discarded around the floor on the way. She stepped into a hot shower and looked down at her body – the same body she’d looked at every day that had now experienced something she’d never known before. It was incredible. I had no idea what it would feel like to make love with someone I care about...I never would have believed that making love with a woman could be like that. A woman...Jess swallowed hard. Did this mean she was gay? No, of course not. I’ve never been attracted to other women. It’s just Robin. Maybe I’m bisexual. Jess sighed deeply, wondering why she had to be anything. Because I know other people are going to label me. Oh God, what if someone else finds out about this? Panicky feelings started to overtake Jess, and she switched the temperature to cold before turning the shower off and stepping out.

She quickly dried off, put on clean clothes, and headed for the kitchen. As she finished getting the coffee started, she heard Robin in the bathroom. Nervousness set in again, Jess wondering how things would be different between them this morning.

Robin shuffled into the kitchen sleepily, her eyes barely open. "What are you doing up so early?" she said while trying to stifle a yawn.

Jess’s heart rate picked up at the sight of the adorable woman, and she couldn’t help the smile that crossed her lips. "I see you found a t-shirt to wear," Jess noted, nodding at the extra large shirt that hung mid-way down her thighs.

"Yeah, I hope you don’t mind?" Robin said apologetically, walking over in front of Jess. She put her arm around Jess’s waist and leaned her head into her shoulder. "Mmmmm, you smell good," she said while closing her eyes and inhaling deeply.

Jess stiffened for a moment at the contact, but then her arms found their way around Robin’s shoulders without thought, and she rested her cheek on the top of Robin’s head. She took a deep breath and tried to think clearly. Am I supposed to say something about last night? Do we have to talk about it? Jess’s emotions kept circling from ecstatic, to scared, to confused, and she felt an urgent need to be alone to sort things out.

She pulled back from Robin and said, "Why don’t you go back to sleep for awhile. I have to go into the office early today anyway, so I’ll just grab something to eat on the way. You can stay here as long as you want," she said with a small smile.

Robin looked questioningly at Jess, wondering if the coach was having second thoughts about what had happened. Seeing the small smile, she decided not to press the issue, and instead agreed that more sleep was exactly what she needed.

"What time is your practice today?"

"From eleven to one," Jess replied.

Robin desperately wanted to ask if they could see each other later, but decided that she had to leave it up to Jess.

"OK, well I’ll probably go into work today for awhile, too, so maybe I’ll see you around campus."

Jess sighed with relief as she turned around to grab a travel mug for her coffee. She filled the mug and turned back around to find Robin looking at her with a questioning look on her face.

"Would it be too much to ask for a kiss goodbye?" Robin asked hopefully.

Jess felt her heart flip, and couldn’t deny the powerful urge to feel Robin’s lips again. The kiss was sweet and chaste, but the feelings it invoked in the coach made her weak in the knees. She pulled back, looked one more time into the green depths of Robin’s eyes, and quickly made her way out of the apartment.

Robin stood there, leaning against the counter, trying to make sense of what was happening. No ‘thanks for the great evening.’ No ‘last night was wonderful.’ No ‘I can’t wait to see you again.’ Robin sighed deeply and made her way back to the bed, feeling a strange mix of hope and desperation. She hugged Jess’s pillow to her face, inhaling the scent that was lingering there. Eventually, she fell back into a fitful sleep, afraid that she would wake up and find that last night had just been a dream.

 

Robin made her way into work around 10, and spent some time preparing her lectures for the next week. Around 12:30, she wandered over to the arena, hoping to catch the end of Jess’s practice. She quietly took a seat in the upper stands, and watched as the team worked on defending some of the play sets they had seen on tape last night. Her eyes were repeatedly drawn back to the tall coach, and she couldn’t help but think about what they had shared last night, and how different things had felt that morning.

I’ve just got to give her some time to get used to it. Of course she’s going to feel a little uncomfortable the next day. My God, she’s 34 years old and she’s just discovering that something as basic as her sexuality has changed. I’ve just got to be patient with her and give her all the time she needs to adjust to this. After all, what’s my hurry? It’s not like I’m going anywhere.

Jess was watching Heather race downcourt after stealing the ball on an inbounds play, when her eye was drawn to the upper stands. She saw Robin sitting there, and quickly looked away. The blood started to rise to her cheeks and she hoped no one was watching her. She felt like her body was betraying her and sending some kind of broadcast signal to the world that she had, in fact, slept with the woman in the stands last night.

I can’t believe she came to watch practice again today – on a Saturday! Somebody’s going to notice. And what are the players going to think?

Jess managed to compose herself and get through the rest of practice. As the team huddle broke up, she saw Robin making her way across the gym. She felt the heat rise to her cheeks again, and willed herself to retain control over her emotions. She gave Robin a weak smile as the young woman neared.

"Hey," Robin said softly, trying to read the different emotions flickering across the coach’s eyes.

"Hey yourself," Jess replied. "I didn’t expect to see you here. Did you finish your work?"

"Oh, there’s nothing that I really had to get done today. I was just trying to get ahead a little bit. How was practice?"

"Pretty good. It’s hard to get them going on a Saturday morning, but once they woke up, it went fine." Jess looked over Robin’s shoulder toward the water station and saw Chris and Heather with their heads together, whispering and smiling while casting glances at her and Robin. Jess immediately backed farther away from Robin. "Hey, I really need to meet with my coaches for a few minutes before they get away. Maybe I’ll see you a little later, OK?"

Robin tried to hide her disappointment as she said, "Sure, no problem. See you around." She quickly turned and walked out of the gym, feeling the weight of depression settle over her.

Jess put her head down and walked toward her office, afraid to meet her players’ eyes for fear that her secrets would be revealed.

 

Robin waited in vain on Saturday for Jess to call, finally going to bed early in the hopes of losing consciousness and not having to think about how miserable she was. I know she felt something last night. There’s no way I was imagining that. Did I do something to scare her away? Did I push too hard? She thought about the previous night and knew that Jess was not only a willing partner, she was often the aggressor. She can’t deny what she’s feeling, can she? What is she so afraid of that she would give up something like this? Robin tossed in her bed, no nearer to sleep. Maybe I’m just being paranoid. Just because she didn’t call today doesn’t mean she never wants to see me again, right? But Robin couldn’t shake the depression that had blanketed her, and she found herself awake late into the night.

The next morning, Robin decided that she would rather know that Jess didn’t want to see her than to spend another day wondering if something was wrong. After waiting until a respectable hour, Robin called Jess at home.

"Hello?"

"Hey Jess, it’s Robin," she said in the most cheerful voice she could muster.

"Oh hi, how are you doing?" Jess replied somewhat hesitantly.

"Good...well, actually that’s a lie. I’ve been better. I was wondering if we could get together for dinner tonight."

Jess paused, not knowing what to say. I want to see her, but I’m not ready to commit to this relationship and I don’t want to lead her on and then have to tell her no.

"Jess?"

"Yeah...yeah, that would be fine. Do you want to go out somewhere?" I can’t invite her over here again. I’d just be thinking about last night.

"Why don’t you come over here and I’ll cook something?" Robin offered.

That should be safe. At least I can leave if I need to. "OK, is 6 o’clock alright?"

"That would be...good! See you then." Robin hung up the phone, trying to figure out what Jess was feeling. In spite of her apprehension, Robin’s spirits were lifted, and she quickly made a list of what she would need for dinner, then headed out to the grocery store.

Jess hung up and immediately started worrying about the upcoming evening.

 

When Jess arrived, Robin gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek, but didn’t push for anything more intimate. They fell into relaxed conversation as Jess helped with last minute preparations.

From the moment Jess had walked in the door, she couldn’t resist the strong attraction she felt for Robin. The young woman made her laugh and relax, and was undeniably attractive as her green eyes sparkled with emotion.

Dinner was fabulous, and Robin was starting to think that maybe she had conjured up problems that weren’t even there. Afterwards, they went into the living room and sat close together on the couch.

Jess put her arm around Robin and pulled her close, kissing the smaller woman’s temple while breathing the scent of her hair. Robin felt a tidal wave of relief wash over her. She wrapped both arms around Jess’s neck and pulled the taller woman to her for a searing kiss. Remembering her promise to let Jess set the pace, Robin pulled back and caught her breath. They sat together for awhile, content to hold each other and silently communicate their feelings.

Eventually, Jess cleared her throat and said, "I really can’t stay too late tonight. I have a budget meeting with the Athletic Director first thing in the morning, and I still have to go over a few more numbers tonight."

"That’s OK," Robin replied quickly, not wanting to pressure Jess into staying longer than she wanted to. "I’m just glad we got to spend a little time together. I missed you over the last 24 hours," she said with a shy smile.

Jess smiled back at her and leaned down for a soft kiss. Before she lost herself again in the young woman’s lips, Jess pulled herself away and stood up, holding her hand out to help Robin up.

"Dinner was really great tonight. Thanks for inviting me," Jess said as she walked toward the door, still holding Robin’s hand.

A little formal tonight, aren’t we? Robin thought. You’d think it was our first date. But then again, I guess in some ways it is.

"You’re always welcome here, Jess. I mean that," Robin said sincerely. She reached up on her toes to give Jess a kiss goodnight, and could feel her heart race again at the contact. Oh, if you only knew what you did to me...

Little did Robin know that she had the same effect on the taller woman, and Jess left Robin’s feeling more confused than ever.

 

Jess arrived early to work the next morning, and found LaTeisha already in the office.

"Hey, you’re here early!" Jess remarked.

"Yeah, I wanted to get those travel budgets done so you’d have them for your meeting with Butch."

"Thanks, that’ll be really helpful."

"Hey did you hear about the New Mexico State coach?"

"No, what happened?" Jess asked.

"They found out she was gay and then the rumors started flying that she had an affair with one of her players. They canned her ass! Can you believe that?"

Jess blanched noticeably and looked away from LaTeisha, hoping the assistant coach wouldn’t notice her reaction.

"Man, I can’t believe how hard the world of athletics is on gays," LaTeisha said sympathetically. "But if she was messing with one of her players, she was asking for trouble."

Jess mumbled some reply and walked blindly into her office. What am I gonna do?! That could be me! Oh God, am I jeopardizing my whole career by this? She sat stunned at her desk until LaTeisha knocked much later, bringing her the travel budgets.

"Hey, you OK? You look a little pale?" LaTeisha said with concern.

"Yeah, yeah I’m fine. Just a little tired, I think," Jess replied. "Well, I’d better get over to Butch’s office before I’m late." She shook her head to try to regain her composure, and walked out of the office.

 

Jess called Robin later that morning and asked to meet her for lunch at the Union. They found an out-of-the-way table, and Robin knew that something was wrong by the look on Jess’s face and the fact that she wouldn’t meet her eyes. Soon after they sat down, Jess looked up and stated bluntly, "I can’t do this, Robin."

"What…what do you mean?" Robin asked lamely, desperately hoping that Jess was referring to her ability to eat fast food for lunch, and not what she knew Jess was really talking about.

"You and I…I can’t be with you. Not like that. Not in a relationship." Jess paused and took a deep breath. "I’m saying this badly…I’m sorry. What I mean is that I want us to be friends, like we were, but we can’t be…lovers." Her voice lowered so she was barely whispering the last word. She looked up and saw the anguished look on Robin’s face and felt her own heart breaking, but she had to go through with this. "It just isn’t who I am…who I want to be."

"You mean you don’t want to be gay," Robin clarified for her.

"No! I mean, right! Don’t you see, I can’t be gay and have my career, too," Jess pleaded.

"Why do you have to be anything? Why can’t you just choose who you want to love, and forget about the labels?"

"Because it’s not up to me! Somebody else is going to find out about this and it’s not going to matter what I call it because every opposing coach and athletic director is going to say that I’m gay!" Jess hissed.

"I can’t believe you’re the only coach in America that has slept with a woman and still has a job," Robin said sarcastically.

Jess looked up at the ceiling in exasperation. "I have no idea how other people do this – I just know that I can’t."

Robin looked pleadingly at Jess. "So you would just give up everything that we feel for each other? Give up what we had two nights ago? Jess, that was the most incredible night of my life!" Robin felt like she was begging now, but she didn’t know what else to do.

"Life is always about choices," Jess said coldly. "There are lots of times when things we care about conflict, and we have to choose between them. I’ve lived without love for 34 years, and I’m not willing to jeopardize my career now because I suddenly can’t live without it."

Robin was stunned at Jess’s cold analysis of what they had shared. "So being a basketball coach is more important to you than being true to your heart."

"Being a basketball coach is what I am!" Jess said emphatically. "I wouldn’t be true to myself if I tried to be something else. I’d be miserable if I had to give it up, so what good would it do to be happy with my love life if I’m miserable with the rest of my life?" Jess paused but Robin just looked at her in disbelief so Jess continued. "If I have to give something up, it’s going to be this thing that’s brand new in my life...that I don’t even understand yet...that might not even work out...not the thing that is at the core of who I am."

"But why can’t you have both, Jess? We can be discreet...no one has to know what you do in your bedroom!"

"I would know," Jess replied, looking Robin in the eye. "I’d always be worried about someone finding out. I’d always be looking over my shoulder. That’s no way to live." Her look softened and she added, "And that certainly wouldn’t be fair to you. You deserve to be with someone who would cherish their relationship with you, not be ashamed of it."

Robin felt her world crumbling around her. I will not cry! I will get through these next few minutes and I will find a way to walk out of here. Robin looked down at her hands on the table. "I don’t know what else I can say. You know how I feel about you, and I’d do almost anything to make you change your mind. But if this is the way you truly feel, then I guess I just have to accept it. I can’t force you to feel something you don’t." She paused and looked up into Jess’s eyes, her own eyes glistening with unshed tears. "But I could have sworn you felt something for me two nights ago."

Now it was Jess who couldn’t maintain eye contact. "That’s not it! You know I felt something – I felt more than something. It was incredible, I told you that and I meant it. But it doesn’t change the fact that I have to make a choice." She sighed and looked up at Robin again. "Something happened to me many years ago, something that showed me first-hand the consequences of being gay in the world of athletics. Those consequences ruined a young person’s life. And I can’t take the chance of having that happen again."

Jess’s words were said with such finality that Robin knew there was no point in arguing any more. At least not today. I need to get out of here before this escalates into something we both regret later.

She looked directly into Jess’s blue eyes and said, "I’m sorry you feel that way Jess. Sorrier than you’ll ever know." And with that, Robin got up and left the table.

Jess put her face in her hands and closed her eyes. She couldn’t watch the young woman walk away. After she was sure Robin was gone, she got up and headed back to her office.

 

Continued in part 8


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