All characters belong to Ms. Evanovich. Thank you for allowing us to take them out for a spin.



Beep, beep, beep.

I shut off the alarm as I get my bearings. It's 0600—time to wake up, not that I want to. I know I need to head downstairs, I need to exercise. I need to keep in shape. It's a necessary evil in my line of work. However, this morning, like every morning for the last three months since she told me she was expecting his child and that they were getting married, I dreamt of her and the nights we spent together. I can still feel her crazy curls tickling my nose, her long legs wrapped around my waist, and the sweet taste of her on my tongue. I miss her.

I keep trying to rethink our relationship over the past few years. Stephanie Plum started bounty hunting, and immediately our paths crossed. At first, I wanted to avoid her, even though I was attracted to her. I didn't have time for a relationship. But I couldn't stay away from her for long. She has a tendency to get involved in things she shouldn't. I swear, every time my phone rang, informing me of another blown up car, well, my heart dropped to my stomach. Still, she bounced back, she persevered. I respected that about her.

However, I couldn't fully fit her into my lifestyle. Hell, we want two different things out of life. I was a fool to believe, even for a moment, that Stephanie would want to be a permanent part of my life. I need to get away from Trenton, make a permanent break from this city. I'm not sure where to go. I'm thinking Boston, as it is less likely that she will ever find her way there. I can easily work from there, and maybe be kinder to the men I work with.

I've been told, several times these last three months, that I need a break. I need to relax. How the fuck can I relax when my heart in no longer whole? I've increased my workouts, which means I'm in top physical form. I insist on going out solo; that way, I can't get anyone in trouble because I can't control my temper. I used to be able to control my emotions, I used to be able to hide what I felt, but not anymore. Not since she left me.

I think back to that day. She insisted that we meet in a park in Hamilton Township. She wanted privacy. She didn't want everyone to find out before she even told her parents. I saw her with her mother briefly, after that day, registering in the local Buy Buy Baby, and she looked thrilled that her youngest daughter was finally settling down with the catch of the city. Anyway, Stephanie called me, telling me we had to talk. I arrived before her and was hopeful. A few weeks before, we had our first real conversation about our feelings. I laid my cards out on the table, letting her know precisely where I stood, precisely what I wanted from her. She said that she had to think about what I said, that he had a similar conversation. Hence, she needed to carefully weigh her options. I thought for sure I won, I mean, she always turned to me when she needed me.

However, when I saw her arrive with him driving her, I knew I lost her. I was still optimistic, though, because I knew that there was a chance he would screw up, would fuck up, and then I could swoop in and claim her for my own. I never expected the words that came flowing out of her mouth.

"Hey, how are you?"

"I'm fine, Stephanie, how are you?" I asked, hoping I was reading things wrong.

"I'm good, a little nauseous, but that's to be expected?"

"What's wrong? Are you sick?"

"No, not sick. God, this is so hard. Look, I know what I'm going to say is going to hurt you, and I'm sorry for that. I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to play with your emotions. You're a good man, and I hope that someday you find your perfect woman. That woman, though, is not me. We want different things in life, things that you can't give me. I will always have a place for you in my heart. We've shared too much for me not to love you, in my own way. But I need to tell you that I'm pregnant. The baby's not yours. I didn't plan on becoming pregnant. Hell, I'm still not sure I want to be a mother, not that I have a choice in the matter now, but I do know that this baby needs to grow up with its father next to me. We're going to get married. Before you ask, no, it's not because of the baby. I had made my decision before I found out about this baby. I chose him. I know it won't be easy with him, but he can give me what I need and what I want. You can't. We were never compatible outside the bedroom for long."

"Are you sure this is what you want?"

"Yes, I am."

"Congratulations, then. Look, I need to go. Stephanie, I want you to know that I will always be here for you, no matter what. I will always help you if you need my help."

"I know that, and I appreciate that. Know that I'm always here for you, too. I understand if you choose not to come to the wedding. I would like you there, but I understand."

"I'll think about it." I walked away from her, fingering the box in my pocket that held the engagement ring I purchased for her two years ago.

That was that day I stopped really living. For the first two nights, I drowned my sorrows in alcohol, but it didn't lessen the pain I felt. Then my friends and brothers told me I needed to move on. It's hard but worth it. I've had other women in my bed, and I've been in their bed, but it hasn't been the same. Stephanie truly ruined me for all other women.

Now today, in a few hours, I'm going to watch her become the wife of another man. Fuck my life.

A/N: This is a little short story that popped in my head. As the story unravels, please don't give the ending away. Thank you, Babes! As always, thank you to Susan for editing my work, and thank you all for your encouragement. One chapter per day until complete.