Stephanie drifted off on her couch, the sound of squeaking shoes from the television lulling her to an in between state. Her living room was dark except the lights on the Christmas tree Stephanie thought sure was hot. Morelli had been called away, Grandma Mazur was upset her latest studmuffin disappeared, her sister and mother were still in a state about Valerie's unexpected pregnancy, but she had survived another Plum Christmas dinner relatively unscathed. A night in front of the TV with a basketball game acting as her date was appealing oddly enough. Peace and quiet at last, there was even a plate of leftovers for later. And cookies. Stephanie was set.
The ring Joe had given her remained in the box and was on the nightstand by her bed. She wasn't sure how to interpret his giving her a friendship ring. She didn't want to think about it tonight. Diesel was gone so she didn't have to worry about him popping in and out. She just wanted to enjoy having her apartment to herself again.
She must have dozed off soundly because the next thing she knew she saw a silhouette of a person across the room. Why was she surprised someone had let themselves into her apartment? She flicked her eyes to the TV, noting the game was over. Last she knew it was the beginning of the third quarter. Yikes.
As her eyes adjusted, she made out aspects of the figure familiar to her. If the quickening of her heart wasn't hint enough that it was Ranger.
"Is there an invisible sign on my door that says 'walk right in'?"
"Babe," he said softly.
She sat up on the couch, searching for the remote and regarded him standing in her apartment in the dark. He was standing near a light switch, so she guessed he wanted it dark. Alone with Ranger in the dark was a potent combination, the stuff dreams were made of. She knew how good the reality was so she didn't need dreams. Right.
"What are you doing here?"
"Merry Christmas to you, too."
She blinked. For some reason she never thought about Ranger celebrating Christmas, or any holidays. It went against the superhero image. Didn't it? "Merry Christmas," she said finally.
"You got a tree."
"It was a gift."
"No car again I see."
She felt the heat of an embarrassed blush on her face. Did this man have to know about every car she destroyed? Of course, he would have noticed she was driving a different car the next time they saw one another. Come to think of it, it had been a while since she'd seen him. Too long.
"What can I say?"
She stood and walked toward him. She didn't like not being able to see him. It put him at an advantage, an even bigger one anyway. "Hey, at least it's just cars that blow up around me. It could be people."
He didn't sound entirely convinced. "What are you doing here on Christmas?" She flipped on the light and walked to the fridge, pulling out a beer followed by a second one when he accepted the offered beverage. It always surprised her when he drank beer. He was such a stickler for not putting bad things in his body, but every once in a while – usually with her or under her influence – he put aside his healthy choices.
"I realized I hadn't given you your present."
"You got me a present?" Now she felt bad, she hadn't even thought to get Ranger something. She couldn't recall exchanging gifts with him in the past. He gave her one of his sexier looks and she felt her toe curls in response. Ranger always made lots of her parts curl, most of the time without thought or permission. There was the one time. No, she couldn't go there. Not tonight when despite what she tried to say and think she hated being alone. It was Christmas after all.
He unbuttoned his coat and dropped it over the back of her chair. "Yeah. Want to see it?"
She gulped, staring at his chest that was straining against the shirt that hugged his torso like a glove. He had to get undressed to show her his present? "The night's looking up," she whispered.
He arched a brow and he gave her a smile that could warm all of Trenton on a cold winter's night. "It is, huh?"
She licked her lips and forced herself to lift her gaze to his face. What were they talking about? Oh, yeah, her Christmas present. She took a sip of her beer and walked to Rex's cage. "So, no plans at the Bat Cave?"
"It's a slow night."
"Hmm," she said not sure how to take that. "So you came here?" She was starting to feel insulted. What was this? Some sort of booty call? Like Ranger would need to come here and seek her out if he was looking for that. All he'd have to do is snap his fingers outside the Bat Cave and he'd have his choice of many women. Probably some men, too. Thankfully, he wasn't into that. He was very into women. It was probably best for their relationship that she couldn't decide just how she felt about him compared to Joe anymore than he could figure out what he wanted to do with her.
His gaze traveling a path along her face, she could feel her lips swelling just from the piercing look he gave them. She remembered well the heat of his kisses, how swollen and used her mouth had felt. Don't go there. But it was such a nice place to go. Ranger.
With that she stepped into his arms and he accepted her there without question as he always did. Her mouth found his and their mouths met, fused was more like it. Lips, teeth, and tongue it was difficult to tell where he began and she ended. Her mind was trying to sort the sudden desire pumping through her body. Here she'd thought it would be a slow night.
That seemed to be all the answer he needed because the next thing she knew he had stealthily maneuvered them to her bedroom. They toppled to her bed with Ranger landing on his back with her practically draped over him. She wasn't sure if it was what he'd intended but she could tell that he wasn't unhappy to be there.
They made quick riddance of each other's clothes and before she knew it she was on her back with Ranger leaning over her. Their eyes met. She saw lust there, sure, but there was something more. Something she didn't understand. She saw it in Joe's eyes sometimes, too. It made her a little giddy that she had two men to look at her that way. It seemed unfair, like she was hogging two prime specimens to herself.
He slid home and thoughts of Joe or making decisions flew from her mind. Ranger made it difficult for her to think of anything but him. He more than made up for the lack of foreplay, taking them both higher and higher until she thought she'd die if he didn't bring her down soon. When she crashed, a thunderous release tore through her. She assumed he would follow in kind but he took her there again and again, demanding more from her than she had in her to give. Or so she thought.
Lying beside him, her body feeling like jelly at the moment, she heard Jimmy Stewart's voice from the living room. She was missing the movie but she couldn't find it in herself to care just now.
"Was that my present?"
In the darkened room she heard him chuckle and couldn't help but laugh herself. It was a present she'd never forget if it was. She heard him moving and was surprised when he sat up on the bed, turning her bedside lamp on. In his hand was the ring box from earlier.
"You're not wearing it."
"Because I haven't decided if I want to yet."
Their eyes met and she shrugged. She somehow thought Ranger wasn't as put out by her indecisiveness as Joe was. Of course, it wasn't Ranger wanting to marry her either. She wasn't quite sure what superheroes did when it came to relationships.
He closed the ring box and returned it to the nightstand.
"That wasn't your present."
"Oh? Where is it?"
"I just thought you might want some company on Christmas Eve."
"And what about you?"
He shrugged then and lay down on the bed. He glanced out the window. It had started to snow she could see from the nearby streetlight. "I wanted more than visions of sugar plums dancing in my head."
She cocked an eyebrow at him. He had made a joke. And had admitted in a roundabout way he didn't want to be alone. It was the closest thing she was going to get to Ranger spilling his guts. "So you settled for Stephanie Plum instead?"
"Something like that."
"That's what I'm here for. To spread holiday cheer."
She snorted softly but didn't know what to say. The idea of Ranger playing the role of jolly old Saint Nicholas was laughable. He did have a daughter, though, so maybe he had done that sort of thing with her.
She grew tired then, heard his breathing begin to slow as well. Waking up with Ranger in her bed on Christmas Day was not a bad thing. It was something to look forward to. She didn't have to worry about Santa and whether she'd been naughty or nice.
Her eyes fell closed. She opened them again in time to see Diesel standing at the foot of her bed. She was about to call him a freaky pervert but just like that he was gone again. Huh, she thought, maybe he had worked his magic on her after all.