A/N: I'm back! The past two years were not very nice to me but I'm really hoping this year will be better. (If you have a good luck charm, give it a rub for me!) This chapter isn't very long, sorry, but I just wanted to get something out for those of you who've waited so long and patiently. Hopefully I'll have more up very soon! Happy New Year!

See previous chapters for disclaimer.

Chapter 61

What could I say to that? I tried to form an argument in my head but instead I had an epiphany. Memories of all the times Ranger had given me what I needed, whether it was a vehicle or encouragement or just space flashed through my head, and how he'd reminded me there was no price for what was between us. Sometimes I'm slow but it was suddenly clear that accepting his gifts without argument might be as important to making him happy as accepting him just as he was. So instead of objecting, when my mouth opened all I said was "Okay."

Ranger just stared at me for a moment as if he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Just 'okay', Babe?" he asked finally.

I gave him my best smile and hoped he could see my love for him in it. "And -thank you."

The smile that spread across his face was blinding. I had a moment to think 'thank God we're not in the glassware section' before he was up and pulling me into his arms and into his kiss.

Kissing a smiling Ranger was another new experience; it wasn't so much a kiss as many tiny kisses, which had me smiling, too. His arms tightened around me enough to lift me off the floor...and the unmistakable bouncing clatter of dropped trays from behind the counter that had me laughing and pulling back.

"Let's get out of here," I whispered, "before that girl hurts herself!"

Ranger chuckled but let me down, then took my hand and we headed for the elevators. A few minutes later we were entering the electronics section, which was crowded with shoppers. Huge televisions were all playing a collage of Christmas movies and advertisements for specials in the store. Teenagers were slouching around video game displays and playing with the display models. Harried sales clerks were scrambling.

"What are we looking for here?" I asked.

"We were going to get phones for your parents, remember? Or have you decided against that?"

Actually it had slipped my mind. I smiled and squeezed his hand. "I forgot to write it down," I admitted. "I still think it's a great idea, though. Thank you for remembering."

He just smiled and led the way through the displays to the one phone section. There were a lot of them.

"Do you want to get the prepaid, no-contract phones? Or regular ones?"

"Can we look at both?" I asked. I was a little out of my depth, here. I'd only ever chosen a phone for myself, and usually what I'd gotten was dictated by what I could afford.

We looked at everything. It seemed like all the new phones were smartphones, with fancy features and apps and all sorts of things I knew my parents would never use - might never figure out how to use. If the phones were complicated I was afraid they wouldn't want to use them, and said so to Ranger.

"I understand what you mean," he agreed. "My father is the same way."

We managed to work our way to where the prepaid phones were displayed and fairly quickly found a better fit, folding phones similar to what Valerie had gotten for Grandma. They were actually pretty solid and had camera and calendar features that my parents might use. I thought they were the best choice.

I picked up two just alike, and Ranger carried the boxes while we went to check out accessories for them. The phones each came with the basic charger and user manual. I added car charging cords and then looked at cases and things. The store didn't have much of a selection, though, for the simpler model phones.

"Skip those for now, Babe. There are websites that specialize in cases and other accessories. You can order them online and still have them here by Christmas."

"Good idea." I smiled. "I don't want a lot but I would like to get them something to make it easier to tell the phones apart."

As soon as the phones were paid for and in a bag, Ranger led me down an open stair into a huge ladies department. The clothing here was very nice and there was more of a range of styles, from very casual to almost as nice as the dress I'd already gotten. Okay, maybe just as nice - I hadn't seen everything yet.

There was a personal-shopping assistant available here. Ranger pointed out that I needed several outfits and since it was already after eleven-thirty he suggested we make use of the service. I was a little hesitant but agreed. The assistant was a woman nearing middle age, with deep brown hair drawn neatly into a French twist on the back of her head and sharp brown eyes. Ranger took the shopping bag and waved me off with Lila, who began to question me about my sizes and what styles I preferred as she led me away.

Lila was good. Within minutes she began to pull dresses and slacks sets from racks, giving me a moment to say yes or no to trying them on before adding them to a growing pile on her arm. When she had all she could carry she led me back to a comfortable dressing room with a hanging rack large enough to hold all the hangers she carried. She asked if I needed help, then left me alone to start trying them on.

It was sort of nice not to have to get re-dressed constantly - I just stripped down to my bra and underwear and started trying on clothes. Everything seemed to fit but the first three dresses I put on did nothing for me. The fourth one, a soft slate blue sheath with gathers over one hip, I sort of liked, and I wondered if Ranger would like it. I peeked out the door but couldn't see him. Lila spotted me, though, and came over to see if I needed help.

"No," I smiled, "I just wanted my...um...boyfriend's opinion." I felt myself flushing at stumbling over my tongue, but it felt beyond strange to refer to Ranger as a boyfriend.

Lila smiled. "He went to the other side of the floor, ma'am. He said he'd be back in a few minutes. Perhaps you should put this dress to one side for now, and when he returns you can show him only the ones you like?"

Okay, that wasn't a bad idea. So I hung it back on a hanger and put it on one end of the rack and went on. By the time I'd gone through the first 'load' of clothes I had four dresses, a skirt set, and a pants set that I sort of liked. Lila removed the ones I didn't care for and brought me a few more selections to try, and when she went back through the door I saw Ranger was back with another bag.

He smiled when he saw me peeking out and came to the door. "Finding anything you like?"

"I've found a few. I'd like a second opinion..."

"Do you want to come out, or shall I come in with you?"

I checked to see if Lila was looking, then reached out and pulled him into the room with me. It wasn't especially roomy and instead of a bench there was only a stool, but Ranger didn't seem to mind. He sat down and tucked his bags against the wall out of the way.

He liked the slate blue dress, gave a tiny shrug I interpreted as a no to a cream-colored dress, and smiled at a deep garnet red sweater dress and the skirt set in teal and gray. One eyebrow went up at the pants set - black slacks and a deep amethyst top - but he was almost smiling so I put it in the yes pile. I slipped the little black dress into that pile, too - I knew as soon as I tried it on the first time that I wanted it.

I thought that was plenty of clothing for me so I shooed him out and put my clothes back on, then carried my choices out to the sales desk where Lila was waiting. Ranger called Jeremy as the dresses were rung up and folded with tissue into boxes. By the time our transaction was complete Jeremy had arrived to spirit all the bags back to the hotel.

Lunch was a little late but that worked out nicely as the restaurant we chose wasn't busy. We walked a few blocks, window shopping, then caught a cab to Bloomingdales...but on the way I spotted a shop called Big Beautiful Women and we got out there instead.

This store was perfect for Lula! I could see her wearing every outfit displayed on mannequins. Even the handbags and jewelry were just what she'd wear. There were too many choices now and I couldn't decide what to get, which was an interesting if frustrating dilemma.

Ranger had just the right suggestion. "Get her a gift card, and then you can bring her shopping. You can make it a girls day out."

Lula would love it. And even better, the store had gorgeous boxes for their gift cards so I wouldn't have to figure out how to wrap it so it didn't look like a card.

Bloomingdales was busy and almost too warm inside. It was a little awkward to carry our coats, but after checking our list we didn't have too much left to shop for and within an hour and a half we'd gone through the store and had another four bags. We went outside still carrying our coats, the cold feeling good for a few minutes after the heat indoors. Then Ranger and I took turns holding the bags while the other put their coat on and for some reason the bag-juggling gave me the giggles. Ranger looked at me with one eyebrow quirked and that just made it worse, and of course I couldn't explain why I was laughing. But then his eyes got that funny crinkle in the corners and he pulled me to him and kissed me...right there on the sidewalk in front of Bloomies, with the Salvation Army Santa ringing his bell on the corner...

"Let's go back to the hotel," he said softly as he pulled back. "I think I'm done with shopping for the day."

I couldn't agree more.