Disclaimer: All the characters belong to the wonderful Janet Evanovich. I am just borrowing.

Spoilers: Possibly all the books up to Twelve Sharp

Content Warning: NC17

This is my first try at fanfic so please be kind.

Thanks to all the ladies of TBC for their support! You babes are the best!!

Stephanie's New Deal Chapter 15

I woke the next morning feeling happier and more at peace than I could ever remember experiencing before. I think it may have had something to do with the fact that Ranger's arm was still wrapped around my waste, holding me close to him, just the way it had been when we fell asleep together the night before. I raised my head enough to see the alarm clock and revised that to "four hours before" when I saw it was just after seven.

Ranger's arm tightened around my waist and he pulled me back to him, placing a kiss on my bare shoulder. "Go back to sleep, babe. We can run tomorrow instead."
I smiled. Ranger humor. "I'm surprised you're still in bed and not up already," I said, enjoying the feel of his skin against mine. I had noticed a long time ago that he naturally had a higher body temperature than most people and sleeping with him next to me meant that I didn't even need the blanket in order to stay toasty warm.

He rolled me over onto my back and put his arms on either side of my head, leaning down to kiss me long and hard before he responded. "I wanted to wake up and spend the morning with you."

I blinked up at him and tried to swallow back the question that immediately came to my mind, but it slipped out anyway. "You did?" I blurted out.

He gave a little frown and tilted his head as he looked down at me. Even a frown couldn't stop him from being absolutely gorgeous. "What did you think I meant last night?" he asked.

I bit my bottom lip. I knew exactly what he was referring to, specifically his comment in the heat of the moment the night before that what was going on between us wasn't a charade or ruse. I knew that was what he was referring to, but I wasn't sure how to react to it. I didn't know if he meant the emotion we had shared in the moment was what was real, because Ranger did love me, I knew that. It might be in his own way, with no ring attached, and no hope for a traditional future, but he did love me. So I didn't know if he meant that the emotions between us the night before were real and true, or if he meant the engagement itself was. A huge piece of me wanted to believe he meant the engagement, but given everything he had said to me in the past, I didn't know what to think. And I wasn't sure my heart was up to holding out hope for the latter only to find out that nothing had changed for him about his stance on commitment.

Ranger somehow knew the questions that were whirling around in my mind, although I guessed I shouldn't have been surprised given his ability to read my mind all the time He clasped my chin with one of his hands and tilted it up so I had no choice but to look him in the eye.

"What did you think I meant last night?" he asked again.

I bit down harder on my lip, hard enough to cause me a small jolt of pain when I almost pierced the skin and that caused me to release my grip on it. The pain may have been what distracted me so that I told him the truth about what I was thinking.

My eyelids floated closed as I answered. "I don't know."

My eyes were still closed so I didn't see him lean down so that his face was beside mine, but I did feel his hot breath on my ear when he spoke quietly into it. "I hope you were serious when you said yes in the restaurant last night, babe, because I have every intention of marrying you."

My eyes flew open and I was treated to the sight of Ranger smiling a full 1000 watter down at me. The sun was beaming in through the bedroom window and it was creating a halo-effect behind him that further emphasized his beauty. The words he had just said made him seem even more beautiful to me at that moment, too.

"You were serious when you proposed last night in the restaurant?" I exclaimed. If possible his smile got even wider.

He leaned down in a push up and kissed me before answering. "I told you I wasn't playing."

I coughed out a laugh. "We were in the middle of sex at the time. I wasn't sure what you were referring to." What I didn't add was the fact that I was also too afraid to hope he was serious.

He brought his head down so we were nose to nose before he said, "I want to marry you, babe. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to be together with you every day of every year, and I'm willing to put a ring on your finger to prove my commitment to you."

He pulled back and looked at me deeply, watching me for a moment, his eyes serious. "I need to know, babe, if you weren't serious last night when you said you would marry me. I need to know if ..."

I leaned up so I could catch his lips with my own, stopping his words with my kiss. When we pulled apart my voice was breathy from the lack of oxygen. "I was serious, too." I looked him directly in the eye. "I meant it when I said yes to your proposal last night, even before I knew you were serious when you proposed. There's no one else I want to spend my life with, Ranger. Just you."

He kissed me again, so deeply I could feel it down to my toes, and then rolled us over so I was on top of him, his arms wrapped around my back, his hands skimming across my skin, kissing me the entire time. When he finally broke the kiss he was as breathless as me.

"We're engaged," I said, awe and wonder clear in my voice.

He gave a soft chuckle and pulled my head down for another kiss. "Now that we have that firmly established, can I please spend the rest of the morning celebrating and making love with my fiancé?" he asked, pretending frustration and impatience.

I cupped his cheeks with my hands and looked him deeply in the eye again.

"You can have anything you want," I told him, and we spent the next several hours doing just what he had asked for.

- - - - -

When I woke again it was much later in the day, but still morning if the bright sunshine streaming into the room was any indication. Ranger's side of the bed was cold to the touch, but I could hear him rattling around in the kitchen, making cooking noises, and I couldn't help the smile that crossed my face at the sound. He was not only still in the apartment, but he was also cooking something. As long as it wasn't one of those green smoothies, I was calling the morning a huge success.

I gave a big stretch, feeling tightness in parts of my body that I normally wasn't aware of that could only be due to my athleticism the night before, and felt something on my left hand get tangled in my hair as I brought my hand back down as I finished. I finally managed to get my hand free, untangling my hair from around my engagement ring. I held my hand out in front of my face as I admired the sight of it, twinkling at me in the sunlight. The dark sapphires and bright, clear diamonds together reminded me of Ranger. He was able to move in both the dark as well as the light, always working to make things better. He made my entire life brighter, too. It was a sappy thought, and one I would probably never share with him for fear of getting laughed at, but looking at the ring reminded me of him and it made me love the ring even more.

I was having a hard time believing everything that had happened ... everything that had changed, really ... in only the past few days. In fact, I was feeling absolutely giddy with excitement over it all, and I couldn't help bouncing – literally – out of bed as I went to go to the bathroom to clean up, a huge smile on my face, only to find Ranger leaning against the door jamb smiling at me.

I stopped in mid-bounce, completely embarrassed. "You weren't supposed to see that," I said, flushing bright red, probably from head to toe since I was still naked. I didn't go so far as to cover myself up with my hands, but I knew my posture changed and showed my discomfort at standing there in front of him so vulnerable.

He came across the room to me and used his hands on my shoulders to make me stand up tall and proud in front of him. "I wasn't supposed to see you looking happy?" he asked, raising one eyebrow.

"No, of course that's not what I meant," I said, still feeling embarrassed.

He ran his hands down my arms and pulled me into his embrace. "I wasn't supposed to see you celebrating?" he asked, looking down at me and still being difficult.

I glared at him in response, but had to fight to hold on to the expression when I saw a smile fighting at the corners of his lips.

"Oh, you meant that I wasn't supposed to see you bouncing across the bed," he said, comprehension suddenly appearing on his face as if he hadn't known that the entire time. He leaned close to whisper in my ear. "I have to tell you, babe, I kind of like the idea of you doing a whole lot of naked bouncing on our bed."

I squealed in both laughter and outrage and he ducked the punch I aimed at his shoulder, laughing out loud himself.

He caught me to him again and gave me a hard peck on the lips. "It's almost noon so I'm making us something to eat. It's going to be about twenty minutes so do you want to wash up before or after you eat?"

A man who knew how to love me properly, let me use his orgasmic shower gel, and fed me. How lucky could one woman get? I asked myself before responding to his question. "I'm going to get cleaned up, but I'll be quick."

He gave me another kiss and let me go. I turned back just before getting into the bathroom and found him still standing where I'd left him, his eyes watching my every move. I blushed again, but this time it was more a flush of pleasure than anything else, and rushed through my usual shower routine.

We spent breakfast, which was more of a brunch really given how late in the morning it was, talking companionably. Or more accurately, Ranger asked me about my plans for the day and I spent most of the meal talking to him about those while he nodded at appropriate places and kept smiling at me. It felt good to be able to make Ranger smile that easily. And I didn't even have to get myself covered in food or punch some jerk in the nose in order to do it!

Ranger got a call just as we were finishing up and told the caller he would be down right away so I assumed it was someone calling from the control room. He snapped his phone closed and pushing his plate away from him on the table.

"Don't worry about cleaning up, babe. Ella will be up here in a bit anyway." He came over to my chair and leaned down so he was looking me directly in the eye. "Take one of the cars today when you go out."

"I can call for a ride," I objected.

He quieted me with a kiss that could have easily escalated and taken us back to the bedroom instead of on to what we were supposed to be doing.

"Take one of the vehicles," he said when he finally pulled away again. His voice was husky and reminded me of the voice he used when we were in bed together. I caught my bottom lip between my teeth as I remembered and he groaned quietly in response.

"I have to go or Tank is going to come up here to make sure I'm still alive. Take the Cayenne, I don't need it today and I'll know you're safe if you're in it."

I nodded my agreement, but I think I was actually nodding my agreement at the look in his eye that spoke of other things he wanted to be doing ... things that involved the two of us with a whole lot fewer clothes and maybe a bed, although even the floor would be okay.

Ranger's eyes darkened and he leaned down and kissed me senseless. When he finally pulled away he said, "I'll be following up later tonight on whatever it was you were just thinking about, so make sure you get a nap this afternoon," and left the apartment to go deal with whatever emergency was brewing.

I tried hard to wipe the silly grin his kiss had given me off my face, but it was stuck there and there was no hope of changing that so I finished getting dressed for the day and decided to stop by the bond's office to visit with Connie and Lula.

When the elevator doors opened down in the garage I realized that I didn't know if I had switched my wallet over to my regular purse. I stepped out of the elevator and off to the side, ready to start rooting through the purse when I realized I could hear someone else talking. I stopped pawing around in the bag to listen and realized the speaker was Maria.

"I know there's not a lot of time left," I heard her say to whoever she was talking to. I didn't hear an answering voice so I guessed that she was on her cell phone.

I looked around in the garage a bit but couldn't see her, so I figured she was hiding around the corner from the elevator in the little niche there. I backed up against the wall and strained to hear what else she might be saying. If I remained where I was, I would have to pay close attention so she wouldn't hang up and catch me lurking right by the elevator, or she might think I was intentionally trying to eavesdrop on her. Which, okay, I was, but after all the pain she had put me through in the last few days, I thought it was only fair.

"I know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing," she said, her voice showing the anger she was feeling.

She paused to listen to the other speaker again, and then said, "It's not going to be an issue. I told you, I know my brother."

I physically took at step back further into the wall, at that comment. Her brother? I knew there were two brothers she could potentially be speaking about, but my instincts told me that the brother in question was Ranger, not Eric. It made me listen even more closely, but I didn't chance to peek around the corner to see her in case she was facing my direction.

"Don't you take that tone with me!" she practically yelled. She must have realized how loud it sounded in the otherwise empty garage because when she spoke again it was much quieter and I had to strain a bit to hear her when she spoke next.

"I'll do my job, just like you hired me to." Her voice took on a sexually cajoling tone to it, "I've never let you down, have I?"

She giggled at whatever the other person said in response, and it sounded like she was starting to wind down on her call so I decided now was a good time to get into the SUV I was driving for the day and duck down out of sight.

I speed-walked as quickly as I could while still making no noise in the direction of the Cayenne, but then realized that based on where she was standing, she'd be able to see me get inside the SUV. I didn't want her to have even a suspicion that I had overheard her on the phone, so I knew I couldn't get inside of it. But I hadn't brought any of the other vehicles' keys down with me, either, so I couldn't get into a different vehicle, either.

I heard her make some good-bye noises and knew I had to get out of sight. Her car, easily identifiable by the fact that it was the only red vehicle in the entire garage, was parked close to the garage doors and on the eastern wall of the garage, the elevator being on the north wall. I decided my only chance to hide was to duck down behind one of the SUVs parked on the west wall, so I hightailed it over to them and had just ducked out of sight when I heard the tapping of her heels as she came out from her hiding place. I stayed down and out of sight, but listened to her cross the garage floor in the direction I knew her car to be. I followed the sound of her progress, ducking down behind the hood of the SUV when I believed she would be crossing behind it, and then moved to the other side of the vehicle so I would again be out of sight.

I could hear as she unlocked the door to the car, having locked up but not having put on the vehicle's alarm in the well-secured building, and listened to the sound of her opening and then closing the door as she got inside.

I stayed in my hiding place until I heard her not only start the car, but actually drive out of the garage, not leaving my crouched position until I heard the sound of the garage door closing after her again. When I heard that, I finally raised my head enough to take a look at the direction in which she turned.


I stood up and was immediately running across the garage to the Cayenne, my keys already out and at the ready. I beeped the door open and jammed the key into the ignition. My tires squealed a little as I backed out of the parking spot, and I was already pressing the button for the door even as I put the Cayenne into drive.

I turned out onto the street and gunned the engine as I kept my eyes peeled for the sight of Maria's little red car. It was easy to see it in traffic and I slowed down once I had gotten to within about a block of her, only then remembering about the video cameras that covered the garage and the fact that the Merry Men could see my every move in the garage while I had been snooping. No wonder Maria had hidden around the corner.

Lucky for me, I was friends with most of the men in the control room.

I dialed the number for it and thanked my lucky stars when Hal answered.

"Hal, I need a favor," I told him.

"Does this have anything to do with you skulking around the corner from where Ranger's sister was hiding, and then hiding behind a row of SUVs?" he asked.

I couldn't help but smile. "It might. Can you do me a favor and lose that footage?"

"I can't do that, Ms Plum." I help the sigh of disappointment that escaped my lips. "But I may be able to avoid mentioning having seen any of it unless specifically asked about it at a later date."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "That will work. Thanks, Hal!"

He laughed quietly. "You can make it up to me by telling me sometime about what's going on."

"Hal..." I hesitated. I suspected Maria was up to something, but I didn't know that I'd ever be able to tell Hal about it. Ranger's confidence was my first priority, and if whatever Maria was doing was bad, I doubted he would want his men to know about it.

"Or you could at least promise not to stun me again if I get put on bodyguard duty for you in the future," he said, once I had been quiet for too long.


I hung up and put all my focus back on keeping the one block distance between me and Maria's little red car, which was still traveling in front of me.

Change of plans, Steph, I thought to myself. It looked like I was going to be spending the day following my future sister-in-law.


I'm so sorry this chapter took so long! My muse deserted me after the last chapter and it took forever to get this one written in a way that I could keep the story on track! I hope it lived up to expectations after the last chapter, and I promise I'll have the next one out next week just as promised (maybe even sooner, if my muse has me really inspired!).

I really appreciate all the feedback, whether it's good or bad. Feedback is the only way I'll know if I'm getting any better as a writer!

Thank you so much for staying with me through this learning curve!