Epilogue, as promised
I know I haven't replied to last chapter's reviews, but I will, I promise, and thank you for them!
I own none of these characters, and make no profit
Friday, March 17th…
two weeks later
Steph hung back from the security check with the airline employee. She watched as Ranger hugged Julie, and whispered something in her ear.
Julie giggled, wiped her sleeve across her eyes, and hugged him again. She walked over to Steph and wrapped both arms around her waist.
"You'll be here when I get back, Steph?"
Steph leaned down and hugged her. "I'm not going anywhere, I promise. Besides," Steph said laughing, "you're only going to be gone for a week. Spring break isn't that long."
Julie looked up at her. "But I get to come back, right?"
Steph's heart melted a little bit. Julie had been tugged around a lot since August. She reached down and grabbed the boarding pass out of Julie's hand and flipped to the itinerary. "Look, you're flying back on Sunday the 27th. That's ten days from now. And your dad and I are going to be standing right in this very spot waiting for you. And if you don't get your little butt back here, we're going to come to Miami and drag you back."
A huge grin lit Julie's face. "Really?"
Steph narrowed her eyes. "Really. Not get on the plane."
Julie laughed and hugged her again, almost bouncing now with excitement.
The airline employee, a young woman with brown hair and a classic uniform, stepped forward. "I'm going to escort you through security to your flight, whenever you're ready to go."
Julie gave one last quick hug to her dad, and then followed the woman toward the security line. Julie looked back and waved, just before stepping out of sight.
Ranger wrapped and arm around Steph and steered her toward the door. "That's not nearly so hard when I know she'll be back in a week."
Ranger tugged her to the side as they stepped out the doors into the cold air. He pushed her up against the brick wall and leaned down, so that his lips were just hovering above hers. "And now, I have you to myself for ten whole days."
Steph smiled and leaned forward to kiss him. "Mmmn. Ten days. Too bad we can't call in sick to work and hide."
"You know what I think we should do with those ten days?"
He spoke with a perfectly straight face. "Work on that baby thing you mentioned."
Her eyes widened. "What? No, I didn't mean, like today. I meant in the future, you know, later. Not right now…"
He chuckled. "Okay then, how about we spend ten days practicing?"
She used her fingertips to push him away, though it did nothing to budge him. "You did that just to see me panic, didn't you."
He smiled and kissed her. Really kissed her. She fisted her hands into his shirt and pressed her body against his.
He pulled back and tugged her hand. "Come on." He started to lead her back toward the terminal.
"Where are you going? Julie's gone, and we're parked over there," she said, pointing to the short term parking lot across the street.
He walked inside, pulling her along, and walked directly to the security line.
"What are you doing? You can't go through security without a ticket. Julie will be back in a few days. It's not a big deal."
Ranger looked down at her and grinned. "We need a ticket? Really?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Okay, Man of Mystery. What's going on?"
He pulled two ticket folders out of his jacket pocket. He handed them to her.
"What? What is this?" She looked down at the top folder. It was a boarding pass, printed with her name. Direct flight to Aruba.
She looked up at Ranger, her eyes huge.
He shrugged. "We'll have to fight the spring-breakers, but its warmer there than it is here."
"Ranger, we can't just go to Aruba for week! What about work? What about clothes? What about the car?"
"What about the car?"
She glanced around to see other passengers in the security line smiling at her. She didn't care. She turned back to Ranger
"It's in short-term parking! Do you know how expensive that is? And clothes! I can't go to Aruba in this!"
"What's wrong with your clothes?"
Stephanie rolled her eyes. A large man in solid black walked up to Ranger, and handed him two carry-on size suitcases. Ranger handed the smaller one to Stephanie.
Steph looked down at the bag in her hand, and looked up to see Ranger handing the car keys to the other man. Steph didn't know who he was, but he looked identical to all other RangeMen.
She locked eyes with Ranger. "We have to go to work. We can't just run off to Aruba."
"Babe. You just said that you want to call in sick for ten days and hide. That's what we're doing. That and the baby thing."
She rolled her eyes but a huge smile started spreading across her face. "You better have packed a bathing suit in here."
Ranger laughed and wrapped an arm around her waist. "I did. And I'll even buy you another one when we get there."
Steph smiled and stood up on her toes. She kissed him softly. "Thank you."
A heavy-set, middle-aged woman was behind them in line. Her bright red hair was curled sky high in true Jersey fashion. "You got yourself a keeper there, honey," she said to Stephanie. She grabbed the hand of the man next to her. "I should know. My Ronnie surprised me with a trip for our first anniversary. Melted my heart and I never looked back."
Steph was smiling politely until she looked up to see Ronnie rolling his eyes behind his wife's bright red, bobbing head. She put on her best poker face and turned back to the woman, "You're right, he's a wonderful man."
As they went through security, the guards pulled Ranger to the side to search him further. Steph waited patiently, knowing it would happen at every airport. She waved to the red-headed woman and 'her Ronnie' as they walked past, headed to their own flight.
Once security had deemed Ranger safe and weapon-free, they headed to their gate and sat down.
Steph looked down at her ticket and smiled. She gently fingered the edge of the paper, tracing over her name. She continued looking over it until she saw the purchase date.
"Ranger," she said looking up at him, "you bought these tickets on the 21st."
He just looked at her.
"That was the same day I came back to live you and Julie."
He nodded once.
"Ranger, we weren't even together then."
He reached out and tucked a curl behind her ear. "No, but I was hoping."
She took a deep breath and stared up at him. "You were?"
He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. "I told you, babe. I want you in my life. Forever."
She leaned against him and nodded. She dimly heard the PA system announce the first-class boarding for their flight.
Ranger stood, and pulled her to her feet. "Come on. I've got ten days of you in a bikini and white sand beaches. By the time I'm through with you forever won't seem like long enough."
That's all folks. In case you don't remember, Feb. 21st (the day he bought the tickets) was the day of the prologue, and the beginning of chp 15. Please, let me know what you thought. Anything about the epilogue, the story as a whole…(oh, and if everyone keeps clamoring for a sequel, you all are going to have to give me some ideas in your reviews!)
thanks to Lisa for the perfect last line, and again to Nichole for all her months of editing, and Tracy, Stephannie, Jenn, and Sue for reading it early and giving me your thoughts. And of course, thank you to everyone who took the time to read this all the way through, and everyone who kept reviewing. It really means a lot to me that you all seemed to enjoy the story!