Spoilers: Not really. But to be safe, through 14
Disclaimer: Not mine, not making any money. Dammit.
A/N: This will be a series of silly vignettes that take place after the calamity that is better known as my Maxim Online Survey trilogy. This may all go up in flames but I'll give it a try…
Ranger's eyes locked on Stephanie's. Tension radiated off of his body and a muscle in his jaw ticked a steady pulse. "I told you before," he said on a harsh whisper, "There is no price for what we give to each other. Not financial, not emotional."
Stephanie took a step back. Her blue eyes were hot and shimmering with angry tears. "You said you loved me."
He looked away and raked his hand through his loose hair in frustration. "Of course I love you, Babe."
"Then I don't understand what the problem is."
He swiveled his gaze back to her and shot her and angry glare. "This is emotional blackmail."
Stephanie stared at him for the longest time. He saw the emotions pass over her face like a slideshow. First, incomprehension, then resignation, then her beautiful face crumpled into disappointment. His gut clenched but he forced himself to hold his ground. How could she ask this of him?
She turned away and slunk over to his sofa, collapsing onto it with a sigh. "Fine. I'll have Ella take care of it. Or maybe Lester would help me. I'm sorry I asked too much of you."
Fuck! They both knew that if anything, Stephanie asked for very little of him. That she had accepted him as her partner, her lover still astounded him. While he couldn't comprehend why this thing she wanted him to do for her was so important, he felt himself capitulating to the only person in the world who could bring him to his knees. And he'd be damned if Lester fulfilled a single need of Stephanie's that was his responsibility to provide. Stephanie was his woman; it was his job to take care of her.
He stalked over and dropped to his knees before her. He stroked her cheek with his hand then grasped her chin and nudged her head up with his index finger. When her big doe eyes connected with his, he said, "I will do this thing for you, Babe."
She shuddered out a shaky breath and gave him a tender smile.
He stood and scrubbed a shaky hand over his face before easing himself down beside her on the couch. "On one level, I understand your need to do this. I respect your passion and your tenacity…I just don't understand why this can't be put off another week."
"The book club meets tomorrow morning Ranger! Connie, Lula, Mary Lou and Grandma are all depending on me to lead the book talk. How can I do that if I haven't finished the book?"
Ranger turned to her, incredulous. "Why would you endeavor to start a book club the same exact week you are diagnosed as needing reading glasses, Babe?"
Stephanie popped off the couch, arms flailing. "I didn't know I needed reading glasses until I started trying to read the book!" Duh! "My glasses are special order! They're not going to ready for another week! Why else would I be asking you to read this to me?!"
"Settle down, Babe. Go get the book and we'll get started." Stephanie turned to go retrieve the book from her and Ranger's bedroom.
"Why don't you bring me a box to put my gonads in while you're in there," he growled under his breath.
"Huh?" her voice carried in from the other room.
Ranger shifted uneasily on the couch, adjusted himself, and muttered, "Nothing."
As Stephanie settled on the couch beside him, Ranger frowned down at the cover. There was some pansy-ass guy on the cover wearing what appeared to be a over large blouse which apparently had no buttons. His pants looked like fucking tights and the dude looked like he might have a flashlight in his pants. He was staring off into the middle distance probably thinking gay thoughts. Posed submissively in front of him was this chick with large breasts in a billowing dress. Said breasts appeared to be a shallow breath away from exploding out of her neckline. He wondered if Steph would wear a dress like that. The chick appeared to be clinging to the pansy's leg and she looked like she was contemplating an orgasm.
Ranger held up the book and waggled it in front of Stephanie. "What the hell kind of book is this?"
Stephanie folded her hands primly in her lap. "It's a Historical Romance."
"Don't book clubs typically read things a little heavier than trashy romance novels?"
"How do you know what they do in book clubs?"
"Mary Lou picked the book."
"All right. Tell me I don't have to start at the beginning."
"No, I got about half way through before the headaches got to be too much."
Ranger smirked. "You mean, before you diagnosed yourself with a brain tumor."
Stephanie did a pout.
Ranger opened to the page that Stephanie had folded down. His eyes widened almost imperceptibly in abject shock. "You dog-ear the pages?!"
Stephanie smirked back. "I also break the binding really good when I first get it so it stays open better." She grabbed the book from him and opened it to the middle and bent it back on itself a few more times for good measure. "There. That should help."
The last time she saw this expression on Ranger's face, she had just put her feet up on the dash of his Turbo in order to get comfortable on a stakeout. Bare footprints on the inside of the windshield: acceptable. Scuffs and scratches on his beloved dash: death and dismemberment may be involved.
Ranger shook his head solemnly and then focused on the book in front of him. Stephanie expected him to start reading aloud but instead, Ranger appeared to be scanning page after page before finally settling in where he felt like reading.
"Ranger, you can't just skip what doesn't interest you. It could be important to the plot. Something pivotal could be in the section you skipped and then I won't understand what's going on and then you'll have to go back and-"
Ranger looked incredulous. "Pivotal?"
"You know what I mean."
"Babe, I didn't skip it, I scanned it. Everybody went on a fox hunt and some dude named Wesley got shot in the arm. Then people hung out on the lawn and drank tea and ate petit fours and said snooty things to each other. There appears to have been an aborted duel. Blah, blah, blah. They ate dinner in the great hall…yaddah, yaddah….somebody played a pianoforte…Okay. Here we go:
" Tristan pressed his hard length against Gwendolyn's quivering mound," he read, obviously confused by the wording. He looked up at Steph. "Hard length?"
"Um…his, you know."
"Say it, Babe."
"It's two o'clock in the afternoon!"
"Just keep reading!"
"Gwendolyn shivered in her excitement. The Duke's long fingers were threaded through her golden tresses. Though still a maiden, Gwendolyn felt rush of longing and a sense of need at the apex of her thighs." Ranger lowered the book to his lap in disgust.
"So if I'm reading this correctly, Babe, They're dry humping in the atrium. Although, it appears Gwendolyn isn't all that dry. Also, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on length."
Stephanie rolled her eyes. "Would you just read?!"
"Tristan removed the fichu from the bosom of her gown and tugged the open neckline down fractionally. Her rose pink peaks pebbled in the chill air. Lowering his head, he gently laved one hardened tip, then the other with his tongue." Ranger dropped the book again. "Why doesn't the author just say he's sucking on-"
"Just forget it!" Stephanie rolled her eyes and grabbed the book back from him. "If you can't take this seriously, I'd rather just reschedule the book talk. And from what I can see going on in your cargos, this scene isn't as lame as you're implying."
Ranger adjusted himself and picked up the book again. "Tristan slid his hand up her creamy thigh and searched for the slit in her pantaloons. He sifted through her downy curls to her moist center." Ranger slid a glace at Stephanie. "Babe, you're reading soft porn."
Stephanie sat up stiffly. "It is not! And if it is, technically, you're reading soft porn."
"Babe, the only difference between this and Penthouse Forum are semantics. I prefer to just call a spade a spade."
"If only you would just call it a spade."
"What would you prefer I call it?"
"That's not the only difference. This scene could really happen," Stephanie said.
"Babe, the stuff in Penthouse forum does really happen."
Ranger gave her a soft, almost-smile.
"That stuff better not be happening to you!"
"All in the past, Babe. Besides, I seem to remember yesterday my "secretary" came into my office to do some naughty dictation."
"I was there purely on business!"
"I don't remember calling you into to my office to perform any dictation."
"Oh, you were dictating all right!"
"Well you were taking too long to find your alleged dropped pencil."
"I did drop it! It rolled under your desk!"
"I thought it was a signal."
"It was a signal that I dropped my pencil! You think everything's a signal. Stephanie's in the shower…she must want sex. Stephanie's eating a donut…clearly, she must want sex. Stephanie's lying on top of me…"
"Well, okay…but those other things don't mean anything!"
"Babe, do you want me to keep reading? You're looking a little sleepy."
Ranger continued to read about Tristan's throbbing member and Gwendolyn's quivering sheath. He glanced covertly at Steph and noticed her eyes were glazed over, and not in lust. He decided to see if she was paying attention. "Tristan looked up from his tender ministrations when he heard someone enter the atrium. It was Gwendolyn's lady's maid, and while she seemed embarrassed and somewhat shocked, Tristan could also see a suppressed longing in her eyes. At Tristan's discreet signal, the voluptuous maid stepped forward and pressed her breasts against Gwendolyn's back. Wrapping her arms around her Lady's waist, she went up on tip-toe and pressed hot, open-mouth kisses on-"
"It does not say that!"
"It does not!"
"Only in your vivid, perverted imagination!"
"I told you before that I might be sick…sexually."
"I'm living with a deviant!"
Ranger put down the book and pulled Steph over onto his lap. He placed a soft kiss on her shoulder and said, "Fantasizing about two beautiful women is hardly deviant behavior. Men come off the production line factory equipped with that fantasy."
"Leave it to you to make a car analogy."
"You had experience with my…tastes before you made a decision to become my lover."
"I'm not into girls! The only girl-on- girl action you're going to see is me and Lula wrestling over a shoe!"
"Babe. I don't require girl-on- girl action. And could we change the visual to Mary Lou? Lula kind of scares me."
"Then maybe we should go over what you do require."
Ranger chuckled into her hair and nuzzled a kiss against her ear. "Babe, everything I require is sitting right here on my lap."
"On top your throbbing manhood?"
"I was hoping you wouldn't notice."