Warning for lemony goodness!

~oOo~

Chapter 7: The Party
Stephanie's POV

This was it, the moment of truth. He was either going to be pissed off or excited.

Surprising me, Ranger swept me up to his chest, carefully finding my mouth before kissing the daylights out of me. "I love you so very much, Stephanie," he said as his lips descended upon mine again.

As soon as we parted, I moved my hands up to remove the blindfold and whispered to him, "I love you, too, Carlos." I folded it up carefully, put it in his pocket, and then took his hand and said, "Let's go eat."

He nodded and followed me into the restaurant. I swallowed hard and led him toward the side room.

~oooOOOooo~

Ranger's POV

The first thing I noticed when we entered the restaurant was how quiet it seemed. Then I noticed there wasn't anyone waiting at the reception desk. Something clicked in my head and I realized there'd been several familiar black vehicles out in the parking lot when Steph took off the blindfold. I wondered who else was here besides some of my guys.

We turned the corner and my eyes widened as I caught sight of four rather large tables all alone in one room, filled with people I knew. I turned to look into the other room and saw that it was empty.

Looking at Stephanie, I raised an eyebrow. "The entire restaurant?"

She smiled softly at me just as the group began to shout, "Surprise!"

I turned back to the room and smiled at everyone.

"I can't believe you pulled this off!" I said quietly to Steph. "I figured you had something planned, but this?" I made a sweeping gesture of the room.

Suddenly, I heard, "Ranger!" and then Julie was in front of me, her arms wrapped around my waist.

I picked her up and gave her a gentle hug. When I set her down, she had tears in her eyes.

"Julie, when did you get here? Are you staying with Abuela and Abuelo?"

"I got here yesterday. Yes, I'm staying with them until tomorrow, and then Steph asked if I minded coming and staying with the two of you at RangeMan. Ella already has my room ready and everything. Is that okay? I really want to stay with you for the week," she rambled.

"Of course it is! You got to take an entire week off school? Your mom and dad okayed that with the school?" At her nod, I grinned. "I'm glad you're here, querida. We'll have plenty of time to talk, okay?"

She nodded and hugged Steph before I wrapped my other arm around her and pulled her with us a few steps farther into the room.

"Come on, Batman. Let's go say hello to all your friends and then sit down for dinner."

We stopped at the first table inside the door, and I looked around at some of our friends and family. "Mary Lou, Lenny," I said, shaking hands with them before turning to Stephanie's sister and brother-in-law, as well as Eddie and his wife. "Thank you for coming. Are you enjoying the night out without the kids so far? Sally, you and Diesel make sure everyone is kept entertained, okay? Carl. Big Dog. Thanks for helping keep the peace with this rowdy bunch." I grinned, winking at the table. "Thank you all for coming, really. It means a lot."

"Enjoy the party," Stephanie said as we moved on.

Turning to the next table, I was surprised to see all my siblings and their spouses, along with Ella and Louis.

"How in the world could my entire family have known and I hadn't heard a word?" I growled at them. "Celia, Maria, Pilar, Adriana," I said to my sisters and sister-in-law, motioning at the guys. "Thank you for dragging them all along with you. I'm sure they'd rather be anywhere else." They all pretended to be in pain about having to be here, and we all laughed.

"Ella, Louis. I'm so glad you came." I leaned down and kissed Ella's cheek before shaking Louis's hand.

We moved on to the third table and I put on my blank face. "Men. Ladies," I said quietly. Unable to help myself, I grinned. "If you all are here, who the hell is watching RangeMan?"

Tank spoke up. "I got ya covered, Bossman. Junior, Ram, Vince, Woody, Binkie, and some contract workers are all on. I'm on call if anything goes wrong. Just relax and enjoy yourself." He looked at Lula next to him. "I certainly am."

I nodded once and turned to look at the group. Aside from Tank and Lula, Steph had managed to get Bobby and Kat, Hal and Connie, Lester and Annie, Cal and Katie, Hector and Steven, and even Silvio and Amber to the party.

"Silvio, glad to see you and Amber could make it up from Miami. Have fun, you guys. We don't get to take a night off very often, especially as a group, so everyone enjoy themselves."

Steph and I smiled to the table and moved on to the final group. Both sets of parents and grandmothers were there, along with the three empty seats for Julie, Steph, and myself. After giving all the women a hug and kiss on the cheek, I shook hands with my father and Frank and then held the chairs out for Steph and Julie on either side of mine before finally sitting down myself.

Immediately after sitting, a waiter came over and asked if I needed anything to drink.

"Everyone else placed their order when they got here, Carlos," Stephanie said at my curious expression. "I ordered you the grilled halibut with veggies and rice."

I nodded at the waiter and asked for a Corona with lime. Turning to Julie, I asked about the plane ride to Trenton. Conversation flowed around all the tables, and soon, dinners began arriving. I kept my eyes moving around everyone, every once in a while coming back to Steph to smile over at her.

"Thank you, Babe. This is terrific. I love you," I whispered quietly to her during a lull in the conversation.

As soon as we were finished with dinner, the plates were all cleared.

Stephanie stood up and pulled me to the little stage in the front of the room. "Hi, everyone. Thank you all for coming. I know it means a lot to Carlos and myself both to have you here. I hope you're all enjoying yourselves. As everyone knows, Carlos's birthday is in two days. I have one last gift for him, and then anyone else that wants to speak can come up."

She handed me another jeweler's box. Opening the lid, I saw a beautiful slide pendant that matched my new cufflinks and money clip. It was hanging on a thin gold chain. Engraved down the center was the word: Forever.

I turned to Steph and whispered, "Yeah, Babe. Forever. Help me put it on?"

She nodded and then took the chain and put it around my neck as I held my hair up. Then, grinning at the crowd, I pulled her to me, dipped her as if we were dancing, and placed a long, intimate kiss on her lips that left us both breathless.

For the next twenty minutes, we listened to many of my friends and family tell stories or just give their best wishes. Tank took it upon himself to break the ice and stood up first, telling a story of when we were on a mission and I wasn't quite as aware of my surroundings as I should have been. I'd ended up squatting in a patch of poison ivy. Just the reminder of the story had me reaching around to rub my ass.

After the laughter died down, Celia headed to the stage and told a story about my first day of second grade, when I let her cut my hair. "Thank goodness a boy's hair can be easily fixed! Our mother just shaved his head!"

Everyone laughed again and I felt Steph reach up to run her fingers through my shoulder-length hair.

"I like it so much better like this," she whispered to me. "It's incredibly sexy."

I grinned at her and put my hand under the table high up on her thigh.

"Not sexier than you are in that smokin' dress, Babe. Don't think I haven't noticed. I want to slip outside and take you right against the truck, but knowing everyone's in here has kept the need at bay. Keep talking like that, though, and I may not be able to control myself." My fingers crawled a bit higher, finding the bare skin above the top of her thigh highs.

After a few more embarrassing stories, Sally Sweet came up on stage. The lights dimmed, and suddenly, a waiter was approaching our table with a plate of tiramisu in his hands. There was a single lit candle sticking out of it.

"Okay, Carlos, make a wish. When he blows it out, everyone sing," Sally said to the group.

~oooOOOooo~

Stephanie's POV

Ranger closed his eyes briefly and then opened them to look at me under lowered lashes before blowing out the candle. Sally started in on the birthday song, but I couldn't even open my mouth. Ranger had me pinned with his gaze and I was powerless to do anything but watch him.

As soon as the group finished singing, the spell was broken, and I took a deep breath as the waiters began bringing out dessert for everyone. I had ordered the chocolate mousse for myself, and knowing how much it would tease Ranger, I made sure to let my enjoyment of each bite be heard low enough that only he could hear. When his hand crept higher on my thigh and his fingers tightened a bit, I knew he was not only hearing it, but enjoying it, as well.

Soon after dessert, the group began to head home. All the couples with children left first, claiming the need to rescue all the babysitters that had been called out tonight. Following them were Diesel, Sally, and the other cops.

Ella and Louis came over next. "Call me tomorrow when you're ready for breakfast," Ella said.

"Thank you for coming, both of you," I said, hugging her. "I'm glad you could be here to celebrate his birthday with everyone else who means so much to him. You're both family and it wouldn't have been right without you."

She returned my hug, and they followed the others out the door.

We turned to look at the remaining crowd. Everyone at our table looked about done in, so I turned to my mom, dad, and grandma. "Dad, why don't you take them home now? Carlos and I will come for dinner next week, and we'll bring Julie, okay?"

My dad nodded and began to gather the other two up. I saw my mom hug Maria, Ranger's mother, and the two of them whispered something back and forth for a minute before turning to us with silent tears in their eyes. Before I could ask, my family was gone and the rest of the table was standing up, as well.

"Carlos, we're going to head home, too. Call us tomorrow and we'll make arrangements for you to get Julie. Maybe you and Stephanie can come over for dinner and take her home with you then?" Ricardo, Ranger's father asked, looking at me.

I nodded and stood up to give them all hugs. "Thank you for coming," I whispered to his mother. "And thank you for the greatest gift of my life. Your son is one in a million."

She nodded, smiling at me, and said, "He's a lucky man, too, Stephanie. You're a great match, you and my son. I couldn't be happier for either one of you." Then she pulled her husband close as they all walked out of the restaurant.

Ranger pulled me over to the RangeMan table.

The guys pulled up two extra chairs and Tank called over the waiter. "Round of tequila shots for everyone," he said.

We chatted until the shots arrived, and then he held up his drink. "To Ranger! Happy birthday, man!"

We all drank to Ranger, and then the guys all looked at each other.

"We're going to head to the club," Lester said. "Want to join us?"

I looked at Ranger, whose nearly pitch black eyes were looking down at me.

"No," he said. "I think Steph and I are going to head out of here now, but thanks. Talk to you guys tomorrow. Ladies, it was good to see you."

I barely had time to nod at everyone and grab my purse before Ranger had me at the door. As soon as we hit the fresh air, he pulled me to the Cayenne. "You drove this here, correct?"

When I nodded, he pulled me to him and backed me up until I was pressed close between the door and his solid body.

"Do you know how much I want you right now, Stephanie?" he growled quietly.

I pressed my hips against his and whispered, "I think I have a fairly good idea."

His hands snaked up under my dress and came into contact with nothing but skin. I watched his throat move as he swallowed and said, "You've been wearing nothing under that dress all night?"

I nodded, and suddenly, his mouth was on mine, our tongues battling furiously for control. He sucked my lower lip into his mouth and bit down before swiping his tongue across it to remove the sting. He pulled away from me. "I want you. I need you. Right here, right now."

At my quick nod, he used his hand to reach down between us and undo the button on his slacks. I heard the quiet sound of the zipper being pulled down, and then he reached into his clothes and pulled out his hard cock.

I looked down and saw the flash of red from the new boxers. "You wore them! I can't wait to see—"

The rest of my words were cut off as his mouth came down on mine again, just as he moved between my thighs, pulled my legs up to wrap around his waist, and slammed himself fully into me.

I cried out against his lips, feeling complete and whole as he continued to thrust his hips. At that moment, I didn't care who could come walking out the door and see us. All I cared about was the feeling of him moving in and out of me so hard and fast that it felt like a jackhammer. I tightened my grip on his arms and began moving my hips to meet his.

Two minutes of hard and fast strokes later, we could barely breathe as he reached down between us and flicked my clit twice, sending us both over the edge. We stood there for several minutes, unable to move, before I finally had the strength for him to let me down.

I leaned over, wrapped my arms around him, and whispered quietly into his ear, "Let's go home, Carlos. I have other, more private, ways of wishing you happy birthday."

He quickly put himself back together and opened the door for me, taking the keys from my outstretched hand. "I love you, Stephanie Michelle Plum," he whispered, looking at me quickly while he drove.

"Only as much as I love you," I returned.

Our entwined fingers held the promise of what was still to come, but our hearts were both completely at peace.

The End

(Check out the sequel, The Next Step!)