My name is Stephanie Plum and today is the day that is going to change everything. I'd been plotting today for weeks. It started last month when my on again off again boyfriend, Joseph Morelli, and I decided to call it quits. Well, I decided to call it quits, but I easily made him see that it wasn't going to work because I had absolutely no intention of ever molding myself to be what he wanted.

After that, I had a few days of woe is me as the Burg slowly heard about the breakup and pestered me with stupid questions and unwanted pity. Ranger, who is one of my best friends and who happens to be my mentor, was in the wind, which is what he calls it when he disappears and has to kill me if he tells me where he went. I missed having his moral support. He wasn't gone long, guess the third world country bowed to him easily this time. He was back in two weeks and after allowing him into my bed for a night of ruining me and waking up next to him without having him need to run off anywhere, I was finally ready to accept my fate. I was in love with him.

I hadn't seen him much since then. He had some big project going on that required all of his time and man power. I'd had plenty of time to make a plan of action and today was the day that I set it in motion. I'd already set up lunch plans with him, I was going to pick up food and meet him at his apartment. I knew he wasn't one for commitment, but I was still going to give this a shot. I had time to kill and was antsy, so I decided to make a stop at Vinnie's to see if Connie had any files for me.

"Hey guys, how's it going?" I greeted Connie and Lula. They jumped as soon as I walked in. "What's going on?"

"Nothing!" they both said at the same time. Something is definitely going on.

"What's wrong?"

They looked at each other.

"She may as well hear it from someone who cares about her…" Connie started.

Lula glanced at me nervously, "Well…" she started, "You know I've been seeing Tank for a while now…"

"Yes, I know and I've very happy for you both."

"Well he's been really busy with work and last night was the first night I got to see him in forever and and and…"

"And?" Ok now I'm freaked.

"He said that Rangeman, well Ranger, is throwing an engagement party for JeanneEllen." She said quickly, all in one breath.

"So?" Great, she's getting married off, now I don't have to worry about her being competition for Ranger.

"Tank said that she and Ranger were working very closely together on this project. Then one night, they go off just the two of them. When Ranger came back, he said he was throwing an engagement party."

They both looked at me. I think my face went numb.

I spun around and ran out the door, right into Ranger. Of course that would happen to me. Sigh. He caught me in a hug before I fell. I broke away from him.

"Babe," he said softly.

"Stop, " I put out my hand to keep him from coming closer, "I won't be coming over today. Congratulations." He stared at me confused. I turned and headed toward my car.

"Babe? I'd like to talk to you. There's something I need to say."

"Don't follow me," I whispered as I slipped into my car and drove home.

I don't wanna talk

About things we've gone through

Though it's hurting me, now it's history

I've played all my cards

And that's what you've done too

Nothing more to say, no more ace to play

The winner takes it all

The loser's standing small

Beside the victory, that's her destiny

I flung myself on my bed and sobbed. After a good long gut wrenching cry, I kicked off my shoes and crawled under the blanket. I felt another sob welling up inside and pulled the covers over my head. I thought about him. I thought about us. I thought about him holding me and how good it felt. I remembered his smile that I thought had been meant only for me. How could I have let this happen? How did I let myself fall for him? What made me think he'd actually want me? I knew he wasn't the relationship type, but after the last night we were together, it felt like something had changed. It felt like we were finally at a place where all the rules were going to be broken. Now he was gone. I know why I had been thinking this way. Because I wanted it. I wanted him to want me.

I was in your arms

Thinking I belonged there

I figured it made sense; building me a fence

Building me a home

Thinking I'd be strong there

But I was a fool playing by the rules

The gods may throw the dice

Their minds as cold as ice

And someone way down here

Loses someone dear

The winner takes it all (takes it all)

The loser has to fall (has to fall)

It's simple and it's plain

Why should I complain?

I opened my eyes and it was dark. I heard a noise in the hall outside my door and cringed. Great this is just what I need right now, another psycho. The noise stopped and no one attacked me so I pushed the covers off my head and looked at the door. It was him. Great the only person who I now feared seeing more than a stalker. I sat up in bed. He walked toward me and sat on the edge of my bed.

"Are you ready to talk?"

"Yea, I'll talk and you listen."

He nodded.

"When I'm done talking, you will leave without saying one word, got it? Or I can kick you out now…"

"Go ahead, Babe, I'm listening."

"First of all, don't call me that anymore." Eyebrow raise. "Secondly, stop that." He shifted a little on the bed and I continued, "Why couldn't you just tell me? I thought I was your friend. Why did I have to hear it from someone else? Is this what you really want? I must've misread everything. I hope you are happy with her. Maybe one day, down the line, we can be friends again, but for now, you need to stay away." I lowered my eyes as the tears started to fall. So many real questions left unsaid.

Tell me does she kiss

Like I used to kiss you

Does it feel the same

When she calls your name?

Somewhere deep inside,

You must know I miss you

But what can I say, rules must be obeyed

The judges will decide

The likes of me abide

Spectators of the show, always staying low

The game is on again (on again)

A lover or a friend (or a friend)

A big thing or a small (big or small)

The winner takes it all (takes it all)

I don't wanna talk cuz it makes me feel sad

And I understand

You've come to shake my hand

I apologize if it makes you feel bad

Seeing me so tense, no self-confidence

But you see

He got up to leave and stopped. He turned to face me. Hurt and confusion were written all over his face. He turned back around and sat on the bed.

"Babe. I'm sorry. I know I said I'd leave, but I can't."

I froze, "Why?"

"Babe, I have no idea what is going on."

"What?" How could he not know?

"Why are you so upset?"

"Are you that dense?"

"Please, talk to me. Really talk, not just riddles."

"You didn't tell me that you'd asked JeanneEllen to marry you."


Oh crap, not the response I was expecting.

"Lula said Tank told her that you were throwing JeanneEllen an engagement party."

"I am. She and her fiancé, Tom Watkin, are good friends of mine and I thought it would be a nice gesture. Besides, it will double as a going away party since Tom works for my Miami office and she plans to move down there to live with him."


"Then why were you spending so much time with her?"

"We were working out transfer papers and I was helping her look at houses. They don't want to live in the apartments I have for my employees down there."

"Oh. So you're not getting married?"

"Not to her."

"Then what was it you wanted to talk to me about?"

"I wanted to tell you that I have been doing a lot of thinking. I love going to sleep with you next to me and waking up with you in my arms. My contract with the government is up and I won't have to go in the wind again unless there's an absolute dire emergency and even then, they're gonna hafta beg."

Don't do the happy dance yet.

"I know it hasn't been that long since you and Morelli broke up, but I was thinking that maybe you might want to give me a shot."

I think I'm dreaming. Yes, I must still be asleep.

" But your life doesn't lend itself to relationships."

"It didn't when I said that, but things have changed. I don't want to risk you making up with Morelli and going back to him."


"No buts. I love you and I want to be with you. What do you say?"

Gee let me think about that….


The winner takes it all

The winner takes it all

The game is on again (on again)

A lover or a friend (or a friend)

A big thing or a small (big or small)

The winner takes it all (takes it all)

The winner takes it all