Okay, so it seems like I'm always apologizing at the beginning of each chapter. My Muse seems to have followed my hubby to the other side of the planet so we're going to go on without her. :D I'm sorry ahead of time for the errors and general mess that follows LOL.
I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror putting the finishing touches on my makeup and admiring Mr. Alexander's latest miracle when the door opened. I fought the urge to laugh at the very grumpy gargoyle looming in the doorway. I must not have been too successful, judging by the narrowed eyes I met.
"Babe, there is no way on earth I'm leaving the apartment like this. The wings make it almost impossible to get to my gun."
"I had the straps altered so you could wear a holster on them like a shoulder rig; you're not getting out of this Ric." I sighed and dug through the bag of Halloween things on the counter next to me. I helped him get the gun in just the right spot then did a little twirl to show him my own wings. "It's a fantasy ball for the comic convention, and you're the one that took the job. Mooner was a genius to come up with something for us on such short notice. And just think, all the guys will be just as uncomfortable as you. Although, I am concerned about Lula with wings on."
I smiled at the almost smile that received. "I'm sure Tank will enjoy the Faery Court just as much as I do. I have no idea what kind of comic has faeries in it, but you look beautiful Babe. I have something for you to wear tonight, better than the usual wire and earpiece."
He opened a jeweler's case and I couldn't believe what was inside. "One earring is the cover for the earpiece; the other has a mic on it. They both come off so you can wear them whenever you want. The rest just looked perfect for you so I got the whole set…"
"Ric they're beautiful, and they're our birthstones…" Each piece was a butterfly made of opals and peridots, the bracelet was made of fifteen butterflies connected like chain links. They matched my costume perfectly. "They even match my wings, how did you know?"
"I didn't, I bought these while you were still in the hospital. Just luck I guess. We'd better head out before the guys come looking for us." He leaned in and kissed me cheek before heading out to the living room. I checked my reflection one last time, centered my necklace and followed.
It was the Saturday before Halloween and life was finally getting back to normal. Williams' sentencing was the day before and things had turned out great. He was found guilty of eleven counts of rape, eleven counts of first degree murder and one count kidnapping and attempted murder. Ric and I testified so we couldn't sit through the trial. That's okay though, we took the time to heal and regroup.
I woke up to someone holding my hand and praying. Oh joy, just the conversation I was dreading. "Mom?"
"Oh Stephanie, please tell me you've come to your senses! This is the last straw, as if blowing things up and rolling in garbage wasn't enough! No one else's daughter gets cut up by some crazy serial killer."
I blew out a sigh and tried to reign in my temper. "Actually Mom, eleven other women's daughters were cut up by that psycho. That's why we were asked to catch him. I'm so tired of you telling me about other people's daughters. I'm not them, but the job that I do helps keep them safe to be the perfect clones you seem to love so much. I don't expect you to love my job Mom, but I do expect you to respect the fact that it's my job. There are things so much more important happening in my life right now than you disapproving of my choices."
"But your job caused you to lose Joseph and the ability to have children, Stephanie. Can't you see that you're just not good enough to do this job?"
"Wow, can you even hear yourself? I chose to leave Joe, and as for my injuries, if that's what it took to stop that animal from killing someone else then so be it. I don't even want kids right now Mom and I might not ever want them. I think you should go, I don't need the kind of support you're offering and if you can't accept me like I am, there's no reason for you to be here."
That was the moment my father chose to speak up. Neither of us had realized he'd come through the door. "I'm proud of you Pumpkin. Helen let's go. It seems you've got some decisions to make." My mother stepped quickly from the room as my dad leaned over and kissed my forehead. "Don't worry Pumpkin, she'll come around."
She didn't come to see me the rest of the time I was in the hospital, but she called me three weeks later when I was settling in for my first night home. Ranger kissed my forehead as he handed me the phone and went into the kitchen to check in with Tank.
"Stephanie, it's your mother…" Hmm, she actually sounded a little uncertain.
"Hi Mom, did you need something?"
"Well, I was just calling to make sure you made it home okay. I wanted to let you know that if you need anything, some help until you're back on you feet or anything, just call. I know I'm not your favorite person these days, but I do Love and care about you Stephanie."
"Thanks Mom, I actually could use some company tomorrow. Ric has some meetings he needs to keep, and I'm not allowed up too much. Maybe we could watch a movie or something?" Seems like she's not the only uncertain one.
We spent the majority of the next day looking through design magazines instead of watching a movie. After emailing a few room ideas to Ranger I turned off my computer and closed the magazine I was looking at. "Mom? Do you really think I'm not good enough at my job?"
"Stephanie, I need to apologize for the things I've said to you, and not just at the hospital. After I left, I realized you were right. I have been unfair to you. I keep thinking this is some phase you'll grow out of, than you're just rebelling to help get over what happened with Richard. But you've never really been like the other girls your age." She held up a hand when I started to interrupt. "I'm not saying that's a bad thing dear, just a fact. You've always done things your own way, and I've never understood you. But if you're willing to help me, I'd like to try to be supportive. I just want you to be happy. Well, and safe, but your father explained that you're getting the training and help you need to be as safe as you can. I would really like it if you and your friend could come to dinner when you're feeling better. I'm sure I can find something in one of my cookbooks that he'll eat…"
I just laughed. "I'm sure we can figure something out, Mom. And his name is Ric, or Ricardo. I'd really like that Mom, and thank you for trying to understand."
Ric and I rode the elevator down to the garage and I had to stifle a giggle when the doors slid open. Tank, Lester, Bobby, Junior, and Cal were dressed in costumes similar to Ranger, and Hector was dressed in a red and black silk tunic shirt and black leggings. His wings were designed to look like dragonfly wings and he didn't seem to be too thrilled with them. "Chica, I hope you know I've killed people for less than this…"
I rolled my eyes and tugged his shoulder straps into place. "Hey, you're the one who said you refused to be a gargoyle. You gave me no choice, besides, I need someone up on the stage with me and none of the other guys would look right as a Faery."
Lester snickered and Hector shot him my favorite Italian hand gesture. I motioned everyone to the vehicles and sighed as I strapped in next to Ranger. "Honestly, they're like a bunch of kids…"
He intertwined our hands and kissed my wrist. "Only when you're around, Babe. You make us all feel like smiling."
We arrived at the convention center two hours before the doors opened to the general public. There had been several threats made against the convention and two of the actors making appearances, so the promoters had hired Rangeman to insure nothing happened. Lula, Hector, and I were going to be a part of the Faery Court that went with the actors and Ranger and the guys were going to spread out through out the building. Some of the other guys from Rangeman were in uniform stationed at the exits and next to the signing tables, but we were hoping the 'gargoyles' could stop any trouble that started without causing a scene.
I was watching Bobby and Lester flirt mercilessly with two of the girls from the catering company and Tank leaning against the wall next to Lula. I was glad they'd gotten back together; they were quite obviously in love. As if he was reading my mind, Ranger raised one eyebrow at me and gave me an almost smile. I straightened up as Mooner made his way towards us. "Dudette, so glad the costumes worked. Ranger, thanks for taking this job, we'd have had to cancel if you hadn't. Okay, so, the actors from Wicked Lovely will be here for a couple hours then head straight to the airport. They're back in the staging room if you and the other faeries want to come back with me? We're ready to open the doors."
I gave the rest of the guys a finger wave and made a mental note to take some pictures with my phone later to send to Julie, she'd never believe me without proof. Lula, Hector, and I were introduced to the actors. I'd never heard of them, but Lula was beside herself with glee. "Alexandra Daddario was the chick in that Percy Jackson movie, White Girl, I know you at least saw s preview for it…"
"Lula, I know what movie you're talking about. My nieces were going on about it for weeks, but that doesn't mean I have any idea who she is!" I shook my head and put on my best "pleased to meat you" smile as I shook their hands.
"Alexandra Daddario, Sean Biggerstaff. This is Stephanie Plum from Rangeman and her associates Lula and Hector. They'll be your security on stage, let them know if you need anything. Dudette, I've gotta get moving. Thanks again for helping."
"It's no problem Mooner, that's what friends do." I shooed him on his way and turned back to the two young stars. "Is there anything you want to know before things get crazy?
The guy shook his head and returned to his book, completely ignoring us. The girl looked a little nervous and glanced over my shoulder towards the doors. "Do you really think someone is going to try to hurt us? I mean I don't even understand what the big deal is, it a comic book convention right?"
"Oh calm down Alex, it's just a bunch of geeky kids and losers like the guys hosting it. All the eye candy carrying guns are just around to cheer us up…"
I gave the little shit a disgusted look and rolled my eyes. "Why would that cheer her up? Does she look like a 22-year-old frat boy to you?" I turned my attention back to the girl, who seemed to be trying to smother a laugh. "Can I call you Alex?" At her nod I continued. "Having been threatened more times than I'd like to admit myself I can assure you that there's no way to tell for sure if this guys all talk or serious. That's why we're here. The guys I work with are the best of the best and we won't let anything happen to you. Either of you…"
We ran through the coming hours with them, ignoring the annoying remarks coming from Sean. Within fifteen minutes we were out on the stage and they were answering questions and signing autographs.
I was scanning the crowd and trying not to laugh at Lester's running commentary coming over the earbud in my earring when I saw a flash of metal in the hand of the guy standing in front of Alexandra. I mumbled a warning to the guys and moved closer to the table. Ranger and Bobby grabbed the guy just as he lashed out at Sean with a switchblade. I pulled him back over his chair and out of reach and signaled Lula to grab Alex. "Time to go…"
I had Sean through the doors and into the secure Rangeman vehicle before he opened his mouth. "Jesus! That guy was going to kill me!"
"Yes, but he didn't. I can have our medic check you over if you want, but he didn't get close enough to touch you."
"No, no. I'm okay. Thanks to you….I guess I should apologize for earlier, I just never thought that would happen. Who does something like that?" Lula and Alex had joined us at this point and Hector was smirking at me in the rear view mirror.
"Are you alright Sean?" Alex threw herself into his arms and grabbed my hand. "Thank you so much! I can't believe you reacted so fast."
I just shrugged and motioned for Hector to drive. "I saw him take something metal out of his pocket before he got to the table so I was already moving. Give me a second to check with the rest of the team then we'll get you to the airport. I pressed the earbud closer to my ear and pulled a Ranger. "Report."
Lester was laughing and Tank and Ranger were talking to TPD. Bobby stifled a laugh and responded. "Everything's good Bomber, go ahead and take them to the plane, TPD will take their statements there."
While we were sitting on the tarmac waiting on the detective to finish taking Hector's statement Lula nudged my shoulder. "White Girl, you been holding out on me. When did you get so good at spotting a threat? That was like super hero stuff back there, pulling that spoiled little shit over his chair and outta there."
I laughed. "I told you I was getting better at the security side of things. But the reflexes are from keeping up with Julie when she's in town. I swear she gets into more trouble than me if you can believe it. You should have seen her the first day she got to see the new house…"
Three weeks after I came home from the hospital Ranger and I picked Julie up at the airport. We took her to the house and Ranger was pleased she liked her room. We let her pick out some decorations for her walls on the websites I had shown Ranger. After we'd shown her the rest of the house Ranger got called out for a take down so Julie and I decided to lounge around the pool and catch up. It was starting to get late and Ranger hadn't returned so I figured we were on our own for dinner. "What sounds good food wise, Jules?"
"I dunno, but can I help you in the kitchen? Mom says I've gotten pretty good since I started Home Ec."
I laughed and lead her into the house. "Sorry kiddo. The only thing I've ever successfully made in the kitchen is a mess; and several small fires. Ella said she sent some stuff out with your dad that would be easy to reheat. Or, we could order something, there's a great little Chinese place that delivers out here."
She opened the fridge and squealed. "Oh my God! Ella sent Boliche! It's this great Cuban pot roast. Why don't I start warming this and you can go change if you want Steph? I promise you'll love it, and it's one of Dad's favorites."
I smiled and motioned to the stove. "Sure thing, it's probably better I don't touch that. Call up the stairs if you need anything I'll only be a few minutes."
I changed into a pair of yoga pants and a blue wrap top and padded back down the stairs. There was black smoke coming through the kitchen doorway and Julie was laughing on the other side of the room. "Oh God Steph, I think your bad luck in the kitchen is contagious. I swear all I did was turn the oven on to preheat! I went up and changed and when I came back down there was some sort of paper in there burning. I got the fire out and the food is in the microwave, but I don't know what to do about the stove…"
I heard a rumble of laughter from behind me just before a weathered mocha latte finger closed my mouth for me. "Babe, you're going to catch flies that way. Seems I can't leave you two alone without something catching fire. I should have warned you I've never used the appliances inside the house. I'm betting that paper was the users manual and warranty paperwork."
I just looked back and forth between the two of them and shook my head. "I can't believe you're taking this so lightly…I feel like I'm in the twilight zone or something."
They both just laughed and we set about cleaning up the mess before dinner. Things seemed to go smoothly the rest of the visit, if you didn't count Julie giving Lester the slip at the mall or one of my skips trying to stun me while I was cuffing him.
Lula, Hector, and I headed back to the convention center and I got a few good pictures of the guys in their costumes. Lula took my phone a got a good one of Ranger and I when I wasn't paying attention. It was a pretty fun night, and we stopped off at Connie's Halloween party after the job was over. I got a text message from Julie just as we were getting back to Haywood.
You guys are so cute together. Tell Uncle Lester he looks like a dork with the little tufts on his ears. I can't wait to come up for Thanksgiving, maybe we can have a big dinner? I promise not to set the house on fire this time :D
I showed Ranger and he laughed. "We'll see when she get s her. She's right though..."
"What, that Lester looked silly? Yeah, but I wasn't going to be the one to tell him…"
"I meant about us being good together, Babe." He shook his head and kissed my forehead. "C'mon, let's go get the makeup off, you know, we could shower together and save water…"
I laughed and gave him saucy look. "I dunno, can you be good in there Ric?"
He gave me a thousand watt smile and stalked me to the bathroom. "I'm always good in the shower Babe. And in the bed, and in the kitchen, and in my office….."
Okay ladies, that's it. I might eventually start a sequel, but for now there's no more. I feel like I'm forgetting something, let me know if you can figure out what it is…I've been rereading this for two days trying to put my finger on it. The quotes are for the May Mothers, Memorials & Sex Challenge on Babe Squad. 3,233 words without ANs. Please let me know what you think, your reviews mean everything :D