Shades of Gray

Chapter 59

Stephanie opened her eyes and was welcomed by a dull ache in the back of her head. When Carlos had woken her up during the night, her bed was quite full. Right now she was the only one in it. Sitting up, Stephanie's dizziness passed quickly before taking a step in the direction of the bathroom.

Her father heard Stephanie coming down the stairs and placed a cup of coffee on the counter with a white bag on a plate.

"Daddy, I love you," she whispered seeing the white bakery bag.

"I thought those would make my Pumpkin feel better."

Paulo and Tiana crawled up on the other stools leaning on the counter eying the mystery bag.

"Mommy, what's in there?" The little girl tapped the white bag not sure of the contents and afraid to break it.

"This is the best cure when you're sick," Stephanie reached in the bag and brought out a Boston Cream Doughnut from 'Tasty Pastry'. "This is something that Chicago couldn't get just right just like there was no Pino's pizza. This is a Boston Cream Doughnut and Mommy's favorite. I like jelly, sugar, and glazed ones but this is the heroof all fried and baked doughnuts. Every doughnut wants to be a Boston Cream because it's so special."

"Really?" The enthralled young children asked.

Taking a knife, Stephanie sliced one in half and slid plates that her father took out of the cupboard to Paulo and Tiana, "Yes. Mmmmmm, I feel better all ready," Stephanie savored the bite of her pastry and the creamy filling.

"We wasn't sick, Mommy, but me and Tee feel better, too," her son was licking the cream from the corner of his mouth. "Huh, Tee?"

"Yeah, Paulo."

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a black form coming in the door. "Do you know what else makes these so magical, Paulo and Tiana?"

Paulo questioned since his younger sister was chewing her doughnut, "What, Mommy?"

"Well, a good man just doesn't happen, they have to be created by us like a doughnut."

He was looking down his shirt, "I'm dough in there."

"And my little boy is just perfect," Stephanie kissed his small cheek. "And so are you, Cuban Man," she added knowing a certain man was standing right behind her. She held up the last bite. It disappeared between two sexy Cuban lips that were sucking her fingers.

"Babe."

Frank was chuckling, "Lovesick. Are they still camped out there?"

"Who?"

"A couple of reporters, Babe, hoping you will say something about last night," Ranger explained.

She gave a small 'Burg' eye roll because of her light thumping in her head, "Is it a slow news day in Trenton? I guess I better deal with this," taking another sip of her coffee before standing up.

The warm hand on her back wasn't going to stop Stephanie.

"Cuban Man, I have children who lead children's lives. I need to deal with this so we can live normal."

Coming back into the kitchen, her hair was in a pony tail and mascara on her eyelashes. "Stay in here withGrandpa." She grabbed the coffee pot, put some cups, sugar, milk, and stirrers left over from the surprise party on a tray along with cookies out of her cookie jar. She was going to give them some sweetness and hopefully they would be gone.

Opening the front door, Stephanie saw a news truck from KTRN and two reporters who must be from the newspapers.

"Stephanie!" They yelled.

"Good Morning," she told them cheerfully. "Would anyone like some coffee or a cookie?" She gave Ranger a 'Ssshh' beside her.

"Stephanie, do you have anything to say about last night's incident? Drake Marrow from KTRN," a brown haired man asked taking a cup of coffee. A woman and man from the newspapers took a cookie.

"If I do say something, would you leave, please! I have young children and last night upset them greatly."

The three newshounds all looked at each other and turned back to her nodding at Stephanie. "All right."

"Wait for us!" Grandma Mazur stepped through the front door with her friend Betty and another old lady. They all had brooms in their hands.

The reporters looked to Stephanie and she just shrugged her shoulders. "Security."

"Babe," Ranger had to turn away from her because he just knew this was going to be another crazy moment. He could feel it.

"Stephanie, what happened last night?" Drake asked holding a microphone up and the camera man was behind him.

"Last night, I was almost run over by a car in the convention center parking garage. The driver was my mother. Carlos Manoso pulled me out of the way. I did suffer a concussion. My mother is in custody and being evaluated due to her being out of touch with reality. That's all I can say about this while the police are investigating. I care very much for my mother's welfare and I hope she gets the help she needs. And, I expect you to hold up you end of the agreement."

"Are you and Mr. Manoso of Rangeman Security involved? He is here with you now."

"Yes," both Ranger and Stephanie answered at the same time.

Grandma Mazur announced, "Times up."

The three come sweeping out to clean the sidewalk in front of the couple pushing the reporters back.

"Is that live TV?" Betty asked.

Drake nodded.

"Well, since it's a slow day, then this should spice it up."

The three women turned their backs to the camera and in a blink of an eye dropped their capris. All of Trenton got to read 'KISS MY ASS' on live television.

The three reporters and cameraman who almost dropped the expensive piece of equipment went running down the sidewalk.

"I showered this morning!" Grandma yelled at them as they were getting in their vehicles hurrying to leave.

"Babe," Ranger was bent over laughing, "I don't think they'll be back anytime soon."

Going back inside, there was more laughter.

"Mommy, Grammy M's bum was on TV!" Tiana was pointing to the screen which frozen with 'Kiss My Ass' across it.

He was bewildered, Frank Plum could only simply question, "Why me?"

"Boy, that high definition does show everything," Grandma was looking at her 'KISS' portion on the big screen television. "I think I may need some Botox to plump them up for next time," jiggling her flat capris in the back.

"Next time?"

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Stephanie was napping after Ranger made her take another Tylenol for her headache. Frank and Edna were meeting with Attorney Harper and the police to give statements. Ranger was going over some files in the sun room so she wasn't alone and someone else was in the house with the children in the event Stephanie had any problems from her concussion. Tiana, Paulo, and Sam were playing outside but came in for a drink and snack Stephanie made for them before laying down. They finished a 'get well' card for their mother and were working on something else. Ranger checked on them in the family room and the children were intent on their project so he just left the apple slices on a plate for them and grabbed one for himself as he went over contracts.

Two fuzzy paws attached to a body with those pointy ears were on his leg and four big brown eyes were looking at Ranger.

"Can you help us? We don't know how to finish this. Mommy does it or Grammy M," Stephanie's little boy said to him handing him a hook.

Paulo and Tiana were holding red square looms he recognized from his sisters making pot holders.

"These are for Mommy so she feels better," the little girl added.

Those big brown eyes got to Ranger every time. "I don't know how to do that," the man in black pointed to the woven bands in their small hands.

Their little shoulders slumped, "Oh."

He couldn't take their disappointed heart shaped faces so he picked up his cell phone.

"Ella, I need some help. Stephanie is resting and is fine. The potholders that my sisters would weave. How do you finish them? Paulo and Tiana are making them for Stephanie. Yes, they have a hook." Ranger took Tiana's loom and placed in on the table in front of him and started pulling the loops through as Ella instructed. "OK, I think I got it. Thanks, Ella." Ranger closed his phone hearing his housekeeper giggling.

"How's that?" Ranger held up the finished pink, white, and red potholder.

"You did it!" Tiana applauded him then gave Ranger a hug. "See, you can do it. You're bigger."

He took the multicolored weaving from the little boy before Paulo asked and began removing it with the hook.

"Thanks," Paulo gave him a quick hug once Ranger finished.

"You're welcome," he said back. "You enjoyed that didn't you, Babe?" He turned around seeing Stephanie half hidden by the open archway.

"That was so sweet, Cuban Man."

"Mommy!" Her children running to her with their gifts and card.

She opened the card with hearts and flowers on it and their own signatures inside and proudly held up the colorful potholders. "Thank you, my Sweethearts. Mommy feels better."

"Yeah!" They jumped up and down knowing Stephanie was better and her head didn't hurt as much because of their gifts. "Come on, Sam!" calling the puppy to go outside.

Stephanie watched her happy children run through the sun porch windows. She slipped down on her Cuban man's lap not saying a word just claiming his lips. "Thank you. I love you, Cuban Man. You may be all macho on the outside but you're a softie on the inside."

"I love you, Babe, just don't tell my Momma."

"Tell your Momma what, Carlos?" Ana Manos was coming in the door with her puppy, Reggie, in her arms.