This story has been begging me to write it for a while now. Thanks to Stayce for encouraging me to get it off my chest!

This is a Babe story, Morelli friendly

The review whore in me appreciates any and all feedback

As usual, the title is a favorite Bon Jovi song of mine, not related to the story.

A great big THANK YOU! to Stayce for editing, commenting and pulling it in the right direction.

Have A Nice Day

Chapter 1

Why the hell could I never remember to turn my damned phone off, or better yet, pull the fucking plug out of the wall? Being a Jersey Girl had many advantages, but one of the drawbacks was that a ringing phone could wake me up from the deepest sleep. As soon as you entered puberty, you're like Pavlov's dog. Because you never know what you're going to miss if you don't answer.

I'd been fighting this instinct unsuccessfully since I became a bounty hunter because now instead of girlfriends and possible beaus, the caller was usually my mom or some crazy stalker. And they had a habit of calling at all hours of the day, like seven in the morning, or some equally ungodly hour. And since I had an answering machine, I never missed anything important anymore.

I groaned and buried my head under the pillow. Even through my closed eyes, I could tell it was daylight. Not surprising, since I'd gotten to bed about four in the morning after an all night stakeout with Lula. At least the night had had a happy end, I'd nabbed the FTA I'd been chasing for a week. Vincent deLuca was now in the charge of the Trenton PD and I only had to turn in his body receipt to collect my $700. It would pay my rent this month.

Whatever time it was now, it was too early for me to get up. But the phone kept ringing. Why didn't the stupid answering machine pick up already?

Oh right, I remembered turning it off the day before because Phil Angino wouldn't stop calling. I'd bumped into him at Gioviccini's the other day and he just had to tell me he was back in town after leaving Trenton shortly after our high school graduation and wouldn't I like to go out with him. He still gave me involuntary shivers. Long story, don't ask.

I groaned again, sat up in bed and shook my head to clear the last cobwebs of sleep from it. Then I got up and shuffled towards the kitchen counter where the phone sat. There was no sign of Rex in his cage, he was buried deep within his pine shavings in his soup can. No Jersey Girl in him, apparently. There's a lot we can learn from hamsters.

"Hello," I managed, swiping my wild curls back from my face. I had an idea what I looked like, since I'd gotten to bed without taking off my mascara or braiding my hair like my mom had told me to: I looked like a scarecrow.

"IS IT YOU????? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME????" a voice screeched into my ear so loudly, I had to hold the receiver at arm's length to stop the pain in my ear.

It took me a second to process the questions and to identify the caller. "Is what me, Connie?"

"Don't play dumb with me, Missy, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You have some nerve not to tell me first, I tell you that. How long were you planning on keeping it a secret, huh?"

Connie's voice was a few decibels lower but still at yelling level. I squinted at the clock on the microwave, it was almost nine.

"I have no idea, what you're talking about," I said. Boy, truer words were never spoken.

"Are you serious?" Connie asked.

"Is what me, Connie? Why didn't I tell you what?" I repeated, running out of patience fast.

"Oh," she said. "I…uhm…just assumed…" Connie stammered.

I sighed. "Can we talk about this later? I was up all night getting DeLuca and…"
"Sure, sure," she said a little too fast. "I'll be here if you need to talk."

"Connie, what…" but Connie had hung up.

I stared at the dead phone in my hand for a moment, utterly confused. What the hell?

As I placed the receiver back into its cradle, I ran the options through my head. I knew my parents and grandmother were fine, if anything had happened to one of them, the others would have called. And if something had happened to all of them, one of my cop friends would have called. If anything had happened to Joe or Ranger, Carl Costanza or RangeMan would have called. Come to think of it, Connie's voice hadn't had the 'unspeakable disaster' kind of tone, as far as I'd been able to tell in her hysteric voice.

I mulled it over as I filled the coffee maker with water and coffee, turned it on and shuffled into the bathroom. No thought of sleep, I was definitely wide awake now.

Connie had sounded 'hot new gossip, latest and greatest news' kind of way. Like she would sound if Joyce Barnhard had an std or something.

And she'd thought I was in the center of it. Of what?? This definitely had my full attention now.

Was I on the front page of the Trenton Times again? No, she would have asked if it was true, not if it was me in that case. So what was it? I had to find out. Curiosity already had me in a state.
By the time I arrived at the bonds office, my head hurt from trying to come up with any and all possibilities.

I parked a few doors down in the first available slot at the curb and locked my car. Less than a minute later, I barreled through the front door and didn't stop until I was standing right in front of Connie's desk.

She was so surprised, she dropped the nail polish brush she'd been holding and blood red paint smudged over the file on her desk.

"Is what me?" I demanded.

Vinnie's office door opened and he poked his head out. "Didn't think you'd have it in you, Steph, I gotta tell you. Don't expect any special treatment from now on though." And he slammed his door shut again.


I swiveled my head back into Connie's direction. "Is what me?" I asked for the hundredth time.

Connie's cheeks turned bright red and she lowered her eyes. "Oh, look at this mess, give me a sec…"
I grabbed her wrist midair as she was trying to pick the brush up. "Connie, so help me God, if you don't tell me right now I'm gonna shake it out of you."

She didn't meet my eyes. Taking a deep breath, she freed her hand form my grip and rubbed it absentmindedly.

"Steph, I'm really sorry. You were the first…well, the only one actually, that I thought of. I didn't mean for you to hear it from me, I just thought…I was so sure…."

I shoved my hands into my jeans pockets to keep from strangling her. I tried to count to ten but that didn't make a difference, I was still a tightly coiled spring. Connie had less than ten seconds to live unless she told me right the fuck now.

"WHAT?" I screamed, pretty much matching her tone from the phone call.

Conne shrank back and her eyes widened as she finally looked at me.

"Ranger is engaged."

Huh? What? "Engaged in what?" I demanded.

That was her big news? That Ranger was in the wind on some contract or other, probably liberating a small South American country? I was used to him leaving for days or weeks, coming back looking a little worse for the wear sometimes, but never even hinting at where he'd been. No big deal.

Now Connie frowned and looked at me with an expression I could only classify as pity.

"Engaged to be married," she almost whispered.


A/N: I know it's short but I really wanted to end it at that point, you can see why. But what do you think it's all about? A nasty rumor? A belated April Fool's Day joke? Is Steph dreaming? Let me know what you think!