Disclaimer: Standard – JE's stuff belongs to her, I'm just playing with it.
A/N: This is the end! Thank you for reading the story and for the reviews and encouragement. I hope you enjoyed the ride. A special thanks to M&M for putting up with my craziness, for listening to me whine, and for setting me straight when I started to take the wrong path a few times!
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I felt the dread slam into me at Ranger's question. We'd been so caught up in the events of the past fifteen minutes that we had forgotten Stephanie was missing. Settling Jensen on her feet and kissing her nose, I looked at Ranger. "She went into the house a few minutes ago. Things were kind of crazy out here at the time and she snuck in."
He muttered something in Spanish, but his tone suggested frustration. He turned to Batiste. "Can you get a feel for where she is? I can't."
Batiste turned thoughtful for a moment. "Got her."
"Take me to her." I wondered if Manoso would ever learn to ask for anything.
The two men disappeared and I turned to see Jensen getting hugs from Javi and Aric. I felt the familiar pang of jealousy I normally felt, but suppressed it. I couldn't allow myself to feel this way every time someone she knew got close to her.
Damn, Morelli. Are you growing up? It was a scary thought.
I looked over at Grandma Bella. She was my hero. She had been all my life. Our eyes met, hers full of assurance and love, just as they'd always been; mine full of love and understanding, a new development, but one I knew was appreciated. Walking over to her, I wrapped my strong arms around her, feeling for the first time how fragile she was. It might have been my fears telling me she was fragile because she wasn't immortal any longer, though, because the truth had finally begun to seep into my overworked thoughts: She would never be fragile; she was the strongest woman I had ever known.
I felt a warm presence at my elbow and turned my head to look at the other strong woman in my life and said to her, "My Grandma Bella is my hero." No more explanation was necessary.
Jensen smiled and raised her hand to cup my cheek, "I can't resist a man who loves his grandmother so much."
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I felt cool. The heat had finally left me; the burning pain that had spread through my body was gone, replaced by a rush of cool, liquid comfort. A frightening thought entered my head that it might be death. After deciding, though, that death was welcome if it felt this good, I realized that I knew this cooling effect quite well. I was being healed.
I settled into the pleasant feeling, sighing in relief as more pain was dispelled by the cool peacefulness that follows a healing touch. A hand stroked my cheek, and not just any hand. This hand was strong and warm, gentle and loving. This hand I knew well. Carlos.
My eyes fluttered open and I saw my husband's handsome face before me. Though his eyes were edged with concern, he smiled and said, "Welcome back, Babe." I saw that he had Jaci in his arms and felt my heart flutter in my chest at the sight of his big, muscular arms wrapped around the tiny, sleeping bundle.
I felt a tear slip down my cheek and then the slight caress of his thumb as he wiped it away. "Carlos. I'm so glad to see you."
"You took off on your own, Babe. We're going to have to talk about that later." His eyes were warm, but intense. He always got a little crazy when he was worried about me. In some ways, that craziness was pleasant. It always led to violent make up sex. Good, I'm in the mood for some violent make up sex.
I heard a chuckle to my right and turned my head to see Batiste sitting in the chair I had used earlier. "I think my job is done here."
"What about all the assassins?" I asked.
"Gone. Either destroyed or ran away." He stood, straightening his jacket and fixing his collar. "There is an IAPSA Board meeting today. Dale Willoughby was able to locate the woman who gave the prophecy about Jacinto. They've already learned some interesting things about the events surrounding when the prophecy was given." His eyes grew hard and his lips formed a tight line as he compressed them in irritation. "I think it's safe to say you'll be free to live your lives as you please by the time the day is out."
"Is it really that simple?" Carlos asked.
"It will be. I'll call you, but stay alert until then. It may take a little while to get the word out." With a nod in our direction, he disappeared.
"Stephanie…" I braced myself. Carlos only said my full name these days when he was in the throes of passion or when he was really angry. Since he wasn't currently in the throes of passion…
"You're going to be the death of me, Babe," he sighed and stood, holding a hand out to me to help me up.
I gripped his wrist and felt his hand close around mine and then he pulled me up so I was standing right in front of him. "I'm sorry. I thought it was safe to come in because Joe had taken care of Drognan."
He sighed, blew out a breath, and then he gave a short laugh and hooked his free arm around my neck, leading me to the door. "Tell me what happened while I was fighting."
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Two Weeks Later
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I wrapped my arm around Jensen's waist and pulled her up against my chest, laying a blazing kiss on her mouth. "Are you ready, Fiammetta?"
I watched as the fire lit up in her eyes, consuming them. "Oh yeah, Superman. Let's do this."
I reached down and turned the door knob with ease, even if it was locked on the other side. Being immortal was proving to be very useful. Jensen and I walked into the small house quietly, listening.
Suddenly a laugh erupted from a room to the right, followed by another. A loud man's voice shouted, "Fuck you, asshole!"
Then a calmer, cooler voice said, "Cool it, all of you."
I saw Jensen stiffen at the voice and my blood ran hot from the anger that her discomfort whipped up. "It's your show. I'm here to make sure they don't lay one finger on you, but I won't interfere."
She smiled at me, confident in her ability to bring these three assholes to their knees…and then some.
We sauntered through the swinging door and took in the scene. The room was a kitchen with a small round wooden table and three plain wooden chairs around it. Three men sat at the table, two of them playing cards. The third was sipping a small glass of amber liquid on ice, most likely a whiskey. By Jen's reaction at seeing him, I guessed him to be Turner.
As soon as we entered the room, Turner stood and lumbered toward us. "Look, fellas. It's Jenny Bear. How's my sweet little tart?"
I blocked the powers of the three men so they couldn't use any unmentionable attacks on her and waited to see what Jensen did.
Without saying anything, she gave an icy smile to the big dope and walked up, taking his hand in hers. He gave her a sinister grin that made me want to smash him into a million tiny pieces. Suddenly, I saw the flames leap in her eyes and her body spontaneously combusted into a huge fireball.
"Ah! Ah! Let go, bitch!" Turner began tugging his arm away from her, but I had sealed their hands together. Neither could let go until I decided it was time.
Jensen gave him a cold look and kept squeezing his hand, sending flames shooting up his arm. "Ahhh!" He howled in pain. The flames licked at his clothing and flesh like wildfire. Soon his hair was ablaze.
By this time, the other two buffoons had figured out that she was trouble and stood up from the table. They went to make a hasty retreat out the back door, but I said, "Uh, uh, uh, fellas. Not so fast." I froze them in place. "You're just going to have to wait your turn."
"What is this?!" Turner was screaming, but he was so covered with flames that he was barely recognizable. He started gasping and choking and Jensen turned to me, nodding her head once.
I released their hands and then willed the flames away. He stayed on his knees before us. His hair was completely singed off and his clothing was charred and flaking off his body. He was covered with burns, but he would survive just fine, provided he found a healer willing to deal with him.
With Turner out of commission, she turned around to face Buffoon A.
"Hey, girlie. Listen, you know I just take orders. I didn't mean any of it or nothin', you gotta believe me!" His tone was pleading and his eyes were wide.
Jensen never said a word. She just turned her head to look at Buffoon B who stood looking at her with a sneer on his face. He was making it clear that he wasn't begging for anything from her. Stupid man.
She grabbed each by the arm and focused in on her anger. Buffoon A was sniveling like a baby, B was scowling. With a yell, she released her flames up both of their arms and then let go, turning around to face me. "Okay, let's go."
She took my hand and led me out of the kitchen. I could hear Buffoon A screaming and begging, but B hadn't said a word, yet. "You're just leaving them like that?"
"They raped and tortured me for weeks. What do you want me to do to them?"
I had no inclination to argue with her. "What about Turner?"
"Can he leave the building?"
I rooted him to the spot with my mind. "Not anymore."
"Let's go on our honeymoon, now." She leaned up to kiss my cheek and walked out the front door.
I followed her and took her hand, propelling us through space to our luxury bungalow on Bora Bora. I looked her over and said, "Hmm, I don't think we need these anymore." And suddenly our clothes were gone.
She jumped into my arms, wrapping her arms and legs around me. "Thanks, Superman. That was the best wedding present ever."
"No more demons for my wife." I said, kissing her passionately. "Now, let's forget about them. I've been thinking about that huge bed all afternoon."
"Fine," she laughed, "but I get the top this time."
Damn, I was a lucky man.
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"I can't believe that you dated Bella when you were seventeen!" I was simply astounded with Batiste's story. "It never would have entered my thoughts. Even if I had known she was immortal." We were in the penthouse on the seventh floor of Rangeman on Haywood, drinking coffee and enjoying each others' company.
Batiste considered me thoughtfully for a moment. "Yes, well, that was a long time ago."
"What made you split up?"
"Her parents. I wasn't Italian. They were really strict and wanted to keep the blood lines pure. Anthony Morelli was sniffing around and had won them over." His voice was stiff with emotion. "I knew she loved me, but I refused to ask her to go against her parents' wishes."
"And she always knew she was immortal?" The question came from Carlos. He was turning into such a gossip. "Pot calling the kettle black, Babe?"
"Shh! I want to hear the answer." Heh, heh.
Batiste gave us a slight shake of his head. "She knew she was immortal from the day she turned sixteen, but she chose to live a normal human life. I didn't know I was immortal back then and she didn't, either. We only met because I spent two years as a sort of exchange student at her secondary school. We had a lot of classes together and got close."
"I think that it was easier for her to choose Morelli because she didn't care for him as much." He gave a weary sigh. "She wasn't sure what sort of repercussions there would be from her abilities, and I think that she loved me too much to put me through it."
"Wow!" I exclaimed, my eyes wide. "Did she tell you that she was immortal?"
"No. I had no idea and it would have blown me away back then." He set down his coffee cup and continued, "In the end, we were both immortal and it would have been fine, but I have no regrets over the life I lived. It is life that makes you who you are. I'm just glad I finally got to tell her how I felt about her and what I did for her."
"What was that?"
"Several years back, I came to Trenton to 'look in' on her, to see how she was doing. I saw Morelli beating her. Even though I knew she didn't allow it to physically hurt her, that she could block it, he was still doing it." He stood and walked over to the window, looking out over the city. "I snapped. I still loved her, even after all those years. Even after being married to someone else, having children with someone else, she was the one my heart wanted. So…I willed his heart to stop. He gripped his chest and he keeled over right there."
Neither Carlos nor I said anything. We looked at each other and we were both remembering Abruzzi and Truro.
"Yes, like that. A love so strong you could kill for the person." He sighed and pressed his forehead to the glass. "I don't know if she ever suspected, but I just wanted her to live free."
I walked over and put a hand on his shoulder. "I can understand that and I'm sure she would, as well."
He turned to me and slid an arm around my waist, pressing a kiss to my temple. "Thank you, my dear."
"So…" I began and then lost my nerve. He quirked an eyebrow at me and I continued. "What's to stop you from pursuing a relationship now?"
"Well, I…" he broke off, his brow furrowing. "You know, I can't really remember the reasons right now."
I leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Go to her. She loves you, too. I saw it last week at Joe and Jensen's wedding. The way she looked at you, her eyes reflected how she really feels for you. She still loves you."
"I'm afraid," he said quietly. This was a huge admission from him, but when he was with us, he could let his human side through.
"Because she is going to die?"
"Well, I guess if you want to live without ever having her in your life and you're just waiting for the day when she is gone, then you should just continue to be afraid." His eyes snapped to mine and I saw the beginnings of a fire there. "Don't be stupid. Spend as much time as you can with her."
He opened his mouth to speak and then did something I didn't expect. He picked me up and hugged me close, twirling me around once. "You're right." He laughed and walked to the front door, grabbing his hat and coat. "You're right!" He disappeared through the door and I laughed, turning around and walking straight into Carlos' chest.
"Babe, sometimes you make so much sense you scare me."
"And the other times?"
"You make so little sense you scare me." He leaned in to kiss me.
"Hey, did you just insult me?"
"Just kiss me, Babe, before our son wakes up." I grinned and wrapped my arms around his waist, accepting his mouth and opening mine to his seeking tongue.
His hand slipped under my shirt and moved up to cup my breast. As if he realized someone was playing with his food source, our son woke up and started crying from his bassinet in the bedroom.
"I swear that child has laid a claim on your breasts, Babe," he groaned and stepped away.
"Probably. He's half Cuban and he's territorial." I smiled and walked toward the bedroom.
Suddenly Carlos was pressed against my back with his hands roaming over my breasts. "Mine!" he growled.
Jaci started crying louder at that point and I laughed, looking up into Carlos' face. "Care to argue that point with the boss?"
The smile was still on my face when I walked into our bedroom to lift my hungry son. "Yes. Someday, Jaci. But for now, you're going to have to fight daddy every step of the way. And your mommy loves it."