The Following characters are owned by Janet Evanovich. This is only intended as an artistic exercise. I am in no way profiting financially from this story. Warning: Story includes Mature Language and Themes.
Costumes and Cardiac Arrest
Chapter 1: The Devil in Disguise
"Ain't that a pip!"Grandma Mazur sat perusing Party City's Halloween costume catalog. "I'll bet I could get Willard to dress up as Tarzan for the Senior Center's costume party… that way I can get a sneaky peek at his package." She glanced across the table at Stephanie, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
"Mother!" Ellen Plum sighed dramatically. "Why me?! I'll bet Karen Povaletti's mother doesn't talk about her dates packages over dinner."
Frank Plum sat muttering under his breath, "Crazy old bat."
"Besides,"Grandma Mazur plowed ahead undeterred, "I'll bet I would look hot in leopard print; especially with one of them matching thongs. Willard would be climbing me like a tree in no time! Whada' ya think Big Boy?"
Ranger sputtered choking on his food.
Stephanie slapped him on the back roughly; fighting to keep the wicked smile off of her face.
"I'm sure you would look… lovely." Ranger recovered quickly; his expression mimicking the bitter beer face commercials.
"Well aren't you the one! But don't be gettin' any ideas there hot stuff. My grandbaby here seems to have her eye on you already. Your package is as good as off limits."
"Thank God." Ranger sighed quietly.
She turned her gaze to Stephanie. "Is the present as good as the wrapping?"
"God help us!" Frank grumbled.
"Why me?! Why me?!" Came from Ellen's retreating form. She grabbed her brandy from the pantry and chugged straight from the bottle.
"You have no idea!" Grinned Stephanie conspiratorially.
"Babe." Ranger smirked back at her; his face smug.
Frank picked up his plate of food and headed towards the family room and the solace of his T.V. The words "lost my appetite," and "too much information," trailing behind him.
"Wahoo!"Grandma Mazur tittered. "I knew it! I knew it! I've told all the ladies down at the salon about the sexy bounty hunter with the great package! Wait'll they get a load of this!"
"Baaabe." Ranger whined.
Stephanie couldn't contain the giggle that bubbled from her lips.
"How 'bout you two drive me down to Party City. I better get a costume before they're down to slim pickins'.Grandma Mazur stood, collecting her purse and coat.
"Stephanie!" Ranger hissed. "I would rather walk across burning coals… WHILE chewing broken glass, before going shopping with your grandmother for a sexy Halloween costume!" His eyes wore the expression of a man walking to the guillotine.
"Well Batman," Stephanie leaned in closely to him, her lips barely skimming his; her voice seductive and husky. "I may need a male perspective on MY costume selection… and those costumes can be Sooo tricky to get out of… I guess I could ask Lester…"
"Babe!" He groaned. "I swear you're the devil in disguise! This had better be one hell of a costume!"
Chapter 2: The Flying Squirrel
There Grandma Mazur stood; arms spread wide, spinning in front of a three way mirror. The naughty nurse's outfit she wore bordering on public indecency. Layers of loose skin cascading down from her arms and stomach.
"Babe!" Ranger groaned. "She looks like a cross between a Shar Pei and a flying squirrel!" He stood with his back leaning against Stephanie's dressing room door, eyes closed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"For all of the death and dismemberment I have witnessed, THIS… right here, right now, will haunt my dreams forever." A full body shiver rolled over his body.
A teenage boy walked into the dressing room foyer. He froze in place, taking in the sight before him; mouth hanging open aghast, looking surprising similar to the Scream mask he clutched in his hands.
"Speechless young man?"Grandma Mazur cooed. "Looks like I've still got it after all these years."She arched her back slightly giving her boney rump a sharp slap.
The boy covered his eyes with his hands in horror; shaking his head violently, as if to expel the image from his mind. Blindly he stumbled in retreat from the room muttering under his breath "That's the scariest damn thing I've ever seen!"
The door to Stephanie's dressing room swung open. She was dressed as an army pin up girl. Her camo tube dress hugging her curves like a second skin. The dress accentuating her bust and mile long legs. The hem barely reaching the tops of her thighs. The outfit was accessorized with black thigh high vinyl boots, silver dog tags, and a green beret.
Ranger's eyes strolled leisurely down her body; his eyes turning to liquid chocolate pools of lust. "Babe," Ranger's voice was deep with desire. "You can't wear that in public. I'm driving the Turbo to the party; there's no room in the trunk to hide more than one dead body."
Stephanie blushed and pirouetted to give him the full effect.
"Looking good Cupcake!"Joe Morelli said leering from the entryway, scanning her body appreciatively, "Though you'd look even better in a Navy uniform."
Ranger threw Morelli a look that promised a slow and painful death.
"What's your costume gonna be Manoso? Wait, don't tell me. Let me guess..." Joe paused dramatically, his hand cupping his chin. "You're gonna be Rambo. I see you're already practicing for the part."
"Cute Morelli, but Halloween isn't for days. Why don't you take off that ugly mask? You're scaring the kids." Ranger said imitating Joe's childish tone, pointedly returning his juvenile remark.
Joe's face turns red with embarrassment, his hands clenching into fists at his sides.
"Oh look Joe! I've found the perfect costume for you!" Stephanie said with mock enthusiasm, thrusting the rear end of a two person donkey suit into his hands. "You always were an ass. Everyone will know it's you without even seeing your face!"
Joe opened and closed his mouth several times before storming towards the exit.
Ranger let out a bark of laughter.
"Rat Bastard!'Grandma Mazur yelled at his retreating form.
Stephanie's eyes were drawn to a rack in the corner of the store. She walked over, selecting the costume that drew her attention. She turned to look at Ranger speculatively.
Following her train of thought Ranger beat her to the punch."No way, No how, Babe!" His voice held no room for compromise.
Stephanie crossed the room to him, giving him a sultry smile. "Not even if I…." She leaned in to whisper in his ear.
Ranger stiffened and corked an eyebrow. He tore the costume from her hands and stalked towards the dressing rooms.
Chapter 3: I'm Your Huckleberry
Ranger stared at his reflection in horror. "How did I get into this mess?" He thought tersely.
It seemed that half of the women in Trenton had decided to invade Party City in the last ten minutes.
Stephanie tapped impatiently on the dressing room door. "Come on Ranger, you can't hide in there forever! There's a line a mile long waiting to use that room! Finish up that pep talk you're giving yourself and get out here!"
Ranger hung his head in defeat and opened the door.
Time stood still.
"Sweet Jesus!" An elderly woman exclaimed clutching her chest.
Ranger stood staring out into the crowd; a feral gleam in his eyes. Challenging anyone, man, woman or child to comment on his current state of dress.
Stephanie's eyes burned a path up Ranger's body. Starting at his black snakeskin boots, trailing up his leather chap clad thighs, his leather vest left open, exposing the smooth mocha latte skin of his chiseled abs and bulging pecs, a red bandana tied around his neck, the ensemble completed with a ten gallon black cowboy hat.
Leather had never looked so good.
Making a split second decision, Ranger decided to be a good sport and play the part. He flashed his 200 watt smile and tipped his hat to Stephanie "Howdy Ma'am," he said giving her his best southern drawl.
The woman standing next to Stephanie went down like a ton of bricks.
Panties within a ten mile radius spontaneously burst into flames. Women swooned, reduced to quivering puddles of drool.
"YEEEEEE HAW!"Grandma Mazur whooped, circling her arm in the air above her head with an invisible lasso. "Ride 'em cowboy!"
"Move out my way people! Big girl like me needs some space to breathe. Ya'll standing around here like a bunch of cattle." Lula huffed elbowing her way through the dazed crowd.
"White girl! You didn't tell me…." Lula's voice caught in her throat at the sight of Ranger.
"Mmmmm, girl! I think I'm havin' a hot flash! That man is smokin'! Ain't nobody have the right to look that fine!" Lula said fanning herself.
"Oh for Pete's sake Ranger, take it off already!" Stephanie said gazing down at the unconscious woman at her feet.
The room let out a collective gasp.
Stephanie groaned at her poor choice of words.
Ranger quickly retreated into the dressing room, a smile tugging at his lips.
Having selected their purchases they made their way to the checkout stand.
"I'm really starting to rethink this whole costume party business." Ranger said tucking a stray curl behind Stephanie's ear.
"Well, that's too bad," Stephanie sighed. "I guess I'll just have to go to the party with Morelli then."
Ranger pulled her to him roughly. His lips tickling her ear as he whispered, "Save a Jackass Babe, Ride a Cowboy."
Chapter 4: Eight Seconds
Stephanie was putting the finishing touches on her hair and makeup. She twisted her hair into a messy bun, leaving a few loose curls streaming down her back. She secured her beret with bobby pins and added one last layer of mascara. Her eyes were done in a smokey gray and her lips were painted a deep sexy red. She spritzed herself with Dolce Vida and went to her bedroom to put on her costume.
She couldn't wait for the party tonight. The last week had been brutal and she was excited to have some fun and spend a little quality time with a certain Cuban Sex God.
Mayor Juniak had pulled out all of the stops for the party. Town hall had been professionally decorated and Pino's was catering the food and open bar. Stephanie's stomache growled loudly in anticipation.
She was thrilled that she had convinced "Corporate Ranger" to let all of Rangeman attend the party. She had told him that seeing the guys let their hair down might help improve public relations. Ranger reluctantly agreed.
She laughed as she sifted through the shopping bags to find her dress. Somehow she had left Party City with over a dozen different costumes. She had looked at Ranger curiously as he handed the cashier the heaping pile of costumes that she had tried on. When she began to protest, Ranger gave her his wolf grin and said that he "had big plans in store for her." The cashier glared at Stephanie jealously and she could have sworn she heard her mutter the words, "Lucky Bitch!" under her breath.
She put on a lacy black strapless push up bra and matching thong. She slid into her dress and zipped up her black vinyl boots. She dug through the bags again looking for her dog tags. She realized that they must have fallen out of the bag on the way home. She was a little disappointed but brushed it off quickly.
She gave herself one last look in her full length mirror and smiled. Thank God for push up bras! Her girls were on their best behavior tonight providing just the right amount of cleavage. She looked hot! Visions of a leather clad Ranger filled her mind. Sweat trickling down his perfectly sculpted chest. Slowly peeling the clothing from his body. "The things I could do to that man. Maybe I should just chain him to my bed and have my wicked way with him…."
A deep, husky voice interrupted her musings.
"That could be arranged, though it might be more fun if I can use my hands."
Stephanie spun around, stunned to see Ranger leaning against the frame of her bedroom door. He greeted her with a slow sexy smile. Real life leather clad Ranger was even hotter than fantasy Ranger! Her Hungarian hormones did a happy dance.
"I said that out loud didn't I?" Stephanie blushed and wiped the back of her hand across her chin checking for drool.
"Babe." Ranger said sounding amused. "I have something for you." He closed the distance between them and turned Stephanie to face the mirror again. He pulled something from his pocket and brought his hands around her neck. She felt cold metal brush across her chest. Stephanie reached up and fingered the heavy chain around her neck sliding her fingers down to the pendant below. Looking down, she read the inscription and realized that they were Ranger's dog tags. Her eyes filled with tears. She was thrilled that he would share something so intimate with her. She felt as though he had handed her his heart on a string.
"I've told you before, I like seeing my name on your chest." He said wrapping his arms around her waist and tucking her head below his chin.
"I'm not good with words but I hope you see the symbolism in my gift." He voice was gentle and surprising vulnerable.
Stephanie turned in his arms and placed a kiss to his jaw. "I love you," she whispered.
He kissed her deeply, making her toes curl and her breathing hitch.
Her pulled back and smiled evilly. "You have eight seconds to get out of that door before you're stripped naked and participating in a one man rodeo show."
Stephanie squealed and ran for the door, Ranger following closely at her heels.
She stopped in the parking lot and looked at Ranger with a question in her eyes. "I thought you said we were taking the Turbo?" She eyed the Porsche Cayenne parked in its place.
"And I told you not to wear that outfit in public." He said patting the back bumper. "Much more cargo space.
Chapter 5: Dumb and Dumber
Stephanie stared at Ranger in disbelief. "How do you do it?" The parking God's had once again smiled upon Ranger. "There has got to be three hundred cars in this lot and you find a front row spot." She shook her head. "If I were driving we would have had to shuttle in from Newark!"
Ranger tipped his head back and laughed! "Only you Babe!"
Stephanie opened her door and stood. She adjusted her short dress, tugging at the top to make sure she was decent. She was met with the sound of long, low whistle.
Turning towards the sound she saw Lester, Tank and Bobby making their way towards her. Lester was dressed in the tiniest scrap of fabric imaginable. He was wearing a silk leopard print loin cloth…. and a smile. The tribal band tattoo that surrounded his massive bicep fit perfectly with the theme of his costume. He was carrying a club in one hand, his hair loose, falling around his shoulders. His body was flawless.
Lester's steps faltered slightly as he took in Stephanie's costume. "Holy shit!" He breathed. "Beautiful you're gonna cause a riot if you go in there like that." His eyes raked up and down her body pausing at her breasts and thighs. A lecherous grin splitting his face "What do you say we blow this joint and go play king of the jungle at my place!"
"Santos!" Ranger barked. The look on his face would have made lesser men wet themselves. "Watch yourself… or no one will ever find your body."
Stephanie stood eyeing Lester like he was the world's last Tastey cake. "I wonder if Lester would let Ranger borrow that outfit… she mused. "Though I don't think he would want it back after I tear it from Ranger's body with my teeth…"
"Babe!" Ranger growled his voice husky. Three sets of eyes turned to stare at her in shock.
"I did it again didn't I?" Stephanie said trying to hide her face in Ranger's shoulder. He put his arm around her laughing.
"No can do Beautiful. If you want to play Jane tonight you're gonna have to leave with Uncle Lester." He beat on his chest with his fists, bellowing out a loud "AAAAAHHH aaa EEEE aaa AAAAHHHH!"
"You got a death wish Santos?" Tank said smacking him in the back of the head.
"Idiot!" Bobby mumbled.
"Gym. Tomorrow. 1700 Hours." Ranger bit out. "Where you will learn the meaning behind the words 'silent as the grave.'
"Ahhh, Come on! I was just…" Lester's pleading was cut off by another sharp slap from Tank.
Stephanie giggled as her gaze shifted to Tank. He was covered from head to toe in green paint. He wore a shredded white t-shirt and torn gray sweat pants, his feet were left bare. Tank's mammoth proportions made him the perfect Incredible Hulk.
"Big Guy you look amazing!" Stephanie openly praised him. She could see him blush even under all of the paint.
"What am I… chopped liver?" Bobby whined.
Stephanie turned to study Bobby. He had on a skin tight white wife beater and low rise dark wash jeans. His dark hair parted into two spikes, one on each side of his head. On his hands he wore gloves with foot long silver metal claws.
"Hugh Jackman is hot, but I think you've got him beat by a long shot Bobby! " Stephanie gushed. He made an impressive Wolverine.
"You hear that Santos! I knew you never had a chance! Bomber 's got great taste in men!" Bobby said puffing up his chest and smiling smugly.
"Geez, it's like walking around with dumb and dumber!" Tank sighed looking up at sky.
"Brown!" Ranger snarled. "How about you join me and your girlfriend over there," he said nodding towards Lester, "in the gym tomorrow for our little session. It appears you are also in need of some reminding."
"Shit." Bobby grumbled.
Stephanie's stomach chose that moment to make its self known. "Let's go feed the beast Babe." Ranger said tugging her by the hand towards the stairs.
"Wait 'till you guys see Hal!" Lester chortled. "He lost a bet to Hector last week at a stake out! Poor guy's never gonna live this down!"