I've never written anything like this before and it seems weird to be able to play God with someone else's characters and plot-lines – sorry JE!

Apologies if the terminology I've used is a little off – I'm from England and I don't even know what a Tasty cake is!

--0--

I wasn't expecting the letter when it had arrived – it had made me feel all squishy inside when I'd read it the first time, now as I looked at its dog-eared corners it just made me feel angry and sad, so much had happened since then.

"Dearest Cupcake

Today you complete me. Today we will begin our new life together – I'm filled with so many emotions – hope, love, joy.

In just under three hours I will be standing in front of all our friends, family and the Burg ready to offer myself to you. I love your independent spirit and need to fly. I hope I never truly clip your wings.

Through you I have begun to live a new life, one that those around me would never have guessed I could live – I'm a one-cupcake woman now - you have tamed me!

The first time we met I knew we would always have a special thing going and although it's taken a long time to reach this day I finally feel I can give you all that you need. Don't ever leave me, the boys would never forgive you.

You are beautiful, both inside and out, funny, sassy, independent to dispair and so gut wrenchingly special and today I hope you will take me for all that I am too – good looking, great in bed, totally Italian and pig headed but hey, nobody's perfect! I know that we aren't always good at communicating but I hope that the commitment we make today will be the beginning of a lifetime of discovery for both of us. Plus when we do argue the making up part is always so much fun!

Today you make me the happiest man in the world and I hope you will live with me 'til death us do part'.

All my love, forever

Joe"

--0--

I closed my eyes and sighed and a single tear sneaked from my eye and slowly slid down my cheek. I felt it fall and let it run its course. The sun felt strong and warm on my upturned face as I sat on the fire escape outside my apartment window.

I reached for my coffee, remembering back to our wedding day. It had been so perfect but now four years' later I vowed I would never get married again – twice married, twice my heart had been broken. "Bastards, all men are bastards" I whispered out loud, though I knew I didn't mean it. Well, for the first, Dickie Orr, it was true – a horse's patout Grandma Mazur had called him and she'd been right. But the second, so different.

--0--

I'd finally decided that I'd better marry Morelli before someone else stole him away – after all he was a good man, a great cop, great in bed, loved me in spite of his better judgement and I loved him back. He'd been in and out of my life since I was 6 and he'd been 8. When I was 30 we'd hooked up again and during a long on-off relationship had somehow managed to fall in love. Trouble was I was also in love with Ranger. He hadn't wanted to change me the way Morelli had, unfortunately Ranger hadn't wanted to give me what Morelli could. Perhaps that is why I'd taken so long to figure out which way to turn.

Four years' on, single again but this time my so-called charmed life had let me down, big time. Morelli had told me I was freaking lucky but not on that day, not any more. Today was the first anniversary of the day my life stopped being lucky, in fact, in a split second it had stopped completely and my heart had been broken for the second time.

--0--

My day had started out pretty much like any other. Plenty of gorilla sex with Morelli that had left us both happy and relaxed, coffee, frosted flakes then a long walk with Bob during which he produced several large mounds of doggy poop. I came back to an empty house and a note from Joe saying he might be late home so he'd pick us up something from Cluck in a Bucket on his way back. I'd scooped up Lula in my SUV – a wedding present from my parents – it had seemed to be blessed with some of the same indescructable force field that Uncle Sandor's 1953 Buick had and I was still driving it three years later. Admittedly it had been re-arranged a couple of times but it was a record for me so I was pretty happy about it. The sun was shining through the polluted air around Trenton and life was good.

We set off to collect a regular skip and a sorry excuse for a human being called Stu Maringo who'd been caught stuffing a dildo down his pants shop in a local sex shop. Not his first offence, but certainly one of his more bizarre ones. We'd turned up at his apartment which was at the poorer end of Stark Street to find him in his usual position, stoned and lying flat out on the grass in his back yard. I'd slapped the cuffs on and Lula had said "girl, I think we're finally gettin' the hang of this bounty hunting" when Ranger had turned up.

He marched up with his blank face on, hiding emotion as usual but as he got closer I noticed a nervous look flick briefly across his eyes. He didn't stop, he marched up to me and scooped me up in his muscular arms. "Not now, not ever" I'd said and tried to escape but he looked down at me and a deep sadness crept onto his face. "I'm so sorry" he whispered, "it's that husband of yours". He held me tightly again before he continued "he's been shot".

"Will he be ok?" I stammered, but I knew the answer even before he even said it "No, not this time, Babe".

I heard a deep and primeval scream, I guess it came from me as Ranger held me against him, pressing his lips into my hair, trying to shield me from the pain he'd just caused. I looked up at him and could see that the news he'd just given me had been torn from his soul...

--0--

As I sat on the balcony the parking lot was filled with activity as the seniors drove out to begin their daily lives – the cars narrowly missing each other as cataracts and frail old bodies hampered safe driving. I chuckled, for what seemed to be the first time for ages, at the chaos I saw below me. I closed my eyes again, remembering...

Time flies when you're having fun they say, well it also flies when Hell is at your door. I'd found out that Morelli had been killed by a single bullet fired by a pyscopath called Wenz who had a distinct dislike of cops, especially Joe. He'd followed Morelli for a couple of months and had caught him as he got out of his car at the police station – a single bullet through his heart – guess mine wasn't the only one to break that day.

The funeral was a huge event and I felt lost and swamped by the huge amount of grief and shock that surrounded Joe's death coming from so many different quarters of his life. Grandma Mazur behaved herself, I think she was as stunned as I was so I guess that helped. I think her heart broke that day too.

The first three months went so fast I could barely breathe. Why me? How could he leave me this way? Didn't he know what state I was now in? My life had been turned upside down – how dare he be so stupid as to get himself killed? I hated my cold empty bed. I was angry with a deep bitter anger that oozed from every part of my being, but with no direction so I decided to focus it on taking my personal safety seriously. I'd never liked guns but I booked myself a course at the firing range and my buddy Carl Costanza and I killed hundreds of paper villains.

I also decided I needed to get fit, I'd always played at that in the past too - running occasionally when the Boston Cremes had taken their toll - but now a year on I was a "lean, mean, fighting machine" just like Ranger. Ranger. My mind wandered back to him, my enigmatic superhero and I smiled again. Perhaps I was finally turning a corner.

--0--

My phone rang bringing me back to the here and now - I climbed back into my apartment. I picked it up and Lula was on the other end, bitching about the lack of FTA's and how I really needed to get my skinny ass over as Connie was making her go shopping to get nail polish, again – perhaps I needed to go to Macy's and do some shoe shopping with her to cheer me up. I declined the offer, finished the call and popped a raisin into Rex's aquarium before returning to my spot in the sun.

--0--

The next three months had been even worse. The shock had started to fade, my life was coming back into focus. Everywhere I went I was filled with dread and fear as well as the anger that still ate away at my insides – they'd caught the bastard who'd screwed up my life but I still wondered who else was still out there waiting to send me into Morelli's eternal arms. I carried on as best I could – I didn't need to work but somehow the urge to drag scum in off the street got me out of bed each morning. Trenton's most wanted even seemed to be easier to catch, perhaps they were feeling sorry for me – perhaps I was just more determined, who's to say. I don't think I made much sense, I barely spoke and I saw only those who I needed to, I was running on autopilot.

We lost Grandma Mazur at that time too so young, just shy of 80 but she'd still had 44 years more than Morelli. She died in her sleep which was a shock as I'd expected her to have gone out in a blaze of glory, embarrassing my parents as usual. She would have been thrilled with the send off we gave her and the entire Burg population flocked to pay their respects to a truly insane but wonderful and inspiring woman. Even my father seemed to miss her. I was even more lost without my greatest supporter.

I saw little of anyone but Lula and Connie stuck to me and kept me going – truly amazing and no mean feat. But with their help and that of Krispy Kremes I shuffled forward.

--0--

Ranger? Well, since I'd married Morelli we'd kept our meetings to a more business-like arrangement he'd stopped grabbing and kissing me and I'd stopped trying to imagine him commando in his black uniform. Didn't always work, especially when I could smell him or feel his warmth, but hey, I did my best. We still worked together from time to time and I kidded myself into thinking that he actually thought I'd started to get better at the bounty hunter thing – I was carrying a gun at all times now, that was a start, wasn't it? Realistically I knew I was probably still entertainment for him and his merry men but a girl can dream can't she? After Morelli's death I knew he kept a closer watch on me although I never found any real evidence. From time to time I sensed his presence and I knew he was being my guardian angel.

--0--

During months 6-12 I made a few decisions. "Good" said my Mother when I moved out of our marital home, "bad" when I gave it to Morelli's mother as I couldn't bear Aunt Rose's house going to someone outside of his family. Bob, our mad golden retriever, went to live with my sister Valerie and her cuddle umpkins Albert as they had more furniture for him to eat plus the kids adored him and spoilt him rotten. That was a hard decision but I knew I couldn't keep him in my apartment and I needed to push some of the memories away because if I didn't they'd drown me.

So I set up home back in my old apartment but I made a few improvements – I replaced the 1970's bathroom suite from hell with a plain white one and painted the walls aqua. I think Rex approved as he stopped running on his wheel when I told him what I was doing and he looked at me with his black beady eyes and twitched his whiskers. Hamsters, so perceptive. I upgraded my furniture so that it all matched, bought a big fuck-off flat screen TV and even upgraded the security arrangements although I knew Ranger would still manage to get in if he'd wanted to.

In fact, I'm sure he came in to watch me sleep sometimes.

Ranger again.

--0--

So here I am, exactly 365 days since my second heartbreak and a lot more world weary. I looked at the letter, still clutched in my hand, screwed it up and threw it off the balcony. "Til death us do part", if only we'd known what was coming. Perhaps we'd have stopped long enough to have the kids Joe so desperately wanted, but I didn't see myself as a housewife (still can't cook) so we'd argued about it lots and finally put it on the "to do" list. Perhaps we'd have seen the world a bit more, we'd always said that for our 10th wedding anniversary we'd walk hand in hand along the Seine in Paris, but we never got that far. Life's such a bitch I thought.

Then I stopped and thought, no, life's what you make of it. At Grandpa Mazur's funeral a beautiful poem had been read out – it had struck a chord, I racked my brains for it and suddenly it popped into my head:

You can shed tears that he is gone

or you can smile because he lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back

or you can open your eyes and see all that he's left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see him

or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday

or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember him and only that he's gone

or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back

or you can do what he'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

The poem said it all, Morelli had been in and out of my life for 24 years and we'd laughed, loved and been passionate for quite a lot of that time. Ok, so we'd had periods when silence was the better option, but that's more than a lot of people get.

I whispered out loud, perhaps thinking that he would hear me if I spoke my thoughts "If you're looking down now Joe I hope you'll forgive me for wanting to move on and embrace the life that I do have. I will always love you but I need to start my life again, I need to begin to heal and move on".

I sat with my eyes closed planning to stay for a while longer soaking up the rays, thinking that my white Hungarian skin was probably going red from the sun when I heard a noise – the rustle of clothes. I smiled an internal smile, the last time I'd heard that exact same sound I'd been woken from sleep whilst playing Goldilocks at Ranger's place. I opened my eyes.

"Babe" he said and I stood up and gently took his hands in mine.