Understanding – part I.
By Sasha.

Warnings: Language, kissing/adult themes. Rated – PG15/M

Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, settings, etc. from the PLUM series are the property of Janet Evanovich. No copyright infringement is intended. I am not making any profit; all credit goes to the aforementioned author. The extract (in italics below) comes from the novel ELEVEN ON TOP – chapter 15 – and is the property of Janet Evanovich.

Words used for Cara and Teena's challenge: heart, lover, sweetheart, fancy, adore, tenderness, devotion, passion, valentine, embrace, intimacy.


Ranger laughed out loud, and when he looked back at me he was smiling the full-on Ranger smile. "I'm worrying about parking too long in front of Morelli's house, and I'm bringing his girlfriend home without her underwear. I'll have to put double security on the building tonight." He put the Porsche in gear, drove half a block, and parked. Lights were on in the downstairs rooms. "Are you going to be okay?" he asked.

"Morelli's a reasonable person. He'll understand." Plus he had a cast on his leg. He couldn't move fast. I'd head straight for the stairs, and I'd be changed before he could get to me.

Ranger locked eyes with me. "Just so you know, for future reference, I wouldn't understand. If you were living with me, and you came home without underwear, I'd go looking for the guy who had it. And it wouldn't be pretty when I found him."

Present Day - SPOV


I'm screwed.

My life is officially over.

Ric's going to kill me.

And today was supposed to be a special day – a day we'd never forget. A day full of shared passion, intimacy and tenderness.

Well I guess we won't forget it now; it'll be the day we break up. So much for, Be my Valentine.

God, what am I supposed to say?

How can I explain this?

I'm doomed. There is no way in hell I can explain myself out of this one.


I bounced nervously from foot to foot as the elevator seemed to ascend at an unusually fast pace. My hands wrung together in front of me, my head was down and my teeth were worrying my bottom lip. The jacket I'd worn while braving the elements was dangling across my arm, along with my purse. I was sweating profusely; uncomfortable. I hoped to God he wouldn't notice; hoped that maybe I could simply slip by him on my way to the bathroom.

I doubted it though. I'd already called the control room, hoping that he was still in the gym or his office – no such luck, apparently he'd come upstairs over two hours ago, even though I'd told him I wasn't going to make it home in time for our lunchtime rendezvous. I was only fifteen minutes late, but he was probably curious now. It would be just my luck. What's the bet Lester already blabbed? Probably had been running his mouth since the second the – shudder – 'incident' happened.

I knew I shouldn't have gone out this morning.

You should have just followed your instincts Stephanie and stayed in bed with your gorgeous Cuban hunk, then none of this would have ever happened and you wouldn't be frightened to come home.

He'd arrived home in the early hours of this morning, dead on his feet. I hadn't seen him in weeks; he'd been finalising the sale of his Boston branch and had run into a few complications. We'd shared a few heady kisses and passionate words, but had both fallen asleep before anything more could progress. A shame, really, phone sex just wasn't nearly as good as the real thing. Probably he was pissed at me for not being there when he woke up... probably I should have thought out my whole V-day plan a little better...

I reached the seventh floor, the elevator doors gliding open effortlessly.

"Babe? Is that you?" His voice sang out down the hall.

I froze inside the elevator. Could I get away with pretending it malfunctioned? Could I hit that little button that would close the doors and then stop the elevator halfway between two floors? Probably not – the darn thing more than likely had a manual override.



I stepped through the doors just as they were beginning to close and loitered in the hallway as my only means of escape descended away from me.

I watched as he stepped into the hallway, a towel wrapped low around his hips, another one resting around his shoulders. Water was still dripping down his magnificent chest, following the beautiful lines his toned muscles created.

Welcome home Stephanie.

My jacket and purse landed on the floor with a muted thump. I licked my lips subconsciously, watching one particular drop slide down between his abs and disappear underneath the towel. I wanted to be that water droplet.

"See something you like, Babe?" I flushed, but met his dark eyes.

"No. I see someone I love and adore. Did you have a good morning?" I smiled sweetly as I took a few steps towards him, hoping to sneak past him and through the open door, my things forgotten.

"It would have been better if my wife hadn't been missing from my bed. My wife that I haven't seen or touched in three weeks." He growled, his arms reaching out and dragging me into his force field. One arm wrapped tightly around my lower back as the other hand brushed some of my curls away from my face.

"I – uh, well I –" I stuttered, our noses brushing as he stared me down.

"I tore the apartment to shreds looking for some kind of clue as to where you were." Ric spoke calmly, only a hint of frustration leaking into his words.

"But I left a –" He cut me off before I even had a chance to speak.

"Yeah. The note in my running shoes was cute. Be back in time for lunch, sweetheart. Do I look like a sweetheartto you, Babe?" He raised his eyebrow in question, waving his hand around his face.

"I – you d-do have a sweet heart..." I mumbled, blushing again. He fell silent for a moment and pressed a lingering kiss to my cheek before he began talking again.

"You didn't make it back in time for lunch; care to explain that one?" His voice was softer now, gentler.

I shook my head slowly in answer to his question, gulping nervously. He didn't need to know what happened.

"I thought we agreed that we were going to spend today together Stephanie, locked away in our apartment. We deserve it, if not the whole next week. I've missed you so damn much. Why the change in plans?" Uh oh. Stephanie. He is upset. Damn it.

"I needed to go shopping. To make sure my gift to you was perfect." I sulked, pouting up at him.

"You don't have any bags." Ric pointed out. Crap. He was going to get it out of me.

"I – there was an altercation." I bit my lip as he pressed his lips together in a tight line.

"An altercation." He restated, his body beginning to tense.

"Yep." I nodded unhelpfully.

"In the shopping mall." Ric supplemented.


"While you had two body guards with you?" He enquired, his teeth gritting as his eyes shut briefly.

"Uh – well only Lester was with me, and he got... distracted." A vein in his forehead started pulsing as his body tightened even further.

"Distracted." He all but snarled.

"Y-yep." It would serve Lester right to get in trouble. Payback is a bitch.

Ric inhaled a deep breath and exhaled, his body relaxing again.

"Lover, I'm running out of patience." His eyes bored into mine, his deep bedroom voice melting me from the inside out. "What kind of altercation?" Ric all but purred. If he wasn't holding me up, I'd be a puddle on the floor.

"Uh – the unpleasant kind?" I answered softly as he nudged us inside the apartment.

"Stephanie." He prompted quietly, his hand slamming the door shut firmly.

"Well, you see, it's like this..." I started babbling, freezing as his hand moved from my back, down over my butt.

Suddenly he froze.


"You're not wearing underwear!" Ric roared in my ear, both hands moving to cradle my ass tightly.

"I – uh – no?" My voice squeaked as I replied.

"Who. Has. Your. Panties?!" He demanded, squeezing my butt as he spoke.

"Ric, please –"

"Who has them?! Answer me." I whimpered as his hands tightened even more, painfully so, and his lips crashed into mine, frantically possessing my mouth.

"M – my mother." I cried, breaking away, pushing against his chest to get him to give me some room.

"What?" He stood back from me a few feet. Stunned, breathing heavily.

"She has them. You can call her yourself – if you want a verbal dressing down that is." I muttered the last part as I rubbed my poor butt. I'd probably have two hand shaped bruises there tomorrow. Great.

"Your mother has your underwear. You need to explain that one for me, Babe." I watched as his breathing calmed down and he raked a hand down his face. His anger in check, I started talking quietly.

"Uh, like I said, I was at the mall with Lester and I was shopping for the rest of your present. They do say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I thought we would – uh – you know... be really eager when we made love again after so long apart; that you wouldn't let me leave if I'd stayed in bed with you this morning and that it wouldn't matter that much to wait a couple of hours." I stumbled over my words as he gazed at me.

"Hold up Babe. When is either one of us ever not eager to make love?" His fingers gently touched my face, devotion shinning in his softened eyes. I blinked back the sudden change in his demeanour, wishing the prickling of tears would go away.

"I – fine, it was a stupid idea. Happy? I wanted to give you – never mind, it didn't work out anyway. Let me finish the story. So, we were shopping – in Victoria's Secrets – and I saw my mom. Let me tell you I did not fancy having any kind of conversation with her. Like why the hell was she in Victoria's Secrets?! I guess I panicked and started dumping all my would-be purchases and high tailed it out of the store. In my haste to leave, a pair of panties got stuck on my belt loop and the store alarm started blaring."

I paused as a small smile crept onto Ric's face. Placing my hands on my hips and glaring at him, he pulled me into his embrace and kissed the living daylights out of me. His arms cradled me tenderly as he rubbed his cheek against mine. Warm tingles spread throughout my body.

"Go on, Babe." He murmured, his voice husky as it tickled my neck. Struggling to keep my raging hormones in check while I was pressed up against his delicious body, I sighed before continuing my embarrassing tale.

"This stupid mall cop made a grab for me and the supposedly stolen pair of panties but instead managed to grab MY lace thong and ripped it straight off. Let me tell you it was NOT a pleasant experience." I huffed, squirming as he chuckled.

"You seem to like it when I do it." Ric added, his lips brushing against my skin, tormenting me sweetly.

"That's different. You don't give me a wedgie right before... and it's sexy as hell when you do it." I blushed as the words left my mouth. Ric simply growled possessively and drew me snugly against his body. Clearing my suddenly tight throat, I went on.

"Lester was laughing his freaking ass off at my expense. And then my mother comes up, snatches my underwear from the mall cop and starts ranting how my undergarments weren't appropriate for a young lady. Then she starts in on the man, saying how he should know better than to rip off a woman's undergarments, that if he wanted to woo me, he should ask me out on a date! I was taken to the security office by the laughing cop while Lester was trying to pull himself together. We got it sorted out in the end though. The mall cops met my mother after all – they understood my need to flee."

By the time I finished, Ric was laughing so hard his body was shaking and the towel had slid off from around his hips, pooling on the floor.

His laughter soon died off as his arousal pressed against my stomach.

"How about I make you forget all about your traumatic morning?" Ric whispered.

TBC ...

(Word count – excluding the flashback – 1904 words)