Author: PricklySare –Sarah Ripley Ortega
Words without A/N or Disclaimer: 2135
A/N: The Plum world was created by and belongs to JE. I'm not making anything from this.
This story sprang to mind from listening to "Want To" by Sugarland. I'm not sure how well it turned out since I wrote it half asleep. Please let me know what you think. --Sare
The only sound was the gentle splash of water as the tide rolled in. It was a sound that spoke volumes to my soul. I sat quietly on the dock, waiting. The time was coming, something I'd known for a while now, but hadn't let myself acknowledge. Denial was after all, my friend.
My name is Stephanie Plum and I was about to jump off the proverbial roof again to see if I could fly. The last time I tried this I ended up with a broken leg and a pissed off mother. This time, the stakes were much higher. This time I wouldn't be breaking something as easily fixed as a leg. I quite possibly was going to break my heart. Shatter it into a million pieces. Since my mother is always pissed off at me, that won't be anything new. I'm pretty sure she's given up on my now anyway. I'm finding it hard to be bothered by this.
For the past several years I've been in love with two men. Two very different men. Or, maybe they aren't as different as I'd like to believe. They have similarities. I seem to be attracted to a specific type of man. Namely, an Alpha male. Someone strong, protective, and seemingly invincible. I guess the major difference between them would be the way they make me feel.
Joe Morelli has been a part of my life since it was gross to have boy cooties. He introduced me to the game of choo choo, and never once let me be the train. Looking back at this I should have realized that there was something inherently wrong with him...or maybe with me. I was after all, only six. Ten years later he once again breezed into my life and waltzed away with my panties. Fast forward fourteen years and his game hasn't changed, though he does play harder, and his moves have gotten better.
For the last few years he's been my on again, off again boyfriend. Emphasis on the off. He's not a bad man, just not the man for me. Unfortunately, it's taken me a while to come to grips with this. I prefer to live in the land of denial. I have season tickets to all the events there. My mother is convinced that Joe is my "last chance" at marriage and children. The only problem with this is that whenever I think about marriage and babies the fantasy doesn't involve dear ol' Joe. In fact, whenever I think about marriage and babies in the same thought as Joe I breakout in hives and black dots dance in front of my eyes. Not what I would call good omens for our future.
This of course brings me to man number two. However, by no means does this man hold a secondary spot in my life. Unless of course we're listing dessert in there...and then its a hard choice what would come first. Creamy mocha latte Ranger, or pineapple upside down cake. Though if I could have pine apple upside down cake on Ranger...wow... Yummm.
Ranger has been in my life for a significantly shorter period of time than Joe. In fact, he's only been in my life for the last few years. Though, in the short amount of time he's been in my life we've been through more together than most people experience in their entire life.
Ranger is a second generation Cuban American. His parents named him Ricardo Carlos Manoso, and when he's dressed to the nines wearing an Armani suit and buying out small countries from behind his massive desk he goes by Carlos. I've only seen glimpses of this man. I'm much more familiar with the black clad, dark, intimidating, aura of his mercenary street persona, Ranger. Also known as, Batman.
In the last few years he has been not only my mentor, my savior, and my tormentor, but he's also been my friend. Quite possibly, my best friend. It just so happens that my best friend is the sexiest man alive, and being around him keeps my hormones in overdrive. This makes it incredibly difficult to have a monogamous relationship with anyone else. Especially considering that not only is he the sexiest man alive, but somewhere between him unlocking the cuffs that chained me to my shower rod, him always having my back and always believing in me, and him being shot rescuing me from a crazy man I fell in love with him. Deeply, terrifyingly, no amount of denial is working anymore, in love with him.
That brings me to the newest dilemma in my always crazy life. I can't pretend anymore. We've been having a relationship for years now. A relationship that neither of us has acknowledged. We spent one night together, a night that I'm pretty sure didn't go according to plan. There had been this intense sexual attraction between us, and the tension was so thick you could walk on it. I expected that after our night together the tension would dissipate. It didn't. It got worse...or better... depending on your outlook. That one night brought us closer, even though we tried to push ourselves a part. Me by taking the first flight to denial land, and him by unilaterally deciding that I'd be better off with Joe—and telling me to fix my relationship with him. Gees, men!
Now, Joe is no longer a visitor of my bed, and won't be again. He's better off finding someone who is willing to give up everything they are, every dream they have in order to pop out babies and cook dinner for him. Since I can burn water, and the babies I envision have mocha latte skin and don't appear Italian, I'm positive I am not the woman for him.
So there I was waiting. I knew the wait was over when I felt the prickly sensation on the back of my neck. I liked to think of it as my REWS—Ranger Early Warning System. I could always tell when he was in a room, even if I couldn't see him. It was a strange sensation, but one I had gotten used to, even though I couldn't explain it without sounding completely insane.
I let out a long breath just as I felt his hand caress the back of my neck. It looked like it was show time. The last train to denial land just left and I wasn't on it.
"Ranger." I replied. I'm nothing if not a stunning conversationalist. I guess it's a good thing that Ranger also had an uncanny ability to ESP my thoughts. I felt him brush against me as he sat next to me on the dock. His muscles rippled under his painted on black shirt and black cargos and I had to take a moment to check for drool. Hungarian hormones? Check.
"Deep thoughts, Babe?" He asked me, his voice was warm and deep and made me want to rip off all of my clothes and tackle him so that I could lick him. Unfortunately, I couldn't allow myself to do that no matter how much my hormones were screaming at me.
"I guess so." I told him, lifting my head from my knees where it had been resting. He just raised one perfectly arched eyebrow in question. Waiting for me to continue. Ranger has the patience of a monk. He can sit perfectly still for hours while on stakeout, and he can wait silently without questions while I squirm and shift trying to catch a flight back to denial land where I really wanted to go. Instead I took another deep breath and asked, "Do you have dreams?"
It takes a lot to surprise Ranger, but the slight widening of his eyes showed me that I'd managed to catch him off guard with my question. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"You know, dreams. Dreams of what you want to be when you 'grow up'." I heard him chuckle and felt his body move with it.
"Babe, I'm over thirty. I'm already 'grown up'." he said grinning at me.
"Fine. Let's try this another way." I was really going to hate this. A lot. I'd almost rather roll in garbage than do this. "I never really had dreams before. I mean, other than putting money in my account and being able to feed Rex. Recently though, I've started dreaming." I placed my head back on my drawn up knees. "I realized a long time ago that I didn't want the white picket fence, the 2.5 kids, and the rest of what is expected of a good 'burg wife." I fell silent, gathering my thoughts.
"Joe asked me to marry him." I blurted out. Ranger's body went from relaxed to tense and I could feel the tension radiating from his body like a heatwave.
"You're marrying Morelli?" His voice was rough with some emotion I couldn't really place. I decided against dwelling on it. I had a mission.
"No." I said.
"No. I'm not right for Joe, and he's not right for me. I told you, I've finally started to dream and those dreams don't include Joe." I said.
"What do you dream about, Babe?" he asked, his voice soft.
This was going to be the hard part... or at the very least the harder part. "I dream that the whole world could change in a minute, that it changes every minute. I dream of a single kiss that changed the world for me. I dream of a family. A man who loves me for who I am, not for what I can become. I dream of two kids with mocha latte skin and black hair. I dream of waking up every morning, and going to sleep every night with the man that has my heart. A man who has shown me more love with his actions than any other person has ever shown me with words or actions."
I could feel tears building in my throat and I ruthlessly pushed them away. "I dream of building a life with my best friend and experiencing every part of that life, no matter how hard it might be." I looked over at Ranger who was quiet and still. "Ranger, I dream of you."
"Babe....I..." he started.
"No, Ranger. We could sit on the shore, we could just be friends, or we could jump in. We could keep things just the same. Leave here the way we came, with nothing to lose. But, I don't want to. If you don't want to."
I'm not sure what I expected from my revelation, and my subsequent sharing of it with Ranger, but I was tired of living in denial. At least when it came to him. I loved him and damn it, I was going to let him know. Even if he couldn't, or wouldn't allow himself to feel the same. I knew he loved me, there was no doubt in my mind that he loved me, but that didn't mean that he could share that love with me. He was a complex man. He had a code that he lived by, and that code may not allow for his own personal happiness. I wouldn't let that bother me. I would freely give him my love. He deserved that much.
"Babe, I never want to waste another day, wondering what I threw away. I want to be holding you. I want you to be holding me. I want to. If you want to. I don't care how we do it. We can have as many children as you want. We can get married. I just want you."
My heart leaped into my throat and I was sure that he could see it beating frantically to get out. Tears pushed their way out from my eyes as I smiled at him. "Is that so, Batman?"
"Yes, Babe. It's so."
"When do you want to get married? You're not getting any younger you know." I smiled when I heard him laugh and pulled me close.
"How about tomorrow? We'll take the jet to Vegas."
"Sounds good to me, Batman." And it really did. No black spots. No hives. Just happiness.
"Glad to hear it, Babe."
He pulled me close to him and I tipped my face up to his. His lips were soft, gentle, and passionate. I felt his love in that kiss. That one single kiss stopped my world from spinning. It was the kiss of a beginning.
"I love you, Carlos." I whispered against his lips.
"I love you too, Stephanie."