A/N: All recognized Plum characters/settings/plots belong to Janet Evanovich.

This is a BABE story (Steph x Ranger). Characters (read Ranger) may be slightly OOC, as in he will speak more than his usual 'plum book' share of words. There will be bad language, a tiny bit of sex, and a Happily Ever After.

Thanks to Caroline for looking this over for me and giving me great advice.

Short Summary: Ranger invites Steph on vacation, along with Lester, Bobby, their girlfriends and Tank.

For Jacqueline's and Lisa's May challenge. Eight prompts used.

Baby it's Cold Outside
By Sasha.


It was just after nine in the morning. My third coffee was sitting beside my elbow, my computer had been powered up for over an hour, and I was ogling a horde of mouthwatering men. Yeah, that's right. I'm working at Rangeman again; full time. Morelli and I had called it quits; we'd drifted apart and realized we had different goals in life. Mine was simply just to stay alive, his to settle down and start a family.I tried to tell him that people take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they are not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost. He disagreed with me, as usual, claimed I hadn't just gotten lost, I was a lost cause. Morelli was seeing a single mom from the burg now, she worked at the Personal Products Plant. We were still friends... sort of, it was kind of tense between us, and I'm not sure why on his end, he had nothing to be upset about, unlike me, the lost cause. Men. I had heard a rumor that he'd knocked her up and that they were getting married soon, but it could just have been a rumor… I guess some people are settling down, some people are settling, and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies. I was that with that last group of people. Sad thing was the only man in my life who had ever given me butterflies was Ranger.

Covering a yawn with my hand, I eyed the handful of searches in my inbox which I hoped wouldn't multiply as the day went on. It was Friday after all. I'd been sleeping like a baby lately, and I know usually people who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one, but I've babysat for Valerie a number of times – I've literally been sleeping like a baby; very badly that is. Crying myself to sleep, waking at all hours of the night, hungry, angry and unsatisfied. My bed was unfortunately still empty. Ten months seemed like forever without a social orgasm... but then again, I had gone longer before. I sighed, drifting back into my cubicle from that scary place in my mind where I tried to rationalize male behavior, or rather lack of male behavior on Ranger's part.

I hadn't wasted my time though. Over the past ten months, fuelled by Morelli's words, I'd thrown myself into getting fit, training with the guys and learning a few cool tricks of the trade. I was no Jeanne Ellen Burrows, but I could take down my skips, comfortably handle my gun, and I hadn't embarrassed myself since I'd started working again full time at Rangeman. I'd also been partnered with a guy named Demon, but that didn't last too long. The guy was way more than I could handle. Lester, Bobby and Tank all took turns partnering up with me, and if they were busy, Hal, Cal, Junior, Blinkie or Ram were always willing to step in. I only had two days out of my five out in the field now, but surprisingly, I was more than comfortable with it. I enjoyed doing searches, and the field work broke up the feeling of being stuck inside an office.

Everything else in my life, besides my love life, had fallen into place. I went out with Valerie, Mary Lou, Lula and Connie for a girl's night once a fortnight and usually ended up at Shorty's with the guys on a Friday. Last month, we'd had a combined girls/guys night. I'm not sure if I should say it went good, or bad, but we tore up the town. Connie hooked up with Demon, whom she'd met for the first time that night, and still raved about his bedroom skills. They were now an item; the guy had even manned up enough to have dinner with her 'family' and lived to tell the tale. I have a feeling if he breaks her heart though he's going to find himself with concrete shoes. My mom and I still couldn't see eye to eye, but both my Dad and Grandma Mazur were proud of me for 'losing that worthless Morelli boy'. Thanks to the steady paycheck I received from Rangeman, I'd also bought myself an almost new car and moved into a larger, safer apartment.

So, things were going good. Except I hardly ever got to see, talk to, or spend time with Ranger anymore, unless it was in the context of boss and employee. He always seemed so busy now, I felt bad disturbing him just for a friendly chat. I'd contemplated on and off for the past few months getting in trouble just to see if he'd come save me. I missed him, missed his friendship, and missed the intimacy that we had even when we weren't having sex that I never even managed to get close to with Morelli. I was also depressed; finally realizing that Ranger's comment about someday must have been an illusion. He'd have made his move already if it hadn't have been. I guess he had asked me to have dinner with him on seven a couple of times, but I no longer felt comfortable with him enough to disturb his private space. I felt like I'd be intruding into his life, I would have had no idea what to say, and I sure as hell didn't want to simply jump into bed with him. He wouldn't be able to send me back to Morelli this time, but I feared what he would say to me…

I watched from the corner of my eye as Ranger, Lester, Bobby and Tank all approached my cubicle. Ranger's three right hand men paused a few yards back, while the hot shot himself leaned against the entry wall of my cubicle, smiling slightly. I noticed none of them were in uniform; Ranger was the only one in black. Black jeans, black polo, black sweater, black jacket, black boots. I licked my lips, tilting my head to the side, acknowledging him at last. He was as handsome as ever, maybe even more so today… I wished the saying men who are good looking are never good in bed because they never had to be was true, because maybe then I wouldn't be so hung up on the man before me. No, that's a lie, my attraction to him was much more than skin deep, so much deeper than mind blowing sex – he was really everything I ever wanted in a man – a Batman to my Wonder woman. Flashing him a smile, I dropped my hands into my lap. Turning completely away from my computer, I offered him my undivided attention.

"What's up, Boss?" I asked sweetly, masking my unease at his presence.

"Smart ass," he grinned, shaking his head subtly.

"So, what can I do you for, Ranger?" I wondered, biting back a smile as Lester dropped down on one knee behind Ranger's back; silently proposing to Bobby who swooned and fell dramatically into Lester's awaiting arms. I'd learned recently that while those two were very serious about their work, they sure knew how to have fun. I must have lost my battle with my smile as Ranger flicked his head over his shoulder, and within a split second, Bobby and Lester were standing side by side at parade rest.

A large grin took over Ranger's face as he turned back towards me. My heart paused for a second, the sheer gorgeousness before me stunning me. Ranger had always been so beautiful.

"Seems like Brown and Santos have finally climbed out of the closet," Ranger announced calmly as a giggle burst from my lips.

Shaking my head, getting my 'giggling' under control, I patiently waited for Ranger to speak again as Bobby and Lester protested, proclaiming their love for women.

"Ranger?" I prompted, raising an eyebrow, flicking my gaze to the search engine open on my computer screen.

"Babe," Ranger grinned at me again. Babe, he'd called me Babe. It'd been quite a while since he'd called me anything other than Steph. Shaking myself out of my daze, I noticed he looked a little... goofy? I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Happy? Nah, I must be imagining things...


"Will you get on with it, Carlos? We want to be there by sundown," Tank laughed, the walls shaking. He dodged back neatly out of Ranger's swinging fist.

"Careful amigo," Ranger warned, his eyes glittering black... playful? Holy shit, I think Ranger was actually relaxed.

"Babe." I blinked again as he turned to face me, eyes roaming my face, lingering for a long moment on my lips. "We're going on vacation," he announced proudly, still smiling at me. STILL SMILING AT ME. This had to be a record; I didn't think he could smile for more than a few seconds! I flicked my gaze from his face to the men behind him. They all seemed like excited little boys. I couldn't even remember the last real vacation I went on... probably my, shiver, honeymoon with The Dick. Boy wasn't that a barrel of laughs, not.

"Okay, sure. Have fun, I'll see you all when you get back," I smiled at them a little before turning towards my computer screen.

A sudden, heavy hand on the back of my neck and a warm breath caressing my cheek had a quiet shriek escaping my lips. My chair was swung around, and I found Ranger less than an inch from my face.

"You're coming," he demand, no hint of an infliction in his voice indicating it was question. I blinked at his serious expression; it was nothing like it was moments ago. The men behind him shifted uneasily on their feet.

"Excuse me?" I whispered politely. It didn't seem necessary to talk loudly when he was so close. So close I could deeply inhale his tantalizing masculine scent mixed in with a hint of Bvlgari. Yum.

"You're coming on vacation with us, Steph. My treat." I was already shaking my head in the negative before he even finished speaking.

"I don't think so, Ranger. Seems like a guys' weekend away – or however long you're going for. I'd feel like the odd one out. Sorry, thanks but no thanks." I tried to move away from him, leaning back in my chair. He simply followed me, eyes intent, a little smile back on his gorgeous lips. Christ, all of this smiling was creeping me out a little...

"Two or three weeks Babe, and I want you with us." He leaned forward now, his arms draping over the arm rests of the chair, his lips brushing mine as he spoke. I resisted the urge to wrap my arms around his neck and pull him flush against me. Damn, he was so tempting. But I remembered what happened last time I gave into the temptation that is Ricardo Carlos Manoso; I wasn't likely to repeat the same mistake – I hoped.

"I'd feel uncomfortable," I murmured again, my breath hitching as his lips pressed firmly against mine. He drew back after a long, heated kiss, to stare at me calmly again. My body shivered at the intensity behind his gaze.

"Both Bobby's and Lester's girlfriends are coming with us. Tank's coming back here after the first week; he's had the last month of weekends off. You're running out of excuses, Babe. Come with me," Ranger's lowered, sensual voice tickled my nerves, giving me goose bumps. His eyes and lips were smiling at me – again! It was so hard to say no to him...

"Well Ranger, unlike you, some of us need to work, to pay rent and bills and what not. I'm sorry, no," I emphasized. This was my last excuse but it was highly relevant, and it reminded me why I really couldn't go with them... no matter how much I desperately wanted to spend three weeks in Ranger's company. It also may have irked me a little how he simply demanded I was going with them. Sheesh, men!

"Taken care of, Babe." I spluttered, my mouth falling open, my hands waving helplessly in the air. What the hell does he mean, taken care of? He can't just pay my bills!

"You can't just do that! I – you – no!" I shook my head, poking my finger into his chest repeatedly.

"I can do anything I like for my future wife." With those words he stood to his full height, slipped his arms around my waist and hoisted me over his shoulder. He said WHAT? Future w-wife? I think my brain must have short circuited and I misheard... or maybe I heard right and then my brain short circuited. My head hurt all the same...

"Put me down, Ranger!" I bellowed, pounding my fists on his solid back, my eyes glued unwaveringly to his firm butt. The jeans seemed to hug every scrumptious inch... I'm getting sidetracked.

"Grab Steph's purse and start packing the cars. I'll get Steph changed and we'll meet you in the garage in ten. If we're not down in fifteen, send a search team." The guys chuckled as Ranger settled into a comfortable stride, stopping at the elevator. Pressing the button, we slipped inside, moving swiftly to the seventh floor. I heard his apartment door swing open and watched the floor move as we headed towards his bedroom.

"Oomph!" I exhaled sharply as I found myself dumped on his luxurious bed, his body crawling over mine, pressing me down firmly into the mattress. He growled low in his throat before his lips ever so lightly caressed mine, surprising me. My mind turned to goo as both his hands slid into my hair, titling my head just right as his tongue dipped inside my mouth. I felt my arms slide up his chest, draping themselves around his neck as our bodied started ever so slightly rubbing against each other. Spanish words drifted against my mouth, finally snapping my fuzzy brain out of its love induced stupor.

"Ranger!" I pushed against his chest, trying to get him off me. We couldn't do this – whatever this was, my heart had had just about enough hurt from him. His lips simply attached themselves to my neck, nipping and sucking. "Ranger, stop!" I tried again, attempting to shift out from under him. One of Ranger's hands moved down, his arm shifting to encircle my waist, holding me tightly against him. "What the hell are we doing?" I screamed, panicking. He finally lifted his head.

"Steph." Ranger's eyes held a brief glimpse of sorrow before his emotionless mask returned and he slowly sat up.

"What? I can't read your mind Ranger; I never know what you're thinking, or what the hell your intentions are. You're actions always say one thing; your words another... what do you want from me?" I requested, blinking rapidly. Shit, did all that really just come out of my mouth? I guess that's what happens when you keep everything bottled up inside. Crap, I didn't want to know the answers, what if he told me he only kept me around because I was entertaining, or he only wanted sex from me? I don't think I could take that when I was so irrevocably in lov- shit, don't even go there Stephanie!

"Anything you're willing to give me. Guess it's not this though, even when Morelli's out of your bed and your life." He stood and strode over to the wardrobe.

I heaved a heavy sigh, my lips quivering, tears blurring my vision.

"What do you mean by that, Ranger? I'm not in a relationship with anyone. Regardless though, I will not be your fuck buddy. I don't do casual sex," I whispered quietly.

All sounds from the wardrobe stopped and Ranger strode out, his demeanor angry even as he dropped a pile of clothes on the bed beside me. He invaded my personal space, crowding me.

"Why do you assume all I want you for is sex? Have the men in your life up until now really given you the impression that all a man needs a woman for is sex, Stephanie? " I turned my face away, feeling it heat as he spoke, his arms on either side of my body as he leaned into me.

"And babies, not to mention putting me and my wants, hopes, and dreams on a shelf," I muttered bitterly. Ranger's fingers gripped my chin carefully, making me face him.

"You can't believe that," he snorted in disbelief. Snorted? I held his gaze, I did believe that, it's what I'd grown up with, what I'd experienced. "Babe?" His eyes softened as I shrugged and tugged my head from his grasp.

"What do you want, Ranger?" I inquired again softly, feeling his intense gaze on my skin. His reaction made me think that maybe, just maybe he felt a little something for me – oh sure I knew he cared about me to some extent, but maybe he felt a little more strongly...

"To be in a couple, do you have to put your single self on a shelf? No. I wouldn't love you if you weren't you, but I don't share, so you would need to put the 'single' part away, but not yourself. I want all of you, Stephanie. Your mind, body, heart and soul." His frankness surprised me, and had my head snapping forward to try to read his face.

"Pardon?" Did I really just hear that? He said – oh my God – he wants all that – me he wants me...

A soft smile caressed his lips, his eyes glued to mine as he dipped his head and pressed kisses to my eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, nose, lips.

"Would you be willing to offer me those things, Babe?" I choked on a gasp. My mind racing. He was actually asking me, asking me if I would give myself to him, in such a complete way, in the only way you should give yourself to someone you loved. Did this mean – could I dare to hope that he loved little old Stephanie from the burg. But it had been ten months… ten long months of waiting and hoping. I was almost out of hope…

"I – only if you offered me the same in return," I murmured gently, holding my breath, not believing this could be true.

"In a heartbeat." His quick response startled me, but not as much as his next words. "I love you, Steph. I want you. Please." My mouth fell open, tears trickled down my cheeks, and I couldn't form any words. "Babe?" His rough hands so carefully wiping away my tears seemed to kick my brain into gear.

"Yes, Ranger. Yes. I love you too. Yes." An amazingly, breathtaking smile lit up his face as the words left my mouth.

"It's Carlos, Babe, and I'm never letting you go, Steph." I nodded into his neck as his arms crushed me in an embrace.

It was a long few minutes while he simply held me, pressing soft kisses against my skin and hair. Eventually, he pulled back, kissing my lips headily.

"Okay, Babe, you gotta get changed. Tank will come looking for us in a minute." What? Oh, right. We're going on vacation – with the boys.

Ranger – Carlos helped me off the bed, stripping my shirt up and off in one swift tug, ignoring my gasp. His eyes darkened as he stared at my lace covered chest before he slid a tight tank top over my head, followed by a royal blue shirt, matching sweater and a nice thick black coat that looked almost identical to his. I felt his hands unzipping my pants, pushing them down over my hips to pool at my feet. He kneeled down, slipping off my joggers and then my pants.

Kissing my right thigh softly, he looked up at me from beneath his lashes, causing my heart to come to a stuttering halt, before standing and holding out a pair of tights. I stepped into them, bracing myself against his hard body. He helped me back into my pants and sat me down on the bed, sliding my feet into thickly lined boots, tying them tightly. Once finished, he kneeled between my legs, his hands sliding up from my knees to my hips as he kissed me gently.

I felt a soft warm scarfwrap attentively around my neck and wondered where the hell we were going if I needed to be rugged up this much... of course that thought was secondary only to: what the hell was going on with Carlos? Seriously, did someone give him a dose of happy juice this morning? A girl needs a little warning when the Cuban Sex God descends, or should I say, when Carlos talking straight, telling me the truth and showing his emotions emerges, since we hadn't actually gotten to any hot lovin' yet...

"Time to go," Carlos informed me, hoisting me over his shoulder once more, ignoring my protests.

We reached the elevator just as I heard the doors slide open.

"You're lucky Carlos, just in time," Tank chuckled. I glimpsed his massive boots as Carlos entered the elevator.

"I try," Carlos smirked.

"How you doing, Bombshell?" Tank's hand slapped my butt lightly.

"Hey! I'll bust a cap in your ass if you don't keep your hands to yourself, Big Guy!" Tank's laughter echoed out around us until we reached the garage.

Bending down to my level, one of his hands caught both mine before he smacked a kiss to my forehead.

"You're doing okay then," he said with a chuckle, jogging over to an idling SUV, swinging behind the driver's seat. Another SUV honked its horn. I flipped its occupants the bird, figuring it was just Lester and Bobby. A car door opened and I was sat inside Tank's SUV, Carlos climbing in swiftly after me, fastening my seat belt and his before throwing his arm over my shoulders and pulling me flush against his side. It was pretty toasty in the car, which made sense considering our state of dress, that the heater was on, and that Carlos radiated heat better than a furnace and set an inferno raging inside me.

"Let's roll," Carlos ordered shooting me a small smile. Tank tilted his head, revved the car and swung out of the garage, Bobby and Lester hot on our tail.

It was sleeting down in the fair city of Trenton, the streets were slippery, drivers were skidding all over the road and the ice on the sidewalks made it difficult to navigate between cars and shops or homes. In short, trying to get out of the city was chaotic. I spent the entire time holding onto Carlos for dear life, and hiding my face in his jacket when things became too unbearable to watch.

"Where are we going for this vacation?" I asked, when we finally made it out of the city, and, it seemed, away from the worst of the weather. It was only raining now, thankfully.

"A little log cabin I own, up in the mountains," Carlos admitted softly into my ear.

"Little!" Tank snorted, shaking his head. I swear I saw him roll his eyes in the rear view mirror.

"Where is it?" I inquired, shifting my head on Carlos' shoulder so I could see his face. He ducked his head and kissed my lips, smiling against my mouth as he answered.


I groaned at his reply.

"No fair, I don't even get a clue?" I grumbled.

"Sorry Babe, I want it to be a surprise." I huffed and tucked my head away in his neck.

After a short nap, I awoke to find us in the middle of nowhere. Literally. There was large shed and a long strip of bitumen.

"Carlos?" I mumbled, sitting up and away from his body. His arms gathered me back into his embrace, his lips pressing against my cheek.

"I love hearing my name on your lips. We're at a private airfield, Babe. Relax. The guys are getting things ready," he murmured quietly.


"For takeoff."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, realization settling in. Crap, we were flying somewhere.

"Yeah Babe, generally what happens at an airport." I slapped his arm and snuggled back into his body. I felt myself start to frown as I noticed two beautiful women standing outside the shed.

"Who are those girls over there?" I huffed, unable to stop my shackles from rising. Were they coming with us? Had Carlos invited them?

"Babe. Santos and Brown's women, remember?" He laughed. I exhaled heavily in relief. "I have all I need right here, Steph. Why would I need another woman?" His voice whispered against my skin a second before he pressed a loving kiss to my temple.

A few minutes passed in easy silence.

"I have some questions for you," I announced after finally waking up enough to form a coherent sentence.

"I'm still not telling you where we are going." I shook my head at his answer.

"No, not about that. About you – about us..." Trailing off, I bit my bottom lip.

There was an us, right?

"Yes, there most definitely is an us, Steph. There will be plenty of time to talk later...among other activities." The warmth radiating from his eyes had me shivering.

"Promise?" I clarified croakily.

"Yes mi amor, I promise."

I watched Tank, Lester and a couple of guys I hadn't seen before wrestle open the doors of the shed – or should I say hanger – and a medium sized sleek black plane taxied out. Huh.

"It's a Dassault Aviation Falcon 900EX – my private jet. Originally it could hold up to thirteen passengers, plus two pilots, but I've had it modified. You'll be very comfortable, and safe, Babe." Carlos declared gently, squeezing my shoulder.

A succession of loud thumps on the roof of the car startled me and had me jumping away from Carlos.

"Easy, Babe," Carlos whispered, drawing me back into his arms, "It's just the idiot brigade."

"Come on you lovebirds, we don't have all day for that mushy crap!" Lester shouted through the window.

"Fuck off Santos, jealousy isn't your color!" Carlos snarled throwing open the door, climbing out of the car and dragging me with him.

Just as my feet touched the ground his arms wrapped tightly around my hips, crushing me to his chest. His lips descended on mine. The kiss was rough, hungry, possessive. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it.

Carlos only pulled away when I couldn't stand on my own, my body sagging weakly against him. His gorgeous smile flashed proudly down at me.

"Mine," He growled quietly, only for my ears before flicking his gaze to the men for a moment, seeming satisfied when he saw them all standing mouths' agape. "We don't have all day for you lot to stand around like idiots!" Carlos barked. The guys instantly shook themselves out of their stupors and finished loading the plane with our bags and supplies.

Carlos, with his arm wrapped firmly around my waist, escorted us both up the steps that had been pushed against the plane.

"Wow," I breathed softly as Carlos led us to the seats at the very back of the plane. I only counted eight seats. Behind our seats was a wall with a smoothly varnished mahogany door… Everything in sight was luxurious. The seats were black padded leather, massive, could recline and there was more than enough leg space. The carpet on the floor was a midnight blue, the walls padded in the matching material. Looking up, I noticed the ceiling was light buttery gold in color, a number of rows of small round lights providing illumination in the cabin. There was a small plasma screen television for each seat, which extended from the sides of the plane.

"Glad you like it, Babe."

"Shotgun Pilot!" Lester shouted as he came barreling up the stairs and straight into the cockpit.

"No fair, Santos! I always have to be co-pilot!" Bobby whined, following behind, sulking into the cockpit.

"You snooze, you lose, Brown! Should have called it," Lester taunted. The sound of a fist connecting with flesh echoed back to us. "You suck balls, Brown!"

"Our guys, so polite and gentlemanly," a stunning exotic Brazilian, long sleek black hair, all curves and radiating happiness, laughed deeply as she entered the plane. Her eyes only briefly rested on Carlos before she scanned the rest of the plane.

"Sometimes I wonder why we keep them," the striking brunette interjected with a wry smile. She had more of an athletic build compared to the other woman, but still had bigger breasts than me. She seemed to be more Cuban than Brazilian, her accent slightly different. Her eyes lingered on my man a little longer than the other's had. My man? Gulp.

Both women were dressed like supermodels, looking nothing like I did in my many layers of unattractive clothing. I could feel my self-confidence taking a dive as every second passed. I took comfort from the fact that Carlos' eyes never strayed from my face, his hand squeezing mine tighter as he felt the women's eyes pass over him.

"Hey, ladies, ladies. No need to be like that, my lovely Lara," Lester all but purred at the Brazilian strutting back out of the cockpit. He slid a hand into her hair and drew her against him roughly for a sweet kiss. "Yeah, Em. Last night when I did that trick with my tongue you all but beg –" The red head pressed her lips to Bobby's effectively shutting him up.

I smiled as all four of them disappeared into the cockpit.

"Ground crew's just about to remove the stairs, Carlos. You sure you want to bring the two clowns along?" Tank laughed as he hit a button next to the door, closing the hatch before he locked it securely.

"We fucking heard that Tank! Don't make us kick your ass!" Lester and Bobby shouted together.

I couldn't stop the laugh that bubbled up from my throat. This was all so – so ridiculous! These men were trained mercenaries, for God's sake, but they were acting like school boys showing off for their girls.

Calming down, I noticed Tank had taken one of the seats closest to the cockpit and the engines were just starting. My heart rate sky-rocketed and my breathing accelerated.

"You're safe, Babe. I won't let anything happen to you," Carlos' voice soothed my nerves a little.

As soon as we were up in the air, Carlos unclasped both of our belts and held out his hand to me. Taking his hand, he pushed open the door behind our seats and ushered me through before silently closing the door. I stood frozen in stunned silence. A beautiful bedroom was before me, the large black silk covered bed and mahogany furniture in the room as well as the continued theme of midnight blue carpet was entrancing.

"I just want to lay with you in my arms, Steph. No pressure. I just need to hold you, mi amor," His breath tickled the back of my neck as his arms slid around me, hugging me back into his chest.

God that sounded absolutely wonderful.

"Please," I murmured in reply.

Without warning, I found myself swept up into his strong arms and sat down on the edge of the bed. Carlos stripped us both down until I was only in my tank top and panties, and he was wearing only a pair of his silk black boxers. Lifting the duvet, he helped me under the covers before strapping his gun to the headboard of the bed. His warm body soon curled around mine, and quicker than I thought possible, I was drifting off to sleep in his arms more content that I had ever been in my entire life.


"Babe. Mi amor, time to wake up." I grumbled and buried my head further into my warm solid pillow. It smelt absolutely divine. I just want to dart my tongue out and taste it… "Did you just lick me, Babe? As much as I wish we did, we don't have time for that," The delicious voice spoke again, this time though; it had dropped in volume and tenor sending skittering thrills up and down my spine. A moan slipped from my lips and a groan echoed my sound. "You're killing me, Babe."

Babe. Why does that sound familiar? Ranger calls me Babe… Mmmmm Ranger. So yummy.


Holy shit!

I sat up so fast I got a head rush. Blinking down at the man underneath me, who was smiling up at me, almost sinfully naked, I tried to process. His breathtaking smile flashed up to me and I swayed a little, then I realized where I was perched and bit my lip to stop myself from moaning. His cock was straining against his boxers, pressing into my panties…

Ranger, vacation, Carlos, airplane.

"Oh, God, Carlos," I sighed, rocking against him a little.

"Babe, we need to get dressed. Plane's landing," The strain in his voice and his hands on my hips, stilling my movements, made me feel more than a little guilty and ashamed.

"Sorry," I mumbled, trying to scramble away from him unsuccessfully. His arms drew me down to the bed and he rolled on top of me, pinning me down with his weight.

"I'm not sorry, Babe. We will be picking this back up once we get to the cabin," he hissed, rubbing his cock against my core before he claimed my lips in an arousing kiss. We were both panting heavily as our lips parted.

Bang, Bang, Bang!

"Five minutes until we start our descent!" Tank hollered through the door.

Carlos made a sound of frustration, lightly brushed his lips against mine and sprung off the bed. I watched lazily from my position in the bed as he dressed, admiring the way his muscles moved and flexed.

"Babe." He pulled me to the edge of the bed and dressed me much the same as he had a few of hours ago.

With less than thirty seconds to spare, we slipped back into our seats and buckled up.

The landing, surprisingly, was smooth. I gulped as I noticed snow falling outside the windows. We were lucky we hadn't skidded off the tarmac and died in a fiery inferno.

"Babe, have a little more faith. If it was too dangerous to land, we would have relocated to a different airport," Carlos raised an eyebrow at me, lifting our joined hands to his lips, pressing a kiss to the inside of my wrist.

We taxied along the runway for a few moments, being directed by the small airport's traffic control no doubt. There were no commercial planes; it was strictly a private airport. The plane came to a stop inside one of the many hangers, the stairs were attached and we all disembarked. A ground crew team unloaded all of our cargo into three waiting black SUV's. A man in an official looking suit and a thick, expensive looking wool trench coat exited the three story building that resided next to the hanger and made his way through a side door and over to us, where we were all huddled together. It was flipping freezing! I was facing Carlos, my face buried in his shoulder and neck, my arms wrapped around him tightly, and his arms around me. I could only glimpse the approaching man out of the corner of my eye. Tank was standing slightly behind Carlos and me, guarding ours backs no doubt. Lester and Bobby with their girls were standing on either side of us. The man stopped directly in front of Carlos, so I couldn't see him, but I wasn't worried.

"Monsieur Manoso, a pleasure to see you again. I trust you flight was smooth?" A man with a strong French-Canadian accent addressed Carlos, holding out his hand. Carlos shook it firmly before wrapping himself around me once again.

Canada. We were in Canada. Wow. Carlos owned a cabin, in the mountains, in Canada.

"Mr Grenier, I trust the documents I sent you were all in order?" Carlos questioned brusquely.

"Ah yes, Monsieur Manoso, but you know the procedures I must follow." The man sounded nervous as he replied.

"Must we do this every damn time? Santos, show him the damn papers!" Carlos growled. I turned a little in Carlos' arms and watched Lester extract an A4 manila envelope from his coat and remove seven or so sheets of paper.

"Yes, yes. These all appear to be fine. However, you have not travelled before with this… Madame Plum. I trust you have her passport and other documents, no?"

"Santos!" Carlos said again, grinding his teeth in frustration. I had no idea what was going on, why he was so tense. Tugging down the scarf he'd put on before leaving the plane, I brushed my lips against his warm skin, trying to get him to relax.

"Her passport is new; this is her first trip outside of the US in many years. What is your business here in Québec, Madame Plum?" I cringed as the man addressed me, feeling Carlos tense in response.

Turning in Carlos' arms, until my back was pressed against his chest, I eyed the man. He was leering at me, his eyes on my body, not on my face. Ah. I see the problem now. I couldn't believe he was looking at me when he could look at Em or Lara.

"Mr Grenier, I am here as Mr Manoso's guest. We're visiting his cabin, hoping to spend a few weeks here on vacation," I replied as calmly as I could while the man was attempting to stare a whole straight through the many layers of my clothes.

"You're a bounty hunter, yes, Madame Plum?"

"That's correct," I mumbled, bracing for the questions I was sure would follow.

"You're an unmarried woman spending your time in the company of four mercenaries – I would think your profession was one of less appetizing tastes."

Holy shit. Did the guy just call me a whore in front of four mercenaries, one of which loved me? What about the other two women?

Four distinctive clicks sounded simultaneously in the quiet of the early-afternoon. Carlos and the guys each had a gun pointed at the man.

"I suggest you take back your last comment, Mr Grenier, or it will be the last one you will ever make," Carlos promised, his voice cold and distant.

The man blinked, glancing around anxiously. There was no longer anyone around to witness what was occurring.

"I can guarantee you, that in less than five minutes, I can make a number of calls that will see you arrested, fired, your children removed from your custody and worse. Do you understand, Mr Grenier?" Carlos threatened dangerously, his finger sliding precariously close to his trigger.

"Monsieur Manoso! Ah – is there a problem here?" Another man ran through the side door, sliding over to us swiftly.

"Mr Lafleur, you know how much I despise dealing with, this man. He is obstructing our departure. Our documents were all in order, I sent them over early this morning prior to our flight. There is no reason to be detaining us. I can and will always take my business to another airport facility," Carlos calmly clicked the safety back on his gun and tucked it away, moving his arms tightly around me once more, pressing a kiss to my hair. Lester, Bobby and Tank, however, kept their guns all trained on the man who had insulted me. It was nice to know they all had my back.

"I was not informed of your arrival, otherwise I would have greeted you myself, Monsieur Manoso. You can be assured this will never happen again, and your documents were all in order. There was no reason to request seeing them again. Monsieur Grenier will be penalized for his lack of professional behavior and mistreatment of you all. You are free to leave whenever you wish and your flight plans for the rest of the week are finalized and approved," The man replied, fidgeting and glancing between all three weapons.

"Thank you, Mr Lafleur. Mr Grenier, if you wouldn't mind returning the future Mrs Manoso's documents, I will spare your life." There's that future wife thing again. "Additionally, you will never speak to her like that again, am I making myself clear?" Both men cleared their throats restlessly. Mr Grenier, nodding his head rapidly, extended his arm to Lester, handing over my supposed documents.

"Let's go, Babe," Carlos nodded to Lester and Bobby before starting off for the first SUV, Tank at our backs once again.

We climbed into the back seat, while Tank slid behind the wheel.

"Santos and Brown are going to make sure the plane is taken care of. They won't be far behind us," Carlos murmured as Tank turned the vehicle around and headed for the airport's exit.

"What the hell was that guy's problem?" I wondered, relaxing into Carlos as the heater in the car kicked into gear.

"He always gives us a hard time. Asshole. I think he's got an inferiority complex and big cock envy, myself," Tank replied. I snorted unattractively.

"He'll have no dick left if he ever looks at Steph like that again," Carlos added darkly.

"Okay, so how long until we get to wherever we're going?" I queried with false chipper. "I sure could eat!"

"Babe," Carlos' mood lightened a fraction and he trailed a few kisses along my jaw. "I'm hungry too, but I don't think we're on the same page," he chuckled, removing his black leather gloves and slipping one of his hands under my many layers of clothes until he could place it over the skin of my tummy. I shivered as his thumb stroked my skin. "It's only another seventy-five minutes drive up there, providing we don't run into any problems."

I sighed and snuggled into Carlos' embrace, it was soon light's out Stephanie.


I jolted awake as I was lifted out of the car.

"Shhhhh, Babe. Just me," I calmed down my body, tucking my head into his scarf and tried to ignore the two foot of snow that covered the ground. It was also colder up here, if that were possible. "Take a look, Babe," Carlos prompted.

Reluctantly, I peered out and gasped quietly. His log cabin was huge. Bigger than a large four bedroom home and three stories high, it was more of a log-mansion. It looked so picturesque with the snow dusting the roof and surrounding trees. Everything was quiet, except for the gentle wind. It was peaceful, beautiful and masculine. I couldn't wait to curl up in front of a fireplace and just enjoy it all.

Tank had the front door open for Carlos and most of the bags and other gear unloaded and under the covered entry. Carlos carried me over the threshold, kissing me as he did so. He settled me down on a couch in a massive open room to the left of the entryway, which he informed me was the Great Room or the living room, and asked me to wait there.

I watched him and Tank bring all the stuff inside, content to be out of the cold.

"Going to park the car in the garage," Tank said loudly as Carlos stalked towards the couch, sitting down next to me. The door shut and Carlos dragged me into his lap, one of his hands spearing into my hair, the other taking a firm hold of my hip, as his lips ravished mine passionately.

Minutes, or hours later, a throat cleared noisily behind us.

"Piss off Santos, you're just as bad," Carlos announced as he moved kisses down my throat, tearing off my scarf in the process.

"Hell no, I'm not that bad!" Lester protested.

"Yes you are," All three men and the two women answered simultaneously.

"Fine, whatever. Let's unpack the rest of the cars so we can relax," he huffed, storming outside.

Bobby and Tank followed, but Carlos stayed put underneath me. The women soon tentatively joined us.

"Hi, I'm Larissa and this is Emily. I don't think we've met?" Lara, or Larissa spoke to me, holding out her hand. I turned around in Carlos' lap and shook her hand quickly and then Emily's.

"Nice to meet you both," I replied politely.

"And Carlos, so nice to see you again," Emily smiled gently, extending her hand for him to shake.

"Cut the crap, Em. You saw me last month at Abuela Rosa's seventy-fifth birthday prima," Carlos scolded lightly.

"Sorry Cuz. I was just teasing," Emily batted her eyelashes and winked at me. God, she was like a female Lester.

"Jesus, it's colder than Antarctica out there!"

Speak of the devil and he shall come.

All three men dumped their load of bags, shook and stopped off the snow and closed the front door.

"How about we take our bags up to our room, then we can get you something to eat?" Carlos suggested quietly as the women moved over to the guys. I nodded, pressed my lips to Carlos' and slid off his lap.

Taking my hand, he grabbed a large duffle, tossed it over his shoulder and picked up a large suitcase before guiding us to the staircase. Our bedroom was on the top floor and was obviously the master bedroom. It was situated in the far back, right corner of the house. The views were spectacular; the bed was enormous and looked so comfortable. The room followed a chocolate brown, gold and red color theme and was furnished simply, but beautifully. I peaked my head into the ensuite bathroom and almost cried – marble bath tub, big enough for four, three headed shower and a clean toilet. Carlos directed me over to another door, which I found out was a walk in wardrobe that happened to be full of clothes – seemingly, both Carlos' and mine.

"This is… unbelievable, amazing… so mind-blowing," I whispered, turning in a full circle to take in the whole room once more.

"Babe, Stephanie… this is the Batcave," he replied, shocking me once more.

"This? In Canada?" I interrupted.

"Yeah, Babe. This is where I come when I need to relax; this is where most of my personal possessions reside; this is where I'd like us to spend forever," he implored.

"Really?" I mumbled, tears stinging my eyes as I stared up at him in amazement.

This morning I had gone from thinking there was no hope of a future between us, to this, more than I could have ever dreamed.

It can't be real.

"It is real, Babe," Carlos answered softly.

"Then I'd certainly love to spend forever here with you," I giggled as he swept me up into his arms and shouted out something happily in Spanish.

"Love you, Steph."

"Love you too, Carlos."

"We should get out of some of these clothes; Tank's already got the heater on. I don't want you uncomfortable." I rolled my eyes as Carlos eased my jacket off my shoulders, followed by my sweater and t-shirt.

His eyes darkened as he slid my tank top off as well. After removing my shoes, socks, pants and tights, he growled at me, a noticeable bulge in the front of his pants as he stared at me in my underwear. Carlos stripped off all of his own clothing, baring his silk boxers and wrapped himself around me. The skin on skin contact had me moaning quietly. It felt so good to be with him like this. His lips danced along every inch of skin they could reach as we dawdled into the wardrobe. Carlos slipped me into a beautiful sapphire blue knit dress that hit just above my knees, dipped down to show some of my cleavage and had full length sleeves. He carefully placed my feet into a pair of white Ugg boots and wrapped a soft, warm white trench coat around me. I stood calmly as he tugged my hair tie out and fluffed up my hair, a tender smile on his lips. I watched as he slipped on a body hugging, dark green cashmere sweater that had a little 'v' that showed of the strong muscles in his neck. Carlos pulled on a pair of well-worn dark blue jeans and a pair of thick black socks.

"C'mon. If we don't leave this bedroom now, we won't be leaving for the next week," he insisted, moving his arm around my shoulders and tucking me against his body.

I reached up and kissed him affectionately, smiling as I witnessed the happiness radiating from his face. It was so incredible to be privy to his emotions, to have his face open and readable for me.

We made our way back downstairs, and paused in the large room I'd first been in. The house was silent, the rest of the bags gone from sight.

"They're probably just unpacking. Let's eat, Babe," Carlos drew me across the entry hall and into a large dining room and then into the kitchen.

"Holy shit. My mom would kill for this kitchen." I shook my head as he maneuvered me in front of his body in the open door of the fridge. His chin rested on my shoulder and his arms returned to their favorite place, around me.

"What would you like, Babe? Snack, lunch or dessert?"

"Mmmmm, as tempting as dessert sounds, I'm hungry for a big meal," I turned my head slightly and gazed at his profile.

"Minestrone soup and garlic bread?" He queried. At my nod, he lifted me up to sit on the marble kitchen counter and started grabbing ingredients.

I watched as he effortlessly glided around the kitchen, fixing lunch for us and the guys. Carlos had me help him chopping up some of the ingredients and taste testing. Within half an hour, delicious smells were wafting through the house and the guys and their girls came sulking out of their rooms.

"Hey, Beautiful… you didn't, ah, have a hand in this did you?" Lester questioned, leaning over the soup pot to take a whiff. Carlos smacked his knuckles with a wooden spoon, which soon had him retreating.

"No, Lester. I'm sure this will be perfectly edible," I assured him, moving over to where Carlos stood.

"Still another forty minutes. Go cool your heels, Santos," Carlos said, smirking.

Bobby, Emily, Larissa and Tank wandered out, dragging Lester with them.

"We've got thirty minutes to kill, Babe." Flashing him I smile, I grabbed his hand and pulled him after me.

I had spotted just the place where we could sit and relax, away from the others, but close to the kitchen. Moving back out of the dining room, I turned right down the hall and curled up in the love seat that was strategically placed in a small alcove. Carlos chuckled, lifting my body up before sitting down, with me tucked safely up in his lap.

"I love being able to do this," I hummed, closing my eyes and breathing Carlos in.

"What, Babe?" His voice swirled around me and electrified my body. I felt like the tingle I usual got when he was around was intensified tenfold.

"Just being able to sit here with you, curled up in the safety of you arms, and doing nothing in particular. It's so intimate and special, not a lot of guys would be satisfied with just this," I shrugged, trying to explain it.

"I'm not like a lot of guys, Steph. Anytime you want to crawl into my lap, and press yourself up against me, I'd be more than happy to. I love holding you close, Babe. I've been without you for so long, I will never throw away an opportunity to be close to you," he promised quietly, as his lips softly touched mine and we sank into each other, sharing gentle, reverent kisses. My heart and body were positively aching with love and need for him.

Our thirty minutes seemed to be up too soon.

We made our way back to the kitchen, and Carlos finished up the meal. We all ate together, and let me tell you, it was absolutely delicious. After cleaning the kitchen up, we migrated to an entertainment room, we're we watched a marathon of the 'Die Hard' movies back to back, snacking on popcorn, chocolate and anything else we could find. It was well after midnight when we all called it a night. Carlos insisted on carrying me up the stairs, and who was I to protest? I feel asleep before we even made it to the bedroom. Carlos undressing me and curling his warm, toned body around me was my last semi-conscious memory.


Carlos was licking and sucking his way down my body, pausing to feast on my breasts and nibble on my hips. By the time he made it between my thighs, I was a quivering, needy mess, right on the brink of orgasm. One swipe of his tongue up my drenched lips had me flying apart underneath him, crying out his name.

He gently continued his licking, brining me down from my orgasm, only to build me up and send me flying once more. I could feel the hard, thick length of his cock against one of my legs, could feel the strain in his body, could feel his need, yet he continued to pleasure me. Two more orgasms courtesy of Carlos' talented lips and tongue had me all but sobbing, begging him to enter me and fill me like my body so desired.

Instead of fulfilling my wishes, he sat back on his haunches and wrapped my legs loosely around his hips, so mine were tilted up off the mattress. Carlos stared down at my body, the look in his eyes, the want, the lust, the love, the passion had me squirming and calling for him. Shifting forward, the head of his cock brushed against my clit, sending my lowered body into small spasms of pleasure. He continued his teasing, one hand holding his cock as he spread my wetness around with the head, his other hand holding me down, pressing lightly but firmly on my stomach. I watched through desire laden eyes as Carlos removed the hand from his cock and slid first one, then two fingers inside me, his cock twitching against my clit as my walls continuously clenched around his fingers. A third finger entered me, they now pressed against the sweet spot inside me with each thrust, heightening my pleasure to new levels. Unexpectedly, the hand on my tummy shifted, only to capture my breast and tease my nipple. All the while he spoke to me in a stream of fluent and sexy Spanish that lit my body on fire.

Carlos was so God damned sexy.

When he removed his fingers and licked them clean, I came on the spot, my body arching towards him.

I still wanted him inside me. I needed to feel him inside me to be sated. I wanted to show him the pleasure he'd unleashed on my body; wanted to return the favor. Maybe another time.

I felt his cock press against my folds, as he lifted one of my legs over his shoulder and drove into me with a forceful thrust, taking me and claiming me all at the same time. Carlos paused once he was fully sheathed inside me, his eyes flicking up and gazing into mine. His beautiful hair was hanging down around his face; his muscles were bulging with the strain of keeping still. I whimpered when he leaned his body over mine, his chest flattened against mine as he brutally took my lips in a domineering kiss.

I got the message loud and clear; I was his, and only his.

"God, Babe. Please, please don't stop. Don't stop, mi amor," Carlos begged.

I frowned, something wasn't right.

My mind suddenly shifted out of my dream state to find myself perched on top of Carlos, rubbing my soaked panties across his very naked and very hard cock. His hands were guiding my hips to the rhythm he preferred, his head thrown back in pleasure. I ground down onto him harder, my body so close to orgasm. I cried out when his fingers brushed my clit through my panties and we both came together, his hot release adding to the mess between my legs.

I collapsed down onto his chest, his arms moving around my back, holding me tightly to him as his tongue thrust inside my mouth and he gave me one hell of a good morning kiss.

"Sorry for… violating you in my sleep," I mumbled a few minutes later, after both our heartbeats had slowed somewhat.

"Don't be sorry. Do it anytime you want, hell, all the time. I want to wake up to you above me, pleasuring yourself, every morning for the rest of our lives. You are so fucking sexy and beautiful," Carlos growled, kissing me again.

"I, ah, well I just thought we would talk about 'us' before… jumping straight into bed." I chewed nervously on my bottom lip for a moment.

"Alright, let's talk," he agreed softly, reaching up to smooth away some of my hair from my face and release my lip from my teeth.

"Now?" I clarified, just to be sure.

"Yes, mi amor, right now. I don't want you to feel like there is anything between us, or anything unresolved."

Nodding, I languidly slid off of his chest, shifting until I was tucked into his side, my head resting on his arm. I was quiet for another few minutes, thinking of where I needed to begin.

"Can I ask you what brought all this on? I mean, a couple of years ago you were adamant that there was no hope of a relationship… and now, you wait ten months after Morelli and I call it quits to finally – " Carlos' head ducked down, his lips silencing my words with a gentle kiss.

"Tank told me, they say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. He said if I ever wanted a shot at happiness, I needed to start changing things so I could let you into my life. So, I did, it just took a little longer than I expected. The corporate responsibilities of running Rangeman are now split between Lester, Bobby, Tank and I. My government and other commitments have been fulfilled and terminated. I'm not out in the field as much as I used to be, and neither are you. Now I feel safe enough in allowing you into my life, that I've covered as many bases as I can in ensuring no harm from my past life will touch you. I didn't want my troubles affecting you, and hopefully now they won't. I wouldn't have waited three years if I didn't have to, Steph," he declared adamantly, his warm eyes watching me carefully.

"Carlos, I'd almost given up hope of even being your friend anymore, let alone your woman. The things you've said in the past to me… this all still seems too good to be true." I shook my head to try to clear my insecurities and doubts and continued. "Trouble is a part of life, and if you don't share it, you don't give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough. What about my troubles? My stalkers, all the skips I've returned to the system? Couldn't you have at least told me that you wanted more with me, but you had some things to work through first?" I whispered reluctantly.

"Babe, I didn't want to get your hopes up in case something happened to me on my last missions," he paused for a moment, running his hand through my hair. "I didn't expect you to take me back let alone fall into my arms like you did at Rangeman," Carlos confessed. "I've said and done a lot of stupid things in the past. But that was the past, this is now. I can't erase what I've done, but hopefully I can prove to you over time that our relationship is not just about sex. I'm emotionally and physically attached to you. Yes we are both attracted to each other; there is chemistry between us that just can't be denied. Just because we want, or do have, sex many times a day doesn't mean I love you any less. Hell, it means I love you more, that I'm able to enjoy such intimacies with you, share my bed when I'm at my weakest…" His voice trailed off and he frowned deeply.

I opened my mouth but couldn't get more than a croak out as his lips silenced mine swiftly. He cupped my cheek in his hand and brushed his fingers softly along my skin.

"I was prepared to have to keep you here in the middle of nowhere and convince you that I wanted everything with you. You could have moved on, for all I knew. At least when you were with Morelli, I could be secure in the fact that you weren't going to get married anytime soon. And I'm not saying there won't be trouble Babe, there will be, between me and you it's inevitable. Shit. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we're stronger together; we can face anything we need to together. I'm not trying to hide a part of myself from you – I want to share everything I can with you," he explained.

"How do I know that if a threat emerges, you're not just going to pull away from me?" I questioned weakly, overwhelmed with all his honest words.

"Trust, Babe. You trust my word when I say I will never leave you again, that I am never letting you go!" He sealed his words with a kiss.

"I do trust you," I spoke around his lips.

"Good," Carlos grunted, rolling above me, his lips teasing my neck.

"But I still don't know a whole lot about you," I confided apprehensively.

"We can't fix that in one day, Babe. I promise to let you in, to try to divulge things about myself to you every day. You'll have to ask me questions though, Babe. I'm not positive what it is you want to know. Okay?"

"Yes, more than okay," I replied happily.

"Excellent. Let's go, Babe. I can smell breakfast." Right on cue, my stomach growled loudly.

Both of us laughing, we tumbled out of bed and into a warm shower, where we spent a little more time touching and teasing than we did actually washing. Dressed and downstairs, we enjoyed pancakes and waffles with everyone. We played in the snow, lazed in doors and ate all day.

As promised, Carlos shared little bits of information about himself. His favorite food is Costillitas, his first French kiss was at the age of twelve with Shana Hernandez, he lost his virginity at fifteen to his next door neighbor, his favorite color is blue, his four sisters' names are Ceila, Elena, Ovelia, Alicia, his brother's name is Juan, both his parents, Maria and Ricardo are still alive and well, living in Newark. Both of his grandmothers are alive and share the name Rosa, his first car was a 1978 Monte Carlo, and favourite sport is football next to hockey.

For the next few days, we spent our time relaxing, talking and getting reacquainted. Each morning we woke up in a similar position to that of the first, although, lately it had been Carlos on top, waking me in one of the most pleasurable ways. We hadn't made love yet, just shared a lot of heady kisses and touches. I felt like he was holding back, waiting for something, but I didn't know what. My hormones were going crazy. My body throbbed all day for the man that was constantly at my side. I had never felt so close to anyone in my life, emotionally and physically. It was something I would always cherish and I hoped we would only build on as we lived our lives together. I was more than certain we could make the distance. We'd already overcome so many hurdles just to get to this point in our relationship. It had been a little over three years in the making; I didn't need any more time to decide. This is what I wanted out of my life. Carlos.

The seventh day at the cabin, Carlos and I made our way downstairs to find Bobby, Lester, the girls and Tank waiting by the door.

"Where are you guys going?" I wondered, pouting. I'd had a lot of fun with them all over the past few days; I was going to miss their company.

"Going to take the girls into town and drop Tank off at the airport. We'll be back before dinner," Lester chuckled, ruffling my hair.

"And I have to get back to work, Bombshell. I'll see you in two weeks," Tank drew me into a crushing hug.

"Can't breathe," I choked out.

"Later Carlos, Steph," Bobby nodded to us both and the girls waved and blew kisses before they all slid into their coats and tramped outside.

"We'll bring you back something nice!" Emily shouted just before the door closed.

"Babe, you know what this means?" I shook my head in the negative. "We have the cabin all to ourselves for the next few hours.." The tantalizing timbre of his voice stirred my hormones.

"Oh, yeah?" I gulped, backing away from him slowly as his eyes roamed up and down my body heatedly.

"Yeah, Babe. Know what I plan to do?" I shook my head again. "Will you wait in the Great Room for me?" I paused as he stopped his predatory movements and cupped my face sweetly. His hands were shaking slightly, and his body was tense. His eyes were tempestuous and so unfamiliar from the past few days. I was unable to get a read on him. Was he nervous?

"Of course," I found myself answering.

"Be back in a few." He gave me a half grin and raced off, up the stairs.

Shaking my head at his behavior, I trudged down the short hall and into the Great Room. Curling up on the couch that was placed directly in front of the fire, I stared out the enormous glass windows at the snow that was softly falling. Long minutes passed and I wondered what the hell that man of mine was up to.

Carlos' almost imperceptible footsteps had me turning to watch him enter. Both of his hands were shoved in the pockets of his grey jeans. I smiled at him encouragingly, trying not to let my impatience show. His chuckle let me know I was unsuccessful.

I ran my fingers through his hair as he kneeled between my legs on the floor.

"Babe," he began tentatively his eyes searching my face frantically. I had no idea what the hell was on his mind to get him so worked up.

"Carlos," I teased.

"Steph, mi amor. I love you." I opened my mouth but found his fingers across my lips. "You love me too, I know," he paused and captured one of my hands in his. "Will you marry me?"

My heart stopped then stuttered to life again. Will you marry me? Holy… Holy shit. That was the last phrase I ever expected to come out of his mouth. Marriage. Did I want to marry Carlos? Be tied to him for the rest of my life? Take his name? Carlos… my husband…

"You're mine, Steph, as I am yours. I want everyone to know that and to recognize that. I want the piece of paper that guarantees me no one else can have you. It will prove to both you and me that we are in this for the long haul. No running away, no pushing the other away when things get to tough, when our troubles come back to haunt us. I love you, I want to –"

"Yes," I croaked, blinking back tears.

"Yes?" He murmured, his eyes questioning whether I really meant it or not.

"Yes, I'll marry you. You're not the burg, you're not from the burg, and you're not Dickie. I trust you will all that I am; I love you with my entire being. You won't try to change me; you'll only try to protect me. So my answer is yes," I answered, finally giving into my tears, letting them fall down my cheeks.

"Babe," Carlos softly mumbled over and over, dragging me down into his arms so he could hold me and kiss me.

We sat that way for a long time, whispering to each other, kissing and hugging. I froze when I felt cool metal around my finger.


"Babe. Did you really think I'd propose without a ring?" I bit down on my lip to stop a fresh round of tears when I spotted the ring. It was beautiful and simple. Not too flashy or extravagant, just… perfect.

"It's perfect," I breathed and was rewarded with a heady kiss.

"Know what I plan to do now, Babe?"

"No," I said, watching him cautiously.

"I plan to make slow, sweet love to my woman, in every room of my cabin without having to worry about prying eyes." My back slumped into the couch and Carlos was instantly surrounding me, his arms braced on either side of my head, his thighs between my legs, his lips hovering above mine. "I plan to worship you like you deserve, I plan to pleasure you until neither of us can walk and I plan to show you how much I love you. Do you think that's a good plan?" He inquired, his voice like molten lava heating up my body, making me tremble for his touch.

"Yes, " I panted, running my hands up his chest and sliding them around the base of his neck.

His lips pressed butterfly kisses all over my face.

"Babe, are you positive? There isn't any real rush. If it is too –"

"Don't tease. I want you. Right now." I assured him.

Without a second's hesitation, he drew my legs around his waist and easily held my weight. Pushing up from the ground, he reverently carried me up the stairs, showering me with kisses as we went.

Carlos gently lowered me down on our bed, taking his time to slowly undress both of us.

When our bodies came together, I wept with relief, we were both home, both were we belonged. Making love had never felt so right.


Hours later, we were curled up together, on the rug in front of the fireplace in our bedroom, a soft blanket covering our naked bodies. Carlos was sleeping lightly under me, his hands holding me securely against his body. I had my head tucked under his chin, my hands drifting lightly along his skin.

"Ready for another round already, Babe?"

Instead of replying, a moan slipped from my lips. Within seconds, I was lifted off the ground, into Carlos' arms.

By dinner time, we'd managed to christen the ensuite bathroom, staircase, kitchen, entertainment room and a couple of hallways, not to mention our loveseat.

We fell into bed together, exhausted, our limbs and bodies entwined as we drifted off to sleep. I didn't even spare a thought to where the others were, my mind was completely wrapped up in my future husband.


"Babe, wake up mi amor. I feel like we're falling into a pattern," Carlos chuckled as I tried to bury myself deeper into the bed.

"You know I don't like waking up," I grumbled.

"Oh that's not completely true. You like waking up when I –" His words died off as his lips trailed hot, open mouth kisses down my spine.

"Okay, Mr Cuban Sex God, I get the point," I sighed happily, wiggling a little to get more comfortable.

"I thought we should get up, considering the two clowns are coming back today with their entourage. I want to care for you before then," Carlos enlightened me.

"Today, I thought they came back last night? Care for me?" I mumbled, turning my head so I could see him. His body was hovering over mine, his knees on either side of my hips as his head dipped down towards me. He pressed a tender kiss to my lips.

"I asked them to get out of the house yesterday and not to return until lunch time today. I wanted you all to myself. I didn't want an audience when I was trying to propose. And yes, care for you. Massage you, wash you, cook for you, feed you… love you," his words struck a chord deep inside of me. He wanted to take care of me… really take care of me…

"That sounds so wonderful," I breathed lightly.

"Only the best for my Babe," Carlos chuckled, turning me over onto my back.

He did all that he promised and more. I felt like the luckiest woman on the planet, and the most spoilt.

We'd migrated to the Great Room after our late brunch. Curled up together on the couch, we simple enjoyed the quiet and each others' company.

"Carlos?" I whispered, tilting my face up towards his.

"Babe?" He responded just as quietly, running his thumb across my bottom lip and raising his eyebrow.

"Today I had a thought. What if I... what if I had never met you? I would have been an unhappy, miserable and probably a poor and homeless person. I'd have never known what it is like to actually be in love, to fall in love. I'd have never met so many of my now closest friends. I'd have never known what it feels like to have someone accept me for who I am and love me for me. I'd never have experienced so many wonderful things, like this past week. My life would have been so... empty and I may not have even realized it," I said, my heart clenching at the realization that everything could have been so very different.

"But we did meet, and we're both better people because of it. I was a cold hearted bastard before you; you've change my perspective on everything. I love you Babe, we're here together, and we're getting married. That's all that matters. Don't think about the 'what ifs'," Carlos rationalized.

"I love you," I sighed happily, sinking back into his side.

"I love you, Babe, forever."

And they live happily ever after – The End.

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