Chapter 88

The house wasn't Ranger. It was Carlos. His apartment on seven was tastefully decorated and so was his house. But the house had all the little personal touches that his apartment lacked. There were photos of Julie and who I assumed were his parents and siblings scattered around the house. The office had actual novels, not just business manuals. The kitchen had actual junk food it in, presumable for me.

I was moved almost to tears when I found a photo of me and Ranger in the bedroom. It was clearly from a security camera outside of the bond's office, but it was a great photo. Ranger was leaning against his Porsche and I was leaning against him, his arms around my waist and my hands on his chest.

More than the intimate body language, it was the expressions on our faces that captivated my attention. Ranger had his half smile on his face but even with the photo blown up from a distance, his eyes were tender. I was smiling up at him, and I was surprised at the look of pure happiness on my own face.

Oh boy, if this is what we'd looked like together, no wonder everyone assumed we were a couple! But I knew the photo was at least 18 months old since I hadn't been in Trenton this past summer. I had been in North Carolina.

"Wow," I murmured.

"I don't know how I didn't see this, Babe," Ranger said as he wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me tight. "But this showed up on my desk one day a few months after you left. I suspect Santos," he said wryly.

I laughed. It did seem like something Lester would do. "We're together now. That's all that matters," I told him.

He pressed a kiss to the back of my neck. I took that as agreement.

I was stunned to find a bunch of clothing for me in the closet and all of my favorite brands of toiletries in the bathroom. I turned to Ranger with raised eyebrows.

He rubbed the back of his neck and I knew that meant he was feeling faintly embarrassed. "I wasn't ready to admit it to myself but I'd already started buying things for when you were here."

I just blinked at him in shock. "Breathe, Babe," he said with a laugh as he kissed the tip of my nose. I stuck my tongue out at him and he chuckled again.

Then he took me on a tour of the rest of the house. We had a snack that Ella had brought earlier and then Ranger took me out walking around the perimeter of the grounds while it was still light. There was a gigantic back yard surrounded by at least a ten-foot tall fence. The edge had a walking path of small pea gravel.

"Jogging path?" I asked Ranger. I was not surprised when he nodded.

"I'm not doing that!" He just chuckled and squeezed my hand. He wasn't in a chatty mood.

We got back into the house as sun sank beyond the trees.

"It's been a wonderful day," I told him as we stood in front of the large picture window and watched the last vestiges of pink faded from the sky. "Thank you."

He just kissed me gently.

"So, um, I guess I should go start getting ready for bed," I said with a bright red blush.

His lips quirked into a half smile. "We don't have to do more than just sleeping, Babe. There's no rush if you aren't ready yet."

I hid my face against his chest for a moment. "Oh, I'm more than ready!" I told him. "Just feeling a little anxious since it's been so long."

"I think we'll both remember how," he chuckled.

I rolled my eyes. "I'm not worried about that part!" I told him. "Just don't want you to be disappointed or anything."

His fingers tipped my chin up. "You could never disappoint me, Babe. Hell, I'm more likely to disappoint you!"

My eyebrows furrowed together. "You're the Cuban sex god! How could you say that?"

He grinned at my nickname for him. "It's been a hell of a long time for me too. And I've been barely keeping myself under control while you've been injured. I'll probably lose my mind the minute you touch me."

I grinned cheekily at him. "Is that a challenge?"

"Babe!" he said as he kissed me, all of his passion pouring into that kiss. It was overwhelming. What was I worrying about again?

I had his shirt fisted in my hands and I was up on my tiptoes when I finally regained awareness of my surroundings. I stepped back and smoothed the wrinkles on his shirt. He just grinned at my blush. "I think we'll figure out how all the pieces are supposed to fit together, Babe."

I rolled my eyes at him. "I just want it to be… well, special."

"We'll be together. There's no possible way it could be anything but special."

He had me there.

"Just give me some time to get pretty, okay?" I simply asked.

"You're always beautiful, Babe, but take whatever time you need."

I went back up on my tiptoes to kiss him gently. "Thank you."

Then I rushed back to the big master suite and into the closet. I thought I'd seen some of my more recent purchases there and I wanted to double check. Yep, the sexy pale blue gown I'd bought was there. God bless Ella!

I jumped into the shower and used the basket of toiletries provided by Ella to make everything smooth and soft. There was a jar of brown sugar vanilla exfoliating scrub that smelled good enough that I wanted to grab a spoon and have it for dessert. I'm not sure how it would taste, but it made my skin baby butt soft.

I stepped out of the shower and towel dried my super short curls before working in a little of relaxing crème that Mr. Alexander had given me. It calmed the chaos of my curls now that they were only a couple of inches long and helped them to be soft and tangle free. The only positive was that it now took less than two minutes to do my hair. Not much you can do when you don't have any hair, but I was just beyond grateful that it would grow back eventually.

I found a jar of sinfully expensive body butter in the same brown sugar vanilla scent as the body scrub and I slathered myself in it. Then I wanted to nibble on my arm and I had to resist the self-cannibalism urge. Maybe I needed a snack first!

I applied just a tiny bit of makeup to make my eyes sparkle. By the time I'd finished this, my hair was pretty much dry and cooperating, falling into soft curls rather than the demented tootsie roll curls it was without the relaxing crème. God bless Mr. Alexander, too.

Then I slipped into the silk nightie. It was quite possibly the most sexy thing that I'd ever seen, and it was for sure the sexiest thing I'd ever owned. It was pure silk and it flowed over my moisturized skin like water.

The front had a low cowl neck that showed off my cleavage in the best possible way. The straps were medium thickness and left most of my neck bare. It flowed close to my curves and then fell straight to my ankles, slits up the sides allowing me to walk easily. But the piece de resistance was the back. It was essentially backless, falling into a draped cowl that showed off the top of my butt cleavage. It shimmered as I moved, caressing my curves without clinging too tightly to anything.

Like I said, it was the sexiest thing I'd ever worn before. Tina had found it online and sent me the link. I couldn't resist spending the outrageous sum to have it. It was worth every penny.

I sucked in a deep breath and then stepped out of the bathroom. The lights were off, with a few lamps casting pools of light, and the fireplace was crackling merrily, sending dancing shadows around the room. There was soft and sultry Latin music playing in the background.

Ranger had changed into a pair of loose silk lounge pants. He was shirtless, be still my heart, and barefoot. His hair was loose like I liked it and slightly damp. He'd showered too. There was a wine bucket on the table in the corner and what looked like a bottle of champagne already open. There was also a big bowl of chocolate covered strawberries.

My mouth was watering, but it wasn't for the food.

"Babe," he breathed when he saw me. I smiled at the look of complete shock on his face. It wasn't often I got to surprise Batman, and I wanted to enjoy it.

I strolled towards him, my hips swaying to the music he'd selected for us. It suited him, it was sexy as hell.

He just stared at me for a moment once I'd stopped in front of him. Then he shook himself slightly and kissed me gently. "You look absolutely amazing."

"Thank you. So do you."

He blinked and then handed me a flute of champagne. I took a sip and then he replaced the glass at my lips with a strawberry. I took a bite and moaned as the flavor of the ripe, juicy strawberry competed with the smooth dark chocolate. Then the champagne flute was back and the bubbles of the beverage intensified the flavors.

Ranger's eyes were deep and dark by now. I reached past him and picked up a strawberry, holding it to his lips. His eyes never left mine as he bit into it, a bit of strawberry juice running down my fingers. I shivered when his rough tongue lapped the juice from my fingers. Ranger took the cap of the strawberry from my hand and licked away the small smear of chocolate. Then he tossed the cap on the tray and grabbed a fresh strawberry for me.

We took turns feeding each other the strawberries and champagne until they were all gone. We were both breathing erratically. He leaned forward and nipped at my lips, nibbling the chocolate left there. I had my hands fisted in his hair as he angled his lips against mine.

I moaned as his tongue traced my lips before his tongue slipped into my mouth.

My arms tightened around his neck and his arms went around my waist to hold me to him. I felt him still and gasp as he found there was no back to my gown.

He pulled back slightly and I smiled. "Babe?" he said as he turned me around to get the back view. He gasped loudly.

"Madre de Dios!" he muttered. I looked back over my shoulder to grin at him.

"You like?"

His blazing eyes answered for him. He fell to his knees and gripped my hips tightly as his lips traced the edge of the material at my ass. He left hot open mouth kisses along my spine and I shivered as his lips ventured lower and lower. By the time he was leaving little nips along the top of my cheeks, I was pretty sure it was only his arms that were keeping me upright.

He nipped hard at the valley between my cheeks and I squeaked slightly in shock. He was breathing hard, but it's not like I was getting any oxygen into my lungs myself, so I couldn't judge.

"Stephanie," he whispered against my spine as he rose back to his feet. "You are the most beautiful sight I've ever seen."

He kissed his way back up before devoting ample attention to my neck and ears. He nibbled, he kissed, he suckled and I felt like I was about to burst into flames from just his lips on the side of my neck. Then he switched to the other side and my hands flew back and held onto the material of the legs of his lounge pants behind me for dear life. His hands were still cradling my hips and holding me very tightly against his hips.

Yeah, he most definitely liked the gown.

He tortured me with just his lips along my neck until I couldn't take it anymore. With a gasp, I pulled myself away from him, turned around and then flung myself back into his arms. His lips crashed down on mine as I thrust my hands into his hair and pulled his head down to mine.

He devoured me with his kiss. My mind was swirling and my entire world compressed down to Ranger's hands and lips. Nothing else in the world mattered. If anyone walked into the room right then, I would shoot them without a second thought so I could get back to Ranger's touches and kisses.

His hands slid down to my rear and he pulled my hips hard against his. His grip wasn't the only thing that was hard. He lifted me up and I tore my lips away from his to gasp. Then I wrapped my legs around his waist and he groaned against the side of my neck. I was completely with him. It was the most staggeringly erotic moment of my life as silk slid against silk.

His big hands were holding me up as his lips sought mine again. He moved us towards the big bed as his lips demanded a response from me. Yeah, like it took much from Batman to get a response from me.

Then he was lowering me to the bed. Our skin never lost contact as he braced himself above me on his forearms. His lips left mine and traced a fiery path down my throat as he nibbled and licked down to my aching breasts. He nipped at my nipples through the silk and I gasped loudly.

He lifted his head to smile at me as I writhed under him. Then he bit down gently on my nipple and I think I screamed a little. I felt him chuckle against my breast and I jerked at the sensations that shot straight down to my doo dah.

"Carlos," I moaned. He growled against my breast. He really liked it when I used his real name. Then he switched to the other breast so it didn't feel neglected or unwanted. And boy, was it neither neglected nor unwanted. I was panting heavily and clutching desperately at his shoulders as he nipped and suckled.

Then he moved down to press an open mouth kiss to my belly button through the gossamer thin fabric. I was digging my nails into his back at this point, desperate for him.

His hands stroked firmly down my sides to grasp my hips. He tilted them up and kissed my doo dah. I bucked against his lips and he chuckled. I was babbling incoherently at this point but he seemed to appreciate all of the sounds I was making. Every time I would moan his name, he would nip me, not hard enough to hurt, but enough to make me want to sing the Hallelujah chorus. In Swahili.

Then his oh so clever lips and tongue nipped me and he had to hold me down to keep me from climbing the bed. Oh dear God!

I was almost crying from need as his tongue swept against me, the thin silk no match for the hot wetness of his mouth. The smoothness of the silk combined with the firm thrust of his tongue against me was almost enough to send me into the stratosphere, no rocket booster required. NASA could save a ton of money if they just hired Ranger instead of building space shuttles.

"Oh Carlos!" I yelped. "Please!"

"Please what, Babe?" he growled against my center.

My hands were fisted in the comforter and my chest was heaving as I tried to get oxygen into my deprived lungs.

"Please," I cried again.

He slowly swept the silk of my gown up my legs and over my thighs. He was moving at a glacially slow pace that was pure torment. Once the silk was bunched around my waist, he froze for just the barest moment before pressing another hot kiss to my core.

I started writhing again, the almost painful burning low in my belly demanding my, and his, immediate attention.

"Carlos!" I called again and then shuddered as he growled against me, the shock ways traveling to the tips of my toes and the end of my hair.

His lips swept out and circled my clitoris and I shook from the electric sensations shooting through me. "Ahhh!" I breathed.

Then he did it again. And again. And again. And then unexpectedly two of his fingers thrust into my wet center as he suckled my clitoris. I flew apart screaming his name as I writhed and bucked.

I think I may have even lost consciousness. When I came back to awareness, he was lightly stroking me with just the tip of his tongue and his fingers were still buried inside of me.

I met his eyes in the firelight. And then his lips and tongue grew bolder. I jerked, the slow fire in my belly flaming back into a raging inferno. "Again," he demanded and he slowly pumped his fingers and in and out of me. My legs started to tremble again as he licked and nipped and sucked until I couldn't stand it anymore. My hips shot up against his mouth but he simply followed my hips with his fingers and tongue and pushed me over the edge again.

This time, when I floated back from the amazing high, he was lying next to me, gently stroking my hair as I shuddered with aftershocks.

I opened my eyes and gazed into his. Then he smiled at me, the full 200-watt smile that for years had rattled my brain. I just smiled back, still incapable of speech.

It took me several minutes before I stopped shaking. I rolled so I was tucked against Ranger's chest and started nuzzling his neck. He sucked in a breath as I nibbled where his shoulders and his neck met. I took my dear sweet time investigating that neighborhood before pushing at his chest. He obediently rolled to his back, his eyes heavily hooded and hot enough to ignite a forest fire. Better keep him away from the Pine Barrens or Smokey the Bear will be seriously displeased.

I pushed myself up and started tracing the column of muscles in his neck with the tip of my tongue. He groaned. I smiled.

I started working my way down, following the smooth ridges of his chest before nibbling on his flat nipples. His hands were now fisted in the comforter and I wondered why I'd ever thought he was the master of control. He wasn't so controlled now and I loved every second of it.

I got to his abs and of course I had to spend plenty of time rewarding them for being so strong and sexy. I nipped at his nonexistent love handles as I stroked his strong thighs with my hands.

He was mumbling in both English and Spanish and I adored the fact that I could do this to him. Payback really was a bitch.

I French kissed his naval, drawing a long moan from him. Then I ever so slowly worked my way down, following the path of downy soft dark hair down to the top of his lounge pants. I slowly unwrapped what I considered to be the best present ever and pushed the pants down over his lean hips.

He had to lift his hips so I could drag down the material, and he groaned as the silk slid across his pride and joy. I swept them down past his knees and tossed them off the edge of the bed.

And boy was it both proud and joyful to see me. Positively ecstatic, really. He was hard as steel and hot as a volcano as I nibbled and nipped gently at his length. He groaned when I delicately licked the tip before circling it with my tongue. I traced the veins straining prominently all the way down to the taunt orbs at the base of his shaft.

He almost shouted my name when I started nipping at them, soothing the slight hurt with swirls from my tongue. He was writing now, his hips bucking hard enough to almost push me off the bed.

I'd worked my way back to his erection when his hands grabbed mine and pulled me away.

"Please, Babe!" he cried as he lifted off the bed.

"Please what, Carlos?" I purred.

He groaned. "I'm too close to the edge."

I smiled and he groaned again at the look in my eyes. "And that's a bad thing how?" I gasped.

"I need to be in you," he whispered brokenly and I felt myself flood with desire again at the husky promise in his voice. "For the first time, I need to be in you, querida."

I sucked in a deep breath, as deep as I could manage since I was still wearing the silk nightgown, and slithered up his abs and chest.

He slowly lifted the nightgown over my head, groaning as more and more of me was exposed to his burning stare. My mother always said that staring wasn't polite, but it felt like the highest form of compliment right now.

I had to sit up so he could drag it over my head. The silk was replaced almost instantly with his hands and lips as he rolled me to my back. I was back to gasping as he grew additional hands and touched every part of me at the same time.

He settled himself between my thighs and I almost jumped out of my skin at the feeling of him hot, heavy and ready against me. He leaned against my torso and kissed me deeply as he adjusted himself at my entrance.

He pulled back slightly and completely disarmed me with the love shining in his dark eyes. "Te amo, Estafania," he whispered as he slowly slid into me. "I love you, Babe."

"I love you too, Carlos," I replied in a soft whisper.

Then we both sighed once he was completely inside me. He froze for a moment, his face a mix of pleasure and pain, and then I lifted my legs to wrap around his hips. He moaned, his eyes going a shade darker if that was even possible. Is there a color darker than black?

Then he started to move, stroking steadily as I lifted my hips against his. My hands were wrapped around his biceps and he held himself up slightly to keep from squishing me.

The tension was back in my belly now, despite the two mind-blowing orgasms I'd had earlier. There was only the sound of our desperate gasps, moans and groans to compete with the crackling of the fireplace.

I tilted my hips to take him even deeper and he thrust harder against me, both of us moaning as we kept eye contact.

"Carlos," I whispered as I tightened all of my internal muscles around his hard length.

He sucked in a jagged gasp. "Babe!" he practically growled.

He was close, but so was I. He's Batman, so he knew this. He shifted his weight to one arm and reached the other down between us to use his thumb to brush against my clitoris while he stroked steadily inside me.

I felt my muscles start to tighten and quiver. "Oh!" I cried out at his first touch of my clitoris. "Carlos!"

My muscles tightened painfully and then bliss erupted. Ranger growled loudly and started thrusting harder into me. After only a couple of almost savage thrusts, he called my name as his cock jerked inside of me.

His wild thrusts grinding against my pelvis triggered a secondary reaction from me and I started shaking again. Somehow, we'd kept our eyes locked even while the world was exploding around us and I saw his eyes go from dark and stormy to soft and dreamy. I marveled at the fact that I'd put that look of pure bliss on his face.

He was still inside me and I was still hypersensitive as he leaned forward to kiss me softly. My eyes finally drifted closed as he gently and reverently kissed me. "I love you," he whispered against my lips. "Never forget that."

I smiled without opening my eyes. I didn't have the strength left. "And I love you too. Never forget that."

He slid out of me and I whimpered my legs finally released their fevered grip around his hips. I was definitely going to be sore tomorrow, but it was so worth it.

He lifted me up and pulled back the blankets. We'd been so caught up in the moment that we were still lying on top of the comforter. He slid us both between the smooth sheets and I sighed when he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me against his chest.

"That special enough for you, Babe?" he asked against my ear.

I figured my completely euphoric smile was answer enough.

We woke up to have other special moments during the night. I'd be lucky if I could even walk tomorrow, forget about dragging me off jogging around the Batcave's property!

I was right, I couldn't walk the next day. Not that I complained because it meant I got to spend all day in bed with a Cuban sex god. And who in their right mind would ever object to that?

We only left the bedroom to go in search of food, and I think only then because the beast that is my stomach started growling ferociously. Ranger joked that he was afraid my stomach would crawl of out my belly and try to eat him, and he wasn't entirely sure his hand-to-hand combat skills were sufficient to take it down.

Yeah, somehow he turned into a regular comedian. But I won't complain much because Ranger laughing like that has to be the most beautiful sight in the whole world, and it was ridiculously sexy too. Lunch got pushed back by a little bit after that, but I don't recall hearing any complaints.

On our third day there, Ranger did get me out to his jogging path. I made it two circuits to his four or five, I lost count, but it was beautiful and peaceful and I had a very nice view to keep me entertained for about half the time. And no, I don't mean the landscaping. The sight of him in teeny, tiny little running pants would keep any woman jogging and walking just to get a glimpse of those tight buns as they jogged past.

We spent the evening cuddled together on the couch watching movies. He had both Ghosbusters movies, but I was nice and let him pick something else. I could pretty much quote the movies verbatim, so probably it wasn't worth putting Ranger through me talking along with the characters.

After a couple more days, we had to have a cleaning party since Ranger had told Ella that we'd take care of everything ourselves to preserve our privacy. I insisted that we needed music to clean by, but Ranger's musical tastes don't really include Bon Jovi or Taio Cruz, so he put on a sexy Latin CD with a pounding bass and a sexy baritone crooning in Spanish. I have no idea what the singer was saying, but it sounded damn good to me.

My jaw nearly fell off my face when Ranger swept me into his arms and started dancing around the kitchen with me, singing along with the music.

After seeing The Dick doing Joyce on the dining room table, I'd never imagined that anything could ever convince me to give sex on a table a try. But the combination of Ranger's sexily swinging hips and his husky voice in my ear serenading me was too much for my fragile hormones and they mutinied.

Note to self: find bleach wipes before eating at table.

As wonderful as a week alone had been, I was starting to go slightly stir crazy and I was pretty sure Ranger felt the same way.

"Get dressed, Babe," he told me as I was finished up breakfast.

"Huh?" What can I say, I'm not a morning person. And someone, who shall remain nameless, had kept me up all damn night again. Not that I'm complaining. But it does make conversation after only five or so hours of sleep a challenge.

He smiled at my clueless look. "Get dressed. We're going to the beach."

I blinked at him. He laughed and picked me up and carried me into the bedroom. I kind of figured he had something else on his mind at that point, and I'll point out his actions of the previous week as evidence, but he really did want me to get dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. Go figure.

Within thirty minutes, we were in Ranger's Porsche and on the way to Point Pleasant. We didn't do anything in particular, just wandered around on the beach until my growling stomach led us to a hot dog stand for lunch. I told him stories about when I worked at a hot dog stand at the beach when I was a teenager and he told me stories about when he and Lester were kids.

I absolutely cannot wait to share some of them with Tina! Lester's in deep shit now that Ranger's telling me stories that started, "Santos and I were about fifteen…"

We walked hand in hand on the beach for a while before Ranger rented lounge chairs from one of the few vendors still on the beach this late in the season. It was way too cold for me to get into the water, so we just pulled the chairs to the edge of the surf. I would dip my feet into the water as it rolled by us and Ranger would just shake his head at me. I'm sure he could have swum fourteen miles in the frigid water, but I wasn't willing to risk freezing my very best asset, my ass, off in the cold water. No sireee.

When the sun finally sank, Ranger easily lifted his lounge chair. I was attempting to drag mine back towards the kiosk, but Ranger just picked it up too and hauled it away. Show off.

Ranger's magic GPS found us a little whole in the wall but absolutely delicious Italian restaurant on the way back to the Batcave. I tried to temper my Italian love of all things breaded, fried and covered in cheese with the healthier eating habits that Tina had beaten into me back in North Carolina, and I split the difference by ordering a to die for chicken parmesan with an extra large side salad with a balsamic vinaigrette on the side. Ranger was amused and dare I say a bit impressed with my choice.

I was even able to tempt him into a bite or two of my tiramisu for dessert. Judging from his dark eyes and white knuckles as I vocally enjoyed it, though, I don't think espresso soaked ladyfingers was quite what he wanted to dessert. I had a feeling I'd be getting another dessert as soon as we got back home.

Home. Such a little word but one with such immense meaning.

The Batcave felt like home. I knew that it was just a vacation, a little interlude, but sharing the space with Ranger was easy, far, far easier than it had been with Joe or The Dick. Ranger didn't expect me to do all of the cleaning because I was born with an XY chromosome, he pitched in and did what needed to be done with needing to be asked or praised excessively for putting a sock in the hamper. If it was dirty, he cleaned it. The end.

It made me love him even more, if that was even possible. Hell, what woman wouldn't love a sexy, strong man who cleans without being asked? I hit the jackpot with him, let me tell you. And if I ever forget this, you have my permission to smack me upside the head to remind me. Just don't hit me too hard or Ranger will hit you back. And I'm willing to bet that he hits harder than you do.

He would listen to me when I wanted to talk but he didn't try to push me into talking when I was in an introspective mood. I tried to do the same for him. My year away had helped me to get more comfortable with silence and I didn't feel the need to fill it with chatter all of the time. But he got an amused and tender smile on his face when I started chattering and he'd just listen. If I got too talkative for him, he'd find another use for my mouth instead. Gotta tell ya, that just made me want to talk all the more.

The day after our beach retreat, I spend the day watching TV, reading and catching up with friends and family while Ranger answered some urgent emails that Tank had sent him. He apologized for having to work during our vacation, but I promised to find a better use for his hands a little bit later once he was done with work.

He kissed me hard and then spun around, marching away like there was a drill sergeant barking orders at him over his shoulder. I loved that I could have that kind of effect on him. God only knows he can make me forget my own name with just a look.

Lula and Connie were astounded to hear about a domestic Ranger. Mary Lou wanted to know if he could open a training camp for husbands, and could I get a discount for her when she enrolled Lenny. Tina was amused and said Lester was the same way. He had a much higher tolerance for mess and disorder than Tina, as I'd learned when he'd been my temporary roommate in North Carolina, but he didn't complain when Tina asked him to pick up his stuff. Must be a family trait.

My mom and grandma just caught me up on the gossip I was missing by being out of town. Now that I wasn't blowing stuff up on a regular basis, the busybodies of the 'Burg had mostly moved on and weren't talking much about anymore.

The fact that Joe was dating my former nurse, Sandy, who hated his mother and grandma Bella even more than I had was front-page news instead. It was a bit evil of me, but I have to admit that I was slightly amused that he was still a topic of gossip when I wasn't anymore. He'd complained so much about my job and how it gave him ulcers, but now I was in a committed relationship, with Batman no less, living a normal, happy life and he still had a girlfriend who gave him ulcers.

But I liked Sandy, she was smart, funny and spunky. She wasn't Italian, horror of horrors, so she didn't buy grandma Bella's Italian voo doo crap, and called her a crazy old lady to her face. Rumor was she tried to get Joe's mom to commit Bella to the psych ward for evaluation. Actually, now that I think of it, Sandy's kind of my hero!

Ranger ambled out of his office a few hours later to find me in his gym, riding his exercise bike while watching a movie on the flat screen TV mounted to the wall.

"Babe?" he asked, sounding surprised. "You're exercising?"

I turned back and grinned at him. "Figured I needed to work on my cardiovascular endurance if I'm going to keep up with you," I told him with a wink.

He got a big, smug grin on his face. "I can help you out with that."

"Riiiight, I'm sure you can," I retorted. "In the meantime, pull up a treadmill or something and hang out with me."

He just shook his head and headed over to a big weight machine thingy that looked like it could double as a medieval torture device. Gitmo doesn't need to waterboard any terrorists, just stick them on that weird machine and they'll confess to anything with an hour. Ranger seemed to know what he was doing, though, which made exactly one of us. I could hear weights clanging and I just hit the volume button so I could hear the movie.

As we had dinner that night, which I cooked without burning down Ranger's lovely kitchen, he brought up me working at RangeMan again.

"You owe me, Babe," he told me as we ate my grilled chicken, veggies and whole wheat penne dinner.

I looked at him in surprise. "How do you figure that?"

"I've saved your life before, right?"

I nodded slowly, trying to figure out where he was going with this. "Yeah."

"So by some traditions, you have to save my life now."

I looked at him like he'd grown a second head. "And how am I supposed to do that, Batman?"

"Work full time at RangeMan."

I blinked at him. "How the heck did you make the leap from me needing to save your life to me needing to work at RangeMan?"

"Because Tank will kill me if I don't find a way to convince you. Some of the emails he sent me were from clients you'd worked with while I was gone who wanted to talk to you. Not Tank, not me. You. So you see, he'll kill me if you don't agree to a permanent, full time position."

I had to laugh at his convoluted logic.

"Think about it, Babe. You need a job and I already know you're damn good at administration and making cranky people happy. I saw you in action at the inn. And Tank said you were amazing around the office while I was in the wind. Almost all the guys have stopped by at some point to let me know how much they enjoyed having you in the office and strongly encouraged me to get you on full time. So, please, Babe, come work with us."

I leaned back against the chair and studied him for a moment. "How will 'us' manage working together all the time?" I asked. "What we've got is more important to me than a job."

I got a big smile in response. Guess that was the right answer. "To me too. Tank suggests that you'd report to him to keep us from having conflict at work. And we've worked together in the past without trouble. If we have problems, we'll work them out together."

I considered it for a minute. "I'll talk to Tank when we're back in town. If he and I can work something out, I'll do a trial period. But at the end of that, you can tell me if it's not working out for you for any reason. And vice versa."

He grinned and I thought I detected a little relief in it. "Deal."

After that, Ranger became very persuasive and tried telling me that nooners on the seventh floor would be a special employee perk just for me. I have to admit, it was a compelling argument.

Finally, sadly, our time at the Batcave was at an end. I dragged my feet when it was time to go, not really ready to leave yet.

"Sorry, Babe, but we do have to get back. But we can come back anytime you feel like it. It's less than an hour away from Haywood," he said as he held my hand and gently pulled me towards the door.


"Absolutely. And if you can stay awake while I drive home, you might even be able to find your way back."

I smiled at his joke. Something about the sensual purr of his Porsche guaranteed that I'd fall asleep and have great dreams if I was in it more than ten minutes at a time.

"I know we have to go back. But I'm just a little sad to be leaving. It kind of feels like this is where we really became a couple. You know?"

He kissed me gently. "I know, Babe. But we will be back."

I closed the door behind me with a sigh. Using my Wonder Woman keychain, I made sure the door was locked while Ranger put the small bag of clothes I wanted to take back with me in the miniscule trunk of the Porsche.

As predicted, I fell asleep on the way back. What, his car is magical. Who needs Ambien when you've got a Porsche?

I woke up when he lifted me into his arms. "Whazza?"

He chuckled. "Heading upstairs, Babe."

I blinked and looked around. "This isn't my apartment."

Ranger froze. "No. It's my apartment."

I looked at him for a second, trying to make my sleeping brain wake up. "Stay with me tonight, Babe. I'll go with you to your apartment tomorrow night. But I don't want you there by yourself yet."

"Why? The moron is dead, so it should be safe."

"Yeah, but I want to be with you your first night back there and we have to pick up a skip tonight. So stay here tonight where I know you'll be safe and we can stay at your apartment tomorrow night."

I was sure there was some argument I was missing but I wasn't completely coherent enough yet to figure it out. Ranger's told me many times that he's an opportunist, so he simply took this opportunity to carry me into the elevator and up to his apartment on the seventh floor before I could get my brain going.

He gave me a sweet kiss and tucked me under his million thread count sheets before changing into SWAT clothes and heading downstairs to help plan a coup d'état or something like that.

When I woke up the next morning, Ranger was lying next to me with his arm around my waist holding me close. I savored the feeling of his warm, bare skin next to mine and floated in limbo as I wasn't quite awake but not asleep anymore either. It was my idea of heaven on earth.

In the end, we had to get up and get to work. I spoke with Tank, who practically begged me to take the job. He hated the paperwork and Ranger had already told me how much he hated having to placate cranky clients, but I was good at both. And I actually liked working with people for the most part. So I agreed to give working at RangeMan full time a shot. I was glad when Tank managed to restrain himself from kissing me in joy.

I got the megawatt smile from Ranger when I told him and Lester was almost giddy that I'd be around most of the time. We'd bonded and I couldn't imagine not having my little brother around to annoy me, tease me and love me.

It worked out well. I got do to stuff that I was good at and enjoyed while hanging out with some of the most important people in my life: Ranger, the love of my life; Lester, my little brother of the heart; and my Merry Men. Of course, any job that lets me watch hot guys run on treadmills or spar in itty bitty shorts is also a good thing.

I kept my apartment even though I knew he wanted me to move in with him at Haywood. He said he understood that I still needed my own space, but it was very rare that I spent the night completely alone. Sometimes he wouldn't find me until really late if he had a take down or surveillance and sometimes he had to get up so early it was still the middle of the night for certain activities that I probably don't want to know about. We took turns staying on the seventh floor at RangeMan or at my apartment. It took a lot of compromise, and lots of deep breathing on both of our parts, but we were both committed to making it work.

We went back to the Batcave anytime we had a free day or two. It was the place for us to reconnect emotionally as well as physically. It really was home, and I had a feeling that it would be officially home for me too sooner rather than later.

Of course, anywhere we were together was home.

The End!

Author's note: Okay so this was my first attempt at smut and I was dreadfully anxious about it, which is why it's taken forever to get it posted. So please be kind!

This story is (finally) at an end! But I really like this version of the characters and haven't ruled out a sequel in the future if there's any interest.

Thank you so much for following along. This was my first story and it meant more than I can say that you sent me messages and left reviews. Thank you all!