Disclaimer: The primary characters in this story belong to Janet Evanovich. I make no money for this work. While I work in health care, the names and places detailed in this story are not based on specific persons or events.

A/N: Special thanks to FairTaxGirl (Linda) and Margaret Fowler for reviewing this for me. You have both been so wonderful about reading the chapters for me and making suggestions. I don't know what I would do without you two!


Michael, displaying just how crazy he really was, said, "Don't think you can pull a fucking gun on me!" I'm sure he would've gone on and on, but Ranger brought the butt of his gun down onto Michael's head and he was out cold on the pavement. Ranger kept his gun trained on Michael until Cal cuffed him. He then put his gun away, grabbed me and pulled me into his arms.


Control Chapter 25

3 months later…

I walked out of the courtroom arm and arm with Cal and Ranger, with Tank and Lester following closely. Today was Michael's sentencing and I think we all felt it had gone as well as we could expect. Michael had been sentenced to 5 years for assault and battery, harassment and stalking charges. We all knew that we'd be lucky if he served 2 years, but the consolation was that for the next month he would be undergoing psychiatric testing and observation at a state facility for the criminally insane. I amused myself for a while with the thought of a Tank-sized man making Michael his bitch. It was probably pretty disturbing as fantasies go, but my vengeful streak had kicked in and I just couldn't help myself. Mostly, I was just glad I wouldn't have to worry about Michael anymore.

None of us had heard any more about Derek since he was arrested. However, we had all been assured that he would not be returning to federal service. Our new supervisor, Gloria, was a transfer from another VA and was not influenced by the "good old boys club" that seems to dominate some bureaucracy's. She is driven and expects results, but so far has proven herself to be both competent and fair. I can't ask for more than that.

Cal was doing amazingly well. The situation with Michael and his response seemed to increase his confidence. He continued his therapy with Dr. Matthews and was slowly returning to all of his previous duties. Cal and I had also become very good friends. Helping each other had formed a bond between us and we met for lunch at least once a week. Cal was also my standing date to hockey games because Ranger didn't particularly care for the sport.

Tank and Lula still go out from time to time, but they aren't exclusive and they both seem happy with the arrangement. Tank takes long weekends when they have time planned. At the end of one of their weekends, when Tank returned home, Lester and Bobby had broken into his apartment and set up a hospital bed with an IV pole and blood pressure cuff attached. They also made a gift basket of Ensure and Gatorade. I was afraid Tank might kill Lester and Bobby, but he downed a Gatorade, lay down on the bed and went to sleep. They got pictures. Tank doesn't know about the pictures yet, but I'm sure there will be pain involved when he finds out.

We started the PTSD groups at RangeMan about a month ago. The veterans absolutely loved the building and amenities. While I had told Ranger that the only refreshment needed was coffee, Ella had apparently decided otherwise and provided monstrous sandwiches and homemade desserts. As time went on, Ella got a little fancier and invited the group to come an hour earlier for "real food." On these occasions, she made roast or pasta or huge pots of soup. Many of these men didn't have family in the area and rarely got a home cooked meal. I started getting comments from the veterans that they felt like they had found a second home. Ranger and I talked about it and decided to have Thanksgiving together with the group members and anyone they wanted to bring along. It ended up being a huge event with over 50 veterans attending. It was so big that we had to move tables and chairs into the gym to accommodate everyone. It was a wonderful sight that these men, some of whom had had no support or feeling of family for so long were all together enjoying the holiday.

A few days after Michael was caught, Ranger and I went to Miami. I was terribly nervous about meeting Julie, but she was so sweet and open and funny, that we ended up feeling like we'd known each other forever. I brought her an iPod Touch and she squealed and hugged me. We spent an afternoon together, just the three of us and it was amazing. I had never imagined having such a good time with a man and his child. Ranger and Julie were a little formal with each other, but I think having someone else around helped loosen him up, too.

I had been extremely apprehensive about meeting Ranger's ex-wife, Rachel. I couldn't have been more wrong. Rachel and her husband, Ron, were very welcoming. Rachel even took me aside when we brought Julie home and told me that she had never seen Ranger look happier. I thought it was a very nice thing for her to say and told her so. She and I have remained in contact and have become something resembling friends.

After we returned from Miami, Ranger and I talked and I told him that since everything had progressed so fast with us, I wanted us to have some "normal" time. I returned to my apartment and I was fully prepared to miss spending every night with Ranger, but it never happened. If Ranger had to work one evening, he simply came to my apartment when he was finished and we slept there. If we had been out together, we usually went to his place.

Finally, we talked and figured out that it didn't make much sense to continue to live separately when we were always together. It was a quick, almost business-like decision that left me feeling a bit of whiplash. When I looked a little unsure, Ranger bit the bullet and said, "Babe, I want you there beside me every night. It's not just a matter of convenience." In a few weeks, at the beginning of the year, my lease will be up and I am moving into Ranger's apartment.

Besides our Miami trip, we've also been on short vacations to Vail, the Bahamas and Boston. I think since he had never been in a real relationship before, Ranger somehow thought this was normal for couples. I had no intention of telling him that the only vacation I'd had with a boyfriend was a drunken Spring Break in Panama City when I was in college.

Christmas is next week and we were both thrilled that Rachel agreed to let Julie spend the holiday with us. Ranger has never spent Christmas with his daughter before. His family is also thrilled and they seem to think I'm the reason for the change and have practically adopted me. We'll spend Christmas Eve with his family and have Christmas morning with just the three of us. Then we'll have Christmas dinner with my family. I'm looking forward to our time with Julie. Even though Ranger and I are not married, I have a growing love for Julie and already feel like she's part of my family. Our time with her made me wish for things that I had never wished for before. Ranger and I had not discussed marriage, but we did discuss our commitment to each other.

The night after the end of the trial and sentencing, after Ella had made a magnificent celebratory dinner, Ranger and I sat in front of the fire with glasses of wine. Michael was gone, my stomach was full and I was leaning on a sexy, handsome man that I was totally in love with. I sighed and looked up at Ranger and said, "You know you're never getting rid of me now, right?"

Before he pulled me in for a kiss, Ranger gave me a hint of a smile and said, "Be careful what you wish for, Babe."

A/N: Thank you all so much for sticking with me for this story. The reviews and PM's I've gotten have meant so much to me. I'll be back in a few days with Cal's one-shot, which will be a separate story titled "In Control."