A/N: The official last segment of Secrets and Shadows. I'm a little sad to be done with this version of Tank, but I'm excited to move on to my next story. I hope you guys have all enjoyed this story as much as I have writing it! Thank you to everyone who has reviewed or followed this story since it started! You guys are amazing!
Epilogue – Happily Ever After
"Do you need some help with that?" Bobby said as he came up behind me and reached to take the large casserole dish filled with raw meat waiting to be cooked.
I handed it to him and reached back into my car to grab a couple of cases of beer. "Is everyone here yet?"
We were having our semi-annual RangeMan retreat. Three years ago the guys had decided that since they were now spread across the country we needed to have somewhere to get together and go over RangeMan business. They ended up finding a large beach front property in the Florida Keys and bought it to be our meeting place.
Even though it was technically bought as a place to meet and go over business, in the 3 years we had been coming here I can only remember a couple of times anything business related was discussed. More often than not, the time spent here was our time to relax and spend time together.
"Auntie Steph, Auntie Steph!"
A small dark haired hurricane ran from inside the house and attached herself to my waist. "Hey Zoe, where's your mommy?"
Zoe was the splitting image of Rachel and only had the slightest influence of Ranger's Latin roots in her dark straight hair. She bounced up and down while trying to pull me towards the house. "She's in the back with Abby and Ryder."
Bobby shut the car door and followed behind us. "You were the last to arrive everyone else is out back getting ready to start the barbeque."
I had arrived a day later than everyone else due to a high dollar takedown that required a member of the Seattle core team to be present. Tank had offered to stay, but I told him to go ahead and spend time with the guys. It wasn't anything dangerous and I'd just had to wait in the car while the takedown took place.
We made our way to the back yard after stopping to drop off the beer in the kitchen. As soon as I stepped out the door, Abby and Ryder attached themselves to my side as they began to tell me about going fishing earlier in the morning.
Abby was the splitting image of Bobby and had just turned five while Ryder looked more like their mother than Bobby. He was only two and had taken to following both Abby and Zoe around whenever we were all together.
As I listened to their story I glanced around the back yard. Tank, Lester, and Ranger were all surrounding the grill and were getting ready to start cooking the meat which Bobby had carried into the back yard. I could see Julie and Rachel further down by the beach playing in the soft waves.
Once Abby completed her story about catching a giant fish with her Uncle Lester she took Ryder's hand and led him down to the beach to play with Julie and I made my way over to the guys.
Tank smiled when he saw me and pulled me to him placing a gentle kiss on my lips before turning me back around so my back was to his front as he held me gently against his body. Lester waved and handed me a can of soda.
"How long have you guys been arguing about how to cook the meat?" I teased.
Lester grinned. "It's not my fault they don't understand the art of a good thoroughly cooked piece of meat."
Bobby rolled his eyes. "You have to have some blood left in or there's no flavor."
I laughed at their antics. Every time we came down here they had the same argument. I felt Tank's chest vibrate with his own laughter as he said, "You just had to get them started."
"How's life in Seattle?" Ranger asked ignoring the two arguing men beside him.
Tank, Lester, and I had moved to Seattle to open a new branch for RangeMan, but after the first year both Tank and I fell in love with the area and the atmosphere of the city and decided to make it our permanent home. Lester had stayed until we got the branch fully running and then had moved on to open his own branch in Los Angeles. A part of me had been sad when he left, but I knew he deserved the opportunities that LA would bring him.
"Great. Our profits are up 10% this year." Tank responded and went on to tell him about some of the larger contracts we had managed to gain in the past few months.
For the next hour the guys made small talk as they cooked our food and I threw in a few comments here and there but for the most part I just listened to them enjoying the time we spent together. It was one of the few things I missed about when we all lived in Trenton.
Two hours later we were all sitting on the beach around a bonfire Bobby and Lester had built. The kids were all in the house being watched by Bobby's wife while the rest of us enjoyed the cool night air and the relaxing sounds of the waves.
I was sitting between Tank's legs leaning against his chest as he listened to Lester talk about the renovations he had just completed on what would be his penthouse apartment at the new RMLA office.
I heard Ranger's soft chuckle and turned towards him. I couldn't help but feel happy for him. In the past
few years his relationship with Rachel had grown and they had even run off to Vegas a year after Zoe was born to tie the knot for the second time. It had been surprising to the rest of us, but looking at them together made me see that they did truly care for one another.
"Steph, how's your new partner?" Lester asked bringing my attention back to the conversation.
I gave him a dark look. It had been almost impossible for me to find a new partner when he had moved to Los Angeles. Not only had Tank refused to sign off on anyone without having a chance to test them, but so had Lester. In the end, the only reason I had a partner was because Hector had decided to transfer to the Seattle office and both Tank and Lester felt he could adequately protect me.
Tank laughed at my reaction and slid one of his hands under my shirt to rub reassuring circles on my abdomen. "You know we love you and we just want to be sure that whoever your partner is can adequately watch your back."
I rolled my eyes. "Hector is great. He did say that you were looking very cozy with Beth when he was in your office last week."
I laughed when Lester actually blushed. Beth was a kindergarten teacher that he had met when he was just moving into his apartment building in LA. She was the complete opposite of the girls who he would normally date. But they hit it off from the beginning. So far they had been dating for over 6 months and it looked like she may have finally managed to end Lester's playboy days.
Bobby came up behind us and sat down next to Lester with a fresh six pack of beer. "He's just afraid to admit he may finally be done playing the field."
Lester groaned and grabbed a couple of the beers out of the six pack before handing one to Tank and then offering me one which I declined. "I'm not afraid to admit it. I just don't want to hear the I told you so's."
Bobby had stopped paying attention to what Lester was saying when he saw me turn down the beer. It wasn't something I had ever done before and I couldn't help but blush when his eyes moved down to my stomach where Tank's hand was gently resting against my abdomen. "Is there something you guys need to tell us?"
Lester looked back and forth between me and Bobby before he finally caught on. "Wait, no way! Seriously? Am I going to be an Uncle again?"
Ranger looked up when Lester's voice carried across the bonfire to where he and Rachel were sitting and a hundred watt smile overtook his face. "Babe?"
Tank laughed and kissed the top of my head before announcing, "Steph's pregnant, we're due at the end of May."
Lester stood and pulled me to my feet so he could give me a hug before passing me around to the other guys who all told me congratulations. When I ended up in Ranger's arms he pulled me to him tightly and whispered in my ear, "You're going to be a great mom."
I couldn't help but fell the tears well up in my eyes. It was one of the main concerns I'd had when we decided to try. Tank had been trying to convince me to try for the past year, but it had taken me longer to come around to the idea. He wouldn't have been upset if I refused, but the thought of a baby that was both a piece of me and a piece of him had been on my mind more and more until I could no longer deny that it was what I wanted.
But the minute the little stick lit up with two pink lines I had felt a sense of panic overwhelm me. My worst fear was being like my own mother. I never wanted my children to feel as if they were anything less than perfect.
Ranger pulled back from me and noticed a stray tear that had escaped my eye. He wiped it away and kissed my forehead. "You are nothing like your mother, Babe."
The one thing that had never changed between the two of us was our ability to read each other. He could guess my thoughts by just looking at my face and right now I was thankful for it. Logically I knew I could never be my mother, but it was still an irrational fear that had stuck with me and his words helped to take some of that fear away.
My relationship with Ranger had been rocky for the first two years I had been in Seattle, but slowly we made our way back to being friends. We weren't as close as we once were, but I still considered him one of my closest friends.
"Hands off my wife, Manoso." Tank teased as he pulled me from Ranger's embrace and put his arm around my shoulders.
I laughed and leaned into his embrace letting my head fall against his chest. These guys were slightly crazy and may be seen as intimidating by the rest of the world but to me they were my family. They had seen me at my best and my worst and never turned away from me or tried to change me.
A few months ago, Lester had asked that if I'd been given the chance would I go back and change anything in my life. And sitting here right now surrounded with a wonderful man who loved me and great group of friends who considered me their sister, I knew I wouldn't change anything. I had some twists and turns to get here, but without them I never would have made it to this spot.
I listened to the sound of the guy's voices chatting around me and let my hand rest against my abdomen where my little baby was safely nestled and I knew that this baby would be the one of the most spoiled children in the world. It would also be constantly surrounded by love.
As I glanced around the bonfire I couldn't think of one thing that would make my life any better than it already was and I knew I had finally gotten my happily ever after.