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Story Notes:

Disclaimer:  The world of Plum is the Property of J. Evanovich, I just borrowed Ranger for the purposes of this story.

 Author’s Notes:  A while ago I a story called Domino on ffnet.  The author had rewritten the strip club scene from LMT and replaced Joe for Ranger in it. I realized that I didn't remember the original all that well.  So of course I went back to read it again.  While reading I realized that a short from Ranger's POV was crying out to be written.   So I wrote it.  Many thanks to AmyF, my partner in crime, for beta’ing this for me. 

I switched off my computer and sat back in my chair to think back over the evening.  I had tried working, but for some reason my mind kept drifting to the woman upstairs in my apartment.  Steph never fails to amaze me.  At Domino’s she took the strippers and their come-ons to me completely in her stride and then she got embarrassed over asking me if men got turned on by lap dancing.

Later she didn’t even blink when we discovered the charred bodies in the apartment on Jewel Street.  She acted instinctively and without question when I ordered her to clear the apartments on the lower floors.  Only when the immediate danger was over and I held her in my arms did she break down, and even then she pulled herself together faster than I’d seen many men do on the battlefield.

I didn’t really need to research flame throwers, as I’d told Steph; I’d come down here to remove myself from temptation.  It’s late enough that hopefully she’s gone to bed already.  Last night she had been asleep by the time I came to bed.  She’s not mine and I had to work hard to control myself from pulling her to me even if it was just to hold her through the night.

Tonight I wasn’t sure I could keep my hands off her.

I switched my computer back on and as soon as it booted up I entered the password for a protected folder and then clicked on the first file.  Steph’s beautiful face stared back at me from the screen.  Her wide blue eyes full of innocence and a zest for life that I hope will never be extinguished.  I touched her electronic image with an outstretched finger, then with a shake of my head, I reached down to the keyboard and shut off the computer once more.

Time to go back upstairs; I couldn’t, in all fairness, procrastinate any further.

My mind was so full of images of Stephanie that I hardly remembered walking to the elevator and ascending to the seventh floor.

Silence greeted me when I opened the door to my apartment and I breathed a sigh of relief that Steph had already gone to bed.

As quietly as I could, I entered my bedroom intent on going straight to the dressing room, but I couldn’t resist glancing at the bed.  She was wearing one of my t-shirts and her hair was wild, spread out over the pillow. 

Moving to the other side of the room, I entered the small room, I toed out of my shoes, pulled a pair of boxers out of a drawer and continued on to the bathroom only turning on the light after I had made sure the door was completely closed behind me.

I showered and dressed in the boxers then stood and stared at the door.  I couldn’t delay any longer; I was tired and I needed some sleep. Switching off the light, I quietly opened the door.  The last thing I needed tonight was for Steph to wake up. 

Slipping between the sheets on ‘my’ side of the bed I lay there on my back staring up at the dark ceiling trying to decide what to do next.  Suddenly my mind was made up for me.  Steph sighed in her sleep and that tiny sound snapped my resolve.  Without a second thought I gently gathered her slight body to mine; her back against my front, I cradled her in my arms.

Breathing in her scent, I realized she must have been too tired to shower before collapsing into bed because I recognized the smell of smoke that still clung to her hair.  Gently I kissed her neck, just below her ear, and once again she sighed and this time she unconsciously snuggled back into me.  I closed my eyes, took a deep calming breath, and ordered my body to behave.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep, but nothing short of World War III was going to stop me from holding my Babe while she slept.  I swore that I would always keep her safe, protecting her with my body and my life if necessary; and nothing except nuclear annihilation was going to keep me from fulfilling that promise, even if it was a promise made to me and me alone.

That was my last thought before I drifted off to sleep.  I know this, because the next thing I knew, my watch alarm was going off, and I glanced at the clock.  It was just before dawn.  Time to start a new day, and what better way to wake up than with the woman I loved in my arms.


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