Disclaimer: I do not own Stephanie Plum, Ranger, or any of the other characters in the Plum universe.
"You can do this. You're going to go in there, you're going to get this contract, you will win," Stephanie told her reflection. She glanced up at the postcard on her mirror with the John Wayne quote and repeated it, "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway." This one had become her favorite and she repeated it each day.
Two weeks after she and Ranger returned from the cabin, she began receiving plain postcards with different quotes on them in the mail. No name was given, but she knew they were from Jed. It was his way of offering encouragement since he had shoved her into a whole new world and abandoned her. They had formed an unusual friendship in their short time together and she missed him. Going on five months now and he still hadn't returned to Trenton. The last post mark placed him in Georgia so he was getting closer. This excited her, but Ranger would glance at the postmarks and grimace.
Thinking of Georgia brought her back to reality. Georgia Clifton, her 10:00 appointment was the very eccentric heir of several high dollar jewelry stores. Her current security contract was almost up and, dissatisfied, she was looking for new bids. Stephanie was going to make sure Rangeman won. She surprised herself at times with how competitive she had become, but it felt good, really good that for once she was successful. It felt good to have Ranger look at her with pride and to also know that she had brought in enough new business for the company to more than make up for all of the losses Ranger had from helping her over the years. She now earned her keep.
She added the Wallstreet Pink lipstick to her lips. She had gone a little heavy with the makeup to give herself some color. Catching her niece's stomach virus wasn't going to change her plans. Rescheduling was not an option since Mrs. Clifton would be leaving tomorrow for a detoxification at some European health spa. She wanted the deal sealed today. Stephanie smoothed down her white suit. White was definitely a clean color and should give her an extra boost in impressing Mrs. Clifton who suffered from not only hypochondria but also mysophobia. Stephanie had to look that one up. Fear of germs and contamination. If Georgia Clifton had known how much garbage Stephanie had rolled in over the years, she would never let her step one foot in her office. Stephanie hadn't thrown up in over twenty four hours so she felt it was safe to go. What Mrs. Clifton didn't know, wouldn't hurt her.
Stephanie locked up and headed down to her parking lot. The black Expedition was sitting in its usual spot. She had decided against living with Ranger before the wedding. She didn't want to jinx things. Living with Joe had never turned out very well. Throw in the fact that she and Ranger had gone from deciding to try out not only a personal relationship but also a working relationship to being publicly engaged in a day's time, they had enough stress right there. By not living together they had been able to take things slower and get to really know each other. Dating the man after she was engaged to him. Stephanie shook her head, only her. She had truly enjoyed getting to know Ranger, every single inch of him. She made an mmm mmm sound just thinking about it. She was feeling much better now; maybe tonight they could have a sleepover.
She opened the door and found Lester's smiling face. Her bodyguard for the day. He looked her up and down, "What are you trying to represent?" referring to her all white ensemble.
Stephanie looked back at his all black attire, "I'm good and you're evil."
Lester laughed, "Touché."
Stephanie tried to ignore the nauseous feeling creeping up on her as she spoke to Mrs. Clifton. She could feel the bile rising up in her throat and swallowed hard. This was not the time nor was it the place to get sick. If she could just make it a few more minutes.
"As you can see, Rangeman not only offers more," Stephanie swallowed again. Not now, please not now. "But we are comparably less expensive, and…." She clapped her hand over her mouth, "Excuse me."
She jumped up and tried to run from the room, but she wouldn't make it. She frantically made it to the waste basket that had never been used and proceeded to vomit her guts out.
"Come on Steph, I said I was sorry. I stopped and bought you a coke; I even called Ranger for you," Lester looked over at Stephanie's scowling face. "You did see me grab that guy when he tried to throw you out right?"
"Yes I did Lester. Thank you for the coke and for standing up for me when I was being manhandled," Stephanie replied calmly.
"You're mad, I can tell. The situation caught me off guard. I was sitting in my chair outside of the door and then I hear a blood curling scream and then the assistant was screaming you killed her, you killed her! What was I supposed to think, I mean I opened the door and Mrs. Clifton was out on the floor?" Lester shrugged.
"You were supposed to think I didn't kill her! You didn't have to say 'What did you do Stephanie!' in front of everyone. I was already embarrassed enough as it was. I mean come on, who passes out when someone vomits?"
They rode in silence for a few minutes, "Ranger thought you should go to the doctor and go home for the rest of the day."
"No. It just has to run its course and I already feel better since I threw up. It was that weird smell in her office anyway that triggered it. Did you smell it?"
"No, I didn't smell anything. Well except where you vomited," Lester shuddered.
Stephanie didn't comment to that, "Take me to my mom's. My family's already been exposed to the bug anyway. I caught it from my niece. I'll sit on the opposite side of Lula, Mary-Lou, Connie, and Sally. I have everything ready to show them for the fake wedding. Everything's already in place for the real wedding so I need to end this today." She took out her fake wedding binder. She had even decorated the front with stickers that said Our Day on it.
Lester grinned, "This is going to be like Christmas. I still get to come in and listen right."
Stephanie laughed, "Of course. You and Hal did help me plan it."
"Speaking of Lula, are you going to talk to her?"
"No, I'm not. I don't see the problem. She hasn't done anything wrong."
"Well Tank sees it differently."
"She and Tank have not been together in a long time. It shouldn't bother him if she flirts with the new guys that come in the office."
"Have you ever worked with Tank when he's in a bad mood?"
Stephanie thought for a minute. She had worked with him when he threw people out of windows and knocked them around a little bit. She didn't know if that was him in a good mood or a bad mood. If that was a good mood, she probably didn't want to know what he was like when he was in a bad mood.
"Tank's just jealous. It shouldn't matter if Lula is dating a co-worker. If it does then he'll have to talk to her himself."
"Nobody is going to date her from Rangeman. She was Tank's woman and nobody is going up against Tank."
"They're not even together now!" Stephanie cried exasperatedly.
"Doesn't matter and Tank's not jealous."
"Fine, then it shouldn't matter what she does. Look I have enough problems of my own. I'm not meddling in Tank and Lula's non love life. If Tank doesn't like her talking with other men then he'll have to figure out what to do about it."
"So once I got the idea for the junior bridesmaid dresses it all just fell into place," Stephanie smiled as she patted the front of the binder.
Valerie smiled, "I bet they'll look like little princesses."
"I printed off the picture. It's worn by a celebrity."
Ellen grinned, "Oh how exciting! You're using the dresses from celebrities."
Stephanie schooled her face into a serious expression and smiled, "Yes! Do you remember when you asked about the color scheme and you were afraid we would use black as one of the colors? "
Ellen nodded her head looking a little nervous.
Stephanie looked over at Sally, "You said in the early nineties people used black for elegance and now it could be mistaken for gothic."
Ellen plopped down in a chair at the table.
"So I was thinking, what wedding has the Burg never had yet?" Stephanie opened her binder.
"Who is that?" Lula asked looking at the picture of the little girl.
"Christina Ricci in her role as Wednesday Addams. Now I was thinking the dresses would match, but one of the girls could wear her hair just like this with the two braids in the front and the other could be in one French braid in the back."
"Why do you hate me!" Ellen cried.
"I don't hate you," Stephanie rolled her eyes and went back to looking at the binder.
"You want to dress my daughters up as Wednesday Addams?"
"Of course not, they're just wearing dresses like hers. I mean to look just like Wednesday they would have to dye their hair black. Wait a minute, would you be alright with that?"
"Well what is our dresses going to look like?" Lula asked.
Stephanie turned the page over. A photo of Morticia Addams' dress was on the next page.
"Girl you've lost your mind. I ain't hoppin' down no aisle in that freaky dress."
"No wait, I think she's on to something here. This could be freaking cool," Sally grinned. "There's so much you could do with a Goth theme. What color dress are you wearing?"
"Oh, I was going to go with the traditional white, but I thought I could go heavy with the black eyeliner and black lipstick to really make the contrast pop." Stephanie said putting emphasis on the p. She looked at the stunned expressions of everyone at the table and continued on.
"Now I don't want anybody to get excited, but Hal's cousin's friend's brother's uncle knows the guy who bought the Ghostbusters car. We're going to see if we can use it for the wedding," Stephanie held her hands up. "Fingers crossed."
"So this is how it's going to be," Ellen chuckled humorlessly. "I only wanted my daughter to have a beautiful wedding. Financially you could afford a lavish wedding. You kept going on about a small, simple wedding and we've tried to encourage you to do more and instead of taking it seriously, you're blackmailing us with the threat of this horrendous fiasco."
"Somebody's turned into Bridezilla," Valerie muttered.
"Look, I told you what Ranger and I wanted, but you all totally ignored it! We want a small wedding with our closest friends and family. We were just going to elope, but we wanted to share our special day with you all. It's already planned alright. We're getting married on the beach at Point Pleasant. We're having the reception at a beach house. We've hired the caterer, and the band. Ranger already asked a priest that is a friend of his family to officiate the ceremony. All you all have to do is show up! That's all I'm asking. Just come and be happy for me and watch Ranger and I began our life together. Now I'm having the small wedding I've planned. If you keep insisting on a large wedding for the Burg, then we can do that one afterwards, but it will be this theme," Stephanie said pointing to her book.
Ellen sighed, "You know how happy we are for you Stephanie. I just don't understand why you made such a public announcement if you wanted this to remain a small affair. People have called nonstop and they are going to expect to be invited."
"That's true," Lula agreed. "This is like a celebrity wedding."
Connie nodded her head in agreement, "Or like one of the family weddings."
"I already told you, that someone else did that. We never intended for anyone to know about it." We didn't even know about it.
"So no attendants? Please tell me you're going to at least get a dress."
"Yes mother, I have already picked out my dress. I'm even carrying a bouquet. You did hear me say we had caterers and a band hired right? "
"You like hired another band?" Sally asked.
Crap, crap, triple crap! "Of course we were hoping your band could play, but then we decided you're like family and we didn't want to ask you to work. We wanted you to celebrate with us."
"Like you think of me like your family? I'm freaking touched. I've thought of you a lot over the years and like now I feel bad because I like shouldn't have had those kinds of thoughts about family."
Grandma Mazur patted his hand, "I've thought about a few of my cousins that way. I think as long as they are at least third cousins it's okay."
"Cool, I've thought of you like my third cousin Steph. I won't do it anymore."
Lula and Connie snorted.
"Good to know Sally, thank you."
"Well what do I tell people that are expecting an invitation?" Ellen asked.
"You tell them that Stephanie and the hot bounty hunter are having an exclusive wedding. That's what I'm telling the girls at the beauty parlor tomorrow. Very classy like all those celebrities do. I bet the papers will have helicopters flying over trying to get a peek."
"Not a problem Mrs. Mazur. If any non-authorized air craft comes within one mile of the wedding, Rangeman has been authorized to shoot them down," Lester said as he strolled into the kitchen.
Ellen gasped and looked at Stephanie.
"He's kidding mom."
"Please Stephanie, I'm begging you. Do not blow up anything on your wedding day. I don't think my nerves can handle it," Ellen said.
"I'm disappointed. I was listening from the living room and you never worked in the dog collars or chains. The best stuff was in the middle of the book," Lester said as they pulled away from the Plum's house.
"If Wednesday, Morticia and the Ghostbuster car upset them that much, it probably was good I didn't have to go that far."
"I bet your grandma and Sweet would have appreciated it."
Stephanie laughed, "Without a doubt."
"I actually added a new section in the back under honeymoon, check it out," Lester said as he winked at her.
Stephanie flipped the pages to the section labeled honeymoon, gasped and shut the book, "Freak."
Lester howled with laughter, "You're the one who wanted an Addams family wedding. Old Gomez and Morticia were one of the first BDSM couples. Beds of nails, torture chambers. I just figured you'd want to continue on with the theme after the ceremony."
Stephanie sighed and rolled her eyes.
Lester looked over at her and took her hand, "Stephanie, I have to confess that I've thought about you like a third cousin before."
"Lester if I could control it, I would so vomit all over you right now."
Lester grinned at her, "Freak."
When they pulled into Stephanie's parking lot, Lester spotted the blue Honda civic right away, "Stay in the car Steph and I'll talk to her."
Stephanie looked to see what had Lester so concerned and saw the car. The guys noticed it following them a few times, and Stephanie had seen it in her parking lot a time or two. When they ran the license plates it came back as belonging to Joe's new girlfriend, Jodie Cameron. So far she had never made direct contact. Stephanie couldn't imagine what she wanted. She and Joe hadn't spoken since he was in the hospital and Jodie had moved to the burg a couple years ago, and Stephanie had never even met her.
"Let me talk to her and see what she wants."
"I don't think so. I'm supposed to protect every hair on your head and I'm sure that also means protecting it from getting ripped out in a cat fight. Even though that would be totally hot to see by the way, I'm not taking you back to Ranger with claw marks on your face."
"First off, you are such a pervert, and second why do you assume I would be the one to lose? Oh, never mind, I'm not fighting her," Stephanie opened her door and closed it to Lester mumbling something about never listens. She hadn't gotten two feet until Lester was in front of her.
Jodie opened her door and got out. Stephanie peered at her around Lester and thought she looked a little nervous. She was a couple inches shorter than she was and about the same weight. Unless she was some martial arts chick, Stephanie thought she could probably hold her own. She was pretty. She had shoulder length blond hair that was perfectly straight.
"Can we help you?" Lester asked in a very formal tone with absolutely no hint of flirting. Stephanie was impressed. Lester took her safety very seriously.
"Hi, I'm Jodie Cameron. I was hoping to talk to Miss Plum if she had a few moments. I knocked on your door and the little lady that runs the elevator told me you were out. I've been waiting for about an hour. I was going to wait five more minutes."
"What is it you need to discuss with Miss Plum?"
Stephanie thought that was a little rude. I mean they were both acting like she wasn't even there, but she didn't say anything. She was curious to see what she did want to discuss. Lifetime was full of movies about jealous girlfriends. Sure Jodie looked and sounded nice, but those were usually the ones with a butcher knife hidden in their purse.
"It's kind of personal," Jodie looked to Stephanie for some help.
"Okay, we can go up to my apartment, but know that Lester will need to stay right outside the door the entire time. He can be in the room in a matter of seconds."
"Sure, that's fine, "Jodie said looking a little confused.
Lester spun around and looked at Stephanie. "What are you doing?" he mouthed.
"I can listen, geez," she whispered back. They complained when she didn't follow the rules and when she did they acted all suspicious.
Lester didn't comment but turned back around and motioned for Jodie to walk ahead of them. Stephanie would just let him think that she was being responsible. No point in him knowing she was a little nervous being alone with Joe's potentially psycho girlfriend.
"I guess this a little odd, me coming to talk to you like this." Jodie said sitting down on the couch.
"No, not at all, would you like something to drink?"
"No thanks. I 've actually tried to get the nerve to come talk to you a few times before, but I chickened out."
"What is it you want to talk about?" Stephanie asked as she sat down in the chair across from her. With the coffee table in between them, Stephanie thought that would give her enough space to react if I big knife suddenly appeared.
Jodie rubbed her hands over her legs. She was obviously very nervous, "I love Joe a lot. I fell really hard for him the short time he was in the hospital. He means everything to me. It's kind of scary really, how much he already means to me. I've tried to be a good girlfriend. I hit it off really well with his family. His grandma scares me a little bit, but besides that things are going pretty well."
"His grandma scares everyone so don't worry about that."
Jodie nodded, "That's actually why I'm here. His grandma has this gift, she can see the future. She's had two visions where she still sees you in Joe's future. Joe told me not to worry about it; he planned to stay far, far away from you."
Stephanie smiled and rolled her eyes.
"Did you know that Joe sometimes talks in his sleep?" Jodie asked.
Stephanie thought back and couldn't remember ever hearing him say anything, "No I didn't."
"Sometimes he talks about Cupcake. At first I thought he wanted cupcakes and whenever I made them for him, he looked a little uncomfortable. Then I thought maybe it was a pet's name and whenever I asked his mother, she said that was his nickname for you. Do you know what Joe calls me?"
Stephanie shook her head.
"He calls me Jodie," she smiled sadly.
"Jodie, that doesn't mean..."
Jodie shook her head and cut Stephanie off, "It's always been my experience that you give nicknames to the people closest to you. You do it out of love and affection. That's okay that he doesn't have a nickname for me yet. Maybe someday he will, but I'm not sure that Joe is as over you as he lets on, at least not subconsciously. I just need to know if you plan on trying to get him back Stephanie. Grandma Bella keeps seeing you and I can't compete with you right now."
"No Jodie! I'm engaged to the love of my life. Joe and I are through for good. I can assure you that I have no intentions of trying to get him back. I'd like to think maybe someday we could be friends, but I'm not even sure that's possible. He was probably having a nightmare when he was saying Cupcake."
Jodie shook her head, "It didn't sound like a nightmare."
Man was this uncomfortable. Stephanie thought Sally's admission was bad, but this was much, much worse. She decided on a different tactic, "Do you know that when Joe and I dated his grandma had a vision of a blonde haired woman surrounded by Joe and their children?" Stephanie left off the part that the woman was in a casket at the end.
Jodie shook her head, "Really?"
"Yes, really. See Jodie, Joe and I were never meant to be."
"Thank you. You've been really nice. Everyone I talked to said you were. Some of them said they were afraid to stand beside of you or park their cars beside of yours, but everyone likes you."
"Thanks, that's good to know," Stephanie smiled wryly.
"I feel so much better now! I've been an emotional wreck all day, and it's been one crazy day let me tell you. Do you know that we had five women come into the hospital pregnant! They thought they had the stomach flu and they were all on the pill. Apparently there was a bad batch of pills and all of the women used Harrison's Pharmacy over on Callahan Street. Talk about emotions running high! Harrison better go into hiding! Thanks Stephanie for talking to me."
Jodie got up and Stephanie numbly followed her to the door.
Lester looked at Jodie's retreating form and Stephanie's face, "You okay? You're looking a little pale again."
"I'm fine. I'm just going to stay in now and lie down. Thanks Lester."
Stephanie turned and closed the door and locked it. She slid down to the floor. That was her pharmacy.
Stephanie walked back down her hallway, clutching the small paper bag. She knew she probably looked ridiculous in her black jeans and black sweat shirt wearing her Seals hat and sunglasses. Her intention had been to disguise herself, but if anything she stood out more. She must have been radiating dangerous vibes, because three people left the store as soon as she walked in, and the cashier kept his hand in a drawer the entire time. She had driven to a 7-Eleven an hour away. Surely no one would recognize her there.
She unlocked her door and walked in and locked it back. As she was walking towards the kitchen to turn on the lights a quiet voice stopped her in her tracks.
"Did you rob it?"
Stephanie yelped and clutched her heart, "Ranger! One of these days you are seriously going to give me a heart attack and then you're going to feel really bad!"
She turned on the light and when she turned and faced him, she could see he was angry.
Ranger stared at her, "You lied to me."
Stephanie shifted uncomfortably and looked away.
"You told Lester you were staying in. You leave me a message telling me not to come over that you were going to bed. Then you disabled your tracker and left your apartment alone after promising me you would not do that. From the way you are dressed and the way you're clutching that paper bag, I can only assume it must be full of money. Not really any reason to drive an hour away to get Tasty cakes when you can get them around the corner."
"How did you know where I went?"
"There are two trackers on your car. What's in the bag?"
Stephanie looked at him nervously. She had wanted to do this in private.
"Joe's girlfriend upset you that much. You had to run off for a while without me knowing."
There was a definite edge to his voice. Stephanie wasn't used to being on this receiving end of his anger. That's what this was. He had certainly been frustrated with her before, but he was very angry right now, and if he knew what was in the bag, he would most definitely be even angrier.
He got up and walked towards her. Stephanie clutched the bag tighter in her hand and turned to go to the bathroom. She hadn't gotten two steps before she felt the bag being ripped out of her hand.
"Give it to me," she snapped.
Ranger looked at her and tore the bag open. He looked down at the EPT test and then back at her.
Stephanie started to cry and wiped the tears from her cheek, "I may have gotten a bad batch of birth control pills."
"So you had to lie and sneak off to get this?" Ranger asked as he shook the box at her.
"This is my life Ranger! If I needed to go in private I should have that right!"
Ranger nodded his head at her. "Your life. That's right this only affects you right, "he shrugged his shoulders at her. "What happened to our life Stephanie? "
He laid the test down on the table and turned back towards the door.
"Where are you going?"
"Out, you obviously don't want me right now. Let me know how it turns out."
He slammed the door behind him.
Stephanie let herself in his apartment and laid the fob and her purse on the side table. She turned on a lamp and started back for his bedroom. If he wasn't home she didn't know what she would do.
She stood at the door and looked at him lying on the bed. She knew he wasn't asleep, but he didn't acknowledge that she was there either. Stephanie slipped her shoes off and unbuttoned her pants and slid them off. She walked over to her side and climbed under the covers and scooted next to him. She rose up and placed a trail of kisses on his shoulder, "I'm sorry."
He turned over and faced her, "Why?"
Stephanie wasn't sure if he meant why she was sorry, "I shouldn't have handled it that way. I just panicked."
"You lied to me Babe. You've never lied to me before and you broke your promise to me about not leaving on your own. I don't like being lied to, especially not by you. Does the thought of carrying my child scare you that much that you have to run away from me?"
"No! Of course not. Ranger I never thought I would have children and I know you didn't want them. The thought that there could be a little person inside of me sort of freaked me out. It's just that everything in life I thought I would never have or do is happening. I have a steady secure job, I'm getting married. It's happened very fast and it's scary."
"Yeah well, I'm getting married too Steph and I'm fine with it. If you aren't we don't have to do it."
"Ranger I do want to do it. When you left, I sat and thought about why I was so afraid. Someone told me today that it can be scary when you love someone so much and it is. I always thought I didn't really need anyone. I mean sure, it would be nice to have someone with me, but to really need them and depend on them. That's new to me. For a long time it was just me and now I just need to realize it's us."
"So, the test was positive?"
"I didn't take it. I figure in a few months we'll know one way or another."
Stephanie laughed, "I want you there when I take it. You were right, it's our life now. The results affect you almost as much as they affect me. I'm sorry I didn't think about that before."
"When you told me not to come over and Lester told me you seemed upset after Joe's girlfriend left, I thought you were having regrets about not being with Joe. Then you took off and I thought it was all related."
'No, Jodie was the one who told me about the bad pills. I didn't want anyone to recognize me when I got the test. I know I lied, but if you remember you once told me you were never going to do anything stupid like marriage or having kids. I think you could see why I was a little nervous with you finding out."
Ranger sighed, "Babe, you asked me that when I was looking for my kidnapped daughter. I wasn't exactly in a good place right then. "
"I never called Joe by a nickname. Lula called him Supercop, some others called him the Italian Stallion, or the Best Ass in Trenton, but I just called him Joe. I call you Batman. We give nicknames to the ones we love."
Ranger pulled her close and kissed her head.
Stephanie tried for nonchalance when she asked, "Have you ever given another woman a nickname?"
"I thought you said and I quote, 'In my mind you lived the life of a monk until you met me and I never want to think differently'."
"I don't want details, I'm just curious."
"You are the only Babe and will be the only Babe ever for me. You are the only woman who has ever made me think marriage and commitment weren't stupid. You're the only one that has ever made me want more. Now go take the test Babe so I know how much more I'm getting."
Stephanie took the test and brought it back to the bedroom. They sat silently and waited for the results. Ranger looked at Stephanie when the symbol appeared.
"I guess I could call Mrs. Clifton and tell her what I have isn't contagious."
Ranger grinned at her, "Babe."
"I don't know what kind of mother I'm going to be. I don't have a clue about babies or kids in general for that matter, I..."
Ranger interrupted her rambling, "We'll figure it out together."
Stephanie nodded, "Because it's not just me anymore, it's us."
"That's right, forever Babe."
"Steph, this dress is beautiful," Mary-Lou gushed. "When you said simple and plain this was not what I envisioned."
Stephanie looked at herself in the full length mirror. The champagne colored silk dress was unadorned, but it flowed over her curves ending at her ankles, showing off the gorgeous champagne jewel encrusted heels. With her hair piled on top of her head with ringlets cascading down on each side, Stephanie thought she did look elegant.
"You look beautiful Steph you really do," Valerie smiled at her.
"Just like a princess in a book, Aunt Steph."
Stephanie didn't get the chance to reply before Lula busted through the door out of breath, "Girl, you got another stalker, and he is here!"
Stephanie spun around, "What do you mean?"
"You know that ugly crystal bell with the weird looking flowers you had on top of your cake?"
"It's not ugly! It looks very elegant and sophisticated."
"Well, it don't look like nothing now, because it's gone! There's some lady in a black and white dress and big ole hat with some old dude beside her. I thought maybe someone felt sorry for the cake and thought this would look better, but they left a note. I don't know what it means, but here," Lula said as she shoved it towards Stephanie.
Stephanie grinned as she read the postcard. "Love is something sent from Heaven to worry the Hell out of you – Dolly Parton." Stephanie looked up, "He's here!"
"That's what I'm telling you, he's here! Now I don't think it's really the Dolly Parton, unless she felt sorry for your cake and was trying to help. If you had listened to me and put the Batman/Wonder Woman figurines on your cake, no one would have dared messed with them!"
Stephanie headed for the door, "Without Eliza and Henry there wouldn't have been a Batman and Wonder Woman."
Lula looked at Valerie, Connie, and Marylou, "Who is Eliza and Henry?"
"Characters in a musical called My Fair Lady," Angie replied.
"What does a musical have to do with anything? Batman's gonna be real mad when he sees he was replaced with that Henry guy."
Stephanie hurried down the hall towards the room Ranger was waiting in ignoring the calls of 'Bombshell what's the matter?' and the trail of Merrymen running behind her. When she reached the door she used both hands and smacked her palms against it three times, "My Uncle Jed is here! Do not shoot him!"
Before she could turn back around the door opened and a pair of arms reached out and dragged her in.
She squealed, "Don't look at me!"
"Babe, you knocked on my door."
"You weren't supposed to answer it! I was just giving you vital information."
Ranger looked her up and down, "Wow Babe, you look beautiful."
"It's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding!"
Ranger shook his head, "Nothing's going to ruin our day. And I already knew he was here. I invited him."
Stephanie grinned, "You did?"
"Most women would want gifts of jewelry, cars, or a yacht. I just have to give my woman a crazy old mercenary and a box of snack cakes and she's happy."
"Aw baby, you aren't that old."
Ranger smacked her on the butt, "I wasn't talking about me."
"Did you ask him?"
"He did, and I told him I might stick around for a while."
Stephanie spun around and pulled him into a hug, "I missed you!"
Jed laughed and patted her on the back.
"I didn't get the chance to tell you before, but thank you. You changed my life."
"For the better I hope. Especially since you have that glow."
Stephanie nodded, "For the better. And please don't mention that glow. Even my mother hasn't noticed that glow yet. We'll tell them about it after the honeymoon."
"I don't know how they haven't noticed it. Nothing more beautiful than a pregnant woman in love. I hope you aren't going to try to say it happened on your honeymoon because there ain't nobody that bad at math."
"Babe I know you're excited, but we're supposed to get married in ten minutes. Don't be late. He's not going anywhere."
"Wouldn't dream of it!" As they passed by Tank, Stephanie said, "You have to meet my friend Lula. She's looking for her soul mate; maybe you can give her some advice."
Tank's eyes got big.
When they got back to the dressing room, Stephanie introduced them all to Uncle Jed. Ellen and Frank came to get Stephanie. Stephanie thought since her mother had dreamed for this moment for so long, it was only fitting that they both gave her away.
As they were leaving the dressing room, Valerie grabbed Stephanie's arm and whispered, "We don't have an Uncle Jed!"
Stephanie watched as Jed escorted Connie, Mary-Lou, and Lula down the hall.
"We do now."