All familiar characters belong to Janet. Mistakes are mine.
Ranger's tongue didn't get to do more than trace the seam of my lips before my cell was ringing again.
"That didn't take long," I said. "Not that I'm surprised." I sighed and then looked at the screen. "False alarm. It's Valerie."
"Makes sense. When you can't get the job done your usual way, you regroup and send in a new team."
"Valerie's not that bad."
"We'll see," he said, keeping his arms around me just in case they're needed.
"Hey, Val. What's up?"
"Mom told me to talk to you," she replied.
"Yeah? What about?"
"Come on, Steph. I don't have time for this. Lisa's cranky thanks to a cold. Angie needs a couple things for a school project I forgot about and the stores are closing soon. Mary Alice decided she wants to be a vegetarian again and won't eat anything I make for her. And Albert is … Albert. Just tell me what's going on now."
"I'm moving in with Ranger."
There was a pause. "That's why she made me drop everything and call you?"
"I'm going to kill her," she said to herself.
"If you do, that will really cut down on my problems."
"This isn't funny. I just wasted valuable minutes arguing with Mom and talking to you."
"Love you too, Val."
"You know what I mean. I would've preferred to use my time asking you how and why you decided to move, not waste it listening to her complain about this."
"Just tell her that you're happy for me, and then stop getting involved. She'll have to switch to Dad or Shirley to get her point across. Dad may tell her that he'll talk to me, but it always ends up being about my car, not my love life. You know, Val, you can drop the girls off with me if you need to, or ask me to pick something up if you run out of time or patience. I draw the line at sick kids though. I'm not fun to be around when I get sick."
"No kidding," Val told me at the same time Ranger said "No shit."
"Thanks a lot, you two."
"Did Ranger agree with me?" Val asked.
"Yep. Yet he still wants to live with me. Go figure."
"He loves you, Steph. I know you were joking, but I am excited for you. You deserve to be happy, and Ranger seems to be the only one who can bring that emotion out of you."
"I don't know how to respond to that. I was expecting Mom's reaction, but not yours. You being nice to me is really freaking me out."
"Okay then, shut up and hang up so I can get back to parental-hell. You're Ranger's problem now."
"That's more like it. Call me when you get a chance to breathe again," I said, disconnecting.
"Sounds like that went well," Ranger told me.
"Yeah. She's pissed at Mom and happy for me. Definitely best case scenario-material. Grandma will be thrilled, and my Dad won't care as long as you don't impregnate me before marrying me." I thought about that. "Maybe that's not true anymore. He didn't give Kloughn any crap for Lisa being a guest at his and Val's wedding. I never thought I'd say this, but I think he's evolving."
"It happens to the best of us."
"It does, doesn't it?" I asked, reliving today.
"Yes," he said. He put both hands on my hips and applied pressure until I was flush against his front. "Now, where were we?"
"You were about to tell me that you changed your mind and want your key fob back?"
"No. I believe I was about to admit that I'm thinking of asking Hector to modify your fob so it won't allow you to leave."
"Why would I? You're here. So is Ella. There's endless hot water, and you have a thirty-man security system 24/7 so I only have to talk to people I like. That makes a strong case for never leaving the building again."
"Good. Let's go with that idea."
He abruptly leaned down, hooked an arm around my knees, and lifted me up before moving us out of the kitchen.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"That should be obvious, Steph. We're going to our room. I have a sudden urge to add more reasons to the list you have going."
I pressed a kiss to the underside of his jaw. "Just you saying that counts as another one."
"I can do better," he said, as he placed me gently on his bed.
I laid down and stretched my arms above my head, locking eyes with him. "Give it your best shot, Batman."
He peeled his shirt off while he was still standing. My mouth went dry as my heart sped up, and my arms moved on their own towards him. Always being one step ahead of me, he removed my shirt before he covered my body with the hot, heavy weight of his. His mouth was finally back on mine and I didn't have a single thought in my head except that I have this to look forward to every day now … my biggest supporter being my boyfriend.
He licked his way down my neck and carefully scraped his teeth across my pulse point.
"Ranger?" I said, sliding my fingers into his hair to hold him still for a second.
"Being you or loving me."