All familiar characters and scenes belong to Janet. Mistakes are mine alone.
Ranger drew his head back after the kiss I laid on him, but stayed close enough that his lips brushed mine when he spoke.
"Does that kiss mean you'll do yourself, Edna, and I all a favor and not fight me on living here?"
"On one condition," I told him.
"And that is …?"
"Before I say it, promise me you won't question me about it. I'm going to try to stop overanalyzing what I'm feeling, which has always screwed me - and us - up. If you ask 'if I'm sure?', I'll start doubting myself and whether I'm making the right decision."
"Alright. I'm not a fan of walking blindly into any situation, but I wasn't lying when I said I'll do almost anything for you, Babe. So it's your turn to share."
I took a deep breath, but it got caught in my lungs when Ranger's eyes went from chocolatey and sexy to frighteningly intense.
"Steph …?" He pressed, moving his hands from my hips to my shoulders to massage away some of my nerves.
"I'll agree to relocate if you move in here with us … with me, I mean. On my side of the place. I love Grandma Mazur, but I don't trust her around you. And also, I want us to decorate a room specifically for Julie for when she visits, if her Mom won't mind she and I hanging out together. You bought this place with her in mind, she deserves a home here."
I grabbed his hands, squeezing his fingers to try to alleviate his sudden tension this time. "That's two conditions. Not the promised one."
"That's what you're focusing on?" I asked.
"If I'm being honest, I'm still trying to process your requests. I was still under the impression that I'd have to use Edna's comfort as a way to force your hand …"
"And instead, I forced yours."
"No one can force me to do anything," he reminded me.
"I know, but while I'm trying to stop sabotaging myself, I don't want to accidentally get you to commit to more than you meant to. To say this whole thing is sudden would be a big, fat understatement."
"It hasn't been sudden on my end. My goal was to be living here with you at some point. You just upped the timeline I was working with originally."
"So you had an ulterior motive bringing me here?" I asked him.
"No. I wanted you happier and safe. And this place was the quickest way of achieving that. What I wanted personally was an objective for another time."
"So you'll do it? You'll take this huge step with me?"
"Are we talking about moving into the house with you? Or moving into your bedroom? I'm afraid your answer to that question will influence my decision. I'm not sure I'd be able to live with you and not get you into bed every chance I get. Living in separate places has saved us from many 'close calls'."
He'd put a little space between us after he heard my 'demands', but I felt the need to close the distance again, physically and emotionally this time.
"I'm still surprised that you find me that distracting …"
"You shouldn't be. I didn't even know you at the time, and I got hard the moment you walked into that diner with your arms and temper flying."
"Yeah, but it's usually when people get to know me that I end up watching them screech their tires getting away from me. Only Mary Lou and Grandma have stuck it out."
"You can add me to that list, because I've only wanted you more the longer I've known you."
Every organ in my body wanted to stop what they were doing hearing that, but I tried to keep my reaction to just a blush and a smile. "Do you know how many people would call you nuts for saying that?"
He shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time someone judged me while not knowing what the hell they're talking about. And you already know how few fucks I give about other people's opinions. You are another matter entirely. How are you feeling about this conversation?"
"Grateful that you love me enough to offer me this escape and for seriously considering any part of this. The girl part of me is ridiculously happy that you think you can't be near me without wanting to get me naked …"
He took a step forward, which brought my butt flush with the kitchen island. Before I had a chance to fully appreciate the feel of his body pressing into me, his arms went on each side of me and his hands rested flat on the granite countertop. I was effectively caught between a rock slab and his hard place.
"No thinking about it, Babe. I've already thought of six ways to utilize this countertop that has nothing to do with food … and everything to do with you completely naked and sitting and then lying back on it."
My body did a full shiver when I added a fully-bare Batman to the scene he just spoke into existence. "I'm afraid any naked time will have to happen behind triple-locked doors with Grandma Mazur around. I DO NOT want to give her and her 'dream honeys' - her description, definitely not mine - any ideas on how to use this kitchen for more than making breakfast."
"So you want me not just living here, but be with you inside and out of it?" He asked, his lips hovering over mine again.
"I kinda always wanted that. I've been calling Grandma my roommate, but I was picturing you as way more than that. I want to be able to share everything with you, my bedroom being the first thing."
He tipped his head in his version of an 'affirmative' nod. "That settles it. You move in and I'll join you."
"Really? It's that easy?"
"Anything can be worked around as long as the fundamentals are agreed upon."
"And they are?"
"If you want me here as something other than a buffer between you and your Grandmother."
"I do. And now that I don't have to worry about my Mom, or listen to Grandma snore anymore, I can concentrate on us if we're going to be around each other a lot more than we have been."
"I have a patrol at seven, but I can help you two get settled in and then join just you when I get home."
"That sounds weird but nice. Both of us having a home we want to come back to at night."
"If you're here, this is where I would want to be."
"Okay then. If we have the major stuff settled, how about we go tell Grandma Mazur? You have ear plugs in one of those cargo pant-pockets, don't you? She might hit a few decibels you've never heard before."
"If you'd like to move your stuff here, it'll take a few days to furnish this place. Or I can make a call and have most of the rooms habitable by the time we get Edna and come back here with her."
"The only things I care about in that place are Grandma, Rex, and my shoes. The rest can be firebombed for all I care. Most of the crap in my apartment now is what I collected to replace what had been Molotov-cocktailed."
"Good. Let me make a call and then we can go."
But he didn't reach for his cell, he wrapped his arms around me instead and pulled me in even closer. His mouth covered mine and I forgot everything that will need to be done with a move, and just enjoyed the feel and taste of him before reality intrudes and my life does a solid 180.
"What was that for?" I whispered.
"To give you something to think about until tonight when I deliver on everything you're now thinking about."
"Look forward to, you mean? Not 'think about'. So you think we'll all be able to sleep here in a few hours?"
"Grandma's always ready for an adventure. She'll standing at your Porsche faster than you can unlock it."
"Alright. So I'll talk to a few people here and then we'll head out. There's a box of Butterscotch Krimpets in the cabinet by the microwave to keep you busy while I take care of this."
"You do love me!" I said over my shoulder, already heading towards my favorite snack cakes.
"I do. You'll figure out exactly what that means soon enough."
I didn't know what to say to that, so I crammed a mini-cake into my face while Ranger pulled some furniture strings. Five minutes and four Krimpets later, he was ready to roll.
"Good thing the house is on its own street or the neighbors would complain about what's about to happen here," he told me.
"Do we need to stick around for deliveries or something?" I asked.
My furniture always came from dead, or just luckier relatives who could ditch the crap they had, so I'm not sure what's involved with buying and delivering brand new stuff.
"It's handled. Ella's taking point on getting the house in order."
He got the front door for me and I paused once outside to glance up at the sky, still reeling from how quickly a life can change. I understood that from a bullet-into-a-body standpoint, but a positive change to my life I definitely wasn't expecting.
"Guess I don't have anything to worry about, since Ella is frighteningly efficient."
"That's why I convinced her to work for my company. Do you think Edna will be onboard with this?"
"I'm pretty sure this will make her entire life, but only one way to find out. Let's go ask her."
The drive back to my building went by way faster than our original ride out of town. It felt a lot better too, because Ranger's right hand kept straying to my thigh at every red light or stop sign. By the time we hit Hamilton Avenue, I was actively praying for extra delays just to have more car-time with him.
I was disappointed for nothing. He parked in my lot and his arm went around me as soon as he opened the passenger's door and I stepped out of his Porsche. I circled his waist with my arms and glanced up at him.
"What?" He asked, clearly seeing something in my eyes that needed an explanation.
"I was wrong. Every time I told you that I didn't need or want rescuing, I was a complete idiot. How this day ended, I could get used to."
"The day isn't over yet. And the ones following this one will be even better. They'll also involve more skin and a lot more mouth-to-body contact."
My temperature shot up hearing that. And then I realized I don't have to wait for Ranger to make a move, my hands can do a little wandering without me having to try to justify it anymore. When we were in the elevator, my fingers found their way under the hem of his T-shirt and my fingertips had free rein over his abs until we hit the second floor.
Before he unlocked my apartment for me, he grabbed my wrist and jerked me to him. I swear my body almost bounced right back off his muscles.
"Do you really think it's smart to play with me?" He said in a rough whisper.
"No, but I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it."
"You're going to pay later on."
"Looking forward to it, Batman."
Without more than a promising look in his eyes, he let me inside my apartment and I called for Grandma.
"You back already?" She asked us, racking up some steps in her bright pink track suit as she rushed into the kitchen.
"Yeah. We wanted to ask you something."
"Ranger and I are apparently going to be living together and we want to know if you'd move in with us? It's one house set up almost like a duplex inside so you'll have your own space, but we'll be close by for pancakes and in case you need us. I'm also hoping Julie will be able to stay with us too when she's here, so you'll have another reason to whip up the cookies you keep feeding me."
I was afraid her dentures would pop out of her mouth, considering how quickly and far it dropped open by the time I was done.
"This was a lot for me to process," I quickly added, "so I get it if you need some time to think about it before you decide …"
"Give me five minutes and I'll have my gear packed up," she told us.
She disappeared back into what was my bedroom before I could say another word. She'd surprised me. One by not screaming like I'd anticipated, and another by going with the flow without questioning it to death like I'm famous for doing.
I glanced at Ranger. "I guess my overthinking gene does NOT come from Grandma Mazur."
"Maybe when people reach her age, they just cut out the bullshit and do whatever the hell they want without worrying about the details."
Just to try out how that would feel, I went up on the tiptoes of my Chucks and pressed my lips to his. "That's what I'm trying to learn how to do … when it comes to you anyway," I said against him.
His hand slid under my ponytail and he held my head where he wanted it. "You'll need a lot of practice to master that."
I didn't need to ask what he meant. His mouth fused itself to mine and my eyes rolled back under my lids when his tongue took over. I tried to prevent a moan from forming, but Grandma being a Super-packer prevented an embarrassing reaction to him.
"You two are hotter than all get out," she declared. "You want me to go repack some stuff and give you another minute?"
"Nope. We've got time now. I'm just gonna go grab what's in my bathroom, some clothes, and then Rex, and I'll be ready to ditch this place." I turned towards Ranger. "Do you want to keep Grandma company? Or help me pack?"
"I want to make sure you include a few items, so I'll help you gather your things."
I wasn't about to argue with him, solely because I'm curious what I own that he's interested in me taking. Turns out the 'items' were my little tank top/boxers pjs, his Rangeman T-shirts that I 'accidentally' stole, and my favorite black FMPs. Those got me thinking about what I could surprise him with if his patrol tonight ends with zero issues.
"You good?" He asked me, nine minutes later while sitting at the foot of my bed.
I walked towards him and didn't stop until I was standing between his legs. "Yeah. I'm really anxious to see what you can pull off in a half hour."
"With furnishing a home or with you under me?"
"I really want to answer that with the 'me' choice, but Grandma will have her hearing aid to the door if we kept her waiting too long. I'm hoping we can revisit that question when you're off duty tonight."
"Will you be wearing your little pjs or my shirt when we do our 'revisiting'?"
"Get yourself back to the house in one piece when your shift's over and you can see for yourself."
His hands tightened on my hips and I could guess what was about to happen. He lifted me straight up like I wasn't dead weight, and lowered me back down so I'd conveniently be sitting and straddling his lap instead of standing in front of him, since my legs immediately parted like the Red Sea for him. I suddenly found it hard to concentrate on anything other than him, which I assume was his plan.
"I'll be back with you tonight," he said against my mouth. "Be ready."
I pressed my lips to his, briefly and playfully, before drawing back. "I was ready an hour ago. Half the work will have already been done for you by the time you're off the clock."
"Do not start without me," was his order. "If Edna's asleep, I'd advise you skip underwear with whatever you choose to put on."
I rocked my hips against him and was surprised at how close I was to a release when he hadn't even touched me beyond where our hips and legs made contact.
"I'll take everything you said into consideration."
He kissed me, but reluctantly released my lips and lifted me off him when a couple knocks landed on the bedroom door.
"You 'bout done in there?" Grandma shouted.
"Not even close," Ranger said under his breath.
"Yeah," I called. "We'll be out in a minute."
When I heard her sneakers head back towards the kitchen, I tipped my head against Ranger's, our foreheads touching. I can feel him hard against me, and I felt a little bad that his discomfort will be matching mine.
"Living with Grandma is bound to have a few timing-issues. Remember when she interrupted that impressive tackle I managed in the living room?"
"Yes. And I'm having similar thoughts of shooting her right about now."
"It's just a passing one. I know you'd never go through with it. Are you gonna make it until tonight, or do you need a quick release?" I asked. "I'm open to both options."
"I'll be okay. There's nothing I want to do quickly with you. I need a big bed and hours in order to satisfy us both."
"Ooo-kay," I all but sighed, "we'll head out and then regroup later on … as much as I hate to leave you hanging."
"Hanging would be a more comfortable feeling than this one, but I've dealt with worse. I just want you and Edna settled in a secure home. Everything else can come later."
"I hope so," I teased.
"Wear anything in that bag," he said, nodding to the beach bag near my feet, "and I guarantee you will. A few times by the time I'm finished."
"I'll hold you to that," I said against his ear. "But before the fun and games can happen, you need to work and I have to get Grandma tucked in early in case everything finally works out and we get a whole night together. I swear, one call saying you're on your way back ... and I'll be ready every way it's possible to be."
"I'll be making that call, so please get your Grandma good and exhausted while I'm gone."
"Yes, Sir. That was my goal before you said anything."
He tried not to grin at me as he grabbed my bags. He added Grandma's as he moved through my apartment. I got Rex's aquarium and then the three of us followed Batman out of my crappy place for what I'm guessing will be for the final time.
"I don't believe this," Grandma said twenty minutes later, looking around the brand new, comfortable, and magazine-ready place. "If this were my home, I'd never leave it."
"It is your home, but you're required to let my people know whenever you do leave," Ranger told her, when I hadn't been sure what to say.
"I can do that," Grandma was saying. "Do I get your number?"
"Stephanie has it. Just let her know, and she can inform the control room."
"Will do," Grandma answered, far more confident than I ever was with someone else calling my shots.
"Are you sure about this, Grandma?" I had to ask.
"Darn tootin' I am. You get to shack up with sweet cheeks, and I get my own space while still being in your business."
"The set-up is pretty cool," I told her. "If I could smuggle in Mary Lou, all my favorite people would be under this roof."
"You just take care of Rex and Ranger," my grandmother told me, a gleam that had me worried me entering her light blue eyes. "I'll be more than okay. I can't wait to rub my daughter's nose in the fact that we both made it out of that Burg."
I'd be happy about that right along with her, but all I want to think about is falling asleep with Ranger's arms still wrapped tight around me. Thoughts of how to counteract my mother's reaction to this move will have to wait.