Disclaimer: The Characters of the Stephanie Plum series belong to Janet Evanovich. The world of Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling. Both are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
NOTE: This is a follow-up to my story "Explosive Discovery" which can be found at .
Ranger stepped into the dim apartment and sighed in relief. Missions were taking more out of him each go. As much as he hated to admit it, as his age continued to increase, his energy reserves decreased. Most people his age failed to realize this change, but, given his training and experience, he could tell the difference.
Moving further into the apartment, he noted a flickering light in the living room area.
When Stephanie had started working on her magic, Maxwell Honeysuckle, the magic school recruiter/wizard identifier, had mentioned the need for a fireplace to make transportation between the school and the apartment easier and faster. After commissioning that change, Ranger had added a few others to the apartment on seven as well. As the architect began working on the changes, Ranger began working on his relationship with Stephanie. When the work on the seventh floor finished, Ranger and Stephanie were ready to move in together.
Since that day, his life had taken many interesting twists and turns. He regretted none of them.
Having come from such a magical family, Ranger originally feared some of the same problems he experienced with his siblings. A smile curved his mouth. He should have known Stephanie would be different. Though amazingly adept at magic, quickly learning the basics and progressing to more advanced and levels, she didn't use it very much. Though she could conjure a cup of coffee, she still took the time to go to the coffee maker and make it by hand. With her gypsy heritage mixed in with her wizarding skills, she could see the future, bless, curse and much more at a level few wizards ever attained. Instead she woke up each day with no more clue about what would happen than anyone else.
After discovering Ranger now had a fireplace in his apartment, his Grandma Rosa came to visit. While his whole family had met Stephanie, only Grandma Rosa knew of Stepahnie's being a wizard. More excited by the fact Ranger and Stephanie were together than Stephanie's unusual brand of magic, Rosa had become a welcome visitor.
Both Stephanie and he had been truly touched when Grandma Rosa stopped by and presented them with all of her old magic books as well as old journals and family photo albums. He could still imagine the wide-eyed wonder with which Stephanie had viewed the moving photographs.
Of course, all those happy memories would be pushed aside for an evening while he spent time with his babe. The only good part of going 'in the wind' anymore was Stephanie's welcome home. She never disappointed.
As he stepped into the living room, he spotted Stephanie sitting on the couch, leaning forward, looking at something on the coffee table. The contrast of her pale skin and the red diaphanous scrap of material she wore quickly caught his attention. He didn't get more than another step toward her before Stephanie sat up, turned toward him and sprang from her position, launching herself at him.
Fortunately, Ranger had sustained no injuries this time around and managed to catch his flying vixen. After several minutes, they broke their kiss, both of them panting and wanting more.
After a moment of staring into her azure colored eyes, Ranger reclaimed Stephanie's lips and started moving them toward the bedroom.
Late the next morning, Ranger stretched as he walked out of the bedroom. He listened to the water running in the shower and knew he would just about have time to make coffee before Stephanie joined him for breakfast.
After starting the coffee, he turned and spotted a fairly large piece of paper spread across the coffee table. He recalled Stephanie had been bent over it the previous night as if watching something. Heading into the living room, he took a seat on the couch and shifted the paper.
Ranger quickly identified the markings on the paper as a general outline of each floor of the Rangeman building. He noted the various rooms were labeled, but what struck him as odd were the names appearing on each floor. Even stranger were the tiny footprints that appeared next to the names as they moved across the page.
He vaguely noted that the movement on the paper reminded him of the moving pictures his family had, but he couldn't figure out why there were names moving instead of images.
Glancing up, he watched with a warm smile as a freshly showered Stephanie came out of the bedroom and made a beeline to the coffee maker. She didn't look anywhere else and quickly poured herself a cup of the black liquid. After preparing it the way she liked and taking a few sips, she looked around the room, smiling when she saw him.
As she moved across the living space to the couch, Ranger took the time to appreciate her movements. He really loved this woman.
"You've seen my map," she said, indicating the drawing on the table.
"I have," he agreed. "I also know it's each floor of the Rangeman building. But why are my men's names on it, not to mention ours, and why is it showing footprints when they move?"
Stephanie set aside her coffee and leaned back into the couch. Ranger followed her move and drew her close, wrapping an arm around her.
"Well," she admitted, not meeting his eyes as her fingers fiddled with the bottom of her shirt. "I was going through Grandma Rosa's old books and found instructions for making a map like this. I though, if I could figure out how to do it, I might be able to make one for Trenton and make it a lot easier to find our skips."
"That sounds like a good idea," Ranger encouraged, feeling a little queasy at the thought of relying on magic.
Stephanie's eyes flashed up to his for a second before once more locking on her fingers. "Well, Grandma Rosa stopped by and we talked about it. It turns out the last group who created a map like this were a group of students at a school called Hogwarts. They found references to the map and got in touch with Grandma Rosa to help them."
Though he always liked to hear his Babe's voice, Ranger found himself becoming impatient with her lengthy story. He knew, without a doubt, that Stephanie was stalling. When she remained silent for too long, he prompted, "And…"
A sigh escaped Stephanie. "Well, Trenton's just too big to do, but I really liked the idea so I kept it in mind. And then, one night, I got bored, so I started making the apartment. After that, I realized how much I hated the guys sneaking up on me when it was time to go to the range or the gym or something, so I started adding the other floors and added them in to it." She shrugged, slightly and finally met Ranger's eyes. "I hope you don't mind. No one else knows about it other than Grandma Rosa, and now you…"
Drawing her closer still, Ranger placed a kiss on her temple and held her. Though his own experience with magic and magical things had been less than positive, he knew he needed to encourage Stephanie with her skills. His eyes drifted toward the map once more. He really didn't need it since the whole building was monitored. All he needed to do to find out the present location of anyone in the building was ask. Still… if they lost power or someone broke in, Ranger would have a strategic advantage with the map… "I don't mind, Babe," he assured. "But all of the men here are non-magical and know nothing of the magical world. You need to be careful not to let them see this."
Stephanie turned her head and placed a quick, firm kiss on his lips. "No problem, Batman," she assured. "Remember those kids I told you about? Well, they passworded their map and I found out how to do the same. The password to get it to appear is different than what they used, but when I'm done with the map I just have to tell it, 'mischief managed'.".
Ranger chuckled slightly at the password and kissed his woman. "Babe."