Just Falling Part II

Chapter 30

After a morning of shopping and gossiping, Rayni and Barbara pulled into the station parking lot to meet Damien and Ray for lunch. 
"You go on ahead. I'm going to stop by the ladies room." Rayni waved Barbara on as she headed down the hall toward the restroom. Barbara walked through the lobby and into the bullpen. Stella rounded the corner and called out to her. 
"When did you get in? We really need to get together. Would you like to have lunch?"
 "I'm sorry dear. I'm meeting Ray and Damien for lunch."
 "I'm sure they won't mind if I come along."

"How's it going?" Rayni turned quickly and looked into the smiling face of Fraser. 
"Hey! I was going to call you last night, but it was late. Barbara and I went shopping." 
"I told you everything would be fine." 
"I know. I was just freaking out, I guess. We talked about Stella too." 
"Speaking of, look who's here. Doesn't she have her own freaking office somewhere?"
 "She's here for one of Detective Carson's cases."
 "I wonder what she's saying about me." Fraser looked in the direction of Stella as he leaned over and spoke quietly to Rayni. 
"She's trying to invite herself to lunch." 
"You can read lips?! Oh this is great. You've got to teach me to do that. What's Barbara saying?" 
"She told her there wasn't room in the car."
 "Hee-heh, choke on that, Stella. What else?"
 "Barbara is just making small talk now." Rayni looped her arm in his and looked up at him and smiled. 
"Have I lured you over to the dark side?"
 "Undoubtedly." Fraser chuckled as he escorted her across the bullpen and over to Barbara. 
"Look who I found wandering the halls." Rayni plastered a drippy sweet smile on her face as she held onto Fraser's arm. 
"Benton! It's so good to see you." Barbara hugged Fraser as Stella stood to the side of the group. 
"How are you Mrs. Kowalski. Rayni tells me you all had a lovely evening last night."
 "Fabulous. And Rayni and I have shopped the stores out. We've had such a good time." Rayni saw the look of sheer aggravation on Stella's face as Barbara reached out and took Rayni by the hand as she spoke. 
"Barbara, have you seen our men, yet?" 
"Not yet, dear. We better find them if we plan to eat." Barbara looped her arm in Fraser's and he escorted the two women over to Ray's desk. Barbara waved over her shoulder to Stella as they walked. 
"Bye dear, nice seeing you again." Fraser shared a wink with Rayni as she squeezed his arm in delight.

~~~~~ chapter 31

Ray placed the phone back on the hook and grinned to himself. 
"What's the look for?" Francesca leaned on the corner of his desk. Ray pushed away from his desk and stood. Walking over to the file cabinet, he shoved a stack of files inside. 
"Doesn't look like nothing. You look like the cat that ate the cannery." Ray looked at her and blinked slowly. 
"What? Never mind. I've got dinner plans that's all." 
"Who with?"
 "Me and my old man are going to get a hotdog. What's it to ya?"
 "Gee you're moody. Fraser needs to teach you some manners. I don't know how Rayni puts up with you." 
"Yeah well, she can't help herself." Francesca huffed in frustration and returned to her desk. Ray chuckled to himself as he grabbed another stack of files.

 Rayni sat at her desk and diligently plotted a map. Cara walked by and noted the odd look on Rayni's face. 
"Hey, what's wrong?" 
"What's wrong? You looked pissed." 
"I'm fine." Rayni tossed a plat on her desk and sighed. She wished everyone would just leave her alone. She didn't feel like talking about it. 
"That is not a look of a woman who's fine. What's the matter? You and Ray get in a fight?" Cara knew she had hit a nerve when Rayni glared at her. 
"Tell me what happened." Rayni rolled her chair over to her desk and threaded her fingers through the front of her hair as she rested her head in her hands.
 "Close the door." Cara grew concerned as she pulled the door to and took a seat across from her best friend. "Rayni, what happened?" Rayni took a deep breath and tried to swallow the sobs that were forming in her throat.
"I think Ray is seeing someone else." 
"Oh, that's crazy! He adores you." With her head still in her hands, Rayni shook her head. 
"He's been acting real odd lately. I haven't seen him in four days." 
"Well he's a cop. He's always been real busy." Rayni looked up slowly. Cara's heart went out to her friend as she watched the tears streak down her cheeks. 
"It's not that. He's been avoiding me. He's rushes me off the phone. Making up all these excuses for not being able to see me. It's another woman. I know it is. I'm not stupid. I see all the signs." 
"Have you talked to him?" 
"I've tried, but he always has some place he has to be or he's in a big
 "He could be telling the truth." 
"I don't think so. I can tell he's distracted. There's someone else."
 "What are you going to do?" 
"The only thing I can do. Find the bitch, beat her ass, then break up with Ray." 

~~~~ chapter 32

"What does she like, son?" 
I don't know. I don't just ask her, do I?" 
"No, no. I just didn't know if the two of you had talked about it before." Ray leaned over the jewelry counter and stared at the rings. He looked at all the different shapes and sizes. He rubbed his hand through his hair and bit his lower lip as he pressed his fingers against the glass. 
"I know who might know though?" 
"Her mom?" 
"Nah, her little gossip buddy." Ray grabbed his cell phone and dialed the number. 
"Canadian Consulate, Constable Turnbull speak……" 
"Hey Turnbull, where's Fraser?" 
"Ah, good evening, Detective. He's in his office." Silence hung on the line. Ray rolled his eyes and sighed. 
"Can I speak to him?" 
"Of course." The phone rang and Ray shifted from foot to foot as he impatiently stood at the counter. "Constable….." 
"Good evening Ray. What can I do for you this evening?"
 "You remember what we talked about yesterday?" 
"Yes Ray." 
"Well Me and Pop are here now. I don't know what type to get her. Has she said anything? You two talk like school girls." 
"That's not entirely true Ray. We are merely friends and like to share…." 
"Yeah, yeah, the salesman is gonna have me for loiterin' if you don't hurry."
"Of course. Well, she has mentioned she liked the square cut stones. With the length and thinness of her fingers, that would be very flattering on her." 
"You really are a girl. You know that don't you?" 
"Thanks Frase. You meetin' us later for dinner?" 
"I don't think I can. I've got to finish these reports. They're due in Ottawa at the beginning of the week."
 "Okay, see ya later buddy." Ray shoved his phone back in his coat pocket and smiled at his dad. 
"Can I see that one?" The salesman smiled and opened the case and retrieved the diamond. 
"This is a beautiful ring. It's one and a half carats. Notice the accent diamonds on the side. This really is a lovely ring." Ray held the ring in his fingers and watched the light sparkle off the stone. As casually as he could, he flipped the small price tag over. His father saw the look of panic flash across his face and decided he better jump in to help. 
"How big is this one?" 
"Three carats." 
"That's a little big son. I've heard your mom say once that if a ring's too big people think it's fake." Ray nodded his head and grinned. 
"Yeah, I uh….I heard Frannie say that once. Show me the same thing in about a one carat." 
"Certainly." The salesman smiled. He could tell by looking that this guy wasn't made of money, but he just wanted something nice to please his girl. 
"This is beautiful. It has two small stones on either side that make the total weight one and a half carats. You'll also notice, the price difference is quite drastic compared to the other one." The salesman winked at Ray and smiled. Ray grinned and held out his palm for the ring. 
"That's a real beaut' there." Ray traced the gold band with his finger as he looked at the diamond shimmering in the light. 
"This is the one." 
"Marvelous. What's her ring size?" 
"Damn, hang on." Ray fished his cell phone out of his pocket once again and hit redial. 
"Constable Turn…." 
"Yeah, hey, Fraser!" 
"Constable Fra…." 
"I need her ring size." 
"Ah, well, if I remember the size of her hand correctly as it is proportioned to her weight and height….I'd say a size 6." 
"You sure?" 
"Well, not really, but you can always have it sized." 
"Okay, thanks Frase. You sure you can't make it for dinner?"
 "Not tonight." 
"Okay, bye." 
"Bye Ray." Ray snapped the phone shut and smiled at his father. He then turned his attention to the salesman.
"Size 6." 
"That's great. This ring is a six. You can take it with you." Ray beamed at his father as the salesman took the ring to be cleaned and authenticated. 
"You still nervous son?" 
"Yeah a little. What if she doesn't say yes?"
 "When are you going to ask her?" 
"I'm not sure yet. Soon though. I just don't want to wait, you know." 
"I know. I asked your mother on our third date." 
"The third?! You never told me that." 
"You never asked. I knew I loved her the very minute I saw her. She was at the high school dance with nimrod. He wasn't paying her the attention she deserved. So while he was off smokin' with his buddies, I asked her ta dance." "Grandma and Grandpa let her get married after only three dates?" 
"Nah, we kept it to ourselves for a while. But we knew we were meant to be together." 
"Yeah well, I thought that about Stella." Damien saw the look of regret pass over his son's face. 
"You can't make someone love you. It has to work both ways."
 "What if it's not…." 
"Do you really think that son? Can't you feel the difference this time?" Ray tucked his head and smiled. 
"Yeah. I really love her pop. I can't stand to be away from her. And when Stella starts givin' her shit, I just want ta…." 
"There's the difference. There was a time when you thought Stella could do no wrong. Now, it seems Stella has lost her glow." 
"You could say that." Before Damien could go any further with his father son talk, the salesman returned with the ring. He placed the small black leather box on the counter next to a stack of papers.
 "This is the diamonds authenticity paperwork. Here is the maintenance record sheet. Your fiancée can come in and have the setting inspected at any time." Ray's heart skipped at the word 'fiancée'.

~~~~~~ chapter 33

Ray flopped down on the couch and kicked his boots off. It had been a busy week and he was exhausted. His parents left three days ago and he hadn't slowed down since. He leaned his head back on the couch and closed his eyes. He heard a soft knock at the door and wondered who it could be at this hour. Shuffling across the floor, he opened the door and smiled at his guest. His smile quickly faded when he saw the look on Rayni's face. 
"Hiya Doll." Ray leaned in to kiss her on the lips, but at the last moment she turned her head.
"What's wrong?" Ray could tell she was upset, but he didn't know why.
 "What's wrong?! You should know." *Oh shit. I hate it when she says that. * 
"I don't know. So you're gonna have to tell me." Rayni glared at him. Her heart was breaking and she was angry. 
"If you didn't want to see me anymore, just tell me! You don't have to make up excuses to avoid me!" Rayni's voice increased in volume as she paced around his small living room. Ray looked confused as she started to cry. 
"What are you talkin' about?! I love you." 
"Just tell me! You don't have to lie Ray! I've been through worse things. You of all people should know that." Ray could tell she was getting frantic. She was screaming and waving her arms at him. The tears flowed from her eyes and she almost to the point of sobbing. 
"Baby, please calm down. Tell me why you're so upset."
 "Don't act like you don't know! I know you're seeing someone else. I'm not an idiot!" 
"Who is she?!"
 "Have you lost your mind?!"
 "Don't screw with me Ray! You know how much I love you! I love you more than anything, but I won't share you with anyone! Who is it? Who's the whore you've been taking up so much of your time lately?!" Suddenly Ray understood. He chuckled softly, which only seemed to anger Rayni even more. He walked over to her and attempted to put his arms around her. Jerking away she glared at him 
"Answer me! I won't be played for a fool Ray!" 
"Will you shut up and listen! There ain't no one else!" 
"Then what have you been doing for the last week?!" 
"I can't tell you." Rayni grabbed her purse and stomped toward the door. Ray headed her off and grabbed her around the waist. 
"Let go!" 
"Not until you listen!" 
"Just let me leave! If you can't be honest with me, I can't be with you!" Ray was getting frustrated and Rayni was livid. He knew what he had to do. She would leave him right then, if he didn't convince her he loved her. 
"You're not leavin'! Not until you listen!" Ray picked her up and pushed her down onto the couch. She glared at him as he sank to his knees in front of her. 
"What?!" The venom in her voice was a little unnerving. He placed his hands on her knees while he licked his lips nervously. 
"I know I've been busy this week. Tuesday I couldn't come over because I had to make a long distance phone call to Florida." 
"You're Mom says 'hello', by the way." Rayni wiped at her eyes as she looked at him in confusion. 
"My mom?" 
"Then Wednesday me and Fraser went over to Mike's. I need some moral support on that one."
"Shhh, you wanted answers, so shut up and listen. Thursday I had another phone call to my folks in Arizona. That took forever. And well, Friday, I had to go help Fraser with some plumbing work at the Consulate. I told you that one. Remember?" 
"Yeah. Why are you…." 
"Listen remember?" Rayni sniffed the tears back and wiped her hand across her nose. Ray stood and kissed her on the forehead before walking down the hall to his bedroom. He returned with a small leather box tucked behind his back. He knelt in front of her again and smiled. 
"I'm sorry ya got all upset. But I had to do this right." Ray pulled the small box into view and Rayni took a sharp intake of breath. She looked into Ray's pale blue eyes and started to softly cry again. 
"Rayni, will you marry me?" Blinking through tears, she realized she was holding her breath. Unable to speak, she nodded slightly and leapt into his arms. 
"You have to answer me Doll. I think it's a requirement during somethin' like this." Rayni's muffled 'yes' may Ray laugh as he rubbed his hand down her back. 
"Are ya gonna quit cryin'?"
 "Is that a good thing." 
"Uh-huh. I'm sorry." 
"Yeah, don't' sweat it. At least I know you love me enough to fight." Ray lifted her head and kissed her on the cheek and then the forehead. He slipped the ring from its box and placed it on her finger. Ray kissed her gently as she softly cried.


Rayni sat in the middle of Ray's old couch and stared down at the ring on her finger. Her gaze then followed the man who just gave her the ring. He walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. He pulled a can of Coke from the shelf and poured a glass. He turned around and smiled at her. She sniffed and smiled in return. She felt like such a fool. She came in with both barrels blazing and for what? Nothing. He loved her. He wasn't with another woman. He was asking her family for permission to marry her. She watched as he moved through the small kitchen. The shape of his body and the leanness of his form caused her to absently lick her lips. She grinned at him again as he walked toward her and knelt down in front of her again. "Here, drink something. Have you calmed down yet?" She was so embarrassed. Embarrassed and ashamed of the way she acted. She was fully prepared to find out the woman's name, hunt her down like a dog and beat her senseless. Then Ray had to go and be so sweet. She hung her head and took the Coke from his hand. Still sniffling, she took a small sip. 
"I'm so sorry." 
"You were pissed."
 "I was beyond pissed." 
"I could tell. So you thought I was with another woman, huh?" Rayni sniffed again and nodded her head. 
"Good." Ray smiled at the confused look on her face. 
"At least you had the same reaction I'd have." 
"I'm not usually the jealous type." 
"Couldn't prove it by me." 
"Yeah well." Rayni sniffed again and stared back down at the ring on her hand. 
"You still want to call Mike?" She nodded and Ray handed her the cordless phone. The phone rang twice when Karen answered. 
"Hey, can I speak to Mike?"
 "Sure, hold on Rayni. He's in the garage with Josh." Rayni twisted the ring around on her finger and smiled as she heard Mike clatter to the phone. 
"Hey, what's up?" Rayni wasn't sure why, but she started to cry again. 
"Rayni?! What's wrong?! Are you alright?! Is Ray okay?" Rayni choked out the words as best she could. "He.....asked.....me...to..." Her sobs got in the way once again. 
"He what?! Why are you crying?!" Rayni laughed while she cried and then handed the phone to Ray.
 "Hey Mike." 
"What in the hell is wrong with her?"
 "I asked her to marry me." 
"Tonight? I thought you were going to wait a week or so." 
"Didn't work out that way. Hang on, I think she's calmed down enough ta talk to ya now." Ray handed the phone back to Rayni and laughed at the look on her face. She wiped her hand across her nose and laughed into the phone once again. 
"I guess you said yes." 

Ray sat on the end of the couch watching Rayni talk. This was going to be his wife. He smiled as she laughed in to the phone. He liked the way she laughed. She laughed with feeling. It just spilled from her mouth in a shower of giggles. He leaned back and rested his head against the back of the sofa and sighed. His mind wondered to what their life would be like once they were married. What would their kids look like? How many would they have? He smiled at the thought of her pregnant. Rayni caught him staring at her and reached out her hand to him. He threaded his fingers through hers and gently kissed the tips of each finger as she spoke on the phone. This was the best thing he had ever done. He was sure of it.


 Ray whistled to himself as he waited for Fraser. Rayni had left his place earlier that morning and returned to her apartment to shower and change for work. She had been on the phone for nearly two hours calling her parents and his parents. She wanted to call Fraser, but it was late and Ray knew he would already be asleep. Rayni made him promise they would pick her up for lunch so she could show Fraser her ring. Fraser walked briskly down the steps of his building. Dief trotted along in front of him and waited as Fraser opened the door to the Goat. 
"Morning Ray." 
"Mornin' Benton Buddy." Ray smiled over at his best friend as he pulled away from the curb. 
"You're in a chipper mood." 
"Yes I am."
"How is Rayni? I haven't seen her for the better part of the week." 
"We're havin' lunch with her today. She insisted on it." 
"Ah." Fraser smiled slightly. There must be good news on the horizon. Ray lightly tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as the radio played. The shrill of his cell phone broke him from his melody. Fraser couldn't help but smile at the large smile that spread across his friends face. 
"Kowalski!.....oh, hey doll.....yeah, I told him......" Ray looked over at Fraser and grinned before switching the phone to the other ear. He leaned toward the window as he talked low on the phone. 
"I know...I love you too.....yeah, sounds good.....me and you.......heehee.....yeah, okay.....I love you......uh-huh......really? Okay hold on." Fraser looked at him strangely as Ray thrust the phone at him. "Here." Fraser took the phone and smiled. 
"Hello, Rayni....yes, it is my understanding we are meeting you for lunch.....A surprise?......You won't tell me?.....I see, it's better if seen. I'll see you then.....Thank you kindly. You have a good day as well." Fraser snapped the phone shut and handed it back to Ray. 
"She's very hyper today." An evil smile spread across Ray's face as he nodded in agreement. 
"That she is, Frase." 

Rayni walked briskly down the hall and into her office. Shrugging off her coat, she hung it on the back of her door and looked at the ring on her hand once more. She wasn't sure why she had to keep looking at it. Maybe somewhere in her subconscious she was afraid it had all been a dream. Leaning her head out into the hall she smiled at her boss as he walked down the hall. 
"Good morning Rayni. Don't forget, staff meeting in five minutes." 
"Got it. I'm on my way." Rayni grabbed her planner and headed for the conference room. Taking a seat in her usual chair, she nonchalantly held her left hand in her lap. As the normal morning announcements were being made, Rayni could feel the smile creep across her face. Her boss turned to her as he did every week and asked if she had anything to add.
 "I just want everyone to be aware of a slight change in personnel. It's more of a name change than anything else." As everyone stared at her in confusion, she lifted her hand onto the table and then conspicuously brushed her hair from her eyes. As the men still looked confused the women in the office began to squeal. Cara nearly leapt across the conference table and grabbed Rayni's hand. 
"Oh my God!" 
"Look's like you'll all have to learn how to spell Kowalski pretty soon." Understanding started to slowly spread through the men. Rayni was borderline giddy as she showed off her engagement ring. This was going to be such a fun day.

Fraser held the door for Ray as the two of them walked into the reception area of the GIS department. Ellen smiled and waved as the two men walked the hall to Rayni's office. Ellen waited until they were out of earshot and then buzzed Rayni as she had been instructed. Rayni stuck her head out of her office and smiled at Ray as he walked toward her. Fraser followed closely behind. Ray shared a look with Rayni and started to chuckle. She had been dying to tell Fraser. They had become such good friends over the last couple months.


Fraser saw Rayni running full speed at him in just enough time to brace himself and catch her as she leapt in his arms. 
"Congratulate me! I'm going to be a wife!" Ray laughed at the expression on Fraser's face. It went from shock to joy in a matter of seconds. 
"Congratulations!" Fraser sat Rayni back on her feet and smiled as she immediately latched on to Ray. Ray rubbed his hand down her arm and kissed her on the cheek. 
"Uh-uh." Rayni's face grew dark and the two men looked at her with concern. Rayni looked at Ray and then nodded her head toward Fraser. 
"What's wrong, Doll?" 
"We've got a problem." 
"What's that?" 
"Who gets Fraser?" 
"I beg your pardon?" Fraser pulled at his collar as Rayni planted her hands on her hips. 
"Who gets Fraser? Me or you? I'll flip you for him." Ray dug into his pocket in an effort to retrieve a coin. Fraser was growing concerned. 
"Flip for me? What do you mean?! I really would like to know….." 
"Heads he's a groomsman, tails he's a bridesmaid. You call it." Ray tossed the coin in the air as Fraser looked on in horror. Before Ray could react, Fraser snatched the coin from the air and looked at Rayni with pleading eyes. "Surely you don't plan on flipping for me?!" Rayni held her side as she laughed. Ray slapped him on the back and knew he had been had. He leaned forward and whispered to Ray while Rayni wiped her eyes. 
"I'm going to be a groomsman, right?" 
"Yeah, buddy. I wouldn't have it any other way."

~~~~ Chapter 37

Ray waved at Rayni as he and Fraser pulled away from the curb. Fraser ran his thumb across his eyebrow and smiled over at his friend. 
"I'm happy for you Ray." Ray tapped his fingers on the steering wheel and smiled. 
"Thanks Frase. I'm happy too. I love her." 
"I know. And she loves you. You can see it in her eyes."
"Of course." Ray's face softened as a large smiled spread across his face. 
"I really want this to be special, you know? I want her to have the wedding of her dreams." 
"Have the two of you talked about what type of ceremony you would want?"
 "Nah, she's still excited that I had sense enough to buy her a ring." 
"Well it is something to be excited about." 
"Rayni Kowalski. Sounds nice, huh?" 
"Yes it does Ray."

Rayni exited the elevator and strolled down the hall back to her office. Ellen rounded the corner and motioned toward Rayni's office. 
"I left a message on your desk. Your mom's called twice." 
"Twice? My mom never calls me at work. Did she mention if there was a problem?" Ellen smiled as she sorted through a stack of files. 
"She mentioned something about finding a caterer." Rayni's face went from confusion to dread in a breath. As she walked into her office, she stared at the small pink slip of paper with her parent's home number in large red ink. "Dear God it's started." She grabbed the receiver and quickly dialed the number. Hoping by some slim chance her mother wouldn't be home, she waited patiently while the phone rang for the third time. 
"Mom, it's me."
 "Hi dear. I was in the back yard. Did you go out to lunch?"
 "Ray and Fraser took me. I wanted to show Fraser my ring."
 "Well, that's what I wanted to talk to you about dear. When can we get together?" 
"Get together? What for?" 
"To plan, silly. A wedding doesn't just happen, you know. We've got to plan it!" The drippy sweetness of her mom's voice made Rayni's head hurt. She cradled her forehead in her hand as she talked. 
"Mom, don't you think you're rushing things? I haven't had the ring for 24 hours yet. Ray and I haven't even talked about a date yet." 
"Well, things have to be done dear. You can't wait until the last minute. Have you thought about who will be in the wedding party? What about a caterer? I've heard fantastic things about Ellis'. We should really consider them." *We?! * 
"Mom, Ray and I will talk about all this tonight. I'm sure we're capable of……" Before Rayni could finish her thought, her mother interrupted. 
"Your father and I think you should come for a visit next weekend so we can get things sorted out." 
"What? You want us to fly to Florida?"
 "Surely Ray can get off work. I'll have the guest room all ready for him." *Guestroom?! * 
"I don't think….." 
"Just let me know what time your flight arrives dear and your father will be there to pick you up." 
"Oh dear, I've got to run dear, I'm late for my circle meeting. I'll talk to you on Sunday over at Mike's. Tell Karen not to tie up the phone this time. Bye dear. Love you." Before Rayni could protest, the line was disconnected. She dropped the receiver to her desk and sighed. 
"Well shit."

~~~~~~~~ chapter 38

By the time Rayni walked through her front door she had a splitting headache. She tossed her purse on the floor by the couch and started removing her work clothes as she walked back to her bedroom. She hit the button on the answering machine as she stepped out of her shoes. 
"Hey Doll, I'm gonna be a little late tonight. Me and Fraser's gotta work on the Martin case. Call my cell if you need me. I love ya. Bye." Rayni quickly discarded her panty hose and tossed them to the floor. Once the next message started, she sighed heavily and pulled her sweater over her head. 
"Hi dear, it's mom. I just wanted to remind you that your attendants need at least two months to try on and order dresses. I'll talk to you soon." Sliding out of her skirt, Rayni let it fall to the floor. As she unhooked her bra, she grabbed one of Ray's hockey jerseys from the closet. She pulled the jersey over her head and padded back down the hall into the living room. The thought quickly passed through her mind to put on a pair of sweatpants, but she dared anyone to stop by tonight. She flopped down on the couch and rested her head on the arm of it. Rayni sat in silence for a few minutes. The sound of the street below slowly crept into her thoughts and calmed her pounding head. After a few minutes she flipped on the television and surfed the stations. Before she realized it, two hours had passed. The sound of Ray's key in the door startled her. Before Ray could open the door all the way, Rayni called out to him. 
"Is Fraser with you?!" Ray stopped in mid motion and smiled. 
"Come on in." Ray walked through the door and saw the tired and stressed look in Rayni's face. 
"Hey, what's the matter?" 
"It's been a long day." 
"Somethin' happen at work?" 
"My mom called." Ray lifted Rayni's legs a sat down on the end of the couch. She sighed as he ran his fingertips over her bare legs. 
"Is that a bad thing?"
 "She's already started planning the wedding." 
"The wedding? Our wedding?" 
"She informed me that we should fly down next Thursday and stay the weekend so we can discuss our plans." 
"We don't have any plans, do we?" Rayni ran her hands through the side of her hair as she closed her eyes and sighed. 
"Not that I'm aware of." Ray could see the frustration in her face. The frustration that was solely her mother's doing. "Maybe we should get some plans. We gotta set a date some time." 
"How about next Wednesday?" Rayni laughed as Ray gave her his best puppy dog look. 
"I thought you wanted a big wedding." 
"WE need to decide what WE want. If not, my mom's going to run all over me." 
"I won't let her do that." Rayni leaned up and snuggled into his shoulder. 
"You think you can stop her?" 
"Sure, I can." 
"My big strong man." Ray chuckled as he slipped his arms around Rayni's waist. She buried her head in his neck and began to lightly kiss his shoulder. 
"Did you eat any dinner?" 
"No, I was waiting on you." 
"Well, let me grab a shower and I'll go pick up something." Ray stood and started walking down the hall toward the bathroom. Rayni smiled when she heard the sound of the shower. She slipped quietly down the hall and into the bathroom. She loved the fact that her apartment had a large tub. She shed his jersey and quietly pulled back the curtain. Ray was busy soaping his hair and didn't notice her small frame slip over the side of the tub. He jumped when her hand reached around his waist. She rubbed her fingers softly over his stomach and chest. He turned and tilted his head back under the shower before looking at her. A smoldering smile spread across his lips as she lathered the soap in her hands. He leaned in and kissed her as the water rolled down her back. Her breath caught in her throat as he kissed the side of her neck. His hands slid across her wet skin as he sucked at her earlobe. She sighed as he gently caressed her center. Guiding her, he turned her away from him. The water sprayed down both their backs as he entered her. The stress and frustration from the day had been washed away with each fluid motion. Water mingled with tears as Rayni released. This is what she had wanted. The love between them was what she had always wanted.


chapter 39

Rayni pulled up in front of the consulate and frowned as Fraser stood sentry duty. 
"The Dragon Lady must be in rare form lately." She switched off the ignition and waited for the clock to strike. Looking at her watch, she decided she had enough time to go inside and chat with Turnbull. Stepping up to the curb, she waved at Fraser as she passed. 
"I'm going to go speak to Turnbull for a second. Come inside and get me when you're ready." The silent figure stared straight ahead as she passed and walked up the steps and into the Consulate. Stepping through the large oak doors, the smell of lemon scented cleaner assaulted her senses. 
"Good Afternoon, Miss Mason!" 
"Good afternoon, Constable Turnbull. How are you?" Turnbull stood tall, as he spoke with Rayni. It always made her smile. 
"I'm quite well. Is Ray with you?" 
"No, he was tied up at the station. So he called me and asked if I could pick up Fraser." Before they could continue their conversation, Inspector Meg Thatcher rounded the corner with a stack of papers in her hand. 
"Turnbull! Once Fraser gets off....." Smiling brightly, Rayni extended her hand. 
"Inspector Thatcher? I'm Rayni Mason. Ray's fiancée." Meg's face softened as she greeted the woman she had heard her junior officers discussing on a few occasions. 
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Mason." 
"Call me Rayni. I've heard so much about you, it's nice to finally meet you." *She doesn't look so awful. I'm going to have to talk to Ray about how he talks about her. * 
"Please, call me Meg. What brings you to the Consulate?" 
"I'm here to pick up Fraser. Ray's going to be tied up for a while so I thought I'd make him take me to dinner. Why don't the two of you join us? It would be fun." Turnbull smiled graciously, as did Meg. * It would be nice to eat in a restaurant with actual people for a change. I'm sick of take out. But, it would be inappropriate for me to dine out with my junior officers. * Seeing Meg's apprehension, Rayni prodded. 
"I'd love to try that new place on Maple. I hear it's fantastic. Do you like Chinese food, Meg?" 
"I love Chinese."
 "Great! Once Fraser gets off duty, we'll call and put our names on the list."
 "I really appreciate the invitation, but I have hockey league tonight." Turnbull smiled sweetly at his superior officer. He secretly loved the idea of Fraser and the Inspector dining out together. 
"Hockey League? You play?" Rayni listened intently while Turnbull explained the joy of coaching a youth team in the finer points of hockey. Meg's mind began to wander as to what the three of them would talk about over dinner. Turnbull might not be a lot of things, but he was a conversationalist. Rayni heard the clock strike and turned at the sound of Fraser walking through the front doors. Before he could cross the threshold, Rayni called out to him.

"Do you have a change of clothes here?"
 "Jeans or a little better?" Fraser loved the way Rayni could just ask him anything. 
"Go get dressed for dinner. We're going to Liu's Hunan on Maple." 
"Will Ray be joining us?" 
"I'm not sure yet. I'll call him and see if he can meet us there." Meg offered her the phone and smiled to herself as Fraser disappeared down the hall and into his office. 
"Hey, can you get away?.......How long?.......Meet us at Liu's. Ask for the Fraser party and look for the two hot looking women sitting with him....." Meg laughed at Rayni as a smirk pulled at her lips. 
"Meg's going with us......Meg. Inspector Margaret Thatcher......Yeah, that Meg.......No Turnbull can't go. He's got hockey.....Okay, see you there, love you."

Meg frowned slightly as Rayni hung up the phone. 
"Maybe you two should just go." 
"Detective Kowalski and I are not what one would call....." 
"Buddies? Well, Ray's a poop sometimes, but I love him. Besides, I want to bounce some wedding ideas off you. You know the proper etiquette for these things don't you?" 
"For the most part, yes." 
"That's what I'm looking for. I'll call the restaurant."

Fraser emerged from his office in a pair of khaki pants Rayni had insisted he buy. She convinced him how nice they looked and that every man had to have at least one pair of khakis in their wardrobe. Smoothing the front of his navy sweater he stood and waited for Rayni to get off the phone. 
"Four for dinner please…….Fraser…..Six thirty…..Thank you kindly." Fraser cocked his head to the side and smiled at her use of language. But he was also confused. 
"Meg's coming. Ray's going to meet us there. You ready? Where's Dief?" Fraser tried to school his features and hoped Rayni hadn't seen the look of panic flash across his face. Quickly recovering his thoughts, he smiled at Rayni. "He's in my office pouting. I told him I'd pick him up here later to take him home." Rayni frowned and walked down the hall to Fraser's office. Opening the door, she found Dief pouting on the floor next to Fraser's desk. 
"I'll bring you some sesame chicken back. How's that?" Lolling his tongue to one side, Dief appeared to be smiling at Rayni. She laughed softly and smiled as she walked back down the hall where Fraser seemed to be nervously shifting from foot to foot. *What's this? * 
"Shall we go?"
 "Let's roll." Meg slipped her purse over her shoulder and walked behind Rayni. Fraser held the door for the two ladies and then escorted them to the street. Turnbull waved as the three of them drove off in Rayni's new lime green Volkswagen. 
"You need more room?" Rayni smiled at Fraser in the rearview mirror. 
"I'm fine. There is surprisingly more room back here than I imagined."
Rayni could tell Fraser was on edge and she could also tell it had something to do with the woman sitting in the passenger seat. 

Chapter 40

"So what about the bridesmaids? Do I have to buy their dresses? Please tell me I don't have to buy their dresses." Rayni took a bite of her sesame chicken while Meg answered her question. 
"No, you don't have to pay for them. But I would give them ample notice when picking out the dress. At least two months or more." 
"Yeah, that's what my mom said." Fraser chewed his egg roll and listened to the two women talk. Ray had yet to arrive and he could feel the knot forming in his stomach. *Why did Rayni ask her along? I hope she's not trying to set me up with her. * 
"Fraser, have you been in a wedding before?" Fraser swallowed as he nodded his head.
 "Two actually. One was a fellow Constable and the other was a Inuit friend. It was a lovely ceremony….." 
"This is long isn't it?" Rayni crinkled her nose at him. 
"Yes, very." 
"All I want to know is did you walk down the aisle with the bridesmaid or by yourself?" 
"Okay, thanks." Rayni gave him a sweet smile and he offered one of his own in return. She could tell something was bothering him but she couldn't put her finger on what it was. Lost in thought for a moment, she didn't see Ray walk in the door. 
"Hi Doll! Miss me?!" Ray leaned over and gave her a kiss before taking a seat. Rayni smiled brightly at him as he placed his order with the waiter. Meg envied the look on her face. She had the look of a woman in love. Rayni could tell that Fraser seemed relieved once Ray had arrived. Rayni chatted happily with Meg as Ray and Fraser talked about a case. Rayni noticed that Fraser was unusually quiet. She offered him a small smile; the smile he offered in returned seemed strained. * What's going on with you? * Fraser looked down at his plate and tried to eat in spite of the knot twisting away in his stomach.

~~~~ Chapter 41

Meg waved as she pulled away from the consulate in her car. Ray twirled his keys in his hand as the three friends stood on the sidewalk in front of the consulate.
"You ready Fraser?" Fraser nodded as he looked down at Dief, who seemed to be over his sulking about being left behind. 
"I'm taking him home." Ray and Fraser looked at Rayni in surprise. 
"You and I need to talk." Ray shook his head and looked at the ground. 
"Good luck, buddy." Fraser looked at his boots and rubbed his thumb across his forehead. The one thing he like the most about Rayni, and the least was how comfortable she was talking to him. 
"I'll see you at home sweetie. Love you." 
"Love you. Later Frase." 
"Good night Ray."

Rayni opened her door and waited for Dief and Fraser to get in the car. She settled into the driver seat and pulled into traffic behind Ray. Fraser sat rigid as she drove in silence for the first few blocks. He knew it was coming. He knew what she would say. He knew he didn't have a chance. 
"Spill it." 
"I beg your pardon?" 
"Tell me what was going on tonight." 
"I don't….."
 "Don't lie to me. Does Meg bother you?" Fraser could feel the sweat on his hands. Rayni looked at him and gave him a concerned stare. Ray looked in his rearview mirror and shook his head at the two figures sitting in the car behind him. 
"You might as well tell her what she wants to know or else she'll beat it out of ya."

Rayni turned down a side street and waited on Fraser to start talking. Dief whined from the back seat as he put his head on his paws. Rayni sighed as she stopped at the light. 
"You haven't answered me." 
"No, Meg does not bother me." 
"Has something happened between you two?" 
"Stop it. Just tell me. You've been a bundle of nerves ever since we left for the restaurant and I want to know why. Did I do something?" 
"No, well….no." 
"What was the 'well' for? Did it bother you that I invited Meg to dinner?" Fraser sighed and looked out the window. 
"Fraser? Tell me what's going on." Rayni reached out and placed her hand on his arm. He closed his eyes and tried to maintain his composure. He wanted to scream and he could tell Rayni knew it. 
"Go ahead. Just tell me. You don't have to be all buttoned up and proper with me." That seemed to be the one thing he needed to hear. Fraser opened his eyes and looked directly at her. 
"Pull over." Rayni pulled to the curb and turned to face him. She could tell by the set of his jaw that he had something very important to say. 
"Meg and I have had….well, contact." 
"What the hell does that mean? You've slept with her?!" 
"Good Lord no!" 
"Then what?!" 
"I kissed her." 
"Okay. So?" 
"So, I think she feels more about it than I do. She says that the incident is forgotten and I should forget it as well. Which I have, however I don't think she has done the same and when you invited her to dinner I assumed you were making an effort to bring the two of us together in some way. I really would prefer that you not do that. I don't like it when my friends try to force people on me." With a sigh, Fraser sat and waited on Rayni's response. 
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. But I didn't know. I can see that she is fond of you. It's obvious. I never meant to give you the impression that I was playing matchmaker. I was just being polite and I wanted to ask her some things. That's all really." 
"I'm sorry to be so snappish. Please forgive me." 
"Oh give it a rest Fraser. You're too friggin' polite." 
"Oh dear." 
"What?" Rayni saw a flicker of a smile cross his face. 
"You sound like Ray. He's been a bad influence on you." The two of them laughed softly. Rayni could tell that Fraser was much more relaxed. 
"I won't try to set you up Ben. I know that makes you uncomfortable. I just want to see you happy. You're too sweet not to share." Fraser smiled and looked down at his lap. 
"There is someone I've been noticing lately." He couldn't believe he was telling her this. 
"I haven't the slightest idea." 
"Where have you seen her?" 
"She works in the building across from the consulate. She walks to and from lunch everyday."
"Have you talked to her?" 
"What have you done?" 
"Nothing actually. I've only seen her while I was on duty and when I was returning from lunch on occasion."
 "Have you shared a look or anything?" 
"Shared a look?" 
"You know. Eye contact. Have you given her a flash of those baby blues?" Fraser lowered his head and rubbed his hands over his knees. 
"You whore." Rayni grinned as Fraser looked up in shock. His wide-eyed look turned to amusement once Rayni started laughing. 
"Why don't you say hello to her the next time you see her on the street? The worst thing she can do is tell you to get lost." Fraser sighed and licked at his lower lip. His mind was contemplating what Rayni was saying. What if he did talk to her? What could it hurt?

~~~~~~ Chapter 42

Rayni pulled another pair of jeans from the dresser and shoved them into her suitcase. 
"You're packing more jeans?! We're only going to be gone four days. Why the hell ya gotta pack so much shit?" Ray flopped down on the bed beside her opened suitcase. 
"It's not shit. It's stuff I might need."
 "We're only going to Florida to visit your folks. Why do ya need the dresses?"
 "You might want to take me out dancing." 
"Four pairs of shoes?" 
"The sandals match this outfit. I might need the tennis shoes if we go shopping. Got to have the dress shoes if we go out and I want the boots for the plane." Ray rested his head on the bed and sighed. 
"You're a freak." 
"Yeah, yeah. Bite me."
 "What time is our flight in the morning?"
"You've asked me that four times already." Ray's muffled 'sorry' made Rayni smile. He looked adorable with his head resting in the crook of his arm as he stretched out across the bed on his stomach. Her heart went out to him. She knew he wasn't fond of flying. He had flown a few times before, but he would rather keep both feet on the ground. She looked at the clock and nudged him in the side. 
"Hey, have you packed everything yet?"
 "Yeah, my bag's already in the car."
 "What time are you and Fraser picking me up?" 
"Around seven." 
"Are you sure you're going to be okay?" 
"No. Why can't we drive?" 
"It's too far."
 "Why can't we just stay home?"
 "I want to get this over with. Besides, you haven't seen where the folks live." Ray rolled over to his back and stared up at the ceiling. Rayni folded a pair of socks and tucked them inside her boots. 
"Where exactly do they live?" 
"Oviedo. It's near Orlando. They've got a condo in Del Boca Vista Estates."
 "Sounds great." Ray's sarcasm made her smile. Her heart went out to him. She didn't want to visit her parents anymore than he did.

~~~~ Chapter 43

Fraser sat next to Rayni as Ray paced back and forth in front of the airport coffee stand. 
"Please calm down." Rayni wanted to weep for him. The stress was evident on his face. He hated to fly. Fraser stood and stepped into Ray's path. 
"Why don't you sit down for a moment?" 
"Nah, I'm fine. I don't wanna sit down." 
"Ray, sit." Ray stopped in his tracks and looked at the tall Mountie. Rayni had never seen Fraser order Ray to do anything. Ray slumped in one of the hard metal chairs next to Rayni. Fraser took a seat in front of him. 
"Perhaps you should take the pill the doctor gave Rayni." 
"I don't need it. I'm fine." Rayni was just about to voice her opinion when Fraser gave her a warning look. Rayni sat quietly while Fraser continued to talk to Ray in an even and calming tone. 
"It's merely Valium. It will simply calm your nerves and help you relax during the flight." 
"I hate pills." 
"More than you hate flying?" Ray stiffened. Fraser had him. Ray lowered his head and took a deep breath. His palms were already sweating and the knot in his stomach seemed to be growing with every passing minute. 
"Fine." Fraser looked at Rayni for the small bottle of pills the doctor had given to Ray. Rayni stood and quickly ordered a water from the coffee stand. Handing the bottle to Ray she rubbed the back of his neck as he swallowed the pill. 
"How long before it starts working?" 
"You'll be fine by take off." Before the sentence was completely out of Fraser's mouth a crack of thunder rumbled through the airport. 
"Jesus Christ!" 
"Oh dear." 
"Ray, calm down!" Rayni could see the fear in his eyes as lightning flashed once more. The rain had started to pour and Ray looked from Rayni's face to Fraser's for support. 
"I can't fly in this." 
"You'll be fine. Just calm down, baby." Rayni started rubbing his hand in hers as he stood to pace some more. Fraser's normally stoic face was now furrowed in concern for his friend.

 ~~~~~ Chapter 44

Rayni helped Ray put the carry-on bags in the overhead compartment and then took her seat next to the window. Ray wanted the aisle and she was happy to give it to him. She was thankful now that she had upgraded their tickets to business class. She knew Ray would be more comfortable that way. Rayni watched with concern as Ray nervously strapped himself into the seatbelt. *When's that damn Valium going to kick in? * As the flight attendant went over the safety procedures, Ray could feel his hands starting to sweat. Ray's eyes were fixed on the flight attendant as she spoke. He was taking in every word. When she finished her presentation, Ray gripped the arms of his seat. They would be taking off soon. Rayni tried to take his mind off things by asking him questions about the wedding. He just nodded and focused on breathing. *Maybe if I hold my breath I'll pass out. Passing out would be good. * Ray looked at Rayni and then to the seats across the aisle. Rayni smiled at the two women seated next to them. One looked as frightened as Ray. The brunette seemed to be the calmer of the two. The redhead was on the verge of tears as the flight attendants checked to make sure everyone had their seatbelts fastened. Rayni leaned past Ray and smiled. 
"First time flying?" 
"No, she just hates to fly." Ray looked over at the redhead and smiled. 
"Smart woman." "I'm Mary Beth. This is Denise."
 "I'm Rayni and this is my fiancée Ray. We're waiting on his pill to kick in. If it doesn't start to take effect soon, I may have to kick him in the head." Denise looked at Mary Beth with all the seriousness in the world.
 "Why don't you just go ahead and kick me in the head? I won't get mad or anything. Just knock me out long enough to get this tin can in the air." 
"You'll be fine. It's not a long flight. Here, hold my hand." Mary Beth winced in pain as Denise clamped down on her hand. Rayni made a mental note not to offer Ray her own hand unless absolutely necessary. The engines roared as the plane gathered enough speed to take off. Rain streamed across the windows as the plane took flight. Ray licked his lips and held his breath until the plane finally leveled off. Denise still had her eyes closed when the seatbelt sign was lifted. 
"You're fine Ray. The flight will be over in about three hours."
 "I hate this." 
"I know." 
"I hate this a lot." 
"I know that too. You don't know how much it means to me for you to come with me." 
"I'll always be with you. I just don't have to like how we get there." Ray managed a small smile for Rayni and then an empathetic look for Denise. It was going to be a long three hours.

~~~ Chapter 45

Rayni held tightly to Ray's hand as they walked down the concourse. The Valium had done its job well. Ray was completely relaxed. 
"Where's baggage, Doll?" 
"To the left." Rayni pulled on Ray's arm and smiled.
 "Your other left." 
"Got it. Where's your folks?" 
"I told them I was renting a car and driving out to the condo. I didn't want to get trapped. This way we can go sightseeing on our own if we want." 
"That's why I love you. You're smart." 
"You're stoned." 
"More than likely." The two of them gathered their luggage and headed to the rental car counter. Ray sat quietly while Rayni retrieved the car from the lot. Ray smiled brightly when she pulled up in a bright red convertible Camero. 
"Hot car." Rayni placed her sunglasses on her face and grinned.
"Hot car for a hot woman." Ray chuckled as he lifted the bags into the back seat. 
"Damn straight." He slid into the seat and gave her a quick kiss.
 "Come on, let's get going. Mom said they would take us out to lunch." 
"Good I'm starving."
 "Me too. Call Fraser and let him know we're here." Rayni tossed her cell phone into Ray's lap. 
"Sure thing, Hot girl." 
"Hot girl?" Ray's crooked grin made her laugh. The Valium was still making him loopy. 

~~~~~~~ Chapter 46

"Rayni!" Eleanor greeted her daughter with open arms. Rayni hugged her mother and then moved on to kiss her father. 
"How was the flight? Did Ray do alright?" Ray smiled sheepishly as Rayni explained he was still a little medicated and needed to lie down awhile. 
"Bless his heart. I'm not fond of flying either. His room's all ready. Right down the hall dear." Eleanor took Ray by the arm and led him to the guestroom. Rayni had already informed him that it wasn't even an option when it came to them sharing a room in her parent's house. Rayni followed Ray and her mother down the hall and into the guestroom. "You get some rest. I'll wake you up in a little while, okay?" Ray nodded and smiled down at Rayni. 
"If you need anything, you let us know dear." That was Rayni's cue to get out of the room. Eleanor followed her back to the living room. 
"Well, let me see that ring!" Paul reached for her hand and grinned down at her. 
"It's beautiful, isn't dad?" 
"It sure is. Have the two of you decided on a date?" 
"Not yet. We're still talking about what we want." Eleanor poured the three of them something to drink and carried the glasses into the kitchen. 
"How about June? June is a perfect month to get married." Rayni tried not to roll her eyes.
 "Mom, that's too far away. It's January. I don't want to wait six months." 
"But it takes time to plan things dear. You've got to get a caterer and a photographer. What about a florist? I hate that I'm so far away. It's so hard to plan things out of state." Rayni's eyes widened and looked at her father for support. 
"Plan things? Mom, Ray and I are planning the wedding." Eleanor smiled slightly. 
"Oh of course dear. I'm just going to help you." 
"Mom, let's get some things straight now before we have a problem."
 "What kind of problem would we have?"
 "Oh gee, I don't know. Maybe the problem with you trying to plan our wedding. Ray and I are capable of planning a wedding. We don't want anything extravagant. Just a simple ceremony with family and friends. Nothing over the top."
 "I've started making a guest list." Rayni could feel the headache forming behind her eyes. Her father just grinned at her and shook his head. Eleanor padded quietly down the hall and into their bedroom. 
"Why is she doing this?"
 "You are her only daughter. Mike's wedding was planned by Karen and her mother and Ellie felt left out." 
"But, I don't want…." 
"Just hear her out. She has some really nice ideas. Besides, we're going to pay for it." 
"Dad, Ray and I are going….." 
"Now don't get all wound up. We paid for Mike's honeymoon and the down payment on the house. So we thought we'd do the same for you." 
"Ray's planning the honeymoon." 
"I figured that. So we thought we'd offer to pay for most of the wedding." 
"But dad….." 
"Don't but me. You're our baby girl and you deserve the wedding you've always wanted." 
"I'm just afraid it will be the wedding Mom always wanted." Paul laughed as Rayni rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Don't worry, I've already talked to her." 
"You sure can't tell it." Eleanor emerged from the back of the condo with a legal pad in her hands. 
"Here dear. This is what I've come up with so far." Rayni's mouth grew dry as she looked at all the names her mother had written down. 
"Mom! There's at least a hundred people here! What part of small wedding am I not getting through?!" 
"Don't get smart. It's mostly family. See." 
"Who's Aunt Margie?" 
"That's my aunt on your Grandma's side." 
"Mom, I have no idea who half these people are. We can't invite this many people."
 "Sure we can." 
"No mom we can't. Ray and I will make out the guest list mom. That's nonnegotiable." Eleanor's brow furrowed and was about to start in on her when Paul gave her a stern look. On more than one occasion, he had warned Eleanor about trying to bully Rayni into something she didn't want.
"Fine. It's your wedding." Rayni knew it nearly killed her mother to say those words. She hoped her mother really meant them.

~~~~~ Chapter 47

After a two-hour nap, Ray was glad the bedroom he had been assigned had its own bathroom. The hot water trailing down his back made him feel refreshed after that lousy plane ride. He hoped Rayni would be in a good mood. Maybe the two of them could sneak away for dinner. Not a chance. Her mom would be all over them all weekend. Ray stepped out of the shower and toweled off. Pulling on his favorite pair of jeans and a well-worn green T-shirt. He was ready to face his future in-laws.

Rayni sat on the end of the couch with her legs tucked under her. Her mother was busying herself in the kitchen and Paul was no where to be found.
"Hey Doll." Rayni looked up from the bridal magazine her mother had bought her and smiled. 
"Hey handsome. Did the nap do you good?"
 "Yeah. I feel much better now. So what's being going on with you? Everything okay?" Rayni sighed and nodded toward the kitchen. 
"Uh, fine." She mouthed the words, 'I'll tell you later' and then took him by the hand. She stood up and led him to the kitchen. 
"Mom, I'm going to take Ray around town. We'll be back in a few hours." 
"That's lovely dear. Could you pick up some steak sauce while you're out? Your Dad's going to grill out steaks for supper."
 "Yes ma'am. I've got my phone if you need us." 
"Have a good time."

Ray slid into the passenger seat of the rental car and remained quiet as Rayni maneuvered out of the driveway. Once they had left the gates of Del Boca Vistas, Rayni unleashed a primal scream that jolted Ray toward the passenger door. 
"Jesus! Ya feel better now?!" 
"Much, thank you." 
"What the hell happened while I was sleepin'?"
 "Well, let's see. My mother gave me the guest list for our wedding. Only 115 people I don't even know. Then she informed me that she and dad were going to pay for the wedding. Translation: My money, my way. To which I responded that we didn't need her money. We had already planned on paying on the wedding ourselves. Then Dad had to play peace maker and remind mom that it was our wedding and that he would pay for it regardless of how things were done." Ray opened his mouth to speak but thought better of it. Rayni's knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel and he wasn't entirely sure she knew where she was going. 
"Then she wanted to know the color scheme I had chosen. Of course I told her tartan plaid just to piss her off. Mission accomplished. Then she told me I was acting like a baby and I told her that's how I was being treated. God knows how Dad slipped out unnoticed." 
"Smart man."
 "Yeah, no shit. Then she wanted to know what church we were getting married in. I told her I wasn't entirely sure we were getting married in a church. That went over like a lead balloon. She asked me if you were a heathen! Can you believe that?!" 
"What'd ya tell her?" 
"I told her no! You may act like one some times, but…."
 "But I'm not practicing." Ray offered with a smile. 
"Bite me." 
"Where?" Ray leaned over the middle console and started to kiss her neck. 
"Stop it. I'm trying to drive." 
"So pull over." 
"We're not there yet." 
"You mean we actually have a destination?" 
"Yep. So cool it. I'm mad and I want to stay that way for a while longer." 
"Well let me know when you're done." 
"I will. There. We're here." Ray grinned as a Baskin Robbins pulled into view. Rayni parked the car and the two of them walked in the cool air of the 31 flavors. 
"Two scoops of Strawberry Cheesecake in a waffle cone. What are you going to have?"
 "Can't I share yours?" 
"Nothing doing. Get your own." 
"You are pissed. Two scoops peanut butter chocolate in a waffle cone. Thanks." Rayni closed her eyes and sighed as she took a large lick of her ice cream. 
"Is this going to spoil our dinner?" 
"No, that's what I'm here for. I'm sure mom will pick another fight over our steaks." 
"Not if I can help it." 
"What's that mean?" Ray took a bite of his cone and licked the corner of his mouth. 
"It means I ain't havin' your mom piss you off all the time. It's our wedding and I'm going to explain that to her." "Good luck." 
"Hey, trade licks?" 
"Later hot stuff." Ray blushed as Rayni shoved her cone toward his face. 
"Yep, that's why I love you."

~~~~ Chapter 48

Fraser stood sentry duty in front of the Canadian Consulate. He had served four hours of his eight-hour duty. His backed ached, his mouth was dry and he could feel the sweat dripping off the back of his knees. It was days like this when he hated being hot natured. Fraser stared straight ahead and let his mind slip into thought. He was perfectly still as the tourists posed for pictures. The school tour that walked by and stared at him was a little unnerving, but he remained motionless. Then came the flock of pigeons. This was more than he thought he could bear. The thought of the spectacle he made standing rigidly straight while a pigeon perched itself on top of his Stetson was nothing more than an abomination. He could see the other birds pecking at his feet, but the one on his hat was becoming a worry. Just when he thought the sight of himself couldn't be worse, it happened. Out of his peripheral vision he saw the unmistakable white substance drain down the shoulder of his red serge. *Oh dear! * This was just too much. He had been pooped on. As humiliation crept across his emotionless face, he quickly dismissed it and returned to his statuesque persona. Then he heard it. The now familiar sound of her heels was making its way down the sidewalk. Just as she had for the past three months, the woman that worked at the office building across the street was returning from lunch. Her high heels clicked on the pavement as she swung her purse in her hand. Her long shapely legs carried her near perfect form down the sidewalk. Her long black hair fell loosely across her shoulders as she closed the distance between them. Fraser could feel his throat tighten. It was one thing to appear as a disgrace in public, but to appear in public as a disgrace in front of this woman was unacceptable. As she approached, he swallowed and felt a drop of sweat trail down the side of his neck. He had watched her everyday for three months and she had never done more than offer him a polite smile. Staring straight ahead, his mind was willing her not to look his way. * Please cross the street. Please go into your building. Please don't look this way.* The sound of her stride grew louder as she approached. His fears were realized as she walked past him and stopped. She turned and looked in disgust at the bird dropping on the shoulder of his otherwise pristine uniform. *Oh dear. Please no. Why me? How horrifying! * Fraser's eyes remained focused on an unseen object across the street. She looked up at his face and then back down at his uniform. Turning she strode quickly across the street and into the office building in which she worked. *Thank God. * Fraser felt the sweat pooling at his waistband at his lower back. The heat was miserable, but he at least was free from any further embarrassment. He allowed himself a slow calming breath. Just as he was about to inhale once again, the woman appeared once again through the doorway of her office building. She once again crossed the street and stood directly in front of him. His training would not allow him to visibly force down the knot that had formed in his throat. The woman smiled and looked up at the handsome Mountie. 
"Bad day, huh?"  *You have no idea. * Without another word she took a damp cloth and began wiping the disgusting mess from his tunic. * Oh dear! * Satisfied she had done all she could she wiped her hand over the damp serge and looked again at his face. 
"I hope the rest of the afternoon is better. If you're still here at five, I'd like to buy you a snow cone." *Snow cone? * 
"My name's Neely by the way." She smiled and crossed the street once more and disappeared into the building. A slight smile danced across his eyes as his mind now raced with thoughts of the woman that would like to buy him a snow cone.


Chapter 49

"Ray dear, what would you like to drink?" 
"Iced tea is fine, thank you." Eleanor flitted around the kitchen and prepared drinks for everyone. Rayni smiled at how her mother was practically falling all over Ray. Ray seemed a little uncomfortable about the whole thing. He wasn't used to being fussed over by anyone but his own mother and Rayni. 
"Do you like onions in the salad dear?" 
"Yes ma'am." Ray took a drink of his tea and made his way out to the patio to help Paul with the steaks. Paul wiped his forearm across his forehead and looked over at Ray. 
"Don't worry son. You'll survive." 
"I'm not so sure about that." 
"I'll talk to Ellie tonight so you won't have to. She's just excited about the wedding."
 "Rayni's about to blow." 
"I can imagine. Poor Karen nearly ran for the hills during the planning of her wedding to Mike. Ellie kept calling with advice. Drove Mike crazy." 
"I don't like to see Rayni upset. I want this to be special for her." Paul looked over at his future son-in-law and smiled. 
"It will be."

Rayni sliced the tomatoes and onion for the salad in relative silence. She knew that if she opened her mouth she and her mother would end up in a huge argument before dinner. She prayed her mother would have the good sense to know she just didn't want to talk about the wedding. 
"So have you thought about who your attendants will be?" *Dammit! *
 "Not yet, but I have an idea." Rayni concentrated on dicing the onions in a hope her mother wouldn't continue. "Well you have to ask your cousin Jennifer." 
"No I don't. I never talk to Jennifer." 
"But she's your only female cousin on your dad's side. You have to ask her to be in your wedding." Rayni slammed the knife down on the edge of the counter. Ray looked through the door to see if Rayni was all right. 
"I do not have to ask her to be in the wedding! When are you going to understand that this is my wedding and I will decide whom will take part in it? I'm warning you mom…." Rayni took a deep breath and Paul knew it had already hit the fan. Ray was making his way into the kitchen to be with Rayni.
 "….if you don't stop trying to run everything, Ray and I will elope." 
"I'm not….." 
"Mrs. Mason, please just let us plan our own wedding. This is supposed to be fun for Rayni and you've managed to make it a burden." Eleanor looked on in shock as Ray reached out to Rayni. She had tears streaming down her face and held his arm tightly.
"I'm just trying to help. Why won't you let me help?" Paul stepped between his wife and his daughter once again as peacemaker. 
"Ellie, you're not helping. You're bossing. That's all you ever do when it comes to Rayni. You think you know what she wants. But you don't El, Rayni is a grown woman. Let her plan her own wedding. I'm sure she'll keep you informed of everything so you can be part of things. Right sunshine?" Rayni nodded her head. Ray had his arm protectively around her shoulders and Eleanor could see he was livid. 
"I guess I'm not needed for anything then." 
"That's not true, mom. You're just not needed to run everything." 
"So what will you need me for?" 
"Lot's of things. If you'll stop acting like a tyrant."
 "A tyrant?!" Paul nodded and walked over to Rayni. 
"Why don't you tell us your ideas for the wedding over dinner? That's what I'd like to hear." Ray smiled and kissed Rayni on the temple. * Thank God. * 
"You mean it dad?" Rayni looked from her father to her mother's face. Eleanor nodded her head and gathered the trays she was preparing. 
"Well, we better start eating before it all gets cold." Rayni looked up at Ray as he brushed the tears from her cheek. 
"Nice effect don't you think?"
 "Bite me." 
"Later, doll. Later."

~~~~~ Chapter 50

Fraser pulled his white Henley over his head and checked his reflection in the small mirror in his office. His thoughts were still on the woman who had offered to buy him a snow cone. He laced up his boots and left his office in hopes he would get to know Neely better. As he walked down the hall he wanted nothing more than to call Rayni and have her boost his confidence as only she could. *No, I can do this on my own. * He nodded his departure to Turnbull and trotted down the front steps of the Consulate. Crossing the street, he felt his hands start to sweat. It was five o'clock and he knew she would be leaving the building soon. As he stepped up on the curb, he saw her. He stood timidly as she left the building in the company of two gentlemen. She was laughing. Sharing a joke more than likely. Then she saw him. He tucked his head and smiled, still embarrassed by the circumstances by which they met early in the day. 
"Hello." At the moment that was all he could manage. 
"Hi. I almost didn't recognize you out of uniform." She waved politely at the two men she had been walking with and gave her full attention to the shy looking man in front of her. 
"Thank you for today."
 "I couldn't let you guard Canada like that, now could I?" Fraser smiled and saw the sparkles in her brown eyes. "My name is Constable Benton Fraser." 
"Neely Hamilton." She extended her hand to him. Fraser gently grasped her fingers in his own. At that moment he realized he was no longer nervous.


"So I was thinking of just maybe one or two attendants. Cara at work and then Sharon as my Maid of honor." "That sounds nice. What about a flower girl?"
 "No flower girl or ring bearer. Just the attendants, Ray and me. Simple is the key word here mom."
 "Sounds like it." 
"The ceremony is going to be short. No songs or anything like that."
 "Not even the Lord's Prayer?" 
"I never liked to hear that sung anyway. Besides, Ray and I will just be standing there while everyone gawks at us." "How do you want the church decorated?" 
"I was thinking lots of greenery and white daisies." Eleanor smiled. Daisies were always Rayni's favorite flowers. "That sounds perfect." 
"You mean it?" 
"Daisies are perfect for you dear. Just perfect." Eleanor felt tears in her eyes as she looked at her daughter. "Mom, what's wrong?!" Ray and Paul looked on in concern as Eleanor dabbed the corners of her eyes with a napkin. "My baby girl is getting married." Rayni rolled her eyes. 
"Oh mom! Don't get sappy. You didn't get sappy at Mike's wedding." Eleanor sniffed a little before taking a sip of her iced tea. 
"Well, he's not the baby. A mother always dreams of the day her daughter will get married. That's why I wanted everything to be perfect for you dear." 
"It will be perfect mom. You just have to trust me on this."
 "I know. I guess I missed having a wedding of my own." Changing the topic to happier things, Rayni grabbed one of the bridal magazines. 
"So what kind of dress are you going to wear? I think you'd look good in a nice muted green." 
"Green?! I was thinking more of a pastel pink." Ray and Paul shared a smile at how Rayni played her mother. 
"Pink!? Gross. You'll look like a Pepto Bismol nightmare." 
"Well you will. Hey, while I'm here, why don't we go to Martin's and see what they have." 
"But you haven't even set a date yet." Rayni sighed and stood up from the table. The three of them watched her leave the patio and enter the kitchen. She returned with the kitchen calendar in her hand. Looking at Ray, she smiled. 
"You pick."
"Sure. That way she can't yell at me." Ray looked around the table at Paul and Eleanor then back at Rayni. The two of them flipped through the calendar until Ray settled on April. 
"April what?" 
"April seventh?" 
"You asking or telling, sweetie?" 
"I'm not really sure." 
"April seventh it is. You heard the man. You've got three months to get a dress."
 "And you've got three months to plan this wedding."

~~~~~ Chapter 51

Rayni pulled Ray's hockey jersey over her head and headed out of her room to the kitchen. Before she reached the den, Rayni heard a loud gasp and saw the shocked gaze of her mother. 
"Put some clothes on! Ray's in the other room." 
"I'm just going to get a drink before I go to bed."
 "Go!" Rayni rolled her eyes and decided she didn't feel like arguing. She muttered under her breath as she walked back to the hall. 
"Jesus. The stupid thing hangs down to my knees. Not like he hasn't seen me before. He's seen more than my knees."

Ray opened the door to his bedroom and smiled at Rayni. 
"Hey Doll." Rayni grinned at him and put her finger to her lips. 
"Shhh. Better not let my mom know you've seen me so indecent." 
"I'd like to see you a lot more indecent than this." 
"Well cool your jets. There's no way in hell you and I are going to get anywhere near each other this weekend." Ray's face looked crushed. He batted his eyes and poked his lip out. 
"You sure?" 
"Oh Lord. Don't pout."
 "Maybe you and I can slip away for a few hours tomorrow." 
"What do you have in mind?" 
"Oh, tell your mom we're going to see the sights." Rayni felt Ray's hand slip around her waist. 
"I'd like to see your sights."
 "That can be arranged." Just as Ray was about to lean in to kiss her, they heard Eleanor coming through the den. Dashing quickly down the hall, Rayni burst through the door of her bedroom. Leaning against the back of the door, she smiled at the plan she was hatching to get Ray alone.

~~~~~~~ Chapter 52

Meg Thatcher pulled the door closed to the Consulate and started down the steps. Pausing on the fourth step she saw them. Fraser had his hands shoved in his pockets as the two of them walked down the street toward the corner. Meg could only watch as the woman reached out and lightly touched his arm as they laughed. That was when she realized she had lost him, as if she ever really had him. He didn't care for her. He could see it in the shy smile he was offering this woman. She was the furthest thing from his mind. Taking a deep breath and steeling herself against the afternoon breeze, she descended the steps and walked to her car.

"So you're a Mountie?" 
"Yes. I first came to Chicago on the trail of the killers of my father. For reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture I've remained as….." 
"Oh I'm so sorry." 
"I beg your pardon?"
 "About your father." Fraser paused for a moment. He was a bit taken aback. 
"Thank you kindly. What do you do Miss Hamilton?"
 "Neely. I'm an administrative assistant to the Managing Editor of Arcadia Publishing." 
"That sounds very interesting." Fraser held the door of a small café for Neely. 
"Thank you Constable." 
"Ben." Both smiled sweetly as they passed through the doorway.
 "This place has the best snow cones." 
"I'm surprised they would serve them here." Neely made her way to the counter and smiled at the young man behind the register. 
"It's one of their claims to fame. Some people serve hot dogs. This place serves snow cones. What flavor do you want?"
 "Cherry, please." 
"One cherry, one grape. Thanks." The young man handed each their snow cones and took the money from Neely.
 "I should be buying you a snow cone for what you did this afternoon."
 "It was nothing. I guess it's like the old saying. Some times you're the pigeon, some times you're the statue." The each laughed as they walked down the street back toward her office building. Ben took a bite from his snow cone and watched as she licked the corner of her lips. He took a deep breath and decided to go for it. 
"Would you have dinner with me tomorrow night?"
 "I'd love to. How about we meet right here?" 
"Sounds great." Fraser smiled and took another bite of his snow cone.

~~~~ Chapter 53

"Mom, let's go! We've got a lot to do today." Rayni pulled one of her boots on as she hopped on one foot through the den. Ray sat in the recliner laughing at her. 
"Why are you in such a hurry? You've got all day to shop. Besides, it's Friday. Most everyone is at work anyway." "Ray, we're in Florida. Most everyone doesn't work anymore." 
"Oh yeah. So when are ya gonna be back?"
 "When you see me pulling in the drive, sugar." Ray grinned as Rayni leaned over and gave him a lingering kiss. "There'll be enough of that on the honeymoon. Let's get going." Eleanor emerged from the bedroom ready for a day of shopping. 
"Whoa. This is serious. She's wearing sneakers." 
"You know it. I've got to find the perfect dress. And we've got to find a dress for you too."
 "Well, let's not get our hopes up. I can always find something in Chicago."
 "Well we'll never know unless we get out there. Bye Ray dear. Have fun with Paul." 
"Yes ma'am. You two have a good time." Paul walked in from the patio in time to kiss his wife and daughter goodbye. He waved out the front door as Rayni pulled out of the drive in Eleanor's white Cadillac. He turned to Ray and shook his head. 
"Thank God they didn't ask us along."
"So, we've got all day to entertain ourselves. What ever shall we do?" A grin spread across both men's faces.
 "I'm sure we'll think of something."

~~~~~~ Chapter 54

"What do you think?" Rayni asked her mother. 
"It's too pink." 
"Thank God. I was afraid you'd like it." Rayni lifted her head heavenward as her mother returned to the dressing room. 
"Can I get another size for you ladies?" The salesgirl smiled politely as Rayni sifted through the racks of dresses. After trying on thirteen dresses in three stores, they had ended up at a small bridal shop on the south side of Orlando. 
"Do you have anything….well, not so frumpy?" The salesgirl smiled and nodded her head. 
"What size is your mother?" 
"When is the wedding?" 
 "It will be warmer by then." 
"The wedding is in Chicago. So it won't be as warm." The woman nodded and pulled several dresses from the rack. "This one is stunning." Rayni took the dress from the woman and knocked on the changing room door. 
"In coming." Rayni lifted the hanger over the door and looked hopeful at the salesgirl as the dress slid over the door. 
"Oh Rayni, are you sure about this?" 
"Just try it on. I don't want you looking like Florence Frump. Let me get some shoes. Hang on." Rayni trotted across the store to the shoes. She grabbed a pair of slings and plopped them down on the floor under the door of the dressing room. She waited anxiously as her mother slipped the shoes on and emerged from the room. 
"Oh mom, that's it! It's gorgeous."
 "But I don't look very 'mother-of-the-bride'."
 "I agree, it's fantastic." The saleswoman stood beside Rayni and nodded her approval. Eleanor walked across the store to the triple mirror. The dress did look great on her. The pale green was a very complimentary color. The long straight skirt had a slit on the side that accentuated her legs. The sleeveless beaded top was stunning. 
"But Rayni dear, it's sleeveless. I feel naked." The saleswoman rushed to the rack and pulled the matching scarf from the hanger. 
"This makes the dress." She draped the scarf through Eleanor's arms and stood back to see her reaction. 
"Sold." Rayni announced. 
"You sure it's not too….too….?" 
"What? Hot? Oh yeah Mom. Dad's going to have to watch you like a hawk during the reception."
 "Rayni!" Both women laughed as the saleswoman moved to the register. Within minutes, Eleanor was waiting at the counter for the saleswoman to wrap up her new dress.
 "What about you, ma'am? Have you chosen your wedding gown yet?" 
"Me? Not yet. This trip was for Mom." Eleanor signed her credit receipt and gave Rayni the look she knew all too well. 
"We'd love to look at wedding gowns. You'll hold this behind the counter, won't you?" 
"Of course. Step this way. We just got some new dresses in." Rayni sighed heavily.
"Don't whine dear. You're a big girl now, remember." Rayni followed her mother and the sales girl to the back of the store. Wedding gowns lined three walls of the back room. The saleswoman looked Rayni over and smiled? 
"Perfect. What style are you going for?" 
"No bows or poofs." 
"I think we have a few you'll like." The saleswoman made quick work of pulling several dresses off the rack. Once she had four slung over one arm she escorted Rayni to a fitting room. Rayni looked at her strangely when she followed her into the room. 
"You'll need help getting into the dresses. Don't mind me." 
"Uh, yeah, okay." Rayni stripped off her jeans and biker boots. The saleswoman helped her slip the first dress over her head and then fastened the many buttons up the back. Eleanor had taken her place in a side room furnished with a large sofa and another triple mirror. Rayni walked into the room and stood in front of the mirrors. Both women scowled at how the dress looked. 
"A-line is not for me." 
"Not at all. I don't want people to think you 'had' to get married." 
"It does make me look like I'm knocked up?"
 "Rayni! Good Lord." Rayni grinned as she left the room. She loved shocking her mother. It was so much fun. Rayni and the saleswoman once again wrestled with another dress. 
"This one is stunning." Rayni nodded as she walked out to the mirrors. Eleanor remained silent as her daughter stepped in front of the mirror. 
"Mom?" Eleanor opened her purse and pulled out an ancient fuzzed over Kleenex. 
"Oh Rayni! It's….you're beautiful." Rayni smiled at her reflection as she ran her hands across the delicate fabric. The saleswoman emerged with a headpiece and helped Rayni place the small band in her hair. 
"This is the one. I've found it." Eleanor nodded as Rayni turned to see the back of the gown. 
"Yes you have dear. Yes you have." 


Chapter 55

"Pass me another beer, son." Ray reached into the cooler and tossed another cold beer to Paul. Paul sat his fishing pole down next to him and twisted the top off of his beer. Ray took another pull on his bottle as he shielded his eyes from the sun as another boat approached the dock. 
"Hey Pauly, who you got there?" Paul tossed his hand in the air and waved at the two older gentlemen in the boat. "Frank! Marty, this is my future son-in-law. Ray Kowalski."
 "Nice to meetcha." 
"He's a cop in Chicago." The two men snorted and chortled as Paul tossed them each a beer from the cooler. 
"You boys coming in?"
 "Nah, we'll just stay right here on the dock. Too many old fools like you two on the lake." 
"I hear ya! Nice to meet you Ray." The two old men waved and pulled the boat away from the dock. 
"They seem like real characters." Ray laughed as he watched the men with too many lures on their hat drift farther away. 
"You don't know the half of it. I wonder what the women folk are doing."
 "Let's hope it doesn't involve a trip to the local police station." 
"Oh it never gets that bad. Rayni can handle her mother. She's always been one to stand up for herself." 
"Yeah, I know that."


"So do you and Ray have plans for this evening?" Eleanor rummaged through her purse while Rayni drove. 
"Nothing I guess. I didn't know if you and dad had plans for us or not." 
"Well, it's Friday night, so we're meeting the Malone's to play cards. I figured we would keep the date so you and Ray could go out to the movies or something." 
"That sounds good, mom. Thanks. I've been dying to see that Tom Hanks movie." 
"Oh me too. But you know your father. It will come out on video soon enough."
 "Maybe I can talk Ray into taking his best girl out to dinner." Rayni smiled as she navigated the roads back to Del Boca Vistas.
 "I'm sure it won't be hard to persuade him."


Chapter 56

Rayni and Eleanor walked through the front door with two large dress bags before them. Ray and Paul, however were no where to be found. 
"Wonder where they went?"
 "If your dad had his way, they're fishing." Rayni groaned. She knew they both come back smelling of bait and booze. 
"Great. At least I can put my dress up without having him beg to see it." 
"How are you going to get it home dear?" Eleanor called from the kitchen. 
"That's a good question. I guess I'll just carry it on the plane. I'm not checking it, that's for sure."
 "Why don't you leave it here? We'll bring it when we come. Your dad mentioned driving up for when we come." Rayni walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. 
"What?! Are you nuts? That's a long drive." 
"It's not so bad. Besides, that way you won't have to haul your gown all over the plane. You'll just have to wait a few weeks until we come back for Josh's play." Rayni nodded in agreement. She knew he mother would guard her dress with her life. 
"Sounds good. You want to bring yours up when you come? You can leave it at my apartment." 
"That's a good idea." Eleanor motioned for Rayni to close the refrigerator door as she cut up a banana.
"Speaking of your apartment, where are you and Ray going to live?" Rayni sat at the end of the counter and looked thoughtfully at her mother. 
"I don't know." 
"You don't know? Well, you better start finding out. You've got three months." 
"Yeah, I know." Before Rayni could add anymore to her thoughts, the back door slid open and her dad emerged into the kitchen. Following closely behind, was a very wet, possibly drunk Ray. 
"What happened?!" Rayni stood and waited for an explanation, while Eleanor rushed to the closet for some towels. Both women stood side by side and looked at the two men as they burst into laughter. Rayni put her hand on the back of her neck and groaned. 
"Great, they're buzzed." 
"Oh Lord. Paul, we've got plans tonight. Good Lord! You get the poor boy drunk and then what? Throw him in the lake?" 
"He fell in! All on his own! He didn't need any help from me." Rayni took the towels from her mother and placed them on the counter. She pulled a sheepish looking Ray toward her and quickly stripped off his shirt. Shaking her head at his constant snickering, she wrapped the towel around his shoulders and pushed him toward the bathroom. "Thanks dad. 'How was your visit to your folks? Oh, just great. My daddy got my fiancé drunk and tried to drown him.' Oh yeah, real classy." 
"Hey, don't blame me. He's the one that was afraid of the snake."
 "Snake?!" Rayni looked at Ray who had suddenly become serious. He held his arms out before him as he spoke. 
"It was huge, Doll! A python. This big!" 
"It was a baby garden snake." Paul was still laughing as Ray shook his head. 
"I nearly died." 
"From the fright!" Paul replied. Rayni was doing all she could to keep a straight face. She had big plans for tonight and they didn't involve a pouting cop.


Chapter 57

Rayni pulled Ray by the hand toward his room. She playfully shoved him through the door. With all the grace of Ray Kowalski, he stumbled and ended up face first on the carpet. 
"Jesus. Ray, get up." Muffled giggles filled the room as Rayni pulled on the back of his sopping wet jeans. 
"You're getting the floor wet. Besides, you have to sober up. We've got plans tonight." 
"Where are we going?" Ray pulled himself from the floor and was trying to steady himself before pulling his boots off. Rayni leaned in and whispered softly in his ear. 
"Mom and Dad have plans for the evening and we're going out to dinner." A devilish smiled crossed Ray's face as she looked into Rayni's eyes. 
"We're not really goin' to dinner are we?"
 "What do you think?" 
"I think I better get a shower." 
"Wise choice. You stink." Rayni giggled as Ray nuzzled her neck. 
"Stop, you're wet!" 
"Want to join me?" 
"Not a chance. My parents would shit. I'll be outside. Come get me when you're done." Ray was still trying to kiss her neck when Rayni pushed him away and guided him toward the bathroom. 
"You're missin' out." 
"My loss. It's so fun taking advantage of drunk people." Ray leaned out the bathroom door and smiled. 
"Can't rape the willin' babe." Rayni rolled her eyes as she left the room and closed the door behind her.


Chapter 58

"Have the two of you decided on a restaurant?" Eleanor reached for her purse as Paul placed a hat on his head. "Not yet. Do I need my key or are you two going to be back before we get home?" 
"I'd take your key. We usually play cards until 11 or so." * Oh boy, real late mom. * 
"Okay, if we're not home, don't worry. We may go to a late movie." Ray emerged from the bedroom with his jeans and a nice pullover shirt. 
"Have a good time." 
"You too, wild man." Paul laughed at his own joke. Rayni just shook her head and hoped her parents would hurry up and leave. 
"Good night dear. Have fun." 
"We will mom. Night." Rayni watched as her mother and father pulled out of the driveway and disappeared down the darkened street. She lowered her head and grinned when she felt Ray's hands slip around her waist. 
"Not so fast, loverboy. We've got to leave the house." 
"Huh?" "The Malone's live down the street. I'll bet you all the tea in China that my mother will be looking for that bright red convertible to drive past on the way out of the complex." Ray rested his head on her shoulder and sighed. "Let's go." Ray locked the door behind them and held Rayni's door for her while she settled in the passenger seat of the car. 
"So where are we going?" 
"Doesn't matter, just drive out of this complex."

Ray shook his head at Rayni when she reached over and blew the horn. Her mother was near the front window and waved as the two of them drove past. 
"Told you." "You are the master. So what do we do now?" 
"Pull down this street. Now take a left. Cut the lights." 
"You're good at this. That's kinda scary babe. Maybe you shoulda been a cop." 
"Comes from years of being a teenage girl with strict parents and a brother with good looking friends. Pull down to the tennis courts. We can park there and walk through the back parking lot back to the house."
 "You're good. Very good." Ray locked up the car and held onto Rayni's hand as they walked through the grass toward her parent's condo.

Rayni unlocked the door and she and Ray slipped quietly inside. 
"Shhh. Leave the lights off. The neighbors are all nosy old people." She didn't get a verbal response from Ray. He just slipped his hands back around her waist and trailed kisses down her throat. 
"We've got about two and a half hours. Any longer and we're asking to get caught." 
"Then we better get started." Rayni's smile was covered with a deep and passionate kiss. She slid her arms around his shoulders and threaded her fingers through the back of his hair. Ray guided her down the hall and into his bedroom. He released her mouth long enough to pull her shirt over her head. Tossing it to the floor, He pushed her toward the bed. Her hands roamed over his back and chest. Following his lead, she grabbed his shirt and lifted it skyward. Both parted and looked at each other with knowing grins. Ray frantically pulled off his boots, while Rayni did the same. Both quickly shed their jeans and Rayni scrambled onto the bed. Ray was quickly upon her. 
"I've missed you." 
"Really? How much?" 
"Mmm, this much." Ray softly nibbled and licked at her throat. He paid close attention to that one spot on her collarbone that drove her absolutely mad. As she arched her back in response to his touch, Ray moved his attention to her breasts. His fingers traced light circles across her chest as he enveloped her nipple in his mouth. A small moan escaped her lips as he nuzzled his way down to her navel. Feeling him move off the edge of the bed, Rayni licked her lips in anticipation. His hands slid across her skin as he guided her to the edge of the bed. Rayni called out his name as he licked and sucked at her center. She thought she would lose all control as he probed and licked at her. Her fingers clenched into fists in his hair as she shuddered. Lost in passion, she pulled him to her lips and rolled him over to his back. Sheets and pillows were pushed roughly from the bed as Ray guided her. A loud gasp erupted from somewhere deep within him as he entered her. He could feel the sweat on his chest as they moved together. He smiled up into her face. Her eyes were dark green with passion as she looked at him. The raw passion from before had taken another turn. He rubbed his hand along her cheek and through her hair. Pulling her over, he positioned himself on top of her. He moved slowly as he placed kisses along her forehead and eyelids. Her fingers moved lightly over his back as she wrapped her legs around his waist. He pulled her hands above her head and rested on his elbows as they moved. He stared directly into her eyes. He always saw it when he looked in her eyes. It was always there. Her love for him was always in her eyes.

~~~~~ Chapter 59

"Blue or green?" Ben held up the sweaters for Diefenbaker. Dief lifted his paw and gestured toward the blue as he whined. 
"Thank you. Let's hope Neely thinks it sets off my eyes as well." Pulling the sweater over his head, he crossed the apartment. Looking in the small mirror, he frowned. He grabbed his brush from the desk and vigorously brushed his hair. Dief whined once again and Ben favored him with an irritated look. 
"I'm not nervous. Well….maybe a little. She seems nice, don't you think?" Dief rested his head on his paws and looked out the window. 
"Well, I think she's nice. I shouldn't be too late. Don't wait up." Ben pulled on his leather jacket and grabbed the keys to Rayni's car. He also had the keys to Ray's, but he would never consider using the GTO. That was just unthinkable. Besides, Rayni would forgive him if something happened to her car. Especially if it happened while he was on a date. Exiting the building, Ben pressed the car alarm on Rayni's key chain. As the lights flashed and the alarm was deactivated, he slipped behind the wheel. Checking the mirrors and the seat adjustment, he engaged the engine. He allowed a few moments for the car to warm up and then shifted into drive. Pulling cautiously into traffic, he was off to meet Neely in front of the Consulate.


"Jesus! Ray! Wake up!" Rayni leapt from the bed and grabbed for her bra. 
"What?! What's wrong?!" 
"It's 11 o'clock. We've got to get the hell out of here." 
"Why don't we just act like we got back here early? Let's just get dressed." 
"Because the car is still at the tennis courts. Come on, get dressed." As Ray grabbed his jeans from the floor, he saw Rayni's eyes flash with panic. 
"I think they're back."
"What?!" Ray grabbed the rest of his clothes and boots. Rayni had already put on her clothes but failed to get her boots on. 
"The back door. Let's go!" Rayni grabbed her purse and the two of them ran for the back door. Moving low through the house, they slipped through the kitchen and out to the porch. Ducking behind the grill as the lights of the car shown through the darkened house, Rayni swore. 
"Son of a bitch! Give them time to get in the front door and we'll make a run for it. If we can get past this building and through those trees, we'll be clear." 
"We don't have any shoes on!" 
"You want to explain all this?" 
"Then run!" As the front door opened and Eleanor and Paul were hanging up their coats, two figures ran through the darkness and into a small clump of trees. 
"Shhhh. What's wrong?" Rayni whispered.
 "I think I stepped in dog shit." 
"We'll wash it off once we get back to the car. Let's go." Ray held on to Rayni's hand with one hand and his clothes and boots with the other. He hoped no one saw them. He didn't want to explain what he was doing in only his jeans, running through a retirement community with dog shit in between his toes.


Chapter 60

Pulling his shirt over his head, Ray started to laugh. 
"I feel like I'm friggin' sixteen." Rayni sat in the passenger seat of the rental car and smiled up at him. 
"It's a lot better than the grief we'd suffer at the hands of Eleanor and Paul." 
"True. I'm not putting my boots on until I wash the dog shit off my foot."
 "There should be a spigot by the edge of the court. Look over there." 
"So what movie did we see?"
 "Um, we went walking downtown instead. We decided to go to one of the little jazz clubs down there."
 "Sounds like we had a good time." Ray called through the fence of the tennis court. 
"Yeah, we had a blast." Before Rayni could go any further, her cell phone rang. Ray looked at her with concern as she answered the phone. 
"Rayni? I thought I would get your voice mail. I'm sorry to bother you." 
"Fraser! Hey, what's going on?" Ray slid back into the driver's seat and pulled his socks on. 
"Is he okay? What's wrong?" 
"Are you okay?" 
"Tell Ray I'm fine. I just wanted to tell you….." 
"Tell me what? Spit it out." Ray pulled his boots on and stood to adjust his jeans.
 "I went out with her." 
"What?! Who?! That girl?" Rayni grinned up at Ray as he looked intently at her. 
"What's he doin'? He whorin' around town while we're gone?" 
"I heard that. I would never think of such behavior. I don't 'whore' as he so eloquently put it." 
"What's her name?" 
"Neely Hamilton. She very nice." 
"Did you kiss her?" 
"We went to dinner. We had a very lovely time." 
"Did you kiss her?" 
"The conversation was casual yet stimulating." 
"Fraser, did you kiss her?" 
"He ain't gonna tell you that?" 
"It wouldn't be the gentlemanly thing to do Rayni. I'm sorry." Rayni sighed and frowned over at Ray. He responded by shaking his head and laughing. 
"Are you going out again?" 
"I believe that is a possibility." 
"That's great Fraser. I'm glad." 
"I just wanted to uh….well, thanks Rayni." 
"For what?"
 "For being my friend."
 "Any time."
 "Ah, and I borrowed your car." A grin spread across her face as she tried to keep from looking at Ray. 
"You borrowed Ray's car? Oh that's fine." 
"What?! He drove the Goat?! Tell me he didn't drive my Goat?!" Ray twisted in the seat and tried to grab the phone from her hand. 
"Why do you insist on getting him upset?" Fraser sighed on the other end of the phone. 
"Just a little scratch? Oh I'm sure it will buff out. Don't worry about it Fraser." 
"Jesus Christ! Gimme the phone!" Rayni erupted into laughter while Ray continued to have a stroke. 
"Please tell him the truth." 
"Okay, okay. I will. I'm glad you had a good time Fraser." 
"Let me talk to him!" Rayni shoved the phone at Ray who nearly screamed into it. 
"I'm gonna kill you Fraser!" "Ray, please calm down. Rayni is playing a joke on you. I most assuredly did not drive your car. I drove Rayni's." 
"You sure!?" "I'm quite sure. I even had to explain to Neely that the picture of you on the dash had nothing to do with my undying love for my partner."
 "Wise ass." "Thank you kindly. Are you having a good time?"
 "Yeah, it's alright. Can't wait to get back home though." "I'll pick you up on Sunday at five."
 "Sounds good buddy. See ya then."
 "Tell Rayni I said goodnight. Bye Ray."
 "Bye." Ray pushed the end button on the phone and tossed it back to Rayni. 
"Smart ass." Rayni burst with giggles as Ray started the engine.

Continued in Part 3