Just Falling Part III

Chapter 61

Ray held on to Rayni's hand as they walked down the street of Disney's Epcot. 
"Hey, you ready to ride this one now?" Rayni nodded her head at Ray as the sprinted off across the pavement. As they waited in line, Ray leaned against the metal railing and pulled Rayni to him. As she leaned her back against him, she sighed. 
"This is fun." 
"I'm havin' a great time. Can we ride the Imagination ride next?" Rayni turned and faced him, gently placing a kiss on his cheek. 
"You can ride anything you want." Rayni regretted her phrasing immediately. A grin parted Ray's lips. 
"I'll take you up on that." 
"Ray! This is a family place!" 
"How do you think all these families got started!?" Both of them laughed as the line advanced forward. A young couple was standing a few steps ahead of them with two small boys. 
"Hey look. Aren't they cute?" Rayni pointed at the two small kids and smiled over at Ray. 
"Yeah, too bad their mom made them wear those dorky shirts." 
"Ray! They're cute. See they match." 
"Yeah, cute. My mom made me and Steve wear that crap. I hated it. Promise me you won't dress our kids alike." Rayni smiled up at Ray and slipped her arms around his waist.
"Our kids? How many do you think that will be?" Ray's face stained slightly as he kissed her forehead.
 "I dunno. As many a we get I guess." 
"Sounds good to me." Ray smiled as he held Rayni to his side. The line moved forward again and the two boys held on to their fathers hands. He couldn't wait for the day when he would be holding his son's hand.


"I'm beat." Ray stretched his arms over his head. Rayni took another bite of her cheeseburger and nodded. 
"Me too. So what do you want to do next?" 
"Let's do the Living Seas next." 
"Oh that sounds good. I love dolphins." Rayni took a drink of her water while Ray ate the rest of her fries. 
"Do you think Dief and Fraser will like the stuff I got them?"
 "Sure they will. But I still don't know why you bought Dief a movie. He's deaf." 
"It's Whitefang. You know he'll love it." 
"Yeah, I guess. Fraser should like the sweatshirt." Ray grinned at the thought of the stuffy Mountie in a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. 
"When we get back home we've got to sit down and start planning the wedding."
 "Why? Just let your mom do it." Ray dodged the french fry that flew toward his head and laughed. 
"Funny. I'm laughing on the inside. Really, I am." 
"I'm sorry. So what about a honeymoon?" 
"That's your job. But I will say this. I like water, sun and sand."
 "You want to go to Lake Michigan?" 
"Ha Ha. No stop. My sides are splitting." Rayni's dry tone made Ray laugh, he then offered her one of his most charming smiles. 
"Seriously, where do you want to go, doll?" 
"You pick. I want to be swept away." That set Ray's gears turning. He was in charge of the honeymoon.

~~~~~ Chapter 62

Ray and Rayni walked wearily into the house. Ray plopped down on the couch while Rayni headed to the kitchen. "Goodness! You two look exhausted. Did you leave anything unseen at Epcot?" Eleanor padded into the living room wearing her robe and curlers in her hair. 
"No ma'am. I think we managed to see it all." Eleanor squinted at Ray in the dimly lit room. 
"Ray dear, turn that lamp on please." Ray complied and switched the lamp on beside him. 
"Oh my!" Rayni rounded the corner in time to see Ray's face.
"Rayni, why didn't you put any sunscreen on him? Turn the overhead light on. Are you burned too?" Rayni switched the light on and looked in the hall mirror. Her face and arms looked tanned while Ray looked red. 
"I didn't think about it. Is the sun stuff still under the sink?" 
"Look in the laundry room. I think it's in there." Ray was still wondering what all the fuss was about. Eleanor reached out for him to stand. She led him to the hall bathroom. Ray's eyes widened when she turned the light on and he saw himself in the mirror. 
 "Does it hurt?" Ray poked his cheek and nose then grimaced. 
"It does now." 
"Well Rayni's going to put some lotion on it and you'll be fine by morning. Take an aspirin before you go to bed. You'll be fine. Gives you color!" Eleanor's cheery smile didn't make him feel any better. He turned and gave Rayni his best pitiful look. 
"I'm a lobster." 
"You're not that bad. Your nose is a little pink. That's all." 
"Hey, you look good with a tan. How come I didn't tan?" Eleanor shook her head and left the bathroom. 
"You're too white!" 
"I'm not as white as Fraser!" Rayni laughed as she rubbed lotion down Ray's arms. 
"I think Fraser just adapted to all that snow. He's like a polar bear, if he takes off the serge and sticks his head in the snow, you can't see him." Ray laughed and then yelped as Rayni rubbed the lotion on his nose. 
"Oh, poor baby." Eleanor smiled at how her daughter and Ray acted together. Paul emerged from the bedroom in his pajama bottoms carrying a coffee cup. 
"What's wrong?" 
"Ray's a little crispy dad." Rayni called from the bathroom. 
"You putting the stuff on him?" 
"Yes sir." 
"That'll fix him up." Paul poked his head in the hall bathroom and smiled at Ray. 
"Whew boy, too bad it isn't Christmas. You'd give Rudolph a run for the sleigh job." Ray rolled his eyes as Paul laughed his way to the kitchen. Rayni giggled as she rubbed her hands lightly over Ray's shoulders. 
"Oh, you think that's funny." Ray started poking her in the sides causing her to erupt with laughter. 
"Stop! Stop!" Rayni squealed and tried to run. Ray grabbed her by the waist and picked her up. He carried her to the couch and continued to tickle her. Eleanor and Paul laughed at the playful scene. 
"I can't breath! I'll pee if you don't quit!" Rayni pleaded through her laughter. 
"Yer a faker!" The two of them breathed deeply and tried to calm their laughter as they sat on the couch. Eleanor shared a look with Paul as he settled in his chair to watch the news. They were in love. Even the blind could see it.


Chapter 63

Rayni drug her suitcase to the front door and looked around the house for her mother. Poking her head in the kitchen, Rayni waved a hand to her father. 
"Where's mom?" 
"On the patio watering her plants. Ray up yet?" 
"I think I heard the shower. That's why I need to find mom." 
"I see. Conspiring to drug him up, huh?" 
"That'd be the plan." 
"Tell him if he doesn't take the pill you're going to throw a garden snake on him." Paul flipped the page of his newspaper and laughed. Rayni couldn't help but giggle as she stepped out the back door.
"Over here, dear." Rayni walked around the corner of the house. 
"We've got to dope Ray up for the plane ride home." 
"I know dear. I was thinking about that this morning. Of course we could just send him fishing with your father." Both women smiled. 
"So what's the plan?" 
"What time is the flight again?" 
"We're leaving for the airport at nine. I'd rather he have it in his system by then." 
"No problem. I'll put it in his eggs." 
"Sounds good to me. That way I don't have to hear him whine."
 "They always whine dear." 
"Yeah, but I love him." 
"I know. Have you got everything packed?"
 "Yes ma'am. My dress is in the closet of my room. You're going to bring both dress in three weeks, right?"
"I meant to ask you. I was looking through some old stuff yesterday while you and Ray were at Epcot." Eleanor tossed the garden hose to the side and motioned for Rayni to follow her. The two women returned to the house and went into Eleanor's bedroom. Rayni flopped down on the end of the bed while Eleanor pulled an old box from the closet.
 "Now, I know I get pushy, but you don't have to use any of this. I found it and thought I would offer." Rayni dug through the box and pulled out a cake server and knife. 
"Whose stuff is this mom? You and Daddy eloped." 
"The cake service was my mom's. The handkerchief was Grandma's too. The glasses were mine. I had bought them right after your daddy proposed. I didn't know at the time we would have to elope." Rayni looked up and saw the hurt in her mother's eyes. 
"You really did want a wedding didn't you?" 
"Of course dear. What girl doesn't want the perfect wedding?" 
"Mine will be perfect mom, I just know it." 
"I know it will dear. I'll try to not to cause you too many headaches." Rayni smiled at her mother. Understanding seeped into place. Pushing herself up off the bed she hugged her mom. 
"Thanks. Bring all this when you come. I think I'll need it." Eleanor nodded her head and patted Rayni on the cheek. "Well, you better do something with your hair while I go fix breakfast." 
"My hair's fine mom." Rayni rolled her eyes as they walked out of the bedroom.
 "Surely you want to curl it?" 
"Surely not." Eleanor shook her head and made a tsk'ing noise to which Rayni responded with gripping the sides of her own throat.

~~~~ Chapter 64

"Morning." Ray shuffled into the kitchen with a grim look on his face. Even though he had showered and dressed, his hair was twisted all over his head and he look miserable. 
"Morning dear. How do you want your eggs?" 
"Just coffee, please. I don't think I should eat." Rayni shared a look with her mom and launched into plan 'B'. 
"The flight leaves at nine." She tried to sound casual. 
"I know. Don't remind me." 
"Are you packed?" Ray took a cup of coffee from Eleanor and looked at Rayni with pleading eyes. She opened her purse and tossed him a box of Smarties. 
"You're the best, Doll. Yeah, I'm packed." 
"You think you can make it sober?" Ray's lip extruded just the slightest bit. Rayni braced herself for his reaction. *Here we go. * 
"I'm fine." Ray took a large gulp of coffee and stared out the back door.
 "Okay. We better get going then." "But…uh….maybe I do want some eggs." Rayni stole a glance at her mother and then looked at Ray with the best innocent Mountie look she could muster. 
"Okay. We've got time to eat." Ray knew she was up to something. She was giving him the same look Fraser gave him when he was up to something. 
"Can I have some more coffee?"
 "Sure. I'll get it for you." Rayni walked passed her dad who was still reading the paper. She poured him another cup of coffee and then pulled another bottle of water from the refrigerator for herself. Eleanor cooked his eggs and made sure she had crushed the Valium up fine enough so he wouldn't notice. *Men can be so stubborn. * "Thanks." 
"Here you are, dear. Eat hardy. It's a long time until lunch." Ray's nervous energy was forming itself in a ball in his stomach. Maybe if he ate, he'd feel a lot better. Rayni watched with pleasure as he wolfed down his eggs and drank another cup of coffee. 
"Well, we better start loading the car." Ray looked at Rayni with suspicion as she grinned at him. *What the hell did you do? *

~~~~ Chapter 65

Ray took the bags to the car and stood in the living room waiting for Rayni to get ready to leave. 
"Bye Daddy." 
"Bye baby girl. See you in a few weeks."
 "Bye mom. Thanks for everything."
 "See you soon dear." Eleanor walked over and hugged Ray tightly.
 "Bye Ray. See you soon." 
"Yes ma'am. Thanks for everything." Paul shook Ray's hand and patted him on the shoulder. 
"Next time we'll go fishing again." 
"No thanks!" They all laughed as they walked out to the car. Rayni slid behind the wheel before Ray had a chance. "I can drive babe." 
"Oh no you can't." 
"What's that mean?" 
"You'll find out in a few minutes."
 "What didcha do?" 
"Just got you flight ready that's all. Come on. We're going to be late." Ray glared at her as he took a seat. 
"You're in so much trouble." 
"That's fine. You won't remember it in a little while anyway." Rayni smiled sweetly at him and waved as she pulled out of the driveway.


Chapter 66

Fraser parked Rayni's car in the parking garage and walked quickly through the airport. Dief trotted along behind him as people hurried to their destinations. 
"It's gate 12." Dief barked his reply to which Ben frowned. 
"No, I don't know if she bought you anything. It's very impolite to ask. Now behave." The two continued through the airport and read the monitors to find Ray's flight. 
"It's running on time. They should be landing in about ten minutes." Fraser and Dief chose to sit and watch the planes take off while they waited.


Fraser stood and watched as Rayni held Ray tightly while they walked down the concourse. 
"You got it." Ray looked at Fraser and grinned. 
"Hey buddy." 
"Hello Ray."
 "Take me home."
 "Understood." Rayni pulled Ray by the hand toward Baggage Claim while Dief and Fraser walked beside. "Everything still in one piece?" 
"Everything's fine. I'll get those." Fraser reached out and pulled Rayni and Ray's luggage from the belt. Dief scurried ahead of them as Rayni pulled a sluggish Ray by the arm. 
"Your car is over here. Would you prefer to drive?" 
"Nah, I'm tired. I'll sit in the back with Dief." Rayni passed Ray off to Fraser after he placed the bags in the trunk. 
"You didn't really drive the Goat, did you Fraser?"
 "No Ray. Your car is perfectly fine." Ray smiled as Fraser deposited him in the front seat. He jogged quickly around the front of the car and within moments, they were on their way home. 
"I'm beat." 
"You do look rather tired. I see you both got some sun." 
"We went to Epcot. We brought you and Dief something." 
"That wasn't necessary, but thank you kindly." Dief thanked Rayni by licking her ear. 
"You're welcome! Dief, stop!" Rayni reached out and grabbed him by the snout. She wrapped her arms around him as he nuzzled her neck. 
"Have you eaten? I'd be happy to stop for something."
 "That's okay. Just go to my place and after we pour Ray into the bed, we'll order a pizza. You can stay awhile can't you?" 
"Of course." 
"I didn't know if you had a date or something." Fraser looked in the rearview mirror and smiled at the grin on Rayni's face. 
"I suppose you want me to divulge the details of my date with Neely." 
"What would give you that idea?" 
"Don't let her sucker you Frase! She's sneaky!" Ray turned in his seat and winked at Rayni. Rayni leaned forward and gave him a small kiss. Ray laughed happily as Fraser drove through the streets of Chicago. Rayni looked at both men in the front seat and smiled as she rubbed Dief's soft coat. *Yep's it's good to be home. *

~~~~~~~~ Chapter 67 

Ray stumbled across the floor of Rayni's bedroom and took a nosedive into bed. Rayni tugged at his boots while he pulled his shirt off.
 "You going be okay?" Ray was taking jabs at the pillow in an effort at getting comfortable.
 "Mm-mm, I just need sleep." 
"Okay, babe. I'll check on you in a little while." Ray mumbled something into the side of the pillow as Rayni covered him with the blanket. She closed the blinds and the door as she left the room and made her way back to the living room where Fraser was ordering pizza.
 "Throw in some garlic bread too. I'm starving." Fraser nodded and finished ordering. When he hung up the phone he smiled at Rayni. She had promptly discarded her boots and was on her back on the sofa with Dief by her side. "Tired?" 
"Your parents are well?"
 "They're fine. Mom was having an episode at first. Ray and I got that all worked out. Oh, don't make any plans for April seventh." 
"April seventh?" 
"Wedding day." 
"Ah. That's great."
 "Yeah." Rayni rubbed her hands over her face and sighed. Fraser could tell she was exhausted. 
"Don't you want to get some rest?" 
"I'm too hungry. I didn't really eat breakfast and I skipped the lunch on the plane."
 "The pizza should be here in a few minutes." 
"So tell me bout Neely." Fraser grinned. He knew it was coming. He knew Rayni would grill him for every bit of information he had. 
"She's very nice." 
"Nice huh? What does she do?" 
"She works for Arcadia Publishing. She's an administrative assistant."
 "Did you just go out to dinner?"
 "Yes. We had a very nice time." 
"Are you going out again?"
 "We're having lunch together on Tuesday." 
"So when do we get to meet her?" Rayni looked over at Fraser and smiled. He saw the look in her eye and laughed. "I'll suggest we all have dinner together soon if things are still going well."
 "Good." The knock on the door sent Rayni sailing off the couch. Before Fraser could get the money out of his wallet, Rayni pulled a fist full of wrinkled and balled up money from her front pocket. As she shut the door, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes in delight. 
"Mmmm, smells great." She flipped the lid open and immediately helped herself to a slice. "You are hungry." She nodded as she chewed. 
"Pwate's or ofer de sinqk." 
"I know. I'll get us both a plate." Fraser chuckled as Rayni poured a glass of coke for each of them as she still held her slice of pizza in her hand. Once Fraser placed the plates on the counter, the two of them settled in to eat. Dief whined his aggravation at not being fed yet, as Rayni took up a position in front of the coffee table. 
"Here, but save some for Ray." Dief wolfed down his pizza and looked expectantly for more. Rayni smiled and sighed at him and then turned her smile toward Fraser. 
"Home sweet home."

~~~~~ Chapter 68

Monday morning found Ray in a foul mood and even worse breath. 
"Why do you give me those damn things!?" Rayni buried her head under the blankets and tried to go back to sleep. Ray wasn't about to let her get off that easy. He nudged her butt and talked louder. 
"They give me a headache. Who slipped it to me, huh?!" Rayni flung back the blanket and yelled.
 "I'm trying to sleep!" 
"Tough! It's time to get up!" 
"Why are you being such a dick?!" 
"Cause my girlfriend drugged me!" Rayni leaned toward him as he sat on the end of the bed and smiled. 
"That's fiancée, dick." Ray glared at her through heavy lidded eyes at her emphasis on the word 'dick'.
 "I'm takin' a shower." 
"Please. And brush your teeth. Your breath is kicking like Jackie Chan." Tossing a pillow at her, Ray stumbled to the bathroom. 
"Let's hope the shower changes your mood."
 "What mood?!" Rayni padded behind him and made her way passed him to the kitchen. Maybe coffee would make him feel better. Rayni flipped on the television before preparing the coffeepot. Pulling the box of filters from the cabinet, she mumbled to herself. 
"It's not my fault you hate flying. Next time I'll take the damn Valium. Hmf, wake up in an ill-ass mood and take it out on me. Dick. See if you get any tonight." The coffee was brewing and to her that was breakfast enough for him. He could stop for something. As she walked passed the shower she pecked on the door. 
"I've got to get ready for work too. Hurry up." Ray opened the door wearing a towel. He grumbled down the hall back to the bedroom. 
"Why are you in such a bad mood?!" 
"I don't know. I just am." 
"Well, quit spreading it around, okay." Rayni didn't wait for a reply. She closed the bathroom door and started getting ready for work. Soon they were both dressed and on their way out the door. Each offered the other a quick kiss before hurrying downstairs. 
"See ya tonight, love ya." 
"Love you, bye." Rayni pulled out into traffic and made her way downtown. Ray hurried to pick up Fraser.


 ~~~~~ Chapter 69

"Stop! Chicago PD!" 

As Fraser leapt across the alley onto the roof of the adjoining building, he could hear the familiar voice of his partner down on the street. He ran farther across the roof and over to the fire escape. As he landed on the top landing, he could see Ray running down the sidewalk in his direction. The man they were chasing was a few feet in front of Ray as they wove their way in and out of the parked cars. Fraser waited for the perfect moment to jump from the fire escape and into the path of the perpetrator. Unfortunately, no one informed the perpetrator of this plan. He quickly darted to the left and into the street. Thinking quickly, Fraser leapt from the fire escape and onto the sidewalk. Ray rushed past him still giving chase. Fraser stood from his landing in time to hear the tires squealing on the pavement. He would never forget the sound of the car's windshield breaking as he watched in horror at what had just happened.

~~~~~~ Chapter 70

"I already have Timberlakes. I need the plat for Timber Ridge. No it's not the same thing!" Rayni twisted a paperclip in her hand as she talked to one of the engineering techs at Falco Engineering. It had been a long day and she was ready to go to lunch. The last thing she wanted to do was argue over plats with Falco. "Fine, Martin. Just e-mail me the preliminary plats and I'll put those on the map. I need something for Emergency preparedness to use as a bearing for the addressing. " 

Cara appeared in her doorway with a concerned look on her face. Rayni held up her finger and tried to finish up her call. "I've got someone in my office, Martin. Gotta go. Okay, thanks. Just send me the plats. Talk to you later, bye bye." Rayni hung up the phone and rubbed the side of her head. 
"Geez, that man is anal." When Cara didn't respond, Rayni looked up in concern. 
"What's the matter?" 
"Fraser's on line four. He's calling from Chicago General." Rayni suddenly felt her heart dip into her stomach. She stared at the phone for what felt like days. 
"What's wrong?" Her words were small and shaky. Cara shook her head and took a step closer to Rayni's desk. 
"He wouldn't tell me. He just said it was urgent." Rayni swallowed hard in an effort to return some saliva to her mouth. Before picking up the phone she whispered a small prayer. 
"Dear God don't take my Ray." Holding the phone to her ear, she took a deep breath and pressed line four. "Fraser?" He could hear the fear in her voice and knew he needed to be direct. 
"Rayni, you should come to the hospital. Ray's been in an accident." Cara saw the rush of tears pooling in her eyes as her face paled. 
"Is he….." 
"No, he's in x-ray now. The doctors say he should be fine. You need to come to the hospital. Do you want me to call someone to drive you?" Trying to hear the words he was saying, Rayni rubbed her hand over her forehead. "No….no….I'll drive over. I'll be right there." She hung up the phone and stood behind her desk. Looking around her desk as if she had lost something, she spoke quietly to Cara. 
"I've got to go to the hospital. Ray's been in an accident. I've got to go." 
"I'll drive you. You can't drive." 
"No, that's fine. I'm okay." 
"No Rayni, you're not. Come on. Let's go." Cara grabbed her by the arm as she reached for her purse. Rayni pushed the button for the elevator as Cara explained the situation to Ellen. 
"Call us and let us know how he is!" Cara waved her understanding as she guided a very dazed and upset Rayni onto the elevator.

~~~~ Chapter 71

Rayni pushed her way through the doors of the emergency room. Faces and smells swirled around in her mind as she searched for someone to lead her to Ray. Finally she saw Lieutenant Welsh and Stella standing with Fraser. Fraser saw Rayni's terrified face and stepped away from the group to meet her. 
"Fraser! Where is he!? Where's Ray?!" Tears streaked down her face as she clung to his arms. 
"The doctor's have taken him up to x-ray. They're going to do a CAT scan and make sure there's no damage." "Damage? What happened?! What happened to Ray?!" Stella couldn't help but feel sorry for the woman as she stood there trembling. Cara had parked the car and joined them in the emergency room. She rubbed her hand across Rayni's back to try to get her to calm down.
 "He's been hit by a car." Fraser's calmness seemed to sooth her a bit, but the tears were still filling Rayni's eyes. "How? Was he driving?" 
"No, we were chasing a man on foot. The perpetrator ran into the street and Ray followed. He didn't see the car." Rayni held her hand over her mouth and sobbed. Fraser pulled her into a hug and held her for a few minutes while the information he told her sank in. As she softly cried in to Fraser's chest, she pleaded with him.
 "Please take me to him. Please, Ben. I have to see him. Please." Welsh couldn't take it any longer and stopped the first doctor he saw. 
"What's the story on my guy? I need to know something now." Fraser held a protective arm around Rayni as Welsh searched for information. Within a few minutes a middle aged woman appeared with some news. 
"I'm Mary Beth Lyans. I've spoken with the doctor regarding Detective Kowalski. They are still treating his injuries, but all is looking well. He'll be admitted and kept overnight for observation." Fraser stepped forward and gave Rayni a reassuring look.
 "Why is he being admitted? The emergency room doctor told us his condition wasn't serious." 
"Because Detective Kowalski was unconscious when he was brought in, they would like to keep him here in case he suffered a concussion." Rayni gasped and held back a sob at the information Mrs. Lyans had just given them. She pushed passed Fraser and through her tears, pleaded with the woman. 
"Please can I see him?" 
"He should be moved to a room momentarily. But until then, only family is allowed to see him." Before she had a chance to speak, Stella stepped forward. 
"I'm Stella Kowalski." In that very moment, Rayni could have committed murder. She took a small stepped forward at which point she felt Fraser's hand on her shoulder. 
"This is his fiancée, Rayni Mason." At those words, Stella turned abruptly and stared at Fraser and Rayni. She then looked down at the diamond on Rayni's left hand. Welsh stepped forward and cleared his throat. 
"Mrs. Lyans, why don't you show Ms. Mason to Detective Kowalski's room while the rest of us make some phone calls." He took Stella gently by the elbow and led her to the waiting room. Cara followed Fraser while Rayni disappeared through the double doors leading to the upper levels of the hospital. 


Chapter 72

Cara pulled Fraser gently by the sleeve before the two of them could make it to the waiting room. 
"Who is that woman?" Fraser tugged at his collar and looked down at the anger flashing in Cara's eyes. 
"That's Ray's ex-wife, State's Attorney Stella Kowalski." Cara looked through the glass door at Stella's back and glared. 
"Just what the hell does she think she's doing?!" Fraser wasn't sure if Cara wanted an answer or not. He had met Cara several times and knew that she was one of Rayni's best friends. He could see she was getting angrier by the moment. As Cara turned to face him again, she saw the big-eyed Mountie look Rayni had warned her about. Her anger began to fad as Fraser stammered out his question. 
"Would you….ah, perhaps, we should get some coffee?" Cara knew what he was doing. She grinned and nodded her head. 
"You just don't want me to beat her ass." Ben grinned ever so slightly as he opened the door and asked Welsh and Stella if they cared for a cup.


Rayni followed Mrs. Lyans down the long sterile hallway of the hospital. She was led to a small room with several beds lined up against the wall. Rayni took a deep breath and stepped into the doorway. She took another deep breath and steeled herself against what she might see. Mrs. Lyans called one of the doctors over and spoke softly to him. A very nice man with a smile too big for his face then greeted Rayni. 
"Miss. Mason. I'm Dr. Kane. I'd like to explain to you what the situation is and then I'll let you see your fiancé." Rayni shook his hand and tried to focus on the words as Dr. Kane spoke. 
"Detective Kowalski has only minor injuries. Nothing life threatening. He's got a few broken ribs and a bump on the head. Other than that, he's fine. We're keeping him here tonight as a precautionary measure. If all looks well, he'll be discharged tomorrow." The words seemed to blur in her mind. Her only thought, her only concern came out of her mouth in a restrained cry. 
"Can I see him?!" Dr. Kane placed a guiding hand on her back and escorted to one of the recovery beds at the end of the room. Rayni pushed the curtain aside and stopped. His shirt was off and his chest and ribs were heavily bandaged. Despite the amount of sun he had gotten in Florida, he still looked pale. His eyes were closed and his head was resting on the pillow. Rayni took a shallow breath as the doctor called out his name. Ray opened his eyes and weakly smiled. His smiled soon faded when he saw the look on Rayni's face.


"Rayni?!" Ray moved to sit up but ended up yelling in pain. Dr. Kane reached out and pulled one of the nurse's stools to the side of the bed. Rayni felt herself being pushed on to the stool. Her peripheral vision was becoming dark and her ears were ringing. As she tried to take another breath, she heard Ray's voice cry out in pain. She tried to call out to him but the words wouldn't come. Her head was being pushed down toward her knees and she thought she heard someone ask for Fraser. That was the last thing she remembered.


"Rayni? Rayni?" Fraser held Rayni's hand while he softly patted her cheek. The darkness was starting to lift. She blinked several times and tried to focus on the face in front of her. 
"Fraser? Where's……" 
"Take a deep breath. You fainted."
 "Ray? Where's Ray?" Panic had started to seep back into her voice as she struggled to look around the room. 
"He's right over here. He's fine." Fraser helped Rayni to a sitting position. She was lying on one of the beds in the recovery area. Rayni held tightly to his hand as she stood. 
"What happened?" 
"Did you eat breakfast this morning?"
 "Huh? Uh, no. I was running late." Fraser handed Rayni a glass of juice and smiled as the doctor walked toward them. 
"Well, that was exciting. Feeling better now?"
 "Where's Ray?! I need to see him." 
"Not until you finish that juice. You just got a little too stressed out." Rayni took another drink of juice and pushed passed Fraser. 
"I want to see him now." The doctor nodded and walked with Rayni back over to Ray's bed. Ray was sitting up and immersed in worry. Fraser was by her side when she rounded the curtain to see Ray. Silence hung in the air for a few moments as the two of them looked at one another. Rayni's face was tear streaked and pale while Ray's was weak and filled with concern. He lifted his hand and reached out for her. In a small tentative step, she took his hand and sat on the edge of the bed. Before the words would come, her emotions filled her throat and she began to cry. Dr. Kane stepped away and let them have a moment alone. Fraser nodded to Ray and excused himself from the area as well. 
"Hey, what's all the tears for, huh?" Ray smoothed a hand over her hair as she sobbed. 
"I could have lost you." 
"I'm fine. Just a little banged up is all." Rayni couldn't stop rubbing his hand. She clung to it as if it were his lifeline. 
"You looked so….so weak and hurt. I…..thought….." She tucked her head and sobbed. Ray grimaced in pain as he lifted his arms to cradle her. 
"Shhh, don't cry. Please. You know I can't stand it when you cry." 
"I'm so sorry." He pushed her away and looked into her face. 
"Huh? What the hell are you sorry for?"
 "We…..this morning……I'm so sorry I called you a dick. You're not a dick. I love you Ray. I'm so sorry." 
"I was a dick this morning. I'm the one that should be sorry." 
"You could have been killed." 
"Yeah, well, it was one of those foreign jobs that hit me. I think I did more damage to it." A small smile played across her face. He was trying to make her feel better. Rayni rubbed her hand along his arms and placed a kiss on his cheek. 
"You scared me."
 "I'm sorry."
 "I love you."
 "I know. I love you." Fraser watched them from the doorway. His friend was going to be fine. Both of them.

~~~~ Chapter 73

"I'm going. Tell Rayni I called the office. She's not expected back. She should call if she needs us." Cara gathered her coat and her purse while Fraser held the door for her. 
"Thank you for driving Rayni. I knew she'd be upset." 
"Yeah, upset is an understatement. She really loves that guy." Fraser nodded and walked her out to the parking lot. "Yes she does. Have a safe drive. Thank you for being here for them."
 "No problem. Talk to you soon." 
"Good night." Fraser closed her car door and waited until she had pulled out of the parking lot before returning to Ray's hospital room. Fraser exited the elevator and stood just outside the door when he heard them talking. 
"Stella was here." 
"Really? Who told her?"
 "I think Fraser said she was at the station when the call came in. She's a bitch Ray."
 "Rayni." Ray's weak voice conveyed little emotion as he chastised Rayni. 
"I'm not going to put up with her shit. I'm just letting you know that." 
"What happened?" Fraser stepped through the door and took a seat on the other side of the bed. "I believe she tried to horn her way in as family, Ray." Rayni nodded as she gently pushed Ray's hair away from his forehead.
 "I could have killed her where she stood. Fraser stopped me." 
"What did you say?" Ray looked at Rayni in surprise. "Nothing. Fraser took care of it." Fraser tucked his head and rubbed his eyebrow. 
"It seems she wasn't aware of your recent engagement. She seemed, well, she seemed displeased." 
"I'll displease her." Rayni mumbled. 
"Don't let her bother you babe. I love you, remember?" Rayni smiled and gave him a lingering kiss. She then gave Fraser a look that he read loud and clear. If Stella wanted trouble, she would get it. *Oh dear. *


Chapter 74

"I'm fine mom. Really….Yes ma'am. Rayni's taking good care of me."
 "Tell her what a big baby you're being." Ray glared at Rayni as he talked on the phone. He was doing his best to talk his mom out of coming for a visit. 
"No mom, the doc said I'd be good as new in a few days. The ribs are gonna be a little sore, but other than that, I'm fine." Rayni handed Ray a glass of Coke and then flopped down in the chair. She was so glad to have him home. She'd refused to leave his side all night. Fraser had to get Lt. Welsh to drive him to Rayni's office to retrieve her car and then bring her and Ray a change of clothes. Ray was still convincing his mother that it was not necessary for her to jump on the nearest plane to nurse her oldest son back to health.
 "I'll be back to work on Friday, Mom…….No, the doc said I could……Why do you have to ask Rayni?! I'm not going to lie to ya." Ray sighed deeply causing a pain to shoot through his ribs. He cursed under his breath and handed the phone to Rayni.
 "Hi Barbara……Yes ma'am. He's doing fine. He's going to work on Friday, but it's light duty. He'll be doing deskwork all day. I will…….Fraser's out getting lunch now. I'll call you and let you know how he is…..Bye." Rayni hung up the phone and grinned at Ray as he lay on the couch. 
"Your mom said I was doing a good job taking care of you." Ray pulled her down to a seated position on the edge of the couch.
 "You are." 
"Do you need anything?" 
"You." Ray pulled her gently to him. He placed soft kisses on her upper lip and lightly licked her lips with his tongue. Pulling away slowly and taking a deep breath, Rayni whispered.
 "Stop. You're in no condition for that." 
"Who said anythin' about that. Can't I kiss my girl?" Ray placed another kiss on her temple. 
"You really scared me Ray. I thought I lost you."
 "You're never going to lose me." 
"Promise. You're stuck with me." 
"I think I can live with that."

~~~~ Chapter 75

Fraser took a drink of water to wash down his bite of sandwich. Rayni was on the phone with her office, while Ray finished up his sandwich and flipped through the channels on the television. 
"So what time ya gotta be at work?" "I have sentry duty at two." 
"Whatdya do this time?" 
"Nothing actually. It's simply my turn." Ray raised an eyebrow and nodded.
 "That's a switch." 
"Ray." Rayni hung up the phone and took a bite out of her sandwich. 
"I hate stupid people." Fraser grinned at Rayni's casual statement.
 "Cara not in?" Ray asked between channels. 
"Neither was Ellen. Everyone else is useless. It took ten rings before someone would answer the phone. I'm busting some ass when I get back on Thursday. It is not the sole purpose of the women in the office to answer the phone." Fraser chewed slowly as Rayni seemed to get angrier and angrier.
 "I don't understand the problem." Ray shook his head while Rayni chuckled.
 "The problem in my office is, that the men don't think they should have to answer the phone or doing anything else deemed women's work. I actually had one of the new guys ask me to type a letter for him once." 
"Was he unaware of your position?" 
"Apparently. After I informed him that everyone types his or her own correspondence and that I as a supervisor of the department didn't have time to type his letter."
 "Mr. Caplin didn't tell him the chain of command?" 
"Apparently not. But I'm not surprised. This is a man that stood by and watched a vendor ask if he could borrow his secretary. Meaning me. Cara nearly choked on her water."
 "I politely declined stating that the office assistant was at lunch."
 "Give 'em hell babe." 
"Don't worry. I always do."
 "See Fraser. It's not hard. Tell the Dragon Lady to pick up her own damn dry cleaning from now on."
 "I haven't picked up the Inspector's dry cleaning in quite some time Ray. Not since that incident with the fire." "Fire?" Rayni looked at Fraser in surprise. 
"It's a long story." 
"Ah." Ray looked up at Rayni and laughed. 
"Stop that! You've been around Fraser too long, babe." Rayni placed a hand on Ray's forehead as she walked by. "You still feeling okay?" 
"I'm fine." Satisfied, Rayni turned her attention to Fraser. 
"So what's Neely up to today? Are you taking her out tonight?"
 "I haven't had much chance to talk to her since Sunday."
 "Why don't you call her?" 
"She's working." 
"So stop by before you go to work." Rayni grinned at the blushing Mountie. 
"I…uh…..that wouldn't be appropriate." 
"Why not? I think it's sweet. You can ask her to the movies tonight."
 "Damn you're pushy." Rayni stuck her tongue out at Ray and then looked back to Fraser. 
"I'm just trying to make Ben see a woman's point of view." 
"But don't you think that's short notice for a date?" 
"If she turns you down, I guess so. But until then, I say go for it." As Fraser thought about what Rayni had said, he felt an odd energy pulse through his stomach. Why did that always happen when he thought about Neely? *Oh dear. *

~~~~~ Chapter 76

Dief trotted down the sidewalk towards the consulate. He started to climb the steps but then saw his partner cross the street. Scrambling quickly to catch up, he looked to the left and right and crossed the street. 
"You jaywalked." 
"Yes, you did. I should make a citizens arrest." 
"Don't get snippy." Fraser opened the door to the office building and looked at the directory. Entering the elevator, they made their way to the fifth floor.

Fingering his Stetson nervously, he cleared his throat and caught the attention of the woman behind the desk. 
"I'd like to speak with Miss Neely Hamilton please." The young blonde woman looked him up and down and then smiled. 
"I'll buzz her." He could feel the heat rising in his chest as she dialed the phone. He wasn't sure if it was from the leering of the young woman or the thought of seeing Neely again.
"Please have a seat. She'll be right with you." Dief gave him a look as he took a seat in the lobby. Ten minutes later, Neely walked down the hall. Ben first noticed her long shapely legs as they moved under the mid length navy skirt. He stood quickly and offered her an endearing smile. 
"Ben, it's good to see you." Fraser tugged at the collar of his tunic and again cleared his throat. "I hope I'm not imposing. I do apologize for bothering you at your place of business." Neely smiled at his manners and placed her hand on his arm. 
"It's fine. What do I owe the honor?" 
"I was wondering if you would like to accompany me to the movies tonight." 
"I'd love to." A smile flashed across Fraser's face as she accepted a date with him. He fumbled with his Stetson and tripped slightly as he made his way to the door. 
"I'll see you after work. Have a pleasant afternoon." Neely grinned as she watched him leave. Once he was on the elevator, the blonde gave Neely a sly look. 
"He's hot." 
"Yes he is." 
"Lucky you." 
"Let's hope." Neely tossed her hair as she turned to return to her office.

~~~~ Chapter 77

Fraser buttoned the navy flannel shirt while Dief rested his head on his paws in the corner of Ben's office. Ben glanced at his watch and made a slight grunting sound. 
"I better get a move on. Are you sure you want to stay here? Rayni said you could stay with them tonight." Dief barked his reply. Ben stopped and placed his hands on his hips. 
"Well, I don't want you taking it upon yourself to go over there later. You don't need to be roaming the streets alone at night." If it were possible for a wolf to roll his eyes, Dief conveyed such a look to Fraser. 
"I mean it. I'm…..uh, not sure what time I'll be back. So don't wait up." Fraser pulled on his leather jacket and walked through the empty halls of the consulate Stepping out into the cool night air, he took a deep breath to calm the nerves in his stomach. Neely stepped out of a cab across the street and smiled as he walked toward her.
 "I see you've changed. You look very lovely." 
"Thank you. I was tired of wearing those heels and my boss left early so I managed to get away myself."
 "Ah. Would you like to get a bite to eat before the movie?" 
"Sounds great." Ben offered his arm as the two of them walked down the street.


"Hey, what's wrong?" Ray playfully poked Rayni in the side as she sat on the floor in front of the couch. 
"What's up? You look all sad." 
"I'm fine. Do you want me to cook you some dinner?" Rayni started to stand but Ray reached out and gently guided her by her waist to the edge of the couch. 
"Tell me what's wrong. You've been real quiet like ever since we got home from the hospital." Rayni could feel the tears bubbling to the surface, the last thing she wanted to do was cry. 
"I'm fine, really." She tried to rise again and retreat to the kitchen. Ray held on to her hand until she surrendered and took a seat once again on the couch. 
"Spill it. I ain't lettin' you up till you do." 
"You could have died." Ray started to crack a joke, but after seeing the fear and sadness in Rayni's eyes he thought better of it. 
"But I didn't." 
"But you could have Ray." 
"I'm a cop Rayni. You knew that. It goes with the job." Rayni took a deep breath and wiped at her eyes in an effort to hide the tears. 
"I just don't know how to handle it. I guess I never really thought about it before now. You could get shot." Ray reached out and wiped his thumb across her cheek. 
"It's my job babe. You knew that." 
"I can't lose you. How am I supposed to be able to send you off to work everyday not knowing if you'll come home to me at night?" The emotion was starting to grip at her throat. He voice started to crack and the tears were coming with more force. Ray hadn't expected this. It was a part of his life he had learned to live with. It was never an issue with Stella. * Wonder why not? * His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Rayni's sniffles. 
"Babe, listen. You can't worry about something that might happen. You just gotta live each day as it comes. Lots of guys are on the force until retirement. What's to say that won't be me one day, huh?" 
"You just looked so pale and hurt. I….I….." She leaned into his chest as she wept. Ray rubbed her back as she softly cried. 
"I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I can't change who I am." Rayni pushed away from him and saw the look in his eyes. 
"I don't want you to. I'll just have to push the idea out of my mind and pray a little harder." 

~~~~~ Chapter 78

"Would you like some popcorn?" 
"Thank you. That would be nice." Neely nodded as they walked into the movie theatre. Fraser pulled a twenty from his pocket and walked to the concession stand. Neely watched his muscular form as he leaned against the counter. *My God, he's a beautiful man. * Feeling her eyes on him, Ben turned and offered her a smile. She didn't turn away in embarrassment. She merely grinned and continued her observations. *Nice ass, too.* A blush crept up his cheeks as he tucked his head. The clerk handed him an obscenely large popcorn. 
"Looks like you're gonna get lucky tonight. Huh, pal?" The clerk's half cocked grin seemed to slide across his face as he looked Neely up and down. 
"I beg your pardon?" Ben straightened and moved to block the young man's view of his date. 
"She's hot." Seeing the young man wasn't really trying to be insulting, Fraser merely nodded hoping that would be a sufficient reply to get the clerk to drop the conversation and give him his change. 
"Whew, wish I was you, man." The clerk snickered as he gave Fraser his change. Retreating as quickly as possible, he placed his hand on Neely's elbow and escorted her into the darkened theatre. 
"What was that all about?" Fraser was thankful for the darkness after Neely asked her question. 
"He was commenting on how lovely you look." 
"How sweet." He hoped she didn't see the rolling of his eyes.


"I had a very nice time Ben." Neely leaned against her apartment door and smiled up at him. Fraser cleared his throat and drug his thumb along his eyebrow. 
"I did too. Thank you for accompanying me this evening." 
"Would you like to come in for coffee?" For a split second Fraser was about to refuse her because he had a busy day tomorrow at the Consulate. Then Ray's voice popped in his head. * Coffee don't mean coffee. It means a little lovin' on the couch.* 
"I'd love to." Neely smiled to herself as she unlocked the door. Fraser swallowed hard as he entered her apartment. The furnishings were modest but nice. Light muted tones were in the fabrics and window treatments. She motioned for Fraser to sit on the couch as she crossed through the living room and into the kitchen. 
"I'll go put a pot of coffee on." Fraser shifted nervously on the couch and tried to look as comfortable as possible. Neely soon returned from the kitchen with two mugs of coffee. She handed one of the mugs to Ben and then took a seat next to him on the couch. 
"I had a really good time tonight." Ben cleared his throat and replied. 
"So did I. We should go out again." Looking hopeful, he smiled at her. 
"Yes we should." She sat her mug on the coffee table and flipped on the television. Ben placed his mug beside hers on the table and reached out and took her hand. Considering this their second date, he decided to initiate something he had wanted to do all evening. He leaned toward her and noticed she seemed to respond. Slowly closing her eyes, she brought her hand to his neck. Lightly pressing his lips to hers, he kissed her.


Knocking lightly on the door, Ben hoped they would still be awake. 
"Hey Fraser, come on in." "I'm sorry to bother you so late, but….." His thoughts trailed off as he glared at Diefenbaker. 
"I thought I told you to stay put." Dief growled his reply to which Fraser crossed his arms across his chest. 
"I know you're a free will animal, but you're being rude." 
"The mutt's fine." Ray laughed as he walked into the room. 
"Good to see you up and around." 
"So how was the date?" Rayni smiled at Fraser's glowing red cheeks. 
"That good, huh?" 
"We went to the movies?" 
"So when are you going to bring her around? Surely you're not ashamed of me and Ray." 
"Of course not. It just hasn't come up." 
"I bet something else did." Ray mumbled as he sat back down on the couch. Fraser heard the remark and offered him a shocked expression. Rayni slid over on the couch next to Ray and laughed as Ben blushed again. 
"How about we all go to dinner this Friday?"
 "I'll ask if she's available." 
"Good. Do you want something to drink?"
 "No thank you. Dief and I must be going." 
"It's after 11. Why don't you sleep here."
 "We really should be going."
 "I don't have to work tomorrow. I'll cook breakfast for us all." Dief whined his vote and Ben lowered his head in defeat. 
"It's an imposition." 
"If it were an imposition, she wouldn'ta asked ya."
 "Very well." "Take your boots off and get comfortable. I rented a movie." The look on Rayni's face made Ray and Fraser cringe. Rayni's movies were always sappy chick flicks or eighties Brat Pack movies. 
"What did ya get this time?" 
"Real Genius." 
"Huh? Never heard of it." 
"Neither have I." 
"Then you're both in for a treat!"

~~~~~ Chapter 81

Ben woke to the smell of breakfast cooking and Rayni singing. 
"Little ditty, 'bout Jack and Di-a-ane. Two 'merican kids growing up in the heartland." 
"Hey, How'd you sleep?" 
"Fine. Do you need any help." "Go check on Ray. He's taking a shower." Ben stretched and rubbed his hands over his face. He glanced at his watch and sighed. * 6:30. I'm getting soft. * He walked down the hall in his bare feet and lightly tapped on the bathroom door.
"Do you need any assistance?" Ray leaned against the sink as he opened the door to Fraser. His hair was wet and plastered to his head. His boxer's were clinging to his body and he looked cold. 
"Can you wrap my ribs for me?" 
"Certainly." For the first time Fraser saw the bruises that were scattered across Ray's wiry frame. As Fraser stepped into the bathroom, Rayni called from the kitchen. 
"Are you okay?" 
"We're fine, babe. Frase is gonna wrap my ribs." 
"If you need any help, ask. Ben, how do you want your eggs?" 
"Any way is fine." Ben called as he took a new Ace bandage from the package.
 "Make a choice! You get them the way you like them." 
"You better tell her or else she'll make everything scrambled."
 "Over easy is fine." 
"No problem." Fraser licked his lips in concentration as he wrapped Ray's ribs. Ray took a deep breath and swore. "Ah damn, that hurts." 
"In a few more days you'll be fine." 
"I know. But it hurts like hell now." 
"Well you were hit by a car Ray. I imagine that can't be a pleasant experience." 
"I thought you got hit by a car once." Ray looked at Fraser's reflection in the mirror. 
"I fell off the back of one, I think." 
"You think?"
 "I don't remember much about it."
"You see, I had amnesia apparently. Ray and I were after these jewel thieves and while we were in pursuit, I leapt onto the back of their van. The license plate was obscured by mud and in my effort to remove the mud, I was thrown from the van." Ray listened intently while Fraser wrapped his ribs. By the time he had finished the story, they were done. 
"Too tight?" 
"Good. It's supposed to be." 
"You got a mean streak, you know that Fraser?" Fraser chuckled as he left the bathroom and returned to the kitchen.

"Thanks." Rayni looked up from the stove and smiled. 
"I don't mind." 
What time do you go in today?" 
"Sentry duty?" 
"Not today. I've got to fill out some reports that have to be in Ottawa by the end of the week and start setting the schedule for a diplomatic dinner next week." 
"Cool. Is he almost ready? Breakfast is just about done." 
"He should be out in a moment." Rayni busied herself with setting three places along the bar and filling the plates with food. Ben smiled at the absolute mess she had made of the kitchen while cooking.
 "You're going to make a great wife." 
"Yeah, well. I don't plan on doing this every day. Maybe on my days off, but I don't plan on making it a habit." "What about when we have kids?" Rayni and Ben looked over at Ray. Ben then looked to Rayni for an answer. He smiled as a look of happiness rested in her eyes. 
"Of course I'll cook breakfast then. Kids have to have brain food." The smile on Ray's face was priceless. Fraser couldn't help but be happy for them.

~~~~~ Chapter 82

"Would you like me to do that on my way to the Consulate?"
 "No thanks. I'll do it. I've got to go to the store anyway." Rayni washed the dishes as Fraser and Ray sat at the counter. Rayni needed to pick up an insurance form from the station for Ray. 
"Can I go with ya?" 
"No." Ray protested Rayni's quick answer. 
"Why not!?" 
"Because, the doctor said for you to rest so those ribs will heal quicker. Besides, if you go down to the station with me you'll get caught up in something and before I know it you'll be out the door with your guns blazing." 
"That's not fair." 
"That's why they're no corn dogs." Both men cocked their heads at Rayni's remark. Fraser stood and brushed his hands over his shirt. 
"I should be going. I've got to go home and change." 
"You want me to drop you off? It'll be quicker than walking. You've only got an hour." Fraser hesitated for a moment and then declined. 
"No thank you. I don't want to be any trouble."
 "Then take the bug. I'll use Ray's car today."
 "What?!" Ray's eyes widened. 
"That way I know you won't leave while I'm gone."
 "But who said you could take my car?!" 
"I did, just now." 
"Rayni, I can walk." Fraser's protests fell on deaf ears, as Rayni walked passed him and dug into her purse. She tossed the keys across the room at Fraser. 
"No problem. I think it needs gas though." 
"Hey! Don't I get a say!? The Goat's very sensitive. It….it don't like just anybody drivin' her."
 "I've driven the Goat before. I'm just going to the station, the store and then back here. Calm down." Ray sighed and dropped his head to his chest. 
"I must really have it bad. I've given over control of the Goat." 
"Sacrifice is the key to a giving relationship Ray." 
"Bite me Fraser."

~~~~~~ Chapter 83

Rayni pulled into Ray's parking spot at the station and swung the door to the car open. Gathering her coat around her and her purse, she locked the car and skipped quickly up the steps and into the station. Waving politely at the desk officer, she made her way to the bullpen. Francesca greeted her with a large smile that turned to a concerned look. 
"How's Ray?" 
"He's doing much better today. He's stiff and sore. But that's to be expected." 
"So what are you doing here?" Rayni pulled off her coat and tugged at the bottom of her sweatshirt.
 "I need to pick up some insurance forms for Ray. He called early this morning." Francesca nodded and pointed her in the direction of the Human Resource department on the third floor. As Rayni climbed the stairs she caught a glimpse of someone out of the corner of her eye. Her stomach immediately jerked. She looked down at the tattered Cubs sweatshirt and faded blue jeans she was wearing. Her biker boots were scuffed and worn. At least she had on make up and had fixed her hair that morning. Stella Kowalski lifted her head from her paperwork and stopped on the landing just as Rayni was about to walk passed. 
"Hello Stormy." Rayni felt a stabbing pain behind her right eye accompanied by the urge to hit something. She hadn't been called 'Stormy' since grade school. *Bitch* 
"It's Rayni. But I'm sure you knew that." Rayni squared her shoulders and refused to be intimidated. 
"Rayni, of course. I knew it was something to do with the weather." The two women regarded one another for a moment. Rayni purposely swept her hair from her face with her left hand. The gesture was not lost on Stella. Rayni's engagement ring, which was notably larger than the one Ray was able to afford fifteen years before, flashed in Stella's eyes.
 "Well, I must be going. I have a lot to do today." 
"I assumed you would be home with Ray. How is he, by the way? I imagine Barbara is taking good care of him." Stella allowed a grin to part her features. No doubt Ray's mother had been on the first plane out once she heard about her precious boy's accident. God knows, she was always barging in on them when they were married. "Barbara's not here. She felt that I could take care of Ray just fine." The look of slight shock and anger on Stella's face made Rayni smile. * Chew on that, stick nose.* Seeing that Stella was sufficiently pissed, Rayni turned and started climbing the stairs. 
"Well, I have to run. I've got a lot to do today. I'd like to take the Goat for a wash while I'm out." Rayni couldn't resist letting Stella know that she was driving the precious GTO. *Ha, Rayni 1, Stella 0. *

~~~~~~~ Chapter 84

Fraser licked his lower lip and sighed as he filled out the last of the immigration reports. Placing the last on in the out box, he mentally scolded himself for letting his thoughts wander for most of the day. He had to physically shake the image of Neely from his mind on several occasions today. Glancing at his watch, he noticed it was nearly five. With a smile, he stood from his desk and carried the papers to Turnbull. 
"Are you leaving for the day sir?"
 "Not yet. I have a few calls to make and then I'll be leaving." Turnbull smiled brightly and nodded his understanding, or merely nodded. Fraser was never entirely sure. Fraser turned to head to the kitchen for a glass of water when the phone rang. Turnbull picked up the receiver before it had time to completely ring. 
"Good Afternoon, Canadian Consulate. How may I assist you?……Hold please." Turnbull placed his hand over the mouthpiece and called to Fraser. 
"Sir. You have a phone call." Lowering his voice further, he grinned. 
"It's a woman." 
"Thank you kindly Turnbull. Please transfer…." Thinking of the last time Turnbull tried to transfer a call for him, he changed his mind. 
"I'll take it here." Placing the phone to his ear, he stood straight and spoke clearly. 
"Constable Fraser." 
"Ben. It's Neely. I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner this evening." The flash of excitement that passed over Fraser's face was barely enough to see. But Turnbull caught it. 
"That would be lovely. I need to return Rayni's car to her. Would you mind joining me while I do that? Then we can proceed to dinner." 
"That sounds fine. I'll be downstairs in a few minutes. See you then." 
"Very good. Goodbye." Fraser pulled at his collar and handed the phone back to Turnbull. 
"Good news sir?" 
"It seems I have a date." 
"Oh, most wonderful, sir." 
"Yes Turnbull, it is."

~~~~~ Chapter 85

Rayni stuck the green apple sucker in her mouth so she could open the door. She and Ray had decided to completely 'veg' out on the couch after Rayni's little run in with Stella. Ray had never heard the amount of profanity spilling from Rayni when she arrived home. With green lips and a lunch stain on the front of her sweatshirt, Rayni was face to face with Fraser and a very attractive brunette. 
"Hey Fwaser." Realizing the sucker was still in her mouth, Rayni quickly removed it and smiled at her houseguests. Unfortunately, her teeth were as green as her lips. 
"Sorry to drop by unannounced. Here are your keys. Thank you for allowing me to borrow your car." 
"No problem." Rayni looked at Fraser and winked. Fraser pulled at his collar and motioned for Neely to step into the apartment. 
"Rayni Mason, Ray Kowalski. This is Neely Hamilton." Ray stood up slowly from the couch and stood next to Rayni. "Nice ta meet ya. Come on in and have a seat." 
"Sure, Frase. We were going to order Italian. You two are welcome to stay." Neely smiled politely and looked at Fraser. He looked at Rayni and gave her a small smile. 
"Thank you kindly, but Neely and I have dinner plans for this evening. We really must be going. Dief, come on. We need to go." 
"What's Dief gonna do while you guys eat?" Ray looked over at the wolf that had already sprawled out on the end of the couch. 
"I was going to drop him off at the apartment." Rayni shook her head and waved her hand. 
"Nonsense. He can stay here. Dief, you want to stay here?" 
"See. He can stay here. You two go and have a good time." 
"Really, that's not……" 
"No problem, buddy. He can ride to work with me in the mornin'." Ray winked at Fraser and grinned. "Really I don't….." Fraser ran his thumb over his eyebrow as he protested. 
"Okay, it's settled. Have a great time. Neely it was very nice meeting you. I hope we can all get together on Friday and go out to dinner." Rayni would have offered to shake her hand, but thought better of it once she realized she was still holding her sucker. 
"That sounds nice. Ben speaks very highly of you."
 "He's so sweet." Rayni playfully batted her eyes at Fraser. 
"Yes he is." Neely smiled as she slipped her hand into Ben's. Ray stifled his laugh as the red crept over Fraser's face. 
"See ya later Frase." Obviously flustered, Ben stepped toward the door. He purposely avoided Rayni's gaze. He knew she would have a ridiculous smile on her face. 
"Uh….yes….thank you…..see you…..tomorrow…..Good…good night." "Night Frase." "Have a nice evening. Hope to see you soon Neely." Rayni waved out the door as Fraser led Neely down the stairs. Ray laughed loudly and then clutched his side as pain shot through his ribs. 
"Oh, that was fun." 
"Way fun." Rayni stuck the sucker back in her mouth and laughed.

~~~~~ Chapter 86

Neely slid her fingers into Ben's as they walked down the street from the restaurant. He lightly rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand as they stood on the corner. As he hailed a cab, she snuggled into his side. 
"A little." Fraser immediately began to take off his jacket to offer her. She laughed slightly and shook her head. "No, you keep it on. I'm sure you can keep me warm." Fraser slipped his hand from hers and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Neely looked up at him and rewarded him with a small kiss. The nighttime chill was forgotten as heat surged through his body. The cab pulled along the curb and Fraser actually sighed at having to release Neely from his embrace. Holding the door for her, he helped her into the cab. Before he could sit, she gave the driver directions to her apartment. Ben looked at her in confusion at first. Once Neely slipped her hand behind his neck and began kissing him lightly on the lips, understanding took hold.

Neely unlocked her door and pulled Fraser by the hand into her apartment. Knowing he was nothing but a perfect gentleman, she wrapped her arms around his neck and passionately kissed his lips. Responding to her passions, Fraser pushed the door closed with his hand and continued to kiss her. His tongue slid lightly over her lips as he sought entry. Neely parted her lips and allowed Ben to explore her mouth. Moans of pleasure escaped her as she twisted her fingers through the back of his hair. She took a few steps backwards as she led him to her couch. She could tell that Ben would never assume too much, so she took it upon herself to lead the way. Pulling her coat off, she dropped it to the floor. The look in her eyes told Ben exactly her intentions. He removed his jacket and tossed it carelessly across the back of one of her chairs. Neely pulled him down on the couch and ran her hands over his back as she kissed him. She could feel his breath quicken on her neck. He was right where he needed to be. She shifted slightly and Ben found himself between her legs. She ran her tongue along his earlobe and gently nibbled at his neck. She knew she was driving him crazy. But how much more could he stand. Leaning up on his hands, he looked into her eyes. She smiled up at him and laughed. 
"Shall we?" She looked toward her bedroom door and slowly blinked.
 "Maybe I should go. I….I….." 
"Ben, I want you to stay." He opened his mouth to honorably protest, but she quickly captured his mouth again. They never made it to the bedroom. Her living room floor was as far as their passions would allow them to go.

~~~~~~ Chapter 87

Rayni pulled her hair up in a clip and checked her make up in the mirror. Ray stood behind her and made a vain attempt to push his hair into place. 
"If you start to feel bad, you come home. Do you hear me?" When Ray didn't respond Rayni pointed her finger at his reflection in the mirror. 
"I mean it. I better not get a call from Francesca saying you're off chasing some nut-job around Chicago." "That's a terrible thing to call Fraser." 
"Smart ass. I mean it." Her voice softened as she turned to face him. Slipping her arms lightly around his waist, she smiled up at him. 
"I can't loose you. I love you too much." Ray hugged her and tried not to let her see him wince from the pain. His ribs were mending, but still tender. The bruise on his side looked a lot worse that it really was, but he assured her he was fine. 
"I love you too Doll. I'm just gonna ride the desk for most of the day. Fraser doesn't have to be in until one, so he's gonna help me catch up on the paper work." 
"I just worry about you. I've got to have you in one piece for the wedding."
 "I know. I'll be good I promise." Ray placed a warm kiss on her lips as he ran his hands down her back. 
"Okay, enough smooching. I've got to go to work."
 "Same here." Rayni patted him playfully on the bottom as she left the bathroom. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, she threw her purse over her shoulder and grabbed her briefcase by the door. 
"I love you! See you tonight!" Ray stuck his head out of the bathroom door and smiled at her. 
"I love you too. Have a good day."


Dief sat up straight in the front seat of the GTO as they pulled along the curb in front of Fraser's apartment. "Hey buddy. How'd the date go last night?" Ray immediately saw the blush creep across his face. *All right! The Mountie got mounted. 'Bout damn time. *
 "Neely and I had a pleasant evening." *There it is. Pulled at the collar. No eye contact. Oh yeah, he definitely shot the squirrel last night. * Fraser could feel Ray's eyes boring through him. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that ridiculous grin. * Oh dear. * Dief leaned forward from the back seat and whined his opinion. 
"That's none of your business!" Fraser glared at his ever-present companion. 
"What d'say?" 
"Nothing of any importance." Fraser wasn't about to tell him that his wolf just asked if he succeeded in mating. 
"If you say so." Ray chuckled which made Fraser blush even more. It was going to be a long day. But at least he would get to see Neely again tonight.

~~~~~~ Chapter 88

Rayni and Cara walked down the street to a small café for lunch. Rayni had been swamped all morning trying to catch up on the pile of files that had accumulated on her desk. She and Cara sat at a table near the window and looked over the menu. 
"So Ray's okay?"
 "He's fine. The ribs are still tender, but other than that, he's doing great." 
"That's good to hear. So how are the wedding plans coming?" 
"You and I have got to go shopping for your dress. I can ship whatever we pick out to Sharon in New York and she can have it altered there." 
"I feel like I know Sharon already." 
"We've been friends a long time. She and I sat together on the bus in first grade." 
"I can't wait to meet her. What else can I help you do?" 
"Well, now that things have calmed down a little. I've got to sort out all the details. Mom has my dress and her dress. She's bringing it up in about two weeks. Why don't you go with Ray and me to pick out the tuxedos? You can help Ben, while I wrangle Ray." 
"Sure, I can do that." The waitress appeared and smiled at the two women. 
"What can I get for you ladies today?" Cara nodded at Rayni to order while she looked over the menu again.
 "Chef salad, no tomatoes with Ranch dressing on the side, please." 
"Same here. Just give me her tomatoes."
 "I'll be right back." Rayni sipped on her water while Cara snacked on a breadstick. 
"So what are you and Ray doing this weekend?" 
"We're going out to dinner with Ben and his girlfriend." 
"Ben has a girlfriend?! I thought he was terrified of women." 
"Looks like he's faced his fear." 
"Who is she?" 
"Neely Hamilton. She works with Arcadia Publishing." 
"Don't know her. Lucky girl though." 
"We'll see. She seems nice." 
"So I guess I'm out of luck with my idea of asking Ben to escort me to the wedding." 
"Looks that way." 
"Damn shame." Cara grinned as Rayni laughed. Their lunch arrived and the two women relaxed and talked before heading back to the office.


"What is this?"
 "The 'do it later' pile." 
"How is that different from the 'doing it tomorrow' pile?" Ray pulled another file from the stack of folders on the edge of his desk and frowned. 
"Later doesn't mean tomorrow. It could be later than that."
 "Ah." Fraser shared a look with Dief and continued filling out some of the standard information on the various forms. 
"So where do you and Neely wanta go on Friday? Chinese? Mexican?" 
"Mexican? I haven't had Mexican food in a while. That sounds good."
 "Okay, buddy. Mexican it is. I'll let Rayni know. You wanna meet there? I can pick you guys up?"
 "I'll speak with Neely this evening and let you know." 
"So you're seein' her tonight, huh?" 
"Yes." Ray could tell that Ben had braced himself for some torment. Ray decided to cut him a break this time. "That's good. You ready to get somethin' to eat?" Looking up a little stunned, Ben smiled and nodded. "Yes Ray." "Greatness. Hey Frannie! Fraser and I are gonna get somethin' to eat. You want anything?" Francesca looked up from her computer and smiled. 
"No thanks. I'm meeting Ma for lunch. Thanks anyway."
 Ray and Fraser walked through the bullpen and out the main doors. 
"That was very thoughtful of you Ray." 
"I'm a thoughtful guy."
 "Perhaps the blow from the car has jarred something in your brain." 
"Can it, Dudley." 
"Perhaps, not."

~~~~~ Chapter 89

"I hope she's nice." Rayni pulled on her boots while Ray finished dressing. 
"She seemed nice when we met her." 
"I know. I'd hate to have to beat her ass if she hurts Fraser though." Ray grinned at Rayni as he sat down beside her on the edge of the bed. 
"You're such a bad ass."
 "Damn straight."


Fraser pulled his sweater over his head and looked at his reflection in the small mirror. Dief barked his approval and Fraser smiled. 
"Thanks. I'm sorry you can't go with us." Bending down, he rubbed Dief on the sides and looked him in the eyes. A low growl emanated from deep within Dief's throat as Fraser stood. 
"I know. I'll be careful. It's unlike me to fall for a woman so quickly." Dief trotted over to the bed and gracefully leapt on the wool blanket covering the foot. His look of concern made Fraser lower his head and plead his case. "She's very nice. There's something about her. It won't be like last time." Fraser knew his last statement was said with less conviction than he had hoped. Dief offered him a reassured look as he rested his head on his paws.
 "I know what I'm doing. I'm taking things slow." The growl from Dief told him he was treading on dangerous ground with his wolf. 
"I realize that the….ah….that we have……but, sometimes things just go too far too soon. She's a lovely woman." Dief saw the look in his eyes. He had seen it once before and frankly it had him scared to death.

~~~~ Chapter 90

Ray held onto Rayni's fingers as they stood in the front of the restaurant. Rayni looked over the menu while they waited on Fraser and Neely to arrive. 
"What do you feel like tonight?" She regretted her question once Ray gave her a lewd look. 
"I think I'll have the chicken enchiladas. Have you had them here before?" 
"Yeah, they're good." Fraser held the door for Neely and the two of them waved and hugged their greetings to Ray and Rayni. The hostess led them to their table. Rayni slid to the inside of the booth and Neely did the same on the opposite side. 
"Neely, have you ever eaten here before?" Neely smoothed her napkin across her lap and nodded. 
"A few times. It's very good. I love the burritos." 
"Did you complete the paperwork Ray?" Before Ray could answer Rayni shook her finger at Ben.
 "Uh-uh. No shop talk. This is strictly a social gathering." 
"Yes ma'am." 
"Fine Doll." Fraser chuckled at Rayni as she stuck a tortilla chip in her mouth.
"So Ben tells me the two of you are getting married pretty soon. That must be so exciting. Have you planned everything yet?" Neely took one of the chips and broke it into small pieces. 
"Not hardly. Speaking of plans, you two boys belong to me tomorrow. We've got to fit you for tuxes." 
"What time shall I be at the rental place?" Rayni took a sip of water and pulled a small notebook from her purse. "We've got to be there at two. We'll pick you up."
 "That sounds fine." Ray rolled his eyes as Fraser smiled. 
"I saw that." Rayni poked him in arm. 
"I hate those monkey suits. Let's get married in Vegas."
 "No way. I've already bought my dress. So there's no turning back now."
 "What are your colors?" Neely smiled over at Ben as Rayni spoke. 
"I'm not sure yet." 
"I thought the wedding was in April." 
"It is." 
"I see." 
"Yeah, so do I. I'm really going to be swamped. But, I can do it. I have to." Small talk continued throughout the meal and on through dessert. Rayni was really starting to like Neely. She was smart and funny and Fraser was obviously taken with her. Rayni hugged Fraser goodnight at the door of the restaurant. She then took Ray by the hand and walked down the sidewalk. 
"That was fun." Ray smiled over at Rayni. 
"Yes it was. I'm glad he's found someone." 
"Yeah, me too I guess." 
"You guess?" 
"Guys don't really think about this stuff, babe. We don't spend our days wonderin' how to fix our friends up like you girls do." 
"Yeah, you just worry about how long it's going to be before you can have sex again." 
"True." Ray smiled down at Rayni and kissed her forehead.
 "And how long do you think that might be?" Rayni looked at her watch and grinned. 
"About a half hour, depending on how fast you drive."

~~~~~~ Chapter 91

Before Ray could unlock the door to Rayni's apartment, she was already kissing the side of his neck. As she ran her tongue along the pressure point behind his ear, he fumbled with the lock. Closing his eyes and enjoying the sensation of her touch, he sighed. 
"Are we going to do this in the hall?" Ray opened his eyes and smiled at the lust in her eyes. He knew tonight would be pure sex. Of course he loved her. She loved him. But he could tell by the look in her eyes that she just wanted to be fucked. No confessions of love. No soft kisses on the eyelids. Just pure down and dirty sex. He nearly ripped the knob off the door trying to get it open. Rayni started to pull her coat off when Ray grabbed her around the waist and pressed her against the wall. He pushed his hips into hers and looked into her eyes. The smile barely parted her lips before he inhaled her lips. Feeling herself being pulled forward she started shedding her clothing in anticipation of what was to come. Ray pushed and pulled at her sweater while she yanked at her boots. She grabbed his shirt and thrust it over his head. Throwing it across the room, he kissed her again. Hard and full of passion, he explored her mouth and tasted the sweetness of her. He finally had her stripped of her outer clothing and she stood before him in an orange silk bra and much to his pleasure, no underwear. She had managed to undo his belt and the snap on his jeans. He threaded his fingers through her hair as she ran her fingertips along his chest. Looking up into his eyes, she was breathless as she spoke. 
"Lose the pants. Now." 
Ray yanked his boots off as quickly as he could. He nearly fell to the floor when she occupied her wait with his nipple. She lazily ran her tongue around the tip until he sighed. The she surrounded it with her mouth and sucked. A loud gasp escaped his mouth as the sensation traveled through his body. He yanked his pants from one leg, then the next. He turned her around and led her to the couch. She smiled as he kissed her shoulders while he unfastened the clasp of her bra. Ray hooked his fingers through the straps and pulled them from her arms. Both were now free from all clothing when Rayni turned to look at him. 
He could barely whisper her name before she pushed him backward on the couch and captured his mouth. He ran his hands over her hips and ass as she sucked and licked his upper lip. He sighed into her kisses as she slid her fingers down his stomach and grasped his length. Sliding down his form, she rested her head on his thigh. He threaded his fingers through her brown hair and closed his eyes. As he leaned his head back on the arm of the couch, she took him into her mouth. The warmth and wetness was almost too much for him to handle. She raked her nails along his thighs and was rewarded with a shudder. 
"Oh Jesus." He murmured as she reached down to cup his balls in her hand. He couldn't take much more. He needed her. He pushed her away from him and pulled her to his chest. Kissing her again, he could tell she was sharing his need as well. He pushed her backwards and rose to his knees. Rayni turned and felt Ray's hand gently stroke her center. With his other hand he rubbed the small of her back. As she rested her arms on the arm of the couch, Ray entered her. Arching her back, she pressed into his groin. He grabbed her hips and pulled them to him. As his thrusts increased, she moaned with pleasure. His gripped tightened on her hips as she bucked against him. He could tell by her gasps and moans that she was near her climax. Leaning forward until he was lightly resting on her back, he reached around her and gently fondled her breast.
 "Oh Ray!" Thrusting harder, he ran his hands down her waist and to her hips again. Feeling her shudder against him, he exploded. Moaning loudly, he wrapped his arms around her waist. They were both breathing heavily when he leaned back on his heels and she turned to hug him. He wiped the sweat from his face as she pushed the hair from her eyes. Grabbing the throw blanket from the back of the couch, Ray snuggled Rayni into his chest and kissed the top of her head. That's where they slept for the rest of the night.

~~~~~ Chapter 92

"Hold still."
 Ray stiffened as Rayni glared at him. She pulled on the tie and tried to adjust it to his neck. 
"I hate this." 
"Tough. You love me though. Keep thinking that." Ray smiled at her. The tailor entered the dressing room to check on them. 
"How's that one fit?" 
"It's killin' me." 
"It prepares you for the wedding, son." Rayni looked at him in surprise and the tailor laughed. Ray started to chuckle when Rayni pulled a little harder on the bow tie. 
"Hey! That's not buddies."

As Rayni wrestled with Ray in one changing room, Cara was doing her best to help Ben. 
"What size pants do you want?" Fraser poked his head above the dressing room door and looked wide eyed at her. "Uh….36 waist……34 length. Please." Cara shook her head as she went to the salesgirl for help.
 "God he's shy." She returned with a pair of pants and a jacket. 
"Thank you kindly." Cara called across the small shop into the other dressing area. 
"Hey Rayni! Vests or cumberbun ?" 
"Vests! This is a wedding, not a prom!" 
"Got it!" Cara placed the vest Rayni had picked out over the door and waited for Fraser to dress. She stared down at Dief and rolled her eyes. 
"Is he always this slow?" Dief whined as Fraser cleared his throat. 
"It seems the…well, it…..I can't seem….." Cara opened the door much to Fraser's shock and offered her assistance. "It's twisted in the back. Hang on." Cara turned Fraser around and straightened the straps to the vest and adjusted the back. 
"Thank you kindly." Looking him up and down, she crossed her arms over her chest. 
"Not bad. Are the pants too tight?" Blushing, Fraser tugged at the collar of the shirt. 
"No. They fit fine." Cara pulled the jacket from the hanger and held it for Fraser to slip on. Once it was in place, she brushed her hands across the shoulders and then much to Fraser's surprise, tugged at the bottom of the coat. "There. That looks good." Fraser grinned as she started tugging and brushing at his jacket again. 
"You act as if I'm a child. I can dress myself you know?" There were no ill feelings in his voice. He was actually relaxed with Cara. She tried not to crack a smile when she replied. 
"I'm just so used to men acting like children. Most can't even pick out a tie." He smiled at her teasing and she smiled in return. 
"Well, I assure you, I'm no child." She looked him in the eye and then to his feet. 
"Then maybe you should quit running around in your bare feet." Blushing slightly, he wiggled his toes, which caused them both to laugh. 
"Thank you for the help." 
"Anytime. Besides, we're the wedding party. We've got to stick together." 
"Oh, that reminds me. How about you and I throwing the lucky couple a wedding shower?"
 "Isn't that customarily a women's only event?" 
"Not anymore. I was thinking along the lines of a get-together with all their friends and family. No theme. Just food, and gifts." 
"Theme? People have themes for such things?" Cara had been around Fraser on several occasions now and knew he was a little backwards in some things.
 "Oh sure. I've been invited to several theme showers. One was an 'Around the Clock' shower. That one was just for women. You were assigned a time of day and had to by a gift to be used during that time. There's also the 'Room to Room'. Same thing, just rooms. My favorite so far was a 'Tool and Drool' shower. The men brought gifts for the man to use around the house and the women brought lingerie." 
"It was a blast." 
"Is that what you're wanting to do?"
 "Nah, I thought we could just invite their friends and do the food and socializing thing."
"That sounds like a very nice idea."
 "So you'll co-host with me?" 
"You're girlfriend won't get jealous will she?" Cara smiled as Fraser bent down to try on the shoes he would rent. His face immediately flamed red. 
"Well, tell her not to worry. She's invited." Fraser smiled up and Cara and nodded. He liked Cara. She was a good friend to Rayni. He could see why Rayni and she got along so well. They were a lot alike in some ways.

"You look great." 
"Really?" Ray looked at his reflection in the mirror.
 "I can't wait to get you out of this thing on our wedding night." Rayni reached behind him and playfully pinched his ass. As Ray involuntarily jumped, Fraser and Cara walked around the corner.
 "Get a room." Cara laughed. 
"Fraser you look great." Rayni turned her attention to Fraser and sized the two tuxedo clan men up in the mirror. 
"I think the wedding party looks pretty stunning, don't you Cara?" 
"We look like we should be on the cover of 'Modern Bride'."
 "Okay, you two get those off and we'll go get some lunch. Then Cara and I are going to look for bridesmaids dresses."
 "We don't have to go with you to do that part, right?" Ray offered Rayni a pleading look.
 "No, we don't need the dead weight. We're on a mission." 
"Thank God. Come on Frase. Let's get out of the penguin suits." 
"Right Ray. If you'll excuse us ladies." Two minutes after Ray walked into the dressing room he called for Rayni. "Hey babe, come get me outta this thing." Rayni rolled her eyes as Cara went to see if Fraser needed any help.

~~~~~ Chapter 93

Cara and Rayni walked into the small boutique and started looking through the racks of dresses.
 "Do you have an idea of what you want?"
 "Kind of. But I want something that you like and that will look good on you."
 "What about Sharon?" Cara slid the dresses along the rack as she looked for a style she liked. 
"Sharon is one of those, really thin, no boobs, narrow hips girls. She looks good in anything." 
"Well, if she doesn't have any boobs, we better stay away from strapless."
 "Good idea." The two laughed as the salesman made his way across the store.
 "Good afternoon, ladies. My name is Jack. How can I help you today?"
 "We're looking for bridesmaids dresses. Something classy and understated."
 "Do you have a style preference?" 
"Not really." Rayni answered. Cara nudged her in the arm and laughed.
 "No strapless." 
"Okay, let's see what we can do." Jack began to pull various styles of dresses from the racks and draped them over his arm. 
"Who's the bridesmaid?"
 "I am." Cara tossed her hand in the air. 
"Okay, you look like you're a size….." 
"Be kind." 
"10? Maybe an 8?" 
"Let's try both and see what happens." Jack smiled and led her to a dressing room. Cara slipped into the first dress and walked out in to shop. 
"Too much poof. I'm thinking more of a straight skirt. Very understated." Cara nodded as she made a face toward Rayni. 
"What about that yellow one over there?" Cara pointed to one hanging on the end of a rack. Jack removed the dress and smiled. 
"Oh, this pale yellow will really bring out your skin tones. How many bridesmaids do you have?"
"What color hair does the other girl have?"
 "Brown." Jack clapped his hands and smiled. 
"Oh then this color will be fabulous on you both. Here, just slip this on and let's see it." Cara took the dress and slipped the top over her head. Stepping in to the skirt, she smiled at her reflection. 
"I like this one." 
"Oh Cara, it's gorgeous." Rayni looked at Jack for his opinion.
 "That's fabulous. Just fabulous. Now we'll take the shoulders up some. And take a little in at the waist." Jack started bunching the fabric in his hands while Cara stood in front of the mirror. 
"The other bridesmaid is in New York. Is there anyway she can buy the same dress there?" 
"That is not a problem. Tell me where she lives and I'll have a dress shipped to the nearest boutique." Rayni felt as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. It had only taken four hours to find a bridesmaid dress. She looked at her watch and hoped she would have enough time to stop by the printers for invitations.

~~~~~~ Chapter 94

"Did you get fitted today?" Neely propped her feet up on the couch as she sipped on a club soda. 
"Yes. Cara and Rayni made sure Ray and I were presentable." Fraser rested his hand on Neely's leg while the television lightly droned in the background.
"Cara? Who's she?" 
"She's Rayni's Maid of Honor."
 "Oh, have you known her long?" 
"I guess I've known her about as long as I've known Rayni." 
"Oh." Neely took another sip of her soda. 
"She and I are going to give Ray and Rayni a shower. I hope you can attend."
 "You and Cara? That's cozy." 
"Is something wrong?" 
"No, I just didn't realize you kept so much company with other women." Dief lifted his head from his paws and looked intently at her. 
"Cara and I are friends. She and I are the wedding party. We've got to stick together." Ben smiled and tried to sound lighthearted. He could tell by the look in Neely's eyes that she was jealous. Jealousy was not something Ben was accustomed to. 
"I see." Feeling he should put her fears to rest, he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the lips. 
"I need a favor." Neely looked at him and cocked her head. 
"Would you be so kind as to help me select a shower gift?" Ben nuzzled her neck and placed light kisses on her ear. "I'd be happy to. Besides, who could refuse such a kind face." Neely turned to place a deep kiss on his lips. Dief closed his eyes and worried the rest of the afternoon.

~~~~~ Chapter 95

"Hey babe." Ray helped Rayni with her shopping bag, while she and Cara walked into the apartment. 
"Did you buy a lot of good stuff?" 
"I got the guest register and some sample books from the printers."
 "Did you find a dress?" Ray looked at Cara while she sat down in the chair next to the window.
 "Yep, looks fabulous, darling. Fabulous." Both women laughed as Cara mocked Jack the salesman.
 "What about Sharon?"
 "That reminds me. I've got to call her. They are shipping her dress to her. Jack even called and made sure they had the shoes in stock." 
"Sounds like everything is covered. What's left to do?" Cara grinned at how clueless Ray was being. Rayni looked at him and shook her head. 
"We've got a lot left to do. I've got a list. You want the whole thing or just the stuff I'm making you help me with?" "Just my stuff." 
"We've got to pick out wedding bands. Decide on a menu for the reception. The cake is taken care of. So that's not a worry. We've got to have the order in to the printer for the invitations by the end of this coming week. My mom and I are handling the florist, but I want you to go with me." Ray cringed while Cara giggled.
 "You need to make hotel arrangements for your parents and Steve. We've got to get in touch with your parents about the rehearsal dinner. We've got to discuss transportation to and from the church. Don't forget the honeymoon." 
"Vegas is lookin' real good about now." 
"Tough titty." 
"Tough titty? Did you actually say 'tough titty'?" 

"Yes. I did."
 "Okay, that's it. You ain't hangin' around Cara no more. She's a bad influence on you."
 "Don't blame me! She talked like that when I met her!"
 "Are you staying for dinner? Ray's cooking." Rayni smiled over at Ray as he faked laughing at her. 
"Sure, sounds better than my empty house."
 "I thought you liked that guy Sam in Planning." 
"Too bad. He's cute." 
"Yeah, his life partner, Lance thinks so too. And now that Fraser has a girlfriend, I guess I'm going stag to the wedding. I hate that. What about your brother Steve? Is he single?" Ray shook his head while he flipped through the take-out menus. 
"The last time I talked to him he was single. But, I wouldn't get your hopes up." 
"Why not? Is he anything like you?"
 "Nothin' like me."
 "Well there's a plus right there." Cara laughed while Ray threw a pillow at her. 
"Don't listen to her sweetheart. You're wonderful." 
"Thanks babe." 
"Now order us something to eat. We're starving."

~~~~~~ Chapter 96

Rayni sat at her desk and rubbed the sides of her head. It had been a long week and she was grateful it was Friday. 
"Just two more hours. My God, it's been 3:15 for an hour now!" She pushed away from her desk and decided to go down the hall to the break room for something to drink. Just as she poured herself a glass of juice, she heard her name being paged. 
"Rayni Mason, line three. Rayni you have a call on line three." 
"What now?" Her head was throbbing and all she wanted to do was go home and lie down. With her juice in hand she stepped into the closest office to use the phone. Fortunately it was Cara's. 
"Rayni Mason." 
"Hi, baby. It's mom." 
"Hey, where are you?" 
"We're at Mike's. We got in about an hour ago. Karen is going to cook tonight, so don't make any plans. We'll see you and Ray about seven." 
"Bye dear. See you then. Oh, and could you pick up one of those great cheesecakes for dessert? Thanks sweetie. Bye." Before Rayni could protest, her mother had hung up the phone. 
"Shit." Cara looked up from her computer with concern in her eyes.
 "What's wrong?" 
"My parents just got in." 
"Oh." That's why Cara and Rayni were such good friends. There didn't need to be more explanation. That one sentence was enough to convey it all. 
"You're coming with me tomorrow." 
"Me?! Why me?!" Cara teased.
 "If I've got to run all over this city making wedding plans, it's your duty as the maid of honor to keep me from killing my mother." 
"Well, it would look rather bad to have the groom arrest his bride for homicide." 
"They'd never convict. Put at least one married woman on the jury and I'll walk."
 "True. Very True. So what's going on tonight?" 
"Dinner at Mike's." 
"You don't look thrilled."
 "Really, I thought I was oozing enthusiasm." Rayni said flatly. 
"Try harder." 
"I better go call Ray." 
"Have fun." Cara grinned and waved her fingers at Rayni. Rayni grinned in return and sarcastically replied. 
"See you tomorrow. It'll be so much fun." Cara's smiled faded as she shook her head. 
"Someone just shoot me now." 

~~~~ Chapter 97

"Let's go! We've still got to go by the bakery and pick up the cheesecake."
 "It's only five thirty! What's the rush?" Ray opened the refrigerator and stared at the contents.
 "It closes at six."
 "But we don't have to be at Mike's until seven."
 "Dear sweet man. Seven in Eleanor time, means six thirty."
"If I were to show up at seven o'clock, she would have the table set and ready with everyone seated and staring at the door. The minute we walked in she would start in on how it's such a virtue to be punctual." 
"Your family is a bunch of freaks, Rayni." 
"Yeah well. You're marrying in to them." 
"What the hell am I thinkin'?!" Ray joked. 
"I haven't the slightest idea. I had no choice in the matter. You, I think you're just stupid." Ray wrapped his arms around Rayni's waist and kissed her temple. 
"Stupid for you babe, stupid for you."

Rayni rang the doorbell and was immediately greeted by Josh.
 "Hey buddy!" Josh threw his arms around his aunt's waist in a large hug. He then leapt toward Ray. Ray smiled brightly up at Rayni as the nine-year-old boy thrust himself into Ray's arms. 
"Hey kiddo. What's shakin'?" 
"Did you bring Constable Fraser and Diefenbaker?" 
"Not this time kid." Josh looked a little disappointed. Ray knew he loved playing with Dief. Who wouldn't want to show off a half-wolf to the neighborhood kids? 
"Grandma and Grandpa have been waiting on you." 
"It's only twenty 'till seven." Ray shrugged his shoulders at the 'I told you so' look she was giving him. Josh ran through the house and into the kitchen. 
"Josh, stop running!" Karen called from somewhere inside the house. Josh ran up to Eleanor who was checking on the backed chicken and pulled on her arm. 
"Rayni's here, Gran."
 "Oh good. Will you be a dear and bring me that big yellow shopping bag from our bedroom."
 "Yes'm." Happy to useful, Josh ran off in the direction of the bedrooms. Ray hung up their coats and held Rayni's hand as they walked to the living room. 
"Ray, my boy! How's my favorite son-in-law to be?" Paul was stretched out in the recliner while Mike had his feet propped up on the coffee table. 
"I'm good. Did you and Eleanor have a good trip up?" 
"Talked the whole way. If you two don't get married soon, I just might move in with Bernie and Marty." The men laughed while Rayni rolled her eyes. She leaned over the recliner and gave her dad a kiss on the cheek. 
"I'm going to go help Karen." Rayni winked at Ray as she left the livingroom. Karen was placing the dinner rolls on a pan to be heated. 
"Where do you want the cheesecake?"
 "Here, put it on this platter." Even though her family made her crazy most times, she loved the gentle chaos that was family gatherings. The house always smelled like a feast. The murmur of the television was always interrupted by boisterous screaming for what ever team was being robbed. Josh was in constant motion and she wouldn't have it any other way.
 "Hey mom." Rayni kissed her mother hello and washed her hands in the sink. 
"How's Ray? Has he been back to the doctor's?" 
"He's fine. The ribs are all healed."
 "That's good." Josh returned to the kitchen with both hands wrapped firmly around the handle of a large yellow shopping bag.
 "Here it is Grandma." 
"Thank you sweetheart. Rayni, here are the things from the condo. The cake server and knife are wrapped up. You'll probably have to polish them. Be careful with the toasting glasses. I didn't have a box to put them in. So they are just in the small box I used. Our dressed are in the guestroom…."
 "Oh Rayni can I see your dress?" Karen smiled. 
"Sorry. No one sees it until the wedding day." Karen pouted slightly. 
"But aren't you leaving it here?" 
"Nope, I'm taking it with me." Eleanor looked concerned. 
"What about Ray? Won't he try to sneak a peek?" 
"I doubt it. He really doesn't care about stuff like that. He's just ready to get married. Mom, Cara and I will pick you up in the morning around nine. We've got an appointment at the florist at ten and then the caterer at one. I ordered the invitations. They'll be in on Tuesday."
 "Did Mrs. Diante call about the cake?"
 "Yes ma'am. She's all set. Six layers. White icing with daisy's." 
"That's going to be great." Rayni smiled at Karen and realized they had forgotten to invite her shopping with them. "Karen, are you coming tomorrow?"
 "I'd love to, but we scheduled Josh and your dad to be fitted for their tuxes and after that Josh has hockey practice." 
"Hey, am I going?" All eyes turned to Ray as he stood in the doorway of the kitchen. Rayni smiled at him as she walked over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. 
"Do you want to go?" Ray looked at her while he contemplated his answer.
 "I'm supposed to help, right?" Eleanor frowned and shook her head at Rayni. 
"You don't need to come dear. We'll be making all kinds of decisions." Rayni and Ray looked at her and then looked at each other again. 
"Should we pick Cara up, or is she meeting us?" Ray grinned at Rayni while he asked his question. 
"We'll pick her up. And don't eat a big breakfast. We'll be sampling a lot of food at the caterer." 
"Sounds good." Ray retreated from the kitchen. Karen tried not to laugh too loud and Rayni just beamed. Eleanor scowled at her and shook her finger. 
"You shouldn't drag that boy with us. He'll be miserable."
 "Misery loves company, Mom. He's going. It's his wedding too."


Ray flopped down on the couch and threw his arms over his head.
"I think I died twenty minutes ago." Rayni took the last of the packages into the bedroom and joined Ray on the couch. 
"Scooch over." As they lay there in the quiet stillness of the apartment, Rayni traced small circled on his arm. 
"I don't see how you did it." 
"What?" Rayni turned until she was facing him with her chin resting on his chest. 
"I would have gone ballistic if I had to put up with your mom all the time. You shoulda seen your face when she tried to give the caterer orders for the menu after you told her we were going to decide."
 "I handled it." 
"Cara and I were just lookin' for cover."
 "At least the florist went well." 
"How could it not. You threatened to order black roses if your mom didn't stay out of it." 
"The daisies will be beautiful."
 "Not as beautiful as you. I can't wait to see you in your dress." 
"It won't be long. Six more weeks. Have you booked the honeymoon yet?"
 "Fraser and I are meetin' with the travel agent on Tuesday." 
"I can't wait." 
"Me either. You'll be Mrs. Rayni Kowalski." 
"I'm going to have a hell of a time writing that on checks." Ray kissed the side of her head as she lay in the crook of his shoulder. 
"You'll get used to it."
 "I know. We've got to start packing your stuff up."
 "I know. Do you want to live here? I think we should get our own place. You know, buy a house or something."
 "Can we afford it?" 
"Sure. I think we can swing it. We're both working. I've been savin' money. What do I spend it on?"
 "Your car." 
"Some things are worth the money."
"Should we join our accounts?" Ray didn't answer right away. His mind drifted back to a dingy apartment sixteen years ago. Stella refused to have a joint account. Her mother had always taught her to keep her money 'her' money. "Ray?"
 "Yeah, babe?" 
"Do you not want a joint account?"
 "Do you?" Rayni could see it. That look. The look that only Stella could cause. She hated her for that. Sadness mixed with regret. It wasn't there as often, but it showed up occasionally. 
"Of course. We're going to married. We husband and wife, not roommates." Ray smiled and hugged her to his chest. "When do you want to do it?"
 "I don't think we can until after the wedding. Don't they need to see the marriage license?"
 "I think so. I'm serious about the house. We might live here for a while, but I want a real house and a yard."
 "Me too. Somewhere the kids can play." Rayni smiled at the contented sigh Ray released from his chest.
 "I love you."
 "I love you too."


Just Falling Part 4