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Disclaimer: The characters from the world of Stephanie Plum are the sole property of the author, Janet Evanovich.  I have only borrowed them and do not wish to make money off them.  This story, however, is copyrighted to the mentioned author. This story is for entertainment purposes ONLY.  

Author’s Note:  This is the sixth story in my Diesel and Steph series; the reading order is as follows:  An Unmentionable Choice; Truth & Regrets; Atonement and the Learning Curve; Distractions; Love & Disclosure. I have to give immense thanks to AmyF.  She helped me get back on track after a break from writing, she beta’d it for me and she helped make this a whole lot better than it would have been without her input.

Chapter One

The first streaks of dawn were lighting up the sky as I lay in bed unable to sleep. The only sound I could hear was the squeak of Rex’s wheel as the little animal ran his nightly marathon in the kitchen.

I looked down at the woman sleeping soundly next to me. Well, on me actually. Somehow, she always ends up using me as a pillow. Not that I mind. One of the perks of being loved by Stephanie Plum is that I get to hold her in my arms all night long.

She doesn’t realize how beautiful or special she is. The very first time I saw Stephanie Plum I knew she had potential. Not just her untapped Unmentionable powers but also on a very personal level. Especially her lips. I remember saying at the time that a ‘guy could get ideas looking at those lips’. Now as I looked at those oh-so-kissable lips I was tempted to kiss her, but I didn’t, she needed her sleep.

I’d wanted to kiss her from the first moment I’d been dropped into her apartment. That had been when I’d been on the trail of John Ring. And it hadn’t taken me long to give into temptation.

I’d kissed her in the parking lot of her building when I’d brought her home after visiting the sites of the two fires that Ring had started. The first had been at Sandy Claws’ neighbor’s and the second at his toy store.

I don’t know why I’d kissed her. Perhaps I’d just been trying to prove a point. Or perhaps not. But something made me pull her to me and kiss those delicious lips. I can still remember how that kiss rocked me to the core. I knew she had been affected too.

But she’d been thick with Morelli back then. After I’d returned Ring to the secure wing at Lakewood, I’d gone back to her apartment. She’d been asleep in bed with Morelli, but my arrival had awoken her. I knew then that not only was she special but she had also become special to me. When I’d said goodbye, I’d kissed the palm of her hand and swore to myself that one day we would be together.

Two months ago, I asked her to marry me and she answered me with a ‘definite maybe’; and a little over a month ago, I moved in with her. I haven’t brought up the subject of marriage again, however. I’ve come to the conclusion that when she’s ready to get married, she’ll tell me. If I keep asking, she’s going to dig her heels in and refuse.

Things have been quiet for the past couple of weeks on the skip front, both conventional and unconventional. Perhaps we should have been using the down time to look for a larger place, but I think neither of us wanted to tempt fate by officially signing anything in both our names.

Looking down at Steph again, I softly kissed her forehead, careful not to wake her and closed my eyes in the hope that I might get some sleep before the alarm signaled the beginning of another day.

A loud electronic and discordant beeping woke me, and glancing at the clock I realized I’d barely managed an hour of sleep.

Steph rolled over and covered her head with her pillow while I reached out and turned off the alarm. Leaning over to her side of the bed, I kissed a smooth and naked shoulder. “Hey, sexy. Wake up.”

“No. It’s too early. Don’t want to.”

“You’re a ray of sunshine this morning aren’t you?”

She pulled the pillow off her head and glared at me. “Perhaps if you hadn’t had your wicked way with me so many times last night, I might be happier to greet the morning.”

“Hon, you’re never happy to see the sun rise.” I pulled her to me. “I didn’t hear you complaining last night.” I kissed her lips before she could wriggle away from me and hide back under her pillow.

“I’m not complaining about the activity.” She grinned at me. “I’m just complaining about having to wake up before noon after such a comprehensive work out.”

The vibrating dance of my cell phone on the night table stopped any more discussion about our activities the night before. Picking it up, I read the text message that had just arrived. I glanced over at Steph, “I knew the quiet was too good to last. I’ve got a meeting at 9:30 this morning. Looks like I’ve been given a new assignment.”

“In Trenton, or will you have to go away?”

“I won’t know until after the meeting.” I swung my legs out of bed, grabbed my robe and headed out of our bedroom towards the kitchen to get the coffee started. “I promise to call you as soon as I’ve got the details.”

By the time the coffee was ready Steph had made an appearance in the kitchen and had already fed the rat. “What are your plans for today?” I asked, nuzzling the back of her neck as she stood at the counter watching Rex sniff at his breakfast.

She leant back into me and I felt the burn of desire starting to wake up parts of me that had no business waking up, considering I had an important meeting to get to.

“I thought I’d go to the office and hang out with the girls. With a bit of luck there’ll be a file or two for me.” She turned around to face me and I held her loosely around her waist. “Although I doubt it, everyone seems to be turning up for their court dates lately.”

“You know you look so sexy first thing in the morning. All mussed and thoroughly satisfied.”

“Well, I am thoroughly satisfied. You satisfied me at least four times last night, at least that’s all I can remember. Were there any more after I fell asleep?” Her smile was like an invitation to repeat any one of those performances.

I grinned at her and shook my head. “You wore me out, hon. I think I was out for the count just a few seconds after you. Besides, I don’t think you could have slept through one of my ‘satisfactions’!” I pulled her close and kissed her. She moaned slightly as I caressed her lips with my tongue and she opened her mouth, meeting my tongue with hers. I love kissing this woman. But I really had to get to that meeting. Regretfully I released her, picked up my coffee, and I took it into the bathroom to drink when I’d finished my shower.

An hour later I was in a non-descript conference room in an office building that could’ve been anywhere in the world, and probably was. I honestly had no idea where we were. When I receive a call, I just lock onto the Powers That Be and materialize at their location.

Facing me across the wide hardwood table were three distinguished looking men all in their sixties or perhaps early seventies. I’ve met these men many times, but I still don’t know their names or where they come from. They’ve never introduced themselves to me and have never wasted their time on pleasantries.

It’s the same story every time I come here to receive a new assignment. I sit down and one of them passes me a file. A file very similar to the sort that Steph gets from Connie. This time the file was thick. I pulled the manila folder towards me and opened it to the first page. Reading the name, I looked up at my superiors. I’d never refused a job before and had never even raised an eyebrow at any of the assignments that I’d been given. This one, however, had trouble written all over it.

The Elder in the center cleared his throat. “I think you might need some help on this case. Perhaps your student, or more accurately, your fiancée could be of some use. I believe she chases criminals for a living. Correct?”

“She’s not my fiancée… yet.” I replied absently, already thinking of whom I could ask to help me instead of Steph. I really didn’t want her in on this one; I couldn’t bear it if she got hurt because of me.

I gathered up the file and stood. “How much time do I have to bring him in?”

“There is no time limit, but he must be brought back into the system with all possible haste. The longer he is at large, the higher the possibility that a number of Normals could get hurt. We would like to avoid that at all costs. Plus our world will be put in a greater danger of discovery.”

I nodded my head in the Elders’ direction and left the room, the file tucked safely under my arm. Once outside the large double doors of the conference room, I flipped open my cell phone. I knew whom I had to call. He’d helped on Unmentionable cases a few times before, and he was good.

He answered on the first ring.

“This is Diesel. I might be needing some back-up in the very near future. You going to be around?”

“Yes. Usual terms and conditions?” His voice was as cultured as always.

“Yes. I’ll be in touch if I need to call you in.” I disconnected, not feeling inclined to get into a more detailed discussion.

Secure in the knowledge that back-up was in place, should the need arise, my next step was to track the skip. I popped myself back to the apartment and booted up my computer. While I waited for the machine to wake up, I sent a text message to Steph telling her I was home and went to make a fresh pot of coffee.

I know Steph thinks that I track my skips with my powers, but in actuality seventy-five percent of my tracking abilities relied on search programs similar to those that RangeMan used. My software, however, used different search parameters because it only searched for paranormal activity.

Two tedious hours later, it looked as if the search programs had finally spat out as much information about my skip that they were going to. I was sitting at the computer reading when the skin on the back of my neck started to tingle.

That prickling feeling told me that Steph was in the vicinity. I opened the front door and stood in the open doorway waiting for her to step out of the elevator. When she did, I grinned at her and was rewarded with a smile that made my day.

As she drew close, I pulled her into my arms and kissed the top of her head before allowing her to continue into the apartment.

She went straight into the kitchen and I heard her bag make a thud as she dropped it on the counter. I shut the door and followed her in. I nodded at the folder in her hand. "I see someone finally forgot to show up for court.”

Steph handed me the folder and indicated that I should open it. “Yeah, Connie had an FTA for me. He’s quite a high bond even though it’s just a disturbing the peace.”

I took the folder and scanned the first page. My heart gave a lurch as some of the pertinent details caught my eye. How was I going to tell her that she needed to stay far away from this one? I closed the file and walked into the living room to pick up the folder that I’d received that morning from the Elders.

Keeping her file, I passed the Unmentionable one to her. She looked at me quizzically and I nodded at the file in her hands. “That’s my new assignment.”

She flopped down on the couch, toed off her sneakers, and curled her legs up on the seat tucking her feet under her as she opened the file to the first page. She concentrated on the details for all of thirty seconds before looking up at me. Her look was one of total disbelief. “It’s the same guy!”

I nodded. “Yeah, and he’s dangerous.” I took a seat next to her and stretched my arm along the back of the couch behind her. “Even I might need back-up on this one, Steph.”

“Perhaps we should work together on this?”

I shook my head. “No, hon, you can’t bring him back into the regular system. He has to go back to Lakewood. He’s far too dangerous. We can’t allow him to be taken into custody by Normals; our whole world would be blown wide open. He’s even dangerous to our kind.”

Steph frowned. “If he gets taken back to Lakewood, what’ll happen to Vinnie’s bond?”

“He’s got insurance,” I shrugged, “but he’ll get an anonymous cashier’s check to cover his out-of-pocket expenses.”

She seemed satisfied with that answer and continued reading the file, and after a minute, she looked up at me. “D, do you know this Rob Steward? I mean have you ever met him?”

“No I haven’t, but he’s infamous within our community. He came into his powers at a very early age; he was no older than Mary Alice. In his case, however, there was no one to guide him. He was a loner and found it difficult to make friends at school. He would get kids to play with him by planting thoughts in their minds. The more he did it, the more control he had over his power and over people.

“By the time he was an adult he was able to make people do whatever he wanted, just by the power of suggestion. He was originally put in the secure wing at Lakewood because he had a nasty habit of getting Normals to steal for him. They would end up going to jail and he would get away free and clear.

“Two weeks ago he escaped and now he’s up to his old tricks again. This time, though, he’s added a new twist. Not only is he getting Normals to steal for him, but he’s getting them to create diversions, a fight or an argument, to keep the police busy while he absconds with the loot.”

She looked at me with an expression of curiosity mixed with concern. “Apart from theft, has he hurt anyone?”

“Not yet, but it’s only a matter of time. His diversionary tactics are getting more and more violent.”

“So at the moment he’s really no more dangerous than most of my skips?” She tapped the folder on her lap, and I could see that she wasn’t going to back down easily. “Why should I stay away from him? I mean, now with my powers I’m more than a match for him.”

I brought my hand down from the back of the couch to play with her hair. “Steph, hon, Steward is powerful. More powerful than me, and I’m good. He controls people’s minds. Makes them do things, things they wouldn’t normally do. Trust me on this, he’s dangerous.” I pulled her closer and softly kissed her temple. “You could get seriously hurt if you go up against this guy.”

“I’m an empath, D. Wouldn’t that give me some protection?”

“Not against Steward.”

“So… you want me to hand this file off to someone like Ranger? Or maybe even you? Is that what you want? You don’t think I can do my job safely?” Her eyes narrowed and her voice got just a tad louder. “Is that it? Someone like Ranger would be even more vulnerable. I could at least pop myself away – he couldn’t.”

She was starting to get angry with me. I could understand why. She’d spent years with Morelli, and as much as he loved her, he was always trying to keep her safe, possibly even change her job.

I didn’t want her to change her job, but I did want to keep her safe. That’s a natural instinct when you love someone.

“Diesel, I can take care of myself, and there is no way in Hell I’m going to give Steward to Ranger, or anyone else. Connie gave me the file and I’m going to bring him in. He’s worth a grand to me.”

A slight flush of anger stained her cheeks and indignation showed on her face. Her eyes were sparkling with an inner fire and it was turning me on. Placing my hands on either side of her face I lightly kissed her lips. I pulled back but kept hold of her face, making her meet my gaze.

“Steph, first, you don’t have to worry about money any more. What’s mine is yours, you know that. You’ll never have to wonder if you’ll be able to make the rent ever again. Second, I know you can take care of yourself. I would never think that you couldn’t… against any Normal skip. By normal I mean not an Unmentionable. But if you go up against this guy you could get yourself killed. He’s that bad. And it’s a million times worse because you are an empath.”

She shook off my hands and stood up. “You’re just trying to stop me from muscling in on your apprehension.” I’d never seen Steph flounce before, but that’s exactly what she did next. She flounced away from me and marched into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her.

I sat there for a while longer, thinking about what had just happened. I think we’d just had our first fight. I sighed and got up. Knocking on the bedroom door, I waited.

“What?” Her voice was muffled as if she was talking into her pillow.

“Steph, I’m coming in.”

“I won’t stop you Diesel, it’s your bedroom as well as mine.”

I felt a wave of relief. Her words meant she still wanted me near her. Slowly, I opened the door and entered. She was lying on the bed, as I’d thought, with her face turned into a pillow, and she had another hugged to her chest. Sitting down on the bed, I leaned over and smoothed her hair away from her neck and continued to caress the soft skin at the nape.

“Did we just have our first fight?”

She didn’t answer but I felt her head move slightly in a nodding motion.

“I’m sorry, hon. I didn’t mean to cast aspersions on your ability to do your job. You know that I think you’re damn good at what you do. But Steward... well Steward is out of your league. Hell, he’s almost out of mine too. As I said earlier, I might have to call in back-up on this one. I’ve already contacted someone.”

She rolled over and looked me square in the face. “Who?”

“Someone I’ve worked with before. Someone who’s handled Unmentionable cases on a number of occasions.” I stood up and grabbing her hands, I pulled her up with me. “C’mon, let’s go out to dinner. I feel like some soul food. How about Pino’s?”

She ran her hand up my chest and around the back of my neck, pulling my head down to hers. “I don’t like fighting with you, D.”

Her soft lips met mine in the sweetest of kisses. Returning the kiss, I could feel myself hardening and if I didn’t stop, we wouldn’t make it out to eat anytime soon. “I don’t like fighting with you, either. Let’s try not to do that again. Please?”

She let an absurdly happy chuckle escape. “Definitely don’t want to do that again. But then again,” she smiled slyly at me, “arguing does have some benefits… like making up.” She let go of me and walked towards the hall, glancing back over her shoulder, she raised her brows. “You coming? I thought you mentioned something about Pino’s?”

“Yeah. Let’s go.” I grabbed my jacket and then her hand. Two seconds later, we were in a secluded corner of the parking lot at Pino’s. It’s handy being an Unmentionable, especially when you’re hungry.


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