Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22)(3) by Janet Evanovich

When Morelli first moved into the house it was all Aunt Rose. Now, with the exception of the upstairs bedroom curtains, the house is Morelli. Small living room, dining room, kitchen, and powder room downstairs. Three small bedrooms and one full bath upstairs. He has a single-car garage that he never uses. And he has a backyard where Bob practices digging and pooping.

It was almost nine when Morelli, Bob, and I rolled into the house and made our way to the kitchen. Morelli pulled leftover pizza out of the fridge and divided it up among the three of us. Bob ate his on the spot, and Morelli and I took ours into the living room to eat in front of the TV. It was early September, and Morelli went with a Mets game. We finished the pizza, and before the Mets could get through an inning Morelli had his hand on my leg and his tongue in my mouth. This wasn’t a shocking surprise. We’d been casually cohabitating with the occasional mention of love and marriage. He kept condoms at my house, and I kept tampons at his house, but that was as much as we’d moved in so far.

We migrated to the bedroom and didn’t bother with a lot of the preliminaries since we’d already done that downstairs while the Mets were changing pitchers.

Morelli is an unpredictable lover. Sometimes he’s slow and thoughtful. Sometimes he’s almost violent with need. Sometimes he’s funny. Frequently he’s all three. Once in a while when we try to make love while the Giants are playing the Patriots he’s a little distracted. I felt like this was one of those distracted nights, but without the Giants.

We were cuddled together in postcoital lethargy, and I wondered about Morelli’s thoughts. What was the source of the distraction? Murder, mayhem, marriage? Suppose it was marriage. What would I say? Things had been really good between us lately. I might say yes! Then again, I might not be ready. Marriage was a huge commitment. And there would be children. I suppose I could manage children. I’m pretty good at taking care of my hamster, Rex. I gave up a sigh. Probably I would have to accept his proposal. He would be crushed if I didn’t. His police work might suffer. He’d be depressed and demoralized. He’d have self-doubt.

“About tonight,” I said to him. “You seem a little distracted.”

“I have a lot on my mind.”

I tried not to smile too much. I was pretty sure this was it. I wondered if he had a ring.

“Would you like to talk about it?” I asked him.

“There’s not much I can say right now, but I think we should cool this off for a while and date other people.”

“Yes. What?”

“I’m thinking about a lifestyle change, and I need to be uninvolved while I figure it out,” Morelli said. “So I’m giving you the freedom to look around. As long as you don’t look around with Ranger.”

Carlos Manoso, mostly known as Ranger, owns Rangeman, an elite security firm located in a stealth building downtown. He’s former Special Forces, former badass bounty hunter, and he was my mentor when I started working for Vinnie. He’s dark. He’s smart. He plays by his own rules, and I don’t have a complete copy of his rule book. Morelli thinks Ranger is a loose cannon and bad influence, and Morelli is right.

“Seriously?” I said, sitting up, rigid, eyes bulging out of their sockets.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while.”

“And this is the time you pick to spring it on me?”

“Is this a bad time?”

I was on my feet. Arms waving in the air. Outrage steaming off the top of my head. “I’m naked. You don’t give a woman this sort of information when she’s naked. What the heck are you thinking?”

“It might be temporary.”

“Might be temporary? As in but it’s probably permanent? Adios. Goodbye. Are you freaking kidding me?” I narrowed my eyes at him. “Do you have someone special in mind that you want to date?”

“No.”

“Omigod, you’re going to the other side. You’re gay.”

“Not even a little.”

“My friend Bobby says the only difference between a gay man and a straight man is a six-pack of beer.”

“Cupcake, after six beers I’m not worth much of anything to anybody.”

“So what kind of life change are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking about a career change. Not being a cop.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah. Shocker, right?”

I kicked through the clothes on the floor, looking for my underwear. “What will you do?”

“Don’t know.” He crooked a finger at me. “Come back to bed.”