Stephanie looked around the room eyeing her co-workers. Lester and Bobby were on the floor wrestling for the remote, Tank was eating a sandwich, and Ranger was busy scouring over some papers.
Not long after the Slayer incident, Ranger had asked her to come and work for Rangeman permanently. She had refused at first, but after doing some thinking she realized it was a good idea. So here she was now, nearly three months later and for the first time in awhile she was truly happy. She had a steady paycheck coming in every week, a running car, and she was no longer spending her time chasing down deadbeat FTA's.
Her main responsibility for Rangeman was to oversee the day to day operations of the office. She was quickly becoming the first person people would call to request Rangeman's various services. She had effectively organized the team, and in doing so, they were now taking on more jobs while having more personal downtime.
They had been organized before, but Steph was the one to figure out where they were wasting time. She now handled nearly all of the paperwork and allowed the guys to do what they did best, the rough stuff. She still worked the occasional distraction or surveillance job and continued to enjoy the thrill of the chase. She hadn't seen gunfire in months, and was now back to feeling safe enough to stay in her apartment alone.
The last couple of months hadn't been totally perfect. After the night with the Slayers, Steph had returned to Joe's house. Things were going good until she broke the news of Ranger's job offer. She naively had thought Joe would be happy. It meant she was once and for all safe, but he didn't see it that way. All he could see was her spending time with Ranger. Eventually they both discovered this was something he couldn't get past. By then, Steph was already in love with her job. After one last, bone melting night with Joe, they had parted paths the following morning and hadn't looked back since.
When she moved out of Joe's house, she had intended to move back into her own apartment. Val and her family were comfortably settled into their new home, so there was really no reason for her not to return. Ranger approached her a few days later with a proposition.
"Babe, since Hal moved back to North Carolina there's a free apartment in the Rangeman building. Now that you're an official employee you have the choice to take it. You know the other guys and Ella as well, so you already know everyone living there. Plus, with the office being in the same building, you won't have to worry about transportation to work when you blow up your car.
"Funny Ranger, real funny. So just out of spite, I think I will take you up on your offer. No complaining when this apartment gets firebombed just remember, you asked for it."
"I'll take my chances."
And that was that. It was settled. Stephanie became an official member of the Rangeman family.
So here she was now, seated in a room just beyond the main Rangeman office. The guys referred to it as the Rec Room. It contained a large screen T.V, three cushy couches, a pool table, foosball table, dart board, refrigerator and a microwave. It was nearing 7:00pm and their day was finally done. There were no jobs scheduled for tonight, so they all lounged around for some well-deserved relaxation.
Lester had managed to win control of the remote and quickly settled on Comedy Central. He glanced to Stephanie and gave her a quick wink. They had recently realized they had a mutual love for silly comedies, and to them both Comedy Central was a godsend.
"I'll grab the popcorn." She giggled, as she leapt from the couch.
"Grab me a beer Steph." Lester shouted after her.
"Oooo, me too." added Bobby.
"Make that three Bombshell." quipped Tank.
"Hey! Do I look like your maid?" She loved teasing those guys.
And in unison they all three added, "Pleeeeeaaase"
She rolled her eyes then went off to pop the popcorn. After it was well on its way, she grabbed three beers then returned to hand them to the Lester, Tank, and Bobby.
"Hey Steph," Ranger said softly.
"Let me guess, you want a beer as well?"
"Nope, but since you're up would you mind grabbing that report off the printer?"
As she padded out of the room, she heard Lester ragging on her. "Hey! How come you don't give him a hard time?"
She giggled softly, then shouted back, "Because he asked nicely." And he looks like sex on a stick she added silently to herself.
She walked to the printer and grabbed the stack of papers lying on top of it.
Something caught her eye, and she looked down to take a closer look. When she read the words across the top of the paper, she froze in her tracks.
Pros & Cons of Stephanie Plum
Best ass in Trenton.
Best ass in New Jersey.
Best ass….. hell, she has a really good ass.
Let's me kiss her when I need to.
Doesn't mind when I break into her apartment.
Still wants to be Wonder Woman.
Sam would love her.
Kind to animals.
Likes my friends.
My friends like her.
Great at her job.
Always willing to help me.
High sex drive.
Makes me smile.
Stands up to me.
Too much junk food.
Doesn't like being taken care of.
Hell on my cars.
Doesn't realize she's already Wonder Woman.
Thinks I'm Batman.
Doesn't realize her own power.
Afraid of me.
Doesn't always want my help.
Scares the hell out of me.
Steph collapsed into the chair behind her and slowly reread the list once more.
Meanwhile in the Rec Room…
"What's taking Steph so long? I think the popcorn's burning." Bobby asked.
Suddenly Ranger sat straight up in his chair. "Oh shit." Realization had struck. He raced into the office, hoping to get there in time.
When he entered, he knew he was too late. The look on her face said it all. Soon her mouth followed. "Ranger, care to explain?" His eyes focused on her and the piece of paper she held in her hand.
Lester, Bobby, and Tank bounded into the office right on the heels of Ranger.
When Steph noticed them, she jumped up pointed to the door and shouted, "Out!"
Without speaking the three amigos turned quickly and made their way back into the Rec Room, following one another like a row of ducks.
Ranger tried being sneaky and turned to follow, hoping Steph wouldn't notice.
She quickly saw what he was trying to do and reached out grabbing his arm, effectively stopping him in his path. "Not so fast mister. You have some explaining to do, and you better start doing it quick." She pulled him from the door, and with her foot she slammed it shut. She was pissed and she wanted to make sure he knew it.
Ranger stared at her in silence.
"Hello Ranger, did you hear me? I want an explanation and I want it now."
Again, Ranger stared at her without speaking.
Steph was still holding his arm so she shoved him roughly, guiding him towards the chair. Once he was seated she stepped back, crossed her arms and met him glare for glare.
"Fine, you want to do this the hard way, then that's what we'll do. I'm going to ask you some questions, and you are damn well going to give me some answers. If you don't, I'll show the boys the list and have them help me convince you to explain."
She noticed his body tensed slightly, and for the first time ever she saw a look of unmistakable fear sweep across his face.
"Did you write that list Ranger?"
Steph took two quick steps to the door opened it, then screamed. "TANK! GET IN HERE!"
Tank came running. "Jesus Steph, what's wrong?"
"I have something to show you." She unclenched the paper from her fist and reached out to hand it to the tall, burly man. Before he could grab it a strangled voice spread across the room.
"Stop Steph. I'll explain." Ranger said meekly.
Stephanie snatched back the paper, stared at Tank then placed her hands on
her hips. "Tank? Get out of here and leave us alone."
Tank froze. He started to ask for an explanation but wisely chose to do as he was told without question. He marched back to join Lester and Bobby feeling more confused than he ever remembered being.
Steph turned back to Ranger and repeated her question.
"Did you write this?" She asked waving the paper in his direction.
"Just making sure you were a good fit for this job."
"Bullshit Ranger, what does my ass have to do with working for you."
Ranger shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Um, because we have a reputation to maintain…"
"Ranger, I swear I will call Tank back in here if you don't start telling me the truth."
"That is the truth Babe."
Steph turned quickly to meet Tank at the door.
He appeared quickly and was apparently still a little confused. "What's going on Steph?"
Ranger jumped up and bounded across the room. He grabbed Steph's arm roughly then leaned into her ear. "Fine, have it your way… but at least give me a chance to explain in private."
Steph flashed her eyes back to the big man standing in the door. "For the love of God Tank, will you please leave us alone for two minutes so we can have a conversation."
Tank narrowed his eyes, dropped his head in defeat then quickly left the room pulling the door closed behind himself.
Stephanie wriggled her way out of Ranger's tight grasp. "Ok Ranger, let's hear it. I want to know exactly why you felt the need to make a list of everything you hate about me. I mean if you really dislike me that much, why the hell did you offer me this job."
"Jesus Steph, is that seriously what you think?"
"Yes it is. What else should I be thinking? Let's see. Maybe I should read it again. First you hate how I eat, you hate my family, you hate that I think you are practically immortal, you hate that I can take care of myself, you hate that
I get scared when I'm around you… but you never seem to ask why."
Ranger heard all he could stand. Quickly he jumped forward rushing towards her. He placed one hand on each side of her neck, and pulled her roughly toward him until their lips met. The kiss was hot and breathtaking. It consumed them both, leaving them panting for breath when they finally broke apart.
"Don't you dare think you can kiss me and make me forget about this Ranger." She was beginning to fight back tears.
"Jesus woman, will you please shut up and let me explain!"
His tone made her jump, but it was the look in his eyes that made her calm down and wait for his words.
"First of all, I don't hate you, in fact far from it. Secondly, I didn't write that list to upset you. I wrote it in a piss poor effort to convince myself that I didn't want you. But instead of doing that, it made me realize that not only do I want you, but I need you too. I tried for hours to come up with a solid reason not to like you. But the best I could do was that you liked junk food. And technically, that's one of the many things I love about you, so when it comes down to it I can't really count that one. "
"Why do you want to hate me?"
"Babe, it's not that I want to hate you. It's that I don't want to acknowledge how I really feel about you. I'm afraid if I do I'll get hurt. That's one of the reasons I wrote that you scare me."
"How could I possibly scare a big man like you?"
"It has nothing to do with strength. I realized long ago that you are the one with the power in this screwed up relationship. That scares me. I'm not use to being the one without the control, but that's what you do to me Plum. You take away any choices I have. When I'm around you I loose all ability to think for myself. You could probably ask me to jump off a bridge, and I'd do it just to make you happy."
Stephanie was stunned, or perhaps shocked was a better word. He had just described exactly how she felt when she was around him.
"So what exactly are you saying Ranger? Do you want me to go away so you can think for yourself again?"
"No Stephanie! Dammit, will you stop being so difficult? This isn't easy for me you know."
"No Ranger I don't know since this is the most you've ever said to me at any given time. I guess I'm just having a hard time figuring it all out. Why don't you just tell me what the hell it is you want?"
"YOU, Stephanie. It's you that I want. But more specifically, I want you to go on a date with me. I want you to eat a real sit-down meal with me. I want to take you to a movie, I want to buy you some fucking flowers and I want to wonder if I'm going to get a goodnight kiss or not."
"Well then why don't you just ask me out instead of writing some dumb list and making me feel like an ass?"
"Fine, I will!" His voice was beginning to get progressively louder.
"Fine!" She stomped her foot for effect.
"How about tomorrow night? He grew louder still.
"Fine, 8:00 good for you?" Her tone was beginning to reach the level of his.
"8:00 is great, see you then! Dress casual."
"Oh, don't worry I will." And with that, Steph turned quickly leaving the room and slamming the door behind her.
Ranger plopped back into the chair then said aloud. "What the hell just happened?"
Stephanie stormed through the rec room ignoring the stares of Lester, Bobby and Tank. She quickly made her way to her 4th floor apartment, slamming the door behind herself. She nearly ran to the refrigerator grabbing a carton of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia. Four heaping spoonfuls and a major ice cream headache later Stephanie called for re-enforcements.
Lester, Bobby and Tank jumped from their seats the moment Steph ran through the room. They quickly headed to the office where they found Ranger sitting in a chair with his head flopped over on the nearby desk. All three men stopped in their tracks as they took in the sight before them. Lester broke the silence, "Oh shit, Bombshell's killed Ranger."
Slowly Ranger began to chuckle and then lifted his head to look at his friends. "I'm not dead yet, but without a doubt, that woman will be my downfall."
Bobby chuckled, "Looks to me like you're already down as far as you can go. Want to tell us about it?"
Ranger didn't have the words to explain the bizarre events that had just occurred, so he tossed them the balled up piece of paper.
The three men read quickly and stood motionless when they had finished. Their mouths nearly touched the floor as they stared at Ranger, waiting for an explanation.
"I don't know why I did it. I had no intention of her or anyone else ever reading it. I accidentally printed it instead of the Reynolds report this afternoon. I had both documents open at the same time. I realized when she didn't return to the rec room that something was wrong. I put two and two together, and sure enough she had found it."
"Holy shit Ranger. What did she say?"
'Well, she mainly just did a lot of yelling."
"Does that mean she's quitting the team and leaving?" Lester anxiously asked.
The corners of Ranger's mouth turned slightly as he answered. "No, worse. It means we're going on a date tomorrow night."
The three large men doubled over in laughter. Several moments passed before they were able to regain their composure. Ranger was more than annoyed so he left the room to head to his apartment. Right on his heels, the three men followed.
Lester shoved the door of the apartment closed after they had all entered. Ranger and
Tank went straight for the couch as Bobby went to the fridge to grab some beers. Once all four had settled into seats in the living room, Tank asked the obvious.
"So Ric, why is this such a bad thing? We all know you've wanted this for awhile, it's about time you went for it."
"Shit Tank don't you get it. Don't you realize that the last time I went out on a real date was 13 years ago with Debby."
"Damn! You haven't been laid in 13 years?" yelled Lester.
"Lester, you're an idiot. Of course I've had sex. But that was just sex. I haven't really liked a woman enough to want an actual relationship. I don't think I even know how to do that. And now here I am, and tomorrow I'm suppose to take Steph on a date. What the hell am I suppose to do?"
It took Mary Lou, Connie, and Lula approximately 15 minutes to converge on the Rangeman building. Stephanie buzzed them up and ushered them quickly into her apartment. Steph had prepared for their arrival by placing 4 cartons of Ben & Jerry's and 4 spoons on the bar.
Mary Lou started, "Ok Steph, tell us exactly what he said."
Steph replayed the list, the argument, and the pending date for her friends. When she finished, she dropped her head to the cabinet and in a muffled voice asked, "What am I going to do?"
"Giiiiiiiiiiirl. You gonna have some Ranger sex. Fuckin' A!"
Connie smacked Lula on the arm. "Don't listen to her Steph."
"Steph, isn't this what you've wanted all along? What's the problem?" questioned Mary Lou.
Steph jerked up straight. "I'm freaked out!"
Connie gave Steph a shove. "Well get a grip then. We all know that this is what you been wishing for since the day you met him."
"I know that. And yes I do want this."
"Well white girl, what are you so worried about then?" Lula shoved in a huge scoop of ice cream as she waited for Steph to answer.
Steph began to pace back and forth in the kitchen. "I'm worried that everything will change. Right now, Ranger's one of my best friends. What happens if we start dating and he ends up hating me? Wouldn't it just be better if things stayed the way they are."
Mary Lou jumped up, "What the hell have you done with Stephanie Plum! Because I know this big chicken in front of me is NOT my best friend. Since when is your happiness not worth taking a risk for?"
"I know, I know Mary Lou. I still can't help it. I'm just worried I won't live up to his expectations."
"Well that's stupid. The way I see it, you have two choices. One you can chicken out and cancel, or two, you an get on to the more important issue of deciding what to wear."
Steph's face froze with fear. She hadn't even begun to think about what to wear. "Connie, put on some coffee, this is going to be a long night."
Back on the seventh floor, Bobby was pouring over a phone book, Tank was busy surfing the net and Ranger was sitting on the couch with his head between his knees trying to calm his heart rate.
"I'm back, and I got everything we need." Lester shouted as he bounced through the front door. He headed to the living room and dumped the contents of two grocery bags on the floor. The four men jumped and began shuffling through the variety of magazines Lester and just purchased. It seemed he had covered all the bases. Ranger was reading Cosmo, Bobby had Glamour, Lester was flipping through Elle, and Tank was just finishing up Vogue after deciding it contained nothing useful. He tossed it back into the pile on the floor and went in search for a new one. One caught his attention and he raised it up to show the other guys.
"Um, Les I don't think this one will help us any."
Lester turned serious then reached over and took the Playboy out of Tank's hand. "Are you kidding? This is the most important one of all. We use the others to research the date, but this one is for Ranger's pre-date preparations."
Bobby and Tank understood immediately, but Ranger looked at Lester with confusion.
"My pre-date what?"
Lester tried explaining, "Come on man, you know…"
Bobby and Tank tried not to giggle as Ranger stared obliviously at the men.
"Um, come on Ranger. You know, choke the chicken?" Bobby explained.
"Spank the monkey." Added Tank.
"Rub the one eyed wonder weasel." Concluded Lester
Ranger shook his head as clarification finally set in. "You guys have to be nuts, why would I need to do that?"
It was all Tank could do to answer without laughing. "Ranger, please don't tell me you are planning on going out with Stephanie with… that... thing loaded." Tank flashed a quick nod to Ranger's crotch.
Ranger blushed slightly and then threw the magazine at Tank's head. "Fuck you man, I can handle it."
Lester, Bobby, and Tank fell to the floor with laughter. "That's what we're trying to tell you man." Lester said between breaths.
Ranger jumped up and ran to the front door. "Out! Now! All of you! Out! I'll figure this all out on my own."
Neither Stephanie nor Ranger slept much that night. Both laid in their beds thinking over the events of the day, and dreaming of what would happen tomorrow. Each was full of nervous energy, tossing and turning for hours as they tried falling to sleep.
Finally, giving into his restlessness, Ranger slid from his bed and went in search of the Playboy.
Around the same time, Stephanie slid from her bed as well. She went straight to the bathroom and turned the knobs to start the shower. She let the water heat up, grabbed a towel and then reached for her hidden bottle of Bulgaria body wash. "Nothing my shower massager can't solve." She said aloud to herself.
Steph glanced at the clock. 7:48pm. Ranger would be here any minute. She took one more look at herself in the mirror. She smoothed out the wrinkles of her outfit. She was wearing a simple straight, black skirt topped with a red v-neck blouse. The waist of the shirt wrapped around and tied in the back, making her breasts look a size bigger and her tummy a size smaller. She topped the outfit off with a tall pair of black knee-high boots. The heel was taller than she normally wore, but the way they made her feel more than made up for added discomfort. She touched up her make-up, and made sure the up-do she was wearing was still up. It looked classic and romantic as few stray hairs fell in ringlets in just the right places.
She jumped slightly when the doorbell rang. She grabbed the door handle, released a breath she had unknowingly been holding and slowly opened the door. When she took in the sight of the man standing before her she quickly held her breath once more.
Ranger looked better than she had ever seen and for him, that was a hard feat to accomplish. He was wearing loose fitting jeans and a deep maroon silk dress shirt. He had the sleeves rolled up slightly revealing a chunky silver watch on his right arm. His dark satin hair lay gently on his shoulder.
They stared at one another for several minutes before Ranger cleared his throat and revealed a small bunch of flowers from behind his back. "Um, these are for you. I wasn't sure what color of roses were your favorite so I got you one of each."
Steph blushed lightly as she grabbed the flowers and set off to find a vase to put them in. Once they were settled into their new home on her living room table, she walked over to Ranger and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. "Thank you. They're beautiful."
"So are you."
Stephanie blushed again. "Gonna have to work on that blushing thing babe."
Ranger held out his arm to her and she grabbed it gently as he led them out of the apartment and to the elevator.
"What do you mean work on the blushing thing?"
"Just giving you fair warning. I've not even started giving you anything to blush about."
Ranger smiled as Steph jerked her head away from his. He got a quick peak of her bright face as she turned.
Ranger held the door to the Porsche open as he watched her legs slide into the car. Steph smiled as she eyed him in the rearview mirror. She could have sworn he had to pause and do some adjusting before he made his was around to the driver's side.
They rode to the restaurant in their usual silence. Normally, this would have been perfectly comfortable for them both, but this time it seemed different. They both had a million questions to ask the other, but neither of them could form the words to do so.
Stephanie peered excitedly out the window as Ranger pulled into the parking lot.
"I've been wanting to try this place Ranger."
"Good. I was worried you wouldn't like Japanese."
"I love it, and I hear this is a great restaurant."
Ranger once again offered Steph his arm as he helped her out of the Porsche. He decided this time to look in the other direction as she slid her legs around, he didn't think he would be able to stand another free peak. His jeans were loose, but they weren't that loose.
They walked arm in arm into the restaurant and were greeted by a hostess as soon as they stepped inside.
"Welcome Mr. Manaso, we have your room ready and waiting," said the stunningly, beautiful woman in traditional Japanese attire.
She led them to the rear of the restaurant and down a narrow hallway. She slid open a silk-screened door and revealed a private dining room. There were at least 50 pillows of various shades of red, orange, and yellow thrown on the floor. The table was low, sitting only a few inches from the floor. Stephanie panicked slightly when she realized she would have to sit in the floor for the meal. She hadn't planned the outfit very well afterall.
Ranger picked up on her anxiety and quickly placed a hand on her arm then turned to the hostess. Can you give us a few moments and then bring us some Sake?
"Yes of course Mr. Manaso."
When she had left the room and closed the screen door, Ranger leaned down and scooped Steph into his arms. She let out a slight shriek. He gently knelt down to one knee and placed her comfortably atop a pile of pillows. Once she was settled he stood and grabbed a couple of nearby pillows and placed them over her legs. His lips curved into a smile.
"Don't worry babe, your virtue is safe with me."
Stephanie laughed so hard she nearly rocked off the pile of pillows. She caught herself just as the hostess returned.
Ranger settled his eyes on Steph and without breaking the stare he ordered food for them both. The woman knodded then once again left the couple to themselves.
"So do you come here a lot? The hostess recognized you."
"Nope, this is the first time I've been here but I know the family that owns the place. They were friends of my father's. I leant them the money to get this restaurant started."
Stephanie took a sip of sake. "I think that's the first time I've ever heard you mention your parents."
"I tend to keep my family private. I don't want any bad guys going after them to retaliate for something I've done."
"Has that ever happened before?"
"Once, but that was a long time ago. I still lived in Miami then."
"Do they still live in Florida?"
"No. My dad died 5 years ago from cancer and my mom lives in upstate NY with her sister."
"Do you have any siblings?"
"Nope, it was just me. Mom says I was enough." A huge smile spread across his face.
"So does that mean you were a rowdy little kid?"
The smile grew wider. "I don't think rowdy is the right word. I rebelled a lot and then when I was 15 I got in with the wrong crowd. It wasn't until I joined the Army that I actually grew up."
"So what were you rebelling against?"
"What all teenagers rebel against I guess, my parents. Dad owned a Cuban restaurant and everyone in the neighborhood knew him. He was a good man and so everyone expected me to grow up and be just like him. He went out of his way to help others and everyone genuinely loved him. That was a tall reputation to live up to."
"Did your mother work?"
"Yeah, she was and still is a dance teacher. That was also another driving force behind my behavior. When I was in grade school I was teased about that a lot. My mom use to make me wait for her at the dance studio after school. Not the most macho place to be hanging out."
Stephanie smiled, "So that's the reason for your rough and tough exterior."
Ranger quirked a smile in her direction. "Do you think it was an act?"
"No, not an act. I just figured there was a good reason for it. And don't forget, I've seen your softer side a few times."
Ranger leaned across the table just as a waiter stepped inside the room to serve their food.
"As I recall Steph, it wasn't soft at all."
Stephanie blushed yet again. "Babe. Blushing again."
"It's all your fault Ranger, I think you get a kick out of embarrassing me."
"I enjoy watching you squirm, the embarrassing part is just a side effect."
As the waiter placed their dishes on the table, Ranger explained each dish to Stephanie. He spooned a little of each into her plate and watched as she began to eat. The food was amazing, but Steph knew it would be. It wasn't like Ranger to have bad taste.
They ate their meal slowly and enjoyed each other's company. Ranger asked Stephanie questions about her time in college and the time thereafter. She mentioned her marriage a few times and he enjoyed her openness. She was honest about everything and never faltered or hesitated to answer him.
He tried to do the same with her. Luckily, she hadn't asked anything he felt uncomfortable answering. He was already very much at ease with her and he could feel his walls being torn down. This was unnerving for him, but he kept telling himself that some chances were worth taking.
Their next destination was the last thing Stephanie had expected. From the outside, the building looked like nothing more than a rundown warehouse.
"Steph, trust me, you're gonna love this."
He pulled her gently from the car and led her inside the building. Steph stood in awe. One minute they had been outside of an abandon warehouse and the next minute they had stepped into a vibrant club. There was a long bar to the left of them and to the right was a large stage. The place was nearly packed to compacity, but somehow Ranger was able to find them a seat at a table next to the stage. She wrinkled her eyes in confusion as Ranger checked his watch. He slid his chair next to hers so he could drape an arm around her back. He leaned into her ear and whispered softly. "Starts in 10 minutes. Want something to drink?"
"What's starting in 10? And yes, I'll take a fuzzy navel."
Ranger slipped from his chair and vanished in the direction of the bar. A few minutes later he returned armed with two drinks. As he settled his arm back around Stephanie, the lights in the room went down and the lights on the stage came alive. A short, chubby man made his way to the microphone at the edge of the stage.
"Thanks for coming out tonight. We've got some great talents lined up tonight and I'm sure we'll have some fun. So let's get started. Ladies and gentleman please put your hands together for the super funny, Steven Sloane."
The crowd went wild, apparently a lot of people had heard of this guy. It didn't take long for Stephanie to figure out why. He was hilarious. The crowd was in stitches and on more than one occasion Ranger had laughed so hard he had spilled some of his beer onto the table.
One after one, comics had taken the stage. Two hours later Stephanie was physically in pain from all of the laughing. Both her and Ranger were still giggling as the drove back towards the Rangeman building. They had both had a good time and the closer they got to Rangeman the more they both dreaded for the night to end. Neither of them could recall a time recently when they had had more fun.
Ranger walked Steph to her door, slid a security card into the slot and waited as she stepped inside. Once again they were face to face in her doorway staring at one another.
Stephanie broke the silence this time. "I had a great time tonight Ranger."
"So did I Steph. I'm glad you said yes."
"So am I." She hesitated before she continued. "Would you like to come in."
His answer came quickly. "Yes." Then he paused. "But I'm not going to. I don't want to
rush this babe." He reached down and grabbed her hand and brought it up to his lips. He brushed light kisses across her knuckles. "I hope you understand. I definitely want to come in, but it's more important to me that we do this right."
"Of course I understand Ranger."
A smile spread across his lips. "Does that mean you will go out with me again?"
This time her answer was the one that came quickly. "Just name the date and time."
"Let's decide tomorrow. I need to leave now. A few more minutes, and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to walk away." He placed one last kiss to the back of her hand, slide the other across her jaw then turned back to the elevator. Their eyes remained locked on one another as the doors of the elevator came to a close.
Steph closed the door to her apartment and glanced over to the blinking answering machine. She didn't need to listen to the messages to know they were from Lula, Connie and Mary Lou requesting details of the night. She wasn't ready to dissect the date, so she decided to head to bed instead. She wanted to keep the memories to herself for a little while longer.
For the second time in that many days, Ranger and Steph laid sleeplessly in their beds three floors apart from one another. Each was wearing goofy grins as they replayed the events of the night. Both had, had a great time.
It had been a perfect night, or at least that was what they thought. The next morning may prove to tell a different story.
Stephanie came awake with a jerk. Her stomach growled angrily and then she felt the cramps. She jumped out of bed and barely made it to the bathroom in time.
It was 3:14am and she was now bowing before the porcelain god. She thought back to the drinks she had consumed a few hours earlier. She only had a few, nothing that would have caused her body to betray her this way.
She threw up a few more times then gathered her strength in an effort to make it back to the bed. She wasn't able to walk, so she crawled through the bedroom door. She couldn't make it any further but knew she needed help. She shuffled a few more inches, just enough to let her hand grasp the cord running along the wall. She gave it a quick pull and the phone came crashing on top of her. She steadied the receiver against her ear and dialed Bobby's number. She always knew having a medic in the apartment building would come in handy eventually.
Bobby's phone rang and rang and when it appeared no one was going to answer she hung up and dialed Lester's number. Once again it rang without anyone answering. Tank's number was next, and just as the two before he didn't answer. She didn't want to call Ranger. Their night together had been perfect and she didn't want to mare the image of it by having him see her tossing her cookies.
Finally realizing she had no other choice she dialed his number and waited. Three rings later, a voice answered but it wasn't Ranger.
"Yup, Steph is that you? Everything ok?"
"No, I'm dying. Help me."
"Be right there."
Lester looked back at Bobby and Tank who were in the process of trying to calm a thrashing Ranger. "Looks like we got another one."
"Bucket…" Ranger moaned as he leaned off the edge of the bed and emptied the contents of his stomach into a nearby bucket.
"Shit Ranger. You don't pay me enough for this." grumbled Tank.
"Lester, go check on Steph. I'll be down as soon as I get this medicine in Ranger."
Lester walked quickly to the door and made his way to Steph's apartment. He slid a key card through the slot and let himself into her apartment. He found her limp, weak body laying on the carpet halfway between her bedroom and the bathroom.
"Shit Steph." He said as he walked to her and scooped her up into his arms.
Just as he was about to lay her on the bed, she mumbled, "bathroom."
He turned quickly and placed her on her knees in front of the toilet just before she threw up once more. He held her hair for her, but took as many steps back as he could allow.
"Damn Steph, what did you and Ranger do tonight?"
Steph tossed a glare over her shoulder and said, "I guess I just drank too much."
"I don't think that's it, Ranger is upstairs in the same shape. He called Bobby about 30 minutes ago. We were down in the rec room, he's been blowing chunks ever since we got to his apartment."
"Don't say blowin…." Steph lurched forward, vomiting again.
As Lester stood holding her hair he grabbed the radio from his hip and pushed the button.
"Yup, how is she?" answered Bobby.
"Not so good, looks to be in about the same shape as Ranger."
"Shit. I'll send Tank down with some medicine. See if you can get it down her. Also, keep a cold compress on her head and neck, she's probably running a fever."
"Will do, and tell Tank to hurry."
Two minutes later, Tank rushed through Steph's door with medicine in hand. He grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and proceeded to hand the pills over to Lester.
Tank's radio crackled then Bobby's voice was heard. "Tank, I need you back up here."
"On my way." Tank handed Lester the bottled water and rushed back out the door.
Lester looked down at Steph and pushed the water in her direction. "Here Steph. Take these pills it will make you feel better."
Steph swallowed the pills and took a gulp of the water. "Lester, bed." she mumbled once after she had taken the medicine.
Lester lifted her gently and placed her back on the bed. He held a cold washcloth to her head and gently rubbed her shoulder. She lay motionless for about a minute then her eyes jerked open and she cried "bathroom". Lester scooped her off the bed and ran into the bathroom.
Tank had just walked back through the Ranger's door when he heard shuffling coming from the bedroom. He walked in to find Bobby struggling to get Ranger's arms under control. The sick man was fighting every move Bobby was making.
"Stop being a chicken shit Ranger, and take the damn medicine."
Tank ran to the opposite side of the bed and grabbed his arm. Both men were now able to subdue Ranger. Tank clamped fingers around Ranger's nose causing him to open his mouth. Bobby tossed in the pills then poured water down his throat. Ranger coughed briefly but ended up swallowing the pills just the same.
Tank's radio came alive again. "Tank find another one of those buckets and get back down here."
"You got him Bobby?" Tank asked.
"Yeah for the moment. I called Emily and she's on her way with that other medicine. As soon as she gets here we can give them the shot. It will knock them out and settle their stomachs."
"Well let's hope your girlfriend drives fast." Tank said as he swept from the room.
Tank made his way to the basement and found another one of the buckets. He was in the process of dropping the bucket off at Steph's when Bobby came across the radio. "Tank, here, now!"
Tank tossed the bucket into Steph's apartment and ran for the stairs, taking them two at a time. He was almost near the 7th floor when Lester spoke on the radio. "Tank! I need your help with Steph now!"
"Shit." Tank stopped in his tracks and turned to head back down the stairs. This time he took them three by three. He reached for the door to the fourth floor when Bobby shouted into the radio. "Tank! Steph will have to wait, I need you up here now!"
"Christ." Once more Tank turned in his tracks and sped in the opposite direction. He was halfway between the 4th and the 7th floor when both Bobby and Lester started yelling across the radio.
Tank tossed his head up to the ceiling, grabbed the radio and threw it through the air, effectively smashing it against the wall. Then in a moment of complete helplessness he let out a deep, animalistic groan, "AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
Once his tantrum was complete he made a decision and headed up stairs. As he burst through Ranger's door he heard shuffling in the bedroom. He ran inside to find Bobby straddling Ranger's legs and trying to gain control of his arms. "Tank, help. Now!"
Tank took two giant steps toward the bed then looked down at Ranger. "Sorry about this man." Then he reared back and pummeled a fist directly into Ranger's cheek. The victim of the punch fell quickly into the pillow and didn't move.
Tank looked up at Bobby who had a shocked look on his face. "Going to Steph's. If he wakes up before I get back, shoot him." He walked out of the room then turned to add one more thing. "And Bobby, you get to hide me in your apartment when Ranger remembers I hit him."
Bobby laughed just as his cell phone rang. "Yeah. Ok. Be right down." He turned to Tank.
"Emily's here. Go to Steph, I'll go get the medicine and meet you there."
Both men looked back at Ranger then ran from the apartment when they were sure he wasn't going to move.
Seconds later Tank sped through Steph's door. He stopped abruptly as he reached the bathroom. Steph was on her knees with her head still hanging over the toilet and Lester was standing behind her with a stunned look on his face, and an unmistakable stain on his shirt.
When Lester noticed Tank he explained. "I've been slimed man. I've been slimed! I was helping her to the bathroom and we didn't make it in time. Bombshell threw up on me!"
Tank took a step back from the door and motioned for Lester to move through. "Go shower. Emily is here with some medicine and Bobby's on his way."
Lester made his way through the apartment muttering something that resembled "slimed, I've been slimed". He met Bobby and Emily at the door. Both stopped in their tracks as they spotted Lester. The vomit covered man merely put a gentle arm on Bobby's shoulder and said, "Godspeed". Then he surrendered to his own apartment for the longest shower of his life.
An hour later Bobby, Tank, and Lester reconvened in the rec room.
"The shots seemed to have helped. They are both sleeping now and neither have thrown up in over an hour. I'll stay up tonight and keep an eye on them both. You guys can head to bed, but you get to take over the baby-sitting tomorrow." Bobby said.
A still, slightly stunned Lester spoke next. "What the hell happened here man? I knew they were hot for each other but I didn't think they would actually explode once they finally got together."
Bobby smirked, "Must be food poisoning. I think the worst is over. As soon as they wake up we need to get some liquids down them both. If not, they're going to dehydrate soon and then we'll have to take them to the emergency room."
"Can't we go ahead and do that? I think they need to be in the care of professionals before the two of them kill me."
"Tank, seriously I think the worst is over. This usually runs it's course pretty fast, let's re-evaluate when they wake up."
All three men agreed. Tank and Lester parted for their own apartments as Bobby began making the rounds to check on his patients.
Stephanie was sitting quietly behind her desk in the Rangeman office staring blankly at the computer screen. It had been exactly one week since her and Ranger's official first date. It had taken them three solid days to regain their strength after the food poisoning incident. Apparently the Chinese restaurant had received a bad shipment of seafood which had caused not only her and Ranger to get sick, but also about 200 others as well. As soon as he felt up to it, Ranger made a special trip to the restaurant and "suggested" they find a new supplier, which they promptly agreed to do. Since that day, he and Steph had been out two other times, both of which he made Steph choose the restaurant.
The evenings had been fun. Ranger was beginning to open up about himself more and Stephanie was enjoying getting to know a new side of the mystery man. What she however wasn't enjoying was their lack of intimate contact. It seemed Ranger wasn't lying when he told her on their first date that he didn't want to rush anything.
Each day when she headed to her apartment after work he would simply send her a wink and say goodbye. After their dates, he would go only as far as her door then leave her with a small kiss on the cheek.
The more Stephanie thought about it, the angrier she became. Of course she didn't let
Ranger know it, instead she took her frustrations out on Tank, Lester and Bobby.
"How is she today?" Lester asked Tank as they passed in the hallway.
"Worse. She keeps tapping her damn nails on the desk. She snaps at everything I ask . I can't look at her without seeing her roll her eyes and mumbling "stupid men" under her breath." Tank shook his head in desperation.
"What the hell is going on? I thought they would be happy once they finally hooked up."
"That's the problem Les, they haven't hooked up yet. Ranger's trying to be noble or something so he's holding out on her. So in return he's being a prick and she's being a bitch."
"Shit. What's wrong with that man?" Lester questioned.
"What's wrong with who?" Asked Bobby as he joined the two men in the hallway.
"Ranger. He's holding out on Steph."
Bobby shook his head in agreement. "I know. And now I can barely stand to be around either one of them. If they keep this up we are seriously going to have to do something."
"Are you crazy? We can't make them have sex if they don't want to."
Lester laughed, "Oh they want to. Ranger's just so clueless about this whole relationship thing right now. He isn't thinking clearly."
"Well that's it. If they haven't worked this out by tomorrow, we are going to have to come up with a plan. But for now, let's get in the office and get out as quickly as we can. Power in numbers boys, let's go." Bobby patted their backs and pushed them through the office door.
Steph peered over at the door as the three guys walked in. "Well look who it is? Bobby where are those reports I asked you for yesterday? Tank, I'm still waiting on those notes on the Martin case. And Lester, why the hell have I been getting calls from Ms. Whitman saying that you fondled her?"
All three men froze in place, none of them speaking. They were trying to come up with an escape route just as Ranger entered the office. Stephanie's face completely softened when she saw him appear.
"Hey Ranger, how was your day?"
The scowl on Ranger's face quickly faded into a smile. "Not too bad, yours?"
"Perfect." She smiled.
As Ranger and Steph made goo-goo eyes at one another, Bobby, Lester and Tank backed out of the office and split off to the safety of their own apartments.
The next day, Stephanie rose from bed with a mission on her mind and a plan of action to complete. She had decided the night before that her shower massager was no longer going to cut it. That was when she developed Operation Meltdown. Operation Horny Steph. Operation Get-Me-Some-Sex. Operation Satisfy. Ok, so the name needed some work, but in her mind the idea of it was pure genius.
She swayed into the office wearing a seductive little number. The skirt was short, the top was low and the heels had 'fuck me' written all over them. Her hair had amazingly fell perfectly into the 'come take me and run your fingers through my hair" look. Her makeup had the perfect natural, only took me an hour to apply, look to it. She felt hot. She looked hot. But more importantly she knew Ranger would find her hot.
She knew the plan was going to work perfectly when she saw the look on Ranger's face as he stepped into the office. His eyes took a long slow sweep of her body, mentally taking inventory of what he saw. His eyes darkened, his body stiffened and his jaw clenched.
"Looking good babe."
"Thanks Ranger, just something I threw together."
"Well, looks like you caught it perfectly."
Bobby, Lester and Tank entered the office slowly, trying to gauge the emotions of the room. Tank sent the other two a wink, as if to say 'all clear'. The other men nodded then proceeded to get to work.
The day was Friday which meant that all the guys would be in the office for most of the day to finish up paperwork before the weekend.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Steph set her plan into motion. Whenever she walked by Ranger's desk, she made sure to lightly brush his back with her arm. When he leaned over her to look at her computer screen, she heaved her breast to give him the full Plum view. As she walked past his desk, she 'accidentally" dropped her pen in the floor, causing her to have to bend over directly in front of Ranger's desk.
The mystery man quickly caught on, remaining in his chair when possible and carrying long folders whenever he was forced to walk across the room. The final straw came when
Stephanie asked Ranger for some Whiteout.
She had swaggered over to his desk, making sure to put extra emphasis on every sway. She stood close enough to him so that his arm brushed against her stomach. "Can I borrow that?" She asked softly. But instead of waiting for an answer she leaned across his lap reaching for the small bottle on the other end of the desk. When her breasts where practically in his lap and her ass was in the air, Ranger stood up quickly, grabbed her by the arm and led her into the next room slamming the door behind them.
Bobby, Lester and Tank looked at each other quickly then all at once said, "Finally!"
Inside the rec room, Ranger had Steph pinned against the wall with his mouth inches from her lips.
"I know what you're doing."
"I have no idea what you're talking about Ranger."
He used his left foot to scoot her legs apart. When he was satisfied with their placement he slide his knee in between her leg. She dropped slightly causing her skirt to rise ever so slowly.
"You're playing with fire babe."
She met his dark gaze. "I know that Ranger. I've been burning from it for days now."
"What do you want Steph? Want me to shove you to the floor and take you right now?"
"God yes!" she said a little too excitedly.
"Well that's not going to happen."
"Why? Are you not attracted to me anymore? Do you not want me? You started this remember?" She said, getting angrier by the minute.
"You don't think I want you? How can you possibly think that?" He ground his hips against hers, showing her proof of his excitement.
"Then why won't you kiss me? Why won't you touch me? Why is it that you use to give me action then before we started dating?"
"Because I'm trying to show you some respect. I'm trying to be the kind of man you deserve. I'm trying to give you what you want, a relationship not just sex."
"I don't want that! What I want is sex!"
Ranger's face turned cold then he took a step away from her, releasing her from his grip. "Sorry Steph. But I'm not here just to be your fuck buddy. I want more than that. Funny how things change."
Before she could even respond, he turned on his heel and left the room. As soon as he was gone she realized what she had said. Tears swelled in her eyes when the clarity hit. What had she done?
The celebration for Tank, Bobby and Lester came to an abrupt halt as Ranger stormed back into the office with a deadly look on his face. "Back later, don't call me." He scoffed as the slammed the front door behind himself.
"Uh Oh. That can't be good." Lester noted.
"What the hell happened? I thought…." Thank stopped speaking as soon as he saw Steph enter the room. Her eyes were red, and her cheeks were moist with tears. She didn't make a sound as she passed the men and went straight to her apartment.
Bobby, Lester and Tank made their way into the rec room to shoot some pool and to consider their options.
"We could tell them we are all quitting unless they have sex together?"
Tank threw some billiard chalk at Lester. "That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard of."
Lester ducked just in time. "Well, why don't you come up with something then genius."
"Maybe I will."
"Maybe you won't."
"Maybe I will."
"Shut up!!!! Both of you. Jesus you two are as bad as they are." Bobby shouted above their argument.
Lester and Tank froze and stared at Bobby. Bobby met their stares then spoke again. "Ok, listen up. This is what we're going to do."
With it being Saturday, the three men were free all day to prepare their operation. Tank and Lester woke up early to do the scouting. Bobby left not long after they did to pick up his girlfriend. He needed some help, and this time he knew he needed a woman's help.
He arrived at Emily's house and explained the situation to her. She immediately agreed to help then called in two of her friends as reinforcements. Just as Sara and Katlyn arrived, Tank called Bobby's cell phone and told him the location had been picked and secured. The plan was coming along smoothly. The girls set off to do the necessary shopping. Bobby made arrangements to have them meet him, Tank, and Lester and the location to prepare for the takedown later that afternoon.
As he walked Emily and the other girls to her car, she leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek and a quick pat on the ass.
He looked down questioningly at her. "What was that for?"
"That's for you being so sweet and arranging all this." She let go of him then slide into the car. She gave him a quick wink then added, "I'll show later tonight exactly how much I like your romantic side."
Bobby blushed slightly in front of Sara and Katlyn then moved to his own car. It seemed his plan was going to have a few surprise results for him as well.
At exactly 8:45pm that night Lester and Bobby crept slowly down the hall outside of Ranger's apartment. Once each of them were placed on either side of the doorway, Lester knocked loudly on the door. No one answered at first, so Lester knocked again, only a little louder the second time. A few seconds later, a grumpy Ranger jerked the door open and took a step into the hallway to see who was knocking. His eyes met Lester's.
"What do you want Santos?"
"Ranger, just remember this is for your own good."
"Wha…." Ranger felt a quick sting in his neck, then he was unable to finish his question. Seconds later he was falling straight into the arms of Bobby.
Bobby, Lester and Tank looked down at their handy work. Ranger was laying on his side with his arm lifelessly hanging from the bed. Stephanie was next to him, her arm draped across his stomach.
"Ready to do this guys?" Bobby questioned.
"I guess so, let's get this over with." Tank answered.
Lester walked to Ranger and placed some smelling salts right under his nose. Ranger quickly jerked awake, then Lester walked to the other side of the bed and did the same thing to Stephanie.
"What the fuck?" Ranger yelled as he rubbed his head.
Bobby stepped a little closer to the foot of the bed, put his hands on his hips then began to speak. "Ok you two, listen up." Stephanie began to ask something but Bobby held up his hand to quiet her. "Don't say a word until I'm finished. The both of you have been driving the three of us crazy this last week. We don't know what happened yesterday at the office, and frankly we don't care. But what we do care about is that you two work it out. If not, we will be forced to shoot you both and I don't really want to clean up the mess. So for your sake, and our sanity we are leaving you here until you work out whatever is going on."
"Like hell you are." Ranger said as he jerked up from the bed, only to be forced back down by the set of handcuffs attached to his left wrist.
Steph looked down at her right wrist, and found that she too was cuffed to the bed.
"Now we know you two might not be into kink, but handcuffs were the only way we could make sure you wouldn't leave before you were ready. These are our cuffs, so Ranger you know there is no picking your way out of them since they are combination locks, so don't even waste your energy. We're going to leave. There's a phone by your bed, but it only accepts incoming calls, so you can't call out. I'll call back here tomorrow morning and tell you the code to the cuffs. I suggest you both take advantage of this time and decide once and for all what it is you both want. I'm sorry we had to do it this way, but neither of you left us with a choice. Good luck, and we'll see you tomorrow. So now if you will excuse us, Lester, Tank and myself have three lovely ladies waiting for us at the club."
The three men backed out of the room against the requests and demands of Ranger and Stephanie. There would be hell to pay tomorrow, so the three of them headed out into the night to live in freedom one last time.
After 30 minutes of silence, and Ranger fiddling with the cuffs Stephanie finally spoke. "Why are you messing with that, you know those are impossible to get into without the combination."
He didn't answer but looked at her instead. The look in his eyes caused her to slide further to her side of the bed. "So now what?" She asked when she finally regained her courage.
"I suppose we wait. Not much else we can do. Maybe we can just get some sleep."
"I'm not sleepy Ranger. It's only 10."
"Well looks like we don't have too many other options Stephanie." He looked around the room and for the first time he noticed all of the arrangements the men had prepared for them. The room was huge and very rustic looking. He assumed they were in an Inn or possibly a bed and breakfast. The furniture decorating the room was dark cherry and looked to be antiques. Nearby the bed sat a silver tray containing fresh strawberries, cream, chocolate syrup, two single roses and bottle of champagne on ice.
His eyes continued to scan the room. He counted approximately 50 lit candles. He hadn't realized it before, but the lights of the room weren't actually on, it was merely being brightened by the flames of the candles. At the foot of the bed on his side, sat a small wooded box. He reached down, picked it up, and placed it on the bed between him and Stephanie. There was an envelope attached to the top of it with both of their names written on it.
Steph eyed it, the looked at Ranger.
"You read the card, I'll open the box."
Steph nodded then ripped into the envelope.
Steph & Ric
Wasn't sure what you two would like, so we got a little of each.
And yes, there is only one channel on the TV.
L, T, & B
Stephanie was confused until she looked over at Ranger who was now holding a giant, vibrating dildo in his hand.
There eyes went from the dildo to each other, then back to the dildo.
"I'm almost afraid to ask what else is in there." Steph said softly.
"You should be. There's a feather, a whip, a vibrator, some lubricant, a string of anal beads, a butt plug, a leather face mask with a zipper mouth, a gag, a blindfold, and a few things I'm not really sure of."
Steph and Ranger stared at the box then at the same time broke into hysterics. Both laughed until they were rolling on the bed trying to catch their breath.
"Have we really been that bad?" Ranger asked when he had finally calmed.
"I have. I've been a bitch to them." Steph paused then added, "But not just to them. You misunderstood me yesterday Ranger. I don't just want to have sex with you. I want more than that."
"I know Steph. I'm sorry I got so angry. I just wanted our first time to be perfect. I know we have already had sex, but that was different. Now that we are together I wanted things to be just right. I wanted it to be so special for you."
Steph turned to her side so she could meet Ranger's eyes. "Don't you get it Ranger? As long as it is with you, it will be special. This may sound crazy since we've only been dating for a week, but I'm in love with you Ric. I have been for over a year now."
Ranger stared at Steph in awe. "Never fail to surprise me babe." He raised his hand to her cheek and gently massaged it. "I've been looking for you for as long as I can remember. And now that I have you here, I don't ever want to let you go."
"Same goes for me. You're mine, and nothing is going to stop me from loving you. Not now, not ever." She jerked her body towards his in an effort get close to him but was stopped by the handcuff. "Well this handcuff might."
"Nah babe. We'll just have to work around them."
"That we can do."
They both turned toward one another and met in the middle of the bed with one arm hanging behind each of them attached to the headboard. As they wiggled to get closer, Steph drew her knee around Ranger's thigh and in doing so hit the remote to the TV. In seconds, the room was filled with moans, pants, and "God, yes's", however they weren't coming from Ranger or Stephanie. Startled at the sound, Stephanie rolled off Ranger as they both stared at the TV.
"Well I guess we know what they mean by only one channel." Ranger chuckled.
"God, what were those guys thinking? I mean the roses, candles, and champagne are perfect, but the toys and the porn? Doesn't make sense."
A thought popped into Ranger's head. "Didn't they say they were meeting three girls at the club?"
"The same thought came quickly to Steph." She looked up at Ranger and said, "Remind me to thank Emily for the candles and stuff whenever we get out of here."
"Sure thing babe."
Ranger grabbed the remote from the bed and clicked off the TV. He pulled Stephanie to his chest and kissed her deeply. Slow at first, allowing his tongue to moisten her lips. Then as she allowed him access, he explored her further. The feather soft kisses quickly turned into forceful, passionate licks and nips. She moaned as he found that spot on her neck, and he met her sound as her free hand brushed through his hair. He pulled away from to ask a quick question.
"Think you can get your shirt off?"
She panted back at him, "Yes, we'll rip it if we have to."
He laughed gently as she rose to lift the shirt. His eyes remained on hers as the soft fabric was lifted from her body and was left dangling on her cuffed arm. His eyes roamed her body then suddenly stopped. His mouth dropped and then he spoke, "I don't believe it. Those bastards."
Growing more confused by the minute, Stephanie looked down and realized there was a note taped to her bra.
We figured if you made it this far, you might need two hands.
Combination # 67-55-041
Ranger quickly rolled the knob to the combination and snapped himself free. He stopped
just as he was putting the last number into Steph's cuffs.
"What's wrong Ranger? Does it not work on mine?"
He looked deep into her eyes. "Just thinking it might be fun to leave yours on."
"Don't you dare Ranger! I want out of these!"
"Just kidding babe." He dialed the last number then dropped the cuffs to the floor.
A few hours later, exhausted and spent, Ranger and Steph collapsed into a heap among the sheets. Ranger was laying on his back with his right leg bent at the knee, and Steph's sweaty body flung across his chest.
"Steph, I don't think we should date anymore."
Stephanie froze. She had been making small patterns on Ranger's chest with her fingers, but when he spoke she stopped, then stiffened. "Um. What Ranger?"
Ric smiled slightly. "This dating thing is obviously not working too well for us, so I think we should stop."
Stephanie sat up quickly, and crossed her arms across her chest. "Ranger you ass…"
"I think we should move in together." Ranger explained, cutting her off.
Steph stopped mid-sentence and stared at him. Before she spoke she gave him a quick sucker punch to the gut. He made a low 'humpf' sound.
"Stop doing that Ranger, it's really not funny, nor is it attractive. And besides, I can't imagine myself living with someone that is always picking on me."
"Never picking on you babe. It's teasing. There's a difference."
"Well one day you will have to explain those differences to me."
"So is that a yes?"
"Of course it's a yes Ranger. I didn't wait a year for you to ask me that, only to say no because you were being a punkass."
Ranger laughed then gathered her further into his arms. He placed a soft kiss on her forehead then held her until they were both asleep.