I ran my hand down her side, kissing the base of her neck.
"Ricky," she whined. "I'm sore. I'm tired. Haven't you had enough?"
"Come on, baby, let me touch you," I said.
"No. You know I don't like people touching me when I'm trying to sleep."
"Let me hold you," I asked.
"Ric, I'm going to sleep now. Leave me alone."
That was the end of that relationship. I need to touch people. It's a physical need. If I can't, I slowly start to go crazy. A mandatory psych eval after my last stint in the rangers had a field day with it. They were hypothesizing and theorizing for days. I could have told them why. When I was little, there were so many of us, nobody ever had time for me. The only way I got attention was when I would take it, by tapping my dad's shoulder or attaching myself to my mother's leg. It usually ended with a slap to the back of my head, but at least they were looking at me. And the mission that went wrong, when I was put in isolation for god knows how many months probably didn't help, either.
But whatever the reason, I need to touch people. Even if it's only a pat on the back or a bracing arm, casual touches, when I'm close to a person, I need to touch them. And when it's my woman, I need to touch her, to feel her, all the time. But the only time any of these women wanted me touching them was when I was fucking them. They didn't like me holding their hand, or laying an arm across their shoulder. They didn't like me touching them. I realized, then, that to these women, all I was was another tool for them to get off. And I was sick of it.
As she went to sleep, I gathered all of my things that I'd left at her place over the past month and left.
The next morning I got a call from Connie, telling me that there was a friend of hers who wanted to try the bounty hunting thing, and that Vinnie wanted me to scare her off. If only to piss of Vinnie I'd help her out.
All I really wanted was somebody to hold me.
Nobody had ever really held me before. My family isn't exactly the touchy-feely type. Hugs were handed out sparingly, and were more like awkward pats on the back than anything else. There were never those big hugs. When I was a little girl, and Mary Lou would get dropped off at my house for a sleep-over, I always saw her dad giving her a great-big bear hug before he left. Mary Lou would smile and giggle, and squeeze him tight. I remember, I was always so jealous of her. All I really wanted was a hug, a really, good, hug. We solved everything with food.
Dickie only touched me in bed.
Morelli, when he was around, would touch me. When he was horny, when we were in bed. He never stayed with me through the night. Sure, we'd sleep in the same bed, but he would roll away from me, not touching until the next morning when he woke up and wanted more.
I've read that babies can die from not being touched enough – that they literally die for lack of a hug. I think, maybe, that I'm dying from the same disease.
It's been three years now, since I started the bounty hunting gig. Last year, I'd moved out and called it quits with Morelli for the last time. The only thing he'd wanted me there for was a warm body for him to use when he was feeling randy. And it didn't help me work things out with Morelli when I'd realized that I was in love with another man. The man with whom I was currently on a stake-out. We'd gotten a lot closer over the past year. He'd come over at all hours of the day and night, just to hang out. But he was always very careful not to touch me. I wondered if he knew how I felt, and was trying to keep from encouraging it.
But tonight we were on a stake-out, and Ranger's attention was completely focused on waiting for the skip to show. Finally, he did. We were both out of the car and after the skip in a heartbeat. Of course a second later I tripped over a tree root, falling and banging my head.
"Shit!" I yelled, feeling the blood on my forehead. "Shit, shit, shit."
By the time I'd sat up Ranger was back with the skip and shoving him in the back seat. He held out a hand to help me up, and I took it, savoring the warm strong feeling of his hand on mine. Something must have shown on my face, because when I opened my eyes and looked at Ranger, there was an odd look playing across his features.
"Come on," he said, guiding me with a hand on the small of my back. "I've got a first aid kit in the trunk." Getting it out of the back, he shut the trunk and lifted me onto it. Sitting on the trunk like that I was just below eyelevel to him. He grabbed what he needed from the kit and maneuvered so that his body was between my legs, so close to me I could feel his breath on my cheek. I closed my eyes and relished the feeling of him next to me, touching me. I was dazed and a little confused, and I don't think it had anything to do with the bump on my head.
I had just caught the skip when I heard Stephanie yelling.
"Shit! Shit, shit, shit."
Going back and heaving the FTA into the back of the car, I held a hand out to help Stephanie up. The look on her face when she put her hand in mine was one of near pure bliss. It confused me. I had been so sure that she was like the other women in my life – no touch rules and all. But seeing her face made me rethink. I had been very careful not to touch her after that night in her bed. Once I knew what it was like, I wasn't sure I could keep myself to myself if I started with even the lightest brush or the most casual contact. And she didn't seem to care.
Testing to see if it had been a fluke, if maybe I'd read her wrong, or hadn't seen what I'd thought I'd seen, I put my hand on her lower back, guiding her to the trunk.
"Come on," I said. "I've got a first aid kit in the trunk." When I'd retrieved it I picked her up and set her on the car, moving between her legs to get closer to her forehead so I could clean up the wound. And I hadn't been wrong. Ever so slightly, she was leaning into my touches, shifting just enough to increase contact. I took my time cleaning up the cut.
"I'm pretty sure you don't need stitches but we can go to the hospital if you want."
"No," she said. "If you say it's alright, then it's fine. I don't want to go to the hospital unless I absolutely have to."
I nodded, moving slightly away from her. She followed the movement, almost unconsciously, wanting to maintain the connection. I certainly hadn't been wrong. I kissed her forehead, near where she'd gotten cut, then picked her up to set her down by the car door. I was confused, and I needed to think. It was eerily silent in the car as we drove to the station. When we got there, I went inside to process the skip while Steph waited in the car. I made my decision and to hell with the consequences. If my heart got broken, if it was all wishful thinking, at least I would have a few days to be happy.
Getting back in the car, I drove us to a 24-hour diner. I hurried out of the car, opening her door and helping her out before she had a chance to do it on her own. Again, I saw the enjoyment on her face as her hand met mine. With my arm around her waist I escorted her inside, sliding into the booth next to her.
Throughout the meal I had no idea what was going on. All of a sudden, Ranger was being touchy-feely. Like he'd been before we'd slept together. And, God, was it nice. I almost melted every time I felt his hand touching me. But I had no idea what he was thinking or why he was doing this. We left the diner and drove back to my apartment, holding hands all the while. I wanted to know what was going through his mind, but at the same time I didn't want to risk Ranger pulling away, so I kept silent, my questions never voiced. I decided to just enjoy it and to hell with the consequences. If my heart got broken, if it was all wishful thinking, at least I would have a few days to be happy.
Back at my building, Ranger again opened the door for me, helping me out of the car. We went inside and Ranger rode the elevator up with me, pulling me against him so that my back was to his front. He wrapped his arms around my waist and lay his chin on my shoulder. In the apartment he backed me against a wall, before kissing me lightly. He moved to my neck, paying it serious homage before folding up against the wall and bringing me to sit in his lap. He just held me there, burying his face into my neck. I brought my hands up and stroked his head and his back, unsure of what else to do.
Then he shuddered, picking me up and bringing me into the bedroom. A few hours later, and we were completely sated and exhausted, and I was sore in places I didn't know could be sore. Ranger turned to me again.
All the way to her apartment, I was filled with a heady mixture of anticipation and apprehension. I held her all the way to her apartment, pulling her close in the elevator and laying my head on her shoulder. Once we were in her apartment I just couldn't contain it any longer. I pressed her against the wall, kissing her before continuing to her neck. And then it was all too much. It was heaven in so many ways. All my dreams and wishes come true, but it was too much too quickly.
I switched us so that I was against the wall. I practically collapsed, bringing her with me. It was all I could do to hold onto her, hiding my face in her neck and enfolding her in my arms. I was almost sure that she would push me away, upset that we weren't well on our way to having sex. Instead, the strangest thing happened. She held me back. I felt the relief and the release of all of the pent-up emotions go through me in a shudder, and I picked us up off the floor and moved us to Steph's bedroom.
It was I don't know how many hours later. I knew both of us were exhausted, and I was pretty sure that both of us would be walking a bit awkwardly tomorrow.
But I turned to Stephanie again. I ran my hand down her side, kissing the base of her neck.
"Mmm," she half breathed, wrapping her arms around me and gathering me close to her.
"Hold me?" she asked. "Hold me while we sleep, Ranger."
And I did.