Author: Ann (snowflakesandchrystals)
Title: More questions!

Rating: Probably NC-17 for some language, some violence and a little smut at the end

Summary: Aurelia wants to get Stephanie and Ranger together and has several tricks up her sleeve to make it happen

Warning: See rating

Spoilers: Sequel to "Those bloody questions". Information from books 1 through 12 is used.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters except for Aurelia and I do not make any money with them. Any medical, technical or other inconsistencies are my mistake and the books described in the story are fictional.

He grabbed my hand and together we walked down, ready to announce to the world that we were together. Or maybe just his family for now…

More questions!

Chapter 1: Dream on!

With a deep sigh I turned on my side, looking at a sleeping Ranger. We were in bed together, lying next to each other, but nothing had happened. Why couldn't reality be more like my dreams, I wondered. Ranger had gotten the flu, and Aurelia, his sister, had thought it was a good idea to let me come over to take care of Ranger. Then Ranger had woken up around 10 pm and had been thoroughly pissed at her for drugging him with sleeping pills. I still remembered that fight word for word, especially when I came into view.

"Oh, for God's sake, how difficult is this question? Did someone visit, yes or no?" And this was when I took matters in my own hands. I slowly got up and our eyes met. Ricardo seemed baffled for a few seconds. Our eyes were locked on each other and you could see Ricardo's brain working overtime.

"Yes, Ranger, someone did visit tonight," I said softly.

But it didn't continue like my nice dream, which ended into us getting finally together. Nope, no such luck. In stead, this happened.

"What are you doing here?" Ranger practically growled at me.

"Now, Ricardo, that is not a nice way to speak to her." His mother. He actually looked guilty for about 1 second.

"How did you get here?" Oh shit, here were questions I didn't want to answer.

"I eh… I called you."


"Eh, when you were eh… sleeping." More like drugged out of your mind, but well…


"Huh?" Oh, very elaborate Steph.

"Well, that doesn't explain how you got here." Oh, yeah… Oops. What to do… I looked at Aurelia for help. I mean: it wasn't all just my fault. I didn't drug him, I didn't answer a call that wasn't meant for me and I didn't set someone up.

Aurelia POV

I saw Steph looking at me and realised I had to come to her rescue. I mean, this was entirely getting out of hand. No wonder these people never ended up together yet. They were perfect for each other but boy oh boy were they playing hard to get and twenty questions!

"Why don't you go back to bed." I couldn't help it, I had to push one more button.

"No, I will not!" Whine, whine, whine! He looked so cute with the kitten in his arms, the red glow on his cheeks and his black boxers. It was a perfect combination of masculinity and softness. If I had a camera and would be able to take a picture, I would be a millionaire the next day. It made me wonder, would he ever be approached to become a model? It would make sense, looking the way he did… He would be very…

"Answer me, Aurelia!" Oops, Ricardo had started talking and I had completely missed that.

"Sorry, what did you say?" He looked like he was going to explode.

"I asked how Steph got here."

"I'll explain it all to you….", he started to relax, "when you get back to bed." Okay, I take entirely too much pleasure in pushing Ricardo's buttons, but we don't get a lot of chances to do it, so when an opportunity arises, I grab it. With both hands and feet…

"I will not be sent back to bed by my sister!" I knew he would say that, but I knew there was one woman in this room that could sent him to bed, and I desperately hoped she would do it. You know, motherly instinct and all.

"Ricardo, you are sick. Go back to bed." Her tone was clear, discussion closed. She was the oldest woman in the house and it didn't change anything that Ricardo was over 30 years old, he was still her son. I looked at Stephanie's face. She looked completely shocked. Probably never saw anyone ordering Ricardo around. Ricardo opened his mouth to say something, but a stern look from both his parents made him close it again and his shoulders slumped.

"You better be following me up!" he gritted out as he turned around towards the door. I got up and smiled at everyone. My brothers and sisters were all smiling back because they had seen right through my plan.

We all knew Ricardo was a busy man and all, but we loved to tease him because on occasion we could get him off balance. But that took skill, patience and opportunity. Most of the time even we couldn't get to him anymore, he was smart and highly trained. But now and then one of us managed to press a button and then we had great fun for the rest of the evening, usually right up until mother put an end to it. He was after all, her oldest son. And one night, about a year ago, he had been in a bad mood and then Ariel had said something about a woman turning him down for a change and he had simply lunched at him. This was a big no-no in our house: no fighting. It was in the garden, and they were rolling around in the grass. We all knew Ricardo would win, he probably could take all 5 of us at once and still come out on top. None of us was brave enough to interfere with an angry Ricardo, but Mother had done the only thing we didn't expect. In stead of yelling or trying to separate them, she simply got the garden hose and hosed them down. Ricardo had been on top of Ariel (no surprises there) and had gotten the full spray. He had rolled off Ariel onto his back and mother had continued spraying him until he was completely wet. Ariel had scrambled to his feet at the first chance and only a few drops had landed on him and he was watching the scene from about 10 feet away, together with the rest of us. Ricardo on the other hand was soaking wet. Mother probably sprayed him for another 10 seconds while he was laying on his back, his hands up in defeat. With a "I hope you've cooled off" she had turned off the tap and we all had just stood there, looking at her and Ricardo. Ricardo moved his hands up and wiped some of the water from his face and sat up. He was literally dripping wet! But the conversation that followed made us all laugh. He said "thanks, I needed that", to which mother replied "thought so". She helped him of the ground, gave him a hug and we all just laughed our asses off. Nobody ever knew what really happened to get him into that mood, but I didn't expect a hosing down would do the trick in the current situation.

We were up in his room and he was sitting on the edge of the bed.

"What's Steph doing here, Aurelia?" He asked it in a calm tone, but that didn't deceive me.

"She called you and I answered the phone and asked her to come over." I'm such an honest girl!

"Why?" Because she is perfect for you and since you won't make a move, I do it for you.

"Because she could drive you home, that's what you wanted, right?" Smart me!

He looked at me long and hard, probably feeling that that was not the entire truth.

"Right." He said. He looked defeated, the flu will do that to you. Oh, hang on, maybe it was the fact that I had introduced Steph to the family when I had knocked him out and had been interfering with his personal life… As a doctor I was convinced it was the first thing.

He let himself fall backwards on the bed.

"My head is killing me. This stuff must be strong enough to knock out an elephant," he groaned.

"Sorry about that." His head shot up and he looked at me with disbelief. Okay, not so sorry, but he didn't need to know that.

"How long until these side effects wear off?" Oh, he really wanted to run out of here.

"I don't know, you could just have a head ache from the flu. But generally a few hours until it's really out of your system."

"Hmmm." Master with words, my dear brother.

"Just stay here one more night. Steph can sleep here too and she can drive you home tomorrow." That way I have another 8 hours to form my master plan of match making! And tomorrow was Sunday, and since we were all here mother would make a lovely breakfast and we would all eat together. Stephanie would get to see Ricardo from a different perspective.

"I want to go home, Aurelia."

"I know, but it is already 11 pm. And mother would love to have you around for just one more night." I knew he felt guilty about not visiting as often as the rest of us, so this should work. And I had one last thing to convince him.

"Hmmm." This meant he felt obliged to stay but was still trying hard to think of an excuse to go away.

"Listen, Steph would have to stay with you tonight, since all the rooms are filled. Is that okay?" His body went still and he opened one eye to look at me.

"Or would you rather she stayed with me. I'm sure we can become great friends." I could tell Steph all about Ricardo…

"No, here is fine!" he quickly said.

"Great. Glad that is settled then. I'll tell mom. Sweet dreams."

When I closed the door behind me I smiled at myself. I am soooo good!

Chapter 2: Sleeping beauty

I went down to tell Stephanie the good news: she got to stay here and sleep in the same bed as Ricardo. I mean: am I nice or what?! I'm sure she was very glad I organized it that way, and that her protests were more out of politeness rather than anything else. And I said I was happy to provide her with some stuff for the night, since we were probably the same size, preventing her to use that excuse. Of course mother was delighted that there was a guest in the first place and that she was a "special friend of Ricardo" made it only better. Stephanie had blushed again when mother had said that, poor girl! Ricardo must have a field day teasing her. She did stay to chat with us for a little while, and had to endure some questioning by everyone. She seemed to relax after the first 10 minutes, explaining how she and Ricardo met, and some stories of the things that happened to her while bounty hunting. What she didn't know was that some of these stories had been told by Ricardo too, but somehow they differed. In Steph's stories, she got into trouble due to her own fault, and then Ricardo rescued her and she felt slightly embarrassed or stupid about that. In his stories, she was the best bounty hunter he ever met, and her instincts were so good that nobody could keep up and he was only glad he could get to her in time to see the "end of the show". Mmmm, interesting differences, don't you think? Both were obviously impressed with the other. Both were obviously in love with the other. I could feel it. I knew from Steph's stories that she and Ricardo had met over 3 years ago now. Imagine how long it would take for them to actually get together if nobody interfered! I mean: Steph was gorgeous, I'm sure other men were interested as well. Oh, dear, I had to move fast!

Ranger POV

After about 30 minutes I went downstairs again. I had put on a black t-shirt and was holding Lily in my arms. She would follow me anyway.

"Are you going to let her sleep at all, or are you just going to use the whole night to pry information from her?" I asked the family. It was obvious that they were trying to get as much information from Steph about our relationship as possible.
"Hey Ric, you never told us that rescuing damsels in distress is your new speciality." Javier. Always the funny guy. I shot him a look, but he just laughed. They knew my responses were limited with mom and dad in the room and they used it to their advantage every chance they got. Steph sat on a chair, blushing furiously. She probably had no defence against this group of skilled interrogators. I had to rescue her before she told slightly more than that I wanted to be known. I already had the feeling that Aurelia had made it her personal task to get us together, and I knew from past experiences what she was capable of… In the old days I didn't mind, but now I had changed my lifestyle slightly, and sleeping around was no longer on my list of activities.
"Let me get you some things for tonight," Aurelia said to Steph. Uh oh, the look in Aurelia's eyes made me wonder what she was up to. She was up to something, definitely.

Aurelia POV

When Ric came downstairs, it gave me the perfect opportunity to start my new plan. First of all it was obvious that Steph and Ricardo had the hots for each other. I mean: look at them! Both of them are stunning to look at individually and when they look at each other you can light a fire with all the heat that is between them. I mean, the air crackles with electricity, the tension is palpable, time seems to stand still… Okay, you get the idea. But despite that, they didn't do anything. So what could be the problem? I'm sure it was my brother who had done something or said something that made Steph so hesitant. Girls always fell into his arms, so he never had to learn the tricks that all other mortals need to get some attention from the opposite sex. And Steph didn't look like she had too much self confidence. So my plan consisted of two things: Steph needed a confidence booster and Ricardo needed a good kick to his butt to get moving and ask her out on a date. So when Steph and I walked up to my room I paid her a few compliments about her hair and figure. She looked at me like I was from another planet, but seemed to be pleased that I said it. Then I got her a nice thing to wear for the night. Not some oversized t-shirt or long shirt that would hide her pretty body. No, I gave her my silk set. It consisted of a violet top, trimmed with some black lace and shaped to follow the curves of a female body and a boxer made of the same violet silk and trimmed with the same lace. She would look gorgeous. Let's see if I could play with my brothers' head… I added a nice violet towel and shoved it in her hands.

"There you go." Steph looked at the silk items.

"Oh, you really don't have to give me something so nice. An old t-shirt will do." Yeah, I'm sure it will do in your book, but not for my plan!

"No, no. A beautiful woman deserves something beautiful." And we're back to the blushing.

"I'm not …."

"Oh, honey! You ARE beautiful. I could see all my brothers watching you!" More blushing.

"Ricardo always got the pretty ones."

"I'm not Ran… Ricardo's girlfriend." No, but you will be soon!

"Really? I could swear he was in love with you. I have never seen him look at a woman like he looks at you. And believe me, I have seen him looking at a lot of women." A pained look crossed her face. Oh great, Aurelia, great thing to say! Now she'll think he is just fooling around, that he sleeps with every woman he can get and she'll never look at him again! Quick, do something, say something, anything!!! Save this situation!

"But he is no longer doing that!" I quickly added.

"He is a very loyal man, ready to settle down and start a nice family life." Steph looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

"Okay, maybe not a family, but what I am trying to say is that he is no longer interested in just sex. He was a bit of a ladies man when he was younger, but after he got out of the army that stopped. I haven't seen him with a woman for years now. Until he started talking about you." Steph looked cautious.

"What does he say about me?" Smart girl.

"About your captures. How much intuition you have and how fast you can solve a mystery. He loves to help you!" Steph looked sceptical.

"Yeah, for comic relief." What did she just say?


"Nothing." I'm sure there was a definite something there!

"Come on, Steph, what would be comical about helping you? I'm sure he didn't mean it like that!" Fingers crossed, toe's crossed everything crossed!

"Well, he said I was a line item in his budget and that he and the team loved me because I made them laugh." My brother said WHAT?!!! Steph looked hurt. No wonder, I'd be kicking Ricardo in some very sensitive places if he ever said to me I was comic relief to him and his team! How could he! Men, oh, you can't live with them, but you can't kill them either. Stupid laws. I was right, though, my brother was responsible for this situation! He hurt Steph and now she stayed away. He could easily keep her at arms length now.

"The pig!" I couldn't help it, it just came out. Steph's eyebrows shot up.

"Who's a pig?" Oh, great. Ricardo had entered the room and heard the last part of the conversation.

"You! You are a pig!" Stephanie started to back out of the room, looking for an exit probably.

"Excuse me?"

"How could you say to this poor girl that you had made her a line item in your budget and was comic relief?" Ricardo just looked at me, slightly stunned, and then turned to look at Steph, who had hidden herself in a corner.

"Babe." He said with a sigh. Jeez, is that all he has to say about it?

"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"

"Apologize to the woman!"
"No, really, that isn't necessary. I'm sure…" Stephanie was trying to do damage control her way. She probably thought he would ship her off to a third world country after this conversation was over.

"Aurelia." The warning tone was back. Well, bite me! I'm on a mission here.

"Ricardo." See, two can play that game. We were entering a staring contest. I looked at him triumphantly. I knew I had him in a corner. If he would refuse, he would make Steph feel bad and I was sure that he didn't want to do that. If he did apologize, he would have to do something he doesn't do a lot. Namely: say sorry. He is used to act and do, and not reflect. I could see realisation dawn in his eyes. Hihi, little sisters grow up and get smart, darling brother. He tried to look very angry and then changed to threatening. I could hear Stephanie hold her breath in the corner. But I wasn't scared. He closed his eyes for a second and growled a threat to me in Spanish. Right, like that has ever stopped me!

"She knows I didn't mean it like that."
"Did you, Stephanie?" I'm pretty sure she would say yes, just to save her life.

"Eh… yeah." Right.

"Well, then explain to me how you me did mean it!" Push those buttons, push those buttons!

"I have explained that to her already. And now excuse me, but I'm going to sleep. I am sick, remember." He smiled at me. Okay, he got me there. He looked at Stephanie and she automatically walked to him. He grabbed her arm and pushed her out of my room in front of him. No doubt to protect her from me. I followed them with my eyes. They would make a lovely couple! Just before Ricardo entered his room he sent a very warning glance my way. It was clear: back out of my private life! I thought about that for a moment. Maybe I should back off a little, to give him some space…

Yeah right!

Chapter 3: Sweet dreams!

After we entered his room, Ranger closed the door, turned around and looked at me. It made me fidget. I couldn't get any good or bad vibe from him.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to… I mean, you did say that I was… eh…. Aurelia suddenly said that you….. " No, this was not going well! I ended up just looking lost at him.

"It's alright, Steph. You do know I didn't mean it as something negative?" Mmm, back to Steph.

"Yeah, sure." What do you think? I don't hear I am a line item in someone's budget daily, so how do you interpret that? It didn't sound like an outright compliment to me!

"Glad we cleared that up." Easy for you to say!

"I'm going to sleep. I'm beat. I still have a head ache from those sleeping pills." He slipped in the bed and made himself comfortable. I just stood there, with the silk items and matching towel in my hands. I didn't feel like undressing in front of Ranger, and I would like to brush my teeth and go to the toilet before I would join him.

"Ehm, where is the bathroom?" He smiled. I felt myself get warm inside.

"It's through that door. There should be a new toothbrush in the cabinet somewhere. " Ah, excellent. I turned around and walked into a small but nice bathroom. It had a shower cubicle, toilet and basin, all was done in Mexican style, with dark blue and yellow as accent colours and a light brown as basic colour. It was warm and tasteful. I locked the door behind me and looked at the shower cubicle. Mmm, shower would be nice… I looked around me to put the silk stuff and towel somewhere and suddenly stopped. My eye had spotted Ranger's personal stuff and it brought back memories from the time his daughter was kidnapped and he had moved in with me for a short period of time. His razor was there, shaving foam, toothbrush, toothpaste and a bar of soap. I wondered what kind of scent it would have… Hang on! Soap! I turned around and spotted the familiar bottle of Bulgari in the shower. I was having a shower!!!

After my shower I tried my best with my hair, but using my hands as a brush doesn't do much good. Mmm, that would be fun tomorrow morning… I took another look at myself in the mirror. I looked nice in the purple outfit, Aurelia had been right. But it didn't make me feel very comfortable. I hoped that since Ranger was sick, he wouldn't try anything he would later regret. I was available now, but wouldn't live through another amazing night with Ranger and then another quick exit from him. I wanted something more than that. But I was still greatly attracted to Ranger, and wondered if I would be able to resist him if he put his mind to it. Mmm, better not think about that, right? Let's just sleep. My day had come to a very unexpected end, and frankly I could use a few hours of undisturbed sleep.

I opened the door and walked into the bedroom again. Ranger seemed to be asleep, he was laying on his back with one hand beside his head and the other next to his body. He looked very nice, very young and attractive. Less dangerous, I suppose, more human. I tiptoed to the other side of the bed and slipped in, hoping I wouldn't wake him up. However, no such luck. Of course not, Steph, the guy is a trained mercenary, they don't continue to sleep when a stranger gets in bed with them! Ranger turned towards me and opened a sleepy eye.


"Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."

"No problem. That purple looks great on you." Appreciative grin.

"Eh, thanks."

"Come here." He lifted his arm, indicating for me to snuggle up against him.

"Ranger, I don't think…"

"Come on, Babe. Were in my parents house, I won't do anything." I still looked sceptical at him. I knew from experience what his 'not doing anything' could consist off!

"Promise me you will not touch me in any way that is considered sexual, try to kiss me or do anything else that is erotic." Oops, that wasn't supposed to come out like that!

"Babe." More grinning.

"Ranger!" Whine, whine, whine.

"Think you can't resist me?" 200 watt smile and I felt my body respond. This was exactly what I meant: even a smile could make me melt.

"PROMISE ME!" Squeak, squeak.

"Okay, I promise. Now come here." I sighed, but was all too happy to park my butt against his front and feel his arm come around me to gather me close. I wiggled a little to get more comfortable and felt his bodies' response. Oops.

"Babe, what about that non-sexual clause?" His voice was warm and intimate.

"Hey, that was for you, I didn't promise anything." Indignant.

"I will not be held responsible for my actions if you keep wiggling like that!" Ranger warned.

"I'm just getting comfortable."

"Make it fast." Mmm, the flu must make him grumpy. Or he had very little self control, and that I somehow didn't associate with Ranger.

"I'm done."

"Thanks. Now stay still and go to sleep."

"Yes, sir!" Snappy me!

"Babe." But I could hear the smile in his voice.

"Good night, Babe. Sweet dreams." Very suggestive voice here.

"Good night, Ranger."

And sweet dreams they were. Pity reality wasn't more like it. But that did make my life much more interesting.

Chapter 4: Good morning?!

I woke up and saw it was still quite early. My head ache had gone and I contemplated to wake up Steph and leave the house before anybody else woke up, but decided against it. My mother would never forgive me if I did that. I heard some scratching at the door to my bedroom and realised that that must be Lily. She was a kitten that we found while doing a "redecoration job" about 8 weeks ago. She had been very dirty and had been eating anything that was left by the inhabitants. At her young age she probably saw as much McDonalds and donuts as Steph had in her whole life. I had taken her with me and washed her and then wondered what I would do with her. She was very thin, so I had bought some cat food and had fed her. The next morning I had taken her to the control room and asked if anybody wanted a cat. Nobody did, and so I first thought that maybe we could have an office cat. A little bit of stress relief. But after an hour Ram had come up with her to my office and said that since I had left, the kitten had only sat in front of the door to the hall and meowed like her life depended on it. He thought maybe something was wrong, but it had wriggled its way out of his arms and ran to me. I picked it up and it snuggled into me, quiet as if nothing was wrong. Ram has smiled a little and said that that was another problem solved and left the room. I realised my reputation was severely compromised. I thought about giving it to Steph, but she had Rex and I didn't think that adding a cat would improve the situation. I had given Lily a stern talk about being quiet if she expected me to allow her in my office all day and she had looked at me with big eyes. I had put her on my desk and she had curled up like a ball and went to sleep. However, when Tank came in about an hour later, she had thought he was a great toy and jumped on his lap, surprising him. Tank was out of his chair with his gun aimed at Lily before you could say 'shit'. So we decided that to prevent any serious injury in the future on either side we had to find a different solution. She couldn't live in my apartment, that would be a bit lonely for a cat and I didn't want to come home to torn up sheets and cat hairs on my clothes, when I remembered my parents. That evening I had paid a surprise visit and my mother loved Lily from the moment she saw her. But Lily still liked me best, so whenever I'm around she follows me everywhere. I slowly got up and opened the door to her. She ran in and jumped on the bed, looking at Steph. This was the first time that she didn't have me to herself and I was wondering how she would take it. She sniffled at Steph, seemed to agree with my choice of partner and settled herself against Stephanie. I went back to bed as well and curled my arm around Steph, my hand touching Lily. I fell asleep within minutes.

Stephanie POV

I opened my eyes and looked straight into the eyes of Lily. She seemed to study me, looking intently at me. She got up and walked towards me. I closed my eyes, afraid she might take a swipe at them, but in stead I felt her little head pushing against my forehead. She was purring. Her whiskers were tickling, and I laughed softly. She gave a little meow and walked over my pillow to the other side, where Ranger was sleeping. She pushed against his head too, and he murmured something. She meowed in response, but when no further action was forthcoming, she gave him a little lick on his cheek and another push with her head. More murmurs from Ranger and he turned, he was now laying on his back. He had kicked the blanket down until his waist. Lily jumped on his chest and looked at his face. She walked around on his stomach, but didn't seem to like his washboard abs so wondered up to his chest again. She laid down high up on his chest, one paw on either side of his neck. With her head she pushed against his chin. Ranger smiled sleepily and said "Babe". I froze. Oh… mi… god... Lily continued with little licks on his jaw and cheek and Ranger's smile showed some signs of him getting turned on. He opened his mouth a little and gave a little sigh. He turned his head to one side and Lily happily obliged, pushing her little head against his jaw, followed by little licks. I was mesmerized and couldn't keep my eyes of them. Ranger looked drop dead gorgeous and his dark skin formed a beautiful contrast against Lily's light fur. The small size of Lily compared to Ranger's well trained body was wonderful to look at. If I had the guts and opportunity to take a picture of them, I would have named it 'deadly attractive' because both of them were beautiful and both of them were dangerous when they were awake. I was laying on my side, my head supported by my hand and I felt left out. It seemed that this little kitten knew more about handling Ranger than I did! So I felt I had to show her that I knew what Ranger liked as well, and slowly bowed forward, until my lips touched his. He moaned softly and I moaned back. I could feel the soft fur of Lily tickling my chest. And I could feel the moment that Ranger really woke up. He stilled a little, probably wondering what was going on. He opened his eyes and I looked at him, my lips still touching his, and Lily still pushing her head against his jaw. I smiled at him and our lips broke contact.

"Babe." Soft and warm.

"Good morning, Ranger." I bowed forward for another kiss, when suddenly the door to his room rushed open. I shot up, trying to cover myself with the blanket, while Ranger was suddenly sitting up with his gun in his hands. We were both looking into the eyes of Aurelia, who looked momentarily stunned at the gun and then smiled a mischievous smile. Oh, shit.

"Good morning, you two. Breakfast is ready. Are you coming?" Ranger seemed to count to 10 to calm down and then answered.

"Good morning, Aurelia. Thanks for knocking. Yeah, we'll be right down." He sounded cool, but his eyes showed a definite amount of pissed off.

"Excellent Rick, I'll let mother know." She smiled one last smile and closed the door softly behind her. Ranger's shoulders slumped and he looked defeated.

"Sorry about that, Babe." I would never be able to look at Aurelia again!

"It's alright, Ranger." I sighed, feeling a bit deflated too.

"No, it's not," Ranger growled.

"She'll pay for that, that was a serious invasion of my privacy and she knows it." I wasn't sure how to respond. I didn't want to cause any trouble, but I knew that if Valerie would ever do anything like it, I would be furious.

"I'm sure she didn't mean it." I wasn't even sure what I meant, but well, it seemed like a good thing to say.

"Oh yes, she did." Ranger was really pissed off. I looked at him and grasped.

"What is it, Babe?"

"Ehm, where is Lily?" I looked around and saw that she was laying on the bed near Ranger's legs.

"Over there, why?" He looked puzzled.

"Well, she must have been scared when the door opened like that and you moved."

"Why?" More puzzled looks.

"Because you have 2 scratches, one on your chest and one on the side of your face." His hand shot up to his face and when he looked at his fingertips, there were a few drops of blood on them. He fell backwards on his pillow and gave a grunt. I looked at him and he looked at me, and then I saw a smile forming on his face. I was still surprised at all that had happened in the past 12 hours. Ranger always seemed to be in control, but here he seemed to be continuously off balance. I saw his mother ordering him to bed, I saw his sister bravely invade his privacy without flinching and I saw his brother tease him without fear. He must have read my mind, because he snorted at himself and said.

"I am ex-special forces, I own a successful business and I am feared in Trenton and far beyond that, but when I set foot in this house it seems like the world turns upside down. My privacy is invaded like it's nothing, I get ordered around like I'm a little child and my sister drugs me without me even noticing it." He looked at me again, and then started laughing. He drew me close for a hug and I snuggled into him, smiling as well.

"It's … nice, to see you off balance for a change. Now you know how I feel all the time." I hoped he wouldn't get pissed off about this remark, but he gave me a kiss on my head and smiled at me. He drew me close one more time and sighed deeply.

"You'll have to explain to me how you cope with it, because I'm afraid I'll explode during breakfast." I sat up with huge eyes. Ranger, losing control? And then there was a nock on the door.

Aurelia POV

I know I don't live a life of danger, like Ricardo does, but that doesn't mean were not related. With this I mean that I too can have a slightly suicidal streak, which was leading me to his bedroom door once again. I knew I was risking serious payback, but this was too good an opportunity to let it pass. I had caught them in the middle of something earlier this morning, and I felt elated. I was right: put them together in a room and they can't keep their hands of each other. Unfortunately I had interrupted them before they seem to have gotten really far, so I had to do something to correct my earlier 'mistake'. This time I did knock, I am not THAT suicidal.

"Yo." My brother. I opened the door and peeked around it.

"Is it safe?" Glare from Ricardo and blush from Stephanie. Yup.

"Why are you here, I told you we would be down in a minute." Mmm, seriously pissed off still. He really needs to learn how to share his emotions with us. I feel, as his sister and doctor, I have a right to know what's going on in his life. And not all of us lead such interesting lives as he does.

"Let me look at those cuts." I'm smart, I'm a doctor and I'm on a mission, and I soon realised that those little scratches could help my goal. Probably Steph has never seen Ricardo sick, probably she has never seen him in serious pain or in serious trouble. Short: she hasn't seen his human side. And he was offering me one opportunity after another these last couple of days. Also, taking care of a man who was as strong as Ricardo could be something very special for women. According to my friends, it was very erotic. Don't ask me why, I don't want to go there. But I have this one friend who took care of him when he was sick a few years ago, and she is still delirious about it. A few of my other friends took care of him when he was home on leave from the military and he usually came home in less than splendid condition, and they accepted everything from him. They know now that he slept with every woman they could think off, including their best friends, but somehow that is never Ricardo's fault. If you ask ME what it is like to take care of Ricardo and I would say he is an ungrateful, impatient and rude little shit to take care of. He doesn't listen to his doctor, he'll try to escape whenever he has the chance and he is always in a bad mood. But well, that's probably because I don't PLAY doctor/nurse with him, I AM his doctor. According to my friends he was an angel. Yeah right.

I walked over to the bed where he was sitting up now, and grabbed his chin. He slapped my hands away.

"I'm fine, it's nothing." Doesn't like to be vulnerable. Doesn't want Steph to know he is made of flesh and blood too.

"Come on, Ricardo. You know you can get a nasty infection from those cuts. Lily doesn't wear shoes when she goes outside, who knows where she put those paws in." I could see Steph forming a mental image of this. I grabbed his face again and turned it, so I could look at the scratches. There weren't very deep, maybe 1 to 2 inches long. It had already stopped bleeding. I walked to his bathroom and grabbed a towel. I made one corner wet and took it back with me. I had brought some cotton with me and the most stinging disinfectant I could find. I'm bad, so sue me. I wiped the blood from the scratch of his chest, and then got the disinfectant spray. I could feel his eyes watching me. He probably sensed I was up to something. You need a little bit of background info on me now. I work at the ER department of a local hospital. Usually I used products that stung as little as possible, patients simply prefer those. But on occasion I would get a person who would be extremely rude or exaggerating, just because he had a bad day, or wanted attention. Then I had a 'special' bottle of disinfectant. Once again, I'm bad, so sue me. I had so far never used it on Ricardo. He was my brother. But there is a first time for everything. I shook the bottle and then pressed the nozzle.

Ranger POV

I knew Aurelia was up to something. She knew just as I did that those cuts meant nothing. The whole story about them getting infected held some truth, but by no means would my life be in any danger if that would actually happen. And I knew for a fact that Lily didn't go outside, mother was still afraid she would walk away and wouldn't know her way back. I was watching her intently, trying to find any clues, but in the end decided that the fact that she came in to clean the cuts in the first place was probably her plan. She seemed to go out of her way to show to Steph that I could be vulnerable too. Yeah right. But when she sprayed the disinfectant on, I hissed. Holy f…! What kind of stuff was this? My back was against the wall, so I couldn't move away from it. It burnt like hell. Even though there were only 4 cuts per scratch, it felt like half my chest was on fire. She sprayed liberally. She was in for some serious payback! Steph looked at me with huge eyes. She probably didn't know what to do about this. And she probably wondered what was going on, because she had seen me getting shot without so much as a groan, and 4 scratches had me hissing in pain. It was the surprise most of all, but she didn't know that.

I gave Aurelia a death glare when she wanted to grab my face again. No way. There had been enough 'playing with Ricardo' for months to come. She seemed surprised at the anger showing.

"Right, I'd better get back down, to help mom with breakfast." Finally.

"Stephanie, can you do the scratch on his face." What? I didn't believe this! She was smarter that I thought. She knew that I couldn't get angry when Steph was around, and she probably guessed that I wouldn't want to admit to Stephanie that it hurt. So I would have to sit here like a lame dog, getting sprayed with that shit again. I quickly wondered if I had some other stuff left somewhere else, but I didn't. Shit, shit, shit. Aurelia gave me a sweet smile and turned to Stephanie.

"Just clean the blood away with the wet towel and then spray this on." Steph just nodded and looked at me again. I wondered if I should tell her, but decided against it. Batman doesn't show weakness. Steph climbed over the bed, and ended up sitting in my lap. Aurelia gave one more satisfied smile from the doorway and then fled the room. I looked back at Steph again, who was holding the towel, but didn't do anything else.

"Come on, Babe." I want to get this over with a.s.a.p. The sooner I could get out of here. I was seriously debating if I wanted to stay around for breakfast. Not with Aurelia acting like this.

"Will it hurt?" Yes.

"No." She looked doubtful, she had heard me hiss before and seen me trying to get away. She gently wiped the blood from my face. Her hand softly pushed my head to one side, so she had a better view of my cheek. When she was finished, she grabbed the bottle and looked at it.

"I don't know this disinfectant." I'm sure it is know the world over in torture chambers.

"She probably got it from the hospital pharmacy."

"She works in a hospital?" My Babe was stalling because she didn't want to hurt me. That was sweet.

"Yeah, she works in the ER." Steph nodded and looked at the bottle again.

"Babe." I looked at her from the corner of my eyes. She looked up again. She sighed and slowly lifted the bottle until if was level with my face.

Stephanie POV

I thought my family was dysfunctional, but I was pretty sure that Rangers' sister was no better. From what had happened earlier when she sprayed his chest I could see she surprised him. He had actually hissed in pain, something which I had rarely heard him do before. I didn't really want to hurt him over something so unimportant, so I was trying to think of a way out. But I couldn't come up with any. I looked at the bottle once again, but couldn't find anything there that would get me out of this.

"Babe." His eyes were calm, and urging me to get on with it. So I slowly lifted the bottle.

"You better close your eyes then." I would hate myself if I sprayed his eyes with this stuff too. He closed his eyes and I turned his face a bit more so I could spray the whole cut in one go. I took a deep breath and pressed the nozzle. As soon as the liquid hit his skin I could feel his face flinch in my hand. He squeezed his eyes shut. After a few seconds he opened them again and I could see them tearing.

"Jeez, you've got tears in yours eyes from this!"

"It's from the sting," Ranger said, while drying his eyes on the towel. Doesn't hurt, my ass. He leaned forward and gave me a quick kiss on the lips.

"Thanks. I'll go take a shower now. Want to join me?" Low, sexy voice.

"Ehm…. No." Yes! I watched as he walked to the bathroom, studying his fine behind.

"I'll be quick, so you can shower after me." And then the door closed softly behind him.

I realised a moment later that he didn't lock it.

Chapter 5: Escape!

I was still debating whether or not to go into the bathroom. I mean he had invited me after all, and so far I was still wearing the purple set, so I could take a nice look at naked, wet Ranger while I didn't have to show much of me. Mmm, somehow I didn't think I would get away with that. And I was still wondering how upset I would be when the bathroom door opened and Ranger walked out again. My breath stopped. He was only wearing a small towel, cream coloured, low on his hips. His hair was still wet, and a few drops of water sparkled on his chest. A whoosh of warm, Bulgari scented air followed him. I almost had an orgasm on the spot. Did this guy ever have so much as a bad hair day? Probably not. He walked over to me, and gave me a soft kiss.

"Your turn." I might have made some sort of affirmative sound, which had him smiling.

"Want me to soap your back?"

"No!" That wouldn't end well. I mean, it would end well, with loads of sex, but we were still in his parents' house, and I expected his sister to run in any moment again! Besides, it wouldn't solve anything regarding my feelings for him. I quickly grabbed my clothes and went into the bathroom. I looked at the door, and after a short moment of deliberation, locked it. I could hear him snicker through the door. It was still warm and steamy in the bathroom, and I felt enveloped in a Bulgari smelling blanket of warmth. Much like being enveloped in Ranger, really. I grinned at my reflection in the mirror, then berated myself and quickly stepped in the shower.

Ranger POV

The reason I wanted to shower first was because I wanted to have a quick word with Aurelia without anyone hearing it. So I quickly put on some clothes and as soon as I heard the water running, I exited the room and started looking for Aurelia. She wasn't in her room, so I went down to the kitchen. Almost everybody was already down, although some of the kids and adults still wore pyjama's. Sunday morning at my parents house was always very relaxed. Mother was standing behind the stove, cooking some lovely dishes. Eggs, salad, toast, fruit, beans, juices, freshly baked bread, everything was available. I gave her a quick kiss and hug, and asked where Aurelia was. At that moment, Aurelia walked into the kitchen and stopped when she saw me. She probably realised I wasn't in the mood for a friendly chat.

"Can I talk to you?" I didn't really mean it as a request, but with mother there, I couldn't really drag her away.

"Ehm, I'm helping mother." Coward!

"I'm sure she can spare you for 5 minutes to talk to your brother?" This one always works.

"Yes Aurelia, that's no problem. I'm almost finished. Go catch up with Ricardo." I smiled sweetly at her, and proceeded to lead her out of the kitchen with a firm grip on her arm. She tried to get into the living room, knowing she would be save there, but I steered her towards the tv room. It was a little room where dad had built a huge entertainment centre. Big tv, surround sound and lots of comfortable couches and chairs. I closed the door behind me and stayed in front of it, blocking her escape.

"Do you know what this is about?" I asked her.

Aurelia POV

Shit, shit, shit. This wasn't good. Ricardo had me cornered. I knew that this would happen, but I hadn't expected it so soon. What would be best? Play innocent, or accept guilt. Hmmm, how about a little in between?

"Look Rick, I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you." I didn't know that that disinfectant hurt that much. Oh dear, did I forget to say that last part out loud? Silly me.

"Why did you do it?"

"I thought it was the right thing to do." You know you should disinfect a cut. Did I forget to say this too? I must be getting old.

"This will stop right now." He was clearly angry and upset. And I did feel guilty for about 1 second. But I just couldn't let him go on the way he did! I mean: he knows this woman for over 3 years and still nothing happened. He obviously likes her, and he talks about her even to us, but he won't make a move on her. Now what kind of logic is that? Exactly, the stupid kind. I expected that my little brother (okay, nothing little about him, but it makes him much less scarier if you think of him like that) was afraid to show his feelings. It leaves you vulnerable. Now you and me and everybody else who doesn't look like a supermodel has had the occasion disappointment in love. We know that that is part of life and we carry on, looking for the next person that could bring us true love. And one day we will get it right and we'll marry and live happily ever after. But I don't think Ricardo ever heard the words 'no thanks' said to him. So where does that leave him? Well: over 30 and still clueless about love. I had to help him, I felt it was my sisterly duty, my assignment for this week. And remember: all is fair in love and war. He might be an expert on the latter, but I knew more about the first. So I bravely answered him.

"It won't happen again." In my head it translated along the lines of: I won't use that kind of product to disinfect a cut for you again. I put on my most honest face and he seemed half inclined to believe me.

"Right." He looked a bit lost. Probably he had expected a huge fight, with me saying that I was only helping him and that he needed a woman and him saying that I should mind my own business and stay out of his private life. And since I still felt that he needed a woman, correct that, he needed Stephanie, to improve his life and he didn't voice any objections so far, I felt I was free to continue my plan. He gave me one last hard look, shook his head and opened the door to the hall again with a sigh. Stephanie was just coming down the stairs, her hair looking a little wild. She looked at him and smiled. He smiled back and extended his hand to her. She took it and they walked towards the kitchen together. Even from behind you could see they were made for each other.

As soon as they opened the door to the kitchen, they were sucked into the vortex of family, kids, food and noise. Ricardo got some nice remarks from his siblings about the scratch on his face. They were made in Spanish, so Stephanie wouldn't understand them.

"Wow, Ric, nice scratch."

"So she's really as wild as her hair?"

"Is Lily getting jealous?"

He just glared at us while we were smiling broadly at him. Father was just shaking his head and squeezed Ricardo's shoulder to let him know he felt for him. I made sure Stephanie was seated between me and Ricardo. This way I could hear and see what was going on between them. Ranger gave me a final warning glance before he sat down. Lily was laying in her basket, so all was good.

The kids were racing around, until the parents called to them to sit down. Mother had also made some pancakes, and all of us dove in, except for Ricardo. He chose a bit of fruit salad to start. Even Stephanie frowned on that, while she liberally sprinkled her pancake with syrup. Yep, she'll fit right in. Soon the kids had syrup everywhere, and we were all talking and laughing. I was brooding on another opportunity to get them closer together when mother asked Ricardo:

"How are you feeling today?" Stephanie seemed to remember that the only reason she was here in the first place was because of his illness and studied his face.

"I'm fine." He did look much better.

"You look pale." Mother always thought he looked pale. She measured health and prosperity by the extra kilo's that you carried. Since Ricardo carried none, she always wondered if he was eating right, or if he was tired and so on. He was probably the only one of us who ALWAYS ate right, but well, I like to think I have a life.

"I'm fine." A bit more emphasis on the 'fine' part here.

"How's your stomach?" He did throw up on Friday night.

"It's FINE." He positively growled this last answer.

"Hmmm, then why don't you eat pancakes?" He looked lost. Nobody would back him up, that's for sure. Stephanie was looking at him with interest, probably wondering what he would say next.

"I like fruit." A few groans were heard at the table.

"Then eat fruit with pancakes." Mother just wanted to see him eat her pancakes. And he would never insult her cooking, it was good plus he would be banned for life if he did.

"Really, the fruit is fine."

"Why can't you eat pancakes like Stephanie?" He looked baffled and a few grins were showing across the table. The pancake Stephanie had was almost swimming in syrup. We were all looking at it, and she almost looked guilty. Ricardo looked at the pancake with disgust.

"That isn't healthy," was his answer. Mother snorted.

"You can't live on fruit Ricardo." Ricardo closed his eyes, probably counting to ten. Probably no training had ever taught him how to deal with a situation like this.

"Mmm, this tastes great." Steph said, her eyes almost glazed over.

"Babe." Ricardo was desperate. Probably he tried to get her to eat healthier too and probably wasn't having any luck with it. Well done, Stephanie.

"Wanna try?" She was smiling at him. Oh, the lady had guts. Everybody at the table was almost laughing now, although the kids seemed puzzled as to why their uncle wouldn't eat pancakes with syrup.

"Yeah Ricardo, why don't you try it. You might like a bit of sugar." Javier added his contribution to the 'let's push Ricardo's buttons.' He got a glare, which made him laugh. Steph had cut off a piece of pancake and held it up for him. A drop of syrup fell down off it.

"I'll eat some fruit if you eat this piece of pancake." Go, Stephanie, go! She even knew how to bargain with him.

"I will not be forced into eating pancake." When the words left his mouth he realised his mistake. Mother had heard them too, and she saw her chance to play the guilt card.

"Are you saying that my pancakes don't taste nice?"


"Just give in, son." Father had started laughing. It was a lost battle, and he had learned on time when to give in. Ricardo looked at Mama again. She was pouting, ready for a full on emotional guilt attack. He sighed and turned to Stephanie.

"Fine, I'll eat that piece." He said, while pointing at the piece on her fork.

"Let me put some syrup on it for you, most has dripped off now." We were all laughing out loud now from looking at the horror on Ricardo's face. Stephanie smiled a sweet smile at him.

"There you are." He opened his mouth reluctantly and she fed him the pancake. He was sending her a clear message though: you better be ready for payback! Steph gulped, but then took another piece and moaned her appreciation. All the men at the table looked fascinated at her, their eyes getting dreamy. Steph probably had no idea of how attractive she was. If Ricardo didn't make his move fast, I'm sure somebody else would.

"Mine." Ricardo growled in Spanish. All male heads snapped back to their plates.

Ranger POV

When breakfast was finally over, I almost fled to my room to get my stuff. I could feel myself getting tired again, I still had a touch of flu after all, and I really needed to get to the peace and quiet of my own apartment, preferably with Steph. I could relax a little bit before work started again on Monday. I knew that Aurelia would be upset if she knew that I would be back to work on Monday, but I don't think she understands the amount of responsibility I face. I would take it easy for a few days, but I had more than enough to do and as long as I wasn't unconscious or dead, I would work, one way or the other.

I quickly gathered my stuff and went down again, ready to go. I saw Steph was talking to Aurelia and knew it was definitely time to go. Even though she promised me she wouldn't interfere again, somehow that admission felt a little bit too easy. And judging by the look on Steph's face she wasn't talking about shopping. I walked over to them, and put my hand low on Steph's back.

"Let's go. Do you have all your things?"


"Not so fast, Ricardo." Oh no, here goes Aurelia again.

"What?" No need to be polite here.

"How are you feeling today?" Here we go again. I wasn't dying!

"I'm fine." Stay calm, get yourself out of here a.s.a.p. She put her hand against my forehead and my cheek. I knew I didn't have a fever anymore, but I was a bit warm.

"Mmmm. Hang on." No way was I going through another series of prodding. When Aurelia walked away, I quickly started saying goodbye to everybody. Stephanie followed me around, saying good bye and thanking them. I gave my mother and father a big hug and kisses. I am not much of a hugs and kisses type of person, despite my background, but my family was an exception. We were close, always had been. I didn't get to see them a lot when I was in the Special Forces, and had more than once thought that I might have seen them for the last time. I tried to visit them as often as I could… okay, as often as I could bear. I was the oldest and still unmarried, even without girlfriend. Since 2 of my siblings had found their mate for life, the pressure on the other 4 had increased. My other brother and sisters had found a way of deflecting attention by bringing someone with them on occasion. I had done that a lot in the past, more like a different woman every time, but had stopped that a few years ago. And that had drawn even more attention towards me, on the occasions that they did see me. Most of the time I would endure it, knowing they meant well. But my patience had been tried these last 2 days and I just needed some rest. Mother hoped that I would give her grandchildren too and father hoped I would give him grandsons that were like me, so I knew how hard parenting a hyperactive child could be. I just hoped that I would one day get together with my Babe for a completely screwed up but perfect relationship the way only a man of mystery and a lingerie-buyer turned bounty hunter can have.

I wasn't fast enough, Aurelia came in before I was out of the door. I was still talking to Mom and Dad, when I felt a hand grabbing my belt on the backside of my jeans. Then she put the thermometer in my ear. I tried to duck, but the look on my mother's face told me that I had to endure this like a good little boy. When Aurelia didn't show me the outcome, I knew I didn't have much of a problem getting away, because she would have shown mother immediately if I had a fever. She felt my throat, looked at it one more time and looked at the scratch. I smiled smugly at her. There was absolutely nothing that could make me stay another hour.

"Okay, you're improving. Another 3 days in bed, and you're good as new." Three days, in your dreams. But I smiled and nodded. I could see Stephanie giving me a quick glance. She probably guessed my feelings about the three days bed rest. After another 10 minutes, in which Aurelia gave Steph all kinds of advice on how to 'treat' me and to definitely call her about anything that was unusual or had her worried, we finally made it out of the door. I had taken the BMW, but Aurelia had made me give the keys to Steph, because of the "after effects" of the sleeping pills. I had the distinct feeling that that was a lie, but I could see Steph enjoyed the prospect of driving my car. I just hoped she didn't blow it up.

I settled in the passenger seat with a sigh, leaning my head against the rest.

"Where do we go?" Stephanie asked.

"The office." She turned over the key and with a soft purr the engine came to life. Finally, I made it out alive!