Chapter 36

"Ricardo, how are you feeling?" My father was the one who asked a question that I could answer… more or less. I felt like shit, but I wasn't going to say that.

"I'm fine," I said in stead, and I could see all the women in the room rolling their eyes.

"You can't be fine, Ricardo, look at you!" my mother exclaimed, and I grimaced inwardly. Tank looked like he was enjoying the whole show and I shot him a glare.

"How long will you keep him in hospital?" Mother was talking to Aurelia now, and Aurelia saw her chance and grabbed it with both hands.

"He'll have to stay here for 4 to 5 days, and then he can go home on the condition that he will stay in bed for another week at least. His concussion needs time to heal." This last bit was said with emphasis in my direction.

"I can go home now and recuperate there, no need for me to stay in hospital."

"I'm your doctor, and I'm telling you that you have to stay here. His injuries are serious, he needs medical care." This last part she said to mother, who looked at me with worry in her eyes. I saw that my father had a small smile around his lips, he knew what Aurelia was doing. If she could get mother to say the words, I would have to stay here or risk a serious fight with her. And since I love my mother and I grew up with her being the only person who could tell me what to do, I haven't yet mastered the skill of going against her wishes. Somehow I don't think it will ever happen. But I really wanted to go home, spend time together with Stephanie…

"Look, Bobby has some medical skills. He can provide whatever medical care I need. There is no reason for me to stay here." I wasn't giving up this fight easily.

"Oh no, Ricardo. Bobby is your employee. I know how that goes. You tell him to get lost, and he can't do much then, can he? No way I'm releasing you into the care of Bobby." Damn, Aurelia had seen right through my plan.

"Can't you take care of him?" mother asked Aurelia. No! No way! That was NOT a good idea. I opened my mouth to protest, but Aurelia was faster.

"I can check up on him on a daily basis, but he needs someone around all the time. He needs help… Maybe…" Uh oh, Aurelia had that look in her eyes that usually had me growling in frustration… internally anyway.

"He could come home with us," my mother said and I almost choked. I coughed and sharp pains shot through my side because of the cracked ribs. Stephanie, who was sitting beside the bed, grabbed my hand and gently squeezed it while I tried to get my breathing under control again. After a moment I squeezed back, letting her know that I was okay and she gave me a small smile.

"Mmmm," Aurelia said, which indicated to me that she had a different plan. For once I was happy to hear it.

"Your house has two levels, and Ricardo can't move around. It would be better if he went to his apartment and had somebody there who could take care of him. Maybe… Stephanie, can you take care of him?" The first good idea I heard in a long time! Stephanie was blushing, but she did seem to like the plan. I squeezed her hand and gave her a smile, indicating my approval. She smiled back and then nodded at Aurelia.

"Yes, I can take care of Ranger," she said.

"Good, I'll probably release him in 5 days," Aurelia said, and my anger was back.

"Release me now," I gritted out.


"If you don't release me now, I'll discharge myself," I said and started to get up. The pain was intense, but I didn't care right now. Anything to get me out of here, and away from the watchful eyes of Aurelia… and ALL the nurses.

Big mistake, because the blanket fell down to my waist and my mother saw the damage on my upper body. She gasped and then said the words I hoped I wouldn't hear.

"Ricardo Carlos Manoso, you lay down right now!" Her voice was clear, her tone unarguable. Tank was biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing out loud. He loved to see me getting pushed around by my family.

"It's just bruising," I said, but I knew it was a lost cause by now.

"I don't care. If Aurelia says you need to stay in hospital for another 5 days, you stay for another 5 days." Shit. I was still thinking about a way out, when my mother moved towards the bed.

"I'm serious, Ricardo. Look at you, you're all black and blue. Aurelia tells me you were very lucky that you didn't have brain damage. You have serious injuries, you need to rest. Please…" Her tone was pleading and her eyes were watery. She was using the guilt card again, and I didn't have a defense against that. I slowly sank back down on the bed and closed my eyes for a moment, feeling deflated. Aurelia had outmaneuvered me again.

"That's right. You get some rest. We'll visit you again tomorrow," mother said. They said goodbye and Aurelia said she would walk them to the exit and closed the door behind her.

Without looking I knew Tank was smiling.

"You can wipe that smile of your face, Tank," I said threateningly and opened my eyes to look at him, but he was still smiling. Even Stephanie was chuckling.

"I'll let the guys know they can visit you here tonight and not in the apartment," Tank said while laughing and opened the door to leave the room. I grabbed the first thing that came to hand, which turned out to be an orange and threw it at him. Unfortunately he heard the movement and quickly closed the door, so the orange bounced off and fell on the floor. I could hear his laughter through the door and sighed in frustration. Stephanie went to retrieve the orange and placed it back on the dish before sitting down next to me again.

"Is it really that bad to stay here for a few days?" she asked softly.

"Yes," I said.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because WE have no privacy here," I said in a low voice and saw the blush creep up on her face.

Stephanie POV

I looked in Ranger's dark brown eyes which were now filled with lust and felt myself blushing. Last night, before Aurelia had given him a sedative that had knocked him out, we had had some time together and had talked. That conversation had played over and over in my head and had put a smile on my face before I fell asleep and as soon as I woke up.

"I missed you today, Babe."

"Why? Not enough entertainment?" I said in a teasing tone.

"No, not like that. I missed YOU." He was very serious.

"What do you mean?" I asked, feeling a bit apprehensive.

"I've had a horrible day, and I missed you... I miss you everyday that I don't see you." His eyes were dilated in the soft light and he was talking in a low voice. I was wondering what he was saying, really. I wasn't sure how to respond, but to my surprise, Ranger continued talking.

"Aurelia gave me a book… ehm, just yesterday. About relationships." He snorted and then looked at me and saw my surprise. He laughed.

"Don't tell me she send you a book too, Babe?"

"Uhm, yeah," I said.

"Aurelia send you a book about relationships?" he asked again.

"Uhm… yeah… sort of…" I trailed off. I mean, it was more about men behaving like pigs, but I wasn't sure I wanted Ranger to know that.

"Did you read it?" he asked and I averted my eyes for a moment. I heard him chuckling and looked at him again.

"How many chapters have you read?" he asked and I looked away again.

"Come on, Babe, tell me," he pushed.

"I finished the book today," I said softly, blushing.

"That must have been some book," Ranger said.

"Uhm, yeah." I wanted to tell him that I knew about his past, but I wasn't sure how he would respond. He was a very private person.

"Was it any good?" Ranger asked and I just nodded.

"So, do you want a relationship?" Ranger asked and I felt my heart speed up.

"What dddo you mean?" I stuttered.

"Aurelia send you a book about relationships and you read it. I'm assuming you read it on purpose, and logically the purpose would be that you want a relationship," Ranger explained. I bit my lip and then decided that I wanted this conversation, but on my terms.

"Yes, I do want a relationship. And you, did you read the book?" I asked him.

"I read part of it last night, but I didn't have much time today to continue," he said.

"But you want to read it because you want a relationship?" I pushed him and he just looked at me with unreadable eyes for a moment before answering.

"Yes," he finally answered after a long moment.

"With me? Do you want a relationship with me?" I asked, and it felt like time was standing still when our eyes met.

"Babe," he said. One word, so many meanings.

"What?" I said, a horrible feeling building in my stomach. His eyes were calm, but I felt panicky.

"There is no other person in this world that I ever wanted a relationship with more than with you. But I'm not the right guy for a relationship. My life is too dangerous." His tone was final, but I remembered Aurelia's words from this afternoon, about him vowing to never have another relationship again.

"Your life is too dangerous… or do you think you are too dangerous?" I asked him softly and his head snapped up.


"I know… about your past, …about your biological father and Carlos, …about the woman who betrayed you…, about your fear that you might hurt a person you love…Your family explained it to me this afternoon…" Surprise and anger flashed in his eyes before his blank face slammed into place.

"Then you know why I can't get any closer to you," he said, looking away.

"I'm not afraid of you, Ranger. And I know you are never going to be like your biological father… I think you know that too… But you are still afraid… Why?... Are you afraid I might betray you?"


"Do you want a relationship with me?"

"You know I do, Stephanie."

"Then I don't see a reason why we couldn't try to build a relationship together."

"Babe…" Ranger seemed lost for words and made an empty gesture in the air with his hand. Inside I was cheering, because I had managed to stay calm, on the topic and used logic to get my point across. The book had been right!!

"Ranger…" I said back while smiling and slowly bend forward until my lips were touching his. I kissed him softly and slowly and I felt him relax into the kiss. His arm came around me and he tried to pull me closer when we heard a soft cough behind us. It was Aurelia.

"Hiya, guys. Everything alright?" She was smiling and winked at me. I blushed.

"I'm fine," Ranger said for like the 10th time today, and I don't think anybody ever believed him. Aurelia gave him another 'yeah, right' look and checked his chart and the various machines around him.

"How's the pain?" Aurelia asked.

"I'm fine," Ranger said again and Aurelia snorted and then turned to me.

"Is he in pain?" she asked me and I could see Ranger glaring at her from the corner of my eyes and then shooting me a warning look. Sorry, mister, but it wasn't going to work this time. I had seen him grow more and more uncomfortable during the evening, and I wasn't going to lie about it. To me, he was human… and in desperate need of a painkiller.

"Yes, he's in pain," I said.

"Okay, I'll get him something. I'll be back in 5 minutes," Aurelia said and then left the room.

"Babe," Ranger groaned.

"Why don't you want a painkiller? I know you're in pain, I can see it."

"Painkillers knock me out…"

"Yeah, so?"

"I don't like to be unconscious in such an unsecured environment." I rolled my eyes.

"Don't worry, I'll protect you," I said smiling.

"Very funny, Babe," he said, a little sarcasm in his tone. He was shifting, trying to get comfortable, but his face showed occasional grimaces of pain and his breathing hitched. He gave up after a minute and closed his eyes on a sigh. I felt something stir in me and bend forward to kiss his lips while my right hand gently caressed the top of his head.

"Babe," he said on another sigh, but it was a sigh of contentment.

"So… do you want a relationship with me?" I asked him again, my voice low and my mouth close to his ear.

"I want you," he said, eyes playful. Oh no, I wasn't going to allow him to sidetrack this conversation again.

"Answer the question, Ranger," I said. He was silent for a moment, while I kissed the side of his neck and nibbled on his ear. I could hear the heart monitor speed up and smiled at the evidence of the influence that I had on him.

"Babe," he growled and I gently bit him. He gasped and then we heard Aurelia clear her throat behind us… again!

"Hiya guys, I'm back." She was laughing. I could suddenly understand why Ranger didn't always like to have her around! She held 2 syringes in her hand and walked towards Ranger. She grabbed his arm with the IV's and turned it so that his wrist was up.

"What are you going to give me?" Ranger asked.

"A painkiller and a sedative," Aurelia said.

"I don't need either of them," he said.

"You're getting them for free, on the house," Aurelia replied dryly while she disconnected one of the IV's. She held his arm and prepared the first injection.

"I'll first give you the sedative," she said, and inserted the syringe in the IV. She slowly emptied the syringe and then withdrew the needle. She reconnected the IV in his arm and then checked the IV in the back of his hand. She apparently decided against using that one, because she turned his arm again and used some alcohol to clean a small area halfway between his wrist and elbow.

"Going to torture me?" Ranger asked with his eyes closed.

"Sorry about that," Aurelia said and inserted the needle in his arm. Ranger didn't move a muscle. I felt lightheaded from just seeing that needle going in his arm and looked away for a moment.

"This will start working in 10 to 15 minutes, maybe even less," Aurelia said while she collected her things and left the room.

I wasn't sure what to do now. I wanted to return to the subject of relationships, but with Ranger doped up, this probably wasn't the right moment. I watched his face for a few minutes and slowly saw him relax. I was convinced he was asleep when he turned his head and looked at me through heavy lidded eyes.

"Yes… I want… a relationship… with you…" His speech was slightly slurred, but the message was clear. I felt the biggest shiteating smile form itself on my face and leaned forward to kiss him once more. He slowly kissed me back and then sighed.

"I hate… this… I'm… falling… asleep, when… we… could be…" he trailed off and I felt a hot flash inside me.

"Don't worry, I'll wait," I said, stroking his hair and face.

"Stay… please?"

"I'm not going anywhere." I gave him one last kiss and then watched him sleep until Aurelia offered to set up a stretcher next to his bed.

Chapter 37: Playing hide and seek

Warning: some smut

I listened intently, but I heard nothing. Good, that meant that Steph had left the apartment like she said she would and I could get out of my bed for a few hours. I slowly sat up and hopped to my closet. I picked a comfy sweater and sweatpants and pulled them on. I didn't bother with socks or anything else because it would take some time to put them on and I had better things to do. I hopped to the bedroom door and slowly opened it to peek around it, seeing an empty living room. Excellent. I quickly grabbed my keys and then hopped to the elevator. I knew I was on camera, but I also knew that nobody would call Steph they liked their job too much. I hopped into my office and immediately my phone rang. I knew who that was without checking caller id.

"Tank," I said.

"Ranger," he replied, and then remained quiet.

"Talk," I said.

"I take it Stephanie has left the building," he said, and I could hear the smile in his voice. I remained quiet.

"Take it easy," he said and disconnected.

I powered up my computer and groaned when I saw the amount of new emails in my inbox. There was an awful lot of work for me to do, and laying in bed staring at the ceiling wasn't going to get the job done. Besides, I hardly felt any pain anymore so there was no need for me to stay in bed. Hell, I wouldn't have stayed in the hospital for 5 days if my mother hadn't forced me to. And I definitely wouldn't have spend another week in bed if Stephanie hadn't been around, guarding me. I couldn't help but smile when thinking about my Babe. It was great to have her around, even if she did on occasion get on my nerves because she forced me to stay in bed.

I shook my head to clear my mind. I had more than enough time to think about Steph when I was back in bed, so I'd better get some work done now.


Shit! I heard her voice in the hallway and knew I was busted. I heard her talking to Tank, asking where I was. I couldn't hear Tank's response, but knew he wouldn't lie to her. He had a soft spot for her and I think he secretly supported her goal of making me spend as many hours in bed as possible. He and I would have to … talk… about that once I was fit for duty again. I heard her steps coming towards my office door and started to shut down the computer. My escape had lasted 1 hour and 34 minutes, at least it was a new record.

"Ranger." She had a bemused look in her eyes and just stood there in the doorway, watching me clean up my desk. She didn't even have to say anything anymore, I knew I would end up back in bed one way or the other. And since lots of ears were listening, I decided I wasn't going to put up a fight. Besides, I suspected she went away on purpose, to give me some time to escape so I wouldn't go crazy and I was grateful for that. I pushed my chair back and got up, hopping to her. She took a step back to let me pass and then closed the door behind her while I pushed the button for the elevator. In the elevator she looked at me.

"How long?" she asked with amusement. She always asked me how long I had managed to escape her.

"Too short," I replied.

"Poor baby," she said and gave me a hug.

"I saw the time code on the elevator camera, 1.5 hours is a new record, isn't it?" she whispered in my ear and I had to smile. I pulled her against me and kissed her until the elevator doors opened. This was my Babe.


I pretended to be asleep when she came in the bedroom to check on me. I knew she really wanted to go shopping for an afternoon, I had heard her talk to Lula and Marylou on her cell about going to Macy's, and that meant she would be gone for several hours. And she knew I would be out of my bed before she had even left the garage. The reason she knew that was because she forgot her purse yesterday and had caught me in the hall waiting for the elevator when she came back up to get it. Amusement had twinkled in her eyes when she saw my shoulders slump and she had silently pointed back to the apartment, a picture I had become quite familiar with… and found sexy as hell. I couldn't wait until the day I could simply grab her again, throw her over my shoulder and carry her to the bedroom. A bit too cavemen for you? Fine, you try living together with a sexy woman for over two weeks, but never making it past first base. She had waited until I was undressed again and had covered me with the duvet, giving me a slow kiss and then whispered in my ear.

"Next time, wait 5 minutes." I had growled something under my breath and she had left again.

Today, I had waited 5 minutes and now knew the coast was clear for 3 to 4 hours at least. I got dressed in jeans and a sweater and went downstairs. I first checked in with the guys in the control room and then talked to Tank for a few minutes. I knew I was amusing my employees to no end with the little game of hide and seek that Stephanie and I were playing, but decided to let it go. I would be back to work in a few days and then the fun was over. I went up to my sales department and kicked Rodriquez out of his office so I could work there. It would take Stephanie a bit longer to find me there.


This time my escape lasted for 3 hours and 23 minutes and I was actually happy she caught me because I was getting tired and had been seriously considering going back upstairs myself to catch some rest before dinner, but I hadn't wanted to give in. This way I was saved the curious glances and consequent gossip that somehow would always end up with Tank and Stephanie about me going back to bed voluntarily.

In stead Stephanie had done her sexy finger pointing again and I had heard several smothered laughs when I had hopped out of the office to the elevator.


I woke up with a start and looked around, trying to figure out where I was. Oh yeah, I remembered. I had escaped again, this time I had managed to get out when she had fallen asleep on the couch in front of the tv. Because she would realize I was gone as soon as she woke up, I had tried to find a place that was harder to find. In the end I had scrambled the security cameras in the whole building for 2 minutes while I had made my way down to the garage and had slipped in the Cayenne. Due to the tinted windows, the security cameras wouldn't be able to detect me in there. And because it was already past 8 in the evening there was very little activity in the garage.

It had been an excellent hiding place, because she hadn't found me. That could mean she was either still asleep herself, or because she really didn't know where I was. But I had taken my phone and she hadn't called me, so I suspected she was still asleep on my couch upstairs. I had fallen asleep myself and saw it was now almost 11. I cursed when I saw Tank standing in front of the car, smirking. I couldn't believe myself. I was laying in bed for up to 20 hours a day, bored out of my skull and when I finally managed to get away, I fell asleep. I had just wasted some valuable 'escape time' on sleep. I gathered the files that I had brought down with me and got out of the car and locked it.

"Steph's looking for you," Tank said.

"Thought so," I said.

"Aurelia called her about 20 minutes ago to ask about you, and she realized you were gone," he said. Shit. If Aurelia knew I had left my bed, I wouldn't hear the end of it.

"Don't worry, Steph said you were asleep in your bed… which was closer to the truth than she could've guessed. You were sleeping, just not in your bed," Tank said on a smile. I gave him a shove and hopped to the elevator. Tank caught up with me and pushed the button for the 7th floor.

"Don't you need to be somewhere else?" I asked him. I was irritated because Tank had caught me.

"Nope, I promised Steph I'd deliver you to her personally."

Tank was really enjoying this way too much!




"No, I'm not going back to bed." Steph had managed to find me much quicker than I had expected and I hadn't finished the work that I had wanted to do. I felt outsmarted, and I didn't like that.

I had actually put some thought into my hiding place this time, hoping to have a few hours for work. Some things had come up that I wanted to look into. But in stead Steph had found me within 35 minutes. I was wrecking my brain, trying to find out how that was possible. Not many people knew of this room, and it was well hidden. Besides, I had scrambled the cameras again. But here she was, standing in the door, arms crossed over her chest.

"How about a compromise?" Steph asked. I just continued to look at her, not sure how to respond to that.

"How about you come back upstairs, but you continue working there for a while?" Hmm, not a bad compromise. I wasn't used to compromising, but realized that a relationship also meant compromising. And this compromise wasn't that bad. I would be more comfortable in my apartment than in this room. But it still felt like losing.

"Hmpf." Immature, I know. But I was trained to win, to never give up and to fight, so I had to swallow a lot of pride right now. Steph slowly walked over to where I was sitting on the floor and knelt down beside me, leaning her back against the wall for support. Turns out that the wireless network I had installed in the office was only available in this room if you sat in one particular spot on the floor. Go figure... She placed a hand on my uninjured shoulder and gently rubbed up and down. It felt soothing and I needed that. I was getting really fed up with being on sick leave. I was getting restless, felt like I was losing grip on my company, like I was out of control and out of the loop. I felt left out.

Steph gently tugged on my sleeve and I moved a little so I was sitting next to her with my back against the wall as well.

"You're getting frustrated, aren't you?" she asked softly while she was looking at me. I ran a hand through my hair and left it behind my head. I sighed and Steph placed her hand over my hand that was still laying on the floor next to her.

"Yeah," I finally said and gave her a small smile. She smiled back and gave my hand a small squeeze. We were both looking straight ahead again when a thought occurred to me and I snickered.

"There are times when I am so tired I feel like I can sleep for 2 weeks, but now that I have the time…" I removed the hand behind my head and gestured in the air, trailing off. Steph nodded in understanding and smiled too.

This actually felt really good, sitting shoulder to shoulder with her, holding hands. There was a quiet understanding between us that I had never felt with any other woman. I lifted her hand to my lips and kissed the back of it and our eyes met. She looked at me for a moment and then opened her arms. I didn't hesitate and moved into them. My legs were sideways over hers and my head was laying on her left shoulder, my forehead against her neck. Her left hand was making large soothing circles on my back, her right hand was going up and down my left arm. I closed my eyes and let go of my frustration, just enjoying this moment. She pressed a kiss on top of my hair.

"I love you," she whispered and my head shot up to look in her face.

"I love you," she repeated, smiling widely at me. There was no hesitation in her eyes, no reservation.

"I love you too," I said and hugged her close. Our lips met and after a minute or so we were rolling on the floor, kissing, hugging and smiling at each other.

"Don't you just wish you were in bed now?" Steph asked teasingly and I laughed. I grabbed the laptop and files that I had brought with me and we scrambled to our feet. I slung my arm around her shoulder and kissed her somewhere above her ear while we walked to the elevator together.

In retrospect I couldn't be happier that my Babe had found my hiding place.

Chapter 38

Warning: sexual innuendo.

"Ricardo Carlos Manoso, you get back in bed right now!"

I couldn't believe I was saying those words to a grown man without any sexual intention, but here I was, doing just that. Ranger growled something under his breath and I pointed my arm with straight finger towards the elevator. He seemed to hesitate for a second but then slowly hopped towards the elevator while I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud. He had looked like a kid that was caught with his fingers in the cookie jar. A very handsome one, though…

Ranger had been released from hospital 7 days ago, after Aurelia had managed to keep him there for 5 days, and we were back in his apartment. He was supposed to stay in bed for another 4 days, but it proved difficult to keep him there. Most of the bruising was gone, but the bullet wounds were still bandaged up and his lower leg still had a cast on it. Also, he still had a concussion and his ribs weren't completely healed yet. Because of the bullet wound in his shoulder, he couldn't use crutches, but since he wasn't supposed to leave his bed that shouldn't have mattered. However, every time I left the apartment for something, he would leave the bed and I had to search for him. The first two times I had found him in the apartment, once on the couch watching television and once behind his desk, checking up on email. But now that he felt much better, I had to search the whole building. After I had found him in his office this morning, I thought that I could safely go out for a moment to swing by the bond office since he had had his "exercise" for today. I was wrong, because after about 2 hours, Tank had called me to say that Ranger had showed up in the control room about 30 minutes after I had left, and had been working there ever since. Tank thought Ranger started to look tired, but Ranger had refused to go back upstairs, so in the end Tank had called me. And that was how I ended up standing in the control room, telling Ranger to get his pretty behind back upstairs. Most of the men on the floor avoided looking at me, probably trying real hard not to laugh out loud. Tank smiled and whispered "well done, Steph" when I walked past him to follow Ranger to the elevator. Tank loved to see Ranger getting pushed around because it was such a rare occurrence. I flashed him a smile back and then joined Ranger in the elevator to go back upstairs.

While the elevator took us back upstairs, I studied Ranger. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black sweatpants and looked deadly attractive. He wasn't wearing anything under the sweatshirt and I had to control myself not to kiss the skin that was visible. Due to his injuries, we hadn't engaged in any sexual activity other than some serious kissing and my hormones were at peak performance. I was ready to jump him as soon as Aurelia would declare him 'fit for duty' again. I had slept at the apartment every night, cuddled up against him, enjoying the feeling of his body close to mine but also growing increasingly flustered because of the sexual tension that was always there. Yesterday, Ranger had made his first serious attempt to move beyond kissing and it had taken all my willpower to stop him. I hadn't wanted him to stop, but I reminded myself that I didn't want to be responsible for aggravating his injuries because we couldn't wait a few days. And in all honesty, I didn't want to have to explain anything to Aurelia, who came by every evening to check up on Ranger, much to his irritation.

As soon as I stopped in front of the door to his apartment to open the lock, Ranger started to nuzzle my neck. I knew he was trying to distract me so I wouldn't send him back to bed or tell Aurelia about his recent escape, but I was determined not to let him get away with it. However, it was hard to concentrate on that thought when he began to kiss my neck and his hands were roaming my body.

"Come to bed with me," he whispered in his most seductive voice while he moved his lips to the other side of my neck. Decisions, decisions…

"You've been a very bad man," I said breathlessly. I had intended to make it sound like I was berating him, but somehow it came out sounding very sexual. He has that effect on me.

"When I'm bad… I'm good," Ranger said in a low voice and pressed himself against me. I might have moaned a little…

And then his cell phone rang. Ranger cursed under his breath and I snapped out of my sexual haze. While Ranger answered it, I briefly wondered if this was a glimpse of what it would be like to be with the owner of a successful security business who is always on call, but decided that I would find that out later. Right now, he was on sick leave and he needed to get back to bed. While Ranger was talking on the phone, I gently pushed him into the apartment. Ranger hopped over the doorstep, but stopped after 3 hops. I closed the door behind me and pushed him again, and he started hopping in the direction of his desk. I managed to grab the back of his sweatshirt and pointed him in the direction of his bedroom while he threw me an angry glance over his shoulder. He stopped after a few hops and tried to change direction towards the couch, but I held on to his sweatshirt while he kept talking on his cell and steered him once again towards the bedroom. I had no illusion about my ability to really force him, even in this current weakened state, but realized that maybe even Ranger needed someone who could take care of him for a while. Who made a decision for him now and then, even if he didn't always agree at first glance. I think he deep down knew he had to take it easy for a few more days, but just didn't know what to do with himself. I simply provided that last push, quite literally at the moment, that he needed to allow himself to take time off. And even though he might have been able to work for a few hours a day by now, that didn't mean that I wasn't intend on spending a serious amount of time together with him before we both had to return to our jobs. He was getting stronger every day now, and I loved to be around him.

He was standing in the doorway leading to the bedroom, and had stopped hopping again. His way of showing passive resistance. I smiled and grabbed his hips and pushed him into the room. With every hop that got him closer to the bed, he was resisting a bit more, leaning back and taking smaller hops. When I had managed to get him next to the bed, I pushed him until he sat down on the side of the bed and then unzipped his sweatshirt and slid it down his arms, careful of his wounds. I pulled the sleeve over one hand and then held his cell to his ear while I slipped the second sleeve over his other hand and threw the sweater on a chair. He finally ended his telephone conversation and looked up at me.

"I don't want to go back to bed," was the first thing he said to me. Imagine this, Ranger was whining!

"I know," I said, but pushed him backwards until he was laying down with his feet over the edge on the floor. I pulled on his sweatpants and motioned for him to lift his hips off the bed so I could slide the pants down.

"I'm fine, I don't need to stay in bed all day," Ranger said again, but moved so I could pull his pants off which confirmed to me that he was actually somewhere deep down agreeing with me, but didn't want anybody to think of him as weak. I pulled the duvet back and motioned for him to scoot over and then covered him with the duvet. Ranger settled down with a sigh.

"I hate this, I'm fine," he said once more, but he made no move to get up. I think he was actually more tired of his 2 hour escape than he wanted to admit. I stretched out beside him, leaning on my elbows, facing him and kissed him softly on his lips and then gently caressed his hair while watching him. He looked at me with big brown eyes and I felt myself melt.

"Get some sleep," I said.

"Hhmmmm," Ranger said, sounding like a kid who knew his parents were right, but didn't want to admit it.

"I'll let you get up for dinner if you stay in bed until then," I bargained. It was a little after 2 and I figured after 4 hours of rest, he should be allowed some reward.

"Fine," Ranger grounded out.

"But don't think I'm going to suffer through this alone," he added and before I knew what was happening he had flipped me on my side and pressed against him, his arms keeping me close. He twisted me a little so he could look at me.

"Kiss me goodnight," he demanded with a mischievous grin and I was happy to oblige.

Needless to say it was some time before he actually fell asleep.

Chapter 39: Searching and finding

Warning: a little smut.

"Tank, I've lost him again. Have you seen him?" Ranger had managed to escape me once again, so I called Tank to see if he knew where Ranger was.

"Let me check the security cameras, Steph. One moment," Tank said and I could hear him typing, pulling up different feeds from different security cameras.

"He isn't in his office, and he isn't in the control room. Ehm… the security camera for the gym has been scrambled… You might want to start looking there," Tank said and disconnected. Great phone manners, these guys. But at least I knew where to start looking.

I took the elevator down and greeted Lester and Cal who just came out of the gym.

"Hi, have you guys seen Ranger?" Lester and Cal exchanged looks, and then looked back at the door to the gym.

"Ehm, nope," Lester said, but motioned discreetly with his hand towards the gym. I figured Ranger had told them not to give away his current hiding place, probably threatened to fire them or something, but Ranger didn't know that Tank and I had made a little arrangement. Tank had ordered the Rangemen to tell me where Ranger was, and Tank would make sure that nothing would happen if Ranger found out that they had been helping me in locating him. So far, the system had worked perfectly and he had never managed to escape me for more than 1 or 2 hours. Tomorrow was the last day of his forced bed rest, and if the hospital declared him fit for duty again, he would return to work next Monday. Today was Thursday, and I had great hopes for this weekend if Ranger was declared fit again. It involved lots of hot, sweaty sex and slow, tender lovemaking. I had even reserved a little cabin in the woods for this purpose and I would drive us there straight after the hospital visit. The last hour I had spent picking up some stuff from my apartment. I had told Ranger I needed some extra clothes, but my main goal had been to pick up some lingerie and sexy nightwear. When I returned, the apartment had been predictably empty and I had used that time to quickly pack some of his clothes for this weekend. I had called Ranger, but he hadn't answered his phone so I had called Tank.

When I softly opened the door to the gym, it seemed empty, but I heard the faint clicking of someone typing on a laptop. I walked into the gym and the clicking stopped. Ranger had seen me. I looked around and spotted him in the far corner behind the free weights. He sat on a mat, his back against the wall, his legs stretched out in front of him. He was wearing faded blue jeans and a grey sweatshirt. Because he had one leg in a cast and bending forward was still painful for his ribs, he was barefoot and he was looking at me.

"Babe." It sounded pained.

"Ranger," I said. He closed his laptop with a sigh and pulled up one leg and it reminded me of someone who was digging his heels in the sand.

"Come on, back to bed," I said and held out a hand to him to pull him up. He placed the laptop beside him and he grabbed my hand. But instead of pulling him up, I was suddenly sprawled across his lap and he was kissing me. Intuitively I kissed him back, enjoying the sensual feeling and the hot passion, before something in the back of my brain told me that this was not what was supposed to happen. I withdrew from the kiss and placed my hands on his chest to create some leverage, but got lost in enjoying the feeling of his well shaped chest beneath the fabric.

"Copping a feel, Babe?" he asked with sparkling eyes and I felt the blush creep up. Busted.

"You're not supposed to be out of bed and you know it!" I tried to sound firm, but it wasn't easy with the hot looks that Ranger was sending my way. Suddenly, he rolled and I was trapped under him while he was kissing my neck and nibbling on my ears.

"Think of the things we could be doing right now, Babe… I scrambled the cameras, nobody will see… I want you…," he whispered hotly in my ear. That much was clear from the huge erection that was currently pushing against me. He moved a little to position himself between my legs and when he rubbed himself against me, lust got the better of me. I moaned and passionately kissed him. He released my hands and they slipped under his sweatshirt so they could touch his skin. I dug my fingers in his back to pull him closer and Ranger made a low growling noise. His hand was cupping my breast while the other one was tangled in my hair. I was reaching for his jeans when suddenly the door of the gym flew open and Ranger stiffened.

Aurelia POV

I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. Stephanie and Ricardo where laying on the floor, Ricardo on top. His sweatshirt was pulled up on his back and I could see his hand was under Stephanie's shirt. They were flustered and their expressions showed a healthy dose of frustration. Had I walked in 3 minutes later, I would have caught them in the act.

"Ricardo, why aren't you in bed?" I asked, trying real hard not to laugh. He just glared and Stephanie blushed.

"I'm laying down," was all he said.

"You're not resting," I retorted and he had no answer to that.

"Come on, up!" I said in my most authoritative voice and they scrambled to their feet. Stephanie grabbed a laptop that had been laying on the floor and Ricardo placed a hand on her shoulder to support himself while he hopped towards the elevator. The ride up was silent, with Ricardo glaring angrily at me, me trying not to laugh and Stephanie avoiding everybody's eyes.

Ricardo was probably fit for duty, he always healed fast. But I wanted to give him and Steph some time together. And okay… I loved pushing him around. In the apartment I only had to motion towards the bedroom and they meekly walked in. Awww… Stephanie helped Ricardo out of his clothes and I motioned for him to sit on the edge of the bed so I could check him. Tomorrow, he had an appointment at the hospital and I would check him for the last time. But because I had caught them off guard how, I figured I had a better chance of an honest answer from Ricardo now then when he was prepared for the probing.

I listened to his heart and lungs, which were sounding fine and took his blood pressure, which was slightly elevated. I attributed that to the activities that went on in the gym and decided, after looking at Ricardo's angry eyes, not to comment on that. I did some basic neurological tests and then looked at the bullet wounds. The stitches had been removed a few days ago and the wounds were starting to heal. They were still tender, but that was to be expected. His cast would be taken off tomorrow and if the bone was healing well, he would be fitted with a different cast or a splint. I motioned for him to lay down and felt around the side of his face where he got hit with the bat. Most of the bruising was gone, but you could still see the point of impact. I pushed quite hard on several areas, but he didn't seem to be in any pain. The last two things I needed to check were his knee and ribs. I moved his knee in every direction, but there was no resistance and the swelling was completely gone. The knee was a bit stiff, but that would disappear as soon as Ricardo started his normal workout routine again. Left his ribs. My guess was that he needed at least another week or two until the ribs were completely healed. I gently probed around the area, but Ricardo's face showed nothing.

"How are the ribs?" I asked him.

"Fine." His standard answer… and absolutely unreliable.

"Do you feel them when you breathe?" I asked.


"Not even when you breath deeply?" I pushed.


"Okay… Take a deep breath," I said, because I didn't believe him. I let him take several deep breaths, and could see some discomfort in his eyes. He took another deep breath and right when his lungs were full, I gently pushed against his ribs. His breath came out in a whoosh and he started coughing, instinctively turning on his side to protect himself from choking while his hand went to his ribs to support them. I waited until the coughing stopped and then looked at him.

"Don't lie to me, Ricardo. How are the ribs?" He gritted his teeth and remained silent for a moment, but then answered.

"Mostly they are fine…" I made a 'go on' gesture with my hand, and he continued.

"… but when I take deep breaths, or make sudden movements or bend forward, I feel them."

"Okay," I said. Inwardly I was smiling because I suspected that his reluctance to admit to any pain had to do with him being afraid I might not declare him 'fit for duty' tomorrow and would forbid any ehm… strenuous activities… including certain activities in the bedroom. And you only had to look at those two to know that they had the hots for each other. Little did he know that I had already decided to declare him fit for duty again tomorrow, and would tell him he just had to watch his ribs for a few more days but he would feel which moves would be the wrong ones…

Didn't I tell you I love to play with him?

Ranger POV

After Aurelia left, I sunk back in the pillow. I could still feel her little stunt with my ribs and wondered if it would have been better to just admit to the pain. I would have told any other doctor… Luckily my line of thinking stopped when my babe walked back into the bedroom. She sat down on the edge of the bed beside me and looked at me with worried eyes.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I answered automatically and I immediately regretted my answer when I saw the irritation in her eyes. She deserved the truth.

"Babe… My ribs are a bit sore right now because of what Aurelia did, but they are healing fine," I said.

"Well, you deserved what Aurelia did," she said indignantly and I smiled.

"Will you give me a kiss to make it all better?" I asked and after a moment in which she obviously was trying to decide if I deserved that kiss, she leaned forward and kissed me softly on the lips. But before I could take the kiss any further, she got up and moved out of my range.

"You need to rest," she said and then turned to leave the room.

"Won't you stay with me?" I asked and wiggled my eyebrows at her. She blushed, but stayed where she was.

"You aren't better yet," she said and left the room.

Damn Aurelia! Not only had she interrupted me when I finally had gotten Steph to give in to her desire to make love with me, she had also managed to scare Steph enough that she was staying out of my reach again. I wanted Steph so bad it was getting painful, so Aurelia had better declare me fit for duty again tomorrow!

With a frustrated sigh I turned on my side and tried to relax.

I did fall asleep, but dreamed of making love with Steph and woke up utterly frustrated.

Turning up the heat

Interlude (between chapter 39 and 40)

Warning: SMUT SMUT SMUT (and no storyline… How bad of me… J But if you're not into smut you can skip to the next chapter without missing anything…)

It was around 3 o'clock at night and I was wide awake. My whole sleeping pattern was shot to hell because I spend so much time in bed doing nothing. In 5 hours I would get up to go to the hospital and get a final checkup and I couldn't wait until then. I had been watching Stephanie sleep in my arms for almost 43 minutes now. Her head was laying on my shoulder, a long arm across my chest, hand on my other shoulder. Her forehead touching my neck, a long leg thrown over mine. My arm was around her, slowly caressing her back, the other was laying on her elbow. I had managed to pull up the t-shirt that she slept in so I could touch her bare skin of her back. Her breathing was deep and even. I was contemplating waking her up, because I had been hard for her from the moment I woke up, which was a little over 45 minutes ago now and it was getting painful. I was thinking of ways to persuade her to make love with me, which didn't help much because my mind was now filled with images of naked Steph. I sighed and Steph moaned a little and shifted, but settled down again.

My hand gently grabbed her wrist and guided her hand down, towards my throbbing erection. I placed her hand on me and squeezed her fingers around me and almost moaned with pleasure. It wouldn't take much to make me explode, it had been that long and I was that turned on by her. Steph shifted again and her hand involuntarily squeezed me. Yes, oh yes... please… My hips moved so I was rubbing myself against her hand, feeling frantic with need. Steph moved a bit and squeezed me once more, but then moved her hand back up to my shoulder. No, no, noooo! I groaned in frustration and guided her hand back down.

"Touch me, Steph," I whispered and she moaned in response. She was waking up.

"Please…," I was practically begging by now. Her hand was around my erection again, and she made some uncoordinated stokes up and down, but just as I was on the edge, she stopped again. And then she really woke up. She stiffened for a moment, and then quickly tried to withdraw her hand, but I held on to her wrist.

"Ranger…?" she asked sleepily.

"Babe, please… Make me come…" I said breathlessly. She looked up at me and blushed at the fire she saw in my eyes.

"But your injur…," she started.

"I'm going crazy… please…" I interrupted her and kissed her passionately, pulling her on top of me. I didn't care about the pain in my shoulder, leg or ribs, I needed this release… desperately.

Steph answered my kiss with equal passion and I slipped a hand in her underwear and felt how wet she was for me. I growled in anticipation and tugged her panties down. I flipped us over so I was on top and a small groan escaped my lips because of the pain in my ribs and shoulder and Steph broke the kiss with worried eyes. FUCK!!!

Or more likely: no fuck.

I knew that look in her eyes, she would be all over me… but in a caring and nursing way and not in a hot and sexy way.

"Are you in pain?" she asked.

"I'm so hard for you it hurts," I said in a sexy voice and tried to distract her by kissing her neck. But she wasn't fooled and pushed me away so she could look in my eyes. I flopped back on my back and closed my eyes, rubbing my face with my hands, sighing in frustration.

"Babe, I'm fine… Really!" I emphasized that last bit, hoping to convince her. She still looked doubtful.

"I'm crazy for you, Babe. So crazy that it is getting painful. I need you… I want to make love with you… Please… just one time…" I stopped abruptly when I realized I was begging. Steph was blushing again. I was almost disgusted with myself, I sounded like a needy teenager. I had never felt so strong about a woman.. But then again, my Babe was a force of nature and she was currently getting a playful look in her eyes.

Uh oh…

"Promise me one thing," she said. Right now I was willing to promise her almost anything.

"Name it," I said.

"You'll let me do everything, so you won't aggravate your injuries," she said with a very naughty smile on her face. I felt myself harden even more and growled my promise. She moved over me on all fours and looked down at my face.

"Promise me, Ranger. Promise me you'll let me do… everything." That last past she whispered low in her throat and I almost came on the spot.

"I promise." My voice sounded strangled and she smiled her evil smile once more.

"Good," she said and then bend her arms so she could kiss me slow and deep. After long, delicious minutes she moved to kiss my cheek, jaw and ear. She gave my earlobe a playful bite and a sigh escaped me. She left a trail of kisses down my jaw and neck towards my shoulder and I shivered in anticipation. She kept kissing her path down, but not after she had played with my nipples, kissing, biting and sucking on them until I was moaning with pleasure. Part of me wanted to grab her hair to pull her head back up so this would never end and the other part wanted to push her head down so I would feel her lips around me. My fingers dug themselves in her hair and she chuckled as if she was sensing my conflicting thoughts. She kissed her way across my stomach and down to my abdomen. She made a wet trail towards my groin and I moaned in anticipation, but then veered of her path and continued with kissing my hip. I groaned in frustration and grabbed the sheet with my left hand. Steph just laughed her sexy evil laugh and continued her torture. Down my hip and across my thigh… getting closer and closer… She gave my throbbing cock a kiss and it jumped, …but then she moved off to my other hip. What the…?!

"Babe… no fair," I grounded out.

"Very fair, Ranger. I wouldn't want your right hip to feel left out…" she answered and I growled at her. Female logic… I had to use all my willpower not to take over the lead and sink my hard cock in her… repeatedly. Both my hands were clawing the sheets now and I was wriggling under her touch and kisses.

"Please…" I pleaded.

"Be patient, Ranger," she said while she used her nails to softly scratch up and down my thighs, closer and closer to home. I lifted my head up from the pillow and looked at her with hungry eyes.

"Fuck patient," I growled and she laughed.

"Good things… come… to those who… wait," she teased in between kisses and licks. I pulled a leg up, I couldn't help it, I had to move something.

"I've waited long enough," I grounded out. She continued her torture of almost touching me, and just when I thought I couldn't take it any longer, she placed her lips on my tip. I think I stopped breathing for a moment when she slowly licked her way down and up again.

"Oh… yeah… Slow, Babe," I sighed. She complied and placed slow openmouthed kisses all over me. She gently sucked on my balls and I bit my cheek to prevent myself from coming.

"Mmm…" I moaned. She licked her way back to the tip and then, ever so slowly, slid her lips around me. This was heaven. She gently sucked and my hips bucked.

"Easy… it's been so long…" I warned her. She responded by closing her thumb and second finger tightly around my base, buying me a little extra time. She moved me excruciatingly slow in and out of her mouth and I was writhing beneath her touch. My head was moving from side to side. She moaned and I felt the vibration. I was so hard… My erection throbbed painfully and I was going insane with need.

"Babe… please." I was begging. She chuckled and bit me gently. A loud moan escaped my lips. Suddenly her lips were gone and I almost whimpered at the loss. I lifted my head up from the pillow and found her looking at me.

"Ready, Ricardo?" she asked. To hear her say my name gave me goose bumps and I could only nod.

"Say it, Ricardo…" she teased.

"God, yes… Please… yes, I'm ready…" As soon as the words left my mouth, Steph reacted. One hand cupped my balls, gently squeezing them while her other hand was around my hard cock, squeezing and pumping up and down. I was in her mouth as far as she could take me and she was moving me in and out, increasing the speed with every stroke, her lips tight around me and her tongue swirling and rubbing. I felt my orgasm build and my hands fisted the pillow. My back arched and when she moved me in her mouth once again, the orgasm hit me… hard.

"Aaarrrggghhh!" I screamed while my hips were bucking and my whole body tensed. Steph stayed with me, pumping and milking me, bringing me to even greater heights until I was gasping for air and seeing stars. Just when I thought I might pass out, she finally slowed down. Her grip eased and with a final kiss she let me slip from her mouth. My breathing was labored and my heart was racing. This had been something else.

Steph stretched out and cuddled into my side.

"Wow," I whispered and kissed the top of her hair.

"You liked it?" she asked quietly and I grinned at her.

"Babe… I loved it. That was something else… But what about you?"

"Don't worry, my time will come" she said.

"I'll make sure of it," she added with a sexy smile.

"Good," I said. I shifted to get comfortable and winced a little at the pain in my ribs. They had been getting a pretty good workout, and were protesting.

"Are you okay?" Steph asked.

"My ribs are a little sore," I said. She looked guilty.

"Don't feel guilty, Steph. It's no big deal," I said, and she seemed to consider that for a moment.

"Besides, if you hadn't helped, I would've done it myself. I couldn't wait any longer," I added and she blushed. I chuckled.

"Seriously, Steph. Don't worry about it. I'm fine." She seemed convinced because she nodded and settled back down again, slowly drifting off to sleep.

I didn't sleep much anymore. My ribs protested with every breath I took and I couldn't get comfortable.

But damn, had it been worth it!

Chapter 40: Sisterly pride

I nudged Steph awake around 7.50 am. I love the way she makes little sounds when she is waking up, it is a big turn on. I gave her little kisses until she was completely awake, and then we shared some bigger kisses.

"Good morning, Babe," I said and smiled at her.

"Good morning, Ricardo," she said and smiled back. I love it when she says my name, even if it is the one I hardly use myself anymore. My family still uses it and I like it that Stephanie uses it.

"Sleep well?" I ask her, and she nods.

"You?" she asks and I nod, even though I didn't get much sleep after 2 o'clock. I had slept enough to last me a decade after these 2 weeks in bed, so I figured tonight didn't count.

"How are you feeling?" she asks, and I know she is referring to my ribs after last night's activities.

"I'm okay. Can't wait to go to the hospital and get it in writing," I answer her.

"To get Aurelia of your back?" Steph asks smiling, and I nod.

"Yeah, and the rest of the family." My mother calls me almost every day at the moment.

"How about me?" Steph finally asks the question she probably had wanted to ask in the first place. There is some uncertainty showing in her eyes.

"What about you?" I ask, to stall for time. I have certain ideas about my future with her, but I wanted to hear her view first.

"Do you want me of your back too?" she asks. I know she is really asking about our current living arrangements.

"Babe, you are always welcome here," I tell her and she smiles.

"Thanks. You're always welcome at my place, too," she tells me. Not that she could keep me out if she wanted, but it is nice to be officially invited for a change. I smile.


Aurelia POV

"Steph, can I talk to you for a moment?"

"Sure. Is everything okay with Ricardo?" she asks. I look up in surprise. This is the first time I hear her call my brother by his name.

"Yeah, Ricardo is fine. They've taken him for an x-ray of his leg and after they've seen the results they will either give him a cast or a splint. But that is not why I wanted to talk to you." I herd her into my office and grin at her. This is going to be a bit of a strange conversation, but I'm Ricardo's doctor and I need to tell her a few things. And I just love to tease anybody and everybody.

"I'm going to give Ricardo a clean bill of health when he returns here. He will probably need some physiotherapy for that leg, but other than that he is fine." Steph looks enormously relieved.

"There is one thing however that I wanted to talk to you about…" I wait a moment to make sure I have her full attention.

"Even though he is fit for duty again, his body is still healing, and especially his ribs. I noticed during the checkup today that between yesterday and today, he did something that irritated his ribs." I look at Stephanie, and she is blushing furiously. I already guessed what activity might have done the damage, but Steph's bright red face confirms it to me.

"I can understand the ehm… attraction between you two might make it difficult to minimize the uh… bedroom activities, especially since you guys took so long to get together, but I would recommend that you keep the level of those ehm… bedroom activities light for a few more days. No acrobatic stunts, no 'all night long' ehm… endurance activities for another week or 2. Ricardo is a trained soldier, he can simply block out the pain. So I'm counting on you here. I've told him to take it easy for a while, but I know him. He'll probably start his exercise routine at 6 tomorrow morning, even if it is a Saturday, just because he can. Whether it is comfortable or wise is something that will not matter to him." I look at Stephs beet red face and smile reassuringly at her.

"He'll be fine, really. But he needs to take it easy for a few more days, okay?"

"Okay," Steph answers.

"So, you guys are really together now?" I ask her and Steph's whole face lights up.

"Yes, we are."

"Good, I'm glad to hear it. I was running out of ideas on how to get you guys together." We share a conspiratory smile and I sit back, the official part over.

We talk about the upcoming weekend and Stephs' surprise for Ricardo to go away for the weekend until Ricardo hops back in, this time with crutches and a splint around his ankle. He hands me the documents that he received after he got his splint and I look them over. He has to keep the splint on for another 2 weeks and then contact his physiotherapist for further treatment. The x-ray shows that the fracture has almost healed. I make some notes in his file and then sign off.

"Well, that's it. You're a free man again."

"Finally," Ricardo says and I laugh. I bet he was looking forward to this moment from the minute he arrived in the hospital.

"Okay, you two. I'd love to stay and chat, but I've got to return to work." I hug and kiss them both and walk them to the exit.

I watch them walk over to the car and see how Steph says something to Ricardo. I imagine she is telling him about her plan to go away for the weekend and I can see Ricardo's smile even from this distance. Several women stop and stare… Some things never change, I suppose. Ricardo hugs Stephanie close and they share a passionate kiss. Looks like Ricardo's likes the plan. I suddenly realize that it is less than a month ago that Ricardo got sick and I vowed to myself to get him and Stephanie together and look at them now, so happy together.

While I watch them drive off together, I congratulate myself on a job well done.

The end!