Geometry Lessons (formerly Beyond Twelve)
This story picks up where Janet Evanovich leaves off in Twelve Sharp, a few pages BEFORE HER ENDING. Her characters belong to HER, mine to me, but I think I may try to keep a few! (Ranger, for one, LOL)
So, my first career choice was Wonder Woman or intergalactic princess, ala Princess Leia without the funky hair. Found out at age 7 that flying was a pre-req. That didn't work out, so I went for option 2, Chambersburg housewife.
That blew too. Well, actually Joyce Bernhardt blew my dickhead of an ex-husband, Dickie Orr. So I opted to look behind door number three. I became a lingerie buyer. Definitely a good first date conversation. Always got the guys wanting to hear about MY job, instead of me having to listen to them blether on about being accountants or some such.
Well, ok that didn't work out, either. Didn't find Mr. Right amongst the panty fetish set, and then I was laid off. My fourth option wasn't even really an option, but a 'back-against-the-wall,-no-choice,-I-gotta-pay-my-rent-or-move-back-in-with-mom-and-dad' thing. I tripped into the occupation of bounty hunter, due to some awesome knowledge about my cousin Vinnie's extra-curricular activities. I should be on career 6 or 30 by now, or even dead already because of my absolute ineptitude at my job. But, instead, I met Ranger. And re-acquainted my self with Joe Morelli.
My name is Stephanie Plum. I am almost 32, once divorced, and the apparent joke of the law enforcement community. Well, the joke is on them. I always get my man! It may not always be pretty, but still. I live in a crappy apartment, which I will defend to the death to keep as mine. I have a hamster for company, Rex, and a crazy family.
I'm a good height, 5'7'. Clothes fit decently, don't have to hem stuff, but I still need to have my four inch heels to feel like a true Jersey girl. My hair is brown and wild. My eyes are blue and leak a lot. Thank god for waterproof mascara. I like to think I am a bad ass, but truly, I just have a bad ass. Keeping fit isn't high on my list of priorities. But as luck would have it, I inherited my porcelain skin and good metabolism from my Hungarian grandmother, as well as some serious nymphomaniac tendencies.
Mom, Dad and Grandma Mazur all live in a duplex in the Burg. Dad is ready to put Grandmas head through a wall, any wall, at any moment. Grandma is prepared to jump any hot looking man that gets within a mile of the front porch. And my mother is going to enter the annual Extreme Ironing competition. They all appear to be in a constant state of possible cardiac arrest by phone.
Really, Mom would be so much better off if she would just forget to pay the phone bill. Then she wouldn't have to hear about what a fuck up I am constantly. And I wouldn't receive phone calls about how St. Valerie can do no wrong. Except for the fact that her husband left her for the babysitter, she decided to play gay-for-a-day, and had a third child out of wedlock, by her boss. Oh, did I mention her middle daughter thinks she's a horse?
And yet, I'm the one my parents worry about. Which leads us back to me. And Joe. And Ranger.
I am an incredibly untalented, but astonishingly lucky bounty hunter. I have honed skills I don't even know I had. I took the job for the money, right? $10,000 to catch a guy? Hell yeah. And then I look and see who the guy is. Joe Morelli. Well that figures. I should be able to catch him; easy money, he's been trying to catch me since I was six!
And while I let him catch me a few times, feeling me up in the garage when I was six; boinking me in the Tasty Pastry when I was sixteen, I have a rich and long standing hatred of him. Seems like a reasonable way to earn money. Drag that dirty rotten Morelli back by his incredibly fine ass. He is hot. Italian stallion hot. Dark curly hair, rich olive skin covering six feet of luscious male, with the best ass in New Jersey. Brown eyes to get lost in, attitude and swagger dressed up as mere mortal. Used to be a player, but at 34, has settled down some, and turned into a damn good cop for the city of Trenton.
Turns out Joe didn't want to be caught. Something about being a cop and not making it to trial if he was left behind bars. Whatever. I wanted my money. Enter Ranger. Connie, the office manager at the bounty hunters office, called in a favor from their best guy. And I do mean best.
He met with me and agreed to help me out. Found out later on that he was bored, and thought I would entertain him. HA! He scared me when I first met him. He was gorgeous in a murderous, holy shit, street thug way. His eyes pierce you and he can read your mind. His smile is fleeting; you need to know what you are looking for to catch it. His skin is taut over muscles; warm and coffee colored. Long hair- dark, pulled into a pony tail, earrings, the whole bad boy persona. Major, pee-your-pants kind of scary, if you don't know any better; if you come across him in a dark alley. Of course lately I find him in alleys all the time, but that's because he drags me there, trying to cop a feel, steal a kiss, set me on fire.
Well, two years later, I am still around. I got my man, by the way, and even proved the jerk innocent. Joe forgave me finally for locking him in a refrigerator truck, and we got together, after 25 years of dancing about. Turns out my dance card should have been filled by someone, anyone else. Because all we have done in the past 18 months is step on each others toes. We are fire and ice together, oil and water; I don't know, but some two objects that can't exist in one place at one time.
And Ranger, well he isn't helping any. Him or his Merry Men. He owns a security company, RangeMan, which he started sometime after getting out of the army. The men who are his employees go by names like Hal, Cal, Zero, Manny and Tank. He has an ex-wife, and a little girl, whom he doesn't see often. Every so often, say every couple of months, I wrangle another morsel of his life from him. And it feels like an achievement, even if the new morsel is that he prefers Tuesdays over Wednesdays. I am apparently on the inside track however, in the race to learn about Ranger, because other than his merry men, I seem to know more than anyone else.
I also know this Cuban Sex God likes to kiss. A lot. And well. He does it well. And he likes to kiss me. Once, almost a year ago, Joe and I were on the outs. Again. Ranger propositioned me. I actually agreed to pay him for his assistance with a skip. And considering that Ranger is Batman/Bruce Wayne and I am the orphan about to be put out on the street, payment wasn't in dollars. But he has always claimed to be a mercenary.
Even so, I have grown to trust this man, this enigma, and he trusts me. I spent one incredible, brain-draining, beyond belief night with him. And I can't forget it. And I think that I got under Ricardo Carlos Manoso's skin as well.
It's an interesting place we find ourselves, the three of us. I find myself turning to Ranger for everything. And he turns to me first as well. And neither of us can or will explain out loud, why this is so. And Joe finds himself on the outside, looking in, even when we are in an on-again phase. I don't know how to change it. And I don't know if I want to change it, even if I could.
I've gotten into my fair share of scrapes in this job. I've had stalkers, and psychos and looneytoons after me. But now, this time, it's worse. The bad guy isn't after me. He's not after Joe. He's after Ranger. And he is using Ranger's little girl as bait.
I'm done here. I need to go fix my world. I need to save my friends. You can listen in, if you like.