Disclaimer: Just borrowing, I'm a babe. I mean to offend no one but if you're a dedicated cupcake read something else.This is a Steph, Ranger story. Spoilers for all.
I lifted my head. Boy did I have a headache, the first thing I noticed were the cuffs on my wrist. What the hell. I looked around, shit I was in one of the interrogation room at the Trenton PD. How had I gotten here? Okay let's remember, last thing I could remember was sitting on my couch talking to Morelli. He had showed up at my apartment last night with his the 'guys' are missing you line. That bastard. All I could figure is that Joe must have stunned me and then brought me here. I tried to stand and realized that my legs were shackled and cuffed to the chair.I was going to kill him when I saw him. The more I thought about it the more my burg girl attitude turned into anger how dare he do this to me. The door opened and in walked Joe with a smirk on his face.
"It's about time you woke up Cupcake."
"Joe, let me out of these cuffs." And I rattled the cuffs at him.
He shook his head. No way was he letting her loose. He'd had a dose of her temper before. The first time had resulted in a broken leg. And a couple years ago she had left him with only socks and a gun in the middle of the street.
She'd been working for Rangeman for the last several months and he knew she was training with Ranger's guys. No he wasn't taking any chances with Stephanie.
"Cupcake, I'll let you out when I know that you're calmed down." He said with a smile. No reason to let her know there was no way he planned on letting her
loose until he got some questions answered first.
"Joe." I growled.
"Stephanie, it's for your own good." And safer for both of us he though.
"Joe, how do you figure being stunned and hauled unconscious to TPD is GOOD FOR ME." I yelled.
"Calm down and I'll explain it." Joe turned around a chair on the other side of the table and sat down.
His blank cop face was on, this could not be good. I tried to be patient and just wait it out, but the minutes just dragged and finally I caved.
"Okay Joe, what am I doing here and why am I cuffed and shackled?"
Joe looked at me with his blank cop face; I couldn't believe that he had the nerve to do this to me after spending last night in my bed. Well it would be a
long time before his 'guys' would ever see me naked again.
"Stephanie, you know that Richard Orr is missing and presumed dead?"
I nodded. He'd called me yesterday with that little piece of news. But I couldn't see what that could have with me being here. He knew that I had been
with him the night that Dickie had disappeared.
Joe looked me straight in the eye. "Cupcake, I need to question you about the murder of Richard Orr. It's okay if I record this right."And he turned on the
recording device in the center of the table. I looked at him in disbelief. I'd been in bed with him that night. Okay not the whole night. He's received a call and left soon after we finished having hot sweaty monkey sex. He'd kissed my head
said something about calling me tomorrow and he's disappeared into the night.
"Joe, I think you lost the right to call me Cupcake. And you know that I didn't kill Dickie. I might not have liked him but I would never murder him."
Joe ran his hands through his hair then he looked at me through his hands. "Your prints were found in his house. Steph how did your prints get in his house?"
My jaw dropped, I didn't know how my prints got in his house I hadn't been in that house since before the divorce was final.
"You were in his office and assaulted him the day before he disappeared. You were heard threatening him."
I put my head in my hands and started rubbing my temples this headache was a killer and I was starting to think that maybe this was really just a really bad dream. Yeah that was it maybe I was having a nightmare. I pinched my arm and jumped.
"Shit, ouch." Nope guess I wasn't dreaming.
Joe gave me a strange look. Guess now he thought me crazy as well as a murderer.
"Joe you know where I was the night Dickie disappeared." And I frowned at him.
There was a knock at the door and Joe didn't finish
what he was about to say to open it. Carl and Big Dog walked in followed by a Detective that I had never seen before. He looked at me and glared, a
chill ran down my back.
Something told me that he was not a person I wanted for an enemy and right now I was his number one target for the murder of Dickie.
Carl noticed the cuffs and shackles. "You okay?" He asked.
Big Dog was obviously not happy to see my condition. They were both good friends. "Yeah Steph you holding up okay, anything we can get you?"
They both glared at Joe. Glad to know that they were both still my friends and they must disagree with Joe about me being a murderer. Then I thought of all
the betting that was probably going on right now and groaned. My Mother would be ironing the house and drinking bottles of liquor.
The Detective turned to them. "I'm sure you both have someplace else to be."
They gave me one last look before they left the room. I took the time to check out the new Detective. He had amazing green eyes and red hair not carrot top
red and not auburn just a nice red. He was just under six foot and he wasn't built like the guys I was used to working with but then again not everybody worked
out everyday like Ranger's guys. In other circumstances she would probably think he was hot. Right now he just creeped her out and she felt like she might be sick as her stomach rolled.
Joe turned to him and they shook hands. "You on this case Kevin?"
Guess Joe knew then new guy.
"Yeah, need to keep you honest on this one."
I got the feeling that he was joking with Joe and that they had known each other a while. I looked at Joe hoping he would clue me in I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach when he wouldn't meet my eye.
"Ms. Plum, my name is Kevin O'Malley I just transferred to Trenton PD from Washington D.C." He looked at Joe. "Morelli and I have worked together before and I've heard quite a lot about you."
I looked at Joe in question again he didn't meet my eye.
"Has she been booked yet and her rights read." I looked at Joe. What the hell was he talking about, booked?
"No, Kevin I was just going to question her."
O'Malley looked me over; he took in the cuffs and shackles.
"You think she's really dangerous?" He raised an eyebrow. "I thought she was your girl."
Joe looked at me then turned his look to O'Malley. "You've never seen her angry. I figured this was safer for everyone concerned."
O'Malley chuckled. And I glared at both of them. Just then there was a pounding at the door. I heard Morelli mutter. "Damn this place is grand fucking station."
He pulled open the door and Ranger and Tank were standing on the other side. Joe's blank face slide for just a minute and was replaced with anger before the cop face slid back into place.
"Manoso, what do you want?"
Ranger put his hand on the door and pushed it open walking forward forcing Joe to back into the room.
Ranger nodded at O'Malley then looked me over his eyes darkened when his gaze fell upon the cuffs and shackles. I saw a flash of anger before his blank face slipped back into place in fact it had been so fast I was sure that Joe never saw it. He turned to Joe.
"I came for Stephanie."
"Were not finished questioning her." Said O'Malley.
Ranger turned to O'Malley. "Is she under arrest? Has she been booked? Right's read to her?"
O'Malley looked at Joe then to Ranger. "Well no."
"Then she's leaving. If you try to stop her my lawyer will be here within the hour." Ranger looked at Joe and in a low growl. "Remove the cuffs and shackles, now."
"Listen Manoso you can't just come in here and start ordering people around."
"Morelli, if those cuffs aren't off in sixty seconds…" And Ranger pulled out his phone. He made a call and a minute or less later there was a tap at the door.
Joe opened the door and it was Carl again he handed Joe a piece of paper and left. Joe looked at the paper and paled. He walked to Stephanie and removed the cuffs and shackles.
"Uh Cupcake." He paused as if in pain. He looked at Ranger. "You're released into Manoso's custody. Don't leave the city."
Ranger looked at him and grinned. "If you'll reread that memo Steph is free to go wherever I go, even out of the country if I need to she is to be within 200 feet of me at all times unless I'm called away then my men will watch her."
Joe finished reading the memo I could tell he was furious. By the time he finished he was pacing and talking to himself. He stopped looked at Ranger and if looks could kill I was pretty sure that both Ranger and I
would be toast.Ranger helped me out of the chair looking over my wrist; they were already showing signs of bruising. He pulled out his phone and shot pictures of the bruises. Then he looked at Joe.
Then he led me from the room. Tank followed us out. My mind was racing. What the hell had just happened? I mean I was glad to be out of the station, but I wasn't so sure about being released into Ranger's custody. I didn't like
having babysitters and I definitely didn't want Ranger to bleed money again on my account.
O'Malley walked up to Joe and put his hand on his back.
"Are you going to be able to do this?"
Joe looked at Kevin and slowly nodded his head.
"If you find her guilty and she goes to prison you've signed her death warrant. She won't last long on the inside."
Joe ran his hand through his hair. "Yeah, dammit I know that."
"I thought you and her, well…"
Kevin shook his head. "No way could I send the woman I love to prison. Even if it was the right thing to do."
Joe looked at Kevin. "Manoso will keep her safe and out of trouble."
Kevin grinned. "You knew he would come to her rescue."
Joe just looked at Kevin.
"Aren't you afraid that after everything. He'll end up with the girl."
Joe hated that, he'd thought of that before he hatched this plan. But it was the only way he could see to keep Steph safe and he'd rather have her safe than have her with him. If he lost her he could live with that as long as she was safe.
"Lets get to work." Joe said.
Dammit Chapter Two
Joe walked out of the interrogation room and went to his office closing the door behind him the last thing he wanted right now was more questions. He had no sooner sat down then there was a light tap at the door and it opened.Shit,couldn't he just be alone in his misery for a minute.
Big Dog and Carl walked in."We interrupting?"
Joe gave a bare shake of his head. The last thing he wanted was to talk to anyone and he knew these two had questions for him. Questions that he couldn't and wouldn't be able to answer right now. Hell, if he was them he would beat the shit out of him.
Big Dog started the whole while glaring at him. "Shit, man how could you be like that to Steph?"
"I thought you loved her! I ought to…"
"Guys, I did what I had to…"
"Morelli, for your sake I hope it's good or you might have just lost some good friends." Said Carl.
Joe lowered his head into his hands. He knew that he couldn't tell the guys everything but he had to make them understand. He'd done what had to be done to keep Stephanie safe. He lifted his head and looked Carl in the eye.
"I love Stephanie more than life, does that tell you something."
"Shit, this is big isn't it?"
I simple nodded my head. If they only knew how big it was."And you're not going to share, not even with your best friends." Carl asked.
He ran a hand through his hair. "Guys, I wish I could but it's a case and you guys know how it is."
After giving his one more look they opened the door and walked out closing it behind them.
"What do you think of that?" Carl asked.
Big dog looked up and down the corridor. "I think that Steph is in trouble again and Joe is trying to cover both their collective asses."
Big Dog nodded. "Walls got ears best not to talk about it here."
They both looked up and down the halls once more before going in different directions.
Kevin stepped around the corner from Joe's office and grinned as he watched both men disappear from sight.
"Babe, I'm not bleeding money because of you."
I looked at Ranger and my mouth fell open. He gently pushed it shut. "Babe, stop giving me ideas."
I blushed and heard a snicker from Tank. I looked up and Ranger was giving Tank the death look.
I decided that maybe the safe thing to do would be to just look out the window until we reached my apartment. I thought that was where Ranger was taking me. But it took me only a minute to figure out he wasn't.
"Uh, Ranger." That's me eloquent as always. "Where are you taking me?"
When he didn't answer right away I could feel myself going into all out rhino mode. I didn't like babysitter and I really didn't like being kidnapped even if it was Ranger doing the kidnapping and if he thought I would stay in one of his safe houses then he really was crazy.
I felt his hand on the back of my neck and I could feel the tension and anger leaving my body even as I fought to hold onto it. "Babe, I'm taking you someplace where you can relax for a couple days."
I looked him in the eye. I had always trusted him. "Not a safe house?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Babe, all my houses are safe."
I stuttered." Uh, your house? The batcave?"
His lips turned up at the corner into his almost smile. "Not the batcave, just a place I keep to relax at when I need some down time."
I looked at him, he did look tired. Little lines by his eyes and just a slight shadow under them. He had never given me a reason not to trust him so I nodded and got
comfortable. Next thing I knew Ranger was lifting me from the seat and carrying me into I looked around. Wow, the biggest cabin I had ever seen. He looked down at me.
"Babe, you awake?"
I yawned and buried my head into his chest. I felt warm and safe, besides he smelled so good. I wondered if he would believe I was still sleeping. So I shook my head.
He laughed and carried me into the cabin and up some steps. Then he gently laid me down on a bed that would give his bed on the 7th floor a run for its money.
"Sleep, Babe I'll wake you when dinner is ready."
Cool I was sleeping in the bed from heaven and Batman was cooking for me.
I felt a kiss to my shoulder and a shiver went down my spine.
"Babe." There was a butterfly kiss on my neck.
"Mmm, yeah." I snuggled into his warm embrace.
"Time to get up Babe."
I turned and started kissing his neck, ran my tongue down his throat.
"Babe." He growled and pulled away. "If you don't get up Tank is going to eat all your food. "
I sprung from bed; okay I sat up and stretched. Then I looked at Ranger his eyes were dark with lust.
"Lead the way, boss."
"Smartass." And he swatted my ass before leading the way down the steps and into an impressive dining room. Who would have thought that a cabin in the woods would have such a grand room? It had a table that could have easily seat twelve and it had a large window overlooking a lake. Ranger pulled
out a chair and I sat down just as Tank entered the room carrying a tray with covered dishes on it. My stomach decided to voice its opinion and growled.
"We better feed that monster before it gets to angry." Said Tank.
Before I could answer I heard a door open.
"Hey, we made it in time for dinner."
And in walked Lester and Bobby both with big grins on their faces. I looked at Ranger what was up with all the guys being here.
"Babe, you said you wanted to get more training. Plus I want Bobby to look over your wrist and take care of them."
Damn ESP and besides that didn't answer why the guys were here.
Bobby walked over and carefully looked at the abrasions and bruising on my wrist. "Lester, bring my kit here." Lester sat what looked like a tackle box down and in no time my wrist were wrapped and Bobby was handing me a pill and a glass of water. I looked at him in question.
"Just take it, please." These guys knew I couldn't resist it when they said please it got me every time. Of course they didn't use it lightly. So I took the pills and swallowed.
"I figured if you just had to relax here for a few days you would go crazy so I figured we could all help you with your training."
I looked from Ranger to Tank, then to Bobby and Lester. One at a time they nodded. Wow, these guys really knew me I would go crazy if I had nothing to do.
"Bombshell, I'll be helping you with technical stuff." Said Lester.
I tilted my head and looked at him. "Technical?" What the hell did that mean?
"Lock picking, bug detecting, and bomb…"
I put my hands up and started backing away from the table. Uh huh not me I had a habit of making things go boom no way was I getting close to anything that could blow up.
"Lester, I don't think that's a good idea."
He just grinned.
"Bomber, I'll be helping you get better on that computer. Your clearance just came through so there's some new program's I'm going to show you when we get done you'll be better than Briggs."
I just rolled my eyes at him, yeah sure. Then I looked at Tank and Ranger wonder what they're going to teach me.
"Babe, Tank and I are in charge of your fitness training and take down skills."
I started to shake my head. I hate exercise and no way were they going to make me run.
Ranger escorted me back to my chair and we started dinner. The conversation was good and the food was orgasmic. After dinner I excused myself to use the
bathroom. When I came back down the stairs Ranger called that they were in the den. I just followed the sound of his voice.The room was large and had twoleather couches and various chairs. Lester walked up to me.
"Ready for some learning?"
I looked at him then figured why not and nodded.He opened a case and pulled out a wand like I had seen at the airport. "Steph this is what we use to scan for bugs and hidden cameras. I've added some moderations to this one so it's more accurate." Then he showed me how it worked and what I needed to do.
"Okay Steph whenever you're ready. I've planted some devices in this room and don't forget to wand the people also you know from past experience that people like to bug you and track you."
I grimaced and nodded sad that it was true. First I ran the wand over myself like Lester had shown me to do. The light came on and it beeped. I did it again and it repeated itself. I looked at Lester.
"I don't think it likes me." He had said I should always wand myself first to clear that it was working right.He held out his hand and ran it over me; it beeped as it
passed my right hip. He looked at Ranger.
"Babe, would you mind changing?"I shrugged whatever. Then I remembered that I didn't have any clothes here I hadn't packed.
"Uh, Ranger I don't have any clothes here."
He took my hand and led me up the stairs and into what I had started to think of as my room. It had two doors I knew that one lead into the bathroom because I had already used that. He walked us to the other door and opened it. My
mouth fell open it was full of women's clothes that I suspected would all fit me. I looked at him what did this mean and why if he didn't know that he was bringing me here were there already clothes here for me.
I decided to go with the one word questions."Why."
He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled my back to his front. His lips were on my neck as he spoke. "I wanted to see you here Babe. In my bed, wearing clothes I picked for you." He nipped my ear. "Do you have a problem with that?"
Well right now if Ranger hadn't been holding me I'm pretty sure I would be a melted puddle on the floor. I kind of shook my head. I'd think about what it all meant latter, much later. Ranger nudged me into the closet.
"Change Babe and hand me your clothes."
I looked around, hmm it was getting late, wasn't going out and didn't need to impress. I grabbed a pair of soft sweats in a blue that matched my eyes. Slipped my clothes off and the sweats on. Ranger and I walked back down to where the
guys were waiting for us. Lester took my old clothes and ran the wand over them, no beeping and the light didn't even flicker. I frowned. Damn thing most bebroke. Lester looked at Ranger and they did some secret ESP talking and he walked over and ran the wand over me again. Again it beeped and the light came on as it crossed my right hip.
"Babe could I see your hip, please."
I didn't know why he wanted to so I pulled the sweats down low enough that he could see my hip.
He walked closer. And reached out a hand. "Babe, what's this?"
I looked down and blushed. I'd forgotten that I had my patch on that hip.
"Babe?" Ranger was running his fingers over the patch and a tingle was running straight to my doodah.
I backed away. Suddenly I wasn't comfortable having this conversation in front of the merrymen. Some things were personal and my current method of birth control was one of them. Morelli had convinced me to try them after his sister started and raved about not having to always remember to take a pill all the time. They had still been using condoms because Steph forgot the pill often enough that neither of them had wanted to take a chance on an unplanned pregnancy. I fact Joe had appointed himself the job of making sure that Steph was always wearing one and he had put that one on her the day she had gone to see Dickie.
I grabbed Rangers hand and pulled him from the room. I pulled him, okay he let me pull him into a room that looked like an office then I shut the door.
"Okay Babe we're by ourselves." He raised an eyebrow and gave me a look. "Want to tell me why?"
I pulled my shirt back up. "It's my patch."
"Babe?" He clearly wanted more information. I blushed again, I had slept with Ranger once but I wasn't sure I was comfortable discussing mine and Morelli choice of birth control. I rolled my eyes and tried to keep from stuttering as I told him.
"Birth control patch, okay Ranger." I know my voice was tinged with anger. So I was embarrassed. Sue me.Ranger's blank face was replaced with one that showed
amusement. I was once again entertainment for him. This was making me angrier. I mean why would my patch make the thingy go crazy unless. I could feel myself go into rhino mode as my mind figured it out. I ripped the patch from
my skin. Expelling a small scream as it came free. I handed the offending piece of material to Ranger.
"Did he bug me?"
Ranger took my hand and led me back into the den with the merrymen. He handed the patch to Lester. Lester looked it over and whistled. "Sweet."
I waited and waited. It felt like hours. Finally I yelled. "What?"
"Bombshell, it's very sophisticated part bug and part tracker…"
I panicked. Had I put the guys in jeopardy just by being here? Of course their ESP kicked in.
"Babe, it's deactivated now. We'll just change locations no big deal." He looked at the guys did the secret communication thing and in minutes we were on our way to another location.
Chapter Three Dammit
"What the hell do you mean it's not working anymore? She's only been with them six hours and most of that time she was sleeping while they drove her to that cabin. I want confirmation that she's okay. I knew it was a bad idea trying to get information on Manoso this way."
"Morelli, you knew the risk going in. Besides he's not going to hurt her and it was the only way we could get a bug anywhere near him."
"Kevin this whole deal is fucked. I want Steph pulled now."
Kevin got into Morelli's space and growled. "This is my case and I'll say when she gets pulled. Understand."
Kevin walked to the door and turned. "I'll send a team to do a visual check if it will make you feel better. At least we know where they are. Maybe we'll still be able to salvage something of this mess." Then he walked from the room.
Joe ran his hand through his hair. This whole thing stank and he hated that Stephanie was mixed up in it.
Two hours later.
Morelli was in his office doing paper work when his cell vibrated. He took it off his belt and looked at the display.
"Is that anyway to answer your phone Joe?"
Joe ran a hand through his hair and opened his draw pulling out the Maalox. "Tell me about the visual. Is Steph okay?"
The line was silent. Shit, he knew it. Things never went according to plan when his Cupcake was involved. "Tell me."
"The place is empty. Looks like they just left in a hurry we're still looking through the place to see if we can find any clues."
Joe could tell he was holding something back. "What aren't you telling me?"
"The patch was lying on the kitchen table. It had been deactivated and examined."
"Exactly my feeling."
Joe swallowed another chug of Maalox and put the phone back on his belt. Could this get any more fucked? Steph was with Manoso and they couldn't even get any info on whether he was involved with Dickie's disappearance.
Stephanie had fallen asleep not long after they had left the cabin. Ranger wasn't sure what Morelli was up to but he wasn't taking any chances with Steph. He figured it was his fault she was tangled in all this anyway if he hadn't asked
her to help him plant those bugs on Dickie they wouldn't all be in this situation.
Stephanie woke as Tank pulled the truck from the main road onto the narrow beach road. She watched out the window as the sun rose over the ocean, the first rays of light just reaching over the far horizon. It was beautiful; she had always loved the beach at dawn. She looked at Ranger in surprise when the road ended and Tank continued on a path that she could tell he knew well. She couldn't see a thing in the darkness suddenly they came out of the thick growth, a house sat on a bluff overlooking a bay, what looked like a lawn separated it from the beach below.
As soon as the truck stopped she opened the door and flew out. She raced to the beach and collapsed just out of the reach of the advancing tide. She was breathing heavily and trying to catch her breath when she felt Ranger settle to the ground behind her. He didn't speak until the sun was all the way over the horizon.
"Babe, you okay?"
I leaned back and Ranger wrapped his arms around me. I soaked in his presence, his warmth, and the smell of pure male mixed with bvlgari. He always had a way of making me feel safe and that everything was going to be okay. After long minutes during which I soaked in his strength, I answered.
"Yeah, I'm okay."
I was accused of murder, Dickie was missing. But everything was okay as long as I was in Ranger's arms he would keep me safe and together we would figure this all out.
"Ready for some breakfast?" My stomach decided to answer that question itself as it let out a loud growl.
Ranger let out a little laugh as he pulled me to my feet.
I looked him in the eyes and smiled as I ran a finger down his jaw. "You never did tell me what you found out with that bug I planted."
Ranger draped his arm around my shoulder and sighed. I had that effect on men. Joe tended to sigh a lot around me. The thought made me a little sad.
"Later Babe, the guys should have breakfast ready then its nap time. We'll all have a meeting at 1400."
I had to use military time at Rangeman but I hated it and it always took me a minute to do the mental arithmetic. "2 p.m. Babe."
"Yeah and you like my ass." At that he swatted my ass and took off running toward the house.
I followed and when I got to the house I found the door open waiting for me to enter. Something stopped me as I was about to race in; sure I knew I was safe here. But the safe thing would be to check it out first isn't that what Ranger had been trying to get me to do for years now. Be more aware of my surroundings.
I warily looked in, looked okay, I stopped couldn't hear anything. I stepped back, shouldn't I be able to hear the guys making breakfast or eating it. I'd eaten with them enough at Rangeman to know that they weren't quiet while they ate. I could smell delicious smells floating in the air and my stomach growls to remind me that I was hungry.
I placed one foot on the tile inside the door and looked around some more. Trying to hear any little sound. I took another tentative step, and screamed for all I was worth as Bobby scooped me into his arms and over his back into a fireman's carry.
"Proud of you Bomber, but Ranger won't let us eat until you're at the table." And he plopped me down in a chair.
On the table were plates of bacon, sausage, pancakes and other delicious looking things. As soon as my butt hit the chair the guys started digging in. It dawned on me pretty quickly that if I didn't act fast there wouldn't be anything left for me, so I started grabbing soon I had a full plate in front of me. The food was good, I moaned and I noticed that all the guys had stopped eating and they were staring at me.
I blushed. "Uh, sorry guys." I stuttered.
Tank responded first. "Don't stop Bomber. I like that you're enjoying my cooking, but uh… well…" And he looked at Ranger whose eyes were dark. Ranger did not look happy with the guys and the look he gave me looked like he was thinking about having me for breakfast.
Ranger stood and looked away from me and directly at Tank. "You're in charge. Continue the training. I'm going for a run."
Tank met Ranger's look. "Don't you think Bomber should go running with you? It is part of her training."
Before I could voice my objection, Ranger answered. "No, not this morning." And he was out the door and gone.
I didn't really want to go running, but now I felt as if some how I'd just been rejected by Ranger and the feeling wasn't good. I looked at Tank and the guys and they were being careful to avoid my gaze. Shit, I hated it when they did that. But they had been his friend longer then they had been mine and it was only right that their loyalty was to him and not me. Still it felt rotten.
"Uh guys, if you've changed your mind about wanting me here I'll understand…"
Lester came over and wrapped me in his arms. "Bombshell, you're one of us now and there's no turning back." And he kissed my head and tightened the bear hug I was being held in.
Bobby tousled my hair and kissed my cheek. "Face it Steph you're family now."
Tank nodded his head. I looked at them with confusion written on my face.
Tank, as the leader, decided to clue me in. "Bomber, you always stand up for us. You don't fear us or treat us like thugs and most important when Ranger was FTA you never doubted he was innocent. Whenever one of us needs anything you helpout without question. And if it wasn't for you helping us out again you wouldn't be in this situation."
I shook my head. "I just did what anyone would do…"
"Wrong Bomber, most people treat us different. They want us for our bodies or money and they don't think were very smart just muscle bound thugs." Said Lester.
Tears came to my eyes and I fought to keep them from showing.
"Ah, please don't cry. If Ranger thinks we made you cry.
Well..." And Tank left the rest unsaid. I nodded and wiped my eyes.
"Thanks guys, you're the best."
"Why don't you go get cleaned up take a nap and we'll wake you in a couple hours to start training?"
I hadn't had much sleep lately at least not in a bed and that bed had looked really inviting. A shower also sounded good riding in the truck for hours had me feeling dirty and sweaty.
After the shower I pulled on one of Ranger shirts it fell to just about my knees. When I walked into the bedroom I realized that there was a door open in the
room and it went out onto a balcony I could hear the waves crashing to shore and the sounds of seagulls the ocean breeze came in through the open door and
the light lacy curtain was moving with the breeze. I was learning enough from the guys that I was cautious, I looked around the room then walked over to the door and looked out. Ranger was lounging on a deck chair his eyes closed. I approached him. It looked like he was sleeping but I had learned that he was always aware of his surrounding and he slept very lightly.
"Ranger?" It came out as a question. I didn't understand what he was doing here. His hair was falling across his face and I leaned over and brushed it from his face.
His hand came up and grabbed my wrist he pulled me down next to him on the lounger. His lips grazed my neck as he spoke softly into my ear. "Babe."
A moan escaped me as I settled into his embrace. "Why are you here Ranger?" At breakfast I had though he was upset with me or the situation we were in.
"Nap Babe, we'll talk when it's time to get up."
And I let the darkness of slumber take me. I had pleasant dreams of a wet, naked Ranger. I woke when I rolled over and fell off the lounger I was alone but Ranger's scent still lingered. I sat up and rubbed my eyes looking around.
The deck ran the entire back of the house besides my door there were two other doors both were closed. I couldn't see any other houses. Far off in the distance I could see some boats. I decided that I liked the place.
I was just looking at the beach and trying to figure everything out when there was a tap on the door and Lester walked onto the deck.
"Ranger thought you might be up and hungry."
My stomach answered him by growling. "Come on Bomber, lets tame that beast." And he settled an arm around my shoulder and led me into the room and out and down the stairs to the
dining room. I expected him to stop and he continued out a door at the back of the house and I saw all the guys waiting on picnic table on a deck that surrounded the back of the house. Bobby was manning the grill.
Lester pushed me to an empty spot at the table and I sat between Tank and Ranger.
After lunch I thought it was time I got some answers to the questions that had been building in my mind since walking at the TPD yesterday morning. Shit had it only been yesterday that this nightmare had started.
I pushed my plate away. "I think it's time you told me what you found out with that bug I planted."
Ranger looked at the guys and they all disappeared in different directions.
"Babe, how much do you know about Dickie? I mean since your divorce."
I thought for a minute. I knew he was a lawyer. He had questionable taste in women, how he could still be involved with Joyce was unbelievable. I would have thought his taste would lean to more sophisticated and less skanky these days. He only accepted high end clientele, seldom did pro bono work.
"He's a good lawyer with questionable taste in women." I decided to leave it at that.
"Babe." Ranger was amused. I glared at him. I wanted some answers not more questions.
"It seems that Dickie has been mixed up with some not so nice people. And they weren't happy with him about the way some of their business deals ended."
"Illegal?" I questioned. Somehow I had trouble seeing Dickie doing anything illegal. I remembered how straight laced he'd been when we were married. Ranger simple nodded.
"I was hired. To find out how deep he is in."
"Do I want to know what?"
"No." Was all he said. Then he lifted my hand and started tracing circles onto it. "Babe, how about we get some of your training in."
"I don't feel like working out right now." I whined. Hey, sometimes it worked but usually the guys just convinced me anyhow.
Ranger kissed the tips of my fingers. It was distracting.
"Thought." Kiss. "You'd." Kiss. "Like." Kiss. "To learn." Kiss. "How to." Kiss. "Pick a lock." I was in a daze from his kisses when it dawned on me what he had said.
"Really." He gave a bare nod and an almost smile graced his face as he saw my excitement. He was real good at distraction.
"Tank." He called.
Tank walked back into the room looking at Ranger. He must have received the all clear or something because he sat in an overstuffed chair across from us.
Without taking his eyes from mine Ranger spoke to Tank. "Steph is ready to learn lock picking is everything ready."
Tank stood and grabbed my hand pulling me up. Guess lock picking meant we were going someplace else. Tank dragged me through the kitchen and out the day not that I wasn't willing; hey this was something I'd wanted to learn for awhile. He stopped in the kitchen long enough to tell the other guys.
"It's play time."
They followed us out. We took a trail and there hidden by bushes and trees was a large shed. Tank did something with a control panel and the door slide open. All I could think was wow. What from the outside looked like an old garden shed was large it had stairs leading down. I know my jaw dropped and my mind was racing. I knew the guys were all security conscious but wow. This place was awesome. I came out of my thought and realized that Tank was talking.
He stopped and looked at me. I could tell by the look that I was once again providing the guys with entertainment.
"Bomber, did you hear anything I just told you?"
I shook my head. And lifted my shoulder in a shrug hey this place was cool so what if I got a little distracted.
"This place is built over a natural cave so we have rooms down here. If we needed to we could live down here it's stocked with supplies. We also have a gym down here for when we can't get our exercise outdoors because of weather or threat."
We had been walking down a corridor and turned into a room. "In here is where you will learn lock picking as well as some other useful technical skills."
During the four days we spent at the beach house I spent a good part of it in the tunnels as the merry men called them. They had a gun range down there and they showed me how to use and care for a variety of weapons, some legal not some
not so legal. Let's just say that I was getting much more
comfortable with my gun. The tunnels also had an elaborate wrestling room the guys called it their playroom and they used it to teach me different take down techniques.
We settled into a pattern, Ranger would wake me, the guys would provide breakfast and then we would all go for a run on the beach. With Ranger and Tank in the lead I had good scenery and motivation to keep going. If I started to lag Bobby or Lester would move up from behind and start talking to me encouraging me to keep going. After then run I'd shower and meet Bobby or Lester for lessons. After lunch I would nap then it was time to meet in the playroom. Sometimes we would spend hours in there. I hate to admit that once we left I actually missed it. After the playroom I was usually ready for another shower and the guys would prepare dinner. In the evening we would play games or sometimes Ranger and I would take slow strolls down the beach. I loved sitting on the shore and watch as the light faded to dark, the fireflies would come out and Ranger and I would laugh and try to catch some just to let them go again.
We were leaving. Tomorrow we would be returning to Trenton. I was down and the merry men knew it. After dinner I excused myself and went to my room. I hadn't wanted to come here and now I didn't want to leave.
It was so strange it had only been four days but I felt so much closer to everyone. I had always trusted Ranger we both knew that we would both be willing to die for the other and that put our non-relationship on another level. Now I felt as if I had joined a new family, Tank, Bobby and Lester were the brothers I never had growing up.
I curled up on the bed and tried to memorize everything that had happened these last four days. There was a knock at the door. The guys never entered my room without first letting me know they planned on entering.
I sniffled and in a low guttural voice laced with tears said. "What?"
"Babe…" He pushed the door open and saw the tear tracks running down my face. His thumb gently brushed away the tears. "Babe what's wrong?"
"I'm going to miss you guys when we get back home." There I said it. "You'll all get back to business as usual and forget about me."
We had all been so close and I loved the support and encouragement they showed me. I started thinking about what I had just said and how selfish it was and started crying. "I'm sorry…"
"Babe… please stop crying I hate it when you cry." Ranger hugged me to him and stroked my hair and back murmuring in Spanish the whole time.
I started to calm and the crying stopped. I pulled my head away from Ranger's chest and looked into his eyes. They were liquid brown and full of concern.
"You okay Babe?"
I wiped my nose and nodded. I knew once we were home my mom would start in about my job and Joe, shit I didn't even know what the hell was going on with Joe. Ranger interrupted my thoughts before they could run too far.
"Babe, come with me." And he wrapped a comforting arm around me and led me out of the room and eventually out of the house. The merry men had built a huge bon fire on the beach. Lester walked up and met us handing me a stick with marshmallows on it.
"Come on Bombshell, were making smores." His hand closed on mine and he pulled me after him to the fire. I looked at Ranger and he shrugged and gave me a full on smile.
We spent the evening roasting a variety of different things over the fire and the guys trying to one up each other with stories. Some I believed others I doubted. The guys were like big children and fun was had by all. I knew I was in trouble when Lester came out of the house pulling a wagon loaded down with beer. The later it got, the louder they became and the quieter Ranger became.
After three beers I approached Ranger. I could tell something was troubling him. I leaned into his smooth chest and inhaled his essence. It gave me the strength along with the beer to ask the question.
"Ranger, what's wrong?" He wrapped his arms around me and buried his face in my curls. I looked up at him. He kissed my nose and stood and walked away into the darkness. I stood to follow him and Tank stopped me.
"Bomber he needs to work this out on his own." I didn't understand. Work out what? Had I done something wrong? Tank wrapped me in his strong embrace. "God Steph, if you weren't his… "He cleared his throat and headed toward the house over his shoulder he said. "I'm taking Steph to the house you fools take care of the fire it's late and 0600 gets here early."
I groaned even with all the beer. That registered with my pickled brain. Someone should ban early morning, especially after a night spent drinking.
My next conscious though was soft lips kissing down my spine. I lifted my hand to brush the hair from my face and the sheet feel and I realized that I was naked. And there was a very warm body pushing up against my back. Fingers massaging
and soothing sore muscles, I moaned. And I wasn't sure if it was from the pleasure of Rangers hands on my body or from the pain caused by someone pounding on my head. I swear there was someone in there trying to kill me. Every sound was echoed even my moan sounded overly load and I pulled the pillow over my head to hide from the pain.
Ranger pulled the pillow from my head and handed me a water bottle and placed some pills in my hand.
"Take the pills Babe." He kept up the massage. I swallowed the pills and handed him back the water. I groaned as I attempted to pull the pillow back over my head. Even my hormones seemed to be sleeping in this morning. That is until Ranger flipped me over and lowered his head to my chest. I felt his hair tickling my breast and his hot breath a moment before he pulled one of my willing nipples
into his hot mouth. He suckled like a hungry child twisting and pulling on its neglected twin. I moaned and put my hands in his hair pulling him closer. I needed more.
There was a knock at the door and Ranger sat up and pulled the covers over my now hot body. I groaned, now I wanted more.
"Enter." He growled. Sounded like he wasn't too happy about being interrupted either.
It was Tank. "Everything ready we can leave as soon as Bomber is in the truck."
"We'll be down in ten."
"Babe you have five, then I help you get dressed." He leaned down and kissed me senseless then walked from the room.
I jumped out of bed and almost fell to the floor. Shit, I was never going to drink again. I made it into the bathroom and took care of necessary business. I looked
into the mirror and pulled my mop of curls into an unruly ponytail it would have to do I didn't have time to do the shower and stuff to tame it. Some mascara and
I was ready to go. I was just exiting the bathroom as Ranger reopened the bedroom door.
"Ready, Babe?" I nodded. As ready as I could be Ranger had been right as always I had needed this down time. Even though I had spent most of it in training, getting away from the pressure of Trenton had been good.
The ride back had been quiet. When we got to the outskirts I broke the silence.
"Will I have to stay at Haywood when we get back?"
Ranger looked at me obviously trying to read something in my eyes. "Will that be a problem Babe?"
I chewed on my bottom lip. I was seriously attracted to Ranger and if I admitted it I was in love with the man. And we had come very close to making love at the
beach house. I wasn't sure if I could maintain control if we were living in a tight space like the Rangeman building for long. That could be a problem since I
wasn't the one night stand type of girl and Ranger wouldn't do the relationship thing even though, if you thought about it, we defiantly had some type of
relationship both of us would do anything to keep the other in our lives and safe even if it meant harm to ourselves.
"Babe, I'm not going to jump you." Bobby snickered and I punched him.
Lester pulled me to him and ruffled my hair. "Little sister we'll all watch over you. If you're afraid of the big bad wolf you can stay with me." And he wiggled his eyebrows.
"Santos…" Ranger growled. "Meet me in the gym 1600."
"Shit." I couldn't help the giggle that escaped. Guess Lester had just got himself in trouble.
Bobby pulled me away from Lester. "Steph you don't want to stay with the clown or the big bad wolf, stay with me."
"Brown would you like to meet me in the gym also." Ranger growled. He watched us all into rearview mirror as we all collapsed into a pile of giggles. Who knew the merrymen could be so funny.
Dammit Chapter Four
We pulled into the Rangeman underground garage and doors opened and merrymen piled out. They each pulled me into a hug and kissed my head before disappearing. Ranger held out his hand. I looked at him I wasn't ready for this.
I decided to go for a question. Delay whenever possible. "7th or 4th?
"Up to you Babe I did promise not to jump you. And you know I won't do anything non-consensual."
I nodded. He once told me that he had the strength but that I had the power. Guess this was what he was talking about. I knew I should pick the 4th it was safer at least if I was on the 4th maybe I wouldn't jump Ranger. I saw his lips go up at the corner. Damn ESP he could probably read every though going through my head as I tried to figure this out.
"Babe, I can't read your mind. It's just that usual your emotions show so clearly on your face."
I felt my cheek heat up as I blushed.
Ranger pulled me into him. "Babe, did I ever tell you how much it turns me on when you blush." His hands were working their magic on my back it felt so comforting, so right. "Babe, it's your choice. Always has been always will be."
It felt so good being here buried in his chest wrapped in his scent, and essence I put my hands on his chest and willed myself to push away. I looked up into his dark eyes.
"Would it really be okay if I stayed in your apartment?"
"I think for now I better stay on the 4th as long as you have one open."
Ranger didn't answer just steered me to the elevator. Then he pushed his key fob and the doors opened. Once it opened on the 4th he lead me to the same apartment I had spent an hour in before. He opened the door and led me in he walked over to the desk and started writing. He handed me the paper.
"Babe, it's the code to this room. Tank will be down with a set of keys so you can get upstairs anytime you want. Rest today, make calls whatever. Just remember you can't leave the building without one of us. Your desk is waiting for you on the 5th."
He kissed me gently on the lips and left closing the door behind him. I sank down on the couch. Later I was going to have to figure out exactly what was going on between me and Ranger.
I glanced at the clock just after 9am I could call Mary Lou her kids should be gone to school by now. I pulled out my new phone Ranger had given it to me while we were at the shore it was an untraceable sat phone and he had warned me about giving out the number.
I sighed and called Mary Lou. Best to find out what the 'burg' was saying about all this before I called my mother and have her tell me that after this I'd never have pineapple upside side cake again. Hum, wonder if Ella would adopt my and feed me dessert. Of course I was pretty sure if she did Ranger would make me run every day. Not that running behind him and Tank wasn't fun it just went against my life philosophy.
I heard the phone pick up then I heard a dial tone. I looked at the phone what the… I dialed again. The phone picked up and I heard arguing.
"What?" Mary Lou sounded breathless and angry.
"It's me should I call back later."
"Steph…no hang on," I heard to talking to someone. "Sorry, Steph how are you? Where have you been? Are you really with Ranger? You didn't kill Dickie did you? Forget it sorry don't answer that last one I really don't want to know."
"I'm okay. I guess the 'burg' is going crazy."
We talked for over an hour. I was exhausted by the time we got off the phone. The'burg' not only had me killing Dickie but I had also beat up Morelli and run off with Ranger to have an illicit affair.
My mother was never going to give me cake again.
I looked at the phone I really should call her and get this over with. I looked at the clock it was too early for lunch. I could go upstairs and work on some files Ranger did say that my desk was waiting. But if the guys saw me out of my apartment they would probably want me to do some lessons. I wanted to get better I really did. But it just wasn't my idea of fun to be thrown around a room by a lot of ex-army guys.
Then I grinned the playroom had been fun, it had places to hide. I briefly wondered if they had any place like it here. Knowing the guys they probably did and I could use to work of some excess energy right about now and that would be better then calling my mom and being yelled at for being a bad 'burg' daughter.
I picked up the land phone and pushed the button for the control room.
"Yo!" Did all these guys take the same phone class? I recognized Cal's voice.
"Cal, does this building have a playroom?"
"Steph…" I could hear the smile in his voice."You feel like playing?"
He sounded excited at the prospect. "Yeah I do. Is there a playroom or not?"
"I'll let Ranger know." And the phone went dead. I looked at the phone well shit what was that all about. He never even answered the question.
I was still looking at the phone when it rang. Figured I was staying at Rangeman I would go with what a Rangeman would use. "Yo."
"Heard you wanted to play."
I could do the one word answers to. "Yup."
I could see him shaking his head. "Be down in five Babe." I was about to hang up the phone when I heard him continue. "And Babe be in your play clothes."
Play clothes hum; I looked down at what I was wearing. I was still wearing the clothes I had been wearing when we left the shore this morning. A blur tank and cut off shorts. No shoes, I'd kicked off the sandals as soon as I walked into the apartment. Guess I needed to change. I hurried into the bedroom and opened the closet. I needed to remember to give Ella a big hug next time I saw her. Inside was a selection of clothes but I grabbed a black Rangeman T-shirt and black cargo pants, black socks and some black sneakers. I slipped it all on, I was just returning to the living room when I heard the door opening.
Ranger smiled as he watched me walk into the room.
I walked up to him stopping a foot away from him I tilted my head. "Ready to play, boss."
"Smartass." He put his arm around my neck and messed my hair.
"The guys will be meeting us downstairs."
We took the elevator down to the garage. I looked at Ranger. He took my hand in his and pulled me across the garage toward the gun range. Shit, shooting guns was not my idea of playing. I tried to stop and Ranger just kept pulling me. If Ranger wants you to go someplace you go, sigh.
We entered the Range and Ranger led me to the armory. I had been in here with Tank a couple of times when I needed cuffs. Ranger handed me a vest. I rolled my eyes. I put on the vest while he went to the back of the room. At the shore when we played weapons were not used. The guys had wanted me to learn to use a variety of takedown moves guess the rules were different here.Ranger returned and handed me a belt, then he handed me a paint gun and bean bag gun. I gave Ranger a questioning look.
"The vest is because these may be nonlethal but they still hurt like hell when you get hit. They also have sensors if you get hit in a kill zone you're out of the game. Three hits in a non lethal zone and you're out. Hits in areas not covered by the vest don't count against you as long as you can keep going and evade your attacker."
He closed up the armory and led me to the far side of the gun range. I noticed a door. Ranger opened it and I was surprised to see stairs leading down.
"Babe, the original building was built here in the 1890's. The owner's noticed something different when they sunk the well, did some exploring and found that the building sits over a natural cave and underground spring."
I nodded. Ranger was talking and I was learning I wasn't about to interrupt. "That building burned to the ground in the early 1900's and was being rebuilt in the 20's when prohibition hit. The owner added a way down into the caves and used them to distill liquor the spring connects to the Trenton River and they used it to transport the liquor they made. By using the river and the caves they could go all over Trenton and never be detected."Wow, this building had some history." After prohibition ended the building changed hands several times. The building had been abandoned for a couple years when I found it and bought it. It was while we were doing the original renovation that we happened upon the caves. I did some research and found out the history. I decided to renovate the caves and use that level for training. Most of my guys are ex-army; some still do missions they need to stay sharp. So that's what we use the caves for. "
We reached the bottom of the stairs and Ranger stopped at the door."Are you ready Babe?'
I nodded. "Okay. Keep to the lit streets." He handed me a button that looked a lot like the panic buttons I use on distraction jobs. "If you get lost or feel you can't go on press the button. The guys are already in there waiting for us. Watch for automated people you get points for hitting the bad guys but you lose points for hitting innocents. " He looked into my eyes and brushed a stray curl away from my face. "Ready Babe?"
I nodded and he opened the door. I don't know what I was expecting but it wasn't this. The playroom at the beach had been, well like an empty warehouse with walls and crates here and there. It had lit and dark areas for hiding. But it was mostly about hand to hand combat. This was totally different. If I didn't know different I would have thought I was on a street in Trenton. There were houses, or at least their fronts. Streets, bikes, kids toys. And the lighting made it look like about midday.
I looked at Ranger. And heard a low laugh I turned and glared at Bobby. Tank just smacked the back of his head and smiled at me.
"We heard you wanted to play?" He said.
I couldn't help smiling at him. What was it with these guys that they got such joy out of beating up little ole me.
"Yeah…" I muttered. "I was getting crazy just sitting around."
Ranger put his arms around me and pulled me into his body. His hands settled on my stomach and I felt areas south heating up. I tried to pull away then I felt his desire and stilled. I looked up at him and he kissed my hair.
"Babe, Zachary will be in charge of the control room. Tank's team will include Hal and Lester; we'll have Bobby and Cal."
I looked at Ranger again and his ESP was in good working order.
He whispered in my ear. "We'll whip them easy Babe."
"Okay Steph is new to teams so we'll go in first. Babe, you ready?"
I nodded. We headed down the street. I looked back and Tank's team was headed into the control room. For the next couple hours the guys and I fought it out. They showed me how to hide and how to track. Ranger said that my spidey sense was a gift and I should learn to trust it more and to use it. I was about to turn a corner and my spidey sense said not to I stopped and listened. Nothing, I was about to move when I saw a shadow and realized that Tank was almost in position to take out Ranger who was ahead of me. I ducked and covered then waited for my chance. Tank was five feet pass me when I fired.
He turned and looked at me. "I can't believe you took me out Bomber."
I looked at his vest and my shot had hit in his kill zone. "Sorry Tank…"
He lifted my head and met my eyes. "Proud of you Bomber."
I trembled. I put and arm around his neck and pulled his lips to mine and gave him a gentle kiss. His tongue stroked my lips asking permission to enter and my mouth opened. I moaned as the kiss deepened.
We were both breathing hard when we separated. Wow, what was with me? I was already strangely in love with two guys I didn't need any more complications in my life. I blushed and turned away.
I turned and stopped him. "It's okay. It just can't happen again."
I felt Ranger at my back. "What can't happen again?" He looked from me to Tank. He blank face slide into place.
I walked over to him and leaned into his chest. His arms surrounded me and pulled me in close. I felt safe and warm and protected here. Suddenly I felt very tired.
"Can we quit? I'm suddenly very tired?" I yawned. I wasn't kidding. We'd been up late last night and started early this morning. Then all the emotions it was getting to be too much.
I know that if Ranger hadn't been holding me I would have collapsed into a heap on the floor. Tucking my head in as best as I could I snuggled into Ranger I flinched as he ran his hands down my back they might not have been real bullets but even with the vest they still hurt and I knew I would have bruises and be sore tomorrow.
I was just thinking that I might just stay here awhile when I felt Ranger move. He put me behind him and suddenly I was sandwiched between him and a wall. I looked around him and smiled Hal and Lester were heading toward us. They thought they had the drop on us. I pulled Ranger's back-up gun from his back and carefully sighted around him. I hit Lester.
Faster than I'd ever seen him move Ranger dropped and covered me with his body at the same time pulling a gun front his ankle he got off the shot and Hal was out. Ranger stood and pulled me up.
"Babe, you're a mess."
I looked from him to Tank then to Bobby and Lester. They were all covered with paint, sure I had more than they did but I was just learning. So that was alright right.
"Bombshell, you did well." Ranger crooked his arm around my neck and we all walked to the stairs.
Disclaimer: Not making anything, just borrowing. I am a Babe and this is a babe story. Hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and reviewing.
After returning to my apartment I had showered then slipped into one of Ranger's shirt and crawled into bed. Ella had put some of Ranger's sheets on the bed and it didn't take me long to drift off.
I was pulled from sleep by beep beep beep, ahh I hated alarms and I didn't remember setting it before falling asleep. I reached out and turned the alarm off then pulled the covers back over my head. Seconds later the phone started ringing. Shit, I reached for the phone.
"Ms. Plum?" I sat up and looked at the phone.
"Ranger told me to call and remind you about dinner at your parents tonight." I looked at the clock and before I could reply I realized that the line had gone dead. All the Rangemen had terrible phone manners.
I threw the covers off and stumbled into the bathroom. Twenty minutes later I was out of the shower and shaved, lotioned and I was working on taming my hair. I was still wrapped in a towel. I heard my door open.
I rolled my eyes. I was living in a secure building and still had people just walking into my apartment. I felt a chill run down my back. I knew that meant it was Ranger, for awhile now I had been able to tell when Ranger was nearby.
I heard the bedroom door swing open. "Babe?"
"Almost ready." I answered.
Ranger walked to the door and leaned against the door jam watching me wrestle my hair into a French twist. His eyes darkened. Then I felt his eyes travel from my hair down. I knew when he saw the towel. His eyes continued down.
"Babe, I think I better wait downstairs or we'll be late getting to dinner." And he turned to leave, then he turned back walked to me and traced a finger down my neck. Tracing the top of the towel my nipples pebbled. And my breath caught. He leaned in and gave me a light sensual kiss on the lips.
"Think about it Babe?"
After he left I leaned against the counter. He had a way of turning me into mush and scrambling my thinking. I ran my tongue over my lips they still tingled. I sighed. What was I supposed to be thinking about Ranger had made it clear on more than one occasion that he didn't do relationships and since I didn't do the one night thing? Where did that leave us other than frustrated?
It wasn't like I was looking for the whole white picket fence and 2.5 kids. I sighed and finished getting dressed. Ten minutes later and I was in the elevator and headed down to the garage.
The door opened and I was greeted with the vision of Ranger leaned against the Porsche waiting for me. He was dressed as Real Estate Mogul Ranger. A tan Henley shirt and khaki pants. He looked good enough to eat.
"Babe, you're staring."
"Yup, sure am." Hey, it would be a sin not to look at him. He shook his head and held the door open for me. I poured myself into the car. And moaned as I settled into the butter soft leather seat Ranger leaned across me and fastened my belt. Then he placed a gentle kiss on my lips.
I looked at him what was it with all the kisses and touching and holding. It wasn't like I was complaining but I knew that I already loved him and it was getting harder to resist him and I knew that I couldn't take another morning after with Ranger telling me to go back to Morelli especially given the fact that given recent events I was fairly sure that Joe and I were finished for good. I knew that we needed to talk and clear the air.
Soon after we pulled out of the garage I started fidgeting. I knew my Mom wouldn't be happy about the recent events in my life. Ranger reached over and took my hand in his. He started rubbing circles, it was comforting. I looked at him and smiled, and then a sigh escaped. He was so perfect. Too bad he didn't want a relationship I thought we would be good together. Ranger understood me like no other man I'd ever been with.
Ranger reached over and took my hand in his. "Babe, it's going to be okay." Then he lifted my hand to his lips and kissed it.
I looked at him and he had his almost smile on. I smiled at him. I knew he had my back.
My Mother's burg radar was working as soon as we pulled in front of the house she and Grandma Mazur appeared on the front porch.
I looked at her from the safety of the car. She didn't look happy. Ranger interrupted my thoughts by letting my hand go and opening his door. Before I could react he was opening my door and reaching in for me.
He brushed a kiss on my temple and whispered. "Courage Babe never show fear. It will be fine." Then he said something in Spanish. I looked into his eyes and he winked.
We walked up the sidewalk side by side. Ranger beside me gave me courage when all I felt like doing was turning and running. I felt Ranger's hand at the small of my back. I looked at him sure that he had picked up on my feelings. He was looking at Mom and Grandma Mazur.
"Well it's about time you show up here. I have to hear…"
Ranger interrupted her. "Good evening Mrs. Plum it's nice to see you again."
I noticed Mom blush. It was bad manners to scold your child in public. Even if said child was an adult.
"I'm glad you could both make it tonight." Mom glared at me. I knew she would corner me in the kitchen later if she got the chance. "I was just about to put dinner on the table."
We walked into the house. Dad was in front of the Television watching the news. He looked up as we entered and smiled at me.
"Pumpkin," He walked to me and kissed my forehead. Then he gave Ranger the once over before extending his hand. "Stephanie's brought you to dinner before hasn't she?"
"Yes, over a year ago."
"Dad, you remember Ranger. I work for him sometimes."
Dad led Ranger into the living room and they sat down and started talking. Mom saw her chance and pulled me into the kitchen.
"Stephanie Michelle Plum, you tell me right now what is all this talk about you and Dickie Orr? And what is going on with you and Joe Morelli? I heard he carried you into TPD unconscious then you left with that Ranger fellow out there. Why are you with Ranger and not Joe? How are you and Joe going to get married if you're running around with Ranger?"
"MOM," I yelled. "Stop!"
I took a deep breath. "I didn't do anything to Dickie. I don't know why Joe though he had to take me to the station that way. I would have gone if he had asked me, but he didn't. I'm not marrying Joe or anyone else anytime soon. And I'm with Ranger because I was released into his custody until the investigation is over with." I sighed and collapsed into a chair.
Here it came. I knew now I would never get dessert again.
But she just said."Okay, that's all I needed to know." Then she started handing me dishes to carry to the table.
She noticed my surprise. "Stephanie I worry about you. I just needed to know that you're okay. Now let's get dinner on the table."
We finished getting everything on the table and right on cue Dad and Ranger came from the living room to sit down. Ranger sat next to me took my hand in his and gave me a reassuring squeeze.
Dinner passed with small talk and good food. Dad and Ranger went into the backyard to talk while Mom, Grandma and I cleared the table and did the dinner dishes.
Ranger came in as we were finishing up and reminded me that we had an early morning tomorrow. Mom packaged leftover and dessert to go.
"Ranger it was nice to see you again. Will you and Stephanie be able to come to dinner Sunday?"
Ranger looked at me. I could see the amusement in his eyes. "I'll have Stephanie call you. It depends on the case were currently working on."
We walked out to the car Ranger doing the bodyguard thing and checking all around. I would have to find out later what was up with that last I heard I didn't have any psycho's or crazies after me.
The ride back to Rangeman was quiet. Ranger once again opened my door and we walked hands together to the elevator. When it stopped at four Ranger pulled me in and gave me a kiss.
"Babe, I'm on seven if you need me. You're welcome anytime."
The door closed and I was left alone. My hormones were screaming. I walked to my door and was half way to my bedroom before I realized I wasn't alone. I stopped and starred at my couch. It was filled with Merrymen. Tank, Bobby, and Lester were all watching me.
Tank shook his head. I glared at him and spoke as he opened his mouth. "If you even dare to say something about being aware of your surrounding I'm getting my gun and shooting you." I put my hands on my hips for emphases. Then I muttered. "I live in a damn secure building and I still get uninvited guess."
Lester must have heard me because next thing I knew he was on the floor rolling around laughing. I stalked over to him and glared. "What's so funny laughing boy?"
I heard Bobby trying to hide a laugh and turned and glared at him. "Something funny Brown?" And I tapped my toe on the floor.
Tank stood and next thing I knew I was being crushed in a hug and twirled around. "Uh, Tank if you don't stop I'm going to be sick."
Suddenly Tank let me go and I fell onto the couch landing next to Bobby. He pulled me to him and was kissing me when Ranger walked in.
I looked up and saw him. For that brief second I saw emotion wash across his face then it was quickly replaced by his blank face. He looked from one man to the next.
"Explain?" He growled. Oh, he was mad. I was glad at that moment that I wasn't one of his men. Then I noticed that he didn't seem to be too pleased with me at this second. And I hoped that I wouldn't be off to a third world country in the morning.
Bobby let me go, Lester stopped laughing. Tank answered. "We came to talk to Bomber…I mean Stephanie."
Lester continued. "She walked in…"
"Man she walked right by us…" Bobby added.
Ranger still hadn't unclenched his fist. "You were kissing her?" He was giving Bobby a look that would have made most men wet their pants.
Bobby reached over and hooked an arm around my neck and mussed my hair. "Proud of the way she stood up to us. She threatened to shoot us."
Men they were all crazy. I rolled my eyes. They were proud of me because I threatened to shoot them. What would they do if I walked into the kitchen got my gun and actually shot them?
Ranger turned his look to me. "You were going to shoot my men?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "They were going to lecture me after breaking into my apartment."
That reminded me. What were they doing in my apartment? I glanced at the clock. Hum, nice clock. It was after nine.
"What are you guys doing in my apartment after nine at night? Don't tell me you were missing me already."
Tank looked at Ranger. Then he answered. "There was a call while you were out."
I waited for him to continue. Finally I looked at Ranger. Ranger nodded and he continued.
"What did he want?"I tried to hold the anger and surprise in. Why hadn't he simple called my cell?
"Bomber, he wanted to talk to Ranger." Tank said.
I'm sure my mouth fell open. Why would Joe want to talk to Ranger? Why hadn't he called me either to explain or apologize?
Ranger walked over to the overstuffed chair and sat but not before grabbing my wrist and pulling me from my spot on the couch ended up sitting on Ranger's lap his arm across my stomach. Once we were settled Ranger motioned for Tank to continue.
"He wants' to meet you at a secure location to discuss the Dickie Orr case hinted that he might have some useful Intel."
"Set up the meet." Tank nodded and left. But not before stopping and giving me a kiss on the head.
Ranger looked from Bobby to Lester. He raised an eyebrow. Shit, one of these days I was going to have to learn how to do that.
Bobby took the hint. "We thought we would ask Bombshell if she would like to watch a movie with us."
"Yeah, we liked how we all sat around at the beach."
Ranger did not look totally pleased with how comfortable his men wee with me. "We're home now get used to it." He said in a low voice. I had seen skips pale when he used that voice.
Bobby nudged Lester. "Steph we'll see you later."
Lester leaned in and kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear. "My number is in your new cell if you want to watch a movie call." Then he ruffled my hair. Both he and Bobby left leaving me alone with Ranger. I was still sitting in his lap and I started to get up.
"Babe." Ranger spoke his head resting on mine. His breath tickled my neck. His finger came up and an unruly curl wrapped around it.
What was it with the men in my life and my hair?
My head was resting on Ranger's chest and I could hear his heart. I felt some warm and safe. Part of me wanted to stay here forever. The logical part was screaming that being here this close was a bad idea and that I was going to get hurt. I knew that Ranger would never physically hurt me but I wasn't so sure about emotionally.
I took a deep breath and inhaled his scent, yum Ranger and bvlgari. Finally my curiosity won out and I spoke.
"Was there a reason you came back down?"
Ranger didn't answer right away and started rubbing my back. I felt myself relax. I was just about to drift off when Ranger started talking.
"Babe, your Dad and I talked tonight."
I looked up at him. Ranger and my Dad were two of the quietist people I knew. And they both usual knew what I needed without my telling them. I wondered what my Dad had talked to Ranger about. In all the time I had been going with Joe I don't think he and my Dad had said more than a dozen words to each other.
Ranger nuzzled my ears nipped at the lobe before placing a kiss behind it in my sensitive zone. "He wanted to know my intention toward you. Then he warned me about hurting you. Babe, you never told me your Dad was a Ranger."
My Dad a ranger I never knew that I knew that he had been in the service. He had got out just before I was born. Mom and Dad never talked much about that time. Wait a minute did Ranger say. I looked at him and could see his amusement.
"Babe, I told him my intentions were honorable. And I promised not to hurt you."
I sighed. I was pretty sure that unless he changes his policy on relationships that in the end I would indeed end up hurt. Even if it was unintentional.
"Babe, tell me what you're thinking."
I answered without looking at him. "Are you sure you really want to know?"
"Babe." I took that as a yes.
I knew I had to tell him sometime as much as I liked living in denial land. I'd told Joe and Ranger didn't deserve less.
I ran my hands over his firm abs tracing the contours. "Babe, stop stalling talk."
Easy for him to talk. "I think that you won't be able to not hurt me."
I could hear the hurt in his voice. "Babe, I would never…"
I laid a finger on his lips. "Let me finish. This isn't easy for me."
I felt more than saw him nod. His hands never stopped their massage of my back. Wrapped in his arms on his lap I felt safe and secure.
"You know that on the way to the hospital after you were shot I told Joe I loved him." He shifted slightly and his hands stilled. "What I didn't tell him is that I also love you."
There it was out. No more big secret for Stephanie Plum. He started again with the massage but he wasn't talking. I started to relax.
And just before I fell asleep I heard him answer. "Babe, you know I love you too." I waited to hear the qualifier and fell asleep never hearing it.
I dreamed of naked Ranger sharing my bed and warm beaches.
Disclaimer: Wish it was mine but I'm just borrowing JE's great characters to play and will return them unharmed, promise. I'm a babe and this is a babe story. I like HEA so, well, in the end that's probably what you'll get. Hope you enjoy and please if you like it let me know with reviews, if not let me know that also. Seven should be up soon but I'm working six days a week and having trouble making eight work so reviews and suggestions are welcome. Sigh, and its fair to warn you I've already started the sequel, but only if you like it. Thanks.
I rolled over and hit a hard body. Suddenly I tensed and woke up. I turned to look at the body and let out a sigh of relief. It was Lester, he was laying on my bed watching me. I poked him hard in the shoulder.
"What are you doing?" I tried to sound angry but I don't think it worked because he broke out in a big cheesy grin.
"Ranger sent me to get you for a meeting. Fifth floor nine am."
I turned and looked at the clock I groaned it was just before eight. I could feel Lester staring at me. I turned back toward him and attempted to pull the covers up to cover my breast. I noticed that my nipples were being good soldiers and standing at attention. I also noticed that Ranger must have changed me for bed last night because I now had one of his shirts on.
I tilted my head and gave Lester a look. "Like what you see?"
I decided to go for pissy. "Good now get out so I can get ready."
Lester walked to the door and turned as I stood to go into the bathroom. "Ella will be down with your breakfast," He looked at his watch. "In five." He winked and left.
Instead of heading right for the bathroom I detoured and went to the closet. Pulled out a black Rangeman Shirt and a pair of Black low cut jeans, then I went to the dresser and pulled out the black demi- bra and matching panty I had got on sale at Victoria's Secret.
I went into the bathroom now that I had all of my clothes and jumped into the shower. Ten minutes later I was showered, shaved and moisturized. I could smell breakfast as I was dressing so I knew that Ella had come while I was in the shower.
I was about to leave the bedroom when I took one last look in the mirror and sighed. I walked back into the closet and came out with my utility belt. It held my stun gun, glock, mace and cuffs. I knew Ranger wouldn't think I was dressed without it.
Breakfast smelled divine and tasted even better. Ella had prepared me an omelet and blueberry pancakes. There was bacon and sausage and hash browns. I finished and looked at the clock. Time to get upstairs for the meeting.
I took the stairs up to five and said hi to Hal and Cal who were monitoring the comm. station. I walked into the conference room and stopped. Ranger was at the head of the table. Lester, Bobby and Tank were on one side and Joe Morelli and a couple men I didn't know were on the other side. Ranger indicated that I should sit in a chair next to him.
Ranger held the chair. "Morning Babe." Then he kissed my cheek before pushing in the chair.
"Cupcake, you doing okay here?"
I couldn't believe he was here. I glared at him. We would need to talk later. "I'm fine Joe. Ranger's taking good care of me."
The guys made some noises and I glared at them. Ranger cleared his throat and they all quieted.
"Babe, this meeting is to go over information that we have found concerning Richard Orr's disappearance." I nodded.
"Cupcake…ah Stephanie Trenton PD received several calls the night Dickie disappeared. The first two for disturbing the peace the last one was shots fired. The officers who responded to the first two calls describe a female present with Dickie. They were both rookies Steph. The female they saw was brunette, one thirty, blue eyes, brown hair, five six. You match the description plus your prints were found in the house. And you had an altercation with Dickie the day before."
"Joe, do you really think that I would kill Dickie and get rid of the body. After spending the night in your bed?"
"I was called away."
"So, let me get this right. You think I arranged for you to be called away after I lured you into bed. Left, killed Dickie, got rid of the body. Then, returned to your bed so you would find me sleeping there when you got back." I crossed my arms in front of my chest and glared at him, men.
Joe ran his hand through his hair reached into his pocket pulled out a roll of Rolaids and popped a couple into his mouth.
"Steph, for what it's worth I don't think you did it. But the evidence is pretty damning."
"Steph this is Tony Capo he works with the Rangeman Miami office sometimes he's with the FBI in Miami."
"Ma'am." He gave a slight nod of the head.
"Hi." And I gave a finger wave. He was blond with brown eyes just under six foot very good looking he fit right in with the Rangeman guys.
"And this is Benjamin Pacetti."
I gave another finger wave. Benjamin was nothing like the Rangemen guys. I doubted he was five foot, he wore over sized glasses and had mousy brown hair that was thinning and he had pale blue eyes. He looked like he didn't get out in the sun enough he was so pale. I noticed that Ranger hadn't told me anything about him and that piqued my curiosity.
I zoned out studying the guys and missed most of what Ranger and the guys had said. When Tank tapped my side and indicated that I should pay attention.
"We have Intel to indicate that Dickie was sighted in the Caymans yesterday."
"Babe it's not confirmed. It might not have been him."
Lester handed me a photo. It had been taken from a distance. It showed a man, it could have been Dickie, with a woman, the photo was grainy and poor quality. I had to admit that I wasn't even sure if it was him.
"Babe, I want the guys to keep investigating here while you and I go to the Caymans and check out this lead."
I looked at Ranger I was speechless. I couldn't go with him could I? Weren't you supposed to not leave the state or something? His ESP was working.
"Babe, you can go anywhere I go. The court released you in my custody. "
What was I going to do? No way would I be able to control my hormones alone with Ranger in the Caymans. I nodded. Guess we were going to the Caymans.
Ranger finished giving the guys their assignments.
"Steph, could I talk to you for a minute?" Joe asked.
I nodded. I still wasn't sure why he was here I mean wasn't he trying to get the evidence to convict me wouldn't that put him on the other team.
Ranger gave me a kiss on the cheek let me know that if I needed anything he would be in his office and the conference room was cleared. I looked at Joe. He looked tired, he was hours past a five o'clock shadow and there were tell tale shadows under his eyes.
My hand automatically went up to touch his face. When I realized what I was doing I pulled my hand back.
"Cupcake, I don't like any of this. I don't believe for a second that you killed Dickie but someone is doing a good job of framing you and I know your safe with Manoso. "
I could feel my anger with him lessoning. But I didn't think I would ever be able to go back to what we were.
"Just hear me out please."
Shit I was beginning to hate that word. It always made me stop and think.
"Okay Joe. Talk but it better be good. You could have just asked me to go to the station you didn't need to stun me to get me there."
"Don't call me that anymore. I think you lost that right. Don't you?" I had my hands on my hips.
"Fine, Stephanie. Understand that I can't tell you everything. You know that I've been doing a lot of undercover work lately." I nodded.
"I was assigned Kevin O'Malley as my new partner on this last case. I can't tell you what we are investigating. But he gets proof that you will be in a situation to get information against our perp. He got the warrant to bug you. I knew you would have a fit but I agreed when I saw all the Intel. At that point I didn't have any choice."
"But you never work with a partner."
"O'Malley had already been working on this case. When he followed a lead to Trenton he transferred here and I was assigned the case, so now I have a partner."
I was getting a headache I was thinking so hard. Who would I come in contact with that could be under investigation? My parents, not likely. Mom was going to school now but I doubt she would do anything to warrant an investigation and my Dad drove the Cab and watched T.V.
My sister Val and Albert, I laughed just thinking of them, no.
Connie and Lula, hum… Connie did have mob family. But I doubted I would have been the source of much information. Lula was an ex hooker. I mean, I've worked at Vinnie's for over three years. So they were out.
Mary Lou, that was just as funny as Val. She was too busy with her family to be mixed up in anything.
That left, I looked at Joe he had to be kidding, no way. Ranger, he was investigating Ranger. But how did that jell with him being here now. "You're investigating Ranger?" I couldn't believe it. He was always telling me Ranger was dangerous, and he was going to get me killed. I didn't believe him I trusted Ranger with my life if not my heart.
"Just listen to me Steph before you go getting all upset."
"The Intel Kevin showed me was good, good enough to get the warrant to bug you." Joe ran a hand through his hair. "Then you assaulted Dickie…"
"I did not assault Dickie, besides he had it coming."
"Steph, what were you really doing in Dickie office?"
I looked at the ceiling interesting pattern the tiles made. No way was I letting Ranger down.
"We have the recording from the bug… Steph we know you were there helping Ranger. We know that Dickie was under investigation. If you hadn't been there…then there were the sightings at Dickie's house…"
"Joe I don't think we have anything else to talk about…"
"Steph, I love you…"
I turned and looked him in the eye. "You may love me but you don't trust me or I wouldn't be here. I would be at your place." I could feel the tears starting and I turned and walked toward the door.
"Don't do this Stephanie. Don't walk away from us." I turned tears coming down my face and looked at Joe. I smiled a little.
"Joe, I love you, probably always will, but it's not a love I can live with. And I'm not so sure there ever was an 'us'. You once told me there was ayou and a me, but no us. I believe you now."
I walked out the door without looking back. Tears running down my face we were over. It was final and it was forever. I walked straight to the elevator and collapsed on the floor in front of it. I felt but didn't really register the strong arms that picked me up.
"Babe, drink the tea it will help."
I blinked and looked around I was on Ranger's couch wrapped in a comforter. He was in front of me with a cup of what I guess was tea. His brown eyes soft and full of concern.
"Babe, drink the tea. Then we'll talk if you feel like it."
I looked at him and tried to smile. I felt so lost I had loved Joe since I was six. I must have started to drift because suddenly I jumped as Ranger called my name again.
"Stephanie, please." I looked at him, what did he want? Why, please? Then I noticed the cup in his hand. I reached for it and he brought it to my lips helping me to drink it. It was bitter. I tried to push it away.
"Finish it Steph you'll feel better."
I looked into Rangers eyes as I finished the tea they were warm and chocolate brown and so 'open' I saw so many emotions that it hurt for a minute and I closed my eyes to regain my balance. I opened them and looked into his again. I slowly saw the blank look return as he spoke. So I looked from his eyes to his lips.
"… sure he'll take you back…just doing his job…love's you…"
He thought I was upset about breaking up with Joe. I'm sure I had a confused look on my face.
He stopped talking and looked at me. I recognized the look it was the one Val used with Lisa and Mary Lou used with her boys.
Hah, I'd confused batman. "I…" Before I could get more out I felt very tired. I felt my tense muscles relaxing. Just before darkness claimed me it registered. The bitterness, Ranger had drugged me. Ahh.
Disclaimer: Not making anything, just borrowing. I am a Babe and this is a babe story. Hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and reviewing.
I rolled over and groaned. My mouth felt like it had cotton in it and my mind was filled with cobwebs. I felt gentle hands rubbing circles on my back. My stomach rolled and I knew I was going to be sick. I groaned again just before I heaved.
The bed moved and I heaved again. Then I was gently lifted, I heard the shower come on and my clothes were removed. I was lifted into the shower and washed. I tried to help and cried when I didn't have the strength.
I felt one of Ranger's soft towels wrap me and I was carried and laid on the bed. I sighed at the feel of the soft sheets. I closed my eyes and drifted off again.
I woke again to angry voices.
"You didn't tell me she would be this out of it or that she would get sick." Ranger's voice was loud and angry.
"Carlos, I didn't know she would react this way she must be extra sensitive to the drug. I'm sorry you know I would never hurt Bomber. I feel terrible." The voice was calm. I recognized it as Bobby's.
"She could have died…"
"But she didn't …"
"Damn right, no more drugs. I hate the damn thing anyway."
"Ranger, she was in shock. We did what we thought would help." Bobby's voice was low and soothing. I knew he was working to calm down Ranger.
"Raa..gerr…" My voice came out so soft and low I wasn't sure he would hear me. He and Bobby were so loud.
Immediately I felt the bed move as Ranger sat next to me. "Babe." He brushed the hair from my face and ran a finger down my face.
I opened my eyes. They felt like they were weighted with rocks then waited for my vision to clear. Ranger lifted a straw to my mouth. "Drink Babe."
I turned my head away. And mouthed 'no' I wasn't about to be drugged again.
I could see the hurt in Ranger's eyes from my lack of trust. "Just water Babe it will make you feel better, promise." He once again placed the straw to my lips. I looked him straight in the eye. I saw there what I needed and took the straw into my mouth and drank. Who knew that plain cold water could taste so good?
I blinked a few time and tried talking again. I don't remember ever feeling this weak before. I really wanted to tell him how mad I was at him but right now I was just too tired but later he would pay. "You drugged me?"
Ranger pulled me to him so that I was reclined against him, his arms around my waist his head resting on mine. "I'm sorry Babe, forgive me Babe? Please." He sounded desperate.
I felt warm and safe, protected in his embrace. But I needed to know. "Why?"
"You were so upset. I tried talking to you but nothing worked. Bobby suggested the sedative. We didn't know it would make you so sick."
I felt a hand settle on my leg and looked up to see Bobby's concerned eyes. "You were in shock Steph. I thought it would help. I'm sorry."
"It's okay." It came out low and slurred. I looked at Bobby. What was wrong with me?
"It's the drug Steph it's still not out of your system yet. By tomorrow you should be one hundred percent."
"Then I'm kicking your ass." I heard a snicker from Ranger. I turned enough to see him. "Watch it or I'll kick you too."
I got the Ranger grin, the wolf was out. "Looking forward to it Babe."
Ranger looked at Bobby. "I'll see you in the gym at 1800."
Both men looked at me. "My fight. "
I glared at Ranger. I yawned; I noticed both men looked uncomfortable.
"Steph you need to rest." I knew it was Bobby the medic talking.
I didn't feel up to arguing. "Okay but no fighting, kay."
Then I turned and buried my head into Ranger's chest. I drifted off smelling Ranger mixed with bvlgari.
The next time I woke the sun was out and I could smell coffee. I noticed that I was alone in the room. I brushed the unruly curls from my eyes and looked at the clock. Eight a.m., I sat up and made my way to the bathroom. Morning business taken care of, I followed the aroma of coffee into the dining room.
On the table was breakfast. I loved Ella and once again wished that she would adopt me. I was on my second donut when I heard my phone ring. It took me a minute to find it and it had already gone to voice message. I listened as Lula left a message.
"Girl, that skip you have you know John Manucy. Well he was just spotted over by that new Cluck-in-a-Bucket over on Washington by the freeway if you hurry you should be able to catch him."
Shit with everything that was going on I'd forgotten all about my skips. Vinnie must be having a cow by now. I stood to go get my bag from the bedroom and noticed the note on the table.
Babe, had to fly to Boston for the day. Business. See you at dinner. If you need anything ask Tank. He's in charge until I get back.
I walked into the bedroom and retrieved my bag I checked that my gun was loaded. Then I called down to the control room. I knew that one of the guys would have to go with me and I really didn't mind. John seemed a little crazy to me. I would welcome the back-up.
A voice answered that I didn't recognize. I asked for Tank.
"Uh, how about Bobby or Lester?"
"Out, a private account had a problem."
I hung up. Well shit if I didn't go now I might lose my chance. On the other hand I really shouldn't do this alone. It only took me a minute to decide. I walked to the door grabbing a set of keys from the bowl. Then I was in the elevator going to the garage.
I was really surprised when I stepped out that there wasn't a Rangeman waiting to either stop me or accompany me. Hum, strange.
I drove to Cluck in the Bucket and sure enough John was there. Of course my luck was still with me so as soon as I stepped from the truck he started running. And I chased him.
Joe sat in the chair staring at Stephanie. He was deep in thought. How the hell had they gotten here? He knew she would never kill anyone, she was a saver a protector. Hell a light almost shined from her, she was so good. It was what drew people to her the good, the bad, and the crazy. He knew it was what drew himself and Ranger to her. She was a light in what was normally a dark world for them.
He should have seen her attraction to him sooner and did something to stop it, instead of always keeping her at arm's length. He had always figured that when he felt ready to settle down, Steph would be there waiting. Now he knew that he had been wrong.
Shit, who knew that a mercenary would offer her more than he could.
Stephanie lay in a hospital bed with wires and tubes connected to various parts of her body. He could hear the beep of her heart and the swish as air was pumped into her lungs. There were other noises, hell there were a lot of machines, most he had no idea what they did. All he knew was the right now this minute they were keeping her alive.
The Doctor walked in and interrupted his thoughts.
"How is she doing Doctor?" The Doctor slightly bowed his head. He hated giving bad news and at this time that was all he had.
He opened the chart and studied it. Then he looked at Joe. "You're not her next of kin?"
"No, I guess her parents would be…"
"Her chart lists a Carlos Manoso as next of kin. I can't release medical information to just anyone."
"Doctor, she's a bounty hunter. One of her skips did this, I'm the officer in charge of her case." Joe didn't care if it was a lie he needed to know what was going on.
"She's holding her own. We'll know more in the next twenty four hours. She had surgery to remove her spleen. She has a bad concussion which is why she's unconscious. She'll need more surgery to set the arm and leg. The exploratory showed not as much internal damage as we had been expecting. She was lucky. If she makes it the next twenty four hours…" He sighed. "She'll live."
Joe ran his hand through his hair, seems he was doing that a lot lately. He looked at the Doctor. He didn't like what he was seeing with his eyes. The Doctor wasn't telling him something.
The Doctor looked at the floor before meeting Joe's eyes. "Detective we won't know until she wakes up, if she will wake up or the amount of brain damage she might have suffered. I won't lie to you, most people wouldn't have survived this long. She's fighting to come back."
Joe growled. "She has to be all right."
The Doctor finished checking on Stephanie and left the room.
Stephanie had been chasing a F.T.A who decided to turn and ended up throwing her over the overpass. She had landed on a moving car on the highway below. When he had arrived on the scene, EMS was already there working on her. He had looked around and been surprised to find that there were no Rangemen present.
Joe looked at Stephanie and opened his phone to call Ranger then he shut it. Maybe he should wait until he had news to share.
He looked back at the phone and his conscience stirred. He knew that if the situation was different Ranger would call him.
He placed the call and waited for Ranger to answer.
Ranger looked at his cell. The cop. Why would he be calling unless he had news of Dickie? He almost let it go to message. He was just wrapping up the meeting and in five minutes would be heading for the airport.
He answered the phone with his customary greeting. "Yo."
There was something in his voice. Ranger motioned that he would be back in a minute and walked into his private office and shut the door.
Morelli cleared his throat. Hell, this was hard and he still had to call her parents. "Stephanie's in the hospital…"
Ranger was stunned for a minute. Steph was supposed to be in the building today.
"She was out chasing a skip…"
Morelli heard the line go dead.
Ranger dialed the Rangeman comm. room. "Yo!" Ranger recognized Ernest Olivero, he was a new transfer to Trenton from the Miami office.
"Current location of Ms. Plum?" All the guys knew to keep track of Steph's whereabouts, especially when he was out of town.
"Uh, I think she's in the seventh floor apartment."
Ranger felt his anger rising. "You think? Has she left the building?"
"I don't think so, sir. I haven't seen her but we had a situation with an account this morning…"
"Listen carefully. Go check the apartment. If she's not there watch the tapes. I want to know when she left. Then call Trenton General and see if she's listed as a patient and if she is I wouldn't be there when I get back in town." Ranger knew his voice was low and menacing but he didn't care. If Steph was hurt Ernest had better be well out of his reach before he reached Trenton.
Then he called Tank. "Yo." Tank answered.
"Do you know where Steph is?" He heard silence on the other end. He heard some typing; Tank must be at his desk. "Shit, sorry man. I didn't…"
"Just get to the hospital, then call me. I'm heading for the airport now."
He walked back into the conference room. "Gentlemen, I've had an emergency come up in Trenton. We're done here except for the signatures." He signed the papers. "I'll have the copies couriered to you."
On the way to the airport Stephanie was all he could think about. Tank had not called back yet and that fact in itself worried him. If it was minor, Tank should have already called.
At the airport he checked his phone even though he knew it hadn't rang. He decided to call Tank before getting on the plane it went to voice mail. He swore, and then he called Rangeman.
"Rangeman Trenton how may I direct your call?" He punched in a code that would connect him directly to the comm. room.
He didn't wait for a greeting. The screen would identify the caller.
"Any word on Steph?"
"Sorry, man. Tank hasn't called yet and the hospital refused to give me anything over the phone." He recognized Lester's voice.
"Okay, I'm getting on the plane now have a vehicle waiting for me when I land."
He closed and shut down his phone for the flight. He hadn't prayed in years. Now he found himself praying if Steph was okay he would finally take that final step and ask her to have a real relationship with him, shit if she would say yes he'd give her the ring and 2.5 kids. He smiled thinking about their kids. Her spunk and blue eyes, his good looks. They would be beautiful, and full of curiosity and daring. Then his eyes crinkled, their daughters wouldn't be allowed to date until they finished school, make that college. And his boys, they would be Rangers like their dad and uncles.
The pilot came on the intercom to let him know they would be landing in five minutes.
He walked off the plane and saw Tank his head bowed. If body language said anything the man was not happy. Steph must be hurt badly.
He walked up to him. "Tell me."
Tank turned and started walking to where the truck was parked. It was Tank's new Expedition. The thing was a monster and he knew that Tank loved it.
"She's bad man. Her skip threw her off and overpass she landed on a car underneath. "
They both climbed into the truck and raced off to the hospital. Tank finished filling him in on her condition. Which at this point was waiting. Ranger could feel that his well known patience was going to be tested this time.
On the way Tank filled him in on everything. Steph was still listed in critical condition until she regained consciousness. Then he filled him in on the problem at the account that morning and how he figured Steph had left the building without anyone noticing. Tank told him how Lula was blaming herself because she had given Steph the tip on where to find the guy.
Disclaimer: Not making anything, just borrowing. I am a Babe and this is a babe story. Hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and reviewing.
Joe was sitting in Steph's room holding her hand and talking to her when the door opened and her parents walked in. Joe looked up. If body language said anything, Frank Plum was not happy to see him here.
"Mr. Plum, the doctor…"
"What are you doing here Morelli?"
"Don't you think you hurt my daughter and my family enough already?"
Joe was in shock. Frank Plum had hardly ever said a word to him. "I was…"
Frank Plum raised his voice something he hadn't felt the need to do in years. Mostly he was happy to sit back and let his wife manage the family. "GET OUT OF THIS ROOM NOW!"
Once Joe was out of the room his shoulders sagged. Could this day get any worse?
Tank pulled up to the entrance of the hospital, I jumped out and hurried into the building. I hated hospitals and knew that Steph did too. I was heading for the stairs when the elevator doors opened and Joe walked out.
Joe looked at me and frowned. "You were supposed to keep her safe."
I knew I had my blank face in place and now was not a time to show weakness so I remained silent. Figuring if I did, maybe I would learn why he was here and not in Steph's room.
"You know, it's all your fault she's up there. You and your 'oh you can do it Babe' and your 'proud of you Babe'. You couldn't just leave her alone; if you had she'd be my wife now at home having my babies instead of laying in some hospital bed."
I'd heard enough. It was all the same bullshit he'd been feeding Steph. I turned to leave and he grabbed my arm.
"I'm not done…"
I peeled his arm off mine. "Morelli, why are you down here?"
He paled. "Her father kicked me out."
I grinned. Then I turned and went up the stairs.
After Ranger disappeared up the stairs, Joe sighed. Guess this day could get worse. Then, he smiled maybe Frank Plum would kick out Ranger as well. Now that would make his day better. Joe decided to wait in the lobby coffee shop to see if Ranger came back down stairs. An hour later he gave up and walked to his car.
He looked at his car and frowned. Someone had slashed all four tires. This day was just getting worse and worse. He decided maybe the best thing would be to go home before he decided to eat his gun.
The hall seemed long as I looked down it to the intensive care unit. I walked into the unit and suddenly all eyes were on me. I walked to the desk and the young nurse sitting there spilled her coffee.
I noticed that Stephanie was in the private room off to the right of the open unit and I smiled I had made arrangements long ago that if Steph was ever a patient that she was to get the best.
"How is Ms. Plum doing?"
A doctor in a white coat walked up and looked me up and down. Then he frowned. "And you are?"
"Carlos Manoso, I have Ms. Plum's Medical Power of Attorney." It was one of the papers all my employees signed, it made things easier if they got hurt on the job.
He opened a chart and looked it over. "She's currently listed as stable. She has two visitors but I can make an exception if you would like to see her."
I looked through the glass window and saw Steph's parents in the room. Frank was holding her hand while splitting his attention between the TV and the machines Steph was hooked to. Ellen was leaning over Steph talking to her; occasionally she would look to her husband.
They both looked to the door when I walked in. I wasn't sure what my reception would be like, since I knew that Frank had kicked Joe out, but nothing was going to stop me from seeing my Babe. I had to touch her and reassure myself that she would be okay.
Frank Plum extended his hand. "It's Ranger, right?"
"I've heard good things about you." I looked at Steph had she talked to her dad about me, us?
"Oh, not from my Angel I have other sources." I raised an eyebrow.
Frank just looked at me, and then turned to Ellen. "It's getting late, we need to head home." He turned back to me. "You'll watch over our girl."
They both walked out leaving me alone with my Babe.
I looked at the machines, then walked over and took Steph's hand in mine.
"Babe, I know how much you hate hospitals, wake up and I'll get you out of here."
I leaned down and my lips met hers. I heard the beeps get faster, so I stopped. The beeping slowed down.
"Babe, you like my kisses?" I brushed my lips across hers again and again the beeps increased.
I looked to the door and the doctor walked in. He walked to the machines after studying them he turned to me. "Looks like she's starting to wake up." He then explained that after she woke up they would do surgery to set her arm and leg. They would want to keep her for observation for about a week then she could go home.
"Babe, I love you…"
I turned as the door opened again and Tank, Bobby, and Lester walked in.
"Ranger, we had to see that Bombshell was alright." Tank said.
"Here's the new info. You need to call Emilio in Miami." Lester said.
Bobby studied the monitors. "She should be awake soon. Why don't you call Emilio and we'll keep her company til you get back."
I knew I needed to make the call and I couldn't do it here. I also knew my men would keep my Babe safe until I got back. This was why I knew that a relationship would never work, business would always come first. I looked at Stephanie lying in the bed, wild curls framing her face. Who was I kidding? I loved this woman and was so emotionally attached that I was sure I'd never be able to let her go.
"I'll be right back."
Soon as Ranger was out the door in heading down the stairs, Tank sat on the bed and leaned down to talk to Steph.
"Bombshell, how would you like to hear some stories about Ranger?" When there was no response, Tank just started talking. "Ranger wasn't always so in control…"
"Tank, he's going to kill you when he finds out you told her stories."
"Shush, Lester you can tell her a story next."
"Okay where was I? Yeah Ranger, not in control. This takes place just before Ranger joined the army. We were out it was a Friday night and well in those days we were into everything…"
"Uh, Tank you sure you want to tell her that story it might get you killed?" Lester laughed.
Tank looked at Stephanie and the machines then he looked back at Lester. "Think I'm safe here laughing boy unless you of Bobby squeal."
"I don't hear a thing. What are you talking about Lester?"
"Okay where did I leave off? Yeah, okay. Ricardo he wasn't Ranger yet was into everything drugs, women…"
"Shit, you have to tell her about the drugs and women. She's going to hate him though we wanted to get them together…"
"Lester if you keep interrupting…"
"Fine, but shit okay I'll keep quiet."
"Okay Ricardo was into everything we were at this club the music was loud women were all over Ranger except he was Ricardo then. He was practically screwing this girl on the dance floor when this big guy comes up and punches him 'what do you think you're doing with my girl'…"
"I can't believe you man. You're not going to tell her that story. If Ranger doesn't kill you Rachel will."
"Bobby be quiet." hissed Tank. "Okay, let's start again. Now this girl had been more than willing of course we were all wasted. Ricardo lost it and hauled into the guy almost killed him. Well we pulled him off the guy and the girl went with us. She was in Ricardo's bed when the police came and hauled us down to the station…"
"Shit, I remember how pissed your Mama was when we called her…"
"Lester." Both Tank and Bobby yelled.
"We thought for sure she was going to tar and feather us but no she just took our sorry asses down to the recruiting station the next day and said we was going to make something of ourselves. We knew better then to argue with her and damn if she wasn't right. That was the start of Ranger and the end of Ricardo."
I walked out of the stairwell and stopped. All of the nurses were looking through the glass into Steph's room. At first I thought something was wrong, then it dawned on me that if something was wrong they would be in there with Steph not out here looking in.
I walked closer and looked in, Tank, Bobby and Lester were all sitting on Steph's bed and it looked like they were talking to her.
I wondered for just a moment what they were telling her then decided that maybe it would be a good idea to catch them unaware, something that didn't happen often, but they did seem all preoccupied. So I walked in just as Lester was about to start talking.
"Lester" I growled. "What are you doing?" All the men jumped off the bed and looked at the floor. Each and every one had guilt written all over them. I would get to the bottom of this later, right now I needed to get them out of here and be with my Babe.
"I was just about to tell Steph a story."
I looked from one man to the next, each had a just got caught eating the canary look on their face. And none of them would meet my eye, this was not good. "Later, Tank change of plans, with Steph out of commission you'll need to go to Grand Cayman…"
"Uh, that won't work the plan calls for a couple…"
"That's why you're taking Lula with you. Think she would like an all expense paid trip?"
"Oh she'll like it all right but if I come back married it's all your fault."
"Right, why don't you go talk to her? You both need to leave in the morning. Lester, Emilio is faxing some info on the Rowland case I need you to go over it. Bobby, find me the best doctor."
Lester leaned down to Steph's ear. "We'll finish this later." He kissed her forehead and noticed my glare as he walked from the room.
Once the guys were gone I settled down on the bed next to Stephanie. "Babe, I don't know what they were telling you but you shouldn't believe any of it," I looked at my Babe. "Maybe you would like to hear a story."
Before I could start I heard a low moan from Steph.
"Babe, can you hear me?"
There was another low moan. I pushed the button for the nurse.
The door opened and the doctor from earlier walked in. I squeezed Steph's hand and the beeping increased and another moan came from her.
"Ah, looks like Ms. Plum has decided to return to us."
"She's waking up?"
The doctor checked all the machines then checked Steph. She tried to pull away as he checked her reflexes.
"Yes, she should be awake soon. I'll order a pump for her pain medication once she's awake." Then he left the room.
I tried to open my eyes and they felt like lead weights, I tried to concentrate and listen but it was like I was in a fog and nothing was making sense. I fought to hear and finally made out voices, but I couldn't really tell what they were saying. It was Tank, Bobby, and Lester, then I heard them say something about Rachel and Ranger. I tried to fight through the fog but I could feel the darkness trying to take me again.
The next time I tried to open my eyes I heard Ranger talking. I fought harder and suddenly I heard loud noises and gave into the darkness.
I was holding Steph's hand, my head leaning on the bed and I was talking to her when suddenly the alarms started going off on some of the machines and the room filled with doctors and nurses.
"What's going on? Why are the alarms going off?" I looked at the machines and wished that Bobby was here he would understand what all the machines meant.
The alarms were silenced and everyone left except the doctor I had spoken with earlier.
"No cause for alarm. It seems that Ms. Plum is starting to wake up and she's fighting the ventilator so we're going to remove it and give her oxygen through a nasal cannula."
"She'll be okay? I thought the machine was still breathing for her."
"The fact that she's fighting it is a good sign. We'll remove it and give her a trial to breathe on her own if she doesn't or can't we'll put it back."
The alarms sounded again. "Within the hour, it seems Ms. Plum is anxious to breathe on her own again."
The doctor silenced the alarms again said he would be back with what he needed and left the room.
I leaned down until my forehead touched Steph's. "Babe, I love you but if you keep setting off alarms you're going to kill me. I thought I lost you when that damn thing first went off." I brushed my lips across Steph's and was amazed that even now her lips were soft and full.
I felt Ranger kiss me and I felt my heart jump. This time I was determined that my eyes would open. I felt stronger or maybe it was the kiss.
My eyes opened but only a fraction, enough to make out the white walls. Now I could hear the beep, and hisses of the machines. Damn, I must be in the hospital again. That would explain why it was so hard to move and the difficulty in opening my eyes. Shit, I hated hospitals.
I squeezed Ranger's hand and his eyes met mine. I tried to smile at him and realized I had a tube down my throat. I started to struggle. I wanted the damn thing out. I heard a hissing sound and felt my lungs expand, shit this was so not good.
"Babe, calm down, now that you're awake the doctor is going to remove that tube." A tear ran down my cheek. I calmed as I felt Ranger's hand on me, massaging, reassuring. I always felt better when he was around.
I started to relax then I remembered my skip…and Dickie. Ranger and I were supposed to go to Grand Cayman; I didn't think I was going to make the trip now.
Ranger's ESP was in full swing. "Babe, you cuffed your skip and stunned him just as he tossed you over the bridge. He's in jail and won't be free anytime soon." I could read in Ranger's eyes that the skip was lucky to be in jail and out of his reach.
I tried to raise an eyebrow and both went up, I still needed to know about Dickie.
The doctor walked in before Ranger could fill me in on Dickie.
"Well Ms. Plum ,I see you've decided to return to us. Gave us quite a scare. How would you like that tube out?"
I frowned at him, I wanted him to quit the talking and get the damn tube out.
"I'm going to count to three and I want you to blow really hard. One…two…three…" And he pulled the tube out.
I was surprised how sore my throat was. Ranger had a straw to my lips seconds later.
"Drink Babe… slowly."
That water felt good. I tried to talk and it came out as more of a whisper. "Dickie?"
Ranger smiled. "I sent Tank and Lula. We should hear something soon."
"Ms. Plum, you need to rest now. Mr. Manoso may stay as long as you rest."
The doctor left and closed the door.
Ranger leaned over and kissed me behind the ear. "Rest Babe, I'm not going anywhere."
It had been three days since Steph woke up and Tank was pacing in my office.
"I can't believe he gave us the slip like that. Of course, now we know why O'Malley was so interested in Steph. He thinks she knows where Dickie hid the money he made off with."
"We need to find the money and Dickie."
"Do you think Steph could be of any help? Maybe she knows something and isn't even aware of it."
"I'll talk to her when I pick her up from the hospital in the morning."
"She agree to move into Rangeman?"
I grinned it hadn't been all that hard talking her into it. She needed help and it was either here or her parents. She loved Ella's cooking and Ella had visited her at the hospital and promised her all the dessert she could eat.
Three weeks later Rangeman fourth floor
The elevator door opened and I heard a crash and loud voices. Steph was in a mood today it had been three weeks since she had woken up in the hospital. She had immediately started working on convincing me to get her out of there.
A week after she woke up the doctor was begging me to take her home. She had terrorized all the nurses. To say she was a bad patient was an understatement but I understood how she felt, I hated hospital myself.
Since coming home to Rangeman she had been staying in one of the fourth floor apartments. She had physical therapy three times a week and Bobby was taking care of most of her medical needs. She was still supposed to be in bed but was fighting it so I had ordered her a wheelchair, state of the art.
After she had been home a few days she started getting crazy she just wasn't used to being inactive. I sat her up with a computer and let her do searches from her bed. It had helped some, she had even located where Dickie had the bulk of the money hidden. It was in an account that they had set up while they were married to put any future children through college.
They were still looking for Dickie, it was as if he had vanished off the globe.
I walked into Steph's room as the nurse I had hired stomped out.
"I quit. Here is my forwarding address." And she was gone down the hall and on the elevator. I sighed.
Steph was in her bed what I could only guess was her lunch tray on the floor.
I tilted my head and looked at her. "Babe, a problem with lunch?"
She looked like she was trying to hold in the tears. I could also see anger in her eyes. "I hate this bed. I want out NOW!" And she burst into tears.
I sat on the bed and pulled her into my arms. I knew the cast would be coming off her arm in a couple of weeks but the cast on her leg would be on for at least another month and the doctor had warned that she still might have trouble walking when it came off.
"Babe, would you like lunch at Pino's?"
"Really?" I could hear the excitement in her voice. It would be her first trip out of the building since her release from the hospital.
"Yeah, Bobby says you're working really hard at your therapy and I think you could use a trip out of the building. Plus, I have a surprise for you."
I scooped her up and carried her out to the living room where Tank was waiting with her new chair. She looked at me in surprise.
"Uh…what…Ranger…I don't understand."
"Babe, you'll be mobile again. If you want to have lunch with the guys in the break room or me upstairs. You can." I noticed she still had a pout on. I thought it was cute when she pouted but knew I had a way to get it to disappear. So I played my last cheer up Babe card.
"Babe I thought that maybe after lunch we could go someplace special."
She looked up to me her head tilted with her big blue eyes looking into mine. "Where?" A smile flashed across her lips. My heart skipped a beat I had come so close to losing her.
Chapter Ten coming soon! Please review.
A special thank you to Diane.
We were outside Trenton heading into Pennsylvania. I glanced over at my Babe, I hoped she wouldn't be disappointed with the batcave. It wasn't anything special, just a house I'd found while looking for a skip once. Tank had convinced me that it would be a good investment if nothing else.
We pulled into the drive and I reached over and touched Steph's arm to wake her up. "Babe we're here."
Ranger's gently touch woke me from my mild sleep. Here, we were at the batcave. I looked out the window we had just pulled into a drive. All I could see were trees, bushes and more trees and bushes. I glanced over at Ranger, could he maybe really live in a cave?
"Babe, the house is farther back off the main road."
We drove for about another twenty minutes. I kept glancing at Ranger but he seemed to be in his zone. Then he reached forward and pushed a button on the dash and minute later a river and a bridge came into sight. What was on the other side of the river had my mouth falling open. It was a large log cabin style home. It looked old but it fit in with its surroundings.
"Babe, I hope you won't be disappointed it's not as nice as the apartment."
We pulled in front of the house and Ranger came around and picked me up and carried me into the house. We entered into a hallway, off to one side was a large living room. On the far wall was a large fireplace and in front of it were a couch and several large chairs.
Opposite the living room was a dining room with a large table that looked like it would seat at least ten. At the end of the hall was stairs leading up. Ranger carried me up. The upstairs was divided into two rooms with a large loft space in the center.
Ranger carried me into a bedroom and sat me on the bed. It was a king size four poster. He lay down behind me and pulled me into his embrace. He nuzzled my neck.
"Babe, I've wanted to see you in my bed since I bought the house."
The next couple of months seemed like magic. I spent most of my time with Ranger either at the batcave or in the seventh floor apartment. My cast came off and I had to learn to walk all over again.
Morelli apologized and we were trying to work on being friends. My mother hadn't bugged me about getting married in awhile. So I should have known that Murphy would stick his big ugly head up and bite me in the ass.
I had spent the day at the bonds office with Connie and Lula. Lula was showing us her ring. Tank had proposed and they were asking me about my relationship with Ranger.
I knew I loved Carlos but we still hadn't talked about what we had. I figured maybe I would talk to Ranger about it over dinner.
We were sitting at the table and I just threw out the question.
"Uh, Carlos what would you call our relationship?"
He showed a sudden interest in his plate and steepled his fingers. My spidey sense went on full alert. I just knew that I wouldn't like what I was about to hear.
He lifted his head and met my eyes. "Babe we're friends, lovers…"
"Friends?" Had I heard him right? We shared the same bed most nights and we were just friends?
"Babe, I told you before that I'm not family material…"
I couldn't take anymore, before he could finish I was out the door.
I had just arrived at the bond office and was reaching for a donut when the door crashed open. Tank entered the office and he didn't look happy. I realized this when he turned his gaze to me and said.
"Outside, now Bombshell."
I took one look at his face and was ready to run the other direction. Now it's been awhile since I've been afraid of the merry men. But right now I wanted an escape route and I wasn't sure what I had done to tick him off. I quickly looked at Lula. She shrugged okay no help there. Before I could move Tank's hand settled over my arm. Guess I was going outside with an angry ex-army guy.
We exited the office and he pulled me to his Hummer. He lifted me in and fastened the belt, guess he didn't want me going any place while he got in. I reached for the door as he crossed in front of the truck. I heard the locks engage. Shit.
Tank climbed into the truck and glared at me. I crossed my arms and glared back. Hey, I was pretty sure that if I was guilty of something I should have known it, right.
Minutes passed and I finally decided that maybe I should break the silence. Okay, I'm not the most patient person and the quiet was getting to me. And I wanted to know what I had done that had ticked off Tank so much the he would come into the office and pull me out then not talk to me.
"Uh, Tank." I started my voice not really working so it came out as a soft murmur." What did I do?"
Tank raised an eyebrow. I noticed his hands on the wheel. They were tight and his knuckles were turning white. I cringed back into the seat whatever it was must be bad to get this reaction from Tank. We had become pretty good friends since he started dating Lula.
"Tank." I whined.
He turned and gave me a dark look. "What did you say to Ranger?" He accented each word.
Ranger and I had been dancing around each other for the last couple months since I had called it quits with Joe. I'd moved in with him a few weeks after I had been released from the hospital. That had been almost two months ago, last night I had moved out and back to my apartment.
Last night we had talked, really talked. And in the end we had called it quits. He still refused to call what we have a relationship and as good as the sex was I just wasn't the one night or okay multi night kind of girl. I didn't want marriage and a family right now but I wanted that option to be available for the future.
Ranger still insisted that he wasn't family material and although he freely admitted to loving me he insisted that his love could not come with a ring or children. And in fact he was the one to insist that they always use a condom.
After Ranger had left I had cried. Ironic that I had lost one guy because I refused to change and have a permanent relationship with him, Joe wanted to get married and settle down and I didn't at least not just yet. And I lost Ranger because he didn't want to admit that we already have a relationship.
I could feel tears forming in my eyes. I would be strong; I refused to let Tank see me cry. "We decided to be friends."
"Friends?" Tank sounded confused.
"Yeah, friends. Ranger, well… you know he doesn't do relationships." Tank had known Ranger since high school. Something I had learned on one of our double dates.
Tank started talking to himself and running his hands over his head. I had had the merry men injured while working with me but I was beginning to wonder if I had in some way broken Tank. He turned and looked at me his eyes full of sadness.
"Ranger left this morning."
That didn't make any sense. Why would he leave? Was it for a mission? I knew that he still did them sometimes although he had been cutting back lately.
"He got a call this morning. He should have turned it down." He looked at me. "He said something about having to get away. Then he accepted the mission, and he was gone."
I felt a burning ache in me. He was gone and he hadn't even bothered to say goodbye. Suddenly I felt sick. I reached for the door and heard the locked disengage as I threw the door open just a minute before I hurled.
Tank pulled me into the comfort of his arms.
"I wasn't good enough for him…"I cried. "That's why he left. He couldn't stand being around me anymore."
What was wrong with me? Dickie cheated on me. I fell in love with two men, one only wanted to change me and the other only wanted to sleep with me when it was convenient for him. There must be something wrong with me.
Sequel Nine Months Coming soon!