What I Did For Love

What I Did For Love

Disclaimer: All characters except Ronnie belong to Janet Evanovich. I'm only playing with them and will return them unharmed when I'm done.

Warnings: All twelve books, Language, Sexual Situations, etc.

A/N: This story wouldn't be here if it weren't for my fantastic Beta, Editor, and Friend ... Kashy! How she puts up with me, I'll never know!

What I Did For Love



Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.

William Butler Yeats

Love … We've been told that it makes the world go round, that it lifts us up where we belong, that only love can break a heart, that love is blind, and that love hurts. Love has probably caused more pain than all the other emotions mankind experiences put together. And yet, since Adam and Eve, we all hope for it, pray for it, crave it, chase it, need it … we'll lie, cheat, steal and even die for love. But although we may deny it, we're willing to ransom our hearts and sell our souls for it … This is the story of what I did for love.


The words 'I love you' have never exactly come tripping off my tongue. I mean, I can say them, like to Rex, my hamster, but let's face it, as long as I'm feeding him, he really doesn't care about the words. I guess that makes him a perfect Plum. I come from a family where love is expressed in the form of warm chocolate chip cookies waiting on the kitchen table after school and pot roast at six sharp every Friday night … or fried fish if it's Lent.

The hugs and kisses and words of praise are few and far between in my house. But we can always bask in the warm glow of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pineapple upside down cake, spaghetti and meatballs, and a dining room table groaning under the weight of all the platters and bowls and plates filled with love. For my family, food always speaks louder than words.

Right now though, I'm suffering from such an outpouring of love that I'm having trouble zipping my jeans. I actually had to do a couple of deep knee bends, with my ass stuck out, just to stretch the denim enough to get that damned top button buttoned. I guess I've spent the last couple of weeks telling myself how much I love ME with too many Butterscotch Krimpets and Boston Crèmes.

Oh, don't roll your eyes at me! Probably you've done the same thing, and at least I have a good excuse for stuffing my face. To tell the truth, it wasn't exactly love that made me dive head first into an overload of fat and carbs and sugar. It was more like the fear and terror and blind panic that comes with love and commitment that made me overdose on comfort food.

See, I've got this problem. I've loved two men for a long time now. Yeah, yeah, I know … no big surprise. But just listen … I think I've figured out which one I really want and probably I should let him know … maybe … well, maybe not, but possibly yes, I think … maybe. I mean it isn't like everybody doesn't know that I have commitment issues, right? I admit that! The guy I've been with the longest without a major battle is Rex and that's only because he doesn't talk back!

But, Hell! I just don't know what to do! I've made lists of pros and cons, I've lain awake at night, I've thought about it until my head ached. I need some help here! So okay, I'm gonna tell you what happened, the whole story, and then you tell me what you think ... Okay? Okay! It all started with a skip…

Chapter One: Love is a Four Letter Word!

You know how much I hate to run. Even when Ranger used to haul me out of bed and there was the lure of that perfect ass running in front of me, like a carrot in front of a donkey, I still hated running. Now every brain cell that I owned was screaming at me that I should be back home, tucked into my bed, all warm and cozy, not out here running around like an idiot in the sleet and freezing cold. So what the hell was I doing galumphing down a snow and slush filled street on the coldest day of the whole damned year? I was trying to make my rent, that's what!

Ask Connie and she'll tell you that winter is a lousy time for skip tracing. Almost everybody makes their court date because they don't want to have to leave their nice warm beds and go sneaking around outside in the cold, trying to hide from the bail bondsman. That made business great for Vinnie, but worse than crappy for me. In fact, it was so bad that my bank account was on death's doorstep and if I didn't do something to breathe some life into it pretty fast, I'd have to start hocking my appliances … again. I was getting desperate, so when Ronnie Klineman missed his court date, I grabbed his file and ran with it. Okay, so maybe I just walked fast.

Much as I hated hauling in drunks, Ronnie Klineman had looked like the perfect candidate for an easy capture … at least on paper. Everybody knew Ronnie; he was a local character who thought it was his mission in life to single-handedly support the alcoholic beverage industry in Trenton. He'd been picked up for public intoxication so many times that the cops joked that they were gonna post a memorial plaque on the door of the drunk tank in Ronnie's honor.

Usually, the cops would just take him down to the station; he'd sleep it off, pay his fine and head back to the bar. This time though, he got nailed with a whole bunch of other charges that could send him to jail, or worse yet for Ronnie, court ordered rehab.

His fatal error came when he mistook Officer Picky for a men's room fixture. Ronnie unzipped out on a public sidewalk, whipped out his johnson and whizzed right on Officer Picky's perfectly polished shoes. Rumor has it that Picky screamed like a little girl, and when he marched Ronnie into the station, Picky was barefoot and pissed off... no pun intended.

When he sobered up, Ronnie got Vinnie to bond him out but I have no doubt that that was the last sober breath he drew and he's been stewed to the gills ever since. Ronnie missed his court date and yesterday, Connie gave me his file.

I decided to grab him early and Ronnie was still drunk as a skunk that morning when I found him wandering around outside his apartment building. He was totally convinced that he was still out drinking with his buddies. I went into my spiel, identifying myself as a bond enforcement agent, telling him that he had missed his court date and I had to take him in to be re-bonded. He gave me a loopy grin, called me 'Sweet Cheeks,' patted my ass and ordered another beer. This was gonna be a piece of cake!

"Yes, sir! I'll bring it right along if you'll just take a seat over here at the bar." I pulled my cuffs out of my back pocket as I took him by the arm and steered him toward my car.

I really didn't think I was gonna have any trouble with him; after all, he seemed like such a happy drunk. But when I snapped the cuff on his wrist, he must have had a momentary flash of sobriety because he knocked me on my ass and took off down the street like an Olympic track star, my cuffs dangling from his wrist.

Did I tell you that I hate to run? And I hate running even more when I'm bundled up in a big poofy parka and knock off Uggs, looking like a cross between the Michelin Man and the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Ronnie moved pretty fast for a drunk and sprinted down the street while I sort of lumbered after him. He turned onto the alley at the back of his apartment building and I saw him skid through the rear entrance just as I rounded the corner.

I wheezed through the back door and heard him pounding up the metal stairs. "Ronnie!" I bellowed up the stairwell. "Do yourself a favor and come back down here! I'm gonna be really pissed off if I have to come up there after you!"

Ronnie leaned over the railing and glared down at me from the third floor. "Nanner-nanner-nanner!" he sing-songed, real snotty. "You can't catch me, fat ass!" What happened to Sweet Cheeks? Think maybe it was my crack about being 'pissed off' that got him mad?

"You're gonna be sorry you didn't cooperate, Ronnie! I'm a desperate woman! I gotta make my rent and I've got a fire in my belly!" I hollered as I stomped up the stairs. I got to the second floor landing and looked up to see Ronnie aiming the fire hose at me, ready to put that fire out.

I had just enough time to yell, "Oh shit!" before the torrent of water hit me square in the chest like a tidal wave, knocking me ass over tea kettle across the landing. Ronnie focused the stream into my face and I gasped and sputtered and held up my hands to ward it off. My hat and boots got knocked right off me and floated down the stairs, and I swear to God my coat sucked up about 400 gallons of water as I tried to swim my way across the landing and out of the line of fire.

Ronnie started cackling as he came down the stairs, still pounding me with the water. He was having way too much fun. All I could do was grab the railing and hold on for dear life while he tried to hose me down the stairs. When I finally managed to get my feet under me, the son of a bitch blasted me again and I slid across the landing, on my ass this time, and hit the far wall. My coat was so heavy from all that water that I couldn't even roll over and I belly flopped onto the landing like a huge beached whale. If I ever got my hands on him, Ronnie was a dead man! I had visions of drowning him in a goldfish bowl.

My salvation came in the form of the super who must have heard the ruckus. He stuck his head over the rail from above us and roared, "Ronnie, you stupid shithead! What the fuck do you think you're doing?" The guy galloped down the stairs and snatched the hose away from Ronnie who was trying to hose him down, too. The super won and turned the hose off at the nozzle while I lay on the landing like Shamu, spewing water and gulping air.

Ronnie tried to make a run for it, but no way was I letting this fool get away from me again. I pushed my feet off the wall like a swimmer making a turn in a pool and slid across the flooded landing, tackling him around his legs. The two of us rolled down the stairs together, landing with a splash on the first floor.

Ronnie struggled to get away, but the man didn't have a snowball's chance in hell since I was lying on top of him. My water logged jacket must have weighed five hundred pounds all by itself and he just sort of flopped around under me, screaming that Moby Dick was trying to get him. I wanted to zap him, but my stun gun was as water logged as I was, so I just grabbed his cuffed wrist and snapped the other cuff around the railing.

I had to unzip my parka and wiggle out of it before I could stand up. Between the super and me, we managed to get my coat pretty well wrung out and found my saturated boots. I literally had to dump them out, and still, with every step I took, water squinched out of them. I never did find my hat, not that it really mattered because I was soaked to the skin anyway.

Ronnie sat on the stairs and looked down at his sopping clothes, then up at me, "Is it raining?" he asked. I wanted to clobber him!

By the time I got Ronnie into the car, we were both coated with wind blown sleet and I was shaking so hard I had a tough time getting the key into the ignition. To make matters worse, the heater in my car had died a couple of months ago. I could feel myself turning blue. Ronnie, on the other hand, still had a snoot full and didn't seem to mind the cold at all, dammit!

As my luck would have it, we hit the station right at shift change and were able to render cops who had seen it all, absolutely speechless. That is, before they all burst into hysterical laughter. It never ceases to amaze me how many people find me amusing. I could be a side-show freak at a carnival!

I dragged Ronnie through the door and down the hall to the booking desk, followed by a band of boys in blue who were cheerfully arguing over which one of the betting pools would pay off for this particular mishap. Bastards! That did it! I had had it! I may have been frozen but I could feel my face turn red and the steam come out of my ears.

I spun around and glared at the group of my so called friends. "Hey! I got a little newsflash for you dip-shits! I'm sick and tired of you betting on me! Cut it out or I'll go to the Chief and have him shut it down." I stood with my hands on my hips, staring them down.

Carl looked at me, genuinely surprised. "Jeez, Steph! Don't bust a blood vessel." He shrugged his shoulders, "It's all in fun, nothing personal."

I know my eyes bulged and my head must have spun around at that one because everybody took a step back. In fear, I think. "What do you mean 'nothing personal'?" I raged. "How much more personal could it get? You're all betting on MY LIFE here!"

At least they all had the good sense to look sheepish and they shuffled their feet around, staring at the floor in embarrassment.

"How about I start some pools on you guys? Let's see how you like it. I have some great ideas … Eddie, how about one on when Shirley kicks you out again? Or Picky, how about a pool for what body fluid you'll get doused with next time? Or Big Dog, on when another date sneaks out the back door and leaves you sitting there by yourself?" A couple of faces turned very red. "What? It's not personal, it's just fun!" I tried for a wide-eyed, innocent look and fluttered my iced eyelashes at them, then turned and marched Ronnie down the hall.

"Hey, Steph!" Carl called a minute later, and jogged up next to me, taking my arm to make me stop, "How about we give you a cut of the winnings? Say, fifteen percent?" He bent down to look in my face.

I pretended to think about it. "Make it twenty-five," I shot back.

The group murmured their consent and Carl stuck out his big paw, "Done!" he said, and we shook on it.

I have to admit that I had a tough time keeping the smirk off my face as I escorted Ronnie to a grinning Robin Russell at the booking desk. She gave me a sly wink and whispered, "Good for you!" as she started the paperwork. I winked back, actually glad that my own inevitable disasters would finally be paying off.

I dumped Ronnie, got my body receipt and beat it out of there as fast as I could. I had to hurry to pick up my check from Connie and get it into my account before my rent check hit the bank. If I couldn't even make my rent, I sure as hell couldn't afford the overdraft charges. I raced out of the station, waving as I sped past the guys who were still joking and laughing, only with me this time, not at me. With friends like these …

By the time I got to the bonds office I was pretty sure hypothermia was setting in. I was so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open and all I wanted to do was put my head down on the steering wheel and doze off. My body was heavy, probably from all the ice, and it took a huge effort to even move. My fingers were numb and I couldn't feel my feet at all. I guess I was starting to freeze solid. My clothes were stiff and made a crackling noise and my coat was still covered with sleet and snow. Frosty the Snowman was back in town.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror and just groaned. I was a mess. Did I know that I would need waterproof mascara today? Hell, NO! I had frost in my eyebrows and icicles in my hair. Add my pale face, raccoon eyes and blue lips … I looked like an extra from The Night of the Living Dead! If my tear ducts hadn't been frozen solid, I would have cried. Damn! I was officially in danger of throwing myself a full blown pity party!

Heads turned as I hauled my ass out of the car and I just stared at the sidewalk as I crunched down the street to the bonds office. I could already hear my mother's phone ringing off the wall. I wouldn't be able to avoid her this week, not if I wanted to eat, and I already knew her lecture by heart. God knows I've heard it enough. I'd have to listen to her rant that I should have a nice safe job working in the button factory or personal products plant. Then I'd have to hear that Theresa Mangoli's daughter didn't go around town looking like the Abominable Snowman. We'd segue into the 'what will the neighbors think' line and wrap it all up with her slipping into the pantry for a little nip. And it was all my fault, but truthfully, I was too tired to even care. Oh yeah, it was pity party time alright.

I felt that funny little prickle on the back of my neck that I always got when Ranger was around, but there were no shiny black vehicles parked out on the street, thank God for small favors! I couldn't have handled Ranger right now.

Ranger is one of those people who seem to walk through life untouched by anything. No matter what he was doing, he was always neat and clean, always dry, like rain and sleet didn't dare land on him. I swear he didn't sweat unless he wanted to and his clothes never seemed to wrinkle. Hell, even his vehicles were always spotless and shiny… like the road muck was scared to hit them.

Unfortunately, most of the time when I ran into him, I looked like an old sock that Bob the dog had horked up, something that had been chewed up and spit out, covered with doggie slobber. Right now I was tapped out and having Ranger see me like this would have been the last straw.

I schlumped through the door, dropped the icy body receipt on Connie's desk and just stood there. Connie looked up for her computer and did a classic double take when she saw me. "What the hell happened to you?" she asked, wide eyed, as she got up out of her chair and came around her desk, staring at me, open mouthed. "You look like a human ice sculpture!"

My teeth were chattering and all I could do was shrug and mutter, "Fire hose," through my frozen lips. "I need my check quick, Con. I gotta get it to the bank before my rent check hits."

"Are you nuts?" Connie grabbed me and started to unzip my jacket. "You're not going anywhere! We have to get you out of those clothes and warmed up first! You'll catch your death!" She helped me peel off my coat and boots and socks, then looked around, trying to figure out what to do with them. Finally she carted it all into the bathroom and hung the coat on the mirror, the boots went upside down in the sink and my soggy socks went over the towel rack.

"Jeeez, Steph! You're so cold you're blue! You get a cup of coffee then come over and stand by the heating vent, I'm turning up the temperature in here!" and she pushed me toward the coffee pot.

Suddenly, Vinnie's voice boomed over the intercom. "Touch that thermostat, Rosolli, and I'll fire your dumb ass!"

Connie stomped over to her desk and pushed the intercom button. "You can kiss my lily white ass in Macy's window, you cheap son of a bitch! Steph's freezing to death and I'm gonna take care of her!" she yelled back at him and then spun the dial on the thermostat and we heard the heater kick on.

In seconds, Vinnie's office door slammed open and the man himself stormed out and started over to Connie, then stopped and gave me the once over. "You look like shit!" he barked, then turned back to Connie.

"Yeah, I love you too, Vinnie," I muttered.

Connie and Vinnie faced off, nose to nose, hands on hips, fingers jabbing, yelling at the tops of their lungs. Show time at the bonds office.

I sighed and tried to pour myself a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, I was still shaking so hard that all I managed to do was slosh the coffee all over the counter. As I reached for some paper towels, I felt that old familiar zing slip down my spine. Oh God, Ranger! I never even heard him come in. His front pressed against my back as his arm came around me and he took the pot out of my hands, deftly filling the cup.

Oh great! This was just what I needed to make my humiliation complete. I wrapped my arms around myself and dropped my chin to my chest, wishing I could just disappear.

"Thanks," I murmured, hoping he'd just go away, but instead he reached his other arm around and added milk and sugar to the cup for me, then lifted it so I could take a sip. Putting my icy hands over his, we stood like that, without saying anything, until I finished the whole cup. I closed my eyes in pleasure and let the heat spread through my body. Whether it was from the coffee or from Ranger, I'll never really know.

He laid his hand on the back of my neck, his warm fingers massaging my skin, making me shiver. "Babe, you're ice cold." He was standing so close that he had me trapped against the counter. His breath was warm against my cheek. It was all I could do to keep from melting into him.

I cleared my throat and swallowed hard. "Occupational hazard?" I squeaked, trying for humor. I glanced at him over my shoulder and watched his eyes follow a little trickle of melting ice that slid from my hair, down the side of my neck and into the V of my sweater.

He growled a little, deep in his throat. "I don't have a lot of domestic instincts," Ranger said to me, his attention fixed on another drop of water that slid down between my breasts, "but I have a real strong urge to take you home and thaw you out." Suddenly I started to heat up in a couple of very interesting places.

"I think we should get you out of those wet clothes and warm you up," he whispered, his lips touching my ear. I shivered again; only the cold had absolutely nothing to do with it this time. I heard a whimper and I'm pretty sure it came from me. My head fell back onto his shoulder, his mouth brushing lightly across mine.

"Go strip out of those clothes. I've got something out in the truck that you can wear." He stepped back from me and gave me a little push toward the bathroom, then headed for the back door. No wonder I didn't know he was here, he had parked out back.

I realized that Connie and Vinnie had stopped arguing and were staring at us, open mouthed.

"Oh my God!" Connie breathed, "That man is so hot!" She fanned herself with a file from her desk. "I guess I better get your check ready, huh?" She sat down in her chair with a thump, still fanning herself.

Vinnie looked at me in surprise. "You two got something going? I wouldana thought you were his type. He's so …" he waved his hand after Ranger, "and you're just kinda …" he looked me up and down and curled his lip.

I gave Vinnie my best Burg death glare and a fine old Italian hand gesture. He narrowed his eyes at me and pointed a finger in my face, "He's my biggest money maker and you need to keep him happy! Anything he wants, you give it to him, you hear! Or else your ass is fired too!" He went to stomp back into his office but Ranger had come back in and Vinnie had to step aside for him. He turned back to me and pointed that finger again, "I mean it, Stephanie!"

I had never done anything that Vinnie told me to do, and I had no intention of starting now, but I had to admit, the idea was tempting … VERY tempting. I knew exactly what Ranger wanted and what would make him happy … it would make me happy too, at least until he got up and walked out tomorrow morning. Still …

Ranger looked at Vinnie and then at me, raising an eyebrow. No way was I gonna explain that conversation to him, so I just waved my hand in a 'forget it' gesture and shook my head. Ranger stared at me for a beat, and then handed me the stack of clothes he had in his hands, sweat pants, hoodie, and socks, clearly his.

"I always keep a change of clothes in the truck. At least they're dry." His mouth curved up into his almost smile, "Do you need help getting out of those wet clothes? I'd be happy to give you a hand."

I suspected that a hand was only part of what he wanted to give me. I just shook my head and muttered, "Um … thanks anyway, but no." I escaped into the bathroom as fast as I could.

My undies were soaked, so I had to strip naked and I have to tell you that I got a little thrill wearing Ranger's clothes next to my bare skin. The hoodie came almost to my knees and the soft fleecy lining felt really good against certain body parts. Okay, I know that sounds pathetic, but Joe had been out of town for more than a month and we had sort of drifted apart before he left anyway. It had been a really long time since I'd had a social orgasm, and while it sounded great in my head, I had to admit that a booty call with Ranger just wasn't the way my heart wanted to go.

I stuffed my wet clothes into a small trash bag, washed my face, and trundled back into the office. Ranger was leaning against the file cabinets, talking on his phone, but his lips tuned up when he saw me in his clothes with the sleeves and pant legs rolled up. Connie leaned close as she handed me the envelope with my check in it. "I know things are tight, Steph," she whispered. "I put something extra in with your check. You can pay me back when business picks up. Nobody needs to know." She flicked her eyes toward Ranger.

"Oh Connie," I whispered back. "You're a doll! But I can't accept this. I'll be fine, honest." Good thing I wasn't a crier, or I would have.

She shook her head slightly, "Okay, but the offer still stands if you change your mind." I nodded back and took out the check, handing the envelope back to her with a rueful smile.

Ranger looked like he was intent on his phone call, but nothing slipped by him, so I was sure he caught the whole exchange. One more embarrassment. I grabbed up my purse and pulled the hood of the sweatshirt up, "Okay, I'm gone. Thanks for the clothes Ranger, I'll wash 'em and get 'em back to you. Con, I'll see you tomorrow," and I headed for the door, trying to beat a hasty retreat.

I didn't even have my hand on the knob when Ranger's arm snaked around my waist and hauled me backward against his chest. "You don't think I'd let you go out there in this weather without a coat or shoes, do you? I'll take you home."

"Oh well, thanks," I babbled, "But I gotta go to the bank and run some errands and …" Before I knew it, he had taken off his jacket and was zipping me into it. Suddenly I was wrapped in the heady cocoon of his body heat and the scent of warm Ranger and Bulgari. Needless to say, my brain instantly ceased to function, but my hormones sure were getting a workout. Probably I looked as dazed as I felt, but I wasn't capable of protesting when he scooped me up off my feet and carried me out of the office to his big, black Devil truck.

Connie was sitting at her desk, chin in hand, a dreamy smile on her face. She sighed and gave me a little finger wave as we went by, my arms around his neck and my head on his shoulder. I would guess that I was wearing a goofy grin of my own.

I snapped out of my haze when we got to the bank and Ranger pulled into a parking space instead of going to the drive-thru. He took off his seat belt and turned toward me, one arm over the back of the seat and the other on the steering wheel. "I've got a problem that I think you can help me with," he said.

I held up a hand, "I'm sorry Ranger, but if you need money, I really don't think I can float you a loan. You're just not a good credit risk," I quipped.

That earned me a full 200 watt smile. "Well then, let's try a different solution," he answered, playing along. "Binkie has been doing the research since he started at RangeMan. The problem is that I need him out in the field, so I'm short a researcher. You already know the job so that makes you the logical candidate. Would you consider coming back to RangeMan?"

I knew what he was doing, he was trying to save me from the embarrassment of having to hock my stuff. With the check I was holding, I barely had enough to cover my rent. The job would be a lifesaver. It would mean a regular income; I could pay my bills, work inside for a change, have a company car with heat in it. I couldn't think of a single reason to say no.

I swallowed hard. "Sure," I shrugged nonchalantly, still not looking at him, "I suppose I could help you out."

"Thanks," Ranger replied. "I appreciate it." I could hear the smile in his voice as he backed out of the parking space and pulled up to the drive-thru.

He took my check and deposit slip and heard him talking to the teller and thanking her, then handed me the receipt and we pulled off and headed toward my apartment. I glanced at the piece of paper and then looked at it again. "Ranger?" I squeaked, "This is wrong! We have to go back. The teller made a mistake. This is way too much!" and I held the receipt out to show him.

He didn't even look at it, just said, "Sign on bonus." I just gaped at him but the tone of his voice said that the topic was closed.

We pulled into my parking lot and I thought that Ranger would just drop me off, but he pulled into a space right in front of the door. He came around to my side, lifted me out of the truck and carried me all the way up to my apartment before he put me down.

"I'll see you tomorrow morning, 9am," he said, all business. All I could do was nod. An uneasy silence stretched between us as we stood there, looking at each other. I couldn't figure out what he was waiting for and my mouth went dry at the thought he might kiss me … finally he took a step forward and put a hand on my arm. My heart flip flopped until he said, "My jacket?"

"What? Oh, yeah, sure, your jacket, sorry …" I know I flushed as I fumbled with the zipper and almost died when I managed to get it snagged on the hoodie. "Oh damn!" I muttered as I fought with it.

"Here, let me …" he reached for the zipper pull and bent his head down as I raised mine up to look at him. His chin and my forehead connected with a thunk and we both yelled "Ow!" and started to laugh. I got the zipper unjammed and slid out of the jacket, handing it to him.

"I'm sorry, do you want some ice for that?" I asked, still laughing as I reached up and touched the red mark on his chin as he ran his fingers across my forehead. "No, you?" he asked in return, but I just shook my head, 'No'.

My eyes met his and held for a long second, and I watched the smile fade from his face. He leaned forward and pressed his lips against the bruise that was forming on my forehead. "Better?" he murmured against my skin.

"Uh-huh," I breathed in reply and reached up to kiss the mark on his chin. At the last second he dipped his head so that our lips met and fused.

I don't know when my arms went around his neck or when he crushed my body against his but suddenly we were both ravenous, feeding on each other's mouths. We stumbled back and hit the wall; his hands seemed to be everywhere at once, kneading my breasts, my ass. I clawed at his shirt, pulling it out of his pants, and ran my fingers over his chest and back, feeling the corded muscles bunch under my hands.

His hands snaked under the hoodie, untying the waist of sweatpants. He pushed them down my legs to the floor and lifted me out of them. I stroked him through his cargos, feeling him pulse under my hands and found myself frantically tearing at his belt buckle, needing to get him naked too.

His tongue slid over mine while his hands came up under the sweatshirt to palm my breasts and torture my nipples. I fisted one hand in his hair to hold his mouth to mine while my other hand slid into his cargos. I sucked on his tongue, matching the rhythm of my hand and he growled deep in his chest.

We were both panting when his hands dropped down under my ass and he lifted me, my legs wrapping around his hips. Out of nowhere a high pitched shriek filled the air, jolting us back to reality. Ranger took a step back and I let my legs slide down until my feet hit the floor.

He pulled his cell phone off his belt and, leaning his forehead against the wall, he flipped it open and barked, "Talk!" It took me a second to realize that the phone was issuing a 911 emergency call to all RangeMan employees. This was a battle stations, all hands on deck, Mayday, scramble the fighter jets call for help, used only for the most critical emergencies. And it meant that Ranger was leaving.

He took a second or two to catch his breath, then straightened his clothes and put on his jacket. I stood with my arms wrapped around myself and stared at the floor. Ranger put his hand on my cheek and ran his thumb over my lips, then bent his head and kissed me gently. "I'm sorry, Babe," he whispered against my lips. But what he was sorry for, I wasn't quite sure.

And then he was gone, jogging down the hall to the stairs. I locked the door behind him and leaned back on it, thumping my head against the wood. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn! I obviously had no self control at all!

I must be out of my mind! Didn't I just tell myself that a booty call with Ranger would lead to disaster? What's the matter with me? Why did I do this to myself? Friggin' hormones, that's why!

I pushed off the door and stomped down the hall, headed for the bathroom and my old pal, the shower massager, wondering if it came in a turbo model!


A/N: Hi there! First off, I want to thank the Cupcake who inspired this story. When I first found Plum, I had no clue that there were Babes and Cupcakes, or that they were at odds with each other. Like a lamb to the slaughter, I posted a comment and got blasted by someone who didn't share my view. Among other things, she told me that Joe was a good cop and that Ranger had better back away from Stephanie because if he pushed Joe too far, Joe could arrest Ranger for Abruzzi's murder. This is the story that her 'lecture' inspired. I hope you enjoy it.

I'm still a review slut, so please let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!