Disclaimer still applies.
Four Months Later
"Everybody ready?" I spoke quietly into the mic under my shirt. Once the guys had all affirmed their positions, I said, "On three," and began the countdown.
We rushed through the front and back doors of the house. Hal and I had the two guys in the front room secured and were headed through the rest of the house to make sure we hadn't missed any, when we suddenly heard loud shouts and the sound of gunfire. We raced toward the back of the house, where Tank and Lester were supposed to have been.
We passed through the house and out the back door to find Tank cuffing a man on the ground. The man's gun was just out of arm's reach. Lester was down about ten feet away, white as snow. Hal immediately went to Tank's side to help with the fucker while I went to Lester.
"Santos? Let me look, man." At his groan, I pulled away the shirt to find a gunshot wound on his shoulder. "Okay, looks like it went all the way through and avoided anything major. We need to get you to the hospital, but you're going to be okay. Stay with me, Les. Tank, you and Hal round up all three of the shits and get them back to TPD. I'll get Santos to the hospital. Meet me there when you're done."
I nodded to them as they gathered up the jackoff and his gun and led him back to the house. I was quite pleased to see he was very clumsy on his way in, banging his head on the door frame not once, but twice.
"C'mon, Santos. Let's go to the hospital so you can flirt with all the pretty nurses," I said, carefully helping him stand up and using his T-shirt to help stop the bleeding.
After I loaded him into the truck gently and climbed in the driver's seat, he finally spoke. "Boss, call Steph," he said, his breath coming out almost in pants. "Ask her to go tell Annie but to make sure she knows I'll be okay. Otherwise, she'll flip out."
"You got it, man. Just hang on," I told him, pushing the accelerator to the floor.
I quickly grabbed my cell from the console and pushed the first button to speed dial Stephanie.
"Batman, what's wrong?" she answered, sounding concerned.
"Babe, Lester's been shot. He'll be okay. Was a through and through on the shoulder. I'm headed with him to the hospital. Could you run and pick up Annie, let her know, and then bring her to the hospital? Tell her Lester asked for her, but be sure to let her know he's going to be okay. I need to go, Babe. I'll see you at the hospital. Be safe. I love you, Stephanie."
I hung up before I could give her a chance to get a word in edgewise. If I wasn't careful, I was going to lose it. Just a few more minutes, she'd be in my arms and everything would be okay.
As soon as Ranger hung up the phone, I grabbed my cargoes and pulled them on, leaving on the black T-shirt I'd been wearing to sleep in, and threw on my shoes. I grabbed my purse, stuck my gun in the back of my pants, and headed out the door. I made it to Annie's house in under ten minutes. I checked my watch and grimaced. It was nearly midnight, and I knew that with the knock on the door, Annie would know immediately that something was wrong.
When I stepped out of the car, I realized I'd had it wrong. She'd obviously sensed something was wrong, because she was already standing out on the porch, waiting for me.
"Stephanie, what's going on? Where's Les? I got this horrible feeling a few minutes ago, and I can't reach him on his cell phone."
I closed the door to the Cayenne and headed up to her.
My panic grew as Stephanie walked toward me. "Tell me," I said to her in a commanding voice.
"Shh, Annie. He's going to be okay. There was a problem with the takedown they were on. I don't know any details except that he was shot and Ranger was on his way to the hospital with him. Ranger said Les asked for you, and he wanted to make sure you knew he was going to be okay. I'm supposed to bring you to the hospital. You need to grab anything from inside."
I shook my head.."I knew, Steph. I don't know how, but I knew. Everything's done. Doors are locked. Let's go," I said, my voice cracking. Suddenly, I felt her arms around me.
"Annie, I've been there. I know how you're feeling. Get it out now because once you get there, you won't want him to see you like this. He's okay, really. Ranger wouldn't lie to me about that. So let it out now and then let's go see our guys, okay."
I nodded and broke down sobbing in her arms.
Steph lowered us to the front step, and I buried my face in her shoulder, sobs wracking my body.
As soon as I could breathe again, I asked, "How did I know?"
Laughing, Steph said, "The same way I know when something bad has happened to Ranger. There's a connection there I can't explain. It looks like you and Les have the same type of thing. Trust me, there's nothing better. Now, you ready to go?"
I nodded and then stood, quickly moving to hop in the passenger seat of the car.
As soon as we were on the road, Steph pulled out her cell and hit a button. I heard a mumbled voice on the other end of the phone, and then Steph said, "Hi, we're on our way. Any updates?"
I couldn't hear the reply, but I heard the release of breath she made before she spoke again. "Okay, we'll be there in twenty. I love you, Carlos."
"Steph? What's wrong?" Panic crept into my voice.
"The bullet bounced around in his shoulder before exiting," she said calmly. "They're getting ready to take him into surgery to repair any damage. They'll try to hold off until we get there, but it might not be possible. He's awake and being very forceful about waiting until you're there." She chuckled, shaking her head.
I swallowed hard before speaking. "I have no doubt we'll get there before he lets them take him in."
We were silent the rest of the ride to the hospital. Steph pulled up to the emergency room doors to drop me off, and when she saw Junior by the door, she turned off the car and exited with me.
"Can you park this for me, Junior?"
He nodded, saying, "They're on the third floor, to the left when you get out of the elevator."
She handed him the car keys and then turned and walked into the hospital beside me.
I looked around nervously as we waited for the elevator. My stomach was in knots and I was too tense to speak. When we got off on the third floor and turned left, we saw a sea of black. Someone saw us coming, and suddenly, Ranger was walking toward us. He put an arm around Steph, pulled her close for a quick kiss, and then turned to me.
Putting his other arm around me, he said, "They have him ready to go. He forced them to wait. Let's get you in there to see him so they can go take care of him."
He led us down the hall, and as we passed, the group of guys gave me smiles and nods. A few even patted my shoulder.
Ranger stopped just before a closed door to the right. "He's right in there. You have five minutes, okay, Annie?"
I nodded, turned the knob, and then walked into the room.
My shoulder hurt like a son of a bitch, but knowing Annie was on her way lessened the pain somewhat. I had begun to drift off, when I saw her walk into the room. The look on her face made my heart squeeze.
"Angel, come here. Don't cry. I'm okay. I'm so glad you're here."
"Lester, I was so scared. I knew something had happened even before Steph got to the house. I was waiting for her. I knew," she cried.
I held her tight to my other side, letting her cry for a minute. Finally, I forced her chin up with my finger, staring her right in the eyes. "Annie, I was so worried I would never get the chance to tell you again..." My voice trailed off.."I love you, angel. I know I've said it before. I just wanted you to—"
The rest of my words were smothered as her lips pressed hard against mine. Every ache in my shoulder was replaced with an ache in my groin as her hot little body wiggled against my side, her tongue swirling against mine in my mouth.
Finally, she sat up, leaving us both breathless. "I love you, too, Les. I know you were scared tonight, but you did get a chance to tell me again and you are gonna be okay. No more worries."
I could tell a lot of her happy attitude was a put-on to be strong for me, but I wanted her to really believe it. I pulled her down to kiss her again until we heard a throat clearing. We broke apart to see the nurse and Ranger standing in the doorway.
"All right, Mr. Santos. Time to head to the OR. Tell everyone you'll see them in a couple of hours."
I gave Lester one last kiss, watched him nod at Ranger, and then the nurse wheeled him out and down the hall. Ranger caught me as I fell to the ground and then pulled me into his arms.
"He'll be okay, Annie. We've both been hurt much worse than this and come through it fine. Just take deep breaths and relax."
I nodded and let him maneuver me out to the waiting area down the hall. He led me to a chair beside Steph and sat in the seat on my other side. They each took a hand in mine, and we sat there quietly for a few minutes. Finally, I made a decision.
"Ranger, who can I get to run out and do me a quick favor?"
He immediately called out, "Cal."
Cal came over and stood in front of us. "Hi, Annie. How ya holding up?"
"I'm okay, thanks, Cal. Can you do me a big favor?" I pulled off my house keys and handed them to him. "Can you go make me a copy of both of these, please?"
He nodded. "Yeah, sure. I can do that. Be back in a few."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Steph glance my way and then over at Ranger. She smiled knowingly.
"I'm going to ask Les if he'll move in with me. I don't want to move into RangeMan, even though I know I could, because it wouldn't give us as much privacy. Is that okay?"
Ranger nodded and said, "Of course. He'll be thrilled, Annie. He loves you."
I sighed and relaxed against the back of the chair. Almost half an hour later, Cal was back, pressing both sets of keys into my hand. I slipped mine back on my keyring and slid the two new ones into the pocket of my jeans.
Two and a half hours later, a doctor walked out, blood splattered across his scrubs. "Lester Santos's family?"
Ranger and Steph pulled me up, and we met Tank, Bobby, and Hal up at the front.
"Ricardo Manoso," he told the doctor. "We're his family." He pointed to the small group of us.
"Lester came through the surgery fine. There really wasn't as much internal damage as we'd suspected there might be. He needs to take some time off to rest and let it heal, but he'll be as good as new in no time. He may experience some stiffness for a while, but we can set it up to teach him some exercises that will help with that."
"Thank you," Ranger said, nodding. "When can we see him?"
"He's in recovery right now. Give it another hour, and he'll be taken back to his room. You can see him then. No more than two at a time for a while."
We nodded and Ranger asked, "Annie, do you want to go wait in his room?"
Without saying anything, I headed down the hall and walked into his room, collapsing into the chair beside where his bed would go. After following behind me, Ranger gave Steph a soft kiss, pulled the other chair up beside me for her, and then he turned and left the room.
"He's going to go give the guys and the hospital safety instructions. It's routine when one of them is hurt. There'll be a guard outside the door every minute he's in here. It's just something they do, not because he's in any danger. Why don't you lean your head over on my shoulder and close your eyes? Get some rest before Les comes back in."
I nodded, closing my eyes and leaning my head down.
What felt like minutes later, I jerked awake when I heard the door open. Steph held my hand in hers, keeping me beside her while they wheeled Les in. He looked so pale and still in the bed that it was all I could do to not pass out from fear.
As soon as they had the bed locked down, Steph whispered, "I'm going to go out there and sit with Ranger. Just push the call button if you need anything."
I turned and watched her follow the nurse out of the room.
Before I could turn back around, a husky voice called out my name. "Annie?"
I swung around, eyes wide.
"C'mere, angel. There's room. I want you up here with me."
I was at his side within moments, carefully making my way up to lie beside him on the bed. "Sleep, Les. I'm not going anywhere. I'm never going anywhere."
I waited until I felt his breathing even out, and only then did I allow myself to relax enough to close my own eyes.
I woke up when the nurse came in a few hours later to check on me. She smiled when she saw us.
"Don't let her stress your shoulder, Mr. Santos," she warned before quietly making her way back out.
I smiled, pressed a soft kiss to Annie's hair, and closed my eyes again.
The next time I opened my eyes, it was light outside. Annie was still in bed beside me, but her eyes were open and she was just looking at me.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," she said softly.
"Morn—" My voice trailed off. "W-Water."
She reached back to grab a cup with a straw off the table beside the bed. After I took a few sips, she set it back and turned back to me.
I tried again to speak. "Morning, angel. What time is it?"
"About eight. You slept through several more checks during the night, but the doctor says you're doing well."
I nodded, watching her face relax a bit, but then a worried look come into her eyes. "Annie, love, what's wrong?"
When Les asked what was wrong, I knew now was the time. I carefully pulled out the two keys I'd had Cal make.
"Les, I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks now. Last night just cemented it in my head." I brought his hand up in front of us and pressed the keys into his palm. "These are copies of my house keys. Move in with me, baby."
My heart bared, I waited for his reaction and answer.
Not even a minute later, a huge grin appeared on his face and tears pooled in his eyes. "As soon as I get out of here, that's where I'm going. I'm warning you now, angel, once I'm in, I'm not leaving. You're mine forever. Are you sure that's what you want?" he asked.
My tears echoed his, now flowing freely down my cheeks, and I said softly, "I'm yours forever, just as you're mine. Always. I love you, Lester Santos."
"Always, angel," he whispered before pulling my lips to meet his in a soft, but passionate embrace.