Title: To be married or not to be married
Summary: Steph has a crazy plan to save Ranger - that of course backfires. But maybe for this one time, that might not be such a bad thing.
Warnings: Some strong words, warnings for torture and attempted rape. Angst.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from the Plum world, they belong to J. Evanovich.
Copyright: Sarah Diaz, 2009
To be married or not to be married
Lester stabbed his elbow into my side and I looked up. The hotel manager stood in front of me, looking at me with a frown.
What? Oh yeah, right... "Yes, yes, that's me."
She held out an envelope. "I have a message for you."
"Thanks," I murmured and took it from her, looking at the exclusive writing on the envelope. Mrs Manoso, Hilton Hotel, Boston. I stroked over the golden letters, mesmerized.
"If I may ask, how long have you been married?" the manager asked with a smile.
"A day," I answered absentmindedly, still staring at the envelope.
Lester's elbow once again connected with my side. I jerked up. "Uh, I mean a month. It feels like just a day though," I added, darkly.
No wonder, it had been only yesterday that I've signed the marriage license.
"It took me a while to get used to my husband's name too, but you'll see, you'll get used to it soon enough," the manager assured me. "If you need anything, don't hesitate to call me or the reception." She looked at Lester. "Mr Manoso."
"That's not R... Carlos. Lester's my bodyguard," I corrected, earning a look from Lester. What? That was what I was supposed to say, wasn't it?
The manager's eyebrows rose. "Your husband leaves you alone already? With another man even? I bet you miss him, only so soon after your wedding."
"Yeah," I answered quietly. I did miss him. Terribly. "But it couldn't be helped." Especially as he had no idea that he was married recently to me at all. I felt my composure slip and strained to smile politely at her. She was quite chatty, that woman. "If you'll excuse me now, I'm afraid I need to get ready for a - meeting."
"Sure. I hope everything meets your expectations. Mrs Manoso." She smiled at me a last time and then left at last.
Lester closed the door after her. "Bomber, you need to be more alert."
"I'm trying!" I huffed and turned away from me, hugging my arms close around me. This wasn't easy on me. I was worried sick about Ranger and at the same time I was nervous how he'd react once he learned what I and his men had done. Okay, well perhaps I just hoped more that he had an opportunity to get mad at us at all but boy, he was going to be so mad.
"This was your idea, Bomber. If you can't go through with it fine, but you need to say so now. After the press conference is over, there will be no going back anymore," Lester said, urgently.
I took a deep breath and moved over to the balcony. The view was wonderful. The penthouse suite was exquisite. Yet, I couldn't draw any pleasure from either of them. All I could think of was Ranger and what he must be going through right now. Was he out there somewhere, in one of the buildings I was looking down now? Or did they bring himsomeplace else? It reminded me just why I was here in this penthouse suite in the first place and my back straightened. "No, it's all right. I can do this. We will do this."
Lester sighed. "Okay. I need to talk to Tank, see how far he is with the press conference. You should make yourself ready."
I listened to his footsteps walking away to the other room, the door softly closing behind him and let out the sob I've been trying to keep back ever since the manager had handed me the envelope. Pressing my lips together, I looked down at it before I opened it, drawing out the documents gingerly. There was the marriage license on top of it. For a moment, I stared at my name and signature next to Ranger's.
Mine was real. Lester had forged Ranger's. Tank had assured me that no one would be able to see the difference, not even Ranger himself, Lester was that good at forgery. And apart of the forged signature, it was even a legit document. Tank had insisted that if we did this, it had to be for real. The people that had Ranger weren't stupid, they wouldn't fall for fake documents. So we blackmailed a judge who owned Ranger big time to sign off on the marriage license with a date from a month ago and Lester acting as a stand-in for Ranger. The rest of the documents were of similar character, forms and papers that now declared me as Ranger's wife giving me access to his stuff and money. To round everything up, there were even a few pictures. I didn't know where they had the pictures of Ranger in a tux from. I had spent an hour in a bridal shop yesterday to slip into a wedding dress and have the pictures that showed me in my wedding dress taken. Now there were pictures showing me and Ranger together on our wedding day, one even of us kissing.
If I didn't know it better, I'd bet my life that they were real.
Of course, we were betting Ranger's life on them to be believed real.
Tears welled up in my eyes and I threw the envelope and everything else on the next table and turned my back on them.
Ranger was going to be livid, once he learned what we've done. And yes, I was worried about his reaction but I was way more worried about him. I wanted him back, that was all that counted. In the three weeks since his kidnapping we were able to find out who had him and why - but we weren't able to find them or him and the last hints or clues we had turned out to be busts three days ago. That was when I came forward with my idea.
We knew they wanted certain critical information from Ranger. No one had any doubt that Ranger was ever going to break. Sooner or later, they would recognize that as well and then they would most probably just kill him.
I couldn't let that happen.
My plan was crazy at best. Possibly even suicidal.
I didn't care.
It took me a while to convince Tank and the rest of the Rangemen to go along with my plan. In the end I simply told them I was going to this with or without their help and there was nothing and no one who was going to stop me. It was enough for them to jump on. I guess they secretly had wanted to go along with it from the beginning, but were too scared because it went against every order Ranger ever issued to them in relation to me.
The plan may be crazy - but it was just crazy enough that it might work. My instinct told me it would work. It had to.
They needed Ranger to talk. Which he wouldn't. So we were going to give them the one thing that might make him talk after all. The woman he loved, his newly wedded wife.
So I became Mrs Stephanie Michelle Manoso, born Plum, and I was going to tell that the world in about half an hour, pleading the people who had kidnapped my dear husband for his safe return, offering to pay any amount of ransom they wanted.
Of course, they wouldn't want money, as we knew only too well. No, we wanted them to know about me so they'd kidnap me and lead the Merry men to Ranger by following the tracker that was placed in my neck yesterday as well. We counted on them wanting to use me to get Ranger to talk.
It would work, I just knew it in my bones. I wanted Ranger back and if we could do that by using me, so be it. There was a big possibility that I was going to get hurt, at least a little, I knew that, and I wasn't looking forward to it, but in the end, I didn't really care. Anything to get him back.
Ranger would just have to deal with that. He had saved my life so many times since we've met, had done so much to keep me safe from all the lunatics that seem to just have waited for me to cross their paths, bleeding money, now it was my turn. It was my life and my decision if I wanted to risk it for him or not, and damn it, I wanted to.
I needed to.
Because I loved him. God, I loved him so damn much. The thought of losing him, of maybe never seeing him again - it was unbearable. I had to do whatever I could to save him. Even if it involved maneuvering him into a marriage I knew he never would want. After all, he may love me as well, but he didn't do relationships and a ring wasn't to be expected from him.
I fingered the simple golden wedding band Tank had given me. It didn't matter.
If it just got him back, that was the only thing that mattered. And if this saved him, I didn't care about the consequences. Ranger could always just annul the marriage. Obviously, it wasn't legit after all. He could fire his men and distance himself from me. It would hurt, very much, no doubt, but never as much as losing him to death.
For the time being, I was legally his wife and by God, I planned to make the best out of it - and if it killed me.
Ninety minutes later, we were back in the suite, Tank with us this time as well.
"Now what?" I wanted to know, facing him.
"Now we wait," he answered calmly. "By evening, your plea to the kidnappers will go over every local channel. By morning, I expect a couple of national channels to pick it up as well. If nothing happens in the next two days, I'll see if we can make it international."
From what we had gathered, Ranger had been kidnapped on his way back to his office building here in Boston from a meeting he had attended with some contract partners of his. We learned that the Chinese sleeper cell was behind his abduction, apparently wanting to talk to him about the whereabouts of certain documents and quite an amount of money Ranger had been involved in to steal from the Chinese in order to prevent an attack on the USA. It had been one of his government jobs so I only knew the most important basics and even those Tank had been reluctant to give to me. I had to call up a few favors myself to get the official green light for Tank to tell me that much. Luckily, my father still had had some contacts from his time in Vietnam and had been able to get me that clearance.
I sat down onto one of the couches but jumped up immediately again, choosing instead to pace restlessly. "I hate waiting."
No one commented that. Then again, I didn't think it was big news for any of them. Heaven knew I wasn't exactly famous for my patience. That was rather Ranger's thing.
What wouldn't I give to have him with me right now. He was always so calm and reassuring in situations like that. Tank and the Merry men were calm as well, but that had only little effect on me, not even close to how much Ranger was able to calm me.
Once again I had to fight back tears. They wouldn't help Ranger and only make Tank and Lester uncomfortable. But it was getting harder and harder to hold them back in front of them and as soon as I was alone, I was a complete basket case.
If we didn't get Ranger back soon...
But we were getting him back. Everything was in place. Now it was just the Chinese coming for me that was still left out and then we would finally get to Ranger and get him to the nearest hospital.
That he might already be dead was not even a possibility in my book. Ranger was tough. He was batman. He was the shit. They most likely had hurt him, badly probably even, but they weren't going to kill him. They couldn't.
This was a rescuing mission, nothing else. I just wish we could finally come to the actual rescuing part.
For once, I got my wish.
That same night, the Chinese came for me.
(Author's note: Hope you like it. Reading the latest book and then the whole series all over I started with two stories even and I've worked on some old ones. Here's one of them. I'm working on the next chapters, the next one is finished already. Hopefully it continues to flow like this. Sorry for any mistakes, but I'm not a native English speaker. I try my best to have it correct though. Enjoy!)