NOT Morelli friendly. LANGUAGE, SEX and ADULT THEMES apply. VIOLENCE. Death of minor character. MATURE Content. Happy Ending. I do not own anything, all belongs to Janet Evanovich.

Babe HEA. Some angst.

Chapter One

I woke up to little men pounding hammers against my skull and my furry tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. Ugh. I slowly rolled over and looked at my clock. Eleven thirty am. It's late. I'm supposed to be catching skips today. Shit. I carefully sat up, willing my throbbing headache to disappear. What the hell had possessed me to drink so much alcohol? Oh. Right. Morelli.

Yesterday I had blown up another car. Only this time I had been ten feet from it, having just exited the car. Lucky it had only been a small bomb otherwise my keister would have been toast. As it was, I had just had a little hair singed and a few scratches. No major damage. Morelli had gone off though. We stood in the parking lot screaming at each other for thirty minutes before he started going off in Italian. That was when I told him he could go fuck himself. I turned on my heel and walked away from him, it just so happened, in the direction of the nearest liquor store. It took twenty minutes to walk there but I was beyond caring. Ranger hadn't even shown up to check if I was alive this time. The forty minute walk back to my apartment had seen the cheapest bottle of champagne half gone. I had collapsed in bed as soon as I was in the door.

Standing slowly, I made my way to the shower. When I emerged, I was feeling slightly better. I popped two Tylenol, dressed in jeans and a Rangers jersey and made my way to the kitchen. When I got there I stopped in my tracks. Rex was lying on his back, unmoving. No! I ran over to the cage and lifted him out. He didn't even twitch. I felt tears streaming down my face as I set him back in his cage and slid to the floor. It wasn't long until gut wrenching sobs were racking my body. My little fella was dead... gone... he had left me. It took a long while for me to pull myself together and stand back up on shaky legs, my headache now ten times worse. I didn't care. Rex was gone. I glanced at his cage and saw him again, fresh tears now falling from my eyes.

I quickly walked back to my bedroom and found a shoe box. Making my way back to his cage, I gently lifted him out and placed him inside. I quickly shut the lid and sat the box on the kitchen counter. The cage was sitting there mocking me. I swiftly picked it up and sat it outside my apartment door. There. I took a deep breath and made myself stop crying. It was his time Steph, he was supposed to move on. He's in a better place. Hamster heaven... he was a good hamster. I reassured myself. Taking a few more deep breaths, I washed my hands before opening the fridge. It was empty. I checked the cupboard... also empty... not even any coffee.

Sighing, I walked over to my phone to call my dad to pick me up and noticed the evil flashing red light. Reluctantly I hit the button.

"You have one new message, received 5:45 am. Hey Cupcake. I've had enough. I can't keep doing this, I won't keep doing this. It's not working for me or you. I want you to be someone you're not and you want me to accept your crazy life. Neither of us are willing to budge. Sorry Steph, it just isn't gonna work. I want a stay at home wife and at least two kids. I think I may have found it in someone else. Sorry Stephanie, I guess I'll see you around." I blinked.

Did I do something to piss the bad luck fairy off?! I mean fuck, it's just one thing after another today. Not that I was completely devastated about our breakup. We both knew this had been coming for a while. Still hurt like hell though. And calling at freaking 5:45 in the morning?! He knew I wouldn't answer the phone, the coward! What the hell did he mean; he thinks he's found someone else... unless... fucking asshole scum!

I erased the message and called my dad asking if he could bring a shovel, he said he'd be over in ten minutes. I ran a brush through my hair, tying it back in a pony tail before swiping on five coats of waterproof mascara. I was gonna need some courage today. I slipped into my last pair of sneakers, collected my purse and stared at the shoe box. Taking a deep breath, I picked it up and cradled it to my chest as I made my way downstairs. Dad was just pulling up as I stepped out the front door. I slid into his cab and buckled in silently.

"You okay, Pumpkin?" He wondered. I nodded my head.

"You're looking a little rough kiddo." I blinked, my face was probably still red from crying and my eyes were probably red, puffy and swollen. Not to mention how crazy my hair must be. Little was putting it mildly.

"Can you just take me to the park Daddy?" I requested quietly. He put the car in gear and exited the lot.

"What's in the box, Pumpkin?" I took another deep breath and blinked my eyes furiously.

"Rex." I barely whispered.

"You can't keep a pet in a closed box, they suffocate." He stated, shooting a glance at me again.

"It's a little too late for that Daddy." I mumbled. I was ready to burst into tears again.

"Oh. I'm so sorry Steph." I nodded. I was gonna miss him like hell. I hardly noticed we had parked until Dad opened my car door. I stepped out and watched as my Dad handed me the shovel.

"You want me to come with you?" I shook my head no and slowly started walking off towards a big tree. Looking around, there wasn't another soul in sight. I carefully set the box and my bag down before I set to work digging a hole that was deep enough. Just my luck, as soon as the shovel hit dirt the clouds that had been lingering around for a week decided to open up and dump their load on top of me. When I finished, I was saturated, soaked to the bone. Shivering, I said my goodbyes and laid Rex to rest. I didn't try to hold back the tears that ran down my cheeks as I covered the box with dirt. They mingled with the rain and swept away unnoticed. I made my way back to the car, chucking the shovel in the boot before climbing back in the passenger's side.

"Where to now, pumpkin?" Dad asked softly.

"The bonds office please, then you're done having to waste gas on me for the day." I sighed.

"Kiddo, I like spending time with you, this isn't a chore. I'm happy to give you a ride whenever and wherever you need it."

"I know Daddy. I love you." I gave him a small smile. We pulled up outside the bonds office fifteen minutes later. It was still raining.

"Thank you." I expressed gratefully, giving his cheek a soft peck before I stepped out of the car. He nodded and pulled away when I made it to the door. I trudged my way inside and stopped. Ranger was here. Shit, I didn't want to deal with him today as well. Too late now. I continued inside and slid my jacket off, hanging it near the door, hoping I wouldn't track more water than necessary into the office. I sat down quietly on the edge of the couch, hugging my bag to my chest, shivering.

"Hey white girl, pissing down outside aint it? Heard about your car and Morelli." Lula greeted. Typical freaking burg.

"Yeah Steph, how you doing?" Connie wondered. I just shrugged. I wasn't as upset about Morelli as I was about Rex.

"We both knew it was coming, neither one of us wanted to be together anymore." I answered dully, frowning as a low rumble of thunder echoed outside.

"What you talking 'bout white girl?" Lula demanded. Uh oh... this is gonna get worse isn't it?

"Morelli and I called it quits, for good. What are you talking about?" I wondered staring her down. She started fidgeting. Shit.

"Well, ya see, the thing about it is... well, when, exactly, did you two break up?"Lula questioned hesitantly.

"This morning, 5:45 am." Exactly. Asshole, he's lucky I didn't wake up.

"Morelli was seen escorting some woman around last night and this morning, and it wasn't you." I nodded.

"I heard." Both Lula and Connie's jaw fell open.

"Girl, you knew he was cheating on you?!" Well I didn't know before this morning... well I knew he wasn't happy, and he hadn't been getting any sex from me for the past two months, so yeah...

"Yeah." I shrugged again. Ranger was standing against the wall silently observing our conversation. He was probably getting a kick out of it, like usual, something about my life to amuse him. Fuck I hate it when I'm depressed.

"Babe, can I talk to you? In my car?" Ranger suddenly asked. I watched as Connie and Lula sucked in breath.

"No." I replied quietly.

"NO?!" Connie and Lula shrieked at the same time.

"No?" Ranger asked with his eyebrow quirked.

"No thank you. Please." I begged, my voice was timid. He strolled over to me and crouched down in front of me. He slid off his warm dry jacket and draped it around my shoulders, pulling it around me snugly.

"Are you ok Babe?" I didn't answer. Life had gone to the shithouse; my life had always been in the shithouse. Had I ever actually been okay, ever? Damn, I could use some denial right about now.

"Steph," he murmured, probably too quiet for Lula and Connie to hear. "Is this about Morelli?" He enquired. I shook my head.

"No. I don't give a shit about Morelli." I returned truthfully.

"Then what Babe?" I closed my eyes and turned my face away from him.

"Nothing Ranger. Nothing." I felt his hand gently run through my pony tail. His hand froze when he got to the ends.

"What happened to your hair Babe?" He whispered.

"My car blew up yesterday afternoon." I answered with a shrug. I suddenly felt both his hands on my face and I opened my eyes to find his piercing mine.

"Are you ok?" He demanded. "Are you hurt?" I shook my head no and I swore I saw him blow out a sigh of relief. Must have been my imagination; how could he have not known about my car? He continued to study me attentively.

"Not that I don't like talking to you Ranger, but I really need to make some money today." I appealed carefully. That was if I wanted to eat today anyway. I'd worry about the rent tomorrow. It wasn't due for another five days yet anyway.

"Ok Babe. Be safe." He stated, brushing a kiss against my lips before he stood and disappeared. My eyes followed him as he quickly slipped into his black Porsche and sped off, his jacket still around me.

Swivelling my eyes back to Connie and Lula, I found them both with their mouths hanging wide open. Hauling myself off the couch, I made my way to Connie's desk. I slid my arms into the sleeves of Ranger's jacket and enjoyed the lingering smell of Ranger.

"Please say you have a file or two for me?" Connie snapped back to herself immediately.

"One. Sherry Dodge. She resisted arrest and assaulted a police office. Apparently he was trying to feel her up and she kicked him in the balls and dropped him like a sack. Shouldn't be too bad. Bond's only set at eight hundred though." I shrugged. Eighty dollars was eighty dollars I didn't have before.

"I'll take it. Lula, want to ride shotgun?" She pushed away from the filing cabinet.

"You bet your life girl." Lula and I piled into her Firebird and zoomed off, her heater cranked up full blast trying to dry us out. I read the file as we were going.

"You wanna stop for an afternoon snack somewhere?" She wondered.

"No." I couldn't. No money.

"Well I sure do." I just kept reading as she pulled into the MacDonald's drive through.

"The big Mac deluxe meal please." Lula shouted over the rain. "What do you want Steph?" She turned to me.

"Nothing!" I snapped, not looking up from the file.

"She'll have one large coke and an extra large fries." Lula ignored me.

"Lula, I haven't got any money!" I exclaimed as she pulled around to the front window.

"None?" She sounded sceptical. "Let me see your purse." I handed over my whole bag to her. She rooted around for about five minutes and all she could come up with was a nickel.

"Huh." She remarked, pulling out her own wallet and paying. I pulled my bag back into my lap and continued reading. She stopped at the next window and collected the food before pulling into a parking space. She tried to hand me some food but I wouldn't take it.

"Steph, when was the last time you ate?" She growled.

"Yesterday." I grunted, my stomach growling at the delicious smells that were wafting through the car.

"You missed breakfast and lunch?! What you thinking girl?" I sighed.

"I was thinking I didn't have any money to buy food Lula." I answered angrily. Lack of food makes me angry... and horny, but hunger was winning out at the moment.

"Well Shit, if it's that bad I can always lend you some money." I just shook my head.

"It's always this bad. Don't worry about it." I finished reading the file and closed it. I stared moodily out the window. Stupid fucking rain.

"You gonna eat your food?" Lula wondered, her voice subdued.

"It's yours. You should eat it, you bought it. I don't want to waste your money." I replied.

"Steph. You saved my life. I owe you so big it aint funny. I just bought you lunch, it's no big deal. Eat it or your walking home." She ordered. I took the coke and fries with shaky hands and ate slowly. I could almost feel the sugar and fat work their magic.

"Feel any better now white girl?" Lula wondered as she floored it.

"Yeah. Thanks Lula." I agreed quietly. I was almost completely dry again too. She just nodded and cranked her ear drum splitting music up even louder.

"Hey, where we heading to anyway?"

"The mini-mart on the corner of Tucker and Willow Street. Apparently Sherry owns it. We'll start there." Lula made the turn and we parked right in front of the store.

Cool.

"How you wanna do this?" Lula inquired, checking her glock over, an excited gleam in her eye. I thought for a moment; Connie said she wouldn't be much trouble.

"No guns, no weapons. Nice, calm and easy." Lula shrugged, tucked her gun away God knows where and led the way in, dodging puddles.

Why did I have the feeling that something was about to go very wrong?

"Hey Sherry," I smiled, walking up to the counter.

"I can't go in today, I don't have anyone to watch the shop" She stated calmly, flicking over the page in her magazine. I looked around; there was one customer in the store.

"Steph will stay here and watch it for you, she done shit like that before." Lula announced. My mouth fell open.

"You're gonna go to the cop shop?!" I exclaimed.

"Girl, no offense but you don't need them ragging on you today, you look like hell." I opened my mouth and closed it.

"You'd do that for me?" I wondered. She nodded and turned back to Sherry.

"You gonna come get rebooked?" Sherry glanced at me and then nodded at Lula.

"Alright, but you watch my shop and look after it" She instructed. I nodded, handed Lula the appropriate paperwork and slid onto the stool behind the counter. I had been sitting there around ten minutes when I heard what my spidey senses had been dreading.

"Alright, this is a hold up, freeze!" I couldn't quite see them; the door was behind an aisle. I slid down to the floor and hit speed dial one. Pick up Ranger, please pick up. The phone rang four times before it went to message bank. Are you serious? Damn it!

"Yo, leave a..." I could hear the men getting closer and I closed my eyes, praying they wouldn't find me. It seemed hopelessly unlikely though, because I was sitting under the cash register.

"Fuck." I stated softly, seeing two shoes stop in front of me. This wasn't gonna be fun.

"You little bitch!" The man growled snatching the phone from my hand and pointing a gun at me. I watched as he pulled the trigger and then I was overcome by darkness.


To be continued...