Disclaimer: JE owns them. I do not.

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The Enemy of My Friend

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Chapter 1
Stephanie's POV

I parked my latest POS car beside the dumpster and stomped up to my apartment. My shoulders felt heavy, and I didn't think it was just the garbage I was covered in; it felt like I was carrying the weight of the world, and I was tired of it. Things were going to have to change soon because it was slowly driving me insane. Once inside the apartment, I picked up the phone and called Ranger.

"Yo," he answered in a soft, yet commanding voice.

"Yo, yourself," I replied, smiling for the first time in hours.

"Babe."

"Ranger." I don't know why I was teasing him, but it made me giggle. "Whatcha up to, Batman?"

"Just finishing up some paperwork. You clean yet?"

I rolled my eyes. It figured that he'd heard about the latest incident. "How'd you hear?"

"Hal was just pulling up at the station when you came out after dropping off the latest skip."

Ah, Hal, I thought, growling. "I'm just about to get in the shower." I bit my lip, knowing I was—

"Playing with fire, Babe," Ranger interrupted my thoughts in his smoldering voice.

"Yeah, yeah. Sorry." I sighed. "Want to pick up Pino's and come over for dinner and a movie? I just want to take a shower, curl up on the couch in my PJs, and veg out for the evening. I'd love some company."

"Sure. Give me thirty minutes," he said before abruptly hanging up.

I glared at the phone in my hand. Criminy, he had the phone manners of a...well, I didn't know what, but whatever it was, he had none! Looking at the clock, I squeaked, knowing that it would take me almost thirty minutes just to get all the gunk out of my hair. I tossed the phone onto the counter and rushed into the bathroom.

Twenty-five minutes later, I walked out of the bathroom and straight into a warm, hard chest. "Oh shit! Geez, Ranger, make some noise, will you? You scared me!"

"Babe—" he started.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. I should be more aware of my surroundings." I rolled my eyes.

"Well, I was going to say that you should probably pick up the towel you dropped, but that, too." He smirked.

"Eep! Go! I'll be out in a minute," I said, shoving him toward the door.

I watched as he looked me up and down slowly, his eyes darkening before he walked back to the living room.

I threw on a pair of boxers and a black T-shirt, both of which I'd pilfered from Ranger's apartment one of the times I'd stayed overnight. After running a brush through my hair, I pulled it into a messy ponytail and walked into the living room, crashing on the couch beside the man himself.

"Here, Babe." Ranger handed me a beer and a plate with a couple of pieces of my favorite pizza.

I mumbled a thanks around my first bite, eating the first piece before I said a word. "Perfect," I told him before starting the second piece. "Whatcha want to watch?"

"Your choice." From the way he was watching me, I had a feeling he might not actually see most of the movie.

Blushing, I stood up and grabbed a movie from the stack on my entertainment cabinet. I popped Mr. and Mrs. Smith into the DVD player, grabbed the remote, and settled into the couch again. "Been a while since we watched this one," I commented around my third slice.

A few minutes into the movie, we finished dinner and settled comfortably against the back of the couch. Ranger grabbed the remote and paused the movie. I looked up at him, seeing questions in his eyes.

"What's up with you and the cop?"

I sighed. Guess he heard about the fight at the station today...

"Babe," he said, sounding amused.

"Oh, I said that out loud, didn't it?" He nodded, and I rolled my eyes. "I don't know. I think I'm done. I've really had it. He yelled, again, about my job and how bad I was at it. Told me I just needed to quit and move into his house so we could plan the wedding and our life together." I shrugged. "I told him to shove it and left."

Ranger chuckled and pulled me tighter against his side. He pressed play, and we continued watching the movie. A few minutes later, he picked me up and moved slightly. He lay down on the couch on his side, facing the television, and then he pulled me down in front of him. My back was plastered to his front, and I could feel every delicious hard inch of him against me. The last thing I remembered before falling asleep was the feel of his hand rubbing soft circles on my stomach, just under the edge of my shirt.

~oOo~

I jerked awake after hearing the loud sound of glass breaking, but didn't have time to move before I heard and felt an explosion. The force of it threw me off the couch and across the room. I smelled smoke and heard the crackle of fire, but was only able to call out, "Ranger!" before something hard fell onto my head and blackness descended over me.