All the characters belong to JE, I'm just going to get them into a little trouble to have some fun with it.
Jenn (perfectmanhattan) I'm not sure I would have started this story without you agreeing to keep working with me as a Beta. Thank you!
Chapter 1 – What Could Possibly Happen?
I couldn't figure out what to wear. Tank was going to be here in thirty minutes and I had yet to get past putting on my bra and panties. I finally just stuck my hand in the section of my closet that housed my distraction wardrobe and pulled out the first thing my hand landed on. Whatever it was I was determined to wear it.
I instantly regretted that decision as this dress still had the tag on it. Somehow I'd let Lula talk me into buying it six months ago and had never found the courage to step out wearing it. Still, I had made a decision and I refused to back down so I cut the tag off, sucked my gut in and slide the scrap of red material over my head tying it on at the neck. It fit better than I remembered in the store which was a plus considering it fell maybe four inches lower than my crotch and had cut outs in the material almost showing more skin than it covered up. I looked at the top and realized with the back being non-existent I needed to take off the barely there bra too. This was as close as I could get to being naked and not getting arrested for indecent exposure. I grabbed a rain coat to put over the dress when my ride arrived. It was cloudy tonight and I didn't want anyone to see this little number until I unveiled it.
Since they had begun to give me a com unit in addition to my wire, I had gotten a kick out of listening to their comments in my ear. This dress should be good for a few laughs, especially if I accidentally dropped my bag on the way in.
I was nervous about the distraction. From what Tank told me it was an easy skip, not violent, but usually hard to get alone. My role was to get him away from the guys that usually surrounded him and outside for the Merry Men to capture. It was simple enough, and I'd done it successfully a hundred times before, but Ranger wouldn't be there tonight and I always felt uneasy when he wasn't there.
Four weeks ago Ranger broke in my apartment at night scaring the crap out of me. He apologized saying he didn't mean to wake me but wanted to see me again before he left town. He was going to work from the Miami office for a while because his daughter was now in high school and was dating heavily. He wanted to be around for the last couple of years before she left for college and he wanted the chance to scare off the boys who weren't worthy of her. I laughed at that image knowing he wasn't kidding.
I asked when he would be back and he just rubbed his fingers down the side of my face with a sad expression. I didn't know what it was supposed to mean, but it frightened me that I wouldn't see him again for a while.
Morelli and I had called it quits six months before so it seemed like all the men in my life were leaving me. Of course this past Monday night Joe came to see me. He wanted to let me know he and Taylor, the ER nurse I introduced him to, were going to elope in Vegas this weekend. They weren't telling anyone so I had to keep his secret, but he didn't want me to hear about it through the grapevine when they returned either. This was just one more sign that we were better as friends because we never were this considerate to each other when we were dating.
I knew Joe and I shouldn't be together, but knowing he was getting married and Ranger was gone indefinitely had me in a funk all week. I didn't ask when we had to have this guy by but something tells me the whole sudden distraction on a Friday night was actually Tank's way of trying to lift my spirits more than it was for me to help out RangeMan. I wasn't above a little pity; I needed a reason to get up and dressed anyway.
I heard a firm knock on my door and opened it to a nervous looking Tank. "Is everything alright?" I asked him, stepping aside to let him enter the apartment.
"It's fine," He replied holding out his hand revealing my wire and earpiece. When I returned from the bathroom after struggling to find a place that I could tape the wire without it showing, he was standing by the door ready to leave.
"Are you sure everything is okay?" I asked him when we silently pulled away in his Navigator.
Tank let out a long breath and confessed, "We've got the regular crew working the distraction, but word got out about this one and a few of the other guys are coming to see if you'll stay with them and dance."
"Why?" I asked, very suspicious of the social invitation.
"This is why I didn't want to tell you." He said more to himself than me. "We know you've been down about Ranger leaving, and then with Joe going off to Vegas to get married we thought you might enjoy some fun to take your mind off things."
"How did you know about Joe?" I asked knowing he hadn't told anyone.
Tank just glanced at me as though it were foolish of me to even ask such a ridiculous question. The Merry Men were all knowing, or at least had very reliable and stealthy sources.
"Let's just get through the distraction and see how it goes before I decide about sticking around for dancing." I figured I shouldn't commit to it in case things went badly and I ended up covered in some food or maybe even garbage. Stranger things had happened and with the way my luck had been lately I wouldn't put it above happening again.
"Lester is the one you'll need to deal with, this was his big idea," Tank said sounding relieved I hadn't pressed him for more information.
I should have known Lester would be involved. He was my self appointed protector. A few days after Ranger left I decided getting up and dressed was highly overrated so I stayed in my pajamas and went in search of food in my apartment. Of course I had none, so I decided to work my way through the six-pack Joe had left the last time he came over for a game. Don't judge, beer has lots of grains in it. If it weren't for the whole fermentation process, I'd practically be drinking whole wheat toast so it isn't that far of a stretch to make it a sensible breakfast choice.
After I finished my third one I picked up Rex's cage and sat him on the floor so I'd have a little company in my quickly deteriorating condition. That's how Lester found me, my head resting on Rex's cage, and my fifth beer in my hand. He had just heard about Ranger's intent to make his move to Miami permanent and for whatever reason, thought he should check on me in his cousin's absence when I didn't show up for work that morning.
He picked me up after talking me out of the rest of my breakfast and put me on the sofa while the coffee brewed. After that morning, he showed up at my apartment every day with some sort of justification for being there. While he never picked on my rationalization for the beer breakfast I think he wanted to be sure I didn't do it again either. Of course starting your day with a sexy guy checking up on you was nothing to complain about so I began getting up with an alarm clock so I would be presentable when he showed up. It was a natural friendship that quickly meant a lot to me.
He said I helped him keep perspective and offer him advice on his many dates. Honestly, with all the women he picked up I'm surprised there were still options out there for him to use as one-night stands. I never judged. I knew Les' life hadn't been an easy one and by his own admission, he knew the string of women was nothing more than a distraction to keep him from looking too closely at his life. One day he would grow up and I couldn't wait to see what would happen then. In the meantime, I enjoyed his laid back company and it was nice to think there was still someone interested enough to watch over me.
Tank gave me the file when he parked in the back corner of the lot. A quick glance showed me three other black SUV's that I was sure belonged to the other Merry Men. The skip was Walter Jenkins. He was actually charged with contempt of court for refusing to show up and testify against a leading member of one of the large Italian families in town. No one had used the words organized crime, but they would have been true anyway. Mr. Jenkins loved fast women and had a social calendar that resembled Lester's so I didn't think it would be too hard to get his attention.
"You only need to get him to follow you out where Ram and I will take him down. This one shouldn't be that difficult." Tank advised.
I opened the door and stood up trying to get my attitude to match what I needed to convey. Tank cleared his throat and I looked at him questioningly, "What?"
"Coat?" He asked, holding out his hand to take the last piece of modesty I would posses tonight.
Realizing I needed to get in touch with my inner slut I teased him and said, "Okay Big Guy, but remember you asked for it." Then I slowly undid the belt and slid the jacket off my arms before tossing it to Tank.
"Jesus!" He exclaimed.
I tried to hide my grin as I heard other, more colorful exclamations when I turned around and began to strut my way into the club. I noticed Ram as the bouncer at the door, whose blank face was completely gone when he smiled and winked at me before opening the door to let me in.
The club was dark with flashing lights over the dance floor and low level lighting at the bar. The moment I stepped in far enough to be seen I heard Bobby's voice ring out clear as a bell, "Damn, she's like sin in heels."
Woody replied, "Yea, but she'd be worth going to confession for."
That one almost made me laugh. I spotted the mark at the bar with stools empty on both sides of him. I approached his right and pretended to drop my purse giving me a reason to bend over and get his attention without saying a word. Apparently, Walter wasn't the only person whose interest I garnered as I picked up the sound of Cal saying, "Shiiiit! Girl, you're killing us here."
Les, ever quick with a come back said, "That's right Beautiful, work it just a little more and you'll not only get our skip, but half the bar will follow you out too."
One last voice chimed in, but I couldn't tell who said, "I know I'd follow her. Damn look at that dress."
I managed to get on the stool, purse in hand, without flashing anyone else and smiled when Vince came over as the bartender. "What will it be for the lady in red?"
"Gin and tonic," I ordered knowing I'd get tonic with a slice of lime.
He sat it down with a wink and asked if he could get me anything else. "Not unless you've got a drink that will cure a man from being an asshole."
"That's not really my area of expertise." Vince said walking away shaking his head.
Walter leaned over reeking of whiskey sours and said, "I take it your boyfriend is being an ass?"
I looked him over and realized he definitely looked greasy enough to be a stereotypical member of a mob family. "Yea, we were supposed to get together tonight to have a good time. I've had a long week and all I wanted was a way to kick back and be a little naughty, but he took one look at me and said the way I was dressed tonight made me look too easy and he wanted to have to work for it. I mean, it's okay for a guy to just want sex, but if a girl wants it there must be something wrong with her." I made sure to flap my arms around in mock indignation digging into my own Italian heritage.
Walter bought it hook, line, and sinker. "Well, if all you are interested in is a good time, then I think I could help you out."
I pretended to give him the once over and said, "I know you could, but are you willing to do it right now?' I used the stir stick as a prop by putting it in my mouth after the last word and running my tongue down it drawing his attention to my mouth.
Walter threw down a twenty and grabbed my elbow saying, "Absolutely," and guided me to the door. Half way there a neck free goon jumped in front of us and Walter said, "Move, you aren't necessary for this."
The guard walked away and we walked out where Tank and Ram were waiting. They got him cuffed and I pretended to be shocked and afraid. Walter called out, "Just go back in honey, this doesn't concern you." At least he didn't associate me with his being captured.
I dashed back into the club and walked over to where the guys had crowded around the bar at the stool where I had been sitting.
"Beautiful, that was less than two minutes from bending over to walking out," Les reported. "That's got to be a new record."
I ran my hands through his spiked hair and leaned against him when his arm went around me. "You scared us when you bent over though. We were afraid half the club would start hitting on you and the skip wouldn't be able to get close enough to follow you out."
I realized I was still wired and had a com unit so I asked who they should go to? "Hal is heading back to the office so he can take them with him." Les told me.
I was feeling playful so I handed him my earpiece and then held up my finger in a wait gesture. I never broke eye contact with Hal and loved watching him blush as I reached into my dress to pull the tape and wire out. I put it in his hand and then felt bad for putting him through such torture as he almost tripped over his own feet trying to get out of the bar.
The guys roared in laughter when he finally made it out so I turned to Les and asked, "What's this I hear about sticking around tonight and dancing a little?"
"Really, Bomber?" Bobby asked. "You'll stay with us?"
"Only if you'll dance with me," I replied holding my hand out to my favorite medic. The fact that he was the only medic I knew was irrelevant.
Bobby's face lit up as he grabbed my hand and led me to the center of the dance floor. I'd danced with a few of the guys before and always marveled at how well they moved. Bobby was no exception. The driving beat almost thumped in my chest and I fell victim to its rhythm as soon as my partner put his hand on my hip and brought me close to him. I draped one arm around Bobby's shoulder and let the other one move up my neck to lift my hair. When the song ended and a slower one began Lester came over and cut in.
He pulled me close to him so that we could talk and hear each other over the blaring lyrics. "Be careful tonight Beautiful," He warned.
"Careful of what?" I asked wondering what on earth he was talking about. "You almost looked like you were having a good time with Bobby when you were dancing. If you let it get out that you are ready for some fun you might find the guys paying you closer attention." He explained.
"What are you talking about?" I was still lost.
"Half the guys here want to ask you out, but are only holding back because they want to give you time and space to get over all you've been through lately."
"Geez, Les," What was I supposed to say to that. "What about the other half?" I joked.
"They are convinced they're in love with you already but are too chicken shit to ever act on it." He explained with a laugh that didn't quite convince me he was joking.
"Which category do you fall in?" I asked sounding braver than I felt.
"I'm in a category by myself," He confessed making me respond, "Ain't that the truth."
Les squeezed me a little tighter catching my joke before adding, "I'm the only one that loves you for who you are, but know I could never love you like you deserve."
We'd had this discussion before so I understood what he meant. Les felt like he couldn't commit to any one woman and since I couldn't do anything remotely close to casual sex, then we were destined to be great friends, and nothing more. Although he did enjoy teasing me that if I ever wanted to try an open relationship we could have a lot of fun together. I laughed at the time, but if my dry spell regarding orgasms outside of the shower continued, his offer might prove to be more than I could resist. Dancing pressed again him now already proved we had great rhythm and our bodies fit together nicely.
When the slower song ended something came on I didn't recognize but it had a strong Latin beat. Vince came up and grabbed me from Lester's arms and spun me in to him. I didn't know the dance, but Vince was a great leader and following him was simple, especially since most of it involved him putting a leg between mine and then rubbing our hips together suggestively. If this song didn't end soon, my dry spell might be over sooner than I thought.
I continued to work my way through the Merry Men dancing next with Woody, followed by Zip, Ram (who had just returned from the police station dropping off the skip) and finally Tank. I was getting hot and thirsty so I caught Lester's eye at the bar and made a drink motion with my hand. He pulled himself form the set of twins that were perched on his legs and came to me with a rocks glass filled with a dark colored drink.
I took a big drink before Les had a chance to warn me. The tears sprang to my eyes as the liquid both quenched my thirst and burned my throat at the same time.
Les was laughing when he took the glass from my hand and said, "This was my drink. I was just coming over to ask what you wanted."
When my voice would work again I looked at the dance floor and realized I needed this. I needed a chance to relax and have some fun. I'd spent entirely too much time hiding in my apartment. So I turned back to my friend and said, "I'll have what you're having."
His eyes nearly bugged out of his head and he double checked, "Are you sure Beautiful, that's the equivalent of about five shots."
"You'll make sure I get home okay?" I double checked.
"Relax, we've got your back," He promised, so I took his drink away from him and carried it over to the table where the guys were sitting.
Bobby saw what I was holding and asked, "Was that Lester's?"
I nodded taking a smaller sip and smiling at the fact it didn't burn as much this time.
Being the planner of the group Bobby said, "Alright guys, keep it to a minimum, Bomber is hitting it hard tonight. She can only leave with one of us, and we have to be sober enough to get her there safely."
"Please," I said rather loudly trying to communicate his rules were a bit over the top, "This is only one drink."
"Right," Bobby replied as I took a much bigger sip, pleased with the complete lack of watering eyes as I drained the rest and then held my hand back out to Vince to dance with him again.
He grabbed it eagerly and led me back out to the dance floor. I spent the next hour dancing and realized I had a great buzz going on, but didn't really think I was drunk. Lester must have been worried over nothing. Most of the guys were dancing with other girls so I made my way over to the bar and ordered a double shot, guzzling it as Woody came over and asked me to dance with him again.
It was a slow song and I liked the way he put one hand at my waist after wrapping it completely around my back. He put his other hand in my hair and rubbed lazy circles on my neck while we silently moved). As soon as the song ended Ram cut in and pulled me to him in a way to eliminate any space between our bodies. A girl would have to be dead to not appreciate the way his body felt.
The last thing I remembered was Tank telling Bobby to beat it, that he was going to dance with me. For such a big man I found him very light on his feat. He even held one of my hands in his own with his other resting on my hip. It was both protective and intimate at the same time.
After that things began to get fuzzy. I know I continued to dance, and I'm pretty sure Zip, Zero and Junior joined me at the part. I believe I made it back to the bar a few more times, but I have no idea what I drank.
Try as hard as I can, I can't get any other memories from last night to surface. I don't know why I'm surprised, I'm not all that clear on the present either so why on earth I should be able to construct the past is beyond me.
I knew my neck wouldn't work. Well, I could probably force it to work, but the pain involved in lifting my head was definitely not worth it. Of course, my bladder would chose now to demand attention meaning I was going to have to either get up, or wash my sheets later. Knowing I was entirely too lazy to wash my sheets, I had no choice but to get up.
I opened my eyes which turned out to be a huge mistake as it made the monkeys that live in my head begin to hit their drums loudly. I decided to just try and feel my way to the bathroom because opening my eyes was absolutely not worth it.
I stood up and realized I was completely naked. I used my hand to verify this fact and definitely didn't feel the dress. What the hell happened last night?
Making my way slowly to the bathroom I realized I was sore, like I had been running. Maybe I danced a lot more than I thought. I sat down to take care of mother nature's call and realized I felt strange everywhere. I know I was hung over, but this was way beyond normal even for that.
No, that couldn't be right. As much as it hurt I was panicked enough now to open my eyes and look at what was going on. I looked at myself and realized it was undeniable…I'd had sex last night. I had several hickies on the parts of my body that I could see without using a mirror. I'm assuming since I didn't remember having sex, I probably didn't remember to take my pill either so I decided I should take it now to be covered. I stood up a little too fast and my stomach rolled, making me bend over and give up any nourishment I'd taken over the last few days. At least the cool tile felt good on my back when I collapsed backward on the floor.
I had my wits about me to grab a towel as I fell asleep again as soon as I stretched out on the floor.
The next conscious thought I had was that I was floating. At least it felt like I was floating. I tried to pry open an eye, but found it was too hard. Just how much did I drink last night? I know I moaned and then I heard laughter.
I was going to ask who was there, but it came out a mumbled mess that was unintelligible making my company laugh again. "It's alright Beautiful. I was worried when you didn't come in this morning, so I waited in case you needed a little extra sleep, but it's 3:00 so I think it is time for you to enter the land of the living."
I moaned again not agreeing with his assessment that the clock should tell me when I should wake up. "I brought you the cure," He added, sitting down with me in his lap. I smelled the salty goodness of McDonald's fries and gladly opened my mouth for him to feed me.
Lester patiently fed me my fries and gave me periodic sips of Coke too. By the time I was finished I was able to open my eyes, sit up, and look around with the world spinning. "How's that?" He asked seeing my careful assessment of how I felt.
"I'll have to let you know later," I replied thankful my voice was at least working.
"How did you end up getting home?" He wondered.
"I have no idea. I have no memory of who brought me home. I thought one of the guys was supposed to do it." I told him and watched his eyes as he took in the marks on my body that the towel clearly didn't cover up.
"So, you have no idea who…" He left that question out there unfinished.
"None," I confirmed. "Who ever it was didn't bother to stick around." I said sounding slightly bitter about that fact. I mean if we had sex, and obviously he took the time to mark various spots on my body, what harm could it have done to stick around until I woke up.
"Do you want me to ask around and see who drove you home?" Lester volunteered.
"No!" I screamed, regretting it instantly. I might feel better, but that doesn't mean my headache was gone.
"Relax Beautiful, your secret is safe with me. I know I've had my share of morning wake ups when I knew something had happened, but had no idea what or with whom." He admitted.
"As nice as it is to have someone who understands, it hardly makes me feel any better." I told him feeling very ashamed. "Somewhere at Haywood is most likely a guy who knows we spent the night together but I don't know who it is or even if I liked it."
"Well from the looks of you, I'd bet you enjoyed it," He said touching a mark on my thigh. I smacked his hand, but smiled a little despite myself.
"Relax, if you were that drunk, chances are he was too so he may not remember it either." Les added laughing.
"Alright, it's time for you to go. This has gone from being helpful to down right embarrassing." I told him standing up and trying to keep the towel on me in someway to block Lester's view.
He stood up and walked to the door before asking, "Are you coming in today?" I shook my head no. I mean it was nearing 4:00, what was the point. He pressed by asking, "Monday?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." I told him pointing to the door indicating he should leave.
I went back to my room and looked at my bed wondering if anyone else would show up or if it would be safe to just climb in. I decided at the very least I should cover up the important bits so I threw on some panties and a big t-shirt. The bed was a wreck with covers thrown everywhere so I tried to straighten them and noticed stains on the dark sheets making me moan again.
I would just have to put that on the growing list of bridges to cross at another time.
When I laid down I felt my head hit something and sat up to see what it was. There was a piece of paper on my pillow which I promptly sat up to examine. Once the room stopped spinning I opened my eyes again and read it.
"Steph, I'm so sorry I had to leave before you woke up. Tank wouldn't accept this as a reason for missing the morning meeting as much as I'd love to try. I have to be out of town today at a client, but I'll be back Sunday. I'd love to see you again, but I'll understand if you need a little space. I'm so sorry about leaving early but I'll remember last night while I'm away. You were amazing. X"
I didn't recognize the handwriting. It was sloppy, but that would be true of most of the guys, especially if they were tired and slightly hung over. Shit, shit shit! How did I get myself into this mess? What was in that drink Lester gave me? If he was still here I'd kill him. Maybe if I hide in my apartment all weekend this whole mess will just go away and no one will ask me about it on Monday.
There, I had a plan to lay low until next week and go in early before many of the guys were at their desks. If I put my earphones on, they would probably let me work undisturbed and if I can avoid anyone bringing it up for enough days in a row, hopefully they'll get the message and this whole mess will disappear into the list of crazy things Stephanie has gotten herself into.
As long as I stuck to my plan, what was the worst that could happen?