We were walking up the long driveway of Ranger's parent's house when he stopped me. "So what do I call you now?" he asked.
I raised my eyebrows. "Whatever you want. I don't care about labels as long as you're committed," I replied.
"Girlfriend?" he asked.
"It sounds kind of junior high but I think it's the most appropriate answer if people ask if we're together," I shrugged.
"Babe, I never behaved in junior high the way I've behaved with you the past twenty-four hours," he said giving me a small smile.
"I meant to thank you for that," I said as I turned kissing him lightly on the lips. "For last night and this morning," I said giving him a slightly deeper kiss. "And yesterday afternoon, even though I'm having trouble walking. Thank you Carlos," I whispered against his lips.
Once I said his name he moaned and parted my lips with his tongue and pulled me tight up against him.
We were in the middle of making out, completely lost in each other, when we heard a voice. "Carlos, Stephanie!"Maria called. I turned to see Maria running out of the house towards us.
I guiltily dislodged myself from Maria's son, feeling like a stupid junior high school student who just got caught making out in the driveway.
"I'm so glad you two are finally together!" she said kissing Ranger on both cheeks then me. "Come in, come in and see the kitchen!" she said excitedly.
"So much for explaining to people we're together. Seems like everyone already knows," I whispered.
"Babe," Ranger said with a smile as he took my hand. This Ranger holds hands. I love this Ranger!
We entered and a saw lots of RangeMan faces. Bobby and Lester were there as well as Tank and Lula. Lula came rushing over to me and hugged me tight he may have also used this as an excuse to ask me if I "hit that" yet. I gave her an "Oh yes I have" look. She grinned at me and squeezed my hand as we walked over to talk to Tank.
Celia practically tackled Ranger when she noticed his hand resting on the small of my back.
"Oh thank god Carlos! I really thought you were going to fuck this one up! I really like her too," she exclaimed turning to hug me.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence Celia," Ranger said mildly. "I wasn't going to let her get away that easily. Although she did have me work for it," Ranger said turning his smile on to me.
"Damn right!" I replied returning the smile.
Celia grinned at us and returned to talk to Tony. Ranger and I walked through the beautiful redone kitchen. Maria and Ricardo were in the center of a group of people beaming with pride. Maria came over again and kissed Ranger whispering her thanks.
Ricardo came over and shook hands and hugged his son. It made my heart swell to see Ranger so happy with this family.
It was an incredible afternoon of drinking, eating, dancing and laughing. I really loved his family and I was so appreciative with how warm and open they were to me.
I was standing with Ranger and Lula when Bobby walked over.
"I think it's time," he said to Ranger.
Ranger gave him a nod and replied "0500."
Bobby nodded and walked off.
"What the hell was that?" asked Lula.
"Don't worry about it," Ranger said mildly. Lula shot me a look.
"You guys are going to the mats!" I whispered harshly. "This is bullshit! Why are you doing this?" I asked.
"Babe, outside," he said placing his hand lightly on the back of the neck guiding me out front. I shot Lula a look and she raised her eyebrows. I'm sure she hurried off to find Tank who would fill her in.
Once we were outside I turned and looked at Ranger.
"Ranger what the hell? After everything we've been through and everything we've moved past you and Bobby still feel the need to beat the shit of each other. What the fuck?" I asked with my arms folded in front of me.
"You and I are fine and we're in a good place. From the sounds of it, you and Bobby are fine now too," he said rubbing my arms. "Bobby and I need to work our shit out now and this is the way we do it. It's the best way for us to get past this," he said trying to explain.
"By hurting each other?" I shrieked. "I caused this. I should be the one to be hurt. What happens if I let you guys each just slap me. Once. Open hand only. Would that be better?" I cringed.
I didn't want to really be hit but I can't imagine them beating on each other.
Ranger let out a full laugh."Only you would be willing to do something so ridiculous. No, Babe. Neither of us wants to hit you or hurt you in anyway. We both love you. Please just trust me this is the only way for us to move forward. Bobby feels the same way I do but we both knew you would freak out so we wanted to wait until you seemed a little more comfortable with both of us," he explained.
"That has to be the most fucked up convoluted rationale I've ever heard! You and Bobby are clearly going to do this with or without my consent am I correct?" I asked raising my eyebrows.
"Yes, Babe" was my only answer I received.
"Well, you both suck!" I exclaimed. Not my best in terms of maturity or cleverness but that's how I feel.
Ranger grabbed me and pulled me into him as I tried to walk away. He started kissing my neck. "So not in the mood Batman," I said pulling away.
He pulled me back into him and gave a kiss which melted my bones. I moaned and felt my body respond to his closeness. I found myself wrapping my arms around his neck and kissing him back just as fiercely.
"You sure?" he whispered in a husky voice as he planted gentle kisses down my neck.
"You don't play fair Batman," I groaned. Fuck it. "Let's go say our goodbyes, so you can take me home," I said trying to compose myself.
That got me a 200 watt smile. Cocky bastard had me eating out of his hand.
I was hoping after our multiple sessions of love making Ranger would sleep through his alarm. I may have gotten up in the middle of the night to shut it off. Sometime after I did that he must have gotten up and reset it. How the hell is he always a step ahead of me?
The alarm went off at 4:40 so Ranger could get ready for his "appointment" with Bobby. I also got up and dressed in gym clothes. He eyed me I kept my face stony even though I thought I was going to vomit.
I tried deep breathes and my "I'm an adult" mantra. Nothing seemed to help that the man I love and my good friend we're about to go beat the shit out of each other because of the problems that I caused. The guilt was sickening.
We walked into the gym and Bobby was waiting along with a bunch of the other guys. Lester came around, sensing my tension and squeezed my shoulder. Bobby and Ranger nodded too each other.
With that I turned on my heel and walked out. I can't watch this shit.
I stood outside the doors for 30 minutes. I couldn't really hear anything through the thick doors but my anxiety level was high. I just paced back and forth.
Finally, what felt like hours later, Lester poked his head out and saw me pacing.
"Come here, Beautiful," he said gathering me in his arms whispering comforting Spanish words in my ears. At least I think they were comforting he could be calling me a dumb bitch for all I know.
My eyes were wet with unshed tears and I felt like I swallowed a golf ball. I clung to Lester for a moment then let out a sob as he rubbed my back. I took a few deep breaths and composed myself.
"How bad is it?" I asked flinching.
"It's not that bad come in and see that their okay," he said taking me by the hand.
I wish I could say I walked into the gym coolly with my head held high and my face devoid of emotion. Instead, I walked in with Les's hand in a death grip, my head hanging down and red eyes. I was sure my pigmentation was now a sexy shade of green.
We walked into Bobby's medic office where both Bobby and Ranger were sitting on opposite tables shooting the shit smiling at each other. What the hell?
"Hey, Gorgeous," greeted Bobby. "Come here," he said when he saw the look on my face.
I walked over looking Bobby over. He had a bruise developing on his face and a bloody lip but he didn't look too awful. He gave me a smile and put his arms around me pulling me to him. He kissed my cheek and whispered that everything was okay in my ear.
"You promise? Everything is alright now?"I asked.
"Yes, Gorgeous," he said with another squeeze and kiss.
I turned and looked at Ranger. He had a cut above his eye and also a bruise developing on his face. I walked toward him and he took me in his arms and held me tight while I inhaled the familiar bulgari sent and calmed down.
Tank was working on cleaning up Ranger's cut. So I let go and moved out of the way.
"Do you still think we suck?" asked Ranger. Bobby and Tank both started laughing. I turned around to see Lester grinning at me.
"How am I the one who is getting made fun of right now? Having two people you care about beat the shit out of each other is not normal!" I pointed out.
That got them all laughing harder. "Well you all suck," I grumbled.
"We're going to suck even more next week," Tank said with a grin.
I froze. "What the hell is next week?" I asked.
Ranger gave me a guilty smile. "It's time for your evaluation. I was supposed to do it right when I got back but due to some…personal circumstances I thought it would be better to wait," he explained.
"You're evaluating me?" I said incredulously. "That has to be the definition of conflict of interest," I pointed out. "Shouldn't Tank be evaluating me?" I asked.
"Nope, it's always the boss man and we have strict standards that he will be adhering to," explained Tank.
"Not that I'm going to fail," I said with mock confidence. "But if I do, what happens?" I asked.
"You don't get your bonus and you go on probation. If you can't pass our standards three months later then you will be let go," Tank said evenly.
"Oh, is that all?" I said. I was definitely going to vomit now!
Ranger jumped off the table and walked toward me taking me by the shoulders meeting my eyes. "Babe, I have complete faith that you will pass. You've been working your ass off," he said.
"If I don't?" I asked again.
"Then I get to take over your training for the next three months and trust me when I say there is no possible way that you would fail twice," he gave me a wolf grin.
He grabbed my hand and dragged me out of the gym. "Where are we going?" I asked.
"To work on your cardio babe. I'm a little beaten up so you're going to be doing all the work," he said as he pulled me into the elevator and hit seven. Hmmmm maybe training with Ranger for three months wouldn't be so bad.
The next week I buckled down and focused. I did not want to fail. I worked really hard with Ram, Vince and Bobby to tighten up all the skills Ranger would be testing me on. I was so worried I would let him down.
I even slept at my own apartment without Ranger to make sure I got adequate sleep. I still wasn't quite able to control my hormones sleeping next to him. I hadn't made it a night without jumping him at least twice, so I figured space was the only way I was going to sleep this week. But I made sure to jump him at least twice during the day. We both were offline at every lunch break.
I would come back to my apartment dead tired. I would shower and then jump straight in bed where I would immediately pass out till my alarm went off around 5:30am and then my day would repeat itself.
On the day of my evaluation I was ready and waiting for Ranger and Ram at the gun range at 0600. My heart was pounding so loudly I figured they could probably hear it as they walked in. I noticed Manny was also with them holding a clip board. Shit. All I need is someone else watching everything I do. I don't already have enough pressure.
All three men had their blank faces on. I tried to look at Ram who was my instructor and he betrayed nothing. I started to realize this wasn't just a test for me but a test for him, and all my instructors, as well. As if I wasn't nervous enough before, my hands started to shake when I realized that my instructors were being tested as well.
They started out by me picking up each gun and explaining what I knew about each one including me loading and unloading each gun. Manny and Ranger followed behind Ram and I not saying anything or making any sort of facial expressions. I just focused on Ram who was asking me all the questions.
Then we got to shooting and Ram gave me different weapons and told me where to hit on each target as we moved down the line. Afterwards, they brought the targets forward and I wasn't allowed to see how I did. I waited outside the door bouncing on my toes. When they came through the door they all had their blank faces firmly in place.
"Well?" I asked.
"You won't get the results till after all the evaluations Babe," Ranger said with a blank face.
I mean he called me 'Babe' so that's a good thing right? Or is it supposed to be a comfort as in 'I still love you even though you suck'? Shit. I took a breath and refused to panic as we headed off to see Vince and to go over weapons training.
Ranger and Manny followed as silent shadows while I showed Vince everything I knew about each weapon on the table that way laid out. Then we practiced with each weapon in front of Ranger and Manny who never said anything. I was sweaty and tired by the time we were done. I searched Vince's face and couldn't get a read.
Shit! Shit. Shit. Shit. Fuck. Breathe. I'm an adult. Breathe.
Next it was Bobby and I and hand to hand combat training. We went through everything including kicks, punches, holds, fall breaks…EVERYTHING. It took over an hour and I tried to pretend that I wasn't tired but all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball on the mats. Once again neither Bobby, Manny nor Ranger gave me any hint on how I was doing.
"Babe, you have a three hour break and then we do the physical fitness portion. I suggest you go up to seven eat, shower and rest. We'll reconvene this afternoon," Ranger said.
I nodded and headed up to seven. I took a hot shower and ate a whole wheat everything bagel and a massive helping of fruit. I lay down in Ranger's amazing bed.
I felt a presence and sat up. Ranger was crawling in bed beside me.
"Mmm," I made a happy sound as I snuggled close to him. He wrapped his arms around me kissing my forehead. "So how am I doing so far?" I asked.
"Babe, I can't tell you that," he replied.
"Ranger! Seriously?" I whined.
"Carlos, Babe. Outside of work you should be calling me Carlos. We're going to have to have some sort of lines if I'm going to be playing boss as well as boyfriend," he said.
"Carlos?" I asked innocently. "If you get to be boss inside of work can I be boss outside?"
He laughed. "What do you have in mind, Babe?" he asked.
"Why don't I just show you," I said as I broke free from his grasp, pushed him down and straddled him. I heard his breath hitch in his throat as I brought my mouth down to meet his.
"If this is you in charge, I think I could get used to it," he said with a growl as he pulled me back down for another kiss.
Two hours later Ranger and I were making out in the elevator headed back down to the gym. I pulled him out of the elevator by the hand and he quickly broke my grasp.
"Babe, I love you more than anything but not in front of my employees. I still need to be able to scare the shit out of them," he said.
"Fine Batman! I'll behave. Who's working me out anyways?" I ask.
"That would be the boss, Babe," he replied with a hint of a smile.
Shit. "Yeah perfect" I said clearly lying.
Ranger started me out on a one mile run as fast as I could manage. I didn't blow it out of the water but it was under eight minutes, barely. Then Ranger stretched me out to see my flexibility. Thank the good lord I took care of some of my hormones earlier because otherwise I'd be in a lot of trouble with Ranger stretching me.
After the stretch we did a five mile run including different inclines and speeds on the treadmill. Ranger ran right along with me on the treadmill next to mine. I knew I wasn't supposed to say anything but it was really so encouraging having him next to me. I held my tongue though. I was not going to embarrass my boyfriend in front of his men…anymore then I already do on a daily basis.
After the run we did weight training, plyometrics and drills. It was almost three hours and we were on the last drill of burpies. Everything hurt. As I was jumping up and down I saw Manny with his clip board talking to Ranger. I also noticed that all the guys began to gather around.
"Last one," said Ranger. I finished and stood up. I tried to get control of my breathing so I didn't look winded. My shirt didn't have a dry spot on it. I looked up at all the guys watching me.
"Ram!" barked Ranger.
Ram came forward and his blank face broke into a grin. "Pass," was all he said.
"Vince!" Ranger called out.
Vince came forward and winked at me. "Pass," he said.
"Bobby!" Ranger shouted.
Bobby came forward and had a full smile. "Pass!" he exclaimed.
I turned to look at Ranger who came forward lifting me off my feet and roughly pulled my face to his. He gave me and incredible bone melting kiss IN FRONT OF EVERYONE.
Ranger broke into a 200 watt smile, once he broke the kiss and shouted, "Pass!"
I screamed and threw my head back while Ranger still holding onto me. He twirled me around in his arms. I heard all the guys cheering!
Ranger let me down and I went and jumped on Ram who crushed me in his arms and kissed my sweat soaked hair. Then Vince grabbed me and gave me a quick hard kiss on the lips and a big hug which lifted me off my feet.
"Watch your hands!" barked Ranger as Vince's hands slid down my back. Vince put me down and I turned to Bobby he hugged me tight, kissed me softly on the cheek and whispered how proud he was of me.
Lester then picked me off of my feet and twirled me around. I was getting dizzy but I was so elated I couldn't care less. I jumped on Tank after and he whispered that it was an honor to have me on the team. I was beaming.
Once everything calmed down, Ranger came by and grabbed my hand and took me back to seven. "How tired are you?" he asked.
"I'm tired but I think with all the adrenaline I could run a marathon right now. Well maybe like a half or a 5k," I said as I realized that my legs were actually shaking a little.
"Too tired for a date night?" he asked with his eyebrows raised.
"Never!" I replied excitedly. We haven't spent a ton of time together this week and I missed him.
"Go into the bedroom and see what I got you," he said with a whisper.
I ran into the bedroom and there was a large box on the bed. I opened it and saw a gorgeous red dress. I gasped.
"There's more," he said getting out a shoe box that had amazingly sexy black stilettos which I would probably break my ankle in.
"Carlos! This is too much!" I exclaimed. "Wait. How did you know I was going to pass? You didn't rig it did you?" I asked suspiciously.
"Absolutely not. Babe, I love you but I want to keep a separation of my business and our personal life. If you didn't pass I was going to tell you that this was too cheer you up and if you did, it was too celebrate," he explained.
"Pretty clever Mr. Manoso," I said giving him a smile.
He told me he had some things to wrap up downstairs and that we'd be leaving in two hours. I was glad I brought my overnight bad with all my tools and I made sure to give Rex a baby carrot and a tortilla chip so he could celebrate too.
I showered, shaved, waxed, tweexed and lotioned the hell out of my body. I was feeling relaxed and incredibly sexy. I took my time taming my hair into soft waves. I was almost done with my make up when Ranger came back in hopped in the shower.
I put on sexy black lingerie including corset and guarder belt underneath the sexy red dress which I slipped on quickly so Ranger wouldn't see. I wanted to be able to surprise him as much as he surprised me.
Ranger emerged from the bathroom clean shaven and dressed in a black suite. He looked incredible and I had to make sure that I wasn't drooling on myself.
I buckled my new shoes and stood up as I reached for my black clutch. I turned and he was staring at me. "You are so beautiful," he said in an awed voice.
"You clean up pretty well yourself Batman." I said. Understatement says what?
He stopped me and handed me a small velvet jewelry box.
"Ranger," I said as I shook my head.
"Carlos," he whispered back as he opened the box for me revealing a beautiful diamond bracelet.
"I can't accept this! It's too much," I whispered.
"Babe, this was your last birthday gift which I didn't have the balls to give you," he explained.
I felt my heart stop; I turned to look at him. "Thank you Carlos," I whispered.
"You're welcome Babe," he said with a small smile.
Carlos took me to dinner at this incredible French place where they had a band playing. We ate, danced and talked. Ranger wasn't big on words but Carlos was incredibly charming. I was glowing throughout the night.
On our way back we took a strange turn. "Carlos? Where are we going?" I asked.
"You'll see Babe," was all he said.
We pulled up to a beautiful gated house. It was large but not ostentatious. My breath caught in my throat.
"Are we at the batcave?" I asked.
"Babe," he said followed by a smile.
He parked the car and let us into the house. I was in awe walking around this gorgeous house.
"We have some unfinished business Babe," he said.
I reached up and kissed him passionately.
He moaned. "We'll be getting to that but that's not what I was referring too," he said as he broke our kiss.
He took me into the master bedroom and opened a drawer and pulled out yoga pant and a tank top for me.
"Change and meet me downstairs in the den," he said.
I was slightly flustered but I changed leaving the lingerie underneath hoping that he'll keep his promise about getting to that part later.
I found him in the den in a simple white undershirt and basketball shorts.
"What are we doing?" I asked completely confused as Carlos pulled me down next to him and turned on the TV.
I let out a cackle when I saw he set up Empire Strikes Back on the TV.
"Seriously?" I asked.
"It's time you really saw it Babe," was his answer.
I snuggled against him and complied. We watched the whole movie which I actually really liked and once it was over he turned to me and raised his eyebrows.
"Learn anything Babe?" he asked.
"Maybe," I responded.
"Babe," he pushed for an answer.
"Okay! Han Solo really did love Leia when he said 'I know'," I admitted.
"Yes he did," Carlos replied.
"Can we compromise and still acknowledge that it was a dick move?" I asked.
"What do I get out of this?" he asked.
I bit my lip and sat for a moment. I stood up and stripped off the tank top and yoga pants to reveal my lingerie. His eyes went wide and darkened.
"It was a complete dick move," he agreed in a husky voice.
I straddled him on the couch. "I love compromising with you," I whispered.