I worked on the Sales files for a while. Luke came into the office to speak to Ranger all filled with swagger, and left morosely. I could only assume that Ranger fired him.
Ranger stayed in his office with Tank with the door closed for a while afterwards. Eduardo and Miguel wandered into my office to talk. “Do you know if Ranger fired that hothead?” asked Eduardo.
“I have no idea. I just know that Ranger was not happy. And neither was Luke when he left.”
“I don’t know why Ranger is having all these problems with hiring lately.”
“Rangeman is growing so quickly, and Ranger needs people so desperately he is hiring the best of the pool that has applied. The problem is that not very good people have applied. We need to figure out a better way of hiring people. Ranger would prefer to have people with military backgrounds as they have already been trained in the discipline and responsibility that comes with carrying a gun. However, there are only so many military out there that are interested in working in security, and they are hard to find.”
“I have a couple of my buddies from Special Forces who are looking for work. I will let them know of the openings with Ranger”, said Miguel.
“I also have a couple of friends looking for work from my military days”, said Eduardo. “They are good guys and would be a strong addition to the team if we were able to sign them on. I will also let them know of the job openings.”
“Ranger would be forever grateful to have some qualified people apply. Did you hear that Logan, the new recruit that Hal and Calvin were training, fell asleep on the job? Ranger drove him back to the office and let him go for the day without pay. He said he wanted to see him working this weekend. Ranger was definitely not impressed, but at least he did not make him get out of the car and walk the rest of the way back to the office.”
“Yeah, that was pretty sweet”, said Eduardo. “All right, I have some calls to make to my former teammates. They will be glad of the call. Talk to you later, chica.”
“Me, too. I also have some calls to make.”
“Tell your friends to apply soon, as Ranger needs bodies quickly. And let Ranger know what your friends say if they are interested. I think he is worried about overworking his staff, and is having to make the decision between overworking staff, a reduction in quality of security services, or hiring from the less than stellar job applicants. You will improve upon his day if you can come up with qualified job applicants for him.”
Several minutes later, Eduardo walked by my office and stuck his thumbs in the air. “Got two applicants for Ranger.”
A few minutes later Miguel joined him. “All done. Got two more applicants for Ranger to choose from.”
“Text the contact information to Ranger, then knock on his door and stick your head in to tell him that the information has come in. As I said, I think it will make his day having a recommendation come from you.”
I worked for two more hours on the files from Sales. I was able to clean up all the outstanding files, and I just had left the large file from Ranger to do the following day, as well as finding those two other outstanding skips – Vance Deville, who was not interested in a free bottle of Jack, and Nolan Nyetta, who we had not been able to find. By the time I was ready to leave, Ranger was still holed away in his office with Tank. Not wanting to interrupt them, I texted Ranger. “Finished Sales files. Going home. Rex needs to be fed. I’ll be in the office tomorrow to work on your file. Not sure what time – I am planning on sleeping in a bit. Will come to work with dirty laundry if you are still game for a clean date.”
Then I sent a text to my mother. “Was thinking about coming for dinner on Sunday if that is all right with you.”
I was locking up my office when Ranger came out of his office. “Are you finished your meeting?” I asked.
“No, but I wanted to take a minute to give you a kiss goodbye.” He drew me into his arms and gave me a deep kiss that had me forgetting that we were in the offices at Rangeman and that everything at Rangeman is monitored. Ranger drew back, whispered “drive carefully” in my ear, gave me a light kiss on the lips, and walked back into his office, leaving me still dazed.
I walked into my apartment, exhausted down to the bone. I put my gun in my cookie jar, fed Rex and changed his water. I then washed, toned and moisturized my face, changed into a sleep camisole and boxer shorts, and dropped into bed. I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.
Sometime during the night I dimly heard the apartment door open and a gun belt dropped on my kitchen counter. I went back to sleep reassured. If it had been someone coming in with ill intent, they wouldn’t have taken off their gun belt. I went back to sleep before it registered with me who it was.
The next morning I awoke when Ranger’s watch alarm went off at seven o’clock. We were cuddled in a spoons formation. Ranger had one hand up my shirt and was resting on my breast, the other arm pillowing my head. He stirred and turned off his alarm, and as he shifted he proved to me that men really do wake up interested in sex. He gently tried to extricate himself from the bed. I, less gently, tried to hold him back. I flipped over onto my other side until I was facing him and kissed his chest.
“I am going for a run, Babe. I will put the coffee on before I go. Now go back to sleep.”
“Are you coming back?”
“Yes. I am just going for a run. I won’t be long – no more than an hour and likely less. Unless you want to come with me?”
“Thanks, but no thanks. My leg is still sore, remember?” I asked, glad to have an excuse. Although, truth be told, I will always be able to come up with an excuse to not have to run. The question isn’t whether I can come up with an excuse. The question is whether Ranger will accept it.
With a final kiss, Ranger got dressed, finished in the bathroom, and left the apartment. I heard the locks slide shut as he left and, wondering where he kept his lockpicking tools in his workout gear, I fell back to sleep.
An hour later Ranger woke me up, coffee in hand for me, freshly showered and shaved and ready to go for the day. I slowly came to consciousness as it registered that Ranger was calling my name and rubbing his thumb across my cheekbone. “Your phone has been pinging and the day has started. Are you going to get up or are you going to sleep more?”
“Let the caffeine kick in for a moment before I answer that, because I suspect it will be an entirely different answer.” Ranger smiled one of his full-on smiles, and I paused to enjoy the view. After all, it is not often that Ranger smiles in a full-on smile, and I could never be too sleepy to appreciate it. In truth, I would have to be dead to fail to enjoy it.
“I don’t know. I like you when you are all sleepy and snuggly. Do you remember me coming in last night?”
“Vaguely. I heard your gun belt hit the kitchen counter before I figured everything was safe and went back to sleep.”
“You asked me who I was but I think you were asleep again before I got a chance to answer.”
“I was pretty tired, so I’m not surprised.”
“Who did you think it was?”
“I don’t know.” I got up to use the facilities and to brush my teeth. Coming out of the bathroom, I said “it hasn’t been that long since Morelli was the one coming into my apartment in the middle of the night, so I might have been trying to decide if you were you or Morelli. Or I might have wondered if you were one of my skips. It wouldn’t be the first time one of my skips came into my apartment, although it would be the first time the skip came in while I was sleeping. The possibilities are endless as to who could be in my apartment. Just be glad I was sleeping with my phone within reach.”
“The possibilities terrify me. I am incredibly glad that you have monitoring on your front door and the fire escape now. That may not stop anyone from breaking in, but it should get them caught when they do so.”
“It was a good thing to do, even if I don’t like being monitored so closely.”
“You should be used to it. You are monitored just as closely, if not more so, at Rangeman.”
“I know. And it gives me an icky feeling to know that all the control room staff know when I sleep over at your place. It strips away the privacy of what we are doing, and hammers away at the beauty of it all.”
“What is the solution? Rent a room for the night?”
“No, that makes what we are doing seem dirty and wrong. I don’t think there is a solution to this. It just is what it is, and I have to get used to it. Chalk it up to one of the negatives of having casual sex.”
“I take exception to the term ‘casual sex’. I think there is more than casual sex between us, isn’t there?”
“I don’t know what it is between us. I know that we are good friends, and that we are sleeping together. I also know that I am terrified of making our relationship more formal because I have a way of screwing relationships up, yet it doesn’t matter how much time I spend with you I always want more. That smacks of a relationship in itself. Having said that, I don’t want to float into a relationship with you. I floated into my marriage and that didn’t last more than three months. I floated into my relationship with Morelli, and that lasted longer but ultimately ended in failure as well. Partly from experience, and partly due to your requirements for increased security if I end up formally dating you, I am trying not to float into a relationship with you but rather decide on a relationship with both eyes wide open.”
“That’s probably wise.”
“Where are you in all this?”
“Honestly? I think I am closer to the relationship decision than you are. My concerns over your security have been appeased with you wearing your tracking watch, and having your apartment and car monitored. Realistically, you could not be more monitored. I will always be a bit worried about you, but I will be worried about you whether we are going out together or are just friends. I think friendship is a fabulous place to start a relationship from and, even if we make our relationship more formal into a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship or even if we end up splitting up at some point, I hope that we will always remain good friends.”
“You have a failed marriage in your past as well. Do you not worry about getting more serious?”
“That’s the thing with you. I typically worry about getting more serious and, in the past, have put the brakes on any relationship long before it got to the point where my relationship is with you now. However, I’m confident with you. My self-preservation instinct hasn’t kicked in and I haven’t run away screaming. That is why you are the only female that has been in my apartment, not including Ella, and you are the only female since my marriage that I have taken home to meet my family. I know you have concerns that you have to work through, but I would like to try a relationship with you. I love you and, although it seems very teenager-ish to put labels on it, I would like to be your boyfriend.”
“Wow”, was all I could think of to say. Ranger smiled one of his half-smiles, got up and refilled my coffee cup. “I think that woke me up more than the coffee.”