“Tell me about your sister, Maria”, I asked as we were eating nacho chips and salsa.
“She is a lovely person, a bit nosy, but with good intentions. She will greatly enjoy you. You have similar personalities.”
“How is that?”
“You are both stubborn, have big hearts, and are protective and smart. Also, neither of you give up easily and both of you are determined to succeed. I think you’ll like her.”
“I’m not so sure about that. It sounds like you have just taken most of my negative characteristics and rolled them into your sister.”
“They aren’t your negative characteristics. They are what make you successful, what make you, you.”
“You shouldn’t be. You came through the meeting with my family a week ago with flying colours. You will come through this one equally as well.”
“Flying colours almost literally, as I showed my underpants when I tackled that skip.”
“But I think I was the only one who got to see, since I was the first one there. Everyone else moved a little more slowly.”
Ranger laughed. “I have to say, I admired the view. It’s not often you get to see the one you love rolling around in the dirt with her skip.”
“Unfortunately, I think you have seen that all too often for my liking.”
“It was sort of erotic”, he said with a grin as he teased me. I made a face and threw a nacho chip at him. “Who needs to go to the mud pits when I can just watch you?”
I paused. “You have actually been to the mud pits?”
“Yes. I’ve picked up skips there in the past. It was a most fascinating place. All those women, and all that mud.”
“And did you like it?”
“Truthfully? It was a little dirty for my liking, but I guess I can see how it would turn on some guys.”
“Did I ever tell you about the time when I was thrown into the pit and forced to wrestle?”
Ranger’s eyes went dark. “Really?”
Ranger dropped me off at my apartment.
“I’m just going to come up to your place to check that it’s safe”, he said, getting out of the car and locking it behind us again.
“You don’t have to do that. Nobody can get into my apartment without the control room knowing.”
“I’ll check it anyway, in case someone tunneled in from the neighbours or something.”
“Lame”, I said with a laugh as I unlocked my apartment door. While I did not want Ranger to go, I had reservations about him staying over again.
Ranger followed me in, shutting and locking the door behind himself. He pushed me up against the wall and gave me a deep kiss. As our tongues touched and mated, an arrow of sensation went straight to my doodad. I think I moaned as I undressed Ranger. Ranger undressed me in equal abandon. By the time we made it to the bedroom we were completely undressed and breathing hard. A couple of times later, I was no longer concerned about Ranger staying over. I was warm, cuddly and relaxed and, with Ranger cuddled in all warm, snuggly and relaxed as well, everything seemed somehow right with the world.
At five o’clock Ranger’s watch alarm went off. I burrowed sleepily into him. Ranger smoothed my curls away from my face and kissed my forehead. “I am going for a run”, he said. “I will be back in an hour and a half.”
“No. Sleep”, I mumbled and pulled him closer.
“You sleep. I’m going running”, he said, amused. He extricated himself from my Vulcan grip and left the apartment. I fell back to sleep before it registered that I did not see him bring in a bag of clothing the night before.
“Where did you get the running gear?” I asked over breakfast.
“I keep a spare set in the car and, when I was here last time, I transferred up my extra shoes and a couple of clean sets of clothes and left them in your closet. On the way back in to the building this morning, I transferred up another set of clean running gear and I will take home my dirty clothes today.”
“No, just getting used to things.” I was, in fact, surprised that I had not noticed Ranger’s clothes and shoes in my closet. But then, I had not been home enough in the past couple of months to notice anything. I tried to decide if I was uncomfortable by the knowledge that Ranger was slowly moving in as much as I had slowly moved into his space. I decided that I wasn’t exactly uncomfortable, but that I was unsettled.
Ranger looked at me, assessing, then smiled. “You are even more of a commitment-phobe than I am and I didn’t even think that was possible.”
“I am. I have gone the route of commitment before and it didn’t turn out so well.”
“Maybe you were just taking that drive with the wrong person.”
“Maybe I am the right person.”
Oh boy. I tried not to hyperventilate. “We’ll see.”
He looked at me, assessing again. “I can live with that, just as long as you are willing to try it out to see.” He paused, then steered the conversation into less unsettling waters. “So, who do you have left on your list for Vinnie?”
“I have one more bond. Nolan Nyetta. This is the guy who raped three little girls and gave them AIDS who we have been trying to capture. I don’t know if you remember, but I called him for the Jugs of Jack’s promotional scheme and his number was out of service. I left a message at his doctor’s office late yesterday afternoon, after his doctor had left for the day. I have not yet received a return phone call, but I didn’t expect to. It isn’t even standard working hours yet.”
“Are you going to visit the office personally?”
“If I don’t hear from him by the time I go to the doctor’s myself, then yes, I will visit the office personally.”
“I will take you to get your sutures out, and then we can go together to see Nyetta’s doctor. What else do you have on for today?”
“Taking in my body receipts and picking up our cheques. I will pick up yours at the same time, and coffee with Morelli. I was thinking, if you are available, of having lunch with you. Also, I was hoping to get into the range today for a while. I haven’t been in a couple of days, and my shooting instructor is going to get angry with me if I stop practicing regularly.”
“Getting into the range is a good idea. It would also be a good idea to get back into the gym today, now that you are not so crazily busy.” I made a face, and I could tell Ranger was thinking about smiling. We made arrangements to meet at four for training anyway.
After my shower, during which time I moved Ranger’s shower bag back into the bottom drawer of my vanity, the place where I had shoved it the last time I was feeling overwhelmed by the speed at which our relationship was moving, Ranger and I drove to the office. Getting there, I picked up the stack of body receipts and transferred to my car, driving to the bonds office and picking up a dozen assorted doughnuts on the way. I walked into the office with the file of body receipts under my arm and the box of doughnuts in my hand. I placed the box on Connie’s desk.
“It was good that I was back in the office yesterday. We were busy trying to keep up with the rebonding process. You caught a lot of skips.”
“Eight in total, and I had receipts for two more that were caught on the weekend. I only have one outstanding now”, I said, selecting a double chocolate cake doughnut and biting down on it with a sigh.
“Three more came in yesterday, so you now have four. And Nyetta will be a good one to catch since he is such a high bond.”
“I know. I’m trying.” I finished my chocolate doughnut and picked out a blueberry fritter.
“Oh, oh”, said Lula as she entered the office and came and sat down. “You are eating doughnuts again. What’s wrong, girlfriend?”
“It’s Ranger.” I finished up the blueberry fritter and selected a honey crueller.
Lula and Connie sat forward on their chairs, eyes alight in interest. When I didn’t say anything else, Lula prompted me. “What? Did you find out he’s gay? That he has a secret ex-wife and child? Wait, you already found out about the secret ex-wife and child. That he has a secret life? No, I know. He likes wearing women’s panties. Don’t you hate it when you find out they like wearing your panties?”
“I can’t say that I have ever had that problem”, said Connie, staring at Lula as she selected a doughnut.
I also stared at Lula. “I haven’t had that problem either.”
“No? I thought that was a common problem. Hunh. Maybe I just have more attractive underwear than you do. Maybe my thongs look more comfortable than your thongs, since mine fit a big, beautiful woman like me whereas yours fit your skinny ass.”
“Maybe, but I really can’t imagine Ranger in women’s underwear. And I can’t imagine Morelli in them either. However, now that you mention it, I can imagine The Dick wearing them.”
“See? That’s what I’m saying.”
“No, I am not having a problem with Ranger wearing my underwear.”
“Then what is the problem, girlfriend? Because I wouldn’t have no problem with him. He is one fine looking dude.”
“The problem is that he wants to get serious, and he is slowly pushing his way into my life.”
“And that is bad, how? That sounds ideal to me.”
“He has moved a shower kit into my bathroom, and he now as workout gear in my closet. He spends time doing whatever with me just so that he can spend time with me. On Saturday we had a date at the laundromat while I did laundry. He even likes to just cuddle when I am too tired to have sex, although that hasn’t happened very often. When I am around him I always want to have sex.”
“So what is the problem?”
“I have always thought of him as being leery of commitment. He was a safe person to get together with, as nothing was ever going to come of it.” I selected a cinnamon sugar cake doughnut and broke off a piece. “Now it seems that he isn’t so leery of commitment after all. He’s not as safe as I thought.”
“So, it’s you that is nervous around commitment.”
“Hell, yeah. Look at me. I drifted into a marriage with a man I thought I loved, just to find out three months later that he had a problem with loyalty and devotion, and with respecting me and who I am. I drifted into a relationship with Morelli, just to find out that he had a problem with, again, respecting me for who I am. I survived each of those break-ups. But what will happen if Ranger also has a problem with respecting me for who I am? I am closer to him than I ever was with Dickie, and I am just as good a friend, if not a better friend, with Ranger than I ever was with Morelli.”
“So you’re scared.”
“Yeah, I’m scared. Terrified, actually. I don’t want to take the chance that I will lose the friendship. Yet I feel like Ranger is dragging me along behind him on this relationship thing. He is so forceful, purposeful, and he has such a strong will. I don’t think I am ready for this, yet I feel powerless to stop it and, in truth, I am not sure if I want to. I don’t know what I want. I just know that I am unsettled and scared.”
“Shee-it, girl. No matter what happens, I don’t think Ranger wants to take the chance he will lose that friendship either.” Connie nodded her head in agreement.
I selected a vanilla iced raised doughnut with sprinkles and inspected it. The sprinkle doughnuts are the ultimate happy food. They are sweet and doughy, their fried goodness melting in your mouth, the sprinkles reminding one of a rainbow as you eat them. I took a bite.
“Damn, girl. I haven’t seen your panties in a twist like this since you shot Brodie. Just relax and take it one step at a time. Ranger isn’t going to hurt you.” Lula and Connie each helped themselves to a doughnut before I ate them all.
“What’s wrong?” they asked at the same time.
“Too many doughnuts”, I said as I ran to the bathroom and threw up.
After I cleaned the bathroom and sprayed it with air freshener, I walked out again. “Are you sure it was too many doughnuts?” asked Lula.
“Definitely. I just finished my period less than a week ago. It definitely was too many doughnuts.”
“That’s good. Because you need to be careful. If it is more than doughnuts, you will be linked with Ranger for the rest of your life, no matter what you think about commitment.” That was a sobering thought, and my stomach started to heave again. I must have turned green, as Connie hurriedly pushed her waste paper basket over towards me.
“No, it was definitely too many doughnuts. There are no unscheduled Manosos on the way.”
“How would you react if there were? Asking yourself that question might help you figure out how you feel about commitment to him.”
“I don’t even want to think about babies.” My stomach heaved again. “I need to go. I am supposed to meet Morelli for coffee.” I picked up my cheque and the Rangeman cheque, put them in my purse and left.
Once I was in the car, I decided I was too unsettled and my stomach was too upset to meet with Morelli. I texted him “Going to cancel today. Just threw up at the bonds office. Can we take a rain cheque for tomorrow?” I turned on the car and headed to my apartment. When I got there I received a text from Morelli saying “sure thing. Feel better. See you tomorrow.”