While I was in the party Lula sent me the names of the two new files. The first, Henry Parker, walked home from his friend's home extremely intoxicated. He needed to take a leak and, despite that it was mid-morning, and despite that it was Sunday, he decided that it would be a good idea to urinate all over the base of the sign at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. He was arrested with thirty eyewitnesses attesting to what had happened. He was released on a low bond.
The second arrest was for Caleb Landon. He was a peeping tom who was caught in the Burg. He had a regular route and most women kept their curtains open to give him a show each night. However, there was a new resident in the neighbourhood and she called the cops on him. He was arrested the same night. He was also released on a low bond.
I printed off the search results for each of the fugitives and put their results in file folders. Then I sent a text to Lula. "Researched the new files. Do you want to go after them tomorrow morning? I will pick you up at the office at nine."
A few minutes later I received the message "see you then."
I then turned to the Rangeman files. There were six files from Sales and one from Ranger. I started the one from Ranger first. It was extensive and would take a lot longer than the hour I had before it was time to work out with Ranger.
I was a third of the way through the file when Ranger came to my office door. I was so involved in the file that I didn't even notice that he was there until he cleared his throat. I jumped a mile high and Ranger started to laugh. "I tried not to startle you", he said. "I'm just glad your immediate reaction wasn't to go for your gun."
"Maybe I shouldn't be wearing one then", I said, smiling.
"Not a chance, Babe. You need to wear a gun. Speaking of which, I noticed that you weren't wearing your Kevlar vest or utility belt this morning."
"I was planning on putting it on when you got there. It is too hot out to wear Kevlar willy-nilly, and utility belts are uncomfortable to sit in."
"Okay. Just as long as you were planning on wearing them during the takedown."
"Of course. I'm not stupid. I know you wouldn't let me participate if I wasn't dressed."
"Are you ready to work out in the gym?"
"Yes." I shut down the computer, took off my gun belt and locked it away in my drawer with my purse, then shut and locked the door. We walked to the elevator and went down to the gym. Again there was a sign on the door announcing that the gym was closed from four o'clock to five thirty.
I looked at Ranger. "I'm still not comfortable with you working out with the guys. They would be watching you so intently they could hurt themselves in the process. I will continue to shut the gym down for the time being, every day from four to five thirty. I will send out an email to all staff announcing my decision tomorrow."
"You don't have to do that", I said as Ranger shooed the men out of the gym and scrambled the feed. I stripped down to my sports bra as Ranger followed the men towards the door. He locked it after the men left.
He came over to the mats. "Yes, I do have to do this. Now, let's start on stretches." He led me through a series of stretches that were starting to become routine for me. After stretching what felt like every muscle in my body, we started fighting. Ranger emptied his gun of bullets and, using it as a prop, showed me alternative ways that I could have gotten out of Avery's hold. Then, after three quarters of an hour of fighting, Ranger led me over to the treadmill. "I want you to do fifteen minutes on the treadmill", he said.
"You have to improve your cardio, Babe. If you had to chase someone and they were in any way in shape, you would lose. Your resting heart rate is much too fast."
I gave him a dirty look.
"I'll give you a massage tonight."
"Not good enough a deal", I said, although, to be honest, I think I was just protesting for the sake of protesting. Ranger's massages were excellent.
"I will up the ante. I will ask Ella to make dessert for you for every time you go on the treadmill, elliptical machine or bicycle. You have to stay on whichever cardio machine for fifteen minutes to get the dessert, though. That's my final offer."
I just looked at him, dumbstruck. "I think Ella made chocolate cake today", Ranger said.
"Massage and chocolate cake?" I asked to clarify.
"Hot damn!" I hopped on the treadmill and started it at a slow walk. I left it there. Ranger came over and turned up the speed. "Hey! You didn't say I have to go fast."
"And you didn't say how big the piece of chocolate cake had to be", Ranger shot back. I thought back over the conversation and swore softly. Ranger smiled and turned up the speed again. Soon I was red-faced, sweaty and out of breath. I looked longingly at the speed and envisioned turning it down. Then I envisioned a piece of chocolate cake. Then I envisioned a whole chocolate cake. Then I envisioned me throwing my chocolate cake in Ranger's face. Then I thought about what a waste of chocolate cake that would be, and I envisioned licking the chocolate cake off Ranger's face. And then I was breathing hard for two reasons, and the running I was doing was only one of them.
Ranger reached over and slowed the treadmill down at an infinitesimal pace. By the time the treadmill stopped I had almost collapsed. "Good job", he said.
"This had better be a double chocolate cake", I gasped out. Ranger smiled.
"Now for stretches."
"Again? I just did running. Isn't that enough punishment for this evening?"
"No. Stretches will help stop you from seizing up after your run."
"I have an idea. Next time we skip the run and head directly for the chocolate cake."
"Nice try. But no. No cardio, no dessert. That's the rule."
"I hate you", I said as I stretched out my muscles.
"That's okay. This is one of the differences between having you on staff and the rest of the guys. My guys don't get dessert even if they do cardio. They do cardio because their job depends upon it. As does yours."
"I have done okay without cardio training."
"Yes, you have done all right. You could be better."
By the time I finished stretching out my breathing had almost recovered. My face remained red and I could feel the heat emanating from it. Ranger threw me a cold bottle of water from the fridge and a towel. I held the bottle to my face and sank down on the bench. "You did well, Babe. I know you don't like cardio, but it is important to do."
"If it was only as pleasant as eating chocolate cake, I would work out all the time."
Ranger laughed. "See, that is the difference between you and me. I think that, if chocolate cake was only as pleasurable as working out, I would eat chocolate cake all the time."
"Are you sure Ella is serving chocolate cake this evening?"
"Yes, but I also promised you chocolate cake. If she wasn't, I would drive to the store and buy you a Sara Lee cake. However, I already talked to her and found out she was serving chocolate cake this evening. She was making it from scratch this afternoon. She said she would save you a piece."
"She made it from scratch?"
"Yes, she said she would."
"My day just got better." I smiled. "I love scratch cakes!"
Ranger smiled and stood, pulling me up into his arms. "Eww. Gross. I'm all sweaty and smelly", I said, wrinkling my nose.
"And sexy. You are incredibly sexy", he said, as he dropped a kiss upon the tip of my nose.
"Thank you, but this just confirms it. You're weird."
Ranger started to laugh, took my empty water bottle and put it in the recycling bin, dropped my sweaty towel in the laundry bin, took my hand and led me from the room.
Ranger got in the shower with me. It was a hot shower, and he said he was there to start the massage right away, to make sure my muscles didn't tense. And I think it worked. At first my muscles were tense, then as he soaped me up they became tenser, then they exploded and I became very, very relaxed. As I said, his massages are amazing.
After our shower, Ranger dried me off and wrapped me in a towel. I sank down on the bench as he retrieved his housecoat for me to wear. While I summoned the energy to put on the housecoat Ranger got dressed in a pair of sweatpants. And nothing else. My mouth went dry.
"Come on," he said, "Ella put dinner in the warming oven while we were in the shower. It smells amazing."
I hauled myself off the bench and put on Ranger's housecoat, and walked barefooted through to the dining room. By the time I got there, Ranger had already set the table and poured wine and water for us. He laid out plates of shrimp satay, jasmine rice, broccoli and carrots as I sank into my chair.
"Did she remember the chocolate cake?" I asked.
The chocolate cake was worth the work out, but I wasn't going to tell Ranger that. Ella made a fabulous chocolate cake, decadent and moist, with creamy, sweet, rich icing between the layers. I finished the cake in its entirety, cleaning the plate as fully as if I had licked it.
After we cleaned up from dinner, I got dressed and prepared to leave.
"Are you going already?" asked Ranger. "You haven't had your massage yet." He smiled that half-smile of his, and his eyes dilated black.
"If I have any more massage, I will be a big pile of goo on your floor."
"Technically you would be in my bed. And I promised you a proper massage", he reminded me. I stood there undecided, hesitating, considering. I really wanted to stay another night, but what was the point in returning to my own apartment if I was always going to be staying at Ranger's?
With willpower I did not know I had, I said "I will take a rain check on the massage, thanks. I have to see to Rex."
"See? Secrets. I told you that you have secrets", he said as he gave me a deep kiss. I was just about to cave when he took a step back, breathing heavily. "You have a choice. Either leave now, or stay the night. Because if you stay here in the dining room, I will take you on the dining room table. And although that would be fun, I don't think that will help your stiffness in the morning."
I would like to say "good grief", but I was thinking exactly the same way. I decided to retreat while I still could. I had a lot to think about.
I gave Ranger another quick kiss, then turned towards the door. As I turned to shut the door behind me, I looked back and saw Ranger watching after me, his face blank of all expression.