Arriving back at Rangeman, I parked in Ranger's fourth spot and carried my bag up to Ranger's apartment. Once there, I deposited my bag in his closet and hung my dress so that it would not crease. I then got dressed for the office – taking my gun belt out of my purse and putting on my gun. Sorting through the rest of my purse, I decided that the only other thing I needed for the afternoon was my phone and the keys to my office door. I was putting my phone in my pocket when Ranger came in the front door.
"Have you eaten?" he asked as I walked through to the kitchen. He was unloading a bag containing two sandwiches, two containers of cut strawberries, two containers of celery and blue cheese dip, and two ice cold bottles of water.
"No, that's great. All I've had since breakfast today was an orange juice from McDonald's and a cranberry juice at the bar."
"Buying lunch for your skips again?"
"McDonald's was primarily a hangover cure, although technically it was both breakfast and lunch as well. Lula had a snack, too. And we found the second skip at his social club and, when I picked him up, he wasn't ready to go in. So I had a cranberry juice."
"I have to ask although I think I don't want to hear the answer – what was Lula's snack?"
"A Quarter Pounder meal deal with our first skip, and a Harvey Wallbanger at the bar with our second."
"A Quarter Pounder combo is a snack?"
"If she is having it for a meal she orders two combos."
"She can really pack it away. I don't know why she isn't bigger based on her level of eating and her lack of exercise."
"Just good genes, I guess." I finished up my sandwich and turned to the celery and dip. We ate in a companionable silence for a moment, me resting my head upon my hand. My eyes started to close. My night of wondering about Ranger and where the relationship was going was catching up to me.
"Tired, Babe?" I jerked my head awake.
"I think it is more an absence of coffee. I should have had coffee at McDonald's and the bar rather than juice." I finished my celery and started eating my strawberries. "You know, strawberries are so much better with chocolate on them."
Ranger smiled. "Why don't you have a nap before you start work for the afternoon? You are barely keeping your eyes open."
"I have a lot of work to do."
"You can always work into the evening if you think it cannot wait until Monday. You have been working a lot of hours. It makes sense that you are tired. Have a nap. I will come up and wake you in an hour."
"Okay. As long as you wake me. I want to make sure I am free so I can meet your family tomorrow."
Ranger pulled me to my feet and removed my gun belt. He put it on the kitchen counter, then led me into the bedroom. He pulled down the sheets and tucked me in, kissing me on the forehead as he wished me a good sleep. I was asleep before he left the apartment.
I struggled to wake up as Ranger's hand cradled my face and he gently rubbed his thumb across my cheekbone. I tried to burrow into the pillow more deeply. "Come on, Babe", Ranger said, amused. "Your coffee is getting cold."
I sleepily sat up and pushed my hair out of my eyes. I reached for the coffee and pried my eyes open. "Wow," I said in a sleep-husky voice, "I didn't realize I was so tired. I was sleeping really deeply when you came in."
"I noticed. It took me a couple of minutes to wake you. Do you just want to put off the work until Monday and rest this afternoon?"
"Thank you, but no. I am waking up now and will be good to go once the coffee kicks in. Besides, I am going skip chasing on Monday and I don't know if or when I will be in the office. I have one outstanding skip." I looked at my phone and read a text from Lula. "And three more have come in today. It would be better to get caught up on the Rangeman files this afternoon."
"Just don't overtire yourself."
"I'll be fine." By now I was fully awake. I gave Ranger a deep kiss which was giving me other ideas. Ranger pulled away.
"I would like to follow this up, but I have a meeting in ten minutes that I need to get to. Ella is making us dinner here and then, if you still want to work, you can either work up here or down in your office. I have a meeting with Tank after dinner, so I will be in my office." Ranger had more willpower than me. I had been trying to decide how badly I needed to research those files.
Ranger left the apartment and I sat in bed, finishing my coffee. I took the empty coffee cup with me down to my office, stopping in the break room for a refill. I then went to my office and booted up the computer, logged on the search engines, then continued on the Rangeman file for Ranger that I had started the day before.
Four hours later I had completed Ranger's file, all three of Vinnie's files and two of the six Sales files. I was just opening up another Sales file when Ranger came to my door. "Are you ready for dinner, Babe?"
"This is as good a time as any to break." I inputted the first name of the new file into the search engine, then got up and stretched.
"Yes. My muscles are still stiff from yesterday's workout."
"We'll do ten minutes of stretches before dinner to help with that."
"We don't have to. I'm fine."
"It will help, Babe. You are only going to get more uncomfortable the longer you sit there without moving around. Why put up with it when you don't have to?" Put like that, it really didn't make sense to not stretch.
Ranger put his arm around my shoulders as he walked with me down the hall towards the elevator. When we were in the elevator, I leaned into Ranger. "Tired, Babe?"
"I am. I'm expecting my period, so I am especially tired."
He kissed my head, and his hand came up and massaged my neck.
We got off the elevator on the seventh floor. Ranger keyed us into the apartment and led me to the living room. He guided me through a series of stretches that, as much as I hated to admit it, felt good. After ten or fifteen minutes I had stretched my whole body and was feeling much better.
Ranger helped me up off the floor. We washed our hands and set the table. "Wine?" asked Ranger.
"Thanks, but no. If I have wine I think I would be asleep before dinner was finished." I poured water for both of us and got out cutlery and plates. I handed them to Ranger as I got out a napkin for each of us.
"What files do you have left?" asked Ranger.
"I have four files for Sales to research. So about another three hours. You saw that I finished your file, right? I put it on your desk. And I was able to get two files for Sales completed and the three for Vinnie. So I am doing well. I will be able to get them completed by the end of the evening." I yawned so widely my eyes started watering.
"Maybe you should call it a night. You worked about eighty hours last week, maybe even ninety. You don't want to burn yourself out, Babe. You need to rest."
"I can do this. It is just three more hours, and then I can sleep in tomorrow morning. What time do we have to leave for your parents' house?"
"Not until three, so you can sleep as late as you want."
"That sounds like heaven. That's my carrot for getting the work done."
"You can always sleep in tomorrow and take the night off as well. Sales files are not essential and can wait a few days."
"No, it will bother me knowing the files are still out there. Thanks, anyways." Ella had made homemade hamburgers with a tossed salad for dinner. I put condiments and some sliced dill pickles on mine, then sunk my teeth into the burger. It had been a long time since I had eaten a homemade burger, and Ella's were particularly good.
"I am nervous about meeting your family tomorrow", I said.
"They are just people who will have an enormous need to know everything about you. Just as a reminder, they know nothing about my work with the government and I would like to keep it that way. However, there is nothing else you can't say. Just be yourself and they will love you."
"I don't know…" I yawned widely.
"Everybody loves you. You are one of the most popular people I have ever met. You just need to enter a room and within minutes you have everyone eating out of your hand. That's just who you are. You are very personable and you care deeply about others. You will do well tomorrow."
"I just don't want to let you down."
"You won't. There is nothing that could happen that could get me upset with you. My family is nice. I think you will like them. There will be many people there."
"You said 'many people'. How many people are supposed to be there?" I tried to swallow another yawn.
"Elena, her husband William, and their three kids, Celia and her husband Gabriel and their two boys, Rosa, Grandma Rosa, and my parents. Maria and her husband will not be able to come on such short notice. I am sure they would have if they had received enough warning. And Silvio is in the Middle East right now and won't be home on leave for another few months. Celia, Elena and Rosa will share their impressions of you with Silvio and Maria. So including us, there will be fifteen people there. A small family get-together. About twice per year Elena shuts the restaurant down for the night and has a big family get-together with all the extended family. With all the aunts, uncles and cousins, we are well over seventy people."
"Thank you for not inviting me to the big get-together. That would have been even more intimidating."
"Don't worry. You will do fine." He reached across the table and captured my hand, giving it a squeeze.
"Does your Grandma Rosa speak English? Now that I know she used to be the hostess at your parents' restaurant, I think she must but I seem to remember you telling me once before that she did not. I think it was when we were doing research when Julie was kidnapped."
"I did say that, but I was only teasing at the time. She prefers Spanish but is definitely bilingual and is comfortable in either language."
"Okay, that will make things easier tomorrow." I paused and yawned. "This yawning is terrible. I can't seem to stop!"
"You are very tired."
"I am. So what are you working on with Tank this evening?"
"We are designing another training program. This would be a train-the-trainer program, where we would be training the instructors on how to teach the staff."
"What will the topic be?"
"Rescue operations. The idea is that by training the staff how to teach rescue operations, I would only have to be down there for the training on personal security, and for the students' evaluations for the rescue operations portion of their training. This means that instead of the rotation of three weeks here, one week there, five weeks here, and three weeks there, I would be here three weeks, one week there, seven weeks here, one week there. It halves the amount of time I would need to be down south. In the three month cycle, I would only need to be away for two weeks instead of four. Since the business is growing so quickly, both Tank and I need to be in the office as much as possible."
I yawned again. "I am sorry. I do want to hear this."
"I know. But you are tired. Go to bed. Leave the files until Monday."
"No, I can do this." I yawned again. I got up and cleared the table. "Are you working late tonight?"
"Probably two or three hours. We have to do it after hours so we aren't interrupted."
"We should be finished about the same time."
Ranger put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher while I put the condiments back in the fridge. Then, together, we went back down to the Operations floor.
Three hours later Ranger came to my office and shook me awake. "Come on, Babe. Time for bed."
Still half asleep, I said "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to have a nap."
"Shh. It's okay, Babe. I know you are tired. Let's go to bed."
I got up, wobbling as I stood there. Ranger reached out to steady me, then reached around me and turned off my computer. He locked my office door for me, handing me back my key. Then wrapping his arm around my waist, he helped me stumble down the corridor to the elevators. Still half-asleep, I staggered onto the elevator and leaned into Ranger, resting my head on his chest and wrapping my arms around his neck. I was dimly aware of the elevator stopping. "Babe?" he said. When I didn't respond, he picked me up and carried me the rest of the way to bed.