I was patiently contemplating my doughnut selection, when I sensed a familiar presence behind me. A hand brushed my hair back, and Ranger leaned into me and kissed me on the nape of my neck.
I could get you to look at me like that if I had five minutes alone with you, Ranger said.
Ill give you five minutes alone with me if youll take over half my skips.
Tempting, Ranger said, but Im on my way to the airport, and Im not sure when Ill be back. Tank is in charge. Call him if you need help. And let him know if you decide to move into my apartment.
Not that long ago I needed a safe place to stay and sort of commandeered Rangers apartment when he was out of town. Ranger had come home and found me sleeping in his bed like Goldilocks. Hed very graciously not thrown me out t he seventh-floor window. And in fac t hed allowed me to stay with a minimum of sexual harassment. Okay, maybe minimum isnt entirely accurate. Maybe it was a seven on a scale of ten, but he hadnt forced the issue. How did you know I was here? I asked him. I stopped at the bonds office, and Lula told me you were on a doughnut mission.
Where are you going?
Is this business or pleasure?
Its bad business.
Marjorie finished with her customer and made her way over to me. Whatll it be? she wanted to know.
A dozen Boston Cream doughnuts.
Babe, Ranger said.
Theyre not all for me.
Ranger doesnt often smile. Mostly he thinks about smiling, and this was one of those thinking smile times. He wrapped his hand around my wrist, pulled me to him and kissed me. The kiss was warm and short. No tongue in front of the bakery lady, thank God. He turned and walked away. Tank was idling at the curb in a black SUV. Ranger got in and t hey drove off.
Marjorie was behind the counter with a cardboard box in her hand and her mouth dropped open. Wow, she said. That dragged a sigh out of me because she was right. Ranger was definitely a wow. He stood half a head taller than me. He was perfectly toned muscle, and he had classic Latino good looks. He always smelled great. He dressed only in black. His skin was dark. His eyes were dark. His hair was dark. His life was dark. Ranger had lots of secrets. Its a work relationship, I told Marjorie.
If he was in here any longer the chocolate would have melted off the eclairs.
I dont like this, Lula said. I wanted to go after the pervert. I personally think its a bad choice to go after the guy who likes guns.
Hes got the highest bond. The fastest way to dig Vinnie out of the hole is to get the guy with the highest bond. We were in Lulas red Firebird, sitting across the street from Lonnie Johnsons last known address. It was a small clapboard bungalow in a depressed neighborhood that backed up to the hockey arena. It was close to noon and not a great time to roust a bad guy. If hes still in bed, its because hes drunk and mean. If hes not in bed, its most likely because hes at a bar getting drunk and mean.
Whats the plan? Lula wanted to know. We gonna just bust in like gangsta bounty hunters and kick his ass? I looked at Lula. Have we ever done that?
Dont mean we cant.
Wed look like idiots. Were incompetent.
Thats harsh, Lula said. And I dont think were completely incompetent. I think were closer to eighty percent incompetent. Remember the time you wrestled that naked greased-up fat guy? You did a good job with that one.
Excerpted from Twelve Sharp, copyright (c) 2006, Janet Ivanovich. Reproduced with permission of the publisher, St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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