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Affairs of the Heart

(Unabridged)

By Pam Gooderham
(Email address: PG1701@aol.com)

Alex’s consciousness slowly threw away the mantle of sleep and she stretched luxuriously in the warm bed, a knowing smile crossing her lips as she snuggled back within the crisp sheets. It was Saturday!  Some Saturdays, like this one, had become a firm favorite. Sighing contentedly Alex’s smile grew broader as she turned to look at the back of her still sleeping partner, and her heart filled with love as she reviewed his muscular body.  Even his hair was cute but then everything about Cordell Walker was a huge turn on.

The room was semi-dark, the bed just the right temperature and it was peaceful waking up at the ranch with just the sound of the bird’s dawn chorus to herald the start of another glorious day. A mischievous grin replaced her smile.

Walker had felt Alex stir and although his eyes were closed and he dozed, he knew what was going to come and couldn’t stop a small smile from crossing his face.  He would wait and play hard to get! Finally, there it was…the elastic of his briefs slapped against his skin.  He tried to stifle his chuckle and did nothing, knowing that he could out wait Alex any time…she got too eager too quickly.  When the twang came again he stretched, feeling the smooth sheets seductively caress his skin.

“So!” He said huskily, the sleep on his vocal cords dissipating, “my wife wants some attention, does she?” He turned on his back automatically lifting his left arm.  Alex slid underneath and pressed against him, her left leg coming across his body to rest near his groin. Walker’s hand had come up to meet her knee halfway just in case she had misjudged the distance to this more sensitive part of his anatomy and he smiled again, seeking out her lips to kiss them. Alex snuggled happily into the side of his face and stroked his fair hairy chest for a few seconds before they contentedly dozed once more.  They stirred together the next time, sighing happily.

“I love you very much Cordell Walker.” Alex hugged him tightly. Walker wrapped his strong arms around her head and kissed the top.

“When do you have to be on duty at the Commissioners?” Alex inquired.

“I’ll need to leave about 11.30.”

“What time is it now?”

Walker checked his watch “7.30.” He grinned. “We should be getting up with the sunrise, doing the chores, horseback riding, meeting people ….but look at us!”

“We don’t do this every Saturday…it works out to one in four if that, besides, if you’re complaining we can soon remedy that.” Alex made to get out of bed.

Walker lunged for her, “c’me here woman!”

“Woman! That’s it!  Women’s rights…I’m outta here.” She feigned leaving again.

He laughed grabbing her hand. “No, don’t go…I take it back.”

“You sure?”

“Absolutely.” Walker rolled towards her placing an arm over her body and his face registered a special look. “Alex,” Walker paused.

Of all the many wonderful traits her husband displayed Alex thought she loved this one the most.  She had seen this look for the first time when they had been in the Utah Mountains. Walker had been hurt and as she had gone to place bandages on his wounds he had been more interested in telling her she was beautiful.  This was the same look he had now.  Not a person often given to saying how he felt it made it all the more special when he did, and it made her heart stir every time. Alex’s heart raced now as she waited.

Walker took her face in both hands looking directly into her eyes. “You make me very happy” was his simple statement.

Alex pulled him towards her and hugged him, too emotional to respond with words.  They found each other’s lips and kissed tenderly at first but the mood changed as the intensity of their feelings grew.

Alex had got into the habit of coming to bed in the nude.  The reason for this she had explained when questioned a while back was because she was no longer on her own.  When she lived in her apartment by herself there was always the small chance she may have to fend off an intruder and consequently had to be ready ‘just in case’.  Now Walker was here he would lead the charge and she would have time to put something on.  She loved being in the raw and certainly Walker had no objections, it was his pleasure to reach out during the night and run a hand down her velvety skin.

Laying her head on the pillow to face Walker, Alex reached out her fingers and played with one of his nipples. She pulled gently, flicked it slowly and after it’s protrusion ran her finger constantly around it.  It took a minute or so until Walker felt her actions causing an excitement deep in the pit of his stomach and a sexual longing, like an unquenchable thirst, overtake him.

Alex smiled knowingly. With her other hand she found his testicles and wandered her fingers lightly over their surface. Through the soft cotton of his briefs it was the equivalent of a thousand downy feathers caressing him, circling around and around making him heady with pleasure.  He groaned and sucked air for sheer joy. Alex was unrelenting in her double assault of his erogenous zones, taking delight in having this kind of effect on him.

Suddenly she stopped and grabbed his very erect, steel hard manhood.

“Oh my G..” Walker got no further. Alex’s tongue searched for his and she pressed down on his lips making simpering noises of delight while kissing him with passion.  Just as suddenly she stopped again and gave her cheeky smile. Twanging his briefs she joked, “get rid of these!”

Unable to keep the broad smile off his face Walker shook his head slowly and began to strip. He raised his eyebrows in her direction. “You’re playing with fire, lady…”

Alex giggled then joked further, gasping over-admiringly when he was naked.

“Right! That does it.” He leapt on top of her, sweeping her up and laying her on the bed.  Grabbing her arms he pinned them behind her head, smiling as he did so.  Alex wasn’t worried. She had become completely at ease in bed with this special man. She knew with a hundred percent certainty that should she indicate she wanted to be released he would do so instantly, and had tested out her theory the first couple of times their lovemaking took this path. From the very first Walker had treated her with care and consideration unlike any lover she’d had.  His sensitivity and prowess, perhaps because of his martial arts training, transporting her on a pleasure train she had never ridden before, and he had more than demonstrated his respect by never forcing her to make love when she didn’t want to. The sexual side of their marriage had worked as well as the other aspects, intensifying their love, and togetherness.  In fact it had worked better than either had dared hoped.  They were best friends, partners and lovers.

“No more of your cheek, lady!” Walker joked, and Alex laughed. He released her arms and lay over her body with the majority of his weight taken on his elbows and legs and kissed her firmly. Opening her legs slightly with his knee Walker placed his penis between her legs and taunted her by inserting himself and withdrawing.  Alex was already warm and moist and he was able to slide in and out with ease, the tip of him breaking into her vagina and out again. Alex gasped. He teased her for ages.

“Walker…ohh…” she was almost light headed as he relentlessly tantalized her until finally he slowly placed himself all the way. “Ummmm…..”

While keeping tight inside her Walker fondled her perfectly formed breasts and squeezed her extended nipples with tiny amounts of pressure. Occasionally he would slide his penis back and forth just to keep Alex guessing as time became a blur for both of them in the pleasure and joy of their love making.  Alex reached out, running her fingers through his hair and directed them to the tops of his shoulders where she outlined his muscles. They bulged with each slow thrust he made, and rising on to her elbows, Alex found his lips and playfully bit at them.

Walker’s hands slid under her buttocks and massaged them as his penetration became faster and faster.  He could feel her climax beginning.  Walker knew he was being overtaken too but he fought against it, ignoring her verbal out pouring of pleasure as he somehow managed to keep his body in check until Alex started to come for a second time. 

Alex knew he was about to give way as yet again wave after wave of the most incredible pleasure hit her senses, and with extreme joy she felt Walker’s semen explode into her body and he groaned in satisfied submission.  It took a minute or so for their bodies to stop reacting and as their physical exertions subsided their emotions took over. They looked at each other in gratitude and drew together in exhausted contentment.

Hurriedly Alex sought his lips, “Walker, ..oh Walker…” He held her tightly. “Walker” she continued between kisses. She was breathless, “I ..love you so much.” Hugging her tightly to his body and turning her carefully Walker rolled to his back without releasing the grip of his penis inside her. Finally though, he was forced to withdraw and Alex slipped down the side of him.  Alex snuggled as close as she could possibly get, still emotionally gripped by their experience, and buried her face in his. He smiled happily, and laid his left arm protectively across her back while his free hand softly caressed her hair.

Although he fought against them, painful memories came flooding back and he couldn’t help but tighten his grip around her. He knew he was lucky to have her here. He thanked God for every extra day that he woke up next to her. Walker looked down, reached for the blankets and covered them both up, his tender action to keep her warm a small display of his overwhelming love for her.  Kissing Alex’s forehead again he stroked her shoulder and smiled reassuringly, but inside his stomach churned as his mind forced him to relive the events of two years earlier…

The Medivac chopper rose slowly into the clear blue sky. Spectators held on to their possessions and clothes in the wake of huge gusts of wind, and, as the helicopter flew further away and the air became calmer, C.D. and Trivette turned anxiously toward Walker. There had been no room to take him as well although, strangely, he seemed reluctant to go.  Still reeling from the shock of the shooting the people in the wedding party milled round in disbelief, unable to figure out what should be done now. Hardly anyone moved for some time.

“C’mon Cordell. Let’s get you back to the house and get cleaned up before we go to the hospital.” C.D. looked around. Trent, Carlos, Kim and Phil slowly walked behind them in a fearful and alarmed silence unsure of what to do or say.

“Carlos?’

He was there in an instant. “Yes C.D.?”

“You’re about Walker’s size. Let him have your shirt so he can get out of this one.”

Looking at the large red stains of Alex’s blood on Walker’s shirt where he had tried in vain to stop the bleeding, Carlos rushed to undo the buttons. They followed them into the ample bathroom watching as C.D. and Trivette waited for Walker to undo his shirt, but Walker didn’t move, he stood obviously numb and untypically unsure of himself.

C.D. looked at the others. “Guys? Can you give Jimmy an’ me a moment with Cordell please?”

“Sure C.D. No problem.” Trent looked at C.D. squarely. “We’ll be right outside waiting in case you need us.”

“Thanks fellahs.” C.D. closed the door.

Walker looked down at his shirt saturated with Alex’s blood. He knew it was a bad wound. He’d seen too many over the years. Slowly his knees gave way and he sank to the ground paralyzed with grief.

“Walker!” Trivette and C.D. spoke together, rushing to his side as he bent double. They dropped to their knees with him.

“Cordell?” There was no response. “Cordell?”

Alarmed, C.D. and Trivette looked at each other. C.D. grasped Walker’s shoulders pulling him upright and looked in his eyes.  There was nothing there.  They were void. Blank; dull, the light gone from them.

Astounded Trivette watched all color leave his partner’s face, observing as the blood drained away leaving him deathly pale. Even his lips and earlobes had become translucent.

“Walker?” Trivette ventured quietly and shook him gently. There was a pause before they heard the strangled, emotional response. 

“I can’t….take this….again.”

C.D. knew what he meant. Walker had a tragic history. He had been there as a young boy when both his parents had been murdered, had lost his former fiancée to a gunman, and now his precious Alex had been shot just as he had been about to ask her to marry him.

Dumbfounded, the two men stared in amazement. No one had seen Walker react this way before. Embracing him the elder man pulled Walker’s head to his chest and wrapped his arms tightly about. “Cordell.  Listen to me.” C.D. shook him. “Listen Cordell. You’ve always been like a son to me and I love you as my son.” The elderly man kissed him on the cheek and held on to him tightly again. “I promise you, if we have to take it second by second, minute by minute we’ll get through this. Swallowing heavily while fighting off the tears C.D. steeled himself as Walker neither agreed nor objected. C.D. looked to Walker’s partner. “Jimmy, help me get him to his feet.”

C.D. ran the faucet. “C’mon Cordell.” Trivette removed the stained shirt and they each grabbed a bare arm pulling him over to the sink. They dipped his stained hands in the water. It turned red. It was as if Walker had left his body. There was nothing there, just an empty shell. Sitting him down they dried him with a towel and Trivette dressed him in Carlos’ shirt, leaving the tail outside his pants. 

Going outside the door C.D. gave instructions. “Someone get him a brandy, we’ll see if that’ll get rid of the shock. Then we’ll need a car and driver to take us to the hospital.” C.D. looked at Trent and Carlos. “I need you to follow behind in another car. If the worst happens we’re gonna need to keep an eye on Cordell.  Someone has to be with him every second. If he takes off by himself to the Badlands we’ll never find him in a million years, so I don’t want him left alone.” Assuring C.D. of their support they rushed to do his bidding.

C.D. entered again placing a reassuring hand on Walker’s shoulder and turned, raising his eyebrows, seeing his shared fear register in the younger black man’s eyes.  The door opened slowly and Trent offered them a glass of deep amber liquid.  Trivette bent on one knee.

“Walker. C’mon partner.  Drink this.” Trivette took Walker’s hand, put the glass into it raising it to Walker’s lips. “Just take a sip.” Gently forcing it in Walker finally started drinking, taking two small mouthfuls before pushing it away. “There you go. That’ll start to warm you up.”

Phil quietly entered the bathroom “the car’s here,” he advised.

Trivette looked round anxiously, “any word from the hospital?”

Carlos had checked. “No.  No one had any news.” He had emphasized the word any so they would realize it meant whether Alex had survived the flight.

“Okay.” C.D. sighed. “Let’s go.”

The car pulled up alongside the ER entrance and C.D. and Trivette got out. They stopped when Walker didn’t follow but instead he leaned against the car pinching the bridge of his nose.  He shook his head at his friends, his eyes a complete reflection of soul-destroying pain. “I don’t want to know.” He said simply, “but there’s not going to be a way around it. Is there?”

Truthfully C.D. didn’t want to walk in and receive an answer that they would dread hearing either. His stomach felt like a molten mass of metal and his legs like jelly, so he couldn’t even begin to imagine what Walker must feel like. Neither he nor Trivette could come up with a suitable answer, so they waited for a few seconds more until finally Walker took a deep breath and stepped forward. They resumed their slow walk towards the building. Trent and Carlos pulled up in the next car to wait with them, then walk a respectful distance behind.

The ER was it’s usual chaos for a Saturday. Full of sports injuries, worried relatives and a hard pressed nursing shift. They waited in silence until the receptionist gave them her attention.  Her experience quickly judged the seriousness of the situation.  She looked at the three distraught faces in front of her and noticed the two shiny Texas Ranger Badges as they stood out against the dark wedding suits. Her voice became quiet and respectful.

“Sirs? How may I help you?”

Trivette was the first to find his voice. He swallowed hard. “Rangers Walker, Parker and Trivette. Er..we’re here to see how Alex Cahill is. She was a gun shot victim brought in by Medivac maybe twenty minutes ago?”

They all looked round as shouting and melee broke out briefly between two families. Walker was jostled as relatives bustled by the desk pushing old man with a sprained ankle in a wheelchair. They apologized as they went by.

“Sirs, come this way please?” Rounding the counter the receptionist beckoned and showed them to a small room. She smiled understandingly. “It’ll be quieter here for you…I’ll go check and come straight back.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you miss, we appreciate it.  Thank you.” Trivette managed a quick smile of gratitude before the door closed on her and she was gone. They looked at each other, the atmosphere electric and thick with apprehension.  Walker was trying to control his breathing, inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling through his mouth.  Had they but known it all three men were wondering the same thing, could they have prevented the shooting? They all arrived at the same conclusion that they could not. The shooter had been apprehended at the scene so there wasn’t even the fall back of knowing they could do something positive now by going after him.  There was nothing they could do but be at the mercy of knowing if Alex were alive or dead. They were still standing when the door opened.

“Miss Cahill went straight to surgery. She’s still there.  If you go to the surgical reception on the sixth floor they’re expecting you. Do you know the way?”

Alex was alive then! They nodded. They did know the way.  Knew it all too well unfortunately.  They left the room heading for the elevators and passing Trent and Carlos standing guard by the entrance of the room. Trivette squeezed Trent’s arm as they passed. “She’s still in surgery.”

Trent sighed with some measure of relief and nodded, but was quiet as they stood in silence for the ride to the sixth floor.  The elevator dinged and stopped and the doors opened. They made their way to the reception and were met once again by a nurse. It was more peaceful and ordered here. She showed them to the waiting area and informed them someone would be along shortly. She hadn’t finished the sentence when a doctor appeared.

C.D. rose, as did they all. “Jerry?”

Jerry Weisental was in his fifties, short with glasses and a head of dark hair.  He was a good doctor. “C.D., Walker ..guys, sit down. When I heard who was brought in I checked for you.  Dr. Robert Avery is doing the surgery now.” He sighed. “Initially she was difficult to stabilize, but they took her down as soon as they could. You know as well as me it’s a waiting game now and I have no idea how long its going to take. I can only assure you that while I’m on duty I’ll let you know the minute we get word.”

C.D. nodded. “I know you will Jerry.”

“You’d better set in for a while I reckon. You know where the coffee machine and commissary are?”

They nodded. Weisental studied Walker. “Hang in there Walker.” Walker nodded. Weisental looked slightly awkward. “Er…” He pointed down the hallway. “The last door on the right. There’s … a chapel if it’ll help.” With that he got up and left.

Trent checked with C.D. “You want me to let Kim and Phil know how it is for now?” With C.D. nodding Trent quietly left the room.

At some point during the next four hours they all visited the chapel, it’s tranquility was a relief from the stress they all felt, and as C.D. looked over to Walker after Walker’s last visit, he thought his ex-partner looked somewhat better.  C.D. gestured to him with a raise of his eyebrows and Walker nodded.

“I’m okay.” He reassured them.  C.D. smiled encouragingly and looked up as Carlos came in. Walker gave him small grin, “so you can call off your body guards now.” C.D. did nothing but exchange a wry look and although he refrained from giving the order, the atmosphere in the room did lift.  It was short lived, however, as the door opened to reveal another doctor with Weisental.

Jerry did the introductions and they waited as Robert Avery gathered his thoughts.

“Gentlemen. I’m happy to tell you that Miss Cahill has come out of surgery very well. She’ll be on the critical list for sometime, but I’m reasonably confidant she won’t have any other life threatening situations.”

Breaths of delight and looks of relief surged through the group except for Walker, his look fixed on Avery’s face. As the others noticed his lack of expression the exclamations died down to see what else would come out of the conversation.

“But?” Asked Walker.

Avery nodded. “Yes. I’m sorry.  There is a but.” There was a slight pause. “At the moment Miss Cahill is paralyzed below the eighth vertebrae.  Her legs are not responding to painful stimuli. The bullet ended in her spinal column but by some miracle, the cord’s intact. Now, whether this means permanent disability, or whether she may get some use of her legs back during the next few days, weeks, months, or at all…we won’t be able to predict.”

The group digested the new information in silence until finally Avery made a move to go, promising to let them know when they would be able to see her and the door closed behind him.

Trivette looked at the others. “Oh Alex. Life’s so unfair at times.” His voice was hoarse with emotion.

Walker sat down, his face now registering a determined look. “She’ll walk again.”

He nodded by way of confirmation as C.D. patted him on the back.

“I hope so, Cordell. I sure hope so.”

“Well if anyone can do it, she can.” Trivette reassured them and they nodded, but over two months later and still in hospital, Alex was struggling.

“Ranger Walker?” Nurse Ross stopped Walker, Trivette and C.D. before they entered Alex’s room. “You may want to give Alex a few minutes before you go in, she’s still a bit upset.”

“Why? What’s upset her?”

“She’s decided to go into a convalescent home and I’m afraid it’s made her emotional. You might just want to let her compose herself before you go in.”

“Home?” Walker’s eyebrows furrowed. “Home?” he repeated. “Why would she even think about going in a home?”

Nurse Ross explained. “Well, she can’t stay here any more, and although her father offered his home she doesn’t want to live in New York.  Alex can’t stay in her apartment as it’s not suitable for her condition, so unfortunately, she doesn’t have any other options.  It’s very sad.”

Walker gave a small laugh. “Alex isn’t going in any home.  Whatever arrangements she’s made, I’d be grateful if you’d unmake them.” With that he left the others behind and strode through the door.

Alex sat slouched in her wheel chair looking through the window. Startled, she immediately tried to disguise her upset and forced a brave smile. “Hi.” She looked behind her unconvincingly pretending to look for her book while quickly flicking away her tears.

Towering over her Walker looked down. “You’re not going in any home.”

“Walker. Please don’t make this difficult.  I don’t have any choice.” Tiredly Alex rubbed a hand over her forehead as Trivette and C.D. joined them to sit on her bed.

“You’re coming back to the ranch.”

“I know you mean well.” Alex shook her head. “Until I gain some strength in my arms to lift myself out of this wheelchair I can’t do that, and I’ll need a place that’ll continue my rehab program.  You’ll be at work all day and most nights…I can’t manage. But, thanks anyway.”

“No.”

Alex looked at them individually and back to the man she loved. “Walker! It’s not an option.”

“We’ll make it work.”

“It can’t …there’s…” Alex was in turmoil and tried to gather her thoughts. “Apart from the practical aspects which won’t work, even if we got over them, I wouldn’t want to go to the ranch anyway.”

Walker sat in the chair opposite, “why not?”

“It’s my problem. My burden. Not yours or anyone else’s.”

C.D. cleared his throat. “Honey, you’re not a burden to us, and you could stay with me but the practical side, well, I can understand how that’s a difficulty.”

“I’m grateful C.D.,” Impassioned Alex tried to explain, “but I’ve been here over two months.  I’ve told you guys to get on with your lives and not visit everyday, but bless you all, here you are again.” Alex paused slightly, “I …couldn’t have made it this far without you, ….. I’m thankful for your friendship more than you’ll ever know, but you have to give this up.  It’s draining coming up to the hospital every day. Heavens I know that well enough from when you guys have been hurt, ….but …this, ..isn’t going to go away too easily.” Alex tried hard to keep her voice even and disguise her real feelings “and, well, …we’ve all got to move on.  So, today, …now,” her voice caught “we’re going to say good-bye. When I can get mobile, I promise to come and visit you.”

Tension and foreboding hung round the room with the ensuing silence until Walker spoke a single word.

“No.”

Her expression blank, Alex looked at him.

“No.” Walker repeated.

“You want Jimmy and me to leave, Cordell?” Asked C.D.

“No C.D., I don’t.” There was a purpose, a plan, something in Walker’s demeanor that had everyone’s attention. “I’ll take extended leave. We can concentrate on your rehab, just as if you were in hospital. I have all the training equipment we’re likely to need anyway.”

Alex shook her head “I can’t let you do that Walker.”

“You wouldn’t like that as an option?”

“Yes. Of course I’d like it, but that doesn’t come into it. I can’t ..I won’t let you make this sacrifice for me, and that’s the end of it.”

Walker’s voice was husky. “It’s not a sacrifice. We’ll get married.”

“WHAT?”

“Way to go partner!” Trivette felt relief through every part of his body; his huge grin as Walker looked back at him making Walker smile too. C.D. shook his head and joined in, and as one, three smiling faces stared back at her.

Astonished and speechless, Alex stared back.

“This isn’t quite the proposal I had planned y’know,” Walker laughed nervously. “We’ll get married  ..now, as soon as possible. That’ll sort out the practical problems. It’s no big deal a husband helping his wife to the bathroom.  We’ll go through the rehab together, then, when you’re able to walk down the aisle, we’ll have a special wedding.” Pleased with himself Walker looked at C.D. and Trivette to see them nodding enthusiastically and he turned back to Alex, his pleasure short lived as he witnessed her negative shake of the head. Walker bit his bottom lip as he waited her objections.

“Ironic, isn’t it?  All these years I’ve prayed you would ask me to marry you, and now you have …I can’t accept! Unbelievable isn’t it? Alex pleaded with him. “Walker, thank you, but ……I can’t marry you under these circumstances.”

“Alex Cahill, you can turn me down if you look me in the eyes, and truthfully answer me two questions.” Walker brought up his chair to face her, looking directly into her eyes. “If I was in that wheelchair instead of you, would you let me go out of your life into a home? He waited expectantly.

Perplexed Alex couldn’t answer. She couldn’t possibly let him do that and she would sacrifice her career, even her life for his without even thinking about it.

“Tell me you don’t love me.” Walker took her hand in his and covered it with the other.  He could feel her tremble at his touch. “Tell me you don’t love me.” His penetrating gaze was unwavering as he waited. Alex looked away and Walker gently brought her chin round to look at him again. Her voice was a whisper.

“What if I never walk again?”

Walker reached over, pulled her close and hugged her. “We’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it, but we cross it together.” Alex started to cry. “Shhhh.”  Walker caressed her hair. “Everything’s going to be just fine.”

Trivette turned to C.D. “C’mon Big Dog, let’s give them some privacy. We’ll go get coffee and donuts to celebrate. Bring them back in a few minutes.”

Unable to speak Alex squeezed Trivette’s hand as he went past and he bent over and kissed the top of her head. “Way to go, pard. I’m proud of you.” The two men warmly shook hands then Walker grasped C.D.’s hand.  C.D., always the expressive, kissed them both. Walker laughed.

“See you in a few minutes, son. I’m real pleased you both agreed on this.”

As the light brown door closed affording them some privacy, Walker smiled at the beautiful, teary woman he was embracing. “I hope they’re tears of happiness.” He whispered.

Alex nodded, “all sorts of things. Walker?  Are you really sure this is what you want to do? If I don’t get to walk again, this isn’t going to be a picnic.”

“I’m sure. Now c’mon, give me a kiss.” He smiled.

“Oh my.” Alex sniffed and brushed the tears away. “I’d probably be more presentable with a bag over my head.”

“You’re beautiful and I love you Alex Cahill.”

Careful not to wake Alex, Walker cricked his neck to peer down at her face. She always looked so peaceful when she slept and he loved the feel of her as she nestled in his arms. He could never forget the day he asked her to marry him or the crazy forty-eight hours that ensued. He and Trivette building the ramp so Alex could get up to the house, for instance. Walker smiled at his thoughts in the early morning light.

“I’m from Baltimore! It’s a concrete jungle!”

“You don’t have DIY and wood in Baltimore?” Walker joked. “One more mis-cut and you can get the next lot of wood.” He and Trivette were stripped to the waist, their bodies aglow from their labors. Walker stood back surveying their progress. “Three pieces and we’re done.  Two are cut, one left.  All I’m saying is cut it straight! Alex and C.D.’ll be here any minute.”

“Then you cut it.”

“You’re cutting the wood Trivette, I’m nailing it to the frame.”

Trivette snatched the hammer from his partner’s hands. “So? We’ll swap.”

“The reason we’ve swapped already,” Walker wrestled it back from Trivette, “is because you’ve hit practically every finger on each hand!”

Trivette looked at the Band-Aids that adorned four of his ten fingers and sighed. “Okay.”

“Just cut it straight.”

“WILL YOU…just stop saying that and I’ll be fine!” Determinedly Trivette plucked the saw from the depths of the sawdust and shook it before placing it carefully over the pencil line. “It’ll be straight so long as you’ve marked it straight,” he grumbled under his breath.

Walker tried to stifle his laugh until the last cut had been made and with relief Trivette triumphantly held up the wood. “See Trivette.  I knew you could do it!”

“Such a dang know it all Walker!  I’ve a good mind to break it over your head.”

“Really?” Walker perked up at the thought. He jabbed his partner playfully in the ribs with the hammer. “C’mon then. Give me your best shot.” Walker jogged on the spot by his side and jabbed again.

“Oh no, what’ve I said?” Walker jabbed another few times. “I mean it Walker.”

“Do you Trivette?” Walker jabbed again.

“Right!” Swinging the strip of wood with surprising agility Walker was lucky his duck just managed to save him.

“Good one Trivette. Dang well almost caught me!” Their parrying took them down the driveway as C.D.’s car pulled up.

Trivette seemed as surprised as Walker. “Yeah!  I dang well almost did didn’t I?” He was thrilled. “Well, lets see how well you do this time partner.” Instead of a swing Trivette thrust the wood out in front.  Walker made an easy inside block with the hammer, dropped it and caught Trivette’s leading hand in his.  A small side step to bring his right leg behind Trivette’s and Walker gently flipped the younger black man on his back. They both laughed loudly.

“What in tarnation are you two doing?” Exasperated C.D. looked back to Alex sitting in the car to see her laugh loudly as the two men got to their feet.

Trivette waved, “hi Alex!”

“Like trying to keep two schoolboys under control.” C.D. muttered under his breath as he surveyed their progress while manhandling the wheelchair together.

Walker opened the car door with a big grin. “Hi, sweetheart.” He picked her up in his arms without waiting for the wheelchair to be ready and showed her their efforts.  Alex had no trouble sensing the pride he and Trivette displayed and shared their pleasure.

“Oh my. You guys did great! This looks terrific!” Alex saw the satisfied exchange between them. “You’ve worked so hard. Look at you two, you must be exhausted!”

Trivette preened himself “It’s nothing.”

Alex beamed at them. “You guys! Thank you.”

“Hey.” Walker beckoned over Trivette and placed Alex in his arms. “I’ll just finish banging in these last few nails and you can have a try.”

As they watched Walker hammered in the nails with great gusto. Each went in with one strike of the hammer.

“You’re marrying a real show off, Alex.” Trivette whispered loudly in her ear so they could all hear. Grinning, Walker shot her a look enjoying her pleasure as she laughed along with them.  Trivette placed Alex carefully in the wheelchair.

“Okay, counselor. Give her a try!” He urged.

“Here goes.”

Awkwardly guiding the wheels Alex’s first attempt rammed the wheelchair in the side of the woodwork.

Walker pretended to cover his eyes, “I can always make “L” plates for that chair.”

Alex grimaced at him. “Oh very funny!”  She tried again and successfully reached the first ramp.

“Next one’s steeper Alex, give it some stick.” Trivette dramatically waved her onwards. She gave it her best shot getting within inches of the top when she began to struggle.      

Walker waited at the top resisting the overwhelming urge to rush down and help her. “C’mon! You can do it! Only about two inches and you’re there.” They held collective breaths as she struggled for all she was worth, the chair moving up in tenths of an inch. “Keep going, you’re so close!” Walker clapped his hands. “You’re right on it, c’mon. Go!”

Mercifully the front wheels crossed the incline to the flat surface and Walker grasped the arms of the wheelchair pulling her towards him as C.D. and Trivette applauded from down below. Walker beamed at her, “Good, good, good! I knew you could do it! It’ll get easier every time now, you wait and see!” he rewarded her with a big kiss and beamed at his friends.

“Well done Alex.” C.D. started up the steps. “Whaddya all say to a cup of tea?”

“How’s it going for tomorrow C.D.?” Walker watched his mentor and former partner take another sip and replace his cup.

“Nuthin’ to worry about, Cordell. Everything’s taken care of. Dan will officiate.”

“Was he okay about coming to the bar?” Walker interrupted.

“Oh sure. Dan’s okay.  He was pleased to help given the circumstances and delighted you two were getting hitched at last. He said he’d give you both a call later on and take you through it so you know what to expect. I’ve arranged for some folks to come over later, but there’ll just be the six of us for the ceremony.”

Walker looked at Alex and reached for her hand. “You okay?”

Alex nodded. “yeah  ..its just that, well, life’s funny sometimes. I never imagined in my wildest dreams things were going to turn out this way.” Walker squeezed her hand.

Alex smiled in return. “Since Phil and Kim are on their honeymoon at last, Dana’s going to help me get dressed at the hospital and will come with me. She’s been a real brick. Oh, she said to tell you her Dad would have given his blessing if he were here, Walker.”

Somberly Walker nodded. It would have been so good to have Logan here. He had been a close friend and a good cop and Walker still missed him even though he had been dead for some years. For a while after Logan’s death it had been a rocky road for his kids, Dana and Keith, but he had helped them pull through and they were as good friends as you get.

Alex continued, “and we’ve picked out what I’m going to wear.” She frowned, “You won’t wear a tux will you?”

“Well,” Walker was confused, “erh, not if you don’t want me to.”

Alex shook her head. “Not with me like this and not being able to go out and buy something new. You don’t mind do you?”

“No. No, I don’t mind. Will my suit be okay?” He questioned anxiously.

“Perfect.”

“Sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay then.” He turned to the others with raised eyebrows, “You guys were witness to this now.” They laughed, shaking their heads.

C.D. looked at his watch. “Better get you back to the hospital, Alex, in case they think you’ve gone AWOL!”

Trivette nodded “yeah, you don’t wanna over tire yourself on your first trip out. You gotta big day ahead of you tomorrow.”

They stood up and Walker pushed her outside waiting as Trivette opened the car door. Picking her up Walker held her before he placed her in the front seat and squeezed her tightly, reveling in the kiss she gave him by means of reward.

“I could get used to this, lady.” Walker exclaimed when she’d finished.

“Put her down and get her in the car,” C.D. grumbled.

Walker laughed, waited until Alex had fastened her seat belt and quickly kissed her again. “I’ll come down this evening when we’ve finished and I’ve cleaned up. Try and get some rest when you get back, okay?”

Trivette stepped forward. “I’ve just had a thought. What are you two doing about a ring?” There was a pause and an alarmed look passed between them all.

“Good thinking Trivette. What are we going to do?” He looked to C.D. and Alex who looked back without speaking. “I have an idea. Leave it to me.” With that Walker stepped back, tapped lightly on the top of C.D.’s Sports Utility and watched as it sped down the drive.

“You still got time to help me clean up before you meet Gordon?”

“Yeah.” There was a pause. “Walker?” His partner stepped back. “Um, I think that, er, it was a real good thing you did for Alex. I know how you’ve felt about marriage up till now man, and I er, wanted to tell you …I admire you for your decision.” With that Trivette extended his hand and as they warmly acknowledged each other he continued. “I just know that although the start’s gonna be rough, I’m sure its gonna work out for you two.”

Walker shook his hand and laid the other on top. “I appreciate that Trivette.” They resumed the clean up when Walker stopped collecting odd pieces of wood for the trash. “Funny thing is, once I decided, it seemed such an easy call to make. Even now, I’m fine. The old apprehension’s gone. By the way, you know what this means? Once I’m hitched we can all start on you!” Walker laughed loudly.

“OH man!” Trivette ducked as a small piece of wood flew in his direction and the jovial clean up began in earnest.

“Where did you get all these?”

Walker repositioned himself on Alex’s hospital bed and gazed over the four trays of rings. “Remember about a year ago, we had lunch in the Marina Café?” Alex frowned and started to nod. “I apprehended two thugs heisting Sam Smith’s jewelers just before I met you? It was the same day the Governor asked me to check out Golden Wells Resort where C.D. was?”

“Oh yeah. I remember.”

“Well, I explained the situation and he let me bring you a selection. So, what do you like?”

“That was nice of him. Well….hmmmm.”

“How about this one?”  Alex tried it on. “Yeah, that’s nice.”

“Or this one?” Walker slipped off one ring and exchanged it for another.

“Yeah.”

“Okay, try this one.  What do you think of this?” The exchange continued until slowly Alex removed the ring and stopped. She looked up at her husband to be.

Walker’s face fell. “Your hearts not in this. Is it?”

There was a pregnant pause and Alex returned the ring to its position in the tray. “Walker?” Alex reached for his shoulder, pulled him forward and pressed her forehead to his. After a few seconds her forehead slipped to one side and she pressed even harder as she whispered in his ear, swallowing heavily before hand. “You are the most precious man.” Alex’s right hand found its way to the back of Walker’s neck and she held on tightly. Finally she took a deep breath and whispered again. “Are you sure you’re doing this for the right reasons? You can still back out of this, you know.” He went to reply and Alex held her fingers to his lips. “I know you Cordell Walker. You can fight an army yet you've always been wary of getting married. If I was normal and you’d asked me I wouldn’t have a moment’s hesitation, but you’ve stepped out the frying pan into the fire. I’m going to be a big burden round your neck.” Alex paused and shook her head slowly, “I think it’s …too much. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

There was silence between them and they held each other for a short time, when Walker repositioned his embrace to incorporate her whole body, making her snuggle her head in the crook of his neck and whispered back.

“Before Phil and Kim’s wedding, I told you I wanted to ask you something, remember?” He waited till he felt her nod and he gave a small silent laugh, “you’d guessed what it was,” Walker tried to look in her downcast eyes, “hadn’t you?”

Alex gave no indication.

“Be honest.”

“Well …I’d hoped.”

“Right!” Walker went on. “So I’m going to let you out of my life now? You can go in a home as many times as you want. I’ll only come and get you back! Do YOU understand?” Walker pulled back to look into her eyes. They were warm, familiar and misty. “I love you very much.” He added huskily, and finished with a slow, lingering kiss. “Are there any rings there you like?”

Alex smiled at him one more time before looking down. Without hesitation her fingers quickly grasped a gold band comprising of four small diamonds set into the band with a gold satin finish. She broadly grinned at him, “I LOVE this one.”

Walker raised his eyebrows. “Sure? Let’s see if it fits.” Holding her hand he slid the band on her finger and ran it up to the top. They both smiled.

Alex admired it. “It’s beautiful. I adore it.”

“Well, it’ll make do for now, when we have the big wedding, I’ll get you a new one.”

“No.” She shook her head. “There isn’t another one you could show me I’d like as well. This is it forever,” and she grinned again and kissed him. “Thank you.” She touched his hand “you’d better not have a ring.”

Surprised, Walker’s eyebrows shot up. “You, you don’t mind?” He stammered.

“No. For one thing you don’t want one, and for another it’d get in the way and you’d be worried about it when you took it off everyday for training. See?  I understand. No worry.” Alex knew she had him pegged exactly.

Walker shook his head at her in admiration. “You’re something else, know that? Well, I’m going to go back and return these, there’s a lot of money here.” Walker placed Alex’s choice in his top pocket and replaced the trays in their individual black suede bags and stood up. “I’ll be back soon.” He’d barely turned round when the heavy door opened.

“Here he is, safe and sound.” Trivette held open the door to reveal Gordon Cahill.

“Dad!”

Walker and Gordon Cahill smiled and shook hands until Gordon released his hold and warmly embraced his future son-in-law.

“Walker. Good to see you again.”

“You too, Gordon.”

“Hi, darling. I’m so pleased for you both.”

“Oh Dad, I’m so glad you could make it back.”

“Like I’m not going to make my own daughters wedding! What is this!” he joked.

Walker made a move to go. “Perfect timing. I have to leave for half and hour.”

“You darn well shouldn’t be here anyway. Not the night before the wedding! Don’t come back!”

“What?”

Trivette nodded. “He’s right. You gotta get out now.” He took Walker’s arm beginning to drag him away.

“But..” Walker looked to Alex in alarm.

She laughed. “Go. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“But, I haven’t checked..”

“I have it all sorted.  The time Dana’s coming to help Alex get ready, the time I’m picking them up.”

Walker still wouldn’t give it up “but how’s Gordon getting to C.D.’s house tonight?”

Trivette sighed, “I’ll take him when we’re done here.”

“But”

“Walker? Can you get yourself from the ranch to C.D.’s in the morning by 11am?”

There was a pause. “Yes.”

Trivette held up his hands in a fait a compli. “That’s it then.  You’re done. Outta here.  Go home. Capeesh?”

Unable to think of anything further Walker looked from one to another until Alex chuckled. “Come here. Give me a kiss goodnight.”

Obediently Walker went to her bedside and bent over to see her smile radiantly at him. He couldn’t help but grin as well. He took a deep breath. “Well.  See you tomorrow.”

Alex kissed him happily. “Sleep tight, darling.”

Dazed, Walker began to take his leave.

“Walker?”

He turned back to see Alex holding the dark bundle rings. “Oh!” He laughed nervously, “yeah.” Reaching for them he turned back and stopped in the doorway. “Well…”

“Night, Walker.” Smiled the trio, cutting him off in unison.

He smiled back and disappeared down the corridor leaving them laughing at his expense. As his footsteps took him further away from their excited exchange of news Walker’s progress slowed and he stopped briefly, smiled broadly, and with a renewed sense of purpose strode out of the hospital into the warm evening breeze.

Gordon Cahill looked down fondly at his daughter. “Will it tire you too much if I stay a few minutes?  I didn’t want to arrive in Dallas and not see you before tomorrow.”

“No, I’ll be fine.  Sit down both of you.  Relax a minute. Jimmy, you look ready for your bed.  I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done and all your hard work.”

Trivette smiled.  He was tired there was no question about that, but he simply couldn’t do too much for his dearest friends and as far he was concerned, their marriage was a joy long over due. “It’s my pleasure, Alex. Are you sure you’re okay with the timings tomorrow?”

“Yes and guess what?  Some of the nurses are giving me a special farewell breakfast in the morning.  Wasn’t that nice?  I won’t be coming back to these four walls tomorrow night so it’ll be the last chance I’ll have so say goodbye to them, although I have asked Grace and Penny to the reception afterwards.”  She smiled at them both. “Y’know I still have a bit of a reality problem…its all happened so fast.  Here’s me thinking Walker would be the nervous one and I’m scared to death.” Disbelieving her own emotions, Alex shook her head.

“It’s just to be expected,” Gordon reassured, patting her hand. “It can’t be about marrying Walker, you have a fine man there, no question, so it must be the ceremony?”

“No, it’s just that I wish…the circumstances were different. I can’t help wondering if I hadn’t been injured if he’d have still asked me.” She confided.

“I can’t answer that one, Alex, but I saw him when you were shot and I have never seen him so defeated.” Alex reacted taken-a-back. Trivette repeated the word.  A word which no one in their wildest dreams would use in the same sentence as Cordell Walker. “Yeah.  I said defeated! I’ve never in my life seen him so distraught; and we talked this morning about you two getting married and his decision. He’s absolutely sure, Alex.” Trivette gave her a big smile, “really.” He laughed. “He’s his old ‘know it all self’ about it.” Trivette gestured towards her with an outward palm, “y’know how he gets!”

Gordon and Alex laughed. “Jimmy,” Alex fondly looked at her friend, “thanks. I needed to hear that.”

“So.” Gordon’s commanding nature kicked in. “Let’s run through things one more time and we’ll all get some rest.”

With the morning bright and warm Walker laid the flowers to one side, placed a blanket between the graves of his parents and sat down cross-legged. He loosened the turquoise Indian bolo his Uncle Ray had given him and was silent before speaking.

“Well. You know what’s happening; I felt you with me last night.” Walker smiled. “You gave me your blessing,” there was a catch to the voice, “it means a lot to me.” There was silence again until Walker recovered his thoughts.

“I’ve told you so much about her over the years. I know you’d like her, and she would like you. She makes a big effort to understand our ways.” Walker looked to the side and back again, “She lit a flame in my heart when I first met her,” he gave a deep sigh, “and …I tried to resist but, …as the years passed, it’s grown so bright, and so strong.  Although she’s been hurt real bad, it can’t extinguish the fire in my heart and, I ….can’t abandon her.”

With just the occasional birdsong in the stillness that followed Walker confided further “I don’t fear getting married, but, …something always happens to prevent it.” He paused again for a minute or so. “Well. I guess I’d better go.”

The sign outside C.D.’s Bar and Grill was adorned in yellow and white freesias entwined with long variegated ivy stems, and advised of a private party in progress.

“Relax buddy.” C.D. clapped Walker on the back as he peered out the window again.

Walker looked about him at the elegant flower arrangements and the area C.D. had cordoned off. He had placed six chairs in a semi circle with a table on either side covered in fresh flowers that kept the yellow and white theme. “I can’t thank you enough for all the trouble you’ve gone to C.D. This place looks wonderful. Did I give you enough money?”

“Yeah, and you got most of it back. Just after you left Gordon and Jimmy came in. Gordon insisted the father of the bride should pay. He’s a nice guy, Gordon Cahill.”

Smiling, C.D. fixed Walker’s bolo.

“Do I look okay?” Walker fretted.

“Pretty as a picture.” He finished the adjustment on the tie and laughed at Walker’s scowl. “Now Cordell, no scowling today,” was the jovial warning, and unable to help himself, Walker grinned. “Y’know,” C.D. continued on a more serious note, “you, Alex and Jimmy are my family. You guys hurt, I hurt. You laugh, I laugh.  I love ya as if you were my own.” C.D. struggled slightly. “I know in these old bones of mine this is going to be a real good match, you and Alex, but, we both know this isn’t going to be easy. If you need to get away you just come by, any time day or night. I’ll sit with Alex, okay?”

Walker embraced his oldest friend. “I don’t know what I’d do without you, C.D.”

C.D. patted Walker’s back again and drew apart, pleased but embarrassed. “You need someone to keep you in line!” Walker smiled and C.D. looked up and out the window, then checked his watch again.

“You alright, Walker?” Justice of the Peace, Dan Turner questioned with a grin.

“Yeah, I’m fine. You’ll stay on for the reception afterwards won’t you?”

 “Shheessh, as if anyone in town’s gonna miss this milestone.” He paused to take in Walker’s good-humored response, punching him lightly on the arm. “Everyone’s knocked out for you guys. Can’t think of a wedding I want to do more!” He confirmed.

 “I guess I’m going to have to get used to this.”

 Dan laughed, “you got that one right.” He looked to C.D. and Walker and glanced at his watch, “women! She should be here by now, Walker.”

 That observation had not gone unnoticed but it was past time for someone to mention it. It caused a flicker of consternation more on C.D.’s part than Walker, who as always, did a great job of remaining impassive. They made small talk for a further few minutes and as the atmosphere thickened, Dan excused himself to ostensibly check some papers and left the two friends alone.

 He tried not to let Walker see his apprehension but as the tension mounted C.D. rationalized. “Bride’s prerogative. To be late, that is.”

 “Yeah.” Walker laughed nervously and took a few paces down the room. Another ten minutes passed.

C.D. could hardly bear to look in the younger man’s face. Placing an arm around Walker’s shoulders he lightly patted Walker’s chest with the other. “She’ll be here. They’ll have misjudged how long it took her to get ready! Jimmy would have rung if there was a problem wouldn’t he?” Walker nodded. As another five minutes ticked away C.D. stomped to the phone and dialed Trivette’s mobile, waiting as the call went through.

“The party you are trying to contact maybe out of range or have their mobile switched off. Please try again…”

“Tarnation!” C.D. interrupted the electronic voice and replaced the receiver. He watched as Walker’s lower jaw dropped slightly, he blinked a couple of times and sat down heavily in the nearest chair. Please God, C.D. prayed, don’t let this happen to him. Not now he’s finally opened up after all these years, not when he’s made himself so vulnerable. I know you’re hurtin’, Alex, but please don’t leave him like this. Not like this. C.D.’s heart raced.

He started to say something when a blare of approaching sirens grew louder. Exchanging glances they approached the window peering out to see Gordon Cahill driving Trivette’s car with Alex and Dana in the back. Two motorcycle cops flanked it, one carrying a wind blown Trivette on the back.

C.D. sighed with relief. Maybe there was hope for his sour stomach after all! “Okay! They’re here, but what that boy’s doing with Ralph and Perry from the HP I got no idea!”

All doors of the vehicle were thrown open and bodies tipped out and tripped up in the rush to get inside.

“Hey Walker, your wedding party was stuck in a traffic jam …but we got ‘em out for you soon as we could.” The burly Highway Patrol cop gave a huge smile, looking behind him as his buddy came up carrying an oblong package with a card attached.

“An’ this is from us at the 16th, Walker. We wish you both well, you know that.”

Walker smiled and strode forward extending his hand, “Ralph, Perry. Thank you. We appreciate it. Thanks for rescuing the bride!” He grinned, “I’ll owe you big time for this.”

The two cops laughed, “HUGE, Walker!” And they laughed again as took their leave.

Walker blew through his lips and headed back down the room. “Well, I reckon this is it.”

They both looked up as the door opened and Gordon arrived wheeling in Alex with Dana and Trivette closing the door behind them.

“C.D.!” Alex looked about her in amazement. This is beautiful. Thank you.”

“Just like you, honey.” C.D. Parker turned to admonish Trivette. “We normally have to have that phone surgically removed from your ear! How come you didn’t call this time?”

“The battery went dead!” Trivette glowered back. “I’d used it too much, then we got held up in road works literally only a mile up the road! I’d run nearly half a mile when I saw Ralph and Perry! Look at the state of me!”

C.D. couldn’t help but laugh and clapped him on the shoulders, “okay, okay…don’t git defensive on me. These things happen. You got them here, that’s the most important thing!”

“I’m going to the bathroom to get cleaned up. Hold the camera C.D.” Trivette embraced his mentor before going further. “Well, Big Dog,” he whispered, “this is it.”

“It’ll be you next.” C.D. whispered in return. He stepped back, puzzled at the snarled look of resignation on the young black man’s face. Chagrined, C.D. held up his hands, “whad I say?”

Alex knew with one look. “Can you pick me up?” Walker bent down, easily plucking her from the wheelchair. Alex looked back. “Can you guys give us a moment, please?” There were different statements of agreement and their friends looked away to give them some privacy. “Over there.” Alex pointed to a corner and waited till he’d complied. “Can I sit on your knee?” That done she hugged and kissed him, and ended by pressing her forehead against his. “I’m so sorry we were late.” Walker sighed as she continued. “Tell me you knew I’d turn up.” There was no reply. Alex kissed him again and flung her arms around him. “I wouldn’t dream of doing that to you. I know I had to be sure before hand, but I wouldn’t leave you standing at the altar! Oh Walker!” She tightly embraced him again. “You must have felt terrible. I’m sorry.”

“I’m okay.” He confirmed. He held on to her for a bit longer then pulled back. “You look gorgeous.” Walker gazed at his bride. She had on a simple off white long cotton dress. It fitted snuggly with the pleated bodice decked out in small, embroidered yellow flowers, the skirt tapering out slightly at the bottom. With his fear melting away Walker smiled and started to relax. “Well. Shall we do it?” He asked.

Alex nodded. With a quick glance confirming everyone’s readiness he carried her over to the seating area and placing her gently on one of the chairs in the middle, he sat next to her. “You comfortable?” She nodded not trusting herself to speak, and softly smiled.

Dan came to the front of the group. “Okay. If everyone would like to be seated.” He waited until this was done and resumed. “We are here today to witness the marriage of Cordell Walker to Alexandra Cahill. By the strict code of the law, we would need only to say a few words, have you and the witness’s sign the papers and you would by all accounts, be man and wife. On the requests of both parties it’s my honor to embellish this with the more ceremonial exchange of vows.”

Dan paused for a second. “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God. It not only serves as a legal joining together, but more importantly, a spiritual union. Who gives this woman to this man?”

The strong, well-developed voice of Gordon Cahill was heard. “I do.” Gordon, who had retained hold of Alex’s arm up to this point, released his grip after a loving and reassuring look into her eyes.

Dan slightly lowered his voice. “Walker? Please take Alex’s hand and repeat after me.” His voice resumed as normal, “I, Cordell John Walker.”

Turning in her direction Walker placed her hand in both of his and squeezed as he felt it tremble between his palms. Looking in her eyes, his voice was soft but commanding, and Alex felt her heart race at the sound, her head in a whirl at the man of her dreams before her.

“I, Cordell John Walker.”

“Do take you, Alexandra Susan Cahill, to be my lawful wedded wife.”

“Do take you, Alexandra, Susan, Cahill, to be my lawful wedded wife,”

“To love and to cherish from this day forward.”

Walker’s voice became slightly husky “to love and to cherish” and he gave an extra squeeze on her hand “from this day forward.”

“For better, for worse.”

“For better for worse.”

“For richer or poorer.”

“For richer or poorer.”

“In sickness and in health.”

Without taking his eyes from hers Walker slightly bowed his head “In sickness, and in health.”

“And forsaking all others, keep only unto you for as long as you both shall live.”

“And forsaking all others, keep only unto YOU, for as long as we both shall live.”

C.D. and Trivette exchanged looks of pleasure.  Walker sailed through it as if he’d done it a million times.

Dan smiled encouragingly at Alex and whispered to her. “Alex. If you can take Walker’s hand in yours?”

Slowly they swapped, Alex’s small palms grasped around Walker’s large, steel hard hand. She rewarded him with the most beautiful smile, sending waves of pride throughout his body.

Dan carried on reverently and gently. “Please repeat after me, ..I, Alexandra Susan Cahill.”

Alex’s voice was clear and calm. “I, Alexandra Susan Cahill.”

“Take you, Cordell John Walker.”

“Take you, Cordell John Walker.”

“To be my lawful wedded husband.”

“To be my lawful wedded husband,”

“To love and to cherish from this day forward.”

“To love and to cherish” Walker smiled as she returned the extra squeeze he had given her at the same point, “from this day forward.”

“For better, for worse.”

“For better for worse.”

“For richer or poorer.”

“For richer or poorer.”

“In sickness and in health.”

“In sickness and in heath.”

“And forsaking all others, keep only unto you for as long as we both shall live.”

“And forsaking all others, keep only unto YOU, for as long as we both shall live.”

She swallowed heavily as she finished, and inhaled deeply, a single tear escaping from her eye to run slowly down her cheek.

“Okay?” Walker smiled as he whispered and thumbed away the tear. Alex nodded.

“Walker?” Dan prompted him. Walker looked up questioningly. Dan came back quietly, “the ring.”

“Oh, yeah.” Fumbling briefly in both pockets the gathering smiled as relieved, Walker triumphantly pulled out the gold band causing Alex to chuckle happily. Walker looked to Dan for guidance.

“If you’d like to place the ring on Alex’s finger.” He waited until Walker slipped the wedding symbol on to Alex’s hand and together they smiled when it was done.

In high spirits Dan gave a small shuffle, his voice full of pride as he spoke the final words, “and by the power invested in me by the State of Texas” he looked from one to another “I now pronounce you …man, and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

Amidst the ensuing sounds of applause and delight Walker leaned forward and gently kissed Alex on the lips, he was about to pull back when he changed his mind and wrapped his arms around her. “I love you” he whispered softly in her ear.

“and I love you, more than words can describe.”

Reluctantly they separated to receive the outpouring of wishes that showered over them from all sides. Walker laughed as C.D. removed his glasses and Trivette passed the elder man his handkerchief so he could wipe his eyes, and only a few minutes’ later champagne corks began to pop loudly throughout.

“Wait! No champagne till we sign these forms!” Laughing, Dan hastily brought the forms for the bride and groom, C.D. and Trivette to sign and then merriment started. Within minutes friends started to arrive and the bar was awash with goodwill, presents, and laughter.

An hour or so later, Walker, in deep conversation with Trent and Carlos, looked across the room to check on his new bride. Intuitively Alex seemed to know and she turned her head catching his firm look. She knew nothing would get by his razor sharp eyes or his uncanny instincts, so she wasn’t surprised when she watched him politely excuse himself and come over to the group she was talking with. He crouched down to be at the same level.

“Think we should make a move? You’re getting tired aren’t you?”

Alex smiled. “I don’t want to go though. Everyone is so nice.”

“I know. We have some wonderful friends here.” Walker looked round the room taking in the warm feelings that surrounded them. “We’re very lucky,” he confirmed again, “But, it won’t do you any good to take a step backwards, and I promised your physio we’d continue your rehab tomorrow.”

She nodded.

Walker found Trivette and C.D. “I need to get Alex back.”

Grabbing a nearby knife Walker clanked a beer bottle for everyone’s attention and as the conversations subsided he strolled back to Alex’s side. “We’ll have to go now, but,” Walker paused briefly automatically putting his hands on her shoulders as he spoke, “we want you to know that we appreciate your kindness, and understanding. It means a great deal. So many of you have done so much while Alex has been in the hospital, we can never repay you.”

“It’s only what you guys have done for many of us before Walker,” a voice rang out, “there’s no payment required!” This brought ‘hear, hears’ all round followed by applause.

Smiling Walker exchanged glances with Alex and finished off, “thanks especially to C.D., Trivette and Dana for all their hard work. To Gordon for being with here, and all of you for sharing this with us. Carry on celebrating!” This brought more applause and hugs and kisses as they made their way to the door.

“Gordon? You want to come back now or later?” Walker queried.

“You know what I’m going to do, son-in-law?”

Walker laughed. “No.”

“I’m going to stay here for a while with my dear friend C.D.,” Gordon placed an arm round C.D.’s shoulders “and leave you two to have some relaxation for a few hours.”

“Want me to come back for you?”

Walker had hardly got the words out when Gordon put up his hand. “No, I’ll take a cab. We can talk through a few things and I’ll need to go first thing in the morning. How’s that?”

“Sounds good. We’ll see you later.”

Trivette lifted Alex into the truck and they warmly embraced before he pulled

back. Alex cupped her hands to the young black man’s face. “Jimmy. Thank you for everything.”

“Think nothing of it. You watch, things’ll start to come together. Get some rest now though, okay?” She nodded.

The good byes done, the wheelchair and presents stacked securely, the party watched and waved as the truck headed up the road away from the stockyards and once out of sight C.D.’s voice could be heard “drinks on the house folks.”

“I’ll carry you over the threshold.”

Lifting Alex from the cab Walker didn’t bother to assemble the wheelchair, preferring instead to whisk her straight up to the door. He fumbled his keys in the lock as Alex giggled. She looked pale now. The door finally swung open. “Mrs. Alex Cahill-Walker, your new home.” Taking an exaggerated step inside he kissed her and made for the spare bedroom on the ground floor. “Hope you like it.. I’ve put the bigger bed down here for us, and upstairs’ll be the guest room now.” As the door opened Alex looked around. He’d tried so hard, even to a small vase of wild flowers on the dresser.

“Did you pick these?” She smiled.

“I’ll only admit to it if you’re not going to tell Trivette.” Walker stated firmly, gently laying her on the bed as he spoke. There was awkwardness, as they knew the banter had to give way to the more practical aspects of their situation.

Walker cupped her face in both hands. “Look,” he started, “we’re married  …no embarrassment now.  We need to do what we need to do. Before too long we’ll be relaxed seeing each other naked and stuff like that, so lets just dispense with the formalities. Right?”

Nodding her head Alex flashed him a huge smile. “Works for me, husband. I’ll get undressed, you get the stuff out of the truck and we’ll take it from there!”

“There you go!” Walker headed out with purpose.

Walker laughed softly to himself as he recalled those first few hours. It set the tone of what was to become such a natural way for them to be together. They had joked their way through the bathroom scene, chatted about the wedding and all who were there as they undressed, and finally lay together in the darkened bedroom for the first time. Walker sobered as he remembered her starting to cry and being unable to take away the regret from her.

“I’m sorry. I can’t help but wish….”

“Alex. Wishing it could be different won’t help. You’re tired. Relax now, be happy.”

“I am happy Walker, but I’ve fantasized about being in bed with you for so long and what I wanted to share with you. I’m so sorry ….I can’t satisfy you now.” She wiped away the tears as they fell and Walker gathered her in his arms. He liked the feel of her against his chest, her soft skin and warm touch. She was his. He could be totally protective of her now.

“You’re alive, in my arms and in my bed. I’m thankful for that. We’ll work all this out, but for now…sleep.”

Despite his words her tears continued to fall and he held her tightly until thankfully she fell into a deep sleep, and tired himself, Walker managed to grab a few hours before laying her head back carefully on the pillow. He pulled on a pair of black jeans and an old gray T-shirt and slipped from the room without waking her.

Walker put coffee on to brew and stacked the presents and cards on the table so they could go through them later.  Checking on Alex one more time he headed for the field to look over the horses then made his way back to the house as the taxi carrying Gordon Cahill pulled into the drive.

“Good timing. Coffee’s brewing.”

“Hi Walker.”

“Here, let me help you with that.”

“It’s a meal for us from C.D. He said it would save you cooking.”

Walker smiled, “that guy thinks of everything. Take your bags up stairs. The guest rooms are there now.”

So.” Gordon crossed his legs and sat back in a lounge chair after taking a sip of hot coffee, “she still asleep?”

Walker had checked on her again and nodded as he sat down and reached for his mug. “Yeah. She was more exhausted than she’d admit.”

Gordon nodded and they sat in silence for a while. “This is a bit difficult for me, Walker.” Walker looked in his direction as Gordon went on, “I can’t begin to tell you how much I admire you and thank you for everything. It’s an immense peace of mind for me to know Alex is with you. There’s no safer place she could possibly be than with you, I know that, but …oh hell, I knew this wouldn’t be easy.  I don’t know how to say it. I wouldn’t want to offend you for the world.”

Walker smiled. “Just spit it out, then.”

It took another few seconds for Gordon to tussle with the order of his thoughts. “We’re all praying this’ll be a temporary condition with Alex, but if its not, will you promise me something?”

“Walker’s silence was non-committal.

“I’ve made a lot of money over the years as a hot shot trial lawyer, Walker. I probably make more in one case than you do in a year as a Ranger. Now” he went on quickly, “I’m NOT belittling that, please don’t think that. I use it to emphasize that money’s not a problem for me. So I want to make it available to you. If Alex doesn’t come out of this whole, for BOTH your sakes you’re going to need equipment to make life easier. Specialized transport, maybe a full time nurse to accompany her. At least she can carry on her profession and if I know my little girl Walker, she’ll still want to be productive.”

Walker nodded slowly.

“There’ll be large medical bills, ongoing physio, la de da de da….and I want you to promise me that if you need something, ….you won’t let a lack of money stand in your way. D’you see what I mean? I want life to be as easy as it can be for you as well as her, because Walker, I know you love her, but it doesn’t diminish the task you’ve set yourself.”

Gordon waited hopefully, wondering whether he had put his plea sufficiently well.  He was more than aware that Walker was a proud, proud man. Finally the Ranger came out of his thoughts and looked over at him. His voice was quiet as he replied.

“Thank you.” Walker nodded slowly,  “I promise.”

“No! Not like that! Here. Like this.” Walker took the small weight from Alex’s hand and demonstrated how she should use it. “See?”

“Alright, alright,” Alex smiled at him, “I’m not stupid I just didn’t know what you wanted. How’s that?”

Walker looked at her as she lay flat on the training mat. She was cheeky and beautiful and if they got any work done it’d be a miracle. He’d have to be tough. “You’re going through the motions Alex, tighten up the muscles, work them a bit more. It’s your legs that don’t work not your arms! There you go. Twenty, both arms at the same time, then rest and do it again.”

“I hope you’re not going to be testy all the time.” She watched as Walker bent her left leg, extended it fully and repeated the process. “It was sad Dad going back wasn’t it?

“Yeah.”

“He thinks the world of you y’know.”

“I think the world of him. Will you concentrate? You’re not fully pulling up that left arm.” There was silence for a short time while they both worked away until Walker finished the left leg and shifted his position to start on the right. His chance glance at her found her with a big smile as she watched him.

“Now what?”

“You’re lovely!”

“Alex!”

She laughed. “You blush real easy do you know that?”

“We’ve got a lot to do with this rehab. Get on with it.”

“Give me a kiss.”

“Alex, please.”

“Go on.”

Despite himself Walker couldn’t help but smile. “Then will you get on with this like you mean to improve?”

“Promise!”

He sighed, and shook his head, placing it above hers. “What am I going to do with you?” Lowering slowly their lips met and the weights were put to one side as Alex tightly hugged him and finally they drew apart.

Alex grinned from ear to ear, “Okay!”  She announced firmly, grabbing at the weights, “I gotta train!”

“Well,” Walker mused, “at least I know the way to motivate you!”

The sessions in basement were a lot of fun. He liked Alex watching him train after they had finished her rehab, and her expressions of awe as he went through his martial arts techniques. They both ended in a sweat and took a shower together afterwards, comfortable and happy in each others company. Strangely it was the sudden improvement of Alex’s condition some three weeks later that caused them the most strain….

“Aaahh!”

Walker shot up in bed. “Alex?” He heard no coherent answer, only breathless gasping. Walker found the light.  Alex was on her side clutching her body, her face contorted.

“Alex!”

She tried to talk but the pain was too great, Walker could see she was fighting not to pass out. He dressed and she was curled up in the front seat of the truck within minutes.

“Hang on, Alex.” His arm lay on top of her as he sought to reassure her, “hang on.”

He ran into the ER with her wrapped in a blanket, desperately looking around for assistance.

“Here.” Came a voice behind. Walker turned to see a male attendant. “Bring her in this cubicle.” The young attending shouted in the corridor. “Let’s have some help in here.” Seemingly from nowhere bodies appeared going into action over Alex’s form. A female placed a hand on Walker’s arm leading him out, and at her bidding he appraised them of Alex’s situation and was forced to the waiting room. His mind was a whirl. One moment they were tucked up together in bed the next…….   Walker shook his head, perplexed, and by 9am, there was still no news other than she was undergoing “more tests.”

“What’s up Cordell?”

C.D.’s anxious face appeared from around the corner.

Walker shook his head. “I don’t know C.D. One minute we were asleep, the next she’s in agony.”

“Well have they said anything? How long you been here?”

His reply came after a brief check on his watch, “about five and a half hours.”

“Oh my.” C.D. patted his friend on the back.

“Mr. Walker?”

Walker stood up to face the nurse. “Yes?”

“Dr. Reece would like you to come join your wife.”

Following her down the corridor and in to a side room, Walker and C.D. entered warily to find Alex sitting up in bed smiling at their arrival. Unsure, Walker looked from her to Reece and back to her again, hardly able to speak.

“Walker? Watch.” They followed her line of sight as she looked down at her legs and after a few seconds moved the tops of her feet.

Walker stared. “Does this mean..?”

Reece nodded, smiling broadly. “It’s an excellent sign.”

“But, she was in such pain.”

“The spinal cord healed itself sufficiently and was …” he searched for a way to explain. “letting the rest of the body know it was getting back in action again. If you can imagine pins and needles on a gigantic scale that’s the pain Alex experienced. We’ve obviously given her something for that, but we’re very optimistic about her progress.”

They had been so elated that day! Walker knew that for as long as he lived he could never forget the relief he experienced, or the first few steps she took into his arms. He had caught her and whirled her round and round the room in delight. Because of the high level of rehab and training, Alex was able to go from a wheelchair to walking sticks within ten days. She was slow, naturally, but it did enable them both to go back to work part-time, and in the afternoon train again.

Walker eased Alex from her sleeping position to move his arm and sighed deeply. Even now it was hard to figure out why things had started to go wrong. It was probably a combination of things. They had been together constantly for one thing, and another, Trivette had become the Ranger liaison for joint operations with the FBI, DEA, etc, and seemed to be relishing the role.  Walker, because of his part-time status was mostly desk-bound. Yet again he watched as Trivette mobilized another joint venture.

“Catch you later, Walker.” Trivette strode out with purpose.

“Take care out there, pard.” Walker pensively looked to the space Trivette had vacated and, with a deep sigh, looked back at the report he was writing.

“Again.”

“Okay.”

“Place your foot straighter, Alex.”

“I guess I’m a little tired today.”

“Speed it up.”

There was a pause. “We’ve done an extra hour already. Can’t we call it a night?”

“One more time.”

Alex hung precariously between the parallel bars. “Y’know, I’m a bit tired tonight, Walker.”

“Push yourself.”

Alex took a deep breath and launched forward.

“The weight needs to be on your legs not your arms.”

“Ahhh!” Her weaker left leg buckled propelling her to the side, slamming her into the mat.

Walker ran to her. “You okay? C’mon, let me help you.”

Her hand brushed away a tear. “I’m sorry I’m not making the progress you want, and I’m getting sick and tired of you telling me what to do!”

“It’s for your own good.”

“You sure about that? Is it for my own good or yours, Walker?”

A stunned silence ensued.

Walker stood up looking round the gym and made for her sticks, returning to stand them against the bars. He scooped Alex in his arms. “Grab the sticks.”

She complied.  Ascending the stairs Walker entered the bedroom dropping her carefully on the bed and left the room in silence. He stood looking out of the window. Finally he reached for the telephone and dialed. It was only a few seconds before it was picked up.

“C.D.? It’s Walker.  I need to get away. Can you sit with Alex?”

“Everything okay, buddy?”

Walker had his trail knife in his hands and nodded as he passed C.D. in the doorway.

“Walker?” Alex’s voice trembled and she hobbled a step nearer. Walker stared from one to another and still without speaking, turned on his heel and left.

Unable to help her self, Alex bent her head to her hands, weeping.

“Oh honey. He’ll be back ..it’s okay.”

She swayed with emotion and fatigue. C.D. clung to her leading her through to the front room and sat her down in a chair, taking the sticks and replacing them to one side. He bent down on one knee trying desperately to control her heartbreak. “Y’know, Alex. I think you’ve both done real well.”

“Yeah right!”

“Think about it. Two headstrong, independent individuals used to their own space, thrown together twenty-four hours a day! You done real good to go this long without a bust up.  You really have, honey. He’ll be back.”

Alex looked at him intently. “He will, won’t he C.D.?”

Embracing her C.D. smiled. “You can bank on it.”

The relief to get away was overwhelming! Walker ended up almost running to his favorite campsite down by the lake, about a mile from the place Lucas was buried. Full of his own problems Walker couldn’t even face the distraction of stopping to talk to the young boy’s spirit.

He collected wood, started a fire and as the flames leaped higher removed his socks and boots, ending up in a rush to get rid of his jacket and shirt so he could be free.  Free of everything …and everyone.

Slowly he walked around the flames as the night came and the fire grew brighter with the deepening darkness.

An owl hooted nearby.

Long eared owl, thought Walker.  He stopped in his tracks to sit crossed legged on the floor and reached for the sweet grass by his side, throwing two small bundles into the blazing wood. He inhaled its soothing aroma and closed his eyes, emptying his mind of all thoughts and felt the tenseness in his shoulders dissipate. He was worn down more than he could ever have allowed himself to admit. The lack of solitude, the longing for his job. The sudden unrecognizable change to life and the hard work caring for someone disabled. His wife. His WIFE! Walker felt his stomach knot and fought against the wave of disbelief that followed.

More sweet grass was thrown in to the flames and Walker took another lung full of the fragrant warm air as it hit his nostrils. Not hungry ….he lay down by the fire placing his head on the discarded jacket and closed his eyes, asleep within seconds.

He was taken back by the swiftness of his slumber and even more so at his depth of feeling when he awoke. Automatically his hand reached for where she should be while trying to place this new knot in his belly. Then came the understanding. He missed her! Her beautiful smile every morning when they woke. Catching her looks of appreciation when he least expected it. Her wit and intelligence.  The way she respected his privacy when he would sit on the porch. Walker silently laughed as he recalled the usual exchange.

“I thought you would enjoy being on your own.”

“I’ll tell you. It’s your porch too, now.”

“Yeah, but you were out there first.”

“Am I going to have to fetch you all the time?”

“I knew you’d come for me when you were ready,” she said with a smile. He just shook his head, picked her up out of the wretched wheelchair and placed her outside, on his knee. It was good to feel protective of her. Made him feel like a man, like he belonged finally. That he had a purpose more than the rigors of law enforcement.

Walker sighed. He did miss her. He knew she would be desperately unhappy now, and thought of her alone in their bed. She would be wondering first if he were all right and then if he were coming back. He wished he’d made it clear he had to get away for a short time instead of torturing her with the unknown, but she should know by now he would honor his commitment.

These were extenuating circumstances though  …he knew all too well how it could cheat the mind and cloud the underlying issues, so …..she would be crying and he was sorry.  Perhaps the real reason for his short temper was because he knew she was right, and the pressure to have her legs work again WAS for his benefit, not hers. She had been so brave throughout this ordeal. The first few dark days she had been terrified and he had stayed with her every minute, holding her. Even when she had fallen asleep she had clung tightly to his hands, but finally the Cahill courage came through and she met this knew challenge with fortitude and resolve. She had never complained once. Not even when she started the agonizing physiotherapy that was more difficult for Walker to watch than it was for her to do. So, it was for his benefit. Was it so wrong to want one part of his life back the way it was? Walker allowed his eyes to close again.

“Smells great, don’t it?”

“It does, C.D.”

“You are going to eat some?”

There was a pause as Alex looked towards the burst of activity by the stove. She did not have an appetite. “Of course I am, and I appreciate all the trouble you’ve gone to.”

“WE appreciate all the trouble you’ve gone to.”

C.D. and Alex looked up at the doorway.

Walker strolled over to his old partner and mentor. “Thank you.”

C.D. winked and smiled, but, unusually, refrained from speaking, accepting Walker’s affectionate pat on the back briefly to resume his concentration on the breakfast in hand.

Walker looked to Alex, her anxious face. He bent down on one knee and embraced her tightly. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“I’m sorry.” Was the reply. He enjoyed the way she kissed his cheek and the side of his head by his eyebrows.

“It’s okay. Everything’s okay.”

“Sure?”

He nodded.

There was a clatter of plates by the side of them. “Hell, when I’m right, I’m right.”

They laughed.

“It’s good, C.D.” Walker took another bite of sausage link and smiled to them both.

“Walker? I’ve been thinking.” Alex took a sip of orange juice before continuing. “I think you should go back to work. Normally. Like you used to do, I mean.”

He stopped in mid bite staring at her.

“Well think about it.” Alex gestured with her hands as she spoke, “instead of us going home to do the physio I can go to the hospital to do it, and if you’re not back in time to pick me up or you have to work late, I’ll get a taxi home. No big deal really.”

The Ranger looked at C.D.

“Nothing to do with me, buddy …first I’ve heard of it.”

“But,” Walker finally ventured then stopped.

Alex placed a hand on top of his and smiled. “You know, it makes sense. One of us will get half way back to normal and I’m making progress all the time. I won’t be far behind you, especially now I’m working half days.”

He caressed her face with the palm of his hand. “You sure you don’t mind?”

Smiling Alex raised her eyebrows. “Call the Captain after breakfast, Walker. Or I will!”

He actually felt sad that first day as he realized he wouldn’t see her until the evening. She was in court that morning and he rushed back from inquiries only to find he had missed her by a few minutes. He had barely sat down.

“Great! You’re back!” Trivette grinned like a Cheshire cat.

Walker smiled. “Yeah.”

“Okay. Whad they give us first?”

“Us?”

“The best team in the force, man! Whad they give us?”

“But I thought you liked the liaison job.”

“You gotta be kiddin’ me! Don’t tell me… wait a minute! You thought I wanted….what?” Trivette laughed and shoved Walker’s shoulder. “ This means you missed me!”

Walker looked awkwardly about him. “No way.”

“Hey guys! Walker missed me!” His partner’s laughter rang through the office.

“Walker? You sickening fer something?”

“We got pills for that Walker!”

There was a free for all, Walker the butt of most. Chagrined he looked back at the young black man, “Have you finished?”

Trivette was delighted. “Only for now, pard, only for now! Can we get back to work then?”

Alex had been right. Going back to the job he loved and missed brought back the sense of balance for both of them. He had been going to ask for her hand in marriage before the shooting, and this was more how he had envisaged them leading their lives together. Now it was a joy to leave work and go home. To embrace her when as she came to meet him, wrapping his arms around her …. the anticipation of her kiss.

That Friday evening as they lay in bed, he was explaining a case he and Trivette had been working on when her hand slipped under the sheet and she slowly stroked his stomach up and down. Abruptly he stopped and swallowed hard. He closed his eyes for a few seconds enjoying the physical nature of her actions immensely. It became hard to speak but somehow he found his voice.

“Erh, you’d better stop.”

“I think it’s way past time to consummate this marriage, don’t you?” Alex’s hand slipped lower and her fingers ran over the profile of his erect genitals. “Wow!”

He could barely move. He had wanted to take her for so long. His heart raced as she lifted his briefs over his penis, down his legs and discarded them on to the floor. Her hand slowly made its return back up his body and she stopped tantalizingly short of his testicles. Grabbing the top of his legs with her hands Alex massaged his thighs, and avoiding his sexual organs altogether, wrapped her hands around his face and kissed him with aggressive passion. His groan brought about a perverseness Alex reveled in, and the knowledge she had been aware of all along. Her pleasure would be found in his satisfaction!

She lay on her back and invited him on top. “I want you, Walker. I want you very, very much.” Never before had she seen such a look cross his face and she knew he wanted her so much he could barely contain himself. This first time, after waiting so long, needed to be quick so he could have relief as soon as possible. “Darling, take me as fast as you can.”

His penis penetrated with ease she was so moist for him, and they could hardly contain the overwhelming, almost excruciating pleasure hitting their senses.

Alex panted, “I want you so much.” His thrusts became fast, incredibly fast, and she could hardly breathe.

He was intoxicated with her.  He’d wanted to make her his for what seemed an eternity, and he didn’t want to wait longer.  He exploded at the height of her cries and began to wonder if he would ever stop, but finally his penetration slowed.

Alex couldn’t speak. Her loins contained excitement she never knew existed before, a tingle of electricity only he could spark. She loved him with a depth of feeling that was as awesome as it was tangible, and she knew this was the start. Their lovemaking would go on into the night.

“Alex” he uttered.

She gripped him with a contraction of her internal muscles.

“Uhh …” The rest was a strangled mass of words and as he recovered, he tried to speak again as his arms wrapped about her tightly, “I love you. That was incredible.”

“Walker. Walker.” Alex hurried to find his lips and sucked at his tongue, exclaiming with small murmurs as the after shock of her climax hit her senses again.

Warmth spread throughout Walker’s body in appreciation of how close they had become since those times and he lightly kissed the top of her head. His mind now closing away the memories, he allowed himself to sleep at last.

“Honey?”

“Hmuh?”

“It’s nearly ten. We need to think about getting up.” Alex stirred, stretched and patted Walker’s arm.

“Yeah.  No problem.”

“You have a shower and I’ll fix you breakfast?”

Walker leaned over, quickly kissed her and made for the bathroom. “Sounds good.”

Alex smiled, watching him as he left the room and she hopped out of bed. It took only a few minutes to make herself decent, throwing on gray leggings and a baggy pink top. The glorious aroma of frying bacon, eggs, mushrooms, and fresh brewed coffee permeated throughout the ranch some twenty minutes later. She felt arms around her body and a kiss on her neck. She smacked one of his hands.

“I’m busy!” It was said with mock seriousness and she felt him laugh.

“You’re lovely when you’re cookin’!”

“Will you….” Alex slapped his hands again!

Chuckling, Walker sat down at the table and devoured the orange juice in one shot. “It’s good you have an invite to the commissioners bar-b-q. What time you going to go?”  

“It starts at one, so I’ll get there just after.” Alex glanced over, “just how serious are these threats?”

“Well. There’s usual ones that he gets all the time, but, the latest ones …..I don’t know. There’s something more with these. It probably won’t come to anything, but this Texas get-together for Senator Clydesdale is the first open shindig he has on his calendar.  It won’t hurt to give him protection while we look for leads.”

“I bet he didn’t want it!” Alex brought the two breakfasts over and set them down.

“Thanks. No, he didn’t.” Walker smiled, “We have to ‘blend in’, not make ourselves ‘too conspicuous’.” He leaned over conspiratorially. “Means I get to go in jeans and denim jacket. No suit!”

Alex laughed, knowing how much Walker hated to dress up. “You’re too lucky, cowboy!”

“Right about that!”

“Trivette there already?”

“Yeah, I relieve him at twelve.” Walker mopped up his plate with some bread before downing his coffee. “I’d better go.” Alex followed him out watching as he picked up his hat and keys, a warm smile lighting his face as he turned to give her a kiss. “See you at the commissioners then.”

“Take care.” Alex hugged her husband tightly, reluctantly letting him go and watching as he walked away.

Walker headed for his truck when a chance glance towards the field stopped him in his tracks and transfixed, he watched as three ravens squawked loudly together. They turned in his direction to fly as one in front of him and soared for the open sky at great speed. Alex frowned, as he seemed momentarily frozen to the spot before slowly starting again for the Ram. Walker suddenly turned on his heel looking over each section of the ranch as he headed back. He didn’t make a move to climb the porch steps but gazed up at her.

“Alex.” There was a pause and she waited, but this was a tone she did not recognize.

“Do you have to go this afternoon?”

“Yeah. I want to go and besides, I’m meeting John for a policy get together. You know what it’s like to be summoned by your boss!” She frowned again. “That doesn’t give you a problem, does it?”

Walker paused awkwardly. “Well, if you have to go, stay away from the Commissioner. Just till we know what we’re dealing with. Understand?”

Alex didn’t particularly care for the ultimatum but knew he was being protective, especially in the light of her recent history. She nodded and agreed.

I want you to remember,” Walker stopped again, “that …I’ll always love you, okay?”

Puzzled, she frowned once more. “Okay. I’ll remember. You alright?”

He hadn’t taken his eyes off her and it was a second or so before he responded. “Yeah. I’m fine.” Glancing around him one more time Walker left without looking back.

With the Ram being valet parked, Walker quietly stood for a few minutes taking in his surroundings. He’d been to the Commissioner’s residence quite a few times before of course. The manicured gardens where lunch was held rolled down and away to a small lake, while the ample patio across the top of the lawns held drink and food stands. Seating areas were spaciously scattered throughout, prettily adorned with pink and green umbrellas. It was a busy scene.

Walker knew most of the people attending were Dallas socialites. Opinion-makers or financiers, they were there to network with new Senator Gavin Clydesdale in the usual game of ‘you scratch my back’. Unable to put away the concerns that dogged him he searched amongst the throng and quickly located the Commissioner and his partner..

“Man I’m glad to see you. I’m starving!” Trivette whispered.

Both men looked about them as they spoke, checking that the object of their protection didn’t stray.

“Anything out the ordinary?”

“Only Mrs. McGuire’s hair-do! I’ve never seen anything so darn outrageous in my life!”

Despite himself Walker couldn’t help but smile. “That’s not what I meant, Trivette.”

Instinctively both men continued to check the Commissioner’s whereabouts and his surroundings before Trivette carried on with the conversation. “There’s only one other thing worth mentioning, Walker.” Trivette pointed in the far corner picking out a small group of happy looking guests. “See that girl second on the right?”

Walker nodded.

“She’s gorgeous. I’m gonna stick around for a bit and see if I can get myself introduced. You think Alex knows who she is?”

With a small shake of his head at his partner he replied. “Well, she seems to know everyone in town.”

Trivette was suddenly anxious. “You need me for anything else or do I have to…?” He pointed to go.

“Actually, it’s probably a good thing if you can stick around for a bit.”

A big grin crossed the black face. “Like I need an excuse! No problem.”

Walker looked fondly at Trivette. “Y’know Trivette,” Walker punched him on the arm. “you’re …a good friend.”

Taken-a-back Trivette stared, momentarily lost for words as Walker tried to conceal his brief embarrassment, “well, don’t just stand there. Go get her, pard!”

“Right.” Trivette backed off, “you okay?”

Leaving his partner staring after him Walker nodded and turned away to keep up with his charge as the Commissioner walked away to socialize with another group of wealthy businessmen seeking his attention. The Ranger waited for an appropriate moment to catch the Commissioner’s eye and nodded to him.

“Commissioner.”

“Walker. At least you blend in. Your partner looked liked he was going to a board meeting!” Although Walker smiled his eyes scanned the crowd as people moved and changed groups in the neat, large grounds of the mansion.

It was always a revelation to observe how people reacted to meeting the Commissioner and for the first hour at least Walker was entertained. A feeling inside caused him to look up at the balcony above the patio. Pride welled up inside as he watched heads turn in her direction and Alex glided down the stone staircase. An elegant pale blue pants suit hugged her figure in all the right places and she looked stunning. He knew she was looking for him but he couldn’t allow himself to be distracted now.

The Commissioner strolled off as someone else caught his eye and Walker followed discretely behind. There was fine art to protecting someone in this situation, a way of scrutinizing people in the near vicinity while watching your man from your peripheral vision and moving as his shadow. A skill to seemingly not eavesdrop.

“Ed?”

Commissioner Decker looked in the direction of the voice to see a balding, over weight fifty-year old man stride purposely in his direction. He excused himself from his present conversation in time for the man’s arrival. “Senator! Get what you wanted from the Cattlemen’s Association?”

Clydesdale didn’t care to answer and looked suspiciously at Walker only to be reassured by Ed Decker. “There’s no problem with Walker, Gavin. You can speak freely.”

“We’ll just go a few feet away, if you don’t mind.” Clydesdale tugged at Commissioner Decker’s arm walking him apart from the main crowd and signaled for Walker to stay. Walker ignored him.

“Can’t you take orders? Back away.” The Senator glowered at Walker’s completely unruffled exterior. Without comment the Ranger looked towards Decker making it clear that this wasn’t an option open for discussion and unable to help himself, the Commissioner gave a wry smile.

“Calm down, Gavin. Walker’s staying. Just tell me what happened.”

“I spoke to …….”

“Love’s a wonderful thing! You look radiant.”

“Okay, what do you want?” Alex laughed, “whatever it is, you got it!”

“Well since you offered …..” Trivette gave her a hug and joined her, resting his forearms over the rail of the balcony.  Below them the socializing continued as they chatted.

Automatically their eyes sought and found Walker, observing as he skillfully judged the changing situation around him. Alex’s whole being filled with love as she watched him. Unquestioningly, he was one of the best law-enforcement officers to wear a badge. In fact Cordell Walker was every bit a special person. He could so easily have walked away from her situation when she was paralyzed, but instead had given so much of himself. He really is one in a million. Alex smiled to herself.

It’s almost as if he knows who’s going to move before they do, Trivette mused to himself. The way he picks up the more odd actions by people, his instincts must be so finely tuned. I wonder if I’ll get like that when I’ve been on the force the same length of time or whether you have to have some Cherokee in you? Trivette laughed inside, I guess I will be part Indian by the time Walker’s done with me!

With Trivette and Alex deep in their own thoughts the action started with such incredible swiftness it was hard to appreciate. They watched Walker’s head whip round and he launched himself in the Commissioner’s direction. Spreading his arms out Walker collected both men taking them down to the ground as a single shot rang out through the estate. Even before he fell Walker’s gun was in his hand and he had fired at one of three approaching men, sending the offending weapon spinning out of the attacker’s hand. It momentarily stopped the shooter in his tracks and, falling on one knee he exclaimed, but his two accomplices still came forward.

Instinctively, as soon as he saw Walker take defensive action, Trivette ran for all he was worth down the steps of the balcony to back his partner, and with panicked guests diving for cover, he had a perfect line of sight to view the drama as it unfolded.

The two other assailants were almost on top of Walker but somehow he had managed to get on his feet and parry the first two right hooks. Blocking and grabbing the arm from the next blow by the larger of the two attackers the Ranger headed butted him from close quarters while his right foot kicked back, targeting the second man in the abdomen. The smaller hit man doubled over in agony.  This gave Walker time to put the lights out on the thug still in his grasp. Still immobilizing the guy with pressure to the left elbow Walker’s right foot whipped behind the man’s left. A spear hand found the throat and Walker’s push left no option and he fell backwards. Walker finished him with a devastating punch to the face leaving the thug’s nose broken and flattened.

The Ranger barely had time as his body spun round, his right leg arcing and smashing the last assailant in the face. Two following spinning back kicks later and it was all over.

Panting slightly Walker looked warily about him.  Guests hugged the floor and silence descended while they came to terms with the trauma when unexpectedly the worst happened. Shaken by the incident the Commissioner wobbled to his feet.

“Walker….” The gratitude in his voice was unmistakable.

Walker turned in his direction, his eyes widening to see the first gun man recovering enough to pick up the fallen weapon. It took only seconds for six shots to be exchanged. The gunman opened fire. Walker flung his body in front of Commissioner Decker while shooting twice. Trivette’s single shot on the run also found it’s target and with bullets entering his body from the front and rear, the shooter jerked like a marionette before becoming prostrate and still.

All three bullets from the assailant’s gun hit Walker in the heart, the force of the projectiles propelling his body upwards. It was lifeless before it slammed into the Commissioner and crumpled in a heap at his feet.

Alex deeply inhaled on hearing the shots and as she watched the bodies fall she was frozen to the spot unable to exhale. Walker’s fate agitated the air from her lungs. “NOOO!” Disbelieving her eyes she ran, and it seemed as though her feet hardly touched one of rough brick steps leading down to the patio.

Distraught, Decker carefully untangled him self from Walker’s body and rolled the Ranger on to his back the same time as Trivette slid on his knees next to them. They looked at him.

Trivette shook his head, aghast at the location of the bullets. “No! NO! He’s not breathing!”

“Don’t let this happen. Please! Walker. Walker.” Alex fell to the floor laying a hand on top of his head.

Trivette pulled open Walker’s denim jacket, ripped away the first few buttons of the white shirt and frowned. “What the…? Got to get him to take a breath.” He lightly slapped Walker’s face. “Walker? C’mon partner. Take a breath.” Trivette rolled him to one side and patted his back. It brought a rasping gasp as air flooded back into Walker’s lungs. Jimmy Trivette smiled. “There you go…okay…take a couple of breaths,” Trivette held him until this was done and rolled him on to his back again. Removing his own jacket the black man scrunched it up and placed it under Walker’s head while he waited for him to fully come round.

“But…?” Alex had seen the entry points of the bullets and shook her head at Trivette looking for answers.

Trivette undid a few more buttons and separated the shirt further. “Bullet proof vest.” There was disbelief in his voice as he said it and he looked at Alex. She started to smile. Between the three of them they stripped his upper layers of clothes and carefully removed the vest. The indentations of bullets in the surface of Walker’s chest were clearly visible, bruising starting to show already.

“Uhh.” Walker’s eyes flickered and opened fully, and with his breathing still labored, his hand sought to console his chest. He looked at the anxious faces peering down at him. “I’ll be okay,” he grunted and made to get up. Pain shot through his chest and registered in his eyes, and he lay back again. “I’ll be fine.” He panted.

“My guess is you’ve cracked your sternum or a few ribs.” Ventured Trivette.

“Yeah, I guess.” Walker knew she would be there and turned his head upwards. Even though his view of her was upside down he could see Alex was fraught. He found her hand. “It’s okay. Don’t worry,” he forced a smile.

Incredulous, Trivette couldn’t wait longer. “Walker? Since when have you taken to wearing Kevlar?”

Walker weakly smiled. “I haven’t exactly taken to wearing it, ….Trivette. It ….was only today.”

Alex, Trivette and the Commissioner exchanged glances. “Why” Trivette pressed “today, then?”

Sirens of ambulances came into hearing. Walker tried to get up only to be pressed back down by three sets of hands.  He gave up trying and hedged the answer. “I …got a tip off.”

His partner’s voice raised an octave “From who?”

Walker inhaled, “well, ….let’s say a little bird told me.”

“But normally you still wouldn’t do it!”

Walker brought Alex’s hand to his lips and kissed it. “yeah, …but I have responsibilities now, Trivette.”

There were smiles all round as grinning, Trivette slowly shook his head at his partner. He sighed. “And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”

“This feels like a Saturday!”

“I don’t think it is.”

“In Hawaii, everyday’s a Saturday!” Alex giggled. “Oh Walker, I can’t believe we’re here, can you? Fancy the Commissioner insisting we take a holiday at his expense as a thank you for saving his life, AND it coinciding with our second wedding anniversary! It’s wonderful isn’t it”

Still dozing, Walker humored his excited partner. “Um, no. Wonderful.”

“Walker! You’re not going to sleep the day away are you?”

Walker suddenly rolled on his back, his eyes wide open. “Did you say Saturday?” He repeated in mock seriousness. He lunged at his beautiful wife with a big grin. “Sleep? Hawaii on a Monday? Impossible!”

Pulling the heavy cart behind her, the rotund hotel cleaner stopped at the bedroom door. She listened at the laughter inside and fingered the ‘do not disturb’ notice displayed on the door handle and checked her watch. 10:15am! Grabbing the cart again it squeaked as she pulled it up the corridor.

She laughed. “More honeymooners.”

The End

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