Behind Closed Doors

Part I

By: Lelani

Friday morning – 2:30 a.m.

As she lay in the bed, she thinks she hears a noise. Lying very still, she realizes that he’s home. She feels her stomach tighten into its usual knot and then she listens to see what his next move will be. There is a noise in the stairwell, followed by swearing. When he reaches the room, he falls toward the bed, half making it. She feigns sleep and hopes that he will merely pass out. It’s always best if he sleeps it off. She feels a hand groping for her and knows that her hopes of escaping his touch tonight are futile.

She doesn’t move as his hand roughly grabs and squeezes her breast. “Don’t pretend you’re asleep, I know you’re not,” he says, his voice slightly slurred. He grabs the neckline of her gown and tears it down, the ripping sound signaling the end of yet another one. She lies as still as she can as she endures his touch. He doesn’t bother to undress, but merely opens his fly and pulls himself out to force himself into her dry tight body. She bites her lip in pain to prevent herself from crying out. He doesn’t even try to pleasure her and she’s almost grateful. The less time he spends touching her, the better. He moans and tightens as he floods her with his fluid and falls instantly asleep on top of her.

She lays there until she is certain that he is out for the night and then forces him off of her and slides out of the bed. She feels used and dirty. It’s a feeling that she has grown progressively used to. Going to the bathroom, she turns on the shower and steps under the spray. She lathers a washcloth and scours her skin, trying to remove all traces of his touch. When she emerges, her skin is pink from both the heat of the water and the friction of the washcloth. She puts on a clean nightgown and walks down the hall. Opening the second door on the right, she looks in to see her daughter sleeping peacefully in the twin bed. She climbs onto the matching bed and lays there waiting for sleep to claim her.

HOPE Center – Friday 2:00 p.m.

Alex is sitting on the floor surrounded by construction paper leaves. There is a group of children surrounding her and each is using safety scissors to cut out even more of the brightly colored paper leaves. Josie stands on a step ladder as one of the children hands her the leaves to post on the wall.

“I need some more yellow leaves, guys,” she informs her industrious work crew.

Alex looks around and notes that they have a great many red, orange and brown leaves cut out, but few yellow. “We need more yellow paper,” she says, unwilling to get up from the floor to retrieve it herself.

“I’ll get it,” Valerie, a volunteer at HOPE Center, offers. She heads over to the cabinet that holds the arts and crafts supplies and takes out more yellow paper. She returns and hands it out to those with scissors.

Walker walks into the room with Angela on his hip. “There’s mommy,” he tells his daughter who had been asking for her mother. He sets her down and Angela takes off at a run, in her unsteady gait, to reach her mother.

“Walker! No!” Alex shouts as Angela tears through the cut out leaves in her efforts to reach her mother.

Instantly realizing his mistake, Walker catches up to Angela in two broad steps and scoops his daughter up, halting the damage she’s creating. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking,” he says.

“Obviously,” his wife says with a roll of her eyes.

Angela is now crying, having been foiled in her attempt to reach her mother. Alex looks up at Walker and lifts her hand up to him so that he can pull her up off the floor. She takes Angela from him and tries to soothe her.

“It’s okay, I can replace these in no time,” Valerie says as she scoops up the leaves that have been torn in her attempt to divert any hard feelings.

“Don’t trouble yourself, Valerie. Walker is more than happy to help out. I’m going to see if I can get Angela to stay in the nursery. I’ll be back in a bit,” Alex promises as she heads back to the nursery with Angela.

The older children love little Angela, but they’re happy to see her go. This decorating project is something they have planned and put a great deal of effort into. Even though the weather is still that of summer, the calendar says that fall is fast approaching. They redecorate the playroom every season and they have decided to use fall leaves for this season’s theme.

Walker sits down where Alex had been and picks up her scissors and some paper to help out. Valerie hands him the yellow paper, telling him that they need more yellow leaves and he gets to work.

Alex rejoins them twenty minutes later; having convinced Angela that it is more fun to play with the toys in the nursery for now. Both she and Walker have taken off work early to spend a few hours helping out at the Center. Their lives are so full that it’s difficult to find the time to just enjoy spending time with the children and volunteers that make HOPE Center so successful. Alex walks over to where Josie is and helps her to paste the leaves on the wall. They are making a border around the entire room and they’re now on the fourth wall.

“I think that’s enough leaves cut guys,” Josie announces.

Valerie helps the crew clean up the mess as Walker heads over to assist with the pasting. He and Alex can reach without the step ladder Josie needs. They’re just finishing up when the first parent arrives to pick up his daughter from the ‘summer camp’ that HOPE House hosts while the older kids are out of school. Today is the last day of the camp as schools in the county open on Monday. Walker, Alex and Josie take the time to say goodbye to each child. Many are in their after-school program, but some are not and they want to make sure that each knows they can come to the center if they ever find themselves in need of help or advice.

Valerie’s husband arrives just after 6:30 p.m. when all of the kids have been picked up and they are putting the last things away. Alex looks up to see the young man enter the room and head for his wife. She watches him and can’t figure out why the hair on the back of her neck always stands up when he’s around. He looks clean-cut and has a friendly, outgoing, attitude, but something about him puts her off.

“Hi Todd,” Alex greets him.

“Hi Alex, I just came to rescue my wife from all of this hard labor.” Todd looks at his wife vacuuming the floor, cleaning up the last of the construction paper scraps. He waits until the vacuum clicks off and says, “What’s your secret, Alex? I can never get her to keep our house so clean.”

Alex looks at him and clamps down on the urge to rip him a new one. “Valerie is wonderful. I don’t know how we could have run this summer camp without her. She is so capable and just helps out with whatever comes up.”

Todd walks over to his blonde wife and places his hand on her butt. “Well, that’s good to hear. So Val, you planning on vacuuming when we get home?” he asks as if he’s joking.

Alex interrupts before Valerie can answer. “I make Walker do the vacuuming at our house. He’s the one who tromps in all the dirt from the barn.” Alex tries to smooth out her voice as she hears the sharpness in it. She knows better than to antagonize men who seem to dominate their wives. Valerie has never said anything, but Alex suspects that all is not well in their marriage and she has a feeling that she knows why.

Walker has continued to play with Angela as she demands all of his attention. He hears the tone in his wife’s voice and jumps in to help smooth out the moment. “She sure does. Vacuuming, dishes, laundry… she has me completely domesticated.”

Valerie stands there in amazement as the tough Texas Ranger confesses to doing ‘women’s work.’ “I-I better go get Beth Ann. She went with Josie to put some things away.” Valerie heads out of the room to collect her daughter.

“What was that all about?” Walker asks Alex as they are driving home.

Alex looks at him and even though it’s nearly an hour later, knows exactly what he is referring to. “There’s just something about Todd that rubs me the wrong way. Valerie is so pleasant and talented, but she has zero self-esteem.”

“That isn’t necessarily her husband’s fault, but I know what you mean. It always turns me off when men fondle their wives in front of others.”

Alex looks at him and smiles. “Is that why you’re so circumspect with me in public?”

“Some things belong behind closed doors and I think it shows a lack of respect if you don’t follow the lines of good taste.”

“I agree and as long as you continue to ‘fondle’ me in private, I’ve got no complaints.”

Walker looks over at her and they share a grin as they head home for what will hopefully be a quiet weekend.

Ranger Headquarters Monday 9:30 a.m.

Trivette hangs up the phone and turns to Walker who is seated at his desk. “That was Chen and Cooper. They think they may be onto something and they want us to back them up.”

“The stakeout panned out?”

“Looks that way. They’ve seen some suspicious activity and they think they’re ready to move in.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

They drive to an apartment building outside of Fort Worth and leave the Ram to go up into an apartment building across the street from the one under surveillance. They enter a second floor apartment where Rangers Lisse Chen and Glen Cooper are housed.

“What do you have?” Walker asks as he enters the room.

Cooper turns from the window where he is watching the apartment across the way through binoculars. “Two men arrived an hour ago carrying briefcases,” he said.

Chen, who was listening in on the conversation, looked at them. “They’re speaking Farsi, so I can’t tell you what is being said, but there has been a great deal of shouting. It seems that the two men with briefcases aren’t happy with the two we’ve been watching.”

“Do we have reason to believe that there is something illegal going on over there?” Trivette asks.

“Just a minute, the translator is working on it,” Chen tells him as she holds the phone to her ear to hear the translation of the conversation she’s been eavesdropping on.

Walker nudges Cooper who gives him the binoculars for a look see.

“The men are talking about some explosives. The two we’ve been watching were supposed to have the explosives at the apartment, but they say that they’ve stored them somewhere outside of town in an abandoned building. The other two men are here to inspect the explosives and don’t want to have to go anywhere else,” Chen informs the others.

“I think we need to tail all of these people until we find out just where the explosives are and what they plan to do with them,” Walker decides.

“Well, we know that the two men we’ve been watching are in this country illegally. Both entered the country on tourist visas, over two years ago, so we can arrest them whenever we like,” Cooper says.

“Yes, but let’s not show our hand. They don’t know that they’re being watched. If this is a terrorist cell, we don’t want a couple of them, we want all of them,” Trivette answers.

Walker radios Gage and Syd who are in a parked car on the street. “Syd, make sure you tail the last two who came in. If you can get good pictures of them, that will help too. Trivette can do a computer search and try and identify them. We may have stumbled onto something very big here.”

The others all nod in silent agreement and wait to see how this possible terrorist threat is going to play itself out.

Monday 6:30 p.m.

“What’s that smell?” Todd Jergens asks as he enters his home.

“I fixed stuffed cabbage for dinner. It’s a new recipe I saw on a cooking show,” his wife responds.

“You expect me to eat that? If you would do what a housewife is supposed to do and fix me a decent meal, instead of watching TV all day, I wouldn’t have to eat out so much. I’ll grab something to eat on my way to Phil’s, there’s a poker game at his place tonight.”

Valerie doesn’t respond, but waits for him to leave again. She takes the stuffed cabbage from the oven and allows it to cool while she removes the third place setting from the head of the table. “Beth Ann, dinner’s ready,” she calls to her seven-year-old daughter.

“Oh mommy, that stinks,” her daughter says as she enters the room.

“Well, you need to taste it and if you don’t like it, I’ll make you something else,” she tells her daughter.

Beth Ann takes a bite and makes a face before drinking down half of her glass of milk. “I don’t like it, mommy.”

Valerie sighs and gets up to fix her daughter a grilled cheese sandwich, something she knows she’ll eat. She sets the substitute dinner in front of the seven year old and begins to eat her own meal. She takes a bite and makes a face and then throws the entire dish away and fixes herself a grilled cheese sandwich.

Todd has complained that her cooking is redundant and that she needs to learn to make some new things. She watched the cooking show to find some new ideas, but her maiden voyage has been a complete disaster. She stops to think about it. Todd left the house almost before getting fully into the door; the meal wasn’t a complete waste.

Ranger Headquarters Wednesday 10:00 a.m.

Alex has joined the Rangers and FBI Agent Foster in the conference room. The lights are off as they view slides of the suspected terrorists they’ve had under surveillance.

“That’s Omar Jamal,” Agent Foster says as they look at a clean cut man wearing a business suit.

“He’s one of the two men with the briefcases,” Cooper interjects.

“And this is Hamid Zahiri,” says Foster as he clicks the slide over.

They all look at the Egyptian man who sports a mustache and beard that hide a good portion of his face. “The other man with the briefcase,” Gage adds.

“And this man, you all know, as you’ve been tailing him. He’s the muscle behind the outfit. Not very well connected, but he has very fervent beliefs. He’s dangerous and a very skilled fighter. If you go up against him in hand to hand combat, don’t underestimate him,” Foster warns.

“What’s his name?” Alex asks. She is just now being brought up to speed on the case.

“Mohammed Shakir,” Chen tells her. “And this last slide is his partner, “Abdul Awad.”

“Yes, Abdul is the brains of the two. He has a degree in mechanical engineering and he’s the one who knows how to wire bombs. We’ll have to keep a close eye on all of them. I don’t want to tip our hand if we can wait until they lead us to their contacts. As you know, rooting out terrorists is now the FBI’s number one mission. If we can bag the big fish, it’ll mean a lot to national security,” Agent Foster states.

“Do we know their plans?” Alex asks.

“All we know is that Mohammed and Abdul have been gathering explosives and meeting with these other two. We started following Abdul after a robbery at a blasting company where C-4 was stolen. We found one thumbprint at the sight and it led us to him. When we realized that we were on to something big, we contacted Foster here and have been working in conjunction with the FBI,” Walker answered her.

“These men have plans to blow up something important and I believe that they’re planning to do it for terrorist reasons. We weren’t sure when it was just Mohammed and Abdul, they can be bought, but Hamid and Omar are known terrorists. When they came into the picture, it spelled out a terrorist threat,” Foster fills her in.

“But we don’t have any idea of the target?” Alex asks.

“No, we have Gage and Sydney tracking Hamid and Omar in shifts with the FBI. Cooper and Chen have been keeping Mohammed and Abdul under surveillance from their hotel room across the street. Whenever they leave, an FBI team follows them. We’re trying to get enough information to figure out what their target is and also to find out who’s supplying them with money and everything else this operation needs,” Trivette tells her.

“So our next move is to sit and wait?” Alex asks.

“Pretty much,” Gage answers.

“The FBI is tracking down all former associates of everyone involved and we hope to stop not only this assault, but future ones as well.”

Alex nods and then shivers. The threat of terrorism is real and it’s right in her own backyard. They’ve dealt with domestic terrorism before, extremist groups with hatred against the government and people of color, but this was something new. Her hand reaches over and she finds it tucked into the warm reassuring palm of her husband’s hand.

“Let’s get back to it and we’ll regroup on Friday unless anything develops before then,” Foster orders. The Rangers nod and head back to work. Walker gives Alex’s hand a squeeze and he follows the others out.

HOPE House 5:00 p.m.

Alex arrives to pick up Angela and finds her in the playroom with several others, including Valerie and Beth Ann, who is playing dolls with her intrigued toddler.

“Hi there,” Alex greets everyone in general.

“Momma, doll!” her daughter returns her greeting in an excited voice.

“Yes, I see. That’s a pretty doll, Angela.”

Her daughter grins at her and turns back to Beth Ann. Valerie approaches Alex and smiles warmly at her.

“Hi Valerie, did she live up to her name today?”

“Oh yes, she was an angel. An angel with a mind of her own though.”

“Oh, don’t I know it. Walker and I are always debating who she inherited that from.”

“Well, she’s just very assertive. Alex, can I ask you something?”

“Sure, what is it?”

“Maybe we should go out of earshot of the little ones,” Valerie suggests.

The two women walk out to the foyer where they can see the kids playing, but can talk without being overheard. “What is it?” Alex asks kindly.

“Today there was a woman who came in. She was badly beaten and Josie tried to get her to go to the hospital, but she refused. I helped to clean her up and I couldn’t help but overhear what was said. Her husband was the one who beat her up.”

“Yes, it happens all too often I’m afraid.”

“Josie called Ericka over and she came and talked to the woman about another HOPE House.”

“Yes, it’s called HOPE Too. It’s a women’s shelter.”


“Why haven’t I heard of it?”

“We keep it quiet. Ericka runs it for me, but it’s a house in a residential area where women in jeopardy go. We didn’t want them housed here because of the daycare and the danger the kids were put in on more than one occasion. The women who stay there have to promise not to reveal the location to anyone. They have to be dropped off several blocks away or take a bus to get there. Why do you ask?”

“I was just curious. Ericka and Josie were both so good to the woman, but in the end, she refused to press charges and only allowed them to talk her into going into the shelter at HOPE Too. I just don’t understand living like that. Why would a woman let a man beat her?”

“I don’t know, Valerie. There are as many reasons as there are types of abuse. A lot of women have been told that they are expendable and they begin to believe it. Some have grown up with abuse and don’t know anything different. Others are afraid that they won’t be able to make it on their own as head of a household and still others convince themselves that it won’t happen again.”

Valerie shakes her head. “It really made me sad.”

Alex looks at her and says, “Well, the beatings are an overt type of abuse, but there are others.”

Valerie looks at her and asks, “What do you mean?”

Alex shrugs and tries to be nonchalant, “Some men berate their wives verbally or prevent them from developing lives of their own so that they’ll be forced to be dependent on them. Some are emotionally abusive, some are verbally abusive. Women who are beaten are only a portion of women who are abused by their spouse.”

Valerie nods and says, “I’m so glad that Todd isn’t like that.”

Alex’s eyebrows rise, but she holds her tongue. “Well, I better get my little angel home. Her daddy said he’d try to get home early tonight. It’s doubtful though, he’s been tied up on a case.”

“Okay, thanks for telling me more about this, Alex. I felt so helpless when I was talking to that woman today.”

“Well, chances are you’ll see her again. You know, if you’re interested in learning more about victims of abuse and ways to counsel women in crisis, we have a group that meets here on Tuesday nights at 8:00.”

“Oh thanks, but I wouldn’t have a way to get here and I hate to take the bus after dark.”

“Oh, that’s right, you only have one car. Is there any way you could use it on Tuesday nights?”

“Oh no, I don’t drive.”

“Really? Well, if you ever want to learn, just let me know.”

Valerie smiles at her, but says, “Todd doesn’t think women should drive. He says that me behind a wheel is more frightening than me with a loaded gun.”

This time, Alex has to bite her tongue not to say anything, but she knows it will have more impact if Valerie figures it out for herself. She collects Angela, who is not happy about leaving her doll or her playmate, and heads home.

Walker Ranch 9:30 p.m.

Alex is seated on the couch watching an episode of Law and Order SVU. She gets a kick out of the fact that the ADA who works with the special victim’s unit detectives is a leggy blond named Alex. She critiques the show on its realism and enjoys the plot twists and turns. Walker always teases her that she watches the show to see what the latest fashion in courtroom wear is. He’s had to reassure her on more than one occasion that she’s far more attractive to him than the actress who plays ‘Alex’ on the show. She sees the flash of headlights just as the show breaks for commercial and knows that her husband is finally home. She gets up to meet him at the door.

Walker enters and tosses his hat on the statue sitting next to the front door. He automatically opens his arms to take Alex into his embrace. He never feels as if he’s really come home until he holds her.

“You’re later than you predicted. Anything happen?” she asks.

“Maybe. We followed two of the men to a surveyor’s office. They broke in and we waited to see if we could figure out what they were looking for.”

“And did you?”

“We’re still not sure, but they may have been stealing the blueprints for the Ballpark in Arlington, where the Texas Rangers play.”

“Baseball?”

“Well, think about it. It is the ‘All American Sport’ and the Rangers are in the playoffs.”

“Walker! Do you think they’re planning to bomb the ballpark during a play-off game?”

“I don’t know, Alex. But, what if they make it into the World Series? They’re favored to do so. Can you imagine the impact on the American public if there is a terrorist bombing during the World Series?”

Alex shakes her head. “We have to stop it.”

“We will, but Foster wants us to keep this quiet and to go in undercover. We’ll try to verify our suspicions tomorrow and then meet on Friday as we planned.”

“Well darling, you look beat.”

“It’s been a long day. I’m going to take a shower. Why don’t you watch the rest of your show and then meet me upstairs?”

“Okay, but don’t you dare fall asleep on me.”

“Never,” he promises with a quick kiss.

Half an hour later, Alex checks to make sure the house is secure and heads upstairs. She peeks in on Angela to make certain she is sleeping comfortably and then heads into the master bedroom. Walker is stretched out on the bed, sound asleep. Alex shakes her head and smiles, “You owe me, Cowboy,” she murmurs and then gets ready for bed herself.

Ranger Headquarters Friday 10:00 a.m.

Agent Foster has the floor and is giving an overview of the case so far. “We’ve determined that their target is the Ballpark in Arlington. We still don’t know their time frame, but the Rangers are one game from the World Series…”

“Go Rangers,” Gage interjects.

Foster frowns at him and continues. “We need to get in there now and make certain that we’re ready in case this final game is in fact the target. If not, we’ll have established covers for all of you and that’s a step in the right direction.”

Alex clenches her mouth. She knew this was going to end with the team going undercover. “What covers have you decided on?” she asks.

“Chen and Cooper are going in as ballpark security guards. That will give them access to areas that are restricted from fans.”

Chen and Cooper exchange glances and nod.

“Gage here is going in as a peanut vender. He’ll be up and down the stands and can keep an eye on the crowd, at least one section of it. I’ll have an agent assigned to each section doing the same job.”

Always the one for bad puns, Chen says, “Peanuts, right in your ballpark.”

The others groan, but Sydney chimes in, “I think hotdogs would be more appropriate, but…”

Agent Foster exchanges a glance with Walker, but Walker stays quiet. He knows that the light comments are to relieve the tension. The idea of another terrorist attack on US soil has everyone in the room’s stomach tied in knots.

Foster resumes his briefing. “Trivette, I want you down on the field. I’m going to have you go in as a cameraman. You can pan up into the crowds with the camera and scan for any suspicious activity. We’ll have you on a closed circuit camera that feeds to a control room. Alex, you may want to be there to help us keep an eye on everyone.”

Alex looks at Foster and then looks over at Walker. Being able to keep an eye on her husband has appeal. “Okay, I’ll take you up on the offer. What’s Walker going to be doing?”

“I want Walker in the dugout. He’s going in as a batting coach for the Rangers.”

“You think you can swing that?” Chen asks.

A generalized moaning sound can be heard.

“Walker’s known for his homerun batting ability. He probably could have been a coach if he hadn’t decided to be a lawman,” Gage chimes in.

“I’ve played against him, I agree,” Cooper adds.

“What about me?” Sydney chimes in.

“I thought I’d have you working as a ticket taker to see who all comes in. After the game begins, I’ll move you over to the refreshments stand.”

“I guess I can do that,” she agrees.

“Okay, so you all have your assignments. Let’s get over to the ballpark and get you established. I’ve set it up so that Walker is working exclusively with one player, Frank Catalanotto, their lead off hitter. He’s in on the deal and knows what to do. The rest of you should have no problem fading into the crowd.”

“I’d like to come too and check it out,” Alex decides. No one disagrees.

The Ballpark at Arlington 11:30 a.m.

The six Rangers, Agent Foster and Alex are standing on the mound looking up into the vastness of the stands. “How in the world are we ever going to spot one or two people in this place?” Sydney murmurs.

“We have the advantage of knowing who we’re looking for and the cameras will help to zoom in on anyone suspicious,” Agent Foster replies.

“The media trailer may be the best place to be. Alex, keep your eyes wide open while you’re in there,” Trivette says.

“Trust me, I will,” she replies.

The group fans out and looks at the various angles they feel they’ll need to have a camera looking up into the stands. Agent Foster shows them where the regular television cameras will be set up and where the closed circuit cameras they’ll have will be. Gage chooses the section he wants to cover as a peanut vender and Chen and Cooper each take a section to cover as security guards. Trivette chooses to be stationed at the closed circuit camera that will be stationed just above the Ranger’s dugout.

Agent Foster continues with the specifics of each person’s assignment. “Walker will be in the dugout and Sydney will go from the ticket booths to the concessions stand over there. Each of you will be assigned a different section of the ballpark. We’ll all be wearing mic’s and earpieces so we can alert everyone if we see anything suspicious. I’ll have an additional twenty or so agents milling through the crowd and they’ll swoop down on anything suspicious.”

Satisfied with their preparations, the team heads out to begin preparing for the game that will determine whether or not the Rangers will be in the World Series. It is scheduled for Sunday night, so they have two days to establish their covers. Walker will join the Rangers as a batting coach brought in to work with Catalanotto who is still nursing a shoulder injury, but is determined to play. The others will check in with the supervisors of the departments they will be working for and get training and uniforms.

Saturday 2:00 p.m. HOPE Too

Alex is sitting in Ericka’s office going over the books for the shelter.  She looks up and smiles as Ericka enters, but her smile fades as she sees the concern on her friend’s face. “Problem?” she asks.

“Oh, it’s this last client that Josie sent over a couple days ago. I really think she needs medical attention, but she absolutely refuses to go to get checked. I think that she’s afraid of having any records of what her husband did to her. She doesn’t want to press charges and I have a feeling that she’s just hiding out here until her wounds heal and then she plans to go back to him.”

“And if she does, we can’t stop her.”

“I know. I just hate to think what will happen to her the next time he decides to use her as a punching bag.”

“I guess we’ll just have to use every opportunity to help her while she’s here. She’s attending the nightly group counseling sessions, isn’t she?”

“Yes, but only because I told her she couldn’t stay here unless she did.”

“Whatever gets her there. She’ll probably go back to her husband, but maybe we’ll plant a seed and it’ll grow and you never know, she may just realize that there is a way out.”

“I just hope she lives long enough to figure out that loving someone shouldn’t be a painful experience.”

Alex looks sympathetically at her friend, knowing that it’s hard to see the answer, but not be able to make others see it. She decides to change the subject to something a little happier. “Speaking of love… How are things going as a newlywed?”

Alex gets her answer as Ericka beams. “Oh, it’s just wonderful. Jimmy is so attentive. I can’t believe how romantic he is.”

“Really? Do tell,” Alex encourages.

Ericka glances down, suddenly overcome with shyness. “Let’s just say that whenever I hear jazz, I know that we’re going to spend the night making love.”

“Jazz, huh?”

“Yes, he always plays it when he’s…”

“In the mood?”

“Yes. It’s gotten to the point that I can’t listen to it on the radio without….”

Alex smiles as she watches her friend blush. “I think I know what you mean.”

Ericka braves her friend and asks, “Does Walker have any quirks that give him away?”

Alex purses her lips and smiles dreamily. “He’s a little more direct. When he’s feeling romantic, he gets very touchy-feely. The one give away is his voice. It always gets low and slightly choked; especially when he tells me that he loves me. He’s amazingly passionate. I tell you, I never would have guessed just how passionate when I first met him. At least, not until the first time he kissed me, that kiss told me a lot and completely knocked me for a loop.”

“Jimmy is insatiable. I don’t know if it’s just because we’re newlyweds…”

“Walker hasn’t slowed down. I mean, it’s not as frequent as on our honeymoon, but we still make love several times a week.”

“Wow, that’s pretty impressive, especially since you’re parents.”

Alex smiled, “We always seem to find a way.”

The two women smile as each thinks of her own love life.

Walker Ranch 10:00 p.m.

Alex is standing behind the couch massaging her husband’s shoulders. “You’re really tight. I thought you were supposed to be coaching; I didn’t know you were going to work out enough to get sore.”

“I was trying to help Frank figure out a way to swing the bat so that it didn’t hurt his shoulder, but gave him maximum power. I think I must have hit a few hundred pitches.”

“Honey, you’re posing as a batting coach, you don’t have to actually be one.”

“Well, Frank and I were working on the problem together with the sports medicine doctor. The doctor didn’t want Frank to keep swinging the bat, so he used me to try things out and then had Frank take one or two swings to see if we’d hit on something.”

“Hit on something? That’s almost as bad as one of Lisse’s puns.”

Walker chuckles, but reaches suddenly, grabbing Alex forearms and yanking her over the back of the couch to land sprawled in his lap. “I wasn’t trying to be funny,” he claims and then kisses her until she’s breathless.

“What are you trying to be now?” she asks with a knowing grin.

“Irresistible?” Walker doesn’t give her a chance to comment as he leans forward and kisses her again, his tongue slipping into her open mouth to taste and touch the warmth he finds there.

Walker’s hands are busy as he strokes up the front of her blouse with his right hand and holds her head with his left. The right hand reaches the top of her button-up blouse and he begins to unbutton each button in turn until he reaches her waistband. He tugs the shirt out of her pants and then slips his hand up to touch the warm flesh of her midriff.

Alex’s hands are busy in their own right. Her right hand has reached up and around his neck to hold him close; while her left hand takes its turn unbuttoning his shirt. She pauses with each section of exposed chest, taking the opportunity to play with the coarse chest hair that’s revealed.

Walker releases her mouth and leans forward to kiss down her supple neck to her lace covered breasts. Alex moans as she drops her head back in supplication. Her hands release their purchase on him and rise over her head to give him free access to her body. Smiling his triumph, Walker sits up slightly to look at her swollen lips and heavy lids. “Should I take you here or upstairs?” he asks.

Alex’s eyes open slightly, glazed with sensuality. “Both,” she answers in a challenging tone.

Walker’s eyebrows rise in response to her challenge, but he doesn’t decline her offer. Instead, he runs his fingers down her stomach to the fastening of her jeans. He bends forward again to kiss the tops of the swells of her breasts. As soon as he has her pants undone, he slips his hands underneath her hips to slide them down.  He stands with her in his arms and then lays her back down on the couch as he tugs her pant legs off and tosses the jeans on the floor. While he’s standing, he takes the opportunity to shed his own clothes. Alex has managed to open her eyes to watch his body be revealed to her loving gaze. She never tires of looking at this magnificent specimen of man.

Sitting up slightly, she unhooks her bra and slips her blouse and bra off to join the other discarded clothes on the floor. She then sits up completely and peels her panties over her hips and off. “Sit down,” she commands him.

Walker smiles and follows her orders. Alex straddles him and leans forward to kiss him. “I’ve decided to ‘take’ you instead and then you can have a turn upstairs,” she informs him.

Walker just grins as she slides her body up until she is positioned to take him into her core. He takes advantage of her position and reaches to suckle on her nipple that is within easy reach of his wanting mouth.

Alex moans as he pleasures her breasts and she balances herself on his shoulders as she sinks down, taking him fully into her. Sitting on her knees, Alex begins a slow rhythm as they continue to pleasure each other with kisses, touches and thrusts. Alex begins to sigh and then moan as she is brought to a fever pitch. Walker grasps her hips and quickens the pace, reaching up to meet her so that he fills her completely with each thrust. His hand reaches between them and Alex lets out a shriek to signal her release. Walker clamps down on her breast as he too groans out his own release.

Alex slumps forward, resting her head on his shoulder. She pants rapidly as she recovers from the ride she’s just been on. Walker’s hands smooth through her hair, enjoying the silky feel. “You’re turn,” she manages to gasp out.

“We’ve got all night,” he tells her. “Let’s get our second wind and then I’ll take you up to the stars, very, very, slowly,” he promises in the gruff voice he uses when he’s overcome by emotion.

“I’m not in any hurry,” she agrees as she kisses his shoulder and lifts her head up to gaze into his eyes. They share a grin and then Alex lifts off of him and offers him her hand to pull him up. Leaving their discarded clothes on the floor, they turn toward the stairs.

The Ballpark at Arlington, Sunday 3:30 p.m.

Bomb sniffing dogs have just finished checking the park thoroughly and employees are arriving. Chen and Cooper are visually inspecting their sections while Gage changes into his uniform in preparation for his role as peanut vendor. Sydney gets her cashbox and goes to her booth.

Walker is on the field with the team doing warm ups. Alex makes her way to the media trailer where she will help to watch the various monitors that will record the game from a variety of angles. Trivette scans the grandstand with his camera, getting used to the feel of the large camera and playing with the focus. Fans begin to arrive and they all brace themselves for the night ahead.

The game is close and the fans are tense as they wait to see if their beloved Rangers will go to the World Series. The FBI agents, Texas Rangers and Alex are tense for a very different reason. In the ninth inning, Alex is watching the video monitor from the broadcast station. She spots a man who resembles Mohammed Shakir. She watches for a moment and then she sees him looking up toward another place in the stands, but she can’t see that section.

“Jimmy, pan left with your camera,” she tells him through the mic.

“What do you see, Alex?” Walker comes on.

“I think I saw Mohammed Shakir, but he was looking toward someone or something. Higher, Jimmy… Yes! There he is; the top of the section. There’s a door just behind him.”

“Behind who?” Agent Foster asks.

“Abdul Awad,” she answers. “I think… yes, there he goes, ducking into the door.”

“Chen, he’s just below you, come down to the walkway and turn left,” Trivette orders.

“Agents, close in,” Foster commands his agents.

“No, belay that order,” Trivette says. “What if this is a dry run? It would be better if ‘ballpark security’ follows a man who entered a restricted area to tell him to leave. We don’t want to tip them off.”

“But what if this isn’t a dry run?” Agent Foster asks with a shudder. The FBI has taken a lot of heat since 9/11 and he doesn’t want there to be another mess up that results in the loss of hundreds and possibly thousands of more lives.

Walker agrees with Trivette, he’s studied the M.O. of Awad and he knows that he’s a perfectionist. Chances are he wants to check things out before his real mission. “Foster, let Chen handle it. Move your agents in closer, but don’t close in unless she signals for help.”

Foster gives the order for the FBI agents to lay low, but be on alert.  They maintain radio silence as they listen to hear what Chen has to say to the man.

“Excuse me sir, but this is a restricted area,” she says in a stern voice.

“I’m so sorry, I am lost. I am looking for the bathroom,” Shakir answers in a thick accent.

“Well, you’re one level too low. If you go out and take the stairs up one more flight, you’ll find the restrooms.”

“Oh, thank you, you are very kind.”

Chen waits until the man leaves and then does a sweep of the area. “He was near a support beam and he had to break the lock to get in here, but he was careful to cover his tracks. The lock on the door looks as if someone just forgot to lock it.”

“Any sign of explosives?” Foster asks.

“No, but we might want to get the dogs in here as soon as we can.”

“Trivette, were you able to pick him up again?” Foster asks.

“Yeah, I got him, but he did go into the men’s room, so I don’t have him at the moment.”

“Gage, can you get over there and pick him up?” Walker asks.

“I’m on it boss,” Gage answers.

“What about Awad?” Sydney pipes in.

“He’s still sitting in the stands, but he sure doesn’t look very interested in the game,” Alex tells her.

Suddenly, there is a thunderous noise and each of the team members tenses until they realize that it is the crowd erupting in jubilation as the Texas Rangers win the game.

Pandemonium breaks out and Abdul Awad and Mohammed Shakir get lost in the swarms of fans. Sydney spots Awad as he exits to the parking lot and alerts the FBI agents to his location. They will do their best to trail him.

It is several hours later before the park is emptied out. The party concluded with fireworks and people swarmed onto the field to watch them. As the last of the revelers leave, the bomb dogs are brought back in and give the park a thorough check. There’s no sign of any explosives.

It’s been a long night and each member of the team is exhausted. Agent Foster thanks everyone for a job well done and they head out to try and get some much needed rest.

Walker is driving the Ram home and Alex is resting her head back against the seat. “You did a great job tonight,” he tells his wife as his hand reaches out to squeeze hers. “Of all the trained people watching those monitors, you’re the only one who picked one of our targets out of the crowd.”

“They were all watching the camera feeds from the FBI’s cameras. I switched over to the broadcast feed. It was just pure luck.”

Walker shook his head, “I don’t believe that, but whatever it was, it was nice to have you there.”

Alex is surprised. He always does his best to keep her out of danger. To say that he liked having her there is a major breakthrough. “Does that mean I get to be a part of the team next time?”

Walker smiles over at her and says, “I’d rather you were a little farther away, but yes, I want you there watching out for me and everyone else.”

“Cowboy, I’m more tired than I can tell you, but regardless, you’re going to get lucky tonight.”

Walker laughs and answers, “Don’t forget that Ericka is at the ranch watching Angela, and Trivette is probably right behind us to pick her up.”

“Okay, well, I guess I can wait until they leave, but they better leave quickly.”

“Any ideas on how we can get them to do that?” Walker asks, knowing that Trivette often likes to recap the events before he goes off home.

“Do you still have that jazz CD Jimmy gave you last Christmas?”

“When he was trying to ‘expand my horizons’? Yes, I think I can find it, why?”

“Erika says that Jimmy always plays jazz when he’s feeling… romantic.”

“Don’t tell me any more. I don’t want to know what else you’ve discovered about Trivette’s love life. I can’t believe what you women share with each other.”

Alex smiles at him and waits, knowing that the question is coming.

“What did you tell Erika about us?”

“Oh, nothing too specific. I just told her how you like to make love in water, whether it be the shower, the tub, the…”

“Alex! That’s private information.”

Alex is laughing at him, “I know, I’m joking. Don’t worry, I just told her that you keep me very happy… very often.”

Walker is shaking his head at his wife and then he says, “And I thought you were the one with the water fetish.”

She laughs, not denying it.

Monday Morning, Ranger Headquarters Conference Room 11:00 a.m.

Agent Foster is briefing the team on the latest findings by the FBI. “Subsequent review of the videotapes last night, place all four of our suspects at the Ballpark at Arlington. Alex spotted Shakir and that led to Awad, but Jamal and Zahiri were also there.” He cues up the tape to show them where they had been sitting.

“They blended right in,” Sydney comments.

“They were meant to. At least we now know that our hunch was right. This was a test run. They are intending to attack the ballpark and the World Series will have the most impact.”

“But now that we know that, we can prevent it, right?” Gage asks hopefully.

“We certainly have a lot of work ahead. These men are experienced terrorists. They’re well-funded and they won’t stop at anything to complete their mission,” Foster answers.

“But we now know which areas to focus on,” Chen states.

“We think we know. We can’t get cocky on this one. They may have more than one plan,” Trivette adds.

“No, we can’t. Do we know where they’re getting their funding? Is there any way we can cut this operation off before it gets to the ballpark?” Walker asks.

“Trust me, we’re working on it. We’re following every lead and we know that they have connections in London and Iraq. As for cutting off their funding, we just haven’t been able to trace the money trail yet, but we’re working on it,” Foster informs them. They decide to continue attending all games as they don’t know when the terrorists will strike, but assume it will be the final game that is played in Texas.

One Week later, Hope House 5:30 p.m.

Alex is watching the children rehearse the play they are planning to do at the fundraiser that will benefit HOPE Too. Valerie enters excited. “Alex, can I talk to you?” she asks.

Alex smiles and follows her out to her office. “What’s up?” she asks.

“I did it! I got my license!” Valerie shares as she holds the card up for Alex to see.

“That’s great! I knew that you could do it.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t sure, but… wow, this opens up all kinds of possibilities. In fact, I was wondering…”

“What’s that?”

“Well, I know that you help women get jobs and I was wondering… With Beth Ann in school full days now, I just don’t have enough to do. I love volunteering here, but I wonder if…”

Alex knows that Valerie is struggling to establish her independence. Her husband makes enough money that she doesn’t have to work, but if she has any idea of striking out on her own, she’ll need to have the confidence that she can support herself and her daughter. “Actually, I just got a call from the school district. They’re looking for someone to do their attendance. You would have to enter the information of who is present and absent daily in the computer and make phone calls to the homes of children who are absent for two days in a row. It’s a thirty hour a week position and it would fit in with Beth Ann’s schedule.”

“Oh, Alex, that sounds wonderful! Can you see if you can get me an interview?”

Deciding that it’s time for Valerie to start feeling that she can do things for herself, Alex hands her a phone number. “Just call this number and feel free to use me as a reference. I’ll certainly be able to give you a great one. You’ve been a true asset here.”

“I don’t plan on going anywhere. If it’s all right with you, even if I do get the job, I’d like to come volunteer in the afternoons. Beth Ann loves coming here and there really isn’t anything for us to do at home all afternoon.”

“We appreciate all of your help and I’d be delighted if you found that you could continue to be a part of the HOPE team.”

Valerie smiles at Alex and holds up the number, “Is it all right if I use your phone? I have a call to make.”

Alex waves her hand at the phone, smiles and leaves her to make her call in private.

Two weeks later, The Ballpark at Arlington

Alex is in her now customary position in the media trailer. She’s gotten used to watching the video feed and searching for the men they have been following. They are in the second game of the World Series with the Ranger’s winning the first game and well on their way to winning the second home game. They will move to LA after the game they are playing tonight and that means that Walker will be going to LA with the team. Trivette will also go to LA in his role as cameraman. Alex and Walker have had several heated discussions as to whether she will stay behind in Texas.

Alex watches the video feed as she replays their latest debate in her mind.

“Alex, you should stay here with Angela. There’s no reason to disrupt her schedule.”

“Walker, I’ve had experience picking these guys out. What if they have a plan to bomb the Dodger Stadium? I imagine they could do it just as easily there as here.”

“Then I really want you here.”

“Walker…”

“Alex, I’m not going to argue with you,” Walker states as he pulls her into his arms and kisses her to silence her protest.

“Walker, I’m not impressed. You can’t…” he kisses her again. “I’m not responding,” she claims. This time, he lifts her off her feet as his mouth covers hers and his tongue probes her lips, seeking entry.  “No…” she tries to say, but he takes advantage of her parted lips to plunge deep into her mouth. Alex moans and knows that she is lost. “This discussion isn’t over,” she states as he unzips her skirt and slips it over her hips.

“Just postponed,” he agrees as he sets her on her feet to free both of his hands to explore her body.

“Damn him,” Alex mutters as she realizes that once again, he succeeded in distracting her and they still haven’t resolved the issue. She spots one of the suspects on the monitor and alerts the FBI agent next to her.

“Yes ma’am, we’ve spotted him,” he reassures her.

She rolls her eyes, knowing that she had let her mind wander and redoubling her efforts to focus on the task at hand. She watches as the Dodger’s rally and win the second game, tying the series, one to one before moving to Los Angeles.

The Jergens’ home that same night

Valerie has kept her work secret, but Todd has gone through her purse and found both her driver’s license and her savings account book. She has opened up the account in her name and deposited her first check into it. She enjoys the thrill of having a secret and she feels independent for the first time in her life.

“What the hell is this?” Todd shouts as he throws the savings book and license at her.

Valerie’s eyes go round and she feels a sinking feeling as she looks into his face. He’s angrier than she’s ever seen him. “I got my license. I’m twenty eight years old Todd, I thought it was time I had one.”

“And who the hell told you to think?” he asks in disgust. Valerie remains silent. “Where’d this money come from?” he demands as he waves his hand at the savings book.

“I got a part time job working at Beth Ann’s school.”

“You what? I told you when I married you that I wouldn’t have my wife working. I’m the man and I provide for my family.”

“It’s not about the money, Todd. I just wanted something meaningful to do.”

“I let you volunteer at HOPE House; I knew that was a mistake. From now on, you stay home. No job, no HOPE House!”

“No, I won’t do that. People rely on me. I’ve made commitments and I don’t plan on letting them down.”

“And what about your commitment to me? You promised to obey me and I intend to see that you do!” He grabs her roughly and pushes her back onto the bed. Valerie struggles, determined that he won’t use sex to punish her, but he’s stronger than she is and he forces himself on her.

Ten minutes later, Todd has rolled off of her and fallen to sleep, certain that his point has been made and there will be no further argument. Valerie gets up and heads into the bathroom. She flips on the light and looks at herself in the mirror. There’s something in her eyes, something she recognizes. She’s seen that look before. She doesn’t have the bruises on her face, but the look in her eyes is that of the woman she’d seen a few weeks before at HOPE House. She’d come there seeking shelter when her husband had beaten her. Alex told her that she’d gone back to him and she hadn’t been able to understand it, but looking at herself, she felt ashamed.

How could she judge that other woman when she allowed her husband to use her in such a way? She had a right to pursue her own dreams and he had no right to force her to have sex with him when she didn’t want it. Who was she kidding? That wasn’t sex; that was rape. And rape was a form of violence. She hadn’t realized just how much she’d been absorbing at HOPE House. Her thoughts went back to more than one conversation with Alex. She hadn’t come right out and said it, but Valerie knew that Alex believed that she was in an abusive relationship. Valerie guessed that she must have a pretty hard head not to have realized it before now. Well, no more. She was going to have to do something and she was going to have to do it soon. She had a determined look in her eyes before she turned from the mirror and headed to shower off her husband’s scent from her aching body.

Walker Ranch Tuesday night

“What are you doing?” Walker asks Alex as he walks into the bedroom and sees her suitcase on the bed.

“Packing,” she answers as she folds her shorts into the open case.

“Packing for what?” Walker asks, already knowing the answer.

“I’m going to LA with you. Angela and I both are,” she tells him.

“I thought we decided that you two would stay here,” he says.

“No, you may have decided that, but we never really did get a chance to discuss it.”

“You’re going no matter what I say, aren’t you?”

“Sometimes, Walker, you’re smarter than you give yourself credit for.”

“Thanks,” he says.

She gives him a grin, bats her eyelashes and continues packing.

Downtown Hilton Hotel Los Angeles, Wednesday

Ericka and Jimmy have settled into their hotel room just across from Walker and Alex’s. The two couples meet for dinner, taking Angela along. They decide on a Thai restaurant and eat a delicious meal; Walker and Alex ordering their dishes spicy and Trivette and Ericka opting for less heat in their meals. Walker has to be at the Stadium early the next day, so he and Alex head up and leave Jimmy and Erika to enjoy the L.A. night life.

Alex returns from the connected room where Angela is sleeping in a crib. Walker has already gone to bed, but he is sitting up reading. “Is she down?” he asks.

“Yes… finally. She wasn’t too sure about sleeping in a strange room in a strange crib. She wanted me to stay with her.”

“I don’t blame her. I don’t like to sleep in a strange bed without you with me either.”

Alex smiles at him and climbs into the bed next to him. “Good book?” she asks.

“It’s a page turner, but with the right incentive, I could be persuaded to put it down,” he answers.

Alex lifts the book up so that she can read the title. “How To Overcome Anxiety. Oh yeah, sounds like a real thriller,” she says in a droll tone. “I don’t know how I could possibly compete.”

Walker chuckles as he tosses the book aside. “I found it in the nightstand. I guess whoever stayed here last had insomnia.”

“Too bad I wasn’t here; I’ve learned a new technique to cure insomnia.”

“Really? Do tell.”

“Can’t, I gotta show you,” she says as she slips her hand under the sheet and skims across his bare abdomen to his taut thighs.

“Are you sure this puts people to sleep?” he asks with a catch in his voice as her hand closes over him.

“Eventually,” she says as she turns to face him and they slide down into the bed.

HOPE Center, Thursday afternoon

“Hi Valerie,” Josie greets Valerie Jergens as she comes in after working at the school.

“Hi Josie, can I talk to you?”

“Sure, come on into my office,” Josie tells her, recognizing the desperation in Valerie’s voice. “Have a seat,” she offers with a wave of her hand.

“I can’t believe I’m here… asking you for help,” Valerie begins as Josie waits patiently for the story to unfold.

“We all need help sometimes,” Josie reassures her. “What can I do to help you?”

Valerie looks up and then her eyes fill with tears. “I don’t know how or where to begin. I guess I’ve been incredibly blind for a very long time.”

Josie merely nods to show that she is listening, but doesn’t interrupt.

Valerie pours out her story of living with a controlling man and not realizing how much of her life she has given over to her husband. She tells Josie of the scene two nights before when Todd found out that she is working and has a savings account. She glosses over his reaction, she’s too ashamed to admit the way he dominates her sexually, but Josie is able to fill in the blanks. “I guess what I’m asking for is a place to stay while I try and figure out what I need to do,” Valerie says.

“Well, HOPE Too is full at the moment, but I can offer you and Beth Ann rooms here if you’re sure that Todd isn’t going to become violent and endanger the children here.”

“No, he wouldn’t hurt anyone. He likes to control me, but he’s never hit me or Beth Ann.”

“But you’ve always complied with his wishes. Now that you’ve decided to take a stand and defy him, can you be sure he won’t do anything that would put others in jeopardy?”

“I don’t want to cause any trouble, maybe I should think of getting a hotel room…”

“No, I won’t hear of it. Listen, why don’t you go home and pack a bag for you and Beth Ann. We’ll move you in here for now and when there’s an opening, we’ll move you over to HOPE Too.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. I’ll call Alex and clear it with her, but I know what her answer will be. Go take care of what you need to before he gets home. Beth Ann can stay here and you can explain things to her when you get back.”

“I’ll be awhile, I don’t have a car.”

Josie reaches into her top desk drawer and removes her keys, tossing them to Valerie. “Here, take mine. I’ll get a room ready for you and you can move in before dark.”

“Thank you,” Valerie says in a choked voice.

Josie stands up and gives Valerie a hug, “You’ve got friends and you’re stronger than you realize. We’ll get you set up with a lawyer and you can go from there.” Valerie nods and smiles weakly at Josie before heading out to pack to leave her husband.

Dodger’s Stadium Thursday 5:00 p.m.

Trivette keeps the engine running on the rented Lincoln Towne Car as they wait for Walker to finish the evening practice session with the Texas Rangers. Ericka is turned in the seat to talk to Alex who sits in the back next to Angela’s car seat.

“Are you sure that you don’t want to try and catch a show? Jimmy and I can baby sit, we went out last night.”

“Thanks Ericka, but I guarantee that all Walker is going to want to do after working out all day is take a shower, eat dinner and go to bed.”

“Well, that has its possibilities too,” she says with a wicked grin.

Jimmy gives her a scolding look, but it quickly melts into the look of a man who is totally smitten with his new bride.

Walker interrupts the moment as he swings the back door open and climbs into the seat on the other side of Angela’s car seat. “Hi Angel, did you miss daddy?” he asks his daughter as she squeals in delight at his arrival.

“Mommy missed you too,” Alex says in a ploy to get him to acknowledge her.

“Hi, honey, boy, I’m bushed.”

“Alex got tickets for you guys to go to that show that Ericka and I went to last night. You’re going to love it!” Jimmy says in an attempt to get a reaction from Walker.

Walker moans, but holds his tongue, determined to talk Alex out of an evening on the town. He feels as if he’s been in the badlands for a week. Although he’s in great physical shape, he’s using muscles that don’t usually get used and the repetitiveness of swinging the bat has made his shoulders and upper back ache.

The group arrives back at the hotel and Walker runs upstairs to shower and change for dinner. They’re all planning to go out to dinner, but they will keep it casual since Angela is with them.

During dinner, Alex updates Walker on the situation with Valerie Jergens and her family.

“I don’t like the idea of her staying at HOPE House. That was the whole point of opening HOPE Too,” Walker grumbles.

“But it’s full Walker and I just couldn’t let Valerie stay in a hotel. She’s donated so much of her time. If it wasn’t for people like her, there wouldn’t have been a HOPE Too,” Alex reasons.

“Trust me, Alex; I don’t have a problem with helping Valerie. I just don’t trust that husband of hers. He’s a ticking time bomb and she may just light the fuse if she moves into HOPE House.”

Ericka jumps into the conversation, “Sydney is covering for me at HOPE Too as much as her schedule will allow while we’re here. I wonder if there’s someone who can keep an eye on HOPE House.”

“Why don’t we call Gage and ask him to sleep over there for the next few nights,” Trivette suggests.

Alex nods her head, “That’s a good idea.” She looks at Walker for his input.

“Let’s call him now before it gets any later there.”

Jimmy pulls out his cell phone and calls Gage who is enjoying a relaxing evening at home. He tells him about the situation and Gage agrees to head over to HOPE Center to sleep over until they find out what Todd’s response is going to be to Valerie’s bid for freedom.

Feeling a bit easier about the situation, Walker enjoys his meal until he remembers that he is supposed to be going to some show with Alex. “What’s the name of the show you’re dragging me to?” he asks.

Early to Bed,” Alex answers.

“What kind of name is that for a show? It’s not some x-rated show is it?”

“It could be, Cowboy, if you play your cards right.”

Walker looks at his wife with a puzzled expression. She bursts out laughing and Jimmy and Ericka join in her merriment. Walker realizes that he’s been had. “We’re not going out, are we?”

“Nope,” she answers.

Walker shakes his head at her and says. “Good, because I am in desperate need of a shoulder massage and I know just the woman to give it to me.”

HOPE House 11:30 p.m.

Todd Jergens had gotten home after work and seen the note his wife had left on the dining room table. In it, she had explained that she was taking their daughter and moving out. She planned to consult a lawyer and she would be in touch with him through her lawyer. Todd’s first reaction was blinding rage, but he didn’t act on it other than to smash a few things in the house. He then went to the bar that he often frequented and drank several shots of whiskey with a beer chaser. Once he was fortified with the alcohol, he got into his car and weaved his way drunkenly over to HOPE House.

He is now pounding on the door and shouting. “Valerie! Valerie! Get your ass out here now, you bitch!”

Gage is sleeping on the couch in the front room and he is instantly awake when he hears the pounding. He gets up and goes to the door, opening it and shoving Todd back roughly so that he lands on his butt. “I don’t know what your problem is buddy, but you woke me up and I’m not a pleasant person if I don’t get my eight hours.”

“You got my wife!” Todd slurs.

“I don’t have anyone’s wife. Now take your sorry butt home,” Gage says and picks Todd up, shoving him toward his car.

Todd is too drunk to think straight and he staggers to his car and gets behind the wheel. Gage returns to the house and picks up the phone, dialing the DPD. “This is Ranger Gage, I got a drunk driver heading south on White Oak Street. He’s driving a Gold Lexus SUV. He’s going to kill someone if you don’t get him off the street.”

“We’re on it,” dispatch promises.

Gage smiles to himself as he sets the phone down. Todd Jergens will be cooling his heels in jail at least overnight until he can sober up and make bail. It will also look bad for him, if he fights Valerie for custody of Beth Ann, to have a DWI on his record. Proud of his night’s work, he goes back to the couch for some more sleep.

Disneyland, Saturday 10:00 a.m.

The Texas Rangers have won another game, this time on the Dodger’s home turf. They have the day off and Walker has agreed to take Angela on her first trip to the Magic Kingdom. The group takes the tram from the parking structure to the ticket booths. There is an option of going to either Disney’s California Adventure or to Disneyland, but because Disneyland is more suited to younger children, Alex and Walker decide to take Angela there.

“Why don’t you guys go to the other park,” Alex suggests to Ericka and Jimmy. “You deserve some adult time alone and we’ll be doing the kiddie rides.”

Ericka feels a bit guilty, but she’s experienced Disneyland in the past and is curious about the new park. “Can’t we do both?” she asks.

Alex shakes her head, “No, the tickets cost the same, but you can only go into one park.”

Jimmy looks at Walker and they share some unspoken communication. “Come on Ericka, I want to take you on that roller coaster. I love it when you hold onto me and scream.”

Ericka slaps his arm, blushing at the sexual innuendo in his choice of phrases. “If you’re sure you don’t mind us abandoning you…” Ericka begins.

“Go! Have fun and we’ll see you back here at say… five o’clock? I don’t think Angela will make it much past that,” Alex suggests.

“Sounds good,” Jimmy agrees and they go to purchase their tickets, Ericka and Jimmy the heading right into California Adventure and the Walker’s heading left into Disneyland.

HOPE House 1:00 p.m.

Josie has stopped in to check on Valerie. She usually has Saturday off, but she’s concerned about Valerie. She is struggling with the idea of being independent and Josie noticed her mood as being very depressed the evening before. She walks into her office and finds Valerie sitting in the chair in front of her desk crying.

“Valerie?” Josie begins quietly.

Valerie looks up and begins to apologize. “I’m sorry. I came in here because I didn’t think anyone would find me here.”

“If you need to be alone, I’ll leave. I just stopped in to see how you were doing,” Josie says, waiting to see if she should leave or stay.

“I just…” Valerie begins and then starts to sob.

Josie moves toward her and hugs her loosely, offering comfort. Valerie turns into her and accepts the offer of comfort. After crying for several minutes, she manages to get herself under control and Josie moves away to sit on the other side of her desk. “Has anything happened?” Josie asks, knowing that there is more to this than her decision to leave her husband.

“Oh Josie, I don’t know what to do,” Valerie wails.

“Try telling me the problem and maybe we can figure it out together,” Josie offers.

“I… I’m… preg… pregnant,” Valerie gets out between sobs.

“Pregnant? How far along are you?” Josie asks.

Valerie shakes her head. “I don’t know. I looked in my appointment book to make the appointment with the lawyer you referred me to yesterday and I realized that I had missed my period. After I got off work yesterday, I stopped at the drug store and bought a home pregnancy kit and…”

“It was positive?” Josie asks.

Valerie nods her head and begins to cry again. Several minutes later, she has again composed herself. “I don’t know how I can raise Beth Ann alone, how can I even think of bringing a baby into the world? I don’t know what to do. I think that maybe I should go back to Todd and beg his forgiveness. He’s not that bad…”

“Valerie, how did you get pregnant?” Josie asks.

Valerie looks confused, “The usual way,” she answers.

“By making love with the man you love?” Josie asks.

Valerie thinks of the manner in which Todd uses her body to relieve himself and then falls into a drunken sleep beside her. There is no way she can stretch the phrase ‘making love’ to encompass the brutal matings she’s forced to endure. And loving Todd? No, she’s long past any illusion of love. He’s killed any feelings of affection she once had for the man she thought he was.

Josie lets her silence speak for itself. “I think you need to decide if you want to go back to a life of enduring his treatment. Do you really want to live under his rules again? You know that they’ll be that much stricter now. No job, no volunteering, no friends outside of the home. And what do you have to look forward to when he gets home? Nasty remarks about your cooking, the fact that you’re gaining weight with the pregnancy, disparaging remarks about everything you do and say?”

Valerie remains silent, but then lifts her head and says imploringly, “But how do I raise two children alone? I don’t even have a full time job and how do I keep it when I have a newborn? And don’t even suggest an abortion, I WON’T do that.”

“I wasn’t suggesting that, but it is an option. Obviously not one you’re willing to consider, so we won’t go there. The point is that you do have options and you also have time. Don’t feel pressured, you just need to take it one day at a time and see where life takes you.”

Valerie heaves a great sigh and says, “I’m just afraid that the longer I wait, the harder it will be to go back to him.”

“And that’s a bad thing?” Josie asks. It’s a rhetorical question and Valerie doesn’t answer.

Disneyland 11:30 a.m.

“Remind me never to take her on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride again,” Walker says as he hands a terrified toddler to his wife who waited outside. “It nearly scared me,” Walker claims.

“Well, after we went whitewater rafting that time, I did offer to take you to Disneyland and you told me then that you were afraid of the rides.”

Walker grins at her, remembering the moment and the first time they’d made love on the riverbank. He’s brought back to the present when Alex says, “Lets take her on the carousel, she loves horsies, and then we should probably get something to eat.”

“Okay, I like carousels,” Walker agrees with a grin.

They stand in line and then get on the carousel, each standing on either side of Angela who is now back to being happy. Looking at Alex, Walker can’t resist leaning over to kiss her. Angela laughs and pats their faces that are pressed together right in front of her. They withdraw and look at their delighted daughter and Alex says, “We’ll finish this later, after the munchkin goes to bed.”

“That reminds me, we haven’t taken her to Snow White’s Adventure,” he says.

Alex laughs and says, “Those were dwarfs, munchkins were the Wizard of Oz.”

Walker shrugs, “I never said I was an expert.”

Alex laughs at her befuddled husband and suggests, “Let’s go get some lunch.” They find a concession stand and buy hot dogs and hamburgers and sit down to eat the soggy bland amusement park food.

California Adventure, 12:30 p.m.

Jimmy and Ericka exit ‘Soarin’ Over California’ and walk toward the Wharf area of the park. “That was amazing,” Ericka says, her eyes still sparkling. “I loved the way you jumped when that golf ball came flying at us.”

Jimmy frowns, not liking his macho image to be tarnished. “It really looked like it was going to hit us,” he excuses himself. “Let’s go get something to eat,” he suggests. “What do you want?”

“Oh, I don’t know. We could walk back over to ‘Mali-burritos’ and then on to Burrrrbank Ice Cream for desert.”

Jimmy laughs at the California themed names for the eating places. “Or we could go to the winery and have an adult meal,” he suggests.

Erika looks up and sees a garden area with signs telling visitors about the different plants and the role they play in California’s economy. “Oh look, let’s stop here and go on ‘It’s a Bug’s Life.’ I loved that movie.”

Jimmy rolls his eyes and complains. “That’s a kiddie show.”  But he lets her take his hand and tug him through the tunnel-like entrance. They get into the main room and sit down to watch the show. It’s a 3-D show and they wear glasses that make it look as if the characters on the screen are coming at them. When the stink bug sprays a green cloud over the audience, it really does stink and when the hornets come flying out to sting them, something shoots out of the back of the bench and hits them in the back.

At the end of the show, the announcer asks the humans to remain seated while the maggots and roaches crawl out first so they won’t get squashed. Rollers in the seats roll across their bottoms and Jimmy jumps a mile high. Ericka is in tears with laughter. “Thank heavens it was just a kiddie show,” she laughs.

They continue on and Ericka smells the unmistakable smell of baking bread. “Oh, sourdough lets take the tour!” She again pulls him in, but this time, Jimmy doesn’t make any disparaging remarks, just in case. Rosie O’Donnell guides them through the history and process of sourdough bread making as they watch the live bakers perform the tasks she’s describing on the videotape.

At the end of the tour, they arrive at a restaurant that serves different soups in sourdough bread bowls. “Oh Jimmy, they have clam chowder!” Ericka exclaims. Jimmy is so hungry at this point that he’ll eat anything.

Assuming that the food will be second rate, Jimmy is surprised at how good and how filling the meal is. The bread is fresh baked and the soup is thick and creamy with large chunks of clams, just the way he likes it. “You know, Ericka, I wonder if we can get two of these to go for Alex and Walker for dinner. They’re even reasonably priced.”

“I bet they’ll love that, I’ve eaten the food in Disneyland, it’s awful.” They make plans to stop back by on the way out to get ‘to go’ orders for their friends.

Dodger Stadium Sunday 7:00 p.m.

Walker is in the dugout with the players and he keeps his eyes pealed. Trivette is behind the camera, again focusing on the stands, and Alex is in the media trailer viewing the live feeds. They have all gotten good at spotting their suspects and find that they are once again all present. None make a move though and the game ends with the Dodger’s victorious over the Ranger’s tying the series at two games each.

After the game ends, there are fireworks and Alex watches the display on the video feed as she waits for Walker to join her. He makes his way through the crowds and enters the trailer.

“Hey beautiful, how’s the movie?” he jokes as he sits down next to her in the seat vacated by an FBI agent.

Alex stretches and looks away from the monitors for the first time that evening to look at her husband. She sees spots before her eyes and blinks several times to clear them. “Hi, it’s long and boring,” she states.

Walker smiles at her and reaches out to squeeze her hand. “Just one more game here and we can head back to Dallas.”

“Back home,” she says longingly. “I’m ready to get back to the ranch and my job and HOPE House and…”

“I get the picture,” Walker laughs. “I guess you’re just a homebody at heart.”

“Yes, I guess I am. I like to travel, but I prefer to be at home with you and Angela.”

An agent calls Walker and he heads over to discuss the case while Alex turns back to the monitors and watches as the crowds leave. One of the monitors focuses on the area where the fireworks were staged and she sees someone who looks vaguely familiar, but then she decides that her mind is playing tricks on her. She’s looked at so many faces the last several weeks that she’s beginning to dream about them.

HOPE Too, Tuesday 3:30 p.m.

Josie has driven Valerie and Beth Ann over to the shelter that is kept confidential for the safety of the residents. They have an opening, as one of the women has moved out with her children after successfully testifying against her abusive husband and seeing him sentenced to jail.

“Thank you for bringing us here, Josie. I didn’t feel right staying at HOPE Center and putting everyone out. Now maybe Ranger Gage can sleep peacefully in his own bed.”

Sydney has stopped by to check on things. There are other volunteers helping out while Ericka is gone for the week, but she feels a certain sense of responsibility to check in every chance she gets. She overhears Valerie’s last comment.

“Where else would he be sleeping?” she asks.

Josie and Valerie turn to look at her and smile at the tongue-in-cheek question. “You mean you’re not telling?” Josie asks.

Sydney laughs and turns to Valerie. “Can I help you and Beth Ann get settled in?”

“Well, we don’t have much. I just packed a suitcase each and they’re already up in the room.”

“Okay, you just let me know if there’s anything I can do. Beth Ann, there’s a girl here who’s just about your age. Her name is Karla. Have you met her yet?”

“No, Miss Sydney.”

“Come on, I’ll introduce you. She’s been wishing that she had someone nice to play with.” Sydney holds out her hand to Beth Ann and they head off to find Karla.

Valerie turns to Josie, “This is so hard on her. She doesn’t understand it.”

“I think she understands more than you give her credit for. There’s a counseling group for the kids scheduled for later today and then you can see what she’s struggling with and we’ll help her deal with the changes in her life.”

“I just wish I knew that I was doing the right thing.”

Josie hesitates and then makes a decision. “Valerie, do you remember that woman from a few weeks ago who came to HOPE Center badly beaten?”

“Yes, I saw her here too. That is until she healed and decided to go back to her husband.”

“They found her body today. She’d been beaten to death.”

Valerie turns pale, “God no!”

“I’m sorry, I probably shouldn’t have told you, but sometimes it’s hard to see a situation clearly from inside. She believed that she could handle her husband and she felt that she should go back to him. She was four months pregnant.”

“The baby…” Valerie whispers.

“Yes, that baby will never have a chance now to be born and to grow up. But the point is that Todd is a very controlling person and that can be very dangerous. When he feels out of control, he’s going to try and reassert it. The reason Gage was staying at HOPE House is because Walker insisted on it. He feels that Todd is a ticking time bomb and that your leaving him just may have lit the fuse. So, before you decide to go back for the sake of the baby, think long and hard about what you might be walking back into.”

Valerie nods, knowing that Josie has a good point, even if she can’t imagine Todd doing anything like what Josie is suggesting.

Dodger’s Stadium 8:30 p.m.

The Dodger’s are ahead 3 to 2 in the seventh inning. Alex is watching the monitor and sees Abdul Awad leave his seat and walk down toward the field. “Trivette, Awad is on the move. He’s coming down the middle stairs…”

“Got it, Alex; any idea where he’s heading?” Trivette asks as he follows Awad with the camera.

“There’s nothing down below him, no concessions or bathrooms and he’s nearly to the area where he won’t be able to go lower. That’s restricted for people who’ve bought the more expensive seats.”

“What’s he doing?” Walker asks.

“He’s looking down field to the left. I can’t figure out what he’s doing,” Alex answers him.

Agent Foster has his men surrounding him, posing as peanut vendors and spectators. Awad spends about ten minutes looking out over the field, concentrating his focus to the left of the field and then he turns and heads back to his seat.

“He’s back in his seat,” Alex reports for those who can’t actually see him or the video monitors.

“What the heck was he doing?” Trivette wonders aloud.

“I don’t know, but I’m sending a team down to that side of the field to check things out,” Foster replies.

Time passes and the Ranger’s come from behind to win the fifth game, making it three games to two in favor of the Ranger’s. The two teams are evenly matched and they keep winning alternate games with no home team advantage to either of the teams. It makes for an exciting World Series, but the team looking for terrorist activity doesn’t get the opportunity to enjoy the competition.

There is no more unusual activity from their suspects and Alex watches the fireworks. She again spies the man she’d seen the night before and realizes that he’s one of the pyrotechnic engineers who does the fireworks. She now knows where she’s seen him before and her uneasiness lessens.

It’s her first mistake…

To be continued next week…


Behind Closed Doors

Part II

By: Lelani

Walker Ranch, Wednesday 12:30 p.m.

“We’re home!” Alex exclaims as the Ram pulls into the long driveway.

Angela is babbling away in the back seat, excited to see her beloved horses in the corral. Walker smiles at the excitement in both of their voices. He decides that he isn’t going to have to worry about his womenfolk wanting to travel all the time. He pulls the Ram up to the house and begins unloading the luggage while Alex helps Angela out of the car seat. The family heads into the house, tired, but glad to be home.

HOPE Too, Thursday 4:30 p.m.

Alex has stopped in to check on Valerie and Beth Ann. Ericka is back running the shelter and it’s clear that Beth Ann has already adapted to the new environment. Just like at HOPE House, she enjoys having other children to play with. Valerie, though, is clearly struggling.

“Hi Valerie, how are you?” Alex asks when she sees her friend.

Valerie’s eyes instantly fill with tears and Alex guides her back into the office that she shares with Ericka to save on space. “Sit down and tell me about it,” Alex offers. She doesn’t let on that Josie has filled her in on the latest developments, but allows Valerie to tell the story in full so that she can get it off of her chest.

“You’re facing a very scary situation,” Alex agrees. “Look, I’m not a divorce lawyer, but I looked into the criminal case against Todd for the drunk driving charge. He’s out on bail, but he has to go to court next week so the judge can decide if he should be tried on the charges. I hand picked the ADA who will be prosecuting and with the evidence against him, I can pretty well guarantee a conviction. It’s a first offense, but he should, at the very least, get a suspended license. It should help you in your custody case, the judge most likely won’t grant him unsupervised visitation or overnight stays while this is still pending. The less control he can establish, the better. And as for the baby, Todd makes a very good living and he can afford to pay you child support for both of the children. There’s no reason for you to panic and worry about supporting all three of you.”

“You make it sound so easy and matter of fact,” Valerie states.

“That’s because I’m not on the emotional roller coaster you’re on. You are ending what you thought would be a lifetime relationship. That’s never easy and the circumstances are that much harder for you. Please don’t mistake my ‘matter of factness’ as lack of understanding or caring.”

“Don’t worry, Alex. I can’t imagine anyone ever accusing you of being unsympathetic or uncaring.”

Alex smiles at her. “I’ll help you in anyway that I can. Have you met with the lawyer yet?”

“I meet with him tomorrow. I’ve arranged to leave work a little early and Beth Ann is going to go to the daycare at HOPE House until I’m done.”

“Angela will be glad to see her. Beth Ann is so good with her. She’ll be a real asset when the new baby comes.”

Valerie looks thoughtful, “I never considered that. She has been asking for a baby to take home with us ever since she met Angela. She’ll be delighted when I tell her the news. Of course, I won’t do that for some time yet.”

“How about if I pick the girls up from HOPE Center tomorrow and drive them here? That way, you won’t have to worry about trying to find transportation for Beth Ann after the appointment with the lawyer.”

“Oh Alex, that would be wonderful. Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome. Now, I should get going. I need to pick up Angela and get home. Walker is working undercover and he’s going to come in starved.”

“You’re not going to make him cook?” Valerie jokes, the first she’s managed in days.

“No, but he can do the dishes,” Alex answers with a grin.

Ranger Headquarters, Friday 10:00 a.m.

Agent Foster is briefing the Rangers and Alex. “We’ve established that all four of our primary suspects have attended all World Series games to date. The next is scheduled for tomorrow night and if the Ranger’s win, it will be the last. So, we need to step up our defenses. I want all agents on post an hour earlier. We’ll have the bomb sniffing dogs at each entrance as people enter and we’ll be doing searches of all bags being carried in. I doubt that any of our four primary suspects will be carrying the explosives. The stadium itself will be gone over with a fine tooth comb. Walker, your team will be needed for keeping an eye on the suspects and anything that may look unusual. I want as many eyes out there tomorrow night as possible. Alex, you’ve had the most luck in spotting our suspects. I want you in the media booth just as before and as soon as you identify a target, let everyone know where they are and notify us of any movement just as you did in L.A. and here in Texas.”

“I’m all eyes,” Alex agrees.

“You’ll all have the same assignments as before, but just be aware that this time isn’t going to be a trial run for them. If they plan to strike, tomorrow is the most likely night. They can’t guarantee a seventh game and so they’ll be ready to act. Everyone ready?”

The entire team nods in agreement. Chen, Cooper, Sydney, and Gage, leave to take their turn on surveillance. Agent Foster heads out to organize the FBI team and Trivette goes back to his desk, leaving Walker and Alex alone in the conference room.

“I better head back to my office. I’m glad I didn’t have any active cases when all of this came up, but I still have a few loose ends to take care of on cases that are pending,” Alex tells her husband.

“Alex…” Walker begins hesitantly.

Alex stops and looks at him, already knowing what he’s going to say. “I’m going to be there, Walker. This is as much my country that’s being threatened as it is yours. I want our children to grow up in a world that’s free from terrorism and I’m willing to do what I can to make that dream a reality. I’m sorry if that bothers you, but I don’t want you in jeopardy anymore than you want me in jeopardy.”

“I guess I may as well not bother saying anything. I can see that you’re determined and I’ve never won an argument with you when you’re determined. Just promise me that you’ll be on alert and that if anything does happen, you’ll do your best to get to safety. Don’t worry about me. I want you to promise me that you’ll look out for your own safety first.”

“Can you make that promise to me?” Alex asks.

Walker is silent. They both know that if there is an explosion and he is able, he will be helping others who are injured or trapped. Walker sighs, “All right, I guess we’re both going into this knowing the risks and I can’t impose my will on you anymore than you can impose yours on me. I love you, Alex. You know that, but I also admire you, more every single day that I know you.”

Alex smiles at him and steps into his arms. “I love you, Cowboy and I’ve always admired your strength and courage. Let’s just have faith that we’ll be prepared for whatever they try tomorrow night and that their plans will be foiled.”

Walker nods his head and then leans in to seal the understanding they’ve reached with a kiss. He kisses her twice and then leans back slightly, “I guess we better get to work, Mrs. Walker, but I would love to spend the rest of the day kissing you.”

“They don’t pay you to kiss me; we’ll have to save that for later. Let’s plan a special night together tonight.”

“You want to go out?” he asks.

“No, I want to stay in,” she says and then kisses him, slipping her tongue out to moisten his lips tantalizingly.

Walker stays behind in the conference room for several moments after she leaves, trying to gain some control over his libido, and then he heads back to work.

Hope House 5:00 p.m.

Alex arrives to collect Angela and Beth Ann. They are both happily playing together when she walks into the playroom. Angela loves having an older child to play with and Beth Ann is amazingly patient with her. The girls are delighted to see her and willingly put their toys away and get ready to go. Angela grabs her little bag that she brings with her everyday and toddles on out to the Durango with Beth Ann holding her hand.

Alex buckles Angela into the car seat and Beth Ann hops in beside her. Alex’s Durango has front seat airbags and Beth Ann is too small to sit in front. Once she’s satisfied that the girls are securely fastened, Alex slides into the front seat and backs out of the HOPE Center driveway. She doesn’t notice the car that starts up a bit further down the street and begins to follow her.

Alex exits the freeway and glances back in her rearview mirror to check on the girls. They are busy playing with their Barbie dolls. Alex smiles, wondering what Walker will say when he hears that his ‘tomboy’ daughter has taken a liking to playing with Barbie. As she looks back, she notices a car behind her and thinks that she’s seen it for some time now. She shakes her head and decides that she’s getting paranoid after all of the nights spent looking for terrorists.

Alex pulls into the industrial park that she has to wind through to get to the housing area where HOPE Too is located. They purposely purchased property a good twenty minutes from the HOPE Center to avoid having people connect the two. The industrial park is new and many of the warehouses are still vacant or under construction. She stops at the corner and turns left, but the car behind her swings wide around her and cuts her off, forcing her to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting him.

Alex immediately looks back into the back seat to check on the girls. They’re shaken, but they’re fine. Her attention shifts to the man exiting the vehicle that ran her off the road. It’s Todd Jergens. Alex dives for her cell phone and frantically dials Walker. Her doors are locked, but Todd uses a baseball bat to smash through the passenger side door, reaches in and unlocks the car and then rips the cell phone from her ear and tosses it on the ground, smashing Walker’s ‘hello’ into dust.

Rather than going for Alex, whom Todd knows he will have trouble controlling, he opens the back door and unbuckles both girls, taking Angela under his arm tightly and pulling Beth Ann roughly from the vehicle by the hand. “You want your daughter unharmed, you better follow me,” he tells Alex. He squeezes Angela’s middle roughly to make his point and she begins to cry loudly.

“I’m coming, just don’t hurt them!” Alex pleads.

Todd backs up toward the empty warehouse. He gestures for Alex to enter in front of him. The building is still under construction and he looks around for a place to secure her while he makes his get away. There’s an office in the back and Todd says, “Over there, now!”

Alex heads to the office and opens the door. It’s unfurnished and there are construction materials stacked around. Todd sets Angela down and she instantly runs to her mother who scoops her up into her arms. “I don’t care about you, I just want my daughter. I should be sorry for inconveniencing you, but you’re the bitch who turned my wife against me, so I guess you’re getting what you deserve.” With that, he yanks Beth Ann out of the room and closes the door, propping a two by four under the handle to wedge it shut.

Beth Ann is crying, “No daddy, I don’t want to go with you. I want to stay with Miss Alex and Angela.”

“Shut up,” he commands and yanks her so hard that she falls forward and lands on her knee on a board. There is a nail in the board and it has sunk about a half inch into her knee. Beth Ann is really crying now and Todd just yanks the nail out and carries her to his car, dumps her in the front passenger seat and speeds off.

Ranger Headquarters 5:15 p.m.

Walker is seated at his desk, doing the dreaded paperwork that his job demands. His phone rings and he picks it up. The noise is muffled, but he hears a sound and says “Hello?” The line is suddenly disconnected. Not knowing who tried to call him, but knowing that it was most likely someone needing help, he signals Trivette. “I just got a call, but it was cut off. Check on the surveillance teams.”

Trivette springs into action, dialing the cell phones of his coworkers. Walker picks up his own phone and dials Alex’s cell phone. The automated system tells him that “The cellular customer you are trying to reach is unavailable.” Walker slams the phone down and dials HOPE Center.

“HOPE Center, Josie speaking,” Josie answers while seated at her desk in her office.

“Josie, it’s Walker. Did Alex come by yet?”

“Yes, she picked up Angela and Beth Ann oh… say… twenty minutes ago.”

“Was she headed straight to HOPE Too?”

“As far as I know. She was taking Beth Ann there to meet her mother.”

“Okay, thanks,” he hangs up the phone before Josie has a chance to ask him why his voice is so urgent.

He calls HOPE Too and gets Ericka on the line. “Ericka, it’s Walker, is Alex there?”

“No, but I expect her anytime, Walker.”

“Is Valerie there?”

“Yes, she just got in,” Ericka answers.

“Let me talk to her.” Walker waits until Valerie comes on the line. “Valerie, I think something may have happened to Alex. She picked the girls up, but she should have gotten there by now.  I got a call and I think that it was her. I can’t reach her on her cell phone.”

“Oh god,” Valerie says, sinking into a chair.

“Listen, I need you to tell me the make and model of the car Todd drives.”

“It-It’s a Gold Lexus SUV. What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I think he has Alex and the girls. Do you know the license plate number?”

“No, I don’t. Oh god, what is he going to do?”

“Valerie, I’m going to get them back. Put Ericka back on please.”

“Yes, Walker?” Ericka says.

“I’m sending over a squad car to stay there until we figure out what’s going on. I’ll be in touch.”

“Okay, we’ll stay by the phone.”

Walker hangs up and turns to Trivette. “I think Jergens has Alex and the girls.”

“Yeah, I got in touch with all of our guys and everyone is fine. What’s the scoop?”

“Alex picked up Angela and Beth Ann from HOPE House and was on her way to HOPE Too, but never arrived. I need you to send a squad car over there and then try and track down the license of Todd Jergen’s car. Valerie said that he drives a gold Lexus SUV.”

“Not your usual hijacking car, huh?”

“No, I’m on my way to retrace the route Alex takes to HOPE Too and see if I can figure out what happened.”

“Okay, I’ll call you when I know something and I’ll get an APB out on the car. Call me if you find anything, I can be there in a flash.”

“You got it, partner,” Walker tells him as he heads out the door.

Turner Industrial Park 6:30 p.m.

After comforting her daughter, Alex has set about to try to get them out of the office they are locked in. She’s tries the various materials at hand, but has not succeeded in dislodging the two by four that blocks the door. She’s just about to give up in frustration when she hears a voice calling her.

“Alex, Alex!” Walker calls as he walks through the warehouse. He spotted the Durango as he retraced Alex’s usual route to HOPE Too and has followed the footprints into the warehouse. The drywall dust has left a fine powder and the footprints are easy to see.

“Walker? We’re over here, in the office!” Alex shouts.

Walker pulls the board away from the doorknob and the door opens. “Daddy!” Angela squeals in relief as he swings her up into his arms. “Bad man, daddy,” she tells him with indignation in her eyes.

“Did the bad man hurt you, honey?” he asks his daughter, giving her all of his attention.

“Hurt my tummy,” she answers, pointing to where Todd had squeezed her while threatening Alex.

He lifts her shirt and doesn’t see any bruising. “How does it feel now, baby?” he asks.

“Mommy kissed it all better,” she informs her father.

Walker looks up at Alex. “Are you okay?” he asks.

“I’m fine, just very angry. I thought I was being followed, but put it down to paranoia. He forced me off the road and then grabbed the girls. I had to do what he said; he was threatening to hurt Angela.”

“You did the right thing. We have an APB out for his car and we’ll find him. I’ve got a squad car at HOPE Too and Trivette is heading there now. Let’s go on over and meet him and I’ll leave you two there to stay with Valerie until we get Beth Ann back.”

“Walker, you don’t think he’ll…” Alex glances at Angela and leaves her fears unspoken.

“I hope not, too,” Walker agrees, but knows better than to patronize her and tell her that everything will be fine. They’ve both seen too many horrible things to believe that.

HOPE Too 11:30 p.m.

Valerie is distraught, worried about the fate of her daughter and the longer she’s missing, the more afraid she gets. Trivette and Walker have been out for nearly five hours now looking for any trace of the car. Walker spotted the blood drops on the floor of the warehouse and knows that Beth Ann is injured, but it doesn’t look serious. He hopes that Todd will take her into a doctor to get her seen and a tetanus shot. He’s had a notice go out to all of the doctor’s offices and hospitals in the area.

“Valerie, is there anywhere you can think of that Todd may be hiding out?” Alex asks Valerie.

“I’ve been wracking my brain, Alex, but I just can’t think of any place.”

“Does he ever go hiking or fishing?” Alex prompts.

Valerie makes a disgusted sound and answers, “The only place he goes, other than to work, is to the bar or to his friends’ house to play poker. He’s not what you would call an ‘outdoors’ type of man. That’s why I never understood why he thought he needed an SUV.”

“What about friends or relatives who might be willing to hide him out?”

“His parents live in New York, but they wouldn’t want Beth Ann to stay with them. They’re the type who think children should be seen and not heard. They’re very strict, which may explain some of Todd’s behavior. As for friends, he really doesn’t have any. Todd is strange. He is the most uptight person you’ll meet. He’s the clichéd CPA. The flip side of that is that he likes to drink and thinks that when he’s been drinking, he can act like an idiot and it’s all right. He plays poker, but only with a few guys he met at the bar. It’s not a high stakes game or anything. Then he comes home, does his thing and falls asleep.”

Valerie doesn’t explain what ‘his thing’ is, but Alex has a pretty good idea. She looks up at Ericka and without words, asks her to stay with Valerie. Then she goes out of the room to call Walker. She fills him in on what she’s managed to decipher about Todd’s life.

Now that it’s late enough, Walker and Trivette head over to the bar Todd frequents to question the patrons there. Their search turns up the location of the night’s poker party and they head over to the house of the man hosting the game.

Stan Freeman does not live in the upper middle class neighborhood that Todd lives in. He and his wife live in a small track house that is exactly like its neighbor, on both sides. Trivette bangs on the door and a woman dressed in a tattered house robe, with a beer in her hand, answers it. “We’re looking for the poker game,” Trivette tells her.

“You got the wrong house. Your kind ain’t welcome through the door and if my husband gets a look at your dark skin, you’ll wish you never set foot on the property,” she informs him rudely as she closes the door in his face.

Trivette plants his foot in the path of the door and prevents her from closing it. “I’m afraid that you’re going to have to put up with my dark skin on your front porch for awhile longer,” he tells her coldly. “I’m a Texas Ranger and I’m investigating the disappearance of a little girl. I merely want to question your husband and his guests, but if I don’t get the answers I want, I’m willing to bump them up from witnesses to suspects.”

Mabel Freeman leaves the door open and bellows for her husband Stan. “Stan, there’s some darkie Texas Ranger out here to see you.”

Trivette glances over at Walker, he’s amazed that there are still people in the world with the racist attitude that this woman is displaying.

A large man with a huge beer belly lumbers to the door. Several inches of his abdomen show between the bottom of his stained t-shirt and the top of his jeans. “What d’ya want?” Stan asks.

“I’m looking for Todd Jergens.”

“Well, he ain’t here.”

“He kidnapped a little girl today and we need to know if there’s anywhere you can think of he may be hiding.”

“How would I know? I play poker with the man; I don’t ask him his personal business.”

“Is there anyone else here who may know?” Trivette asks.

“No, now I done answered your damn questions, get your dark hide off my property.”

Walker has had just about as much as he can take. He steps forward and shoves Stan up against the wall, hard. Grabbing the man’s thumb, he pulls it back so that the man is sinking to his knees in pain. “My partner here is going to go on inside and ask your guests a few questions. Any objections?”

“No,” the man grits out between his teeth as he tries to bite back a scream of pain.

Walker stays put with Stan in a painful hold while Trivette goes in to ask the other poker players if they know anything. He returns a few minutes later and heads out to the Ram. Walker releases Stan and says, “It’s ignorant people like you who give police brutality a good name,” then he turns and joins his partner at the Ram. “Anything?” he asks Trivette.

“No, these guys either don’t know anything or aren’t saying.”

“I’m gonna call Alex,” Walker states and dials the number to HOPE Too.

It’s 2:30 in the morning when Walker returns to HOPE Too to collect his family. They don’t have any leads and decide to get some rest and come at it fresh the next day. Walker has DPD searching for Jergen’s car and all they can do at this point is to wait for some lead to break in the case.

Walker Ranch, Saturday 9:30 a.m.

Alex is asleep in bed, but something is tickling her nose. She brushes it away with her hand, but it’s back again and persistent. She finally opens her eyes and sees that her husband is sitting on the end of the bed, tickling her with a long stemmed rose, freshly picked from the rose garden she planted in the front yard the previous January. “Don’t you dare use my own roses against me,” she moans as she once again closes her eyes.

“Hey, it’s either me waking you up or Angela, take your pick.”

“Go away,” she mumbles and pulls the pillow over her head.

Walker leaves, much to her amazement, but a ball of energy leaps onto her and lands on her stomach. “Ouch!” Alex says, instantly awake.

“Wake up, mommy, wake up!” her darling angel squeals repeatedly in that high pitched voice that Alex decides should be outlawed before noon.

“No, I’m sleepy,” she tells her daughter and tries to feign sleep. Angela is not deterred and she puts her chubby fingers onto her mother’s eyelids and pushes then open. Suddenly, Alex grabs her and rolls so that Angela is trapped beneath her. “I’ve got you!” she says triumphantly, making Angela squeal all the more.

“Hmm… maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to call in back up,” Walker says from the sidelines as he watches Angela get to lie pinned beneath her mothers warm body, wishing it was him.

“Maybe you two should let me sleep in every once in awhile,” Alex says as she lets Angela up. “It WAS a late night last night.”

“We have too much to do today,” Walker informs her. “Angela and I are going downstairs to fix breakfast. Be down in twenty minutes if you don’t want a repeat performance,” he warns.

He leads Angela out of the room and they head companionably down the stairs, talking about what a sleepy head mommy is. Alex moans and gets out of bed, stumbling to the shower and hoping that it will revive her.

Twenty minutes later, she is downstairs looking awake and vital in light blue shorts and a pink t-shirt. “Mmm… that smells good, what did you fix for breakfast?” she asks.

“Pancakes!” Angela says excitedly as she jumps up and down on the chair her father scooted close to the counter for her to stand on to ‘help.’

“Yummy! After daddy cleans you up, why don’t you come over here and eat some with me?” Alex suggests with a meaningful look at her husband. Walker smiles and shrugs his shoulders in a ‘what can I do?’ gesture. Allowing his 16 month old daughter to help with the cooking has its hazards. She’s a very precocious child and amazingly verbal for someone her age. Walker claims that it’s because her mother talks for a living, but Alex thinks it’s related to the fact that she is with older children and adults all day at the HOPE Center. Her language skills exploded over the summer while the ‘camp kids’ were at the center.

The family eats breakfast together and plots a plan of action for the day. “I have to go in and see what I can shake loose on this…” he looks at Angela and avoids using any names she may recognize, “case.”

“Okay, Angela and I will hold down the fort. We have some housecleaning to do and lots of laundry piled up from our trip.”

“I’ll be back by 3:00 so we can get Angela over to Ericka’s while we’re at the ballpark. I called this morning and had your Durango taken in to the body shop to have the window replaced. They said you could pick it up Monday afternoon, so I guess we’re a one car family until then.”

“Okay, but we have to go grocery shopping tomorrow if we don’t get to today. I haven’t had a chance to buy anything fresh since we got back from our trip.”

“I know, Angela and I went out for eggs, bread, milk and orange juice this morning, but we’ll stock up tomorrow. I’ll see you two lovely ladies later,” he promises as he leans over and kisses Angela’s sticky mouth. He grimaces as he wipes the pancake syrup off of his mouth. “What sweet lips you have,” he tells her and then shares a smile with Alex, “but nothing like your mother’s luscious lips.” Walker leans down and kisses Alex and then leans back and looks at her. “Our plans for a ‘special night’ went awry, but we’ll have it soon, I promise.” Alex smiles back at him and he takes his leave.

Alex waits until Angela is out of earshot before she calls HOPE Too and speaks to Valerie. She finds that her friend is absolutely distraught, but Ericka has made it her personal mission to stay with her and be there for her throughout this terrifying ordeal. Alex smiles to herself as she hangs up the phone. She knew when Jimmy married Ericka that she was good people, but she proves it more and more each day.

Ranger Headquarters 2:30 p.m.

Cooper and Chen have arrived from their stakeout of two of the terrorist suspects. Sydney and Gage had the morning off and Walker and Trivette spent the morning trying to track down Todd Jergens. There are still no leads in the case, but it’s time now to turn their focus toward the baseball game and the heightened possibility of a terrorist attack.

“Gage, you’ll be assigned the section that Abdul Awad sits in so that you can intervene if necessary. He’s already dealt with Chen, so I don’t want to station her there again. Each of you will be assigned an area of the ballpark where our suspects are. I want you to each have a hard target. Alex will play a role in spotting them initially and then Trivette will help monitor them with the camera. I’ll be on the field to tackle any suspect who tries to get to the players themselves, although I really think that their plan is much bigger.  Are you all ready?” he asks his team.

They all answer in the affirmative and head on over to the ballpark to set up. Walker heads home to collect Alex and Angela. Angela will be staying at HOPE Too with Ericka who is still trying to comfort Valerie.

The Ballpark at Arlington, Saturday 6:30

Alex is seated in the media booth desperately scanning the monitors. She gets more worried by the moment. There is no sign of the four suspects they’ve kept such close tabs on for so long. She decides that it can’t be a good sign. “Walker, they’re not here,” she says into her microphone.

“Anyone else spot them?” Agent Foster asks.

Answers come from all over the ballpark and the consensus is that no one has seen them. Foster orders his surveillance teams, who have supposedly followed them to the ballpark, to move in. The two vehicles are both empty, but they are rigged with bombs and the bomb squad is called in to disarm them.

Agent Foster talks out loud to himself, but with the hope that someone else can make sense of the sequence of events. “Why would they rig bombs in the parking lot? They’ll only take out a few empty cars. There has to be something bigger, but what?”

“Well, we scanned the entire ballpark, the parking lot is the only thing we didn’t take the bomb dogs through in advance,” Gage says.

“I’d say they must not be suicide bombers,” Chen adds.

“You’re sure that no one can fly overhead and drop a bomb or something?” Sydney asks.

“We’ve got the sky covered and it’s a no fly zone during the game, so anything spotted up there will be blown out of the sky.”

“Keep focused people. Something’s going to happen, I can feel it,” Walker says.

“Did you have to say that?” Trivette moans, knowing by now to trust Walker’s instinct.

The game continues and it’s another close one, but the FBI agents and Ranger’s don’t even know the score. All eyes are focused, looking for trouble and the roar and moans of the crowd, as the Dodger’s win another game to tie the series, has them all jumping.

“Oh god, not another game,” Cooper moans.

“Heads up people, whatever they have planned, tonight’s the night,” Walker warns.

There is much celebration as the many Dodgers’ fans who have come to Texas to attend the game are on their feet to celebrate the victory. Security is so tight that no one can fathom how the terrorists could have bypassed it to plant a bomb. Each FBI agent and Ranger stays in their assigned section with eyes peeled.

Alex looks over to the camera on her left and sees the fireworks staging area. It’s to the left of the field, just like it was in L.A. She flashes on a memory of Abdul Awad walking down the steps to gaze to the left of the field. She looks more closely at the video screen and a cold fear washes over her skin. She recognizes the man on the podium preparing to light the fireworks display. She’s seen him before, twice, in Los Angeles. “The fireworks!” she shouts over the microphone.

Walker’s head snaps up as he hears what his wife has just said and realizes what it means. He’s the only one at field level who could possibly get there in time. He races out of the dugout and runs at full tilt to the fireworks staging area. Agents rush from all sides to head to the same goal, but no one is close enough.

Alex sees her husband’s mad dash and knows that he won’t make it unless she guides him directly to the man. “Go a little left, Walker. The man on the top of the podium, he’s the one you have to stop.”

“Got him,” Walker manages as he spies the man she’s talking about. He’s at ground level and the man is at least four feet higher than he is, standing at the edge of the podium, just about ready to light off the fireworks display. Walker jumps high into the air and does a spinning kick, sweeping the man’s feet out from under him and causing him to crash down on his back. Leaping up onto the podium, he jumps on top of the man and begins to beat him senseless. He’s so focused on the man he’s beating; Mohammed Shakir is certain that he isn’t aware of him and makes a move to light the fireworks. Barely missing a beat, as he pummels his downed man, Walker hooks Shakir’s foot and sends him crashing down on his face.

Trivette has arrived, along with several FBI agents. Pandemonium breaks out, but it’s out of sight of the fans. Alex, though, has a bird’s eye view. She grabs a phone that is connected to the announcer’s booth and places a call. “This is Deputy DA Alex Cahill,” she announces when the phone is answered. “Tell the crowd that there is a technical difficulty and that the fireworks display is cancelled for the night. Clear the people out of here,” she finishes. There is no arguing with the tone in her voice, she is dead serious.

The announcer comes on over the PA system, telling the crowds that due to a technical difficulty, there will be no fireworks and advising the crowd to disperse as there is a slight risk of fire should the fireworks be lit. There are moans all around, but people begin to give up and to stream out of the stadium.

Meanwhile, Trivette and Walker have cuffed the new suspect and Mohammed Shakir, despite his martial arts training. They hand them over to the FBI and stand guard against any other attempts to light the fireworks.

Cooper, Chen, Gage and Sydney each take up positions at the exit gates, looking for the other terrorists. Sydney spies Abdul Awad and she walks up behind him and cuffs him so fast, that he has no time to respond. Gage spies Hamid Zahiri heading toward a van and he tackles him and arrests him. He calls for back up and the FBI agents find their forth suspect, Omar Jamal, in a van waiting for his cohorts to make their escape.

It’s an hour later before all the suspects are in custody and taken away by the FBI. Alex has managed to make her way through the crowds of people to the fireworks staging area. “Walker,” she calls when she sees him.

He turns and waves to the FBI agents to let her through and then grabs her hand to help her up to the top of the platform. He grabs her and hugs her tightly to him. “God Alex, if you hadn’t….” his words trail off as emotion overcomes him.

The bomb squad is dismantling the fireworks display, but there are enough explosives and enough small projectiles contained within to kill hundreds, and maybe thousands, of people. It would have been like shooting machine gun rounds into the crowds from all sides and from above.

Alex clings to her husband and sobs in relief. “Walker, I-I’ve never seen you run so fast. You were amazing,” she tells him as she begins to rain kisses all over his face, neck and chest, anywhere she can reach.

“Alex,” he complains, half-heartedly. He pushes her back away from him, but then pulls her close and wraps her tightly in his arms, enveloping her in his warm embrace. “Hush, darling, we’re all right. Everyone is all right.” They stand and just hold each other for long minutes as the commotion around them ensues, but they are completely unaware, lost in each other and in the moment.

Agent Foster is the one to finally break them apart. “Alex, I can’t tell you how grateful I am. What you did…” Even he can’t find words to express his gratitude to her. All of his trained men and women were just as vigilant as she was, but she’s the one who put it all together… and in the nick of time. “You’ve got one amazing woman there, Walker,” he says to Walker and claps him on the shoulder.

Walker beams and says, “I sure do and I’m going to take her home to tell her that. You guys can handle the clean up and we’ll be in to finish up the paperwork tomorrow.”

Foster just nods his head as he lets them pass. On his way out, Walker tugs Trivette’s arm and pulls him along with them. “Come on partner, you’ve got a wife waiting at home.” They continue out, leaving the rest of their team to finish up with the FBI agents. Marriage has changed both Texas Rangers. They are as vigilant as ever, but they’ve learned to put as much effort into their personal lives as their professional ones.

HOPE Too 11:30 p.m.

Valerie is sitting on the couch next to the phone, having refused to go to bed to get some sleep. She looks like a shell of her former self. All of the sparkle has left her eyes and she moves as if each motion brings great pain and requires tremendous effort. Alex heads straight for the couch and puts her arm around Valerie, bringing her into an embrace meant to offer comfort.

Ericka has waited up for them to get back from the ballgame and she and Trivette go into the kitchen so that he can fill her in on the night’s events. Walker checks in with the two officers manning the tracing equipment for the phone and providing protection for Valerie. Todd Jergens called over to HOPE House earlier that day and Josie gave him this number, they are now waiting for him to call.

Everyone jumps as the phone rings. Alex stays Valerie’s automatic reach for it and answers it instead. “Crisis line, how may I help you?” she asks. They never answer as HOPE Too as it would place the women in possible danger and increase the number of threatening phone calls if their abusive partners discovered how to call them. Of course, the line is not advertised as a crisis line, there is another line for that.

“Let me talk to my wife,” Todd demands.

“I’m sorry, who did you want?” Alex plays for time.

“Don’t play games with me, bitch! Put Valerie on the line.”

“Just a minute, I have to get her, she’s finally managed to fall asleep,” Alex lies without compunction.

“Don’t play me,” Todd warns.

Alex covers the phone and waits for as long as she dares. She then hands it over to Valerie who is just about ready to claw it out of her hands. “Todd, where’s Beth Ann? Is she okay?” Valerie asks on a sob.

“I can take care of my own daughter for a few days. You’re not indispensable,” he says reverting to his comfort zone of demeaning his wife.

“Let me talk to her, please,” Valerie begs.

“What kind of father would I be if I let my seven year old daughter stay up past midnight?” he asks.

“Please, I need to talk to her. I need to know that she’s okay?” Valerie pleads.

“You want to see her; you get your ass home where you belong!” Todd demands.

“And if I do, then you’ll bring her home to me?” Valerie asks.

“Get home, I want the table set with dinner and the wash hanging on the line,” he orders and hangs up suddenly.

Walker looks at the technician operating the tracing equipment. “He’s using a cell phone and not his own. I can’t get an exact fix, but he’s calling long distance,” the man answers Walker’s unspoken question.

Valerie stands up and stumbles toward the front door mumbling, “I have to get home.”

Alex grabs her shoulders and turns her toward her. “Valerie, stop.”

“No, no, I have to go. I have to be there for my baby. Todd said,” she rambles incoherently.

“You can go tomorrow. He’s not going to bring her home tonight. Go lie down and rest so you’ll be ready to see Beth Ann tomorrow.” Ericka enters and adds her persuasion to Alex’s. Between the two of them, they manage to get her to leave the living room and head back to the bedroom she’s been occupying since moving into the shelter.

Walker looks at Trivette, “What do you think?” he asks his longtime friend and partner.

“He wants to control her, but I don’t think he’s stupid enough to just walk in the front door.”

“Me either,” Walker agrees with his partner’s assessment of the situation.

“What do you want to do?” Trivette asks.

“Angela is already asleep, why don’t you and Ericka go on home and try to get some sleep. Alex and I will stay here tonight and I’ll try to come up with a plan by morning.”

Trivette wants to argue with Walker, but decides not to waste his breath, knowing it will be a losing battle. He collects his wife and they take their leave.

The two officers follow them out when Walker says he will remain inside the premises. Their relief arrives and parks outside to keep an eye on the house, but no one believes that Todd knows just where HOPE Too is. Regardless, no one is willing to take any chances.

Alex and Walker stretch out on the two couches in the front room and try to get at least a few hours of sleep. They turn off all of the lights except for the one in the kitchen and try to relax.

“Alex?” Walker says after several minutes of silence.

“Hmm?” she answers.

“I’m sorry we didn’t get to go home, I was sure looking forward to celebrating your success tonight.”

Alex smiles to herself in the dark, but he can hear it in her voice. “There’s always tomorrow night,” she tells him and closes her eyes to sleep.

Several minutes later, Walker says, “Alex?”

“Yes, Walker?”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Is there something I can do to help?” she asks with a secret smile.

“Well… I can come over there or you can come over here,” he suggests.

He hears a rustling sound and then feels her warmth as she stretches out on the couch in the curve of his body. He shifts to accommodate her form next to his. “That’s better,” he says on a sigh and falls almost instantly to sleep.

HOPE Too Sunday 6:00 a.m.

Walker begins to stir, but is still fogged by sleep. He recognizes the body curved into his and he runs his hand up and down the curvaceous hip bone to the indented waist and on up to cup the rounded breast before heading back down and up again on a repeat voyage. He hears a slight giggle and his eyelids snap open. He finds himself staring into the wide brown eyes of a four year old black boy who is living at the shelter with his mother. The little boy has a wide grin on his face and he is wearing a pair of Spiderman pajamas.

“What are you doing out of bed?” Walker asks in a mock stern voice.

The little boy points to the television across the room, “Cartoons”, he answers.

Walker knows that there is no getting between a four year old and his cartoons, so he gives up and eases himself away from Alex. She stirs with a slight moan, but settles back into slumber.

Toby, the four year old, grabs Walker’s hand and leads him over to the television set. “I can’t find the remote,” he tells Walker. Then he looks up at Walker and says, “I want eggs and bacon and spickets.”

“Spickets?” Walker asks. Toby nods his head solemnly. Walker smiles to himself, he can properly enunciate ‘remote,’ but he can’t say ‘biscuits.’ “What’s the world coming to?” Walker asks rhetorically.

“If you want breakfast, then you have to come help me cook it,” he says.

“Okay, I want cereal,” Toby decides so that he can get back to his cartoons sooner.

“Toby, we can’t turn on the TV until Miss Alex wakes up, so you can come in the kitchen and help me with breakfast,” Walker invites him as he turns to head toward the kitchen.

Walker thinks the subject is closed, but Toby is an independent thinker. He runs over to the couch and starts pounding on Alex’s shoulder. “Wake up, wake up!” he says in rhythm with his hand.

Walker tries to stop him, but he’s too late and Alex is rudely awakened. She too stares up into the large brown eyes of the little boy who is face level to her. When he sees her eyes open, he stops the pounding and leans in close so that there is barely an inch between their noses. “Are you awake, now?” Toby asks.

“Yes,” she answers.

Toby straightens up, “Miss Alex can cook breakfast, we can watch cartoons,” he tells Walker.

“Little chauvinist,” Walker mumbles in amusement.

Toby runs over to the TV to wait for Walker to join him, sure that the issue is resolved.

“Walker?” Alex says as she struggles to wake fully.

“Yes?” he responds.

“I hope you like little girls, because we are NOT having any little boys.” With that declaration, Alex manages to sit up and tries to rub the crick from her neck.

Walker laughs and stands behind her to massage the knots out of her neck and then kisses its smooth length before giving in to Toby’s demands to find the remote.

The Walkers fix breakfast for the entire house and Alex leaves to get Angela up from the crib she’s slept in while Walker serves breakfast as people get up and come in to eat the good smelling food. The last to arrive is Toby’s mother. “Oh, I’m sorry; it was my morning to cook. I can’t believe I slept in so late, Toby usually wakes me up at the crack of dawn.”

Alex overhears the apology as she comes in carrying Angela. “Well, I’d say you deserved to sleep in,” she reassures the apologetic mother and shares a smile with Walker.

The Jergen’s Home 8:00 a.m.

Sydney and Gage have taken up residence and are ensconced inside the house so that if Todd shows, they will have the advantage. Sydney’s cell phone rings and she answers it. “Hello?”

“Hi Syd, you two comfy?”

“Hi Walker, yeah, we’re fine. How’s Valerie?”

“Sleeping, we decided to let her sleep for as long as she’s able. She’s had a rough time.”

“Yes, she certainly has. Have you thought of a plan to get this guy?”

“I have. I thought that we could... Hold on. What? Oh god, okay, wait a minute. Sydney?”

“Yes, what happened?”

“Alex just went to check on Valerie and she’s not there. She left through the window and we don’t know when.”

“What about the police stationed outside? Didn’t they see anything?”

“Apparently not. If she hopped the back fence and went through the neighbor’s yard, she could have slipped by them.”

“What do you want us to do?”

“Stay there; that may be where she’s heading. I’ll be in touch.”

“Okay boss.”

Ranger Headquarters’ 9:00 a.m.

Alex is standing over Trivette’s shoulder watching him working away on his computer and wishing the piece of technology could tell them where Valerie and Beth Ann are.

“I don’t have anything, Walker. I can’t shake loose any leads, they’ve just vanished.”

Alex begins to pace and Walker steps in her path to block her. “Alex, don’t do this to yourself. We’ll find them.”

“God, Walker, if anything happens to them…” tears glisten in her eyes, but she doesn’t let them fall.

“I know. Let me wrap up this stuff for Agent Foster and we’ll take a ride out to the Jergens house and see if anything there can give us a clue.”

“Okay, I’m ready to go whenever you are.”

“I meant me and Trivette. I’d rather you stayed put.”

“No way, Walker, I’m coming on this one.”

Walker looks into her eyes and bites his tongue. She has that determined look again.

Jergens House 10:45 a.m.

Walker has stalled Alex at the Justice Building until he’s fairly certain that the Jergens won’t be showing up there. They have a search warrant for the premises, courtesy of Alex and her pull with a judge who is willing to have her Sundays disturbed in cases of domestic violence.

The Ram drives straight into the driveway; Walker is tired of being circumspect. He’s going to have to track Todd Jergens down and face off with him. Alex jumps out of the cab almost before it comes to a halt. Walker doubles his stride to keep up with her. They enter the front door together and are greeted by Gage and Sydney. They’ve already been going through the desks and closets looking for anything that may lead them to the Jergens.

“What should I look for?” Alex asks. This is not a part of the job she usually participates in. Her investigations are generally limited to interviewing witnesses.

“Anything that strikes you as odd. Just walk through the house and see if you get a feel for something,” Walker coaches her.

An hour later, the team is as frustrated as when they began. Alex stands up from Valerie’s vanity table and stretches and then walks through the house. It’s a nice house in a suburban area and Valerie has very good taste. She heads down the stairs and into the kitchen, opening and closing cupboard doors. She opens the kitchen door and steps out onto a service patio with a washer and dryer sitting to the side. Something nags at her brain, but she can’t figure out what it is. She heads on out into the back yard that is a large grass lawn with a tree in the middle for shade. Suddenly, it hits her. No clothesline. She rushes back into the house, “Walker!” she shouts.

He’s just on the other side of the kitchen door and they nearly collide as he responds to her call at a full run. “Alex? What is it?”

“There’s no clothesline.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“She has a dryer and there’s no clothesline out back.”

“Okay, what does that have to do with… The phone call!”

“Yes, Todd told her to have dinner on the table and the clothes on the line. He was telling her to meet him somewhere. I don’t think she caught it at first, but I bet when she went to bed last night, she started thinking about it and it made sense to her. She must have snuck out after we all got settled.”

“Okay, so either they vacationed someplace with a clothesline or they owned another house somewhere that had one,” Walker deduces. “I’ll call Trivette, you tell Gage and Sydney what to look for.”

An hour later, Gage finds a photo album from a lake trip that the young family had taken two years previously. He flips through and finds pictures of them at a cabin with their bathing suits hanging from the clothesline to the side. There’s a brochure from the lodge inserted in one of the pages. “I think I found it guys,” he announces.

Walker places a call to Trivette and feeds him the information. The lake is only a two hour drive and while Trivette is researching the database to see if there is any reason to believe the Jergens are there, the other four all pile into their two vehicles and get on the road.

Trivette has called the lodge and the manager was able to tell him which cabin was currently rented by a blonde man driving a gold SUV, but he hadn’t seen a child or a woman. Trivette also called the local police to arrange back up and to have an ambulance standing by just in case Beth Ann or Valerie was harmed. Also, knowing where Valerie was heading, he was able to determine her most likely mode of transportation. There was a bus that went there twice a day. He calculated the arrival time and then the cab ride to the cabin from the bus station. In his estimate, the rangers would be arriving almost simultaneously to Valerie. With this new information, Walker’s foot became heavier on the gas pedal.

Beaver Lake Resort 3:00 p.m.

Walker sent Gage and Sydney to the bus station to try and head Valerie off. He drove the Ram up to the cabin next to the one they believed Todd Jergens was holed up in. He had swung by the manager’s office and gotten keys to the cabin. “Alex, go inside. I don’t want you in the line of fire.”

“But…”

“Alex, do as I say.”

Alex looked into his eyes and knew that this wasn’t one of those times she could argue into getting her own way. She nodded her head and took the key from his hand. Letting herself into the furnished cabin, she went to the window that looked towards the direction of the other cabin, but they had a great deal of foliage and the cabins were very private.

Walker crept up slowly to the back of the house and found Todd’s car. He now had confirmation that Todd Jergens was hiding out in the cabin. He rounded the cabin in a crouch, trying to peer into the windows without being spotted. When he finally got a good look, his heart dropped into his stomach.

Todd Jergens was seated in a chair in the middle of the room with his daughter on his lap. He was facing the door and had a gun to the little girl’s head, awaiting his wife’s arrival. He too must have calculated how long it would take her to arrive.

Walker scooted back away from the cabin and headed down to the road. He got to the driveway of the cabin he and Alex were staying in when the taxi pulled up. He stood in the middle of the road and flagged it down. Valerie was distraught to see him.

“No, you have to let me go. I have to get to my daughter!”

Walker pulls his badge from where he had tucked it away and shows it to the taxi cab driver. “I need to borrow your cab,” he says matter of factly.

The cabbie isn’t happy with the turn of events, but he gets out of the car and Valerie does the same. “I gotta pay for any damage,” the cabbie complains.

“The state will reimburse you for any damage,” Walker promises.

“Yeah, right,” he mumbles.

Syd and Gage pull up and they all go into the cabin to hatch a plan.

“Please, let me go,” Valerie begs.

“No, it’s too dangerous. He has Beth Ann on his lap with a gun to her head.”

Valerie gasps and pales and Alex helps back her into a chair. “No, my baby, no!” Valerie cries.

“Damn Syd, I wish you had that blonde wig we used when you pretended to be Alex that time. Gage can play the cab driver, Todd doesn’t know him.”

“Let me do it,” Alex suggests.

“It won’t work, he knows you,” Walker declines; although that’s not the real reason he doesn’t want her going.

“He’d know that Syd wasn’t his wife pretty darn quick too. The idea is that he sees a blonde get out of the cab, right?”

“Yes, but…”

“Look, Walker, we don’t have much time. It’s either me or Valerie and I don’t think she’s emotionally stable enough, do you?”

Walker looks at the distraught mother. There’s no way she’ll be able to use logic, she is far too emotionally involved. Looking back at his wife, Walker is forced to agree with her plan, but he doesn’t like it.

“All you do is get out of the cab, walk to the door with your head down, like you’re crying. Knock on the door and then you get down and stay down. Is that clear?”

Alex looks at him and nods. “Okay, why don’t you trade shirts with Valerie.”

Alex nods again and escorts Valerie back into the bedroom to exchange blouses with her. When they return to the living room, Walker handcuffs Valerie and attaches her to a chair. He looks at the cab driver, but he willingly sits down and puts his hands up in surrender.

“Why are you doing this?” Valerie cries.

“I’m sorry, I really am, but we can’t have you running in and jeopardizing yourself and your daughter.”

Walker and Sydney leave and run through the brush to position themselves at the back of the cabin. Gage gives them three minutes and then he drives up the driveway with his passenger. Alex gets out with her back to the house and pretends to pay Gage. She watches him back out of the driveway and then turns around and heads toward the door, her head kept down with her hair swinging in front of her face.

Walker is at the side window and is watching Todd Jergens intently. Surprise is his only chance here and he waits for just the right moment. He hears Alex’s knock on the door and waits. Todd’s hand tightens on the trigger of the gun and Beth Ann whimpers. “Get in here!” Todd orders.

Alex turns the knob on the door and pushes it open slowly. Todd waivers, pointing the gun at the door and then back at Beth Ann. Sydney knocks a board over against the opposite side of the house from where Walker is and Todd instinctively swirls the gun in that direction. Walker lunges through the window at that precise moment, breaking the glass as he goes.

Todd whirls toward Walker, but he’s too fast for him. He somersaults all the way up to the chair and grabs Todd’s arm, forcing it up to the ceiling so that the bullet that’s fired goes into the wood beamed roof.

Sydney crashes through her window and runs to where Todd and Walker are tussling. She grabs Beth Ann and rushes out with her, handing her to Alex.

Alex stays low and jumps down off the porch, ducking down so that stray bullets won’t find them. She hugs Beth Ann to her and rocks her. “It’s okay now, honey. Your mommy is here, she came to get you. I’ll take you to her.” Beth Ann merely clings to Alex, too afraid to even cry.

Sydney rushes back in, but it’s only to watch Walker repay Todd for all the heartache he’s caused. Alex and Angela’s abductions are not far from his mind. Todd isn’t a trained fighter, but he doesn’t give up easily. Walker punches him in the stomach, follows that up with a blow to his jaw and slams his arm against the wooden arm of the chair, breaking his wrist. Todd shrieks in pain and comes after Walker again. Walker kicks him in the ribs, pushing him back against the wall. Todd reaches for the gun with his good hand and Walker stomps on the second wrist, hearing a cracking sound in that one as well.

Picking Todd up by the shirt collar, Walker looks him in the eye and says, “How does it feel to have someone stand up to you and fight back?” He shoves Todd back against the wall in disgust and watches him slide down the wall in a slump.

Gage has arrived on the scene and he takes over arresting Todd Jergens. He reads him his rights and then turns him over to the local police so that his injuries can be treated before he’s transported back to Dallas to be arraigned on kidnapping charges of his daughter, false imprisonment and assault on Alex and Angela, attempted murder, and any other charges Alex can think to add to the list.

Sydney rushes over to the other cabin and uncuffs Valerie, leading her over to where Alex is standing with Beth Ann cradled against her. Valerie reaches her arms out and Beth Ann utters her first word, “Mommy!” she cries. Valerie takes her from Alex and crushes her daughter against her.

After sorting everything out and having Beth Ann checked by paramedics to make sure that she’s okay to travel, the group settles in for the trip home. Valerie and Beth Ann get into the back seat of the Ram for the trip home. Syd and Gage are left to transport Todd Jergens after his wrists are set in casts the next day. They are planning to stay in the cabin that they used as the staging area for the bust.

“We both have a change of clothes in the car, so we’ll be fine,” Sydney states.

“Yeah, it’s too bad we didn’t bring our bathing suits, that lake looks inviting,” Gage adds.

“We can always skinny dip after dark,” Sydney says, sotto voice, so that only Gage can hear.

“You’re on,” he whispers back.

Walker pretends not to have heard the exchange as he waves goodbye to them from the Ram window as he drives off. His hearing is much too keen.

Ranger Headquarters, Monday 9:30 a.m.

The team, minus Gage and Sydney, who have not yet arrived, has gathered again in the conference room.

“I can’t tell you all how successful this operation was,” Agent Foster begins.

“We saw on the news,” Chen says.

“Yes, we did go public with the attempted terrorist attack. It is the public’s right to know and for once, the FBI didn’t have egg on its face with this one. We had good information and it panned out. In addition to the men we arrested at the ballpark, we nabbed two more here in Dallas, four more in Georgia and we have leads on cells in London and Rome. We also managed to confiscate an undisclosed sum of money from their offshore bank accounts.”

“You’re a happy man,” Alex says with a smile. She’s glad to see things go so well for Agent Foster; he has been a friend to them on more then one occasion.

“I am. In fact, I’m being transferred to Washington after one final assignment.”

“Oh, what’s that?” Cooper asks.

“President Bush has decided to come and see his favorite baseball team play the final game of the World Series,” Foster informs them.

“Is that wise?” Trivette asks.

“He’s the President, we do what he says. Anyway, he wants to show the public that Americans can’t be intimidated by terrorist threats. He’s coming as much to show that it’s safe to attend the game as anything.”

“That’s great,” Cooper says in admiration.

“Yes, and Walker, I know that you know the President from his days as Governor of Texas.”

“Yes, I know him,” Walker answers.

“Well, he’s invited you and your family to sit with him in his box seats tonight for the game.”

Alex’s eyes widen, “Wow!”

“I second that,” Trivette says.

“He’s also treating the rest of you to first row seats. You can watch the game for a change.”

The rest of the group cheers and then they all take their leave, leaving Walker and Alex behind. “I was hoping to watch the game from our sofa,” Walker tells Alex.

“Walker, he’s the President!”

“I know, but we still haven’t had our special night together.”

“Walker, just think; you can introduce your daughter to baseball and to the President of the United States all in one night. And, I’ll take a nap so that when we get home, I won’t be too tired…” she winks at him suggestively.

“Woman, you’re too much.”

“Am I?”

“No, you’re just enough,” he says as he cups her buttocks in his hands and pulls her to him for a kiss. “Mmm… yes, just enough,” he decides and his hands come up to cup her breasts and then frame her face to deepen the kiss.

The Ballpark at Arlington, 5:00 p.m.

The crowd is filing in as Walker and Alex are shown to their seats in the President’s box. The President himself has yet to arrive; they’re told that he had a phone call from a head of state that just couldn’t wait.

Angela’s eyes are big and round, this is definitely a new experience for the curious toddler. “Look honey; see the men down there on the field? They’re going to play baseball,” Alex tells her wide-eyed daughter.

“Baseball,” Angela repeats and then turns on her daddy’s lap to look around to see what’s behind her.

“She’s her father’s daughter all right, never leave your back uncovered.”

Walker makes a face at her and rolls his eyes. “We’re surrounded by secret service men. We couldn’t be safer if we were locked up with the gold at Fort Knox.”

Angela continues to wiggle around and spies the hot dog vendor just as the President enters the box. “Hot dog!” Angela squeals, her high pitched voice resonating off of the bullet proof glass walls of the box.

The silence is broken by a few snickers as secret service men try in vain to swallow their mirth. Alex is glued to her chair, her face red in mortification. Walker just takes it in stride and stands to greet the most powerful man in the world.

“Mr. President, it’s good to see you. I’d like you to meet my wife, Alex, and our daughter, Angela.”

“Walker, it’s been awhile. I heard that you’d finally married the lovely Alex, but you two have been busy haven’t you?” the President asks with a smile and a gentle pinch of Angela’s round cheek. Angela takes to the man with the soft drawl and the quick smile. She gives him one of her patented smiles and pats his cheek. The President looks at Alex and then back to Walker, “You two are in for a lot of grief. This little heartbreaker is going to have you pacing the floor each time she goes out on a date… and that’s going to be often.”

“Not according to her daddy. He thinks that she’ll wait to start dating until after she graduates from college,” Alex informs him with a grin, one that is as mischievous and alluring as her daughter’s.

“Hey, it doesn’t matter who you are, take it from someone who knows, daughters have a way of doing what they want when they want. And their poor old daddies just go gray with worry.”

“Her mother is already making me gray; I don’t need her to add to it.”

The President turns to Alex, “I heard about your heroics, the country owes you.”

“I was just a small piece in a very large operation,” Alex says modestly.

“You figured it out and you sounded the alarm and you are much appreciated.” He turns to Walker, “As you are. It’s people willing to fight for freedom who make this country great and you both have proved that throughout your lives. This latest example had the advantage of saving thousands of lives.”

“We both love this country and we both want to make it the best place possible for our children. There is an Indian saying that we do not inherit the earth from our grandparents, but that we borrow it from our grandchildren. I want my grandchildren to have the opinion that I took good care of it for them.”

“It’s a good motto to live by,” the President opines.

He moves to his seat as the crowd is asked to stand for the national anthem. Alex is always moved by the song, but this rendition is exceptionally poignant, maybe because she too has found herself fighting for the continued freedom of her country.

The game is a close one and hard fought by both teams. In the ninth inning, the Ranger’s rally to hit two homeruns putting them ahead of the Dodgers and ending the World Series with a victorious Texas Rangers. It seems as if all of Texas is on its feet cheering their hero’s on the field. The fireworks display is spectacular and Angela watches it with her mouth held in an ‘O’ as she gasps at the colorful explosions.

The Walker’s are escorted out along with the President through underground passageways that avoid the crowds swarming out of the stadium. They bid the President goodbye and make it to their truck before most of the crowds. They are able to speed home out of the ballpark long before Trivette, Ericka, Chen, Cooper, Sydney and Gage even approach the stadium exits.

Walker Ranch 12:30 a.m.

Angela doesn’t stir as her daddy lifts her from her car seat and carries her straight up to the nursery. Alex trails behind and gently removes her ketchup stained outfit. She wipes her daughter’s grimy face and hands with a wet wipe and pulls a nightgown over her head. After placing a dry diaper on her, she kisses her soft cheek and backs up to let Walker place his own goodnight kiss on his daughter’s cheek.

The two parents stand next to the crib watching their daughter sleep, their arms around each other and their bodies pressed together as they bask in the loving glow of being a family.

Walker finally breaks the silence. “Well, Mrs. Walker, I’d say our daughter was a hit with the President.”

“That’s not a baseball pun is it? You’ve been hanging out with Lisse Chen too long.”

“It wasn’t a pun… or at least, not an intentional one. But… now that you mention it… how about if I try for a homerun with you?”

“Walker…” she groans, but heads out of the nursery, tugging his hand as she leads him to the master bedroom.

They enter the room and Walker gently closes the door behind them. He doesn’t want to accidentally wake up their sleeping angel. Alex walks to the middle of the room and turns to look at him, waiting for him to approach her in the dark room. The moon is full and shines through the window casting its light on the bed, but no other light illuminates the room.

Walker approaches his wife and gently glides his hand along her neck, lifting her hair as his fingers play with the nape of her neck. Alex draws in her breath, her body instantly responding to his touch with electrical currents shooting through her. Walker uses his two fingers to release the pearl button at the back of her blouse. His fingers stroke the nape of her neck in search of the next button. With two buttons released, he moves his hand to the bottom of her blouse and pulls it up over her head.

Standing there in her satin and lace bra, her skin glowing milky white in the moonlight, Alex looks at once alluring and untouchable. It’s Walker’s turn to suck in his breath as he looks his fill at his beautiful wife.

Alex smiles and reaches her hands out to run her fingertips over his chest, gently scratching down his abdomen until she reaches the bottom of his shirt. She tugs it up and over his head, tossing it across the room to land on a lamp.

Walker smiles as his slow seduction has just been kicked up a notch by his impatient wife. He pulls her to him, pressing her firmly against his chest and wrapping his arms tightly around her. They just stand there, inhaling the scent of the other, absorbing the sensations the closeness of their bodies bring.

Alex is the first to give in to temptation as her mouth nibbles on Walker’s chin, down his neck, and up to suck on his earlobe. When he doesn’t oblige her by loosening his grip to allow her further exploration, she bites down on his earlobe, eliciting an audible gasp.

“You little vixen,” he swears at her and then pushes her back away from him as his mouth swoops down to crush her lips beneath his own. He grinds her mouth hard against her teeth and then gentles his approach, slipping his tongue into her mouth to stroke the bruised flesh of her inner lips.

Alex’s hands have begun a journey of their own, scratching down his bare back from shoulder to waist scoring his skin with red marks and then she lightens her touch causing him to arch his back toward her in response. Her hands reach around to the front of his jeans and she releases his belt, his button and zipper as she pushes his jeans down from his hips.

Walker’s hands slide up the smooth skin of her back and unclasp her bra, slipping it forward and off of her shoulders. He forces her hands down to her sides and she slides it off and tosses it away. His hands slide up her flat stomach until he reaches her breasts and cups them, lifting their weight up into his palms. His fingers soothe over her skin while his thumbs stimulate her nipples into tight buds.

Alex is becoming more impatient and her hands return to his waist where she trails her fingers down the line of hair that trails from his navel down into his briefs. Her hands dip inside his waistband and her fingers rub against the throbbing tip they encounter just inside. Wrapping her fingers around him, she explores his hardening length.

Walker’s limit has been reached and as his hands leave her swollen breasts, his mouth replaces them, kissing and nibbling the warm flesh. His hands are now free to cup her rounded bottom and to squeeze her flesh before coming round to undo her jeans and push them down. He steps out of his shoes and pants and lifts her up in his arms, setting her on the end of the bed as he tugs her jeans and shoes off. He reaches for her hips and she lies back as he slides her panties off.

Now completely nude, Walker leans over his wife as she opens her legs and wraps them around his waist pulling him to her. His hands slide under her hips and he lifts her up to position himself and sink deeply into her. Her gasps signal the completion of their union and standing at the end of the bed, he begins to establish a mind blowing rhythm that spirals them both into bliss.

After their joining, they shift to the head of the bed and crawl beneath the covers. Alex scoots over into his arms and lays her head on his muscled chest. Her fingers twist and tug at his chest hair as she basks in the afterglow of his loving.

Walker strokes his fingertips over her silky mussed hair and down her shoulder until he encounters the blanket. “This has been long overdue,” he tells her.

“Mmm hmm,” is her only response.

“Promise me something?” he asks her.

“What?” she asks distracted by the sound of his heartbeat as it slows into a regular steady beat.

“Promise me that we’ll redouble our efforts to protect our time together. With our demanding careers, our charity work and our daughter, I feel like we need to pencil in our lovemaking these days.”

She presses a kiss against his chest and rubs her cheek up and down the hair roughened surface. “If we’re going to make some siblings for Angela, we’ll have to be more diligent about keeping our ‘appointments.’”

“I want more children, but Alex, I want you,” he says.

“Again? So soon? Fatherhood hasn’t slowed you down one bit,” she intentionally misunderstands him.

“Alex, I’m serious,” he states.

“So am I, Cowboy, so am I.” Alex sets about proving it.

Walker starts to protest, but then realizes that he’s fighting a losing battle and after all… isn’t this what he is arguing for? As his wife’s head slips below the covers, all thoughts flee and he sinks into the world of sensation.

The End