Dreams Lost

By: Lelani

She lay in the dark room waiting. They would be coming soon; she knew that. It was about the only thing she knew. She was in a pitch black room with a cot and a small closet-type bathroom in one corner. There was a toilet, a showerhead over a drain, and a sink. In another corner, there was a single straight back chair with a small wooden table. There were no windows, no light from outside or light fixture in the room. That was it, her entire world… until they came.

She heard the footsteps and knew that they would bring her food. The food would be placed on the table and then they would come to the bed. She would be given an intravenous injection and then the leather cuffs around her wrists and ankles would be removed and the two people would leave without speaking a word.

She would eat; it would be the only meal of the day. A bowl of some type of canned soup and a piece of bread would be her meal. After she ate, she would go to the sink and cup her hands to capture the running water and drink it. They did not bring her anything to drink, so the tap water would have to suffice.

She would use the toilet and then shower and replace the clothes that she had worn the day before and the day before that, back on her body. There was no soap, no shampoo, no towel. The act of washing was not much more than that, an act. It served a purpose; it gave her something to do.

After pulling the jeans and shirt back onto her damp body, she would walk around the room. The pacing was another part of her routine. She walked around the six by six cubicle that was her world, until the drug made it so that she couldn’t walk. Then she would lie down and wait.

They would come again. They always did. When she was unable to tell which was up and which was down. They would come and lead her down a dark hall to another dark room. She would be made to sit in a chair and the cuffs would be placed around her ankles and her wrists, so that she couldn’t move. Electrodes would be placed on her bare skin with some type of conductive jelly.

These things she could handle. It was always the same, but it was her world and she knew what to expect. It was what came next that she couldn’t tolerate. It was when her world turned into her living hell. Blaring noise, lights, pictures, electric shocks that ran through her body; even these were not the worst of it. It was the voice; the voice that had stripped her of everything. She no longer had a name, an identity, a life outside of this small world. And the voice that took away everything, gave back only one thing. It gave her a hatred of one man, one face, one name. But after the noises and jolts of electric current and pictures and bright lights were gone, even after the voice left, she could never remember who the man was, what he looked like, or even his name.

She would then be led back to the six by six room. She would be strapped down to the bed and except for one visit to give her another injection and allow her to use the toilet and drink from the sink; she would be left alone, to wait until the next day… until it began, all over again.

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Walker sat at his desk and looked at the framed picture that graced the corner of it. It was in a silver frame, nothing fancy. Alex had given him the picture, but she’d kept it small and discreet. She knew that he wouldn’t feel comfortable with a large showy picture on his desk. She also knew that if she wanted him to display the picture, it would have to be one that others would only comment on in passing. “Paris?” they would ask, or “Is that your wife?” The answer to both questions was “Yes.”

Walker looked at the picture and tried to put himself there. It had been a beautiful spring day in Paris. He was playing the perfect tourist, carrying a camera and sightseeing. Alex had trotted over to him from where she was looking at souvenirs and had surprised him with a spontaneous kiss. “Thank you, Walker.” “Thank you? For what?” “For indulging me; I know that this is not your favorite way to spend a day.” “No, we’d have to go back to the hotel room for that.” She’d batted his chest playfully as he intentionally misunderstood her. “Well, we could not go back to our hotel room, but even in Paris, I imagine they’d frown on… shall we say, 'public displays of affection'?”

Calling his bluff, Alex had sidled up to him and unbuttoned the first three buttons of his shirt before he could stop her. She leaned in and kissed his throat and licked down to the V she had exposed with her deft fingers. “Let’s find out,” she said playfully. As much as he hated to discourage his wife’s advances, he had grasped her arms and pushed her back away to stand facing him at arm’s length. “Mrs. Walker, we are a respectable married couple and you will behave.” Pulling her against his chest and wrapping her into a bear hug that left her breathless, he said, “At least until I can close the door on the honeymoon suite at the hotel.”

As always, Alex laughed at his ‘take charge’ attitude and once he released her, she flirted with him outrageously. “I have far too many places planned for us to see today to even talk about returning to our hotel.” She then pulled out her day planner and began ticking off the list. Since he knew that she would win any argument he engaged her in, he just followed behind dutifully.

Walker stroked the glass that covered the photograph. It was rather ironic. The Eiffel Tower was the most recognizable symbol of Paris. Their hotel had looked out on it, but this picture represented the closest they had gotten to it. Alex had tugged at his hand and pulled him to a vantage point and then flagged down a man and his wife who were there from Indiana. They were a retired couple in their early sixties and Walker grew exhausted listening to the wife talk about her home, her grandkids, the weather in Indiana, their trip so far, and countless other details she managed to discuss all in one breath when Alex asked if she or her husband would take their picture.

The man had obliged by taking the camera from Walker and pulling his wife back far enough so that she wouldn’t be in the picture. And there it was, captured for all time, a moment of pure happiness. Walker stood with his back to the tower and Alex placed herself in front of him, wrapping herself in his arms. Leaning back against him, she had turned slightly to look up at his face. The camera had clicked with the two of them standing in front of one of the most celebrated landmarks, but it was clear in the look they shared that they had eyes only for each other.

After retrieving his camera from the man, Walker had thanked the couple and begun to walk toward the ticket booth to purchase tickets to tour the engineering wonder. Something had stopped him though, and looking back behind him, he saw his wife standing there looking at him. It was the look on her face that got his full attention. She looked at him with all of the love and desire one person could express to another without the benefit of words or touch. He stepped back to her and they turned and walked back to their hotel. No word was spoken as they walked into the hotel, rode the elevator up to their room and used the electronic key to allow themselves entrance.

The rest of the day was spent making love. It was their last night in Paris. They had spent the vast majority of their honeymoon in their hotel room and what limited sightseeing they had engaged in had not yet included the Eiffel Tower -- Alex’s one goal. At least that was what she’d told him one day, after making love and talking about what she had to do before they left Paris. They’d managed the Louvre, the Arch d’Triômphe and several walks along the Champs Elysée. They never did make the Eiffel Tower. They had left it to the end of their trip, intending it to be the climax of their honeymoon. A climax of a different kind took precedence.

Alex had framed the photograph and had given it to him on their one-month anniversary. She’d wrapped it and when he opened it and looked at the picture, she had told him that she loved him. He could still hear her words, as clear as if she were saying them right at this moment in his ear. “One day, Cowboy, when we’ve raised our children and retired from our careers, I want you to take me back to Paris. I want to be like that couple we asked to take this picture. I want to travel and see the world and meet new people, but I always want to be so tied to my home here that the only thing I can tell all the new people about is my life here. I’ll tell them about our grandkids and what the weather’s like at home. But this time, Cowboy, you’re taking me to the see the Eiffel Tower and I want the deluxe tour package. Then we can go back to our hotel room and make love until we leave to fly back home.” He’d laughed at her. The idea appealed to him. Living their lives to the fullest and then returning to where they’d begun their lives as man and wife and seeing the places they’d missed, in between making love.

Walker’s finger traced her jaw line. The camera had caught the look in her eyes. If anyone had really looked at the picture closely, no one would ask what they did after the picture was taken. It was clear that they hadn’t continued sightseeing. The love and the lust were there for anyone to see. No one would though. No one looked at photographs on people’s desks at work that closely, no one but him.

“Where are you Alex?” he whispered aloud. “I’ll find you, baby. I promise, I’ll find you and we’ll live the life you dreamt about in Paris. I love you!” he stated emphatically.

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Jimmy sat staring at his glass of milk that was sitting on the bar at C.D.’s. Even his Oreo cookies remained untouched. “Dang it, Jimmy! You gotta eat somethin’ son. You can’t just stare at the food, it won’t hop into your belly ya know,” C.D. scolded him. “I know Big Dog; I just don’t have much appetite.” “Well, this thing is eaten us all up, but she’s countin’ on you son. She’s countin’ on you and Cordell to find her and she’s countin’ on me to make sure that you keep your spirits up until you do.”

The TV reporter began to tell the tale of the missing Deputy DA one more time. It was the biggest local story and had been for two weeks now. The TV over the bar had shown the same photograph during every news broadcast for a total of seventeen days now. Even after all this time, the story had not lost its impact on its viewers. This was one of Texas’ own. A local hero, who had fought to better her city, her state, her country and her world, had been missing with no leads as to her whereabouts.

“…day seventeen in the continuing search for missing Deputy District Attorney Alex Cahill-Walker. She was married two months ago, in May, to celebrated Texas Ranger Cordell Walker. An intensive search for the missing public servant has turned up no leads. Her car, found the day after she was reported missing out in the badlands, gave no clue as to why it was out there or what had happened to her. She left work early to go home after winning a conviction against crime boss, Leon Ramsey. Police report that there is evidence that she arrived home, where she changed clothes and then apparently left to run errands. She has not been seen since.”

The picture of Alex, smiling into the camera with her fresh peach-faced complexion, was followed by one of her and Walker at the wedding, one of her car, one of her at HOPE House… each picture rubbed salt into the open wounds of the two men standing on either side of the bar. Their hearts twisted as the reporter continued with, “Police decline to speculate on the possibility that Mrs. Walker may not be found alive, but our expert consultant Dr. Edward Mosley has confirmed that the chances of finding her alive after this length of time are dwindling. We will keep you updated of further developments in this case that has affected many in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In other news…”

C.D. picked up the remote control and switched off the volume. “I don’t know why we keep watchin’ that over and over again. We know what they’re gonna say.” “It’s the pictures, C.D. We can’t help but look at them. What man has ever been able to resist the chance to look at Alex? She had something, it was beyond physical beauty, you just couldn’t help but…” Jimmy jumped as C.D.’s fist slammed the counter next to him and his milk jumped and sloshed over the rim of the glass. “Dammit! James Trivette, don’t you ever let me here you talk like that again! Don’t you talk about Alex like she’s dead! She is beautiful inside and out and we are going to find her alive. You hear me?!” Jimmy looked at his friend and the sadness in his voice belied his words, “I hear ya, Big Dog. You’re right, I’m sorry, I had no right to use the past tense.” “And don’t forget it!” C.D. ended with another thud of his fist.

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She lay there wondering what was happening. There was searing pain in her head. She felt hot and dry. She was so thirsty, she wished they would come and undo the cuffs. She was disoriented; she didn’t know where she was in the repetitive cycle of her life. And then she moved her hand toward her face and realized that there were no bindings preventing her movement. She must have been given the injection and now she would wait for them to come to take her to the noise and the lights… lights… light… there was light.

The woman sat up slowly with her head cradled in her hands. She covered her eyes and sat there trying to understand. But there was nothing, nothing familiar, nothing the same. She slowly uncovered her eyes and lifted her head. She dared to open her eyes and quickly closed them again as a wave of nausea and dizziness assailed her.

She lay back down and drifted off to sleep. She awoke again, over an hour later. She sat up and slowly opened her eyes. Her head hurt and the light was so bright, she couldn’t seem to get used to it. For some reason, she felt that it should be dark, but it wasn’t. As her head slowly cleared, she dared to open her eyes. She blinked several times; her eyes were so sensitive to the light. She decided that she must have a migraine, her head pounded and the light hurt. Yes, it must be a migraine. Did she suffer from migraines? She didn’t know. She couldn’t remember.

She was thirsty. Water, she needed to get some water. Lifting her head, carefully, she opened her eyes into tiny slits, her hands providing shade, and looked around her. There was scrub brush, sandy soil, bright sunlight, and nothing else. Where was she? She didn’t remember coming to this place.

The need for water was finally her impetus to stand. Her legs were incredibly wobbly and as she stood, her stomach revolted and began to heave. They were dry heaves, there seemed to be nothing in her stomach to get rid of, not even bile. She collapsed back onto her knees, her hands going out to steady herself. What had made her so ill? She strained to decipher what was happening to her, but she just couldn’t remember.

She stood again. This time, even more slowly and tentatively than before. Covering her face with her hands, she struggled to take a step; one foot and then the other, walking in a straight line. She kept the sun to her left, using it to guide her so that she was heading north. She didn’t know how she knew this, but she did. She also didn’t know why she should head north; it was just one of many directions available. She had to choose one and it was the one she chose. She trudged forward, one foot in front of the other.

The sun rose higher in the sky as she walked. It was nearing noon. She knew that, but she didn’t know what she based that knowledge on. She needed to find water and she needed to find shade, but there was nothing to indicate that either was within her ability to reach. The pain in her eyes was so intense, that she closed them and walked, using the warmth on her shoulders to tell her where the sun was and to continue in her randomly chosen direction.

The woman was nearing her limit of endurance when she tripped and fell on her hands and knees. She jerked her hands up as they were scalded by the hot asphalt. A road, she had found a road. Sitting up on her knees, she looked in either direction and saw no sign of civilization. It was a paved two-lane road, but where it led was unknown. It crossed in an east/west direction to the north she had been walking. After resting a few minutes, she stood and began heading east. The reason for her decision was that the sun would be to her back. The sun still caused her to squint as she walked on the edge of the road.

An RV was traveling down the road, heading west, when the driver spotted the lone woman and hit the brakes. “Harold, what in blazes are you doing?” came an angry shout from the back. “Doris, get up here!” he shouted back. The thin fifty something woman walked up to the front of the RV. “What is it?” she asked her husband. “There’s a woman on the road, I think she needs help,” he told his wife. They both exited the vehicle and looked to make sure there were no other vehicles coming, not that this was a well-traveled road, but still, it was traveled.

They crossed the road to the blond woman who had stopped and was swaying as if she was being battered by high winds. “Are you all right, dear?” Doris asked kindly, knowing full well that she was not all right. One look told her that. “Water,” the woman managed, it was the first word she had spoken in a very long time. “Harold, help her,” Doris, the take charge person of the duo, instructed her husband. Each took an arm and guided her carefully across the road and into the RV.

The cool interior and indirect lighting brought instant relief. The kindly couple eased the woman back onto the cushioned bench that lined the wall of the RV. Getting a glass of tepid water, Doris offered the woman a small amount. “Sip it slowly,” she instructed, but her words went unheeded. Clasping the glass with both hands, the woman drank deeply. Doris had raised six children and knew what the result would be. She grabbed a bucket and held the woman’s hair back as she wretched the water back up. “Get me a cool cloth, Harold, and then let’s head into the nearest town, quickly.”

Harold wet a cloth and brought it to Doris. He looked at the woman curiously and then headed up to the driver’s seat and began the arduous task of making a U-turn in the large RV on the narrow road. They had come from an RV park outside of Abilene and he was certain that Abilene was their best hope of finding a hospital. They had been taking the scenic route to Lubbock and he knew that there was nothing but small towns for some time if he continued west. Once he had the vehicle heading east, he pressed his foot hard on the accelerator and decided to cut down the time it would take him to get back to Abilene.

“Lie down, dear,” Doris instructed the woman. She applied the cool cloth to her face, gently dabbing at the sunburned cheeks and forehead. She placed the cloth on the woman’s forehead and went to get an ice cube out of the tiny freezer. She put the cube into a Ziploc baggy and crushed it with a hammer that she kept handy in a drawer. Bringing the bag of ice chips to the woman, she told her, “Suck on these ice chips and that’ll help quench your thirst until we can get you to a doctor.” She held the first chip to the woman’s lips and nodded her head in satisfaction when the woman took the chip into her mouth.

After half an hour of careful ministering to her patient, she watched the woman slip into an exhausted slumber. She went up to the front of the RV to confer with her husband. “How much further, Harold?” she asked. “The last sign indicated that there’s a hospital at the next turnoff. Probably five, ten minutes.” “What do you think, Harold? What’s happened to this woman?” “I don’t know dear, but whatever it was, it was something bad. She didn’t get into the state she’s in overnight.” “No, I don’t know how long she’s worn those clothes, but it’s been days. And did you see how thin she is? Her clothes are just hanging on her.” “I know, I saw. Whatever she’s been through, it’s lucky we spotted her when we did.”

They followed the signs to the hospital and Harold parked the RV close to the emergency room entrance and went inside. He explained the situation to the desk clerk and a gurney was brought out. Two orderlies loaded the woman onto the gurney and wheeled her in to the trauma room. Doris and Harold waited out in the waiting room for news.

An hour later, a doctor came out to greet them. “Hello, I’m Doctor Andrews; you brought in the woman?” “Yes, we found her wandering on the side of the road. We’ve been camping, going across country visiting our kids and just happened to spot her.” “Was she conscious at any time?” “Yes, she was walking when we found her and she asked for water.” “Did she tell you who she was or give you any indication as to what she was doing out there?” “No sir, the only word she uttered was ‘water’. She drank some, but vomited it back up. I gave her some ice chips and she fell asleep.” “And you have no idea how she got there? There wasn’t a car or anything around?” “No, just her, out there in that dry hot land, just walking along the side of the paved road.” “All right, I’m going to go back in. I should be getting lab results back soon.” “Is she all right?” “It’s too soon to say. I don’t know what all has been done to her. Clearly, she is undernourished and dehydrated and looks to be suffering from sunstroke, but other than that… I need to run more tests.” The couple nodded and again sat down in the waiting room to wait.

The television was on in the waiting room and the local news came on. Harold sat watching it for lack of anything else to do. A photograph was shown of a beautiful blonde woman with a peach complexion and beautiful blue eyes. The announcer came on saying, “Tarrant County Deputy District Attorney, Alex Cahill-Walker has now been missing for eighteen days and is presumed dead, although local police deny…” “Doris!” Harold exclaimed. “What?” his wife, who had been dozing on the couch asked, suddenly wide awake. “Isn’t that the woman?” he said, pointing to the television screen. Doris watched as a picture of a sports car was shown abandoned in country similar to what they had just driven through. Then there was a picture of a woman receiving an award for charity work. “It looks a little like her,” Doris began and then the close-up was shown again. “You’re right, it is her!” she exclaimed.

The couple raced over to the admitting desk. “Can you tell Doctor Andrews that we think we know the identity of his patient?” they requested excitedly. Doctor Andrews was called and he came out to try and discover what new information the couple could give him. “Doctor, there’s a report on the news about a missing woman. A District Attorney or something…” Doris began. “Oh my god! Alex Cahill-Walker! I’ve heard the name over and over the last couple of weeks. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it. You must be right, it has to be her!” He turned to the desk clerk, “Call Texas Ranger Company B in Dallas. Ask for a Ranger Walker and tell him we think we have his wife here. No, don’t tell him that; just put the call through. Let me talk to him once you get him on the phone.”

Doctor Andrews strode back into the trauma room to look at his patient and try to verify the tentative identification. She lay there, with an IV attached to her arm, replenishing the lost fluids. Her eyes were closed, but as the doctor gazed at her face, they fluttered open. He was certain that the couple was right; this had to be Alex Cahill-Walker.

He remembered looking at the photograph on the television thinking that her husband was a lucky man to have won the heart of such a beautiful woman. She had great bone structure and beautiful skin and hair, but it was her eyes that had drawn him. They were the most amazing blue, and in the photo, they looked intelligent and kind. He remembered chiding himself for his fanciful thoughts, but as a confirmed bachelor, he hadn’t been able to get the image of her out of his mind and he woke up dreaming about her eyes looking at him the way they looked at her new husband on their wedding day in the photo that was aired.

“Hello there,” he said, as he saw consciousness return to her eyes as she surveyed her surroundings, including him. “I’m Doctor Andrews and you’re in the emergency room of St Luke’s Hospital. You’re not that far from home actually, we’re about two hours or so outside of Dallas.” “Dallas…” she repeated as if testing the word out. “Yes. Can you tell me what happened to you?” he asked kindly. The more information she could give him, the better able he would be to treat her. “I… it was hot… I was… my head hurt… and the light… it hurts my eyes… I was thirsty…” she stuttered to a finish.

“Your head hurt? Does it hurt now?” “Yes, but it’s better,” she answered. “And the light, are you still sensitive to the light?” he asked. She nodded, ‘yes’. He dimmed the light over the bed, “Is that better?” “Yes, thank you,” she answered. “Is there anything else?” he asked kindly. “Water, may I have some water please?” Doctor Andrews looked over at the nurse and nodded his head. The nurse raised the top half of the bed so that the woman was in a reclining position and then she poured a glass of water and handed it to the woman. “Drink it slowly, just sips,” he advised. She remembered the last glass of water she had drunk, and the consequences; she heeded his warning.

After she’d had a few sips, he continued with his questions. “Can you tell me anything else?” “A man and a woman, they helped me,” she offered. “Yes, they’re still here, out in the waiting room. They said that there wasn’t a car near where they found you. Do you know how you got there?” he asked. She merely shook her head ‘no.’ “Do you know where you’ve been?” he asked. She looked at him and stared blankly at him. “No, I don’t know,” she answered. “Well, can you verify your identity for me?” he asked. “My identity?” she repeated. “Yes, what’s your name?” he clarified. She looked at him puzzled and then said in hoarse whisper, “My name? I don’t know what my name is.” Doctor Andrews looked at the nurse and said, “Let’s add a CAT scan and see if there’s been any head trauma.” He looked back at the woman he believed to be Alex Cahill-Walker. “Don’t worry, we’re going to run tests to see what’s wrong with you and then we’ll know more. For now, you just rest and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

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It was another long day. Trivette sat at his computer trying to shake loose a name, a lead, something that would tell him where to look for Alex. He’d gone through all of her recent cases and found nothing. He’d tracked down every lowlife she’d gotten convicted; anyone who may have been released from prison who might have a grudge against her. It was a long list, but so far he and Walker had turned up nothing.

Walker sat at his desk, talking on the phone. His focus had shifted from tracking down the slightest lead to putting pressure on every law enforcement agency in the state. He was calling in favors, on the state and federal level. There was talk of officially listing the case as a ‘missing, presumed dead’ and he wasn’t going to allow it. He slammed the phone down and sat back in his chair, his eyes going back to the photo in the silver frame.

His phone rang and he leaned forward and lifted the receiver. The rush of hope each time the phone rang had long since stopped surging through him. “Walker,” he answered. “Ranger Walker, this is Jolene Barnes out at St Luke’s Hospital in Abilene.” “Yes?” he asked, sitting up a bit straighter. “Sir, I have Doctor Andrews here who would like to speak to you,” she said in her slow drawl and passed the phone over to the doctor who was leaning against the counter waiting. “Ranger Walker, I’m Doctor Andrews. I have a woman who was brought in and we’ve tentatively identified her as your wife.” “Alex? You have Alex?” he all but shouted.

Trivette’s head whipped up, when he heard Walker say her name. “I believe so, although she is disoriented right now and is unable to confirm her identity.” “How is she?” Walker asked tensely. “I don’t have all the tests back as yet, but I don’t see anything so far that won’t mend, given time. She’s dehydrated, she’s undernourished, she has suffered from heatstroke and is complaining of a headache and a sensitivity to light. Other than that, there doesn’t seem to be signs of any obvious injury…” “I’m on my way! Have the local police post a guard outside of her room and limit access to her to authorized hospital personnel,” Walker barked orders over the phone. “We’ll do,” Doctor Andrews answered. “Give me the number there,” Walker said and wrote it down and quickly hung up the phone.

“They have her at a hospital in Abilene, Trivette! Get the chopper ready to take us there!” Trivette picked up the phone and called for the Ranger Helicopter to pick both he and Walker up at the helipad. The two men grabbed their hats and raced out.

Walker had called the hospital to give them their ETA, but Doctor Andrews was still impressed with the speed with which they arrived. He watched the two Rangers rush down the hall to him. “Where is she?” the man with the red hair and beard asked. “Are you Ranger Walker?” Doctor Andrews asked. “Yes,” Walker nodded, not willing to waste time with introductions. Seeing his frantic urgency, Doctor Andrews merely said, “Follow me.” He led the two men to the trauma room and they all walked in to see a blond woman with big blue eyes, lying back in a reclined position on the bed.

“Alex!” Walker said and rushed over to her. Trivette had tears in his eyes as he looked at his dear friend. Alex’s eyes widened in alarm and she shrank back as the man reached for her to clasp her in an embrace. She remained stiff and completely immobile as he hugged her to him gently, careful not to injure her. “Oh god, Alex, I thought I’d lost you,” he whispered in her hair. Tears coursed down his cheeks as he stood there cradling her to him. Finally, he stood back slightly and lowered her back against the raised bed. He brushed the hair back from her face and said, “Alex, are you all right? Did they hurt you?” She stared blankly at him. “Who are you? And why do you keep calling me Alex?”

Walker looked up at the doctor with a puzzled expression. The doctor tilted his head toward the door to indicate that he would talk to Walker outside. Leaving Alex was the hardest thing he’d done, but he needed to know more about her condition. He looked at the nurse and silently commanded her to stick close to his wife until he was able to come back in.

Trivette followed them out to hear what the doctor had to say. “Ranger Walker, this is the couple who found your wife wandering out in the hot sun.” Walker turned to the couple. “Thank you for all that you’ve done. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you helped Alex and brought her here.” “You’re welcome Ranger. We just hope that she’s okay,” Harold answered for them. “I hope so too,” he said and looked at Doctor Andrews.

“Ranger, near as I can tell from the examination I’ve done and the test results that have come back, your wife has not been physically assaulted. The…” he looked at Harold and Doris and then at Trivette. “Maybe we should make this a private conversation.” Walker looked at Trivette and knew that he would have to tell him whatever the doctor said anyway, so he didn’t mind him being there. And as for the retired couple, they may well have saved Alex’s life! They deserved some information. “No, it’s all right, please go on,” he said.

“The rape kit was negative, although I realize that she’s been missing for quite some time. She has been fed very little and she is severely dehydrated. There are tiny abrasions on her skin that look like possible burn marks, but they are puzzling. There are also needle marks indicating that she was injected routinely with something. The toxicology screen has not come back yet, so I don’t know what type of drug was used on her. The CAT scan is negative; I don’t see any sign of brain injury.”

“But she doesn’t know who I am, who she is!” Walker said frustrated. “There are more types of brain injury than the physical. It could be some type of chemical problem. Between the drugs and the malnutrition, I can’t say. And since we don’t know what type of psychological trauma she’s endured…” he shrugged his shoulders and then continued with his assessment. “She also indicates a strong sensitivity to light. At this point, I can only recommend supportive treatment. I would like to keep her here, give her fluids and nutrients intravenously.”

“When can I take her to Dallas? I’d like to get her back among familiar surroundings as soon as possible,” Walker said. “I understand, but I’d like to admit her for the night until I get the rest of the test results back, then we’ll talk more.” “All right, that sounds reasonable. Can you put her in a private room and put a chair in there for me to stay with her?” “Of course, do you also want a guard outside the door?” Walker was about to shake his head ‘no’, but Trivette chimed in. “Yes, we’ll want round-the-clock guards posted and they should have a list authorized by you and also by me, of who is allowed to go into the room,” he said to the doctor.

Trivette looked at Walker and tried to explain himself. “Walkman, you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since this began, let’s not take any chances. I’ll call headquarters and let them know what’s up. I’ll also send the chopper back and have them on standby to transport her to Dallas as soon as the doctor gives us the okay.” “You’re staying?” Walker questioned. “I’ll head up the investigation here while you stay with Alex. Folks,” he said, turning to the retired couple, “would you mind taking me out to where you found Mrs. Walker and going over everything with me?” “Not at all, Ranger. By the way, I’m Doris and this here is my husband, Harold Skinner.” “Well, Mr. and Mrs. Skinner, if you could take me out there and show me right where you picked her up, I’ll have the sheriff follow us out and we’ll get a forensics team out there.”

“I don’t know how far she must have walked before we found her. It’s just deserted land out there,” Harold explained. Trivette looked at Walker, “Well, my partner here is the best tracker around, but he’s taught me a few tricks.” Walker looked at him, “Trivette, you couldn’t find your way out of a paper bag, much less track a trail in the badlands.” Trivette laughed at his partner, it felt good to be able to share a smile with each other, damn good. “If I can’t handle it, I’m sure the Sheriff will have someone who can. Now go spend some time with your wife.” Walker clapped him on the shoulder and nodded his thanks.

“Ranger, would it be all right if we saw your wife for a moment? I just want to tell her that we’ll be back to check on her when she’s feeling better.” Walker looked at Doris Skinner and smiled, “yes, of course.” He followed Harold and Doris into the trauma room where Alex was. She looked up as they entered the room and she looked decidedly uneasy when she saw Walker. He frightened her, he seemed to know her and be very comfortable with touching her and she wasn’t sure how to react to that. Then she saw Doris and Harold and she relaxed a bit.

“Hello,” she said to them. “Hello, dear. We haven’t been properly introduced, but this is my husband Harold and my name is Doris Skinner.” Alex held her hand out to them. “It’s nice to meet you. I…” she stumbled with what to say next. She couldn’t tell them her name; she didn’t know what it was herself. “It’s all right; I understand that you’re still fuzzy. I’m told that your name is Alex and it’s a nice name, fits you.” Alex smiled, hesitantly and then said, “Thank you for helping me, I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come along.” “We’re just happy that we were in the right place at the right time. Now, we’re going to go with the police and show them where we found you and see if we can help them figure out how you got there to begin with.” Alex looked very frightened at the thought that they were leaving her. “We’ll be back later to check in on you.” She relaxed a bit and smiled, as they took their leave.

Alex looked at Walker. “They’re going to admit you for the night to make sure that you’re all right. They’ll be moving you upstairs soon. After you’re settled, I’ll be up.” She looked nervously over to the nurse and Walker, his hat in his hands, smiled reassuringly at her and left the room. “May I take a shower?” Alex asked the nurse on duty. “I don’t know, I’ll have to check with the doctor,” she said. “In the meantime, I can give you a warm cloth to wash your face and hands with.” “Thank you,” Alex said.

The nurse helped her to gently wipe her face and hands. Just as she was finishing, Doctor Andrews walked in. “Well, are you ready to head upstairs and get into a comfortable bed for the night?” he asked. “I’d really like to shower if I may.” “I think we can arrange that. Let’s get you up to the floor and then I’ll have the nurse there help you to bathe.” He smiled at her kindly and she returned his smile. He had a friendly, trustworthy face and he put her at ease. He wasn’t like the man with the red hair. There was something about him, something dangerous and it wasn’t just the gun he had strapped on his waist. She couldn’t explain it, even to herself, but he put her on edge.

After transporting her upstairs to a private room, they disconnected her I.V. so that she could shower. It was a little disconcerting washing herself with another person there, but the nurse was very careful about respecting her modesty. The warm water felt good running down her back. Her nurse’s name was Charlene and she was a large woman who talked incessantly and laughed often. She shampooed her hair and then allowed her to use a washcloth to bathe herself. She was even provided with a safety razor to shave her legs and under her arms. She brushed her teeth and gargled with the mouthwash provided. The feeling of being clean raised her spirits tremendously.

After she finished showering, Charlene gave her a pair of panties to put on. Alex didn’t even think to ask where they had come from, but they were pretty and silky and felt good against her skin. Charlene then insisted that she lie on her stomach on the bed, while she applied lotion to her back, legs and arms. She also treated the pressure sores that were on her shoulder blades and the points of her hips. She gave Alex some deodorant to apply and then helped her pull on a pair of pajamas that could have been made to fit her. The top was a button down the front top and provided her with some modesty. The pants too, allowed her much more modesty than the hospital gown they had put on her in the trauma room.

Charlene even combed her hair out and styled it slightly. She gave Alex a face moisturizer that helped soothe the sunburn she had suffered while in the badlands. There was a bag of cosmetics that Alex used sparingly and even a perfume that she enjoyed the smell of. She didn’t know where all the personal items came from and she didn’t even think to ask. She simply enjoyed being pampered. Once she was finished with all of her grooming, she slid into the bed and allowed Charlene to reattach the I.V.

There was a light knock on the door and an orderly came in with a tray of food. “I’m afraid that you’re on a soft-bland diet for now,” Charlene said as she lifted the lid. There were mashed potatoes, a creamy chicken broth soup and Jell-O. “My advice is to mix the potatoes in the soup and eat it like it was gravy, otherwise, the potatoes won’t have much taste,” Charlene told her. Alex smiled and did just that. It was amazing how little food it took for her to feel full. Charlene coaxed her into drinking a glass of milk. “The more you take by mouth, the sooner they unhook you from this I.V., Alex,” she told her. Charlene intentionally used her name often. Doctor Andrews had told her to use it casually to try and get her used to the sound of it.

The orderly returned to take her tray and Alex settled back and was soon asleep. Charlene had been told not to leave her alone at anytime. If her husband was not in the room, then she was to be there, doctor’s orders. Charlene secretly had a crush on Doctor Andrews and was willing to do anything he said. Not that she wouldn’t have anyway, her new patient was one of those people you just took an instant liking to. Charlene too had heard the story on the news and she knew that this woman had suffered something terrible. One day, she would undoubtedly remember what it was.

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Walker had known that Alex wouldn’t want him around while she was getting settled in her room. He went out to the local mall that was not far from the hospital and purchased items that he thought would make Alex more comfortable. He knew her brand of makeup and he bought a few basics, not something he’d ever done before, and he had no idea which mascara to get or what color lipstick. He had a picture in his wallet and the saleswoman was more than helpful in advising him. He was amazed at the cost of the cosmetics and after learning that a tube of lipstick cost upwards of twenty dollars, he decided that he’d never again leave Alex love notes written on the bathroom mirror in lipstick. Then he thought, ‘To hell with the cost, I’m never going to stop telling her how much I love her.’

Walker then headed to the women’s lingerie department. He looked at the beautiful sexy lingerie and then turned to the more modest pantsuit style pajamas that would keep Alex covered. As much as he enjoyed seeing his wife in sexy nightwear, he wasn’t about to let anyone else enjoy the pretty picture she made. He picked out a lilac color that Alex often wore and continued on to the underwear.

Walker knew the style and material that Alex wore. He realized, for the first time, just how intimately he did know his wife. She liked bikini style underwear, but she refused to wear thong underwear. She liked silky satiny underwear, but only wore lace when her purpose was seduction. She told him once that it itched and felt rough against her skin. He smiled to himself as he chose a few pair in her size. He had what she would need for that afternoon and night, but if he was able to take her back to Dallas the next day, she would need other things.

Walker purchased a bra that matched the underwear. Then he went to the women’s wear department and looked at the racks of clothes. He had seen the clothes she had been brought to the hospital in. He had asked to see them and then turned them over to Trivette to have them examined as evidence. They were her own clothes, and by the looks of them, she had worn them the entire eighteen days. She normally enjoyed wearing jeans, but he thought that perhaps a simple sundress would serve his purposes.

Having narrowed his search, he found a saleswoman and again showed her a picture of his wife. He told her that he wanted a pretty sundress and told her Alex’s size. He knew that she had lost weight, but it shouldn’t matter in a dress. The woman found a rose colored cotton dress that had swirls of purples and blues and greens that ran through it. It looked like something Alex might wear to an outdoor barbecue, so he decided to get it. He then went to the shoe department and found her a pair of flat sandals in her size. He got advice on color from the saleswoman there. On his way out of the store, he spotted a perfume counter and purchased a small bottle of Alex’s favorite scent. He was rather proud of his accomplishment when he headed back out of the mall and got into the car Doctor Andrews had loaned him.

Once he returned to the hospital, he gave his purchases to the nurse assigned to Alex and went in search of Doctor Andrews. He found him in his office looking at lab reports. “Ranger Walker, come in. I just got the toxicology reports on your wife. The reason it took so long is that the drugs we normally screen for, cocaine, heroine, valium, etcetera, were all negative. Your wife was injected with Sodium Pentothal.” “Truth serum?” “It’s been called that, yes. It lowers the person’s ability to reason and can be used to cause a person to divulge information that he or she would normally keep secret.” “So, it’s likely that whoever took her wanted information that she had.” “Now that is your realm of expertise. I do know that there was more that your wife endured than mere injections. She has pressure sores on her hips and shoulders. It indicates that she was forced to lie down on her back for extended periods of time. There is also reason to believe that her wrists and ankles were bound to keep her in that position. She doesn’t have any permanent damage, but the body requires exercise to maintain muscle tone. I’d say that your wife has had both limited exercise and nutrition. I’m starting her out on a bland diet and hoping that she will slowly build back up to her usual appetite soon. I’d also recommend an exercise program to tone her muscles and to increase circulation and also her appetite.”

“We have a gym at home, Alex isn’t an avid exerciser, but she does join me in my workouts and she enjoys horseback riding and going for walks.” “Well, I would start with walks, mornings and early evenings outdoors would be best. I’m not certain about her light sensitivity; does she have a history of migraines?” Walker nodded his head, “She doesn’t get them often, maybe once or twice a year, but she does get them. Once she had one triggered by too much sun and not enough water.” “Well, that might be it, then again, who knows, if she was strapped down in a bed for days, she may not have had a great deal of light. Certainly her skin is quite pale, other than the parts that are sunburned.”

Walker swallowed the bile that rose in his throat as he imagined the scene that Doctor Andrews described. “And her memory, do you have any ideas about that?” “I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’d say it was some type of trauma that she’s trying to suppress. There are different types of psychological trauma. An event such as an assault like a rape can cause memory loss, but so can prolonged torture. I still can’t explain the burn marks on your wife’s skin. I just don’t know what caused them.” Walker was sweating profusely; his worst nightmares were coming true.

“What do you recommend? Can she go home or should she be transferred to a hospital in Dallas?” “Physically, she should be able to go home tomorrow. I would advise taking her to her regular doctor and also to a psychiatrist who can better advise you on how to deal with what may be post traumatic stress disorder.” “Alex has a close friend who is a psychologist who works with victims of violent crimes, including abuse victims. Do you think I should take her to see her?” “If they already have a rapport... that might work. Alex may not remember her, but she might feel safer talking to her than she would to a complete stranger. Which brings me to the next problem – you.” “She acts afraid of me,” Walker said. “I know; I saw that. It could be many things. You might be just familiar enough to frighten her. If her entire defense against what happened to her relies on her not remembering, then you would be a threat. Look, I’m just guessing here, but I think it might be a good idea to have someone – neutral – around for awhile.” “You think I should have a friend stay at the house?” “I don’t know; she might see them as a threat as well. You could hire a nurse and have her live in for the first few days.”

“Does she require nursing care?” Walker asked, concerned. “Technically, no, she doesn’t, but it wouldn’t hurt; maybe an older motherly type of woman who could just help Alex with things like her diet and beginning an exercise program. Alex should also have regular massages. The areas where she has the pressure sores are not actually open wounds, but a very gentle massage and even whirlpool baths are recommended to increase the blood flow to the areas. It doesn’t have to be a nurse, but it might help Alex to buy the story of why the person is there if it is.” Walker looked at the doctor. “Judging by the way she looks at me, I think she’ll just be glad there is someone there and not be too concerned with the why.”

Doctor Andrews looked at Walker with sympathy. “Be patient with her. Give her lots of love and for now, lots of space. Don’t pressure her. I wouldn’t recommend any attempts at intimacy, but the more ‘normal’ her life is, the better chance she’ll have of remembering it.” Walker looked at the doctor and said, “One thing about Alex, she is the most stubborn woman I have ever known. She’ll tell me what she wants and doesn’t want in no uncertain terms,” a smile hovered around his lips as he remembered crossing his wife on a variety of occasions during their courtship and even during their brief marriage. “Personality traits like that may come through; then again, they may not. The very essence of who she is has been stolen from her. You’ll find that she will automatically pass up the okra if she’s never liked it, but she won’t know where the silverware is kept in her own home. The mind is a complex organ and the best warning I can give you is to expect the unexpected.”

Walker stood and held his hand out to the kind doctor. “Thank you, I know that Alex has received the best care possible from you and I appreciate everything you’ve done for her.” “You’re welcome. I’ll see you tomorrow before you go, but I’d like to ask a favor from you, if I may?” “Of course, what is it?” “Would you mind keeping in touch and letting me know how she does? Not only because of my medical curiosity, but also because, in the short time I’ve known your wife, she’s made quite an impression.” Walker looked at the man and his usual possessive nature lay dormant. He could understand. Alex was unaware of just how appealing she was and now, when she was so vulnerable, she was even more so. He felt it, why shouldn’t the doctor? He too was a man after all. “I will and when I catch the scum who did this to her, I’ll send you the pieces.” Doctor Andrews looked into the steel gray eyes of the man in front of him and decided to never cross Ranger Walker.

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Trivette looked at the marks next to the road. They were shoe prints that led to the pavement and stopped. This must be where Alex found the road. He radioed the sheriff and within minutes, several police vehicles arrived at his location. After finding the spot where Doris and Harold had picked Alex up, they had all loaded into vehicles and one man was dropped off at each mile marker. They walked the road, looking for signs of where Alex had first gotten onto the road. It was important to him that he had been the one to find the first sign. He’d be sure and tell that to Walker. After all the hours he’d spent looking for a clue, any clue, to lead them to Alex, it helped to have finally found one that might lead them to her abductors.

Sheriff Kramer arrived and he assigned his best tracking team to follow the footprints. Cletus was a bloodhound who was trained for search and rescue work. Out in this hostile land, more than one backpacker found themselves lost and wandering aimlessly. Cletus and his handler, Mike, were known for having saved quite a few lost hikers. The sheriff allowed Cletus to sniff the area and then to sniff the clothes Mrs. Walker had been wearing. He gave one deep bark and began sniffing the ground excitedly, having locked onto the scent. Mike was pulled along behind as Cletus ate up the steps in reverse that Alex had taken that morning. Trivette, Sheriff Kramer, and several deputies, followed along behind.

Harold and Doris Skinner waited in their RV along with the rest of the deputies.

They walked nearly an hour until the trail came to an end. “Looks like she was lying here,” Mike said. “You can see that she tried to stand and then fell to her hands and knees,” he pointed out. “But how did she get here?” Trivette asked, not seeing any footprints other than Alex’s. Cletus picked up another scent and headed up an incline. The group followed and at the top, they saw where a jeep had driven up to the top of the incline and then they apparently rolled Alex down to where she had come to a rest. The top of the incline was hard packed and there were no obvious footprints. The sheriff called for a team to make castes of the tire tread and to scour the area for any other possible evidence. “Another dead end,” Trivette said in disgust. “Looks that way, but you never know, there might be something here,” Sheriff Kramer said.

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Walker peeked in and saw that Alex was asleep. He spoke in quiet tones with the nurse and the guard stationed outside of the room and then he went to make some phone calls. He found a lounge that was empty of people and pulled out the cell phone, something Alex had purchased for him and insisted he carry. He sat in the cushioned chair, swung his leg over the arm and made his first call. Walker was, for all intents and purposes, a walking zombie. He had had no more than two hours sleep at a time for the last eighteen days. And what sleep he did get had been plagued with nightmares. His normal, stoic posture was gone. He was a man who was losing the battle to fatigue. He leaned back and cradled the phone to his ear as he talked.

“C.D.? We’ve got her, she’s safe,” he said. “Thank the lord! Any idea where she’s been?” “No, Trivette is out now, trying to track down a lead.” “So, how is she, Cordell?” Walker’s voice broke slightly, “God, C.D., she’s alive! I thought that if I could just find her alive, then everything would be all right.” “But it’s not?” “No, C.D., they tortured her. I don’t know exactly what they did, but she was drugged and there are burn marks and evidence that she was restrained for long periods of time. She’s lost so much weight and…” “And what Cordell? What else?” C.D. asked, needing to know the awful truth. “She has no memory. She doesn’t know who I am. She doesn’t even know who she is.”

Walker’s voice cracked from the combination of fatigue and emotion. C.D. heard it and knew that his friend and former partner was nearing the end of his rope. “She’ll be okay, Cordell. You have to believe that. We’re gonna surround that little lady with so much love and care that she’ll have no choice, but to remember us. You just get her home where we can start taking proper care of her.” Walker nodded, “Yeah, I’ll bring her home tomorrow. The doctor wants to keep her overnight. It looks like they gave her drugs to try and get information from her.” “Well, let’s not worry about that right now, whoever is responsible for this will pay. Right now, we just concentrate on taking care of Alex.” Walker agreed with his mentor and hung up; he had other calls to make.

He called Gordon next and filled him in on Alex’s situation. Gordon wanted to fly right out and be with her, but Walker managed to talk him out of it, promising to have him out as soon as she was settled and doing better. He told Gordon that he didn’t want too many people overwhelming Alex until he’d had time to get expert advice on how to proceed with helping her to remember. For all his bluster, Gordon was a practical man and logic won out with him. He thanked Walker for finding his little ‘pumpkin’ and asked him to keep him updated on her progress.

Walker’s next two calls were to Alex’s boss the D.A. and to his own boss, Captain Price. Both men were relieved at the news that she was physically all right and both agreed that Walker should stay with Alex until she was safe and recovered. They also agreed to release a statement to the press that she had been found, but to keep her location a secret. They knew that the press would make the Walkers’ lives a living nightmare once they caught wind of her condition. Finally, Walker called Josie at HOPE House to tell her about Alex. She would tell the people who had been praying for her to continue their prayers for her full recovery. She too agreed to keep the details of Alex’s condition confidential.

Walker closed the phone and leaned his head back and closed his eyes. All the while he had been looking for Alex, he had been able to fight the fatigue, but now, his body forsook him and he fell into a deep sleep. The ringing of his cell phone woke him just over an hour later. He was startled and disoriented, but once he woke up enough to realize where he was, he answered it.

“Walker,” he said. “Hey, Walker, it’s Trivette. We found where they left Alex out in the badlands. She was dropped off by a jeep and rolled down an embankment. There aren’t any footprints other than hers and the jeep rejoined the paved road about ten miles in the opposite direction from where she was dumped. After that, there’s no way to tell where they went.” “Another dead end,” Walker said. “Looks that way, although Sheriff Kramer has a forensics team going over the area, looking for any possible clues.” “Well, Alex is sleeping and there’s nothing more you can do, why don’t you find a hotel and get some shut eye.” “Sounds good, I’ll meet you at the hospital tomorrow. Did you find out anything more?” Walker filled him in on what Doctor Andrews had said and then he hung up and got up in search of something to eat.

After a meal in the hospital cafeteria, Walker went back to Alex’s room and relieved the nurse. He sat in the chair next to Alex’s bed and picked up her hand gently and held it between both of his. It was so fragile looking resting between his meatier hands. He lifted it to his cheek and pressed it against his beard as he stared at her face. Tears coursed silently down his cheeks as he looked at the most important person in his life. His world was wrapped around the blond woman lying in the bed and he would do everything in his power to help her. He wanted to make her happy and the only way he knew to do that was to love her. She had often told him that his love was all she needed. He just hoped that it would be enough to get them through this time.

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Alex woke somewhere around midnight and whimpered in fear. Walker was sitting next to the bed with his head resting on his hands in sleep. He was instantly awake as soon as he heard her stir. “Alex, it’s all right, you’re safe,” he told her. “It’s so dark,” she said as the fear enveloped her and she began to thrash slightly. Walker’s first response was to hold her to keep her from ripping out her I.V., but her struggles became even more violent. He released her suddenly and reached to turn on the reading light that was just over the bed. With the light on, Alex quieted enough to merely gaze at him fearfully.

“You’re safe, Alex. Is there something I can get you? Would you like some water?” he asked. He waited as she continued to stare at him and then finally, she nodded ‘yes’. Walker stood and took a step back from the bed, giving her a little bit of space. He picked up the pitcher on the nightstand and poured her a glass of water and then he pressed the button that raised the back of the bed, bringing her into a sitting position. He handed her the water and watched as her trembling hand accepted it from him.

She sipped the water and then looked at him. Her hair had fallen forward onto her face and Walker reached to smooth it back, his hand halted as she jerked her head back in fear. He slowly lowered his hand without touching her. He watched as her eyes drifted over to the bathroom door and deciphered what she wanted. Her body had finally become saturated with all of the liquids they had fed her both intravenously and orally. Her kidneys had begun to function and she now had a desperate need for the restroom. Walker reached for the call button to summon the nurse.

Charlene was still on shift. She normally worked a twelve-hour shift, but Doctor Andrews had specifically requested that she stay on to be available if Alex needed her. He thought that the fewer new people she had to contend with, the better. Charlene had readily agreed and she slept on a cot in the break room, waiting to be called if needed. The floor supervisor woke her and told her that there was a call from her patient. Charlene hurried into the room to see what was needed. Ranger Walker stood by the bed and gave her a tight smile when she entered. “My wife would like to use the restroom. I’ll be out in the hall,” he said.

Alex stared at him as he left and wondered how he’d known what she needed. “Well, Alex, let me disconnect you from the I.V. and you can go on in,” Charlene said in a friendly manner. After returning from the restroom, Alex walked over to the bed, but didn’t get in. “Do I have to go back on that?” she asked, looking at the bag of fluid hanging by the bed. “Doctor’s orders are that we finish off this last bag. I can turn the drip down though, so that you won’t need to get up again too soon.” “Is it all right if I walk around a little first?” Alex asked. “Sure, Alex, go right ahead.” Alex began walking around the circumference of the room. When she reached the bed that blocked her path, she turned and walked back around in the other direction.

“You keep calling me, ‘Alex’. How do you know that that really is my name?” Charlene shrugged, “I recognized you from the news reports.” “News reports? What do you mean?” “Well, you’re a well known person, with your job and all. The news kept showing your picture when you went missing and I’ve seen it so many times, I felt like I knew you the minute I saw you.” “And that man, he’s supposed to be my husband?” “Ranger Walker? Oh yes, I saw the wedding photo. You haven’t been married long though, just a couple of months. He sure is one good looking man though,” Charlene went on dreamily. Alex didn’t say anything, but continued to pace.

Her back was to the door when it opened and she didn’t see Walker return. He stood there watching her pace and his heart squeezed again, knowing that this was a learned behavior. She walked around the edges of her room as if she were pacing around a cell. When she turned and saw him, she stopped, looked at him consideringly and then continued on. He wasn’t as intimidating while Charlene was in the room and as long as she kept walking, the I.V. couldn’t be reattached and Charlene would have to stay in the room.

“Try and swing your arms while you walk,” Walker told her. Alex paused in her step and looked at him. “What?” she asked. “Like this,” he demonstrated. “Why?” she asked. “You need to increase the circulation in your arms. The doctor said that you’ve been inactive while you’ve been missing. Swinging your arms up and over your head will help get the blood flowing.” Alex debated on whether or not to follow his advice. She looked over at Charlene. “He’s right, Alex. Especially while you have the I.V. going, it’s good to move your arm as much as possible while it’s not attached.” Alex decided that it couldn’t hurt to follow the advice and she began to swing her arms up and over her head. She was surprised by how painful the action was and stopped almost immediately. “It hurts,” she complained.

Walker had a look of understanding on his face. “I was afraid of that,” Walker said. Alex resented the fact that he seemed to know things about her, almost before she did. “Afraid of what?” she asked with a hint of anger. “It’s an old injury. Face the wall and place the palms of your hands flat against it.” Alex again looked at Charlene, but this time, the nurse merely shrugged, not sure what Walker was talking about. Alex complied, but continued to look at Walker suspiciously. He approached her from behind and placed the palm of his hand in the middle of her shoulder blades. He began using tiny circular motions to rub circles on her back. “What are you doing?” she asked. “You have scar tissue here from an injury several years ago. It doesn’t bother you often, usually only when you’ve been lifting things that are too heavy for you, but it’s probably stiffened up. I’m just loosening the muscles around it.”

Alex stayed still for a few more minutes, but his hand on her back felt so warm and pleasurable, she needed to do something to break the tension. “What kind of injury was it?” she asked. ‘You were shot and the bullet entered here, where my thumbs are pressing,” he told her as he changed to a digging motion, kneading the tiny area. “Who shot me?” she asked. “A man you had helped to convict and who wanted revenge. He’s dead now; you don’t need to worry about him.” “How did he die?” she asked. “A knife wound,” Walker answered vaguely. He slid his hands up to her shoulders and clasped them tightly. He pulled her back so that her weight was no longer against the wall and rotated her shoulders. Then he reached down her arm and lifted it high above her head, stretching it and then lowering it. He did the same with the other arm and despite her resentment and misgivings; she had to admit that it felt good. She hadn’t even realized she had a knot in her back until he’d begun to work on it. He reached down both of her arms and lifted them up together. Standing there, with her arms stretched up over her head, caused her an intense feeling of fear. It was sudden and violent, like the fear she had when she had woken to a pitch black room. She screamed and began to struggle.

Walker immediately released her and stepped back. Alex whirled and faced him, ready to do battle. Walker raised his hands in front of himself in a placating gesture and stepped back another step. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said. Alex stood there breathing deeply and trembling. “Maybe you should get back to bed,” Charlene intervened. “No,” Walker argued, “she’s had a fright and her body is full of adrenaline. She needs to walk it off, just like she needed to walk after she was frightened by the dark.” Alex glared at him, knowing he was right and resenting him for it. Walker stepped into the middle of the room so that she could resume her pacing around the room’s edges without having to approach him. Alex did begin to walk, but after a prompt from Walker, she also began to swing her arms. This time, the movement was uncomfortable, but no longer painful. After twenty minutes, she went into the restroom and then came back out and slipped into the bed.

Charlene reattached the I.V., straightened her covers, and reached up to turn the light off. Walker’s hand captured hers and stopped her from turning the light off. “Leave it on,” was all he said, but Charlene complied. It was an act of kindness and Alex knew it, but somehow, she resented it too. But her fear of being plunged back into darkness was greater than her anger toward this man who knew her better than she knew herself. Charlene brought the call button up so that it was within easy reach of Alex’s free hand. “You just press this if you need me again,” she said and left the room.

Alex looked at Walker, he handed her another glass of water. “Here, drink this,” was all he said. He pulled the chair back away from the bed and set it against the wall. After Alex finished the water, again not knowing how he knew she was thirsty, he took the cup and placed it back on the nightstand. He went over to sit in the chair and pulled his cowboy hat down so that it was covering his eyes. He leaned back, crossed his arms over his chest and settled as if to sleep. All of his actions were designed to ease Alex’s fears. She turned onto her side, facing him, and after lowering the back of the bed only slightly, she fell asleep.

Walker waited until he was certain that she was in a deep sleep and then he moved the chair back to her bedside and softly chanted to her, a soothing sound that had lulled her into a deep dreamless sleep in the past when nightmares had plagued her sleep. Watching her face, he was rewarded when he saw her expression relax and her breathing deepen and even out. He covered her hand with his and rested his head beside it. They both slept until morning.

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Walker woke first and he eased out of the room and sought out Charlene. “I’d like you to go in and sit with my wife. I’m going to go find a place to shower and some clothes to change into. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. I’d appreciate it if you’d help her to change into the clothes I brought for her after the doctor examines her and says that she can be released.” Charlene agreed to his requests and headed into the room to wait for Alex to wake up.

Walker used his cell phone to call Trivette. “Hello,” came the groggy response. “Trivette, don’t tell me you’re still asleep?” “Walker, what time is it man?” “It’s after seven Trivette,” he said sounding astounded that anyone could sleep so long. It was a long running joke between the two. “After seven? Holy Toledo! How could I have slept in so long?” Trivette played along. “I have no idea. Listen, I could really use a shower and a change of clothes, I was wondering if I could crash your hotel room and use the facilities? I’ll buy you breakfast to pay you back.” “Well, with an offer like that, how can a guy refuse? I’m over at the Traveler’s Inn, just across from the hospital. There’s a Wal-Mart at the end of the block if you need to buy anything. I stopped in and got a change of clothes last night.” “Thanks, I’ll do that and meet you in say… an hour?” “Sounds good, I’m in room 233.”

Walker stopped at the nurses’ station and made sure that they had his cell phone number to reach him if they needed to. He walked out of the hospital and enjoyed a brisk walk to Wal-Mart. It was just opening as he arrived and he went straight to the men’s department and purchased a few necessities. He then headed back to Trivette’s hotel and banged on the door. Trivette had showered and dressed and was watching the morning news when Walker arrived. “Make it quick Walker, I’m starved.” “Tell me something I don’t know,” Walker said as he headed on into the bathroom.

He emerged fifteen minutes later, looking and smelling better. He had put his dirty clothes into the Wal-Mart bag and he asked Trivette where he wanted to eat breakfast. “There’s a Denny’s just around the block, I had dinner there,” Trivette told him. “Okay, Denny’s it is,” he said and then stopped as he saw that the newscast was reporting about Alex. “Turn it up, Trivette.” The same pictures that had been being shown for nearly three weeks now appeared on the screen. “Deputy District Attorney Alex Cahill-Walker was found yesterday. The Tarrant County DA’s office refuses to divulge information other than to say that she is alive and well. We will update you with further developments as soon as we are able to.” “Well, I guess the cat’s not out of the bag yet,” Trivette observed. “No, but it won’t take long. They won’t quit until they know how she is and where she is.” “We’ll handle it. Now, let’s go, I’m starved!” Walker rolled his eyes at his friend, but he too was hungry and would kill for a cup of coffee.

They went to Denny’s and Walker filled him in on the latest developments regarding Alex, including her fear and hostility towards him. “Walker, you don’t know how hard it is to be around someone who knows everything and is better at everything than you are.” “What are you talking about, Trivette?” “When we were first partnered, it was a struggle everyday to go into work and watch you out-fight, out-figure, out-shoot, out… everything, me! It took a lot of long talks with C.D. for me to stick it out. You’re just one of those people who ooze self-confidence.” “You have skills and knowledge that I can’t hope to have.” “I know I found my niche; I’ve pulled you kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century.”

Trivette looked at Walker to see if he understood what he was trying to get across. “Alex is another one who has enough confidence not to be intimidated by you. There aren’t many people who can hold their own when you’re around and she is definitely one of them. But right now, her confidence has been shattered. She doesn’t even know her own name and here’s this guy who knows that her shoulder’s ache even before she does. He not only knows that they ache, but he knows why and he knows how to fix it. Walker, put yourself in her shoes, wouldn’t you resent someone who knew every intimate detail about you when you couldn’t remember if you liked your eggs scrambled or fried?” Walker looked at the remains of the eggs on his plate. “She likes hers poached,” he said. “See what I mean? Ease off, let her tell you that something hurts, let her ask questions. Don’t just read her and tell her what she wants and how she feels.” Walker looked at Trivette with his eyes narrowed in thought. “When did you get so smart?” he asked his partner and best friend. “I learned from some pretty impressive people; my mother, C.D., you, and Alex,” Trivette answered the rhetorical question. The easy camaraderie between the two helped to allay Walker’s fears and he now felt ready to face whatever the day brought.

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Alex ate the scrambled eggs and banana pudding on her plate. She drank the milk and then flipped on the television, while she waited for Doctor Andrews to come and release her from the hospital. The local morning news was on and she watched to see what was happening in the world. Nothing sounded or looked familiar to her. She recognized the names of sports teams, but she didn’t know how they were doing that season and she wasn’t sure if she would have known if she did have her memory. At the top of the hour, they announced the top news stories and for the first time, she saw herself on television. She watched as they said that she had been found, but that no details had been released other than to say that she was alive and reported to be in stable condition.

Alex’s attention was riveted on the pictures. The first was of her smiling into the camera and was a close up. She saw another that showed her in a wedding dress, standing next to Ranger Walker. She looked at her expression in the picture and she couldn’t deny that she looked like a woman completely in love. The next picture showed her receiving some type of award, but it didn’t say why. It was like looking at pictures of a stranger who had certain features in common with you. She didn’t recognize the places or the events. She didn’t have any memory attached to any of the pictures shown. The final picture they showed was another close up. This time, she was on the steps of a courthouse and being interviewed. She was wearing a dark colored business suit and looked confident. Alex couldn’t imagine ever being that confident.

Doctor Andrews came in just as the story ended. “Beautiful lady isn’t she?” he asked as if the woman on the screen was someone else. That’s exactly how Alex felt, as if the woman on the screen were truly someone else. “She looks confident and in control,” Alex stated. “That she does. Maybe in the not so distant future, you’ll look like that too,” he said. Alex shrugged her shoulders, “maybe.” “How’d last night go?” he asked. “Fine, I slept well.” “And you ate your breakfast?” “Most of it; the portions are too large,” she excused herself. “Well, you’re stomach will stretch and then you’ll be eating normally again.” “Is there a reason why I’m only offered yellow food?” she asked. The doctor chuckled, “No reason, just thought it went well with your hair. Seriously, I want you to stick to a bland diet for awhile. Add items slowly and if anything doesn’t agree with you, stay away from it.” “Even without a memory, I think I could figure that out,” she said. Then she looked apologetic. This man had been nothing but kind and she was being ornery. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so cranky.” “That’s all right, maybe you’re not a morning person,” he said. She smiled, “Maybe.”

Doctor Andrews completed his examination and pronounced her ready to be released from the hospital. Alex had mixed feelings on the subject. She didn’t necessarily like being in the hospital, but it was safe and the unknown frightened her. Would she be expected to go back to her life and live as if nothing had happened? Was she supposed to be Ranger Walker’s wife? A thrill shot through her that she suppressed and denied, even to herself. The doctor left and Charlene began to help her to shower and get dressed. Alex put the dress on and looked at herself in the mirror. The pastel colors suited her perfectly and the sandals fit her comfortably. She applied the makeup, her sunburn having already begun to turn into a tan. After she was finished, her hair combed out and lying on her shoulders, she looked at herself in the mirror. She was beginning to look like the woman she had seen on television; if you didn’t notice the fear in her eyes.

Charlene stood looking at Alex. “Alex, you sure are beautiful,” she complimented her. Alex blushed and said, “Thank you; it’s amazing what a little make up will do.” “Honey, there isn’t enough make up in the world to make me look a tenth as beautiful as you.” Alex looked puzzled for a minute and then asked. “Where did all of this come from? Everything fits and looks as if it was bought just for me…” “It was, silly. Ranger Walker went out yesterday and purchased all of it for you.” Now Alex’s cheeks really turned red. She thought of the silky underwear and the bra that fit perfectly. He had selected all of this… the dress that complimented her complexion and the sandals that were a perfect fit… even the make up?!

She was still flustered thinking about it when he walked in with the black man she’d seen yesterday. “Wow, Counselor, you look amazing,” the black man said with a grin. He had a friendly open face and if she wasn’t so aware of the man standing next to him, she would have been tempted to smile back. Alex looked at Walker and saw the admiration in his eyes, but he didn’t say anything, he just smiled at her.

“Wow, Walkman, you picked this out? I guess you’re gonna have to do better in the future about getting her great gifts. She’ll be expecting it now,” Trivette babbled on, forgetting for a moment the situation. Suddenly, he realized what he’d said and he looked at Alex. “I’m sorry, Counselor; I’m putting my foot in my mouth again.” Alex looked at him, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember if they told me your name.” “James Trivette, but you call me Jimmy. Or… you used to anyway and I hope you will again. I’m Walker’s partner and one of your best friends, even if I do say so myself.”

“You talk too much, partner,” Walker chastised him mildly. “But Trivette here likes to shop and the two of you disappear together periodically to go to the mall.” “Well, uhmm… it’s nice to meet you… Jimmy,” Alex said as she extended her hand to shake his. Jimmy lifted it to his lips and kissed it and then gave it a squeeze, “I’m so glad that you’re okay. We’ve been going crazy with worry,” he said sincerely. “Thank you,” she said, not knowing how to respond, but instantly liking this friendly man. “Why do you keep calling me, Counselor?” she asked. “I always have. Walker here is Walkman, C.D. is Big Dog, and you’re Counselor. I remember meeting you while I was working on a case and you were so professional and I just started calling you ‘Counselor’ out of respect and it’s kinda stuck.” “And yes, he always talks this much,” Walker said with wry affection. Even Alex smiled at the obvious friendship between the two men.

There was a knock on the door and Walker stepped back to open it, he conferred with the guard and then stepped aside to let the two people outside the door in. Harold and Doris Skinner were there to check up on Alex. “Oh my!” Doris said as she got her first look at her. “I wouldn’t have recognized you if it wasn’t for those pictures on television,” she said staring at the beautiful woman standing in the center of the room, surrounded by people. “I guess, I clean up pretty well,” Alex said, trying to deflect some of the attention, it was becoming overwhelming. “I’ll say,” Harold stammered. His wife gave him a playful smack on his arm, “Close your mouth dear, you’re catching flies.” There were chuckles around the room.

“I’m really glad that you came by, I don’t think I got the chance to thank you properly yesterday, you saved my life,” Alex said sincerely. “Well, we are just glad that we were in the right place at the right time,” Doris said. “I take it they’re letting you out of here. What are your plans?” she asked. Alex looked around at the others in the room, not sure how to answer that. “We’re going to call and have the Ranger helicopter come to fly us home. Alex isn’t up to a long car ride and I want her safely at the ranch before the reporters get wind of where she is.” “The ranch?” Alex asked. “Yes, we have a ranch just outside of Dallas,” he supplied the information. Alex gulped; a helicopter would get them there very fast. “I don’t know that I’m really up for a helicopter ride,” she said as an excuse.

Doris looked at her husband and then said, “Well, we bypassed Dallas on this trek across America. I wouldn’t mind seeing it. What if we gave you all a lift back up there in the RV? That way Alex can stretch out and rest if she needs to.” Walker saw the anxiety reduce in Alex’s face and decided then and there to agree to the suggestion. “That’s very kind of you, but if you’re going to do that, then I insist you stay with us at the ranch, at least for a few days.” He thought that the perfect opportunity had just presented itself. “Well, I wouldn’t mind using it as a home base while we explored the area,” Harold said. “But we’d insist on sleeping in the RV, it’s sort of our ‘home away from home’,” Doris added so that there wouldn’t be any misunderstanding that they expected to move into this couple’s home. “Whatever makes you the most comfortable, we’d love the company,” he said. Then he looked at Alex and added as if it were an afterthought, “How does that sound to you, Alex?” “Oh wonderful,” she gushed. It was hard to accept, but Walker knew he’d made the right decision. “Well, we’ll go gas up and get ready to go and we’ll meet you downstairs in say, an hour?” Harold offered. “Sounds great,” Walker agreed.

The couple left and Walker told Alex that he and Trivette had some business to finish up with the sheriff and they exited too. “Great, a three hour ride in an RV; sounds thrilling,” Trivette grumbled. “I think it’s what Alex wants. She seems to feel comfortable with them. And maybe this way, they can act as a buffer once we get home until she gets more comfortable around me.” Trivette looked at his partner and thought that he must truly love his wife to be willing to invite virtual strangers to his home just to make her more comfortable. Then he grinned to himself, of course Walker loved her that much; he’d do anything for her. “Why don’t you go checkout of your hotel and call the sheriff to see if they turned anything up on those tire treads. I’m going to check in with Doctor Andrews one last time and then do all the paperwork necessary to spring Alex.” “Okay, I’ll see you soon,” Trivette agreed.

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The ride to Dallas was uneventful. Alex sat up the entire way, despite offers to let her lie down. She chatted with Doris most of the way there and they struck up a friendship that helped to ease the strain of the unknown future she faced. Walker gave Alex her space and watched her from a distance. He rode shotgun once they neared the ranch to give Harold directions. They pulled into the ranch and Walker saw the car hidden in the stand of trees. He assumed it was a news crew as he hadn’t requested security at the ranch. He used his cell phone to call the sheriff, who was a personal friend of his, and asked him to send some deputies out to deal with the reporters. Harold just looked at him and wondered what he and Doris had gotten themselves into.

Walker had Harold pull up near the barn where he could park the RV and hook up to the power outlet there. Everyone unloaded and Alex looked around her in awe of the beauty of the place. “Why don’t we go in and I’ll give you all a tour of the place,” Walker offered casually. He wanted to give Alex a tour without overwhelming her. The Skinners readily agreed; Doris was anxious to see inside the ranch styled house. Walker managed to get Trivette to the side and told him of the car he’d seen. Trivette meandered down to the road to check things out.

Walker led Doris, Harold, and Alex, up to the front porch. He unlocked the door and held it for everyone to enter. He guided them around the living room area, answering questions about the Native American Art displayed in his home. Alex discovered that her husband was half-Cherokee during the conversation. She listened to his explanations, but she didn’t ask anything herself. Walker took care to point out changes she had made since their marriage. Between the honeymoon and her abduction, they had only spent a little over a month living at the ranch as man and wife. He told them of future projects his wife had planned for the different rooms as he led them through.

After completing the tour of the downstairs, he led them all upstairs where he showed them Alex’s office, three guest bedrooms and the master bedroom. Alex needed to use the restroom and Doris had already excused herself when Walker had pointed out the downstairs guest bathroom. Walker saw her fidgeting and guessed her dilemma. “If you need the restroom, it’s right in there,” he said as he pointed his finger to the door through the bedroom. We’ll be downstairs on the porch. I’ll see if I can find some ice tea or something for everyone to drink.” Alex nodded her head and waited for them to all head downstairs before heading into the master bedroom and then the bathroom.

She closed and locked the door behind her before using the facilities. She looked around and saw the same brand of makeup that she was wearing laid out on the counter. After some minor snooping, she headed back out to the master bedroom. It was clear that she had started in the bedroom when she began to make changes. It was a blend of feminine and masculine. She liked the room, but it didn’t bring back any memories. She walked over to the chest of drawers and pulled out the top one. There were several pairs of underwear, similar style and colors to what she was currently wearing. There were bras as well and she noted that they too looked similar to what he had bought her. Alex walked over to the closet and slid one of the doors open. Inside was a mix of professional clothes and casual clothes. She had a lot of clothes and she reached out and touched them, trying to capture some memory that they might trigger, but there was nothing. Alex closed the door and headed downstairs to join the others.

Sitting on the porch, the four people looked up when Alex joined them. Walker lifted a glass and handed it to her. She took it, being careful not to touch his fingers. She sipped the tea and found that it was exactly as she liked it, a little weak and sweetened just right. She nearly dropped it when she realized that she had just had her first memory. She remembered how she liked her tea and obviously, her husband had remembered too. She looked at him and saw that he watched her with a puzzled concerned expression. He must have seen her expression when she realized that she had had a memory, she realized. She slid her features into a neutral expression and sat in one of the rocking chairs on the porch. It didn’t feel natural sitting in the chair, she kept looking at the swing that Doris and Harold sat on and decided that given the choice, that’s where she would have sat. She looked at Walker and saw that once again, he had followed her train of thought. It was uncanny how they communicated without words. He seemed to read her mind.

An SUV headed up the drive and a rotund man came out and headed straight for her. He moved quickly despite his size and he reached her and lifted her bodily out of the chair and hugged her tightly to his chest. “Oh darlin’,” he said with a sob in his throat. Alex relaxed against him, she felt safe cushioned against his padded chest. He pushed her back to look at her. “Oh, but you’re a sight for sore eyes!” he said and pulled her in for another squeeze. “The good lord has answered my prayers and brought you back to me, darlin’.” Alex stood in the man’s embrace and for the first time since she’d woken in the badlands, she felt safe and at ease. She stepped back when he released her enough to do so, and Walker took the opportunity to make the introductions. “C.D., this is Harold and Doris Skinner, they’re the couple who found Alex. C.D. Parker here is my former partner. He owns and operates C.D.’s Bar and Grill now.” The information was as much for Alex’s sake as anyone’s, but Walker didn’t point that out to her.

“Well, anyone hungry?” C.D. asked. “Walker gave me a holler and said to bring out some vittles for all you fine folks. Alex, honey, I brought you some of my famous chicken and dumplings.” “More yellow food,” Alex laughed. C.D. asked what she meant and she told him what her diet had consisted of. “Well, I never thought of it, but I guess yellow food is blander. Now red food, that’s what you usually want, but none of that for now.” “Red food?” she questioned. “Chili, you love my chili, the hotter the better. I decided years ago that you were born on the sun. No one I know says my chili ain’t spicy enough, but you darlin’.”

The group headed inside and Doris chimed in, “If you’ve brought spicy chili, I think I’ll share Alex’s dumplings. My stomach doesn’t do well with spicy either. That is if there’s enough to share.” “Oh don’t worry about that,” Trivette chimed in, “C.D. will have brought enough to feed an army. In fact, I’ll bet he’s been cooking for Alex since I called him last night.” “You’d be wrong there, son. I’ve been cookin’ for Alex since Walker here called me yesterday afternoon.” The group all laughed and then had to agree that he must have. He had individually packaged containers labeled and ready to go into the freezer. He had enough chili and chicken and dumplings to feed them all twice over. He’d also brought steak and fish to barbecue later for dinner.

The rest of the day was spent listening to C.D. and Trivette trying to outdo each other in tall tales. Doris and Harold told of their adventures in their RV and their six kids who were all strung out across the entire continent, prompting their trip to visit them all. Doris showed pictures of her grandkids and told about the one her daughter, who lived in Lubbock, was expecting in a week’s time. They were headed there to be there for the birth of the latest addition to their dynasty.

Walker and Alex were able to just sit quietly and relax in the comfortable atmosphere. As evening fell and they finished their barbecued fish and beef, Doris offered a videotape she had in the RV. It was an action thriller with Harrison Ford, Air Force One. She retrieved it and they all settled in the living room to watch it. Walker was sitting in his usual chair and he watched Alex more than he watched the movie. It was clear that she was tired, but she wasn’t about to admit it. As the movie ended, Walker gave C.D. and Trivette a look that they both recognized. “Well folks, this sure has been fun, but I best be gettin’ these old bones on back to the stockyards. I gotta make sure my waitresses don’t forget to close the place up tonight,” C.D. said by way of explanation for his early departure. “Well, Big Dog, I guess I best bum a ride from you since my car is still at work.” “All right, Jimmy, you can help carry out the empty dishes,” C.D. offered. Doris and Harold also said goodnight and headed out to their RV.

Alex stood looking at Walker and all the fear had clearly returned. “Why don’t you go on up? I’ll lockup down here,” Walker said. “Your nightgowns are in the chest of drawers, second drawer down.” Walker continued to look busy as he walked around and checked windows he knew were secure and turned off lights. Alex slowly turned and headed up the stairs. She went into the bedroom and found the most modest gown she could find and headed into the bathroom where she again locked the door. While she was in there, she looked around to try and decide what was hers and what was his. There was an electronic toothbrush with two different brushes, but she had no idea which one she was supposed to use. She searched the drawers and found a new one and put it on the base to brush her teeth. She stalled in the bathroom as long as she dared and then, with her robe wrapped securely around her, ventured out into the main room.

Walker had already changed for bed. He wore a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, far more than he usually wore in the summer, but he was trying to make things as easy for her as possible. Alex stood just inside the room and looked everywhere, but at him. “That’s your side,” he pointed to the side of the bed, she normally slept on. “Uhmm… she hesitated, “I can sleep in one of the guestrooms,” she offered. “Alex, this is your home, your room, your bed. You sleep here.” His statement brooked no argument. She looked at him and he waited for her to explode at him and to tell him how it was going to be. The Alex he knew and loved would do just that. Certainly, the Alex he’d met and angered over seven years before would have done just that. This Alex didn’t though; she meekly went to her side of the bed and sat down on it with her back to him.

Walker got up and headed into the bathroom. When he came back into the room, Alex had slipped her robe off and laid it on the end of the bed. She was under the covers, with her back to his side of the bed. Her lamp was on and she was scooted to the farthest extreme edge that she could get to. Walker walked around to her side and knelt down beside her. He watched her eyes widen in fear as he looked at her. “I don’t bite, and I know that for now, I’m a stranger to you. I promise that I won’t make any… advances, until you’re ready for them.” He reached out a hand and stroked her hair back from her forehead and then kissed the skin he’d exposed. Standing up, he reached to switch off the lamp. “No… please, I’d like the light on,” she pleaded. The light was a high wattage bulb for reading in bed. He looked around and then had a thought.

Going into the guestroom, he got an urn shaped lamp that gave off an indirect light. It glowed rather than shone. It was one she’d had in her apartment and had ended up in the guestroom when they combined households. It didn’t really fit in with anything, but Alex wanted to keep it around, as it was the one he’d hung his gun on and nearly forgotten once, early in their relationship, when he’d gotten all flustered by her long legs that were exposed by a short robe. It was a moment she never intended to let him live down. He carried the heavy lamp into the master bedroom and placed it in the corner of the room on Alex’s side. He plugged it in and switched it on and then turned off her lamp on her nightstand. “How’s that?” he asked. “That’s fine, thank you,” she murmured, surprised by his thoughtfulness. Going around to his side of the bed, Walker slid under the covers and tried to remain still so as not to startle her. It took quite some time, but Alex finally relaxed into sleep and after he listened to her even breathing for awhile, Walker followed suit.

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Alex awoke late in the morning, when the sun rose to shine brightly in the bedroom window. She was facing the window and blinked as she opened her eyes slowly. She was disoriented for a moment, but then she saw the urn shaped lamp in the corner of the room and the memories of the previous day and night, came flooding back. She listened carefully, but didn’t hear breathing next to her. She cautiously turned her head to find that the space next to her was empty, although, clearly, it had been slept in. Alex slid out from under the covers and headed to the bathroom. It too proved to be empty, so she went back to the bedroom door and closed and locked it.

After showering, she walked around the bedroom in her towel, looking for something to wear. There was quite a bit to choose from, but she finally settled on a pair of tan Capri pants with a sleeveless blouse, the color of her eyes. She applied makeup and pulled her hair up into a loose ponytail with wisps around her face. It was going to be a hot day and she wanted to be dressed appropriately for it. She stood and surveyed herself in the mirror for a moment. If she was critical about her appearance, she would have to admit that she was too thin. Her complexion though, was already looking better; the tan helped. It was her eyes that were the most telling though. She looked… uncertain. Somehow, she didn’t think that it was a familiar look on her. She couldn’t remember anything specific, but it felt strange to be so tentative. She sighed deeply and decided to forgo the introspection until after breakfast. She unlocked the door and headed downstairs.

There was a familiar smell in the air; it was something she hadn’t had since she couldn’t remember when. So, okay, that wasn’t very long, but her mouth began to water as she neared the kitchen. Walker was standing in the kitchen talking to his two guests who were seated at the table. He was wearing jeans and a black T-shirt and was holding a spatula. “Anyone for more?” he asked, looking expectantly at Doris and Harold. He seemed to sense Alex’s arrival and turned to look at her. “Hey, you’re just in time for my famous flapjacks,” he said with a smile as he raised his coffee mug to his lips and took a swallow. “Oh, coffee…” Alex said as she approached him and took his mug from his hands and took a sip with her eyes closed. She stood there, holding the mug to her face, breathing in the aroma and took another sip before opening her eyes and seeing the expression on Walker’s face. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” she stumbled over the words, horrified at her own actions. She had just ripped this man’s coffee cup from his hands and drank it without so much as a ‘by your leave.’ She colored in mortification as she handed the mug back to him.

Walker took the mug and then set it on the counter and reached up into the cupboard to get another one down. “Don’t worry about it, you always drink my coffee,” he told her as he poured her a fresh cup and handed it to her. “Cream and sugar are on the table,” he said with a nod of his head, indicating where to find it. “Go have a seat and I’ll bring you a plate over,” he offered.

Alex, glad to be able to get away from the embarrassing situation, walked over to the table and sat down. “Good morning,” she said to Harold and Doris. “Good morning dear, did you sleep well?” Doris asked her in a motherly fashion. “Yes, thank you, I did.” “Same here; all this fresh air is great for putting you right to sleep. You have a beautiful home here,” Doris added. Alex wasn’t sure how to respond to the compliment. She didn’t feel that she had any right to lay claim on something she had no memory of contributing to. Walker interjected, setting a plate of steaming flapjacks with two strips of bacon in front of her. “Alex has made it into a home,” he told Doris. He set his own plate down and handed Alex the butter and syrup. He went back to the kitchen and brought the coffee pot over, can I warm anyone’s up?” he asked. Both Doris and Harold accepted the offer of more coffee. Alex concentrated on her breakfast.

After they finished their meal, Walker suggested a tour of the immediate grounds. Alex was anxious to see more of her surroundings, so she eagerly agreed. Walker headed out towards the barn and introduced them to all the horses. There was one beautiful pure white horse that trotted up to the corral fence and whinnied several times. “Wow, she’s beautiful,” Alex said. “She’s missed you,” Walker replied. Alex looked at him questioningly. Walker turned to the Skinners, making his explanation to them, even though it was for Alex’s benefit. “Angel is Alex’s horse. She’s got a sweet disposition, but she is definitely a one woman horse.”

Angel stood at the fence calling Alex over. Walker reached into his back jeans pocket and pulled out a carrot and handed it to Alex. “Don’t forget her carrot, she’ll never forgive you if you do,” he said casually. Alex took the carrot and approached the fence. She stood close enough for the horse to take the carrot from her hand and then she reached up and stroked her nose. Angel, who was completely smitten with her mistress, nuzzled her nose into Alex neck and made soft nickering noises. Alex laughed and reached both of her arms around the horse’s neck and gave her a huge hug. Angel hung her head over her mistress’ back and snuggled up to her as close as she could.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Doris said, amazed at the horse’s devotion to Alex. “That horse fell in love with Alex the first time she saw her. She took one look at Alex, whinnied, and has been in love ever since. Ranger is quite jealous.” “Ranger?” Harold asked puzzled. A black stallion came trotting up to the fence, shaking his mane and calling to Angel. “I take it that’s Ranger?” Harold said with a chuckle. “That’s Ranger,” Walker said wryly as he walked to the corral to stand beside Alex and offer a carrot to his horse as a distraction from his lady love. Alex stepped back after her hug from her horse and greeted the jealous stallion. “Oh my, what a beautiful boy. Aren’t you just the most handsome man around?” she gushed to the horse, appeasing his male ego. “Alex, stop spoiling my horse, it’s not as if you haven’t completely ruined yours,” Walker grumbled.

Alex stepped back, apologizing. Walker cursed himself, he just couldn’t get used to this meek mouse who looked like his lioness wife. “I’m joking with you,” he said as he placed his hand on her back and guided her back to the fence. “Ranger is every bit as spoiled as Angel.” He had expected her to make a comeback saying just that. He had to remember that she wasn’t the same person he kept expecting her to be. He decided to change the subject. “How would you all like to go for a ride and see a bit of the ranch? We can pack a picnic and ride up to the lake, it’ll be cooler there,” he offered. “Well, Harold and I rode packhorses down into the Grand Canyon, but neither one of us is what you would call an expert rider,” Doris said. “Oh, I’ve got a couple horses that would suit you just fine. If Trivette can ride ‘em, I’m sure you two can,” he said. They agreed to try and he sent Doris and Alex into the house to pack a lunch while he and Harold saddled up the mounts.

The women made sandwiches and packed fruit and some apple turnovers that C.D. had brought the day before. Alex opened the cupboard and pulled out a thermos that she filled with ice and lemonade. Doris watched her and didn’t say a word, but catalogued the little detail away to share later with Walker. He’d asked her to keep an eye on Alex when he wasn’t around and to let him know if she showed any signs of remembering things. Her automatic reach for the thermos was one of those ‘automatic memory’ things that even Alex herself wasn’t aware she did. Walker was such a nice man and if she could give him the slightest encouragement that his wife would be returned to him whole, then she would.

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The foursome rode at a slow walk up to the lake where Walker and Alex had spent many a romantic picnic. They loosened the horses’ cinches and let them graze while they spread out the blanket and just enjoyed the breeze coming off the lake and cooling them. Doris and Harold were content to just sit and relax in the shade of the trees. Walker looked at Alex and suggested a short walk around the lake. She was restless and agreed, despite her misgivings.

Walker walked beside her; pointing out wildlife or traces that wildlife had been there. Alex was amazed; she would have missed it if it weren’t for him. They were on the opposite bank when a snake surprised them. It was coiled, lying in the shade of a dead tree trunk. Walker heard it before Alex was aware that it was there. It was poised to strike and lightening fast, he made a grab for it and caught it behind its head and tossed it off into the bushes.

It all happened so fast that Alex thought she’d dreamt it. She stood there trembling and he reached for her hand and held it in his large warm ones. “I…” she began and stammered to a halt. “It’s all right, I’m sorry you were startled. We just stepped in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was innocently napping in the shade and we invaded its territory. It really just wanted to be left alone.” “Are there more?” she asked. “It’s possible, but not likely, they’ll be going underground to stay cool soon. They’re attracted by the water and its coolness, just like we are. I haven’t seen a snake up here more than a couple of times though.”

Walker laughed softly, and then explained, as she looked at him with a question in her eyes. “The first time I brought you here, a snake was sunning on a rock and you startled it by tossing your hat on it. I picked up the snake in your hat and tossed it over to here. I thought you’d appreciate the effort, but you were so mad at me for tossing away your favorite hat; you made me hike all the way around here and get it for you.” Alex couldn’t imagine making this big tough looking man do anything. “I did?” she asked awed. “You did, but we became friends that day. It was almost eight years ago and we’ve been best friends ever since.” That was another thing Alex couldn’t imagine, being friends with the man. He seemed to be one of those all or none people, you either loved him or hated him. She decided to end that train of thought. “We better get back,” she said nervously. “Yes, I’m getting hungry,” he said agreeably and turned to continue around the lake. He didn’t let go of her hand though and she was afraid to ask for it back, so she left it where it was.

“Look there,” Doris said to her husband with a poke to his ribs. She’d seen Walker and Alex coming back and noted that they were holding hands. “You’re such a romantic,” her husband chided her. “I’ve never heard you complain,” she answered back. He chuckled at her; nearly forty years of marriage and he still loved her as much as he ever had. “They do make an attractive couple,” he commented. “They sure do. I just hope they can find their way back to each other. Some people were just meant to be together and those two were definitely made for each other.” Doris watched as they approached the blanket and said a little prayer that God would bring them back together.

Doris broke out the sandwiches and Alex passed out cups of lemonade as they all sat and ate the tasty lunch. “What happened to the apple turnovers?” Walker asked after he finished his second sandwich. Doris chuckled at him and handed him one. “Alex, are you ready for one?” She looked up, having barely managed the sandwich, and shook her head. “No, give it to… him,” she said nodding to Walker. It was the first time she found herself needing to have a name for him and not knowing what to call him. She’d only heard C.D. call him by his first name, but it just didn’t feel natural to her. Doris caught the uncertainty and turned to Walker. “I heard C.D. call you Cordell last night, does anyone else call you by your first name?” Walker picked up on the reason for the question and answered. “My Cherokee name is ‘Washo’; it means ‘Lone Eagle’. My mother called me ‘Cordell’, but now, no one calls me by my first name except C.D. Even Alex calls me Walker.” “I imagine she calls you other names as well,” Doris hinted. “Usually, when she’s mad at me,” he joked. He didn’t want to mention her special name for him; he hoped that she would remember it on her own.

After dozing in the sun for some time, they mounted and headed back to the ranch. Walker looked at Alex and saw the pensive look on her face. He knew that she was dealing with a lot and he decided to add some fun. “I’ll race you,” he said as they neared the ranch. Alex looked up, “Oh, but Doris and Harold…” “We’re fine, you two go ahead. We’ll meet you there,” Harold answered for them. Angel felt the change in Alex’s posture and began to prance. “Ready, set, go!” Walker said as he dug his heels into Ranger’s sides. It took little prompting and both horses went into a full gallop, racing back to the barn. Alex leaned over Angel’s neck and felt the breeze blowing her hat off of her head and her hair streamed down from her ponytail and around her face. Walker looked back at her and grinned and she grinned back spontaneously. They thundered into the barnyard and slowed the horses.

Once there, they dropped into a lope and cooled the horses as they relaxed into the slower gait and then down to a trot and finally a walk. Alex hadn’t known that she was such a gifted rider, but it felt completely natural to her to sit a horse. They continued to walk around as they cooled the horses down and she looked at Walker, his cowboy hat, boots and Levi’s branding him as a cowboy, all the way through. “How did I manage to marry a cowboy?” Alex asked. It wasn’t until she saw him stop and look at her that she realized she’d spoken the words aloud. “What did you say?” he asked. “I… I’m sorry, I just…” again Alex stammered into silence. “I’m not offended, Alex, it’s just that that’s what you’ve called me for years.” She looked at him puzzled, “a cowboy?” He shrugged his shoulders, “I think the first time you used that, it was ‘Crazy Cowboy,’ but later… well, it’s sort of your nickname for me.” He didn’t say that she called him, her ‘Cowboy’. He didn’t want to press the issue, so he turned his attention to Doris and Harold who rode into the yard.

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That evening, C.D. and Trivette came back out and joined the others for dinner. It was a more relaxed evening than the one before and Trivette challenged C.D. to horseshoes. Soon, he and C.D. were teamed against Doris and Harold. C.D. claimed that he had a severe handicap on his team, named Trivette, but they still managed to win the game. “Okay, Alex, Walker, your turn,” Trivette called them from where they sat at the picnic table in the yard, cheering on the others. “Come on Alex, let’s show them how it’s done,” Walker said as he grabbed her hand and drug her over before she could protest. Again, Alex found that she knew how to play the game without knowing how or why. She was quite skilled and she and Walker were victorious over the two men, much to C.D.’s chagrin. The evening ended when Trivette and C.D. headed back to town, C.D. to work at the Bar and Grill and Trivette to go home and get some sleep. The next day was a workday for him and he was carrying Walker’s load, in addition to his own. Doris and Harold also turned in.

Walker watched as Alex began to stiffen up. For some reason, she was still very apprehensive about being left alone with him. “Are you tired yet?” he asked. She shrugged, “A little, but I don’t think I’m ready to turn in.” “Yeah, me either.” He privately thought that if things were normal, they would have gone on upstairs anyway, not being tired was key to newlyweds, and they still qualified. He knew that what he wanted was out of the question, so instead, he pulled out photo albums and went through them with her. He opened the first book and set it on her lap. He let her flip the pages at her own pace and didn’t tell her who the people were or anything about the photos unless she asked.

The third album he laid in her lap was their wedding album. She slowly turned these pages, astonished that their wedding had been such a lavish affair. “How many people were there?” she asked. “In your words, 'three hundred and fifty people give or take a few'.” “Why was it such a large wedding?” she asked curious. “Because that’s what you wanted,” he answered truthfully. “You don’t seem like the type of person who’d want a huge wedding,” she observed. “No, it wasn’t my idea to invite so many people, but I had a great time and it was an amazing wedding. In fact, I think it was the happiest day of my life to date.” She looked at him and then colored, uncertain how to proceed.

Walker saw her nervousness and he leaned in and held her chin in his hand, tilting her face to him. “I made the mistake once of kissing you without your permission. You made me pay for that for months, so I’ll ask this time. Is it all right if I kiss you?” he asked. She looked at his blue gray eyes; they were more blue than she had seen them. Her eyes locked on his and try as she might; she couldn’t find the words to say no. He leaned in towards her very slowly, giving her every chance to stop him, but she didn’t. She was intrigued by him and wanted to feel his lips and to taste him. Walker’s lips brushed hers ever so lightly. She was surprised at the fullness of his lips and the softness of his kiss. He slowly deepened it, increasing the pressure. He took a deep breath through his nose and slowly released her lips and sat back. Looking at his eyes, they appeared even bluer. He traced his finger down the side of her face and over her lips. “I love you Alex Walker. I know that you don’t remember me, but if you let yourself relax and just feel, I know that your heart will remember me.” Alex continued to stare at him, not sure how to respond. “Come on, let’s turn in,” he suggested and took her hand to pull her up from the couch.

They headed upstairs to their room and Alex stood there uncertain how to proceed. “Why don’t you take the bathroom first,” Walker suggested. She gathered up her night clothes and went into the bathroom. Walker listened to the lock turn and knew that she still didn’t quite trust him. He changed into the shorts and shirt and went to the corner of the room to turn on the urn shaped lamp. He waited until she came out of the bathroom and then headed in, while she got into bed. When he came out, he turned off all the lights, save the one ‘nightlight’ and climbed into the bed. She was scooted all the way to the edge of the bed, with her back to him again. Walker reached out his hand and softly stroked her hair. “Goodnight, Alex,” he said, as his hand continued to stroke through her hair. “Goodnight,” she mumbled. Fatigue took over and she drifted off to sleep. Walker sighed and prayed for patience and then he too went to sleep.

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The next morning was a repeat of the first for Alex, until she went down to the kitchen to find that her safety net was about to be taken away. Doris was extremely excited about a phone call she had received bright and early in the morning, telling her that her daughter was in the early stages of labor. She and Harold had readied themselves to head on down the road to Lubbock, where she lived, to be on hand for the birth of their fifth grandchild. They had come in to have breakfast before leaving and to say goodbye to Walker and Alex.

The Skinners had both finished the eggs, sausage and biscuits that were Walker’s specialty, and were drinking a second cup of coffee when Alex descended the stairs to join them. “Well, here comes sleeping beauty now!” Harold said as he spied Alex walking into the dining area. “Good morning,” Alex mumbled as she headed straight into the kitchen toward the coffee pot. Walker greeted her with a cup of coffee, already poured and doctored with milk and sugar, just the way she liked it.

She sipped the warm brew and then turned to speak to the Skinners. “I’m sorry, I didn’t intend to sleep so late,” she apologized. “Honey, it’s not late, we’re just early. We had a phone call this morning and we need to get on the road.” Alex’s stomach plummeted at the news, but she tried valiantly to hide it. “Really? Good news I hope?” “Oh yes, we are about to be grandparents again and we need to start the drive to Lubbock. We figure by the time we get there, our new granddaughter should be just about ready to make her appearance.”

Alex was happy for the couple, they had chatted about their family and she knew that even though their children were not geographically close, they were close in their hearts. Doris was as excited about this grandchild as she had been about the first. Alex went to hug both of them and she urged them to go ahead and get on the road. She wished them good luck and smiled and waved as they pulled out of the long driveway. Walker stood beside her and watched her crestfallen face as the RV pulled onto the road and disappeared from site. She was now truly on her own with a husband she didn’t know, but who made her very nervous. Walker knew that he would have to be very careful and that his words would set the tone for the rest of the day and possibly longer.

“Come on back in and I’ll fix you some breakfast. ‘Woman can’t live by coffee alone’,” he joked. Alex darted her eyes at him and hesitated. The house suddenly seemed confining and she was afraid to follow him in. It was silly and she knew it. She had slept alone with him in that house, in the same bed for heaven’s sake, two nights in a row. Still, the knowledge that Doris and Harold were just a scream away had helped. Alex straightened her back and stiffened her resolve and walked back into the house and sat at the table.

Walker fixed her poached eggs on toast, her favorite, and laid a small sausage patty on her plate. Her diet had expanded slightly, but he still wanted to minimize the spice and grease that she might consume. Doctor Andrews had told him that with the limited diet she had been given, she would need to reintroduce foods slowly to her system. They couldn’t be certain just what she had been fed; but certainly, it had not been enough to provide her with adequate nutrition, as evidenced by her weight loss.

Alex slowly ate a few bites of her breakfast. She found that it was hard to swallow, her throat had tightened with nerves and her stomach suffered a similar fate. She drank a second cup of coffee and Walker decided to throw the next curve at her. “Alex, you have a good friend, Sharon Clark, who would like to come out to see you today.” Alex looked at him and waited, knowing there was more. “She is a psychologist and she may be able to help you. You met her years ago after you had a rather traumatic event occur in your life and you felt that you needed someone you could talk to. She helped you through that time and you established a trust and a friendship with her. She counseled several of the women from your abuse group and later she became a volunteer at the HOPE Center.”

“What’s the HOPE Center?” Alex asked; grasping at what she decided was the safest response to his suggestion. “It’s a community center that you dreamed up and opened. You provide many services for community members, but your passion has been to help women who have suffered from domestic violence. You see the women as a whole and try to provide assistance that will free them from the life they felt trapped in. You provide support groups, day care, job training and placement, temporary shelter, legal advice and help, and counseling. Sharon has been a big part of that and you rely heavily on her when you have a woman dealing with the emotional aspect of being a victim and overcoming that.” “Is that what I am? A victim?”

Walker stopped and looked at her. He would never have described Alex as a victim, not even after LaRue terrorized her when she initially sought Sharon out for help in dealing with that ordeal. Looking at her now though, he saw all the signs of someone who was a victim. She was nervous, meek, untrusting, and of course, her inability to remember anything was another sign that something had been done to her. He didn’t want to sugarcoat his response, but he chose his words carefully. “I would say that you have been victimized. We don’t know what happened to you, but clearly, something did. I don’t know if Sharon can help you to remember what happened, but I do know that you’ll be glad of her friendship once you meet her. She’s a good person, a down to earth person whom you’ve always considered a friend and confidant. Is it all right if she comes out to the ranch to talk with you? I’m not asking that you make any commitments right now, just that you meet her and see how you feel.”

Alex looked at Walker. She didn’t know what frightened her more, not remembering, or the possibility of remembering something that might be too horrible to bear. It would be nice though, to have another possible ally. Walker was just too intimidating and she couldn’t conceive of being left alone with him all day, every day, for any length of time. Looking at him, she honestly didn’t know what had ever possessed her to marry him. How could she have been expected to hold her own against a man who was so confident and comfortable with himself and with her? If she were honest, she was scared to death of the man. She considered her options and decided that meeting this Sharon was the lesser of two evils. “All right, I’ll meet her,” she agreed aloud. “I’ll call her and see what time she can come out,” he said as he got up to make the call. Alex stood too and began to clear the breakfast dishes. She listened to Walker’s side of the conversation and it was decided that Sharon would arrive at ten o’clock in the morning. Alex debated on whether or not she was glad, but then decided that anything to relieve the tension she felt alone with Walker was a good thing.

Sharon Clark had been waiting for Walker’s phone call. She knew all about Alex’s situation; Walker had filled her in. She knew things about Alex that even Walker didn’t know. She had helped Alex work through the trauma of being terrorized by Victor LaRue, not once, but three times. She had also helped Alex to understand herself and what motivated her. Sharon knew all about Alex’s childhood, her parents’ divorce, her mother’s death, her father’s alcoholism and her failed relationships with men. She had helped Alex to accept the fact that Walker was so afraid of commitment that it took him years to admit his love for her. Alex had a few very close friendships, but there was only one person who knew her better than Sharon Clark, and that was her husband, Cordell Walker.

Alex was sitting out on the front porch, trying to focus on a book that she had found to read. It didn’t hold her attention, as she was too nervous about what Walker was doing at any given moment. When a car drove up the driveway and a woman in her mid-forties exited, she assumed that this was the psychologist Walker had talked about.

Walker too, had heard the car and he came out of the house to greet Sharon and to make the introductions. “Alex, this is Sharon Clark, the woman I told you about,” he introduced. “Hello,” Alex said politely with her hand extended. Sharon shook her hand, although she was tempted to grab and hug her friend. “Alex, hello, it’s so good to see you. We were all terribly worried about you,” she said as she shook Alex’s hand. Sharon looked at Walker and said, “And how are you doing?” The question was designed to take the focus off Alex, who was showing signs of strain that Sharon’s professional eye easily picked up. “I’m doing a lot better than the last time you saw me,” Walker admitted. Sharon had paid him a visit at work one day, while Alex was missing, in an effort to provide what support she could. “I’m glad to hear that,” she said.

The three entered the living room and Walker offered both hot and cold drinks. It was still early, but it was also the middle of a Texas summer and the heat was already taking its toll. Both Sharon and Alex opted for iced tea. Once Walker had handed each of the ladies a glass, with ice clinking, he looked to Sharon for guidance. “I was going to go do some work in the barn, but if you want me to stay, I will,” he offered. He knew that Sharon would want to speak to Alex alone, but he wanted Alex to know that she didn’t have to agree to that if she didn’t want to. He also wanted to be close enough that if he was needed, he could come running. Alex didn’t answer, she didn’t even look up. Sharon made eye contact with Walker and said, “We’ll be fine, why don’t you go ahead with what you need to do?” Walker nodded and headed out the front door.

“So, Alex, how are you coping with all of this?” Alex looked up at Sharon and asked, “All of what?” Sharon smiled. Even without her memory, she still had the mind of a prosecuting attorney. Don’t ask a question unless you know the answer and don’t answer a question unless you’re certain of the reason for it. “I imagine that finding yourself married and living in a home with a man you have only just met is rather… daunting?” Sharon waited to see how much Alex would reveal about her true feelings. Her body language had already revealed a great deal, but now she wanted to know how honest Alex was willing to be about her feelings. Alex shrugged, “It’s been difficult. Doris and Harold helped though.” “Oh yes, that’s the couple who found you and brought you to the hospital, right?” Alex nodded. “And they were here with you?” Alex nodded again, avoiding making eye contact with Sharon.

Sharon looked at Alex and grew more concerned than she had been when she first arrived. Even without a memory, she had expected to see Alex’s spunk, but it wasn’t there. Walker had told her that Alex seemed meek and frightened, but Sharon had thought that perhaps he was expecting too much too soon. Looking at Alex though, she decided that whatever had been done to her had been very traumatizing. She hadn’t just been kidnapped and held for a time, something more had been done to her.

“Alex, I don’t expect you to fall into the friendship and the trust that we’ve shared. I know that as far as you’re concerned, we’ve only just met. I do want you to know though that I have your best interests at heart and my goal is to help you in any way I can.” Sharon waited, but Alex didn’t respond. “Why don’t you tell me everything that’s happened and catch me up?” she suggested. They spent the next two hours talking, Sharon probing Alex for more information about all the things she remembered from the time she woke in the badlands, to the present time.

At the end of the session, Sharon had made some clear decisions about how she wanted to proceed with Alex’s treatment. She also had an abundance of questions that were left unanswered. Walker came into the house and went into the kitchen to begin making lunch. He walked into the living room and asked if they would like to eat. They all went into the dining room and shared a casual lunch. Sharon talked about people they all knew, mostly from the HOPE Center. She mentioned names, hoping something would click with Alex, but she just smiled politely and watched Walker apprehensively. Sharon left soon after lunch with a look to Walker that said, ‘We’ll talk.’

Walker suggested that Alex stretch out on the couch with the air conditioner on during the heat of the day. She wasn’t sleepy, so he put in one of her favorite videos, The American President. Alex curled up to watch it and even Walker sat in his reclining chair during it. They got to the scene early in the film, where Michael Douglas sends Annette Benning a gift basket. Walker was dozing, when he heard, Alex mumble, “A Virginia ham.” He opened his eyes and watched as Annette Benning pulled out a country ham. His eyes widened as he realized that she had uttered the punch line before the movie. It was a surprising and quirky gift in the movie, not something that Alex could have anticipated. Walker didn’t say anything, but filed away the information to share with Sharon later when he spoke with her.

They reached the scene where Annette Benning’s character comes out of the bathroom wearing the President’s shirt. Walker was thinking that she had great legs, but nothing compared to Alex’s. He got a pang deep in his chest as he thought of Alex wearing his shirts and how amazingly sexy she looked in them. He was beginning to become aroused as his mind pictured her so clearly, standing in front of him with a long white shirt on, only a couple of buttons holding it closed, as if she knew it wouldn’t stay closed long anyway. His erotic fantasy was interrupted by the phone. Walker picked it up, “Walker.” “Hey, it’s me, I need you man. We’re going to bust Layton and it’s gonna be a hard take down.” Walker was thinking that Trivette learned his timing from Uncle Ray. He even interrupted fantasies! “Okay, I’ll call C.D. and ask him to come here and then I’ll meet you at headquarters,” he said before replacing the phone onto the receiver.

Walker looked over at the couch to see that Alex was watching him. “I need to go in to work for a bit. I’ll call C.D. and have him come over to stay with you.” He was dialing the phone as he made the explanation. “C.D.? Hi, listen, I have to go in to work for a bit. I was wondering if you’d come over and keep Alex company while I’m gone. Okay thanks, I’ll see you soon.” Walker hung up the phone and let the footrest down on the chair. “I’m gonna go get ready while we wait for C.D.,” he said, as he began to head toward the stairwell. “You don’t have to wait until he gets here, I don’t need a babysitter,” she said in a petulant voice. “Alex, there’s been a news crew parked at the end of our driveway for two days now. If I drive out of here alone, then they’re going to be here asking you all sorts of questions in no time flat. C.D. will be here to make sure that they don’t think they can come onto the property. In fact, I better call the sheriff and have him send a car around too.”

Alex laid on the couch fuming. Granted, she didn’t want to answer some reporter’s questions, but she also resented being treated like an invalid. Walker didn’t seem concerned that she was angry though, he simply made his arrangements and got ready to go as if she didn’t have a say in it. The more she thought of it, the madder she got. The movie echoed her feelings of resentment as Michael Douglas refused to defend his relationship with Annette Benning. By the time Walker came back downstairs, Alex was ready to do battle.

“Alex, C.D. will cook dinner for us, there’s nothing either of us can say that will deter him. Stay indoors with him and I’ll be back as soon as I can.” “I don’t want to stay indoors, I want to go out,” she said with hostility. “Well, that’s just not wise right now.” “Who the hell cares? I don’t need to be dictated to like some child.” “Great, you pick now to get your feathers ruffled. Look Alex, I don’t have time to argue with you about this. I want you to stay indoors until I get back. Is that understood?” Her response to him was a glare. Walker sighed deeply and approached her and squatted down so that he was eye level with her. “I know that you’re not happy about this, but Alex, we don’t even know who kidnapped you or what they did to you. They had you for seventeen days and now you don’t even know your own name.” “I know enough that I can stay by myself for a couple of hours.” “I don’t know that it’s going to be a couple of hours. The man we’re going to arrest is not going to just come peacefully. I may not be home until far into the night; I just don’t know.”

Alex’s expression changed, from anger to worry. “Is it dangerous?” Walker looked at her, uncertain how to respond. “Well, yes, it’s dangerous, but we’ll be taking every precaution. The reason Trivette called me is that we work so well together that we don’t even have to ask what the other person is doing. I’ll be fine, I promise.” Alex’s eyes welled with tears and her lips quivered as she tried to speak. “I’m sorry; I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Walker used his thumb to brush away the tear that spilled onto her cheek. “What’s wrong is that you’ve been through a great deal and now you’re on an emotional roller coaster. You stay here with C.D., challenge him to a game of chess, and I’ll be home as soon as I can, okay?” Alex looked deeply into his eyes as if looking for a promise and nodded slightly when she found it. “Chess?” she asked. “Do I play chess?” Walker smiled at her, “You do and you’ll definitely beat C.D.; you always do.” He leaned in and kissed her lips in a comforting kiss. His passion instantly flared and he was grateful that this time, it was C.D. who interrupted them. The last thing he wanted to do was to scare her with how much he needed her.

Walker filled C.D. in on the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of caring for Alex. No dark rooms, no sudden moves, and no reporters. He told him to play chess with her and to keep the conversation casual. He didn’t want her to get too much information by asking questions, he wanted her to remember things on her own. At least until he had Sharon’s okay to prod her memory along. C.D. took his duty seriously and Alex got the feeling that she was being guarded closer than all the gold in Fort Knox. She watched Walker leave with a jumble of emotions. Despite Walker’s little whispered conference with C.D., she planned to pry as much information from the talkative man as she possibly could.

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Walker sat in the Ram with Trivette, waiting for Layton to arrive at the shipping warehouse where they believed he stashed the drugs he was importing. Trivette was curious about how things were going with Alex, but past history told him that he was likely to get his head bitten off if he asked. “Just say it, Trivette,” Walker finally reached the end of his endurance of Trivette’s tactful silence. “How’s Alex doing?” “You already asked that.” “Right and you said, ‘fine.’ Come on man, how is she really doing?” Walker heaved a huge sigh. “I don’t know, Trivette, but I’m really worried. Sharon was out today and I’m supposed to talk to her later if this jerk Layton ever gets around to showing up.” “What’s been happening?” “She’s just been so shy and… meek.” “Alex?” “Yeah, that’s why I’m worried. Although… she did get mad at me for the first time today.” “What’d you do?” “I called C.D. to stay with her and she got offended. It’s the first time I’ve seen even a glimpse of the Alex I’ve known for all these years.”

Trivette sat in quiet thought for a few minutes. “I guess until we know what was done to her; it’s going to be hard to help her.” Walker hit the steering wheel with the heel of his hand. “I tell you Trivette, when we find who did this to her…” “I know, partner, I’m there with you man.” There was quiet again, until Trivette got the courage to ask another question. “So, how are things, you know, between the two of you?” “What two of us? We’re like strangers sharing a house, sharing a bed.” “So you are sleeping together?” “If you can call it that. She sleeps as close to the edge of the bed as she can get. It’s like she’s afraid I’m going to pounce on her.” “Well, you are newlyweds…” “Trivette, I’m not going to say that making love to my wife is the furthest thing from my mind, but I am not about to do anything that might frighten her even more than she’s already been frightened.” “If I know Alex, she’ll be the instigator in no time.” “That’s just it, you don’t know Alex. Not this Alex. None of us do. She is a different person and I don’t know what to expect from her.” “Looks like you might be able to get home to her fairly soon,” Trivette said as he pointed to the Cadillac pulling up to the warehouse. “Let’s do it,” Walker said.

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Alex watched C.D. and waited patiently for him to settle into his role as protector. It seemed to be a natural role for him and she had to admit, if only to herself, that she was glad that he was there. She couldn’t remember anything about him, but she intuitively knew that she could trust him. She felt comfortable with him and that was saying a lot. As a rule, she didn’t feel comfortable with people who had known her before, before waking up in the badlands. To date, she had felt comfortable with four people; Doctor Andrews, Nurse Charlene, Harold and Doris. Now she added C.D. to that list. Walker was on a list of people she felt very uncomfortable with and Jimmy and Sharon fell somewhere in between.

Alex looked up as C.D. moved his rook. She studied the chessboard and moved her knight. C.D. looked up at her and frowned, mumbling to himself, “I thought maybe this time I’d have a chance.” He leaned his chin on his hand and stared at the board. As he concentrated on his next move, Alex decided that her timing was right. It was time to ask her questions.

“Walker said that I always win our games of chess,” she opened casually. “Yes, confound it, you sure do darlin’,” C.D. admitted while he continued to ponder his next move. “Then why do you still play against me?” “It’s not the destination darlin’, it’s the journey.” “Do you play Walker and Jimmy too?” “Sure I do, and both of them whippersnappers beat me nearly every time as well. Worst thing I did for my self-esteem was teaching Walker to play chess.” “Why did you?” “I thought he needed a sit down activity. Then again, maybe I just needed him to sit down every once in awhile so’s I could catch my breath.” “That’s right; you used to be his partner.” “That I was. Green as grass that boy was when we hooked up. He’d done a stint in Nam and afterwards, he’d joined the force, but with all his special training, he was headed for the Rangers sure ’nough.”

Alex watched as he made his next move, countered with hers, and then continued her probing. “And now he has Jimmy for a partner,” she said matter-of-factly, but leaving the ending open for him to fill in. “That was a hard pair to make stick let me tell you. Cordell likes doin’ everything the hard way and Jimmy, with all of his ‘devices’… well, they were just oil and water.” “You’d never know it to look at them,” she observed. “Well, no, they worked out their differences and now they’re as close as brothers ― closer. Either one would take a bullet for the other. That’s what true partners do; they watch out for each other and put the other before themselves.” “I guess,” Alex said, noncommittally as he finally moved again. She countered and then watched him really focus on what she’d done.

“I guess you and Jimmy weren’t too happy when I came on the scene, huh?” “What’s that darlin’?” C.D. asked as he wrinkled his brow in concentration. “Well, I mean, I pretty much invaded the boys club when Walker and I became a pair.” “You and Walker were friends before I partnered him up with Jimmy.” “We were? I knew that we were friends for a long time before we became a couple, but I hadn’t realized it was that long.” “Oh, you two met and there was more fur flying than at a long-haired raccoon fight.” Alex wrinkled her brow, but had to smile at the strange image C.D.’s saying had conjured up. “We didn’t hit it off, huh? I can’t say that I’m surprised; he’s the most aggravating man I’ve come across.” “I think your words were mule-headed the first time you met him.” “Yeah, that fits,” she said. She was trying to picture her first meeting with Walker, but she just didn’t have enough details.

C.D. made his move and she slid her piece over to block his queen. “Checkmate,” she said as he tossed his hands up in the air. “Why do I torture myself like this?” he asked the ceiling. “How did Walker and I finally get together?” she asked C.D. directly. “Well, Jimmy and I played matchmakers for years, but I don’t know for sure when you finally got together. I remember several times when I thought the two of you were finally going to give in to your feelings, but then you’d come back and act like you barely knew each other. You gave this old heart fits, I’ll tell you.” “What do you mean?” she asked. “Alex, it wouldn’t be right if I told you. There’s so much I don’t know, even if I did tell ya. You and Walker were so tightlipped about what was going on between the two of you; I wasn’t ever sure what was goin’ on. I tell you though, you loved him from the get go and he loved you too. I’ve never seen two more stubborn people get together as the two of you. But when you two finally hooked up, there’s been no separating you. You love him and he loves you. I was stuck in Japan and couldn’t get back for your wedding, but I’ve watched that video more times than I can count.” “Video?” “Yes, the video of the wedding… Now Alex, don’t go gettin’ any ideas. I don’t think you should watch the video when you can’t remember anything yet.” “But C.D., what if it helps me to remember?” “Well, it just might at that. But until we get the go ahead from your friend Sharon, no video! Now let’s go in the kitchen and you can keep me company while I fix us somethin’ to eat.”

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Walker had enjoyed taking out three different thugs with a combination of spinning kicks and fast flying fists. He had taken out some of his frustration on the unsuspecting goons, but he had little regret. They certainly weren’t choir boys and they deserved what they got. He left the clean up in the hands of the other Rangers with Trivette taking point and he went to visit with Sharon Clark. Sharon had a women’s group she was facilitating that evening at the HOPE Center and they had arranged to meet there.

Walker pulled up and parked in the driveway of the large house that was the home base of Alex’s realized dream for a community center that focused on the needs of women. She had created something from nothing and all of her hard work had been extremely fruitful. He opened the door and got out of the truck, feeling the minor aches and pains of his earlier physical exertions. He headed up the stairs and went indoors and ran into Josie. “Walker, hi, it’s so good to see you. How’s Alex? Is there any change? I can’t imagine what she must be going through. Is there anything I can do to help?” Walker held his hand up to halt her string of questions. “Josie, I don’t even know what you said, I’m too tired to follow it.” “Sorry,” she apologized and reached up to give him a friendly hug. He accepted her supportive gesture and tried to answer her questions. “Alex is doing okay physically, but it is hard emotionally, not knowing who you or anyone around you is. Sharon saw her today and I came in to talk to her about how we should proceed. As soon as we have a game plan mapped out, I’ll let you know how you can help.” “Sounds good, I’m here to help, whenever and however you need me.” “I know and I really appreciate it. I never stopped to realize how many people love Alex, but it’s a lot.” “What’s not to love? She’s helped so many people… and she’s a good friend too,” the usually unflappable Josie had tears sparkling in her eyes.

Sharon walked in and saw Walker and Josie. After they all greeted each other, Walker suggested they go into Alex’s office to talk. He hadn’t been in the room since Alex had gone missing and he sniffed the air, picking up traces of her perfume, even after so much time. Her perfume had permeated the cloth chair that she sat in at her desk. He took Alex’s seat and Sharon sat across from him. “Well, what did you think?” he asked. “Walker, something’s not right. I can’t tell you what, but it’s not only her memory that’s gone, her personality has been affected too.” “I know, she’s timid and acts afraid of everything, of me.” “Well, it isn’t surprising that she’s fearful, but I expected to see some of the spunk that Alex has always demonstrated, but that’s gone. I think that something has been done to her. I’d like to contact Doctor Andrews in Abilene and talk to him. Alex said that it was all right with her, but I wanted your permission as well before I called him.” “Whatever you need to help her Sharon. I made an appointment for her tomorrow to see her regular doctor. Doctor Andrews wanted me to massage the pressure areas on her shoulders that she got from being restrained in the same position for so long, but she’s so afraid of my touch, that I haven’t. Doris did a couple of times, but that’s it.”

Sharon nodded her head. “I think you need to start desensitizing her very slowly. When you take her to the doctor’s office, why not go to lunch at a familiar place.” “C.D.’s?” “Yeah, that should be good. Then stop by here and have her meet Josie. I don’t want to overwhelm her too fast, but if you limit it to those two places, that should be a good beginning.” “What do you think about telling her about past events?” “I wouldn’t, unless she asks the questions. When you take her to C.D.’s, just state that you’re going to eat there. If she asks general questions, like if you ate there often in the past, answer those. If she asks for more specific details, evade her questions. Only prompt memories that she has independently.” “She’s done a few things, she drank my coffee the other morning before she was fully awake, and she called me ‘Cowboy’.” “Expect the little slips like that, but don’t put too much stock in them. There’s a reason why she’s not remembering and I suspect that it’s because she’s afraid to. Whatever was done to her has left deep psychological wounds.” “I want to get my hands on the people responsible…”

“Walker, as angry as you are, you have to put aside those feelings and concentrate on Alex for now. My advice is to keep going slowly with her. Treat her as if she’s a dear friend you haven’t seen in a long time and you want to get to know again. Don’t pressure her. I’ll give you more specifics on how I think we should proceed after I consult with Doctor Andrews and see Alex again. You said she has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, why don’t I plan to come out on Saturday?” “That sounds good. We’ll be there all day, just call when you want to come.” “Okay, I will. Be patient Walker, we’ll get her through this.” Walker looked at Sharon and nodded his head. He even managed a tight smile. “I better get home. I let C.D. loose in my kitchen, who knows what he’s gotten up to.” Sharon smiled at Walker’s attempt to lighten the mood. “Okay, I’ll see you day after tomorrow.”

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When Walker arrived home, it was to find Alex peeling potatoes while seated on a stool in the kitchen and C.D. moving from stove to refrigerator to spice rack as he prepared his version of a gourmet meal. The scene looked so normal; Alex was relaxed and even smiling at C.D.’s antics. Walker’s heart ached at the loss he had suffered. His wife, the woman he had befriended and loved for so many years now, was gone, and seeing her look so much like the woman he knew, made him miss her all the more.

He pulled his mind out of its depressing contemplation and pasted a smile on his face. “Not too much spice C.D.,” he warned. He watched Alex sit up straighter and the smile leave her face as she realized he was there watching them. “Now don’t you go telling me how to cook,” C.D. blustered. “I’ve been cookin’ since before your mouth could water.” This brought a return of Alex’s smile. “C.D., where do you come up with these sayings?” she asked. “What sayin’ darlin’? I just talk like any Texan,” he claimed. “Not like any Texan I’ve ever known. That is unless they were born in the 1800’s,” Walker interjected. “You just watch yourself son, I’m not too old to teach you a few manners.” Walker chuckled, glad that C.D. seemed so unaffected by Alex’s disability.

“I’ll just go upstairs and wash up, it looks like dinner is nearly done,” Walker guessed by the aroma. “I need to fry up these potatoes Alex is peeling and the rest is ready.” “What exactly are you fixing?” Walker asked. “Fish and chips, made with my special beer batter.” “I’ll be right back,” Walker said with enthusiasm and took the stairs two at a time.

C.D. insisted that Alex set the table for two. He had to get back to his Bar and Grill and didn’t have the time to stay and eat. He added candles and lit them, while she poured the drinks and brought them over to the table. His attempt to create a romantic atmosphere was so transparent, that she didn’t know if she should be angry or merely laugh. She decided not to say anything at all. Walker returned downstairs smelling of soap, with his hair wet. His eyebrows rose as he took in the ambience of the room, but he too decided not to say anything. C.D. left and a quiet settled over the Walker household.

Looking at Alex standing staring at him like a deer caught in headlights, he pulled out her chair and said, “Well, I guess we shouldn’t disappoint him, it smells great!” Alex had to admit that her taste buds were tempted. She accepted Walker’s gallant gesture and took her seat. C.D. had used red and white checked napkins and they both shook them out and laid them across their laps. He’d included homemade tartar sauce and coleslaw to the casual menu and Walker dished out some for himself and passed the dishes over to Alex. She too scooped some onto her plate and they began a strained meal. Walker watched Alex glance at him for about the hundredth time and finally stood up and blew out the candles and flipped on the overhead light. “C.D. has always been a matchmaker, he can’t help himself. He tried every trick in the book to get the two of us together.” Alex relaxed slightly at the change in atmosphere and tone. She could handle Walker with the lights on full. Or at least she hoped she could!

She ate more at one sitting than she had since she’d been found. Her appetite was definitely improving and she enjoyed the flavorful meal. “C.D. is certainly an interesting man. It’s like looking at someone in Technicolor. He’s larger than life.” “That he is. He’s also one of the best people on God’s green earth. That man has a huge heart and I have to admit that I don’t know where I’d be without his influence in my life. He helped me make good decisions, when they weren’t easy to make. And I guess I can’t hold it against him that he forced Trivette on me and also that he pushed me into romancing you.” “He does push, doesn’t he?” Alex said with a fond smile. The two finished their meal amicably and then did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen together.

Walker looked at Alex and said, “Alex, I know that you don’t feel comfortable having me touch you, but with Doris gone, I think I should massage those areas on your shoulders for you.” Alex’s eyes widened in alarm. “Doris was doing that for you, right?” Alex nodded her head, but didn’t know how to get out of this one. “Well, why don’t you go on upstairs and remove your top and lay face down on the bed. I’ll get the cream Doctor Andrews prescribed and massage the area. After it soaks in, you can go take a hot shower with the jets set on pulse. Doctor Andrews said that it was important to increase the circulation to the area.” Alex continued to stand there frozen. “Alex,” he began and then reached out to tilt her chin up so that she was forced to look at him. “I promise that I will remain clinical and simply provide you with the treatment needed. I asked Doris to take care of it because I knew that you would be more comfortable with her, but you can’t just stop because she’s gone.” Alex knew he was right, but didn’t want to admit it. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was afraid of. He had been the perfect gentleman. She closed her eyes and imagined his hands smoothing the cream on her back. Her body reacted with a tightening of her abdomen and a flush of her cheeks. She was saved the embarrassment of him seeing how he affected her by the ringing phone.

The phone call was from Doris, telling them that she and Harold had a beautiful newborn granddaughter. “And the best news, you’ll never guess! My daughter and her husband named the baby Alexis! We have an Alex in our family now too!” Walker had put her on speaker phone and he teased her, “Watch out, she’s bound to be mule-headed!” Doris laughed and asked how they were doing and babbled on for another ten minutes and then regretfully said goodnight. Just before she hung up, she said, “Alex, don’t forget to get Walker to rub that ointment on your shoulders.” This was one prompt that she couldn’t ignore. “I won’t,” she said and knew that she was now stuck.

After finishing the phone call, Walker merely pointed upstairs and Alex meekly followed the unspoken command. He didn’t know if he should be glad that she had obeyed him or worried that she hadn’t argued. He heaved a big sigh and just locked up the downstairs and then headed up to the bedroom. He found her lying face down, with her shirt off, but the pillows propped on each side of her body, so that there was no chance that he would get a glimpse of her breasts. He turned on the light on her nightstand and looked carefully at the bruised areas on her shoulder blades. His blood boiled as he saw the diffused bruising that was healing, but the thought of what she’d had to endure to cause the marks… He gently soothed on the ointment without a word and used his thumbs to gently massage the area.

Alex lay perfectly still, concentrating on regulating her breathing. His touch sent flames shooting through her and she had to stifle a moan as his hands moved down her back, easing the muscles bunched around her spine. The lower his hands worked, the tighter her stomach muscles became and the wetter her panties. Alex was astonished at the reaction her body had to his touch. She focused on her breathing as if it was the only thing keeping her from flipping over and pulling him down to her. What was wrong with her? He was a virtual stranger! Had she been some kind of slut? Was she one of those women who just couldn’t get enough sex? And would she react like this to any man or just to him? She had so many questions and no way of answering them. The fact that they were married, that this man was her husband, didn’t change anything. She was on fire and all he’d done was massage some ointment into her back. What kind of woman was she?

Walker soothed down her spine, trying to work out the kinks he found there. He was used to massaging her back and was sickened at the weight loss she’d suffered and the knots that he knew had been caused by being forced to maintain the same position for long periods of time. His hand brushed down to her side and he encountered a rough patch of skin. He looked more closely and exclaimed, “What the hell?!” He forgot about everything and flipped her over, looking at the round healing burn patches that dotted her abdomen and chest. Alex looked up into his eyes and saw fury. She lay there completely petrified, not sure what he was going to do to her. She was so afraid, that she didn’t even think to cover her exposed breasts. She lay there frozen, waiting to see what he would do next.

Walker’s hands clenched and unclenched, he sucked air in and tried desperately to calm himself. Alex watched the inner war he raged and hoped that she would be spared his wrath. He suddenly moved and walked away from her, pacing back and forth. He then stopped in front of a full length mirror that was mounted on the wall and pulled his fist back and punched it, shattering it into thousands of spider-like veins. Alex pulled her legs up and sat against the headboard, her knees hugged to her chest. She was more frightened than she could remember being. She ducked her head and rocked herself. She couldn’t hold back the tiny whimpering noises she made.

Somehow, Alex’s state penetrated his rage. He looked at her and slowly, the image she made registered on his consciousness. “Oh Alex, I’m sorry,” he said and approached the bed to comfort her. She went into a tighter ball, her head buried into her bent knees. Walker reached out his hand and gently stroked her hair. “I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he began. He continued with the gentle stroking. “Alex, I just saw those burn marks on your body and all I could see was red. To think that someone would hurt you…” his voice cracked and a tear ran down his face, followed by several more. She lifted her head and watched amazed as this tough giant allowed her to see his pain. “One of the reasons I held off asking you to marry me was that I didn’t want you to be put in jeopardy by my job. If someone used you to try to get to me, then they would have found my one true Achilles heel. When you were suddenly gone… my whole world shattered.” He looked over at the mirror that was now destroyed. “My life was like that mirror and the only thing I could do was try to find you. Then when you were found and I realized that someone had hurt you, really hurt you… Alex, every fear, every nightmare, came true. One of the other reasons I held off making a commitment to you was that I had lost the most important people in my life and I had built a protective wall to keep people out. I had to face the possibility of never seeing you again.”

Alex relaxed her grip on her knees and sat up slightly, listening to him. She was intrigued as much by his demeanor as by his words. He was baring his soul and she knew it. His hand continued to play with her hair as it hung softly around her face. “To think that someone could do this to you, it just kills me,” he admitted, as his index finger lightly caressed a round mark just below her clavicle bone. His finger stroked down slowly, reaching the swell of her breast. She was so enthralled by his touch; she forgot completely her need for modesty. Her knees lowered slowly, allowing him to trace down the full swell of her breast to the pink tip. He circled the areole and watched, as if for the first time, as the tip tightened and wrinkled up to a hard point. Alex watched his head bend forward and lower, until his lips touched the nipple his fingers had brought to an aching peak. The cry was wrenched from her throat as his lips closed over that one point and suckled gently.

The lightening that streaked through her body, straight to her womanhood brought a cry of pure surprise and passion. Walker pushed his tongue out between his lips and rasped it back and forth across her engorged nipple. He resumed his suckling, as if he was trying to find comfort, nursing her breast. His hands remained down on the bed, and the only part of him touching her was his mouth. And the only place he touched her was that one aching nipple. Walker took a deep breath through his nose and slowly released his suction hold on her. Alex whimpered as his warm mouth was drawn back away from her sensitized flesh. He sat back and looked at her, watching the moist nipple stand proud and erect from the soft swell that supported it.

His finger came back up and he gently stroked it. “I want you more than I want to breathe.” He stopped and took a deep breath, forcing himself to inhale and releasing it on a sigh of longing. “But I don’t want to frighten you and despite what your body tells me, I see the fear lurking in your eyes. So, I’m going to go and let you take your shower. I’ll be downstairs and I’ll come up later, after you’ve fallen asleep. I won’t touch you ― you have my word.” Alex watched as he got up and left the room. She warred with herself, her body begging her to go after him. The cool air finally cooled her body enough for her to begin thinking again and she stood up on shaky legs and headed to the bathroom.

Walker returned hours later. He watched Alex in the glow of the urn shaped lamp. “Dear god, I love her so much. Please, bring her back to me,” he prayed. He went to shower, washing the sweat from his body that had accumulated there during the punishing workout he’d put himself through down in the basement gym. He pulled on his night time attire and crawled into the bed. Walker stayed more on his side of the bed than she did on hers that night. He got very little sleep as he inhaled her scent and listened to her gentle breathing.

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The next day, Walker assisted Alex into the Ram and they headed out of the ranch driveway. This was the first trip Alex had taken off the ranch since she had arrived in Doris and Harold’s RV. She was excited and nervous, but was determined to hope for the best. As they turned right out of the driveway onto the road, Alex saw a car parked in a grove of trees and watched as it tailed them. She didn’t say anything, somehow knowing that Walker was also aware of their presence. They reached a curve in the road and Walker tugged on her seatbelt to tighten it and said, “Hold on.” He took a narrow path through a forested area and Alex gripped onto the armrest and dashboard and held her breath as they barreled through the undergrowth with little regard for potholes and bushes.

Ten minutes into the wild ride, Walker exited onto another paved roadway and Alex sat back, her eyes wide and her heart racing. He glanced over to see what her reaction to the unplanned off roading adventure would be. “I’m sorry, but I wanted to lose the reporters. They’re dying for pictures or a statement from you and I’d prefer to avoid that.” Alex relaxed back into the seat and recovered her breath. “That’s all right, it was fun.” Walker glanced over at her and grinned. She couldn’t help it, she grinned back.

The rest of the trip to the doctor’s office was uneventful. Once there, Walker reluctantly took a seat in the waiting room while she went in to be examined. She was poked and prodded and then the doctor told her that she could rest and to meet her in her office. Walker was invited to the consultation and he sat next to Alex and looked across at Doctor Weaver. Doctor Weaver had been Alex’s general practitioner for two years, but Alex had no memory of her. She sat across from the fifty something doctor and waited to hear the results of her physical. “Well Alex, I won’t have the blood work results back until tomorrow, but it looks to me as if you’re well on the road to recovery. I have the records that Dr. Andrews forwarded to me and I see a marked improvement in only a few days. Clearly, you’re no longer dehydrated and you’ve put on a few pounds, most of which is fluids, but that’s okay. You said that your appetite has improved and I’d say that you’re ready to go back to a normal diet. Just don’t over do on spices and fatty foods.”

Alex nodded her agreement and continued to sit quietly listening. Dr. Weaver looked at her curiously, used to Alex’s direct personality that asked the pertinent questions. Walker interjected, usually the quieter of the two, he decided he would need to take the lead. “What about exercise?” “I recommend it. Nothing too strenuous, I wouldn’t recommend your regimen,” she glanced at Walker’s well formed arm and chest muscles, “but some stretching and aerobic exercise in moderation is a good place to start.” “And the pressure sores, how do they look?” “I would continue with applying the ointment to them. The ones on her shoulders are very nearly healed, but the ones on her hips need more attention.”

Walker had forgotten that Dr. Andrews had mentioned ones on her hips and Alex hadn’t mentioned them. Come to think of it, neither had Doris, which meant that Alex hadn’t said anything to her about them. She was extremely modest and he just wasn’t used to that. Then he remembered how she’d been when they first became lovers, she had been modest then too. So her comfort with sharing her body with him was a learned thing and not a natural one. This got him to thinking. Maybe her spunk and fire was learned too. She’d had to fight for a lot in her life and perhaps her nature was normally gentle and mild. He thought a bit more and decided that no, she had to have been born feisty; it was just such a part of her. So the meekness was a result of the trauma that she had endured. Now it was up to him to determine exactly what had happened so that he could help her overcome her fears.

They left the doctor’s office and Walker asked her if she was hungry for lunch. He didn’t tell her where he planned to take her, but instead, waited to see if she found something familiar about the route or the landmarks. She made no comment until she read the sign that announced they had pulled up in front of C.D.’s Bar and Grill. “Oh, we’re going to see C.D.?” she asked in an animated voice. It was the little things that gave away her nervousness around him. She was so excited to see C.D. that he knew that she had dreaded a meal out with just him.

C.D. was in his usual spot behind the bar when they entered. He made the unusual gesture of coming out from behind the bar to greet them and to give Alex one of his famous bear hugs. “Oh, it’s so good to see you out and about darlin’. What’d the doctor say? Are you back up to snuff?” “If that means am I getting better, then the answer is yes. She said that I can start eating a normal diet, so I guess I’m ready for some of that chili I’ve heard so much about.” “Alex, she said to go easy on the spice.” “I’ve got some cornbread to go with it, so you can have a taste and eat the cornbread to soak up the spices.” Walker just shook his head; he knew that arguing against Alex and C.D. when they teamed up was a waste of everyone’s time.

Alex headed back to a booth to sit down and wait for C.D. to bring them their lunch. Walker said nothing, but Alex knew she’d done something significant just by his expression. “What?” she asked. He shrugged, “This is the booth we always sit at,” he told her. She looked around and realized that she could have chosen several other booths, but this one had just ‘felt’ natural. She decided not to comment, but instead, looked around at her surroundings. She saw several pictures on the wall and made a note to go look at them after they ate. C.D. brought over two bowls of chili with cornbread and watched as Alex took her first spoonful. She chewed and swallowed and then smiled at C.D. “This is really good,” she said. “It’s not too spicy?” he asked. “No, actually, I was going to ask if you had any Tabasco.” He looked flabbergasted until he saw the playful smile on her face. “I’m teasing, it’s just perfect,” she assured him. Walker chuckled at the return of her sense of humor. Pulling C.D.’s leg about his chili was a tradition and whether or not she realized it, she had fallen into an old habit.

Appeased, C.D. left them to their meal and went to wait on other customers at the bar. Alex looked everywhere, except at Walker. He ate quietly, allowing her to survey her surroundings. “Did I spend a lot of time here?” she asked. “Yes, we’ve used this place as our special meeting place, to unwind and socialize. You and Trivette and I have come here quite often, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dancing, and just plain old sitting together and drinking coffee.” “It’s nice here, comfortable and inviting.” “Yes, it’s a hangout for law enforcement people from many different agencies.” “Did you bring me here for the first time?” “No, you found it on your own. I think you came with some people from work or something. You and C.D. had already become friends before our famous encounter here.” “What do you mean?” Walker smiled, “Remember I said that I had kissed you once without permission and paid dearly for it?” Alex looked at him with a puzzled expression and nodded her head. “Well, it happened right here.” “Why did you kiss me?” Walker shrugged, “I couldn’t help myself.”

Alex stood and walked over to the wall of pictures. Several were of her, Walker, Trivette and C.D. She stopped in front of one that had the four of them sitting at the bar. She noticed that her hand rested fairly high up on his thigh. “When was this taken?” she asked. “Oh that was years ago,” he said. “Were we dating then?” she asked. “No, we were good friends and we’d gone out to dinner and danced once or twice, but we weren’t dating.” She looked at a couple of tiny holes that pierced through his face. “What happened here?” she asked. “You threw darts at me,” he laughed. “Why?” she asked. “I was teaching you to throw darts and you claimed it was ‘accidental’,” he told her. “But it wasn’t?” “I guess only you know the answer to that,” he said. She frowned at him and continued to look at the pictures. There was one of them hugging that had been taken on New Year’s Eve. “New Year’s,” she said quietly, almost to herself. Walker waited, but whatever fleeting memory had come into her head had obviously not cleared enough to register. “Where are we going now?” she asked him. “Wait and see,” he said. Alex looked at him, but didn’t demure.

They drove up to the large residential home and Walker parked in the driveway. “Who lives here?” Alex asked. “This is HOPE House.” Alex looked at the front of the inviting community center and got out of the truck without Walker’s urging. She walked up onto the porch and stopped at the plaque on the wall. Running her fingers over the raised lettering, she looked at Walker who had joined her. “I founded this place?” she asked amazed. He nodded his head, “You sure did. Come on, let’s go inside and I’ll give you a tour.” Alex hung back, “Are there people in there?” “There are always people around, but no one will bother you, they know that you haven’t been well since you’ve been back.” “They know about my memory loss?” she asked. Her need for privacy was very strong. She felt vulnerable and exposed, knowing that others knew more about her than she knew about herself. “Only one person here knows all the details. She runs the place on a day to day basis. She’s also one of your closest friends. You saw pictures of her in the wedding album. She was one of your bridesmaids.” “What’s her name?” Alex asked. “Come on in and I’ll introduce you,” Walker evaded.

They entered the foyer and Alex was suddenly surrounded by several toddlers who were excited to see her. “Miss Alex! Miss Alex!” the older ones cried as they wrapped chubby little arms around her legs. Alex stood in the middle of them and began to panic. Having her legs restrained was causing her to feel dizzy and nauseous. She looked to Walker to help her and he immediately waded in to her rescue. “Come on kids, let go of Miss Alex,” he tried to get the kids to obey as he saw Alex turn white and begin to sweat profusely. She was shaking as he reached her and he lifted her arms around his neck and pulled her straight up into the air and into his arms.

Two of the daycare workers came in and began rounding the kids up and Josie was brought out of her office by the commotion. Quickly summing up the situation, Josie said, “Popsicles for everyone, outside on the patio!” The kids immediately turned and began to head that way. Two of the older kids stopped and looked back at Alex. “Are you coming Miss Alex?” three year old Rocio asked. “Miss Alex and I need to talk to Miss Josie and then we’ll come to visit you outside,” Walker promised. Rocio and Austin nodded their heads and ran to join the others out back while the daycare workers rushed to give them all popsicles.

Walker set Alex back down on her feet and escorted her into her office and sat her in her desk chair. Alex tried to control her breathing and shaking. She automatically reached for the small refrigerator behind her desk and pulled out a bottle of drinking water. She unscrewed the top and drank several sips. Josie and Walker watched without saying anything, both noting that she had done something from memory again, without knowing it.

After composing herself, she sat back in the chair and looked curiously at Josie. “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch your name.” “I’m Josie Martin, Alex. I’m sorry about the kids, they just really love you and they’ve missed you. The adults know not to invade your space until you’re feeling better, but the kids,” she shrugged her shoulders, “they’re just happy to see you.” Alex nodded, “I don’t know what happened, they grabbed my legs and I just… panicked.” “Well, we know that you were restrained while you were missing,” Walker observed, “maybe the feeling of being held caused some memory that you aren’t even consciously aware of.” Alex nodded her head. She sat and continued to drink her water and compose herself. Josie and Walker chatted casually with Alex, filling her in on the various functions of the center.

After about an hour, Alex felt ready to face the kids again. They had finished their popsicles and were playing out in the backyard under the big old shade trees. This time when they saw her, they crowded around her, but did not overwhelm her. Walker reached down and plucked up the most aggressive of the bunch, a two year old, named Katie, who had been enamored of Alex ever since she and her mother had moved to HOPE House several months previously to escape an abusive home life. Katie had not been abused herself, but her mother had needed to stay at HOPE House until her husband was jailed for beating her and strangling her with an electric cord until she lost consciousness. He had been charged with attempted murder and was awaiting trial.

Alex sat on one of the benches and Walker sat on one side of her holding Katie. Josie came out with an infant in her arms and waited until the toddlers had gotten a chance to tell Alex their latest exciting news. Most of it was babble, but Alex smiled and nodded as if she understood and was interested in every word. Sophie, one of the daycare workers, invited the kids to play a game of tossing bean bags at a board that was covered with X’s and O’s. Several toddled off to participate.

Josie was called to the phone and she handed Alex the infant without thought. Alex accepted the baby and sat with the two month old black baby boy nestled in her arms. Walker watched her face as she held the baby, who was named Terrell. Alex’s eyes misted over and she hugged him up to her chest and then lay him in her lap and began talking to him and playing with him. Walker smiled, thinking, yet again, what a wonderful mother she was going to be. After another half hour, he suggested they leave. “I thought we’d head back to the ranch. We shouldn’t over do on your first day.” He expected an argument, but didn’t get one.

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Two cloaked figures walked into the room and waited for the man to acknowledge them. “What is it?” he asked irritably. They looked at each other and finally the bolder of the two spoke, “We wondered how long it would be until you put your plan into action.” “It is not my plan, it is god’s plan, and I will wait until he tells me to act.” This response gave the two no option but to nod in agreement and to retreat back into the dark tunnels they had come from.

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Walker and Alex had spent a quiet evening. They’d gone for a walk after the sun started to sink and it wasn’t too hot to bear. There was a hill back at the far end of the property, behind the house, that they enjoyed hiking. At the top, the view changed with the seasons. Spring brought a blanket of wildflowers, summer brought lush green wild grasses and that turned into the straw colors of fall and then died into mud and sometimes snow in winter. The wildflowers had all but finished blooming and the rich greens were evident as they crested the top of the hill near dusk.

They sat and watched the vibrant sunset and Alex commented on the intense colors. “Yes, those are thunderhead clouds, we’re about to get a summer storm,” Walker informed her. “You think?” she asked, noting the calm still weather. “Feel how muggy the air is?” “Yes,” she said. “And the birds are finding shelter early this evening. Let’s hope the lightening doesn’t set any brushfires tonight.” “Lightening?” Walker nodded, “Yes, we’ll be getting thunder and lightening tonight. With any luck, we’ll get a light rain to go with it.” Alex didn’t really understand how he knew such things, but she stayed silent and enjoyed the changing panorama until he suggested they head back to the house.

After dinner, Walker had her change and meet him in the gym. He designed an exercise routine for her that focused on stretching her muscles rather then working them. He had her get on the Total Gym and do long, sweeping, arm and leg exercises. He wanted to do more ‘hands on’ types of training to maximize her stretches, but he avoided those. He decided that after she began to trust him and accept his touches, she would allow him to workout with her as they had for years, long before they had become lovers.

Alex was pleasantly tired and relaxed when they finished the session in the gym, but Walker’s next words wiped all that away. “Alex, head on upstairs and take a long hot shower and then, when you’re finished, stretch out on the bed. Don’t put any clothes on, I need to massage your hips and I think it’ll be easier if you start out without clothes rather than removing them with me there. Use a sheet to cover yourself if you feel more comfortable that way.”

Walker watched her eyes widen in fear and he waited for a moment and then tenderly placed his hand under her chin and lifted it, causing her to look into his eyes. “Alex, I know that you’re nervous about having me touch you, but you don’t have to be. Despite the fact that we’re newlyweds, I do have some control over myself. I love you more than life itself and as much as I want to make love to you, I won’t do anything to jeopardize your ability to trust me. Okay?” Alex blushed bright red, knowing now that he did want her as much as she had feared. She ducked her head back down and nodded, not daring to meet his eyes. Walker reached over and gave her a sweet kiss on her cheek. “I’ll be up in about an hour,” he told her and went back to the Total Gym to begin his own workout in earnest.

Alex had showered and dried her hair, moisturized her face and body and then found a spare sheet in the linen closet. She laid her underwear and nightgown within easy reach of the bed and pulled the covers down to the bottom. Lying face first on her stomach, she pulled the spare sheet over her body and lay there waiting.

Walker entered minutes after she’d lain down and he told her, “I’m going to hop in the shower, I’ll be back in a minute.” He noted that she had turned on her nightlight and he turned off the overhead light to give her a sense of privacy. Alex listened to the sound of the running water and despite her best efforts, found herself drifting off to sleep. It had been a full day and she did not have the stamina needed yet to remain awake after all the physical, mental and emotional exertion she had endured that day.

Walker finished his cool shower and pulled on the now familiar workout shorts and muscle man t-shirt that he slept in for Alex’s sake. He walked out to the room and noticed that Alex had fallen asleep. Lighting a candle on her nightstand, he placed the massage oil into the stand that stood over it. He eased the sheet back off of her shoulders and carefully smoothed the ointment into the two spots on her shoulder blades. He then plugged in the vibrating massager and with it set on its lowest setting, he used it to stimulate the healing areas.

Alex slept through his quiet ministrations and he eased the sheet off of her and looked at the two bruised looking areas on her hips. He saw that they had not healed as quickly as the areas that had been receiving treatment. He again soothed the ointment onto these areas, but decided that even set on low, the massager was too strong for the sensitive areas. He cupped first one side and then later the other with the palm of his hand and used the massager on top of his hand, reducing the strength of the vibrations.

After treating the four areas that were his primary mission, Walker spread the sheet back over Alex and used the massager in long sweeping motions over the length of her back, her buttocks and her down her legs. He kept the thumping motion on the lowest setting, his intent to loosen and relax her muscles rather than the deep tissue massage it was capable of. By the time he finished this process, the oil was heated. He again removed the sheet and he rubbed the oil between his palms and soothed it into her neck, shoulders, back and buttocks and again on down her legs to her feet. Once he had the entire back side of her body coated with the soothing oil, he began at her neck and massaged her muscles using his fingers and thumbs to knead muscles that had bunched and knotted.

Alex drifted in a sensual haze, her body had enjoyed the electric massager, but when Walker shifted to using his hands, her response was more primal. She began to wake as he reached her lower back and ease the pressure there. His hands continued on down her body, smoothing over her rounded buttocks, avoiding the tender areas. When he reached her thighs, he gently separated her legs enough to reach his fingers in to massage her inner thighs along with her outer thighs. The tempo of Alex’s breathing changed as he flirted with the sensitive area, but his fingers remained clinical and never intentionally aroused her. He was well aware that she was now awake and his body was certainly responding to her body. He did not straddle her and massage her as he normally would, knowing that he would not be able to disguise his arousal. Instead, he remained on the side of the bed and smoothed on down her legs stretching and flexing her feet as he massaged her calves.

Walker finished her back side and knew that she was in that waking state that hovered so close to the dream world that her inhibitions were lowered. He laid the spare sheet next to her body, “Roll over Alex,” he commanded, in a low voice. Alex rolled over onto the sheet, keeping her eyes closed. As long as her eyes were closed, she could pretend that none of this was real and she was merely dreaming it. Walker again poured the oil onto his hands and began at her neck, rubbing and soothing it into her skin. He covered her entire body, just as he did the back. He smoothed over her breasts and down her abdomen to her hip bones and down her thighs and legs. He then went into the bathroom and washed the oil from his hands and brought her jar of face cream out to the bedroom to sit by her nightstand.

Walker sat on the side of the bed, with her lying on her back in the middle. He took his clean hands and reached them into her hair. After soothing her scalp with his fingertips, he gave her a more invigorating scalp massage. He then scooped her hair up, and twisted it to lay behind her head, off her shoulders, and back from her face.

Walker took some of her face cream and warmed it in his hands. He smoothed it over her forehead and cheeks, over her chin and into her neck. He used his thumbs to smooth the cream into her face and then used his fingers, drumming them gently over her face. After he finished with her face and neck, he poured a tiny amount of oil into his palms and used it to make them slick again. He touched her upper lip gently with one finger, leaving a dot of the scented oil just below her nostrils. She inhaled deeply, relaxing even more into the hazy state of sleep/wakefulness.

Walker soothed her shoulders and over her clavicle bones. The round burn marks were shrinking and fading and they soaked up more oil than the other places as the damaged skin was sloughed off and replaced by new skin. He kneaded her arms and down to her hands where he spent time on her palms, applying pressure to acupressure points that relaxed her even further. He pulled and tugged on each finger, giving each, individual attention. Alex was convinced that she was floating. She no longer felt the weight of her body sinking into the bed, but felt cushioned and suspended above it. The sensual haze that cloaked her was so subtle that it did not awaken her self-protective instincts. Walker soothed her chest and then rubbed the oil gently into each breast, pinching and rubbing each nipple into a tight hard peak, simultaneously. He used all of his self control to prevent himself from bending at the waist to suck the ripe buds into his mouth.

Moving on down to her abdomen, he again spent additional time on the fading patches of burned flesh. They were all but gone and he was determined to speed the process that would fade them into a distant memory. Avoiding the triangle of curls, Walker again spread her legs just enough to massage each thigh in turn. He could smell the scent of arousal emanating from Alex’s core. Her body had released fluids that slicked that area without need for the massage oil. He continued on down to her calves and feet, again flexing them to stretch the calve muscles. He used the acupressure points on the bottoms of her feet to release the chemicals that relaxed any residual tightness in her muscles.

Walker glanced down at the rock hard arousal that lay nearly flat against his abdomen, he was in pain, but determined to honor his promise. He sat on the bed next to Alex and quietly asked her, “Alex, do you want me to help you put your nightgown on?” “No, please…” He waited for the rest of the request, but it wasn’t forthcoming. “What do you want, Alex? What can I do for you?” “Touch me,” she murmured. He stroked her neck and shoulders and she squirmed restlessly under this new caress. “No, lower,” she said, her eyes still closing out reality. “Show me,” he instructed her. “Where do you want me to touch you?” “Please,” she begged as her hands came up to cover his and guide them down, over her breasts and to the triangle of curls he had bypassed. She brought his hands to her core and then rolled her hips up pressing against him. “Please,” she said again.

As hard as he tried, he couldn’t deny her the release he too craved. He reached his fingers into the damp slit and probed the lips that protected the heart of her femaleness. Finding the tiny nub that held the bundle of nerves that begged for his touch, he used his thumb to stroke her tiny female erection. Reaching into his shorts with his free hand, he released himself from the confinement. He plunged his fingers into her depths as he relieved his own ache, guiding her hand to replace his on his hard shaft. Covering her encircling fingers with his own, he began pumping toward his release with her help and establishing an identical rhythm for her release.

Alex’s hips rolled in time with his hand and her hand took up the rhythm to bring him to completion. Walker shifted and reached for the small hand towel he had brought to wipe the oil from his fingers. He used it to catch his spilled seed just as Alex reached her release. Alex cried out in triumph and relief as her body finally had what it needed to fall completely into a blissful sleep. Walker smiled at her sleeping form while he gently cleaned her with the same towel. He blew out the candle and picked up the items to take them into the bathroom. After putting everything away, he returned to the room and slid Alex over to pull the spare sheet from her. He dropped it into the laundry hamper, along with his t-shirt and returned to the bed to slide in next to her. He knew it was a stolen moment, but he cradled her nude form in his arms, gentling her hair as she sunk her face down into his chest. Walker joined her in sleep with tears sitting on his lashes.

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The thunderstorm that Walker had predicted, struck in the early hours. The thunder rolled over the sleeping forms and crashed in loud reverberating drum rolls. Walker woke and lay listening to the sound that struck a cord with the least civilized part of him. He held Alex, as she slept through the sounds, but became somewhat restless. As the storm continued to roll over them, lightening was added. Alex whimpered and shifted restlessly as the lightening crashed and then the room was plunged into total darkness as a transformer was hit and the power went out. Alex awoke shrieking, as the room was lit only by the occasional flashes of light. Nightmare images raced through her mind of straps and pictures and a voice; a horrible, taunting, incessant, voice that told her over and over again that she was nobody that she belonged to him and that she had to fulfill her mission. “No! Stop! Stop!” she shrieked again and again.

Walker tried in vain to comfort her, but any attempts to hold her were met with thrashing arms and legs. “Alex, Alex, it’s okay, you’re safe,” he said. Alex jumped from the bed and raced around the room knocking into things. The lamp crashed down onto the ground and she ran through the tiny shards of glass from the broken light bulb without even feeling the pain. In desperation, Walker grabbed another sheet and wrapped her into it, rolling her so that her legs and arms were pinned. She continued to scream and struggle, but she was unable to get out of the sheet that she was rolled into like a living mummy. Walker pulled on shoes and then went to find candles. He lit several and placed them around the room along with a powerful battery-operated flashlight. He checked Alex’s feet and pulled tiny pieces of glass from them while she lay in her cocoon, the fight having finally left her body. He treated the minor wounds on the bottoms of her feet and then cleaned up the room, all the while talking to her in a soothing voice, trying to calm her.

After restoring some order, Walker took the time to pull on his shorts and then unwrapped Alex from the sheet. He slipped the nightgown over her head as she stared straight ahead in a catatonic state. Nothing he said penetrated the protective wall she had built around herself. He pulled the covers over her and then, he too, climbed back into the bed and spoke soft words of love to her. She lay awake, but unresponsive until hours after the storm had passed. Finally, her eyes closed in sleep and Walker watched in absolute terror as she slept. He knew that there was more to what had happened to her than he knew and he knew that, this time, loving her was not going to be enough.

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Walker quietly left the bedroom the next morning and headed downstairs. The power was still out and if there was ever a moment when he needed coffee, this was it. He went into the laundry room and pulled out his camping equipment he kept stored in there for quick trips. He searched through his duffle bag until he found the sterno stove and coffee pot. He set it up to heat some coffee in the kitchen and then reached down a cup and stood at the counter wondering what to do next. He had never felt so unsure of his next move in his life. Everything depended on him doing the right thing for Alex and he just didn’t know what that was. The smell of coffee wafted to his nostrils and he poured a cup of the thick strong liquid. He had unconsciously made it the way he drank it while out camping, which was much stronger than his usual brew.

Pouring himself a cup and bringing it slowly to his lips, he sipped it ever so gratefully. He stood staring into space and finally looked at the kitchen clock. It was technically too early to call Sharon, but he was going to anyway. He needed professional advice and he needed it now, before Alex awoke. He reached for the phone and dialed.

Sharon was an early riser and answered on the second ring. Walker described the events of the previous night. He even did something that in all his years with Alex, he had never done. He told Sharon of the intimacy they had shared, although glossing over the specific details. When he finished describing Alex’s reaction to the thunder and lightening storm, he wasn’t relieved to find that she shared his concern. Sharon told him that she would come to the ranch at ten to talk to Alex and to see what she could do.

Walker continued on with his morning chores and the power was back on when he returned to the kitchen a little before nine. He went upstairs to find that Alex was stirring and he went into the bathroom to shower and dress while Alex finished waking. When he came out into the bedroom, Alex looked fleetingly at him and then bowed her head in shame. He walked to the bed and sat on its edge. Alex clutched the sheet up to her chin and looked at him with fear. “Sharon is coming out in about an hour to talk to you. Why don’t you shower and dress and I’ll fix you something to eat.” He waited until Alex nodded in agreement and then he left the room.

Sharon sat on the couch in the living room waiting for Alex. She had taken her time in the shower and then nibbled at her food, pushing most of it around on her plate. She then made an excuse and headed back upstairs and Walker had to go in search of her. He found her sitting in the window seat of her office. He had recently built the seat for her to sit and look out the window to the rear of the property, curled up on pillows to read or to contemplate. He stood in the doorway and cleared his throat. “I take it she’s here,” Alex said without turning to face him. “Yes, she’s waiting downstairs. You don’t have to talk to her Alex, but I think she can help you. I know that she wants to try.” Alex nodded and stared out of the window. “Do you want me there with you?” he asked. “No, it’s all right, I’ll go on my own,” she answered and then turned and stood up to face him. She looked into his eyes for the first time and then walked past him. Walker reached out and grabbed her hand and gave it an encouraging squeeze and then released it and let her continue on.

Alex entered the living room and sat on the couch facing Sharon. “Hello Alex,” Sharon began. “Hello,” Alex answered. “Walker told me what happened last night,” Sharon began. Alex instantly blushed, thinking of the intense feelings he had stirred in her and her unrestrained response. She couldn’t meet Sharon’s eyes, embarrassed that this woman knew of her indiscretion. “I understand that you had a rather strong reaction to the storm.” Alex looked up, realizing that she was referring to her rampage brought on by the lightening and thunderstorm. “Yes, I can’t explain it, I was terrified, but I can’t tell you why.” “That’s okay; why don’t you just tell me what you felt?”

Sharon began to think that Alex may not answer at all; it took her so long to begin. “The noise, the incessant noise… and then the light, I remember the light. It made me feel as if I was trapped and there was no way out. It stripped me of everything, of myself. And there was a voice,” Alex shivered as she said this, “I hate that voice with everything I am.” Sharon waited a minute as Alex gathered herself. “Was it a memory, a dream?” “More like a nightmare. I don’t know what the feeling was based on. It was like I remembered the emotions; fear, frustration, despair, but I can’t remember the circumstances.” Sharon continued gently probing and then she worked with Alex on ways to calm herself when she felt the panic rising.

After two full hours, Sharon headed outside where she was met by Walker. He walked her to her car and then stood holding her door and waiting for her to give him some hope ― something. “The more I talk to her, the more I think that they really messed with her psychologically. The pieces fit; drugs, restraints, lights, noise, a voice, and some type of shock therapy or aversion therapy maybe.” Walker stood listening to her describe what Sharon believed Alex had endured and he was shaking with anger. “Why?” he asked on a tormented groan. “I don’t know Walker. We may never know. They wanted something from her and they used a variety of methods to confuse her and to make her vulnerable.” Walker absorbed what she said, but was determined to make certain that he did find out the why and more importantly, the who.

“What should I do now?” he asked. “Well, I think that you should give her some space and just be there if she needs you today and tomorrow. Don’t let her brood too much though; go for a ride or something. Then, on Monday, my advice is that you go back to work and start putting the pieces of your lives back together as best you can.” “How can Alex go back to work? There’s no way she can try cases in her state.” “No, I agree. I meant that you should go back to work, not her.” “I won’t leave her alone here; the reporters have been very creative in their efforts to get to her. I chased a photographer out of the tree over there just half an hour ago.” “I don’t want you to leave her alone either. Maybe she can go to HOPE Center and spend her mornings there. If you dropped her off on your way to work and let her stay there until lunchtime, do you know someone who would be willing to bring her home and stay with her until you get back?” “I know several someone’s, but I’d want it to be C.D. I don’t trust many people to keep her safe. C.D., Trivette, Sydney, Gage, or I need to be with her always.” Sharon understood his need to keep Alex safe. He had made it his primary mission years before and that drive to protect the woman he loved had only grown stronger with time. “Well, at HOPE House, she’ll be safe with Josie and it might be good for her to begin to perform tasks that she used to and to interact with more people.” “All right, I’ll think about it and talk to the people involved.”

Sharon nodded, knowing that he would reluctantly follow her advice. “And Walker?” He looked at her and waited. “Alex is very embarrassed about the intimacy you shared last night. She feels that she did something amoral.” “She told you that?” Sharon shook her head, “Not with words.” “So, I shouldn’t let it happen again?” “On the contrary, I think that you should let her set the pace. If you touch her and she withdraws, respect that. But, if she doesn’t, then continue slowly and lovingly. Let her set the limits, don’t push or persuade, but don’t hold her at arms length either. I think that would be damaging to both of you and to your relationship.”

Walker smiled, “I knew there was a reason I liked you.” She smiled back at him, sharing the lighter moment. “Take care of her and I’ll continue to see her at the HOPE Center. I’d like her to make the breakthroughs at her own pace, but if she doesn’t show signs of improving, I may recommend hypnosis to tap into the memories she’s suppressing.” “I hope it doesn’t come to that.” “So do I,” she said as she sat in the driver’s seat of her car and he closed the door for her. She drove off hoping that her two friends would get through this crisis and that their love and marriage would withstand the tests they were currently going through.

cccc

Walker gave Alex her space until late afternoon when the sun had moved on down low enough in the horizon for the heat to abate somewhat. He suggested a ride and she eagerly agreed. She had had enough contemplation and needed to burn off some energy. They each groomed and tacked their own horse and then mounted and headed off at a walk. After awhile, they entered a wooded area and the coolness of the shade was welcome. The horses were anxious to let off some steam and Walker and Alex gave them their heads and allowed them to gallop to the top pasture that Walker often leased to local cattle ranchers when their pastures were over-cropped.

Alex felt all of her troubles fly away with the wind that blew her hair straight back behind her. They ran for several miles before they finally pulled up and began to walk to cool their mounts. Walker reined Ranger in next to Angel and looked at Alex’s flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes. This was the woman he knew and loved. This was the woman he missed desperately. He grinned at her and after a moment’s pause, she grinned back. “That was quite a run, how are you feeling?” he asked. “Great! I loved that!” “You’re such a speed demon. I don’t know many people who sit a horse as well as you can. You were built to sit in a saddle.” “It sure feels natural.”

Alex spotted a stand of trees that had three trees that stood in a triangular pattern. Walker caught the look in her eye and the set expression and read her mind. He sat on Ranger, watching as she made the pattern used for barrel racing. Angel rounded the trees so close, he was afraid Alex’s leg would be wiped off. She came thundering back toward him and he laughed at the sheer joy in her eyes. Alex pulled Angel up near him and then realized what she had done. “I knew how to do that without even thinking,” she stated. “Yes, I guess it was just one of those ‘automatic’ things.” They headed back toward the ranch at a slow pace with Alex deep in thought.

They ate a late supper and watched a special on wild mustangs. Alex watched with a perplexed look on her face. Walker waited, but she didn’t say anything, so he finally asked. “Is there something bothering you?” “I just keep thinking of a name, but I can’t place it.” “What’s the name?” he asked. “Santana, does that mean anything to you?” Walker smiled, another positive sign that her memory was lurking somewhere under the cloud that had been placed in her mind. “Yes, he’s one of the most amazing horses I have ever met. He’s a stallion and he has a herd of mares that you were instrumental in protecting.” “Oh, what happened?” Walker wanted to tell her, but he remembered what Sharon had said and so instead he said, “Oh, it was a land deal gone awry. Are you getting tired yet?” She was, but she was afraid to tell him. She didn’t think she could stand a repeat of the night before. Her body responded to the mere thought of the previous night’s activities.

Walker watched her expectantly and saw the battle going on within her. He knew her body intimately and he knew when she was aroused. Her nipples peaked against the cotton shirt she wore and he knew that if they were sitting closer, he would be able to smell that special scent her body gave off when she was sexually excited. He could tell that she was afraid that he would create the same tension in her tonight as he had the night before. “Why don’t you go on up and I’ll be up in a minute to apply that ointment,” he said casually and then switched off the television and began going through the motions of locking up as if it was already decided. Alex heaved a sigh, partially of dread and partially of anticipation, and then she headed upstairs.

When Walker entered the bedroom, Alex was lying face down on the bed with the sheet over her nude form, much as the night before. Walker had showered after they returned from their ride, they both had, so he merely went into the bathroom to get the tube of ointment and headed back out to the bed. He sat on the edge and pulled the sheet down to apply the ointment to her shoulders, even though technically, they were completely healed. He then lifted one side of the sheet and then the other, carefully exposing only the most crucial areas of her hips in order to apply the ointment to the sores. Both sides looked much improved from the day before. He got out the thumper massager and began on low to ease her shoulder muscles and then headed down to her hips and worked it over the areas there for about fifteen minutes before switching it off. By keeping the sheet over her body, he was spared the visual image of her bare flesh, but his mind supplied him with the image his eyes were deprived of. Alex became more and more frustrated as he remained completely clinical. She craved his touch, she needed it more than breath, but he kept the sheet in place and used the massager instead of his hands for everything except the actual application of the ointment.

Alex lay there waiting for Walker to make his next move. She was going to tell him off this time. There was no way she was going to let this man seduce her. How dare he take advantage of the situation? He knew just how to arouse her and he had used it to his advantage last night. That’s what had happened! How else could you explain the way she’d responded to him? So much for trust! She tensed back up as he reached over and switched off the nightstand lamp. She’d make him regret touching her. He was going to find it hard to walk and he’d be singing soprano. He was nothing better than a lowlife scoundrel. Typical man, he thought of nothing but sex and pleasing himself. ‘And you,’ a recalcitrant voice whispered in the middle of her mental rantings. ‘Oh shut up!’ she told herself. By the time she had refocused on what Walker was doing, he had gone around to his side of the bed, undressed and pulled on shorts and crawled in next to her. “Goodnight Alex,” he said as he turned on his side, facing away from her. ‘Goodnight?! Goodnight?!’ her mind screamed. ‘Why, how dare he?’

Walker lay with his back to Alex and had to stifle the grin. He knew just how worked up she was. He’d known her a good long while and he knew that she was ‘stewing in her own juices’ so to speak. Nothing would please him more than to turn over and let her go on believing he was the scoundrel she had obviously made him out to be. But he wasn’t going to give into the temptation. He had never known what it was about him that had attracted Alex. He didn’t know why he had been so lucky as to have Alexandra Cahill fall in love with him, but the fact remained that she had. And if she could fall in love with him once, she could fall him love with him twice. Right? ‘Damn straight!’ he told himself. And she hadn’t fallen in love with some guy who was so sweet that it gave her a toothache. She’d fallen for the man who teased her and tormented her. Their verbal sparring matches were historical and people still talked about some of their more public confrontations. ‘Well, Alexandra Cahill-Walker, meet your husband, warts and all!’ The thought relaxed him into sleep.

Alex lay perfectly still, but when she heard him relax into the rhythmic breathing of sleep, she couldn’t believe it. She was so steamed that she could hardly think straight. She lay there wondering what she’d ever seen in the man. What had possessed her to marry such an irritating, stubborn, self-righteous, gorgeous, hunk of male flesh? ‘Get your mind back on track!’ she scolded herself. Whatever had caused her to fall for the man, she obviously had. Or at least that was what everyone told her. She couldn’t really believe it. Even though she’d seen the wedding photos, some small voice in her head said that they were fake. You could doctor photos after all. As she lay there thinking all of this, it came to her that C.D. had told her about a videotape of their wedding. She raised her head up and looked over at the head lying on the pillow. She crept ever so quietly out of the bed. She wanted to dress in something before going downstairs, but decided against it. She didn’t want to chance waking him. She wrapped the sheet around her nude body and tiptoed out of the room and downstairs.

Once she arrived back in the living room, she went to the case that held videos. There weren’t many and it wasn’t hard to find the one labeled ‘Wedding.’ She walked over to the VCR and popped the cassette in. Turning the television on with the volume low, she headed back to the couch to watch the video. It began with her putting the finishing touches on her bridal wear. The camera caught her with several women who were undoubtedly her bridesmaids, but she only recognized Josie and Sharon. Sharon’s blond hair matched Alex’s own close enough that they could have passed for sisters, Alex hadn’t realized that before.

The scene switched to the library where Walker stood pacing nervously with Trivette trying to calm him down. “Hey partner, would you relax? I mean it’s not as if you can’t get divorced if things don’t work out,” Trivette said tongue-in-cheek. His remark earned him a patented ‘Walker glare.’ “What are you so nervous about man?” Trivette asked. “There are over three hundred and fifty people out there, what do you think?” Walker asked. “The moment Alex walks down that aisle, there’s only going to be one person; the rest of us will fade away.” “As long as you fade away,” Walker said with gallows humor. Trivette didn’t take offense; at least, Alex decided he hadn’t based on the huge grin.

The next scene was of the guests being seated and a little girl singing a song. The words of the song resonated through her and she wondered who the girl was and if she had picked that song herself. There was obviously more than one camera filming the wedding as the angle shifted several times, panning on the crowd and pausing on certain individuals. She saw a man wearing Native American wear and she wondered if he was some relative of Walker’s. Then Alex saw herself or at least a woman who looked just like the one she saw in the mirror each day. She began down the aisle with a melancholy expression. Maybe this was it, Alex thought to herself, maybe she had married him against her will. What could he have to hold over her that would make her marry him? Then she saw a man being wheeled up to her in a wheelchair. She turned and her entire expression changed to joy as the man got up and proceeded to walk with her down the aisle. She realized that she’d seen his picture in the wedding album and Walker had told her that he was her father. She wondered why he was in a wheelchair and if he was ill.

Her father passed her off to Walker and the camera focused on both of their faces and she had her answer. She had wanted to marry him. She was in love with him. There was no doubt in her mind now. For better or worse, she had been in love when she married Walker. She watched as they exchanged their vows and then the song and she had tears in her eyes as she gazed at Walker. Then later, the kiss, and what a kiss it was! She closed her eyes and imagined it and her body got heated again.

She had to rewind back to the place where she’d gotten distracted. She watched as they stopped at her father’s chair and then she watched the dance and the reception and then she went inside to change for the honeymoon. The camera followed her and Walker indoors and they obviously were none the wiser as he tugged her into an alcove and began kissing her ravenously. From what the camera had caught, she wasn’t complaining. She heard herself say, “Darling, I have to get upstairs and change or we’ll miss our flight.” “Who needs a plane? I’ll fly you to Paris myself!” he promised as he captured her lips again.

Alex watched herself on the videotape and wondered if she’d gotten to go to Paris or not. By the looks of things, they’d never made it. She saw herself push off against Walker’s chest and then laugh, “Patience, darling, patience.” “You know I’m not as good at waiting as you are,” he complained. “Well, now that I’ve got you, I plan to toy with you and drive you mad with wanting,” she said with a laugh that belied her challenging words. “Oh, I’m mad already! You better run upstairs if you want to honeymoon in Paris, because I’m about to scoop you up and take you off to the nearest bed.”

Alex saw herself whirl around with her gown billowing out around her and make a mad dash for the stairs, laughing all the way. The camera showed Walker’s grin and then the scene changed to her coming down the stairs in a pink and lavender outfit to be met by Walker, who had also changed, at the base of the stairs. They walked together hand in hand out the doors and another camera picked them up from outside as they ducked the confetti of rose petals that was thrown by the crowd of well wishers. They ducked into the Limousine and sped off.

The tape concluded with testimonials from friends and people offering advice on how to have a successful marriage. Many of the comments were humorous and then there was one from C.D. He said that missing their wedding was one of his life’s regrets, but he planned to watch them have a family and he insisted that he be called ‘grandpa’ by their offspring. Alex lay on the couch watching the old man’s bluster as he took credit for them finally getting married. Her mind kept going back to the idea of having children with Walker. The idea terrified her! She had so many conflicting emotions about the man. He was handsome and had sex appeal to spare, but he was also frightening and there was something about him, she couldn’t say what, but she didn’t trust him. The tape continued to the end and she turned it off and lay on the couch thinking. It wasn’t her intention to fall asleep, but she did.

Walker awoke and realized that he was alone in the bed. He got up and went downstairs in search of his wife. He found her on the couch with a remote control in her hand and a sheet covering her ― somewhat. He watched as she moaned and moved in her sleep, dislodging the sheet further so that her breasts were exposed to his gaze. He walked to her and lifted the remote from her hand and smelt the smell of arousal. She was having an erotic dream. He wondered what she had been watching and went to the VCR and pressed eject. His mouth tightened as he saw that she had watched the video of their wedding. He knew that Sharon would not have wanted her to. He didn’t even know how she knew it existed. He put the video in its case and took it back to his office where he locked it in a drawer.

Once he returned to the living room, he saw that Alex was now thrashing about, but he also knew that her dream was not frightening her, but that she was enjoying it. He wondered if she was remembering them together or if she was creating something entirely new. Then the thought struck him that maybe she was imagining a different lover. His fears were appeased when she murmured, “Walker, oh Walker.” He smiled and moved over to her. The sheet had now fallen to the floor and her warm body was the ultimate temptation. He placed his hand on her shoulder to try and gently shake her awake. Her hand came up to clutch his and she moved it down to her breast that peaked the instant his flesh brushed against hers. “Please, please!” she begged in her sleep. Walker knew that fighting his desire for her would be one of the most difficult battles of his life.

After taking a deep breath, he bent over her to slide his hands under her body and lift her. He stood there in the living room with her in his arms and he nearly cracked under the strain. Alex’s arm went around his neck and she began to wake up, but remained in the throes of passion. She grabbed his face and kissed him as she’d seen herself kiss him on the video. Her hands fluttered over his bare chest and found the tiny nubs hidden amongst the hair. Her lips left his mouth to seek out this new treasure and she sucked and nibbled at them until his knees were too weak to hold her. He collapsed down on them and laid her back on the couch, kneeling beside her. “Alex, please stop, I need to get you to bed.” “What’s wrong with right here?” she asked as she released one nipple to find the other.

Walker’s sigh turned into a moan as even he couldn’t think of an answer to her question. “No,” he struggled to say, “I mean, we can’t do this, I can’t make love to you.” “Why not, you’re my husband aren’t you?” “Yes, I’m your husband.” “And I want you to make love to me. I need you to make love to me,” she said as she grasped his head and forced it down against her belly. Walker’s will to fight her was rapidly fleeing. He could fight his own desire, but there was no way he could battle hers as well. He let his lips graze the smooth flesh of her abdomen. He wanted so desperately to plant his seed there and to stake his claim over her by making her pregnant with his child. His mouth lowered to the silky curls that covered her core and then he reached lower and parted her legs to gain access to her treasure. She tossed one leg over his shoulder and parted wide for him. “Yes, Walker, oh please, taste me, touch me!” she begged.

Walker’s restraint shattered and he bent lower to kiss the lips that were parted for him. He traced his tongue up and down the moist slit until he latched onto the tiny aroused flesh that sent her into spasms of pleasure. Her hands gripped his hair and she urged him to continue. He flicked his tongue back and forth over her most sensitive flesh and then he slid it down to delve into the moist core that awaited his penetration. His tongue speared her repeatedly as she bucked her hips up toward him. He used his hands to pin her hips to the couch as he worked his tongue over her sensitized flesh. Alex lost all inhibitions, all trace of civilized woman. She was a woman who needed her man with a passion beyond her control. She was climbing toward ecstasy and nothing was going to interrupt this journey. “More… deeper,” she urged him as she raised her arms over her head and gripped the cushions on the couch. “Yes, oh yes!” she cried as he pressed his tongue flat against her clitoris and then plunged it into her core again and again. Alex screamed out her climax while Walker licked her juices and prolonged her orgasm.

Alex lay on the couch utterly spent. She glanced down at herself, her leg sprawled over her lover’s shoulder. She was completely wanton and at this point in time, she didn’t give a damn. “Your turn,” she said as she lifted her leg and moved to shift around on the couch. “No, Alex, I don’t need you to…” he said as he stood to step away from her. She didn’t give him a choice as she pulled his shorts down to his knees and inserted his thick arousal into her mouth and sucked it down to the beginning of her throat. Walker moaned as she worked his hard arousal up and down, using a suction on him that brought him almost instantly to completion.

He pulled from her with a loud pop and spilled himself into the sheet that lay crumpled on the floor. He almost hadn’t been able to leave the moist warmth of her mouth soon enough, but he wasn’t about to surprise her when she was clearly not able to make good judgments about what she did and did not want. “That’s enough Alex; I am not going to make love to you. Not until you decide that I’m the man you love.” Alex sat back, pouting at being denied. “Go to bed, I’ll be up later,” he told her as he gathered the soiled sheet and headed to the laundry room with it. Alex headed upstairs in a huff, but her head had barely touched the pillow when sleep overtook her. Walker slipped back into the bed and she instantly turned to snuggle into his shoulder and he fell asleep wondering what the ramifications of what had just occurred would be.

It was predawn when Walker again awoke to Alex tossing and turning. This time, she was having a nightmare and when he tried to shake her awake, she sat up screaming. The sheet fell down around her waist, baring her breasts to the cool early morning air. Walker watched them peak with the sudden cold and he put his arms on her shoulders and guided her back down into his embrace. “Tell me about your dream,” he said as he soothed her hair back and tried to relax her. “I don’t know, I was on a plane and it was crashing and… I think you were flying it,” she began describing her dream, unaware that it was a memory. “I don’t remember anything else; just that I was terrified.” Walker continued to soothe her and kissed her forehead gently. He was torn, debating on whether or not to tell her that she was remembering the beginning of their honeymoon. He decided that the wedding video must have prompted the dream.

Alex lay there in Walker’s embrace accepting the comfort he offered her. His chest was so broad and so… inviting. She wished that she could just put everything onto his broad shoulders and let him take care of her, but something told her that she had to keep fighting this battle herself. It wasn’t until several minutes had passed that she realized that she was lying against him with no barrier between them. That realization brought another thought flooding back; she had seduced him the night before. Or at least, she had tried to. Her face blushed in mortification as she realized the extent of her actions.

Walker felt her stiffen as she moved out of his arms and over to her side of the bed. “What is it, Alex? What’s wrong?” She didn’t answer for a long while, and then she said in a halting voice. “Is there something wrong with me?” “What do you mean honey? You mean because you can’t remember things?” “No, I mean… sexually.” Walker lay there stunned and immediately denied her supposition. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you! In fact there is everything right with you!” “But, I don’t even know you and I… attacked you last night,” she said on a sob. “Oh honey,” he said, his heart breaking that she could think there was anything wrong with that, “you may not remember me, but your body certainly does. We’ve been lovers for several years and we are still newlyweds.”

“Have I been faithful?” she asked. “Why do you ask that?” he wanted to know. “Well, I mean if my… sex drive is so strong, I wondered if it was exclusive to you or…” “Any port in a storm?” he asked with a slight smile. “Alex, you have been faithful since we became seriously involved and to tell you the truth, you didn’t think you had a much of a sex drive until we got together. We had a few false starts and we both tried to deny the attraction, but regardless of how many others we were attracted to, we both knew that we would end up together. Lightning strikes when we touch and it’s always been that way and it always will be that way.” Alex lay quietly absorbing this and then slowly drifted back to sleep. Walker crept out of bed and dressed to go tend the animals. The barn had never been so spotless; he was always retreating to it when he needed a break from the intense emotions he was facing while dealing with Alex’s memory loss.

cccc

Sunday passed quietly with Walker giving Alex plenty of space; she seemed to need it. Late in the afternoon, he invited her down to the gym to teach her a workout routine. She resisted at first, but he told her that it was doctor’s orders and that a full recovery included regaining her physical health. She finally relented and changed into a sweat suit that she found in one of her drawers. There were other more figure hugging workout clothes, but she was determined to minimize the contact between them. He laid out a routine for her, walking her through each of the stretches and exercises. Her body seemed to recognize the exercises and automatically assumed the proper posture and technique that Walker had spent hours teaching her when he first started working out with her years before to help her avoid injury. She worked diligently and then he made her lay face down on the mat while he massaged the kinks from her shoulders. Again, he remained clinical and she had nothing to complain about when he stood up and told her that she could go shower or whatever while he worked out himself. Alex wanted to stay and watch, but decided that staying wasn’t a good move, not the way she was feeling.

After retreating to the bedroom to shower and change, she tackled the kitchen to prepare something for dinner. She moved around the kitchen as if she belonged there and she amazed herself when she pulled out the cheese grater that was kept behind a mixing bowl. It was the little things that she knew her mind must remember that gave her hope. She prepared mushroom and cheese omelets for dinner. It was too hot to turn the oven on, so she compromised by just using the range. She prepared ham to accompany the meal and watched as Walker doused the entire thing in Tabasco. It looked good, so she tried some too. He grinned at her as she took a bite and added more Tabasco. “I think you burn out your taste buds on purpose so that you can eat C.D.’s chili and tell him it’s not hot enough.” She grinned back and took another bite. She definitely preferred eating this way as opposed to the bland diet she’d been on.

That night, they went to bed early. Both were tired from the interrupted sleep from the night before and they planned to begin their days earlier than they had been. Walker was going to follow Sharon’s advice and get back to work and Alex was going to go to the HOPE Center to spend the day. Walker was torn by his need to get back to work and trace the people behind Alex’s kidnapping, and his strong feelings that he should be with her at all times to protect her. He was suffering from guilt that she had been taken and for not being able to find her. He also felt responsible for the ordeal she had endured. He didn’t know that it was related to him and his work, but he feared that somehow he was the ultimate target and she had been used as a pawn.

Alex had at first been reluctant to agree to spend part of her days at HOPE Center, but after the two previous encounters with Walker at night, she wanted as much distance between them as possible. Despite Walker’s reassurances that she was not over-sexed, she still had trouble believing it. She wondered how many lovers she’d had and if she had been promiscuous from a young age. She just couldn’t believe that it was normal or healthy to plead with a stranger to make love to her. She didn’t buy his explanation that they were married and her body remembered him. If her mind didn’t remember, how could her body? She was glad that Walker had decided that her shoulders and hips were sufficiently healed that she could go without the massage that night. She didn’t think she could stand to have him touch her. Even now, lying next to him in the bed, her body cried out for his touch. She shifted onto her side away from him. The nightgown she wore was uncomfortable and made her hot. It was going to be a long night.

Walker wasn’t completely unaware of Alex’s discomfort, but he was busy trying to control his own wayward desires. He had vowed that he wouldn’t make love to her until she had fallen in love with him again or regained her memory, but his body was not happy with his decision. He knew that the easiest course of action would be for one of them to move into a guestroom until things were worked out between them, but it went against everything he believed in. He had vowed to stay by her side in good times and bad and he intended to take those words in their most literal sense. He was going to lie beside her until the good came again.

Eventually, the two fell asleep despite the sexual tension between them. Walker woke with the rise of the sun and found his wife curled up in his arms, her head resting on his chest and her arm flung across his abdomen. He wanted to wake up that way every morning for the rest of his life. The one thing he would alter though was the amount of clothes they were wearing. He had continued his early habit of wearing a t-shirt and shorts to bed and she was back in a nightgown. He lay there as the sun rose in the sky, softly stroking her hair and placing the occasional kiss on her forehead. When he knew that he must get up, he slid quietly from the bed and eased her back down on the pillow his head had just vacated. She moaned slightly and then sighed as she resumed her sleep. He stood looking down at her and smiled. With or without a memory, some truths remained intact; Alex was not a morning person. He went around the bed and set the alarm to wake her in half an hour and then headed out to feed and turn the horses out.

Alex was startled awake by the alarm clock. She was initially disoriented and some vague memory about noise and lights and… it was gone. She sat up, and groped for the alarm clock until she managed to make it quiet. She pushed her hair back from her face and looked at the sunlit room. She groaned and flopped back down on her pillow. She decided that it was far too early to even contemplate facing the day. She smelled something and realized that she was resting her head on Walker’s pillow and it was his scent that clung to it. She turned her nose into it and inhaled deeply. She loved that smell. She didn’t know why, the man himself still made her nervous, but his smell was delicious.

Walker strode in and found her as he had predicted. He chuckled at her as she buried her face in the pillow. “You can’t block the day out, wake up sleepyhead.” “Go away,” she muttered petulantly. “Uh uh, but I brought you a surprise,” he tempted. Alex rolled her head so that her eye could peek out. He was carrying a tray with a cup of coffee, a vase filled with wildflowers, and a rolled up newspaper. “You have fifteen minutes before you have to get out of bed, so make good use of them,” he told her as he set the tray on her nightstand. He leaned over the bed, his arms depressing it slightly as he reached for her and kissed her exposed cheek and said in her ear. “I’ll be in the shower, but after I come out, you need to get in.” She waited until he had gathered his clothes and closed the bathroom door behind him before sitting up to drink her coffee and glance through the newspaper.

Walker came out of the bathroom completely dressed and ready for work except for his gun belt which he left downstairs. “Be downstairs in half an hour if you want breakfast,” he told her. Then he stopped as he saw her expression. “What? What is it?” he asked. She didn’t say anything, but the newspaper in her hands gave him a clue as to what had caused her distress.

Walker came around the bed and gently eased the paper from her clenched hands. On page two, a story about Alexandra Cahill-Walker’s mysterious disappearance was at the top of the page. He took it from her and read the subtle innuendos and rumors the reporter had decided to print since he hadn’t been able to get any hard facts. At first it speculated on where she had been for so long and how she had returned with no arrests or apparent leads on her kidnappers. The subtle innuendo was that perhaps she had taken off on her own and in fact it wasn’t a kidnapping.

It went on to talk about how she was being sheltered because of her unstable mental health, suggesting that she had had some type of mental breakdown. It then stated the one fact that was accurate; that one of her few visitors was a renowned psychologist. Walker’s blood began to boil as he read the story. “This isn’t news, it’s crap! It belongs in some tabloid, not in a respectable newspaper! I didn’t even think to check to see if they had reported some garbage like this,” he fumed, mentally kicking himself. Alex shrugged and said nothing on the subject. She slipped from the bed and headed into the bathroom to get ready for the day and Walker had to accept her silence.

Walker tried throughout breakfast and the ride into town to get her to open up about the newspaper article, but she remained steadfastly silent on the subject. He finally switched to the plans he’d made for her that day. “I’ll take you to HOPE House and Josie will show you around and get you acquainted with some of the routine there. I’ll be back by to pick you up for lunch and we’ll go to C.D.’s. After lunch, C.D. will drive you home and stay with you until I get there.” “I know! You told me three times already. I lost my memory, not my mind!” Walker looked over at her and knew that his nervousness about being separated from her was driving her nuts, but the article in the newspaper was also causing her to be overly-sensitive. He reached his hand out and clasped hers and gave it a squeeze, “I’m sorry,” he said simply. Alex just nodded and continued to look down at her lap.

Walker had seen the car tailing them to HOPE House and he waited to see what they did. He saw them pull up the street and park while he went around to help Alex out of the truck. He escorted her in and then greeted Josie and others by name so that Alex could start putting names and faces together. Josie took over and began introducing Alex to people who were currently staying at the house and to the mothers and children who were in the daycare. Walker stepped back and walked into Alex’s office and called Trivette to dispatch a squad car to sit at the curb in front of HOPE House. He went back to where Alex was sitting on a couch holding an infant and smiling to his mother as she told Alex of the recent doctor’s appointment she’d taken him to. Despite not knowing the child’s history, Alex did a good job of holding her own and showing sincere concern for the mother’s worries. Her baby had been born with Downs Syndrome and although he was currently healthy, he had been in and out of the hospital for heart and digestive problems. Walker smiled as he watched Alex cuddle the infant and his mother beamed and then glanced at her watch and hustled out to work.

Walker sat on the couch next to Alex and gave Anthony his finger to hold. “Hi there, tough guy, so you’re holding your own now huh?” he asked the infant who gurgled and smiled at him. “Has he been terribly ill?” Alex asked Walker in concern. “He’s had a rough start to life, but you and Josie have been very supportive to his mother. Her husband left when his son was born with a disability and she’s had a tough time being alone and going through all the worry, not to mention the financial aspect. She was a stay at home mom and didn’t want to go on Welfare. You were able to get her a job that was flexible about her needing time off for her son’s health needs and you enrolled him into the daycare with state funds and you went after her husband to pay child support and got the state to garnish his wages.” “Wow, I did all that?” “You’re one tough cookie and you love nothing better than to see justice done.” Alex smiled, liking that description of her.

“Now, here’s my card with every possible number you can reach me at. If I’m not in the office, try the cell phone or Trivette’s cell phone. I also put C.D.’s number on here.” Alex rolled her eyes at him, “Oh good! I’m sure Josie doesn’t have any of these numbers.” “Humor me, Alex. I just want to know that if you need me, I can be here in minutes.” “Okay, I won’t say anything else.” “Good, now I better get to work. I’ll see you at lunchtime.” “I know, I…” Walker swallowed the rest of what she was going to say with a kiss. It wasn’t long or passionate, but it effectively silenced her.

Walker had stalled until he was certain the squad car would be where he’d requested it. He walked over to the window and leaned in to talk to the two officers, both of whom he knew. “Hi Mark, Josh,” he greeted them. “Hi Walker, you need us to protect the center from some jealous wife beater again?” “Nope, not this time boys. There’s a car just down the street, a gold Corolla. It tailed me here from the ranch and I’m fairly certain that it’s the same pesky reporters I’ve shooed out of my tree, my barn and my shed. They’re trying to get close enough to my wife to get an interview, but after what she’s been through, she’s just not up to it.”

Although neither officer knew the details of what Alex had been through, they respected her and Walker enough to just take his word for it and agree to keep the reporters far from the house. “You boys have been here before, so you know that I don’t want you to hassle anyone coming to the door unless they come from that car or Josie asks for your help. She knows to answer the door all day and if she doesn’t know the person, she’ll signal you to come in if she is at all suspicious.” “Okay Walker, we’ll just sit here and look pretty.” “You do that Josh,” Walker said with a grin. “I’ll be back around noon and then you can go on about your business.” They agreed to his request and sat back to get comfortable.

Something in Walker just felt right as he walked into the Justice Building and up to Company B headquarters. He walked in and headed straight for the coffee pot to fill his mug. He looked at the three younger Rangers sitting at their desks looking at him and he nodded his head toward the conference room to join him. Trivette, Sydney, and Gage filled him in on the latest in the case. Each lead had ended in a dead end.

Walker suggested that they look into cases that Alex had tried or he had been involved in where brainwashing was used by one or more of the defendants. They all looked at him, waiting for an explanation. “Alex has shown symptoms of having been brainwashed. She had small burn marks on her skin where electrodes had been attached, or at least that’s the assumption. When she was found, she had a sensitivity to light, but now she is afraid of the dark and insists that some light be left on. She also remembers flashing lights and noises, but she can’t give details. They found a drug in her bloodstream that is often called truth serum, but Sharon tells me that it can be used to make people more open to suggestion. There were also sores and bruises that indicated she was restrained by her wrists and ankles and made to lie with her hands extended over her head for long periods of time. Sensory deprivation is often used to disorient someone to make them more susceptible to suggestion. And she was kept on a starvation diet.”

Walker didn’t look at the faces of his friends and colleagues as he relayed this information to them. This was the first time they had heard the details and they were all sickened to think that this had been done to Alex. She was one of the brightest, most vivacious women any of them had met and they were all shocked and appalled at Walker’s description. They had all given 110% to the investigation so far, but this just spurred them on to give even more.

Alex spent most of her morning in the nursery with the infants and toddlers. They didn’t ask her the hard to answer questions that the adults were prone to do. No one knew of her memory loss, but Josie had to come to her rescue on more than one occasion when a question was asked of her that she didn’t know the answer to. Around eleven, Josie asked to go over some things with her. They retreated to her office where Josie filled her in on some of the day to day details that would help her to get by. The door opened behind them and Walker entered and greeted them both, pleased to see that Alex was fine and looking relaxed after her morning. He had sent the squad car on its way and let himself into the center. He collected Alex and they headed out to lunch at C.D.’s.

Sydney, Gage, and Trivette joined them for lunch. Alex hadn’t met the younger two and was polite, but clearly, they were strangers to her. She kept looking at them curiously though and finally said, “You were in the wedding weren’t you?” “You remember?” Sydney asked enthusiastically. “She watched the video,” Walker informed her. Sydney felt as if she’d really put her foot into her mouth and was a bit subdued the rest of the meal. Alex didn’t seem to notice and continued on as normal, teasing C.D. by asking for some hot peppers and Tabasco. The others laughed at C.D.’s response and they kept the topic on things as mundane as chili and C.D.’s colorful sayings. When the others left, Walker gave Alex a chaste kiss goodbye and then headed out after Trivette.

Alex convinced C.D. that she enjoyed hanging around the bar waiting for him. He was kept busy by customers and she wandered back over to the pictures on the wall and looked at them. There were some with her and the three men and others of her with one or two of them. She began to wonder if she was involved sexually with more than one of them. The thought shocked and appalled her and then she decided that that was a good reaction. She still couldn’t believe how demanding she’d been with Walker the night she’d watched the video. She was afraid that it was an indication that she was a loose woman. She stood looking at the pictures and in every one of them, she was closest to Walker and more often than not, they were touching in some way. She thought about how she felt about Walker and then compared it to the way she felt about Trivette, C.D. and Gage, whom she’d met at lunch. There was nothing with the other three men, no spark, no attraction. She breathed easier as she decided that these too were good signs and supported Walker’s explanation.

Alex moved over to the dart board and her curiosity was peaked. She plucked out the darts and stood back and aimed and threw one. It landed square in Walker’s forehead on the picture on the wall. Alex stood there with the other darts and was shaking like a leaf. C.D. had finished with the lunch rush and moseyed over to check on her. “Well I’ll be; you stuck him again.” “Wha… What?” she asked. “Cordell tried to teach you to throw a dart and you kept hitting this here picture. You finally threw a bull’s eye, but Walker has always said that you couldn’t hit the side of a barn.”

Alex didn’t know why she was having such a strong reaction to the image of Walker with a dart protruding from his forehead, but she was as white as a sheet and was in danger of losing her lunch. C.D. walked over and plucked the dart out and then headed back to her. He noticed how white she was looking and saw the fine sheen of sweat on her brow. “Are you okay, darlin’?” She nodded yes, but clearly she wasn’t. He escorted her back over to the bar and gave her a shot of brandy. “Drink this,” he said as he handed it to her. She sipped it down and grimaced, but slowly, she began to calm and then she asked if they could go back to the ranch. “Sure darlin’ I’ll get my gear and we’ll go.”

By the time they reached the ranch, Alex was feeling fine and was able to challenge C.D. to a game of checkers. She decided that chess was beyond her on that day and didn’t even suggest it. C.D. won the checkers game and was as proud as a peacock strutting around. They shared a relaxing afternoon and Alex was pretty much back to her normal self when they heard the truck door slam, heralding Walker’s arrival. Alex pretended interest in the book she was reading, but C.D. greeted Walker with his usual bluster and then stated that he was going to head back to the Bar and Grill before his busboy broke the rest of his glasses.

The evening was a repeat of the previous, with Walker insisting that Alex do a full exercise routine. He was even more ‘hands off’ than the night before as she had mastered most of the exercises and needed little correction or spotting. They ate another cold evening meal as the temperature continued to hover around miserable. Walker turned on the air conditioning unit to cool the upstairs before they headed up to bed, but he liked to keep its use down to a minimum.

They sat on the porch and enjoyed the gentle sway of the swing. Walker pointed out constellations and he was once again surprised when Alex knew several before he told them to her. He told her Indian folklore about the stars and the moon, stories that had been handed down for generations. Alex listened to the deep timber of his voice and with the strain of her first day ‘out’ and the heat; she began to drift into a contented haze. Walker saw her head begin to droop and he shifted her slightly so that she leaned against him. She murmured a protest, but the effort was too much for her and she lay passively in his arms, her head resting on his chest. “Don’t stop talking,” she uttered as if each word cost her dearly to speak. “You like these stories?” he asked. “Mmm…” was her only response. Walker smiled, kissed the top of her hair and continued to speak in a rhythmic tone that eased her into sleep.

After he was certain that she was in a sound sleep, Walker eased her onto his lap and then scooped her into his arms and carried her in. The front door swung gently closed behind him as he carried his precious burden up the stairs to the bed. He lay her down and eased her sandals off her feet. He looked at the sundress she had put on after her shower and debated. It didn’t look all that uncomfortable, but she would be better off in something softer, he decided. He pulled it up and over her head and then pulled off his own t-shirt and eased it down onto her body. He lifted her to place her under the sheet and tugged the end of the t-shirt down around her hips. It barely reached below her panties and he had to stop himself from lifting the edge and running his hand over the satiny cloth that tempted him. He eased into bed beside her and heaved a huge sigh. He didn’t know how long he could hold out. He wanted his wife back. He needed his wife back!

cccc

The next day at HOPE House, Sharon stopped by at ten to spend time with Alex. As much as she resented needing the kind counselor’s help, Alex was beginning to trust her and to open up more about her feelings and fears. She didn’t; however, tell Sharon of her panic attack at C.D.’s. Not because she was trying to hide it, but rather because she couldn’t really describe it. She wasn’t sure what had brought on the tide of panic and she didn’t know how to tell Sharon about it without sounding totally nuts. So she kept it to herself.


Dreams Lost
Part II

The reporter was getting bolder and knew that Walker wasn’t around Alex when she was at HOPE House. He watched people come and go and the squad car sitting there became less of a threat than it seemed at first. Don Kite was a sleazebag from the word ‘go’. He was a freelance journalist of the worst kind. He didn’t believe in wasting time substantiating his story with bothersome details like facts. He waited until he saw Sharon leave HOPE House and then he followed her. He used strong arm tactics to get details from her when she stopped in the parking lot of her office and got out of her car.

“Excuse me, I’d like to ask you some questions about Alex Cahill’s condition,” he said as he approached her with pad and paper. “Alex Walker’s ‘condition’ is of no concern of yours,” she corrected him and tried to walk away. “The public wants to know if they’ll ever get their star prosecutor back. So, was she on a romantic get away with a secret lover? Or was she kidnapped and raped as some have speculated?” “I am not going to dignify that with an answer,” Sharon huffed and tried once again to walk faster than the potbellied man who chased after her.

“Well, rumor has it that she is out of her mind and that you’re trying to salvage what’s left of it.” “Rumor that you started, you little weasel!” Sharon threw back at him in defense of her friend. “Hey, I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em… So, was she tortured and now she doesn’t have a mind left to stand on… so to speak?” “No! Her mind is fine. Now leave her in peace, she’s been through enough without you and your kind digging into places you don’t belong!” Sharon had made it to the door to the medical building where her office was located and she pushed past the doors and waved to security to deny Don Kite entrance.

Alex’s day passed much as the one before; she spent her morning at HOPE House and then Walker picked her up for lunch and took her to C.D.’s. She was struggling more and more with her attraction to him. He hadn’t touched her in days and her body was on fire the moment he walked into the room. She was embarrassed at the way her body betrayed her. Her nipples peaked and she felt a rush of moisture if he accidentally brushed her skin as he reached for the Tabasco. She sat across from him in the booth, waiting impatiently for him to be gone and then when he left, she missed him more than she was willing to admit. She moped around the bar waiting for C.D. to finish with the lunch rush customers. In desperation, she headed over to the jukebox and read the song list. She selected a song and then sat listening to it, feeling melancholy.

A man walked up to her and asked her to dance, she but smiled, thanked him and declined. He shrugged and walked off, it would have been odd to dance anyway, no one else was, in the middle of the day on a Tuesday, but he’d seen the sad looking blonde with incredibly long legs and he couldn’t resist the opportunity to try and put a smile on her face. When the song ended, Alex got up and pushed the buttons to bring on another sad country ballad.

Another man approached Alex while C.D. was busy behind the bar. He slid into the booth across from Alex and began talking to her as if he knew her. “So Alex, how’ve you been? Everything has been so ‘hush hush’ since your return.” The man was surprised when she looked up at him and didn’t immediately throw him out on his ear. “I’m fine,” she said nervously. Intrigued, Don Kite pressed harder. “Well, you look all right, but you sure seem different.” He paused as if studying her, trying to figure out what the elusive ‘something’ was. “You’re quieter, sadder, less… assertive,” luckily for him, as a journalist, he was able to find a word that was less inflammatory than ‘aggressive.’ He had been on the receiving end of Alex Cahill-Walker’s ire on more than one occasion in the past and he couldn’t believe that she would deign to speak to him.

Alex didn’t know who the man was. Her instinct was to cut and run, but she was afraid to draw too much attention to the fact that she didn’t know who he was. At HOPE House, Josie had supplied her with people’s names, and when she came to lunch at C.D.’s, whenever someone stopped by the table to say ‘hi’ Walker would greet them by name for her benefit. This was the first time she was alone and vulnerable to people whom she didn’t know or couldn’t remember if she knew. “I’m doing all right, getting back on my feet,” she gave the stock answer that really said nothing specific. “Well, you don’t look so ‘all right’ to me. How’s that husband treating you? Don’t tell me that the shine has already worn off that wedding ring?” Alex blushed and said, “Of course not, Walker’s fine.”

Don Kite nodded and smiled as if his question had just been a joke. “Any idea when you’ll be able to get back to work? I ran into Sharon earlier and she said that you’d been through a lot, but I’m hoping that you’re recovering.” Alex was surprised that Sharon would have discussed her with this man. She didn’t know who he was. Was he someone from her work that she should know? She was really beginning to panic when she saw C.D. behind the bar. Don’s back was to him, so she said, “Yes, I’m recovering; I don’t know just when I’ll get back to work. I’m sorry, but C.D. is waving at me, I’d better go see what he wants.” She made a quick exit and made a beeline for C.D. Don made a beeline for the front door. He didn’t want C.D. to see him, he would surely recognize him. That was it! Alex Cahill-Walker hadn’t recognized him! Not that he was a significant person in her life, but they’d had several run ins. She had tried many cases that attracted the media and he had covered most of them, much to her chagrin. His finger tips began to itch as he raced to his home office to type in his latest newsflash on Alex Walker and find the highest bidder to sell it to.

Alex approached C.D. and he looked up to see that the people at the Bar and Grill were either eating or finishing up. There were no new orders pending and he was no longer essential. Not that it was mandatory that he be there at all times anyway. His staff was well trained and when Marta had managed the place for him, she had done quite well, even without his personality and charm that he thought was the reason most people came in ― after his chili. He was torn between being relieved that his business was established beyond the need for him to be there every moment and his regret that it wasn’t still the fledgling place that had relied on word of mouth and people stopping in to meet a semi-retired Ranger and listen to his tall tales. When his friends needed him though, he was glad that he was available to be there for them. He said goodbye to his staff; gave a few last minute instructions and then escorted Alex out to his SUV.

Walker arrived home and the evening was again a repeat of the last two except that they decided to turn on the evening news before going outdoors to barbeque steaks for dinner. Alex sat on the couch and kept shifting restlessly as Walker’s scent permeated the air and wafted over to her. She longed to feel his lips on hers and his arms around her. She sat in front of the television, fantasizing about his hands on her bare skin, his lips traveling down to her aching breasts. The couch where she had seduced the man who was apparently her husband, reminded her of the pleasure that had resulted. It wasn’t until she heard her own name mentioned that she focused on the television. “The latest breaking news in the disappearance of Alexandra Cahill-Walker, Deputy District Attorney of Tarrant County and the lead prosecutor for the DA’s office, is that she is suffering from memory loss. She is unable to distinguish friends from strangers and she is undergoing treatment for this affliction with noted psychologist, Sharon Clark. Mrs. Walker has been visiting HOPE House each morning as she struggles to put the pieces of her life back together after having been missing and presumed dead. The investigation by the Texas Rangers, led by Ranger Cordell Walker, the husband of Alex Cahill-Walker, continues to come up empty in the search for leads on the case. Alexandra Cahill moved to Dallas in…” Walker used the remote to turn off the television.

Alex sat on the couch staring off into space. She couldn’t believe that the world now knew that she didn’t know who she was, that she didn’t remember her best friends, her family, her husband. She turned to Walker and did something she had never done in her life, she screamed at him. “Turn it on! Turn the damn thing back on. I might as well know as much about my life as the rest of the world. I came to Dallas when? What else are they going to report? How much else do complete strangers know about me that I don’t know about myself?” “Alex, stop it! Calm down! We have to find the leak; we have to figure out…” “Figure out what? Who spilled? Who told the media that Alexandra Cahill-Walker is a walking, talking, shell of a human being? That I don’t know myself any better than some guy living on a remote sheep station in Australia? What Walker?” Walker looked at his distraught wife and did the only thing he could, he answered the ringing phone.

“Walker,” he answered gruffly. “Walker, it’s Sharon, I think I may be partly to blame for this evenings newsflash. Don Kite followed me to my office this morning and accosted me on my way to my office. I didn’t give him any details, but I did tell him that her mind was fine. He was throwing out all sorts of wild accusations and rumors and I was trying to come to her defense, but I must have fallen neatly into his trap.” “It’s all right Sharon, I’m sure you didn’t say anything that this sewer rat could use. I don’t know how he knew about her memory though.” “I didn’t mention that Walker, I swear.” “I believe you,” he reassured her. “Is Alex there? I’d like to talk to her.” “Alex? It’s Sharon; she wants to speak to you?” “Why? So that she can tell me that I’m not crazy?” “Are you going to have the decency to speak to a friend who cares about you or not?” “How do I know she’s a friend? I don’t even remember her! I don’t even know you! How do I know that you’re not all just playing some mind game with me? For all I know, you’re the ones responsible for the fact that I don’t know who I am!”

At the end of Alex’s tirade, Walker stood holding the phone, his face set in a mask and his complexion a grayish white. He lifted the phone to his ear. “Sharon, I’m sorry, but Alex isn’t up to talking just now.” “I heard Walker. Don’t blame her; she’s terrified, she’s hurt and she’s angry. Just give her time to cool down and she’ll see things differently.” “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” Walker said as he slowly replaced the phone in its cradle. “I’ll be down in the gym, I don’t want supper,” he said in a cold distant voice and headed down to pound the living daylights out of his punching bag. He was hurt more than he ever thought Alex could hurt him. Her words reached deep into his heart and pierced it. Even without a memory, he had always believed that their hearts would recognize each other. Now he had to face the fact that he was wrong.

Alex walked out of the front door and let the screen slam shut behind her. ‘How dare he just leave? How dare he not answer me?’ Alex was angrier than she had thought possible. She felt betrayed. She didn’t even know who had betrayed her, but she felt raw and vulnerable and… She kicked the post and then swore as the pain radiated up her foot. She took off down to the barn where she made one holy mess, tossing straw all over the place, knocking over barrels and buckets and throwing brushes, saddle soap, and small tools against the wall.

She’d calmed down enough to sit on a hay bale and sob out her frustration when she heard a car approach the house. She stayed hidden in the barn and crawled up into the hay loft to avoid whoever had come to call. She didn’t want to see anyone, she wanted to be alone. That’s how she felt anyway ― alone.

C.D. and Jimmy drove up to the house and parked. They had tried to call just after the broadcast, but the phone was busy and then, no one was answering. Sitting across from each other at the bar, they hadn’t bothered speaking, but had gotten up as one and headed out to Trivette’s Mustang. They raced to the ranch and when they arrived, all seemed quiet. They knocked and then let themselves in. Calling out, they didn’t find anyone until Trivette tried the gym and found his friend drenched in sweat, his knuckles bloodied from the repeated blows to the suspended punching bag. “Where’s Alex?” Trivette asked Walker. “How the hell should I know?” was the uncharacteristic response. “I don’t know man, she’s your wife! She doesn’t know who she is; don’t you think you should know where she is?” Walker shrugged, “As far as she’s concerned, I’m the bad guy, so whatever I do only makes matters worse.” “Hey Walkman, I don’t know what went down here tonight, but I’m sure that Alex is just frustrated and now that it’s out on the news, it must be that much worse.” Walker didn’t answer, so Trivette headed back upstairs. “Get the first aid kit and some ice C.D. And while you bandage his hands, try and see if you can find a way through that thick skull of his. I’m going to look for Alex.”

C.D. did as Trivette bid without question. This was a crisis and for all his talk, C.D. was a man who knew how to respond to a crisis. He went into the kitchen where he knew Alex kept a first aid kit. She had stocked it and installed it years before, joking that there should be one in every room at Walker’s house. The friends had gathered many times at the ranch and Alex had played nursemaid to more than one of them a time or two. The time Jimmy fell off a horse while it stood still. All the horse did was lean down to graze and Jimmy had slid right off. He landed on a small cactus with his forearm and Alex had spent two hours pulling the needles out. Then there was the time that he’d burned himself while cooking pork chops. It was a grease burn and she’d jumped up and gone to his aid like a pro. And there were more times than he could count when Walker had come in bruised and bloodied from a battle with some foe or other. Long before they were husband and wife, Alex had assumed the role of nurse to the entire motley crew. C.D. got the kit, filled a bowl with some ice and water and headed down to the gym that Walker had set up in his basement. He’d mend his hands and do his best to patch up his heart as well.

Trivette headed to the most likely place, the barn. He knew upon entering that he was in the right place. When he called her name and received no response, he set about cleaning up the mess she’d made. He righted cans, picked up brushes, and raked up straw. He heard the boards in the loft creak as she moved and he knew right where she was. “You gonna let me clean up the whole mess by myself?” he asked the air. “I didn’t ask you to,” she said petulantly. “No, but if I was you, I’d make sure it was straightened up before Walker sees it. You may have a problem with people messing up your kitchen, but for Walker, it’s his barn. Everything has to be ‘just so.’ Of course, if you don’t care what Walker thinks anymore…” “Why should I care? I don’t even know him.” “Don’t you? You’ve lived with him here for over a week now. Are you telling me that in all that time, you don’t know who he is?”

Alex descended the loft ladder and quietly began straightening things up. She didn’t answer Jimmy’s question. She moved around the barn with her head bent and her eyes down. Jimmy thought she looked like a dog with its tail between its legs and he hated to see that look on Alex; he’d never seen her look like that.

He walked over to her and put his hands on her shoulders and held her still. He waited for her to look up, but he waited in vain. Finally, he used his hand to tilt her chin up and he saw the tears, streaming down her face. “Oh, Counselor,” he said as he pulled her into his arms for a comforting hug. Alex allowed herself to rest against his shoulder for a few minutes as the tears continued to seep. She realized where she was and that she was once again in a man’s arms. Even though her feelings weren’t sexual, she was still embarrassed to once again find herself in the position of hugging a stranger.

She stepped back out of his arms and said in a choked whisper, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” “There’s nothing wrong with you, Alex. You’ve been through an emotional roller coaster and now you are just letting out some of that emotion.” She shook her head in denial and stepped further away from him. “Everyone knows more about me than I do about myself. Am I always like this? Do I cry easily?” “I wouldn’t say that you cry easily, but you do cry. Look, Alex, you’re mad, but are you really mad at Walker? What is it exactly that he did to make you so mad?” “He didn’t do anything. He’s just always there and always right. How can you stand to be his partner?”

Trivette chuckled and said, “It took some getting used to. Walker is a confident man and he does seem to have all the answers. You helped me a lot when I was first working with him. If there’s one person who has always been able to knock Walker off balance, it’s you.” “Me? I can’t believe that. I can’t even hold my own with the man.” “No? Then why is he down in the gym with his knuckles bloody from punching the bag so hard it’s practically bruised?” “His hands are bloody?” “Yes, C.D. is patching him up. See, you turn your anger out,” he gestured to the mess she had made. “But Walker turns his anger in and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to hit something. Lucky for us, he has enough self control to hit inanimate objects.”

“Is this normal for him?” she asked. “It used to be, but you’ve… gentled him. When you two first met, there weren’t sparks, there was a dynamite blast. I wasn’t there, but C.D. told me about it and the two of you have each told me your versions. When Walker met you, he met his match, a confident, intelligent, compassionate, woman who didn’t back down from a fight. If you two had become enemies instead of friends, I don’t think Dallas would have been big enough for the two of you. Instead of making Walker’s life miserable because of his strong arm tactics, you gave him gentle scoldings so that he felt like a schoolboy called to the principal’s office. You chided him into doing things by the book and he’s a better Ranger for it. He’s a better man too.”

“So what did I get out of it?” “You, Alex, got a man who would lay down his life for you. He is the most loyal person I’ve ever met and he will stick by your side no matter what. He loves you so much he can’t even bear to say the words. He’s given you his heart and for a man with his history, that’s a gigantic gift to give. He’s had a rough time of it and he’s lost people he’s been close to all his life. But he was willing to try one more time with you, because he had to. He couldn’t avoid the fact that no matter how hard he tried not to, he fell in love with you.” “Is that why he stays with me? Because he’s loyal?” “Not because he’s loyal, because he’s in love.” “He’s in love with a woman who doesn’t exist anymore.” “He’s in love with a woman who is confused, but she’s still the same woman. You stood up to Cordell Walker tonight. I don’t know many men who would do that. You are a strong, brave, woman and one day, you’re going to remember your past. But I don’t think you need a memory to have feelings for the guy. That’s it, isn’t it? You’ve fallen in love with him and that scares the hell out of you.” “Why should I fall in love with him?” “Because, Alex, you and he were made to be together. If Walker was Adam and you were Eve, you couldn’t be more meant for each other. You are two pieces of a whole and that’s just the way it is.”

“Was I ever unfaithful to Walker?” she asked. “You? No way! The two of you played a game of one step forward two steps back for a few years, but once you gave yourselves to each other, you have been exclusively his and he has been exclusively yours.” “How can you be so certain?” “Because Alex, I have spent the last eight years watching the two of you fight the love you felt for each other and then finally give in to it. As hard as you fought to deny it, you’ve both fought twice as hard to preserve it. Are you ready to go back in?” he asked. She looked up to the house and nodded once. He placed his hand on her back and gently guided her inside.

C.D. had to threatened to hog tie Walker to get him to allow him to tend to his bloody knuckles. After soaking them in the ice water, he applied an ointment and then bandaged them with a gauze wrap. “Feel better now?” C.D. asked; referring to the energy Walker had expended on the punching bag. “My wife says that she doesn’t know me and doesn’t know if I’m one of the good guys or one of the bad guys. How am I supposed to feel?” “I don’t know Cordell; maybe you should feel lucky that she is able to tell you anything. We still don’t know why she was brought back to us and you said yourself that she’s starting to remember things. So what happened tonight?” “I don’t know. Things were fine, tense, but fine. Then the news report and she just sort of freaked out and started making wild accusations. I just needed to cool down, so I came down here.” “And beat the tar out of your own knuckles?” C.D. shook his head and said, “You’re not the brightest bulb in the strand are you?” Walker looked perplexed at his friend, “strand?” “You know... Christmas lights?” “Oh.”

“Cordell, Cordell, I feel as if I stepped into a time machine and I’m back to the early days when a certain ADA had you so hot under the collar the hair on your nape was singed.” “She always has been able to get past all of my defenses, hasn’t she?” “She sure has. Boy, I tell ya, watchin’ the two of you gave me years of pleasure… and an ulcer.” Walker smiled again, “Well, I don’t want to aggravate that ulcer, I guess I better go up and try to patch things up with her shouldn’t I?” “I reckon.” The two men headed back upstairs.

When Alex and Trivette walked in, Walker was seated on the couch next to C.D. trying to figure out how the information about Alex’s amnesia had been leaked to the press. “I think maybe it was me,” Alex said as she stepped into the living room and overheard the conversation. “You? You haven’t been left alone for two minutes.” “Tell me about it,” she muttered. “I was at C.D.’s today while he was waiting on the lunch crowd. I went to sit in a booth and a man joined me and started talking to me as if he knew me. I didn’t tell him anything, but I didn’t like him from the start.” “So why do you think you were the leak?” Trivette asked. “Because he acted as if he knew me and I assumed that he did. He seemed… I don’t know… surprised that I was nice to him. He made some comment about the shine on the wedding band being worn off already or something like that. He made me uncomfortable, so I told him that C.D. was waving for me to come over. When I went to the bar, he left.” “I never saw him Cordell.”

“Alex, can you describe him?” “He was average height, medium build with a paunch. He had brown hair with gray at the temples and male patterned balding. He had yellow teeth, like a smoker, and he was maybe fifty five.” “Don Kite,” Walker stated. “How do you know?” Trivette asked. “Sharon said that he accosted her after she left Alex at HOPE House. When Alex came home, there were several different reporters camped out just off the property. I found several of them on the property and gave them a good reason to find another story to pursue. Kite just waited until the coast was clear. He knows better than to risk a confrontation with me. He must have seen me leave C.D.’s and then saw his chance. C.D. was busy and Alex was unguarded.” “I’m so sorry Cordell; I should’ve kept a closer eye on her.” “No, it’s not your fault C.D. Kite ducked out when Alex headed back over to you because he knew what you would do to him if you’d seen him.” “That’s right; I would have hung him up like a piñata and let everyone take a swing at him.” Alex grimaced at the graphic imagery C.D.’s statement conjured.

“Well, we know the who and we know the how, the next thing we need to figure out is what we’re going to do about it,” Trivette brought the conversation back to the matter at hand. “Well, I imagine that we’ll have a hoard of reporters at the end of the driveway tomorrow. I don’t think we can leave the property just now.” Walker paused and sighed. “I’ll send a couple of squad cars out to make sure that no one gets any ideas about trespassing,” Trivette promised. “I’ll do whatever you need me to,” Cordell chimed in. “And I’ll stick close to Alex until we can ride out this latest tidal wave of media attention.” “Wouldn’t it just be easier to talk to them and tell them the truth?” Alex asked. “We will, but we’ll do it on our terms.” “What do you mean?” “You have a very dear friend who owns a television station. We’ll ask Shelley to come out with a crew tomorrow evening and we’ll give her an interview here in the living room. She’ll have the exclusive and she’ll be very careful about the questions she asks. She’ll get the whole story or at least as much as we know and then the others won’t be so interested.” Everyone agreed to Walker’s plan and then Trivette and C.D. bid their two friends goodnight.

Alex left the room and went upstairs to the master bedroom. She packed a small overnight bag with clothes and toiletries. When Walker came upstairs, she had moved herself down the hall to one of the guestrooms. “What are you doing, Alex?” “I’m sleeping in here.” “Why?” “Because I don’t know you. You say that you’re my husband, but I don’t know you. I may not have the strictest moral code in the world, but I don’t sleep with strange men.” Walker stood there for a minute looking at her. “Chicken,” he said. Alex shot daggers at him with her eyes. “I prefer to think of it as prudent.” “Things getting too volatile for you, Alex?” he taunted. “Are you afraid of the big bad wolf?” “I’m not afraid of you,” she denied. “No? Then who are you afraid of? Yourself?” he asked as he stepped closer and reached a finger out to touch the pulse point in her neck. “Don’t,” she said. “Don’t what? Don’t take your pulse? My, but your heart is racing. Did you just run a marathon?” Alex didn’t answer him; her throat had closed on itself.

“Are you afraid of me, honey? Are you afraid of the way your body responds to mine? Do you know what you do to me?” he asked and picked up her hand and placed her fingers against his pulse point. “Feel it, Alex? Do you feel what you do to me? My heart races every time I get anywhere near you. It’s been that way since I met you. You strung me along for years, wearing short skirts and high heels and making my blood boil.” He reached forward and placed a kiss on her parted lips. “You are an addiction lady and I can’t get my fix.” He stepped back and looked at her. “Just so you know, I’m going through a very painful withdrawal process and it makes me do crazy things, so if I say something to you that seems out of line… I apologize in advance.” With that, he walked to the master bedroom and closed the door. Alex stood in the doorway of the guestroom and tried to remember how to breathe. She stepped in and closed her own door and leaned against it. ‘Addiction,’ she thought to herself, ‘yes, I think I’m addicted to you too, Cowboy.’

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Alex awoke the next morning and had a moment of panic as she couldn’t remember where she was. She looked around the dimly lit room and finally realized that she was in the guest room on the opposite side of the house from the master bedroom, so the sun was still on the other side of the house. She was uncomfortable and then she shifted and realized why. Sometime during the night, she’d started her period and she had killer cramps. Getting out of bed slowly, she crept across the hall to the master bedroom. After checking to see that the coast was clear, she went into the bathroom to look for supplies.

She was on her hands and knees with her head inside the cupboard and packages of toilet paper, cotton balls and Kleenex, surrounding her. “What are you looking for?” Walker asked from the doorway. He stood there looking at the way the nightgown molded her rounded toush as the cupboard swallowed her head. Alex backed out and banged her head on the top of the cupboard. “Ouch! Never mind,” she said.

Alex shoved the stored paper products back into the cupboard and closed the door as she stood up. “After I shower, I need to go into the store,” she told him. He looked at her, “Alex, you can’t go in to the store. Have you forgotten that there’s a swarm of media at the end of our driveway?” Alex moaned, “I have to go.” “What do you need? Maybe I can help you find it.” “It doesn’t matter,” she said. Walker sighed, “Alex, just tell me what you need from the store. If we go there, I can tell you that whatever you buy will be reported on the six o’clock news this evening.” “No!” she gasped, “oh god.”

Walker spoke to her as if she was a child. “Alex, just tell me what you need. Its okay, you don’t need to be embarrassed. Whatever it is, I’m sure I can figure something out.” “Really? Did your Indian relatives teach you how to make tampons?” “What?” “I started my period!” she nearly shouted. “Well, that explains a lot,” he said. He hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but it earned him one of Alex’s patented glares. “I just meant…” She stood there waiting for him to dig his way out of the hole he’d jumped into. “Look, I know how you get when you…” Alex’s eyebrows raised and her bare foot tapped the cool bathroom tile. “Well… uhmm… this is good news.”

Now Alex looked amazed, “How can this be good news?” she asked. “Well, it means that you’re not… I mean, it means that your body is recovering from its ordeal and that you’ve gained enough weight for your body to return to its normal cycle.” “What were you going to say? It means I’m not… what?” Then she stopped and the wheels began turning. “Pregnant!? You thought I might be pregnant?” “I didn’t think you were, but there was a possibility. You had stopped taking the pill after we got back from our honeymoon… and we are newlyweds. I mean the doctor ran a test and everything, but you never know. We also don’t know what the people who had you did to you…” he stopped talking as he saw the horror register on her face. “Raped? You think I was raped?” “No, I didn’t say that. Doctor Andrews said that there was no sign that you’d been sexually assaulted, but they had you for two weeks. I just don’t know how we’ll ever be absolutely sure until you can remember what happened to you.”

Alex was incredulous that she was having this conversation standing in the bathroom in her nightgown. She was talking about incredibly intimate, private stuff with a man she still didn’t really know. ‘Liar, you know him,’ her traitorous mind whispered. “I think I need to take a shower now,” she said. “Should I call C.D. and ask him to stop at the store and bring you some…” He didn’t finish after seeing the look on her face. “I’ll leave you alone now,” he said as he backed out. He went into the room and got out a pair of elastic waist shorts and a loose top that would cover them. He knew that she liked to wear her most comfortable clothes when she felt bloated and uncomfortable. He got out a bra and panties and then he had a thought. He went to her purse and opened a small case that held a couple of tampons. Smiling at his own genius, he opened the bathroom door and laid the bundle on the counter. The steam was coming from the top of the shower as she stood under a hot hard spray. He wanted nothing more than to strip and step in to help relieve the ache like he had countless times in the past, but he didn’t dare. He quietly left the bathroom without making a sound.

Alex was in the master bedroom doing some stretches and trying to work out the cramping in her back. She hated it when the cramps were in her back, it made them that much more intense. She stopped mid-stretch as she realized that she had just remembered something. She was trying to figure out if that one memory would lead to another, when Walker entered the room. “Your back?” he asked, bringing her out of her contemplation. She shrugged her shoulders, unwilling to tell him that she was uncomfortable. He laid a large towel on the bed and he placed a heating pad in the middle. “Lay face down with the heating pad against your abdomen,” he said. She looked at him askance, and then decided to do as he suggested.

Once she was stretched out on her stomach, he crawled onto the bed and straddling her back, he lifted the bottom of her shirt and placed some ointment on it. He then covered this with a steaming hot hand towel that he had boiled downstairs. It had cooled to just tolerable as he placed it against her bare skin. Alex tensed and then relaxed as her body was comforted in the surrounding warmth that eased the ache.

Walker stayed straddling her thighs as the towel cooled. As soon as the heat had dissipated, he lifted it off of her back and began to gently soothe the warmed muscles. “I feel… I feel a tingling,” she said. “Yes, that’s the ointment. It’s a mixture of herbs and oils. It’s been used by the Cherokee for generations as a muscle relaxant. When you apply heat, it’s absorbed through the skin and you’ll feel a tingle and then later, your muscles will just ease.” He soothed her for a few more minutes and then he backed up off of the bed and lowered the bottom of her shirt. “Turn over Alex,” he instructed her. She slowly rolled off of the heating pad. He took it from the bed and then brought a light blanket and covered her. “Just relax and take a little nap before you come down for breakfast,” he advised. “Mmm…” she murmured as she drifted off to sleep.

They spent the day indoors except for the one trip Walker allowed Alex to take to the barn. He thought it would be therapeutic if she spent some time grooming Angel. He kept her close by his side, his arm firmly around her and walked quickly to the barn. He didn’t want anyone getting a good angle to take a picture if they had snuck onto the property. Inside the barn, he had cleaned up the remainder of the mess she’d made. She looked around at the pristine neatness and grimaced. “I’m sorry about the mess I made.” He shrugged, “No problem, you were just blowing off steam and you didn’t damage anything.” “Didn’t I?” she asked.

He looked up, realizing that she was trying to say something that wasn’t quite so obvious. He waited, knowing that the Alex he knew and loved would have to apologize for the things she’d said the night before. It was one of the things he admired most about her. She was brutally honest with herself and when she was in the wrong, she owned up to it… eventually. “I said some very hurtful things and the truth is… I don’t feel that you’re a stranger and I do know that you are only trying to help. It’s just frustrating feeling like everyone knows me better than I know myself. I guess it’s true what they say about hurting the ones you’re closest to. You’ve been nothing but kind and supportive and I acted like a shrew.” This brought a chuckle from Walker. “Well, darling, if you’re a shrew, I’d love to ‘tame’ you.” “You read Shakespeare, Cowboy?” Walker’s expression clued Alex in that she’d said something that surprised him. “What? What did I say?” “You called me ‘Cowboy.’ It just slipped off your tongue as if you…” “Remembered it?” she supplied. He nodded in agreement.

Alex took a deep breath and stepped toward him. “You told me once that I called you that and I’ve thought of you that way ever since. It fits you and I can see why I made it my nickname for you.” She reached up and touched the hair on his forehead, brushing it back lightly with her fingers. She looked into his eyes and he stayed still, letting her explore him at her own pace. Emboldened by his stillness, she trailed her fingers down to his eyes and traced the lines the sun had etched there. He closed his eyes as she touched his eyelids and then brushed across his eyelashes. Her fingers trailed down his prominent nose and to his mustache and then his beard. She feathered them across his lips and then she reached up on tiptoe and traced the same path with her lips. Her final destination; his lips, were waiting for hers and he crushed her in a deep passionate kiss when she finally reached them.

“Oh god Alex, I’ve missed you! I want you so badly,” he confessed. “Tell me about the first time we made love,” she whispered against his mouth. Alex could feel his lips move into the smile her question prompted. “It was so long after we met that I had become immune to cold showers. You tormented me for two years before I finally gave in to your persistent seduction.” “I seduced you?” “Well… no, it was mutual.” She smiled and insisted, “Tell me.”

Walker led her over to the stacked hay bales and gave her his hand so that she could sit down and then took a seat next to her. Clasping hands and facing each other, he told her. “Within a year of meeting you, I was so in love with you that I was doing everything in my power to run at full tilt away from you.” “Why?” “I’d been hurt before and I was too chicken to let you into my life. But you were as persistent as a termite, eating away until I couldn’t sleep without smelling your hair and hearing your laughter.” “A termite? Thanks a lot!”

He laughed with her and then stroked her hair away from her face and cupped her cheek with his palm. “Anyway, during a vision, I saw the two of us fishing. But when I told you about the vision, after you pestered me to death, I wound you up and made you think that we were doing was ― you know… and then, I told you we had been fishing. What I didn’t tell you was that I was standing behind you in the river, my arms wrapped around your waist and you were holding a fishing pole, but we were not paying attention to the fish. We were about to kiss and I knew that the vision was a prophecy.” “Did it come true?” “With a little help from you! I was injured during a bust and you decided to shanghai me and take me whitewater rafting. While I was teaching you to fly-fish, you slipped and I was transported back in time to my vision and I knew that this was it, that we would make love that night.” “And did we?” “Oh yeah…”

Alex waited a minute and then smacked his knee to bring him back to the present. “Share!” she demanded. Walker colored as he thought about that night. “I teased you about a snake and you came running out from behind the bush you were changing behind and we wrestled and then you climbed up my body and won the match with a kiss. Things were getting pretty heated up when our guide stopped by to talk to us.” “I bet that made you happy,” she remarked. “At least I was civil to the guy, you were downright rude!” “Well, if I took you all the way out there just to have my way with you, the last thing I’d want was interruptions.” He chuckled, “You got that right. So after he left, I went to change and you played the snake trick back on me and I came running to your rescue and then we zipped our sleeping bags together and spent the night making love.”

“Details, I want details!” “No, I think that you should wait until you can experience it for yourself. You never know what might trigger a memory…” Alex sighed deeply. “Well, what’s wrong with the here and now?” “For starters, there are reporters crawling all over this place. Do you want to have your picture in tomorrow’s newspaper leaving nothing to the imagination?” “Well, no…” “And you just started your cycle and…” “Oh yeah, that’s right, I forgot. That stuff you put on my back is amazing!” Walker leaned forward to kiss her and she opened her mouth to his probing tongue. He swept inside and tasted her as if he was a man starved. It had been too long, far too long, since he had been able to dip into the recesses of her mouth and enjoy the pleasure held there. He reached his hand up and cupped her breast and teased the nipple that sprang into life against his hand. Alex moaned as her body recognized his touch, his texture, and his scent. She wanted him, she needed him, she… heard something above her head. It was a creak. Someone was in the hayloft!

Alex didn’t have time to think, as Walker leapt up and took the ladder in two bounds. Before she knew what was happening, the man, who had spoken to her at C.D.’s, was sailing through the air and landing in a heap on top of the hay bale she and Walker had just vacated. Alex backed away in shock as the man who had just been so incredibly gentle and tender with her, yanked the man up by the collar and slammed him against the stall door. “This is illegal trespassing Kite! I’m going to have you arrested and I plan to press charges. I doubt you’ll get out in time to make your deadline.” He hauled the man out of the barn, barking at Alex, “Stay here!” She gulped and did as he ordered, but she was shaking in reaction. She didn’t know how he could kiss her one moment and then explode violently the next. He was an enigma and she wasn’t sure she should try and figure him out.

Walker force marched Kite to the end of the driveway and handed him over to one of the deputies there. “This man was trespassing in my barn. I want him hauled in and charges filed. If anyone is caught on my property without an invitation, they can share his cell.” With that said, in hearing of all the reporters gathered, he turned and strode back toward the barn, which was quite a walk. The reporters all stood staring at Don Kite with their mouths agape. When they finally realized who had just been there, they began shouting questions at his retreating back, but they earned no response from Ranger Walker.

Walker returned to Alex and saw the fear and confusion written on her face. “I’m sorry I frightened you; I just reacted. Protecting you is something I do instinctually, I didn’t think.” Alex nodded mutely. He handed her a currying brush and picked up one for himself. They stood side by side, currying their horses and then Alex looked at the man from under her lashes. He was angry, she could tell that by the stance he took, but he didn’t take it out on the horse. Instead, Ranger got a grooming that made his coat glisten. By the time they were ready to head back into the house; both were calm and ready to face the rest of the day.

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Alex had showered and changed into a pretty dress. She’d done her hair and applied more makeup than she normally wore in preparation for the camera crew that was to arrive at 4:30 p.m. The house was freshly dusted and the pillows on the couch were plumped. Walker had brought in a bunch of wild flowers and a few branches and had given them to her and asked her to arrange them in a vase he pulled from the china hutch. She looked at him askance, but did as he asked and was rather impressed with her finished product. Although she had never taken any classes, Alex had a natural knack for matching colors and shapes. It showed in her home furnishings and it showed in her flower arrangements. She stood at the bottom of the stairs and surveyed the scene that had been set and decided that it would make a pleasant backdrop to the interview. She headed into the kitchen to plate the brownies she had baked and to brew fresh coffee. She also had iced tea and lemonade.

Walker watched Alex put on the finishing touches in preparation for their guests and smiled to himself. He was seeing more and more of the Alex he had met and married as she grew more comfortable with him and her surroundings. The scene in the barn was an example of Alex’s true character coming to the fore. She asked the hard questions and didn’t run away from the answers. He heard a van and car drive up to the front and headed out to greet Shelley, her husband Mark, and the crew. He brought Shelley and Mark in to meet Alex. They had been longtime friends and Mark was prominently involved in city politics and would undoubtedly run for Mayor come the next election. He had come along to even out the numbers. Walker thought that Alex might feel more comfortable if a ‘husband and wife’ came to visit. The interview would be done first and then the crew would be on their way and Mark and Shelley would stay for dinner.

“Alex, this is Mark and Shelley,” Walker introduced her. “Hello,” she said with a nervous smile. It was difficult to know how to react to people who knew her and expected something from her. She was never sure what that something was. Shelley was the blabbermouth that Walker had once accused Alex of being and she began talking a mile a minute. Alex just watched in amazement as she told Alex how wonderful she looked. “Oh Alex, you look marvelous. I was so worried about you, but I see that you’re doing great and the viewers of this interview will get to see the same thing. Why don’t we go into the kitchen and talk about what we’re going to cover in the interview while Walker and Mark help get the guys set up in the living room.” Alex allowed herself to be led into the kitchen and she sat down at Shelley’s urging while Shelley took over in the kitchen and made them both a glass of tea.

“Don’t mind me,” Shelly said, “but we’ve known each other for a good long while and you’re as comfortable in my kitchen as I am in yours.” She walked back over and set the glasses down and then handed Alex a small brown paper bag. “Here, Walker called and asked me to pick these up for you,” she said. Alex opened the bag and looked in to find that Shelley had brought her the feminine hygiene supplies she needed. Alex colored slightly and said, “Thank you.” Shelley shrugged and said, “Let’s get right down to it, shall we?” Alex just nodded mutely.

Shelley took a moment and sat back surveying her. “I take it back; you’re not as well as I first thought. Makeup covers a great deal.” Alex’s eyebrows rose in surprise at her forthrightness, but she again remained mum. “I’m not being cruel, just honest. And if you’re the same Alex I’ve known and loved for the better part of ten years, then you appreciate it. You don’t look bad, but you’re underweight and your eyes show that you’ve been under a great deal of strain.” “Well, I am married to a crazy cowboy I don’t even know.”

Shelley chuckled at Alex’s display of humor. “Honey, there are women the world over who would give their eye teeth to be in your predicament. He is one hunk of a man.” “I noticed,” Alex agreed. “I imagine you did. He can be pretty intimidating though can’t he?” “You have no idea.” “Have you slept with him yet?” This time, Alex’s eyebrows rose, her cheeks colored and her mouth dropped open. “Don’t look so shocked,” Shelley chastised her. “I know that I’m being wicked, but I can’t imagine anything more erotic than getting to sleep with a passionate stranger without the guilt that would normally accompany the act.” “Trust me, there’s guilt,” Alex said. “So you have slept together.” “Not in the strictest sense, but we’ve… gotten close.” “Wow, I’d like to forget Mark for a long weekend! I wouldn’t mind going through all that discovery phase of making love again. Especially since he already knows what you like the most.” “You know what’s more disconcerting than making love to a man you don’t remember marrying?” “No what?” “Having a complete stranger ask you about it.”

It was Shelley’s turn to stop and stare in surprise. Then she burst out laughing. “You may not remember who you are Alexandra Cahill-Walker, but you are the same Alex!” “What do you mean?” Alex asked. “Blunt, cutting, get to the point, stand up for yourself; it’s all you.” “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to be rude.” “You weren’t, or only as much as I deserved. The truth is, I’ve always wondered about the secret side of Cordell Walker. He’s so reserved in public, but my instincts tell me that he is anything but reserved in bed. You’ve always been so closed mouth on the subject though… darn you.” “Well, I can tell you that he isn’t reserved. He’s…” Alex sighed, “he’s passionate and tender and loving and…” Alex’s eyes became dreamy and stormy at the same time, “I can’t wait to find out just how passionate he can be.” Shelley nodded, agreeing that finding out just how incredible making love to Cordell Walker was, would be something she and hundreds of other women would love to know first hand. “I love my husband, Alex, madly, passionately, but I tell you… If I had been single when I met Walker, I would have given him a run.”

Alex looked at the beautiful black woman and said, “I’m lucky you were already married.” “There was no luck involved, honey. Walker was absolutely smitten with you from the first. You were just as bad. I remember way back, when you two were pretending that you were just friends and coworkers. Electrical currents raced through the air every time you were both in the same room. The looks, the touches, sharing your drinks… you thought you were being discreet, but the world knew how much you two were in love, before you yourselves were aware.” “Can I ask you something?” “Sure, what is it?” “The way I feel with Walker, it’s like, oh god, I can’t even describe it. I feel like I’m some sort of hussy.” Shelley laughed at the word. “It’s not funny! I mean, how can one woman be so… aroused every time he’s within a mile? I was just wondering… have I always been like this?” “With Walker? Yes!” “No, I mean, with other men.” Shelley’s eyes showed understanding. “Do you mean, are you some kind of sex crazed maniac?” Alex nodded. “Alex, I don’t know how many lovers you’ve had, we’ve never shared that information, but I do know that you are very selective. I set you up with countless men and despite dating some of them several times; I don’t know one that you slept with.” “Really?” “Yes, you were dubbed the ‘ice queen’ around City Hall by some frustrated men until you and Walker ‘came out of the closet’ so to speak.”

Alex thought about what she had just learned from Shelley. She knew why she was a close friend. She liked her open honesty. She didn’t pull punches, but she was nice and friendly with a beautiful smile. Then Alex had a sudden thought. “You said that we were coming in here to talk about the interview. This isn’t going to be part of it is it?” Shelley laughed, “No; that was just an excuse to get away. I already went over with Walker what’s allowed and what isn’t.” “And you don’t mind that?” “Alex, this is the biggest story going in Dallas right now. Walker is trying to protect you and your position as Deputy D.A. It’s important to make the public understand that what has happened to you was outside of your control and that it’s going to take time for all the pieces to fit back together.” “But what if they never come together?” Shelley covered Alex’s hand with her own. “Alex, they will. You’ll remember your life before and you’ll be fine. You have to believe that and even at times when you don’t, keep telling yourself that.” Alex nodded, “I want to remember. It seems that there’s a lot of great stuff I’m forgetting. Walker was telling me earlier about our first time together and…” “Really, do tell!”

Walker entered the dining room at that moment and Alex couldn’t help but blush. “Shelley, are you badgering my wife?” he asked as he came over and stood behind Alex with his hands on her shoulders, giving her a supportive squeeze. “I’m trying, but she’s not letting me.” Walker squeezed Alex’s shoulders again, “You just tell her to keep her reporter’s nose out of our love life. This interview is about the fact that you have amnesia, not the how and when of our relationship.” Shelley laughed, completely comfortable with the fact that Walker knew she would have asked Alex the most intimate of questions. “You, Ranger, spoil all my fun. What’s the point of girl talk if we can’t tear our men apart?” Mark walked in and heard her final comment and he tugged on her hair, pulling her head back. “Watch it woman, you’ll find yourself without an interview or a ride home.” Alex watched as the other three laughed, correctly assuming that it was an empty threat.

The group moved into the living room where the technician had set up the lighting. The director, Brad, had been one of the hostages, along with Alex and Shelley, when racial supremists had taken over the television station that Shelley was part owner of. He said ‘Hi’ to Alex and she looked to Walker to see what her response should be. Shelley stepped in and made the introductions. Then Brad positioned Shelley and Alex on the couch turned to face each other. The technician, Kate, also supplied makeup and wardrobe duties. She attached the microphones to their clothes, touched up their hair, reduced the shine on their faces and stepped back to wait for further directions from Brad. John, the camera man, set up in between the two women and he practiced swiveling the camera from one to the other. Brad checked the monitor, had Kate adjust the lights and then asked Shelley and Alex to speak so that they could do a sound check. Walker and Mark stayed back behind the camera, but Walker stood so that he was in Alex’s line of sight and she could look to him if she needed help. Finally ready, the filming began.

“I’m here tonight with Deputy District Attorney Alex Walker. Alex was kidnapped and was missing for seventeen days. She was dumped not far from a two-lane road outside of Abilene where she was discovered by a vacationing couple who brought her to the nearest hospital. Alex, what’s the first thing you remember?” “I woke up and it was extremely bright and hot and my head hurt.” “What did you do?” “I started walking and accidentally stumbled across a paved road. I knew that I needed to get water, but I didn’t know where I was.” “And that’s when you were discovered and taken to the hospital?” “Yes, the couple who found me were just wonderful. I’ll never be able to thank them enough.” “And what was your condition when you got to the hospital?” “They said that I was dehydrated and had lost a lot of weight. There was also evidence that I had been restrained and that someone had used a drug on me to make me susceptible to suggestion. I also had burn marks from some type of electric shock.” “Did you tell them who you were and what had happened to you?” “No, I didn’t know. I have no memory until the moment I woke up in the badlands with a pounding headache.” “How did you discover your identity?” “Someone recognized me from news reports and my husband was called to identify me.”

Shelley looked over to where Walker stood. This had been planned and Walker already had a microphone on, although it had been kept turned off. “Ranger Walker, Alex’s husband, led the search and was the first to positively identify his wife after she was discovered.” Walker walked behind the couch and came to sit next to Alex, his body supporting hers from behind and his hand reaching out to take hers. “Ranger Walker, have the Ranger’s been able to come up with any leads as to who was responsible for doing this to your wife?” “No, we haven’t had any solid leads. If we knew the who, we might be able to figure out the why, but so far, nothing.” “You must have been frantic with worry while she was missing.” “Alex is my life, of course I was, but I had to keep searching for her. Then when we found her and she had no memory, it was obvious that someone had been brainwashing her for some reason.” “And you have no idea why?” “The logical explanation is that someone wanted information that she wasn’t willing to give. Or that this is some type of revenge plot, but again, we just don’t know yet.”

Shelley turned back to Alex. “How are you coping, not having any memory of your past?” “It’s been difficult; especially when I meet someone who I know knew me before. I feel as if I don’t know what to say or how to act.” “Have you had any return of your memory?” “There are little things. Things I say or do that I’m told I said or did before. I remember where things are in the house or I have the beginning of a memory and then it’s gone.” “What are you doing to help break through whatever is blocking your memory?” “I’ve been working with Dr. Sharon Clark. She’s been counseling me, helping me to deal with living a life without my memory. She thinks that something was done to me that is causing my memory to stay hidden, but she said that once we figure out the block, it should come back.”

“Ranger Walker, how do you feel about your wife’s recovery so far?” “It’s been frustrating, for her more than for me. I see glimpses of the person she was before this happened and I see more and more each day.” “Do you think that she will be restored to whole again?” “I have to believe that. I don’t think that either one of us is willing to believe that we won’t get back what was taken from her, from us.” “What about the criminals who did this?” “We’re still searching and, hopefully, as Alex begins to remember things, she can tell us who they are. In the meantime, Ranger Company B has a team looking into it and following even the slightest of leads.” “So you haven’t given up the search?” “No, it’s still very much an active case.”

Shelley ended the interview by wishing Alex well and then they took some shots of the Walkers in the kitchen fixing dinner and a few down in the barn with the horses. Brad went back to the station to cut in the different scenes, intermixed with the questions. Shelley had filmed a lead in, explaining that she had been invited to share in an evening with the Walkers as Alex strove to regain her memory.

After the crew packed up and left, the four friends went in to have supper together. Alex and Shelley prepared the salad and potatoes, while Mark and Walker barbecued the steaks outside and then brought them in. They enjoyed a pleasant evening and Alex felt comfortable and enjoyed herself. After dinner and cleaning up the kitchen, they went out to sit on the porch. Alex automatically sat snuggled back against Walker on the porch swing and Shelley and Mark shared a smile. Even without a memory, the chemistry between the two was still there. Alex relaxed against Walker and joined in the conversation as much as she was able. The others were careful to talk about topical subjects and not too much about the past. The evening passed and before long, Shelley was telling them that they had to get back as their babysitter had school the next morning and they both had work.

Alex turned on the late news and watched a repeat of the interview. She knew that it didn’t answer all of the questions, but then, she didn’t have an answer to all of the questions herself. She just hoped that it did what Walker wanted and got the press to leave them alone. They both intended to resume their pre-established routines the next day. Alex went up to the master bedroom and showered and changed. She was grateful for the care package Shelley had brought her and she reminded herself to thank Walker for it. She pulled on her nightgown and crawled into bed. Walker came in a little later and found her already stretched out, nearly asleep. “You’re moving back in?” he asked. “What? Oh! I… if you don’t mind?” “Alex, you belong in our bed, I will never mind you being in it.” He walked on through to the bathroom to prepare for bed.

Alex was dozing when Walker crawled in on his side of the bed. “Come here, wife,” he said. She scooted over and laid her head on his chest. Walker moved his arm to encircle her and she felt him grimace. “What is it?” she asked as she used his chest to lever herself up to look into his face. “Nothing, I just pulled a muscle on that toad, Don Kite.” “Where?” she asked and he pointed to his shoulder. “Turn over,” she commanded. “What?” “Take off your shirt and turn over; I’ll see what I can do.” “No, Alex, it’s fine, just go to sleep.” “No way; turn about is fair play.” She got up and went into the bathroom to get some lotion.

When she returned, he was lying on his stomach, his shoulder and back muscles exposed to her gaze. She climbed onto the bed and spread the cool lotion on his shoulders and down his back to his waist. Sitting beside him on the bed, she began to lightly smooth the lotion in, warming his muscles up. As she got more comfortable feeling his smooth warm skin, she got less comfortable trying to apply the necessary pressure while sitting to the side of him. Without thought, she straddled him and sat on his buttocks as she let her hands knead his shoulder muscles, working deep into the knotted tissue of his right shoulder. Alex was sweating as she worked on his muscle mass. She was getting as much of a workout as she’d ever gotten and she didn’t even pause to ask him if she was hurting him. It just felt right to use all of her strength on this muscular man. When she finally slumped down beside him, exhausted, he stayed in the position on his stomach.

Alex lay beside him trying to catch her breath. “That was quite a workout,” she said. “Alex…” he moaned. “What?” she asked innocently. “We are husband and wife, lying together in bed and you are panting as if we just… Do you have any idea what you do to me?” he asked as he turned over. Alex glanced down and her eyes grew wide. “I do now,” she said in awe. The glow from the urn shaped lamp that she still slept with, outlined the bulge under his shorts. “Alex, don’t…” he said as he tried to regain control of himself. Her stare and her voice weren’t helping the situation.

She reached out and stroked her finger lightly over the length of the bulge in his shorts. He reached down and trapped her wrist to stop her, but her other hand joined the first and she began to massage him lightly through the material of his shorts. “Alex…” “I haven’t finished your massage, Walker, hush,” she told him. She continued tormenting him, touching him enough to make him shudder, but not enough to relieve the ache. Alex watched his face, fascinated by the intense expression that seemed to be carved into it. She pulled up the elastic and slipped her hand underneath, touching his bare skin. Walker’s hips involuntarily bucked against her hand, encouraging her to greater boldness.

Scooting so that she was sitting against him, facing his feet, she concentrated on the aroused flesh that she held in her two hands. She began a pumping motion that had him gripping the bed cloths and he moved his hips in rhythm to her hands, increasing the friction that was building a storm inside of his body. With a cry, he released himself, his shorts catching the spurting fluid and Alex watched as his entire body relaxed down onto the bed.

“Damn,” Walker muttered and got up to go into the bathroom, grabbing a clean pair of shorts as he went. When he returned, he reached and pulled Alex against him and held her close. “Whenever you’re around, all of my good intentions fly out the window.” “What do you mean?” she asked. “I said that we wouldn’t make love until you remembered me or fell in love with me again. But all you have to do is touch me and I’m lost.” Alex’s response was to roll her cheek on his bare chest so that she could suckle his nipple. “Alex!” he shouted and pulled her off of him. “You behave!” he told her and tucked her tightly against his side. Alex fell asleep with a smile still on her face.

cccc

“Damn!” the man shouted as he watched the television news. “What is it, Father?” a female voice asked. “It is time, my child,” he said. “What shall we do?” she asked. “I’ll need to mail her a letter. She’s being watched too closely for us to get near her.” He sent the woman to go fetch the supplies he required. He paced the cave-like room in his flowing robes and cursed. This was not going as planned. She shouldn’t be having any memories, but according to the news, it seemed that she was starting to make some breakthroughs. He knew he should have used more drugs on her. He’d been advised that he risked killing her with a higher dosage, but what did he care? His ultimate goal was to see her dead anyway. He just wanted to kill two birds with one stone.

cccc

When Alex’s alarm went off the next day, she reviewed the previous evening in her head. She knew that she should be ashamed of her brazen actions, but she just couldn’t be. She was starting to fall in love with her own husband and the butterflies in her stomach began swarming. She couldn’t believe that she was in love with a man she barely knew, but deep down in the core of her, she knew that it was true. “I love him,” she whispered to herself and then a smile overtook her face. She hopped out of bed in a fashion that was against her normal morning routine and went to shower and dress. She went downstairs to find Walker just back from feeding the horses. He looked up in surprise to see her already ready to go. “Well, good morning. What’s got you up and smiling so early?” he asked. She just smiled wider and went to him and reached up to kiss him before turning toward the kitchen. “Don’t ask, just enjoy it. I’ll fix breakfast if you want to go get ready for work.” Walker stayed quiet, but kept glancing back at her as he left the room to shower and change.

Alex remained in a happy mood as they drove into town. There were no reporters camped out at the end of their driveway. Apparently, Walker’s ploy had worked. He dropped Alex off at HOPE House with a kiss and headed into work. Her good mood had infected him and he was in a better frame of mind than he had been in since the day he got word that she was missing. He walked into the office, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed over to Trivette’s desk.

“Hi partner,” he greeted Trivette. “Hi! Boy, you look mighty chipper this morning.” “I am. It looks like the interview with Shelley did the trick and now the reporters are finally leaving us alone.” “That’s great. I saw the interview and Alex looked fantastic. She’s a lot more confident and self assured than she’s been lately.” “Yes, she seems to be getting some of her spunk back.” Trivette smiled, happy to hear the positive news.

Walker turned the subject to work. “What do you have for me, partner? Tell me they’re not all dead ends.” “You know, I may have something here.” “Whatcha got?” Trivette scrolled down on the computer screen and clicked on the thumbnail picture to bring it up to full size. “Remember him?” he asked Walker. “Bodie?” “Well, that’s one of his names. Dwayne Tyrell Blaine is his real name, but yeah, he was going by Deacon John Bodie last time we met him.” “He’s the guy who kidnapped Alex when she went to investigate that cult he was running as a front to get people to sign over their life savings to him and his business partner.” “Not to mention the militia he was training and supplying with weapons with that money.” “Isn’t he in jail for a laundry list of crimes, not the least of which; kidnapping an ADA?” “Well, he was convicted of several crimes, but we didn’t get him on the big one. There were no witnesses to his partner’s death and even though we’re all sure he killed the man, we couldn’t prove it in court.”

“How did his name come up on your search? The DA at the time refused to let Alex prosecute him, not that it was in her jurisdiction anyway, and we only testified at his hearing.” “Well, I’ve been searching cases where you were the arresting officer or Alex was the prosecuting attorney, but that came up empty. Then I decided to broaden the search for any felon known to use brainwashing as a part of his crime. There were a number of supposed ‘religious’ men who popped up on that list and ‘Deacon Bodie’ was one of them.” “Kind of a moot point isn’t it? I mean, that was ten years ago and the man is in jail.” “Not anymore, he’s not.” “What?!” “He was released six months ago when they had to resolve the ‘overcrowding’ issue in the jails after that lawsuit by the inmate who was sharing a two man cell with three other men.” “Yeah, I remember.” “Well, Bodie had exemplary behavior throughout his incarceration and they decided that it was in the state’s best interest to let him go.” “Amazing! This man ruined countless lives, but because we can’t show that he pulled the trigger killing one, he gets let out of jail.” “Hey partner, you know the system isn’t perfect.”

“So what’s he been up to since he’s been out free?” “Well, he lived in a halfway house and worked at a bottling plant for the first four months of his probation, but then two months ago, he went missing along with a few of his friends. For ‘friends’; read ‘followers’. He’s back to his old tricks.” “And some new ones?” “Well, that’s what I was thinking. He had used mind control techniques on the people who followed him. If he spent his years in prison researching the means and methods for brainwashing people; he may have gotten it down.”

“I’m going to call Sharon and see if there’s a way we can ask Alex if she knows Bodie or remembers him.” “Okay, I’ll keep working away at the computer to see what it’ll give me. You want me to send Syd and Gage out to talk to people at the halfway house and prison?” “Yeah, that’s a good idea, Trivette, thanks for thinking of it.” “Hey, I’m the brain of the outfit.” “You just keep telling yourself that, partner,” Walker said as a parting shot.

Walker called Sharon and she said that if he got together photos of people, some Alex knew since her loss of memory, some she knew before, but had not yet met again, and a few strangers and slipped Bodie’s picture in the pile, she had a plan. She was going to show Alex the pictures and not place emphasis on any of the people so that she could get an honest read about how she reacted to Bodie rather than just showing her a picture of him and asking her if she recognized him. Walker agreed to get the pictures together and went back to Trivette to have him print out digital pictures of different people both familiar and unfamiliar to Alex.

Trivette had several CD’s of pictures of different outings with the gang. He loved the digital camera that Alex and Walker had given him the previous Christmas and used it continuously. He also downloaded a few pictures of people who worked in the building, a couple of television and movie stars and a few people that Alex should not know. He printed them all out on 8x10 glossy paper and slipped Bodie’s picture into the mix. “Here you go partner, and don’t you ever complain to me about modern technology again. If you had to take pictures of all these people and get them developed the old fashioned way…” “You’re the man, Trivette; the best of the best. I owe you for life and I bow to your computer genius.” Trivette shot Walker a look that clearly said he knew when his leg was being pulled. “Just go away and let this genius get back to work.” Walker grinned at his partner and headed out.

Alex was at HOPE House when Sharon arrived. She looked up and smiled at the woman. She was nervous that Sharon might discover her secret, but she was still happy to see her. She was determined that no one know that she was in love with Walker; it was too new to share. She wondered if she’d felt that way the first time she’d fallen for him. First, there was the immediate defense mechanism that flew into place when she met him. Her heart knew danger when it saw it. And Cordell Walker spelled DANGER in bright red letters. Then, her body reacted, wanting to touch him, to taste him, to smell him. Finally, her heart gave in, knowing defeat when it was confronted by the entire package of Walker. He was a man of few words, fiercely loyal, confident, loving, patient, intelligent, sexy to a fault… she could go on all day, but Sharon was beginning to give her odd looks, so she shelved her description of Walker for later when she was alone.

“Alex, let’s go into your office and chat,” Sharon suggested in a friendly voice. They did just that, and then Sharon pulled out a package from her briefcase. “I’d like to try something if I may,” she began. “What is it?” Alex asked, a little nervous. “I have a bunch of pictures here. Some are of people you know and other’s are of people you don’t know. I’d like you to do a sort of word association for me. Look at the picture and tell me the first word that pops into your mind. Don’t think about it, just blurt it out. Do you think you’re up for this?” “I guess, but what’s the purpose?” “Humor me, will you? If I tell you the purpose in advance, it could affect the outcome.” Alex thought about it a minute and then nodded in agreement.

Sharon deliberately started with an easy one. “Now remember, some you know and some you don’t. Don’t try to identify anyone, just tell me your first impression when you see the face.” She held up a picture of C.D. “Texas Teddy Bear,” Alex said. Sharon smiled and had to agree with her impression. There was a lot more to C.D. than the loveable guy Alex knew, but it was who he was most of the time. She held up a picture of someone she knew was a stranger to her. Alex shrugged her shoulders, looking at the middle aged man, “Businessman.” Next came a picture of Alex’s secretary, someone she hadn’t seen since being kidnapped, “Efficient.” A picture of Shelley drew the response of, “Blabbermouth,” while a picture of Trivette earned, “Comic relief.” Sharon chuckled, but continued with several more and then showed the picture of Bodie. Alex froze for a moment as a chill went up her spine. She said in a deadly quiet voice, “Evil.”

Sharon didn’t comment on any of the pictures or the response Alex gave to them, but she continued on. A picture of her father caused Alex to say, “Lawyer”, which Sharon thought was interesting, because Alex may have been told he was a lawyer, but she had also been told that he was her father. She thought that maybe Alex was starting to remember bits and pieces without realizing it. For many years, she was estranged from her father and she probably thought that his profession was largely to blame, and yet she had become a lawyer herself, but playing on the other side. She was one of the best prosecuting attorneys, while her father was one of the best defense attorneys.

Picture after picture drew varied responses, but it was clear that pieces of Alex’s memory were surfacing; they just hadn’t been put together yet. A picture of the DA caused Alex to respond, “Boss,” while a picture of a man she’d prosecuted caused her to say, “Bald,” as if she had no other impression of him. Sharon then held up the picture of Walker. Alex was far into the exercise and her initial inhibitions were gone. She was rapidly blurting out the first word that came to mind and when she saw the picture of Walker, without thinking about it, she said, “Enemy.” Sharon’s professionalism was shaken as she paused for a moment, long enough for Alex to realize what she’d said. “Why did I say that? I don’t think he’s my enemy, I mean, I… Well, I care about him and he’s been so kind and…” Sharon could see that Alex was clearly upset by what she had said, so she asked her to complete the exercise with two more pictures and then put them away. She had taped Alex’s responses and was planning to put them together with the faces at a later date when she could try and see what parts of Alex’s memory were intact and what parts had gaping holes. She stayed and talked to Alex, trying to reassure her not to worry about her response to Walker’s picture and then she left.

Walker came and took Alex out to lunch. He saw immediately that the bright, happy person he’d left at HOPE House was no longer in view. Instead, Alex was withdrawn and introspective and he couldn’t help but wonder if the pictures had caused the problem. He wanted to ask Sharon if she’d had any memory of Bodie, but he would have to wait until that afternoon when she said that she could meet with him. He left Alex with C.D. and headed on back to work. He wanted to know every single person Dwayne Blaine, AKA Deacon Bodie, had come into contact with during his years in prison.

Back at headquarters, Walker got to work making phone calls and digging up as much info on Bodie as possible. He talked directly to his parole officer and to his boss at the bottling plant. It was clear that he was up to his old tricks, mesmerizing people into following his ‘preaching’. The boss at the plant gave Walker a lead on two employees who had quit the same time Bodie disappeared. He got their former addresses and he also got their emergency contact information. Bodie’s parole officer was little help, although he did say that one other parolee had gone missing at the same time as Bodie and gave Walker his information.

Syd and Gage returned to the station with information from the one convict who was willing to talk about Bodie. Most were unwilling to cooperate or were afraid of the man. He had been as successful at gathering ‘disciples’ in prison as he had in his cult. He was a charismatic man who had not remained idle during his years of incarceration. They did uncover evidence to suggest that he had been researching mind control techniques. The gang all agreed that there was now little doubt that Bodie was behind Alex’s kidnapping. Now the problem was finding him and bringing him to justice.

Walker handed off the information he had gathered to the other three. Trivette got back on his computer to try and see if any of the three missing persons might own a place where Alex could have been kept and Bodie was holed up. Syd and Gage went back out to talk to people who knew the three and to try and find out where they had gone to when they had left.

Walker left the other three to investigate the new leads and he headed out to Sharon Clark’s office to see if Alex had reacted to the picture of Bodie. He reached the medical office building where she had her main office and parked the Ram and went in. He felt nervous and anxious, two emotions that were foreign to him (except on his wedding day). He was worried that Alex had remembered Bodie and he was also worried that she hadn’t. He took the elevator to the seventh floor and entered the suite determined to discover whatever Sharon had to tell him and to deal with it.

“Hi Walker, come on in,” Sharon greeted him when he opened the door to her office after her secretary had announced him. “Hi Sharon, how did the session go?” “Well, Walker, I don’t know what to tell you. Alex shows signs of remembering pieces of her life, but there are some obvious gaps. I think that the most significant information is what she said when I showed her Bodie’s picture and then when I showed her yours. I’d like to play the tape of her responses while I show you the pictures in the order Alex saw them in.”

Sharon began with C.D.’s picture and Walker smiled when she called him the “Texas Teddy Bear.” He thought that it was an apt description for one of his friends to use, but if an outlaw described him, it was more likely to be as the “Texas Grizzly Bear.” Walker was thoughtful as he listened to Alex’s responses. He was surprised that she recognized her boss, the DA, since she hadn’t been back to work as yet. His eyebrows rose up high when she identified Bodie as “Evil.” When Sharon showed him a picture of himself and Alex’s voice identified him as the “Enemy”, he was shattered. He listened to her own reaction to her response and was slightly reassured, but he still had the gut wrenching feeling that was generated by hearing his own wife identify him as the “Enemy.”

Taking a deep breath and outwardly maintaining his composure, Walker asked Sharon. “What do you make of her responses?” “Like you, I was stunned at first to hear what she called you. I needed some time to process it all and I have a theory.” “I’m all ears.” “Well, we know that Alex was brainwashed and we are fairly certain that Bodie is the person who did this to her. Right?” “It’s looking more and more that he was.” “So, this man Bodie, he didn’t want information from Alex, did he?” “No, I can’t think of any information he could have needed from her. This was a revenge crime.” “Right, so why not just cause her to suffer and then kill her? We know that he has nothing against killing those who don’t go along with him. He is completely amoral.” “You’ve been studying up on him.” “I have. I had Trivette send me his profile after my session with Alex. I wanted to determine if I could figure out how he was thinking.” “And?” “He wanted more; he wanted you to suffer too.” “Well, he got his wish.”

Sharon knew that Walker was struggling with these revelations. Any man would, but the Walker marriage was still so new and potentially fragile. She didn’t want to put anymore stress on it than it had already endured. She knew that Walker and Alex loved each other, but there were circumstances in life that could pull two people apart and she feared that this situation could prove to be one of them. “I know that you’ve felt that Alex should recognize you on some level, but you told me that she seemed afraid of you. What if Bodie intentionally planted the suggestion that you are the enemy? What if she was conditioned to believe that she should be afraid of you and maybe even hate you?” “Can that be done?” “Yes, but with different levels of effectiveness. Obviously, he managed to make her believe him to some degree, but as she has gotten to know you, her fear has lessened and pieces of her memory have returned.”

“So now what?” “Now, I suggest you go home and spend time with her. I’d like to begin treating her with hypnosis. I want to know if he planted any other suggestions in her mind.” “You think that’s a possibility?” “I think it’s a strong possibility. I think that she was vulnerable after all the drugs and everything she was put through.” “Have you told Alex yet?” “No, I thought I’d let you do that.” “Me?” “Walker, she trusts you. Despite what she said today, you are the most stable thing in her life right now; you’re her rock. She is still cautious with me. There was something today that she didn’t want me to know. She deliberately hid something from me and I don’t know what it was. If you endorse the idea of hypnosis, I think she’d be more open to it.”

Sharon spent another fifteen minutes filling Walker in on what the hypnosis would entail and convincing him that it was the best step to take. “I’ll talk to her about it tonight. When did you want to do this?” “Well, tomorrow’s out. I have to be in court to testify in a spousal abuse case. One of the women who’s currently staying at HOPE House. She’s trying to get her husband put behind bars permanently. How about if I get together with Alex on Saturday at the ranch? I’d rather do this where Alex is the most comfortable. She’ll be resistive to the hypnosis and the more nervous she is, the more resistive she’ll be.” Walker agreed to the plan and then headed back to the ranch.

The evening passed with a tense silence between the two. Alex was fearful that Sharon had shared with Walker what she’d said. She was also trying to deal with the fact that she had discovered that she was in love with him. She felt more confused than she had when she first woke up in the badlands, not knowing who she was or how she’d gotten there. Walker respected the fact that she needed to sort things out in her own head. He himself had a great deal to think about. Rather than being disappointed that Alex hadn’t instantly felt the connection, the bond they shared, he realized that he should be grateful that it was strong enough to overcome what had been done to her.

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Friday evening, Walker decided that he needed to talk to Alex about the hypnosis idea. Alex had been friendly, but distant, all day. They’d followed the same routine as before, but the camaraderie they had begun to establish was missing. Walker realized that Alex was almost afraid of his touch again. After dinner, they had washed the dishes together and the simplest touch made her jump. What he didn’t realize, was that Alex was jumping because she was so afraid that he would guess her secret. She was in love with him and even though he was supposed to love her and she’d seen the video where he’d promised to stay by her side for life, the feeling seemed new to her; too new to share.

Walker asked her to come into the living room to talk and Alex hesitantly complied. Alex sat at the opposite end of the couch facing Walker. “I spoke to Sharon and she said that she thinks that Bodie planted things into your head.” “Bodie?” “He’s the prime suspect in your kidnapping.” “You didn’t tell me that you had a suspect.” “No, I didn’t think I should tell you until we were more certain. Trivette, Gage, Sydney, and I followed up some leads today and we’re pretty certain that he is the man responsible.” “But why? Why would he want to do this to me?” “It was a long time ago. The day after your twenty-eighth birthday, a father came to you asking for your help in getting his daughter away from a cult. He convinced you to look into it and then on your own, without telling me what you were up to, you drove out there to investigate. You met the girl, but she was in a compound that was surrounded by electric fencing. The gates closed while you were there and you were forced to stay the night. The next morning, as you were leaving, you told the man who had founded and run the cult that you were going to file statutory rape charges against him.”

Alex tried to bring the picture Walker’s words were painting into her mind. As hard as she tried, she just couldn’t see it. “Deacon Bodie, as the man called himself, his real name is Dwayne Blaine, had you locked up. He was using mind control on his followers. At the time, it was sleep deprivation, mesmerizing speeches and malnourishment that were his main weapons. Trivette and I were able to find out where you had gone and we followed you there. Bodie held you hostage and threatened to kill you and the other hostages unless we got him a helicopter to get him out of there. We were able to stall him until after dark and then shut down the power grid and cut our way into the compound. Bodie was arrested along with some of his followers. You wanted to prosecute the case, but you were too close to it. Anyway, it happened out in Decatur and it was tried there. We were both witnesses at the trial, but because it was out of our jurisdiction and it wasn’t a case we were officially linked to, his name didn’t automatically pop up. Trivette dug it up and it turns out that Bodie is out on parole, but had been missing since before your kidnapping.”

Alex looked at Walker and said, “And that makes you think that he’s behind this?” “Well, there are other things. He wanted to get revenge on both of us. He has new followers who disappeared at the same time he did. He used mind control in the past, but he studied brainwashing techniques while he was in prison. He’s very charismatic and he is able to gather susceptible people to him. He’d robbed many people of their life savings while he was establishing ‘New Canaan.’ He also had a bunch of guerilla types using the compound to get ready for some type of uprising. You inadvertently ruined all of his plans, trying to save a young girl from him.” Alex thought for a moment and then said, “The pictures.” “Yes, that was to try and figure out if you had any memory of him. You identified him as ‘evil’ during the session.” Alex nodded, vaguely remembering the picture.

Walker pulled out a copy of it. “Is there anything else you can remember?” Alex looked at it and a cold sensation swept over her. “I don’t remember him, but I don’t want to hold this picture, it makes me feel… terrified.” Walker took the picture back and put it out of her sight. “Sharon would like to try and find out if there is anything else that you can remember. She wants to try hypnosis.” “Hypnosis? I don’t know, Walker. I don’t know if I want someone to have that control over me again.” “I understand, Alex, but I think you should consider it. She said that she would do it here at the ranch and if you wanted someone in the room with you to monitor the session, she wouldn’t mind that.” “Would you be there?” “Only if you want me to be. If you feel more comfortable with C.D. or Trivette, then that’s fine.” “No, I want you there. I don’t want to do it unless you’re there ― please.” “Of course, if you want me there, I’ll be there.”

Walker had another uncomfortable subject to broach, but Alex had taught him that no matter what, it was better to get things out in the open. He was going to follow her advice. “Alex, I know what your reaction was to my picture and…” “I don’t know why I said that. I don’t feel that, honestly. It just popped out.” “I know. Sharon thinks that Bodie planted that into your subconscious. She said that it’s possible that he planted other things. She wants to try and remove any suggestions that he put in place and hopefully allow your memory to return.” “I want to remember, I really do.” Walker nodded and stood up and pulled her up into his embrace. “I want you to remember too, Alex. I want my wife back. I am in love with you and I want you to be whole again.” “What if that never happens?” Alex asked as she looked up into his eyes with fear, not of him, but of a future with no past. “It won’t. Sharon said that you’re already starting to get pieces of your memory back. Something will trigger it Alex. I believe that, but regardless, I’m here with you, all the way.” Alex smiled faintly and then reached up and placed her lips gently against his. Walker kissed her lightly and waited until she deepened the kiss.

Walker pulled back slightly and then said to Alex. “Stay here.” Alex watched him head over to the stereo system and then the sounds of a soft country ballad began to play. He returned to Alex and pulled her into his arms and began to dance. “This was played at our wedding, wasn’t it?” Alex asked. “Yes,” Walker answered and then whispered the words into her ear. “As long as they’re stars over Texas, Darlin’ I’ll hang the moon for you.” Alex clung to Walker and felt safe, secure and happy, for the first time in a long while. She knew that she was where she belonged and as she swayed there in his arms, her one hand tucked in his against his chest and her other hand playing with the fringe of his hair, she made a decision.

She was going to give into the love that she felt for this man. She was going to let him in and let him know about it. C.D. and Jimmy had told her that it had taken years to get them together in the first place, but she wasn’t willing to wait that long again. Mother Nature had thrown her a curve and she wasn’t up to showing him physically that she was ready to resume their marriage, but she was going to show him in other ways.

Having come to that decision, Alex leaned back slightly and kissed Walker’s neck. She trailed the kisses up to the sensitive spot just under his ear and felt his groan against the hand he held cupped against his chest. Alex smiled and reached up a little higher to suck on his ear lobe.

Walker’s free hand drifted down from her waist and he smoothed it over her buttocks and pulled her hips tight against his, leaving her in no doubt that he wanted her. Alex released his earlobe and breathed gently into his ear. “You feel so good against me. I wish I could stay here in your arms forever,” she admitted. “Oh Alex, my arms are here for you anytime you want them, day or night.” This brought another smile. “Only your arms?” “You are a wicked woman. You know that you own me, body, heart and soul. I’ve been yours since that first day in the courtroom when you looked at me with the biggest, bluest eyes I’d ever seen and told me to go to hell.” “I said that?” “Not in so many words, but that was the message your eyes kept flashing.” “I was probably scared to death. One look into your eyes and I have a feeling I was doomed to an eternity of loving you.”

Walker’s eyebrows lifted as the insinuated meaning behind her remark became apparent. He didn’t comment though, he was going to take this one step at a time. He’d moved far too slow the first time he’d courted her, but he’d had a lot of issues of his own to deal with then. Now, all he had was an abiding love for her and he was going to woo her until she couldn’t say no to loving him again.

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Despite her concern about the hypnosis session scheduled for later in the day, Alex woke in a happy mood. She had slept in Walker’s arms, lulled to sleep by the beat of his heart under her ear. She still needed the lamp on at night, but she’d been able to reduce the light by placing a lightweight towel over the shade. One day, she hoped that she could be in the dark and not be afraid. She thought that if she knew the reason for her fear, she could overcome it and she hoped that the hypnosis would be a step in that direction.

After breakfast, Walker and Alex made a team, cleaning the house together. Alex dusted while Walker vacuumed and when she needed furniture moved, he was right there to do it for her. They cleaned the entire downstairs and then Walker went out to the barn to work out there, while Alex went upstairs to tackle their bedroom. She was surprised at how domestic Walker was. She wouldn’t have thought that he would be willing to do housework, but found that he not only did it without complaint, but was clearly used to it. Uncle Ray had taught him well, but Alex still didn’t know who to thank.

Just after noon, Walker came back into the house with the mail and dropped it on the counter. They spent a leisurely lunch together and Walker could tell that as the late afternoon approached, Alex was getting more nervous. “Hey, why don’t I saddle up the horses and we’ll go for a ride?” “Isn’t it too hot?” “Not if we just walk them. We’ll go up to the lake and stay in the shade. What do you say?” “I say that you are the most understanding man in the whole world.” She wanted to add, ‘And I love you,” but she wasn’t quite brave enough to say the words aloud just yet. “I’ll saddle them up; you meet me at the barn in half an hour.” “It’s a date, Cowboy,” she said with an impish grin.

Walker walked back over to where she stood behind the counter washing up the few lunch dishes and kissed her soundly. “You are irresistible, Mrs. Walker,” he told her and she flicked the kitchen towel at his backside as he turned to leave. Walker turned back in surprise. She had always snapped him in the backside with a towel as a means of getting him back when he teased her. Alex didn’t know this; she had just given in to impulse. “I’ll expect you to kiss it better later,” he told her and headed out. Alex stood there stunned and the flush in her cheeks wasn’t caused by embarrassment, she had a mental image, created by his words that warmed her body through.

Alex decided to pack a thermos of iced lemonade for them to take with them. It was a hot summer day and they would undoubtedly need the refreshment. She had changed into jeans and a cool cotton t-shirt and looked around to see if there was anything else she should take. She spied the mail sitting on the counter and looking at the clock, saw that she had a full ten minutes before she was to meet Walker. She picked up the mail and sorted through it, placing the advertisements and offers of credit cards into the recycle bin. There were a few bills and she placed these in the slot where she normally kept them. She was the bill payer in the family and although she didn’t remember that it was her chore, she knew where they were kept.

There was an invitation to a fundraiser and she decided to set that aside and ask Walker what to do about it. She wasn’t sure whether it was something they supported or not. The final piece of mail was a letter addressed to her. There was no return address, so she didn’t know who it could be from. She had been receiving get well cards from people Walker told her she knew. She had even received a card from her father. He’d called as well, but she still couldn’t remember him and she felt that things might not be right between them for some reason. Shaking her head as she caught her mind wandering, she pulled out a kitchen knife and sliced the envelope open. Inside was a note and it said only, “It is time to complete your mission.”

Alex dropped the note and the knife. She didn’t flinch as the metal implement landed on her foot. She stared straight ahead and her body shook violently. After a deep breath, she walked to the entryway and took out the key that was hidden in a tiny secret drawer. She unlocked the table drawer and withdrew Walker’s side arm. Checking to ensure that it was loaded, she went to the front door and let herself out.

She headed straight for the barn. Walker was there with Angel already tacked, her bridle looped over the corral fence. He was leading Ranger out as she approached the barn. “Hi Alex, perfect timing,” came his cheerful greeting. Alex stood perfectly still and raised the revolver chest high. She aimed it carefully, released the safety and cocked the gun.

Walker stopped, completely still, as it registered that she was holding a gun aimed at him. He looked into her eyes, but he didn’t see the Alex he loved. This was a walking automaton. This person pointing a gun at him was in a trance and was clearly not aware of her actions. Walker released Ranger’s bridle and clicked at him to move away. Walker scanned the area and realized that there was no cover available. They were in the open corral just outside the barn doors and he didn’t have anything that he could dive behind.

“Alex, what are you doing? Alex, it’s me, Walker, your husband. Put down the gun,” he said in a calm, gentle, but commanding voice. “I have to complete my mission. Kill the enemy. I have to complete my mission.” Alex’s voice was cold and emotionless. It broke Walker’s heart to see her like this, but he didn’t know how to reach her. He wished that Sharon were here, but she wasn’t. If they had just done the hypnosis sooner! All of these thoughts raced through his mind as he stared down the barrel of the gun his wife was pointing at his heart.

Alex continued to chant her mantra. She saw a target, but did not see the man. “… complete my mission.” “Alex! Alex, listen to me! You have to put the gun down. The mission is over, put the gun down!” The volume of Walker’s voice had increased and it was so commanding that for a brief moment, she lifted her eyes and looked at him. He waited, but he didn’t see anything register in her eyes. He tried again. “Alex, put the gun down. That’s an order!” Looking at him, Alex began to shake violently, but she held the gun as steady as possible and then she squeezed the trigger.

The sound of the shot reverberated as the bullet sped toward Walker and then past him and went into the wall of the barn. She had missed him by mere millimeters. He didn’t wait to see if she was going to try again, he rushed her and tackled her, pulling her to the ground and applying pressure to her hand, forcing her to release the gun. Alex lay pliant in his arms and then fell into what looked like a deep sleep. Concerned, Walker scooped her up into his arms and strode back to the house. He laid her on the couch and then called Sharon. After filling her in on the events, he sat and kept vigil over Alex, waiting for Sharon to arrive.

He decided that Sharon must have broken every speed limit between her house and the ranch as she squealed to a stop in the driveway less than a half hour later. She raced up the stairs and into the living room. She had a medical bag with her and she checked Alex’s vitals while Walker stood watch. “She’s asleep. I don’t know why, but she has fallen into an exhausted sleep. I’d like to let her sleep for a bit longer and then wake her and try the hypnosis.” “Do you think she’s up for that now?” “Do you want to wait until she succeeds in killing you while we determine that?” “I just don’t want to harm her anymore than she already has been.” “I know. Look, I saw that the horses are still out. Why don’t you go take care of them and I’ll stay with her until you get back. Then we have to figure out what triggered her to carry out the suggestion that had been implanted into her subconscious.” Walker looked at Alex and then nodded and headed out to the barn. He untacked the horses and turned them loose in the front corral.

Walker jogged back up to the house, unwilling to leave Alex’s side. He went straight to the living room where Sharon sat next to Alex and watched her sleep. “Do you think she received a phone call?” Sharon asked Walker. “I don’t know, I was outside and didn’t see her until she was standing with the gun aimed at my chest. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t have shot me. She was close enough and had dead-on aim. I’ve spent years teaching Alex how to defend herself and how to handle guns safely. I should be dead right now or at the very least, lying in the corral bleeding.” “Maybe enough of her conscious mind was present to intervene to mess up her aim.” “Maybe, she was shaking violently, but I never saw any emotion or expression on her face.” “She was in a hypnotic trance. She had been brainwashed to kill you, but there has to be a trigger.” “I’ll go check the rest of the house, holler if she shows signs of waking.”

Walker’s search was brief; he found the knife and the letter lying on the kitchen floor. He picked the letter up by one edge and read the note. “I’d say that this was the ‘trigger’, wouldn’t you?” he asked as he showed Sharon the sentence printed on the paper. Sharon read it without touching it. “Yes that was it. I imagine the word ‘mission’ was drummed into her mind so that when she heard it, she knew to kill you.”

“I’m going to call Trivette and fill him in. I need this taken to the forensics lab to be checked for prints, but I don’t want to leave her.” “Okay, go place the call and then I think we should wake her up.” Walker headed back to the kitchen to call Trivette and tell him what had happened. He asked him to drive out to get the letter and envelope to take them to the lab. Trivette was concerned and asked if perhaps he should stay at the ranch to help watch after Alex. “No, I don’t know what she’s going to remember when she wakes up, but I don’t want her to be upset by this. The more normal I can keep her life, the better.” Trivette finally agreed and they hung up.

After Walker was seated in a chair in the living room, Sharon called Alex’s name and gently woke her. Alex’s eyes opened and she looked as if she had simply been napping. “Sharon, hi, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you come in.” “That’s all right, Alex. Can you tell me what you remember last?” Alex’s face showed her concentration as she tried to remember. “I was fixing lemonade for Walker and me to go riding. I picked up the mail to sort it… I’m sorry, that’s the last I remember. How did I get here?” she asked. “I think that we’ll save the details for later. Do you mind if we get started with the hypnosis?” “Walker, I want Walker here,” Alex said urgently. “I’m right here Alex,” he reassured her. She turned her head and saw him seated in the chair that was placed at an angle with the couch. After seeing him, she relaxed back down and looked at Sharon. “What do I do?” she asked. “Just focus on this necklace I have in my hand and listen to my voice,” Sharon instructed her. Within minutes, Alex was in a hypnotic state.

Sharon looked at Walker. “She resisted at first, but she went into the state so easily that if I hadn’t known she had been hypnotized before, I would know it now.” Walker watched as Sharon turned to Alex and started to ask her questions. “Alex, I want you to go back to a time when you were in the dark. Your hands and feet are bound. Can you tell me more about that place?” “I… I don’t want to talk about that,” Alex stated. “I know, but you’re safe now. Can you describe the scene for me? I want you to tell me everything you remember.” “I’m tired, I’m hungry and I ache everywhere. My arms are above my head and the leather cuffs keep me from lowering them. They hurt the worst of all. My legs are in leather cuffs too. I lay there for hours and hours, waiting for them to come.” “Who comes?” “I don’t know; I never see them. There are two of them and they never speak. They give me an injection in my arm and then they release the cuffs and leave. It hurts so much to lower my arms. I get up and go to the bathroom. There’s a small bathroom in the corner. I drink from the sink and then I eat the soup and bread that they left on the little table. I drink more from the sink and then I shower in the cold water. I have to put the same clothes back on though.”

“Is there any light?” Sharon asks. “No, there aren’t any windows. The room is in complete darkness. I walk around for as long as I can, but the drugs they injected me with make me dizzy and I have to sit back down on the bed. I know that they’re coming again.” What do they do when they come?” “They take me down a long corridor.” “Is there light?” “No, there’s no light. I’m taken into the room with the chair and they strap me into it. I remember lights and noise and pain… and the voice. The voice, it won’t stop. It sounds like a preacher’s voice, only it’s evil. It goes on and on for hours.” “Where’s the light coming from?” There’s a television screen and I see a face on that screen. The voice tells me that he’s my enemy and that I have a mission.” “Do you remember what the mission is?”

Tears begin to fall down Alex’s cheeks, “I’m to kill him. I’m to kill the enemy. I try to say ‘no,’ but there’s pain and the voice says it again and again until I say it.” “Then what happens?” “Then they take me back to the room and leave me there, strapped to the bed. Later, they come and let me use the bathroom and then they strap me in again and give me another injection. Then it starts all over again.”

“Alex, I want you to remember what you just told me. I want you to wake up and I want you to know that you’re safe now. Okay?” “Yes.” “Okay Alex, wake up.” Alex opened her eyes and then the memories come flooding back. She remembers the darkness and the pain and the fear. Mostly, she remembers the voice. She looks around frantically for Walker and rushes into his arms. “Walker, Walker,” she sobs as he holds her tightly to his chest. “I was so scared, I was so scared,” she repeats. Gathering her up into his lap, Walker cradles her as if she was a small child and he rocks her and soothes her.

Sharon leaves them alone and walks into the foyer where Trivette had stood since arriving and watched the end of the session. “I want to kill that bastard myself,” he said with his teeth clenched together. “Get in line,” Sharon said. “Does this mean that Alex has her memory back?” Trivette asked. Sharon shook her head in the negative. “All I did was help her to remember the kidnapping. She’ll have to process that before I try this again; remembering too much at a time could cause more harm.” Trivette nodded in understanding and the two went into the kitchen to fix coffee for everyone. They sat in there and talked, giving Walker and Alex privacy.

“I’m sorry, Alex. I’m so sorry,” Walker murmured into her hair and he held her close. “Why? It wasn’t your fault,” she answered him as she began to regain control over her emotions. “I should have found you. I should have rescued you.” Alex lifted her head. “It was hell. It was pure hell, but I don’t blame you. I know you tried your best to find me. Oh god Walker…” Walker drew her tighter against his chest and continued to soothe her fears. “When I got word that they had found your car out in the badlands and you weren’t in it...” “My car?” “Yes, honey, when they took you, they put your car in the badlands.” “They took me from my car?” “Don’t you remember?” “No, I only remember the dark room and the voice. And then being here with you. Why didn’t we go riding today?” she asked and then looked at him and her face turned completely white. “Oh God! Oh God, no! I tried… I tried to…” “It’s okay; you didn’t know what you were doing.”

Alex’s hands swiftly scanned his chest, looking for injury. “I saw you, but I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t want to shoot you and I tried to stop, but I couldn’t…” “Alex, you didn’t shoot me. God knows that you could have. I’ve always said that you couldn’t hit the side of the barn, but at that range, there was no way you could have missed. You did miss me though and I’ll have to take back what I’ve said about your aim since you did in fact shoot the side of the barn.” Walker smiled with gallows humor. “How can you joke about something like this? I tried to shoot you!” “Shh… It wasn’t your fault. You were brainwashed into trying to shoot me and you received a letter today that had a trigger word in it.” “What was the trigger?” “It told you to complete your mission,” Walker said. Alex began to shake violently, “No…” she breathed. Walker held her as the nightmare played itself out in her head.

Some time later, after she had finally calmed back down, Walker told her that Sharon and Trivette were in the kitchen and asked her if she wanted to join them. “Do they know what I did?” she asked. “Yes, they know what happened here today. They’re waiting to see if you’re okay.” “You mean they’re waiting to see if I’m completely insane.” “No, Alex, this was something out of your control and I don’t want you to blame yourself. Understand?” Alex looked into his eyes and nodded her head solemnly. Walker smiled at her and kissed her soft lips. “I love you,” he whispered to her and then helped her to stand and led her into the kitchen.

Sharon stayed and observed Alex until she felt certain that she was coping with all that she had been through. She knew that Walker would stay vigilant and as she left, she told him to call her if there was anything she could do. She didn’t want to put Alex under hypnosis again until she was certain that she had been able to deal with the portion of her memory that had been restored. She wished she could have helped Alex to remember the good things in her life, but instead had helped her to remember seventeen days of torture. It wasn’t something she would go home proud of. She said goodbye to her friends and Trivette left with her after Walker assured him that he would get a phone call if he was needed.

Walker stayed close to Alex and when they went to bed, Alex left the lightweight towel off the lamp. She now knew why she feared the dark and now that she could remember everything that had happened to her in the dark, she feared it that much more. Walker snuggled her close to his side and held her through the night, waking to calm her nightmares as they occurred.

Sunday was a quiet, at home, day. Alex was in a reflective mood and she spent most of her time gazing out the window or sitting in the swing on the porch. Walker gave her, her space until late in the afternoon when he saddled the horses and told her to change. She didn’t argue and went in to pull on jeans. They rode up onto the property, keeping the horses at a walk until the sun started to set. Then they gave them their heads and ran across the upper pasture at full speed. Walker was glad to see the color back in Alex’s cheeks and the sparkle back in here eyes. They cooled the horses and then headed back to the house. Alex was more relaxed that evening and the Walkers managed to get a goodnight’s sleep in preparation for the week ahead.

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Alex woke up Monday morning in a determined frame of mind. She showered and dressed for the first time in one of the many business suits she had hanging in her closet. She looked at herself in the mirror and was surprised to find that she liked the look. It felt right and natural. Now that she was dressed for the part, she decided that it was time to go take down the bad guys. She just had to convince Walker.

Walker was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on breakfast when Alex came down the stairs. He looked up and knew immediately that he was in for an argument. Alex’s face was set in a determined expression and he suspected that he wasn’t going to be able to dissuade her from whatever course she had decided on.

“You look awful business-like this morning. You have any special plans?” “I do. I’m going back to work today.” “But Alex, you don’t remember anything about work.” “Walker, I know that I can’t try cases, but I can help with research and I know exactly which case I want to start with.” “You’re planning to go in and start researching Bodie?” “Your damn right I am. I want to know everything I can learn about the slimeball who did this to me. I plan to nail him to a wall and make sure that there isn’t any room to wiggle out this time.” “Well, I guess Deputy DA Alex Walker is back in the saddle.” “I may be barely holding on, but I’m determined to stay in it. Any objections?” “No, your honor.” Alex looked puzzled, she had expected him to try and talk her out of going into work with him. She thought that he would prefer to play it safe and let Josie and C.D. baby-sit her. “What have you got planned, Ranger?” she asked suspiciously. “I like having you near me and I think that you’re the best chance we have of cracking this case. So you’ll get no arguments from me.”

The Walkers ate breakfast and then headed on into the Justice Building. Walker parked the Ram in front of the building as he usually did. It made for quicker access in times of emergency and the spot was all but reserved for him. As they climbed the stairs, several people greeted them. Alex smiled and nodded and continued on as if she had a mission. This time, her mission was to put Dwayne Blaine “Bodie” away for good and she didn’t have time to stop for pleasantries.

As they entered Ranger Headquarters, several heads swiveled in surprise to see her there. No one said a word though, other than a warm greeting. Alex was surprised at how easy it was, but the fact of the matter was that everyone in that office knew and respected both Walkers. No one would do anything to cause them grief; they all knew what they had been through. Walker and Alex walked straight through to the conference room. Walker nodded to Trivette, Sydney, and Gage to join them as they passed by.

Once the door was closed and they were all seated, Walker laid out the events of Saturday and the memories that Alex was able to recall. Alex asked pertinent questions as they relayed the information they had been able to gather. “It seems that Bodie has at least one seventeen year old girl in his clutches. She was seeing a man that her parents described as nice looking, but much too old for their daughter. She met him during her after school job at a local grocery store where she worked as a bagger. She went missing the same time as Bodie,” Gage told them. “So how many people does that make that he took with him?” Walker asked. “Two coworkers, one fellow parolee from the half way house and this girl make four. The prison warden also helped us track down other inmates who had been released prior to Bodie. There are another three possible followers. We’ve tracked down each one and no one has ties to any place that fits the description of where Alex was taken,” Sydney said.

“So the man is holed up somewhere with seven people. What are they using for money?” Walker asked. “Bodie’s partner had accounts all over. Some were in the Cayman Islands and there were Swiss bank accounts too. Even with all of the research done, there was money that couldn’t be accounted for. I imagine that Bodie managed to get his hands on some of it. He probably had an emergency account that only he and his disbarred-lawyer partner he killed knew about,” Trivette supplied.

“So what else do we know about the man? Walker told me that he got a girl pregnant and that that’s how I first met him. Is it possible that one of these young girls who had his child is giving him a place to stay?” The others looked at Alex and then Jimmy grinned. “It’s nice having you back on board, counselor.” Alex returned the smile and the team got to work tracing down the former cult members, looking for those who had remained loyal to Bodie even after his imprisonment.

Alex walked out of Ranger headquarters and headed down to her own office. A man met her in the hall and she stopped and looked at him. “I know you, don’t I?” “You sure do, Alex. I’m DA Moody… your boss?” He finished his statement in question form, wondering if she knew that without him having to tell her. “Yours was one of the pictures Sharon Clark showed me and I knew that you were my boss, but I didn’t know your name, I’m sorry.” “Don’t apologize, it sounds as if you’re doing better and I’m glad to hear it. More glad than I can tell you. We miss you Alex. I’ve got a lot of junior ADA’s floundering without you here to give them guidance.”

Alex smiled at the compliment. “I’m hoping to be back soon. I’m here to track down the man responsible for kidnapping me. I was thinking that maybe I could go through my old files and find something.” DA Moody escorted her to her office and said, “Good luck, Alex. And as soon as you’re ready to come back, we’ll be waiting for you.” Alex smiled and pushed the door to her office open. Her secretary was seated at her desk. She’d been working to help the other ADA’s who were taking on Alex’s caseload, but she wasn’t as busy as if Alex were there everyday.

“Oh Alex! You’re back!” “No, not back, just visiting…” Alex looked at the nameplate on the desk, “Janice.” “Well, whatever, it’s sure good to see you. These cretins are driving me nuts!” “I heard that!” came a voice from behind. “Oh, I didn’t mean you, Phil!” Janice denied. Phil Holland came up to Alex and took her hand in both of his. “Alex, it’s so good to see you.” Alex looked at him blankly. “You don’t remember me, do you?” “No, I’m sorry, but I really don’t remember much of anything just yet.” “Well, you were my wife’s maid of honor at her wedding.” “I didn’t get shot, did I?” “You remember?” “No, Walker told me about it.” “Yeah, well, it wasn’t the perfect day we were hoping for, but you recovered and Kim and I married in a private ceremony later.”

Alex smiled and then said, “I’d like to look at my old files for a man who went by the name, Deacon Bodie. His real name was Dwayne Blaine.” “I don’t recognize the name,” Janice admitted, “but I’ve only been here a couple years. How long ago was the case?” “It would have been eight or nine years ago. I wasn’t the prosecutor; I was ‘detained’ by the man while investigating a charge by a father of one of his followers.” “You never have a dull moment do you, Alex?” Phil asked with a grin. “I’d like to,” she answered with a smile, knowing that his comment was not intended to be mean.

Phil moved on to work on the case he was neglecting to speak to her and Janice managed to dig up a file that Alex had kept. “It’s amazing how you’ve kept so much information on past cases, especially one like this where you were only a witness,” Janice said in admiration. “You never know when something might come in handy. And with our legal system, bad apples have a way of turning up over and over again,” Alex said. Neither of them realized that Alex was having a conversation as if she had a memory of her life as a prosecutor.

Alex took the file into her office and sat at her desk. She took a few minutes to acclimate herself to her surroundings, but she liked the office and she touched various objects and knew that she belonged there. She opened the file and began pouring over every scrap of information in it. She read her witness statement and Walker’s and then she read through the trial transcripts. Walker stopped by at lunch to ask if she wanted anything, but she didn’t want to leave what she was doing, so he agreed to bring her a sandwich.

When Walker returned with her sandwich, Alex set the file aside long enough to share lunch with him. “How does it feel, being here?” he asked her. “It feels natural. I know that the ranch is my home, but if I had a second home, this would be it.” “No, your second home is in the courtroom. You are a natural prosecutor and I don’t think that you’re ever more alive than when you’re arguing a point in court and nailing some lowlife.” “Never more alive, huh?” Alex questioned. She got up from her chair, rounded the desk and sat in his lap. Walker was surprised, but he shifted to support her weight, just in time for her to capture his mouth in a passionate kiss.

Walker was no fool and he responded to this return of his passionate bride, but he was taken aback by her advances. Alex held Walker’s face in her hands and leaned forward to kiss him. Walker’s eyes widened and then he shrugged his shoulders, deciding to go with it. He closed his eyes and let himself be drawn into the kiss. As suddenly as she began, Alex stopped. “I started that to prove to you that I’m never more alive than when I’m in your arms, but I think I just jogged a memory.” “What was it?” Walker asked excitedly. “I’ve been reading these files about Bodie, so I don’t know how much of this is from what I read, but I was kept in a room in a compound until you broke in and rescued me, right?” “Yes,” Walker agreed. “Well, I remember struggling with someone and then you came in and knocked him out…”

“That’s right; Bodie had you on the cot and was holding you down when I got there.” “And then you yelled at me for going off without you.” “Yes, I did. But I looked into your eyes and I gave up trying to get you to listen to reason.” “And then you just stood there and I was waiting for you to kiss me, but you didn’t, so I took the initiative.” Walker nodded, remembering too, how she had grabbed his face and said, “If you won’t, I will.” She’d surprised him, but he had wanted to kiss her all along, so he wasn’t about to resist. That was the first time she had kissed him. He’d kissed her once on New Year’s Eve, but she’d never kissed him.

While Walker reminisced about the kiss, Alex’s mind was heading in another direction. “Bodie was in the room for a reason and it wasn’t me. There was a sliding door…” “Right, there was a tunnel under the compound and he was going to use it to escape… Oh my god! A tunnel!” Walker jumped up so fast that Alex was unceremoniously dumped from his lap onto the floor. “Oh darling, I’m sorry,” he said as he helped her up. “Let’s get down to headquarters and talk to the others,” he said excitedly as he pulled her out of her office and past her secretary who had grown used to the carryings on of her boss and her husband. They often locked themselves in her office for lunch and Janice had quickly learned that it wasn’t a good idea to interrupt unless it was an emergency and then she always buzzed Alex rather than opening the door.

She watched as Walker dragged Alex out of the front office and down the hall. She smiled dreamily, wishing she had a man to ‘manhandle’ her, the way Walker did Alex. She almost laughed at herself, heck, she’d settle for Walker himself, but he was more than taken. She sighed and went back to work, tucking her daydreams away.

Walker was still half dragging Alex when they passed Trivette’s desk and Walker said, “Conference room, now!” Jimmy got up and motioned to Sydney and Gage and they all reconvened in the conference room. “Gage, Sydney, you two went out to Decatur to the compound that Bodie built to house his cult didn’t you?” “Sure boss, it’s a lockdown facility for juveniles now. It had dorms and eating area, gardens, obstacle courses and a high voltage fence. The state of Texas knows a golden opportunity when they see one.” “And when you were there, you saw no sign of Bodie or evidence that he’d been there?” “No, none, we questioned staff and some of the kids there, no one knew anything.” “Did they say anything about the underground tunnel that leads from there?” “Tunnel? I didn’t know anything about a tunnel,” Sydney said. “That’s right! Bodie had an escape tunnel under that compound. There was an access panel in the room where they kept Alex. I went down into it after you took Alex home. He had several rooms in there and a bomb shelter. The tunnel led down a good mile before coming out,” Trivette added with mounting excitement.

“Call the local law, we’re on our way,” Walker said. “I’m going with you,” Alex claimed. “No Alex, I understand you wanting to be there, but it’s too dangerous.” “Dangerous hell, I’m going. I’ll stay in the truck, but I’m going.” Walker looked at her and opened his mouth to argue with her, but saw the look in her eyes. He knew that he wasn’t going to win this argument either, so he didn’t bother. If he refused to take her, she would simply find an alternate mode of transportation. “All right, but you stay in the truck,” he said as if giving her an order. “I already said that I would,” she pointed out. Walker gave up trying to save face and the group headed out.

Jimmy collected Ranger Morales on his way out and had him ride with him in his car. He didn’t particularly want to be in the Ram when Walker and Alex were in the middle of a power struggle. He filled Morales in on the way and he headed to where he thought he remembered where the tunnel came out at the opposite end. It took some searching, but he found the spot and there were signs that a vehicle had been coming and going from that spot on a fairly regular basis. He called in the SWAT team to meet him at his location and notified Walker of his actions.

Walker had a slightly tougher time getting access to the juvenile facility. The person in charge didn’t want to let them on the premises without a signed warrant, but Walker soon persuaded him that letting them on the premises was preferable to being strung up on the electric fence when it was turned on. Alex sat in the truck without saying anything. She knew that it was not something that she wanted to be involved in. Illegal search and seizure was not something she wanted to be held responsible for. She had a feeling that she and Walker had butted heads more than once in the past on the subject of his unorthodox methods.

The Sheriff who met them at the gate of the compound was the same one who had been there in the last standoff with Bodie. He couldn’t believe that they were back there, nearly ten years later, in a similar situation. Walker left Alex in the truck with one of the Sheriff’s deputies standing guard over her. He walked through the compound and straight to the room where she had been kept prisoner. With the help of the Sheriff, he moved the staff lockers away from the wall and slid the hidden panel open. “Boy, if these kids knew that there was an easy way out of here…” the Sheriff left his comment unfinished. Walker, with gun drawn, ducked his head and entered the tunnel.

A few yards down, the tunnel opened up into a large room. On one side, was a door leading to a bomb shelter where Bodie had stored his weapons in the past. On the other side, was a door that led to several small rooms. He opened one door at a time and found that this was where Bodie stored food and water. He had also managed to tap into the power grid of the compound and had electricity to power things down in the tunnels. Walker continued on down the corridor and heard the sound of chanting. He stopped and ducked to the side of the door. “Who is your father?” he heard Bodie ask. “You are!” his followers answered in unison. “Who loves you more than your own?” “You do!” they answered. ‘Get some new shtick’ Walker thought to himself. He caught a movement out of the corner of his eye and raised his gun in readiness. He saw Trivette signal him as he came to the spot with eight SWAT team members.

“Run into anything on the way here?” Walker asked. “One sentry posted at the opening, one of our missing parolees. I took care of him with an old fashioned punch to the face. I also saw where they must have been keeping Alex and the room they took her to for brainwashing.” Walker nodded. “That leaves seven including Bodie in the room, unless they have some of his old followers in there too. Let’s sit quietly and let them come to us. It sounds as if their service is almost over.” Trivette agreed with the plan and they crouched down in the dark space waiting.

The first person out was a large man and Walker gave him a chop to the back of the neck and he went down with a quiet thud. Trivette motioned for two of the SWAT team members to drag him back out of the way. They took him down the corridor to the opening at the other end and delivered him into the hands of their two other team members who had stayed on guard there. As they turned to head back in, out came another two of their team with another man being drug between them unconscious. “Man that Walker can move! I didn’t even see the blow and the next thing I knew, this guy was falling into my arms.” Now, only four of the SWAT members were inside, so the first two turned to hustle back in. They passed two of their team members dragging another man out and as they neared the door, the last team was collecting up yet another man.

“Damn Walker, give someone else a chance to take one of these guys out,” Trivette complained good-naturedly. He knew that Walker was getting satisfaction each time his fist or foot connected with the men who had held Alex and done the things to her she had described. Just as Trivette finished his complaint, two men came out together and he jumped into action. Walker’s advantage of surprise was spoiled by the fact that one of the men spotted the SWAT team and whirled into a defensive posture. Walker took him on in hand-to-hand combat while Trivette engaged the second man. The two SWAT team members readied themselves to assist as needed, while the sheriff crouched down in the doorway and surveyed the scene inside the room.

After a spinning kick to his lower jaw, the man Walker was fighting slumped to the ground and Trivette used a right, followed by a left to his opponent’s solar plexus and then followed it up with another right that caught him in the jaw and spun him around into the arms of a waiting SWAT team member. The second team had returned to join the first and between them, they dragged the unconscious men away, knowing their other team members were on the way to relieve them.

“Walker, get down,” the Sheriff said sharply as a bullet fired out of the door and just missed his left ear. “Damn, I’m getting tired of close calls,” Walker whispered. “What did you see?” Trivette asked the sheriff. “Bodie’s in there with two women and a child and two musclemen. One of them had the gun you were just shot at with.” “A child?” Trivette repeated. “Damn!” Walker nodded in agreement. His fear that others from Bodie’s past had joined their former leader was obviously being realized.

“I’m not going back to jail, Walker,” Bodie taunted. There was an audible gasp behind the law enforcement team and Walker whirled to see Alex standing there, her eyes wide and her hand covering her mouth. “Damn it, Alex! What are you doing here?” Walker swore. She didn’t answer; she was in shock from hearing that voice again, that evil voice. Walker motioned to one of the returning SWAT team members to pull Alex back out of the way. Alex allowed herself to be guided back against the wall, but she wasn’t leaving the tunnel.

Several shots rang out suddenly and then all was silent. The various law enforcement men didn’t want to risk shooting into a room where an innocent child was. “Any ideas?” Trivette asked Walker. Walker looked at the leader of the SWAT team. “Bodie is borrowing power from the compound. Any chance you can disconnect it?” he asked. The man nodded to his security systems expert and he jogged off down the tunnel to see what he could do about shutting down the electricity and plunging Bodie and cohorts into the dark. “I’ve got some night vision goggles in the van if you want,” the leader of the SWAT team offered. “I don’t need them, but if you want to go get some for the others, I think that it would give us an advantage,” Walker told him. He nodded to another man to go retrieve the goggles.

Ten minutes passed and suddenly, the corridor was plunged into darkness. No one heard a sound, but one minute, Walker was crouched next to the others and the next, the space where he’d been was empty. The man with the goggles returned and passed out pairs to everyone assembled. They all stood and watched as Walker stealthily crept up behind one armed man and pulled him back against him with his arm choking off the air to his brain and then gently laid his unconscious form to the ground. Bodie grabbed the child who looked to be about eight and placed a gun to his temple. “You stay back, Walker, or I’ll start shooting hostages.” The second armed man slumped to the ground as Walker choked off his oxygen as well. The SWAT team had been about to move in when Bodie grabbed the child. They held their positions, not wanting to risk the child’s life.

Alex had been straining to breathe as panic overwhelmed her in the dark. She stumbled forward and ran into Trivette who turned and tried to steady her. She reached out frantically and encountered his goggles and in a blind panic, slipped them from his head and placed them on her own. She was then able to witness the scene being played out in the room. She saw that the two women were crying in fear and that Bodie held the child much as he had held her all those years ago.

Alex decided to give Walker a diversion so that he could approach Bodie undetected. “Your mission is to kill the enemy,” she said in a loud strong voice. “How many times did I here that, Bodie? Over and over again, you drummed it into my mind. You just forgot one thing.” “Oh? And what was that?” Bodie questioned, not happy at having her point out his failure. “You forgot to tell me who the enemy was. The only enemy I had was the voice who tried to make me kill the man I love. You failed Bodie, once again. You tried to make me do what you wanted, but my will was stronger than all the drugs and the…” Just as she said that, Walker leapt from behind Bodie onto his back and knocked him forward, the child falling forward onto the ground on his hands and knees.

Alex was the closest to the door and she rushed in and pulled the child to safety. Bodie leapt up and turned to Walker, swinging wildly. The SWAT team entered and the sheriff escorted the two women out, gathering up the child from Alex on his way out to the tunnel exit.

Walker was playing a cat and mouse game with Bodie. Every time the man would take a swing at him, he would move just out of his range and then would dodge back in and land a punch on some part of his anatomy. Bodie was getting angrier and angrier and his jabs and punches became wilder. Alex approached and just as Walker was about to deliver the final blow, Alex pulled back her arm and punched Bodie right in the mouth. He stumbled back and into Walker, who slammed his fist into his nose. Bodie swiveled, trying to escape the punishment, when Alex grabbed him by the shoulders and rammed her knee into his groin with all of her might. Bodie slumped to the ground, unconscious from the excruciating pain she had just caused.

The leader of the SWAT team ordered everyone to take off their night vision goggles and Alex reached up to remove hers just as the lights came back on. She blinked in the brightness and then looked down at the man sprawled unconscious at her feet. She gave into a stray impulse and kicked him in the ribs as she went into her husband’s arms.

Walker pulled her into his chest and held her as they both breathed heavily from their exertion. He squeezed her tightly for several moments and then thrust her back away from him and said, “Don’t you ever do that again! Do you hear me? I told you to stay in the truck! What the hell were you thinking?” Alex smiled at him and said simply, “I love you too, Cowboy.” Walker stopped his reprimand and then pulled her into him for a crushing kiss.

Trivette had made a vow of his own at their wedding; not to interrupt them when they were in their own little romantic world, but this was going to have to be an exception. There were SWAT team members all around and Bodie was still unconscious, lying at their feet. “Would you two lovebirds come up for air already?” he asked with a grin as wide as his face. He got no response. Shaking his head, he reached forward and tapped them both on the shoulder. “Excuse me, Alex, Walker, we have unfinished business here,” he said. Walker pulled back and was breathing even harder than after pounding Bodie, “We sure do,” he said, looking directly into Alex’s eyes. She saw the message there and smiled. “Yes, we do,” she agreed. They turned and headed out of the entrance together, hand in hand. “Hey you two! Wait up! Where are you going? We’ve got paperwork to do!” he shouted. “You take care of it Trivette, we’re going home,” Walker hollered back without turning around.

“Great, just great, he gets the girl and I get stuck with the paperwork ― again,” he grumbled to himself. The smile that split his face belied his words. He was as happy as anyone to see them together and to know that they had finally caught the man responsible for what had been done to Alex. He looked down as Bodie moaned, as he began to regain consciousness. Trivette used his cowboy boot to slam into the other side of his ribs. He wasn’t usually into police brutality, but in this case, he was willing to make an exception. He stepped back as a paramedic team came in to assess Bodie and lift him onto the stretcher to take him to the hospital for an evaluation. “Make sure you hit every pothole between here and the hospital,” Trivette instructed them. They looked at him funny, but didn’t reply.

cccc

Walker helped Alex into the Ram and then he went to his side and pulled the door open and dragged himself up into the driver’s seat. He was hugely fatigued, but he suspected that it was more mental than physical. After all, pounding on a few bad guys was all in a day’s work ― literally. He looked over at Alex and then reached out his hand and clasped hers, bringing it to his lips. “Are you okay?” he asked against her fingers. “I’m more than okay. I feel as if I have a tremendous weight lifted off of me and I want to celebrate.” “Got anything special in mind?” “I thought maybe we could go home and see if anything came to us.” Walker looked over at her and saw the shy, devilish gleam in her eyes and suddenly, he wasn’t tired at all.

They drove to the ranch and when they entered the house, they were like first time lovers, nervous and shy. Alex went upstairs to shower and then came down in a comfortable sundress and offered to make dinner. Walker had finished his chores and he went up to shower and to prepare a special setting upstairs.

He found where Alex kept her votive candles and he placed them around the bedroom. He drew back the covers and then he misted the sheets with Alex’s favorite scent. It was a body spray that was supposed to act as an aphrodisiac. He didn’t know if it actually worked, but he knew that he and Alex had managed to make love with its scent surrounding them in the past. Then he went to the CD collection and selected his favorite Tracey Lawrence CD. It contained several of his favorite songs, including the one he had selected for them to share their first dance at their wedding to. Alex had questioned his selection since it insinuated that it would be their first time, but he said that it was their first time since they were married, so it was fitting. Tonight would be another first, at least for Alex.

When he returned downstairs, he was wearing a pair of black workout pants and a cotton shirt that he had left open. It wasn’t his usual attire, but Alex had told him in the past that eating while staring at his chest was a tremendous turn on. He planned to use all the ammunition he could think of tonight. Alex had made grilled fish for dinner and they sat and ate their meal with barely a word spoken between them. They stood to clear the table and then they washed and dried the dishes in tandem.

“Alex, let’s go upstairs,” Walker suggested. He watched her eyes go round, but he also had seen them flicker to his lips and his chest throughout the meal they had shared. He reached up and lightly brushed the backs of his fingers against the plum of her cheek, “We’ll go as slow as you need. If something doesn’t feel right to you or if you want to stop, all you have to do is say so.” “I won’t want to stop,” she admitted while color flooded her cheeks. Walker clasped her hand and with an encouraging squeeze to her fingers, he led her upstairs.

After they entered the bedroom, he went on into the bathroom to use the facilities while she found a nightgown to wear. As he came out, she went in carrying her chosen nightwear. She closed the door behind her and stood against it with her heart beating so loudly that she was certain he would be able to hear it through the door.

She removed her sundress and slipped the silky lavender negligee over her head. She loved the sensuous feel of it as it slithered down her body. The skirt came to mid-thigh and she looked at the bodice that lovingly encased her breasts in lace. She had continued to put on weight and was filling back out nicely. Her workout sessions with Walker helped as well, her muscles were toned and even. Alex picked up her brush and pulled it through her locks of hair until they shone. She reached for the toothbrush and brushed her teeth and then gargled with the mouthwash on the counter. The last thing she wanted to do was to kiss him with fish breath.

Alex surveyed herself in the mirror and decided that she was ready. She did take the time to slip the matching robe on over the gown, she felt a little too exposed without it. She opened the bathroom door and stepped out into the darkened room. For the first time since she had come back to the ranch, the urn shaped lamp wasn’t on. Instead, there were lit candles placed all about the room. She looked over at Walker and he pressed the button on the CD player and then walked over to meet her as she took another step into the room. Walker remained silent and let the music speak for him.

As the intro finished, he reached for her shoulders and slid the robe down off of her arms and then tossed it behind him on the reading chair.

Baby take off your coat,

We ain’t in no hurry.

I see the fear in your eyes,

But girl don’t you worry.

I’ll keep the candles lit all night,

So you’ll know everything’s all right.

We’ve got everything we need,

And it’s just you and me.

Walker reached for Alex and drew her close to him. He pressed a kiss onto her forehead and brought it to rest against his chest. His arms encircled her and he pulled her tight against him and began to sway slowly and seductively to the music.

I’ve got the covers turned down,

Come lay here beside me.

Oh baby let down your hair,

And your doubts about me.

I’m gonna make you feel tonight,

Like you’ve never felt in your life.

We’ve got everything we need,

And it’s just you and me.

Walker’s hands soothed down Alex’s back, as hers lay flat against him and slid slowly up and down his chest and abdomen. Alex tilted her head back and let him taste her lips. He touched gently with his lips and then pulled back and looked into her eyes. He watched as the fear was slowly replaced by desire and he smiled into her eyes and then claimed her lips once again.

There ain’t no one around,

And the only sound

Is your heart beating next to mine.

Cast your fears in the fire,

Give into your desire,

Put your faith into me.

We’ve got everything we need

And it’s just you and me.

Oh baby let down your hair,

And your doubts about me.

Walker stepped back and walked over to the CD player and turned it off. He walked back to Alex and touched her with the barest of touches, his fingertips tracing down her face, her neck, her breasts and down her abdomen to the mound that was pulsing to life. He ran his fingers up and down over her triangle of hair and she closed her eyes and moaned, as he kept the touch frustratingly light. Walker then took his hands and brought them to her shoulders and eased the straps of the lace bodice down over her arms so that the top fell to expose her breasts. He leaned forward and lightly kissed each peaking tip. His hands traveled around to cup her bottom and as he gently touched each nipple with the tip of his tongue, his hands caressed her rounded buttocks.

Alex whimpered as the gentle seduction began to stoke the fire within her. The words, ‘Cast your fears in the fire’ took on new meaning as they became lost in the mounting desire. Walker whispered against her moistened nipples, “Give into your desire.” Alex obeyed and let her hands come up to clasp his hair. Her fingers kneaded his skull as she pressed him closer and urged him to take her fully into his teasing mouth. Walker did her bidding and opened his mouth to suck her into his hot moist mouth. Alex gasped and then urged him to try its twin. After thoroughly laving both of her breasts, he stepped back to allow her to make the next move.

Alex slipped the nightgown down over her hips, leaving her standing only in the satin underwear that barely covered her most secret spot. She stepped up to Walker and kissed his nipples, letting her tongue trace over and around them and finally sucking them into her mouth, giving each equal attention. She pushed the open shirt off of his shoulders and let her hands roam down his back to the firm round muscles of his buttocks. Her kisses trailed down his chest to his abdomen and finally to his navel. It was Walker’s turn to moan as she stuck her tongue into his navel and then let it follow the arrow of hair that led to his own treasure.

Walker stepped back and clasped her shoulders and pulled her back up to standing position. He stooped to swing her up into his arms and he carried her over to the bed and laid her on the cool sheets. His hands traced down her body and then he hooked his fingers in the waist of her panties and he waited until she lifted her hips, indicating that she was ready to shed them. Walker sat beside her on the bed and bending at the waist, his weight supported by his arms; he brought his lips to the moistened slit and searched with his tongue for her clitoris. Alex gasped and gripped the bed sheets as he found what he was searching for and suckled it into his mouth. Her legs parted as he lapped at her shrieking nerve endings and occasionally slid down to the pool of fluids gathering at her entrance.

Not even sure what it was she was begging for, Alex began to plead with Walker. She wanted release, but she wasn’t sure how, she only knew she needed it now. Walker stood and slid his pants off. He climbed onto the bed and pulled her legs further apart so that he could settle between them. He slowly lowered his weight onto her and began to kiss her lips with a passion she didn’t know possible. She returned his kisses as his tongue entered her mouth and dueled with hers. Her hands began to frantically trace up and down his back, her nails occasionally scraping his flesh as her need became more urgent.

Correctly reading that he had pushed her to the edge and that it was time to enter her, Walker lifted himself up, onto his forearms, and then paused to pay homage to each of her breasts once more. He kissed and nipped and suckled them until she was writhing beneath him and begging him to take her. “Guide me, Alex,” he said as he lifted still further up to allow her to clasp him in her hands. Not hesitating to take him up on the invitation, Alex encircled his engorged penis with both of her hands. She gave it two quick pumps, but he warned her that it wouldn’t take much to push him over the edge and this was one erection she was unwilling to allow to go to waste.

She positioned the tip of his shaft at her entrance and then moistened it with her juices. She rubbed him up and down the length of her slit and when he was moaning, as he strained to withhold his explosion, she opened her legs and pushed up to embed him into her. Walker remained motionless and allowed Alex to lift her hips and take his length at her own pace. After taking over half his length into her, she pulled back and then began again. She was amazed at how he filled her and wondered how she had ever managed to accommodate his full length and width.

After her second attempt to take him in was unsuccessful, she backed off again and panted, “I don’t think I can, you’re so huge, I don’t think I can…” Walker silenced her as he sliced deep into her, pushing himself in until his tip touched her cervix. “OH!” Alex exclaimed as he stayed in that position, fully embedded and waiting for her body to recognize and accept him.

Walker kept his lower half still as she strained to accustom herself to the feel of him filling her. “Just relax, sweetheart, we have all night,” he told her in a hoarse whisper. He lifted his torso and looked down at her closed eyes and flushed cheeks. He then bent his head down and kissed her breasts and pulled one into his mouth, sucking the entire aureole into his mouth and tugging on it as his tongue massaged its tip.

Alex began to move her hips, indicating that she was ready to establish a rhythm that would bring them to orgasm. Walker refused to cooperate yet though. “I love you, Alex,” he said. She moaned, barely registering his words as she focused on his pelvis and the sensations it wrought. “I love you, Alex,” he repeated. “Walker, please, please…” she begged. “Tell me, tell me how you feel about me,” he ordered. “I want you, I need you, please…” she begged. “That’s not enough, Alex; tell me how your heart feels.” Tears of frustration eased out from under her closed eyelids, but she finally was able to piece together what he was asking for. She opened her eyes and looked deeply into his. “I love you, Walker,” she said clearly and convincingly. He smiled at her and said, “That’s all I needed to hear.”

Walker planted his forearms on the bed and lifted his pelvis only to thrust it back against her. He pulled back time and time again, but the separation only made the return sweeter as they increased the pace and she met him thrust for thrust. Minutes later, Alex screamed out in ecstasy, unable to smother the passion that exploded within her. “Yes!” Walker shouted as the clenching of her muscles in response to her orgasm triggered his release. He spurt his fluid deep into her and drained every last drop, extending her orgasm in the process. Spent, he slumped down onto her and rolled slightly to the side as he held her tightly to him, still joined.

“Is it always that incredible?” Alex asked as she finally regained the power of speech. “Honey, that was just foreplay!” Walker claimed as he began to kiss her lips and she felt him grow and harden within her. ‘But I can’t possibly respond again so soon,’ she thought to herself as her own body made a liar out of her. “Oh,” she said as Walker released her mouth to taste her neck. “I love you,” she said sincerely, but this time as a thank you. Knowing what she knew now, she didn’t understand why it had taken her years to stake her claim on this man. He was an extraordinary lover. His size was daunting, but he knew how to woo her to the point that she was able to not only accept his full length, but to revel in the feel of it pressing against her walls and sliding against the nerves that brought her to heaven over and over throughout the night. Somewhere, in the early morning hours, Alex fell asleep, wrapped in Walker’s arms. Her body was so spent, she didn’t even realize that the candles had long since burned out and she was lying in the dark. Rather than being afraid, she felt safer and more content than she had thought possible. Her body was satiated, but it had taken joining after joining to reach that point and now that she knew what the two of them could create together, she knew that after a few hours of sleep, she would be set to begin again.

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Alex awoke to a light tickling sensation on her face. As she lay there with her eyes closed, Walker traced her eyebrows, down her nose and then her high cheekbones. He followed her jaw line down to her chin and then he feathered his fingers over her lips. She opened her mouth to suck them in, but he continued on, down her long neck to her chest. He smoothed over each protruding clavicle bone and then he stroked the fullness of her breasts and circled her nipples. His touch was whisper soft, but Alex’s nerve endings screamed out in response.

Alex debated opening her eyes, but the sensation of touch was all she could handle at the moment, so she kept them firmly closed. Walker’s journey led him down her abdomen where he drew ever-increasingly large circles. Then he trailed down to the curling hair that hid his goal. He moved the silky hair there so lightly, she could barely stand it. Dropping her hips open, she laid there, her mouth parted in anticipation, as he stroked down the outer lips of her core and then reached between them to lightly tease the inner lips.

Alex arched her pelvis up as he reached the tiny nub that begged for his touch. As he caressed it, he increased the pressure, bringing her hips even further off the bed as she sought the sensations he was evoking. Walker took the two fingers that had been the leaders in this journey of seduction and plunged them into her moist depth. Alex bucked against his hand and he obliged her by placing the heel of his hand down against the top of her and alternating between plunging and pressing so that the seesawing of his hand drove her to the pinnacle of desire and he watched her face as her body plunged over the other side and her vaginal muscles contracted around his hand in spasms.

Alex lay back on the bed, her eyes still closed, feeling spent from this latest release. Walker wasn’t done though and as she lay there, he rolled so that he was half lying on her and he began to kiss her lips and trail his lips down her chin and throat. He found her earlobe and he nipped it lightly and then he suckled it. Alex’s body was just beginning to reawaken when he slid over between her legs and pressed himself against her, entering her fully. Alex’s eyes snapped open as he continued to kiss her lips and seduce her with his tongue. He didn’t wait this time for her to signal her readiness, he merely shifted so that his hands could clasp her buttocks and he began to pump into her, long smooth strokes that would take him to his own completion.

Alex shifted her hips to better accommodate him and she opened to him, allowing him full access. She lay there, not passive, but focusing only on him and his pleasure, rather than her own. She reached her hands up to fondle his male nipples and to stroke down his abdomen to where they were joined. She clenched her muscles, bearing down on him as he thrust into her and then slowly releasing as he pulled out. Alex was so lost in his pursuit of pleasure, that she gave no thought to her own. He quickened the pace, feeling himself on the verge of explosion and she rolled her hips up to allow him the best angle to increase his pleasure.

Suddenly, Alex gasped in shock as her body convulsed in orgasm, one she hadn’t even realized was building. The shock waves momentarily interrupted Walker’s rhythm, but as soon as she had passed the most intense part of her orgasm, she resumed her previous position, maximizing his pleasure. She pumped her hips against him and reached her fingers up to squeeze his nipples as he cried out and pumped his orgasm into her. Alex’s body shocked her again by coming to orgasm one final time.

Walker collapsed down onto her and then rolled so that she lay on top of him. He cradled her head under his chin and stroked her hair as he regained his breath. Alex lay quiescent in his arms, her body enjoying the sensations of his chest lifting her up and settling her back down as he breathed, his heart pumping it’s strong rhythm against her breast, his hand tangling in her hair and stroking her upper back. As the sun rose higher in the sky, it found two lovers wrapped in each other, the bedcovers strewn about haphazardly.

“Walker?” Alex said without lifting her head. “Hmm?” “Wow,” she said. He chuckled, the rumble in his chest causing a vibration that tickled her cheek. “Has it always been like this between us?” “Yes, always.” “Wow,” she said again. Walker smiled, thinking that he couldn’t sum it up better himself. “Last night I didn’t think that I could accommodate you, but this morning, I didn’t have any trouble.” “No, your body was just tense last night because of nerves. It’s long since learned to accept me.” “It doesn’t just accept, it craves, it demands!” Walker smiled again, “Well, words are more your thing than mine.”

Alex lifted her head and looked into his eyes. “I love you,” she said and leaned forward to kiss him. When she lifted her head, she folded her hands across his chest and rested her chin on them so that she could look into his eyes. “I love you too, baby,” he said. This drew an answering smile from her. “I wish…” “What? What do you wish?” he asked. “I wish I could remember all of our times together.” “Honey, there have been so many, even I can’t remember them all. There was a time when I thought that each time I joined with you would be etched into my brain, but we’re to the point now that one joining melds into the other, but each is special and unique.” “I wasn’t talking about sex, Walker.” “Oh,” he said.

She laughed lightly and looked down at their nude, glistening bodies, “Although I can forgive you for thinking I was.” He laughed at this and let his hands travel down to grip her bare bottom. “I meant that I wish I could remember the first time I saw you, the first time I got mad at you…” “They were one and the same.” She ignored his interruption, “The first time I realized that I was in love with you and the first time you broke my heart. I wish I could remember seeing your home for the first time and beginning to understand what makes you tick.”

Walker’s hands squeezed the flesh of her derriere and then he smoothed them back up her spine, gently massaging her shoulders. “I wish I could remember the first time you made me cry and the first joke you told me. There’s so much that I don’t know about you, about us, and I want to know.” “Honey, you will remember it all. Your body was the first to recognize me and now your heart has too. Give your mind a little time to catch up, it will.” “Will it? I now know how I got to this state, but I still can’t remember my life before. I remember that voice telling me that I was no one, that I didn’t have a name, and I can remember denying it, but I don’t remember what that name and who that person was. Who was I before I became Alex Walker, the lady with no memory?”

Walker shook his head at her. “You were the same woman I’m holding now. You were kind and compassionate and loving and generous. You were strong and stubborn and feisty and fearless. You’re all those things, just a little… subdued.” “I want to remember. I need to remember.” Walker heaved a huge sigh, lifting her up with him. “We need to go into headquarters today. We both have to give statements and I want to make sure that Bodie is arraigned and doesn’t get any chance of parole.” “Could that happen?” “No, probably not, but I don’t want to take even the slightest chance.” Alex nodded her head in agreement. “So, let’s go in today and wrap up all the paperwork and then I’ll take you out to the reservation tomorrow; to meet White Eagle.” “White Eagle?” “Yes, he’s the spiritual leader of my people. He may have a few tricks up his sleeve.” “Shouldn’t I stay here and let Sharon hypnotize me again?” “She won’t.” “Why not?” “Because she doesn’t think that you’re ready. She wants you to deal with what you’ve been through. She wants you to be strong and ready, emotionally, before she tries to force more memories.” “So, why are we going to see this White Eagle?” “He won’t try to force memories; he’ll merely chant over you and give you good advice. I don’t know that your memory will be restored, but I do know that he’ll help you to find the patience you need to get through the time until it does all come back.”

“Will we stay the night?” “We’ll stay the long weekend. Tomorrow is Wednesday. By the time we get there, it’ll be too late to do much more than acquaint you with the reservation and the people there. We’ll stay the first night in my Uncle Ray’s cabin.” “Uncle Ray? You have an uncle?” “Had an uncle. He crossed the river a few years ago. You’re my only family now; you and C.D. and Trivette.” Alex smiled, liking that he thought of the others as part of his family. “So he ‘crossed the river.’ Does that mean he died?” “Yes, and it was one of the hardest times of my adult life. You loved him too and before he died, he bequeathed me to you.” “Wow, that’s the kind of gift I love.” “Well, I think there’ve been a few times you wanted to give me back, but you didn’t.”

Alex enjoyed the teasing quality to Walker’s voice. He had been so tense and worried that she hadn’t gotten to see this side of him. He had the sexiest smile she had ever seen! “Where will we stay after the first night?” “We’ll take the horses and go out onto the reservation and set up camp and wait for White Eagle to join us.” “How will he know where we are?” “The spirits will guide him. He always knows when I need him and he always comes to my aid.” “Your own guardian angel?” “Well, to put a Christian slant on the Cherokee beliefs, yeah, I guess you could say that.” “What will he do?” “I imagine he’ll talk to you and tell you all sorts of wise things. I lost my sight a few months before our wedding and he was the one who made me realize that my trying to remain independent was actually pushing you out of my life and hurting you terribly. He has a way of telling you what an idiot you are and you don’t even realize it.” “Great, so I get to find out what an idiot I am?” “No, but he’ll probably tell you that you are seeking the wrong thing.” “The wrong thing?” “Yes, you’re seeking your past and White Eagle firmly believes that we should honor our past, but we should seek our future.”

Alex wrinkled her nose. This all sounded a bit foreign to her, but she didn’t really have anything to lose and it would get her out in the wilderness with Walker. That in itself was reason enough to go. “What else?” “I don’t know. If you were male, I know for certain that he would recommend a sweat, but I don’t know if he’ll suggest it for you.” “A sweat?” “Yes, he builds a sweat lodge and then you go in and sit and let the steam and moisture overtake you as you open yourself to the spirits.” “Oh, okay,” Alex said sounding doubtful.

Walker glanced over at the clock and gave her a startling smack on her rump. Alex jumped, but was brought out of her reverie. “Ouch, what was that for?” “We need to get moving, we have a lot to do today. Get off of me and I’ll go jump in the shower and then you can have it.” Alex didn’t budge. “Walker?” “Yes?” “Can I ask you something?” “What is it, Alex?” “Do we like to make love in the shower?” Walker grinned, “Right, we’ll shower together.” “Oh, yes please,” Alex said as he rolled her off so that he could go get the water running.

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Alex sank down into Walker’s chair and leaned back closing her eyes. She was exhausted. They had done nothing but give their statements all day long. Actually, she had been deposed separately from Walker and it had taken three hours of her morning. Phil Holland had deposed Walker in only an hour, but for some reason, the young ADA who had been taking her deposition had asked the same questions repeatedly. She had more information, as she also had to tell what she could remember about the kidnapping, but still, Alex was ready to strangle the guy when he finally decided that he had no more questions. When she’d commented on it to Phil, he had laughed and said that she had chewed that same ADA out not a month before for sloppy investigative questioning. If she hadn’t gone back and re-questioned the witness, they wouldn’t have had enough evidence to convict the suspect.

Alex had been surprised and said, “I didn’t know I was so intimidating.” “Honey, we don’t call you the ‘pit-bull in heels’ for nothing,” Walker told her with a grin. Alex frowned at him, “I don’t know if I like that description.” “You never have,” he said, sharing a chuckle with Phil. “We don’t actually call you that to your face,” Phil confessed. Alex glared at the two men, but then decided not to take offense. She was still floating high from the previous night and nothing was going to bring her down.

After a break for lunch at C.D.’s, the Walker’s had returned to be questioned again, this time together. This took just over an hour and then Walker returned to do paperwork while Alex read over the statements she and Walker had given in the morning. She wanted to make certain that nothing had been missed. Walker had helped Trivette finish up the arrest report and they had followed up on the other cult members. The one woman with the child, who did turn out to be Bodie’s offspring from before, was jailed and her child was placed in protective custody. She had apparently been giving Bodie assistance all throughout his incarceration and had helped to set up his return to the compound’s tunnels.

The other young woman, who had been mesmerized by Bodie and then joined him in the tunnels, was currently being held as a juvenile, as she was still under eighteen and it looked as if she would be dealt with in the juvenile courts. She was more misguided than evil. All of Bodie’s other accomplices had played parts in the kidnapping of Alex and had not only sat by while she was being tortured and brainwashed, but had helped in some way or other. Walker couldn’t abide by that and he had a strong discussion with Phil Holland who was appointed lead prosecutor in the case about what he wanted to happen to each of them.

It was now 4:00 p.m. and Alex was almost too tired to move. She had come into Walker’s office to see if perhaps he was ready to go. He wasn’t there, so she had plopped herself into his comfy chair and closed her eyes to wait. She felt a light brush against her temple and realized that Walker was there. He moved so quietly, she never heard him coming, but she recognized his touch when he kissed her temple. Smiling, Alex opened her eyes and looked up into his. He was leaning with both of his hands on the arms of the chair and his eyes were mere inches from hers. He smiled into them and said, “You ready to go?” Alex nodded her head yes, she was more than ready to go. Walker leaned just that little bit further and kissed her lips lightly. The look he gave her as he straightened back up told her that she was in for another ‘special’ night.

Alex returned his gaze, more than ready to get started on their evening together. As he straightened to tell Trivette that he was going to head out and would see him the next Monday, Alex’s eyes caught sight of the picture on his desk. She picked it up and looked at the two of them together, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. She noticed the look in their eyes and she recognized it as the same look they had just shared. She focused on the tower and she looked up at Walker and said, “We never made it in, did we?” Walker looked surprised and asked, “You remember?” Alex looked thoughtful and then slowly shook her head. “I… there’s something… I’m not sure, but I just know that we didn’t go in there. Judging by the look in your eyes, I bet I can guess where we went instead.” “My eyes? Woman, you seduced me!”

Alex laughed and then said, “And what would it take to do so again?” “You’ve succeeded!” he claimed as he grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. “Trivette, hold the fort, we’ll see you when we get back. And no I am not taking a cell phone and I can’t be reached!” Trivette watched as the lovebirds sauntered out, seeming in a hurry to get started on their few days at the reservation. “As if I would try,” Trivette muttered under his breath.

Walker pulled the Ram up to the ranch and said, “You have a choice. We restrain ourselves and pack up to leave early in the morning or we don’t restrain ourselves and we arrive late in the day with no time to get set up there before dark.” Alex pondered her choices and finally said, “Well, if we must, I guess we should try to demonstrate some self-control. What should I pack?” “Pack us both some comfortable clothes, mostly jeans, t-shirts and shorts. We’ll be on horseback or camping most of the time. I’ll pack the camping gear and get the saddles in the trailer. I need to get the horses ready too.”

“Should I pack food?” “Yes, just enough for a day or so. We’ll live off the land once we’re out there. Add some rice, carrots, potatoes… things like that to go with the rabbit or rattlesnake we catch.” “You’re joking right?” “No Alex, I’m not joking.” “I’ll put in some canned food and a can opener,” she told him. Walker laughed at her, “You eat that stuff all the time.” “Why don’t I believe you?” she asked, showing that she truly thought he was pulling her leg. “Well, rattlesnake isn’t your favorite, but you prefer it to the worms and snails I made you eat once.” “You’re lying!” “No, I’m not. But if it makes you happy, I’ll pack the fishing poles and we’ll plan to camp near the river.” “It makes me happy,” she told him. Walker just grinned. She may not have her full memory back, but she had her feisty personality back, that was for sure!

They each tended to their chores and Alex brought down the two backpacks Walker had given her to pack for them. She filled the duffel bag with staples and when Walker came in to get the bags, he rummaged through what she’d packed. “Oh good, you didn’t forget the coffee.” “I have amnesia, I’m not forgetful!” she told him exasperated. “Sorry,” he said with a grin. “That looked real sincere,” she said with sarcasm. “I am sorry that I questioned you and obviously offended you, but I love seeing your spirit back in evidence. And even when you’re mad at me, I love it when you let me have it with both barrels.” Alex rolled her eyes, “Why don’t you take the bags out before I do let you have it with both barrels ― literally!” Walker chuckled, but picked up the bags and headed out, heeding her advice.

Later that evening, the Walker’s were sitting enjoying their last ‘home cooked’ meal for several days. Walker had made an effort to appease Alex; he’d brought her a peace offering. While he was out in the barnyard, he’d found a patch of bluebonnets and he’d gathered a fistful and brought them to her. She’d accepted them gracefully and they had settled into a comfortable evening.

“What time are you planning on us leaving tomorrow?” “Oh, we don’t need to go too early, we’ll shoot for six.” “Six? As in a.m.? Are you nuts? That’s early!” “You’ll have to learn to honor the sunrise if you are going to go to the reservation with me.” “I do honor it! I sleep while it blankets the countryside and then I get up and am grateful that the sun knows how to rise without my supervision. ” Walker laughed again. “We’ll get an early night so that you won’t be too cranky in the morning. Don’t forget to make me two of your famous breakfast burritos. You know me, one is never enough.” “What’s in a breakfast burrito?” Alex asked. “Oh, you’ll think of something. It’s a tradition though. You always make me breakfast burritos so that I can eat while I drive.” “Why don’t we just eat and then go?” Walker shook his head at her, “Don’t go messing with tradition, Alex.” “Okay, so I have to get up before the sun and then I have to cook for you? What will you be doing?” “Feeding and loading the horses into the trailer.” Alex’s response was simply to raise her eyebrows at him.

It wasn’t long before Walker suggested they turn in. Alex told him that she wanted to bathe first, but he had other plans. He went into the bathroom and ran the water to fill the tub, adding Alex’s favorite bath oil and bubbles. He found more of her scented candles and placed them around the bathroom and then lit them. After shedding his clothes, he eased his body down into the warm water and called out to her. “Alex, your bath is ready.” Alex came in wearing only a lightweight robe and was surprised to see him in her bath water. “I thought you were drawing a bath for me.” “I was, but it comes with your own built in back scrubber.” “Oh…” she said, and let her robe drop from her shoulders and tossed it onto the vanity. Stepping into the water, she eased down onto his lap, her back against his chest.

Walker soaked the natural sea sponge and then poured soap into it. Beginning at her neck, he soaped her front, stroking the slightly rough sponge down over her breasts and abdomen to her thighs. “I thought you were a ‘back’ scrubber,” Alex said as she dropped her head back against his shoulder and let him scrub her arms, legs and everything in between. “I’m an ‘all purpose’ scrubber,” he told her as he dropped the sponge and used his fingers to probe between her thighs, playing with the tender flesh he found there.

Alex allowed him to touch and fondle her until she couldn’t stand the torment any longer. She sat up and turned so that she was straddling his thighs. Leaning forward, she kissed his lips while her hands searched for the sponge. Once she’d found it, she squeezed more soap into it and began a circular pattern on his chest. She continued scrubbing his chest and arms while he teased her breasts with his fingers. Dropping the sponge into the water, Alex took both of her hands and wrapped them around his enlarged shaft. She held him and stroked him, all the while, amazed at his size. Walker was reaching the point of no return when she shifted, bringing her hips into his. She placed him at her entrance and then sat down onto him, taking him deep inside.

Walker moaned, but he didn’t pursue the joining to its natural completion. Instead, he reached until he once again found the sponge and squeezed more soap into it and then reached behind her and began scrubbing her back, as promised. Alex arched her back, further impaling herself on him and also making her breasts easy fodder for his hungry mouth. As Alex squeezed the muscles of her vagina around his embedded width, Walker devoured each breast in turn and let his hands stray down her back to her buttocks where he used the abrasive sponge on the tender flesh there.

Alex closed her eyes and just allowed the multiple sensations to bombard her senses. The faint scent of the candles, mixed with the oil in the heated water. The silky water lapping at her waist, contrasted to the rough feel of the sponge. Walker’s rough tongue and nibbling teeth on her breasts, contrasted with the silky length of him inside her slick walls. After reveling in all of these sensations, she began a smooth glide up and down his body. She was on her knees, her hands braced on the bathtub’s edge, and she pushed up until he all but left her body and then sank back down to take him all the way back in. Walker dropped the sponge and clasped her buttocks in his hands and pulled her up while squeezing the smooth flesh in his hands. His head fell back as he gasped for air, the feel of her robbing him of the ability to breathe.

Alex took advantage of his vulnerable neck and reached forward to taste it. She nipped and sucked, her tongue soothing any hurt she might unintentionally cause. The passion built and then everything faded away except the sensations that were wrought by their joined pelvises. Man and woman at the most elemental stage. The pace quickened as did heart rates and respiration rates. “Alex, I’m…” “No! Not yet, oh please god, not yet!” she begged as she felt her orgasm just out of reach. Walker grabbed for the sponge and placed it against her clitoris, the roughness of it providing her with that little extra stimulation she needed to send her over the edge. She collapsed into spasms as he empty himself into her, unable to hold out for even a moment longer.

Alex laid her head on his shoulder and said, “Oh, wow!” She felt Walker smile and then he said, “I agree.” After regaining their breath, Alex sat up and looked at Walker. “Too bad the water is getting cold, I could do that again.” “You are insatiable woman!” “Complaining?” Walker guided her hand down to his reawakening shaft. “Does this feel like a complaint?” “No, it feels like heaven to me,” she said coyly. Walker shifted and said, “Let’s get out of here and dry off and take it into the bedroom.” “You got it, cowboy,” she said as she lifted herself off of him and reached for the towel, “but I get to be on top.” “Again?” “I’ve only gotten to be on top in the tub, I want to try it in bed too.” “Well, we’ll get there eventually, but I had something else in mind first,” he said. “What?” she asked. “I’ll show you.” Walker led her into the bedroom and showed her just what he had in mind. When the alarm sounded at 5:00 the next morning, Walker reached for the snooze button; they hadn’t exactly gone to bed early, at least not to sleep.

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Walker finally roused himself at 6:00 and then insisted that Alex do the same. After Walker got out of the shower, he went to the mirror to trim his beard and mustache in preparation of several days without bathroom facilities. He thought he saw something on his neck and he wiped the steam from the mirror and looked closer. “Alex!” he shouted.

Alex was still in bed, waking slowly, using the excuse that she would wait until he was out of the shower before getting up. Her eyes popped open at the shout and then her husband, who was wearing only a towel around his waist, leapt onto the bed and straddled her, pinning her down. “Look what you did to me!” he shouted, pointing to the mark on his neck. Walker had what could only be called a ‘love bite’ on his neck, low near his clavicle. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Alex said, but then started to giggle. “It’s not funny, Alex! We are going to visit my people and I’m going to walk around having to tell them that I married Vampira!”

Alex went into fits of laughter. She’d left her mark on the man, that’s for sure. It wasn’t really a deep purple though, just a faint shadow and it certainly hadn’t been intentional, just the result of the sensations he was causing her in the tub the night before. “Is this your first?” she asked with a devilish grin. “Well… no, but it’s the first you’ve given me.” “Really? After all this time? How did I manage to show such restraint?” Walker frowned at her. “Restraint is not something I would ever accuse you of!” he said forcefully.

Alex reached up to pull the covers down to expose the marks on her breasts from his own ‘love bites.’ “You’re not known for your restraint either.” “At least they don’t show!” he said as he touched the marks with his forefinger. “They would if I decided to go topless!” “You’d have marks on your backside if you went topless!” he warned. “I see that this is going to be a fun drive. How many hours did you say it was?” Alex asked. Walker frowned at her and hopped off the bed to finish dressing. “You have a half hour to get your butt downstairs or I’ll be making that drive alone!” he threatened. Alex stuck her tongue out at his retreating back.

Alex was downstairs and dressed in thirty five minutes. She could have made the deadline, but didn’t, just to be contrary. It was odd, but it felt good to argue. Not as good as it did to make love, but still; it showed how comfortable they were becoming with each other. They had been so careful with each other for so long.

Alex set about making breakfast, not focusing on her task. She scrambled eggs, fried bacon, crumpled it into the eggs and placed the mixture on a flour tortilla and added salsa and then rolled it up. She wrapped each in a piece of aluminum foil and laid them in the oven at a low temp while she cleaned up the kitchen and poured fresh coffee into the thermos. She ate some scrambled eggs and bacon in a bowl and then washed it and left it to dry in the rack. After a last minute trip to the bathroom, she grabbed the coffee and the burritos from the oven and headed out to meet Walker.

Walker was just about to come looking for her when she came out. He was wearing a kerchief around his neck and it was all she could do not to laugh out loud. She hopped up into the Ram and sat docilely, waiting to see if his mood had improved. It hadn’t. He ate his burritos and drank his coffee and about an hour into the trip, he began to turn semi-human. Alex watched as he seemed to relax the closer they got to the reservation. When they finally arrived, he was smiling and in a good mood. Alex looked around her with interest. There were people dressed in everyday clothes, mixed with people dressed in traditional Indian wear.

They pulled the Ram up to the Sheriff’s office and Walker hopped out to greet his old friends Sam Coyote and Billy Gray Wolf. He introduced Alex and she was amazed at how unaffected they were by the fact that she didn’t remember them. Walker told them that he would see them both later and he drove the Ram and horse trailer on down to Uncle Ray’s cabin. He handed Alex the key to the house while he unloaded the horses and put them in the corral.

Alex was impressed at the cleanliness of the abandoned cabin. She checked out the bedrooms and found that the largest had the bed neatly made with fresh linens. Walker had obviously hired someone to air the cabin out. Alex walked around admiring the decorations on the walls and shelves. She could see that some were related to ones at the ranch and figured that Walker had moved those that held the greatest meaning for him to the ranch. She found a few pictures still on the shelves as if Walker wanted the cabin to remember its previous occupants. She looked at the picture of a young Uncle Ray and his bride. Alex remembered Walker saying that her name was Ruth. She had died before Walker had come to live with his uncle, but Uncle Ray had never remarried even though she realized that he must have been quite young when he’d lost her.

Walker walked in silently and saw what she held in her hands. “He never got over losing her. She was the light of his life.” “How did she die?” “They had tried for years to have children and had been disappointed with several miscarriages. She finally managed to carry a child nearly to term, but there were complications and both died.” “Oh my god! How tragic.” “Yes, it happened just before my parents were killed and I came to live with Uncle Ray. He and my father had been estranged ever since my father married my mother. Uncle Ray was torn about having to raise me, but he gave me a wonderful home and he was a tremendous parent.” “And I knew him?” Walker chuckled, “Oh yes, Uncle Ray was your best ally when it came to roping me. He never let up about how I should marry you and have a family. He wanted to be a grandfather so bad he could taste it. I’m sorry he didn’t live to see us married and I wish he could have known the children we’ll have.” Alex stopped and thought about what he’d said. ‘Children,’ she hadn’t given it much thought, but they hadn’t used any type of contraceptive, so there was a chance she could soon be carrying his child. A warm flush flooded her body at the thought.

Alex replaced the picture and turned. “I like this cabin; it feels homey, even though no one lives here now.” “Actually, I let different people use it for a retreat. I have someone who keeps it up for me and I try to get down every two or three months.” Alex smiled, “Good, I think that your Uncle Ray would like that.” “He would like it even more if I came to live on the reservation, but he understood that I made my life in the white man’s world. Marrying you has pretty much sealed that.” “Do you regret giving up your Cherokee culture and heritage?” “It’s always been a battle, mixing the two worlds, but I’ve been able to come to peace with it. I stay in touch with this part of my life and I bring the best parts of it back with me to my life in Dallas.” “What about marrying me? Were there problems with that?” “White Eagle and Uncle Ray both gave their blessings and that was enough for me.” Alex smiled, but realized that there would probably be those here on the reservation who would not be happy with his choice of wife.

She turned and looked at Walker and he approached her and pulled her into a hug. “No one will be rude to you. Most know you and know that you make me happy. And the only thing that matters is that I married you because I love you. The spirits made you to be the other half of me, you complete me and regardless of the color of your skin, the spirits knew what they were doing.” Alex leaned into his hug and wondered how he always seemed to know what she was thinking.

They had supper that evening with Sam and his wife. He had only been married a short time and his wife was nervous about entertaining, but Alex won a friend by being friendly and helpful. Walker and Sam, and later Billy, spent time together catching Walker up on reservation life. Alex helped Fawn with the dishes and she shared with Alex that she was expecting her first child. Alex marveled at how often babies were being brought up. She began to hope that she would in fact soon be carrying Walker’s child.

Alex and Walker went back to the cabin fairly early as they wanted to head out on horseback early the next morning. They climbed into the large bed and Alex scooted over to him and laid her head on his shoulder. “I like your friends,” she said. “Yes, they’ve been my friends since childhood. They are as close to brothers as I have.” She smiled and played with the hair on his chest. “Well then, you are about to be an Uncle.” “What?” “Fawn is pregnant.” Walker smiled, “That’s great news! Sam didn’t tell me. I’m surprised that Fawn told you. She must feel comfortable with you.” “I liked her. She went to the same college I did, so we had a lot in common.” Walker stopped and remained still for a moment. “You know which college you went to?” Alex’s breath caught as she realized what his question meant. “Yes, I do! I remembered and I didn’t even realize it!” “What else do you remember?” Alex stopped and tried to focus. “I see flashes of my childhood… but there’s nothing… concrete.” “Anything else?” he prompted. “No, I… there’s nothing else.” “It’s a start, just give it time,” Walker reassured her.

Alex lay in his arms, overwhelmed by a mixture of joy and sorrow. She couldn’t piece together the images she saw, no matter how hard she tried. When she had spoken to Fawn, she had naturally answered Fawn’s claim that she had gone to SMU. She had talked about a professor that each had in common and she’d never realized that she shouldn’t know that. When Walker pointed that out to her, she tried to force more memories, but the only thing she was getting was a headache.

Walker realized that she was trying to remember more and that the more she tried the more frustrated she became. What she needed was a distraction and he was fairly certain that he could provide it. His hand soothed over her silky hair and then down her back. He turned slightly, dumping her back onto her pillow and leaning over her to kiss her.

Alex’s response was minimal at first and distracted, but Walker was on a mission and he had a bag of tricks to woo his wife with. He seduced her slowly and gently, showing her an entirely new side to their love making. The passion wasn’t less, but it was gentler and he aroused her to the point that she forgot everything except how good his kisses felt. His hands undressed her and stroked her bare skin. His lips trailed down her body and back up again, paying homage to every inch of her smooth skin. Alex’s hands touched his body of their own accord. She played with the hair at the back of his neck, smoothed down over his muscular shoulders and when he eased the briefs he was wearing off, she took advantage of the exposed skin to touch and caress him intimately.

Walker kissed her deeply, drawing a response from her that was unmistakable. His tongue delved into her mouth and played with her tongue, sucking it into his own mouth and stroking it. He reached down and gently parted her thighs, settling himself between them and then began to thrust his tongue into her mouth rhythmically, mimicking the tempo of another union of flesh. Alex curled her pelvis up to meet him and he lifted up and positioned himself to sink into her. He broke the kiss to rain gentle nipping kisses over her face, neck and shoulders. Alex’s hands reached down to his buttocks and gripped them, pulling him to her. She rolled her pelvis against him, pressing her sensitive nub against his hard pelvic bone. Her rolling motion brought her closer to release and her body contracted around his penetration. Walker reached down and suckled a nipple into his mouth, tugging hard enough to shoot a flame down to her pelvis. The rolling motion she established increased as she reached orgasm and shuddered and convulsed around him.

After he was certain that she had been pleasured, he lifted up onto his forearms and began to thrust into her, slowly building to his own release. Alex moved in rhythm to accommodate his release. Just as he was about to come, he reached down and suckled her other nipple in, tugging hard enough to again signal her pelvis to respond. She climaxed with him, taking him deep inside her and holding him close against her as he shuddered and spilled into her. Once the pulsing ceased, he tried to shift, to ease his weight from her, but she held him tightly. “Please, don’t move,” she begged as she sank down onto the bed, his body, blanketing hers and pushing her deeper into the mattress.

Walker lay still until he felt her drift into a deep sleep and then he withdrew from her and lay beside her, stroking her hair as she slept. He kissed her forehead and she sighed as Walker whispered against her temple, “I love you,” over and over again. Finally, he too succumbed to sleep and the two spent lovers slept peacefully, their dreams about each other.

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Alex and Walker rode out before daybreak the next morning. They were outside of the various cabins, houses and traditional teepees by the time the sun rose. Alex marveled at how beautiful it was. The sun rose over the trees and colored the sky in beautiful lavenders and pinks. Walker stopped to look back when he realized that she had stopped on top of a rise to watch the colors turn to oranges and yellows. He smiled and walked Ranger back to her. “It does this every morning without your supervision,” he said with a grin. “Shut up, cowboy,” she grumbled good-naturedly. He liked to tease her about not liking to get up in the mornings, but she took his ribbing with the sense of humor it was intended.

After the sun rose high enough that the colors blended out to the morning blue that she was used to seeing, she squeezed her legs and cued Angel to begin walking again. “That was amazing, but it still doesn’t compare to the way you put me to sleep last night,” she called over her shoulder at Walker. He shook his head; she always had to have the last word on the subject.

They rode on for two more hours and then Walker showed her a place near a river that he said they could camp at. There was a shade tree near the spot and grassy banks. The natural grasses had dried out over the summer months and they were tall yellow stalks versus lush green. “We’ll have to be careful about campfires this time of year,” Walker commented. Alex unpacked the sandwiches she had packed and they sat on the saddle blankets and ate their meal while the horses cooled under the tree.

Alex tended to the horses after they had eaten. She led them to the water and allowed them to drink their fill now that they were cool. They had only let them sip the water when they had first arrived. She curried them both and then she strung a rope between two young trees and tied them with their halters so that they would be able to move around and graze, but not leave the immediate area. When she returned to camp, Walker had the tent up and was busy digging a pit for campfires. Alex went to work cleaning out the inside of the tent. She picked up stones and sticks and then cut armfuls of the tall native grasses and piled them on the ground. After she layered them on the ground to make a pallet, she unrolled the two sleeping bags. She unzipped them and made them one.

Walker watched her in silence as she worked and wondered if she was aware that she had learned these skills since meeting him. She and her father had camped together, but Gordon had always come prepared with the latest in camping gear and communing with nature was not his goal. Alex expertly tied the tent flaps up to allow the breeze to blow through. She then went to work sorting out the foodstuffs. She took the water jugs to the river and floated them in the cool water there. They had brought no meats and the staples she had packed were fine as long as they stayed dry.

Walker had cleared an area around the campsite so that the danger of a flying ember igniting the grasses was minimal. He had dug the fire pit to contain the fire and the dirt was piled next to it with a small shovel that could be used in case a stray ember did drift. Smothering the fire with dirt would be the quickest most effective means of putting out an accidental fire. He then set about gathering wood and found that Alex had already begun the task. She had piled several dry branches on the ground next to the pit. He selected the larger pieces to build a triangle above the pit to hang the kettle on. He also found a couple of abandoned logs and dragged them over to make seats for them.

All in all, they had set up a home away from home by late afternoon. Walker looked at Alex’s flushed cheeks and sweaty brow and asked, “Want to take a dip?” She smiled, “You don’t think we’ll scare the fish?” “Let’s chance it,” he said with a grin back at her. They sauntered down to the bank, stripped off their clothes, and waded in. “Oh, it’s cold!” Alex said at knee level. “You have to just plunge in,” he said and watched as she shook her head and continued to ease into the water.

Walker was frolicking like a seal as he reveled in the refreshing water. When he knew that she wasn’t paying attention, he came up behind her, stood and lifted her in one smooth motion and tossed her out to the middle of the river at its deepest point. Alex came up spluttering and shouted, “This is war!” She dove after him and jumped onto his back, trying, with everything she had, to dunk him. All of her efforts were in vain until she changed tactics. She clung to him and began kissing him. Walker’s response to her passionate ploy was instantaneous and he let his guard down as she deepened the kiss and pressed her nude form tightly against his. She then shifted her weight suddenly and pushed him over under the water and quickly swam away.

“You devil!” he shouted at her as he came up spitting out water. “I thought you needed to cool off,” she taunted him from a safe distance away. “I will get you!” he vowed and the chase was on. They splashed and dunked each other for the next half hour and then climbed out of the river panting and exhausted. They stood dripping in the hot sun for a bit and then he scooped her up and carried her to the tent and plopped her down on the sleeping bag. There was no preamble; Walker decided that the romp in the river was foreplay enough. He spread her legs and thrust directly into her heat.

Alex gasped at the suddenness of his invasion and said, “Wait!” as her body quickly adjusted to his unanticipated action. Walker paused and smiled down at her, “If you’re going to tease, you have to be prepared for the consequences.” “Oh, I’m ready,” she said as she began to undulate her hips against his. They established a punishing rhythm and then they both climaxed violently and dropped down, spent, next to each other. They fell asleep, bodies, arms and legs a tangled mass so that an onlooker would have trouble knowing where one began and the other ended.

Nightfall found them seated around the campfire wearing shorts and eating the canned beef stew Alex had packed. All of their plans of catching fish had disappeared after they first scared them off and then slept until dusk. Alex gloated as she pulled out the can and the can opener and handed them to Walker. He’d just taken them from her, knowing when it was useless to try and defend himself.

After dinner, they sat against the log and stargazed. Walker pointed out various constellations and told her Indian legends about the stars, the moon and the sky. They headed to bed early and after making love twice more, fell asleep with the tent flaps up.

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Walker awoke in the predawn and sensed another presence. He slipped out of Alex’s arms and then left the sleeping bag and tent. On his way out, he lowered the flaps to ensure her privacy. He pulled on a pair of workout pants and walked barefoot to the rise just beyond the campsite. He sat down and waited as White Eagle completed his morning prayer to the sun and mother earth.

“Washo, you have discord in your union.” “Yes, but it was from outside forces.” “Still, you come here seeking harmony.” “Alex has no memory of us. She was brainwashed and she is slowly regaining some memories, but still does not remember the journey we took to join together as man and wife.” “And yet, you are joined.”

Walker would have blushed if it had been anyone else but White Eagle. “She’s fallen in love with me again and we have resumed our marriage, but she’s frustrated and sad that she can’t remember more.” “You are frustrated too. You want things to be as they were.” “We shared so much, years of memories, and I want her to be able to enjoy them with me.” “Can you not make new ones?” “Yes, we can and we are, but they don’t replace what has been lost.” “No, they don’t. Go wake her and have her dress. I will join you for breakfast after the sun rises. I will bring a rabbit to cook.” “All right,” Walker agreed and headed back to camp to alert Alex to their visitor.

Alex was dressed and sitting at the campfire when White Eagle approached. He carried a dressed rabbit and handed it to Walker who placed it in the hot skillet with some vegetables. Alex’s stomach revolted initially, but the delicious smell was making her stomach rumble. Walker introduced Alex to White Eagle and they sat and spoke of inconsequential things until after they had eaten their morning meal. White Eagle looked at Alex and said, “Your memory is hiding behind a great dark cloud. You have the ability to clear the cloud, but you are afraid.” Alex looked at him and asked, “Why should I be afraid? I already know the bad stuff that happened to me. It’s the good stuff I can’t remember.” “Perhaps because the first memory was of what happened to you. You are afraid that there will be more painful memories.” “Well, I imagine that other bad things have happened to me at some point in my life, but I would hope that the good would outweigh the bad.”

White Eagle nodded, “Yes, but there is some part of your mind that doesn’t believe that. Until you are ready to face all that is in your past, you won’t remember.” “How can I get ready?” she asked in a frustrated tone. “You are pursuing the past instead of the future. When your focus has shifted to the life that you want to build, you will begin to remember the life that you led.” Alex frowned and said, “I don’t know if I can do that. I can’t seem to go forward until I can go back. My career is on hold and that was a very large part of my life according to everyone. The only thing more important has been my relationship with Walker.” “Well, you have begun to move forward in your relationship with Washo, perhaps that is the beginning. Washo and I will build a sweat lodge and we will sit in there at dusk. I will pray to the spirits and we will see what they have to say.” Alex was hesitant, but she looked at Walker and he gave her a slight nod to reassure her. “Can I help to build the sweat lodge?” she asked. “You can gather the stones from the river,” White Eagle told her. She nodded and then picked up the dishes to go and wash them in the river.

The better part of the morning was spent with White Eagle and Walker building the frame for the sweat lodge. They did not have enough animal skins to cover it, so they used the saddle blankets, White Eagle’s bed roll and then the long grasses cut and bound together to complete it. Alex gathered river stones and Walker again used his shovel to dig a pit. He placed the stones in it on top of the stacked wood and then put a bucket of water next to the pit to wet the stones that would create the steam. White Eagle laid a pouch of herbs near the campfire in preparation for the sweet smoke that would allow the visions to be seen.

White Eagle supplied dried meat for lunch and they fished in the afternoon for dinner. Alex sat on the bank next to Walker and caught two fish to his one, much to his chagrin. After the filling meal, White Eagle prepared the sweat lodge and then beckoned them to join him inside. Walker had stripped down to the loin cloth that he wore whenever he entered the sweat lodge and he had Alex don the loose fitting deerskin dress that White Eagle had brought for her. He looked at her in the native costume and smiled at her. She looked beautiful and he loved her, with or without a memory. They entered holding hands and sat down next to White Eagle who sat closest to the fire.

After building the heat and steam in the lodge, White Eagle sprinkled the herbs on top of the heated stones and their pungent smell filled the air. Alex coughed slightly at first, but Walker instructed her on how to breathe it in and then hold her breath for a few extra seconds before exhaling. Alex felt like a teenager experimenting with marijuana, but decided not to say anything. These were ancient rituals and customs and she had no intention of showing disrespect of any kind.

The heat was overwhelming and Alex wondered how long she would be able to stay inside. She could hear chanting, but she couldn’t tell where it was coming from. Everything began to blur and then she saw a forest with a doe wandering lost in the woods. The doe kept making a bleating sound as if it was calling to someone. It walked in circles, clearly distressed. Suddenly, there was an eagle that swooped low and landed on a nearby branch. Alex was frightened for the doe’s safety; she was convinced that the eagle was waiting for the doe to grow weak so that it could tear apart its flesh with its talons.

The eagle got closer and closer to the doe, but the doe shied away each time. Finally, the eagle flew off and the doe continued on its search. The eagle returned as suddenly as it had left and dropped water from its sharp beak onto the doe’s head. Again the eagle landed and waited and then flew off and brought water. This occurred over and over again until the doe finally collapsed in fear and fatigue.

The eagle was able to get closer to the doe this time and it dribbled the water on the doe’s muzzle. Eventually, as even the eagle grew tired, the doe trusted the eagle enough for it to lead her out of the thick woods and to a stream. The doe ducked her head and drank from the water, quenching her thirst. Then the doe lay on the lush grass on the bank and began to nibble. The eagle landed on the ground next to the doe and stared at the doe, directly into its eyes. The doe bleated once more, but this time the eagle answered with its shrieking call and then the doe closed her eyes, feeling safe enough to rest while the predator stood watch over her.

Alex had slumped against Walker unconscious from the heat and he scooped her into his arms and lifted her up and out of the sweat lodge. He carried her directly into the river and the cold water brought her instantly awake. She stared at him with huge eyes and said, “I had a vision.” He smiled at her and then after soaking her dress in the water, carried her up to the tent and laid her there. “Tell me about it.”

Alex relayed the story, but didn’t understand its meaning. “It’s similar to a vision I once had about us. You are the doe and I am the eagle. The water symbolizes love.” “So, I was lost and you found me, but I was afraid of you. But you kept bringing me your love and no matter how tired you became, you kept bringing me love until I finally trusted you and accepted it.” Walker smiled, “Yes.” “Thank you,” she said. He smiled again, “I love you; I never had a choice in the matter.”

After Alex fell into an exhausted sleep, Walker went to speak to White Eagle. The fire was out in the sweat lodge and the place where White Eagle’s bed roll had been was now a gaping hole. Walker shook his head, knowing that the old Indian had gone and that they wouldn’t be seeing him again on this trip. He had delivered his message and now he would let them interpret it as they saw fit.

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Alex awoke feeling groggy and out of sorts. She had a headache and it wasn’t until she’d had coffee and then several glasses of water that she started to feel better. The sweat had taken a lot out of her and she was dehydrated. Walker clued in right away what the problem was and he didn’t place any physical demands on her, canceling his idea of a morning hike in favor of a lazy morning at the campsite. After they ate lunch, the temperature started to rise. He suggested that they fish, but Alex wanted to get into the water. “Well, we can work on your fly fishing cast,” he suggested. She looked at him with a puzzled expression. “What’s wrong with my fly fishing cast?” “You have no balance,” he informed her. “You’re making that up,” she claimed.

Walker ended up challenging her and Alex never could pass up a challenge, so they donned their bathing suits and went into the water about knee high. Alex practiced casting with Walker standing behind her telling her what she was doing wrong. At one point, she turned to tell him off and her foot caught in the muddy river bed and she slipped. Walker’s arms instantly went around her waist and held her up against him. He was laughing at her when she turned her head to look back at him to defend herself. Suddenly, her expression changed and her eyes grew wide. “This is familiar! I’ve done this before. We’ve done this before.” Walker watched her without saying anything, waiting to see if anything else came back. “But it was colder and I was sure that you were going to kiss me, but you didn’t.” Walker gripped her tighter and leaned down, bending her back over his arm so that she was completely at his mercy.

Years before, he had been about to kiss her when the sudden sound of a radio had jolted them out of their sensual haze. This time, there was nothing but Alex’s eyes and Alex’s lips and the feel of her backside pressed snuggly against his growing arousal. He leaned forward and captured her mouth with his, his tongue invading her welcoming mouth that had opened as he drew near. The open-mouthed kiss only fed the fire and Walker pressed himself tightly against her so that she was fully aware of his state. The fishing pole dropped from her fingers and floated a ways down the river before coming to rest against the bank. Neither knew or cared about its fate as Walker’s hands smoothed down her bare abdomen to the bikini swimming bottoms she wore. He pushed them down over her hips and followed them down her thighs and past her knees until she was able to kick them off. They too floated down stream and were soon joined by his swim trunks as he rapidly pushed them out of his way.

Walker wrapped his arms tightly around her abdomen and pulled her back against his arousal, firmly planting it in the slit between her rounded buttocks as their mouths joined and their tongues dueled. He held her with one arm encircling her waist while the other hand explored her bare front. His hand dipped to her silky curls and he reached between them to stroke her, enjoying the slickness of her juices as they drenched his fingers. Alex began to move her hips in rhythm with his hand and he nearly lost control as her motions played havoc with his nerves, his erection tightly nestled against her and receiving all sorts of stimulation.

He shifted his upper hand to grasp her breast and moaned in frustration when he encountered the cups of her bikini top. He released her to fumble around for the clasp and pushed the offending material out of his way. Bending her further back over his arm, he lifted her slightly and buried his face in her breasts. He carried her to the deeper part of the river, allowing the water to give her body buoyancy as it reached their waists. Repositioning his hands, his mouth busily devouring her breasts, he lifted her just a little bit higher and pushed himself into her dripping heat from behind.

Alex cried out as her own bodyweight facilitated his penetration. Walker’s hand went around again to her front and he played with her sensitized flesh, his lips suckling her breasts so hard into his mouth that she thought for sure they would burst. Alex clenched her muscles around him and tried to establish a rhythm, but she was completely at his mercy with nothing to grasp onto to get any purchase. She felt like a rag doll suspended in the water, his mouth, his arms and his erection, her only connection with anything solid. The thought brought a wicked smile to her lips as she thought about just how solid his erection was. Memories of a rafting trip flooded her brain and she began to remember lying in the dark on the bank of a river, trying desperately to take his huge penis into her and knowing that she had never experienced anything to compare to that moment in her whole life.

Walker was unaware of Alex’s thoughts, but he too was remembering that night by the river. She was so shy and passionate that first time. He was surprised at how uncertain she was about her own body and its desirability. He’d wanted her for so long; he just assumed that all men would have felt that way about her. And maybe they had, but they hadn’t made her feel that way about them and she had questioned her own sexual ability. There were no doubts left at the end of that night. Her body had learned to accept him and still the tight warmth that encased his pulsing length brought him as much pleasure, no ― more, than on that first night of discovery. The whimpering cries Alex was making brought him back to the moment and he realized that she was desperate for release. He had been trying so hard to control his own release that he had postponed hers. He intended to rectify the situation.

Releasing her breasts, Walker placed his hands at her hips and leaned forward, forcing her body to bend at the waist. When the cool water touched her breasts, Alex gasped out loud. She placed her arms on top of the water and did a breast stroke motion with them, keeping her head above the water. Now her only anchor to reality was Walker’s hands on her hips and his fully engorged shaft that was so deeply embedded in her that she was afraid it may never be able to come back out. Another wicked grin graced her face as she realized there was worse things in life that being permanently impaled by her cowboy!

Walker had gone beyond the point of arousal and was now nearly in pain. He couldn’t remember ever having been so engorged and he gripped her hips firmly and eased out of her opening. He gave his own gasp as the cold river water rushed to cool his throbbing manhood and he quickly reinserted it into her warmth. Alex’s eyes widened as his thrust brought the coolness into her body. The sensations were exquisite. Walker would pull out and he would gasp at the cold and then he would plunge into her heat and she would gasp at the cold he brought into her. As she adjusted to the pace he set and the variable temperatures his thrusts brought, Alex took a huge breath of air and placed her face in the water, completely relaxing her upper body, so that she was floating on the water.

Walker’s thrusts were so fast and so hard now that there wasn’t time to register the temperature changes; it was merely a matter of friction as he slid in and out of her, his pelvis slapping hard against her rounded bottom. Alex lifted her head to take one breath and then floated again, knowing that her body was about to explode in ecstasy. She floated on the water as her lower half clenched in spasm after spasm of uncontrolled pleasure. Walker too exploded, pumping his juices deep within her and crying out his love for her as the eagle had cried out for his mate in her vision.

Alex was floating, both in reality and in her mind. Only her need for oxygen brought her head up out of the water as Walker slipped his softening penis out of her body. He pulled her back against him and finally turned her in his arms to face him. Cradling her against his chest, he walked backwards until he could sink onto the bank and hold her in his arms. He lay back and protected her from the sandy river bank, keeping her body laying fully on his. His hands stroked her skin from shoulders to bottom as he conveyed his love for her wordlessly.

The two lovers reveled in the passion they had shared and then Alex lifted her head and said, “I remember out first time together. I had taken you whitewater rafting and we went fly fishing. That night, you teased me about a snake and then we made love. I remember that you were too big for me and I felt inadequate, but by the end of the night, I knew that I could match your passion. You brought out feelings I hadn’t known I possessed or was capable of. I loved you then and I love you now.” She reached forward and kissed his lips, thanking him for making her the whole woman that she was.

“Alex?” Walker said a good half an hour later. “Hmmm?” she said sleepily. “Do you remember anything else?” Alex scrunched her face in thought. “No, I don’t think so, but it’s a start.” He kissed her temple and smiled, “Yes, it’s a start and the memories will just keep coming.” “You think so?” “Yeah, I do. You’ll find your past.” He felt her smile against his chest. “I don’t really care at the moment, because I’m certain of one thing.” “What’s that?” “I found my future,” she said as she kissed his chest and then his neck and finally his lips. “And I promise that I won’t ever let you lose it,” he said as he returned her kiss. “But now, we better go find your bathing suit. Your backside is going to get sunburned and then we won’t be able to have any fun.” He waggled his eyebrows at her and she burst out laughing. “Lead the way!” she said.

They wandered down the river to where the fishing rod had hung up. His swim trunks and her bikini bottoms were floating against it, but her top was nowhere to be found. “Oh well, I can always get a new bathing suit. I’ll just put a t-shirt on for now.” She picked up the fishing rod and reeled in the line. Attached to the hook was the missing bikini top.

Walker began a deep chuckle and Alex’s higher pitched laughter joined in. They began to laugh so hard that they couldn’t stand and ended up sitting on the bank, doubled over with laughter. “Don’t you ever say again that I don’t have balance!” Alex said through peels of laughter. “As long as you don’t boil that for my supper!” he countered. That started them off again and they lay there gasping for breath as their mirth overcame them. Walker finally insisted that they get back to camp so that Alex could get under the shade of the tent before she burned too badly.

cccc

Walker and Alex spent Saturday morning breaking camp and riding back to the reservation. They arrived at Uncle Ray’s cabin just after noon and they went in to enjoy a nice warm shower together and then they ate lunch and made plans for the afternoon and evening. Walker wanted to catch up on the reservation news and there was a tribal meeting scheduled that evening. He planned to attend, but before that, he wanted to show Alex around and fill her in on his native culture and heritage.

They strolled hand in hand around the center of the reservation. Walker took her into the visitor’s center and the small museum that told of the history of the Cherokee people. It didn’t take long for Alex to spy the gift shop and with a tolerant smile; Walker let her drag him in. Alex rummaged through all of the different hand crafted items and decided that she wanted a new saddle blanket for Angel. She loved the design and colors and Walker had to admit that it would look great against Angel’s white coat. He found himself a new pair of moccasins that he liked to wear when he was at the reservation and would wear to the tribal meeting later. He also spotted a pair that was decorated with pretty colored beads and would make good house shoes for Alex. He had her try them on and she fell in love with them, so he added them to the pile.

Next, they moved over to the jewelry and he found a string tie with a beautiful stone set on a silver mounting plate. If he had to wear a tie, this was definitely preferable to the kind that choked him. He thought the colors in the stone would blend well with the new suit Alex had insisted he purchase while they were in France on their honeymoon.

Alex was looking into a display case when she suddenly gasped and turned completely white. She fell backwards against Walker, her knees weak and barely able to hold her up. “Bring me some cold water,” he snapped the command at the shopkeeper, Mary Brighteyes, and scooped Alex up into his arms. He carried her over to a bench that was strategically placed in front of a fan. Sitting down with her on his lap, he shifted so that her head rested on his shoulder and he just waited, giving her time to regain her senses.

Mary Brighteyes returned with a glass of ice water and Walker held it to Alex’s lips and urged her to sip slowly. “Is your wife with child?” the soft spoken shopkeeper asked. “No,” Walker replied, but then began to wonder. No, he decided, even if by some miracle her body had conceived after the ordeal it had been through, she could only be days along. “No,” he repeated, with a shake of his head. “Should I get the doctor?”

Alex held her hand up, “No, it’s all right, I’m all right. I just got lightheaded. I probably have had too much sun these last few days.” Walker frowned at her explanation; she had seemed absolutely fine until just minutes ago. She sipped more of the water and then sat up and looked at Walker, “Why don’t you pay for everything and then we can go back to the cabin. I think I should probably lie down for a bit.” Walker still didn’t look happy with her explanation, but he finally relented and did as she requested. He did insist on her remaining seated on the bench thought while he walked back out to the cabin to get the Ram.

Alex sat dutifully on the bench and spoke with Mary when she wasn’t busy with other customers. “Before I got dizzy, I was looking at a bracelet, it was silver and turquoise with a wide band; may I see it?” Mary went over to the display case and removed the entire tray of silver and turquoise bracelets. She brought it over to Alex and Alex looked at the one that had caught her eye. Her hand shook as she reached out to touch it and flashes of memory again bombarded her. “The even years are always the best,” she heard C.D.’s voice say. “Twenty-eight winters, a good year for having babies,” another man’s voice said. Then she heard Walker’s voice, “Happy Birthday,” and her own, “Whose idea was this anyway?”

The scene played out in her mind until she opened a gift that Walker had given her and pulled out a silver and turquoise bracelet similar to the one she was now holding. “It belonged to Aunt Ruthie, Uncle Ray’s wife; it was her good luck bracelet.” Then she heard the male voice she couldn’t identify say, “That’s Indian medicine, it will bring you love and happiness.” Suddenly, Alex knew that it was Uncle Ray’s voice she heard and then she could picture him as if he was standing in the room with her. She saw the ‘significant’ look that he gave her and then Walker. Both had pretended not to see it and she said, “Oh, it’s beautiful,” as she tried it on her wrist. She remembered that she had kissed Walker, just a kiss on the cheek, but she could still smell his aftershave and feel his skin against her lips. He had kissed her too, and she could feel his lips on her cheek and the soft scrape of his beard against the side of her face. The scene was so vivid that it was as if it was happening right in front of her.

“Do you like it?” Mary Brighteyes asked. “I do; I have one very similar. Walker gave it to me for my twenty eighth birthday,” she said, coming out of her trance-like memory. “I’ve always wanted earrings to wear with it. Do you have any that would be appropriate?” she asked to cover her lapse. Mary nodded and headed back to the display case and brought a pair of long dangling earrings that would set off the bracelet nicely. “Yes, those are perfect,” Alex said. “Would you wrap them for me before my husband comes back?” She reached for her purse that had been placed beside her on the bench. “Here’s my credit card; if you don’t mind ringing it up?” Mary did as she was asked and by the time Walker returned, Alex had stored her purchase in her purse and was ready to walk out.

Walker drove the short distance to the cabin, glancing repeatedly over at Alex. Her color was back, but she seemed to have gone away to somewhere in her mind. She wasn’t even fully aware of him and he knew it. He didn’t know where it was that she went, but her eyes looked ahead of her without seeing anything.

Once they were back at the cabin, Walker insisted that she lay down on the bed for awhile. “You don’t need to coddle me, I’m not ill. I just got dizzy for a minute,” Alex grumbled good-naturedly. “Coddling you is one of my favorite pastimes, so don’t take away my fun,” he joked back.

She stretched out on the bed and he turned on the ceiling fan over her and sat down next to her, softly stroking her hair back from her forehead. “Do you feel nauseous or anything?” he asked. “No,” she answered, shaking her head, “I just got dizzy, that’s all. I’m fine now, just a little sleepy. Why don’t you go on to your meeting and I’ll just stay here and take it easy.” Walker frowned, “I don’t want to leave you alone.” “Walker, how often do you get to come here and join in on a tribal meeting? Go, I’ll be fine.” “Maybe I can get Fawn to come over and stay with you,” he offered as a compromise. “Then I’ll have to make an effort to be social. Really, I just want to rest and I’ll be just fine. I’m not fragile. Please just go and I’ll see you when you get back.” “Well, it’s another hour before I need to go. I’ll fix you some soup and we’ll see how you feel after you’ve eaten,” he decided. Alex smiled and rolled her eyes at him, but she didn’t demure.

An hour later, the soup eaten, Alex was sleeping peacefully and Walker dressed for his meeting. He stopped once more and sat on the side of the bed. He lightly stroked her cheek and her eyes popped open to look at him. “Hi,” she said. “Hi yourself,” he answered. “Are you ready to go?” “Yes, but I won’t if you don’t feel well.” “I’m fine, nothing a good night’s sleep won’t cure. Stand up and let me see you,” she said. Walker obliged and Alex’s eyes scanned his body wearing the soft brown native costume with the new moccasins he had purchased. “You better get going before I change my mind and drag you back into this bed,” she said with desire shining in her eyes. “Now that would be torture,” he said, tongue-in-cheek. “Go, I’ll see you when you get back and maybe I’ll be rested enough to act on these feelings you’ve stirred up,” she said suggestively. “I’ll hurry back,” he said with a grin and leaned over to capture her lips in a kiss that promised more to come. She smiled as she watched him walk out and then she settled back to sleep.

Walker returned three hours later. He had attended the meeting, but he had declined the sweat afterwards. He wanted to get back to Alex and see how she was. The other men of the tribe did not question him; there was no need to give excuses as there often was in the white man’s world he lived in. White Eagle had been there and he took an extra few minutes to tell his mentor goodbye. White Eagle blessed him and Walker left feeling more at peace.

When he entered the cabin, he could hear Alex shrieking at the top of her lungs, “Walker!” He ran into the bedroom and found her lying spread eagle on the bed, her hands out towards the corners of the headboard and her feet out towards the corners of the footboard. She was writhing back and forth, but her hands and feet did not move. “Alex!” he called as he went to her and pulled her into his arms. “Alex! It’s all right! It’s me… Walker!” “The scorpions!” she cried as she tried to get out of his arms. “I have to get to the phone!” she screamed. “Alex, hush, there aren’t any scorpions. It’s all right, you’re safe,” he tried to comfort her. “No! LaRue might wake up! We have to get help here and you need to get to the hospital!”

Now Walker understood. She was having a nightmare and she was back in the ranch house, bound to the bed with LaRue threatening to kill him and to rape her. Walker picked her up and stood up himself. He strode around the room with her in his arms, her face pressed against his neck. He began to chant as he cradled her in the same fashion he would a newborn. He had discovered that when she was upset, his chanting had a calming effect on her. She was too disoriented to respond to words right now, so he merely chanted and walked with her in his strong arms.

It was nearly half an hour until Alex relaxed completely in his arms. He wasn’t cognizant of the burden he carried. All he knew was that his wife was where she belonged, in his arms, pressed against his heart. He took her out to the back porch and sat down with her on his lap in the swing there. Alex’s soft breath played against his collarbone as he rocked the swing gently. Her soft sighs told him that she was again sleeping peacefully and he stayed there holding her and looking out into the pitch black of night. The stars seemed so much brighter out here on the reservation. He looked at them as if they were old friends come to watch over him and his bride. Slowly, he too gave into fatigue and his head slumped forward, his chin resting on the silky cushion of Alex’s hair.

They slept that way for a couple of hours until another dream caused Alex to move and moan. Her movement woke Walker and he tightened his grip on her and waited to see where this dream might take them. His eyes widened in surprise when her mouth pressed against his neck and she kissed and nipped him gently. Her mouth moved searching for something. She frowned in her sleep and then she sat up and pulled on the shirt he wore, trying to take it off of him. Walker obliged her and let her bring it up over his head. Once the barrier was gone, she sighed and sank back against his chest fastening onto his male nipple and suckling it.

A strong playful nip had him gasping and he felt his manhood surge up in response to the foreplay. Alex searched with her hands until she found his shaft and she slipped her hands inside the loose deer skin pants he wore. There was no other barrier and she sighed as her hands found the warm bare skin they sought. She stroked him, long fluid motions that had him biting his lip to avoid crying out.

Shifting again, Alex slipped off her panties and straddled his lap, placing him at her entrance. She was on her knees on the swing and Walker thought that this wouldn’t be possible on their swing at home as it didn’t have cushions. He briefly considered getting some, but all thoughts flew out of his mind as she sank down onto him and took him fully into her.

Walker tried to hold back the surging response to her, but her womanhood clamped down around him, claiming its prize, and he was lost. He surged up against her as she locked her mouth over his. A few short pumps later and he was coming into her with a groan. Alex giggled and said, “Thank you for Paris, darling.”

Her words catapulted him back to their honeymoon and the night on the settee. They had come in from a long day of sightseeing and walking. After a quick shower, he had sat on the settee and she had joined him, sitting in his lap. He was tired and assumed that she was too, but she had been determined to reward him for his patience as she had drug him through the Louvre and its extensive art galleries. She had taken the lead and unable to resist her, he had found himself pumping into her as she straddled him on the small couch. His climax had preempted hers and he had stood and carried her to the bed to make it up to her.

He did the same now as he stood with her wrapped around him. He was still embedded in her moist heat and he stepped out of his pants and walked naked back into the cabin. He hesitated when he realized that this was a dream for Alex and that she was still asleep, but his hardening erection soon demanded action. He set her on the bed and pulled the t-shirt of his that she had put on to sleep in off over her head. Her hands went around his neck and played with the hair on the back of his head as she rolled her hips against him. Walker buried his face against her breasts and he playfully nipped and suckled her nipples, just as he had done in their hotel room in France. Alex was crying out for release, but he tormented her and made her wait as he remained fully buried in her.

Finally, when he knew that she couldn’t wait any longer, he began long deep thrusts, pulling out and then plunging back into her body. She desperately tried to quicken the pace, but he kept it slow, drawing out her climax so that when it hit, she screamed out in pleasure and lay there shuddering while he quickly pumped into her and found his own release.

Alex’s hands reached up above her head and the smile on her face would have done Madonna proud. “I am the married to the sexiest man in the world,” she stated smugly. “And I’m married to the most insatiable woman in the world,” he countered. She smiled again and he was reminded of a kitten licking her paws to clean the last remnants of milk from them, “Oh yes and you’re welcome,” she said. Walker chuckled, remembering the night in Paris and reliving it with Alex here on the reservation. Walker lay down next to Alex and she wrapped herself into his arms and fell back into her dreams.

The next morning, Alex woke up before Walker and wondered how they had ended up on the bed, wrapped together and totally nude. A surge of memories came flooding back and she realized that some of her dreams had been reality. She quietly slipped out of Walker’s arms, pulled on her discarded t-shirt and went out to the back porch. She found her panties, his shirt and his pants. She picked them up and folded them and then after pulling her panties back on, she set the others on the small table and went inside to make coffee. She quietly walked back outside with her coffee cup cradled in her hands and stood looking out at the sunrise.

She heard the slam of the screen door and smiled as she felt hands slide across her belly. She was pulled back against solid muscle and she leaned into him holding the coffee cup up so that he could have a gulp. “Mmm warm woman and warm coffee, what more could a man ask for?” he said. Alex giggled and took another sip of her coffee. “How about a beautiful sunrise and a wife who remembers every moment of loving you?”

Walker stiffened and straightened up, turning her to face him. “Every moment?” he asked. “Yes and I had some very vivid dreams.” Walker had the grace to blush as he remembered how he’d taken advantage of her dreams. “Do you think that’s why you got dizzy yesterday? Was your brain trying to remember?” “No, I got dizzy because it did remember, too much, too fast.” “What do you mean?” “I was looking at the jewelry and I saw a bracelet just like the one you gave me that used to be Aunt Ruthie’s, remember?” “Yes, I remember.” “When I saw it, I don’t know; I was just overcome with all of these memories rushing back. It was like, I don’t know, overload. I got dizzy and I nearly fainted. I think I would have if you hadn’t been there to catch me and steady me. Later, while you were gone getting the Ram, I started to remember that night as if it was happening all over again. The surprise birthday party you had arranged for me and the gift you gave me. And I remembered C.D. and Jimmy and Uncle Ray. I don’t know how to explain it, but it wasn’t like remembering fragments of a memory, I remembered every word spoken, I remembered how I felt and I remembered the way you smelled and everything about you when I thanked you for the gift.”

Walker led Alex over to the swing and sat down beside her. He was still completely nude and she realized that he wasn’t even aware of the fact. He was perfectly comfortable walking around in front of her with no clothes on. That was one thing that had taken her awhile to get used to. She had been modest and shy and he had been the total opposite. Once they had shared their bodies, he had nothing to hide. She smiled as she realized that she remembered that too.

“Why didn’t you tell me what was happening last night?” Walker questioned. “I was afraid that if I tried to explain it, it would stop or go away. I wanted to just let the memories come. Then I had a horrible nightmare about LaRue and you came to rescue me, but you had scorpion stings all over and you were slowly dying from the poison. But you kept telling me that you were all right, that there weren’t any scorpions and I knew that wasn’t right and so I was fighting you because I was so afraid for you.” Walker nodded, “I interrupted a memory when I thought I was interrupting a nightmare.” Alex nodded and then related other dreams she had had, their first kiss, playing darts at C.D.’s, pretending to be pregnant, the kids singing, “Miss Cahill has a boyfriend, Miss Cahill has a boyfriend,” and their honeymoon. “Now that really was in surround sound,” she said as he turned pink knowing that it had seemed so realistic because he had supplied the… realism.

After sitting and talking for hours about old times and memories both had thought forgotten, Walker realized that it was getting warm and that that meant it was getting late. “We can talk more on the way home, but we better get headed that way,” he said. Alex nodded and they took turns showering and dressing and packing. Walker loaded the horses in the trailer while Alex closed the house up and they headed back toward Dallas. They spent the entire ride reminding each other about moments that had been significant for each of them.

“I guess the bracelet triggered my memory because it was the night before I met Bodie. Now that was a nightmare! But I also remember a dream I had while I was being held prisoner in the compound. I dreamt that you came and rescued me and when you walked in; you tossed your cowboy hat over on the cot and swept me up into your arms. Then you said, “I love you,” and you kissed me. It was years before you actually said those words, but in some ways, I think that I’ll always remember that time. Maybe because I realized with that dream how much I wanted you to love me.” “Is that why you kissed me when I did finally show up?” “Maybe; either that or I just couldn’t help myself.” Walker laughed and said, “Well I had a dream once about asking you to marry me.” “Oh yes, you told me that on New Years’ Eve. We were on a rooftop and there was violin music…” “Yes and why it took me so long to say both of those things to you is beyond me.” “You weren’t ready to say it and I wasn’t ready to hear it. We both had a lot of growing to do and all I can say is thank God we grew together. A lot of people rush into love and marriage, but the one good thing about us taking our time is that we both know that it’s forever.” “Forever,” Walker repeated and reached for her hand to twist her ring around her finger.

cccc

Monday morning, Alex was up and dressed and on the phone. She left the house soon after Walker and headed for the doctor’s office. She was given a thorough examination and was found to be fit. She requested that he give her a written medical release to return to work. With that in her hand, she headed over to Sharon Clark’s office and after an hour with her, she had a second release to add to the first. Her next appointment was with the department psychiatrist who put her through an exhaustive battery of tests and also found no reason why she couldn’t go back to work. Finally, she was standing in DA Moody’s office armed with all of her written releases from the medical professionals that all stated that she was once again ready to resume her duties as Deputy District Attorney for Tarrant County. DA Moody was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth and he hugged her and then handed her a stack of files that represented cases he wanted her to spearhead. She headed down the hall, said hello to Janice, her secretary, and then marched into her office and buzzed for Janice to come in.

“Yes Mrs. Walker?” Janice asked as she entered. “I’m going to have lunch with my husband, but when I return, I’ll need you to help me get organized.” “I’ll be here,” Janice promised with a smile. Alex returned her smile and then picked up her phone as Janice headed back out. “Walker? How would you like to go to lunch with a reinstated Deputy District Attorney?” “You buying?” “You bet!” “Then I’m game. How about a real expensive restaurant?” “How about C.D.’s? And invite Jimmy.” “Oh, do I have to?” Alex laughed, “You have to. We’re celebrating!” “Well, I guess Jimmy and C.D. can join us for this celebration, but the one I have planned for tonight is private.” “It had better be, because I don’t think you’ll want an audience for what I plan to do to you,” she said. “Oh and you might as well invite Gage and Sydney, let’s get all the friends up to speed on the latest events and then I need to get to work. You should see the caseload DA Moody dumped on me.” “Just don’t bring your work home with you,” he warned. “Not tonight anyway,” she promised.

Walker and Alex walked into C.D.’s and a cheer went up around the room. Jimmy had called ahead and C.D. had whipped up a party faster than any living soul on the planet could. He came out from behind the bar and gave Alex a bear hug. “Welcome back, Alex! Now come over here and tell me that this isn’t the hottest chili you’ve ever tasted.” Alex sat down and put a spoonful into her mouth. Her eyes started watering and she coughed as she swallowed and then grabbed the glass of milk C.D. had waiting and gulped it down. “You finally got it right!” she said through the tears. C.D. just shook his head, “I swear it’s true, you were born on the sun. I used them Mexican peppers of Marta’s and you’re still eating it!” He watched in admiration as Alex dug in with gusto and finished the entire bowl.

Gage always had to show off and he asked for a bowl as well. Sydney was less than sympathetic when he couldn’t even swallow his first bite. “Serves you right you big lunkhead!” she told him. Walker ate a bowl, but Jimmy ordered a veggie burger instead. C.D. shook his head in disgust and went to make the ‘tufu’ burger. Alex sat and looked around her and laughed. Things were back to normal. She had her life back. She looked over at her husband and their eyes locked. “It’s so great to be home,” she said. The tears in his eyes weren’t from the chili. He leaned into her and kissed her lips. “I love you,” he said. “I know, I remember,” she answered with a grin.

The End